Tag Archives: Redemption

A People of Maybe

Have you ever seen that show Intervention? It’s an incredibly heartbreaking show about people who have gotten caught up with an addiction that has completely taken over their lives. And so their friends and family all gather together and surprise them with an intervention asking them to get help. It’s gut-wrenching. These people who love this person beg and cry and plead for them to turn their lives around.

And the person almost always says no.

So there is this one time in 1st Corinthians, where Paul is writing a church that he had helped to plant, and Paul is having to address one of the earliest church scandals. The Corinthian church is situated right in the middle of the ancient world’s version of Las Vegas or Amsterdam. Which by the way, I think is really cool. Not even 30 years after Jesus Resurrection, there are churches sprouting up in some of the darkest parts of the world.

Now God wasn’t calling His people out of Sodom and Gomorrah, He was sending them into it.

But the problem that Paul is addressing isn’t the sin around the Corinthian Church, it was the sin inside of it. Specifically, there was this one guy who had recently started sleeping with his step-mother.  I know it all sounds so Jerry Springerish, but this is one of the earliest examples of a pastoral church case study we have. The Corinthians have this gnostic idea of Spirituality, and so they think that the flesh doesn’t matter, and that because they are so “spiritual” they are acting like nothing is wrong with whole incredibly dysfunctional situation. But Paul thinks otherwise. Look at what Paul says:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.  And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourningand have put out of your fellowship  the man who has been doing this?  For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this.

 I’ve already passed judgment in the name of Jesus. 

Obviously Paul didn’t read Jesus. We like it when Paul talks about Love being patient and kind, but this just sounds so judgmental. And I think Paul would say to us,”Yeah, it kind of is being judgmental.” Continue reading A People of Maybe

The Red Thread Movement

So I just returned from a couple of weeks in Nepal working with the ministry Eternal Threads. It’s a great ministry that I highly commend that is working to create connections between 3rd and 1st world countries, and providing fair trade opportunities for some of the most vulnerable people in the world. (In fact, if you are a person with any influence in your church, and would like to throw a gathering for your church to shop and make a difference in the world at the same time, you can email eternalthreads@mac.com)

One part of the Eternal Threads ministry is something that has grown exponentially over the past couple of years. It’s called the Red Thread Movement, and what it is doing for the girls in Nepal is unreal!  For those of you who haven’t heard, The Red Thread Movement is an ACU student initiative that helps women who have been sexually trafficked from Nepal to India (over 12,000 girls are trafficked in Nepal every year) and because the culture is a very honor/shame based culture, most of the girls who are trafficked are too ashamed, or not allowed to go back home.

So Eternal Threads helps them go to a safe home where they are taught a sustainable business skill like sewing or being a beautician and then sent back to their villages. And they take the Gospel with them! These girls are planting churches in villages that no Western missionary could reach, and it’s working like crazy!

It starts like a mustard seed, and just keeps going.

But it’s not enough to tell you this in the abstract. So let me introduce you to Gita:

Gita came from a small village in Nepal, where her mother left to become a migrant worker overseas to hopefully raise money for her struggling family. That was over 5 years ago…they haven’t heard from her since. So Gita’s dad eventually remarried, and her step-mother was less than kind to Gita. The family had no money and then Gita met “Romeo.” He promised her the world and gave her hell. He romanced her, proposed to her, and slept with her, all within just a short time of knowing her.

Then “Romeo” told Gita that what he really wanted to do was get married in India, Gita didn’t have much holding her to her small village in Nepal, her prospects were extremely limited, so she went. And it’s here that Gita’s life really turns on a dime. At the border she was stopped by girls at a border station, girls who had previously been trafficked themselves, and it’s here that Gita learns about the true intentions about the love of her life.

She was less than 10 yards from a life of Hell on earth. And she was stopped.

They say that it takes the average girl anywhere from 1-3 months to be able to face the reality of what has actually happened to her, and how close she actually came to being forced into sexual slavery. At first they deny it, they think he really loved them, or that he really was trying to get them a legitimate job in India. But when it finally dawns on them what has happened they need more than just a place to stay.

They need the Gospel.  Continue reading The Red Thread Movement

Below the Line

So this will be my last post on my time in Hollywood, thanks for putting up with me taking a detour from normal blog stuff to write about this. If you missed some of them I wrote about it  here,  herehere and here, besides the past two weeks of posts.

After a few hours of being on the set of Good Christian Belles for a few hours, I had come to grips with the reality of what was going on, I was sitting in the holding area and day-dreaming about worst-case scenarios And that’s when Allison spoke up. She had heard that I was a preacher and was intrigued by the fact that I was doing this…particularly this show. Allison had been married before, to a Jewish man She had grown up, and was living in the Bible Belt- and when she married she was vilified by Christian people who she had  grown up with. They saw her marriage as a mixed marriage, and instead of engaging her they kept her at arm length, even telling her from a distance that her marriage was offensive to God.

Allison made the point that the show that we were filming was pretty close to home for her. She had been wounded by Church, and Church people.

She made the point that when she thought about Christians, she automatically thought about the American Families Values Association, the very association that had boycotted the show we were working on. Then she said, “I don’t know a lot about organized religion anymore, but I just want you to know I think it’s cool that you are here doing this.”

Matt Maxwell is a guy who grew up at Highland (the church I work at) and now he works in Hollywood behind the camera. He and his wife love Jesus, are plugged into a community of faith, and view their work as both creative expressions of who God made them to be, and as missionaries. Here’s an email he sent me last week that I asked to share with you:

“This question of where we–as Christians– should work and use our talents is a constant conversation and struggle with me and many here in the entertainment industry. So many worry, wonder and ask about that one line that if we cross we no longer represent our Lord and our faith. But this conversation has always rubbed me wrong because the underlying problem is not how the world might perceive us Christians but how our Christian world and friends might perceive us and, in my eyes, this is a mistake.

I had a conversation with a dear friend several months ago who shared his resentment about working in post-production on the new, and now canceled, Playboy Club. He was considering talking to his superiors about moving to another show. I understood exactly where he was coming from but I kept thinking about all the lives he wouldn’t be able to touch.
Continue reading Below the Line

Christians and Pleasure

So I love this picture. It’s from the prohibition era, and it’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s iconic for what I believe many people think of when they think of Jesus followers. We don’t cuss or chew, or go with girls who do.

In her book, “The Kindness of God” Janet Soskice writes about how when women have their first baby they tend to feel guilty about the amount of affection that they feel toward their child. They’ve never had an experience quite like this before and so sometimes they will struggle with guilt.

She wrote about how one woman found her devotional life in ruins after her first child. So she went to three different churches because she worried about her lack of time with God. One preacher told her to get up an hour earlier than the baby to pray with God, another preacher told her to have her husband watch the baby three times a week so she could make Mass, and another told her, “Don’t worry about that right now, the church is praying for you.”

All of that sounds like decent enough advice, but…

The problem is that none of it takes into account that perhaps the best way that this woman might experience life with God is through her baby.

Did you know that when a woman nurses, her body releases doses of oxycotin? So God wired mothers up, to where when they nurse their newborn it gives them neurochemicals that produce feelings of intimacy and deep affection. So much so, that in tests on rats, mother rats choose their newborns over cocaine.

Here’s the point…we have been taught to think of pleasure has something that we should feel guilty for, but God wired us up this way. Now there are ways that we can and have abused pleasure, it can, of course, make a great servant and a horrible master. But we must never forget pleasure was God’s idea.And if we let it, it doesn’t point away from Him, in fact, it does the opposite.

Here’s a question for you to chew on for a bit: Do you think that Jesus enjoyed life? I know that it was said the Messiah would be a man of sorrows, and certainly Jesus practiced heroic ways of withdrawing from the world as well. But the question remains: Did Jesus enjoy life? Because your answer to that question, as a follower of Jesus, will shape the way you approach your own. Continue reading Christians and Pleasure

The Groans of Creation

Last week, I drove by a bunch of  protesting college students. They were on a main road, next to a particular Christian college, and they were holding up signs for Haiti. The signs were basically saying, “Remember Haiti’s not better just because they are no longer in the 24 hour news cycle.” My immediate response was to think, Haiti? That was 3 natural disasters ago.

But they are right. Haiti hasn’t just magically improved because our cameras stopped filming. A huge portion of the Haitian population still sleeps outside. Their infrastructure is still badly damaged, only now there aren’t major celebrities pleading their cause on national television.

Haiti is so 2009.

Because now we are seeing the pictures of the devastation that Japan is suffering from a massive earthquake and a subsequent Tsunami. And if we have any kind of heart, we find ourselves asking new questions…that feel awfully familiar to ones we’ve asked before.

I still remember what it feels like to find a pair of kids shoes buried in rubble from the Tsunami of 2004 (see above picture). I remember being angry with God  for allowing it to happen. It was 3 months after the Tsunami when it stopped being a abstract problem and started being one that I was holding in my hands, but the anger was fresh for me. It’s what happens when ideas become personal. Non-profit leaders have long known this, if you give someone a statistic about suffering there isn’t a compelling tug to do something, but if you show them a face…if that number is connected to a person, then there is a much greater chance that you might just engage the problem.

Bono, the lead singer of U2, once said, “15 thousand people are dying needlessly each day from AIDS, TB, and Malaria. Mothers, fathers, teachers, farmers, nurses, mechanics, children. This is Africa’s crisis. That it’s not on the nightly news, that we do not treat this like an emergency…that’s our crisis.” Continue reading The Groans of Creation

Second Chances

After all the fanfare has died down, and the confetti was cleaned up, the greatest event of this NFL’s season is still in progress. And it has little to do with touchdowns.

I’ve been following Michael Vick ever since he was the quaterback at Virginia Tech. I can’t say I’ve always liked the teams he’s played on (especially Philly), but I’ve always liked him. He’s a phenom on the football field, with that rare combination of speed to evade the rush, but with also the ability to make some difficult throws. But like most people these days with extra-ordinary talents, there was some dangerous stuff lurking just beneath the surface.

And in 2007 it came crashing down on him.

Now, I’m no Public relations expert but it seems like making money off of dogs killing each other has got to be one of the stupidest things someone can do for their image. I grew up on a farm, have always had and loved dogs, and while I’m not about to join PETA, I like millions of others were angry and disappointed by what this Multi-millionare was doing with his spare time.

But I have a friend who saw this whole thing differently. He grew up in the projects too, and as soon as he heard about Vick’s conviction he took it personally. He saw it as more a snapshot of the human condition than just a stupid mistake.

Because here is a guy who seems to have everything, and now in a moment he is losing all of it.

Vick epitomized the tug of war that all of us feel inside of us. He later admitted that he knew he was making a series of mistakes, but he felt a profound sense of loyalty to these friends he had known forever.

It was inevitable that Michael Vick’s career was over. If Vegas was placing odds on a comeback it would have been up there with the Montreal Expos’ winning the World Series…next year.

But nobody counted on Andy Reid. Continue reading Second Chances

Misc. Happenings and Resurrection

So last week was a hectic pace of being filled and having fun. Rick took about 10 young preachers to a preacher’s retreat with Bob Russell in Louisville. It was a fun time of being with some peers, learning really practical ministry advice from Bob and Rick, touring the Louisville bat factory (it had some ministry application) and bowling (not so much ministry application).

Then a few of us went to a Preacher’s conference at Lipscomb University, which is fast becoming one of my favorite Christian colleges. At the conference a few of us got to sit at the feet of some real Theological heavy-hitters like Tremper Longman and Scot McKnight (author of the Jesus Creed and Blue Parakeet). So after two back-to-back conferences, my brain is tired.

I want to just think about puppies and rainbows for the next few days.
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I really thought the Razorbacks were going to pull off a major upset this weekend. But as a friend said, “St. Timothy of the Philippines finally overcame.” Either we are better than I thought we were, or Florida was having an off weekend. I choose to believe the first one.

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This weekend in church we showed this video of a good friend of mine. His name is Rodney and I wrote about his story here last year.

If anyone exemplifies 1 Corinthians 6:11 it’s Rodney. He’s got a past. But you wouldn’t know it by talking to him, because who Rodney used to be isn’t nearly as exciting as who he is going to be.

Rodney is going to be a great minister. He’s a gifted leader and communicator, and I look forward to hearing him preach to his own congregation one day. With his permission I am posting the video we made of his story here because it’s so powerful.

Stories like Rodney’s life remind me of the real reason I believe in Easter.

As much as we can talk about evidence that Jesus rose from the dead, nothing helps me believe in Jesus as seeing his resurrection power in someone’s life. God is up to something in Rodney’s life that has changed everything for him, and all of us around him can tell.