It’s About the Call – Mark 1:16-20

It has been almost a year since I started working at Harvest Time, and recently I was thinking back to where I was a year ago. I’ve come a long way! A year ago, I was working at a daycare, I wasn’t in ministry, and I was living in a low-income based apartment with two of my friends from college. I remember when I talked with Pastor Glenn for the first time about ministry and about the college age students at the church, and I remember preparing to visit the Northeast.

It is weird to think that it has been almost a year since I left that life I knew behind.

It has been quite an interesting year. Not only did I start a ministry from scratch, but I also had issues concerning my personal life right after I moved here… oh yeah, did I mention I moved across the country? I packed up everything I owned and went to a place I had only experienced in a weekend. It was stressful and one of the most nerve-racking moments of my life. I just remember in the fall having a constant feeling of stress and anxiety because of everything I was going through.

New ministry. New friends. A new life.

Sometimes I forget that following Jesus has a cost. I know that I am where God wants me to be, but sometimes it is hard. Sometimes I don’t want to be in Connecticut. I want to be in Ohio or Oklahoma with my family, or in Missouri with my friends.

Sometimes following Jesus has a cost, and when we are down or feeling worn out, we need to remember that we are called by God.

Mark 1:16-20 – “16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.”

Jesus was revolutionary in how different his calling was, and he is extraordinary in how different his calling still is.

Jesus’ call is different in who he calls.

I don’t think it is happenstance that Mark positions this section and the next section of his gospel together. I find it strange that Jesus would go to the Sea of Galilee to find disciples, and then in his first miracle, he is seen expelling a demon from a man in the synagogue. But Mark is trying to show that Jesus is unlike any other teacher or rabbi that the reader has ever seen or heard before!

While rabbis would gain disciples from frequent attendees at the synagogue, Jesus went to tradesman. I think there is an echo here of when Samuel was trying to find the successor of Saul in the Old Testament. God said, “You look at outward appearances, but God looks at the heart.” The fact that Jesus Christ found his followers who would change the world from everyday tradesman is not only revolutionary, but it is inspiring.

Is there someone who you once thought was a lost cause that is now serving at the church? It is so amazing to see how God can take broken and messed up people and restore them and use them to further his kingdom. Let us remember that no one is too hopeless and that the calling of God can meet a person anywhere in any situation. Jesus’ call isn’t only different in who he calls, but…

Jesus’ call is different in how he calls.

Like I said, Jesus went to fisherman to find his first disciples. Not only is his location for disciples strange, but it is also strange because Jesus was the one pursuing these men. He was asking THEM to follow him. Wouldn’t you think it would be the other way around? What kind of teacher finds his own pupils?

This isn’t like high school honors students or star athletes getting recruited by different colleges. This is like an Ivy League school going to a sweatshop or a construction site and finding random people of age to go to their school.

Do we wait for people to come to us who want to grow spiritually, or do we try to find people who we can pour into? If we only reach towards those who are reaching towards us, we might miss an opportunity to disciple and help people grow who wouldn’t have been discipled otherwise. But Jesus’ call isn’t just different in how he calls, but…

Jesus’ call is different in what his call costs.

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that I am going to say that it costs nothing to follow Jesus. While it is true that our salvation is a gift from God and we can’t do anything to earn it, here Jesus isn’t offering salvation – he is offering men to follow him on his mission. There was a cost for Andrew, Peter, James, and John.

James and John are seen leaving their father, their helping hands, their boat, and their business in order to follow Jesus. In the future, all of the disciples will be seen giving their time and their energy. By following Jesus, they were offering their lives to God, and ultimately, all of the disciples besides John gave their lives for the cause of Christ.

It was rough leaving the world I knew behind. There were days I wanted to give up. There were days I wanted to be home. There were days I felt uneasy. But I knew that Christ had called me. He brought me here, and by His strength I pressed on.

Maybe you have given up something in order to follow God’s call. Maybe you gave up a career or time with your family. Maybe you are still giving up things like days off and going on vacation in order to serve Christ and build his kingdom. Just remember who called you. This calling isn’t your own. You were sought after. And it is worth it to follow the call.

A Theology of Expression

Some people have a problem with being thankful. I am not one of those people.

I thank God for things all the time. But I am not one of those irrational people who thanks God for everything – like inventing cars, or soda, or diabetic socks, or bacon. God didn’t invent those things, stupid people. But I usually pray a prayer of thanksgiving every time I eat a peanut butter sandwich that goes something like this: “God, thank you for creating the man who invented peanut butter.” Now, you might say that is George Washington Carver, but you’d be doubly wrong. So, maybe I have to retract my statement about bacon, but the rest still stands.

I’m so glad that God has inspired so many men and women to think, invent, and create.

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can cause a person to paint a picture, write a song, develop an invention, or pen Scripture. All forms of expression come from some form of inspiration. The key to discovering a great form of expression is to look at the inspiration. God is the highest form of inspiration there is. He is the Creator of the whole universe – from the stars in the sky to the fleas on a dog. Every night when I walk into my house, I look up at those stars and am continually reminded at how inspiring God is.

Just like you can look at a great painting and see the heart of the artist, you can look at the heart of mankind and see the hand of God. You can look at Christ’s life, death, and resurrection and see the love of God. You can see the conquest of Joshua and see the wrath of God. You read the Psalms and see how God inspires man. The Bible itself is another example of God inspiring man – in more ways than one.

Expression is only as good as the inspiration behind it. If your inspiration is temporary, if it is fleeting, if it can fail you, your expression loses significance. People who don’t live in an area where there are peanuts probably don’t care for the inspiration behind peanut butter. People who write songs about sex or drugs or money don’t create inspiration. But songs and paintings can be temporary or about current situations in time and still hold eternal significance depending on the inspiration. Great expression always inspires. It’s contagious.

My pastor said a few weeks ago that the gospel isn’t centered on expressing oneself but denying oneself. This is one of those statements though with a paradoxical twist – it is only when denying themselves that people can truly express themselves. If God is the highest form of inspiration, the highest form of expression comes through Him. This can be heard in Handel’s Messiah, seen in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, or experienced while walking through a park on a nice day.

A great thing about expression is it speaks about and to its inspiration regardless of how explicit that mention might be. There are some great worship songs out there that are glorifying and directly speak to God’s character. Then there are those songs that speak through metaphor or situations to point to spiritual and godly truths. I think one of the disasters today of the Christian music industry is its forcefulness of the inclusion of God. People love NEEDTOBREATHE and Switchfoot because their expression isn’t forced; it is fluid and it is natural.

One of my favorite songs of all-time is called “John Wayne Gacy Jr” by Sufjan Stevens. In the song, Stevens talks about one of the most prolific serial killers to ever live. The song is disgusting and it leaves the listener feeling sickened as the song progresses. In the heart, the listener feels how wretched this killer was. Then in the last line of the song, Stevens says: “In reality, I am really just like him. Look beneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid.”

There it is.

What a phenomenal song to express the fallen nature of mankind and to show the morality engraved in the hearts of man to feel sickened by evil. It is something I loved about the show Breaking Bad. No show in the history of television has painted such a vivid picture of right and wrong. This is the key to great expression. This is a key that opens many doors and leads the artist down many corridors. This is the key that allows one to think outside the box, outside of themselves, and potentially outside their present reality.

What inspires you?

Living in an Era of Technology

It is always funny when you are with a group of people and then realize everyone is on their cell phone. You or someone else points out that all of you aren’t really together; you all chuckle, and then go back to what you were doing. Then there are those who make a big deal out of it. Like, by not talking and being on your phones, you aren’t really hanging out. You are all still alone – just alone while being together.

There are good and bad things about living in this age of technology. Many people seem to tilt one way or the other and that makes sense – different people use technology and are involved in social media differently. Those who are more involved will obviously see a lot of the benefits, while those who are less involved will see a lot of the deficits.

Social media is good in that it links people. Same with cell phones and other technology. I love that I can Skype or Facetime with people on the other side of the country! I love that instead of talking to one friend at a time, I can multi-task and text several friends throughout the day. Social media is good at that. It is so good, that technology has linked cultures where there once was a divide.

People across America used to be divided by their different regions. Different people in different areas of the U.S. had some things in common, but there were a lot of differences. With the growth of technology, many people who were raised with social media seem closer linked with their generation. Trends now aren’t regional. Trends now go national. This makes it easier to communicate and market audiences. It also takes away a lot of individualism.

A lot of these individuals struggle with an identity crisis. They want to be different yet belong, and with so many different unoriginal outlets, the chase becomes tiresome. Many individuals can be in a group of people but feel alone. They do not know how to verbally socialize with others, because they are so used to being able to edit what they write through texting and social media. They are used to writing without seeing the emotions they are causing others, and the shift from private “social media” to public interaction can become overwhelming.

Many people don’t know how to be alone. Or they don’t know what it is like to miss someone.

If you are dating someone, I am pretty sure you text constantly. Surprisingly, that wasn’t always the case. You couldn’t keep tabs on people. You simply had to trust them. You hoped they would meet you at the restaurant or the movies when they said they would. Even parties with friends were a risk. How would you know if any of your friends would be there? You didn’t, and if they weren’t, you would be there and would have to make new friends.

Many teenagers and young adults don’t know what it is like to make new friends. Instead of going to an event and meeting new people, if their friends text them and tell them they aren’t going, then chances will be slim they will go themselves. They can just stay home and “connect” with their friends online or do something else – something that is comfortable.

Social media has its good qualities. Because of it, I can connect with anyone in the U.S. I can just ask them about what so-and-so said on Twitter or ask them what they thought of a certain YouTube video. I can keep in contact with them regardless of where they live, because they most likely live in a place where there is Internet connection. Unfortunately, there are also negative sides to social media and technology. There is never a sense of longing – it can always be fulfilled with some Facebook creeping and a text message. There might be unity, but at the cost of individuality.

And technology prevents us from taking risks. At my job, I put on a lot of events. I’m not going to lie… I think some of them are pretty cool. It becomes disheartening though to know that if a couple college students decide they can’t come or they don’t want to come, that the rest will follow their lead. They are afraid to branch out. They are afraid of awkward silences. They are afraid of meeting new people. They might not say it. They might not even realize it. But it is true.

Does social media and technology run your life? Do you need a GPS to figure out where you are going? Do you text all of your friends before deciding if you want to go to an event or party? Do you always have to know what your love interest is doing? Technology is a great tool, but it fails when people completely rely on it for everything. It fails if we use it as an excuse not to grow socially. It fails when we can’t live in reality.

Noah: A Review

It was difficult going into a movie without bias or prejudice. I now understand why jurors in a courtroom shouldn’t have prior knowledge of the case they will be sitting through and making assessments on – their prior experience has clouded what they may think of the case. “Noah” is no different – among conservative evangelicals and many others, Noah stands on trial. For the sake of those wanting to watch the film, I’ll save any spoilers for the end of the article (and let you know when I start to spoil things). For additional input, I loved what Brett McCracken had to say for Converge and this article that was posted by RELEVANT.

NOAH

I give Noah a solid C.

While many of us cringe to see our favorite books or novels be made into films, Aronofsky already made his viewers skeptics by picking a biblical narrative. Most other bible stories have chapters or even whole books they can go off of, while the Noah account only has several chapters at best (in which Noah only speak three verses!). Anyone wanting to make a movie out of Noah has to fill in all the gaps somehow. This is where I can see most people getting upset with the film. Aronofsky doesn’t take anything away from the Noah narrative, but what he adds may make people angry.

Here’s what I liked. I liked how human Noah was. I liked how tragic the movie was, yet how merciful God was. I liked how God was a central character to the film. I liked how the movie used a story from the past and made it resonate with people of today. I definitely wasn’t angry throughout the whole film. I left feeling challenged at some points, with slight disappointment towards some of the film’s artistic executions.

First, I want to tackle some misconceptions. Those who say God is not in the movie have no clue what they are talking about. God is a central character in the film, only being referenced to as “The Creator” – a move that makes sense with how close Noah is to the Creation Story. God is seen as the one who made the earth. He is also the merciful God who is sparing Noah and the judging God that is condemning mankind.

Another misconception is that this is an environmentalist film. While taking care of God’s creation is an important issue in the movie, it is as big of an issue in the movie as it is in the biblical account. God has called mankind to be stewards of His creation, and they are being wasteful. This is something I think Aronofsky plays well with. Cain is the one who started the first civilization. Being wasteful and wrecking the environment is just a physical representation of how evil mankind has gotten. You won’t feel like mankind is bad because they hate the environment. You’ll feel like they are evil all over even to how they treat God’s creation.

Within the first several minutes of the film, you get the sense that this world isn’t quite like the world we live in today. When watching it, I couldn’t help but have a feeling like I was in a place similar to Middle Earth, and fortunately many others agree. With Noah being only ten generations since the Garden, earth before the flood has almost a mystical and whimsical sense to it. Many of the characters even have shaman-like powers verging on witchery. Is this what prophets used to be like? Creation before the Flood seems to still have a lot of the residue left from when God was in the Garden of Eden. But does making the earth seem like a mythical place take away from the main plot? I think there are some places where Aronofsky succeeds and some places where he fails. I think it was Aronofsky’s intention to have the audience feel like they were between worlds. He was nearly successful with it.

What I loved the most about the movie was how dark and real it was as far as the situation at hand. Here you have a man whose family are the only people to survive their own prehistoric apocalypse. Building the ark isn’t something that was filled with bliss and happiness. Throughout the film, Noah wrestles with his obedience to God and struggles to understand what God is trying to tell him. Noah, like the biblical Noah, was a man, and after the flood you see Noah having to live with the choices he has made up to this point. After seeing all of mankind destroyed, the first thing Noah does is drink away his pain. Noah is someone who I think anyone can relate to, and I applaud Aronofsky for that. Whether or not you think a prophet should be relatable is your opinion, but Noah is a man who struggles with his choices, misunderstands the full message of God’s commands, and is fallible.

Okay, so how was the film as far as just being a work of art?

It definitely wasn’t perfect. It was choppy and busy. The plot was very complex and everything hit a climax at one point of the film. In my opinion, it was a train wreck that ended up being turned into a piece of art. The points leading to the climax were catastrophic. But I thought the resolution was masterful. It was a movie with a brilliant development and a brilliant conclusion.

The cinematography was weird. I felt like many times the artistic dimension of the film was a bit forced. If anyone has seen a film by Terrence Malick, I feel like Aronofsky was going for an artistic feel much like one of his films. I just feel like Aronofsky failed to capitalize on it. In the end, the piecing of the film didn’t seem natural. I wasn’t swept into the dreams and visions and stories. There were places in the film where the CGI was brilliant and beautiful then there were other places where it was terrible. The post-production was very inconsistent, but that could be because they spent so much time trying to please their target audience. I also thought the acting was a bit over-the-top. If you see this as a Hamlet-esque film (like McCracken described it), then maybe this is okay. There were moments when the actors were brilliant, then there would be monologues that seemed again, forced. I thought it was just boarder-line cheesy at times – reaching for the audience to feel emotions by over-selling them on the screen.

Like I said before, I think the biggest problem people will have will be with what Aronofsky added. I don’t think most of it is objectively wrong, but for subjective reasons, I didn’t like much of it.

SPOILERS ahead.

Glenn Beck’s biggest problem with the movie seemed to be Aronofsky’s interpretation of “The Watchers” or Nephilim (Gen 6:1-4). In the bible, in simplest terms, these are fallen angels. While most people have their own ideas of what angels look like (that are equally inaccurate in the biblical sense), Aronofsky has these fallen angels being molded in the form of Rock Men. They almost reminded me of Tree Beard from LOTR. I haven’t yet decided if I didn’t like them because I thought they were too mythological or that I thought they just looked stupid from bad CGI, but I didn’t like them. I try to think though of something better that Aronofsky could’ve done – maybe Giants or just glorified human beings – but I don’t know if anything would make The Watchers cool. I don’t know if the story would be better without them. Before you get angry with this, remember that the bible also has tales of Leviathan and other creatures we try to write away or create explanations for. This is just one man’s explanation, and I just wasn’t a fan of it. By the time the Flood came, God had mercy on the Watchers and welcomed them back into heaven. This part was probably one of the most unsettling parts of the film for me. I’m sure it will leave you wondering too why God would have mercy on them and not on all of mankind. Thinking about their role in the film is dizzying.

There is also a brief glimpse of evolution in the film. If you aren’t looking for it though, you probably won’t notice it. While on the ark, Noah takes time to tell his family again the story of Creation. While going through the days of Creation, you see each animal group evolve into the next. What I applaud Aronofsky for is not showing that happen to mankind. Mankind still held a special place in the movie. Adam and Eve were wrapped in light. They were still set apart. This may unsettle some, but for me it wasn’t a big deal. Mankind was still set apart. Not only so, but the evolution montage was beautifully done and only filled about one or two minutes of the nearly two and a half hour film.

The movie is filled with Noah wrestling with his obedience to God and not wanting to be merciful at all to mankind. At the end of the film, I thought Aronofsky showed God’s mercy beautifully as Noah makes a decision to spare his family from the destruction of God. Throughout the film Noah thinks that humans will no longer take part in God’s creation. He assumes that if God wants to kill off all of mankind, then he and his family would be the last of them, dying off once Noah’s youngest son passes away. Noah comes across as a lunatic for a good hour of the movie as he tries to understand the task God wants him to fulfill, and he struggles to take it to its bitter end. At the end of the film, God is seen as a Being who either allows mankind the freedom to choose his destiny or a Being who knew Noah’s choice from the beginning (thus giving him the task to begin with). Only a bible scholar will notice the tightrope walked for this part of the film. This will definitely put a bitter taste in the mouth of anyone looking at the narrative through Sunday School eyes. But it causes Noah’s humanity stand out. Noah isn’t God in this movie as much as any of mankind is. The reason for Noah’s survival isn’t necessarily his goodness but God’s mercy.

This film definitely isn’t perfect. It definitely isn’t a Christian film. This is about the God of the Old Testament, so there is no need to mention Christ. It definitely could be toxic to anyone wanting to use it to further bash God or Christians. But when the movie ends, I don’t know of a person who wouldn’t want to pick up their bible as soon as they get home.

Loveable Leslie and the Valentine’s Day Parable

Loveable Leslie grew up like any other child. She was quite normal and fun. And she had a heart of gold. While most other kids picked best friends, Loveable Leslie just wanted to love everybody. It was part of who she was – loveable. She learned quickly though that love isn’t always returned. Sometimes love is met with hate and bitterness.

It happened one year during Valentines Day. All the children were to bring in bags or boxes that were decorated and then they would go around the room and put a valentine card in all of their boxes. Loveable Leslie made a very special valentine for a boy that she thought was very special – Tough Tony. On it, she wrote with the best of her ability, “Tony, will you be my very special valentine? Love, Leslie. xoxo”

Tony came back the next day with that valentine in his hand. Loveable Leslie was so nervous she could barely stop shaking. Then Tony did the unthinkable. He signaled the rest of the class: “Hey guys,” he said, “look what that Loony Leslie gave me!” Leslie’s face swelled as red as the valentine in Tony’s hand. She quickly shriveled into her seat. But nothing she did made the moment any less worse. Immediately after school, Loveable Leslie ran home and cried for the rest of the night.

Now – most people would find it hard to love or trust any one ever again after a moment like that. Not only did Tony embarrass Leslie, but he also embarrassed her in front of all of their classmates. It would be understandable if Leslie took a long time to trust again, even at such a young age.

But that moment didn’t faze her.

Even though Loveable Leslie wasn’t so loveable to Tony, she continued to love people. She loved her parents, she loved her friends, and she loved her dog. And sometimes people would take advantage of her. Sometimes they would abuse the love and trust she had for them. But she still loved them regardless. And by the time that Loveable Leslie grew old, she had hundreds of people who loved and cared for her. Through her love towards others she really became Loveable Leslie.

Christ truly taught miraculous things through parables. The way that he was able to use everyday circumstances and situations and transform them into vessels and vehicles of spiritual truth shows what an amazing teacher he was. In the parable of the sower, for instance, we know that Christ isn’t merely giving advice regarding agriculture. We all know that the parable of the sower isn’t about a sower at all, but is about the Kingdom of God.

“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9)

So what kingdom principles can we learn from the parable of the sower?

The first is about the seed and the soil. No matter how good the seed is it won’t grow in some soil. The fact that there are different soils already tells us that not everyone will receive the message of the Gospel. There will be some that won’t understand it. There will be others that abuse it. Some will even extort the Gospel for their own selfish gain. But when those who understand the message allow it to take root, they will multiply.

Later, Jesus says that blessed are those who see and understand. This is not only talking about understanding the parable, but is also talking about understanding the message of the Kingdom of God. To those who are receptive and allow the kingdom seed to be rooted in their heart, God will give them more of Himself. He will give them knowledge and understanding of His Kingdom. That is why it says later in verse 12, “He who has, more will be given.”

The second thing about the parable of the sower has to do with the sower himself. I like to call him the “foolish farmer.” The farmer is to sow seed regardless of the condition of the soil. The foolish farmer here, much like Loveable Leslie, is acting quite foolishly. Leslie shouldn’t have continued to love people the way she was after being hurt. The farmer, if he knows anything about sowing seed, should know that he is only supposed to plant seed in good soil. But in the parable, Jesus has the sower spread seed all over the place. Any farmer would know that he would be wasting valuable seeds if he were to plant them on rocky soil or amidst thorns. Yet Jesus has the farmer spreading his seed, his livelihood, everywhere, not thinking once of how it might affect his crop.

Here Jesus is teaching a lesson. It is easy to look at some who are lost and not see hope for them ever receiving the Gospel. One might think, “What’s the point,” and ignore this person as a lost cause. “What is the point of wasting time and energy into someone who won’t receive the message anyway?” But here, Jesus is saying that it isn’t the responsibility of the one sharing the Gospel to decide who will and will not receive its message. The sower’s mission and responsibility is to merely plant the seed.

Lastly, the parable teaches that growth only comes through God. Despite the terrible terrain and the farmer’s foolish ways, there was still a magnificent crop that was harvested from the seeds that were sown. This wasn’t due to the soil. It wasn’t due to the farmer. Most of the soil was bad and the farmer was planting seeds like he knew nothing of agriculture. No, the growth of the harvest came by the miraculous power of God.

It isn’t our responsibility to decide who deserves to hear the message of the Gospel. Everyone deserves to hear it. And it isn’t in our power that they receive it. It can only be through the grace of God and the Holy Spirit. We, like Loveable Leslie, just need to keep loving people and sharing with them the Gospel, and by the end of our time in ministry, God will have used us to reach a multitude of people.

We just need to share the Gospel and trust in Him to bring in the harvest.

The Mundane To Meaningful Movement

Mundane to Meaningful 2

I remember being in the car with my friend Jordan when he shared with me an idea. Jordan is a pretty crazy guy! Sometimes his ideas were so bizarre – not because they were bad or outlandish, but because they were inspired. He started talking about mock trials and how law students create situations to prepare themselves for when they actually appear in court. He explained how they just don’t go into court and expect to know everything. They just don’t sit and watch other cases. But they have a time when they are in a controlled environment where they actually practice and pretend like what they are doing is for real.

He then asked me why there aren’t any groups that do something similar at our bible school with preaching and worship. With this idea, Jordan grabbed a few of his friends and started writing up an idea for a ministry team that would function in that way. The original idea was that a team would come to church and practically take over. There would be one or two people who would preach. There would be a full worship team. There would be people to help teach Sunday School and just be happy to serve. This would give the pastoral staff a chance to have a week to relax, and it would also help prepare those on the team for their futures in ministry.

The group he founded was called, “Catalyst.” (not to be confused with Catalyst Conference)

I loved being at the ground level of Catalyst. I was sold on the mission and the vision of the group. I was invested in it, because I believed in it. Not only that, but since all of the first members were at the ground level, we got to put our DNA in the group. The group didn’t define us – it had no detailed definition. We got to define what Catalyst truly was. Our first year we went to Kansas several times, Illinois, Ohio, we did some stuff in the town where our college was, and that summer we took a full team to do a three week camp in the Bahamas.

There are so many popular Christian movements picking up in America. Whether it is IHOP, Bethel, or a myriad of others, it isn’t hard for someone to jump on a bandwagon if they want. And that isn’t a bad thing necessarily. Christianity itself is a movement I am happy to have joined. But too many people are just following what is already cool. They haven’t learned to invest and believe in something that doesn’t exist. They don’t know what it means to see something go from mundane to meaningful, because they’ve joined something that already had meaning.

To be a part of a movement you must believe in its mission, invest in its mission, and become a community united in its mission. The mission of my college ministry, The Abstract, is to reach the college students in my area. We believe also in the mission of our church, Harvest Time, and the Great Commission of the Gospel – to make disciples of all nations. To invest in any mission one has to put in time and energy. One has to show up to services. For Catalyst, we had to go to weekly practices and travel to other states on a lot of weekends. But by putting in time and energy and work, it helped reinforce our passion and belief for our team.

And within all of that, we became a community. A lot of people complained when our team started, because they thought Jordan picked only his friends to be a part of the team. It wasn’t true. He did have some friends, but he knew we were the ones who believed in the mission of the group. And the other half of the group were freshman we didn’t even know. But to this day, many of the people I was on Catalyst with have a special place in my heart. We have inside jokes and stories, and thinking of them always puts a warm feeling in my heart. We struggled through tough times together, we disagreed sometimes, but we knew that was just part of growing together.

This year at The Abstract our goal is to take mundane moments and make them meaningful. Just like one act of obedience of the servants to fill the water jugs at the wedding of Cana led to Christ’s first miracle, we are going to find something meaningful in the mundane. Within a few days of Christ’s ascension, he lost over 75% of his followers in the upper room (from 500 to 120), but on Pentecost the church grew to over 3000!

The Abstract isn’t what I want it to be right now. We are building. We are growing. But if we are obedient and are willing to believe and invest and become a community, we can turn our area upside-down. Christ changed the world with a group of twelve disciples. I am excited to see what we will do.

Catalyst was started over four years ago, and it is still around today. Jordan is now a youth pastor and had Catalyst come and minister at his church a few months ago. Even though Jordan hasn’t been a part of Catalyst for three years, it still has part of his DNA because of his vision and his investment to the group.

What are you investing in? Is it worth your investment? What are your goals for this year and how does your spiritual life line up with those goals? Is being part of a community and a movement of Christ a priority in your life? Take time and reflect… then act. Be a part of something that is bigger than you. Invest in a cause that will outlast your involvement. Be a visionary.

This is The Mundane to Meaningful Movement.

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The Hudson and Our Inheritance – Galatians 3:1-18

Galatians 3:1-18

The Hudson River isn’t too far from where I live. It kind of reminds me of a dirty salty version of the Mississippi River, but that is beside the point. Imagine you are feeling a little risky – a little adventurous. You think, “I can swim across this thing.” So when the weather gets right, you go to the bank, wetsuit on, and just jump right in. Unfortunately for you, sitting on the couch everyday doesn’t count as proper training for something so strenuous, and you very quickly get winded. You are reaching the point of exhaustion, and to your grim despair, you aren’t even half way across. But you can’t go any longer. As soon as you accept your fate and make your peace with God, a friendly old man in a fishing boat comes and offers you a lift across.

I know at first you might be wondering why a man is out on the Hudson in a small fishing boat, but that doesn’t matter. You are just happy he was at the right place at the right time. You hop in and thank him for his hospitality. Though after a few seconds, your stubborn self catches wind and tells the man you want to get out… You can swim the rest of the way across by yourself.

I’m not too much of a swimmer. Even though I grew up right next to a private lake where I would swim EVERY day during the summer, I am not a strong swimmer. I don’t know the right strokes or how to breathe properly in the water. Not to mention I am incredibly out of shape. So anytime I go across a long bridge or see a wide river or a big lake I just think how hopeless I would be if I tried to swim across it. So, this illustration speaks to me.

After Paul shares his proposition for writing the Galatians in 2:16, He goes on in chapter 3 to explain that God has already given His Spirit to the Galatians, and that the Galatians don’t have to follow the Law if they already have the Spirit. And since they have the Spirit, they no longer have to feel like they need to mark up their flesh through circumcision. Here Paul takes a considerable amount of time to contrast; The Law and faith, the flesh and the Spirit, and being cursed verses being justified.

This is a persuasive argument from Paul. When I read this section I think of how I would write persuasive papers in high school. Appeal to emotion, refer to someone who has some level of authority, and weave some modus ponens in there like a fiend. Paul is the same way here.

First, he starts by appealing to the Galatians’ personal experience. For the Galatians to deny what God has done in their lives through the Spirit would be ignorance. In verse 5, Paul reminds them that God worked miracles among them and the Spirit moved through them because of their faith, not because they followed the Law. Paul even described the crucifixion of Christ to them so vividly when he first presented the gospel that he says in verse 1 that it was as though Christ was crucified before their own eyes. How can they deny what God had done in their lives?

Paul then goes on to present an argument from authority. Now, when we present an argument from authority, we usually quote doctors or specialists. Paul quotes a ton of Scripture in Galatians 3:10-14. If the Galatians were getting tempted by Jewish Christians to become more “Jewish” and follow the Mosaic Law, it would be harder for them to make an argument if Paul is arguing from the same source of authority that the Jewish Christians are.

Here Paul uses the promise of Abraham, the first “Jew,” the Pillar of the People of God. Paul is showing that God fulfilled the promise made to Abraham in Genesis – the promise that God would bless all the nations through him. This was only done through Christ, who is Abraham’s chosen offspring. God not only is fulfilling something that predates the Law, but is using an example of some one who was made right with God before being circumcised. Paul even says in Galatians 3:7 – “That it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” The Galatians, by being people of faith, now are considered welcomed in to the People of God and hold equal status to that of the Jews. This was without the Law, but was through their faith in Jesus Christ!

Here’s what happened. The Galatians were drowning and God saved them. They were warm and safe, but they are thinking about jumping back in the cold and dirty Hudson. Paul is trying to show them that if the Galatians go back to thinking they can do it on their own they will sink. They no longer need to follow the Law of Moses. It hasn’t helped them thus far. It won’t help them in the future. Next Paul will show them that they need to follow the Law of Christ – following the one who perfected the Law of Moses. This can only be done through faith.

Have you jumped out of the boat?

Maybe you are like the Galatians, and denying something God has done in your life. How can you deny what God has done in YOUR own life? It doesn’t matter if it was last week or in the last century, don’t forget the moments when God spoke to you. Don’t forget how God changed your family. Don’t forget that time that God healed you when the doctors said it was hopeless.

Sometimes what God has done in the past is the only thing that will keep us going in the present.

Or have you forgotten what the Gospel is about? It isn’t about following a set of rules and regulations. It isn’t about the Law of Moses. It isn’t about attending church, or going to Sunday School, or playing on the worship team. The Gospel is about how Christ came to reconcile a world that was condemned. Let’s not lose sight of Christ. Let’s not jump out of the boat – not even for humanitarianism, hedonism, or “morally sound deism.”

Remember what God did in history when Christ came and made us Children of Abraham – Children of His inheritance. Remember what God has done in your life through His Spirit. And never forget… It all centers on Christ’s faithful act on the cross and our faith in him.