For the Honor

Every once in a while a song comes along that I become completely obsessed with.

Once it was Sowing Season by Brand New.

Another time it was Savior King by Hillsong United.

Another time it was Politik by Coldplay.

For a while it was Make Believe by Jeremy Larson.

Those songs helped to define those times in my life. They are my soundtrack for those days.

This song by Elevation Worship is my latest addition to that list:

Amazon Tip

I have hundreds of books and almost all of them are about the same thing: Jesus. When I’m preparing for a sermon, I love to dig through the books for thoughts, illustrations, etc… As you know, many books have a Topic Index, Scripture Index, Concordance, or some sort of notes that you can flip through if you’re looking for something specific. Most books don’t though, and that’s where Amazon.com can help.

Imagine you’re looking for a book that covers the topic of ANXIETY. You look at your shelf and you see a copy of Brennan Manning’s “RUTHLESS TRUST“. The “Contents” page doesn’t have any titles that are obvious enough, and there isn’t an index of topics in the back, so here’s what you can do.

Go to Amazon.com and search for the book.

Once you have found the book and have opened the page, look at see if it has the “LOOK INSIDE” feature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If it does, you can either click on the picture of the book, or hover over it and you’ll see a search bar. Type in your keyword.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All you have to do is click on those blue links and Amazon will take you right to the page where you can find it. You can do this even with books you don’t own, because Amazon will let you read a good amount of the book right there using the SEARCH feature.

I hope this helps!

A Better Resolution

This is the story of a girl, a wife actually, who married the perfect man. Well, he definitely seemed perfect at first!

As the years went by, he seemed much more difficult to live with. He was constantly expecting the girl to be perfect, even though he knew that she wasn’t. When she made mistakes, he always showed her the right way, but always demanded that she make things right. He always seemed to be personally offended, and nothing she did was ever enough to make him love her unconditionally. He was perfect, and he was committed to making sure that she knew she wasn’t. She began to see herself as nothing but a failure. She really started to think that she was unlovable. Her failures and shortcomings had begun to define her. She was committed to him, so she remained in the relationship. She would recommit herself to him again and again, telling herself that things would get better and that one day he would finally be satisfied with her as a wife.

That day never came. She never lived up to his list of rules. She felt trapped and hopeless.

Not too many people were upset when that man was hit by a truck and died as he crossed the street.

At first her heart was sad, since she had spent so much of her life with that man. She had, in fact, fallen in love with him, even though it seemed like a one-way love. But she was exhausted, and she couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief when she heard that he had died.

Some time later she met another man. This man loved her deeply, even her shortcomings. He knew everything about her, and loved her anyways. He didn’t have a long list of rules for her to follow. He saw something in her that she never saw herself. He loved her in such a way that she actually began to believe that she was lovable, and not only that, but that she could live a life of depth and beauty and significance. She began to blossom as he spoke love and encouragement into her life. He made her a better woman by loving who she was and seeing all that she could be. She was so motivated by his love that she forgot all about her first husband and his rules, judgments, and disappointments. He was gone, and she no longer belonged to him. She was committed to her new husband, and he was irrevocably committed to her, no matter what.

That’s the gospel of grace as seen in Romans 7.

We have been freed from the law, and been given to Christ. We are no longer captives to a list of rules and expectations that we can never meet. Instead, we are loved by God and seen as holy because of what Christ has done for us. Our new motivation is love, not fear of failure.

If you’re making resolutions this year, especially about your walk with God, consider this… focus on God and what he has done for you, how he loves you already, and how he sees you. Let His mercy, not fear of his wrath, motivate you to please him.

This year, instead of recommitting yourself to God, focus on his never-ending commitment to you. Let that compel you to action.

freedom

I am taking a couple of weeks to talk about freedom with my students. Today seemed like a good day to kick that sort of conversation off. It’s kind of a hot topic this week, ya know.

Galatians 5:1 says that, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”

It sounds redundant…

Freedom is a way of life. We are free to live in that freedom. Does that make sense? I used this example to help explain it to my students:

A few years ago I had a volunteer in my youth ministry who was amazing. He was seriously a great guy. He was funny, intelligent, relational, and always available for our youth ministry gatherings, activities, etc. On the surface he seemed like the ideal volunteer. He had placed his faith in Christ- he was “born again” to use the words of Jesus. He had been set free, but… he wasn’t experiencing freedom. He was still in a noose of sexual sin. One night he arranged a meeting with an underage girl after talking to her online, but when he arrived at their meeting place he was met by police officers. He’s currently in prison.

Born again…heaven bound… made new… forgiven…

But in the stranglehold of sin.

My friend had been managing his bondage (Dallas Willard covers this in “The Divine Conspiracy”. Chapter 2 alone is worth the cost of the book).

Being in a stranglehold is a horrible way to live, if you can even call it living.

Jesus sets us free, and then invites us into freedom.

So I am begging my students to take off the masks, and to leave them off. To be honest about who we are. And to love each other right where we’re at. And to tap into the freedom that only God can provide.

I hope that my friend in prison is finally experiencing that freedom, which has nothing to do with the walls that surround him. And I hope that you are too. Because if the Son has set you free, you are free.

A question for Christians

I’m guessing that most of the people who swing by this blog are Christians, or perhaps you were at one point but you no longer identify yourself as one. Either way, this question is for anyone who has personally decided to become a follower of Jesus at some point.

Why did you decide to become a Christian?

I shared my testimony this week with the students at my church, and I told them why I did. I had spent a year investigating the claims of Christ, the resurrection, prophecy, other religions, etc… and I became convinced. I placed my faith in what I believed to be true.

I surrendered to truth.

I walked away from my old life out of obligation. I felt that I had to. I walked away from friendships because I thought I had to. I quit drinking, stealing, drugging, fighting, and lying because I had to. “It’s the least I can do” I would say. I even dated a Christian girl… a really sweet girl, but she was at the opposite end of the dating spectrum for me. She asked me to pray for dinner one night out with friends and I had no idea how to. I said, “You pray, it’s so much prettier“. I was a Christian because I was convinced.

But now I’m a Christian because I’m convinced it’s the best kind of life. I still believe it to be true, but I also believe it to be the best way to live. I honestly enjoyed my old way of living, and I walked away from it expecting some sort of joy in the next life as a reward… but now I’m motivated by the life Jesus offers TODAY. I wasn’t drawn to it at first, but now I’m all in. Joy, pain, suffering, prosperity… whatever. It’s all a part of the abundant life that Jesus came to put on display and invite us into.

What about you?

Were you CONVINCED by truth or were you COMPELLED by a way of life?

blink blinkity blink

Hi, my name is Ryan, and I love me some Rob Bell.

Just this week I had someone say to me, “Well, I know you’re a fan of Rob Bell, so… I wasn’t sure where you stood on the issue.” What??

I can’t imagine how much it must suck to have so many people misunderstand you on a daily basis. I’ve heard people say the most ridiculous things about what Rob believes — stuff that he has repeatedly clarified over and over and over again (virgin birth, heaven and hell, are they prescription or just for looks, etc…). But anywho…

Rob was our guest speaker last night in my high school ministry. We watched his recent Nooma filmShe“, and then had a pretty sweet open forum discussion. We had the students break off into groups a few times to discuss a question we gave them, then come back and share their answers with the group. Our students are really sharp! They had some great insights.

After the video last night we had a little contest with our students. We had all of them write down how many times they thought Rob Bell blinked during the film. We can only see Rob for about half the time, so… how many times do you think he blinked while on camera?

508 times.

I wonder if he knows that he’s got that going on.

I watched myself teach one time on video with the audio muted. I was saying all sorts of things with my hands, eyes, and posture that I’m not sure I intended.

What do you do? Do you have any quirks that people have called you on? Do you love Rob Bell too? haha!

This post is dedicated to all of my English/Writing teachers and professors who told me that I needed to stay on topic. I’ll always remember your… oh look a butterfly!!!

rob bell