The Most Reluctant Convert

I did something that I rarely do these days — I went to an actual movie in an actual movie theater. It’s been a while.

Normally, I like to wait for it to hit streaming services because few films are worth paying the current price of movie tickets. But in this case, I made an exception. I wanted to support a faith-based film from a group that I’ve grown to respect as I’ve gotten to know about them, the Fellowship for Performing Arts, led by one Max McLean.

The film is centered around the story of C. S. Lewis’ 10-year journey from atheism to Christianity. Without giving away too much, the narrative device they use to tell the story is unique and compelling. I feel like Mr. McLean masterfully portrayed the title character and the filming locations gave the production a note of authenticity.

But what captivated me most was the way the movie used Lewis’ own words. I believe a lot of the narrative came directly from his autobiography Surprised by Joy. For once, it’s a faith-based film that actually succeeds at being a good film first, and without being preachy or didactic.

It will make you want to dive deep into the writings of C. S. Lewis, both apologetic and fiction, as well as possibly leading you to check out some of writers who inspired him such as George MacDonald and G. K. Chesterton. I can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone who wants a quality movie about the nuances of faith and intellect.

Do Thou for Me

“Do Thou for me, O God the Lord,
Do Thou for me.
I need not toil to find the word
That carefully
Unfolds my prayer and offers it,
My God, to Thee.

It is enough that Thou wilt do,
And wilt not tire,
Wilt lead by cloud, all the night through
By light of fire,
Till Thou has perfected in me
Thy heart’s desire.

For my beloved I will not fear,
Love knows to do
For him, for her, from year to year,
As hitherto.
Whom my heart cherishes are dear
To Thy heart too.

O blessèd be the love that bears
The burden now,
The love that frames our very prayers,
Well knowing how
To coin our gold.  O God the Lord,
Do Thou, Do Thou” (Amy Carmichael).

There are times when we simply don’t know how to pray for a circumstance or a loved one. Try as we may, the words will not come.

I think even then God hears the groans and sighs of our petitions and knows what they mean. He hears the deepest desires of our hearts and knows best how to grant them.

Even when we have words, they aren’t always the best ones. Sometimes, we ask without such a limited point of view. Sometimes we ask selfishly. Sometimes we have too small a view of God and ask too little.

In Jan Karon’s Mitford series, Father Tim Kavanaugh always has his go-to prayer, or “the prayer that never fails,” as he calls it. The prayer goes “Thy will be done.”

You can never go wrong with leaving the matter in God’s hands.

A Prayer for Peace of Mind

Here’s a short prayer for anyone battling anxiety:

“Almighty God, We bless you for our lives,
we give you praise for your abundant mercy and grace
we receive. We thank you for your faithfulness even
though we are not that faithful to you.
Lord Jesus, we ask you to give us all around
peace in our mind, body, soul and spirit.
We want you to heal and remove everything that is
causing stress, grief, and sorrow in our lives.

Please guide our path through life and make our
enemies be at peace with us. Let your peace reign in our family,
at our place of work, businesses and everything we lay our hands on.

Let your angels of peace go ahead of us when we go out
and stay by our side when we return. In Jesus’ name, Amen”

Be Kind

Man, I can’t love this enough. So many people are fighting hidden battles and carrying around unseen burdens, all while putting on a smile and pretending to be fine. You’d never guess anything was wrong.

Sometimes, you see people and wonder why they act the way they do. Maybe they seem friendly and then they seem suddenly cold to you. I think with just about everyone you meet that there is one fact about that person that if you knew that information it would completely change the way you looked at them. It could be a painful divorce or an abusive past. It could be their own deep-seated anxiety or insecurities.

It costs literally nothing to be kind. You don’t have pay even a penny to pray for someone in your sphere of influence. After all, it could be your kindness that opens their eyes to the goodness of God. Remember that it was God’s kindness that led you to repentance in the first place.

Be kind and pray for opportunities for gospel conversations. You never know what may come of that kindness. The Bible says to always be ready to give an answer for the hope you have — and possibly the reason for your kindness.

A Perfect God

I think we make idols of all sorts of things when we expect perfection out of them. When we expect a perfect spouse or a perfect job or a perfect family, we’re putting something else in the space that only God should occupy.

When the Bible says that God is a jealous God, it doesn’t mean He’s petty. It means He knows that filling that God-shaped hole with anything else other than God won’t satisfy us in the long run. Putting anything else on the throne where only God belongs will never give us the peace and contentment we’re longing for. Only God can fill that God-shaped hole.

I’m thankful for a perfect God who steps into my imperfect life at every moment to remind me that chasing after idols of possessions and relationships and status will only bring heartbreak while God is the only one who can bring healing.

Brokenness into Abundance

“…come Sunday, and maybe you’re feeling tired and a bit lonely and a bit of a failure, like you could just close a door & weep for your sins & shortcomings & unspoken brokenness?
And today, Jesus looks you right in the eye, and He takes that yoke off your back, He takes that weight off your mind, He takes that heaviness off your heart — and He carries it because He wants to carry you….to carry you right through.
He looks you right in the eye & says, “I did it for love…” (Jn3:16)
He takes your hand & takes that crown of thorns & says, “I did it because I had to take you…” (Jn14:3)
He takes that Cross you’ve been carrying & He lets you walk weightless — *grace is weightless* — and He says, “I did it because I desperately wanted you…” (Ro.5:8)
Who in this world has ever wanted us like He has?
If you feel too broken to be chosen … that’s right where you’re supposed to be.
Believe it: your brokenness can make abundance.
#HeIsEnough #PreachingGospelToMyself #TheBrokenWay

Maybe the best place to be isn’t found in the “I’ve got it all together and know my Bible and have my walk of faith down pat,” but in the “I’m a big hot mess who screws up every single day but who knows a deep need for Jesus.” The first is the one who prays and thanks God that he’s not like those other sinners whose sin is different from his. The second is the one who prays, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

That’s exactly what Paul meant about boasting in weaknesses because that’s where the strength of Christ is perfected and manifested in your life. It’s not beating yourself up, but being honest about who you are apart from God and about who God is in spite of you.

I think brokenness being made into wholeness is one of the most beautiful things I know of and God is the best at that.

Who We Really Are in the Dark

“But underneath all our emphasis on successful action, many of us suffer from a deep-seated, low self esteem and are walking around with the constant fear that someday someone will unmask the illusion and show that we are not as smart, as good, or as lovable as the world was made to believe” (Henri J.M. Nouwen, Out of Solitude).

I think for many the greatest fear is that people will find out who we really are, and when they make the discovery, they will shun us and leave us. So many of us live in constant fear that who we really are deep down inside really isn’t good enough. We think people will see us the way we often see ourselves, thus the deep-seated fear. Thus the metaphorical masks (and sometimes real ones). Thus the playacting and pretending and bravado and bragging.

But maybe if we could learn to see us the way God sees us. He sees it all — even more than we can see. He knows all our flaws — even the ones we’ve not allowed ourselves to admit or acknowledge.He loves us as we are, not as we should be. All He asks is that we receive that love.

I think if we could ever see each other as God sees us, we’d see things very differently. We’d act differently. We’d be better people. In fact, we’d be more like Jesus.

T-I-R-E-D

As I write these words, I’m definitely feeling it. I’m tired. It wasn’t a bad week, just a long and taxing one.

Have you ever been tired to the point where it affected your thinking and caused you to see things in a more negative light? I remember times back in the day when I thought I had screwed up jobs and relationships beyond repair only to wake up the next morning and everything was fine. The problem was that I was overtired.

Have you ever been tired to the point where you can’t sleep? It’s almost as if you want sleep so much that you try so hard to fall asleep and defeat the very purpose you’re trying to accomplish?

One thing I’ve learned is that feelings are deceptive, especially when you’re hungry or tired. You can’t trust how you feel to guide your decisions, otherwise you will end up making poor decisions based on faulty information. You’ll do and say things that you will later regret.

At these times, Jesus says, “Come to me and find real rest. Not just sleep, but rest where you let go of trying to fix and control and manipulate your circumstances all the time. Lean on me and let me take your burdens and give you Mine. Then you’ll find a peace that allows you to cease striving and truly know that I am God.”

I’m praying that you who are weary and overburdened will know not just sleep but true soul-rest and a peace that surpasses all human understanding and comprehension.

Trials and Blessings

I can’t love this enough because I can’t emphasize enough how true it’s been in my own life. I major in talking about my trials while I minor in speaking about how blessed I am. In fact, I take so many of my blessings for granted, it’s a wonder that I still receive any. But God remains faithful.

I think we miss the point of trials. God doesn’t allow them just so we can have something to complain about but so that we can build our character to receive better blessings. Most of all, trials make us look and act and sound more like Jesus. Sometimes, blessings are to prepare us for future trials so that we can look back and remember the faithfulness of God. It’s not an either/or but a both/and.

I guess I need to remember to write those trials in sand because they don’t last. I need to carve those blessings in stone because those are from the eternal God who never changes and remains constantly true to His people and to His promises forever.

Reflecting the Light of Jesus

“May we… so reflect the light of Jesus on others.”

The best part of stained glass windows is when the light shines through. That’s when you really see every detail and every nuance.

It’s the same with God’s people, really. When we’re doing our own thing apart from God and in our own strength, we’re nothing to look at. We’re nothing special. There’s nothing that would make people take notice.

But when we place ourselves where God’s light can shine through us, that’s when people pay attention. That’s when they see something in us that they don’t have in themselves. That’s when they want what we have. That’s when they see God in a new way and see their great need of Him.

Also, the great thing about stained glass is that you take broken pieces of glass and make something beautiful. In the same way, God can take broken pieces and broken people and turn them collectively into something glorious that reflects the light and glory of Christ in a way nothing else can. That’s the Church at its best. That’s us at our best.

Thank You, Boggs

A part of me refuses to believe that after 17 years, you will no longer be the Kairos Worship Pastor. Part of me expects to show up next week and find you leading us in worship like you’ve always done, but I know that God has called you further up and further in.

You’re taking the next step in God’s calling on your life. Your faithfulness in obedience is both heartwarming and heartbreaking because I know you’ll be where where God has been leading you all your life up to this point, but I also know that I will miss you.

You’ve been a good friend. You epitomized the saying about preaching the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words. Your whole life has been preaching the gospel and your words match your witness. You’ve never claimed to be perfect, but you’ve been honest about your failings and shortcomings.

I love how you haven’t been just a worship leader but a lead worshipper. You haven’t just told us to worship, but you’ve shown us how by ushering us into the very presence of God Almighty.

I am proud beyond belief to be able to call you friend, to call you brother, and to say that I love you very much because you’ve shown me the Jesus who loved me so very much. I hope that if God blesses me that I can be as good of a husband and father as I have seen you be to your wife and son.

Thank you, Boggs, for sharing part of your story with me and thank you God, for letting me play a small part in it. I am blessed indeed.

At the End of the Day

At the end of the day, Jesus will not ask us who we were against or how much we defended our free speech or how we let everybody know where we stand politically. He will ask, “Did you love the least of these? Did you love your enemies? Did you give to those who can’t ever pay you back?” At the end of the day, all that matters is this: did we love well like Jesus loved us well?

I wrote that a long time ago, but I think I’d add a few things that Jesus might ask me:

“Did you love those who sin differently than you?”

“Did you love those who express political opinions that are diametrically opposed to yours?”

“Did you love yourself as much as I loved you when I went to the cross for you?”

“Did your love mean uncritical passive acceptance or did your love mean that you want to see that person become the absolute best version of him or herself?”

“Did you remember today to tell the people you love that you love them? Did you say the actual words, not assuming they know or hoping they’ll pick up on it by your actions, but with the words I LOVE YOU?”