Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Digital Frontier

The digital frontier brings to our fingertips many resources and I want to highlight one of my favorites: podcasts. I now have access to many good preachers and teachers from across the U.S. and even the world. I wanted to share with you some of my favorites and encourage you to make them a part of your spiritual growth each week. Each of these podcasts are ones that I listen to and that God has been using to further my relationship with him. 

The first podcast I recommend is from The Village Church here in Dallas. Matt Chandler is a gifted speaker. He has a great ability to say things straight and really drive home the point that we live for God's glory. I really like Matt's preaching and the practicality that he brings to every sermon. Each one gives me something to think about for a long time or leaves me feeling like I know my Savior better. 

The second podcast is from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Timothy Keller has been called a modern day C.S. Lewis. His ability to take difficult subjects and walk you through them reminds me of my best seminary professors and yet it never feels like you are in class. His breadth of knowledge in theology and literature pepper his sermons and give you much to think about and a lot that you want to read when he is done. His recent sermon "The Wounded Spirit" has been very influential in my walk with God; it has helped me understand the transformative work of the Gospel even more. I highly recommend this podcast as a good starting place.

  This podcast is done by Pastor James Harleman of Mars Hill in Seattle. Each of the podcasts is from their Film and Theology series. The church gathers to watch a popular movie and then James discusses it from a spiritual standpoint and in context of the larger meta-narrative of the world. It is enriching to listen through any of these after watching a film and see where it connects with Scriptural principles and the greatest story of all. A great one to start with is the podcast on "Star Trek" from 2009.

J.D. Greear is the newest pastor that I have started listening to, but he has already had a huge impact on my life. He has been going through a series this summer called "Home Wreckers" about the things that ruin our relationships. These messages have all taught me so much. They have also left me needing to get on my knees and confess before the Lord. I pray you listen to them. They really are worth your time. 

The last one I'll mention is Mark Driscoll. He makes things simple and easy to understand without dumbing the message down. He is passionate about the Lord and cares deeply, wanting all to know the glory and grace of the Gospel. Listening to him every week has taught me a lot and has challenged me to take seriously the call to study Scripture thoroughly (he has been on a series in Luke for two years at his about thorough).

I hope that these will be as helpful to you as they have been to me. In this digital age we have access to so much to help us grow in the Lord and then pass it on to others. May he richly bless you as you grow in him and spread his Gospel to the world. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bigger Story

I watched “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” tonight. I resonated with it because I have felt like the main character for most of my life - feeling so much pressure to live up to the expectations of others. Like Craig, I have been crippled in many ways by my own warped sense of where I should be based on comparative thinking. This leads to inward and depressive thoughts and a crushing weight that you cannot seem to lift. You lack the ability to see the good that is around you and are left with tunnel vision, focusing only on what you can’t seem to get right.

The solution in the movie is good, but it is only part of the answer. Focusing on other people and helping them is a start, but it does not completely take the weight away. The only thing capable of that is the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit and the light of the Gospel. God makes us into new creations the moment we believe and trust in him for salvation. This work renews what was broken and restores the soul. We are now no longer bound to the disappointing and destructive cycle but to goodness eternal. We live in the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it is in that power that we can overcome the darkness that lays waste to our souls. Oh, we will struggle and evil will sometimes masquerade as who we are, but that will be the lie. We are God’s and as such are seen through the lens of Jesus’ sacrifice. If you are a believer then you live in the perfect love of God that casts out all fear. 

So the first answer to be found, if one wants to get out of the mire, is a new identity not based on your own works, but on someone perfect: Jesus. It is then that we can truly be free - free of ourselves and free to help others. In none of this am I responsible for healing or recreating, but it is God who does that work. It is for his glory then, because I can claim none of the credit but I can rejoice in the outcome. And that is good news. 

The second answer is to be known and know. Be known my someone - not just 99% but 100% known. It is in being known that helps ground us and keep the devil from being able to dig in and grab hold of us. If one is known and knows others intimately, then there is freedom because nothing is hidden; the focus shifts and we are part of a larger story. The light of the Gospel and being known by others keeps us from being wrapped up only in ourselves and helps us see our true reason for being here, which is to know God and enjoy him forever. It is then, when we lose ourselves and see that the main character in our stories is not us but God, we can begin to experience freedom.