Free Book: Random Musings on Worship

I recently released a new free book for download. You can download it for yourself on your iPad or on iBooks for those of you running Mavericks on your Mac. Click here to check it out.

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Aurora

The shooting at Aurora was an atrocity. It was something we can’t imagine anyone doing and something we can’t imagine being caught up in. It was wrong, awful, horrible, disgusting, and insert more adjectives here. And yet despite all the evil, today humanity redeems itself. I’ve come across two stories today of people loving the victims through this hard time. I came across the first one this morning on Nerd Approved:

Actor Christian Bale, who played Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, made a surprise trip to Aurora, Colorado to visit victims of the shooting that happened at a midnight showing of the film last week…

The shooting at Aurora was an atrocity. It was something we can’t imagine anyone doing and something we can’t imagine being caught up in. It was wrong, awful, horrible, disgusting, and insert more adjectives here.

And yet despite all the evil, today humanity redeems itself. I’ve come across two stories today of people loving the victims through this hard time. I came across the first one this morning on Nerd Approved:

Actor Christian Bale, who played Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, made a surprise trip to Aurora, Colorado to visit victims of the shooting that happened at a midnight showing of the film last week. Warner Brothers confirmed that Bale did this on his own and was not representing the studio on the trip. He spent a little over two hours at the hospital visiting with patients, staff, and some of the first responders. Nicely done, Mr. Bale.

Now I saw a few people posting on Facebook this past week that they hoped Christian Bale would show up at the hospital dressed as Batman. I thought that might be a bit cheesy, but it was a cool sentiment. However, I did not expect Christian Bale to get anywhere near the scene. I figured that if he did the media would be all over the place and he would be surrounded by cameras left and right.

I kind of learned this yesterday. I was at a TobyMac concert in Adrian, MI when last minute I was offered a chance to meet the Christian-music-sensation himself. And while TobyMac is like my childhood hero and I’ve always wanted to talk with him, I felt kind of guilty about meeting him. Why? Because there were about 60 people in this line to meet him and there was probably only supposed to be around 5. Now the last time I had gotten close to meeting him there was security all around him and people following him. It was basically idolization. That memory come back into me as I was waited in this long line to meet him, knowing that he probably didn’t expect so many people and after playing music for decades, may not have had the patience to meet so many before the show. From my knowledge, he doesn’t usually stick around and sign autographs after a concert. This usually happens because you’ve become too famous to be able to breathe when you do come out to meet people.

But despite my guilt, I stayed in the line and got a quick picture with him to brag about, struggling with idolization in my mind for most of the time.

Or I think of actor Jeff Daniels who lives over in Chelsea where I lived for a few years. People always told me that he had a hard time being in public because people would treat him as a celebrity rather than a person. And if he did say that, he was right. The few times I was in the same room with him I couldn’t stop myself from constantly turning my gaze towards him.

Now imagine Batman himself showing up at a hospital. I think that requires a lot of heart as I’m sure people probably flocked to him in one way or another, wanting autographs and wanting to take time to talk to him.

We have an addiction to celebrities and so props to Christian Bale for doing what he did.

In other news, I also read this today on Relevant Magazine’s webpage:

3 of the 4 hospitals that the victims of the Colorado movie theater shootings have been staying in have chosen to either limit or totally erase their medical bills, which is just a very nice gesture. Warner Bros, who have come into a bit of money recently, have also donated a $2 million to the victims. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has also set up a fund to help the victims with their short term and long term medical bills, which you can donate to here …

On top of this I even heard that movie distributors withheld their weekend box office money in respects to what had happened in Aurora.

Again, it’s good to see the good in people and I think we are seeing it more and more today as social justice is becoming a hot topic with today’s youth. We want to see the world changed and people loved through their pain; from the earthquakes of Haiti to the capture of Joseph Kony.

Which brings me to the hard part.

As Christians we are called to love everyone. We are called to hope for everyone. We are called to desire forgiveness on everyone’s life—for the victims—as well as for the victimizer.

Can you, as a Christian hope for love and forgiveness in the Aurora shooter’s heart?

  • After King Manasseh had held an incredibly hellish reign over Israel, God forgives him and he turns his life around.
  • Jesus turns to a criminal on the cross next to him and welcomes him into paradise.
  • Jesus extends forgiveness to His own murderers saying, “forgive them for they know not what they do.”
  • Jesus extends love and forgiveness and hope to you in the worst possible state you could be in.

Right before I started writing this post, I came across a story in Gregory Boyd’s book, The Present Perfect. At the end of chapter 3, Boyd talks about a murder he heard about in which a three year old boy was murdered. He was incredibly upset about it and later that night he was given an image (a vision, if you will) of a man locking his son in a dark closet. The boy wanted out so badly and was afraid of the dark, but the father kept him trapped in there. Boyd was confused as to why he was seeing this as he imagined it was the young boy who had just been murdered. What good was there praying for a dead boy?

God then showed him that this boy in the closet wasn’t the boy who had been murdered—this boy was the man who murdered him.

God is the perfect judge. He knows every little thing about every single person in the universe. He knows what makes us tick and why we do the things we do. I’m not saying that this makes our evil right—by no means am I saying that! What I am saying is that we need to let God be the judge of this shooter and love this man to Christ—no matter how evil his actions may have been.

I side with a tweet Boyd made this past Monday.

Lord, bless the family & friends of those slain in Aurora, and reveal your love & forgiveness to your precious child who slew them.

And just so we’re all clear, I understand perfectly well that it’s easier for me to hope this for the shooter when I’m not directly related to the incident. I do not mean in any way to downplay the hurt and pain this man has caused in anyone’s life. I just hope for love and forgiveness for him.

The Digital Church: Helpful Technologies for Your Ministry


I was recently asked to give a lecture to a class at Spring Arbor University on using the internet and technology in churches today. Considering I do so quite at 1208GREENWOOD Free Methodist Church, I thought I’d share a few ideas as to how you can incorporate such technologies in your ministry.

1. Facebook

Visit 1208’s Facebook

Facebook is about as obvious as it gets when it comes to incorporating the internet into your church. You can upload pictures, tag people, give updates, and link, link, link. It creates an online community in which your congregants can see that much more goes on at your building than just a Sunday morning service. They can see how they can get involved and be aware of events coming up (even if they’re last minute).

However, there is a problem with many church Facebooks: they’re dead. Sure, there is a page people can like, but for the most part nothing is there (or at least what is there is from a year ago). If you want your church to look alive in healthy, show them that it is. Take a picture every other day of something going on and post it to your Facebook. Write a blog post so people can keep up with you. If your Facebook page is dead it might lead others to think that (A) you aren’t doing anything or (B) that your church doesn’t understand technology. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with not using technology, but if you’re looking to attract today’s generation at all, they may take notice that you use technology and use it well. And if you use it well, you can get the word out. For example, here are some flyers we post on Facebook.

2. YouTube

Visit 1208’s YouTube

If you have any video editing skills, take some footage every once in awhile and throw it up on your YouTube channel. From there, you can link it to Facebook and show the world what you’ve been up to. Show people how an event went or make a video to get the word out about an event coming up.

3. Twitter

Visit 1208’s Twitter

Twitter is easy enough to use as long as your not long winded. You’ve only got 140 characters to say what you need to say. As you can see, we update our Twitter by simply linking Twitter to Facebook. That way anything we post to Facebook will automatically be posted to Twitter with a link to the thing we said on Facebook. That way, if we write too much on Facebook then you can click on the link to see the rest of what we were saying. Another great way of getting the word out there and with how popular it is, it should definitely be utilized.

4. WordPress

Visit Jamin’s Blog

If you’re in ministry and have good backing in some kind of exegetical education I highly suggest you start practicing what I call the spiritual discipline of blogging. There are many aspects to this, but I’ll try to keep my explanation brief.

Today, anyone can blog and get their beliefs and feelings out there. This is good of course, but can create some problems as essentially anyone can get their beliefs and feelings out there. Now I’m all for free speech, but let’s face it: people misinterpret the Bible all the time. I’m not asking people to stop blogging, but I am do wish those who know the exegetical basics of Biblical interpretation to step up and blog. You are the ones who can break the cycle and present scholarly blogs. Writing such posts will grow you with God and make you a better writer. It will also give you an avenue to teach through outside of the pulpit.

I highly suggest getting a WordPress account if you’re going to blog. No blogging service will benefit you quite as much as WordPress will, especially with all of the free helpful statistics and insights it offers you.

5. Publishing

With the rise of the iTunes and other music distributing technologies came the ability for local bands to get their music out there. We are now stepping into a world in which writers can do the same. Now with most writings this is not a problem, but when it comes to Christian writings we have the same problem we have with blogging: anyone can write a book. Again, this isn’t bad and it doesn’t mean that what anyone has to say is bad, but it can be. If you understand how to read and interpret the Bible, you have the power at your fingertips to now write a book about something God puts on your heart. I’ve now personally been able to publish two books: COLOUR, and The Prophetic Jacket.

6. Foursquare

Visit our Foursquare

If you have an iPhone or Android you may have heard of this app. It’s essentially a social network for checking into places. When you stop somewhere you check into that place on the app and you get points for doing so. You tend to get more points for going to new places and if you check into a place more than anyone else, you become the mayor of that place. The points are just for fun and it pushes you to compete with your friends and check into lots of places.

This is a good way to get word out that you exist. When people check into 1208GREENWOOD Free Methodist Church it will let others know that they are there. It will even post it to Facebook if they have linked their Foursquare account to Facebook. The more people see people check in, the more they’ll be curious to check you out sometime. It’s a creative way to get word out that you exist and get people not in a church, into a church.

If you own your venue on Foursquare you can also put specials up on your Foursquare page. For example, I got free parmesan bread at a local pizza place for checking in there three times. I can’t figure out what kind of a special would work for a church yet, but it’s a cool idea to put in place if you can think of one.

7. Church Apps

Download 1208’s iPhone app

If you have someone in your church who is good with developing software, see if they can make you a mobile app. If you don’t have someone like that in your church, do what we did and ask an app developer like iGivings to make one for you. We lucked out and happened to get an app made from iGivings for free during a limited time offer, but you can still pay to get one made. If you want to see what that app will look like, check out ours. This is a great way to get mp3s of your messages out there as well as upcoming events and blog posts. It puts them all in the same place. It’s similar to Facebook, but cool to have (especially if you have enough app users in your church).

8. Newsletters

Check out one of 1208’s newsletters

We don’t really have the money to print off a bunch of beautiful color newsletters every time we make one, but we do have the ability to email great looking PDFs to every single person in our church. We also make a link available for download on our Facebook page. This allows us to get word out to everyone about what we’ve been doing, are doing, and are about to do. This way we don’t even have to worry about making everything printable or trying to make it all look good in black and white. We can just expect that it’ll be read on a computer or tablet. Or people can even print it off themselves and then read it that way if they prefer to do so.

9. Cloud Drives

Check out 1208’s Google Drive

You can get a free cloud drive for your church quite easily. Just use Dropbox or Google Drive. They’ll give you a few gigs to store files on and you can makes those files public or private. We have a private Dropbox file for our church in which we transfer our PowerPoints and other service files back and forth. We also have a public one where people can download our messages, newsletters and what have you. They can be very useful.

Free iBook: The Prophetic Jacket

After about a year of writing, I have finished a book I call The Prophetic Jacket. This book is my attempt to express all of the love, grace, and mercy that is Jesus Christ. I start with a story about a jacket and follow a stream of thought into all kinds of areas of Christianity, expressing God’s love in everything along the way.

You can download it for free on iBooks by clicking here. If you don’t own an iPad, iPhone, or iTouch to read it on you can download a PDF or ePub file by clicking here. You can also download the book on Amazon’s Kindle Store, but it will cost 99 cents there as I am forced to give it some kind of a price. You can also read it and download it for free on my Goodreads page.

However it is that you decide to download it, I would greatly appreciate it if you would still give it a download on iBooks, even if you can’t read it there. Every download helps me promote the book by moving it up the charts on the iBooks store. Thanks and I hope you enjoy it!

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The Book of Eli: From a Christian Perspective

This is a post I’ve actually wanted to make for quite awhile as The Book of Eli has been on my “Five Greatest Movies Ever Made” list ever since I saw it (it currently stands at number three). It is the best Christian movie I have ever seen despite the fact that I’m sure the writers weren’t really looking for it to be Christian. I believe the directors were really just looking to make something philosophical and I don’t even know that any of them were necessarily Christian. Let’s say that up front before anyone tries to tell me that this movie was never meant to be Christian and I’m stupid or something like that.

When I originally saw the preview for Book of Eli, I was disappointed. I thought this was going to be just another movie that made Christianity look awful. All I could tell from the trailer was that it had something to do with the Bible and R-rated violence and cursing. And so I planned on never seeing it.

But then a group of people I really trusted saw it and informed me of how great it was. I figured that if they weren’t offended by it, it must have not been the movie I expected it to be. And so, in this blog post I would like to cover some of the amazing themes and points it made. And if you haven’t watched it, then go do so before you read it. This post goes beyond SPOILER ALERT so you’ll pretty much know everything about this movie if you read it.

Or if you’re a Christian and want to see what points I have to make before you decide if you want to watch it, read on. But again, know that the movie is rated R mostly for a few intense action scenes and some cursing. I will say that I’m not much of an R-rated movie kind of person, but I thought this one wasn’t too bad. Even the amount of f-words compared to most R-rated movies was pretty minimal.

THEME 1: BLAMELESS IN HIS TIME

The Bible describes Noah as “blameless in his generation” or “time” depending on the translation you use (Genesis 6:9). This always stood out to me because it seemed to imply that he probably wasn’t totally living up to God’s standard and could have had some serious sin in his life. But at this point in time, the rest of the world is so evil, that Noah (despite his shortcomings) is considered righteous.

The Book of Eli is put in an apocalyptic setting. The sun has burned through the atmosphere and much of the world looks like a desert. Instead of the deep contrast that most Hollywood movies have, the editors intentionally rendered this movie in faded tones of brown and blue. Society is falling apart and like every apocalyptic video game, gangs and corrupt towns are rising up in the new world. The planet is now filled with the evils of robbery, rape, prostitution, and violence.

And then there’s Eli.

He walks into this evil setting literally carrying the word of God. He has one of the only Bibles left in existence as some kind of previous war led people to burn all the Bibles they could find. Eli is on a mission from God and so he appears righteous, but he’s also living in the corruption of the time. In order to get around safely he carries weapons and fights and kills the gangs that threaten him. He fights in self-defense.

Now of course I’m not saying that Noah killed people or did anything that serious. What I am saying is that there is somewhat of a correlation here as far as being “righteous for the time” goes. I am not by any means making excuses for his murders or even for your sins. So don’t take that verse out of context.

At the end of the movie Eli mentions in a prayer that he’s done things that he shouldn’t have done and that he’s sorry. So you can see that at some point, he became aware of it his sins.

THEME 2: THE LAND THAT I WILL SHOW YOU

A lot of times, we think that if we were to hear God, it would be audible. A light would shine down on us and blind our eyes and a booming voice would ring through our ears: “MY CHILD, GO TO THIS PLACE AND DO THIS THING.”

But Biblically, God’s voice wasn’t always audible. It catches us off guard to read through the prophetic books and realize that all of the prophet’s “thus-sayeth-the-Lord’s” aren’t necessarily related to an audible experience. In fact, in Elijah’s experience God was trying to show how quiet His voice was. He wasn’t in a powerful wind storm. He wasn’t in a fire. But He was in a still small whisper. He was in something that was barely audible (if even that).

Sometimes God is so subtle that people can only feel that God is telling them to do something. Some kind of an impression is on them and they can’t put it into words very well. They just know it’s Him. That seems to be Eli’s situation. He never seemed to have some kind of crazy supernatural experience in which God yelled at him or gave him a vision or anything like that. From his explanation, it appears that he is motivated by a word, feeling or impression of some sort.

All he really knows is that he’s supposed to take this Bible that he found and out west for some reason. And at the end of the movie he finds the proper place for it to be. It’s odd because even some Christians are thinking that this part of the story is too far fetched.  They find it hard to believe that Eli ended up there because of God.

And yet we do things off of impressions all the time and are happy to claim that God told us when we see the results.

In the Bible, the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). In other words, God basically told Abraham to just start walking and he would tell him when to stop. He didn’t tell him where that land was.

Have you ever moved? It’s no cakewalk. Especially during this time when you’re transportation is limited. You leave your family, your friends, and everything you know and you may never see them again. And in Abraham’s case, he didn’t even know his destination. He was more or less supposed to walk until it was time to stop.

It’s not far-fetched or coincidence. Sometimes it’s just the way God works. It’s part of the reason Eli mentions that he walks by faith and not by sight.

THEME 3: EXEGESIS VS EISEGESIS

Pastor Bill Johnson made a status update on Facebook yesterday in which he said, “It’s a great tragedy when the Bible is interpreted by those who are not in love.” Carnegie, the antagonist in this movie embodies this tragedy and much more.

He has his minions searching everywhere for a Bible and so they grab what books they can find and bring them back to him, but they never have the right one.

Why does he want a copy so badly? Does he want to sell it because they’re rare? Or is it because he believes in God and wants so badly to learn more? Maybe he wants a book full of history?

No, it’s none of those reasons. The actual reason he wants it is because he remembers the power of its words. When people preach out of the Bible, others listen. And since he’s the head of this town, he craves that power. If only he could pull the right words out of Scripture, people would listen to him. He could take God’s name in vain and claim his desires to be justified by God’s word.

It might sound like a bizarre storyline, but it’s really not. Take a look through history. How many selfish desires have we obtained by misusing Scripture? How many wars have been justified by God’s word? How many lands have been taken by interpreting the Bible incorrectly?

And now we Christians have have these awful sins attached to our name and to the Bible. Why? Because someone who wasn’t in love interpreted the Bible for their own benefit.

There’s something huge you learn when you’re studying to be a pastor, and that’s the difference between exegesis and eisegesis. Exegesis is an in depth and critical understanding of a text whereas eisegesis is a personal explanation of a text using your own ideas. This may be a weird way explain the struggle between the protagonist and antagonist, but it kind of works. Eli wants to have the Bible in a safe place where God desires it to be while Carnegie wants to abuse it to justify his desires, and trick people into following him.

I was glad to see a movie contrast this theme where as most just accuse all Christians of being like this.

THEME 4: THE DIVINE PROTECTION OF ELI

Throughout the movie you get this sense that God is supernaturally protecting Eli. You especially feel this during a scene in which Eli leaves Carnegie’s town. During this time, Eli walks out of the town, quite aware that he has upset the villain. I also imagine that he’s quite aware that Carnegie would try to stop him from doing so as he desperately wants Eli’s Bible.

And so, Carnegie tells one of the soldiers to shoot Eli. He does, and just misses. You can see the bullet pass right through the top of Eli’s jacket just narrowly missing his body. Eli stops and then begins to walk again. Seconds later he’s engaged in a gun fight between him and about a dozen others and he somehow wins. He then turns to leave the town as one of the main soldiers aims his gun at him. And then, for whatever reason, that soldier doesn’t shoot. Instead he just puts his gun down at his side and stares. The movie could have ended right there, but instead Eli seemed to be divinely protected.

There are plenty of other cases in which Eli appears to have been divinely protected—which you truly realize when you know how the ending of the movie.

THEME 5: COLOR

This is a quick point, but you’ll notice that the movie begins to gain color as Eli nears the place where God has sent him. Even the sky begins to change which was intentional as the special features explain that they wanted the sky to be a character in the movie.

You can almost see the life that completing God’s will has brought not just to Eli, but even to the land surrounding him.

THEME 6: THE SUPERNATURAL ABILITIES OF ELI

Incase you haven’t seen it, here’s the surprise ending of The Book of Eli:

The dude’s blind.

Yep, you read right. Somehow Eli has been walking in the right direction the whole time. Somehow, he has fought entire gangs and won. Somehow, he has even managed to win gun fights when his opponents were standing on top of buildings far away.

How was this received? Well for me personally, it made it my third favorite movie ever made. But it ticked off a lot of other people, because the entire movie just became irrational. I mean, seeing that he survived his journey and was right about God telling him to go west was one thing, but now he did it all blind?

That was just too much for some people to take—even some Christians. There was no way this movie made any believable sense any more. And so I applaud the directors for being so brave. And I challenge those Christians who didn’t like this ending, because I think they forgot a lot of stories that are in their Bibles:

Abraham walked to the right place. A slave became Pharaoh. Samson had super strength. Small armies defeated big armies. Little people did ginormous things. A boy took down a giant. The walls of Jericho came tumbling down for no logical reason. A virgin got pregnant. Jesus walked on water. Elijah, Jesus, Peter and Paul raised the dead. People saw angels. People dreamed dreams. People had visions. People did this. People did that.

The Bible’s full of crazy stories!

Now look, I get that The Book of Eli is a work of fiction. I understand that it’s not real. But there are so many themes in it that just excite me as a Christian—especially the fact that the story seems impossible. It shows the theme of God’s supernatural power and divine providence all the much more. It challenges you and makes you think. That’s not something that most action movies do a whole lot of.

THEME 7: THE START OF SOMETHING BIG

I remember that a friend of mine had a complaint about another part of the ending. The place where Eli took the Bible was a place that was collecting books and history from around the world. And so, when they had finished printing the Bible, they placed a copy of it right next to other religious books like the Koran.

This actually upset me at first too. As a Christian, I believe the Bible should be elevated above all other books and especially above books of other religions as the Bible is the one true book of God.

But that being said, placing the book here made sense for the movie. Remember, we’re in an apocalyptic world right now and all of the Bibles have been burned. For that reason, it should be expected that people wouldn’t take the Bible that seriously. Much of the world no longer even knows who God is. It makes sense for that reason that they’d place the Bible next to other religious books.

But here’s what excites me in this part of the story: we’ve seen God’s divine providence in getting the Bible up on this shelf. The movie seems to push towards this being the will and plan of God. Therefore, it makes sense to me that God would have a bigger plan later for His Word. As you read throughout the Bible you see that certain narratives and promises take place over hundreds of years. For me, this is the start of something much bigger. If there was a sequel to The Book of Eli, it would be the story of what God did next with His word.

And again, I know this movie is fiction. But we all like stories and I think that this particular one was ingenious.

The Prodigal’s Brother

My memory may elude me quite a bit, but for some reason I remember watching an interview between Stephen Colbert and Father James Martin a few years back. I believe it stood out to me so much because I had seen Father Martin’s book in the Christian section of Borders (rest in peace). The cover just looked so cool to me:

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On top of that, you don’t usually see too many late night hosts interviewing priests, so that grabbed my attention before I even knew this guy was related to this book.

I had since then forgotten about The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, but I managed to find it on the shelves of Borders (rest in peace again) as they were going out of business, so I grabbed myself a copy. After all, I do enjoy reading up on Christian history and much of this book was conversation based around the Jesuit founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola. And from what it seemed in the interview, Father Martin had a sense of humor that would make his book an enjoyable read (as proved thus far).

Anyways, I bring this up because there is a part in chapter two that really stands out to me. It is here that Martin reviews six general paths that people tend to take to get to God. I more or less grew up in the first one he mentions known as the path of belief. To summarize, I more or less grew up believing in God and haven’t really had a struggle with believing in His existence (though of course I’ve had my own struggles outside of that). I love what the author had to say on this path:

Others sometimes envy people who walk along the path of belief. “If only I had faith like you!” one friend often tells me. While I understand her sentiment, that persepetive makes faith seem like something you have rather than have to work at keeping. It’s as if you’re born with unquestioning faith, like being born with red hair or brown eyes. Or as if faith were like pulling into a gas station and filling your tank.

But it was what he had to say a few paragraphs later that really grasped my attention, because I saw a little bit of me in his statement:

One pitfall for those on the path of belief is an inability to understand people on other paths and a temptation to judge them for their doubt or disbelief. Certainty prevents some believers from being compassionate, sympathetic, or even tolerant of others who are not as certain in their faith. Their arrogance turns them into the “frozen chosen,” consciously or unconsciously excluding others from their cozy, believing world. This is the crabbed, joyless, and ungenerous religiosity that Jesus spoke against: spiritual blindness

Now I don’t think that I struggle with this problem anywhere near as harshly as he stated it. In fact, I think I always aim to be compassionate, sympathetic, and tolerant to others struggling with their faith as well as with those who don’t believe at all.

But sometimes I think I have less compassion for those whom I know were incredibly firm in their belief and have left God. Perhaps if you share the same path you know what I mean?

For example: let’s say you’ve grown up with close friends who have since then seemed to have turned away from God. They went to the same events as you, experienced the same moves of God as you, and entered into deep discussion about God with you. Or maybe you didn’t grow up with them, but you’ve talked with a person enough to know that you both have had a similar background and belief system. And then, something happens in that person’s life and they completely turn away from Christ.

Yes, there are even Christians who have tangibly experienced the supernatural ways of God and have still convinced themselves that He is not real (usually because they no longer needed Him or because they felt like He didn’t follow through for them).

Now this isn’t a huge struggle for me, but when I find myself in such a situation, I sometimes feel betrayed and upset. If I know them and their faith well enough, then I begin to wonder how they could turn their back on God. How could something come into their life and take that away from them? It’s not like my life in the Christian faith has aways been easy and I’ve still pushed through. What right do they have to leave? Furthermore, they know pretty much everything about Christianity so they certainly know what they’re turning their back on!

I more or less find myself living in the shoes of the prodigal son’s brother. They run away and do everything wrong while I try to stay close to the Father. And when you actually put yourself in the context of the prodigal’s brother, you begin to see the difficulty of a big ol’ party being thrown for your runaway brother when he returns.

But that’s the kind of God we serve. One who returns to His people time and time again. One who rises up to reach those even though they’ve sinned greatly against Him. One who dies on a cross while they point and mock.

Like I said, this isn’t a huge issue for me, but sometimes I can sense the pain of the prodigal’s brother. And just so you know, everything inside of me wants that person to come back to Christ and be saved again. That is always my hope and there is no issue there. It’s just that it can be upsetting at times.

But we are called to look past that pain and bring the lost home to Christ for their welcoming party. For He always leaves the ninety-nine to find the one.

And we are called to do the same.

We must always be compassionate.

We must always be full of grace.

1208 Greenwood: Issue #2

Here’s the latest issue of 1208 Greenwood! See what we’ve been up to. You can download the entire PDF right here, or click on the pictures below to enlarge. You can also check out Issue #1 here. And there’s a video recap of our community yard sale at the bottom.