A Minister's Take Aways From STORY 2018

A Minister's Take Aways From STORY 2018

I had the privilege to help with STORY, a two day conference-style gathering designed to inspire, challenge, and equip artists, creators, and storytellers who work in a variety of industries. 

I was there for a week to help set up, take down, and do whatever I was asked to do during the conference. Fortunately I was able to see most of the presentations. This year the theme was “Wonder” from Alice in Wonderland. We want to create wonder in our storytelling.

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Character Arc

Character Arc

Great writers of fiction give us far more dynamic characters than static ones. Change is relatable to us, since we know inconsistencies within ourselves. We love observing the process of growth in people, whether we’re watching Ebenezer Scrooge, Jean Valjean, Jack Shepherd, or our own children. On the other hand, the character arc is not always an upward trajectory. We also encounter the tragic downfalls of Macbeth, Michael Corleone, and Walter White. In its historical narratives, the Bible gives us plenty of examples of both directions the character arc can take.

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Cleansing: Inward and Outward (Part 4)

Cleansing: Inward and Outward (Part 4)

We have moved from the need for cleansing of the inner and outer self…to the reality of the cleansing work of Christ…to the results of the cleansing work in creating a new self which is a temple for God to live within. So what are the implications of the new self belonging to God as His sanctified space (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Well, most of Paul’s epistles contribute answers to this question when he reaches the ethical and practical sections (often in the 2nd half of the letters - passages like 1 Thessalonians 4, Galatians 5, 1 Corinthians 6, 2 Corinthians 6, Colossians 3, and Ephesians 4-5). Each of these sections of Scripture provide an angle of how the new-creation-holy-temple-of-God-life should look. But I ask you to consider some thoughts from another of these passages - Romans 6...

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Cleansing: Inward and Outward (Part 3)

Cleansing: Inward and Outward (Part 3)

All of us have poisons within and stains without. So the first part of Isaiah 4 is about God taking “survivors” (a remnant who are willing to surrender their brokenness to Him), cleansing them inwardly, cleansing them outwardly, thus making them holy, and bringing them home from exile. The use of “Branch of the LORD” (4:2) points to the ultimate meaning of this passage reaching beyond Israel’s geographical return from Babylonian/Persian Exile…to a fuller sense of return and restoration only realized in Jesus. 

So the chapter ends with God’s subsequent action...

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Cleansing: Inward and Outward (Part 2)

Cleansing: Inward and Outward (Part 2)

Last week we established how cleansing must start within. The heart is in need of re-creation (Psalm 51:10) and a new redemptive story written upon it (Jeremiah 31:33-34), replacing the record of sin which was engraved with a diamond-pointed iron stylus on the old heart (Jeremiah 17:1). Since “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9), the cure cannot be merely a topical treatment of the outside. It must be a fundamental, surgical change from within - a circumcision of the heart (Deuteronomy 30:6; Romans 2:29)

Let’s go back to where we were in the early chapters of Isaiah last week. Between 2 judgment sections (2:12-3:26 and 5:1-30), the 6 verses of Chapter 4 interweave the hopeful threads of remnant, return from exile, cleansing, and re-creation.

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Cleansing: Inward and Outward (Part 1)

Cleansing: Inward and Outward (Part 1)

When Peter says baptism is not just a cleansing of the flesh but is an appeal to God for a clean conscience (1 Peter 3:21), he is connecting the experience of baptism into Christ with a strong biblical theme - the need for both inward and outward cleansing. In Matthew 23, Jesus chides the Pharisaic “hypocrites” for their attention to detail on outside cleanliness while leaving leaving filth inside a seemingly well-polished cup and rotting flesh inside a white-washed tomb. Even the purpose of 2 goats being involved in the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16) has connection to the need for both inward and outward cleansing. The blood of the slain goat was sprinkled where no one save the high priest and God Himself would witness - a private, inward cleansing. The live goat was sent into the wilderness with confessed sins laid upon it as a public witness to all - an outward removal of the filth...

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Singing as Faith Confession

Singing as Faith Confession

To make a confession of faith in Jesus as my Lord, as Christ, and as the Son of God (Matthew 16:15-16; Romans 10:9-10) is an essential component of becoming a Christian. But our confession of Jesus continues in multiple forms as our walk in the light proceeds. One of the avenues in which we continue to confess Jesus before fellow humans (Matthew 10:32) is in our congregational singing. Consider this powerful thought from Hebrews...

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Robbing a Bully

Robbing a Bully

As part of my personal reading time, I’m trying to mix in some children’s and young adult books, especially now that I have children and want to have a wider variety of books to read to them and recommend to them as they get older. Upon recommendation from a friend, I recently read Jerry Spinelli’s book Loser. The story traces the early life of a kid named Zinkoff and some of the challenges he faces. 

An early scene in the book captures an all too real occurrence among children in a school setting. Proud of his "giraffe hat” he recently received as part of a zoo visit with his family, the first-grader Zinkoff brings his unique hat to recess only to have it snatched by some older kids...

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How Would Jesus Handle North Korea?

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He Wouldn’t.

"Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place."" John 18:36

If your kingdom of identification is with Jesus, let me encourage you to redirect your anxiety and your energy to the well-being of the imperishable and immortal kingdom of the Christ. This is not to say that God is unconcerned about the situation or that we shouldn't be prayerful towards it. This is to say that we should not live in fear about it.  Our priority is a kingdom much greater than this one.

"When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." 1 Corinthians 15:54

Peace and Love, Daniel

 

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Evangelism, Narcissism, and Mission (Pt 2)

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 Disobedience and Repentance in Jonah

When we left Jonah last week, he had boarded a ship in a feeble and hopeless attempt to run away from God and his calling. We often talk about people hitting rock bottom – Jonah has epitomized this metaphor. After receiving the word from God, he has gone nowhere but down. He went down to Joppa, down into the ship, down into the sea, and his redemption has carried him down to the bottom of the deepest sea. Jonah can go no lower. The voice of God has left the prophet, but the presence of God remains. In Jonah’s prayer, we find his repentant heart and have an opportunity to learn something very rich about what it means to repent of our disobedience to God’s will.

Accept God’s discipline. In business, in relationships, and in finances, we know this to be true. Take your medicine. When we see that we have made a mistake, we know that consequences will come. But this time, unlike times before, maybe those consequences can be outrun. It doesn’t work. It never works. And trying to outrun what is coming has only shown to make things worse. But we run. We turn tail and run away from the discipline we cannot avoid. Spiritual matters are no different. Discipline will come when we disobey God’s call. We will be better served and more quickly able to move on when we acknowledge our disobedience, repent of our sin, and accept the discipline that comes from what we have done. Only then can true healing begin.

Trust God’s promises. The path of least resistance is skepticism. It is the most comfortable and most chosen path. Trusting in God’s promises requires a great measure of faith. It is most difficult to act on what we know, because the promise has not yet been fulfilled when we are called to action. But God’s promises are rich and glorious. Read through Jonah’s prayer in Jonah chapter 2. It is littered with remorse and repentance. However, mingled in the despair is the acknowledgment of a faithful God who keeps his promises. Jonah goes all the way back to Solomon’s dedication of the temple to call on God’s faithfulness and mercy.

Yield to God’s will. Ultimately, we have to do what we should have done in the first place. The call didn’t change for Jonah, and it probably won’t change for you either. But, like Jonah, you will always be offered another chance to act on your repentance and yield to God’s will. If we have truly trusted in God’s promises, we will likely see no other choice but to do just this.

Embrace God’s redemption. This may be the most difficult part of the whole process of repentance. It can seem impossible to understand how far God has come for us. It is difficult to wrap our minds around God’s redemption. We find it inconceivable that God, as good, holy, and majestic as we know he is, would be able to look beyond our own failures and even our rebellion against him, and find us worthy of his love. But he does exactly that. It is the promise of a faithful God that when we have yielded to his will and repented of our disobedience, we receive redemption from our Creator. If he does not hold this against us, why should we then hold ourselves hostage to sin that has already been put aside.

Read Jonah’s prayer again. Write it in your heart. Learn how to pray an earnest prayer of repentance. Trust in God’s promises and act on his faithfulness. Yield to the will of the Father and embrace – truly embrace – the redemption the Almighty God.

Joshua Fowler

Joshua is the preaching minister at the Goodwood Church of Christ in Baton Rouge, LA

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