Catalyst Dallas Highlights

I had a full weekend.

I had the opportunity to attend both The Catalyst Conference in Dallas with some of my team and than a Men’s Conference with some great dudes from our church. I am exhausted, inspired, spent, fired up, sleepy, and wide-awake. Many of you in ministry and leadership know exactly the kind of tension I am feeling right now. These events are often like trying drink from a firehose. With so much information and inspiration coming at you you grab what you can, take some notes, sing loud and proud, and then find some time over the next few days to ruminate on and incorporate what you’ve learned into your real world.

The theme of Catalyst this year was A Community of Change Makers. I attend the Atlanta event back in October and was excited to take a handful of our ministry leaders to the event at Gateway Church here in the metroplex. The major emphasis from every speaker was that to truly lead others effectively, a leader must lead him or herself first.

Here is a fundamental truth that is so important for us to learn and live out:

Who we are as leaders is more important that what we do.

For today, I just want to share a few of my favorite quotes from the weekend – with a couple of Don Miller & Bob Goff quotes from the Men’s Conference. I hope that these thoughts give you some motivation for your week ahead. Be sure to comment on the exit question at the bottom.

Whatever you have to do today, Love. Everybody. Always.

Andy Stanley

  • 2 questions every leader must ask: 1) Who am I? 2) What breaks my heart?
  • Great leaders make things better for their people.
  • You have no idea what hangs in the balance of your decision to embrace the burden God has put in your heart.
  • Many years from now, what would you like people to line up to thank you for?

Lisa TerKeurst

  • External Change requires Internal Shifts.
  • The 1st Five – give the first five minutes of your day to the Lord.
  • God is good and God is good at being God.

Dr Caroline Leaf

  • Your brain is nothing compared to your mind.
  • Change you mind and you can change your brain.
  • You can listen to God or Google and Gossip. (Non-toxic thoughts vs. Toxic Thoughts)

Eugene Cho

  • God doesn’t want to change the world. He wants to change us.
  • Act upon the thing that God puts on your hearts.
  • Don’t be more in love with the IDEA of change. Actually Change.
  • Don’t quit. Persevere. (Note: Apparently Cho had been ill and traveled from Seattle to Dallas. He had to stop part way through to take a breath and recover.)

Robert Morris

  • We may be born selfish but we are re-born generous.
  • Do not GIVE in order to GET. Wrong motivation.
  • Mammon promises us things only God can give. Life. Peace. Joy.
  • People don’t need money. They need God.
  • Abel gave of his first fruits. Cain gave what he wanted, when he wanted, in the way he wanted.
  • We are the most like God when we GIVE.

Robert Madu

  • When you encounter Jesus you always walk away with more than you expected.
  • Fatherhood is the best ‘hood.
  • There is a vast difference between knowing Church and knowing Jesus.
  • Jesus wasn’t just a good man but a God-Man.
  • When someone is lowered through the roof… you should probably shut that sermon down.
  • When your EXPERIENCE doesn’t line up with your EXPECTATIONS God is probably giving you a REVELATION. Pay attention to what he is telling you.

Danielle Strickland (The Highlight of Catalyst for me)

  • Everyone wants to change the world. Not everyone is willing to get up (early) to do it.
  • You know which surfer catches the wave? The one in the water.
  • Posture yourself/Posture your life in such a way that when the wave comes, you can catch it.

Rich Wilkenson Jr

  • God hasn’t called us to hard things. God has called us to do IMPOSSIBLE things.
  • Don’t let your past failures or your fear of future failures keep you from following where Jesus is calling you.
  • Don’t take a fragment of failure with you to the next place.
  • Criticism can get on you but don’t let it get IN YOU.

Bob Goff

  • You are not defined by your worst day or your greatest success. You are defined by LOVE.
  • When we live under the banner of Christ it doesn’t just change some things, it changes EVERYTHING.
  • I’m just trying to be the next humblest version of myself.
  • Love. Everybody. Always.
  • People turn into who others say they are.
  • You get the green lights you get.
  • God wants us to live right on the edge of YIKES.
  • It’s not about MANNING UP. It’s about SHOWING UP!

Don Miller

  • Tie your dreams with the dreams of others. Good stories involve other people.
  • Think of Joker’s face and Vader’s limbs. They didn’t do the hard work needed to bring about real healing.
  • We are in the middle of Act II. It’s difficult. There is no resolution. In the midst of conflict.
  • Look at the people God calls into LEADERSHIP. You have not done worse than them.
  • Heroes are in it for the sake of others.

Exit Question:

What is the most important leadership lesson you are currently try to live out in your leadership context?

The Fifteenth Year

15 years ago I had just returned from a semester overseas studying abroad in Athens, Greece. My small Christian college seemed even smaller after exploring the world but I was ready to get back to classes and earn my degree in Youth and Family Ministry.

That’s when I got the call.

A graduate student had recommended me to a small church just outside of Little Rock to serve as their part-time youth minister. He told me about the church and all that the job entailed. I would teach classes on Sunday, Sunday Night, and Wednesday night. I would also occasionally lead singing and participate in the life of the church.

He said that the job was mine if I wanted it.

I said, “Yes!”

With that invitation and with my agreement to work and serve that little church, I officially began as a full-time minister following God’s calling in my life.

So much has happened over the last 15 years. 

We have moved from AR to AL and back to TX. I have taught hundreds of classes, led thousands of songs, read countless commentaries, and attended numerous conferences. I’ve held new born babies, prayed over men and women going into surgery, spent late nights in the ER, and stood by those who have lost loved ones. I’ve welcomed new families in the church and said goodbye to others. I’ve been to the mountain top and I’ve trudged through the dark valleys. I have seen God work wonders and I have seen Him transform myself and those around me.

My focus for this year is Fitness.

I want to be Spiritually Fit.

I want to be Physically Fit.

I want to be Emotionally Fit.

I want to be Intellectually Fit.

As I think about what it means to be fit in ministry and in life I remember the challenge Paul shares with the church on Corinth:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24–27)

Over the last few weeks I have been praying over and planning some pretty ambitious goals for this year. I feel God is calling me to abandon the average life and ministry in order to go deeper into His Story and His Kingdom. No one stumbles into fitness. No one wanders around the track and crosses the finish line. To run the race and finish well takes training, focus, passion, and faith in the One who provides the strength needed to endure.

I live a great life.

I get to live out my calling doing the thing that I love with people that I love for a Savior that I love.

As I begin my 15th year in full-time ministry I have never been more excited about what God may have in store. I’m ready to dig deeper, reach higher, abandon average, and run the race full out.

Here’s to the start of another 15 years in ministry.

 

Living in Anticipation

The birth of a baby brings a whole host of emotions with it. There are all these different emotions but the greatest of these is the growing sense of Anticipation.

The birth of a baby is always accompanied by Anticipation.

From the moment it is known that a baby is on the way, Anticipation builds and sets into motion all other emotions and behaviors.

Anticipation brings Excitement and Joy.

Anticipation is accompanied by Anxiety.

Anticipation builds Hope.

Anticipation causes us to act in accordance with this Hope.

For most of us, 9 months of Anticipation is more than enough for our hearts and minds to handle.

Now imagine waiting not 9 months or one year or even a decade. Imagine anticipating the birth of a baby for hundreds, even a few thousand years.

That’s what happened to God’s people.

Ever since the Fall of Man all the way back in the Garden of Eden, God’s people have been waiting with Anticipation for God to fulfill His promise and send a Savior to rescue them from sin and bring them back into unbroken fellowship with their Heavenly Father.

Genesis 3:15 – “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

They had been waiting in Anticipation since the day God called Abraham and blessed him so that through his family, God would bless the entire world.

They waited in Anticipation for 400 years as slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt.

In Anticipation they waited for salvation as they entered the land God promised their ancestors generations before.

Even while God’s people moved in and out of faithfulness some continued to live in Anticipation. It seemed for every good king who led the people to righteousness there were 5 kings who led the people further away from God. When the people were scattered and taken captive because of their sin, Anticipation of God’s promised Messiah continued to breed hope in the lives of God’s faithful people.

There were leaders who continued to hold out this hope and to remind the people of God’s promise of salvation and life. The Prophets were bold men who spoke words of comfort and discomfort:

Comfort to those who longed to see God’s promised Messiah bring healing and restoration back to their world and discomfort to those who had forgotten God’s words, who had failed to live in Anticipation that God would fulfill his promises.

As time when on many of God’s people lost their sense of Anticipation. Although the people had returned from exile God had not overturned the pagan empires who defamed his name and God’s Presence had not come into His temple in power and majesty and glory. Losing their sense of Anticipation was their first step in doubting God’s love, no longer trusting in His ways, and losing hope that God would fulfill His promises at all.

The prophet Malachi, a messenger of God’s promised Savior, ended his message with this:

Malachi 4:1–6 – “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the LORD Almighty.

“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

Malachi’s words reminded the people that a great King was on his way and that when he arrived he would not only judge the wicked but that he would bring justice, blessing, and restoration.

However, the people had to continue to wait. For another 400 years, God was silent. The people found themselves in a place where they had been many times before. A place of decision: Would they waver and forget all that God had promised or would they live lives marked by Anticipation?

This is the place we find ourselves tonight. 

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring. By thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone; by thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.

Are you eagerly awaiting to see God’s promised Messiah, The great King who brings justice, blessing, hope, and salvation? 

Thanksgiving Proclamation

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

4 Reasons Why I Prepare My Preaching Calendar Months in Advance

This is a big week for me because this is the week I plan my 2014-2015  Preaching Calendar. I already have everything laid out through the end of the year but after this weekend I will have the next 12 months of my preaching calendar planned out. For me, this is huge and very exciting.

I believe that planning ahead is a great way to trust in the Spirit and allow him to move through the entire process from prayer to planning to study to execution. God blesses planning and preparation as well as faithfulness. Planning your Preaching Calendar one month, 3 months, or even a year in advance is a way of being faithful to Jesus, God’s Word, and your calling to share the Good News.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been listening to God, praying, and asking for wisdom in planning this calendar. Before I share with you the steps I take to create this calendar, I want to share with you 4 Reasons WHY I Prepare My Preaching Calendar Months in Advance:

1) Planning ahead simply helps give me DEPTH in my preaching through advanced studying and preparation. When I know what I’m preaching on and when I am preaching on it I can take more time in my reading and study. I have the time to research, interview, read, and listen to what other have said. I also have more time to think through and clarify my thoughts and understanding of topics or passages. Planning ahead helps me go deeper.

2) Planning ahead aids in giving me room to share the message of Jesus more CREATIVELY. Personally, I believe that it is next to impossible to go deep and/or be creative at the last minute.

3) Planning ahead makes sure that I am being faithful to the WHOLE of SCRIPTURE and not simply preaching on the flavor (issue) of the month. I would preach on Discipleship every single weekend if I didn’t have a plan. Creating this calendar will help bring balance to what I teach week in and week out.

4) Planning ahead helps me ENLIST HELP in gathering resources, help, buy-in, prayers, and fuels an excitement among the leadership about what God will be saying to us.

When all is said and done this week, I will have a guided map for my study and preparation for the next 12 months with a tentative plan for each of the next 52 weeks.  Will some of these series change or be scrapped? Maybe. What if God calls you to speak on something else? I’ll submit willingly and gladly! I estimate that with this process only about 70% (conservative estimate) of what is planned remains set.

I started planning out my teaching series years ago and it has helped make all the difference in the way I pray, plan, study, and prepare my lessons. Less pressure and more reliance on God to help and guide me means more encouragement and focus on what he has called me to do. That is a great position to be in!

Up Next: How I Prepare My Preaching Calendar Months in Advance

What I Want My Kids To Know

As a dad, I know that I need wisdom each and every day to help me navigate the wild and wooly waters of parenthood and guiding the next generation.

Leading our children and encouraging them to walk in the way that the Lord would have them go is a major theme found throughout the Book of Proverbs. One of the most inspiring chapters can be found in chapter 4. Check out what it says:

Proverbs 4:1-27

“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother. Then he taught me, and he said to me, “Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.”

Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life. Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way. For they cannot rest until they do evil; they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble. They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”

What I love about this passage is that it outlines specific issues and topics that the Father wants his kids to know.

  • Get wisdom.
  • Watch your mouth.
  • Avoid the wicked.
  • Be careful how you live.
  • Guard your heart.

With a 5 year old boy and a 2 year old girl at home I get scared and overwhelmed at the responsibility Sandy and I have to guide and teach them. It can be a huge and daunting task just thinking about everything I want them to know, when the right time to share with them is, and making sure I cover it all. The last thing that I want is for my parent teaching and strategy to become hit and miss. I want the things I teach them to be a laser beam of consistency and clarity so that my kids will have a greater understanding of who God is and what the Christian life looks like when practically lived out. So, I’ve started keeping a list of topics and biblical passages where God’s wisdom on these subjects are talked about and discussed. In order to identify these essential topics Sandy and I began to ask the following questions:

If we could permanently imprint anything we want on Hewson and Adele’s hearts and minds, what would it be?

What do they need to know about God, Jesus, and living the life of a Christ-follower?

These two questions have helped bring clarity to our prayer times with the kids, direct the Bible stories we tell them, and help guide our conversations with them throughout the week. We only have about 613 weeks with Hewson left until he graduates from High School and only about 769 weeks left with Adele. Determining and identifying specific things we know God wants them to understand and live out helps us make the most of what little time we have left with them.

Now it is your turn. Take these two questions and, in terms of your guiding and teaching your children (or grandchildren, nieces, nephews, students, etc.), begin to ask yourself what do you want to make sure that they know? What topics/information do you want to make sure that they hear about from you? Before they leave the care of your home, what is it that they need to know about God, Jesus, and the Christian life that will help them navigate the secular world outside?

My prayer for you is that you will determine to become an Intentional Parent. In the face of stress, time constraints, deadlines, and ever increasing pressure from the culture around us, may God give you the wisdom, clarity, and strength you need to help guide your children to walk in Wisdom and passionately dedicate their lives to Jesus Christ. Pray for me as well.

 

Breaking News Alert!

Do Not Be Afraid.

These 4 words appear over 70 times in the Old and New Testament.

Do not be afraid… when you don’t know what will happen next.

Do not be afraid… when God’s promises seem far away.

Do not be afraid… when the enemy looms large.

Do not be afraid… when armies surround you.

Do not be afraid… when you carry out God’s calling.

Do not be afraid… when rumors abound.

Do not be afraid… when discouragement is all you see.

Do not be afraid… when you feel as if no one hears you.

Do not be afraid… when you can’t understand all that is happening around you.

Do not be afraid… when you feel alone.

Do not be afraid… when all you experience is pain and turmoil.

Do Not Be Afraid.

There is a lot going on right now in our world. Hospital visits. Illnesses. Cancer. Layoffs. Stress. Pressure to conform. Planes being shot out of the sky. Ground wars. Work place drama. Hurt feelings. Confusion. Loneliness. Depression. Anxiety.

When fear grips us, often times we react in ways that are contrary to how God would have us respond. We may lash to at those closest to us or retreat back to the relative safety of our own homes. We may look for blame or we may begin to resent a particular people group. We respond to the things that scare us in fear rather than in faith.

Paul tells us in Eph 5 to “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1–2)”

If you want to overcome fear, look to Jesus. His example of facing fear and standing firm didn’t come from a cereal box. If didn’t come from his strong backbone or situational ethics class. This ability to overcome fear came to him through the Holy Spirit and faith in a God who keeps his covenant of love.

So today, before you look at another news article… before you read another headline or watch another breaking news alert…

Remember, our Savior faced the cross for you. Remember, our Savior died for you. Remember, our Savior, conquered the power of sin and death for you. Remember, our Savior is still firmly in charge and is coming back for you.

Do Not Be Afraid.

Bringing the Heat

This Summer, I’ve been preaching out of Proverbs for my Summer Sermon Series: Wisdom for Living. Since it’s 4th of July weekend I decided to stick with the fireworks theme and talk about what God’s Word has to tell us about handling Relational Conflict. Light that fuse!

Where there are relationships, you will find conflict. When people interact and bump up against each other there will be conflict – big and small. Our culture loves to disagree over so many things: race, religion, family issues, politics, world views. You name it and people are fighting over it.

Now you might say, “Micheal, surely those of us who love Jesus don’t have to worry about conflict in the church!” After you’ve stop laughing and finished wiping the laughter-tears away, read this story:

In 1995, a man named Chuck Noland was stranded on a desert island after a horrific crash. He was alone on the island for nearly twenty years until a passing freighter spotted him on the beach last February. When his rescuers told him that they were there to take him home, he was overjoyed. Noland asked them if they would accompany him to the shelter he had built so that he could retrieve some of his belongings. When the group arrived at the shelter, they were amazed at how big and beautiful his island home was. Then someone noticed another structure to the right, larger and more grand than his home. When they asked Nolan what the other structure was he told them that it was his church – the place where he worshipped. Amazed at what Nolan had been able to build there in the jungle all by himself, the group turned to head back to the rescue ship. That’s when the saw a third building just as large and grand as the other two. They asked what this was and Nolan said in a hushed tone, “That’s the church I used to go to.”

BOOM!

The truth is that there is no perfect church because there are no perfect people. Churches split and relationships crumble, not due to conflict, but though the way we handle conflict. There are ways to approach conflict that can be life-giving and there are ways that can be soul-crushing. The number one reason that the church is irrelevant, ineffective, and gasping for air can be tied back to our unwillingness to deal with and work though conflict biblically.

As followers of Jesus Christ we must learn how to effectively deal with conflict when it arises. It is my hope through this lesson will help us, in light of our relationship with Jesus, RETHINK conflict and RELEARN how to effectively and positively deal with it in your life.

Here is what I truly believe: when we learn how to biblically handle conflict we will REVEL in our relationship with Jesus, experience RESTORED relationships with one another, and we will better REVEAL to the culture around us the God who pursues and redeems relationships broken by conflict.

 

 

Lessons from the ER

As I was changing clothes after church service on Mother’s Day, I noticed what I thought was a small fire ant bite on the inside of my knee. It was red and irritated but I didn’t think another thing about it until I woke up on Monday to discover that the bite had more than doubled in size and was an angry red. By the end of the work day the pain was getting pretty unbearable. At the clinic, they diagnosed me with an infection and put me on some antibiotics. They told me to watch the infected area and to go to the ER if it got worse. Fast forward to Wednesday afternoon… The infection was spreading around my knee and up and down my thigh, the pain was not subsiding, and my anxiety was through the roof. I didn’t hesitate, I drove straight to the ER where they cut me open, drained all that junk out, and shot me up with a high dose of medicine to knock out what was remaining inside me. The doctors told me I had made the right decision to come in and get it all taken care of. They told me that the damage would have been much greater had I waited even a few more hours. The consensus is that all of this probably began as a spider bite. At the end of the day, whether it was a bite or some sort of staph infection, I needed to be treated immediately and aggressively in order to put a stop to the damage the infection was wreaking on my body. Which got me thinking…

Inside of each of us emotional junk infects our hearts and minds each and everyday. What begins as a back-handed comment or a bit of self-consciousness or even self-doubt can begin attacking our hearts and spreading the negativity all over our lives. Left untreated, the virus grows and threatens to kill our joy and effectiveness. Over the course of dealing with this physical infection, I observed 3 things that I believe can help us deal with negative emotional infections in our lives.

1) Get Help
I quickly realized that whatever was happening to my leg was something that I couldn’t handle on my own. No OTC cream or medicine was able to treat the pain and heal me. I had to get someone who could help me to look at and diagnose my problem.

When it comes to emotional pain and hurts, we need to be able to go to family, friends, or mentors and tell them what’s happening inside of us and what kind of pain we are dealing with. It is also ok to take what’s bothering you to a professional counselor. If you are hurting emotionally or spiritually, the infection has taken root and it needs to be identified. Don’t believe the lie that all pain will eventually heal on its own. Don’t ignore the fact that you are hurt. Get some help, even professional help, if you are struggling with emotional pain in your life.

2) Cut It Out
This was the hardest part of dealing with my infection. On the first night that I went to the doctor, they attempted to cut open my infection. Without numbing my leg, the doc pulled out the meanest, ugliest Exacto-knife looking scalpel and pushed it into my leg. Yowza! Nothing came out. The infection was there but wasn’t ready to give up the fight just yet. Over the next 2 days, the infection grew and spread. When Wednesday came, I had one thing on my agenda. I wanted that junk out of my body. The ER doc gave it her best shot and with another mean scalpel, a lot of pressure, and her body weight on my leg we got that infection out of my body. It had to go!

Too often, when it comes to emotional pain and infection, we want to hang on to it rather than getting rid of it. May it never be!

Whatever is hurting you emotionally or spiritually, get it out and away from you. If it is a person whose spews their negativity all over you, remove that person from your life. If it is a hurt from years ago, find some way to forgive and let go. This process may hurt, it might take a few tries to make it work, or it just might take a whole lot of focus and pressure but you can’t get healthily unless you remove the infection from your life.

3) Take Your Medicine
After it was all said and down, I was on two sets of antibiotics. One I took 2 times a day and another I had to take 4 times a day. Every one I know who cares for me told me that same thing: Take ALL your antibiotics! If I heard that once, I heard it 50 times. This was a crucial step in regaining my health and working to prevent a recurrence of the infection in my leg.

When it comes to getting emotionally healthy and avoiding a recurrence of the infection you have to take all your medicine too. Surround yourself with those who love you and who lift you up. Avoid contact with whatever causes you emotional pains and hurts. Choose to believe the best about yourself and stop believing the worst that others say about you. Do these things and other things that bring you joy consistently and you can begin to stave off another infection that seeks to damage your heart and mind.

I am happy to say that one month out, my leg is almost completely healed. I followed my doctors advice, took all my meds, and rested well. Unfortunately, I know that emotional wounds don’t heal as fast as our physical ones do.

My prayer for you will be that God will guide you to seek help for what may be infecting you emotionally, that you will let go of and seek to remove the infection in your heart, and that over time He will send you positive and life affirming people to help you find emotional health.

Noah: What Works

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In Part Two of our look at the movie Noah, I want to talk about what I liked about the film. In the next post, I’ll hone in on some elements that didn’t work- didn’t work for a movie based in scripture, didn’t work in a movie period, didn’t work from a storytelling position.

There are some good things about the movie. There are some elements that I really liked. So, here are 6 things that worked in the movie Noah.

The Acting
Russell Crowe is fantastic. Emma Watson is wonderful. Ray Winstone, a fine character actor, brings evil to life. Jennifer Connelly, the Rocketeer’s ex-girlfriend, plays the part of Noah’s wife with grace. Some role their eyes at Crowe as a casting choice but I think it was spot on. Russell Crowe is an everyman and that’s what was required of this role. We needed to see pain and sorrow and grief and joy and determination and integrity. Crowe delivered.

Tubal-Cain
I loved having a villain to stand in stark contrast to our main character. Whereas Noah was righteous and earnestly seeking to hear from God, Tubal-Cain embodies the wickedness, ruthlessness, and selfishness of mankind. One of the criticisms surrounding the movie is that the name of God isn’t mentioned. While the film talks mainly about “The Creator” there is a scene where Ham meets Tubal-Cain in the forest for the first time. Tubal-Cain asks Ham, “Don’t you recognize your King?” Ham responds by saying, “Father says there is no king. The Creator is God.” The look of disgust on Tubal-Cain is priceless. There is a huge extra-biblical element with this character that on one level is hard to swallow. Tubal-Cain makes it onto the ark. Yeah, I know. I missed that flannel graph story too. However, this kinda works because the character serves to undermine everything that Noah stands for and has been seeking to instill in his sons. In this case, the tension is very good. Tubal-Cain adds an element of chaos into the new ordering of things. He represents the depravity, duplicitousness, and evil of mankind. Evil will stop at nothing to tear apart what God is doing. It is a major plot element that isn’t in the source material but it works because it serves the ideas of Chaos, Covenant, and (Re)Creation.

The Ark/The Flood
I loved the Ark. It definitely represented a structure that was 300 by 50 by 30 cubits. The Bible mentions that it was held together with tar as well and the whole thing looks cover in pitch. The filmmakers totally nailed the look in my mind. Also the flood is how I picture it as well. Not only was there rain but Genesis 7:11 tells us that “all the springs of the great deep burst forth.” In the film, giant spouts of water shoot up toward the sky just as I see it described in scripture. One thing that I have not seen anyone talk about is that the film is clear that this judgement is from The Creator. This isn’t a weather phenomenon that our main characters are too primitive to understand. This isn’t water coming from a broken dam. The flood is presented as a miraculous wonder/righteous judgement sent from above. Same with the animals arriving to the ark. They aren’t fleeing from a national park because of a dormant volcano. They miraculously appear while Noah and his family watch with wonder and amazement. The miracle isn’t written off as junk science or explained away as some animal ecological ESP.

Survivor’s Guilt
Throughout the film, Noah is depicted as a man who feels deeply about what is happening around him. He earnestly seeks to understand what God is calling him to. He loves his family. He is disgusted by the wickedness of humanity. He is sober-minded about what will happen when the flood comes. He feels the burden and the responsibility of his great task. There is one scene that takes the story of Noah and puts flesh to a man we’ve only read about. After the storm begins and Noah’s family is safe aboard the ark, Noah sits, covered with a blanket and he listens. The wind and the waves are howling and crashing against the ark. Amidst all the noise, Noah can hear screams of the people perishing in the flood. There is not victory in Noah’s eyes, only pain. Scripture tells us that God doesn’t send a flood because he is angry. There is grief in the heart of God and the film make that grief palpable through Noah. Noah wrestles with survivor’s guilt to a certain extent and his element is explored near the end of the film as Noah gets drunk in a cave cut off from his family. When i have talked about this element with others who have not yet seen the movie, there is instant connection with it.

The Redemption
In Part 3, I will discuss the reasons behind Noah separating from his family in more detail (because it doesn’t work) but I do like the way Noah returns. There is redemption as Noah is welcomed back to his family. Without words you see forgiveness, love, and grace- the same forgiveness, love, and grace God’s gives us- on the big screen for all to see.

The Blessing
At the end of the film, as The Creator sends a rainbow over this new creation, Noah recites a blessing over his family (Including Ham. Oh-oh! Genesis 9:22-25). Noah proclaims, “Be fruitful and increase in number!” A huge rainbow radiates from the sky, filling the screen with ROYGBIV. Then Kermit begins the opening chords to “Rainbow Connection” as the screen goes black (That would have work brilliantly.). The film ends on a note of hope and grace.

Get ready for Part 3: What Didn’t Work. I’m not a huge fan of director Darren Aronofsky and there are as many Aronofsky signatures in this film as there were animals on the ark. Many of his choices take the viewer out of the film or cause the viewer confusion or frustration. I’m going to suggest that by merely changing or cutting some of these things from the film Noah would have been a great movie instead of merely an Aronofsky movie.

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