Monday, February 27, 2012

You are part of God's Story

 Last night I began thinking about the fact that the people in the Bible were just ordinary people who God used to do extraordinary things. The 12 disciples that Jesus mentored were fisherman probably very young and may have even included some teenagers. They were not educated or anything special but Jesus chose them to change the world.

Even though the Bible is complete and what we do now will not be written in it, God's story is still not complete. Creation has happened, The Fall has happened, Rescue has happened for some of us, but Restoration has not. We have the amazing privilege to help usher in the Last Days when Christ will return! As the Story Guide says, "We are participants in the redemptive story God is proclaiming to the world."

How exciting is it that God has chosen to use us to reach the unreached? There are 2 billion people on this earth that have never had a chance to hear the name of Jesus. How awesome is it that you could be a part of telling them? If you can't go to them, how awesome is it that you could share the gospel with someone who could end up going to reach them?

The question to think about is this, are you living from the story you are writing for yourself, or are you living your life based on the story of God's redemption that is found only in Jesus Christ and the story that He has been writing throughout history?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Gospel According to the Hunger Games

Here is a blog post from Dr. Alvin Reid, my Student Ministry and Evangelism professor in Seminary.

You can find other great blogs by him at I thought this was too good not to repost on my own blog.

 When I say “the gospel according to the Hunger Games,” here is what I mean. Stories follow plotlines. Every movie Hollywood produces and every novel tells a story, and the story follows a plotline. Literary scholars tell us there are only seven basic plotlines. In the West, and in particular in pop culture, three matter a great deal:

One, a man falls in a hole and eventually gets out (epic, action films)

Another, boy meets girl and falls for her, it goes south, and then in the end everything works out for them (romantic comedies)

And one very popular storyline, rags to riches (Cinderella)

We love these stories. The reason: they follow a general plotline we all yearn to see happen.
1. Beginning: usually good, although sometimes (like rages to riches) it turns bad quickly
2. Dark Turn: misfortune, bad circumstances, a villain, etc, but things go badly
3. Rescue: a rescuer (in Disney this often involves a fairy godmother or magic) comes and saves the day
4. Happy ending: in virtually every case “they all lived happily ever after”

Does that sound familiar? Sort of like Creation, Fall, Rescue, Restoration.  Yes, the biblical plotline. Why do people want a happy ending? Because of what Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee”

This is beyond obvious in the Hunger Games (here is where I ruin it if you have not read it).  The story begins with a look into the life of the ultimate hero, a teenaged girl named Katniss as she describes her life in a new world in formerly North America many years in the future. From the start, something about this young lady compels you to know more, to understand her.

But very quickly you realize things do not go well for Katniss or her family. We see in specifically non-theological language the world of fallen humanity. The new world she finds herself in has been divided into 12 districts with a horrific “games” played annually. Each year, a young man and a young lady from the districts is “reaped” to participate in these hunger games, games in which these youth must kill the others until one survivor is left. Gruesome indeed. The prominent saying in the book is, “May the odds ever be in your favor,” i.e. may you never be chosen to represent your district. There is hope for something greater than the sordid world Katniss, her family and friends now endure.

This is the Lord of the Flies in reverse, because these games are premeditated by adult authority figures with a demented view of justice at best. The games intend to keep the districts in fear so they will not plan a rebellion. So the wonderful world has been shattered by the work of evil people, and youth are the victims. Depravity unleashed.

But there is a rescuer, the Messiah, well, in this instance the Mockingjay. I will let you read the story to see how it plays out if you must know.  But the ultimate outcome is this land called Panem is overthrown, the rebellion succeeds, and young people have been the key players in the story.

A perfect plotline for a Millennial generation consumed with justice issues. 
And, in the Epilogue, you find this rescuer named Katniss with her family, restored.

Creation. Fall, Rescue. Restoration. There is more: the sense of Providence, as Katniss from the most poor district actually became prepared for the games by her ability to sneak out and hunt, developng remarkable archery skills. Or the fact that she retains total unawareness at how winsome she is as a leader and how much hope she gives to others, her genuine humility being most overlooked in her personal self-awareness. Oh, there is also the stereotypical romance, showing the craving we all have for relationships. But my purpose is to demonstrate how a novel completely secular in vision, and filled with more than a fair share of violence, hearkens back to the very gnawing of every soul for a happy ending, for justice.

For rescue.

I am sure somebody will come out with some Christian subcultural version of a Hunger Games “Bible study” series. I would argue that the more you teach students (and all people) the wonderful narrative of Scripture, the bloody cross of an atoning Savior Who is our Rescuer at the heart, and how this affects all of life, the more they can see the truthfulness of it not only as they read their Bibles, but also as they read the literature of their times.

The Bible does more than offer tips on morality. It shows us reality, and how everything in life that we know to be virtuous and good and hopeful comes from the good news in the Word of God.

At the end of the third book Collins’ writes these thoughts of Katniss: “What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again.”

This hope is why books like this matter to people. But the gospel matters so much more

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Who is my neighbor?

Last night at Fuel we had a great reminder that we are supposed to show our love for God by the way we love our neighbor. Looking at Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 we saw that love for a neighbor involves more than just saying the words "i love you". 

After traditional Judaism missed two opportunities to help a dying man, a Samaritan stepped up to the plate and proved to be a neighbor. He sacrificed his own possessions and money to help a man he had never met. Jesus' listeners would not have missed the significance of what had just happened, and neither should we. 

The church today is looked at in our culture as being full of hypocrites. People who claim one thing but do not live it out. Jesus' point is simple. If we really love God, we must love everyone we come in contact with. Because we have been given mercy and compassion by Jesus when he died on the cross for us, we should show mercy and compassion to those in our lives.

What are some practical ways that you can show the love and compassion of God to those in your life?