Saturday, April 24, 2010

God Answers . com

Have you checked this out? GOD-ANSWERS.COM

Cool tool to connect about questions, interact with Scripture--and people all around the world.

I just finished giving my 2 cents on "Why can't I feel God's presence? I know he is with me.

When it comes to feeling God, I am with you. I wish I could "feel" him more. I know I am not an exception, but I think I am more sensory and emotional in how I was created so I enjoy feelings a lot and they have a profound effect on how I respond to God. I know God has created all of us that way somehow, with emotional needs. I find myself longing for a "feeling" of closeness with God and I love when I “feel” close to him. But I wonder if that can become dangerous. Usually my “feeling” of God is connected to something I have experienced like music, a film, and time with my family, silence, a creative space,

or beautiful place. Sometimes feeling close to God also is a result of things I am doing (obedience, character growth, serving), and the opposite is true, also. I don’t feel close to God when I’m in disobedience, lazy, and selfish).

But I think we must be careful in trying to seek out feelings to measure God’s closeness to us. I don't see much in scripture when it comes to "feeling God," but there are some truths that I could share with you that encourage me when I am discouraged with how I “feel.” I think of when Jesus told Thomas (the doubter), "Blessed are those who believe with out seeing." John 20:28-30. Thomas only believed Jesus had risen from the dead once he saw. Jesus pointed to what we think as being a crucial element in our faith journey. I had a counselor one time tell me that Paul told the Colossians in chapter 3 to use their mind to think about things above.” So when I felt lonely, far from God, or lacked “that feeling,” I could use my “holy imagination,” according to my counselor.

I thought it was great wisdom. So, now when I don’t feel God, I remind myself of God’s truth from scripture and picture Him close to me. Most of the times these God pictures are of parent/child moments that I long for or have experienced in my life with my own parents or with my own kids. One time I had a picture of God’s closeness in the form of a coach (and I am the farthest things from a jock). All that to day that we really are called to utilize our mind, the way we think will affect the way we feel. I’m certain of this in my marriage (see this post) and my friendships with human beings I see and touch, so it is for sure true with how feel with God, whom I cannot see or touch. We think when we don't feel God, and then he must not be there with us. But think about how James tells his readers to draw near to God and he will draw near to us. There’s something mystical to be said about our relationship with God and we are also responsible to act in our relationship with God. We shouldn't just sit and wait for God to come near to us; although he already is we must acknowledge him and seek him, too. With that said, I don’t think there is anything wrong with simply asking God that you might feel him. (Matthew 7: 7-11 says ask, because God’s a good Father who likes to give his kids good things). Just be read for his answer. He may tell you to trust and obey him (Psalm 37:3-6), or to rely on his love that his grace is enough (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). But I’d simply encourage you to ask for more of his presence in your life, more awareness of his closeness to you. I hope you will be surprised by what happens, and whatever happens, may you choose to praise him no matter what, for God loves you and those he loves will lack no good thing (Psalm 34).

Check these out

James 4:7-10

God's a good father who loves to give his kids good things. Matthew 7.

Psalm 34

Psalm 37:3-6

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Film and Theolgy Wed

Everyone likes movies, and even if they don't-- they like to talk about them, sometimes longer than the car ride home from the movie theater. Imagine getting to talk and ask questions of the movies and the makers of those films that you just watched!

This weekend I got to participate in a truly unique experience that merged my two loves: Film and theology. The inaugural Bay Area Windrider Film Forum was so creatively satisfying for me. I got to watch films and then talk about them with their makers! What a great opportunity. For over 5 years I have been a Seminary Student working on my Masters of Theology (about 9 weeks from now I graduate). It is kinda crazy to get a Masters in "studying God," --cause obviously you can imagine studying God isn't as easy as just filling in a multiple choice test and walking away with a diploma. In Seminary we try to interpret the Bible's letters and stories through context, dissect its history, and write way too many papers. I'll leave Seminary with way more questions than I started but I'm seriously stoked to be a part of a Seminary that values looking for God and studying theology by looking to what's going on in culture through media and especially the the arts with emphasis on film. So Fuller Seminary helped sponsor this forum (which started at Sundance) and I was so glad I got to be a part of it. (Not only did I participate by watching films and taking in the Q&A-- I got to help interview some of the film makers for some video promo blurbs in the future. Which gave me a backstage look into this great event).

Here's quick rundown:

April 8th: Thursday Evening

Opening Night Presentation and Film
6:00 pm Introduction and talk with Producer Ralph Winter (X-Men, Star Trek)and Fuller’s Chap Clark: I loved hearing about the Hero's journey.

7:30 pm Opening Film: AFTER THE STORM (what a great documentary on how kids in New Orleans processed Hurricane Katrina through putting on a musical).
Q&A with Writer/Producer James Lecesne
and Producer John Priddy

April 9th: Friday Evening
7:30 pm Film: SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS This was a pure blow-out night. What an edgy film that dived head first into God's healing power and how according to Mark Ruffalo director, "We don't always get the healing we want, but we get the healing we need." It's a drama about a crippled DJ (actor/writer Chris_Thornton) in modern-day Los Angeles who discovers that he has the power to heal everyone but himself mixed in the hard and raunchy life of skid row and the punk rock scene of LA. Both of these guys shared some of their own stories of film and faith and it was moving.
Q&A with Director Mark Ruffalo
and Writer/Actor Christopher Thornton
Read a review here.

As you can imagine people lost their minds over these two guys. Some true Hollywood fans emerged out of the film goers as well as the theology students and staff. It was quite fun to watch how people of all ages were star struck, frothing at the mouth for some celebrity face time, autographs, and pictures, and all in MENLO PARK of all places. But the attention was well deserved, Sympathy for Delicious was a dark and beautiful film that I hope many people get to see. In Mark's words it was "Rough and Holy."

April 10th: Saturday Afternoon
2:30 pm Films: A set of award winning shorts

One of my favorite films from the event was SHORT TERM 12. This 20 minute masterpiece was disturbingly delicious, (can I use the two words together?), written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. It truly invaded me while I watched it. The story is about abused teens living in a group home and how the adults, broken and messy themselves deal with the well as their own issues.

It took everything in me not to beg, (but I kinda did ask/hint) the director to cast me in one of his future films. I really sensed incredible artistic genius in him and his talents, and I would love to be connected to art like that. I actually got to interview him, (twice actually)and hear his story. He's VERY humble, I like meeting people like that in general but especially when they are film makers. I sincerely applauded him for his piece! I think I was more starstruck with Destin than the Friday night guys. I loved Short Term 12's music, the set, the actors and of course the story. This 20 minutes is full of gritty sadness, with true to life characters but that are also lovable and raw. It makes you think about hurt and often forgotten/unseen kids in our culture but it also caused me to look inward to my own life of hurt and how that has affected me. We all are affected by our hurts and just because we get old, doesn't mean we "grow up." Purchase the film and support! Read an interview here. We will screen this film at our Serving Retreat this next weekend.

Q&A with Writer/Director Anna Christopher (So great to meet her, loved her Spirit!).
Writer/Director/Producer Destin Cretton,
Producer/Director Oscar Bucher, (We shared a moment about balancing being dad/family man with pursuing dreams and creativity. That was really cool).
and Director/Writer John Hindman

I got to sit with John Hindman for 15 minutes. I was nervous at first thinking I would feel small and insignificant with this big movie director. Although he was bold, confident, and fully willing to share his opinions --he was honest and authentic about his own spiritual journey. And later I found out ANSWER MAN was his directorial debut. I loved the film because it dealt with dark issues of death, alcoholism, awkward relationship stuff, and major father issues while being cloaked as a "Romantic Comedy," so as I was laughing I could address some of my own sadness and realizations of my own personal life.

April 10th: Saturday Evening
5:00 pm Reception with Filmmakers
7:00 pm Film: THE ANSWER MAN
Q&A with Writer John Hindman,

Two thumbs up for this great event. Two thumbs up for the marriage of theology and film!

Monday, April 05, 2010

A little taste of Heaven through music

In February I had the privilege of joining BOSS Church (Bayside of S. Sacramento), along with some other PCC Young Adults, on a retreat. Not only did we experience great connections with each other, we connected with God in beautiful ways through music. I have to admit, and I hope I don't sound harsh or judgmental, but I get surprised when the church-GOD'S PEOPLE, doesn't respond in such an outwardly expressive way. (View via FB here). I know that we all have different ways we worship, but imagine standing before our great God...and checking your watch, or playing with your cell phone. I find it hard to believe that when captured by such love, beauty, purity, and HOLINESS we won't just burst out crying, dancing, and/or fall flat on our faces. I think encountering God must be expressive, that's why I loved this time worshiping with song and dance. And I am so excited that Sam, the leader of the band, will be joining us for our Fall Retreat in September (17-19). What made this gathering time so meaningful for me was the way we worshiped our ONE God together, being that some of us didn't even know each other, and came from different places, and ethnic backgrounds, but it was God's love and a love for him that brought us unity. I'm really looking forward to being together at this retreat in the fall.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

To Tattoo or not to Tattoo...

In light of my last post (Marked by Love, not Cutting-which btw we are still having podcast issues through our website update, sorry). I am answering a question posed on our God Answers website, where people can chat around Q&A!

Here's the Q:

Should Christians get tattoos or body piercings?

I’ve read a lot of discussion online about this in light of Leviticus 19:28…but it seems so legalistic. Jesus calls us to obedience and to Himself. I can see how we are called to put our focus on God and respect our bodies as a temple of the Holy Spirit, but so much thinking seems old covenant.

What do you think on this issue?

Here's my A:

Our bodies are God's temple, and we are called to honor God with our body, says 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. We are also encouraged to offer our body to God as worship in Romans 12:1-3, so one could definitely make the case that tattoos (which I'll focus on for this post, but piercings are included) are an expression of worship. That's where I'd stand. First, I'd make the case that we need to carefully ensure our heart is what is connected to how we use our body, as well as how we act, (our behavior whether it be our language, sexual conduct, or tattoos). Jesus chastised the religious leaders of the day with how they focused on judging the outward appearance/behavior and often neglected their inward heart condition and attitude, see Matthew 23:24-26. Jesus cares about what's in our heart because he says it affects what comes out of our mouth, so I'd say the same thing about tattoos. If our heart is to honor God that will be reflected in our "body art." Therefore I would encourage someone who desires to tattoo themselves with this caveat: that it honors God and is an extension of who they are, their worship. For those against it and worried about the judgment of others from scripture in Leviticus 19, I'd be very careful with that verse as the Levitical Law also forbid things like cutting hair and facial trimming (I'd be in big trouble), eating certain foods, and how women should deal with their menstruation cycles that all are "acceptable" for those that may be against tattoos today. So I say that this is a matter between God and the one desiring a tattoo, since there is no direct New Testament reference for or against it. We have freedom, we just mustn't use our freedom to sin (Galatians 5:13). And I do think that some body art could cause others to stumble so we must be careful (1 John 2;10 and Romans 14:21-22). This doesn't mean we ONLY need to get crosses and pictures of Jesus tattooed on us, either, but in my opinion, just ensure your tats evoke beauty, mystery, worship and in some way point to God.

I also know of some who have tattooed their body (many before Christ, but also some after coming to Him), and then been convicted by the Holy Spirit to get it removed. We also shouldn't use scripture to manipulate or justify the idea of tattoos either. I once heard someone trying to convince me that Paul had tattoos from Galatians 6:17 which says, "I bear the marks of Jesus on my body," which is clearly a reference to his scars of persecution and not tattoos. By the way, I have tattoos myself and I am planning my next one later this year. But in line with Romans 14:21-22 I will be careful to exert my (strong) opinions on others as I don't want to make others stumble. Paul said, "It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause a sister or brother to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves." This is obviously a short answer to what I think is a gray issue, which would be much more fun to talk about (and exchange tattoo showings) face to face! But the bottom line, I believe we are free to tattoo our bodies just like I am free to shave my sideburns and enjoy a nice prime rib steak.

For a more extensive article on this subject see:

I love how he calls it a "disputable" matter.

Now, besides if it's OK with God, there is a whole other conversation to be had about tattoos. It's it wise or foolish? Just google tattoos. I have to say some tats, again in my opinion are just plain dumb, and waste of skin space. I laughed, rolled my eyes, and felt sick looking at some of the choices people have made. Some, just plain creeped me out, I'll admit. But this is my western opinion. Some tattoos in the East are completely cultural. Another funny I saw was a tat twittered of Ashton Kutcher (by Mr. Kutcher himself), on a guy in Russia, even Ashton was a bit surprised by it. I wonder how many people look at their tattoo 5-10 years later and question their discernment. So make sure you know what you are getting yourself into!