Tuesday, August 14, 2012

let's stay together

ryan preached on sunday!

he did an awesome job. 

god did awesome things through him. 

i wish everyone we know could have heard the message out of his mouth but since you couldn't i'm bringing it to you. in english.

it's way worth the time it takes you to read it.  

i hope it encourages you as much as it did me. 

go hubs, i'm so proud to be your wife. 

go god for making ryan.
his message:
two weeks ago, laura and i were traveling in southern france with kyle as a last 'good-bye' to him. during our trip, i read a book called a million miles and a thousand years, by donald miller. he is a believer in jesus and has written a few books about the christian faith and his personal journey towards christ. one of those books, blue like jazz, is like a biography of his journey to faith in jesus. in a million miles and a thousand years two men come to donald with the idea to make a movie about blue like jazz. while they are discussing the possibility of making this film, he thinks to himself "is my life significant? am i living a significant life? if my life was made into a film, would people be interested? would they care?". these questions struck me too. 
i began to ask myself the same questions. is my life a good example of doing the things we've been challenged to do on this earth? what kind of story am i living out? what kind of stories are we telling our friends, spouses, children, grandchildren, etc. with the lives we are living? how can we live out better stories? how can we help the people we love to live better stories? 
miller writes the following: 'if you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. you wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. the truth is, you wouldn't remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo. but we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful. the truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won't make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.'
so, if we are challenged to live a significant life, a better story, how do we do it? we are the protagonists of our stories. god has given us the possibility to choose the path for our life. i'm going to share 5 ideas from the book to encourage us to live better stories.
1. protagonists desire greatness. when i say greatness, i'm not saying importance or popularity. i mean greatness in the qualities for a christian life. greatness in love, greatness in joy, greatness in peace. jeremiah 29:11 says, "'for I know the plans I have for you,'declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"god has a desire for us to live full lives. in john 16:24 jesus reminds us to ask in his name and "receive, and your joy will be complete." an example of a protagonist who desired a full life is the woman at the well in john 4. in verse 15 she said to jesus, "sir, give me this water so that i won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." we know that this woman hadn't lived a beautiful life, but now she desires a different life, a full life. she wanted the greatness that is only found in jesus. are we seeking to find the greatness that is only found in jesus?
2. protagonists make decisions. miller says, "a hero isn't a hero unless he makes a decision." a person who lazily watches their life pass by is not a protagonist. i wonder what the story of the apostles would have been like if they hadn't made the decision to follow jesus after he told them, "follow me". a follower of jesus can't remain neutral. we have to decide to follow or not follow. there isn't another option. jesus explains this clearly in luke 9:57-62. are you watching life pass you by? to live a significant story we must decide to follow jesus. following is active. 
3. protagonists face their fears. miller wrote, "the commandment repeated most frequently in scripture is do not fear. the bible says that more than 200 times. that means a couple of things, if you think about it. it means we are going to be afraid, and it means we shouldn't let fear boss us around." i can see times in my life where i have allowed fear to control me or prevent me from being a man full of the spirit of god. in my opinion, satan has a great advantage when he uses fear. he knows very well how to specifically use our fears and how they work differently for everyone. we cannot let him paralyze us in our fears. psalm 27:1 says, "the Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? the Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?". 2 timothy 1:7 says, "for God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." 1 peter 3:13-14 says, "who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? but even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." i wonder, are we facing our fears or are we allowing our fears to create boring stories and boring lives? do not fear.
4. protagonists die. as followers of christ, we have to die to ourselves. galatians 2:20 says, "i have been crucified with Christ and i no longer live, but Christ lives in me. the life i live in the body, i live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." don't sing the church song in your head, think about what those words really mean. no longer i live...but christ living in me... to live a great story, we have to die to ourselves. we have to realize that we are not here for ourselves, that part of us died. are we ready to sacrifice everything for our story? is it worth it to give up everything? an example that comes to mind for me is a woman who lives here in florence named stefania. at a time in her life she was homeless and living in the street with 4 children. day after day not knowing if she would be able to feed them. eventually by god's powerful hand, through the city of florence, she was given work and began building a material life for her children. later when she had a home and her children were grown, she thought about that time in her life when she didn't have anything. at that point she decided to give back for the help she had received. using basically all of her money she bought an abandoned building and began feeding and housing the poor and homeless in florence. she sacrificed everything. no longer i live...but christ living in me...
5. protagonists experience meaning. the author wrote this: "we live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn't mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. it's a good calling, then, to speak a better story." as christians we were called to live differently, in a way that has meaning for us and brings meaning to those around us. in ephesians 2:1-10 we see what our meaning is. verse 10 says, "for we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." an example of a person who has found the meaning in his life is my student paolo. he was one of my first students when i got here almost 2 years ago. when we studied together it was really difficult to communicate and create a friendship. he's in the italian army and after our first semester was called to serve in the middle east. after several months, he returned to florence and called me immediately. i was shocked that he would even want to hear from me but i could hear in his voice that something had changed in him. we met soon after that conversation and he told me that he was tired of talking about jesus. he wanted to do in His name. from that moment we began to serve together. this guy who was difficult at first to even have a conversation with was challenging me to do something in jesus name. he experienced meaning. 
we are called to be in a story about something much greater than ourselves. we have to live lives full of love, joy, and peace; we have to make decisions; we have to face our fears; we have to die to ourselves; and we have to open our eyes to and experience the meaning god has placed in the world. my prayer for all of us is that we answer the call to act in the name of jesus and live a better story. no longer i live...but christ living in me...
i hope it inspires you to seek god's word and experience meaning there. and i hope god's word makes it impossible for you to be still or quiet or boring.

ps i read the book, a million miles and a thousand years, too while we were in france and it's super good. i suggest it. i'm on a reading kick, trying to make it a habit. it's so much better than tv. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Your words are humbling. (but on a selfish note, as your aunt, I am filled with pride! I don't know who
    has been blessed more-you or the lives you've touched in Italy. Love y'all!