Everlasting Love

I must first apologize that I have not been updating the post on a consistent basis lately. One of the reasons I did not get anything written this last week was because of a rather long conversation I had with a friend on facebook, about God’s everlasting Love and His everlasting Judgment.

Unlike most Christians I do not believe in a everlasting Hell. My main argument would be that the Bible in fact points against the existence of a Hell where you go to be tortured for all eternity. The second argument would be that the Bible points to a God who has everlasting love for us and it would seem that a loving God would not punish for the sake of hardening our hearts and hurting us. Instead, I think He would punish us like good parents punish their child, when the child goes astray. A loving parent punishes to help the child understand his or her wrong and turn from it. The third argument, would be that I am not able to worship a God that is willing to send (or allow) millions upon millions of people to be tormented forever and ever.

I must say the conversation my friend and I were having ended with a bit of a unsatisfied result. We needed to, “agree to disagree” because my friend thought I was not willing to change my view and I must say that I was beginning to feel the same about him.

The conversation did however allow me to think a bit more deeply about who I believe my God is. So, I can not complain about the time I took to have the long conversation. The more I look into the God I find in the Christian Bible, the more I am convinced that he has a immeasurable amount of love.

Through out the conversation I had with my friend, I was told about or quoted scripture that seemed to point out that “God can not be mocked” and “we reap what we sow”. I have a really hard time with these scriptures. Of course these seem to be typical points of view that come from many different religions. I have heard about many religions that seemed to take their God as a Great Authority, that would not stand for being mocked. I also have heard about many religions that have huge consequences for going against the “law”, and let you indeed “reap what you sow”.

I guess my problem is that those gods in those other religions I have heard and read about are not the God I fell in love with. When we look at Jesus’ example on this earth, we see something that is uncommon in other religions. We see a God who was willing to sacrifice everything.

The reason why I have problems with verses that talk about God not being willing to be mocked or us reaping what we deserve, is that Jesus’ example on this earth contradicted those verses. Jesus was mocked all through out His life, and Jesus forgave many people who did not deserve forgiveness. When Jesus tells us to forgive 7 times 70 (meaning without measure), He is in fact telling us to not treat others based on what they “deserve”, but rather based on how we as individuals want to be treated ourselves. When Jesus was crucified and mocked he still asked God to forgive those who crucifyed Him.

Why should we think that God changes His example after we die. I am told that we only have this life time to choose God. After we die, God’s love suddenly looks a lot different. If we have not chosen God we are sent to Hell to be tormented forever and ever. Somehow most Christians think that this is not contradicting God’s everlasting love.

I am touching on one of my greatest frustrations, in this post. Christians do not understand why so many people are not wanting to have anything to do with the Christian God now a days. Might it be because they see Him and His people as judgmental and condemning? If you have not “accepted Jesus into your heart”, most Christians would say that you deserve a eternal Hell. Why would a non-Christian want to have anything to do with someone who thinks that lowly of them?

Jesus came to this earth for all of us. When Jesus died on the cross, He died for us all. I often hear of how we are so undeserving of Gods love. How we are like filthy rags to Him and if we have not chosen Him, we are as good as the Devil himself.

I think, if these things were true God would be a idiot for dying on the cross. The truth is that Jesus saw the good in us and that is why He was willing to give everything to let us truly live. When the Bible says that Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8), it means just that, He died for ALL of us. Jesus saw the good in even the least of us, He was a personal God that cared just as much about our examples as our words.

Even if you have not confessed God as your savior. Even if you have not gone to Church or sat down to pray a certain prayer. God loves you! It does not matter what you do or how deep in sin you already are.

The greatest difference between my thinking and my friend’s was who WINS at the end. Sadly for many people, my friend thinks that sin and evil will win out at the end. I personally think that my God is greater then any sin or demon. You might go through a lot of pain before you and the world find God, but I am convinced that God will never give up. I am convinced that my God is a God of everlasting love that will always be there for us and that He will win in the end.

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The Complex Language of God

Man it is hard to understand God. Or so I have been told. I mean, how could I understand “GOD“?!?! He is just too Great, Powerful, Overwhelming, Vast, Tremendous, Incredible, Spectacular, Glorious, Holy, Divine, Pure, Righteous, Marvelous, Magnificent, and Complex to ever be understood by us mere humans, right?

Through out my life I have been introduced to many opinions about the complexity of God. It seems darn near impossible to be able to communicate with Him. So many people have differing opinions on how to hear from God. Most say that you need to be a Christian to hear from Him. A lot say that you have to pray. There is the argument that says you can not know what God wants unless you have read the Bible. I often see people who do not “go” to church treated as though they can not know who God is. Of course the major argument is that you can not know God unless you have accepted Jesus “into your heart”. But, many would like to know what that means?

Because we have so many different opinions on how and what it takes to communicate with God, we have even more opinions on what we think God wants us to do. Many Christians would say that the answer is found in Matthew 22:34-37:

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

What does that MEAN though? I feel that many people use this passage as an excuse to waste their lives by putting their potential on hold while they try to “hear” from God. To me, what they are looking for is right in front of them.

I feel as though we spend so much time making God be so Great and Powerful that we look past one of the greatest qualities of God. I realize that God is a Great and Powerful God and He has earned all the adjectives I wrote at the top of the post. But, I do not choose my God above all the rest because I am awed by the Power of Him (at least “power“ in the common sense of the word). The quality that most impresses me, is my God’s Humility.

I serve a Humble God. A God who washed His Disciples feet. A God who has told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. A God who is relational, and know-able.

I would agree that Jesus is a complex God and that we will never be able to understand His infinite wisdom. But, I think that God’s language is clear. He wants us to be humble as He was. God wants us to use our lives to walk out the commandment of loving our neighbors as ourselves, I think that it is one in the same as loving Him.

When God tells us to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind, He is telling us to carry out the second commandment of loving our neighbors as ourselves. If you love God you will be showing love to others. It is not too complex at all.

The Man Who Listens

I am about to partake in a huge study on Steven Spielberg. I am a filmmaker and one of my greatest teachers through the years has been Steven. Through the countless behind the scenes looks, online interviews, and TV specials, I have learned A LOT from this Master filmmaker.

My “huge study” consists of going over several of Steven’s films on “mute“, and studying how he composes shots, directs acting, creates emotion, and tells a story. For each of the movies I will write a small paper on what I have learned and post them on this Blog for whomever to see.

This particular post will be devoted to what I think of Steven Spielberg now and why I am choosing to do this long and draining study.

Steven Spielberg is a story-teller, and naturally that interests me. Through out the years I have seen movies directed by this man that include many genres. That in itself is very unique. We have been introduced to completely new world, with movies such as Hook, Artificial Intelligence, and Jurassic Park. Steven has thrilled us with movies such as Indiana Jones and Jaws. He has brought us movies full us clever entertainments with The Terminal and Catch me if you Can. And, he has reached deep into our emotions with movies such as E. T., Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler’s List. These movies have span through more then three decades have all been hailed as great and powerful pieces of work.

Indeed, it seems as though I have chosen my teacher well.

What makes this man able to tell stories in so many genres, so well? Why are people so effected by this man’s movies? What has made Steven Spielberg one of the greatest story-tellers to walk this earth?

A few months ago I watched a interview with Steven Spielberg on Inside the Actors Studio. Through out the 2 + hour interview, Steven was asked some very compelling questions. One of the last questions was along the lines of, “If there is a God, what do you want Him to say to you when you show up at the gates of Heaven?” Steven answered, “thanks for listening”.

Right there Steven told me the secret to his success. With that answer he told me the reason why he has been able to effect me so greatly.

Steven Spielberg listens. God gave Steven a great gift and told him to use it. Steven chose to listen. I believe that Steven has been able to make so many great movies through so many different genres and over so many years, because he has heard God speak about the heart of what makes a story great.

Steven’s movies accentuate Life.

Whether it is a boy on a bike flying across the moon, a once corrupt man learning to live again, or a uncommon liberator crying out for one more soul. All powerful examples of the Life that comes from Steven’s movies.

God is the essence of Life and he speaks to us all. Steven is a man who has chosen to listen. It is amazing the power that comes from a man who is able to listen. It takes patients and guts, but the results are worth it.

The world has truly changed through one man’s ability to listen. I have been truly effected by Steven Spielberg; he inspires me to make stories of my own. Steven was once quoted saying, “I dream for a living”. This quote rings true through out his life.

I only hope to follow in his footsteps and become another man who chooses to listen.

I am a Story-teller

Through the years I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I am and who God wants me to be. I most often lived in an interesting places, not quite bound to reality. I lived in a place that seemed different from those around me. As a child I could tell something was different but not always what. I was fascinated about things few would say were real. When I watched movies like Bambi or The Jungle Book, I saw them come to life. Images became emotions and I got caught up in those emotions.

Then I began to wonder. I wondered if I could go to these places I saw. I started to try. I started to play outside with my brothers and see if I could reach the places I saw in the movies I watched and books I read. It was wondrous. My imagination began to come to life. Mere sticks became magnificent weapons. Our back yard became great cities floating miles from the surface of the earth or great woods inhabited with huge human made forts that were populated by armies of children.  I began to experience stories through these weapons and environments. The stories were epic, they were full of adventure, triumph, and tragedy. I was beginning to realize my gift.

Through the adventures I saw on-screen and experienced in the back yard, I began to realize that I had stories in my head that needed to be heard. I began to understand part of what my God wanted me to do. I began to understand what my Vision truly was.

I am a story-teller. I will not limit my calling to just this, but I would not be angry if my only gift in life was the ability to tell stories.  For I truly believe that stories can change lives. Stories are not real in the strictest sense of the word, and they often are thought of as only entertainment. I am not against stories being thought of as entertainment and I can not help but admit that a story is, at least to some account, fiction and not something you can physically smell, taste, or feel.

I would argue however, that stories are more than just entertainment.  Perhaps they were never meant to connect with your physical feelings, but they are meant to connect with your emotional feelings. I feel that stories can affect your deepest emotions and move your spirit, to act.

My God has shown me some magnificent stories and he moves my spirit to show others. It is my calling. Images come to me at night and through out the day. Some are just seedlings.  Others are more fully developed.  For example, I see images of ordinary people fighting for freedom in the darkest of times. I see an image of a broke and uneducated man who has a dedication to a dream and is able to light up the world through the gifts he has been given. And, I see an image of a little child finally standing up to a world that has done its best to knock her down. Being a story-teller, is a great gift indeed.

The power however, comes from what others do with the story.

When the Story moves you to act, will you listen?

The Little Drummer Boy

There are so many wonderful stories I have heard in my life. Some of the greatest stories I have ever heard are about Christmas. It is a tradition in my family to watch the movie, It is Wonderful Life, every Christmas. I must say the story and message never gets old and I enjoy it, each time I watch it. I have also enjoyed stories like, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, The Nutcracker and many versions of A Christmas Carol. These stories are always fun to re-visit and I find great examples from all of them of what Christmas should be all about.

Of all these great Christmas stories I have seen through out my life there is one that trumps them all. It is about a Boy and a gift he gives to a King. The Little Drummer Boy has inspired me as few things have in life. It is a simple story about a Boy named Aaron, who has lost all hope for humanity. His father and mother were killed by bandits and his house was burned to the ground. Aaron was forced at a very young age to live and provide for himself. He only sees humans as selfish thieves who care nothing of others. The only friends he has are three animals he was able to save from his house, a camel, a donkey and little sheep.

Before Aaron’s Parents died, they gave him a drum. This drum became his most cherished belonging and he learned to play magnificent songs with it during his travels. Long story short, through some unfortunate events, Aaron’s small sheep gets mortally wounded in a town called Bethlehem. Distraught, Aaron thinks of three traveling Kings he had meet earlier and goes to them for help. When Aaron finds them, he sees the kings laying three great gifts inside a manger. The gifts were Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.

Quickly Aaron runs up to one of the kings and pleads with him to help his friend, the sheep. The king looks at the sheep and tells the young boy that there is nothing he can do. He then tells the boy that the only one who can help his sheep is the king among kings laying in the manger. First Aaron doesn’t understand, then he realizes that the great gifts these three kings had given were for a baby laying in the manger. Aaron looked up to the king with tears in his eyes and says, “I don’t have any gifts for a king”. The king then tells Aaron, “Go and look upon the new born king”.

Then Aaron did something that we all MUST do, something that is crucial to bringing on Salvation and Revival to this world.

Aaron played his drum.

This baby king laying in the manger was indeed Jesus. After playing Aaron realized that his little sheep was completely healed. Aaron realized that his hatred toward humanity was wrong and found hope through baby Jesus.

This story has touched me in so many ways. I find myself in Aaron’s position a lot in my life. I have been given a magnificent gift to play through the love of my God. But, often I play the instrument for myself and only find hatred and contempt toward humanity. I mean, there is a lot of reasons to be mad at humanity. Society in general has bought into the lie that you can make fun of someone without hurting their feelings, most people are more interested in what the world can do for them and not what they could do for the world, and I see Christianity used more and more as an excuse to preach and not listen.

Why not just give up? Why not just use my instrument for myself? I personally have been hurt by the world, I have been tricked into thinking that people cared for me when they just wanted to take advantage and I have seen again and again Christian friends use Christianity as a excuse to ignore me. I truly feel as though most of my friends are not worthy of the gift I have been given.

But, then I begin to realize that my instrument is not for those who are worthy. For I was not worthy of the gift that God gave me, so many years ago. Gifts are given not out of judgment but out of love.

I do not give up on this world because my God has not given up on me. The instruments we have been given are meant to be played at the feet of our king. I will play my “drum” for my king. I will let my music be heard from the tops of mountains to the valleys of darkness. For God is the maker of my instrument and I have been commanded to let it be heard.

A Lesson From Pixar

I think we as a society can find many lessons from the Animation Studio Pixar. Pixar is a studio I have looked into, with great detail, for the past few years. They are the most successful film studio of this decade. They have come out with ten movies, all of which have been hailed both critically and publicly as great successes.

Pixar has not failed. They have pushed the boundaries of film making and dared to do the unconventional, with nothing but success to show from it.

Many have asked the question, “What is the key to Pixar’s success”? The CEO’s and Producers of Hollywood have seen the vast amounts of money Pixar has brought in, through the popularity of their films, and they want a piece of the pie.

The secret however, is something that money can not buy. When Andrew Stanton, director of Pixar’s Finding Nemo and Wall-E, was asked about the secret of Pixar Studio’s success, the answer was simple, “What is best for the film?” That is the question that Andrew says, guides the studios every move. There is one core Visionary (the director) who has an idea on a film that he wants to create, and nothing will get in the way of making that vision come to be a reality.

Unlike typical Hollywood, it is not lust for profit that guides the Pixar Studio. Nor is it popularity, safe/conventional storytelling or power from the higher ups, that directs Pixar’s path. The Pixar Studio is guided by Vision.

Pixar is successful because they are not worried about money or what critics think. They are not in the business for the popularity or even the big buck. They all want to create something great, and are willing to put the time and effort into making this Vision come to pass.

Most of the film business can not have the success Pixar has, because they are too caught up in profit and safe reliable storylines. When you put money first you are not able to take risks, you do not open yourself up to what the actual film needs. To let Vision come first you need to be willing to let go of the control.

I have seen through the years, a lot of similarities between the Church and typical Hollywood. The audience is who both Hollywood and the Church rely on for money. When you are guided by money, you tend to want to take the safe rout. A Pastor usually tries to stick to a typical yet safe message just as Hollywood tries to come out with the safe love story that will attract a broad audience. There is also a need for control.The need to have control is a typical thing you see in both Hollywood and the Church as well. This is perfectly understandable, I mean if you need to worry about, salaries, rent, and keeping an audience, you want to have a certain amount of control and know that you will survive the jump.

The problem is that the Vision sometimes asks us to jump without looking. Vision sometimes requires us to have a blind faith, and be willing to sacrifice everything to accomplish the goal.

The Pixar studio has been told many times that movies like Toy Story, Ratatouille, and Wall-E would be their undoing. Pixar dared to create unique stories and go place never gone to before, and with that came the possibility that no one would follow. But they chose to jump anyway.

They jumped because they were following something that could not be calculated, something that required dedication, the willingness to work together and follow the best ideas no matter where the source came from.

Let us learn from Pixar. Let us truly follow Vision no matter the destination or what we will have to question. The only thing that will bring on revival and freedom is a dedication to Vision that surpasses our human need to be safe and goes for the calling that God has given us.

The Impossible

Some people just can not get a clue. They are told and told that it won’t work and it isn’t possible but they just won’t quite.

Gandhi is a fine example of someone who does not get it. He was told and told again that peace could not win wars. He was brutally beaten several times because he was not willing to put up his hands to fight. He was taken to jail numerous times because he would not stand down for what he believed. Gandhi literally starved himself so that his people might stop fighting. Millions told him that he was trying to do the “impossible”.

A young man from Kansas named Walt Disney was just as foolish. He came to Hollywood with the idea that people would be entertained by moving drawings, in fact he wagered all of his money on the belief that an audience would be willing to watch a full length cartoon. People called the Idea “The Disney Folly”. Nobody thought that people would be emotionally moved by simple drawings.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was another person who was said to be ignorant. He told the world that blacks could work as equals with whites. People told him that he asked for the impossible and that he was blinded by a dream. Martin payed the ultimate price for his “ignorance”. On April 4th 1968 he was murdered.

What made these people sacrifice so much for things that the world thought were so obviously impossible?

A glance at these people and one might see what they are doing to be IMPOSSIBLE. But if we are willing to look deeper into the lives of people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King or Walt Disney, we begin to see something most of the world is afraid to acknowledge. We begin to see Hope.

Hope is often shunned by the world because it requires us to become active and leave our comfort zone. It requires us to be willing to fail and push through our faults. Hope is a dangerous thing because like King we can end up paying the ultimate price.

But something like hope, can make the impossible, possible.

Naive, Clueless, and ignorant people like Gandhi, King, and Disney are the people who have inspired me the most. Today they are looked up to as some of the greatest people to ever live on this earth.

Walt Disney was told that moving drawings would not entertain a audience but he still chose to make the first full length animated movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. A movie that is now hailed as one of the greatest films of all time. Gandhi was able to lead millions to independence and drive out the English army by making his words and actions sharper than any sword or louder than any gun. Martin Luther King, Jr. was able to spark a generation into excepting equality instead of segregation and blood shed.

Hope and inspiration are dying words. Today more and more things are becoming impossible. Solving world hunger, purifying the world of sexual molestation, and stopping violence may be naive and ignorant dreams. Hundreds of millions of people would say that they are IMPOSSIBLE to resolve. And yet,… those who are willing to dream, do the impossible.

The time is now to define our dreams with actions more powerful then our definition of Impossible. What is possible has no limits when you are willing to hope and choose to act on the dream God has given you.