Posts Tagged ‘faith’

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“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the men of old gained approval.” -Hebrews 11:1-2

Imagine a group of people gathered before you.  You must select from among them those most likely to play a pivotal role in God’s plans for humanity.  They are so at ease with you that they open up and share their darkest secrets.

One tells you that after a night of heavy drinking he was sexually abused by one of his own sons.  Another confesses that he gave his wife to another man to sleep with.  Another plotted with his mistress to kill her husband.  Another one murdered a man and is still on the run from the law.  One is a prostitute.  Another has a lifestyle marked by violence, killing people to impress a girlfriend and his prospective father-in-law. Yet another confesses that he cheated his brother out of his inheritance.

Could you use them?  I hope so, for they are the heroes of faith described in Hebrews chapter 11.  Noah is the man who got drunk and was sexually abused; Abraham is the man who gave his wife to sleep with another; David is the one who plotted to have his mistress’ husband killed.  Moses is the one who murdered an Egyptian and was never brought to account for it.  Rahab was the prostitute.  Samson’s life was marked by violence and who killed to impress his girlfriend.  Jacob is the person who cheated his own brother out of his inheritance.

We often have the thought that a person of faith is a person untouched by sin.  These examples show us that it is far from the case.  Faithful people are also flawed people, people who can easily bounce from great acts of faith to great acts of evil and disobedience.

Scripture shows that God uses very flawed people!  Have you experienced a time when God used your imperfections to glorify Himself?

Author Unknown, Submitted by Jim Shearer for Leading Hearts: The Spirit Ranch Blog: http://spiritranch.us/flawedpeople

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For more than 50 years, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird has not only captivated audiences but transformed them. Now, a new book explores the novel’s lessons of spiritual truth.

Last year one of the most memorable novels in American history reached an important milestone. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird celebrated 50 years since publication, and next year marks 50 years for the equally iconic film version of Lee’s story.

Many of us recognize To Kill a Mockingbird as one of the books on our required reading lists from high school. For others, it is one of their favorite classic movies, with Gregory Peck’s quiet strength as Southern lawyer Atticus Finch representing one of the all-time great screen portrayals. Either way, Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel imparts a story of great significance; its characters leave a lifelong impression on our consciences and hearts. We don’t just read or watch To Kill a Mockingbird; we experience it.

Matt Litton understands this better than most. His latest book, The Mockingbird Parables: Transforming Lives Through the Power of Story, explores the insight and wisdom To Kill a Mockingbird offers those who venture into its pages.

Litton, a high school teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio, was first introduced to Harper Lee’s only published book by his mother, an English teacher. She read it to him and his siblings one year during a family vacation to the beach. He recalls, “I found it deeply affecting that first listen. When I read it on my own, I think I was, like many others, enthralled with the courage of Atticus and the honesty of Scout, shocked by the actions and attitudes of the “churchgoing” folks, and grieved by the conviction and eventual death of the innocent Tom Robinson.”

Like most others who read the book, Litton found that the story of Scout, Jem, and Atticus brought a new perspective to life. “As a young person, it was my first glimpse at what can happen when good people make the decision to stand by and do nothing. I grew up in a middle-class setting, with parents who were both educators; we were taught that people are just people no matter their color, shape, size, gender, or income. I think To Kill a Mockingbird was my initial look at some pretty harsh realities about the world — my first inkling that there is injustice, my first realization of the existence of prejudice and racism. I didn’t understand it at the time, but it was also my introduction to true courage in the character of Atticus, and my first realization that real courage doesn’t always win the day. Like most young readers, I was also caught up with the mystery of Boo Radley.”

An educator himself, Litton also notes the impact the novel has on his students. “They are certainly touched by it on different levels. I think most of my students are immediately fascinated with the reclusive and mysterious character of Boo Radley. Initially Boo captures their imaginations, but then they are drawn into the greater story. For many of my students, it is also their first experience with prejudice and its destructive impact — not just on individual people, but whole communities.”

The greater story, a tale of the darkest and brightest aspects of human nature, still draws many to its pages. When asked about To Kill a Mockingbird’s relevance on American culture, Litton says, “I think it remains relevant because it teaches us so many lessons about how to live in community with one another.”

In The Mockingbird Parables, Litton points out that the essence of Harper Lee’s story is the message of compassion.  “Atticus tells his daughter, Scout, ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’ In my opinion, the novel continues to be relevant because the message of compassion is one that we still need to hear. I don’t believe people can change, or that the world can change, without compassion. Change only happens when we take the time to stand in someone else’s shoes and see the world from their perspective.”

To Kill a Mockingbird is a great opportunity to see the world from a different perspective. Scout Finch is a compelling narrator and, in Litton’s opinion, adds to the relevance of the novel.

“Harper Lee’s choice to use a child as the narrator is one of the things that add to its lasting relevance. I think most children view the world with an innate sense of fairness. Scout sees things as they are — she has not yet been conditioned to see the world like the adults of Maycomb.”

He adds: “There is a remarkable moment in the novel that I discuss in The Mockingbird Parables where Scout walks out of the courtroom with her friend Dill. He is really upset about the way the white prosecutor has been talking down the witness, Tom Robinson, just because of his skin color. Dill is so disturbed by the behavior of the adults that he tells Scout he is going to join the circus when he grows up so that he can laugh at all of them. He simply can’t process the attitudes of the adults; he can see the injustice of it, so why can’t they?”

Litton also connects this childlike perspective to bedrock principles of the Christian faith. “In many ways that is exactly what Jesus is pointing to when he calls a little child to himself and stands him among the adults and tells them that we must become like little children if we are going to enter the kingdom of heaven. As we grow older, we begin to look around at the illness, the sin, the prejudice, the poverty, the injustice, and just resign ourselves to it. Adults are conditioned to think — that is just ‘the way it is.’ Children still possess that sense of idealism — a belief that things can change. Scout’s age allows her to speak the truth from that perspective.”

As Christians, we need to recognize that Jesus calls us into the same sense of idealism, Litton says. We must maintain a conviction that the world can change and things are not as they should be. “We need to grab hold of that ‘childlike’ view of the world.”

For more information about Scott Litton, visit him at mattlitton.com.

By Terri J. Haynes at http://www.urbanfaith.com/2011/03/listening-to-the-mockingbird.html

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Terri J. Haynes Terri J. Haynes is a writer and freelance graphic artist. She holds a master’s degree in theological studies and is an adjunct professor at National Bible College and Seminary in Ft. Washington, Maryland. Terri and her husband are the leaders of Joshua Generation, a ministry for young adults ages 18-35. Her book credits include Cup of Comfort for Military Families, and she blogs at terrijhaynes.blogspot.com. She lives in Maryland with her husband and three children.

Do you feel compassion for those who are less fortunate?  Do you want to really make a difference in the lives of others?  Do you feel called to serve the poor or teach in an urban school?  Are you sensing a prodding to invest yourself in an under-served community?  Do you have a driving compulsion to reach at-risk youth and/or young adults in need?  If you feel the tug of these questions, you may be hearing your calling to serve.

Recently I was digging through some old files I used previously for training in youth outreach and educational settings.  I found an old document, titled “What Being a Youth Worker Ought to Do for You.” This one page of ought to statements have been passed around youth ministry circles for years.  When I worked for Young Life these words repeatedly helped challenge and encourage myself and others to serve.

These ought to statements are such a realistic, powerful and challenging set of truths.  I have used this piece and adapted it to fit many different scenarios; whether it has been working with privileged youth, under-served youth, schools, or whole communities.

Instructions: Read, allow time to marinate, and digest slowly.

WHAT SERVING THE POOR OUGHT TO DO FOR YOU

  • Ought to seem so unreachable and big that you can only see it through the eyes of Christ by faith.
  • Ought to be harder than you can handle on your own, to make you more dependent on God.
  • Ought to give you enough disappointments to make you humble and break your spiritual pride.
  • Ought to be difficult enough to make you weep for others, that you might become more compassionate.
  • Ought to have enough demanding, insensitive, ungrateful people in it to make you love like Jesus loves.
  • Ought to have enough impossible, insurmountable obstacles in it to teach you the goodness and power of God.
  • Ought to teach you how to love when you are tired, give when you are spent, and pray when you are weary.
  • Ought to teach you the power and truth of His word, the strength of His voice and the might of His commands.
  • Ought to teach you how to turn your mourning into dancing, your sadness into joy and your sorrow into laughter.
  • Ought to teach you to love the only One worthy of all our love – the One who became poor that you might become rich and unjust so that you might become just.

I offer these challenging reflections to any who feel called to be in service to the poor.  I offer them as a way to know the power of God, and hoping that this knowledge will lead us to move forward in renewing the city with compassion, hope, and justice.

Proverbs 29:7 NIV – The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.