Archive for the ‘Storytelling’ Category

I am doing a study on the book of Acts and using what I am learning for a year of Bible Studies at my church and it has been eye opening. In the process of this study, I am always looking for supplemental materials to help my teaching. It was in this search that I stumbled upon Into the Fray. What a great book. Author Matt Mikalatos is a missionary and it is clear he is passionate about this book.

His approach is unique. He attempts (quite successfully) to bring the stories from Acts to the twenty-first century, as if they were happening right now. This really brings a fresh perspective on the text. It is clear, he is a great story teller. He manages to bring the text to the modern day without sacrificing truth or meaning. He doesn’t just tell the story, through a unique layout technique, he “brackets” the story and then tells the story behind the story, explaining what was happening from the Bible itself. These teachings are theologically sound and very biblical.

I think my favorite chapter is The Storytellers. In this chapter Mikalatos shows Luke telling his story, of how the physician becomes a disciple. It’s a departure from the rest of the book but it sets up a wonderful explanation on how to tell your story, i.e. share your testimony. This chapter is pure gold for all those nervous evangelists who want to share their faith but aren’t quite sure how. This chapter has made me reexamine how I share my own story and the other things I do in my presentations with AMOKArts.

At the end of the book, Mikalatos adds a really nice study guide with questions from each chapter, making Into the Fray a great tool for use in a Bible study on the book of Acts. As a resource, Into the Fray would work well from middle school ministry through adult.

If I had any complaint about this book it’s that it’s too short. I would love to see him recreate this book almost in commentary style telling all the stories rather than just the highlights. This takes away nothing from the excellence of this book. Rather it is a suggestion for another project for Mr. Mikalatos. I really loved this book.

I made this little clip for a message I am doing on love. Next to the message of the Gospel, this extension of the Gospel might be the most important message the church can take the world around us. You are loved by God and by us.

I know what you might be thinking, but this is not about revenge. A friend online asked a question about whether or not the people in her circle were buried in school. Suffice it to say I was, and pretty brutally and pretty often. The results were not pretty. I started to feel like I deserved that kind of treatment. I started to feel like there was something wrong with me. I believed the voices inside my self that told me I was worthless and it would never get any better. I was a loser and I always will be. My confession is, even having been through healing and even though I am pretty old for this, there are still days when that voice rattles around in my mind. The results in my younger life were alcoholism and frequent thoughts of suicide. My childhood was not pretty.

Now this is not to say everyone did this to me, though there were many, there were a few who showed me kindness. I owe those people a great deal and quite possibly I owe them my life. But there is another group of people I owe.

I owe the jerks, the bullies, the villains in my story and I owe them a lot. Again it’s not revenge. It’s a sort of twisted gratitude. You see today my life is much better. Someone care enough to introduce me to Jesus (I owed her so much I married her) and someone else showed me that my talents were gifts from God to be used to His glory. I owe him to. Of course I owe my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ everything and more, but I owe the jerks too. See as all this healing came into play, and my gifts came into focus, I became an artist and a preacher and a story teller. People bring me in all over the country share the Gospel and my presentations usually include my story, my testimony. Without the jerks, there’s no story and my story has helped a lot of people. The Bible says “…In all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose.” That word All means all, even the destructive actions of others.

So if you’re in the midst of a hard time right now, be careful what you do. There’s a story being written in your life and while it may be hard, the testimony makes the pain make sense. So persevere and share your story. You never know what good it will do. It gets better, a lot better!

By the way, if you were a jerk to me, I forgive you and I hope you’ve found peace. I found mine in Jesus. He is the purpose in the pain.

As we finish out this year, I had to share this video I saw on Facebook yesterday and probably not for the reason that you think. Watch it before you read on.

You probably found the video touching. Many people do. You may have thought it makes a good point. It does. It’s well made and overall, it’s compelling, and it has, on the surface a good message, so well done. Now here’s what’s wrong with it.

You may think the son is an ingrate. You’re right, he is. He’s a pretty awful human being, but his father is an idiot. (I can say that because he’s not real.) Here’s why. The father gave his son a tremendous gift, actually more than he asked for and had I done this and my son reacted that way, I would have no doubt been infuriated, However, I would have not missed the rest of my life with my son over a botched gift or an unfortunate moment of greedy stupidity. What kept this father and son apart for the rest of their lives? Pride. The sin that made the devil fall.

The father in this story was willing to lose a son over a car and far too many people have fallen to this level of idiocy in the real world. Oh we feel all bad for this father who was hurt by his terrible son, but what would have happened if the father flipped out and said, “The car key’s in the back of the journal you jerk.” Now the son apologizes, learns a valuable lesson and the father gets to forgive and spend the rest of his life with his son (who is now humbled and smarter for the future). Instead the father chose to lick his wounds, nurse his pitiful pride and lose his son over what? A car? It’s absurd.

When telling a story, it’s important to make sure you’re making the point you need to make. Pride and idiocy are best friends. The creators of the video were trying to make the point of gratitude and “don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” and they succeeded but in the process they missed the bigger point of the importance of being the bigger person. God said “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger” for a reason. As we close out this year, are there any broken relationships in your life that need healing. It starts by extending the grace we have received in Christ.

Don’t let pride make you an idiot.

lightndarknessI wrote this for an advent reading for Christmas Eve at my church and thought it might be good to share here. If you’re from my church, you might want skip this one.

Imagine this room was totally dark. You couldn’t see a thing, but then someone lit a match, a candle, even a small spark. It might be small but in total darkness it’s the only then you would see and it would completely draw your attention. That’s the power of light. It makes darkness disappear. Even a tiny light overcomes the darkness.

Think about our world. Now imagine it in total darkness. In some ways it’s not terribly hard. War and terror and disease and pain and a whole bunch of other things that could make our lives and our world feel very dark. There are times when we might be tempted to look at God and ask “How could you let this happen?” What we need to remember is this is not the world as God intended. As a matter of fact the first words of God recorded in Scripture are “Let there be light.”

Having said this on the first day, He didn’t make our sources of light, the sun the moon and stars until the fourth day. Before that, He was the light. He is the light. 1 John 1:5 reminds us, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”

The darkness in the world is the result not of God’s will, but of the fall of man. If the world is dark, It’s our fault. Still God’s desire for us is not that we would walk in darkness, but that we would live in the light of His love, not just in this world, but forever, and so He set a plan in place to make it so. Isaiah 9 foretold it. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. 700 years before the birth of Christ, God proclaimed it, the light is coming. 2,000 years after that first Christmas night, the light is here. Can you see it? Can you see Him?

Jesus came to be so many things, Lord, Savior, King, Teacher, Perfect Example and yes Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. He is all those things and many more, but one of the big ones is found in John 8: When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” He came to be our light, to light our path through this life to eternity. No believer can deny that and yet we might ask “If that is the case, why is our world so dark.” Then you might read John 9:5 “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

So does that mean Jesus is no longer with us? No, remember the angel told us He would be Immanuel, God with us.” And He is with us. And maybe, just maybe that’s why in the Sermon on the mount, He pointed to us, His followers and said “You are the light of the world. “ The light has come and He gave His life and He lives in us, and we are called to shine with His light. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light and that light still shines. The question for us is will we shine? He is the light. Let Him shine through you!

You’ve probably been hearing about this a lot lately, the idea of fake news. I have to tell you the truth today, fake news is for real. Is it true, of course not, but, and this is something anyone who wants to communicate any message needs to learn, to the vast majority of the public, perception is reality. Think about how many people believe all manner of things after having seen nothing more than a social media meme. Can I tell you the truth? I can generate about four memes an hour, more if I use other people’s images and content and if I didn’t care about truth, I think I could make most people believe anything I put out there. That’s the power if imagery and media and many people are dong just that and deceiving the masses.

Now to be clear I do care about truth, but you have no idea the temptation I have been under to roll out a fake story, just to watch it get legs and then tell people, “I made it all up.” It would be a great way to make this point. Why haven’t I done it? Because like I said before, I care about truth. I’d never want to be responsible for perpetuating a lie, even to prove a point. Also I value the people who come to this site to read and learn and I would never want to lose credibility. I value your trust. Of course all of this pales in comparison to the fact that I’m a minister of the Gospel and as such I represent the personification of truth, Jesus Christ.

Guys there is tremendous power in a story. We can do great good in the form of telling stories. We can also generate tremendous harm and it is important that we are careful with what we share. Do you know this thing to be true? Can you prove it? Will sharing it do more harm than good? All of these questions should help us to decide what to (and what not to) share. Getting caught up in a lie, even unintentionally will destroy (or at least damage) your credibility. Perpetuating a lie on purpose is downright diabolical.

Brothers and sisters, we who claim the name of Christ, have got to get our stories straight. We are called to speak the truth in love, and in this mission, both elements are essential. Love without truth is a lie (and ceases to be love) and truth without love is usually just plain mean (and probably won’t be heard.) All these fake news stories leave us in a place of being less and less sure what we can believe. That can be a benefit if it makes us do our homework, but for the most part, not being able to take anything at face value erodes trust to the point where most people have no idea what to believe. We need to tell a better story. Thank God we have the greatest story ever told in our arsenal. We Christians always need to lead with truth wrapped in love. It will not always be popular, but it will always be right.

A famous man once said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” This is precisely the aim of fake news, and it cannot be denied because fake news is nothing but a lie that contains enough of a ring of truth that when repeated becomes believable. That famous man was Adolph Hitler, a man responsible for the death of probably upwards of 11 million people, mostly as the result of believable lies. We can and must do better.

Get the facts before you spread information. Tell a better story, and speak the truth in love. Put an end to the fake news. After all it is the truth that sets us free.

I have had a wonderful week ministering to the folks at Greenmount Church of the Brethren in Harrisonburg, VA this week and this morning I am hitting the road for home which is always great, because as much as I love my ministry I do miss my family and the folks at home. The result is a short post this morning. I happened to jump over to Facebook quick before I pack the computer for the journey home. I’m FB friends with Steve Wiggins, the lead singer of the band Big Tent Revival. He posted a picture that someone had wrote him in on an absentee ballot for president. When I saw it, I thought about what is probably my favorite song from them. It’s called Two Sets of Joneses. This is the epitome of telling a better story, and a real reminder for all of us. Jesus needs to be the center of our lives. If He is, we will be able to tell (and live) a better story.