Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Guess who's coming to dinner?

Sometimes when I'm really bored at work, I make up little games in my head to keep entertained. Today I was trying to figure out who I wanted to have at dinner if I could choose ANY 5 people in the world, not including friends and family. After realizing how hard that was going to be, I decided to split them up into groups, and do 4 different dinners. A sports dinner, a musician dinner, a "Hollywood" dinner and a dinner with Christian speakers/authors/pastors. The last one was probably the easiest, so I will post it now, and then as I fine tune the others, I will post them as well. Here goes my 5 person group I'd want to have dinner with:

Craig Groeschel - funny, great stories and super wise man...easily my first choice

Perry Noble - again, funny...very funny...and I just think he'd be super entertaining to hang out with

Donald Miller - love his stories, his sense of humor and would love to sit and talk with him for hours and talk about all aspects of life and God

Steven Furtick - so smart, young, and already has an amazingly large church that is growing like crazy...would love to hear how God has done so much so fast through him

Christine Caine - powerful speaker, doing great things for human justice and combatting human trafficking, also would have some amazing stories to tell

Seriously, who wouldn't want to sit at THAT table? That is my Christian speakers/authors/pastors group that I wish would happen. I can't even begin to describe how much I'd enjoy that dinner. Lots of laughing, lots of emotional stories that would just show God's power and control and plan. Oh man, if anyone could make this happen, I would love you for the rest of your life! No joke...these are amazing people that God is doing amazing things through...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Colorado Shooting

I've been feeling like I need to write something about the really unsettling event in Colorado. Such a tragedy, and the loss of life never is a good thing. My heart hurts in many ways because of this event, first for the victims, their families...but also for the shooter and his family too. Now, I know that saying that I hurt for the shooter sounds crazy, but give me a second to say why.

The taking of life is an awful thing, and I would have a hard time forgiving someone who took the life of someone I love, but that is what we're called to do. Jesus asked his Father to forgive the people that were murdering him while he was on the cross, so why should we behave any differently? People at work called him a "sick bastard" and other things, but when we look at things from God's perspective, we're no better. No sin is different from any other (outside of denouncing God, but that's a different debate). God sees me, you, and this man in the exact same way, a sinner who has no hope outside of Christ. Talk about a perspective change, and that hit me like a ton of bricks when I heard that said on the radio. I was a little taken aback, but I couldn't deny that fact. My heart hurts for this guy, he obviously has some serious issues, and nobody sensed it and reached out to him to help. He needs Jesus just as badly as I do, and I will be praying for him. I also feel bad for his family too. This has to hurt them and upset them in ways I hope to never have to go through. I pray they have the grace to forgive him, and I also pray for their safety. Retaliation against them doesn't do anything but make matters worse.

For the victims and their families, I hope they can find forgiveness for him somewhere. As an outsider, I know that saying this is a lot easier than doing it, but it's what we're called to do. If we love Jesus, we forgive those who have hurt us. In society, we've made it such a big deal that we don't forgive murderers, rapists, etc. because they're horrible people. We all have sinned, and we're no better than anyone else. He needs Jesus, and forgiving him is just a picture of what Jesus can do for him. I hope and pray that this is what everyone, not just the victims and their families, can do. It seems so backwards, and it seems so wrong, but that's our calling. I will close with a line from the song "Losing" by Tenth Avenue North for you to think on, and really sums up what I hope everyone can ask of God in this awful time...

Oh Father won't you forgive them
They don't know what they've been doing
Oh Father give me grace to forgive them
'Cause I feel like the one losing

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Just a new post, that's all

Wow, I can't believe it's been so long since I posted. I'm back for a short one...unless I get going and can't stop. I'm super tired, so it could go either way. Last night was my least favorite night of the year. I *hate* the 4th of July, solely because of fireworks. Last night they were loud loud loud, and when you have to get up at 1 AM for work, it's not fun to get woken up not once, but twice, *before* my alarm went off. I was not happy, but I won't get into the details of my sleep in this blog.

I don't really have much to blog about, as nothing significant has happened (or at least I feel that way, but I guess to an extent *everything* God does in our lives should have significance to us) and I don't want to do another preachy blog...yet...that might just come tomorrow. Depends on how I sleep I guess. I did just finish reading Soul Detox by Craig Groeshel. Fantastic book, and I think everyone and their mom should read it. Their dad too, and brothers and sisters and...ok I'm sure you get the point (apologies for the weird jokes, but I have become a dad and that inherently gives you a much different sense of humor than you used to have). Oh yeah, the book, that's what I was talking about. It's really convicting, and it will change you. It's just about cleaning up the toxins in your life that poison your soul. Things like anger, bitterness, entertainment choices, things I have no issues with whatsoever. Seriously, every chapter in this book was convicting, but also encouraging, and I am willing to lend out my copy to anyone who wants to read it.

On that note, I'm going to cut this one short and go give Sofi her bath. It's her bed time, and I will be probably not far behind. Good thing I get to sleep in tomorrow. One minor rant; why would a company make it's salesmen work Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday on the BUSIEST week of the year? Talk about screwing sleep schedules...ugh...ok goodnight all and I hope you all had a safe and happy 4th!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

First post in a month!

Lately God has been speaking mightily to me about faith. Between reading Ezekiel and the dry bones, Moses and the burning bush, Hebrews 11 and the sermon from NewSpring Church entitled "Well Done!" I can't escape what He's saying to me. I feel most times when it comes to doing something, I rarely will do it unless I know it will succeed. I think the reason I do that is the feeling that, if I don't see a success with what I do, I'm doing the wrong thing. That's not having faith that God will work His plan, in spite of me. One of the main points of the sermon was to "take a risk." A risk means not knowing the outcome. If I knew the outcome, I wouldn't be acting in faith! It would make life easier if we knew everything that was going to happen, but nothing would require faith. I know that I need to step out, have faith God will work, and do something that will only succeed with God's working. We might not see the results we want, and we might not even see the fruit of our labor ever. That doesn't mean what we did wasn't what God wanted from us, it just means His plan is greater than ours and His idea of success is different from ours. He wants us to act in faith and let Him take care of the results. The result He wants is our trust in Him to bring the results, but we can't get results if we don't first take a step of faith.

My hurdle I've been overcoming is with the small group I'm going to hopefully be leading. I have been not obedient to God acting in faith for multiple reasons. The first is that I feel inadequate to lead. I don't feel smart/wise enough, or mature enough in my faith to lead a small group. Moses didn't feel like he was smart enough, or eloquent enough in speech to lead Israel out of Egypt, but God chose him to do it. God uses the weak to shame the strong, the foolish to shame the wise. He wants to use people who have no faith in their ability because it will show how powerful He really is. I can't let my lack of faith in my abilities hinder God's work, because it shows a lack of faith in God.

Another hurdle I have had is just feeling like it's a ridiculous request for me to lead a small group. I don't have a ton of extra time, I work horrible hours, and I have a young child and amazing wife I *love* spending time with. Reading Ezekiel (dry bones) God spoke to me in a powerful way. I need to act in faith that God telling me to lead this group, not because of my abilities or time schedule, but because He will speak through me to these guys. Ezekiel probably didn't feel like he had the ability to put the dry bones together to form an army, but God called him to prophecy it anyway, and he did it. It probably sounded ridiculous to Ezekiel, but he trusted God would bring results if he did what was asked of him. God will use us, no matter what we think we can do, or what we think we have time for.

Lastly, in Hebrews, God spoke to me that we might not always get the results we want or expect, but that doesn't mean they're not going to happen. Abraham never saw the nation of descendants that were to follow him while he was on earth, but that happened. We might never see our neighbors/coworkers/grocery clerks that we're witnessing to ever come to know Jesus, but we can still tell them about Him, and who knows what will happen. Just because the results aren't happening the way we want them to doesn't mean we shouldn't act. If this small group falls apart and the guys never show up, it doesn't mean God isn't using me or working His plan, it just means the results I want weren't what God was working for at that time. God will always work His plan for our good, but what He sees as good isn't always what we see as good.

While this isn't one of my more "organized" posts, I hope it speaks to you the way God has been speaking to me. He is so much bigger than us, and if we trust in Him, He will do amazing things through us.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Courageous: Movie Review

Last night we watched Courageous. It's a movie from the same people that did Facing the Giants and Fireproof, Sherwood Baptist Church in Georgia. The story is about four cops and a handyman who are all trying to figure out life, fatherhood and God. I'm going to split this review into two parts. The first half I'm going to review the technical components of this movie, writing, directing, acting, etc. The second half will be reviewing the message and themes of the movie. I wanted to split it into two parts because I have very different opinions on them. If you haven't seen the movie, there are going to be some spoilers, so read carefully.

First off, the technical parts of the movie. I thought that the film fell short of my opinions of what a good movie is. The acting was mediocre at best, with the exception of Ken Bevel who portrayed Nathan Hayes. I felt most of the actors spoke their lines too overdramatically, which detracted from the impact of the lines sometimes. Also, sometimes when in the background, they lapsed in staying in character and forgot they were still on camera even when not speaking lines. Ken Bevel was the one main actor who I truly believed as their character, and I was pretty impressed with his work, considering all the actors were volunteers. That's one thing you have to remember, nobody got paid to make this movie. The writing is where I have the most mixed feelings in this movie. I thought (and I'll discuss this later) the message and themes of the movie were very poignant, important and clearly made time and time again in the movie. The dialogue of the movie, however, was really cheesy in some parts and awkward in many instances. Maybe this is a cause and effect of the mediocre acting. Either the dialogue made the acting bad, or the acting made the dialogue bad. Either way both left a lot to be desired. I also felt the story was written around the message, rather than the message flowing out of the story. In this movie's case, that's not important because the story and the technical aspects of the movie were meant to be secondary to the message it was getting across. The directing had some moments where it was REALLY good, and other times where I was confused. Some of the cuts and scenes were awkardly put together, and the montages sometimes seemed forced. The two scenes that were really impressive to me were the action scenes at the beginning and end of the movie. The big opening scene was well put together, the action was done well and I was impressed. It had nothing on the big gunfight at the end of the movie. The shots they used were perfect for the scene, the slow motion uses were perfectly placed and I felt the actions and events were well done.

The message of the movie was very important in society today, and they reiterate that with stats throughout the movie. Fatherhood in society today is dying, and it's causing the rise in crime, gang violence and decay of families everywhere. This movie showed the importance of fathers, and was so well put across. I definitely cried in this movie, and not ashamed to admit it (the part that got me most was after Adam's daughter passes away, and they show the sign in her room 'My prince did come, his name is Daddy). It's a big challenge to dads everywhere, and I felt the challenge in my life. Although as a film it wasn't the most well done, it is one I would recommend to ANYONE, especially dads. The message of being there for your kids, doing what you can to help them grow closer to God, and being the leader of your house are ones every dad and husband needs to hear over and over again. And even if you're not married and have a kid, that kid NEEDS you to be a part of their life. I love how each of the dads in the movie had different relationships with their kids, whether it was divorced with visiting rights, never met the child or lived with them, and each one was challenged to do more to be the father God lines out in Scripture. Very good, and very important especially in light of today's society and how more and more kids grow up knowing barely anything about their dad.

I recommend this movie for the message it has and challenge it lays out. As a film, don't expect greatness, but let that go as you see the message unfold.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

3 Posts in ONE MONTH!

Wow, I seem to be consistently posting...or at least this month. I don't know really what I'm going to blog about quite yet, it will probably just be rambling and nonsense. The reason I'm still up is because I was supposed to have a softball game today at 9:30. I say supposed to because it got rained out. The thing that sucks most about it? I drove all the way there before they cancelled it. I've been up since 12:15 AM, no nap, so my lovely wife made me coffee so I could stay more awake than I felt. So now I had no softball to take off the buzz of caffeine, and I'm awake...22 hours...oh dear Lord help me sleep. So for the past few weeks I've started being mentored. It's been fantastic, and I've been doing a LOT better about reading my Bible. I have grown so much closer to God, and I feel like I'm learning and being more disciplined in the way I've approached my relationship with God. I don't feel like reading your Bible and praying are items on a checklist, but if you love God and want to grow closer to Him you NEED to be doing those things. You shouldn't do them out of obligation, but actually want to do it. It's been great, and I'm so glad that I have started this path of my life.

Another new thing in my life has been starting volunteering in Youth Ministry at church. Last Thursday I went to a Home Group, and met some guys who are doing a Bible study/accountability group. I had heard about them from the Sr High Ministries Leader, and had been praying about becoming their leader. I found out Thursday they had been praying for a leader just the week before. So, it seems as if I'm going to be a small group leader soon. I'm super excited, but also super anxious. I definitely know that God will always give me the words to say and the paths to lead, but I always still feel so inadequate and unqualified. It will involve LOTS of prayer and LOTS of prayer!

Anyways, I think I *might* be tired enough to sleep, so I will bring this post to a close. Thanks for reading, even though I'm sure not many people are. It's ok, I don't blog for anyone but me. If you're reading it, thank you for stopping by and I hope that you're having an awesome day/evening/afternoon/night/whatever.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Human trafficking and slavery

Ok, this story is super graphic and hard to read, but this is not an uncommon story among young girls right now. So many young girls and women are forced into a slavery that I wish wasn't happening and for so many years pretended didn't exist. My heart breaks for these girls and women, and I hope that it breaks your heart too. It is a nasty part of what is going on in the world today, and an issue that really has been on the hearts of our family. Right now, through the end of this week if you donate to RescueLife, your gift WILL BE DOUBLED! Normally, $128 will rescue ONE GIRL, but with the doubling it will save TWO GIRLS caught up in slavery. Please consider contributing to this cause and saving lives!

The story of Anjali:

My father called me "the child he never wanted."

When I was young at home with my parents, I quickly learned that my father despised us girls.

My earliest memory is of a birthday. I was having such a great day and was so pleased with my pretty dress. My cousin had come over for my birthday and we were celebrating. Then my uncle came along and said, "Let's go for a walk in the woods." That was the first time I remember being raped. I was 4 years old.

At that time my family could not figure out what was wrong with me. I had a very high fever and wouldn't get out of bed. It was from the abuse. I did not tell what happened to me because I was too afraid.

But my father also molested me and even had other men have sex with me. This started when I was 6 or 7 years old. I thought my only role and purpose in life was to be an object of abuse.

As horrible as my story sounds, it got even worse. One day I watched as my father strangled my mother to death. After that, my father forced me to go on the streets and beg. And the abuse grew even worse.

After my father died, we were moved to where my aunt lived. I don't remember exactly how old I was at that time...around 8 or 9. I had a lot of anger in my heart at this time from all the pain.

When I was only 10, my aunt and uncle wanted me to marry a man. I wanted to run away because I did not want to marry this man. However, I was forced to marry him. The first night he was very hurtful and cruel to me, so the next day I took 60 rupees and ran away.

I didn't know where to go, but three older women in the village told me they would help me. They said they would take me to my grandmother's house, but instead they took me to the city.

They brought me to a strange place. I did not know where I was. They started dressing me up and putting lipstick on me, telling me I needed to look good for my grandmother. Finally, one sweet girl told me that the ladies had sold me.

If I resisted or protested, they would beat me until I submitted. I would scream and cry, but the ladies would still force me to sleep with the men. They were horrible to me. The men were cruel, dirty and sick. I got HIV, TB and many infections.

I witnessed horrible things. I saw one girl get her throat cut and another one mutilated with a knife. I saw many girls die, so I stopped resisting and started doing the work. Still, over and over I asked, "What can I do to get out of here?" They told me I had to work and pay my debt.

Then one day my life completely changed.

Some wonderful, kind people came and rescued me. They gave me a safe place to live. They taught me that God loved me and that gave me value. They assured me that my pain was not God's plan. For the first time I didn't feel that my purpose in life was to be hurt and used. I thank God I am now in a place of hope.

I have seen so many girls murdered. I am just praying that many others can be rescued so they will not have to go through what I did. I want them to be able to enjoy simple things like Christmas, sunlight and freedom.

I now believe God gives each of us a way to help others. Now I am being able to speak up for other girls. I was the victim; now I am a part of the solution.

Friday, April 13, 2012

My affinity for Hip-Hop and lack of TV shows to watch

As I have gotten closer in my relationship with God I have given up quite a bit of my entertainment choices. I have given up some music and quit watching a lot of TV shows that I was religiously watching. Not that any of my music was bad, or watching those TV shows were sinful, but that I couldn't grow closer to God and keep up with all of that stuff. I work a lot, and so watching a TV show takes a much bigger sacrifice than for most people. Work takes up roughly half of my day between the commute and long hours, so to sit and watch an hour long show (or even a half an hour for that matter) is a huge sacrifice and cuts into family and Bible time. That's not even including the content, which is getting worse and worse as time goes on. I used to LOVE How I Met Your Mother. I still would like to keep up with it, but the ideals of sex before marriage and sex as a joke are very prevalent in them. Also, drinking a LOT and living together before marriage are seen as normal. Those aren't positive moral choices and not what God wants at all from us. I used to find those funny, but now I just see how lost and depraved our society is and it makes me sad. I want to know how Ted meets his wife and if Marshall and Lily have a baby, but neither makes me want to watch the show anymore. I don't want anyone to think that I'm saying watching How I Met Your Mother is a sin, it just wasn't good for my relationships that mean the most to me; God, Shannon and Sofi. And with music, I was listening to a lot of music that had swear words in it, and music that talked about a lot of things that weren't in line with the Bible. This was causing my world view to mimic more of that line of thinking than God's line of thinking. Again, I'm not saying non-Christian music is wrong, or that you're a horrible Christian if you don't listen solely to worship music and CCM music (gag!). What I'm saying is this; as I get closer to God, my convictions about those things have changed. I have also re-discovered my love for hip-hop. By re-discover I mean this; I now LOVE hip-hop music. I had a phase late in high school/early in college where I *loved* Eminem. I knew the lyrics to most of his hit songs, and was quite the "rebel." Now I've been listening to Christian hip-hop, and there is such a thing. No I'm not talking about TobyMac or KJ-52, but real hip-hop. Lecrae and Trip Lee are the only two albums I have, but I plan on getting more as time goes on. I don't know what it is, but I can't get enough. I also can't get enough worship music. In the last eight months we've bought worship albums from a bunch of mega-churches over the US. They're fantastic, and they're not lame (yes, I mean lame in the sense of Chris Tomlin, who isn't bad, just sings CCM worship). These churches have worship pastors who write most of the songs they sing in their church, and these albums are all original songs. It's SO good, and I can't stress enough how badly you need these albums. Elevation Worship - For the Honor, The Village Church - God of Victory, Bethel Live - Be Lifted High, North Point Live - Awake, and a few Hillsong United albums are what we have right now, but I think we're going to look at getting some of these churches other albums as well. Like I said, these are just what God has convicted ME of (and Shannon too), so I'm not saying if you watch How I Met Your Mother or listen to non-Christian music you're going to Hell, just that I have let go of those things to get closer to God.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Eliminating Facebook

I am going to be deactivating my Facebook account in the next week. I really don't need it, and I really feel like I waste WAY too much time on it. It is a place where we put on our best and try to make other people jealous of our lives, or try to look uber spiritual and cool. I'm not saying everyone on there is fake, or that every post I do is fake, or anything. I just think it can get that way, and I don't want to get sucked in that kind of thing. I also get on there wondering if anyone commented on my latest status update or if people think I'm cool because of my latest update, or like my profile. I don't need it to keep in contact with people, there are calls that can be made and emails or texts that can be sent instead. I might get rid of Twitter too, and just eliminate social networking all together. I have less problems with Twitter addiction than Facebook addiction, so I will have to re-evaluate in a month or so. It will be weird to get on our computer and click on Facebook and realize I don't have a Facebook account anymore, but I will eventually get used to it and not have that habit anymore. I might sound like an old person, but I really want my security and self-worth to be wrapped in Jesus rather than what people think about my life and latest status update. Maybe I'm being over dramatic, but maybe I'm trying to just eliminate distractions from God and what He is doing in my life. I want to be able to focus on Him, and if I'm focused on the happenings on Facebook more than Him, I have a problem. Anyways, if you want to contact me and Facebook was your main way, my email is justinjjohnston@comcast.net and if you want my phone number, email me. I'm not posting THAT on my blog! :-)