Faith News: Debut

Last Friday I attended the opening night of WorldFest Houston, the 51st Annual International Independent Film Festival at Memorial City Cinemark Theater.  

The festival is going on all this week and will end this Sunday with an awards banquet. In all, 76 movies will be presented from all over the world. 

While waiting for the movie to start I struck up a conversation with a man from Hong Kong who wore a tuxedo and was delighted to practice his English on me.

The president of the festival addressed us before the film and bragged that this festival had the distinct honor of presenting the first award for best director to the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Ang Lee.  

In other words, this festival recognized debuts.   

The Featured film for opening night was “Blaze,” directed by Ethan Hawke.   Ethan has been nominated for an Academy Award for his acting. This was his fourth film to direct. “Blaze” depicted the life of singer-songwriter Blaze Foley, the unsung songwriting legend of the Texas outlaw music movement that spawned the likes of Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. 

(What is an unsung songwriter — someone who writes songs that are never sung?)  

The language was colorful, to say the least, but that’s what you’d expect from Texas outlaw musicians.

Foley was born Michael David Fuller in Malvern, Arkansas, but grew up in Texas. After leaving home, he performed in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, and finally, Austin. He was close friends with Texas songwriting legend Townes Van Zandt.  

Ethan chose as his lead actor a man who had never acted before: Ben Dickey. He also chose Charlie Sexton, the guitar player for Bob Dylan who had never acted before to play Townes Van Zandt. 

Another of the actors was used to being on the other side of the camera — Richard Linklater. Richard was the director of “Boyhood,” shot over a period of 12 years featuring Ethan Hawke as the father for which Ethan was nominated for an Academy Award. Richard took a turn at something new. 

Ethan was at the grand opening, and after the movie, came forward to answer questions. I was impressed with his answers and his feel for directing. I was impressed that he was not willing to “rest on his laurels,” to stand pat with what he obviously had great success. I was impressed that he was willing to try something new.  

How often do we let success in one field keep us from trying something else? How often do we let failure in one field keep us from trying again?  

The apostle Paul had failure and success. 

He said I’ve learned in whatever state I am how to be content. I know how to be abased and I know how to abound. His statement, “I can do all things through Christ” that adorns so many posters of athletes straining toward a finish line was not an affirmation that he would always be successful, but that he could endure failure and enjoy success.   

He wrote, “Forgetting what lies behind press on to what’s ahead. Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:13) He doesn’t mean we don’t remember our past. He is challenging us to not let our past hold us back. Don’t let our past success hold us back from trying something new and just keep doing only what has worked. Don let our past failures hold us back from trying again or trying something new.   

Ethan Hawke tried something new: directing. Richard Linklater tried something new: acting. What might you be called to try again or try anew?  

Last Sunday in our worship service Crystal Smith, who is 14 years old, made her public debut.  She played a violin duet with our pianist Brenda Odell during our time of presenting our offerings to God. It was her first time to play in public. The piece she played was "Csárdás” by Monti.   

I’m told that it’s something that high school and college players dare to attempt. We gave her a well-deserved standing ovation. Guess what? She has a friend that wants to play a duet with her in the near future. That’s what happens when you find the courage to debut.

— Jim Gill

When the trumpet sounds

The Bible reveals that one of the key things that will signal the return of Christ will be the sound of the trumpet of God. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (I Thess. 4:16). A number of incredible events will unfold after the trumpet is sounded. 

1. This earth will be destroyed by fire (2 Peter 3:3-10). There will not be Paradise on earth, as some teach, rather “the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (v. 10). When Jesus returns, He will not be setting up some earthly kingdom, but delivering up to the Father His spiritual kingdom, the church (Jn. 18:36; I Cor. 15:23-24).

2. The resurrection of the dead will occur. “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (I Cor. 15:51-52). Jesus will call all who are in the graves to come forth – “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).

3. The judgment of the world will occur. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). The wicked and just will be separated (Matt. 13:47-49; 25:31-33). The wicked will be told to depart from the Lord (Matt. 7:21-23) “into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). The righteous will hear: “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). 

4. All faithful saints will be together with the Lord in heaven forever. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thess. 4:16-18). 

When the trumpet sounds, it will be too late for repentance (Luke 13:3) or conversion (Acts 3:19). As Jesus warned: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only…Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:36, 44). When the trumpet sounds, will you be ready?

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—Jesse Flowers

Called to greatness

I recently heard the Christian song, “How Great is Our God.” That and a certain political campaign slogan have caused me to ponder what it means to be great or to achieve greatness. I imagine the songwriter attached greatness to God because of his supernatural powers, the ability to create the universe, to have foreknowledge of the future, to hold everyone accountable for their actions. Perhaps he or she viewed God as extraordinary because of his love, patience, and graciousness.

This latter measure of greatness is actually much at odds with what many assume is the  proper way to assess greatness. Greatness, as in worthiness of profound respect, is often associated with aggressiveness, competitiveness, and even ruthless self interest. In other words, greatness only applies to fighters and winners. You are an Alpha top dog or you are definitely not great under this prevalent paradigm.

In a very real sense, I believe humanity has been called to greatness by God through the ministry of Jesus. But it is not the greatness of the warrior or the one blessed with exceptional ability or intellect. Instead, Jesus calls us to embrace the greatness of self sacrifice, of humility and graciousness, of profound love. His is a form of greatness that stands in stark contrast to the egoist concept of greatness which has infused human history.

Jesus redefined reality for the human race, including what it means to be our greatest self. With that redefinition, he encouraged us all to embrace his new mindset and thereby achieve a divine eminence that lies out there just at the edge of our spiritual awareness. 

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— Rick Crotts

Don’s Daily Parable-One Good Turn

“One good turn deserves another,” as the saying goes. Does it really? Well it might, but it doesn’t always happen does it? I know that all of you, at some time or another during your lifetime, have done something nice for someone, unsolicited and sometimes not even deserved, but you did it anyway.  

Well, as it sometimes works out, you may be in a spot where you have a desperate need. That person whom you helped at one time has the resources and abilities to meet your need. They are also aware of your need. The big question is, do they respond in the same way that you did when they had their need? Well, let’s just say in this case, no they didn’t.

As difficult as it is, there are times when we must examine our motives for doing the things we do. As Christians, we would like to be able to say that we always do things for people because we want to, not because we expect anything in return. As good as that sounds, it’s not always the case, is it?

Our human side wants to be thanked. We want to be told how nice it was of us to do something for someone. It may embarrass us to be told ‘thank you’ and ‘how nice of you to do that’, when we meet a need for someone, but deep down, we like to hear it, don’t we? 

Believe me, I’ve been there. When I was in school, I was not popular at all. I was scared to death to get up in front of people. So now that God has gifted me with the gift of being able to sing, I have to be truthful and say that I enjoy being told that I did a good job on a song. It’s what keeps me doing it. If I never got any positive feedback, I would stop singing, immediately.

My point is this: We have the Holy Spirit inside us as Christians, and He will help us to keep our motives right. The more we turn our lives over to Him, the more like Christ we will become. In time, when we do something for someone, all we’ll think about is, “one good turn”. 

God bless you.

—Don Cunningham

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