Moana And The Sea

“You rule the oceans. You subdue their storm-tossed waves..” – Psalm 89:9. 

Throughout her journey, Moana has a special connection to the sea. The sea literally calls to her, the water shifting and waning to provide her safety in her travels. This seems like an obvious sign she is destined to go beyond the lagoon around her home, but she struggles to truly believe she is meant for greater things. As the story progresses, Moana’s trust in the water falters and fades, until she is almost ready to give in to her father’s wishes to stay on her island. However, Grandma Tala reminds her of her destiny in the sea and her faith (and later, her island) is saved.

The ocean can be seen as a metaphor for God since it consciously guides Moana’s destiny in a god-like way. The ocean could have carried Moana exactly where she needed to be but allowed Moana to “suffer” through the process of learning to sail. Once Moana realizes the sea is meant to help her find her way, she becomes accustomed to its assistance. However, there are moments when the waters don’t aid her the second she calls to them, but rather find their way to lend a hand at a greater point. The same is true of our lives.

After several draining battles and hurtful fights, Moana begins to lose hope in everything she once believed. The sea “abandoned” her and in her darkest moments, she tells the sea it chose the wrong person. It accepts her rejection but works its magic to convince her of her calling. We as Christians can experience doubt in our Creator, especially in times of hardship and worry. We must remember that in the darkest of moments, God will reveal Himself in great, unexpected ways.

God will not force you in to your purpose, but He does draw you towards it. It’s not about ability or initial zeal; it’s all about resilience, perseverance, and learning as you go. The sea calls to Moana, just as God calls to us, to do great things, and she must choose whether or not to act on that call. Like the sea protects Moana as she travels, God protects us as we make our way through the twists and turns life has to offer. Even when the storm hits as we sail the seas of life, God is with us to guide the way.

Moana knew she was called by the sea for a reason. The Lord’s specific purpose for your life has a twofold nature: It will further His kingdom on earth, and it will transform you. Not only will you grow closer to Him as you rely on His ability, but discovering your purpose will help you succeed in fulfilling the Lord’s mission for your life.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How can you begin to follow God’s purpose for your life if you don’t know what exactly it is?
  2. Where do you go from here? What’s the next step God wants you to take? When will you take it?

What’s Holding You Back

“Sometimes our strengths lie beneath the surface … Far beneath, in some cases.” – Moana

Moana is one of those movies you can watch over and over no matter how old you are. There is so much to like about this movie: the visuals are stunning, the music is amazing and the story is inspiring. Moana must decide between choosing the path that is safe, comfortable, and secure or following her heart which is pulling her to the sea. It’s here that the conflict behind Moana lies: her family is calling her to do her duty, but her heart pulls her to the open sea.

When Grandmother Talla falls deathly ill, she reminds Moana that the ocean chose her by giving her the heart of Te’ Fiti. Her mission? To find Maui, sail him across the sea, and restore the heart of Te Fiti. Moana doesn’t know how to sail—but she doesn’t let that stop her, although it does cause difficulties as we watch Moana continually tip her canoe. She did not let the fear of lack of experience hold her back, or having her wishes answered in a way she didn’t expect. 

If people waited until they had the experience to embark on something, our world would be completely different today. If tech moguls had let lack of experience of making computers, machines, phones keep them from pursuing their dreams, we would not be able to do what we do today. The point is that you may not know everything you need to, but should that stop you from pursuing the purpose God has for your life. 

Since the day a Christian surrenders their heart to God, God has a plan for that individual. And not just any plan, but a good plan. As we begin to seek out that purpose barriers inevitably pop up. One of those is fear. While trying to discover the purpose God has for us, we typically flesh out the ifs, ands, and buts; in other words, trying to plot out the variables and the possibilities while waiting for God to show us the way. We wonder whether “ this the best option God has for me?  Is this the right path?” We are frozen with fear. And in the middle of that fear, we lose sight of the very purpose that God calls us to. As Moana found out the road ahead can be bumpy. But every obstacle, every seemingly endless ocean placed in front of us has a purpose. Although we may never know what God has in store for us, we can believe that there is a reason for every one of them.  

The wonderful thing to remember in all of our decisions is that Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He will never leave us or forsake us. And someday, if we truly seek to love Him and trust Him, we will see that He really was leading us through the confusing terrain of His will all along.

Don’t spend so long looking for a perfect plan that you fail to take action and live out God’s purpose now.  Take a risk, walk through an open door and place your heart in God’s hands.  Live fully for Him in whatever you do and you will be living out your purpose.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Can fear of failure be paralyzing and motivating? Why or why not?
  2. Living in fear keeps us from experiencing our God-given potential. Agree or disagree and why?
  3. What step do you need to take this week to deal with any fears? 

Our Purpose Is To Serve God

“Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed.” Acts 13:36 NIV)

Every movie that is made has a purpose.  The movie may fail to achieve that purpose but it still has a purpose. Through the story of the movie, the film’s producers hope to convey emotions to the viewer, raise awareness about an issue, educate about a subject, entertain, and hopefully make money. Moana was entertaining, educated us on the culture of the Polynesian people, and grossed $690 million. 

Each of us who are moviegoers has a purpose for going to a movie. We want to be entertained, or educated about a subject or maybe we just want to see how far movie makers can take computer-generated imagery (CGI)  today.  We also have a purpose spiritually. God chooses to use people to serve His purposes. There is a purpose in life and there is a purpose to life.  

David is a great example of a man with a teachable spirit, whose heart was quick to repent: a loyal, faithful, and obedient heart that delighted to do God’s will. A thousand years after David lived, Luke, included a few thoughts about David: “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep…” (Acts 13:36 NIV).   For a few moments, think about your life in comparison to what Luke wrote about David.  First, he served God’s purpose.  David served God’s purpose according to the will of God. That’s a powerful thought. The Bible tells us that God has a purpose for your life. The writers of Scripture contend that what happens to your life is important. Paul wrote, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.” (Ephesians 5:15-17).  Are you accomplishing God’s purpose for your life?  

The second thought is that David was responsible only for his own generation. You can’t change the past, but you can do something about your generation, today, the world in which you live. It is easy to think that you don’t have much, if any influence.  But that is not true. Every person influences somebody.  You, like David, can serve God’s purpose, making a real difference in people’s lives.  

The purpose God gives us is not beyond us.  David made many mistakes in his personal life, yet God looked at his heart and said, “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.” (verse 22).

Discussion Questions:

  1. When you think about how God knows everything, does that make you feel any differently about His purpose for you?
  2. Is it hard for you to commit to following God’s purpose for your life? Why or why not?
  3. What can you do this week to discover and work toward God’s purpose for your life? 

For All Intents And Purposes

“For through the Son everything was created, both in the heavenly realm and on the earth, all that is seen and all that is unseen. Every seat of power, realm of government, principality, and authority—it was all created through him and for his purpose!” – Coplossians 1:16.

Moana is the story of a Polynesian princess desperate to leave her small island in search of something greater. She is “called” to the sea countless times throughout her life, but her attempts to explore are continually thwarted by her father’s demands for her to stay home and rule her people. The ocean is calling her, chose her, to fix what was broken in the land—a calling her parents didn’t know about. As Moana struggles to find her identity and fulfill her destiny her island is overcome with a curse, Moana embarks on her first journey across the sea, confronting spear-throwing coconut people and egotistical, shape-shifting demigods to fulfill her purpose. 

The Colossians Bible verse above is about purpose. This verse makes it clear that our purpose is ultimately God’s.  This doesn’t mean we are devoid of purpose… in fact, our purpose is for Him.  1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”

Wow. If we know Jesus, we are chosen, royal, holy… his very own possession. And what is the purpose of these privileges and why do we get this privilege?  As Christ-followers, our main purpose is to glorify God and to point others to Christ through our love.

While we all share the purpose of glorifying the Lord in all we do, we do each have a unique way of living out that purpose. For example, Moses brought glory to God by stepping out in faith and leading the Israelites out of slavery. Paul lived a life of rejecting Jesus and persecuting Christians.  Then, God used that part of Paul’s past to turn him into a powerfully effective teacher and missionary.

There is a sense of purpose that God has planted in each and every one of us, and we can’t separate ourselves from it. Your purpose in life is an important part of who you are; it gives you meaning and helps you understand why you are here. It is the beginning of who you are destined to become, the influence you are destined to have, and the dreams you are destined to fulfill.

God has a daily blueprint for your life that He is unfolding before you. Nobody else can fulfill your specific purpose. The Lord’s specific purpose for your life has a twofold nature: It will further His kingdom on earth, and it will transform you. Not only will you grow closer to Him as you rely on His ability, but discovering your purpose will make your life more fulfilling.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. How could He use your experiences, strengths, and weaknesses to accomplish His purpose for your life? 
  2. What impact do you think God wants you to make with your life? How does he want you to contribute to making Panama City or your area a better place?

More Than A Hashtag#

“We can go deeper to understand ourselves not only as members of one race against another but as fellow citizens with a common dream for our future, hopes for our children, and commitments to a better nation. In the end, we can and must shed ourselves of the racial divisions that have bound and separated us, and find our dignity together as the children of God all made in the image of the One who loves us all.” — Jim Wallis in America’s Original Sin

The issue of race has been thrust center-stage and has created a backlash against inequality that still exists in our society today. It has created a great deal of conversation. By engaging in dialogue, we can all enhance our understanding of the role that race plays in our lives, and we can join together in working to combat racism in all its forms. We cannot be a church that is true to the demands of the Gospel if we do not root out racism and love and respect all human beings, regardless of their race, language, or ethnic heritage.

Resisting racism means examining our basic instincts and assumptions about race. How do these assumptions shape our daily lives? What are our fears about people of other races? In what ways do we act differently when we drive through certain neighborhoods? How do we carry ourselves in situations where we interact with people of other races? Are we able to see Jesus in people whose skin color is different from ours or whose language is different from ours?

Combating racism also means that we need to develop a healthy appreciation of racial diversity. Developing this appreciation for diversity requires that we find regular opportunities to speak and work with people of races other than our own. We need to listen to each other’s stories, work together, identify common goals, and stand on common ground. By doing so, we can begin to realize the kind of unity that reflects God’s presence in our midst.

My prayer is that we will not minimize, justify, rationalize, or ignore the inequality happening around us. It is my invitation and fervent wish that every Christian will work in making the local church the “salt and light” for the world through its efforts to fight racism and promote racial diversity and civility. Let us make the church a place of welcoming and learning, a place of encounter and dialogue among peoples of all races and cultures. By doing so, we will make God’s love more present.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What was your number one takeaway from the More Than A Hashtag# series?    
  2. What can we do to change some of our assumptions about race?  

Let’s Talk

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” Martin Luther King Jr.  

When the issue of race comes up, it’s often in the context of a negative or heavy conversation. Tensions rise. Joy fades. The conversation limps on, if at all, as a conversation we have to deal with, not one we get to work through. Should it be that way?

As Christians, we engage in conversation about many important issues. But there is one conversation we are reluctant to have…race. We have probably tried and found it uncomfortable and/or awkward. When we get together with family we don’t want to talk about politics; or our relative’s past issues or problems that we don’t want to rehash; or our aunt’s gout; the money our cousin owes us. But at the top of the list is race. Well-intentioned people think that slavery was abolished over 150 years ago, we have had a black president, so race is no longer an issue that we need to talk about. But that is wrong.

We need to talk about racism because everyone else is. Christians need a place at the table. We have a powerful perspective. Armed with God’s Word, Jesus’ example, the Spirit’s leading—we have a lot to bring to the table. We need to talk because God has spoken. When God speaks it should silence all other voices.

Many of us lived our whole life in mostly white neighborhoods, attended mostly white schools, teachers were mostly white, attended a majority white church; this is the world we know.  We need to step out of that world. The more we engage in conversations about race, the more we will understand how racism is ongoing in the current era and how it continues to impact people of color.

We must invite into dialogue those we ordinarily would not seek out. We must work to form relationships with those we might not regularly meet. Only by forging authentic relationships can we truly see each other as Christ sees us. This is an ongoing work that may never be done in our lifetime; it’s been around for hundreds of years, and it doesn’t go away overnight. The work is a lifelong, continual effort.  

Let’s start today.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are you comfortable having conversations on race? If not, why not? 
  2. How can having these conversations help us spiritually?  

Love One Another In All Our Diversity

“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their colour.” and “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty, and there is strength.” – Maya Angelou. 

Have you ever sat down and, in a moment of reflection, asked, “why am I a Christian?” You might answer that question by saying, “following Jesus gives me the purpose, identity, and freedom I’ve been searching for―and far more than I have ever imagined.” OK. But the next question probably would be, “how well am I doing as a Christian?” That answer would take some reflection. God commands us to get right in a relationship with Him, each other, and God’s creation. Are we doing all we need to do to have the right relationships, to love the people around us? That means we need to love each other despite our differences.  

God has made us in different ways. Diversity was, is, and will be His creation. Instead of minimizing or ignoring our differences altogether, we should celebrate them. We should treasure the kaleidoscope of skin colors, tribes, ethnicities and the God they reflect. To downplay our differences or ignore relationships and communities we experience is to rob ourselves of joy. God has seen fit to make people different colors. Why would we see fit to downplay, or diminish these differences?

Our hunger for the things of God unites us. We all have different appetites, different allergies, different tastes, but sustenance is what we crave. The bread of life; Jesus, our cornerstone. And in His house, there’s room enough for us all. Ephesians 2:19-22 (MSG) says, “That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”

Do you have someone in your community that you don’t look like, talk like, share beliefs with, celebrate the same holidays, or have a different political view than you? Take time to celebrate that diversity – knowing that God loves and is present in all cultures and people.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does love one another connect with racial reconciliation in your mind?
  2. What can we do this week to embrace diversity?  

Choose Your Words Wisely

“You must determine if a tree is good or rotten. You can recognize good trees by their delicious fruit. But if you find rotten fruit, you can be certain that the tree is rotten. The fruit defines the tree. But you who are known as the Pharisees are rotten to the core! You’ve been poisoned by the nature of a venomous snake. How can your words be good and trustworthy if you are rotten within? For what has been stored up in your hearts will be heard in the overflow of your words! “When virtue is stored within, the hearts of good and upright people will produce good fruit. But when evil is hidden within, those who are evil will produce evil fruit. You can be sure of this: when the day of judgment comes, everyone will be held accountable for every careless word he has spoken. Your very words will be used as evidence against you, and your words will declare you either innocent or guilty.“ – Matthew 12:33-3 (TPT).

Sadly, we seem to be living in an increasingly uncivil environment. From presidential politics to random internet comments, there seems to be more rude, demeaning, insulting, and aggressive language and behavior in our society than in the past. But this devotional is not political, nor does it have anything to do with our First Amendment right of “Freedom of Speech.” It has one purpose and one purpose only. How do we talk to each other in a Christ-honoring way? 

As followers of Jesus, we must understand the impact of our words. In the Matthew 12 passage above, we see that civility flows out of character. The Pharisees were on a mission to tear Jesus down. They tried to entrap Him at the beginning of chapter 12 by charging His disciples with unlawful action for eating a little grain out of the field on the Sabbath, the day set aside for worship and rest in the Jewish culture.

Beginning in verse 22, Jesus heals a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute, and rather than rejoicing and being amazed like everyone else, the Pharisees are not happy. The crowd was saying,” Could it be that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah?” (vs 23) The religious leaders respond in verse 24: “No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons.” 

Jesus continues in verse 33 to speak about the reality of words. With this teaching, we once again see the eloquence of Jesus. Jesus teaches us our conversations reveal our character. From our hearts, we will either speak words of truth and love or we will speak words that are either untrue or words that are true but not loving. Verse 34 (TPT) says, “…For what has been stored up in your hearts will be heard in the overflow of your words! Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

This not an easy discipline to apply to our lives. But nothing is impossible with God. It’s a daily practice. Yes, we will mess up at times. But we need to learn and keep moving forward. The most important thing to remember is that our words have one purpose: to glorify God. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Read James 3:2-6: What are different ways you can use your words to give life instead of destroying it?
  2. Read Luke 6:45. If a stranger listened to everything you said for an entire day, what conclusions would they come to about what’s in your heart? What would they determine is your purpose in life? Would they hear evidence of a growing relationship with God?

What Happened To Civility?

“Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.” – I Peter 3:8-9. 

The level of civility in our culture is dropping like a rock. Whether it’s TV talk shows or online comments on news sites and social media, we seem to have lost the ability to discuss an issue calmly and logically. We talk less about the real problems and more about the differences we have with an individual or group of people. I am a republican. I am a democrat. I am a socialist. I am black. I am white. I am Asian. The incivility increases day by day. We think more about our rebuttal then about understanding the other person. We make statements of opinion rather than asking questions to try and understand.

We get a sense of what public engagement looks like in the 1 Peter passage above. We will encounter angry, uncivil people who want attention or want power or want revenge for the wrong they perceive was done to them, real or imagined. But Peter is telling us not to play their game. He wants us to play Jesus’ game instead, being civil and experience blessing. This was at the heart of the civil disobedience of Mahatma Ghandi in India and of the black Christian leaders of the civil rights movement here in the U.S. 

Matthew 5:9 (TPT) says, “How blessed you are when you make peace! For then you will be recognized as a true child of God.” Want to be a child of God in a fractured world? Get out in your neighborhood, in your workplace, in your politics, and be Jesus; but do it His way. Engaging in public life with civility and with radical love. This is our calling.

Sigh. Doesn’t sound easy, does it? When someone does us wrong, it is not human nature to return their wrong with as much love and blessing and forgiveness as it takes to change their life for the better. It would seem better to vent our anger, or forget about it and move on. But Jesus calls for a different kind of engagement, though, to look evil in the eye and love the people who are uncivil to us. This is not turning tail and running when we face contentious people. It’s just choosing a different way of engaging, one that looks like Jesus, promoting peace and blessing.

And the best part is it works. When we engage in life with peacemaking love, we’re more likely to change a bitter heart. We’re more likely to secure justice for ourselves or someone else. And we’re guaranteed to show a violent, bitter world what Jesus looks like.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you see civility as passive or action oriented? 
  2. What can you do this week to show the Jesus version of civility in an uncivil war?   

A Decade of Holiness

“So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:13-16.  

Last month we completed a sermon series entitled Decade of Impact: With the new decade rolling in, it is exciting to think about what the next ten years – triumphs and new discoveries that will make us stronger Christians as a result. The series delved into preparing for the next decade so you will be the person God intended you to be at the end of 2029.

We are all preparing for something all the time. The question is what are we preparing for?  What are our goals? Certainly one of our goals should be to pursue holiness. 

The Bible has a lot to say on the subject. Psalm 14:2-3 says, “The Lord looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one.” And in Isaiah 64:6, we read, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.” What hope do we possibly have of becoming holy like God?

Fortunately, holiness is not just based on our own efforts at being good. Holiness is who we are based on our relationship with Jesus Christ. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then the Bible says that you have been given a new heart. A new person has replaced the old person. We are holy because of our position in Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10:10 says it like this, “For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.”

We have been made holy… not because we follow a bunch of rules of things to do and not to do. It is not because we exhausted ourselves trying to be a spouse or parent or a better person. It is because of Jesus Christ. But even though our position as a child of God is secure when we accept Him as Savior, it is still important how we conduct our lives. We must continue to live in a pure and Holy way that pleases and honors our Father in heaven.

 Discussion Questions:

  1. Does living a holy and pure life seem impossible? Does that mean marriage is impossible as well?
  2. What is the hardest part of living a holy life?