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July 11, 2016, 8:20 AM

Fade to Gray



A while back (whenst I was in college, which is getting further and further away) my favorite Christian band Jars of Clay released a song entitled Fade to Gray.  The rhythm drives and the tone of the song is on the heavy side, which I immediately liked.  The lyrics, however, took a lot longer to sink in.  

The gist of the song is that the longer you look at Jesus the more the black and white fade to gray.  Growing up in a conservative faith system, there was no such thing.  There was only right/wrong; black/white; C of C/Not C of C.  If you even thought of blending something with the firm belief system, YOU became what was wrong and needed a not-so-subtle correction.  

But then we read the story of Jesus and see his interactions in the dirt and mire of Earth, and we witness firsthand the blending of the black and white of law vs. religion into gray.  

Compassion trumps Law every time.  

And we're not sure how to handle that.  In his letters, Paul does an excellent job of drawing lines as far as church discipline, orderly worship, etc...  Too often though, there is little room for compassion and what we glean from his work is rigid, inflexible, and off target.  

Compassion trumps Law every time.  

Drawing lines pushes us away from Jesus, not closer.  The Pharisees discovered this frustration every time Jesus healed on the Sabbath, a firmly drawn line of law.  When Jesus spoke of what makes a person unclean, he blurred the line of Faith and Law by exposing the heart of both.  And it looked like a gray area.  

As we watch the news today, tomorrow, next week, we are going to see a lot of black and white statements.  AND, we're going to be tempted to take a stand on either side, throwing projectiles at those that chose the other side.  We're not just talking about the hot topic issues of gun control, race, the police, etc... We can use this discussion to fuel change when we get into office politics, bullying, jealousy, broken relationships.  

Compassion pushes us into the gray area in between opinion and fact.  Compassion trumps both.  When we love as Jesus loves, the black and white of our opinions and beliefs begin to blend into something greater:  Grace.  Mercy.  Forgiveness.  You wont find any of those standing on one side of a line with a stone in your hand.  

Matthew 15: 10 - 14  10 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 11 It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” 12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?” 13 Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, 14 so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.”




June 27, 2016, 8:21 AM

Wanting to Tell God How it is...



I admit, as a teenager I REALLY did know it all.  I held all the pieces.  If you tried to correct me, I not-so-gently told you how it REALLY was and put you in your place.  In all seriousness, I'm not kidding.  I am ashamed of some of my actions and arguments and behaviors as a younger Chris.  Because the truth is far more painful than any delusion I held on to:  I knew almost nothing

Still don't. 

Which is what brings me to the title of this blog entry:  Our scope of knowledge is limited to what we experience, limited to our own time, to our own understanding.  Which in the grand scheme of the universe equals almost absolute zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  So why do we feel like we have enough depth of knowledge to instruct God about what is good for us?  I'm not throwing any of us under the bus as dissidents or anything of the like.  I'm speaking to the general human arrogance that we know what is best for us.  

Lets put it into a realm a little closer to home:  Golf.  Now I don't golf.  Did it once, lost 4 balls on the first hole, went ahead and called it quits.  However, lets pretend we're together on the golf course.  I've brought along my caddy: Jack Nicklaus.  Yes, the Golden Bear is my caddy.  First tee, I walk over to my bag (held up by the incomparable Jack) and instead of grabbing the driver he holds out to me I grab my putter.  He protests, but I ignore him because I think I can make this 300 ft drive with my putter.  

NO ONE (even if you have no idea about golf's history) would ignore Jack's suggestions on ANY course.  You would fail. 

We have something greater than the best golfer in history on our side: the Creator of the universe.  And he is handing us the tools to survive the day.  His hands reach out to us offering love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness... and instead of grasping those we reach for judgment, condemnation, and gossip.  

"God, you don't know what they've done to me." "God, I just cant love that person right now."  "God, I cant forgive them..."  

He already knows what They've done.  He knows what we've done.  And he has given us all the tools we need to make it through today, tomorrow, and into eternity.  Love.  Love people unconditionally.  Yes, you might get hurt but it is how Jesus lived.  Forgive.  Yes, it means you don't get to get even, but it is how Jesus lived (and died).  Give selflessly.  Yes, you might end up giving more than you receive, but that's how Jesus gave.  

Its time to stop telling God what is best for us.  He already knows.  And he's made it very clear:  Love God; Love People; and Serve Both. 

 




June 20, 2016, 9:00 AM

The Makings of a Good Bedtime Story (and Why the Bible is not one)...



There is a particular theme that is prevalent in a good bedtime story:  peace.  When a parent reads a bedtime story to their child or grandchild they want the content to settle, comfort, and not raise any questions.  (i.e. "But dont polar bears eat penguins, daddy? Why are these ones cuddling and sleeping with them?  Is it so they can eat them after they fall asleep?").  So yes, a good bedtime story needs to quench the questioning spirit of a child. 

Which is why the Bible does not make for a good, "lets get settled and not ask questions" bedtime book.  Jesus came into the midst of a cultural period run by lawmakers, micro-managers of faith and practice, ruled by a tyrant (Caesar), and away from any spotlight due the birth of a king.  The scene he enters is the barely managed chaos if Israel existing within Roman rule.  So many questions!!  

"Why wait until then, Mommy?" "Wouldn't it have been better to be born powerful instead of poor?" "Why does Herod kill so many babies?"  "What does eaten by worms look like?"  (Ok, that last one comes from me, hopefully not a child).  

The story of Jesus entering the world turns everything we think we know on its head and forces us to relearn the meaning of peace, deliverance, and hope.  Today we still find ourselves hoping that the lawmakers, micro-managers of economy and belief will make decisions that benefit us.  We find ourselves in a world ruled by tyrants, all of which take different looks and roles to fit the bill.  The Church exists in the barely managed chaos of the Kingdom of God existing within a culture that rules with an iron fist.  

And even though the parallels are eerily similar we find ourselves looking to the powerful to lead us on.  We sing Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus but look everywhere but where he is to find him!!  He's in the quiet places, where his soft, compassionate words are barely heard over the cries of the marginalized and weak.  He is in the corner of the break room, in our neighbor's back yard listening to another argument that seems to destroy yet another relationship.  He's in the streets of countries we fear even setting foot into.  He's in the shelters we've erected to hide the homeless.  

Every time we open the Gospels we see Jesus in places that make TERRIBLE bedtime stories!!!  Because his definition of peace is one we've forgotten, and misinterpreted.  Peace doesn't mean security on earth.  Peace is security in Heaven.  When he faced the swords, whips, and curses of an angry mob he was at peace.  Even while praying in the Garden, asking for deliverance out of fear, he was at peace.  Because he has redefined the very core of the word.  

We need to redefine it ourselves, in front of our children and families; In plain sight of the neighbors and coworkers.  Redefine peace. Find yourself comforted by finding Jesus amongst the lepers, hugged by prostitutes, invited to parties by well-defined sinners.  And when the questions come about "Why?" and "When?" we can answer without a quaver in our voice or a question in our hearts.  

Goodnight, sleep well, and be at peace. 

 

Matthew 10: 32 - 34  32 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven. 34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.

 




June 13, 2016, 10:45 AM

Building vs. Deconstructing



There's a big difference between building something and tearing it down.  ("thank you Captain Obvious.")  

But there's a question within that statement that needs asked:  Which are you actively involved in?  

If you're not working on building something, you're adding to the natural decay and degradation of whatever structure you're occupying.  In simpler form:  our mere presence on this earth wears it out... we can either work to replenish/rebuild it or keep eroding it.  The same concept applies with relationships, organizations, and yes... church. 

So are you building or wearing something out?  Nehemiah made his way back to Jerusalem and witnessed 50,000 people simply living amongst the rubble...  There was no active plan to rebuild the wall, to end the disgrace of the city.  Their presence in the city simply added to the mess and did nothing to change/better the situation. 

Nehemiah came in with a vision to rebuild, to end the disgrace, and reestablish the identity of an entire nation.  You either got on board or jumped ship.  Good thing for Israel: the people got on board after their eyes were opened to the needs at their very feet. 

So what is it going to take for us to have our own eyes opened to the glaring needs in front of us?  Are we reaching into the lives around us with the love of Christ?  (not judgment or condemnation!)  Are we rebuilding a ministry that serves the marginalized and poor from within the walls we've set up in our building?  

Or are we content to live among the rubble around us? 

Nehemiah 2: 17 - 18 17But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!”18Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king. They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work.




June 6, 2016, 8:36 AM

They Would have Succeeded



Do you ever wonder why the Tower of Babel project was stopped?  Was it because of the pride of the people wanting to make a name for themselves? No, that isn't it.  Was it because of the arrogance of thinking they could reach the Heavens?  Nope.  

It was because they would have succeeded in making their names great, uniting themselves as a powerful nation, and relied on only one thing as they moved ahead: themselves.  They Would Have Succeeded!  Reread Genesis 11: 6.   The tower of Babel was going to be a success!  The people gathered together, communicating and working together with one language and came up with a plan.  What was there to stop them?  They were a force to be reckoned with!  God Himself put an end to it, all the while giving them a sweeping vote of confidence and a huge compliment before doing so! 

Here's the point of that short, historical foray into the O.T.: we too can be successful at doing something great.  I'm not saying we need to get our bricks and mortar ready for a bigger building.  There's a more important aspect to this story:  The People Were United.  

Working together made them a powerful force.  Were their goals a bit misguided?  Yes.  Ephesians 4: 3 – 6 informs us that we can be united, and tells us that we MUST be united!  That’s the first step, we must work together as one body, with one faith, under one God, just as the people in Genesis 11 worked and united together! 

What are we wanting to build?  If our hearts only cry out for the physical things around us (wealth, safety, comfort, or shelter) then we can absolutely unite and build something beautiful and "great" by the world's standards.  But what happens when our hearts cry out for the things God's heart cries out for?  When submission, generosity, compassion, and heartfelt love unite us, what can we build then?!  

Its called: "The Church."  And it wont make our names great, they'll most likely be forgotten.  What we build will make God's name great among all who see and hear.  

Ephesians 4: 1 - 6   1Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.




May 29, 2016, 3:25 PM

Wake Up!



 A quick hit from the main reading from this week's sermon/The Story - in Ezra 1:5 it is written that the Levites and Priests needed their hearts stirred by God to return home.  This is the same language used to describe the stirring of heart God did with Cyrus, the pagan king.  It seems that captivity had caused more than a few hearts to fall asleep, or at least lose their passion for returning home.  

70 years away from home could do that to a people group... However, 400 years didn't seem to have an effect on the Israelites' cries for deliverance in Egypt.  Regardless, the hearts of those that should have been leading the prayerful charge to return home were sleepy.  

Is your heart awake?  Are we sleeping on the promises God has made to us concerning our eternal rewards?  What behaviors need revived in us?  Evangelism is one.  Accountability, integrity, and patience are a few others that come to mind.  

Ephesians 5:14b "Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you."




May 23, 2016, 8:38 AM

Out of the Furnace



I once went swimming in some hot springs, in the middle of winter, at roughly 7000 feet above sea level, in the middle of the Rocky Mountains.  It was amazing.  There was literally a pile of snow on the "pool deck" from where the caretakers had cleared a path for us to jump in.  The experience was very cool (no pun intended) as the water kept us perfectly warm (hot even) despite the frost that was building up on our hair, eyebrows, and beards.  

Here's the big problem with that:  we had to get out of the pool.  Which meant submitting our entire bodies to the punishing wind and temperatures of a Colorado winter.  The walk from poolside to lodge was brutal... Quite an experience; we went through all extremes of temperatures from stepping outside, jumping in the water, a few of us dove into the snow bank near the pool, got warmed up again in the water, then ran inside to dry off.  I think I will name the experience:  "A Flat-lander's Guide to Getting Hypothermia."  (on sale today!).  

We were comfortable in the hot springs... but we couldn't stay there forever.  I wonder what it felt like for the three guys thrown into the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar!  Not a hair burned, so we have to guess that the fire was a comfortable experience.  Throw in the fact that JESUS joined them (!!!!!!) and you've got a really neat experience to pass on to the kiddos.  Much like I believe Daniel totally snuggled up to some lions over night in the den, ordered pizza, and watched some Full House reruns.  

Regardless of how we imagine the experience, the three guys had to walk out of the furnace.  On the inside there was Jesus (!!!!!!) and complete immunity as no one could get close to them. On the outside there was captivity, service to Babylon, a pagan king, and members of the royal court who wanted them dead.  Which would you rather have?  I think I'd stay in the furnace too.  Maybe order up a fiery chariot to join the flames and hitch a ride with Jesus (!!!!!) back to Heaven.  

 But alas, it was not meant to work that way.  They had to leave the comfort of the furnace and face the world around them.  So do we.  Our influence might be veiled, or hidden completely, but there are individuals who are needing a taste of God's mercy in their lives and its our job to deliver.  Just like Peter's request to build little houses for Elijah, Moses, and Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, our hope of keeping ourselves away from the world will be denied.  In that instance, Jesus knew there were hoards of people waiting for them at the foot of the mountain.  

Your fiery furnace might look a lot like your bed, house, or the silence you offer to people around you.  Walking out of those safe zones is torturous.  For others the furnace looks a lot like our churches, the places we occupy on Sunday mornings (and if you're super holy: Sunday nights, too).  That's a dangerous statement to make, I know... but its scarier to admit that its true.  We get comfortable with Jesus in our safe place from the world, tell him how much we love and want to serve him... Then walk away heads down and hearts turned inward.  The world needs us!  Not with protest signs or shouts, but to quietly love, pray, and serve.  

When Daniel faced the music of prayer being kicked out of Babylon, he went to his room and prayed quietly.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood quietly at the back of the service when everyone in the kingdom bowed to the statue (they weren't in front waving their arms, drawing attention to the fact that they disagreed with the political regimes of Babylon!).  And when faced with the fiery furnace, they quietly put their confidence in God.  When they walked out they didn't (as I totally would have) do a touchdown dance celebration or trash talk their victory and how awesome their God is.  They went about their business of serving Babylon.  

Its time to leave the furnace and get back to the business of loving God and loving people.  

Isaiah 43: 1 - 2   1But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. 2When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.




May 16, 2016, 9:32 AM

Lost the Plot



Have you ever gotten into a book, a BIG book, and forgotten where things were supposed to be going?  Sometimes its poor character development; Other times though its just the sheer volume of information that confuses us (I'm looking at you Lord of the Rings).  That's all well and good with a book, because you can always flip back a chapter or two and regain your footing.  

Its not that easy with life when we lose the plot. Maybe its a career that hasn't panned out like we'd hoped.  We've lost the plot of our own dreams, and turning back a few pages could cost us seniority or salary.  Relationships can get into the same loop as well, losing the foundation of what brought people together in the first place.  Healthy relationships will be able to weather those moments and survive a quick detour to refresh ties.  

Spiritually speaking, losing the plot can have far more dire consequences (I'm looking at you Israel and Judah).  The most frustrating things about working through the complex chapters of Israel's demise at the hands of the Assyrians and Judah's demise at the hands of Babylon are that they could have fixed the problems quickly and simply.  Every prophet God sent to the people had the same message: "RETURN TO GOD!!"  If they obeyed, God delivered them (see the book of Judges for a practical example of this).  

But they lost the plot.  

Israel and Judah's kings found themselves surrounded by everything the Lower Story has to offer:  excess, pleasure, and comfort. Idolatry spoke to their carnal desires and required very little integrity and accountability.  Creating your own plot is a lot easier than being transformed by the Upper Story.  It is frustrating though that no matter the hardships or struggles placed on kings and people, they refused to be transformed, to conform to God's instructions (which were not new by any stretch of the imagination, having been around for centuries).  Even a toddler will learn, eventually, that negative discipline can be avoided by changing one's behavior patterns.  

Have we lost the plot as well?  Does Church engage culture?  Do we embrace the message of Christ, the example of Jesus, the powerful sacrifice of our Savior?  Our plot has become comfort, sustaining what is known so we can comfortably postulate about the unknown.  When we forget our mission we create a path that suits our own Lower Story ideals instead of God's Upper Story vision for his people.  The vision of the Church has always, ALWAYS been about growing God's kingdom and not our own.  

Which plot are we following? 

Matthew 6: 33  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.




May 9, 2016, 8:43 AM

To Whom?



Who gets the message God needed sent in Isaiah 9? Who needed to hear about the light in the darkness that was the coming Messiah?  

In the text, the message needed sent to sinners.  And not just any sinners, but the worst kind of sinners:  the ones who knew better than to be sinning in the way they were (idolatry).   Yes, Israel, you needed the hope of the coming Messiah.  They were about to be laid siege by the Assyrian army and were literally on the doorstep of annihilation.  The next few days and weeks were going to be a trial they would not survive; at least survive in the sense that they had a kingdom, land, and identity to call their own. 

As they were taken into captivity (which if you set that side by side with what happened to the Northern Kingdom, captivity is the better option) they needed to hear something that would give them a handhold, a foundational grip to grasp in the coming generations of slavery.  This is what was given: 

Isaiah 9: 6  6For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of fPeace.

Now Israel had its fill of child-kings.  Some were good, most troubled.  This was the promise of an eternal kingdom resting in the arms of a child, a son.  This was enough.  This message sustained them.  

No, there wasn't a timeframe.  No, there wasn't a direct link to when this government would be set in place.  And no, there was no guarantee they would actually see all this come to light.  But the promise was enough.  

This message of hope (Jesus) is not obsolete, nor did it expire.  It rings true today.  So who needs to hear it?  Isaiah took it to a place struggling with idolatry, disobedience, and empty religious practices.  Where do we need to take it?  

Each of us is called to share the hope of Christ.  It may be a tenuous grip we have, but regardless, it is the only real hope we have. To whom are we sharing it?  

Isaiah 6: 8 - 9 8Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” 9And he said, “Yes, go, and say to this people . . .

 




May 2, 2016, 8:36 AM

Elijah's Question



1 Kings 18:21 Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent.

While there is no question mark at the end of Elijah's cry here, it is in the form of a question that stretches FAR beyond that single moment.  Make Your Choice.  

And the people were silent.  

The same question shows up again and again in various forms:  "...choose this day whom you will serve."  "Let the dead bury their own..."  "Peter, Do you love me?"  "I wish you would be hot or cold..."  (All paraphrased by Chris).  

I'm afraid of my own answer, because I too have been silent; hoping the conversation will turn to other areas like church attendance, church offerings, and church participation (how many tables and chairs need to be put away to assure one's place in heaven?).  And while I would try and march out a truly dazzling display of earthly works to try and prove my allegiance, Jesus looks deeper and his question pushes past the physical.  Just like he did with Peter in John 21, he asks a question meant to cut deep, to our very soul.  "How long will you waver?"  

I'm confident that I would answer the same as Peter did every time.  I too would be hurt when he asks again, and crushed when he asks a third time.  Because I know what he knows:  My heart has been torn in two by the treasures of this world.  

How long will we waver?  

Matthew 6:21  21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.




April 25, 2016, 8:37 AM

A Kingdom Built on Service



Big question:  What is your kingdom built on?  

Now you can interpret the idea of "your kingdom" in many different ways:  Family; Career; Church; Community; etc... Lets look at ALL of them and answer that question.  What is the foundation for everything you've built?  

If its not Service then we need to re-pour the concrete and foundations for what we think we've built.  Two moments come to mind in making this statement:  1 Kings 12: 3 - 7 and John 13: 1 - 17.  

Both contain the foundations for what could have become great kingdoms.  The first was the moment Rehoboam had the opportunity to be a worthy king, earning the devotion of his people forever.  He is advised to "serve the people" and be a leader who shepherds his community.  However, and that is a BIG however, he chooses to be served by the people in harsher measures than they've known before.  He builds his foundation on reputation, pride, arrogance, and power.  How does that work out for him? 

The second illustration is at the doorstep of a more relevant kingdom being established:  the Church.  Jesus is mere hours away from arrest and crucifixion and he has a final message he needs to get across to those he has entrusted his kingdom.  Service. He washes their feet, becoming the lowest servant in the room of which he is far and above the most worthy and important.  

The example he sets before us is to build a kingdom on self sacrifice, putting oneself in a place in which others will become great.  That is leadership 101:  setting others up for the win.  The remaining moments of Jesus' life prove this even further, giving us the lasting image of sacrifice and redemption on The Cross.  But it is the moment in John 13 that drives the point home:  Serve.  

If the apostles had tried to move ahead after the Resurrection through reputation alone, the Church would have failed and not become a global movement.  If they had tried to impress the people in Jerusalem with their names and association with Jesus to draw people in, the Church would've been forgotten as time dulls even the sharpest memories.  

Throughout the Old Testament we can identify moments when leaders turn from serving others to self-serving.  And every time, EVERY time, its bad news.  Moses and the rock; Abraham and his lies about his wife; David and Bathsheba; Solomon and his idolatry; Jonah and the Ninevites; on and on and on.  

What is your kingdom built on?  What is our church built on?  The kingdom of Israel went from powerful to a torn apart mess because of a lack of foundation.  Don't let it happen to yours.  

John 13: 12b - 15  “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am.  And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. (NLT)




April 4, 2016, 8:36 AM

Your Self Worth



In our Sunday School class yesterday (04/03) I recalled a mind-blowing discovery I had this week:  God had prepared for Israel's demands for a King.  This may not blow your minds yet, so let me expand the thought process.  

In the period of the Judges, God had prepared a system of leadership that was effective, but temporary and volatile at best.  These people were not meant for a totalitarian style of leadership, nor were they a suitable form of nation-wide, long term, create a lineage of monarchy style governing.  The period ended with Samuel taking the place as God's chosen mouthpiece to the people.

In his time (Sam's), the people's eyes start wandering to the nations around them, discovering the power and stature that comes with having a physical centerpiece of rule to act as the figure head of a nation.  Jealousy ensues and we get the act of rebellion that finally breaks Samuel's back.  They reject "him" as their leader and want a king.  God corrects Samuel's interpretation of their rebellion and clarifies that Israel has rebelled against God, not anyone earthly.  

We read this chapter and shake our heads at the ignorance, short-sightedness, and sinful desires of Israel.  They become a punch line to sermon points:  "Don't be like Israel, Church..."  And yet...  And yet... God had planned for this all along.  

He loves and cherishes his people so much that within that love he plans to use and work with their rebellion and disobedience.  Within Israel's own law is a caveat for the behavior of a King.  Not just a king of some foreign nation, but the king over Israel.  (Deuteronomy 17:14 - 20).  He declared in his promise to Abraham AND Sarah (so there's no confusion which son he's blessing) that among their descendants will be kings.  

God loves us so much he plans ahead to cover our lack of faith, trust, and obedience!  He loves us so much that he still uses our poor choices to further his kingdom and create beauty!  

And if that doesnt change what you see reflected in the mirror, you need to read your history books again.  Through the law, the wanderings, the Judges, and even the wars, God reflects his compassion on us.  And he proves again and again how much we are worth to him.  Even when we demand a king.  

Romans 8: 35 - 39    

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” )  37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.




March 28, 2016, 8:51 AM

What's Different After Easter and Resurrection Sunday?


Everything. 




March 21, 2016, 9:29 AM

Call EMS!!!


Lets start with a question.  What are your signs of life?  As human beings, a part of a very active society we have certain signs of life.  At the most basic level, we breathe, eat, have blood flowing through our veins, etc...  On a grander scale there are signs that we are living and active beings.  We walk, run, crawl, speak, laugh, etc..  And beyond that we have a social life (for the most part!).  We have families, friends, coworkers, etc...  

We give off signs of life with everything we do. If I were to drive by your house an any given day of the week, I would most likely see signs of life.  You would be out mowing your lawn, sitting on the porch, talking and interacting with your family, or whatever it is you do when you get off of work.  It would be obvious, even to the simplest of minds, that someone lives in your house.  

So lets turn that on to our spiritual lives.  We also have spiritual signs of life, which include prayer, study, faith, etc…  I ask you this question church, ARE YOU ALIVE?  You see, a complete stranger could figure out if you are physically alive from far away.  But do your closest friends and family members know you are spiritually alive??  Are we hiding all signs that God is active in our lives?  I am not confronting the evangelism issue here, I am confronting the basic actions necessary to sustain a spiritual life.  

If there was a way to check your pulse spiritually, would you have people calling 911 for you?  Our Savior gave everything he had for us, and yet we hide.  We have been offered a free trip through eternity, and yet we ‘fake it’.  We have been offered an ABUNDANT LIFE, and yet we go through the motions…  

Its a simple message for a complex time:  Live Life Out Loud!  Express gratitude; Ask Forgiveness (and offer it freely); Be Polite; Give Generously; and Serve Humbly.  Make sure that everyone knows we're spiritually alive!

Romans 6: 5 - 11 (NLT) 5Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was.6We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.7For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.8And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him.9We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him.10When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God.11So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.




March 14, 2016, 8:06 AM

All Other Ground



I used to think quicksand was going to be a major obstacle I would have to overcome at some point in my life.  Much like "Stop, Drop, and Roll" I was certain my quicksand survival technique was going to come in handy (I've never had to "stop, drop and roll" either...).  

Today, the song in my head is this chorus:  "On Christ the solid rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand; All other ground is sinking sand."   I dont know why its in there, or why it was what I hummed throughout my early day routine.  But its there, so I'm going to talk to you about it now.  

There's a word in there that sticks out to me:  ALL.  All other ground.  Everything but Christ is sinking sand, not a suitable place for a foundation.  Nothing but Christ.  Hear that?  It is a truth, expressed in song, that must be more than just a catchy tune.  

When life comes crashing down, where is our foundation?  Will wealth and reputation reach out to us in grief?  Will the treasures of the world comfort our souls in sickness?  Does anything, but Christ, have the ability to use words like "always" and "never?"  The only person that can use infinitives is God, as he Was, Is, and Will Be.  

Which foundation have we chosen?  




March 7, 2016, 8:37 AM

Out on a Limb.



I dont take risks.  I play it safe.  Because of this sensibility, I have yet to suffer a broken bone, or other risk-induced malady.  Sure, I dream of sky diving, and climbing Mt. Everest; but lets be honest, I've no plans to write those in on my schedule.  

Is that a bad thing?  Nope.  I like not having to deal with a broken arm or leg.  I like being comfortable.   There are other areas we are prone to not take risks in either.  Places that would result in things far more lasting and impactful than a broken bone, or some bruises:  Living faith out loud.  There are a lot of things I really like to talk about.......in church, in small group, and in my home.  But I am hesitant to live those same ideals out loud, outside the zones of comfort and safety I've set up. 

When we follow Jesus we make, looking realistically, some pretty dramatic and outrageous claims.  "Dying to self."  "All to Jesus I Surrender.... I Surrender All..."  "I am mine no more..."  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  

All of these roll from our lips quickly, easily, and often in the form of a song we've sung for decades.  Do they roll out in our actions just as easily?  

Honestly:  Its hard to live these concepts to their fullest.  We cant help but sprinkle our own experiences, biases, and interpretations into them.  For example: I cant help but look self-centered when I'm trying to be extra generous or compassionate. 

As we continue through The Story, we paused this week with Ruth and her book that is placed both perfectly and awkwardly between Judges and 1 Samuel.  It is a calm story that shows what loyalty and redemption looks like (without swords, amazing feats of strength, etc...).  I've overlooked it for too long.  Within its pages are the actions, words, and heart of Jesus.  Boaz breaks down the barriers of conflict, hate, prejudice, and war by showing love and acceptance.  He elevates a poor widow from a beggar to cherished wife among the legacy and line of Jesus.  

Boaz lives the message of the Christ (whom he had no concept of outside of the sacrificial system installed in the law at the time) out loud, walking out on a limb to redeem someone through love.  

We know Christ, honoring him every week, remembering the power of the Cross.  Will we live that knowledge out loud?  

James 1: 22 - 25   22But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.23For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror.24You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.25But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.  NLT




February 29, 2016, 9:38 AM

Occupying Space



I have held on to the very first cell phone I ever purchased.  Today it serves as a toy for the girls, but its also a neat little reminder. Let me describe it to you:  Its blue, which is pretty cool.  Not that this makes it better, but its still pretty cool.  It is a variant on the "flip phone" idea.  There is a portion of it that flips down,  but all it does is cover the buttons when in your pocket.  The technology is outdated, and it was only good for one thing:  phone calls (what a waste, I know).  It is long dead, with no charger in sight that attaches.  It is either good for being a toy phone, or a paper weight, thats all.  

So why am I telling you about my first cell phone?  Simple.  Because it reminds me of James 2: 14 - 16.  I'll wait as you click on that link and read it.  

Is your faith like a cell phone with a dead battery?  
Is your faith like a kleenex box that is out of kleenex?
Is your faith like a stapler with no staples?
Is your faith like a pen without ink? 
Is your faith like a pencil with no lead?

James cuts right to the core of the matter by telling us that our faith must lead us to DO something.  

Are we acting like Christ-Followers?  Are we doing the things that will identify us as those looking forward to eternity in Heaven?  Can the world see anything different about us besides our Sunday morning habits?  If we aren’t showing the world who Jesus is through our actions, we might as well close the doors of the church, board up the windows, and turn the power off because it isn’t doing anybody any good if all we do is occupy space!!!  The beauty of what we need to show the world is this:  IT'S US!  Not us dressed up in superhero costumes that portray Christians as perfect, or overly righteous.  We need to show the world that we've been redeemed and saved, and that we're fighting off the temptations and sins we were chained to not so long ago.  

The point: we need to be showing the world SOMETHING.  We have the Holy Spirit.  That alone marks us as different, not of this world.  We spend time every week remembering the Cross and how far God went for us.  That must fuel the rest of our week to remember how far we will go in faith to share that love.  

My challenge is simple:  DO!!  No more acknowledging Jesus in our worship on Sunday and then going mute shortly thereafter.  No more paying special attention to the clothes we pick out for Sunday and ignoring the neighbors who are LOST.  No more showing generosity during the offering, but remaining compassion-less to the needs of missions and the poor.  

No more impractical, unpracticed faith.  Lets show ourselves more useful than a dead cell phone.  

James 2: 14 - 17  What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.




February 15, 2016, 9:46 AM

Your Own Personal Jericho



If you know a story well enough and have read the book more than once, its hard not to look ahead at what’s coming instead of concentrating on the right now.  I’ve fallen trap to this in books I like to reread, and come to realize I’ve “read” three pages but haven't really digested a single word.  

This blog is dedicated to doing just that, and instead of trying to go back, we’re going to let our imagination run a bit to what's ahead.  For The Story, what’s ahead is Jericho, and the obstacles that look similar in structure, manpower, and stability.  Israel, having now entered the Promised Land, has to wipe it clean… 

Into the scene comes Jericho.  A seemingly insurmountable obstacle to winning the day.  We're not going to spend much time on this moment in here, but look at the grander scale of what Israel was about to face.  Problems that were real, touchable, and right in front of them.  On the trip so far, most of the issues were from perceptions, or emotions, or just plain immaturity.  Canaan gave them a real, in your face problem to solve.  And, to finally give them some credit, they took the challenge and ran through it. (Mostly).  

Here's our point today:  Every one of us has a Jericho to face.  There are challenges put in front of us (sometimes by God, mostly by us) that are directly in our path to Heaven.  We have a choice:  tackle the issue, or change course and either run or avoid it.  It shouldn't NEED to be said, but I will:  Which approach do you think God prefers?  Obviously, the same tact that Israel had to take with their issues:  face it head on, with the strength and power of God on our side.  

Unfortunately, our Jericho looks very different than a city.  Most of the time it looks like forgiveness or reconciliation, or humility. Those sound (or type) as small things... but when we're standing nose to nose with a relationship that has gone sour, there are times we wish we were walking around a fortified and defended city 13 times instead.  

Face your Jericho, head on, with the promise of God behind you.  And just like Jericho, when we address things with God's character and strength, they will be reduced to a pile of forgotten rubble behind us.  

Want a cool epilogue to the story?  Once Canaan was mostly wiped clean, Caleb looked around and his eyes caught a region in the mountains that weren't scrubbed completely of inhabitants.  Instead of kicking his feet up and enjoying the spoils of the Promised Land and letting someone else (younger) take care of the issue, he demands Joshua assign him and his tribe to THAT region.  

Joshua 6: 2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.
Joshua 6: 27a So the Lord was with Joshua . . .




February 8, 2016, 9:12 AM

Dont Open That Cellar Door...



I watch movies.  A lot.  So it should come as no surprise that I quote them, think about them, and use them as illustrations often. This is one of those moments.  

There are a few movies that I love so much that I can watch them over and over again, and never get tired of stepping back into the stories they tell.  The best of those stories engage my imagination every time, and leave me wanting to step back into that world when the credits roll.  Unfortunately, not all of those movies that I love are happy, everybody wins in the end type stories.  And when I watch a movie for the hundredth time, knowing bad stuff is going to happen I have caught myself willing, pleading, wishing that the characters on screen would make a better choice.  

Seriously.  I'm hopeful that the story will change and offer suggestions (sometimes out loud).  "Don't try and take out that machine gun nest, Captain Miller."  "Gandalf, speak up about your relationship with the eagles."  

Today I'm saying this:  "Israel, don't forget what God did for you two months and 40 days ago!"  They're about to jump with both feet into 40 years of wilderness wandering.  And I wish the story would change.  Havent enough generations been lost in the captivity?  Do we need to watch another one perish in the desert, so close to Canaan?  

Unfortunately, we cant change their story.  The wilderness is coming.   We can, however, change our own story.  When you make a choice today, tomorrow, etc... you can choose your own adventure!  God gives us the freedom to do so, to choose.  It just so happens he makes it very clear which way he wants us to go (think: pillars of cloud and fire; or Fruit of the Spirit).  

Dont make everyone reading your story after you're gone sit and wish you'd not opened the cellar door.  Choose to follow where God leads.  

Joshua 24:15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."​ (NIV)

 

 




February 1, 2016, 12:00 AM

A thought about the desert



This week we're foreshadowing the sermon for February 14th, chapter 6 of The Story.  

We're going to start walking with Israel in the desert this week though.  Bring your walking shoes and a shady hat.  

 Do you know what was in the desert while Israel wandered around for 40 years?  (Don't say: "sand").   Their hearts.   

Yes, I know their hearts were inside their chests when they walked, but we're obviously talking about deeper things than just internal organs.  Their hearts were in the desert, and not in the Promised Land.  Following this logic, or at least the premise of the statement, their treasure was also in the desert.   

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  Matthew 6:21 

We cant speak for everyone in the wandering band of Israelites, but we can speak for the ones who complained and made their grievances known to Moses and God.  They left their treasures in Egypt:  food, shelter, comfort.  The comforts they thought they had overshadowed the fact that they were slaves.  When they left those comforts in Egypt, finally "free" what became clear is that their hearts never made the trip.   

The complaints were tolerated for a while, and God provided a clearer image of himself and his desires on Mt. Sinai.  They pledged themselves to righteousness, and the Law.  But their hearts weren't in it.  Their treasures were in the wrong place, even on the side of a mountain inhabited by God himself!  

And for 40  years they had to live with the reality that they would never find peace and contentment because they treasured the wrong things.   

Which desert are you walking through right now?  




January 25, 2016, 10:50 AM

Finding Good at the Bottom of the Well



As we're progressing through The Story we find ourselves walking alongside Joseph this week.  And if we're honest with ourselves (always a good idea) walking in his path is difficult.  Sure he ends up in the best place possible.  But in order to get there he had to be betrayed, thrown in a well, sold into slavery, betrayed again, thrown in prison, then left to rot there for at least two years.

That's not a path I recommend anyone walking.  

What I want to focus on here is what happens in between these monumental, character shaping events in Joseph's journey from the bottom of a well to the top of Egypt's food chain:  Joseph learns and leans on his strengths.  He serves.   

Now, before we talk about that, I have to ask the question: "Do you think he knew his strength was service before he was thrown in the well and sold as a slave?"  Probably not.  When he was at home, being blessed by super colorful coats, he probably didnt have to do much on his own at all.  His dad used him as a messenger for the group of brothers who were out working hard in the fields with sheep.  But I digress...

He serves Potiphar so well that he is given as much freedom as the position could afford.  He does not reap the benefits of his tireless work, Potiphar does.  But he serves tirelessly.    In prison, after being put there wrongfully, he serves.  He gives everything he has to make the situation better, or as "better" as prison could be.  He serves so well that the warden doesn't have to worry about a thing.  Again, Joseph doesn't reap the rewards for his hard work, but he continues to serve.  

No matter where you or I find ourselves today, serve.  Find a place where you're good at something and DO IT!  Benefit someone else by your efforts, even if you don't see a single benefit from it.  If you're already doing that, keep it up!  We may never see the astronomical rise that Joseph did here on Earth.  But we are promised something great after our time here is done. 

Serve.  

 




January 18, 2016, 9:08 AM

He has all the best ideas.



I had an original idea once.  Well, original in the sense that neither I nor anyone around me had heard of it before.  So I made it happen: Human Carpetball.  We played it so much in 3 years of camp, everyone got tired of it and my original idea is now tired and old.  That's it, I'm all out of ideas.  3 good years of a sweet game, that is my legacy.  

What is truly amazing every time I open the Bible is that God's ideas were/are so original, out of the box, and unique that they will never be replicated again.  Ever.  I would NEVER think of building a nation the way he did with Abram and Sarai.  Especially after the trouble everyone got into just a few chapters earlier in Noah's time.  At some point I would have rethought the whole Man/God relationship and stuck with a couple box-turtles or something.  

His idea though was to keep us around.  Despite the heartache.  Despite the pain and regret (at times).  Despite the future cost (Jesus), he kept us around.  Knowing me the way I do, I question his decision.  Knowing me the way he does, he never questions his decision.  

After all of it, we're still his favorite idea.  We're worth the price he paid.  We're his best idea.  

Live like it.  




January 11, 2016, 9:39 AM

What does God hope you see?



For a few minutes last night the small group I have the privilege of leading had a conversation that centered around the expulsion from the Garden of Eden as an act of Grace, not anger or punishment.   The idea was, naturally, a struggle because we are on this side of the Garden and want back in.  Therefore, the act of keeping us out feels like punishment, and we miss the Grace of God.  Because we see from our perspective. 

God was exhibiting grace by keeping Adam and Eve away from the Tree of Life.  The event that lead to expulsion was that they gave into temptation and gained the knowledge of evil (I believe they already knew what good was, having been in the presence of God).  Imagine the temptation immortality would hold after learning how hard life was outside the confines of perfection!  No sickness, no fear of being killed...  And a never-ending life in sin.  While we still see death as painful and the worst thing to happen to us, God knew it had to happen and be a part of a fallen world outside the Garden.  He was exhibiting the grace of protection, relief, and hope of returning to the perfection of the Garden (Heaven) by kicking Adam and Eve out.  Grace. 

Ok, so all that is really just a sub-text to the main point of this blog, but I wanted to make sure you got some closure for the conversation we had in small group (which will now become a shameless plug to get yourself into a group!!).  What do we see in our Bible stories?  Most of the time we look at either the BEST or WORST of the characters present and either want to be like them, or do everything we can to NOT be like them.  We see discipline and God being unfair when kicking Adam and Eve out of the Garden.  We see Jonah being served his just rewards for having the audacity to run from God.  Israel gets what's coming to them after all those years of disobedience and pagan worship.  Ananias and Sapphira's execution over lying to the Apostles is held over our own heads as a warning.  The woman caught in adultery is push back into the streets over and over again because we cant help but judge the sins of others.  

All of these stories exhibit something we miss most of the time:  God's Grace.  THAT'S what he wants us to see.  In our eyes it looks like judgment, an open act of war upon a nation, quick justice without a fair trial.  That's what we see when we look with our own eyes.  The story of God's redemptive act of saving us speaks more about his ability to forgive and offer grace than it does about his wrath and temperament.  We've just not looked hard enough for his Grace. 

We use scriptures to bash each other over the head, levying God's perceived judgment... We establish fiefdoms where we are king, levying God's wrath upon others.  OUR way is the ONLY way... so much that we've created names, signs, denominations that do all the explaining for us.  Drive East on Red Bridge Rd from State Line and you will see all the church signs you'll need to get this concept before you even get into Grandview.  Take your pick, we've all got our own property and the right way of doing things. 

We've missed the point, and we need to change the sign.  We've set up shop like Jonah, sitting on a hill waiting for God to finally enact his justice on everyone else...  The sign must change.  Judgment is no longer our job, enacting God's wrath and justice is not our job.  

We need to find a new way to read the story:  Grace.  And then we need a new advertisement for the church:  God's Grace Found Here.  Read The Story.  Rediscover how far God has gone for us.  Then echo that Grace.  

Because: 2 Corinthians 12: 9 - 10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.​




January 3, 2016, 4:33 PM

The change we dont need to make



Wait, a church article about NOT changing?  Weird.  From a preacher who likes change?  Even weirder.  

Church is a place where the past is cherished.  Tradition has shaped who we are, in almost every way.  Almost.  Culture has taken its turn on us too, and from culture we have the truth that everything changes. 

Everything changes, there is no stopping it, nor is there any place to stand in which you can deny it.  Change happens EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME.  But we're not talking about that.  Lets spend some time on those things that should never change.  In a relationship, change can be good or bad...... or really both.  There are some routines that I refuse to change in the relationships I have with family.  If I am home, I put the girls to bed.  Thats how it is, and thats how its going to be.  No change.  Other things we change all the time.  Some routines are really more for comfort, or out of habit and are not exempt from change. 

Lets take that idea and look at us, Church.  We have our routines, our comfort zones, and traditions.  Some denominations are more defined than others in tradition, but almost all have defining features that have become untouchable.  Stirring the pot a bit, there is only one thing that cannot change:  Jesus.  Now, he doesnt change, I'm not talking about the unchanging nature of God.  I'm talking about how we treat him, and the pieces of us that focus on Christ.  

When we are focused on Christ and the salvation he gives us, we are in THE place we need to be.  So here's my premise and question:  Where are you when you come to church?  Are you actively seeking to be among a people who cherish belonging to Christ?  Or have you made coming to church a tradition, a habit, a checkmark on a check-list of faith activity? If thats the case, everything needs to change.  If you do not come to a place that brings you into the presence of Christ, you need to change.  

When we focus on Christ, nothing can change.  Are there pieces we have taken out of focus?  Do we have some habits that are only in place because WE like them, or think they belong.  Sometimes we squeeze Jesus into our own traditions so we can demand their permanence.  Stop it Church.  Find yourself serving the audience of One, find your hope in the audience of One, find yourself only in Christ.  And once we're there, we can rest assured that nothing should change.  Until then, lets talk change. 

Psalm 62: 1 - 2 (NLT)

1I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him.

2He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.

 

 




December 14, 2015, 8:42 AM

Who is this whole "Christmas Thing" about anyway?



There is something powerful about this time of year, Christmas that is, that brings out a desire in me to explore the best of Christianity.  For most, Christmas is a time of celebration and rejoicing.  For others it can be a time of remorse and pain.  No matter which camp you're in this holiday season, the power of the birth of Jesus transcends our own mortal feelings or regrets around Christmas.  In other words... (swallows hard before typing the next words)... Christmas isn't about us.  

Don't get me wrong, Christmas is FOR us completely.  Without the birth of Christ, we're hopeless.  But really, Christmas is about God and God alone.  For centuries, or at least as long as us humans have been around before that fateful evening in Bethlehem, God was united completely and wholly.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Complete.  Heaven was their place, eternal and unblemished.  

Then in one small moment amidst the centuries of human existence, Heaven was divided for the first time.  God watched as a part of himself was placed gently on this earth.  Feet that were always clean became dusty.  Hands that created the seas and mountains were suddenly holding hammers and getting splinters.  A body once clothed in the splendor of the sun now carried around clothes with stains and tatters.  For the first time ever, for 33 years at least, Heaven was incomplete.  

All for us.  

Yes, we are the focus and reason for the journey from the manger to the Cross.  Yes, our sin is what drove this wedge into perfection.  And yes, it is all for us.  But everything, everything in this season points to God.  

Not us.  

We've taken THE moment that begins our redemption and salvation and swung the arrow of attention backwards, onto us.  I've spoken often and candidly about how I have drug this season through the mire of my own greed and ignorance.  I took a moment of peace and joy and turned it into commercials and extravagance highlighted by shiny bows and cool wrapping paper.  The biggest problem with this devaluation of the manger is that no present, no bow, no mere gift can contain the heart of the Christmas season:  forgiveness. 

At times forgiveness comes wrapped in a small box, in a quiet request that heals a relational rift.  Other times, no major headline on every news feed is big enough to handle the volume we need to express in asking for forgiveness.  And yet, God's forgiveness was complete enough it could be held in a food trough, cooing softly, eyes taking in the wonder of his own creation for the first time as a part of his own creation.  

Yes, this moment was for us.  But do not get confused about the meaning and heart of Christmas... its for us, but it is all about God.  This year, let every gift you unwrap be done remembering that moment.  Let every regret pass through the understanding of how far God went to redeem us.  Let every celebratory toast and hearty song be a moment we use to remember that we're all following that star that leads to Bethlehem.  

Matthew 2: 9 - 11 9After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was.10When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!11They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (NLT)


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