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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."‚Äč (NIV)

 

 


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