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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.‚Äč




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.

 

 


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