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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.

 

 




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)




December 7, 2015, 9:21 AM

Christmas Past


I think Linus said it best when he quoted from Luke 2 in A Charlie Brown Christmas TV special.  "...For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord..."

That about sums it up.  I've read many commentaries on that specific Christmas special, and most of them pointed to the controversy around Charles Schultz's INSISTENCE that this quote be included.  Right before Linus speaks his monologue, Charlie Brown asks:  “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” 

I ask that same question quietly in my own heart and head every year.  Truth be told, I'm not looking around wondering if Christmas' true meaning has been forgotten.  I'm looking in a mirror, or quietly reflecting on my own soul's state of being.  I buy presents for the family (and myself, of course).  I help decorate the tree (or at least I'm the one who hauls it upstairs and sets it up in the corner).  I listen, begrudgingly, to Christmas music wherever I go and in our living room.  I read a book entitled One Wintry Night (link below) to my children every Christmas that tells the bigger story to Christmas from Creation to the Cross.  

And yet I need reminded what Christmas is all about.  The long trip from Heaven to Bethlehem.  The long trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem! The sleepless night in a cold shelter built for animals (who have fur).  The anxiety of impending birth and the stress of doing as such on the road, in said cold shelter for animals.  A crowd of shepherds intruding noisily on the post-birth serenity of healthy mother and child.  The violent outrage of Herod, his orders of murder impeding on the joy of hundreds of families.  

All this for me and you.  All of this because God loves us THAT much.  Please remember what Christmas is all about.  Let our souls cry freely as we peek into the manger.  Let our hearts sing praise along with the shepherd who witnessed the musical abilities of Heaven's Host.  Remember that Christmas is about sacrifice, giving because we love, and remembering the one Silent Night that has given us countless other nights of Peace on Earth and Goodwill towards Men.  

Luke 2: 8-14  KJV:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

 

*A book I highly suggest for this season:  One Wintry Night


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