Friday, September 26, 2014

Wow...blow me away

Ever read something in Scripture and feel like God just opened your eyes to see it in a whole new light? I had that experience this morning and wanted to share. It comes from 1 Peter chapter 1. Now this chapter is full of some incredible promises and truths and I am guessing that. If you read this chapter, much of that would be somewhat familiar to you. What struck me this morning came from some of those "other verses" know, the ones I normally skim a little to get to the "good stuff." Take a moment and read this:

"Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look." (1 Peter 1:10-12, ESV)

My morning was hectic...I slept a little later then usual and my 4-year old son kept interrupting me with requests...(juice, breakfast, you know...stuff that every good father should be providing). It was during one of my 5-minute spells in between requests for food and drink that I read these three verses and immediately, it was like God unveiled my eyes to see at least 6 things that kind of blew me away.

1. These were prophesies about grace
2. I am, we are the recipients of these prophecies...namely, God's grace
3. They, the prophets and Jesus, suffered greatly to bring us this news and this gift, and in so doing, they were serving us, the recipients
4. We all got this news from someone who "preached" it, but...
5. Ultimately we got this from the Holy Spirit, which was sent to us and sent into us directly from heaven
6. There are angels in heaven who long to experience this grace

"So what" you ask? So what indeed. Let say this again, but make it personal.

Even while we were bound by the law, pre-cross, God had a plan to deliver His grace to you. His chosen prophets prophesied about it, and Jesus brought it with His blood and hand delivered this gift to you. He suffered greatly, and so did all those other prophets, but they realized that in so doing, they themselves would not see it...they were serving you. This grace and the news of it was brought by the Holy Spirit, sent directly from heaven, to you. A gift that not even angels fully understand, has been given to you.

What's the "blow me away" part of all this? Simply put, I should never, ever doubt God's complete and total and unconditional love for me. Yes, I may doubt His methods in my life, yes it may hurt when He seems distant, yes I may question the pain that at times seems to overwhelm me or those I love...but never should I doubt His love. Grace. It is the greatest word that we could ever know...prophesied so long ago, longed for by angels, delivered by Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, for us.


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Friday, September 12, 2014

Comfort on a Cloudy Day

"You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?" Psalm 56:8

Have you ever had one of those days? A day of tears, sadness, maybe even depression? Sometimes there are obvious reasons; a relational conflict, a family member who is hurting or ill, a job loss, a child who is struggling...the list could go on and on. At other times there aren't such obvious reasons. Sometimes we just feel weepy. This morning I was reminded of something simple for times like this...

God, apparently, is no stranger to our tears and longings and pains. He loves us as a Good Father loves his children...His heart aches when ours does. He knows your pain. He sees your no sleepless nights when you toss and turn, and he puts your tears in a bottle.

Why would anyone put tears in a bottle or keep them in a book? You would only do that if they were precious to you, something you treasured and wanted to keep. Hmmm.

God doesn't always choose to jump in and miraculously change our circumstances to take our pain away, but He does promise to walk with us in and through those moments.

So take heart - even when you seem at the end of your rope, always remember the most basic of Christian beliefs...that God loves you. The cross is proof. And when you are hurting, He has not abandoned you...He is with you.

See - told you it was "comfort" on a cloudy day.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Lessons from Rest: Shhhhhhhhh

"But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." (Luke 5:16)

Friend, I want to challenge you with a single statement:
"Silence and Solitude are non-negotiables for a healthy soul."

I have come to believe the above statement. I simply don't believe it's possible for anyone to have a healthy soul without having a regular time of silence and solitude. I know we don't all encounter God the same ways; (author Gary Thomas wrote a great book called Sacred Pathways about this), but there are a few spiritual disciplines that regardless of how we're wired, we simply must practice to stay healthy. Among them are prayer, Bible study & application, sabbath, silence, and solitude. The first two on this list are talked about and preached about often, and rightly so. The last three, the three S's are often neglected a little...and this to our own detriment. The only case I need to make is found everywhere in Scripture. Jesus, of course, modeled all of these...but so did many others. A model for us to follow.

During my sabbatical I had extended time to quiet my heart, quiet my surroundings, and just "be." It was amazing how difficult this was. About 4 weeks into my time, I was able to get away by myself for 3 full days and 2 nights to Lopez Island. I remember vividly the feeling I had as I stepped onto the ferry boat and began to depart. It was a feeling of release, and I had this distinct sense that God was near me, breathing into my soul.

It's only when we are quiet that we can tune our minds and ears to the voice of God. It's also only in these times where we can rightly name and identify the voices of our enemy, and do battle with them.

Some of us are afraid of silence, afraid of solitude. Sometimes I am. And yet that is even more reason why we need to enter that time. Intimacy with God is not just something He desires, it is something you and I desperately need. Without slowing down and having times of silence and solitude, it is easier for our enemy to get his message across, and harder for God to get His across. I think that in the midst of our noise-riddled, busy, fast-paced lives, it is easier for Satan to get us to believe in his lies then it is for God to get us to believe His truths.

Let me say this to you - if you believe that God loves you unconditionally, then there is no reason to fear intimacy with Him, anymore then you'd fear going to the doctor for a broken arm. God has already dealt with the only real reason you should fear intimacy - your sin. If you stand on the blood of Jesus Christ and claim Him as your king, then your sin is dealt with now and forever. So why do you fear hearing His voice? All He wants is what's best for you.

You can have solitude without silence...but you cannot have silence without solitude.

So where in your life to have a regular pattern of silence and solitude? If you don't, not to worry...God built one in for you. In fact, it's so important to Him that it made His top-10 list. It's called Sabbath...a 24-hour period set aside just for you and I to re-charge, replenish, rest, delight, and be with Him. But that's for another post...

Friday, September 5, 2014

Lessons from Rest: Simplify (3) - PASSION

If you haven't read my previous two posts on Simplicity, stop. You're going out of order. If you have, read on.

This idea of living simply goes deeper then just sitting down, re-aligning your schedule, or putting some stuff on craigslist. Yes, you have to want it, and understand why you need it, and commit to pursuing it, but ultimately what this discussion really boils down to is the word "values." What are your values? What drives you? What do you want your life to mean? Who do you live for? Before you can simplify your life, you need to know what drives you...or to put it another way, what are you passionate about?

Pastor Louie Giglio defines passion as this; "the degree of difficulty we are willing to endure to accomplish the goal." What is your goal, and how passionate are you for it?

Jesus had a goal...His goal was to glorify His Father, Jahweh, and to complete the work that God had set before Him. How passionate was He for that goal? The cross answers that question. The cross of Christ is the passion of is the amount of pain and difficulty He was willing to endure to accomplish His goal.

So what about you and me? If we are believers, our goal must be to do as the apostle Paul said;
"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."

The cross of Christ is, how John Piper puts it, "the blazing center of the Glory of God." We magnify God when the cross of Jesus Christ becomes our only boast. Piper goes on to say this;

"Every good thing - indeed every bad thing that God turns for good - was obtained for us by the cross of Christ...everything that you enjoy in Christ - as a Christian, as a person who trusts Christ - is owing to the death of Christ." (John Piper - Passion, page 20)

To live a simple life, starts with knowing what the goal is. Our goal should be nothing short then magnifying and glorifying God in everything. We do this by making much, boasting, in the cross of Jesus Christ. The more we recognize that everything good we enjoy - indeed, even bad things that God uses and turns for good - all of these are gifts from God to us, purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ...the more we recognize this, the more passion we will have for Him.

To live a simple life starts with having a single goal...what is the goal of your life?

"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14)

Make it your aim to live for nothing less than the glory of God. Learn to view your life differently. Everything you receive, every breath, as a gift obtained for you by the cross. Everything you give and do, with the goal of magnifying Christ and in so doing, glorifying the Christ. With his mindset, there will soon be no more "mundane" tasks...for the mundane task becomes a gift...either one you receive because of the cross, or one you give to magnify Jesus.

"And all boasting - all exultation - should be boasting in the cross...[let] Christ get glory and thanks and honor for every good thing in our lives and every bad thing that God turns for good." (Piper)