Monday, February 16, 2015

History and Theology Coming Together

Historical: belonging to the past concerning past events

Theological: study of God and religious belief

There were many reasons I loved the Charlie Brown Christmas special. I could relate to Charlie in so many ways. We were both snappy dressers, could talk before we had hair and had the best of friends. When Lucy pulled the football. Yeah that's my sister. Towards the end of show we have Linus, another character I could relate with. Loved my blankey. But it's one of the only times I remember the Bible being quoted on public television. Charlie has wondered what Christmas was about. Linus bravely steps to the stage and simply says--IT'S JESUS. But not just that Jesus was born-'Glory to God in the Highest.' The creator had come to His creation. Jesus was God.
Not too many people are confused with the meaning of Christmas. They have a pretty good grasp on the historical Jesus. That he came as a man, born to Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, had a group of followers. But we need to pair it up with theology. We are reading the story of Immanuel, God with us.
So what do we do? We speak, preach, love Jesus. Jesus will 'cause great joy, which shall be to all people.' This is why we evangelize, have world missions and yes plant the Gospel of Christ through new churches. (That's why I'm not too thrilled with the approach of 'same church for 50 years, talk to the same people, sit in the same seat, sing the same songs'...rant over!)
So we don't just share with people that there was a guy named Jesus a couple thousand years ago. We say Jesus is God. And that very fact should change your life. It's changed mine. The beauty of Old Testament prophecy is treated like garbage if we don't see Jesus as the Messiah. The story of God is very old and yet that's exactly why it should change our life today. Jesus was God then, He is now, and He will be forever.
My historical view of Jesus has to include my theology of God because they are one in the same.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Surviving Sorrow

Did you know that you and I have something in common?? I'm not being corny-I absolutely, 100% know that you and I have something in common-we've experienced sorrow. Either it's in the past, in the present and there will certainly be sorrow in the future. What's makes us different, potentially, is how we deal with sorrow. Either we will use the treasures of this world to ease or cope with sorrow, or we will use something out of this world to provide direction through sorrow. We'll call that faith.
For the treasures of this world we find everything from drugs/alcohol, money, sex, you fill in the blank. What we have found time and time again is that the answers that the world provides are short lived and usually adds to the original problem. So why do we engage in it? Because we crave to be in control of our cure. We want to be the doctor, we want to be the director, we want to be the savior of our own life. Have you ever tried this? How has it ended? I'm not pointing my finger at you-I've been there before as well. It's hard because we live in a world where the message of self is relentless.
So how can faith factor in? Faith has been commonly described as believing in what isn't seen. A great definition, but for me its meant the deepest level of understanding. Understanding that I'm here for a reason, understanding that there is a God, understanding that he has provided us a way to know Him. And understanding that after we leave from this world we will be somewhere for eternity.
When we are able to have faith and put our sorrow in eternal standards I believe we can...get ready...REJOICE! I know, I know. Crazy, right?

The LORD is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

That's why I put my faith in God, and when I say God-I'm talking Jesus Christ. The one who died for me, for my sins, so that I can experience a lifetime of salvation. I truly believe that as I experience sorrow in this life, God is working in me and through me to touch others around me. And also He is revealing a good plan for my life. As hard as it seems, as counter cultural it may sound-in my sorrow I will not stop loving God. For He alone is good.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Attributes of God

In January, at The Rescue Church, we started to investigate a book of the Bible-Luke. I can relate to Luke and how the book was written. Luke does all his fact checking, detective work only after Jesus has left the earth. He has already died, resurrected, and ascended back into heaven. And so Luke has his work cut out for him. To write his book he needed to sit down with eye witnesses, read previous accounts of Jesus' life and simply listen to people's stories. One of the stories that has stuck out to me has been the story of Mary. Luke lays out an amazing beginning as an angel, Gabriel, comes to Mary to tell her that she will be with child. The challenge? She's a virgin. She's betrothed, or engaged, to this great guy Joseph. And so let the tension begin! Gabriel tells Mary that 'nothing is impossible with God', and I'm sure Mary was thinking-YEAH! No kidding Gabriel because this is impossible! But she simply says, 'I am the Lord's servant.'
God takes a middle school aged young woman from a small, insignificant town and says the savior of the world will come from your womb. I'm not sure about you, but that encourages me. Every time I feel insignificant, or useless, under qualified, I realize that this is only a chance for God to show HIS mighty strength through me. I just need to say yes.
At this time in Mary's story something impossible has already happened-her relative Elizabeth, who was barren, is now with child at a very old age! So Mary makes the journey to see her and talk to her. While on her journey Mary does something amazing that I've missed many times-she simply worships. In some Bible translations, they've coined this passage as 'Mary's Song.'
It turns out what I had missed from this passage was exactly what I needed. I needed God. I needed to realize what my God is capable of doing. Mary, the middle school girl, about to be disgraced by her family, her religious community and fearing that Joseph might walk out on her, starts worshipping. In my eyes this would have been a great time to worry, right? How is all of this going to work out?? Yes, God I know you said all that stuff awhile ago, but I need to be practical, I need to figure out a plan, I need to find an escape route so they don't tie me up in the town square, abuse me, spit on me, make me out to be the town prostitute...
But Mary worships. And what we find is that Mary lays out some attributes of God. I studied 12 that she laid out, there's probably more, but I just focused on 12. God is: Lord, Savior, Omniscient, Mighty, Personal, Holy, Merciful, Powerful, Sovereign, Gracious, Generous, and Faithful.
No doubt out of those 12 there's 1 or 2 that you hang onto continuously because you need them. Or maybe you're like me sometimes and you need all 12 at once!! I think that's where Mary was at this point. She simply reminded herself that God was God. He would protect her, guide her, and bless her.

What do you need to be reminded of today? One of these 12 or maybe another attribute of God? Whatever it may be, instead of worrying-worship. Give God the glory-don't give it to your circumstance. Rest in knowing that He holds your future in His hands and that He loves you.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Having a Servant's Heart

What's the craziest thing God has ever asked you to do?
Think about it; was it about sharing your faith, was it about $$$, was it about starting a ministry? Has He ever asked you to do something that completely boggled your mind? Maybe because you were like, 'God, so you know me right? Why in the world would you ask me to do this? You know I'm not qualified, you know that this isn't possible...right?'
When you're married, you get to have conversations. Wife: Hey Dear, can you mow the yard? Husband: Well Dear, it is football about after the game?
This begins an eloquent exchange of pleasantries that show the absolute love that they have for one another. HA. But it's true, as a married man I've done my fair share of bargaining, or what I like to call 'enlightening' with my wife about the proper time for chores to be done or if they need to be done at all. What am I really doing? Being lazy. And plus I have a wife who defines awesome so she deals with me. And so if we have this 'relationship' with God doesn't that mean it's a 2 way street too? Can't we have a conversation about what the other one is saying? He gets to question me, and I get to question Him, right?
Well, we need to understand something very important. God wants the best for us. Well isn't my best different from your best? How do I really know that His best is what I want??
Recently in my life I've begun to step back and look at the whole picture of life. We really aren't going to be here long. We are going to be somewhere else for a really long time. But in the meantime, while we are in this life God says there is work to be done, He will protect us, He wants us to live life to 'the fullest'. I believe this means that when I'm old and crotcthedy (I think that's a word), I'm going to look at all the 'yes's' I said to God and smile. Why? Because there will be a lot to smile about. Seeing people come to Christ, revival in your own household, blessing upon blessing upon blessing. But it all starts with a choice. And it all starts with our knowledge of what is possible and impossible.
Remember Mary? Yeah, that Mary. Jesus' mom Mary. She was a junior high girl who gave birth to her savior. The angel Gabriel comes to here, spells everything out and Mary responds, without blinking, 'I am the Lord's servant.'
What made Mary agree to this mission that could endanger her whole life?? You only have to go one verse prior. 'For with God nothing shall be impossible.' Luke 1:37 (KJV). Being a virgin and having a baby, and oh yeah-this baby will save the world? Possible or impossible? At this moment Mary only needed to say yes. And she did. As we go back and forth with God about what He's asking us to do, debating the possible and impossible, maybe we just need to say yes and let God be God.
I'm only 30 years old but I've already seen God be who He is in my life when I just say yes. This challenges and propels me to say yes even more in the next 30 years so I can be that old man who gets to recline and just smile at how amazing God is.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

8 Minute Abs

The year is 1999. I'm a sophmore in high school. I have the metabolism of a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona Hemi. Simply meaning I could burn a 12-pack of Pepsi, eat a whole box of Hot Pockets and still hang around the 175 lb. arena. I miss those days immensely.
I had completed junior high football and was ready for the challenge of high school. I showed up at the weight room at 6:00AM the first day of school for something dreadful called the 'Zero Hour Team'. Simply a group of jocks who were obsessed with lifting weights but had no time after school since they were on 3 different sports teams. I can't tell you how many weights I lifted while completely asleep.
Past all the squat racks and bench presses was a room with a wrestling mat and a tv. This was called the 'Ab Room'. Aww yes. I can still smell it. Looking back I'm not to sure if our PE teachers were certified because they simply popped in a VHS tape called 8 Minute Abs and said, 'Get to work!' If we weren't tired enough at the end they would say, 'Rewind it. And get to work!'
Now the concept of 8 Minute Abs was great-I get to see circles on my stomach if I just do this short video and that's it!! The problem is-it's not just about 8 minutes. That metabolism I mentioned. Yeah it was in order for an oil change and quickly turned from that Charger into a Pinto. Why? Because it was about much more than just 8 minutes.

I fear sometimes we view our faith the same way. And by we-I mean you and me. I mean Christians in America. We get so excited at the beginning of our walk with the Lord because we love the challenge-we love the work. But then we find ways to just get what we 'need'. As we get older we trick our minds into thinking we are spiritually mature and stop trying near as hard. We retire. I'm reminded of a passage in Luke 18:17, 'Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.'
Does this mean we become childish? No. It means we are consumed with who God is! When I played football, I couldn't wait for practice to get over so I could go home, watch football on tv, I would read my playbook before bed-I ate it up! What if we had that same drive for our knowledge of God?! Download a Bible app on your phone so that whenever you had a spare moment you could whip out your phone and read a chapter of the Bible. You start a small group with your neighbors and get truly excited about opening the Bible with them. Every time you see a co-worker you started praying for them by name! At lunch you take time to text someone an uplifting message because you know they need it! You map out Bible verses for your children to start memorizing at home!!
Am I going into spiritual overload for you yet?? Why?...
And I know all of you are expecting me to mention church. Well-honestly-and this is coming from a pastor-church for many people has turned into 8 Minute Abs. Just pop it in-destroy your body for a few minutes, and when you're done-you're done!
Now hear me-corporate worship is important!! It is of utmost importance for a person of faith. We need to be in church!!!! But how many of your neighbors were there this past None? We need to start living Christian lives all day, every day. Only then will we become spiritually fit. Only then will we see complete cities coming to Christ on their knees.

So when will it begin?


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Future of Christmas

It's nearly impossible to miss Christmas. Which is interesting to think about now as we are starting to take down ornaments off the tree, and taking down our lights outside that took me forever to put up!! But think back to Thanksgiving-Christmas was already everywhere!!
Radio stations play non-stop carols, people put blow up snowmen in their yard, your weekly newspaper triples in size with all the Christmas sales going on and yes, people seem just a little bit happier.
But way, way back there was a time where most people around the world missed Christmas. They flat out missed Christmas. They didn't celebrate anything. And yes, I'm talking about the first Christmas. The Christmas Day where God came to be one of us. That starry night as shepherds and wisemen huddled most likely in the back of some cave to marvel at the sight of God in the form of a baby. But even with the utmost importance of Christ's birth-people missed it.
Even with the prophecies surrounding the Messiah explaining a virgin's birth and even the destination, people seemed distracted-even the highly religious. It was a spiritually dark time in Israel. People were more worried about pleasing an oppressive Roman government than pleasing God in waiting for the Messiah. I can't help but compare that time in history to our culture today.
We've obsessed ourselves so much with pleasing a government and pleasing others (hoping to be pleased by others) that God has been shoved to the backseat.
I think this is where things need to change. This dilemma that we face brought about a thought in my mind and I've given it the title-The Future of Christmas.
No, it's not in danger of simply going away or moving to December 26th. It made me think about why we celebrate Christmas and what we need to start emphasizing. I believe the Future of Christmas is that we need to complete the Message of Christmas. Jesus was not just born, He lived, He died, He rose, and He is coming again. Yes celebrate Christ's birth, yes-read the birth story to your kids, yes-spend time with friends and family, yes-go ahead and buy each other weird gifts. All well and good, but let's start to realize that Jesus didn't stay a baby, He didn't stay in the manger. He had work to do.

We need to be watching and working until our Lord comes again. We should be using the days and years of our lives to serve the Lord-and to look for every opportunity to tell people about Jesus. The Future of Christmas for the church must mean we start taking advantage of opportunities.
So yes, Christmas has come and gone for this year, but the coming of Christ is happening again. We won’t remember the gifts we received on Thursday.
People may have missed the first Christmas, but we don’t want to miss His return.
The Future of Christmas? It’s simple. Don’t just be ready for December 25, be ready for Christ himself. 


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

This Christmas

Mary Did You Know? You will now be humming that song for the next week and it's all my fault! Usually around this time of year I always ponder just how much Mary and Joseph knew about Jesus. Yes, the angels came and told them some specifics:
But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. Luke 1:30-33
But any Dad who has ever witnessed the birth of a child nows that once that kid is born, you forget everything!! Where you parked the car, what name you picked out, what day it is, etc. Everything is wrapped around holding a child!! I'm guessing in that moment the angel encounters went out the window, possibly even forgetting what was foretold about the Messiah's life in the book of Isaiah-'He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter...'
All of that was forgotten in this moment-everything was about holding baby Jesus in their arms! And in that moment, for that time, I think it was right that they celebrated this birth. It was right that for that moment Mary and Joseph couldn't have cared less about shepherds, wise men, animals, being in a cave. It was time for these new parents to hold their new baby. But as we know moments come and go.

So what should our mindset be for this Christmas? The birth has come and gone. There are those who believe they have found the cave where the Christ was born. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But there sure aren't any shepherds there. It's filled with tourists. 
I believe celebrating this Christmas means we look at the total story. Why? Because we have it!! Yes our Messiah was born. The savior of the world! But we must team up that celebration with the understanding of why He came. He did not come to win baby picture contests! He came to grow as a man, to teach us how to live, to die on a cross for the penalty not of his sin but mine. And then to rise from death to show me that this life is not the end, but eternity awaits. Death has lost it's grip on me. 

So for this Christmas...I will celebrate. The birth, the life, the death, the resurrection of my savior-Jesus Christ.