Monday, December 30, 2013

What Matters to You?

Have you ever closed your eyes and said there is no light because it's dark behind your eyelids?
Maybe a silly question but how have we used this same kind of reasoning when deciding what is important in our lives? What matters, and what is true.
We've just come through an amazing Christmas season. Where most families in America get up, climb into their Christmas Snuggies and run downstairs to open presents, watch a fake fire on t.v., and look outside hoping for snow. We celebrate Christmas, but do we actually celebrate Christmas?
Opening gifts is an easy way to celebrate Christmas, but focusing on the actual reason could be at risk for our culture. There has been an evolution in our minds about what is helpful and needed. 'I don't have to adapt my life to anything I don't find helpful. Truth for me is what I find acceptable and helpful.' 
There is no doubt that the message and person of Jesus is not necessarily "helpful" for our life here on earth because a relationship with Jesus will cause the world to hate us. John 15:18-19, 'If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world. That is why the world hates you.'
So if the world is going to hate me, why believe in Jesus?! If I believe in Jesus, I have to get up early on Sundays, I have to stop cursing, I have to love others, NO THANKS! I want my life to be about me! If it's helpful to me, then I'll participate in it!
And then we are hit with the empty tomb. Jesus rose from the dead. That matters. Why? Because I'm not getting younger and I will die someday. I want to tell my children that older family members are in heaven because they believed in and loved Jesus. You can't live your life not finding it helpful to follow Christ, and then all of a sudden-oh yes this resurrection deal matters.
Now believe me, I'm not getting into a debate over death bed conversions. I'm trying to say that if the resurrection of Jesus Christ means anything to you today, then it should be shown in our love for Jesus NOW. Because he's alive-NOW.
So I hope your Christmas was much more than the norm. And if it wasn't-don't worry. Our Lord listens and loves. Follow him today (don't wait).


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Jesus Loves His Children

As we move closer and closer to Christmas, there is always that moment where everyone on earth asks why? Why do we celebrate Christmas? And hopefully that thought process will come around to Jesus. Who is Jesus? What did he do? Is he God? Why don't more Christians act like Jesus? (Another blog for another day).
But I hope for you that you've come to that point of the season where you settle down and ask yourself, 'Why do we celebrate Christmas?' It's still amazing to me that when I've talked to non-Christians, that they love it! Christmas is great! It's brings everyone together for meals and giving gifts to one another! It makes you wonder that just maybe...Jesus is still working. Drawing all men and women to himself.
This year I've been challenged to think of Christmas just a little differently. We've always come to the manger where Jesus was born and knelt and worshipped-and we should. Luke 2:10-11, 'But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for see-I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.'
That's great news!! We have our Savior, our Messiah, our Lord!!
The difference for me this year is that I am also going to the cross. As I read the days and hours leading to Jesus' death, I'm reminded of how these cheers from 'Savior, Messiah, Lord!' changed to 'Crucify Him!'. Their expectations for Jesus had changed, and so did their loyalty. They wanted something else from Jesus!
But in reality Jesus was everything they needed. He was and still is God.
Because of that cross, I can have hope this year! Hope that the circumstances I find myself in are not the final word! Hope that God has a plan! Because of Jesus I can have joy this year! Joy to know that Jesus came in a manger, but willingly went to the cross for me! Knowing that no nail bound him to that cross, but His love for me! Because of Jesus I can have freedom this year! There is freedom in not knowing the future-I know strange, huh? 'Don't worry about tomorrow!' God has a plan and He loves His children.
Jesus loves you this Christmas season. He came as a baby, but died a man carrying the weight of our sin on His shoulders. That should cause us to remember and be glad.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hiking the Ball

This last Sunday I used a sports analogy when it comes to our calling as Christ followers, and yes it had to do with football. There is a major difference between being in the huddle and hiking the ball (I hope most of you understand that). But when we are in the huddle we are gaining the knowledge for the upcoming play. We usually give a big clap as we leave to signify that we are unified in our understanding of what we are going to do.
Hiking the ball is the next step. It's when the play happens. It's when chaos ensues, and we hold our breath as we see the outcome.
Sadly in the church, we have gotten confused about what the huddle is and what hiking the ball is. When we meet on Sunday mornings, we are in the huddle. We open the Bible, the one true Word of God, and get the play. We discuss and learn, and we even clap our hands when we sing! So we are in unity, especially before we leave the building.
But hiking the ball? That happens during the week. When we leave our worship building, we are leaving the huddle to execute the 'play' that you were all nodding your heads about, and giving a few Amens.
This is so hard and it convicts my heart as I'm typing this because too many times we believe we are doing our Christian duty by getting up 'early' (don't get me started) on Sunday mornings and warming a seat next to the same people you sat next to the week before. Having the same conversations every single week with the same people-WHO ARE ALREADY HEADED TO HEAVEN.
John 17 is a prayer Jesus prays for himself, his disciples, and to all believers. He knows what he's commissioned us to do and he prays for us, and its interesting because Jesus is just hours before his death. He's going to be murdered. Up until this point, he's been teaching his disciples the remaining things they need to know. Now he's done with his instruction, and he just prays for them, and as he's going to die, he's mindful of them. He's mindful of us. As Jesus goes to die, we're on his mind.
I have a hard time rationalizing that Jesus prayed for us just to get together Sunday mornings. He prayed for you and I because we will be hated for what we do. We will be hated for what we believe and who we follow, but Jesus says we will be protected.
I'm excited to pastor a church of people that are willing to hear this hard message, and I'm privileged to stand along side them in this battle we are in. I pray that wherever you worship you are challenged to go out and 'hike the ball' instead of just loving the huddle.
We have been touched, so that we might touch. We have been loved, so that we might love.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Grief, Joy, Love

As you walk through Walmart or Target this Christmas season, I'm sure there will be the 'Happy Holiday' banners all over. They might still say Peace, Joy, Love...but how about Grief. It's kind of an interesting thought, but I will claim that without grief, we are unable to feel peace, joy and even love. Not because they are opposites, but because it is a step.
Jesus tells his disciples in John 16:16 that he will be gone in a 'little while'. His disciples weren't thrilled with that answer. Why? Because the disciples were a lot like we are today-we want to know when things will happen. We have to update our Outlook calendars Jesus!! Tell us when it will happen!! But Jesus will talk to his disciples in steps. He started to talk to them about grief, and so obviously they wanted to know when that time would be over. Nobody likes grief!
In order for these disciples, and you and I, to have joy there needed to be grief. Just like for a resurrection, there needed to be someone dead. God has been doing some amazing things in my life over the past year. He's been speaking to me like never before. This season of Advent (the Christmas season) I've looked at words like Peace, Joy and Love differently. Every time I see these words or hear them in a song, I'm reminded of what happened for there to be the possibilities of us possessing these things in our lives.
Jesus died because of our sin, not because of any sin he committed. He says, 'You will grieve (because I will die on a cross), but your grief of repentance, the recognition that you've sinned will turn to joy (I will be resurrected)!'
This season I'm seeking for peace, joy and love through Jesus.
And yes, that might mean I need to go through some pain to get there.
It's worth it.