Friday, March 25, 2011

No matter how far....

If you have kids, then this will be (I dare say) a powerful analogy, though if you don't have kids of your own, you can't fully appreciate the following words.

What would your child have to do to make you write them off?

How far would your son or daughter have to run before you said, "you know what, forget it, you're just not worth it anymore - I'm done with you!"
What would that little boy or little girl (which they all are to the parents, no matter how old they get) have to do to make you stop caring, stop loving, and stop chasing them?
How far would you have to run after them before you decided it was just to far to go to reach them?

And who is a better parent.... you or God?  (Luke 11:11-13)

So, if all that you just rationalized in your own mind is true, how far would you have to run in order for God to stop chasing you?  (Romans 8:38-39)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I commit to die daily,
The sacrifice refused.
My body unworthy,
Unfit to be used.
I'm spotted and blemished,
Snuck in the back door,
Still grace and mercy 
Upon me you pour.

God I don't deserve it!
I'm feeble and broken,
My life, for you,
A worthless token
I have nothing to offer,
My flesh wont commit!

Jesus looks down and replies...
"I'll take it."


Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Today is March 16.  3/16, 3:16.

I want to take a few moments to focus on one of the most well known (and singularly most important) verses in the Bible      John 3:16.

In the King James:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life

In the NIV:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life

In the Message:
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

What Words!  For me, and I daresay for most of us, John 3:16 was the very first scripture I ever memorized.  I've known those words by heart for what feels like forever, but because of that familiarity, it also makes those words easy to just ramble off or gloss over.

But in those 25 or so words lies they key to....everything.  Those words ARE Gospel (Good News!).  Allow me a little bit of room here:  

Because God loved you, and me, and everyone else here on earth so very much, He gave his son.  He gave not one of our sons, not a goat, not a God created sacrifice, but His one and only Son (God himself) to be brutally executed in our spot.  You were supposed to die for the crimes you committed ('wages of sin is death') and in order to save you, God, with his hands tied, let His own son be killed in your place to save you. God did this, allowed this to happen, so that you, His true love, could have the chance to spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

That's the message of John 3:16.  Focus on that message today, truly attempt to feel the gravity of that decision He made on your behalf - and the fact that God made that decision before we were interested, before we knew him, before we cared, while we still mocked and even hated Him, God had his son executed to save us.

Would you let your child be killed in order to save someone else (ANYONE else, your family, your friend, the president, your preacher)?  I wouldn't.  Not for anyone.  And even if I could somehow make that decision initially, that Emily could die to save someone else, once the process started, if I was watching it unfold and I could stop it, there is NO way I would ever let that go! (God could have stopped it and didn't!).  But there we're talking about letting our child die for someone we dearly loved, admired, and respected.  But imagine for a second the prospect of letting your child die for a group of people who don't even know you, like you, or care about you, and a group of people who make fun of and hate your child - would you let your one and only child die for those people?  There is no way, not one of us - but God did.  God (and Jesus WILLINGLY) made that sacrifice for us (THIS is Love: that while we were still sinners, Christ chose to die for us).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"God wont give you more than you can handle".....right?

In a single word.... wrong.

How many times have you been told those words?  How many times have we said those words to other people?  The intent is to comfort, "Don't worry - God wont give you any more than you can handle" but if you've ever been told this, you know, 'comfort' is rarely, if ever, the feeling those words give you.

You (speaking from experience) feel inadequate, discouraged, guilty, or angry - but not comforted.   You wonder what's wrong with you that you feel like whatever you are going through IS more than you can handle, why can't you stand this pain if God promised you could?  I often felt that God must have a Much higher opinion of my pain threshold than I!

But here's the truth:  that promise doesn't exist, at least not as we use it.  What we have to remember is that we can make the scriptures say virtually anything we want it to if we read it out of context.  Just like when a news show makes someone look like they said something they didn't by taking just a small snippet out and not playing their whole sentence.

Let's look at the verses:

1 Corinthians 10:12-13
12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

See, the actual verse has absolutely nothing to do with pain, sorrow, mourning, death, or trials.  The entire context of the scripture is about temptation.  

Let's think about it for a minute.  If we ever truly stopped to consider the statement of "God wont put on you more than you can bear" we would recognize, even without reading the true context of the verse, that it has to be false.  Consider this truth:  if we could handle everything on our own, then what would be the point of God?  If we believed that we could handle everything on our own, that there is nothing we face that we can't just grit our teeth and bear on our own, then Christ would have died for nothing.  But praise God, that's not the case!  We can NOT handle.... anything on our own, we desperately Require God's unfailing grace, and mercy, and comfort, and strength, and rest, and peace, and love.  

You can Not handle on your own the pain, grief, and sorrow you face in life, you were never designed to be able to, but you can run to a loving God and bury your face on His strong shoulder and cry and He will comfort you, and He will help you get through this life that you can Not get through with out Him.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


A short blurp this morning (another to follow either this afternoon or tomorrow on several questions I've got this week on "God not giving us more than we can handle"..... many of you have already heard me talk on that subject but we'll visit that for everyone)

Here are 2 quick creeds, based upon 2 verses each, that I found to be very powerful.  I challenge me, you, everybody (que Blue Brothers) to really examine our hearts as we read these words and to make them OUR creed:

1.  based on Romans 12:1-2

"It's time for a change.  
I will no longer be gripped by the world's warped mindset.
I have been transformed by Jesus Christ and my thoughts and actions are subject to a higher standard.
I can't change the past but I can make a difference today.
In God's power - I Will Be A Revolution."

2.  based on Luke 9:23 and Hebrews 12:1-3

"The choice has been made.
There is no looking back.
I have stepped over the line.
I wont let up, back up, give up, or shut up.
My focus is clear, my path straight, and my God reliable.
I am a Disciple of Christ."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tales of BackPack God!

I want to briefly share what we talked about at CYF Sunday night.  First off... what an awesome time!  We had about 200 teenagers out for the event and had a great time of worship!

Here are a couple big points that I want you to consider:

Imagine this scenario (I had a couple of our teens act this out as a skit at CYF)  -  ever had a friend (or been the friend) who you never really talked to or called upon or hung out with if there were any other options?  But if there's not anything else going on, then you'd answer their messages or go do something with them?  Pretty much a 0 maintenance back-up plan kind of relationship.

But don't we do God that same way?  Don't we divide up our time everywhere else and then if Nothing else is going on, there's no place to go, and there's nothing good to watch on TV, then we'll take some time for God?

What about this next one:  (another skit acted out by a couple of our teens) you have this friend/sibling/boyfriend/girlfriend who you go to church with, or have them come to church with you, and when you need something, or when a crisis happens, they are the first person you think of.  But you wouldn't ever take them to that party, or that bar, or out with that group of friends.  Because, they're belief makes them essential in times of need, but that same belief is just a little too radical for your "weekend outings".

Again... sound familiar?  Anyone ever done that to God?  The first 'person' to run to in a crisis or a time of need, but other than that..... you get the idea.

Enter "Backpack God":

See, backpack God is the God that we limit, like we limit everything about God, in to small bites that our feeble human minds can rationalize, by placing Him (you know, the great almighty, creator of the universe, ruler over all things past, present, and future) into a backpack.
We carry backpack God with us where we want to take Him, and we leave backpack God behind when we're going somewhere we'd rather him not be around.
Sounds ludicrous right?  But only when we say it out loud like that - we've all done it!

"alright God, I'm taking off for Vegas this weekend, so I'm just going to leave you right here at home until I get ba.. uh, you know.. on second thought, actually - I have to FLY to Vegas, so I'll take you along on the plane ride so you can do your whole protect and save me bless the pilots bit, but understand right now, are you listening in there God?  Understand right now that once we're off the plane buddy, I'm leaving you in this backpack back in the hotel room!  (...until time to Fly back home again)."  
Well, then we're in Vegas doing our thing and we get a call from home that grandma is sick and in the hospital.  So we rush back to the hotel room and unzip (just barely) the corner of the backpack and it goes something like this:
"hey, uh, God - listen, here's the deal.  Back home, grandma is sick, so what I need you to do is - now understand, you're just getting out for a minute, then right back in - go and fix her, ok?  hey, you in there?"

it's the "sic 'em!" approach.

Then, we wont let God be God - we wont let Him be God over everything, everywhere, in all of our lives, we wont submit to His awe inspiring self (more on submission next entry...) and we lock Him up in our little backpacks, and then we have the nerve to get Mad when, when we need Him, God doesn't show up (immediately) in all his awesome glory!

Any of this sound familiar?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mountain Tops/Faith part III

Today I'm going to go back to to part I - being on the Mountain Top.

Here's what we need to remember.  Just as Peter had to come down from the mountain top, so do we.  Also remember this seldom thought of detail:  not only did Peter and James and John have to come down from the mountain top... so did Jesus.

See, mountain top experiences are meant to ignite our faith or bring us to Christ initially (think of the first time you were overcome with the irresistible love of Jesus and KNEW that was for you), or to bless us in a critical time, or to reinvigorate us and our drive, or to comfort and encourage us (as I believe that particular mountain top experience was for Jesus).  However, mountain tops are not meant to last, and they are not what we should prop our faith up on.  We can't incorrectly assume that when we come off the mountain and find ourselves in the valley (which we all know... valleys most often times follow mountain tops) that means we have fallen out of favor, done something wrong, or that our faith isn't strong enough to sustain our mountain top.  Be thankful for the mountain, remember the feelings you were filled with while you were there, and draw on that to sustain you through the rest-because the "rest" is a much greater percentage of our existence than the mountain tops.

If we prop our faith up on mountain top events, then that means that we are allowing our faith to be dictated by our surroundings and our temporary circumstances - which isn't faith at all.  Because, as we said, faith is trusting in the promises of God, which is certainly not shaped by our current surroundings!  True faith (firm belief in God's promises) transcends circumstance, whether mountain top or valley, and is propped up firmly upon the promises of God.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mountain Tops/Faith part II

What is faith?
Hebrews address faith a lot.  Mostly revolving around Hebrews chapter 11 and beginning with verse 1

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see"

To make something clear, faith can ONLY be based on promises made by God.  Our faith is based on the promises of God.  Period.  God told Abram to start walking and he would lead him to his new land.  God told Noah to build an ark and God would save him and his family.  Sarah went on faith (at times....) that God would provide her a child because God told her He would.  God told Moses to  keep the passover and apply the blood because God told him if he did God would spare them.  By faith, Joshua marched around the city of Jericho because God told Joshua if he did God would topple the walls.

Do you see the recurring theme?  In each of these cases (all described in Hebrews 11 as acts of faith) God had provided a direct promise and it was that promise that these people put their faith in.  Now, if Noah had simply woke up one morning, and decided, "you know, this world stinks.  I know, I'm going to build a boat because I  think God should make this stuff called 'rain' and flood the earth.  If I build this boat that will be a great testament to my faith in my idea so God will surely then answer my faith and flood the earth" what would have happened?  Nothing.  No matter how much faith Noah would have had, it would have been faith based on nothing, so it wouldn't have amounted to anything.  Noah didn't have faith in his own idea or some thought he had come up with, the reason Noah had faith (by definition) is because he was sure and certain of a Promise that God had made

Faith is not lasso.  So often times we think of faith in the sense that if we only believe (in what??) in what we want enough that we can lasso God and pull him towards our plan.  We are walking down a road and God (His plan, His will) is walking down the road 1 street over.  If we only have enough faith, we can lasso God and pull him towards us and eventually (if we have enough faith, right?) we can pull him over to the street that we're walking on (our plan, our will).

Is that faith?  A cosmic lasso that can bend God to our will?  No!  Faith isn't us being certain upon what we want, or sure in our spreadsheets and self designed plans.  Faith is us and our beliefs being propped up on God and His promises.

The key thing here is that it is based on His promises.  If I tell you that I'm going to come over to your house on Tuesday and change the spark plugs in your car, you can be certain (have faith) that I will be there Tuesday to change your spark plugs.  But how silly would it be for you to not tell me that your car was even having any trouble at all and just sit on your couch and say "I have faith that Levi will come over on Tuesday and change the spark plugs in my car"?  You're going to be left waiting on that couch.  See the difference? In the first instance, I told you I was coming.  In the second, you didn't tell me, didn't ask me, and I never told you anything.  
Let's take it 1 step farther:  same example, what if you called my cell phone (that never rings anyway, can you hear me now? no.) and left me a voicemail saying "Hey Levi, I wondered if you would come over to my house on Tuesday and change the spark plugs in my car for me?" but never heard back from me?  Digest that one for a minute.  Would it be appropriate to 'have faith' that I would come, when you never heard back from me confirming that that was my plan?  

How often do we ask God to bless our plan, and then never hear back from Him (have no promise from God in the Bible for what we are asking) and sit around with 'faith' waiting for Him to come over to our street and do our will....