"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Visiting a new church can be exciting and intimidating.  In my own experiences with other churches, I have found that in some, the visit becomes nothing more than sitting in a pew, one stranger lost in a sea of others.  Sadly, some churches are as cold and hard as their pews.  I have visited other churches however, where though I’m among strangers, there is the overwhelming warmness and reality of worshipping with family—these are my brothers and sisters in Christ.  The Holy Spirit that lives in and works through them is divinely evident, shining brightly.  As a congregation invites strangers in with warmth and welcome, the stranger experiences God in a very real way, because it’s the Spirit of God working through the church to touch the life of the person who has walked through their door.  I tell you, with that kind of love a stranger won’t remain a stranger much longer.   When the Holy Spirit is alive and moving within a church, there is no sense of strangers amongst strangers, but rather the beauty of oneness in Christ Jesus.

I had a friend in college who conducted a social experiment that every church should hear about.  He grew a scraggly beard, disheveled his hair, wore dirty, worn out clothing, and did not bathe.  Yeah, I know—isn’t that what most college guys do?  Well maybe, but the next part is not.  He went to several of the most influential churches in the city looking like a homeless man to see how they might respond.

One church greeted him warmly at the door, but didn’t do much beyond that.  In two others he was not spoken to at all; only met with confused and bewildered glances in one, and cold darting glances accompanied with whispers of “…who is that….what’s he doing here…he doesn’t belong here…” in the other.  In the last church, he was warmly welcomed, even being offered some money and an invitation to someone’s home for a warm meal following the service!  I know which church I would return to.

I wonder what I would have done.  How would I have responded?  Would I have squelched the Spirit within me and missed my opportunity?  How are we perceived to those who visit us as a church?  Do they see oneness and love, or strangers amongst strangers?  How will we respond to those who come through our door?

Jesus, the night he was arrested, after praying for his disciples…prayed for us.  “My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me.  May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23   

Thursday, November 03, 2011

His Story

History.  What images does that word conjure up for you?  For some it brings up images of sleepy afternoons spent drooling on gratified school desks, staring blankly at a dusty chalk board, the dull hum of a dry lecture from a monotone teacher sneaking in their inattentive ears.  For others, the word summons movie screens of adventure projected on the wall of the mind; decisions—both good and bad—made by strangers of the past that directly affect their present.   For them, history is the earlier pages of a script they have a part in, a story still being told.

Do you see the big picture—that this life you live, this world you experience is part of a grand piece of art?  We are just single brush strokes on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel!  Being one brush stroke doesn’t make us insignificant, no, quite the contrary—this is where we find our significance—we are part of something bigger than ourselves, something beautiful!  Our lives have purpose; one scene in the ultimate story written by our creator. 

The great temptation is to let our eyes role back in their sockets so that we are inward focused, spending all our time centering on ourselves and concentrating on our own little stories; refusing to acknowledge the great story that God has invited us into.

Our church has been participating in the video series The Truth Project these last couple months.  A recurring theme continues to appear.  Man chooses to ignore the truth, instead governing himself by lies—he becomes his own authority; because to walk in truth means there is a higher authority than one’s own desires and opinions—the authority of God.  We are not in charge.  In our self-focus, we forget the Sovereignty of God—His ultimate authority.  He is the author of history.  He is in control.  Isaiah 46: 9-11 illustrates this point well.

9 Remember the former things, those of long ago;
   I am God, and there is no other;
   I am God, and there is none like me.
10 I make known the end from the beginning,
   from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
   and I will do all that I please.’
11 From the east I summon a bird of prey;
   from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
What I have said, that I will bring about;
   what I have planned, that I will do.

To deny God and his hand in history draws our focus onto ourselves.  If there is no God, then there is no purpose to life beyond what we individually desire to make of it.  “We live. We die. We become worm food. Game over. The end.”  There is no greater cause we are accountable to then our own pleasure, “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die!”  If there is no personal God to hold us accountable for our actions, we can manipulate history to tell us what we want to hear; rewrite it to teach others what we want them to believe.  Dr. Tackett, the tour guide through the truth project, uses the example of the Mayflower Compact.  Most of us in our History classes read the opening lines to be something to the effect of, “We whose names are underwritten…having undertaken, a voyage to plant the first colony…” but there are some key phrases missing.  “In the name of God, Amen.  We whose names are underwritten…having undertaken, for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith…, a voyage to plant the first colony.”  The whole story is not told.  It is left devoid of the true purpose…devoid of God.  What we are left with is an incomplete story, or in other words, a lie.  This is nothing new; the serpent in the garden hissed, “Did God really say you could not eat from any fruit in the garden?”  Satan revised history right from the beginning in order to convince Adam and Eve to believe what he wanted them to.

The Roman Guards who stood watch at the tomb of Jesus at the time of his resurrection were likewise encouraged to revise the history of the event.

12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ Matthew 28:12-13

These are the two most significant moments in history.  One is a lie—bringing about sin and death—and the other is attacked by a lie—deceiving people from believing upon the Lord—the only one who saves them from sin and death! 

History is important to God.  Throughout scripture God continually tells his people to Remember!  When Israel forgot the things God had done, they began to walk their own paths, living out their own selfish stories, forgetting their purpose as the chosen people of God.  Their gratitude and obedience to God vanish with their dissipating memories of him.   Whether we actively revise history or passively forget what God has done, either way, we will begin to believe the lie that this life is about us. 

Pastor Skip has a question he continually asks us every Sunday: “So What?”  Why does this all matter?   Dr. Tackett states, we tend to forget the things we should remember…and remember the things we should forget!!!  When we make history into a little story about ourselves, neglecting to see God’s full picture, we tend to focus on the petty things—personal annoyances, personal injustices, personal preferences, personal privileges—these become the things of utmost importance.  This is unfortunate…because these are not the things of utmost importance to God.  God has a much bigger vision for us—to love God and love people (God’s greatest command) and to go and make disciples (the great commission).  How unfortunate when we allow little things to derail the train from pressing onward in the will of God.  The lost must be found, the blind must see, the deaf must hear.  Only when we look at life through Christ’s eyes (seeing the bigger picture) and not our own (self-focused as we are), will we begin to discover…and fulfill…our role in history—His Story.