"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, September 18, 2012


This past week we had a guy named Jim Mead come share at our church.  As Jim recounted to us his battle—fighting the trials of a stroke that left him with 20% of his cerebellum, a battle that should have left him incapable of functioning in any normal way (this guy is a living, breathing, walking miracle) —he reminded us that we each have a giant to face.  The reality of any giant is that it is bigger than we are (hence the name giant), and so it is impossible to conquer.  With our elbows on the table they will win the arm wrestle hands down every time—they simply have more muscle.  Many of us live a defeated life with giants taunting us, and crushing us under their weight.   There is a playground reality that brings hope.  Though the giants are the biggest, strongest bullies on the school yard, our daddy can beat them up!  In the famous words of Veggie Tales “God is bigger than the boogeyman”.  God always stands taller than our giants, and though we cannot muster the strength, will, or wisdom to win on our own, when we rely on God rather than our own punches, we, like David, can cut off the head of our giants.

I love Jim’s quote.  “Israel said Goliath is too big to hit, David said Goliath is too big to miss."  He walked into battle through a sea of cowering Israelites to stand before a giant who could quite literally rip his arms off, and yet, he was completely confident of his imminent victory.  Why?  1 Samuel 17: 46-47 reveals to us the heart and mind of the young shepherd boy. 

 Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head… everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!”

Moments later, David stood over the body of a defeated giant.  Jim pointed out to us some truths from this story that can encourage us in our own giant battles.  First, David had learned to trust God with smaller giants—lions and bears—so when the big one came, he had confidence in his God.  Second, he believed that the cause before him was greater than the giant.   There was too much at stake—the giant had to be defeated.  If David didn’t believe in his cause of upholding the name of God, he never would willingly face the giant.  Lastly, he knew God could win.

I think what comes next is equally significant.  As David stands over the body of a dead giant—we are reminded that there is a whole army of philistines in front of him.  There’s also a whole army of Israelites behind him.  The battle has been won—the giant defeated—but the war is not over.  The cowering philistines ran…and Israel conquered.  There are two inspiring truths that can be gleaned here.  First, David’s boldness of faith—his belief in the cause, and assurance of victory—inspired a whole army into battle.  Secondly, it took a whole army to win the war.  God calls us to trust in him to defeat our giants, but he also invites us to fight the wars in community alongside bothers in arms.  I never have to face my giants alone.  My God is bigger, my cause is greater, and my victory is imminent.  When I win the battle, I have brothers to help fight the war. 

To our giants let us declare:  “This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!"

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I remember crawling through the stuffy, dusty tunnels of booby-trapped jungle temples, amidst ancient idols and artifacts, and through hanging webs.  Really, I was crawling under my bed, amidst lost toys and dust bunnies, and through draping bed sheets.  I was seven.   Under a bed is not nearly as suitable a place for an aspiring archaeologist adventurer as an ancient jungle shrine complete with shrieking monkeys, dangling vines, rolling boulders, and danger lurking around every corner.  I think every little boy that watched Indiana Jones imagined the adventure of being an archaeologist.  In actuality, there is a lot less guns, Nazis, flying darts, women in peril, and invisible bridges in true archaeology.  But it’s near impossible for a child to think about treasure, and not associate it with adventure and mystery, isn’t it?  I think the reason we are compelled by stories of explorers and pirates seeking out treasures is because the adventure is just as valuable as whatever is hidden six feet below the x.  Adventure is part of the treasure…it’s a package deal! 

At some point in life most of us stop crawling under furniture in search of adventure and untold treasures.   We hang up the fedora and the whip and turn in our treasure hunting for treasure making.  We give up adventure for security, mystery for comfort.  Adventure is good…enjoyed from the coziness of our couches with plenty of popcorn in hand.  We just don’t want the uneasiness of living it ourselves.

I think Jesus was an adventurer.  He left the comfort of Heaven to come to dusty earth, gathering a few adventurers to trek with him.  He was the living word, pointing towards the Father—our hope and our treasure.  He warned not to store up treasure here on earth where moth and rust destroy—these present comforts will not last—but to store up treasures in heaven.  There is no treasure on this planet that won’t one day be sitting in a junk yard.  Relationships are the only thing eternal.  As we bring the truth of Christ to the people around us, we are opened to unfathomable adventure.  We get to become part of their journey towards God—the treasure their hearts ache for.  As they accept Christ, we are storing treasure in heaven—eternal souls united to Christ.    God and his kingdom is our treasure, and the adventure is sharing Him, and trekking the journey of discipleship.  Will you be a seeker of eternal treasures, or the maker of temporary trinkets?

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Divine Discontent

Lay’s potato chips most famous slogan was “Betcha can’t eat just one!”  It’s true.  The salt and crispy crunch compels me back for more every time.  Resistance is futile.

Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at three conditions of the heart—discouragement, delight, and complacence.  Though I find my moments of discouragement and delight to be few and far between…I’m all too familiar with complacence.   Looking through scripture, I see many people who were anything but complacent towards God.  In fact, I would say they were divinely discontent.  Like with potato chips, they weren’t satisfied with a little taste of God— they wanted more and more and more of him!  Look at David’s words throughout Psalm 63 “…O God, you are my God…earnestly I seek you…my soul thirsts for you…my flesh faints for you…your steadfast love is better than life… I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night…my soul clings to you.

Whoa!  Who talks to God like that?  This isn’t so much the reverent “God is my Lord” kind of language, nor is it “God is my friend” kind of language.  This prayer...sounds a bit like a love letter!  I got some really great friends, but my soul doesn’t cling to them.  This is the bride crying out for the bridegroom kind of language!  There is intimacy here.  The scriptures are full of this kind of passion towards the Father. 
In the book of Daniel chapter 6, on the urging of his government officials king Darius had signed a decree making it illegal by penalty of death to pray to anyone—human or heavenly—other than to the king himself. 
“ 10…But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.”

Doesn’t it almost seem like he’s flaunting it!  Like the Jr. High couple who’s nauseating PDA is displayed for all to see, so Daniel blatantly displays his love for his God—pushing all caution aside!  Even knowing the consequences could mean death, he will not turn his affections away!
As the apostle Paul sat in prison, he wrote these words of passion.

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

Both of these men held an eternal perspective thinking beyond the confines of current, earthly life towards the eternal glory awaiting them.  If they lived, they lived for God, if they died, they died for God.  Either way, it was all for God.

There are people outside of biblical history that have this overwhelming passion for more of God too.
Augustine said“How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose! You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure.” 

Puritan John Owen said “O to behold the glory of Christ. ...Herein would I live; herein would I die; herein would I dwell in my thoughts and affections. . .until all things below become unto me a dead and deformed thing, no way suitable for affectionate embraces.”

1 6th century monk Brother Lawrence once wrote, “I have had at times such delicious thoughts on the Lord that I am ashamed to mention them.”

Did that one make you blush a little?  I don’t know what that quote means, but there is a passion in it that is infectious!  These men loved God desperately!

Romans 8:21-23 says,

21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 

 Even creation longs for God’s redemption!  It groans for Him!

 I’ve borrowed much of these quotes and passages from a sermon series by Matt Chandler that I’ve listened to near a dozen times because of one haunting question Chandler asks.  Men and women in the bible passionately longed for God, historical figures outside of the bible desperately craved God, and even creation groans for Christ’s return.  So the Question:

  Why don’t I? 

Where is my divine discontent?  Why don’t I long for more and more of God?

If I was sitting next to these guys in the grand stands cheering God on, they’d be those guys with the face paint, crazy wigs, jerseys, big foam hands, signs, and noise makers.  They’d be standing up, spilling their pop and dropping their hot dog screaming at the top of their lungs for God!  I’m the guy wishing it wasn’t so cold outside, distracted by the peanut vendor.  Even the trees of the field are clapping their hands!  I’ve been outdone by a tree.  That’s embarrassing.  Who wants to be that guy?  I see something that these men have that I don’t, and I want it!

I believe there are three reasons why there seems to be a disconnect between the constant, passionate pursuit of God we’ve seen in these people, and the lethargy I so often find in my own life.

First, I’ve allowed idols to blind my passion for God.  Have you?  ATV’s, PC’s, RV’s, TV’s, MP3’s…stuff distracts us from God.  I don’t know that anyone intentionally sets out to put something on a pedestal before God…things just sneak there.  And most idol stuff starts out pretty innocent.  The danger is when our things, passions, pursuits, relationships, and ideals become non-negotiable—when they supersede Christ in our life.  When we say, you can take this, this, and that, but God…this stays.  This is more important to me than you. 

In Matthew 19, a young man came to Jesus wanting to know what good deed he must do to have eternal life.  Jesus shared with him some commandments he would have to keep.

20 “I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”
21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus pointed out that maybe this young man didn’t have the commandments down as well as he had thought.  He had broken the first…his possessions becoming idols in his life.  God incarnate invited him into a journey, and the young man turned away.

  The second reason we lack passion for God is pride.
The latter half of James 4:6 says,

…“God opposes the proud
    but favors the humble.”

 He opposes the proud because they don’t need him—they have got everything under control.  In fact, they are the ones who have the answers for everyone else…and how dare anyone offer them any counsel! 

Romans 1 speak about pride.

21  "Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks (NOTE: this is blatant pride right here).   And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like (NOTE: there’s this distorted view of God…lets come back to that). As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols…

24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired.”

                This is how God responds to our pride…he allows us to give our hearts over to our idols, so that instead of finding the joy of God, we are blind to his glory and complacent in our commitment to him.
The final reason we lack passion for God is the reason I believe we turn to idols and pride in the first place.  …We don’t really know who God is.

I have spent much of my life worshiping a God who has called me to manage my sin and get my act together so he could accept me rather than worshiping the God who has already made me new, embraces me, and invites me to delight in him.

I’ve believed that though I’m a Christian by title, I’m still the same scoundrel I’ve always been.  God’s usually disappointed in me, and expects me to fix myself.  In reality, I’m a new creature, bonded with Jesus.  He loves and enjoys me, and is maturing me and making me new.

Chasing after idols becomes easier and safer than leaning into the arms of a God who looks at us with disgust.  Let me point you to a different God.

There was a man with two sons.  The man loved his sons immensely, lavishing his wealth upon them.  One day the youngest son with prideful arrogance demanded from his father his inheritance.  “Dad, I don’t want to wait til' you’re dead to have my fun.  Give me my money now.”

The wise father allowed his foolish son to make his own mistakes.  He gave the boy his money.  Soon the son was living the high life—everything money could buy—food, fun, a girl for each arm…but after a while the well of money went dry…along with all the land.  Famine hit.  The once wealthy Jewish boy was feeding pigs to survive…and sneaking a slurp from the slop bucket himself.  How did it come to this?  In pride, he forgot the love of his father.  The love of idols blinded his mind to the great memories of times at home.  Now, all those thoughts were flooding back.

He knew his father would be disappointed.  He could no longer be considered a son…but maybe a servant?  Anything would be better than this! 

As he trudged home, covered in dried pig slop, His Father was already watching for him.  How many days had he stared at the horizon?  When his father saw him, he ran to his son, embraced, and kissed him—no mention of shortcomings, no sting of judgment in his eyes.  Instead, he wrapped his son in robes; put the family ring on his finger, and sandals on his feet.  He prepared a feast, and celebrated the life of his son!

This son was certain his father would disown him…that he’d only be accepted with begrudging pity and even then, as nothing more than a hired hand…someone who had to earn love back.  This is how many of us look at God.  We are his “hired hands.”  We had better manage our sin so as not to disappoint God.  But the truth is that the prodigal son never stopped being the Father’s son!  In his return, the Father embraced him without judgment, and with perfect love.  What the son thought he’d have to earn, the father freely gave.

Christianity is not sin management, it is grace acceptance. Sin management leaves me focused on myself and my short comings. Grace acceptance leaves me focused on the insurmountable glory of Jesus Christ with the burning desire to give my all to Him.

This God of Grace, this is my God.  This is the kind of God I can be passionate about.  This is the God my soul longs to cling to.  A God of beautiful grace, a God of forgiveness, a God that runs to me when I have fallen short.

A God that leaves me with such delicious thoughts… I’m ashamed to mention them.

If you would like to explore these topics further, I invite you to check out these resources I used.  Matt Chandlers sermon series "Heart Matters"  and the book The cure by Truefaced.com

The "Holier than thou" mask

Masquerade balls I’m sure are fun, but Sunday mornings at church is not the place to hold them!  The past 2 weeks I’ve been examining some of the masks we put on.  Here is our last—the  “holier than thou” mask. 

This mask is the most dangerous of all, and here is why.  The person wearing this mask is most likely completely unaware of it!  These people don’t get what everyone else’s hang ups are…because they are doing just fine all on their own.  Those of us wearing this mask might think we are better than others.  I know that when I’m at my worst, I quite easily slip on this mask.

Jesus shares a parable concerning this mask.

A Pharisee and a tax collector went to the temple to pray. 
This was the Pharisee’s prayer:

…‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ (Luke 18:11-12)

The tax collector on the other hand…

… stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ (Luke 18:13)

And Jesus’ response was…

 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)

After Matthew (tax collector turned disciple) threw his party for Jesus, the disciples, and a few “notorious sinner” friends, the Pharisee’s had some words to say.

… “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”

12 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

“Holier than thou” mask wearers apart from the Holy Spirit opening their eyes to the truth, are trapped in their masks…because they don’t believe they are wearing them.

“Only the sick need a doctor.”  What great news for you and me…that Jesus seeks out those who know they are sick, and desire to be healed…and clothes us not in some cover up mask…but in his grace.
Adam and Eve masked their sin with fig leaves until God covered them with the first animal killed for the sake of man’s sin—its blood being shed.

Jesus became the ultimate covering—shedding his blood on our behalf and covering us with his unfathomable grace!

Are you still wearing the fig leaves?  Get rid of them.  They aren’t doing the job…you just look silly.  Wrap yourself in God’s beautiful grace!

To explore this further, check out “The Cure” by TrueFaced.com, and Matt Chandler’s sermon “The diagnostic and the cure”—a sermon on Galatians.