Getting Over Ourselves

Part of Matthew 16 really hit me this week. In this passage Peter is the first person to confess Jesus as the Christ (or the Messiah). Then just a few verses later he is being rebuked for trying to hold Jesus back from God’s plan. In Matthew 16:23 Jesus says some very direct truth to Peter that we all need to learn from. “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interest, but man’s.”

Stop and consider the depth of those words. Satan gets ahead of us, which leads to our stumbling, when we have our minds set on the interests of men and not of God. In reality we must all confess that we spend more time with our mind set on our interests than on God’s. Or perhaps the problem is that we make the interests of God into the interests of men in the way we approach them. Maybe sometimes our stumbling is the result of us seeing too much with our own eyes and not with his eyes. The problem is often the result of us seeing the answer in our power and not in his.

So this truth leads me to another passage I read this week. Moses speaks to the people of Israel while standing at the Red Sea fearing death as Pharoah and his army are bearing down to destroy them. Exodus 14:13 says “Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will accomplish for you today…” The salvation of the what? Who will accomplish today?

Yes, it is the Lord’s accomplishment and his salvation…it is not yours. Yet often life seems to fool us and trick us into thinking that it is all up to us. That leads me to the last truth I want to share with you today. I want to share an excerpt from the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. In this passage you will see how God is tying all these things together to speak to me these days and hopefully it will speak to you, too. I will end this blog with the excerpt without commentary. I hope it encourages you to get the book. It is worth the read. (there is another quote from the book I will blog about later this week.)

“Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice! (Phil 4:4) You’ll notice that it does not end with ‘…unless you are doing something of extreme importance.’ No, it’s a command for all of us, and it follows with the charge, Do not be anxious for about anything. (VS. 6)

    That is a pretty staggering realization. But what I realized next was even more staggering.

    When I am consumed with my problems – stressed about my life, my family, and my job – I actually convey the belief that I think the circumstances are more important than God’s command to always rejoice. In other words, that I have a “right” to disobey God because of the magnitude of my responsibilities.” (page 43)

Individually Corporate

What if your church was just like you? Would you go to it next Sunday? Would you give any more money to it?

In Matthew 10, Jesus speaks of the cost of following him. We are told that we will have to leave father, brother, sister, and mother. He tells us that we will be persecuted and ridiculed. The command is that we must take our cross and follow him. Christ-following is not easy, it is costly. It requires a great deal of sacrifice. These sacrifices can be uncomfortable. The sacrifices of obedience often fly in the face of popular Christianity. The majority of us have been taught that we must always put family first. I agree with this overall sentiment in Scripture, but not in the way we think it lives out. Christ-following will require nights away from your family serving in the church and in your community. Christ-following will require you to put Jesus Christ and his Gospel above everything else. That is exactly what it costs. Yet we like to teach ourselves the exact opposite of that.

This is why and how we grow comfortable in our silence with the Gospel and disobedience with our service. These types of partial truths are what allow us to live lives that are changed by the Gospel but never speak the Gospel. We become Christians that want to go to generous churches, yet never give. Go to evangelistic churches, but never tell anyone about Jesus. Go to churches with great children’s ministry, youth ministry, and greeter ministry, yet never serve. Churches that do great mission work, yet never go.

We become comfortable with these lives because we become comfortable with these lies.

You should never expect of your church what you do not expect of yourself.

The church is the Body of Christ made up of the individual members. Nothing will ever be true of the corporate body that is not true of the individual members.

Generous churches are made up of generous people. Churches that are reaching lost people for Christ are made up of individuals that are reaching lost people for Christ. Churches with great ministries are made up of volunteers that work hard. Churches that do great missions work are made up of individuals that do great mission work.

The greatest problem with the culture of Christianity today is that people want to be a part of something they do not participate in. It will never happen.

Oh, something great might happen, but you will not be a part of it.

Unamazing Grace

As I read through the Bible I love to see the progression and connection of truth. I am currently reading through the book of Matthew. The teachings of Jesus are always profound but are often best understood when we take the time to see how they connect and build on one another. This blog (and some others to follow) is some truth God has spoken to me as he has shown me some connections of truth in the teachings of Jesus. To better understand the truth I am going to share you might want to read Matthew 9-11.

In Matthew 9:27-31, Jesus has an encounter with and heals some blind men. There is an interesting twist to this story compared to our lives as Christ-followers today. Jesus gave these men specific instructions to not tell anyone about him or what he had done for them. He told them to do the exact opposite of what he has told us to do. We have been commanded to share this truth and Gospel to the ends of the earth. Yet, here is the twist. We, having been told to speak out, remain silent while these who were told to remain silent spoke out.

WHY?

Over the next couple of chapters Jesus touches on some truths that all scratch the surface of this issue. I want to take some time to just scratch the surface of each one and I might scratch deeper on each of the individual issues in some later blogs.

First he says that the harvest is ripe but the workers are few. This statement comes after we hear of Jesus’ compassion and heart for the spiritual condition of the world around him. Quick truth is the fields still remain largely empty because we do not share his compassion for the world around us.

Then in Matthew 10 Jesus speaks of the great sacrifices required to follow him. The truth is boiled down to the truth that we must take our cross and follow after him. This will mean putting the Gospel before family at times in our lives. This will mean being ridiculed and criticized. This will mean being persecuted and put down. These realities should be the expectations of every Christ-followers life not the exception.

Then in Matthew 11 he flips the truth around and says “”Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” At first glance this sounds nothing like cross bearing, but look a little deeper. Take my “yoke” and my “burden.”

So what is Jesus Christ saying about following him with these two very different sounding teachings and how does it connect to the blind men speaking in the face of instruction for silence?

Too many Christians today are completely unamazed by God’s grace. I believe that is true because so many of us came to know Christ early in our lives and we fail to see the reality of God’s grace. Let me use the two other passages to explain this thought.

Jesus called me out of the darkness and into his wonderful light when I was 8 years old. That was 26 years ago. I have lived the majority of my life in his light and in his grace and through his mercy. This has caused me (and many others) to have a greater memory of the burdens we have carried than our burden he bore for us.

We must realize that the reason his yoke is easy and his burden is light is because the burden and yoke we no longer bear – the price and penalty for our sins that he bore completely on the cross – is far greater. Our problem is that many of us fail to see the daily reality of this grace because we are so comfortable and familiar with it. Honestly, many of us fail to see how amazing God’s grace is because he did not simply save us from who we were but he saved us from becoming who we would have been.

We are not amazed by his grace because we have a greater remembrance of all that we have done for Christ than we do understanding the reality of what he has done for us.

That is why we stay silent while being instructed to speak instead of speaking up when being instructed to remain silent. The blind men saw the reality of the grace and mercy of Christ with their own eyes. It was fresh. It was new. And it was real.

So these truths from Scripture have brought me to this prayer. I wonder if you would not pray it with me…

Lord, open my eyes that I may see. Show me not only the reality and truth of the grace of God that has saved me from what I had become but show me the reality of what your grace saved me from ever becoming. Lord, may I never again use an improper scale when considering the burden and yoke I carry. May my memory never again be more full of my own sacrifices than of yours. May my heart never again see what I have done without seeing what you have done. Lord, may I never again count the cost without the light of the cost you paid. May my heart always be full of your compassion for the condition of the souls around me. May I see them as you see them. Lord, may I always be in the field at work. Lord, I know that I will never remain in the field as a living sacrifice without a continuous view of your mercy in my life. So Lord, never again allow me to fail to see the compassion you had for me and exactly how much I needed it. Lord, may I not only see and realize the reality of it, may it move me. Lord, cause this truth to cause me to speak the name and grace of Christ and to serve him in all faithfulness with sincere gratitude.

Lord, thank you for your love, compassion, and grace…For I once was lost but now am found…was blind but now I see…

Life’s Mile Stones

Life is full of milestones. A milestone is simply a marker designating the distance one has traveled down a certain path or road. Life is lived on a path. The choices we make today will cause the milestones we pass in the future. Too often in life we like to say that the milestones we pass are simply there because of what has happened in life versus seeing that those are most often caused by our choices. The decisions we make cause the paths we live.

The path I live is one I enjoy very much. It is filled with its share of heartaches and trials and stresses but it is also filled with blessings and joys and successes. I realize that along the way I have made some good choices that now lead to joyful milestones.

Sunday I celebrated a great and joyful milestone. On January 3, 1998 the Lord blessed me with the privilege of marrying a beautiful, courageous, and faithful woman. As much as I knew her and loved her that day, I must admit that 12 years later who Wendy is still amazes me. I can say many things that declare her strengths, but today I will share one thing that I believe is true of Wendy that perhaps has the greatest impact on my life as her husband.

Wendy has a tenacious belief in me. She has seen the worst that exists in me. She has been the recipient of my ugliest moods and overwhelming stresses. She has seen me succeed and fail. She has seen my spirits rise and fall and in the midst of all of that her belief in me never waivers. It is almost surreal to me. Even in the moments that I think my church leadership is the poorest or my leading of our home is the worst it has been, her belief that I will be who God designed me to be and do what God has called me to do does not change.

Wives, I encourage you to give such grace and confidence to your husbands. I, honestly, believe this might be the greatest embodiment of submitting unto your husband. The truth is that her undying belief in me is not really because of me. This confidence that she has is her faith in the Lord. She believes in the Lord and she believes that he is the Lord of me. It is her faith that drives such confidence and belief.

And her confidence and belief drives me. There have been many days in my life that I thought I could not accomplish the things that God has called me to accomplish. In all those days there has been one person I share the depths of those struggles with and in each of those struggles her belief in me has not changed. Her confidence in me is simple and pure. And when I get through ranting over how I don’t think I can do it, I look into two beautiful eyes that tell me I can because God can.

Wendy, thank you for this underserved but greatly appreciated gift. I pray that I never again give you any reason to doubt me, yet I am fully confident that when I do you will not.

The second meaningful milestone is today. Eight years ago today Fellowship Church had its first public worship service. 32 people (14 of which came for that one Sunday to help out from our sponsor church) gathered together in an old fire department rental hall to worship the Lord. The events surrounding that day were interesting. Our first mailout had gone out but had only hit about ½ of the homes the other ½ got there the next week. I had stayed up all night the night before holding my 3 week old son in a position that would allow him to breathe as he was fighting the fever and cough of RSV.

I remember that the day was exhilarating and exhausting as well as encouraging and disappointing. Looking back the things that encouraged me still do. I saw some lives that needed Fellowship in them that day. I met some people who made the commitment of helping make this vision a reality. The exhausting part has changed. I no longer have to set up stage and screen and projector to have a worship service, but exhaustion still comes at times. I am still exhilarated by the possibilities of what Fellowship can be and can do. And I am still disappointed at times when I envision something working and that not happening as I envisioned.

But overall I am now simply awed by what God has done. Each week some 330 plus people worship together in two services at Fellowship in its own facility. Our church is now being involved in planting another church. I can’t remember all the mile markers as clearly as some, but today I am simply grateful for being allowed to walk such a path. I realize there were some decisions I made and the Lord led me to make that started me on this path and have kept me on this path, but I am grateful for it.

We have climbed some mountains and walked through some valleys on this path. But the coolest part about this milestone, is the community of believers that will pass it with me. It is not simply about the number growing. It is about the changed lives that will pass this marker with me heading into the future of Fellowship Church. Lives that were once filled with addiction and are now living in freedom. The lives that were once full of mourning that are now filled with joy. Lives that once were set in the wrong direction that are now focused on the glory of Christ.

Those lives lived in community in Christ is what makes this milestone special.

I don’t know what milestones you are looking forward to experiencing in 2010, but take some time to enjoy them. If you realize that today you need to make a decision to walk a new path, then do it. Maybe 2010 needs to be the beginning of the path or a great marker in the midst of that path that leads to the milestones God has planned for you.

And when you arrive at some significant milestone, enjoy it. Praise God for it. And then pass it by. For there are more ahead.