Wednesday, April 27, 2011

You Can Relate

     Thanks for joining me on the side streets, Bad Friday and The Rolling Stones.  Had to take a detour to focus on resurrection weekend.  I hope all of you had a great Easter and once again were reminded that the resurrection power was not a one time event, but the fuel that drives us today.
     Back to our journey of discovery what we believe about God.  While we are on the entrance ramp, let's review what we have seen so far.  We want to notice things that we don't often mention when we are talking about God's attributes.  His power is certainly evident in the creation story, but we wanted to highlight His apparent delight in the creative process.  Being creative is a part of His nature that didn't end after seven days.  God has placed that creative quality in all of us.  He loves to be creative with us.  Just as he pulled Adam into the creative process by asking him to name all the animals and tend to the Garden, He still looks for us to be creative about His business today.  Creativity is the earmark of many churches and ministries that are impacting our world today.  Most people have more creativity inside of them than they ever realized.  As a whole, we are not encouraged to use it because our jobs don't  required it and in most cases it would interfere with the job.  We have substituted excellence for creativity.  We keep getting better at what we do, but we keep doing the same thing.  Your boss might not like your creativity, but God loves it and smiles every time you use it.  You were created in His image and He is creative.
     Not only did we see His creative pleasure and abilities, but we saw how relational God was.  So far we see that God does very little that does not involve relationship.  From the plurality involved in creation to the relationship with Adam and Eve and God in the Garden to Noah and the Ark, it was all about relationship.  God has never been preoccupied with the obedience to the letter of the law, rather, He is interested in how it all shakes down relationally.  Everything He created, every law He wrote was to define and enhance relationships.  That was a huge distinction for me to discover.
     He is all knowing, all powerful, all wise, ever present, and whatever superlative you can think of, but those qualities gain their maximum meaning when they are fleshed out in relationships.  What good are these qualities if they don't relate to man.  It is all about relationship.  What was the first thing Satan attacked?  How they related to God.  When we properly understand these superlatives, we understand relationship.  God is God and He deliberately chooses to interject all of His attributes into His relationship with us.  That is pretty awesome.  JOIN THE JOURNEY and experience God in a the most incredible relationship imaginable.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Side Street - The Rolling Stones

     What a great day yesterday.  The messages on TV were awesome, our Pastor preached a great message.  We had baptism in a horse trough.  Really cool.  Lunch with friends.  A great Easter.  However, it seems hard to escape the holiday mentality.  Traditions continually perpetuated generation after generation.  Nothing wrong with that, except it sometimes obscures the message.  How can you enjoy the traditions and keep the true meaning of Easter at the forefront.  It is so easy for the religious activities to become a part of the decorations to make the traditions more viable.  Now, I am no bah-humbunny or anything, but the need for expression of the true meaning of the resurrection must transcend all the traditions or eventually the traditions will fade away with the real message.
     I'm far from a techy geek, but I found that the addition of Facebook and Twitter did as much to bring the real message to the forefront as anything I have seen in years.  It was delightful seeing all the kids in their Easter outfits.  Absolutely adorable!  But the highlight of my day was the early morning FB status posts celebrating our Risen Lord.  It wasn't your usual Happy Holidays, but heart felt expressions of enthusiasm about Jesus rising from the dead and what it means to people's lives today.  The hope of seeing loved ones again.  Victory over sins devastation and penalty.  Resurrection power to live by, to do battle with.  You could sense it in the air.  The tweets were awesome.  To be able to hear what was on the minds of the guys we follow in the Christian community.  The tweets were like a clarion call.  An announcement to the world.  World, you may think were crazy, but this is what we believe and we loudly, gladly, unashamedly pronounce it.  HE'S ALIVE!  THE STONE ROLLED AWAY, THE TOMB IS EMPTY.  HE AROSE THE VICTOR FROM A DARK DOMAIN AND HE LIVES WITH FOREVER WITH HIS SAINTS TO REIGN.  HE AROSE, HE AROSE, HALLELUJAH, CHRIST AROSE.
     The two Marys were the first of His followers to see the empty tomb.  The angel sitting on the rolling stone, announced the news that Jesus had risen from the grave.  "Come see where He laid."  Some of us today need to see some "rolling stones".  We have not experienced the power of the resurrection because some "stone" in our life has blinded us from seeing and really believing that Jesus is alive.  Oh, He fits in our traditional Easter decorations; He is a part of the story and makes the holiday complete, but is He really alive to us.  What stone needs to roll in your life so you can get a fresh real glimpse of a risen Lord?  You don't have to move it your self, you just need to recognize it.  Heaven provided the movers of the first stone and heaven will provide the mover of your stone.  Is it unforgiveness that blocks your view?  Is it doubt, fear, unbelief, anger, bitterness, possessions, envy, jealousy.  There are all kinds of stones, but none to big to move.  I've always heard the Rolling Stones were great to see.  My prayer now is that some day soon we will see the "rolling stones" reveal a risen, empowering Jesus and our lives too will be changed forever.
     In Acts 3 Peter and John were going to the temple to pray.  They were met at the gate by a lame man asking for money.  Peter and John gave him no money, but gave him new legs.  "In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, Rise up and walk!"  He went around leaping, showing and telling everyone what had happened.  They could see.  They recognized the man who had been lame since birth.  They all ran together to discuss what had just happened.  Peter saw it as a great opportunity to proclaim the resurrection power.  Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but you asked for a murderer instead to be released.  I love verses 15-16 of Acts 3.  These are my favorite Easter verses, because it shows the resurrection had not lost significance and power some time after the actual event.  It is the resurrection that fueled the early church.  Listen to what Peter said to those gathered around.  " killed the author of life, whom God raised from the dead.  To this we are witnesses.  And His name - by faith in His name - has made this man strong..."  It is seeing the resurrection power that makes all of us strong.  God, help us to see the empty tomb and its power so we can JOIN THE JOURNEY with the same enthusiasm as Mary and Mary.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Side Street - Bad Friday!

    Had to detour off our journey today to share some thoughts about the cross.  For a cool video, go to Godtube and search, "It's Friday, but Sunday's coming."  Friday must have been a pretty gloomy day for believers.  That day seemed to crush the hopes of all who followed Jesus.  Making it to the top of the hill was not a good thing that day.   A hill called Mt. Calvary  represented everything but the top.  It was occasion for despair, disillusionment, depression and distrust.  Instead of seeing Jesus on the cross as the first step of the destruction of death, they saw His death as the destruction of all they had lived for.  They had left their careers and many their families to follow Jesus to the cross.  That was the farthest thing from their imagination.  In a weird way they felt His willingness to die on the cross was a betrayal of all they had sacrificed.  They thought they were going to follow Jesus as He ushered in a new Kingdom.  They might even have a prominent place in that Kingdom.  They thought the future was bright when Jesus said "follow me".  Why else would you leave everything to follow someone you had just met?
     Good Friday to them was Bad Friday.  No kingdom in sight.  Not only did they stare defeat in the face, they watched someone they loved endure the worst imaginable punishment, torture, ridicule and shame.  What had just happened?  This invincible leader was powerless in the hands of these arrogant wicked men.  This man who had healed the sick, delivered the possessed and oppressed, restored dignity to sinners had been betrayed by that very same public.  They swapped Him out for a criminal.  Their hearts were full of pain as they witnessed this horrible degrading treatment of their master.  They followed the trail of blood from the public square to Golgotha, where it now puddled at the foot of the cross.  We must do something!  Not a muscle would move in protest, for their hearts were as full of fear as it was pain.  There was nothing they could do, but fear for their own life.
     Torn up inside, because they felt He could do something to save Himself.  They had witnessed His miracles.  They knew storms calmed at His command, cripples walked, the blind could see and the dead rise to life when He spoke.  Why would He not do something?  Speak!  Defend yourself!  Do something for Heaven's sake.  Too much is at stake for you to stay on the cross.  Their minds had to be exploding with these kind of thoughts as they stood at the foot of the cross.
     The real question is what was going through the mind of Jesus.  Talk about mind explosion.  Physical pain beyond comprehension.  The weight of sin of the world on His shoulders.  The eyes of His mother gazed up at Him, revealing her love and her pain.  For her sake why did He not end it all.  He knew He could have called ten thousand angels and they would have rescued Him and slain the whole bunch responsible for this horrid day.  He could have done anything He wanted.  You and I would have in a second.
     It is one thing to be willing to die for someone, we all would diefor any one of our children, but it is another thing to endure the shame and pain of the cross when at any moment you could step down.  It was not the religious leaders that kept him on the cross.  It was not the political leaders that kept him on the cross.  It was not the soldiers that kept him on the cross.  It was not the public that kept him on the cross.  It was not even the nails that kept him on the cross.  It was you and I that kept him on the cross.  Hebrews 12:1-3 tells us it was for the "joy" set before Him that He endured the cross.  Thoughts of you and I on His mind kept Him on the cross.  He knew the finished work of the cross meant freedom for you and I.  It was the only way that we overcome the power of sin, the victory of the grave and sting of death. 
     His passionate love for us and the thoughts of an eternity He would get to spend with those dear children was enough to resist the temptation to step down.  He endured for YOU!  Wow! Wow!  Lord make me more willing to bear the burden and shame of the cross.  Let my love for Him give me an enduring spirit in my service to Him.  He gave His life for me, let me spend my life for Him.  It will certainly be an adventure that only the hearty will endure.  I want to be one that endures.  How about you?  JOIN THE JOURNEY!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

He Celebrates Us!

     This week is flying as we approach Easter Sunday.  I bet heaven's choir has been practicing all week getting ready to join with earth's choirs to celebrate our risen Lord.  Wish there were some way to be able to hear them all sing the same song at the same time.  Maybe next year I'll send out a notice for all choirs, congregations, bands to sing Oh Glorious Day in the same key, time and whatever else would make sense.  Everyone send their recording to someone in Nashville, mix it and wah lah, 15 million voice choir.  Oh well, just a thought.
     Hope you are enjoying the second leg of our journey, "what we believe about God".  We've looked at creation and the flood to gain some insight about God through these magnanimous events.  These stories have always left me thinking about how powerful God is.  His ability to create it all and then destroy it all is mind boggling. 
     However, on this journey, I have prayed for a fresh new perspective about God.  I so need it at this point in my life.   As I try to figure out the best way to spend the rest of my life, a fresh glimpse of  Him would be essential to making some really big decisions.  Some decisions, I have a sneaking suspicion,  are going to require a lot of faith.  Rediscovering God is the best way to rediscover myself.  This is kind of like a mid-life spiritual crisis. I want nothing more than to have a "I can't wait to get up tomorrow" kind of relationship with God.
      That is what I am praying to get out of this blog journey.  I imagine there are some of you that are just like me.  That is why I invited you to JOIN THE JOURNEY.  So far, my prayers are being answered, as my take away from the first two OT stories we've looked at has drastically changed from previous take aways.  I have been blown away with the heart of  God.  His emotional connection to man is incredible.  His desire for man's participation in His world.  From the woman He created for Adam, simply because man needed her, to His asking Adam to name all the animals.  He was enjoying man enjoying His creation.  He was having fun right along side of Adam.  Even the fall was followed with a deep desire on God's part to restore relationship.
     Then the disappointment that led to the flood.  His heart was broken because His fellowship was broken.  Even in the midst of all the wickedness, He walked with Noah.  That relationship was so precious to God that He saved His creation as a response to the intimate friendship He had with Noah.  It is so obvious that God, more than anything, wants to have a relationship with people, that being us!  He loves all of created, but the rocks crying out is not quite like you and I crying out.  His promises and covenants are His way to relate to us.  He binds Himself, by His own words, to us.  Not out of obligation, "Oh, I created them, so I guess I'm stuck with them," but out of a passion for us.  He can't wait until we get up each day to spend time with us.
     Tomorrow, His pleasure continues.  He delights in us.  His creative juices are satisfied as He plans and executes our steps.  It is like a celebration we are all going to and He doesn't want to miss out.  What is He celebrating?  US!  Don't miss this.  While we drag fear, failure, doubt and disappointment into each new day, His intent is to replace every bit of that with adventure and celebration.  No "killjoy" in Him.  John 10:10 says it so well.  He wants life abundant for us.
     How about you?  Do you need a fresh look at God?  Does your life need "life" in it.  Is God a distant belief, the One who created it all, or is He the one who joins you tomorrow to create more wonder?  Let's journey together and rediscover a God who desires to be with us.  He will be found when we search for Him.  JOIN THE JOURNEY this week as we celebrate His ressurrection, which is our ressurrection , and the fact; He celebrates Us! 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Let Me Out of Here!

     Well, those of you that tuned in for JTJ Friday, saw I was awol.  I was stuck in the airports and on the road through the weekend.  Did not even see a computer until late Sunday night.  I must say that I missed talking with you.  It is funny how the blog kinda of becomes a living thing and takes on a personality that you interact with.  I'm sure I missed it more than you, however, I do apologize for missing Friday or at least giving you heads up.  You have been kind enough to give me your "ears" every MWF and I left you hanging without word.  Sorry.  Enough groveling!
      When I was last with you we were talking about God's broken heart because of the wickedness of the "apple of His eye", man.  The emotional response of God being "grief" instead of  "anger" spoke volumns to me about the heart of God.  If it had been me, I would have been nothing less than pissed.  Not God, He was heart broken.  The reason being, He was not only aware of what it was doing to Him inside, but He knew what it was doing to man inside and that broke His heart.  God always wants more for us than we want for ourselves.  That is a true sign of love.
     After Noah built the ark, filled it with all the pairs of animals and rounded up all of his children and their wives,  God "shut" them in.  God was watching after them to the very last minute.  Then the rain came down and the springs flowed up for 40 days and 40 nights.  I always forget that it was 150 days on there without "kitty litter", "elephant litter", "rhino litter", you get the picture.  Sound effects I can handle, but smell effects, no way.  I would have been yelling, "Let me out of here!"  I definitely get cabin fever alot sooner than 150 days (7:24).  I would be going crazy.  However, 150 days to think about what had happened over the past year would certainly frame your opinion of God.  He liked me, asked me to build a boat to save my family and mankind, flooded the whole earth, destroying every living creature, shut me in, protected the boat from crashing while the tub filled up and then drained the tub. There is no record of any communication between God and Noah during those 150 days on the ark.  Noah was thinking about the fact that when he comes off the ark, he and those on the ark would be the only living human beings alive.  Everyone had been destroyed because of  their wickedness,  You think Noah wanted to get it right when he got off the boat.  I should think so!
      The doors open.  Exit Noah and his gang.  The first thing Noah did was build an altar, offer sacrifices to God.  God's response:  That smells good!  He said in His "heart".  Here is the heart thing again.  God responds to man with His heart.  It is not cut and dry laws or rules.  It is heart interaction with man.  God says, " I will never do that again."  As a sign of His promise, He gave the rainbow, a beautiful reminder even to this day.   Notice what God says about the rainbow.  "Every time I see the rainbow, I will be reminded of my covenant."  Didn't you always think the rainbow was to remind us. God too!  It is not like He was going to forget.  Why did God need a reminder?  Just a thought, but I think He got pleasure out of being reminded of  His covenant, because it defined relationship.  God called the troops together, Noah and his sons, blessed them and made a covenant with them.  That means that God would always be involved in their lives.  That is the nature of God.  His plans are always long term when it involves us.  He plans to be there every step of the way.
     God puts His heart on the table.  He knows that His promises and covenants mean He will be involved with us for the long haul, even if we fail Him.  His choice is to invite us on an up and down journey and He is committed to JOIN THE JOURNEY! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ride The Big Boat!

     Wow!  I just read the story of Noah's Ark.  I think it blows my mind more now than it did when I was just a little boy in Sunday School.  I don't know what kind of shoes Noah wore, but I don't think they would fit me.  In the first part of Genesis 6, we find God pretty ticked off.  The wickedness of man was rampant and seemed to be getting worse.  There was a total disregard for all that God had done to give man a great place to live.  We've come from the Garden of Eden to a moment in time when God regrets even making man and all of creation. Their mode of operation was shear wickedness and He was really upset.
     He made a decision: Destroy the earth and all that is on it.  Wipe them off the face of the earth.  BUT, (this is a really big but) Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord (6:8).  Wipe your forehead, ...phew(sound effects)!  You and I were almost not.  If Noah, one individual, had not walked with God we would not be here.  Talk about the power of one life!
     God, being relational by nature, wanted to discuss His plan with Noah.  Imagine being Noah.  "Hey Noah, God wants to run something by you before He does it.  He wants to see you right away."  Noah: "You sure.  I mean, I walk with Him, but He has never really discussed any big plans with me."  "Yep, He has something really big for you to do."  Noah must have been a little apprehensive going into that meeting.  "Noah, I want you to build a big boat and get ready for the ride of your life.  I want you to make it as long as a football field.  What's a football field?  Oh, that's right, we haven't done that yet.  Never mind.  About a hundred feet wide and 60 feet high." (read 6:14-16)  "That's a big boat!  What's a boat? A housebarn that floats.  Ooooh!  What does float mean?  Stays on top of the water.  I see.  Where's the water?  It's going to rain. Okay.  What's rain?  Sorry for all the questions God, but I'm new at this boat building thing."
     Long story short, "Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him." (7:2)  I could spend the remainder of the year just talking about this guy Noah.  He was a really cool dude.  Noah was successful in this story, not after boat doors closed, but the first day he put on his tool belt and went to work.  So much to learn from Noah, but I want to shift the emphasis back to God's response to Noah. 
     It is very interesting that God wanted to discuss His plan with Noah.  God wanted Noah to understand exactly what He was doing and why.  He also wanted Noah to know what he needed to do and why.  We get a peak from their discussion into the heart of God.  It appears that God was really angry and that was why He was going to destroy the earth and everything on it.  WRONG!  It never says that God was angry because of the wickedness, but it does say two times that He was "grieved"  and" His heart was filled with pain"(v.6, 7)   Our sin breaks the heart of God far more than it makes Him angry.  It breaks His heart because He knows what it will do to us.  Most of us respond to God as though He is angry with us when we mess up and we have a tendency to avoid Him or at least distance ourselves from Him.  What we need to do is recognize His heart has pain and we should approach Him with our broken heart because of where we failed Him.  The really cool thing is that the two broken hearts heal each other.  His heart is healed by our brokenness.  In Psalm 51, David realized that God did not want burnt offerings and sacrifices, but rather a broken and contrite heart.  Out of His healed heart full of love, He heals our broken heart and restores the joy of our salvation.  Once again we see the relational side of God.  When we are not right with God relationally, He is grieved.
     The next important lesson we learn here is: regardless of all the wickedness around us, God always notices and rewards a heart that is locked on Him.  In James it says God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  We will always be surrounded by those who ignore God, by those who are defiant to God, but that will never block His view from seeing those "walking" with Him.  God made a covenant with Noah (6:18) based on His appreciation for Noah's walking with Him.  In 7:16 we find God "shut him in".  Is that not a picture of a caring God making sure Noah was secure.
      We can never over state the pleasure God gains from our "walking with Him"  We are here today because one single man chose to "walk" with God and "obey" everything God commanded.  Thank you Noah for willing to be different. We wish you were here today with us on our journey, however,  we can JOIN THE JOURNEY and walk with the Lord.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

God, Not Enough!

     The creation story has proven to be a fun one to read.  God seems to be having a good time sitting back at the end of each day, admiring what He has made.  "It was good" seems to be the theme of His thoughts.  To top it off, He cranks creation up a notch and creates man after His own image.  Let's make man different than all the rest of creation so we can have a special relationship with him.  We will give him charge over all that has been created.   For man's pleasure, he made the animals then gave him the task of naming them. What an awesome job.  God said, "Whatever man calls them, that's their name."  I'm an animal lover and think that must have been a blast.  Its cool God pulled man into the unfinished task, relative to the animals.
     What happens next is huge.  It introduces us to some insight about God.  Remember, this leg of the journey we are discussing what we believe about God.  I believe a spot light is placed on the heart of God.  We are able to see something here that will prove to be a pattern that God will repeat over and over throughout history.  It is something you will find Him doing in your life as well, time and time again. 
     If you don't have your Bible in front of you, you're probably saying, "...alright, already.  What did He do next?"  He looked around and determined that man needed a companion, a helper so He created woman.  I don't want to focus on "woman" at this point.  I don't understand them very well and am sure that if I say too much, I will get myself in trouble. 
     What I want to focus on is the thought process that God had.  He looked around and saw that man needed a helper.  How many times in our lives has God looked at us and said, "He needs some help with skin on it."  God seems to always be attentive to those times when we need someone else.  I could go down a long list of people God has placed in my life, most significantly my family (thank God for Marcia), but many others at desperate times.  We need  helpers.  It may be in the form of someone who offers a word of advice or a word of encouragement.  It may be a friend that is honest with us about something we might not see about ourselves.  It may be a partner in a risky adventure God has given.  It may be a comforter after a tragedy or a celebrator after a triumph.  He puts people in our lives when we need them.  This is the first time God saw that man had a need.  He had created everything, pretty much gave it to man, thought it was great, and it was.  However, it was not enough.
     I going to say something here that may sound heretical.  I already want to say bad things about myself for saying what I am about to say.  Rob Bell may have some company after this (except only 20 people will read this instead of 20,000+).   Here goes (gulp!)  God is not enough.  He never intended to be!  In His genius design, He created man with the need for companionship beyond just Him.   We need each other.  As soon as God recognized the need for man to have a helper,  He wasted no time in creating one.  Whenever we think we can travel this journey alone, we will be sadly mistaken and highly disappointed.  From the very beginning of creation man needed someone else, in addition to God.  Let's recognize that too, and travel this challenging road together.  I need you and you need me.  Together we have God right there with us always attentive to what we need.  There is nothing too risky, too dangerous, too difficult, too big  for us when we travel together with Him.  So strap in, hang on and JOIN THE JOURNEY!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Good Said God

     Sorry about the missed post yesterday.  Worked a double shift at the airport and didn't get a chance to hit the blog.  Today's will catch me up.
     Let's return to this creator thing we were talking about in our last blog.  You gotta think WOW!, that was pretty awesome.  A God who can do all He did, regardless of how you count the days, deserves some attention.  If you believe Him to be the creator of the world, you can't easily dismiss Him.
     However, let's shift our attention from the fact He made it all, to the fact He enjoyed doing it.  It was far more than the function of being the creator.  He got a kick out of each stage of the process.  Take time to stop and read chapters one and two before you go on reading this blog.  You will get more out of the blog if you read it.  If not, still continue reading because I want you to get a glimpse of how the "creator' interacted with creation.  It kind of destroys the idea that the Creator just started everything spinning and just sits back, uninvolved, watching it spin.
     If you took the time to read Genesis 1 & 2, you saw seven times in chapter one the phrase, "He saw it was good."  Verse 4, He liked the light; verse 10, He like the view of earth like the Astronauts; verse 12, He liked the veggies and fruits; verse 18, the sun, moon and starts; verse 21, He liked the birdies (like those at the Master's) and the fishies; verse 25, the puppies, kittens, chickies, calves, colts and phillies.  Verse 31,  "I like what I've done."  He gained pleasure every step of the way.  He never intended to create and then step away.  In verses 22 and 28 we see the Creator giving His blessings.  Further indication that He planned on being involved over the long haul.  In 2:9 He even gives attention to the beauty of the trees, making them "pleasant to sight" and "yummy for the tummy".  I know the Creator must love a good salad bar.
     But it is in 2:19-20 and 2:26-28 that gives us every indication that God, the Creator, created man to enjoy what He had created, with Him.  There is a definite "partnership" set up here.  I made it, you take care of it.  Even if we believed in "intelligent design", but failed to see the continued involvement and interaction between the creator and the created, we would miss the most significant part of creation. 
     It is the "relationship" that is the crown jewel of creation.  The relationship between man and the rest of creation, but more importantly, the relationship between man and God.  As long as there is an earth, there will be relationship between man and God.  He intends to be interactive with us and passionately wants to enjoy us, His creation, every step of the way. 
     What an incredible thought.  We can say, "Hey, you know the guy that made all this stuff, he put me in charge of it.  Yeah, we work together every day!"  What a journey.  To live every day as a partner of the Creator.  Who knows what He might create next.  Maybe something out of your life.  It is His nature to create.  If you think He was done in Genesis, you are nuts.  Oops!  Didn't mean to call you nuts.  Yes I did!  If you don't see that You and I are His best opportunities to flex His creative muscles, you fail to see His true nature.  He will finish the work He has begun in us.  That's why journeying with Him is exciting.  Come on and JOIN THE JOURNEY!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Big bang or Big?

     As we continue our journey together, the road we are traveling down for now is, What Do We Believe About God?  We could go in a million different directions with that question and I'm not sure how long we will travel down this road.  But one thing for sure; I get excited contemplating specific things I believe about God.  We will be building the framework that will determine how we respond to God.  My good friend Guy Andrews pointed out the four stakes the Wesleyans use for their discovery of God: 1. Scripture, 2. Reason, 3. Personal experience and 4. Church history.  That covers a broad spectrum of input and certainly gives us plenty to ponder concerning who God is.  Scripture being the GPS, the measuring stick, the balance, the magnifying glass by which we look at all the evidence.  If it does not measure up to the what the Scriptures teach us about God, then it is not reliable information to build a belief about God on. 
     So let's start with some things we know about God, based on Biblical teachings.  Genesis is a great place to start, "In the beginning God created?  Wow, that is a mouthful that explodes with meaning the moment you hear it.  Say it to yourself, listen, just let it soak in.  "IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED".  If there is smoke coming out of your ears, don't worry.  There is more in that phrase than our human minds can handle.  Before there was anything, there was God.  Everything that followed "before there was anything" comes from God, because He was all that was there, "before there was anything".  I think I hear brain sizzle.  He made it all.  You know what He made it out of.  NOTHING!  (more sizzle and some smoke)  "Before there was anything", He was and out of nothing He made everything.  Ouch!  My head hurts. 
     When I let that really soak in, I am in awe of God.  Right off the bat, I try to crawl into His thinking and wonder what was going on in His mind and heart when He began to put it all together.  Darkness to light, water to dry land, quietness to the sounds of life.  All in a matter of days, simply spoken into existence.  That boggles my mind, strips my mental gears.  Not only did He have to make it, but He had to decide how everything related to the other.  So not only was there all this new stuff, but there was order to it.  The moon, the stars, the sun, the planets and life.  It all fit together.  The sun was not too close or too far away.  The moon played with the waves and man splashed around in them.  This is just too cool.
    When you really believe that God did all that, then it is easy to understand why evolutionist have a different explanation.  One must respond to God if they believe He is as Genesis One says.  However, if you don't want to be accountable to a "creator" then simply eliminate Him with another explanation.  How bout a "big bang", then puff a single cell, then you.  "Oh, you look just like your amoeba.  (who care how you spell it?)  A chip off the ole cell."
    That is why Paul hammers home the point that all creation is "through", "by" and "for" Christ.  When we believe that, we must respond.  What is your belief in the creation story?  Big bang or Big God?  It makes all the difference in the world.  Your place in all this is either a shake down or a set up.  I think, He set us up for the most incredible journey imaginable.  JOIN THE JOURNEY!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Time Lines Mess Up Perspective!

     Art Linkletter used to host one of my favorite TV shows.  He had a segment on the show when he would ask school children questions that garnered some of the funniest and interesting answers.  I would sit there, watching the segment, laughing my head off.  He would ask little boys questions about girlfriends and vice versa.  Sometimes their unrehearsed answers would amaze you at the raw understanding of the subject matter.  "Out of the mouths of babes" come some profound statements.  One particular episode Mr. Linkletter asked the kids, "What does God look like?"  Everything from a big man with a long white beard, a strong man with lightning bolts in his hands,  a strong man holding the world over his head (Atlas), a man with children always hanging all over him (obviously a Sunday School product), a man with a big stick ready to hit the bad guys, a man with a long beard with his hands out wanting to hug you and the list went on and on.  A lot of different ideas, some with  some degree of accuracy, but most pretty far off from the true nature of God.
     Picture yourself sitting in one of those desks on Art's show and he asked the same question of you.  What would you answer?  What does God look like to you?  How do we begin to answer that question?  Does the way you live your life match what you say God looks like?  Craig Groeschel's book, The Christian Athiest, addresses the fact that a lot of us have correct answers about God, but live as though those answers aren't really what we believe.
     Don't you think we all fall into that category to some degree or another.  I can preach a heck of a sermon on faith, but the truth is  I am struggling with believing God is ever going to get me out of this financial downward spiral I have been experiencing.  I can teach about God's faithfulness in response to a "cheerful giver", but wonder if God sees my giving, because I see such little return.  Life has a way of keeping tension between belief and experience.  Which is the most important?  Does experience trump doctrine or belief?  That is a good, honest question.
     Let me give one word of caution about something that causes us to shift from trusting what we believe about God to defining Him by our personal experience.  We must remember that God's timing is not our timing.  We have a tendency to draw a "time line" in the sand and say, "if God doesn't answer by such and such a time, then we assume He is not going to answer.  We then chock one up to the unfaithfulness of God and our belief in God drops a notch or two.  That is almost like giving God an ultimatum.  "You answer by then or we are going to write you off."  We may not say that, but in our mind His reputation is certainly tarnished.  Two of three things develop out of this kind of approach; putting a time line on God's answers. 
  • There is a tendency for that time line to shrink with each different circumstance, until we develop a vending machine mentality.  I inserted the prayer, where's my answer?
  • We develop a demanding attitude toward God, as though He owes us, after all, He is lucky to have us as believers.  This destroys any intimacy we have developed with God and causes us to view Him as our supply only.  
  • Instead of looking for the answers to come, we start looking for the deadline to come so we can say, "I knew He would come through for me!"  Time lines foster doubt instead of building faith.
  • We simply become impatient with God, with faith and hope.
     These are all very subtle tendencies, but if we are honest, most of us have had these thoughts from time to time.  One valuable thing to do is go to the Scriptures and read the stories of Abraham and Sarah, Noah, Moses, Caleb, Joseph, Job and look at their time lines.  God wasn't so "hoppy do" with them, yet He was faithful to His promises.   It will give you a better perspective than in the middle of the battle.  Remember: Time lines cause a distorted view of God and if you are not careful, your "God" will change instead of your character and your circumstances.
     This is a tough journey we are on.  We must have a firm belief in an unchanging God that is not subject to our time frame.  Let's help each keep things in perspective.  Let's JOIN THE JOURNEY together.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Q & A About God

         I want to thank you for being a part of this journey with me.  Hard to imagine being on it by myself.  God has given me a wonderful wife and daughter who love God and journey with me daily.  We have faced some tremendous challenges this past year, finances probably the biggest one.  Through this difficult season, Cassidy and Marcia never lost their laughter, never lost hope, always pushing forward.  We face our challenges in life with what we know about God.  Those beliefs are the moorings that guide and sustain us.  It is not just the beliefs, but the God that is attached to those beliefs.  Head knowledge alone leaves us frustrated if it does not connect us to the God it describes.  That connection turns head knowledge into heart knowledge.  Heart knowledge is a "living" belief that combines what we have learned about God in the Bible and in our everyday life.  We must be careful to interpret life based on what we know about God, not define God based on our life's experiences.  If we do the latter, we will have an ever changing God, totally unreliable.  In other words, our theology should dictate our lives, not our lives dictating our theology.
       The above comments bring us to the second leg of our journey, What We Believe About God: Good and Bad.  This part of the journey will really invite your comments.  We all share the same Bible for our theology, but none of us share the same life experiences.  We all have something to bring to the discussion.  We all can learn from each other. You are to be brutally honest in your comments.  Hard questions and even hard conclusions don't scare God off.  He knows when life's struggles are hard to understand,  we  have doubts, questions, fears and even at times want to chunk it all.  We never have to pretend with God.  Actually it is a futile exercise anyway, He knows all.  I welcome all comments and would love for there to be more discussion on this leg of the journey than the last.
        You're on the entrance ramp, hit the gas, hang on and let's go.   Let's discuss what we believe about God.  I want you to know on the front end; this leg of the journey is a setup for the next leg..  Here's what I mean.  We spent 30 days (blogs) talking about how God loves us.  If we don't get the fact that He is passionate about us settled deep down inside, then nothing else will matter.  On the other hand, if we know that we have never been loved like He loves us and that love is not based on anything you have or have not done, then you have a basis for trust.  You couple the assurance of His love with an understanding that He has a role for you in His "great plan" and  that His capabilities are totally unlimited then you have to respond to that.  You can't just let that kind of information leave you unchallenged and unchanged.  If God loves me, wants me to be a part of what He is up to and He has no limits, then we have the recipe for an incredible journey that will be more than you and I could ever imagine.
         In my mind, the first question is answered and settled.  GOD LOVES YOU!    He is passionately pursuing you all the time.  So if we are convinced that this God loves us then how we respond to that will be determined by what else we believe about Him.  Here are some questions we will need to answer on this leg of the journey.  Be thinking about these kinds of questions and be ready to bring your thoughts into the discussion.  This will be fun and powerful.
  1. Does He really want to be involved in our everyday life?
  2. Does He really want to use me?
  3. Is it really possible to communicate with God?
  4. Why would He depend on me to help carry out His "big dream"?
  5. Is He really all powerful and unlimited?
  6. Does He really know everything?
  7. Does He still perform miracles?
  8. Can I trust Him with my life?
  9. Does He really forgive my past?
  10. Does He really provide for my needs? 
We won't be limited to the above questions.  They are just examples.   Wouldn't you agree, if we can answer these question, we are faced with a need to respond with our lives.   Well, that's the leg we are on and we want you  to JOIN THE JOURNEY!