King of kings

King

Yesterday, I started a series through Psalms and my plan is to go through the entire book, 1 Psalm at a time. You can read Psalm 2 here. In this Psalm, God is identified as the King of kings. He is the Ruler of the universe and has all authority in heaven and on earth. People are depicted in the psalm as trying to thwart God’s reign, but their efforts are a complete exercise in futility.

Because of the way our government is set up in America, I don’t know that we really relate to the idea of God as the King. Most of us are not huge fans of authority. We don’t like being told what to do. Even the way this country was founded probably contributes to this. We like to believe that we are in complete control of our own destiny. Nothing and no one can stand in our way and if we work hard enough, we can achieve anything. I’m not trying to say I’m not thankful for this country. I love the idea of manifest destiny and there is a lot about our cultural ideals that I really love. That being said, I do think we are at a disadvantage when it comes to the notion of authority.

It’s not terribly difficult for us to cozy up to the notion that God loves us and wants what’s best for us. We love sermons that talk about God wanting us to realize our full potential. They play into a lot of what we believe it means to be an American. Things tend to get a little uncomfortable however, when we start hearing about God having commands that pertain to us. When we hear that God isn’t just suggesting a financial plan, but rather commanding us to steward our finances in a certain way, we get a little on edge. When we hear that God’s word isn’t condoning our choices related to our sexuality, we’re not certain we’re on board. When we hear that God’s attitude towards gossip isn’t as lenient as we’d prefer, something rises up in us….”Who does God think he is? No one is going to control me. This is my life and I’ll do what I want with it. If God can help me in my plans, that’d be awesome….but if he doesn’t, I’ll get it done on my own.”

Whether we like it or not, the universe is not run by a democracy. The style of government we live under is a monarchy. There is an undisputed, completely sovereign and absolutely powerful King that sits on the only throne that really matters. This ruler is not some disinterested figurehead that just lets things play out the way they will. The Bible actually depicts God as being passionately involved in human affairs. He isn’t just cool with whatever, but has absolute definitions as to what is right and wrong.

It doesn’t really matter if we’re uncomfortable with this. We’re not being asked to follow him. His commands are not just suggestions that if followed, will lead to a better life. God does have our best interest at heart, but let’s not forget that he is not merely our big buddy up in the clouds. We live and breathe under the rule of a powerful King and we would all do well to learn what it means to submit to him at the core of who we are. Life will continue to not work for us until we learn this paradigm-altering lesson.

Delight in the Lord

psalm 1

I’m not sure how long it will go, but I’m  going to start working through the Psalms. They are incredibly passionate expressions of worship to God and I’ve always been intrigued by them. I’m going to start taking 1 each day and reflecting on it. I would love to hear your insights and feedback along the way. Psalm 1 says…

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

What kind of person “delights in the law of the Lord?” It’s one thing to dutifully follow God because you believe it’s the right thing to do, but to delight in him? To derive your soul’s satisfaction and pleasure primarily from God? What in the world does that look like?

This is where Christianity cannot merely be an intellectual ascent to a list of beliefs. That’s not something that can bring delight. In order for us to enjoy God and to find our primary satisfaction from following him, it has to be a relationship. It has to be a supernatural proposal whereby an ordinary person can somehow connect to an invisible and powerful God in meaningful ways. Dry religion simply cannot deliver on this….it has to be more than that.

Would you say you delight in God? Have you experienced more religion or relationship?

Utilizing the heavy artillery

artillery

One of the things that I’ve become even more aware of in my new role as campus pastor, is the deep need that people have for Jesus. When there are thousands of people around you, it’s easy to assume the best. You assume that if people are smiling, they are probably doing OK. My assumption was always that unless you told me differently, you were just fine.

Being in a smaller church environment, I’ve learned that I made a lot of false assumptions. Some people are doing fine, but peoples’ stories are complicated and deep. It’s generally not a good idea to categorize people. You really have to listen deeply to begin to understand where someone else is coming from.

I’ve learned that even with all of the church programs, sermons and worship services, people still struggle. We need something deeper…something more powerful…something supernatural. We need the mighty hand of God to move in our lives in ways that are beyond our limited ability. We need Jesus.

I’ve learned that one of the most powerful and important things that I can do for others is pray for them. Up until recently, this was a major struggle. Even if I told you that I would pray for you, it’s hard to remember a ton of prayer requests. I recently downloaded an app on my iPhone called Prayer Notebook and it has been tremendously helpful. It has allowed me to list, categorize and organize the prayer requests of those around me so that I can consistently pray for them…and I have.

This is the heavy artillery that the body of Christ must learn to utilize….prayer. Here are a few scriptures that confirm this…

James 5:16 “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

1 John 5:14-15This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The list goes on and on. When we go throughout our days, we will encounter challenging situations that require small arms fire. By that, I mean that we will need to utilize wisdom and godly decision-making, and there is always room to grow there. We must first however, learn to lay down the heavy artillery of prayer. God will respond to our prayers with his power and might and accomplish in and through us what we cannot do on our own.

Behind the words…

behind words

Yesterday I got to deliver a spoken word at Seacoast’s Mount Pleasant Campus and I had a blast. The poem that I shared is one that I wrote around 6 years ago, but it still has a ton of relevance for me. Here are the words…

The task seems too great to relate or consider….the time has come to pull the trigger….yet we find ourselves standing in front of insurmountable odds and giants of the unseen world…..we feel hurled into a fight we know nothing about….now is the time of desperation when counting on God is no longer an option it’s a must…trust cannot be manufactured….it must be born and implanted…Throughout time a battle has existed and persisted…..the casualties are numerous and cannot be listed or counted but they shall not be discounted… we’ve been endued with supernatural ability and power to capitalize on this our final hour….our moment has arrived and it is divine….the moment is here and its yours and its mine….what direction shall we take….how shall we proceed…..to begin with we must humbly concede that our understanding cannot contain or maintain the scope of the task….we must not mask our frailty or weakness for it will be used as strength in the eternal hands that carry out the eternal plans that crash into human existence from a dimension unseen…..the eternal dream proceeds and arrives……it dives into our imagination from the source of all life….dear Savior let it convict us like a knife…let it rip out our pain and strife….let it bring revolution and victory to the hearts of your precious children…sons and daughters of grace….let it reconcile creation to behold your face that all may know the secret place where you dwell….our hearts swell with praise as our hands raise to bring you fame and renown….our crown we lower and cast at your feet….again and again we repeat our thanks….our story of your glory!

One of the reasons I love this poem is because it accurately reflects how I feel on most days….overwhelmed. There is a lot that I feel called to and yet, I’m acutely aware of the fact that apart from God’s grace, it just ain’t gonna happen. That’s where the poem starts…”we feel hurled into a fight that we know nothing about.” What I love about the Christian life however, is that it doesn’t end there. That’s where the poem goes in the second half. “The eternal dream proceeds and arrives….it dives into our imagination from the source of all life.” It’s God’s dream…it’s his power…it’s his vision that compels us to fight. A Christian is someone who should be living in levels of increasing victory and yet, have in their spirit a deeply embedded humility as they realize that it is not their power that is carrying them.

One of my favorite quotes is by Watchman Nee and he said, “Christianity is not the removal of weakness, nor is it merely the manifestation of divine power. It is the manifestation of divine power in the presence of human weakness.” That pretty much sums it up. I hope that encourages you this week. Here’s the video of the spoken word I delivered yesterday. Have a great week!

When all is said and done….

said and done

In Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus told some of the religious leaders of his day what the 2 most important commands are….love God and love people. You can read his actually words by following the link above, but that’s the basic idea.

I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t want to waste the limited amount of time I have. There are a lot of things that we can invest our time in on this earth, and not all of them are worthwhile investments.

I’m thankful that I’ve gotten to do a lot more weddings than funerals. I’ve only done a few funerals, but I’ve probably performed over 40 weddings. I do remember one funeral though, that really stuck with me.

I was the pastor on call with Seacoast and I got a call that I needed to go visit a guy in ICU. He was a relatively younger guy, but he had drank so much that his body was giving out. I visited the family and prayed for them. I found out not long after that the man had passed away.

They wanted me to do the funeral so a day or so later I met with some of the man’s family to help plan the service. Because I didn’t know this gentleman, I wanted to find out some stuff about him. I wanted to know what funny or pleasant stories I could tell in the service to help people remember the good times. I was sitting in a room with his sister and daughters. I asked them to tell me the good times. I’ll never forget what one of his daughters said to me. She looked at me and said, “Honestly, there really wasn’t that much good about him.” Whoa…….how tragic.

Apparently, this guy had drank and lived for himself for so many years that he didn’t spend much time investing in the things that mattered. I remember sitting in the office that night writing the last formal words that would be said about this man. I found myself feeling a combination of sadness and anger.

I found myself wanting to talk to this guy. I wanted to say, “Dude, it didn’t have to be this way. Why did you live your entire life investing in the wind? You didn’t have to go out like this. Now some guy, that you don’t know, is going to try to pretty up the ugly truth about you. Why did you waste the time you had? Why didn’t you invest wisely?”

Now, I know I don’t know the full details of this man’s story. There may be a lot of mitigating factors as to why this guy lived the way he did. I don’t know about his childhood or why he made the choices he made. I do know however, that the day after her father died, his very own daughter couldn’t think of a few nice words to say about her dad.

Something about this experience will always stay etched in my memory. I don’t want to be like this man. Jesus told us the 2 things that we can invest in that will transcend our own limited existence….loving God and loving people. We breathe in the love that God has for us and then breathe it out to God and to the world around us. I want to spend my life investing in my relationship with God and pouring out my time, talent and treasure into a hurting world.

Some day, each of our clocks will run out. The last grain of sand will fall to the bottom of the hourglass. Someone like me will sit with your family and ask them about you. Words will be spoken, people will try to remember the good times and then they will do their best to carry on. Each of us will then give an account of our lives to God and Jesus has already given us insight as to the nature of that conversation. Questions like these will be what matters….

Did you give your life to Jesus Christ?

Did you invest your time in loving God and loving people?

Did you care for the broken?

Did you surrender to God’s will?

Did you follow the Holy Spirit’s leadership?

Did you pour out your life for others?

Are you investing in the accounts that matter the most or are you investing in the wind? That man had invested in the wind and not a lot could be said about him when the smoke settled…we all get to decide each and everyday what will be said about us. Invest wisely…

Living and active

two edged sword

So this morning I was doing my normal Bible reading and I came across this passage….

Romans 12:9-18 says,

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction,faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

I love these verses. There was a time in my spiritual journey when I mistook knowledge for application. I figured that if I could quote a verse, then I must be living it out or something. I’ve since found that not to be the case. In fact, I’m confident that my life would be significantly different if I simply applied the truths that I already know.

The Bible is a powerful book. If we simply took this one passage above and lived it out, each of our lives would be dramatically different. Think about it…

  • If our love was sincere all the time, our relationships would be so much better.
  • If we hated evil and clung to what is good, our lives would be infinitely richer.
  • If we honored others above ourselves, so much relational strife would cease. Marriages would grow and the divorce rate would drop dramatically.
  • If we were faithful in prayer, imagine what God might use all our prayers to accomplish…not only in us, but in the lives of others.
  • If we rejoiced with those who rejoice and mourned with those who mourn, imagine the sense of unity that would be created all around us.
  • If we chose to not be proud, but embraced those who are in a low position, imagine the difference it would make in our churches. The whole culture would change.
  • If we decided that as far as it depends on us, we are going to live at peace with everyone, imagine the relational discord and gossip that would die out.

I didn’t even use all the verses, but I think you get the point. Scripture is powerful and there is a lot at stake. If only we would just obey it….if only we would just obey God.

Just breathe

just breathe

It’s so simple. We do it all day, every day. We don’t even think about it. And yet behind the simple practice of breathing, a great principle can be found.

In the same way that the air we need to survive is invisible, so is the God we need to survive. Really all God wants us to do is breathe in and breathe out. He wants us to breathe in his love, acceptance, power and grace. He then wants us to give it away to others.

If all we ever do is breathe in, something is wrong. If we always find ourselves in church services, Bible studies and in other Christian environments, but never in contexts where we’re giving it away to those who need it, there is a problem. Conversely, if we are always trying to give stuff away and serve others, but never taking in anything for ourselves, there is a problem there too.

Breathe in, breathe out. God has so much for us and there is a rhythm that he wants us to live by. God wants us to get our needs met by him. We each have needs. Needs for acceptance, encouragement, value, significance and adventure. It’s not wrong to derive some of these things from the world around us, but God wants to be our primary source for our primary needs. Sin is actually looking to illegitimate sources to get legitimate needs met. For example, God wants us to experience peace and serenity. There is nothing wrong with needing and wanting that. But when someone turns to alcohol for that instead of God, we have sin.

On the other side of the coin, God wants us to give to the world. He wants our lives to have an impact. He wants us involved in high impact ministries that make a huge difference in the lives of others. He wants us to breathe out. The problem comes when that’s all we do. For some reason, many of us have believed the lie that it’s selfish to take care of ourselves. We think that unless we are giving, serving, volunteering or working, we are being lazy. This is not the case. It’s interesting to note that in the order of creation in the book of Genesis, the Sabbath takes place the very next day after man is created. God created us to breathe in before we breathe out. God created us to rest before we work. He wants our work to come as an overflow of his presence and grace in our lives.

Breathe in, breathe out. Which do you struggle with most? Breathing in or breathing out? Here are some ways that I breathe in….prayer, reading, time with friends, taking a walk, exercising, playing golf, having a cup of coffee and just being still. Here are some ways that I breathe out…..teaching, leading a small group, writing, serving my family and my church, going on mission trips and other ways as well.

Breathe in, breathe out. That’s the rhythm that we were created to live by. How are you doing with it?

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