Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Speaking of Jesus...What Might Your Words Ignite?

Alice Ho recently shared this powerful video with me. She and her family saw it at the Joni and Friends camp they served at several weeks ago.

Just imagine the ripples that could fan out from throwing one pebble of gospel grace and truth today?! One day we'll know.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Lesson From Nerves On Race Day

Not too long ago, I ran a local 10K race. I run to try to keep in shape. I wish I loved it. I don't. So, signing up for a race provides a little added incentive to stay motivated and push myself.

The race was set for 9am on a Saturday morning. On Friday night, and even more so on Sat morning, I had some butterflies. I was a little nervous. "What is this for?! This race means nothing. There's nothing at stake. I have nothing on the line pride. Ugh."

You see, I want to be impressive. I want to be a success and not a failure. If I perform well, then I will be esteemed -- in the eyes of those I signed up with (a couple of Bethel guys), in the eyes of other runners ("Nice time!" or "That's respectable."), even in the eyes of my kids ("Way to go, Dad!").

If I perform poorly, then I will be condemned to the outer darkness of ho-hum hack jogger-dom. I will draw no attention whatsoever to myself. I will not be accepted in the circle of decent runners. My kids might even say something like, “That’s okay, Dad. We love you anyway!”

So, if I perform well, THEN I WILL REALLY LIVE! If I perform poorly, I’ll perish -- at least my pride and reputation will be dealt a death blow.

So, there I was. Nervous. I’ve invested a bit of me in this running bit and now I want to be vindicated. I want to be pleasing in the eyes of others, not a failure or a novice. I offer up my body and hope my sacrifice will be acceptable.

As I was running along in the race, I was thinking about all of this. I was thankful for the window to my heart that this little race afforded. It's so easy for my identity to be wrapped up in/hung up on the wrong things. I need to be reminded of the gospel and believe it everyday. I am spring-loaded to justify my existence by my own performance.

Remember the old movie, "Chariots of Fire"? In it, the Olympic runner Harold Abrahams is set in stark contrast to his main competitor, Eric Liddell. Abrahams' identity was bound up in his success or failure as a runner. He said (of the 100m race),
I will raise my eyes and look down that corridor; 4 feet wide, with 10 lonely seconds to justify my whole existence. But will I?
Liddell, who was a committed Christian, whose identity was secure in the love of Jesus Christ, said,
God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.
If we are in Christ, we have nothing to prove. We don't have to justify ourselves. We don't have to impress the "judges" all around us and win their approval and accolades. We have One Judge. And united to Christ by faith we already have the verdict spoken over our lives. "There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." Because we are in Christ, the Father's approval of him is ours, "This is my beloved son/daughter, in whom I am well-pleased."

So, we do not run frantically in order to gain God's approval. We need not run slavishly to gain the approval of others. We run confidently by faith because we already have God's approval. We thus run free from the yo-yo effect of being ruled by our approval ratings.

When we remember the gospel, we are steadied when we fail and guarded when we succeed. We are not utterly crushed with shame and disappointment when we fail. Failure cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ. We do not think "think we're someone" when we succeed. Success cannot merit us the love of God in Christ. At the core, who we are is secure only in Christ. 

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
So, let's run the race that's set before us, not seeking to justify our existence, but enjoying the warmth of God's pleasure that is ours because of Jesus. 

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore...let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Michelle Osbourn's Sermon Notes Rap

When listening to sermons, some people benefit from copious note taking. Others are helped by the pastors who put outlines together with places to fill in the blanks. Still others (I'm in this category), prefer to listen and take very few notes. To each his own. Speaking of, over the past few years, we've had some artists in our church who take notes by means of drawing pictures. Their art is a way to process what they are hearing. Some of what they've showed me has been really impressive and insightful.

During the "community discussion" on 6/29/14, Michelle Osbourn took the art of note taking in a new direction. Somehow while listening to the message on "Gospel Mission" from Matthew 28:18-20, she took notes by writing a poem/rap. I was not alone in being encouraged by it, so I asked Michelle if I could reproduce it here.

Millions of lost people
really what can I do?
Well, maybe my life
can reach just a few

Like fish on the shore
withered and dying
people are lost
the truth they’re denying

I’ll throw them in the water
to save their life
they’ll rest in salvation
will this suffice?

Their gills fill with water
they accept the truth
but what will happen
if they do not move?

The sharks of life come
the fish lie as easy prey
Unmoving they sit
torn apart by the hardships of the day

Maybe I can teach them
how to swim with me
teach them the skills & tools
to fight the enemy

So more than get people
to life eternal
keep them from hell
from life infernal

I’ll teach them the way
the way to serve Christ
They’ll be able to stand strong
They’ll be able to fight

I go alone
this a misconception
with the voice of Christ
I can share redemption

But who will help me
clear the shore?
I’ll gather my brothers, my sisters
we can reach many more

But here’s what’s more
those people I teach
who knows the number
of people they will reach

So more than throw fish
into the sea
let’s teach them to go
disciples they’ll be

June 29 2014

Sunday, July 27, 2014

LT on Preaching to Yourself

Several weeks ago during our "community discussion time," (Coach) Lonnie Teasley shared how he fights for his faith by writing raps. He usually does so on the themes of the gospel, to help keep himself focused on Christ. The one he shared with us on 6/15/14 was really encouraging. If you missed it, or if you want to benefit from it again, here it is:

He is the maker of lights
Breather of life
Giver of sight
He is perfectly right
Can you start to feel man's greatest plight?

All are accountable to God the Creator
We're dead in our sinful nature
We've all turned away and made an enemy with our Maker
God's judgment, all will see sooner or later
And we can never try to make ourselves worthy
Our sin is too dirty
Undeserving of the Holy God of mercy

God is merciful, God is gracious
To his creation he shows his patience
Abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness
But He won’t clear the guilty
He's the God of justice
He will get his due penalty

But what's this?
Jesus the Christ
The One of One
The God-man, God-Son
The Greater than
The One who sits at the right hand
The founder of salvation
For my sins, he made purification
Perfectly obedient to the Father
He suffered for many tribes and nations

For those who repent and believe
He was crucified so we could be clean
Through the blood of Christ
No blemish
Makes us right
In a Holy God's sight

He came to save the poor/rich, the saint/sinner
The loser/winner
The gay/straight
The real/fake
The blacks/whites
The wrong/the right
The addicted
The inflicted
His grace
Reaches every place
Draw near, seek His face

I know he's able to save
I experienced that amazing
Supernatural saving
Totally undeserving
Saved my soul from the flaming
Can't stop raving
God praising

If you share in the glorious calling
Fix your eyes on the Son, guard against drifting or falling
Hold firm to the calling
By the truth that has freed us
Rely on the Son who feeds us
Know that the rain and storms help to kneed us
Into the likeness of the Holy Jesus
Melchizedek foreshadowed One better
Praise to our Priest forever