On Sunday I experienced the beauty of God’s church, and I am overwhelmed. It began with a simple ceremony that has been passed down through the generations – the dedicating of our fourth child. As I stood with my husband and children alongside our beloved pastor I witnessed the church – our church, God’s church – standing in unison with us, committing to come alongside us in this journey called parenting. Ten years ago when we first entered the doors of this little church on Broadway Avenue these people who stood before us were strangers. But they welcomed us, prayed for us, challenged us, cried with us, laughed with us, helped us in times of need, showed Christ to us, and now, they are family. On Sunday they made that commitment public and for those new to our congregation it might have seemed like a new promise made. My family knows however that it was rather a powerful confirmation of all they had done for us already.
Shortly after the service God showed me again the beautiful impact of His power flowing through His people as I sat with my extended family over lunch. As I took a moment to survey the scene – no less than twenty-two people sharing their life experiences – I realized that every single adult and most of the children in that space had surrendered their lives to the Lord. They were teachers and counselors, realtors and shipping experts, nurses and customer service extraordinaires and children who had yet to know how they would impact the world. All of them, according to their own gifting, were committed to blessing a broken world with the love and power of Jesus. My church had become family and by the grace of God, my family had become the church.
And this, as our associate pastor pointedly expressed in his message on Sunday, is what differentiates God’s church from those following another religion. Our calling is not for ourselves, but for the benefit of others. Jesus in us must not stay in us. The Bible says we are clay pots, not for storage, but to be poured out. Those of us who follow Jesus call this pouring out “blessing” others. The world calls it something else – radical, incomprehensible and even foolish at times. But to those who first experience it, it truly is living water.
When Jesus met the woman at the well, he spoke of this living water, “Jesus answered… ‘whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (John 4:13) Jesus references this again in the seventh chapter of John, “Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’” (John 7:37-38) I have read these passages before but today I notice something new. The first passage speaks of receiving the living water of grace that wells up within us giving us eternal life. The second passage then speaks of this living water flowing outside ourselves from within.
God’s grace, His love, His selflessness, His righteousness, is to flow out of us! His living water is not meant solely for those who have surrendered to His grace. It is meant for an entire world who has yet to know Him. Not only does God bless those in His church, but He calls us to take that blessing and give it generously to those outside our church walls. My prayer is that we will heed this calling. That we will demonstrate it to our children, that we will practice it in our church and that we will embolden each other to dare to serve a broken world that so desperately needs it even though it doesn’t know it yet. Like a mountain stream bursting through after a long winter, may Christ’s living water flow from us -beautiful, powerful and life giving!Read More
During my days at Denver Seminary I owned a painting company. I spent a lot of time on ladders, especially in the summers. One thing I learned early on was that before I started to climb, I had to make sure the ladder was on solid footing. Footing that was just “OK” made for strong feelings of insecurity 25′ in the air! But solid footings allow for security and peace of mind.
These days I don’t climb as many ladders – even though I still take on a painting project now and then. But I have seen the importance of the “solid footing” principle over and over. As people face a decision that has the potential to change the course of their lives they come back to their “solid footings.” They come back to things like prayer, scripture and the counsel of others, plus their own sense of inner peace and make sure those are solid. Then, with these things on solid footing, they head up their ladder of decision.
I have seen this played out over and over as well at the bedside of a dying saint. When the time of departure is near the family returns to the “solid footings.” They read the 23rd Psalm, they hold hands and say the Lord’s Prayer together, they hug one another and give their loved one a kiss goodbye. They leave that bedside with an assurance their loved one is in the hands of God and they are too.
Our sermon series on the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 is just starting. It’s a good time to check out your own footings. Are they solid? Are you making sure you are grounding your life on principles that won’t slip out from under you? Our AWANA program is wrapping up for the year. The goal of the club has been to introduce boys and girls to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to memorize God’s Word. These are the things “solid footings” are made of. All through our lives we need to check our footings. All it takes is one time of thinking, “Oh, it looks OK,” for the consequences to be no fun!
Before you look up and dream about what the future holds, let’s look down. Is our life set firmly on the principles and teachings of God?Read More
This past Sunday Pastor Mark talked about the upside-down kingdom. This is the kingdom of Jesus’ rule. It’s present, it’s powerful and will be complete when Jesus returns. This kingdom is upside-down because it changes how we look at everything. When I say everything, I mean EV….ER….Y….THING.
Included in the everything are trials. Our world and our fallen hearts lead us into believing that trials, are things to be avoided. Trials—or suffering—are not exactly what we go looking for in our daily lives. But trials, although not avoidable, do produce something.
When I think of someone who trains for a marathon I think, “man…they’re crazy.” For someone to willingly put their bodies through such torture, is symptomatic of psychosis. Yet we all do it. For all of us who desire something, we willingly welcome a level of suffering. For example, if a married couple wants to have children they are willingly putting themselves in a position to suffer in finances, free time, and quite. Yet those things suffered are always trivial in light of what is good.
It’s different, however, if the suffering isn’t self inflicted. When trials come, and we have no control over them, the suffering intensifies.
James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you faces trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
This is what Pastor Mark means by the upside-down kingdom. Suffering was not lost upon the early church, and this is what the apostle James was addressing. He was a pastor and he knew that suffering—of all kinds—have meaning. They produce something. They produce perseverance. This kind of perseverance is different than the endurance of a marathon runner. This perseverance is not about what you are able to endure, but about who will bring you through it. The building of faith, by definition, is that we become more—not less—dependent upon God. This is why James says, “consider it pure joy”. Joy comes from depending on God. And when we go through a trial we have no choice but to put our full dependence on him.Read More
“Our thoughts and prayers are with them”. How many times have we heard that, perhaps on the news or social media in response to some unfortunate incident. It always makes me suspicious to hear that for I wonder just how much value is yielded by “thoughts” and how much time is actually invested in “prayer”.
I don’t really, fully understand prayer but I’ve learned some things over the years I’d like to share.
* I’ve heard many people say that “I’m not very good at Prayer.” As a consequence, they don’t.
We don’t need to be good at prayer; there is no “good at prayer”. God does not sit on the throne evaluating the eloquence of one offered prayer over another as criteria for addressing those prayers. A simple child’s utterance of “Dear Jesus, please help daddy find a job” is as precious to God as the most flowery invocation delivered from the pulpit.
Likewise, we don’t need to pray to inform God as to what is going on, he already knows.
* The popular theological conundrum is “If God already knows what’s going to happen, why do we need to pray about those things?”
Prayer can change or accomplish things that otherwise might not. I believe, and will testify that prayer can affect healing. I believe that we can intercede on the behalf of others and affect the course of expected events or perhaps better said, we can. Mostly I believe the verse “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” Philippians 4:6. Are we “convincing” God toward our chosen outcome? Of course not but are we contributing to God’s plan for those events and that outcome by our prayers? I think we are and I for one do not want to miss an opportunity to contribute toward God’s plan.
Additionally, what is the physiological effect on a sick person to know that multitudes of the righteous are praying for their recovery? Can medicine account for everything? What is the psychological effect on a job seeker entering an interview if they know that prayers are being offered on their behalf? Might their confidence reveal itself to the interviewers?
We need to pray for each other, and remind each other that we are praying for them. It’s very important to understand this: we are inviting God into our lives when we pray, we are inviting God into the lives of others when we pray on their behalf.
Prayer binds us to our God through fellowship with him; he allows us to participate in his kingdom plan. Prayer binds us to our God through our development as faithful and useful servants to his kingdom’s plan. Prayer binds us to our God by causing us to acknowledge our dependency on him and our role in his kingdom’s plan.
However you want to do it, prayer affects things. Whether you are an accomplished orator or more like the simple “God, please help” when you’re alone with him. Whether you write your prayer on paper and keep it in a book. Whether you pray in the spirit, or on your knees beside your bed. The important thing is to just pray. Pray with the expectation and with the confidence that God hears and understands your prayer and that your prayers mean something to him.Read More
I can count on one finger the number of times I have thrown a book against a wall. It was an unusually quiet day so I had sat down to start a new read I had borrowed from a dear friend. Not necessarily a “diet” book, the author’s comments on the back cover explained her intention to get to the bottom of why diets typically fail. She had also promised to attack the issue from a faith perspective. Intrigued, I dove right in.
About the second chapter the author asked a very poignant question, “Is it possible that we love and rely on food more than we love and rely on God?”1 What?! Preposterous! Of course food isn’t more important to me than God! What a nut job! BAM! (Cue book sliding down the wall.)
But for the next year the question nagged me. After all, the author was someone I had heard speak and I knew wasn’t a nut job. I knew she was a strong woman of God and He had used her to show His love and glory to thousands. So recently when I spotted the book in a pile on that same dear friend’s nightstand, I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me to give it another go.
Begrudgingly, I sat down that evening for a second time to read what had so angered me the year before. This time I couldn’t put it down. The Holy Spirit convicted me that anything we go to for comfort, security, relief or to pick ourselves up that isn’t God will not satisfy and if left unchecked can become an addictive idol in our life. Though in our indulgent Western culture we don’t like to think of food on these terms, if we are honest for many of us the food we eat has become our drug of choice: Feeling depressed? Eat something! Celebrating? Eat something! Stressed? Eat some more! Jammed your finger? Eat, Eat, EAT!
It was hard to admit that my attachment to food was resulting in an undernourished soul. That my poor food choices were creating a wedge in my relationship with God. Not that I wasn’t forgiven, or loved or that God cared about a number on a scale. But He does care about my turning to things of this world for what only He can provide. When tempted in the wilderness after forty days without food Jesus’ response to Satan’s offers of satisfaction is telling, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
We were created to find our complete fulfillment in God: His Word, His promises, His character, His commands. Anything less will leave us wanting. It was a difficult reality to face, but for the first time I am recognizing the spiritual battle behind my physical battle to be healthy. How Satan would love for me to turn to food rather than God, or to focus on the six pack I don’t have or the jeans I won’t fit into rather than who I belong to. Though it still isn’t easy, I have been encouraged by how the more I turn to God rather than food the more empowered I am to thwart Satan’s attacks and make healthier choices.
My prayer for us this week is that we will recognize those things in our lives that are fighting to usurp God. Whatever the vice, no matter how seemingly innocent, may we have the humility and courage to put our struggles before God, repent, and seek to put Him back on the throne where He rightfully belongs. Only then can we experience true victory that lasts!
1Lisa Terkeurst, Made to Crave (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 28.Read More
This past Sunday I spoke on how we tend to seek honor from others. Receiving honor is not a bad thing, in fact it can be incredibly encouraging and it’s often a real gift. The dark side to honor, however, is when we find life from it. If our hearts are bent toward the honor we receive from others, we will spend our lives working to make ourselves worthy of honor.
Jesus teaches about honor in the parable of the wedding feast. But he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say that when you give a dinner you aren’t to invite all those individuals who are expected to return the honor, but you are to invite those who cannot hope to return the honor. Rather than inviting the rich and wealthy, we are to invite the poor, crippled and lame. Why? These individuals cannot hope to repay you. The poor the cripple and the lame are exactly the type that cannot give back what has been given to them.
This parable is, in part, an illustration of us. If God were to throw a party, into which category would we fall? Would we be the friends and rich neighbors? Or, would we be the poor, crippled and lame? The friends and rich neighbors would be expected to return the favor. How can we return any favor to God? We can’t. We would certainly fall into the category of poor, crippled and lame. This is our category because we cannot earn God’s favor.
This parable is also our calling. We are to live like God. We are to surround ourselves and befriend those who cannot hope to give us anything in return. We are to mimic what God has already done for us. We are to give freely to those who cannot reciprocate. Yet, how many of our relationships are based on the idea of reciprocation?
Question: What kind of expectations do you have for friends? What happens when they do not meet your expectations?Read More