All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. - Colossians 1:6
My iPhone is so cool.
I can set it to make special rings for me when I get new text messages. And for a guy who just got or sent near 3000 last month, this is fun.
Currently, my text alert is the sound that the lovable robot R2D2 makes in the movie Star Wars when he is getting shot by lazer beams... "Weeeooooow!" (I guess that's how you spell that robot noise.)
Shockingly, a text alert noise is a daily part of life for many... for some of you, this makes zero sense as you get like three per year. Like I said, I get and send 3000 per month.
I'm not sure some of you could care less.
Let's shift to something deeper.
I wonder: what if God decided He was tired of how we miss the opportunities that He gives us every day... the opportunities to embrace a deeper life with Him?
What if He was tired of "scattering seed" that hits us in the head, bounces to the ground, never takes root in our hearts... and worse yet, we simply never see? What if He was tired of us missing so many chances to get closer to Him, or He was tired of us whining, thinking we never have any?
I think it would be great if God could just treat me like the village idiot and give me a special Seed Alert Tone that goes off loudly in my 15 foot perimeter.... that would ring so everyone could hear every time one of His seeds either took root in my life, or bounced off of me.
A pleasant "DING!" when He casts a seed of life and it takes root.
An annoying "BUZZ!" when I miss a seed... when it is bouncing off my head, heart and life.
I'd be racking up way more alerts than 3000 per month. I believe this. Because I believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not static.
It is growing.
Remember when Jesus said, "the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few"? I believe He meant it. This means that no matter how many churches there are, there will always be room for more.
This means that no matter how much you know, or how long you've been walking with God, you've got room for more of Him.
This means that no matter how little you know about God, how little you've been walking with Him, it is still possible and easy to get swept up into His amazing and beautiful story for you.
I would imagine if God would paint a picture that represents one singular day of you walking through your life, that image would contain dozens of opportunities, both seen and unseen, that were standing right before you. Opportunities for you to embrace a deeper and greater life with Him... a chance to live out Jesus in the world around you.
The picture on the top left of this blog shows the amount of life that is contained in a single scoop of ocean floor. Pick the most remote and dark looking place at the bottom of the ocean. Pull out your ice cream scoop. Take a sample and sift through it and this is what you'll find.
God is growing life even there. Imagine then spiritually, how much life He is growing and offering in and around you and I all the time.
"All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth."
It's true. All around us, God is doing more growing and creating and forming and seed-scattering than we can possibly imagine. Kingdom life is everywhere around us, waiting to be embraced.
So today, may you see the life. May you see and embrace the seed.
May you and I see that God is scattering all over the place, giving us a million chances to lean into Him, to choose Him... to embrace what is better. The gospel is about so much more than fire insurance... it is about bringing life to places where there is none.
He is giving us a myriad of opportunities to live out Jesus in our own lives, and in the lives of others. To offer more life than what we'd find in a scoop of ocean floor.
Sometimes we'll miss it, and thankfully there are no buzzers.
Sometimes we'll embrace it... and let me tell you Heaven rejoices.
That is so much cooler than my iPhone.
Image used by permission: Craig McClain/Deep Sea News
Friday, January 6, 2012
(This post is brought over from my blog on www.mercyhilldenver.com, written circa Sept 2011)
For the frail. For those who have messed it all up.
For the frustrated, and for the one who struggles.
For anyone who has helplessly watched the pieces of a relationship slip through their fingers.
And for anyone who is to blame for it.
Or for those who are not to blame for it.
For anyone who has ever whispered through tears, “I’m so sorry.”
And for the ones who are too scared to, but know they need to.
For the ones who are waiting.
Maybe for a miracle.
For anyone who at times has trouble making eye contact with the person staring back at them in the mirror.
Because of disgust over what they do. Or don’t do.
(And again, for anyone who is frail.)
For anyone who needs to be rescued. From others… from themselves.
And for anyone who knows that they can’t save themselves.
For the ones who cannot seem to anchor their peace to anything but understanding or control.
And for those who feel as if they have neither.
For anyone who has spent years trying to believe in themselves.
And for those who feel as if it isn’t any closer.
For people who walk around with a tumor of regret living in the back of their mind.
And on the tip of their tongue.
For those who have thought too much of themselves and found out the hard way.
The really hard way.
For anyone who is ashamed of all the broken hearts they’ve left behind. For those who hate themselves for it.
For anyone whose best just did not measure up.
And who then believed the naysayers were right.
For anyone who has desperately waited for a “Yes!”
Only to find that the answer was “No.”
Again and again.
For anyone who find that their lives have been built on proving wrong the people who did not matter anyway.
Or for those who believed what those people said or implied.
For those who believe they will probably be wrong before they ever even begin.
For those who have a hard time accepting grace.
Yes, for the broken.
The Christ, the Son of the Living God, is for you.
And His church is built upon people like you. And me.
In Matthew 16, Jesus asks the disciples who people are saying that He is, and they give Him a variety of answers… because people are calling Him a variety of things. So Jesus asks further, “But what about you? Who do you say that I am?”
Simon says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Jesus’ response makes a powerful point: “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, because this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in Heaven.”
Simon (who we know as Peter) didn’t come up with it, because he was made of flesh and blood. No one else walking around came up with it, because they were made up of flesh and blood. It came from God. This was about what God was doing. God is breaking through the world with something, and what a human doesn’t know isn’t going to slow this thing down.
Jesus goes further.
He says, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…”
“Peter” means “rock” by the way.
Fast forward a number of chapters in the Bible, and Peter is seeing Jesus being captured, taken, tortured, beaten and accused. And Peter denies being with or knowing Jesus:
“Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!“
And the rooster crows.
Betrayal. Desertion. Especially when Peter had only recently declared his unending devotion to Jesus. You probably know the story.
I wonder what, in that very moment, Peter thought about himself. Do you know what I mean? I think of the way that we react to ourselves when we fail in a big, big way. We are rattled. We are broken. We call ourselves names in our head or even out loud.
Imagine your own failure. The big one. The one you don’t want anyone to know about. Or maybe the one that everyone knows about. What have you said to yourself about yourself? What names have you called yourself in the shadow of your own shame?
Did Peter call himself names?
Liar. Betrayer. Pathetic excuse for a friend. Whatever. I’m not calling him these things, I am just sure that the judge and jury of Peter’s own mind had him permanently condemned.
The Messiah’s life hangs in the balance and he is deserted by me, one of his closest companions. He had only loved God, loved and healed people, and always moved towards redemption. How could I? What have I done?
He saw through me, and told me I would do this.
(For the broken.)
Oh, God. He was right.
(For the frail.)
And He wanted to build His church on me?
(For those who have messed it all up.)
“On this rock I will build my church.”
Do you remember what happened after Jesus’ resurrection? I don’t know about you, but after the moments of sheer joy in seeing Him alive again after all that had happened, I would have been devastated and in tears, ashamed and broken in knowing that He knew what I had done. And not done. I don’t know how I would be able to look at Him.
But Jesus doesn’t use this opportunity as a teaching point. Or a place of rebuke.
He doesn’t say, “Peter, if you’d only had more faith, been more courageous, or read Scripture or prayed more…”
He doesn’t say, “Of all the people, I thought you would have been different.”
He doesn’t ask, “Why, Peter?”
In John 21, Jesus asks Peter a simple question: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
In response to Peter’s “Yes”, Jesus gives Peter what I believe to be a fundamental directive of that church He was talking about.
“Feed my lambs.”
The dust has barely settled on Peter’s failure, the echoes of his shame probably still ringing in his own heart and mind… and against the backdrop of Peter’s frailty, Jesus gives Peter direction on what His church is to be about.
Do you see the point here?
Peter was now in the greatest position to be a builder of God’s church… by recognizing that it wasn’t the power of His own hands doing it, but the strength that comes from knowing that Jesus is our only hope.
There is power in knowing that it isn’t about you.
That it isn’t about me.
That it isn’t about pedigree.
That it isn’t about what we can muster. Or the image that we portray.
What good would a church be to the broken if it was built on the backs of the accomplished, the polished, the ones who work hard to appear they have it all together, and who act as if they have all the answers?
What if all the power that was ever needed, what if all the food the lambs need is to know that all our hope rests in Him?
The Christ, the Son of the Living God, is for you. No matter what you have done; no matter who you have been.
And His church is built upon people like you. And me.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
To eat less.
To read more.
To work less.
To do more gardening.
To do less drinking.
To be on time more.
To smoke less.
I heard today that the average date that we abandon our New Year's resolutions (For those of you, like me, who annually and proudly murmur that you do not make New Year's resolutions, please consider making a resolution with me to no longer annually and proudly murmur that you don't make New Year's resolutions) is February 18th.
Seriously. We "resolve" to do something... we are "resolute" in it, and the average point at which the wheels fall of the wagon is somewhere near the middle of February?
Yup. Sounds a lot like me.
It feels a little old hat to even talk about New Years resolutions here on this blog... because the discussion is all over the news, browser home pages, the radio and on three or four newsletters from churches I receive in my inbox. And I'm sure its at our offices where folks joke about their resolutions, and some people proudly murmur that they don't make them (please see above) and many people quietly, in their hearts and heads wish that they could summon the courage and the discipline to change their lives for the better... even when their lives are pretty great anyway.
So in spite of this feeling a little cliche, a little old hat... I want to mention New Year's resolutions, because I want to suggest one for you. For me.
In the middle of all of the more resolutions, and less resolutions... "do more of this, and less of that"... I want to suggest an alternative. Or maybe something larger... something longer lasting, and I want to be very very direct to you: it can do more to change your life than these other petty things we put so much stock in and worry over.
I want to encourage you, this year, to resolve to bring a little more Kingdom, and a little less earth. To everything you do, to everywhere you go, to everyone you meet and everything you know.
(That Suess-ish rhyme was fully unintentional, but cute so I kept it in there. Maybe it can stick in our heads.)
I find it profoundly symbolic that in Matthew 3:1 it says that John the Baptist brought the message that "the Kingdom of Heaven is near" to the Desert of Judea. The Kingdom of Heaven coming near (through the life of Jesus) brought unfathomable love, mercy, grace, humility, but also showed unquenchable power to a people living in a spiritually dry and thirsty climate.
When we're honest with ourselves, we normally tend toward just bringing things of earth to everyone and everything around us. I mean it's hard not to redistribute to others the stuff we're hit with all day... the broken wisdom and carnal messages of this world... even in the context of church: Anger. Judgment. Wrath. Malice. Greed. Selfishness. Manipulation. Lust. Control. These leave the spiritual, mental and emotional land dry and burnt in the lives of so many, including followers of Jesus.
But to bring a little more of the Kingdom of God, in the form of the love and grace of Jesus, the peace that comes in knowing the extent of your own mercy and the mercy others are heirs to because of what Jesus has done... doing this brings something profoundly good and life-giving to a spiritually dry and thirsty land.
So here's a scary question: What if John the Baptist was also referring to us?
I mean after all - we are called by God to be Kingdom-bringers, right? Yes, John was referring to Jesus coming near... but we are to be a part of this story as well. Jesus passed the call on to us to continue, through the help of God's Spirit living in us, to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to others, to earth.
"In those days John the Baptist came to the desert of our hearts, preaching...
...to the one who wonders if they will always be alone.
...to the family who sacrifices everything to keep up with the Joneses.
...to the one who feels so inadequate.
...to the one who failed. Badly.
...to the outwardly successful, but inwardly wounded.
...to the angry.
...to the housewife who just wants to be seen, known, loved and cherished.
...to the spouses who don't know how to love unconditionally.
...to the sexually broken.
...to the one who is ashamed of how much they've squandered.
...to the one who is frozen solid with fear.
...repent (metanoia - change your way of thinking), for the Kingdom of Heaven is near. In fact, it is standing next to you right there... and is breaking through in fits and spurts and bits and pieces... sometimes in huge victories and other times in small breaths of grace, love and mercy.... through him... through her... through this one and that one and oh yep that one over there. The Kingdom is closer than you think, and oh, what you will find there."
So join me.
Join me in being a part of what John the Baptist was talking about when he came to the Desert of Judea preaching, "The Kingdom of Heaven is near."
Join me in making our resolutions about something bigger... something larger than the aesthetics of life. They're good and all... a little push back against your own flesh isn't so bad... but let's talk about larger things... eternal things... things that change our lives and influence those in the deserts around us.
Only you, with God's help, can know where He's pushing you, stretching you, growing you... challenging and maybe even rebuking you. Maybe you, like me, have much "more" and "less" to bring:
Maybe a little more forgiving.
Maybe a little less driven by money.
Maybe a little more driven by mercy.
Maybe a little less comfort-worship.
Maybe a little more comfort-ing.
Maybe a little less desire-for-me.
Maybe a little more give-to-you.
Maybe a little less fighiting.
Maybe a little more grace.
Maybe a little less accusing.
Maybe a little more defending.
To everything you do.
To everywhere you go.
To everyone you meet.
To everything you know.
Bring a little more Kingdom, and a little less earth.
(I really do like the rhyme)
I cannot think of a more powerful way to begin the process of spreading the good news of Jesus.
Be His, my friends.
Happy New Year.