Jan 9 2015

Tested Tips For Seeking Grace

Today I was reflecting on David . . . you know, the shepherd, musician, warrior, king of Israel. David, the “man after God’s own heart,” one of the most relatable, influential characters in the Bible. As I continue preparing and working through our current sermon series on Grace In The Everyday, I find myself thinking that David was a guy who really had an operational sense of the grace of God.

Through the “ins” & “outs”, the “ups” & “downs” of David’s life, he seems to generally keep his gaze on God. God provided the strength, the resolve, the comfort in all of David’s circumstances. Whether moments of triumph like winning battles or moments of sorrow like guilt over sin, David runs to God – regularly and completely. And with God, David finds what he needs.

So I asked myself, “What qualities of David’s life may have contributed to such a consistent leaning on the grace of God? And can I (and C!C) emulate that to better tune our lives to God and His grace?”

Here are three practices from David’s life as seen through the Psalms that helped David keep his eyes on God:

 

  • David sought God in His temple.

 

The Lord is in his holy temple (Ps 11:4)

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. (Ps 27:4)

In addition, there are many Psalms of Ascents which functioned to help focus one’s worship while approaching and entering the temple. I think we can interpret God in His temple as the seat of His Presence and source of His revelation. For us today, this is primarily accomplished through spiritually discerning God’s Word. Saving faith in Christ initiates the Holy Spirit dwelling inside the believer to enable intimate relationship and communication with God! Seek Him where we know He can be found. Spend dedicated, introspective time in the Bible, praying and meditating about what it says and how it might influence your life. Such sacred time will pave the way to experiencing more of God’s grace.

 

  • David sought God in nature.

 

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Ps 8:3)

The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. (Ps 19:1-3)

The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare and in his temple all cry, “Glory!” (Ps 29:9)

I can’t help but be inspired by how consistently nature responds to God by doing what it was created to do. If only I could so naturally respond to God’s promptings. Even in the deepest days of winter (and sometimes especially there), a walk in the woods with my dog awakens affections for Christ that my to-do list somehow renders dormant. Spend some time outside. Get in the woods and look up, letting the Spirit lead you deeper into grace. (He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Ps 103:10-12)

 

  • David sought God by being with God’s people.

 

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. (Ps 16:3)

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! . . . Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. (Ps 34: 1-3, 11)

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! (Ps 122:1-2)

I love this one. Between work, family, leisure, social networks, etc., it can be easy to give a backseat to initiating spending time with other believers. Let me be clear to say that spending time together on Sunday morning is NOT enough for growing in grace through being with God’s people. For the sake of God’s kingdom, we should make time to have one another over more often. We should attend various functions together. We should share with one another. It may be difficult and/or awkward at first – but most of life’s best things start that way. Take the initiative to meet someone new at church this week. Then go out of your way to contact and/or meet up with someone from church. Talk about a Bible verse that you’ve found encouraging. Share what you find special about grace. Do this and get ready to experience a special blessing as the One Spirit that you share leads you deeper into the joy and grace of the Lord.

Let’s all “go after God’s heart.”


Dec 4 2014

Risk-Taking Faith (a “post-script”)

Risk-HopeInAction

This past Sunday we kicked off Advent 2014 by taking a slightly different perspective on the traditional theme of HOPE. We specifically spoke of RISK and how essential it is to having a growing faith, built on Matthew 14:22-33. We noted the significance of faith to abundant life in that faith is described at “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” Additionally, “without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is that which grounds us to HOPE; it helps us lay hold of that which we cannot see, like hope in the nature of God and hope for the promises of God. Risk, on the other hand, could be described as the action taken in light of faith/hope. This risk, taken at the prompting of Jesus, grows our faith. A risk-taking faith encounters the power and presence of God in mighty ways.

 

In the days following the sermon, I’ve had some great questions and conversations come up in regards to risk (from POINTgroup, from emails, and in person!). In light of these, here are some quick thoughts to prod you a few steps further:

 

  • If I had to define “risk” in terms of the spiritual truth that we are going after here (which I probably should have done in the sermon!), it would be this. “Risk is taking action, based on a perceived leading of the Holy Spirit, where the desired outcome is ONLY possible through the power of God.” This has three main parts. 1) Risk is action, not just attitude. 2) It’s based on God’s leading and/or His priorities, not simply on us having a “good idea”. 3) The outcome rests in God’s control, not ours, so that He gets the credit and the glory.
  • One way to evaluate whether you are taking risks, is a) whether you ever feel fear, and b) what you do about it. If you never notice yourself feeling fear, you probably need to ask Jesus why you don’t see Him and how he wants you to “get out of the boat”. Conversely, if you feel lots of fear, but it seems to shackle or control you, then you are probably still not taking healthy risks and finding Jesus faithful in the midst of your fear. Interestingly, in the story from Matthew 14, Jesus doesn’t condemn the disciples for their fear . . . He tells them to “take courage”. A healthy risk-taking faith desires to be with Jesus wherever He is, even when it’s scary. This opens the door for courage. Don’t feel guilty over fear or run from it. Look to Jesus and take courage!
  • We must self-analyze our risk-taking faith beyond what feels “difficult” or “challenging”. Perceived challenges can arise from too many sources to validate a risk-taking faith. In fact, challenges can arise because of sin, because our faith is being challenged (and we remain unyielding), because we are simply overextending ourselves in directions where the Lord isn’t leading, etc. I believe healthy risk will often be challenging, but in a profoundly hopeful way that is consistent with the promises of Scripture.
  • One of the absolute best ways to know whether you are employing a healthy risk-taking faith is simple. Are you growing in affection for Jesus? Can you point to ways that you’ve obeyed what He’s asked. I think this is why the “Hall of Faith” chapter in Hebrews is followed up by:

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, 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. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

 

  • Here are a handful of examples of these sorts of risks from my life where I’ve seen God grow me, my faith, my relationships and ultimately my affection for Him . . . all of which have prompted me to desire to risk more!

    • Making time to read my Bible, whether I’m busy and/or tired
    • Go on short-term missions
    • Learn how to play the guitar (because I sensed God wanting me to do it)
    • Let someone hold me accountable to practical discipleship principles like time in the Word, Bible memorization, and overcoming sin
    • Giving tithes and offerings to the local church and other worthy causes
    • Asking a friend, “What is stopping you from following Jesus?”
    • Living within my means and saying “no” to certain wants, even if I could technically afford it
    • Having kids
    • Admit (to God and others) my limitations as a parent, husband, friend and leader, etc.
    • Prayerfully considering how to better lead and love my wife
    • Purposefully disciple another person
    • Be an invested member of a local church

 

I hope this goes a small way in continuing to grow a risk-taking, God-honouring, soul-satisfying faith! Here’s a parting thought from the Apostle Paul:

 “But Jesus said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2Corinthians 12:9-10)


Nov 28 2014

Struck Down Like Milkweed

When I was a boy growing up in Georgia, I LOVED playing in the woods. Actually, who am I kidding? I still love playing in the woods. So I guess a better start would be . . . when playing in the Georgia backwoods as a boy, my favourite activity was to pretend that I was some sort of hero on epic adventures, climbing trees, leaping over ditches, hopping across creeks, and vanquishing foes with tree-branch swords. My favourite enemy to cross swords with was a milk-weed. These tall, relatively thick-trunked weeds had a hollow center and could be sliced through completely with a well placed strike and a good “blade.” Truth be told, I was always surprised by how easily the mild-weed would break away — it was a great confidence builder for a young warrior. At times, I would find entire groves and lay waste on my quest for victory and justice.

The image of the would-be strength of milk-weed stalk giving away under a calculated blow often comes to mind when the Lord uses a surprisingly small truth to cut to the heart of me. For all my would-be strength, composure, and expectations for my walk with God, sometimes a quick flick of the Holy Spirit slices me right through, exposing my core, convicting of sin, raising questions, revealing direction. Recently this happened with John 6:12.

The context is the Apostle John’s account of Jesus feeding the 5,000. John records Jesus giving instruction to His disciples after everyone had eaten, and I’m convinced that we are meant to see more importance in Christ’s words than merely preparing leftovers for the next day. I think Jesus is revealing a facet of His compassion for people and the nature of His mission. Here’s the verse:

“When they were filled, He said to His disciples, Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.”

Now I don’t want to go overboard in trying to interpret something from this text that isn’t there, but as I read that verse, I thought of Christ’s compassion (Matt. 9:35-38), and the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7). I felt convicted over my tendency to do the “easy” things and not necessarily value making sure “nothing is lost”. The reality is that there are many attitudes, important tasks, missed opportunities, and potential rewards that fall through the cracks of my life and faith, my focus and maturity. But deep down, I don’t want this to be the case. I want to fill in those cracks.

Reading John 6:12 over and over again, because it seemed like God was trying to get my attention, eventually led me to a simple yet profound prayer:

God make me, and make C!C, faithful to go and gather! Let none be lost!

Would you join me in that prayer? Coming out of a major sermon series on sharing our faith AND the focus on the persecuted church, would you ask God to cut down the milk-weed grove of your own plans and burden you for His harvest “so that nothing will be lost”? We are not responsible for saving the entire world, but we are responsible for faithfully presenting the Gospel as we have opportunity. Jesus doesn’t ask for more than we can give; He just asks us to give our best.

Who will you challenge to take a step of faith? Who will go out of your way to encourage? How will you prepare yourself to give an answer for the hope that you have?


Nov 25 2014

GO Strat Recap

slider-GoStrat

Many thanks to everyone who joined us for some part of our series “Who Will Go For Us?: equipping the church to fulfill the call of God”. I was repeatedly encouraged throughout the process both by the content as it challenged my own faith and practice as well as by quality conversations about how you were encouraged/challenged. If you missed any part of the series or want to refocus on any part, you’ll find the whole series at www.celebrationchurch.ca/media/sermons/whowillgoforus . Today, I wanted to briefly offer a bit of a “postscript” in order to accentuate the hope that I have in us each owning the call to “GO: lead to Jesus”.

Allow me to remind those of you who have given your life to Jesus, that God’s Spirit lives in you. The Holy Spirit, the Living, Effectuating Power of God is in you. The power and creativity that called the world into being, the voice in the mouths of the prophets throughout the ages, the victory that defeated sin and death, the wind and fire that fueled the Apostles, the sustaining force that has marched the worldwide church on through the ages IS AT WORK IN AND THROUGH YOU.

Pause for a moment and re-read that last paragraph. . . . Try reading it once more and then close your eyes and as God to confirm in your heart whether that is true of you.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. . . . If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2Corinthians 5:16-21)

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? . . . [nothing] in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35,39)

 

Yes. God is at work in you, through you, and around you, and He’s not going anywhere.

What if we began to desire, explore, and display the kind of power and purpose that God has always worked through His surrendered children?!? Who among our families and friends and acquaintances would God use us to miraculously reach with the gospel? I, for one, would sure love to find out. I deeply desire to see Celebration! Church Ottawa go “all in” to fulfill the call of God, joining the Great Adventure.

Consider this an explicit invitation to join with us to:

 

L:         Look for where God is at work
O:         Overcome obstacles
V:         Verbalize God’s Story
E:         Encourage taking a step

 

What part of that needs some attention and development in your life? Remember that God’s power resides in you to make you awesome at this!

To close, let me encourage you with a report of what happened when the Apostle Paul and his company were faithful to do these things where they were (in Antioch in Pisidia):

And when [the people] heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. (Acts 13:48-49)

 

Father, may this be so in our day, in our church, in our lives. Amen.


Oct 2 2014

Another Word On Thankfulness

Pursuant to last week’s sermon on thanksgiving and thanks-living (here, if you missed it), I’ve noticed in myself an increased sensitivity to thankfulness. As I’ve read the Bible the past couple weeks, I keep stumbling upon verses about aspects of thanksgiving. They have been colouring my reading of Scripture like the vivid changing leaves saturate the local landscape. Here is one such example:

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. . . . He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. (2Corinthians 9:8, 10-12)

Three major impressions from these verses. One: We cannot overestimate or over-esteem the provision and sufficiency of God. Oh, to learn to rely on Him more fully, to trust Him more completely, and to yield to His promptings so that we “abound in every good work”, increasing the “harvest of our righteousness.” He IS able; draw near and join Him.

Two: There is a special enrichment in enabling thanksgiving. The context here is that the Apostle Paul is thanking/exhorting the Corinthian church for the donations that they’ve committed toward His ministry and the ministry in Jerusalem. Paul is pointing out that there is manifold blessing is the giving to effective ministry. When we invest in people and programs who are faithfully ministering on Christ’s behalf, it causes thanksgiving, praises, worship to flow . . . and the Spirit of God in us does a work IN US, “enriching in every way” for our generosity.

Three: Where you choose to invest matters. We live in the most marketed time of history. Everywhere you turn is a chance to buy something you need/want, a place to invest, a cause to back, a “start” to “kick”, a ministry to fund. When we consider an investment of time and talent in addition to treasure, the outlets of spending explode. Into this reality the Bible implicitly gives some quality advice. Invest yourself generously as a reflection of how God gives. Invest to provide for the “needs of the saints,” meaning be purposefully involved with and fund efforts to sustain worship and fellowship of God’s people. Also, invest where there is fruitful faithfulness, where more than merely meeting needs for believers, it is producing thanksgiving to God – even “overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” Choose wisely to invest your time, your talents, and your treasures in churches, ministries, or organizations that meet needs AND increase thanksgiving and worship to God in ways and places where there were previously none.

I hope you’re encouraged. Join me in praying and working to make sure that Celebration! Church Ottawa continues to be a place where these three observations are a functional reality.


Sep 12 2014

A Curve-ball in the Rough

So I’m doing a pretty good job keeping up with our annual Bible reading plan. But I’m not boasting . . . I’m just leveling with you: I’m in Ezekiel. Ezekiel is a TOUGH section to stick through. Isaiah and Jeremiah are pretty long and intense books, but then to hoof it through 48 more chapters of primarily gloom and doom . . . it’s a difficult part of the yearly readings, for sure.

Sometimes I find myself skimming in order to power through a section in order to just check off another day. Oftentimes while doing this, I’ll sniff a curve-ball under the chin that I never saw coming (forgive the metaphor if you don’t like baseball). One such convicting surprise happened just the other day.

In my life context, I’m gearing up for a sermon and small group series aimed at better equipping us evangelistically. So I get to Ezekiel 33 & 34. Here the Lord calls Ezekiel a “watchman” of Israel who is told to warn the people of coming disaster. If he is faithful to warn and the people do not prepare, then the guilt is on their heads. But if the watchman fails to warn and the people are destroyed, though they may have been deserving of the punishment, the watchman will be help partially responsible.

Similarly in the next chapter, the Lord warns against shepherds who feed themselves, and yet do NOT feed the sheep, strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the straying, or seek out the lost. In light of this, there is a great promise that God will be the shepherd for his people and will seek out and provide for them.

In these two pictures, I couldn’t help but see a profound call to action for believers. Christ has commissioned us to be “watchmen”, to be “shepherds”, and to exhibit our faith through care for the marginalized, the needy, and the not-yet believers. Please join me in praying for our faith family as we take on this focus to be equipped and inspired toward more missional living. Pray that we will receive the call with surrendered hearts, and pray that God will raise up workers for His harvest from among us. I’m excited about the season that is spreading out before us. Will you join me in running toward what God has in store for us?!?


Aug 14 2014

Help From the Hills

“big flex”

“big flex”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I lift my eyes toward the mountains.

Where will my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,

The Maker of heaven and earth.

 

He will not allow your foot to slip;

Your Protector will not slumber.

Indeed, the Protector of Israel

Does not slumber or sleep.

 

The LORD protects you;

The Lord is a shelter right by your side.

The sun will not strike you by day

Or the moon by night.

 

The LORD will protect you from all evil;

He will protect your soul.

The LORD will protect your coming and going

Both now and forever.

(Psalm 121)

 

Have you ever tripped?  Ever had sunburn? If you answer yes to either of those questions and you love Jesus, does that mean that the above Psalm is untrue? Is the Bible unreliable?

 

Hopefully you know innately that the answer is NO, that God and the Bible are true and reliable even if we occasionally stumble and get too much sun. But WHY is the answer no? How are we to understand a passage like the above Psalm?

 

We need to understand that it is a song representing an important truth about the character and protection of God. David is communicating that no matter the circumstances, our God is powerful enough and loving enough to perfectly sustain us to an end that is profoundly good. It’s not to say that there won’t be troubles along the way. The fact that the Psalm begins with God as our “help” points to the fact that there would be some circumstance where “help” is needed. The love and purposeful protection described here is more of a principle to be trusted than a literal promise to be tested. Here’s how theologian Matthew Henry prefaces the Psalm:

 

. . . wherever we are, at home or abroad, we are exposed to danger more than we are aware of; and this psalm directs and encourages us to repose ourselves and our confidence in God, and by faith to put ourselves under his protection and commit ourselves to his care, which we must do, with an entire resignation and satisfaction, in singing this psalm.

 

For whatever “dangers” or afflictions you perceive right now, or for whatever may be lurking down the road of life, gather yourself under the unchanging principle of God’s perfect power to protect His beloveds. Put your confidence, your faith in Him, commit yourself to his care wholly.

Consider with whom in your life you could share this psalm.

To whom can you give a testimony that your help comes from the Lord?

 


Mar 15 2013

Nature of Faith in Gratitude

In a recent Sunday sermon, we looked at Luke 17:11-19, where Jesus heals ten lepers and affirms the faith of the “foreigner” who returned after being healed to thank Jesus.

The main take-aways ought to have obvious and significant expressions in our daily lives and therefore deserve repeating:

1 … Jesus still shows mercy to those who ask. (What do you need to consistently bring before Him for mercy?)

2 … Genuine faith is evidenced in gratitude. (see below for expounding)

3 … Genuine faith becomes mission. (What impact on lostness, defined by Eph. 2:12, will you have?)

This idea of gratitude to God and Jesus for the work of life and salvation is important.  The Apostle Paul regularly instructs us to “be thankful”, to “overflow with thankfulness”, and “give thanks in all circumstances”.  In our culture today, gratitude and thankfulness usually find themselves directed toward temporal things.  We are thankful for our homes, jobs, cars . . . grateful for food and clothing and even for our “toys.”

One biblical scholar, though notices a different trend in Scripture:

A perusal of the Word provides a full list of large reasons to be grateful.

God is thanked for his deliverance (Ps 35:18), for loving us and being faithful (Ps 52:9; 107:8), for hearing our cry (Ps 118:21), for safe arrival after a long, arduous journey (Acts 28:15), for other believers and for the testimony of their faith (Rom 1:8), for the gift of salvation that enables one not to sin (Rom 6:17), for delivering us from our tendency to sin (Rom 7:25), for the spiritual gift of being able to address God (1 Cor 14:18), for resurrection hope (1Cor 15:57), for testimony, deliverance and victory in the midst of persecution (2 Cor 2:14), for the support of a colleague in ministry (2 Cor 8:16), for other believers (Phil 1:3; Col 1:3; 2 Tim 1:3; Philemon 4), for those who respond to God’s Word (1Thess 2:13), for being able to serve others for God (1 Tim 1:12), and for his attributes (Rev 4:9).  Those are just some of the options for thanksgiving.

Notice that this list includes not one item having to do with things, with possessions.  The occasions for gratitude all have to do with relationships or circumstances in relationship to others. (Bock)

 

 

In light of this, how’s your gratitude toward God, your relationship toward Him and toward others? How might your genuine faith better express itself in gratitude and thanksgiving?

I am convinced that if we consistently expressed the kind of gratitude described above, then the joy, peace and dependence on God that would flow out of our lives would certainly translate into effective mission.  People would see the God-radical nature of our Christ-exalting lives, and they would be drawn to Him.

Consider confessing and expressing some gratitude even now.

 

For the sake of the Name,

Jason

 


Oct 10 2012

Tasty Inspiration Toward Meaningful Community

Life lessons from chicken pot pie?  You bet.

 

As I write this I’m thoroughly enjoying a bowl full of leftover chicken pot pie, and it totally inspired this devotional article, trumping the previous would-be topic.

Here’s how I believe the pot pie originated: once upon a time an resourceful mother opened her dry cupboard to find a random assortment of ingredients all on the verge of going bad.  A look into the root cellar revealed the same situation.  Not to be dissuaded from her mission of feeding her family and managing resources well she daringly glared at the pile of ragamuffin ingredients and . . . threw them all in the same pot.  After stewing everything for a proper amount of time with the necessary savory spices, she tasted her concoction and low and behold it was fantastic.  However, it looked terrible.  And this sharp-minded chef knew that her kids would certainly judge the dish by appearances.  So she did the most sensible thing in the world.  She covered the dish with a pastry.  And ever since, generations upon generations have enjoyed this culinary casserole-marvel, cleverly concealed under a crusty cover of awesomeness.

Here’s the life-lesson.  We are just like chicken pot pie.  We’re a messy conglomeration of feelings, histories, conclusions, hidden talents, hopes and hurts.  Most of the time we’re pretty sure that people will judge us if they could see our character-casserole, and so we work hard to cover ourselves with a nice fluffy pastry for others to look at.  And whenever we interact with folks, we typically only let them into the crust level – gotta keep things nice and sweet, buttery and safe.

And this is where REAL community comes in.  Gospel centered community is like the gleaming silver pastry knife that slices all the way through us, scooping deep to retrieve and dispense a hearty helping of the messy mixture hidden beneath the surface.  Now here’s the best part.  When we let Gospel community expose and share who we really are, we begin to find that the Holy Spirit has “seasoned” our lives in a wonderful manner in order to mesh with other people’s lives.  We find that the “real” part of each others lives are actually pretty savory and contribute to a well-balanced Body of Christ.

I wish to encourage everyone to take a purposeful step toward letting Gospel community bring out the most in your life.  So come on, pastry top, messy middle and all . . . it’s gonna be good.

 


Apr 13 2012

Post-Easter “c!weekly” post

Wading into the post-Easter week for me has had its share of hazards.  There are the daily hurdles of dirty diapers and household chores.  There are speed bumps of unanticipated stresses and complications.  There’s that background drum of outstanding to-dos that can prove ever-so distracting.  And sometimes there is the poignant pang of sharing someone’s intense personal hurt.

Coming off the sermon on the parable of the different kinds of soil (Luke 8:4-15), I’ve found myself often seeing the “hazards” as testing grounds as to the condition of the soil in my heart.  How do I react when “my time” is infringed upon?  How am I affected when I don’t get to do what “I want” to do?  How do I deal with stress?  Where do I spend my time, energy, resources?  What truth and hope do I have to share with those who need some?  Basically, what are the fruits of the “tough moments” in my day-to-day?

I’ll offer that as I look at my life, the biggest determining factor in my producing “meaningful fruit” is whether I’ve been sowing the proper seed.  If I don’t make sure that the seed of the Word of Truth has access to my heart, IT DOESN’T MUCH MATTER WHAT THE CONDITION OF THE SOIL OF MY HEART IS.  No seed equals no budding plants equals no fruit.  I wonder if we don’t frequently lament the choices that we make (or don’t make), thinking that we “should have known better.”  But little do we admonish ourselves for not sowing the seed that would produce the righteousness that our souls desire as a part of our grace driven effort.

Though we sow all sorts of “truth” into our lives through music, television, the internet and the like, the seed that we NEED sprinkled over our hearts and minds is the Word of God, the Bible.  Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will grow the Word in our lives.  I’ll close by simply scattering some relevant “seeds” to encourage you as you go:

The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. . . . When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.  (John 14:26; 16:13)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. (Luke 8:15)

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.  (Colossians 2:6-8)