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I had a great Easter, dressed up a little and thought about what the Cross means for my life right now. I wanted to talk at church a bit about the cross so I decided to look at some videos of “The Passion of the Christ” on vimeo. They messed me up. Honestly, some of them seemed too graphic to show at church. I could hardly watch the scourging.

I cried as I watched the depiction of his suffering, while trying not to be too loud (our kids were asleep). I was moved. The thought that I can’t get away from is regarding what it means now. The Cross means that there is absolutely nothing standing between me and God. I spent some time just laying in the living room floor and thinking about this thought. Needless, to say it didn’t take long to literally feel God’s presence. It was light and loving. It was bright and inviting. It was real. Why? Because, the Cross means there is nothing that is keeping us separated.

At the Cross, Jesus initiated the great exchange: sin for forgiveness, wounds for healing, curse for blessings and rejection for acceptance. Applying the power of the Cross is step one to living in the power of the resurrection.

The first chapter of Colossians says that through Jesus’ death, God made peace with all things. He’s already made peace with us. I think he’s just waiting for us to make peace with him by accepting what he’s done.

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Hope…mmm, it’s a word that feels good to say.

It seems like our family has been in and out of sickness for the last two months. In the midst of some really great things happening for us, we feel like we’ve been in a sickness fog. I’ve been snotty the last couple days, even.  So, I’m reachin’ into a nugget of truth regarding hope that I felt like God was highlighting for our church a couple weeks ago.

If you are breathing, then it is safe to say that at sometime you will experience disappointment. As disappointment builds it can freeze us from moving forward. I think hope is like God’s “first responder” to disarm disappointment. Hope in God is a force that connects where we are to the good pasture God has picked out for us.

What disappointment does:
-Stops our progress
-Limits our vision
-Makes our heart sick
-Sucks

What hope does:
-Helps us dream again
-Helps us risk again
-Gets us un-stuck
-Moves us forward

Hope is a choice with a voice.

When David was feeling blue, he made a decision to hope in God and then talked to himself about it. “Why are you so downcast, O my soul, put your hope in God.” (Psalm 42:5) If we want to move forward we have to choose hope and speak hope. Consider the trajectory of your words presently. Are they leading the direction you want to go or the direction you are wanting to leave. Too often I’m trying to choose one direction but continue to nurture the place I’m trying to leave with my words. I’m trying to adopt other phrases from David’s example like “I will see the goodness of God in the land of the living.” Now that feels good to say.

Hope comes from God.

Maybe you didn’t make the team, get the girl or win the lottery. Maybe you got burned or blew it again. There’s hope. Paul prayed an incredible prayer for the family in Rome, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” It’s like he was saying as we make the choice to trust in God, our hope can overflow by God’s power. We choose, he fills. I like.

In the wake of three miscarriages a few years ago, Ginger and I were pretty bummed. Together, we made a calculated choice to hope in God (not easy). God renewed our hope when friends of ours prayed for God to do what only he can do. Score! Asher our oldest was soon accompanied by our little double portion, Elisha, then Mercy, our little girl. We have also had the opportunity to see God do some supernatural work in the baby making business of our friends too. God not only fulfilled our hope, he gave us hope to believe for the miraculous in others too.

I hope your day gets a little brighter as you hope in Him. Thanks for tracking with me. Here’s the talk if you want to listen (or the feed if you prefer).

I’ve been roughly tracing my talks from late here in my blog. It’s good for me to rehash the thoughts from Sundays back here with you.  I hope to do more than simply talk about family. Writing about it helps me get it a layer deeper in my gut. Thanks for going there with me.

Finding Life…

The way the world works most of the time is like this: you see something you want such as a dream, a new car or a candy bar, then you go for it until you get it. Interestingly enough personal fulfillment doesn’t seem to come that way. Seldom if ever do we experience fulfillment when that’s explicitly what we are looking for. Jesus said if you try to find your life (as an end goal) the then you will ultimately lose the life you are trying to hold on to. On the other hand, if you will spend your life on him then you will find life.

The best question you can ever ask yourself is how you fit into God’s purposes in the earth (v/s how he can fit into yours). He always calls us into his purposes by being part of his family first. It is from there that we discover what part he made us for. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about family and destiny and here are a few more thoughts that I believe will help us come alive in the family.

Three Pursuits that Will Make You Come Alive

1. Pursue a goal that is bigger than personal fulfillment. God, how do I fit in your plan?

2. Discover the part of the family that God has designed you to be (more on this coming soon). Our purpose makes more sense in the context of the family just like a thumb makes more sense in the context of the hand. God, how do I fit in your family?

3. Help other’s discover who they are. The essence of spiritual gifts according to Paul’s diatribe in Cor. 12 is for the purpose of helping others. It is in this spirit that we help other find out who they are. God, how can I help others find where they fit?

Jesus came to give us “abundant life,” and wants that for us now. I’m glad he also gave us a head’s up on how to and how not to access that life.

Here’s a little more….

I thought this was a cool rendering of “the story,” in spoken word.

If you don’t see the video, here’s the link.

In a fallen world, authentic relationships are not automatic. We have to be intentional if we want to experience the connectedness that God dreams of. Simply put, we have to fight for it. When you experience the battles associated with belonging don’t be surprised. It’s just part of the territory God has given you to conquer.

Asher fighting the good fight at Disney

Five battles that you will have to fight to “feel” connected to the family.

1. The Fear Battle

The fear of rejection is familiar to us all, especially when were a newbie. Most of the time you have to fight through moments/seasons of awkwardness, fear of rejection and fear of looking stupid before you begin to connect with others.

2. The “Don’t Know How” Battle

We did not come out of the womb as experts on friendliness or relationships so we all have to learn. Better get started.

3. The Business Battle

I once heard that relationships happen in moments, in seasons and in a lifetimes. We don’t have friends for life with out friends in seasons and we don’t connect with people in seasons without connecting in moments. If we are too busy for moments, we are too busy. Right?

4. The Compromise Battle

When Adam and Eve dorked out on God, the natural response was to withdraw from him. We tend to do the same with his family when we are walking in darkness. A neat verse in 1 John says that keeping ourselves in the light = great fellowship. Ahhh, nothing to hide means enjoying the ride.

5. The Battle of Offense

I’ll be honest with you I don’t like pain. Rejection, misunderstanding, betrayal…all hurt. You can be hurt the most by family because you love them the most. And the pain doesn’t go away quickly. BUT, it seems to me that the term “hurt by the church” has become a trump card of sorts that makes it ok to nerd up. Offense builds a fence and we don’t do family too well through fences. So lets settle it. You will be hurt by the church. I suppose the Lord Jesus himself is regularly hurt by the church. Thankfully, he hasn’t given up on love even though he has been burned before. You can do it.

The Reward

Connectedness and belonging are rewards in themselves and worth the battle. In Psalm 133 the Lord give us a great insight to another benefit of connectedness. He says it is there, that  place of connectedness, that “he bestows his blessing.” Walking in connection and walking in blessing is a double whammy of good living.

Here’s a talk I gave on this thought hosted by the good folks at Vimeo (http://www.vimeo.com/8810611).

I’ve been thinking about what I want our church to look like as it grows and “family” is one of the best words I can come up with.  When we give our lives to God, we are adopted into his family. We become children who not only believe but who also belong. Here are a few thoughts on what family means to the Christian Church.

Being in the family means…

1. You are not alone.

2. You really know others.

3. You allow yourself to be known.

4. You celebrate other’s victories.

5. You don’t stop being family when you are disillusioned or offended.

6. Our bond is Christ (a opposed to the thin bonds of style, preference, personality, opinions, etc…).

7. You are accountable because of relationships and not because of rules (ie every sin is always a sin against relationships).

8. You call God “Papa”.

Verses to Enjoy

Romans 8:15-16 You received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Ephesians 2: 19  So now you… are no longer strangers and foreigners… You are members of God’s family.

Here’s a more unpacked version on this thought that I shared with our church last Sunday: http://vimeo.com/8681515

See also:

Eph. 1:6

Gal. 6:10

Ecc. 4:9-12

I’m at Taylor’s Bakery right now enjoying kona blend coffee, gravy biscuit and getting ready to share the next part of the ant series. It normally takes me from 5-9 hours to prepare a 40 minute talk. I do speak off the cuff at times but not as much during the school year. I think being a pastor helps me to live for God. When, I’m preparing for a talk, I am confronted with the scriptures. If I have discrepancies in my life, I have to process them, before I can speak authentically.

at Taylor's Bakery in Auburn

Taylor's is usually quiet, great coffee, and a great place to study.

I realize that God’s word is valid and true no matter what, but it helps if I’m living it, right? A fringe benefit of my job is that I have to deal. If I harden my heart…to God, to Ginger, anyone really, then it kills what I’m trying to give life to. In this sense my job is intricately tied into my personal life. Like it or lump it, it is.

So, here’s my self analysis if you please:

The Ant

1. She is self governed, takes responsibility for her life.

I think I’m doing pretty well here. I at least think I’m a self starter. Anyone who is a pastor, entrepreneur or self employed has to be. Other wise, they don’t make it. I realize that if I’m gonna grow, its up to me (and God of course, but I have to cooperate). One of my favorite quotes is by Ed Cole, “maturity doesn’t come with age but acceptance of responsibility.” Next however, is the kicker.

2. She thinks ahead and acts appropriately in the appropriate season.

The dagger. The point that has dug into me here is the idea that the ant “gathers its food in harvest,” that is, she works on what she is supposed to be working on. Ever remember in college when you had finals, suddenly you wanted to clean your room. I’m semi good at making lists for myself but I’m not often sequential at completing them. Honestly, I’ve been working on this one for years and am improving. I’m not at ant level though.  I tend to make a list of several things I need to do and generally pick the ones to do that are the most fun for me, or cause me the least pain. Importance is too often secondary. At times I plow during harvest just b/c plowing is more fun or I’m better at it than harvesting. The ant, however plows in season, sows in season and harvests in season. 

Request: If you are a sequential, organizational, left brained, detail loving ant,  know that you are loved and I need you in my life. Actually, I married one of you. Gin, if you are reading this, even though I kick against the pricks, I need your ant-iness. And, secondly, if you are one of those people, pray for Josh.

I know that personally I’ll never be bat 1000 in the ant leagues. But, I can go to the ant and learn a lesson.

If the ant stuff resonates with you, check out this little handout I put together from Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It shows that we spend out time on things that are:

1. Important and Urgent

2. Not Important but Urgent

3.  Important but Not Urgent

4. Not Important and Not Urgent

The ant lives in numbers 1 and 3.

Proverbs 6: 6 -11 You lazy fool, look at an ant.  Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two. Nobody has to tell it what to do. (self governed)  All summer it stores up food (thinks ahead); at harvest it stockpiles provisions (acts in season). (The Message translation with my comments in parenthesis)

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