Thursday, September 29, 2011

Just a reminder.

  1. No other gods, only me.
  2. No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever...
  3. No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter...
  4. No working on the Sabbath; keep it holy just as God, your God, commanded you...
  5. Respect your father and mother-God, your God, commands it!
  6. No murder.
  7. No adultery.
  8. No stealing.
  9. No lies about your neighbor.
  10. No coveting your neighbor's wife. And no lusting for his house...nothing that belongs to your neighbor!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Truth comes when we're open to it - not when we're prepared for it

Here's just something to ponder.

Here at Real Life we've been doing a series called Carbon Copy that has kind of taken on a life of it's own, at least for me.  We just finished week 4 and I have no idea how long we're gonna hang out on this series idea, I just feel like God is using it somehow (again, maybe just for me) to grow and draw us closer to Him.  The foundation text is 1 John 2:6 Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.  And we're talking about how we ought to be Carbon Copies of Jesus in our daily life.

Last Saturday I attended Ozark Christian College's Building Stronger Teams conference with a friend from Real Life and I heard a guy say this, often the story on the inside doesn't match the story on the outside.  Isn't this the character flaw that Jesus called out in the lives of the religious leaders?  We need to be the same person on the inside and the outside.  This is not as easy as it seems though, I get that more than others.  I'm a goofball, I often say the wrong thing at the wrong time (which would be right, right?!) so me being the same person outside I am inside sometimes gets me in trouble!  Being a Carbon Copy means we avoid the issue of hypocrisy.  Hypocrisy only exists when we say one thing and do another. But if our inside and outside match up, hypocrisy looses it's power.

While preaching this Sunday I was getting this point across and while I was rolling this stuff out there was a little boy who got so excited during the music and stuff he just couldn't get all his wiggles out.  So while he danced around right in front of me God just spoke to my heart and brought a great truth to us all through this little boy.  Remember that Matthew 18:3 says, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Right there in the middle of the teaching I'm doing some theological thinking... Why did Jesus say that and what does it mean?  Well, I've heard a lot of things said about this passage and I'm sure someone, a lot of "ones" probably knew this already but it meant something to us right there on Sunday morning.  

Children are the same on the outside as they are on the inside.  Take your young child shopping to check out some of the "people of Wal Mart" and listen to what they say.  "God left them in the oven too long..."  beep, beep, beep, "watch out mom, their backing up!"  

How do we get to heaven?  We become like children, being the same on the outside as we are on the inside.    Carbon Copies are children - trusting completely, being the same on the inside and outside.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Try telling your fish to think outside his tank

Preparing for last week's message on love from the Carbon Copy series I'm doing I included this statement, GOD'S LOVE DOESN'T ALWAYS FIT OUR FRAMEWORK.  I was talking about how strange it was that the text could say, "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that Lazarus was sick He stayed where He was two more days."  Does that make sense to you?  If you know the rest of the story it shouldn't, because it then takes Jesus even longer to get to Lazarus and once He does, Lazarus has been dead for four days.  How could Jesus love them and still wait?  I mean, it just doesn't make sense.

Here's the gist of the point.  God's love is so huge it's outside our framework for it.  Here's the love of our Savior.  John 3:16, for God so loved the world that He GAVE His only Son... and 1 John 3:16, we know what love is... Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.  THAT'S God's love.  Here's our love.  We say, "I love you" to our spouse and children and the family dog and the pizza on the kitchen counter.  We say, "I love you" to our spouse and then cheat on them in various forms.  Every child is born innately knowing that mom and dad love them, and then Dad beats them or sexually abuses them and Mom yells and tells them they had it coming and not to say anything or the bad people will come and take them away.  In Jr. and Sr. high schools its, "if you love me you will...(fill in the blank)" and then they say horrible things about the other whether they give in or not.  Is it any wonder we are messed up when it comes to love?

Our framework for love is so jaded, so skewed, so messed up that we can't possibly fully understand a love that is so all-encompassing and unconditional that our actions and attitudes have no bearing on it whatsoever.   God is the only person whose love is not dependent on what we do, what we say or how we (or He) feels.  No one... NO ONE else can say that.  Our love is absolutely affected by how we are treated by the ones we love- there are at times glimpses of incredible, supernatural love (as in the book, If I Perish) but we'll show this incredible love one minute and think something hateful the next.  God doesn't do that.

So there I am, it's Sunday morning, I'm preaching - in the middle of this point and it hits me...  Doesn't this principle fit every other aspect of our lives?  How we view and interact with the world is affected by the framework through which we see it.  Our experiences and successes and failures and understanding of love, forgiveness and kindness are all affected by what HAS happened to us.  How others treated our failures and successes.  Whether or not we experienced true forgiveness or unconditional kindness.  If someone has been abused by another person who was "supposed" to love them, do you think they ever truly experience love without that memory creeping in?

Now, we're told to think outside the box if we want to succeed or be innovative (huge word in church leadership circles right now - see, I'm hip to what's happening) in our lives or business ventures or churches.  The problem is, we can't.  We absolutely can NOT think outside the box, outside our framework for viewing the world around us.  We CAN, however, enlarge our box.  We can move our box to cut out less of this and let in more of that, (think of your box as a window frame.  If you stand directly in front of it, through your frame(work) you can see stuff, if you move one direction or another you see more of one thing and less of something else, get it?) but we're still looking at the world through the same framework.  Trying to think outside the box is like telling your fish to think outside his tank.  The only thing you can do is give him a bigger tank - he still won't be able to think "outside" it, but you've given him a larger framework in which to deal with his own fishy world.

God is infinite.  We are not.  God is perfect love.  We love imperfectly.  God is creative as part of His makeup.  We have flashes of creativity.

I don't want to leave you depressed here.  The Bible tells us that we see the world, God and others like we're looking in a mirror that is all foggy.  We can see shapes and movement but it's hard to make out the details.  But when we get to heaven we will see clearly - just as we are clearly seen (1 Cor 13:12).  But don't get discouraged while you're here.  Work to enlarge your framework, through study, through a deep awareness of the Holy Spirit's working in your life, through putting aside the deeds of the flesh and living a life of Christ with intention and purpose.  The Bible says to, "pray for wisdom" which will enlarge your frame.  Shift your focus so that you see more of Him and less of the world.  But don't feel too bad if you can't "think outside the box," remember, no one can - except God.  Here's to enlarging your framework and shifting your view (I'm memorizing Psalm 145 as a means to help this process!).

By the way, in the story of Jesus loving and waiting I mentioned in the opening, this is the same place where Jesus calls the four-day-dead Lazarus out of the grave and he listens and obeys - back to life.  Bringing dead people back to life doesn't fit in our framework, so I'm really glad that God's work has no frame.  And that He lets us participate in what He's doing, not because He needs us, but because He loves us.