They Didn’t Expect God

They were just going through life’s motions.

A couple thousand years ago a couple was traveling. They were traveling for Christmas break, they just didn’t know it. Well, actually, they were the only ones that did know it. Turns out that this family gathering that they were going to was about to really turn things upside down in the world as we know it. It was a family gathering really it was. web-mary-riding-donkey-travel-pdJoseph was returning to his home town because a law was passed that said everyone had to return to their home town with their families to be registered. To sign up and be counted. It was a census. I’m going to be honest with you, it would have been so much easier on Mary if they had telephones or door to door census takers. I remember when you could get a job as a census man. Anyway, because Joseph was returning to his home, we can understand that any other male members of his family were returning with him as well. Cousins, uncles, grandfathers, great grandfathers; it was a family gathering.

They were not expecting God or looking for God.

As this family gathered though, a couple of them probably knew it was time for the baby. Mary, the pregnant mama, and Joseph, her husband, were the ones that knew this was THE Child of God; the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed one. Everyone else went into the first Christmas and no one was expecting God. Shepherds were out in the field at night doing shepherdy things. There was a convoy of strangers heading to Jerusalem following betshep.jpga star; they were anticipating a new King in a palace. The National government was busy collecting taxes and counting heads of families, trying to get a grasp on who this nation was. The local eateries and lodging establishments were just trying to keep up with demands. They were probably trying to maximize their living spaces, table spaces and menus, in order to take advantage of this opportunity. Demanding a census had the effects of a “Jobs Initiative.” Got all kinds of day laborers working. Most likely had people scrambling to even find good help. None of them were expecting God.

Mary and Joseph’s family – not expecting God

The Shepherds – not expecting God

Inn Keeper – not expecting God

Tax collectors – not expecting God

Travelers – not expecting God

Workers – not expecting God

Everyone – not expecting God

Today is like yesterday

IMG_2390Today I see Christmas trees going up, lawn ornaments going up, lights sparking on roofs and in the trees and bushes of my neighbors. There was Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Internet shopping, Amazon Dropping, UPS delivering, USPS arriving, and FEDEX bring in the haul. Churchy religious people and organizations are ramping up their services, setting out more chairs, printing tickets, Getting the flying angels flying, rounding up the camels and sheep for the Holy City drive through. All things considered, we are in the same place that the world was back then; not expecting God. And please, before you go and take offense and get your acid reflux refluxing, no one is expecting God to break in and take us all home, if they were, they’d be dumping bank accounts, selling off property, giving their things away. You would be out inviting your neighbors into your personal salvation story. Expressing to them the joy of following Jesus, the promise of his second coming, and what all it has mean for you to walk with him.

BEHOLD

But time and time again, the story of God and His desire to save His greatest creation, His best work, His children, is interrupted by the statement “Behold!” This word is usually followed by “and the angel said,” “the Lord said,” “the Angel of the Lord said,” “Do not be afraid.”

God wants your attention this time

BEHOLD. Our Christmas series this year is “BEHOLD.” The moments in history when God did something miraculous, amazing, supernatural; when He loved on his children and they didn’t even see it coming. BEHOLD means, “Look,” “Pay attention,” “Do you see this?” It is God asking for your attention to let you know he is doing something really big. Something in your life.

For Christmas this year, Ask Seek and Knock

This Christmas season I want to encourage you to ask God for a “Behold” moment in your life.

It could very well be that he says, “Behold, I want you to pay for that family’s lunch.” He may say “Behold, I am answering your prayer …” He may crash into your Christmas and let you know that he never left you, never forsook you, and he is still actually arranging things on your behalf. Whatever it is, it will be an opportunity, and it will be in conjunction with his expectation of your obedience, to follow Him; to let Him lead the dance that is your life. Behold moments don’t come while we are ignoring him, leaving him out, or living in sin. These moments come when we get to the end of ourselves and finally let go and give in to His love for us.

Look around and expect God. Seek Him during this season and ask for a “BEHOLD” experience this year.

 

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TWO THINGS: 2

“So how are things going for you?”

Some form of that question is asked on any given day as we pass people, come to work, show up at the coffee shop; it is a greeting that suggests familiarity, pretends some sort of compassion and empathy, but is lived out in apathy. What if you actually answered it for yourself today?
It the midst of life, Jeremiah, the prophet, TELLS us how things are going rather than asking us how they are going. (Well he does for Israel thousands of years ago any way.)

Jeremiah that prophet

Jeremiah is just not a happy guy. He is a downer. You just want to say, “Come on man, say something encouraging!” I’m reading Jeremiah right now and it has the same appeal as reading the actual contents on the side of a tube of Preparation H. Just a lot of scientific words I don’t know, and lacking in encouragement; right now at least. As I’m beginning this book I find myself with Facebook open in front of me and I’m reading Jeremiah 2 at the same time. There is a lot of looking from screen to page, from screen to page over and over. Not because I need to see what is happening in the digital social construct we call our world, but because there is so much correlation between what I am seeing and what Jeremiah is saying.

Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV)
“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

Jolly Rancher

It is some pretty relevant scripture right there. Our souls would do well to take time to ponder this. Think of “pondering” like putting a Jolly Rancher in your mouth and just swirling it around and around. (it may be true that I have a raspberry Jolly Rancher in my mouth at this moment; don’t judge me) Explore the reality of your relationship to God in heaven for a while and your relationship to this passage. Fight against the human machine and the social extreme by grabbing the brake and giving it a YANK!! Slow down today for a moment. Let’s just be with God and hear this word from yesteryear.

TWO THINGS: #1

There are two things that God needed to tell Israel about. The first one is that they have forsaken God. There is a lot of this world that is attacking your heart and your desires as you go through life: things, attention, popularity, fame, love, sex, and a whole host of material possessions. God is calling us to not allow anything to take his place of priority in our lives. Clearly the Israelites had decided that the other “gods” (that are actually not gods at all); gods of various immoral worship practices; sexual as well as infanticide would be more fun. God is calling them out for walking away from him. He is GOD and he will not be ignored, cast aside or get off the throne. So, God allowed them to receive the consequences of not remaining under his protection. People talk about where is God when things go south, or go wrong, and the answer is always the same: You rejected God and pushed him away, now you are reaping the consequences of this choice.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

What about you? Are you confessing being a theological Christian or Christ -follower, yet you are living like a practical Atheist? You read what Jesus said but you don’t do what Jesus said unless you like it. Don’t rise up in angst or feigned umbrage, (there’s a word for ya! It means, “offence or annoyance”) you know this happens all the time. For some reason we are “selling” Jesus like he is a club, or a group to join, when truly he is God to whom we surrender. God is not a Sunday morning checklist item. He is not a daily Bible reading chore to fulfill. He is not a good work that will earn you a right standing “in the end.” God is our father: he is a relationship to rejoice in above all others. He wants to walk with you. It does start in the Bible but it continues on as we learn to walk in the Spirit. But be honest, there are a lot of people that claim to follow Jesus, but they live in rejection of his teachings because the teachings don’t make personal sense to them. So they rationalize a whole new God that cannot be supported without serious hermeneutical calisthenics: TWISTING OF THE SCRIPTURES. Doing what Jesus said to do is costly and doesn’t always, or often, make sense; do it anyway. God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” Is 55:8.

TWO THINGS #2

The second thing is that Israel is digging it’s own cisterns. (a cistern is an underground tank or reservoir for storing rainwater) God contrasts cisterns with a spring of constant cisternconsistent fresh water. What God offers in our relationship to him is good, it is fresh and it is eternal. Cistern water is stored water. It can get algae in it. It can become stagnant and putrid. Spring water is always being refreshed, it is moving through. God wants what is best for us. God is good, God is love, God gives eternal life. But we are a people that want what we want for some of the dumbest reasons at times. Even Israel in her early days rejected God being their leader for a King so they could be like every other nation around them. We want to be like everyone else. We want to keep up with the Joneses. We want more than everyone else so we can be impressive and important. We want to be a people that can “do it ourselves.” We want to brag about what we have accomplished. We want to leave out God and his part in our lives; he won’t stand for that though. The world we live in says, “Look what I did,” and even when we become Christians, we tend to revert to “Ok I got this God thanks, leave me alone now, I’ll do it myself.” But we are dependent upon God even when we don’t know it. We don’t make the sun run its course. We don’t keep the world spinning on its precarious axis of 23 degrees. We do not determine how much rain will fall and where or when it will fall. We don’t create the droughts. As humans we cannot even tell people where existence came from. The fool has said in his heart there is no God.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Back to the same question, “What about you?” Are you living your life on your terms, by your own created, rationalized, standards, or are you in a living relationship with God? In Matthew 7 Jesus said not all who say Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Those people did good, religious, and spiritually powerful things, but apparently it wasn’t what God was telling them to do, it was what they wanted to do. They were digging their own cisterns and asking God to bless it.

We serve a God that still speaks today. Through the Bible, through circumstances, through other people, through music, through prayer and through community: God wants us to listen and obey.

ARE YOU EVEN CHRISTIAN?

ARE YOU EVEN CHRISTIAN?

I woke up in the middle of the night thinking a thought. It has been a thought of mine for quite a while and so I’m going to put it right here for you to wrestle with. You don’t have to agree with me, I’m ok with that. Civility says we can disagree and still be friends; it used to say that any way.

Noah was a man that that God came to and asked to build a boat, a very big boat. A boat that saved the world as we know it, if you believe the story; and I do. As you think about what God did in the life of Noah, whom he considered a righteous man at the time, it was a bit irrational to those around him. It had never rained upon the earth. There was no large body of water nearby that we are aware of. The very concept of a “boat” was new, weird, odd, unheralded, or crazy. 120 years worth of crazy depending upon how you understand the story. So God asked Noah to do something that from the outside was very, very “not rational.” Made no sense. It was a bad financial decision. The list could go on and on.

IRRATIONAL

What about a guy named Abram? Seriously. This guy, a pagan by any understanding of the story, was living his life and claims that God came to him and told him to up and move. The invitation was to come and follow me [God] and I will show you a land that I am going to give to you and your family, which is going to become a great nation and will bless all the nations of the earth. Wow. Not rational. Not rational you ask? No, not rational. At the time this guy is 75 years of age, his wife is 65 and they have no children what so ever. Abram’s wife had been barren, infertile, unblessed with children for 65 years. Where is this nation going to come from, and where did you say we were going?

NOT RATIONAL

These are the stories over and over again that show up in the Bible. The Bible that the Christian church claims as their manifesto, their sacred book, their direct word from God himself, this book is full of these stories to the point where it is the norm. It is super normal in the Bible that God asks people to do things they cannot do, things that make no sense, things that cost everything, things that will have the community around them making fun of them.

upside-downThe Kingdom of God Is not of this world. The Kingdom of God does not do things the way this world does them. In this world we think things through, make a plan, save up store up and then claw our way up to the top. This world is a “Me first and you get the leftovers” sort of society. Smart, godly, Christian, people will do the smart, financially fiscal thing that makes the most sense in today’s world. That’s what we teach. This is probably why we don’t see an awful lot of people going into missions. I’m not saying we don’t see some people making missions their life.

 

“If all you ever hear is your god telling you to do rational, reasonable things, you probably need an introduction to God and to the Bible.”

IRRATIONAL PRIORITIES

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 that we are to make the Kingdom of God the main priority in our lives. Jesus says that if we seek that Kingdom first, all the things that pagans run after; clothes and food and homes and such will be provided by the king himself. The church, the real church, has been called to run after God and his mission. The Christians, the real Christians, have been called to bring the Kingdom of God to bear upon this world. God’s plan for my life is that I make known the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that I love the people that God loves without getting all entrenched in this world. My investments should reflect Kingdom values. My relationships should reflect Kingdom values. My entertainment choices: Movies, music, shows, should all reflect Kingdom values. If my goal is focused on saving, protecting, and or gaining for me and mine, then I’m fooling myself about even being a Christian. God only wants my heart, which gives him everything.

IRRATIONAL SAVIOR

Jesus made 120-180 gallons of wine out of water at a wedding once. Just because he said so.
Jesus spit on the ground and made mud to put on the blind man’s eyes. That’s how he healed him.
Jesus told a man to sell everything he had, give to the poor and then to come and follow Jesus.
Jesus told one of his followers to walk out across the lake on top of the water.
Jesus forgave a man’s sins and in doing so, healed the man.
Jesus didn’t condemn a naked woman caught in the bed of a married man, even though his “Law” said to stone her to death.
Jesus ate in the homes of sinners and drank their wine. People called him a drunkard.
Jesus cast out demons on a regular basis.
Jesus went to “church” weekly, as was his custom.
Jesus died for sins he never committed, for people that rejected him and didn’t care about him.
God raised Jesus from the dead.

 

IF YOU BELIEVE, WHY DON’T YOU STILL DO IT?

Do you believe these things really happened or are they just stories to you?

Think about it for a moment. Do you really, honestly, with all your heart, believe that Jesus did and said these things to you and I and the world of today?

Why doesn’t it compel you to do irrational things that make no sense to spiritually anemic, or spiritually dead people? Does Jesus live inside you? Why isn’t he doing through you what he did in your Bible?

“When you realize that God never seems to ask YOU to take a ridiculous RISK, you’ll realize that you aren’t following God at all.”

All Jesus asked us to do was change the world one person at a time. “Go into all the world” he said, “and make disciples.” Before he said that, he let us know that he was sending his Holy Spirit, the Counselor, to teach us all things AND to remind us of everything Jesus said to us.

We are not alone; he is with us IF we are surrendered to him. Love he said, love the people into the Kingdom of Heaven. “”Each one reach one,” it’s not political, it’s not economical, and I can promise you it is certainly not RATIONAL. Get out of your comfort zone, you cubicle, your hometown and the plan that you have FOR your life. RISK it all for the Kingdom of Heaven and watch what God does IN your life.

 

 

 

They just can’t stand Jesus!!! Jesus’ teachings are not popular with them

As I launch into this, its not the heathen and the pagans that they aren’t popular with, it’s the western church.
As Christians we are not to follow the way of the people around us. The people around us have confused nationalism with Jesus, this is Idolatry for they have fashioned a god out of a culture of greed, comfort and entitlement.

Isaiah 8:11-13 (NIV)
11 This is what the Lord says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people:
12 “Do not call conspiracy
everything this people calls a conspiracy;
do not fear what they fear,
and do not dread it.
13 The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy,
he is the one you are to fear,
he is the one you are to dread.

Religious Conviction? Really?

I’m watching this whole Kim Davis thing unfold in front of the world on social media and it is sad to see what people think, or thought, was the issue. The bottom line is not the same sex marriages as is being reported, it is the fact that her name is attached to the certificates they will receive. According to her lawyer that’s the issue. She doesn’t seem to have any problem taking tax money from gay people and Muslims and any other people group she disagrees with to pay her salary. Technically the very homosexuals that she is “standing up against” pay her and she takes their money, I can’t make that make sense in light of her supposed “convictions.”

She isn’t being persecuted for her religious convictions. She went to jail for not doing her job, and before you say, “because of her religious convictions,” remember, as the clerk, she is taking those same people’s money for taxes, her salary et al. She signed up to be the clerk of everybody in the county: Everybody. If there is a problem with that, we should note that Jesus didn’t work for Rome.

She should have stepped down

Why do I think she should have stepped down? Well, because if she says this is religious persecution, then I believe we should look to the very words of Jesus himself. The words she claims to be making a stand on. This is a very novel idea for her and those supporting her, but I think it is worth it.

“When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.” Jesus said in Matthew 10:23.

So, let me get this straight, Jesus said when you are persecuted, LEAVE, yet the politicians say, fight. Which one is THE Word of the Lord? Which one is the command of the Lord? Then which one should we DO?

Jesus’ teaching is not popular

That’s not popular with Kim Davis, her pastor, or now Presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruze, who are all milking this for all it is worth. Why? Good question. The true gospel of Jesus Christ is not popular because it requires a separation of church and state. It ends the nationalization of Jesus by all western politicians, and any other nation on the planet. Jesus came and died for everybody.

The Jesus says in John 3:16 (written in red) that God loves the world, he is not mad. John 3:17 says that God didn’t send his Son to condemn the world but to save it. No, the gospel of Jesus is an invitation to come back home, not a hammer or sword to use to create a utopian, free, fair, society, that make everyone comfortable and rich.

God only loves wealthy people?

I actually heard a man that claims to be a Christian once say, that the fact that America is so wealthy is a sign that this is a godly nation, and God has his hand upon us over all the nations of the world. I wonder what that says to any other people or people groups in the world? If you have money, God loves you, but if you don’t that is evidence that God is hates you? So I guess the Christians on the African continent that are dying from drought and disease as well as war, God must hate them? And the children being sold in to sex slavery in micro Asia as well as other places around the world, God hates them. Evidently God just loves Americans, Oil barons, Wall Street successes and South American drug lords. If we chase this philosophy, (I won’t even dignify it by calling it theology) Bill Gates must be God’s man for all time and we should just have him preach at all of our churches? All this stands directly opposed to John 3:16-17. So who is right, this guy or Jesus?

They won’t hear it

No, it is the church that won’t hear the teachings of Jesus because, wait for it ……., his teachings are expensive, and they don’t make “common” sense, and above everything else, they are not FAIR! I feel like I heard something like that in the Bible, just a minute let me see. Oh, here it is

1 Corinthians 1:20-21 (NIV)
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

Let’s do another shall we?

1 Corinthians 3:18-20 (NIV)
18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”

It keeps going,

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Now, can it get any clearer? The devil doesn’t have to chase you down and go all “Hollywood exorcist” on you to get you to turn away from God, he just has to sell you to the world and it’s ways. He just has to detract you from actually believing all the words of Jesus are true. He just has to convince you that God wants YOU to have it all.

What are you DOING Christian?

Before you get all riled up because I’m not agreeing with you, let me ask you this, who did you invite to church last week? Did you tithe, give generously, or give at all when the offering was taken up on Sunday? Where do you DO the things Jesus told us to do? Have you done anything to feed the hungry this week? Clothe the naked? Visit the widows or orphans? Before you say they should get a job, work for themselves, or anything else, Jesus didn’t put any, not ANY, qualifying factors on those COMMANDS.

It’s personal with Jesus

Ladies and gentlemen we live in a world that wants it all “just and fair” and it won’t be. We are to struggle for it, but Jesus never went all national and political, he went personal. Personal.

He personally left Heaven
He personally came to Earth
He personally lived a life of compassion, mercy, love and truth.
He personally called individuals to follow him
He personally invited sinners to leave their life of sin (he didn’t force them to obey)
He personally submitted willingly to death
He personally preached to those who died in the days of Noah
He personally was raised from the dead
He personally commanded us to make personal disciples
And, he personally lives to intercede on your behalf.
It’s all very personal with God; it’s not national anymore, I do not have to become a Jew to be a follower of Christ.

I love being an American

I want to live in a free country. I want to live where I can be comfortable. I want the opportunity to vote my republican values. I want to earn my way. What I won’t do is use Jesus to white wash my desires, my convenience, my politics or anything else to get what I want. Jesus didn’t come to make me comfortable, he came to save me and call me away from the world. He called me to live like a stranger and alien on this planet.

I am called to serve the Kingdom of Heaven, who are you serving?

#changetheworld