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.

Today is EIGHT

I woke up to a reminder from a friend today: today marks 8 years. Nine years ago I was struggling in a continuing conversation with God. Eight years ago today we launched the first Sunday morning service of the Vineyard Community Church Richmond.

I had moved to Kentucky from western Oklahoma and was here to help a friend and do a job. My calling is to be a light and to bring the light. My initial understanding was that we would spend 3 years bi-eight-isgreatvocationally building a church up; I was sent to assist and assist is what I did. I stayed on for six years and then began to understand that something had changed; I needed to get out of the way. The problem is I had fallen in love with central Kentucky, but I knew I was called to do more than be bi-vocational, but I didn’t know what God had in mind. I began to dream, think, and envision what a move out of state would look like. I questioned going back to Oklahoma, Ohio where I met Jesus, or some place new. God what do you want?

God said “COME FOLLOW ME”

What do you want Lord? I don’t hear too many Christians asking that question any more. “What do you want me to do Father?” “Where do you want me to live God?” “Whom do you want me to minister to Jesus?” I hear people dreaming about a call to ministry but itquestion dice usually begins with gathering together a financial guarantee, they aren’t willing to sell out, move out, and totally trust God because he said, “Go.” They want safety nets and promised salaries bigger than most staff members have in their present churches.

I began to pray. I was very aware that I had not heard from God at all, so I leaned into Elizabeth Elliot’s teaching, “when God isn’t telling you something new, then do whole heartedly that last thing he told you to do.” (something like that) Whole heartedly has always been the way I get involved, I don’t think God created me to watch life go by, I want to live it and I want to live it fully, whole heartedly, enthusiastically, and squeeze every drop of blessing and experience and relationship that I can out of it. I want to live it as more than a conqueror: hupernikeao, Roamns 8:28, I want to live life and live it to it’s fullest; a vehemently abundant life; perissos John 10:10

Art, falconry, Scuba diving, motorcycling, traveling, guitar, poetry, coffee, friends, preaching, leadership, loving, ministering, I find myself whole heartedly diving right in. The Vineyard Community Church of Richmond Kentucky has been no different. From the 20130806_113643.jpgmoment that the Pastor of the Lexington Vineyard contacted me we have been ALLIN. We knew that we were planting a church; it was exciting to meet with people willing to roll the dice and follow the vision.

With 16 years of ministry experience, 5 children, two sons in law, and one grand child, we leveraged everything we could: savings, 401k, what ever we had, to see this thing born.

With one vision

It was exciting, it was fresh, it was loud, it was in the community and God had given us a vision that we would not be deterred from. Admittedly I certainly did not do everything right, I’m just not that smart. It is also clear from conversations that there were a significant number of people that had a lot of differing ideas, or agenda as to what was going to happen; what they personally wanted to happen; I don’t think that is unusual.

Sometimes I haven’t done it right

There have been bumps, valleys, struggles and pain from the get go. There has been joy, salvations, baptisms, healings, and celebrations carrying us along in the Spirit. We have seen God move in wonderful ways and we have cried together because it’s not all Rose_Thorns_2759sunshine and roses. We have seen persons come and we have seen persons go, we pray God continue to be near to them.

I haven’t always done it right no doubt, I have had to ask forgiveness and apologize at times, but then, that’s why Jesus died, so I could get back up and press on. I will always strive to say what needs to be said, corporately or personally, because I’m not smart enough to be scared, nor am I savvy enough to be quiet. I will refuse to compromise anything that might harm these sheep. I will refuse to be a hired shepherd: I have been called as a brother and joint heir with the great shepherd. I will not be perfect but I know that I will be held accountable to caring for the sheep of this fold. It is a very serious matter in my soul. So I live ferocious to attacks.

Stick to the plan

As a church we will continue to press into the vision. When God calls me home or away, the vision can change, until then we stick to the plan:

Chase God with a reckless abandonment,
Love everyone that walks through the door
and try to stay out of God’s way.

DSC_0115Today we are eight years old. WE are eight years old. A lot of people have placed their signature and DNA into this ekklesia to make it what it is today. Whether it was my boss that gave me a job knowing that someone more focused could do it better, the pastor I left that blessed us, or the people that came and went, this church, this gathering of sheep, is marked forever by them all. We are who we are because people cared, loved, served, gave, believed, followed, sacrificed and grew in their own relationships to God. God bless you all.

All the faces, all the people, all the circumstances

So today I reminisce on all the faces, all the people, all the circumstances (good and bad) and thank God that all of these have brought us to where we are today. Still loving, still serving, still caring, still outreaching, stillPulse 2 reaching out, still growing, still chasing Jesus and still seeing lives changed as hurting people seek an audience and an opportunity with a living God.

Happy Birthday to you VCCR, you are growing up into such a beautiful mature Church, God bless and be with you. Until the trumpet sounds and we all are caught up together, or until we all meet together in Heaven to remember, I pray that we will always be found seeking the heart of God, loving this community and more besides, and that our impact will always be bigger than our number.