Archive for the ‘Thinking Theologically’ Category

Photo on 7-9-15 at 11.42 PMWe’re pretty creative beings… especially when it comes to trying to cover our tracks.  I’m pretty confident this isn’t a learned behavior – although I’m sure we do gain insight by watching others along the way – but this desire to hide is woven into the very DNA of our sin nature.  So it is with us from birth.

There are things you laugh about as a parent even though I’m fairly sure we’re not supposed to.  Tonight held one of those moments.

I had dad duty as Brooke was off meeting a client.  So I whipped up some dinner, got the boys ready for bed and even provided a treat for desert after they finished a chore and successfully ate all their dinner.  They are all peacefully sleeping when Brooke arrives later to have her dinner.  Then I hear her start to laugh as she asks, “Whose green beans are these wrapped up in the napkin?”  

I had been duped.  The classic hide the food you don’t want to eat in your napkin.  He almost committed the perfect crime (if not eating your green beans is a crime) but he forgot a crucial step… get rid of the evidence.  And all I could do was laugh.  I’m not sure that was the appropriate parental response.

Right away I knew who it was and without giving names, I’ll just tell you it was #2.  “Yes, Dad, I ate all my dinner.”

I had flashbacks.  Let’s just say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  I was known for some creative disposal of food as well.  Although, I don’t ever recall my parents laughing.

But then I flashbacked a little further.  All the way back to the beginning.  I wasn’t there for this one, but I know the story pretty well.  You see, our first parents tried to get away with it too.  Their crime was much different than green beans, although it did involve food.  And disobedience is disobedience no matter who it is in relation to.  However, theirs was directly against Almighty God.  They ate the fruit and tried to cover it up.  And when they were exposed… they tried to hide.

We just can’t help ourselves, but that is no excuse.  Whether big or small, our sin always causes us to try to cover it up and hide.  To do whatever we can to get away with because our nature is corrupt.  This manifests itself in our lives from the moment we take our first breath and it we will fight against this instinct until the day we breathe our last.

And for most of us, it will show up in much bigger ways than hiding some green beans in a napkin.  Which points us to the reality that we can’t manage our sin and we most certainly can’t fix ourselves.  This is why Jesus came.  He came to do what we couldn’t do – live in perfect obedience to God His Father… never once needing to cover anything up or hide.  And on the cross He took our sin and our hiding and in exchange He gives us His perfect obedience and righteousness.

So the good news is we don’t have to hide anymore!  We can be forgiven and we’re given a new nature.  He places His Spirit in us to do battle against our flesh.  So as you continue to struggle against your flesh… remember you can’t hide and you don’t need to!

And eat your green beans… they’re good for you!

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image3Waiting is a hard game to play.  I can’t think of a time where waiting ever seemed like a worthwhile or pleasant experience.  Even waiting in line for the best roller coaster at the theme park is still waiting… and it’s not that enjoyable.  Then you enter in times of waiting where you are hoping and waiting for an unknown outcome… the result could be good, but it could also be bad.

I think waiting also tends to numb us to reality.  The old “out of sight out of mind” adage comes to mind (no pun intended, that would be too much use of my mind).  All that to say, that the waiting can lull us to sleep at bit.  And left unchecked can lead to bitterness, disappointment, lack of purpose, prayer or even hope.

Did I mention waiting is hard?

And to top it all off we live in a culture that doesn’t exactly lend oneself to cultivating a discipline of patience and waiting.  Whether it is food, my commute, a webpage loading, a return phone call or email – fast is the operative word.

But where does “fast” fit in the spiritual journey God calls us on?  Are we given permission to skip over the periods of “waiting”?  Scripture is replete with images of serene, peaceful and even patient times that find deep resonance in our souls… if we are able to get below the surface and connect with them.  I believe the promise of Lamentations 3:25 that, “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks Him.”  I find resonance with the Psalmist who writes, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope” (103:5).

 But how do these become practice and not mere platitudes?  How do we truly wait with hope?
Practice.  I’m sure there could be a more spiritual answer, but what I’ve found to be true is that it simply takes practice.
And nothing has given my family and I more of an opportunity to practice than on this journey with Cole.  We are in the “waiting phase” of this Perthes disease.  As if waiting through a disease isn’t hard enough, it has it’s own built in waiting phase.  And it’s a waiting without knowing.  We don’t know how the next 3-5 years of waiting will shape out.  And we most certainly can’t see the future or know the long term outcome… so we do what we really don’t do best, but are learning to do better… we wait.
For Cole, he’s having a blast during the waiting.  With some special shoes to level out his walk and run, he’s full speed ahead (with a slight limp) all the time.  We’ve gone from soccer season to baseball season and at times step back to reflect on what a miracle that is.  But then we stop for x-rays and we are reminded that… we are still waiting.  We’re waiting, but we’re waiting with hope.
We will travel to Alabama tomorrow to see how these last few months of waiting have been.  The x-rays will be read and we’ll move into the next few months… of waiting.  But we are so grateful that we wait with hope and we don’t wait alone.  And we are praying and claiming the promises of Isaiah 40:31…
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
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Nicolaus Zinzendorf, the great German pastor and reformer of the 18th century, gathered together a group of Christ-followers that were known as “The Lord’s Watch”.  In 1727, this community of believers started a round the clock “prayer watch” that lasted unbroken for 100 years.  There were about 300 people in this community of faith at the beginning, and various ones covenanted to pray for one of the 24 hours in the day. In 1792, 65 years later, with the lamp of prayer still burning, the little community had sent out 300 missionaries to the various unreached peoples from the West Indies to Greenland and even to North America. They, as a community of believers, understood that they were on mission together and they were utterly, and radically dedicated to making Jesus known.

I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to be a part of a community like that… a community of faith that is marked by their persistence in prayer and their radical devotion to the mission of God together.

It’s been a privilege for me to step in to our pulpit during this “On Mission/Transformission” series we’ve been in through the book of Acts at Wildwood Church.  It has become my prayer that we as a faith family would better understand what it means to be the sheep (people) of God that are united as the flock (church) of God gathered together and launched out on mission together to impact the world with the Gospel of God for the glory of God!

In preparing to preach Acts 20, I had the privilege to travel just outside of Tallahassee to a farm to get a better idea the imagery that is used throughout Scripture to describe the people of God and the church of God.  Some 700 times we read about sheep, lambs, flocks and shepherds.

But what transforms our perspective of being a flock together on mission is when we realize how highly Christ has valued the sheep that He has bought. You know, what’s interesting about this whole imagery Scripture gives of the people of God as sheep is that we have this tendency to think of sheep as cute, cuddly animals. But in reality, sheep are dirty animals filled with parasites, lice and all kinds of worms. They have to be washed in different chemicals to cleanse them. They are obstinate, senseless, dumb animals, which is humbling when you realize that this is the image that God has used throughout Scripture to describe us. But don’t miss the beauty of the Gospel: that Christ came to die, not for the strong and successful, but for the weak and sinful; not for the clean, but for the dirty.

If you’d like to listen to the sermon in it’s entirety, you can do so here: http://wildwoodchurchonline.org/sermons/

(Photo: Joe Rondone/Tallahassee Democrat)

(Photo: Joe Rondone/Tallahassee Democrat)

Yesterday was a hard day.  Actually, this past week has been a hard week.  And I don’t just mean for me.  We’ve got a community, a high school, friends, family and relatives who are grieving.  The pain runs deep, especially when life is cut short.  Questions loom large and answers seem nowhere to be found.  Trying to make sense of tragedy seems to always be futile.

It’s times like these that 1 Corinthians 13:12 seems like the understatement of the Bible.  “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”  Imperfectly for sure.  Like looking through a foggy window.  Like trying to see clearly through those shower doors with obscure, rippled glass.

But I take great comfort knowing that one day I will see clearly.  We all will.  We will see as God sees.  But until then we are left squinting.  Until then we have to find comfort in our limited perspective knowing that His eyesight and perspective is perfect.  This gives me hope.

And hope is what we are all ultimately looking for… especially in the midst of a tragedy like we have experienced this past week.  You see, whether you realize it or not, deep down we are all hopeful people. Every single one of us wants something or someone to believe in. We do this all the time – every day. We put our hope in small things and big things. We put our hope in people or in relationships. We put hope and dreams toward the future and what will come next. Life would be pretty miserable without hope.

And it is just a time like this that we look at the world and things don’t seem to make sense and we wonder what’s going on. We can find ourselves having more questions than we have answers. We can find ourselves thinking that the darkness is darker than the light… and it can cause us to be hopeless.

But the truth is, ultimate hope exists.  I’ve found it for myself.  It’s a hope that has carried me through some very dark and painful times. I’ve found a hope that has carried me through times where I have felt hopeless. In the midst of these questions that don’t have easy answers I do believe a few things. I do believe that God is real, He is alive and He has not abandoned us. I do believe that in the midst of all the pain, confusion and tragedy, God is still here. And I believe that He is good and His plan is good.

Even in the middle of suffering there is hope.  And God knows this and has also felt this.  No one understands suffering more that God does.  He watched as the world abandoned Him and turned to their own path.  He knows what it feels like to lose a child as He was willing to sacrifice His one and only son.  Why?  So that we could have hope.

And this ultimate hope is Jesus.  Jesus came so that we could have hope.  Hope that was found in His life, in His death and ultimately in His resurrection from the grave.  You see in those events, He defeated the power of death.  He demolished the stronghold of sin.  He points to hope of the resurrection and the fact that life doesn’t end here when our physical life here on earth is over.

That is why I can be hopeful through the tears and the pain.  That is why I can feel the weight of what has happened and still be hopeful.  Because there is coming a day when all things will be made new. All of creation will be healed. One day, there will be no more mourning. There will be no more pain. There will be no more death. The world will finally be as it’s supposed to be.

Have you found ultimate hope?  If not, I’d love the opportunity to talk with you.  The tragedy of this week has served as a wake up call for all of us to evaluate our life and to cling tightly to those we love.  But let it also allow you to search your heart to see what you are hoping in.  Jesus is His name.  He is ultimate hope.

Borrowed Time

Posted: January 7, 2015 in Thinking Theologically
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One of the things I love most about being a parent during the holidays is the excitement that comes from my kids.  As we were in the advent season, time became really important to them.  We used our advent calendar to countdown the time until we would celebrate Jesus birth… and oh yea, something about counting down to presents too.  But everything about advent was marked by time and a desire for that time to be well spent.  We used some of the time we had during the break to visit family up in Birmingham and then also in Jacksonville.  Some of our time was spent on a visit to Cole’s doctor and then a subsequent re-visit and procedure.  And then we got to New Year’s Eve where time is marked by countdown timers, a giant ball falling and fireworks.

Time.  It’s something we all have in common – young and old alike.  We all have before us: 12 months. 52 weeks. 365 days. 8760 hours. 525,600 minutes and 31,536,000 seconds.  The question becomes, “What will you do with all this time?”  It’s been said that time is free but it is priceless.  You can’t own it, but you can use it.  You can’t keep it, but you can spend it.  And once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.  Some sobering words indeed.

James calls us to some important mindsets when it comes to time.  Starting in James 4 verse 13 he writes, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” 

James puts our lives into perceptive doesn’t he?  He tells us that our lives are like the fog that rolls in through the night and by the mid-morning hours is burned off by the sun.  It’s short lived.  The some 70, 80, or 90 years if God is gracious that we may live pale in comparison to eternity.  He has given us this precious gift of time that we are simply borrowing from Him.  And He’s called us to use it well.  To think like the great missionary C.T. Studd who reminds us, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”

 

From what I’ve observed these years I’ve spent in public ministry and even in my own experience during my high school years… I’ve found that the church has a difficult time just resting in the Gospel alone.  There is something within us that just drives us toward feeling that we’ve got to add something to the Gospel equation.  So we start on our formulaic journey to make the Gospel = Jesus + something.  For some it is Jesus + church attendance, good works, moral behavior, family heritage, traditions, keeping the law, religion… and the list goes on and on.  We want “Jesus plus” when the Gospel is never a formula.  It can never be Jesus plus anything for the Gospel is simply Jesus!

I had the opportunity to preach in our “On Mission” series here at Wildwood a few weeks ago on this idea of Gospel Re-Orientation from Acts chapter 15.  The epicenter of the early church had moved from Jerusalem to Antioch and a group of teachers called the Judiazers had moved in.  The message they were preaching was a ‘Jesus plus’ message.  They didn’t reject Jesus as the Gospel, they just felt that they needed to add to the Gospel (always a bad idea)!  So they were teaching Jesus + circumcision.  Basically, they were calling for the Gentiles to respond to the Gospel by becoming Jews first.

To intro the sermon, we produced this video:

Isn’t it amazing that some 2,000 years after Jesus commissioned the disciples to take the Gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, it has made it.  I sit here today in Tallahassee, Florida with a changed heart and life because of the obedience of many to the Great Commission.  May we be likewise challenged to share the Gospel in word and deed both across the street and around the world.

And if you’re interested, you can listen to the sermon in it’s entirety here.

Boldness

Posted: October 8, 2014 in Thinking Theologically
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The disciples and the early church were distinctively marked by boldness.  Boldness in a supernatural kind of way.  Boldness that was beyond personality, intelligence or even personal preference.  It’s a boldness that couldn’t be mustered up or created, but it was one that was desired and pursued.

They were “filled with the Holy Spirit” and the religious leaders“saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”  When challenged to not preach or teach the Gospel anymore they responded: “for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”  After returning to the rest of the disciples and other members of the early church, they talked about the persecution they were facing and knew it was best to pray… And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” [Acts 4]

I had the opportunity to preach this text this past Sunday as a part of our church’s journey through the book of Acts to discover what it means to live “on mission.”  This is both a personal and corporate pursuit.  We are called individually and communally to the mission of God… to advance the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Reading this text is incredibly challenging.  Would anyone characterize my life or your life as one marked by boldness in the Gospel?  Why are we ok with the disciples and early church fueled by such power from the Holy Spirit but our lives being so different?  Should there be such a disconnect between what we read in Scripture and our own experiences? These and other questions continue to challenge me and I pray you as well as we better understand what it means to walk in the Spirit and give our lives wholly over to His use.

But be warned… as you start asking these questions and allowing the Spirit to probe your heart know that things will change.  And that change begins to look a bit scary as we realize we must lay everything on the table for this mission.  Safety, security, material possessions, job, location, dreams, desires… and the list goes on and on.  But when you stop and think about it… how is it scary to lay these things before the Lord when He holds our very life in His hands?  How are we so willing to trust Him with our salvation and eternal security but not with our lives for His purposes while here on earth?  In laying these down are we not trading the perishable for the eternal?  Are we not investing in things that will last for eternity.

There is great work to be done.  Billions who have yet to hear and respond to the glorious good news of the Gospel.  How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” [Romans 10:14-15]

God, would you empower us with your Spirit to live and speak with boldness for your great name and your glory and for the advancement of the Gospel to the ends of the earth!

If you missed the sermon, you can listen or download the sermon here.