Friday, June 13, 2014

How can I get what I need SUPERNATURALLY?

We all wish we had superhero power to create wealth and protect what we created.

My Ordinary Life Bumper from Lifehouse Church on Vimeo.

PERSONALLY –live sermon - series on overcoming dangers of over-abundance of wealth. Have you ever dreamed of what you would do with a windfall amount of wealth? Exciting to think about! BUT that’s not real life. In REALITY, we have a challenging economy that's created personal crises for people we know with foreclosures, unemployment, skyrocketing debt, and fear about retirement and our children's financial future. These challenges have added PRESSURE to our lives around just trying to survive financially. We carry heavy weights of responsibility, fear, and uncertainty. We've learned that while we may wish for a surprising windfall of cash, the real world has NO SURPRISES. No the laws of economics are clear - work hard, be diligent, get an education, spend less than you make, and you might just have a shot at a decent financial future, that is unless politics or the economy or wars or corruption come in a snatch it away. So, during times when our economy feels more like “survival of the fittest” and “every man for himself,” is there anyone who cares about us? Is there anyone watching, caring, looking out for the weak, the poor, the hurting, the invisible? Does anyone, beside me, care and look out for me? YES! God is, not only our Redeemer, Savior, and Life-giver, God is our Provider. Often He provides through us –mundane, ordinary -through our abilities, jobs, hard work. He provides as we APPLY principles in BIBLE. THEN… In fearful, overwhelming times of great need, we are invited to... WALK IN SUPERNATURAL PROVISION We are invited to experience the obvious hand of God – providing/ caring - which is unexplainable and undeniable. How can I live knowing that God is supernaturally providing? First, discover that God is a giver. Story of Jesus is all about God GIVING. We neither deserved nor earned His love, forgiveness or promise of heaven. It's a GIFT! Romans 5:8 (Msg), But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. We can experience the faithful care of God through supernatural provision. DISCLAIMER – this is not about getting rich or prospering - applies to Pastor Saeed in Iranian prison, the Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan, the Christian couple threatened in China, or the richest, Silicon Valley Christian today. We each need to know how to trust God as the SOURCE of our life and livelihood. TO WALK IN SUPERNATURAL PROVISION, WE MUST EXPERIENCE GOD. We don’t START by GETTING what we WANT. Our life BEGINS and ENDS with God, therefore must EXPERIENCE God's PRESENCE before receiving His PRESENTS. Seek His FACE before His HAND. READ 1 Kings 17:2-4, 8-9, 14. Elijah had clear ENCOUNTERS with God. He knew/ heard/ listened to God. We must learn to KNOW and ENCOUNTER God rather than going to him as a lifeless SLOT MACHINE. TO WALK IN SUPERNATURAL PROVISION, WE MUST OBEY GOD. God cannot bless, favor, work supernaturally through people who are unwilling to obey Him. Elijah had to obey God by faith FIRST, THEN he experienced miraculous provision from God, READ 1 Kings 17:5, 10-11 (NIV). The common theme of these verses is that Elijah did what God asked him to do. He, and we, are challenged to obey or disobey. Often God will even STACK THE DECK of the IMPOSSIBLE to test our obedience AND to make it OBVIOUS that ONLY He provided. But this requires TRUST & OBEDIENCE. TO WALK IN SUPERNATURAL PROVISION, WE MUST RECOGNIZE GOD’S PROVISION IN UNLIKELY SOURCES If you want “supernatural” provision – requires a stretching of your faith, act of obedience brings God-size provision. In verse 6: Ravens (these are scavenger birds like vultures) were continually bringing food. That's the opposite of their nature. A very unlikely source! Then, through a widow’s small jar of flour and oil, God promises to provide food for Elijah and her and her son. What an unlikely, unexpected, uncommon source. EXTRAORDINARY! A near-empty jar of flour or bottle of oil from a poor widow. Another very unlikely source! We must learn to see and take notice of the faithful provision of God in the most unlikely sources, then give God the credit and glory. While we are busy asking for a miracle of provision, God is at work pouring into our lives, not to give us a miracle, but turning us into a miracle, so that we can BE a MIRACLE to someone else. ASK: How can you be a miracle of provision in someone else's life TODAY?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

How to experience EXTRAORDINARY in middle of ORDINARY

Check out the bumper to Lifehouse Church's latest sermon series, MY ORDINARY LIFE:

My Ordinary Life Bumper from Lifehouse Church on Vimeo.

What’s fascinating and intriguing about superhero movies? Could it be that we are living vicariously through these imaginary life stories of ordinary people who become and live extraordinary lives that are full of wonder, power, and adventure? Their lives are surprising and unexpected. In contrast, our lives are so... ordinary and predictable. We can look at our schedules and assignments, and before we face the day, we already know what will happen when. And it’s not very exciting. Even the excitement is planned and again… predictable. When we face the unpredictable and the difficult, the tragic or the impossible, we feel powerless, incapable, and inadequate. We’re victims in our own story wishing we had some superhero powers, like a force that could shoot out of our hand to stop the car. Or lasers to cut through a bank vault, so money just pours out for those in need. Any help we offer is totally explainable and predictable! Is there anything truly supernatural that confronts the tragic course of events in life? Is there an element to our faith that can intervene and disrupt our helplessness? No, we’re just ordinary! We read the stories recorded in the written history of how God interacted with men in ancient times, and they seem unreal and unimaginable. However, many of those who’s stories we read, were also very ordinary. James was the brother of Jesus, and actually became convinced that Jesus was God. What?! James had watched Jesus do signs, wonders, and miracles, then die and rise from the dead. I can only imagine that James, when contrasting his life with his brother Jesus, felt very ordinary – talk about sibling rivalry. So, as he wrote a loving letter to a church he led, he explained this tension when he thought about another hero of the faith, “Elijah was a man just like us.” His point was that Elijah had no superhero powers, no extraordinary gifts or abilities. Yet… He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. Like James, are we stuck in our pain and tragedy? Have Christians been reduced to soup-kitchen volunteers and the Church to a relief organization with no other answer or help in tragedy? We are invited by God to become part of His story (history), to take our ordinary, every day life and invite His extraordinary into our ordinary. We can begin to live an extraordinary life when we are willing to become part of God's story rather than expecting God to become part of our story. There's plenty of resources for this series online - podcasts, videos, notes, more: http://www.lifehousechurch.org/resources/sermons Use the study guide for personal or group study: http://www.lifehousechurch.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/My-Extraordinary-Life-Study-Guide-.pdf

STOP what you're doing & PRAY for Christians in IRAQ

From multiple news sources, as al-Qaeda-led forces (ISIS) take back Mosul, Tikrit, and other cities across Iraq, they are targeting Christian communities (although this is being specifically overlooked or underreported in the mainstream news). They are murdering, beheading, burning Christians.  For that reason, Christians are fleeing in mass (upwards of 500,000; 35,000 from Mosul alone) toward Kurdistan, but are unable to enter since there are traffic jams and the nation seems to be overrun.



Mosul had been the most Christian of the cities in Iraq. Now it's churches are being decimated and Christians slaughtered. Unfortunately, in the midst of our politics and war-weariness, we could easily turn a blind eye to our brothers and sisters on the other side of the globe. But we are ONE family, ONE church, ONE faith. Pray like you would for your blood relatives. 

Here's a clear and personal appeal from one pastor in Baghdad, the brave Anglican leader, Canon Andrew “the vicar of Baghdad” White,

Iraq is now in its worst crisis since the 2003 war. ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Group), a group that does not even see Al Qaida as extreme enough, has moved into Mosul, which is Nineveh. It has totally taken control, destroyed all government departments. Allowed all prisoners out of the prisons. Killed countless numbers of people. There are bodies over the streets. The army and police have fled, so many of the military resources have been captured. Tankers, armed vehicles and even helicopters are now in the hands of ISIS. The area is the heartland of the Christian community... 

The tanks are moving into the Christian villages destroying them and causing total carnage. … 

People have fled in their hundreds of thousands to Kurdistan still in Iraq for safety. The Kurds have even closed the border, preventing entry of the masses. The crisis is so huge it is almost impossible to consider what is really happening.


We need to come together to pray for the Christian leaders, the persecuted church, and for covering of God's protection over them as they live a radically bold witness of LOVE toward people who hate them and are trying to destroy them. May God's love and Good News shine brightest in the midst of this grave darkness.

PRAY! PRAY! PRAY!

Shark Attack: Real or Hoax? What about YOU?

There's some debate around whether the video is real or a hoax? Is it just good editing or did this guy actually have a close encounter with the Great White kind? Basically, a guy in Australia jumps off a cliff with a go pro only to find himself swimming with a great white shark. I'd link here, except there's strong language, so suffice it to say that it looks real. Except others are saying it's just some good editing.



Honestly, who cares?

If it's a hoax, we could say it was entertaining. If it's real, then that's just nuts!

What about you? Are you real or a hoax?

I'll be doing a sermon series titled TALK IS CHEAP in August on this very topic. Before I get started, let me challenge all of us...

Are you what you appear to be? Are you saying one thing and doing another? Are you a hoax full of edits and video tricks? Do you add and remove content in your life when it's convenient?

The first key to greatness is to be in reality what we appear to be. #Socrates

You don't need to PRETEND. No need for a HOAX. You are special, unique, and full of value in God's sight.

God takes ordinary, messed up, inadequate people like me (and you) and transforms them into His vessels to pour out the sacred message of life, love, hope, and eternal salvation.

…we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

It’s not really about you or me. That’s why God chooses people like us, so He can show Him off.

My story, your story is transformed into His story!

For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:1-2, 6-7)

ASK: What does “being real” look like? What do you say when you’re “real”? What do you not say? What would happen if we stripped away the hoax and revealed the raw truth of our lives? Of our faith? Of church?

ASK: What would happen if we stopped pretending and became fully authentic people?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

To Pursue God's Agenda, We Must Stop Pursuing Our Own

The farmer turned famed warrior had enough. He'd been chased by his father-in-law, King Saul. He'd hid in caves and mountain crags. He spent his days protecting the herds of a nobody. And NOW! Now, this "nobody" Nabal (which means "fool") thought he could insult David, the anointed, next king of Israel. The custom of the land was that if a band of nomads protected the herds of landowners rather than raid and pillage, then the landowner would give them a portion of his crop and herd at harvest. However, at harvest time, when David sent his men to collect their payment for protecting the flocks of Nabal, they were sent back empty handed to their leader.

David had enough! He didn't have to put up with this mistreatment. He'd already bottled up the abuse and murderous plots from Saul. He held back his sword multiple times, and he knew that was the right thing to do - not kill the king. But I'm sure, in his heart, he wished he could have just killed him and been done with the running and hiding and camping out in secret. Instead, he consistently put aside his agenda for God's agenda, telling his men that they must not destroy God's anointed ruler over Israel, King Saul. But now, after holding back, doing right, serving rather than fighting, David is ready for revenge. He's grown tired of waiting and ready for some payback. He's ready to give vent to his frustration and give full release to his pent-up anger. And here's his chance, the nobody Nabal has wronged him and deserves his vengeance,

"David said to his men, 'Put on your swords!' Then, 'May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!'" (1 Samuel 25:13,23, NIV).

In route to destroy Nabal and his whole clan, David is grinding his ax of revenge. His agenda is preeminent in his mind and motives.

Ever been there? You spent your life trying to do the right thing, but in one moment, you throw it out the window, to pursue your own selfish desires. You yell. You sin. You give in. Now, instead of a legacy of godliness and virtue, your stuck lifting your head out of the mud of failure. And David's on his way into the mud, but fortunately, before he can dive headlong into the mire, he's accosted by Nabal's wife.

Abigail, the beautiful and intelligent wife of Nabal, finds out what her husband did, and knows what David’s reaction will be, so she rides out to plead with David before he arrives at her husbands home. She offers him tons of gifts and food, and she fell at David’s feet and said,

"My lord, let the blame be on me alone… Now since the LORD has kept you, my master, from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands..." (1 Samuel 25:25,26, NIV).

She challenged David NOT to pursue his own agenda, his own battle. She reminded him that he was called by God to pursue divine purposes,

"...for the LORD will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my master, because he fights the LORD’s battles. Let no wrongdoing be found in you as long as you live." (1 Samuel 25:28, NIV).

To pursue God's agenda, we must stop pursing our own agenda.

To fight God's battles, we must stop fighting our own battles.

There is no place in God's Kingdom for our kingdom. We must serve, obey, worship any other god but God. We must not fight for the god of our pleasure, self-interest, pride or ego. We must lay down our impulse, anger, revenge, quick-tempered responses, and witty sarcasm.

Are you letting the little "nobody" or foolish, small things get under your skin? Is it the silly matters that send you over the top? The pebble the trips you up on your journey? We tend to have our guar up against the large enemies and obstacles, but put our guard down against the "insignificant" and seemingly inconsequential. But more people have thwarted God's best by failing in the "little" areas of life and sin.

If we are to be entrusted with building the legacy of God and establishing His Kingdom in our generation, we must be confronted and STOPPED by the gentle words of Abigail. We must respond by not giving in to our instincts and frustration. We must choose the god-led first response by relying on God's power.

We cannot fulfill both God's agenda and our own. When we trump the other. And the more we hotly pursue with ferocity the one, the less we'll aggressively pursue the other. We cannot serve both God and our interests.

Abigail reminded David of the stakes of giving in to his revenge, in contrast to the benefits of yielding to the desires of God. One would lead to unnecessary bloodshed and could compromise his kingdom and God's desires for his life. The other, not avenging himself, would only require him eating his pride, trusting God to defend him against his enemies, and continue to live as a servant to God. One would feed his stomach and his anger. The other would build a legacy that could possibly last forever.

Do we stop and think about what’s at stake? What could we lose or sabotage by giving into our impulsive emotions or desires? Is it worth it.

In what areas of my life am I pursuing my agenda rather than God's agenda? How can I stop in my tracks, repent and turn toward God's desires for my life?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

WHY I LOVE THE CHURCH YOU HATE

I LOVE THE CHURCH - Not Lifehouse Church or any particular church but THE Church!



Have you ever seen a couple that just didn’t look compatible? And you thought,

“How did he attract her?!” or “What does he see in her?!”

I had that happen to me. A professor, who clearly thought more of my future wife than of me, provided a short, one line reference for me,

“Patrick is marrying up.”

Blunt, but I didn’t and don’t disagree. Marrying Laura is the greatest moment in my life and may be one of the few decisions that proves that I’m smarter than you think I am. I expect people to speak well of and be kind to my wife. I want to cherish, love, protect, and provide for Laura.

So, if someone said they liked me as a friend but not my wife, I’d have a problem with them. A BIG problem. In fact, I wouldn’t consider them to be a friend at all. I would… oh, never mind…

In the current church culture and Christian generation, it’s trendy to say that we love Jesus but not His Bride.

We are devoted to, filled with worship toward, and desire to be closer to Jesus. But His Bride, the Church, not so much!

It’s popular to bash churches - Her styles of service are outdated or too trendy. Her taste in music and expressions of love toward Her Jesus are too loud, too traditional, too showy, too boring, too… And don’t get me started on Her leaders - Her pastors are hypocrites, immoral, all business, and too focused on being celebrities. We condemn Her theology - it’s too much of this or not enough of that. And Her preaching - it’s too much love or too much wrath or too much... And Her worst feature is all the people who are part of Her - they are full of problems, dysfunction, politics, and they are either too fanatical or don’t live the message they hear enough.

We see and share all of His Bride's flaws and faults. We criticize and politicize. We gossip and rumor. We critique and judge - every decision, expenditure, person, and part. We attack every failure and condemn every shortcoming. And I guess, we should. Like white blood cells attacking infections, their is an element in the body that God designed to destroy and eliminate foreign, infecting disease. There are parts of the Church that are foreign to the Sacred Truth of the Scripture. There are false teachers that are wolves among the sheep. There are cancer cells that, if not dealt with quickly and removed, metastasize and spread and destroy the health of the Church body. But these are not the Body. They are outside, infectious elements invading and corrupting Jesus’ Bride. He loves Her, protects, provides, and cleanses Her.

When Jesus returns to receive His Bride, He will receive a pure and spotless Bride, because He will ultimately sanctify her of all her imperfections and faults.[i]  His loving sacrifice and the power of His resurrection will transform what was corruptible and mortal into the perfect incorruptible and immortal Bride of Christ.[ii] Then, He and His bride will celebrate and feast from "banquet at the wedding celebration of the Lamb!” [iii]


Jesus loves His Bride the Church. [iv]  He loved Her, both in Her present state and Her future state, so much that He gave His life for Her - to provide Her with love, grace, salvation and protection. He died to rescue and protect Her from the corrupting power of sin, death, and hell.

Jesus confronted and challenged the forces of darkness that were and are at work trying to destroy her. How? By putting Himself in between Her and Her accuser and destroyer. He put Himself in the way, by making Himself the ultimate target of sin, death, and eternal destruction. [v]  He stepped in between Her and Her attacker by becoming the bulls- eye of the fatal death-blow by stretching His hands as far as they would reach and exposing Himself to scorn and the curse of sin. He died so She could live. He rose to give Her the power to live forever in His love and victory.

So, how do we love the Church, the Bride of Christ, with the same sincere love that Jesus demonstrated?  The dialogue between Jesus and Simon Peter in John 21 provides key principles to guide us.

REMEMBER JESUS LOVE FOR ME IN MY IMPERFECTIONS.

First, each of us must remember how much Jesus has loved us. He loved us extravagantly, in spite of our shortcomings, failures, sin, and betrayal of Him. Think about Simon Peter’s track record of offenses against Jesus - he overacts, misspeaks, becomes the voice of Satan, lashes out in anger, and finally, betrays Jesus three times. But in John 21, after His resurrection, Jesus introduces Himself to Peter for the second time while he’s fishing. The quick version – Peter, the fisherman-turned-fisher-of-men turns back to fishing. But his turning point, just like when he met Jesus first, he’s not having any luck catching fish. Empty nets. Someone from shore shouts,

“No fish? Try the other side of the boat!” Then, full nets.

“Wait, what? That’s got to be Jesus!” Then… the moment when Peter was reminded of God’s love for him.  Jesus asks Peter,

“Do you truly love (agapaō) me more than these?” And Peter responds,

“You know that I love (philéō) you.” So Jesus says,

“Take care of my sheep.” They have this exchange twice. Jesus asks Peter if he has unconditional, unfailing love for Him, but Peter explains that he feels a brotherly love for Jesus. Finally, Jesus questions if Peter even has this brotherly level of love, and Peter is hurt,

“Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” (summarized from John 21:15-17, NIV). Peter needed Jesus love and had little but friendship to offer. Jesus gave all for Peter, and even after Peter experienced the resurrection of Jesus, he was only on the receiving end of Jesus’ generous love and grace.

By our very need for salvation, we were corrupt and imperfect when we came to believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We were sinners saved by grace through faith. [vi]  We were stained with guilt and weighted by shame. Then, miraculously, amazingly Jesus gave us new life. [vii]  Now we cling to His cross of death as our instrument of life. He loved us when we were unlovable. [viii] He forgave us when we deserved judgment. We need to remember how much we have been forgiven, and that this wasn’t only at the start or just one time, but an ongoing reality. [ix] We needed, need, and will always need the Cross of Jesus.

We are only on the receiving end, and have nothing to offer God except what He gives us by His grace. When we are reminded of how much we have been loved and are being loved by God, we are humbled in repentance and overwhelmed by grace. We remember that we are not part of God’s Church, Christ’s Bride, because of our performance or perfection, our righteousness or theological soundness. We are only and always chosen by LOVE.

Jesus renewed His love for Peter, and reminded Peter that he was loved, not because of what he could offer, but because of what Jesus already offered.

LOVE JESUS' BRIDE, THE CHURCH, IN HER IMPERFECTIONS.

Then, in response to the awareness of His love, Jesus invites Peter to “take care of my sheep.” [x]

What does a shepherd do in caring for his sheep? He protects them from danger, provides them with safe and lush pasture. He frees them from fear and want. He tends to their needs and cares for their wounds. A shepherd loves his sheep, and the sheep follow and know the shepherd’s voice.

Jesus commanded Peter to care for His sheep with this level of attention and compassion.

We must learn to love the Bride of Christ with the same humility that we receive the love of Christ. Jesus loves Her as Himself. He loves every part of Her. And He loves those who love Her. And rejects those who reject Her. We must fall back in love with the Church – Jesus’ Bride. We must cherish, honor, and care for Her.

The best way to show that we care is by actually caring.

We don’t need to fake our tenderness. We need to genuinely be tender. We don't need to "put on" a gentle spirit toward those within the church and offer grace to those who are sinful and comfort to those who are hurting. We need to actually DO IT! Compassion is action!

Love demonstrates herself through loving behavior.  [xi] So, if I love Jesus, I choose to love His Church – all of Her – the organized and house church, the mega- and the micro- church, the stained glass and theater church, the suit-wearing and not-so-much wearing, the rural and the urban, the hip-hop and the pipe organ church, the underground and the American church, the global and the local church, the mainline and the marginalized church. I love all her theological nuances and novices. Her variety and the splendor of her diversity.

LOVE MY PART IN THE CHURCH IN THE MIDST OF MY IMPERFECTIONS.

We don’t have to be every part, just our unique part. But we do have to enjoy Her and appreciate Her diversity and uniqueness. We must honor the fact that we, individually, are not the only part nor always right. We must be willing to appreciate that there are different churches reaching different people using different methods with different non-essential doctrines governed differently.

There are indeed many churches yet ONE Church. And the Methodist cannot say to the Lutheran, “I have no need of you”; nor again the Reformed to the Pentecostal, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those churches within the Church which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those churches within the Church, which we think are less honorable, on these we place greater honor, and the churches that have unpresentable parts we give greater respect, but to those churches which already receive great honor no extra respect is needed. But God builds the Church, having given greater honor to churches and pastors that lack it, so that there is no divide or disunity in His Church, but that each church should care for the other parts of the Church. And if one church suffers, all the church suffers with it, or if one church is honored, all churches celebrate with them. (revised and adapted from 1 Corinthians 12:2-26, NKJV).

ASK YOURSELF IN PRAYERFUL REFLECTION:

  • How have I not loved Jesus’ Bride, the Church? 
  • How do I need to repent and change my attitude toward the Church or a church? 
  • Who do I need to go to and give honor or ask forgiveness for my lack of love toward the unique expression of Christ’s Bride through that pastor or that church? 


 ---
[i] Ephesians 5:27
[ii] 1 Corinthians 15:
[ii] The NET Bible; Bible. English (Revelation 19:9). Biblical Studies Press (2006).
[iv] John 3:29; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:23.
[v] Romans 5:8 and 1 Peter 1:19.
[vi] Ephesians 2:8-9.
[vii] 2 Corinthians 5:17.
[viii] Romans 5:8.
[ix] 1 John 1:9.
[x] John 21:16.
[xi] 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Friday, February 28, 2014

SPOILER ALERT - hate to ruin the ending but...

The producers of The Bible miniseries that showed on History Channel have released Son of God. It's now in movies across the US, and at both theaters right here in Hagerstown.

I haven't seen it, but the Book that it's based on is a all-time bestseller & it better than the movie.

 

Here's my spoiler alert, I know how it ends and I haven't even seen it yet! But the ending is worth seeing, even if you know what's going to happen.

Also, if you've seen the miniseries, and don't think there's any new content - THERE IS!

Read an interview with them here.

Let me know what you thought.