Friday, December 21, 2012
Thursday, November 1, 2012
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
We wrapped up the series this past weekend but did not get to our last point so I wanted to blog about that one. The series has been a look at what it means to be a pentecostal church in our modern world. Many of us have endured excesses and out of balance in pentecostal services throughout our lives and sadly, those experiences keep people away from pentecostal churches today. At City Life, we believe in all the power without any of the pageantry! Throughout the summer, we have examined the very first pentecostal church, the first century Jerusalem church. The first church was birthed 50 days after Jesus's atoning death on the cross, thus our series title.
In Acts 2:41-47, we find a descriptive list of this church, what I refer to as the ten impossibilities. This list speaks of what characterized the Jerusalem church, not just on their best day but every day, to the degree that it caused the world from the outside looking in to stand in awe! They experienced growth, loyalty, community, prayer, power, generosity, service, gathering, worship, and favor to such degrees that it seems impossible. That is for me the essence of pentecostalism, to have an unshakeable belief that God still makes the impossible, possible! Mark 10:27 has been our anchor verse for the series, and for the past two weeks, we have been exploring impossible loyalty in particular.
When you and I are emotionally compromised, we are at risk of being disloyal. The life of Jacob demonstrates this truth with great clarity. When he felt disappointed, when he felt entitled, when he felt wronged, and finally, when he felt ashamed, Jacob betrayed. There should be an internal alarm that we all have whenever we are emotionally compromised, especially any of the four we just mentioned. This does not mean we will betray but rather we are at risk. When we are hurt and wounded we often give ourselves a false sense of permission to do what we should not and not do what we should. The podcasts will walk you through the first three, for now, let's talk about feeling ashamed.
Psalm 44:15 says, "My disgrace is before me all day long, and shame has covered my face..." We find King David at a time in his life when he was overcome by feelings of being ashamed. Those feelings led to one of Scriptures most egregious betrayals. 2 Samuel 11:15 records for us King David's command for Joab to send Uriah to a certain death. King David's indiscretions with Bathsheba gave birth to an overwhelming sense of shame making him emotional compromised and ultimately vulnerable to the temptation of disloyalty. Unfortunately, this held true for Jacob as well.
In Genesis 33:12-27, Jacob has been forgiven by his brother Esau and have before them the opportunity to restore their family. Esau invites Jacob to return home and Jacob lies. He tells Esau that because they have so much livestock, women, and children, their pace of travel is just too slow and that Esau should continue on to Seir and they will meet there. However, Jacob travels to Succoth and settles there. I can't imagine the shock of Esau when after waiting for hours, possibly even days, realizing that his brother has betrayed him yet again. I believe Jacob was disloyal here because of his shame. He knows that if he goes back to Seir, he has to deal with his lifetime of betrayals.
This is the lie people who are overcome with shame believe, that suffering the guilt of just one more moment of disloyalty is better than having to deal with all the cumulative pain of past betrayals. The treachery of this lie is that it is partially true. The past does outweigh just one more indiscretion. But we remain enslaved to the ever growing pain our past instead of the liberty that confession always brings. Dealing with the pain of our past is never easy but it is the only path to a clean conscience.
All of us need to have people in our lives we trust enough to share our secrets. We must have people in our lives to whom we can confess our past betrayals and find there from them the wisdom, Godly counsel, and accountability to take further steps to confess and seek forgiveness from the Esau's in our life. What are you hiding? When will you seek out a trusted friend or pastor to divulge your betrayal? The road to Succoth seems tempting but only in Seir will you find the peace that has always eluded you.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
I know there have been times in my life when I have been so disgusted with people that I have searched for an out, permission to give up on people. I am familiar with prayers of imprecation, which we find in the Psalms. Check out Psalm 55:15, 69:28, and 109:8. I have most certainly prayed a few of these prayers. In fact, I encourage others to pray these sorts of prayers. This is how God instructs us to deal with our unhealthy emotions, we bring them to Him. He is our safe place to vent. Then we are confronted with Jesus' admonition to not forget to pray for our enemies in Matthew 5:44. For me personally, I like to keep Matthew 5:44 by leaning into Psalm 55:15! Seriously, Jesus is asking us to pray blessings upon our enemies, but you may find that blessings for your enemies can only come from your heart once you've dealt with your impure emotions first. So, your enemy prayers can begin with Psalm 109:8...they just can't end there!
But what about this command NOT to pray? Our final sense of permission must not come from a verse by rather the entire text. And in the text, we find something even more perplexing...Jeremiah blatantly disobeys God! Wow, wow, wow! So now, we have a command not to pray AND a permission giving example for disobedience?
As we continue to read, chapter 14-17, we find Jeremiah continues to intercede on behalf of his people, as rotten and as despicable as they are. What would you have done, what would I have done. My first inclination would have been, "You are so right God, in fact, I've been hoping that you would give me a pass on praying for these debauchery seekers." But that is not Jeremiah's response, he continues to pray, pleading with God even after God has told him not to (14:19-22). (We aren't telling our children about these verses who are instructed in our house to champion first time obedience!!)
I hope you read this wonderful exchange between God and Jeremiah today, chapters 14 through 17. In the end, God's heart turns back towards His people, giving them an opportunity for repentance, all through the persistent, unwavering, yes even disobedience, of a Godly man named Jeremiah. I do pretty well at not giving up when it comes to praying for myself and people I love. I fail miserably at praying for those I don't especially like...God, help me to be more like Jeremiah today! I want to be a man who turns Your heart, even for the good of my enemies.
50DayPeople...ImpossiblePrayer! (current series...www.thecitylifechurch.com)
Friday, June 15, 2012
In an article by Chris Haft for MLB.com, he writes about Matt Cain's historic day on June 13 of this week, "Cain pitched the first perfect game in the Giant's rich, 130-year history, a 10-0 decision over the Houston Astros...the 22nd perfect game in Major League history by striking out 14 batters, matching Sandy Koufax's total against the the Chicago Cubs on September 9, 1965..."
The definition of a perfect game is not arbitrary. Perfection is not subjective. In baseball, no batter can achieve getting on base, not by a hit, walk, hit batter, error, etc. Three batters every inning retired in at least nine consecutive innings. Any perfect game is dazzling, but when that perfect game is achieved by one pitcher without any relief, that is exceptional. That is most recently, Matt Cain.
Just as every pitcher is in search of a perfect game, should we be in search of a perfect day? I know we can never be continually perfect; humanity precludes the possibility of sustained perfection. That is why we are so desperately dependent upon Jesus' grace and forgiveness. While He has only and always been perfect, since in heaven before earth, also His days here in history, and now forevermore as He reigns supreme at the right hand of God, we however will forever be susceptible to selfishness.
But can we have a perfect day? Can there be just one day where from the time we awake to the time we rest again, not one misstep through omission or commission? That in a day, we do everything that God expects and successfully fail to do everything He chagrins.
I don't believe that a perfect day is possible. But I do know that if I ever give up trying, I cheapen grace by letting Christ's perfect forgiveness become my justification for living less. I strive not because I doubt grace but because I want to honor grace. I strive not because I believe I will ever see a perfect "nine inning" day but because I want to fulfill my admittedly limited potential. I strive not because I have an over-exaggerated sense of self-sufficiency but because I am convinced that complete God-dependency produces the fruit of righteousness.
So this is my prayer, "God, help me today to live in such a way that I have only one errant pitch."
Living In The Gap!
Saturday, May 26, 2012
City Life's foundational verse when asking the question about being Pentecostal is found in Mark 10:27, our life verse for the series...where Jesus declares what is impossible for man is always possible for God, that nothing is impossible for God! That is the essence of Pentecostalism, that the same God we read in Scripture is the same God alive and at work in our lives, able and desiring to be at work in our lives in ways that will cause others to say, "That's impossible!" At City Life, we have an unshakeable belief that God still makes the impossible possible!
This past weekend, we took an introductory look at Acts 2:1-4 where we found that The Church was born on the Day of Pentecost. The prescribed feasts, annual festivals, found in the Mosaic Law for Jewish people were and are still today, to both remember times of God's "impossible" intervention and favor as well as declare a trust for His continued, steadfast love, devotion, and favor forevermore. Two of the most honored for such feasts were Passover and Pentecost. I didn’t quite have time for the last of my three points so I wanted to blog about that point here in this article.
Just 50 days prior to this article, we celebrated Easter, remembering Jesus' atoning death and victorious resurrection, which 2000 years ago coincided with the Jewish feast, Passover. This was Jesus' grand and glorious declaration that He is the ultimate Passover Lamb for all eternity. This understanding is commonplace in churches, that Jesus' death at Passover was an unavoidable intention of a sovereign God. But 50 Days after Passover, we have Pentecost, a feast that primarily was to honor God during one of the year's first harvests (the word pentecost is Greek for “fiftieth day”) gives the name of the feast. The imagery here is just as poignant as Jesus' death at Passover. God was saying to the world that once people begin to have a revelation of Jesus as THE Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, there will be a harvest of hearts, people, that The Church must gather into a spiritual community and take up the sacred work of Jesus’ Great Commission that He proclaimed at His ascension.
And to be a Pentecostal Church is to be a church that as we covenant together to see this great harvest gathered and commissioned, that we also engender within the church, a culture reminiscent of this first church. At City Life, we are committed to be such a church, a community of devoted followers of Jesus, disciples, where we still believe that the list of "impossibles" found in Acts 2:41-47, detailing this culture, are still possible today!
Luke tells us as he writes Acts, that people were enamored with this burgeoning religious movement formed around a common devotion to Jesus. Even for a time in history when there was a great interest in spirituality, the degree of growth, loyalty, community, prayer, power, generosity, service, gathering, worship, and favor that was found among these Jesus followers was, well, impossible! We covered in the opening sermon how their commitment to a daily, yes, DAILY, corporate worship gathering was a hallmark of this new movement. And we focused in on two areas of exploration within this gathering that we want to see in our own gatherings today...people came not with a "what's in it for me" mindset but rather with the hope of being a valuing presence and also if necessary a correcting presence. (You can listen to the podcast if either of those spark an interested in you!) So much of what we come to expect when we attend church, so much of what drives our decisioning as we weigh whether or not to attend weekend services...is unfortunately influenced not by Scripture but rather a western-world consumer based mentality that is grossly self-focused and self-indulgent. We intend to make no room for that at City Life!
So for the third motivation we are striving to see flourish among the people who call City Life home as we consider the priority that attending a weekly worship gathering should hold in our lives is...that we should come to church with the expectation of being a prophetic presence.
In the summer of 1990, the year of my own personal revelation of Jesus as the Passover Lamb...I was attending Mechanicsville Christian Center, not yet of devoted follower of Jesus but certainly wrestling with the debauchery of my life in light of the teachings of Jesus. This was the church that my family attended and I would often come to the service just as the musical portion of the worship service was concluding because of the intense conviction I would experience if I were there while the worship band was ministering. This particular Sunday morning, one of the elders, a man named Charlie Bevels, had a spontaneous, prophetic message at the end of one of the last songs that changed my life forever, being an audible voice for God, a message from God to someone in that room, a message for me.
I was intentionally late as usual and was standing right in the doorway at the entrance to the sanctuary, literally on the threshold. There were several hundred people in the room and the doorway was a considerable distance from the platform for anyone who might suspect Charlie was manipulating the moment having seen me arrive. He has since passed from this life into eternity but on this earth, he was one of the most genuine, honest, forthright men I have ever known. He began to say, "How long will you stand there on the fence, on the threshold? What else do you need to see me do in order for you to embrace the life you were created to live? How many more lives do you need to see me change, 10, 100, 1000...tell, what is it that will move you off that fence, out of that threshold?" Needless to say, I felt intensely conspicuous, under the gaze of my God. Just a few months later, in December of that year, I made my vow of devotion to Jesus.
I had the privilege of sharing that story at Charlie's funeral many years later. He didn't come to church for himself...he came to value others, to lovingly correct others when needed, and yes, he came with an expectation the Holy Spirit just might reveal to him something of God's heart that someone in that room needed to hear, possibly something that would alter the course of their eternity just like it did for me!
Why is it that so many churches that are stereotypically categorized as Pentecostal are over run with eccentricity, excess, sensationalism...just plain weird? We can be expressive without being strange, we can be impassioned without being obnoxious...we can have all the power but without the pageantry! I too want to see our church experiencing the working of the Holy Spirit among us! I also believe that the oddities that have characterized many of our own personal observations in times past were not because the Holy Spirit is aberrant but because people can be strange! I'm convinced the Holy Spirit is saying, "Hey, that wasn't Me!"
In Acts 13:1-2, we have a wonderful account of people coming to a church service in the ancient city of Antioch, with an expectation that God could use them in a prophetic way. And that is exactly what happened…through the working of the Holy Spirit, they identified Paul and Barnabas to be some of the first church planters of this early movement soon to be known as Christianity. When you come to church, do you have this same expectation? Take some time to read the second chapter of 1 Corinthians where Paul explains the Holy Spirit searches the heart of God and reveals His heart to us! And what would otherwise be indiscernible with our natural, human understanding becomes knowable through the mind of Christ at work within us! You are a candidate for such super-natural experiences and so should be one of your greatest motivators for coming to church each week...use me Lord, use me!
See you this weekend!
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
In the first verse, we find that Lord allowed the Midianites to persecute the Israelites for seven years. In previous chapters, we find this same pattern repeated. Whenever the Israelites slipped into a pattern of disobedience, meaning that rebellion characterized them, more than just having a bad day, because of God's great love for them, there was a lesson to learn. In chapter three for example, the Israelites formerly suffered under Aram for eight years and eventually again under Moab for eighteen years. Each time we find the Israelites finally calling out to the Lord for help. My question is, what took so long? Really? Seven, Eight, and Eighteen years? So here's the first question. How long does it take you to cry out to God for help? If you have young children, you know that one of their first complete sentences spoken is, "I do it myself!" Even what we think we can do ourselves, ask for God's help, quickly!
As we continue reading in chapter six, we find that after seven years of suffering, the Israelites cry out to God and He sends a prophet. Then He sends an angel to Gideon which apparently still was not enough to move his heart and as the encounter progresses, the Lord Himself speaks to Gideon! I remember when Derick, our oldest was born. Just one whimper and we came running. Just a change in his breathing when he was sleeping, we came running...by the time Claire came along, our third, we had one rule, "Don't call for us unless there is blood!" You know it's true for you too! This too happens in our spiritual lives. Often our responsiveness to God from when we first became devoted followers of Jesus diminishes. How long does it take you to respond to God's promptings, His instructions? As we read in Ezekiel 36:26, may our hearts be tender and responsive to Him!
Finally, embedded in verse eighteen of chapter 6, the angel tells Gideon that he will remain until Gideon returns with his offering to the Lord. So here's the last question. How long do you ask God to wait for your worship? How many days go by without you offering praise to Him? Just last night one of our children was praying before dinner and the focus of the prayer was that the food would taste good. Apparently by way of observation, they had their doubts! I interrupted to remind us all that this was a time to be thankful, an opportunity for praise, not a time to pray for the pleasure of our palate! Let's make a choice today to not keep Him waiting for our worship! I am reminded of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 which says, "Rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks for this is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus!"
Living In The Gap!
Saturday, March 3, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
This selection comes from Deuteronomy 4, as you read through it, insert events from your life when you have experienced God in undeniable ways. For example, in verse 33, the text references the Israelites hearing God's voice speaking from fire...think of a time when you know God was speaking to you at a critical time in your life. Each time the text references a reason the Israelites should be faithful to God, insert something of your own personal experience...
32 “Now search all of history, from the time God created people on the earth until now, and search from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything as great as this ever been seen or heard before? 33 Has any nation ever heard the voice of God speaking from fire—as you did—and survived?34 Has any other god dared to take a nation for himself out of another nation by means of trials, miraculous signs, wonders, war, a strong hand, a powerful arm, and terrifying acts? Yet that is what the LORD your God did for you in Egypt, right before your eyes.
35 “He showed you these things so you would know that the LORD is God and there is no other. 36 He let you hear his voice from heaven so he could instruct you. He let you see his great fire here on earth so he could speak to you from it.37 Because he loved your ancestors, he chose to bless their descendants, and he personally brought you out of Egypt with a great display of power. 38 He drove out nations far greater than you, so he could bring you in and give you their land as your special possession, as it is today.
39 “So remember this and keep it firmly in mind: The LORD is God both in heaven and on earth, and there is no other. 40If you obey all the decrees and commands I am giving you today, all will be well with you and your children. I am giving you these instructions so you will enjoy a long life in the land the LORD your God is giving you for all time.”
Now, may we also ask ourselves this vital question, In light of all the encounters I have had personally with God, in light of all that I have witnessed Him do in people that I know, in light of everything that I believe about God from Scripture...does my life reflect all that I believe and know to be true...or is my life a contradiction? Just as He promised the Israelites in verse 40, so to with us, He longs for us to enjoy a long life, one where all is well for us and our children...a life that is only possibly when we abandon ourselves to Him!
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Friday, January 13, 2012
I love this story in Genesis! I am using the New Living Translation and the footnotes define Perez as meaning "breaking out" and Zerah as "scarlet" or "brightness" ...a story which gives us a rich offering is symbolism as we reflect on our own lives.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
6 Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
If you are in a place of waiting, don't make assumptions about God's intent, His apparent delay, His motives...trust, wait, believe!
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
In Genesis 12, we read that God promised this land to him when God appeared to Abram after he had left Haran and was journeying towards the Negev. Here, between Bethel and Ai, Abram built an altar to commemorate the promise, a marker for a divine encounter. Even though a famine, desperate circumstances forced them to travel to Egypt, Abram never lost faith in God's ability to keep His promise, evidenced by Abram's return to the altar between Bethel and Ai.
What promises from your past have you forsaken? What promises you believe God spoke to you in your yesterdays have you abandoned? For you, your journey may not be measured by a map or gps but rather the geography of the heart. Your "place" between "Bethel and Ai" is a place of believing, a place of faith. Find a quiet place today where you can return to an altar from days gone by, God wants to meet with you just as He met with Abram. God wants you to rediscover your faith in His ability to keep that promise. Remember, God's faithfulness is not measured by time, nor by temporal circumstances, nor by the doubt of others. His faithfulness is measured by His word. For Him, a promise made is always a promise kept.
Psalm 27:14 says that we must wait patiently for the Lord, being of good courage! Return today to your place of promise, believing again in the dream that God has spoken to your heart!
Tuesday, January 3, 2012