Every time I crack open the old testament I am immediately appreciative of the fact that God chose for me to be alive in the present day. I’m sure I would have learned to adjust, but let’s be honest; I’m really not a “live in the desert for 40 years” kind of guy. Trevor the Israelite would have been everyone’s least favorite child of God.
But more intimidating than living in the desert, more intimidating than going without electronics and yes, even more intimidating than experiencing a world without plumbing, would be the absolutely ludicrous things God asked the Israelites to do.
An example that leaps to mind is Joshua and the battle of Jericho. Joshua’s goal here seems pretty straight forward: conquer the city and move forward. But God had something else in mind. Instead of a carefully crafted militaristic strategy that would rival the brilliance of a Patton or a Cyrus, God told Joshua to do something a little more… unconventional.
“March around the city once with all of the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark.” Um… Seriously? I know we all trust God and everything, but I can pretty much guarantee you that not even God’s most devout servants of today would hop right to it. But wait, it gets even better. “On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout: then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.”
To which I would have said, “God, I’m sure that you already know this, but parades are usually held for celebrations, not for breeching city walls.” I couldn’t imagine what Joshua must be feeling. He found himself at the difficult crossroads that we all at some point find ourselves facing; God’s plan is God’s, so it must be right, but it makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE! Nobody had ever conquered a city by marching around it, and I can pretty confidently guess that nobody has since.
This was no doubt an unusual strategy. But the fact of the matter is that God has a track record of asking his people to do the unusual before he does the unheard-of. We just have to be obedient.
In the world we live in today, adhering to God’s standards for how we should live our lives is quite frankly unusual enough. But what if we actually listened to every single nudge God gives us. Talking to a stranger, asking a co-worker to come to church with you, praying with family member. Anything. All throughout the day, God is trying to get your attention. If we all listened for just a day, imagine… yeah… just imagine. Restoration. Salvation. Commitment. Grace. Mercy.
God came through for Joshua. He comes through for those who obey. The question remains; will you be be one who obeys?
Just in case you haven’t thought about this lately, let me break it down for you.
The loving creator and sustainer of the entire universe has issued you an offer for free pardon from your sins. Put yourself in His shoes (talk about big shoes to fill). None of us could honestly say that we would offer any kind of grace or mercy to the people that we gave up our only son for. Especially when those people constantly turn away, searching for something else beside the gift you gave them to fill the void in their lives.
None of us, not one of us could love like he loves, but still he does. He knows the very depths of our souls. Every sin has been committed in His sight, but still He loves, forgives and embraces us.
This is the God we serve.
A God who sees past our past.
A God who loves in spite of our brokenness.
A God whose grace goes far beyond the reality of our sins.
He Loves You. That’s all you need.
Let me be honest for a second: I tried a million and a half ways to creatively communicate the same point, but every pop-culture reference, real-life tie in, and funny anecdote failed to convey the importance of the truth that is kickin’ around in my skull. So here it is: God is sold on you.
It is quite literally impossible to go 24 hours in today’s media obsessed world with seeing or hearing something that makes you feel inferior in some way. Now more than ever, it is easy for us to pick ourselves apart; small imperfection by small imperfection. “I’m too poor”, “I’m too fat”, “I’m too stupid”. It’s really all too easy to do so when we are bombarded with advertisements continually tell us how inadequate our lives are because we don’t have what they’re trying to sell. And God forbid you cant afford what they are trying to sell you or even worse yet; if you don’t want what they are trying to sell you. How horrifically uncool of you!
What really makes this all so confusing is that we spend our money and time trying to become socially and culturally acceptable when it’s not society or culture that will endure all of time nor did they create, sustain and die for us.
The fact of the matter is that God, no matter how uncool, unhipster, un-anything you are, is completely sold on you. Unlike the ads you see and hear all day long that are trying to sell you on the idea that you are incomplete without the latest and greatest, God is trying to sell you on the fact that you incomplete as long as you search for your worth in those things. He couldn’t be more sold out to you. He gave His son up for you, and even though you (we all) turn away from Him like clockwork, he invites us back into His everlasting graces.
Now, being culturally and socially relevant isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s a great thing. We are at our most effective when we can relate to those around us. But remember, no matter what it is that is making you feel inadequate, the God that created the universe and died to save everyone that accepts Him thinks you’re pretty cool… So there’s really not a ton to feel bad about.
Inner turmoil and public disagreement are obviously bad things to happen to an organization. I am reminded of times when I have seen members of the same sports teams make back-biting comments to the media or even just right out brawl in the dugout or clubhouse. No matter what the cause, this is always a sign of some kind of internal breakdown.
As I watch these things happen I always want to jump through the screen and say, “Hey! Didn’t anyone tell you that you’re playing for the same team?” It seems silly. If you’re on some sort of a team, one could assume that there is an external adversary that you are fighting against. For a sports team, it could be an opposing team. For a community service team, it could be the presence of poverty or homelessness. If there is inner disagreement in these teams, not only will it weaken themselves, but it will also make the opponent stronger.
What does this mean then, for the church? Churches often refer to their volunteer groups as “teams”. I think that this is a great way to get people’s focus on the right track. As members of the global church we are all on the same “team”. This doesn’t mean that we have to agree on everything. Lord knows not everyone on a baseball team will agree on which batting order is the best. Not everyone on a football team will agree on whether the 4-3 or the 3-4 is the better defense to run. And not everyone on a Basketball team will agree on who should get the ball the most. (Unless Derrick Rose is on your team.) Every team, even the great ones will always have disagreement. Even thought there is disagreement on some practices, the team must lay their personal preferences aside in the name of unity and success. The church must do the same.
The point is that public disagreement on non-salvation issues are by and large a waste of our time and influence. Using scripture to publicly argue with another Christian is like throwing a punch at your teammate in the dugout with all of the cameras on. It makes the team look bad. People become suspicious and begin to assume that nobody on the team is in agreement and the whole organization is in turmoil. Unless someone is making a claim stating that there is another way to salvation that isn’t through Jesus, the fight is not necessary.
In today’s world, people are searching for any form of stability. Families are falling apart, the economy is failing and violent revolutions and riots are running rampant in the middle east, Europe and even in isolated incidents in America. Shouldn’t we, as servants of the One certain and great hope of the world be mindful of how we interact with one another? Our public disagreements paint a picture of instability for the whole world to see.
I call for a ceasefire in the church. Stop arguing. If you have a question about what someone has said or done, take it to them behind closed doors. The argument does not need to be a public one. Jesus said that we will be recognized as His disciples by our love for one another, not by how fervently we can argue our theological statutes.
Let us leave or disagreements aside, and work together to complete the task set out for us by Jesus Christ himself.
I promise this won’t take long. See? Not even an artsy picture to make the post look longer! The concept that I want to communicate to you today is simple, yet profound.
Time after time, those of us who are unwaiveringly involved and supportive of our churches are asked, “why?” Often times, it is simple to answer this question with “christianese” slogans and saying learned by rote, but sometimes that wont do, particularly when you happen to be the one asking yourself that question.
We all go through times when it is hard to remember why it is we do what we do. If the average tenure for a Pastor in full time ministry is only three years, I can’t imagine that the number could be much higher for volunteers. Ministry is tough work and it is often times emotionally draining. But for some reason, we keep going.
This weekend, billions of people went to church to celebrate Easter. Whether or not they were there because of a deeply felt appreciation for the work of Christ or because their calendar told them that Easter was on Sunday isn’t important. The important thing is that they were there, and we had a chance to facilitate their encounter with the living God. I haven’t heard any official numbers from Champions Centre yet, but one thing is for certain; thousands upon thousands poured into our doors and I’m sure that the number of salvations has to be more that 200.
The part that I play, no matter how seemingly insignificant, works as a part as a finly tuned life-changing machine. Countless droves of people met their savior yesterday. And all of us who were at church at 6:15 AM ‘till the doors were locked in the late afternoon all played a part in that. What else can you do in this life that comes close to the feeling of helping people find thier eternal hope?
(O.k. so I AM including a picture after all. Please for give me.)
I took this picture before our Saturday night service. I was moved to tears when I saw the number of people who had come through our doors. They were looking for hope and they were about to find it. I carry this picture with me in my wallet. To remind me and others of why I do what I do. If they (or I) ask “why?”, I’ll that the picture out and say, “THAT’S why.”
^ Best Mariner’s Shirt EVER
Very few things capture my attention and passion like baseball does. My family moved to the northwest in the middle of the Seattle Mariner’s shocking 1995 playoff run and we were immediately swept into the fanfare. Watching Ken Griffey Jr. track down a drive to the gap, marveling and Randy Johnson’s fastball and being in amazement at seeing Jay Buhner take a hanging curveball into the Kingdome’s upper deck. And of course all of this was tied together by the rich and father like baritone voice of Dave Neihaus. I still get, for lack of a better word, “giddy” when I head to any ballpark. I never lost my wonder, my child-like sense of awe when I see a big-leaguer hit a ball 500 feet.
Now you might be thinking, “Trevor. How foolish of you to be so passionate and crazy about a team that has never even been to the World Series!” To that I say, 1) get behind me Satan, and 2) Although I am more than well aware of my favorite teams woes and pitiful history, I refuse to be a fair-weather fan. I stick with it because I love it. I stick with it because sticking with it is the only way to fully appreciate the team’s eventual rise from the depths.
In the same way as it is with baseball, I really believe that it is frighteningly easy for us to unintentionally adopt a fair-weather attitude towards God. Most of the time, Christians can easily celebrate what God is doing. It is easy to worship Him because His goodness is so very evident in our day to day lives. When things are going well, it seems the only words that come out of your mouth are, “thank you Jesus!”
However, we have all been at a place where it is hard to see the positives; hard to see anything that was really worth getting excited about what God is doing. When things start going wrong, we can often blame God and all but write Him out of our lives. I can speak about this directly from experience. I’ve been there; the place where you’ve become convinced that you’re the modern day Job. God no longer seems like your loving father and sustainer, but rather a disinterested bully. If this sounds like the way you’re thinking, let me give you a few easy steps to fighting a fair-weather attitude towards God.
1) Remember - I know that at times, it can even seem difficult to find even one thing that can keep you on fire for God. But the never ending and all powerful truth is that if you have been saved, you always have something to celebrate about. Remember the times when God has been faithful and keep in mind that He never stops being faithful. Give it time. It could be that you’re not seeing His faithfulness because you’re too focused on blaming Him for everything.
2) Keep in mind that not everything that happens is God’s will, and God’s will isn’t everything that happens - God doesn’t want bad things to happen to you, but that doesn’t prevent them from happening anyways. The good news is that He will work all things together for the good of those who are called according to His purpose.
3) Better days ARE coming - Yes, it may in fact be one of the most over used verses, but Jeremiah 29:11 can really say a lot to you if you are in this situation. So much of my day to day hope comes from the fact that God has an incredible plan for me, and as long as I stay the course with Him, I can know that my best days will never be behind me.
The Mariners may very well be on their way to a season just as painstaking as the last two, but have no doubt that you won’t find me losing heart or hope for my team. I am with them, just like I am with God, when things are going well, and when things are pretty rough.
It is 2:51 in the morning.
The third night in a row that I have been seemingly rendered incapable of sleeping. I’ve tried all of the tricks, all of the wives-tale remedies but nothing seems to work. Tonight however, it isn’t a mild case of insomnia, nor restlessness or even the stress of having been in the emergency room with chest pains just one day ago that is keeping me up. No, tonight the cause of my eyes-wide-open marathon is one simple, yet profound truth: God is always good.
I’ll be honest, I’m temped to leave it at that, but what kind of a blogger would I be if I just hung that statement up to dry? However, seeing that it is now 2:57 in the morning, I will keep things brief so as to hasten my next attempt at sleep.
The statement “God is always good”, is somewhat of a cliche, but cliches are cliches for a reason. The fact of the matter is that no matter what you are going through, and I mean no matter what, God is always good. Any garden variety journalist could search through anyone’s past and classify it as a tragedy. Bad things will always happen to good people just like good things will always happen to good people. It’s better to not try to find some scientifically reducible explanation to this; just know that it is true. But what makes a person stand apart is what they stand upon in times of adversity.
Just a thought, I know, but it’s keeping me up, so I figured maybe someone needed to read this.
It is now 3:06 in the morning and I will, once again, attempt to sleep.
Take courage, God is good!
Dormant faith is useless. In case you haven’t noticed lately, our world is in desperate need of any kind of hope and love. Riots are breaking out, people are ravaged by earthquakes, our economy is in turmoil and our government is divided. Now I’m no doomsday Christian, and I certainly make no claims of these being our last days. But what I do claim is that it’s time for the people who have the answer to step out and do what they’re supposed to do.
For too long, the church has adopted a “run to the hills” mentality. We’ve figured that by rejecting “secular” culture, we would save ourselves from the temptation to turn away from God. In doing so, we’ve allowed a culture of “us vs. them” or, “the church vs. the world”. If you ask me, there’s one main problem with this type of thinking; John 3:16. Yes, the most famous verse in the Bible. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it says, “…for God so loved the world that he gave His only son…”. If the world is so important to God, shouldn’t it be to us? A christian being afraid of the world is like a lighthouse being afraid of the fog.
The fact of the matter is that the world is starved for love. They’re not finding it anywhere. Homes are broken, mariages are failing and the popularization of dishonor has led to a culture-wide attitude of hate and discontentment. The only end in sight for any of this is the hope we have in Jesus.
Being ambassadors for Christ is the most important thing we do. The apostle Paul took this very seriously. Acts 20:24 says, “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus - the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”
He counted his life as worthless if he wasn’t using it to spread the message of Christ. We must have this fervency in common. Be a lighthouse in the midst of the storm. People are looking for answers, and we have them. Be loving and patient and compassionate. It is our calling and the world needs it now more than ever.