Who really knows you? Not the you on Facebook, or the you at work, but the one who, when no one else is looking, bears your name. Some of us would say that our close friends know us, but rarely do those friends know what we are like at work. Most of us would say that our family knows us, but how much does mom really know after we have moved out and started a family of our own? Or, how much does our spouse see when, thanks to the internet, we can have multiple secret accounts? Do we even really know ourselves?
The truth is that, no matter how well we advertise ourselves, everyone views us a little differently. Our friends from childhood view us differently from our friends now. Our co-workers view us differently than our children. We even see ourselves in light of what we picture as the ideal in ourselves. No, there is only one person who can see real us; God himself (1 Sam 16:7b). The Bible says that God can peer so deeply into the real us, that he can even distinguish between the soul and the spirit (Hebrews 4:12). This isn't a basis for trichotomy, but a reminder that God knows us more intimately than we even know ourselves. It is because of this clear understanding of us that God is in the best position to understand our needs, to direct our steps, and to assess our decisions.
Ultimately, God is the one who can see the real you. That may horrify you, but consider one thing. Even after seeing you this way, He still decided that you we worth dying for to redeem. So, may I ask the real you a question? Are you ready to live following after Him?
Me and Sarah aren't particularly media savvy, but I have noticed lately that the tag "sorrynotsorry" has been quite popular (it's currently sitting at 9.8 million references on Instagram). Sorry-not-sorry is one of those terms that is what "whatever" was to me as a teenager. In America especially, it is a way for us to proclaim our independence from apologizing to others. After all, why should I apologize for being who I am?
I think that the Bible is clear about our identity: "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." (Gen. 1:27) All of us bear God's image. All of us. Those of us who have surrendered our lives to God can go further and say that, "outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." (2 Cor. 4:16) So, if this is true we have to take a look in the mirror. When it comes to our attitude towards others, our goal is not to step on people shamelessly as we try to claw our way to the top, but instead we should gently lift up each other ahead of us (Matt. 20:25-27).
Sorry not sorry is a way of writing off people, of being unapologetic. We don't write others off as Christians. We simply can't. God made everyone in his image, which includes your spouse as well as the guy who cut you off in traffic. Instead, I think that our challenge in this cynical time is to develop genuine compassion for others. There are a number of ways that we do that, but it starts by changing our #sorrynotsorry, to #iamsosorry.
Did you know that you are called to be a leader? Notice I didn't say a pastor, or a lifegroup leader, or founder of _insert new ministry here__. Leadership is something bigger than just a title. 2 Corinthians 3:6 says that God "has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant", and later "we are ambassadors for Christ." (5:20) These letters were not written to Great Leaders like Moses or King David. They are found in letters to the church…letters to you and to me.
I am thankful to be a part of a church where our leadership is not a person, but a team of people answering to God. One thing you may not know about this church though, is that it wasn't started by a board of leaders. It was started when regular Christ followers started to pray for God to use them! Similarly, when we take up our role as leaders and start to serve in the church, spread the gospel, grow in our lifegroups, something amazing happens. God's message of hope isn't just shouted by a dedicated few anymore. Instead, when 3, or 30, or 300 of us join in, then God's message spreads out over this city like a megaphone!
You may not consider yourself a leader, but God has given you a light that is brighter than you can contain. You don't have to become a great speaker to shine it. You just have to stand up and follow His lead.
Over the past few weeks we have been exploring all of the impossible things that are possible with God. In the midst of such Power it can be comforting to have God on our side. Through him we can weather life's storms (Heb. 6:19). Through him we can have treasure that can never be taken away (Matt 6:20). Through him, we too are unstoppable (Romans 8:31b). But what's the point of such comfort? What purpose does this comfort bring for our lives? Is it as simple as Billy Bass sings to us; don't worry, be happy?
What if God's call for you and for me is to leave our comfort zones and join God in his work (Matt. 28:19)? What if God's call for us is to be uncomfortable? I'm uncomfortable with meeting new people. I'm uncomfortable with knocking on my neighbors door to bring up a sensitive topic like faith. I'm uncomfortable serving in new areas at church. But, what if that's what the Impossible God wants me to do?
God's Word says, "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." (Col. 3:1-2) Have you surrendered your life to God? Then, it sounds like it's time for us to follow God in to the uncomfortable!
I remember the first time I held a fire hose. I felt like I was a super hero. All of those years of spraying my brother and sister with the garden hose were just practice leading up to my Firefighter 101 training. I was born for this moment! Two seconds later… I was sitting on the ground, confused. I knew how to open a fire nozzle, but not how to open it SLOWLY. I forgot that fire hoses can flow hundreds of gallons of water per minute. You very seldom need to go straight to a full stream. First, you allow about the same pressure you would on a garden hose, then you adjust the sprayer, then you increase the pressure until you can hit where you're aiming. That's how you're supposed to do it.
Thinking about my embarrassment, I can't help but compare it to our new series, "The God of Impossibilities". Many of us casually approach God with our wishes: "let me get an A" or "don't let me hit this red light".
We don't realize the power that God wields.
Others blindly bite off more than we can chew financially, emotionally, spiritually, expecting God to just conform to our plans. In both cases we can end up flat on our butts, confused and embarrassed like I was the first day of firefighter training. We must learn how to handle God's Power in our lives. We have to treat Him with respect, we must practice, and we must learn how to handle ourselves since we have been indwelled with someone bigger than us! Several months after my failure with the fire hose I was able to help prevent a house fire from becoming a neighborhood fire. When you learn to wield God's power in your life, what do you think you will be able to do? I'd venture to say that anything would be possible.
Well then, the anticipated day of Resurrection and all of the buzz surrounding it have passed. If you believe it, Christ rose from the dead and by doing so defeated death and secured our salvation in Him. So what is the next horizon for us to look toward? Now what?
The disciples and Jesus' family went back to Jerusalem and devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 1:12-14). Somehow they had witnessed not one, but two of the most jarring events of their lives all within the course of a three day weekend. Jesus was dead, but now he was alive, and not only that, he had ascended to heaven! And all they had was these last instructions from Him: "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8) They were confused, they were scared, and they didn't know exactly what to do.
Maybe you know exactly what Jesus wants you to be doing. If that's you, then you should stop reading this and go do it. I suspect that you are like me though. The path that Jesus wants you to take is still coming in to focus. The disciples were in this boat with us. They need and we need to seek God's direction through prayer and continue to mature in our faith so when Jesus gives us our marching orders, we are ready to move out! The disciples did just that and look what happened (read Acts Chapter 2). The Church was born!
We do not need to look to the heavens to await Christ's return, we need to be preparing ourselves, our community for when he does! The real question is not "what now?", but instead, "will you be ready?" Let's make a commitment together to answer with a resounding yes!
I don't know about you, but to me Easter does not seem like just a time of celebration. Amidst Jesus' resurrection, we also celebrate his wrongful arrest, trial, and his being put to death. To me, celebrate is the last thing on my mind as I consider what he must have gone through. Not only this, but that I was some of the reason he had to go to the Cross just further drives home the feelings of shock, sadness, and even guilt. So how can we celebrate all of this?
In Mark 8 we read, that Jesus "began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again." (8:31) Jesus knew the specifics of what was to come even before his wrongful arrest. Still, his most outspoken follower Peter tries to explain that this will not happen. Jesus' response, I think, addresses our divided emotions about this season. He says, "Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns." (8:33)
Jesus' future was anything but the future that we would expect for God's Son, but he actively sought after it because he was focused on God's will above his own will!
From our self-preserving perspectives, Jesus could have easily established himself as the King, overthrew the religious leaders of his day, and brought about his kingdom without having to give up his life. However, that was not God's plan, and even though Jesus felt the same tensions we do, his focus was on God's will above his own. This week, consider what God's will is in your life (hint: 1 Thessalonians 4:3). What if your focus was on that instead of alleviating your circumstances? Maybe, just maybe, we can celebrate this Easter knowing that all good things work together for God's purposes…and so do the bad things. Once we have thrown in our lot with God, then our future with Him is secure!
It is hard to see our lives as an "on loan" from God but, as Pastor Danny reminded us this Sunday, that is exactly the case. Embracing this idea is important for us to not only put our lives into perspective, but to allow us to understand our task as Christ followers. Our task is to care for God's resources. What if God told you to forsake all of those resources and relationships; to just abandon them and walk away; Or worse, to let them be stolen from you and your family? That would be disastrous right? Why would God give you them, only to see them looted and destroyed?
This week, think about how Jesus answered this question. He amassed an incredible following in a few short years of ministry even with no building and most definitely no facebook page. Yet, he left it all to be beaten and crucified. Hebrews 5 says that Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered. Jesus, as faithful as he was with God's resources, knew that they belonged to God to give and to take as he pleased. And Jesus, because of his obedience, became the source of eternal salvation… (Heb. 5:8-9)
If you are willing to trust God to give you good things, then you might get to peer through the window at all he has to offer, but if you trust God even if he takes everything away, then you will find yourself with more than enough, even an abundance. And P.S. this has nothing to do with your bank account.