Friday, April 02, 2010

Because He Loves Us

How can your heart not be moved? How can your life not be impacted? When I think of the sacrifice made by Jesus on this most incredible day all I can do is shake my head and say, "No way. No way." To think that God in the flesh would, of His own free will, walk this dirty, grimy planet is hard enough. But to think of Him walking voluntarily all the way to the cross is just more than my mind can conceive of. Only God could come up with a plan like that. It was a plan to redeem the human race. To purchase us back from the horrible consequences of sin. He didn't take a short cut and He didn't chicken out. He did it. He hung on that cross, heart broken, bruised, beaten, flesh torn, nails in His hands and feet. And He did it all on purpose.

Because He loves us.

Only God.

I don't know what your response is to that kind of love today. But how can we even consider doing anything short of saying, "Jesus, I'll follow You anywhere. I'll do anything You ask me to do. I'm Your man, Jesus. Put me in the game. Point the direction and I'll walk in it. Put somebody in my path and I will love them like You have loved me. No holds barred. Say the word."

Good Friday is more than simply "good." It is life changing. Life saving. It means literally everything to the Christ-follower.

I hope you are planning on stepping onto a church campus this coming Sunday. Celebrate Easter the way it should be celebrated. And one more thing. Pray. Take some time today and tomorrow and ask God to show up and bring Himself glory this coming Sunday. You might even say a humble, "Thanks, God, for all You've done." He knows your heart but He loves to hear your words.

All of this. For one reason. Because He loves us.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Congratulations, Master Sergeant Page

Today I got to do something really cool. I got to honor a great friend. His name is Adam and he is in the United States Air Force. Adam was being promoted to the rank of Master Sergeant. This is a VERY big deal. And I was thrilled to be asked by his wife to attend the ceremony where he would be "pinned" with his new stripe. And so at 3:30 this afternoon I found myself in a large room at Scott Air Force Base surrounded by many men and women wearing either camo's or dress blues. Impressive.

They have this odd tradition in the USAF. When it's your turn to get "pinned" you step forward, have your picture taken with somebody that out-ranks ... Okay, not God but certainly Elijah. (He's the only other biblical figure I can think of who "flew away.") They read a brief bio about you including your hopes, dreams, and aspirations. And then you take a step forward and two people you have selected "pin you" by placing your new insignia on your sleeves (with a sticky substance on it's back) and then they stick it to you by POUNDING you on the arm. Some of the guys that got pinned also got rocked pretty hard. But Adam is a great family man and also a very, very smart man. He chose his petite wife and two small daughters to pin him. So while everybody "oooh'd and aaaah'd" Adam barely felt the brutal attack. And, at the same time, he honored his family. (Nice job, Adam! It's a double-win for you!)

It was all very moving and a great tribute to the men and women that protect our country. Adam does far more than that. He's a husband who loves his wife deeply. It shows. He's a father that would die for his kids. Again ... it shows. He's a friend that would sacrifice for those he loves. And I'm very honored to be one of those friends, as well as his pastor. Which brings me to the best part of Adam. He unashamedly loves his Lord, Jesus Christ. I've heard his testimony of faith. It rocked my world.

Congratulations, Adam. I'm proud of you. Proud to be your friend. Proud to be your pastor. And I'm very grateful for you and your friends that make the Air Force what it is today. Rock solid.

Carry-on, Sarge.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A sock hat + a duffle bag (does not) = DUCK!

It's easy to over use the phrase "We live in strange times." But the truth is ... we live in strange times.

During our morning worship service this morning things were going quite well. The "felt" presence of God was in the building. The worship (aka: singing) was vibrant and moving. The crowd was sizable. The pre-message video actually received a round of applause. And the pastor, well he was just "off the hook." The guy was on fire! He was bringing fresh bread!

Okay, he was me. And I'm probably over stating the pastor part just a little bit.

But about mid-sermon the door of the worship center opened and a man walked in. He was dressed strangely A bit like a homeless person, wearing some odd sort of a sock hat and carrying a duffel bag of sorts. I never got a good look at it. He walked to about the fifth pew from the rear and made himself at home on the aisle of the far right side of the church.

You know, when you are speaking the Word of God you really should pay close attention to what you are saying. I mean, you should be listening hard to hear the Voice of The Holy Spirit. You should be sticking to your notes unless prompted by God to do otherwise. You should NOT be looking at the oddities of those in the congregation.

But a duffle bag? Or a back pack?

I admit that it got my attention. It's only been slightly over a year since a friend of mine was murdered in the pulpit as he spoke on a Sunday morning by a man who came in late. It is, admittedly, hard to forget about that. Since that event we have established a "Security Team" that operates invisibly. We don't talk about them around church at all. But there are ways I can cause them to swing into action without anybody knowing that I have done so. It was obvious that the team was already paying attention. That told me that my job was to NOT pay attention to the man. My job was to go about the task of speaking God's Word.

He seemed to listen closely to everything I said. He fidgeted a little bit but so do the deacons. That's not exactly a sign of anything. It took me all of sixty seconds to realize that this was God's place and God's deal. And at that point I intentionally stopped looking at him and focused on "hearing" and "speaking." And yes, for those who have already asked, I did close my eyes when I led in prayer before the end of the service.

You know what was amazing? Following the message we began singing. This unknown man raised his hands toward the heavens, closed his eyes, and sang full throttle. He was obviously lost in the moment. Worshipping God. Seeking His presence. I felt really stupid.

It's a shame when you have a stranger visit your church, even a "strange stranger," and you don't know whether to turn them in or to welcome them with open arms. I think the truth is that we have a directive from our Father to forget the former and do the latter. After you've done all you can do it is imperative that you lean on your Heavenly Father for protection and trust those you've put in charge of security to do their jobs. Yes, we have an obligation to make our church as safe as we can. But when a person of question enters and one of your first thoughts is "I'm glad my wife isn't here this morning because I don't want her to see what might happen" ... something is just wrong.

I was sitting with eight guys in my small group this evening and every one of us admitted to feeling the same feelings and thinking the same thoughts when we first saw our friend. There were even tears shed because we have become to quick to judge and jump to conclusions. It's a tough spot we've been put in in our churches. And we just can't allow ourselves to forget our church motto ... "Love God. Love People. Pretty Simple."

If we forget that ... we've given the enemy too much ground and we've already lost a big part of the battle. We live in a dangerous world and we are, to an extent, targets. Easy targets. We don't anticipate, want, or even expect violence. And we'll do all we can to prevent it and act quickly if it should occur. But the mission goes on. And we learned today to do our best and lean into Jesus for the rest.

Because, yes, we live in strange times.