Monday, March 29, 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Way: Lent

In case you didn't know, this time of the year is known as Lent. We are at the two week mark of it exactly. So for those of you participating, you're almost halfway done. Keep it up. I, however, am not doing it. I do not have anything against it. I actually think it is great and that more of us Protestants should partake in some of the older church traditions. But I digress. I have taken part in forty day fasts from things, such as TV and coke (Dr. Pepper to be more specific). They are great times to really focus in on what matters most. Lent helps us to remove those things that clutter our lives, which is more of a blessing than we might realize. There is a caution though that must be taken into account:

"O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" (Psalm 51:15-17).

Sacrificing things on behalf of Christ is great, honorable, necessary, and joyous. Trust me, I have been there. But we must not think that just our sacrifice is what pleases God. The prophet Samuel proclaimed, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams" (1 Samuel 15:22).

Yes, this season of Lent is about sacrifice, but more than that, it is about preparing you for the celebration of Easter. This time, then, is less about what it is that you are sacrificing and more about your heart. Use this time to cultivate a broken spirit and a contrite heart before God. Use this time to find your joy, not as you would normally in that which you are giving up, but in Christ and him crucified.

If you are not participating in Lent already, I would encourage you to consider it at the very least. Capitalize on this time to join in with the other saints around the world partaking in this great event. But do not lose sight of what this is about. It is not about what you are giving up, but about delighting yourself in the Lord, and in him alone.

"Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it....The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you" (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24,28).


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Way: Storm

It's four days later, and I am barely now recovering from this weekend. Well, physically that is. I pray that anyone who was a part of Storm Weekend '10 will recover physically, but I pray that none of us would ever be able to recover spiritually. This weekend was one of those weekends. It is a weekend that I will never forget. It was a moment along my journey that I will never forget. I have been rooted even deeper, and my love for Christ has never been more intense. I was poured out this weekend, only to be poured back into thirty-fold. This weekend Christ came and fell on us. I pray that if you weren't a part of Storm Weekend and you are reading this that Christ will fall on you today. We (the Senior guys that is) had a theme verse for the weekend:

Hosea 6:1-2: "Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him." (Thanks to Mike Govan for showing Jarred this verse.)

When Chris Dupree came to Baptist Temple, he unveiled his vision that the students there would be a storm for Christ. A storm has insurmountable momentum. A storm brings total devastation. But what does this verse in Hosea tell us? That when the storm that is Christ comes into our lives he tears us "that he may heal us." He strikes us down but "he will bind us up." Christ's love and grace is devastating. Ask anyone who has confronted it. They will tell you that it wrecks you. And you can never be the same. He tears out our old hearts, stained and flawed by the fall, and replaces them with his heart. He heals us. He redeems us. He reconciles us to God. He regenerates us into that which we were intended to be. But first, you have to be torn. This is not pleasant. The tearing hurts as Christ, the "Great Physician," removes those places in our hearts that have been twisted by sin. It is unpleasant when everyone sees us for that which we are, broken and messed up. But the end makes up for it all, as we are restored into right relationship with Christ.

Have you experienced this tearing? Have you had your "heart of stone" torn out and replaced with a "heart of flesh?" If so, when was the last time this happened? My prayer for us is that we would daily be confronted by the unsurpassing glory of God and his unmatched majesty. That we would daily experience Christ's overwhelming, jealous love for us. That God's grace, which is given to us at the expense of Christ and his death on the cross, would wreck us for the things of this world, so that we can say, "You [God] have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound" (Psalm 4:7). Christ, tear our hearts so that we may be healed. So that we may live "life, and life more abundantly." So that we may love the things that you love. So that our desires would be your desires. So that our heartbeat would match your heartbeat.

"Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen" (Jude 24-25).


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Way: I Can Imagine Quite a Bit

No, this blog is not about I Can Only Imagine. When I blog about that song, I will quit blogging forever. Anyway, in case you didn't know this: I'm kind of a nerd. Now, I don't play World of Warcraft (no, offense Danny), nevertheless, I love Star Wars. You're probably thinking that that's not a big deal, but I have books about the making, books about the characters that give bios and information about what happens to them long after Return of The Jedi, action figures and the ships to go along with them, every movie in about three different forms, video games from N64 to my XBox 360, and my family has been known to play Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, which I always win (no matter what my mom may tell you). I love Star Wars. I love the characters. I especially love Han Solo. I love his devil may care attitude and his responses to things like "I love you." "I know."
One scene, in particular, summarizes Han's attitude and philosophy brilliantly.

The Millennium Falcon has just been pulled onto the Death Star by one of it's tractor beams. Han, Luke, Obi-wan, Chewie, C-3PO, and R2-D2 manage to sneak past the Stormtroopers, even taking two of their suits for Han and Luke. They find where the tractor beam controls are, and Obi-Wan leaves the rest behind. R2 then finds that Princess Leia has been captured, is inside the Death Star's detention block AA23, and is scheduled to be terminated. Luke immediately wants to save her from being killed, but Han's response is "Better her than me." Luke doesn't know what to say until:

Luke: "She's rich."
Han: "Rich?"
Luke: "Rich, powerful. Listen, if you were to rescue her the reward would be..."
Han: "What?"
Luke: "Well, more well than you can imagine."
Han: "I don't know. I can imagine quite a bit."

I love that conversation. In the end, (spoiler alert!) Han agrees. They save the princess. Han gets his reward.

Ephesians 3:20-21: "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

As soon as I read this verse the other day, it immediately reminded me of that scene in Star Wars. How often do I find myself identifying with Han (well, quite a bit actually)? I have always thought that I could imagine quite a bit. Heck, that I could imagine a lot. But can I? Do I? According to Ephesians 3:20, I don't think that I do. I don't think that we do. I think we go around our daily lives, living from one minute to the next, never stopping to think about the bigger picture of what God is doing and what he is wanting to do in us. We are so bored with the mundane routine of our lives, when God has something greater in store. And once we grasp that, once we see our vision, then, we are still falling short of it.

I have heard it all. That my vision is too big. That people don't want me to be disappointed, if God doesn't give me what he has told me. But will I be? Will he "who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to power at within us" fail to deliver? I think not. I think that we live boring lives falling short of what God has actually called us to, because we don't have faith, because we don't want to be disappointed.

It is interesting to note how Paul affirms that he will do this: "according to the power at work within us." This reminds me of a similar verse in Philippians 1: "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Php. 1:6). So if he who began a good work in is has the power to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, what are you asking him for? What are you thinking about doing in the name of Jesus Christ? I hope that it is something huge. I hope that it is something that you cannot accomplish without his help. I hope that when he gives it to you, people will stand in awe, not in awe of you, but in awe of God. I hope that there is no way that you or other people can rationalize it away as an accomplishment of your own power but can only attribute it to God.

So, again, I ask, what are you asking God for? What things are you thinking about doing for him? What visions has God given you that only he can provide for you?

Matthew 7:7-11: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!"

Matthew 11:15: "
He who has ears to hear, let him hear."


Monday, January 25, 2010

The Way: Recalibrating

In the last edition of The Way, I told the story of my friend Isaac who needed to recalibrate the scope on his rifle. I ended it by encouraging both yourself and myself to recalibrate our scopes, or our view of Jesus. This year my hope is to spend each one of these focusing in on the life of Christ or on his significance to us. So let's get started.

Colossians 1:15-23: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

"And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister."

I don't know about you, but this is one of my favorite passages. Take some time today and just sit and meditate on these words. I would write more, but how could I possibly add to the depth and richness of this passage. Allow these words to soak in and never forget that in everything Christ is preeminent.

"May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheirance of the saints in light" (Colossians 1:11-12).


Friday, January 1, 2010

The Way: :00 New Year! I'm sure anybody reading this spent their last night of last decade hearing those words, which is a sobering thought. In a sports analogy, the is :00 left on the '00s game clock. Pause and think about that. Only ten years ago, the whole world was worried about Y2K and the computer's crashing. This has been a great decade. We have seen highs of human compassion and lows of human depravity, especially nine years ago. I still remember where I was when I heard that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center and that a third plane crashed into the Pentagon. That is a moment that I will never forget. There have been many moments that I will never forget from this decade. In many ways I feel like thirty-forty years from now, I will look back on the '00s as my decade just as my parents look back on the '80s. I think the scariest thing though is looking toward the end of this decade. Well, only because I'll be 30, but that's a story for another time.

In all actuality and seriousness though, I'm sitting here in our new house on the first day of the first year of a new decade. We are all surrounded by so much new. So what are you going to do with it? I don't know what this past decade was like for you. I don't know how this past year ended for you. But I do know that you and I have a great opportunity in front of us. We have a blank slate. I hope everyone had a great decade/year. If you didn't, then leave it behind in '09. If you did, leave it behind in '09. In this new year and new decade, we have an opportunity to further God's kingdom and our own walk with Christ. If you have, then keep going. Don't grow complacent. Leave your success behind in '09 and "press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). If you haven't, then "press on toward the goal." The ushering in of the '10s serves as a clarion call to all of us.

During his last sermon, my pastor from home, Trevor Carpenter, told this story: He was out hunting with some friends. While sitting out in the blind, one guy, my friend Isaac, dropped his gun. He picked it up and thought nothing of it. Finally, a deer came out of the brush (for those of y'all in North Texas, we don't have trees here in South Texas). Isaac took aim, fired, and missed. Everyone started ribbing him and making fun of him, because he missed. He shook it off, because he knew what the real problem was. When he had dropped his gun, he screwed up his sight. So, he recalibrated his scope and was ready to go.

In many ways, we are like my friend Isaac. Life happens. Trouble comes. Bad things happen. Disappointment happens. Failure happens, and we drop our gun. We try to just pick it back up and keep going like nothing happened. But our scopes are off line. Then, we are faced with a choice. We have a decision to make. Do we keep going or do we take the time to recalibrate our scope? My prayer for you is that you take the time to recalibrate your scope on Christ. That no matter what has happened or is happening you take this chance that the '10s are bringing to us and you use it to refocus on what matters most. Maybe, you are already planning on doing that. If so, that's great. Maybe, you have even made resolutions about it. I know I have. If you are wanting to, but don't know where to start, then join me in mine. The great Jonathan Edwards, pastor during the First Great Awakening, once laid out seventy resolutions which he reflected on every week to make sure that he was striving to attain them. This new year/decade I am going to join Jonathan Edwards in his resolutions and his reflection on them. If you would like to check them out, go to But whether you use them or have your own or don't like resolutions, take this fresh start. Leave everything behind in '09, and focus everything on Christ in the '10s.

"The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you" (2 Tim. 4:22)


P.S. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Way: Cling

Life is forever marked by the highs and lows of life. When people look back at their lives, most of their memories are of the peaks and valleys. What is interesting enough though is most of our lives are spent along the journey between the highs and lows, the peaks and the valleys. Yet those are not the points of our lives we remember. Ask a married person about the year that they were married, and they are not gonna tell you, "Oh, that was the year that I planned our wedding." They will tell you, "That was the year I got married." Sure, it was also the year that they planned their wedding, and, sure, they will have memories of planning; but the highlight was the wedding.

So it is with every significant event in our lives, whether good or bad. There are many steps that go into a high or a low. It rarely comes out of nowhere, unless it is a death or a winning lotto ticket that you found on the sidewalk. That is how most of our lives are spent between the highs and the lows. But these are also some of the most important times, because what we do in these times can affect what happens. So often we view our lives as a rollercoaster. Just going between the highs and the lows. But what if there was something that could stabilize our lives and our emotions that so often fluctuate between joy and depression. Well, good news...there is something.

My mom shared with me once that our greatest responsibility in life is to cultivate our relationship with Jesus Christ. I have to be honest and admit that I have been going through one of those descents into the valley (no pun intended [for those who don't know, I'm from the Valley]). Being honest with you again, during this time of "descent," the first thing to be thrown to the wayside was my relationship with Christ. As I got further and further in, there was one thing that my heart ached for and I denied myself that, whether that was because of guilt, shame, hurt, etc. Would my relationship with Christ have stopped the events that led to the "descent"? Unfortunately, no, it would not have; however, as I slipped into the valley, there was one thing that I could cling to, one thing that would stabilize me, one thing that could guard my heart and mind "the peace of God, which surpasses all Christ" (Philippians 4:7).

I don't know if you can identify with this or not. Maybe, I'm just crazy. Or maybe you're going through this right now. Whether you are in the valley, on you're "descent" into the valley, on you're way to a peak, or on the mountaintop, there is only one thing that you need to do. Cling to Christ. He will help you savor the highs, enjoy the journey, and not get too down in the valleys because we always have hope in Christ. My prayer is that you will always cling to Christ and the hope that we have in him that one day, no matter if we go through hell on earth, we will no longer suffer, no longer experience pain, and no longer have a constant ride of ups and downs.

If you are going through one of these times, I pray that you be able to find some solace in the fact that you are not alone. You are not isolated. That whatever it is you are going through right now, it is shaping you into a better person. Do not allow you're time in the valley to make you bitter. Instead, allow it to shape you.

If you are going through a peak, enjoy it. Savor it. Milk it for all it's worth, because life inevitably will bring a valley. There is a danger in these times too to shirk our responsibility to cultivate our relationship with Christ because everything is going swimmingly. Never forget to cling to Christ.

Philippians 4:23: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit."