Fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Romans 12:2 MSG

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

TRUST

TRUST
Some of my favorite stories from Scripture come from the disciples when they are out on the seas with Jesus.  Rare are the moments where there is peace and quiet.  There is chaos.  There is stress.  There is uncomfortability.  Jesus may be restful.  Jesus may be walking on the water.  Jesus may be instructing the wind and the waves and the fishermen but rarely do we see the disciples enjoying those moments.  
In one particular sea story the disciples are freaking out and they cry out, “Jesus, do you not care?”  Whoa!  A big question.  A gutsy in your face moment of questioning whether their Lord and Savior cares about their lives.  Dare I say that we have all asked that kind of question?  In the midst of our chaotic lives and world we too wonder where Jesus is in the midst of it all.  All too often it seems God is silent or that God has simply gone away and left us to figure it out on our own.  And yes that is one of those lies that we tell ourselves.  
In the midst of our storms Jesus speaks a word of loving support, “Peace Be Still!”  I think he speaks these words not just to the winds and the waves but to each of our souls.  We need peace.  We need centeredness.  We need comfort in the midst of unruly chaos.  Jesus is saying, “Don’t let fear paralyze and rule your life.”  “Trust that I am in the midst of your storm!”
You see peace isn’t simply meant to be something that we experience as a feeling.  Peace is not a passive emotive response to an impending disaster.  Peace for Jesus is a relationship.  Jesus is saying, “trust me.”  Whatever you are going through, “trust me.”  Whatever storm is reigning down, “trust me.”  Whatever fear you are facing, “trust me.”  Jesus is not saying just have a little faith or grow up and get over your fears.  He does say over and over and over, “trust me!”  
Where is our faith?  I think we ultimately know it is not in things.  It is not in the stuff we fill our lives with.  It is not foundin the principalities and powers of this world.  Our faith, our trust, is in a Lord and Savior named Jesus.  Jesus, “I trust you.”  Jesus, “I trust you.”  Jesus, “I trust you.”
This is deeply profound to consider.  We are told repeatedly by this world that we are good enough, smart enough, wealthy enough, and that we can take on any storm of life if we just have enough belief in ourselves.  Not true.  We are not made to do life alone.  We are not outfitted to stand in isolation within the storms of life.  We are made to do life together.  We are made to see Jesus active in each other’s lives and while doing so able to put our trust into one another.  The Jesus community, the church, is a living embodiment of that trusting relationship in Jesus and in each other.  Yes Jesus holds the past present and future.  YesJesus is the Alpha and the Omega, our beginning and end.  YesJesus is right here and right now within us and drawing out into the winds and waves as we take of the storms of life together.  Trust in Jesus.  Trust in each other.  What a gift!
A great story of how a person’s life was transformed due to that trusting relationship was between Lt. Dan and Forrest Gump.  Lt. Dan was literally saved by Forrest.  A bomb destroyed his legs and Forrest carried him out of battle.  While life got increasingly difficult for LT. Dan for many years after that, Forrest and he matched up to start up Bubba Gump’s shrimp.  There is a scene from that movie where Lt. Dan and Forrest were out on the seas.  Lt Dan asked Forrest where this God of his was.  Immediately the winds and the waves picked up and tossed their boat about.  Lt. Dan, instead of hunkering down in fear, was up in the crows nest yelling out to God, “is that all you got – nothing will destroy this boat.”  They survived the night.  The rest of the shipping vessels were destroyed.  Many during the storm sat idly in the marina and were crushed between the waves and the land.  Others sank to the bottom of the ocean.  Forrest and Lt. Dan in faith rode the high seas and survived.  That night of the storm, Lt. Dan had some of his faith restored.  Afterwards he experienced a peace that he had not felt in a very long time.  Forrest and Lt. Dan went full tilt into catching as much shrimp as they could.
Sometimes we have a spirit that is filled with fear and timidity.  Other times our spirits may cry out in reckless abandon.  Both are normal responses to the storms of life.  Our challenge during all times is to lean into our relationships with Jesus and one another.  
I have been changed by this Jesus.  Along the journey I have not always received the answers or outcomes that I wanted.  That is so often the case!  I remember well back in 1997 when my mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Almost immediately we were thrown into a storm that we did not see coming.  One day she was out living her life to the full and the next she was on an operating table with a stage four cancerous brain tumor.  The next day she was told she had six months to live.  She fought the good fight.  We prayed mightily for healing and hope.  She went to speech therapy to regain her voice.  She took the chemo and radiation.  She was riding the waves of the storm.  Seven months later, we knew full well, that our boat was being swamped.  We cried out, “Jesus don’t you care?”  Through community, through Jesus relationships, through the church, we began to hear our prayers anew.  You see we prayed, “God save our mom, God heal my mom, God give our mom her life back.”  God was doing that – not how we had hoped – but our prayers were being answered.  Mom’s life was resting in the peace that surpasses all human understanding.  God was going to do God’s greatest work in raising her up.  Exactly ten months after her surgery – and just 15 days after our wedding – my mom passed on to the heavens.  A dear high school friend of mine – who lives in Montana came to the memorial service.  I was able to say hi to him before the service but missed out on saying goodbye.  As we closed up the church and began to head home, I opened the door to my old Pathfinder and there on the driver’s seat was a quilt that had he left for me.  On a crumpeled up envelope he had written the words, “the storm is over, it’s time to look for the rainbows.”  
Church……that right there was a gift of peace.  Yes Jesus, you are in the midst of all of this.  You promise to never leave or forsake us.  You have given us each other – the church – to do the good and necessary work that needs to be done – building trusting relationships where we truly can put our trust into one another all while putting our ultimate trust in Jesus.  What a beautiful vision of peace and hope!  
Now if you have forgotten all that you have read above, remember this.  I think Bob Marley stole these words from Jesus when he wrote the song:  “Don’t worry, about a thing, because every little thing is gonna be alright!”  Yes, yes it is!  That is a Jesus promise!  We are counting on Jesus and Jesus is counting on us!  
Peace
Pc          

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

BEING

Our Being is often defined by our Doing.  We get so busy Doing we tend to lose our sense of Being.  When we lose our sense of being, we listen to the voice that says, “try harder,” “work more,” “do, do, do.”  We end up exhausted and burned out because our doing lost its sense of purpose.  Our Being is to define our Doing and not the other way around.    
What happens when we deeply listen to our soul or how does God speak to you through the following:
Be still and know that I am God…….
Be still and know that I am……
Be still and know…….
Be still…….
Be……
Frederick Buechner once said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  
May we align those hurts and hopes in our lives so that our Being is fully enlivened as we go out to serve!
Onward
pc

Monday, June 11, 2018

Jesus Gets Passionate

In 2015, I was blessed to hear Dr. Mark Allan Powell present on the driving concerns that determined Jesus life (and death).  Dr. Powell was one of my seminary professors and one who leaks the Jesus spirit wherever he goes!
Dr. Powell addressed a handful of concerns that appear to have motivated just about everything Jesus said and did.  These driving concerns shaped the faith of Jesus into a powerful dynamic that would survive his horrific death and ultimately make him the most influential person that ever lived.   
Here are the points Dr. Powell addressed:
Jesus was passionate about God!  
Mark 1:15 offers a one verse summary of the central message that Jesus called “the gospel” or good news.  “God is ready and willing to rule your life – believe this – and act accordingly!”  Jesus was more about surrender than seeking.  
Jesus was passionate about love!
All that God wants or expects of us can be found in two commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind!” and “Love your neighbor as yourself!”  (Matthew 22:34-40; Deut 6:5; Lev. 19:18).  When you hug a child you hug Jesus.  When you beat a child you beat Jesus.  We are called to love love love love love.   
Jesus was passionate about community!
Jesus wanted everyone to be a part of a loving community – a community where people prayed for each other, forgave each other, and worshipped God together. (Matthew 16:18; 18:12-22).  Did you know that in Jesus time when he was preaching and teaching, one out of four people were slaves?  Jesus was constantly working to restore all into loving community! 
Jesus was passionate about service!
Jesus maintained that the one who was the greatest was the one who served others – and he insisted that power be used not to control over people, but to serve them.  (Mark 10:42-44).  Jesus was turning upside down the paradigm of coercive power into a power to serve!   
Jesus was passionate about justice!
Jesus took his “mission statement” words from the prophet Isaiah, claiming that he had been anointed by God to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, and to set free all who were oppressed (Luke 4:16-21; Isa. 61:1-2).  Justice breaks out when God is on the loose in our lives.  This justice is not justice as the world gives but justice as only Jesus through us can give!  His body broken and poured out as we serve as the heart, hands, and feet of Jesus.  
Jesus is passionate about God, love, community, service, and justice!  Church……live with Jesus passion!
pc

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Fair Winds and Following Seas


In Leonard Sweet’s book entitled “I am a Follower,” he works to inspire us to live out of our given identity.  That identity is as a Follower of Jesus who leaves a wake!

To follow a person means you are a following someone who is alive in you!  Everyone follows someone or something.  The only question is, who or what will we follow?  Everyone’s life vibrates to some tune.  The only question is, who is the singer?  The old sailor’s blessing went like this: “Fair winds and Following Seas.”  When you are sailing in the winds of the Spirit, there will indeed be “following seas.”  Jesus makes waves.  Don’t make a splash with Jesus.  Make waves. 

As the church we make waves in the Jesus spirit of life when we work to transform this world.  When we engage the hurts and hopes of people we are making waves.  When we seek to overturn systems of injustice we are making waves.  When we worship and serve out of passion and purpose we are making waves.  When we go to live faith in every sphere of our lives we make waves.  Those waves enable others to experience life.  Those waves make possible what was once thought impossible.  Those waves equip others to make waves wherever they find themselves. 

An old camp song verse had this line…. “waves of mercy, waves of grace, everywhere we look, we see your face.”  Indeed, we are called to see and experience Jesus in all we do.  Where is he most active?  Where does he need our hands and feet?  When we come alongside humanity and all of creation, we are to bring that witness of light and life to all.  We are called to see Jesus in each other.  It’s his waves of mercy and grace that make this possible!

Today is a day to ride the waves.  Today is a day to make waves.  Today is the day for the church to chart its course upon following seas.

As Soren Kierkegaard said, “A believer, after all, is someone in love.”  Love Jesus.  Love All.  As we make waves just watch what that love will do!

Peace and Hope,

pc  

Thursday, March 29, 2018

How He Loves Us


The theme of David Crowder’s song brings tears to the eyes every time.  As the words sing out the heart wells up with joy.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzfPHnoT0-0

When I think on these Three Days of Holy Week that culminate in resurrection, it is God’s Yes that breaks through for all of creation.  

Oh how he loves us!  Oh how he loves us!  

Love most often looks like laying down our lives.  Love most often looks like letting go.  Love most often involves suffering and pain and tears.  

Jesus gathers at the table……and he feeds all of them.  He withholds not one ounce of himself from the gathered community.  Jesus kneels to serve as only Jesus can.  He washes…..makes clean….blesses….encourages….models…..witnesses to the way we are to live our lives.  

Jesus prays….and we sleep….Jesus prays through blood, sweat, and tears….and we lazily engage in faith….Jesus wrestles deeply with the call on his life….and we take for granted this one life that we have been granted to live.  

Jesus is arrested….and we watch and wonder.  Will the same happen to us?  Would we bear the cost that Jesus bears?  We betray in small and significant ways.  The world barely notices….and so we continue in our betrayal.  

Jesus is mocked and ridiculed in the kangaroo court.  Jesus is beaten nearly to death.  Why?  Because we would rather have God in a box versus God unleashed.  God far removed versus God incarnate.  God that mimics our self-made world view versus a God that radically reshapes and transforms lives.  

Love….no.  A life of service….no.  Grace upon grace….no. Bearing the cost….no.   Suffering and pain....no.  Death and resurrection….no.  One humanity….no.  One world….no.  

Military might…yes.   Country allegiance….yes.  God on our terms…yes.  Religious persecution….yes.  Racism, sexism, every human made ism…..yes.  Judgment and condemnation…..yes.  

The Cross is raised because the world constantly demands pounds of flesh in our brokenness.  Nails piercing his body…holding him there for all the world to see.  The stone is rolled shut.  Away with him.  Finally we are done with his vision and voice…..we can listen to the idle chatter of our own.

And yet…..God’s Yes is bigger than our No!  God speaks…..the earth quakes….an unshakeable God shakes the earth to the core and rattles the cages that seek to hold us back and down.  Even death….stinking death….will not have the last word.  Jesus leaps up off that cold hard granite and breathes deeply in….and out…..inhaling and exhaling in new found life.  Jesus alive….for you and me.   Jesus alive for all of creation.  The angels….the women….the disciples…..forever changed.  A new thing has taken place.  

You cannot go back to the ugliness of that day.  You can only move forward from that place of death knowing with full conviction that God is up to something beyond compare.  Resurrection…..in the here….in the now….lives forever changed.  All of creation….given this gift in order to be made fully alive.  

Love often is like letting go, laying life down, dying to self, dying to the ways of the world, being emptied, SO THAT God can take that empty tomb space and fill it to the brim with new life.  

Are we fully alive?  If not, why not?  Jesus was raised for you!    

Oh how he loves us!   Oh how he loves us!

May we squeeze every ounce of life out of the resurrection of Jesus and may it radically shake us and our world to full and complete life!


     

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Resurrection Faith

The church community will shine the brightest and best when all unite as the body of Christ.  The resurrection of Jesus is to be the vision that unites all people.  

The Apostle Paul talk about being united in ministry.  Most of his letters to the various Christian communities were based upon that one fact….we are made to join around the vision of Jesus for the sake of the world.  Whatever the world throws at us that seeks to dimish, divide, or conquer us needs to be removed from our lives.  Jesus even talked about being ONE as the Father and he were one.    

May all be one (Greek: ἵνα πάντες ἓν ὦσινinapantes hen ōsin) is a phrase derived from a verse in the Farewell Discourse in the Gospel of John (17:21) which says: that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Those first disciples of Jesus were contagious!  They were fired up but the Spirit of him.  They were one with Jesus and one with each other and one for the world.  

Will you allow God to do this with you?  Will you dream big and boldly?  Will you fling wide thedoors and draw all people together to be the church that God has in mind?  This is solely up to you and the power of God that needs to be lived within your lives.  Disciples of Jesus cannot look backward.  Disciples of Jesus cannot relive the past.  Disciples look to the future.  They create anew.  All are freed to create anew.

One of those prayers that Susan and I pray often is from Ephesians 3:14-21:

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Just think on these words:

Every family……Jesus is for every family….everychurch….every people.  There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, but all are one in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

He may strengthen you…..he is the power source….he is the light….he is the transformer….the electricity…..for your life.  Count not on yourselves but count solely on him.  

Inner being…..you have an inner being….a soul…..a spirit…that needs to be nurtured and loved.  God gives us the church to do that for each other.  

Dwell in our hearts through faith….Christ dwells in us.  Christ grows us.  If we hold on to tightly to the past – to our own ideas – then we are limiting what God can do.  Laying down our life…..our jobs…our identities…..giving up our selves…..is the beginning of new life.  Those who lose their life for Jesus sake will find their lives!  Losing is winning in Jesus.  Totally counter to the world’s story but we are made for more than this world!   

Pray to be rooted and grounded in love…..a tree has roots – the roots are often larger than what you see above the surface…the roots span outunderground….a network of roots to make the tree strong….to withstand the wind….the trials…the storms…..Prayer does that for the church….praying for each other…praying for the world…..praying for our church…..we need God and God needs us….we are made to do life together.  

The power to comprehend the love of Jesus…..it is hard to imagine…but it is not impossible to believe.  The love of Jesus is so vast….it is to draw us together.  That love when shared shapes and defines everything else.  Without love in our faith lives we are a noisy gong and a clanging symbol…but with that love the church experiences life.  May your minds be stretched to imagine the infinite God possibilities for us and for the world.  

Be filled with the fullness of God……imagine your life overflowing with God…what would that look like?  What would a life like that be able to do?  That to me is a vision of heaven on earth…I want that full life…that meaningful life….that purposeful life in all that I say and do.  This means being more tomorrow than we are today….and more the day after the next…always growing and living into the people that God has created us to be.  Be not full of yourselves.  Be not full of anxiety and fear.  Be full of God.   

God will do immeasurably more than we would ask for or imagine…..WOW!  Just think…not with your head…but your heart.  Dig into your soul and be blown away by the fact that God will do greater things with us than we think possible.  The challenge…do we really believe that with God all things are possible?  Do we really believe that God is capable of producing an abundance in us?  God believes in us!  God believes in us!  Make plans…..and then make them bigger than that…because that is our God.  If God were fully in charge of shaping our communities and world what could that look like?  If God were shaping aworldwide vision what would that be?  Nothing is off limits for God.  Be bold in believing in this!  And then give yourselves to this brand new life that is to come!

All generations…..we live not for ourselves…but for those who come after us.  Will our children experience faith and life and hope because of our trust in Jesus?  Will they see Jesus in us?  The only chance they have for a living faith is to see Jesus alive in us!  May it be so.

Jesus came to his disciples after his resurrection and he showed them the wounds on his hands and his side.  He did not come back whole.  He came back wounded.  Jesus teaches us that in our weaknesses we are made strong.  Our wounds are ever present but our new life is even stronger than that.  Jesus commissioned them….do not stand here….but go…get out there into the world….and create….stir up life….be my people….be radically joy-filled….be contagious in faith….be an empty tomb people.  

If Jesus has been raised from the dead…..then we need not fear.  Life and love are going to win.  I am confident of this.  Life and love are going to win.  

As a pastor I have been challenged.  I have been broken.  I have been disappointed.  But never have I doubted the ability of God to raise up a people for resurrection living in this world.  I see it in your eyes.  I see it in your hearts.  I see it in the journeys that you have been through.  God is here – alive and well in each of you.

Do not let the voice of the devil get into your heads and tinker with your minds.  Jesus says I will not leave you orphaned….I have sent you an advocate….and the one who will always be with is goes by the name….Holy Spirit.  You got that Spirit…yes you do!  You got that Spirit …yes you do.  

None of us can ever fully know what the future holds…..but we know the one who hold the future…his name is Jesus. And it does not matter whether we are in the right hand or left hand of God, all that matters is that we are in God’s hands.  This is resurrection faith!  

May the Lord bless you and keep you. 
May the Lord make his face shine upon you.  
May the Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.
Alleluia.  Alleluia.  Amen.


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Rising Strong

Brene Brown is an incredible writer and one that I often look to for words of encouragement along life's way.  

The following are a few excerpts from her book Rising Strong.

"The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness and even our wholeheartedness, actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences, including the falls."

"Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to live our values rather than simply professing them."

"Love and belonging are irreducible needs of all people.  We're hardwired for connection.  It's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.  The absence of love, belonging, and connection, always leads to suffering."

I find strength in each one of these musings.  

Who likes to fall or fail?  No one that I know and certainly not myself.  A reminder that in order to be whole it takes all the pieces and parts, the successes and failings, of this life journey.  We are invited to be whole and well in this life.

Practicing courageous leadership often proves costly.  The cost often stings deep within the soul.  That sting runs much deeper and lasts a whole lot longer than simply being tazed (as I witnessed this afternoon at Leadership Austin).     

In a fast paced and often superficial world, there is a great absence taking place within each of us.  We are relationally suffering.  Can we be connected in purposeful and living ways?  Of course.  Am I and are you ready for that type of hard work that produces meaningful life? 

Rising Strong.....more than a good idea!

Pastor Chad