God Gives Promises…and People

This past weekend in Elevate I taught a message about God’s promises.  The premise was simple:

No one person is at 100% promises kept…except God. Therefore, we should fully trust in God’s promises!

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I opened the talk building a case as to why we live in a world where no one operates at 100% promises kept.  Of course, I had to talk about the guarantee Rasheed Wallace made in Game 2 of the Conference Finals in 2004.  He blurted out, “We will win game 2” and made a promise to the entire city of Detroit. Luckily it panned out for him…but it doesn’t always work that way.

It was a solid case, because it was true.  This doesn’t make people bad, it just means we’re all in the same boat when it comes to this reality.  God is the only one in history to have never broken a promise.

Fast forward a few days and I was listening to Bob Goff’s new book “Everyone, Always” on Audible.  He was talking about God’s promises, and he said this line:

God doesn’t just give us promises, he gives us people!

My mind started racing.

But wait.  I just gave a talk about how people let us down and the only person that’s batting .1000 when it comes to “promises made vs. promises kept” is God.

Just then I felt the nudge of God whisper, “You forgot about grace.”

Sure, people mess up and break promises.  But people also show up and are great examples of God’s love.

While what I said was still true — only God operates at 100%, I was a bit more polarizing than I needed to be. Goff’s point brought me back to the middle where grace often is…the middle ground that says even though we often fail, God still uses us to be there for each other.

One of the many promises we can bank on is God always being with us…and sometimes He may use a friend or family member who is consistently showing up in times of need to showcase that promise.

Even though your friend, or your parents, or your spouse, will eventually break a promise (big or small), God can still use them to bring you through hard times, or show you grace + forgiveness when you stumble or do something dumb.

The promises of God can be fully trusted, and sometimes God uses other people, even though we’re flawed, to come through on those promises.

Grateful for grace.

Raise your glass

Jesus was their friend.

Jesus had hung out with them for 3+ years.  They had traveled together, ate together, laughed together.  After Jesus was done with the crowds of people, he would turn and walk away with these 12 friends.

Of course, the disciples didn’t have the New Testament, so they didn’t know how the story was going to end.  All they knew was their friend, with whom they had just shared a passover meal, was now dead.

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Recently in our Jr High ministry we talked about Communion.  It was so cool to be able to share the bread and juice with my small group of 7th grade boys after just hearing a message that clarified exactly what it meant.  The passover lamb, the sacrifice that had to be made, the blood on the door posts, the tie to the Old Testament account in Exodus, etc.

For the disciples it was just another passover meal with their closest friends.  For Jesus it was quite different.  He knew it was going to be the last of its kind.  He knew what was coming.  He was the sacrificial lamb of God. His blood was going to be the reason God’s judgment would pass over humanity.

Fast forward.

Can you imagine after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, what the disciples experienced during that second communion?

It was no longer a meal to remember passover, it was a meal to remember their friend. But He was more than that, now.  The disciples were finally beginning to piece together what Jesus had been saying all along.  I imagine they set out the meal, and then paused for a moment.  Feelings of awe, confusion, wonder, and anticipation were filling their hearts.

When they took of the bread, they were no longer remembering an old account of God rescuing the Israelites from Egyptian slavery.  They were remembering their friend, who days or weeks before had rescued humanity from sin, shame, and death.

And when they raised the cup, they weren’t just participating in a head-nod to the past…they were raising a glass to their friend.  A toast, if you will.  “Here’s to Jesus.”  Because even though Jesus was their friend, he had become much more than that.

Jesus was their King.

 

Seek _______ Well

Seek Well.

Seek what, well?

It seems that’s a question worth asking.  What are we seeking? What are we putting our energy towards?  For what are we striving?

There are many things we can seek on a daily basis.  The typical vices are there…money, fame, etc.  The “under-the-surface” vices are there as well, and these are harder to identify – seeking other people’s approval, for example, is one that catches me often.

But as Christians, we’re instructed to seek one thing well, and everything else will come with it (Matthew 6:33).  Seeking Jesus first, and the things He desires for us, is Christian Living 101…and 201, 301, 401, etc.  We never graduate from needing to be still and seek Jesus.

Friends of mine began getting away to a campground a few years back and spending time together, and spending time alone with God.  It was the beginnings of Refresh, a spiritual retreat for guys who need and/or want to get away and listen to God.

The concept is the same even though the vision has grown.  Seek Well is now an established rhythm for many.  It’s a chance to be still and listen to Jesus.  A chance to seek Him well.

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This past week I was able to get away again – to be still and listen, to seek well.

It’s a rhythm I hope to never lose because it’s a rhythm that will ensure that I am putting aside all of the other things I could seek and focusing on the only thing I need to seek…Jesus, my King.

It’s worth spending a minute or two and asking yourself, what are you seeking today?

 

You look just like your Dad

Growing up I would always here this phrase.

“You look just like your dad!”

For me, it’s a compliment.  My dad’s a good looking man.  And for my dad, I’d imagine it’s a compliment as well.  I’m guessing there’s a sense of pride parents feel when their kid looks like them, has the same mannerisms, character traits, and even personalities…of course, all the good aspects of those things.

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And now that the news is out that I’m going to be a dad, hearing those words would be music to my ears.  Except if we have a girl.  I’d make an ugly girl.  (For her to have my wife’s looks, however, would be hitting the jackpot).

This didn’t have spiritual implications for me until recently when my Grandma told me, yet again, that I looked like my dad.  Of course, I said “thank you” but I couldn’t stop the mind-drift that was happening – thinking of all the ways that, as Christians, a phrase like this would have massive implications.

The Bible says in Genesis 1:27 that you and I were created in the image of God…our Heavenly Father.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

That doesn’t mean we all look alike – I gave my thoughts on that in my last post.  What it does mean is that we all have the fingerprints of God…His attributes, His character, His personality.  Though we portray those each uniquely, it’s in the portraying that we begin to look most like our creator.

Figuring out who God made us to be and then portraying those unique attributes to the world is perhaps one of the best uses of our time (along with the Great Commission, of course…but even this, I believe, helps us accomplish the G.C).  In so doing this, we show off our Heaven Father.

We show off the kind nature of God when we’re kind.
We show off the forgiving nature of God when we forgive.
We show off the creative nature of God when we create.
We show off the _____________ nature of God when we _____________.

You can fill in the blank better than I could because you have attributes of God that I don’t.  And whenever you step fully into those and be who God created you to be, you’re looking more and more like your Heavenly Father.

And I’d imagine there’s a sense of Godly Pride that He feels when his creation desires to look more and more like Him.

Authentic Shot

In January I attended another Seek Well refresh retreat.  These have been a part of my quarterly rhythm for a few years now, and it’s a fantastic pause in my schedule to be with friends, spend time listening to Jesus, and enjoy the outdoors.

During that time, we were shown a video that captured the essence of what I’ve been feeling and processing through — being unique.

It’s a scene from the Legend of Bagger Vance.  Matt Damon is the golfer, and Will Smith is his Caddy.  Smith encourages Damon to not simply “hack away” at the golf ball…but to find the one authentic shot that’s his…that’s in harmony with the playing field, and live in that rhythm.

This resonates so much with me…and perhaps it will with you.

I think God created us with an authentic shot, and when we’re living outside of that authentic shot, it’s as if we are hacking away at life simply trying to get by.

My encouragement to you this week would be to take time, get away with Jesus, and listen to what He might say to you in relation to this. What authentic shot did He create you to play?  What does “hacking away” look like for you?  What gets in the way of you stepping into the rhythm of the authentic shot?

YouNique

I was watching TV and a commercial came on.  I had seen this commercial before, but this time I was drawn in.

The scene opens with men on an assembly line…almost like robots; they all look the same (Portraying that humans are simply cookie cutter versions of one another).

Then…out of the assembly line a head pops out.

He’s not content with being like everyone else. He wants to be different. And so he jumps off the line and begins to escape.

Alarms are going off. Security guards are scrambling. The man is running for his life…and for seemingly his ability to be unique from everyone else. I was so drawn in. Will he escape?

I was quickly snapped back to reality when the logo for Gillette Shaving Cream came on.

Go figure.

But I’ll tell you what it was that drew me in like I was watching a blockbuster movie in the theater.

It was my own desire to be unique; To be different than everyone else; To be the only me.

I’m willing to bet I’m not alone in this. I believe deep down there’s a desire in all of us to know we’re unique…that we weren’t just carelessly made from cookie cutter templates.

It’s a human longing.

It’s also a spiritual truth that dates back all the way to Genesis 1 & 2.  God creates man and woman in His image.  His image isn’t cookie-cutter, though.  How is that possible?  I’m not exactly sure, because I’m not Him.  But I do believe He’s infinite…and so creating infinitely unique individuals doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility.

All throughout scriptures we see glimpses of uniqueness in each individual.  Sticking with the Old Testament theme, we see the Temple being built by people who were uniquely and purposely gifted to do different things (wood working, metal working, etc).

Additionally, when Nehemiah took the task of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, he called people that had specific and unique gifts to do specific and unique things.  Every one in Scripture is unlike everyone else in Scripture.  It’s just the way things are.

Ironically though, uniqueness doesn’t come naturally. 

The marketing team that put together that commercial was able to identify a tension that most humans struggle with – settling for blending in with everyone else, or doing the work that uniqueness requires.

Make no mistake, they both require work.  It’s exhausting work to constantly compare myself with other people and to always second guess myself based on what other people think.

It’s also work to spend time listening to Jesus, discover my unique wiring, and figure out how God is calling me to implement that uniqueness.

My encouragement to you (and me) is to do the work of discovering your uniqueness, and like the guy in the commercial, run away from the temptation to do what everyone else is doing.

Above The Clouds

“Chicago is experiencing some stormy weather, so we’ll likely experience more turbulence as we land.”

That’s what I heard when I was coming back from a short trip to Memphis. We had already experienced a significant amount of turbulence as we took off from the Memphis Airport.  The Pilot got on the speaker and said we were in for more.  It seems as though I was flying on a day that had windy/rainy weather all throughout the middle-north USA.

I have flown before, so “turbulence” was a word I was used to. But what we experienced during takeoff was a bit more than I had signed up for, which made me nervous for the landing into Chicago.  I normally chew peppermint gum to make sure my ears pop at the right time…but during takeoff I had hoped the peppermint would calm the ever-growing nauseous feeling in my stomach.

It is not an overstatement to say that I was becoming fearful.  Not the outlandish, screaming, panic-y kind of fearful; even still, I began wondering how much jolting this aircraft was built to handle, and in my minds eye I created scenarios where I’d have to act heroically and make life-saving decisions if the plane were to go down.

Before it got too bad, however, and before anyone was reaching for the barf bag, we had broken through the clouds and when I looked out the window I saw a beautiful contrast.  Above and beside us was nothing but blue skies…while below were the dark grey clouds we had left behind.

It’s amazing the perspective you have when you’re above the problems you were just facing.

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So many times, however, we aren’t above our problems.  We’re in the midst of them.  Because of that, we allow them to create fear — a low-grade level of anxiety that sits at the pit of our stomach and the forefront of our minds.  We begin creating scenarios in our head about the worst possible outcome.  We rationalize that kind of thinking because, well…better to have a plan in case the worst happens.

All the while, if we’ll just lift our perspective so we can think above the stormy clouds, we’ll be able to see clearly.  We’ll be able to right-size fear and put it in it’s place.

“Do not be afraid.”

God often reminds his people throughout Scripture of this command.  And that’s what it is…a command.  Each time these words find their way into the narrative, God is reminding someone that fear and anxiety, although real, must not define the reality of a Jesus-follower.  There’s a better way, and God is there to help us experience it.

The task ahead of Joshua — to lead the Israelites after Moses passed — was daunting, to say the least.  But God was there.

The story God was writing for Mary & Joseph was bizarre, difficult and confusing — but God was with them.

This four-word command from God doesn’t negate the fearful situations we find ourselves in…it simply offers us a better way to engage in those situations.  We can meet the fear and anxiety when it comes, recognize it, and then immediately bring it to the more-powerful presence of God.

When our fears meet God’s presence, the feeling we get — the peace that passes understanding — will be like breaking through the clouds after experiencing some turbulence.  Calm will surround you, and the fear will be below you.

Realizing God is with us enables us to rise above the clouds.