Rambles from early January…

January 17, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

January 3,2007

Hey Gang,

I know that you all must be a little tired after staying up late last night to watch Wake Forest defeat Louisville in the Orange Bowl[1]. I know I am.

Well, the holiday schedule at GFF is over and we return to our study of the Book of Acts. If you remember[2], we finished chapter 3—Peter had healed the crippled beggar who was at the Temple gate and then told the crowd about Jesus.

This week we’ll pick up with chapter 4[3]. If you want, read 4:1-12. This is a cool passage because we see how Peter and John react to challenges from others about their faith. I don’t know if or how you have been challenged about your faith[4], but we see how Peter and Paul respond.

If you read these verses, you’ll see that Peter quotes and Old Testament passage in 4:11. I’m willing to bet[5] your Bible has a footnote that tells you where this Old Testament passage comes from. A good Bible study technique is to actually read the Old Testament passage that is referenced[6]. God had Peter say this for a reason… What do you think that reason is?

Go ahead… read the Old testament reference now (not just the verse, but the whole thing[7]… I’ll wait.

Did you read it?[8] Alright… What did you think? I think it’s pretty cool[9]. The words of this Psalm were swimming around in Peter and John’s head as they face a huge[10] challenge. And then, Peter applies a portion of the Psalm to Jesus and this specific situation.

What does all this mean? It means that God’s Word is so important in our lives—just like it was for Peter and John.[11] We need to read it, know it, live it, and love it.

With that said, let me tell you that the preceding sentence is not meant to make you feel guilty about not reading your Bible[12] Instead, I’m simply pointing out how awesome it is that we get to explore God’s word together each week[13]. That’s why we want to open our Bibles each week. That’s why I encourage you to bring your Bibles and write in them. Growing to love God’s Word is a process… It takes time. I know that many of you feel bad or that something is wrong with you because you don’t LOVE to read your Bible[14], but that’s not true. Any love relationship takes time to develop. Hopefully, as we look at God’s Word together, your love for it (and then for God) will grow.

So if these letters kinda frustrate you because they talk about Scripture a lot, get over your big, bad, self and chill. You are okay. God loves you. What you can do is this: Pray for God to open your heart and mind to his Word. In fact, pray for that for everyone at GFF[15]. If we are people of the Word and of prayer, we are on the right track.

See, God wants us to love his Word—and he’ll even go so far as to give us that passion through his Spirit. You don’t have to muster it up with your own incredible discipline[16]. Think of it like this[17]:

GOD’S SPIRIT +

GOD’S POWER +

GOD’S WILL +

TRUST =

VICTORY

(The Holy Spirit lives inside of all believers… so, if you’re a believer—you GOT IT!)

(God wants to give you HIS power so you don’t have to rely on YOUR power)

(God wants you to be filled with the Truth from His Word)

(You just have to trust that the first three things are really true)

(You begin to love & understand God’s Word more and more and more)

I think that God wanted me to tell you that.

Below I have a couple prayer requests and a study of Acts 4:1-12…

See you Sunday!

May God increase our love for his Word this year… Oh and by the way, there is an incredible verse in 4:1-12 about the supremacy of Jesus (or a verse that makes it clear that Jesus is the key to salvation). Can you spot it?

Grace and peace,

Doug


[1] For 3 quarters and about 6 minutes… Unfortunately for Wake, they played the entire 60 minutes and Louisville won.

[2] And I’m guessing you don’t—hence this e-mail reminder

[3] I bet you could have called that one yourself, huh?!?

[4] To be honest, I really haven’t been challenged by others that much. Since I’ve worked in churches for so long, I’ve been on the “inside” and most people are saying “AMEN!” rather than “YOU’RE NUTS!”

[5] If I gambled… However, I don’t gamble because I’m way too cheap. Dave Chavez does all my gambling for me on his “business” trips to Las Vegas.

[6] Please don’t read this with any sarcasm because none is intended… Before I went to seminary and had to read these cross references, I always skipped them.

[7] Come on… it’s not that long!

[8] Remember, lying is a sin.

[9] Hence all the guilt to make you read it.

[10] And potentially FATAL—the Sadducees didn’t mess around

[11] Man, what am I thinking?!?… I’m stealing my own thunder for this Sunday!

[12] You know who you are.

[13] And if you are “super-spiritual” like I am, during the week with these letters.

[14] I know this because I experienced it. Some of the hardest homework I had in seminary was reading Scripture… I couldn’t admit that to anyone, but it was true.

[15] Probably for me the most!

[16] You can try to do it yourself, though… see you in the fetal position!

[17] Oh-my-gosh—I think I’m going to come up with a little formula here for you math geeks out there!

January 10, 2007

The Grace Family Fellowship Mid-Week Ramble

 

“I prefer the Christmas Jesus…”

– Ricky Bobby

Howdy,

Last night my wife and I watched Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.[1] There was a scene that I found particularly interesting (and funny). Ricky is saying grace with his family, and he begins his prayer, “Dear baby Jesus…” He continues on thanking the “baby Jesus” until his wife interrupts and says something like, “You know, he grew up into a man, Ricky. You don’t have to keep talking to him like a baby!” Ricky then retorts[2], “Well, I prefer the Christmas Jesus… When you pray, you can pray to the grown up Jesus or the teenage Jesus, but I’m gonna pray to the baby Jesus.”

What Jesus do you prefer? We just celebrated Christmas, so the idea of God coming to earth as a baby is fresh in our minds. But we also know that Jesus grew up and became a teacher. He performed miracles. He healed people. He chastised religious leaders. He wept at a friend’s funeral. We know that he washed his disciples’ feet, agonized in a garden, and was nailed to a cross. We know that he rose from the dead and appeared to people in a new resurrection body. And we also know that he will come again—this time as a conquering king—powerful and mighty.

So which Jesus do you pray to?… If you’re not sure, close your eyes and picture Jesus looking at you. What do you see? What does he look like? What is his expression? Does he say anything to you? If so, what? If not, why not?

I think that Ricky Bobby brings up a fascinating (and important) point: how do you see Jesus?

This has probably been the greatest change in my Christian life in the past year and a half. It is important because the way I answer the question “How do you see Jesus?” (or the related question, “How does Jesus see you?”), effects everything in my life. It shapes my view of God, myself, and others. I have discovered that the way I see Jesus can lead to incredible love and grace and freedom… or painful bondage of guilt, shame, and condemnation.[3]

Ricky Bobby brings up a profound point: How we see Jesus means everything.

Let me share a story from my past to set the stage here—perhaps you can relate to it…

When I was in seminary we would have a class from 8-10 on Thursday nights. I remember coming out of an Old Testament class at 10:00 and walking to my car. I can’t remember what we had been talking about and reading in Scripture, but I do remember a theme[4]: dishonor.

I remember getting into my car, late at night and I thought I heard God say, “Why do you dishonor me, Doug?” Ugh… This isn’t what you want to hear from God. You want to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” or “this is my son with whom I am well pleased,” or even “You go girl!” You don’t want to hear, “Why do you dishonor me, Doug?”[5]

Where did that thought come from? Well, I’ll tell you. Since we had been studying the Old Testament, we had been looking at how God’s people continually reject God and dishonored him by not living up to his righteous commands. God’s people (Israel) were not acting like God’s people. And in them, I saw myself. I was thinking about how I so often fail to live the way God wants me too. How I struggled to read Scripture or pray regularly or reach out to others who need love and support and care.

To make matters worse (in my mind), God had given me the privilege of working in his family business (the church) and the honor of going to seminary. Surely, someone with these advantages should be the most pious, the most spiritual, the most righteous.

As I thought of all those things, I realized that I fell woefully short of the standard I thought God had set before me. I did dishonor God, because I wasn’t doing enough for him.

Last year I heard a message by a Pastor named John Lynch who described my experience perfectly when he painted a picture of a place many Christians live called The Room of Good Intentions. In The Room of Good Intentions we are striving to be all that we can be and we must work hard to hold everything in our lives together; we must look good to others; we must work very diligently to please a god[6] who never seems to be pleased. In the Room of Good Intentions it is as if we are standing before Jesus, our sin in front of us separating us from him. He is a long ways off and we must take care of all that sin to get close to him… The problem is, there are 30 wheelbarrows of sin that are dumped onto my pile each day—it keeps getting bigger, god keeps getting further away, and I slide further and further into failure.

That describes how I felt that night. I was being trained to lead God’s people and yet I dishonored God regularly in both my thoughts and deeds.

And if you asked me to describe the look on God’s face as he gazed at me that night… It makes me shudder. Disappointment. Disgust. Pity. Condemnation. Anger.[7]

You ever seen God like that?… Needless to say, it was a lousy night. And to be honest, those same feelings of displeasing God, myself, and others followed me for years.

BUT[8], that view has changed in radical, amazing, sometimes unsettling, and incredibly freeing ways. (Intriguing… tell me more, Doug![9])

It all began with the same John Lynch sermon that talked about the Room of Good Intentions. See, there’s another room in which we can live. It’s actually the place God desires us. It is called The Room of Grace[10]. In The Room of Grace, we are living out of who God says we are and we are accepted even with our flaws; we can be real; we are safe. In The Room of Grace it is as if we with Jesus, our sin in front of us and we are working on it together. The shame and guilt I feel as I look at my sin is wiped away by Jesus who tells me that he knows all about it, that he went to the cross to take care of it, and that he is there to continually take care of it.

The look on his face in this picture is much different. As Jesus looks at me here—in The Room of Grace—it makes me weep with joy. Acceptance. Gentleness. Love. Laughter.

Have you ever seen God like that?!? Is that how you see him right now? This moment?

You see, I do not think that God was speaking to me that night when I heard, “Why do you dishonor me, Doug?” It was a voice, but it wasn’t God’s voice. How do I know? Check out the first and last verses of Romans 8:

Romans 8:1-39

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, us.

[38] For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, [39] neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Think about those verses. Read them several times…

Do you believe them? Do I?[11]

They have a lot to do with how we see Jesus, ourselves, and others. They have a lot to do with every aspect of our life.

I know that this is review for many of you. You’ve heard about The Room of Grace… But I need to come back to this stuff every day (sometimes every moment of everyday) because I often struggle to believe it. I think we all do.

If you are a Christian—a follower of Christ—it means that you have given up trying to make yourself acceptable to God through your own efforts.

  • It means that you understand that you came into the world in opposition to God—you were a sinner because you wanted to go your way instead of God’s way.
  • It means that you understand that a righteous and pure and holy God must punish sin and—because you sin you are in trouble.
  • It means that you understand that God sent Jesus to this earth to take care of your sin. On the cross, Jesus took all of your sins upon him and God—because he is holy and righteous and just—had to punish that sin. He punished Jesus in your place. He poured out his wrath of judgment on Jesus instead of you. Jesus was your substitute.
  • It means that you believe that Jesus rose from the dead—indicating that he had paid for all of your sins.
  • It means that you have placed your faith in what Jesus has already done at the cross and resurrection to make you acceptable to God.

When you place your trust in Jesus and not yourself, you become a Christian. Your sins are forgiven. But something else also happens. You receive Jesus’ righteousness. You have the Holy Spirit living inside of you. You have a new identity. You are a child of God—a saint[12].

When this happens, the promises of Romans 8:1, 38-39 apply to you!

That’s the GOSPEL (or “good news”) Jesus did for you what you could never do for yourself. And even the times you fail don’t change that[13]!

Now some of you are thinking, “I know all that—why is Doug going through this again?!” I’ll tell you why: Because Jesus is what it’s all about. So often I focus on me—what I’m doing or not doing—that I forget that it’s all about him—what he’s done at the cross and what he’s doing in and through me today.

How do you see Jesus? It’s a really big question—perhaps the most important question in the universe.

And you thought Ricky Bobby was an idiot.[14]

Grace and peace,[15]

Doug[16]


[1] Say it ain’t so, Pastor! That is not an appropriate film. Well, this week’s ramble is going to start with this movie so you have 2 choices: 1) Stop reading now; 2) continue in and see how Ricky Bobby could ever lead to spiritual truth or questions.

[2] 10 points for using an SAT word. Hurray!

[3] Whoa… This is sounding serious… I thought Ricky Bobby was supposed to be funny!

[4] This may have been a theme in the class—or just a theme in my own head… I don’t recall.

[5] I really heard “Doug” too… So,I couldn’t pass this one off on someone else!

[6] Notice I didn’t capitalize the word “god” here. That is intentional. That is because I do not believe that this is the God of the Bible anymore (I did before), but, instead, an incorrect, man-made god.

[7] Okay..okay. Time for a little break because this is heavy, huh. Plus it’s been kinda long already… So here’s the break. I found a site that discusses Women’s Vocabulary—things women say and what they really mean (Note: I think women are awesome—this is not meant to be offensive. If you find this offensive do not rent Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby… I promise to make fun of guys in a later ramble, okay?): FINE: this is the word women use to end an argument when they feel they are right and you need to shut up. Never use “fine” to describe how a woman looks – this will cause you to have one of those arguments.

[8] Pay attention to this word! That why it’s CAPITALIZED and bigger, and bold. I want you to know that a change has occurred—that’s what I thought but this is what I have discovered

[9] You’ll notice that I don’t always use a footnote for my additional thoughts. Don’t label me, man!

[10] For more on grace: see Paul’s writings in the New Testament.

[11] No message here… I just was looking over the ramble and notice no footnote on this page…

[12] Even though you don’t always feel like a saint or act like a saint—that’s what you are!

[13] Remember, Jesus died for all of you sins—past, present, and future. If that’s true, is your present sin something that Jesus already has taken care of?

[14] He may be… But God uses “idiots” a lot to lead us to his truth (that’s good news for me!!)

[15] Here’s another Women’s Vocabulary Word.Five Minutes – This is half an hour. It is equivalent to the five minutes that your football game is going to last before you take out the trash, so it’s an even trade.

[16] Finally… one more Women’s Vocabulary WordNothing – This means “something,” and you should be on your toes. “Nothing” is usually used to describe the feeling a woman has of wanting to turn you inside out, upside down, and backwards. “Nothing” usually signifies an argument that will last “Five Minutes” and end with “Fine”.

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