Questioning God

“…if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?” — Gideon [Judges 6:13 ESV]

There have been times when I thought it was inappropriate to question God. I’m learning more and more that’s its better to question Him than just criticize Him, or assume something about God’s will that might not be entirely true.

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Last year when my wife & I filed our taxes, I had this preconceived notion that we were going to receive a huge return. We were mistaken. All of the toys & trinkets we thought we were going to acquire quickly escaped our imaginary grasp. We left our tax agent’s office defeated & a little dumbfounded. Continue reading “Questioning God”

I am NOT but I know I AM

Most of us in our culture today are searching for a glimmer of significance. If we want to discover our true identity in life, then it is imperative that we come to the realization of who we AREN’T and recognize who Jesus IS.

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In Louie Giglio’s book I am NOT but I know I AM, Louie gives us a roadmap for finding our place in this world… “we trade the starring role in the miserably small stories of us for supporting roles in the great Story of God.” Jesus came to this earth to usher us into an abundant life that revolves around God. He is the centrality of everything & we’re invited to be a part of His story.

The book, I am NOT but I know I AM, is sobering in the fact that Giglio makes it clear that our endeavors apart from God are microscopic in comparison to the ginormous narrative that God is producing. And it’s encouraging to realize that God has a purpose & a plan for us to participate in as we respond to the good news of the gospel. Our minuscule dreams are redeemed by the powerful work of Jesus & are in turn used to glorify, elevate, amplify, expand, emerge, exalt, and adore Christ as our Lord & Savior.

The point of the book isn’t to highlight how small we are, but to accentuate how BIG God is. The narrative of creation already has a Star — and its not you… but we shouldn’t lose hope just because life doesn’t revolve around us. On the contrary, this message gives us more hope than we can imagine. The buck doesn’t stop with us when the crud of life hits the fan. The weight of the world doesn’t have to remain on your shoulders — Jesus bears our burdens & paves a way for us to connect with our Creator amidst the expansive universe.

As you follow Jesus, you learn that God uses ordinary people to be implemented into His extraordinary story.

It amazes me at times to think about my past experiences in ministry & life, and realize that it’s not over. God has in store something more for each of us. If you’re still breathing, then God’s not done with you.

You can purchase a copy of Giglio’s book here.

*** Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Multnomah “Blogging for Books” book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Lights… Camera… EASTER.

With Holy Week approaching, it’s interesting to see churches’ plans unfold as their marketing strategies are distributed via social media and it got me thinking…

Are the ‘over the top’ services that our churches rollout really the most effective means of evangelism for those visiting on Easter, as well as Christmas for that matter?

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I always grew up going to a church that would execute some extraordinary programs around the 2 biggest Christian holidays of the year. Whether it was renting out the local high school’s auditorium or producing an amazing musical theatre production, or assembling a 60-person choir [of which I reluctantly admit that I sang in as an awkward 14 year-old] …all of these things would go off without a hitch & seem to be a great success. As newlyweds, my wife & I played the roles of Mary and Joseph in an all-kid (except for us two young lovers) reenactment of baby Jesus’ birth. Even a few years back, as a church planter with just a handful of folks attending our gathering, we made a point to elevate our game when it came to our first Easter in South Africa.

The thought looming in all of our heads as we prepare for Easter is the spike in attendance. You’re lying if you’re unwilling to admit that it at least crosses your mind a time or two. There’s a pressure that builds with the fact that we’ll see a lot of folks for the first time since Santa came rushing through your town around baby Jesus’ b-day a few months ago — and it’s likely that you won’t see them again for another 8-9 months or so…

I think there’s this voice in the back of our heads doing its best job to convince us that if we can execute the most epic church service in the history of man, then maybe our bi-annual visitors will make the pilgrimage back to our pews the following week. The reality is they might wander back into your midst 7 days later OR they feel they’ve fulfilled their religious duty for the time being and will see ya again when chestnuts are roasting on an open fire.

But let’s say that they DO return. Will they even recognize the establishment they visited just one week prior? After your congregation has returned to its regular scheduled programming and everything that you’ve been planning for months has been executed & now torn down — how do you retain your guests? Chances are that the folks who were once strangers on Easter and now searching for a home within the context of your church gatherings didn’t come back expecting all the bells & whistles you included in your community Easter egg hunt or intergalactic resurrection light show.

Most likely it’s the warm smile from that person greeting them in the parking lot or the helpful hand assisting them with getting their kids checked into class or the authenticity leaking from the preacher that brought them back wanting more — that and the overarching radical work of God’s Spirit within their hearts. It’s those things we should excel at on a weekly basis that stand out to folks. Our snazzy productions are cool, but it’s the simple things in ministry that we can sometimes take for granted ultimately making the biggest impact on the people that pass thru the foyer these next couple weeks.

So in the midst of the chaos that ensues with all the moving parts of our services, don’t forget to smile or take a moment to lend a helping hand to someone that looks a tad bit lost — they’ll remember that way more than our crazy Easter antics.

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?

“As Christians, our goal is not to merely experience behavior modification by changing how we act & react. Our primary goal is getting to know, love, and trust God as our Father.” — Mark Driscoll

In Christ. A saint. Blessed. Appreciated. Saved. Reconciled. Afflicted. Heard. Gifted. New. Forgiven. Adopted. Loved. Rewarded. Victorious.

This is who YOU are when your identity is rooted in Jesus.

Identity is something that we all struggle with as we venture through life. We seek to find ourselves in a myriad of life experiences. We desire to maintain a particular status in society. And sometimes our whole world comes crashing down, and we’re left picking up the pieces questioning things in which we thought defined us. In Mark Driscoll’s book Who Do You Think You Are?, Driscoll guides the reader through the book of Ephesians in hopes that we would discover and/or revisit our true identity found in Christ.

I received this book in the mail a little after Christmas & got halfway thru it within a couple days before various events like my wife’s birthday and winter camp for our student ministry at church captured my attention. As I picked up the book again this past week, it couldn’t have been at a more perfect time. Driscoll makes it clear in his book that what we choose to believe can dramatically affect the trajectory of our lives. As we embrace our identity found in Christ Jesus, our outlook is transformed in a major way that focuses our tendencies to be driven from our foundation that is built upon God’s promises for His children.

From the beginning of the book, the author reaffirms that you are NOT what’s been done to you, but what Jesus has done for us. What you do does NOT determine who you are, but who you are IN CHRIST determines what you do. This mentality radically shifts my perspective, and I think this book is such a treasure for those in search to find themselves in life. Life begins in Christ…

When it’s all boiled down, the catalyst for experiencing life change & discovering ourselves is actually when we discover God and grow to know Him more. This book has been a wonderful resource for me, and I bet it will be for you too.

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***Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”