Archives For sacrifice

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I have a sweet friend on Facebook who is about 18 months pregnant. She looks awesome, has a happy face, is expectant as expectant can be – but she’s ready for that baby to make it’s entrance!

I think we are all ready, everyone who’s kept up with the entire pregnancy. We’ve shared the ups and downs, good days and bad, and we’ve been at the edge of our seats the last few weeks -  and we wanna see pics of the little one!

Something this friend posted about a week ago – her husband got her Nutella and Nutter Butters to snack on. When I read that, my head got all swimmy – the two great tastes that woud obviously go great together, but I had not thought of it so I never had it before. I knew when I read that post that I had to have it – immediately!

We had the Nutella, but I had to go out to get Nutter Butters. Dang those things are expensive! And worth it!

Now, if you’ve never had Nutella, it has a distinctive flavor – very rich, chocolatey, nutty, thick. Some people can’t eat a lot of it at one time. I am not one of those people. A jar has 12 servings, and I can eat 12 jars all at once.

It also has a very rich, earthy aroma – if everything smelled like Nutella, everyone would always be happy. How’s that for a blanket statement?

So, I had all the ingredients of what I am going to start calling “Unicorn Feathers” and all that was left was the eating. And I ate it all! And then I had a stomach ache. Totally worth it though!

What is it about certain tastes, certain smells, that compel us to overindulge? You can have too much of a very good thing, you know. Moderation is generally the key, except for in certain felonies I suppose.

I’m glad God is not like that. Did you know that the bible says that our worship is like a sweet savor to God? Check out Gen 8:21, Lev 6:21, Lev 8:28, 2 Cor 2:15, Eph 5:2 – all of these verses (in KJV) talk about a sweet savor. Modern translations miss out on this, calling it an aroma, or a fragrance.

There is so much more than the sense of smell involved in the word “savor.” The verb form means to enjoy completely, while the noun form means “a characteristic, pleasant smell and flavor.” You can only savor what is already a part of you – before that you can smell it or see it but only imagine how you will feel afterward.

As an offering, worship is both noun and verb – it is pleasing to Him, something that enables Him to enjoy us completely, and in return we can enjoy Him the same way.

A story that comes to mind is from John 12:1-7. Jesus is in Bethany, and he was the honored guest at dinner. At this dinner, as they reclined around the table, Mary came to Jesus and broke a vial of costly perfume and annointed His feet. The smell of the perfume permeated the entire house.

This was her act of worship, and so it should be with us. We are honored to have Christ with us and in us! He is in our midst, and dwells in the temple of our hearts – and our worship should be pure, it should be costly, and the result of our worship should have an affect on those around us.

This is the type of worship that gets God at the edge of His seat. This kind of worship is exciting to Him and life changing for us. There is a great expectancy in true worship – God is here! He’s in our midst! And the outcome is that God works in us, so that our lives – that collection of ups and downs, good days and bad – blend together into something that is worthy of His affection. We are put right in worship!

There’s never a wrong time or bad time to worship – in your car on the way to work, at the dentist’s office, during your lunch break, at school. Whenever, and every time you enter into God’s presence, make it a time pleasing to Him, enjoy Him, let Him enjoy you! Be a sweet savor to God!

Pig in hat

A recent study revealed that about 78% of Americans consider themselves Christians. Mixed in with that number, in order, are Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Orthodox (both Greek and Russian) and then a line item that comes in at .3% that’s just called “other.” I wonder who those people are?

I know you probably know this, but not everyone who cries out “Lord, Lord” is actually a Christian. Where I live, there’s a little Baptist church pretty much on every corner, except for the corners with a CVS or a QT. But thinking about it, we can get pretty religious about our pharmaceutical and convenience store needs.

Think about it like this – why is the world so screwed up if all those people are actually followers of Jesus Christ? The best, easiest answer is, it wouldn’t be if they actually were.

I remember in high school, people who were in the running for Homecoming King would always have their bio read during a school-wide assembly, “Yes, he’s the greatest and he knows it! He loves the foosball, hang gliding, galivanting with all his foosball friends, and he’s a member of the [local Christian denomination left unnamed to protect the innocent].” Then all of us who were members of that church would look at each other, and say, “I’ve never once seen him there, how about you?”

I’m thinking back to something I read in Mark the other day. Jesus was beboppin’ around, hitting town after town, doing his thing – a few miracles, some sermons, he fed a few folks, told some stories, and then one day, around dinner time, some of the local preachers and church staffers came up to him and questioned him real good about his heathen, sinful ways.

You see, Jews believed you had to wash yourself in a particular way before eating, or you would be ceremonial unclean.

And now for three short vignettes:

When I was a kid, if you came to church with shorts on, you’d be shown the door. Didn’t matter if you were lost as a goose and had never been and the Holy Spirit himself drove you to the front door and said go in. Shorts were not allowed. Not at church, not at the church office, not at church camp, not on a church trip of any kind. KNEES WERE SINFUL DID YOU NOT KNOW THIS??

A few years back, I was a youth pastor. I met a great guy at a school event, invited him to come to church, and he showed up with a hat on. On a Wednesday night. In the youth building. I had so many people complain about that hat! I thought at first they were kidding, but no, they were dead serious and quoted me scripture that said people can’t wear hats to church. I asked one guy to go study I Corinthians 11, then instructed him to make sure his wife shaved her head before leading prayer before the Wednesday night church supper next time.

In another church we had a youth band. Kids were coming in from everywhere, getting saved, getting fired up, bringing friends, leading bible studies at school – and the catalyst for all that was the band. Sure as heck wasn’t a middle aged bald headed youth guy. Well, there was some praying, too. Anyway – a church member told me if I didn’t “unplug those evil drums and guitars” he would unplug them and they would stay unplugged forever. I think he meant to go all Keith Moon on them.

Anyway.

How many of you were told by your parents as a child, and to this day tell your children, to wash up before dinner? It’s all about the hygene, right? They could have some unknown sand box pathogen and end up on an episode of House.

How many of you are Jewish? Well, they’re the ones that started that. What we call hygene, Jesus called something else. In Mark 7 the religious leaders asked Jesus why he didn’t wash up before eating. He flat out called them hypocrites. Look it up. Wow, right? Way less than tactful, Jesus.

Thing is, he wasn’t there to placate the pastor of some crappy little church. He wasn’t there to uphold the traditional, or to make the religious people happy. He didn’t come to bring peace – he came with a sword. He came to cut his people free.

How can you know someone is who they say they are? Well, a doctor wears a white lab coat, a leopard has spots. Birds fly and bees be. Generally.

“Well, Christians read the bible and pray a lot, and go to church a lot. Sometimes they don’t eat for whatever reason, and some of them when they pray it’s not real words coming out of their mouth. And they have a bunch of bibles.”

No.

There’s only one way to tell a Christian. Jesus said in John 13:34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

When we can get over ourselves, get past our traditions, give up our hurts and our past, when we can actually love like Christ loved – sacrificially, unflinchingly, unapologetically, wholeheartedly, unconditionally, and without regard for personal safety – then everyone will know! There will be no doubt who and who’s we are.

How do you love? Like a regular person? With strings attached? You can love like that, but don’t call yourself a Christian if you do.

I was never any good at the maths. And you can ask anybody, I never even cared. My last good math was in 3rd grade, because in 4th we started all the junk with the fractions and decimals and all that. So, I did what I had to do to pass, which was cheat. Yep. I’ll admit that I cheated my way through math.

In college, math was required. I got out of it. All I had to do to get out of one semester of math was take four semesters of Greek. Not a problem. I’m a language/word nerd.

Nowadays, I’m a claims adjuster. Guess what? I have to use all that math I never learned every three seconds. I still kinda stink at it, but at least I can soothe people when there’s no coverage for their homeowner claim.

Who made up all that math stuff? Pythagoras? Nope it was already being done by the Babylonians 2500 years before he was born. See, I love the history, too.

God made it up. He set the universe in motion, with the physical laws that apply. Things that he created have weight and volume and dimensions. It was God who made it, and we who have tried to figure it all out.

Believe it or not, I love physics. About 1/3 of my library is books on physics. I understand the concepts, the philosophical ramifications of some of it – example – the universe, on a massive scale, is pretty orderly, and we can observe motion and make predictions, but on the very small scale, all bets are off.

Quantum physics is pretty dark and twisty stuff. There are particles within particles and they really shouldn’t interact but they do. Sometimes a part will spin in a circle and be back to it’s original starting position, sometimes it will spin and spin and spin like 8 times before it’s back to it’s starting point.

There are weird names for stuff, too. Quarks, muons, gluons, and each one has different varieties. There are six different ”flavors” of quarks.  Light is both a wave and a particle. Weird, right?

So why I am boring you with all this? Do you see how big God is? And yet how small? What I mean is, there are things so big we can’t see them – we don’t know how far out the universe goes. Once we think we’ve seen all there is to see, they make a bigger telescope. 100′s of billions of galaxies in the observable universe. And how small can we go? We think we know, then we make a new particle accelerator and all bets are off again.

My thinking is, it just goes on and on and on in both directions. God made it and he sustains it all, both big and small. And he still has time to have a relationship with you!

Why did God do all of this? Because that’s who he is! He is loving, creative, powerful. When you mix those together, you get everything. And yet he is above it, outside of it all. He’s bigger than his creation.

But, since the time of Adam and Eve, it’s all been slightly off kilter. What’s the second law of thermodynamics? Anyone? Entropy increases. That means, what started off as perfect is all going to fall apart some day. It’s why your batteries die, why things wear out, why when you drop a glass onto the kitchen floor you’re still stepping on the pieces 2 weeks later. Disorder increases. Until it is acted upon by an outside force. That’s a new law I just made up. The law of redemption. Ok, I didn’t make it up. It’s always been there.

From Adam’s first sin, to whatever you just did that you thought, “Crap that was not the right thing to do,” God has been breaking all the rules so that you could be who he made you to be. He doesn’t owe you this, but out of his love, out of his creativity, out of his power, he made a way to save us. I say breaking the rules but I know there are rules we don’t know about and could never understand anyway.

Who thought it up that something had to give up it’s life and it’s blood to redeem us and save us? Is that crazy or what? What kinda math is that? That a blameless, spotless, sinless, innocent person had to give up his place in heaven and come here to this messed up planet and lay it all down for messed up people like us.

There was no other way. Just like the fundamental laws of the universe that apply to our physical existence, the spiritual law is that when the law is broken the penalty is death. But Jesus is big enough to take that all upon himself. He took our sentence of death and died once for all, and now the law that held us back has been fulfilled! We are no longer viewed by God as rule breakers and sinners. We are seen by God through the filter of the blood of Jesus.

And now, we are living in the kingdom, just like God intended. This world will still pass away, and everything physical and temporal along with it. These bodies that we call home will be shed in death. But we will live on! This is the best news I have ever heard – that the God of the universe loved me enough to die for me! Jesus lives, and because he lives, I know I will live with him forever!

Don’t even try to figure it all out – physics or God. Some things we just need to accept. Start by accepting Christ, and everything else will begin to make more sense.

 

My wife Cheryl and her iPhones have a rich and wonderful history. Her first iPhone, a 3g, was fairly well abuse for years, culminating in being dropped in a toilet. It is now in the posession of my 5 year old daughter, who uses it as an iPod.

When the iPhone 4 came out, she just had to upgrade. We actually fought over who would get it first. I can’t remember who won that one, but I do remember being pretty childish about it. Friends would come up to us and show us their new phones and I would just melt. Then turn green with envy.

The day came when we both had our new phones and we were so happy. We spent our days on Facebook Mobile and Hootsuite, and our evenings texting each other from across the room.  Who could have know it would all be coming to an end so soon?

One day Cheryl went to lunch with some friends, it was a busy venue, and she left her purse at the table when they all walked out the door. It couldn’t have been more than 45 seconds, but that’s all it took. The purse, and the phone with it, were gone forever. Never mind the credit and debit cards, the social security card, the checkbook, the driver’s license. They were all secondary to the phone.

Cheryl went into a deep depression that lasted many months. Oh, she tried other mobile phones – cheap ones purchased at pawn shops and early 3g Windows Mobile Monstrosities given to her by friends who had cast them off like an old pair of golashes. Nothing worked for her.  Nothing would satisfy like the iPhone.

It got to where she couldn’t even be around me when I was using my phone. We had discussions about her seeing someone, getting some help, then something wonderful happened – the iPhone 4S. Now, we couldn’t afford one because we were still in the middle of a 2 year contract, but the new phone coming out meant that the prices for the old model would be dropping like baseball sized hail.

She scoured the internet looking for a sweet deal, we saved our pennies and even sold some things we had laying around the house that were going unused – a baby grand piano and our refrigerator. Not really. But the day came when she could make her purchase, and what a wonderful, glorious day it was! It was like the sun was shining again, and birds were singing, 10,000 red balloons were released, and the hopes and dreams of people everywhere came true all at once.  Cheryl had a new (to her) iPhone!

I wish I could say her iPhone trials came to a screeching halt at that point.  They did not, but they did take a different form. She doesn’t lose it in public any more, but she can’t ever remember where she put it when we are at home. We are always turning the place upside down looking for it, always in a blind panic, “Where’s my phone?!?” After all search and rescue techniques have been employed, we resort to the old stand-by – I dial her up and hope against hope that her ringer is on or the battery is not dead.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, have you ever lost something? I have. I’ve lost a lot, to be blunt. And if you’re honest, so have you. What would you do to recover that one very special lost item? Maybe it was your favorite blanket that you remember with a touch of the bitter sweet to this very day. Maybe it was a beloved pet, or an irreplaceable family heirloom. What did you go through when they were lost, and what would you give to have them back?

Think about this – God lost something once. He had us, and a terrible choice made thousands of years ago guaranteed we would be lost to him forever, unless something was done – something drastic.

Jesus alludes to this in the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. You should take a minute and read Luke 15.  Can you feel the desperation, the dejection? Can you feel what those people felt to have lost something so important? And how much more important are you to God than a sheep, or a coin? I think this is why the chapter ends with the prodigal son.

I know many people who have lost a child, either to having to let them go their own way, or in death. Both are heartbreaking, gut wrenching losses. Sometimes when I am in a disagreement with one of my little girls, I am getting a very small taste of this kind of loss. But to be God, and to lose all of creation – how much does his heart break for all of it, for all of us?

It hurt him so badly, so deeply that he was willing to sacrifice his own, and his only, son so that he could reclaim us. He paid that price, and he paid it dearly, because only by death can we truly be alive, as was intended from the beginning.  He lost us, but we can be found! We were bought with a terrible price, but to God, it was worth every drop of blood, every agonizing scream, every insult hurled, every blow, every stripe. He found us, and he bought us and now we are his.

What did the father of the prodigal do? He searched, he watched, he waited, and when the son was still a long way away, the father found him! The son made one move toward the father, and the father *ran* to him, embraced him, kissed him, treated him like royalty.

That is what our father God wants so much for each of us – to take just one step toward him – he will do the rest.  He’s already done the rest! All you have to do is turn his way! Nothing can separate you from the love of God! Not if that’s what you want – so the question is, what do you want? Are you lost? You can be found! No matter where you are, you are never too far away – turn to him and he will see, and he’ll come running and he will embrace you, he will make you his child, and he’ll seal it with a loving, forgiving kiss. That’s what I pray for all of you – that you’ll just turn his way, and watch as he completely changes everything in your life -just as he did for me, and for all the others who were lost and longed not to be.