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Take A Load Off

June 7, 2012 — Leave a comment

Theology. Now there’s a light-hearted, breezy topic. Usually when someone brings up theology, people think of dusty old guys, sitting in a dusty old library, reading dusty old books and saying words regular people don’t understand. That’s what I used to think. Even when I had a young theology professor, most of the time I was thinking, “what’s he talking about.”

Theology, a noun, according to this wonderful wiki entry, means “the study of God or, more generally, the study of religious faith, practice, and experience, or of spirituality.”

If you look at the word, what you are seeing is two Greek words put together – Theos (θεός) and Logos (λόγος). The first one means God, the second means Word. So, what I’m seeing, and my thinking is very simple, theology is the study of God’s Word – how it relates to us, how we relate to it, how we can live it and do it and how others can be affected by it.

That definition, in my thinking, takes the word “theology” from the noun column and puts it squarely in the verb column. Theology is something you do. Here’s what I mean – Hebrews 4:12, says this: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

These are some powerful words. Read it again – the Word of God is alive! It’s active! And it will tear you up – if you will not just read it, but if you do it as well. This tells me that Theos and Logos, two Greek nouns, when used together in this context are action words. Verbs.

The Word of God is a person, Jesus Christ, and he wants to cut away all the pretense, all the clutter, all the dead branches from your existence and make you fully alive, and fully capable of fullfilling His mission for you. Fully free! Freedom is a process. Freedom is the ability to live life as the person you were created and redeemed to be. And it’s going to hurt some in order for you to get there. That’s what I see in Hebrews 4:12.

Theology in the 1st century Christian church was a work in progress. It was hammered out daily as believers met to share a meal and discuss their day. Take a minute and read Acts 2:42-46

They met together. They ate together. And they talked about God. Not just the dusty old books the rabbi used, but how to take His Son out into the world, how to live the life Jesus lived, how to make it real to everyone.

This tells me something – it tells me theology is developed and lived out in community. I’m not talking about making radical changes or starting a new religion, or doing something stupid. What I’m saying is, since forever ago, Jesus has been present in the company of 2 or 3 believers, and when He is there, He moves in their lives, He impresses upon their hearts and minds to do certain, sometimes very specific things, to make personal changes, to reach out in a specific manner, to minister in a certain, specific way. The Word never changes. The only thing that changes is the packaging.

Remember the Jesus Freaks from the 1960s? The itinerant preachers from the old wild west? The slick evangelists with the polyester suits and patent leather shoes from the 70s? “Turn or burn!” they’d yell at us, night after night. 7 day revivals. Who remembers those? I don’t think the 1st century Christians saw any of that coming. They probably would have died right on the spot if they had gone to a Carmen concert.

And yet, even with all that, it’s still the same message. What we have to do, in community, is determine how we will practise theology. How we will present the message of the life, death, burial, resurrection, and imminent return of the living Word of God to the people who need to know Him – to those who need to experience freedom.

What I’m saying is, theology is alive. It’s active. It has real power because it’s a real person and that person, the embodiment of theology, is Jesus Christ. Let that power loose, and run for the hills folks. Because when He shows up, stuff happens. Lives change. And very often it’s a very messy thing, because it’s about killing off the old and bringing the new to life.

When I give Christ access to my life, He changes me, people see it, they want what I’ve got and I give it to them. That’s the practise of theology. That’s the end result. Anything else is not Christian theology, because it doesn’t start with Christ.

Theology – verb – how you live out your faith. It’s practise is developed in community with like minded believers who are struggling with the very same thing you are – how to be completely free – the kind of free God dreamed up in the beginning. And together, you make it real. Now doesn’t that take a load off?

 

I’m a child of the 80′s.  Springsteen, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi. 501 jeans, popped collars, ropers and, yes, dew rags.  I even had parachute pants.  Lordy.  There are pictures of me all over Facebook wearing that stuff.  I can never escape that past.  I’ll admit it – I was a teenaged idiot.  If they would have had Axe back then…well, I would have bathed in the stuff.

Times have changed.  There’s a little place called Old Navy now, and the flip flops that went out of style came back with a vengeance.  We called them “thongs” when I was a kid.  No joke.  I think that means something else now, I just can’t put my finger on it.  Baggy jeans instead of skin tight, you wear just one shirt and collar is anything but popped.  At least my beloved Chucks are timeless.  But then again, everything comes back around.  Everything.

Beyond what you wear, have you ever had something you said or did in the past come back around?  Something that you would have rather forgotten about that maybe other people won’t let die?

It is like that for me every time I go home to Harrah, OK.  Harrah was a cozy little farming community of about 3500 people when I was a kid, so when I did something stupid during lunch, my mom knew about it before I got home from school.  My friends and family remember every stupid thing I ever did as a kid.  And they remind me all the time.

How do you live down your past?  How can you ever deal with the things you did that were so stupid and uncool, that nobody will let you forget?  Do like me and move away.  Far, far away.

Well, honestly, I have come a long way, and so have a lot of you I’m sure, but people never forget our bonehead mistakes.  If you live long enough, your past will always come back to the future to haunt you.  How do you deal with that?  Here’s three good ways that I have heard of, in other words these are not originally from me and I can’t remember where I heard it but I would love to give someone credit.  See – I have changed.

First you have to tell it like it was.  I Timothy 1:12-16 tells about the Apostle Paul’s checkered past.  Before he became a church planter, he persecuted Christ followers. Some of us have done terrible things that we continue to feel bad about even though we are not that person anymore.  When people bring it up, do what Paul did.  Say “yes I did those things.” And leave it at that.  Tell it like it was and move on.

Then, tell it like it is.  Jeremiah 31:33-34 tells us that God wants to forget about all the stupid things we have done.  To me that is the best promise of the Bible, because I have a long and glorious history of messing up everything good that ever happened to me.  The prophet Micah tells us that our mistakes in life are cast into the deepest sea and they will never resurface.  Forgiven sins are forgotten sins and nobody has the right to drag the sea of forgetfulness to try and dredge up all the things in your past.  If it’s forgiven, it’s over and forgotten according to God.  Tell it like it is.

Then you have to tell it where to go.  Romans 8:1-2 says we are free, not condemned, but part of being truly free is learning to rejoice, celebrate, consistently thank God for His forgiveness.  We have to rejoice in the fact that He has purified us and cleansed us from every stain and all the effects of sin.  When we do this, we tell our past sins to go back to the Devil, right where they came from.  Tell it where to go!

Listen, we all have a past.  I have things in my past that nobody can know.  Legal issues, statute of limitations, etc.  Seriously though, I can’t be beating myself up for something I did in 1986.  That’s not the freedom that Christ died to give me.  We have the opportunity to live like we are forgiven.  And we are forgiven because of God’s great love for us.

It is not my purpose to stir up a lot of bad memories for you all here today, but to remind you that there is power from the Holy Spirit to help you get past your past.  Don’t dwell on it anymore.  It’s over.  Let it be.  Take your past and lay it before the only one with the ability to put it where it belongs.  In the past.

Let me tell you a little bit about myself, so that you'll know where I'm coming from.  I'm 46 years old, I am a sinner saved by the grace of God, and because of what he has done for me, instead of living in a van down by the river, I'm living right in the big middle of his will for me - and I couldn't be happier!

It wasn't always like that, in fact there was a time in my life when I identified with old Matt Foley.  Life was sad, and I tried any number of things to motivate myself, to pull myself out of the hole I was in.  Unfortunately, the kind of change I needed in my life, I could not accomplish on my own.

What I have learned, from a very wise man, is you can no more change yourself than you can reach down and grab your own feet and lift yourself off the ground.  I'm not talking about self help or 12 step programs.  I'm talking about real life change at the soul level.

In the beginning, and you can read this for yourself in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve made a choice - they chose knowledge over life, and their choice doomed all of us.  We all rely on our own thinking to get us through life, and we end up like Matt Foley - living by ourselves in a self-imposed prison down by the river.  We think so often that we are doing good, and it will count for something at some point, but your actions, good or bad, cannot earn you salvation or any amount of favor with God.

Which brings me to Lucifer.  What an angel he must have been!  Chief among angels, the most beautiful and most wise of any of God's creations.  Ezekeil 28 is about the Prince of Tyre, and many people believe it is a depiction of Lucifer as well.  His heart became proud, his wisdom was corrupted, and he longed for the glory that can only belong to God.  In Isaiah 14, he is described as the morning star who would make himself like God, and was cast down from heaven because of it. 

Like Matt Foley, Lucifer tried to become something he is not through his own power.  He lied to mankind in the beginning, and now because of that, more often than not, we all live our lives exactly the same way.  We think we deserve something, we chase our desires, we imagine in our minds that we can change ourselves and do better or be better.  And many times, by an act of our will, we can choose good - we give to charities, we quit drinking or smoking, we treat our neighbors with respect, and we work hard at our jobs.  And when our lives are over, then what?

Matt Foley is a sad excuse for a motivational speaker.  He's a joke!  The sad thing is, many people feel like that on the inside and just put on a happy mask for the world to see.  Freedom is about becoming the person you were created and redeemed to be, and nothing you do will get you there.  Ever.  It is something that happens on the inside, in your soul, due to an outside influence.

What Lucifer did, and what we do, is we rely on ourselves and we are not good enough, we're not stong enough, we're not smart enough, we are not in control, no matter how good, how strong or how much of a control freak we are.  Our destiny is sealed and we will suffer the same fate as Matt Foley in life - it will be a worthless joke of an existence - and we will suffer the same fate as Lucifer in eternity - forever separated from the source of life - God.

By an act of our human will, we developed medicines that save people's lives, we put men on the moon, we developed wonderful technology that enables me to write this and you to read it.  We build our towers into the heavens, trying to reach God on our own terms, and completely miss the mark every time.  There is so much more!

What if I told you that, by an act of your will, you could have everything that God has promised you in his word?  You can have victory in this life, power to live every minute of every day as God intended - free!  All you have to do is decide one thing - you have to use your will to surrender you will to God.  When you decide that you've had enough doing it your way, when you've had enough struggling trying to make everything work out and your big reward is you end up in a van down by the river, when nothing you do can make anything make sense, when you've had enough of doing it wrong and you realize something isn't right, that is the time to act.  Your strength, your thinking, your actions cannot get you to God.  But surrender of who you currently are can.

When you surrender all that you are in your soul to God, he breathes new life into you, he changes your mind, he renews everything about you, and then everything will change forever.  And it really is just that easy.  Ask him.  Just step right up and say, "God - I surrender my will to you, now take me and change me.  I want a real relationship with you."  He doesn't want or need anything you can give him or do for him.  He doesn't need you or your resources or your knowledge.  But he does want to know you - and he wants you to know him.

If that's what you truly desire, then ask!  You'll receive.  Your life will start over and you'll see things totally differently than you ever have.  You'll be seeing the physical world through spiritual eyes.  You'll experience power in your day to day life.  You'll give sacrificially and it won't even matter because God will give it back 10 fold.  I've been like Matt Foley.  It's no good, no way to live, and now being on the other side of it, I wonder what took me so long because it is so awesome I can't even put it into words.  God is Good and he wants to share everything with you - will you let him?

Kairos Day 1

August 25, 2011 — Leave a comment

Cheryl and I have been attending Gateway church for about a year now. We came to Gateway all messed up – beaten down spiritually, emotionally and physically exhausted and generally burned out. We didn’t know what to expect, but we had heard great things about the church and various ministries.

Our first impression – NOT church like we had always known. There was something different – we both noticed it the minute we walked in the door. It wasn’t smiling faces, although there were plenty. It wasn’t a crowded room with a lot of activity, although it kinda is that. It was the spirit of the place. We felt something different. We couldn’t really describe it, but we knew we wanted to know more.

Knowing more turned into joining the church and becoming involved in a small group, and eventually volunteering in one of the many ministry opportunities available.

Over the course of the last year, we learned more about the nature of God and surrendering to His plans that we had ever learned before. Still though we were operating at about 50% – deeply wounded by past ministry experience, people, situations. We still were not in a place where we fully trusted God. In fact, I learned that my bitterness was directed at God – I blamed him for every bad thing that happened in my life. Stupid, right? But still, I questioned His nature as revealed in His Word, I questioned my calling, I questioned my place in His Kingdom, I questioned my worth. I gave up.

Several months ago, we heard about Gateway’s Freedom Ministry, and talked to several people who had been involved and gone through Kairos. From the Gateway website: “We define Freedom as the ability to respond fully to God out of who He created and redeemed you to be. Core lies, soul wounds, demonic oppression and life patterns are all obstacles that can stand in the way of the life of freedom Jesus has made available to every believer. Gateway Freedom Ministries is kingdom-focused and designed to help you learn to hear and respond to God’s voice. We’ll help you identify and remove those things that are currently hindering your growth, enter the life you were made for, discover your identity in Christ and learn how to be an influence in the lives of others.” Sounds great to me – where do I sign up?

I found out, I signed up, Cheryl and I went to some classes – and they were amazing. We heard some of the deepest teachings we had ever been exposed to – about God, His love, His plan, our role in the Kingdom. We wanted more. So we signed up for Kairos.

Again, from the website: “In the New Testament, the word kairos means ‘the appointed time in the purpose of God.’ It’s the time when God acts. KAIROS is a time for you to experience God—deeper and higher. It’s a time for inner healing and breaking strongholds as well as physical, emotional, mental and spiritual healing.”

Not knowing what to expect, we arrived at Gateway this morning at 8:30, got our packet of materials, and found a seat. It’s now 9 pm. I am a completely different person that I was when I got to church this morning.

It’s not even a subtle difference. My faith is restored! I sought God today, and I found Him! The bitterness, anger, resentment, fear, cynicism – all gone!

There was a point during the day when the Freedom Ministry team was up front, most everyone in attendance was in line to speak with one of them. I had no idea what was on my heart, but I was burdened, weary, scared. I talked to a sweet lady and she asked me, “what do you want to give to God right now?” I don’t even remember what I said. Tears were flowing freely, I couldn’t breath, I could just barely speak. I told God exactly how I felt – shame, fear, anger. I felt like He let me down, I blamed Him for where I was, for the things that had happened. I felt like He could have protected me and my family and chose not to. I got it all out, I let it all go.

Then she asked, “what do you want to receive from God?” And in a split second, I went from a sobbing, weeping, teary eyed, burned out shell to joyous laughter! I started laughing! I don’t have any other explanation except for the joy of God filled me completely and just made it all better – I sought out the God of the universe, and I FOUND HIM!

That’s not all – we talked later about worship – the true meaning of worship, what it is, it’s purpose. I knew it wasn’t all about singing in a church on Sunday, but the depth of it, the purpose – it surprised me.

Again we were all invited to the front of the church, there were people on stage singing, and we were asked to just bow before Him. I got on my knees, listened to the music, and in my head, I heard, “lower.” I though, “what?” “Go lower.” So I put my head on the floor. “Lower.” I put my hands out in front. At this point, my shirt was riding up, the seat of my pants was getting awfully tight, and my knees started to ache. “Lower. Go lower.” There were 500 people around me, and all of a sudden I didn’t care. I just laid flat on my face before God. I humbled myself. I had never bowed before Him like this before. It was liberating. My concerns, my anxiety, my hopes and dreams were all swept up and all I was left with was His presence. I just laid there at His feet, worshiping. I didn’t care what anyone thought and I never opened my eyes once.

I felt His presence in my life like never before. After about 10 minutes, I felt like God was directing me to stand, so I stood and lifted up my arms. In my mind, I cried out for my Father – to be lifted up into His arms, to be closer, to feel more of His presence. Again I was seeking Him and again I found Him. My life will never be the same!

Obviously this was a very emotional time. I have never just let go like that. I’ve never sought Him like that. I never thought anything like this was possible. I never trusted my emotions, but God gave us our emotions so that in moments like these we could experience just a little taste of who He is. We are made in His image, and He is a living, feeling, emotional God. I allowed myself to be led into His presence, I allowed myself to give up fighting Him, I sought Him, I found Him, I felt His presence, and I was swept away!

I wonder what day 2 will bring? All I know is, I have experienced more freedom in this 1 day that I ever have in my entire life. I am made in His image – He has a plan for me! I was not benched 4 years ago because I’m a horrible person and I let Him down. He put me where I am so He could heal me and get me back in the game! I have a future, a purpose, a calling, a destiny. I want to know what all that is – I might get the answers tomorrow, I might get them in a year, or in 5 years. Either way – I know that I matter to God! I know I’m His son! I know He loves me, and I am learning to love and trust Him all over again!