“Push yourself to your limit!” Many of us have been encouraged in this way to achieve something great in our lives. Just last week, Eliud Kipchoge pushed himself to the limit and ran the first marathon under two hours. He had a team of people pushing him to keep up a world record pace. To achieve this feat he had to physically and mentally push himself beyond what he had ever done before.
We once took a trip where everything went wrong. The housing was weird. The food was gross. Half of the group got the stomach flu. People fought with each other. One of the cars broke down on the way home. It was a disaster! Most of us can relate to something in life where everything went wrong.
One of our family’s favorite Sesame Street sketches is Kermit the Frog teaching kids about journalism. His classic quote is; “Asking questions is a very good way to get answers!” The simplicity and humor of this reminds all of us that answers to life’s difficult questions might only require us to ask good questions. This Sunday my sermon is titled; “Questioning God.”
America has an odd infatuation with celebrities. We can’t get enough information about their lives. We want to know where they eat. What they are wearing influences many. Who their friends are matters. And we especially want to know about their love life! We long to have the kind of love that the tabloids present as fun, sizzling hot, and deep meaningful romance! The problem is that most of the time it is an unrealistic facade.
Our world can be harsh. The business world tends to not care much beyond the bottom line. In entertainment stars are the talk of the town one moment, and yesterday’s news the next. In sports there is another player who is faster & stronger coming up behind the present superstar. At school students need to find their group and fit in or else they will be simply left out. On social media people put forward their best, and not always their most honest, face risking ridicule, or even worse, being ignored. We could use some mercy and grace.
In our modern life people suffer from anxiety in many different ways. It seems as a society we are more anxious than ever. There are, of course, valid reasons to be anxious - world events, politics, life threatening illnesses, finances, raising children, depression, and so on. God is not unaware of our anxiety. In fact, the Bible addresses anxiety in many different ways:
It is too easy to watch world events unfold on the news and do nothing. Sure, we feel deep compassion and pray, but find ourselves at a loss to follow up and do more. This Sunday we will hear from our youth about one way to compassionately help our global neighbor. Then we will look to the Bible to show us how to trust in Jesus as our everyday sufficiency. Come worship in song, prayer, Bible reading, Bible teaching and fellowship around the dinner table - yes there is a BBQ after church!
I recently had a conversation about what kind of movies and TV shows I like. I found a common theme in the types of shows I like - an honest portrayal of human depravity. Don’t get me wrong, I have no interest in celebrating sin in any way. But I am fascinated when stories explore how and why people do wrong. Ultimately, I’m interested because these shows make me think of two biblical truths:
Beach services are not without precedent in the Bible. In fact, Jesus led two significant services on the beach. First, in Luke 5 Jesus taught the crowds from a boat just offshore. He supported His claims to be God by giving the disciples a miraculously big catch of fish. The result of this beach service was that, “they left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:11b) The second beach service was after the resurrection. Jesus waited on the beach with a fire ready to cook another miraculous catch of fish. On the beach Jesus empowered both Peter and John for the ministry ahead of them - it changed their lives. (John 21)
“Where are you?”
This is a deeply profound question in the context of our spiritual life with God. God looks beyond the physical when he asks Adam and Eve in the garden, “Where are you?” He is inquiring about their hearts. God wants to know what is going on with them spiritually. God knows they have sinned against Him. He desires them to understand what is going on in their own hearts.
We have done a lot of house projects over the years. Some were small projects and others major remodels. Each time we approached a project there was excited anticipation of the final product. We longed for something beautiful, lasting, and most importantly - finished! One thing I learned about remodeling is that there is ALWAYS something unexpected below the surface of the project.
As humans, we are in awe when God enters into our lives and commands our full attention engaging our intellect, imagination, and emotions. God captures our hearts, minds, and souls when He draws us to Himself. The result in our lives is faith in Him. This faith story is revealed to all in the act of baptism. Baptism brings out in the open which once was only in our hearts.
We all love hearing people’s stories. Where they came from. What they like to do for fun. How they decided to go into their particular field of work. What God has done in their lives. Stories are amazingly unique and powerful. But we also all have a singular story that unites each of us as humans.
Sometimes in life there is a perfect storm of events. That has happened at The Rock this week. A group is headed to Mexico to build houses. Others are going on vacations with their families. Paul Duncan is in Italy writing the next great Italian pop song. This has led us to make the hard decision not to have a service at The Rock this Sunday. We are encouraging people to worship with other churches or get together and worship with one another in homes. We will be back strong on July 28th!
Often times we are confronted by Jesus with things that are contrary to our modern thinking. For example, “So the last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16) Modern thinking dictates that we should put ourselves first. Another one that stands out to me is that the world says our faith should be private and personal. Jesus prays in John 17:22-23; “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” Our faith is to be lived out in community. In these upcoming weeks at The Rock we see that in a couple of important ways:
As we celebrate the 4th of July barbecuing, beaching, and watching fireworks I am struck with two ways we are blessed with citizenship only by God’s amazing grace. One is a citizenship we share with our fellow Americans. The other is a citizenship shared by believers in Jesus - a heavenly citizenship!
Lori and I are traveling to the Covenant (Evangelical Covenant Church) Annual Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska this week. Please pray for 2 things…
A mantra of many Americans is “Work hard, play hard.” Working hard is a virtue if not taken to the extreme. Playing hard can be enjoyable if not done sinfully. The problem with this life philosophy is that it has nothing to do with rest. And rest is what many Americans are woefully lacking! We need more rest physically, mentally, and emotionally. But what we need above all of these is spiritual rest.
A true sign of unity among Christians is if they are able to worship together. It sounds simple, but over the centuries it has proven difficult. We need God’s help to allow us to get out of our comfort zones and be freed by the Holy Spirit to worship in spirit and truth with those who are different from us. We have been blessed at The Rock to worship with our friends from The Harbor Covenant Church in the past. This Sunday we have an opportunity to worship with The Harbor at their facility!
John Lennon recorded the song “Imagine” trying to comprehend an ideal world where we would; “Imagine all the people living life in peace.” The sentiment of the song is good. The theology is not. This kind of world is impossible without God. The only time our world has been pure, good, and peaceful was when God first created the universe. We see this in Genesis 1-2.