A message from the series "ROOTED - Growing Deeper." One of the larger challenges hurled at Christianity and perhaps the most difficult is explaining the problem of suffering. If God is a God of love then how can he allow evil to continue in the world which He created? For many of us this is personal, not just philosophical. We have front row seats to the various forms of pain life has to offer. What does the Bible say about this issue? Does the Bible give us any examples of suffering and some indicators on how to deal with it? The answer is yes. In Jesus we find the model and the purpose of suffering. Have you ever noticed how two people can experience the same kind of loss and yet each responds in a different way? Some say, "I hit rock bottom and it was there that I found God." Others, "I hit rock bottom and it was there that I rejected God." What's the difference? The difference is in what you tell yourself, what you believe about suffering. Christians know that God himself is not immune from pain. His son died a torturous death at the hands of men whom he created. But why would he allow it? Because God has a purpose in suffering. St. Augustine said, "Everywhere a greater joy is preceded by a greater suffering." Sounds strange to hear that suffering leads to joy. How so? Our relationship with God is made less formal and less artificial and less distant, it becomes more personal and more real and more intimate and close and deep. A Romanian pastor who suffered torture under communist rule said this, “Christians are like nails, the harder you hit them, the deeper they go.” You are called to be a firm, straight nail and when life hammers you, you will rejoice not in the pain of the strike but in the depth of its effect - going deeper in Christ because of your suffering. Will you suffer well?
A message from the series "ROOTED - Growing Deeper." Life is full of challenging decisions. Some have fewer consequences than others but even the small ones can end up having big impact. So how can you be confident you’re taking the right action? You’ll be glad to know that God wants you to speak to him about everything in your life. He wants to speak to you too. If you are not hearing from God on a regular basis then what I can tell you is that the problem is not with God. God wants to speak to you more than you want to speak to him. He wants to listen to you more than you want to listen to him. In other words, he really cares about you. Remember, God knows the number of hairs on your head! (He also knows your natural color too :)
A message from the series "ROOTED - Growing Deeper." If there was ever a question in which I felt totally inadequate to give meaning it would be this: Who is God? In our culture if you asked ten different people this question you would probably get close to ten different answers. Everything from, "He's the big guy upstairs" to "he doesn't exist." It’s not just that understanding God is complex; it turns out that this God himself is also extremely complex. And yet he is also knowable. The story of the Bible describes a God who wants to connect with his creation in a genuine partnership to reveal the divine purpose and plan. And so when God appears to people in the Bible, it’s both understandable to them (people can see, hear, and interact with God as a person), but it also breaks their categories at the same time. The Bible calls God transcendent and the author of all reality as we know it. Any knowledge that we have about such a being will always be limited and partial because a Creator by definition is above and beyond that which is created. So as we begin to answer this question we should afford God the same treatment as we would want. If you ask, "Who is Jason Fritz?" I would like to speak for myself. So let's let God speak for himself. That's exactly what he does in Exodus 34:4-7. Read it and then breathe a sigh of relief. This is the God you want and need and he has a name - Yahweh!
A message from the series "Aligned." “What happens when I die?” At some point in life everyone asks this question. Without Jesus the answer is hopeless. With Jesus the answer is hopeful. In our culture when we speak of hope we mean to say there’s at least a small measure of uncertainty in us. “Will it finally cool down tomorrow?” “I hope so.” Biblical hope isn’t this way. Biblical hope is a joyful conviction based on compelling evidence. Last week we examined the compelling evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. This leads us to a joyful conviction – we too will be resurrected! But what exactly does the resurrection mean for you? For one thing, your resurrected body will be perfectly suited to a resurrected earth. There’s a lot to be said here but if Jesus’ resurrected body is any indication there will be relationships, laughter, conversation, travel, eating and many more good things…all in a perfect environment free from sin. Secondly, it means that death is defeated once and for all. Paul actually taunts death; he bullies it as if it was a once proud tyrant but is now an old toothless lion. For this reason Paul could face anything in life. He had an unsinkable and stubborn joy that could not be stopped. Knowing that death is defeated and resurrection is ahead; Paul gives a final exhortation to the church in Corinth: Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58 You might be tired from all your labors. It’s ok to be tired. If you’re not tired you’re probably not laboring. But we don't need to waver, we don't need to change direction, we don't need to fall, and we don't need to quit. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. Hebrews 6:10 God will show His remembrance of our work and labor of love at the resurrection!
A message from the series "Aligned." I love the honesty of the Scriptures. There's no doubt as to the importance of the resurrection of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Paul lists eight results of a still dead messiah…1. Our preaching is useless.2. Your faith is useless.3. We are false witnesses.4. No dead will ever be raised.5. Your faith is futile.6. You are still in your sins.7. All who have trusted in Christ are lost.8. We are to be pitied more than all men.In other words, you can't have a living faith with a dead savior. Paul attests to a living savior when he states that several hundred people at once saw the resurrected Jesus. Many of these people were still alive when Paul wrote. A skeptic could have investigated for himself. Additionally, it was foretold in detail by the prophets in the Old Testament. The evidence is overwhelming. We understand this means Jesus has power over death and he will extend that power to us when we die. But what about now? What does the resurrection mean for our daily lives on earth? Paul tells us what it meant for him - fearlessness. Every day he put his life on the line because he was assured of the final outcome - eternal life. The overwhelming love of Jesus as demonstrated by his death, burial and resurrection made Paul fearless. Let me ask you – do you see yourself growing in fearlessness? Technology has made us safer. Luxuries and comforts make us safer. Can I encourage you to pursue little courageous victories? Overcome your fear of rejection and identify yourself as a Christian. Confront your fear of humiliation which leads you to anger or revenge. Face your fear of loneliness which leads you into unhealthy relationships. Release your fear of losing control and give your life in serving others. The resurrection of Jesus Christ absolutely slays your fears. If they are not being killed then you are not being obedient. Maybe you’re afraid to commit to a small group, to serve or to be generous. This is not all there is so you don’t have to live in fear. Jesus was resurrected and you will be too so let's live today in light of eternity!
A message from the series "Aligned." Last week I ordered a table from Amazon. When it arrived I opened the box, dug out the assembly instructions and got to work. Four legs attached to the top with metal crossbars. Super easy, right? An hour later I was losing my religion. Out of frustration I went to Amazon's reviews and discovered that every part of the instructions were completely wrong. Here's a quote from a guy who said he got drunk after figuring out the right way to do it…"Whoever wrote these instructions has never seen this $*&% table." Rules and order are important things. If you can imagine a highway without any limits, signs, or pavement markings then you get the idea of what worship was like in the Corinthian church. It was chaotic and out of control. Christians gone wild and abusing spiritual gifts. Both men and women were in need of correction. So Paul gives it. He does so in the most meaningful way by reminding them there are roles and order within the Godhead. Additionally, Paul tells us that spiritual gifts are not the most important thing; the Gospel of Jesus Christ is. In order for the Gospel to come to you Jesus had to play his role and he was faithful. So then, none of us has any excuse to ignore our roles.
A message from the series "Aligned." God is not a God of confusion, but of peace says Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 14. The Corinthian Christians were very confused and this proved they had something to learn about the practice of their faith. These early believers had a false belief that some gifts made you more spiritual than others and at the top of their list was tongues. They were wrong. Paul brings clarity by making a contrast between the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy. Which is superior? According to Paul it is prophecy, unless tongues is interpreted. Why? Because it all goes back to the purpose of the gifts. They are for the common good; the edification of the church (1 Cor. 12:7). The main problem with the gift of tongues is that it was not being used in a way that built up the church. What we learn from chapter 14 is that the Spirit of God is on display when we serve one another with what God has given each of us. I have a homework assignment for you. Will you affirm the people who bring their gifts and blessings into your life? Begin to look outwardly and express gratitude for those who serve you. I’ll let you in on a little secret. The more you make your life about you the more miserable you will become. You will use and manipulate and become hypercritical and angry and you’ll be looking at others as a means to your happiness and that never ends well. This is what made the Corinthian church sick. Instead, let's look for ways to affirm and bless those around us. I read this week that the vast majority of people who own running shoes don’t run. I think this is a good analogy for the church. We’ve all been given running shoes (spiritual gifts) to run the race God has for us. We run it together helping each other cross the finish line. So if you’ve been coming around for awhile and you’ve not been involved can I encourage you to lace up your shoes and be part of the amazing work God is doing at Illuminate?
A message from the series "Aligned." I've officiated many weddings over the last 25 years and without a doubt the most commonly quoted Scripture is 1 Corinthians 13. Famously known as, "The Love Chapter." We think of Paul's eloquent description as the ideal relationship full of patience, gentleness, believing the best with endless romance. The blueprint for the husband or wife of our dreams. But here's the thing - it's not about romantic love at all. In fact, if you were the intended audience when it was written, you would feel sharply corrected. The Corinthian church was Paul's problem child. These early believers were dysfunctional, immature, selfish, stubborn and proud. They took the good things God gave them and used those things to create chaos. They even abused spiritual gifts by dividing them into "greater" and "lesser." Chapter 12 ends with these words, “And I will show you a still more excellent way” (1Cor 12:31). From here, Paul begins his famous description of love—a gift greater than the ability to prophesy, fathom spiritual mysteries, and speak in other tongues. According to Jesus, the greatest command is to love God and love others as ourselves. It's the way the world will know we are his disciples. All that we are and all that we do is within the sphere of love. Love is the salve that heals relationships. Love is the defining attribute of a Christian. As always, the motivation comes from Jesus himself. We love because he first loved us!
A message from the series "Aligned." When people hear the phrase, "the body of Christ" some think it refers to the literal body of Jesus like the one he had while on the earth. The term actually refers to the members of his church throughout history. Therefore every Christian is a part of the body of Christ. Just like a human body, the body of Christ is made up of many different parts but all are meant to function together in unity. Limbs, when left alone are useless but when they come together there is movement and purpose. The ultimate purpose of every Christian is to glorify God. Imagine the power that comes from a church that functions as a whole unit with every body part in its place. Sadly, the Corinthian Christians were a bunch of separated limbs. I'm not sure where it was first told, but the story below sums it up well...A carpenter’s tools were having a conference. Brother Hammer was presiding, but the others informed him that he’d have to leave because he was too noisy. "All right," he said, "I’ll go, but Brother Plane must withdraw too. There’s no depth to his work. It’s always on the surface." Brother Plane responded, "Well, Brother Rule will also have to go too. He’s constantly measuring people as if he were the only one who’s right." Brother Rule then complained about Brother Sandpaper, saying, "He’s rougher than he ought to be. He’s very abrasive and he's always rubbing people the wrong way." Brother Sandpaper was annoyed by Brother Saw, claiming that he had a very sharp and cutting personality. Brother Saw leveled his criticism at Brother Level, saying that he always tends to blame others for being crooked and unbalanced. Brother Level had a major problem with Brother Hand Drill, accusing him of coming along and sticking his long penetrating nose into other people's business. And wouldn't you know it, Brother Hand Drill was really bothered by Brother Clamp because Brother Clamp always seemed so uptight and never seemed relaxed. In the midst of this bitter discussion, the Carpenter of Nazareth walked in. He spoke sternly to all the tools, rebuked them, and told them to hold their peace. He shared with them that everyone of them had a purpose and that they were uniquely made to fulfill that purpose. He told them that everyone of them was important and had a special job to do. The Carpenter told them that He needed every one of them in order to do His work. He then went to His workbench to make a pulpit from which to preach the gospel. He used the hammer, the plane, the rule, the sandpaper, the saw, the level, the hand drill and the clamp. Not one tool was untouched or unused. After the pulpit was finished, Brother Rule arose and said, "I see now that all of us are laborers together with God." There's no such thing as an unemployed Christian in the church. We all have something to contribute and we all need each other to accomplish the work God has for us!
A message from the series "Aligned." Perhaps you've heard Proverbs 28:19 (from the King James version) quoted in Christian leadership circles, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." This has become an inspiration in the church growth movement and widely used to support the importance of painting a compelling portrait of church direction. However, the verse refers to a literal vision from God. The kind of vision that Old Testament prophets received. The ones that come in the night through dreams or spoken audibly by God Himself. This is the full verse from the English Standard version, "Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law." Quoting the entire verse reveals a lot. Where there is no prophetic vision, or word from God, then the people do not have direction. The law is prophetic vision and when it is kept there is blessing. In other words, apart from God's Word we have no direction. This Sunday is Vision Sunday. It's a time for us to celebrate what God has done and what we trust he will continue to do through Illuminate. But we must never forget that God has already given us the vision for what we do, who we are and what we are to become. God continues his faithfulness to us and it's good for us to push the pause button and reflect on where we've been and what's ahead. I am very excited to share the plans to expand God's Kingdom and as always, the best part is that we get to do it together!