A message from the series "Glory - Advent 2019." The angel announced to the shepherds the one thing that could put all things right. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” These words broke through human history unlike anything else. What the world needed most, it received. Our sin meets God’s justice and therefore we need this savior. And yet, not everyone welcomed the news. In fact, some tried to kill it…literally. King Herod went on a murdering spree in hopes of preventing this baby from living another day. Many simply ignored the message failing to recognize the significance of the baby’s name. The name Jesus was given at his birth but Isaiah the prophet foretold of another name…"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel". Isaiah 7:14 Immanuel, meaning “God with us”. This God wasn’t content with dwelling in fiction, this God wasn’t content hanging out with angels and this God wasn’t content with bulls and goats anymore. Sin’s debt was being atoned for by a flesh and blood savior. This God wanted to dwell with you, with all of your mess, with all of your failures with all the dirtiness that is you; he wanted to be with you. Here’s the amazing thing, God loves you right where you’re at and wants to restore you from all the wrongs you’ve done. This is the unfathomable truth of Christmas: God with us!
A message from the series "Glory - Advent 2019." Have you noticed the word glory appears in the lyrics of many Christmas songs? “Angels We Have Heard On High,” "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Joy To The World,” and “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” to name a few. This is because the word glory was used by the angel to describe what was happening with the birth of Jesus. “Glory to God in the highest!” he proclaimed. If we are going to grasp the meaning of Christmas we must understand the meaning of this word. Glory literally means weight. It’s like when you hear someone say something profound and you respond, “Wow, that was heavy!” The word also carries the idea of making something known. The prophet Isaiah says this:"Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, And all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 40:5. See the connection between glory and reveal? When the angel announces to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest!” He’s telling them that God is revealing something profound about himself. The angel says more:“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10-11Let’s make sure we’re clear on the angel’s message. There will be great joy for all the people through a Savior who is Christ the Lord. If you understand this, then you understand the meaning of Christmas. Profound things are being revealed through the birth of Jesus. Joy is not to be found in circumstances but in a person because Jesus is for all the people. The person of Jesus Christ who loved us all the way to the cross. "Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die…” So when we're singing about Christmas glory let’s remember that Jesus set his glory aside so that we could have ours!
A message from the series "ROOTED - Growing Deeper." I often think about where the church will be in 50 years. Of course the hope is that she is stronger than ever. As I was contemplating this week’s update I received this email from Leadership Network. Church attendance is down by over 7%. Only 49% of Millennials identify as Christians. The number of Americans who would classify themselves as “religious nones” have grown by 30 million in the past decade. In other words, the trajectory is not good. Research shows that more and more Christians view the church as irrelevant. What can be done? In part there is a misunderstanding about what church is and what it is not and why it is the most important group on the planet. The church is not a building. It is not a physical location. It is the bride of Christ. This imagery is rich. What’s more precious to a husband than his bride? Jesus didn’t die for a building, he died for people. The church is not an institution, it is a movement. It is the place where the power of God is on display for all to see. And one more thing the church is not…perfect. Therefore we should all feel right at home. The church is described as a family where you can find help. Let’s get personal for a moment. Life is really hard. Life is a series of problems and it seems that you are only getting over one to face another. Our souls need cultivating and there is no better spiritual greenhouse than the church. On our own we are like little streams but when we come together we form a mighty river that displays God’s awesome presence like nothing else. The church needs you. She needs you to fulfill her mission. This is what makes the church the most important group on the planet because the mission of the church is to reveal Jesus Christ.
A message from the series "ROOTED - Growing Deeper." Times have changed my friends. And they will always be changing. One hundred years ago you were suspicious if you didn’t attend a church. If you called yourself an atheist you were not to be trusted. Today’s landscape is very different. We are in a unique era. One that actually takes us farther back in time. We have many things in common with the earliest believers living 2000 years ago. Ancient documents from the first century tell us that Christians were the most despised of all religions. At least the Jews kept to themselves, but not the Christians. Jesus' followers were labeled "troublesome, exclusive and inflexible." Sound familiar? And yet Christianity grew and spread throughout the Roman Empire. It wasn’t because people were inviting their friends to church. That was an immediate obstacle to an unbeliever. Stepping foot in church would have you instantly labeled as “one of them.” So how did happen? How did a fledgling group break into a movement? People told their stories of transformation. One of the great evangelists of the Bible is an unnamed woman. She’s a social outcast until she meets Jesus. The joy inside her produces an immediate response. She says to everyone, “Come and see what he has done for me!” As a result, many lives were transformed. She didn’t have any training and didn’t know much theology but she did have a testimony and so do you!
A message from the series "ROOTED - Growing Deeper." Have you ever thought of yourself as a healer? A healer is one who brings peace, joy, love, and life to others. This can be accomplished through our words, actions and in a way we don't often think about - through our generosity. In other words, there is healing power in sharing your resources with others. Generosity is a means by which we bring the kingdom of God to earth. But you and I have a strong inner struggle. You probably know where I'm heading. If generosity brings a healing power then there is a hidden power in greed. No one thinks they are greedy. No one thinks they have this idol. Jesus never said money was an idol, instead he said something much more profound: money reveals our idols. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21 Jesus doesn't want your money, he wants your heart. (Remember the encounter with the rich young ruler? Jesus didn't say, "Sell what you have and give to me." He said, "give it to the poor and follow me.") In the Old Testament we read about the tithe. In the New Testament we read this: Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 This would have been Paul's chance to reinforce the Old Testament teaching of the tithe but he doesn't. Instead he says you should give as one who has been transformed because Jesus has your heart. In other words, New Testament giving finds a better motivation than law giving and therefore it leads to cheerful generosity. And herein lies the cure for greed. The gospel makes you radically generous. You see, there's a connection between the gospel and generosity. If you understand the gospel you will be radically generous. Have we forgot that Jesus made himself poor so we could become rich? For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9 God already had everything so why did Jesus come to the earth? Because God was coming after his treasure, the one thing he didn't have and that was you. The gospel of grace brought us healing, it has made us rich in every way, now we take all that God has given us and bring healing to others!
A message from the series "ROOTED - Growing Deeper." Our world is in desperate need of compassion. I believe most Christians want to step into that space and deliver but I'm not sure we really know what compassion means or how to do it? For most, compassion simply means having sympathetic feelings for those who might be "less fortunate" than us. The Biblical understanding is far more rich. Compassion is not just empathy. Compassion is the tangible expression of love for those who are suffering. When thought of in this context, it makes our God even greater than we realize. The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:8-9 Jesus is the tangible expression of God's compassion toward you. Jesus' very presence in the world was the ultimate act of compassion. We did not deserve His sacrifice, but because of God's great love, we were treated with mercy and are called to live lives of compassion and mercy. So how about you? Now that you know what it is, do you know how to give it? There was a time in Jesus' public ministry when he was followed by thousands (you could say he's very busy) and while traveling he encounters two blind men on the side of the road. They scream and beg for his attention. (This is what hurting people do.) The crowd shames them by demanding silence yet Jesus is listening. Not only does he listen but he stops…and he acts. Is this not the model for us? Listen to the cries around you. Stop and pay attention. Act by giving a tangible expression of love. Jesus is no longer walking the earth but his followers are. So then His compassion towards us now flows through us. When this happens God's mercy and the world's cries collide and the result is a transformation of the heart.
A message from the series "ROOTED - Growing Deeper." I've never met a child who said he wanted to grow up to become homeless. In the Fritz house it was "professional athlete," "animal trainer," and "President." I don't think any of that is going to happen but nonetheless my kids have been setting their sights high. Isn't this what we all want? We want to make our lives count, we want to have impact but many of us are not sure how to make that happen. Well Christian, the moment you accepted Jesus Christ you obtained all you needed to make your life count. Tucked into a letter written by the apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus we read this sentence:For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 I don't want to give too much away just yet, but let me assure you there is more to this verse than just a casual reading will reveal. If Christians were to embrace its meaning the world would be a radically different place. I'm not sure where I heard it first but it's true: We will never change the world by going to church. We will only change the world by being the church. It’s crazy if you think about it; we leave Sunday service and we forget to be obedient to God’s word. We forget that God thinks we are his beautiful workmanship and that he has given us greater purpose than we can imagine. We end up like kids who dream of homelessness instead of heavenly palaces. This Sunday we will find inspiration and challenge as we ask the question: What are we doing as the church to make a difference in this world?
A message from the series "ROOTED - Growing Deeper." One of my mentors use to say, "Perhaps the most misbelieved verse in the entire Bible is this…""For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12.I think this is accurate. When it comes to spiritual warfare most people underestimate the enemy. Of course many doubt the reality of anything supernatural. On the other hand there are those who overestimate the enemy. They believe the source of every conflict and problem is a demon. The forces of darkness are satisfied with either misconception. C.S. Lewis says this in The Screwtape Letters: "There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight." Both views undermine one's ability to engage in the battle. So what do we need to know? Paul uses two revealing words to describe Satan: Devil and Schemer. The Greek word for "Devil" is diabolos which literally means liar and slanderer. He truly is the father of all lies. (John 8:44) "Schemer" is the Greek word methodia which describes a calculated tactician. In other words, Satan is a master at manipulating the truth in a way that is well suited to lead you astray. This is the realm in which he operates and disrupts because he hates God. He can't harm God but he can harm what God loves and that's you. So this Sunday we'll reveal his playbook and refute the lies and find victory!
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 :)