Big God- small god

Slide4

A small god can manage the list of dos and don’ts that we have posted on the fridge.  But only an infinitely big God can dole out grace in the huge amounts that we need every day.  We make him small when we limit him to being the genie for our prayer requests.

Compared to what God expects of us as beings created specifically to love, worship and obey him- the most on fired up Christian only taps a minuscule fraction of their potential to live for god. And though I wound him daily with my self serving attitude, my lack of awe of his greatness and grace- he still comes back to me and says, you can do better, I know it because I made you.  I know it because I love you like my own Son.  We will never understand the depth of what he has done for us through the gospel.  If we spent every waking minute of our lives pondering the peaks of gospel off in the distance, we would still never make it past the foothills.

Don’t be paralyzed by shame, but do continue daily repentance. Your salvation isn’t finished with the sinners prayer. But it moves toward the finish line as our hearts melt and change over God’s grace and response to our sin.

Advertisement

Injustice and Suffering

InjusticeTitle

How do we handle injustice and suffering?

1.   Mourn for the sins that are in the world. In Ezek. 9. When God gave Ezekiel a vision of men slaying idolaters throughout Jerusalem- he only spared the ones that  mourned what was going on. So don’t ever become numb to it. Think about it, lament it, pray about it, do something in your community about it.

2.  Sanctify God through it: By mourning- we are sanctifying God. When we are being sanctified- we are becoming more holy- when we sanctify God however- we are simply recognizing his holiness- in every circumstance- as in mankind means something for evil- while God will use it for good somehow and will also come to the aid of the oppressed.

3.   It prepares us: mourning prepares us for when suffering comes upon us. If we can sanctify God when others suffer injustice, it will be easier to sanctify Him when we suffer as well.

If we’re not ready when it comes, if we’re not sanctifying God and thinking of his supreme magisterial knowledge- if all we know is to say trite things to people- like oh it’ll be OK- then when suffering comes to us, its going to go badly.

  • Ultimately, its a low view of humanity that causes the injustice and oppression that leads to the suffering we experience.

Click below to hear the “rest of the story”-

https://www.cedarrun.net/sermons/injustice-and-suffering/

 

Control Freak

PowerTitle3

What makes you angry when your not in control of it? Your work, your kids, your job, your finances, what people think of you? Answer that question and you may have just found your idol.

Yes, even you, Christian. And its actually worse for us. Because we’ve tasted the gospel. We’ve at a minimum given up on trying to control our eternal destiny- given up on the idea that we can ever commit enough good deeds to make up for our sin. We know we can’t do it. We’ve given up control of that to Christ.

But then, we default back to control in every other area of our lives and it becomes where we find our worth other than God. Its almost better to have never tasted the peace and comfort and stability, the ability to trust God, then to have tasted it and gone back to white knuckling everything. Because we know its futile- but we do it anyway.

Beren and Luthien, are the star crossed lovers of Tokien’s prequel to the prequel of the LTR trilogy called the Simarilion. Luthien, the elven princess could never truly be with Beren the man unless she gave her heritage up, her immortality, being with her people, her elven magic. She had to lay it all down to be with Beren. And she did.

God was so desperate to be with us that, in Jesus he gave up all his control as God, his immortality, his supernatural powers and omnipotence, and became a human. If he’s that desperate for us- to give up all the control of God- can’t we be a little desperate for him- and give up just a little control to Him?

Jesus gives up control on the cross, to show us its OK to give it up ourselves.

Click to listen:

https://www.cedarrun.net/sermons/the-power-of-powerlessness/

The Politics of the City

PoliticsCityTitle

So we have this biblical wisdom- Christian beliefs, theology- based on scripture. And we have a mandate to live them out. Biblical wisdom teaches us what is desirable- and politics is a way we implement it. Biblical wisdom teaches us what ends are desirable. While politics teaches what means are effective. Wisdom is the end- politics are a means to that end.

Now the means doesn’t always justify the end- so biblical wisdom also tells us what means are permissible- not all laws are lawful…scripturally. You can find a clear example in the sanctity of life issue, i.e. abortion and euthanasia. But what about the poor? There are different and perfectly acceptable political means that we can disagree on as ways to try to remedy that.

  • Biblical wisdom is the heart changing, lifelong growing and maturing guidance that comes from scripture and the gospel. It’s bottomless.
  • While politics has a very limited scope. There are only so many ways to apply government, laws and regulations.

But when we take God out of the equation, we’re left with politics alone- and that’s pretty limiting. Trying to use politics alone to make the world a better place is like using an ice pick to sculpt a glacier.

Listen to the whole talk here:
Or here: https://www.cedarrun.net/sermons/the-politics-of-the-city/

Performance Anxiety

Performance Anxiety

Sometimes, we get nervous about whether or not to get involved in something.

  • Because there is always the risk of failure.
  • We expect a lot from ourselves.
  • And we live by the mantra: risk versus reward.

But what if there really wasn’t a risk? What if we’ve been dreaming risk up as an excuse not to try something? Or to put pressure on ourselves to ensure high performance?

In the ministry that I’m involved in, I always worry that people won’t join, that the ministry will be a failure. But guess what: even if they don’t, its not on me.  It’s hard to break the performance based model we are accustomed to- but the gospel says Christ performed for us already and our acceptance is based on that- so whether or not what your involved with performs well or feels like failure when it doesn’t perform well- is no longer the issue.

  • So what that does is frees us up to take base-jumping level risks.
  • Since the outcome really isn’t on you, you’re free to be faithful.
  • Now I’m free to risk spectacular failure for the Kingdom- because worldly performance benchmarks (i.e. how good a pastor I am) are no longer the basis for my acceptance.
So just take a chance and be a faithful servant.

The Toil of Pleasure

The Toil of PleasureIf the author of Ecclesiastes sounds so modern, it’s only because he has captured the utter despair of life without meaning, and how death brings it all to an end. At least he believes in God though. And because Qoheleth believed in God, but questioned him, he’d be a good modern day believer as well. We believe in God and Jesus and that he died for us- but we struggle with what it means in the everyday- for wisdom, for our work, for pleasure- and how we live it all out. Click to listen to last weeks talk…

 

Or click to download: https://www.cedarrun.net/sermons/the-toil-of-pleasure/

Staying Off The Rollercoaster

Staying Off The Rollercoaster- Forgive

How do you do the best for someone who has wronged or betrayed you? Especially when they still need your help?

The only way you can truly help them is to forgive them unconditionally.

Forgiveness with conditions, i.e. the offender doing what I think is right- whether its some practical decision to fix things or a simple apology- is really just a way we want them to earn our forgiveness.

  • But unconditional forgiveness keeps me from the emotional rollercoaster of the both the best and the worst outcome.

Because only when I forgive unconditionally, not based on them doing what I want, does it allows me to act truly in their best interest. Because I’m not manipulated by the sometimes irrational hope that everything is going to be all right; or the despondency of “its never going to get better.”

  • My action for their benefit is not tied to an irrational hope that everything is going to be alright.
  • And my action is also not triggered only by their failure to do want I want.

So in both cases, I am able to stay off the rollercoaster and act independently of their actions, or my demands, and do what’s best.

The only way we can respond to people in a way that is truly helpful to them (loving them)- is to forgive them.

Healthy Infatuation

Infatuation

There’s a difference between mere attraction and relationship.

Saying your a Christian but never doing anything about it is like a single person making a mental note that someone is attractive and then leaving without trying to meet them. If you’re really interested in a relationship, you’d be fervently pursuing them with your time and attention.

  • The irony is that its only after you’ve thrown yourself at Jesus’ feet that you realize that its actually Him that’s been pursuing you.

Christianity is like marriage. Marriage is about the perpetual self-giving of each spouse to the other. And ultimately, your relationship is a private matter between you and Jesus. But He’s more than just an interesting person. Because He died for you. He gave everything.

If Jesus really is your spouse, how much of yourself are you willing to give to Him?

If you have no desire to spend time with your spouse, learn what they like and don’t like, listen to what they think is best for you and meet the rest of the family, what kind of marriage is that?

More Than You Can Handle

MoreThanHandle

True or False: “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”
Answer: True (but platitudinous:), i.e.:

* If God doesn’t give us more than we can handle we’ll never be able to handle more.
* How do we grow if we are not challenged?
* Where do we learn, if not from our failures?

BUT… that conventional wisdom doesn’t go far enough. We need to keep going. Until we get to the gospel.

Because if we ARE able to handle things ourselves, outcomes become performance based. There are two problems here: failure… and success. If your a Christian, it can become gospel short circuiting self-salvation as we subtlety begin to judge our own worthiness based on our works. And guess what, even if you’re saved you can fall for the joy killer that is works based salvation.

Here’s how it works: You believe in salvation by faith. But you’re a functional self-saver. And its leading to performance anxiety. The answer is to get back to the gospel. Since we are not judged by any performance other than Christ’s, we can stop being so outcome driven.

Our job in the “more than we can handle”- is to love God, love our neighbor and to follow God’s commands. Yes, we are to do things to resolve whatever we are “handling”- but only through the lens of love. And its only the gospel that allows us to act that way.

  • When the outcome is up to God, and the pressure is off- we can afford to be be loving and caring.
  • When the outcome is up to us- we become ruthless and judgmental.

We judge ourselves and the actions of others based on whether we’ve beaten the tyranny of the “more than we can handle.” And we no longer act out of love. Sure, in our success, we may give God a cursory tip of the hat- but there is always a secret part of us that is proud that WE did it. And oppositely, when we fail- we become despondent, frustrated with others, and angry at God.

The gospel tells us that Jesus performed perfectly, so we wouldn’t have to. That we’re accepted based on His performance, not ours. So don’t let performance anxiety creep back into your life. The gospel gives you the freedom to adopt loving your neighbor as yourself as your driving principle rather than the drive to succeed at all costs. Because the cost of “success” in life (being perfect) is paid for by the cost of love at the cross- the life of Jesus. Jesus was judged for the perfect outcome, so we wouldn’t be judged by the imperfect one. So in that sense, everything is more than we can handle.

Strange Blessing

Strange Blessing

In Numbers 6:22-27 the Lord said to Moses: Tell Aaron and his sons, This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.

This makes perfect sense to us- the way we close out a Sunday service even, but to Moses, this must have been a strange blessing. After all, he had begged God to see his face, but the closest he got was being hidden in a cleft as God passed by. So what’s different now?

Their sin has been dealt with. The difference here is that Israel is now being purified by the sacrifices of the priests. If your a Christian, because of the sacrifice of the final high priest, Jesus, your sin has been dealt with, too. So now you can see God’s face in Jesus.

God puts His name on them. He makes them His. My old high school Dean was also my basketball coach. He used to have an old set of possession arrows from the scoring table on his desk. Meaning when you sat in front of him, he owned you. God owns you. You can’t manage Him or dictate terms to Him.

Lastly, if God has given you his name, in a real sense he’s given you your identity and who you are to be and become. So you don’t get to manage Him, he gets to manage you. You can’t manage Jesus. You can’t squeeze him into your free time. He gets to manage you. It’s the difference between wanting to see God’s face or just seeing what you can get out of him.