Preaching

“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he (Jesus) has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death.” 

— Colossians 2:20-22 (ESV)

Jesus came to reconcile hopeless, hostile sinners like you and me. We were rebels by nature and through our actions, fully and hopelessly separated from God. Our differences were irreconcilable. But God … longed for us to be with Him. In Christ’s death the impossible was made possible; the irreconcilable was reconciled; the hopeless found hope. We are forgiven, which is unthinkable, but we are so much more than forgiven. We are reconciled.

By reconciliation – God moved first: even though he was the offended, he came to us to make things right.
By reconciliation – God means: we are accepted, brought close to be a friend, a son/daughter … beloved.
The whole message of the cross is reconciliation: God bringing us into relationship that is better than we could have imagined.

Do we really desire a “better than we could have imagined” restored relationship when we are in the midst reconciling a relationship gone wrong with a brother or sister? Or are we simply willing to apologize? Sometimes all we see is hopelessness and the thought of doing more than offering an apology seems impossible. Take a moment – step back from the present relational wreck and look long and hard at the cross. How “wrecked” was our relationship? What did God do to reconcile it? What has he done? What is he continuing to do? When we look at the cross and all God has done – is simply trying to muster an apology really the call to those who have been reconciled to such a great reconciliation in Christ? In the cross hope, possibility, and reconciliation exist. In the cross lies our example, our love for the offender, and our power. In the cross exists everything we need to reconcile because the cross fully reconciled us.

 

(Great resource book you can find in our Virtual Library is – The Peacemaker Ken Sande)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously … But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, …For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” — James 1:5-6 (ESV)

Double-minded

“Why do we not ask for God’s wisdom” if God is waiting and wanting to generously give us His wisdom? How crazy that we have infinite access to holy God through the person and work of Jesus – yet we simply don’t ask. It would be like having Yoda working in an office down the hall from you and you never go knock on his door and say, “Yoda, I have a question…” That would be ridiculous and … crazy.

In James 1:8, I believe God tells us the reason we don’t ask – we are ”double-minded …, unstable in all (our) ways.” God is saying the reason we don’t ask is greater and deeper than we are just lazy. God says we have a mind that is double, triple, or quadruple – minded. Our mind believes at times: we ourselves have wisdom, that a trusted political commentator has wisdom, that our favorite artist has wisdom.  We believe wisdom is in many places so we go there rather than asking God. Double-minded means we believe many have wisdom. Simply put, we don’t see God as our only source of wisdom.  What is the end result of this double-mindedness? We miss out on God’s wisdom. ( 7For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.) 

Single-minded

When all other wisdom fails and we get desperate, we often seek God. How can we live desperate believing that God alone has wisdom?

  • “Faith” that you have been asked to join God in His grand redemption plan as His son/daughter. When we really believe we are a part of something great, bigger than us – we get desperate. News flash – we are. We just forget. The gospel, the finished work of Christ says – you are a part of something majestic an eternal. Your job, your simple family activities, your friendships – God is weaving all of these into His great redemption work. See and believe this.
  • Tell God you often doubt He alone is wisdom that never fails. Tell Him you want to believe this, at times you do, but at other times, you doubt. Be honest! Confess this too Him. Then ask for Him to increase your faith that He alone is Wisdom. God alone is Wisdom. Are you willing to let him have this role you have taken or that you have given to others. Tell Him – He is waiting and willing to help you become single-minded.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.But let him ask in faith, with no doubting.” James 1:5-6 (ESV)

Ask

“How do we get God’s wisdom?” The answer is not complicated or complex. It is not dependent on our wisdom. The answer is not a secret only the most holy or humble know. It is not dependent on our holiness. The answer is not reserved for those who serve or give the most in the kingdom. It is not dependent on our work.

Obtaining God’s wisdom is not dependent on our wisdom, our holiness, or our works. (without reproach)

“Getting” God’s wisdom is dependent on the wisdom, holiness, and work of Jesus in his life and death.

This alone gives us access to God – which is our wisdom.

We get God’s wisdom by the simplest of things. First, we ASK.

Faith

Second, we FAITH. What does this mean? God’s says, ”ask in faith, with no doubting”. Faith in what or whom? Without doubting what or who? We receive God’s wisdom by the person and work of Jesus. This is what He is asking us to faith. God says it is wrong to believe His wisdom will only come if you do a certain work or can muster up a certain character quality. Faith – trust the person and work of Jesus that says God gives wisdom based on His goodness not yours.

The question is – will you faith Jesus and His work today or will you depend on you or something you do to get God’s wisdom. Come. ASK God for His wisdom. Faith that because of Jesus – He will give generously to you today.

Real change, that is out of our control, is difficult for everyone. For sure – some people are wired to like new things and some are wired to like constancy. However you are wired – when “real change” comes that is out of your control – it is difficult. I like change. I like new things. I like adventures without plans. However – I have noticed I like change the most when I am in the driver’s seat. In other words, if I am in charge of starting the change, or, if I am literally in charge of driving the car on the adventure without a plan – I love it. If however, the change is out of my control, then I get a little weird like everyone does. If a lot of changes are happening out of my control – then I got a lot weird and change is difficult for me. There is a lot of change going on out of my control right now. Here are a few of those things …

I turned 51 recently and I’m happy and sad. I am happy because there is wisdom in many years walking with Jesus. I am sad because I’m going through man-o-pause. Not sure if it is a real thing – but here is my description. Everything in my body hurts and every function in my body … is changing. Will, our 18 year-old, is headed off to college in less than two months. I am happy for him – college is a blast and can be one of the best times in life. I am sad for me as he leaves. Life is forever changing in our house and it is “out of my control”. Cade, our 15 year-old, is learning to drive. This makes me happy and sad – for all sorts of reasons. My parents recently moved to St. Louis. I am sad that this is the first time we have lived in the same city since I was 18. I am happy we get to be together – very happy. There are things changing in the church as we grow and things changing about my role as we grow. I could go on and on … and on. These are the major things and they all have one thing in common – they are real change – out of my control. And, all these things turn up the “weird” meter in my heart and behavior. When I think on these things, when I dwell on these things –I don’t rest in my body or soul. End result – I feel tired and I crave rest I cannot seem to find.

Something happened on my way to “rest” during this sabbatical – I was getting more and more tired. I thought it was due to a busy travel schedule, but it wasn’t. Last night, sitting under the stars in the Grand Teton Mountains in Wyoming – something changed. I was thinking about bears. Bears. Grizzly bears all over this part of the world in the wild and my brother and I are heading into that wild to hike and camp for the better part of 10 days. So, I was thinking about bears. Funny (not really) thing, I couldn’t sleep or rest last night. Change of out control = no rest. Last night it hit me in the face in a tangible way. And, as I laid in my bed, the words of the Lord began to echo in my head – “The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) Through His Word written almost a thousand years ago – God was speaking to me in real time. My translation:
About the “control” thing John – nothing is truly ever in your control. You just think you are in control at times. You live in world where you believe there are things you control. When you are in control – most of the time things are good. When things change dramatically and rush out of your control – you get stressed and tired. Rest is hard to find. TRUTH – you are never in control, but GOD – God is in control at all times. Resting in this truth – you will find real rest.

I laid in my bed wrestling with these words from God and their truth. I have been living in a “Matrix” type illusion and it had been doing great damage to my soul. My heart and mind have been presented with truth straight from God’s mouth. The question now is (to stay on the Matrix movie metaphor) – will I take the truth from God and begin to let it shape where and whom I go to find rest. Or, will I keep believing the illusion (that for some reason I seem to do quite willing).

This is not a blog that ends with a perfect ending that I can wrap in a poetic bow. No, rather – this story ends with a prayer of confession and need. So, here’s my prayer. Maybe it is prayer you need to voice.

Lord, I confess I am a weak man who thinks he is strong. I rest in my ability to control life – and I like this control. I have failed to believe – I am never in control and my control eventually leaves me stressed and tired. I have failed to believe – You alone are in control of all things. I confess this has led me to seek rest in anything and everything – but You. Let me walk in the forgiveness you give me in Christ’s perfect life, death, and resurrection.
Lord, I need You to help me believe Your truth. I am in control of nothing and You are in control of all things. I need You to help me believe – You are in control and You give real rest to my body and soul as I rest in your control. Lord, I know I will wrestle with this. I will struggle to believe. Help me believe. Help saturate my mind and heart with Your truth and Your presence. Give me rest in You.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus (Matthew 28:11)

I have been busy – so writing these Sabbata notes got derailed a bit. Sounds a little oxymoronic (yes, I just made up a word, but it’s a good one) but it’s true. I began this Sabbatical in Japan. Returned home to head out for a soccer trip and then immediately left for Guatemala with the whole family to serve the mountain pastors around Chiquimula for a week. I have been busy. Nevertheless – I have found rest – in the midst of some crazy places and circumstances. Let me explain …

The second day we were in Guatemala we hiked about 2 miles ascending over 1000 feet to carry food and encouragement to a pastor named Balthazar. He is a beautiful man serving in a place in the world where he will never be recognized for the size of his church, the power of his sermons, or the creativity of his ministry. Even more – he lives in meager conditions that most of us would call poverty – but he was at rest. And, oh by the way, he is 68 and works in the fields near his mountain. When I asked him how I could pray for him – this was his one request: “That in the midst of all things – I may continue to go to God.” Short, simple, wise words of a man who has found contentment in the middle of a most disconcerting place. His village is not a ministry resort. In his village, there is constant disease, death, witchcraft, persecution, and more. Yet – this man has a contentment – a rest in his soul – that is profound. He has a rest – I want. His prayer was a response to Jesus’ invitation – “Come to me”. His prayer – please Lord, allow me to continue to go to you to find rest.

Tucked away in a tiny little village called Plan Moral , there is a diminutive Guatemalan pastor with a GIANT faith that Christ can bring rest to our souls. And on the top of that mountain, with tired legs and a tired soul – I was encouraged by the one I went to encourage – to find my rest in the only ONE who can give rest.

Business is not a deterrent to rest. It is not the condition of your calendar or your body that determines if you can know rest. Rather, it is the place you go that determines if you find rest. In midst of your business – here these words from Jesus today – “Come to me.”

Lord, grant us the power to come to You so we can know the pleasure of resting in you

God’s promise of entering his rest still stands … Hebrews 4:1

Resting has never been an easy thing for me. I can work hard and I can be lazy – but resting … that is a different animal that I have struggled with my whole life. By “resting” I mean – stopping and stepping away from work to renew the body, mind, and soul. Being lazy is not resting – it is avoiding work. Resting is purposely stopping and stepping away even though there is more work to be done because this is God’s design for us.

Over the next three months, I want to write out thoughts for me and for us about rest, about Sabbath. I want to explore, question, and seek the heart of God on why He designed us this way. I want to share stories from this season of “rest” for me and hopefully encourage us all that rest is not just a way to enjoy life – but resting in the right thing or person – is the only way to know joy in life. Here is one short story from the beginning of this sabbatical to illustrate this point.

My 18 year-old son, Will, and I recently journeyed to Japan to explore partnerships with Japanese church planters. Japan is the second most “unreached” nation on the earth. “Unreached” refers to any ethnic or ethno-linguistic nation without enough Christians to evangelize the rest of the nation. In a nation of 121 million people, less than 350,000 claim to be Christian. This is a tiny portion of the population. In addition, the training and equipping of pastors and lay people to make disciples is very weak to non-existent. The Acts 29 churches of the midwest region of the US (Acts 29 is a church planting network we partner with to plant churches across the globe) are seeking to partner with a few church planters in Japan – specifically in Tokyo. This trip was an exploratory trip and a successful one at that I will tell you more about in coming blogs.

One day on this trip we were eating in a traditional Japanese restaurant called a ryoutei. Thirty minutes into our meal, the room began to shake a little, then a lot, and it didn’t stop. This was an earthquake. 5.6 on the Japanese Richter scale – which is not small, but also not huge. It shook us for about 30 seconds and stopped. No one was hurt and nothing was damaged. It was both exciting and scary. Side note: Drew is an American who will soon be moving his family to Japan to help one of the church plants make disciples. He is fluent in Japanese, he is a solid guy, and he was our guide on this trip. Yoshi is a Japanese church planter in Tokyo. A humble yet passionate man, he is one of the planters we hope to partner with. Both were at this meal when the earthquake started. Drew’s eyes grew larger and larger as the shaking intensified. Across the table, Yoshi took his teacup, leaned back in his chair and calmly announced – “earthquake.”

I later asked Yoshi if he gets nervous in the middle of earthquakes to which he replied “yes.” He also answered, he knows they are out of his control. Yoshi was resting in the middle of crisis not because he was devoid of fear, but rather because he knew this situation was out of his control. In the midst of fear and chaos – Yoshi found some joy we were all missing because he knew this shaking was in the control of One way bigger and greater than us. He could rest – because He knew who was in control.

Rest is something God offers us through the finish WORK of Christ. It calls us to trust him in the midst of our fears and our work – that HIS WORK is better than ours – that His work offers real rest for our body, mind, and soul. How does this work? We will talk about this more over the next 11 weeks. For now, hear God’s invitation … God’s promise of entering his rest still stands. Come – let’s rest together in Christ.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus, Matthew 11:28

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