28 September 2008


JOHN 12:27-28a

27 Now My soul has become troubled; and what
shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour?
But for this purpose I came to this hour.

28a Father, glorify Your name.’

If any of us in this room were called upon to give up our lives for another person, it wouldn’t be an easy decision – no matter how much we loved them. And it wasn’t easy for Jesus Christ to do this either. v. 27 … "Now My soul has become troubled" … it wasn't EASY, but it was THE WILL OF GOD. And the work that would be accomplished by His death on the cross was Jesus Christ’s entire purpose in life. It was His DESTINY.

The cross wasn’t just the instrument God used so that Jesus could pay the price for your sin and for my sin … it’s also an example Jesus Christ left for all of us about how He wants us to live life as His followers. Here’s how Jesus talked about this truth in the middle of The Gospel of Matthew …


38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow Me,
you are not worthy of being Mine.

Which brings us to a FAITH LESSON

Friends, life isn’t about just chasing the definition
of “success” offered to us by the world … FUN,

All of life centers around the truth that Jesus Christ
wrestled with the will of God and gave up His life so
that our sins could be forgiven, so that you and I can
enter back into a relationship with God, and so that
we could learn a whole new way to be human. Jesus
Christ gave His life for us, and so we need to give
our lives up for Him.

And this means that while you might have plans to graduate from college and become a famous doctor, a famous artist, or a famous anything else – that it might be God's plan that you live a life of poverty ministering God’s WORD to people in Indonesia, Butteville, Oregon, Haiti, Flint, Michigan, or some other economically impoverished place.

Or this might mean that while you have plans to move into the dream home you’ve drawn over and over again in your mind, or even on paper – and then live a comfortable life of luxury – perhaps God's desire for you is to deny yourself that lifestyle, and make the choice to use your income to meet the needs of people who are suffering.

Or, perhaps, like God does with some people, maybe God will call you to be famous, or give you the ability to make loads of money – but then He’ll ask you to make the choice to live your life with open hands before Him and use your gifts of making money to invest into the things of this life that will last, that will make a difference, and that will serve His purposes.

The Apostle Paul willingly gave up everything for God – his career, his future, his gifts, his money, his freedom … and here’s how he joyfully talked about this choice he made in a letter he wrote to his friends in the Asia Minor town of Philipi ...


7-8 Yet every advantage that I had gained I considered
lost for Christ's sake. Yes, and I look upon everything
as loss compared with the overwhelming gain of knowing
Jesus Christ my Lord. For His sake I did in actual fact
suffer the loss of everything, but I considered it useless
rubbish compared with being able to win Christ.

9-11 For now my place is in Him, and I am not
dependent upon any of the self-achieved righteousness
of the Law. God has given me that genuine righteousness
which comes from faith in Christ. How changed are
my ambitions! Now I long to know Christ and the power
shown by His resurrection: now I long to share His sufferings,
even to die as He died, so that I may perhaps attain
as He did, the resurrection from the dead.

Yes death is loss, but it’s also gain. What we give up in our life when we come into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ is nothing (PHILIPPIANS 3:8 … “rubbish”) compared to the value of knowing Jesus Christ. And when we make the choice to not live our lives for Jesus Christ, we'll never know the power of His resurrection, we’ll never have a deep and mature fellowship with Him, and we’ll never be completely conformed to Him.

And don’t think for a minute that there aren’t Christians who are actually losing their lives because of putting their faith in God. Don’t keep your heads in the sand. Go to www.persecution.com, and read about the hundreds of Christians who just this past week in India, who have had their homes and churches burned by radical Hindus, and who have lost their lives because of their public commitment to Jesus Christ.

But gang, as the followers of Jesus Christ, LEARNING TO DIE TO OURSELVES, and LEARNING TO LIVE IN HIM is the only choice that makes any sense. The choices about how we use our gifts, our time, our resources, and even our very selves.

But before you just click off from the notion that God wants you and me to trust Him with the parts of our lives that are central to who we are, and not just with the peripheral parts of what it means to be human … I want you to know that I wrestle with this truth in the same way that Jesus did, and that you are. I get it that in these times of economic downturn that it can be challenging to trust God with all these areas of our lives – and maybe especially with our finances.

It’s easy to be afraid that if we give God what He’s asking us to give … to the church and to other ministries He’s speaking to us about … that maybe God won’t keep up His end of the bargain, or that maybe that even if God wants to, He won’t be able to really meet all of our needs. But friends, nothing could be further from the truth.


15-17 You Philippians know very well that
when I left Macedonia in the early days of
preaching the Good News, you were the only
church to help me; you were the only ones
who shared my profits and losses. More than once when
I needed help in Thessalonica, you sent it to me. It
is not that I just want to receive gifts; rather, I want
to see profit added to your account.

18-19 Here, then, is my receipt for everything
you have given me — and it has been more than
enough! I have all I need now that Epaphroditus has
brought me all your gifts. They are like a sweet-
smelling offering to God, a sacrifice which is
acceptable and pleasing to Him. And with all His abundant
wealth through Christ Jesus, my God will supply all your needs.

Gang, it might be easy for you, as the sheep who make up the flock of 2nd Street, to maybe think that when I talk with you about your finances, that I’m just trying to line my own pockets. But it’s clear to me that you’re not here because of 2nd Street’s great building. And I know that there are other pastors here in town who can shepherd circles … and that there are other teachers here in town whose wisdom will make what I have to offer as pretty elementary.

I get that. But it’s because of those things that I also know that you’re not here at 2nd Street because of this building, or because of me, but that you’re here because you’re committed to 2nd Street’s Mission of being SPIRITUAL SEEKERS COOPERATING WITH GOD AND ONE ANOTHER TO BECOME DEVOTED FOLLOWERS OF JESUS CHRIST. I know that you’re behind what we’re behind, and that you want to go where we’re going as a flock. And as the lead pastor-teacher here, that’s more important to me than anything else. That God has called here together, not by accident, not without a reason, but with DESTINY.

It’s important that as we’re growing up in our faith, that we realize that what we do with our money, and ultimately who and what we put our trust into, is a critical part of what it means to be a Christ-follower. I mean, when we call Jesus “LORD”, what we’re saying is that ALL WE HAVE IS HIS, AND THAT APART FROM HIM WE CAN DO NOTHING. Godspeed.



03 September 2008


Remember Harper Lee's small-boned, big hearted book To Kill A Mockingbird? What was it about? Racism? Character? Justice? Family? Truth? Forgiveness? Discovery? Faith? Integrity? All these things and more flowed out of Harper's soul and pen as she scribed the novel of her lifetime. Scout, Atticus, Jem, Dill, Tom, and Boo showed us their vulnerability and their flaws, their losses and their pains, their hopes and their dreams. Real people living real lives, smack dab in the middle of real chapters of temptation, crisis, and testing.

And the character and integrity I was schooled in by looking into the stories of the people Lee introduced to me so many years ago, reflect much of what I want to see alive and straining for greater life in myself and in the people who make up the flock of seeking Christ-followers I serve in Newberg, Oregon.

Some sectors of society and culture say
character and integrity come from breeding, education, money, and title. Some religions say that they come from a faith based in works, or from hidden-until-you're-good-enough knowledge attainable by only the chosen few, while still others says they come from an obedience both blind and unquestioning.

So where do character and integrity
come from? I've come to believe that they come from what we cherish, from what we hold close, from what we treasure. Here's how Jesus put it in MATTHEW 6:21 ...

"The place where your treasure is,
is the place you will most want to be,
and end up being." (THE MESSAGE)

To Kill A Mockingbird Jem shares with Scout treasures he'd been finding (receiving?) and stashing in an old cigar box, making her promise "to never tell anybody." A crayon, an old pocket watch, marbles, a whistle, a spelling medal, and a pocketknife ... all things he'd found in the knothole of a tree ... things left for him in an unlikely place by someone he believed knew him and cared about him.

Eventually, in the knothole, Jem and Scout also find two carved soap figurines - one a boy, and the other a girl with a simple cloth dress. And it doesn't take long before they realize that the playthings they've been given resemble themselves ...

"Look, the boy has hair in front of his
eyebrows like you do ... Yeah - and the girl
wears bangs like you - these are us!"

Friends, let's be careful about where we find our treasures, from whom we receive our treasures, what we keep as our treasures, and how we live into and pass on our treasures. Our treasures will define us. May we find our treasures solely in the person of Jesus Christ.

And may it be His character, and His integrity growing inside of us and flowing out of us, that shapes our lives, drives our mission, transforms our priorities, and our builds our dreams. God knows us and gives Himself to us in spite of what He knows. Astounding. What defines you?
What's in your cigar box? Godspeed.