The Furious Love Of God

So a couple years ago I had the idea that I would write a book. In typical fashion for myself I never finished it. In fact I only got a chapter done. Just for fun I thought I’d post it here. The main idea of the book, in fact the title, was going to be Ground Christianity. A way of living out the Christian life in the real world so to speak. The first chapter was on fear and love. Hope you enjoy!

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CHAPTER 1: THE FURIOUS LOVE OF GOD
“… and as I passed the fire I did not know whether it was hell or the furious love of God”
From G.K. Chesterton’s essay “The Diabolist”
“Mighty God how I fear you, and I long to be near you…”
From the song “The Reckoning” by Andrew Peterson
……….
I remember the fear.
I was young. Probably around 7 years old. I’d wake up in a cold sweat, shaking and crying. It was late at night… usually between 11pm and 1am. I couldn’t feel it. I was told that once I made this decision everything would be different. Everything would be ok.
I was not ok. 
Depending on the time my dad would sometimes be sitting out in the living room watching television after having arrived home from his 2nd shift job at General Motors on the assembly line. My dad is and always has been a hard working man, short, with a muscular build and a stern face, but a comical side that often betrays him to the point of laughing uncontrollably at an inappropriately timed joke. My dad would often wake me up late at night with his riotous laughter at a joke from a late night talk show host, that is if I wasn’t already awake struggling with fear. My dad isn’t afraid of anything, or at least if he is, he’s never let on. So when the fear hit me and the anxiety and panic ensued I went to my dad.
Stumbling down the dark hallway and into the dimly lit living room I’d stand in the living room just behind the couch until my dad noticed me or heard my whimpering. The general conversation would go something like…
“Ricky… what’s wrong buddy?”
“I don’t want to go to hell daddy… I can’t tell if I’m saved… How do you know?”
“Have you prayed and asked Jesus into your heart?”
“Yes, but I just don’t know if anything happened… I can’t feel anything.”
“You’re saved and you have nothing to fear buddy. Go back to bed ok. Things will be better in the morning.”
With that my dad would give me a hug, do his best to comfort me and send me back to bed.
The power of fear. My dad had underestimated it. We all have. We all do.
A year or so before the late nights and the fear and trembling I was in a Sunday school class at the baptist church I grew up in. My family was pretty consistently in about the 10th pew from the back on the far right side every Sunday. I was young enough at this point not to have to sit in the adult services. One particular Sunday I remember the teacher talking about hell and what a horrible place it was and that by simply accepting Jesus into my heart I could be saved from hell. It seemed like a simple solution.
Hell is bad. Jesus is good. Say a prayer and you’re all set.
So when the teacher said, “would any of you like to accept Jesus into your hearts? Raise your hands if you would and Ms. Smith will take you into the other room to lead you through the prayer.” (I can’t remember actual names so let’s just go with Ms. Smith for now)… I raised my hand and went into the other room. Ms. Smith said to repeat after her and then began the prayer…
“Dear Jesus, I know I’m a sinner. I believe that you died on the cross and by believing in you I can be forgiven and have eternal life. Please come into my heart and be my Savior.”
I repeated the prayer and that was that. We walked back into the other room and life went on. Sort of… The thought of hell terrified me still, and I couldn’t shake it. I was told when I said the prayer that the Holy Spirit would fill me and I would be changed. I couldn’t feel any marked difference. I went home and over the next few years I must have said that prayer over 10,000 times, although it grew more desperate over time. “Please Jesus! Please come into my heart… I don’t want to go to hell! I’m sorry. Please forgive me!” Over and over again I said this prayer. I was scared to death. 
Should we be drawing people to God by scaring them to death? Let’s go beyond that… Once a person has made the decision to follow Christ with their lives should we be trying to keep Christians “in line” by using fear?
A popular topic the Christian community right now is evangelism. Now don’t hear me wrong, evangelism is incredibly important. People need to hear the word preached. Christians need to be taking the Word to the world. The last thing Jesus Christ said to his followers before ascending to Heaven was to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) But the way it is being preached right now comes across very works oriented. In a nutshell, “if you aren’t out saving people on a regular basis then you may not be saved, and you know where unsaved people go right?”
Don’t we have any better ways to communicate the saving work of Christ? Do we have to resort to terrifying people to get them to come to Jesus, and to ensure that they stay there?
Fear was used as the singular motivating factor to drive me to God. I was not given a healthy, grounded view. One that spoke to both the fear of the Lord as well as to His amazing love for me. I grew to think God was constantly watching me and waiting for me to mess up. He was not a loving father. He had become a dictator in my life.
How do we achieve this balanced view of fear versus love? A couple thoughts come to mind. First a story…
The Van
When I was around 13 I had a brand new basketball hoop in the driveway. Everyday during the summer I’d get up early and play basketball for hours, but first I’d have to move our GMC Safari minivan off the court. My parents had begun allowing me to grab the keys to the van and back it off the cement court myself. One day the van was parked on the side of the court closest to the basketball hoop and as I backed the van up, for whatever reason, I had decided not to shut the door to the van. So as I was backing the van off the cement with the door wide open, it caught on the basketball hoop and bent in ways that it was not mechanically designed or engineered to bend. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Tommy Boy” with Chris Farley, picture the part in the movie where he backs up Richards car at the gas pump and bends the door completely backwards. That is exactly what I did to my parents van.
Like I said earlier, my dad had a stern face and I had grown to fear my father in a somewhat unhealthy way. I don’t know why that was. He never really gave me reason to fear him that badly. By all counts he was an amazing father to me. I, however, was convinced that he was going to kill me. So after realizing what I had done and having no way to fix it really I shut the van off, ran inside and hid in my room. My mother noticed the door and came into my room to ask me what happened. I was a blubbering mess. I was terrified of what I had done and how my father was going to react. I was certain this was going to be some sort of horribly painful punishment or torture. My mother simply said, “well you’ll have to talk with your father when he gets home.” It was about 10am and at this point in life dad was working first shift so he’d be home around 5pm. I stayed in my room the entire day hunkered down in bed crying. I was terrified. I was ashamed. I knew I deserved whatever punishment he would give me.
I heard my dad step in the door just after 5pm. He had noticed the van door as he passed it in the driveway. With my door closed I could hear him walk into the house and in a very shocked voice ask, “what happened the van door?” I heard my mom talking quietly with him, but I couldn’t make out what she was saying. After she had finished saying whatever she had to say I heard my dad simply say, “ok”, and then I heard a sound that sent chills down my spine… He was walking towards my room.
I expected the door to crash open and for him to charge in pointing his finger and yelling all sorts of obscenities, and after the verbal lashing I fully expected some sort of physical punishment. Again, I had no reason to think this. My father had never been anything but loving with me. I got a spanking here and there as a young child, but nothing more really. I simply feared my father because he was my father and I didn’t want to disappoint him.
Much to my surprise my dad knocked on the door and asked if he could come in. I contemplated saying no, but thought that may be really pushing my luck. He opened the door, walked in, and sat down calmly on the bed next to me. He didn’t say anything for a few seconds. Then he simply said, “Son, I know you didn’t mean to do that. It’s ok.” I began to tell him through tears how sorry I was and how it was an accident and I’d help pay for it… to which he said, “It’s ok son… I forgive you.” He placed his strong arms around me and gave me a huge hug. I’ve never breathed a bigger sigh of relief.
I learned something that day about my father’s love for me. I was more important to him than that van.
Love and Fear
What we miss is this view that yes our Father in Heaven is to be feared because He is God almighty, but His love for us is a furious love that would go through hell to save us and be with us. Literal hell.
Jesus told a story once about a son who decided he wanted nothing to do with his father anymore and asked for his share of the inheritance so that he could get out of there and go be his own man. This was the equivalent of telling his father that he wished he was dead and wanted nothing to do with him. But because the father loved the son he fulfilled the sons request and gave him what he wanted. The son took the inheritance and left without looking back. He ran as far as he could and began to live the good life with the inheritance his father had given him. Drinking and woman and wild living… sex, drugs, and ancient Jewish rock-n-roll… or whatever type of music the kids listened to back then… Quickly though he wasted it all and ran out of money to live on. The only work he could find was to go work for a local pig farmer and feed his pigs. Since he had no money he couldn’t afford to buy much food and he grew hungry. In what has to have been his darkest moment he starts contemplating eating the food he is feeding the pigs. Suddenly he has an awakening and realizes that back at his fathers estate there are all sorts of servants and people there that are fed well and taken care of. He decides that asking forgiveness of his father is his only chance at survival and he begins the trek back home. All the way home he’s rehearsing exactly what he’s going to say. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.” He has the speech ready and he means every word of it.
As the young man comes over a hill, the father, who is apparently watching for him, spots him off in the distance. Without hesitation the father runs out to meet the son and before the son can even get out his apology the father throws his arms around him. His son has returned and he’s overjoyed. They embrace for a moment and the son attempts to deliver the apology, but the father doesn’t even acknowledge it. The father sees that the son is sorry in the very action of his return and he welcomes the son back no questions asked and throws a huge party. So while the son was fearful that the father may not accept him back, and at the very best would hire him as a servant, the father actually surprises him and brings him back with honor and a huge party. The love of the father calms the fearful, repentant son. Read the whole story in Luke 15.
We see this type of interaction over and over again in the scriptures. An individual encountering God is struck with absolute terror, but then God steps forth to comfort them. Look at Isaiah 6 when Isaiah the prophet has a vision of the throne room of God and he falls on his face realizing he is a sinful man, and then an angel comforts him so that he won’t fear. In Luke 1, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is terrified when the angel Gabriel shows up to tell her that she will become pregnant and give birth to the savior of the world. Gabriel comforts her though by saying, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” In Matthew 17, Jesus takes a few of his key disciples up on a mountain side where he is transfigured and it says “his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light”, and then they hear a voice from heaven. Struck with fear the disciples all fall on their faces, but then Jesus gently touches each of them and says, “Get up. Do not be afraid.” The apostle John in Revelation 1 is in exile on Patmos and has a vision of Jesus in all His glory and the word says he “fell at his feet as though dead.” Jesus again comes to John, places his hand on him and comforts him and says, “Do not be afraid..”
Freedom In Love
1 John 4:13-18 speaks to love and fear when it says…
This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
So while fear is a natural reaction to the very real presence of the Father, we see that His desire is to calm our hearts and express His unimaginable love for us, His children. The first step is still repentance. We all need to repent. Just like the son who walked away from his father, once he realized what he had done he turned, or repented, of his actions and lifestyle and came back to his father seeking forgiveness. But he didn’t return out of fear. He returned because he was sorry for what he had done and he longed to be back with his father. There was some fear in not knowing how his father would respond, but there was also a strange draw back to his father. He may have feared his response, but he longed to be back with him. If this story and the story about my own father are among the best we have, how could we possibly think these stories of flesh born men would trump the all loving Heavenly Father? How could men out love God? As it says in the verse from 1 John 4, “God is love”.

Once we can sit in this realization that our Heavenly Father loves us beyond what we can comprehend, and we can let that truth seep into our bones, a new found freedom will begin to take root deep within us. The freedom of a child who understands that their father is not to be trifled with, but who also understands that their father loves them furiously and would do anything for them.

The Transcendence Of Brian Regan

As I was growing up I was somewhat indirectly trained to place people into one of two categories. These two categories would function as filters for my world. I made a valiant attempt at shoving everything and everyone through the eye of one of those two needles, the openings of which were never large enough to filter anything but my own concepts of right and wrong, safe and unsafe, or good and bad.

Christian. Non-Christian.

Is this music Christian? Is this movie a Christian movie? Has that person accepted the Lord as their Savior? Are they Christian? The obvious implication of each question being that the music, movie, or person may not be Christian. Subconsciously, the filter of non-christian was equated to unsafe, wrong, and bad. I couldn’t listen to non-christian music because who knows where that would lead. Probably sex and drugs and everyone knows sex and drugs are bad so that’s definitely off limits. I couldn’t watch non-christian movies because that would allow the world in and the world was bad. I couldn’t hang out with other non-christians too much because they’d lead me astray, and if I did hang out with them I had to be trying to witness to them the entire time.

My young mind was like water being poured into a glass, shaping itself to the container of someone else’s worldview. Now in my mid 30’s the water seems to have found too many cracks in the glass to remain inside it. The rumors of a place called “the ocean” have it longing for home.

Yesterday I took my nearly twelve year old son to see Brian Regan. If you don’t know who Brian Regan is then you’re missing out. He’s a comedian known for his goofy facial, or rather full body expressions and the uncanny ability to take the everyday situations we each face and make them hilarious. He can find the absurd in the common and accentuate it to a point of clarity that makes me wonder how I didn’t see it before. He also makes me cry laugh to the point of nearly peeing my pants. My son and I sat through the seventy five minute set and laughed non-stop the entire time. Brian Regan is considered a clean comic. He said “hell” maybe twice the entire night and not one of his jokes even hinted at anything sexual so I had no moments where I felt regret for bringing my son along at his young age. He could understand the jokes as well as I could. It was a great time of father & son bonding. What I began to feel in the crowd though was something I hadn’t experienced before.

The performance was held at the Wharton Center in Lansing, Michigan and the auditorium was packed to capacity with people of every background just wanting a night out to relax and get a laugh. As Regan worked through his set I watched the room. With every punch line I felt closer with the people in the room. The volume of laughter at moments was deafening. What began as a night out with my son to watch one of our favorite comedians turned into a transcendent moment shared between a few thousand people.

Everyone person in that room was different. Each had their own beliefs, backgrounds, and past experiences that had shaped them into who they were. I knew nothing about anyone else in that room, but I knew everything about the people.

We were one. There was no Christian or non-Christian. One more crack in the glass. If I’m honest, the glass isn’t holding much anymore. I didn’t see anyone in that room as Christian or non-Christian. I saw each of us as the beloved. We shared a moment in the comedy of our humanity, and in our humanity we found the spiritual that bound us all together. We are human. We are connected. We are all loved.

I can’t put words together which capture what I felt completely. It was like we were all innocent kids just having fun. Free of trouble. Free of pain. If only for a moment. All to the glory of our God and Father. He loves us all, and through the skill of one of His children we felt it for a moment. All of us, even the ones who wouldn’t have fit through the eye of my non-Christian needle got to have the experience, if only for a moment, of being fully known.

This isn’t a theological discussion. This is a discussion on our humanity. My heart grew for humanity when I felt our connectedness. I wanted each of those people to know our Father. Like the water escaping my cup and pouring into rivers and streams, restless till it finds the ocean, we are each restless and seeking our home. He is our home. We belong to Him. Can you see it? Our humanity is our connectedness. Our humanity is the spiritual thread that ties us. The spiritual isn’t just the unseen. It is flesh and bones. It is right before your eyes. We can touch it with our hands and see it with our eyes.

We are loved.

How’s that for a review of a Brian Regan comedy show?

Dear One

Today we attended the funeral for the 1 year old son of some close friends of ours. As I sat in the ceremony words started to formulate in my head so when I got a chance I tried to capture them best I could. Here is what came out of it.
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Dear One
Yes, dear one it is true.
You have left us deep in want.
We love the former so, but can not call it home.
We long for the latter, and ache within our chest.
That the days would not tarry.
     That the promise would be fulfilled.
That all things would truly be made new.
     “That all things sad would come untrue.”
Even the most innocent of us must face the lonely road of death.
Even the smallest form is but a chrysalis hiding the truth.
Even the youngest of ancients is delayed but momentarily.
Even, you dear one, though your life was just new.
As Buechner said,
     “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen.
          Don’t be afraid.”

So till the day when faces meet…
When hands are for holding and lips are for kissing… 
When legs are for running and lungs are for breathing…
Till the day when our arms lock round each other…
I will not fear, dear one.
I will bathe in the beauty.
I will breathe through the brokenness.
I will hold to the promise.
Dear One. Be Near.

Christ With Me Always

I’m just sitting at my computer. Struggling with wanting to look at stuff I shouldn’t look at. Wanting to get just completely hammered drunk. Somehow able to stumble away from these stumbling blocks and avoid them, but just barely. I can feel the whiskey seeping in. It’s a close friend these days. The only one that seems readily available… that is as long as I have the $15 it costs to purchase this cheap friend. Listening to this Andy Gullahorn song “I Will” and feeling strangely connected to the man through his lyrics. The last verse..

The truth is we’re all gonna take a last breath 
That’s not the only sad death 
We are meant to feel 
If you need a friend to 
Do some dying with you 
I will

I need a friend to do some dying with me because I can feel the ache of pain, loss, loneliness, rejection and death all the time. It’s always present. I’ve lost many loved ones. I’ve felt the pain of unfulfilled desires and dreams. I’ve been lonely and felt rejected. I can only imagine that Christ experienced this and saw it coming. He’s in the garden that last evening of freedom praying to his Father and hoping for some other way around this… He knows he’s about to be arrested. He’s about to be abandoned by his friends and rejected by the people he came to save. He’s about to die a lonely death on a Roman cross. He knows our ache more than we give him credit for. 

When Lazarus died, Christ cried. This is incredible to me. He knew exactly what was going to happen and what he was capable of doing. He knew that Lazarus was just about to rise again. However, before doing that he sat in the ashes and cried with his friends. He felt the pain and loss. 

This life is pain filled and Christ knows that. He knows our temptations and our weaknesses. Can we trust him? Absolutely! He knows all of the pain and ache of life more than we ever give him credit for. He is not a far off uncaring deity… He is the friend who sits in the ashes with us and cries. He holds us up and he dies with us. More than that… he died for us. 

I look to the right of where I’m sitting and my Bible is laying on the desk. This strange feeling comes over me of desperation. This is all I have. This book. This Word. This little love letter from the only Love who has ever known me completely and loved me more than I will understand. I’ve spent my life reading this letter over and over. Part of me fears it’s wasted time… But there is something deeper in me that says, “No… He hears you. He sees you. There is pain in the night, but joy will come in the morning. Don’t turn away. Stay here in the silence. You’ll find Him here even now.”

I sit in solitude. There is a sense of loneliness.
I mourn the ache. I loathe this sense of separation and loss.

Christ sits with me. He mourns the ache with me.
He senses my loneliness. He sits in the ashes with me
Someday there will be beauty for ashes.

Hope comes from a lack… We hope because something isn’t…. 
Someday it will be. Someday hope will be unnecessary because
there will be no lack.

Christ with me in the ashes.
Christ with me in the absence.
Christ with me always.

Ache & Absence / Passion & Presence

How does one go back?
To find what your heart longs for, and quickly realize
You can’t have this all the time…

It’s sacred. This ground you stand on is holy.
This dry, cracked ground is the soil of inspiration.

The passion you feel in it’s presence
will only serve to magnify the ache in it’s absence…
And when it returns the ache of absence will
glorify the passion of its presence…

You must have them both…
The passion and ache.
The presence and absence.

Otherwise, your will song will be a bore…
You must have the dance and the dirge…
You must have the dissonance and deliverance…
They are the melody and harmony of all great compositions.

So sit quiet in the absence and let the ache envelop you
In doing so, you will realize that passion is far more present…

A perfect world would not be perfect
without some measure of imperfection…

So let the songs you sing, the poems you write,
the sculptures you craft, and the paintings you paint
deliver a message…
Ache and absence.
Passion and presence.

I Am Winter

The retreat I attended recently has inspired me to write more so I’ve been trying to set aside time each night to be creative. Whether that becomes a song, a story, some prose or poetry I guess I don’t really care. The point is to get my mind into a creative space more often. Here’s a little piece about winter… or maybe seasonal affective disorder… You be the judge. Enjoy!

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I am winter.
The skin of my hands is dry and burning,
the bones inside them aching…
My heart and my hope are fixed upon spring,
but everything around and within
is cold and dark and ultimately lonely.

I am winter.
There is hope, or at least there was I thought
for one brief moment when the sunshine wrought
the clouds, until they reformed ranks and fired in return.
The sun cannot match this cold assassin,
his distance seems his fatal mistake.

I am winter.
It creeps upon me with such stealth and cunning,
easing it’s way into my heart…
The trees seem to glow encased in its beauty
Until their groaning is heard while listening closely
and you come to realize they’re dying..

I am winter.
You know me well so just settle in
Your heart my home, my cold your sin
My life your death, My death your life
Pray for spring, or grow bitter within
God help us, will winter ever end?

Hutchmoot Retreat

Last week I had the privilege of attending an event called Hutchmoot Retreat organized by the good people at the Laity Lodge and The Rabbit Room. I walked in by myself, timid and quiet, knowing absolutely no one other than the musicians that I had come to love over the years who would be speaking and sharing their music. The 4 days I spent there changed me. It showed me something I’d been missing for a very long time without realizing it.

Creative community.

People who’s minds were trying to wrap around the brokenness of the world and also find some form of hope and joy in the midst of it. We had all been embraced by the ache of life and found it wanting, unable to meet the expectations of some previous, who knows what, that we’ve clung to only in remembrance.

We had deep conversations. We made deep friendships. We had deep community. Even though I arrived knowing no one, I left knowing everyone. Even if we didn’t get a chance to talk face to face, it seemed our hearts were in the same place.

Homesick.

Singing songs, writing poetry and prose, sculpting, crafting, drawing, painting… All these little love notes we write to the Lover of our souls awaiting a time when he returns to make all things new.

We shared communion together the last day and I wept. The bread and the wine meant something more than I’d ever experienced. This world, broken as it is, is the world that Christ came to, and it is the world that he loves and gave himself up for. It is this same world that Christ calls us to die for. To speak to the brokenness and realize it is there, but to sing about the hope we have in Christ.

I hope to sing again. I hope to hope again. I hope.

—–

One of the writing sessions I attended was designed to force us out of our daily hustle and bustle mindset and into a creative space…

First, we were asked to look at words, thousands of random words cut out of newspapers and glued to the backs of raffle tickets. We had to pick several words and just put them together in funny, clever, and interesting combinations. It seemed to me that every group of words I put together could have been the name of the next big indie band, which bugs me, but I persevered. I came up with a list of some of the most random things I’d ever heard. It was fun. It made me play a bit with words and just enjoy them.

After having come up with all these interesting combinations of random words we were told we’d have about 15 minutes to take these phrases and create a modern Psalm with them. The only rules were that the Psalm had to start with the words “Glory Be To God”, and it had to end with “Praise Him!” This was actually a ton of fun. The creativity that started to flow through my own mind was something I had sorely missed since I’ve been so busy with life it seems as of late. I forgot that my mind could do that.

After we had finished writing out our Psalm we handed them in and there were read aloud. We didn’t have to put our name on them so they were kept anonymous. Some were hilarious because of the random phrases. Some were moving and powerful which was all the impressive to me considering where the words came from.

I decided to share my Psalm here. I’ll bold the random words I came up with and had to include in the Psalm. I hope you enjoy it.

—–

Glory be to God!

In His struggles to save the simple,
     these little dinosaurs on the dark horizon,
     these modern skeletons doomed to eternal black spaces,
          with guilt as heavy as the golden hippopotamus they’ve bowed to,
          and an invincible want they cave to,
          and the ooze umbrellas they try to hide under,
     these who thought leviathan to be lovable,
For these, His ideas flowed like bagpipes,
For these, orphans given hope,
For these, He would give unspoiled dimples,
He the River Monster King slew their leviathan,
He, with a passion for lifting camels through the eye of a needle!
Praise Him!

In Christ Alone

Today I had the opportunity to preach at my church The Bridge in Saranac. It was a blessing to be able to do it and I enjoyed myself. Here is the message I shared almost verbatim. It’s a bit of a long read, but I hope that the message will be clear to you. Our hope is in Christ alone. 

———-

Ephesians 3:1-12

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles – Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

———-
He came as one of us, and through him we can boldly approach God… That is a good promise is it not?
The last time I spoke I talked about being terrified of God… That was the way I grew up, and it’s the struggle I still have. I am constantly afraid that I have done, or will do something to irritate or piss off God and that will be that. I’ll be damned and there will be no coming back from it. It is always on my mind. I have to constantly fight back that fear. 
A month or so ago at the Bridge men small group Judd said something that pinned me to the wall. I don’t remember exactly how the conversation had gone, but I know I was espousing more of the idea that I was afraid. It may not have come out that way, but that was the theme behind what I was saying. I wanted to know how you can know you have the spirit… After I finished whatever statement I was making, Judd looked at me and said, “Rick I don’t know you that well, but I’ve been listening to you for a while now and what I think you want and need to know is that Jesus loves you.”
It absolutely wrecked me. I didn’t lose it at the time, but later on it kept coming back to haunt me. This struggle with doubt. This struggle with fear. Always there, always nagging me. This demon that won’t give up the ghost and go away… I go round and round with this issue, and sometimes I wonder if that is how God wants it… Because somehow it keeps me remembering my need. This brokenness. This ache. An awareness of brokenness. It’s always there and it reminds me that I will never find satisfaction for that outside of Christ. But how do we get that satisfaction? How do we achieve that hope? A deep sense of hope in the midst of the ache.
There is always this reminder to me of the brokenness of the world and it will on occasion make me despair. This duel nature of the world. I’ll sit down with my kids and play a game and laugh and have fun… or wrestle with my boys and get in a tickle fight with my daughter, or see the smile on our foster daughters faces when they feel safe and loved enough to do so. Feelings they probably haven’t had in a while… But just as quickly I’m faced with something horrible in the world… The Newtown, Connecticut shootings, the World Trade Center, Hurricane Katrina… horrible events that take out lots of people all at once, or cause horrible heartache and pain, and I look at this world and think, “what a horrible, broken, and beautiful place this is… “ There is beauty and brokenness, tragedy and triumph… 
I laugh with my kids one second and enjoy our time together, then flip on the news and watch the world fall apart. This is the world we live in, and this is the world that Christ came to save. This is the world that Christ came to be a part of.
This last week we celebrated New Years and what do we all do around new years…? We make New Years resolutions. What is a resolution exactly? Isn’t really just something that we knew to be the right way of living or doing something all along and we had just become lazy in doing it? What does a resolution do?
A resolution re-states our commitment to doing something better, being better, living better. Doing things the right way. The way we knew to be the right way all along.
A resolution re-affirms our belief in what is right and true. We’ve just let down our guard.
We all know that eating at Taco Bell every day is bad for us. (However delicious it may be… have you had the smothered burrito? It’s magical)… We all know that smoking, drinking in excess, doing drugs, not exercising… whatever it may be, we know that it is bad for us. We know that if we don’t take care of ourselves we will die. We all know that being a jerk won’t make us popular with people, and we know that it isn’t the best way to live. 
So we resolve to eat better, exercise, drink less, stop smoking, be better spouses, better siblings, better employees… basically, anything we knew we should be doing all along, we decide on January 1st, “Hey you know what, I’m going to do what I know to be the right thing…”
Well this year, my resolution has become something that I’ve never set my mind to resolve to do… I’m going to put all my hope in Christ. 
Let me explain that a bit. It may sound strange that I’m up here preaching and I’m saying that I’ve never put my hope in Christ. 
To be clear, I have given my life to Christ. But I struggle constantly with the brokenness of this world. I quickly take my eyes off of Him. I’ve given him my life, but I’m not sure I’ve given him my hope.
There is a story in Numbers 21:4-9 where the Israelites for the one billionth time decide to complain and blame God for their being out in the desert. “There’s no food, there’s no water… This place is broken…”
Did they understand why they were looking at the snake? Did they have all the answers as to why if they looked at the snake they would be healed? No… All they were told was that if they were bitten and looked at the snake that Moses was lifting up on the staff they would be healed…
Guess what… we’re all bitten. 
I’m bitten. You’re bitten. It has affected the entire camp. Later on in John 3:14-15 the new testament Christ himself says that the Son of Man must be lifted up like Moses lifted the snake in the desert, and whoever looks onto him will be saved…
Do we need all the answers? Do we need reassurances? No… we just need to look. All our hope is placed simply in looking to Christ. Christ lifted up on the cross. We don’t need all the answers. He (Christ) is the only answer that matters.
We have to get over this need to have it all figured out. To have certainty and satisfaction. Faith is really a letting go. It’s letting go of needing all the answers. It’s letting go of having all the answers and thinking we have it all figured out.
According to Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” If our hope is not that the world will be made right, and that Christ is the answer, and that everything he said is true, then what good is our faith? If you don’t have hope, what is there to have faith in? If you’re not certain of the unseen then what is your faith?
Christ is all. He has it figured out and we can trust him. Those are promises that we can hold to. The Israelites probably didn’t understand why they were looking to this golden snake on a pole that Moses lifted up, but they did know that if they just were obedient enough to look, humble enough to look, they trusted enough to look they would be saved. All Moses said was look at the snake and you’ll live. No other answers or explanation. Just look and don’t look away. Stay focused.
So this New Years my resolution is to stay focused on Christ. To keep my gaze upon Him no matter what. To put all my hope in him, come what may. 
It’s hard to do that. We live in this dualistic world. We’ve been cast out of Eden and placed in a foreign land. Jesus talked a lot about the Kingdom of God, and with every statement about what it’s like something within each one of us whispers, “Yes… that is how it should be. That is how it is done in the land I’m from. My home is in the Kingdom of God.”
In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus is teaching his disciples to pray. I tend to split that prayer into 2 halves. Sometimes I call this the “Epic / Everyday”, “Triumphant / Tragic”, or the “Already / Not Yet” tension that we live in.
“Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name,
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done,
On Earth as it is in Heaven…”
This first half talks about what we know to be true, or right. It’s the way of our home land. It’s the “Epic” or the “Already” part. The Kingdom we belong to and we’re appealing to the King himself. In my own daily prayer it may sound more like …
“Holy God, dear Abba Father… you are amazing! In the words of Andrew Peterson, ‘Mighty God how I fear you, and I long to be near you!’ Please Father let Your Kingdom be here. The Kingdom where there isn’t heartache and pain, where there isn’t stress, tension, sickness, pain, or death. Where people don’t set out to hurt each other, but rather, we love each other. Where we are your portion and you are our prize… Let it be here. In me and in the world.”
The 2nd half goes…
“Give us today our daily bread,
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
Some scriptures add, “For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever, amen.”
In my daily prayer this section may sound something like…
“Dear Father… bleh…”
or
“Holy God… (long sigh)”
This second half eludes to and all but acknowledges that things here are not right. We have needs. We are easily tempted and pulled away and we quickly falter into sin. We are dogged down by the hound of hell prowling around always looking for an opportunity to pounce on us and devour. This is the tragedy, the everyday, the not yet tension.
This is the world that Christ came to. The broken world. He came to show us that there is a Kingdom that we belong to where the brokenness does not get the last word. Where despair doesn’t exist because hope and love eclipse and overtake everything. Where the King reigns!
Psalm 72 speaks of this Kingdom. Go read that when you get a chance.
The thing that is hard to fathom about Christ is that He knew what he was getting into. Somewhere in the mystery of Christ we see that there was a plan all along that God had laid out where He would come to the Earth in human flesh and He would save it. This salvation is for EVERYONE! It’s not just for those we think deserve it. It’s for everyone that has ever lived, is living, or will live. It’s for those who have been teacher’s pets and do gooders and it’s for those who have spent more time in the principals office. It’s for those who have never broken the speed limit, and it’s for murders.
One of the harder truths I’ve learned in the last few years is that this amazing salvation is for the parents foster children, and it’s for the foster children’s parents… The parents who abused their child or neglected their child and left them alone for days on end to fend for themselves. The parents who cared more about drugs than they did about their kids. The parents who are so violent they nearly killed their spouse… The people that I don’t want the salvation to be for is who it is for. It’s for the people we see holding signs on street corners begging for money. It’s for the homeless people wandering the streets covered in dirt or worse, living under bridges. The unattractive, the unwanted, the castaways of society, the hookers, the queers, those who chose abortion, the drug dealers, murderers, child molesters, and even politicians… It’s even for me. In spite of my temper, my pride, my ego, my quickness to judge and condemn, my impatience, my murderous and lustful thoughts… It is for me.
It is for me and it is for you. We are all equally broken. In our bad moments we forget how broken we are and will forget that the salvation is for us. We’ll forget just how badly we need it. It is for everyone, and for the whole earth. Is it any surprise that it was so costly?
But Christ knew what it was going to cost and he came anyway! Is that not incredible! He didn’t give up on us. Even when He was betrayed and deserted by his closest followers. He came in the flesh and he was obedient to the mysterious plan His Father had laid out even unto death. 
On the cross as Christ was dying he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That comes from Psalm 22. Psalm 22 is entirely prophetic in my opinion of the coming of Christ and how he would suffer.
January 6th is known on the Christian calendar as the day of Epiphany. It’s the day that we celebrate that Christ came in the flesh. That Emmanuel, God with us, had finally come and was here among us as one of us. The Kingdom of God was imminent and he was here to usher it in. Things would never be the same now that God had come in the flesh. He taught about the Kingdom of God and he fought for the Kingdom.
The Kingdom being another mystery which we come to understand over time. The Kingdom seems to be a distant far off place, and it is near at the same time. It is external to us at the same time as being an internal reality. We experience it individually within us, and we live it externally as we go about our daily routine. As we walk out these doors today we take the Kingdom with us. We are separated from each other by our lives, but we are held together by the Spirit as one body. This body, the Church, is the body of Christ. The Kingdom comes through Christ. So if we are the body of Christ then the Kingdom comes through us as we lay our lives down to take up the cross of Christ and give our lives over to him. It is individual and it is corporate. We live it for each other and we live it for the world. We are the Kingdom of priest set apart to show the world who the true King is and how to live for Him.
Christ physical body left the earth when he was crucified, rose, and ascended to the right hand of the Father. But He sent down the Holy Spirit which binds us together as the Body. So as I see it, we are the new Epiphany.
We are Christ in the flesh, on Earth, bringing the Kingdom down here. We, the believers, those strolling the narrow road, at one time fallen and wandering, now humbly submitted to the King. We lay down our lives to take up his and live the ways of the Kingdom here among the deaf, the dumb, and the blind… those we use to belong to. But now we belong to Him. He came down, spit in the mud, rubbed it on our eyes, and the scales fell off and we could see again. If we’ve made the decision to hand our lives over to him, then we belong to him and are called to live the Kingdom ways. 
There is a Psalm I found recently. Psalm 137:1-6. It says… 
“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for 
songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, ‘Sing us one of 
the songs of Zion!’ How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in
a foreign land?

If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling
to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.”
When I thought of this I thought of the Jewish refugees in Babylon. They were cast out of their homes and brought to a land not their own. But like any refugee cast out of their homeland, they would continue their way of life while in a foreign land. They would continue to live the ways of home, while hoping to someday be there again. And like the Psalmist says, if we forget let us forget how to make the beautiful music of our homeland. May we never sing of it again if we forget it.
Music has this way of working in me to remind me of what matters. Words, instruments, melody and harmony all come together and move me to the point of remembrance. Remembrance of what was, and what will be, and what is among us currently. They stir my emotions and spur me on to continue living what I know to be right. Even in the midst of a chaotic, broken, and some days desperately wicked world. It helps me step forward and keep moving because even in the midst of that world there is beauty, and victory, and peace, and hope, and joy, and laughter, and above it all love that we all so desperately long for. It makes me want to take my harp back down off the tree where I hung it and sing more to continually remind myself of the King and His Kingdom. The Great Lover of my soul, and the home he’s built for us. All of us.
There is no doubt about it that this is a difficult thing to do. To live like He has asked us to live. Like the dog who returns to his vomit I find myself returning to my own… The sickness I wish I could kick. The sin I struggle with. The doubt, the fear, the anxiety, the self-loathing, self-centeredness. The me. I often find myself wondering, “How could Christ, being God, sinless and perfect, possibly understand me and the things I struggle with?”
John 1:1-2 says, “In the beginning was the Word (speaking of Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” A little further down in verse 14 we hear the amazing truth: “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
So the Word became flesh and came to us. Something that I’ve only recently started to have sink into my thick skull though is that Jesus claimed to be equal with the Father!
John 14:5-11 says
“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ 

Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’

Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’

Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.”
I said earlier that I grew up with a fear of the Father. That he was out to get me, just waiting for me to screw up. Sometimes unfortunately the father I fear, is the father I become…
But here we see that Christ is just like the Father, and the Father is just like Christ. Christ came with gentleness, compassion, patience, and grace to all those who would accept him. He came with righteous anger and justice to those who pridefully stood against him. Those who elevated themselves above Him. The so-called spiritual giants and leaders of the day who exhibited the same traits that got Lucifer kicked out of heaven, and Adam and Eve kicked out of the garden. Did he condemn them though…? No. He chastised them and told them to repent. He loved them as much as he loved those who knew how broken they were. So even his rebuke is a sign of His love and patience and endurance, and mercy, and kindness… That is the Father. That is Christ.
I was afraid of some other father… Not the true Father. The true father comes with compassion, rich in mercy and grace, infinite in patience and love… That is how Christ came… That is who He was and is. 
So this calms my fears about the Father, but how can I trust that Christ struggled in any way similar to what I do?
Again we look to scripture. I love the book of Hebrews. In Hebrews 2:14-18 we hear more about how Christ came to us. It says,
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his
death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is,
the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their
fear of death.

For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had
to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a
merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make
atonement for the sins of the people.
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are
being tempted.”
So we know that we have this high priest pleading our case before God forever for us. He understands our fallenness, our temptations, our weaknesses because he was like us. He suffered and was tempted just like you or I. Again in Hebrews 4:14-16 it says:
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the
Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high
priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have
one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are yet he
did not sin.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive
mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
I like to theorize and speculate. Sometimes I wonder, at what point did Jesus realize He was who He was? Did he just always know, or was there some point at which Jesus realized He was the Son of God? What was that like? When he was a child maybe getting bullied, if he knew who he was and what he could do… how tempting must that have been to just zap the bully? Or when he was starving in the desert and the devil tempted him to turn the stones into bread… or when the devil just wouldn’t shut up I wonder if Jesus had a moment where he was almost tempted to do the thing just to shut the devil up… Or when he was in the garden and knew he was going to die. I can’t imagine that fear… Did it cross his mind to bail on the whole thing? When he was on the cross in intense pain and being mocked, did it cross his mind just for a second to actually do as they say and come down off it in power and lay waste to all the naysayers and mockers? 
“But Christ doesn’t understand the responsibility of taking on other peoples problems…” I say to myself… Thinking of our foster daughters and the possibility that we may adopt them. I’m fearful of the responsibility and the work… But really? I could think for a second that Christ doesn’t understand taking on other people’s problems? He took my sin! Our sin! All of it. I think he understands the fear of taking care of other people’s problems. 
He understands it all. Every fear, every temptation, every evil that has entered into our minds. Doesn’t that sound almost sacrilegious to say? But that is what Hebrews is telling us… He was tempted IN EVERY WAY! But he remained sinless. He conquered sin and death and fear and all of it… And now since he did all that he stands at the right hand of God the Father with the unique ability to plead for us in every situation because He completely understands us and knows us, and loves us deeply.
That is good news!
This is the mysterious plan that God set forth from the beginning of time. That Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, God incarnate, perfect representation of the Father on Earth, would come here in the flesh, be tempted and tried in every way that we are, but would remain sinless and be victorious over it all. Then would die as the perfect sacrifice for us, be buried in the ground, and 3 days later be completely victorious now, not just over sin, but over death itself!
This victory is for every one! We are all included. This is the good news that it just doesn’t matter what you’ve done, where you’ve been, how you’ve sinned. We are all on equal standing before God. He saved us all! This is why Paul the ex-pharisee was excited. He knew what he’d done in the past and what he was guilty of. He knew the extent of his sin, and he also knew that it could never surpass the extent of God’s love and mercy! He was a murderer saved by the very grace of God that he tried to extinguish. Now Paul was called to share it with the whole world… 
And this is what we are called to… Realize our sinfulness and turn from it. Cling to the hope we have in Christ, our only hope. “In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song!”

I’ve put the lyrics to the song “In Christ Alone” at the end of this post. I would encourage you to just read them and let the words sink in and know that the story they tell is written for you. It’s written for me. It’s written for us all. The Kingdom is that story lived out among us and shared by us with others to bring them in from the outside. That is what we’re called to. That is who we are. 

We are the beloved Bride of Christ, the lover of our souls. In Christ alone, who came in flesh, is our hope.

If you have never placed your hope in Christ, and if you’ve never made the decision to turn towards Christ with your life, I would love to talk with you. 

———-

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

I Love You

A man, if he is a good man, does not say the words “I love you” flippantly, or hastily. A good man is well thought, and engaged in his communication of this phrase. “I love you” is meant to take everything in a man that he can offer. It is not said without some level of pain being issued. You can love something so much it hurts… You can long for something so much that it aches… Call it a good pain, but it may not feel so at the time. When I tell my wife or my kids that I love them, at least in my best moments, there is some level of pain in saying it. It is a pain that I welcome. The pain is in there because there is this intangible, unreachable level at which we wish to express this love more than just saying “I love you”… We’ll never reach it. Not this side of heaven. But we dare not hold back from the endeavor. We step forward, we understand what we are saying with our minds, we realize who we are saying it to, we engage every ounce of our energies and emotions in communicating the phrase… It is not a business for the self-interested, self-involved, or self-focused… It is the business of the self-sacrificing…


As we gather together to sing, pray, and worship at our local gatherings on a Sunday by Sunday basis… is this not the goal? That “I love you” would be said in such a way?

I lead worship quite often and I’m privy to the expressionless faces of a multitude on many occasions. Granted it’s Sunday morning and everyone just woke up, crawled out of bed, got our crazy kids all together, fed, cleaned up, etc… or maybe we’re recovering from our Saturday night party binge… whatever the reason is… We show up and say “I love you” with mouths closed and arms crossed. We are far too easily pleased with our desires here to want to experience the ache of a love relationship with our Savior… As C.S. Lewis says in his book The Weight Of Glory:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

We are all guilty. But what will we do about it? Will we continue to say “I love you” to the great Lover of our souls without actually meaning it? What if we don’t love him? Maybe we should start asking this question. If we don’t love Him… if we do not desire to be near Him… if we do not ache to be with Him… what can we do?

Start loving Him… Pray that He would give you the gift of loving Him more. One way I look at it is by asking myself, “What father, if asked by his children to make them love him more, would not grant that request if it was in his power to do so?”… Matthew 7:7-11 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

I believe the Father will grant your desire to love Him more. It may take a while, but as you move intentionally in that direction you will begin to see it happen. Then you will begin to experience the pain of saying “I love you”. The ache of the shear inadequacy of the words we utter in an attempt to capture all encompassing love, of which the word “love” is completely inadequate.

A man, if he is a good man, says “I love you” when he understands exactly what he is saying with his mind, when he realizes who it is that he is saying it to, and when he engages his emotions and energies in communicating the phrase.

Fame

Here’s a quick bit of my own thoughts and opinions… Take them for what you will…

Our culture is obsessed with the idea of fame. To be known. To get attention. It is the drive of an entire generation. We see how simply it seems to come to those who are so seemingly undeserving. We envy them for their social status and the attention that comes with it. The television shows that we watch have this as their backdrop… Teen moms who get cameras stuck in their faces and all the sudden they are famous for having babies with loser guys out of wedlock. Jersey Shore slackers with no ambition in life other than to get drunk, have sex, and repeat ad infinitum. Families with lots of kids who make it look simple to have a house full until the camera lights get too hot and their loving marriage ends in divorce for the whole world to see. Hollywood “tweener” socialite children of the rich and famous who have done nothing in and of themselves to earn celebrity, but by way of a raucous lifestyle earn a bad reputation for wild lasciviousness and panty-less trips to court cases for their traffic violations.  Since our society seems to feed on this they are all made into celebrities, paid millions for having done nothing, and empowered to continue their ways so that we can continue to watch and eat it all up, all the while for God knows what reason we long to be able to live the same lifestyle. To attain the same level of fame and celebrity because we see the attention they get and we long to have it for ourselves.

The deceitfulness of this is that celebrity and fame are not this easy. To gain fame for being a good actor, or being and amazing musician, or some other special ability is extraordinarily hard to attain. It takes years for actors and musicians to get their big break. They have to work insanely hard and be completely devoted to their craft to achieve this level of celebrity status. It only happens to the top 1% or so of all actors and musicians (btw… that was a complete guess as to the percentage)… 
So for the completely fame and attention starved individual what is the easiest and quickest way to achieve an amazing level of fame?
Anybody can have world wide fame in an instant if by an act of their own will they can make themselves do something absolutely horrible.

It is exponentially easier to get fame and attention for doing something completely evil than it is for doing anything good. So when we push the value of self seeking fame onto our society through every media outlet there is and pound it into the heads of a generation, at least to me, I start to understand why things like what happened in Aurora, Colorado happen at all and why they will continue to happen.
I think as long as we value fame and celebrity as highly as we do, and make it the goal of a generation, we will continue to see horrible things happen. Until we start to value each other over ourselves we will spin deeper into the dark hole we find ourselves staring down now.
In the Bible, Matthew 10:26-39 speaks to this issue and the solution… “So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. ‘Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter‑in‑law against her mother‑in‑law… a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Our worth and our value is found not in the attention of the world, but in the attention of our Heavenly Father. We find our worth in His love for us. We need perform nothing to achieve this level of attention and love from our Father. He simply loves us. He asks that we love Him, and that we love Him more than anyone else… this includes ourselves. We must elevate Him over ourselves. Our pride and our desire for worldly fame will fight this on every level at every turn. But we find a promise from the Lord… “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
If we give up our pursuit of a life fulfilled by only what we can dream of our Father promises a life that He will fulfill beyond our dreams… 
That does not mean worldly wealth, fame, glory, or even an easy go of it here on earth… We may not see that promise fulfilled in this lifetime… But it is a promise that carries into the next lifetime and into eternity.
Seek your value in the love of the Father. Lose your life to gain the life He has for you…
 

Rick Hopkins
616-340-9645