Thursday, August 31, 2006

Leave No Man Behind

Sgt. John Chapman had been driven once from the battlefield, but he went right back. Shortly before dawn on Monday, March 4, 2002, the Chinook helicopter carrying Chapman and a small reconnaissance team came under heavy fire as it tried to land high in the Afghan mountains. Riddled with bullets, the chopper limped to a safe landing zone. Chapman and his team jumped into a second chopper and returned to base—but only to regroup. Soon they were flying back into danger—to recover the body of a Navy SEAL, Petty Officer Neil Roberts, who had fallen from the chopper in the first landing attempt. Chapman’s squadron officer told his family what happened next:

THE TEAM, a half dozen of America’s toughest Special Operators, jumped out of the plane into a hail of bullets. Chapman laid down covering fire as his buddies tried to set up a defensive position behind some rocks. As he blasted away at the enemy, he was shot several times in the chest. He died fighting so his comrades would live. Before the day was done, five more of his comrades would perish: Sgt. Bradley Crose, Pfc. Matthew Commons, Spc. Marc Anderson (all Army Rangers), Sgt. Philip Svitak (a flight engineer) and Airman Jason Cunningham, a “pararescue” jumper.

"Leave no man behind" is the code of our fighting men and women. It is an ideal that brings security and comfort to those who fight in a cohesive unit. Soldiers feel protected knowing that their commrades will come to their rescue if needed. They will even enter the "hail of bullets" with great bravery and honor to recover a dead body. All because they're a team and they stick together.

What if the church had the same code of honor? What if Christians committed themselves to the team, instead of just their own interests and safety? What if they understood the necessesity of rescuing the wounded and recovering the dead? What if they decided to never leave a fallen commrade to the enemy (Satan)?

The book of Jude shows us a picture of this idea.

Vv. 17-19 say, "17 But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ told you, 18 that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to enjoy themselves in every evil way imaginable. 19 Now they are here, and they are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They live by natural instinct because they do not have God's Spirit living in them. "

Jude reveals to us the The Nature of the Battle we are in. It is a spiritual battle to divide us and distract us. This is why Jesus prayed that we may be one. Our unit is weak when we are fractured. So, it is extremely important to recognize how we're being attacked and for what reasons. The next time you see divisions and selfishness, recognize it as an attack from the enemy.

Vv. 20-21 say, "20 But you, dear friends, must continue to build your lives on the foundation of your holy faith. And continue to pray as you are directed by the Holy Spirit. 21 Live in such a way that God's love can bless you as you wait for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you."

In these verses we see The Focus Of The Soldier. It is to continue growing, to continue praying, and to be led by the Holy Spirit. Notice the great contrast between a scoffer and a good soldier. The scoffer lives by instinct, the soldier lives by the Spirit. To focus on growth and prayer is essential if we want to do the will of God. We cannot simply do what our flesh desires. Instead, we receive and demonstrate the love of God to others.

Finally, vv. 22-23 say, "22 Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. There are still others to whom you need to show mercy, but be careful that you aren't contaminated by their sins."

Jude wants us to realize The Great Rescue Mission that Christ has given us. During the battles of our life, we will see many who begin to lose faith. We will witness those who are messing around with evil, and still those who have fallen and are in the flames of judgment. Our posture needs to be mercy and concern for them, not the usual judgmental attitude that plagues many churches. Remember, Jesus would leave the 99 to go after the one!

The next time we are tempted to criticize, remember that God wants us to show mercy.

We will not be divided or distracted.

We will be spiritually disciplined.

We will not leave any man behind, but commit ourselves to their rescue.

Add-on Fun

Hello to everyone who views this blog. You may have noticed that I have added some things to my website. Like the Weather Channel, a poll, and at the bottom, a Scripture search tool from These things reflect some of my interests and I hope you take advantage of them too. Especially answer the poll question. I will use your answers for games I play with my youth group.

Anyway, I am going to try and post more often. I really enjoy this and I love talking with people from all over the world. People are amazing. Of all the miraculous things God did in creation, the most miraculous can be found in Genesis 1:27.

So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them.

So, when I look at people of different color, culture, age, education, and status, I see the face of God. We cannot get a full picture of God until we appreciate someone new.

Keep "adding-on" people in your life. Through them, you will see the image of God.

Monday, August 28, 2006

God Loves Bugs

OK. This is just for fun. But, as I was preaching yesterday morning, God placed a thought into my head. After He created everything He said it was good (or excellent). Even the bugs!

The other night we had a Student Leadership Development meeting at our house and it was around 10:30pm and time to end. One of the girls was getting picked up by her mom and was going out the door. When she took a step out, a humongous flying beetle immediately swarmed around her head in the entranceway. She started screaming!

In her panic she wasn't sure to go all the way out or come back in and she left the door open. I knew Mrs. JimmyBob was going to get nervous, so I shouted, "Shut the door before that thing gets in..." Too late. It flew in and started a twisting flight around our kitchen, making some unnerving clicking and chattering sounds.

I immediately went into crazed ninja mode and grabbed the fly swatter. My voice changed and something took over me. Suddenly, I realized what God meant when he told Adam to have dominion and mastery over the Creatures. I swung several times until I nailed him and knocked him to the ground. It took a couple more swings until he quit making noise.

That thing was ugly. How could God say it was excellent?

I think of a friend who once stopped me from squishing a spider. He had an appreciation for all of God's creation. He gently guided it outdoors. I thought, "He's nuts. That thing is just going to come back in here eventually." He would just do the same again if it did.

Now, I think of these pictures I received from a fellow worker of mine...

This is from a brown recluse spider bite. That little dude at the top of this post. Nasty stuff, huh?

When God finished making that spider, He said it was excellent. There's going to be alot of talk about this stuff in Heaven. But, until then, we're just gonna have to learn to appreciate creation a little better.

I wonder if the spider bite wasn't venomous until after the Flood?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Falling in love with Him.

"Once upon a time a woman was married to a perfectionist husband. No matter what his wife did for him, it was never enough. At the beginning of each day, he would make out his list of chores for her to do, and at the end of each day, he would scrutinize it to make sure she had done all that she was supposed to do. The best compliment she ever received was a disinterested grunt if she finished everything. She grew to hate her husband. When he died unexpectedly, she was embarrassed to admit to herself that she was relieved."

Is this the way we see God? Do we see Him as a God that gets delight in creating and enforcing rules on his creation? Do we think that the heart of what pleases him is our obedience to his set of rules?

If so, then maybe we only view God as a strict husband who scrutinizes us. "If you love me, obey my commandments."

I've been rethinking. I've placed the stress in that verse in the wrong spot too many times. It would be better as, "If you love me, obey my commmandments." The reason for this, is that it puts things in the order of importance. Love comes first, then obedience.

"Within a year of her husband’s death, she met a warm and loving man who was everything her former husband was not. They fell deeply in love with each other and were married. Every day they spent together seemed better than the day before.

One afternoon, as she was cleaning out boxes in the attic, a crumpled piece of paper caught her eye. It was one of the old chore lists that her first husband used to make out for her. In spite of her chagrin, she couldn’t help reading it again. To her shock and amazement she discovered that, without even thinking about it, she was now doing for her new husband all the things she used to hate to do for her old husband. Her new husband never once suggested that she do any of these things. But she was doing them anyway—because she loved him."

I believe the heart of what pleases God is when we fall in love with him and want nothing more than to be with Him. It is out of our great love for God that we “obey” him. He doesn’t condemn our failures or withhold his affections. He is patient, accepting, warm, And we end up doing so much more because of who He is.

God is working in me to never paint Him as a cold and demanding husband. He does not want our obedience without our love, obligated and hollow. Our God is a passionate God. He does not settle for what he can get, but he goes after all of us. He is like a love stricken youth pursuing that special person.

His love for you is white hot. He’s crazy about you. He wants you to be able to say that every day gets sweeter when you’re with Him.

This song is dedicated to all the old timers out there that remember singing it...

I keep falling in love with Him,
over and over and,
over and over again.
I keep falling in love with Him,
over and over and,
over and over again.
It gets sweeter and sweeter
as the days go by,
Oh, the love,
between my Lord and I.
I keep falling in love with Him,
over and over and,
over and over again.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Jesus didn't have a Messiah complex.

"In the accounts of Jesus' life, often the larger the crowds get, the more demanding and difficult his teachings get. In John 6 he gives a teaching that is so hard to swallow, everybody but a few leave him. He is constantly trying to find out who really wants it. And so he keeps pushing and prodding and questioning and putting it out there until some leave and the diehards stay. We never find him chasing after someone, trying to convince them that he really wasn't that serious, that it was just figure of speech. He didn't really mean sell your possessions and give to the poor. If anybody didn't have a Messiah complex, it was Jesus.

This is what we are all dying for - something that demands we step up and become better, more focused people. Something that calls out the greatness that we hope is somewhere inside of us." - Rob Bell in Velvet Elvis.

UPDATE: I have to admit, Rob Bell has me rattled more than any author I can think of recently. His book is so full of substance to chew on. Sometimes I find myself cringing at his statements, especially when it comes to doctrine, and other times I hear the bell of truth ringing louder and more pleasantly than usual.

I chose this particular quote because it encourages me to step up. When I read this (present tense) it resonates with my emotions. I am substantially challenged to live an exceptional life. I do want to be challenged. I do hope that I have it in be a diehard.

What about you? Do you really want it?

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

An aching heart.

My life is pretty busy right now. I'm getting ready to begin a new young adult ministry for 18-29 year olds. Most of the people I already have a relationship with because they graduated out of our youth ministry. But, I am looking forward to gathering with others too. We have needed to do this for so long. My heart is really aching for them.

Sometimes I can feel the frustrations of 17 year-olds who can't wait to get out of church. They tell their parents they can't wait until they turn 18. They want so bad to get out. Get out of boredom. Get out of oppression. Mostly out from under the wings of mom and dad, but also away from a traditional set of leaders.

I have seen these kids praying their guts out with their friends. I have seen them raising their hands in worship and expressing their love for God with sincerity and passion. In crowds. They love to be together when things are all about Jesus.

Somehow, things have changed. Most of the time its a boyfriend or girlfriend or job. It tears me up because I care about them. I pray for them, make plans for them, and put all my energy into teaching them. I even gather resources for their parents. Everything in me wants them to do good. I believe they can, but I wonder if they will keep pursuing Christ.

I have heard some things that make me sad. I can only imagine what parents are feeling.

They are in the hands of God. I know He loves them, because He has burdened me with their needs and given me an excitement in my chest to gather them together. I realize that I must act upon that love.

I must thank the Holy Spirit for helping me see ahead. For although I am taking on these additional responsibilities that He has placed on me, He has also given me direction and led me to resources. The next couple of months are being laid out. Not only that, but I have been able to plan out the next 3 months of messages and themes for youth ministry.

Now, may you also act upon the love God has placed in you for someone else. May your heart be burdened for them, that you are compelled to lift their name before the Lord, that your schedule would be personally affected because of them. May you sense the Spirit's leading and provision and be thankful.

God bless you all.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

God's Mercy

"How thankful I am to Christ Jesus our Lord for considering me trustworthy and appointing me to serve him, even though I used to scoff at the name of Christ. I hunted down his people, harming them in every way I could. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how kind and gracious the Lord was! He filled me completely with faith and the love of Christ Jesus.

This is a true saying, and everyone should believe it: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - and I was the worst of them all. But that is why God had mercy on me, so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. Glory and honor to God forever and ever. He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen."
- 1 Timothy 1:12-17

God's mercy is amazing. He purposely looked for someone who was ignorant and unbelieving and had mercy on them in order to show the world his patience with the worst sinners. And who was this terrible person? It was Saul, the pharisee. The one who believed in God, but did not believe in Christ.

Just this past week I received an email from a friend that contained pictures (supposedly) of an Iranian man holding an eight year old boy's arm down, as a car runs over and crushes it. The email explained that the boy had stolen from the marketplace and this was the punishment he would receive. I was horrified and angry. I have an eight year old daughter and I can't imagine that happening to her. If that's the way those Iranian people think and act, someone should go rescue those kids and obliterate the rest. Honestly, I would have no problem with that.

But, today, as I read this passage, I wonder what God's perspective is. Let's assume that the story and pictures are true. Were those people punishing the child with such extreme measures because they believed God would want them to? To teach the child stealing is wrong and God would rather have the child with a crushed arm than to lose his soul? If crushing his arm would cause him never to steal again, is that such a bad thing?

Before you start freaking out, know that I'm cringing asking these questions. Keep following me...

From God's perspective, he sees people who are ignorant and unbelieving. They are very religious, but they reject Christ. It is in their hearts to do "good" for God, but in their pursuit to do good, they do evil instead, harming people in every way they can.

Now, I wonder if somewhere in Iran God has chosen the worst sinner and shown mercy on him. If he has, it has not become a mainstream story yet. But, after reading these verses, I am more inspired to pray for that possibility.

Here's my last thought on this for now. Is it possible that God is more likely to show mercy to those who are ignorant and unbelieving than He is to those in the fold who persecute the children of God? If that is the case, then I would stay clear of anything that would harm another Christian or tear him down.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Giving Up On Church, But Not On God

This summer I picked up a few books of interest and began reading. One of them was Jaded by A.J. Kiesling. I have wanted to post about this for a long time, but I haven't gotten around to it until now. It's a very easy read at 125 pages and I found it to be enlightening about why believers are leaving churches and how they still desire to be part of the Church.

This is from her Introduction called Divine Discontent:

"During my research I stumbled onto a phrase that captures the heartbeat of this message: divine discontent. Revolutions, whether social or spiritual, are always preceded by a collective restlessness, a heart-cry for something more. Could it be that God is stirring a divine discontent within the heart of his people, preparing them for much more than the staid, program-centered state of Western Christianity?"

A couple pages later she writes: "Everywhere I turn I run into fellow believers so jaded on institutional church life they rarely bother to darken the doors of those hallowed spaces anymore. Or they begin a search for a place that fits - a place that offers more than just programs. A place that encourages those deep, sometimes dark, questions that accompany any meaningful spiritual quest. A place that won't cast believers aside when they encouter their own dark night of the soul. For some, that place may be a house church, a Bible study, a coffeehouse meeting, or something as a simple as breakfast with another believer once a week.

Spiritual fatigue wears many different faces, and we may find ourselves in this slough of the soul as a result of a number of catalysts:

  • a world-weariness that replaces the first spark of belief over time
  • scars inflicted by fellow believers or pastors
  • a life crisis that casts God in a bad light
  • the existence of pain and suffering in a supposedly God-ordered world
  • a growing awareness that what's preached from the pulpit doesn't always work in reality
  • a despair that we'll never break out of churchianity into abundant life"

Here, she covers so much to think about. I have many things I could say, but I would like to hear from others first...