Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Out of Gas

What do you mean we are out of gas? How can that be? There's no oil shortage.

Suddenly we evaluate every trip we make. We wonder if we can find fuel at our destination.
I can think of a few errands I could run, but I really want to preserve my fuel. My process of evaluating has changed.

I see again how much I take for granted. I never really thought about where this gas comes from. It comes out of hose at any gas station. I had no idea that we rely on a pipeline that covers 11 states, from Texas to New York.

Yesterday I went to three gas stations before I found one with fuel.

One leak in one pipeline puts a serious cramp in our daily lives. Turns out, we can't imagine life without gasoline.

What else is essential to life for us? And is gasoline essential? I'm just glad this is not a food shortage.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Why We Need a Breakthrough

We all need a breakthrough. Life is more than survival and accumulating things. God can break through to us so that we see what really matters, what life is really all about.

This is why you need a breakthrough:

  1. This broken world is a closed system, except for the revelation and intervention of God.
  2. Unless something jars us into new ways of thinking and doing, we will march on mindlessly in our daily drudgery.
  3. Drudgery leads to an unfulfilled life of regret.
  4. Life's interruptions are times when God can break through to us.
  5. These interruptions can wake us up to a better life, if we are tuned in to Jesus.

We need breakthroughs regularly in life. Life gets better when we get better (says motivational speaker Brian Tracy), and we can't really get any better without taking life to the next level. Those life leaps take place when God breaks through to us.

In our Breakthrough series, beginning this Sunday, we will learn to find and harness those Breakthrough moments of life!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

"Stranger Things" and Thin Places

I'm not a big binge-watcher, but I watched the whole first season of Stranger Things in about a week. Okay, there are only eight episodes, so that's barely more than one per day. To call that binge-watching is like calling Hurricane Hermine a thunderstorm.

But Stranger Things depicts a reality that's right here, but in another dimension. Researchers in the story have opened a portal to this underworld, dubbed "Upside Down" by the main characters. Other portals to this hidden world appear and disappear as the story unfolds. No one knows when, why, or how these portals open, but they provide glimpses and gateways into this dark reality.

Back to the real world. There is another dimension to this reality, a spiritual dimension. We encounter this dimension on some rare occasions in our lives. A mother senses something significant about her child--an accident, an illness, a broken heart. All alone, we feel like someone is watching us. Coincidences occur, as if someone is writing a story. We stare up into the night sky and know that there is meaning in the universe.

The realm of the supernatural sometimes bleeds over into this natural world. Many have declared that certain places lend themselves to encounters with the supernatural--cathedrals, caves, mountain tops. The Celts referred to these locations
as "thin places." There the veil between the natural and the supernatural is so thin that we can almost see through it. The supernatural is here, in our midst, and sometimes we sense it.

There are thin places that do not depend on location. In conversation, we sense something about the other person, something they have not said. In personal or corporate worship we feel the weight of God's presence. God reveals deep truth to us about ourselves or about a relationship. In prayer, the typical static from heaven becomes high definition conversation.

In thin places, heaven touches earth. God reveals himself. He gives us a glimpse into the deeper truths of reality. The closer I come to him, the more thin places I experience.

We need him to break into our lives. We all know it. And he eagerly desires to show his glory.

Our Breakthrough series begins on September 18.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Breakthrough Series

Stuck in a rut? Need a miracle? Ready for something MORE?

You need a Breakthrough. Join us at Crossroads for our new series, beginning September 18.

Every week we will see how breakthroughs in history mirror the way God breaks through to our hearts.

Pardon the Interruption, September 18
Our world is a closed system, except that God breaks in and shows us truth. His supreme breakthrough was coming to live on earth with us. As he breaks in, he reveals reality to us! See John 1:14.

A New Mind, September 25
Our thought patterns are twisted and corrupted, even though we don't realize it. God reveals our faulty thinking and helps us live in the truth. See Romans 12:2.

Better Lenses, October 2
We see reality through our own lenses. Everybody's view of the world is distorted, and we need God's perspective to see people as they truly are. See Acts 10:9-47.

Discipline, October 9
Some breakthroughs require effort over time. Persistence in spiritual discipline brings deep personal development. We don't always see it right away. But if we believe that discipline pays off, we can stick with it and find breakthroughs. See Proverbs 1:1-7.

New Challenges, October 16
Life is full of new challenges, and new challenges are opportunities for breakthrough. See 1 Timothy 1:3-7.

New Friends, October 23
It is easy to label groups of people, but if we get to know individuals, we can have a breakthrough of understanding. See Philemon 1-25.

New Reality, October 30
When circumstances radically change, we have to adapt. Our new way of handling reality can bring breakthrough. See Acts 1:12-14.

Hearing the Spirit, November 6
God leads his people through his Spirit, even today. Rather than groping in the dark, we can live with confidence and assurance, following the Spirit. Now that's a breakthrough! See Acts 8:26-29.

Being Childlike, November 13
Children see the world through eyes of wonder. Adults learn how to take things for granted. But the adult who breaks through the layers of cynicism and boredom can really live! See Matthew 18:3.

The Power of Beauty, November 20
Exposure to beauty actually changes us . . . for the better. God's beauty has supernatural power to transform us. See Psalm 27:4, 8.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

White Supremacy

Disillusionment is under-rated. It is good to have one’s illusions exposed. Many of our illusions about life stem from the lenses through which we see the world around us. From childhood we learn how to interpret the people and events we encounter. We notice how our parents and family respond to various situations. We note the way others treat us. We see how people receive our good and bad behavior. We shape our lenses accordingly, to help us know what to see and what to expect in our world.

With my set of lenses, I saw the world as a place of opportunity. The systems of society have always seemed neutral to me. I don’t expect to be treated with favor or resistance at the DMV, a department store, or a restaurant. I expect the workers at these places to do their jobs normally for all patrons—because that has generally been my experience.

My lenses are shaped by my experiences. It’s how I see the world.

But no two people have the same experiences. Our lenses are all shaped differently. For those who have experienced rejection or poor treatment in public places, the world feels potentially hostile. They don’t fit seamlessly into the system because of sex, skin color, hair color, accent, size, or shape. Those outward characteristics shape the way others perceive us, and probably how they treat us.

Those experiences shape our lenses. We expect a certain kind of response from others, and usually we see what we are looking for. I expect and find a neutral business environment. Others expect and find a biased environment. What I now realize is that the world is not nearly as neutral as I had believed.

It took the writings of Richard Rohr, another white male, to pull back the curtain and let me see my illusion. This has rocked my world.

When the horrific stories of racial tension increased recently, I could not sit idly by. I texted a black friend to invite him to lunch. Over the meal, I acknowledged that I now see that the world’s systems are designed by and for people like me: white men. I had never noticed that bias, because it had never stopped me. I fit perfectly through the system’s filter, so much so that I never knew it was there.

As I described for my friend my realization that there is a biased system, he said, “We call that white supremacy.” Oh wow.

Many call it “white privilege,” which seems much less harsh. But the term “white privilege” also fails to strike deeply enough in my soul. I can deny white privilege all day. “People don’t treat me that way because I’m white.” (How can I really know?) But white supremacy says, “Whites make the rules, set up the systems, and if you will just follow the (white) system, you will get along just fine. What is your problem?”

Forgive me for failing to propose sweeping systemic solutions here. I’m still reeling from my new corrected lenses. I’m trying to find my balance. I’m trying to see reality more from God’s perspective. Disillusionment may be good, but it’s not easy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Olympic Identity

Two American Olympians who won a silver medal for synchronized diving both acknowledged the Lord after competing. See the video here.

Many athletes thank God, along with coaches and parents. But David Boudia and Steele Johnson independently downplayed the significance of the Olympic medal. Each man said "my identity is in Christ." The medal is a great honor, but not necessary for their self-esteem.

With identities secure in Christ, the men were free to perform their best. They had nothing to prove. They could dive in peace.

So what is this "identity in Christ" stuff?

When we have right standing before God, nothing else really matters. Through a relationship with Jesus believers receive, as a gift, the righteousness of Jesus. It is not earned but received. We don't have to work for it.

Paul puts it this way in Romans 3:21-22: "But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known...This righteousness from God comes through faith in Christ Jesus to all who believe."

The believer's "identity in Christ," then, is that of perfect righteousness, given as a gift. It is "apart from the law," not earned by being good. It is received by faith.

I find it very hard to live from this identity in Christ. I am constantly striving to prove myself, trying to be good, trying to be productive. But when I experience deep in my soul the security of Jesus and his righteousness, I am at peace. I don't look for any silver medals or perfect dives, but I can truly do my best when I remember that I have nothing to prove. Jesus proved it all on the cross.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Overcoming Division

What in the world is happening? As I drive past flags flying at half-staff, I try to remember why. Was it the massacre in Orlando? Since then, we have cringed as story after story reminds us of the brokenness of this world: Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, Nice, Dallas, Baton Rouge. When is the flag ever flying high any more?

Pundits and politicians seize on every new story to advance some political agenda. They try to manipulate public opinion for the sake of votes and power. They sow seeds of division to advance their side. The more one side fights, the more the other side responds in kind. People are labeled, defamed, ambushed, and murdered.

The masses want to fight fire with fire. Rhetoric ratchets up. People stop listening and dismiss everything they hear from those people in that camp. They stop thinking for themselves and listen to the loudest voices on their "side." These voices stir up hate and suspicion, calling out the worst in human nature. Clearly this pattern makes our problems worse.

This is an opportunity for the church to stand up and call people to conversation on a higher plane. We are all broken. My perspective is not the only perspective. It's not even the right perspective. No one but God has the right perspective.

Christ calls us to this kind of humility at the cross. We are broken. We need redemption from our
sinful natures. Jesus paid the price for this redemption on the cross, giving his life as a sacrifice to atone for our sins. This is good news, but it can only be received with humility, admitting that we need a Savior.

Everyone around us is broken, too. No wonder we don't trust people. No wonder people hurt others. No wonder people find groups of others to hate. No wonder crime escalates.

There is no law, no politician, no policy that can diffuse the hate and fear of the human heart. Only Jesus can do this.

That's why the church needs to stand up and stand together, across those barriers that divide us. Jesus has broken down the wall of hostility between people who are different. (Ephesians 2:11-22) Only Jesus can change the heart. He does that every day as people surrender to him.

We can't put our hope in politics. We need good government, but government can't give me the right perspective. Only God can do that.

Let's rise above the name calling and division. Jesus calls us together. He calls us to repent. He calls us to love. And he changes our hearts so that we can.