Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Deny Christ

Deny Christ or else you die.
Stop worshipping or else we’ll put you in jail.
Break God’s law or else you won’t be able to see your family.

These are the types of decisions that Christians in the underground church are faced with. We’ve been watching the video series “Underground Reality” and these are some of the ways that we have been affected by the series:

"Because of the high risk of going to worship God, then there are more real, true, born again Christians in the church."
"How strong the people's faith is even though their life could be in danger really made me think about how free we are to be able to go to church in broad daylight."
"It amazed me that the church is so strong in their faith and how they pressed on even though they are persecuted. They have alot of courage. I am not seven sure that I would have the courage to stand up to the persecution."
"I believe that Christians really are persecuted. I will ask God for comforts less and faith more."
"They never fought back. They praised God with the most enthusiasm I've ever seen. They risk all for God. They don't deny him."
"I look up to them because I know I wouldn't be able to do that."
"I admire the courage of the teens to smuggle the Bibles and the Vietnamese Christians because I don't think I could handle the persecution and the threat of getting caught."
"The incredible faith of those who were persecuted... they're willing to sacrifice everything they have for the Lord. Here, in America, we have it easier, and are barely willing to give up something simple for the Lord. I want to strive to have the intense faith that those who were persecuted have."

There are several ways you can take action:
1) You can make up an action pack for persecuted believers in Sudan by gathering household items and putting them into a bag purchased from Voice of the Martyrs. Go to www.persecution.com and click on “action packs” on the left menu. Then click on “order today” for Sudan or Pakistan. The cost is $5 to provide needed supplies for persecuted Christians.

2) You can send an encouraging letter, in their own language, to imprisoned believers in Vietnam and around the world. Go to www.prisoneralert.com . Under “What can you do?” click the link for “write an encouraging letter.” Then click below it on “start writing a letter.” You will be able to pick the phrases you want to include in the letter and it will translate them for you. Then you print out the letter, hide the web address, and send it to the address provided. You provide the postage that they recommend and place the letter in the mail.

3) You can pray. As the eight teens talked to believers in the underground church they asked people what they wanted them to tell friends back home. Underground believers said one thing, “Tell them to pray for us.” Please pray for the persecuted church.

Some of these packages and some of these letters will never reach their intended receiver. But prayer always reaches God. He is more powerful than any prison guard, warden, statesmen, or official. He is Lord even over these situations. This is both comforting and disconcerting at the same time. He is Lord over this, so I will be taken care of. He is Lord over this, why is He letting this happen to me?

We are amazed that God can let his people suffer for his name’s sake. What kind of God is that? But we shouldn’t be amazed by persecution as much as we should be amazed by the cross. God let his own precious perfect son suffer and die for sinners, God’s enemies. That is amazing.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Jesus had some cheek!

What would you do if someone flicked you off on the road?
What would you do if someone flicked you off on the road because you cut them off…rudely?
What would you do if someone flicked you off on the road because you had cut them off rudely and flicked them off?
What would you do if someone flicked you off on the road because you were a Christian?

Jesus says, when someone slaps you on the cheek, give them the other cheek. I get flicked off more often than I get slapped so we’ll use that as an example.

If somebody drives by me and flicks me off (or makes any rude gesture, honks, or yells) how I take it depends on what I’ve done. If I haven’t done anything… I just smile and (secretly) laugh at them because they don’t know what they’re talking about or they don’t know the rules of the road themselves. If I have done something wrong (and I have before) then I understand why they would flick me off and I kind of accept it even though I think it’s inappropriate and insecure to flick someone off. If I got flicked off because I was a Christian (this hasn’t happened before) I would praise God for counting me worthy to suffer for His name’s sake.

So when someone slaps us or flicks us off, how we react depends on whether we deserve to be slapped or flicked off. In one sense no one deserves either, they’re abusive, embarrassing, and impetuous (lacking in self-control) acts. In another sense we all deserve much worse than to be slapped or flicked off. We deserve God’s anger and wrath a hundred times over for our sin. We deserve death and hell for what we’ve done.

Why does it hurt so bad when someone slaps us? It’s not just about the physical pain… being slapped is embarrassing. It’s like someone saying, “You’re worse than worthless.” And if we don’t do anything, or if we offer them the other cheek it feels like we’re accepting their assessment of us. We want to fight back to let them know that we’re not worthless. We want to fight back to let them know that indeed it’s they who are worse than worthless. We want to fight back to let others know that they can’t treat us that way. We want to fight back to let our abuser know that they can’t treat others that way. We want to fight back because we feel unprotected and we must protect ourselves.

Are you afraid of looking bad? Being embarrassed? Being hurt? Being weak? Being taken advantage of? Only then will you really need God. Then you will really start to understand how bad you are, how embarrassing you are, how vulnerable you are, how weak you are. Only in weakness, in wounded-ness, does God become our strength, our salvation, our protection, our source of value.

When you’re in an uncomfortable situation, when someone is hurting you we’ve been told there are only two options: FIGHT or FLIGHT.
But Jesus is telling us there’s a third option: BE A LIGHT.
Jesus was in an uncomfortable situation. People were hurting Jesus. But Jesus didn’t run away. Jesus doesn’t say run away. Jesus doesn’t say, “fight to the death.” Jesus says stay and be a light. Why? Because God says, “I’m better than running away; I will be your hiding place. I’m better than fighting, I will fight for you.”

I hope you don’t get slapped on a regular basis but even if you don’t this message applies even to you. Let me try to illustrate:

What would you do if someone gave you advice?
What would you do if someone gave you advice about something you’d done wrong?
What would you do if someone gave you advice about something you’d done wrong and they were right?

Here’s what you do; you don’t run away. You don’t get defensive and shoot advice right back at them. You take the knife; pull it in. You say, thank you, is there anything else I can work on. Is there anything else? Is there anything else? Is there anything else?

I don’t know how many of you have enemies. But you all have parents; you all have siblings. When they hurt you, when they abuse you, really listen to them, listen even to the anger and abuse, knowing that you deserve far worse, but what you get everyday is grace instead.

I know someone who was abused, who still bears the scars of being abused, you can see it every time he smiles, and he does smile. He says that he learned from the abuse what anger and what punishment his sins truly deserve. He praises God everyday that he doesn’t get a punch in the mouth every time he sins though that’s what he deserves.

Jesus had some cheek to say “turn the other cheek.” But then again, Jesus didn’t just say “turn the other cheek.” He turned the other cheek even unto death so that he might show us a new and better way: not “fight,” not “flight,” but “stay and be a light.”

Friday, October 19, 2007


No we're not trying to bowl for nerds... we're trying to bowl as nerds.

Come dressed up as a nerd: science fiction nerd, office nerd, computer nerd, and any type of so-smart-I-don't-have-any-room-in-my-brain-for-fashion nerd. Prizes will be awarded for best nerd costume in several categories.

Just go to your local thrift store (or parent's storage closet) and pick out the best in nerdery that you can find. Then come to Crossroads Bowling at 1pm on Nov. 3rd. Bring $9 for an hour of bowling (this includes shoe rental.) Afterwards we will be headed back to the block house for the nerdiest board games we can find.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Reality TV show that turned into a Horror movie.

Imagine a reality TV show that turned into a horror movie.

It’s like you’re watching someone cooking dinner and then zombies start coming in the front door.

It’s like you’re watching a group of guys hanging out at a friend’s house and then an army of demon-possessed people starts surrounding the house, screaming.

That’s what this story of Jesus is like. It’s like a reality TV show that turned into a horror movie. What do I mean by that? Well, lets look in the bible and see what it says about what a night in the life of Jesus might look like.

A close friend of Jesus, Peter, told what had happened to him to a writer named Mark. This is what happened, according to Mark.

Mar 1:32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

So picture this.. the sun is going down, the creepiness is about to begin. Jesus and his friends are hanging out at his best friend’s girlfriend’s house, Peter’s mother-in-law’s, when all of a sudden they start to hear the sound of a crowd, shouts, groans, then there’s a knock at the door and you look out the window and you see this mass of people. There’s so many people you can’t even see all the people.

Now imagine if a whole city’s worth of sick people and demon-possessed people were coming to your house.

And what does Jesus do. Now here’s where it stops looking like a horror movie. He does not shoot them. He does not blow them up. He heals them without surgery, without medicine. He casts out the demons and tells them to be quiet, without destroying them. See, we try to understand Jesus but he doesn’t fit into any of our categories. The story of Jesus is not like a reality show. It’s not like a horror movie. It’s different than anything we know. Jesus doesn’t fit into any of our categories.

Let’s see how Jesus fits into three categories: doctor, demon-slayer, celebrity.

Jesus is like a doctor because he heals people. He doesn’t mind being around really sick people. He compromises his own safety to be around them. He’s talented at healing people. Yet he’s not like a doctor. A doctor needs medicine to help people. A doctor needs surgery to help people. A doctor usually gets paid to heal people. Jesus doesn’t. He just heals people. So he doesn’t fit the category of doctor.

Jesus is like a demon-slayer from a fantasy movie or a comic book. He can see and talk to demons. He doesn’t just fight the bad guys. He fights on a supernatural level with actual forces of evil. Just like a demon-slayer, demons are no match for Jesus. Demons recognize his authority. He’s even able to command demons and they do what he says. But he’s not like a demon-slayer in that he doesn’t use any tools or tricks to get rid of the demons. His only tool is prayer. He doesn’t fight them either; he just tells them what to do. Another weird thing about Jesus is that he doesn’t destroy the demons he just tells them to pack up and shut up. So Jesus doesn’t even fit the fantastical category of demon-slayer.

Jesus is like a celebrity from pop-culture. He’s very famous. Everybody wants to see him. Everybody wants to get something from him. Everybody wants to see how he lives. And yet celebrities usually like to be surrounded by beautiful and powerful people. Jesus on the other hand welcomes hurting and messed up people. He wants to be around them more than around the beautiful powerful people. He’s also not like a celebrity because he doesn’t want people to know about him. Usually celebrities want as much publicity as possible, but not Jesus. He doesn’t tell people who he really is and those who figure it out, the demons, he tells them to keep quiet.

So Jesus doesn’t fit into any of our categories. He’s like no one you’ve ever known and that’s why you should be interested in finding out more about Him. I promise you, the more you find out about him, the more you will be convinced that there is no one like him. So I’m inviting you to find out more about Jesus this year. Even if you think you already know who Jesus is, I’m inviting you to find out more about Jesus.

So tonight when you’re going to bed, when you’re laying your head on your spider-man pillow, or your disney princess pillow, I want you to think about this: what if Jesus is really different than anyone who ever walked on the face of this earth? If there really is no one like Jesus how should I react to Him? AND If Jesus really loved sick and twisted people and cared for them, what does he think about me? How would he treat me?

And if you really want to learn more about Jesus this week find out what it feels like to care for sick and hurting people. Open your eyes and ears to the sick and hurting people in your life, spend time with them, move toward them, care for them. Then you’ll get to feel a little bit more how drastically different Jesus was than anyone who ever lived. I'm not saying to do this because God will be pleased if you do. I'm not saying do this because it's what's right. I'm saying do this to find out more what it felt like to be Jesus, to find out who he was care for hurting and messed up people.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Jesus was weird.

Jesus was baptized by John. Jesus was tempted by the Devil.

That's so weird.

Baptism is a sign of people repenting of their sin and wanting to die to self and live a new life. So was Jesus repenting when he was baptized by John? No. In the bible it says that Jesus was tempted in every way like us and yet without sin. He faces the temptation of the devil himself and he doesn't give in. I don't think he gave in before either. So why was he baptized? Baptism is a religious ceremony. Jesus was sinless and he was baptized by a sinner, and a mere man, his cousin, John. As Jesus began his spiritual journey he submitted to a sinner in a religious context. He did this to show us how to start our journey. If Jesus began by submitting to a religious sinner, you can submit to a religious sinner to begin your journey too. Baptism is a beginning.

Jesus, the son of a holy, holy, holy God allowed Satan to come into his sight, into his presence, without drop-kicking him. I mean, that's what you'd expect when good meets evil right? Major battle duel, Dragon-ball Z style! But that's not what happens. Jesus lets Satan talk. He lets Satan tempt even. This is like the judge letting the guilty inmate tease and insult him for a while. This is weird. So why did Jesus do it? He did this to show us that temptation can be overcome. Trust me, He didn't like it. But He did it for us so that He could commiserate with us and so that we could feel like we can talk to him about temptation.

Let's say you have a disgusting ingrown toe-nail. Who are you more likely to go talk to about it? Mom, who has perfectly manicured nails and has never, to your knowledge, had any such issue, or Dad, whose toes bear the scars of past ingrown toe-nail issues. You're more likely to go to Dad because he can identify with you.

Many times we don't want to take our sin to Jesus because we think, "He's too holy; He wouldn't understand." But he does. He was tempted so that He could understand. So when you're tempted, when you've been tempted and you've fallen into sin, come to Jesus. He won't judge you, He'll forgive you. He'll redeem you. He'll change you. He'll give you hope and new life.