Captivity

ColossiansThis morning I was reading Colossians 2 and verse eight stood out to me. This verse has been highlighted in my Bible for years now. Many years ago, as I spoke with a friend who was leaving his wife this passage came to my attention as my friend used all manner of worldly thinking and ideology to justify and explain to me why he had suddenly lost interest and was no longer in love with his wife. He used philosophy and so-called wisdom based on the elemental principles of the world as his basis for why what he was doing was not only ok to do, but the only right thing to do. I believe was taken captive by a philosophy which was unable to provide any legitimate substance or foundation for rational thinking.

We have to tendency to lean towards philosophies or ways of thinking that allow us to justify our actions. We tend to use our desires and actions to interpret Scriptures, rather than allowing Scripture to interpret how we should live. This is what my friend did. This is why Paul cautions us to not be taken captive by hollow, empty, deceitful philosophy. That sentence was very loaded. Let me try to break it down.

Paul warns us to not be taken captive. In the original Greek language, which Paul would have written this, the idea is to not be robbed. He says, look out, keep watch so that you may not be robbed. Don’t let your clear, rational thinking be taken captive or robbed from you. Do not let your thought processes be hijacked and stolen from you. Use your critical thinking and rational thought skills (which I would argue are inherent, built-in aspects of our existence thanks to being made ‘in the image of God’ who possesses critical thinking and rational thought) to see through the empty philosophy.

Paul says, what has taken us captive is empty or hollow. The word is empty, meaning there is nothing to it. No substance. Hollow. Valueless, no merit, nothing inside. As I glance across my desk I see my coffee mug. It is empty. There is nothing inside it. Right now, that has no value. It has nothing in it. At 0646, the mug might as well be dead to me. The mug has zero value to it, because the value it brings is contingent upon Empty mugwhat fills it. Philosophy, a word we get by through the combining of one of the Greek words for ‘love’ and the Greek word for ‘wisdom’, so the loving of wisdom must have substance to it. The philosophy or the train of thinking about wisdom have be full of something, not hollow or it is useless.

Paul goes on to describe the philosophy which has taken us captive as deceitful. In the original Greek text, the words empty and deceit follow each other. The text literally reads, empty deceit according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world. There is much here, but I want to focus on the deceitful aspect. What makes it deceitful? Its emptiness. The fact that it is hollow and promises what it can not deliver. Just like my coffee mug is deceiving into thinking it has value, when it does not because it is empty. So is the philosophy which has bewitched us. It promises big, but delivers nothing. It is deceit because it has no value or substance to it.

It would be presumptuous for me to speak for you, but I don’t want to be taken captive by anything let alone anything which is empty or hollow. Imagine waking up one day, years from now and realizing you have been chasing a hollow, empty dream. Your whole life, everything you put into that pursuit is wasted, all for nothing. Paul is giving us a wake up call to pay attention to the things we place our trust in and what we rely on. Are we trusting in philosophies which are empty and deceitful because they are empty? Are we placing our trust in something of value, something which is not empty? Clearly, Paul is making a subtle argument for placing one’s faith and trust in God and relying on him to find the values and meaning we need to navigate through life. Trust in God is the only thing in the end providing the lasting meaning we crave. There is no other philosophy or tradition providing meaning and purpose equal to what God provides, because God has no equal.

We need to heed the warning and not allow ourselves to be taken captive by empty, deceitful philosophy. We need to place our faith, hope and trust in God each day. We need to allow the Word of God to light our path and direct our steps. (Bet you didn’t expect a theology lesson this morning!)

What empty, deceitful philosophy do you let creep in and distract you?

Bible is lightsaber

Wisdom

  

It’s 8:30 on a Friday night and I’m on I-75 in the middle of South Georgia. Why?
I’m heading to north Georgia with two of my independent living youth. We are headed for the culmination of a mentoring program they started on the spring. It feels a little odd to be wrapping up the mentoring program I wasn’t really a part of. But tha s kind of how it goes. 

I have mixed feelings about being away from home this weekend. Without letting the cat out of the bag, there’s a lot going on back in Orlando. Ronda and I are in the midst of praying through a big situation for us. On one hand, I want to be there with her. One the other hand, I’m looking forward to the space and clarity that comes with spending a weekend in the woods. 

I suppose that means this weekend has a twofold purpose for me. To capstone the mentoring program and solidify my place in the lives of these youth as a mentor. And to allow God to speak to and mentor me this weekend. I have high hopes for this weekend. I’m trusting God won’t let me down. He doesn’t usually. 

The Celldweller song ‘The Last Firstborn’ is playing. That song always make me think of the Apostle Paul. He claimed his apostleship cake as one untimely born. I feel that way. Not that I’m an apostle, but that I often wonder about God’s choice to love me and use me to fulfill his purposes. But he does. And I believe this weekend he is going to teach me as much as he teaches these dudes with me. 

In some ways, I really need to hear God speak to me this weekend. I need it more than I have in quite some time. We started a new sermon series at church last week on the book of James. I’ve been reading it this week. In chapter 1, James says any who lacks wisdom should ask God in faith that he give generously to the obedient. That’s where j find myself. Asking for wisdom. Asking for God’s spirit of be upon me and inform my decision-making. I want to be a spirit-filled wise leader of the family and ministry God has trusted me with. 

This seems like a good place to close… God grant me your spirit of wisdom to be a wise leader of the people you have given to me. 

The Love of a Savior

Photo credit unknown.

Photo credit unknown.

One of the tenets of Christianity setting apart from other world religions, is the love of a savior. Christianity alone has at its center a God who loves his creation enough to call them children and to die in their place in order to satisfy his wrath upon sin.

Jesus himself draws the stark contrast of this revolutionary approach to life when he comments that few people would die for a good man. What isnt said there, but what is certainly hinted at is that we are not good men. We are sinners. We live in a fallen world and we are bent towards sin. Knowing this, and loving us anyway, our God sacrifices himself to pay the penalty for our sins.

This act is so revolutionary, so extraordinary, so out of the box we as a humanity can scarcely grasp the full weight of what he did or why he did it. Paul writes in Romans, that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. While we were still in opposition to him. He loved us enough to move towards us. To take the first step to have a relationship with us. Which is a second tenet separating Christianity from other world religions, God desires to know us personally. He doesn’t sit on a throne far above in the heavens looking down at us, waiting for us to screw up so he can capriciously punish us. Rather, he engages in our lives with us, walking alongside us each day. In fact, his desire is to dwell within us. To live in and through us. Paul also write in one of his letters to the church at Corinth, that as Christ followers we are temples to the Holy Spirit (God’s spirit he sent to dwell within us). In this particular passage, Paul was correcting the Corinthians on their sexual immorality, however the idea that our bodies are temples of the spirit of the almighty God should have broad applications in our lives. Our lives should be lived in such a way that God is glorified by our actions.

As we prepare for today and this weekend, ask ourselves this question: Is God glorified in the way I am living, in my habits and daily routine, in my work, in my attitude and in the way I treat others? If not, now seems like the right time to reorganize our priorities.

Spiritual or Spirit-Filled?

So I went to this new thing we are doing at h2o church called M.o.G. or Men of God. BTW, I made a Spaceballs joke about a mob, part man part dog and got absolutely nowhere with it. I was instantly disappointed at that. Whatever.

Anyway, at this M.o.G., I realized that I have been chasing after the wrong thing. I have bee trying to be a spiritual man. The kind of dude that reads the Bible alone and with his family and who prays alone and with his family because that’s what you are supposed to do as a Christ-follower and someone who works at a church. I wasn’t trying to do it and instill those habits in my boys because it is a part of who I am, but because it is the ‘right thing’ to do.

Who I want to be is a spirit-filled man, not a spiritual man. I want to be the kind of guy who is just like Jesus. I want to be the kind of guy that people look at and they can’t help but to see God overflowing from my life in the way I respond to my wife, kids and anyone else I encounter daily. I want to be the kind of guy that prays and reads the Bible alone and with his family because it is an integral part of who I am. It is a part of me as much as my heart or lungs are a part of me.

I want to be a Christ-follower first and everything else second.

Are you chasing after trying to be spiritual or spirit-filled?

Linear Spiritual Growth… (Vintage Post)

I agree, the linear thinking is the problem as well as organized growth. As far As organized, I meant for me growth over the last couple of years has been hit or miss. I have grown a lot but seem to easily forget what I’m learning. It’s like my spiritual discipline is haphazard and therefore without organization, hence unorganized.

The other problem that I have with linear thinking is the cause and effect nature of it. If I do “a” then God will do “b”. That doesn’t always work. Sometimes I do “a” and the. “f” happens promptly followed by “u”. In respect to spiritual growth and relationship with God that doesn’t mean God is punishing me because I didn’t do “a” the right way, it just means we live in a sucky sin-filled world. It seem that the bumper sticker commenting about the occurrence of rather unpleasant excrements is true.

Case in point, this flawed linear thinking has been the undoing for much of the growth I have had over the past two years. I was wrongly under the impression that if I did the right things that God would bless me. When the blessings didn’t come as I saw they should, the logical conclusion is that I must have done something wrong. God wasn’t blessing me because I didn’t do the right thing the right way or some semblance of bs like that. Reality is, my relationship with God isn’t dependent on some cause and effect. God does what God has promised to do: offer me salvation and peace in this life until I die. Do I accept that or expect for him to give what he hasn’t promised? God loves me inspire of myself and the desire of my heart needs to be to chase him, whether the road is easy or tough.

Wrestling with God… Forgetting not Reliving the Past (Vintage Post)

At church this morning the lesson spoke about the people of Israel as they came into the Promised Land and conquested Jericho, one of the things that had to happen before they could accomplish that was few there to be a change leadership. Joshua came into his role as leader after Moses died. Everything that the people of God knew and trusted about God was changed. They had to get a new perspective that allowed them to see the future and not the past any longer. There became a distinct change in their perspective and obedience. While wandering in the wilderness for 40 years they were plagued by their lack of trust, grumbling and dissatisfaction with God. After Joshua became the leader, the people began to trust differently and took on the mentality of “lead us where you want us to go and we will follow.” I began to contemplate my life and the ways that I view my past. I realize that often I hold on to the past and attempt to make the future more like the past. I live in the past, I live full of regret because things are not the way they used to be in my life and in my feeble attempts at ministry. Why should life be anything like it was last year? Am I the same person I was last year? Am I in the same place I was last year? What makes me think that what happened to me last year and the ways I served last year will hold the same amount of relevance to me today? As I struggle through this I become convicted that I am just trying to relive what were ‘glory days’ of ministry for me. What happens when you only see the past is that you are blind to the future. And when you can’t see the future you are almost unusable to God. God’s kingdom isn’t one of the past but of the present and the future.

When am I going to stop living in the past and let God use me now and on the future?

When will I allow God to create new and better ‘glory days’?

Just like Israel came into something better than just merely being liberated from the slavery of Egypt, God is waiting to bring me into better victory and triumph to use me for ministry and to further his kingdom now and in the future. Past ‘glory days’ are irrelevant… Paul said that he counted all of his past, his victories and defeats, as loss compared to preaching Christ.

Whose glory am I after, mine or God’s?

I'm a Failure

Yesterday I posted the notes for the message I gave at H2O Church during the morning service. Here I want to give the video of me running through my notes outside church yesterday morning before service.

I tend to be long-winded, so I knew if I planned to speak for 30 minutes that I would speak for 45 or more. So I purposefully kept my notes short so that I could ad lib during the message.

I also, wanted to give you the chance to hear the final product. Here is the podcast version, which is to say it is the live version of what was delivered during the service yesterday.

I had a couple of photos taken while I spoke yesterday, which I also wanted to share with you. As you listen to the live version, the shades will make more sense…

I’m a Failure

Yesterday I posted the notes for the message I gave at H2O Church during the morning service. Here I want to give the video of me running through my notes outside church yesterday morning before service.

I tend to be long-winded, so I knew if I planned to speak for 30 minutes that I would speak for 45 or more. So I purposefully kept my notes short so that I could ad lib during the message.

I also, wanted to give you the chance to hear the final product. Here is the podcast version, which is to say it is the live version of what was delivered during the service yesterday.

I had a couple of photos taken while I spoke yesterday, which I also wanted to share with you. As you listen to the live version, the shades will make more sense…

Beat Up, Used Up & Broken

Good Morning! For those of you visiting with us today, my name is Eli. For those of you who are regular attenders… my name is Eli.

I’m super excited about being here to share with you this morning. This is an honor and a privilege to be here this morning.

I am a failure. I’m broken, beat up, used up, spit out, loser, disappointment, inadequate, incapable, insufficient… a failure. Let me try to help you understand how I got here…

I grew up in a Christian home, with an ordained dad & mom. I graduated high school and went to Bible college. You ever notice how when kids who grow up in the church graduate high school and then their faith is challenged? My faith wasn’t really challenged until I was about 30 with a wife and 2 kids. The first time my faith was challenged was as I served at a church in Gainesville that really chewed me up and spit me out. That experience caused me to question who I was, my abilities, my self-worth, self-confidence, my purpose in life, and my calling. I was left without self-confidence, without courage and without belief in myself to accomplish anything (particularly in ministry), feeling like a failure.

Lucky for me, I was pretty quickly hired as a caseworker for DCF, which prohibited me from really processing and working through the feelings of failure this church experience created within me. I really loved working as a case manager, it created in me a passion for the broken and screwed up families around me.

But you see, I sorta felt like Ezekiel. You remember he was in training to be a priest. And before that role could really take off Jerusalem was sacked by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in 586 B.C., and his chance at being a priest utterly destroyed when the temple was blown up.

So I got into case management and saw the underbelly of the American family. The abuse that occurs is sickening and inhuman. However, when exposed with this tragedy, I felt like this was my calling in life, that God was calling me to work in this field to be a ray of light in darkness. I felt as though God had prepared me for this role. After about 4 years at this job it was taken away from me, when I had a supervisor that decided he didn’t like me and formed a personal mission to fire me. Finally, when over-worked and stressed out I reacted to him in a way that gave him the opening he was looking for to fire me. I felt like Jeremiah who said:(Jer.20v7) 7 O LORD, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; Everyone mocks me.

In case you missed what just happened there, he called God a liar. I felt that way. I had 2 careers taken away from me. When I say they were taken away from me, what I mean is I had failed in both. With ministry, I failed in the sense that I couldn’t play the game in such a way to keep a position successfully at a church and I failed in case management in the sense that I couldn’t get along with my supervisor in a way that would keep him from firing me. So here I was married with 2 kids and jobless. I was broken, beat up, used up, throw out, a failure, a loser, worthless, and depressed. I spent a solid 2-3 years depressed and I mean depressed to the point where I was crippled, unable to move forward in life.

I was a failure.

Slowly, God began to awaken me and assist me in realizing it’s ok to be a failure…

Look at Peter, one of my heroes from the Scriptures: He was a failure’s failure. The only thing he didn’t fail at was failing. A few examples:

  1. Walking on Water – or should we say almost drowning in the water?
  2. Cut off dude’s ear… why the ear?!? Was he was just that bad with a sword, that it was completely accidental?
  3. Denied Jesus 3x

He constantly failed and was constantly re-used by God. Constantly restored, constantly redeemed. As I looked at Peter I realized, even in my failures God didn’t view me as worthless. I recalled Romans 5v8 that says,

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Or what about 1 Cor. 6v20,

For you have been bought with a price.

Where does that leave us? It leaves us with a God who loves us, who values us & our failures. God loves us even though we fail. We am his creation, his children and as such he values us enough to do whatever is necessary to restore, redeem and return us to him.

Even though I fail.

And maybe to some degree because I fail.

God uses our failures as the space to make his strength evident. When we realize our inabilities, our shortcomings, that’s when we have the eyes to see the power of God and how it is perfected.

Check out 2 Cor. 12v7-10,

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Really? Our weaknesses, our failures become our source of strength.

God loves failures.

Our biggest failures often become our greatest accomplishments. That’s how I got to H2O. Orlando was the site of my biggest failure. Where I went deep into depression, where I couldn’t find a job, where I almost obliterated my family, where all of my worst fears about myself became my reality. God is using my biggest failure to be my greatest accomplishment.

I wanna close with this comparison:

You remember Judas, he sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. He failed. Instead of allowing God to redeem him he took his own life.

What about Paul, who made it his life purpose to kill every Christian. He failed. But he allowed God to redeem him and he was the one who brought the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Are you gonna let God use your failures? Are gonna be a Judas or a Paul?

Beat Up, Used Up & Broken

Good Morning! For those of you visiting with us today, my name is Eli. For those of you who are regular attenders… my name is Eli.

I’m super excited about being here to share with you this morning. This is an honor and a privilege to be here this morning.

I am a failure. I’m broken, beat up, used up, spit out, loser, disappointment, inadequate, incapable, insufficient… a failure. Let me try to help you understand how I got here…

I grew up in a Christian home, with an ordained dad & mom. I graduated high school and went to Bible college. You ever notice how when kids who grow up in the church graduate high school and then their faith is challenged? My faith wasn’t really challenged until I was about 30 with a wife and 2 kids. The first time my faith was challenged was as I served at a church in Gainesville that really chewed me up and spit me out. That experience caused me to question who I was, my abilities, my self-worth, self-confidence, my purpose in life, and my calling. I was left without self-confidence, without courage and without belief in myself to accomplish anything (particularly in ministry), feeling like a failure.

Lucky for me, I was pretty quickly hired as a caseworker for DCF, which prohibited me from really processing and working through the feelings of failure this church experience created within me. I really loved working as a case manager, it created in me a passion for the broken and screwed up families around me.

But you see, I sorta felt like Ezekiel. You remember he was in training to be a priest. And before that role could really take off Jerusalem was sacked by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in 586 B.C., and his chance at being a priest utterly destroyed when the temple was blown up.

So I got into case management and saw the underbelly of the American family. The abuse that occurs is sickening and inhuman. However, when exposed with this tragedy, I felt like this was my calling in life, that God was calling me to work in this field to be a ray of light in darkness. I felt as though God had prepared me for this role. After about 4 years at this job it was taken away from me, when I had a supervisor that decided he didn’t like me and formed a personal mission to fire me. Finally, when over-worked and stressed out I reacted to him in a way that gave him the opening he was looking for to fire me. I felt like Jeremiah who said:(Jer.20v7) 7 O LORD, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; Everyone mocks me.

In case you missed what just happened there, he called God a liar. I felt that way. I had 2 careers taken away from me. When I say they were taken away from me, what I mean is I had failed in both. With ministry, I failed in the sense that I couldn’t play the game in such a way to keep a position successfully at a church and I failed in case management in the sense that I couldn’t get along with my supervisor in a way that would keep him from firing me. So here I was married with 2 kids and jobless. I was broken, beat up, used up, throw out, a failure, a loser, worthless, and depressed. I spent a solid 2-3 years depressed and I mean depressed to the point where I was crippled, unable to move forward in life.

I was a failure.

Slowly, God began to awaken me and assist me in realizing it’s ok to be a failure…

Look at Peter, one of my heroes from the Scriptures: He was a failure’s failure. The only thing he didn’t fail at was failing. A few examples:

  1. Walking on Water – or should we say almost drowning in the water?
  2. Cut off dude’s ear… why the ear?!? Was he was just that bad with a sword, that it was completely accidental?
  3. Denied Jesus 3x

He constantly failed and was constantly re-used by God. Constantly restored, constantly redeemed. As I looked at Peter I realized, even in my failures God didn’t view me as worthless. I recalled Romans 5v8 that says,

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Or what about 1 Cor. 6v20,

For you have been bought with a price.

Where does that leave us? It leaves us with a God who loves us, who values us & our failures. God loves us even though we fail. We am his creation, his children and as such he values us enough to do whatever is necessary to restore, redeem and return us to him.

Even though I fail.

And maybe to some degree because I fail.

God uses our failures as the space to make his strength evident. When we realize our inabilities, our shortcomings, that’s when we have the eyes to see the power of God and how it is perfected.

Check out 2 Cor. 12v7-10,

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Really? Our weaknesses, our failures become our source of strength.

God loves failures.

Our biggest failures often become our greatest accomplishments. That’s how I got to H2O. Orlando was the site of my biggest failure. Where I went deep into depression, where I couldn’t find a job, where I almost obliterated my family, where all of my worst fears about myself became my reality. God is using my biggest failure to be my greatest accomplishment.

I wanna close with this comparison:

You remember Judas, he sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. He failed. Instead of allowing God to redeem him he took his own life.

What about Paul, who made it his life purpose to kill every Christian. He failed. But he allowed God to redeem him and he was the one who brought the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Are you gonna let God use your failures? Are gonna be a Judas or a Paul?