Monthly Archives: August 2014

“Vertically Challenged”

Peanuts Looking Up

“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Hebrews 12:5-7)


We have been going through the book of Genesis since January and will continue for several more months until we have reached the end. The book of Genesis is foundational, providing a worldview to make sense out of this world we now live in and to provide guidance for living as aliens, strangers and ambassadors of the King of Kings to the world we are in.   There is the vertical element, whereby we are God’s people, created and saved for a communal relationship with Him. And there is the horizontal element, whereby we are sent out to serve God in relationship with others.


We are, more often that we’d like to admit, caught up in the horizontal and less aware of the vertical. The cares, demands and difficult circumstances of the world consume us so easily, we become easily distracted from the Lord’s presence both within and among us.   We become vertically challenged.   When we don’t recognize our sorry state and the shortening of our vertical stature, we begin longing for comfort more than the sufficiency of God’s grace. Faced with trials and difficulties, we often expect God to provide comfort and relieve us, when that may be the last thing God wants for us at the moment. Someone once said, “Sometimes God puts you on your back so you can look up!”


A new question I’m beginning to ask myself, when curve balls and discomforts find their way into my horizontal sphere, is “Could it be possible that the Holy Spirit is at work in these circumstances to make changes to me?” “Is there some sin, some idol that God is trying to break me of when difficulty enters my vertically challenged world?” These are hard questions to ask oneself, and even more difficult for me, as a pastor, to ask those suffering within our congregation. We don’t want, for ourselves or those we love, to go through difficult times. We want comfort. We want encouragement. Yet, the greatest comfort and encouragement comes from knowing we are not made solely for a horizontal relationship. God is at work within and through us. As Mark Galli, editor of Christianity Today magazine recently wrote, “As we read the New Testament, we are reminded time and again that the gospel isn’t about making life safe and orderly, but entails the risk of following Jesus. It’s not about improving people, but about killing them and then creating them anew. It’s not about helping people make space for spirituality in their busy lives, but about a God who would obliterate our private space and fill it with himself. The gospel is not about getting people to cooperate with God in making the world a better place—to give it a fresh coat of paint, to remodel it. Instead it announces God’s plan to raze the present world order and build something new.”


Is there anything more comforting than knowing that our world is not spinning out of control. What could be more encouraging than knowing God has us exactly where He wants us, to do in us that which can never be accomplished in the horizontal realm.


Life is not all horizontal, nor is it all vertical, although that is the place it must start and be grounded.   Life’s circumstances, no matter how difficult or dire they seem, will never be too much to endure, if we have firm foundation in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and are consumed with a vertical perspective of God at work in our midst.

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Righteous Rescue – Genesis 18:16-33

Jesus saves sign


You and I live at a time in history when our Christian worldview is becoming less and less relevant to the culture around us.  Social ethics are being reshaped over months and years, rather than decades and centuries, as the morality of popularity becomes the norm in our country.  To hold to your Christian convictions means you will increasingly stand out among your non-Christian neighbor.  It means that you will find yourself, for the first time in our nation’s history, on the opposite side of many moral issues.
We live in a highly secularized society where there is no measure of right and wrong.  Well, that’s not totally true.  It is rabidly wrong to believe there is a right and wrong, or any objective standard by which one is to live.  But that’s about it.
This kind of morality (if we can call it that) is the wishful thinking of fallen men, like you and me, who turn their face from the God who is both Lawgiver and Judge.  It is this Judge of the earth, Abraham declares through another striking rhetorical question, who “will do right.”  It is this Judge of the earth who will do right in several different ways, as this Sunday’s passage reveals.  When we gather, we’ll look at the ways in which He does it and consider the implications of His justice and righteousness, in a world with a blind eye to the reality of them both.

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“Last Laugh” – Genesis 18:1-15

impossible is possible


When I titled this week’s sermon, “Last Laugh,” I had no idea that Robin Williams would take his life in desperation later that same day.  The connection didn’t occur to me until I was walking by the sermon board yesterday and wondered if some would think I was talking about the great comic and actor this Sunday.
As I considered this week’s passage and the point of the passage, Walking in faith means confronting difficulty with hope in God, I couldn’t help but consider the difference faith in Jesus and a genuine Christian community can make for those suffering from depression or any other illness.  I am not saying, “Buck it up and have enough faith and you’ll be better.”  That’s the false gospel and a lie.  I’m saying, we live in a world that is fallen, depression may not be your fault or caused by any particular sin and the church, of all places, ought to be the place where you’re safe to let that hurt out and let the body minister to you.  The church ought to be the one place that provides the love and care it would seek for anyone with any other type of illness.  As Ann Voscamp said earlier this week, “There’s no guilt in mental illness because depression is a kind of cancer that attacks the mind. You don’t shame cancer, you treat cancer. You don’t treat those with hurting insides as less than. You get them the most treatment. There’s no stigma in saying you’re sick because there’s a wounded Healer who uses nails to buy freedom and crosses to resurrect hope and medicine to make miracles.”
As we’ll see in this week’s passage from Genesis, the intimacy of God and the infinity of God are two reasons we can confidently confront the difficulties of a fallen world with hope in God.  We are not alone and we are not left on our own.  Faith in Christ makes all the difference for sinners in a broken world.


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“Belonging” – Genesis 17:1-27

joy of the Lord

We live at a time when people have never been so connected and, at the same time, have never been so detached.  Technology and social media have, in one sense, have made the whole world available to us and have also served to isolate us.  Many people feel that they don’t belong anywhere and are craving significance and, if they find it, it is only temporal and misleading.  The same could be said for our spiritual state.  We live in a time where mankind has never been so detached and isolated from God.
It doesn’t have to be that way.  God created us to belong.  He created us to be His and to be of the family of God.  Yet, that is not our natural inclination.  It takes the power and gracious intervention of the Almighty God to deliver us from separation and destruction and to bring about our adoption as children of God.  This truth comes to a climax in this week’s passage from the book of Genesis.  God offers to all the opportunity to belong and be His people.
As we plumb the depths of Sunday’s passage, we’ll seek to find out what it mean to belong to God and discover how that brings about significance and joy to the lives of God’s people.
Come join as we hear from God’s Word and worship together as the body of Christ this Sunday at 9:00!

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