Be Saved

Steve’s Advice:
The first and foremost piece of advice that I can give to anyone (This series is written for my kids in particular, but this one applies to everyone) is to BE SAVED!! We are all drowning. We are all killing ourselves with our selfish actions, our sin. You can’t “earn” your way to heaven or out of hell, but JESUS has done ALL the work!!!!

 

Personal Story:
My friend Scott Crenshaw used to say, “Can I tell you something that no one else in the church will tell you? It’s sort of like a secret. Ready? Here it is: You don’t need Jesus to go to heaven. It’s true. Everyone always says that you’ve got to have Jesus if you want to go to heaven, but they’re wrong. You can go to heaven without Jesus if you live a ‘perfect’ holy life.” Scott always goes on to explain that if you don’t have any sin, you won’t be separated from Him and so you’ll go to heaven without Jesus.

 

Steve’s Advice:
That’s the problem though. Right? Sin. None of us is sinless. None of us is perfect. We are all guilty. Some sins are practically universal – lying, selfishness, pride, lust, hate, and the list could go on and on and on. The only way we can be in the presence of God is without sin – without even a hint of sin and we carry it everywhere we go. We can’t “change our ways” enough. We can’t willpower our way to holiness. We all fall short of perfection – short of sinlessness – short of holiness. This is why we need Jesus. His blood covers us. He paid for our sin on the cross. His blood covers us.

 

Personal Story:
My friend Scott also tells a story. His young son wanted to take the family out to lunch after church one day. They went and ordered as they normally would and enjoyed their lunch. When the waiter came over and handed them the check, his son reached into his pockets and pulled out everything he had. After all the coins had collected on the table, they counted out less than 3 dollars. It wasn’t enough. Although his heart and intentions were good, it simply wasn’t enough……. But someone had to pay. Right?!?! Someone had to pay. My friend Scott paid the price for his loved one’s meals that day ’cause he was able.

 

Steve’s Advice:
Jesus is the same. The price for sin is death and He paid the bill for us.

 

God’s Word:
Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Steve’s Advice:
Jesus paid the price for us because He alone is able. We will never be enough. ‘Cause we are sinful. We don’t earn His love by doing “good” things either. It is a gift. My friend “covered” for his son because he was able to give him that gift. Jesus’ blood covers us and he chose to give His life for our benefit.

 

This is the kind of thing I must admit that I lose sight of. I’ve lived as a Christian for many years and continue to forget that I can’t earn His love. I still find myself thinking that because I have done this or that for God, that I will somehow receive His blessings. I catch myself thinking, “Oh my kids will be alright. I’ve raised them to believe in Jesus.” However, my efforts don’t guarantee anything. It’s only by the grace of God that my children will know the Lord and serve Him with their lives. Of course I have an influence, but ultimately, the best thing I can do is pray for God’s intervention in their lives. I can’t earn His favor with my “good works.” As a matter of fact. My “good” works aren’t really that good at all.

 

God’s Word:
Isaiah 64:6b – All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.

 

Steve’s Advice:
Even the things we think are good are still polluted by sin in one way or another. Even with a subtle sinful influence, we bring impure acts to the Lord. Our “good” works are still not “holy” works. God doesn’t owe us anything. ‘Cause we can’t do enough to earn anything.

 

God’s Word:
Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

 

Famous Words:
“We cannot be so bad Christ might abandon us… because we never did anything good enough to cause Him to love us.” – Chad Poe

 

“Our huffing and puffing to impress God, our scrambling for brownie points, our thrashing about trying to fix ourselves while hiding our pettiness and wallowing in guilt are nauseating to God and are a flat out denial of the Gospel of grace.” – Brennan Manning

 

“Sin does not make us bad. It makes us dead.” – Scott Crenshaw

 

Song:
Saved by Grace – Jadon Lavik

Holy Week – Sunday – Risen – Jesus is Better

Matthew 28:1-20; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-53; John 20:1-21:25

Early Sunday morning a group of women took anointing oil to Jesus’ grave. However, what they found was not what they expected. They would not be anointing His body that day. Instead, an angel rolled away the stone entrance to the grave and told them that Jesus had risen. He said that they should go and tell the disciples. Then, Jesus appeared to them Himself and they attempted to worship, but He told them to tell the disciples to go the Galilee and meet Him there.

Jesus was alive!! He was determined to confront all His enemies that week. He came up against the Pharisees, chief priests, scribes, Samaritans, Herod, Caiaphas, and Pilate. He had been betrayed by one of His own disciples and fought against sin even so far as being separated from His Father in death, BUT Jesus was alive! What does it mean for us if Jesus can do this?!?!?! HE IS GOD!

As we look back at the week, it seems clear that all along, Jesus was walking a very intentional path. He was choosing the cross and death with each decision. Jesus never wavered. In John 10:18, Jesus says, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” It was always about His Father. He asked Him to “take this cup from me” but chose to honor His Father anyway saying, “Not my will, but yours be done.” (Matthew 26:39).  Jesus’ first allegiance was to His Father. This was His Father’s will. Jesus loved His Father so much that He was willing to give His life for Him and for us. God the Father loved us so much that He sent Jesus to be the bridge which would allow us (sinners) to be in His Holy presence. We can be in relationship with God  and are adopted into His family because Jesus’ sacrifice makes it possible. John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave….” He loved so He gave. Jesus chose to live, to do ministry and miracles, to die, and to rise again, because of His great love for His Father and His disciples.

In His resurrection, Jesus proves that He is better. He is better than all His enemies – Pharisees, Herod, Pilate, etc. He is better than the ways of life offered by the world – possessions, money, fame, glory, fun – temporary enjoyments. He is better than the sin that we so often choose. He is better than friends, and family, and popularity. He is better than having a good reputation. No matter where we find ourselves: in sorrow, in sickness, in loneliness, in victory, in joy, in comfort, in riches, in power…. Jesus is always better. Jesus is better than anything and everything. Why? Because He is beyond. He is something other. He is set apart. Jesus is Holy. Jesus is different. He is God.

He is alive! He is Risen!

Jesus is better!


Song: His Heart Beats – Andrew Peterson

Partial Lyrics:
He took one breath
And put death to death
Where is your sting, O grave?
How grave is your defeat
I know, I know His heart beats

Partial Lyrics:
In all my sorrows, Jesus is better
make my heart believe
In all my victories, Jesus is better
make my heart believe
Than any comfort, Jesus is better
make my heart believe
More than all riches, Jesus is better
make my heart believe
Our souls declaring, Jesus is better
make my heart believe
Our song eternal, Jesus is better
make my heart believe

Holy Week – Saturday – Empty

Matthew 27:62-66; Luke 23:54b

There is simply not much written about Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath day which followed Jesus’ death. It’s an empty day. The hearts of His disciples were empty too. They were hurting and mourning. They were fearful for what their own future held and overwhelmingly disappointed as their hopes and dreams had been destroyed. It appeared that Jesus had not been all that they had believed. They were wrong. he was much more than they imagined, but they didn’t see it yet. Saturday was as empty day for them. Rock bottom.

On the other hand, the chief priests were elated. They had accomplished their goal and rid themselves of Jesus. The only thing Scripture tells us about Saturday is that the chief priests went to Pilate to have him secure Jesus’ tomb. They tell Pilate that they remember Jesus saying that he would rise after 3 days  so they wanted a Roman seal and a Roman guard to make sure that the disciples didn’t steal His body and claim resurrection.

There are a few interesting points here:

1) Jesus’ disciples didn’t seem to remember His promise about rising in 3 days, but His enemies were taking his words seriously.

2) The disciples have run away and are fearful of being arrested themselves. Are the chief priests really afraid of the disciples stealing the body or are they afraid that Jesus might actually rise from the dead?

3) David Guzik (in his commentary) makes this point. The power of Jesus’ resurrection overcomes physical obstacles (the stone), human authority (Roman seal), and human strength (Roman guard). Nothing stands in God’s way.

Luke 23:54b tells us that the disciples rested on the Sabbath day. I don’t believe it would have been quite so restful inwardly, but it seems as though they continued in the patterns and rhythms of life they had developed throughout their lives.

Inner monologue: In what ways do I live as though Jesus is dead? How often do I make decisions relying upon human strength or reason rather than on the power of God? Am I broken and empty when I imagine a world without Jesus or is it business as usual? Will the patterns and rhythms of life I’m choosing now be helpful when I go through tough times?

Holy Week – Friday – Good Friday

Matthew 27:1-61; Mark 15:1-47; Luke 23:1-56; John 18:28-19:42

Good? This is the day we remember Jesus’ death on the cross. How can something so terrible be good? Well…. it was the terrible price that God paid so that we (sinners) could be in relationship with Him. We are better off and have been given forgiveness and new life as a result of His great loss. Jesus’ loss was our great gain. It wasn’t so “good” for Jesus, but it was more than “good” for us. Good Friday.

Here’s what happened:

Throughout the night on Thursday, the chief priests arrested Jesus and then rushed Him around to a few places trying to get permission to have Him killed. They see Caiaphas and then Pilate who then sent them to Herod so he wouldn’t have to deal with the situation. However, Herod didn’t have the authority to execute Jesus, so he sent him back to Pilate. In the end, Pilate reluctantly agreed to the demands of the crowd and sentenced Him to death.

The story becomes pretty gruesome at this point. Jesus is beaten with a flagrum (whip) that had shards of glass and bone at the end of several leather straps. He receives 39 lashings which would tear up His body. (often enough to kill someone or make them unconscious) They put a crown of thorns on His head and mock Him and then force Him to carry His own crossbar (easily 100 pounds) to the place of execution. Once there, spikes were driven through His hands and feet and He was hung on the cross. At that point, there was more mocking, and one of the other criminals being crucified defended Him. Jesus told him that he’d be with Him in paradise. Ultimately, Jesus died from suffocation.

A man named Joseph of Arimathea got permission to take Jesus’ body and with the help of some women who prepared spices, he buried Him in a tomb cut in stone.

As they buried Jesus’ body, the disciples and all of His followers were in disbelief. They had believed that He would be their salvation. They had believed that He would be a conquering King and would restore Israel to it’s rightful place among the nations. As Jesus breathed His last breath, their dreams died. All they had hoped for was destroyed. Their friend was gone. Their hearts were broken.

 

Great Good Friday Song: God Rested – Andrew Peterson

Legacy

Me and grandma 1983
Me and grandma 1983

My grandma died last year at the age of 97 and she never snow skiied. She traveled all over the country and did all kinds of things, but she never went on a ski trip. Well…….. maybe she did……. just last week. She was there. I saw her almost everywhere I looked. When I broke open mom’s haystack candy, I saw grandma nibbling on one of her own. When the kids had a snowball fight, I saw grandma throwing one off the deck at me accompanied by her laugh and smile which both hit me harder than her snowball. When we played board games at the table, I watched her nimble hands slide the exact card into place to win the game. One morning

There's that smile I saw last week. 1982
There’s that smile I saw last week. 1982

we had cinnamon rolls and they got burned because ovens cook differently in high altitudes, but I couldn’t help but see grandma’s cinnamon rolls sitting on that countertop. When I looked around the room at all my family, grandma’s influence was evident. She didn’t put up with arguing, and you know what? I don’t think we had any. We learned that from her. She loved spending time with family and so do all of us. She laughed often and it just hung in the room there like it was a permanent fixture.

 

 

When grandma’s estate was divided, my mom used some of her portion to take us on this trip. There were 17 of us: Mom, Me, Miranda, Kasen, Kesleigh, Roger, Kathy, Tyler, Betsy, Tucker, Tanner, Brenda, Schonn, Brianna, Ethan, Jaycee, and Tristian.

Grandma took all of us skiing…………. but we also took her. And we will take her everywhere we go.

Grandma left some things behind for us, but the most important things aren’t things at all. She left her mark on us. We have her in us. We became at least partly who she influenced us to become. Influence – that’s grandma’s greatest gift and the greatest inheritance anyone can leave for their loved ones. Love you Grandma! Miss you!

Thank you Mom for passing this precious gift along to us. Love you.

Here are a few pics. If you want more, check out facebook, shutterfly, or google+ sm - 01sm - 02IMG_1448IMG_1425 (3)

The Hardest Question

Guest Post from Miranda:

It all started with Kasen asking me, “Who is your brother mommy?”

Mommy: Well Kasen, you know my brother – it’s Uncle Jared.

Kasen: Well who’s your mommy?

Mommy: Gigi.

Kasen: Who’s your daddy?

Mommy: Papa

Kasen: Who’s daddy’s mommy?

Mommy: Grandma.

And then I saw the lightbulb and Kasen said, “Mommy, where’s daddy’s daddy?”

It wasn’t “who?” that time, which was weird. This time he asked “where?” My breath was taken away and I was thinking, “How in the world do I answer this question.” I wasn’t prepared to answer this question. So I said, “Well Kasen, daddy’s daddy was sick and he’s not living anymore.”

Kasen: But mommy, where is he?

Mommy: He’s in heaven with Jesus.

Kasen: Jesus is not in heaven.

Mommy: Well where is he Kasen?

Kasen: He’s with God.

Mommy: Well where are they?

He looked up, and said, “Up in the sky. Up in the air somewhere.”

I thought to myself, “Thank heaven we’re off of that question.” but also thanked God for the opportunity to have that conversation. I also thought, “I wish I could have met him so I would have known what to say to Kasen.”

Mommy: Jesus is also here with us, and he’s in heaven with daddy’s daddy.

Kasen: And at Gigi and Papa’s house?

Mommy: Yes.


Message from Steve: I’m so grateful to have a bride like Miranda. She’s such a great mom! Although I wish I had been there for the moment that she shared with Kasen, I think she responded perfectly. She didn’t fumble all over herself trying to come up with an answer. She was able to tell him the truth in a way that he could understand and then got a bonus opportunity to talk a little about Jesus/heaven/etc. When Miranda told me this story, it brought tears to my eyes. I hate that my children will never know my dad, but the fact they know me, means they know much of who my dad was as well. I see him in the mirror more and more as I grow older.

Jesus’ Sponge

I don’t know the historical accuracy of this and the bible doesn’t specifically say, but if this is the truth of the Scriptures, then Jesus’ love for us is even more magnificent than I ever imagined. My friend Jeff Medders showed this to me. Thanks Jeff. The pastor sharing the message is Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church in Seattle.

Added the next day:

OK – My friend Hans knows a guy who lived and taught in Israel for 10 years. In response to this video, he said that there have been no public latrines found in Israel and also made the point that Jesus was crucified outside the city. If there were public restrooms, they were probably not anywhere near Golgotha. He also did some digging and found that Driscoll’s source was a tour guide. Driscoll says, “I believe he was a professor of archaeology.” This is dangerous ground for making such claims. I’m very disappointed in Mark Driscoll. He has always been pretty strong at checking his sources. PS – Hans’ friend said he’d post a response on his website/blog sometime later this morning.

OK – here’s my 3rd (and hopefully final) addition to this post. It seems now that Hans’ friend is saying that the burden of proof falls on him and that there isn’t really enough evidence to say that Driscoll’s story is false. There have been no public toilets discovered in Israel, however, that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. It seems highly unlikely that they would have been near Golgotha, but the Roman soldiers who crucified many people there, may very well have had the same kind of toilets that they were accustomed to. He also describes an article called “The Puzzling Channels in Ancient Latrines” in the Sept/Oct 2002 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review in which Hershel Shanks suggests that the channels in latrines were used for the cleansing of sponges.  He quotes Seneca’s Moral Epistles which refers to a “stick of wood, tipped with a sponge which was devoted to the vilest uses.” I guess all this is to say, “Hey, maybe it’s possible after all.”

Dead Man’s Float

Photo Credit: Smellyknee on Flickr

dead-man
Dead Mans Float

Ever seen a movie or tv show where a drowning victim is discovered? You know that “dead man’s float?” Face down. Arms raised. Knees down. Can you picture it? That’s what Kasen (my 18-month-old son) looked like Saturday.

We were at the pool with his cousins Reid and Kallie. Kasen and Reid were playing in the kiddie pool and Reid playfully pushed Kasen. He fell in face first and did that dead man’s float. My son was facedown in the water with his arms bobbing above his head. I can still see his haor floating in the water beside his head. It couldn’t have been more than a second before Jared (Reid’s dad and Kasen’s uncle) and I were scooping him back up, but that image will be engraved in my mind forever.

After it was all over, Kasen just coughed once and wiped his face (like he does when he’s in the bathtub) like nothing had happened. He was fine, but daddy was changed. Daddy’s heart was racing. Mommy’s too. She had been sitting on the side of the pool and witnessed the whole thing too.

Anyway, all this got me to thinkin’. Kasen was clueless that his life had been threatened. (By the way, thank you God for that “hold your breath” instinct You placed in kids.) I wonder how many times I’ve been clueless to the real dangers in my life? How many times has God saved me from some unknown threat?

Prayer: Thank you God for Your protection – for the times when I don’t even realize You’ve gotten involved. For the times You’ve saved me from myself  or some other unknown danger. Thank You for Kasen and for protecting Him Saturday. Help me to be a father who will in every way possible reflect You and Your character to my children. Allow me to protect them and to recognize that it’s truly a reflection of You and Your goodness – Your power. It’s the strength that You have given to me that allows that to happen. I truly want to honor You in all that I do. Help me.

“Black Button”

Here’s a video I found today. It’s pretty good. Not very Biblical or anything, but it’ll make you think. Reminds me of “The Matrix” red pill or blue pill scene in some ways.

5 Life-Changing Experiences – Peace

Philippians 4:7 says that the peace of God transcends all understanding. I don’t understand it either, but I’ve experienced it. First of all, you should know that the Hebrew/Jewish understanding of this word “Peace” ultimately comes from their understanding of the word “Shalom.” It was a word used as a greeting, but it was so much more than “hello.” (Shout out to my “Cardinal Rise” friends – they wrote a song called “more than hello”). Anyway, “Shalom” was not just “peace.” It was all-encompassing. It was like saying “God be with you!” – May God Himself, in all His glory, shadow your every move granting you His favor and blessing throughout your life. “Peace” was huge!! It was a colossal concept of walking in the constant blessing and favor of God.

OK – on with the story. Sept 11 was normally a happy day for me. Sept 11 is my birthday!! But Sept 11, 1996 was different. (So was 2001) That day I received a call from my mom wishing me a Happy Birthday, but there was another message too. She also said that my dad had been diagnosed with leukemia. I didn’t really know what that meant, but I knew it wasn’t good. I soon discovered that it was the most aggressive type of leukemia and that dad would be going through radiation and chemotherapy. They weren’t sure how long they could deter the disease. That year was strange. I lived 5 hours away but got to see him quite a few times. He was always the same dad I had always known except he didn’t have quite as much hair. Although I know he had his down times, he had a great attitude about it around me. He even wore a baseball cap with dreadlocks hanging out when he’d go the the hospital. Mom said the nurses always laughed.

Aspen Ski Trip - Dec '96
Aspen Ski Trip - Dec '96

The doctors arranged for dad to be on an uphill swing during Christmas break so we could take a ski trip together. We had a great time – like normal – but not so normal either. There was always something sort of hanging in the air. It seemed harder to breathe during those days – not just for dad, but for all of us. In June of 1997, my sister and I were with a bunch of youth on a houseboat in the middle of Lake Texoma, when the boat rental people radioed to us with the message to call mom. Dad was on his deathbed. We immediately drove to the hospital in Ft Worth.

When we arrived, dad was on the breathing machine. He had contracted pneumonia and they couldn’t treat it because his body was so weak. They had also given him medications to paralyze him so his body wouldn’t fight the breathing machine. We wouldn’t be able to communicate. . . well. . .we could talk, but he wouldn’t be able to respond. Over the next 3-4 days (It’s a blur – I don’t know how many it actually was. Some of my facts may be wrong, but this is how I remember it.) we took turns going in and out of his room – telling him the things we should have said long before or just sitting with him in silence. I spent lots of time in the hospital chapel. There were lots of tears, little sleep, phone calls from friends, and something else. Something surprising. It was peace. What?!?!? at a time like this??? Peace? Yes. . . .peace. Peace that passes understanding. I cannot describe it. I only know I experienced it. . . . well, I experienced Him. Jesus was with us – in the midst of the tears, the sadness and grief, Jesus was present.

One of the last pics of dad. Taken on Father's Day June 20, 1997. He died about 2 weeks later.
One of the last pics of dad. Taken on Father's Day June 20, 1997. He died about 2 weeks later.

Eventually the doctors came and said the time had come to turn the machine off. It would be his one last chance to fight and breathe on his own – a chance to live. I can still picture the scene so clearly (and it’s been 12 years). I stood at his side and held his right hand. I told him that I loved him and that this world had not treated him well. (There’s another long story there.) I told him that he should go and be with Jesus ’cause this world was just not worth coming back to. I said goodbye. And. . . . something I never expected. . .dad squeezed my hand. Overpowering the paralyzing medication, he squeezed. He heard me! He knew what I had said! He loved me back! He agreed! Dad was still with us. . . . moments later . . .

Today, he is still with me. As I father my children, I do so by the examples I learned from him. As I love my bride, I do so in ways that resemble his ways. My dad was my Indian Guide leader, my little league coach, the parent who yelled the loudest at the swim meets. He took us on vacations and spent hours teaching us how to play sports, how to build things, or just simply playing with us. He loved us by being with us. I want to be that kind of dad. One who will truly invest in the lives of his family.

The words “Rest in Peace” resonate within me in new ways today. Dad has found ultimate “shalom” – I hope to follow his example. I hope to find it too.