September 28, 2009

There Is NO Substitute!

There are some things in this world for which there is just no substitute. For instance, when I was growing up and my mom would try and buy the generic version of A1 Steak Sauce and put it in a real A1 bottle. The next time we had steak, she was caught red-handed! There are also many things which have no shortcut or "easier way". Flossing your teeth, for instance. And if you think you've come up with one, I don't want to hear about it.

As we approached yesterday's message, "Jesus Is a Servant", we racked our brains trying to figure out, "Is there something today, in our culture and times, that we could do to parallel this - something more relevant to our lives now than washing other people's feet. Anything?" We brainstormed. Prayed. Brainstormed even more. I was almost injured from thinking so hard! And still, nothing. The conclusion I reached was painful but simple: there is no act of humility or service in our culture or any other that compares to washing someone else's feet. Period.

You could see many different expressions on people's faces yesterday as they entered the worship center and noticed the basins of water and fresh white towels. There wasn't much wondering what they were there for. Still, I know many were probably thinking, "Surely they won't ask us to do THAT!" And as my friend shared with our Men's Group last night, "I was shocked!"

Yesterday morning in our 2 services we decided that we were going to take Jesus seriously - that when He said, "Since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other's feet", He actually meant what He said. It was powerful and moving to see a husband wash the feet of his wife, a parent wash the feet of their child, a stranger to wash the feet of another, and friends getting on their hands and knees and humbly speaking words of encouragement to each other. This kind of radical obedience changes things. It changes people. It changes US!

There is no substitute for washing someone else's feet. There is no shortcut on this pathway of servanthood that Christ calls us to. And I know we search high and low for cheap replacements all the time - anything to avoid that kind of raw humility! But if we're going to call ourselves Christ-followers, why not simply follow Him? 

John 13:1-17
Want to hear the sermon? Check it out:

September 21, 2009

The Other Side of the Lake

There are days when I dig into scripture and come away wondering, "Is this really what the Lord wanted me to see & learn? Or am I just one of the weirdest people alive?" I am fully aware that the 2nd question is not limited to this incident, but there are times that I see things - something stands out - that I know can't be the BIG "spiritual" nugget that God had in mind. Or could it?

This morning I continued reading in Luke. I noticed in Luke 8:22 that Christ told the fellas, "Let's go to the other side of the lake". Then what followed is the "Wind and Waves" story where the sea goes nuts and Christ is asleep in the front of the boat. They wake Him up, freaking out, "We're all gonna die! Don't you give a rip!?" Jesus speaks. Everything calms. Then a little further on in Luke 8:40 - after Jesus is affectionately run off from Gerasenes for killing a whole herd of pigs - it says "On the other side of the lake...." And that's where I stopped.

"On the other side of the lake...."

Do you know how many stories about Christ start this way? Do you know that while one group of people couldn't wait for Jesus to get the heck out of their neighborhood and leave their farm animals alone, there were people on the other side of the lake who were desperately waiting for Him? A woman comes and has the faith to believe, "If I can just get my hand on Him - if I can just touch Him - I'll be healed!" A man comes believing that Christ can heal his daughter - even after she's pronounced dead! There is always someone "on the other side of the lake" - someone across town, in another city, in another country, or maybe even down the street from you - who is desperate for Jesus. You might not have met them and it may all be "old news" to you, but someone out there is hanging on to their last thread. And they don't care if pigs get run off the side of a cliff, if they have to sell their car, if they're forced to downsize their home - whatever it is, BRING IT ON - I just need God to come through for me on this one! Parents who would gladly take that illness from their child. People broken because their spouse decided, "I just don't want to do this anymore." People. Hurt, broken, fractured, desperate people.

I don't know what's going on where you are - what "wind and raging waves" may be rocking your boat - but I do know that somewhere...."on the other side of the lake"....someone feels your pain. Someone else is desperate. Someone else is waiting on Christ to finally arrive and make it all better. Maybe waiting on me & you to finally cross the street and let them know that there's a God who cares for them. After all, we are His hands & feet. And maybe He takes us through our storm so we can help them sail through theirs. 
Whatever the circumstances are for you right now - no matter what's going on in your life - remember, there's someone else "on the other side of the lake". What are you going to do about it?

Dig Deeper:
Luke 8:22-56
Romans 10:14-15

September 17, 2009


Isn't God amazing? I am constantly in awe of His handiwork - by how His power, creativity, and love of the unique are everywhere around us. And to go further, when you realize that the same God that spoke the universe into existence and knit you together in your mother's womb also loves you with an unshakeable love...that should leave you nearly breathless. From the stars to the trees to the oceans to the Psalms, His praise is resonating all around us! Now let me see if I can make you're head spin around with this next one.

Are you amazing? Have you ever left God speechless? Do you think that the Creator ever paused - stopped - and took notice of you? You might be surprised.

In Luke 7 there's a story about a high-ranking Roman officer whose slave was very sick - on the verge of death. He heard Jesus was nearby so "he sent some respected Jewish leaders to ask Jesus to come and heal his slave." Jesus is on the way there and the officer sends some friends out to tell Jesus, "Lord, I'm not worthy of such an come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed." The next part is where it gets really insanely cool!

"When Jesus heard this, He was amazed."

Jesus stops dead in His tracks and tells the crowd around Him, "I tell you, I haven't seen faith like this in all the land of Israel!" And when the officer's friends got back to his house, the slave was completely healed. 

I'm floored! This man's faith - his complete trust and belief that this man Jesus Christ was the Great Physician - his faith that the love of God is an indescribable thing - amazed Jesus. Amazing! This is what I want my life and my faith to look like. This is what I want my heart and my decisions and my character to do to my Savior. I want Him to take notice! Not so I can have a grand pat on the back or a shiny medal, but because we have to know that when we live a life like that, it's going to eradicate the darkness and reveal the love of God to those around us. It changes us! It changes others! Faith changes things!

Are you amazing? Not sure how you answer that question, but you need to know that as a follower of Jesus Christ, you can be!

September 14, 2009

Jesus Was A Man

Jesus is a man. 100% human. How does that sit with you?

Yes, He's 100% God - the "Word became flesh" - divinity clothed in humanity. But we have to come to grips with the fact that "it was necessary for Jesus to be in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful high priest before God." Jesus BECAME one of us!

As we kicked off our new sermon series "Rethinking Jesus", we asked the big question, "Why is it so uncomfortable for so many of us to grab hold of this? Why is it that we're OK with Jesus being God - being holy & perfect - Almighty King - but we just can't bear the idea of Him being ordinary?" There are probably several reasons behind this, but I think one stands out above the rest:

If Jesus was a man - if He was just like us - then He set an example that we can actually follow.

We have no problem worshiping Jesus - with revering, adoring, and loving Him for saving us - but we DO have a problem with following Him.

Check out Luke 5:1-11. Jesus gets in a boat to teach, tells the fishermen who own the boat to "go out where it's deeper and let down your nets and you will catch many fish." The fishermen responded, "We tried that all day yesterday and got nothing! But if you say so, we'll try again." You know the rest. They caught so many fish that it ripped the nets. Another boat full of guys had to go out and help them haul it all in. Amazing! But what happens next reveals our natural tendency:

"When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, "Oh Lord, please leave me - I'm too much of a sinner to be around you." Peter's natural tendency was to grovel. Then Jesus looks at him - much like the first day He had called him (see Matt. 4:18-22) - and said, "'Don't be afraid. From now on you'll be fishing for people!' And as soon as they landed, they left everything and FOLLOWED JESUS."

To be a Christian is to be a "Christ-follower".
I know it sounds ridiculously elementary, but we seem to have trouble grasping this at times: to be a "Christ-follower" means that you're FOLLOWING CHRIST. You are pursuing Him - longing to be like Him - desperately desiring to say what He would say and go where He would go. "Come and follow me." I don't know that He's really interested in us "worshiping" Him today. But He is still calling us to "follow Him". And when you follow - when you consider your obedience is much greater than your sacrifice - worship will just happen.

"Come and follow me."

Go Deeper:
Hebrews 2:16-18, 4:14-16
Matthew 4:18-22, 16:24-25
Isaiah 58

September 10, 2009

The $10 Challenge

$10 = lunch @ ATL Bread Co. or 2 visits to Starbucks.

$10 x 200 = $2000
$2000 = Clean water for 2 villages in Africa (or) the funds to train, equip & encourage 100 leaders in your church (or) groceries for 10-15 families in need.

It's time to take The $10 Challenge!
We're asking everyone at The Brook to prayerfully consider giving $10 more a week than they do right now. We wonder, "What good can MY $10 do in the grand scheme of things?" Honestly, I'm not sure. But when many of us make the determination that Kingdom-sized things are going to take priority over a turkey bacon club or 2 Venti Caramel Lattes (I know...don't mess with your Starbucks!) the Lord can take that money and multiply it beyond our comprehension. He's into doing things like that, you know. Like bread & fish. Remember that story?

Maybe you don't go to The Brook. Who cares?! Take this challenge to your friends in your church in your city. I don't know, maybe you're loaded. Go crazy. Make it $20! Just don't start running through the house with a pair of scissors!

Will you join us in stepping out in faith?
Will you sacrifice a couple of trips to Sonic?

Now's the time. Now's your chance.
Just see what God will do. I dare you!
Take The $10 Challenge!

September 5, 2009

I Don't Mean To Be Ugly, But...

I have an awesome neighbor. I'm pretty sure he has every tool known to mankind - most of which I have no idea how to use. And he'll let you borrow any of them, anytime, for any reason. He's also been mowing our other neighbor's lawn for the last month as they've been overwhelmed with a family member battling cancer. And did I mention that he's at least 70. At least!

One thing I've noticed though, when I'm having conversations with him, is this one particular thing he likes to say. It typically precedes some sort of criticism or cheap shot aimed elsewhere. It goes something like this: "I don't mean to be ugly, but...." After I heard this a few times I started wondering, "But what?" It's become apparent to me that when I have to begin my next statement with a disclaimer, there's a chance I should probably just keep it to myself. If what I have to say is constructive, encouraging, beneficial to the ears (and hearts) of those who will hear it, it probably doesn't need verbal justification before it exits my mouth.

Proverbs 16:2 tells us that we "may be pure in our own eyes, but the Lord examines our motives." And in verse 13 Solomon goes on to tell us that the king "loves those who speak honestly". We can give all the disclaimers we want, but the reality is that the Lord is seeing through all our smokescreens! He knows our motive, our intent, and our heart. And He never desires for our words to become weapons. Not even subversive, tongue-in-cheek weapons.

As a Christ-follower I have this growing desire to know that my motives and my intent are pure - not just "in my own eyes", but as the Lord is examining my heart. I believe this will typically mean that if "I don't mean to be ugly", then I'll probably be better off just keeping my big pie-hole shut to begin with. Save the oxygen. Examine the motive. Think before speaking! It's a novel idea, I know. And thankfully, there's a much better alternative:

"A person's words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook." Proverbs 18:4

September 4, 2009

This All Happened On Friday...

"This all happened on Friday.... Joseph from Arimathea, who was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come, gathered his courage and went to Pilate to ask for Jesus' body. Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth, and taking Jesus' body down from the Cross, he wrapped it in the cloth and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus' body was laid." (Mark 15:42-47)

There is not much known about Joseph from Arimathea other than that he was a member of the high council - the zealous religious law-abiding army that contemptuously debated Christ and later persecuted His followers - and that he was a rebel. Yes, a rebel. There was a quiet burning rebellion going on in the heart of this man. And while Christ's life was not enough to unleash this fire, and His words were not enough to set it off, it was His death that finally grabbed a sword and drove it through the heart of this man. Joseph's life was changed by Christ's death. [Read that again and let it soak in.]

It's also interesting that when you read this account in John 19:38-42, you find that Joseph is being aided by another man named Nicodemus. The same teacher of religious law - member of the high council - who had come to Jesus under the cover and darkness of night to ask, "Are you really the One?" We have no evidence that Nicodemus left that night decidedly moved, shaken, and determined to follow Jesus. There is nothing that gives us any idea that he joined the crowd of followers and began to hang on every word that Christ said. But what we do know is that Nicodemus' life was changed by Christ's death.

The humble, brutal, sacrificial death of the Messiah unleashed the inferno within them that said, "Enough is enough! I will no longer stand in the shadows and pretend that my heart has not been ravaged." Reputation no longer an issue. Social status among their religious counterparts no longer a care. Death brought life. And when someone finds life - realizing they didn't deserve it or earn it - they are changed.

My life was changed by Christ's death.
It still is. Every day.
Is yours?

"This all happened on Friday...."

September 2, 2009

Crowd Pleaser?

Mark 15 wrecks me every time I read it. I don't know that you can be a follower of Christ and escape that. The pain He endured - the humiliation He suffered - the patience He exercised in not coming down from the Cross and silencing the mockers there & then. I seriously think there are days that we completely forget that this story - HIS story - is everything. EVERYTHING! If we leave this out - if we forget that it all begins there - what are we left with?

Jesus paid it all.

This morning as I was reading this story I was especially distracted by Pilate. This guy really had no idea what hit him. To say he was unprepared for this moment is an understatement. When the crowd begins shouting for Pilate to "Crucify him", giving their specific demand of what can be done with Jesus, his first response to them is "Why?". He even begs the mob to explain, "What crime has he committed?" But then - after one more angry wave and chorus of shouting rushed over him - Pilate became "anxious to please the crowd". And that's where I had to stop.

"...anxious to please the crowd."

We hate Pilate! We loathe him. We call him a coward and a spineless poser. But I guess I wonder, if I am ever deterred or phased or motivated by what others think - if I ever become "anxious to please the crowd" - how am I different from Pilate? And to go a step further we have to keep in mind, Pilate didn't know Christ. He had no idea that the Magnificent One, the King of ALL Kings, was standing next to him. He had never been asked or answered the question, "Who do you say that I am?" as Peter had. As James and John had. As I have.

Have you answered that question? Jesus asks the most important question in the history of the world: "Who do you say that I am?" Have you answered?

My answer is Peter's answer: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And if this is my answer - if this is your answer - may we never be found "anxious to please the crowd"! The only affirmation, attention, or applause we should ever be living for is from the One who has given us true life and set us free. May we be anxious to please Him!

Or Christ-follower.