I once bought a pair of jeans on eBay that turned out to be a counterfeit–and a lousy one at that! (They didn’t even have a slit for the button to go through.) I thought of them while studying this week. I just preached on the Antichrist from Revelation 13. I’ve never done a whole message on him before. As you may know, anti means,” opposed to,” but also means, “instead of.” So he is against and trying to replace Jesus. What occurred to me was just how much the “opposition” aspect is his attempt to bring about the “instead of” phase. His, and satans, end-game is to replace The Father and the Son and to be worshipped. Anyone who won’t worship him will be killed. But this is a perversion of the real Jesus, who said, if you won’t believe in Me, you are already condemned. Tragically those who worship the “bad eBay Jesus” and get to live are eternally dead. In contrast to that those who remain loyal to the real Jesus, now and then, though they die-yet they have eternal life. It was a radical study. Two more services in the morning, stoked to see what God will do, one lady made a commitment to Christ!
The camera died before the fun did, but I really love the awesome and dedicated group of guys I get to serve alongside here at fresh life. David had mighty men that God called to fight with him and that’s how I feel about the pastoral staff at this church. They are all very unique and different in their passions, temperaments and gifts. As a group we definitely prove the truth of 1 Corinthians 1:27: “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;” In that we are all probably a little A.D.D. and potentially insane. But it is very inspiring and thrilling to spend time with them, pray together, and brainstorm about how we can creatively accomplish what God has called us to in these last days we are living in.
I realized this morning that it was one year ago today that I broke my leg. It is by far the gnarliest thing I have ever been through, but God was there in the midst of great pain. I have been looking forward to this mile-marker because my surgeon told me that it takes 365 days for a femur to fully heal. woo-hoo! And I am very stoked that I don’t have a limp anymore either (or as my physical therapist called it, a hitch in my giddyup.)
I just got back from a quick trip to Orange County, California for the launch of a very exciting Bible study. Greg Laurie, who preaches at the Harvest Crusades and pastors a church in Riverside, California began a new Thursday night outreach and I was thrilled to be there for day one. (Grabbing lunch at In-N-Out wasn’t exactly torture either.) Even though it was the first night, the place was packed and there was a total buzz and energy to the crowd, you could tell that people were amped about it. After a great time of worship, Greg gave a solid message on who God is, and invited people to give their lives to Him. 120 people of all ages responded leaving their seats and streaming forward, indicating repent from their sins and turn to Christ. Talk about a great start! You can read more about it on Greg’s blog. Having lived there, I still have a heart for Orange County and am so stoked about what God is going to do through this new venture. Keep it in prayer. It was also refreshing to go to church and be on the other side of the pulpit for a change. If you live in Southern California make sure to make it out on thursday nights. Info here.
By the way, I did see the irony in the fact that the one year anniversary of my injury was on Friday the thirteenth and that I happened to be hanging out with Greg who was with me when I broke my leg–not that I am superstitious or anything–it was, however, a funny coincidence.
I am very stoked for church this weekend at fresh life–Revelation 12 is crazy–I was studying it on the plane today and the dude next to me seemed a little freaked out when he saw I was reading out of the book of Revelation. (His eyes got big) Later in the flight he asked me about it, which ended up leading to a really rad conversation about Jesus and end times and life and death. Since he lived in SoCal I told him about the new study and he said he was going to go check it out. Neat. My message this weekend is called The Underworld and the chapter gives a behind the scenes look at Satan and his whole kingdom. (*Spoiler Alert–he is going down!)
I preached on the two witnesses in Revelation 11 this weekend. It is one of the wildest passages I have ever taught. Just imagining two dudes who can spit flames, turn water into blood and call down plagues at will is crazy to think about. If you missed it here is a clip of what I said I would do with those kind of skills. In addition to their pyrotechnics they will also be preaching the gospel and pleading with people to repent of their sins and be saved. At the end of their 3.5 years on the earth they will be murdered, lay dead in the street for 3.5 days and then with the whole world watching they will rise from the dead and ascend to heaven.
One thing that struck me was how their story is a microcosm of the believers life. They had a limited time on the earth, lived differently than the rest of the world, spent their time focused on witnessing and at God’s appointed time they died but death was not the end. We can find a parallel’s on every level for our lives–ok, you might not be able to call down fire from heaven. But the rest works–you have a brief time on this earth and the goal is to minister to everyone God gives you the chance to. Just like the two witnesses were willing to confront the culture, and challenge the status quo for us, fitting in” shouldn’t be priority number one. Paul said in Romans 12 to not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. We should also be comforted by the fact that God knows the day of our death, it is precious to Him, because we will be with Him face to face. Nothing can happen to us before God is ready to bring us home.
I’d say the biggest difference is that they knew exactly how long they had on the earth–and we don’t. I was looking at the different applications for the iPod Touch and iPhone in iTunes the other day and was surprised to see in the top 25 most popular apps one called iDie. I looked at it and saw that it counts down how much time you have left if you make it to the national life expectancy rates, which for men is 76 and women is 80, in this country. Interesting. I downloaded it and punched in my gender and birthday–and it told me that my life is 35 percent over and I have somewhere over 18,000 days to live. Which immediately seemed like a very small amount of time. I thought, geez–I don’t have a second to waste! The app has a disclaimer in the instructions that says, “Results may vary.” I saw that and it struck me, as short as it seems, this is best case scenario. I may not have 65 percent of my life left to live, I may not have 6 percent. Besides the many different ways we could die before reaching old age, we also can’t rule out the possibility that we might be living in the last days and years before Christ returns. I read in the news that in Washington State anyone who has been told they have less than 6 months to live can request a lethal prescription from their physician so they can put an end to their life. But the reality is that any one of us may have that short of time in front of us, we are all “terminal” after-all. And as long as we have breath in our lungs–it’s not time to give up, but to press on.
All of this shouldn’t freak us out–but it should give us perspective. Look up 2 Peter 3:11 and see what outlook you should have on however many days God gives you on the earth and pray that God helps you live them powerfully. We should live out every day as though it were our last, looking to the finish line, not giving up. Lookup 2 Timothy 4:6-8 and live today so that if it were your last day on the earth you would be able to say what Paul did at the end of his life.
This Sunday in Revelation 10, we saw that John was instructed to eat a little book that a big angel was holding. He didn’t object but ate it, without even asking for a little tabasco to give it some flavor! When he ate it, he found that it was sweet in his mouth but became bitter in his stomach. The meaning of this was that what the promises of Revelation are sweet to the believer when we think of the promise of heaven, the end of sin, evil, pain and being reunited with believers who have died before us. But it is also bitter to think of what’s in store for all those we know and encounter who reject Christ, what is coming for all those who think they are christians because they are religious but are not true followers of Christ. That should cause our stomachs to turn but it should also affect the way we talk to singles who jump with us on the chairlift, people we are in line with at the grocery store and those who wait on us at restaurants. If the reality of their soul potentially remaining lost forever truly sinks in, we won’t be able to stay silent!
We also spent some time discussing the fact that all of God’s word has a bitter/sweetness to it. It’s not a book full of feel good messages and happy thoughts. When our life doesn’t line up with it we can be crushed by conviction, and shouldn’t feel happy about a particular teaching until we give in to the Holy Spirit cutting us to the quick. But we need these parts of it as much or maybe more than we do the ultra comforting passages that are highlighted in most of our Bibles. Here is a clip about our need for every kind of teaching contained in God’s Word, the bitter, the sweet, the salty, and the sour. It’s all good.
Mark 6:31 Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. Long before Norah Jones sang those words, Jesus invited His disciples to come away with Him and take a break. We all need times of retreat. The Christian life is a battlefield and little pockets of rest and recharging are vital. That is also the vision Billy Graham had in mind when he built The Cove in North Carolina. A place for believers to listen to great Bible studies and to rest and chill out for a little while.
There are tons of different speakers and seminars scheduled through out the year, and you can get more info at thecove.org. This fall I will be joining Greg Laurie, Skip Heitzig, and Pedro Garcia at the Cove for a three day conference focusing on the second coming of Jesus Christ. Here is the link to it if you want more info. I would love to see you there.
But you know, even when our schedules keep us from getting away (in that story from Mark 6 I quoted above, the crowds interfered with the getaway that Jesus was planning and they had to take a rain check) we can daily find time to rest and be restored with Christ in our devotions and being constantly aware of His presence. Those are like taking a microvacation. And the best part is they are free and you can take them anytime you want! Plan one today.
I got an email from someone a while back saying that since coming to our services she has become“addicted to the Bible.” I love it. But I needed to clear up something she said about the sermons at fresh life and I have been sleeping like a baby since getting this off my chest.
In all seriousness–I take such great comfort in the fact that God’s Word is living and that’s where the power of preaching is–not in funny stories, or cultural comparisons. Illustrations can help connect dots and bridge time gaps, giving a current expression to timeless truths. But the real power of preaching is God’s Holy Spirit breathing life into His Word so that it cuts hearts to the quick. Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.
I was raised in a Christian home and was (thankfully) not allowed to watch scary movies. But every once in a while I would spend the night at a friends house where media restrictions were lax and would catch enough of a horror flick to haunt my dreams for a few weeks. Looking back, what I considered frightening then is pretty tame compared to what Hollywood dishes up these days. But to tell you the truth, there are events described in the Scripture that are more horrible, shocking and gory than Freddy, Jason or Chucky put together. This weekend I will be teaching Revelation chapter 9 and it is truly a frightening part of the book as God is pouring out judgment against sin, we will literally see all hell break loose. It’s like Friday the Thirteenth on steroids! The good news is that if you are friends of Jesus this is not going to be apart of your future. God promises that born again Christians are not appointed to wrath, but to salvation. The bad news is that everyone we know who rejects the gospel will experience God’s wrath–and they are currently under it already. This knowledge should give us a sense of urgency as we try to reach out to those around us.
I am back in Montana after an awesome weekend of ministry in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I taught at Calvary of Albuquerque, a church pastored by my good friend, Skip Heitzig. It is always a fun homecoming to return to the “Land of Enchantment.” I lived in Albuquerque for 10 years and served as youth pastor at Calvary. I taught a message called A river runs through you from John 7. It was a message challenging believers not to stop coming to Christ for living water once they are saved but to continue to return for refills. Of course the appeal went out to those who have never had the deep thirst of their souls met, and at every service except for the 8am (that’s a little early for evangelism jk) there were people who made decisions for Christ–one of the assistant pastors told me over 40 in all received followup counseling! Here is a picture of the people who responded to the invitation at the Saturday night service. You can watch the archived service at calvaryabq.org if you want. While I was there I made sure to eat plenty of green chile and got to spend time with my family members that live there.
An evening with Jim Caviezel
Sunday night Calvary had a special event that was kind of like a church edition of inside the actors studio. Jim Caviezel, who portrayed Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, was there being interviewed and talking about what it was like making the movie and what it has done to his life and career. My dad, who is the creative pastor at the church, did a great job interviewing him and they showed different clips and heard first hand from Jim what went on behind the scenes. (Like the time that he was hit by lighting during the sermon on the mount scene, or when he was accidentally hit by the whip or what it was like hanging on the cross.) Amazing. I had a chance to sit down with him before and chat about what is going on in his life and tell him what an impact the film made on my life. He is a supremely cool guy. Ultra down to earth and very interesting and passionate (no pun intended.) I also told him that The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my favorite movies as well. At one point in the evening he assumed the voice of his character from the movie, Edmond Dontes, and said, “You know, I still am the count of Monte Cristo…”–it was hilarious. The one thing he said during the evening that really hit me when we were talking about the huge success of the movie was this, “Making this movie wasn’t a career building move–in fact it was more like a career destroying move, but I didn’t do it for me I did it for God.” Killer to see faith like that, keep him in your prayers as he seeks to be used by God.