In > With

One of my favorite verses in the bible is Psalm 73:23

“Yet I am always with you;

you hold me by my right hand.”

It’s a great verse to send to someone who is hurting or praying or hoping…

It’s a great mental image: God holding my hand. The Creator & Sustainer of the Universe… holding my hand. God is with me.

That’s a nice place to be.

What’s better than that?!

Good question.

IN. In is better.

Colossians 1:27 says that Christ is IN me. Not just WITH me.

Ephesians 1 says that the Holy Spirit is attached/connected/woven into my very soul (1:13-14). The letter goes on and reminds us that we now have within us the same exact power that raised Jesus from the grave (1:19-20)!

It’s almost hard to believe! It’s almost too good to be true… maybe it seems that way because I haven’t fully tapped into IN.

The same power that raised Jesus from the grave is IN me. Not just WITH me. IN.

I’m into IN. I like IN.

I need IN.

WITH was great, and in some sense it’s still true, but…

IN is better.

IN > with

God Hates Liars

My wife and I were sitting in the waiting room at her doctor’s office last week. We only had a few minutes to wait until they called Lindsay back for her 21-week ultrasound.

There was a woman sitting across the room from us along with 4 small children, 2 boys and 2 girls. She looked absolutely miserable as she sat slumped in her chair. The kids were surprisingly well-behaved, especially considering how boring waiting rooms are (even for 33-year-old husbands).

The youngest girl stood up from her chair and waddled over to the magazine rack. Her jacket was so puffy that she could barely reach out her arms to take one of the magazines.

She looked like she might be 3 years old…

She was the cutest little thing.

She stood quietly by the magazine rack and studied the cover of the magazine she had chosen.

Sit down” said the woman in a commanding, angry voice.

The young girl said something under her breath, still looking at her magazine, as the woman stood up, walked over and spanked her in the middle of the room.

My wife Lindsay and I looked at each other, both pretty surprised by the spanking. It didn’t seem necessary at all.

The little girl walked over to her chair, crying now, but still looking at her magazine. She had taken a sharp smack in the tush, but she was still infatuated with the cover. She sat there, quietly crying.

Stop crying… you baby” the woman said.

I thought to myself, “She IS a baby!”.

Stop crying…

Stop crying you baby…

And then she said it, slowly and intentionally:

Stop crying, you ugly baby… Ugly baby. You are ugly, baby. You are not pretty, you are an ugly baby.

Now, if you know me or Lindsay at all, you know exactly how we felt at this moment. It didn’t help that she kept going…

Ugly.

Fea

Ugly baby.

Fea…

Fea…

She just kept saying that to this little girl…

Lindsay stood up and walked out of the room instead of throwing her chair at the woman.

Right then the other little girl spoke up. She was about 5 years old.

She looked at the woman and said, “You’re going to get in trouble”.

She explained, “When my mom comes out here and she hears that you called her ugly, you are going to get in trouble. You called her ugly and stupid and you’re going to get in trouble.”

Now I see that this woman is the girls’ aunt, and that their mother is in with the doctor.

The woman replies, “I didn’t say she was stupid. I never said that. YOU ARE A LIAR. YOU ARE A LIAR… AND GOD HATES LIARS. THE DEVIL IS GOING TO GET YOU BECAUSE GOD HATES LIARS.

I was waiting for my moment to say something, and this felt like a pretty clear invitation to join the conversation.

From across the room I say, “I think you are wrong. Actually, I’m a pastor and I know you are completely wrong! Little girl, you are not ugly, you are very pretty. Do you hear me? You are very pretty. You are muy bonita, very pretty! What she is saying about you is not true. And God does not hate you. He loves you! God loves liars, that’s why we shouldn’t lie, because He loves us so much.

And then my anger got the best of me and I shouted asked her “WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT TO HER?!

She rolled her eyes at me…

Don’t roll your eyes at me! Why would you say that to her?! Do you actually think that’s going to help? Do you think you can make her behave by calling her ugly?!

I was just kidding. That’s how we joke with each other…” she says.

She doesn’t know that you’re kidding! She won’t even be able to comprehend sarcasm until she’s 12 or 13 years old!! Don’t you understand how damaging that can be for her to hear at this age?

I told the little girls that I was so sorry that they had heard those things, and then I walked out of the room angrily…

I see my wife in the back room sobbing. The nurses had been watching our exchange through the window, but Lindsay hadn’t seen or heard anyhing I had said to her. I sat back there for 5 minutes with them, and then went back out to the waiting room.

Instead of sitting across the room from them, I walked over to their side of the room and sat in the row facing the woman, just a few feet away.

I apologized for getting angry with her, and then went on to explain to her how much power her words have in the life of those kids. I asked her if she had ever been on the receiving end of those kinds of words… and her entire posture changed. She told me about how she grew up in a broken home with no father and with a verbally abusive mother. She eventually shared with me that she is homeless, and that her and her young son were living with their sister.

Then it all made sense. Hurt people hurt people.

Then I just went for it…

The other reason I just had to say something is that you were completely wrong about God. Do you know that God loves you? He loves all of us, even when we’re at our very worst, even when we don’t feel like we deserve it, even when we say and do horrible ugly things.

She had no idea.

I shared the good news of God’s love with her, with the kids sitting there listening, and then I gave them my contact information and told them that I would love for them to come to my church. She thanked me and smiled with a genuine smile.

I’m hoping and praying that God will use that conversation to bring her and those kids into a relationship with Him, and a clear understanding of the good news that brings great joy for all people- the life, death and resurrection of Christ!

The Whole Gospel

I believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins.

I believe that we are saved by grace through faith.

I believe in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.

But… that’s not the WHOLE gospel. It’s the best part, but it’s not the whole thing.

The whole gospel is that God cares about the whole person. I’m pretty sure Rick McKinley was the first person I heard say it that way. Or it might have been one of the 2,103 verses in the bible that talk about the poor (financially), the oppressed, and the marginalized.

God cares that people don’t have clean, safe drinking water, about people who go hungry, about people who are homeless. He also cares that their souls are broken and thirsty, and in need of healing that I believe can only be found in Him. To be a pastor, you should probably care about both of those things too.

If I had to pick one of those two things as a priority, I’d pick the soul because it lasts forever. But, here’s my beef with that cropped gospel:

People need to live long enough to actually hear that part of the gospel.

It doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can care about, and address both needs.

I write this because twice this week I’ve been questioned about the gospel by two pastors who used to know me pretty well. They asked if I prioritize the gospel enough.

Yes.

I know that Jesus offers “living water”, but you’ll never swim in that lake if you’re a 5-year-old, malnourished African boy who drinks dirty water every day and suffers from dysentery. If you show up in that kid’s community with a tract about 4 steps and a cute bridge, they’re gonna say YES to your gospel (because they’re polite). But what they really need is a holistic, comprehensive plan for restoration. Not a ticket to heaven. Jesus offers both.

A “gospel” that doesn’t care about physical needs isn’t good news at all.

Luke 15

I am teaching in our main service at Mission for the first time this weekend. Ironically enough, I’m teaching on the passage that I taught on during my interview weekend at Calvary. Mark and I were talking last month about what message would be a great fit for this weekend (which is a baptism service), and he picked this passage. I couldn’t be more excited! We’ll be wrapping up each of the services with a whole bunch of baptisms that will take place during the final songs. Our worship pastor C.J Bergmen has some amazing songs picked out to complement the message and the baptisms.

I’m sure that most of the people who come this weekend will have heard the story of the Prodigal Son. Maybe all of them. Maybe they’ve heard about the wandering sheep or the lost coin. But this is one of those stories that should never get old. I love what Tim Keller says in “The Prodigal God” about familiar stories like this one:

“One of the signs that you may not grasp the unique, radical nature of the gospel is that you are certain that you do.”

Dallas Willard put it another way in The Divine Conspiracy:

“Presumed familiarity breeds unfamiliarity.”

Just when we think we “get it”, God peels back another layer of this beautiful gospel.

It really is good news… no matter how badly it gets misrepresented by picketers and “pastors” from Tempe.

I’m grateful to be in a place where they trust me to teach from the main stage. Mark has me scheduled to teach once a month for the next 5 or 6 months… but I think he wrote it in pencil HAHA! I’ll try not to be horrible. It’s really hard to mess up Luke 15, but I’ve seen it done.

I will be including some childish (moderately inappropriate) humor in my sermon though, just to maintain my youth pastor’ness. Stay tuned 🙂