Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Wisdom of Careful Observation

What are you pondering this week?

This Sabbath (8/17), we covered a lot of things hat Solomon hit on in his essay of Ecclesiastes. Our tendency might be to walk away and think, “Hmm. That was kind of interesting. He kind made me think. I liked our discussion.”

But if that is all you take into the week, you are missing the point. Choose one verse, one point, one proverb we discussed that you can ponder this week. Ask God to give you insight into this verse.

Then write it out somewhere you’ll see it frequently. Make a mental list of multiple ways you could apply this to your life. Send it as a text to your friend—or to yourself. Post it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or even Pinterest (#ElevationSS).

Soak deeply in the sauna of God’s Word this week with that one verse on your mind. And see if it doesn't begin to sweat out from your pores as it takes root in your heart and mind and God uses it to transform the way you live and think.

Scripture Reference: Ecclesiastes 7:1 - 11:6

Friday, May 17, 2013

Love Big

Often times I think we tend to forget just how fortunate we are to live here in America.  We get upset when traffic is backed up, when the grocery story is out of our favorite soda, when the movie is sold out, when we have to wait in line more than 15 minutes to get on a theme park ride.  But when we get sick, we can go to the drug store for medicine, we have easy access to doctors and hospitals, we have to decide what KIND of food we want for a meal, not whether we'll eat at all.  First World Problems, indeed.

Meanwhile, outside of our "bubble" there are people dealing with some really heavy, life-threatening stuff, like AIDS.  And not just one or two, but 33 million!  And you know, there is an amazing thing going on in some of their lives.  There are these caregivers....people who might be a friend, a neighbor, or even a complete stranger, who go into the homes of these sick, suffering people and take care of them.  Cleaning and bandaging their wounds, singing to them, praying with them, and just being there.  Do you remember the old phrase WWJD?  This is the answer, because this is exactly what Jesus would do.

Here's the thing, though.  These caregivers are poor too.  They don't have access to Walgreens or CVS, and even if they did they don't have the money to purchase everything they need.  No, they must rely on the kindness of strangers.  People they've never met, living on the other side of the world, who do have a little bit of extra time and money to gather the badly needed medical supplies together.  These caregivers rely....on us.

On Saturday, May 11, young adults from Elevation lead the Forest Lake Church family in an event we called "Pack the Kits."  After unloading several pallets of medical supplies on Friday afternoon, over 300 people came and put more than 750 first aid kits together.  Supplies like gauze pads, gloves, creams, soaps, ointments, even a flashlight and batteries, were packed into bright orange bags to be sent over to Swaziland, Africa (where World Vision said there was the greatest need right now).

But that's not all!  After putting a kit together, each person stopped and wrote a personal, encouraging note to the caregiver who would be receiving the little supply kit.  Prayers, blessings, and thanks for everything they are doing in Jesus' name, letting them know that people they've never met care about them.  And love them.  And appreciate them.

It's not much, giving a little extra money and a few short hours of time.  But even with just that simple gift, God takes it and uses it to touch the lives of so many people.  Why?  Because God doesn't love people just a little, God loves BIG!  Shouldn't we do the same?

Friday, March 15, 2013

What Jesus Would Do


During the discussion at Elevation a thought came to me, but it was a thought that may be a bit unorthodox.  I remember a huge craze a few years back (did I just date myself?) called WWJD—What Would Jesus Do?  Well, tonight my mind started expanding on that concept. 

Often times in the so-called “modern” church we take WWJD to a bunch of different levels.  Who Would Jesus Hang Out With?  Why Wouldn’t Jesus Do That?  Where Would Jesus Go?  We are taking a simple concept of how we should treat others and making it into a box in which we hope to figure out God.  The thing is, God is bigger than any box, and we could spend an eternity and STILL be getting to know Him better, it’s what makes Him God.

Let me give an example.  The majority of people would probably agree that Jesus would not be seen or go near a bar or night club.  I am not one of those people because I think Jesus is there in EVERY bar and EVERY night club.  I think that Jesus is the designated driver who gets all of His friends home safely.  I think that Jesus is person who carries a drunken friend to His car and sees they get home safely.  I think that Jesus is the one who gently brings water and Tylenol the next day when His friends are feeling the ill effects of the previous night’s decisions. 

Am I saying that we should go out, party, and get drunk every night because Jesus will be there anyway?  Of course not!  What I am saying is that we should look at the question: What Would Jesus Do?  Let’s look at His life here.  Did Jesus just go to the temple every Sabbath and only associate with all the perfectly holy people?  No.  Jesus did the exact opposite with that.  Look at his disciples.  There were dirty fisherman, a tax collector, and others who were considered to be the lowest rung on society’s ladder.  Jesus hung out with lepers, with Gentiles, with Samaritans, with everyone the world considered worthless and most of Jesus’ people, the Jews, would rather not be caught dead with.  Jesus went to places where it was thought that God would never go.  Why should we do any differently?

I’m not saying we should get on a soapbox and preach the gospel over the music of some popular club.  In His life, Jesus did the majority of His work by example.  He could have just come down and told us everything we needed to know, but it wouldn't have had the impact of us seeing HOW to do what was needed.  So God showed us in the example of His Son.  Let us not try to put God in a box and try to dictate where God could or could not be found.  God is so much larger than that; let us take comfort in that instead.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The World We Know

Have you ever wondered what God sees when He looks down at the world?  Speaking for myself, I don't often look at things from God's perspective, but today on my way home from work today I heard a song that really got me to thinking.

I was listening to The World I Know by Collective Soul, and I was reminded of the third temptation of Jesus.  You know the one, where Satan takes Him up to a very high point so He can see the whole world.  As the chorus came over my speakers, I wondered if maybe this is what went through Jesus' mind as He looked down over the world He had created, but who had turned its back on Him.
So I walk up on high 
And I step to the edge 
To see my world below. 
And I laugh at myself 
As the tears roll down. 
'Cause it's the world I know. 
It's the world I know.
I can imagine Jesus looking down and giving a sad laugh, remembering some of the good times with Abraham, David, and the disciples.  But with tears streaking His face because, even though those times may have been good, they were so far from the Good that He intended for us to have before....you know.  The weight of that one bad decision and all its consequences, not just for what Jesus knew He would be going through, but for what He knows every one of us goes through each day.  How His heart must have just broken!

But even out of that great sorrow, such love for us comes out!  "For God so loved the world that He gave..." (John 3:16)!  This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins (I John 4:10).

Think about it, Jesus came down to our broken, rebellious world, a world that He created with such wonderful things in mind for us.  While we were still screwed up, broken, and fallen far, far short of the standard God created for us, He came.  Because of our actions, our personal choices, we were supposed to die, forever separated from the God we told we didn't want around any more.  Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when He held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for He was looking ahead and including them in what He would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for He Himself is fair and just, and He declares sinners to be right in His sight when they believe in Jesus (Rom. 3:24-25).

When we look out there, at our lives, our world, what do we see?  Do we get angry because of the injustice?  Do we speak hateful things against our friends because we disagree with their political views?  Do we write people off because we figure they don't like us anyway?  Do we let ourselves become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of negativity and evil in the world?

Or, like Jesus, do we see hope?  Do we see love?  God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins (I John 4:9-11).

So if God loves us that much, surely we ought to love each other, right?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sabbath Harvest

This Sabbath I had the opportunity to work on an assembly line.  It was great, we had quite the rhythm going!

But wait, an assembly line on the Sabbath?  Aren't Seventh-day Adventists NOT supposed to work on the Sabbath?  That's totally in the Bible!

Okay, maybe I should explain a little bit further.  This Sabbath our church got together and packed 30,000 lunches to help feed hungry kids in our community.  With a number that high, you can see where some Henry Ford style assembly lines might come in handy!  Basically we put in some dried veggies, rice, lentils, and a pinch of salt into a bag.  The bags were sealed and put into a box, and then the boxes were loaded onto a truck that, at some point very soon, will be delivering them to a local middle school where there are quite a few underprivileged kids who might otherwise go hungry.

'Well, that's all well and good,' you may be thinking, 'but technically I think it's still working on the Sabbath.'  I had the same thought, actually.  But then I remembered a great story about Jesus that totally fit what we were doing today.  And you know, it's in THREE of the Gospels!

One day Jesus and the disciples were crossing a wheat field.  The disciples started to get a little bit munchy, so they picked some of the wheat kernels to snack on.  Well, wouldn't you know that there were some Pharisees around who demanded to know why Jesus was letting His disciples break the Sabbath law by working.

You know what Jesus did?  He immediately scolded the disciples for working on the Sabbath.  No, wait, that's not what He did at all!  Jesus reminded the Pharisees of the time King David ate the consecrated temple bread.  He also pointed out that the priests worked in the temple every Sabbath, which the scriptures said they should.

Then He summed it all up very nicely, Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!” (Mark 2:27-28).

I've heard this story so many times in my life, but it's such a short one I never really thought that much about it.  The disciples were hungry, they ate, and God is okay with that.  But this Sabbath it really hit home.  I wasn't hungry myself, but I got the opportunity to spend a little time on a Sabbath afternoon with 190 (or so) people from our church putting together lunches for kids who are hungry.

It really hit home that this is one of the things Sabbath is all about.  Sure, I go to church and spend some time in worship, but Jesus also said that the Sabbath was about helping people, just like He did.  And today I got to spend a part of my Sabbath doing just that.

What an awesome God we have, and a wonderful church who is willing to spend some time helping others...even on the Sabbath!

To get involved, visit www.feedingchildreneverywhere.com and stay tuned, because Pastor Bernie assured us that this will NOT be the last time we help feed some hungry kids!