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Church All God

Identity

I can be such an idiot sometimes. I feel like I have to re-learn the same lessons over and over. Maybe that’s you too, because the more I grow older the more I see all people needing reminded far more than we need educated.

I used to work at a computer store in the bay area. I prided myself on being a part of a small and ultra specialized group of people that lived on the cutting edge of computer hardware and software. It was the early 2000’s and to live in the bay area in that time and place was to be a part of the movement- it wasn’t just a job, we really felt like we were leading the charge in changing the world. From old and busted to new and online was everything! We were cord cutting before it was cool, streaming before there were hulu and netflix. We were living the digital lifestyle before iphones were a dream. And it wasn’t just about stuff but about change. We wanted to see the world more connected, more informed. We knew that if we could get the internet in every pocket nothing would ever be the same.

So obviously, if this was my mindset, I didn’t just sell phones, I didn’t just sell computers- I knew this wasn’t a job, it’s who I was. It was at the very core of my being. Sure I was also a christian, a husband, a person, but all of those were just side descriptors to my life.

That’s why when I got arrested for stealing computer parts, I didn’t even consider it out of character. If you believed in the ideas truly that information should be free, and that objects are just the ramifications of ideas in the real world, it wasn’t self contradictory to steal computer parts for my own use, but it was rather the logical outflowing of my identity. Because how could I do that all on old tech?

I spent my time in jail pondering WHO I was far more than what I’d done. I recall that at one point one of my lawyers asked “why’d you do it? You made enough money you could have bought it all anyway?” And I really didn’t even have an answer. It’d never crossed my mind.

It took some time, but I came to the conclusion that my view of who I was turned out to be mistaken. I wasn’t a revolutionary changing the world. I was a guy who looked in the mirror and didn’t see reality. I thought I was a part of some cause, but instead I was a person who just used things others believed in genuinely so that I could justify doing whatever my selfish heart wanted in the first place. I genuinely did believe in that cause, but any cause was secondary to using that cause to satisfy my selfish desires.

I had to come face to face with my real identity – who I am. I’m not just a computer guy, I’m a child of Jesus, adopted into his family, and loved by him before the world began. I’m a selfish person, struggling to subjugate my whims to the commands of my king. WHO I AM is not a computer store manager, it’s a child of the King.

Now here I am, 15 years later, and I work at a church. Talk about causes I believe in! I know, I believe, and I am all-in for the knowledge that Jesus is who he claimed to be- the way, the truth, the life. I’m banking on Him and Him alone for any chance I’ve got- not just in this life but in the next.

But I am also still an incredibly selfish person. I’m still tempted to make a cause my identity rather than facing who I really am. I can start thinking I’m doing pretty swell, because I can check of the christiany type items we’re supposed to aim for. I’m talking about God constantly with others, I read and reference the bible often with others. But when no one is looking, when it’s the silence at the end of the day, and when judged by my inner monologue, how all-in am I?

I think I’m becoming less selfish, but I sit on the edge of a cliff in needing to be validated by others. I’m so insecure that the affirmations of others count far more for me than they aught to.

I’m working a job I truly love again for the first time since the computer company. One that I can be proud of, believe in not just what I’m doing, but the goals and aspirations of the organization. But I find myself thinking that’s WHO I AM. I’m Jim, the church IT guy. The online ministry guy. I know the right answers to say that it’s not my identity, it’s not who I am. But to say it, and to dwell in that truth are two completely different things.

I preach to my small group guys in high school that your job isn’t what defines you, that your chosen political party can’t define you. But I define myself by what I am or am not just as much as aim for them not to.

This week I’ve had meetings with my SCUBA shop team, and my Church Team, and in both I find they think they need me far more than they actually need me. I could stop doing what I’m doing and things would be fine. They don’t need me, for sure not in the long term.

So here I am, judging myself by my work, by what I do for dollars. Knowing at the same time, that what I’m doing could be replaced easily. Falling into the same trap as before, but with a new label, and better motives.

I need reminded, hopefully not through radical circumstances this time, that God is the core of who I am made to be. Not my job, not the list of tasks I accomplish, not how many people are fond of what I do. God. God is enough. Not me, not what He has me do. Just Him. That is enough.

God would you help me in this season, to remember well what you have shown me, what you have taught me. Would I love others so well, that my daily shrinking or expanding role or paycheck or respect should play no part in my contentment, because I should never have been content because of those things to start with. I should be content in the best and worst of days because of YOU and you alone. That you love me, and that you chose me. Would that be enough, always that and only that.

Amen

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Church All God

The worst Dream…

Man, I just woke up from the worst dream. I felt like it lasted years, and like most events, it’s not even believable, and sounds so zany and stupid when I say it out loud.

In it, America elected a reality TV star as president. They were all so mad a black guy had been president that they elected Donald Trump- a guy with a laundry list of sexual assaults under his belt, and zero presidential qualifications. Now I know this part sounds even dumber, but it wasn’t democrats…. This supposedly ultra wealthy new york elitist ran as a republican man of the people, and they bought it.

That part was dumb enough, but it really was less about who was president but what happened while he was-

I found out many of my friends, family and loved ones were either racist, or OK with racism.

I found out many of my friends, family and loved ones were either sexist, or OK with sexism.

I found out many of my friends, family and loved ones didn’t mean any of the attacks they used against Obama, if it was applied to a white guy.

I found out many of my friends, family and loved ones were so logically inconsistent that the only explanation the world could use was “cult-like behavior.”

I found out many of my friends, family and loved ones bought into conspiracy theories and bullcrap without a moments hesitation.

I found out many of my friends, family and loved ones who weren’t among those who accepted all this crap rejected Christianity in waves- not wanting to be a part of a religion that increasingly seems to hate everything and everyone.

I shook my head in rage and anger and sadness because I couldn’t fault them for wanting nothing to do with Jesus, if the representation of Him by churches was at all correct. Mainstream beloved Christian leaders telling women to “go home and shut up.” Local Christian friends posting online that black people were inherintly more violent and thus brute force from cops wasn’t disproportional, but proper for dealing with “animals of a more base nature.” (I wish I was making this up).

By the end, it just kept getting more and more zany- Los Angeles was lifting smog creation measures so crematoriums could run round the clock- the backload of bodies from a global pandemic mismanaged was literally blotting out the sky.

Pro-Trump mobs rejected the fact that their president had never polled over 50% in any time in his presidency, and lost the election- and they started an armed rebellion against the govt, even invading the capitol building with guns, and with makeshift gallows set up on the front lawn.

Really, as I sit here, I meant to write a something funny about these last four years, put a satire spin on it. But really, I’m spent. I still love Jesus, with all I am. The savior represented on the pages of scripture is my hope, my only hope. But I genuinely feel like increasingly, churches have no part in that person. We twist His words to serve our agenda, use a God who commanded love as a requirement as justification for hatred and evil. Truly, my faith is stronger than it’s ever been and I’m more sure than ever that Jesus is the only way. But my belief that churches are a necessary evil is largely clouded by now thinking they may be just evil. Our part in these last 4 years hasn’t been ignorant, but willful. Joyful, and proud of our “accomplishment”

What the American church needs now is wholesale repentance. Masses of people falling on our face, apologizing to God and the people around us for calling one guy an antichrist because we disagreed with him, but when a man comes along who stands against all that Jesus stood for-

saying he never repented for anything because he’s never been wrong on anything.

Making fun of the handicapped

Making fun of the poor

Insulting the weak

Insulting the foreigner

Insulting women

Insulting his enemies

and so many more, it drives me to sadness.

When that guy came along, we bowed the knee, we swore allegiance, and we supported that cause.

I spent 8 years hearing Christians say Obama wasn’t “presidential” without quite being able to put their finger on it. Then God used Trump to strip away every quality they claimed to hate, and leave the only “bad” thing that Trump wasn’t that Obama was, was black.

Jesus I’m sorry. I’ve helped and propagated systems of hate. I’ve allowed or encouraged people in my life to feel safe or comfortable in evil. I’ve failed to lead well. A real spiritual leader would have been able to convey to my friends, family and loved ones that YOU and only YOU are the one to put our hope and trust in. Real leader would have more emphatically stood against hatred. Would have called out the evil being called good in our midst. Instead I have kept my head down to whatever extent I think I am capable. I have been respectful, and shown deference and honor where it was not due. God, forgive me. God, forgive us. We have decades of effort to regain ground ahead of us, if we ever want the world again to believe a word we say about you.

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Church God

The unknown

I watched last week as Rudy Golbert of the NBA made fun of the Covid19/Coronavirus and played bongos on each of the microphones in front of him to demonstrate how unafraid he was of the next big threat.

Then one day later, the NBA was shutting down for the first time ever over health reasons. As I started to laugh at what a moron he was, I recognized, “That’s exactly what I would do!”

That same Wednesday, we were talking amongst the staff about how there were elevated worries, and we’d call that level one. Maybe possibly over the next month it might move to level 2- where they in any way restrict travel or groups, shut down big events. Level three would be home lockdown. We all kind of chuckled at John wanting to develop a plan for such an unlikely reality (or maybe just I did) but we humored him and did it, thinking wed file it away with overhyped plans for actualizing issues.

But then by that night the whole world screeched to a halt, and now, just a week and half later, we’re moved to online only services, with home lockdown seeming to be imminent Monday.

If not for finances, I’d chalk it up to hard times and a joy to serve Jesus in the midst of a new and crazy time.

But instead, I am brought back down to a worldly reality that our church just was riding out from the storm of the last couple years, and had only a couple months of stable finances under our belt. We weren’t yet putting into savings or restoring cut salaries, so now with online only giving, and no church service to drive that giving, our leadership has been good and clear in communicating where we are, and how we are doing. If we are to need to make cuts, there will be no suprises.

So I’m at home, working from my dining room table, fully expecting that by this time next month I’ll be doing this as a volunteer. Doing what I love for the Church is easy, that I’ll always enjoy. But the dire thoughts that within months we’d lose our house, our income, and be worrying for how to provide for my lovely wife and child.

BUT in all this, I trust you God. You have been good and faithful, even when I have not been. You have seen me through harder times and wonderful times. So even in this, I’m not sure I’ll make it through financially, I’m not sure I’ll keep my house or find another job that can pay the bills, but that’s not what I trust God for. I trust God that even if I am to suffer, and even if I am to writhe, it’ll be for his glory. That He will use my life, my good and my bad and bring glory and honor and praise to himself, and if even this season I appear to be stepping into does indeed suck, I trust that it’ll suck to the Glory of my King.

So God, there’s my prayer, that even my hard times would serve a purpose, that they’d be useful to you. I love you.

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Sermons Preached All God

RIOT Message Feb 2020 #2

RIOT MESSAGE Judges 7

So part two of a double header about dear ole Gideon. To hear the first message, go back in time and show up last week. 🙂

So let’s catch you up in case you weren’t here- here’s the armies, camped out, gettin ready for battle. Gideon went all scaredy cat, and double triple checked that God was still God. Spoilers, he was. Now here we are, battle getting ready. Prolly some dude in a skirt going on about freedom- that kind of moment.

Then God puts a pause on that. Let’s read- and as we do, try to figure out what’s going on. 

The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’ ” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. 

And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” So the people took provisions in their hands, and their trumpets. And he sent all the rest of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the 300 men. And the camp of Midian was below him in the valley. 

STOP EXPLAIN

That same night the Lord said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand. 10 But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. 11 And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.” Then he went down with Purah his servant to the outposts of the armed men who were in the camp. 12 And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance. 13 When Gideon came, behold, a man was telling a dream to his comrade. And he said, “Behold, I dreamed a dream, and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.” 14 And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp.” 

15 As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped. And he returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the Lord has given the host of Midian into your hand.” 16 And he divided the 300 men into three companies and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with torches inside the jars. 17 And he said to them, “Look at me, and do likewise. When I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. 18 When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’ ” 

19 So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch. And they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. 20 Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled. 22 When they blew the 300 trumpets, the Lord set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. 23 And the men of Israel were called out from Naphtali and from Asher and from all Manasseh, and they pursued after Midian. 

So what happened here? They surrounded the camp, and just when you’d think he would want all them to have, I dunno, a sword or something, he has them all carry jars, then the SMASH them and scare the crap out of the bad guys. Now- was anyone scared enough to stab their friend when we did this? Good, then you understand how things work. So it’s important to us, because it was important to God, to understand that this wasn’t some cunning great play on the part of Gideon. He wasn’t some expert strategist. He’s just a guy, and we’re glad God did the amazing miracle of making an army dumber than they should be and sowing chaos in them to make his plan happen. 

24 Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and capture the waters against them, as far as Beth-barah, and also the Jordan.” So all the men of Ephraim were called out, and they captured the waters as far as Beth-barah, and also the Jordan. 25 And they captured the two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they killed at the winepress of Zeeb. Then they pursued Midian, and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon across the Jordan. 

8 Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely. And he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the grape harvest of Abiezer? God has given into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger against him subsided when he said this.

Then they went out and chased down the stragglers around the country, and it even has a group of fighters mad they didn’t get to be part of the action, Gideon just talks them down by massaging their pride. You’re sooo great, all this, what is it in light of what you’ve done? Ok, I guess it’s fine you didn’t have us help… Nice on G-man for being diplomatic and willing to swallow some pride to keep the peace.

So then, lets see how the rest plays out:

And Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed over, he and the 300 men who were with him, exhausted yet pursuing. So he said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who follow me, for they are exhausted, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” And the officials of Succoth said, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?” So Gideon said, “Well then, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will flail your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.” And from there he went up to Penuel, and spoke to them in the same way, and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered. And he said to the men of Penuel, “When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.” 

10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with their army, about 15,000 men, all who were left of all the army of the people of the East, for there had fallen 120,000 men who drew the sword. 11 And Gideon went up by the way of the tent dwellers east of Nobah and Jogbehah and attacked the army, for the army felt secure. 12 And Zebah and Zalmunna fled, and he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and he threw all the army into a panic. 

13 Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres. 14 And he captured a young man of Succoth and questioned him. And he wrote down for him the officials and elders of Succoth, seventy-seven men. 15 And he came to the men of Succoth and said, “Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me, saying, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are exhausted?’ ” 16 And he took the elders of the city, and he took thorns of the wilderness and briers and with them taught the men of Succoth a lesson. 17 And he broke down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city. 

18 Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “Where are the men whom you killed at Tabor?” They answered, “As you are, so were they. Every one of them resembled the son of a king.” 19 And he said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the Lord lives, if you had saved them alive, I would not kill you.” 20 So he said to Jether his firstborn, “Rise and kill them!” But the young man did not draw his sword, for he was afraid, because he was still a young man. 21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Rise yourself and fall upon us, for as the man is, so is his strength.” And Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and he took the crescent ornaments that were on the necks of their camels. 

I’m just gunna recap this next part and not read it- Gideon passes through two places-His men, a small elite fighting force is chasing down the survivors of the bad guys, and it’s just the 300 of them, chasing al over a desert. They come across some places and ask for supplies, water. But the “friends” were like “has God delivered them into your hands already that I should use my hand to give you stuff?” So then he keeps going, fine, let’s go chase down the enemy, but then once they came back, having won their battle, the Bible calmly and casually explains how they sack the city of the jerks- “so they got some branches with thorns, and thought them a lesson” “then they killed the men of the city and knocked over their buildings. Also, it’s fun to point out- that it gives us the numbers here that we didn’t have before- the original bad guy fighting force was 120,000, and the “remnant” was still 15,000. How many men did God keep again? So if you’re thinking 300 vs 120k then 300 vs 15k isn’t a fight where the 300 win twice over, YOU ARE RIGHT, but that’s the point.

So then the battle is over. It ends after all this with Gideon having to do the killing of some of the last guys himself. He asked his eldest son to do it, but he just couldn’t do it, too young. So the guys ready to be killed asked him to do it. And he does, and it includes an odd commentary that after he kills them, he takes the pretty pretty off their camel for himself. Let’s keep reading and see if that’s foreshadowing for ten seconds of reading later, but a lot of Gideons life later.

Gideon’s Ephod

22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” 24 And Gideon said to them, “Let me make a request of you: every one of you give me the earrings from his spoil.” (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25 And they answered, “We will willingly give them.” And they spread a cloak, and every man threw in it the earrings of his spoil. 26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and besides the collars that were around the necks of their camels. 27 And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family. 28 So Midian was subdued before the people of Israel, and they raised their heads no more. And the land had rest forty years in the days of Gideon. 

This is a sad moment- after al this time, and all these ways of seeing that it was GOD who provided, GOD who secured the victory, GOD who was in control, Gideon gets asked to lead the people, and says the right thing, that he nor his sons should be kings over Israel, but rather God- which is what God said the people should do- just let HIM lead! But then in the next breath, he lets his love of gold go nuts and he made a big gold thing that people idolized and forgot how they ever got out of this mess.Like, come on man…

The Death of Gideon

29 Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house. 30 Now Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring, for he had many wives. 31 And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he called his name Abimelech. 32 And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age and was buried in the tomb of Joash his father, at Ophrah of the Abiezrites. 

33 As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and whored after the Baals and made Baal-berith their god. 34 And the people of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hand of all their enemies on every side, 35 and they did not show steadfast love to the family of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in return for all the good that he had done to Israel. 

So key takeaways here:

the Bible isn’t for children- it’s not cute little caricature stories- it’s real stories of real people, If you were making it up, it wouldn’t have this level of complexity- guys who in one verse do the right thing and the next screw it all up. That’s us- you aren’t all good, you aren’t all bad- you’re just a person, messed up and in need of a savior, but also, hopefully wanting some good in the world.

No matter how messed up you are, God can use you. He has a role for you in this story.

People are real- not just bit players. Everyone thinks of themselves of this nuanced person with complex emotions and thoughts, but others as caricatures. This is how you get weak intellectual high school nerds calling people sheeple. They think others are just one dimensional, when they can feel more readily the complex thoughts of themselves. BUT here’s Gideon, and we wanna say he was a good guy, a bad guy- smart, a moron, brave- he’s just real- like us. He did dumb things back to back with great things, he did wrong things for good reasons and good things for wrong reasons. But he still had a part to play in God’s story. If you know you’re gunna be all over the map in your life, why not let the good and the bad serve Jesus, so even your weaknesses can be useful. The only parts of our story that matter is when it’s being used by god.

Next though- Giden went into battle and God wanted him to know that it was not his own strength, but God, that won the day. What about your day actually relies on God? Being nice to your friends? Not getting into a fight? Not failing out of school? We need to push God more. God wants to prune out your easy goals so you KNOW that it was him who changed things- can you love your enemies, pray for those that hate you? Share your faith with people and make your life not just about yourself, but about what God wants you to do? Now all the sudden it might really take God working in you to accomplish that? 

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Sermons Preached All God

RIOT Sermon Feb 2020

RIOT MESSAGE Judges 6

Judges 6-8

6-7:23 first week

How many of us have ever thought something along the lines of “I wish I could know that God is real” that he’s on our side, loves us, has our back etc. I have. I think anyone being honest would say they have, right? Wether you don’t yet believe in Jesus, you wish you knew for sure. If you do, you wish you knew for sure. Like for sure. Sure.

Who wants to help act this one out? It’ll be purely for comic effect on this one.

Midian Oppresses Israel

The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds. For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. They would encamp against themf and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number—both they and their camels could not be counted—so that they laid waste the land as they came in. And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord. 

When the people of Israel cried out to the Lord on account of the Midianites, the Lord sent a prophet to the people of Israel. And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of slavery. And I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 And I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not obeyed my voice.” 

The Call of Gideon

11 Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” 13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” 15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” 17 And he said to him, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. 18 Please do not depart from here until I come to you and bring out my present and set it before you.” And he said, “I will stay till you return.” 

19 So Gideon went into his house and prepared a young goat and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the terebinth and presented them. 20 And the angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour the broth over them.” And he did so. 21 Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes. And fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes. And the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. 22 Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” 23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” 24 Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it, The Lord Is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites. 

So first, God calls Gideon- you’re going to get rid of these people who keep tormenting God’s chosen people. The angel of the lord appears to him, you know, kind of a big deal. And he gets whiny- Let’s read that again, but imagine it in your whiny little sisters voice- sooo Eli, come on up and read this. 🙂

Then God starts cleaning House- hey, these people are worshiping dumb other non-real Gods. And if I’m going to rescue you all, I want them to know it was me. Go tear it down. “That your father Has” is a scary part in this next block.

25 That night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it 26 and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.” 27 So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the Lord had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night. 

28 When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. 29 And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” 30 Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” 32 Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar. 

But then the bad guys show up, it’s time to start the dark and forbidding music, turn the background dark- glad the townspeople didn’t kill him, because now it’s time for action… BUT

33 Now all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East came together, and they crossed the Jordan and encamped in the Valley of Jezreel. 34 But the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him. 35 And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, and they too were called out to follow him. And he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they went up to meet them. 

The Sign of the Fleece

36 Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, 37 behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” 38 And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” 40 And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew. 

Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod. And the camp of Midian was north of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. 

So now the armies are piling up, building up for the great attack coming next week. But here’s the thing. He didn’t wanna get the army ready until he tested God again. And that’s what I want us to talk about tonight. 

Gideon being given a miracle to know that God is in control and his promise can be trusted

Then fleecing at the first sign of danger or testing. 

How I first heard about that when I became a Christian and what they thought. – that is that it bad to test God. But I really think that’s not it at all!

Now why they were wrong. What’s actually wrong with fleecing. It’s not about testing God, it’s about trusting in what he’s already shown you! At one point, you KNEW, you FULLY KNEW that God wasn’t just real, but he was really wanting to be your king, be the one who informed every decision you’d make, and all you did. But we let pride creep, take over piece by piece what we wouldn’t at camp, wouldn’t on a mission trip, and then eventually we find ourselves asking God, just show me! BUT HE HAS! We need to be the type of people who rely on what we KNOW already of God. Fall on that! We need to fully fall on the knowledge of those moments gone by when we absolutely KNEW the power of God and that he was active in our lives. 

Trusting God and relying on the times when you KNEW the truth of His love. 

Maybe you’ve never seen that moment when you KNEW that God was real. Maybe you’re wondering what you could ever see that would bring you to that point. I’m telling you, this is that moment! 

Let’s read a little bit from Romans:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man

Look at this world around you- we can sense something about God just from using our eyes and ears- namely things like the fact that this universe is so much bigger than me, that to even pretend that I can comprehend it all with it’s complexities and nuance is lunacy! Wisdom starts with recognizing that God must be so much more than me! Look at the mountains to the bottom of the ocean- creation cries his name and shouts that he is a loving artist who expresses himself by showing us his goodness and power in this world around us. Your life can suck, your life and be great, but neither is anything in light of all that is and all that will ever be! So we start with something so much bigger than ourselves, powerful, loving and good.

Then- Ecclesiastes says that eternity is written on the hearts of men, and Genesis says that man is made in the image of God- we have to REVEL in the fact that unlike trees, rocks, fish or anything else in creation, we ponder life, and why we are here, how we came to be, and what it all means! God burned those questions into our hearts that we would look for the answers! So know this- whether you have seen directly the goodness and might of God, or not. YOU EXIST, in THIS AMAZING WORLD! What else could we need to see and know to avoid making our lives all about ourselves. Or will we be Gideon, asking over and over the question, already knowing the answer, but being afraid of what it means to follow?

Tonight in small group, talk abut that- HOW do you know that God is king in your life, what moment brought you to faith, and if you haven’t yet placed your faith in him, what would it take?

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All God Letters to Maddie

Wrote this for work

Maddie, she’s new here.

So this is my daughter Maddie. She’s still pretty new here to the planet. Rather than spending my bio talking about me, I’m gunna talk about her, and what I want for her.

I want her to grow up and know Jesus. I don’t want her to just know about Him, I want her to love Jesus in with the depth and genuine passion with which I love her. I want her to avoid my mistakes of rampant pride and wasted years, and I think being plugged in to not just a church, but the right church will help in that greatly.

I want her to be at a church that doesn’t just talk about Jesus in the abstract, but one where Jesus busts into our day by day lives and we welcome Him in to take over our thoughts, our words, and our every action. I want the people she lives in community with to drive her deeper and deeper into the arms of Jesus. Not just being a social club, but an ever expanding collection of people who see their need for spiritual rescue, and so eager to share it and welcome the newcomer that one day no place but heaven can hold them.

I want her to be mentored by people who love Jesus, and love her. I want her to go to a church that communicates well, communicates often, and communicates about the things that are important, and not just urgent. I want her to go to a church passionate about the timeless nature of God’s word, but fired up about the ever changing ways to reach people with the good news!

I do my job not because it’s a job, but because it’s a calling. I love being a part of our app, our website, our podcast, our video and photography teams, our leadership team and support staff, and any role they want me in here at Morning Star. For me it’s never been about the job, but it’s only about the goal of making Jesus known in this city. And all the things I dream of for my kid, maybe you dream of them for your kids too, and for ourselves. And together let’s love Jesus in the way that makes this place what we want for the next generation.

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All God Letters to Maddie Love

Musings on six weeks in

I’ve prayed to die more times than I can count. From about 14 or 15 onward, I’ve been praying somewhere between 20-200 times per day to die. I pray it as a song, in words, in moans. It’s been the one counterpoint in frequency to “I love you” said to my wife, and “I live to serve” said to everyone.

But Maddie was born a bit over a month ago, and suddenly, once. Like not for one day, but one time on one day.

Some people would feel bad if they prayed to die. But for me it was such a surreal moment where almost out of habit I find it being asked, then I stopped and thought for the first time, maybe ever, that I genuinely just feels odd now to pray that.

My love for my wife was enough to stick around. I have her my word and I kept it that I’d stay. But I can’t pretend that it was always what I wanted. But then Maddie shows up and I don’t just choose to stick around- I want to.

Baby girl, when you grow up and you read this, if one day you do, know that the combined love I found I was capable of between you and your mother is quite literally reason to live for me.

I didn’t hate life, I wasn’t discontent, I was just bored. The sum total of the remainder of my days just seemed so predictable that I did dangerous things, ruined my life even at times, just to mix it up. But then you show up, and it’s just the right type of unpredictable. You’re certainly not boring. And I enjoy the way you make each day a challenge.

I figured out pretty much an expert level how to love your mom perfectly. I’m not saying I’m perfect but I’m saying I’m certainly the perfect husband for her, and she is the perfect wife for me. But right now the things that I don’t know about how to be a good dad to you could fill volume after volume of books. I’m enjoying the discovery, relishing each moment where I realize just how not enough I am. It’s fun being so incredibly insufficient that I know I have to rely on Jesus to even possibly make this time worth it. I don’t speak of worth it for me, but worth it for you – that my time here would be well spent in making you feel loved, and reflecting the love of Jesus to you. This is a journey I’m enjoying, and I only pray that one day you would so fall in love with Jesus not because we force you into it, because we love you in a way that shows how Jesus loves us.

I can’t wait to see how you grow up, but even in this moment I’m enjoying watching you grow day by day. We laugh at your funny faces, we smile when you do, we cry when you hurt. I love you so much little kid, and you haven’t done anything to earn it yet. Just like that is how God loved me. Not based on what I did, but because he’s the father who wants nothing more than whatever is best for us. I hope our loves shows that to you in a powerful way. 

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All God

Overwhelmed by kindness

I’ve sat down to write this post about 20 times. Each time, before I can finish, I have yet another occurrence to stop, ponder and start again. I’m quickly coming to the point of calling it overwhelmed in the best of ways.

Natalie and I have our little Maddie coming soon, and there’s apparently a lot that needs to go into getting ready for a human life. Tiny little details, things I’d think of and things I wouldn’t. They stack up faster than I could possibly take care of them.

My bike needs fixed, because I don’t want to be dealing with motorcycles with issues with a newborn around. I want to focus on my kid.

My AC is out, and I’ve got a constantly overheating wife who can’t sleep and I don’t know the first thing about AC.

Natalie is nesting like crazy and ordering things that need assembled faster than I can assemble them. They aren’t needs by any stretch, but she wants more places to store things, because apparently little babies still have things they eat or store just like adults.

My living room is dark, we need a new light because I don’t want my baby growing up depressed. Insert “dark humour” joke here as well. 🙂

We’ve got our friend/renter moving out right before the kid shows up, and I don’t have much time to move all the furniture into Maddie’s room. Everyone says it doesn’t matter, that she’ll be in ours for a bit, but I don’t wanna be the deadbeat dad with just an empty room for a child.

My yard looks like I dump, and I had so many things I wanted to do to it before Maddie showed up. But I don’t have the time, nor skill.

Maddie needs clothes and diapers and toys and whatever else it is you need when you’ve got a human life to guardian.

OR

I should say, those were all former needs. Because constantly, at every turn, I am being taken care of, helped, far beyond anything I could possibly be worthy of or imagine. We’ve had friends showering Natalie and I with kid supplies, doing kind things to keep us rolling, make the yard nice, clothe the little one, keep the house cool, food stored, and infinitely more than I can even keep track of. Today my bride tells me that she had to stop writing thank you cards after hours of writing because her hand hurts too much, and she’s not even half way done. I can’t fathom that.

I’ve always viewed baby showers as some sort of odd-trade. You come to this party, and bring a gift. Like birthday parties growing up, if you’re a sociopath like me. Seems like a barter. I provide fun, you provide gifts. But then my wife has people jumping to throw parties, and it’s all people we just love so much, eager to come- so many thoughtful, hand made gifts for our little one that it’ll be hard for us to even explain to our kid that yes, we also love you too. But all this hand made stuff- all your earliest toys and blankets- those were made by others who loved you before they even met you. On top of that, people who couldn’t even make the party, showing up with gifts and kind words abundant! People we don’t even get to interact with a ton, but offering things I’d never even thought so that Natalie could sleep on a waist high bed at summer camp with our students… Who does that? Just buys, gifts, loans, serves people to show love?

I’ve always known my life is hallmarked by all the things I got I didn’t deserve, and the things I didn’t get that I had coming to me where I’m thankful it turned out that way. But now, we’ve got friends telling us to send us a list, I’ll buy whatever didn’t come on your registry. We’ve got friends coming out of the woodwork to do things we could never have asked, never expect, and man- how do I use the same words now as on the so-little things- “thank you?” It just rings so weak, so hollow. I’ve resorted to constant refrains of “seriously… thanks. Like really, thank you”

God, thanks for all you’ve done in using others to provide for us. But so much more than the provision, thanks for the reflection this causes in Natalie and I of just how incredibly loved and cared for that we are. We are overwhelmed by the caliber and kindness of those we are blessed to call friends, and would we reflect even one iota of this to those we love, in letting them know their immeasurable worth.

I keep trying to write a list at the end here of all the people and all the ways we’ve been shown love, but it just goes on and on and is being added to minute by minute. So for my own ability to recall later- everyone. It was seriously just everyone I knew who had any connection with my life, they were all doing kind things and saying kind things in this season. Just everyone.

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All God

Tidal Lines

Prine family vacation. Relaxing on the beach.

I’m sitting on the beach in Cayucos California, at the yearly vacation we take with Natalie‘s family and I am shocked at how thankful I find myself. I have a wife I do not deserve, friends more kind than I could ever ask for. I have a job I am unworthy of. I have a God loves me.

I have a God who loves me, how can that be a real? How is it even possible that a perfect being would choose to love me? I often wonder if it is God’s only flaw.

I’m sitting here on the back porch watching the tide come in and set new High water marks in the sand. 

With each wave that sets a new peak, I am reminded that my life is going through changes. In my own life on a daily basis I find new experiences I never thought I would have. Growing older, slower and fatter.

There is no good cause for the ocean and the tides in the beauty of the Pacific Ocean other than a God that loves me. Likewise these new peaks in my life should (and can only) be attributed to God. He is infinitely better to me than I deserve. 

I am neither ready nor worthy to have a child, nor to have the love of my life that I am thrilled to share this child with.

Yet here I am, a man who knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that my wife loves me perfectly. Not what everyone hopes love to be, but exactly the love that I need for me. She indulges my better aspects, and squashes those parts of me that God needs to change. 

And so I watch the tide set new marks and I look forward to the new marks of my own life but I’ve yet to be discovered not just for the obvious, not just for the waves it’s ready to crash. But for the wave 10 from now setting new piece that I would’ve never even thought to imagine. I am blessed. I am loved. I am a child of the living God, and whether stormy or joyful waves, I know I should find hope that God is directing each step of this life. Telling the waves “you shall go this far and no further.”

God thank you that you love me. 

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All God

Small group

Getting ready for Great Escape 2019- summer camp with my high school small group for the 13th time. I’ve had great co-leaders and terrible ones. Small groups that loved Jesus, and guys who were just there to make out with their girlfriend. Decades of students leaving high school to go on and love Jesus with all the life they have, and some who leave to crash and burn.

For whatever reason, I’m really looking forward to this year. Job-duty wise, I’m a bit stressed, not from camp but to leave work for two weeks when we’ve been in the midst of a very busy year with lots of places for me to serve.

But camp wise, I’m going into it thinking I’ve got a pretty great situation here- guys that love Jesus, seniors that are all in for leading and disciplining. I’m pumped to see how they treat this not like their own last hurrah, but rather a mission week for them to be reaching out to the lost within RIOT.

Last time I went into summer camp feeling this primed for a great week of ministry, God allowed for it to be pulled out from under me- so many senior dudes showed up that Russ Clausen took our normal guys, and I spent the week with 5 totally unchurched dudes who humbled me. I said all the wrong things, led terribly, and at the end they all accepted Jesus. None came home and lived it out, but I’ll count it as some long term seeds I can’t wait one day to see how their lives played out.

I’ve got a young man in my group right now that brings me so much joy. His family couldn’t afford camp, and he really wanted to go. Homeschooled and odd, he didn’t have many friends and really wanted a way to get connected. He’s been looking for a way to get ingrained into the group and I told him camp is the best place for that to happen. He signed up, funds unknown, and we prayed and talked about trusting God and working hard.

Suddenly, in about a month, the funds all come together. He had cans donated to him both by the church and by people in his neighborhood, and he went and turned them all in for some big chunks. Then we at the church got a call of someone needing a young man to just operate a driveway for an event, which he was willing to do. That’s the best part- he wasn’t looking for a handout, he was looking for a means by which God would provide. Perfect. And in the way that only God can, it all came about just perfect and this freshman is coming to camp, and I can’t wait to see how God will use it to work drastically in his life. What a joy it is to watch these things from the front row of life change on a week by week basis. Really, I love what we get to do….