Saturday, March 26, 2016

Family Feud

Jesus asked, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" Then he pointed to his disciples and said, "Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!"

-- Matthew 12:48-50
Maybe for you it's Easter, Christmas or some other time when your family gets together. In any event, the National Communications Association says that the holidays can be either a time of joy and togetherness--or an occasion for stress, conflict and family tension. What's more, stress expert Elizabeth Scott observes that "many a happy holiday has been found by groups of people who have decided to celebrate with friends instead of family."

It's a sad but accurate commentary about Match2what's happening in 21st Century America. But in many ways, it's simply a reflection of human nature. Whenever families gather--for just about any reason at all--tensions can peak. Sometimes it's because of intrusions into precious personal space, like when the in-laws spend the night (or week) in a house that's already too close for comfort. There's also that outcast teenager who perceives their older relatives as judgmental, critical or demanding. And let's not forget those pleasant conversations over Christmas dinner about relationships, politics and religion.

Does this hit close to home? If so, you're in good company. Jesus himself--the Son of God--was often misunderstood by those closest to him.

"A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family," the Savior once told his disciples.

Since even our own families can misinterpret our actions, have you ever wondered if God really understands all the mundane problems, annoyances and trials that we face every day? Luke's Gospel tells us that Jesus came into this world in the poorest of circumstances: with a manger--an animal's feeding trough--as His first bed. But why? As the King's son, Jesus could have lived in a marble palace while enjoying only the finest things in life. And God could have commanded everyone on earth to worship and obey him.

But something would have been missing. As a loving Father, our God refuses to force anyone to accept his free gift of forgiveness and salvation. And since he knew that men and women were without hope because of the pitiful ways they lived their lives, God decided to come to us himself in human form to live the perfect life. That meant living among us through the sin-free Jesus Christ: the only acceptable sacrifice to pay for our offenses.

Jesus--the Son of God--was born into poverty. And throughout his ministry, the religious elite despised and cursed him. They didn't recognize him or hear his voice. And even Jesus' own family sometimes thought he was crazy. Eventually, the innocent Christ would die for all of us in a most painful and humiliating way: crucifixion with two common criminals.

But that's the way it had to be. And because Jesus fulfilled the mission God had planned for him since the foundation of the world, the circle was complete and our sin-debt paid in full. He came to earth to be with his creation and suffer both among us and for us. God not only lived out the human experience, he came to understand both you and me.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Happy Anniversary, Velocity!

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

-- Isaiah 43:19

This Sunday marks Velocity Christian Church's 10th Anniversary as a community of faith focused on helping people find Jesus and love God. But what is it that Velocity (or every Bible-believing church in the world) will celebrate this weekend--and every weekend to come for that matter?
It's the radical notion that God loves his 10th Anniversarycreation so much that he sent his only Son to personally pay for the mess we've all made of our lives and a once unspoiled creation. With this immense price now cleared from our individual accounts, every believer--through faith in Jesus Christ--is free to serve as his hands and feet throughout the community and even the world. Velocity is part of a universal body of believers. And it's nothing less than a church on the move!

Although that's great news, Christ-followers allover are in a predicament these days. Relativism rules America, and that which is obviously right or wrong is no longer considered so black and white. Popular culture brands those who believe in Jesus and his teachings as old-fashioned and intolerant. And those who dare to point out our nation's retreat from God are called bigots, hate-mongers and other slurs.

Of course, Christ-followers should be happy to plead guilty to holding certain narrow and politically incorrect beliefs. One is that faith in Jesus is the only way to God. And that's Good News that the world can't tolerate.

"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil," responds God, "who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."

Although we live in troubling times, it's particularly reassuring to know that God continues to do a new thing through his people called Velocity. As we celebrate our 10th Anniversary as a faith community, Jesus encourages us to continue being salt and light to a distorted world in need of guidance, truth and character. People are watching to see if our words match our deeds. May it be that we celebrate the Good News of our Savior through changed lives marked by love in action! 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

(Super)Hero Worship

Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.

-- Proverbs 27:9
According to, Hollywood has released more than 100 motion pictures since 1978 involving comic book superheroes. The worldwide popularity of these amazing characters--and their easy translation into ticket sales--helps to explain their abundance. In fact, there are about 20 more superhero-genre movies scheduled for release from now through 2019! Just how popular are these films? SuperheroBox Office Mojo says that combined ticket sales have raked in about $13.5 billion over the last 38 years, with much more to come in the next few months through titles like Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War.

In the movies, a superhero always seems to be around when disaster strikes or a villain is on the loose. But in the real world, The Fantastic Four and Iron Man can't do much about the hardships of life. Terminal illnesses strike, relationships fail and that which was solid turns to dust in our hands. What we desperately need is something--or someone--who's utterly dependable, unwavering and trustworthy.

As Christ-followers, it's good to know that we worship a God who is that and much more. "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you," Moses reassured the ancient Israelites. "Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." It's a message that's as true for us today as it was for them centuries ago.
God also puts trustworthy friends in our life to help us make it through our darkest days. Always there when we need them, they're the ones who are willing to tell us the truth if it's for our own good--and even if it stings a bit at the time. Maybe you have one or two like that, or perhaps many. Either way, friendship isn't about a specific number that we can count: it's about the people we can count on. 

With this in mind, who's counting on you to be their superhero to help save the day? With God's help, let's aim to be the type of companion who loves a pure heart and speaks with grace. Proverbs 22:11 tells us that such a person will have the king for a friend.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Transforming Love Into Action

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

-- Isaiah 40:11
When asked by one of the Pharisees--a strict religious sect--to name the greatest of God's laws, Jesus astounded his audience with the simplicity and clarity of his response:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment," Jesus said. "And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

So with just a few brief words, Jesus Good Shepherdsummarized the core message of the entire Old Testament: God's love, translated into beneficial motivations and actions through our faith in Jesus Christ, is indeed an unstoppable, world-changing force.

This is a hard concept for many people because they link the term "love" with that squishy word associated with weddings, boxed chocolates and Valentine's Day. But Jesus wasn't teaching his followers about that often fleeting, awkward emotion. As Christ-followers, we're to follow God's call to walk in step with him by putting our love into sincere, tangible action. This can come in many forms: from helping an elderly neighbor with their groceries to revealing God's light through a prison ministry. It could also translate into changing a co-worker's life by showing him or her how Jesus has changed your own. The possibilities and potential are endless.

How does God show His love for us? There's the famous Bible story of the Prodigal Son, where the loving father welcomes back his wayward--and totally undeserving--child with open arms. Or what about the shepherd who searches tirelessly for a single missing sheep? When he finally finds it, he returns it triumphantly to the rest of the flock. Jesus also told his disciples about the man who sells all his possessions to buy a field. And not just any field, but one holding buried treasure. The cost to buy the land was staggering, but the man does whatever it takes to gain the prize.

That's how God loves us. He'll go to any length to bring you and me into his family. Perhaps the most famous passage in the New Testament (John 3:16) tells us that God loves the world so much that He gave his only Son (Jesus) so that those who believe in him will have eternal life. God willingly let Jesus suffer and die to pay for all our wrongdoings: past, present and future. We rightfully deserve death because we've broken his laws and fallen far short of his standards. But our Creator's love offers us joy and happiness if we're only willing to accept it. By living on Earth among everyday people and then dying for our sins, Jesus has already paid the ultimate price.

The limits of human vocabulary prevent us from fully describing the meaning and implications of how God cherishes his children. We can only skim the surface of that deep and vast ocean. But maybe it's really not so difficult. After all, it takes only three simple words from the Book of 1 John to sum it up: God is Love. And it's when we live out our own faith through his example that we transform love into action.