Where True Freedom Is Found

true-freedom1I was going through marginal notes / verses that I had underlined in the book of Exodus yesterday and something really interesting popped out at me.

Exodus is about the Israelites leaving Egypt and heading to the Promised Land. It’s about a journey. From bondage… to freedom. Burning bush. Plagues. Ten Commandments. Golden Calf. Stuff like that. Not a seamless line but a trek full of rebellion, remorse, and restoration. Kind of like our lives.

But what jumped out at me was how it ends. You would think, as a writer, that you would want to bring some sort of ‘closure’ to the purpose of the book. The journey should end with the arrival at the destination. Wouldn’t that make sense?

But it doesn’t happen that way. The last chapter starts wth the assembly of the tabernacle and tent of meeting that the Israelites were to use to meet and present their sacrifices to God.

But then God shows up. “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34-35 NIV).

Maybe, just maybe… this ‘is’ the destination for the book of Exodus. For we all set out on a journey from brokenness to healing. We all yearn to be rescued from who we ‘are’ to who we know we ‘can be’. From bondage, to freedom.

And it is here that we see where freedom may be found… in His Presence. We come expecting. He comes filling.

2Corinthians 3:17 says “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Freedom from our past. Freedom from the junk we’ve faced this past week. Freedom from what is stopping us from moving forward in His plan for our lives.

So today, as we roll out of beds all over the place and head to church, be reminded that being in His Presence is the chief end of the pursuit. That as we come together, we leave all that is holding us back and are led to experience the freedom of being found in His Presence.

At least that’s how I see it,

 

C

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When God says, “Don’t preach.”

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I’ve been trying to figure out how best to write down my thoughts about what happened at Evangel Church this past Sunday. I thought that if wrote it down on social media it would come off the wrong way. But to not say ‘anything’ I felt was horribly unfair to hiding what God did. So I thought I would blog about it.

Church on Sunday was something I will probably never forget. I’ve had a few days now to think more about what happened; about what God was doing in the hearts of all of us as a church family.

The service was an hour and a half of “God’s agenda… not ours.” From the moment the congregation started singing I knew that something different was going to happen. There was no emotional reprieve… only momentum. With each verse, each chorus, each song the level of anticipation and sense of God’s Presence grew. It was like being on a date between the Maker and the Made that hit it off from the get go and was only getting better as the date went on.

I looked around and people had already started to come up into the altar area on their own. People were hungry. People ARE hungry for what God is doing. By the time I went up after the ‘singing’ (we ended up singing for another 30 minutes afterwards) I called others to join those already up at the front. Called people to come up who were lacking the Presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Called for those who were sick to be prayed for by anyone around them.

There was ministry EVERYWHERE…. People crying. People praying for those who were crying. People standing with hands raised. People curled up on the floor weeping. Presence… everywhere.

Let me be clear. There was no ‘smoking gun’ for the service. No new song. No ‘special’ event that tipped the scales. There wasn’t a new formula for us to now try to mimic.

There was though a sense of expectancy in the room. I could already sense it during the preservice prayer. We were waiting. We were longing. We were desiring more of God.

What I have found over the years is that we only get more of God in our lives one way… by releasing more of ourselves. Surrender. It’s not about God deciding to give us more of Himself. He gave us His Son! He built the broken bridge of relationship all the way over to us… except for one last step. That step is the only step towards God we need to take.

I didn’t feel right preaching on Sunday. It was already noon. Our time of worship made celebrating communion one of the most memorable I’ve ever experienced. We ‘felt’ the joy of what we gained from Jesus’ sacrifice. His Presence.

Jeremiah 2:2 says “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved Me.” I got to see what I’ve been ‘seeing’ for a long time for Evangel. A Bride totally in love with the Groom; and a Groom loving on the Bride that He laid down His life for.

At least that’s how I see it,

 

C

Why Should I Read The Bible?

I just came back from vacation. While I was packing before I left, I stared at my Bible and dealt with the “is this going to put my weight over my luggage allowance?” My mind started justifying leaving it behind and then read it on my phone or iPad.

But my Bible is what I use every day as part of my time spent with God. I even underline it with one of those four-colour pens that click (feel like I’m in middle school each time I change colours).

Mike and I did our latest video on why reading the Bible is so important. Take a couple of minutes and hear why we feel like taking time reading the Bible matters so much.

At least that’s how I see it,

 

C

When “It Doesn’t Matter”… Matters

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I opened my Bible on a Sunday evening in front of a group of men and women amidst the buzz of fluorescent bulbs and the smell of ‘church’ coffee and read aloud a well known and well read passage, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’” (1Samuel 16:7 NIV).

I closed my Bible and looked at the crowd waiting for my response. With a hand raised in the air I asked, “How many people are glad that God looks at our hearts!” With almost immediacy hands raised all around the room with amens drowning out the hum of the lights.

“Me too!” I said. “Too bad people who come through our church doors still look at the outward appearance whether we like it or not.”

Dropped the mic. Walked out of the room.

Ok, I didn’t do quite that… but I could have. I had made my point and no one could argue.

Yet church folk argue it every Sunday. “Why change this?” “You’re wasting your money on things that don’t matter.” “No one really cares about that!”

Let me be honest with you. In the light of eternity, do the ‘things’ inside the church matter? I dare say they probably don’t matter much at all. Salvation is not dependent on our leaky roofs, grungy bathrooms, shoddy lawn care, and poor building maintenance.

But in the light of ‘their’ eternity, the women and men who do not yet know of God’s perfect grace, I would dare say that these ‘things’ that we perhaps overlook every single Sunday now really become a ‘life or death’ situation. Because whether we like it or not, ‘they’ are not overlooking these things at all. If anything, they’ve already made up their minds on how you view your church before the first note is even played. I know, it’s not fair. You saved your best for last… but sorry, they’ve unfortunately already checked out.

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That was the case with the Queen of Sheba in 1Kings 10. When she came to see King Solomon she said that it wasn’t only his wisdom that overwhelmed her; but the attention to detail in all of the buildings, supplies, and personnel that surrounded and served her. The impact that he made on her did not rest solely on what he had to say but actually was woven together with the overall experience she had from beginning to end. The whole encounter impressed her.

What about your church? What matters most? Better yet, what matters least at your church… and do those things still seem to impress those who come through the doors?

For thankfully God looks at the heart, and ultimately, we would love to have the chance to share that story of grace with those who come through our doors. So maybe if we show them that they matter to ‘us’, we’ll get the opportunity to share that they matter to ‘Him’ as well.

At least that’s how I see it,

 

C

Here Is The Church, Here Is The Steeple…

Here Church Steeple

I am the Lord All-Powerful, and I challenge you to put me to the test. Bring the entire ten percent into the storehouse, so there will be food in my house. Then I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing. (Malachi 3:10 CEV)

You know the childhood saying as you intertwine your fingers… “Here is the church, here is the steeple… Open it up and see all the stains from the PBJ sandwich your mom made you for lunch.” Well… it goes something like that anyway.

Well you guessed it… you’re right. It’s about the people (not the stains… though some are quick to point out the coffee stains on the carpet). Church… is about the people. Not the decor (because that changes). Not the style of service (for that will change too). But church is about… the people. The people inside of the church… AND the people outside of the church that have yet to hear about the love and grace of a Saviour who died and rose again to give us life (ok… now I’m moving into “next week’s” thoughts).

So when we give to the ‘church’, we’re really giving to God in order to reach the ‘people’; the resources, the ministries, and all of the things that are necessary to make sure that the ‘people’ (whether here… or not here yet) are being ministered to.

So conversely when we “don’t” give, we therefore are really “not” giving to God in order to “not” reach the people. When we choose not to give it’s kind of like we’re saying to God, “Thanks for taking care of me and all that people sacrificed in order for You to reach me. But I’m good with being the end of the road. You don’t have to keep reaching people now.”

Maybe that seems a little harsh. Maybe it seems a little extreme. But maybe the fact that God calls us to support the work of the Kingdom IS extreme. Maybe, just maybe, the same God who created everything in the universe from simply His limitless wonder gave us the opportunity to partner with Him in doing something new again… that because of what ‘we’ give Him, He then can change ‘other’ people’s lives… just like He changed ours.

At least that’s how I see it,

Craig

The Recipe For Great Churches

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Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1Corinthians 12:13 NIV)

It’s a great concept to read. It’s a great rally cry for churches. It’s an easy sell. But what about putting it into practice? What does something like ‘that’ look like?

Well I can tell you first-hand how much this passage of Scripture came to mind this past week. On Sunday night we hosted our missions event at the church and had a GREAT time! It was SO much fun to laugh and chat with everyone as we enjoyed some amazing food and talked about what our team is planning on doing while we’re away.

I led the night… but to be honest with you, there were a NUMBER of areas that I had NO idea how things were prepared, implemented, or executed. I didn’t serve ONE plate. I didn’t take ONE ticket. I didn’t play ONE note. I didn’t clean ONE table.

But it all got done. The event was a hit and everything seemed to get accomplished. It was a great success! That’s because each member of the team knew that they had a part to play and made sure that it got done. The night went by smoothly not because ‘someone’ took control… but because ‘everyone’ did their part.

That’s what God is calling us to at Evangel. Not leaning on the few to make it all happen… but allowing everyone to be a part of the wonderful work that God has for us to do. Our decision to refrain from doing our part either makes someone else have to do it or it doesn’t end up getting done. We had INCREDIBLE food on Sunday night… but it would have been useless to have kept it in the kitchen while leaving everyone out around the tables starving. Let’s ALL get out of the ‘kitchen’ and serve the world the BEST thing they’ve ever needed… Let’s bring them Jesus.

At least that’s how I see it,

Craig

Grace That Is More Equal

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I don’t think this is going to be a long rant. I guess I’m just writing this as an addendum from yesterday’s message at Evangel entitled “The Level Playing Field” from our ‘Feltboard Chronicles’ series looking at the parables of Jesus.

Someone wrote on social media in response to my message their thoughts about what I had to say about Matthew 20:1-16; where the owner of the vineyard went out throughout the day getting workers to bring in the harvest. By the end of the day, some workers had only worked one hour but he still paid them the full day’s wage (which was more than generous for a FULL day’s work… you’ll have to listen to the message to get the whole backstory on that).

The point that I was making (and I believe Jesus was making too) was that even though WE seem to place a pecking order on people’s worth (including ourselves) that God does not. Grace is only able to be given to those who do not deserve it… which includes ALL of us.

Well a friend of that person posted that they wondered if I had read Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. At first I was surprised. Then a little humoured. Then a little confused. Now I’ve settled down to a disappointed sadness.

Sad, not because my feelings are hurt… but because they probably represent so many people who miss out on the beauty of God’s grace.

You see, I firmly believe that there is no one too bad to receive God’s grace. That said, I also believe that there are a lot of people who unfortunately think that they are too GOOD to receive it too. “Oh, I don’t need God.” “I’ve got my life under control.” “Fill in the blank excuse……”

Titus 2:11 says, “God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! (The Message)” It’s common access to an uncommon grace.

Communism says that we are all equal. Thankfully, Grace instead says that we are equally positioned in a relationship that none of us deserve.

At least that’s how I see it,

 

 

C