1 Thessalonians 4:7-8  For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

groundedRemember getting grounded as a teen?  Unless you were perfect (not likely), you can probably remember the agony of losing privileges.  It is way easier to ground teens today.  They have phones, iPods, tablets, TVs, and all kinds of other stuff like that.  Take it away and they are left with the miserable existence that is actual human interaction, using an imagination, and enjoying their surroundings.  Yes, those powered devices are quite the thing.  A teen grounded from them can’t imagine living without them. How will I live without all these powered devices at my immediate disposal?

Here’s the thing: if you want the power, you have to obey Dad.  You have to live by his rules.  When we are young, we go through times where mom and dad’s rules seem impossible to follow.  It’s just not fair!  We would be better off living on our own.  Then we remember that with parents comes food, clothing, housing, and powered devices.  If we really think it through, doing it their way is worth it.  If we are in our right mind, we realize that the benefits of living by their standard is worth it!

God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life!  And when we reject that holy life, we reject Dad, who gives us the power.  It’s like we are grounded, but we are the ones who put ourselves in time-out.  We wonder why God seems so distant.  We can’t figure out why we can’t hear from Him.  We are frustrated that our life seems to be powerless.  And it’s all because we have rejected the giver of the power.  If we want it back, we need to live by the house rules.  We are called to resist what is impure and live a holy life.  We are to live set apart for our God!

*Are you striving to live a holy life?

A different kind of awesome

Zephaniah 2:10-11  This is what they will get in return for their pride, for insulting and mocking the people of the LORD Almighty. The LORD will be awesome to them when he destroys all the gods of the land. The nations on every shore will worship him, every one in its own land.

baby awesomeWhen he rolls up his sleeves he ain’t just puttin on the ritz; our God is an awesome God.  Thanks for that, Rich Mullins.  I’ve never thought about God rolling up His sleeves and especially never considered that He would be puttin on the ritz.  That’s just weird.  I do know, however, that our God is an awesome God.  He regularly overwhelms we with His pure awesomeness.  I mean it; He really is amazing!  He is all knowing, all powerful, all…. well, everything.  But here in Zephaniah 2, the prophet is talking about a different kind of awesome.

When I think of awesome, I think of gravity defying slam dunks, grand slam home runs, and cringe worthy snowboard tricks at the X-games.  I think of Candace Glover performing on American Idol or Pentatonix performing anything anywhere.  I think of shooting stars and colorful sunsets.  Yes, that’s awesome!  Awesome is also Happy Gilmore crushing the golf ball and Tom Hanks’ performance in Castaway.  It’s buy one get one free airfare and upgrades to first class.   It’s a short line a the grocery store and making that green light just by the skin of your teeth.  All awesome!

I digress.  As I was saying, the awesome in Zephaniah 2 is different.  It’s a terrifying awesome.  It’s a jaw dropping, mouth hanging open, screaming with terror kind of awesome.  It’s watching Sodom and Gomorrah burn or the world flood.  It’s a blown away, can’t believe what is happening, oh snap! kind of awesome.  God’s enemies were mocking His people and He was about to roll up His sleeves and not dance, but destroy.  He would ruin their false gods and teach them who’s boss.  That’s the kind of power God has over His enemies.  That’s the kind of power in which Jesus overcame at the cross and made a show of the enemy.

God doesn’t display this terrifying awesomeness just for kicks.  He doesn’t do it to show off.  Rather, He does it to remind the world that He is the only one worthy of worship.  And this is the response that God was going for in Zephaniah 2.  He was going to destroy what they were trusting in so that they would turn to Him.  He was going to be scary awesome so that they would wake up and realize who really holds the power.  We ought to be aware that this God we serve is scary awesome, too!

*Let your scary awesome God have at your idols today.  Let Him remove those things you are trusting in and make the awesome God your one and only.

He wears big shoes

Micah 1:3-4 Look! The LORD is coming from his dwelling place; he comes down and treads the high places of the earth. The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope.

Last summer, I was at a waterpark with my family.  My 3-year-old wanted to play in the sand section because she wasn’t real fond of the slides and such.  So I headed over to the toddler zone and we began to build.  In all of our creativity, we decided we should build a mountain.  There wasn’t much to it except pouring bucket after bucket of sand on our spot and watching it get bigger.  We started with a little hill and as we went, it grew.  We had an awesome mountain until we went to get some water to pour on it.  I looked back to see another child heading straight toward our mountain.  He proceeded to jump on it, flattening half of it with a single step.  Mountain big, kid bigger.  And there went the mountain.

Imagine now with me a real mountain.  You could pick Mount Rainier or Mount Everest – it doesn’t matter really.  People climb those mountains, tiny specks amidst an enormous object of nature. But God could step on it and crush it as fast as that kid and our work of sand.  Mountain big, God bigger.  Since we can’t see God and we know Jesus was the size of a Hebrew man, we may not imagine God with that large of a footprint.  But the truth is, He wears some pretty big shoes.  With a single step, He could flatten Mount Rainier.  With a simple jump, Mount Everest would be squashed into the ground.  He’s just that huge.

It’s miraculous to me that the same God who wears big shoes and holds the whole universe in His hands would care to know tiny little me.  It’s humbling to know that this mountain crushing God used His power to crush the evil one and rescue me. He used His might not against me, but for me.  So today I stand in awe of a God who can melt mountains and split valleys.  I marvel at His greatness, His power, and His might.  And I wonder why I ever get afraid when the obstacles of life seem too big to face.  He’s bigger.  He’s stronger.  He’s my God.

I crush you

Amos 2:13-16 13 “Now then, I will crush you
    as a cart crushes when loaded with grain.
14 The swift will not escape,
    the strong will not muster their strength,
    and the warrior will not save his life.
15 The archer will not stand his ground,
    the fleet-footed soldier will not get away,
    and the horseman will not save his life.
16 Even the bravest warriors
    will flee naked on that day,”
declares the Lord.

Doesn’t that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? It doesn’t?  Isn’t our relationship with God supposed to be filled with happy warm feelings, euphoria, mountain tops, bunny rabbits, and ice cream?  Hmmm… maybe that’s the wrong god.  While our relationship with God should be fulfilling and full of love, it’s not just about mushy stuff.  God isn’t entirely mushy.  If anyone in the relationship has mush potential, it’s us – because He could crush us if He wanted.

Why oh why am I writing such an encouraging message this morning, you ask?  First of all, it’s in the Bible so I thought that was a good start.  And it’s in the Bible because there is a message for us here.  In the book of Amos, God was warning the nations of His mighty power.  No one was going to be getting away with their junk because God was fed up with it.  So he told them what they did and then told them about His power and plans to use it.  You see, human strength cannot withstand the power of the Lord.

I repeat: human strength cannot withstand the power of the Lord.  And while this may freak us out, that’s not the only reason for this message.  It should freak us out, however.  The fear of the Lord is an important aspect of our relationship.  It keeps us from being grace mongers… you know, sinning on purpose because you know He’ll forgive you anyways.  That’s what Paul calls abusing the grace of Jesus Christ.  Let’s not do that.

But more than freak us out, His power should cause us to be in awe of His greatness.  He promised that He would fill us with his Holy Spirit and that Spirit of the Living God contains His freakish power.  That’s why sometimes people fall over in His presence – their bodies just can’t take it.  And it is in that power that you can have victory over the evil one.  It is in that power that you can live life in the spirit rather than in the flesh.  So let His power crush your fleshly desires today so that you can truly come alive in Him.  

Can you cure me?

2 Kings 5:6-8  6 He brought the letter to the king of Israel, and it read: When this letter comes to you, note that I have sent you my servant Naaman for you to cure him of his skin disease. 7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and asked, “Am I God, killing and giving life that this man expects me to cure a man of his skin disease? Think it over and you will see that he is only picking a fight with me.” 8 When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel tore his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Have him come to me, and he will know there is a prophet in Israel.” 

Naaman had a skin disease, presumably leprosy.  Word came to him that there was a prophet in Israel who could cure him of his disease.  So he went to his king asking permission to go see this prophet.  Now keep in mind that Naaman was the commander of the army in Aram.  He better be careful entering Israel’s land or he might be seen as a spy.  Well, the king of Aram wrote a letter to the king of Israel asking him to cure him of his skin disease.  And it is at this point today’s scripture picks up.

Look at the king’s response: he tore his clothes.  He wondered how in the world he was supposed to do  anything about Naaman’s disease.  In fact, he suspected that the king of Aram was sending this guy to him to pick a fight.  “Oh, so you won’t call on your God to heal my commander, huh?  I declare war!”  And the king of Israel was frustrated that someone would actually come to him expecting to see healing.  Elisha, on the other hand, had way more confidence in the Lord.  He called for Naaman and administered his healing.

I wonder who we respond like when people come to us as believers for hope.  I wonder if we are like the king who gets frustrated and says, “what do these people want from me?!”  I’ll tell you what they want from you, they want the hope that you have.  Elisha recognized that this man was not just coming to see the king of Israel or to see a great prophet.  He came looking for the power of God.  And we should expect that people will come to us too, looking for the power of God.  After all, if you want to meet Michael Jordan, find someone who knows him.  So when people come to you with their problems, consider that maybe it’s because they recognize you know someone with solutions.   You don’t have to get frustrated like the king of Israel; just show them the way to the Lord and let Him be their answer.

God is in charge

1 Kings 13:4-5 When King Jeroboam heard what the man of God cried out against the altar at Bethel, he stretched out his hand from the altar and said, “Seize him!” But the hand he stretched out toward the man shriveled up, so that he could not pull it back. Also, the altar was split apart and its ashes poured out according to the sign given by the man of God by the word of the LORD. 

I am so curious what this looked like!  He stretches out his hand with great authority and it shrivels up.  That must have been a sight.  And I wonder what the look on his face was.  It must have been priceless to see him totally freak out.  A couple weeks ago I was working on my computer when it froze up, followed by the awesome blue screen of death.  My face must have been something to see.  I was in shock, horror, disbelief, and freaked out that I may have just lost everything.  (Fortunately, I didn’t)  But my little meltdown doesn’t even come close to the shock, horror, and disbelief King Jeroboam must have felt when he saw his hand.

Here’s the thing: his hand was his power.  When he stretched it out and commanded someone to be arrested, it happened.  But the the Lord took away his power.  He removed his authority.  Which tells me that regardless of how important the king thought he was, no matter how powerful he was in his own eyes… God was really the one in charge.  It’s so true, isn’t it?  God is in charge.

However, sometimes we think that we are.  We stretch out our wimpy arms and make bold powerless declarations.  But God is the only one with absolute power.  So it would be in our best interest to line our lives up with His commands, His heart, and His authority.  If we do so, we will never be embarrassed by a weak display of perceived power.  Instead, every move we make under His authority will be powerful and effective.

Power Rangers

Ephesians 1:18-21 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

I was never a fan of the show Power Rangers, mainly because it was cheesy.  There’s this seemingly ordinary group of kids that, when necessary, morph into superheroes.  They have super strength, incredible fighting skills, amazing power, and terrible acting skills.  Where this power all comes from, I don’t know.  I do know, however, that often people with certain weaknesses have an increase in their other senses.  For example, those who are blind might have tremendous hearing.  Maybe the power rangers’ lack of acting chops leads to great fighting skills.  Who knows?

Enough about that.  Christians are like Power Rangers in our own right.  We’ve got weaknesses and some of us wear extremely colorful clothes.  That’s not what we have in common though.  It’s the extraordinary power that has been given us – we just seem to morph less often than those Rangers… spiritually speaking of course.

Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus that he wanted them to grasp the incomparably great power that was given to all those who believe.  And it seems that they didn’t grasp it, because he goes on to describe it.  It is the power of His mighty strength.  It is the power that raised Christ from the dead.  It is the power that seated Him at the right hand of the Father.  It is the power that gave Him authority that was far above all rule and authority – basically over everything.

That power has been given to those who believe.  It has been given to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Yet we walk around powerless.  We live our lives in the non-transformed, everyday living Power Rangers state.  It’s the Rangers minus the power.  That’s no fun, though, is it?  All we get is a boring, weak life marked by bad acting.  I want to grasp His power.  I want to really get it.  I want those super awesome fighting skills that can kick some demon derrière.  That only comes with grasping the power that God has given us.  His plan for us is not a weak, defeated life.  It is a life lived fully by His power and His strength.  Ask God to show you His power.  Ask Him to make it real in your life.  Then you, too, can be God’s mighty transformed Power Ranger!