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Context is King – Care for a Crown?

       
   
 

Want one of these in your 401K?

Context is King.
     But, Jesus is the King of Kings and He offers not only salvation for those who believe, but also some desperately needed context for our worldview.

     Trials and troubles and annoyances and tragedies exist. No getting around that in a Genesis 3 world. So, Jesus gave us a heads-up – “In this life, you will have troubles.” But, what is the context in which we are to interpret these troubles? In chapter 15 of John’s gospel, Jesus has just spent a bunch of time telling his disciples some bad news: the world is going to hate them “for no reason (John 15:25)”. Then He moves forward into the “you will have trouble” part of the speech. As if the “they’re going to hate you” part wasn’t bad enough, He explains two things:

  1. “I’m telling you this so you won’t get freaked out when it happens. I’m giving you a heads-up now that I’m on my way out.” (John 16:1 – paraphrased)
  2. “It’s going to be so bad, people are going to try to kill you because of me, thinking by killing you they’re serving Me.” (John 16:2-4 – paraphrased) “So, what do you guys want for dessert?”

    Can we skip to the end of the story? For some context?

The End That Satisfies the Means
    Here’s why “the end of a matter is better than its beginning… (Ecc 7:8)”: At the “end of the story” – Revelation 2 & 3, where God dictates seven letters for John to address to the seven churches in Asia Minor, Jesus reminds them who He is. “I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (v. 23)… To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations (v. 26)” At the Bema seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5.10), believers in Christ will receive their eternal rewards, including many crowns promised throughout scripture.

    Bottom line – in a world where trouble is the everyday landscape of our walk, everything you and I do [within God’s will for us and that’s not done with selfish motive (Mt. 6:2, Mt. 6:5, Mt. 6:16)] will be repaid with eternal reward.

     So, here’s the compensation structure when it comes to persevering under trial:

  1. Get paid now – “Atta boy!!!” (remarkably temporary)
  2. Get paid in eternity – “I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” or
  3. Both – “do everything without arguing or complaining. (Phil. 2:14)” and “I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (Rev. 2:23b)”

     We’ve been warned. We’ve been told it won’t be easy, but given the Holy Spirit to guide, empower, and protect us. We’ve been given the context of our trials, persecution, and our eternal rewards. We can take the recognition from men now or we can take a rain check in our eternal 401K. What would you prefer, a compliment that lasts a little while or a portfolio that lasts forever?

    If you’re a man within 30 minutes of California Dreaming in Duluth, GA – do whatever you have to do to get there tomorrow morning (Friday, 05.11.2012) at 6:30 for Men Step Up. There, we’ll be thinking out loud about the lies of the enemy and the truth that sets men free, specifically this stuff. Hope to see you there!

AP

Monday Morning Momentum Minute

Times of Trouble

     For those of you close to us, you know our family has been going through quite a time as our teenage daughter has begun an outward wrestling with her identity in Christ. She’s been given great tools and great teaching, but in the confusion of her adolescent brain (remember those days? I do… and shudder) has chosen destructive paths to express her long bottled up emotions. This is not an indictment against her, rather a recounting of the facts as she and we have discussed them. For her privacy’s sake, we’ll draw the line here in terms of detail. Let it just be said that we are fully committed to and currently engaged in getting her all the help she needs as she navigates this exponentially complicated season of her life. Her commitment to this process, moving forward over the next 90 days and beyond, is between her and her Savior – or, as we say “a vertical issue”.


Rest in Peace
     Recently, a friend and mentor of mine verbalized his observation of my “stable” state of mind and attitude in the wake of all she’s done to herself, and by extension, to us as a family. I didn’t even realize how stable & peaceful I was feeling at that moment. In fact, I was torn with whether or not to even mention it here so
publicly for fear of taking credit for something that was so far outside of my own doing. But, there you have it: it wasn’t my doing. I wasn’t keeping myself in peace [Is. 26.3] by intense concentration or fierce labor of the body, I had merely decided not to fight against the all powerful God whose name is “Master of the Universe” (Adonai, melech ha olam). With regard to all Brie is going through, Cristine and I have acknowledged that God is in control and despite the fact that we disagree with His methods of sanctifying our daughter (and again, by extension, us…) at this time, we trust Him to have a far better plan than we to accomplish His ends.

     Then, today, as I was reading Jim Cymbala’s “Spirit Rising”, I noticed Cristine had circled one line in Francis Chan’s introduction – “It is the Spirit who gives life. The flesh is no help at all. (John 6.63)”

Praise the Lord.

The Truth

     The truth was right there in black and white. Mere paragraphs from one of my favorite and misquoted verses in scripture: “if you hold to my teachings, then you are truly my disciples. And, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. (John 8.31-32)” And, there I was – set free by the truth that my flesh (my natural tendency to do things in my own power and will) was of no help in bringing me peace and stability. At any given moment, we have a choice – we can wrestle with God (which very rarely pays off – see Gen. 32.35 and Gen. 18 for examples) in our own strength or we can yield to the Spirit.

The Hard Question:

     Are you striving or trusting, right now?

Be Encouraged:
     Jesus made a big deal about the Holy Spirit – “…it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. John 16.7)” If it was better for Him to go and the Spirit to come, shouldn’t we expect more of the Spirit in our lives? YES!!! I didn’t feel any tingling in my bones, didn’t glow in the dark, didn’t even speak in tongues – but when my mentor mentioned my demeanor, I did notice the peace that I had no part in creating. I simply yielded to the Spirit. That promise and peace are available to you, and all who call upon the name of Christ with a pure heart. Isn’t that NUTS?! Just for the asking and the yielding. You don’t have to wield an axe and chop down a forest, you just have to sit and rest.

So, sit. Rest. Know that He is sovereign and you are His.

Peace. Really – rest… in… peace.

in Christ,

AP

Monday Morning Momentum (Alright, 3:42…)

     This week is anything but “business as usual”. So, instead of trying to articulate during an inarticulate time, I’m letting Tenth Avenue North run the Monday Morning Momentum Minute. They’ve said it much better than I can and if a picture is worth a thousand words, the chalkboard in the background is worth a million bucks. Have a great week – you are loved.

     Thanks, for all of your prayers on our behalf.

in Christ,
AP

Monday Morning Momentum Minute

“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Pet. 5.7)”

     Yeah, right.

     Ever think that? Ever been in one of those moments where the hammer is about to drop on your life, your job, your deal, your carefully orchestrated plans and all you can think of is how “this is just not going my way”, or better, a four letter word or ten cross your mind or lips? When I’m in the middle of an anxious moment – everything’s falling apart, the deal is unraveling because the CFO’s got a buddy who’ll do it cheaper, the finance company’s moved from phone calls to foreclosure/repossession – I’ve had friends email me or text me or even tell me “cast your anxiety on Him…”

     Being in the moment, the hardest thing to think of is anything other than the moment. Last week, in discussion with a group of men the question was raised “How can a man take his own kids into his home, whack them in the neck with a hatchet, fire off an email, and then burn down the house, killing himself and everyone in it?” I thought about the story of Josh Powell and immediately could only think of another, nearly unrelated story that happened 5 years ago – when my younger brother pointed a .380 at his own chest and pulled the trigger on a Monday morning in January.

     The answer to the question came swiftly “That guy would have to believe that this was his best or only exit from the situation he was in.” In conversation with my brother even a week or two after he tried to take his own life it was clear that he was weighed down by the anxiety that comes from believing a lot of lies (over a long period of time) about what’s possible, what’s probable, and what the most “viable” outcome of his situation (pre-gunshot) would be. Josh Powell had to believe that his best option was murdering his own kids and taking himself out in the process. But, both my brother and Powell were at the far end of a very dark tunnel that neither of them had to go to.

     Today, consider this – if you are “in Christ”, you have a very large target on your back, just like me. You have an enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He will lie to you every chance he gets and he has no friends, only “servants”. He will plant seeds of deception in your life and do everything he can to keep your focus on what’s now, what’s not possible, and a very limited menu of viable outcomes. However, you also have an ally: the living Christ, whose Spirit lives in you to confirm truth and comfort you in your fears.

     It’s trite to say “this too, shall pass”. Though it be banal, its cliche cannot take away its truth. Time will pass, this situation may leave marks and scars. But, it cannot last forever. Jesus never wanted us to ignore our troubles or trials, rather to grieve our losses, seek His comfort, and “let endurance have its perfect result so that [we] may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” As my friend Greg Ford says – “I wrote it on the inside windshield of my truck – trials are necessary.”

     My prayer for you this morning is that if you’re in a “limited menu” moment, you will heed any or all of what scripture says regarding anxiety. Don’t minimize the moment or the fear, rather press in to God with your concerns and pray He helps you unravel the lies before they begin to grow like kudzu, strangling your hope.

    “If you hold to my teachings, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8.32).”

I bid you peace, but peace in freedom.

in Christ,

AP

That Day Update

     “That Day” was (and continues to be) a fantastic success. In April, Men Step Up (Gwinnett) celebrated 5 years in ministry. They thought the best way to celebrate it would be to invite every guy who’d ever walked through the door at the Gwinnett location to come back any Friday in March. On top of it all, they decided the best way to cap off a series about “the value of being present” was to have a dinner theater production of “That Day”, where the main character gets to see the value of the presence (or lack thereof) of a godly man in the lives of those around him.

     So, they hired us to perform this one man show (“two man” if you count Rolin Williamson, who played [awesome] guitar and sang [awesomely], or “14 man” if you include all the characters I play… But, you get the point) at Crosspointe Church, in Duluth, GA. The house was sold out at about 150 people – men, women, and children, who came hungry for truth, food, and entertainment. Thanks to California Dreaming and the Lord sustaining me through this 90 minute “monologue (?)”, none left disappointed.

     California Dreaming had appetizers ready for the sold out crowd as they piled into the performance room watching video clips of Men Step Up testimonials/interviews. Rolin Williamson offered up a sweet version of U2’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” to set the tone for the show. Then, after a few moments of awkward silence, Dan Matthewson (Aarron Pina) busied his way to the stage with an abrupt opening line that defined the character from the outset: “Can we just get to the point, please?! I hate wasting time…”

Annette Creekmore listens as John Woodward shares his
reflections on eternal rewards at the judgment seat of Christ.

    Aarron delivered over a dozen characters in a moving first act, making for a very suspenseful intermission. During intermission, attendees were treated not only to a fantastic, catered dinner, but a family style rendition of “table talk” Men Step Up style. Audience members who had just witnessed a man “unprepared for his own judgment” got a chance to wrestle with scripture and their own thoughts on what their judgment will really look like. Rob Marbury, an audience member, said the show took him “beyond salvation”. Bullseye.

     The second act proved equally moving and poignant. After great performances by both Aarron and Rolin Williamson, Casey Sanders led the crowd in a brief “popcorn” forum where participants got to share their reflections on the show, the performance, and the truth of God’s word. Gears were definitely turned, hearts were moved, and paradigms stretched. Another bullseye!

      In fact, Aarron received a standing ovation and by the time everyone who wanted to talk or ask him questions was done, it was almost an hour before he could get out the door! Wow – God really “showed up”. In the coming months, a local singles ministry hopes to have us perform for them, and a private party is planning to have us in Dallas, TX for a command performance. Additionally, two business men who attended April’s performance will be talking with Seasons of Life later next week about how to put the show in front of several groups of local Christian business owners forums later this year.

    Once again, nothing like we had planned. But, as God ordained, a thousand times better. Look for more updates on Twitter, Facebook, or our web page at www.thatday.info.