Have you ever lost something of value? What was it and what did you do about it?
When I lose something, my response is based on the value I place in what was lost. For instance, how I respond to losing my son in Disneyland (two times) is different than my response to losing my keys.
It’s true. Several years ago we lived in walking distance to Disneyland, had a season pass, and would take our sons quite often. The first time Kincade was six years old and he was prone to wander, to stop and look at anything shiny or sweet, and he had stopped at one of the little shops on the street. A worker saw him and realized he was lost and gave him a lollipop to keep him calm. Once we realized he was missing we quickly backtracked and found him. The second time was during closing and everyone was packed in shoulder to shoulder walking out of the park, and we assigned Kincade, now 7, to hold his brother Hudson’s hand (a very responsible 10 year old). We got separated and by the time we caught up with each other we had 3 of our 4 boys, no Kincade. We freaked. We thought the worse and that feeling only grew as we frantically backtracked and could not find him. 30 minutes passed. No Kincade. As Suzanne made her way to the lost and found area, there he was. It was like a heavy weight lifted off our shoulders. Kincade was, excuse my language, pissed. He still hasn’t forgiven us for that one (he’s 15 now).
You know people stay away from church for a lot of different reasons. But one of the primary reasons is that we have a tendency to make people feel worse about themselves. We try to convince people they are lost and it’s their fault. That’s encouraging. No wonder they stay away. Let me go there and hear some more of that upbeat message.
Often we think God must be like that too. But in Luke 15 Jesus describes what God goes through when he is looking for and waiting for us to come to Him. And, most importantly, what He is like when He does find us.
Grab a Bible or Google Luke 15, read the stories and let me know what jumps out at you. This will be our Easter passage for this year.
Do you deserve grace?
How do you get grace?
In human relationships grace is often earned. Say my wife does something to offend me, or to disrespect me (I know, totally hypothetical). Do I give her grace or do I wait until she owns up to her mistake? Once she owns up to it, then I give her grace and forgive her. Once she asks for forgiveness, then I will forgive her.
That’s not grace.
Grace, by it’s very nature, is undeserved and given before it is ever asked for.
This weekend, at all of our campuses, I want to unpack this thought by looking at a story of two people in Luke 7: Simon, the pharisee and a prostitute woman. The woman comes into the room where Simon and Jesus are eating and begins to weep over Jesus’ feet and dries them with her hair and then anoints them with expensive perfume. It’s scandalous. Seriously. It’s not right. It’s not appropriate. But Jesus doesn’t rebuke the woman. Matter of fact, Jesus doesn’t even forgive her in that moment. What we see is that Jesus had already forgiven her and that’s why she was there, expressing her love the way she did.
The grace offered to us by God, through Jesus Christ, is scandalous; it’s undeserved; it’s inappropriate to our actions. But that’s not up to us. What is up to us is whether we will accept the grace He offers, even before we deserve it, before we ask for it, before we seek forgiveness.
Hope you can join us this weekend. Have an awesome rest of your week in God’s grace.
It was Jesus’ habit to get away and pray. He would often go up a mountain and spend time with God. In Luke 9 he took Peter, James and John with him (you can read about it in Luke 9:28-36).
As they later recounted the story, that mountaintop moment was a spiritual experience in which Moses and Elijah show up and talk with Jesus and then the Father also speaks. Here’s my question: was this the only time Jesus experienced this? The Bible tells us it was his habit to go and pray. Isn’t it possible that Jesus had this experience more than once? We know it didn’t happen every time because there were other moments the disciples went and prayed with Jesus, but it makes you wonder.
I think we put down the experiential aspect of faith. We try and make it more intellectual and theoretical. But what if we need the experiential? Not just for our faith, but to navigate the conflicts in this life? You know what Jesus was confronted with as soon as he came off the mountain? Conflict. I bet he was grateful for the momentary experience of being on a mountain with His Father and a couple of friends.
I often say, “If we don’t experience Jesus on a weekend at Westside we should all find another church.” Seriously. I want to connect with Him and be with Him and know Him. I want to be impacted by His love, grace and mercy. I want Him to reveal what’s in me and help me grow.
What does experiencing Jesus look like to you?
Monday, I had the privilege of speaking to our Westside Youth. I told them that when we were young and accepted Jesus we asked Him to come and live in our hearts. But that’s bad theology. He doesn’t live in our hearts, He lives at the right hand of the Father in heaven, where there is all power and authority. And that’s important because He then sends His representative to be with us and in us: the Holy Spirit. So all that Jesus is and all that He said and did, is deposited into us through the Holy Spirit. That’s why being filled with Him everyday is such an important prayer. He will give us the ability to hear God and walk according to His will.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, (Luke 4:1 NIV)
This weekend, Westside Church will be looking at the epic battle between good and evil as written by Luke about the life of Jesus. One of the interesting aspects about Jesus is that He is a dividing line. Luke 2:34-35 says that He is destined to cause the rise and fall of many and to reveal the hearts of us all.
Here’s the difference between Jesus and the devil: when the devil finds out who you really are (the thoughts of your heart come flying out in destructive ways – which happens to us all), the devil takes that and throws back in your face. He makes sure you don’t forget it. What Jesus does, on the other hand, is He takes it and throws it as far as the east is from the west. He forgets about it.
I don’t know about you, but I choose Jesus. In Him is total love, acceptance and forgiveness. Hope to see you at one of our campuses or online this weekend.
Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35 NIV)
The second conversation with God recorded in the Bible takes place between God and Cain after Cain kills his brother. And what is interesting about the conversation is that we think God brings judgment on Cain. But a closer look shows that Cain’s punishment involved natural consequences. First, because of what he did, relationships are lost. He has to leave his family after killing his own brother. Second, because he has to leave the proximity of the garden of Eden (very fruitful area), he has to wander in places that do not have as fertile soil as Eden.
Actually, what we see is a God of mercy. Instead of killing Cain (“an eye for an eye”), God protects Cain from others who might want to enact revenge.
The worst “punishment” is his loss of connection to God. It says that he “went out from the Lord’s presence”.
As I think about all of this in light of my own life, I am reminded of how I think my mistakes separate me from God. I know that God is good and that He is holy, and so my sin convinces me that I am outside of the Lord’s presence. But I am so grateful that this story reveals a God of mercy. He is quick to forgive and slow to anger.
This morning at Westside, we look at another story of someone who is separated from God and how Jesus comes along and shows mercy and kindness. And that kindness leads this man to restoration of relationship with God.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. (Genesis 4:9-16 NIV)
We can define prayer as a personal, communicative response to the knowledge of God. It means that prayer is profoundly altered by the amount and accuracy of that knowledge.
All prayer is responding to God. In all cases God is the initiator— “hearing” always precedes asking. God comes to us first or we would never reach out to him.
The Bible speaks of our relationship with God as knowing and being known (Gal 4:9; 1 Cor 13:12).
But now that you know God—or rather are known by God… (Galatians 4:9 NIV) For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV)
Prayer is continuing a conversation that God has started through his Word and his grace, which eventually becomes a full encounter with him.
The power of our prayers, then, lies not primarily in our effort and striving, or in any technique, but rather in our knowledge of God.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1-2 NIV)
A typical Wednesday for me is filled with connecting with people. Today is no different. I will be at the DMV, coffee with a couple from Redmond, talk with someone who is new to our church, meet with our service teams, speaking team, sisters campus pastor, our prayer pastor and two volunteer leaders in our church. And then tonight gather with hundreds of Westsiders for our First Wednesday service.
In the midst of a busy day, it is so easy to simply put your head down and get it done. But often that creates missed opportunities in the midst of the meetings and in the margins between those appointments. My prayer today is that I will see and hear what God wants to say to me and through me and that He will strengthen me for our First Wednesday service tonight. What is your prayer for today?
Yesterday, Westside’s speaking team met to pray and discuss upcoming messages. As we worshiped and prayed the Spirit of God filled the place where we were meeting. We began praying against strongholds in our community and against powers of darkness that are pressing against God’s kids. He gave us a picture of darkness being pushed away by light as we prayed. I felt like whatever we did took ground for God’s kingdom.
I know it sounds so epic and mysterious and strange to some, but I’m reminded of Daniel who fasted and prayed for weeks and received a vision of an angel who was held back but was able to press through as Daniel continued to pray and fast.
This thing isn’t easy. Praying persistently and fasting are hard work. And so often we stop right before the miracle happens. Keep praying and believing church. Ground is being taken back.
Most of us have called someone hoping it would go straight to voicemail. We didn’t really want to have a conversation, but we did have a message to leave.
I’ve never heard of someone going over to a friend’s house, knocking on the door, hoping no one was home. To be honest, that seems weird to me if you’ve done that. Were you hoping you could just tell them later, “Hey I stopped by, but you weren’t home.” Weird.
What if you knew they were home, but they didn’t answer your first knock? Do you just leave? What if you have something really important to tell them? What if it is life threatening? You don’t stop knocking do you, and, depending on the emergency, you most likely bust down the door.
That’s the picture Jesus paints for us when it comes to praying. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I don’t pray long enough. I’m not talking in minutes or hours, but days and years. Do I keep knocking until He answers? Often, I won’t get an answer and I’ll take that as the answer. But is silence really an answer? Should we take it as one? Silence is not a “no” or a “yes”. It’s just silence.
So, I’m determined to knock as long as it takes. If it takes a day, a week, a year, or a lifetime.