Inspired by the Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren Becoming Christ-like, I’ve just learned, is our 3rd purpose in life, following worshiping God and being a part of God’s family. Becoming Christ-like is also a life-long process and even then, it is only in heaven that the final stages are fulfilled. This process of sanctification requires going through life’s difficulties, not unlike other facets of life, in which you must go through the “pain” for the “gain”, or in how a diamond must be buffed and chiseled to reach it’s full potential. It’s easy to agree that hardships build character and that stories of struggle oftentimes make the best ones. So, in the same way, God allows for trials in order to build our character. Each time we triumph over losing our cool, we’ve built some patience. Each time we love our enemy, we’ve built compassion. Each time we smile in the midst of sorrow, we’ve built joy. And before long, we’ve matured some of our fruits of the Spirit, bringing us closer to Christ-likeness. The trick, however, is in living this belief by becoming better, not bitter. We aim to ask to be “conformed,” not “comforted.” We strive to remember that God’s plan is good and that he has equipped us for success. and our knowledge of his authority and perfect goodness can intelligently bridge that gap for us. God is not always able to speak to us; we closed that direct line of communication long ago. But he uses his Word, his people, and his world to guide us through this journey. By giving His Word authority in your life, by interchanging with fellow believers, and by holding onto your faith through trying times, you are doing what God needs for you to, getting closer to Christ’s likeness, and fulfilling your life purpose!
Pastor Bruce told an unforgettable story yesterday to illustrate loving the unlovable… There was a pastor in Hawaii, his name was Tony. One night he couldn’t sleep at all, just tossing and turning and finally he just got up and went for a walk. He ended up at this hole-in-the wall coffee shop and sidled up to the counter and said, “just give me a coffee and doughnut.” So here he is at 3:30am, at a mom-and-pop joint, with his coffee and doughnut. In walk some prostitutes, loud and rambunctious, dressed like prostitutes, and they sit on either side of Tony. So here he is, a pastor, at 3:30am, at a hole-in-the wall, with three prostitutes. They’re talking animatedly, and then one prostitute says at one point, “You know, it’s my birthday tomorrow.” And the others tease back, “What do you want us to do, throw you a party, get you presents, what?” And the first woman says, “No, no, no, I was just saying that it’s my 39th birthday.” And after a while, they leave, just as abruptly as they came. The pastor turns to the short-order cook and asks him “Do those girls come in here all the time?” And he replies, “Yea, yea, yea, every night, 3:30am, when they’re done with their shift (sidenote: i guess prostitutes work in shifts?!), they come right in here and get some food, every night, same time.” Then Tony asks, what about the girl whose birthday is tomorrow, does she come in every night?” And the cook answers, “Oh, Agnes! Yea, Agnes comes in every night, 3:30am, like clockwork.” Then the pastor proposes,” What if we were to throw her a birthday party at 3:30 tomorrow? I’ll go buy some decorations and we can get a cake and when they come in, they’ll be so surprised! How about that?” The cook thought quizzically about it for a moment and then offered, “That’s a crazy idea. But I think we should do it.” And so the next evening, Tony pulls up with decorations and soon after, prostitutes come pouring in to attend the party. (apparently, word had spread!) They get everything ready and then at 3:30am, in walks Agnes and her friends and everyone screams, “Surprise!” A dumbfounded Agnes blows out the candles and when asked to cut the cake, she pauses, staring at it, and then asks,” Do you mind if I take this cake home to show my mom? I’ve never had a cake before.” And of course, Tony graciously tells her to do so and off Agnes runs with the cake and then there Tony is with a room full of prostitutes! So what does one do?! Tony take the opportunity to say, “Well, I’m a pastor at church here and I would like for us to pray for Agnes.” Suddenly, the cook chimes in, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, you’re a pastor?! What kind of pastor are you?! Here you are, in the middle of the night throwing the prostitutes a party…I thought maybe you were trying to get a quickie in there or get a freebie or something. If you’re really a pastor, then I want to know of what church; because I’ll join that church” And Tony told them which church in Hawaii he pastored and that night, he gained some followers. The point of this story? Get out of the rules and get into LOVING PEOPLE. If more people showed their love like Tony did, I bet you that we would have a lot more people going to church. Bruce said that we get into trouble when we compare ourselves with others. Just like Cain and Abel ended up embroiled in envy and spite and violence, so will we suffer if we delude ourselves by thinking that our sin is greater than God’s love. Our acceptance isn’t based on our sins; it’s based on God’s love. Oftentimes, we don’t accept ourselves. And that makes it impossible to accept others. But if we use God’s love towards us as the guideline for how we are to love others, then we should love everyone. Religion by rules is what got the world into so much trouble. It’s faith by living sacrificially that is what God wants for us. Jesus crossed the universe to show us His love. So do we have to get up. Oftentimes we sit at home thinking, “Woe is me, nobody loves me.” So, do something about it. Reach out to your community, grab a cup of coffee with someone, look for the love, build the love. Small groups are not meant to be bible studies for Christians. They’re meant to be times to outreach and form relationships. It’s all about the relationships formed. Again: Get out of the rules and get in to loving people. We cannot mess up so much that He doesn’t still come running after us.
At church yesterday, the message opened up with the opening song of a football game. Of course, Pastor Adam had something up his sleeve again! He had invited some of his “friends:” football players Kenyon Coleman of the Cowboys and Ryan Neill of the Rams, to come share their stories with our church. I was captivated by these men standing just several hundred feet from me, who had succeeded against incredible odds, as they testified about God’s role in their life and victory. Kenyon Coleman towered at 6’10”, 310 lbs, and 31 years. He boasted 9 years in the league, 7 years in his marriage, and 3 kids and a beautiful wife in his family. He spoke about the “epidemic” plaguing our nation today: this obsession with “making a name for ourselves.” Everyone from the reality stars of “Jersey Shore” to kid with no sort of musical legitimacy who wants to be a music producer, is chasing after making their names “known.” But this epidemic is nothing new. In Genesis 11, the Babylonians wanted to build a tower that reached the heavens and said, “Let us make a name for ourselves.” Kenyon said, “God is more devoted to your dream than you are. But he doesn’t want you to love the dream. He wants you to love the Dreammaker.”
Raya, Ahava, & Dod are three different Hebrew words that mean love. There are, in total, 7 Hebrew words that mean love. The language differentiates between the different types/levels of love, as opposed to the English language, in which love is used to describe one’s feelings for ice cream as well as Jesus Christ. RAYA: Friendship It’s not all about “she’s hot.” Hell is hot. Physical attraction will wane. You want to be able to wake up next to your Raya, your friend, everyday, and know that you are loved just the same. AHAVA: Commitment Living together is a test drive. Ahava is not about test drives. It is about a ferocious love. The I’m not going anywhere kind of love. The I know that I’ll screw up and you’ll still be there for me kind of love. It’s NOT I’ll be with you for as long as you make me feel good, but once you’re dull, etc, I’m out. The Bible describes love as “suffering long…” as opposed to the world that paints love as a picture of tingly, giddy feelings…for “the one.” There is no “one”…that exists along with leprechauns, oompa loompas, and unicorns. We’re all fixer-uppers. Ahava anchors you down to the one you love. DOD: Intimacy… …When Raya and Ahava are present. When they are not, that is when intimacy can go very wrong. Dod is a source of comfort, connection, and pleasure. Dod is a gift from God.
(inspired by Pastor George) What are you devoted to? A lot of us can name devotions to small things, I’m sure…coffee every morning, only flying American Airlines, catching Monday night episodes of “How I Met Your Mother.” Well, what about committing yourself to “rejecting isolation?” Hollywood glorifies the idea of “being self-sufficient.” Think about Jason Bourne who took on the CIA, Liam Neeson (“Taken”) who took on everybody, Batman who so famously whispered, “I work alone.” There are 8 million people in NYC, but Mark Twain said called NYC, “a splendid desert—a domed and steepled solitude, where the stranger is lonely in the midst of a million of his race.” Sometimes you just wanna go “where everybody knows your name.” So, Reject Isolation! the Bible says “two are better than one. Someone who falls alone is in deep trouble…” God made us to be relational people. In “the Band of Brothers,” it was taught that you never leave a wounded soldier behind. Similarly, on days when we don’t feel like getting up in the morning, call on someone for encouragement. On days when you feel alone, it’s our responsibility to reach out. Our brothers will not leave us behind. We must spur and provoke one another. Your small group or any other community that you are in is not there only for you to benefit from, but it is also there for others to benefit from you. MSNY hosts Game Nights and Dessert Nights because of the fellowship that ensues from it. When you share a meal with someone, how much better is it than the meal that is eaten alone?