Thursday, July 18, 2013

Crazy Love - Francis Chan

Salomon warned us not to rush into God’s presence with words. That’s what fools do and often that’s what we do.

            We are a culture that relies on technology over community, a society in which spoken and written words are cheap, easy to come by and excessive. Our culture says anything goes; fear of God is almost unheard of. We are slow to listen, quick to speak and quick to become angry.

To say that God is holy is to say that He is set apart, distinct from us. And because He is set apart there is no way we can ever fathom all of who He is.

So to call God “Holy, holy, holy.” is to say that He is perfect, set-apart, with nothing and no-one to compare Him to. That is what it means to be holy. Fredrick Buecher, “Intellectually we all know that we will die, but we do not really know it in the sense of living as though it was true. On the contrary, we tend to live as though our lives would go on forever.”

(James 4:13-14) "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is you life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." 

            Worry implies that we don’t quite trust that God is BIG enough, powerful enough or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives. Basically stress and worry communicate that it is okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional. Both worry and stress reek of arrogance. They declare our tendency to forget that we’ve been forgiven, that our lives here are brief. That we are headed to a place where we won’t be lonely, afraid or hurt ever again and that in the context of God’s strength, our problems are small indeed. Why are we so quick to forget God? How is it possible that we live as though it is about us? When it is all about God!

(1 Corinthians 10:31) "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 

            God has allowed hard things in your life so you can show the world that your God is great, and that knowing Him brings peace and joy even when life is hard.

God is more worthy of trust than anyone else. Isaiah 64:6 says “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Our good deeds can never outweigh our sins.

God’s mercy is a free, yet costly gift. It cannot be earned.

The wildest part is that Jesus doesn’t have to love us. His being is utterly complete and perfect apart from humanity. He doesn’t need me or you. Yet He wants us. Chooses us. Even considers us His inheritance. (Ephesians 1:18) "Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints."

The greatest knowledge we can ever have is knowing God treasures us.

^^ That really is amazing beyond description. The holy creator sees you as His “Glorious inheritance.” The irony is that while God doesn’t need us but still wants us, we desperately need God but don’t really want Him most of the time.

The best things in life are gifts from the one who steadfastly loves us. But the important question to ask ourselves is this: Are we in love with God or just His stuff?

Conversely, what a beautiful gift it is to have the one you love look you in the eye and say “I love you. Not your beauty, your money, your family, or your car, just you.” Can you say that to God?

David Goetz, “Too much of the good life ends up being toxic, deforming us spiritually.”

A lot of things are good by themselves, but all of it together keeps us from living healthy, fruitful lives for God.”

** Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live? Do you see evidence of God’s kingdom in your life? Or are you choking it out slowly by spending too much time, energy, money and thought on the things of this world? Would you describe yourself as totally in love with Jesus Christ? Or do the words halfhearted, lukewarm, and partially committed fit better?

(Isaiah 29:13; 1 Chronicles 21:24; Luke 21:1-4.) 1st "And the Lord said: 'Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men." 2nd "But king David said to Ornan, 'No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing." 3rd "Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, 'Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." 

*Lukewarm people: tend to choose what is popular over what is right when they are in conflict. They desire to fit in both at church and outside of church; they care more about what people think of their actions, than what God thinks of their hearts and lives.

(Luke 6:26; Rev 3:1; Matthew 23:5-7) 1st "Woe to you  who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep." 2nd "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: 'The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. "'I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead." 3rd "They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbiby others."

We’re willing to make changes in our lives only if we think it affects our salvation. Questions like “Am I Christian even though I’m having sex with my girlfriend? If I commit suicide, can I still go to heaven?” <= These questions and many more are tragic because they reveal much about the state of our hearts.

They demonstrate that our concern is more about going to heaven than loving the king (John 14:15) "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." and our question becomes even more unthinkable: “Can I go to heaven without truly and faithfully loving Jesus?”

Nowhere in the scriptures would the answer to that question be yes.

(James 2:19) "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe- and shudder!" God doesn’t want us to have good theology: He wants us to know and love Him. (1 John 2:3-4) "And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him." 

Are you willing to say to God that He can have whatever He wants? Do you believe that wholehearted commitment to Him is more important than any other thing or person in your life? Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people He has made?

            The fact is nothing should concern us more than our relationship with God. It’s about eternity and nothing compares with that.

            Have you ever met someone who was utterly and desperately in love with Jesus? When you are truly in love, you go up to great lengths to be with the one you love. You’ll drive for hours to be together, even if it’s only for a short while. You don’t mind staying up late to talk. Walking in the rain is romantic, not annoying. You’ll willingly spend a small fortune on the one you’re crazy about. When you are apart from each other it’s painful, even miserable. He or she is all you think about; you jump at any chance to be together.

“If you could have heaven with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disaster could you be satisfied with heaven if Christ was not there?” -John Piper.

            If you are as deeply in love with God as many Christians, you know you could never be satisfied in heaven without Christ.

Isn’t this what God wants of us to crave this relationship with Him as we crave all genuine love relationships?

Isn’t that what brings Him glory when believers desire Him and are not merely slaves who serve Him out of obligation?

(Galatians 5:13-14) "For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 

Do you live as though faith, demonstrated through love, really is the only thing that counts?

Make Psalm 63:1-5 an honest reflection of your lives every day, "God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. so I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips." 
God wants to change us; He died so that we could change.

The answer lies in letting Him change you… “I need Jesus to help me love God. And if I need His help to love Him, a perfect being, I definitely need His help to love other fault-filled humans. Something mysterious, even supernatural must happen in order for genuine love for God to grow in our hearts. The Holy Spirit has to move in our lives, it is a remarkable cycle; our prayers for more love result in love, which naturally causes us to pray more, which results in more love… Imagine going for a run while eating a box of Twinkies. Besides being self-defeating and side ache-inducing, it would also be near impossible, you would have to stop running in order to eat the Twinkies.

            In the same way you have to stop loving and pursuing Christ in order to sin. When you are pursuing love, running toward Christ you don’t have the opportunity to wonder. Am I doing this right? Or did I serve enough this week? When you are running toward Christ you are freed up to serve and love and give thanks without guilt, worry or fear. As long as you are running, you are safe. But running is exhausting if that is, we are running from sin or guilt, out of fear. However if we train ourselves to run toward our refuge, toward love, we are called to be.

As we begin to focus more on Christ, loving Him and others becomes more natural. As long as we are pursuing Him, we are satisfied in Him. It is when we stop actively loving Him that we find ourselves restless and gravitating toward other means of fulfillment.

God is the only true giver and He needs nothing from us. But still He wants us. He gave us life so that we might seek and know Him.

            Jesus I need to give myself up. I am not strong enough to love you and walk with you on my own. I can’t do it and I need you. I need you deeply and desperately. I believe you are worth it, and that you are better than anything else I could have in this life or the next. I want you and when I don’t, I want to want you. Be all in me, take all of me. Have your way with me.

            Having faith often means doing what others see as crazy. Something is WRONG when our life makes sense to non-believers.

If we allow ourselves to live recklessly for Him, then we too will see His glory. We will see Him do the impossible. We have to do things that cost us during our life on earth but will be more than worth it in eternity. (Matt 25)

Jesus is saying that we show tangible love for God in how we care for the poor and the desperate as if they were Christ himself. (1 John 3:16-20) "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything." 

God didn’t just give a little for us; He gave himself.

True love requires sacrifice and our love is shown by how we live our lives; “Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

(2 Corinthians 8:13-15) "For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, 'Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack."

God wants us to trust Him with abandon. He wants to show us how He works and cares for us. He wants to be our refuge.

(Isa 58) (Luke 6:32-36) 2nd "If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. 

Truth faith is loving a person after he has hurt you. True love makes you stand out.

(Luke 14:12-14) (1 Tim 6:6-13) 1st "Then he turned to his host. 'When you put on a luncheon or a banquet.' he said, 'don't invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you." 2nd "Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can't take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance  and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses. And I charge you before God, who gives life to all, and before Christ Jesus, who gave a good testimony before Pontius Pilate."

The crazy part about Gods heart is that He doesn’t just ask us to give; He desires that we love those in need as much as we love ourselves.

The Bible teaches that the church is to be that light that signs hope, in an increasingly dark and hopeless world.

(Philippians 3; 18-21) (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) 1st "For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies for the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. 

People who are obsessed are raw with God they do not attempt to mask the ugliness of their sins or their failures. Obsessed people don’t put it on for God; He is their safe place, where they can be at peace.

There are reasons that we are where we are and who we are, and they aren’t random.

Joy is something that we have to choose and then work for.

A person who is obsessed with Jesus is more concerned with his or her character than comfort. Obsessed people know that true joy doesn’t depend on circumstances or environment; it is a gift that must be chosen and cultivated, a gift that ultimately comes from God. (James 1:2-4) "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy, for you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."

“I urge you to consider and actually live as though each person you come into contact with is Christ.” -Francis Chan

(1 Cor. 12:4-7) "There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in us all. A Spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other." 

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