Something is Going on Here

…wise men came from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)

Say you go to grab a bite to eat at the grand opening of a new restaurant. You get there and walk inside, hoping to get a good deal on lunch and try a new place. When you get there, the place is packed with famous people. Not just famous people, but powerful famous people. A governor jokes with a physicist while eating. A general holds court with a surgeon and a billionaire. As you look around, you are astounded that all of these people would come to try this new burger joint.

You would figure the restaurant must be something special, wouldn’t you? Maybe their food is out-of-this-world or maybe the owner is connected to the utmost.

Something is going on here.

When the wise men came from the east to see Jesus, they came to Jerusalem. Not Bethlehem – Jerusalem. This is significant, as Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem – a walk of several hours to the south. It is also significant that, though we always see three wise men in manger scenes and Christmas plays, we are not told specifically that there were only three wise men. We know that these powerful wise men gave gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but we don’t know that three men specifically gave each of these gifts. The Bible tells us that wise men came to Jerusalem to visit Jesus in a house in Jerusalem, not a manger in Bethlehem.

Aside from being interesting, these facts have substantial implications. First, it is possible that there were more than three wise men. It is possible that there were quite a few wise men who came to see Jesus. But let’s just say there were three. Three powerful men during this time period would not have just called an Uber and zipped to Jerusalem. Their trip was likely hundreds of miles and their travel methods were rudimentary. They would have had men for protection and assistance with animals and the load. So don’t picture these three wise men walking down the street in colorful robes to see Jesus. They traveled in a giant entourage several hundreds of miles, leaving their families and responsibilities as the followed the star that was to lead to their savior.

Further, since Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem and the wise men came to a house in Jerusalem, we can infer that some time has passed. This was not a matter of busybodies or gawkers going to check out some crazy happening that had just gone down. It was a rather quiet event, after all – a birth in a manger by an unremarkable woman and her husband. After Jesus was born, the star rose, and these educated men knew that Micah 5:2 foretold the star’s rising to indicate the new ruler of Israel. Some time passed before the men could get there. Jesus may have even been a toddler by the time they got there.

There has been no moment in my life that I have been tempted to worship a toddler. Even if you told me that a toddler was a baby king or something I would probably not be in awe for one second. Though cute, toddlers have trouble controlling their emotions and have no qualms about letting their bowels go while sitting in your lap. Not exactly worship-worthy.

So these powerful and educated men arrive with their entourage and worship this baby/toddler. They came on a long, dangerous, and expensive journey to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, “they fell down and worshipped him” (Matthew 2:11).

Something is going on here.

There is no ulterior motive that I can cook up that would make sense for these men to make this journey – except that they knew at the core of their being that Jesus, their savior, would be there. When they got there, Herod tried to manipulate them. And they didn’t acquiesce to Herod’s manipulation, which was a dangerous game. This blood-thirsty power monger didn’t play games, not even with wise men. The wise men risked their lives.

This whole wise men situation is interesting historically for sure. Maybe you geek out on this stuff like I do. But what is more important here is to consider our response to Jesus.

These powerful men knew who Jesus was. Not like a newspaper article that you read and just go hmm before moving on to the sports page. These men knew who Jesus was. And they dropped what they were doing – however important – and worshipped Him.

Do we do the same?

It was a beautifully humble thing for the wise men to hit the Jerusalem dirt to worship Jesus. But as big as this moment was, it pales in comparison to God coming to this messy earth in human form to save us. Jesus’ act of loving humility preceded the wise men’s act.

Jesus humbled Himself to the point of being nailed to a cross for us. Will we stop what we are doing to worship our King or will we stay in our comfortable palaces in the east? The star has risen. He has risen.

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When God Intervenes in Marriage

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him…(Matthew 1:24)

Picture Joseph coming home from a long day in the field. He’s sweaty, tired, and hungry. He smells something cooking and looks forward to catching up with Mary. Though they had yet physically consummated their marriage, they were a couple and Joseph longed to spend an evening with his girl. He walks into their home and sets his stuff down.

Mary looks up and sees Joseph. “Hey love. I need to talk to you.”

Joseph sits down. “Sure, what’s up?”

“I’m pregnant.”

Joseph looks at her, bewildered.

“It’s not what you think. I know you won’t believe this, but I had this encounter with an angel who said God was going to make me pregnant with the messiah. I thought I was crazy but now I’m pregnant and I wasn’t with anyone and – isn’t this wonderful?”

“Uh…”

“Joseph, I am being serious. I was not with anyone!”

“I need a minute to think.”

Joseph storms out of the house. He walks into the evening air. He keeps walking, hoping that covering distance will soothe the pit in his stomach. It doesn’t work. He is madly in love with Mary and now this whole story about miraculous pregnancy just crushed his world. He feels a deep sense of loss, embarrassment, and anger.

Now into the night, Joseph resolves to divorce Mary. He just can’t buy this Holy Spirit pregnancy bit. He figures he will divorce her quietly and try to keep Mary’s reputation intact. Joseph isn’t sure how he’ll pull that off exactly but he cannot stay with Mary due to her betrayal. He’ll figure it out tomorrow.

Footsore and tired, Joseph makes it home. Mary is asleep, her hair still damp from tears she shed as she cried herself to sleep. Joseph looks at her sleeping and his heart aches. He lays down on the other side of the room and after much thinking, he falls asleep.

That night, Joseph is visited in a lucid dream by an angel. The angel corroborates Mary’s story. At dawn, Joseph wakes up. He yawns and walks outside the house to get some air.

Then he remembers his dream.

“Mary! Mary!” He shakes her awake. “Mary, I get it. Sweetheart, I get it. I had a dream where an angel of the Lord told me your story is true. The angel told me we will call him Jesus, because he’ll save his people from their sins. And I just – “

Mary smiles and embraces Joseph.

I cannot imagine how Joseph felt when Mary told him that she was pregnant. I also cannot imagine how he felt when God intervened into his marriage via a dream and made it all make sense. Absent God’s intervention in that dream, Joseph and Mary would have parted ways and ended their marriage.

Marriage is beautiful. It is a picture of the Gospel, with sacrificial love and care and bearing with sins. Marriage is about forgiveness and joy and submission. And marriage is not merely a covenant between two people, it is a covenant between two people and the God who made them. God is a party to this covenant, not just a county clerk who stamps the certificate.

Too often we take God’s grace for granted. Like the air we breathe, it is all around us and in us but we just don’t think about it. God’s grace in sustaining a marriage is astounding. Two sinful people combining their sins and baggage with love is a recipe for a short union – absent God.

Jesus intervened in our world when our sin left us hopeless and rightly judged. He does the same in our marriages. How often do we notice?

When your spouse apologizes, that posture of the heart comes from the movement of the Spirit.

When your argument somehow turns to laughter, God has stepped in.

When you mourn the loss of a child and somehow end up feeling closer to God and your spouse, that’s grace upon grace.

When your ugliness is laid bare before your spouse and they love you anyway, that’s Christ’s love shining through.

Joseph was a solid dude. He was humble and gentle and listened to God. But if God didn’t intervene supernaturally, he would have walked out on Mary as she was pregnant with Jesus. But God did intervene, just as He does in my marriage every day.

May we see the Gospel more clearly in marriage. Not because marriage is perfect, but because it isn’t and the Lord enters the space of brokenness and brings His grace.

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5 Years of Watching God Build His Church

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18 ESV)

 

On January 1, 2011, The Door Church held its first service. I remember before the service I sat with Scott and a few other guys and prayed in the green room (aka children’s room aka storage room). We asked God to move and asked for His help with the sermon and worship music. We asked Him to save souls and draw people to Himself.

There was no strategic vision. We met on New Year’s Day for our first service, for crying out loud. Scott was far from an accomplished preacher and the acoustics of this small space made the music jackhammer your eardrums. We were a ragtag group of individuals who loved Jesus and believed that God was doing something called The Door Church.

He was. And is.

The rock upon which God will build His church is the identity of Christ. What this means is that God will build His church – and has been doing so for a couple millennia – upon the Gospel, or the good news of Jesus. Once we know who Jesus is (the son of God), and what He has done (saved sinners like us), we can then understand what we are to do (love God, love others, and share His message).

Let me simplify this. The church is built upon the rock of Jesus. You might even say the church is built upon the shoulders of Jesus, as He carries and establishes each church. Jesus’ blood was spilled for His church.

The reason I mention this is because as a founding member and elder of The Door, I have had a front row seat to nearly everything that has taken place. Good, bad, or otherwise, I have seen it up close. And let me tell you, it makes my heart swell with affection to see the movement of Jesus in our church. When we needed money, God provided money. When we needed volunteers, folks raised their hands. When we needed leaders, God provided rock star servant leaders. And what’s more, God did all of this in many cases without us having the wisdom to ask. He ran ahead of us, anticipating our needs and He set our feet upon the firm path of His Gospel and then provided everything we needed. I guess you could sum this up to say God has done everything and He alone gets the credit. I do not exaggerate here.

Now we look to the future. God has provided some land and money to build a building. He has strengthened our leadership team and continues to bless the church with members that are bought in. New faces dot the crowd. I have heard that saying that a church is a hospital for sinners, and I like that. Using that metaphor, our hospital is getting more capable to handle more patients – sinners like you and me who need a Savior.

If the church is a hospital for sinners, the treatment is, uniformly, the Gospel. Picture the doctor going room to room sharing the truth of Jesus’ perfect life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection. Thus souls are made well. That is the plan of The Door Church.

I hesitate to speculate as to what The Door will look like in five more years. If the past is any indication, it’s going to be a fun ride. For now, my beloved brothers and sisters, let’s take it one day at a time and enjoy the God who goes before us.

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Why We Sing

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…

(Ephesians 5:18-19 ESV)

 

Many years ago, I came across Ephesians 5:18 in a moment of regret. I had, in the sinful idiocy of my younger days, drank too much the night prior. The morning I encountered this verse I sat with my skin crawling and my head pounding in my parents’ living room. I was looking for answers.

I found my answer in the contrast offered by these words:

“Do not get drunk with wine…but be filled with the Spirit…” 

Here Paul explains to the Ephesians that we have a choice – get drunk or fill up with the Spirit. (Note: this is not a wholesale restriction on consuming alcohol. Paul is referring to overindulgence in alcohol.) The effects are similar in some regards. A belly full of liquor will dominate you and lead you down paths you would not have otherwise chosen. Same goes for a heart filled with the Spirit. Alcohol will warm your affections, as will the Spirit. Alcohol can gladden the heart (for a little while), and the Spirit certainly does this as well. The key difference between being filled with wine and being filled with the Spirit is the trajectory of our intoxication. Alcohol leads you in no certain direction, or in many directions at one time. The Spirit leads you towards deeper affection for and communion with Jesus. Easy choice, right?

So we want to be filled with the Spirit. What does that look like today, in this moment called right now? What means and methods should we use to connect with the Spirit?

First, we must understand that we are already connected with the Spirit. The Spirit of God lives within us as Christ followers (1 Cor. 3:16). We are a temple for God’s presence. Now wait a second. We must not move past this statement hastily. You, Christ follower, have the Spirit of God living in you. Close your eyes and think about this for a moment.

Second, we have the ability to cultivate an awareness of the Spirit in us – to sync our lives with His movement. Now this sounds a little weird, I must admit. But hang with me. You have a moral compass, which is a rudder that tells you right from wrong. Surely you have noticed this. Now sometimes our moral compass, which we’ll call our conscience, fails us. Because our hearts are sick and dark (Jeremiah 17:9), we cannot follow them without the grounding rod of Scripture. Scripture reading is vital to a Spirit-filled life. So, the way to sync your conscience with the Spirit is to be aware and listen to your conscience and then make sure your conscience – your inner thoughts – are in step with the truth and commands of the Bible. Prayer is another means to sync your life with the Spirit.

Finally, we can sing. Have you ever sat and listened to a beautiful song and thought about the odd human experience you are having? You are listening to noise, to sound waves that hit your eardrums. Your brain processes the stimulus and informs you that you have heard something pleasant. God has made us in such a way that certain octaves and pitches combined together can churn our emotions like the eye of a storm. Music can make you cry, dance, and rejoice. It is a powerful thing.

God knows the power of song because He made it. He intends for the power of music to gladden your heart towards Him as you sing.

It is one thing to listen to a beautiful song, but it is an immeasurably deeper experience to participate in it. I am learning to play the guitar, and the first time I was able to play one of my favorite songs and sing it at the same time – entering into the song itself – it was a magical experience.

C.S. Lewis said it well:

.…I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.

What Lewis says here is true. When we eat a great meal, we want to share it with others – or at least tell someone about it. There is something significant about shared experience. So it goes with singing and worship. When we sing together, our voices raised to whatever ability we have, we unite in a profound way. When we together extol the glory of God together through singing, the heavens rejoice with us as we together declare the greatness of God.

The reason we sing is simple – because in singing we join together to ignite the passions of our souls towards God. So whether you’re a trained singer or you worry you sound like a dying hyena, open your lungs and sing. God doesn’t care about the quality of your voice, He cares about the condition of your heart. Sing praises to your mighty King.

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