Earp Takes Aim | Faith, Culture, Life

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We're just Christians!

Do the demographics on our Church and you’ll find dozens of backgrounds.Many come from a Catholic heritage or Methodism.  Others have roots in Pentecostalism or Assembly of God— and many of you were raised in Baptist churches.

Yet…when we come here in the name of Jesus…?  WE ARE ONE!  The beauty of this ministry is that when we come, we’re not Baptist, Methodist, Catholic or even Christian Church.  We’re just Christians!  We’re not protestant…just Christians.  We’re not fundamentalists…we’re Christians.  And we’re not the only Christians.  We’re just Christians!

Does that mean that The Crossroads has successfully resolved all the nasty issues that prompted all these divisions in the first place?  Are you kidding me?  Do you really think anyone around here is smart enough to close the book on questions that have plagued the Church for over 2000 years?  Absolutely not!

So there’s a diversity here.  Just understand:  It’s an INTENTIONAL DIVERSITY.   A diversity in pursuit of UNITY and based on these three realizations: 

#1:  That most believers really do agree on the fundamental issues.

I’m talking about truths like:  The authority of the Bible, the deity of Christ, His bodily resurrection, and our complete redemption from sin accomplished by Jesus fully through His death on the cross…

Most who call themselves Christian…don’t argue with any of that. 

But the second key realization is that:

#2:  My current understanding of the Christian faith is imperfect. 

That’s saying a lot from a guy who was born and raised in isolation.  When I was a kid, I was in a movement of churches that began as a unity movement, but as the baton of leadership was passed through the generations— our unity movement became very sectarian.  To the point that our most visible spokesmen seemed to suggest that our tiny little group had “a new revelation” for the church.  And if someone came to believe what we had come to believe, we’d actually say of them that they had “come into the truth.”

And that kinda pride led us to become so divisive that we were taught to believe that there wasn’t a criminal on earth more wicked, more vile and more heinous than the Presbyterian pastor down the street.  WAY more insidious than even Representative Weiner— was a Presbyterian Pastor? 

But I’ve repented of that garbage.  Cuz I’ve come to understand that God is bigger than any single interpretation of doctrine.  Including mine.  That He’s grander than any one movement of churches.  Even mine.  And that He reserves the right to use people who disagree with me.  Although that one still boggles my mind.

Basically this realization is more accurately called, DOCTRINAL HUMILITY.  It’s not Christianity without conviction.  It’s not, “Let’s willy-nilly cast aside any issues over which we might disagree.”  It’s simply this:  I now realize that I don’t have a perfect understanding of the Christian faith. 

Even though I deeply love the Word of God.  And even though I try to teach it as accurately as possible…?  I realize that some of my conclusions— are just plain wrong. 

See, I’ve been doing ministry long enough now that I used to preach stuff I no longer believe!  And ten years from now, I’ll probably look back on stuff I’m currently preaching— and I’ll find some way to recant some of it, too! 

The problem with unity is:  I’m extremely CLEAR on the truth you are blinded to…WHAT I CAN’T SEE NEARLY AS WELL IS WHAT I’M BLINDED TO. 

So…if you’re arguing with a brother or sister about some issue over which godly and sincere Bible students have disagreed for centuries?  And you don’t approach that disagreement with at least a shred of doubt— that you may, in fact, be the one who doesn’t have it right?  Cuz your finite mind isn’t capable of fully capturing the fullness of God’s mind? 

Listen:  You’re slogging around in the deep weeds of doctrinal arrogance.  Don’t you understand?   Unity doesn’t demand a sacrifice of the truth, it only demands a surrender of your pride. 

Now the third realization is also important: 

#3:  We need to remember who The REAL Enemy is and fight Him instead.

Dr. Leslie Flynn writes about the time when the English and the French were at war in colonial Canada.

“Admiral Phipps, in charge of the British Fleet, was ordered to anchor outside Quebec, a city on the St. Lawrence River.  He was to await the coming of the British infantry and then join the land forces in attack.

“Arriving early, Admiral Phipps, an ardent [Protestant], was annoyed by the statues of the saints that adorned the roof and towers of the Catholic cathedral.  So he [started] shooting at the statues with his ships’ guns. How many he hit we don’t know, but history tells us that when the infantry finally arrived and the signal was given for attack, the Admiral found himself out of ammunition.  He had used it [all up]…shooting at the saints.”

Wow.  Us too, I’m afraid.  Even though the same Father Who accepts and saves them— despite their inaccuracies— is the same Father Who accepts and saves me. 

Wait a minute, Wyatt:  Are you saying that God works through people who have an imperfect understanding of Him? 

Yeah.  After all, what other choice does He have?


This is am exerpt from Captive.... but not to Christ. For more, please log onto to thecrossroadsaz.com

 

Build an Altar

I’ve been struggling with discouragement recently.So this past Wednesday, after another long and restless night in bed, I got up about 4:30 and started flipping through my Bible.  I was kinda hoping that something would just sorta leap off the page, lift my spirits, and put wings on my otherwise frustrated and weary heart.  And you know what…? 

Something did.  Here’s what’s amazing:  I’ve taught those verses at least a dozen times— but I’d never seen what I saw this time.  So I wanna show you what I believe God showed me. 

And I wanna do that for two reasons:  First, cuz it was a powerful and defining moment for me…and I figure if it helped me it might help you, too.  But also because what I found paints a powerful backdrop for what today’s text Colossians is also gonna teach us. 

I wanna show you two verses from the life of King Saul that illustrate two defining moments in his life. The first is I Samuel 14:35:  “Then Saul built an altar to the LORD; it was the first time he had done this.”[1]

So far, so good.  Israel’s new king, thankfully, is leaning on the Lord.  And yet, fast-forward one lousy chapter— a mere 29 verses in fact, and check out what Saul’s building now! 

“Saul has gone to Carmel…he’s set up a monument in his own honor.”[2]

Wow.  Somewhere in between those two verses, Saul stopped building altars to God and started building monuments to himself.  At some point, in that brief span, Saul’s motives were no longer “Thy Kingdom Come,” but “MY kingdom come.”  And his leadership over Israel was no longer a God-thing.  It was all about and only about and always about…Saul. 

Evidently, there’s a lot that happened during this time that we don’t know.  But here’s what we DO know:

Spiritually, Saul had become disenchanted with God.  His prayers weren’t answered as quickly as he had wanted them to be answered.[3]  So he starts acting out.  And that’s when God became disenchanted with Saul, and said:  “I regret that I made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.”[4]

Something else had also happened:  Personally, Saul experienced a family crisis, involving his beloved son, Jonathan.[5]

And professionally?  From the moment he became king, Saul’s reign was just one battle after another in what the Bible calls a “bitter war”[6] against the Philistines.  Evidently, the conflicts and skirmishes never did let up. 

How does Saul respond?  He stops building altars to God and starts building monuments to himself.  And once Saul jumped those rails…?  His life started REALLY spinning outta control. 

To the point he became even more impatient with God.  So he panicked by making his own sacrifice instead of waiting for God’s prophet. 

That’s what insecure people do.  They get nervous.  And then they give up…way too quickly.  They don’t understand that it’s in a dark season of chaos and insecurity and fear that God often does His most amazing work.  WHY?  Cuz when there’s no way out but to trust God, then only God’s gonna get all the credit when something truly amazing happens. 

Saul also got reckless.  God had told him to attack, then completely destroy the Amalekites AND burn everything they owned.  Well Saul attacked, but then rifled through their goodies and took the best stuff [plus their King] back to his palace instead.

But even worse, Saul got paranoid.  Samuel had told him that God was taking the kingdom from him and had given it to one “better than”[7] him.

All because— Saul had stopped building altars to God— and started building monuments to himself instead.

 

So…I’ve been through some stuff, too— a lot like Saul’s stuff. 

Spiritually, I’ve had some dark moments.  Prayers for healing that went unanswered…or at least not the way I wanted them answered.  And prayers for a permanent home for our church—nothing lavish, just four walls and roof— a prayer I thought should’ve been answered a long time ago.

Personally, I’ve had a family crisis, too.  I lost my love and our church lost one of our most gifted leaders. 

Professionally, I feel like I’ve been doing daily battle as well.  After all:  Anthem, as one of our men said recently, is “THE vanguard of the economic meltdown and housing debacle.”  I mean, we’re the poster child of everything that’s wrong about our economy. 

And fighting against that reality?  It’s hard.  But that’s not even the hardest part of the war we wage.  People, we’re in a spiritual battle, too.  We’re trying to reach a resistant culture with the message of hope in Christ— and doing that is desperately difficult.  And there are times when I feel like I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked… yet, I’m caused less damage to the Enemy than I’ve ever caused. 

But here’s the difference between me and Saul.  I’m NOT gonna get impatient.  I will NOT panic.  I’m NOT gonna get reckless or paranoid or defensive.  In fact, I am as convinced as ever that God intends to do something amazing through this church.  And if we allow Him to put us in a place where there’s no one we can turn to but Him…?  Then?  When that amazing thing does happen?  The only explanation will be that God did it! 

So I built an altar to the Lord Wednesday morning. 

And today, I’d like to build another one.

 



[1] I Samuel 14:35

[2] I Samuel 15:12

[3] See I Samuel 14:37

[4] I Samuel 15:11a

[5] I Samuel 14:43-44

[6] I Samuel 14:52

[7] See I Samuel 15:28

This is an exerpt from SAVED: From Sin and into Mission, for more, log on to thecrossroadsaz.com.

 

Sufferings

One of my favorite passages is Romans 8. 

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[1]

Wow!  That’s not instruction for how you avoid it.  Cuz you can’t!  Suffering is coming for you.  And we will ALL have a season where we will personally walk through or walk with someone else who is walking through it. 

But not because God is ticked at you.  If it pleases God to send you into a dark valley of affliction, it’s vital that you understand:  God isn’t doing that because you’ve done something to displease Him.  God isn’t going, “Oh, so you’re gonna do that?  Well, then…take that!” 

You know what makes adversity so hard for us?  It’s because adversity comes our way because of God’s mercy, not because of His wrath.  When you struggle— or when someone you love struggles, it’s not God’s anger because you’re such a screw-up!  It’s His mercy. 
The Bible says, “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation.”[2]  And salvation is only possible because of His mercy.   

So lemme try to make this as clear as I can:  Which would rather have happen to you?  Would you rather God allow you to be healthy and content and make everything about your life absolutely perfect— right up until the moment you die.  Only to stand before the judgment seat of Christ where you are damned into a torturous eternity of punishment with no hope of ever being set free? 

OR…would you rather God give you a thorn in your flesh…?  Maybe you get cancer.  Or maybe you lose your home.  Or maybe you get Alzheimer’s.  Maybe you never get to a place where you are financially secure— but He does these things to show you just how dependent you are on Him. 

Cast in those terms…which of those two options is the most merciful? 

Yeah.

And that’s why, it is NEVER God’s wrath when difficulty erupts in the life of those who are His own.  Whether it’s a physical difficulty, or a relationship difficulty, or a financial difficulty…?  God is using that trial to reveal to you— your desperate need for Him. 

And that’s why…look at this verse: 

“We…glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, Who has been given to us.”[3]

We’ve got a lot to learn, don’t we?  Cuz you and I still believe when everything is good— and my life is way-beyond-wonderful, that’s when…that’s when God is somehow glorified.  And when someone we love will maybe look at our Pleasantville existence, and think:  “Oh, I want that!  I really, really want that!” 

Well, even if they do– what they want is NOT Jesus; what they want is your pretty, little, uninterrupted life. 

But that’s idolatry.  God is not glorified by your big house and by the fact that everyone in it is healthy and wealthy and wise. 

 

 



[1] Romans 8:35-39

[2] I Thessalonian 5:9

[3] Romans 5:3-5

this is an excerpt from Jesus + Nothing=All You Need - Nothing Lacking, for more, please visit thecrossroadsaz.com

 

Overextended is Overused

Seth Godin is one of my favorite writers.  I read his blogs and books as soon as I can get my hands on them.  Shucks, I’d read his grocery list if he’d just put it out there!  One of his more recent blogs is entitled, “Underextended.”   Check out just a lines of his genius.

There is a lot of fear associated with ‘overextended.’

Take too much financial risk, expose yourself to the vagaries of the market and you’ll end up stressed, bankrupt and overextended.

Stretch your knee too much in the wrong direction after a long swim and the doctor will tell you that the ligaments are overextended.

Brands that get greedy and put their names in too many places in too many ways (as Tiffany’s did a generation ago) get overextended and take a long time to heal.

But what about the more prevalent, more insidious and ultimately more damaging notion of being underextended?”

I’m so glad Seth asked that question.  The notion of possibly becoming overextended is a whine I’ve heard many times in both my personal and professional life— and most every time I DO hear it?  I want to hurl!  {And no, I’m not talking baseball.}

Sure, there IS a need for balance. 

A balance between family and career. 

A balance between enough risk and too much risk. 

A balance between gathering information and making a decision.

But I’m not interested in appealing to the need for balance.  Not in this post.  I’m interested in pressing you to become a person who is willing to give everything you’ve got in pursuit of a worthy cause.

Far too many of us offer lame excuses for a half-hearted effort.  We want to protect our time and energies and place self-imposed limits on our involvement— but to what end?  So we can spend more time stalking old heartthrobs on Facebook? 

We resist volunteering because we figure once we start serving, they’ll never let us stop. 

We submit an adequate version when, had we only pushed another 10%— “adequate” could have become “amazing.”

It’s almost as though our greatest fear is not failure, but exhaustion! 

Now I get it:  Over-the-top effort is rarely noticed by others; even less often compensated.  And sometimes the truly high-flyers aren’t the most deserving of that lofty place they enjoy.  Effort doesn’t necessarily result in impact.

But here’s what I’ve experienced:  There is no exhaustion quite like the exhaustion that comes from giving your best— maybe even all you’ve got— even if no one ever knows or cares or applauds. 

Several years ago, I had already preached five services at the church I was serving— only to face two demanding musical performances later that evening.  Near the end of the second of the two, my body said, “Enough!”  I became faint and extremely dizzy.  Someone ran to grab food and water.  A few, including some in my family, scolded me.  They told me that if I stayed for my final number— they were NOT gonna be happy with me. 

But see, I have never been afraid of overextension.  So I went on despite my physical exhaustion.  And the final song of my way-too-long day?  Wow!  What an amazing experience!  From the opening bars of that anthem until its final triumphant note, I was keenly aware that my Father was holding me and empowering me!  And when the curtain closed, I was totally overcome with emotion. 

Do you know why? 

Because I had emptied myself— fully.  I had not another ounce of gas left in my tank.  I had given everything I had in service.  And I felt a joy that I can’t even begin to explain! 

I felt that same joy when I happily focused all of my energies and passions on Cindy.  During those many months of treatments and surgeries, I was fully engaged.  Despite the countless doctors appointments and treatments she had, I missed only one chemo session during those fourteen desperately long months.  There were times when I was so tired, I had no clue how I could keep up the pace.  There were other times when Cindy pled with me to ask someone else to carry the load.  She even got miffed at me when I refused. 

And no, I wasn’t trying to be a hero.  But neither was I afraid of over-extending myself.  I was fully engaged, that’s all.  And when you are fully engaged, you don’t keep an eye on the clock.  You don’t pout about more time for “my stuff.”  You don’t offer less than your best.  You don’t expect any sort of payback for your effort.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a payback.

When Cindy died, I couldn’t imagine doing life without her.  Yet nearly 14 months later, I AM doing life.  And more than just DOING life, I am passionately extending myself…all over again!  Happily so! 

Here’s why:  Because I have no regrets.  There’s not one ounce of me that wishes I had done something better or had NOT done something I wish I hadn’t done.  I emptied myself in service to my wife.  I gave all I had…fully…to her.  ALL of me was given. 

And that’s why today, I can still know joy.  The joy that comes from overextending yourself with nothing held back. 

Remember the woman who poured out her jar of perfume in an outlandish expression of love for Jesus?  It was all she had, yet it was nothing less than “all” that she was willing to give.  Most everybody who witnessed her extravagant deed that day disapproved. 

But not Jesus.  He called her act of over-extension, “Beautiful.”

That’s one reason I can’t ever see myself retiring.  Because I don’t want to die with anything left in my tank.

That’s why I can’t dip into the well and grab some sermon I wrote 20 years ago.  Because I’m still learning and growing and I don’t want one ounce of my life experience to go to waste.

That’s why every note I sing still starts at my toenails and gathers a head of steam as it blisters through my heart and then belches out my mouth!  Sure, the sounds I make may not be as pleasing as the sounds I used to make— but the heart…?  The passion…?  The whole-hearted investment…?  It’s all…or it’s nothing, baby.

The world doesn’t need you to protect yourself.  The world needs you to overextend yourself. 

So give it a try.  Stop playing it safe.  Put it out there. 

If you do, I promise you:  The exhaustion that comes from your whole-hearted, nothing-held-back effort?  Will be the best “empty” feeling you have ever had.  

 


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