Monday, February 25, 2013

Shot Across The Bow


I desire for all of us here at Awake Church to be incredibly encouraged and firmly established in our faith.  As we endeavor to help facilitate you being built up and strengthened, I recognize that another aspect of maturity includes receiving correction, discipline and warnings as well.  In this blog, I want to share something that I feel is a help from God in the form of a warning - a warning for the world, but also for us as believers.

Last Friday (2/15/2013) while astronomers and scientists were awaiting the unusual event of an asteroid named “2012 DA14” that was to fly very close to the earth, something even stranger happened.  A undetected meteor from a different direction actually slammed into our atmosphere at around 35,000 miles per hour, exploding with a force 20 times larger than the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.  The shock wave from this meteor exploding 30 miles above the surface of the earth damaged numerous buildings and injured over a thousand people. Astonishingly, no one was killed.  It’s been 105 years since an event like this has taken place on the earth.

Then, several hours later, the anticipated asteroid did shoot past the earth at 17,000 miles per hour. No harm done.  It had been a generation since that large of an asteroid had come so close to us - a narrow miss.

Scientists have calculated that the odds of an asteroid shooting by us along with a meteor hitting us on the same day is 1 out of 100,000,000 days. Since there have only been about 2.2 million days since Adam and Eve were walking around on the planet, the February 15th events were indeed rare.

After these events, I asked the Lord what this meant, and internally heard this:  “It’s a shot across the bow.”  A “shot across the bow” is a military term where a ship fires a warning shot over the bow of an opposing vessel that is headed in the wrong direction or is on a dangerous course.  The shot is not intended to harm, just as the asteroid did no harm but sailed right by us several times faster than a bullet.  A “shot across the bow” is a warning and message that if the current course doesn’t change, there are consequences coming. 
Over the past several months I’ve had a growing concern for our nation regarding blatant sexual immorality, and I believe that this warning “shot” is related to this.  With the very public and open proliferation of sexual sin - internet pornography ($97 billion a year business), homosexuality, adultery, perversion and all manner of sex outside of marriage, our world is like a ship unashamedly heading in a dangerous direction.   Sensuality in our culture is at a dangerously high level.  The word given to Isaiah was “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;” (Is 5:20).  When things that are evil (like sexual acts outside of marriage) are called “good” and widely promoted, and good things like having moral standards are called “evil” or “hate,” we have clearly entered dangerous waters. 

 In the 3rd century, the Romans held a festival called “Lupercalla” on February 15th (same day), which was a bizarre ceremony where bloody strips of animal hide were slapped upon young women, followed by the young men drawing from a raffle, choosing the name of a teenage girl to have sex with for the next several months.  Later, this sexual festival was moved up a day and called “Valentine’s day,” mixing a pagan festival with the name of a good Christian man named “Valentine.”

While I believe that this “shot across the bow” is a warning for billions on the earth, 1 Peter 4:17 says that judgment first begins with those who know God.  So, I believe that this is a wake up call for the body of Christ before anyone else. 

In Paul’s letters to several churches, he repeatedly warned against immorality.  In Jesus’s messages to the churches in the book of Revelation (Rev 1-3), He also makes it clear that He hates the sexually immorality practiced by the Nicolaitans, saying that there were consequences if repentance didn’t follow the warning.  In the book of Hebrews we are also warned not to “trample underfoot the Son of God,” or “insult the Spirit of grace.”  This is very strong language with appalling metaphors.  These metaphors highlight the seriousness of cooperation with sin that the Son of man excruciatingly paid for.  The grace of God does not grant permission to participate in sin, but rather to free us from it’s grip on our lives.

As the light of the world, it’s crucial that we extricate ourselves from all manner of sexual immorality in both physical action (immorality of all kinds – adultery, fornication, etc.) and in our thoughts (impurity - fantasy/pornography).   Repentance is a beautiful thing, and it’s not for God - it’s for us.  If we hear a warning from God and take ownership of our sin, shove that sin in the light and then turn toward Jesus, the consequences that we rightly deserve are nullified!  Repentance is a gift from a loving Father and a generous Son.     

The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7) and we are not destined for wrath (1 Thes 5:9).  However, if we purposely continue to involve ourselves in sexual immorality, we are placing ourselves on a dangerous path with consequences we may not be able to comprehend.   

But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be
named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be
no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not
fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with
certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man,
who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ 
and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because
of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of
disobedience” Eph 5:3-8

- Matt Peterson

(To hear an expanded message on this topic, please visit the podcasts for 2/17/2013 and 2/24/2013 on the AwakeWS.org website).  

Friday, February 1, 2013

Comfort Foods


The long battle with contact lenses and eyeglass prescriptions finally became more than I wanted to endure, and the thought of perfect eyesight won me over. I decided to receive corrective eye surgery. Prior to the operation, my doctor realized that due to some imbalanced surface area on my eyes, it would be better for me to opt for a safer surgery that required less risk, but a longer recovery time. 

Well, the recovery time was certainly understated and I spent five days in bed after the operation, desperately trying to avoid any contact with sunlight! Thoughts like “what in the world have I done?” raced through my mind, as my wounded eyes scanned my blurry room, hoping that at any moment the world would come into focus again and all this would be over! Compared to what I was feeling at the time, this is actually very moderately dramatized. 

As many of us have when going through an ailment or nursing an injury back to health, I resorted to... comfort food! Yes, I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t cling to Psalm 23 or a “coffee cup chapter” of the Bible. Instead, I consumed more ice cream in those five days than all of 2012 combined! For the first time in my life, I had Pizza Hut deliver a pizza to my house. I don’t even really like pizza. I ate chinese food, graham crackers and... well, you get the point! 

The reason I’m writing this is not to talk about what we run to for comfort in times of pain or trouble. Even though we could certainly go there and find truth, my purpose in writing is not blatantly spiritual. What I noticed after five days of eating “comfort foods” that I don’t normally eat is that I had pains and aches that I had never experienced before. I was lacking energy, felt lethargic and, well... I just felt sick. As a person with a pretty clean and healthy diet, I was shocked at how only five days of eating those foods could make me feel so incredibly different. 

My goal is to write a very practical blog that will be an encouragement for us as a church, to take some ground this year, not only spiritually but also physically. Without a doubt, there are lots of us new year “resolutioners” out there that have set some physical goals for 2013. As January has come to an end and motivation may be wearing thin, be encouraged and stick to it! Maybe you have been defeated in this area for years and the thought of getting healthy is overwhelming to you. My prayer is that right now you’d feel God’s presence empowering you and strengthening you in this very moment to make a decision that will change your life and your health.

Our physical bodies are the very temples of the Holy Spirit! It’s so important that we take care of them. The road to healthy living starts with one step in that direction. Much like our spiritual lives, if we step off course, we must receive grace and get back on the path. Condemnation, guilt and perfectionism keep us defeated and “stuck.” 

I’m no expert, but here are a few tips that were helpful to me, and hopefully will be for you!

  • Hydrate! - Water, water water! My trainer told me that staying hydrated and drinking lots of water is more important than diet or exercise! Aim for a minimum of 64oz a day, or more if you have hard workouts

  • Set attainable goals! - something that will take hard work but is reasonable to accomplish within 30 days. After reaching your goal, let that feeling of accomplishment drive you towards your next goal!

  • Get a plan and stick to it! Talk to a friend that knows a lot about healthy living and ask them to help you customize a diet that works for you and a workout program that can be maintained with consistency. 

  • Buy a blender! Smoothies and healthy shakes are an amazing way to mix in vitamins and healthy greens that you wouldn’t normally eat

  • Recruit a friend! - ask someone to join you on your journey and do it together. It will be more enjoyable and you’ll have someone to help push you further.

  • Take advantage of free resources! There are tons of free resources and subscriptions if you search the web. Twitter is a way to follow daily posts for new healthy recipes and fitness ideas. Be creative!


What if we went after this together as a church? Anyone up for the challenge?!?

-DAVID OLINGER

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Courage



"Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.” Mark 15:43

Joseph of Arimathea found himself in a dilemma.  He had heard the loving and truth-filled words of Jesus, and had seen His miracles. He then watched members of his own council get caught up in murderous envy, condemning Jesus to death through lies and false accusations. The innocent was then tortured, dying unjustly at the hands of the same group of which he was a part.  Joseph’s heart must have broken as he helplessly saw hate run it’s course.

As the lifeless body of Jesus hung on the tree alone, Joseph knew that now was His time to act.  At great risk to his position and even his own life, Joseph reached out and gathered courage, putting it on like a man preparing for battle dons his breastplate.  He put on courage and asked Pilot for the pierced body of Jesus.  He then took Jesus down from the cross and placed Him in the brand new tomb that he had paid to house his own body in the future.  He gave Jesus his own resting place.
Years earlier, the courage of another Joseph, Jesus’ step-father, had led him to act also.  Facing the stigma of being with a woman who was pregnant with a child that wasn’t his, he set aside his own personal reputation, married her and then led her to Bethlehem to be counted as a part of his family. The courage of Joseph gave protection for a pregnant woman, leading to the Savior of the world being born in Bethlehem.  The courage of Joseph of Arimethea provided this same Savior a grave from which He was resurrected to life. 

Courage isn’t something we are born with, it’s something that’s gathered.  Courage is a choice, an act of our will to do the right thing at the crucial time. Life follows.  At some personal risk, perhaps looking foolish or even great danger, courage is the action that an ordinary person makes to step forward and do justice for someone else. 

You and I are offered many opportunities to gather courage during our lifetimes.  When we see injustice, it’s our opportunity to act.  It’s our opportunity to stand up for kids who are mistreated, for wives who are abused.  It’s our opportunity to speak up for those without a voice, or for those who are being killed or enslaved around the world. When we seize the opportunities that are presented and gather courage to act on behalf of someone else, life is released and place is prepared for the Savior to enter or resurrect things that have been harmed or damaged. 

- Matt Peterson
 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Where Hope Belongs


As long as I can remember being alive, I’ve been hoping. I can’t remember a time that I’ve been absent of hope. When I was a kid, I hoped that my Mom would let me go outside and play in the yard with my cousin, Josh. When I turned sixteen I hoped that I’d pass my driver’s license test. I hoped I would get a pretty date to the dance. I hoped I’d be accepted into ministry school. I hoped I would have a job that I love. Now, as 2013 has invited us in, there are hopes for a good year and wonderful blessings. My life has been a progression of hopes. 

I’ve had the joy of many hopes being fulfilled, in which I’m thankful for God’s goodness. But as good as those things were, they never left me satisfied in the long term. They were never meant to. You and I were born with hunger, desire and longing to be filled. Until we discover that our God given desire can only be satisfied by the Creator of desire itself, and that our hope must be placed in God alone, we will constantly be pushing our hope forward into the next event, the next purchase or the next promotion.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” What separates believers in Christ from the rest of the world is a hope for something outside of the hear and now. Our hope goes far beyond a promotion, a pay raise, a sparkling romance. Our hope is eternal. The deepest part of who we are believes with all our heart that eternity matters, and the weight that eternity bears upon our souls causes us to put all of our hope in Christ alone. 

In Philippians chapter 1, Paul finds himself in prison awaiting his sentence. In his jail cell, he is thinking about his condition and contemplating life and death. As I read through Paul’s recorded dialogue with himself, it is so evident to me that Paul lived in with a revelation of eternity. On one hand, he says, he could go on living, which meant preaching the Gospel and pouring His life out as an offering to Jesus. On the other hand, if he died, he would finally see the One in whom his heart longed for. At the thought of being with Jesus, not even death was something to be feared. Paul had his hope in Jesus alone. He was longing for something beyond what this world could never offer him, and something that death could never steal from him. 

Do you live with this revelation of eternity? If we would drop the point of an ink pen on a piece of paper, take the mark that it would make on that piece of paper and compare it in length to millions of miles of highway stretching into space, that ink dot would be too small of a representation of our short lives here on earth compared to eternity. When I think about how brief life is compared to eternity, it makes me want to live differently. It makes me want to invest into things that are eternal, things that will last. The reality of eternity bears weight on my decisions and it gives fresh perspective to my pains and struggles. I can look at the most broken parts of this world and the most painful parts of life and know in my heart that God will one day restore everything. Whether we realize it or not, this is the ultimate hope that we're all longing for. The only place our hope belongs is in Christ.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” - Revelation 21: 1-4
- David Olinger