Family Camp (texts) Part 1

I’m speaking this week at Somerset Beach Campground for an annual gathering called Family Camp.  The group of (I’m guessing 6-700) is comprised mainly of people connected to Free Methodist churches across Southern MIchigan.  I am honored and a little too excited to be speaking for this.  It’s been a great week thus far, especially with the worship leading of Tommee Profitt Band.  Sure, we had a few weather distractions that played a role yesterday evening and early this morning, and I would guess that many of us who are camping here were mindful not only of what was around us but also what was happening to all our people spread across the state of Michigan.  I’m glad to say that we’re looking good weather-wise for the next few days.

It’s hard to believe we’re already halfway through.  God has been active and I know He’s got more in store for us in our final three days together.   I’ve been speaking about how to be, based in part on the book of 1st Peter.  Be obedient.  Be holy.  Be(ing) built.  In a culture where people are trying to discover not only who they are but who God is, this is a fitting Word.  Jesus died and rose again so that we would be different and therefore live differently.

Our Third Service at pfm church features texting, where people in the congregation can freely text in responses, questions, comments, emojis, etc. as I’m preaching.  I went out on a limb and tried it here, acknowledging that I usually do live texting (to my phone) with 30-50 people, and that we’re at like 12x quantity.  I wasn’t sure if I would smell a cooking iPhone before we were done, but I thanked the Lord for AppleCare.  And people texted.

Oh how they texted.

I stopped counting on the first night — it was well over 100 messages.  Last night was a smaller number, though still over 50.  Some just fun (smiley face), some conversational (where did you get those glasses?) and some a little deeper, which I’d like to share with you here.  This is just a sampling of what’s come in over the past few nights.  This is as anonymous as you can be with caller ID, which I largely ignore.  I don’t call people out, nor do I call people back later, and rarely do I reply directly.  It’s a great way to express what’s on our hearts, and I try to work it in if I can.  But time was short.  Time is short.  Because people took the time to ask genuine questions, I thought I’d at least attempt to do what I wish I had time to do in the actual service and respond.  I’m no studied theologian, nor do I think I have all the right answers.  Sometimes the questions are so deep that I can’t even come up with the wrong answer.  But anyway.. here they are:

what is your favorite story in the bible and why? 

Lazarus, because 1) crying Jesus shows true emotion  2) Jesus has power to raise from the dead, which should give us all the hope we would ever need  3) The bible even records the conversation about how the body will stink because of decay, as if Jesus would be overwhelmed by our stink (or sin).  He’s not.

I believe God exists, rather I know, in this, one must then accept God could not have created existence for He has always existed. Is it illogical then to believe God is not this entity outside of existence looking in, but existence itself. Therefore, all that has been created has been created within Himself (existence).

If God is the biggest everything and anything, then it makes sense to consider ourselves to be within His existence.  When I was a kid, I asked my mom “what if our whole universe is just a molecule on God’s thumbnail?”  Some of us wonder if we’re in the Matrix.  What’s real?  Is there even a spoon?  What’s the deal with the Matrix sequels?

God did create the existence that we exist in (Genesis 1&2).  Jesus was God who came incarnate to the existence (time) He created for us.  Father, Son, and Spirit are above time and therefore above our existence.  The Psalmist says “where can I go to get away from you?”  We can’t!  That makes it sound like our existence is in His existence.  In Him we live and move and have our being.  Our comprehension of God is like the ant I just pushed off my shoe trying to understand me. We are looking through a glass dimly (says Paul), but the best part of it is that God has intentionally revealed Himself to us and invities us to participate in letting His existence — the Kingdom of God — invade the existence we know now.

How do we handle the darkness of other religions that want to spread?

We really freak out about this and probably need to remember that we should expect this to happen in a world broken by sin.  The spreading of other religions has one (kinda) good part, and it’s that it clearly indicates that humanity is looking for God.  Unfortunately, they haven’t found Him in other religions which, because of their inspiration and doctrine are, by definition, dark. I am encouraged by stories of people of other religions having dreams where Jesus Himself speaks to them.  They wake up and believe.  Amazing!  We’ll talk more about darkness/suffering/being bold later this week.   I should say that grace & truth are key perspectives, and that God’s Love must be the motivator of our response.

If heaven is the perfect world why aren’t we in a hurry to get there?

We’re comfortable enough now.  In a book called Shopping Malls and Other Sacred Spaces, the author makes the point that shopping malls were very intentional in creating a space with fountains, natural light, live trees, and seemingly endless provision.  Kinda describes a faux Garden of Eden, eh?  On the other hand, the people who are suffering more, especially for the gospel, aren’t always in a hurry to get to heaven because they understand that Jesus has us on a mission to proclaim His gospel to the world.  Paul said to live is Christ; to die is even better.  The best way to live?  Live like the Kingdom of Heaven is in you so that heaven is in a hurry to spread throughyour life and into this broken world which is being redeemed by Jesus.

Why do we sometimes not get victory over a sin, even though we pray that Christ will take it away from us…..for YEARS.

A quick read of Romans 7 & 8 — or, for that matter, a slow, thoughtful, prayerful read — gives us some language to understand this frustration.  Paul, a dude who should know better, asks the same question: why am I like this??  GRRRRRR.  There is hope for victory, though not all victories are instant.  His grace abounds nonetheless.  Should we give up?  No!  Should we keep sinning?  No!  So how do we change?  How do we stop sinning, especially that sin, whichever sin that may be?  Ask yourself:

1. What’s the emptiness behind the sin?  What void am I trying to fill by pursuing this sin?

2. What “sets me up” for this sin?  Where are my weak points?  My blind spots?

3. To what extent have I gone to take away the temptation?  (The truth is that sometimes our motto is “I tried nothing, and I’m all out of ideas!)

Try this: let the temptation be a trigger for praise.  If temptation comes along… instead of saying “I’m not going to do that…” which fixes our minds on it anyway… try quoting a Psalm from memory.  Don’t have a Psalm memorized?  Start there!

The good news is this: The Holy Spirit fills us and takes residence.  Keep seeking His fullness, His holiness, His purity.  Let it be a trigger to talk to God about how you want more of His glory to shine through you , which is a good prayer for most occasions.

Thank God not all fun is sin!

Amen!  I’ve been quoting a pastor who once said “Sin is fun!” which was a rather eye-opening statement for me.  I find it quite helpful — to call sin what it is, namely, fun.  It’s not good, nor does it deliver what it promises, but it does have a certain attractive quality to it, which explains the draw.  It never works, since sin always leaves us feeling empty afterwards.  Sin starts fun and ends in tragedy.  Truth.  But I agree, anonymous texter: thank God not all fun is sin!

How do you know you’re truly walking in Christ will and not just a moral life?

I would ask this simple question: Who’s the good guy?  If it’s Jesus, you’re trusting in His righteousness.  If it’s you, you’re trusting in your own righteousness, which is human-centered morality and will always fail.  People who walk in Christ are aware of their own brokenness and need for grace.  People who walk in personal morality find Jesus intersting and helpful but don’t really need him since they’re a good person.  This is not what Jesus came do to.  He came to bring life, which can only be found in the one who said I am the vine, you are the branches… remain in me and you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  

Question: what are the tools then for being alert and avoiding sin?

I both adore and despise structure.  This comes naturally to me as an artist.  I have found that my personality needs structure to stay alert to God and my spiritual innards and surroundings.  So I have a daily routine of three practices that take one hour each: Prayer, Exercise, and Writing.  When I’m hitting all of these on a daily basis, my spiritual alertness skyrockets.  When I miss any, especially prayer, my alertness plummets (and sin finds an easier way in).  So, I guess the short answer is this: spiritual disciplines that fill in the cracks in our soul that sin would otherwise wander into.

Why is it so hard to not be afraid even when we know God is always there to comfort us? 

We know too much.  We were originally designed to know God.  Instead, we know sin.  This means we know risk.  And what’s the antidoe to sin?  God’s love.  This is why the scripture tells us that perfect love casts out fear.  We had a bunch of storms roll through camp last night.  My 6 year old son Zac was scared until I held on to him.  After that, he was out like a light.  Now, just between you and me, I don’t have the strength to stop a building from falling, nor do I have the gravitational pull to hold us down in gale-force winds.  Yet his fear subsided because of trust and love.
Now — consider God who does have the strength and pull to protect us from anything.  Then fall asleep in His arms.

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