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2601 24th Ave SE
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CrossPointe Church in Norman, OK is truly a church with a heart. With services, activities, and classes for adults, kids, students, and seniors, CrossPointe has a place for you. We offer three worship venues with three distinct styles of music.

Pastor's Blog

God what must I sacrifice?

Chris Vasquez

Day 5 of Pastor Butler's reflections on his time in Cote d'Ivoire.

Day 5: God what must I sacrifice?

“God I will do anything you call me to do” is a popular heart-felt statement that nearly every Christian has made at some point in their walk. It may have been made during a conference or seminar about global missions. Some will say it when they have spent a weekend in quiet study of the Word and have felt compelled to follow Christ wherever he leads. We sing it Sunday mornings in various forms and talk about it to people we love when we are trying to explain our undying commitment to Christ. The challenge for most of us is just that it’s an “undying” commitment. Meaning we are constantly striving to live up to a commitment that never dies - and yet that may the achilles heal to commitment. As a young preacher preparing for a message from Romans 12, I cam across a statement credited to the 19th Century, American Evangelist D.L. Moody. It read, “The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar.”  As I read over his words, I had to stop long enough to let it settle. Let me encourage you to do the same.  

In our part of the world, we know very little about “sacrifice” in this sense.  In church circles, we associate it with Jesus and his death on the Cross. We speak of our need to “sacrifice” time to study the Bible or give to our churches to continue the work set before us. We talk about what was “sacrificed” to go to school or what someone else “sacrifices” to make a better life for themselves and their loved ones . We talk about the “sacrifice” we made to be on a team or for a certain job. And all of these are good metaphors for the idea of sacrifice, but they really fall flat when we consider the real implications of a sacrifice. In the Scriptures, sacrifice could be a metaphor at times.  Sometimes sacrifice was agricultural - meaning crops. Sometimes it was property - land, possessions, etc.. Sometimes it was animal. Whatever the means of sacrifice that was required it could mean many things, but it’s picture was still etched into the minds of hearers because of the common practice.

See what was sacrificed - was given up completely. There was no taking it back. I mean I guess you could have, but that was highly frowned upon. If a person had resolved to give something, it was given up completely. It was completely turned over to the LORD and it was used to bring Him glory and to set themselves completely in agreement with Him. When Paul calls for Christians to be a living sacrifice, he was taking a unique approach to the life of person who follows Christ. They were to see themselves as offering their lives to Christ by living their lives for Christ. To allow Christ to examine their sacrifice of self and weigh its overall merit. Their sacrifice was to be approved by Him and Him only.  When we realize that our bodies are living sacrifices, then we are invited into a relationship with Jesus that allows Him to lead, direct, and even push us in a certain way. Our fears are now His to handle. Our possessions are now His to use. Our gifts and talents are His instruments. Our very livelihood is His to use to His Glory.  Thus the danger of a living sacrifice is that I can decide not to stay on the altar. I can actually decide to stop sacrificing myself for Him.  

Today consider what it means to say to Jesus, “take my life, a living sacrifice  to you.” As you do, read these passages and weigh the questions in your mind

Romans 12:1-2

Mark 10:35-44

1 Peter 2:4-10

  1. What is the most challenging idea of being a “living sacrifice”?

  2. What fears did you find that God now wants you to sacrifice?

  3. If you are able to sacrifice those fears, then what do you sense God will be calling you to do as His living sacrifice?

Go in Peace!

 

 

God what am I afraid of?

Mike Butler

Day 4 of Pastor Butler's reflections on his time in Cote d'Ivoire.

Day 4 : God what am I afraid of?

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (Coach Carter, Timo Cruz, actual quote is from Marianne Williamson)

 

I think all of us have fears of various things. For some, it’s the unknown. Others are afraid of the dark. Still others are afraid of heights.  We all face fear at some point in our lives. .  Fear is a common theme for many people. It surfaces when we start a new job or when we are waiting for a call from the doctor’s office. Some fear that their abilities will not meet the task and they will fail.  There are so many people whose lives are literally attempts to mask their fear rather than face it.  

What if our fears weren’t necessarily bad?

What if fear in some ways was just our way of climbing up that next step into what God has made us to do?

What if our fear is really just a catalyst into the next stage of our lives?

What if the fear that is so common to each of us is really just the call of God for us to trust him even more?

 

I absolutely love the story of Peter walking on water with Jesus.  In short, Jesus had performed an incredible miracle (as if they all are not incredible) in feeding several thousand people with only a few loaves of bread and some small fish. Following the meal, Jesus sent his disciples across the lake to prepare for the next day, but he went away to pray. In the middle of the night, the disciples were in the midst of a furious storm on the lake when they look up and see Jesus walking towards them on the water. Already exhausted from trying to keep the boat afloat and the potential dying, now they are probably thinking they had died because a ghost was coming towards them. Instead, Jesus calls them to stop being afraid and trust Him. Peter cries out to Jesus “If it’s you, then call me to you on the water.” You know the rest of the story, Peter walks out on the water - hesitates and begins to sink but Jesus saves him. There is much to be said about stepping out in trust and then taking our eyes off of God, but I don’t want that to be our focus here. Instead, consider this:  Peter alone walked on water.  None of the other disciples could say that - ever.  Peter looked to Jesus and said, I am afraid, but I trust you with my fear. Man that is powerful. Fear is common to all of us, what is not common is that some have learned to trust Jesus with that fear.

Today I want to challenge you to ask God, “What am I afraid of?”  and be patient and humble enough to listen.  Remember courage is borne of adversity and fear.  Often we forget, those accomplishments in our lives were at one point unbridled fears that had yet to have been taken captive and made to submit to the authority of Christ.  I believe I have always resonated with the above quote from Coach Carter because it reminded me that truly, I am made in the image of God, restored by the sacrifice of Jesus, and set apart by the Holy Spirit. My ability to accept that is the key to my liberation. It’s the key to my opportunity to lay my fears on the altar and allow God to take them as my sacrifice and use them as His vehicle. Most of our lives are lived in quiet desperation uncertain of God’s calling, when in reality the fact that we have lives at all should be evidence of His calling.  

Let me encourage you with these passages to ponder today Matthew 14:22-36 ,Mark 9:14-29, Romans 8:31-39  and two simple, but life altering questions:  

 

  1. What fears in my life do I need to own?

  2. How can I begin to trust God with my fears?

 

Go in Peace

 

God, What can you do through me?

Mike Butler

Day 3 of Pastor Butler's reflections on his time in Cote d'Ivoire.

Day 3: God, What can you do through me?

What am I good at? Where do my strengths lie? What are my weaknesses? These are all questions, we have asked ourselves countless times. If we are courageous enough, we just might ask someone else to help us with this.  Sometimes we may even listen!  

Years ago, I was introduced to the work of man by the name of Henri Nouwen. For years, this renowned theologian, Ivy-league professor, and biblically astute man was called upon to speak in different places and for different purposes. His influence was incredible and his reach beyond most of his contemporaries. He really was an incredible person in many circles. However, one summer in 1985 he served in a community of respite for middle-aged people with severe mental and physical handicaps in Trosly France called “L’Arche”.  Although it was hard work, he was taken in by the sheer volume of joy and peace he felt in his service.  A year after his time there, this learned, scholar with over 31 years of academic success was ransacked by the reckless, raging furious love of God - to borrow loosely from Chesterton - and left academia with all of accolades to serve at a sister organization in Toronto, Canada called L’Arche Daybreak. The work was equally difficult and even as a priest with an extensive resume, Nouwen endured a great deal of struggle and even depression.  Eventually, Nouwen found his place in God’s will at L’Arche.   But How? In an interview from Christianity Today, Nouwen explained his love for this community and his realization, "L'Arche exists not to help the mentally handicapped get 'normal,' but to help them share their spiritual gifts with the world. The poor of spirit are given to us for our conversion. In their poverty, the mentally handicapped reveal God to us and hold us close to the gospel." (Christianity Today, October 3, 1994)

Nouwen learned what so many hunger to see, but just won’t open their eyes to taste.  When God is working through us, He is shaping us to serve others and allowing us to be served at the same time. However, we often feel as if we are inadequate to the task. We feel that “my gifts are just not in the area” and then write off the opportunity as if God were in the business of just using us where we thought we’d be useful. Sometimes we make excuses and come up with shallow justifications for not even trying. Other times we are just scared - but that is for another day. What we must understand about God is that He knows what we can accomplish and if He is stirring our hearts with the matters of the world around us, it is most likely because He knows that we are more than capable to handle the task. Our job is to be willing to ask, “God what can you do through me?”  or as we sometimes say it, “What do I have to offer?”  God’s answer isn’t based on the quality of our talents, gifts, or opportunities.  God has little or no need of people who rely soley on their strengths and avoid their weaknesses. He uses them, but it really isn’t what He’s looking for. Our task is to accept that God is looking for people who are faithful and obedient. He does and will apply our gifts, but it’s our willingness to serve that God uses more than anything else. God will qualify the servant, but we must be willing to ask him, How.  

  1. Read Matthew 5:3-12  Consider today the implications of each of the “beatitudes”. Jesus’ thoughts here should be understood as having present meaning, not simply down the road when we get it.  Instead we are to ask, what does it mean to be pure in heart? A person who mourns? Someone who hungers for righteousness? As you consider these things, ask the LORD to examine your heart for your motives and purposes. Make a list of the ways that God currently is calling you to live as this passage calls you to. For further reflection consider: Galatians 5:19-26; Psalm 51:5-11;

  2. Write out a prayer to God today. Ask God to make clear to you the areas in your life that need to be transformed. Also, ask God to help you to see your gifts and how He has blessed you to be a blessing to others.  As you write out your prayer, ask God to give you an example of how he has used you up to this point. Close your prayer with a request to God to open your eyes to what He’s calling you to.  

Go in Peace!

 

God, What are doing through others?

Mike Butler

1040i CrossPointe Team 2017

Day 2: God, What are doing through others?

As we go through our daily routines, we are constantly being prodded to think about ourselves. To seek out the next best phone or to update our social media with pictures that really paint for the world who we are. Every time we go into a restaurant or the local retail store, we are met with displays designed to keep our minds fixed on what is “good” for us. Everywhere we turn, something wants our attention: TV’s at the grocery store, notifications on our phones, billboards and signs on the highway, even stop lights are used to convince us of the best apartment or fastest internet service. All around us, we are being wooed by lovers less wild and that's why we miss what God is doing so often.

I believe we are really self-absorbed. Everything - and I mean everything -  is about us. Often when we convince ourselves that we are doing something for someone else, we find our own motives tied up in it somehow.  When we are constantly fixed on our own desires, we will miss how God is working through others, using other people to bring Him glory.  Everywhere around us people are in need.  From the neighbor whose husband just suddenly passed through death into life to the toddler whose single-mom has to work 12 hours a day to just provide food and housing.  All around us God is using people to step beyond their everyday circumstance and change the world for someone else.  In fact, I would argue that as God uses other people to serve others, He does so by leading them to use their gifts.

Years ago, a friend of mine was telling me about something he felt he LORD had laid upon his heart years before. He and his wife would spend some of the summer months in different parts of developing countries working to provide different opportunities for the people of those nations. Sometimes it was building projects, other times it was basic agriculture training or insight. While working on one of the projects, he realized the people were hard pressed to get water to their crops consistently. Due to limited rainfall and arid conditions,  their water supply was sparse.  Because of this, people weren’t able to produce crops that could sustain their families. Just stop and think for a moment what it might be like if you were dependent on crops for bodily health, financial stability, and even for the welfare of your family. Without water, basic survival would be in question. My friend felt compelled to develop something that would help these people to find a way to better irrigate their crops by a slow drip system that would allow them to preserve water for both their crops and their families. He was able to make it from simple rubber piping and zip ties with some other simple adjustments.  The overall cost was something like $10 and it would help sustain an entire family.  

I remember hearing that story and thinking, “that’s living the Gospel.” The key to this was that my friend was a successful business person with an extensive career in a strong IT company. However, he saw what God was up to and joined Him. It didn’t require too much of him and yet it required everything. There are people just like my friend everywhere.  Business people  who give up vacation time they have earned to spend 10 days in developing countries bandaging wounds and giving eye care to people who have never been able to see beyond their hands.  Some people take their skills on the weekend and help build ramps for wheelchair access or work on cars for single-parents or college students.  Some people in the medical field set off for different parts of the world to provide women with medical attention that is almost completely unheard of in their part of the world. Some people cannot go themselves and so they give up frequent flyer miles, monthly support, one-time gifts, and even provide supplies to make sure that the work can be done.

All of these people are conduits for the work of God. God is working through these people to accomplish the task of helping the world see Him. Today, I want you challenge you to consider how God works through others and your focus will be Jesus and the gifts he has given us.

  1. Read Philippians 2:5-11 and consider: What does it mean that Jesus’ emptied himself to serve others? Who is someone that you know or have heard of that has followed Jesus’ example? If you can, reach out to that person and tell them how their example has encouraged you.  

  2. Read Ephesians 4:1-16 and consider: Do I really believe that God has gifted me to for His glory and not my own? In what ways do I see God working through the gifts of others to bring Him glory? How do these acts of service truly bring him glory?

  3. Make a list of 3-5 people you believe God is working through and find a way to encourage them sometime during this 7 day devotional.

Go in Peace!

 

 

 

 

 

The Heart Cannot Feel What the Eyes Have Not Seen

Chris Vasquez

Pastor Butler's first weekly blog post reflecting on his time in Cote d'Ivoire.

The Heart Cannot Feel What the Eyes Have Not Seen

Day 1, “God what are you doing?”

 

Most of our lives are spent doing everyday, mundane tasks that really are just in motion from the previous day. We don’t give much thought to the world around us. It could be that we have been running so effortlessly for so long that we have stopped considering what’s going on around us. It may be that we know things are happening around us but we just don’t have the time to stop  and look at it - even if only for a few moments. Sometimes, we don’t want to stop and look. We are afraid of what we might find, but that’s for another day.  

Most people live lives of quiet desperation because they fail to spend much time thinking on God and as a result what God is doing.  We don’t spend enough time considering God’s work among us and what it might mean for us.  We have spent more time amused (being entertained) by the world around us rather than musing (meditating or considering) what is going on in that world and what it could mean to us. What if God were speaking to us through the world around us. What if God’s desire was to open our eyes to see what he was up to?  What if God’s goal was to open our eyes to see so our hearts could feel what He is doing? What if God was trying to open our eyes and warm our hearts to invite us to be a part of what He’s doing?

Today, I want to challenge you to look around you and ask God, “What are you doing?” There are all kinds of things happening and God is constantly on the move in our lives. Our task is to stop long enough to ask, “What”, which I believe is an ongoing, human pursuit. I believe human beings live in a state of tension between being musing and being amused. So today, I want you to stop for  few minutes as you begin your day and ask God, “What are you doing?” As God to give you time to open your eyes and see firsthand.  As you do this, I want you to consider a couple of passages and ask a couple of simple questions:

 

  1. Read Psalm 77:10-12, Psalm 143:1-12 = “God how have  you have worked in my life in the past and even now.” At some point, just make a list of the “works” of God in your life. This could include your job, possessions, family, friends, etc.

  2. Read Luke 8:40-56. This is a story about at least two people, but in reality many more. As you read the story, ask these questions:

    • Why did people miss the work of God among them?

    • In what ways did Jesus point them toward God’s work even as the events unfolded?

    • If these events were to happen in my life today, would my schedule allow me to see God working among me or not?

  3. Can you see anything that God is doing among you today? Praise Him for the work that He is doing and ask what you need to do to be more present among it.

Passion Week: Truly Being Able to See Jesus

Mike Butler

 

John 12:20-36 (Click Link to Read)

 

Passover was just right around the corner for this group of ragtag followers of Jesus.  No doubt the thoughts and images of years gone by are fresh in their minds. Given the age of the disciples was likely very young,  the memories locked in their minds about the stories of Moses, the Israelites, and God’s deliverance of them out of bondage and into a world of new hope were like rays of sunshine on a dark day. With its many symbols, Passover would be a steady calling to Israel to consider God’s promises as true and the hope of restoration at some point in the future.  They were to be looking for God to show up!

 

As they awaited the full feast of Passover, Jesus’ disciples were approached by some people not from their group - outsiders if you will. Their desire:  “to see Jesus.” Isn’t that the question most of us face daily?  In everything we do, people want to see Jesus. In our conversations, business dealings, relationships, and other interactions.  People want to see Jesus in the way we handle stress and peace, anxiety and assurance, anger and joy.  People still ask to see Jesus.  These people, really wanted to see Jesus.  

 

Jesus’ response to the disciples is that the time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. What does he mean?  He explains it in different ways throughout this section:  A grain of wheat falling to the ground and dying, those who love their lives needing to lose them, being lifted up for all of the world to see, etc.  Each of these phrases point to the death of Jesus as the means by which he will be glorified. The way that people must accept Him.  The only way that people will ever truly be able to “see him.”  

 

It’s still true today. It is only when we are willing to die to ourselves, that Jesus will be visible to others. It’s only when we have chosen to take second, third or last place, that Christ can take first and shine in a world desperate to truly see him.  It’s only when we do this that we can see Jesus shining out in the world in which we live. It is shocking to so many to consider that Jesus not only planned to die on the Cross, but that he wanted to do so.  Why?  Because truly it was the only way that people would ever be able to truly see Jesus.  It isn’t until we can accept that Jesus’ death was the way He chose to show us His glory, that we can truly begin to see Him for who He is!

 

Sunday is Coming!

 

Passion Week: Mary, a Jar, and the Smell of Love

Mike Butler

 

John 12:1-11, NIV 2011 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair.l And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.b” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.  7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” 9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

 

The story of Lazarus is an incredible one.  A friend of Jesus’ who had died four days before Jesus could get to him. After he had been buried and all hope of his restoration passing, Jesus shows up to bring him up from the grave.  It was a foretaste of what was to come with Jesus in only a few short weeks, but with much greater impact.  Where Lazarus had been dead and Jesus resuscitated Lazarus to prove his authority over death, Jesus would be resurrected to prove his authority over all things. But the disciples and the those around couldn’t know that. What they did know is that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead and that was enough to mark him as both glorious and dangerous.  

 

When Jesus and the disciples show up six days before passover to enjoy a meal to celebrate Jesus, he was met with excitement and skepticism. All of the participants reclined on the floor around a round table with their feet sticking out to the side.  Engaged in conversation about a variety of things, everyone hung on the words of Jesus and his presence among them.  At one point, a woman named Mary approached Jesus and sat at his feet. As she sat down, no doubt the people around the table began to glance down at her wondering what was happening.  As she took down her hair, she pulled out a jar of perfume - valued at a year’s income. Then she simply poured the perfume Jesus feet and began to rub his feet with her hair. If we will take a moment to look into it, then we will see that it was one of the most intimate of pictures the Scriptures paint regarding the LORD. Mary’s world had been turned upside down by the events of her brother’s death and then his subsequent raising.  No doubt she had spent the several weeks following pondering the wonder of what Jesus had done. We don’t know much about the overall circumstance of Lazarus and his sisters, but we can say with confidence that following his raising everything was much different.  Before they were astounded by Jesus’ teaching and even the signs of his authority, but never before had they been so touched by them. It was far more personal now. It is possible that Jesus’ raising of Lazarus preserved the sisters and their livelihood - Lazarus may have been their source of income. It could have been that Lazarus was their source of protection and in his absence the world looked much different. However, I believe what’s more important is that Jesus clearly hit the heart of the situation.  The sisters were truly grateful - which explains the meal and the anointing.   Something stands out to me in the passage. The authors of John’s Gospel record that: “ the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” Everyone in the house was called to see, smell, and consider this great act of love.

 

It’s here that the focus changes and humanity’s most deep seated problem comes to the surface:  pride of life.  The Gospel according to John records the anger of Jesus’ disciple Judas and the hostility of the religious leaders (John’s usage of “Jews” is almost always a reference to the religious leaders and not simply the people) caused them to completely miss the point.  Judas saw the anointing as a waste - money completely thrown away by the act of a foolish woman, thus proving all the more that he didn’t truly love Jesus, but money - and the prestige that comes from it.  The religious leaders saw Jesus and Lazarus as a threat to their own identity as the shepherds of Israel, thus proving that they didn’t truly love Israel, but their position of authority - and the prestige that came from it.

 

The fragrance in the room calls them to the depth of the Love.

The fragrance that lingered around them as they sought ways to undermine the Love that could not be denied.

The fragrance that was intended to prepare them for the greatest act of Love they would ever know.

The fragrance that would either awaken or numb people to the smell of death in their own lives.

 

Sunday is Coming!

Passion Week: Friday, April 3, 2015

Chris Vasquez

Today I have nothing but this.  Strangely enough, if I am to be honest it’s all I ever truly have.  

What Rome intended to use for oppression and fear, God used – if only for one occasion – for hope and promise fulfilled.

What would be viewed through history as evidence against the message of Jesus, has become the calling card of the entire movement.  

What pointed to failure to overcome, has become the only source I have to do so.

It isn’t the cross itself which accomplishes this, but the Son of Man who centuries ago hung from it to pay a debt I could not. At the cross, I am reminded of my most pressing need:  forgiveness.  

Go in peace.

Passion Week: Thursday, April 2, 2015

Chris Vasquez

Luke 22:47-62, NIV 2011 47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”   

54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” 57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. 58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. 59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”  60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

I have not looked forward to this entry.  Sometimes we read the Scriptures as an onlooker, simply hoping to gain better entry to the world of the Disciples. Other times we read them with the hopes of being able to answer a question or defend a position.  These are the times when we read the Scriptures with shame and sadness.  In these words, we are reminded how easy it is to both miss the point and be an awful friend.  

Jesus warned his disciples that something was coming that would shake them to the core. He called them prepare themselves for battle, but even more he called them to pray because that was to be their strongest weapon in the midst of those moments.  Isn’t that strange?  Prayer is the most dangerous weapon we have against our enemy.

In prayer we are able to prepare our hearts by submitting them to God.

In prayer we are able to consider hope even in the midst of sure tragedy.

In prayer we are able to fix our eyes on what matters and not distracted by what doesn’t.

The betrayal of Jesus was much deeper than Judas simply going to the religious leaders, more than being arrested by the authorities in the dark of night, and more intense than  being abducted during the feast of unleavened bread. The betrayal of Jesus was much deeper because all of his friends abandoned him- out of fear for themselves.  Some might argue, “Well they tried to fight and he stopped them.”  But I would ask, when did Jesus ever tell them that violence was the answer to any of life’s challenges? He told them to be ready for a battle, not to fight for victory – at least not in this way anyway.  Had they not heard him speak of loving your enemies?  Had they not been there when he ate with tax collectors, prostitutes, and religious leaders?  Were they not the ones distributing bread to the thousands from only 2 fish and 5 loaves? In John’s account of the arrest, it is Peter who cuts off the ear of the servant (John 18:10).  Why was Peter so afraid?  Of all the disciples, he should have been the most confident in Jesus’ power.  Peter’s betrayal began with his reaction and then his hiding from it. Peter didn’t just deny Jesus in word, but also in deed.  It’s these moments when I can see the family resemblance between Peter and I.

Just like Peter, I have been prone to react instead of responding.  Peter’s betrayal beyond the Garden of Gethsemane is simply characteristic of so many of my own moments.  Peter’s denial is so painful for me because it is a reminder of my own repeated failures when pressed about Jesus. Those moments when people attack the work of Jesus due to the poor way I display it and I hide. The moments when I fail to hold my tongue because I desperately need to be right.  The times when I needed to use my voice for those who could not talk, my hands for those who could not fight, my feet for those who couldn’t run and my possessions for those who had nothing, but instead I passed by them because I feared being associated with them. (Luke 10:25-37; Matthew 25:41-46)   

Like Peter’s denial and betrayal, I have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. That’s what makes the death of Jesus so important.  Today of all days, I am reminded of how much of a coward I really can be.  The denial of Jesus as Lord didn’t just show up when Peter verbally denied him, it started back when he pulled a sword and attempted to handle God’s business himself.  It’s humbling to remember that no matter the intention, I cannot correct the sin problem myself. I need help. I need someone to pay the debt for me. I need someone to step in and say:  “No more of this” and then pay that debt with his own life.

In these moments, Jesus did just that for the disciples and in a few “long hours” he’d do the same for all of creation.

Go in Peace.

Passion Week: Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Chris Vasquez

Luke 22:24-38, NIV 201124: A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” 33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” 35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. 36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” 38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied.

Luke alone includes this story of the disciples arguing over who was more important. I find it interesting that Luke included the story immediately following Jesus’ pronouncement that a betrayer was among them – although he does address a similar situation in different places (Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48).  As they argued among themselves about who was ‘greater’, the charge of betrayal seems to have lost all sense of significance.

Seems about right.

We all seem to suffer from an unending hunger to feel important.  Strangely, most of us resort to making others feel insignificant to feel better about ourselves.  I wonder what fueled the argument.  Perhaps one or two of the disciples had been talking about all of the people who responded to the message when they were speaking and some others had to one-up them.  Maybe there was some argument about who got to sit at the table next to Jesus because it was important. Maybe they had been listening when Jesus said he was going to sacrifice himself and they began wondering “who will lead us when He is gone”.  Maybe they were making subtle comments about whom Jesus liked more.

Strange isn’t how nothing really changes.  Don’t we spend an unreal amount of time  trying to prove our worth to other Christians?  It’s subtle, but it happens.  Followers of Christ are their own worst enemy at times.  Jesus tells the disciples that they cannot be like everyone else they know.  They can’t use their influence to overpower each other or anyone else.  They aren’t allowed to take advantage of those who trust them and are willing to let them walk all over them.   Instead of using their authority to rule, they must use it to serve.  

That’s what Jesus has been teaching them.  

That’s what Jesus intended them to be.

That’s what Jesus will be doing for them when He goes to the cross.  

One last thing: pray for each other.  Jesus knew that the disciples were about to face something that would challenge the very fabric of the family.  He knew that in the midst of all that was coming, Satan would feed their fear to get them to turn on Jesus and each other.  Notice that Jesus tells Peter that Satan has asked to sift “them” and that in all likelihood they will fall away.  So Jesus prayed for them and he told Peter “I know you will fail, but when you realize it come on back.  In returning, you will lead others not to do the same.”  Then he tells them to prepare themselves (swords) for an enemy is coming and they must protect themselves.  Because the enemy will be wanting blood and he’ll take it from anyone not paying attention.  

What would happen if we were able to let go of our “authority” for only a few minutes?  

How many people could we help if we were willing to use our power to serve?

What would change in our lives if we realized that by praying for people we were protecting them while getting our swords ready as well?  

Go in Peace.

 

Passion Week: Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Chris Vasquez

Luke 22:7-23, NIV 2011 7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.  8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”  9 “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked. 10 He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” 13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. 14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” 23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this."

I suppose every family has its own traditions. When they eat at Thanksgiving or if they open a present on Christmas Eve or wait until Christmas Day.  Many families have a weekly date or plan for a vacation each year that is designed to draw them together and call to memory the importance of their own lives.  Some families see their lives as being part of a greater picture so they plan for a reunions with members of the extended family once a year or maybe every other year just to ensure that time and space aren’t allowed to come in like a thief and rob them of the things that really matter.   These traditions mean so much to many of us and we are not fully engaged with life until we can pass them along to someone else.

What happens when a tradition changes?

What happens when what you are passing along looks like a previous tradition, but has so much new meaning?

Passover was one of three great traditions that the Hebrew people were required to pass along. Based on the account in Exodus and Moses’ further instruction, Passover was an annual event where families came together to remember how God had delivered them out of bondage, led them on their first real Exodus, and continued to lead them to the land of milk and honey.  They weren’t to simply look backward and think of God’s wonders, they were to look forward to God’s eventual plan to bring peace and unity to the world at large at the end of days.  They were to do this as a reminder of God’s presence and promises.  And they were to do this as a family.  

Each of them had done this growing up.  Every year they gathered for a number of days in Jerusalem to participate.  Representatives from their family brought a lamb to the temple, the lamb was killed and a portion given to the people who then went back to a place they were dwelling, gathered as a family and continued the feast as prescribed in the Scriptures.  It was a family event.  

On this occasion, the family were the disciples and Jesus.  As I read the account of this Passover meal, I am reminded of what the body of Christ is supposed to be.  The disciples and Jesus took the meal in private as a family.  While Luke doesn’t record it, I am quite certain that the various elements of this meal were experienced such as the 4 cups of wine, singing of psalms, the telling of the exodus story, and a reminding of God’s great covenant with Israel.  However, on this evening the story began to change. Jesus no longer pointed to the Covenant on Sinai, but pointed to a new covenant He would be establishing – not with wine or unleavened bread but with His blood and His body. Just as Israel had remembered that God had established with them an everlasting Covenant in Egypt, Jesus was establishing an everlasting Covenant with the disciples – and the Church- on this Passover night by pointing them to his pending death.  Where Israel had been the children of God for centuries, Jesus was creating a new family beginning with the Jew but extending it beyond to all of creation.

A family that would be rooted and based on the love of God in Christ shown to all the world through the Christ’s suffering.  But it was not without cost, for among them sat a betrayer.  Strange isn’t it how just when we think all is good, someone shows up to try and destroy our hope. Someone shows up to break up the family.

Be careful here. Don’t be too quick to assume you know who the betrayer is.  Certainly the most obvious candidate would be Judas – and that would be historically accurate. He did betray Jesus and the disciples and at some point in the meal left to do just that. But rest assured that he wasn’t the only one to “betray” Jesus- nor was he the only one who invited a betrayer to join them at the table.  

Remember that Satan had entered Judas sometime before which means in essence when Judas sat at the table with Jesus, the tempter was right there with him doing his work to create division in the family.  Which is what he still does today:

Is it possible that some of our “fights” in the body of Christ are not really about what Jesus would do, but what Satan would have us do in Jesus’ name?

What would you do if you realized that as you sat at the table with other members of the Family pondering why they are so sinful or why they continue to not change God simply whispered in your ear – “Be careful my child, that is not my voice you are hearing.”  

Sometimes the most difficult thing to keep in mind during the Easter week is that the story isn’t really about us as much as its about “US”.  

Go in Peace.

Passion Week: Monday, March 30, 2015

Chris Vasquez

Monday, March 30 2015

Luke 22:1-6, NIV 2011  “Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6 He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present."

When we consider the events of Passion Week, we must factor in the influence of Satan- as we should for many of the events of our own lives.  Not to grant more authority than is deserved, but at least to see that the enemy of life will always be looking for ways to destroy any evidence of life.  In this case, Jesus has been teaching in or around Jerusalem for a few days and the time for Passover has arrived.  Luke records that the “chief priests and teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus because they were afraid of the people”.  Strange isn’t it what happens when our fears get the best of us. 

I do find it interesting that Luke records two separate scenarios of fear, but one ultimate source.  Perhaps, the leaders were afraid because they saw their power in jeopardy.  If the people get their way, Jesus will likely push them to conform or get ran over. If that happens, it would possibly turn to chaos and the Rome would get involved.  Everything they had spent the last 200 years reestablishing would be compromised.  Maybe they feared the outcome of a small revolutionary who would possibly overturn their own influence.  If he did that, then a way of life would be altered.  It would impact them socially, politically, and financially.  It could be that their greatest fear was change.  

But what was Judas afraid of? Luke alone records that Satan “entered” Judas and it should wake us up to the reality that followers of Jesus are both subject to temptation and prone to wander.  Judas’ was fearful of something, though we aren’t exactly sure of what.  Perhaps he was fearful of the pending outcome – a dead messiah. What would that mean for him personally?  What would he do next?  Perhaps, Judas was afraid of what it would do to him to watch Jesus suffer, be rejected, and killed. (Luke 9:18-22).  Perhaps, Judas just couldn’t process the feelings and caved.  In any case, Judas gave Satan an invitation to “enter” and Satan took control of him.   And when that happened, Judas needed some new friends.  

Have you ever stopped to consider what doubt and fear really can produce in the life of a follower of Christ?  

Have you ever considered that when you are anxious about something, that you may be experiencing the same struggle the chief priests, teachers of the law and even Judas were?  

Have you ever considered that Satan may be using that to distract you from the truth? 

The leaders and Judas were all simply pawns played by Satan to try and foil the plans of Jesus.  Strangely enough, the plans of Jesus included Satan as much as Satan’s plans included the leaders and Judas.  For it was the result of sin that Jesus was sold to death for a sum of money; however, it was in that death Jesus paid the debt that sin has caused in the first place (Mark 10:45; Matthew 20:28).

Go in Peace

Advent - Week 1: Hope

Mike Butler

I absolutely love this season.  I love Christmas Blend coffee at Starbucks.   I love eggnog.  I love that people seem- at times- to try a little harder to think about others.  I love watching Christmas movies - A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, Elf, A Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, etc.  Again, I absolutely love the Christmas season.  

It wasn't always this way.

I used to despise the season. People seemed to be so crass.  Everywhere I went people seemed to stressed.  At every turn, some tragedy promised to rob people of any Christmas joy.  People didn't seem to find any hope in the season.  Every word I ever heard - and consequently spoke- was nearly void of any joy.  Sadly, this was even the case as a new follower of Christ. 

However, that all changed one winter afternoon.

One year as a college student and new believer, I was working at a coffee shop in a shopping center in OKC.  The center was home to a number of different business: a bowling alley, flower shop, clothing retailer, GNC, and a call-in center that went through names like we went through coffee beans.  Situated at the corner of the shopping center parking lot was local pizza shop.   Easily within walking distance, we would often walk over there from time to time for lunch and their employees would come over for coffee.  A fellow worker at the coffee shop - we'll call her Cindy- had befriended woman from the pizza place.  Both women were single parents so they had a fairly kindred spirit, but Cindy was older so she somewhat took the older sister approach.   Cindy would tell me about how this young lady was having a really difficult time during the season.  She didn't make much money which impacted groceries, bills, and was now showing signs of making Christmas stressful. In addition to this,  she was having a real difficult time with her kids father who was promising to make life extremely difficult.  One day, both ladies came into the shop and were discussing it.  Between tears of frustration and rage, this young woman talked about her struggle. Finally at one point she simply stated the kids dad had "ruined Christmas." I remember thinking to myself that shouldn't be possible. No one should be able to ruin Christmas, but then again I gather I had the same ideas about it myself.  While my situation wasn't the same as hers, I could definitely sense that I was missing something from this season that had at some point been robbed of me - or so I thought.  

Up to that point, I had completely missed the purpose of the Christmas season. At some point, everyone struggles with hopelessness. At some point, everyone battles uncertainty. At some point, everyone wonders why life has turned out the way it has.  At some point, everyone feels everyone feels like all their joy is gone.  This is a reason for the Christmas season - Hope.  Christmas is intended to point people to the answer to their brokenness. Christmas is supposed to be a time when the words of peace can be heard in the depths of our spirit.  Christmas is quite literally designed to fix the things that have been ruined.  

Can I tell you what truly led me to that epiphany?  Christmas Music. 

I have spent the last several years listening only to Christmas music between Thanksgiving and Christmas day.  Every day for me is filled with words of joy, excitement, anticipation, hope, peace, love, mercy, and promise.  Not all of the music is considered "christian", but all of it has the presence of the sacred.  Why is that?  Because I learned one valuable lesson so many years ago in that coffee shop:  

No one should be able to ruin Christmas, because Christmas is always about fixing the problem not creating it.  

Go in Peace. 

 

Aside

Chris Vasquez

When I look back at my life, I cannot say that any specific Christmas stands out as bad.  It is true that some years passed and I may not have gotten everything I ever wanted; however, I cannot say that I ever had a Christmas that I wished had never happened. There was the year I got all of the wrestlers and ring – action figures as my son and I now refer to them- which provided countless hours of fun.  One year, my grandfather – a valiantly religious man- bought me a plastic KISS guitar. It had the cover of Destroyer on it.  I love it so much.   I lost that guitar about three days later when I was beating it against the wall just like Paul Stanley.  I blame OETA, as just a few days earlier they showed a video with a KISS concert and that was where I saw it.  Their fault, not mine. When I was in the third grade, I got my first real stereo with studio headphones.  I kept that stereo until I was sixteen and my parents bought me a  Pioneer stereo for Christmas.  I don’t remember all of the specs, but I do recall it was my first encounter with a six-disc changer. I had that stereo until shortly after I was married.  In the end, Christmas growing up held many dear memories for me – memories that for my parents were dear as well, but for different reasons.

Every year, my parents watched me getting older and their time with me slipping away.  I am not certain they understood that then, but I am confident I understand it now.  Every year, Debbie and I watch as our kids become more and more self-reliant. Hannah with her babysitting, Nathan with sports,  Rachel going to church earlier than all of the kids, Tavo learning to count.  It all is moving so fast and to be honest it saddens me.  Every year,  I am reminded of the time I have missed with each passing year.

The recitals I just “couldn’t” make it.
The practices I had to miss because I was teaching.
Not jumping on a trampoline because I was too tired.
The vacation I stayed home to finish my schoolwork.

In any case, I am learning that time is the most precious investment I can make in my kids, because it is really all I have to offer.  I can make provision, but provide nothing.  I can grant them safety, but no hope.  I can make promises, but fail to fulfill anyting promising.  Time is essential.

Christmas is a season that reminds me I really need to give them more time.  I need to be with them as their lives unfold.  Christmas is about more than getting presents, it’s also about learning to see that presents come in various forms. Likewise, I have learned that is about “presence” more than anything else. If I can give them anything this year it is to treat this as a time that says nothing less than:  “This could be our last Christmas together.”

This is not intended to be maudlin or a stab at melancholy. Instead, it is my feeble attempt to see things as they truly are. At best, we are vapors in this world, passing through as we seek to drink deep of God’s mystery.  So as we take the moments of life seriiously and as we continue to celebrate the life that has been granted by the LIfe Giver, may we understand the value of memories. May we celebrate the season that seeks to disrupt our lives and shake us to our foundations.  May we stop long enough to be present in what we are doing.  May we not be overwhelmed by the way people fill their time, but celebrate that we get to.  May we pray to be rid of our contempt and self-loathing – which is often the source of our disdain forf this season not lights, Santa, and commercialilsm.  May we embrace the simplicity that exists in a baby being born in a manger that would bring about changes that even the hardest heart cannot deny.

But mostly, may we see that all we have is time and time keeps slipping away.