Excuse Me, But I Must...
I’m very excited for tomorrow. That’s Friday, September 29th, 2017, in case you may be reading this late.
I mentioned last time that I’m a 90s kid. I’m sure you’ve all seen those posts before on social media: “Only 90s kids will understand these 10 things.” Odds are only 90s kids would even click such a link. So there probably wouldn't be any danger of someone stumbling onto the page and not understanding why a bottle of Surge, something about Nickelodeon, and some video game character would be a big deal.
I once clicked on a link about the 80s and for a minute I was jealous of my older sister and cousin, if only for the free pizza coupons they got at school every week and getting to live thru Michael Jackson’s glory days.
However, the 90s were objectively better. There’s just no other way around it. And this Friday, one of the best things about the 90s is coming back.
The Super Nintendo.
Maybe you had one. Maybe your kids had one. Maybe you don't know what I’m talking about.
I promise every blog post won’t be about video games. I’m just getting it out of my system early on.
Speaking of system…
I’m talking about THE Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
Whew, what a piece of art. Everything about it was so great. From the purple buttons on the box to the games it played, I can’t gush enough about my love for this thing.
Yeah Mario was great back in the 80s, but on Super NES he had a DINOSAUR to ride on.
Back in 1994, my sisters got a Super NES for Christmas. I was only 4, but I caught on quick. By my birthday the following August, the Super NES was mine. The rest is history.
And now, 20 plus years later, history is repeating itself, and a miniature Super NES is coming out, preloaded with 20 or so of its best games.
When Nintendo announced back in July that this was coming soon, something inside of me immediately said, “I need this.”
Now you're talking to someone who still has his original Super NES on his desk at home (alongside the Japanese version), plugged into a small monitor so that I can play it at any given time. Lindsey won't let me set up a giant CRT in our living room for the optimum experience, but I’m still praying things may change there.
But the convenience of having a mini version with digital copies of some of my favorite games, is too awesome to pass up. It’s got must buy written all over it.
About a month ago, the Super NES Classic went up for preorder, and when I got the notification on my phone, the must in my mind, went to my heart, and I feverishly attended to my phone until I was able to secure one thru Target. This was after 30 minutes of several other retailer’s websites freezing up and crashing, only to show that the system was sold out upon checkout.
Turns out mine isn't going to ship until next week. Oh, the agony.
Apparently, a lot of other people felt the same must that I did.
Perhaps you can relate to this notion of must. There’s external pressure at times that provoke us to must. More often, there are internal pressures that have an even greater influence on us.
I’ve had this thought on my mind in regard to my faith for the last few weeks. A passage from Acts 5 caught my attention and I couldn't get away from it. I had been studying and preparing to preach on this idea at church, and then at a preaching conference last week one of the speakers spoke from that very text… on this very thought.
I guess God was upping the dosage of must for me. I knew that I had to dive deeper into this idea.
Acts 5:27-31 takes us midstream of a narrative featuring the apostles and the Jewish authorities. The same council that killed Jesus was seeking to kill the movement He had left behind.
You’d think His followers would have taken it easy after the Resurrection. Hang out by the Sea of Galilee, hope Jesus shows up for breakfast every Thursday, maybe have a campfire on weekends and share their favorite Jesus memories.
They could even reminisce and act out some of His parables, like the one about the two sets of footprints in the sand.
(Sorry forgot chapter and verse on that one)
But no, Jesus told them they should hang out in Jerusalem until He sent them a gift.
Boy, they weren't expecting the gift that they received. The Spirit of God descended upon the Upper Room, not to fill the room, but to fill their hearts.
From that day on, they couldn't stop telling people about Jesus.
What was different? It became personal. Of course, they had known Jesus in the flesh for years, but He was gone, into heaven. And I don't think I have to explain how quickly we can forget or get distracted. We’re all kind of like we were in high school when the teacher walked out of the room for 5 minutes and returned to see someone jumping out of the window.
That happened in my class a couple of times. I may or may not have been one of the jumpers.
But the Holy Spirit showed up and all of the sudden the disciples felt different.
They had the power that had just raised Jesus from the dead within them, after all.
Can you imagine what was running through their heads? Jesus had used His power to turn water into wine, walk on water, and even make a man’s ear grow back. They suddenly had this power at their disposal.
Yet, what followed wasn't a hedonistic spree at all. They realized what the Spirit meant to them above all else. They were reconciled to God, and would always be in His presence. In spite of their sin, guilt, and shame, the presence they had felt surrounded by for three years, they now felt fulfilled and filled by.
The wellspring that Jesus talked about so often was now gushing up within them, a geyser of eternal life.
They had to tell everyone about this guy who had changed their lives. The same Jesus they had denied and forsook. They watched him take the fall for the entire group. They hid in the distance as He was nailed on a cross and placed on a hillside before a bloodthirsty mob.
He died and was buried, and they gave up. They had wasted three years of their lives on a man whose legitimacy as Messiah and a prophet was invalidated upon His death. What kind of Son of God, Messiah, Savior, or whatever you wanna call Him, could die such a death?
After the reports of His resurrection began to circulate, they laughed and told some of the eyewitnesses that they would never believe such a fairy tale (Luke 24:11).
Yet then they became eyewitnesses. They couldn't believe or understand it. But they had seen and heard Him with their own eyes (Acts 4:20). On top of that, they hadn't just witnessed the resurrection, but now they had experienced it.
They knew what they had to do.
The same authorities that tried to shut down Jesus were sure they could stop these men with similar threats. But after being arrested, beaten, arrested again, imprisoned, and miraculously let go, they still couldn't stop spreading the Good News.
People needed to know about Jesus. People had to hear. There was a must within them as potent and as present as the Spirit of God.
“But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” - Acts 5:29
I know we juggle a lot of musts in life: family, jobs, hobbies. We are pulled in 100 directions, and we barely have time for ourselves most days. We are always doing what other people want us to do. Sometimes we think we owe ourselves an out, or two, heck, probably a few more.
I don’t know what determines your musts. But I do know that something does. Somebody does.
We all live by this unwritten rule it seems: If I don’t, life won’t.
The line is drawn on the axis of what we care about and what we can’t live without.
If we care, we must. If we can’t live without, we must.
I think it’s only appropriate in light of the early believers’ legacy, in light of those that have gone before us, and most importantly, knowing who Jesus is and how glorious He is.
That we deal with a question that might at first warrant an eye-roll from most, but deep down we all know needs to be dealt with:
Where does Jesus and His Kingdom rank on our list of musts?
Now listen, I’m a pastor and I know there’s nothing that rubs some of you the wrong way then being told that you must do something for God.
We love choice. We love volunteering. The fastest way to turn someone off of being involved is telling them that they should be involved.
And that’s a shame, honestly.
I mean, come on. We don't tell our spouses or bosses that we'd rather opt in or out of our commitment as much or as often as we'd like to. We continue through the good or the bad because we must, right?
Must isn't legalism. It’s conviction. It’s a sense of ought that comes from our deepest heart of hearts.
And when it comes to our relationship with God, this proves especially true. It can't be fabricated or forced. It’s the natural overflow of our hearts once we behold all that God has done for us thru Christ, after we’ve responded to His call over us.
Faith is a gift from God. This must is too. We are brought to salvation by God’s grace. We are embedded in its power and joy by His grace.
There is an inner compulsion within all of you - within all of us - that directs us toward our Creator - that calls us to our Savior.
God can use many things to get our attention concerning this.
Maybe He’ll use this blog. Heck, that’d be more than I could ever have imagined Him doing with my ministry 10 years ago when I first developed a sense of calling.
I didn't wanna do this. I didn't know how or where to start. I just knew that I had a must that I couldn't ignore.
To this day I have a lot of other musts. They seem and feel more important on most days.
But I’ve learned as much as I think this world requires of me. My soul demands more.
I know that there are eternal consequences for acting as if there is anything more important than the cries of my soul.
I don’t know what God is calling you to do. I’d never try to figure that out or impose.
But I do know that all of us wrestle with a lot of musts on any given day.
It’s my prayer that we sort out what is most needful.
Every day when I open the Bible I know that God is speaking to me. His word reminds me of the must inside of me.
I know that your job is important. I know that school is important. I know that you family is a big deal.
But as much as our lives would be in shambles if we took a day off from those things.
If we ignore the most important must, we run the risk of missing out on something incredible.
If we seek Him first, we have an opportunity to leverage all of the things we love and have in our lives for eternal good. We can see them become a part of our faith journey, and realize the true purpose of the genuinely good, God-given gifts in our life.
But whatever you do, don't miss the most important must of them all.
Abide in Christ, He’ll abide in you.
Oh, would you look at the time? I’ve got to run to Walmart for the midnight launch of the Super NES classic. I hope they don't sell out.
If you see one be sure to pick one up. Remember, it's a must buy.
Smell the Milk
Oh hey, I didn't expect you to talk back to me.
If you’ve found your way here it's because you know me, or you know someone who knows me. You may know a lot about me. Maybe you’d like to know more. This blog will be a way for me to relate my passion for preaching and teaching about the Christian Faith, with some other things I’m passionate about.
I grew up in the Nineties. When I think of the Nineties, the first thing that comes to my mind is a dinosaur. That might tell you a lot about how my mind works. Does this blog have anything to do with dinosaurs? I really wish so, but no.
Sometimes I refer to the Nineties as the Nintendo Nineties. Actually I've never done that before. It just sounded too good not to write. I played a lot of video games growing up. One of the series I played and still enjoy the most is The Legend of Zelda. In one of the games there is a bar. Don't worry, it’s not that kind of bar. It’s a milk bar. It's kind of like an exclusive night club. You've got to wear a cow mask to get in. Doesn't that sound awesome? Once you are a member of this exclusive club, you get to enjoy some music, talk to other world-wearied patrons, and of course, buy some milk. Stocking up on milk is a good way to restore your health in the middle of a quest. This particular Zelda game also features a time limit for each play session. In the game the clock shows that you have three days to complete your missions.
Not three literal days. Whew, that would’ve caused me to miss a lot of school as a kid. You only have a short amount of time to get things done in the game before it resets. So like milk itself, each play session has an understood expiration date.
Did I mention that I love Fairlife milk? Specifically chocolate milk. I like to thin it down a little with fat free milk before drinking. The regular chocolate is *just too thick*.
Maybe you’ve never considered if you have anything in common with the carton of milk in your fridge. But friends, I’ve got good news for you!
You and your milk carton have one big thing in common: An Expiration Date.
If you're reading this, odds are you haven't reached your expiration date yet. Hopefully the milk in your fridge hasn't either. Be sure to smell it before you drink it!
(Dinosaurs met their expiration date a long time ago, so there's that)
In all seriousness, we might not think about it a lot, but as sure as we had a beginning, we have an end somewhere in our future.
This past Sunday we studied Daniel 5 in our worship service. It's the story of a king who knows he's in trouble, but chooses to revel in his privilege while he still can. King Belshazzer was the king of the ancient empire, Babylon. It ruled the Middle East for decades, but its time was coming to an end. The Medes and Persians had teamed up to take Babylon down. As the old saying goes, the writing was on the wall.
And in this case, it literally was.
While Belshazzer was drinking himself to death with his buddies, the armies of the Medes and Persians had besieged the capital city, and an invasion was imminent. During the party, just before everyone passed out drunk, amidst their carousing, a hand appeared floating through the room.
Now, I''ve never gotten drunk, or high or anything like that (shocking I know). Heck, if a bottle of prescription drugs has a "may cause dizziness” warning on the side I’m too terrified to take it. I may not have the best mind, but I really don't want to be *out of it*. So maybe seeing things was a normal side effect of Babylonian binge drinking. Who knows. But they clearly weren't prepared for what happened that night. This hand spooked everyone into silence. The story goes that a single finger wrote on the wall of the banquet hall a few words that no one could understand. They were drunk, of course.
Interpreted into English, the inscription read: Number, Number, Weighed, Divided
Even if they could have deciphered what was written, the bigger question was, what did this mean?
Well, Daniel was summoned. He hadn't been on the scene or in the administration for a while. Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar had given him a nice loft overlooking the Hanging Gardens to retire in.
He showed up and delivered a sermon that he had preached to Belshazzer’s grandpa a few decades earlier: “God gave you your power. You've abused it. You’ve mocked Him. You’ve ignored reality. Now you're going to lose everything.”
The “Number, Number" part suggests a beginning and an end.
Tombstones have two sets of numbers on them: a birth date and a date of death. Belshazzer was shown his expiration date. It was that very night.
I could make a joke about seeing your own obituary column in the newspaper, but that’d be mean. Also, I don't read the newspaper. I just check Warlick’s website once a week.
The writing was on the wall. Everyone knew it. Belshazzer wanted to impress his buddies one last time, but they knew things weren't gonna last. Usually when we think we can distract people from knowing what’s broken and wrong in our lives, they already know. They’ve probably already told someone else about it. Hopefully not! But you know how people can be.
In between the date of birth and death on a tombstone is a dash. This dash is the same for everyone, no matter the numbers. The dash, however, is the most important part. It contains our life. That dash is where we lived, how we lived, and who we were throughout our life. This dash is going to be weighed one day, when its followed by our expiration date.
Belshazzer’s dash was weighed, and it was found unfulfilled. He hadn't lived up to his potential in life. He had squandered his God-given opportunity to leverage his life for a greater purpose and to work towards an eternal kingdom. Instead, he put all of his stock in himself, and in the kingdom that was already surrounded by its enemies.
What would it profit a person to gain the whole world at the expense of their one connection with their creator and the world beyond this one? Read Daniel 5. That’s exactly what we can look forward to if that describes us.
Belshazzer’s kingdom was divided and given to someone else. He spent that last night of his life drunk on himself, and died in the midst of his own foolishness.
Meanwhile, Daniel had outlasted Judah, Babylon, and would even go on to thrive as a key figure in the Kingdom of Persia. He purposed in his heart early in life that he was going to live for his Heavenly Father (Daniel 1:8). He could've quit, sold out, and given up a dozen times. He didn't lose faith in times of distress. When Judah was conquered and he was taken captive, he determined to be the best slave he could be. And he didn't dismiss his faith when he found success, after gaining favor with King Nebuchadnezzar. He remained faithful no matter what, because he had perspective. He knew that before his dash began, "Heaven ruled" (4:26). He knew this Kingdom would be around long after him too. The "Ancient of Days" (7:9) held the future in His hands.
Every day I look myself in the mirror and ask, “Who are you living for?”. Every day is a gift, and if we don't live in light of the coming Kingdom of Jesus Christ, we are just as foolish as King Belshazzer.
Take Daniel’s advice. Honor “the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways.” (Daniel 5:23)
Jesus loves you,