A Wasted Life

God expects big things from us.
 
Have you ever thought about that? Or considered the weight of that reality?
 
Truth is, God has created us with a pretty high ceiling when it comes to potential. Don’t take my word for it, Paul wrote these words before I made that statement:
 
Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared for us in advance to do.
 
This Scripture has some pretty significant implications for us and the way we’re supposed to live our lives.
 
I’ll repeat…God expects bigs things from us.
 
That word “handiwork” that Paul uses comes from the Greek word “poeima.” And if that word sounds familiar it’s because “poeima” is where we get our English words “poem” and “poetry.” So a literal translation of Paul’s words tells us that we are actually God’s work of art—His masterpiece.
 
We have been carefully and skillfully and intricately made to be God’s poem, to be His work of art, to be His masterpiece. However, we weren’t created just to sit on the wall for people to stare at. But unfortunately that’s where people tend to draw the line with Paul’s words. These words, more often than not, are used to remind us of our value, to build our self-esteem, and to show us of just how special God thinks we are.
 
There’s nothing wrong with doing that. However, if it’s the only takeaway you get from Paul’s words—you’re missing the point.
 
We are God’s “poeima” for the purpose of doing big things for His Kingdom. And part of the incredible value in being created by God is that our potential to do great things in life are pretty limitless.
 
And if there was anyone in the Bible who missed out this, it was Scripture’s muscle man, Samson.
 
In my humblest opinion, he is the greatest example of wasted potential that we can find in the Bible. He is the epitome of someone who lived a “life well wasted.”
 
At the point of his entry into God’s narrative for earth, we find the Israelites—God’s people—in bondage to the Philistines. It was mainly because the nation of Israel was a spiritual mess. And because they didn’t have strong, Godly leader to lead the nation, they found themselves going through the same cycle every 40 years: they would sin, they’d be captured, they’d cry out to God, and then God would save them. Rinse and repeat.
 
However, during their bondage to the Philistines, even though they hadn’t gotten to the part where they cried out to God, He was already working ahead of them, raising up their next deliverer in Samson.
 
Samson was going to be special.
 
God expected big things from him.
 
He was a miracle child—born to parent’s who weren’t able to conceive.
 
And an angel of the Lord told his mother specifically:
 
Judges 13:5
He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.
 
And did I mention he was given a ridiculously large amount of physical strength to accomplish this?
 
Samson was God’s handiwork, created to do big things with big muscles.
 
But here’s the catch…while God had big plans for Samson, he was told to live by a higher standard. He wasn’t just being called into God’s work, he was told to live into that calling. He was called to live as a Nazirite.
 
To be Nazirite meant he would hold himself to three specific promises: 1) he wouldn’t eat grapes or drink wine, 2) he wouldn’t touch anything dead, and 3) he would never cut their hair. The purpose of these promises were to set himself completely apart from the culture that he lived in—to be different in order to make a difference for God.
 
With his strength he did some pretty big things. But he could have done more. He never lived up to his potential—he didn’t live up to the hype. He never fully engaged his purpose.
 
All those things that a Nazirite wasn’t supposed to do—the wine, the dead, the hair—he did all of it. He hung out in vineyards and loved to party, he ate honey out of the dead lion’s carcass, and his hair was cut all because of a beautiful woman. But not just that—Samson was a liar, he was disrespectful, he was lustful, he let his anger always get the best of him, and he never learned to seek God and because of that he never saw the value that God had placed in his life.
 
So his story doesn’t end the way you’d expect it to. Without the strength that God had blessed him with, he found himself captured by the Philistines, with his eyes gouged out. He went from being a superstar to a complete dud.
 
But we know how the story goes—on death’s door he had a “come to Jesus” moment where we see this:
 
Judges 16:28-30
Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.
 
It wasn’t until this moment of desperation that Samson finally reached out to God—the God that set him up for success in life. And in one last display of His power, not Samson’s power, God gave Samson strength enough to destroy a Philistine temple—killing himself and more Philistines than he had ever killed in life.
 
And here’s the point I want to make: God wants to use us. And He’s set us up for success.
 
We are God’s handiwork. His poem. His work of art. His masterpiece.
 
He’s given us skills, gifts, and abilities to accomplish His work.
 
Do you live in this truth?
 
Or are you living a “life well wasted” like Samson? Are you squandering your potential?
 
Are you loving to the best of your ability? Are you serving God with what He’s provided to you? Are you building His Kingdom here on earth? Do you serve others? Do you live a life set apart?
 
Or like Samson, do you just serve yourself? Do you live a pretty “ordinary” life by the world’s standards?
 
God expects big things from us.
 
To remind us all, one last time, of how high our ceiling is, let me leave us with this Scripture:
 
John 14:12-14 V
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
 
Jesus tells us that we are gifted with the potential to do even greater things than He had done with the time He had on earth.
 
To me, that doesn’t seem like a life well wasted, that to me seems like a life well lived.
 
–Pastor Cody

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#Blessed

Today I was inconvenienced. 
 
Let me tell you what happened. 
 
We’re running low on baby wipes at home, so my task for the day after leaving church was to go get some. I left the church at 2:45pm and headed out on my quest with the high expectations of being home no later than 3:30pm. I quickly found out that my expectation was going to be far from reality.
 
I drove to CVS arrogantly thinking that I’d leave there with what I needed. I was wrong.
 
Then I drove to Rite Aid, confident that their shelves would be stocked with wipes. I was wrong again.
 
I drove across the street to Safeway pretty much expecting the same thing. Once again…wrong.
 
My next stop was Walgreens, where I was hopeful that they would have them. Nope.
 
Finally, I drove across the street to Raley’s where in my head I was thinking: “I should have gone there in the first place. They had everything I needed last time.” Incorrect…kind of.
 
After driving around for nearly an hour and half all I ended up finding (or being allowed to purchase) were two packs of 42 count flushable wipes. With a baby that pretty much runs dirty all the time, I say this would last us a day and half. Regardless, I took my bounty and went home. And what was originally supposed to be 3:30pm ended up being more like 4:45pm. 
 
So why tell you all of this?
 
Because for the past four weeks whenever anyone has asked me: “Do you have everything you need?” I’ve responded with something along the lines of: “We’ve blessed to find everything we need, every time we have gone to the store.”
 
And in a world where no one can find toilet paper, or flour, or canned goods, or wipes, today the narrative was different for me. For the first time in almost four weeks, I can honestly say today is the first time that I was irritated and frustrated by something other people have been vocal about–something that up until that point I have not experienced. 
 
I was inconvenienced.
 
As I was driving home, I thought about this. And the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that I am extremely blessed. Those 42 count flushable wipes were a blessing. The reality that I was able to find something that may only last me for a couple days is a blessing. The reality that in a world where no one can find toilet paper, or flour, or canned goods, or wipes–wipes of any shape or size are a blessing. The fact that I have gone four weeks without this kind of inconvenience is a blessing.
 
I am blessed.
 
We are blessed.
 
But if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s not always easy for us to see it that way. Sometimes it’s hard for us to see the blessings that God provides when they are right in front of us. Sometimes we want God to come through in “big” ways that we take for granted the “small” ways that He is continually blessing us. (And in reality, there are no small blessings–they’re all big.) Listen to the words of James:
 
James 1:17 
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…
 
Every blessing, every gift, regardless of size, visibility, length, or any other quantifying factor has been hand selected for us to receive by God. That’s a pretty cool thought. That’s a pretty big promise.
 
If we remained mindful of this, I think it would drastically alter the way we viewed life. Especially in the season we’re living in.
 
So instead of driving around, inconvenienced because we couldn’t find wipes, we would be grateful for the provision that God had already offered up until that point. 
 
Instead of growing frustrated with our finances, we would recognize the riches that God has already and will continue to pour out on us.
 
Instead of being angry with the “stay at home” order and the fact that we can’t go do our normal “non-essential” activities, we can remember that those things will still exist when this is all said and done. 
 
We still have family.
 
We still have friends. 
 
We still have church.
 
We are blessed.
 
And God has hand picked everyone on of those blessing just for you. That’s a pretty cool thought. That’s a pretty big promise.
 
So here are a few questions for all of us to consider:
What area of life do you fail to give God the recognition for the blessings you’ve experienced?
What do you need to do in order to cultivate a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving?
Are you inconvenienced or is it just your own needs and wants getting the way of what God may desire?
 
And let me leave you with this promise of blessing:
 
Numbers 6:24-26
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
 
We are blessed.
 
-Pastor Cody

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We Don’t Know

Luke 23:34
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
 
To say that these words are anything less than haunting and I’d be lying.
Of the entire Easter narrative, this is the moment that breaks my heart the most.
 
And I get it…on Good Friday, we are supposed to be broken hearted. Today is the day in which Christ was beaten and broken. Today is the day that He carried the cross through Via Dolorosa–The Way of Suffering–as people mocked and ridiculed Him. Today is the day where He died on Golgotha and ended up in the grave.
 
Today is a day of pain and sorrow. There is no doubt about that.
 
However, what breaks my heart, what really haunts me is that Christ continued to forgive up until death.
 
And yet here we are. We don’t know what we’re going.
 
Here we are as people who play with forgiveness as if it’s something someone must win or earn. We withhold it as if it’s our right to determine whether someone deserves it or not. We have to “work ourselves up” into making amends with our family and friends when we argue and fight. We hold onto our grudges and bitterness as if they are the fuel that get us through life. We live life in spite of others for the wrongs they have done. I can go on…but I’ll stop. I think you get the picture.
 
It’s hard for us to forgive and if you say that it isn’t–you’re lying to yourself.
 
Forgiveness is hard, but Good Friday shows us that it’s possible. Christ tells us that it’s possible.
 
Christ forgave the men who beat and broke Him. He forgave the ones who mocked and ridiculed. He forgave those who killed Him. He forgives us. And He did it joyfully. Listen to the word of Hebrews:
 
Hebrews 12:2
…fixing our eyes on the Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
 
If Maundy Thursday is a day where we are commanded to “love as Christ loves us,” then Good Friday is the day in which Christ shows us how.
 
To love others like Christ loves them…we must forgive them. And we must enjoy it!
 
I know…I know…that sound pretty impossible to do. You might be asking yourself: “Isn’t forgiving enough? But now you’re telling me I have enjoy it too?”
 
Yep.
 
Yes, Christ was 100% God, completely divine, but He was also 100% man. He chose the form of man so that He could make seemingly impossible things absolutely possible. So if Christ could forgive those who put Him on the cross, and in His heart feel joy, we can do the same. 
 
The joy to be found is in knowing that we have done what Christ has commanded us: To love as He loves others. 
 
So ask yourself:
What does your capacity for forgiveness look like?
Is there someone in your life you’re withholding forgiveness from?
Do you find joy in forgiving others as Christ did for us?
 
And remember:
On Good Friday, we are supposed to be broken hearted. 
 
But we know what we are supposed to be doing.
 
We are supposed to forgive.
 
And we are supposed to enjoy it.
 
-Pastor Cody

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Unprecedented

To say that we’re lingering in unprecedented times here is an understatement. But you don’t need me to tell you that…
 
…we’re lingering in this unprecedented time together.
 
Nearly every aspect of our “normal” lives have changed in response to COVID-19. Most of us are now having to work from home or not at all. All of our non-essential forms of extracurricular activities have been shut down. There is no school. Churches are going digital. It’s nearly impossible to find toilet paper at the grocery store.
 
While it’s easy for us to look at all the ways that we have had to alter life and grow anxious or heavy-hearted, I want to remind you that there is a pretty clear silver lining amidst all of this. There is a blessing that God is offering up on a platter here for those who choose to receive it.
 
God is giving us an opportunity to slow down.
 
We’ve been told to press pause on life and to do less. For most of us, this is a completely foreign concept! Think about it–we spend most of our days running back and forth from work, taking the kids to school, taking them to sports, going to church, and that’s not to mention all the time we spend going grocery shopping, working around the house, or taking regular trips to all our favorite “non-essentials.” Our lives move at NASCAR speed but now we’re going no faster than a snail’s pace.
 
This is a good thing!
 
And the more I thought about it this week, the more I realized that there is one area in particular that has the potential to be all the better when this is all said and done. While we’re all practicing social distancing and staying at home, we have been given the unprecedented opportunity to spend more time with our families. There has never been a time like this. There is no school. There may be no work. There is no social living outside of the house. I’ll repeat:
 
This is a good thing!
 
God is giving us the opportunity to slow down and spend more time with our families.
 
For some us, we have become our child’s teacher. Some of us have had the opportunity to go on more walks or to play catch outside. Without having to wake up early for work or school, every night offers up the opportunity to be a family movie night. In the wake of COVID-19 we have all been given the glorious blessing of being able to spend intentional and purposeful time with our families.
 
My prayer is we take that blessing off of the platter in which God has presented it on. My prayer is that we do not take this opportunity for granted.
 
Let’s not waste this!
 
We’ve been given an unprecedented opportunity in an unprecedented time to be better parents and spouses. Not only have we been given the opportunity to spend intentional and purposeful time with our families, we’ve also been given an enormous platform on which we can use to influence them. More time equals more exposure which means the ceiling has been lifted.
 
For all you parents, grandparents, and guardians, listen to the words of Solomon:

Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
 
If you haven’t figured it out by now–our children are watching. They see how we react when things don’t go our way. They listen to how we speak to our spouse. They read what we post on social media. They are not blind, deaf, or ignorant to what we do. In fact, they are the complete opposite. They are sponges that soak it all in. It’s like Solomon says–we are given the influence to teach our children and they will use that influence to help shape their lives.
 
So what are you teaching your children with the way you’re living your life right now?
 
Living in this unprecedented time, I hope you’re taking this unprecedented opportunity to teach them one important thing: Jesus.
 
When there is no toilet paper on the shelf, may they see peace. When the order to stay at home has been extended, may they see grace. When you’re suffering from “cabin fever” and want to go out, may they see contentment. When they see your life, living in the shadow of COVID-19, may they see Jesus.
 
For all of you husbands and wives, know that Solomon’s words still apply to the influence you have on your spouse. Don’t ever stop being Jesus to the one His Father gave you as your partner. However, there are some familiar words from the apostle Paul that I want you to consider:
 
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 
Don’t use this Scripture to play defense. Most of the time we turn to Paul’s “love chapter” to remind ourselves or someone else what love looks like in the midst of one of those characteristics being forgotten. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve mentioned how love “keeps no record of wrongs” when I have made a mistake in my own marriage. However, I have to believe that this wasn’t Paul’s intent when he decided to put pen to paper all those years ago.
 
This is a Scripture that was meant to be used on the offensive. These are characteristics we are supposed to be developing and nurturing at all times, not just when we mess up.
 
So living in this unprecedented time, I hope you’re taking this unprecedented opportunity to work on your marriage–to work on your love.
 
Put together a puzzle. Read a book. Do a devotional. Work in the yard. Watch a movie. Be intentional and purposeful with the extra time that you have been blessed with. Use every hour and every moment to develop and nurture these characteristics of love in your most important earthly relationship.
 
The reality is that in this season there will be trials and tribulations within the responsibilites we shoulder in marriage. Parenting will not be without its frustrations. Finances will give you headaches. The question of “Who gets to go out and get groceries?” may even cause its own problems. Regardless of what comes up, you will be prepared to face it as you manifest Paul’s words in life and marriage.
 
We are lingering in unprecedented times here. We have been told to slow down, to press pause on life, and to do less.
 
This is a blessing.
 
This is a good thing!
 
So let’s not waste it.
 
–Pastor Cody

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