Good morning Surgeons!
Some great news...
Jesus is risen from the grave!
Some more great news...
We're doing a standalone message today on Resurrection Day and how God's love and power applies to us - it is going to be a wonderful service - and we look forward to seeing you there!
Special music today will be Believe, by the All American Rejects.
Emily Lawyer, an amazing person and director of our small groups has written a book! It's called "Enough Already" and you can see the cover art above. You can download it here! Even better, her book was picked up by Exponential and is being used in the run up to the Exponential Conference, which is the largest church planting conference in the world! Thousands of national leaders
We'll be starting a great news series next week, Strapped, talking about money and how we can better understand how God wants us to view, use and bless using our financial resources. This will be an amazing series with practical advice. So if you want God's best with your finances, or know someone who would benefit from some great thinking in this area of life - bring them - it's going to be great.
Next week, April 7th, we'll also be meeting at 5pm at the Barn to talk about some exciting things and opportunities for the future of the Surge! Huge announcements are pending, so if you call the Surge home you don't want to miss it. If you don't call the Surge home but like pizza... it's still a good event and you're invited.
5pm, Sunday, April 7th @ the Barn (1988 Kirby Rd, McLean, VA 22101)
Travel safe, enjoy the family and friends you'll see this holiday weekend and God bless!
It was about a year ago that I was nervously writing. The assignment? To write from the perspective of Jesus, the experience of the Cross, in the first person.
That sounds crazy right? And it is. We don't know what He went through, none of us. Least of all me.
But there is something good about the meditation - as long as you don't take it farther than it was intended to go. The larger project was the Stories of Sifted... and the idea was that saints and biblical leaders suffered in such a way as to bring about a redemptive good - either for themselves or for others (or both). The idea was that suffering is something that God holds in His hands and that it isn't capricious.
Jesus took that a step further. And it's an amazing notion. He's not just overseeing suffering in a way that may make sense someday. He embraced it Himself. God took upon Himself lack. He experienced pain. He felt thirst. And while I don't pretend to understand the Cross in the fullness of mystery, I do believe that He walked in our shoes, in some sense, literally.
In that heart, I set about the Stories as a meditation on emotion and nearness, to try to see these great moments of story through their eyes. With actual fear, I set about the story of the Passion... my own words seeking to express the love of God firsthand. So for Good Friday, as I Remember... here is the story of Jesus, sifted.
It was one of those moments that happens, but your mind doesn't accept at first. I felt the sharp pain set in, and I felt the bones of my hand and arm move aside from the metal in excruciating detail.
My back was on fire. I was cold from the loss of blood. I couldn't move or find any position that didn't make things worse. This continued for what seemed an eternity. The other arm was pulled and set. They lifted me up dropping the crossbar into place with a thud. The cold metal ripping through my feet caused a wave of nausea that passed through my entire body.
When it came to pain, the Romans were skilled.
At some point the level of agony started to lack focus, except for an occasional spike from my hands, or feet or back. Worse, the position of the cross left me unable to breathe. I had to pull on the spikes of my hands and push on the spikes of my feet, raising up to take in a mouthful of air, then collapse back down in a whirlwind of unbearable agony. Every time feels like it will be the last. I could feel the world getting smaller. The end was very near.
The pain was surprising in its intensity and complexity. There was no escaping it, only a futile and continuing effort to try to find any sort of relief. But that wasn't the worst part.
The worst part was the real reason I was here. This wasn't just an ill-timed and unjust execution. The worst part was the cup I was about to drink.
From the beginning of time, God takes the sin of humankind and places it in a cup without ending or limit. Within the cup, the offenses rest: the rape of the innocent; the theft of a neighbor; the evil thought that passes in a moment; the selfish day spent wasting time; the murder of a wife; the oppression of an entire people; the unwanted infant discarded and left to die.
And still they come: the covering lie; the adulterous secret; the fraud of a stranger; the evil word spoken to wound; the abuse of a child; the girl selling herself for money; the worship of Moloch demanding children for the fire; the random act of destruction; arson destroying a home.
And even again: the foul taste of cowardice; the torture of a prisoner; the delight of a serial killer anticipating the next victim; the petty comment; the husband left for another; the anger that strikes out at a child; the greedy manipulation of harvest; leaving people to starve; the unending litany of the vile; the queue of the actions of the damned; the seemingly unbroken and unending line of evil thought, evil action, evil consequence...
All put into the cup of God's awareness and judgment. The cloying taste of that draught would choke all of humanity forever. It was a cup filled with the smell of death and fear and lust, the taste of blood and horror and cruelty, with all the vomit-filled evil the world had ever known. It was a cup prepared for me. Struggling to breathe, struggling to live a bit longer, it was the cup of God's judgment. It was the inescapable truth of His holy power and wrath.
I had to drink it.
I had to drink it all.
I had to bear within myself the darkness and rightful punishment for every ill-intended thought or action. I had to feel His pleasure and presence taken from me as the price was paid. The physical agony was nothing compared to the agony of my soul. Standing proxy for the evil of every man was a desolation of heart, and there was no escape from it. I had to drink it all.
When my task was complete and the moment was finally over, it was blessed relief to feel the favor and love of my God again. The weight of the moment passed and with trembling I surrendered to the extremis of physical limits I had carried this day.
It was finished. I was judged. I was beaten and mocked and punished. I suffered the ignominy of the Romans, even bore the anger of God as a substitution for others. I submitted to humiliation and torture and horror and pain beyond the limits of pain. I drank the cup of His wrath. Death came to close my eyes.
I was sifted.
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:9-13).
Hope you are doing well... and we're looking forward to a great weekend as a community.
We're finishing up our series Vanity Fair, with a message called The Recipe. Special music is Some Nights by FUN.
Next week is Easter! So get ready... it's a time of year when folks look around for a church service to attend and we have a wonderful time planned for Resurrection Day.
Next Saturday will be our Men's Breakfast at 8am, hosted by Terry Forrester, it will be a great morning.
Please remember our team in El Salvador, pray for their safety and for God to do amazing things.
After Easter, we'll be launching our Strapped series, talking about money and how to make it a positive part of God's plan for us.
Be warned, the props will be coming fast and heavy this Sunday, so hang onto your hats!
Beware the ides of March!
My mom (and Shakespeare) used to wake me up as a teenager by turning on all the lights (at a VERY early morning hour) and yelling at the top of her lungs, "BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH!"
This will be a generational thing as Karen and I will continue this time honored practice with Evangeline.
I love Springtime - if only because it gets me closer to my beloved Summer - the clear winner in "best time of the year." In the Spring, the earth remembers life again and green rules the day.
And there's basketball. Gentlemen, start your brackets!
Remember, there's a simple rule if you have two teams to choose from you've never seen or heard about. Don't just go by the rankings, there will always be Cinderella teams in the Dance. Prepare to choose the team with the more powerful mascot.
In the East, we have Illinois (seeded 7) vs. Colorado (seeded 10)
Colorado's mascot is the Buffalo. Buffalo (technically Bison) are strong, resilient, dangerous when angered and can run without stopping for more than 24 hours. Not to mention virile, there were 300 million of these puppies in the Plains States before we hunted them to extinction.
You know what Buffalo are as well as tough and implacable foes?
Delicious! They are delicious.
Yes, they fed the Native Americans for hundreds of years as they worked their way into boiled, jerked, salted and sauteed buffalo goodness.
Illinois knows this well, as the Fighting Illini (while separating themselves from their traditional Indian / Buffalo feasting mascot and symbol, Chief Illiniwek...) are still sporting the upper hand here, with mounts, firearms, charcoal, dry rub and bar-b-q sauce.
I understand the reason many schools are moving away from Native American imagery in their mascots and school logos.
But even the retirement of honored Illiniwek can't save the Buffaloes from their buffet of doom.
You watch, the Fighting Illini will bring the heat... and will use that heat to cook up a tasty side of Colorado stick to your rib dance goodness.
On a semi-serious note... why do we love the Dance? I think there are a few reasons:
- It is surprising. Who's going to win? With the turbulence the top ten has experienced this year, it could be any one of a dozen teams. No one is a safe bet... and it is fun to not know the outcome.
- An underdog always rises. And how can you NOT secretly cheer for the 15th seed that knocked off a number 1, 3 and 5 seed on their way to the Final Four? It speaks about hope... and our cherished belief that the little guy can do well.
- The mix of athletes is refreshing. Except for maybe Kentucky, you have a lot of collegiate players that won't go on to the NBA... so this is it. The kid who is talented, but who ultimately will make his career and mark in another field... will play his very heart out for his team mates and his school. That level of passion is inspiring.
- We remember our roots. Whether we went to college or not, we love our home teams don't we? They ground us in the memory of our family and youth and we want to see the people representing where we grew up do well.
All in all, these are good things. Life, hope, struggle, dreaming, hard work and success against the odds. It's the kind of thing that brings out the best of our interaction with life.
So breathe the Dance in deeply... and take a moment to reflect where God would lead you next.
He may have a bracket and path to your Atlanta that is surprising to everyone tuning in to watch.
Good morning Surgeons!
We look forward to seeing you this weekend, there are a lot of good things going on...
1) We're meeting @ the Barn at 5pm for prayer, followed by dinner, followed by our monthly SAW concert ($10 at the door - but if you don't have it - come anyway!) The Barn is at 1988 Kirby Road, McLean, VA 22101 - see you there!
2) Sunday morning @ the State Theatre, 220 N Washington Street, Falls Church, VA 22046. We're continuing our message series Vanity Fair, with the message The Depths of Despair. It's going to be great, with special music by George Harrison, All Things Must Pass.
Beyond that, please pray for the missions team is leaving next week for El Salvador - we're looking forward to a great report when they get back.
100,000 cards have gone out! We're praying that God will use these as one more way to let folks know we are here and to connect them with the wonderful folks at The Surge.
Our Men's Breakfast will be meeting at 8am at Terri Forrester's house, check the calendar or weekly email for directions.
Next week, we'll wrap our Vanity Fair series, with The Recipe... and we'll be looking forward to a great Easter with you!
Notes from our Thursday night study of Ecclesiastes 1. You shoulda been there.
"Ecclesiastes" is how Greeks rendered the original Hebrew title "Kohelet”: Teacher, Preacher, Leader, Watcher, Seeker, Collector. Just as a friend of mine collects Hummels and Precious Moments figurines, Ecclesiastes collected experience and angst! Angst does not need dusting.
I offer this title: "The Detective".
Ecclesiastes seeks an explanation for existence–and he is not finding it. He's looking for a missing purpose and keeps coming up empty. In trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions, he leaves no stone unturned.
And that's a problem. The mystery is always tougher when the detective is a suspect.
He claims wisdom, but he lives a wanton life. He has more wealth than anyone around, but whines about his insignificance.
Based on past tense in verse 12,
“I, the Teacher, was king…,”
some guess there was an interval when the probable author, Solomon, was not king. Solomon's father David had temporary exile. Alternately bitter and reflective from that loss, he wrote Ecclesiastes. That's just a guess.
Reading Ecclesiastes 1 reminded us of…
Ecclesiastes is not an atheist. But he does a great impression of a deist. A deist is a person who has decided that, having created the universe, God has no further dealings with the universe or that speck called man.
“Everything is futile!” (1:2)
“There is nothing new under the sun.” (1:9)
“Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both. As one dies, so dies the other.” (3:19)
“Nothing is better under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.” (8:15).
“All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad,…” (9:2)
Ecclesiastes and Lamentations are not cheerful books for dreary winter days. Imagine the relief for any of his 700 wives or 300 concubines. "Whew, I'm glad that's over. No more King Nothing-Really-Matters for five years."
The book of Job similarly contains words offered as wisdom that contradict other scriptures. However, early on the reader is aware that most of the book of Job is a debate. After about forty rancorous chapters, God chastises one of the wise men disputing Job, “I am angry with you and your two friends because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has."
Does Ecclesiastes present a puzzle that aims to provoke people to re-examine their cherished notions? Is he challenging, "Life stinks. Prove me wrong!"
Is there as with Job, a clue in Ecclesiastes that some observations are biased, that some conclusions are faulty?
Consider this repeating theme:
Under the sun, under the sun,.... Like warning signs on a desolate road, “under the sun” appears 27 times in Ecclesiastes.
Investigator Ecclesiastes seeks God's purpose for life. Eternity in his heart compels him.
But with that compulsion to find purpose, Ecclesiastes is ever the dour detective. "All we want are the facts, ma'am". He harbors no wishful thinking. He candidly identifies the limits of his beat: under the sun.
"Under the sun" is a panoramic view. "Under the sun" is rather a big picture.
Yet years later, someone offered a yet broader view.
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you. These are the ways of the world: wanting to please our sinful selves, wanting the sinful things we see, and being too proud of what we have.
None of these come from the Father, but all of them come from the world. The world and everything that people want in it are passing away, but the person who does what God wants lives forever."
(1 John 2)
"God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son."
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”
Good Day Surgeons!
SET YOUR CLOCKS AHEAD ONE HOUR!
We're continuing our Vanity Fair series this morning, with a look into Ecclesiastes. It's a great book to dig into the practical advice for living well, by the wisest man who ever lived.
Special music today will be Home by Phillip Phillips. We don't know if his name is actually Phillip Phillips, or if that is a handy bit of marketing. You never know, his parents may have been PR geniuses and wanted a good name for their little future star.
Remember to drop off school supplies and basic medical supplies (vitamins, first aid things) to bless the community that Selma is traveling to in a few days. This is the last Sunday to drop things off!
Saturday, March 16th, we're getting together at the Barn at 5pm for a short time of prayer for the people of our area... followed by dinner, followed by dessert and a lovely concert. You're invited to join us!
Next week we'll be continuing our Vanity Fair series, on the idea of Despair and wondering why the things in life seem to hit us hard and get us down.
Have a great week, we'll see you soon!
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.