Tag Archives: Max Lucado

Treasure Hunting

I haven’t written a lot in the last year.  Why not?  Well, I’ve been medicated, which is a beautiful thing (thank you, Jesus, for good meds!), but the same mechanism that stops the downward-spiral of anxious thoughts also stops the creative process of writing. So, you could say, my muse has gone on vacation.

But it’s my birthday and I always post a blog on my birthday.  Sharing these posts has become a daily joy and I can’t imagine 2016/2017 without sharing a new one with you.

It started in 2014:  Moment by Moment  (all that junk – yep, Jesus redeemed that)

It continued in 2015:  Through Heaven’s Eyes  (what does God see when He looks at us?)

And for 2016, I’d like to take a little deeper dive.  Let’s start here.  This fall, my best buds and I joined a Bible study by Angela Thomas-Pharr called “Redeemed: Grace to Live Every Day Better than Before”.  That title intrigued me.  Can we really live every day better than before?  Really?  What if this is as good as it gets?

I’ve been a Christian for 22 1/2 years and today is my 45th birthday, so I’ve been a follower of Christ for exactly half of my life.  After all of these years, why don’t I have this down yet?  Why am I medicated?  What is there to be anxious about?  I know my identity:  I am in Christ and Christ is in me.  “If God is for me, who can be against me?” (Rom. 8:31)  So, why can’t I just calm down and enjoy my life?  What am I missing?

CS Lewis once said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) said it this way:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and unchangeable object; in other words by God himself.” (Pensees 10.148)

Pascal’s quote has been summarized/ paraphrased as, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator.”

That’s actually the quote that Dave Wilson used in his message in April of 1994, during my first visit to Kensington Church.  That’s what got my attention.  Yes, I had been trying to fill that God-shaped vacuum with all kinds of created things and none of them were working.  And for the past 22 1/2 years, my focus has changed, but I’m still searching for something.  What am I searching for?

Angela Thomas-Pharr took a considerable amount of time in her study to teach about the three unique stages of redemption.  I’m so glad she did, so I could share them with you:

  1. The day you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are redeemed, “changed from an unbeliever to a believer” (salvation/justification).
  2. As you live out your life from that day forward, you are being redeemed, “being changed into the image of Christ” (sanctification).
  3. When you leave this earth and go to be with God in Heaven, you are finally and completely redeemed, “eternally changed into the likeness of Christ” (glorification).

The writer of the Book of Hebrews defines Jesus’s sacrifice this way: “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” -Hebrews 10:14 (ESV)

We are being perfected (sanctified) every day we’re alive, but we won’t be completely perfected (glorified) until we get to Heaven.  It’s crazy that I spend so much time and effort trying to reach perfection (or at least perfect contentment) here on earth, because I’ll never get there this side of Heaven.  And why would I want to?  Adam and Eve had perfection in the Garden of Eden and they must have found it so boring that they chose to disobey God.  Hmmm, maybe that’s a big part of the deception.

Deception?  Yes, there is an enemy of our souls, the deceiver, the “father of lies” (John 8:44), and his job is to keep us from God, the Father of Truth.  But if we’ve already accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, what’s our enemy to do?  If he can convince us that we need perfection on earth, we’ll keep striving for it, wasting our time, wearing ourselves out, running in circles, looking in all the wrong places.

Do that for long enough and a new lie begins to surface.  Beth Moore has said that we can be so paralyzed in our pursuit of greatness that we do nothing good.  If the enemy can keep us busy, distracted, beaten down, ineffective and exhausted, we just might stop trying all together.  Angela Thomas-Pharr describes this way:

“Maybe you know this.  When you are tired and your spirit is heavy, the heart begins to mumble the saddest word:  Whatever.”

Yes, we are being lied to.  If we believe the lie, we’ll get stuck.  It’s an effective tactic.  It works.  And our job is to fight against it with truth.  The truth is, whether we “feel” it or not, we are actively being redeemed by the God who perfects us as we live and breathe.  The Apostle Paul knew this truth and he explained to the philosophers in Athens, ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ … ‘We are his offspring.’  -Acts 17:28 (NIV)

Offspring.  Yes.  We are not children of the enemy, that we should obey him.  We are children of God.  Living “every day better than before” is about knowing who we are and Whose we are, growing closer to our Father until we get to Heaven.  And isn’t that what Heaven is: the place where we are completely and eternally redeemed, fully in the presence of God?

Isn’t that how Jesus brought Heaven to earth, perfectly connected to the Father?  That’s what he wants for us.  Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  -Matt. 6:10 (ESV)  If we allow Jesus to live through us, connecting us to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can bring a little bit of Heaven to earth.  And as children of God, we need the encouragement of our brothers and sisters to keep our focus.

The Apostle Paul taught about this spiritual battle and he encouraged the church of Galatia:  “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” -Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

Don’t give up.  Don’t quit.  Stay connected.  Stay awake and pay attention to every little miracle.  Be a treasure hunter, hunting for every scrap of joy, every gift, every moment, fully engaged.  And be a treasure hunter for others too.  Help them to see the gifts all around them.  Life is hard and we need each other.

That’s why it’s so important that we stay connected to a community of believers; other people who can point us to the truth.  No church is perfect.  How can it be?  The church is made up of imperfect people.  But if all of us, in our imperfection, can point each other to our Perfect Heavenly Father, then we have hope.  And that’s why I love my church.  That’s why I go every week.  Not because I’m a “super Christian”, but because I’m not.  None of us are and we need all of the encouragement we can get.

A few weeks back, my church started a new series called “Heart & Soul”, exploring seven core values that can define our lives.  If you missed the message on the first core value, check it out here: Heart & Soul: Identity

Towards the end of the service, Chris Zarbaugh reads Max Lucado’s “You Are Special”, Danielle sings “Out of Hiding, Father’s Song”, followed by a video called “Identity”, by Dan Stevers.  It was so powerful with each piece building on the other.  And the words of the video tied it all together:

Before Christ
I was a different person
This person was my old nature
My old self
But that person died
And my life is now hidden
With Christ
I am in
Christ
And He is in me
I am a new creation
This doesn’t mean that I will never stumble
Or fall back into old patterns
But I will call them what they are
Old patterns
Old habits of the old person
I will confess them
I will thank God for his forgiveness
I will make amends
And then
I
Will
Move on
Not because I am taking sin lightly
But because I am taking seriously
Who God says I am
Holy
Pure
Unstained
Without blemish
Not because of anything I’ve done
But because of what God has done
For me
He has wiped my slate clean
I am blameless before God
Therefore shame
Has no place in my life
Because I am
A new creation
And all of the ugly parts of my story
The parts I want to pretend never happened
Have been redeemed
And they have become
The moments in my life
When God’s grace is most on display
Thank you God
My mistakes do not define me
My past does not define me
Because God has defined my identity
I am his beloved child
In whom He is
Well pleased
This is my identity

–Dan Stevers, “Identity” preview video (click the red words to see the video)

In Angela Thomas-Pharr’s study, she tells of a man who was asked, “How long have you been redeemed?” He answered:

“I was redeemed by Jesus Christ more than 2,000 years ago when He gave His life to atone for my sin. But I only found out about a year ago.”

Comedian Jeff Allen was on Smile FM a couple weeks ago.  He said he spent a lot of his life waiting for an explanation from God, but what he really needed was a revelation from God. I think that’s what the man in the quote above received: a revelation from God. He is redeemed. I am redeemed. And if you’ve received the gift of Jesus’s forgiveness, you too are redeemed.

I pray that today we might receive a revelation from God.  A revelation that we are redeemed and our identity is in Christ, but it’s going to take a lifetime of “day in and day out” to walk this thing out, together.  Grab your best buds, the ones who point you to the Truth, and hang on tight.  We are brothers and sisters and we need to keep reminding each other:

keep going
keep treasure-hunting and
keep focusing on Dad, our Abba Father.

We are His beloved children and He is well pleased with us.

Want to know more about my “revelation day” back in 1994?  Here’s my story told through the story of my son:  Joshua The Prophet

And those meds, why do I take them?  Well, they help me to drown out the voice of the enemy and to focus on the One and Only voice that matters.  They help me “come out of hiding” and connect with others who can encourage me, so that I can encourage them, and we can treasure hunt together.  We’re blessed to be a blessing.

“Baby, you’re almost home now
Please don’t quit now
You’re almost home to me”
Out of Hiding, Father’s Song by Steffany Gretzinger and Amanda Cook

Want to know more about the power of community?  Check out Heart & Soul: Community

You Gotta Have Art!

Joshua as the Ghost of Marley from December 2009
Joshua as the Ghost of Marley from December 2009 (courtesy of Mandi Tucker of LoverDove Photography – see below for more info)

If you grew up in the 70’s in the Detroit Metropolitan Area, you remember this commercial for the DIA (Detroit Institute of Arts):  You Gotta Have Art!

I really don’t know what the last 6 years of my life and my kids’  lives would have been if it weren’t for the Arts at Kensington.  “New Community Kids”, later renamed “K-Rock”, has been the only extracurricular activity my kids have been a part of since Kindergarten.  I could never justify any other activity, as this one includes singing, acting, dancing, and most importantly, God.  Add to that amazing teachers, incredible opportunities and great friends.  How can you top that?  I’m so grateful to everyone who has helped to make K-Rock happen over the years.  You all ROCK!

A couple years ago, my mom compiled a list of all of Joshua’s performances through the beginning of 2011 (before Jordan was old enough for K-Rock).  I just spent the afternoon compiling the last 3 years.  I’m completely blown away.

I want the kids to have a complete list of everything they’ve been a part of and I figured this is great a place to put them.  For the performances that I have video links, they will be in red.   I’ll put them in order with the newest first.  I’ll come back to this list in the future and add to it.

March 19, 2017:  Original video shown at all campuses called “Excuses“.  Joshua is the fundraising boy scout who won’t take no for an answer.  Love this 3 minute video!

December 4, 2016: K-Rock Clinton Twp “Lion Chaser” – another Kensington original production.  Jordan sings in “Carry On”, sings and dances in “Something Wild” and sings in the worship song “Ready Set Go” at the end.  Enjoy!

August 10, 2016:  K-Rock Summer Camp, Troy campus “The Games” (click on this service to the right) – Olympic-themed K-performance and a message from an NCAA First Team All American athlete.  Jordan Rose danced in the first song and she was one of the soloists in the “volleyball” song.  All of the kids come back out to perform again at the end of the service.

May 1, 2016:  K-Rock Clinton Twp  “The Whisper” – If you like “The Lion King”, you’ll love this original Kensington production.  Jordan was in all of the songs except the first one.  The kids perform for about a half hour at the beginning of the service, and then come out again at the end for one more song.  Don’t miss it!

March 20, 2016:  “May You Find a Light” kids’ choir at Clinton Twp – Jordan and several other kids sing towards the end of the service.  Really beautiful song and the video story before the kids was incredible.

February 21, 2016:  “Going the Distance” drama/song at Clinton Twp – Jordan and several other kids are bored silly at Sunday school until the teacher changes his tactics (about 22 minutes into service).

December 6, 2015: K-Rock Clinton Twp  “Who’s My Neighbor?”  (Mr Rogers & “Up”) – Jordan leads “Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood” theme at the beginning of the service and two songs at the end (“Little Drummer Boy” and “Let it Be Love”).  Very first Clinton Twp K-Rock!

September 20, 2015:  “Uptown Force” (Star Wars) performed at Kensington Shelby campus advertising K-Rock (new at Shelby and Clinton Twp this fall!).  Joshua got to stand in as Darth Vader for this performance.

August 12, 2015: K-Rock “A Summer Night in a Galaxy Not So Far Away” – K-Rock takes on Star Wars!  Jordan was one of the Jedi Warriors battling the Dark Side in “Watch Me” (and in all of the worship songs at the end).  Joshua was one of several kids who helped Steve Andrews teach the message (about 43 minutes in).  May the force be with you!

May 2 & 3, 2015: K-Rock “Singing in the Rain” – Jordan is in “Hard Knock Life”, the drama and “Waterfall”, but K-Rock actually performs 5 songs plus the drama (some at the beginning, some at the end).  This is the most K-Rock-packed service I’ve seen in the 7 years we’ve been involved.  Wonderful service!

December 3, 6 & 7, 2014:  K-Rock “It’s a Small World After All” (Global Partners – watch the video @ 52 minutes) – Jordan is in all songs, including “Beautiful Creatures” & Joshua and the K-Krew helpers are in the last song in the service

August 6, 2014:  K-Rock The Beginning: Songs Written from Young Hearts (CD release party) – Joshua does the greeting and both kids perform

May 29, 2014:  K-Rock “Frozen” Spring Workshop (parent performance in the chapel) – Jordan had a solo in “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and she was in “For the First Time in Forever”

April 19 & 20, 2014:  Clinton Twp Easter service (Nonsense) – Joshua as the paper boy and in the first song

March 19, 22 & 23, 2014:  K-Rock Monopoly – Jordan is in “How Bad Can I Be?” and “Grateful for Your Love”

December 4, 7 & 8, 2013:  K-Rock “Misfits” (Island of Misfit Toys) – Jordan is Elf #5 in skit and in “We Are Santa’s Elves” and “O Come All Ye Faithful”

November 10, 2013:  Joshua got to share about our Costa Rica trip (July 2013) with the K-Kids at Clinton Twp campus

October 6, 2013:  “Family Gone Wild” drama at Kensington Clinton Twp campus.  Joshua played the son Bobby.

August 7, 10 & 11, 2013:  K-Rock Superhero’s – Joshua is villain’s voice in comic strip cartoon, Jordan is in “I Need a Hero” (dressed as a baby in feetsy pajamas and pigtails), Joshua is “Aquaman” in skit and sings “Mr Cellophane” (his last official K-Rock performance as a 5th grader), both sing in “My Own Little World”

April 10, 13 & 14, 2013:  K-Rock Egyptians – Jordan is in “Walk Like an Egyptian” (front left in long white dress), Joshua is Moses and then sings “Jump!”, both sing “Desert Song”

January 20, 2013:  Clinton Twp campus – Home – kids sing backup for Phillip Phillip’s song at end of service (amazing service called “Finding God in Someone Else’s Kid” re: adoption and fostering)

December 23 & 24, 2012:  Clinton Twp campus – Christmas Through the Eyes of a Child – 2 songs and 2 short videos, then “Red Scarf” skit (Jordan plays lead, Joshua at the apple cart).  Both kids in both songs after skit (Joshua waves flag at back right and Jordan sings solo, but her mic isn’t on in this service – here’s my iPad version of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” with her mic on)

November 28 & December 1 & 2, 2012: K-Rock Christmas – Jordan in “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” (duet), Joshua in trio in “Winter Wonderland/ Let it Snow“, both in “Rejoice Rejoice Emmanuel”

August 15, 18 & 19, 2012:  K-Rock Rascals – Joshua as Spanky and Jordan as Little Sister (and 1st solo in “I Won’t Grow Up”), Joshua in “Kids!”, both in “Worth It”

April 25, 2012:  K-Rock “Child of God” – Joshua in “I Am Me” skit (bullied on the bus), both in “Hangin’ Tough” and “City on Our Knees”

March 25, 2012:  Family video re: our sponsor child, Karelo, from Kenya, Africa, to be shown at K-Kids on a Sunday morning

November 23, 2011:  K-Rock Thanksgiving – Jordan in “Turkey Trot” (her first time on the big stage), Joshua as Mashed Potatoes in skit, Joshua solo in “Thank You”, both in “Once and Future King”

June 7, 2011:  K-Rock Spring Workshop (parent performance in the chapel) – Joshua stand-up (part of the Urban Arts fundraiser)

March 30 & April 2 & 3, 2011:  K-Rock – Joshua as Gene Kelley in “Singing in the Rain”, K-Rock kids perform “Singin’ in the Rain/ Umbrella” mashup from “Glee” (they really made it rain on stage!)

December 8, 2010:  K-Rock “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” – Joshua was a Who from Whoville

August 6, 2010:  K-Rock Summer Camp (parent performance in the chapel) – Jordan as Gretel in “So Long, Farewell” and Joshua in “New York, New York” trio

June 16, 2010: K-Rock Spring Workshop (parent performance in the chapel) – Joshua in “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

June 13, 2010:  Clinton Twp campus – “Swagger Wagon” commercial skit – Joshua and Jordan played Dave and Gwyn Kubiak’s kids (Jordan’s first time on stage)

April 28, 2010:  K-Rock “You Know I’m Bad” (Max Lucado’s “You are Special” story performed) – Joshua was a Wemmick in the skit

December 3, 2009:  K-Rock “The Muppet Christmas Carol” – Joshua was one of the ghosts of Marley in the skit with Scrooge and sang “Marley & Marley” (see picture above, courtesy of Mandi Tucker of LoverDove Photography)

September 13, 2009:  Clinton Twp campus – Joshua sang “This Little Light of Mine” solo and sang back-up on Matt Redmond’s “Shine” with Danny Rossi

September 6, 2009:  Joshua danced in a video called “Nobody Dances Anymore” that was shown on that weekend at all campuses

July 22, 2009:  K-Rock Summer Camp “WII Games” – Joshua played “Little Mario” in skit

March 25, 2009:  K-Rock performance – Joshua sang in worship song and had a solo in “I Feel Good”

December 3, 2008: K-Rock Christmas – Joshua sang “Scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmas’s long, long ago” solo (his first solo)

July 16, 2008:  K-Rock Summer Camp “Wall-E” and “Men in Black” – Joshua was one of the Men in Black and he sang “This Little Light of Mine” at the end of the service (first K-Rock performance for Joshua)

July 12, 2006:  Joshua’s first time on stage, 4 years old (Jordan was 2 months old and slept through the whole thing), dancing to “Every Move I Make” with Rob Cucheran leading worship at a Summer Nights Midweek service.  Thank you, Rob, for encouraging Joshua!  He had a blast that night and he’s never stopped.