I’m an unapologetic movie buff and so is the Canyon Springs youth Pastor, Chad Richards. In case you are looking for rental recommendations, here is our list of our favorite movies of 2016:

  • Zootopia
  • Sully
  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Bridge of Spies
  • Spotlight
  • Room

There you have it, the best movies of the year; no need to check out Rotten Tomatoes. These are the only ones worth seeing this year and if you disagree with us you’re simply wrong. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying you should sit the little ones down in front of these movies without screening them. I mean there’s some pretty racy stuff in “Zootopia.”

I don’t know about you but my favorite genre in movies is mystery movies; I just love a good mystery and coincidentally so does my buddy, Chad. When I asked him for his favorite mystery movie, he told me “Memento.” Again, maybe not appropriate for the under-12 crowd, but a good movie nonetheless.

My favorite mystery is a bit hokey, I’ll admit it. It’s “Signs.” Remember the crop circle movie?  In it Mel Gibson is an ex-pastor who regains his faith in God.  I like it for a couple of reasons: 1) It paints a picture of much of what I believe about faith and 2) Mel Gibson perfectly portrays what most pastors look like, especially me.

In case you are curious, here are the top 5 movie mysteries of all time:

  • Sixth Sense
  • Inception
  • Memento
  • Psycho
  • The Prestige

The Greatest Mysteries of All

Today as we continue this series we are going to look at Ephesians 3 and if I were to give this chapter a name it would have to be “Revealing the Mystery of God.”  Ephesians 3 talks about the number one mystery for the first century church:

1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 3:1-6

4 times the word “mystery” is used in these first 6 verses.  The word “mystery” here means a truth revealed by God. The big mystery in the first set of verses is that the gentiles will be accepted among the chosen.  In the Old Testament, God’s chosen people were the nation of Israel.  Here’s his big news: God says, “I want everyone. Everyone is welcome.  Red and yellow black and white all are precious in my sight.”  That was the big mystery in the first century, but I’m guessing it’s not your big mystery now. You probably haven’t given the whole Jewish/Gentile debate much thought unless you grew up in a Jewish home, but the second half of this chapter of Ephesians reveals some specific mysteries that you may struggle with.  In fact, I would be surprised if you didn’t:

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21

These verses talk about three mysteries we all need to grasp.  In this blog, we are going to talk about the first of these mysteries.

The Vastness of God’s Love

17…And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge. Ephesians 3: 17-19

These verses remind me of one of the books I used to read my daughter before bed. You may know it; the one with the daddy bear and the baby bear on the cover, I Love You to the Moon and Back. And there’s another good one with bunnies, Guess How Much I Love You. I’ve read both of those books so many times I could probably still recite them by heart. As parents we are always trying to share with our kids the vastness of our love and that’s what God is trying to communicate to us here.  There is another verse in Psalms that reveals this same thought.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:11,12

God often uses the heavens to describe how much he loves us but do we really understand what that means?  “As high as the heavens are above the Earth”? Can we really grasp that?  I want to take a moment to try and communicate that.  I might lose a couple of you here, but you science geeks out there will love this:

We all know that this universe is vast but let me see if I can show you how vast.  To understand how big it is we need to understand a few concepts. The first is a light year.  We hear that all the time but what does it mean? A light year is the distance that light can travel in the course of a year.  There is nothing faster on this planet than light.  If you are wandering around in the dark at night and you have a high powered flashlight and you suddenly turn the light on, how fast does that light travel?  It goes from your flashlight to thousands of feet away instantly.  To get you thinking, the moon is considered a just light second away.  This is the unit of measurement we use to determine the distance between us and planets and stars.

To give you some perspective the closest star to us is Alpha Centari and it’s 4.4 light years away.  Antares is 600 light years away.  The center of the Milky Way is 27,000 light years away.  The next galaxy is Andromeda and it’s 2.5 million light years away.  It’s a long way away, but, as we look at it, it’s a long time ago.  When you see a picture of Andromeda, what you are actually looking at is what at is what Andromeda looked like 2.5 million years ago because those how long it took the light to get there. Are you starting to understand what this verse is saying about the vastness of God’s love?  Let me talk about one more star.  Scientists just discovered it.  It’s called Galaxy MACS 0647-JD.  Catchy name, right? Scientists just discovered it using the Hubble Space Telescope.  It is 13.3 billion light years away.  Boom!  I don’t know about you, but my brain just exploded.

This is what we are talking about when we are talking about the love of God. We love people.  He loves times 13.3 billion.  We forgive, when we want to, when it’s convenient.  He forgives times 13.3 billion.  As people, we place a high value on love.  Probably the highest value. We think that love means loving even when we see the bad in someone. God does that times 13.3 billion.  We want someone to love even the unlovable parts of us.  God loves us like that times 13.3 billion.  We want someone to love us when we’ve had a bad day. God loves us not just when we had our worst day, but when we were our worst person.  He loves us 13.3 billion times more than any person does.

I have had some profound moments of love in my life.  On my wedding day, Jilane and I saw each other before the ceremony; it’s called a first look.  I can’t remember much of that day but I’ll never forget that moment.  I also remember the moment I held my son for the first time; tears streamed down my face because my love for him was so deep.  These are the images of love we have.  God’s love is so much deeper.  So much more profound.

Chad recently gave a message in youth group about God being fully human because we tend to forget that God was human as well as God. He told the high school and middle school kids about the verse in the Bible that he thinks tells us the MOST about Gods humanity and his affinity for us. It is actually also the shortest verse in the Bible: It is “Jesus Wept.” Jesus wept, and do you want to know when this verse happens? Jesus is weeping because one of his best friends Lazarus died. This verse, “Jesus Wept,” tells us that Jesus felt pain. He laughed, he cried, he felt every nail that went into his flesh and he felt every drop of blood that was poured out for us. In that same moment, Lazarus is dead, and Jesus goes and raises him back to life.

Jesus feels and not only does he feel but he relates. He relates with what we are going through. He hears our struggles and he gets it. And it is his love that has the power to resurrect, not only Lazarus but his love has the power to resurrect the broken pieces of our life.

The love of God is so much better than any idea we can come up with.  Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Think about this as a movie fan.  How often is that idea played out in a movie?  The greatest act of love is someone laying down their life for someone else.  To keep with our movie theme, I’ve made a list of the of all the characters I can think of who have done that in the movies.

  • Aslan
  • Superman
  • Neo
  • Jake Sully
  • Optimus Prime
  • Mufasa
  • Obi wan Kenobi
  • Robo Cop
  • The Terminator
  • Blade
  • Spock
  • Kirk
  • Gandolf
  • ET
  • Peeta Mellark
  • John Conner

It’s crazy how many times the theme of someone giving their life for someone else is used to show the deepest love.  Remember this: Jesus was the first to do it.  He loves us in such a deep, profound, amazing way; 13.3 billion times more than your love on your wedding day or your love for your newborn.