Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent and World AIDS Day

Advent, from the Latin meaning “coming,” is the season of the church year leading up to Christmas. Throughout church history Advent has given the people of God an opportunity to engage in prayer, meditation and sometimes even fasting in order to seek God for a spirit of repentance in preparation for the celebration of the Incarnation.

Advent isn’t entirely somber, however, and also calls the church to joyfully celebrate the most world-changing event in history: The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, God Himself, being born as a Man. Advent, historically has also involved anticipating and preparing for the Second Advent, the Return of Christ to set up the New Heavens and the New Earth when all of salvation will be revealed in the consummation.

The Incarnation inaugurated the Coming of the Kingdom of God as the God-Man, Jesus Christ, was inserted into our fallen world to accomplish the work, as C.S. Lewis put it, of causing death to work backwards. This turning back of death not only involves spiritual death which is turned back by the obedient life of Christ through which He succeeded where the First Adam failed. Nor does this turning back of death only involve the death of the Incarnate God hanging on the cross as a substitute for His people, offering propitiation for their sins.

The Incarnation also inaugurated a Kingdom where the rule and reign of Christ and His grace and love is unleashed upon planet earth in every conceivable arena of life. There are many passages that speak to this redemptive power released upon the earth through the Incarnation.

One of the more well-known and most encouraging passages along these lines are found in Luke 4:18, which quotes Isaiah 61:1: “The Spirit of the LORD God is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to bring Good News to the poor; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”

Isaiah 61:2 goes on to read: “to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the Day of Vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.”

Advent is a time for God’s people to not only meditate upon the realities and ramifications of the Incarnation…it is also a time for us as the Church to recommit to live incarnational lives wherever we find opportunity.

Along these lines, it is significant the World AIDS Day falls during the first week of Advent. World AIDS Day is all about “increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education” related to AIDS. Statistics reveal that there are close to 33 million people living with HIV, “incuding 2.1 million children.”

Part of approaching the AIDS problem with a redemptive mindset involves recognizing that Jesus calls us to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” Over and over in the Gospels, Jesus makes it clear that our neighbor is anyone in need, friend or foe. Whether or not the people in trouble love Jesus or mock Him, living redemptively requires us to pursue the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, those in prison (of any kind) and all who mourn.

There are many reasons AIDS spreads among the population: some reasons are in fact due to what Scripture would call a sinful lifestyle; but there are many other AIDS cases where no personal moral lapse was involved at all. However, even where sin is involved, Christians are called to live incarnationally and bring hope and healing to the world. After all, Jesus came to offer redemption to all of His people who are prisoners to sin because of personal choice. The Christian, more than anyone else, knows the reality of being an undeserving object of Divine Grace. As a matter of fact, grace has no real substance or definition unless it is love shown toward the undeserving!

Advent is a time when we recall the Gospel teaches: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him (1 John 4:9).”

Advent is a time when we remember that love has been made manifest among us. It is also a time when God calls us to continue to manifest His love in the world by serving the Least and the Lost.

In one sense, World AIDS Day couldn’t occur during a more appropriate time. May we as those who have been shown grace, both celebrate grace and show grace this Advent Season. Let’s find ways to manifest the love of God by leading our churches and all of God’s people to show kindness and compassion to the distressed, downcast, rejected and reviled. For we, too, were once, and often still are, such people ourselves.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

As We Consider Stewardship

I came across this quote by Thomas Manton, an English Pastor of the 1600's...seems the more things change, the more they stay the same! "There is not a vice which more effectually contracts and deadens the feelings, which more completely makes a man's affections centre in himself, and excludes all others from partaking in them, than the desire of accumulating possessions. When the desire has once gotten hold of the heart, it shuts out all other considerations but such as may promote its views. In its zeal for the attainment of its end, it is not delicate in the choice of means. As it closes the heart, so it clouds the understanding. It cannot discern between right and wrong. It takes evil for good and it calls darkness light and light, darkness. Beware, then, of the beginnings of covetousness, for you know not where it will end."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2010 Favorite far

My three favorite reads so far this year: Run with the Horses by Eugene Peterson; The Prayer of Jehoshaphat by Stanley Gale; A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

Run with the Horses is a running, devotional commentary on the Book of Jeremiah. It's a book that calls us, by grace, to "go for broke" in every arena of take risks, to take Christ at His word that He came that we might have life and might have it ABUNDANTLY! Peterson challenges us to consider why many of us live dull, boring lives without adventure and with so little fulfillment. He calls us to fresh surrender, fresh faith and to leave our comfort zones and live a dangerous life.

The Prayer of Jehoshaphat is finally a book on prayer that truly SPOKE to me. I'm not saying there aren't other good books on prayer...but this one reached deep down into my soul. I feel better prepared on why to pray, how to pray, what to pray. I was so encouraged TO pray because of how the author presents God's heart of grace toward us in Christ. I was encouraged to not be distracted by what seems to be an "experience" that contradicts the promises of God and to keep focusing on those promises and God's character. I was encouraged to pray expectantly and to pray big prayers again.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is all about the reality that God is writing our stories. He is at work in us, through us and around us. God is calling us to look for where He is at work...and He is at work around us all the time. God is calling us to participate in the Great Story...our part has been written, yet at the same time we participate truly and really in the story...the Great Story is no place for fatalists! We have a responsible part to play in the working out of God's narrative for our lives. And Miller reminds us that no matter how many times we fail...each day is a new opportunity to make a fresh begin a new chapter.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Above ALL else, GUARD your heart!

Proverbs 4:23--"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."

I've been meditating on Proverbs 4:23 lately because of a discipleship process I've become involved with.

Meditation...ruminating on a verse...letting your soul marinade in the words of a verse...making observations on each and every word and upon their connections with each other...thinking through relevant applications to your daily life...Meditation...a lost art in our day.

As I meditate on Proverbs 4:23, here are some things that come to mind:

"above all else"--there is NOTHING more important than this: that I guard my heart. It is my number one priority as I get out of bed each and every morning. It is my number one task as I live through each and every minute of each and every day!

"guard your heart"--I have to ask: what is my heart? My heart is the totality of my being, the very core of who I am. My heart is my intellect, my emotions, my will, my motivations, my joys, my priorities, the openness of my life to God and His truth and much, much more! I have a lot to guard...

"guard your heart"--hmmm, that must mean my heart is under attack! Constantly! I need to guard my heart from the lies of the enemy. I need to guard my heart from the mentality of the world. I need to guard my heart from the fallen pull of my own flesh. I need to guard my heart from living out of the pain of past woundedness. I need to guard my heart against living out of self-protection, self-preservation or self-indulgence.

"above all else, guard your heart"--sounds like a command, to me. It is a Gospel Responsibility given to ME! It is my highest responsibility to guard my heart; to watch over it; to protect it; to keep it from harm. I must think through ways I am to guard my heart (that's a BLOG for another day!).

"guard your heart for IT is the wellspring of life"--everything in my life, all my words, actions, attitudes...they all flow from my heart. My mission, my love for others, my roles and responsibilities in life...they all flow from what it going on in my heart. My heart is a fountain...if my heart is attacked, unprotected and assaulted, then what flows forth from my life will likely be polluted...and others will be impacted.

"it is the wellspring of life"--I have been created by God and re-created in Christ to be a source, a wellspring, a fountain of life, to all those I come into contact with throughout the day. The life I am able to offer is directly proportional to the life in my own received from Christ, and His Word and His community. My heart is to be a wellspring of life for others and I need others to refresh my own heart as well.'s hard mining for gold...but well worth the time and effort.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Fresh Look at Faithfulness

I was reading Matthew 25:14-30 this morning...the Parable of the Talents as it is often called. It's ultimately a parable about "faithfulness," right? Just like the Parable of the Prodigal Son is all about a young man who squandered his life in loose living, right?

Well, actually, the Parable of the Prodigal Son is more about a Father's love for younger and older prodigal sons. But I digress...sort of...

The Parable of the it REALLY about "faithfulness?" Or, perhaps, is it ultimately about the FOUNDATION or SPRINGBOARD of all faithfulness?...A gracious Father!

The only steward in the story who is "unfaithful" or, more accurately perhaps, "unfruitful," is the one who expressly reveals that he saw his master as a "hard man" (ESV) or, as we read in The Message, a master who makes "no allowances for error." What is revealed in the parable, then, is that people who have a view of God as stern or harsh are often paralyzed by fear. Again, The Message: "I was afraid I might disappoint you."

If we have a view of God as stern or harsh, we will opt for safe, cautious living. Such a view of God leads to risk-averse lives. Such a view of the Father leads people to "play to not lose, rather than aggressively playing to win."

I saw one of the gutsiest coaching calls in years the other night during the Michigan State/Notre Dame football game. It was in OT and Michigan State needed a field goal to tie the game and go into a second overtime period. Amazingly, the coach called a fake field goal and the holder, an ex-quarterback, threw the ball down the field. It was a relatively high-risk had to be a strike, right on the money. It was. And the Michigan State player caught it for a touchdown...and a win! Wow! What a way to live!

I have no clue about the spiritual state of Coach Dantonio, but he certainly isn't risk-averse! But for believers in Christ, it is those who know God as the Father of love, mercy, goodness, patience, kindness and grace that are most free to "roll the dice," to "go out on a limb," to live lives of "holy recklessness."

Those are sad words for me to write...because I'm so often a man who tends to play it safe...who is fairly risk-averse...a guy who is often quite afraid of making mistakes and of failure. Wonder what that tells me about my view of God?

Hmmm, and I used to think the point of the Parable of the Talents was: "You'd better be faithful!"

Guess I need a fresh look at faithfulness. How about you?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Grammar of Classical Christianity

People have asked for some memory verses to keep them focused on the "Grammar of Gospel Christianity" or the TRUE "Basics" of the Christian life. Here's a start:

Keep Reverting Back to Gospel Goodness
Ex 33:19
Numbers 10:29
Joshua 23:14
Psalm 16:11
Psalm 34:8-10/1 Pet 2:3
Psalm 107:1-9
Psalm 145:9, 14-20
Nahum 1:7
Romans 2:4
Ro 8:28

Keep Reverting Back to Gospel Love
Deut 7:6-8
Jeremiah 31:3
Lam 3:22-23
Zeph 3:17
Rom 5:5
Eph 3:14-20
Jude 20-21
1 Jn 4:8, 16-18

Keep Reverting Back to Gospel Justification
Gen 15:6
Is 53:4-6
Is 61:10
Rom 3:28
Rom 4:5
Romans 5:1, 15-21
Romans 8:1, 33
Gal 2:16
Phil 3:7-9

Keep Reverting Back to Gospel Adoption
Matt 3:17
John 1:12
John 17:23-24
John 20:17
Ro 8:15
Gal 4:4-7
1 Jn 3:1-2

Keep Reverting Back to Gospel Sanctification
Ps 46:10
Isaiah 30:15-21
Ezek 20:12
John 6:28-29
Acts 20:32
Rom 6:1-14
1 Cor 1:30
2 Cor 3:17-18
Gal 3:5
Eph 2:10
1 Thess 5:23-24
2 Thess 2:13
Titus 2:11-12
Heb 13:9
Jude 24-25
1 Pet 1:3-5
2 Pet 1:3-11
1 Jn 1:9

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I Know I'll Go Crazy if...

I've been challenged recently to consider the "Voice" of the Father in affirming, encouraging and validating me as a man created in His image and being restored in Christ to all He means for me to become. Deep stuff, I know. But we ALL need encouragement and affirmation.

Think about it: Jesus was the Son of God...God in the flesh; as regards His human nature, sinless. Yet the Father validated, affirmed and encouraged Jesus constantly...

In Matthew 3:17, at His baptism, the Father's Voice spoke over Jesus: "This is My Beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased." Think of the encouragement that filled the soul of Jesus as He heard these words of affirmation. By the way, the greek tense of the verb signals that the delight of God in the Son is timeless: The NIV Study Bible notes: "God has always been and always will be "well pleased" with His Son."

Then, later, in Matthew 17:5, while Jesus is on the Mount of Transfiguration, the Father's Voice spoke again: "This is My Son, Whom I love; with Him I am well pleased."

What is amazing is that through faith in Christ, by the power of the Spirit, a believer in Christ is baptized into union with Christ, so that all that is true of Christ becomes true of the Father's validation, affirmation and encouragement spoken over the Son is now spoken over all those whose lives are hidden IN the Son!

We may be terrible at hearing the Father's Voice, but He is constantly speaking over us: "You are My son/daughter! Whom I love! With you I am well pleased!" I know, it seems too good to be true...and all the contrary "voices" seek to drown out the Father's voice...there's so much noise from the crowd, we have a hard time hearing...but listen...listen closely....

"The Lord your God is with you...a Might One to save...He will rejoice over you with gladness...He will quiet you by His love...He will exalt over you with LOUD singing." (Zephaniah 3:17)

We need is hard! The Christian life is hard. As Bono of U2 sings in the song, "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight"..."It's not a hill, it's a mountain as you start out the climb. Do you believe me or are you doubting? We're gonna make it all the way to the Light."

It is God's Voice that encourages us that we are going to make it...but like Bono, we must also learn to speak the "echo" of the Father's encouragement and affirmation TO one another as well.

Listen for the Father's affirming voice...listen for it through the Word, through His Spirit, through His Body, the Community of Faith...and then remember to SPEAK words of affirmation and encouragement to those around you today!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fifteen Influential Albums

A friend inspired me by his own here's mine...probably not a typical list according to many peoples' view of pastors...but then again, those who know me know I'm not the typical pastor! goes...

1. U2--How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (U2 could take up my entire list!)
2. The Beatles--Abbey Road
3. Bob Dylan--Slow Train Coming
4. Switchfoot--The Beautiful Letdown
5. Les Miserables--The Complete Symphonic Recording
6. Steely Dan--Can't Buy a Thrill
7. Jackson Browne--The Pretender
8. Creedence Clearwater Revival--Cosmo's Factory
9. Electric Light Orchestra--Out of the Blue
10. Chicago--Chicago Transit Authority
11. Boston--Boston
12. Cold Play--X&Y
13. Kansas--Leftoverture
14. Barenaked Ladies--Disc One
15. Pink Floyd--Dark Side of the Moon (I know, hard to believe, huh?)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Highs, Lows...and Glory!

For my devotional this morning, I was in Matthew 16:13-17:5. An up and down passage for Peter...highs and lows...and highs.

First, Jesus pointed out Peter's "glory and honor" as a man blessed by God and as an image-bearer. Jesus greatly honored Peter for his confession of faith in Christ as the Son of God. Calling out or pointing out others' glory and honor gives people great encouragement and strength in life. Such encouragement reminds us who God longs for us to be and also reminds us that by grace we are being restored to the image of Christ.

But, Jesus also let Peter know when he was living as less of a man than he was meant to be. When Peter had a wrong view of the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus, Jesus rebukes him, even saying "Get behind Me, Satan!" Ouch! BUT, what Jesus was really wanting Peter to see, was that he was a better man than he was living and acting out at that moment! Jesus was saying, in effect, "Peter, you're a better man than this! Keep being and becoming the man you were meant to be in grace! Don't fall into the "smaller story" of living a lie! Trust Me and honor Me and expect more from My grace in you!" Jesus was calling forth even more "glory" from Peter.

Now, this is tricky, because, on the one hand, we need to encourage one another. We need to offer each other strength, and the opportunity for life and growth. We need to point out where we see the image of Christ in one another and how we see each other living as we were meant to live. On the other hand, we also need to let people face the possibility of DIScouragement from time to time, when they must realize they are thinking LESS of themselves than God means them to. When we are not living out of the "glory" God has given us in Christ, we need to encourage each other that we are "better men" or better people than how we are acting.

However, when it was all said and done, Jesus again "lifts Peter up" and encourages him once more by honoring Peter through inviting him to join Him on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Of course, the process of repentance and faith continues as Peter acts as less than his glory in Christ again, by saying something stupid about building tents for Jesus and Moses and Elijah! So now, God the Father speaks and says to Peter, in effect, "Shooosh! Be silent! Listen!"

God is ALWAYS calling us to a higher live more and more out of the glory He has shared with us in Christ.

Encouragement. Failure. Rebuke. Repentance. Faith.
Encouragement. Failure. Rebuke. Repentance. Faith....etc

That IS the process of growth in grace.

Live out of your glory...and call others to do the same!

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Gospel Pipeline Graphic Takes Shape

I know that for many looking at this graphic, you're thinking, "What????" Please be will become clear over the next several Sundays of messages...or, over the next several MONTHS of Sundays!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What exactly IS the Gospel Pipeline?

In 2 Peter 3:18, Peter concludes his letter by encouraging us to keep growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle, Aslan, the Great Lion, the King (the Christ figure of the stories) encourages His people to go "Further Up and Further In" to Narnia...the "Promised Land" of His love, grace and salvation. The Gospel Pipeline gives us a picture of how the "flow" Further Up and Further In often occurs in a Christian's life.

What follows is the Gospel Pipeline Overview:

Gospel Pipeline Overview

1. Gospel Conversion
Titus 2:11; Titus 3:5--Supernatural Grace regenerates the heart
Grace for the entire Christian life is defined by grace at the start!

2. Gospel Diversion
Titus 2:12, 14—The “Basics” often divert the emphasis from Christ to behaviors
There is a tendency to “leave” the Gospel of Christ and focus on the efforts of man

3. Gospel Perversion
Titus 3:1-2—focus on behaviors often lead to a performance paradigm
We live as if God's delight in us is merited or maintained by our performance rather than through Christ

4. Gospel Reversion
Titus 3:7—grace leads us to revert back to focus on Union with Christ
We revert to the TRUE Basics of the Christian life-Identity in Christ

5. Gospel Aversion
Titus 3:8—our flesh resists grace on many levels
We’ve a built-in aversion to looking to Christ alone for spiritual growth

6. Gospel Insertion
Titus 3:8—insistence upon grace leads to an internalization of grace
Grace overcomes our resistance and we eventually adopt a grace paradigm

7. Gospel Immersion
Titus 3:4—soaking in the truth of God’s love leads to the “Hot Tub”
“Getting used” to grace becomes comfortable…sometimes TOO comfortable

8. Gospel Incursion
Titus 2:11-12—grace leads to a hostile invasion against sin by “Waltzing”
We discover grace is not merely unconditional love but transforming power

9. Gospel Emersion
Titus 2:14—A Gospel lifestyle begins to truly emerge from right motives
Grace leads us to make full use of the Gospel Means of Grace

10. Gospel Dispersion
Titus 2:14--The Gospel begins to flow outside ourselves toward others
Grace leads us to mission: we share grace with the Least and the Lost

11. Gospel Assertion
Titus 2:13; 14—grace leads us to assert that the ultimate aim is God’s glory
Grace, ultimately, is not about me or even mission, but the honor of Christ

12. Gospel Recursion
Titus 2:12-13—grace teaches us we never “arrive” in this life
Grace is how broken people with broken lives live in a broken world

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I'm Not Trying to Hurt You, I'm trying to Help You!

In John 8:36, Christ says, "So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." In Galatians 5:1, Paul writes, "For freedom Christ has set us free." The Gospel frees us FROM guilt, shame, self-condemnation and frees us FOR the abundant life! God has a Father's heart toward us that only desires our why do so many followers of Christ see God as a stern Task-Master and the Christian life as oppressive?

God seems "bewildered," if it were possible, by our thoughts and feelings of oppression: In Jeremiah He says, "Why then do my people say, 'We are free, we will come no more to You?'" (Jer 2:31). God is "grieved" and "bewildered" that His people would rejoice in being "freed" from Him and His ways!

When we see God as oppressive or a Task-Master, it is as if, as Paul writes in Galatians 3:1, that someone has cast a hex on us, or put us under a spell. If we forget the good news of the Gospel of grace, we may misinterpret God's heart in His commands and prohibitions: we may feel as if God is some sort of Cosmic Killjoy. But if we keep the Beauty of Christ and God's Fatherly heart always before our eyes, we will remember that ALL God's commands are an invitation to our highest pleasure; and ALL His prohibitions a warning against our worst nightmares.

Any parent who has ever grieved the foolishness of their own children as they make poor decisions leading to painful consequences, can have great insight into the true heart of our Father in heaven.

I'm reminded of the scene in the Lord of the Rings, when Gandalf is warning Bilbo that he must give up the ring...but the ring exerts its evil influence over Bilbo and he goes a little "mad" and accuses Gandalf of only wanting the ring for himself. Gandalf reveals a little of his "glory" and grows "loud" and thunders, "I'm not trying to hurt you, I'm trying to help you!" Bilbo is brought back to reality and runs into Gandalf's arms...that is the picture we must have of our Father in heaven. His heart toward us is good...all the time.

If the Christian life has become oppressive, we've lost focus of the Fatherly heart of God. If the Son sets you FREE, you are FREE indeed!!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cheap Grace??

It is vital that we distinguish between Biblical grace and what is known as CHEAP grace. Cheap grace carries the perspective that since God is a God of grace and mercy and love, and since we are righteous in Christ and accepted in the Beloved, it doesn't matter how we live. We can sin all we want, or at least treat sin lightly because we are secure in Christ. Notice how the heresy dances on the edges of truth! This is precisely why Paul was accused of teaching cheap grace (Romans 6:1)!!

What we emphasize at Oak Mountain is the two-fold wonder of grace that helps us avoid Cheap Grace: We talk about:
1) Grace as Unconditional Love
2) Grace as Transforming Power

Both elements of grace find their source in the Work of Christ.

Grace as Unconditional Love finds its source in the Imputed Righteousness of Christ to us. The righteous life and substitutionary death of Christ and all their merits are credited to our account. This leads to a believer's justification: God accepting me and delighting in me IN CHRIST just-as-if-I'd never sinned and just-as-if-I'd done everything perfectly my entire life! This is the Christian's confidence and joy and peace in Christ.

Grace as Transforming Power finds its source in Christ as well, but is the result of IMPARTED righteousness. There was the PAST work of Christ which involved His perfect active obedience as He walked this earth and His perfect passive obedience as He submitted Himself to suffering death on the cross and embraced the wrath of God on behalf of His people.

BUT, there is also a PRESENT Work of Christ that involves Him sharing with us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, His actual righteousness...a continual work of grace in us that conforms us more and more to His image. We are renewed daily by grace (as we WALTZ--the 3-step Dance with Christ of Repent, Believe, Fight!) and His righteousness is imparted to us so that we put to death, by the Spirit, that which is sinful in us and we are SUPERNATURALLY renewed moment by moment as Christ shares His resurrection life with us. It is NOT the result of human effort or striving (Gal 3:1-5!).

BUT, and this is KEY: BOTH imputed AND imparted righteousness are experienced by grace through believing the Gospel Promises and hoping continually in the finished work of Christ. Imputed righteousness is GRANTED ONCE, at conversion, but is to be looked back upon over and over as we feel the weight of our daily sin and failure. Imparted righteousness is granted continually as we look to Christ in faith to change us by His grace at our places of repentance!

Both the imputed and imparted righteousness of Christ form the "breastplate of righteousness" that we are to put on as part of the armor of God in our battle with the devil. The devil seeks to discourage us that we are not loved and that we are powerless failures. Christ calls us to place no confidence in self or any of our own works, but continual confidence in His righteousness...both imputed and imparted.

May your heart be filled with encouragement over these words!!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Losing Your Life or Finding Your Life?

In Matthew 10:34-39, Jesus says some hard things. Strong medicine...challenges our "soft" culture is not used to. Marine-like stuff...He's still looking for a "few good men" (women too!).

Jesus says that if anyone loves father or mother more than Him, he/she is not worthy of Him. Or if anyone loves son or daughter more than Him, he/she is not worthy of Him...WOW!! Put THAT in our child-centered idolatrous culture "pipe" and smoke it!

He says that if we don't take up a lifestyle of dying to self, of crucifixion of selfish desires and agendas and temporal priorities, we are not worthy of Him.

Then, at the end of His "sermon" He says, "Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." He said similar things quite often apparently...

Later in Matthew 16:24-25 He says, "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever WOULD save his life, will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."

Tough words.

But words that actually end on a positive note.

It's that positive element that I so easily miss. All the time.

I have realized lately that I am a pain-avoider. I've bought into the American paradigm that the worst circumstance possible in this life is to be in a place of suffering. Suffering is the ONE thing that Americans fear above all else...and it's killing the church! Neutralizing it, actually.

...and needlessly...

What God has been teaching me is that I have been so focused and fearful of the "losing your life" element that I have minimized the promise that AS we lose our lives for Christ's sake and the sake of the Kingdom, we will actually FIND our lives!

I have so often read these verses and left them with the taste of oppression and aversion in my mouth.


Is my view of God, my Heavenly Father, really so pathetic as THAT? is.

Maybe your view of God is that pathetic...hopefully not.

Here's the deal: If the One who GAVE UP HIS LIFE says that losing our lives for His sake leads to finding them...why would we focus on the "losing" part and not emphasize the "finding" part more?!

I'll tell you why...

Lies. Lies!

I...perhaps we...listen to the lies of the enemy...lies like...if you are willing to surrender to Christ, if you're REALLY willing to lose your life, it's really gonna hurt...gonna be painful...gonna be a matter of fact, you're gonna resent it 'cause it will never be worth it.

Hmmm...what's the TRUTH say: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Rom 8:18). And, "For this light, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Cor 4:17).

So, when Jesus challenges us to LOSE our lives in order to FIND them...He's telling us how to really experience LIFE.

Don't miss that...'cause so often, I have.

Friday, April 16, 2010

LOST Souls Changed

Aright...I'll admit it...I am one of the millions who have been sucked into the TV show, "LOST." It actually all started on a mission trip where the missionaries my daughter and I were staying with had the first season on, series on DVD are hazardous to your sleep patterns!

During the latest episode last Tuesday night, we heard one of the main characters, Jack, a doctor, verbalize what we've all been able to see this season...he's changed. I guess the change started some time ago, but we've never heard it so clearly stated.

Jack, as a doctor, had been the Leader among the plane crash victims on the island for some time. He was sort of a shepherd/warrior for the survivors (huh, come to think of it, his name IS Jack SHEPHERD!). Jack has always been the "man of science" on the show, not really the man of faith. But over time, faith has begun to form in his soul...mainly because he has come to realize that his compulsivity of control has not delivered the results he's so desperately desired.

So, we've seen Jack give up control for the most part this season. We've seen him learn to rest and avoid his compulsive tendency to try to fix everything and everyone. And in Tuesday's episode he actually verbalizes to Hugo that he's learned how to let go of his need to control and fix situations. You can tell Jack is different...he seems so much more at peace.

Now, why all these words on a glorified Soap Opera? Well, in all honesty, a lot of us are LOST souls like Jack. There are MANY of us who live under the illusion that we are actually in control. We obsessively and compulsively try to fix things as well as seek to control our circumstances so as to achieve a pain-free life. Some people stay LOST their entire lives. They never learn the reality that, try as we might, we are NOT in control.

The Christ-follower must learn, sooner or later, that God is the only Person Who is in control in this Universe. He is the Creator and Sustainer of everything. He is the Warrior/SHEPHERD in the Universe and only He can be trusted with everything that concerns us.

Don't get me wrong...I'm being far from simplistic here...and I'm certainly not condoning fatalism. You see, there ARE folk out there, perhaps even reading this, who use God's Existence as an excuse for laziness and irresponsibility (hey, I can only deal with one issue at a time, OK?). The fact is, God is absolutely sovereign and we are completely responsible. It's called mystery...and those who are able to navigate through the tension of this mystery live the most fulfilled and satisfied and peaceful lives.

God is absolutely sovereign...He is the Orchestra Conductor of all the music of our lives...He is the Great Author of our Stories, but sometimes we don't understand where the Story is going. We ARE called to LIVE: we are NOT lifeless sticks floating down some current in a river with nothing to do; so, we must learn when to move and when to wait. We must learn when to rest and when to strive. It's not always easy...which is why an intimate walk with God through reading and applying the Scriptures is so vital. It's also why living in community with others who know both us and God well is so helpful...I mean, after all, You Don't Know What You Don't Know...but often times, others DO know what WE don't!

If you've not done so through the Psalms. Notice how many times we are called to "Wait" for the LORD! Let me help you out here a bit: Ps 25:3,5,21; Ps 27:14 (actually the Psalm I was reading this morning that got this whole BLOG thing started today!); Ps 31:24; Ps 37:7,9,34; Ps 38:15; Ps 52:9; Ps 62:5; Ps 130:5.

Go those portions of the won't take long...

Now, ask yourself...are you an "old Jack," obsessively and compulsively trying to control your own life, and the lives of others (i.e. your spouse, your children...) to maintain some semblance of order and comfort that is actually driving you (and others!) to near neuroses? Or, are you learning, by God's grace and through His Spirit, by prayer and faith, Scripture and Community, to give up control and starting, even if they are "baby steps," to "wait for the LORD?"

It's a pretty clear choice yourself: a fallen, finite human being with limited resources; OR, trust your Father in Heaven Who is infinite in wisdom, love, goodness, mercy and righteousness and possesses unlimited power and resources. What's it gonna be?

And of course, it's a daily battle...none of us succeed all the time...or even most of the time. That's why we need Christ so desperately.

The temptation is always there to re-take control. During the episode Tuesday night, Hugo responds to Jack and says, "How do you know that you giving up control isn't going to lead to all of us being killed?" Hmmmm.

As soon as you start to wrestle with resting and trusting, there will always be someone or something to start the obsessive/compulsive desire to control to spin up to speed again.

Resist it, firm in your faith...and Wait for the Lord!

By the way...were you able to tell that I MYSELF am a Recovering Control Freak??

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Final Four and The Christian Life

2010 was one of the best "March Madness's" ever! For those of you who don't follow college hoops, the NCAA Tourny this year was filled with upsets and underdogs...and little Butler (David) almost defeated Big Duke (Goliath)...a last second shot from half-court almost went in to give Butler the victory...but it was not to be... HOWEVER, the defeat was definitely NOT due to lack of hustle on Butler's part.

I have played and coached basketball for most of my life...some games you win and some games you lose. But nothing ticks a coach off more than his/her team being "out-hustled." There's just no excuse for lack of effort; anything less than all-out effort is unacceptable! It's no less true in the Christian life.

Sure, the Christian life is by grace from start to finish. Of course the unconditional love and favor of God is our motivation...but grace is also transforming power. Grace is what enables us and empowers us to show hustle! An understanding and apprehension of grace that doesn't lead to "hustle" is very immature.

It kills me when I see the world "out-hustling" the Church...and sometimes because of a MIS-understanding and erroneous application of grace!

Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:10 that grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) leads to walking in good works, hustling in deeds of mercy and love, that God has actually prepared in advance for us to do!

Paul tells us in Titus 2:11-3:8 that grace trains us to hustle in our battle with ungodliness and trains us to hustle in our aim for godliness!

God, as the Ultimate Coach, even calls us to hustle to add all kinds of effort to our faith in grace: 2 Peter 1:3-11.

I saw a piece on the TODAY Show this morning about the founder of TOMS shoes. A young entrepreneur came up with the idea of giving away one pair of shoes for every pair he sold. The original name of the shoes was to be TOMORROWS, but it wouldn't fit on the back of the shoe! For any pair of shoes TOMS sells today, the promise is that a pair of shoes will be given to people, especially children, unable to live a normal life because they lack shoes. There are children around the world, for example, that can't go to school unless they wear shoes; they were shoeless, but now TOMS has delivered shoes and children are going to school!

That is hustle! Church...where's our hustle?!

How could the "world" possibly EVER out-hustle the Church for great ideas on how to help the poor, shoe the shoeless, feed the hungry, show mercy to the sick? (By the way, I'm not saying the founder of TOMS is not a Christ-follower...fact is I know nothing about his faith or lack thereof). But there is no question that there are people who DO, in fact, often out-hustle the Church in carrying out Kingdom principles even though faith in Christ is lacking in their personal lives.

So often it seems the Church is just a step slower than the world in creating ways to make a sustained difference for life on this planet...and sometimes it's all because the Church uses grace as excuse for poor effort. Don't get me wrong...this isn't a jealousy thing...I am thrilled when anyone of any creed makes a positive difference in the world.

On the one hand, unbelievers are still "Image-bearers" of God, so we ought not to be surprised that even non-Christians show hustle and make a difference in the world. On the other hand, God may sometimes "plant" difference-making ideas in unbeliever's minds to challenge the Church...

Are we getting out-hustled?

How can YOU make a difference in the world today?

What's the first choice that has to be made for it to happen? Do it!


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Prayer, Preaching and Preachers

I can be really thick-headed...really. Just ask my wife. On second thought, please don't ask my wife...or my children. Just take it on faith...I can be really thick-headed. Today's blog is going to be a bit different...I'm going to get really transparent about my job. I think it's important for a "lay person" to get into the head and heart of a preacher from time to here goes...

One of the things I've been so slow to really learn is that preaching is a work of God before it is a work of man. I LOVE my job. I LOVE preaching. Don't get me wrong...preaching, like any vocation, has been deeply impacted by the Fall of humanity into sin. The curse on ALL work revealed in Genesis 3:17-18 applies as equally as anywhere to the preacher...

"Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for the sweat of your face you shall eat bread..."

What that means is that every vocation will face great weeds constantly growing in a garden or animals that constantly come to eat what is planted, the workplace will be an environment of continual frustration...things will go wrong; things will break; MURPHY will always be present with all of his LAWS at the office!

And it applies to preaching. I get a kick out of folk who think, "What's a preacher do anyway? He only works a few hours on Sunday morning, right?!" Uh...yeah...sure. Yikes, hope that didn't sound too defensive! Oh well, I DID say I was going to be transparent.

Let me make one thing very clear...I'm not writing this for pity...I'm writing this for PRAYER! Every vocation needs to be bathed in prayer...and perhaps no vocation needs to be more bathed in prayer than preaching.

Preaching will fall on deaf ears and hard hearts and no sustained spiritual transformation will occur in listeners' lives unless preaching is a work of God before it is a work of man. And THAT is exactly where I get so thick-headed. Like everything else in my life, I've always "believed" and acted from a world-view or paradigm that says "hard work" is the difference maker in all we attempt in life. Fact is, I LOVE the hard work connected to my vocation.

I've never given birth...obviously...but I've been with my bride during all three of our children's births...ladies, please don't be offended by this, but the best illustration I can give to help you understand what sermon preparation is like every week is giving birth. Before I knew anything about giving birth, I thought the child actually being finally delivered was the pain of childbirth. It didn't take long to realize how wrong I is the LABOR PAINS OF childbirth that are so painful. Sermon prep is the LABOR of on Sunday morning is really a piece of cake.

But here's the deal: the delivery will give birth to the wind unless God is in the House! God must LIVE and BREATHE in the message, in the messenger, and in those who receive the message.

I could be the greatest student in the world; I could find the most riveting illustrations available; I could make the Word of God come alive in relevance to your daily life; I could preach with passion and energy and conviction...but if God's Spirit does not come upon me with an anointing that only He can supernaturally grant...and if God's Spirit does not fall upon the listeners with a similar supernatural anointing...people might be impressed; they might be emotionally moved; they might leave with a desire to work on some behavioral change...but they will not be brought into life-changing contact with the Living God.

So...pray for your preacher. Pray every day for the anointing of God's Spirit to fall on him. Pray every day for your own heart to be prepared for the Word of God proclaimed in the church. Pray every day for the Spirit of God to fall upon the congregation. It's the only way life transformation will occur. The Christian life is supernatural...

And by the way...all this is more relevant to your own vocation, whether home-maker or "butcher or baker or candle-stick maker," than you realize. The Fall has affected every vocation...weeds, thorns, thistles grow wherever we work, whatever we do. So pray for the work of the Spirit to be upon your vocation, your daily work as well.

One more thing...and this is key...and this is controversial (not to me, but to others)--none of this is very relevant if you are not attending a church where the preacher actually believes the Bible is the very word of God! If you are going to a church where the preacher thinks the Bible is just a human book, is filled with error, and he only uses it to tell stories that lead to some moralistic platitude at the end...leave that's a waste of your time.

I try to be a gracious man...but a preacher who doesn't believe the Bible is God's word is the greatest oxymoron of human existence.

So remember...pray for your preacher!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Events of Holy Week Part 8--Resurrection Sunday

What can you say about Easter Sunday that hasn't already been is quite simply the event that has changed history...His event has had a greater impact upon this planet than the is the entire, sole foundation of the Christian faith...remove it, take it away, and the entire Christian World-view falls to the ground.

I can never quite "get" people who say, "Well, even if it's not true, living a Christian life is the best life one can live while on earth." Paul says, "That's crazy!"...well, he didn't REALLY say it like that...but he did say that if Christ be not raised than we,we Christians, we believers, we Christ-followers, of ALL people on the planet, are MOST to be PITIED!

Paul was an absolute realist about the resurrection...if it happened, then Jesus was who He said He was...God in the Flesh...the Messiah, the ONLY Savior of the World and the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and the One worthy of our whole, even more, the One who Commands that we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and live our lives for His glory and His honor alone! BUT...if the resurrection didn't occur, Jesus was a fraud and his disciples, worse.

But in fact, Christ HAS been raised from the dead. People have tried to disprove it for 2000 years.

Just a few thoughts here: why would a small group of people who were part of the most religious people on the planet (Jews), suddenly change their day of worship from Saturday to Sunday? These were a people that took God's Law as unchanging...yet all over the world Christian Churches (Christianity began among the Jews, remember) meet on Sunday...the only explanation...Jesus was raised on the First Day of the Week.

Secondly, we know that ALL the disciples met a martyr's death (well, except for John...he was boiled in oil and then exiled on the island of Patmos). Do you honestly think that these man (and many others, would die for something they KNEW to be a lie? There have been many attempts at foisting a lie upon others, and it always unravels (think of Watergate...there was every reason in the world for those involved to maintain the lie to protect themselves, the President, the nation and to stay out of jail...yet eventually they cracked and the lie was exposed and the truth came out!).

There is nothing like it in all of and women dying for something they knew to be a lie? The early church was persecuted and people were paraded to violent deaths proclaiming that Jesus, in fact, was raised from the dead.

Then there is the fact that no one ever produced the Body of Jesus. That's all that had to be done...just produce the Body...and to think the disciples stole it? The cowardly bunch? And again, if they did, they all died for a lie? It takes more "blind faith" to NOT believe the resurrection occurred!

There are so many reasons to believe that Easter is based on's no myth. It happened in time and space. There are scores of books that spend more time than I have...if you REALLY have questions...check them out.

The Resurrection of Christ from the dead is one of the most historically defensible events ever...but it's not just that is historically and truly true that is important...its what it means for us.

The resurrection of Christ from the dead means that God has accepted the finished work of Christ as being completely sufficient to remove the stain and guilt of our sin. It means that those who hope in Christ are adopted and sons and daughters of God, being given the same exact standing and status before the Holy God of the universe that Jesus Himself's what the Bible means when it says we are justified by grace through faith in the promises of God in the Gospel...justified...God treats us, declares us to be a justified people..."just-as-if-I'd" never sinned and "just-as-if-I'd" done everything He ever commanded with absolute perfection...the resurrection says that God accepts Christ's work as absolutely sufficient.

U2's song, Window in the Skies, is all about how God cut a hole, a window, in the skies, that His love might fall upon the planet through Christ...and that humanity might see into heaven...and eventually live there. The words of the song talk all about the resurrection of Christ and our response to it. Bono's response to such love and grace is to "rhapsodize," to sing. What is YOUR response?

Many of the words are so critical to Easter I have to include them as well as a video...

Bono begins by singing, “The shackles are undone, the bullet’s quit the gun.” He is singing of the amazing truth that through grace the shackles of slavery to sin and death have been undone. So have the shackles of self-condemnation and self-absorption!

"The bullet's quit the gun." The punishment at the Hand of a Just Judge has been taken away by a Substitute…thus, the bullets are taken away…for those in Christ, wrath is shooting blanks! We are led away from the firing squad to live throughout all eternity in complete safety and security before God!

Then, “the heat that’s in the sun (hear “Son”) will keep us when there’s none…when the coldness of the world and the freeze of a broken planet come upon us, there’s the Son filled with the warmth of His love!

“The Rule has been disproved.” The rule of law that says unless you are perfect, you will die, both physically and spiritually has been disproved...disarmed. The rule of law is more like the rule of karma—you get what you deserve. Grace disproves the rule of The Law which condemns us to judgment. Grace in Christ grants us what we don’t deserve...favor where we deserve rejection.

“The Stone, it has been moved.” On the first Easter, the Stone was rolled away, revealing that the Crucified Lord had been raised from the dead! So, as a result of the hope of the resurrection…

“The grave is now a groove.” The grave, for the believer, is simply a seemless groove into a God-filled eternity…no more crying, no more pain, no more sorrow, now more sin. Death has been defeated! No more need to fear death.

“All debts are removed.” The debt we owe an infinitely holy and just God because of our failure has been paid in full by the One who came to live the life we couldn’t live and die the death we couldn’t die…

“Oh can’t you see what LOVE has done?...Love left a window in the skies.” There is NOW a way we can look into the heavens and SEE our Creator! We can look in upon God and He looks down upon us in Christ with favor, delight and care!

"I've got no shame," Bono sings out, because the finished work of Christ on the cross has removed shame for the believer.

Bono has been struck by a Love that undoes shackles and overcomes "karma" through grace. Bono sings confidently of the Love that left an undeniable witness...a "stone" that has been removed, leaving nothing but an Empty Grave. Bono sings joyfully of the Love that removes all debts, brings hate to its knees and enables him to "rhapsodize," the entire reason Bono gives for his singing is as a response of love to the Love that made a Window in the Skies...oh, and one more thing...notice how many times Bono raises his hands in praise...might be a good thing for us to do today as well...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Events of Holy Week Part 7--Silent Saturday

Silence is hard for me. It's awkward. I'm one of those guys who always seeks to fill those empty moments with something...anything...often to my own regret. Silence in conversations with others in one thing...sensing nothing but silence from above is another thing altogether.

Imagine what the disciples were thinking on this Jewish Sabbath: "What were we thinking? What have we done with the past three years of our lives? What are we going to do now? Do I still remember how to fish?"

There are only a couple of things we know about this day. In Luke 23:56 we read that "they rested according to the commandment." Yeah right. I'm sure the actually DID "rest" according to the Law...that is, they did no work...but how much "rest of the heart" did they experience?

It's ironic, actually. The entire history of the Jewish Sabbath actually pointed to Easter Weekend...the whole point of God's people resting from actual work one day a week was a symbol of the Gospel Truth that Christ would do ALL the work required for us to be made right with God so that we could rest from our own works/efforts/performances that seek to merit God's acceptance, blessing, love and favor. How little the disciples understood that this Silent Saturday, this Sabbath between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday was the inauguration of the truest celebration of the Sabbath in all of history!

Another application of their obedience to the commandment to rest on this Sabbath has to do with how we normally react when things get out of control. So often in Scripture we are told to "WAIT" for the Lord; so often we are commanded to "stand still and watch the salvation of God." Yet is in the tightest spots that call for the greatest trust that we tend to rely upon human effort, human ingenuity and natural resources to get us out of the predicament. To rest and wait for the Lord and His supernatural resources is the hardest calling of the Christian...especially when the refrain of the world is "Don't just sit there, do something." I'm not lessening the call to human responsibility (trust me, I can be one of the most self-disciplined, self-reliant, self-sufficient people on the planet--I say that to my own shame, not to boast)...I'm simply emphasizing the call to rest in the Lord and wait for Him to work when things are tough.

The other element of Silent Saturday referenced in Scripture is found in Matthew 27:62-66--the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate and told him that while alive, Jesus had told His disciples repeatedly that He would rise from the dead after three days. So, they persuaded Pilate to make the tomb secure with a Roman seal and to have a guard of soldiers stationed at the tomb.

The world will try all they can to stop the truth of the Gospel from getting out...all to no avail. I'm often disappointed by how often I hear Christ-followers speaking to one another with such despair and panic in their voices over what is happening in the atheists are getting more organized or how Christians are having more liberties threatened...didn't Jesus say "the gates of hell will not prevail against the church?" "If God is for us who can be against us?" "We are more than conquerors." The world can no more slow down the progress of the gospel than a silly Roman seal and several Roman soldiers could prevent Christ from rising from the dead! Come on, Church, show some faith!

But let's not minimize how hard of a day this must have been for the disciples...confused...afraid...disillusioned...despairing... depressed...they must have felt a little "stuck." They were unsure what to do. They had met Jesus and He had changed everything...they couldn't go back. But He was gone. Dead. What would it mean to try to go forward...they were stuck...stuck in a moment.

We all get stuck from time to time...stuck in fear; stuck in despair; stuck in depression; stuck in confusion...Silent Saturday is a good day to pull out a U2 fave..."Stuck in a Moment"...and remember, as Bono sings, "that if you're way should falter, it's just a's just a's just a's just a moment...and this time shall pass..."

(by the way, this was U2 at Croke Park in Dublin on July 24, 2009 and, yep, I was at this very performance!)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Events of Holy Week Part 6--Good Friday

Good Friday? Hmmm. What a strange name for a day of such horror...what can be good about a day that is known for the greatest travesty of true justice in all of history? How can it be good that an innocent Man be found guilty through false testimony and rail-roaded to a verdict of guilty?

The answer is this: it's Good Friday because of the good that Man accomplished on behalf of His people! It's Good Friday because the "punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed (Read Isaiah 53 today sometime).

I've already shared the timeline...a timeline which, of course, is known precisely. In Mark 15:25 we learn that Christ was placed upon the cross at 9am local time (Jerusalem time). Jerusalem is 8 hours ahead of the Central Time Christ was actually placed upon the cross at 1am Friday morning, central time. Then we know from Luke 23:44-48 that darkness covered the land from noon until 3pm local time (4am-7am central time). The 7am hour in Birmingham, Alabama is approaching as I type these words...the minutes almost feel more holy...the approaching change of the hour takes on new significance.

The real wonder of the Christian faith is that it is entirely rooted in time and in space. You could hop on a plane and in a matter of hours visit spots where the very events recorded in the Gospels occurred. If you were there by 3pm Jerusalem time, you could spend a quiet moment reflecting that at that precise hour Jesus yielded His Spirit and said, "It is finished."

What was finished? Redemption! Salvation! It's called Good Friday because though it is true that "we ALL like sheep have gone astray...and EACH of us have turned to our own is ALSO true that the LORD has laid on HIM the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).

Think about that...and you'll know afresh why it's called GOOD Friday. There IS a Creator...One to Whom we ARE accountable. Why do we feel guilt? Much of the time because we KNOW we ARE guilty!

Where did the conscience come from? Is it some cosmic joke...something that just appeared after billions of years of evolution? Did the impersonal universe plus time plus chance suddenly thrust the "human animal" outside of the helpful realities of his/her own existence? Did we suddenly evolve a conscience so that we have a sense of right and wrong that is merely illusionary? Did we suddenly evolve a thirst for meaning and significance that is unfulfillable because we are really just a cosmic accident?

I love talking to the unchurched...and the de-churched...I love to make people think...why do we deal with guilt...and shame...and self-condemnation...why? Because we know deeply within our own souls that we don't even live up to our OWN standards...let alone the standards of a Holy Creator God. Sin is may not be popular to say...but that doesn't change the reality. Sin is real. Guilt is real. Judgment is real. Hell is real. Christ is Coming Back.

Good Friday is the day on which all those realities were faced...and a particular day on which WE are forced to grapple with what we believe about eternal realities.

So...what are YOU going to do about Good Friday? It's not "good" automatically? All the benefits of the day are not just magically applied to every person on the planet.

It's Decision Time folks.

Who are you ultimately looking to in order to deal with the reality of your guilt, shame and self-condemnation? It's a black or white question...EITHER you are ultimately looking to yourself and your own efforts to build some kind of record of righteousness that you hope will win God's approval and merit His forgiveness OR you are choosing to trust in and rest in and hope in the obedient life Christ lived and the substitutionary death He died to GIVE you forgiveness as a matter of free matter what you've matter where you've been.

But Good Friday isn't a day that merely offers people "Fire Insurance (from hell)" from above...trusting Christ is an all or nothing proposition...He calls for all of you (and me)...all the time...for the rest of your life. There is nothing half-hearted about following this God-Man who hung on a cross...there is no turning to Jesus as Savior and refusing to bow the knee to Him as Lord.

Listen...none of us who follow Christ, follow Him perfectly...that's the WHOLE point of Good Friday! It is NOT my capacity to "make Christ Lord/Master/Boss" of my life that gives me God's approval...that favor, blessing and forgiveness was purchased by Christ and Christ alone...however, grace that saves a person ALWAYS changes a person.


I'll never forget my "first" was 1980...the first time Easter got was just a few months prior that I gave my life to trust and follow Christ...and nothing has been the same since. Maybe this year can be YOUR first Easter. Trust Him.

Maybe some of us have had our FIRST Easter years ago...but have lost our "first Love." What a time to renew your recommit your surrender offer every nook and cranny of your heart to Christ...don't expect perfection, simply trust and surrender is CHRIST who makes us new and renews us daily.

Huh...I just looked at the clock on my is exactly 7am! Guess I'm finished. far as a U2 clip...I wish I had their song "White as Snow" from their latest album, "No Line on the Horizon." It could possibly be the most blatent Christ-centered song they've ever performed. I can't find a place where they've performed it in front of here are the lyrics...

(however, there is a home-made video of the song on You Tube if you're interested--just copy and paste in your browser)

Where I came from there were no hills at all
The land was flat, the highways straight and wide
My brother and I would drive for hours
Like years instead of days
Our faces as pale as the dirty snow

Once I knew there was a love divine
Then came a time I thought it knew me not
Who can forgive forgiveness where forgiveness is not
Only the Lamb as white as snow

And the water, it was icy
As it washed over me
And the moon shone above me

Now this dry ground it bears no fruit at all
Only poppies laugh under the crescent moon
The road refuses strangers
The land the seeds we sow
Where might we find the Lamb as white as snow

As boys we would go hunting in the woods
To sleep the night shooting out the stars
Now the wolves are every passing stranger
Every face we cannot know
If only a heart could be as white as snow
If only a heart could be as white as snow

Of course, what Bono is trying to get us to think about is obvious...if only? If ONLY? Ha! It CAN be!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Events of Holy Week Part 5--Holy Thursday/Maundy Thursday

(Be sure and check out the rest of the series - which I started on Palm Sunday).

When our children were small we'd love to read them the book entitled Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day...a day when everything went wrong in one young boy named Alexander's day. Well, Thursday and the dark hours of early Friday of Holy Week could be called PETER and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Certainly Good Friday was roughest on Jesus as He endured so much suffering, pain and eventually death on the cross...but for Peter, things were pretty bad.

First of all, during the Last Supper, in front of all his friends, Jesus tells Peter that he will deny Him 3 times (Luke 22:34). Ouch!

Then, after the Last Supper, Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives to pray...He specifically asks Peter and James and John to pray for Him. In Mark 14:37 Jesus specifically asks Peter..."Are you asleep? Could you not watch for one hour?" Ouch...again!

Next, when Judas comes with the crowd to betray Jesus, Peter (John 18:10) takes up a sword and cuts off one of the servants' ears...and then Jesus has to rebuke Peter, again, in essence, telling him that he is setting his sights on the things of men and not the things of God...the very rebuke Christ gave to Peter when he tried to rebuke Jesus after He told them He was going to die (Matthew 16:23).

Finally, and of course this is really more very early Friday than part of Thursday, but it fits with the flow of the worst 24 hours of Peter's life, he does in fact end up denying Christ 3 times...eventually even calling curses upon himself if it would be possible that he is lying about not knowing Jesus...then, of course, the cock crows...and think about it...every day for the rest of his life, Peter was awakened wherever he was by the crowing of the'd YOU like to be reminded every day of your worst failure?!

You'll recall that in Matthew 16, Peter before anyone else gets to it, confesses the truth that Jesus is God; that He is Messiah; that He is the Son of the Living God. And when Peter makes that confession, Jesus says upon that confession He will build His church...Jesus did NOT mean that upon PETER He would build the church...Peter is NOT the first POPE! But Jesus does say He will give the leaders of those who make the confession of Christ as Savior and Lord "the keys of the Kingdom."

Imagine what a failure Peter thought he was after the events of late Thursday/early Friday! Could he ever be restored? And here's where the different between regret and repentance show up so clearly. Judas failed too...but he was only filled with regret...remorse without hope. Peter failed, but was filled with repentance...honest acknowledgement of failure, but filled with a hope of forgiveness, love and restoration. When you fail, are filled with regret...or repentance.

U2 sings a song called "The First Time." For the first time, I feel love. Bono goes through all three Persons of the Trinity. Now I know some of you will freak out because Bono refers to the Holy Spirit in feminine terms (as does William Young in The Shack). But the fact is, there are times in Scripture when God allows Himself to be described in terms of a loving mother, though certainly it is ultimately orthodox to refer to the Holy Spirit as He...don't let Bono's poetic license freak you out so you miss the beauty of the song.

Imagine Peter, thinking about his confession of Christ as God, remembering the promise of receiving the keys of the Kingdom...and then considering all that in light of the horrible, no good, very bad day he has today...imagine his doubts, his struggles to feel hope and love and forgiveness...imagine...Peter, the apostle, going through the same things we go through when we fail.

Listen VERY carefully to this Song...the Holy Spirit helps, Jesus is a Brother when we're in need and though we are so often running away, He runs after us. The Father has a mansion with many rooms (Gospel of John), He has a rich man's cloak (Parable of the Prodigal Son--Luke 15)...and Peter feels as though he has left through the back door of the mansion and thrown away the key...he is broken...

...but Jesus raises from the dead and specifically shows up and restores He will us if we live in repentance and not merely regret.

If you can't understand EACH and EVERY word of the song...look up the do NOT want to miss this one.

There's always hope!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Events of Holy Week Part 4--Holy, but Dark, Wednesday

We come now to a day of Holy Week for which we have little information. We do read in Mark 14:1 that the Passover was only "two days away." The Jewish calendar always looked at days inclusively and treated even a part of a day as a whole Passover was on Thursday, but since the meal was eaten in the evening, both Wednesday AND Thursday were treated as whole days so that Passover was, in fact, according to how they looked at time, 2 days away, not just "the next day" as we would normally say.

This makes more sense, then, of how the Bible could say that Jesus was in the tomb 3 days...because Friday night was counted as a whole day, Saturday of course was, and Sunday from mid-night on until He rose was also counted as a whole day.

Anyway, this Holy Wednesday is also called "Dark Wednesday" or "Spy Wednesday" because it is on this day that Judas decides to betray Jesus. In Mark 14:10-11 Judas agrees to look for an opportunity to betray Jesus (see also Luke 22:2-5)...he is "spying out" the right time. It is a Dark Day, both in Judas' life and for Jesus as well.

As you think of Judas as a disciple and betrayer, be aware of one thing...none of the disciples suspected for a moment that Judas could be the betrayer. Even around the Table at Passover when Jesus says clearly that one of the disciples will betray Him, they all wondered who it might be...there was NOTHING about the outward life of Judas that revealed he would be the one...and THAT is scary.

There are many in the church who CALL themselves Christians, and who OUTWARDLY seem to live the Christian life, who end up being exposed as frauds...may we pray for each other that we would be, by God's grace, the "real deal." But let Judas' life also be a warning to all of us...Jesus says it is the one who perseveres to the end who will be saved. The Christian life can't be lived on past laurels or experiences. Daily Continuance is evidence of a grace-filled heart. There is a need for us to guard our hearts and to examine ourselves regularly to see whether or not we are in the faith.

I don't say this to upset your faith...but to get us all to realize how desperately we need grace on a daily basis. We need community to keep us on the straight and narrow, both in belief and behavior.

One possible cause of Judas "snapping" could be what we read of in Mark 14:3-9 (Matt 26:6-13). A woman who had lived a sinful life (a euphemism for prostitute) anointed Jesus' head with very expensive a matter of fact it was worth an entire year's wages!

On Monday we learned that Jesus drove out the money changers and merchants in the Temple courts because they were gouging the poor...from a rational perspective it DOES seem a bit inconsistent that Jesus would care about the poor and yet a year's worth wage of perfume be dumped on his head...on the surface, the disciples had a could have been sold and the money given to the poor.

As inexplicable as it seems, sometimes God wants us to be extravagant toward the Kingdom...sometimes money should be spent in a way that honors Christ in a way different than through taking care of the poor. Judas apparently couldn't handle the tension and it seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back...he lost faith in Jesus as the One who could deliver them from Roman he agrees to betray Him.

On another level, how might you have opportunity to show extravagance toward Christ and toward the Kingdom of God that would be an unusual use of finances? It's something to consider during this Holy Week.

As far as our U2 connection today...the choice is obvious...they song "Until the End of the World" is all about Judas' betrayal. Even though it doesn't occur until tomorrow, since it was planned today, I'm including in this, there are other songs that fit with the events of Passover Thursday.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Events of Holy Week Part 3--Holy Tuesday

We're trying to follow, as best we are able to guess, how the events of Holy Week occurred. We're pretty sure from the Gospel of Mark that we have some confidence of the chronology we've followed so far. In Mark 11:1-11 we read of Palm Sunday. Then in Mark 11:12, we're told about "the next day" which would be Holy Monday when He cursed the fig tree and then drove out the money changers and merchants who were gouging the poor by overcharging for Passover sacrificial animals (see the past few days blogs for all this).

It is now Holy Tuesday because we are told in Mark 11:20 that Jesus and the disciples went along "in the morning," after they had left the city the previous night following Christ cleansing the Temple.

So on Holy Tuesday, we discover these events:

First, Jesus wasn't afraid of a fight. In Mark 11:27-33 the chief priests and elders (the conservative RELIGIOUS folk!) came to Jesus and challenged His authority to teach and to do what He was teaching and doing. Jesus could see past their trap and asked THEM about the authority of John the Baptist...He caught them in a no-win situation, and they left Him alone. Then in Mark 12:18-27, other religious leaders, this time the liberals, try to trap Him. The liberals didn't believe in a resurrection, but tried to trap Jesus in a question dealing with a woman who had married seven brothers because each one had died after marrying her, one after another. Jesus ends up rebuking the liberals who refuse to believe what the Bible teaches.

The application for us is obvious: we must avoid both extremes of dead conservativism and worthless liberalism. We must seek grace to avoid becoming either legalistic, self-righteous, self-reliant Pharisees on the one hand, or cheap grace, subjective, relativistic, truth-denying liberal Sadducees on the other hand...and, like Jesus, we ought to be willing to graciously pick of fight with any of them!

Second, Jesus took the opportunity on this final Tuesday of His earthly life to teach the people. He teaches again about His impending death and teaches boldly that He is the Stone that the builders reject and becomes the Cornerstone of God's Redemptive, Restorative plan for the cosmos.

He also teaches on the role of Christians in, as Augustine wrote, the City of God and the City of Man...we're to give to the civil government the honor they require and we are to give to God the honor He requires.

Then Jesus teaches, this just a few days before His death, His greatest love the Lord our God with ALL our heart, soul, mind and strength...and He gives the second great commandment love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:28-34). May God give us His grace to love well!

We read that the widow's offering, two small coins that were all she had, occurred on this Holy Tuesday...are we sacrificial in our giving to the Kingdom of God?

Finally, Jesus teaches a lot on this Holy Tuesday about His Return and the End of the World. He talks about the separation of all humanity into the sheep and the goats; the former going to inhabit the New Earth and the latter suffering eternity apart from the Presence of God (Matt 25:31-46).

Now, we know that one is only rescued from hell and made a citizen of the New Earth by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ alone...but we also know that conversion is the supernatural work of the Spirit...a work that creates a new heart, a new nature...and therefore, a new lifestyle. Jesus makes it clear that those with new hearts, those who are sheep, who are destined to be inhabitants in the New Jerusalem, will take care of the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the rejected and the we doing there, Church?

Lastly, on Tuesday evening, most likely, Jesus teaches about the destruction of Jerusalem that would occur in 70AD. We know from Matthew 26:1-2 that Passover is still "two days away" so it's still Holy Tuesday. We read in Luke 21:5-36 that Jesus teaches on the signs of the End of the Age...wars, revolutions, EARTHQUAKES, famines, diseases and other fearful events.

This isn't fiction...this is history....and it is also prophecy. We were made for another world...a world that is quickly approaching. We are to live as those already citizens of the New Earth and we are to bring the restoring power of that New Earth to bear in all our activities, responsibilities and relationships every day. May we practice New World living on this Holy Tuesday.

Now, as far as the U2 connection for today's events on Holy Tuesday...since Jesus spoke so much on this day of the World to Come, it's only appropriate that we use what is perhaps U2's greatest song, the song of heaven, of the New Jerusalem, Where the Streets Have No Name.

Notice Bono on his knees in prayer quoting Psalm 116:12-14 from The Message translation of the Bible: "What can I give back to God for the blessings He's poured out on me? What can I give back to God for the blessings He's poured out on me? I'll lift high the cup of salvation as a toast to our follow through on a promise I made to You...from the heart."

Think about this place where there is "no sorrow and no shame..."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Events of Holy Week Part 2--Holy Monday

We read in Luke 19:45-46 that Jesus sees merchants at the Temple selling animals for sacrifices for Passover. Jesus, even as He is facing His coming suffering is still concerned primarily with the unjust suffering and oppression of others. We must realize that Jews came from all over the world to Jerusalem for Passover and they were commanded to offer sacrifices. Since many traveled many, many miles, there we thousands who couldn't bring sacrificial animals with them.

Since they had to offer sacrifices, yet had none, many, especially the poor, were at the mercy of oppressive merchants who could charge outrageous amounts of money for sacrificial animals. Few things upset Jesus more than injustice...and His righteous anger against such oppression was kindled. Imagine the scene...Jesus, the meek One, turning over tables, throwing boxes of money. In Mark 11:15-17 we're told he threw the chairs of those selling pigeons...pigeons were the Passover sacrifices of the most impoverished...those who couldn't afford anything "nicer" like a lamb.

Christ came to not merely pay for our sins and bring us eternal life...Christ came to bring freedom to the oppressed...and He came to set us free from our own self-absorption so we too would fight against injustice. During this Holy Week, perhaps even on this Holy Monday...what tables and chairs can you "throw around" and "overturn" on behalf of the oppressed?

The other event that occurred on this Holy Monday is Jesus' cursing of the fig tree that didn't provide the fruit He desired (Matt 21:18-22). He uses it to teach the disciples on the power of prayer.

Do we believe the promises Christ gives us concerning prayer? Do we believe that if we ask in His Name and do not doubt we shall receive what we've asked of Him? And what DO we ask for? What is the CONTENT of our praying? Is it focused on self and all our little dreams for ourselves? Or, do we pray BIG prayers...KINGDOM prayers...that the rule and reign of Jesus and the restoration of the cosmos that He promises would come in power?

U2 has written a song called "Crumbs from Your Table." Its a song about how the poor and oppressed of the world are just looking for some crumbs from the tables of Christ-followers to help them overcome oppression and disease and poverty in their worlds. Christians talk about revival in terms of "signs and wonders" and "miracles" when the greatest sign of Christ is often revealed in the Church taking care of orphans, widows and other disenfranchised people. It fits will with Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers in the Temple...and it certainly gives us something to pray for on this Holy Monday.

Here are the lyrics:
From the brightest star
Comes the blackest hole
You had so much to offer
Why did you offer your soul?
I was there for you baby
When you needed my help
Would you deny for others
What you demand for yourself?

Cool down mama, cool off
Cool down mama, cool off

You speak of signs and wonders
I need something other
I would believe if I was able
But I'm waiting on the crumbs from your table

You were pretty as a picture
It was all there to see
Then your face caught up with your psychology
With a mouth full of teeth
You ate all your friends
And you broke every heart thinking every heart mends

You speak of signs and wonders
But I need something other
I would believe if I was able
But I'm waiting on the crumbs from your table

Where you live should not decide
Whether you live or whether you die
Three to a bed
Sister Ann, she said
Dignity passes by

And you speak of signs and wonders
But I need something other
I would believe if I was able
I'm waiting on the crumbs from your table

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Events of Holy Week Part 1--Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is one of the better known elements of Holy involved the "Triumphal Entry" of Christ into Jerusalem. The Jewish people were looking for a Deliverer to free them from the oppressive rule and bondage of Rome. They were looking for the One who would lead them to the Golden Age of Prosperity, Safety and Security...what Jesus brought as King was even more than they could have ever imagined!

Our cruelest oppressors are not people who threaten us with injustice or somehow seem to keep us from prosperity....our cruelest oppressor is the condemnation of the Law of God and sin that enslaves us to our worst nightmares. Christ entered Jerusalem as the King Who would conquer sin, satan and death. Jesus is the King of Kings who brings us the spiritual freedom we all long for, but most of the time, don't even realize we're longing for.

And this Palm Sunday, think about this: Jesus didn't merely come to conquer our enemies of sin and satan and death...He came to conquer our own hearts as well! Is every area of your heart surrendered to Him today? Is He YOUR King and are you following Him as YOUR Lord and Master? Is there any area of your life that you are keeping from the King today? Offer it to Him as a gift this Palm Sunday. Let revival come to you today by His grace!

Read The Triumphal Entry in Luke 19:28-40--Are YOU shouting out His praise for all He has done in freeing you from condemnation and shame? Are you singing His glory for the freedom from the rule and reign of sin He has promised those who hope in Him?

Bono and U2 had an album in 1981 that Rolling Stone actually called a "Christian album." It's called October. On the album is a song called "Gloria." It uses the latin phrase "Gloria, in te Domine; Gloria...exultate; Gloria...Gloria" which translates, according to Wikipedia: "Glory in you, Lord / Glory, exalt [him]" with "exalt" in the imperative mood, a reference to Psalm 30:2 (in te Domine, speravi). The song also contains references to Colossians 2:9-10 ("Only in You I'm complete")"...similar to what the people lining the streets into Jerusalem sang and shouted as Jesus, the King, entered the the words and watch the 1981 video...

I try to sing this song
I...I try to stand up
But I can't find my feet
I try, I try to speak up
But only in You I'm complete te Domine
Oh Lord, loosen my lips

I try to sing this song
I...I try to get in
But I can't find the door
The door is open
You're standing there
You let me in te domine
Oh Lord, if I had anything
Anything at all
I'd give it to You
I'd give it to You


Another element of this day is Jesus weeping over Jerusalem...Luke 19:41--as you approach Holy Week...ask God for the gift of tears...ask God to put people on your heart who don't have the passion of singing and shouting praise to King Jesus. Ask God to break your heart over the plight of people who live without the life of Christ flowing into their souls.

Finally, remember this: this same crowd that on Palm Sunday shouted praise to King Jesus, several days later changed their cries to "Crucify Him!" We are such a fickle people...filled with faith one minute, doubt and unbelief the next...may God grant us grace to persevere and to fight the good fight of faith!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Chronology of Holy Week with a U2 Twist

I began to wonder, with all the spirituality of Bono and U2's lyrics, could I find a way to mesh some of their more "blatent" Christ-centered songs with the days of Holy Week.

Today is Saturday...the last Sabbath Jesus was alive before His crucifixion...a day of worship...what was going through His mind as He read and heard Scripture all pointing to Him...all pointing to the events of this week?

Though the song "Magnificent" is Bono's autobiography and his call to sing to the fits with the song of Christ's life as well.

A Likely Chronology of Holy Week

I had some time because of the Palm Sunday Worship Program tomorrow to think about Holy Week. I have been amazed that there is so little out there on any kind of chronology of the days. So, here's my attempt...may it lead you devotionally this week to love Christ more and overflow with gratitude for the love and grace of God...

Sabbath before Palm Sunday
John 12:1-8—worship, teaching, fellowship meal, Mary anoints Jesus

Palm Sunday
Luke 19:28-40--The Triumphal Entry
Luke 19:41-44—Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem

Monday (b/c of Matt 21:18-19 and Mark 11:12)
Matt 21:18-19—Jesus curses the fig tree
Luke 19:45-46—Jesus cleanses the Temple; anger at injustice
Mark 11:19—evening they went out of the city

Mark 11:20-26—in the morning—teaches on faith and prayer
Luke 19:47-48—Jesus teaches in the Temple and chief priests plot
(Mt 21:23-22:46)
Luke 20:1-8—chief priests question His authority; John the Baptist
Mt 26:1-2--Olivet Discourse—Late Tuesday Evening

Luke 22:3-5 (called “Dark Wednesday” or “Spy Wednesday”)

Luke 22:7-38—Last Supper (lamb slaughtered around noon, then prep)
Luke 22:39-46—Prayer in Garden of Gethsemene
Luke 22:47-53—Judas’ Betrayal

Luke 22:54-62—Peter’s Denial
Luke 22:63-65—Jesus mocked
Luke 22:66-71—at daybreak, Jesus’ “trial”
Luke 23:1-5—Jesus before Pilate
Mt 27:3-10—Judas hangs himself
Luke 23:6-12—Jesus before Herod
Luke 23:13-25—Jesus scourged and sent to crucifixion (Mt 27:26)
Luke 23:26-32—the walk to Golgotha
Mark 15:25—it was the third hour when they crucified Him
Third hour=9am
Luke 23:44-48—from the 6th hour until 9th hour—darkness
Noon until 3pm
Seven Words of Christ on the Cross
Father, forgive them . . . (Luke 23:34)

This day you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43)

Woman, behold your son . . .(John 19:26-27)

My God, my God . . . (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)

I thirst. (John 19:28)

It is finished! (John 19:30)

Father into your hands . . . (Luke 23:46)
Luke 23:46—Jesus breathed His last
John 19:30—It is Finished
Mark 15:42—when evening had come, body taken
Luke 23:50-56—Joseph of Arimathea—tomb

Luke 23:56—on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment
Matt 27:62-66—A Roman guard set up to protect the tomb

Luke 24:1-12—on the first day of the week, at early dawn
Jn 20:3-8—this happened in the early morning
Mary goes to tomb, stone rolled away, she runs and tells Ptr/Jn
Confusion; believed, but w/o complete understanding
Jn 20:10—peter/john then went back to their homes—stunned
What’s it all mean? But apparently separate for day
Jn 20:11—Mary stays, angels appear to Mary but not Jesus yet
Jn 20:14—now Jesus appears, but again, she doesn’t recognize Him
Doubts can only ultimately dealt w/ by supernatural grace
God can and does use secondary means, but not intell probl ult
Jn 20:18—Mary went and announced…still early morning—Lk 24:9
Only not told in Lk24 that Jesus appeared to Mary after angels
Matt 28:8-9—get more of the same picture here
Mark 16:8—before Jesus appr’d to Mary, only filled w/ fear
No boldness in witness; silence—said nothing to anyone
Lk 24:11-12—it wasn’t just Thomas…ALL the disciples thot idle tale
The women were told by the angels, no one seen Jesus yet
and it STILL isn’t JUST Thomas who doubts
here again we read Peter ran to see, went home marveling
Lk 24:13-24—told story a/b morning, but Him they did not see vv23-24
EVERYONE is foolish and slow to believe—all wrestle w/ doubt
Doubt is not talked a/b enuf in the Church…
It’s talked a/b PLENTY in the Scriptures
Even John the Baptist had his doubts
Lk 24:29—Jesus explains Scripture, getting toward evening
Breaks bread, their eyes are opened—mystery of sacrament!
v31—their eyes were opened—takes supernatural power
Lk 24:33—went to find disciples…who are NOW gathered together
As day wore on, realized wild things are happening
Lk 24:34—at some point, while Peter marveling, Jesus appears to him
1 Cor 15—He appeared to Peter
Luke 24:38—Jesus appears, yet doubts arise in their hearts
Luke 24:41—they disbelieved for joy and were marveling
Luke 24:39-43—Xp goes to great lengths to diffuse their doubts
Disbelieved for joy?? Too good to be true?
Lk 24:45—He opened their minds, just as He HAD to do on Emmaus
Lk 24:47—b/c of what we know, must proclaim, manifest Xp thru gospl
Doubt leads to weak witnss; convictn leads to boldness in missn
BUT we need pwr from on high…filling of Holy Spirit
John 20:19—at evening Jesus appeared and showed them His hands and side
He didn’t really give them time to doubt…He addressed them
Thomas only asked for him to experience what the others given by grace

Imagine the gladness, the wonder, the joy...the whom much is given, much is required

Friday, March 12, 2010

What time is Worship?

God clearly calls His people to worship Him...and clearly He calls every follower of Christ to unite with a local congregation and to be regularly in attendance...Church Attendance is a means of's the place where Christ is uniquely Present (1 Corinthians 5:4); it is the place we are told to never avoid but to seek out constantly (Hebrews 10:25)...the Church is where we receive the means of grace of prayer, the anointed teaching of the Scriptures, prayer and the sacraments.

Having said all that, we can ALSO worship anytime, anywhere...not as a SUBSTITUTE for sabbath celebration, but in ADDITION to!

I've joked with people many times that one of the places I have worshiped almost as well as in church has been at U2 wouldn't believe the looks I get!

But Bono himself has been known to say in the midst of a concert, not arrogantly, but humbly, sensitively, "God is in the house!"

Join the concert...see if you can worship along...and seek to worship God today...wherever you are!

Friday, March 5, 2010

I, (State your name), am a recovering orphan, Part IV

The final in my four-part series. If you missed yesterday's post, check it here

If you think about…all of our sin, failure and foolishness can ultimately be traced to "giving in" to an orphan mentality…the thought that we’re all alone in the world and there is no One Above Who loves us, cares for us and Who has a plan for our lives to be part of a Family and to live in a Home in a place of safety and strength.

I find it so amazing, interesting, even intriguing, that Jesus, near the time of going to the cross…near the time when the disciples would enter a season of great confusion, actually said to them, “I will NOT leave you…as ORPHANS” (John 14:18). Hmmmm.

It’s like…He knew.

He does.

We have this Deep Desire to hear the same words Jesus heard at His baptism: “You are My Beloved Son (or Daughter); with you I am well-pleased!” You are loved. You have a home. You are safe. You need not fear. You can be yourself. You don’t need to run. You no longer need to hide.

Come…join the family. Take your seat at the table.

Romans 8:15—You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons (and daughthers), by Whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Orphans tend to be self-consumed; they’ve rarely felt the love, affection, care, acceptance, or the sense of family they long for. Orphans who are adopted, however, eventually begin to be freed from self-absorption, through the process of love and care and a sense of belonging.

We’ll never love others unconditionally, we’ll never enter the risk of love, we’ll never be willing to give up our “rights” or be willing to truly sacrifice for others until we’re secure…and we’ll never truly be secure until we begin to plumb the depths of the reality of our adoption in Christ.

Part of our calling as image-bearers of the God Who created us is to seek to provide the safe place in our relationships where people have a home. Part of our calling as Christ-followers is to work to make our churches the New Garden, a place of safety and strength…a place others will feel at home…like Annie visiting “Daddy Warbuck’s” place at Christmas. We are to begin working now to re-make this world into the New Jerusalem...

Part of our calling as humans is to be the echo of the Voice of God to one another that says through the finished work of Christ…

“I will not leave you as orphans.”

Good news indeed.