Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Are we dead or alive?

"If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
If we endure, we will also reign with him;
If we deny him, he also will deny us;
If we are faithless, he remains faithful -
   - for he cannot deny himself"
                      (2 Timothy 2:11-13)

There are certain things in this world we can call opposites.  I love the satisfaction of a good critique (in the positive sense), of finding the positive and negative attributes of something.  My wife and I watched a ten minute critique of cutting boards on PBS last night, America's Test Kitchen.  Thoroughly satisfying, though I am not in the cutting board market right now.  Expensive and Cheap, Durable and Flimsy, Beautiful and Ugly.  Even cutting boards.

There are some things in this world that are different, but not opposites.  We call these choices a False Dilemma.  There is actually no need to chose between them.  Sometimes you can chose both, other times you may ignore both.  We are about to chose a president, two will debate on TV tonight, but you may vote for some unheard of other.  They may all be good options, more likely they may all be scoundrels.  But there are infinite possibilities.  Not just two. No way to find opposites.  

There are some things in this world that stand alone.  There is no opposite of it.  I doubt there is an opposite of lemonade; it is simply a thing.  It is a good thing.  God made the world, and called it good.  I assume lemons and lemonade are a way we see the goodness of God.  Especially when we are anxious for cool weather and summer persists.  It is simply good.

Am I dead or alive?  I will work may way back out.

God, and Christ and his faithfullness stand alone.  More Satisfying than Lemonade. There is no opposite.  He is not conditional on us.  He is alive.  He is life.  In him all things hold together.

I am not God, but I try to be.  It's why I want to be President, or better...King.  When a newspaper asked "What is the problem with the world?" G.K. Chesterton (A British Theologian 100 years ago) responded "I am."  I am the problem.  I bring pain into the world.  The opposite of good is not evil; Evil is the corruption of Good.  And there are many corruptions seen here and there.  So we must not deny...we must endure.

So if I die with Christ, I live in Christ.  Buried with Christ, raised to walk a new life.  So I wonder if I am dead or alive.  These opposites haunt me.  How can I die to who I am?  How can Christ be alive in me?  When my natural self is placed on the cutting board, what will be found.  Divide my soul, my spirit, my body.  Am I dead or Alive?

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stands in the way of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And on his law he meditates day and night.
Psalm 1

I was meditating on these verses today, or trying to meditate, or trying to try…you get the point.  The point is it’s hard to meditate. Hard to focus. It’s hard to make the mind travel a single path and not wander down every fork in the road.  I double back on myself, I repeat, I say the same thing again, I repeat, and I double back on myself.  And here’s that fork again, where was I?  Oh yeah, meditate.

I want the blessing.  And I understand the blessing.  There are so many ready to counsel us right into the worse decisions we ever made, ready to take advantage, ready to tell us we’ll never succeed.  Just when you were focused, they offer you a different path of discouragement and promises of failure.  If you’ve not met these people, believe me that you are blessed.  But you’ve probably met these people…most likely you just came from one of those meetings.  And they’ve dragged you down, making you feel unblessed. The feeling is hard to mistake and even harder to discard.  Meditate on God’s law, and there they are.  Walk, sit, stand…there they are.

As I was meditating on these verses I had a vision.  A vision of moles.  Whack-a-mole to be most accurate.  My meditating thoughts bounced in and out of prayer, in and out of my conscience, and my waking self wanted that giant mallet to take control again.  Beat back the scoffers, the sinners, the wicked thoughts.  I wanted to meditate on the blessing, but the moles just keep popping up.  And so I started looking for my mallet and…I found it.

I started thinking not just on the Law, but on its promises.  I started thinking on the promises that God gave me, not just of my crimes against that Law.  God is working something in me, he promised me that.  “If [I] confess [my] sins, he is faithful and just to forgive [me my] sins and to cleanse [me] from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)  Where I fall short of the mark, even in my focus, God has brought something new in me.  He picks up a big mallet and plays the game for me.  And He’s really good at it. “Did [I] presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead [me] to repentance.” (Rom. 2:4)  Repentance…Changing the way that I think.  While even in my meditation, God has a renewing power.  To think on Christ and his perfection, and the Grace he offers me.

The Grace of God is a power unlike any other.  God uses this unexpected tool to open up a world to me that I never deserved.  I didn’t deserve the blessing.  “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.  By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:3)

So we have a delight today that Christ has acted for us.  And the wicked, and the sinners, and the scoffers can’t get us down.  My delight is in the Law of the Lord, And my Salvation is in Grace.  My delight is in Jesus Christ, And the blessing for me is real.  Now that I can think about. HUMMM…WHACK!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

A Love Story
And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And some of the bystanders hearing it said, "Behold, he is calling Elijah." And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down." And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!" (Mark 15:33-39)

Know today how much you are loved!

Friday, February 11, 2011


John 13
18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’ 19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” 21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” 22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” 25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

Scholars are baffled by this passage. More they are baffled by Judas. I think we are all baffled by Satan for the same reason. How can one so close to God, betray him? How can someone in the midst of the light, seek out darkness?

I was sitting at the corner of a busy intersection yesterday watching people go by. I usually watch the cars, but I was straining to see who was in the cars. Women, men, children in the back seat, undisclosed shapes behind tented windows. I did not see anyone I knew. Then I thought how God knows them all. It was very overwhelming, just thinking of the people at that intersection.

God knows us each and every one so well. He made us and he shaped us. He gives us good gifts of Joy and food and celebrations and Life (Acts14). And even in this story, as Judas is planning to betray Jesus, Jesus is serving him food and washing his feet. I am preaching this week on the surrounding context of Service, and Jesus’ example. Yet there is this passage in between that is so complicated. There is not enough time to dwell on Judas’ actions, or Satan’s actions, on Sunday. It is enough to look at Jesus’ example. I only have forty minutes or so. But how can they, being so close to Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, The Light, choose to dwell in darkness?

I have always believed that faith would be easier if I met God face to face. Sure, I might not last on my feet for more than a few seconds. Sure, I might fall down and weep. Sure, no one in scripture is anything by humbled in front of God. But I have always assumed I would choose that humbling. But then I look at Judas, and I see that in the midst of God he was drawn to darkness. He chose to sell out, literally, and take the silver over the Son of God. The light shown on him, and he rejected it.

And I end on this. This week, did I take the silver too? Was I drawn to light, or did I sit in darkness? Where did my thoughts dwell? If it is so easy to believe when one is in the presence of God, did I seek out God’s presence in prayer and worship, or was I drawn in other directions? In the sermon, it’s going to be so easy to say “Look at Christ and his example of service”, but I am glad I don’t have to dwell on Judas. It is an unsavory deed, to look into the thoughts of human heart, of my human heart.

Romans 8:1-2 “There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the Law of the Spirit of Life has set them free from the Law of Sin and of Death.”

I John 1:7 “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his son cleanses us from all sin.”

Friday, February 4, 2011


Down days, snow days, days with nothing to do.  Couped up, stood up, all alone with coffee and thoughts and wants of something to pull us up, up to the world of important deadlines.  Desires of the mad screams of a boss to pick up the pace or else, but there is no pace and nothing else to bring us up.  We are down.  All the things that I would love to get away to now suddenly at my disposal, and all of them are disposed from my options in my downness.

After a week of three snowdays, a foot of snow or just less came down, I finally had to get out.  I went for a run last night.  My neighbor called me crazy.  Maybe, but I had to get out.  I didn't run far, but I was exhilerated. I was up.  And while I was up I had a thought.  I do my best thinking while I'm moving.  My thought, "I am a fighter." I need a battle.  I need the mad boss, the tight schedule, the impossible, the lurking failure just around the corner to bring me up.  I don't want to go running in nice weather, but the coldest day of the year makes sense to me. 

And then I realized this illustrates my relationship with God so well, though I don't like the outcome.  I want to be the fighter.  I want to conquer.  But I can't.  My battle is with sin.  I can't win it.  My judgment is from God and I can't fight Him either.  And if I throw myself at it or Him I will certainly end in death.  And living in this place of struggle has been so normal for so long.  I don't want to be down. How do I get up?

So how about someothing new...

36 As it is written:
   “For your sake we face death all day long;
   we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8)

I'm putting down the old gloves and picking up the new.  I'm picking up the new call of love.  Let's fight together for the Love of a Savior.  Can this love pick me up?  Pick me up to fight for life?  Fight for my community? Can I put my thoughts on things above, on heavenly things?  No longer will we be down. Now let's go do something so bold that our neighbors will call us all Crazy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Community Table

I had some friends help me carry a table into my house the other night.  My wife and I finally grew up and bought a real table.  Our family of six won't fit around the cheap old one any more.  But I'm so glad I have friends. The friends are close enought they will probably eat around the table soon anyway.  And it makes me think how great it is to have community.  But this is all over a table.  Remember the story from the Gospels about the friends who brought the paralytic to Jesus.

Mark 2

 1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
 6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
 8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Does this give you any feeling that it's time we impact our community in a huge way.  I started this blog to dream about the future of our community.  So here we go.  I have been a part of some great communities.  Powerful enough to bring people to Jesus.  And no, I don't think it's Allegory.  I think we should bring people to the one person who has power to forgive, heal, restore, and glorify.  But how is that done?  How do we bring people to the Table? (Luke 14:15-28)  How can you bring people to the Table?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

i heart dreams

Isaiah 29:8
As when a hungry man dreams he is eating
   and awakes with his hunger not satisfied,
or as when a thirsty man dreams he is drinking
   and awakes faint, with his thirst not quenched,
so shall the multitude of all the nations be
   that fight against Mount Zion.

Have you ever had a dream about someone?  Someone that you love.  A dream that inspires you to love them even more.  To be in love.  Waking up in that place where you can't forget about them.  You feel yourself bursting at the seams with affection.  Or sometimes the opposite.  Waking up from a dream to feel yourself crying...or almost crying. Guys don't cry. Hurt in the imagination by one so close the wound lingers in real time.  And the thoughts keep returning to love.  To hurt.  To the dream.

i have had those dreams.  It's weird to me how a dream can inspire emotions that follow me all day. Sometimes its even difficult to pinpoint who the dream is about.  But the feeling doesn't go away.  It's deep in the heart, deeper than the mind usually dwells.  The dreams carry the heart to the surface, bubbling up like magma, powerfully hot, seething to the top layer, simmering against the landscape, waking to the dullness of the old world now shattered by the new.  Then i remember, it is only a dream. But this is loves power.  The intangible manifested.  The dream filters its way into reality for a day, perhaps to the evening, only drawing out slowly with the tide of time.  And then the dream finds its place again. 

I wonder if this is my place before God.  What is the power of love and admiration between us?  What is my role in this dream?  Does it matter if i cry for Him?  He is high and i am low.  Does it matter if i pour out my heart into love poems and bring myself to the edge of existence.  What does God think of me? Does He dream of me and then think of me all day?  I feel the weight of that question.  Am I as powerful as a dream?

One wiser than i said:
"How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important.  Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance except insofar as it is related to how He thinks of us.  It is written that we shall 'stand before' Him, shall appear, shall be inspected.  The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God.  To please be a real ingredient in the divine be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son - it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is." (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory)

Now what I keep wondering, do i believe this in my heart, where the dreams sleep?