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July 27, 2015, 9:23 AM

One of the perks of being Jesus: Calling us Fools.


There is a moment in the book of Luke that is startling to say the least.  I use the word "startling" because throughout the story of Jesus, he does amazing things that cement the truth that he is divine and we're not.  He rarely takes an action or has an outburst akin to something I would find myself saying/thinking.  The startling exception is Luke 24:25.  This moment sounds like something I want to yell while driving and have just gotten cut off.  "You Foolish People!!"

This rings my bell and sticks out because it is so rare to hear Jesus lay into someone in such a raw way.  In this instance he is talking to two walking companions after the messy weekend of the Crucifixion.  Everything they had thought about Jesus was put into question as they saw his body broken and buried.  They knew the teachings and the prophesies, but seeing the lifeless body of Jesus put all that into doubt.  He hits them hard, and we read this section of the resurrection account with detached interest, dont we?  The road to Emmaus makes a great sermon.  But instead of reading it with detached interest, we're going to put ourselves into the story.  

And Jesus just called us fools. 

Its painful to hear this, and Jesus begins a statement with “You foolish people!”  OUCH!  Cant you just call us slow?  What about dull?  But Foolish?  He just told me not to call anyone a fool in Matthew 5:22.  In fact, if I did I would be in danger of the wrath of the courts if I did as such.  I guess being the Son of God has some perks, like free reign to call us foolish.  

What hurts most is that he’s right on.  He has us pegged.  Foolish.  Painfully Foolish.

Before we cut Jesus off and try and defend ourselves, albeit showing ourselves more foolish, lets let him finish what he has to say:

“You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures.  Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 

See, these guys on the road to Emmaus didn’t have the full story yet.  Jesus had died, and as far as they knew, was still dead.  They didn’t have the appearances, they didn’t have the letters of Paul.  They probably had only SEEN physical copies of the Old Testament Scripture in Church, and incomplete at that.  But we know they KNEW the story, they knew the promise of a Messiah, they knew their role in the Kingdom.  

But they were still foolish.  Because while they knew the story, they were missing something greater than knowledge.  What was missing was the child-like belief and trust in God's plan, God's will, and God Himself.  Jesus had promised again and again that he would rise, defeat death, and show this world a kingdom the likes it had never seen.  Connecting those dots to his death and ensuing resurrection was difficult, but not something that should have ever been in doubt.  

Its easy to say now that they all should have known better.  Truth be told, we ALL should know better!  How much do you know?  How much have you been taught?  How many sermons have you heard?  How many cleverly alliterated blogs and bulletin articles have you read?  

But we are still foolish, aren’t we?  Because we forget, we disregard, we ignore, we live our lives oblivious to the power surrounding us.  We are foolish to forget.  We havent connected the dots.  What we do today echoes into our eternity.  Not just the part we play on Sunday mornings and the occasional mid-week gathering.  Today matters!  

This is your reminder:  DON’T FORGET!!  DON’T LOSE SIGHT OF THE POWER THAT HAS REDEEMED YOU!!!  Remember the story, remember the journey, but most of all: prepare for taking your next steps surrounded by the power and Spirit of God. 

 




July 20, 2015, 9:38 AM

Its a Trap!!!


What trap you say?!  A tiger trap, ala Calvin and Hobbes?  Those are easy to avoid, just don't grab the tuna sandwich hanging over a patch of straw!  Maybe its quicksand we're trying to avoid.  That's easy to spot as well.  Truth be told, I thought it would be a much bigger issue in my adult life, based on its presence in childhood adventures.  Even mousetraps are easy to avoid getting our fingers snapped.  JUST DON'T TOUCH THEM!!!  

So what trap are we speaking of here?  Following David's sermon yesterday (July 19, 2015) and the theme from his sermon on May 3rd, 2015, the trap we must avoid is the trap of falsehood, being inauthentic, avoiding the reality of our true selves.  There are two pieces of this that I want to talk about here:  First is the temptation to hide our emotional state.  Saying "fine" when asked how we're doing, when in reality we're on the planet farthest from.  This trap is dangerous because it separates us on a personal level with each other.  Too often, even if we're not the one placing ourselves on the island of "fine" we want others to just be "fine" so we can move on with our own lives and busyness.    

The second trap is far more dangerous and isolating; It's the trap of hiding our sin and struggles from each other.  I say its "far more dangerous" than the personal disconnect of our emotional game of hide and seek because this trap of isolating our sins to the deepest corners of our hearts, in the dark shadows of our inner thoughts and minds keeps us from opening ourselves to God AND each other. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit, the first great knowledge they discovered was Shame.  They were not given a greater understanding of time, space, or even love.  It was shame that they learned first, and shame that kept them hiding behind a bush when God came walking near.  Sin created a dark place in Adam's heart that didn't exist prior to his exploration into the world of temptation and discovery.  When that corner of his heart woke up, he no longer was transparent and authentic with God.  

We've been hiding behind a bush ever since.

When Jesus summed up all the laws and prophets into two basic commands, there is a word he included that needs expounding upon and examination:  ALL.  As in ALL your heart.  ALL your soul.  ALL your mind.  ALL your strength.  

There is no gap in ALL that allows for hidden corners.  If we're still hiding behind a bush, we've created a place where we think God doesn't see us, and we're not loving God as he commands.  What does loving God with ALL of us look like?  It looks like a walk in the Garden in the cool of the evening.  It looks like a building project of epic proportions while every other person on Earth laughs and mocks (the rain's coming people!!).  It looks like a young man being anointed King, and then running for his life while the current "king" makes a mockery of his charge.  It looks like two arms being stretched across a rough hewn log, nailed in place.  

It looks like a church full of people who not only come to worship with abandon, but to love each other as well.  Flaws, birthmarks, dark spots on our hearts and all.  If we hide behind a facade of nicety to our neighbors, or behind nice clothes and passionate worship in a nice building, we're no better than Adam and Eve trying poorly to escape their inevitable discovery behind a bush.  

The shame of Adam and Eve broke God's heart.  He created them (and us) to live a life free of that burden.  No one needs be contained on the Island of Fine.  We're all in this together.  

 

 




July 6, 2015, 10:10 AM

Glory. Honor. Immortality.


Glory.  Honor.  Immortality. 

That's my goal in this meager life.  I wrestle with it daily.  

If you weren't present for the sermon yesterday (July 05, 2015), then you're thinking my ego has finally run unchecked and I'm seeking prosperity and fame.  Good thing I have a frame of reference and can't let you run too wild with that accusation which isn't entirely false.  There are two words that hold much more power than any other in our realm of religion and spirituality:  Submission and Sacrifice.  

These two words, in their very essence and root, speak of things like Love, Grace, and Hope.  Without all the ingredients like those great things, submission and sacrifice cannot exist.  They are bigger than any one thing and paint a picture far more beautiful than any human thought or emotion.  They paint the picture of the Cross.  The Cross is the one moment in human history that transcends all human emotion and ambition.  It is the ultimate and unmatched example of the sheer force of submission and sacrifice.  

And we're called to emulate that.  

Our calling, which is layered deeply, as a church and individuals is to seek the Glory, Honor, and Immortality of the Cross.  (Romans 2: 4 - 9a).  No, there is no way to actually carry the same weight the Cross bore in forgiveness and mercy.  However, we can all carry the burden of the Cross' purpose and intention: Loving God, and Loving People.  When he allowed the Cross to happen, Jesus showed himself submitting and loving God unconditionally, no matter the hurt and pain.  And every moment of the Cross was for us.  

Jesus did not seek Glory, Honor, or Immortality for himself.  Everything pointed to God being glorified, honored, and made known forever.  

That is our call as we take up our cross and follow him.  Not so we can show the world just how heavy a cross we can carry without buckling.  Not so we can get pity or sympathy for the pain on our backs from the splintered wood.  And certainly not so our name is remembered long after we're gone.  Our call is to seek Glory, Honor, and Immortality for God's name.  That sounds all well and good, and makes for a positive sermon point.  We can't leave it there, though.  Making God famous MUST make its way into our routines.  We must find ourselves giving God the glory and honor when our day is perfect, and when our day looks a lot like a flash flood of despair and lament.  

I really like how Paul finishes I Corinthians 13:  "But these three things remain:  Faith, Hope, and Love.  The greatest of these is Love."  He speaks to what remains after we're gone:  the faith we kept, the hope we spoke, and the love we gave.  All of those can be summed up by how far we submitted and sacrificed ourselves to the Glory, Honor, and Immortality of the Cross.  

My reputation may suffer.  But if God is glorified through my integrity, then I'm on the right track.  My name may not carry the weight I think it should, but if God's name DOES receive the honor it deserves, I'm on the right track.  And if God's power and influence in my life and those closest to me last long after my body is broken down, then I've found the right kind of immortality.  




June 29, 2015, 10:21 AM

Its not as bad as we think.

Isaiah 31: 1  What sorrow awaits those who look to Egypt for help, trusting their horses, chariots, and charioteers and depending on the strength of human armies instead of looking to the LORD, the Holy One of Israel.

"What sorrow..."!!!    That sorrow includes the despair we feel when laws dont go our way (i.e. the Supreme Court ruling this week), or when our government decides tax laws need adjusted for non-profit entities like churches, or when we feel like media coverage is painting religion with a bias, or this, or that, etc... etc... 

Its easy to allow ourselves to sink into depression over our interpretations of how far gone our country/government/laws have gone in the past 60 years.  When we look back its always through rose-tinted glasses that make it appear we're too far gone to make any recovery to the country we knew and loved in the days it seemed everyone was a Christian.  The prophet Isaiah's message rings true throughout the centuries that have passed since his words were recorded in a scroll to be shared with Israel.  

Lets be reminded of what they were going through at that time:  CAPTIVITY!  They weren't just subjects to a government who didn't take their beliefs or traditions into account.  They were slaves to a country that only thought of them as worms, a people who deserved to be conquered and taught a lesson in "true" power.  To add insult to injury, a select few of the best and brightest from Israel were even made powerful members of the government system, which included them as an integral part of the conquering machine.  What hope remained if the even best became a part of the problem!?  

Isaiah had to actually remind Israel to STOP hoping in the power of Egypt, in an armed attack that might free them from oppression and restore them to a country all their own, ruled by their own beliefs and opinions.  Yes, THAT Egypt.  The one that had held Israel captive oh-not-so-long ago for an oh-so-long 400 years.  

Sigh. 

Israel needed a reminder of the real power in the Universe:  the Creator; Our Savior, the LORD and Holy One of Israel.  No amount of oppression, policy, slavery, captivity, or law would remove the LORD's power or majesty.  And yet we think every time a school board makes a decision, or the Supreme Court makes a ruling that we're experiencing the demise of religion as we know it.  We've forgotten, again and again, who holds power and dominion over our souls.  Its not Rome, Babylon, or any of the branches of government in the good ole USA.  

Lets save the weeping and gnashing of teeth for the issues that are really plaguing our country and world.  Issues like homelessness, starvation, abuse, the sex-slave industry, and any other mistreatment or abuse of the innocent.  Lets let the world be the world, pretending that they have any power.  All the while we serve the LORD and claim a citizenship in an eternal realm where we wont have to fret about moral rulings, redefinition of marriage, or death and loss of any kind.  That's more powerful than any manmade law, and stronger than a million chariots.  




June 22, 2015, 9:30 AM

Excuses


'Tis but a short blog: 

No more excuses.  

 

Ok, it will be a little longer than that.  I need to follow up on some sermon thoughts yesterday (06/21/15), and reiterate something vital that doesn't get nearly the amount of press it deserves from Romans 1.  It is verse 20:  "So they will have no excuse for not knowing God."  

Paul is speaking of people outside the realm of regular attenders and those in the "know" who have made worship and seeking God part of their routine.  He speaks here of all people who gobble up air on this planet.  Everyone is without an excuse for knowing God based on the glory (and fact) of creation.  The power exhibited in creation speaks to the magnificence of God.........and removes every excuse there is to knowing Him.  I like how blunt Paul is here.  There is no room given to arguments of evolution (Micro or Macro), old-Earth vs new-Earth...  Its simple:  God is, and has given us everything we need to see Him.  

So whats our excuse? That question is to those who do "know".  How do we explain the marginalization of things like evangelism, accountability, and forgiveness within modern Christianity when the evidence of our Creator is so plainly stated that even people who sleep until 2pm on Sunday can see and know him?  We've thrust reputation, financial security, and infrastructure to the top of the priority list for Church and as individuals.  And we have excuses at the ready for why we don't reach our neighbors, seek unity among believers, and live in peace with those we with whom we disagree.  

While the target of Paul's language was non-believers... We're not off the hook.  No more excuses.  


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