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June 2, 2014, 11:30 AM

God is Bigger Than...


Me.  

You.  

Us.  

My Problems. 

Your Problems.  

My Joys.

Your Joys. 

Cancer.

Divorce. 

Sin. 

Hopelessness. 

If you agree, nod your head vigorously.  If you don't agree, head back into the Bible for a while until you get a clearer picture to the scope of God. I'd suggest Genesis 1:1.  "In the beginning was God..."  

That is pretty much all that is on my mind at this moment.  Seriously, just God Is.  I imagine that was the intent behind his message of "I AM" to Moses and the slaves in Egypt.  Yes, they were in slavery.  Yes, life stunk.  Yes, they were fighting for their very survival breath by breath and moment to moment.  But "I AM."  Thats the message they needed to hear first, last, and forever. 

Whatever has you groaning.  "I AM."  Whatever you think of Church right now,  "I AM."  Whatever is going to happen at work this week,  "I AM."   Whatever...  "I AM."  

 




May 27, 2014, 3:05 PM

A Poor Choice of Words


“Thats a poor choice of words.”   Surprisingly enough, I’ve heard this said to me before.  I know,  you’re shocked.  Another common occurrence with me is when telling a joke in a noisy situation, or in a crowded room…  and when its time for the punchline, which I want to give proper expression and emphasis to, the noise fades and my voice rings loud and clear.  Naturally, every eye locks on me, and boom… embarrassment.  There’s not really a moral to that story, I just wanted you to share in my awkwardness.  

Moving on, I think we have made some poor choices with our use of words.  There is a weight that words carry, and once used, they can hardly be removed.  Randy Harris, in his book God Work - Confessions of a Standup Theologian, offers a glimpse into the power of words and labels.  I will paraphrase here:  If you decide to name your son Bubba, you can be assured he will never rise to the role of Head Curator of the Louvre Museum in Paris.  You may expect great things, but there is a weight to the language you have used in assigning him that moniker.  **

Traversing through our series on “This:” we have looked passively on the weight of the words and labels we have used to describe some of the most influential and important concepts in following Christ.  We have words like Worship and Baptism that are labels to specific things we “DO” as Christians.  And continuing on this line of thinking, there is a danger in assigning those things as words we can throw around as… well, as things.  

“I went to Worship this morning.”  I reply with:  “Thats a poor choice of words.”  When we label what we do on Sunday mornings as “Worship” it allows us to DE-label everything else we do as Worship as well.  Our steps and breath become things we can do outside the realm of worship, as opposed to living and breathing Christ.  Labeling Sunday morning as Worship lets us categorize that hour or so as our Worship for the week, and our thoughts are then given free range the rest of our days.  Its just a poor choice of words.  

The same goes with the idea of changing the tone of Baptism away from Immersion.  That has nothing to do with the process of baptism and everything to do with being covered from head to toe in the character of Christ.   “I was baptized when I was 16.”  Thats what I might tell you when you ask when I became a Christian.  Unfortunately, that phrase is devoid of a proper labeling of the lifelong commitment I’ve made to know and be known by God.  Because if all I have to offer is the date, time, and locale of my baptism to offer as the proof of my dedication to Christ, its just not enough.  Its a poor choice in words.  

My drivers license has all the information you’ll need to know if I can drive a car.  However, it gives you no clear indication of whether I can actually drive a car well enough in traffic.  Sure, the fact that I have a license carries some weight, but it cannot provide you the experience necessary to trust me behind the wheel.  I have to give you something more than just a few words to express that trust from you.  And thats where my story, my life, my outward expressions of a life in Christ make all the difference.  

I’m not going to ask to see your drivers license.  But I may ask to see the character and holiness of Jesus made evident in your words and actions outside the walls of our nifty building.  

**You should read the entirety of his book, its fantastic… I may even let you borrow it, if you promise to be careful with it!!  




May 19, 2014, 11:42 AM

Tying it all together


I have a question.  Actually, I have lots of questions, but thats not for today’s blog.  I have a question for you, the reader:  “What is really worth getting upset about?”  

I will confess that my temper flares more with inanimate objects than with real people and things.  Seriously, I have thrown more screwdrivers and pliers than I’d like to admit because they just didn't work the way they weren't supposed to in the first place.  Yes, you read that right, I get mad at the tool for not doing something it shouldnt do in the first place.  And don't get me started on extension cords.  

<Deep inhale… deep exhale…>  Ok, I’ve calmed down a bit.  

Back to the question now…  What is really worth getting upset about?  I woke up late Saturday night/Sunday morning with a clear-headed, common-sense related revelation:  I wondered why we are so intent on the details and specifics and miss the big picture.  I couldn't wrap my head around why there is so much nitpicking, when the reality of most of our concerns equate to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  

We forget THIS.  We miss the beauty of the forest by picking on one or two trees that are seemingly blocking our path to greater peace and joy.   The THIS in our instance is Jesus; Plain and simple, Jesus.  The Jesus who takes children on his knee when everyone else was shooshing them and pushing them aside so he could deal with the “adult” issues.  The plain and simple Jesus who simply talked with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, not throwing her and her tribe under the bus, but offering peace and comfort in a time when they were being overlooked.  

I wonder if we would be in wonder at the simplicity of Jesus’ ministry, or if we would be on the side of the Pharisees trying to squeeze the law into every act and moment of life.  As we’ve walked through half of our series on “THIS”, we’ve looked at the core of the Lord’s Supper and Worship.  As we rediscover these sacraments, it is startling that the writers of the New Testament were not caught up in the “how” but the “why”.  The “why” was always Jesus.  

The intent for a relationship with Christ is simplicity.  Yes, there are nuances and battles, but the reality is that WE bring the nuances and battles into the relationship.  Jesus brings love and a surprising level of tolerance for our inadequacies and weaknesses.  All the baggage that comes with following Christ is baggage checked at the gate of human expectation.  The Pharisees had regulations, Jesus has forgiveness.  The Pharisees expected perfection, Jesus expects compassion.  

At every turn, within every accusation of blasphemy and deceit to the law, Jesus countered with compassion.  That was his THIS.  Loving people became so much more important than getting everything right.  Compassion trumps law…  EVERY time.  Thats what ties it all together.  Thats why we do THIS.  We have Communion every week because of Jesus.  Plain and Simple.  There is no law that dictates its format, and lets be honest with ourselves, historically that law that we say dictates how its supposed to be done has been interpreted different ways.  We worship because of Jesus.  Plain and Simple.  Because God IS, we offer ourselves to him.  Because God loves us, we respond back.  No law or format can dictate how that happens.  It happens from overjoyed hearts, not check-lists or formatted, scheduled services.  

Back to our original question:  what upsets us?  The law upsets us.  The format upsets us.  The “how” and “why” that we think is important upsets us.  What should upset us is the lost focus of THIS.  When we take our eyes off Jesus and place them on us and “them” we lose THIS.  And THIS is why we do anything at all.  

 




May 12, 2014, 2:09 PM

Its all about This


Lets just start with the ending:  no amount of religious activity will ever replace an insincere heart.  Stories abound in Scripture of people trying to mask the true wishes of their hearts with outward expressions of religiosity.  Saul and his jumping of the gun with the sacrifices he was told to wait on...  Ananias and Sapphira and their generosity-iced greed...  Its almost embarrassing to us to read these accounts of people trying to pull one over on God or the Apostles.  But remember, we have the whole story.  Its easy for us to see them and their futility. Its not so easy to be a witness to our own.  

The Pharisees spent their entire lives creating ritual and rule to mask the lack of spirit.  It became all about the practice of religion that redeemed them, and took the heart of the matter out of the equation.  What is the heart of the equation?  "This."  

In the commercial age of churches and media-fed religion, we've rediscovered the comfort of religious activity.  The more public and vocal, the better.  Its a relief to check that off the weekly "to-do" list and move on with other, more desirable pursuits.  We mask our insincerity for being fully known by Christ and knowing Christ fully with busyness and activity that appears to be energized from a moving spirit of sacrifice and submission.  We like to categorize and compartmentalize our beliefs within the realm of what we've done or not done... For example, today I have not murdered anyone.  BOOM!  Achievement unlocked.  13, 505 days and counting of being right with God.  Everything changes when Jesus brings us to the foot of the cross and asks us to not just be those who dont murder, but to be those with the heart not to be angry.  

We can play the same game with lust, envy, addiction.  Well, I havent stolen anything today...doing pretty good.  When Jesus enters the picture though, everything changes.  The drastic change in expectation and the depth of replacing religious activity with knowing and being known by Christ is painted perfectly in Micah chapter 6.  

6 What can we bring to the Lord? What kind of offerings should we give him?
Should we bow before God with offerings of yearling calves?
7 Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins?
8 No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

The passage begins with the simple question: "What does God want from me?"  Human nature kicks in with the valuation of things, yearling calves... rams and rivers of oil.  This is folly, because no one has this amount to give.  Does God ask that much of us?  Does he ask for the ungiveable?  It gets worse and more absurd when the price of appeasing God makes us all into Abraham offering Isaac.  Is that what God wants?  

No.  Simply put, no.  He wants us to walk with Jesus.  Understand his justice and righteousness and practice that.  He wants us to echo the mercy and grace flowed over us onto those we encounter.  And top that off with the humble nature of Christ.  Not seeking more, more, more of me, but less of me and more of him.  

No sacrifice can satisfy God's desire for a loving heart.  No offering will ever placate him in place of honesty, integrity, and compassion.  He has shown us what is good... He has shown us This.  

 

 




May 5, 2014, 11:13 AM

Whats so extraordinary about the extraordinary?


http://tinyurl.com/mba5opy

Because sometimes we jump.......and fall flat on our faces.  I think Christians, or modern day Jesus seekers, equate extraordinary with perfect.  If we're going to do great things, we have to be great.  While there is a caveat to this that does require excellence and purity in our lives, we cannot ever assume God's expectations of us are really that simple:  Be perfect.....or ELSE!  I read a little section of scripture in my sermon yesterday from Matthew 11: 28 - 30.  Within that section, Jesus talks about his willingness to yolk himself right alongside us.  Yes, we yolk ourselves to Jesus and take his burden on our own shoulders, but the yoking goes both ways.  We choose to join Jesus, and Jesus says "YES!  I'm IN!!!  Lets Do This!"  

The extraordinary life looks a whole lot like real life.  Being yolked with Jesus makes Tuesday mid-morning look a whole lot like the last 37 Tuesday mid-mornings:  Meetings.  Classes that dont seem to end.  Menial tasks in cubicles.  And Jesus is still all-in, yolked right there with us, in our lives that sometimes look anything BUT extraordinary.  

And He Loves It.  

When we take on the burden of Jesus, we bring to the table all our weariness, baggage, guilt, shame, sin, imperfections, attitudes, basically the lump sum of us. Jesus grabs hold of those things and hands us back his burden:  Love.  Love that shows itself in patience and kindness in the face of a world that is anything but to us.  

I know what you're thinking right now:  "patience is not a light burden..."  I know.  But think about that yolk, think about what makes the relationship with Jesus so extraordinary.  He takes OUR burdens off of us.  When two oxen are tied together, the weakness of one is masked by the strength of the two.  Jesus shoulders the burden of our weaknesses, which frees us up to take advantage of our combined strength.  

So if you're fighting to find even a small measure of the extraordinary in your life, things like patience, kindness, removing pride and jealousy... what burden are you shouldering that makes them so difficult to add?  The lack of contentment will make jealousy almost impossible to banish.  Arrogance and the need for recognition or empowerment will make the release of pride and boasting impossible.  Mistreatment of the innocent, or at least the desire to take advantage of others for your own gain will make Justice unattainable.  Sweeping the evidence of your sin under the rug (or under the tent in Aichan's case in Joshua 7) will only make your burden, or adding any of the characteristics of Jesus, unbearable.  

Are we yoking ourselves to the world, our desires, our vision of extraordinary and wondering why following Jesus is just so difficult and time consuming?  If we're attached to the world, then yes, following Jesus is hard.  Are the challenges to live an extraordinary life within our routines just too challenging and time consuming?  Check the other side of your yolk.  I'm betting its not Jesus looking back at you, but the weight of all the baggage we bring along staring us right in the eyes.  

 


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