Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Most illnesses do not strike like lightening. The ground is prepared for years, through bad habits, stress, emotional and moral problems, and maybe most significantly -- the 'secret tragedies' in every heart. "Man does not die," a doctor remarked, "He kills himself."
Every act of physical, psychological, or moral disobedience of God's purpose for our life has its inevitable consequences. It's the call of the church not to merely treat the illness (sin) but to treat the patient (what caused the sin).
But we don't have time or, more honestly, we don't want to take the time. It's easier to write a prescription -- 'be saved' and 'join the church' and 'come to the meetings' and 'give your time and money'-- then to help people resolve the 'secret tragedies' that keep them sick.
Jesus took a different approach. He understood the disease. But he also treated the patient. His aim was to bring us into relationship with His Father and thereby to bring us into complete wholeness--inside and outside.
"May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together -- spirit, soul, and body -- and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:23).
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Unlike Rabbi Herchel, we've lost our sense of wonder. We walk through God's creation listening to I-Pods, talking or texting on cell phones, or watching mini DVDs. We've become sophisticated tech-heads going through life without any sense of wonder.
Only the newest tech-toy causes us wonder. Yet even our tech-wonder is short lived. It dies by tomorrow. The new becomes old. Yesterday's wonder becomes today's boredom.
While we wait for our next tech-toy, we barely notice the stars in the sky, a full moon, or dewdrops clinging to rose leaves. Hummingbirds come and go. We don't see them. We mulch every leaf as soon as it falls. We seldom notice a red tail hawk in flight, a chipmunk scampering for a hiding place, a lizard soaking up the sun, or the tiny spider patiently waiting for its next meal.
But as tragic as missing God's creative panorama of color, sound, and smell is, we're creating a greater deficit -- we bypass the wonder of God. We sit through church services and take for granted "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit."
Let us ask God for the gift he gave to Rabbi Joshua Abraham Herchel: "Father, grant me the grace of wonder. Surprise me, amaze me, awe me. Allow me to rediscover the wonder of your Person, the glory of your holiness, the marvel of your love and grace, and the surprise of your gifts."
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Therefore, God clouded the truth and kept them outside of grace.
Is that fair?
It's want they wanted. It was the destiny of their own making. And it's a warning to us all.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
God's Word comes to us as story -- not myth or fiction -- but real-life story. Too often we read God's Story in fragments, a verse here, a verse there, a paragraph here, a chapter there. The smaller the fragment the easier it is to lose the Story.
God's Word is a huge story told by the Spirit through human authors using preaching, prophecy, poetry, parable, narrative, genealogy, wisdom, prayer. And this huge story has one purpose: God reveals himself to us in Jesus Christ.
So when you read God's Story make sure you allow the Spirit to pull you into it. Don't just read to get information or to find a "word" to meet your need for the moment. Allow the Spirit to tell you God's story. Be sure that you not only get the story, but that you get in the story.
It's a story of Papa-God's great love, mercy, and grace. Outside of grace, we are living corpses -- "dead in our trespasses and sins." Without hope. Unable to change ourselves. Insensitive and unresponsive to God. The walking-dead. Sure, we're full of good intentions, but we're also sin-driven.
We cannot over exaggerate what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. God ...
- Blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Jesus
- Made us holy, blameless, and covered us with His love
- Adopted us into His family
- Removed all our sins
- Brought us under Christ's headship
- Chose and predestined us according to His perfect will
- Sealed us by the Holy Spirit
- Raised up with Christ in glory
- Saved by grace through faith
- Fashioned us into His personal work of art.
Thank you, Papa-God, for your great story of lavish grace!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
We sing about peace; we hope and pray for peace; we promote peace, but for every baby step we take forward, we take a giant step backwards.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
Jesus understood that he offended a lot of people--especially the religious crowd. He didn't fit their notion of God.
Who Jesus was, what he said, what he did, how he lived, who he associated with--offended their religious mantra.
Jesus offended their traditions, cozy rituals, God-in-a-box theology, manipulative-control over others, their love affair with money and power. The Offense exposed their hypocrisy, confronted their disobedience, and unraveled their neatly packaged lives.
We've adopted their habits. We try our best to remove the offense from Christianity. We put God back in a box. A highly sophisticated box. But a box nevertheless.
We practice a compatible, bendable Christianity without the possibility of an offense. We preach soft, sweet, self-empowering messages that pretend to represent Christ. We make Jesus reasonable, miracles rational, faith universal, the atonement ritual, sin a mistake, and the Godhead symbolic.
We've figured God out and recreated Christ. We've traded his offense for community, his narrow road for a six lane interstate, his one way for many ways, his moral integrity for moral compromise.
When we take away from Christianity the possibility of offense, when we remove God's righteous judgment on sin and unrepentant sinners, when we annul the necessity of repentance and the call to Christ-like holiness, when we promote what's left as a viable religion, we've not only deceived ourselves, we've deceived our world. We've become peddlers of echos signifying nothing.
Take away the Offense and we'd be more honest to lock the church doors, or better, sell the property and turn it into an amusement park.
No offense... no Christ.
No Christ...no God.
No God...no hope.
It's our call.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Do you ever feel like God enjoys keeping us off balance?
It has to do with expectations. We all have them. And if we've lived longer than a day or two, we've discovered that life doesn't always match up to our expectations. Things don't turn out like we thought they would.
Relationships birthed in the sheer enjoyment of just being together, hanging out, talking, playing a common sport or sharing a common hobby dwindle to a quick text, a short email, and a Christmas card.
Marriages begun in passion, spending big chunks of time together, talking, sharing life-experiences sink to a few grunts, begrudging signs of affection, and more silence than communication.
Careers blasted off like rockets sputter to an abrupt halt. Dreams vanish in a thick fog of just-trying-to-get-by. It almost makes us not want to hope.
But the reverse is also true. Life can be flooded with unexpected blessing in an instant. It's the surprise of good things. Remember Abraham and Sara? They settled for a life without children. No giggles, baby-talk, first steps. No heritage. Then God showed up and announced, "It's a boy!"
God likes to keep us off balance.
"We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God's purpose prevails" (Proverbs 19:21). While we're planning our next step, God is busy redesigning the map.
Enjoy the ride. No telling what's around the next corner!
Monday, July 20, 2009
Lost: One planet with some people still on it. Lost: One child left in confusion, one woman raped of sanctity, one man castrated of manhood. Lost: One adult deaf to hope. Lost: One generation lacking moral justice. Lost: One society gulping down gallons of self-tranquilizing propaganda -- "we can have something for nothing." Lost: Leaders clawing one another to death in their lust for power. Lost: Huge segments of society carried off by rip currents of relativism. Lost: Freedom mauled by political predators, redefined by social architects, negated by power brokers. Lost: Substantive relationships with people and God. Lost: People somewhere east of hell. Lost: Common sense, personal significance. Lost: Our way and our God.
Lost: Not moments of disorientation that can be corrected by a GPS, but a life-condition that we can't correct by ourselves. We've drifted into treacherous waters, currents stronger than we are. We're lost and we can't get back to shore.
Lost as a life-condition is terminal. Every way is the wrong way. Every turn the wrong turn. Every step takes us deeper into the black forest. We're confused, angry, afraid, out of sorts. We should know better but we don't. We should be able to find our way home but we can't. We've lost our innocence, our faith, our direction, our center, our sense, our God.
There is One who waits for our return. "... there is one bell that rings above all the tinkling cymbals." It is the voice of a Waiting Father. His voice never ceases to sound. For the lost, His is a voice of love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Follow the voice home. Kneel at His feet. Repent. "Father, I have sinned against you."
Fall into His forgiving arms.
And the lost is lost no more.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
"Take a good look at me. I was created to do what I do and that's it. But I can't do a fraction of what you do. I'm a brownish-green, bumpy, creature with powerful legs -- which some of your fellow humans find tasty -- a long, sticky tongue, a loud croak, and an veracious appetite for bugs. That's all I'll ever be. But not you. There are few limits to what you can be. God made you the crown of his creation. So, when you feel insignificant, get down on yourself, or feel worthless, think about me."
As I put the toad down and watched him hop into the cool waters of the little pond, I remembered David's words from Psalm 8 -- "What is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings (angels) and crowned him with glory and honor."
But toads can't talk ... can they?
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Can I keep my thoughts secret from other people? Yes. Can I keep even one thought secret from God? No. God's Spirit fills all time and space -- I'm never out of His earshot or out of His sight.
What do I do with my secret thoughts? I follow David's lead: "Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24).
My secrets are no secret to Him. Yet Papa-God loves me enough to invite me to open-up and come clean. Do I trust Him enough to tell everything to Him? He loves me enough to listen, understand, correct, forgive, and secure me in my journey toward eternity with Him.
God knows what no one else knows.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
I received a complaint about the tone of a Christian alumni newsletter. The person suggested that the tone of the newsletter was too bias, too Christian, too conservative. She further suggested that in the future the newsletter should reflect the diversity of the alumni in their opinions, beliefs or lack thereof, and lifestyles.
Diversity sounds right. It makes sense. It seems fair, the right thing to do. Yet it doesn't settle well with me--like eating a meal of bad fish that looks delicious.
So, what about "diversity" as a life-philosophy? We humans are without a doubt a diverse bunch. Ethnic, cultural, educational, political, religious diversity describes the world as we know it. But here's what I think. The real issue behind diversity as a life-philosophy is relativism. Reduced to its basic thesis, diversity means: "anything goes and everything is acceptable." No rules. Few boundaries. Furthermore, this life-view implies those who are not "open minded" are narrow-eyed bigots and intellectual-snails.
Diversity promotes a broadminded, inclusive, gracious, live-and-let-live attitude. When dressed in Christian clothes, diversity appears caring and compassionate. What is wrong with that?
Nothing ... until we meet God.
Then the rub comes. God reveals himself as the One and Only God -- there is one God and no god but God. God is absolute. This alone sets God in direct opposition to diversity as a life-view.
If God is absolute, then obedience to this absolute God must include a refusal to accept anyone or anything that threatens to usurp God -- his place, authority, person, character, or truth. Therefore, diversity as a life-view (even when it's promoted by the church and/or society) is a dangerous form of idolatry that dares to slap God in the face.
Diversity as a life-view benches God, dilutes truth, and headbutts absolute truth off the playing field. Therefore, people who know and follow an absolute God and choose to live by God's absolute truth become impossible people because God's truth is not "both-and" but "either-or."
With God: it's light or darkness, truth or a lie, right or wrong, real or counterfeit, holy or profane, saved or lost. We can't have it both ways. John was clear about this: "The man who says, 'I know him,' but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (I John 2:4).
"There is one God, there is no god but God, and there is no rest for any people who rely on any god but God. Let God be God."
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Evil has a life of its own.
Christians and non-Christians alike struggle with evil. We call it sin. The difference between a believer and a non-believer is not that the former no longer sins, but how we each deal with sin. The non-believer may either deny or accept the existence of personal sin. Either way sin is given more power. The non-believing-sinner may deny personal guilt or sink under the weight of personal guilt and despair. In each case, sin reigns.
The believing-sinner has a Savior who delivers him from sin--past, present, and future. The believing-sinner who confesses and repents finds mercy and grace to restore his soiled soul. The believing-sinner finds strength from the Holy Spirit to move God-ward and break free from the tyranny of evil. The believing-sinner no longer punishes himself but receives full pardon from the One who took his punishment for him.
"If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong" (I John 1:8-9).
Monday, June 29, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Hardly a day goes by before the dirty laundry of a celebrity, politician, CEO, or star is aired. Sooner or later the truth comes out. From Hollywood to the governor's mansion to Wall Street to the church pulpit to the White House the soiled sheets of immorality headline the evening news. No one is exempt.
When the powerful are caught with their pants down it gives us a sense of moral superiority. We're ready to stone them. In public forums and private conversations we dissect their confessions. "I'm sorry. I let people down, especially my family, friends, those who had trust in me. and my supporters." We listen. We watch their body-language. We decide if their confession has merit. "It sounds contrived to me." "He's trying to save his job." "She's working the crowd." "Good PR, but a lame confession."
Soft on our own sins, we quickly condemn the offender who just got caught. Hiding our dirt, we eagerly join the parade to point out the dirt of others. Jesus asked a self-revealing question, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and fail to notice the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7).
The One who asked the question answered it--"You hypocrite!"
Not the answer we wanted to hear.
We're first class hypocrites! We pounce on sordid tidbits from "tell-all" magazines and "behind-the-scenes" reality shows like starved hyenas chasing crippled rabbits. "Inquiring minds want to know." Their moral failures make us feel better about ourselves. "I wouldn't be caught dead doing that!" "How can anyone sink so low!" "Degenerate!" "They ought to be shot, hung, then electrocuted."
What's the remedy? "Take the plank out of your own eye first, then you can see clearly enough to remove your brother's speck of dust."
Deal with your own dirt. Own your own filth. Humble yourself before God. Echo David's prayer: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139).
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Despair is not always obvious. It often goes unnoticed. We've learned to hide our frightening feelings of despair. We, especially Christians, put on a flawless performance in our day-to-day life. After all, no matter how low we're feeling on the inside, the play must go on.
So, to most people we appear just what a Christian ought to be -- emotionally stable -- clam, happy, optimistic, in control. For our performance we're praised and welcome as one of the blessed ones.
To despair is to lose hope. To lose hope is to lose touch with God. To lose touch with God sends us back to despair. We're caught in a self-defeating cycle, a downward spiral, a free fall into the dark night of the soul.
"I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God" (Psalm 69:2-3).
I sink into despair when I recognize no power greater than the power of my problem. Everything is dark and frighteningly fluid. Nothing is solid. Nothing eternal. My sickness, pain, prognosis, failure, bankruptcy, loss, grief, death, upside down or broken world becomes my master. Despair rules my soul.
Like others before me, I cry out for help. "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me." I beg for relief. "Get me out of this miss." "Scatter the dark clouds." "Restore my sanity."
If I'm patient enough to be quiet and listen, Papa-God answers me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). That's where I lost it. I lost touch with the God of grace and the grace of God. That's why I lost it. I looked for a way out, not a way through. I wanted a short cut. God offers me his strength to endure.
I'm no match for despair. But God is. He does what I can't do. He graces me with his peace; he enables me with his power; he gives me a place to stand even with "quicksand under me and swamp water over me," even when I'm going down for the third time.
"I'm hurt and in pain; give me space for healing and mountain air. Let me shout God's name with a praising song, let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks" (Psalm 69:29-30, The Message).
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Deep emotions. Strong words. Broken heart. Blind eyes. Ghastly judgment.
Are his tears for Jerusalem only? I doubt it. Jerusalem was his primary heartbreak, but others have followed. We must be one of them. Like the Jews in Jerusalem, we reject the Prince of God's Peace and ignore God's presence among us. We're no less guilty than the first century Jews.How then will God respond to our rude indifference? Will Papa-God bless or discipline us? Are we his golden children or his rebellious children? Can we expect the oil of blessing or the rod of discipline? He weeps as he whips.
My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you. Because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son" (Hebrews 12:5-6). We ask for God's discipline the moment we take control and shut him out of our lives, our churches, our business, our families, our friendships, our goals, our finances, our dreams and desires. When life -- everyday life, spiritual life, church life, work life, recreational life, social life -- becomes more form than content, more ritual than relationship, more mechanics than spirit, more surface than substance, we invite the rod of God's discipline. He weeps as he whips, but he whips nevertheless.
Friday, June 12, 2009
"It is so heartbreaking that Christ, who is the teacher of love, is betrayed with a kiss. Such is is the nature of sin." -- Soren Kierkegaard
Sin isn't always ugly or painful or brutal. Sin can be sensitive, warm, inviting, gracious -- the right thing to do -- the accepted thing to do -- a kiss of welcome -- a kiss of brotherhood --a kiss of friendship.
Sin is most sinful when it conceals itself behind beauty, masks itself behind love, or camouflages itself with friendship. The sin of betrayal is one of the greatest sins we commit against God and each other. Compassion is degraded by betrayal.
Betrayal shatters trust, spoils friendships, destroys marriages, families, and churches. Betrayal spoils everything it touches.
Trust is not a given; it has to be earned. Once earned, trust is the glue that holds relationships together until we are stabbed in the back by the same hand that hugged us, lied about by the same voice that encouraged us, or thrown out like yesterday's newspaper by the same person that endorsed us.
Betrayal crushes trust like a steamroller over a caterpillar.
"Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them, 'The one I kiss is the man, arrest him.' Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, 'Greetings, Rabbi!' and kissed him. ... Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him." (Matthew 26:48-49,50)
Such is the nature of sin.