Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Doves, Lambs, and Swords


What is it about Jesus that makes Him so hard to be seen as the One? John the Baptist says that he wouldn't have known Jesus was the Messiah if God hadn't told him ahead of time to watch for a sign. He was supposed to watch for the Spirit to settle on someone. Again, we have that imagery from Genesis. God the Creator, speaking words about the Spirit. When John saw the dove settle on Jesus, he knew.

What about Jesus makes it so hard to take Him seriously? I still struggle with it. Just today I blew Him off completely and did things my way, making a total mess of it. (And it's only 10 am!) What would help was if He showed up with a sword, swinging, demanding, telling everyone to drop and give Him twenty! He will do this one day, but not yet. He comes as the "Lamb of God", John the Baptist says. (This is, by the way, the only place in the whole Bible that phrase is used.)

But then, when I do screw up, His love and willingness to carry my mess drops me to my knees. I am so completely messed up and unworthy of His forgiveness, yet He drops it, heavier than any sword. He forgives, loves, and reaches out to me, over and over and over.

This Lamb of God is unlike anything I've ever known.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Who Knew?! John 1:19 - 28


Reading through John 1:19-28 today. Wow, I learned a lot!

For example, in this passage, John begins telling us about the first week of Jesus' ministry. I never noticed the "the next day" verses in 29, 35, 43, etc. John continues his parallel to Genesis 1 that he began in the very beginning of the book. I love that kind of detail that God puts in. Here the creator is creating again, a new ministry, a new era, a new history. All in seven days, ending with a miraculous marriage and party. And what about this idea of ending with a marriage? The whole Bible begins with a marriage (Adam and Eve), and ends with a marriage (Christ and the church). So, here in Jesus' first week is a microcosm of history. Too cool!

Secondly, I want to be like John the Baptist (JtB). I've read this passage a couple of dozen times, and never really stopped and looked at what John is doing here. JtB gets this delegation out to see him, to legitimize his ministry. It's his chance to step onto a national stage and establish himself. What an opportunity! But he blows it. As these big leaders question him, each answer speaks less and less about him and more and more about Jesus. His first answer is "I am not the Christ". Then "I am not". Then down to "No". He simply doesn't want to talk about himself. That is ALL I want to do most of the time. But JtB wants to talk about Jesus. I love that, and am going to consciously work towards that.

Also, the bit about him being unworthy to strap Jesus' sandal is something I never got before, at least not totally. I just discovered that in their culture, a disciple would do many things to help out their rabbi. The rabbi wouldn't get paid for teaching the scriptures, it was an honor. (I don't get paid for teaching either. I love that part of my job. I get paid for doing paperwork! Ugh!) So the disciples would offer service to help out their rabbi. But there were limits to what they would do. There is an ancient rabbinic saying that goes "Every service which a slave performs for his master shall a disciple do for his teacher except the losing of his sandal-thong." It was beneath the disciple to do this. But here, JtB picks that very thing to say he is unworthy of doing. I often think Jesus owes me, and JtB says he isn't even worth touching Jesus shoes. I have much, much work to do in this area.

Just some thoughts as I was reading today. I love the fact that this book never gets old!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Deep Justice in a Broken World


Recently, I've read Deep Justice in a Broken World. I've had my Taylor students working though it. Of course, I'm learning more from teaching it than they are. They are brilliant, I'm not. So, I have more to learn.

The core idea of this beast is that there are three levels of service. The first is physical, and it like giving food out at a food pantry. Excellent ministry, and one of my favorite service opportunities at our church! The second level is relational. This is more of befriending the folks who are hungry, and helping them learn to grow their own garden. You hang with them in the training time, and then stay with them afterwards. I am not nearly as good at this level. The third level is systemic, and this is the farthest from my current lifestyle. This is asking why the people are hungry to begin with, and then doing the long term work to fix the systems around them. Political, social, anthropological, etc. It's working to find what are the reasons working men and women still can't feed their kids? What is taking their money, and how do we help rectify that situation?

The book challenges that all three are the realm of a solid, Biblical youth ministry. Man, that hurts. We are barely scraping 1/3 of that calling. So, I'm looking at it and praying about it. I want to dismiss the whole thing as socialism run amok, and unrealistic for kids. But, I know better. We are called to defend the poor, the widow, and the oppressed. You can only help the oppressed by resolving the oppression. So it is with this that I am wrestling.

What does this look like in Shelbyville? What do we need to meet physically, then emotionally, and then systematically? We have a growing homeless population. I know we must do something. So we are. We will start with what we know, and trust that as we seek, ask, study, and look, God will show us the next piece.

What about you? Your ministry? What will you do?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Youth Ministry 3.0


When I was in Nashville for the NYWC, I picked up Marko's Youth Ministry 3.0. I've been reading a lot of the reviews on it, which you can find on his blog. They are pretty accurate with what I found. I was really surprised at how short it was. Don't know why that surprised me. I guess I thought "manifesto" and assumed a few hundred pages. Instead, it was 108 pages, mid sized print, with 27 pages of footnotes (that part I appreciated). I read it on three levels: first, as a lifer in youth min (17 years and counting), what is God showing me here? second, as a leader of a mid sized team of leaders, is this helpful for them? third, as a youth ministry prof, will this work for my college students?

In short order, it helped me personally to ask questions. It isn't a resource that I will put in my volunteers hands. They don't go this philosophical in their thinking of ministry. I'm not sure about my students. I'll re-read it for them again. It might hit, I'll have to see.

Overall, Marko has done a great job of asking questions. His retelling of how we got where we are is succinct, but helpful. For more of that thought, look to Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry by Andrew Root. (Deep, but excellent!) I think Marko's tone is one of the healthiest I have heard in an author wanting to question the church; he's honest it seems, owns his own contributions to how we got here, isn't advocating an "abandon ship" attitude, and wades in with ideas and theories, knowing they are not a "one size fits all" solution. I'm really impressed. Marko, keep writing in this vein, you're only going to get better at it. I need it, and we need it.

But, as a youth pastor at a large church in a small Midwest town, does it help? Yes. And no. I feel like Marko is pointing to the same questions I'm asking. He is giving permission to continue the ongoing conversation about "why is this not working?" He provides a model for humble AND honest dialogue. He reminds me that I am not alone. But I don't feel any farther down the road than before I read the book. I just feel like I have more companions on this journey to "who knows where?"

Don't misunderstand. I'm not discouraged. I know God is well aware of where we are going. He just hasn't shown me the greater picture. I'm not sure He will. I'm not sure He will give it to anyone to write a book about. That's the challenge of the 3.0 idea. Organic. Different. Marko makes this clear. It won't be another program we all adapt. It is simply a journey. The Way. Jesus.

I'm just glad Marko is on it with me.

Monday, November 24, 2008

NYWC follow up

I had the beautiful opportunity to be at the NYWC this past weekend in Nashville. A few of my leaders, Michael, Justin Douglas, and one of his students, Paul, all went together. It's always fun, it's always refreshing. But, God is continuing His discussion with me about youth ministry, and where we need to go. I really feel this year He has/is pulling me forward more than in years past. Pieces are beginning to gel inside my mind and soul about where we need to be moving towards. I'm excited for the changes, I'm grateful for his leading, but I'm mostly scared. I don't usually get afraid, but what I'm beginning to see in the fog seems like it's going to be costly to me personally. So, I'm scared.

I know He will take care of it. I know that.

But, I'm still nervous.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

NYWC

I'm at our annual youth workers convention in Nashville, TN this weekend. God always works on me during these trips, and this one is no exception. We have so much to do to continue growing in our ability to connect students and Jesus. Our conversations this year are very healthy, and I am SO grateful for the leaders I have here with me! I'm really excited to see where all of this leads. I sense God working in a bit deeper, long-term change this time around. It should be fun.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Beep Beep


The craziest thing happened while I was sitting here. Jim's heart started beeping. Loudly. Jim is the pastor who shares the office with me, and apparently at 10:06 every morning, his heart beeps for 45 seconds very loudly. It was crazy! He explained it to me, it's his pacemaker. The thing is talking to him, because the battery is starting to wear out, and has to be replaced in the next two months.

First of all, having your heart beep at you, and I mean loudly beep at you, is freaky enough. But then to be told that the battery in it will only last two more months, that's some stiff news. Jim has to schedule an appointment to get his pacemaker replaced. Major surgery. Big time stuff.

Yet, Jim handles it all pretty well. I mean, I'm sure he worries about it at some level, but his faith seems to be carrying him along.

Now before we get all upset about Jim, we need to consider that the only difference between him and us is his heart beeps loudly. Listening to him explain what is going on reminded me that we all have a beeping heart at some level or another. Death is that topic we all hate to admit exists, yet it's simply a universal part of living. So, the real question is what do we do while our heart is still beating along? How do we invest our days? It's the age old question, yet it is still well worth asking. And answering.

Invest your day well today. After you read this, pray. Ask God what He has for you. Listen to what He says. The beeping is only the signal for a transition. What we do here carries on once we are done. Don't be afraid of what is coming. Let your faith carry you. But don't miss today either.

Did Huey Lewis Have It Right All Along?


I'm a little worried. I've made a decision, I've opened a new chapter in my life, and I'm not sure if it was a good thing or not. Today, I have a delivery coming my way, and it might be something beautiful and good, or it might be a tool of destruction and pain in my life. I'm not sure at all which it will be. Other people who deal with it call it a destructive pattern, or an addiction. They compare it to being hooked on crack. And here, me, as a pastor, I've opened my soul up to it.

I ordered a Blackberry, and it's scheduled to arrive today.

I'm afraid. Very afraid. Am I strong enough to handle it? I've always approached this issue from a standpoint of staunch abstinence. What will become of me? Will I be an addict, with the shakes from email withdrawal? Or will it propel me towards organizational greatness?

Actually, I know the answer. It's neither.

But it's funny how I can get so attached to stuff, even before I have it. It's funny how stuff is a center for conversation with others. When it's all said and done, it's just a phone. It's just a tool, a thing.

But I'm still excited it's coming.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Investment Options


Last night, one of our leaders, Renee Ramsey, taught in our 7th and 8th grade group. Man, did she knock it out of the ballpark. It's so exciting to see someone grow up in the ministry, and become such an amazing minister and teacher. Unreal!

So, I want to encourage you, who are you building into today? Be faithful to pour yourself into some other people. We won't see all of them turn out the way we hope. Some of them will let you down. Don't give up on them. Their story isn't done, you don't know what God has in store for them.

But some of them will exceed your hopes. That is a beautiful thing to see and be a part of.

So keep investing in others. If you haven't started yet, just ask God. I guarantee there is someone He wants you to mentor and invest in. It's what we do.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A 33 Year Old Teenager?!


In an article I just read on a site called Marketing Vox ("Youth No Longer Defined by Age; Consumers Stay Younger Longer"), it describes, from a business and marketing side, how adolescence is extending up to 34 years old. Yeah, you heard me, 34 years old! Good grief!

But, as this is bearing itself out to be true, whether we like it or not, how does this affect the church? How about youth ministry? What should we do to look forward towards this issue?

I'm not sure, but it's worth thinking though. If you have any ideas, please throw them in and let's talk about it.

(If you go read the article, don't look directly at the picture of Cher on the left side of the page. It will cause you severe physical and emotional pain!)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Inside Out with Peter


I've been reading in 2 Peter this week (2 Peter 1:3-11). Chapter one has some really cool stuff in it. When you look at it, the first four verses talk about how Jesus has "given us everything we need for life and godliness." That's an amazing statement. We're packing all we need. Wow. So why do I still struggle?

Well you look at the following verses, and Peter gives this disjointed list of virtues for us to add to our lives. But he follows the list with this promise "if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of Jesus". That gets my attention! So I've been pouring over the list of virtues, and trying to see the connection between them all. One of my friends, Annette, made the comment she can do most of these, but only one at a time. So, I've been trying to find the connection.

Here's what I'm seeing. The list goes faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Beginning with faith, we are at the "core" of our being, the center of our soul when dealing with faith. Then it moves to our soul, our mind, our ability to limit our actions, our ability to keep at other actions, what people see in us, how we treat other believers, and finally how we treat everyone. It seems to be an inside to outside progression.

I got thinking about this, and how so often I try to go from faith to self-control to love, missing key components along the way. So, I'm beginning to work on following Peter's progression with a few things in my life I have been unable to beat. I'm just into it today for the first day, so I'm interested in seeing how it will play out.

Any thoughts you guys have would be really cool to hear!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Daytona Here We Come


Back in 1991, I headed from Virginia to Florida for a big bmx skatepark competition. It was a really big deal back then. As I recruited some friends to go, we decided to rent a (dum de dum dum duuummmmm.....!) mini van. I had never drove one yet, but I thought they were cool. So we rented a Pontiac Transport that was 1/2 car and 1/2 space shuttle. It was cooler than cool.

Now I realize that a mini van isn't cool. But when you're in college, the thought of all of your friends getting to travel in one car instead of two was really exciting, especially back then when it didn't happen often. So, we rented a mini van that could seat seven, but ended up with nine going. We crammed nine bikes, spare parts, safety gear, luggage, and people into that thing, and left on a Thursday night to drive through the night to Daytona Beach in Florida. It was nuts! We had bikes and parts strapped to the roof, to a WAY overloaded bike rack on the back, and crammed floor to ceiling in the van. We had people literally buried under suitcases who had to be rescued whenever we stopped. We had guys riding on the floor next to seats. It was packed, loaded, close quarters, hot, and smelly. Hands down, it was one of the best trips I've ever taken.

It was great because I loved the guys who went. And we were out to accomplish the mighty task of having fun and adventure. The conditions only made it that much crazier and funnier. We loved every truck stop we hit, with people counting as we got out of our clown car. We laughed at jokes, yelled at each other, and generally had a time of mayhem.

There are so many stories from this one trip. We lost the place we were supposed to stay, so we crashed in a single hotel room, only to have eight more guys join us. We have at least six stories from just the competition itself. There is a classic story of Eight Ball having a run in with a Quickie Mart clerk in the middle of Georgia at three am. So much fun and memories.

When I think of what community can be like at it's best, I think of this trip. I miss those guys. I miss those times. I miss being that well known, accepted, and loved. I long for it. I mean, my family far exceeds those bonds, don't misunderstand me. But outside of my family, it's hard to come by those types of relationships. We are too busy, too pre-occupied, too overcommitted, too tired. But I know one day, this world will pass. There is more to life than what we see here. So, I'll continue working to build community with those around me. I'll love, give, pray, and hope. But I know one day, there is a world of mini vans and too much luggage coming. Actually, one far far better than anything I've ever seen or tasted yet. I'm ready for that road trip, no doubt!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Worship Soon and Worship Often


Lately, I've been wrestling with what worship looks like, especially in student ministry. Our church has the standard youth worship team comprised of students who give time, prayer, and practice towards leading the group musically. Honestly, they are excellent. They even lead our adult services on a somewhat regular basis. We do a monthly worship night with our senior high students where we set aside two hours for times of contemplation, prayer, art, rest, listening, writing, confession, and scripture reading. They have historically been powerful times of us giving our attention and time to God as a gift. But what more is there?

In thinking about this, and praying through it, God's really pushing on me with this whole idea. I thought I'd share where I'm at, lay out in a couple of pieces what's going on and what I see coming, and then I'd love to get your feedback. Honestly, I really need your feedback to see how God is working in everyone else on this issue.

Ok, so here it is. I'll start with the Biblical side and encourage you to add to or challenge what I've found. As I have been looking through the Bible at worship, it seems to be centered around the idea of responding to the good things God has done and who He is. But more than just responding. Immediate response seems to be a high value as well. You have Adam and Eve simply spending time with God, talking to Him, loving Him. But then after the fall, it continues. Moses worships at the burning bush, Jacob stops in his flight from men who want to kill him to build an alter and worship. Job worships every day, praying for his kids. David mourns until his child dies, then immediately cleans himself up and worships. Isaiah falls down at the sight of God and worships. Jesus worships His Father many, many times in the gospels. The disciples stop what they are doing to give thanks to the God who saves them. The angels fall in Revelation every time God speaks. There seems to be an immediacy, an urgency to worship. It isn't always a planned event, but often is a response to God's showing Himself. The timing is irregular, and spread all throughout the day. And, by the way, singing is a minority act.

Obviously there are many, many more examples from Scripture. But as we find them, we see in them a responsive quality. There are the days set aside for celebration in the community. The Jewish temple feasts were regular days on the calendar. But even those are in response to God moving in large, redemptive ways.

It seems to me that we have, or at least I have, shifted to more of a model that says we will show up and worship on our schedule, and we will worship in the ways we want to, focusing on what we wish. My faith community doesn't seem to do much in direct response to what God is doing or revealing Himself to be.

I recently spoke with some students at a Christian college that I teach at. I asked them when they worshipped. "Chapel" was the unanimous answer. "What is done that is worship in chapel?" "We sing", they replied. If you ask my youth group, they would say we sing. If you prod them, they will pull up the other pieces of communion, prayer, listening, meditation, scripture, etc. But singing dominates the landscape of our worship. Many of us have developed a stage based program where the shiny happy pretty people are on stage using their musical abilities, while the rest of us who aren't as brave or talented face them and join in. Now, before anyone gets upset, I'm not saying we pitch student worship teams, or that we abandon singing. I am asking have we gotten lopsided in our approach, and what values are we communicating about people and worship through our approaches?

I look at how we put together a worship service. Typically it is comprised of songs we like to sing, because of the tune or the lyrics. They typically move in a direction in their styles. Either fast to slow, or fast to slow to fast again, etc. We arrange them, and sing them because they are true. As long as we are singing songs that are theologically true, then we are doing worship. I'm not convinced. Now obviously, we would include that the singer needs to be aware of the lyrics, and "mean" them "from their heart". But even with that clarification, does that guarantee worship? I'm not sure.

So, we are looking at making a shift in our understanding. We are going to begin working on making worship more of a rhythm in our times together. We want to see our students respond to God on a daily basis in smaller, less programmed ways. Therefore, we're going to work on giving them a time to respond to God at our weekly meetings. We're just on the beginning side of this, and haven't gotten far into it yet. But we want to have students wrestle with what God is doing in their lives, and then give them creative ways to respond to Him. We will probably still use some of the same tools we have (journaling, prayer, creative art, poetry, communion, etc.) But instead of keeping it to one night a month, we are going to work smaller pieces into each week. And then they will be very focused on what God is revealing to us right then.

The other piece is that our leaders, starting with me, are going to need to begin practicing this daily form of worship as an immediate response. If we don't live it, then it won't be passed on. It's like teaching about the need to regularly fast, and then only fasting during the 30 Hour Famine. It rings hollow. (Not that I've ever done that!) I'm working on building into my daily rhythm small times to stop and worship God. Nothing big, but actually stopping what I'm doing to worship. It's coming really slowly, unfortunately. I simply forget. And I think that's the idea behind it. So we won't forget.

My hope is that my life will be one of worship, and that student's will catch a picture of what their lives could be like as they worship whenever and wherever they need to.

This is where I'm really need your ideas. What are you working on? Do you agree with the theological ideas, or are they off base? How is God challenging you, and what steps are you taking? Any help you can give will definitely be appreciated on my end.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


As I've been on my rear with a virus (who knew a doctor can't prescribe medication for a virus? huh....anyway) I've had some time to read. So I've read the Ted Dekker trilogy of the Circle.
The first book is Black, the second is Red, and the third is White.

Honestly, if you dig fiction, go the library and get these. They've been out a few years now, and they were amazing! The scene of Eden in the first one brought me to tears in my desire to be home with Jesus. I'm not kidding, and I don't think it was the high fever and Dayquil entirely at fault.

I really encourage anyone who enjoys fiction in the whole espionage, fantasy, spy game genre to check this series out. It's well worth it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Five Days and Counting


Okay, I admit it. I have trouble slowing down when I'm sick. I've been feeling under the weather for the past five days. It always goes away on it's own. Always. Sometimes. But I'm starting to wonder if it's going to this time. I may have to do the one thing I have such a hard time doing...go to the doctor.

Why does this bother me so? Because I'm the fixer. I mean, my name, according to all of those cheesy Christian store bookmarks and coasters, means "Healing One". I fix everyone else. I don't need fixed. Oh, I know, this sounds ridiculous. But it's there, under the service. It's not an idea that I am regularly aware of, but it is definitely a value that drives me. I encourage others to get help when they need it, but I rarely take that advice. I'm a complete hypocrite in this area.

Isn't self revelation tough?

So, what am I to do? I'll go to the doctor in the morning, for one thing. I'd go today, but I have to teach my class at Taylor. (How do you like that justification?) But I need to do more than this. I mean I have spiritual sickness and emotional sickness as well as my physical ailments. I've got to return to trusting my friends and letting them into my soul and life.

Sigh...

When? It's easier to write it than to do it.

I honestly don't know. Unfortunately, it won't be today. I am legitimately too busy.

Wow. More than an excuse, I have ordered my life poorly, in such a way that I really have boxed myself in. It will take a while to rework this. But I must. God's been pushing me on it for a while, so I need to keep moving towards this.

He is faithful. I just need to follow. I can do that.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It's the Tom and Chestnut Show


Last night, I was talking to our 7th and 8th graders (who rock, by the way!). We were in the middle of the lesson, and this example popped in my head. Thought I'd share it with all three of you who read this thing.

We have two cats now that we have moved to the country. Tom, and Chestnut. Both boys, brothers even. About 6 months old. So they play all the time. The other night, I was in the barn working on something, and they were running all over the place, being nuts. We have this little trampoline for the girls to jump on, one of the jogger kinds from Target. Tom was on top of the trampoline, Chestnut was under it. Chestnut knew that Tom was somewhere around, but for the little kitty life of him he couldn't figure out where exactly his brother was. Which, of course, was two inches directly overhead. So, Chestnut comes sneaking out from under the trampoline slowly, crawling with his tail sticking straight up in attack mode. Tom, patiently, waits and watches. Just a Chestnut clears the edge of the trampoline, Tom attacks. He launches himself into the air with all four paws out like wings on an airplane, using his brother as the landing strip. He lands on Chestnut just like one of the old westerns where the cowboy jumps on his horse, and the two of them are off across the floor. Tom is whooping and yelling things like "Yee Haa!" and "Get up, cowpoke!" Chestnut is just scared silly and running for his life. Finally, Chestnut runs out of steam and they both fall over and wrestle to the death.

Of course, I'm laughing my head off the whole time. It's literally one of the funniest things I've seen in person for a long time. At least since Mike Farnsley ran through the fountains at Kings Island, but that's a whole other story.

Here's what I realized. If I can laugh like that at two cats just being themselves; two cats that I had nothing to do with creating or bringing into being; then how much must God laugh with us? I mean, I just feed the little guys, pet them, and make sure they are safe from the big black cat that prowls our fields. God actually creates each of us everyday. He has to laugh and chuckle at us just being who He makes us to be.

That's comforting. I want my Dad to laugh with me. Actually, laugh at me is more accurate. Not in that second grade mean kind of way. In that "those darn cats" kind of way. He loves me, and actually adores me. It's really strange to write that out, but it's true. Not because I'm a pastor, a dad, or anything else. He loves and cherishes me because that's who He is.

I love that.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

So, What's the Plan?


I need God to help me out. Okay, that's not true. I need to listen to what God has known for billions of years. Yeah, that's much more like it.

I am overwhelmed with the needs of families in our community, and how it plays out in their teenagers lives. It's the old feeling of fighting the oncoming flood with nothing more than an umbrella. I feel outmatched, out powered, under equipped, and under resourced. So, I want to turn away from it.

There is so much brokenness, abuse, hurt, anger, hatred, and dispair in people. I've had six suicide threats in the last three weeks. What can I do? What can we do? We're just a church, how can we fix all of society?

Honestly, that's how I feel. That's what I think.

But even as I write this, I am reminded that the battle isn't against other people. It's against powers and spirits and Satan's forces. It is. They are the ones that need beaten back. People need rescued. I can't heal them. But I can fight for them. So, today, I am praying for God to give me the pieces of the Plan that He has. I'm going to seek for them even more this week. What will it hold? I don't know. But He does. That's more than enough.

Pray with me. Pray for the families in our town. Pray for other people to be drawn to His plan. I know there are already dozens working it out. I just need to figure out my role. You need to figure out yours. He is the one who has to solve the problems. We just have to follow.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I Miss Home, Even Though I've Never Been There


I'm in one of those phases where I want to go home. On both levels. I would like to just go home and paint, and repair, and build. I'm a bit tired of ministry right now, and would enjoy an extended time away to just be at my house, in my barn, quietly working. Not sure why. Guess I need to spend some time on that one. That's probably the issue. I'm not really spending time contemplating much right now. I'm in a constant phase of preparation for my next event. My next sermon, lesson, worship night, college class, small group, youth group, game night, event, etc. No rhythm, just run. I don't handle that well.

The other sense of home that I have echoes this. I want to go home, to be free of the cares of this world and with my Dad. No, no it's not a hidden suicide thing. I just want to be with God in a way that is different than right now. I want to be face to face, no distractions, just swallowed up in His presence, love, kindness, grace, hope, joy, peace, and passion.

Usually when I feel like this, it's a gauge telling me I'm running on empty from doing too much. Yep, it's that time again. I'm realizing it as I'm writing it. I need to step away. Okay. I've been at this long enough to not fight it. I'll step away this week. I'll talk to my supervisor and schedule some time away.

Good, I feel better already. What about you? Are you ready to go home? Is it time for a break as well?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Just Some of the Reasons


I realized this morning just how negative I've been lately. I'm not even sure how long it's been going on. I have definitely not been counting my blessings at all. I've been selfish, ungrateful, whiny, and generally a pain in the keister. Wow. That's not fun to admit....

So, here is my list of a few things for which I am grateful:
1. My God: He is so good to me that I can't describe it. That doesn't mean I get off the hook from contemplating it though.
2. My wife: she truly is just second to God. She is a gift, an amazing person, and I do not appreciate her enough.
3. My children: they rock. they are generous, smart, healthy, funny, kind, and they love me like crazy and show it. I've got to return that favor much more expressively.
4. My parents: my mom and Jill's parents are amazing. I can't begin to describe how great they are!
5. My church: we struggle and bump along, and I really enjoy that. I love the fact that we don't have it all together.
6. My health: God is so good to me that little pains hurt. I live so pain free that little things show up on my radar. I'm grateful for that.
7. My home: I absolutely love our new house, with it's creaky floors and dozens of projects to take on. I love the toads in the yard, the owl hooting at night, and the quiet evenings.
8. Our students: we have the best group of students ever.
9. Their parents: it's no surprise the kids are so good when you meet the people raising them.
10. My class at Taylor: its a challenge, and I love and need that. What a gift that I get to teach it. so many more qualified people than me, but yet I get to do it.
11. Indiana: I love the harvest, the sunshine, and the people. It's beautiful in a new way all the time.

Obviously, the list could trail on about comfortable shoes, my friends, and so much more. Many of you would be on this list too, and are. I appreciate you so much for your support and love of me, and for the prayers you offer for me.

I will do better today. I have so many reasons to be grateful.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tired


I'm tired. No real reason or deep thought to it. I'm just tired. My brain is firing slow, and I'm low on motivation. I find myself jumping from thing to thing this morning, without accomplishing too much. I'm irritable and edgy. Don't you wish you were actually with me face to face right now? :)

BUT, God is more than faithful. Even as I confess how I feel, I can tell He is pouring love and grace into me. I've just got to run and hide in Him. It's so nice to be safe when you are unable to protect yourself well.

Monday, September 22, 2008

It's More Fun Together


Had a middle school leaders meeting yesterday. (I love my leaders, they are all so amazing to me!!!) Anyway, I lead a little devo thing on Gideon, and his battle with the Midianites. It's the one in Judges 7 where he gets his army narrowed down to only 300 soldiers and fights with torches, trumpets, and broken jars. (If you are completely lost at this point, you need to read Judges 7. It's an amazing story!)

So, I finish, and begin asking them for their observations. Once again I was reminded of the power of reading the Bible together. Wow!!! They came up with so many points from the story that I had never considered. I love that! Way too often, I think, we read the Bible in seclusion. At least, I do. But then, you take time to read it with a group of people who love Jesus, and it explodes to life. They came up with at least 25 ideas I hadn't considered from the passage. All of them were excellent points too. It was fun and enlightening.

So, I want to encourage you, find a group to read the Bible with on a regular basis. If you don't have one, begin putting one together. It will explode to life when you do it as a group. Just too cool!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Head Down, Heart Towards Heaven


I'm feeling the pinch today. Too much to do and not enough time to get it all done. Procrastination is a small part of it. Overcommitment is another much bigger piece. It's one of those weeks where work demands that are out of my control are crashing into work demands that I simply must get done. So, I kick into slow mode and avoid it all. As soon as I finish this, I'm going to have to put my head down and work hard.

It's always been this way, you know. Ever since we were kicked out of the garden for our stupid choice to run things ourselves, it's been like this. We can invent all of the amazing technology we want, it will always be this way. It's the cost of doing things our own way.

So, I'm going to try to push towards God today and listen even more for His promptings. Its too easy to ignore Him when I get overwhelmed and buried. Today, I'm choosing to walk in the other direction. I'm going to work as hard and as fast as I can, but I'm going to keep my heart listening for His guidance.

It can only help.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Inner to Outer


Working through the beginning of Malachi again this morning, and a couple of thoughts hit me. Malachi is voicing God's words for the priests in the temple. God tells them He is tired of them because they have no set their heart to honor God. They are not living truth in their personal lives, and therefore they aren't teaching truth to the people.

This struck me two ways. One, I am our culture's version of a priest. What I do privately completely affects the message my life gives publicly. I feel that deep inside, and know I have some stuff to keep fighting and working on.

Secondly, Jesus says that we are all priests who follow Him. So, then, what message does your inner life, the one that no one sees, lead to in your public life? Your heart and thoughts drive your actions. What is driving yours?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Babylonians and Boyfriends


Back in Habakkuk today. The first few verses of chapter 1 hit me. While I'm not in this place right now, I can totally resonate with Habakkuk's attitude towards God. Injustice is all around him, and God isn't doing squat, it seems. I mean, He is the great protector, and we cry for help, and nothing. Just crickets chirping. You can feel Habakkuk's frustration and anger.

What is God's response? Is it full of hope and mercy? It seems like it in verse 5. Promises of amazing things that no one will believe.

But then He says He's going to raise up the Babylonians. It's like us praying, and God's answer coming that He is going to raise up the Al-Qaida network to a world power. We pray for justice, and that's the answer.

Ok, honestly, why does God do stuff like this? It really ticks me off sometimes. This answer is almost cruel. But then again, it's only so when seen through our scope. God is going to raise them up to bring His people back to Him. Worship is the goal of God. He wants His kids close, that's why He made the human race. To be in relationship with Him and be known by Him. When we dig in our heels, He will go to any length to get us back.

Spoke to a student yesterday who was dumped by her boyfriend. She felt like she had tried to do the relationship God's way, by including prayer into it and putting Him in the center, yet it still fell apart. Why? Why is God being so unfair? The answer is almost always that what we want in a situation is off base, and it makes God seem unfair. God wants us. He will use any tool He can, whether it be the Babylonians, a 17 year old boy, or anything else.

I don't know. I get all of this, but I don't always like it. Good thing I'm not the one in charge, I guess.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What a Beautiful Mess...



Phew!

Yeah, phew!

  • Let's see... Middle School retreat at Springhill Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
  • Got home at 3 pm
  • Started setup for Senior High worship night at 4 pm
  • Played in worship band and directed event.
  • Got home at 10 pm.
  • Ran to Taylor on Monday and taught my first class, but almost showed up late.
  • Annie came home from school early sick on Monday.
  • Stayed home with Annie on Tuesday.
  • Ran a huge game night for middle school on Tuesday night with two hours prep.
  • Stayed home on Wednesday.
  • Ran to staff meeting and back during the day on Wednesday.
  • Now it's Thursday and I'm tired and overwhelmed.

What do I learn from this stuff?

  • I still stink at delegation.
  • I try to carry too much on my own shoulders.
  • I'm not planning ahead as well as I should.
  • I overestimate my abilities on a regular basis.

Change is in the air, once again. I must keep learning to get better at this stuff. It's just frustrating, because you'd think I'd be better at it by now.

Here is what God did in the middle of my mess.
  • Two boys accepted Christ for the first time over the weekend.
  • Several girls made significant decisions.
  • The worship night was powerful and enjoyable.
  • I got to spend time with Annie and love on her some.
  • The game night was a raging success due to my leaders.
  • I appreciate my wife, family, and friends so very, very much.

Just gotta keep learning and moving forward. Be faithful; cause God likes to make beautiful things out of our messes. He never gets tired or gives up.

Thank goodness.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Michael's Wedding Predictions?


This is a great post from Everyday Images, a blog you can find at

http://living3368.wordpress.com/


Will this be a prophecy of Mike's wedding? No way!

No one will ever marry him...



2 September 08 at 3:30 pm | In youth ministry |

I think of the strangest things in the middle of the night. The list that follows is probably the all-time strangest. Feel free to add-on as you feel inspired.

Some youth workers are married. Others are single. Some will get married during their tenure as a youth worker (and this is in no way any sort of an announcement on my part). Here, then, are the signs that you are at a youth worker’s wedding:

  • Rather than a soloist providing music prior to the service, there is a video loop that includes announcements, YouTube clips and the new Hillsong United music video.
  • The youth worker half of the happy couple reads the vows from the notes he or she has written on his or her hand.
  • Wedding song: David Crowder Band’s Our Love is Loud
  • The couple registers at the Youth Specialties web site.
  • The reception dinner is pizza and Mountain Dew … just pizza and Mountain Dew.
  • There’s no head table at the reception, just a longer couch and larger bean bag chairs.
  • Invitations went out on Facebook and included responses from friends of friends of friends from as far away as China.
  • You don’t see a professional photographer, but there seems to be an awful lot of young people holding up their cell phones.
  • Rather than a punch or champagne fountain, there’s line of Diet Coke bottles and packs of Mentos.
  • Not only did you receive the initial invitation, you received reminders via Twitter, text, Facebook and a phone call to your parents.
  • The wedding announcement may not appear in the local newspaper, but the couple really hopes that Marko or Josh blog about it.
  • DJ? We don’t need a DJ, we have DDR and Guitar Hero!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The God Heard Around the World


Back in Malachi today. I've been reading it over and over for a couple of weeks now. What a great book! Anyway, in chapter 1, verse 11, God speaks of people around the world knowing him, holding His name as great, and bringing offerings to Him. The NIV translates this as a future event, but Peterson on the Message makes it a present tense thing. I know, I know, big deal.

But if it was like Peterson has it, then there were people worshipping God outside of Israel in the Old Testament times. I know the Bible speaks to that in other places too. But it just pushes the boundaries of how I understand our faith to see people worship the true God without the temple or the law. God is known. God is loved. God is God worldwide.

Now I'm not going down the all roads lead to heaven path. There is a lot of false beliefs. But the idea that people can know God outside of the Israel story is so cool.

Or maybe Peterson is just way off base. I haven't found out yet. But Romans speaks of how people know God by what they see and experience in the world around them. It just encourages me as a pastor that God is working and has been working, both in the system and "outside" of the system since the beginning. Somehow, it sets me free a little.

Any ideas?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Donald Miller Prays at DNC

Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz, as well as some other great books, gave the benediction at the Democratic National Convention. Cameron Strang, the man behind relevant magazine, was originally asked, but declined. Watch it, and let me know what you think. On one hand, we need to be engaged and involved. On the other hand, we have so often maligned Pat Robertson, James Dobson, etc. for their over involvement. Is this healthy, or does it cross the line?
video

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Moving On


We are in the middle of moving. We finished cleaning out our old house last night, and turn the keys over today. It's so funny how we can get attached to a building. We've lived there for four years, and it has been my favorite house that we've owned up until now. The neighbors are excellent, the best we've ever had. We loved the neighborhood, and the house fit us well.

I think about how God tells us that this world isn't our home, and we shouldn't get too overly attached, that we will move out one day. I don't manage that well. I get very attached, and invest inordinate amounts of energy and time into trying to establish my own kingdom. But this weekend reminded me that one day, I'll pack my bags and leave this place. Done. Finished here. Moving on.

And I think about our new house. It's not heaven, but we are blessed beyond words to have it. I am so grateful for it, and know from experience that soon we won't miss our old place at all. I knew this going in, and it is what kept me going through some rough waters in the sales process. It would all be worth it. I could do anything, knowing it would be worth it at the end.

So too will come that day when, as much as I love my little kingdom here, I'll move on, and not look back.
And it will be worth it. His Kingdom there is much better than mine here.

So, for today, I will once again pray that ancient prayer; "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth like it is in heaven." I want to begin letting go now, embracing His Rule today. I'm gonna pack boxes, and live like I'm moving. It will all be worth it. It always is.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Malachi - (ma-LA-che) Noun; "the Italian prophet"



Brad has me reading Malachi today, getting ready for a new sermon series coming up. I'm not going to go verse by verse through it, or anything. But a couple of things stuck out to me.

If you look in chapter 3, verses 1-5 you'll see this prediction of Christ's coming. Man, did Jesus ever fulfill these verses. They are worth reading, just to remind yourself that Jesus' coming was a plan from the very beginning, and His power and presence were completely under God's control.

Then check out verses 16-18 of chapter 3. I love how God listens in on a conversation among people who love Him. It's like He bends over and listens to His kids. The point is clear, if you love God, you'll obey God. If you obey God, He will bless you. Period. Man, I need to hear that sometimes.

Gotta love Malachi.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Crash Heard Around the ...


When I was a kid, one of my best friends in the whole world was Sam Carper. He lived down the road from us about 1/8 of a mile. (Actually, my parents sold his parents our old house when we moved up the street). We met in pre-school, and were friends for our entire lives growing up.

I remember once when we having a camp out in my backyard, we got rather bored around 2 am. (What do you mean "Why weren't you asleep?" We were 12 years old!) So we headed down the road. Now you have to understand, our neighborhood was built on the side of a hill, so there was an "upper road" with houses on both sides, and a "lower road" with houses on both sides. Sam and I lived on the upper road, but the Angel girls (two lovely girls with the last name "Angel") lived on the lower road.

Sam had a crush on Stephanie, who was a year older than us. So we had the bright idea to go through pebbles on her window to see if she would come outside. We didn't really know what we would do if she did, but we'd cross that bridge when we got to it. (12 years old, remember?) So, we went and sat on the hill over looking her house, and began throwing pebbles at her window. Unfortunately for our weak throwing arms, it was too far to get the pebbles anywhere near her house, let alone to lightly strike her window. So we moved to a little larger rocks, and thought maybe we could land them on her roof over her bedroom. We made it across the road and into her yard this time, but still nowhere close.

I was getting bored of it all, since I didn't have a thing for either of the sisters. I was ready to move on and go scare the begeebees out of one of our other friends. But Sam wouldn't be turned away in his romantic pursuit. As a sat on the crest of the hill, I heard him digging through the Killen's garden behind us, and then listened as his feet softly, but increasingly quickly, padded through the grass to my left. I looked over just in time to see Sam launch a rock the size of a basketball off of the hill towards their house.

"What are you DOING?!"

"I just want it to hit the road at the bottom and break. It will make enough noise to wake her up, and then I can talk to her", was his reply. (We were 12, remember.)

Knowing deep within my DNA that we should be running away as fast as we could, I stood there transfixed in a stupor as everything went into slow motion, just like in a cheesy action movie from the 80's. We watched the huge rock roll downward, towards the road in front of the Angel's house. Then it began to catch air and bounce as it gained speed. And then... then it began moving downhill and towards the right. Straight towards Mr. Angel's pickup truck parked in the ditch at the bottom of the hill.

"Ah nuts...."

One last bounce, and the rock was airborn off of the edge of the hill and over the ditch. With a horrendous crunch, it landed square in the truck bed, and broke into what seemed a hundred pieces. Needless to say, Sam's plan, while altered, worked. Stephanie's light came on, and the front door opened. But so did every other light in the house, and it wasn't the lovely Stephanie or her sister who came through the door.

By the time this transpired, we were about half way back to my house, running with the legs of a 21 year old Olympic sprinter. We never actually saw Mr. Angel in the doorway, but we heard him yelling as he tried to figure out exactly what had happened.

We never said a word about it to anyone after that.

What got me thinking about this story is the way in which our actions lead to other actions in life, for both good and bad. I'm in a situation right now with two sets of people, and watching how their reactions ripple into my life, and my reactions ripple into theirs. It's not unique by any means. It's everyday life. But it's simply easier to see in this scenario.

This is what God calls us to be. We are to be rock rollers. Only, we are to begin chains that work for good for others. We are to roll rocks of forgiveness, generosity, mercy, joy, hope, kindness, and laughter. Even great rocks like these will take their own course once we send them out. And they are destructive in all the right ways. They have the power to crash through pain, anger, hurt, confusion, loneliness, and despair. So, send the rocks flying. It'll be the crash heard around the neighborhood.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sweating the Details


I so easily get distracted by the unimportant. So easily. Jill and I have been having to make a long series of decisions lately dealing with a variety of issues. As we've walked this road together, she has managed to keep her head about her. I, on the other hand, have gotten completely distracted by them and off center. I've been worried, stressed, putting myself under pressure. I have allowed these decisions to dominate my conversations with virtually everyone, and been a total drain and a pest in the process. If you've had to listen to me lately, I'm truly sorry.

But God has been reminding me of how unimportant these details are. He has reminded me on two levels. One is how small my challenges are compared to virtually everyone around me. I am worried about details, while others are fighting for their children, their marriage, or even their lives. My worries are tiny, and theirs are substantial. I have nothing to be stressed about.

Secondly, God is more than faithful. I've been worried because I have put my "god" hat on, and not allowed Jesus to be in charge. I mean, He has been in charge. I've just been living like I was. And I couldn't handle it well. I never do. So, He reminded me to be still and listen, because He is God. I'm so glad He is. I'm so glad He loves me when I am so incredibly small minded and stupid. I'm so glad.

So, today, I am breathing easier. I have absolutely no clue how all of these decisions are going to play out. In fact, they have gotten even MORE complicated today. But, for the first time in a long time, I'm actually not worrying about it. That's God's job. It's just my role to be faithful. And that's enough.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Time is Passing


School started for our kids today. Even though the weather will be warm for a couple of more months, summer vacation ended yesterday for us. I know, I know, depressing and sad. Last night as I was getting the girls ready for bed, and they were all juiced up about new pencils, notebooks, and friends, I got to thinking about time and how it moves by on us. We are all aware (at least everyone over the age of 12) how fast time goes. We talk about it, sing songs about it, lament about it, and even complain about it. But what actions do we change with that understanding?

Yeah, this is another one of those "time goes fast so do something" discussions. Even though we have them regularly and hear them often, they are no less true. So today, I'm not making any huge life changing commitments. I'm just going to remember that the folks around me won't always be here, and neither will I. I'm going to try to be a little more patient with a couple of people, watch just a little more of the detail of life, and listen maybe a minute or two longer to a couple of people today. I've got nothing to lose.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Clarification

I have been posting on the book of John for a while. I had decided yesterday that I was going to let the blog go for a while. It just felt heavy. I even posted that I was closing it down.

But then I thought I would just change direction. Honestly, the daily posting on John felt a little preachy after a while. I may come back to it, I don't know.

I always enjoy writing. I'm just going to write a little more widely. So, for those of you who I confused, maybe this will clear things up a little.

Thanks.

We've Moved Past Heartbreak Hotel


Spent some time this morning with my girls. We were on our way to Nana's and had some car time in the Trooper to talk through some stuff. They wanted to know about dating. I was game, and we had a great discussion.

I shared with the girls a little about how the way we have dating set up is so dangerous to our souls. It destroys us with shadows of hope and chasms of pain. Here's what I mean. We have designed a system that tells kids to be in a marriage without a promise of commitment. They are to give each other sole devotion, separate from the friends and family to a degree, and pour into each other. But when they get bored, or a better deal comes along, then they are free to move on to another person simply by passing a note or email or text which says they want to break up. It's a shadow of a hope of being loved. It never really materializes. It's a phantom.

But the pain that follows is all too real. It destroys hearts and souls. This doesn't even count in the effects of sex on kids. That's a whole other world of discussion. I promise you, almost everyone underestimates the destruction sex wrecks on middle school and high school students.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a Josh Harris "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" so let's only do courtship kind of guy. I think it's a good idea for guys and girls to hang out and be friends. It's the pseudo marriage we've designed that I'm against. Is it any wonder when adults get married, they treat it like dating? "I've found someone better, so here's my lawyers note, let's break up"?

I think we can do better. Yeah, it means being counter cultural. But the church is going to have to accept that fact. We have to design and carry out better options. Not in a cultural warfare way, but in a sense of we are attached to the Wisdom of the universe. Let's use that Wisdom in Christ to come up with better, more fulfilling plans.

Just a thought.

Monday, August 11, 2008

All things come to an end...


I read John 19 today, where Jesus is crucified and dies. His suffering so eclipses anything I will ever know, yet it is written about in such a short, quiet way. Even poetic John doesn't elaborate. You'd think that He would spend chapters on the death of Christ. But he doesn't. He only gives it 13 verses.

I think it is because they saw Jesus alive after that. He died, but then He didn't. I think if Jesus had died, and never returned, then John would have memorialized Him in chapter after chapter flowing about His death. But instead Jesus comes back and hangs out with them a few days later, and His death is almost forgotten. It's just a prelude to the resurrection. I get caught up in it because as much as I know better, I often picture Jesus dead. Don't get me wrong, I completely believe He's alive. I trust the resurrection with every fiber of my being. I'm staking my entire life on the truth of it. But I haven't seen Jesus alive. I can scientifically understand that He lived, and that the crucifixion took place. His death is logical; easy to accept. But this resurrection. That's the stuff of faith. So I have to constantly push myself further into it. One day, I too will be like John, no longer fascinated so much by the death of Jesus. I will see Him face to face, heart to heart. This will all fade. But sometimes, here, in this world of shadows, I have to push to be there.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Playing Catch Up


Ok, here's the scoop. Last week, and the next four are going to be a bit crazy. Here's why:

Last week - Jill and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. Actually I celebrated the fact that Jill would stay with me for that long. She is amazing. Jill celebrated the fact that she is still alive after so many of the things I have put her through. My wife is hands down the best wife on the planet! We went to Mackinac Island in Northern Michigan for a few days with a couple who are good friends of ours. It was beautiful, fun, and VERY relaxing. So nice! Got home on Friday night, back with our girls on Saturday.

This week - My mom sold her house in Virginia last week, came up yesterday, and closed on her new one today. We spent the day working on getting her stuff settled (insurance, banking, etc.) I'm so excited to have her here!! Tomorrow, she and I drive to Virginia, get a moving truck, load her stuff, drive back on Wednesday, unload, and help her get settled this week.

Next week - School starts for the girls on Wednesday. Jill is hoping to start a full time job with the school system, her first time back in 10 years. She will do absolutely fabulous, but it will be a big change for our family. I'm really pumped for her, and for the school, because she will be a huge asset to them.

Two weeks - We begin moving stuff into our new house across town. We are selling our current house, and moving to a farm house. We'll move some stuff into the garage the week before, thanks to the kindness of the family we are buying from. We close on both houses on Friday, the 22nd. (Hopefully). Then we will be moving on Saturday and Sunday the 23rd and 24th.

Three weeks - Unpacking. Then some more unpacking. Followed by more unpacking. And painting. Some carpeting. General house work. Etc. In addition to turning our current house over to the new owner.

This will of course come on top of finishing up the summer ministry schedule, kicking off the fall one, speaking at church in early September, and beginning a new position at Taylor University as an adjunct professor.

So, for the 2 1/2 people who read this, please pray for me. It is all beautiful, wonderful things. Just pray that I will walk this road well, and lean on Jesus when I'm tired. Due to all of this, my posts will be sporadic, to say the least.

Have an awesome week!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Don't Miss It!


John 18 finishes out with the final verses in 28 - 40. It's Jesus before Pilate. Pilate is the appointed governor from Rome. He's the guy desperately trying to hold onto his position and job. If he can't keep Israel calm, Rome will remove him and put someone else in his spot. (This actually happens later after Jesus is gone.)

What kills me about this is that the Jewish leaders come to Pilate's house, and bring Jesus to the ruler. They won't enter the house. Why? Because if they go in a Gentile's house, they will be "unclean". If they are "unclean", then they have to go through elaborate ceremonies to become spiritually clean again. There isn't time to do that and to kill Jesus before Passover begins.

But what is Passover? It is where the Jews celebrate God saving their first born sons when they were in Egypt. The Egyptians had a plague put on them where the first born boys in each family were killed. But the Jews put the blood of a lamb on the doorposts, and God saved their sons. Passover is a huge celebration where they remember God doing that, and they celebrate being saved, once, long ago. A big part of Passover is looking forward to the Messiah coming again.

So, we have very educated Jewish priests wanting to stay pure so that they can celebrate God saving them and the Messiah coming. They want to kill Jesus quickly, and won't even go into the courtroom to have Him tried due to their desire to be "pure". They are killing the Messiah, the one son sent to save them, and are worried about being pure. The upside down irony is so thick that it's suffocating.

How could they be so stupid? How could they miss it? How could they be so worried about their religion that they miss the whole thing they are looking for? It's ridiculous!

And it is. It still is every time I do it. Every time I judge someone from my basis of how right I am, and how wrong they are, I miss the Messiah. Every time I ignore someone's needs while I am SO blessed with money, health, time, education, and ability, I miss the Messiah. Every time God asks me to do something, and I pretend not to hear, or not to be sure that it is Him asking, I miss the Messiah. It is stupid and ridiculous. It still is today.

Where are you missing the Messiah today?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Take It to the Bank


No comments on John today. Just a confession of my own. I'm worried and scared. I shouldn't be. I know that full well. We are facing some stuff that I can't control. None of it is bad. There are just some dreams I have, some hopes and wishes, and alot has to happen in the next couple of weeks. If it goes one way, doors can open to see those hopes become reality. If it goes another way, they might close for now.

The reason I'm scared is that it's out of my hands. They've been dealt some small blows recently, and they've been given some support. So I have no clue where things are going to go. That scares me. Even after all this time following Christ and seeing Him work miracles over and over, I still have a difficult time trusting Him with my dreams. I can trust Him most time with my day to day needs. I do a good job of trusting Him on the huge miraculous stuff like healing people and relationships. I know He is in charge of the ministry, and do a decent job of following Him there. But its my dreams that make me twitchy. I get nervous with them.

I think it's because I tend to be unsure where some of these hopes and wishes fall. I mean, are they good things I am hoping for, or are they merely selfish things? I have a hard time discerning. And in my mind, that affects how God will carry them out. I often believe He will see them through if they are at some level "good". But I believe He will shut them down if they aren't. That's where my fear comes in.

I don't want them shut down. I want them. That's why they are called hopes and dreams. They are things I hope for and dream about. So, I can't turn them off so easily. And therefore, I worry. But that is wrong. I know that. God says not to worry about today or tomorrow, but to trust Him. Over the past couple of days He has repeatedly been telling me "Cast all your cares upon Him for He cares for you." And I'm trying really hard to do that.

Yet I worry.

I know God is trustworthy. He ALWAYS has been in EVERY case. He has never, ever, ever dropped me. He has given me more of my dreams and hopes than I could ever imagine. He has been more than kind, more than gracious, more than generous in the BIG deals, and in the small events. I will not fear, because if the Lord is for me, nothing can come against me. I know it. I believe it. I just need to keep telling myself these things.

If I can't completely kill the fear and worry, I am going to cage it up in a cage built on faith. I'm going to choose to keep shutting the door. I will rely on God, and watch Him work. I must, I have no where else to go.

Anybody else ever been in this spot?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

In The Name of Love, One More In the ...


Reading today, Jesus continues through His crucifixion stages. Peter denies Him for the second time in John 18:25-27. This time, it was probably in fear of His life. After all, the guy asking was there when he cut the soldiers ear off.

Then Jesus is taken to Pilate, the Roman governor. A couple of details hit me today reading this. One, the Jewish leaders won't take Jesus into Pilate's palace. If they did, they would be "unclean" for going into a Gentile's house. There were ceremonies they would have to go through to become "clean" again. The ceremonies would need to be done before the start of the Sabbath, which was that evening, and they didn't have time to get it done, what with the trying to kill Jesus stuff on their "to do" list. So they wouldn't go in. The interesting note is because that Sabbath was Passover, a celebration when the Jews remembered God saving their first born sons from death. The irony is too deep to handle in that. They want to party, thanking God for saving their first born sons. They are so concerned about being a part of this celebration that they are conducting an illegal trial to kill God's firstborn (and only) son. Does that confuse anyone else but me?

Secondly, when the people cry for Barabbas release instead of Jesus, it says that he had taken part in a revolution. He was part of a group trying to overthrow the Roman government. This is exactly what the people had hoped Jesus would do. But when He didn't, and went down the whole "my kingdom is not of this world" path, they ditched Him and moved on. They wanted a king, but they wanted one on their terms. Maybe Barabbas could be that. He definitely was a better shot at it than Jesus had turned out to be!

But then, as always, as I'm dumbfounded at the thickheadedness and stupidity of the Jews, God reminds me of my tendency to do the exact same things. (Sign) I really don't like it when He does, but then I remember how much He loves me. Anyway, how often do we get so caught up in our ideas of religion and power and influence and marketing and "the way things SHOULD be around here" that we ignore what Jesus is doing all together. We might even ignore Him in His name. I do.

What's His response? He speaks truth, and then lays down His life for me.

I won't even go into the part where He calls us to do the same thing for other people around us. That'll be another day.

100


I just noticed that my last post was #100. Hmmm.... I think that should mean something, but I'm not sure what.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Truth Hurts...


I don't want to get on Jesus wrong side. Period. I read verses 19-14 in John 18, and the religious leaders have crossed the line. Jesus doesn't take them on the way I would, yelling and intimidating. He just brings the truth, raw, unvarnished and sharp as a knife.

I think that is what I often fear the most. I can put up with a bully, full of themselves and trying to act like they have power. But when someone has the truth and brings it into a part of my life where I am guilty, off kilter, and wrong; that brings fear to my heart. It brings a requirement to repent, turn around, and go the other way. My pride hates that. And pride leads to fear.

Jesus often stands in a courtroom in my life, with me putting Him on trial, blaming Him for all sorts of things. Often He takes it with mercy and grace and is so kind to me. But at other times, it is just like the scene in this passage, with Him delivering complete truth in such a way that I feel cut in half.

Honestly, I'm so glad He does. I want Him to be King. I really do. And I'm glad when He does. Not right away. But eventually I come around to it. Truth often hurts, but it always heals. Always.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Why play hide and seek?


In John 18:15 - 18, an unnamed disciple gets Peter into the audience where Jesus is being tried in court. It seems like the disciple is probably John. So, here is my question. If John is known by the High Priest, it would seem that they would know he was a disciple of Jesus. And he is given freedom to come into the trial.

Yet Peter, when asked about being with Jesus, denies it. Why? I don't understand. I always thought he was afraid and undercover. But if John was known, there would be no need for him to hide. John was safe, he would have been too. But instead Peter lied and tried to hide. (wow, that rhymes).

Anyway, why did he do it? His life doesn't seem to be at risk. He doesn't seem to be at threat of being arrested. Any ideas why He would hide? If we can figure it out, I'm sure that there is a lesson in it for us.

What do you think?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tie Him Up Before He Says His Name Again!


John 18:12-14 is such a small section of the story, and yet it contains some interesting points to it. Jesus at this point has knocked the men down just by saying the name of God, He has healed the ear of the man who had it knocked off, and has said He will not fight with a sword. Yet notice that the first thing the soldiers do is tie Jesus up. All they know is force. They didn't have to do this. He was willing to go with them, yet they tied Him up. He had just healed one of their own, and they see Him as a threat.

Then He is taken to Caiaphas, the high priest. This is a man who spent years studying the Bible to understand God. He had lived a life beyond reproach, worked hard to know and follow God. Yet when God spoke to Him face to face, Caiaphas saw Him as a threat. He wanted Jesus killed.

I do the same thing. I get a dream or a plan going, and Jesus doesn't want anything to do with it. Whatever I have planned for my life, Jesus declares it to be destructive, anti-God, and wants to freely come and heal it. But I resist, and want to tie God up and do away with Him, at least temporarily. I'll bring Him back out later and set Him free once I've done whatever it is that I am hell bent on doing. I am the biggest fool of the three between me, Caiaphas, and the soldiers.

You see, I know Jesus. He is the savior, the healer. He has proven a thousand times to me that His way is best and that He wants my very best for me. He is not selfish, mean, or petty. Yet I want to tie Him up and do away with Him at times. When I'm weak, tired, and selfish. When I'm afraid, worried, and unsure. Then I want to be god with the smallest "g" possible.

Lord, I really am sorry. Help me to be the one who surrenders at all times, not just when it's convenient. Help me to follow, and not try to use you when it works best for me. You are God, I am not. Period. And I like it that way.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Knocked Down, But Not Out


With Jesus' time of prayer behind him, we see Him move towards His arrest and ulitmately His crucifixion in John 18. A couple of things stick out to me in this story. One, Jesus is in control of His own schedule. They don't grab Him while He is praying. He gets up, walks across the valley, and then when they come, He walks out to meet them. He is in charge from the get go. It's not something that catches Him off guard, or that He resists. He marches directly into the storm. Wow.

Secondly, notice in verse 6 what happens. Jesus asks who they are after, knowing it is Him. It's dark, and they only have torches. They say they are after Jesus of Nazareth. He answers "I am he." When He says this, they fall to the ground. Why? "I am He" is the name in Hebrew for God. In Exodus, it's the name God gives to Moses to tell the people Who sent him. It's the name the Jews held as holy, and wouldn't speak or write on their own. It's the name of God alone. When Jesus, being God, says this phrase which is one of the names of God, it explodes with the Holiness of God. This Holiness knocks the soldiers back and down.

How could they even arrest Him after this? Its an excellent example of how we get so far down our own paths that we ignore God and do the wrong things in the face of His Holiness. I do it from time to time, and have to get knocked on my rear hard to wake up. Its no wonder they missed it.

What about you? Do we really believe God is in control of the storms around us? Will we march into them with Him? Is there something that you are holding onto so tightly that you ignore His overwhelming power and holiness because of it?