Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I Will Punish the World for Its Evil

Isaiah 13-15 begins a twelve chapter rant against eight nations, and one against the world. It's a rant against all that is wrong with these nations, these peoples, this place we call Earth. God created the Earth and described the results of his work "good." But all that is good faces a grave threat - there is evil at work in this world, ruining, corrupting, tainting, undermining, devouring what is right, and beautiful and good. We see it all around us - if we keep our eyes open long enough to really see all around us. And sometimes you see it happen to you - something wrong, even wicked comes upon you by the hands of another...what do you do with that burden? Or someone you care about has been damaged by another...what do you do? Or you yourself are concious of your own corruption, your own ability to undermine your attempts/efforts to do what is good and right and beautiful.

And so, when you see all this wrong-headed, weak-hearted stuff going on that really hurts and ruins others...does God see this? What is God doing about it? Does he care? Can people do wicked stuff and get away with it? It seems like they do.

These twelve chapters in Isaiah are God's words to all that is wrong in these nations. For those that love what is good and right and beautiful, here is their answer: God sees and seeks to right all wrongs. Punishment will definitely come for the evil ones.

It's interesting that chapter fourteen contains a series of verses that are often attributed to the story of Satan, the ultimate Evil One. Though the poem describes the fate of Babylon, a city guilty of much evil, a city full of evil ones, there is a sense that the potent prophetic poem also describes the fate of the Evil One of evil ones.

For Christmas my sister-in-law subscribed me to National Geographic. She's so thoughtful! A major story of this month's issue deals with the corrupt oil business in Nigeria. A country which has overabundant resources to bring about a beautiful nation, well fed, well educated, well situated to bless its neighboring nations, is mired in heart-aching poverty. That's evil. Last month included a cover story of the deforestation in South America. Large corporations/ranchers are stripping the land of timber, putting in large highways, and destroying native cultures all for their profit. That is my simplified version, but the result is that local people, small farmers, small villages, lose out - including their lives. And so does the environment. That's evil.

Who can stop these national evils? What will happen to those that rule, to those that rally around these evils, but call it by a different name? Isaiah 13-24 provides us with a glimpse of what God thinks about it. And just as the righteous ones had to wait, and wait, and wait back then for God to act...so now. And why did God wait? A reason: God's patience. He is constantly at work to bring about restoration of Good and the redemption from Evil...and he is working through people all over the world to do this. Someday there will be judgment.

And as Jesus wisely points out...the religious people will likely be surprised at whom God considers righteous and wicked.

May God put an end to the arrogance of the haughty, and
May God humble the pride of the ruthless.
Isaiah 13v11b

Digging Deep In Deuteronomy - Don't Devour Goat-Cheese Burgers

Deuteronomy 14v21b contains the famous verse: "You shall not boil a kid in its mothers' milk." This, of course, is refering to goats.

What is this all about? Is it just further proof that the all these old laws are outdated and unncessary for our world? Or is there something more profound and relevant going on? Let's go with the second option. This command is the final one in a chapter long series of dietary decrees: God was outlining which foods were permissible to eat and which were not, including some preparation guidelines. An ancient form of PETA and OSHA, ha!

I've read several insightful comments on this verse over the years, and the one I like best understands this verse under the sense of "respect" for animals. Back in Genesis, God gave the instructions that humanity was to rule over the earth, to steward it and care for it. When it comes to raising animals for food, does it matter how those animals are treated? Are are they just "alive" meat, just a future dinner walking around? Or is there something sacred about animals? Is there something inherently cruel about preparing a baby goat for a meal using the life-nurturing liquid that it's own mother provided originally to give life, which is now it's liquid of death? God says yes.

This command has famously been given to illustrate the extreme efforts some religious Jews will go to to keep meat and dairy products separate, as well as other kinds of foods. If you take this verse too literally, you get too legalistic. If you ignore this verse, you get too disrespectful.

My notes in the Jewish commentary say this about the verse:
"Meat boiled in sour milk was probably regarded as a delicacy, as it is by Arabs. The prohibition is similar to the rule against slaughtering cattle and their young on the same day and the requirement that newborn cattle remain with their mothers at least one week before they are sacrificed, to prevent acts of insensitivity against animals."

Rather then use this verse to promote the discontinuation of cheeseburgers, maybe Christians should rally around this verse and actively promote the discontinuation of mass-processing plants of beef, poultry, pork and fish. Do even a little bit of research on how meat is processed (how the animals are "farmed", slaughtered, and then how the meat is removed from the animals and "prepared") and you will eat alot more veggies. It's not gross because animals are getting killed for our sustenance, it is disgustingly gross because of the blatant disregard for BOTH the animals and the workers in the factories.

Ah...ignorance is bliss...but not for the kids.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Another Emma Note - this one to Emily at Preschool

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The Following Fourteen Posts...

Reader Beware: the following fourteen posts are sermon notes I copied/pasted from another blogsite. I wanted to get them onto this site for archive purposes. They cover three sermon series from last winter/spring: the Bad Boys/Girls series, the Treasures series, and Life that Gets Better and Better Forever and Ever series.

If you want to glance at them, go for it. I found the notes to be fascinating - mostly because I'm very narcissitic!

Actually, for me, this blog is a form of journaling and it has been really helpful for me to record thoughts, get some feedback, and then have an easy way to review what I've written/reflected upon. For me, reading through the sermonnotes provided some reminders for me of my spiritual journey.

I'd encourage you to find some format for writing down "stuff" that can be mile markers for your spiritual journey.

Write down poetry, songs, notes, letters, blogposts, emails, paint pictures, sculpt, etc.

The eye is the lamp of the body

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

February 12 Sunday Sermon

Matthew 6:22-23 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

This is the text for my sermon on Sunday. It is still under the series theme, "Where is Your Treasure?"

What is interesting about this text is that the adjectives, "good" and "bad", used to describe the eyes, are euphenisms for the word "generous" and "stingy". Also, the eyes are actually a euphenism for heart. Jesus speaks in poetry just as well as the Psalmist!

Jesus is still dealing with the issue of "treasuring to yourselves treasures", and his observation about human behaviour is this: generous hearts are full of light, and stingy hearts are full of darkness. If "treasuring to yourselves treasures upon the earth" is marked by stinginess, then it reveals a dark heart. If someone's "treasuring to yourselves treasures upon the earth" is marked by generosity, it reveals a light-filled heart, which also reveals that the individual is actually "treasuring to yourselves treasures in heaven".

Jesus' point isn't that we should try to be more generous. His point is that our measure of stinginess and generosity NOW reveal how much of our treasury is upon the earth, and how much of our treasury is in God's hands. If we want to increase our level of generosity, then we address the issue of trust: do we trust God with our treasures? And in trusting God, on any point, we find ourselves experiencing salvation. Salvation is not an event that existed at one point in time, it is the fabric of our soul now, and it becomes more so as we trust God.

What are the effects on the neighborhood, community, nation and world when stinginess overwhelms generosity: see the slow recovery in New Orleans, see the slum lords in our neighborhood, see the millions of refugees crammed into African camps. Generosity is an essential adjective for God's work towards us. And our redeemed heart, when we listen to it, is pleading for us to ever-increase our generosity to others. This results in more trust in God, and more love to our neighbor, and more glory for God!

Hope this helps as you prepare for the worship event on Sunday.


Nobody is capable for very long to serve as a slave both God and Abundance of Possessions

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

February 19 Sermon Stuff

The Scripture text for the sermon this week is Matthew 6:24 (TT - Tim's Translation)

"No one is capable for very long to serve as a slave two different slavemasters. For either he will detest the one and despise the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. Nobody is capable for very long to serve as a slave both God and Abundance of Possessions."

Here are some thoughts regarding this text.

Imagine the peasant or landowner or religious leader or foreign soldier standing within hearing distance of this instruction. They hear the first line and their response might be, "Duh...who would want to have TWO slavemasters, I wouldn't want one, let alone two...who could live under those conditions?"

They hear the second line and nod their heads in agreement with Jesus' observation, "Yep, somebody serving as a slave to two slavemasters is definitely going to be miserable. The preference they have for one slavemaster is soured by the hatred they feel for the other. What a lousy scenario."

And then they hear the third line, Jesus' conclusion and real point: "Oh....yeah...I guess that would be hard to do...hmmmm..."

For us to feel the impact of Jesus' point, we need to grasp the idea of slavery and slavemaster as it was experienced in Palestine and the Roman Empire during the lifetime of Jesus. To be a slave was to be under the complete rule of the slavemaster. All of your time, your energy, your skills, your knowledge, your hopes belonged to him. A slave was not considered a person, but rather a piece of property, a thing to be used. Some slavemasters realized that benevelonce towards some slaves resulted in greater productivity and overall positive atmosphere. Some slavemasters cared little for benevolence towards slaves, and treated them like trash, and discarded them as such when they were useless.

It is impossible to be a slave under two slavemasters. Neither slavemaster would tolerate it. What would compel a slaveowner to share his enslaved property with another slavemaster? Unheard of in Jesus' day. Not only would a slavemaster not let his slave be co-owned by another slavemaster, but the actual slave would break down emotionally, physically and mentally under such a state. That is why Jesus says that a person is not capable, they do not have the physical power to sustain that kind of life, they are not strong enough mentally or emotionally to handle that kind of total ownership by two completely controlling entities.

Another comment, Jesus teaches that one is not capable of being enslaved for very long to both God and Abundance of Possessions. He is not making a value judgement on Abundance of Possessions. His value statement is on the status of our relationship to Abundance of Possesions. There is nothing wrong with having an Abudnance of Possessions.

A word about my translation of "mamon.". The word "mamon," translated "Money" in the NIV, obscures Jesus' point. The word "mamon" carries the meaning of wealth, of assets. The word wealth carries the meaning of "abundance of possessions." This meaning carries a more vivid point for me, and it is more challenging.

"Mamon" is a Hebrew word, which also carries the meaning of "the one to whom I entrust my possessions." This could be like a banker, or a treasury guard. According to this meaning, the word "mamon" carries a positive connotation. However, over time, the meaning shifted, and "mamon" began to carry the meaning of "the possession in which I am entrusted." This carries a negative connotation, one of idolatry. And I think some of this meaning is inherent in Jesus' use of it in this lesson.

The fact that Jesus instructs us on this point implies that people were envisioning themselves as enslaved to God, yet their lifestyle revealed an enslavement to Abundance of Possessions. Another implication would be that the lure and sway of Abundance of Possessions is constantly before us. Another implication is that people are continually orienting their life around the abundant accumulation of possessions, regardless of how they define "abundant" and what they understand as "orienting their life around." Another implication is that we can't sustain the dual enslavement, either one or the other will prevail. We will fail in the endeavor, both because we cannot handle it, we will break down, but also because the slavemasters will not allow it, they pull us in different directions. To be enslaved to God is to be under the rule of Generosity. To be enslaved to Abundance of Possessions is to be under the rule of Greed. As Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5, Greed is the root of all kinds of evil. Generosity is the root of all kinds of good.

Since this is Tuesday, I still have not discerned the application point. Feel free to throw some suggestions my way if you can, or want to.



...you no longer need to be anxious about having enough...

Friday, February 24, 2006

February 26 Sunday Sermon Notes

The text for the sermon is Matthew 25-34.

I am focusing on the last four verses: 31-34 (TT)

"Therefore, you no longer need to be anxious about having enough food and drink and clothes. Being anxious and wishing for enough of these things is what pagans spend their time and energy and resources on. But your Heavenly Father knows that you have needs, and he wants to meet them.

So, wish first for God's Way to prevail, for God to make everything as it should be; and then God will provide enough food and drink and clothes for today.

Also, you don't have to be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow already has its own anxieties; and the troubles of today are enough."

Some observations...

I am trying to come up with an overarching principle that explains why people worry and are anxious. At this point I would venture to say that we become anxious when we don't have enough of what we need. When we (feel/think that)don't have enough (food/drink/clothes/money/time), we worry about what negative result will ruin our life. And so we strive to have enough, even more than enough, but apart from God this striving for enough will eventually be saturated in anxiety, both as a motivator for striving, and as the stench of my striving.

Interstingly, my point of experience where I feel/think that I don't have enough of what I need, that very point is an opportunity for our soul to open up to God. Its like there are two roads we can travel at that point, either we can pursue enough in our own striving, and plead with God to help us out. Or we can travel down a road where every point that we feel/think we don't have enough, we look to God for provision. My not having enough reveals my need for someone else to help me. Either I can rely primarily on humanity (not a good trackrecord overall) or I can rely primarily on God (a much better trackrecord).

So when I have anxiety because I don't have enough time (in the day, in the week, in my life) to get done what I feel/think is important to get done, to whom do I turn? Myself, to come up with solutions, to Others, or to God. For the Christian, only God can give us perspective (maybe we're doing too much...crazy idea...or we're doing the wrong things...another crazy idea), and only God can give us the power to do what he has for us to do (Remember: wish first for God's Way!).

So when I have anxiety because I don't have enough food/drink on the table (2/3rds of Humanity), to whom do I rely? Humanity around me? They are the ones primarily responsible for the lack of food provision! Only God, working his WAy througth humanity can get enough food to starving and thristy children.
For us, we have anxiety, not because we don' have enough food, but rather we have anxiety because we can't stop eating more than enough food, and we have anxiety because we can't stop ourselves from eating the wrong food. Our motto with food is: if it tastes good, it must be all right for me to eat. Amercia is eating itself to death, obesity is crippling us. Men and Women were not meant to eat more than enough. We have anxeity about our weight, about our health, about our diet, about our calories, about our cholestoral, our blood pressure, our protruding bellies and shortness of breath...and most of it is diet related!!!!! Oh that we would wish first for God's Way in providing us with just enough food for the day.

So when I have anxiety about having enough clothes...or for us, when I have anxiety about people perceive me based on the clothes I wear...when I have anxiety about what people will think of me...what do I do with that...do you know anybody whose insecurity is driving them forward in unrelenting anxiety? What we wear, how we appear, our hopes for beauty...attractiveness, handsomeness, even sexiness is ruining our wallets and our joy. Oh that God would awaken us to the beauty inherent in those who are made in the image of the Most Glorious and Beautiful Creator!

God knows we have needs, and he wants to take care of them. I delight in provding for my daughter...and I trust that God delights in providing for me. I think it is cute when my daughter asserts her independence, but even those acts of hers are so DEPENDENT on my provision and care. And so for us...we may think we can make it on our own...or that God is impressed with us when we don't have to use him as a crutch...but as a Father my heart is so full of love for my daughter, and I want to express it to her by caring for her and protecting her and so much more. My anxiety about my life both reveals the mistrusting I have towards God, but also opens me up to an opportunity to trust God my life in God's caring, strong, wise, good, hands.

Anxiety seems so natural, so inevitable, so human. That's because our lifestyle is both driven by and saturated with anxiety. But for God to direct our steps in His Way...well that opens up our life to be led by One who will make everything All Right, who will make sure we have enough for today.

What do you want to be the aroma of your life? Anxiety or Trust?

There is so much more to say on this topic, based on these Scriptures. Maybe another time.


...joyfully goes home and sells everything...

Friday, March 03, 2006

March 5 Sunday Sermon Notes

The Scripture text is Matthew 13:44 (TT) "The Kingdom of the Heavens is like a treasure, hidden in the dirt field. When a man found it, he re-hid it, and joyfully goes home and sells everything to purchase that field."

Remember, when Matthew uses the phrase, Kingom of Heaven, it is his way of referring to God. So Jesus is giving us a description of what God is like. There are nine of these comparisons in the Gospels, where Jesus is teaching us about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. Some of his descriptions include a merchant, a king, a landowner, a sower, a net, a treasure, a mustard seed, yeast. So the sermon text is only looking at one of these teachings about the Kingdom of Heaven.

A word about the phrase Kingdom of Heaven. It is not just another way to say God's name, but it is designed to reveal the range of God's rule. A kingdom is the area over which a king has dominion. The stronger the dominion and his ability to enforce it over more people, the bigger the kingdom. The kingdom is then inhabited by people who yield to teh choices of the king. God's Kingom is that place where God's choices prevail over people. Christians are those who live in God's kingdom, people who live under the choices of God. When Jesus prays for God's kingdom to come, he is praying for God's choices to previal on earth. That is a very important prayer.

The text for Sunday instructs us on what a normal reaction is to encountering/discovering God and His Kingdom.

Jesus' first sermon (and overarching theme) is (Matt 4:17) "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near you." And so now Jesus is saying, for those that get very near the "kingdom of Heaven", their natural response is going to be great joy and total allegiance/affection. The "kingdom of heaven" is such great news that upon hearing it, my life is not the same.

In the story that Jesus tells, the man finds a hidden treasure. How does one go about finding a hidden treasure? Why would treasure be hidden in a field? In those days there were no banks available for regular folks. They kept their valuables hidden from thieves by burying it in the ground. Their nation was also a major battleground, many nations fought one another on the plains and valleys of Israel. Thus when looting soldiers came thorugh (which was often), folks would bury their stuff, hoping they would be alive to come back and retrieve it. As would often happen, the owners of the buried treasure would be killed, carted off. Thus treasure would be buried in a field, and the owner of the treasure and field would be never returning.

So the field passes into the hands of another ,who does not know that there is treasure in it (he might assume it, and seeks to find it).

This is where the movie clip from Kingdom of Heaven is helpful. In that scene the young warrior enters his father's land. It is a land with buildings, people, livestock and some vegetation, but no water. His father did not care for the land, and did not think that there was any treasure (water) buried there, so he never looked for it. Water is the treasure the young son/soldier must find if his new land is going to have new opportunities to sustain life and build dreams. And so everyone looks for this treasure, this water. They find it through diligent and hard work. They celebrate together this discovery. Why was the treasure worth finding? Because it would change their life.

Jesus point: God's Kingdom, God's rule (always right, always generous, always good, etc) is discovered by those with eyes to see, hearts desiring it, hands willing to obtain it. And those that discover God respond with great joy (God, as reavealed in Jesus is Good News). And in discovering/obtaining God, a new life is made possible, new dreams and a new future is both promised, and initiated by God.

Can one obtain God? Jesus says in John 15 "Abide in me" or "Remain in me" and "I will abide/remain in you". We can say one obtains God, but it is not against God's wishes, but rather, what He has always wished: that God and Man would be One.

The man in Jesus' story sells all he currently owns (home, tools, clothes, trinkets, food, toys, animals, etc) so that he may purchase the field in which is the hidden treasure. Once the man buys the field, all he has is a field and a treasure. And now he takes his treasure, and out of it begins to build a new life, builds a new home in a new place, starts a new crop, with new animals, his family has new clothes and new food and new tools and a new future. And in selling all he had, he now has more than ever thought possible.

And so with us and God, in obtaining God, we forfeit our kingdom in order to obtain His Kingdom. In "selling" our kingdom, our way of life, our fate and destiny, we obtain God's Kingdom. Out of Him and his Treasures, we are able to start a new life, rooted in His choices, his resources, his wisdom, his generosity. We lose our old kingdom, but gain a whole new Kingdom, the way it is supposed to be for us.

We think that this story outlines the obvious...that if someone saw immense treasure lying in a field, that of course they would sell everything they currently own to obtain a new treasure which would change their life.

Oh really...? I think the more obvious story is that someone discovers a treasure, and tries to obtain that treasure through dishonest gain, and that they would merely add that treasure to what they already possess.

What is interesting about this story is that we read it in our prosperity...what would we do with a million dollars? In light of the nice house and cars we already have, in light of the decent health and many toys we possess. The man in Jesus' story, whatever his financial situation, had just enough (through selling all his possessions) to purchase a field, to make himself homeless, even if for a day or two. This man in Jesus' story took an enormous risk to increase his financial situation. This story isn't about why we should take risk for financial gain, but rather, risk must be a factor when leaving one kingdom and entering into another, especially when one must leave the old kingdom behind.

What am I trying to say?

God and His Right Way is like Buried Treasure. God and His Right Way, when they are found, result in fantastic enthusiasm. But like Buried Treasure, it changes your life. It makes a whole new life possible. When you discover God, the fantastic enthusiasm lies in the new life he can make possible (remember: repent, for God is near - Emmanuel!). God is a Treasure, and if he changes our life, he changes our life to make us Generous. What does God's Generosity look like? How do we Remember God's Generosity to us? Through Communion. The Body Of Jesus, Broken for Us is what God's Generosity Looks Like. The Life-Blood of Jesus, Poured Out for Us, that is Generosity. And it is to this that is either fantastic Enthusiasm or revulsion. When I Discover God, as revealed through Jesus, as Experienced in His Kingdom, either their is Fantastic Enthusiasm for the changed life and the opportunity for Broken Body, Spilled Blood kind of Generosity, or their is revulsion.

The man in Jesus' story likely wasn't a greedy hoarder. He sold all he already held precious and dear to him, that he might gains something greater. Greedy people keep what they have while trying to attain more. This man was wise, he knew that the temporary trials was a small price to pay for the new life ahead for him and his family. And if he took these wise, legal measures to obtain the wealth, then one would naturally think that he would use his new wealth wisely and legally.

In God's law, that means giving to the poor and needy. OT law required more than just 10% tithe, the total was actually over 25%. And so this new wealth and new life was not about pampering self, so much as new opportunities to give more away. The more you have, the bigger the sacrifice that is expected. That is what is evident with Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf. God has everything, so he sacrificed that which meant everything to Him, that we might have everything with him. What generosity on God's part! And since we delight in generosity, God is inviting us to delight in him, in his generosity, and to delight in being generous back to God and those around us.

What is our response to God? Delight. Ongoing delight in God throughout the day, because there are always opportunitites to be generous towards others throughout the day. Generous in words, kindness, patience, humility, cup of cold water, visitation, warm coat, etc. And when we are Generous in Jesus' name to the least of these, we delight God and are able to delight with others.

Well, if you've made it to the end of this rambling, virtually unedited article, then pat yourself on the back for endurance. I needed to get a ton of stuff on "paper". Now I can think a bit more clearly about the sermon on Sunday. Do not be afraid, my sermon won't be this long, or rambly, or windy!


The Rich Young Man: What Good Thing Must I Do?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

March 12 Sunday Sermon Notes

The text is Matthew 19:16-30. I won't input the whole text. I will comment that it is a carefully crafted pericope (teaching segment) by Matthew. Each line, each phrase so revealing, so full of meaning. How in the world can I take all of this cool insight and only preach a twenty minute sermon? I'll get my initial thoughts down on paper, and then we'll go from there.

According to Matthew's version of the story (Mark and Luke record similar versions), a rich, young man asks Jesus "Rabbi, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"

What a question!

What does he mean by "what good thing"? What is he getting at? Later on in the story we find out that the man is very conscientious law abider, very intent on keeping the whole law, and keeping it with the right heart. So why ask this question? According to Jewish thought, there was one good deed, that if committed, would automatically get you into heaven. The deed was so good, that performance of it was enough to guarantee eternal life. What was that good deed? Well that is what the man is asking Jesus. What does this imply about the man's perception of Jesus? Apparently Jesus is known as an exceptional Rabbi (Jewish tradition always has one or two of these guys in a lifetime). The man must have thought that Jesus would have deep insight into this question.

It also worth pointing out that the man was inquiring about the one good deed for the sake of acquiring eternal life. What is eternal life? This man wants eternal life, and he is afraid that despite his efforts at keeping all the laws, and keeping them with a right heart, that he may still not get eternal life. Why did he want eternal life so much? What is so great about eternal life? Eternal life implies that my life continues beyond death, and not only do I have unlimited timespan of life, but I also have unlimited quality of life. The longer and longer I live, the better and better it gets. In Jewish custom, to be wealthy (as this man was), was a sign of God's blessing. Thus eternal life would also be a life of ever increasing wealth in the new world where God reigns supreme. The man wanted a guarantee that the good life he was living now would endure forever. If only he could unlock that one elusive good act, all would be secured.

Jesus' response is very insightful, as it should be - he is a brilliant teacher, a genius.

Essentially, the man was onto something: there is one good deed that can guarantee eternal life: Follow Jesus. Jesus both affirmed the man's request, but also pointed to a deeper truth. Jesus is more than a Rabbi, he is Eternal Life. If you want Eternal Life, you want Jesus. Thus to follow Jesus is to be led into Eternal Life. Jesus says to "abide in him", and he will "abide in us", and hence we will have a life that increases in both quantity and quality.

Jesus instructed the man: "if you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven and come follow me."

The man wanted to be perfect, he wanted to observe the whole law, as well as observe even more acts of goodness beyond the law, he was willing to go to extreme lenghts to guarantee that we would get eternal life. But the man had a tragic blindspot, he had a fatal flaw in his belief system: he assumed his wealth was a blessing from God as a result of how he lived; and it was this very wealth that kept him from being blessed by God-Incarnate, and thus receiving the very gift he had so diligently and persistently pursued.

Jesus understood that people want to do something to guarantee eternal life; so he gives us something to do - Follow Him. But to follow him is such a radical action that it can only be done as an act of trust. To Follow Jesus is to Trust Jesus. To Trust Jesus about what he says and does. Jesus says that he has come to rescue us from the evil one. So that means that if we are not following Jesus, we are following the evil one. We must be rescued from the Evil One, the Piped Piper who plays a tune which we CANNOT resist apart from the intervention of Jesus Christ. And so the Pied Piper plays a tune which keeps our eyes off Jesus and onto whatever our "tune" is: wealth, power, approval, sex, money, stuff, etc.

For this man, his stuff was both a sign that he was blessed by God, but it was also his stumbling block. And, apparently this man did not think that the accumulation of his stuff was sufficient sign that his being blessed by God guaranteed eternal life, YET he was not willing to depart with this stuff in order to be guaranteed eternal life. How ironic.

Jesus dispels the myth that the abundant accumulation of stuff (Mamon) is a sign that we are blessed by God. Mamon is the result of hard work, discipline, frugality, stewardship, and many, many, many other factors beyond our control (military factors, national and international economic factors, stable weather patterns, etc). Mamon is also in direct competition for our allegiance. And Jesus knows it. If we are going to follow Jesus, we must not let anything get in the way between him.

Here is another irony: The rich young man could have kept all his wealth and still followed Jesus! What was the condition for the man selling all his possessions and giving to the poor? "If you want to be perfect..." The rich young man could have given up his effort to be perfect in order to attain eternal life! He could have replaced perfection for trust! He could have kept all his wealth and followed Jesus, and instead of his wealth and desire for perfection (which seemed to be connected) as an obstacle to following Jesus (getting eternal life), his wealth could have been a resource for him and others to follow Jesus.

Plenty of rich people followed Jesus. Mary Magadelene, according to tradition, owned a olive field, and used her wealth to finance Jesus' ministry. As well as a woman connected to the royal family of Herod. Josepheus the of the Sanhedrin was a follower, as wel as Nicodemus. They used their wealth as a way for them and others to follow Jesus. They had no probelm spending their wealth on jesus and his work. They had placed their treasures, their heart, their life in Jesus' hands. They trusted Jesus with their life, and he in turn gave infinite value to their treasures.

What does that mean for us? Our wealth is not automatically a sign of God's blessing upon our life. Our wealth can be a powerful opponent to our trusting in Jesus Christ. Our wealth can be an obstacle to our following Him. OR, our wealth can be a resource for following Jesus Christ. All of our stuff can be placed in God's hands, given to him for both safekeeping and regulation, so that we don't worry about them, and we then spend our stuff, our wealth on Kingdom work.

What compels us to follow Jesus? What compels us to get eternal life? What compels us to trust God with our treasures?

Jesus said, "it is hard for a richman to enter the kingdom of heaven". The disciples were "greatly astonished", shocked, rattled, shook up...sputtering, "who then can be saved?" (they were rattled because they assumed that a rich man was blessed by God, and that the riches were a guarantee of God's favor, of eternal life. Thus, if even a rich man can't get into heaven, who can, if a man clearly blessed by God can't get in, who can?)

Jesus says, essentially, "To follow me, to give up your treasures upon the earth for treasures in heaven, to trust me for eternal life, this is impossible for man to do on his own. But with God, all things are possible."

Why follow Jesus? Because I sense his invitation. Why have treasure in heaven? Because Jesus invites me to it. Why trust Jesus for eternal life? Because Jesus invites me to it. It is not man's mere rational decision to follow Jesus, the obstacles are too high, the deception of the Devil to powerful...we can only follow and trust Jesus through his initial intervention and ongoing work (which is why he says that he must abide in us, and we must abide in him if we are going to bear any fruit).

Why is eternal life attractive to me? I am naturally opposed to death. I want to stay alive, as imperfect as this life is. Something in me yearns for eternal life. Ecclesiastes instructs us that God has set eternity in the hearts of man. The Devil seeks to cause despair or self-destruction concerning eternity. Only Jesus offers us eternity that fulfills all that is good about our current life. Jesus says in Matthew 19:28 "...at the renewal of all things...", all that is good about this life will be purified of all that is evil. What is eternal life? It is this life, but without the evil one at work. Why do we work to improve this world? Because it is a picture of what God will complete in the next life. What should I spend my life and wealth on? A life that will pass away? Or spend it on the One who will take my wealth and my life as a seedbed for "the renewal of all things"?

Hopefully the insights have been..well...insightful. Some of this is undedited rambling. Some. But it has been helpful for me to sort out what will be helpful for the sermon on Sunday. Let me know what you think about this insight and this text. And how it can be applied in life.


Thoughts on Resurrection Sunday

Easter Sermon Series Summary Notes 2006

This series leading up to Easter is designed to prepare our hearts for celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead by the Power of God's Spirit because of Father God's love for His Son and His Creation.

The probelm I personally have with Easter celebrations is the way I try and gear myself up for the "big Sunday." All that is done on Easter Sunday to make it a huge deal often strikes me as a replacement for the true reasons for my authentic gladness. Getting all dressed, big choirs and special music, festive decorations and eye-catching props, dramas and other artwork, all that often strikes me as done as a substitue, as a replacement: we need to feel joy on this day, and since we don't authentically have it, let us come up with stuff that will make us smile, laugh, maybe even shed a tear on Easter day so that we can appear as having experienced the true meaning of Easter.

This is obviously a very cynical understanding on Easter for my part. But part of it strikes true for me.

I have resolved to myself that any joy I experience in celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus will not stem from the art that we produce for the event, but rather that the artwork is a conduit, it is the means through which I celebrate with Jesus his Resurrection.

Maybe this sounds too strained, like I am trying to hard to have too authentic experience of the true joy that Jesus promised his followers we would have if we remained in and with him. Maybe. But I can't let go of this incessant urging in me to keep pursuing a more authentic and honest understanding of not just the facts surrounding Jesus' death and resurrection, but the meaning that comes from the facts, what does it mean for ME (not relativistically, but rather subjectively - does it mean anything to me, do I understand it to the point that I make decisions in accordance with it).

I don't want to imply that I understand nothing, that I have no true joy at Easter time, nor that I assume this automatically of other people who worship on Easter Sunday.

It is just that I feel God inviting me to a deeper understanding of how the facts of the Easter string together, and what that means for how we are to live now. This is where the concept of Eternal Life comes in. As I was preaching last weeks sermon, which included some comments on this phrase, "eternal life", it struck me that I had a very undeveloped understanding of this concept, and without being arrogant, I assumed so did most of the congregation. Some in the congregation can give me stated facts about what the Bible teaches about eternal life. But what I am looking for is what this concept means to them, and how it alters their life. That is what I am looking for in my life.

And so this is going to be our journey:to learn how to have eternal life in everyday life (as the fulfillment of a post-Jesus Resurrected promised life!).

You were maybe hoping for a shorter blogpost. How about I end this post here.

This post outlines what I hope to accomplish in this series leading up to Easter.



The one who trusts and obeys the Son has...

Friday, March 17, 2006

March 18 Sunday Sermon Notes

The Scripture Text: John 3:36 (TT) "The one who trusts and obeys the Son has life eternal, and the one who mistrusts and disobeys the Son will not see life eternal, but God's wrath remains upon him."

This verse deals with issues of trusting/obeying God's Son, attaining eternal life through God's Son, and having God's Wrath removed from us through God's Son.

This is a pivotal verse for us to understand as we prepare our hearts for the Resurrection Celebration.

Some general comments about the text.

Our everyday trusting and obeying of Jesus Christ is how we experience eternal life everyday.

We think that we ought to trust and obey Jesus primarily because it is the right thing to do in and of itself. And this idea is close to being correct. We ought to trust and obey Jesus. But the reason he gives us in this verse, the point of motivation stated here, is so that the truster can have eternal life now, in this earthly everyday life. The second point of motivation why one ought to trust and obey Jesus is so that God's Wrath will no longer remain upon him. So our motivation for obeying Jesus, according to this verse is two fold (I realize that other Scripture teaches more about this topic, but as a beginning point, let us begin here...) 1) to have eternal life NOW, and 2) to have God's Wrath removed NOW.

Again, in preaching last week's sermon, I was struck by my incomplete comprehension of eternal life. For the rich young man, he was seeking out Jesus to determine how to get eternal life. In this verse in John's Gospel, John the Baptist is instructing the reader how to attain eternal life: trust and obey Jesus. So what does this mean, eternal life?

It is a life spent trusting and obeying Jesus eternally - both in this life and the next. So eternal life begins and exists as I trust and obey Jesus. And if I want assurance that I have eternal life, I will have that assurance in my actual trusting and obeying Jesus.

Trusting and obeying Jesus can only happen through the power of the Holy Spirit, thus when we realize (see) that we are actually trusting adn obeying, we gain assurance that a miracle, an irrevocable miracle has happend - my trusting and obeying is a sign that God has reconciled me unto Himself. If God has reconciled me to Himself, that means that His Wrath which was upon me has been removed, or rather redirected, rather absorbed by the Cross of Christ.

What is eternal life then? It is the good life that gets better and better forever by trusting and obeying Jesus Christ through the enabling of God's Spirit.

Why do I trust and obey Jesus Christ? Because it is how I attain eternal life, and eternal life is what my heart naturally yearns for more than anything else. And Jesus Christ has come that we may have eternal life, and that we can have it by trusting him to confer it upon us, and to obey him as the way to experience it.

Does this make sense?

Eternal Life is to be for us the most delightful, most magnetic, most desirable of all things for us: a life of ever increasing joy.

There is something in us that pauses at the idea of linking together the combined cause of pursuing our own greatest good and at the same time following Jesus.

C.S. Lewis in one of his most famous comments (and one of my most favorite) remarks on this idea:

"If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love.

You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive. The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love.

The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant (18th century philosopher) and the Stoics (ancient Greek philosophers) and is no part of the Christian faith.

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mus pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holidy at teh sea.

We are far too easily pleased."

The point: my motivation for trusting and obeying Jesus is my desire for the good life that gets better and better forever and ever. I catch glimpses of what the good life might be here on the earth, and I take that and must trust that Jesus holds out the best version of it, and I must believe his instructions on how to attain the best life, and not only believe that his Way is the Best Way, but that I must actually obey what he instructs me to do that I might actually attain this Best Life. And Jesus says that this Best life can begin Now.

I find that in trusting and obeying Jesus, my aspirations for the best life possible become centered in Jesus himself, and that our deep desires for the good life become deep desires for Jesus himself. But we must start what we instinctivly desire: the good life that never ends, and only gets better forever. Jesus promises us that kind of life if we trust him to provide it for us through his faithfulness and our obedience.

Does that make sense: John the Baptist teaches us that the one who trusts Jesus has eternal life. It is present tense, we have it NOW. We have it NOW through the faithfulness and grace of Jesus Christ, but we experience it NOW through our trusting and obeying everyday.

What does this mean for why I celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ died and was resurrected that I might have eternal life. (John 3:16). Jesus died and was resurrected so that humanity, so that you and I could have the good life we always have instinctively longed for...but could never attain.

Sin was the evil power which corrupted our pursuits, turned our dreams into despair, twisted the good life into a life of either gross immorality or quite desperation. But through the Triumph of the Cross, The power of Sin is broken, and thus our desires for the good life, instead of being corrupted by the power of Sin, is redeemed by the Power of God's Spirit, so that we can have life eternal.

Jesus died so that we can have the good life.

I know I want the good life. And I must trust Jesus at his Word: if he promises me the good life if I trust and follow him, then I will take that Decisive step, and follow.

And so my celebration at Easter is both reflective and anticipative. I reflect upon my experiences of the eternal life through my trusting and obeying, and am deeply glad for what has occured. And I anticipate what God might do through me and us, through our trusting and obeying...and am so very glad that Jesus' resurrection is a sign of God's love for humanity and his commitmant to get us the good life with Him.

Let me know how this strikes you.

I am trying to prepare my heart for the celebration of the Resurrection through more thorough knowledge of the story, of the Gospel and Epistle teachings, as well as purified devotion to the One and Only.

Let me know if the Spirit is prompting you to join on this journey through this series and Scripture study.



What kind of food do you work for?

March 26 Sunday Sermon Notes

The Scripture text is John 6:27 "Do not work for food which is digested, but work for food that remains and results in eternal life, a gift which is from the Son of Man - whom Father God has identified as of Him." (TT)

The overarching goal of this series is to revitalize our celebration of Jesus' Resurrection from the Dead. We will reach this goal by whetting our appetites for eternal life. God the Father resurrected His Son from the Dead, that we might have Eternal Life. So, to the degree that I hunger for eternal life, I will to that degree celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. If I do not hunger for eternal life as described by Jesus Christ, then I will not have a real good reason for celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.

I am convinced that many Christians, including myself, have lived with an underdeveloped understanding of Life Eternal. This leads to an unexplainable lack of vitality in their "Christian Life". So either Christians accomodate themselves to the long haul, enduring earth while awaiting their death; or they make the best of it, put a smile on their face and offer up overused and annoying cliches to explain the mysteries and savage pain experienced in life; or they give up on God and Christianity because it is not worth it; or some other reasons - there are lots of them.

One of the keys for Christians to experience any kind of vitality is to understand and experience Eternal Life Everyday. That we might have eternal life is why we are offered Salvation. We talk about having Salvation without understanding the content of that word, so that we claim to have something we don't understand, and how can you value or celebrate something you don't understand? People did not understand Jesus when he talked directly to him, and people don't understand Jesus when we talks to them today through the Scriptures. And if you don't understand Jesus, you will not celebrate him, you will ignore him or crucify him. The Scripture above is about Jesus addressing the misunderstanding, and trying to help them understand the truth about the purpose of life, of how to get eternal life, which is what everyone wants.

John chapter six begins with Jesus feeding the five thousand. The people are impressed with the sign, but they are more satisfied by the full belly. Their response is to make this Teacher, Prophet and Miracle Worker their King! Jesus would not have it. Nobody can choose to make him their King. Jesus is King regardless whether you submit or rebel. Jesus already was their King! They just wouldn't take him on his Terms! They didn't understand. Jesus gets away from them, heads up into the mountains, goes back down to the sea by another way, crosses the storm-tossed sea, scaring the bejeebers out of his disciples in the process. He ends up on the other side of the sea in his home town. The crowd, in the meantime, goes about searching for the guy who filled up their bellies. They want to get Jesus to keep their bellies filled up (he is convenient, provides for leftovers, and did all the serving and cleaning up!). They come up to Jesus, but Jesus cuts right to the heart of the matter and tells them what is really going on inside of them: you are only Seeking Me because I filled your bellies one day. What you don't understand is that I did not come to just fill your bellies for this life. I came to provide food that you might have eternal life (that which you have always hungered for).

So they want to know, what kind of work are they to do so that they can get eternal life. Jesus' reply? Trust me. Believe me. Have Faith in Me. And they don't understand what he is talking about. They are thinking, "We just want our bellies filled."

Trusting Jesus is like eating food. It sustains us. It is a constant need. To go without eating/trusting is to slowly die.

The point is not whether I am a Christian. The point is, am I going to receive Eternal Life as a gift from Jesus? So then the real question is not, how do I be a good Chrisitan, but rather, what must I do so that I receive Eternal life as a gift?

Jesus says that if you do the hard work of trusting me, I promise that I will give you (as a gift, not a wage) Eternal Life.

So the real question is, do I want Eternal Life? The crowd that followed Jesus didn't want eternal life from him, they just wanted their bellies filled up. Jesus came to offer Eternal Life, and when Jesus wouldn't offer them what they wanted, and when Jesus wouldn't go away, they made him go away. But they can't make Jesus do anything. And Jesus came back. And then Jesus left on his own terms. He is King and Judge, and when he comes back, he will set things right. And for those that waited, and died waiting for eternal life, he will set them right, will give them the eternal life they trusted him to give. And for those that did not wait for eternal life, did not want eternal life, and died not wanting it, we will give them what they wanted.

I am struggling with this passage. I want to talk about Eternal Life Experienced Everyday. This passage talks about food, which is an everyday item, and it talks about food that leads to eternal life. I'm just not figuring out what that means for us.

Prayer can be like food that leads to eternal life. When I pray, as an act of trust and obedience, I experience Eternal Life, which is like the food that nourishes me and sustains me. When I pray as an act of trust and obedience I am doing the work of Jesus that God sent him to do. I am most Christ-like when I pray, I am most Christ-like when I pray as an act of trust and obedience.

We ask WWJD? What Would Jesus Do? As we try to figure out answers to moral dilemmas, difficult family situations, awkward social settings, financial problems and so on.

Jesus says in John 5:19 that he only does what he sees the Father doing. We can only see if first we believe (what Jesus taught Thomas). So in order to do anything as Jesus would, it must be as an act of trust and obedience.

I'll stop here. Maybe tomorrow I'll have a better grasp on the passage.


True Bread and True Drink...a raw metaphor for love & communion

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

April 2 Sunday Sermon Thoughts

The text for the sermon is John 6:54-56 (TT) "The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life eternal, and I will resurrect him in the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him."

The disciples described this teaching as "hard" and wondered who could accept it. Indeed! The Jews wondered how Jesus could give them his flesh to eat...a very disgusting thought. And this is a disgusting series of verses. Unless one understands what Jesus is talking about, why he is using the metaphors he does, and why he is even talking this way.

Two things to remember: 1) the book of John is not written in "real" time. The book is a construction of the life and teachings of Jesus - not for the sake of acurrately recording historical events, but rather, recording real events that really happened and giving an account of them in such a way that one will "believe that Jesus is the Son of God and have Eternal Life" (see chapter 20). 2) When one looks throughout the book of John, one can better understand the use of Jesus' metaphors, especially in chapter six.

Here is my summary: the disciples description of Jesus' teaching as "hard" does not refer to his use of the flesh and blood metaphors. The Jews thought it was revolting and unimaginable. But what were Jesus' own disciples referring to?
John 6:58 "This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” This is the summary point that Jesus makes, to which the disciples react. Since they are not convinced that Jesus is the Son of God, they are having difficulty beleiving what Jesus is teaching. The manna given to the Israelites in the Wilderness is a beloved story and symbol. Jesus is wiping the belovedness of that story away, and replacing it with himself. You can eat manna, but you will still die. You can believe me, and you will live. It was difficult to reconcile the apparent intelligence and brilliance of Jesus with what came acorss as ludicrous and outrageous statements. It was hard to accept - hard to turn away from the Mosaic covenant, the Mosaic traditions, the law and its culture. Hard to believe that God had come to replace the law with grace and truth. Hard to believe that a person was replacing the stone tablets. Hard to believe that the good life was to come at the hands of a person like Jesus, as opposed to coming as a result of my hard work, good deeds and religious devotion to YHWH. Jesus' use of flesh and blood didn't help matters.

Here is some helpful tidbits on unpacking the metaphors.

In John 1, the author writes that Jesus is the Word, and that the Word became Flesh.
In John 3 Jesus teaches that flesh gives birth to flesh, but Spirit gives birth to Spirit.
In John 5, Jesus teaches that if one hears the Word and believes God - the one who sent Jesus, this one has eternal life, will not be judged, has crossed over from death to life.
In John 6 Jesus says he is the Bread of Life.

Stay with me...Jesus is not just the author of words, he is the Word. Therefore the Word must get inside of us. Thus we hear it. But Jesus is the source of life, and refers to himself as bread. Thus to get Life into us, we must eat the bread.
The Word became Flesh: God meant to get inside of humans - as demonstrated in the Incarnation (Jesus the God-Man); and God means to get inside of humans like us - through our eyes (the Historical Jesus), through our ears (the Word) and through our mouth (Bread). But we live in this world as flesh, and we can give birth only to flesh, and the flesh is bound to die. So God comes to us, from Spirit only, to a perfect union of Spirit/Flesh. He must get us to make the move from only Flesh, to the perfect union of Flesh/Spirit. God wants to get inside of us, more than just words rattling around in our head, but the way food gets into every cell of your body. God wants our flesh to be saturated with His Spirit. So we eat his Flesh (Word/Bread), the flesh of Jesus is saturated with God's Spirit, thus when we "eat" and "drink" Jesus, we consume and are nourished by Spirit-saturated Flesh. This Spirit saturated flesh then gets into every cell of our body. We truly then become "conformed to the image of Christ" for he is in us and acting out through our spirit.

Jesus writes in John 6:63: "The Spirit gives life! The flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you - they are full of the Spirit and life."

Jesus said in 6:56 that the one who eats and drinks him will remain in Him and He will remain in the eater. From a food metaphor this is perceivable. Jesus as Word is not Bread to be eaten, digested, nourished by for a day, and then defecated. Jesus is Word to be consumed and nourished unto Eternity. Jesus is to be in us as food gets inside of us.

Partaking of communion is an act of remembrance: to remember the body given for us, the blood poured out for us, that we could die to this life and be born to a new life with Him forever. We partake of communion to remember that we only have Life Eternal because the Spirit of Jesus courses through our veins, he nourishes our cells.

How do we "remain in Jesus" how do we "eat and drink" Jesus everyday?

We find the answer in John 15 - we remain in Jesus and his word remains in us when we obey his commands. What is the one command that all other commands come from? Love one another AS I HAVE LOVED YOU!

What would it take to love another human as Jesus loves them? It would take a Jesus-saturated human to love another human as Jesus would. But the condition is this: Love another human as I love YOU!!!!!!

Think about that: In order to love another human in accordance with Jesus commands, I am to acknowledge, understand, accept, celebrate and enjoy Jesus' love for me. Is this an abstract love? Is it the idea of love? Is it a belief in love? Is it a doctrine of love? Or if I am to eat and drink Jesus, if I am to be nourished unto eternity by Jesus, and if for eternity I am to enjoy the love of Jesus, then I must experience the love of Jesus in my life. My life is to be saturated by the love of Jesus.

And if I cannot see how I am loved by Jesus, Woe Unto Me!

When I love others as Jesus LOVES ME, then I am obeying his command. To obey his command, I must trust him to help me do so, for it is IMPOSSIBLE to love another as Jesus loves me apart from being Spirit-saturated. To become Spirit saturated, I must trust Jesus the Word. To trust I must hear and accept. If Jesus the Word is bread and fruit of the vine, then I eat and drink Jesus. If Jesus is the Word made flesh (given for me) and If Jesus is the New Covenant/Testament as blood poured out for me, and I trust it to be so for me, then it is mine as a gift.

To take communion is to remember how much Jesus loves me - both in the historical past on the cross, but also in the daily present because of the resurrection. To take communion is the front end of obedience: to not follow up communion with loving others AS JESUS LOVES ME is to still be disobedient. One condemns oneself worse if one takes communion with no intent (or ignorance) of loving others as JESUS LOVES ME. To take communion is to remember, it is also a sign: I AM LOVED and I LOVE OTHERS AS JESUS LOVES ME. To say this is to be humble, under grace, moved by truth, and full of Joy. What greater experience is there then to love others as Jesus loves me.

What is Eternal Life? What is the good life that gets better and better for ever and ever with God? Loving others as Jesus loves me.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The one who is disinclined towards his life...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Sunday April 9 Sermon Thoughts

The Scripture text is John 12:25 "The one how lavishes special honor on his own life destroys his life. The one who is disinclined towards his life in this world will keep it unto life eternal." (TT)

Sorry Chris, I know I told you I would not have time to blog some thoughts...but here...just for you!

Rudolph Bultmann writes about verse 25: "life is of so peculiar a character, it so completely eludes any desire to hold it fast, and it is won exactly when we give it up." This is the great paradox of faith and life in Jesus Christ.

I thought of the movie Braveheart, upon reading this quote. The prison scene, near the end of the movie, when the queen enters to provide him with a painkiller, but primarily to persuade him to confess that he might regain his freedom, and keep his life. But Wallace new better. His quote (my version TT) "All men die, but few men ever really live." Both Bultmann's quote and Wallace's have a redemptive theme, which is a pointer to the redemptiveness of Jesus Christ. Jesus' death is our provision of life. Jesus' resurrected life makes our life resurrectable.

I like the idea of preaching this text on Palm Sunday: the picture of Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem - to his death, yet he is lavished with special honor by others. He is disinclined towards life in this world as it is - which is why he has come to redeem it, because he loves this world too much to leave it the way it is now.

The question for us: how do we get eternal life? What must we do to have eternal life now? We must let go of this life, become disinclined to this world as it is now. The decision to trust Jesus enables us to love this world and be disinclined towards it at the same time. Jesus came on a search and rescue mission to this world, a world of "flotsam and jetsam" (to quote Tolkein), hence one can see how Jesus loves this world, but why would he want to be inclined towards it as it is now? This world is his creation, but it is a creation populated by rebels who deface and devestate Him and His work. But he loves the creation and he loves the rebels, and he will redeem his creation, and he will redeem all rebels who trust that Jesus Christ is both willing and able.

What would make this world "disinclinable" yet "lovable"? See the world through Jesus' eyes. We are his body, so this should be feasible. Jesus says to trust, then you can see. To see the world as it really is, a world run amok, this we are disinclined towards. But the earth and its creatures are God's handiwork, no matter how defaced and polluted they become. And all humans are made in the image of God, and thus this world is lovable.

How uncomfortable does this world and its ways make you? If this world were a shirt, how easily would you wear it? Would it be a like a rough burlap undershirt? Or a tailored silk shirt?

I am not suggesting we become hard cynics, callosed skeptics towards anything and everything generated by the world. Just uncomfortable, disinclined. Anytime anything is accepted as status quo, it ought to be questioned. All presuppositions about what is acceptable beliefs, behaviors, and battles ought to be reacted to with a raised eyebrow and a questioning look. Everything about this world is tainted and essentially ruined by sin. At the end of all things (Rev. 22) God will remake everything, a new heaven and a new earth. How attached should I become to this world, which is tainted and ruined? I am born into a world to which I must become more and more uncomfortable with. The fruit of this? Deeper yearning for life eternal, the good life that gets better and better for ever and ever, starting now. It is the fresh water and tasty bread of life that both satisfies me in Jesus but leaves me disillusioned with the water and bread of this world.

So what do I do with my life in this world that I am becoming disinclined towards and learning to love like Jesus? I do two things which are really the same thing: I become like a Seed (v.24), which must be laid into the ground and die so that life can emerge from me - both for myself and others. I become a Servant of Jesus (v.26), following his steps into Life Eternal (the place), and as a Servant of Jesus I receive Honor from the Father. This is the honor I've always really wanted, and now I have become disinclined towards the honor the world bestows, I am disinclined towards honoring myself, of putting myself first in both pampering and promoting.

So what does this mean for everyday eternal life?

Each day is not about me. I am a Seed/Servant. How can I lay down my life today so that another can have the day God would bless them with, if only I would lay down my life. Who can I serve today, so that through my serving God can do his work that otherwise would be thwarted by my passive agressive rebellion of ignorance and business?

Hence our morning and evening prayers are so vital. Our meal time prayers could actually nourish us more than the food we scarf, if we prayed wisely and awarely. Our "unceasing prayer" could be our ongoing response to God's ongoing prompting of where to lay down our life, of whom to serve during the day. The day is all you have, the hour is all you have, really the minute (to be generous) is all you really have. What will you do with the next minute? What you dang well please? What you think God might approve of based on stuff you've read in the Bible? Or, what God has just prompted you to do in the moment? If I want life eternal, I must lay down this life on earth, to be disinclined towards it. If I want honor in this life, it will be from my Father, honor given for following Jesus in trust.

How much do I want eternal life now? The rich man walked away because he was too inclined towards stuff (the money, the influential job at the office, the family heritage, the great entertainment, the thrill of technology, the stimulating literature, the vivid landscapes, the whatever consits of life in this world).

How do I best enjoy the stuff of this world? Become disinclined towards it.
How do I gain honor in this life? Seek it from the Father who cares for you, not people who need to use (and abuse) you.
How do I live to attain greatness? Lay down your life as a servant of all, in the steps of Jesus.
How do I do this. It starts with trust: do you trust Jesus to provide you with the good life that gets better and better forever and ever with God everday?

Yes or no.

There you go Chris!


A Bad Girld of the Bible - Lottie

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

5.7.06 Sunday Sermon Notes

The Bad Girl of the Bible we're going to learn from this week is Lot's Wife. Let's call her Lottie.

Lottie is an interesting character, more by what she doesn't say, then what she does say. She communicates more to us by the one act of "looking back" then any other deed recorded of her (or non-deeds).

Lottie had a successful businessman for a husband, he had a prosperous ranch, he had a comfortable life in the city, and he was a civic leader. She had two beautiful daughters that were both engaged to important men. Lottie seemed to have it made. She had a husband who could provide for her, two daughters that she could take care of, and seemingly all the stuff and reputation a wife and mom could want. Except that the stuff and the reputation had a hold on her, she couldn't let go of them, and they wouldn't let go of her. When destruction came to the place of her stuff and reputation, she chose to let go of her family rather than let go of her stuff. She turned her back on a life with her family rather than on her life with her stuff.

Lottie doesn't say a lot in Scripture, and she is not recorded as doing much. She is a behind the scenes woman. She doesn't display overt power and influence, but she knows how to do it quietly, subversively, in the shadows, she knows how to use her influence without being noticed, she knows how to get what she wants, she knows how to push Lot's buttons.

Jesus asked the probing question: What good is it if you gain the whole world, but forfeit your soul?

Lottie lost her soul. She also lost her stuff. Lot lost his stuff. He lost his wife. He kept his daughters. He got another shot at life. His story is a whole other story. But it didn't include Lottie. She had her own plans, and her husband and daughters were a tool to get more stuff.

There is more that I can say about Lottie, but I'll save it for Sunday. You can read about her in Genesis 19.


Another Bad Girl of the Bible - Anita

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

5.14.06 Sermon Notes - Mother's Day

The text is from Luke 7:36-50 - the story of the woman who anoints Jesus' feet with tears and perfume.

Let's call her...Anita...

Anits is described as a sinful woman. The word sinful is a general word for sin, so it could be she was a prostitute, as many readers assume. It is just as likely that she was a thief, a liar, a troublemaker, a widowed beggar. The Pharisee's noted she was a sinner, and according to them, everybody but them were sinners, for noone could keep all the commandments of the laws like they could.

But Anita was a bona fide sinner, and apparently everyone knew it. Interesting...what qualifies these days as bona fide sinners? Christians are quick to point out sexual immorality, drunkeness, thievery, drug abuse, laziness as characteristics of bona fide sinners. But in this story Simon the Pharisee was labeled as one who was in need of forgiveness for his sins. It seems that the difference between Simon and Anita, as pointed out by Jesus, was that she was honest and clear about the many sins she was in need of being forgiven, where Simon was willfully blind or ignorant to those actions of his which were really sinful.

Simon didn't have a "past" like Anita, a past full of public moral failures. Simon, if he had become a Christian, would have been seeking forgiveness for his "heart" sins - arrogance, pride, selfishness, lust, envy, fear, etc. To say he was guilty of those things do not result in book publishers lining up for another juicy testimony. But Simon was just as far from Jesus as Anita, actually farther, because he didn't think he was in need of that much forgiveness.

This story is actually about Anita, but it helps a bit to compare her to Simon.
A comparison: Antia's sins were sins to survive- what she did was not for the pure pleasure of sin, she had to do what she had to do just to survive. If she had to sell her body to get shelter, steal to get a meal, lie to keep a job, she'd do it - she had to do anything just to survive, to make it from one day to the next.
Simon's sins were sins to thrive - what he did was based on what would get him ahead, what would keep him in power, what would make him more influential, more knowledgable, more wealthy, more respected. Simon didn't worry about getting by from day to day, Simon worried about how to get more of what he wanted, to add to his storehouse of what he already had.

Anita was guilty of sin, she knew it, everyone knew it. Anita wasn't alone...she had lots of "friends" and family just like her. In fact alot of people were just like her. She knew life was hard, it could be cruel, dangerous, exhausting, stressful, busy, lonely, unfair, mocking, scary, meaningless...and maybe that was it...life has been always like that for most people, and always will be...but why did she have to be so full of sin as well...it was enough to be burdened by the difficulties of life...did she also have to be burdened by sin?

And there was Jesus...not making overt promises of making life easy...or even easier...but he could do something about the sin...which had rewards of another kind, more profound, more real....

Anita was a bad girl...bad things had been done to her for a long time, and out of that she did bad things to others for a long time...she knew that she couldn't alwasy stop all the bad things that might happen to her...but she could do something about the bad things she did to others...was there a way to be free from what "badness" does to you? Was there a way to have peace amidst a turbulent, tiresome world? Was there anything to believe in? Yes...and in Jesus Anita found her answer. Anita found a man she could believe in, someone she could trust...some one who could make all things right...make things new.

As Anita stood at Jesus' feet, in the presence of the Redeemer, she sensed his power to set people free from the bondage of sin/badness, she sensed his power to transform a heart through love, she sensed his power of joy amidst deep suffering...she was ready to be set free from her sin/badness, and in Jesus she felt his power, and she trusted him as her way out.

Jesus offers a way to freedom for Anita's in every family, in every church. And every Anita is a reminder to every Simon that awareness and anguish of sin is the gateway to grace and gratitude. The more aware and anguished of your sin, the more grace you recievce from Jesus and hence the more gratitude you have, which is a sign that you have been set free.

Anita walked away from Jesus with a heart set free, even though her home and hometown was still embroiled by poverty, violence, injustice, chronic disease and hunger, underemployment and etc...but she was free...she believed...she had a future of peace no matter what the world did to her.

Jesus and the DaVinci Code

May 21 Sermon Stuff - Jesus and the DaVinci Code

The texts for this week are John 18:36-38a & Colossians 2:6-9

Let me state some of my presuppositions about this book, the controversy around this book, and how I want to interact with it for this sermon series.

First, I have read the book and am not offended by it. I have also read the author's comments about the book and believe him. This book is not an attack on Christianity, it is not a slur against the Church and is not a slam against Opus Dei. I don't believe the author is an evangelical Christian, though he does claim to be a Christian (see www.DanBrown.com), so why would I expect him to write a book that includes a version of Jesus that pleases evangelical Christians?

The author has the characters of the books make some outrageous claims that cannot be substantiated through historical verification, but the book is a novel, so this is a moot point. Now, if people believe to be true about the Church, about Jesus, about reality, according to what the author has the characters say, then that is a problem, but shame on the deceived believers.

A point of contention that some have with the author is his "FACT" page at the beginning of the book. The Priory of Sion has been proven as a hoax (type Priory of Sion into Google, and go to the Wikepedia site for some info)...did Brown know this before he wrote his book? Many people have already combed through his book pointing out numerous "mistakes" in his statements about art and architecture...is this sloppiness on Brown's part? What can one conclude? Don't believe anything Brown states in the book as fact! Just enjoy it as a novel that uses history and pseudo-history as a launching pad for another world that seems strangely like ours, but factually just is not. IT IS NOT A HISTORICAL NOVEL!!!!! IT IS JUST A NOVEL!!!!!!!

So, what about his claims about Jesus Christ. Did he marry Mary Magdalene? Did he have children and produce a royal line? Was he divine? According to the New Testament, No, No and Yes. Brown "cites" other "gospels" to "prove" his version of the story. But the other "gospels" are not in the New Testament because they are not credible enough (either due to authorship or content, or both) to be recognized as Scripture (the record of God's Word and Work by God's Prophets and Apostles).

Does it matter whether Jesus was married, had children, and was not divine? Yes it matters. Jesus could have married, and could have fathered children, he was fully human, so he had that opportunity and capablitilty, but chose not to do it for the cause of his mission. Jesus was divine, according to his own words. If Jesus said he was divine, and really wasn't, then that makes him a liar or a lunatic. If Jesus wasn't divine, but his followers insisted that he was, than his followes are liars and the message is untrustworthy, which is an approach some take.

Darrel Bock, professor out of Dallas Theological Seminary points out that our faith is known as Christianity, not Jesusanity. We follow Jesus the Christ, the Divine Messiah, Anointed of God, the Deity in the Flesh. Jesus the man was an interesting teacher and inspiring leader, but we trust him and obey him because he is divine, because as the God-Man he is able to reconcile Mankind with God, atoning for our sin and giving us eternal life with God (the good life that gets better and better forever and ever with God). Jesus can't deliver us to the good life unless he is divine.

If nothing else, when you finish reading The Davinci Code you'll be glad that Jesus didn't wed Mary! You'll be glad that the faith handed down to you through the ages is not corrupted by consipiracy, but the songs of the saints! It is interesting to note that at the end of the book, the criminal who gets arrested, the evil mastermind behind the twisted plot generated a church conspiracy out of nothing.

Read the book. Enjoy the novel. Be challenged to deepen your understanding of what you state to believe.

Adam - First Bad Boy of the Bible

I am copying over prior posts from the Anchor Music Blog site. I am moving them more for archive purposes then anything else. But if you find them worth roaming through, go for it.


Friday, June 16, 2006

6.18.06 Sermon Notes

The Scripture text is Genesis 5:1-5, the story of Adam - the first Bad Boy of the Bible.

This is the written account of Adam’s line.
When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.
He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them “man.”
When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.
After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters.
Altogether, Adam lived 930 years, and then he died.

Adam was Bad for a Moment, a moment that reverberates as a ill-struck note throughout the course of human history.

To paraphrase Maximus (Gladiator): Our deeds on earth echo throughout eternity.

Adam was commanded to do two basic things, he was blessed so that he could accomplish two major deeds. First, he is to be fruitful with his family, with the creatures under his care, and with the vegation under his care. Second, he is to rule his family, the creatures of the earth, sea and air, and the vegation under his care.

Adam is to rule in such a way that his family prospers, animals prosper, the earth prospers. Adam is to cultivate his family, care for his creatures and the earth in such a way that they receive the results of the blessing that God gave Adam.

In regard to Adam's family, he is to rule them in such a way that they fill the earth. His rule is to result in adults who can fulfill the commands of ruling and fruitfulness. He is to continue God's initial work of filling the world with God-imagers with the capacity to rule and be fruitful.

What is the measure of success for Adam? When he rules like God, and when he produces "fruit" like God. When the people and creatures and earth under his rule and care become capable of ruling and producing fruit like God commanded.

Not as God, but like God.

Adam needed help in ruling the creatures and the earth, his helper is Eve. He also obviously needs Eve so that together they can be fruitful and fill the earth. That means that Adam's ruling over Eve should result in a cultivated heart that beats with his, a woman who gladly partners with him to experience and live out of God's blessing and commands to them.

But Adam and Eve will only be successful with the people, creatures and earth under their rule and care when they listen and do what God commands them to do. Any deviation from what God commands results in a deviation in what is not good and not right. To take matters into one's own hands is to bring ruin and grief into the ruling and cultivating.

Adam as the first husband failed his wife by not ruling her heart and body, his ruling was to result in a woman who was fruitful and blessed in all she does and says. He let her be deceived, he didn't protect her from the serpent, he didn't slaughter the snake, he didn't drag her away from what was ruining her trust in God. Adam was not deceived, but he chose Eve over God.

Adam as the first father failed his children through the mistrust and abandonment of God in his earlier years. Adam was to raise up children who could rule and cultivate the earth and its animals, which Cain and Abel did. But they were to do it with a right heart before God, and Cain was cultivating a bad attitude. Sin was crouching at his door, just like it did with his mother and father. Cain failed, just like his folks, and it brought death...to his brother.

Adam is the first man, the first husband, the first father. He didn't fail miserably, just for a moment...that resonates forever.

Jesus is the Second Adam, the God-man, the husband of the church, the father of the world. He didn't fail, not for a moment...and this resonates forever as well.

If the sin of one man can bring ruin to his family and his world, then the good of one good man can bring redemption to families of the world. If they trust Jesus, and then pattern their life after him.

Adam was to trust God and pattern his life in accordance with those first commands and blessings. We are Adam and Eve, and we are to trust God through Jesus, and pattern our lives after him.

We are to rule so that those children and people under our leadership develop a cultivated Christ heart in which they can rule and cultivate a Christ heart in their children and people.

We are to cultivate a Christ heart in our children, our friends, our family, our neighbors, fixing and mending broken hearts through the wisdom, love and power of God in us through Jesus Christ.

What is at stake in doing all that God commands us to do?

Adam didn't understand what was at stake.

Don't keep making Adam's mistake.

Through the rule and cultivation of Jesus in our life today, we can avoid making Adam's mistake, and we can also be redeemed. But you have the power of heaven at your disposal, and the wisdom of the saints to help you bring up your children so that they become adults with cultivated Christ hearts.

Sam Harris is OK

Google the name Sam Harris (http://www.samharris.org/), the author of several books about religion. He is an athiest calling for the end of religion. I picked up a little book of his, Letter to a Christian Nation, and I liked it. Though he comes across at times as abrasive, he is engaging. His arguments seem compelling. But it strikes me that he has to gloss certain major pieces of the Bible, and then overly focus on other minor parts in order to sustain his startling call for the end of religion.

What I think is okay about what he is doing is this: a result of his challenge is that Chrisitans, and religious people of faith are presented with an opportunity to think hard about what they believe and what they do. How blindly will you subscribe to a religion? What compels you to become/stay a Christian? What should you do with spiritual experiences? I can't speak for Harris, and I've only read one of his books once through, but it strikes me that his disgust with all that is worst with religion is what drives part of his rant. It seems that for him all that is worst with religion is part of the core of religion. Even though much good has resulted from religion, it's not like it undoes or balances out the bad. Religion must go, and reason must be what guides our lives.

I am against all evil that is done in the name of religion. But I'm not prepared to disavow Jesus because Harris has such a huge problem with imperfect (some wickedly so) believers across the board. Many are echoing Harris' comments, for he has articulated what so many have felt within, but been able to express like him. Unfortunately it is often laced with disdain for religionists. That is unfortuante - it doesn't seem like that will woo religionists to secularism and reason. Not that I'm for a conversion to secularism, it's just that disdain for another human ought not be accepted. But Harris must be very, very, very much against religion to disdain it so much - I can't believe he would disdain lightly.

I just read most of a "blogologue" between Harris and Andrew Sullivan on Beliefnet. Very thoughtful. You can check it out at http://www.beliefnet.com/story/209/story_20904_1.html

One interesting argument by Harris: faith and reason are incompatible, thus science and reason are incompatible. Anybody trying to integrate the two are compromising the essence of each, and thus articluate bosh. In our postmodern age, it seems that the argument all hinges on how those two words are defined. At this point, I'm not convinced that science and religion are polar opposites, that faith and reason are enemies. I subscribe to National Geographic and Christianity Today. Does that mean I'm a sell-out on both ends of the spectrum? I don't think so. Harris seems to think so. Do you think so?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Jesus didn't wash his hands before eating, and neither should you!

Matthew 15-16 contains seven fascinating stories, the first one being that Jesus and his friends get in trouble by their mommies (well, actually religious zealots and lawyers) for eating with dirty hands. And Jesus, being a brilliant middle schooler (okay, he's a witty thirtysomething) smarts back: yes, I do break your traditions...but you break the commands of God - I'm telling Dad!!!

In this particular show-down, Jesus (the light) reveals the (dark) deeds of the powerful, influential, wealthy religious leaders of Israel. God's law was that you honor your folks by providing financially for them when they become dependent. These religious leaders got around that by invoking another of God's laws: don't be gift-taker-backer. Once you give a gift, let it be given, don't issue a recall. So, if you give a gift to God, let it be given, no strings attached. Except that the wealthy leaders used this rule to shield their money from their needy folks. Thus God is being used as a "tax-shelter", which ends up being very unjust. I can see why God would get so upset, and why Jesus speaks so plainly and pointedly. I laugh everytime I read Peter's response to Jesus' jeremiad (a prophetic sermon that is full of passion and truth): "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?"

The final part of this story is often glossed over: Jesus teaches that nothing that you ingest, inhale or intake can defile you. Think about that. Is that true?

Jesus instructs us that what defiles us is already within us. Hear is what can come out of a human heart all on its own: evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. Note: what makes these actions so vile is that each one of them results in somebody else getting damaged, ruined, bent, hurt, broken, abandoned, bruised, or even dead. And we know from King David's story, that when ever we do wrong by another human, we have first done wrong to God. Jesus is telling these Pharisees that even though they "thought" they were honoring God, they were dishonoring Him by dishonoring their folks. They were obssessed with appearing "right", but they let themselves be deceived, and Jesus - almost too easily - pointed out that their hearts were in the "wrong", and had been for a very long time.

What is the Way of Jesus? How can we walk it if our hearts can be so "wrong", even when we get too focused on appearing "right"?

Jesus is God-in-the-flesh, Jesus is God-very-close-to-you, Jesus is the co-creator of the universe: all that is most beautiful, powerful, good, joyous, true, free, fulfilling, strong, enduring, creative is found in Him. Jesus is inviting people to walk in such a way that all that was infused in Creation can be infused into you. God poured this into us, we have been deceived by the Deceiver, and thus enslaved, blinded, crippled, diseased, corrupted, bent, ruined, etc. And so God comes again (and again, and again) to be very close to us to free us from the enslavement of deception, the blind to truth and love can see, the crippled by hate and lonliness can leap, the diseased can celebrate, the corrupted have shalom, etc.

That is a lot to belive about a person and a promised way of life. And so few seem to have received it. Mostly because so few people are willing to admit the true condition of their soul/heart/mind - but the invitation appeals to even the most unlikely of people. See the story of the Canaanite woman who Jesus referenced to as a "dog."

Don't confuse the Good American Way of Life with the Way of Jesus. Good citizen ideals, home ownership preferences, educational and vocational goals, social manners and personal hygiene have very, very, very, very little to do with the way of Jesus. They are not necessarily bad, they just have their place. More on that later.

the U2 Eucharist

Copy and paste this weblink into your browser:


It's a fascinating article about an Episcopalian communion service using a liturgy book created solely of U2 songs.

How awesome. I'm definitely going to check it out.

Since I already use U2 songs at Anchor (I once did a sermon series hinging on four different songs), this is worth checking into.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Looking for Legos, finding my trophies

The kids are blessed to have family watch them four days a week while Tara and I are at work. Today my aunt Shirley and Faye were playing with the kids. Lately they have been bringing their little tub of Legos for the kids to play with. For months Faye has been suggesting that I get down my big huge tub of Legos from the attic. So today I found them. It was rather nostalgic.

While looking for my container of Legos, I found a tub of trophies. My mother has saved all of them, my little soccer trophies from my elementary days, my attendance and grade trophies from middle school, and so on. The thought crossed my mind: I wish they gave trophies to pastors. That way the pastor would know whether he was doing a good enough job. Then I could have a wall of trophies to remind me that I was doing a good job. And then I realized how pathetic that thought was.

There is something inherently wrong with a pastor wanting trophies to mark his success. I thought about how much I enjoyed getting trophies...as a kid. Now that I'm not a kid anymore, life isn't as simple. If I'm honest, I don't want it simple. And I'm not sure I want my life reduced to being measured by how many trophies I've attained. Life is messy. Love is messy. Legos are messy. And fun.

I don't want a trophy for playing Legos with Levi and Isaac. I don't want a trophy for dancing with Emma. I don't want to get a trophy for being loyal and loving to my wife. I don't want a trophy for leading Anchor. I do want to know that God is pleased with me, pleased with me because of all the joy that others get from my life. Especially by playing Legos.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mars Hill - Day Deux

Rob Bell tackled the enormous topic: what does it mean to be saved? Great stuff.

His rant: saying a prayer and asking Jesus into your heart is not the key marker of getting saved. The problem, as he pointed out, is that there are plenty of people who have prayed the prayer but don't walk the talk; and there are plenty of people who have never prayed the prayer, but their walk is alot like The Talk.

The invitation is to move away from a statement centered means of "knowing" you are saved, and move towards a dynamic interaction with Jesus - who is the Way, The Truth, and the Life.

Alot of what he talked about, though worded a bit different, sounded alot like some of the ways I have been articulating the gospel at Anchor. He's heard my stuff!!! Ha...

For me, at the core, it is understanding salvation as a Way of Living that is interdependent with the Work/Words of Jesus. Jesus wants all people to be rescued/reconciled. Jesus is the only Way, but there are many ways to Jesus. Reading through the Gospels and Epistles reveals an astonishing way of "coming home".

I also attended a session about how Mars Hill does Elders. Fascinating. Revealing. Empowering.

An observation: Rob has presented ideas, theology, philosophy, biblical studies: not practical how to tips that are not transferable from a large church to a small church. This is stuff that I can (and am) absorbing immediately.

One great tip that came out of another session in regard to sermonwork: let ideas marinate for six months. I'm going to do that. Right now.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mars Hill - Day One

A fire hose - that's the best way to describe the amount of content poured forth. The dousing isn't dampening, though, it's reinvigorating.

The first session (about 100 minutes!) explored the concept of the Eucharist as a description of our ministry: pouring your life out for another - the pouring is a blessing that is used by the One to reclaim/restore/reconcile/redeem. Their is a pain/suffering element to the daily pouring out of a pastor/minister/volunteer/servant. There is also a resulting need to be filled back up, to be refreshed, renewed, re-energized. Bell discussed some ideas about establishing a rhythm in life, a pattern that helps sustain you, takes into account the scheduled and spontaneous Eucharist moments. Good stuff for Tara and I to discuss. With a young family, a baby on the way, an M.Div to finish up, her work schedule, our personal growth, my ambitions and ministry: how to do real life that sustains shalom at home and is a blessing to others?

The last session of the day (another 100+ minutes) explored how to infuse creativity into ministry. Maybe a better way to describe it: how to do creative ministry like Jesus (who is the Creator...and our model for ministry...). At one level, it was a fun lesson that provided good reminders on ideas already exposed to numerous times. But I need to hear it again and again, since I still have plenty of room to improve in my communication...so I hear.... Bell stressed the idea of "sacramental imagination": God is everywhere, always at work and is always present and open to the Seeker who wants to communicate a message that has been planted deep within the minister. It was highly practical, focusing on the benefits of editing, giving oneself enough time to dwell on the message, expose oneself to many ideas/sources, and focus, focus, focus on the core message. Good stuff.

One of my Elders lovingly assured me that he is always praying for me that my sermons will become more precise. Hopefully today will contribute to that prayer being answered.