Thursday, December 16, 2010

To know or not to know

Julian Assange founder of WikiLeaks has quickly become famous by releasing tons of previously classified government documents to the public via the internet. Assange’s motivation was to unveil the shroud of secrecy that the U.S government was working under. He wanted to expose the work the government does without the public’s knowledge, and perhaps without the public’s approval. Many have seen Assange’s act as a form of treachery against the United States inflicting great public relations harm. Others have lauded Assange’s act as heroic by exposing the conspiring evils of a too big and too strong of a government. His enemies have put Assange behind bars for other crimes, his admirers have sent web attacks on websites of any corporation that has tried to subdue him. Assange has created a dividing line between those who believe all information should be public information, versus those who believe that the government should be able to operate with classified information to better accomplish the agenda of the American people.

With the rise of the internet knowledge and information have become readily accessible at one’s finger tips. I was reading a child’s book the other day that stated Americans’ eat 300 million sandwiches a day. I found this fact staggering. Before the internet how does one double check such a statistic? It would take hours of searching and digging. With the internet I checked, double checked, and even triple checked websites which seemed to confirm Americans eat only 30 million sandwiches a day. Thank you internet! Anyone else getting hungry?

It is said that knowledge is power. We see the more educated a people are the more they are able to rise out of poverty and out of abusive and dictatorial situations. However, when dealing with power it is always an important to consider who we are giving power to. While one of our constitutional rights is to bear arms, it is foolish to give anyone such power. Why give a gun with power to a convicted murder, or terrorist? Just because knowledge is power does it mean we should give all knowledge to all people? Can we at least agree that there are some things that some people should not know, like the password to your email or your home security system? Can we agree that there are some things that are at least meant to be known only by a few, such as a conversation with a spouse, a confessional secret between two friends, or information shared between a doctor and her patient?

We have fallen under this idea that all knowledge to all people is good. We see this on our facebooks where we openly talk about the private fight we had with our friends, or the struggles we are having with our spouse, or pictures of our children who are going to the bathroom for the first time(which they will hate you for later in life). It seems we are so quick to sell ourselves out, our friends out, and our family out in the name of truth and knowledge. The truth is there are some things that some people should not know. I know this idea has led to some oppressors and dictators to keep knowledge and freedom away from people, and I am not advocating this at all, but what I am saying is that knowledge and information do not guarantee safety, morality, or even happiness, and that sometimes knowledge produces only harm.

Some knowledge is only useful in capable and responsible hands. When a child asks, “where do babies come from” we would think it inappropriate to go into detail about sexual intercourse with sperm and eggs and the birthing process. It would be insensitive and destructive to my marriage if I told everyone everything that was done or said between my wife and me. Knowledge is power, but some knowledge has only power to destroy.

Adam and Eve were not content with what God had given them. When tempted by the serpent, that ancient enemy, Adam and Eve realized they too wanted to have the knowledge of good and evil. By eating the fruit from the forbidden tree Adam and Eve gained knowledge too powerful for them to have. Immediately we see not freedom, or happiness, but guilt and shame that accompany their knowledge.

I am not saying that Mr. Assange was wrong in what he did, and I am not saying he was right, that is beyond my political knowledge and grasp. What I am saying is that we have to think about how we use knowledge and power, and we have to be wise about what we allow others to know, and even what we allow ourselves to know. Some knowledge gives us power to do good and make positive changes, but some knowledge has only power to destroy. The truth is some knowledge corrupts and even perverts. Wisdom should be the goal, not knowledge. Wisdom knows how to use knowledge to bless others. Wisdom understands that there are some things greater than us and beyond us.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding             - Proverbs 9:10

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

face your fear with faith

It is said that the greatest fear among Americans is public speaking. Not heights, not loneliness, not Islamic Terrorists, and not even TSA’s grabbing at uncomfortable body parts, but public speaking is our greatest fear. I never have been too terrified at public speaking, but I would be lying if I said I did not feel some level of discomfort every time I go to preach.

A week ago Sunday I presented my paper and answered questions to a panel of pastors and fellow Christians about my beliefs. The purpose was to vote on whether I was worthy to proceed with ordination. This elicited in me a greater degree of fear than preaching, or any other event that I can remember in the last 10 years. It was not as if I was doubting my call (I knew very well God had already ordained me to the task of pastoral ministry) and it was not as I was unsure how to answer questions (the questions I was asked I had been asked and struggled with before). I suppose the fear came from the vulnerability that comes with exposing yourself.

I full heartedly presented from the depths of my soul, my understanding about the most important of matters. At the other end of the room were trained professionals teasing out every phrase and word, and at the other end there were laity eagerly waiting for a truth or word from God they needed to hear in their personal lives. There was a fight inside me, where one side wanted to academically present sound doctrines and understandings of scripture that scholars wanted to hear, and the other side wanted me to present applicable and relatable truth that people wanted to hear. That is the difficult task of sharing the gospel. At one end we must be careful with our words to a critical world, and at the other we need to appeal to people’s needs.

If we simply speak professionally and academically we limit the faith in God and his Son the savior to a mere study of religion and history. If we speak simply what people want to hear we limit the faith to a feel good story with no truth.

I think of the difficult tasks that the prophets shared. At one hand they rationally and elegantly presented the very real word of God to a world who thought it was insane to believe in one god, and at the same time they shared the same word to those who needed to see signs of hope from a loving and caring God.

I think of Peter in Acts and Paul throughout the New Testament who argued and reasoned with people about God’s true and evident nature, and at the same time appealed to a lost and broken world with God’s sacrificial grace.

I think this is the fear that we all have in sharing the gospel. We think we will not do a good enough job properly stating facts and evidence for God’s presents, or we think we will come off sounding to judgmental, removed, and uncaring.

If you are afraid, all I can say is you are in good company. Pastors have the same fear. Moses had the same fear in the courts of Pharaoh, Jeremiah had the same fear in the presence of those older and more learned, Paul and Silas had the same fear in the prison yard. The work of sharing the gospel is not to first get rid of the fear, but to share despite the fear. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were the first to witness Jesus resurrected and you better bet they were terrified but Matthew 28:8 says it beautifully

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

The women were afraid, but they went anyway. Their joy pushed them through the fear. Our hope and prayer is not that we share with no fear (we would wait a long time for that to happen) but that we share despite our fear because Jesus is greater than our fear.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

here we go again

As the Democrats and Republicans (our mainstays of modern politics) get ready for the election, we see a new party that is not quite so Green Tea-ing off to make a splash. Of course with election drawing near we see the increase of civil debates, thoughtful dialogue, and honest proposals (I almost finished that sentence without laughing).

To be honest the main influencer of how many of us vote is the mudslinging going on in campaigns ads, funded by who knows who. Our politics has been degraded to nothing more than playground squabble, and the winner is the one who can tell the most and the best “Yo mamma jokes.” Essentially we are being told that we should vote for such and such candidate not because he is the best, but because the other candidate is the worst. In the response to the insanity we have people like John Stewart having a rally in D.C. to “Restore Sanity.” There are people pointing figures, money that is being thrown away, and voices rising to the top of their lungs calling America to raise their voice and vote.

If apathy can ever be a good quality it certainly is during election time. It is not that many people do not want to use their God given voice that many have died to protect to choose a leader, it is that there has been no leader to choose for quite some time.

I have followed politics more closely than the average American. I feel that as a pastor it is important to take note of the “leaders” that are being present in our world. I can say that there are some good leaders out there who try to do their best. However, there are many who have lost the essence of what it is to lead.

Jesus told his disciples

24When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, - Matthew 20:24-26.

Too often our leaders and politicians want to win not so they can serve the people, but so the people can serve them. As followers of Christ it is our calling to show true leadership by serving others in love. I think that is why our politics have become so disappointing because it does not matter enough if you have the strongest party, the best idea, or the least amount of scandal, what matters is if you are willing to serve.

On Nov. 2nd there will be another election with winners, and losers. However, this world was not left in the hands of whoever gets the most votes, but Christ left the hands of the world into his disciples and his church. It is our job than, despite the outcome of the election to lead this world through service and love and sharing the message of Jesus Christ. It is the job of the church to serve, to lead, to love, to be the hands and the feet of Jesus.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pure as Coal

After being buried for nearly 70 days the Chilean miners were told that a sufficient tunnel had been drilled to begin taking the miners up above the surface of the earth. For the first time in over two months they would see their families, the sun, breath fresh air, and enjoy a cooked meal. Therefore, when the news of the rescue reached the miners they began fighting about the order of being brought out of the miry dark tomb that had housed them. However, their jockeying for position was not what you may have expected. Instead of arguing who would be the first to taste clean air and enjoy the sights and embrace of loved ones, they fought to be the last one. Now the difference between the first and the last was not a matter of minutes but of hours. What would cause 30 plus who had lived by the light of the miner’s helmet to put others before themselves? We are told that in survival situations humans become instinctual like animals, and it becomes survival of the fittest, yet here we see something different happening.

Such a reversal of expected behavior has led many reporters, commentators, and bloggers scrounging for answers. Some have humorously suggested that if you lived in Chile, a residency in a buried coal cavern is a better option than the political and economic chaos of their country. Some have suggested that there was some questionable behavior happening among the miners and that is why they wanted to stay to enjoy the crude behavior they were indulging in the cave.

I do not know the miners, I do not know their theology or faith, but what if their fight to be last was rooted in something deeper than fear of going back to every day Chilean life, or improper behavior? What if their desire to let others go first was based nothing other than in humility and in love?

Jesus’ disciples were caught more than on one occasion trying to win a favorable position with their rabbi. They had their own power rankings for who they that was #1 on Jesus’ list among the disciples. Jesus made it clear in Matthew 20:25-28 when he said that the great must be a servant and the first must be a slave. Perhaps the Chilean miners simply understood 1 John 3:16:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

Whether that verse was known to them or not, we see the foreman especially showing true leadership and love, by not being first, but by being last. The foreman who kept the miners alive by rationing their food supply, the foreman who kept their spirits alive with his courage, made the decision that he was going to have the most noblest of positions by being the last one brought up. By making himself last he made himself first in our hearts and in the hearts of Jesus.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Is Westboro Church Southbound?

Just when you think the smoldering fires (fueled by Korans) of embarrassingly hateful churches have simmered down, Westboro Baptist Church based in Topeka Kansas has made headlines because of their hate mongering and their inappropriate and malicious protests.  They have decided that it would be a good idea to stand outside cemeteries whenever a dead soldier comes home to be buried and stage a protest against homosexuality.  While to the rational observer dead soldiers and judgment against homosexuality may not go together, but the members at Westboro are anything but rational.  They believe that God is punishing the country for our openness to homosexuality by killing soldiers (Which makes about as much sense as punishing your oldest child because the youngest one has bad grades).  They shout slogans, and hold signs that say “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “you are going to hell” and the even sing songs (and I shudder to think what songs they would see as appropriate for the occasion). 
Westboro Baptist seems to follow the wisdom “ they will know we are Christians by our hateful judgments that prevent you from grieving in the midst of tragedy.” However, I prefer the original adage by Jesus himself which says :

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Let us see if Westboro is following the main tenant of Jesus which is love. Does love mean praising God for dead young men and women…no. Does love mean preventing people to grieve at the loss of a child…no.

First of all Jesus gets more frustrated at people's self righteous judgment than he ever does at their sexual misconduct. While both are dangerous and problematic, Jesus saves his worse condemnation for the Pharisees whom have a knack for condemning...well everybody. Second it is extremely dangerous to say you are speaking for God “by saying God is killing soldiers because of homosexuality” when God has never given you those words to say. Third, we find out from 1 Corinthians 13 that we are nothing without love. Westboro church is nothing. I am not saying Westboro is going to Hell, it is not my decision, and that would make me guilty of their sin, I am just asking if we can act better than this? In Revelation 2:4 the church of Ephesus is chastised for being a loveless church. I think we need to ask Westboro “where is the love.”

You may think homosexuality is wrong, you may think the wars that are being fought are wrong (war is never good, and never won), you may think playing go fish with a deck of cards is straight from the pits of hell, however, if it is ethics and right behavior we are worried about it is time we stop worrying about the speck, and start concentrating of the logs in peoples eyes (funny expression but comes from the mouth of Jesus in Matthew 7:3-5).

We need to focus on the most important ethics which is love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40) because everything in our life is based on how we do with these two.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Locked Out

Imagine if you can, being locked out of acceptance. Imagine walking up to the doors of your church and having the entry blocked and even locked at your arrival. Upset and furious you decided you will worship somewhere else only to find out that all churches and houses of God refuse to allow your entry. How devastating, upsetting, furious would you be? How is the feeling of being rejected indefinitely from a place that worships the name of a gracious God? Would you blame yourself, would you blame others, the world, or would you blame God?

Imagine that you are also part of a society and nation that has locked you out. You have no rights. No voting booth, no representation, a corrupted justice system, and a hatred for your practices. You are promised no jobs, no help of unemployment, no constitution promising your right to happiness, no declaration of the exercise of freedom. You live in a nation where you simply obey, or are punished.

Locked out of your faith, and locked out of your country, this was the reality for early 1st century Christians. The choice was either to accept Christ and be denied everything else, or accept everything else, but deny Christ. For those who knew, followed, and chose Christ, they knew the risks involved. They counted up the cost and saw that everything was a loss considering the surpassing greatness of Jesus (Philippians 3:8). There was no compromise; Jesus had to be everything because they had nothing else left.

Today we can have Jesus and rights, and a voters card, representation, assistance, citizenship, justice, and acceptance. We live with this notion that Jesus does not demand us to give up anything and therefore we make the mistake of diminishing the value of Christ. Earlier followers had to trust and acknowledge that Jesus could take care of everything, today we can say we believe in Jesus but live with the delusional idea that we ourselves can take care of everything. We do not rely on Jesus because we are mistakenly convinced that we can rely on ourselves. We have effectively eliminated the sense of need for our creator; even Stephen Hawking articulated that there was no need for God the creator.

We must open our eyes and make the honest decision that Jesus is either our everything or he is nothing. Jesus must be the whole and complete truth, or an utter complete lie. Jesus must leave us completely fulfilled or we must say he fails to satisfy.

There is only Jesus. He is the bread of life and he does fulfill (John 6:35). Jesus is the complete truth, way and life, there is nothing else (John 14:6). He is everything the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). Try to toss everything else away, and you will find that you have so much more.

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ        - Philippians 3:8

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

90 years and counting

As we are slowly approaching the 90th Anniversary of Lynhurst Baptist Church we have been going through the seven churches in Revelation (Revelation 2-3). Each of these churches has their own city, their own personality, and their own praises and rebukes. Ephesus was known as a loveless church, Smyrna was the persecuted church, Pergamum was the compromising church, Thyatira was an adulterous (idolatry) church, Sardis was a sleeping unaware church, Philadelphia is the faithful church, and Laodicea is a lukewarm (indifferent) church. Each of these churches receive their praise and rebuke from Jesus.

As we have been going through this Revelation series I have been wondering what kind of letter Jesus would have written to Lynhurst Baptist. I think Jesus would commend Lynhurst for having a strong Spirit that has carried on through many hardships and trials. I believe Jesus would rejoice at our ability to see needs in the neighborhood and reach out and fulfill them through the food pantry, community center, after school program and preschool. These are ministries that Lynhurst has begun building a reputation around. However, I also wonder how Jesus would correct us.

I wonder what Jesus would say not just about us bringing bread to the lives of people through the food pantry and community center, but also what would he say about us leading people to the bread of life. I wonder what our Lord would say not just about the room we allow for children in our building, but also what he would say about the room we have from them in our hearts. I wonder what Jesus would say about how we bring outsiders into worship, and in what ways to we allow them to worship in a way they understand.

I know Lynhurst Baptist has done many great things through the leading of Holy Spirit, but I also know there is much further for us to go. In the words of Paul, the race is not yet finished. Just as Sarah, Abraham’s wife, did not see the promise of God fulfilled until a late age, even now Lynhurst is just beginning to see all the promises God has for us. Sarah gave birth to the promised son at age 90, and even now Lynhurst needs to be ready to raise up a whole new generation even at our age.

I believe this is our letter, our message from Jesus. It is time that we pray, think, and share God’s message with each other.

The church is a beautiful mystery that God has given us. The young in the church share the history of Lynhurst along with the elder, and the elder share a future with the church along with the young.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The most difficult thing in the world

This last week I walked out of church from Bible Study to find the parking lot full of junior boys with long hair and low bikes trying to land tricks. I certainly saw this as a good time to be entertained because there was a high likelihood of someone making a fool of themselves. After I had given them a hard time for not going fast enough to pull off their dangerous tricks, I decided that it was time for me to hop on one of their bikes and demonstrate to them how it is done. My plan was to pop the front wheel up and spin the handle bars 360 degrees before I landed. What actually happened was I popped a wheelie spun the bars a whole 45 degrees and landed on the bike bar instead of seat. Apparently the trick was more difficult than I thought (and much more dangerous). It has been said that hitting a baseball is the most difficult thing to do in sports, however, I think hitting the 900 as seen here on a skateboard seems much more difficult.

So I was wondering “What is the most difficult task one can ever do?”

It is not an easy question. We are a very prideful people, and I myself am very proud, and therefore, there are very few challenges I would not try if given the chance. It is even amazing that anyone would ever think of the possibility of going to the moon, land a 900, or race at 300 mph. All this is done because our pride pushes us to be the best. This had me thinking that perhaps the most difficult thing to ever do is not the one that involves the most skill level, but one that is very rarely attempted at all.

So, what is so difficult, so daunting, so dangerous, that few if any ever attempt to accomplish?

The answer is not setting a new record, but forfeiting our pride. Letting go of our pride has to be the most difficult, least tried, and greatest accomplishment one can achieve. To prove it’s difficulty I will challenge you to do two things:

1. Do something really kind and really generous for someone and do it anonymously. I am not talking about holding a door open for someone. I am talking about giving someone who needs it, $100 kind of act. Do something very gracious and tell no one. Do not let the person you are helping know it is you, don’t tell your neighbor you did it, your friend, your parents, or even your spouse. Tell no one; take this kind deed with you to the grave. Do this and do it on a somewhat regular basis and you are accomplishing the most difficult task there is to accomplish, you are forfeiting your pride. (This was inspired by my seminary professor Dr. Gary Sattler).

2. Forgive someone who has wronged you. Do not wait for an apology, do not wait for punishment, but simply forgive someone you has hurt you and allow them back into your life without any grudge or conditions.

If you can do these two things, than you will have accomplished something truly great because you have done something that not only takes a lot of heart and strength, but you have done something that far too few have ever tried to undertake. Of course defeating your pride cannot be done alone, if you thought you could you gave way to pride once again.

To completely abolish our pride we must have help from the king who was strong enough to humble himself to a cross, Jesus Christ (Philippians 2).

If he could only see how small a vacancy his death would leave, the proud man would think less of the place he occupies in his lifetime. - Ernest Wilfrid LeGouve

The sun will set without thy assistance. - The Talmud

Pride is the mask of one's own faults. - Jewish proverb

Pride ruined the angels. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, September 17, 2010

Kingdom over Democracy

The mayor of Indianapolis Greg Ballard had a meeting with religious leaders today to discuss issues that have been happening in the city. Many issues that were brought up were issues that plague almost every U.S. major city such as crime, racial disparity, and transportation. Some issues that were brought up were very specific in nature. Two issues that were mentioned several times were about recent police behavior concerning one drunken police officer who ran over and killed a motorcyclist, and a beating of a young unarmed African-American.

Undoubtedly issues of injustice, brutality, racial profiling, and the like need to be addressed. Certainly there are many steps local government can take to better the lives of citizens and as members of a free nation it is our right and duty to hold our government accountable. I saw passion, conviction, and good leadership but I also saw far too much blame.

Too many people were asking “what are you going to do.”

As I said it is our responsibility and calling to point out injustice, to raise a voice against indecency, but it is also our responsibility to do something about it. Too often we are willing to raise our voice in accusation, but we are not willing not raise our hand and volunteer to action.

The question cannot be “what are you going to do” but “what are we going to do?”

Every government system is going to fall short of fulfilling the needs of the people. No matter the mayor, the governor, or the president. I do not care if you are Republican, Democrat, Tea Party, Green Party, Libertarian, or Undecided, all fall incredibly short of having the necessary means to adequately protect, transform, and educate. If we want change, if we want peace, if we want equality, the change starts much smaller than politics; the change starts in the heart.

Jesus came not to usher in a new political party but a new kingdom, the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:15). Christ has said that His body is not represented by the government, but by the church (1 Corinthians 12:27). It is the believers; it is the church that is the Body of Christ! There is a great mystery, a divine power, a limitless reality found within the church. This mystery, this power, this reality, has been too often forgotten, but it is still in work today. What this world needs is not more laws, better politicians, or better programs, we need better people and we get that by having more Jesus.

The question then is what are we as the Church doing? We change cities by changing communities, by changing neighborhoods, by changing people, by changing hearts, by giving them Jesus Christ. Is the church doing this? If not, then the government, politicians, and the people, should start accusing us of inaction, not the other way around. This world belongs to God and His children; it is time to start acting like it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

All Rights are not always right

In the United States we are guaranteed certain unalienable rights, which have been endowed by our Creator. That is what the Declaration of Independence says, and it is a belief that many have fought over, died over, and gave great sacrifices over. No doubt we all have rights, but just because they are our right does not make it always right to exercise them.

We have the rights to free speech; bear arms, vote, and many more. However, we have made the mistake of thinking because they are our rights; they are always right and proper to exercise. Now I am in no way saying that we need to somehow create laws to limit these freedoms.

Laws always muddy the waters, and never eliminate the problem. In fact, a friend of mine pointed out the absurd, yet true notion, that “if you have no laws, then you have no crime.”

This idea of rights is that they are there to use when we need to. However, we have interpreted rights as something we should practice despite their consequences. Just because you have the right to free speech does not mean there are not times when it may be best to keep your mouth closed. Just because you have the right to bear arms, does not mean there is never a time when you should lay down and surrender all your guns to humility and peace.

The Declaration of Independence was written to declare independence from an outside governing body. Unfortunately many of us approach the document thinking that it means we have complete individual independence to do what we want. As a result we see many exercising their “freedom” in complete disregard for others or consequences. We hear people say “it is my yard and therefore, it is my right to put up an electric fence even though you have 5 year old kids running around in the background. We see people drinking themselves to death because it is their body and frankly there is no law limiting alcohol consumption over the age of 21 (unless you are driving). We see people running their mouth with hateful words and inciting accusations because it is again their “right.” But just because it is a right does not make it right.

We need a better ethic, an ethic that is not simply based on following laws or rights. We need an ethic that is based on love. This was Jesus’ point when he pointed out the greatest commandment was

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. – Mark 12:30, 31

We also see the importance of love in 1 Corinthians 13. If we exercise our rights, and do not infringe on others rights, but have not love, we have failed to keep the purpose of the laws. Love is how we define everything we do as good or bad. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Hammurabi’s laws, and Aristotle’s virtues are all meaningless because love of God and others defines where our heart stands.

Do not make the mistake because all you do is considered a right and you have no criminal record that you are righteousness.  Sometimes the worst crime we can make is doing the right thing for the wrong reason.  Follow not manmade laws our rights, instead follow the way of love which is found in Jesus Christ.

“Everything is permissible”-but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible” -but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. – 1 Corinthians 10:23, 24

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Burning the Koran burns bridges

What do fire, the Koran, and Jesus Christ have in common?...well nothing. But according to the irreverent Rev. Terry Jones, it’s the perfect combination of the expression of faith. Jesus = Koran in Fire. However, something does not add up. We cannot simply commit everything that we disagree with to fire and brimstone. Imagine a group gathering together and having a fire to throw in politicians, lawyers, or the New York Yankees. We have seen people burn flags, yet they still fly, we have seen people burn Harry Potter, but it still remains a best seller. The only things worth burning are marshmallows, hotdogs, and the Real Housewives of New Jersey DVD series.

Jesus is not for burning, in fact fire retardant was His life mission.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. - John 3:17

Jesus came to save us all from fire. If Jesus came not to condemn, then who are we to condemn? I do not quite understand Rev. Jones intention for burning the Korans. I have tried to call him (phone for some strange reason seems to be off the hook) and I tried to email him (his email is currently broken).

If Jones is trying to portray the message of love, grace, and salvation through the sacrificial act of Jesus Christ, than he needs more help than thought. If Jones is trying to stir up anger, hate, and violence well he is accomplishing the mission by abandoning Christ.

I do not believe in the Koran. I have read it, and believe that it is curiously disturbing at times. But no one who believes in the Koran will forsake it because it is burned, and anyone who is a nominal Christ believer, a fence sitter, or an undecided, will be sickened by Jones's act, just as I am.

Jesus Christ is real. Jesus Christ is powerful. Jesus Christ died on the cross and paid the penalty for sin, so that if we believe we may have new life in Him. I know this, and do not need to burn the Koran to prove it; instead I only need to love.

By this all people will know that you are my [Jesus] disciples, if you love one another.
          – John 13:35

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Science: The New Religion
New physics research fronted by Stephen Hawking has come across a new discovery….the universe can and was created out of nothing! Stephen Hawking says in his new book “The Grand Design” that God was not needed for the creation of the Universe. It is said the Universe created itself out of nothing. The scientific evidence for such a groundbreaking discovery is, well nothing. There is no irrefutable evidence for such a claim. The best Hawking and other scientist can say is that the world and galaxy point to the possibility of the Universe creating itself out of nothing. However, nothing in nature has ever been made out of nothing, therefore, the conclusion that the Universe made itself out of nothing is not a natural conclusion but a supernatural conclusion. Scientists demand that all conclusions must be proven with evidence and cannot be taken upon presumption. However, with these latest conclusion science has no longer separated themselves from religion, but has become their own religion. If you think this is an absurd statement, just follow me for a little bit.

Christians understand that creation was created by a creator which they cannot irrefutably prove, but are certain that creation testifies to such a truth (Romans 1:20). Hawking understands that creation was created by creation, which he cannot irrefutably prove, but is certain that creation testifies to such a fact.

Christians understand that everything is made from God and that God had always existed and was not made by anything. Scientist understand that everything is made by excited atoms that happened to run into each other in a way that created a highly organized universe, and that these atoms were not made, they just always existed.

Christians understand that there is enough evidence to lead someone to believe, but ultimately it comes down to faith. Hawking has no evidence and can point to nothing else in science that has ever created itself out of nothing, therefore, he is asking people to take his conclusions on faith.

Hawking says the universe does not need God because for Hawking creation itself is his god.

Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised –Romans 1:22, 25.

Hawking better be weary lest God decides that he does not need Stephen Hawking.

The most upsetting aspect is not that Stephen Hawking refuses to believe in God. I believe in God and have seen evidence of His working and have experienced love, peace, and freedom that comes from Him. What makes me upset is that Hawking is using science and intellect to examine the workings of the Universe and then creating false conclusions about God. If Hawking wants to study the universe and come up with theories of creation that is one thing, but to even pretend that these studies prove or disprove the existence of God is obsured and unprofessional. Hawking has taken his power, which is his intellect, and has abused it. It is unprofessional, and inappropriate to make statements of faith in a book about scientific theories of creation.

Scientists have too long demanded that faith surrender their assumptions on science, well its time that science surrender their assumptions on faith. Do not be misled science cannot prove or disprove the divine. God has made the wisdom of the world foolishness; you must decide for yourself what to believe. The most important things in our life are things that we cannot see or prove. Love, friendship, faith, and hope are outside the scientific observable field, but do not make the mistake to think they do not exist.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fashion Faux Pas

$50 shirt, $365 pair of jeans, $20 undershirt, and $150 pair of shoes. The total amount for this wardrobe is $585. At Goodwill the same purchase would cost you around $18 (if you are brave enough to wear the shoes). At Salvation Army that might cost you around $15. At the Lynhurst Baptist Church Community Center the same items would cost you $1.00. That means you could buy 585 shirts, 585 pairs of jeans, 585 undershirts, and 585 pairs of shoes all for the same price of one shirt, jeans, undershirt, and shoes. If you wore each set just 5 times that would last you over 8 years. To get the same amount of use out of the one expensive set, you would have to wear it over it 2,920 times (that’s one smelly set of clothes). I am not marketing our Community Center, but simply pointing the degree of absurdity we go for clothes.

Since Adam and Even were escorted out of the garden, clothes have been an essential item for every society. However, what once served as basic necessity has now become an explosive tool for “self-expression.” We live with this idea that “The clothes make the man/woman.” We use clothes as an expression of who we are on the inside. That is why there is a brand catered to surfers called Billibong, and clothes that are for skaters called Tony Hawk. You would not see a surfer or skater caught dead in Aeropastle.

But let us think about the clothes we wear. There are hundreds of thousands, and even millions of people expressing themselves with the exact same Brand that we are wearing. What does that say about our own uniqueness? How insane have we become over labeling ourselves. Cattle are branded to show who owns them, not who they own, so when we wear brands, what are we really saying? I know this may sounds harsh, and you may not agree, but I am just asking you to think about it.

Clothes are not an appropriately expression of our identity. Faded shirts and catchy logos do a miserable job of announcing who we are. 2 Corinthians 4 says that it is not the outside that expresses our inside, but the inside that expresses the outside. Clothes are nothing, and even our bodies are just clay jars, but what is inside is the mysterious reality of the divine and powerful God Jesus Christ. Our cars do not matter, our clothes do not matter, even our bodies do not matter, for it is the presence of God living inside us when we ask Jesus into our heart that matters.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. – 2Corinthians 4:18

Thursday, July 1, 2010

There is no doubt that those who have served in the armed forces have courage, and the willingness to sacrifice. Courage and sacrifice are noble traits, and are certainly necessary to win a war. However, these two traits left to themselves can become very dangerous. If we have only courage and sacrifice, than we fall dangerously short of God’s desire. We see evil rear its ugly head using courage and sacrifice. Muslim extremists preach courage and sacrifice as they charge into crowds and buildings as suicide bombers. It is also evident that Nazi soldiers were led into battle under the disciplined practice of courage and sacrifice. For courage and sacrifice to have any positive impact we must first ask, why, or for what purpose are we displaying these two character traits?

Courage and sacrifice has been used to defend a people group. When the Jews defended themselves from the Amalekites they used both courage and sacrifice (Exodus 17:8-16). However using courage and sacrifice for a people group is not sufficient enough of a reason. Again Hitler and his Nazi regime used courage and sacrifice to defend the Aryan cause. Courage and sacrifice cannot be good if simply used for country, because we have seen many countries do horrible evils under such guise. We cannot even say that courage and sacrifice ought to be used for religion alone because Christianity, Islam, the Caste System, and almost every religion have used these to instigate unspeakable violence against other peoples.

Courage and sacrifice are only noble when used for God under the ambition of love. To use courage and sacrifice for any other purpose is to pervert these great qualities that God has given us through his Spirit. Courage and sacrifice that is not directed towards giving God glory falls utterly short of the purpose of these qualities, and leads us into the danger of using them for sin. Let us then have courage as scripture commands us:

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death (Philippians 1:20).

Let us no longer be afraid to share the love of God and his message of his Son who was sacrificed on the cross. Like Peter in Acts, let us boldly proclaim Jesus and his message of salvation. Let us be willing to endure great sacrifice as our Lord and Savior sacrificed his own body for us:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers – 1 John 3:16

Let us be willing to suffer for Christ and even lay down our life for him. Let us practice courage and sacrifice not with sword but with the power of the gospel. Let us offer our courage, let us offer ourselves, for God and God alone. Anything less would be falling into the hands of the evil one.

He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. – Isaiah 2:4

Monday, June 7, 2010

Have you ever ordered a Non-fat half-caff triple grande quarter sweet sugar free vanilla non-fat lactaid extra hot extra foamy caramel macchiato at Starbucks only to find out with great frustration that they forgot to make it extra foamy? What an incompetent barista! In a world of endless choices and infinite preferences we find ourselves discontent with luxury, and content with meaninglessness. What I mean is that we get too irate over being cut off from traffic, having to wait longer than 10 minutes in line at the store, an incorrect order, a mistaken official’s call, a store selling out of an item in a particular color, gas that has raised two cents, and parking spots more than two rows back, that these cause us to demand rectification immediately or for perpetrators to suffer dire consequences. If you are honest with yourself, or if I am honest with myself we get angry, down right angry over small mistakes and small inconveniences. We have become discontent with the excess in our lives. We are angry because these are the things that are supposed to bring us happiness, they are the very products that promise us fulfillment and acceptance, and we find them lacking.

Perhaps the reason for this is simply because we are selfish spoiled westerners with a chip on our shoulder. Or it could be that we have pursued meaning and truth in all the wrong places. Perhaps we need to be looking less at what is seasonable and more at what is eternal. Perhaps we need to worry less about what our color wheel is, and look more at what our ultimate purpose is. Maybe we need to agonize less about what is the latest invention, and focus more on what is the ever-lasting truth. Maybe this rambling is a bunch of malarkey, but I don’t think it is. If we find ourselves discontent with the way our life narrative has turned out, then it is time we become discontent with the truth that the world has been selling us. It is time that we turn to a truth that delivers on its promise, that offers real contentment, life, love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. It is time that we as a people find a truth that we do not simply apply to our skin, but a truth that penetrates much deeper and applies to our souls.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want – Philippians 4:12

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you - Hebrews 13:5

Sunday, April 4, 2010

April 4th Easter

He is risen, he is risen, Christ Jesus has risen today!

Go celebrate new life in Jesus the Risen Savior...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Day # 40 April 3rd – Grace, grace, grace (and more grace)

Go to and click on keyword search. Type in “grace” and see how many times it appears in the Bible. Type in “mercy” “compassion,” “forgive,” and “love.” These are more than passing phrases, but they are the theme of the entire story of God. By grace God created us, by grace God loved us, by grace cared for us, by grace God forgives us, by grace God sent his son Jesus, by grace he died for us, by grace he rose from the dead, by grace we are saved through him, by grace we are called to share him, and by grace we are united with him and his entire family for all eternity. Ephesians 2:8 says it best “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Remember who we are, is by the grace of God, therefore we accept each other by that same grace. No matter the difficulties of another person, we accept them as Christ accepted us. And whatever good that is happening in our lives, remember it is by grace. Whenever any bad is happening in our lives, remember it is by grace that we will conquer it and be in heaven some day. All these disciplines, and all our faith, is simply by the love and grace of God, share that grace always!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Day # 39 April 2nd – Releasing (being a hard-line liberal and a flaming conservative)

God does not like carbon copies. Look at the disciples, there were 12 of them who followed Jesus closely for three years, yet they were still all different in their own way. The Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, all tell the same story, but they tell it in different ways, if they were all identical, we would only need one. God likes our unique traits; in fact that’s how we were designed. A puzzle has several, sometimes hundreds of pieces, all which are different. Each piece serves its own function, when properly placed they form one complete picture, that is like that body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 says that there are different gifts, different kinds of service, different kinds of working, but that the same God works in all of them. The idea of “releasing” is that when we do the work of discipling, mentoring, and teaching in the faith, we conclude by releasing, letting the individual express their faith in their unique way. We cannot hold tightly onto every action. We teach the importance, and sacredness of the faith, and allow people to grow into who God desires them to be. This means that perhaps someone we discipled, or mentored ends up being a democrat when we are republican. Perhaps it means they listen to rock music when we do classical. Perhaps it means they use the ESV when we use the NIV. Remember the puzzle, our differences make us united. Correct when there needs to be correction, disciple at all times, be always mentoring, but remember to release and allow God to do his distinct work at its appropriate time.

P.S.  It is Good Friday, find a community of believers to go and worship remembering Jesus' sacrafice for us.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Day # 38 April 1st – Mentoring (making an example out of yourself)

There is much one can learn from reading devotions, listening to sermons, and reading Max Lucado literature, but nothing speaks louder than watching the word be lived out in another believer. Our life has so many twists and turns, that sometimes it is hard to see how faith impacts us. For those who have been a follower of Jesus for sometime it is therefore, vitally important to be a spiritual mentor. Is there one person you are currently investing in to help their faith? Whether it is a formal or informal agreement, mature believers need to invest in others lives. The words of 1 Peter 5:2 say it best “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing…” Those who are veterans in the faith should have the desire to say the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ." Being a mentor starts by praying with the individual on a regular basis (no less than once a week). A mentor continually encourages one to be devoted to the reading of scripture. A mentor will take their mentee with them on serving opportunities (the Community Center, food pantry, etc). A mentor will ask their mentee how they and God are doing. Most importantly a mentor will allow their life to be an example of a disciple of Christ for the mentee to imitate. Who are you mentoring today? If you do not have an answer find someone, it is the calling and duty of our faith.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day # 37 March 31st – Making Disciples not wimps

Matthew 28:19 says “therefore go make DISCIPLES” (some emphasis added). We are not making mere believers, we are making full-fledged ready to go to battle disciples. God is not in the business of converting, he is in the business of complete transformation of body, mind, and soul (Romans 12:1-2). A disciple is someone who in engaged in the disciplines of following Christ. Paul says it is like running, you cannot just show up to the track without training and expect to compete, but you have to train and practice (1 Corinthians 9:24-26). Jesus does not want us to go and make passive pew warmers, but trained chiseled message bearers. Therefore, faith for us does not end at accepting Jesus, but we must continue to press on (Philippians 3:12-13) and continue to grow through the journey of life and faith. We cannot expect to survive and thrive with a 6th grade education, but spiritually that is what we tend to do with new believers. We are disciples, we are making disciples, we are growing disciples, and we are training disciples. The verb “making” suggest that there is a process, it does not just happen. “Growing” tells us that it happens through time with nurturing. “Training” tells us that it comes with great effort, and no matter how long an athlete has been playing in the big leagues he/she still needs to continue to train. As a people of God, and as a church, we must be in the long dedicated process of making disciples.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day # 36 March 30th – Building a New Congregation (To the Ends of the Earth)

God created a lot of uniformity when it comes to the operations of the cosmos. Gravity, physics, weather patterns, seems to follow complex mathematical equations producing predictable outcomes. God likes uniformity in the workings of the galaxy, but God does not like uniformity in people. The diversity of God created languages, cultures, ethnicities, and races, and plans on keeping these distinct qualities among human kind in heaven when we gather together to worship him (Revelation 7:9-10). God likes diversity, but he does not like division (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). God is building his nation, his own people, and his congregation. Isaiah 2:2-5 is a beautiful passage about all people coming to the mountain of God in unity. God has one large table for us all to feast at the end of this age, and the table will not be absent of any race, language, ethnicity, nation, or denomination. This table will neither be divided among cultural similarities, but all will be sitting together side by side with differences and all. For this to work, God will have an array of foods spread throughout the table. God loves diversity, but hates division. We must be conscious when sharing the word with one another that we do not make any rules that divide, separate, or prohibit people from serving the God of love based on our preferences. Though we are distinct, God still desires us to be united which is why he says we all are God’s children united by him, and not divided by our differences (Galatians 3:26-29). Therefore, embrace the diversity of God, and celebrate the challenges, the insights, and the power of God’s love to unite us all.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Day # 35 March 29th - Sharing the Word/Evangelizing/Spreading the Gospel/Becoming Foolish

What does being in a relationship with Christ eventually mean? Becoming a child of God is more than earning a rubber stamp that says “heaven approved.” Becoming part of the divine family means we are reach given purpose and function. As a child, follower, or student of the Way of Jesus, we are called to continue to share the great news (gospel). This gospel is that God loves us and wants to be known by us. Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, and rose from the grave for our justification (Romans 4:25). This truth frees us from destruction (the Way of the world leads to destruction). The Way of Jesus also unites us with the divine God Yahweh (John 17:20-23). We are called to be united in union and in relationship with the cosmic creator of everything! God wants to be in eternal communion with us! God desires for us to participate in a joyous never ending life filled with love and fulfillment…how awesome is that! God desires this so much, that he, himself, in the form of Jesus, died a brutal death of a criminal, raised from the dead, and before he returned to rule in heaven gave the commandment of his disciples, and all of us “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have command you” (Matthew 28:18-20). We are all called to share the good news, teach the good news, and make effective followers and teacher so the Way of Jesus, so that we may all participate in the overwhelming eternal love of God! Go therefore, and share, go and teach, go and make disciples. Do not just win people (this is not a game), to not just convert people (this is more than mere convictions), but make disciples (or in the words of John Tauler make gotesfrunt “friends of God”).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day # 34 March 27th – More than a philosophy (sharing the truth without being smug)

Apologetics is the area of Christian thought that tries to effectively argue for the existence of God through rationalization, using philosophy, the sciences, and general observations. Apologetics is a great and helpful way to bring people to Christ, but it has its limits. The truth is God cannot be rationalized, measured, or put into a Petri dish to be observed or studied. 1 Corinthians 2:12 tells us that the key to understanding God is through the Spirit. The truth is the best laid argument can still be rendered ineffective, and the worst stated argument can bring someone to their knees. I am not saying that we should not be ready to make a good case for Christ, but what I am saying is that it all begins with the Spirit.  More than anything our love that we have for God and neighbor is what brings people to God. Jesus’ best arguments did not always change people’s mind about who he was (in fact many times it just made them angry) but it was Jesus’ love and his intent on establishing life changing relationships that brought people to him. We must be ready to love like Jesus and invest in life changing relationships to bring people to God. Yes we can be ready to make a solid case, we can be ready with the Romans road, or a rationale defense, but more than anything we must show them the life changing love that Christ offers. Convince someone of Jesus not through your clever words, but through your serving love.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Day # 33 March 26th – Theology (becoming not just a child, but a student of God)

The scriptures are more than whimsical quotes that we can place on our daily calendar; they are the character and unfolding story of God. While being able to spit out occasional Bible verses from our childhood Sunday school class is good, it is simply not enough. God came through his Son Jesus to give us life, but also to reveal himself. If we want to know the heart of God, we must be familiar with what he did, and is doing, as written in the scriptures. It is not enough to have read it once, or to know some passages, our life must be dedicated to reading, and understanding through prayer and guidance the words of God. We are too easily satisfied with our scripture intake that we get Sunday morning and maybe Wednesday night, but we must daily be indulged in scripture. Jesus says that “man does not live by bread along, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). But as Paul lamented, we are still only drinking milk like a new born, and have not matured to eating meat (1 Corinthians 3:2). As we grow in our faith we grow in our understanding of God through the scriptures. The word “meditate” literally means “to chew on.” When we study the word we chew on it, extracting its flavor so we can ingest it receiving its full benefit. The more we grow the more portions, and the more complex of scripture we are ready to chew on. We need to stop being satisfied with mere milk, and go to a complex carbohydrate diet of scripture. Seek after the heart of God, read his word, study his word, and keep it hidden in your heart. Seek the full course meal of God’s word, which is the bread of life.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Day # 32 March 25th – Power (becoming a weapon of mass destruction)

As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to be humble, but that does not mean we are called to be passive. 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” We are promised by Jesus in John 14:16, 17 that we will be given the Holy Spirit, and it is in that Spirit we receive power. Romans 1:16-17 tells us that the message of Jesus and the cross is the power of God. We are entrusted not with a weak message, but a strong message that has dynamite power. We are given a Spirit that is powerful enough to move mountains, to divide rivers, to stop the sun, defeat armies, tear down walls and bring holistic healing. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 reminds us that God has equipped us with divine powers to heal, teach, preach, make new, and oppose evil through the generous outpouring of the Spirit. Go therefore, with the Power of God, which is the good news of Jesus, and destroy barriers, evil, and enemies. Restore that which is broke through the power of God’s love, and do not back down, fore if God is before you, who will be against you (Romans 8:31)?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Day # 31 March 24th – Sanctification

Sanctification may sound like one of those fancy words that only pertain to the uber-religious, but in reality, it is a part of our everyday life. Sanctified simply means “to be set apart for.” I have a suit that my wife bought at Target for a mere $90. It is black with white pin stripes, and even through it is starting to get a little snug around the midsection, that suit is set apart for one of two occasions, marrying and burying. As follower of Jesus the Messiah and Son of God we are called to be set apart for him. Just as a wife or husband is set apart for no other intimate relationship than with their spouse, we are to be set apart for God. Jesus does not simply forgive us, or make us right, but he also sanctifies us through the power of the Holy Spirit 1 Corinthians 6:11. Our time with family, friends, at work, must all have God at the forefront. If we make God second, that means we are putting something up higher than God (that’s idolatry). God forgives us, puts us in right relationship, and sanctifies us, separating us from all that is ugly and hateful, and surrounding our lives with love. What is not about God in your life, what needs to be sanctified, what is suffering because you have left God out?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Day # 30 March 23rd – Change

Standing still, and running on a treadmill cover the same amount of real distance. The prospect of change usually triggers one of two responses (especially I n the church). The first response is to dig down and freeze in place to avoid change, desperately holding on with white knuckles to the safe and familiar. The second response is by busying oneself with so much “busy work” that there appears to be no time for real change. Change is unfamiliar, scary, and implies that the previous way is wrong, or ineffective. It is hard to enter into the unknown, and it is hard to admit that one way of moving one is no longer effective (or maybe it never was). We must be ready to change. In fact, 2 Corinthians 5:17 says we are a new creation in Christ. Our faith has so much to do with change, that we become a new creation. It is true that God is the same, but it is also true that the world changes every day. When Jesus came to earth we matched the customs, the language, and the practices of the place and time he was living in. If Jesus came today and to the United States, instead of 2,000 years ago in the Middle East, do you think we would have still worn a sandal and robes, spoke the same language, practices all the same customs? As followers of Jesus, and as the community of believers we must be ready like Paul to become all things to all people so that we may actually effect the world and save some 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. As those who are redeemed, we look different, act different, and our continually changing to reflect Jesus. The Church must continue to change to meet the world where it is at, so we can bring love, forgiveness, service, and restoration to them. We must change to become better, we must change to become more like Jesus, and we must change because the old order of things is passing away.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Day # 29 March 22nd – Regional Faith (understanding international Christianity)

The Way of Jesus Christ is larger than you or I, it is larger than the Baptist or Methodist denominations, it is larger than Protestant or Catholic, Armenian or Calvin, and it is certainly larger than King James or New International versions of the Bible. Paul dealt with the problem of division, “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Corinthians 1:10). Later on Paul states that the divisions made up by human standards are road blockers 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. Often times we pick on fellow brothers and sisters (Catholics denouncing protestants, and vice versa). Jesus says in Matthew 12:25 that a house divided against itself will fall, and it is no wonder that the legs of the body of Christ are teetering. It is good to have our beliefs, our histories, and our distinctions, but they should not serve as obstacles to prevent the Church universal from working together. In fact creating obstacles and stumbling blocks is very dangerous according to Romans 16:17. Instead we need to be united in Christ across all languages, cultures, denominations, and musical leanings. We need to look for ways to learn from each other. I am always reading and learning from Catholic and other denominational writings. We need to look for ways to work together and support each other. This does not mean we have no differences with each other, but it means that the uniting of the Love of Jesus Christ sets those differences aside so that together we are the regional and universal Body of Christ.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Day # 28 March 20th – Relationships (understanding small group dynamics)

One of the reason Jesus decided to leave his heavenly dwelling for earth was to establish relationship with his people. John 15 highlights Jesus’ desire for his disciples to know him, be one with him, and to understand his plan. Jesus even calls his disciples his friends in this passage. Jeremiah 29:11-13 states that God wants to be found and known. Our faith goes beyond mere religion, but it is a calling to have a relationship with God the creator, and a relationship with those around us. God is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Without the Father, or the Son or the Holy Spirit, than you have something less than who God is. The Church is the Body of Christ, if you approach faith with only yourself, than you are falling short, and selling short the church. We were made to be one with God and one with each other. The prayer of Jesus in John 17:20-26 is that we would be one with him and with each other. We are called to be in deep prayerful, and meaningful relationship with each other. We are expected to trust God and each other with our entire lives, the good parts, the bad parts, and the really messy parts. We are called to do more than believe because even the demons believe (James 2:19) and we are called to do more than sit by each other because people do that on the bus and train station. We are called to enter into relationship with God and with each other. Today step out of the safe distant box that you live in, and enter into the life God has for you, and enter into the lives around you.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Day # 27 March 19th – Guidance

Surviving the wilderness takes an expert, just ask Bear Grills. Bear Grills is an expert in surviving the wilderness, eating and drinking about anything so that viewers can comfortably sit at home and watch and learn with wonderment about basic (and not so basic) survival skills. Why is it that we so readily submit to the authority of doctors and lawyers for our medical and legal well-being, but when it comes to our spiritual lives, we think we all have it figured out? The truth is that we all need a mentor or spiritual teacher/teachers in our life. It is foolish to think that we have any part of our lives all figured out. We need a spiritual guide to help us when we have questions, and also to correct us and point us in a better direction when we are going astray. This means we have to be humble and submit to the authority of someone else. However, this submission does not make us weak, but it makes us strong. Joshua had Moses, the disciples had Jesus, Timothy, Barnabas, and Silas had Paul. Find someone, or someones you can continue to learn from and grow in knowledge and in the love of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day # 26 March 18th – Image (dress with success)

We measure our success by our accomplishments. If our goal is to become a doctor, we know we have succeed by earning our degree and practicing the profession. In the same token if we want to become famous we know we have reached the goal when we see our name in the tabloids. Who we are and who we are becoming is part of our image. However, being a doctor or famous is only a small temporary construction of our image. Our image is an eternal existence and any profession or notoriety does not last eternally. Therefore, the focus of our image must center on something bigger than occupation, accomplishment, and even bigger than ourselves. Some define their image in groups or association. Some may join the army or marines to be part of something bigger than themselves. But again, this too falls short, because every great military has and will eventually fall. Scripture wastes no time in identifying the proper image that we were made for, in Genesis 1:26-27 we read that God made us in his image. We were made in God’s image, and only this image will do. This means that we find our true worth, our true identity, and true significance not in accomplishment, or fame, or wealth, or association with a group, but with God and his family. How do we live as image bearers of God? Well first we follow the commandment to have the same attitude as Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5). Unlike Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, we rely on God the Father just as Jesus did. It means we become one with God as Jesus prayed we would in John 17, by identifying and trusting in him over any nation, association, or group. To be an American, there is an image of strength and independence, the image of someone who has succeeded is a wealthy slender and often very egotistical individual, but the lasting image that we were created for is one the reflects the love, humility, and compassion of Jesus Christ. Think today what you can do to be an image bearer of God. What will you do, so that when people see you, they will be able to identify you as a child and follower of God?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day # 25 March 17th – Hear, See, Speak No Evil/ Avoidance

“Submit yourselves, then to, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). W are not invincible. We are effected by those around us. We are affected by television, radio, what we read, what we watch, and what we hear. We have become so desensitized by evil that we no longer recognize its power. Is it any wonder that abusive homes often produce abusive people? Is it any wonder that after a football game people flee into the parking lot with aggression (you never see that at a ballet). We watch murder, violence, sex, drug use, and we tend to stand up strong and say it has no effect on us. Well if it has no effect I say give it up for a month and tell me if nothing changes because it will. We must be careful about who our influences are. There is a reason God warned Israel, and Paul warned the church from letting evil practices linger around because they corrupt. Find something in your life that is negative, (movies, music, friends, books, language, etc.) and plug something Godly in that absents (scripture reading, prayer, meditation, uplifting music, or movies). Let God be your influence, let fellow believers, and followers of the Way be your character molders. Avoid evil at all costs, and pursue faith, hope, and love with equal ambition.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day # 24 March 16th - Choosing Sides (Making decisions based on the Future)

“…then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). In Matthew 10:34-36 Jesus says that he has come to bring division. Matthew 5:1-12, Matthew 10, and John 16:33 all point out the truth that those who follow Jesus as the Son of god, will be opposed. I think we tend to want to be fence sitters. We know Jesus is God, but we do not want to assert it to our own loss of reputation, financial gain, or even life. We try to straddle the line between living for the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of the world. However, Jesus warns against this kind of attitude “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one, and love the cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24). I believe we can substitute that word “Money” for almost anything, such as “sex,” “fame,” “success,” “drugs,” etc. We must chose now who it is we will serve. Many make this choice on what seems best for them this moment. As believers and followers of Jesus we make our decision based on the future because we now that those who are in Jesus are conquerors. It is like deciding to either receive $10,000 dollars right now or receiving $2,000 dollars each week for the rest of your life. No doubt the $10,000 benefits you more immediately, but there has to be something seriously wrong with you if you choose that over the $2,000 each week. We call that seriously something wrong “sin.” We must choose now whom we will serve, God, or our own desires. We must choose now what we will receive, praise from this world, or eternal glory with God. Every day, and every decision we need to make with the realization that Jesus has conquered, there will be a resurrection, and eternal life offered to those who know and love God. Today, before you make a decision, before you react, but in perspective the future, not just a day from now, or a year from now, but from eternity from now, knowing that God has conquered.