What begins as an exciting vision—with big plans, eager hands, and an exciting dream of what is to come can sometimes feel more like…
Swinging without an ax head (2 Kings 6:5) 5 As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water. “Oh no, my lord!” he cried out. “It was borrowed!”
Literally meaning “it was begged” for. During the reign of King Saul, the Israelites had to go to the Philistines to get all their iron plows, sickles, and axes sharpened, and still after 200 years, iron was precious and the cost was steep. There were no extra resources in this vision, unlike when you are putting together something from Ikea. All of a sudden there is a disconnection between what the prophet has and what he needs. With the loss of the iron ax head, suddenly he was facing a debt he was unable to pay, he was staring into the dark water which probably felt like a black hole, he would be hit with a bone-crushing debt- no more being a prophet, it would be time to become a slave. An ax head, something that seemed so small, and yet without it the entire project comes to a standstill. The vision has devolved into a vexing problem.
I was reminded of the problem of disconnection just this week. I was on the phone with someone who had called for advice and so I listened, probably for 15 minutes, listening intently with ideas formulating in my head, and when they opened the floor, it was one of my finest moments, the words made sense, I was surprising myself, thoughts were crisp and flowing, for a minute, minute 15 it was like I was a Gatlin-gun of good ideas. Continue reading “Disconnected”
Time and thought, personal and deepening, and sacrifice all go into making the perfect gift, but if you remember back to build of Christmas morning, you know that a great gift is one that is:
Highly Anticipated. Remember the rush of repeating to your parents your gift preferences, written list for Santa and an extra for mom and dad, aunts and uncles, strangers at the mall who will listen—letting them know exactly what you want.
In fact, I want your help here, let’s look back at the most anticipated gifts of the last 50 plus years and if you remember the gift, wanted one, go ahead and clap or yell. 2016’s most anticipated gift is Star Wars themed BB-8 Droid, looking like R2D2. 2010—IPAD, 2005—XBOX 360, 2000—RAZOR Scooter, 1996- TICKLE ME ELMO, 1992—BARNEY DOLLS, 1989—Nintendo Gameboy, 1982-Cabbage Patch Dolls, 1978- Hungry Hungry Hippos, 1975—If you’ve spent way too much this holiday season you’ll be jealous on this one—most anticipated gift was the PET ROCK, 1963—EZ Bake Oven…Here is the issue that starts to probably become pretty obvious—each of these gifts despite being the best gift ever in their year—are now in a trash heap, antique shop, stuck aimlessly in someone’s basement collecting dust, now they are all obsolete—unless you need a good rock. The BEST Gift Ever is one that is anticipated but never obsolete.
In Acts 4:12—Luke makes a mighty proclamation about the longevity of God’s gift of Christ– 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Continue reading “Anticipated but Never Obsolete”
It is the sacrifice that resemble Christ that we turn into movies, memorialize, and try to remember but all along God promises a…
Future Celebration (Isaiah 54: 1-5) Isaiah acknowledges that price the son’s sacrifice paid, and then shifts from him bearing many sins to our response: “Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child (To be barren for a Jewish woman was a great shame and yet he calls on that woman to sing); burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord. (Families depended on children for survival, before Social Security and nursing homes, but God says even the childless—prepare for a celebration. 2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. 3 For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. 4 “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. 5 For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.
Isaiah builds to an unlikely conclusion: that despite your current conditions, despite your past, your history, the offer is the same. You too, can be welcomed back where you were meant to be: united with the Father, through the Son, empowered by the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Messiah Jesus, our maker is called our husband. Author Jim Liske, pointed out that husband is a Norse word—Old English literally meaning—“house tiller of the ground.” Jesus was sent to earth to prepare and then pursue his bride the Church—he came to till up the weeds that choke out our lives and to allow for new growth—to cultivate in us an opening for our potential to emerge. Jesus complete sacrifice, remarkably, becomes a sacrifice worth celebrating. Continue reading “Future Celebration”
It is as we are grafted into Christ—accepting him as Lord and Savior—that we are cleansed through the sacrifice of Christ-from dormancy to dramatic harvest, through:
Conformity to Christ (John 15:9-11) 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
You can hear Christ revealing a harvest of the Spirit in and through us but not from us. Yet, so many people are spending their lives drunk searching for the next shot of happiness, while dangerous low on joy-needing life to be perfect to feel the presence of God. Somehow, we have fallen into a trap of thinking that just identifying with a church is enough, or just claiming Christ on Facebook is the goal, when all along God offers us an identity in Him rather than just asking us to identify with Him. Jesus has in store a transcendent change for us—in Verse 11. Happiness is fragile, joy is fruitful. Continue reading “Looking Like Jesus”
Commitment is in short supply in our world–but C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity describes something different otherworldly: “Christ says, “Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you…No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there. I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think are innocent as well as the ones you think are wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you myself: my own will shall become yours.” There is hope for a life that instead of cautious is…
COMMITTED—(Luke 2:33-35) 33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Simeon doesn’t stop with praise; he gets to the heart of this Messiah’s practicality. He shows that God is committed even until the end. Referencing Isaiah 8 and 28, we get reminded that Jesus arrival was foretold—a picture painted—Isaiah 8 tells us that “and he will be a sanctuary, but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall…” Stop and think about it, Simeon knew in seeing Jesus that he would be a lightning rod—a dividing point. Where followers would be burnt at the stake, eaten by lions, where valedictorians are barred from using the name of Jesus, where Jesus can be called good, but never God. Yet, God knew in a world at war with its creator, that each person would have to define for themselves what they are committed too. Continue reading “COMMITTED”
Why should you care? Why should you give up even a penny, or an ounce of time, or give a fragment of focus? Why should compassion ever compete with your comfort?
It is in the aftermath of Jesus engagement that we find our answer:
TRADING PLACES: Mark 1: 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
Despite Jesus telling him to keep quiet, the man had experienced something so powerful and tangible that he couldn’t contain himself. His God moment resulted in a persistent Gratitude. The guy wasn’t being paid to spread the news of Jesus. He realized that Jesus had traded out his ailment with Jesus awesome power! Here is what’s crazy in the aftermath, Jesus ends up in the very place that the man used to be confined–in the lonely places. The leprous were sent outside of camp, and it is Jesus that will one day carry his cross to another lonely place to trade places with us. This isn’t just someone else’s story; it has the potential to become our story. Paul writes in Romans 4:25 “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Jesus didn’t save us via Facebook message, he didn’t save us through a cosmic decree finger-painted in the clouds, he saved us by trading places with us through an incarnation. He allows us to experience compassion before calling us to be compassionate. Jesus became nothing, so that you could become something in the lives of others
. Continue reading “Trading Places”
Today we pick up in Mark 1:40-45, looking at a life of compassionate stewardship. Jesus doesn’t get mad at the condition of the leper and call his legislature, Herod, or Pontius Pilate. He realizes that true compassion doesn’t end with complaining, it begins with…
ENGAGEMENT (Mark 1:41b-42) He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
Engaging comes at a cost. The law in Leviticus 13 and 14 were clear that leprosy made someone unclean, while on their journey to the Promise Land, God’s law was inherently practical to avoid contagious disease from spreading through the camp, where hygiene could get sketchy. So it went further, if you touched someone with a skin disease you would be considered unclean. Fast forward to the 1st century and things had morphed from practical to punitive: throwing rocks at the diseased if they got too close, barring them from all social and religious practices, even talk about leprosy caused terror. Continue reading “Jesus’ Engagement”