Saturday, May 07, 2011

Friday, May 06, 2011


Friday, April 15, 2011

Jesus: Restorer of Kingdom Dreams

Knowing our church body, it’s tempting to dig into Numbers 33 and the significance that camping played in the developing nation of Israel. As fascinating as that might be – I’d prefer to aim at a few thoughts from the readings this week in Luke 4 – 7.

I find that Jesus’ mission, words and actions – and His effect on the people he encountered – captivate me. It is interesting to me that Jesus describes his purpose a little differently than how we might typically define it. Luke 4:18-19 records these words from Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

For much of my life I’ve reduced Jesus’ words to a spiritual sense rather than the context in which he speaks. What impact these words must have had on the poor, the prisoner, the blind, and the oppressed. I’m certain these words have spiritual implications – but as I read the chapters that follow – he really brings good news to real people suffering in poverty, injustice, disease and disability, and oppression for hundreds of years by outside polities.

The kingdom of God is Good News for marginalized people who are powerless – whose dreams are suppressed by their various circumstances. Jesus is the restorer of kingdom dreams! He restores a man from Capernaum tormented by an evil spirit. He restores Simon’s mother-in-law who is suffering from a fever – a much more life threatening condition in Jesus’ day. As a result of these acts, people are brought to him and he continues to heal, release, and proclaim his good news!

The kingdom of God is Good News for a group of fishermen. Luke 5:1-11 has great significance – it’s an amazing fishing story. It makes me wonder how I would react if Jesus went for a boat ride with me and we caught more fish than we could handle alone…I wonder if Peter and the rest considered making Jesus their business partner? Instead, Jesus calls them to come into his business – and “So they pulled their boats up on the shore, left everything and followed him.” Following Jesus is counter-intuitive. Following Jesus is counter-culture. Following Jesus resists common sense. Following Jesus restores dreams and restores purpose and restores hope.

These chapters in Luke are so rich in showing the way of Jesus – the way of the disciple. What does it mean to be a Christian? Simply put – it means to follow Jesus – completely. He heals – but even more, he touches the leper. He heals – spiritually as well as physically because of the faith of friends who bring their broken friend to Jesus despite the obstacles. He restores Levi, oppressed by his own shame – and gives him a new purpose and calling.

There is so much more to Jesus – and I’m left asking, “Am I more like those he called or those who opposed him? Do I care about who he cared about?” The kingdom life is so much more than the “personal relationship” and a future oriented faith. It is our relationship with Him now that calls us into a radical way of life. It is a call to follow Jesus – to do what he does, touch who he touches, think what he thinks, act how he acts, love who and how he does, give comfort as he has…

I have so far to go. I’m so immature in my following of Jesus. I’ve not arrived…but the process is the point. I’m to follow, and in following I will be changed from the inside out. After all, “A student is not above (their) teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like (their) teacher (6:40).”

So as I read through Jesus’ proclaimed mission to the suffering and impoverished (in so many ways) and the opposition he faced by the religious leaders – I’m left to ask, “Where am I in Jesus’ story? Who am I following? Who’s my teacher?” I suppose it’s easy to see, really – “Each tree is recognized by its own fruit (6:44).” I’m so thankful that Jesus heals and restores – I, too, need the Lord’s favor!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Holiness or Hygiene

I hope you are all enjoying this incredible summer kick off - 98 degrees...yikes.  If you're like the Pringles you are getting creative in how to beat the heat w/o air conditioning - I'm identifying with our friends at Grace Ministries - laying in front of fans, sitting quiet, and sweating more than a little.  But I'm not complaining - I'll take the heat - and I'll take the mornings!  I love these kind of summer mornings.  I like to get up when its still and steal the cool hours as the sun filters through the trees and peeks through the leaves whispering a kind warning, almost apologizing for the heat that it will bring as the day moves on. In a little while I'll get ready for the day, but for these quiet moments I'll just sit with a cup of coffee and listen to my kids play Star Wars - which has become Star Camping or something - very little warring this morning.  I've been sitting with the Word and enjoying some time before the heat of the day comes (and I'm not thinking temperatures). 

Here's my morning ramble:

I wanted to challenge you as I've been challenged this morning.  How much time, attention, focus, energy, you and I spend preparing for the day?  I was reading John 13 this morning and have been reflecting on a statement Jesus made as the last meal he ate with his disciples began.  On the night of his betrayal and trial, the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus washed his disciples feet.  This is a powerful moment - but its something Jesus said to Peter that has captured my attention today and I felt that I must pass it along to you as well.  Jesus said: "My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene." (13:10 or 11, Message). 

Jesus is concerned with holiness not hygiene. Yesterday, I did not get up and spend the waking moments getting myself prepared for the day.  I had several things to do - places to be - actually, people to serve.  I met a friend before 8 am and helped pack a moving trailer headed for Alaska, then helped a woman who reminds me of my grandmother with her yard, then visited with my father and enjoyed a good conversation - but then the heat of the day came and the temperature outside rose too.  And I become impatient and selfish.

Here's what I'm saying - we can serve, we can be in relationship, we can be kind - but if we're just putting on cosmetics, deodorants, purfumes, make-up, combing hair, putting on fresh clothes, etc...and then nodding at the God-head as we're heading out the door - we'll be clean on the outside, ready to engage the world - but what we really need is holiness!  And holiness is what Jesus is most concerned about...not being fresh smelling - but being a the fragrance of Him - Holiness is something that only comes from the presence of God in, through, and for us. 

For Peter - the morning was coming and he'll deny Jesus three times before the sun rises...but the Son did rise - and restoration and holiness is now possible and available!  Receive it as Peter does.  Recognize the reality that we need to be with Jesus, daily, moment by moment really - as we come to understand what it really means - this mystery of all three persons of the God-head making there dwelling in us. 

So my prayer for you this morning is that you will give more focus, attention, and possibly time - to receive God's grace and presence and holiness - so that you might be clean and fresh in heart, mind, and strength for the Lord - to the Lord - and in the Lord.  I pray that you will be concerned with what Jesus is concerned with - holiness, not hygiene...

I love each of you and am praying for you as you take on the heat that comes with each day.  I pray that along with your antiperspirant and your sunscreen that you'll put on the fragrance of Christ and the real Son-screen - His Holiness and Life lived in you.

Sawadee krap,

PS:  We woke to a beautiful message this morning written in sidewalk chalk on the street in front of our house:  "We (heart) the Pringles"...not sure if it was written by friends or the Father - likely by both!

"Return" from Thailand

The morning has come of our intended return from Thailand.  As I type these words a flight has just arrived and the passengers have just walked through customs and are now being greeted by their friends and families at the Portland airport.  Their passports have been stamped and their weary, sleepy faces are relieved that their travel has come to an end. 

For them, their trip is complete and they have arrived at their destination.  For us - our journey is still ongoing!  I am praying for you this morning that you and I will recognize that God the Father is working in our midst today through His Spirit and the presence of Jesus in you.  It  is my prayer that you become the destination for Jesus - a place where he is always welcomed and anticipated - I pray that each of you becomes a "Bethany" for Jesus.  A place where he finds love and his friends.  A place where Jesus is completely welcome.  A place where Jesus is worshipped as the supreme one he is.  A place of dying to self and resurrection into a new life.  A place where you serve out of who He is in you.  A place of freedom.  A place where Jesus is ministered to. 

I pray that wherever you are that you leave the footprint of the Lord!  I was reading John 12 this morning and read that Jesus had returned to Bethany in the days before his crucifixion and ultimately his resurrection - in the message is reads, "Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living."  I pray that you are Living the resurrected life!  I pray that in this resurrected life you welcome Jesus the table in your home, in your life you share this new life in communion with Jesus!  Further John 12 reads, "Martha served."  I pray that your life is one of service to and for and in Jesus.  I pray that in all of your being that you serve Jesus and that the overflow to, in and through him pours out in to the world around you.  Finally, John 12 reads, "Mary cam in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus' feet, and then wiped them with her hair.  The fragrance of the oils filled the house."  I pray that you offer in worship and adoration everything to Jesus.  I pray that you hold nothing back - but give him everything - not because you have to - but because you love him!  Hold nothing back in your love of Jesus!  Be expensive in your love for Jesus! 

I read this recently, "In Bethany, Jesus Christ was valued for His exceeding worth.  There is nothing too costly to lay at His feet.  When the flask was broken, the house surrendered to the aroma of the perfume.  Herein lies a great truth: When the vessel is broken, the fragrance of Christ pours forth.  When people allow themselves to be broken by their Lord - when they are willing to "waste" themselves upon Christ - the fragrance of His life can be sensed by those who come near." 

I pray that you are truly Living the resurrected life!  I pray that you are Serving Jesus!  I pray that you are Loving Jesus in a "waste-full" way today!  I pray that these are true in you as you worship and adore Jesus!  The result will be for more than you!  In fact you will be lost in this and only Jesus will be seen - but the result - "The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, was there giving eyewitness accounts.  It was because they had spread the word of this latest God-sign that the crowd swelled to a welcoming parade.  The Pharisees took one look and threw up their hands: 'Its out of control. The world's in a stampede after him." (John 12:17-19)

I pray that this "Broken Trip" which would have ended today begins a journey for the rest of our lives - a journey of continual falling to the ground and dying so that Christ my be reproduced in and through us!  I pray that you will continue this journey together and that there will be a stampede towards Jesus as a result. 

"Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat.  But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over.  In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life.  But if you let go, reckless in your love, you'll have it forever, real and eternal." (Jn 12:24-25)

Let us not hold onto life "just as it is" - but rather that we have real life because our Love is Reckless! 

I pray that you will be wasteful and reckless with your Love for Jesus as you return today from a broken trip and begin a journey of a broken life!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Music to my ears...

The alarm went off this morning (Saturday) only it was blaring "Daddy! I GET UP!"...I groped around in a sleep deprived frenzy for the snooze bar, but to no avail the shout blared from beyond our bedroom. "Daddy! I GET UP!" I realized that this is coming from my precious son sleeping down the hall...

To spare my sleeping bride I climbed out of bed, no use faking deep sleep (she subs for the call for Daddy on lots of Saturday mornings) and ventured into Wyatt's room. The first words out of his mouth were (of course) "Where my 'abrella?" A perfectly logical question from an almost three-year-old. After all he pulled the Jedi mind trick on his mother to get the "Lightning M'pween" umbrella during an "abenture" to Target yesterday.

With 'abrella in hand we headed for the kitchen. Wyatt announces "I want some cerweal" and heads for the dining room table. He doesn't want Life this morning (I love we he asks for his Life - he eats it up! His relationship to Life cereal is a great metaphor for this little guys approach to the day...) But this morning we're having Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

So with with sugar cereal in his bowl (and his matching spoon - because that's important) and a "Tipsy-tup" of milk and me with a cup of dark Rwandan coffee he and I sit to contemplate the morning and day ahead. The 'abrella plays a key role in our morning musings and I throw out of my mind the notion that opening an 'abrella inside is bad luck - can't be with this morning's communion. We muse the meaning of the racing emblems on his race tars (no typo) jammies - Wyatt reminds me that he's my "little rwace ch(t)amp"...and after talking him out of stripping of his jammies to read the back, I concur...he's my little champ.

Amid Wyatt's sugar filled meditations and this mornings first rays of sunshine peaking into our sacred space, he is distracted (shocking!) by the images protecting Carly's PC (I'm a Mac - but that's for another day)...Memories of a "tamping" trip to Timothy lake come back in 3-second intervals, perfectly spaced like a surfers dream..."There's Jack!"  "There's Mimi!"...He's seen this show a hundred times....

And then as though he was given a manifestation of of the Holy Spirit Wyatt shouts in words that are hallowed in our home "Daddy, I want to go fishing!"...Words that make my heart soar like a hawk...and continue to as he must have repeated 20 times this morning...."Pwease, Daddy, pweese, Daddy, pwease..."

I'm sensing the Jedi-mind-trick that got him a Lightning M'pween 'abrella yesterday...and really, kids should come with a snooze bar for Saturday mornings...but frankly, these words are music to my ears and medicine for my soul.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

transformation - more than meets the eye

Romans 12:1-2
1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[a] act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

A few years back there was a movie that was a blockbuster. Transformers was an all out hit...but it was much was a marketing frenzy...product placement everywhere...hard to miss that the purpose of this movie was to make as much money as possible while amusing those of us who would fork out the $10 a ticket or $5 if we waited until we could watch it at home. The, trucks, and every conceivable vehicle that could transform into something much greater and much more powerful...

In fact the movie itself was a transformation...when I was a kid, this was a cartoon and really not that amazing by today's standards of animation. So there was something to the draw from us who are "over 30"...we wanted to see the transformation of the Transformers...The movie did not disappoint too much...As expected it was "more than meets the eye."

I take a minute to go to Hollywood because the idea of transformation has wide appeal. Many great movies are built on the idea that the unlikely can become great. It seems that stories that I read to my children are this way as well. Off the top of my head the much loved children's story of the Ugly Duckling is one of these stories...what was cast off becomes the most beautiful. Its the unexpected in these stories that captures us and why we remember them.

I believe it is because we long to be something different...something much more impressive...that we are obsessed with watching others in there transformation...but not sure that we ourselves can acheive more than we are. Some of the most popular shows are based on this...American Idol is based on the discovery and transformation story of a handful of new talent. Survivor is a game...but we want to see what happens to the character and physiques of the players in those deserted places.

And then there is The Biggest Loser. Us over 30 folks are cheering for these folks who seek to transform into healthy people on the inside and out. We are inspired and want to change too as we watch these folks work so hard and change so many things in their lifestyle...but I do this while resting a bowl of ice cream on my chest.

My heart beat with both chapters of Just Courage this week. Though I've read them before, re-runs are still powerful. "Pathways to transformation" laid out by our creator, says Haugen, "almost always come as a surprise." I also am challenged by his statement on page 43: "I have my own preferred vision for how my life ought to be transformed, but God frequently has something different and deeper in mind." How gracious is this Jesus of mine...he leaves me not to make my own paths to my "preferred vision" but instead leads me down paths to his "perfect vison."

A few years back, my life was marvelously interrupted...gloriously wreaked. And it has made all the difference.

I can't help but think about the draw to the mundane and safety of my life with a remote control. Benignly changing channels knowing that even though there are hundreds to choose from, none where going to give me what my heart really be different, to be brave, to be transformed. I am so thankful for the "voice of divine restlessness...sacred discontent...and holy yearning..." This is the Presence and evidence of Jesus' life in me and his generous and gracious work to make me more like him and less like me. (John 3:30)

When I embrace the paradox of the transforming power of Christ...when I lose my life, I find it. I discover that not only is there victory in being the biggest loser, I know that with Christ in me and me in him, there really is more than meets the eye! May you and I walk closely with Jesus as he leads us down the path to become more like him!

"May you always be covered by the dust of your Rabbi." - Ancient Jewish Blessing

If you made it through this post...thanks for sticking with me...

Monday, March 09, 2009

A Church of Multiplication

There is a real place on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. Not far from Capernaum in a place called Tabgha the ruins of a church was located. The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes was destroyed in the 7th century and was just recently discovered in the 1980's. The church and monastery was built on the site that was traditionally believe to be where Jesus fed the 5000 (or 25,000) with a child's sack lunch (See John 6). The centerpiece of this ancient site is a stone which was believed to have been the rock Jesus set the boys lunch upon as he blessed it and handed the pieces to his disciples to distribute to the multitude waiting. A mosaic of the fish and basket of bread was set to point to the stone's significance.

I have been thinking a lot lately about what images and symbols have been used over time by Christians. This image, its lost church, and the significance of the event on the shores of Galilee have captivated my imagination. It reminds me that I must allow the Holy Spirit to escavate my heart and remove the "ages" of silt and rubble that has covered up what was once naively adventurous and passionate in my worship of the Multiplier of Offerings. As the Church (and personally) we must rediscover the willingness to offer and surrender to Jesus the "little" we have and are so we can experience Him just as that little boy who offered his meager lunch.

Whether or not this church was really established on the rock that Jesus blessed the loaves and fishes is really not that important. The question I am left asking myself is: Am I established on the Rock, on Jesus, who will take the little I have offer which I can hardly see as meaningful, and take it in his hands and through his power make it into something significant. This is the adventurous life I am called to...we all adventurous faith that offers sack lunches and seemingly insignifcant abilities to the One who will mulitiply it beyond all we could ask for or imagine!

Consider what you have to offer...It doesn't take much...but Jesus won't take it, you have to offer it to him and lay it on the stone.