Monday, September 13, 2010

Train Wrecks and Children

I don't usually keep up with the dramatic lives of celebrities. Left unchecked, I enjoy a train wreck as much as the next guy, but I'm too much of a wreck myself to rubber-neck towards the follies of others. I do confess that I once had a subscription to People magazine as a teenager, but I think it was mostly to find out the latest on Mariah Carey. Confession #2: I once had a huge crush on Mariah Carey.

Forget that. I was in the library recently when I ran across this People magazine headline - Anniston: "I don't need a man to be a mom." My first thought was, "Wow. I guess Jennifer Anniston and Brad Pitt broke up." I told you that I don't keep up.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

How to Love Muslims (A First Step)

If you are a Christian, consider for a moment how you might respond to the following statements:
1) Christians are cannibals; in their worship they eat flesh and drink blood.
2) Christians are atheists; where is the statue of their god?
3) Christians protest funerals of soldiers, holding signs that read "God hates fags."
4) Christians murder abortion doctors.
5) Christians are hypocritical.
6) Christians are judgmental.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Moment Realized

A moment, the moment it's realized to be
Slow time that passes too quickly to seize,
Strange presence familiar of loved ones and things,
An island awareness amidst the rote sea,
A dream upon waking from deeper a dream,
Reveals what is real by what seems not to be

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

To Suffer With

Compassion - sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it
(from Latin, com- meaning "together, with" + pati meaning "to bear, suffer")

We found out a few days before the kids started back to their small private school that both of Gracie's best friends would not be returning this year. The first we knew of at end of last year. It was disappointing, but there would be other opportunities for the girls to see one another, and Gracie still had one good friend left to spend the school year with. And now, we had learned that this second friend would be attending school out of of town.

Needless to say, Gracie was quite discouraged. Sure, there were other girls (a couple) in her class, and there were bound to be one or two new girls (there are), but these were her two best friends. I put her to bed that night, knowing that she needed some comfort, but not quite sure of what to say to her. For a while, I just laid with her. Finally, I offered, "Do you want to pray the Psalm?"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

They Drank the Water

Ladies and gentlemen, my hundredth post.

It was the last night before Gracie and Noah started back to school. We decided to take everyone to see The Karate Kid. Monica told the story today in worship:

Just before we pulled onto Manchester Expressway from the interstate, while we were sitting at a red light on the exit ramp, we noticed a ragged man sitting against a road sign and holding a cardboard sign of his own that read: "Homeless and Hungry. Please Help." I thought about the man. I thought about my kids sitting silently in the backseat. I thought about how stopping to help might make us late for the movie.

I rolled down my window. "Give us five minutes. Be right back."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

God of My Fathers

"Like my fathers I am looking for a home
I'm looking for a home beyond the sea
So be my God and guide me till I lie beneath these hills
And let the great God of my fathers be the great God of my children still"
- God of My Fathers, Andrew Peterson

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending an Andrew Peterson concert with Katie and our best friends. We drove through Atlanta to Jefferson, GA to sit on the front row of Galilee Baptist Church for the show.

This was also the same night my father was admitted to the hospital. My mom called as we were leaving our house and told me that dad had driven himself to the emergency room with a pain in his chest. She told us to go ahead to the concert and that she would keep us updated. She didn't sound worried, so we left and asked her to let us know what happens.

She texted back while we had stopped for supper and said that they found a blood clot in his lung. I asked her what I should do, and she said that there was nothing much we could do but pray. We were on the other side of Atlanta by now, and she told me to just stay and attend the concert.

We were one of the first ones at the church when the doors opened, and for the first time ever we were front and center for the show. After about an hour, Andrew came out and the music began. The show was amazing. After several songs, he introduced a new one called "God of My Fathers." The song had just begun when I felt my phone buzzing in my pocket. I could tell that it wasn't a text, but a call. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and discovered that the call was from my mom. What was I to do? I was sitting on the front row in this packed church in the middle of a song, but I had to take the call! I stood up and briskly walked, head down, to the back of the sanctuary and into the lobby. My phone stopped buzzing, so I dialed back, my mind only guessing at the reason for the call. She was supposed to text me updates, but this was no text.

She answered, "Hello?"
"Hey, what's going on?"
"Your daddy wanted to know if you can preach for him tomorrow."

After Andrew finished the song, I walked back to my seat both a little annoyed and very relieved that the call was not serious. But later, I wondered, "What if it had been serious?" Because I know that one day I will get that call.

I'm sure when that call comes in I will feel a certain amount of anxiety and sadness. I'm sure that I will grieve. But after all is said and done, I think that I will be grateful. I will be grateful for a father who knows, loves, trusts, and serves Christ. I will be grateful for the legacy he leaves behind in his church and his family. I will be grateful to God for His steadfast faithfulness. I will be grateful for a great cloud of witnesses who will spur me on until the day I, myself cross the finish line. And on that day, like Andrew, I will pray with a grateful heart that the great God of my fathers be the great God of my children still.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Six Flags and Stories

Last Friday, I took a trip to Six Flags with some family. Katie didn't go. For some reason, she doesn't enjoy being whirled around high in the air at 70 mph. Whatever.

To say that the day was a scorcher would be an understatement. In fact, when we were waiting in line for The Scorcher, one girl in front of us almost passed out from heat exhaustion. (I don't quite believe that though. I think she chickened out of the ride.) By the end of our first coaster, our clothes were drenched in sweat. By the end of our second or third, we were seriously looking for a water ride.

It was past time for lunch, and our energy was draining fast, but we decided to get wet before we headed to our car to eat. We went to Thunder River. Two hour wait. We'd starve by then. We went to Splash Water Falls. An hour wait. So then we thought we'd just head for the bridge where all the water sprays up from the ride. Back in the day, you would get more wet from the bridge than from the actual ride. We stand on the bridge for like five minutes waiting for the next boat to send that wave up into our faces. Finally, one floats around the bend. Get ready, here it comes. The boat plunges downward. The wave rises up... and falls beneath our feet. Not a drop to cool our baking bodies.

So we decide to take the sky carts to the other side of the park where Six Flags has built a small water park. We're sure to get wet there. While we're in line, we begin to discuss how we might just be willing to shuck out $10 for a drink in the park, which only an hour before seemed ridiculous. I thought of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. For once, I totally understood Esau. I told Katie's sister, "I won't need $10 if I'm dead." We're all suckers if we get hot and thirsty enough.

Once we reached the water park, we couldn't believe our eyes. There was water everywhere, and you didn't even have to wait in line! Imagine walking barefoot through the desert sand, mile after mile of blistering sun and parched tongue. Then you see an oasis just ahead offering shade and water. That was us. And we were in heaven. We took off our shirts and shoes and ran to a tall pipe that gushed gallon upon gallon of cool water over our whole bodies. We stood there splashing and giggling like school children.

Call me a nerd, but that joy reminded me of Frodo and his friends as they reached the elven city of Rivendell in The Lord of the Rings. They had been traveling for so long. Frodo was attacked, and no one was sure if he would pull through. When he awoke after days of unconsciousness, the joy shared between that fellowship was so relieving and so refreshing.

I began to notice that these stories, Esau and Frodo, had found their way into my experiences that day, bringing understanding to both the stories and the present moment. I wasn't just famished, I experienced the famishing of Esau. I wasn't only joyous in that cold water, I was experiencing Frodo's joy. These stories helped shape my awareness of my own story.

What stories shape the way you see your life and experiences? Which ones find their way into your own story?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sinners, All Shapes and Sizes

We took the kids to the Psalmond Road Pool today.

All human beings seem to be born with an innate ability to size one another up. We contrast and we compare (to ourselves, of course); we decide what we like and what we dislike in other people. That is, in our esteem of others, we decide who we would or wouldn't want to be. The catch being that this practice says more about who we are than anything else.

Now, if we all carry this uncanny ability to judge one another in almost every fashion, the public pool is one place that we hone our skills to perfection. You know what I'm talking about. From the chubby boy who keeps losing his trunks in the back to the thin woman in the string bikini, there are people in bathing suits, all shapes and sizes, some leaving more to the imagination than others. We notice. We can't help ourselves. We notice who's been working out and who shouldn't have put that on in public. And if we're not careful, there's a little bit of pride, a little bit of lust, a little bit of envy, a little bit of shame.

But what does it mean to have the mind of Christ? To have the eyes of Christ? Perhaps two things. We begin to look around at people in bathing suits and see more than bodies. We begin to see souls. We begin to see sinners, all shapes and sizes, all feeling a little bit of pride, lust, envy, or shame. We are all ugly. And we begin to see treasures, even the least of these, that God loved enough to dive in to His own creation to suffer and die to rescue. We are all beautiful.

My, the things you see at a public pool.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Green Pastures, Still Waters

I zoned out while driving today. I mean, scary "zoned out," like when you are all of a sudden on a road and you don't remember how you got there.

At least it was for a good reason. It was five o'clock. That is the time of Missio Dei's call to afternoon prayer. A text goes out to all our pray-ers, and we pray together. The afternoon prayer is Psalm 23. This is what I was meditating on while I zoned out.

It isn't much, but this is what occurred to me during that unaccounted for period of time: The Shepherd (who, of course, is Jesus) makes me lie down in green pastures. These are lush places where my body and soul are satisfied my my Shepherd's care and provision. It is here that I can truly say, "I shall not be in want."

But the Shepherd also leads me beside quiet waters. This explains the green pastures. In fact, I cannot lie down in green pastures until I have let Him lead me beside quiet waters. My soul must be at rest within me. As the Psalmist says, "I have calmed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me" (Psalm 131:2).

But if I find my soul restless, looking here and there in dissatifaction, then I know that there are desires I must be weaned of. I must learn to trust my Shepherd alone for my desires, not only to provide for them, but moreover, to provide the right desires. And when I want for nothing that He does not want, I find myself beside quiet waters. When I am beside the quiet waters, I find myself content to lie down. When I lie down, I find that the green pasture is oh, so satisfying. And when I am satisfied by the Shepherd alone, my soul is restored.


Anyone who wants to try out our rhythm of daily prayer is invited to join us. We pray three times a day: 8:00 am, 1:00 pm, & 5:00. A text goes out at these times and calls us to prayer. If these times are not available for prayer, no worries. See it as a reminder for the next moment you do have available.

We pray the following Scriptures, alone or with personal prayers:
8:00 am - Psalm 103:1-5, 20-22
1:00 pm - Matthew 6:9-13 (the Lord's Prayer)
5:00 pm - Psalm 23

Let me know, and I will add you to our list.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dare to Join Us

"The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people."
Acts 5:12-13

This passage interests me on a personal level. Here's why:

The early church had grown to about five thousand believers. The apostles were performing miraculous signs by the Holy Spirit. The gospel was being boldly proclaimed. The church was united and generously shared all that they had with one another. The believers met in homes, but being Jewish, they also still met regularly in the Temple. They had a specific place. Like a high school cafeteria, everyone knew where the Christians were gathering: a place called Solomon's Colonnade. And like a high school cafeteria, everyone was afraid to join them.

Here's what interests me though: They were highly regarded by the people. Everyone thought well of the Christians. God was performing miracles through them. A beggar had just recently been healed at the Temple. Everyone praised God. The Scriptures were being presented in a new light because of this Jesus, and it was making sense. They loved and cared for one another. Everyone thought so well of them! But no one dared join them? Why?

Fear. They wouldn't join them because they were afraid. The Jewish leaders had threatened the apostles not to talk about this Jesus: "Don't even do good in His name. We don't want to hear it." No one wants to be thrown out of the Temple. The Temple is the center of Jewish life. So admire from a distance. Wish you had the courage to join in. Walk past what you know is right so that life can go on as normal.

This interests me on a personal level because this seems to be the response to our church sometimes. I could be wrong, but people seem to admire our efforts. Of course, everyone does not share this admiration, but for now, I'm thinking of the people who do. They seem to acknowledge that we are following Jesus in ways that seem good, true, and beautiful. We are not perfect by any means, but they seem to respect our courage for trying something fresh and new. And yet... they walk right by. They dare not join us. Why? I can only speculate.

Is it fear? Fear of being labeled with us? Fear of novelty? Fear of not fitting in? Fear of having less time in their weekend? Or is it the fear we all face of having to commit to something? The fear of having to surrender our lives to this God who surrendered His life for us? Fear that we are not ready to lay aside our fears?

Of course, there is no single answer. Yet here is my appeal: If you are one of these distant admirers, (not just of our church, but any church), how long will you keep walking past? We are not perfect, but we have committed to one another. We worship together, we serve together, we sacrifice together, we suffer together. Because that's what it means to follow Jesus. It means being a part of His body. So lay aside your fears, whatever they may be. Perfect love casts out all fear. If we are the body of Christ, then His arms are wide open. Dare to join us.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


A poem that I wrote a couple of years ago:


I do not think
I do not hear -as words drop from my tongue like fine china-
the crash
I do not see -as bloodied feet bury within themselves the shards-
the wounds
Carelessness is my crime
for which everyone else must pay

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Joy and the Ache

I woke up today with an ache in my soul. I am not unhappy; quite the contrary. There is forward movement in my walk with Christ. Everything is well with my life. What is this ache? Why is it there?

Sunday there was great joy. I officiated the wedding of Bo and DaLin Broadwater. While waiting to walk out before the congregation, I prayed that God would fill our hearts with great joy. He came through. Part of my prayer during the ceremony was that Bo and DaLin would represent well the picture of Christ and the Church that marriage is meant to be. They came through. Their love for one another was as thick in the air as the humidity outside. We all left with drops of it on our brow.

But sometimes after the joy there is an ache. The ache is there to remind us that as sweet as the gifts of these moments are, they are but foretastes of the joy to come. There is a wedding feast coming where the wine will never run dry, where love will ring out in our laughter and life will swell in our lungs. There will never be a purer Bride, and there will never be a more radiant Groom. And the sun will never set on that Day.

That Day is not today. For now, we have joy because of these pictures, and we ache because of these pictures. We are right to do both.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What He Wants

Living for God means seeking to fulfill the will of God in my daily life. To do this, we must forsake our own will as our Lord did in the Garden.

I was reminded today how willing I am to seek God's will in "large" matters in my life (where I will go to school, how to lead the church, where my family will live in five years), and yet seldom do I consider God's will in the "small" decisions of my everyday life. And yet these choices are what truly shape us. These choices are what prepare us for discernment at those grand forks in our journey.

Let us rediscover the joy of a will completely surrendered to the will of a heavenly Father, day by day, moment by moment. What He wants is better than what I want.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Live for God

What does it mean to live for God?

How quickly we forget that our lives are His. How unconsciously we draw our breath from moment to moment. But He does not forget. Nor does He cease to provide it.

What do I prefer to think about? How do I prefer to spend my time? A man in "The Great Debaters" tells his son, "We do what we have to do so we can do what we want to do." Is this how we offer our lives to God? Offering up what we "have to" so that we may enjoy the rest doing what we will? Thinking about what we will?

What does it mean to live for God?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th of July

We're home from the fireworks out in Ellerslie. It's late, so I'll post lyrics to one of my favorite Independence Day songs. There's not a lot of rah-rah-rah, but there is a lot of perspective.


"4th of July" by Ben Shive

The first star of the evening
Was singing in the sky
High above our blanket in the park

And by the twilight’s gleaming
On the 4th day of July
The city band played on into the dark

And then a canon blast
A golden flame unfolding
Exploded in a momentary bloom

The petals fell and scattered
Like ashes on the ocean
As another volley burst into the blue

But the first star of the evening never moved

We stood in silence
The young ones and the old
As the bright procession passed us by

A generation dying
Another being born
A long crescendo played out in the sky

This nation, indivisible
Will perish from the Earth
As surely as the leaves must change and fall

And the band will end the anthem
To dust she will return
So the sun must set on all things, great and small

But the first star of the evening
Will outlive them all

Friday, July 2, 2010

Give Us a Sign

If God exists, and He wants all people to believe in Him, why doesn't He just prove that He exists? If He gave us all a clear sign, would anyone cease to believe?

Let's suppose for a moment that God decided to give you, the reader, a sign that He exists. That might satisfy you, but what about the billions of others in the world? If this is the way God works, showing signs to some and hiding them from others, then who's to say that's not already going on and you just happen to not be one of those fortunate people?

We will have to go further. To answer our skepticism, we will have to suppose that God has decided to reveal Himself to all people everywhere. Now, to achieve this kind of revelation, and to make sure nobody misses the sign, it seems that God would have to give various kinds of signs at every moment of every day. After all, not everyone is paying attention to the same kinds of things at exactly the same time.

Let's think about this. What would happen if God displayed signs for all people every day? What would happen is that we would call it nature. We would rightly study them, explore them, and occasionally be amazed by them, but we would wrongly fail to attribute any sort of divine message to them.

Could it be that this is what is happening every day? Could it be that there is a God, as Jesus taught, who causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall on all people?

But perhaps someone will think that sending sun and rain is not much of a message. I have a feeling we would see the magic of it if God only revealed these things to us individually. But let's put that aside for a moment, because this God that Jesus reveals is also a God who reveals Himself in very personal ways. He reveals Himself more fully to some people than to others. Is this fair? Absolutely, because these personal messages are never meant for the recipients alone. These messages are meant to be shared with the world. And they have been. The question is whether we will accept these messages given to prophets and apostles or whether we will demand a sign for our eyes only.

We cannot have it both ways. Either we want a God who reveals Himself equally to everyone, or we want a God who reveals Himself to certain people more directly than others. If we choose the first option, then we can't complain that the sign is nothing "special." If we choose the second, then we can't complain if we are not a prophet.

Fortunately, we do not have to choose between the two. God has done both. We have just to open our eyes to the impossible occurances that unfold around us every day (i.e. nature). And if we can learn to see that, perhaps we can begin to trust those who tell us that they have seen "even greater things than these."

"Who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"
- The Prophet Isaiah (53:1)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Sometimes I think I was more of a contemplative when I worked at TSYS. There was just something about sitting isolated in my cube in front of a computer screen all day that gave you time to think and write. I had to be there, and though my job was to write in database languages, the English language had so much more life. And so my mind would wander, and my keyboard would record what I saw and heard.

Now there are so many distractions. I am more free, and yet true freedom exists within some boundary. Not that I am itching to go back to TSYS. It was a good job, and I am immensely thankful for my time there, but those days are past and I am thankful for that, too.

It's no wonder the monastics write the way they do, with thoughts that usually reside two or three levels deeper than most of us exercise from day to day. The monks are confined to the same place and to the same work day after day. This is torture - unless it's your calling. And unless, because of the regimen, your spirit is able to delve into the depths of the mysteries of God.

I'm not sure what I'm getting at except that maybe if we want to contemplate the riches of God in Christ Jesus, we might have to give up some freedom in order to gain it truly. We might have to give up some entertainment. We might have to submit ourselves to boredom, which is the greatest fear of our generation. And when we are willing to do this, and when we sit still for just another moment longer, perhaps something in the depths will begin to be seen and to be heard: light and "wake up!"

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Wrong Drink

"You never get what you want
You never get what you want
And I don't think it's my fault
You never get what you want, do you, baby?"
- Patti Griffin

The other night we were on our way to Billy and Megan's house. We were only a mile our two from our house when I decided that I was very thirsty. I had just watched Katie take some change out of my cup holder and put it into her purse. "I'm thirsty. Get that change and let me stop at the drink machine."

"You can get something to drink when we get to Billy and Megan's."

"No, that's 30 minutes away. Just let me stop."

We pulled into the grocery store parking lot in Smiths and parked next to the drink machine. It was on Katie's side, so she got out. "What do you want?" I couldn't decide. "It's between Pepsi, Mountain Dew, or Sunkist Strawberry." "Well, just decide," she said as she stood beside the machine. After a moment or two, I decided that a Sunkist Strawberry sounded tasty and refreshing. Katie put the money in the machine, and the can dropped to the bottom. As she got back in the truck, she handed the drink to me: "It's hot." I took the can from her. It was hot. Oh, well.

Now, how was I supposed to know that when I selected that drink in that drink machine at that grocery store and opened it, that it would spew all over me and my truck interior? I couldn't have known. But that didn't stop Katie from declaring that it's what I get for making us pull over and buy a drink for me. It's times like this that, if you believe in a sovereign God who wills even the life and death of sparrows, you wonder why He would allow such a silly and meaningless annoyance as a spewing beverage on one of His children. But if God is truly sovereign then such a nuisance may indeed be silly, but it is never meaningless.

So what does it mean? I think I know, but I don't want to talk about it.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Acts Four and a Ford Explorer

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had... There were no needy persons among them."
Acts 4:32, 34

We have a faithful sister in our church who is going to serve at a youth camp for the summer. Throughout the year, she ministers to teenage girls and to the homeless and needy. She is a student at Auburn. And she needs a car. She needed a car.

We studied Acts chapter 4 in worship today. We like to say that we believe in a capitalistic society and a socialistic church. We're mostly joking; the church of Jesus should transcend those categories. What we mean is that we want to be as united as the early church - "there were no needy persons among them." We took a step closer to that today.

After worship, Billy and I went to purchase a Ford Explorer for our sister. Then we, along with Katie, Megan, Carter, Fifi, Gracie, and Noah, drove it to her house. Her parents came outside (they were privy), and she soon followed. She emerged from the house with a curious wonder as to what all of us were doing in her driveway. I dangled the key from my finger and lifted it toward her. A look of astonishment came over her as she took the key and began to hug everyone. It was a great moment.

The Scriptures are not meant to be merely read, or even studied. They are meant to be lived. I hope we accomplished that in some small way today. I hope that the Word of God takes root ever deeper into our everyday lives. I hope that Bethany has many adventures in her Explorer, the first of which will come as she leaves for the camp in North Carolina this week. And I hope that our Jesus is glorified by His church. Solo Dei Gloria.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Forever Young

"Forever young, I want to be forever young.
Do you really want to live forever, forever, forever?"
- Forever Young by Alphaville

"I only smile once in a while
'cause I don't want the lines on my face."
- Fall Apart Again by Brandi Carlile

I heard an ad on the radio tonight about a product that takes away aging spots on the skin. In the commercial, a lady calls to cancel her cosmetic surgery because she has discovered this product. Cosmetic surgery used to be for the rich and the famous. Now, more and more people are going under the knife in order to defy time and maintain a youthful appearance.

The god of youth is a cruel god. She only loves us when we are beautiful. With each passing day, her heart yearns more and more for someone else less aged. We may fret, we may sweat, we may spend our last dime trying to please her, but after all is done she will leave us still.

But there is God who grows sweeter with time. This God would have the wisdom of a gray head before the vanity of youth. This God reveals beauty to those who embrace the person He is shaping them into rather than one they always wished they could be. This is a God who generously rewards "a long obedience in the same direction." This is a good God who blesses the young and the old, and who never leaves us or forsakes us.

Do not wish away your wrinkles or your gray hair. Act your age. A lifetime is nothing to be ashamed of.

Monday, June 21, 2010

What I Have I Give You, pt.2

So now that we know what this healing is a picture of and what it should point to in our minds, namely the restoration of all things in Jesus, let’s rewind and take a better look at how this microcosm of restoration came about. There is a crippled man who has been carried to the Temple gate where he must beg in order to earn a living. Peter and John are on their way to afternoon prayer. The crippled man sees Peter and John and asks them for money.

Now, when this man (who is probably seated on the ground) calls out to Peter and John, what is the first thing they do? They look at him. They look straight at him. Have you ever seen someone approaching you on the street, and you just know they are going to ask you for money? What’s the first thing we’re tempted to do? Look straight ahead. Don’t look at them and maybe they’ll keep going by. There was a man, I can’t remember his name, who became voluntarily homeless for a period of time on the streets of a major city. One of the things he noted was that during this period, no one on the street would make eye contact with him. Imagine being around thousands of people every day and being essentially a ghost to all of them. Over time, this has a huge affect on an individual’s self worth. The first thing Peter and John do is look at this man. He would not even look at them at first, perhaps staring at the ground in shame. Peter tells the man, “Look at us!” They look him in the eye. They treat him as an equal. Before they do anything, before they give this man anything, they give him their attention. They give him dignity.

The next thing we notice is not what Peter gives this man, but what he doesn’t give him. “Silver and gold I do not have. It’s all plastic these days, man. You know how it is.” Peter does not have what this man is seeking. He quit his job to follow Jesus - he doesn’t have any money! There’s a way of giving to the poor that is simply putting a band-aid on the situation. Now, there’s nothing wrong with giving money, but Peter is interested in something deeper. When Peter is finished, this man won’t need to beg for money. Who cares if Peter doesn’t have silver or gold? We have to keep this in mind when we’re building for the Kingdom. We can do good for people, but if our good works don’t point to Jesus, we’re merely handing out band-aids. We can’t build for the Kingdom without telling people what we’re building for. We can’t just point to the Kingdom with telling people how they can enter the Kingdom. Do you see? If Peter had given this man a coin in Jesus name, he could have bought a loaf of bread, but he could never have gotten inside that Temple gate.

“Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” And he offered his hand. Now, think about this. How did Peter know that when that man took his hand and stood up that he would be able to walk? Peter did not heal the man. He told the crowd, “We are just ordinary men. God did this.” How did he know Jesus would back him up? I think maybe because Jesus had told Peter he would. “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it.” And so,“In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

Peter tells the crowd that it was by faith in Jesus that this man was healed. I want to ask, whose faith in Jesus? The crippled man’s? We not told that this man is a follower of Jesus. We don’t know what this guy thinks about Jesus. We're not even told if he became a follower of Jesus after the healing. I'd like to think he did, but we're not sure. So whose faith healed the man? I think it was Peter’s. Peter acted for this man’s good and trusted Jesus to back him up. Peter trusted Jesus to bring restoration to this man through his own faith and action.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

Top two Father's Day moments:

1) Gracie: Part of my sermon today was to encourage us to be willing to get involved for the good of people and trust Jesus to bring restoration through our faith and action. On the way to our Father's Day lunch, Grace told me she had a dream last night that fit with this theme. She was at a prison where she saw a woman who seemed like she had been a prisoner there for a long time. The prisoner saw another woman, possibly a visitor, and reached out to hug her. The other woman completely ignored the prisoner and walked away. Gracie said, "I woke up and was thinking about that. Is it better to help someone who may or may not have done something bad, or is it better to be safe?" That is the question, isn't it?

2) Noah: When I opened my Father's Day card, Noah informed me that he had especially helped to pick out the card. He then sat in my lap and read the words to me, as if he had written them himself: "If true wealth in this world were measured by how much a man is appreciated and admired, Dad... you would be one of the richest men on earth." Indeed.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

What I Have I Give You, pt. 1

Acts 3:1-21

Tomorrow is Father’s Day. As we think about fathers and the things fathers do, one thing we can say is that fathers fix things. You know, when you’re little and your toy breaks, what do you do? You bring it to dad, and he fixes it. Fathers also do a lot of handiwork and repairs around the house. Now, I’m going to be honest, I am a total failure at stuff like this. I don’t fix things. I can’t fix things. I don’t know how, and I never cared to learn, I guess. I can hang a picture or some blinds or change a tire, but beyond that I’m clueless. Now my dad, on the other hand, can fix all kinds of things.

So the other day, our toilet was running constantly. It wouldn’t stop running water, and so we thought, “This isn’t good. Our water bill’s gonna be through the roof.” So I went out to Home Depot and bought the parts and fixed the toilet. Well, actually my dad came over and looked at it, and then we got the parts and we fixed the toilet. Okay, well, actually he fixed the toilet, and I just kind of stood there for moral support. That’s how it is when we fix things together. He fixes the thing, and I offer my presence and an occasional tool. Basically, I mostly offer what he could probably do himself.

And this story (Acts 3) really begs this sort of question: What do we have to offer the world in Jesus’ name? It’s really Jesus doing all the work, so why does He need us? What do we have to give?

So we find ourselves at the Temple in Jerusalem. And we’re in front of one of the gates that lead to an inner part of the Temple. Only certain people can make it to worship beyond this gate. Only Jewish people can come in. No foreign worshipers. Only men can enter. No women. And no one who is ceremonially unclean or who has physical disabilities can enter. Now there is a crippled man who is being carried, maybe by his caregivers, to the entrance to this Temple gate where he will sit as worshipers enter. He's there to beg for money. Now, begging was a little different back then because this was essentially the Jewish welfare system. Charity was greatly valued in the Jewish culture, and so this man knows he will be taken care of financially by worshipers who can go deeper into the Temple than he can. So this is not a guy asking for money to buy beer. This guy is doing what he can to have his needs met, and he is relying of the goodness of God’s people who have been blessed with health.

The man has been carried to the Temple gate at three in the afternoon for a reason. This is the time of a call to prayer. People are making their way to the Temple at this time to pray together. We’re told that two of the Apostles, Peter and John, are part of this crowd who is gathering to pray.

The crippled man at the gate sees Peter and John passing by, and he asks them for money. Peter replies, “We don’t have any money, but we’ll give you what we do have. In the name of Jesus, get up and walk.” They helped the man up, his legs became strong, and he began to walk and run and leap. And guess where he runs? With Peter and John right through that Temple gate.

So that’s the scene. After this, a crowd begins to gather, and just like on Pentecost, Peter has words to explain what everyone is witnessing.

Now, we need to realize that miracles are never for their own sake. Miracles are never just for a show. Miracles happen within a specific time and place in order to point to Jesus in a unique way. The tongues on Pentecost said two things: the Messiah has come and He’s available to everyone, all peoples, all languages.

Peter explains to the crowd what this miracle means. His main point is familiar: Jesus is the Messiah. It was by faith in the name of Jesus that this man was healed. But it’s not just about this man’s healing. It’s about Israel being restored to God. Peter says that the people need to repent, change their thinking and living, so that times of refreshing may come from the Lord and that He may send Christ, who will remain in heaven until when? Until the time comes for everything to be restored. This miracle is about more than a man walking. It’s about restoration on a grand scale. It’s about the restoration available to all people in Jesus, first to the Jew and also to the Gentile.

Click here for Part 2.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Help Me!

In her book, Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott tells of the two best prayers that she knows: "Help me! Help me! Help me!" and "Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!"

19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon, spoke of God's response to our cries for help: "The answer to the prayer is certain, if it be sincerely offered through Jesus. The Lord's character assures us that He will not leave His people; His relationship as Father and Husband guarantee us His aid; His gift of Jesus is a pledge of every good thing; and His sure promise stands, "Fear not, I will help thee."

Thursday, June 17, 2010


There is a poison in bitterness;
Lord, bleed my heart before it's too late.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Name Game

Today was the second day of my Concepts of Fitness class. We are active in this class, and since it's helps to all know one another, we played the name game today.

I hate the name game.

In case you've never had the fortune of playing, the name game can take many forms. The idea is to learn the names of each person in a newly formed group by forcing everyone to do it all at once and on the spot through some kind of activity. Ours involved forming a circle and throwing a ball to someone as you call their name.

The reason I hate the name game is simple: I have a terrible memory. This makes me terrible with names. I have trouble remembering a single person's name who just introduced themselves to me two seconds ago. Now I have 19 people whose names I have to learn all at once. The pressure!

It reminds me of something one of our camp pastors, David Rhodes, said at a youth camp one year. After informing us youth pastors that he is a serious introvert, he quipped, "If I don't speak to you, it's not because I don't want to. It's just that I'm afraid of you."

I'm proud of myself, though, because I actually did quite well at the name game today. I memorized everyone's name and called a person the wrong name out loud in front of the entire group only once. There is hope for me yet. Now I am thankful, because it really does make the class much more enjoyable when you know everyone's name and a little about them. Social situations greatly improve if you are proactive from the beginning. The longer you wait, the harder it is to get to know people. You can't bring brownies to your new neighbor after they've been living next door to you for six months. But once you take a deep breath and get over that hump, the rest of the ride is quite enjoyable. Introverts like me have to work hard to learn this lesson. Until then, there's always the name game.

The Ideal

I went to the late $1.50 movies tonight with my parents. This turned out to be a rare treat. How many 31-year-olds go out to a movie at 9:45 pm on a Tuesday night with dear old Mom and Dad? This either makes me lame or very blessed. You decide.
We went to see Clash of the Titans. I love these kinds of movies. I loved the old Clash of the Titans growing up. And I l...iked the new one. No, really, I did like it. Perseus vs. the Kraken. Good stuff.

In adventure movies like this (and in many types of movies, I suppose), you see the story of a hero, the ideal man, and a heroine/damsel-in-distress, the ideal woman. We are drawn to these figures because we all have a desire for the ideal man/woman, and we all desire to be the ideal man/woman. Pretty soon, we realize that we are not, and never will be, this ideal person. Nor will our spouses ever live up to this standard. Our flaws are too obvious, and while we may have some measure of success in hiding them from the world, this is an impossible effort in a marriage.

So what do we do? Some, seeing the flaws in their husband/wife (and too often forgetting their own), seek too easy a solution for this dilemma. If we don't currently have the ideal man/woman, we can find other means to have him/her. We can cheat. And cheating can take many forms. We can sacrifice our faithfulness and seek perfection in another, whether real or virtual. Or we can pressure and force our spouse to fit the mold by whatever means necessary, whether ridicule or plastic surgery.

But it's not real. It's plastic. It's counterfeit. We may as well love a mannequin, perfect body and no soul.

There is only one way to make our spouses more beautiful. Love him. Love her. Love him as he is. Love her as your ideal. When we desire plastic people, it is probably because we have plastic hearts. But it is love that transforms them. And it is our love that elevates our spouses to all that God created them to be. It is faithfully loving a real person for a lifetime that is truly heroic. It is love that makes the ideal man, the ideal woman.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Top Three

Since I haven't posted in a few days, I'll just give the highlights of the last week. Here are my top three.

3) Working Out/Eating Better: This was week two of my and Katie's diet. It's still early on, but we're doing the best we've done in a long while. We feel better, and we feel better about ourselves. That little cloud is not hanging over my spiritual life anymore. It's great. I started working out with the P90X program. It kicked my tail last week (the X stood for eXtremely sore). This week, however, has still been difficult but much better.

2) Gracie's Question: Gracie asked me a good question this morning that had occurred to her the day before in chapel. The question was "We say that Jesus gives us eternal life, but don't we already have eternal life either in heaven or in hell?" My answer: In one sense we do all have eternal life already. This is true if by eternal life you mean eternal existence from here on out. But we are saying something more than this when we speak of Jesus giving eternal life. Here, "eternal" is a quality of life, not endless longevity of life. Eternal life is a quality of life that is characterized by love, joy, peace, goodness, beauty, trust, etc. This is why only Jesus can give it. On the other hand, life without Jesus will ultimately be marked by selfishness, hatred, pride, loneliness, fear, etc. When you really look at it, who would really call this "life" at all? So there is an eternal existence that is really a kind of death. This is what Jesus saves us from.

1) Seeing Back in Time: I learned in my Stars and Galaxies class that we can actually see back into time. Sound unbelievable? Check this out. When the Hubble telescope takes pictures of other galaxies, it is taking pictures of objects millions of light-years away. A light-year is the measurement for distance based on how far light can travel in one year. (For a frame of reference, light can circle around the entire earth eight times in one second.) To say that an object is millions of light-years away is to say that the light by which we see the object had to travel millions of years in order to reach us. This means that whenever we look at such a galaxy or distant star, we are actually seeing the galaxy or star as it appeared millions of years ago. Thus, we are essentially seeing back in time. This also applies on a lesser scale to the stars that we see in the sky with our naked eyes. Any star that you can point out, theoretically may not even exist anymore in the current moment. It could have exploded a thousand years ago. We would not know it, however, until the light from that explosion travels through space and eventually reaches us.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Wild Indians

I heard the term "wild Indians" several times last Friday. (I work at a school.) It made me wonder. How old must that term be? Maybe it's as old as the 1700's when British settlers began to occupy North America. I guess it makes it easier to take someone's land if all they are is a bunch of "wild Indians." I wonder what kind of metaphors the Indians would have based on white people if they had won the West.

Friday, January 8, 2010

One Finger

A couple of semesters ago, I was in a Language and Culture class when the professor asked the whole class a question and gave us the possible answers of, let's just say, A or B. I was relatively sure that the answer was B, but when he asked how many thought the answer was A, practically the whole class raised their hand. This caused me to seriously doubt my answer. When he asked how many thought the answer was B, no one raised their hand, including me. Too bad; I would have been correct.

I have talked with Gracie a few times about the difference between being a leader and being a follower. It seems to me that Gracie is more of a leader, and I hope to encourage her in that. Not only do I not want her to be a follower when the pack is going astray, but I also want her to be a voice that influences others for the good. Today I saw evidence, albeit small, that gave me hope.

Gracie is in the Student Government at Veritas. She is one of two fifth graders in the association. The group ranges from fifth to tenth grade, so Gracie and her friend are by far the youngest. Today I sat in on a meeting in which they were voting to make a decision. There were three choices: Choice 1, Choice 2, and Choice 3. Each person had to hold up the number of fingers that represented the choice for which they were voting. As the group began voting, the older kids held up their hands first: all threes. I watched Gracie as she was trying to decide her vote, and at one point I saw her hold up a one. She put it back down. No one else had seen her. Finally, all the other students were holding up their votes. Each voting hand in the room was holding up three fingers. Gracie was the last to vote. Everyone was watching her. Then, Gracie did something I failed to do only a few semesters ago. She held up one finger.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Tonight I met with Megan, Brian, and Collin to talk through the bylaws we are writing for the new church. Sounds boring, right? It's actually not so bad. I enjoy the chance to be together with these fine individuals.

Talking through the way we are doing things reminded us of how people find the concept of a house church unusual and even somewhat... wrong? Brian's mother is worried that he has joined a cult. Collin's grandmother is asking tons of questions trying to figure out what in the world her grandson has gotten involved with and why in the world we would meet in the afternoon. Other family members have expressed their concern. People from our old churches talk about how they don't understand what we are thinking. You would think that we were having secret gatherings at midnight to drink blood and await the mother ship of the aliens we worship. (We don't do that.) We only have to laugh and wonder at what exactly the concern is over. I suppose that, for some, a church worshiping without a "church building" is like a man walking around without clothes. Maybe that's a good analogy. I suppose what seems natural to some seems shameful to others.

The sad thing is that all of us could show up to a "normal" service at 11:00 every Sunday morning, never take a risk in order to follow Jesus, never lift a finger to help our neighbor, and as long as we sat in our pew and smiled, we would all be spoken well of and considered "normal." No, thanks. Like the apostle Paul, we are happy to be considered fools. Only let us be fools for Christ.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What to Say?

Tonight I got a call from my dad: "Where are you?" I was on my couch. I was supposed to be at the nursing home to play some songs for a gathering. So I got dressed quickly and headed over there. I arrived fifteen minutes late and a little flustered with a half-constructed set list in my head. Other than the fact that I am never able to sing loud enough at nursing homes (I would have never made it as an orator in ancient Greece), it went fine.

At the nursing home was a young man, I'd say in his early twenties, who was severely disabled. He was somewhat attentive, but he could not (or didn't) speak. Afterward, my parents were asking some of the others from their church what had happened to him. No one was sure, but someone thought that it involved a car wreck. My dad said that the young man's mother seemed angry at God when he had spoken to her briefly. That is not an uncommon emotion in such a tragedy. On the way home, I began to think of what I might say to this woman if we ever had an appropriate conversation to talk about what happened to her son. As I write this, I am not claiming to have an answer for what to say in a situation like this. I am simply trying to work through my own thoughts. I think I would hope to say something like this:

"Ma'am, I am very sorry for what happened to your son. I can't imagine what you and your family must be going through. What I can imagine is that you must have lots of questions without answers. I can imagine that there must be a lot of pain and doubt and what-ifs. I can even imagine that you would find yourself with feelings of anger, especially toward God. What happened to your son was a terrible, terrible thing. It doesn't seem fair. Why would God allow it to happen? But maybe anger toward God is a natural thing to experience here. Maybe it is even the right thing to feel in a way. I mean, what causes this anger toward God? Maybe the cause is that deep down you know there is a God. You know there is a God who is supposed to be loving and powerful and just. That is the right thing to believe. But how do we understand this situation in light of a loving and powerful and just God? There doesn't seem to be a satisfying answer. I can't tell you why God would allow this to happen. But I do think that, if anyone, God knows exactly how you feel. His Son suffered, too. Jesus was crushed unjustly, unfairly. The Bible says that He was a Man of sorrows, familiar with suffering and acquainted with grief. The good news is that after He suffered, God restored Him. He was murdered, but God brought Him back to life. God did this because this is exactly what God wants to do for all of us, for the whole world. Just like God raised Jesus, He will one day raise the whole world. He will mend the broken places and put everything right. Ma'am, I don't know why this happened to your son, but I do know that Jesus is his only hope for truly being well again: mind, body, and soul. Jesus is the only hope of wholeness for us all. I know things must be difficult, but please don't give up. Thank you for letting me share. Please just know that my heart is with you in hoping for your son and his recovery."

Monday, January 4, 2010

Pointing and Building

Missio Dei exists to point to and build for the Kingdom of God in tangible ways as we embody the life of the risen Jesus Christ.
- Missio Dei Mission Statement

So the mission of God is to announce and expand the Kingdom of God. How then is it announced and expanded? What is our role as the church of Jesus in this work? Here is where we begin to speak of pointing to and building for the Kingdom.

There is a very real sense in which the Kingdom of God is a present reality. Jesus told us to "repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand." That is, the Kingdom is upon us. It is here. Now. Perhaps closer than we think. We see it in every act of Spirit-filled act of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We sense its new ethic in every Christ-empowered sacrificial act of service. We sense its beauty and power in every breath of new life blown into some dark corner that death or despair had claimed. The mouth of Jesus' empty tomb proclaims a new hope over all of creation. This is all the work of God. Our role in this present Kingdom is to point. We point to this outworking of God's Kingdom like a local who knows all the best spots in town. We are to help others see these mysteries that are hidden in broad daylight. God is at work. Our role is to help others see that work and understand something more of it. We point to the present Kingdom.

But there is a very real sense in which the Kingdom of God remains a future reality. God is accomplishing His will, but there is still much resistance to that will. There is still much that is not good, beautiful, or true. There are powers that are visciously working against these very things. Death and decay still seem like the final word. But they are not. God's Kingdom will come; it will be fully realized. As Samwise Gamgee observes in The Lord of the Rings, everything sad will come untrue. All things will be made new. This future Kingdom is what we are building for. Notice that we do not build the Kingdom itself (which is God's work alone), but we build for the Kingdom. N.T. Wright makes this distinction in his book Surprised by Hope. He gives this illustration: Suppose we are stonemasons who have been given the task of building a statue for a great cathedral. We are aware that other teams are busy working on other structures (coats of arms, columns, turrets, etc.) and that other entire departments are busy about completely other tasks. We have not seen the overall blueprint, but we do our work trusting that the architect knows exactly how our work will fit into the whole. And when our statue is complete and is placed in its proper place within the cathedral, it will take on the full measure of its beauty and worth such as we could not have imagined when we were chiseling it back in the stone yard. We did not ourselves build the cathedral, but we built for the cathedral. In the same way, when we work for truth, goodness, beauty, and justice, we are committing acts that matter. When we serve others in love, when we tell of Christ and His mission of restoration, when we display unity as His body, we are building for the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is here. The Kingdom of God will come. Until then, we will point and build.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


This morning as we began worship, Bethany challenged us to allow God the opportunity to speak to us each day. She reminded us that we live in a time and place in which we enjoy unparalleled access to God's Word, yet many of us neglect this access while believers in other parts of the world starve for it. She is right. We are so busy answering the question "What are you doing?" that we forget to ask "What is God doing?" The former question may be easier to answer, but let's be honest, it's far less interesting.

But perhaps asking what God is doing is not the place to begin. The question I must first answer is this: How do I become a better listener?


Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year

It's a brand new year. There is fertile soil ready to be turned. May the fool I was last year lose himself. May some measure of Christ-likeness be formed in me these next 365 days. God have mercy and grant us grace and peace for the year ahead. Amen.