Wednesday, December 11, 2013


I had a fake Identity
Hiding behind the facade of good clothes and bad jokes
I put on a show, all the while wishing I could hide backstage
This wasn’t the real me, not what I was intended to be

I had stolen Identity
Told I wasn’t good enough just the way I was
That I’d never make the cut, that I’d never live up
To the good ones,
The real me never existed, you’ll have to start over with something new

Cause I had a broken identity

Like the pieces never quite fit together
And I couldn’t figure out whether, or not
I was better or worse to just fill the cracks with truth or dirt
Either way the brokenness hurt

Because I had a foreign identity
Always felt like I was somewhere I didn’t belong
The signs were all backward, the language was all wrong
The rhythm and the notes didn’t quite fit the songs
But everyone else thinks it’s alright, so I better just assimilate and move on

Then one day, everything changed.

I got an adopted identity
Like a son that once was lost but now is found
Like a soldier returning home and kissing the ground
Not quite home yet but now I know the sound of my father’s voice saying
Welcome back son, its good see you again.

Then I had a complete identity
I knew I was son, the truth and the dirt filled cracks
Gave me worth and closed the gaps.
Even though I can still see the lines, they’re mended,
Blending into the tapestry of my life that’s already hanging in heaven

Because I have a ransomed identity
My credit score has been restored
All the bad choices and wrong decisions,
All the lying voices and hopeless wishes
That held me captive were paid for in an instant
At a price I couldn’t pay or even imagine
Love painted in the blood of a perfect exchange

So I could know my true identity
Holy, Righteous and without blemish, in my father’s eyes
Free from sin and death and lies
Safe, secure, hidden on high
In the arms of my perfect love and savior
The fake made real, the stolen revealed, the broken healed,
the foreign kneeled before the king and master.
The dead things put to death, a new creation raised with Christ
I no longer live but Jesus lives in me

This is my identity.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Are you sure you want to follow...

Mark 8:31- 9:1
Jesus starts to talk about the cross.
Up to this point, Jesus had some guys following him around.  He’d showed them lots of the power of the kingdom.  He’d taught them in riddles and parables that they often didn’t understand, but knew there was something different about what he was teaching.  He gained a reputation for what he did and said so that people came from everywhere because they’d heard he could heal them.  He’d given the disciples the power and authority to do the same things he’d been doing (even though they didn’t have anything figured out, their lives weren’t perfect, and they weren’t quite sure what they’d signed up for yet).  Peter was even starting get revelations direct from God about who Jesus really was.

Then Jesus drops this bomb on them.  Get ready, here’s what is coming next.  No parables here, no cute stories, no allegory, no cryptic statements.  “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priest and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” He laid out the plan, what it actually meant for him to be the Messiah.  Peter had just confessed public in front of all the guys, “you are the Messiah, the son of God” and Jesus confirmed it and said his father in heaven had revealed that to him; had given him the faith to know it, believe it and say it out loud.  Jesus had shared with them that believing that was true meant they would get full access to heaven and that they would be an unstoppable force to bring that good news and reality to others.

Now Jesus starts to tell them how it’s all going to go down.  I wish I could see the looks on their faces.  “What the what” is going to happen.  These were young guys who’d been raised with a cultural and religious history of exile, defeat, rejection, and failure but were promised something different.  As messed up as the religion was, they held to the promise that someone was going to rescue them and restore. They mostly saw this restoration as being about power and prestige in the world.  That’s what they were expecting, that’s what they were looking for in Jesus.  When Peter got his glimpse that Jesus was in fact the Messiah, his mind almost certainly went to something like, “I’m going to get to be a governor somewhere” or maybe I’ll be get to be a General, maybe I’ll get one of those palaces in Rome.”  I say that because that’s what I would have thought, it’s what you would have thought too.  And because Peter and Jesus have a very interesting exchange in this passage.

Peter hears what Jesus is saying, he sees the terrified and bewildered look on the faces of his friends.  Pete being a leader and a little older than most of the guys takes Jesus aside and says what are you doing Jesus, you’re freaking the boys out, How the heck are we going to take over the world if you’re humiliated, and you let these sell out religious leaders and these Roman goons kill you.  Dead leaders don’t get much done. 
Jesus looks at the boys, looks back at Peter, and says “get behind me Satan! You are seeing things merely from a human point of view.”  Ouch.  That’s got to sting a little, especially after Jesus had just given Pete his sweet new nick name, “the Rock.”  How could Peter see things so clearly earlier, but suddenly, his vision is clouded.  Because he hadn’t received the Holy Spirit yet, his mind had not been renewed, he’d only seen a glimpse of what the kingdom actually was.  The same is true for us.  If we’ve not be made new by the Holy Spirit, we don’t yet have the mind of Christ that is promised in scripture.  Everything we see and hear is tainted by the falleness of the world.  We can’t understand things from God’s perspective.

Then Jesus lays it out for them, what it’s going to mean if they want to keep following him.  They’ll have to put their own ambitions aside, put their own selfish ideals down, give up everything, even their life to follow him.  Jesus brings it back to the idea he tried to teach them after the feast with the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod.  Jesus says what if you gain the whole world (Herod) but you lose your soul.  The yeast example didn’t get through, they were fishermen not bakers after all, but I think this hooked them.  Now, Jesus wasn’t just talking about earthy temporal things, like what are we going to eat, or what are we going to gain from this.  Now he’s getting, spiritual, now he’s getting eternal.  There’s something bigger than your bellies, there’s something bigger than you career, there’s something bigger than your position or the social circles you’re connected with.  We’re talking about your life, what’s really important.  If you try to keep it for yourself you’ll lose it.  If you put yourself first you’ll lose it.  But if you make Jesus first, you’ll find true life.
Well what does that mean; if I sacrifice lots, if I serve him lots, if I follow all the rules really well, if I know all the right answers, if I read my bible, if I… become a Pharisee.  What are you going to have to give, what are you going to have to do to gain your soul?  What’s the price, what the measurement?

Jesus says there’s one measurement:  are you ashamed of me and my message.  Have you ever been with a friend and they do something really dumb, like reeeally dumb, and you just want to pretend you don’t know them, pretend you never met, just turn and walk away slowly. s And then when someone is like hey do you know that guy, did you see that… and you’re like…. Ahhh no, never seen that that dude before.  Anyone have that crazy uncle Bob who drives his lawnmower to the liquor store because he lost his license.  You don’t want to admit it, it’s ok.  Lots of people react to Jesus the same way.  Jesus was in a crowd when he said this and without a doubt, some of them turned and walked away for whatever reasons.  Some thought it would be too hard to go against the world and the religion they’d been brought up in, some were sure the good things of the world would make them happy.  Some had too much pride, they thought they could earn their way.  Even though they’d seen some of the power of the Kingdom, it seemed too good to be true that they could be part of it.  Some thought they simply weren’t worthy.  Some thought it wasn’t worth it, they’d looked in so many places for real life and this was probably just another dead end.  Some thought Jesus was a crack pot, how’s he going to lead us when he’s dead. 

Jesus’ promise was clear and to the point, some of you, the ones who decided to follow me, the ones who decided to let me rescue them, the ones who decide to acknowledge me, will get to see the kingdom of God arrive in great power.  And they did, and we do, and some of you have.  We have a choice when it comes to following Jesus.  In Luke’s account of this story, he reports Jesus saying “take up you cross daily”.  This sounds like a lot of hard work that you couldn’t possibly bear on your own – and you’d be right.  Every day, we get up and we have a choice, am I going to listen to Jesus today, see if he has some way for me to share the gospel, and then respond and do it or am I going to make today about me.  The second choice we can do all on our own and lots of days we do.  The disciple did too, in fact when it came time for the cross, they all split, even the Rock.  Here’s the difference for you and me, those keys to heaven that Jesus promised – The Holy Spirit – is now ours.  He’s given us the Holy Spirit in his physical absence so we can get up in the morning and take up our cross, so we can hear his voice, so we can have the power and strength and wisdom and patience and joy and hope and… everything else we need in order to follow him; even to the point that we’d be able to give our own lives, maybe even literally if he calls us to that, for the sake of him and the Gospel.  I know you may not feel like it right now, but it’s the promise.  It’s a promise equal to all the other promises; he will give us what we need in order to follow him and do what he calls us too.
Here’s the amazing part, even though we often get up daily and are ashamed of him, we turn our back on him, we chose the world instead of him, we run away when the weight comes down, we deny knowing him when people ask about him (just like the disciples did), he’s not like us.  Once we’ve committed to him, once we’ve called on him to rescue us, he’s forgiven us completely, even for the screw ups we haven’t screwed up yet.  Whenever we do decide, today I’m ready to take up my cross today, he’s right there to carry it for us.  He so full of mercy that he never gives up on us, even if we give up on him from time to time, even when we give up on ourselves. 

Near the end of his life Peter wrote a letter to encourage the churches in Asia Minor.  He’d lived a life of daily taking up his cross, through great struggle and persecution, through so many test and trials.  I’m sure there were days he wondered if it was all worth it.  But in the midst of it, he experienced the Kingdom of Heaven and each time he chose to hear Jesus and follow him, his faith was refined in the fires.  He wrote this to encourage us that Jesus will do the same for us,
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. (1 Peter 1:3-7 NLT).

The promises are good, the cross was complete and the kingdom is wide open to us.  Jesus has given us everything we need to take up our cross and follow him and it is so worth it.  You were worth it to Him, to give up his life in exchange for your soul.  If you give up your life for him, he’ll fill you with so much more than the world or religion could ever offer, “I assure you that some of you standing here right now will not die before you see the Kindgom of God arrive in great power!” (Mark 9:1)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How's your vision...

Mark 8:22
Some people brought a blind man to Jesus…
Jesus reputation had spread among the people.  Common folks – fishermen, wine makers, carpenters – were bring their friends who had been born blind, sick, afflicted, to Jesus so they could be made whole.  The religion of the day had told them, they were not worthy, they were sinners and God was punishing them.  Jesus was revealing the kingdom of heaven everywhere he went, and people were begging him for more.  These people had brought their blind friend and wanted desperately for Jesus to help him, and of course he does, but in a very strange way.
He leads the man out of the village…
Bethsaida was one of the places Jesus did many miracles; it’s also one of the places that rejected Jesus and his disciples.  They had the Kingdom of Heaven presented to them and most of them still chose the world.  Jesus leads the man away from the people who had brought him.  They would not get to see the Kingdom in action this time.  Then Jesus ups the strange; he spits in the man’s eye.  Spitting in someone’s eye is a universal insult.  Nowhere in any culture, ever, has that not lead to someone getting punched it mouth.  Jesus lays hands on the man (probably had to hold him down).  And says “can you see anything now?”
People like trees…
The man begins to get his vision restored.  It seems from his statement that he wasn’t always blind, he knows what tree’s look like, and that they don’t normally walk around.  Jesus hadn’t failed to heal this man.  Jesus is perfect.  Jesus shows us two things here, sometimes healing takes time, he doesn’t always heal everything on the spot.  Jesus also doesn’t just heal physical things, sometime the spiritual and mental damage done by the brokenness of sin takes time.  Sometimes it’s a process, and that’s ok. I think in this case he’d had actually given this man improved vision; spiritual vision.  Jesus talked a lot about trees in his parables; he used them as illustrations for the kingdom of heaven all the time.  He talked about people being like branches of the true vine and the ones who didn’t produce good fruit being cut down and thrown into the fire.  He talked about faith being like a tiny mustard seed that produced a great tree that birds came to find shelter in.  But here the man see’s people like trees walking around.  They’re not doing what trees do.  Trees stand and soak up life from the ground and soak in life from the sun.  These trees are shaking all the fruit off as they move around.  They’re scaring all the birds away.
… he saw everything clearly.
Jesus touches the man again and his sight is restored and he see’s everything clearly. (at a distance and clearly).  He saw that the world was different than he remembered it.  He saw things with a Kingdom of Heaven view.  He saw things in light of grace and mercy.  Spit no longer represented an insult but a expression of mercy.  Jesus sent him on his way with kingdom of heaven outlook.
Who do people say I am?
Jesus heads out with the boys.  While walking along, he puts this question to them.  The rumor mill is turning and everyone is throwing opinions and confused.  So many people don’t know what to make of Jesus.  Some have mistaken him JTB or Elijah or some other prophet.  Then he gets a little personal, “who do you say I am.”  Huge question!
Huge Response!  Peter says, you’re the messiah. Christ, Christos, the anointed one. 
Peter really has no idea what he’s saying yet, He doesn’t know how things are going to go down.  He doesn’t really know what “Son of God” means.  But he knows enough to know that Jesus is the real deal.  How could he know this?  Of course he’s been with Jesus a lot, he’s seen the miracles, he’s heard the teaching, and he’s watched Jesus confound the religious leaders.  But so had lots of the people in Bethsaida, so had lots of people everywhere Jesus went.  Why was Simon son of Jonah so convinced? 
In Matthew’s record of this little chat we get the answer.  The same thing that had happened to the blind man in Bethsaida had already happened to Peter to a degree.  Jesus tells Peter, you’re blessed because my Father in Heaven has revealed this to you.  God had opened something up in Simon so he could perceive what was happening around him as the Kingdom of Heaven come to earth in Jesus.  It wasn’t what he’d learned in school or church or even the things that he’d seen.  It was that he’d encountered Jesus, the kingdom of heaven, he experienced and God revealed to him what was actually happening.  He didn’t know about the cross yet, he didn’t know about the resurrection, he didn’t know about the promised Holy Spirit.  He had a totally different idea of what the Messiah was supposed to do.  He wasn’t an expert in the Law.  He was a normal young guy, a fisherman.
The Rock…
Jesus says he will build his church on this rock.  Not on Peter’s strength or wisdom or faith or ideas, which is what some people have come to believe, but on the revelation of God to Peter about who Jesus is.  God revealed the truth about Jesus to Peter and God reveals the truth about Jesus to us, and when a bunch of us get together who have seen the reality, even if it’s only a small bit of the reality of who Jesus is, then that church, that group of called out people, are an unstoppable force against the gate of hell. 
Here’s the keys…
Jesus offers his disciples the keys to heaven and puts them in charge of what comes to earth from heaven.  You’re in charge.  Well, in the way that you’re now able to hear what God’s plans are, be lead by the Holy Spirit and have the power to do what he wants you to.  Jesus has given you the Holy Spirit, he is the key to knowing and experiencing and living out the Kingdom of Heaven in your life.  And the best part is, it’s unstoppable.  We can walk into the kingdom of darkness, empowered by the Holy Spirit and introduce them to Jesus so he can rescue them.  All the false religion, all the worldly temptations, all the resistance the enemy can muster, will not prevail against the revelation of Jesus.  He wins.
So, who do you say Jesus is, he asks the question to all of us.  If he’s healed your vision so you see the world from a kingdom of heaven perspective, what are you going to do with the keys to heaven? 

Do what you did the first time your parents gave you the keys to the car, go for a drive, see what it feels like, be a little bit adventurous, go tell you friends you’ve got the car, drive slightly dangerously because you don’t really know what you’re doing yet.  Turn the radio up and sing as loud as you can.  Stop and get some fuel, and some food, you’ll need it for the road trip. If you bump into someone and put some scratches on it, you’ve got good grace based insurance, it’ll get fixed (maybe your dad would be upset by the dent, but you’re Father in Heaven won’t mind a bit).  Buckle up, it’s a crazy ride!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Jesus Makes Fishwich Feast, Leaves 'em Satified"

Mark 8 
Jesus feeds 4000…
About that time a vast crowd gathered…
In Mark we see a man, an individual, healed, made whole, rescued from the deafness that he’d been afflicted with because sin brought brokenness into the world.  The news spread and crowd gathers.  In Matthew’s account of this story, we see the crowd is made of people whose bodies were broken by sin, the lame, the mute, the deaf, the outcasts.  Not by their mistakes or choices, but the brokenness we all start out with.  Matthew says Jesus healed them all. The crowd is so amazed by what’s going on, they stay for 3 days and run out of food.  This is the second time a huge “revival” crowd had gathered.  The first time, they didn’t bring food, so Jesus did a miracle and fed them.  This time, they came prepared; they packed their lunch and brought it with them.  But after 3 days of miracles they’re out of food again.  This time the stakes are a little higher it seems.  Last time the disciples suggested sending them into the towns and villages to get food, but Jesus says you feed them.  This time Jesus is concerned if he sends them away, they’ll faint on the walk home.  Clearly they are out in the back country, people have followed him into the wilderness to see the King of the Kingdom in action. 
 And Jesus has “compassion.” 
Jesus doesn’t feel sorry for them.  He feels their pain, he feels their suffering.  So much so that it makes him sick to his stomach that people are so desperate to be loved, to experience healing, acceptance, the love of God, life, that they would stay out in the wilderness for three days without enough food to get them home.  He has compassion on them.  He felt the rejection of his home town, of his brothers and sister, of the people who were waiting for him to come but didn’t recognize him when he got here.  He’d been taken out into the wilderness and tested and tempted and made hungry, not for 3 days but 40. But he knew people needed not only bread, not only something to let them survive, but they needed God to really live.  He knew that God wanted to meet every need, spiritual, emotional and physical.  So he did.  He healed their bodies, he revealed the kingdom and filled them with the joy of the kingdom so they worshiped the God of Israel and then he fed them lunch. 
Jesus knows how you feel, he knows what it’s like to be rejected, he knows what it’s like to be tempted, he knows what it’s like to be separated from God, he knows what the wrath of God feels like because of sin, he knows what it’s like to have your friends let you down and abandon you, he knows what it’s like to be afraid, he knows what it’s like to be beaten, he knows what it’s like to be ridiculed.
“How are we supposed to find enough food for them here in the wilderness?”  Once again, Jesus disciple at a loss for what to do and  Jesus says, ‘show me what you’ve got and watch this.’  A feast of fish sandwiches ensues.  Imagine this headline in the Cape Breton Post “7 Biscuits and a Few Smelts Feeds 4000+”  People at the Tim’s in Bras D’Or would be talking it up then wouldn’t they.  The disciples it seems, much like you and me, never know what to do.  They’re often thinking in purely physical worldly terms, even though they are seeing the kingdom of Heaven in action all around them.  They’ve been so trained by their flesh, by their religion, by their culture, that they have a hard time opening themselves to kingdom of heaven thinking.  They were just faced with this exact scenario last month, but they go to their default human reaction; ‘now what are we going to do?’  Well they do exactly what we should always do, let Jesus provide and then give out what he’s given us.  Jesus broke the bread and gave it to the disciples to give out.  He gave them what they needed to complete the task in front of them.  He’ll do the same for you.  If he tells you to do something, he’ll give you what you need to do it.  Not only did he provide what the disciples needed, it says everyone ate until they were satisfied.  Their needs were fully met, they were full.  And there was an abundance left over to share.  Not just food, there were stories to tell.  People went home talking about the encounter they had with Jesus.  People left seeing the reality of the kingdom of heaven; broken bodies made whole, filled with joy and lunch and leftovers.
“Show us a miraculous sign”
The Pharisees never seemed to be looking in the right place.  These Pharisees who were supposed to be the leaders, the ones who cared for the peoples souls because they knew God so well, were always thinking about themselves.  They were probably furious that Jesus had revealed the power of the kingdom to all these common folks, to all these infirm outcasts who had clearly done something very wrong and were being punished for their mistakes.  Show US a sign, we’re the important ones, we’re the ones that God should be sharing his kingdom with.  They had failed to see the signs all around them; people being healed, food being multiplied, people being raised from the dead.  They were totally blind to the kingdom in action and fully concerned, not with God, but with themselves; their own righteousness, their own wisdom, their own kingdoms.  Jesus said I will not give this generation any such sign.  They weren’t interested in the reality of the kingdom and they wouldn’t have seen it anyway.  If it didn’t fit inside their box of who God is and how he works they couldn’t accept it.  So Jesus, troubled in his spirit because he knew they would never change, because he knew most of them would never see the thing they most desperately needed, namely Him, turns and walks away and leaving them to their own will.  He leaves them to continue following their own understanding. 
“Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod”. 
The disciples forgot to bring the leftovers, someone grabbed one loaf of bread thankfully, but in typical young man fashion, no one is responsible, no one thought ahead, no one brought lunch.  Still thinking entirely worldly (and apparently forgetting the ridiculous gigantic miracle they just saw…for the second time) they get in an argument.  ‘Dude, you were supposed to bring the baskets… Jesus is going to be T.O. again.’  In very cryptic hyper metaphorical terms Jesus says, “Beware the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod”.  Of course the disciples are thinking, great he found out we forgot the bread and Jesus goes reality check on them.  ‘are you kidding me, are you still talking about food?  What is wrong with you guys, forget the fact that I just turned 7 biscuits into 20,000 biscuits, don’t you see that I’m trying to teach you something bigger than your bellies for once.’  The kingdom of heaven is here and the regular rules of religion and society aren’t going to cut it anymore.  If you want to be satisfied you have to live as citizens of the kingdom, totally dependent on Jesus for everything.  The Pharisees (religion) will teach you it’s about rules and sacrifice and ceremony and measuring up and knowing the answers and gaining the praise of others and looking righteous on the outside and being moral and nice and good.  Herod (culture) will teach that it’s about education and style and money and things and fame and success and power and control and winning and being right and being independent. 
The Pharisees represent religion and Herod represents the world, and they are both empty and void of any real life.  They’ll both leave you hungry and unsatisfied.  And when they start to creep in they affect everything, they start to grow and expand and take over.  Instead of going back to Jesus when we’re hungry we look to religion to fill the gaps.  Maybe if we go to church more I’ll feel closer to God, maybe if I read my bible more I feel closer to God, maybe if I sacrifice more… maybe if I give more… maybe if I serve more…maybe if I try to follow the rules more…maybe if I try to be more like… I’ll be satisfied, I’ll be happy, I’ll be alive.  Maybe if I get a better job… maybe if get a better house… maybe if I live in a better neighborhood… maybe some new clothes… maybe if I read this book… once we’re settled in I’m sure it’ll smooth out… maybe I’m supposed to be with someone else… then I’ll feel loved, I’ll be successful, I’ll be alive.
Jesus says the same thing to us as he says to the disciples, “Don’t you understand anything yet?” He is where we find what satisfies us, he is where we find what sustains us and gives us more than we need to go on the journey home.  He promised us his Holy Spirit, He is completely satisfactory for everything.  We’ll never find what we’re looking for from the Pharisees, what they offer is empty of real life.  We’ll never find what we’re looking for from Herod, what he offers is empty and leads to death.  But the Spirit gives us life.  We live by the spirit.
2 Peter 3-4 says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”

Only Jesus has what you need, whether you’re waiting around in a desert or with no food or sitting high on the hog.  He will give you what you need to satisfy you.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

And there was calm...

"He awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?”  Luke 8: 24-25.

Jesus sent the boys out onto the lake for a sail, I wonder if he knew the storm was coming.  Scripture says he laid aside his divinity and became a man, so he only knew if the father let him in on the plan.  In his humanity and tiredness from pouring out the kingdom that had been poured into him, he was exhausted.  Anyone who's done that knows the feeling, being filled with some energy, some power, some love that's not your own, reminds you that it's God, not you, doing the real work.  It's a humbling reminder when you get to the end of preaching a word you know is not your own, or caring for orphans you know you couldn't possibly help without Jesus that you're sometimes so exhausted, so empty when you realize it's only you left and you need rest and another filling of his Spirit just to get through the day.  No wonder Jesus was sleeping in the boat.  Maybe he knew the storm was coming, maybe not, but I'm sure he knew some storm was coming, everywhere he went things turned to chaos; storms came, evil spirits popped there ugly heads up, religious people got their nose out of joint and wanted to kill him.  So Jesus is getting rested when the wind and waves hit.  The boys on the other hand are trying to keep the boat from going down.  I'm sure they were bailing water like nobodies business.  They were probably pulling those sails with every ounce of manly strength within them.  In a moment, which may have been panic or it may have been sanity, they wake Jesus.  I wonder if they had the feelings of inadequacy that I often have before I turn to Jesus, like 'oh I really should be able to handle this one, I've been fishing and sailing a boat my whole life, I grew up on the water, Jesus is going to think i'm an idiot.'  Maybe they had been arguing about wake Jesus up, like 'oh man, he gave a simple instruction, sail across the lake, he's going to be seriously upset if we wake him up'.  Maybe they were more like, 'how the heck can anyone sleep through this... what is wrong with that guy.'  Whatever the case someone finally decides to wake Jesus up.  Instantly when he speaks, the storm stops and it's calm.  Just like when he spoke the first time and instantly there was light.  Or later when he spoke and the stars filled the sky.  Or instantly when he spoke and whatever he wanted to happen, happened.  And it was calm.  And he says, "where is your faith?"  Jesus rebuked the storm, but I don't think he was rebuking the disciples.  I think maybe he was just showing them a little shock and awe, and saying 'how do ya like me now.'  The disciple at this point aren't really sure who or what Jesus is?  They're not entirely convinced he's God, they're not entirely convinced he's the messiah.  And they had no idea what he was going to do on the cross.  
We often feel like Jesus is going to upset with us if we ask for help, or that he'll be disappointed if we can't handle it on our own.  We feel like we should be able to manage or hold it together or push our way through the hard things.  Jesus wasn't ridiculing them, or condemning them for not having enough faith.  He wasn't belittling them or angry with them.  He was teaching them who he was.  It says they were afraid and marveled.  Of course they were afraid and marveled, have any of you ever seen anything as crazy as someone saying, "wind and waves, shut-up" and it happened right before your eyes?  They weren't afraid of Jesus because he was upset at them, they were amazed that he had rescued them in the midst of something that looked like it was likely going to end in their ending.  Jesus wasn't rebuking the disciples, he was opening the door to them.  "Where is your faith?" it's the same question he asks each of us.  Now maybe you're like the disciples and he has to take you into some extreme situation in order to show you who he really is. I hope not, I've been on a boat in storms, it's scary.  I've been through tragedies with friends and family, it's painful.  I've made drastically bad choices and tried to solve my issues on my own, it was stupid - but Jesus didn't ridicule me for being scared and asking for help.  Jesus didn't tell me "cheer up" or "stay strong" when I was in pain and broken in the midst of great loss - he was my joy, he was my strength.  He didn't punish me or condemn me when I made stupid choices or try to get through like on my own because I'm stubborn and prideful - he just teaches me that I'm forgiven and teaches me how to depend on him.
So, his question is the same to all of us, "where is your faith?".  Your answer to the question is of greatest importance, in this life and the next.  I hope he doesn't have to take you into a great storm just to show you that he loves you and wants to rescue you, not just from trouble and circumstances in your life, but that he has already done what's necessary for the greater rescue.  The wind and waves of sin that will ultimately sink you have already been calmed by his death on the cross and Resurrection from the grave.  When he got up, the power of the storm ceased, now all you have to do is ask him to forgive what you can't overcome, like the disciples realizing they'd never be able to bail fast enough or sail hard enough to make it through the storm.  Instantly, he'll bring a calm into you're heart and you'll know you're safe.  And you'll be in awe of what one word from His mouth has done.  You're safe. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sticky Community

I am part of an amazing community of people who are following Jesus and introducing other people to Him.  There are so many things that are great about these friends of mine, so many things we have in common.  So much love shared between us.  So much hope in Jesus for what He's done already for us and what he's going to do in us and through us.  He's got us on this crazy adventure together and I love it.  But guess what, it's not perfect.  Guess what else, that's ok.  
I think sometimes I (and everyone else who is trying to function in some kind of community, so everyone except hermits) have a bit of expectation - or dream at least - that somewhere along the way, we're going to get it right and suddenly all the pieces will fall into place and everything will be peachy.  Well, sometimes I'm a little slow, but I just realized, that's not happening until Jesus comes back.  And that is so good.  That means we have to learn to depend on Jesus to be the glue that sticks our band of mutant x-men and women together.  Jesus' own community couldn't hold it together without him, how could we ever do without Him.  
In  chapter 9 of Mark's account of Jesus life, Jesus takes a couple of the boys up the mountain and they get to see Jesus in all his glory - and Moses and Elijah as a little bonus - I can't wait to see that.  When they come down the hill, Jesus find the rest of the boys falling apart at the seams.  Some guy who's son is being harassed by a demon is there looking for help, and the disciples can't seem to do a thing about it.
First, as per normal human behavior, everyone is arguing.  Everyone has to get their two cents in.  Just picture it; the big wig scribes are pointing out all the theology and law and tradition you can shake a stick at.  Probably blaming the kid for wanting to be possessed by a demon, probably shaming the father for not raising him right, probably condemning and ridiculing the disciples (who were just teenager themselves) for not knowing what to do or how to do it.  Now if you know any teenagers who have ever had a little authority or power, it's gone straight to their head (sorry teenagers, but it's true, I was just like you).  They're probably acting tough and being smart asses trying to show those ol' scribes they're totally out of touch with society and what's going on.  Meanwhile this dad just wants some help for his kid.  He's desperate.  The community is deteriorating very quickly.  There's going to be one of those serious public disturbances that happens after the home team loses the Stanley Cup in game 7 unless Jesus shows up and does his thing.
Jesus does what he always does.  First he shows us he's human.  This isn't the robot zombie Jesus that you've seen in the movies who always has a blank smile on his face.  Jesus was a man, he had real emotion; he laughed, he cried, he gut frustrated, he got hurt, he showed compassion, he showed mercy.  And here He's disappointed and frustrated with the people around him.  So their's your permission to be disappointed and frustrated with the people around you when they let you down or don't agree with you.  We're all imperfect get over it.  Our community will never be perfect.  But Jesus get's past it - quickly!
But that's sort of a side point.  What he does next is teach us that community only works when we take care of the people around us who are in need.  Jesus doesn't waste time trying to solve the debate what is happening around him because it's probably based in religion and theology and law and pride and self-righteousness.  He goes to find out what is troubling this little boy and his father.  He goes straight to the person in need.  Jesus could have easily settled whatever argument was taking place.  Any time the religious leaders challenged him and he took the time to respond to them, he totally stumped them with his understanding of scripture.  But who cares.  People don't often get set free when they get proved wrong, they usually get angry and jaded.  What does change people is when they see and experience the love and mercy of the Kingdom of Heaven.  So Jesus poured it out for everyone to see.
The father begs Jesus to help him, if he can.  Then he says I believe a little but help my unbelief.  Jesus immediately responds and shows him mercy.  He doesn't say, go study your bible so you know the right answer.  He doesn't say go get cleaned up first for all the stupid choices you made in life.  Jesus doesn't give him a list of tasks to do in order to make amends for his sin.  Nope.  Just helps him.
Later the disciples - confused as usual - are like, "Jesus, what's up, why couldn't we do anything for this kid?"  And he teaches them a very valuable lesson about how this kingdom works and how their kingdom community has to work.  He says this problem can only be fixed by prayer; that is by being connected and dependent on God to do it.  Maybe the disciple were trying to show everyone their stuff, maybe they were more interested in proving the old dudes wrong.  Whatever the case, they weren't dependent on God and their little community went to shambles.  They weren't dependent on God so the power of the kingdom was not manifested among them.
I love my kingdom community.  I love that people's hearts are set on Jesus.  We're seeing God do incredible things with people and we know it's all him.  I know if we keep ourselves after Jesus - even when the scribes come to tell us we've got some things wrong, even with the religious leaders come to say there's a few things we have to do first or we're not legit, even when we get confused and aren't sure which way to turn - I know we'll encourage each other to turn back to him.  We are a rag tag bunch of accidental and reluctant leaders at times, but we want to see the mercy and grace of the kingdom radically change people's lives.  I know we'll disagree with each other about how we should do things, I know we'll probably have arguments about who should have taken responsibility for this or that, I know we'll say things wrong and things we don't mean.  Still humans.  But we've all experienced his incredible Grace and that is what will build our community and make it indestructible.  Jesus is sticky and we'll stick together by His grace, mercy and power so everyone around us has a chance to experience his Faith Hope and Love...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Jesus' Crumbs Will Fill You Up

(Mark 7:8…) Jesus’ ongoing beef with the Pharisee seems mostly to be based on the Pharisees impression that life was based on Sacrifice.  Most of their traditions centered on external displays of their devotion and sacrifice to God.  They had a fine way of twisting the law in order to serve their own purposes that only ever put more boundaries and bondage on people.  In their defense, the Pharisee movement was started because they saw so much destruction and brokenness in their society.   As is the case with the legalistic religious movements of our own day, their misguided drive to add rules on top of rules came from the idea that if you can’t beat the power of sin, at least we have to try to control it to minimize the disaster it cause in people’s lives.  So, over time, things that were good and practical, like washing your hands before you eat, became a religious activity which displayed your devotion to God.  Similarly, declaring the money you should use to help your needy parents “Corban” (a gift to God) showed your devotion to God. (Mark 7:12).  But as these traditions got more and more twisted and lost their true meaning they effectively put people into bondage instead of showing people that they needed God to rescue them and their sacrifice would never cut it.  Jesus says, God told you to honor and care for your parents, and you’ve chosen sacrifice over mercy.  You’ve chosen religion over people.  People are always more important to Jesus.  The Kingdom of Heaven is about Mercy
(Mark 7:14) Jesus then starts to preach the kingdom of heaven again to the people, who I’m sure, were watching very closely to see what the Pharisees would do in this situation.  They’d been upstaged and contradicted again by this Rabbi who was turning their world upside down with teachings and displays of power and mercy of the Kingdom of heaven.  Jesus takes one of their most basic tradition, rules about food, and basically throws it out the window to get to the root of the problem.  The Pharisees teaching were all external and based on external things.  What people could and couldn’t eat was a very easy thing to control in order give and appearance of holiness.  Jesus says, that is ridiculous and calls into question their teachings.  “Nothing that goes into your body makes you unclean, what makes you unclean goes well beyond anything physical; it’s a heart issue.”  When Jesus makes all inclusive statements like “nothing that…”, he actually means nothing. It’s a freedom statement.  In this case Jesus was debunking all the concepts they had about ceremonial food having any effect on your spiritual condition.  Freedom, the Kingdom of heaven is about Freedom.
It’s not always enough for Jesus to declare freedom; in this case he has to define it.  People truly believed that their standing with God was based on this external physical act.  The tradition was so ingrained in their culture everyone was scratching their heads, even the disciples.  This statement that might seem so simple to you and I, would have been culture shattering.  The ideas of ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ were so strong that their entire society functioned around it.  What you ate determined if you were clean or unclean.  Your health determined if you were clean or unclean.  Your clothing determined if you were clean or unclean.  How you did business determined if you were clean or unclean.  And Jesus pulls the rug out from under the whole system and says, “Eat whatever you want, it doesn’t matter a lick.  What matters is you’re all broken from the start.  You’ve got a heart disease that has nothing to do with your diet; it goes much deeper.  And all the junk that comes out of your life is a symptom of that bigger disease, the symptoms do not cause the condition.  (Mark 7:20-23)  Then Jesus leaves.  He leaves them without the answer or the cure to the sin problem.  Perhaps he was frustrated, he certainly was with the disciples (Mark 7:18).  Maybe he just knew they had to digest the freedom he’d just served them before they could hear the rest of the treatment plan for fixing the clean-unclean dilemma.
Whatever the case, Jesus moves on and displays the freedom and power he was revealing to Pharisees, disciples and crowds.  He went to someone’s house and tried to hide out for a bit, tired and needing a rest from all the Kingdom of Heaven mania that been going on I suppose.  But the Kingdom of heaven is hard to hide when there are people in great need around.  A Gentile woman shows up.  Now she is free from all the Pharisees religious baggage, God’s law wasn’t for her people.  So she seems to have no trouble breaking the cultural and religious norms in order to get to only one she knows can help her.  She falls at Jesus feet and begs him to heal her daughter who is tormented by a demon.  So even though she wasn’t wrapped up in the religiousness of the Jews, she knew the kingdom of Darkness was real; her daughter was bound to it.
Jesus response seems strange to us, “First let the children eat all they want, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”  But the woman recognized the cultural nuance.  She new enough to know that the Jews were considered God’s chosen people, God’s children.  She would have heard that Jesus was bringing a message of freedom and life to the Jews who were bound in religious tradition.  She wasn’t interested in that, she was just looking for crumbs.  Her response to Jesus, “even the dogs under the table get to eat the children’s crumbs.”  Like the woman who just reached out to touch the fringe of Jesus robe and gets healed, she was desperate for a touch of God to set her daughter free, just a crumb would be enough. 
And Jesus does it.  “Good answer”, he says, “you’re daughter is free.”  She got up and went home to find her daughter restored.  Jesus didn’t ask here any questions about her religious performance, her family lineage, her acts of devotion towards God, her pour choices, her sacrifices.  He saw her need, her desperation, to see the kingdom of heavy bring mercy and freedom to her daughter. She got to see it; the Kingdom of heaven’s freedom and mercy in full display, with no religious pomp and circumstance anywhere in sight.

Jesus opened the door to us in this miracle.  To this point his message had been to the Jews, but he opened the Freedom and Mercy up to the rest of us through this act.  The door is wide open to us, if we knock he’ll open it.  If we through ourselves at his feet and see that he’s the only one who can rescue us from the heart condition we’re all born with, he will rescue us.  It was promised and guaranteed when he went to the cross to die and take our punishment for sin that got up three days later, alive and well to beat it’s great power over us; death.  So now experiencing the freedom and mercy is wide open to us, it’s the reality of following Jesus.  

No special diets, no special ceremonies, no special religion required.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Feeling Righteous?

I've often avoided books in the bible like Proverbs, mostly because I thought it was a list of do and don't, and I don't have a very teachable  spirit sometimes, so I though, "what's in there for me to learn, I already know everything..."  Just kidding, I don't think I know everything, but I don't have a teachable spirit.
 Anyway, Jesus isn't really about a lists of do's and don't so, I guess if the Bible is about Him, there must be something else in there other that that list I suspected it was.  I got part of chapter 8 of Proverbs sent to me in an email today so I read it.  Wow, I never noticed how clearly Jesus spoke in the Old Testament, I mean I know it's all about him, but sometimes I struggle to see Him in there.  Not today.  "Chapter 8 is Jesus speaking about Himself through the writer of Proverbs as clearly as he was speaking to John or Peter or anyone else that hung around with him in person.  So cool, listen to Jesus here,

I was there when he set up the skies,
when he drew a circle in the ocean to make a place for the land.
I was there when he put the clouds in the sky
and made the deep springs flow.
I was there when he set the limits on the sea
to make it stop where he said.
I was there when he laid the foundations of the earth.
I grew up as a child by his side,
laughing and playing all the time.
I played in the world he made
and enjoyed the people he put there.

“Now, children, listen to me.
If you follow my ways,
you will be happy too.
Listen to my teaching and be wise;
don’t ignore what I say.
Whoever waits at my door
and listens for me will be blessed.
Those who find me find life,
and the Lord will reward them.
But those who do not find me put their lives in danger.
Whoever hates me loves death.” (Proverbs 8: 27-36 ERV)

So here I thought, some smart dude, probably named Solomon, wrote down some instruction about what I had to do in order to have a decent life and be ok with the Big Man.  Wrong.

Proverbs is not about what I have to do to be a righteous person and ok with God.  Proverbs is about what Jesus will do if we depend on Him, not ourselves.  Maybe that's not mind blowing to you, but it is to me.

Let me try for a minute to show you why my mind has be "Burted".  I'll just take a few random ones and show you what I mean.  Proverbs 13:6, "Righteousness guards the man of integrity, but wickendness overthrows the sinner".  Righteousness = Jesus, nothing we do makes us righteous, He does.  So Jesus guards the man of integrity (that just means someone who stands up for what he believes in, in this case Jesus), but wickness overthrows the sinner (that's everyone who doesn't know Jesus yet).

Proverbs 10:16, "the wages of the righteous brings them life, the income of the wicked brings them punishment"  Sounds really similar to Romans 6:23 right, "the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus."  So those who have recieved Jesus free gift are righteous because of His free gift, not because of their own trying to be righteous or right with God.  But the wicked = someone who hasn't revieved that free gift yet gets punishment = death.  You get paid with life when you receive his gift, you get paid with death when you turn it down.

I think the languages messes with us sometimes, it seems a bit harsh that someone who hasn't taken Jesus up on this free gift yet be called "wicked" but scripture says that anyone who doesn't take that free gift is against God, their sin, which we all have keeps them separated, and steals our life.  

Let's try one more just for fun.
Proverbs 14:33, "Wisdom rests in the heart of a man of understanding,
but it makes itself known even in the midst of fools."

Break it down..., Wisdom (which comes from Jesus through the Holy Spirit) rest in the heart of a man of understanding, so if you get that Jesus is everything, and what he offers is free and you don't have to earn right standing with God so you're free, that will make itself known even around people that don't know that yet.  Is that crazy or what??  You living in the freedom of the Grace Jesus gave you, will cause others to see and know Jesus.  

So there you go, you're mind blowing reality for the day.  Jesus is the one who has done everything, He's fulfilled all the Laws and delivered on the promises and paid all the debts that sin has racked up on your behalf.  And now you're free to live in the reality that he's going to keep on keeping on so that all those things in proverbs and rest of the bible can be reality in your life.  I hope you'll let Him show you, I hope you'll let Him do his thing.

Friday, May 17, 2013

When I look at the stars I feel like myself.

Abram believed the Lord and he credited it to him as Righteousness.  Wait a minute, all he did was believe what God told him and the Lord credited that too him as righteousness.  So before he ever did any sacrifices or made any alters, or followed any commands, he just believed.  Wowzers, I wish following Jesus was like
that.  I mean this promise the Lord was giving to Abram was pretty outlandish.  Abram was like a hundred and he never had any kids of his own, but God was saying look how many stars I made, if you could count them, that's how many babies and grand-babies and grand-grand-babies I am going to make from you and ol' Sarai over there.  This was such an incredibly unbelievable thing God was saying.  As if Abram could count the stars.  As if Abram could even begin to fathom what this promise was going to mean.  He knew as little about what God had in mind as the little he knew about the stars.  Abram didn't have any picture from the Hubble floating around, as far as he knew the stars were some twinkly night lights that he might have used to tell the seasons, or help him go in the right direction in the dessert.  He probably didn't know there were billions of them.  There was know way he could have know each one was gigantic ball of gas and fire and whatever else stars are made of.  He probably had no idea how huge this promise God was making would be either; that because he believed God, God saw his righteousness and was able to give him more faith to continue believing the impossible, that his son was going to help shape the entire history of the world and how God's plans would play out.  That's a pretty huge promise.
Imagine, or maybe you don't want to, the conversations that followed the next little while.  Old man Abram says to his aged, barron wifey Sarai, "ok Sarai, I know we're old and kind of out of practice, but the Lord says we're going to have a baby, so you know what we need to do..."
"Get out of here you ol' coot, stop being so foolish..."
But at some point, she believed the Lord too I guess, along comes baby!
In The Story: The Bible as One Continuing Story of God and His People it's written this way,

"Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "so shall your offspring be."  Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead - since he was about a hundred years old - and that Sarah's womb was also dead.  Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.  This is why 'it was credited to him as righteousness."(Chapter 2)

Wait, maybe following Jesus is just like this after all.  Abraham looked at the promise of God, then he looked at the impossibility of that promise happening based on the simple fact that his body and Sarah's body were beyond any ability to make a baby.  How could that not cause him to weaken his faith?  Well because he knew his faith wasn't really his faith, it was given to him by God.  He wasn't depending on himself at all.  He'd been given a situation that he couldn't do anything to make happen, except depend on God.  and God delivered, the faith to believe and the means to make it reality.
Jesus has given us an impossible promise, "Your sins are forgiven."
'Nope, not mine, not possible, I'm as good as dead...'  On my own that is.  But God's promise is that He'll make the way, He'll make the impossible happen.  As we continue to depend on Jesus for everything he will strengthen our faith as we look at his promise and chose to believe it.  God saw Abraham as righteous, not because he was a good person, or did the right things, or sacrificed the right things, he saw Him as righteous because he continued to believe, depending on the faith God was giving him, that God would take care of everything, that he would fulfill His promise.
We have to follow Jesus the same way .  Jesus will give you the faith to believe what he says, that your sin is forgiven and that you can follow him.  Even if it seems impossible.  Even if you think your struggle, your condition, your addiction, your brokenness is beyond fixing.  It is beyond you.  But just look up and start counting the stars, then go to the Hubble website and  look at what God spoke into existence, then look at your situation again.  His promises are true, and he doesn't ever go back on His word.  And when he gives you the faith to believe what he says, he counts that as your righteousness and he doesn't see your struggle, your condition, your addiction, your brokenness, your sin.
He only sees the promise he made, 'I gave My only son's life for those things, so that I could make a way for you to be whole again.  And now I'm going to make it happen, just believe me, I won't let you down'

Friday, March 8, 2013

The One We've Been Waiting For

Jesus is hanging out with his disciples and asks them, "who do you say I am?" Simon answers, "you're the one, you're the messiah, you're the son of God" Simon didn't really know what he was saying, he didn't have it all figured out yet... But Jesus says, no one taught you that, your father in heaven revealed it to you. Then he gives Simon a new name, Peter "the Rock" and says i'm going to build my church on that. Not on Peter's ideas, on the fact that our Father reveals Jesus to us. Peter was a screw up just like the rest of us, he had doubts, he had fears, he didn't understand much of what he'd seen Jesus do or say, he would later run away and deny what he knew was true. But somewhere inside he knew Jesus was who he said he was, he knew he was the one they were waiting for, and that was enough to know Jesus was the one who would rescue us.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What's in the box?

Hey you... yeah you with the shirt... I have a package for you... it's free... no wait, I'll tell you what's in there, it's Jesus.  Well not like the physical man Jesus, obviously there isn't a body in this box, besides, I'm pretty sure he's hanging out in heaven with his dad.  Anyway, it's all yours, everything in the box, you won't even believe some of the stuff that's in that box until he show's you how works, but it's all in there.  Just take it.  You can do what ever you want with it, it's yours...

Well, there's stuff like salvation in there, that's just one of things that you get when you activate the forgiveness switch.  but that's sort of the end result of getting into the box.  First when you take the lid off, he'll give you the faith you need to run everything else.  Then you'll get a new operating system downloaded and a reboot.  That's repentance I guess.  Then there'll be all these new programs you never had before that'll help you do everything, I don't even know what some of them do, haven't really seen them in action yet.  He'll decide which ones work best for you, I like the ability to heal people app, it's pretty sweet.  Anyway, they're really about him, not you, so don't worry too much about figuring them out.  And when you can't figure it out, he's better than Google at showing you the right way to do things.  Oh yeah, this is cool, there's a full helping of righteousness in there too so that even when you screw it up, it gets auto-corrected, but not like your stupid smartphone auto-corrected, actually corrected.  And customer service, top notch, there's always someone waiting to take your call, and there's this incredible translation feature where even when you don't know what to say, or say it in a totally different language, he knows what you're talking about.  It is mint!

There's a buuunch of other stuff too, I don't really have time to go into it right now but you're gonna have fun finding it and figuring out how it all works.

Oh wait I forgot to mention the Love!!!  it's all full of love, like every inch of it is surrounded with love.  it's packed in those clingy little packing peanuts, you can't get them off you once you start unpacking this thing.  It'll be on you forever, like glitter glue.  People are going to walk up to you in the street and notice the love stuck on you and then it'll get stuck on them.  It's impossible to get rid of glitter.

So here's your box, are you going to open it... you can take it home and leave it in the box if you want.  You can just put the box on your shelf, maybe take it out once a week and look at the box.  You can hold the box up, maybe shake it around once in a while to see if there's anything in there.  I mean if you want you can put your box in another box to protect this box, or you can hide it in the basement so no one else knows you got a box.  you can pretend i never showed you this box and just leave it there, I mean it's your box.

I'd open it if I were you, but it's your box...