Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holy Week - Wednesday

Reading: Matthew 26:36-46

I love to watch Star Trek. One favorite characters is Spock. Spock is half Vulcan and half human. Now Vulcan's never display any emotions. One of the sub-plots in Star Trek is Spock learning to deal with his human emotions. Spock often works at suppressing his emotions so that he is totally calm and logical.
This is how I have often pictured Jesus. Always calm and logical.
For this reason I have often struggled with this passage in Matthew. Here we see Jesus being deeply distressed and even agitated. Look at how he prays. Jesus knows that it is the Father's will that he die in Jerusalem. After all that is one of the reasons he came to earth. But he prays from his emotions that God find a different way. This is not being calm. I am not sure it is even logical to ask God to do something different when you know what his will is.
Jesus prays with his emotions. He does not suppress them. Perhaps Jesus is fully human (and not half Vulcan). Of course Jesus does remain submitted to God.

When we pray do we pray with our emotions? Or do we sometimes just suppress them and pray what we think God wants to hear?
Let us pray from our hearts, well remains fully submitted to our loving Father.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Holy Week - Tuesday

Reading: Matthew 26:17-29

Today is passover. For the past number of years my family and I have celebrated the passover. We walk through a Messianic Seder. It is amazing. Every year I learn more about my faith and more about my messiah.

As I read the story of Jesus' last passover with his disciples I noticed how he gives thanks. It is his last night on earth. One of his disciples is about betray him. Another going to deny even knowing him. The rest are going to abandon him. He is going to be tortured and killed. And yet he gives thanks. How different I am.
What things do you have to be thankful for on this passover?

Here is a list of some of things that I am thankful for:
  • Salvation
  • Family
  • Friends
  • A safe place to live
  • A nice place to live
  • my health
  • Freedom to worship
  • Access to the bible
  • nice clothes
  • Great food (and lots of it)
  • my wife
  • my kids
  • a real relationship with God

Monday, March 29, 2010

Holy Week - Monday

Reading: Matthew 20:20-28

As I prepare for Easter I have been reminded that my goals are often not in line with my messiah's goals. In the Matthew passage Jesus is heading to Jerusalem to die for the world. And here just before he enters the city James and John (two of this followers) are seeking positions of power and influence.
How many times in my life have I headed down a path that appears like it is for God's glory but it is really all about me? It is a way for me to have power and influence, to look good.
How many times have I avoided the way of a servant?
How many times have I been content with comfort instead of following Jesus (which may lead me to suffer)?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Orientation to prison

Prison ministry is something that my church has become passionate about.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a orientation meeting at the prison for the volunteers.
There were three things that they emphasized.
  1. Nothing in and nothing out - which means exactly that.
  2. Talk to the leaders if you have questions/concerns.
  3. Being there makes a difference.
The guys doing the orientation had both spent time in prison and they really stressed the last point. Just showing up makes a difference in the inmates lives.
A few ways it makes a difference:
  1. The prisoners experience love. They discover that someone actually cares for them. Many of the people in prison have come from terrible homes and/or have been cut off from family once they got in. And society in general does not demonstrate a lot of love toward them. But we come in and care about them.
  2. We bring hope. The reason we volunteer is because we believe they can change. God works miracles, he transforms people's lives.
  3. Our relationship with each other models a different world. So many people in prison have come from a broken background. The we relate with the other volunteers (and with them) shows them that there is actually a different way to live.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Prodigal God

The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, by Timothy Keller

Should I just tell you to go out, buy the book and read it? That’s what I want to tell you. But that feels a little cheap. A review of a book should give you more than just a recommendation to buy it. And to be honest most of people wouldn’t buy it just because I said buy it.
However to give a full blown review, like the ones that are written for school, would rob you of the joy of discovering this book for yourself.
So what should I do? Well let me say some of the basics.
This book is for those who seek after God. It is for both those who are not Christians and for those who have been Christians for most of their life. Personally I fall into the later group and found this little book spoke powerfully to me.
The Prodigal God is an exploration of Jesus’ parable that is often called “the prodigal son”. Timothy claims that he has “seen more people encouraged, enlightened, and helped by this passage, when I explained the true meaning of it, than by any other text.”
Timothy’s book is really about the gospel (which is what the parable is about). However Timothy points out we have often only read part of the parable and therefore have only heard part of it’s message of good news.
This book draws us to God’s wonderful grace. A grace that Timothy says we have to keep drilling into heads again and again. It is something we have return to, be inspired by, and be filled with every single day.
So now that I have given a little review go find the book and read it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Does God break us? - part 2

This is a continuation of the post “Does God break us?”

Instead of viewing tragedy as the direct work of God on our lives I believe that all tragedy is the result of sin. Sin is anything that is opposed to God, which is why I say that tragedy is not the direct work of God. (Is there a difference between tragedy and change? Yes. In the future I would like to discuss this difference. For now I am viewing tragedy as the bad things that happen to us.)

There are three basic convictions that I hold to: God is good, God loves me, and God is great.
Anything good in my life is a gift from God (it is grace) – James 1:17. I do not have so many good things in my life because I am so good, or worked so hard or am so smart. I am blessed because God is good.
The creator of the universe loves me. In fact he loves me so much that willingly died in order to be in relationship with me. Instead of beating me over the head to crush me into submission Jesus lovingly invites me to be with him.
And the God who is loves me and is good to me is not powerless and weak. He is the creator and sustainer of everything. And there is nothing that rivals him.
If this is true why do Christians suffer?
Because humans and some angels have chosen to reject God and live for themselves. The result is that we live a broken planet. We could explore the idea of a broken planet, however I would like to get more personal.
Why do I suffer? Because I reject God and live for myself. Now I am a follower of Jesus. But it is amazing how many times every day I end up living for myself instead of God (Praise the Lord that he is so gracious and loving that he keeps holding me close to him, forgiving me). And when I live for myself I make a mess of my life.
Instead of tragedy being something that God brings on me, tragedy is something that I bring on myself. I know this is not the answer for all evil, but it does explain a lot of my suffering.
Tragedy is often the result of God removing his hand blessing from me allowing me to experience the consequences of my actions/thoughts/words. It is not God beating me over the head.
Does God use tragedy to change me? Absolutely. He is that amazing. He can take something evil and still work good. But that does not mean that he was the author of evil.

Picturing God in this way I am more prone to thankfulness and prayer. I want to be close to him.

Women tempting men

Found a fascinating blog post written by Carolyn James about men and women called The devil's Gateway. Thought I would throw it up here to see what you thought about it.

". . . you are the devil's gateway. . . you are she who persuaded him, whom the devil did not dare attack. . . . Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on your sex, lives on in this age; the guilt, necessarily, lives on too."

The view of woman as "temptress" has early roots and is alive and well today both in the wider culture (see links below) and sadly also in Christian circles.

I was a speaker at a gathering of pastors who were interested in doing a better job of utilizing women's gifts. The first question asked during the open forum afterwards stunned me, "If we work with women, won't we be tempted?"

What followed was not a candid discussion about the heart and where is the real problem when there is a moral failure (as in as what goes on behind closed doors when a man is alone with his computer), but a laundry list of precautions to safeguard oneself from moral hazards when working or dealing with women.

Women find this kind of thinking offensive, and rightly so. This low view of women conflicts with the Bible's high redemptive view of us. What strikes me as I think about this, however, is that this negative view of women also reflects badly on men as testosterone driven, morally weak, and unable to control themselves. This is not to say that our sex-saturated culture doesn't create serious problems for everyone. But it is one thing to think wisely about modesty and conduct and quite another to view women as seductresses.

So here are my questions:

First, are men also outraged by the temptress view of women—because of what it implies about them? And second, is it possible to hold a low view of women without degrading men?

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Today I was privileged to be part of a funeral. One of the things I find fascinating about funerals is some of the practices that we do. We have traditions I am sure most people are not even aware of. Even if they have been to lots of funerals they may not be aware of some of the communities traditions.
Today I learned about a tradition we do when we bury people. Now I have known that we bury people with their feet facing east. This is because the bible tells us that Jesus will come in the east. And when he comes those who have died in Christ will be resurrected. Having our feet facing east means that we will be raised facing him.
The tradition I learned about today is that the husband is always buried to the north of his wife. This is so that man will shelter his wife from the cruel north wind.
Interesting traditions.

Preaching on the Lord's Prayer

This Sunday I am going to be preaching on the Lord's Prayer:
Matthew 6:7-15

Other passages to read:
Luke 11:1-13

Things to consider:
This prayer is very well known. I grew up saying it every day in school. How deeply does this prayer shape the way that we pray?

Should we pray these very words? Or is that just vain repetition?

A while ago I posted an adaptation of the Lord's prayer

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Does God break us?

When we experience pain and suffering in our life is that God working to get our attention? Is it God's way of removing things to insure that we become more dependent on him?
Sometimes we say things like "I am so dense God has to hit me over the head with a two-by-four to get my attention." What we are saying is that the tragedy we are in right now is God's intentional act to get our attention. I grew up believing this.
But is this right? I am not so sure.
Today I want to explore some of the difficulties that I see with this view. In a couple of days I want to explore a different way to view tragedies.

In this belief God is the author of tragedy, loss, suffering and pain. And I am the worker of good.
Think about it. This view believes that God intentionally brings tragedy to help me see him. The tragedy is the work of God.
Now the fact that God had to "hit me with a 2-by-4" indicates that I was not paying attention to him. And the fact that the tragedy is God's action means that my life was going quite well without him. I wasn't experience pain/loss/suffering. Without God I was doing very good - thank you very much. And along comes God and messes it all up. As a good Christian I am suppose to be thankful to God for this.

What seems to happen then is that I seek God in my tragedies. I need his help to get out of them (he should be able to help since he brought it on me). But that is it. My faith dries up when the tragedy is over. I don't need God any more. Oh I may try and pay attention to him in order to avoid getting hit again. But I don't need him. And my relationship with him becomes weaker and weaker as I improve my life.

Giving, fasting and praying

Text for Sunday's sermon: Matthew 6:1-18

Other passages: Hosea 6:4-6; Jeremiah 14:11-12; Matthew 3:1-12

Questions to consider:
In Matthew 5:16 Jesus tells his followers to let the world see their good deeds. But now he is telling them to do them in secret and not let anyone see them. Why? This is in the same sermon.

In the previous part Jesus has been inviting people to learn a new way to relate to others. How does this section on giving, prayer and fasting flow from that?

Friday, March 05, 2010


I have to confess that I have felt a little blah all week. But here are a couple of fun things I came across this week.

Freemind - mind mapping software. Finding useful in preparing sermons.

'Proverbs 31 husband' justifies beer habit - Lark News is satire, so consider yourself warned.

Tomorrow is a bike race here is town - AWBF (ABES Winter Bike Festival)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

God centered living

How does one live a radically God centered life?
Over past number of weeks I have been preaching through the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7). And has it ever been challenging me.
I have become convinced that Jesus is not giving us a bunch of rules we now must obey. Rather he is inviting us to live a new way, to relate to others in a new way. Jesus is not calling us to change a few things in our behavior. It is about becoming a totally different person.
I am a very selfish person. I discern everything from my perspective. The unconscious questions that affect what I do are: does this give me pleasure (then do it) or does this cause me pain (then avoid it). Even my moral behavior is filtered through these questions. I often behave morally because of deferred pleasure (which means I will get more pleasure later) not because I am not thinking about myself.
And Jesus invited me to move from having myself at the center of my life to having God and others at the center. So how do I do that?
It begins with confessing and praying (like Peter commented last week). After all this is a work of the Spirit not of me trying harder.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Resisting an evil doer?

Text for Sunday's sermon: Matthew 5:38-48

Other texts:
Romans 12:14-21
Exodus 15:1-18

Questions to consider:
What does Jesus mean when he says "Do not resist an evil doer?" Does this mean we don't call the police when we are wronged? Does this mean we should not stand up for the defenseless? How does this fit with the rest of the bible?