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Friday, December 22, 2006

Mysterious Companionship

I ran across a reading this morning and thought I would share it with anyone who stops by here. It speaks to me of the kind of completeness I need in my journey with God. God isn't something or someone I can just step in and out of as I feel the need. Knowing God is about living in this kind of continual companionship. Some of the language is a bit archaic, but I think it makes it seem and feel more substantial.

"O Holy Spirit of God, visit now this soul of mine, and tarry within it until eventide. Inspire all my thoughts. Pervade all my imaginations. Suggest all my decisions. Lodge in my will's most inward citadel and order all my doings. Be with me in my silence and in my speech, in my haste and in my leisure, in company and in solitude, in the freshness of morning and in the weariness of the evening; and give me the grace at all times to rejoice in thy mysterious companionship." - from "A Diary of Private Prayer" by John Baillie

If Christmas reminds us of anything, it is the abiding presence of God with us. This presence is not meant to be a token offering of God's goodwill toward us, but a constant consuming reality of the Divine in every aspect of life. I long to have God "pervade my imagination." What a great thought! I know I have a good imagination, but how infrequently do I feel that God's Spirit is filling and directing it!

My prayer for you this Christmas season is that you would link the birth of a baby Jesus with the promise and reality of God among us, right here and right now. In everything we do, and in everything we say, God is with us as our mysterious companion.

May you enjoy Him more than ever before. Many blessings as you journey on.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Small Leak, Big Problems

This past week, I made a rather unfortunate discovery. My wife had been cleaning up our toy room and told me that part of the carpet was wet. Thinking that my 2-year old had just spilled something, we ignored it. After a few days, the dampness was still there and so we began to investigate a little more. Pulling back the carpet, the water-stain indicated the moisture must be coming from the other side of the wall, or in our floor plan, the kitchen.

With some growing concern, I slid our refrigerator away from the wall. And behold! A puddle of water was slowly being filled by a drip from the water line. After some more discussion and consideration, we decided that the fridge probably began leaking shortly after installation- three years ago! And now this week I get to deal with the fun part- how serious is the damage? Rotten floorboards? Damaged sub-floor? Mold and mildew? The leak itself was so minor that for years it had gone unnoticed and un-addressed. A couple twists of the wrench fixed the leak, but fixing the resulting damage might take a whole lot more.

As you may have guessed, I have a spiritual application I'm heading to. Why else do I blog? In our spiritual life, there are a lot of things that seem minor. If we do them, it's great. But if not, no big deal, right? It's good to read my Bible, but if I miss out for a few days or weeks what difference does it really make? So I miss church when I'm too busy, skip out on my small group when I'm overloaded, and forget to pray when other matters fill my mind. These spiritual habits are valuable for sure, but who will notice if they slide for awhile? And believe me, I'm talking to myself on this one!

That's just it. No one will notice. For now. But our spiritual habits keep life, and our faith, functioning according to God's design. As we miss out, it's as if our soul has sprung a small leak. The real issue is that small leaks don't get fixed, and down the road our minor oversights can become major stumbling blocks. What began as being too busy for community can over time become isolation. What began as skipping a day or two with God will over time become a self-directed life. As our spiritual leaks go untreated, the damage is far more complicated than a quick fix. I think it leads to disillusionment with church for some. We've missed out on real community for so long, and then we jump back in expecting a shot in the arm when instead it feels dead and lifeless. Because the reality is that authentic community and connection to God takes time, and I believe, practically speaking, that it takes repetition. As we immerse ourselves in the spiritual habits again and again, we will discover our souls being made and kept whole.

I don't know where you're at today. I don't know the last time you checked your spiritual life for leaks. But I want to encourage you to remain steady. Keep at the small things that help you draw near to God. Keep focused. Don't allow a busy world to distract you from what (and who) matters most.

Cling to Him today. Journey on, friends.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Would You Be the Seahawks Running Back?

If you watched their last game against the mighty Chicago Bears, I think you would answer that question with a resounding "no". It didn't seem to matter which of our beloved Hawks touched the ball; no sooner had they turned to run and several angry men in black and orange jerseys were pummeling them into the hard turf. Can you imagine being the one with the ball? I don't like pain, and I think if I had to suit-up for the Seahawks on Sunday, I would be in big trouble. I am not fast. I am not elusive. I am slow and thoughtful. These are code words for "dead meat" in the NFL.

Now what if the Seahawks asked you to play running back. But instead of the Bears, Broncos, or Bengals, they were taking on your local 7th grade team? Would you do it then? If you had five 300-hundred pound giants clearing a bull-dozer sized hole in front of you, would you take the ball? I think most of us would! What changed? Did we change? No! Did our protection (offensive line) change? Nope. But the match-up changed. We suddenly found ourselves in a situation where the competition was no match for the incredible strength that goes before us.

I ran across a parallel idea in the Bible today that got me thinking. Yes- I often relate the Bible to football! In the Old Testament, the leader Moses is standing in front of the nation of Israel for the final time, encouraging them and offering some parting wisdom before he passes away. He tells them that they are about to enter the Promised Land, which at the time is filled with huge, angry men; kind of like the Chicago defense. But, Moses says, do not fear. Why? Because "the Lord your God will cross over ahead of you like a devouring fire to destroy them." (Deut. 9:3) The Israelites could run the ball and take the land with confidence because God would clear the way.

It's easy to be fearful in life. We look around us and feel overwhelmed by complexities, adversities, and discouragement. We're not sure which way to go and at any moment we worry that we will be over-run by opposition. Today, we can find hope and peace in the front line of our God. He goes before us like a consuming fire, in whose path no one can stand. The key, however, is that we follow after this Fire. It does us no good to claim allegiance to a God of power if we are content to go our own way and live according to our own designs. But when we follow behind him, when we recognize where he is leading and when we go quickly in that direction, we can have great confidence and peace in this world.

Where is God leading you? Where is His consuming fire opening a path and inviting you to follow His lead?

Journey on, my friend. Look to the Fire.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

When Worship Gets Put on Hold

We had an interesting dilemma this Sunday as the body of believers gathered together. In spite of the fact that we had three computer geeks looking at our Dell, we couldn't get our computer to communicate with our projector. What this meant is that no one could see the words to the songs. As they came into the Sanctuary, they could see the nice background of the ocean waves lapping the shore amongst some majestic rocks. But no words. We all kind of looked around at each other thinking and asking, "What do we now?" It was time to start, but without words for people to follow, how would we worship? So we made the announcement first in hopes that one of the techies would figure it out. After two jokes and three announcements, still no words. So we had our 'grin and grip' time where everyone welcomes one another and introduces themselves. This bought us a few more minutes, but as the conversation died down and it was becoming uncomfortably quite in the room, still no words. The worship leader looked at me with that same expression: "What do I do?" All I could think to say was, "Just worship. Tell people they don't need words. Go for it." And so he did. He said we could follow him as best we could and worship God from the heart. Ironically, before we reached the first chorus, the tech guys got it figured out and we had words. And there was much rejoicing.

I've been thinking a lot the last couple of days about how typical that is of our worship. Why is it that to worship God, we need to have words to the song accurately projected in a font that's large enough with clear contrast and a pretty picture? Especially when most of the people in the room know the words already? Now don't get me wrong, I'm not against projecting the words and letting people sing along. I'm not against helping newcomers feel welcome by providing the words so they know what's going on. But have we maybe accustomed ourselves to a way of worshipping that God never intended? Think about it- we are programmed to have things right first, and then we worship. The band has practiced and prepped, and then we worship. But it doesn't happen in this way just on Sunday (or Saturday or whenever we meet as a church). We need the right CD to playing so we can worship. We need our environment to be right so we feel like worshipping. We need to be in the right mood, have the right amount of time, or know the right words so that we can worship God.

Honestly, what happened to worshipping God from the heart? I think in our modern culture (our post-modern culture, for that matter), we have lost the essence of worship; the authentic move of our hearts towards God. The idea that no matter where we are or how we're feeling, we can turn our spirits towards Him and say, "You are Lord, you are good, and I worship You." The way it is now, we are in great danger of becoming programmed worshippers. God seeks worship that is real and unscheduled, happening even as often as we breath; our hearts over and over proclaiming His presence and His peace. No music, no voices, and no words necessary.

Don't let worship become a scheduled event. Don't put it on hold. Just worship. Tell people they don't need words. Go for it!

Journey on.

Friday, October 06, 2006

From Doing to Being

There is a to-do list that sits on my desk. Most everyday, I walk into my office, take a look at that list, and being doing what it says. I make phone-calls, write letters and prepare messages. I work for the joy of crossing items off the list. At the end of the day, I usually look back and count up how much I've marked off as the barometer of my success. And yet I've been noticing that day after day, I accopmlish these tasks and yet sense that I am missing the mark.

I did something different today. Today I came in and didn't open the book. I didn't turn on my computer and I didn't check my messages. Instead I did a few things that I had sensed God was calling me to do. I spoke with some people and spent some time in prayer. Looking back on my to-do list, I can see I haven't "accomplished" a single thing. And yet the sense of accomplishment in my spirit is great.

This has me wondering; how often do we spend all of our time doing the things that we think we must, while we fail to do those things that matter most? We run our errands, fulfill our role, and make it through the day. At the end we're left to wonder, "Have I done anything of significance?" I can tell you that today didn't look any different, but it felt entirely different. I was driven not to do and to accomplish, but to be who God has called me to be. To operate from the heart and not from the head. I feel good about today.

I know I need to-do lists so that I remember certain things, but maybe I need them less often. Maybe more frequently, I (and you?) could operate away from the list and off the books, but centered on the God who has made me and calls me. Maybe the greatest to-do list I have is in my heart and not on my desk.

I pray that you will journey on with purpose.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Belonging Before Believing

(many thanks to Brian MacLaren for fueling the thoughts in this post. For an excellent and challenging new look at sharing faith in Christ, read his book, More Ready Than You Realize.)

What does it take for someone to be welcomed into our circle? For most, the answer would have to do with holding common interests, beliefs, and ideas. This is especially true of the Christian church. The typical approach by the church to those outside her walls has been to say, "Make a decision to believe how we do, and then you can join our circle." For hundreds of years, this approach has helped to safeguard faith while encouraging seekers to make that crucial choice so they could belong to "the club."

You don't have to look at modern society very long to realize how ineffective this strategy is today. Exclusive clubs, while enjoyed by the members, are offensive to those who are excluded. As the church gives the message, "believe like we do and then come and belong", most people are saying, "no thanks."

What if people were allowed to belong before they believed? What if they were not only allowed, but welcomed, received, and treated as equals? This is the church-culture shift that needs to occur today. A shift where churches look at people who are new and welcome and include them, regardless of their beliefs. People today are looking for communities where they can be real, ask hard questions, and get honest (not intellectual or churchy) answers about life. As seekers of God are invited to rub shoulders with the people of God on a regular basis, they will gain an understanding of what it means to know God.

Are we too busy guarding the faith and attempting to "convince" those who are far from God to believe like we do? Maybe we need to spend more time simply loving and laughing with spiritual seekers so they can begin to observe the truth in us. In today's world, words and actions are connected- we can't say one thing and do another, or what we say carries no weight. If we want to say, "God loves you," then we need to live in a way that shows God's love. If we want to say to our friends and neighbors, "God accepts you where you are," then we need to treat them that way. If we desire to see people journey towards God with us, then we must let them belong before they believe- belong to our communities of faith and walk side by side with us. For out of belonging comes believing.

I realize these thoughts are jumbled and random today. Reflect on them and see if they don't challenge you as I have been challenged. Journey on in His light.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Bethel Experience- Day 6

Back at school after a couple of days of rest! We had a great time with my wife's in-laws in Northern Minnesota. We had the joy of taking our daughter through the 'Underwater' world at the Mall of America. This is one of the most impressive displays of fish, turtles, and rays that I have ever seen! They have numerous displays that are built for little kids to walk up and see fish at their level, or "fishies!' as Alyssa would exclaim when a big one swam by. This adventure is spendy, but worth the cost if you really appreciate nature and God's ingenuity in the aquatic world.

The second round of classes has begun, and the topic for the week is hermeneutics, which is a fancy word for 'interpreting the Bible.' One meaningful thing to me today is the thought that the Bible does more than just communicate to us. When we read books, magazines, or the newspaper, information is communicated and we choose what to do with it. The Bible contains more than just information; it truly contains transformation. As we come in contact with God's Word and humble ourselves underneath it, we are changed and shaped by the transferred information. This is why reading the Bible is so vital to our faith and our walk with Christ. We don't read the Bible just to learn the stories and hear about God; we actually come in contact with God and power of His Spirit as we surrender our lives to His Word. As you approach God's truth this week, realize you hold something entirely different in your hands. If you want to follow Christ, give to Him the rights to decide how you handle that information. When we see truth in God's Word, we seek to live it and not just acknowledge it.

May you discover life-transformation in the pages of His Word this week.

Journey on with Him.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Bethel Experience- Day 5

Well, one week of class is now done and I get a weekend to recover before the next one. My wife and daughter arrived last night and are at my in-laws, so I am headed up to be with them for the next few days.

Today, I'll just leave a thought that has been on my heart lately. We learned a new song this past weekend that had the line, "Mountains bow down, all the oceans roar, to the Lord of hosts." I've climbed numerous high peaks in my life and each time, I am deeply impacted by their imposing heights, their sheer rock cliffs, and the astounding views from the top. From this perspective, mountains are incredibly powerful. I can tell you from first-hand experience that you feel small and insignificant on the slopes of one of these giants. Throughout the Bible, we read about creation, the mountains and the seas, worshipping the Creator. My thought has been that if the mountains of such incredible power and size bow before the Lord, who am I not to worship? If the heights of creation and the expanses of the ocean shout His praise, how much more should I? I have been given a voice, and a life, with which I can magnify and worship my Creator. To not worship would be a high form of arrogance.

May your life be lived as an act of worship to the Creator. It's the only way for His creation to live.

Journey on, fellow traveler.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Bethel Experience- Day 4

We've heard some interesting updates from China today- reports of lives being changed, churches being started, and the dead being raised, spiritually and physically. Can you imagine having the privilege of living in a place where God is still waking people from their coffins? One Chinese pastor recently told a group of Americans, "Please don't pray for deliverance from political persecution; pray that Jesus finds the lost." The Chinese believers truly see their persecution as positive- that God has used it to refine, strengthen, and grow His church. A student in our class chimed in and said that believers in China are praying that the church in America will face persecution, believing that through persecution the American church will be wakened from her slumber. I can't disagree with the need to wake our churches, but I guess I hope it won't take an extreme time of difficulty. Yet in the horrid times of suffering and pain, the Chinese people have seen the light and beauty of Jesus and turned to Him. We could learn a great deal from these Asian friends.

May you be able to see the beauty of Jesus today.

Journey on.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Where Will Your Light Shine?

A compelling quote from today...

I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light– John Keith Falconer

The Bethel Experience- Day 3

Whew- halfway through week 1. This class has been tough- I'm in a cinder block room with no windows, sitting in a little desk just like in high school. At 3:30 in the afternoon, some fresh air would be like, well, a breath of fresh air!

We've spent a great deal of time discussing Muslims today. This has been a fascinating subject as we've looked at the numerous ways that Islamic belief borders on Christian belief. Also, it's compelling to realize that within the Muslim world are the greatest number of unreached people groups, while western churches send fewer missionaries to those countries than anywhere else. I am impressed by groups like Frontiers (the group Robert Mitchell is with, for those who know him) who are committed wholly to going to unreached "frontier" countries where a vast majority of the people are Muslim. God is making some inroads into these places and bringing people to the truth of Jesus Christ. I realize now why the CMA is so focused at this time on redistributing our resources (missionaries) to get people who are working in "reached" countries (Ecuador, Hong Kong, etc.) into countries that are not reached (the Middle East, Northern Africa, India, etc.). Did you know that within the country of India there are over 4,000 DIFFERENT people groups, and the majority of those groups have no significant witness to Christ? It's time we renew our commitment to taking the Good News to every nation. (Note: nation is not a geographical word in the New Testament; it refers to distinct people groups.)

The Muslims know so much about Jesus, but they miss His power and relevance at a crucial point. They deny the death (and therefore resurrection) of Jesus Christ, believing that he was too "special" to God to be allowed to die. Yet we believe that it is just because Jesus is so special to God that he was able to die for us and redeem us from an empty way of life. As missionaries attempt to dialogue with Muslims, they try to keep the focus off of the religious difference and stay focused on who is Jesus and what did he come to do. As we recognize the reality of Jesus' death and resurrection, our faith takes shape. The hinge point of our faith always has been and always will be the resurrected Christ who draws us to himself. Draw near to Him today, and pray for the eyes of the lost to be opened to His plan for salvation.

Journey on, friend. I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Bethel Experience- Day 2

What are we selling?

Day 2 of seminary has already been much better- I'm starting it with 8 hours of sleep!

Today in class we are discussing and debating what it means to reach people for Christ, especially in a culture different from our own. The emphasis so far is that too often we are guilty of trying to "sell" people Christianity, and they reject that because it doesn't fit their way of living. We have been called to "sell" people on the love, grace, and truth of Jesus Christ. Especially in America, following Christ has taken on a certain "church" look, and I think many of our friends and family members are rejecting Christ because they reject the image of church culture and American Christianity behind it. As you seek to be a light for Christ, consider hard whether you are calling people to Christ, or to a church culture that may or may not glorify Christ. People's greatest need has always been and always will be to know Jesus Christ. Yes- participating in a community of believers is essential to following after Christ, but this is not the first step. Let's help people find Jesus, and then from that perspective, encourage them to consider what it looks like for them to follow him. It's sad to think that millions of people in our own country are not following Christ because they have rejected Christianity, when if they only knew what it was all about, they'd turn their lives to him. I encourage you- be a person who's committed to preaching Christ, and not our own individual understanding of Christianity. I heard someone say once that the longer the word gets, the more confusing it becomes: Christianity, Christian, and Christ. Let's not be about Christianity. Let's be about Christ.

UPDATE: The missionary couple whom I asked you to pray for has made it safely to the northern part of Lebanon. They were definitely protected by God's power, as a gas station they were stuck at for awhile was bombed a few hours later, and a bridge they were headed to was bombed only minutes prior to their arrival. Had they differed their schedule by much in either direction and they may not have made it. Praise God for his protection!

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Bethel Experience- Day 1

My day started early. More accurately, my Sunday never ended! I landed here in Minneapolis at 5:40 AM, and the temperature was already at 85 degrees. A frined met me at the airport and we went out for a fresh cup of Caribou Coffee. (If you're ever in Minnesota, I highly recommend it!) Do you remember what I was saying yesterday about friends? This friend willingly got up at 5:00AM, drove to the airport, took me to the university, and then headed home so he could catch his car pool to work. He did this without a hint of resentment or the "you owe me" attitude so common in our culture today. He blessed me with his attitude and his servant's heart today.

My first class is on Global and Contextual Ministry. Our main focus is missions and God's activity around the world. Our professor is actually living in Jordan and has just flown over for our week together. He began class with some compelling stories of what is happening in Lebanon. He oversees two teams of people that are currently bedded down in the midst of the conflict there with bombs exploding just blocks away from them. If you would, be praying for Dennis and Brenda Heath and their teammates who are earnestly seeking God's will. The dangers are great if they stay, and equally great if they attempt to leave. Pray that God will have his hand in this tense and volitile area. I think ultimately, especially in a confusing situation like the Middle East, we are called to pray that God would make himself known and reveal His glory through all that happens. Pray that this conflict will somehow draw more people to his throne.

If you live in America, you are a blessed person. The world around us wrestles with so much that we never have to worry about. What responsibility does this give us? Are we not people who have been given much, and from whom much will be required? I pray that we all learn to use well all that God has given us, including our wealth and stability of a healthy nation. Throughout history, God blesses people not for their benefit, but so that they can turn around and be a blessing to someone else. Who could you bless today?

Journey on.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

T-minus 1: The Bethel Experience

Do you know how it feels when you only have a few hours before you leave on a long trip? The "to do before I go" list keeps growing longer and longer as the hours get shorter and shorter. I'm feeling that in a big way today. The lawn needs mowed. The suitcase needs packed. Laundry needs to be done. Details at work need to be wrapped up. Calls need to be returned. Errands need to be run. I'll quit typing out my list before I acquire some sort of migraine.

You may be asking by now, "Why on earth are you taking time to type this post?" Well, I think sometimes we need to remember our feelings in the middle of tough times, not just when we look back. Today I am realizing why this "pre-trip" stress isn't growing too great; because honestly I feel pretty good. Why? Well, I know that at home I have good neighbors and kind friends who will watch the house, check the mail, and keep things in order. At work, I have awesome co-workers who can do the job better than I can. Sometimes I just need to let go (or go away :-) ) in order to give them time and space to really shine. I know they'll excel and the church will benefit from their leadership. And I know that at my side I have a close, caring partner who will help me make sure I don't forget anything important. I couldn't do things like this without her- my wife.

This brings me to my point, or perhaps more accurately my prayer. I wish for each of you a circle of friends and a community on whom you can depend and from whom you can draw real strength. If you have this network around you, be sure to thank them and express as often as you can your appreciation for them. If you look around yourself and feel that this support is not strong for you, let me encourage you; do whatever you can to develop it. Invest in the people around you and commit yourself to the most important thing in this world: our relationships. Time spent growing closer to others is always time well spent, and the investment will be returned. It's not that we develop friendships for what they will bring us, but there certainly is a benefit to be had. We are not meant to live in isolation, but in community.

And in all things at all times, may you know the friend who is closer than a brother. May the Prince of peace surround you this week and always.

Journey on, friends!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Humble Benediction

About a year ago, I heard Brennan Manning speak at a retreat, and at each service, he closed with the same benediction. Manning is known for his messages about the wonder of God's unearned grace and love. What strikes me about this benediction is the recognition that in order for God to bless us and release us to joy, we often need to be humbled and broken. When we come to a place where we abandon our own self-driven living and "man-sized" plans for success, God can enter in and redefine what life is all about. He wants to do "God-sized" things, but we have to get out of the way first.

So for you today, may this benediction be a reminder of God's love and power available to those who are broken before him:

May all of your expectations be frustrated.
May all of your plans be thwarted.
May all of your desires be withered into nothingness
That you may experience the poverty and helplessness of a child
And can sing and dance in the joy of God
Who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN

Journey on, friends.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The DaVinci Code, a personal perspective

Some have asked if I would post my comments on the DaVinci Code that I discussed at the weekend services. Here they are! Please comment if you have additional questions or thoughts.

First, I would encourage you not to boycott the film. There is a time and place to make a statement by non-participation, but I don't believe this is one. I would like for you to be able to dialogue with your friends and neighbors about the content of the movie, in hopes that you can point people to Christ. In order to do this in an educated way, it would be useful to see the movie. WARNING: I cannot vouch for the content! Check out sites such as www.crosswalk.com for helpful, family-friendly movie reviews.

Essentially, the DaVinci Code represents a form of Gnosticism. The early church fought greatly against gnostic heresy for the danger they represent. Basically, gnostics claim to have secret knowledge that God has revealed to them alone, and you can't hear the secrets until you join the club. The secrets in the DaVinci Code are that Jesus revealed to certain people his relationship and subsequent family with Mary Magdalene. The "true gospel" was revealed to this inner group, and the rest of Christianity is oblivious. Now I'll admit: the gospels don't say much about Jesus' personal life and family. We can conclude one of the two things: either he was really married and there has been a 2,000 year cover-up going on, or we can conclude that these things never happened. Unfortunately, some see the absence of information as an opportunity to create legends, but our faith is based on what we do know in Scripture and not speculation.

The most dangerous claim in the book, were it true, is that Jesus never thought of himself as divine. The church later created the divine Christ for their own purposes. I can't think of a more bogus claim! Every book in the new testament refers to Jesus as deity, the Son of God. Once again, either these books have all been altered without public knowledge (highly unlikely), or Jesus really claimed to be divine. In the gospel of John alone, we read Jesus saying, "I am in the Father and the Father is in me," "I and the Father are one," "He who has seen the Father has seen me." Clearly, Jesus believed he was the Son of God. Also, we have surviving accounts of 1st and 2nd century bishops such as Polycarp and Ignatius who went to their death believing that Jesus was the Son of God and worth giving their lives for. You can read their accounts in numerous places today.

Finally, I would encourage you to not dive too deeply into the DaVinci Code itself. Why? Not because I'm worried you'll uncover secrets that will shake your faith, but because our aim is not refute every rabbit trail that a cynical author leads us down. Our aim is to point people to the truth. So don't turn to chapter and page of the DaVinci Code, turn to chapter and verse of the Bible. Take people to John 3:16 where Jesus proclaims, "For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." Take them to John 14:6, where Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me." Take them to John 10:10, where Jesus declares, "The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full." Take them to John 11:25, where Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies." Take them to Jesus. Our goal is not to prove how wrong Dan Browne and his DaVinci Code are. Our goal is to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ, His life, His death, His resurrection, and His eminent return. Then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

Journey on!

Monday, May 01, 2006

What's Your Fragrance?

A crucial part of every morning for me is an opportunity to sit down with a good cup of coffee and read...the daily comics. I know, I know; as a pastor I'm sure I'm "supposed" to get up early and be reading my Bible, but my mind usually isn't in gear enough for the deeper things- but the comics seem just about right.

I've enjoyed a story line taking place lately in the "Zits" cartoon. In this sketch, the teenage Jeremy has become obsessed with the suddenly-popular body sprays you see advertised all the time. The strip from today showed Jeremy's mom sniffing the air, and then preparing milk and cookies for Jeremy before he ever walks in the front door. As Jeremy pops his head in the door and sees that his mom has been aware of his coming for some time, he comments, "I guess maybe I do use too much body spray." And Jeremy's mom replies, "Yes, your smell preceded you by five-minutes."

Not only did this comic make me laugh, but it reminded me of a deeper truth. I guess my mind isn't that slow in the morning after all. Regardless of the type of perfume, cologne, or body spray we may use, each one of us gives off a fragrance. It's the type of fragrance that can't be smelled with the nose, but is sensed by the human heart. The kind of person we are, our character, our attitude, and our behaviors, gives off a fragrance that can be easily sensed by the people around us. We face a choice between giving off the scent of grace, love and acceptance, or a smell of criticism and judgment.

As Jesus walked this earth 2,000 years ago, he lived a life of grace. People from all walks of life and all backgrounds felt comfortable; no, welcomed, in his presence. When they saw Jesus coming, the fragrance of grace went before him and drew people to this God-man. And it was out of this love and grace that Jesus was able to call people to a new life and a new way of living. We can be guilty of thinking that people need to know how wrong they are before they'll change. Jesus showed that people need to know how loved they are.

What kind of fragrance do you give off? If you are seeking to make a difference in the world around you, become a person who gives off the aroma of grace. May you discover the wonderful grace of God in your life in order that you may freely offer it to those around you this week.

Journey on.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Art of Easter



As I reflected on the story of the Road to Emmaus for our recent Easter service, I ran across this painting by Caravaggio from the 17th Century. I thought that this Supper at Emmaus was a beautiful rendering of this 1st century revelation. (You can view this and other Caravaggio images at http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/caravaggio/) When I took a second look at the photo, though, I began to wonder about the number of people seated at the table. The Biblical record would tell us that Jesus walked the Emmaus road and then sat down for dinner with two men. Who's this third guy?

Now, I'm not an art major, but my understanding is that Caravaggio had a habit of painting himself into many of his portraits. Do you notice the man seated in the overly-modern chair? I believe Caravaggio put himself in a place that we all need to find ourselves in at some point on our faith journey. Caravaggio put himself there, where Christ revealed himself as the risen Savior and Lord. Shortly after the moment this painting depicts, Jesus disappears and the two men sprint back down the Emmaus road to Jerusalem to share the revolutionary news- Jesus is alive!

The revelation of a living Christ changed the lives of these two men, as well as countless others who would follow after them. I believe that for each one of us, Jesus walks into our life, and at some crucial moment, reveals himself to us, proclaiming, "I am all that I claim to be." And when we accept him as the everlasting Savior, our lives our changed forever.

Have you sat at the table with Christ? Has he revealed his resurrected life and hope to you? Will you receive it? I hope you have, and I hope that you will. It's the life changing message of hope for the ages.

Journey on.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Snow Days

It's snowing here today. As the white fluffy stuff falls from the sky, children across the county wish and hope for those two most wonderful words of all, "schools cancelled." No dice today- sorry kids. But this does remind me of those snow days we had when I was a kid; days when the weather was just so miserable and cold that you just didn't have the heart to go outside. You'd make hot chocolate, snuggle up in blankets, and waste away the day playing monopoly. Those days reminded you how nice it was to slow down. The weather forced you to take it easy, and enjoy the comfort and quality of the people around you.

We live in a world that is bent on 'doing.' You used to have to attend a football game to hear the cheer "go, fight, win." But this has now become the anthem of countless multitudes around us. We become consumed with where we must go, the battles we must fight, and winning at all costs. In a spiritual sense, we could all use a snow day- time to unwind and remember that God has not called us first to do, but rather to 'be'- to be His child, to be at His feet in prayer, to be at peace with who we are because we are at peace with our creator. Psalm 27 reflects on this: "My heart has heard you say, 'come and talk with me.' And my heart responds, 'Lord, I am coming.'" Can you hear that tug on your heart today? To leave behind the running and the going and the doing in favor of the resting, the reflecting, and the being.

May you find for yourself a spiritual snow day in this season of life. God is waiting to welcome you in. "Come and talk with me," he says, "the fire is nice and warm and I long to hear all you have to say."

Journey on.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Simpson Quote

Hi Everyone!

In a recent message, I closed with a quote from A.B. Simpson called "Himself." For the full text of that quote, including the entire sermon he preached before giving it, just go to the following link:

http://www.christinyou.net/pages/himselfabs.html


The poem/hymn is at the end, but the whole message is worth reading if you have the time.

Journey on!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Keeping Vision in the Rain of Life

It's been raining here in Washington for 33 straight days. They say that the record (50 days) is within reach. When it stays this gloomy for this long, it can be easy to forget how nice sunshine is. In a way, you begin to lose sight that better days are ahead!

I was reading lately the story of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph went through an amazing amount of trials on his way to great power in Egypt. In my mind, though, I have always pictured Joseph as this quiet stoic who patiently endured, knowing God would have His way in the end.

But listen to something Joseph's brothers said, regarding the time they put him in a dry cistern, and then sold him into slavery: "We saw his terror and anguish and heard his pleadings, but we wouldn't listen." Rather than a peaceful resolve to what was happening, Joseph was terrified and overwhelmed! I think we can expect that he may have had similar feelings in Egypt as he faced betrayal, slander, injustice, and abandonment. Yet in his fear, and his doubt, and his pain, he still kept sight of his hope in God. During his big "reveal" to the brothers, he exclaims, "Don't be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for God did it! He sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives."

Do you get the connection here? Joseph experiences deep fear and pain AND he keeps sight of God. So often we think that if we really look to God and trust him, we'll have no fear or doubt. We also conclude that fear and doubt are a sign that we aren't trusting God! But I think God would have us consider that terror and anguish are human emotions that we will all feel. The key isn't to eliminate these feelings, but to make sure they lead us to God and put us in a place of greater dependence on Him and His plan.

So, if the rain of life brings fear, or doubt, or pain, let it lead you to the Son. He will preserve you through the storm and bring you to the place He has long ago prepared for you. The trials won't get easier, but they will remind us of our need for God. Keep sight of Him.

Journey on, friend.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Is God Slow?

I noticed something today. I've read the Genesis account of Abraham on many occasions, but today something new jumped out at me. Among the several promises God made to Abraham, one was the promise of a son, an heir, that would lead to Abraham's descendants becoming a great nation. What I noticed was this- Abraham was 86 when God made the promise. The very next passage (Gen. 17:1) starts, "When Abram was 99 years old..." Hold on a minute. 99? That's thirteen years since the promise of a son. Thirteen years of Abraham getting older. Thirteen years of Sarah, his wife getting older. And she wasn't young, either. Thirteen years of wondering, and wishing, and trying, but still no son.

This leads me to some questions. Why did God not fulfill his promise for thirteen years? Why not give Abraham a son at 86 or 87? Wouldn't that be just as fantastic? Why not wait until Abraham was like 98 to make him the promise? Does this mean that God is slow?

What this brings up for me is the difference between being slow, and being patient. God is not slow. The New Testament book of II Peter says, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promises, as some understand slowness." (NIV) Slow is when you wait at a fast food restaurant for your order, while the workers casually help 14 drive-thru customers while your food sits under heat lamps. Slow is aggravating, because it implies that someone is taking a long time to do something that we know could be done faster. God was not slow in keeping his promise to Abraham. He was waiting. He was patient. God knew just the right time to bring Abraham an heir, and He knew what had to happen in Abraham's heart and life before the son could be born.

Take courage from this. When we wait upon God for an answer to prayer, or the fulfillment of a promise, we can begin to believe that He is slow, or even worse, unresponsive. God is not slow, God is patient. And so as you wait on Him, place your life squarely in His hands and allow Him to work in and through you until the answer comes.

Rest in Him today. His timing is perfect.

Journey on, friends.