8.13.2009

Holy Holy Holy

I'm preaching in a couple weekends, August 29th and 30th to be precise, and I'm using Isaiah 6:1-8 as my text. Isaiah has a vision of the throne room of God... and this actually turns out to be the point at which God sends Isaiah as a prophet to preach to the people of Israel.

It must have been incredibly difficult to be a prophet in those days. For guys like Isaiah and Jeremiah, they faithfully and continuously warned Israel of the recourse of their actions, and in most cases these amazing words fell on deaf ears. I wonder what has changed from that time to this? I imagine that every time someone preaches in front of a gathering of churchgoers there are inevitably some deaf ears in the room. But is it possible that somehow God's Word still gets through? That he is still in the business of changing lives?

Isaiah says way later in his book (chapter 55) that God's Word will not come back void. I'm so grateful for that promise. Not because I'm teaching in a couple weeks and I want people to actually listen to me (although that's true), but because I need God's Word to do its work in me. I'm the one who needs to be changed. I'm the one who needs to repent.

6.30.2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I love Summer. The heat has never really bothered me near as much as the restrictions of staying inside during the Winter. I don't know if it's because we were conditioned at a young age with the school calendar or if it's just a part of our being, but it seems like Summer is just such a good time for our souls. So much renewing, so much rebirth.

The truth is, though, I'm wondering what this Summer will hold. I was supposed to take a vacation last week with family, but instead we were met with a fair amount of tragedy. My wife's Dad went to the hospital for a headache and was diagnosed with aggressive cancer. We spent the week with her family, and now we're just taking it a day at a time trying to figure out how to navigate these very unfamiliar waters.

With this comes uncertainty about a lot of things. What does it look like to live your life in the context of grief? I know that my wife and I both need to use our time this Summer to rest, relax, rejuvenate, and spend time with our boys. How do we do that and process the emotions of caring for a family member who is fighting a terminal disease?

I don't really have any answers. Life is so complicated at times... the thought that there could be "10 steps to the life you've always wanted" becomes blatantly absurd. There is simply no living apart from the Curse. I recommend Ecclesiastes for anyone who thinks otherwise.

This is why Jesus promises us things like hope, perseverance, patience, joy, and peace. My wife and I have both felt, through the course of the last couple weeks, God' s presence. He is undeniably the Comforter... and though I don't have the answers, I trust Him.

On a lighter note, I still intend to spend my Summer resting and renewing. Here's my reading list for the next few months. I'm interested to know if anyone has any thoughts...

  • Made to Stick
  • Sacred Parenting
  • How Children Raise Their Parents
  • The God Delusion
  • Crazy Love
  • The Spider and the Starfish

4.05.2009

What Was Jesus Thinking?

Today is Palm Sunday. I have always loved this day. I got to teach on it, briefly, a couple weeks ago. Jesus is fulfilling prophecy after prophecy with fluid ease as his disciples discover that everything is prepared, and he rides a small donkey into the city of Jerusalem. How did people know he was coming? What was going on in the minds of the religious leaders who were plotting Jesus' death? They must have been extremely nervous... the rebellion is starting to gain momentum.

But my biggest question is, what was Jesus thinking as he rode into town? Is he smiling and giving the queen's wave to the crowds? Or is he discouraged by this fickle group of people? Perhaps he's pondering the mystery of the fact that he is coming in to town, both as a king, and as the Passover Lamb. Of course, there was not one other person in the crowd who would have been thinking that same thought.

What strikes me is that I am so much like the people in that crowd. I am constantly worshiping Jesus out of my limited understanding of who he is. I think I understand the depths of his goodness and mercy, but then I am constantly proved ignorant. He is so above and beyond my imagination. In some ways, I am expecting a Warrior King... as I watch a meek lamb go willfully to the slaughter.

In fact, I think it's impossible for me to discern what Jesus was thinking that day, because I cannot grasp how wide and deep the love is that Jesus has for these people. He's the only one who gets it. They're catching a glimpse of who Jesus is, and it's his pleasure to reveal it to them. And so I think the truth is, he accepts their praise. He knows that they are doing their best to act out of their limited understanding, and he feels honored.

This week, may we continue to honor God as we worship him from our limited perspective. Of course, we know more of the story than they did. So we can worship him as both the King, and the Lamb. May you have a worship-filled Holy Week, free from distraction, and full of reminders that Jesus loves you.

4.01.2009

Intentions...

There's a story about Rich Mullins when he was once asked how he became a Christian. He said that he was born into a Christian home, and so in that sense he has been a Christian all his life. The person asking the question felt the need to clarify and said, "No... I mean, when were you saved?" to which he responded "When I was in first grade I responded to an invitation and then I was baptized." That didn't satisfy the person either, so they asked (with some frustration in their voice), "No I mean, when were you 'born again'?" Rich's answer: "Lady, which time?"

I realize that probably doesn't set well with theologically-minded readers, but I love the idea that we are constantly having to be born again, over and over. I like the idea of new beginnings. I need them a lot. I'm constantly starting over...

Like with this blog.

So I thought, to hopefully get the ball rolling again, I would list some other things that I would like to start over. What does your list look like? Here's mine:

  • My daily Bible reading plan
  • This blog
  • Bike riding
  • listening to good music (I don't)
  • journaling regularly

1.22.2009

The Inaurgural Dilemma

I was faced with a unique dilemma this Tuesday morning as President Obama was sworn into office. Here was an opportunity to witness an incredible moment in our nation's history; let alone the fascinating and inspiring way in which our government experiences a peaceful transfer of power. We now have a black president. More on that in a paragraph or so... first, the dilemma.

It was also my son's fourth birthday.

It would have been different if it was his eighth or perhaps thirteenth birthday. In those cases, I could have invited him to the couch with me to be witness to the historic event. Or if he was turning one or two, he would have been oblivious to the fact, and I could have watched the inauguration without any question on his part. But as a four-year-old, he was keenly aware that Tuesday was a big day for him and that he somehow deserved to be the center of my attention. And he wanted me to play cars.

So I did what any good, loving, American father would do. I half-heartedly sat on the floor with a car in my hand while I focused on the inuaguration. In other words, I failed to communicate to my son that morning that I loved him, and that he was more important to me than news coverage. After all, President Obama would have been inaugurated even if I wasn't there to watch it.

I am still learning how to be a loving father and husband. God is gently showing me where I've blown it. But sometimes I wonder when I'll finally start getting it right. In the meantime, my son and I are doing fine. We're still buddies, and I think we're going for a bike ride together tomorrrow, weather permitting.

A couple last thoughts about our new president. I loved witnessing all that happened on Tuesday, particularly the warm exchanges between President Bush and President Obama. I am thankful that our nation is at a place in its history where a black man can be elected. There have been countless headlines and soundbytes saying something to this effect; "As of Tuesday, our nation is changed." I disagree... I believe that what happened on Tuesday is a reflection of how our nation has already changed. And that is worth celebrating. I'm praying for President Obama, and as long as he continues to lead with integrity (as he seems to be), he will have my support.

1.11.2009

Inspired.

An Open Letter to the Staff, Volunteers, and Students of Windsor Crossing's Youth Ministry:

My wife and I got a rare chance to just "show up" for church this weekend at the 6:30pm service.

Before we got in the door we were given programs and welcomed. After that, I can think of three other times I was offered a program in the following ten minutes.

When worship started, a great video set the pace, and after that... boom. The downbeat of an amazing worship set. "Happy Day" was, first of all, loud (thank you Steve), but it was mixed incredibly well... I could hear every guitar lick, every nuance of the very artistic and worshipful expression each of you made with your respective instruments. Eric, Logan, Alex, Lauren... you led me in worship. I would have followed you off a proverbial worship cliff! Way to go.

Aaron. Alex. The rest of you who played on that song. Seriously, guys. It rivaled any music experience I've had... at this church or any concert venue. I'm so impressed.

I've already told Randall, but it bears repeating: I'm so thankful you preached the message you did. I'm now wrestling with areas in my life where I need a do-over...

Logan and Lauren... thanks for pouring the words to Psalm 51 over us while we had communion. As I was taking the time to remember what Jesus did for me on the cross, I heard David's words; "Wash away my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin." How beautiful and powerful.

It is evident that all of you put a great deal of work into making this a great weekend. Know that your time was well-spent. Thousands of people received your offering of work and talent this weekend, and many of them are desparate for a word from God. You offered them a message of grace, love, and beauty. And I believe that God was deeply moved and delighted with your worship. He's proud of you.

So... thanks. Keep it up.

12.30.2008

And just like that... it's gone.

I was in the middle of our last Christmas Eve service at the Crossing. I think Greg was talking to the kids about light, and the thought occurred to me that after all the rush and hard work, the services were almost over. It seemed to go by so fast. I know it's cliche to say, but time seems to go by faster and faster. Perhaps everyone says this because even though it's a phenomenon that's common to human experience, it still seems so strange... so abnormal.

Five days ago (yes, it's been five days already), I watched my three-year-old son open his Christmas presents. I barely paid attention to the moment. My mind was already on to the next thing, and I almost missed it. No one told me that as a dad I was going to be constantly trying to take mental photographs of moments so that I wouldn't forget them. First word, first steps, first Christmas, second Christmas, now fourth Christmas.

I believe God wants us to take time to notice. I don't know if we'll talk much in heaven about our lives on earth, but I hope we do. I hope part of worshiping God and being in eternity is reminiscing. Remembering the "old days" when we had to trust in things like faith and hope, because we couldn't see... and how back then we were constantly fighting against time, trying to hold on to things as they slipped through our fingers.

I heard Dan Allender talking about the Sabbath once, and one of the things he said that has stuck with me is that part of our Sabbath should be to live as though we were free from "the curse"; that is, to live that day as though we were already in heaven. And I think that's one way we can be sure to notice what is happening in our lives. We recall the events of the previous week, or month, or year, and in a sense re-live them, so that they don't fly by as quickly as we often let them.

I'm off work all week long this week, and I'm hoping to spend much of my time remembering. What a great 10 services we had at Windsor Crossing. What fun we had as a team pulling them off. What a great Christmas I had with my sons, wife, and extended family.

By the way, apologies for ripping off a classic line from "The Usual Suspects".