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Showing posts from March, 2013

Easter - What Does It All Mean?

Christ Our Lord is Risen...  He is Risen Indeed...that is our Easter declaration! All over the world people will be celebrating, have been celebrating, the Resurrection of our Savior.  Easter is what makes Christianity unique among all the world's religions.  Our Savior did not live, then die as a martyr, only to stay dead and be memorialized as a great teacher, a great man.  He died on the cross, and they laid him in a tomb, but on that first Easter Sunday morning, he was raised from the dead through the power of God. Luke 24:1-6 (ESV) 1  But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2  And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3  but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4  While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5  And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek t

Heaven, Earth and the Other World - Before the Resurrection

On Earth: Matthew 27:62-66 (NIV) 62  The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63  "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' 64  So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first." 65  "Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." 66  So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.   Jesus' death made people nervous.  The Chief Priests and Pharisees, Pilate, all were concerned that something would happen - but they were thinking in terms of common human deception - or, as we say it - "it takes one to know one".  Human capacity

This Friday is Good

It's a day like no other in our celebration.  I love Advent and Christmas.  I love Easter and Pentecost...all are great, and joyful celebrations.  But this day is not like any of those - the joy is muted and the tone is somber. It is the day that reminds us that we can call ourselves Christians, God's children, Heirs and Joint Heirs, because our Savior, Jesus Christ, went to the cross to suffer in our place. John 19:16-18 (NIV) 16  Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17  Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18  Here they crucified him, and with him two others--one on each side and Jesus in the middle.  Luke 23:44-46 (NIV) 44  It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45  for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46  Jesus called out with a loud voice, "F

Maundy Thursday

Matthew 26:17-30 (NIV) 17  On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?" 18  He replied, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'" 19  So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. 20  When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve... John 13:1-17 (NIV)  1 ... Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. 2  ...The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and

An Audience of One

Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV) 13   "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14   "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15   Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16   In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. I am watching my salt - more specifically the amount of sodium I'm suppose to be taking less of in to my body.  But I love salt.  So the question is, "how much can I get away with?"   I think too much of our lives is lived with that question sitting near the surface of our thinking...what can I do and it still be ok?  Why do we want to live so close to the edge?  Why straddle the line with one foot in and one foot

God and "wee little people"

I love the story of Jesus' encounter with the tax collector, Zacchaeus. Luke 19:1-10 (ESV) 1  He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2  And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3  And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4  So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5  And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6  So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7  And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8  And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9  And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this h

Holy is His Name

Luke 1:26-33 (ESV) 26  In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28  And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29  But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30  And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33  and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  Luke 1:46-49 (ESV) 46  And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48  for he has looked on the hum

Holy Week - Holy Life

John 6:66-69 (ESV) 66  After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67  So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69  and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”  Romans 12:1 (ESV) 1  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Ephesians 1:4 (ESV) 4  even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love  I don't think we a great capacity for living with the idea of being "holy".  I've tended to hear the term in relation to people, only in negative ways..."such and such thinks they are holier than thou", or, "they think they're so holy."  It's used to d

Everyday Monks - Why Am I Here?

Ephesians 1:11-14 (MSG) 11  It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, 12  part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. 13  It's in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. 14  This signet from God is the first installment on what's coming, a reminder that we'll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.  Yesterday I "mused" out loud about what it would mean to walk more intimately, knowingly, aware of, with Christ on a day to day, hour to hour basis.  I believe it can be done, and I believe it has been done. When the early Monastics began their community lives it was with a desire to create a space where they could wo

Everyday Monks

During Seminary I got use to getting up to study the languages - Greek and Hebrew - in the very early morning hours.  My typical time to wake up was around 3:00, 3:30 a.m.  Crazy right?  Well, it worked.  In the early morning (my daughter once said, it's not early morning Dad, it's the middle of the night!), I had complete quiet and so I could focus without the distractions that often occur in the daytime. Monks arise early.  Most monastic orders follow the disciplines of Benedict established in the 6th century.  Seven times a day they would meet together for a short time of scripture reading, prayer, and at times to sing, or sit in silent meditation. Psalm 119:164 (ESV) 164  Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules. Monastic orders came into being as the Roman empire's political and military power crumbled and the empire became overrun with Germanic tribes.  Christians had no love for Rome, but nevertheless, the empire had provided a place for the chu

Grace at the Brook Besor

Grace is all over the place.  While we're tempted to lose sight of it, grace keeps appearing in the unlikeliest places.  Take this story from the life of David: 1 Samuel 30:1-3 (ESV) 1  Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire 2  and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way. 3  And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive.   The setting is that David is leading a band of brothers, but not King.  He's been on the run from King Saul for almost 15+ years.  The prophet Samuel had told him he would be King one day, but at this point he's a man leading a renegade group of followers.  He's living in Philistine country, a long way from home, when this band of

Grace Lists

Romans 1:1 (ESV) 1  Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus... 3  ...his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4  and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5  through whom we have received grace... We all need grace. We all live by grace. We all know the word Grace. The credit card company gives us a grace period. The wayward politician falls from grace. Musicians speak of a grace note. We describe a person as gracious, and an artist as graceful. We leave money for the waitress and call it gratis. God invented the word, and the idea...and we receive it through Jesus Christ. Ask anyone in church, "do you believe in grace?" and they probably will answer "yes". The question isn't do we believe the word, or the idea; but do we believe God's grace has come to change transform us. I've been studying Romans

Traveller's Grace

"I do not understand the mystery of Grace - only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us." The apostle Paul said, "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." I just returned from ten days away.  Most of us would covet ten days away from the normal hectic life, and I certainly was - but it didn't turn out to be free of the hectic.  My wife had started the trip with a nasty cough, but it turned into a bronchitis and stay there during the entire ten days...even to now three days after returning home.  I was good for the first 6 days, but then a mysterious "bug" hit and I found myself huddled in bed early in the evening fighting off chills with four layers of clothes, followed by a 1300 mile car ride that was spread over two days, with frequent stops for diarrhea!  Uugh. You know the words:  "We'll never forget that trip." The problem is,  we'd like to. The reality is, we've all had these kin

Hands Full of Parcels

"A Man whose hands are full of parcels can't receive a gift."   - C. S. Lewis Romans 4:13-16 (ESV) 13  For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14  For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15  For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. 16  That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all... The last four days have been best described by the word "fatigue".  It's not an uncommon word in our vocabulary.  Listless, tired, sore.  1300 miles of car travel, being sick, not sleeping well, and eating poorly all add up to the word - fatigue.   Someone once said we are a

God wrote in the Dust

John 8:2-8 (NLT)  2  ... early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3  As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. 4  “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5  The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” 6  They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7  They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8  Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.  It was hard to think the woman caught in the act of adultery had much in her defense.  Guilty!  It's an easy one - she gets what she deserves!  The law says stone her, and so it shall be. Why did they

We should care there's a New Pope

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6 ESV) Yesterday the world was introduced to the newest leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis I.  As a Christian, and a pastor of a non-Catholic church, I find I'm still very interested, and prayerfully so, for the beginning of this new Pope's leadership role.  I've worked with Catholics in a number of settings - most notably in the marriage organization Retrouvaille.  I know that some of my colleagues raised their eyebrows about why I would work alongside of Catholics, and as well, so

The Big Picture

Reading from Paul's letter to the Ephesians is an exercise in understanding the Big Picture behind our life in Christ.  Beginning in chapter 1 Paul reminds us of all that God has done in bringing us to him. We have been chosen in Christ, loved from eternity, forgiven through grace, and are heirs of Christ's Kingdom, destined for eternity with Christ. Then in chapter 2 we are reminded of the love that lifted us up from a "dead" state - i.e., we were incapable of doing anything to lift ourselves out of our dead state.  And in doing this, we have been placed into the body of Christ, and along with believers from every tribe, tongue and nation, we are being reconciled to live out our life in Christ.  All of this should amaze us, and cause us to turn in praise and worship to God. In the last half, chapters 4-6, Paul gets to the core of the "what now? that we have been brought to this place of deliverance in Christ, what now?" Here's the nuts and bolts

What Happened at the Cross

Reading from the Early Church Fathers is not alway easy, but it is rewarding.  In them we get a sense of how the faith both developed and grew.  They did not rely on campaigns, programs, or buildings to create "church".  For them, the faith they defended and proclaimed was only recently handed down to them from the Apostles, and they felt the duty to declare it and defend it.  This is the stuff of our heritage...our great, great, great, great...fathers of the church. I know that as I read them I get a sense of how I fit into the overall church.  I am a person who has a place...not insignificant, but also not alone.  I am part of a long line of those who have declared and defended the faith, with only the Scriptures and the power of the Holy Spirit to be the source that links me to the past fathers.  It's good that we realize we are continuing something that has such a long legacy connected to it.  Here's another person worth reading. John of Damascus was born in

The Death of Death

Hebrews 2:14-18 (ESV) 
 14  Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 
15  and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 
16  For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 
17  Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 
18  For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted . The writer of Hebrews speaks to something many of us both wonder and fear - death.  Jesus became human - the incarnation is that God was among us in Jesus.  Among the things Jesus did for us in going to the cross is destroy the power of death - taking it from Satan who holds over our heads as a