Archives For Jesus

Take A Load Off

June 7, 2012 — Leave a comment

Theology. Now there’s a light-hearted, breezy topic. Usually when someone brings up theology, people think of dusty old guys, sitting in a dusty old library, reading dusty old books and saying words regular people don’t understand. That’s what I used to think. Even when I had a young theology professor, most of the time I was thinking, “what’s he talking about.”

Theology, a noun, according to this wonderful wiki entry, means “the study of God or, more generally, the study of religious faith, practice, and experience, or of spirituality.”

If you look at the word, what you are seeing is two Greek words put together – Theos (θεός) and Logos (λόγος). The first one means God, the second means Word. So, what I’m seeing, and my thinking is very simple, theology is the study of God’s Word – how it relates to us, how we relate to it, how we can live it and do it and how others can be affected by it.

That definition, in my thinking, takes the word “theology” from the noun column and puts it squarely in the verb column. Theology is something you do. Here’s what I mean – Hebrews 4:12, says this: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

These are some powerful words. Read it again – the Word of God is alive! It’s active! And it will tear you up – if you will not just read it, but if you do it as well. This tells me that Theos and Logos, two Greek nouns, when used together in this context are action words. Verbs.

The Word of God is a person, Jesus Christ, and he wants to cut away all the pretense, all the clutter, all the dead branches from your existence and make you fully alive, and fully capable of fullfilling His mission for you. Fully free! Freedom is a process. Freedom is the ability to live life as the person you were created and redeemed to be. And it’s going to hurt some in order for you to get there. That’s what I see in Hebrews 4:12.

Theology in the 1st century Christian church was a work in progress. It was hammered out daily as believers met to share a meal and discuss their day. Take a minute and read Acts 2:42-46

They met together. They ate together. And they talked about God. Not just the dusty old books the rabbi used, but how to take His Son out into the world, how to live the life Jesus lived, how to make it real to everyone.

This tells me something – it tells me theology is developed and lived out in community. I’m not talking about making radical changes or starting a new religion, or doing something stupid. What I’m saying is, since forever ago, Jesus has been present in the company of 2 or 3 believers, and when He is there, He moves in their lives, He impresses upon their hearts and minds to do certain, sometimes very specific things, to make personal changes, to reach out in a specific manner, to minister in a certain, specific way. The Word never changes. The only thing that changes is the packaging.

Remember the Jesus Freaks from the 1960s? The itinerant preachers from the old wild west? The slick evangelists with the polyester suits and patent leather shoes from the 70s? “Turn or burn!” they’d yell at us, night after night. 7 day revivals. Who remembers those? I don’t think the 1st century Christians saw any of that coming. They probably would have died right on the spot if they had gone to a Carmen concert.

And yet, even with all that, it’s still the same message. What we have to do, in community, is determine how we will practise theology. How we will present the message of the life, death, burial, resurrection, and imminent return of the living Word of God to the people who need to know Him – to those who need to experience freedom.

What I’m saying is, theology is alive. It’s active. It has real power because it’s a real person and that person, the embodiment of theology, is Jesus Christ. Let that power loose, and run for the hills folks. Because when He shows up, stuff happens. Lives change. And very often it’s a very messy thing, because it’s about killing off the old and bringing the new to life.

When I give Christ access to my life, He changes me, people see it, they want what I’ve got and I give it to them. That’s the practise of theology. That’s the end result. Anything else is not Christian theology, because it doesn’t start with Christ.

Theology – verb – how you live out your faith. It’s practise is developed in community with like minded believers who are struggling with the very same thing you are – how to be completely free – the kind of free God dreamed up in the beginning. And together, you make it real. Now doesn’t that take a load off?

Religions people are some of the most difficult people I know. I’m not talking about people who actually love Jesus, whose life is all about pursuing him – I’m talking about your standard every-day-run-of-the-mill church people. If you’ve been a guest at a church and been offended by someone who (not very politely) let you know you were sitting in their seat, you might know who I am talking about.

The thing is, we all have great potential to be just that - churchy, religious, overbaked, self-righteous. Maybe not overbaked, maybe undercooked. I don’t know. Either not quite done or way too done or maybe a little bit of both.

Hypocrisy really burns me up. I know who I am, I know my exact faults, I don’t pretend to be something I’m not. I’m very honest about the fact that I am rough around the edges. Way less so than a 20 years ago, this time last year, or even a week ago. I’m in progress. The work is not done yet. The Holy Spirit is still working it out in my life, and I am letting him. I even went to a co-worker today and told him I was sorry for being a jerk. 15 years ago I would have beaten him and then laughed about it. I wish I was kidding.

I have never tried to make people feel bad for messing up. One time I went to a party (many moons ago) and got a little polluted. The next day I was confronted by some kids from church and they really laid it on thick, how Jesus was so ashamed, and how God was crying, how I needed to repent (For the record, I’m not a drinker these days, but I had the potential to be the fat dude in the corner that could outdo everyone when I was a kid). These same kids were sexually active, disobedient to their parents, disprespectful, and you already knew this but very judgemental.

It’s a conundrum, wrapped in an oxymoron, wrapped in a holier than thou. Wrapped in a tortilla. A corn one. I can’t wrap my mind around it to be honest. Every church where I’ve been on staff we had people like this. Every church I’ve been a member of has had people like this. I wonder if I’m like that sometimes and to keep from it I examine myself daily because to be blunt it makes me really mad. I think this type of behavior is disagreable to God too. How he actually feels I don’t know but that part of me that is him really doesn’t like seeing it.

An oxymoron is a figure of speech with contradictory terms – business ethics, rap music, true story, deficit spending. A churchy Christian is a living oxymoron. AKA a hypocrite.

It’s a distressing and difficult question - a conundrum. You probably hear it often enough how we are not supposed to judge people (Jesus said it in Matt 7). This little snippet of scripture is used to justify everything that anybody wants to do that they know is wrong but want to do anyway. If people would bother to read the whole passage, they would notice Jesus is talking to hypocrites to start with. The point is, a hypocrite has no basis of judgement because their lives are all out of whack – their standard of judgement is self, and when they stand in judgement over others they are in fact judging themselves guilty. See what he did there?

All those self-righteous people have already condemned themselves and they are probably not smart enough to understand it.

So how can we be true to the Word, stand for Truth, and not come across as a judgy, self-righteous prat? The thing is, Jesus was not telling us not to judge, he was telling us how to judge – not in hypocrisy, and not out of hate, but out of love, in humility, not superiority.

Galatians 6:1 says this – “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” The qualifications for judging another person are, you should be spiritual – seeking Christ daily – you should be seeking to restore the person gently, not dragging them through the mud and definitely not holding their sins against them or thinking you are better than them. And you had darned well better not have sin in your life.

If you are honest in your pursuit to restore a person, then God will be with you in it. If not, judge not, or you will be judged with the same standard that you are judging. It’s a fine line, and we are called to walk it, but we must walk it carefully, prayerfully, and with the Holy Spirit as a guide.

 

My wife Cheryl and her iPhones have a rich and wonderful history. Her first iPhone, a 3g, was fairly well abuse for years, culminating in being dropped in a toilet. It is now in the posession of my 5 year old daughter, who uses it as an iPod.

When the iPhone 4 came out, she just had to upgrade. We actually fought over who would get it first. I can’t remember who won that one, but I do remember being pretty childish about it. Friends would come up to us and show us their new phones and I would just melt. Then turn green with envy.

The day came when we both had our new phones and we were so happy. We spent our days on Facebook Mobile and Hootsuite, and our evenings texting each other from across the room.  Who could have know it would all be coming to an end so soon?

One day Cheryl went to lunch with some friends, it was a busy venue, and she left her purse at the table when they all walked out the door. It couldn’t have been more than 45 seconds, but that’s all it took. The purse, and the phone with it, were gone forever. Never mind the credit and debit cards, the social security card, the checkbook, the driver’s license. They were all secondary to the phone.

Cheryl went into a deep depression that lasted many months. Oh, she tried other mobile phones – cheap ones purchased at pawn shops and early 3g Windows Mobile Monstrosities given to her by friends who had cast them off like an old pair of golashes. Nothing worked for her.  Nothing would satisfy like the iPhone.

It got to where she couldn’t even be around me when I was using my phone. We had discussions about her seeing someone, getting some help, then something wonderful happened – the iPhone 4S. Now, we couldn’t afford one because we were still in the middle of a 2 year contract, but the new phone coming out meant that the prices for the old model would be dropping like baseball sized hail.

She scoured the internet looking for a sweet deal, we saved our pennies and even sold some things we had laying around the house that were going unused – a baby grand piano and our refrigerator. Not really. But the day came when she could make her purchase, and what a wonderful, glorious day it was! It was like the sun was shining again, and birds were singing, 10,000 red balloons were released, and the hopes and dreams of people everywhere came true all at once.  Cheryl had a new (to her) iPhone!

I wish I could say her iPhone trials came to a screeching halt at that point.  They did not, but they did take a different form. She doesn’t lose it in public any more, but she can’t ever remember where she put it when we are at home. We are always turning the place upside down looking for it, always in a blind panic, “Where’s my phone?!?” After all search and rescue techniques have been employed, we resort to the old stand-by – I dial her up and hope against hope that her ringer is on or the battery is not dead.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, have you ever lost something? I have. I’ve lost a lot, to be blunt. And if you’re honest, so have you. What would you do to recover that one very special lost item? Maybe it was your favorite blanket that you remember with a touch of the bitter sweet to this very day. Maybe it was a beloved pet, or an irreplaceable family heirloom. What did you go through when they were lost, and what would you give to have them back?

Think about this – God lost something once. He had us, and a terrible choice made thousands of years ago guaranteed we would be lost to him forever, unless something was done – something drastic.

Jesus alludes to this in the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. You should take a minute and read Luke 15.  Can you feel the desperation, the dejection? Can you feel what those people felt to have lost something so important? And how much more important are you to God than a sheep, or a coin? I think this is why the chapter ends with the prodigal son.

I know many people who have lost a child, either to having to let them go their own way, or in death. Both are heartbreaking, gut wrenching losses. Sometimes when I am in a disagreement with one of my little girls, I am getting a very small taste of this kind of loss. But to be God, and to lose all of creation – how much does his heart break for all of it, for all of us?

It hurt him so badly, so deeply that he was willing to sacrifice his own, and his only, son so that he could reclaim us. He paid that price, and he paid it dearly, because only by death can we truly be alive, as was intended from the beginning.  He lost us, but we can be found! We were bought with a terrible price, but to God, it was worth every drop of blood, every agonizing scream, every insult hurled, every blow, every stripe. He found us, and he bought us and now we are his.

What did the father of the prodigal do? He searched, he watched, he waited, and when the son was still a long way away, the father found him! The son made one move toward the father, and the father *ran* to him, embraced him, kissed him, treated him like royalty.

That is what our father God wants so much for each of us – to take just one step toward him – he will do the rest.  He’s already done the rest! All you have to do is turn his way! Nothing can separate you from the love of God! Not if that’s what you want – so the question is, what do you want? Are you lost? You can be found! No matter where you are, you are never too far away – turn to him and he will see, and he’ll come running and he will embrace you, he will make you his child, and he’ll seal it with a loving, forgiving kiss. That’s what I pray for all of you – that you’ll just turn his way, and watch as he completely changes everything in your life -just as he did for me, and for all the others who were lost and longed not to be.

 

 

You might remember many stories from the bible involving Jesus and fish. He was always talking about fish and handing out fish to eat. He traveled all over the place with fishermen, and, more importantly, Jesus chose fishermen for the important job of spreading his word and building his church.

One of the symbols of Christianity is the fish symbol, seen above. The Greek word for “fish” is “ichthus” (here’s what it looks like in Greek – ἰχθύς), and each letter is the first letter of the words Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior (ησοῦς Χριστός Θεοῦ Υἱός Σωτήρ).

What I’m saying is, the fish is a major component of the imagery of Christianity. Here’s what I found in a 30 second Google search -

Jesus called disciples in terms of fishing, saying ”from now on you will be catching men” (Lk 5:1-10). Two stories of miraculous catches of fish are told in Luke 5:1-11 and John 21:1-8. All of the gospel writers agree that he fed thousands with fish and bread. There was the feeding of 5000 (John 6:1-14), and the feeding of the 4000 (Mark 8:1-9). He compares the kingdom of heaven to a fishing net (Matt 13:47-48). Jesus often preached from fishing boats (Matt 13:1-3; Mark 4:1-9; Luke 5:1-3) and sailed in fishing boats (Mark 4:35-41; Matt 8:23-27). Jesus was given fish to eat after his resurrection in Jerusalem (Luke 24:36-43), and he cooked fish for his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (John 21:9-14).

But there’s one more story.  You may have heard it in church right around April 15th.  Jesus paid taxes with a coin found in the mouth of a fish (Matt 17:24-27).

I have heard this story many times in church and in bible study classes, and I always wonder how in the world did the coin get in the fish’s mouth?  I have made up some unlikely scenarios in the past.  Maybe there was a wind storm and some coins blew off a table somewhere and ended up in the water.  Maybe someone was using the Sea of Galilee as a wishing well.  Could be that someone had a rough day/life and all they had left was a few coins, and in disgust, he pitched them into the water. I mean, coins are shiny, fish like shiny stuff, so if a shiny coin ends up in the water somehow, it’s not inconceivable that a fish would try to eat it. Right?

Think about it from the perspective of the fish. Fish are not all that smart, although apparently they can be trained if you’re a Mythbuster (that’s video proof if you follow the link). Fish just kinda float there until something catches their attention, and if it looks anything like food they lunge for it, put it in their mouth, then dart off the other direction.

I’ve caught fish with a paperclip before – no bait, just a shiny, shiny paperclip. Think what a fish must be thinking if a coin is slowly tumbling through the water – “Shiny. Must be food. I will eat it.”

That’s about the extent of it if you’re a fish. The coin got there somehow, right?

Could be that it was just flat out a miracle.  Jesus said there’d be a coin and there was one, end of story.

It’s not really the end though. The same God who called the disciples, who filled the nets with fish, who fed thousands with a little kid’s Lunchable, that same God is calling you! He wants to fill your nets – he wants to bless you beyond your wildest imagination! He wants to take the only thing we can give him – our lives – and change the lives of thousands!

Jesus once told his disciples, what I’ve done is nothing compared to what you will do. Do you believe the words of your savior? Do you believe you could do more than he did? He sent his Spirit so that we can! Ask anything in his name and he will do it!

A fish – the little fish that could – was sufficient to work a miracle with, not just once, but time and again. A smelly, scaley fish enriched the lives of so many people – and how much more has God got planned for you!

What is the Holy Spirit saying to you right now? Call on him to enable you to be a fisherman, ask him to help fill your nets, ask him to enable you to change the world!

 

Water Deep

May 19, 2012 — Leave a comment

That’s a close up picture of my yard.  I love my yard.  It’s full of the thickest, best grass ever – St. Augustine.  This grass is wonderful for a lot of reasons, but the biggest for me is, it generally does not produce seeds, and what little seeds are produced do not germinate.  In other words, I’m not allergic to it! The other big thing is, it’s very easy to care for.  Here’s my “yard regimen.”

Three times a year – fertilize – green bag in the summer, purple bag in early spring and late fall.  The purple bag has a herbicide in it that also acts as a pre-emergent.

October 31st and February 14th – pre-emerge.

March/July- Season long fire ant killer.  It lasts about 3 months or so with each treatment.

1st week in May, 1st week in August – Grub killer – it also kills just about everything else, except for rolly pollys for some reason…

Mow every week with a mulching mower – do not collect the clippings.  They add nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil.  Set the mower height as high as it will go.

Every week to 10 days – water deep.  I do this year round, even in the winter.

Yes, I do all that – religiously.  I don’t miss a step.  And my grass is green even in the hottest weather.  It lasts longer into the winter, and comes in earlier in the spring.

The most important step though is the watering.  I could skip any of the other steps, and in the past, for various reasons, I have.  I didn’t do any of my fall treatments one year because I shreaded my achilles tendon, and it was ok, because I made sure the grass was watered.

Now, I need to define what I mean by water deep, and also add that you should water in regular intervals.  Your yard needs about 1-1 1/2 inches of water a week.  More when it’s hot, less when it’s not. I have conditioned my grass to need only about 1″ of water every week.  That picture above was taken last July, right before I watered.  It had been over 100 degrees every day since I watered, about a week earlier.

When the grass is kept at the proper height, and it’s been conditioned properly, it can withstand a whole lot of abuse.  The reason is, when you stress the grass, when you spare it the constant, daily, shallow watering, it makes the roots grow deeper and deeper.  It makes them more reliant on what is already in the ground – what it is already connected to.  It makes it grow thick and deep – it is seeking the cooler, moist soil so that it can continue to grow and be healthy.

Deep growing thick grass is impenetrable and impervious.  Weeds can’t germinate in it because they are crowded out – the weed seeds have to touch the soil before they can grow.  Bugs can’t colonate in it either because they use all their resources just to get through 4 inches of grass and a nice healthy 1/2″ thatch layer.

It wasn’t like that in the beginning though.  It actually took me several growing seasons to get here.  It took diligence and hard work.  But it has paid off.  I have a great looking yard.

You know, the same principles apply to your Christian life.  You need to be cared for, tended to, fertilized, watered, and sometimes you even need to be mowed a bit.  I think though that just like the grass in my yard, you need a deep, thirst quenching drink of life giving water.  And you need it regularly.  Water is life.  Without it, you will die.

John 7:37 Jesus says, “If you’re thirsty, come to me and drink.”  Drink it all.  Try to drink him dry.  Drink deeply and be filled so that there’s no more thirst.  If you do, rivers of living water will flow from you!  If you take what the Son offers, you will not just be satisfied, but through him you will be a source of that same living, life giving water.  Jesus has given it to us to share with a world that is drowning in it’s own thirst.

Our job, job one, as a follower of Christ – be Christ to others.  Offer that living water freely.  Don’t hold back!  This world needs Christ and you have him – so give him away!  There are thirsty people all around you all day long.  Be a sprinkler system for Jesus.  Hose them down!  Teach them to drink deeply of what is offered to them, tend to them, fertilize them, and when needed, trim them up a bit.

This is how it was intended to be.  This is how the Good News is spread.  This is how the world is changed.  Water deep!