Friday, January 30, 2009


"Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. . . Consider how the lilies grow. they do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." (Luke 12.22, 27)
Telling someone not to worry seems like telling someone, "don't look at this beautiful sunset." The first thing you do is look! So, what is Jesus getting at when he tells us not to worry? The more we think about not worrying, the more we tend to worry.
I believe the key is in what he says just a few verses later, "Seek his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well." In other words, if we are about God's business (not just busy-ness) then we can rest assured that we will be provided for. A wise theologian once said, "Never read the newspaper before you read the Bible!" How true! The world will teach us to be filled with anxiety and fear. God's Word teaches us to trust. I invite you to do that today, trust God. Focus on God and serving others and indeed, all these things will be given to you as well!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

So you may know

"With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught" (Luke 1.3-4) "So that you may know." There are so many things in the world to know, so much knowledge to be learned. A friend and I were just talking the other day about the explosion of new knowledge in the fields of science and math since the time of John Wesley (the founder of the Methodist movement). The internet has certainly opened up a whole new world of information and data.
But not all data is useful. Not all knowledge is power. It's significant that Luke, the writer of the third gospel, tells his audience that he has written "an orderly account . . . so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." Obviously, "what you have been taught" is a reference to the good news about Jesus, since this is what Luke's gospel addressees. Luke wants us to teach us the kind of knowledge that leads to life.
Indeed, the outcome of all human knowledge, data, and information can point us to God. Of course, in 2009, much of the world is obsessed with the acquiring of information, knowledge, and data for selfish gain, profit, or simply entertainment. What a departure from the early scientists! Did you know that most of the early scientists were actually Christian monks? Their study of nature and its laws were a form of worship, acknowledging the complexity, the intricacies, the sheer wonder of God's Creation.
Paul writes, "where there is knowledge, it will pass away." All the data, information, and knowledge in the world cannot save us. It will not last. But if we are open to it, knowledge can point us to the One who made us. Even the latest news reports of economic disaster, thousands and thousands of lost jobs, murders, wars, violence, greed, and wrongdoing all point to our need of the Savior and Lord of all. Knowledge in itself may entertain us, help us make money, or simply bore us. But knowledge bent toward experiencing God can lead us to life, eternal and abundant.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Be ready!

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come . . .What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13.32, 37)

There have always been those who want to try to predict when the return of Christ will happen. They get out their charts and diagrams. They point to modern events and people and try to ascribe direct connections to Biblical prophecy. I suppose there have been hundreds (maybe thousands) of direct connections made over the years, including different theories about who the antichrist will be.

But as I read this passage again this morning, I was reminded that this is not what Jesus wanted. He said that “no one knows” when He would return. But He does say “Be on guard! Be alert! Watch!” From reading the rest of the gospels, we know that He doesn’t mean “lock yourselves away from the world” or “get out all your charts and diagrams and try to guess when I’m coming back.” No! To be alert, to be on guard, to watch as a disciple of Christ means to be caught up in loving God and loving people. This is what Jesus means by “those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Throw away the charts and diagrams! Don’t waste your time listening to the prognosticators! Be on guard and alert by giving yourself in service to God and God’s people. Then you will truly be ready for Jesus’ return!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Who comes first?

"He must increase, but I must decrease." These are the words of John the Baptist as he testifies about who Jesus is, the Messiah, the Savior of the World. John's humility is founded in his identity as God's servant. He is just the messenger, announcing the coming of Jesus. John is under no illusions that this is about him. It clearly is not.
I wonder how often we desire to make it about us, whether it be at school, work, or in relationships. What if we, like John, yield our egos to God? What if we, like John, strive to literally disappear and let Jesus shine through us? If we did this, it would be nothing short of a revolution, an overthrow of the "me-first" philosophy of life that is promoted around us (and inside of us) everyday. What if, just for today, we stop worrying about who has the power, who is right and who is wrong, who "gets their way," who gets the raise (or the grade "A" if you are in school)? What if, just for today, we take on the role of a servant and let Jesus be first and truly above all?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Who's in, who's out?

"While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:10-13)

It seems Jesus was always fighting to bring outsiders inside the Kingdom of God, while his opponents were busy trying to keep people out. Jesus was constantly including those who the authorities thought were un-savable, unworthy, unlovable.

Jesus says a lot when he says, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." It's actually a quote from Hosea 6.6. I think what Jesus means is that people are more important than the rules. Relationships are more important than rules. People matter to God and Jesus (the real presence of God in the flesh) was constantly stepping across the standard dividing lines of society to extend God's love and grace to all.

How about us? Are we drawing lines that exclude others from God's love and grace? Do we reject those who are different than us? Or are we freely inviting all into the joy, love, and forgiveness of God's Kingdom?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Salt and Light

"You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? . . . You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house." (Matthew 5.13a, 14) It seems that most of us spend an inordinate amount of time trying to fit in, trying to look like everyone else in our culture. And yet, Jesus tells us very clearly here that our value is in our uniqueness. We are called to stand out in a world of monotonous conformity. No, I don't think Jesus is talking about trying to stand out by getting the most tattoos or multiple body piercings (in fact, if you do that, you won't stand out at all in our tatoo'd and pierced culture). What he is talking about is standing out with His love and grace shining from us wherever we go. That is truly counter-cultural. It will surely make you stand out in a cynical world filled with hate. To show Jesus' love and grace is the most radical move you could make. Try it today!

Friday, January 9, 2009


Not to far into Matthew's gospel, we find the words, "he [Jesus] taught as one who had authority." (Matt. 7.29) I find the use of the word, authority, very interesting. It seems in our culture in 2009, we don't have much use for the word, AUTHORITY. In fact, there are philosophies and world views floating around our culture that seemed to find their whole identity in opposing any and all forms of authority. In the 1960's, there seemed to be birthed in our land a questioning of the basic "authorities" and institutions of our nation. I do not think that was all bad, as authorities and institutions need to be held accountable to God's laws and commands. Power does tend to corrupt and thus, the "powers that be" need to be taken to task when they run against God's commands.
But I wonder often if we did not "throw the baby out with the bath water." Have we simply focused on the misdeeds of some "authorities" and institutions and therefore jumped to the conclusion that all authority and institutions are wicked to the core? Certainly, some form of authority and some institutions are necessary for the security, justice, prosperity, and integrity of a nation.
In the gospels, we find TRUE AUTHORITY, not like the "authorities" we see on earth, who fall short, break laws, and sin sometimes. No, this is an AUTHORITY that is PERFECT, JUST, ETERNAL, ALL POWERFUL, AND SURPRISINGLY . . . LOVING! It is the authority of our God who loves and cares for us, our God who came in the flesh of Jesus Christ to reconcile the world to Himself. Certainly, this should redeem all our presuppositions about "authority." And perhaps, it may even give us hope, that as the authorities and institutions of our world are prayed for and held accountable to God, then they can be more just and even work for peace and justice in our world.
As Paul said, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Call

Yesterday, I preached a sermon called "Follow Me," based on Matthew 9.9-13 (Jesus' calling of Matthew, the tax collector). Today, I'm recommending the Scripture: Matthew 4.18-22 for reading. In this Scripture, that same Matthew recounts the Call of Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John (the writer of the fourth gospel). What is striking to me in their calling is the word "IMMEDIATELY." Jesus called Simon Peter and Andrew and it says "immediately they left their nets and followed him." Then Jesus called James and John and they also "immediately left the boat and their father and followed him."
There is a great sense of urgency in God's Call! In my experience of calling to pastoral ministry, I felt that sense of urgency. I wrestled with God about this calling (no one usually "runs after" being a pastor because of the sacrifices required). I eventually got to the point that Jeremiah got to as he expressed: "his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones." Indeed, when God calls, it is a fiery call! It is an urgent call! It is an unrelenting call!
We don't know exactly how well Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John knew Jesus before they "immediately" left all to follow him. What we do know is that the Call from Jesus demanded a response. God's call on our lives also demands a response. The first call is always the simple "Follow Me," an invitation to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives. Have you answered that call today?

Friday, January 2, 2009

A new thing

Revelation 21.5: "He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"" I read these words this morning on the second day of the year of our Lord, 2009. Everything new? Really? Could we handle it if EVERYTHING WAS NEW? Probably not in this life. For most of us, there is a sense of security in "carrying over" some of "the old" from last year. O.K., I'm not talking about those extra pounds from too many Christmas dinners and Christmas cookies. But you know what I mean, we don't want too much change, even if it is called "good." "We are happy with our little lives, our little world, just leave us alone." If we are honest with ourselves, isn't that how we feel most of the time? We'd like some change (more money, better health) but just not cataclysmic change. We get comfortable very easily. We get used to the way things are. When it comes right down to it, we are afraid of change. (That's why some people even call it the "c" word!)
And yet, into our little 2008, God says, "I am making everything new!" Happy New Year! 2009!
Jesus once encountered some blind men who cried out "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" Jesus stopped and called them. "What do you want me to do for you?" Why in the world would Jesus ask that? Wouldn't it be obvious that they would want their sight restored?
Maybe not! You see we get used to our handicaps. We get used to our "same old way" of doing things, even if they are hurting us. We resist change, even if it could mean things would get better
Thankfully, the blind men responded to Jesus, "we want our sight." "Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him." Certainly, having their physical (and spiritual) sight restored meant a new life for them.
Are you willing to let God do a "new thing" in your life this year? How about giving Jesus control of your life this year? How about stepping out into this new year and asking Jesus, "what new thing are you trying to do in my life?"