We celebrated 4th of July in Seattle this year. It was nice not having to drive and fight traffic, but instead watch in from the porch of my brother in law's house. So there we were all gathered together with kids and cousins watching the fireworks! That's how we celebrated independence day. Ten minutes of fireworks and then afterwards just went back to eating dessert and coffee. No conversation about the history. No rememberance about freedom. Sometimes in our rhythms of church, we can do the same thing. We do certain things without reflecting on the depth and significance and then just go back to our norm. This can be true in particular with the Lord's Table. We rush through it. We reflect on it for a few minutes and then move on to the next component of our gatherings.
Communion has its roots in passover. It's the day that Israel celebrates freedom from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. Specifically it's the day when God declared justice over the land of Egypt in light of brokenness and sin. Normally we think of it as a day where Egypt got punished for their oppression of Israel and vengence for killing the boys of Israel. Yet what is interesting is that each household experienced death that night. Whether it was a lamb or a son, there was death. The Israelites did not get a pass because of their race. The Israelites did not get passed over because of their good deeds. Instead there was a substitute, a lamb that meant their house would be passed over.
So when we fast forward to the last supper in Mark 14, it's normal to have bread and wine, but there was no main course, there was no lamb. There was no lamb on the table because the lamb of God was at the table. Jesus was the new substitute. He was the one whose blood would be spilled. This is the covenant between God and man promising that He would bless us and redeem us. This covenant is not dependent on what we do, but what God has done. So regardless of where we are at in life and our struggles with brokenness, life purpose or faith, God comes to us and reminds us He is committed to us. He has made a covenant, sealed by the cross, that Justice has been served and that we can experience freedom and life through Jesus.
May this covenant encourage us in light of our past failures that we have a substitute that covers all things. May we be find courage today to live in freedom and grace. May we have hope for the future and the beauty when all things are renewed and restored.
Hash House a go go. It's an amazing restaurant. Chicken and waffles, bacon and waffles, incredible mash potatoes, chicken pot pie, and super delicious pancakes. Everything is top notch. We just finished eating there with some friends from Houston. The only thing is that the portions are huge at this place, so we ended up having lots of leftovers. Not a bad thing, but imagine if I tell you about this awesome place and you get incredibly excited about it yet I serve you my leftovers from today rather than taking you to the restaurant. It's a big letdown isn't it?
Sometimes, I wonder if in our worship of God, we don't bring the best of the best to the table, but just offer him our leftovers. We offer him the leftover of our time, our resources, our energy and our talents. There's a story about Jesus and a woman where she anoints him with perfume. The perfume was incredibly expensive, probably worth a year's wages. This bottle of perfume was probably the most valuable item in their household. It might have even been a family heirloom that gets passed from generation to generation and serves as security in the event of war or famine!
The anointing of perfume was a normal thing that occurred when guests arrived from a long hot walk to get from one place to another. It's just a little freshining up before the dinner party, if that makes sense. So, maybe special guests get a few drops of this expensive perfume and ordinary joes like me get the dollar store special.
Anyway, you can imagine the shock of everyone when this woman breaks the jar and the house is filled with a sweet fragrance to honor this special guest! A year's worth of wages. The most valuable item, the family heirloom...just gone when the jar is broken. She held nothing back when it came to honor Jesus.
So when I think about the things I offer to Jesus, are they coming from the things that are most precious and valuable to me? It makes me think of when we donate our furniture away to church or to other non-profits, that when we are done with it, it's no longer good enough for us, but then somehow we think it's good enough for Jesus. Not that we have to give brand new stuff everytime, but it makes me think hard about my posture.
May we reflect upon our worship of Jesus. May we sense when we are offering leftovers. May we learn the beauty of broken jars that bring honor to Jesus.
Branding is one of the most fascinating things of business. When we think of Nike, we think of the slogan just do it. When we think of Apple, we think of innovation. What about the church? What comes to mind when we think of the word church? We may be known for our buildings, pastors, programs, and gatherings, but the question is, is that what Jesus wants us to be known for.
A religious leader approached Jesus and asked him what was the most important commandment in the law. Well, they had 600 commandments in just the first 5 books, so to choose one seems to be incredibly difficult on the surface. Yet Jesus answers it very simply, love God and love your neighbor. In Luke 10, he defines our neighbor as someone not like us, probably someone who is culturally different and in a different social class.
In Mark 12, there is an incredibly interesting unfolding of events that takes place. People are coming to the temple to make there donations. It's an incredbly showy event. It's taking place in the outer courts where all people can be present. There are 13 horns lined up, each to collect for different purposes. It's amazing that Jesus can see exactly how much each person is giving. So for those peeps who can give large amounts of money, you can imagine the applause they receive. Yet this poor widow, drops in two copper coins, each coin worth around 1/100 of a day's wage. Our most common interpretation is that this is a passage about giving all that we have and giving in faith, trusting God's provision in all things. Yes, there is an element of that. However, context is always important in reading the bible, and Jesus strongly rebukes the religious leaders for their pride, desire for power, and using that power to exploit widows out of their property. The religious system was set up for the approval of the public, but not the approval of Jesus! This system took what little this woman had, when instead the collections should have gone to support widows like her! Again, in context, the system did not support the command, love God and love your neighbor. The church in those days were known instead for their leaders, their teaching, their prayers, their religious practices, but they missed on loving their neighbors.!
What about us? If people looked at us, are we known for loving our neighbors? Is that our branding? Are we doing what Jesus wants us to do? What if the way we design our communities and practiced our faith actually hindered this command? May we reflect on the rhythms of our church and our life. May we be known for the things that matter to Jesus. May we be known for loving God and loving our neighbor.
I love Jason Bourne. He's da man. No messing around, just a stud period. LeeAnn's more of a Jack Bauer kind of guy. Puts family first, yet still got that stud element to him. We often talk about our culture and the pressure that women face when it comes to beauty. I believe that as guys, we also face our own identity issues and struggle with comparison when it comes to achivement, success, and power. It leads us to the question, what does it mean to be a man?
In Jewish culture, there was something called the Bar Mitzvah which is this process of developing from childhood to manhood. Bar means son of and Mitzvah means the law. As the children learned the law, then at some point, they would be held responsible and accountable for the things that they learned.
At the core of what they learned was the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. This is it. This is the center. This is what drives a person whose heart is after God. So often we are driven by money or success, but the Shema reminds us that what compels us is God's love for us and our love for Him. Everything else flows from that. It is God's love that compels us to be part of the redemptive plan of this world to restore all things to Him. It is God's love through us that compels us to love otheres and see them made in the image of God and treat them with dignity and respect. It is God's love and acceptace of us that makes us realize that it is not what we do, but what He has done that matters. It is this grace that enables us to extend grace to others. It is this kind of love that allows us to follow Jesus to serve others and give ourselves away and pursue the posture of the first shall be last and the last shall be first.
As we are reminded by 2 Cor 5:14, For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. May we learn to allow our faith to lead us in developing a vision for what it means to be a man or woman of God. May we learn to live out the Shema in our everyday that others might see and understand this incredible love and hope that we have in our faith in Jesus.
James Douglas, fighting on behalf of Scotland, was surrounded by the enemy. With death imminent and certain he shouted out, "fight for the heart of the king!" For us as followers of Jesus, to respond to the call that He has on our lives also means to fight for the heart of our king, As Bob Pierce of World Vision states so beautifully, let our hearts break for the things that breaks the heart of God.
In Mark 11, Jesus enters Jerusalem on a colt and the crowds are around him are shouting Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Jesus accepts this role as a king, but as a different kind of king and a different kind of kingdom. Instead of power, he comes in humility. Instead of a royal crown, he has a crown of thorns. Instead of a horse and chariot, he comes on a colt symbolizing peace. Instead of triumph over war and enemies, his triumph is on the cross and in his resurrection. It is in this triumph that ultimately demonstrates the heart of our king. His heart is an incredible love, willing to take on the path of suffering, pain, shame, and injustice so that we could have freedom!
So for us to also fight for the heart of the king, Jesus asks us to take up our cross, to go the way of love, to love others in the same way that He loved us. It is an incredibly calling. It is a call that demands us to see others the way that Jesus sees them. It's a love that requires us to lay down our lives as there is no greater love than this.
Do we just see Jesus as a good man? Do we just see Jesus as someone that can help our marriage? Do we just see Jesus as a path to heaven? May we learn to see the heart of Jesus. May we learn to live in the way of love. May we learn to fight for the things that are the heart of our King.
When we look in the mirror, what do we see? Success, failure, rich, poor, accepted, or loved? Many times we allow our culture to interpret how we see ourselves. Jesus' encounter with the rich young ruler in Mark 10 is fascinating! In every sense, he was successful. He obeyed
How does this advent season find you? Do you find yourself running around to all these different activities, programs, and parties? Are you scrambling for last minute shopping and gifts? Maybe while everyone around you seems excited, you instead are feeling a little bit empty and anxious? How does this advent season find you?
Every year there always seems a little bit of a disconnect between the story of Jesus and my story today. Jesus came to offer peace to us. John 14:27 says, I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid. In a season where Jesus is our peace, are you experiencing peace?
King Herod, at the time of Jesus' birth, represents many different things. He represents power, money, success, and security. Often times we look for peace in these areas. If we had this job, then we would have peace. If we had our finances in order, we would have peace. If our government was this way, then we would have peace. Yet do we? Our careers bring all kinds of stress from our projects and relationships with our peers. Having a dream house adds to stress in making our mortgage payments and dealing with repairs. Being married and having kids certainly isn't peaceful all the time. Jesus says, I give a peace that the world cannot give.
Jesus offers us peace in several different ways. First, He saves us from our sins. No matter how much we have failed in life, we have a second chance. We are restored, redeemed, made white as snow through Jesus. This gives us peace for ourselves, our family, our kids, and our friends. We have an incredible hope of redemption in this life. Second, Jesus is introduced as Immanuel, God with us. No matter what circumstances we face in life He is the God Immanuel. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He is with us and will walk with us through all our trials. Third, through the incredible prophecies that predicted Jesus' birth, we have an incredible confidence in our future. When God says, we are His masterpiece and he has created us anew and prepared us for good works he planned a long time ago, then we can look back at history and have confidence for the future. The past fuels our future. When God says, He is making all things new. There will be a new day, a new heaven, a new earth when Jesus comes again, then we wait in hope during this second advent for His return.
Peace. It's not about our circumstances. It's a peace that comes from God. It's a peace that exists even in spite of our circumstances. May this advent season find you with a sense of peace. Like the words of the great hymn, turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.
There are a lot of reasons we pursue love and marriage. Many revolve around our top 10 lists. Is he cute? Is she funny? Will he take care of me? Is she pretty? While these are important, it’s not everything. In Ephesians 5:25-27 there is a fascinating idea that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. It goes on to say that Jesus loved the church, gave up his life for her to make her holy, clean, washed, and glorious. So…connecting the dots, if we are also to love our wives as Jesus loved the church, then we are also to give up our lives for her, to make her more beautiful than ever and present her to God when our time is done here on earth.
Wow! What an incredible responsibility we have been entrusted with our spouses! The reality is we are not finished products. With time, we learn to love, to develop our faith, and to take steps in maturity.
So whatever season of life we are in at the moment, what if we started asking a different set of questions? What if instead of asking what I want in relationships, we would instead be asking how we can be a part of this kingdom initiatve to make beautiful those entrusted to us. May we have the desire to fight for our marriages. May we learn to love others as Jesus loved them. May we help restore beauty beginning with those closest to us.