For anyone who is interested, I was given the opportunity to teach at REALITY on Sunday on John 10:1-21.  Great time preparing and sharing.  It was really neat to me to see how the Spirit put the message together in the end.  Hope you enjoy it if you take a listen.

Can you hear me now? John 10:1-21

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Chocolate cross anyone?

A couple of months ago I attended a conference where they asked the question, “What if Jesus was supposed to determine the things the church was supposed to be about?”  Far out there right?  Maybe it was a shocker for someone there, but most I think were a little underwhelmed.  Well, prepare yourself to be underwhelmed, cause I’ve got a question…

What if Easter was supposed to be about remembering Jesus’ resurrection?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying you shouldn’t do your part to vanquish the army of Peeps amassing at your local grocery store or that you shouldn’t do your customary line of Jellybeans.  This post is not about what Easter shouldn’t be about.  This post is about reconsidering what Easter is about.

For many Easter is about family, for some it about traditions, but for nearly all (in America at least) Easter is about sugar.  Or at least the stats would lead us to believe that.  The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the average American will spend $131.04 filling Easter baskets this year.    Infoplease.com claims that Americans buy more than 700 million Marshmallow Peeps and 16 billion jellybeans each year (nearly enough jellybeans to circle the globe three times!).  Chocolate sales in 2009 were said to make up 71 million pounds of the total 121 million pounds of candy sold in the week leading up to Easter (according to herehere and here)

So what does it look like to remember Jesus’ resurrection on Easter? A couple thoughts:

  • Celebrate new life. Do you know anyone in a season of renewal?  Anyone with a new baby?  Anyone entering a new phase of life?  Any new initiatives to invigorate the city?  Why not celebrate them on or around Easter?
  • Engage Jesus’ mission. Jesus said that the Spirit was upon him to “proclaim good news to the poor…release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those whoa are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18).  What would it look like to engage the needs of one of these communities on Easter?
  • Remember God’s great acts. Easter comes in a long line of remembering the great acts of God.  Take communion.  Set time aside to review God’s great acts in your life and those around you over the last year.
  • In conclusion to Lent. Granted it is a little late this year, but perhaps remembering Jesus’ resurrection for you would start weeks in advance of Easter through celebrating Lent.  (More in a helpful pdf here)

What would you add to this list?  How do remember/celebrate Jesus’ resurrection at Easter?  What do you do to make sure Easter goes beyond chocolate crosses?

Jesus the Prophet

April 3, 2011

In Deuteronomy 18:18-19 the Lord said something amazing to Moses: “I will raise up a prophet like you from them, from their fellow Israelites.  I will put my words in his mouth and he will speak to them whatever I command.  I will personally hold responsible anyone who then pays no attention to the words that prophet speaks in my name.”  What grounds for expectation, right?  What if you missed his coming?  What if you fail to pay attention to what he speaks?  I mean who wouldn’t be looking for this person?

It is no surprise then that one of the first questions the Jews put to John the Baptist is “Are you the Prophet?” (John 1:21).  Thousands of years after Moses and this prophecy is still in the front of their minds.

Not long after this Philip tells Nathanael, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and the prophets also wrote about” (John 1:45).  Though Nathanael is incredulous over Jesus’ origin, he goes to see him nonetheless.  Upon meeting Jesus, “the one Moses wrote about”, we find Jesus speaking prophetically about Nathanael and what the disciples will experience and see in the future (John 1:47, 50-51).  And it is not the last of his prophecies in John either (John 4:44; 13:21).

In John Jesus is clearly displayed as the one who makes the Father know, who speaks by the Father’s authority what the Father has told him (John 12:49-50) and who is himself the Truth (John 14:6)

Jesus is the Prophet who not only speaks but also fully embodies God’s truth and makes the Father fully known.  This is Good News, because it tells me that we can stop looking for truth apart from him.  He is our teacher.  He is the one who tells us what is true and what is not.  He shows us the Father, sanctifies us by his truth (John 17:17) and has sent us the Spirit to lead us in to all Truth (John 16:13).  No longer must we search asking “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Now is the time to know him and to believe the truth he shows us and to worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

Fractal Church

November 3, 2010

Yeah, I know.  Most people reading this don’t have a clue (or care) what a fractal is.  And, the fact is, the guy who popularized them (building on the work of others)–Benoît Mandelbrot–recently passed away, so in lieu of the man himself, we’ll just have to settle for Wikipedia (Wow, did Wikipedia just replace a brilliant man?).

According to the freely edited wisdom of the crowd, a fractal is, “a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole.”  So, zoom in on a fractal and what will you find?  Basically, another re-presentation of the whole.  Zoom in further.  What do you find?  Another representation of the whole.  Zoom in further…you get the idea.

So, what does this have to do with anything?  Only this: at every layer of the Church, no matter what “zoom”, we should find the in-containable, incomprehensible Christ ubiquitously present (Ephesians3:16-19; Colossians 1:15-20).  And the implications are huge.  Because every part–individual, missional community, Olympia’s churches, and the big “C” Church–carries Christ, every part carries within them the possibility of the whole.  Put another way, “In the seed the whole tree lies coiled, and in the tree, there lies the potential for the production of countless other seeds.  In the tree is the full potential of the forest.” (Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, 206).

I’m not saying that every follower of Christ is meant to plant a church.  I am saying that the presence of Christ in you and within those of us who are his body, are enough for him to breathe a new movement of life in this world.  Here’s the reality: If we believe any less than that Jesus could repopulate the earth with a people passionate for his name and Kingdom through us, then we are living with a truncated Jesus who is not truly Lord at all.

As much as I may struggle to believe the incomprehensible Christ lives in me, he is calling and leading you and I believe that he can and will do incomprehensible things through us.

Beyond Safety Pt. II

October 21, 2010

So, here we are, returning to the question of safety: How do we live beyond the dogged pursuit of safety?

For myself, the initial temptation would be to trade one slave driver for another, more Pharisaically holy looking master.  Regardless of the master, the long road will always end in another blog post decrying the latest idol of my heart.

[Aside – For those of us having trouble moving past safety, James says we ought to ask for God’s wisdom that we might joyfully value the trials and dangers around us – okay, time-in again.]

Only when the idol of safety is replaced by Jesus will I have found a good master who leads to full living beyond safety.  Jesus, the true king, does not stay holed up in his castle.  He is not contented with hiding in the face of brokenness.  He always confronts pain–dangerous as it is–to either heal and redeem it, or to bring justice.  And he will lead our families to the same costly, dangerous, uncomfortable, messy engagement when he is king and we are his people.

Mission Connexion

January 15, 2010

I know I have a lot of friends who will be serving at and impacted this year’s Mission Connexion being held at Crossroads.  To all of you I wish you a great weekend of drinking in the Lord’s heart and purposes at working his world!

I know you’re going to be hearing a lot more eloquent speakers than me this weekend, but let me add some thoughts on the weekend’s theme of “Reconciling Nations” from the nation God has drawn us to.

Nathan reminded us of our ministry of reconciliation during last Sunday’s service:

“All these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us teh ministry of reconciliation.  In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us…” II Corinthians 5:17-20a (NET Bible)

What a great charge!  What a great responsibility God in Christ has handed over to his church such a great reminder of that for which Christ has saved us!

J.R. Woodward over at Dream Awakener published this quote on reconciliation from Henri Nouwen yesterday:

“How do we work for reconciliation? First and foremost by claiming for ourselves that God through Christ has reconciled us to God. It is not enough to believe this with our heads. We have to let the truth of this reconciliation permeate every part of our beings. As long as we are not fully and thoroughly convinced that we have been reconciled with God, that we are forgiven, that we have received new hearts, new spirits, new eyes to see, and new ears to hear, we continue to create divisions among people because we expect from them a healing power they do not possess.

Only when we fully trust that we belong to God and can find in our relationship with God all that we need for our minds, hearts, and souls, can we be truly free in this world and be ministers of reconciliation. This is not easy; we readily fall back into self-doubt and self-rejection. We need to be constantly reminded through God’s Word, the sacraments, and the love of our neighbours that we are indeed reconciled.” (click here for another great quote from Nouwen on the task of reconciliation)

Finally, one more quote from Newbigin on the passing of Jesus’ mission to his followers:

“It is of the essence of the matter that Jesus was not concerned to leave as the fruit of his work a precise verbatim record of everything he said and did, but that he was concerned to create a community which would be bound to him in love and obedience, learn discipleship even in the midst of sin and error, and be his witnesses among all peoples” (Newbigin, The Open Secret 176)

Any of you who has a chance, I’d encourage you to swing by Worldventure‘s booth (our missions agency).  You’re likely to meet our friend Doug Hazen (the NW Church Connections person). Besides being a very personable guy, he has a great combination of wisdom and experience that I’m sure will keep you talking for quite a while. 🙂 Also, look for Doug in the workshops being offered throughout the weekend and tell him we say “Hi!” (Joe Murray is also someone we’ve gleaned a lot from).

Enjoy!

Jon Foreman’s Winter EP was the sound track for my journey through the snow to buy dinner this evening.  As my feet took me along the familiar, though obscured path, my mind was turning over our present study of I Peter.

Friday a friend and I spent a couple hours reviewing the book and our individual studies of it searching for its meaning.  Most prominent of I Peter’s themes were suffering/trials/subjection and identification with the suffering Christ.

The suffering Christ–suffering, which not only saves us (which is why his blood is precious–I Pe. 1:19) it also ransoms us (I Pe. 1:18) and births us (I Pe. 1:3, 23), relocating us and our identity in Christ.  He is a living stone; we are living stones (I Pe. 2:4-5), God is his Father; he is our Father (I Pe. 1:17), etc.

As Peter brings home the point that our identity is found in Christ, he demonstrates how Christ’s life is given as an example for his followers to emulate.

These last few days I’ve been reflecting on this personally.  How do I follow this?  As he says in 2:21-25:

For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps. He committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth. When he was maligned, he did not answer back; when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but committed himself to God who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we may cease from sinning and live for righteousness. By his wounds you were healed. For you were going astray like sheep but now you have turned back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Christ is my example.  He never sinned, he never lied, he never answered back–but these are not the only marks of Christ which follow Peter’s exhortation to “follow Christ’s example.”  It seems he is also directing Christ’s followers to bear the sins of others in Christlike manner, to lead others to “cease from sinning” through bearing the burdens of others.

So, back to my walk.

Trekking along, with Peter’s challenge to bear the sins of others and Jon Foreman’s song “Somebody’s Baby” I got to thinking about injustice and suffering, when I had an epiphany.

Bearing suffering that I have not earned (“For what credit is it if you sin and are mistreated and endure it?” I Pe. 2:20) is always resultant from sin.

On the one hand, refusing to retaliate when you are mistreated is bearing the sins of other people.  On the other, what would bearing the burden of other people look like?  What about bearing the sins of the homeless like in Foreman’s “Somebody’s Baby”:

She yells,
“If you were homeless, sure as hell you’d be drunk
Or high or trying to get there or begging for junk
When the people don’t want you they just throw you money for beer”
Her name was November she went by Autumn or Fall
It was seven long years since the Autumn when all
Of her nightmares grew fingers
And all of her dreams grew tears

(chorus)
She’s somebody’s baby
Somebody’s baby girl
She’s somebody’s baby
Somebody’s baby girl
And she’s somebody’s baby still

She screams,
“Well if you’ve never gone it alone
Well then go ahead, you better throw the first stone”
You got one lonely stoner waiting to bring to her knees
She dreams about Heaven, remembering hell
As the nightmare she visits and knows all too well
Every now and again
When she’s sober she brushes her teeth

(chorus)

Today was her birthday, strangely enough
When the cops found her body at the foot of the bluff
The anonymous caller this morning tipped off the police
They got her ID from the dental remains
The same fillings intact, the same nicotine stains
The birth and the death were both over
With no one to grieve

(chorus)

Perhaps knowing and relating to the needy as “somebody’s baby”, when that Somebody is your Father, is the essence of bearing the sins of others.  Perhaps our shared Father is what leads me to bear the burdens of others by putting off my false pretense and aspirations to overcome my fellow man.

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