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Archive for April, 2019

Easter is a story of contrasts. The sinless sacrificed for the sinners, the triumphal entry and shouts of Hosanna to be followed by the parade of the condemned and shouts of crucify him. The choice of the crowd to put the innocent to death, set the criminal free. Spilt blood being the cure for sin that runs in our veins. Resurrection from death, the cure for death.

Jesus descends the Mount of Olives toward Jerusalem, with the crowds to cheer him through the city.

Jerusalem … the city that means the foundation of peace … more contrasts.

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42)

The city, as a people, which was named the foundation of peace, would be blind to the one bringing peace.

The crowds were so hyped up on this man-king … the one who would bring them peace … peace from war, peace through a war that would end the control of Rome on their lives.

They didn’t know what peace was, didn’t understand the peace this Messiah brought … the peace that is not absent of war and conflict, but unexplainable peace, in the midst of war and conflict (and sorrow).

Peace in the midst of the storm, the peace that flowed from his eyes to Peter’s on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus invited him to “come” to him, to walk on the water. When our eyes are on him during the storm, we stay afloat, we receive this peace that passes understanding.

Where was Jesus headed? To the banquet, to celebrate the Passover feast.

more contrasts …

The passover celebration of that time when death swept through Egypt saving only the lives of those who celebrated the Passover with the feasting of the spotless lambs, then they applied the blood to the door frames of their homes. The sacrifice of the lambs that led to the saving of their children.

The sacrifice of the lamb of God, that led to the saving of all children born since the firstborn who sinned.

This triumphal entry began with tears, followed by cheers … contrasted only days later with cheers of “crucify him” and tears of blood.



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Spoiler alert! It didn’t happen.

As I sat in a church service, I heard the invitation that has become a regular phrase in churches,

“invite your friends and family to our event at the church …”

All of a sudden I found myself wondering where this model of evangelism originated, because I was pretty certain I had never read of Jesus inviting people to church/synagog.

Jesus invited people to come, but not once did he say, “come to church.”

Jesus invitation to come was come to me.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:44

“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” John 6:37

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Jesus made it abundantly clear that it was not through an institution that salvation be attained, but through a relationship with him alone. He spoke this to his disciples and followers, to the crowds as he shared his sermon on the mount.

He also shared the (his) salvation message while simply living life. He chatted with the Samaritan woman (one who his cultural group would not be talking to), while taking a drink and a rest at a well. He was speaking to people when a paralysed man (therefore, a sinner) was lowered through the roof, for him to meet and heal. Of his disciples, there were fishermen, a tax collector and a political zealot.

It would seem that when Jesus came into a new town, he dined, socialized and stayed with whoever would invite him to stay.

In response to Jesus having dinner at Levi’s house (along with other tax collectors and sinners), the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked his disciples, (Mark 2:16-17):

“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

He came to call people to follow him, but one had to admit they were sinners in order for a conversion to occur. Those who were already religious may have forgotten their own sin (don’t we all?).

Such was the case when the woman, caught in adultery, was brought to Jesus. He was challenged by the scribes and Pharisees with the Law of Moses which said that such a sin was to be punished by stoning. He responded by inviting the one without sin to throw the first stone … they all walked away.

This story was not just for, or about the scribes and Pharisees, though. It concluded with a question and a directive for life. Jesus asked the woman who condemns her, to which she replied, “no one.” Then Jesus says that he doesn’t either and to go, and sin no more.

Jesus spent time with the religious, but he also spent time with those who did not darken the doors of the church/synagog. He spent time in the synagog/church, but he also spent time where the non-church goers would have been.

Jesus said, “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19)

For we have to go to them to know them. We have to know them to make disciples of them.

So, what about church? Who is the church?

We are. We, who have been filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1) are the church of Christ. We bring the church to the sinners, not the sinners to the church. It is we who are the ministers, the disciples. It is through relationship that the Spirit, who lives in us, speaks … in whispers and shouts … to the lost.

 And Jesus said to him, 
“Today salvation has come to this house …
For the Son of Man came
to seek and to save the lost.”
Luke 19:9-10

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Have you ever seen a dog that spends it’s days tethered to a post or pole? It might be aggressive and mean or it might pace nervously, but it also might just lay there in acceptance of it’s confinement situation.

I am not so excited to see such an animal, tethered alone. Certainly we have tethered our beasts, but it was while working outside ourselves (we tend to pick out the beasts that are flight risks), so that they can be with us, rather than alone inside.

But tethered, alone … that seems a recipe for fear

There are animals that, having been tethered for much of their lives, when untethered, remain in the confines that they have been left in. It is as though their physical chains have converted into mental ones, staying tied up, even when they have been set free.

To experience real freedom is to move beyond the confinements, the chains of the past … to move freely, into new places.

Sometimes, as individuals (but even as larger communities) who have accepted the freedom given to us through the work and blood of Jesus, we, like a tethered dog, remain in our original place of confinement … even if that is only in our minds.

We sit at the gate that is opened up wide for us to walk through, yet our minds remain tethered to the stake of our past.

There is one thing can move one so tethered to the past … trust.

Trust in others around us, who wrap their arms around our shoulders and whisper, “you can do it, take the first step,” or the call of all that is in front of us … freedom in Christ.

Galatians 5:1 reminds us that “freedom is what we have–Christ has set us free! Stand, then, as free people, and do not allow yourselves to become slaves again.”

We need to keep reminding ourselves that God is trustworthy … now lift that head and run free.

“Fear can keep us tethered,
terror can clip our wings,
but trust eases pain.
Hope can lighten the sky.
Love makes us courageous.”

Call the Midwife

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I believe that the most important part of the Creation debate is answered in the first five words of Genesis,

in the beginning, God created

From my understanding of the Bible, one must be able to have confidence that however he did it, in whatever length of time, God created, intelligently and intentionally, our world and all contained within it.

This knowledge or faith in God’s ability to create all is the scaffolding that gives us confidence in God’s oversight of every aspect of our lives.

We can know that he is in control,
even when we do not feel that control.

I recently heard a song, by Duke Ellington and Mahala Jackson, called Come Sunday. When I looked up the lyrics, I found myself to be drawn into the gift of Sunday … the Sabbath.

Now, the Sabbath is not necessarily a day on the calendar, so much as a pause, a reset in the week. It is a time, a day that is different from the other days of the week. It is a day of physical rest, of mental rest, of social rest (for the introverts 😉 ), of spiritual rest. It is a day that is different from the others in a week. A day when we give our weariness to him, rest in his arms.

We often do not realize the rest that comes to us by looking, not at ourselves, but at God.

Through our study of his word, our prayers, our worship and even in our acceptance of downtime, a repose, we are renewed and refreshed by ensuring that our hearts and minds take a break from our working, our endeavours, our creating.

The Creator of our world, and all that is in it, rested … therefore we rest.

Come Sunday
Lord, dear Lord of love, God Almighty, God above,
Please look down and see my people through.

I believe that God put sun and moon up in the sky.
I don’t mind the gray skies ’cause they’re just clouds passing by.

He’ll give peace and comfort to every troubled mind,
Come Sunday, oh come Sunday, that’s the day.

Often we feel weary but he knows our every care.
Go to him in secret, he will hear your every prayer.

Up from dawn till sunset, man works hard all day,
Come Sunday, oh come Sunday, that’s the day.

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Another year, baby girl. Twenty-two years of life and living to celebrate.

I have been thinking about this birthday for weeks now, somehow it is haunting me as though there is something of greater significance than my eye can see, my mind can imagine.

Years before your birth there was a popular movie, called Dances with Wolves. None of it’s story really matters, just the name and story of one of the main characters, Stands with a Fist.

After another group had killed her family, Stands with a Fist was raised by a Sioux medicine doctor. She suffered the teasing and name calling of others, who only saw their differences. One day, she hit another woman in the face, hard, and she fell to the ground. The teasing ended that day, so began her tribe name of Stands with a Fist.

When Stands with a Fist first appears in the movie she is in deep mourning, for the husband who had died. She is seen injuring, mutilating herself, trying to create visible scars for the agonizingly painful invisible ones she felt, deep within her heart.

So, you might be wondering, what does this movie, this Stands with a Fist chick have to do with your birthday?

Well, you’ve had a season of losing your foundation, your security. You’ve experienced, in a number of situations, the impact of being different (even bullied in direct and indirect ways). You have struggled in your health, relationships, work, education, finances.

But, I saw something change in you … something that was never part of your nature before.

You started to raise your fists.

Not physically, of course, for your nature is non violent, but mentally, emotionally, relationally. You started to stand up for yourself, advocating for yourself, protecting yourself.

There is a strength in you, that I have not seen before, emerging. You are doing the hard things, the awkward things, the self-preservation things, not giving into the bullying of your struggles, but hitting back, refusing to stay in the dust.

Out of discouragements and heartbreaks and struggles and violations of all sorts there is a refusal to wallow and a move towards health … whole and complete health.

I see you rising from the dust of weakness and building a foundation that is partially what you first were given, and part the experience of life.

Know, though, that you do not have to fight these hard things alone …

Happy Birthday baby girl … may this resilience only continue to grow in you.

“We are pressed on every side by troubles,
but not crushed and broken.
We are perplexed
because we don’t know why things happen as they do,
but we don’t give up and quit.
We are hunted down,
but God never abandons us.
We get knocked down,
but we get up again and keep going.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-9

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I was beyond discouraged, for so many reasons.

It seemed that what was happening in my circle was dire, without hope. It seemed that I was unable to provide any assistance, any real, lasting help for the ones who were tugging at my heart,

and I felt a profound, heavy sadness.

Every time I thought about it … this profound sadness, I thought of the the great sadness, described by William P. Young in his book The Shack.

This profound sadness is an all encompassing, weighted, life-smothering sadness that steals not only the present, but each moment that follows.

My mind was preoccupied with my helplessness, the hopelessness of the situation at hand.

Then I discovered words that stopped my circling the drain. Words that I had spoken to my daughter, about a client who had her heart aching.

love that girl … realizing that your reach into her life has limits. You can’t undo the past, you can’t decide her future (or even help her have a future), but you can leave her with the sweet taste of being loved.

Our ability to leave the sweet taste of being loved, in the mouths of people who are hurting, who are struggling, who are, themselves, experiencing profound sadness … could there be a better gift?

I think I (we?) want to do something that makes a difference, that makes it all better. I think I (we?) forget that there is nothing we could do for another that is outmatched by love … not even hope (or faith).

“And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:13

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