Saturday, March 31, 2012

Don't Go Alone

Beth again, woo!

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

It is amazing what we seem to to accomplish without God. We can run through school, burn through relationships, file through different identities and build empires without considering Him.
God works through everything, invited or not. If you’re not sure about it, check out God’s idea of the king of Assyria during Isaiah’s time [round abouts Isaiah 10:5].We can still try work against him though. When we try to run His kingdom, we see ugly times. Times when people use Jesus as an excuse to massacre those of a different nationality or skin color, when the poor are exploited in the name of religion, when we try to keep people out because of our judgment. This is because when we try to do God’s Kingdom without Him, we get in the way. We can’t do anything. The parts of us God wants to mend start to rule, and selfishness, grudges and unforgiveness block out that complete mercy, compassion and selflessness of our amazing God.
Jesus wants us to remain in Him. We can’t earn a place with Him, so he gives us one. Likewise, we can’t make His kingdom come without Him, so He brings it through us when we step aside and let Him work. That’s why he tells us to remain in Him, like a branch on a vine. We have our own shape & direction, all from Him. Apart from it, we can do nothing. And He is always willing to forgive us for the times when we get going without Him, and lets us start again.

Challenge: Pray about what kind of branch God is growing you into.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Seeking You

Beth again today!
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

Jesus did some pretty weird seeking. He found people with houses and jobs and lots of personal security, and told them they were lost. Something was missing, and it was them. He found people that nobody wanted, nobody could take, and he said they had a home, and Living Water from Him that would never run dry.
When the “good people” of the world came to Jesus and try to prove that they’re ok, that they didn’t need saving, Jesus told them to have it their way, he’s here to find lost people. (Luke 5:31) He knows they’re lost too, but they can’t be found if they refuse to be found.
Today, Jesus is still seeking. Whether He’s been with you all your life, or you’re barely starting to know Him, He’s seeking you. He wants to know your heart, to heal your hurts, to help you grow.

What is Jesus seeking in you? Can you let yourself be found by Him today? Give him the things that you’re afraid of and want to hide away. Let him find YOU.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

RE: Invictus

Invictus sends chills over my skin.  Some ask, “shouldn’t Jesus be the captain of my soul?”  so for the purposes of enjoying the poem call Jesus an admiral.  Others take offense that the poem appeals to nameless gods.  I submit that a poem does not have to be Christian in order to be true.  I find that Paul agrees (Acts 17:28).

Mastering oneself is not just a poetic virtue.  It is an essential human struggle.  It is also a fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5.  The word Paul uses for self-control is egkrates, a word which here means “to hold oneself in” or “to master self.”  How cool that a fruit of submitting to God’s Spirit is to finally learn to control oneself.  Our natural state is not one of being in control, but one of slavery to impulses and emotions.  Emotions and impulses are fine things to be sure, but I’d rather them be my servants than my masters.

Fair fairing, friend.

Jesus Prays For You

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” -John 17:20-24

So I hear Jesus is pretty close to his father, so close that even though they are two, they're actually one. Their unity is so complete and mysterious that theologians have struggled to express their perfectly united relationship for over two millennia. And unless I read that verse wrong, Jesus just asked his father to unite Christians with each other, and with himself, on the same level that he's united to God the Father. That was pretty deep so I'm going to break it down for you:

Jesus is one with God the Father.
Jesus wants to be as close to you as he is to the father.

Challenge: God wants to be so incredibly close to you that it becomes impossible to tell where you end and he begins. Write God a love letter.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The 13th Disciple

Today's thoughts brought to you by my lovely wife Beth.

[Jesus said] ‘You know the commandments...’”
Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” ~Mark 10:19-21

I used to be terrified of this passage. I would worry that I hadn’t sold all of my things, and while I’ve never been “rich” by US terms, I’m certainly rich on a global scale.
Then, I went on a retreat where Brian Pruitt was speaking. He talked about this passage as one of his favorites, and he calls it “the thirteenth disciple.” That weekend I learned to love Mark 10. It was in two small words “loved him.” Jesus loved that rich young man, while he was still stuck in pride, clinging to his possessions. He saw that this man wanted to serve God, but he also loved comfort. His money made him feel safe. Jesus wanted to free him from that type of security and give him God’s type of security. Jesus saw faith and potential in that man, and he wanted him to be a part of the amazing new Life he was bringing.
We put blocks up between us and God all the time. Money, work, school, sports, our friends, our family, the list is endless. Jesus wants to free us from the things we use as safety, and let God be our safety. He wants us to be totally free to be his disciples. He loves us too much to watch us be run by what is temporary when something beautiful and eternal is on the horizon.
What is Jesus asking you to let go of? Ask him to help you.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

By This All Men Will Know That You Are My Disciples

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” -John 13:34-35
Once I was hanging out with my friend Tara and she wanted to write something down in her Bible and asked, “David, can I borrow a pin?”
A what?” I asked
A pin!” she said
Why do you need a pin?”
For writin', duh!”
Tara is from Texas and cannot say the word “pen” to save her life. Having grown up in Texas she has never heard the word pronounced any differently, and she remains convinced that my way of saying the word “pen” is absurd and nasal. 
Accents are fun things. We've all got one and for the most part we don't notice them until we meet someone different from us. We usually grow up surrounded by one type of accent and when we meet a new one it is outlandish and grating. This is what it is like when folks meet disciples, it's startling and confusing. Jesus' Disciples are weird, and they're wired in the same ways Jesus is weird. Instead of looking out for their own interest they look out for others, they love freely and forgive joyfully. They repay evil with good and love their enemies, and most incredibly, they don't seem to notice they're doing it.

Challenge: Does this sound like you? Do people notice God's love in you? People will notice God in you if you're hooked into the source of love. Jesus is so radically and unconditionally in love with you that you could discover a new level of his love every day for your whole life and still not fully discovered the depth and width of his love for you. Confess to Jesus the ways you've failed to love perfectly, but don't dwell on those sins, Jesus sure won't. Instead dwell on the instant and joyful forgiveness God offers you every moment of every day.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Love & Curses

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.” Luke 9:51-56

Jesus' message is good news, which he shared and preached with love and patience. He forgave and ate with sinners who society had rejected, he touched the unclean and gave hope to the hopeless. We Christians who know how good God is, can get very offended and angry with people who hate our Lord who we have every reason to love. Jesus however, does not lose patience so easily. When James and John wanted to call down curses Jesus rebuked them. Jesus knew that kindness, love, and the Holy Spirit draw people to faith, and that revenge and resentment have no place in a Christian's heart.

Challenge: Who makes you really mad? This could be a sibling, a political movement, an author, or anyone else. Take a moment to remember that Jesus died for their sin too; Jesus loves them as much as he loves you, and you are just as in need of forgiveness as they are. Let go of anger and resentment and allow God's love for you, and for them, to replace your hurt.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Human Concerns

The logical follow-up to yesterday; written by the only logical person.  Thanks again Beth.

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matt 16:21-23

I love this passage. I hate this passage. It’s been a strange relationship. I’m fascinated about when this happens. Just a couple verses ago, Jesus blessed Peter for speaking his faith boldly. Today, instead of seeing God speaking through Peter, Jesus sees Satan. That’s a pretty drastic change.
Peter can be so spot on one moment, and then out in left field the next. As a kid, I used to think he was stupid. The older I get, the more I see my face reflected in his foolishness. God has called this instance to my mind many, many times. I have a lot of ideas about what God wants. I think many of us do. We tell God that He does things this way, that His justice looks like this and that He wouldn’t do that. We put our ideas for us and for other people in His mouth.
Peter didn’t know that trying to keep his Jesus from death would have kept the world from the overwhelming Grace and Salvation that God had planned from the beginning. We don’t know what we may be trying to keep back by wanting God to do things our way.

What things are you trying to control today? Hand these things over to God, and let His Will be done. He has only the best for you.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Who do you say I am?

Today's thought has been brought to you by the lovely and vivacious Beth.
Jesus...asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied “...on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matt. 16:13-16, 18
Peter’s statement is one of the most familiar passages in the Bible. It’s such a simple thing. He just answered Jesus’ question with what he could see as the truth. He didn’t know that one day that answer would cost him his life. But I think, even if he knew, he still would have given the same answer.
A lot of people look at this scripture as a testament to Peter’s great faith. Jesus told him this was not from him, but from God. We don’t have the sense or the strength to see and speak truth on our own. Too many things intimidate us, distract us and dishearten us. Even if we know the truth, by ourselves, we can’t speak it. But God’s Spirit is one of His great gifts to us. By His Spirit, we know who our Savior is, and we have the courage to trust Him. May God renew that courage, not only to know who you say Jesus is, but to let God live it out in you.

How do you think you would have answered if Jesus asked you who you say he is? Why? Spend some time getting to know the person of Jesus today, and who that makes you.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Jesus' Mother & Brothers

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” -Mark 3:31-35

Your parents have probably told you that, “family comes first” at some point. I'd be very surprised if they never have. Families care for one another, influence one another, and shape children into adults. It was, and still is, and incredibly counter cultural idea that God's family is closer than blood ties. To Jesus your position in society doesn't matter. A role of authority doesn't get you anywhere with Jesus. Jesus is interested in your heart.

Challenge: Imagine a church where everyone treated one another as true brothers and sisters. Write about it if that helps you think. Now pray for it. Ask God to use you to strengthen and expand his family.

Jesus Came To Call . . . You?

He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
-Mark 2:13-17

Every culture likes to pick a couple sins to treat as different from other sins. In Jesus day “righteous” pharisees despised tax collectors, who were known to extort money. These same “righteous” Pharisees were known to steal money set aside to care for their aging parents. It seems absurd to treat one kind of stealing as different than another, but we still do this today. We treat one lust as different from another lust and one addiction as worse than another addiction. Jesus is not impressed with which sinners we decide to judge.

Challenge: Are you righteous or are you a sinner? Ask God to show you where you've judged others and ask forgiveness for doing so. May you always show others the same love and mercy you've been called to receive.

Who Is The Greatest?

And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” -Mark 9:33-35

Whenever the disciples do something stupid I'm tempted to say that I would have acted differently. Honestly though, John is my favorite, and I'd have argued that he was better than Peter until I was blue in the face. Jesus ended that insipid debate expertly. Jesus is impressed by humility and service, not by power or authority. He taught his disciples to honor service, and proceeded to set the greatest example of service.

Challenge: Who do you know that does an incredible job of serving? Thank them today. Find a way to serve them.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Are You A Man Or A Muppet?

I freaking love the Muppets.  Seriously, Walter, from the new movie, reminded me instantly of myself.  I love Gonzo, Mr. Teeth, Kermit, Piggy, even Samuel Eagle and Fozzy Bear.  I love that they’re all uniquely weird characters.  They are each annoying, talented, loving, petty, funny, bold, and insecure.  They’re everyone.  The Muppets have characters of every type.  There is no one who could truly be out of place among these weirdos.  They don’t seem like they should work together, but they’re incredible.
The Muppets make me feel homesick, which should probably frighten me more than it does.  I understand that they’re puppets, but the idea of such diverse and zany characters all coming together for one common purpose makes my heart ache for my true home.  I don’t mean Muppet Studios, I talking about the kingdom of God.
Christians are weird.  Christians are annoying, talented, loving, petty, bold, and insecure.  We are Muppets.  Often we don’t work together or love one another like we should.  The sad reality is that we live in a harsher world than the Muppets do, and I’m thankful that we get more than a thirty minute interval to pull our act together.
One last thing I’ll say I love about the Muppets is that every freaky one of them comes as they are, with all their passions, flaws, and fears out on their sleeves.  When they each do what they love doing they put on a tolerable show.  I want to see that in the church.  So this leads me to ask:  Which Muppet are you?  What is your greatest passion?  What is your biggest flaw?  These things can’t define you; only Christ can, but God made you this way in all of your weird and beautiful glory.  He did it on purpose, and I for one would be thrilled to see an absurd family of Christians loving and laughing and possessing a zest for life comparable to that of Gonzo the Great.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

RE: The White Man's Burden & Kony 2012

In the weeks since the Kony 2012's viral launch the expression “White Man's Burden” has been thrown around quite a bit. The expression has generally been used badly, so I've written a short guide to help us better understand the expression and where it comes from.

The White Man's Burden is an expression that comes from an 1899 poem of the same name. The poem was written by Ruyard Kipling. If you don't recognize his name he's the same author who brought us The Jungle Book. While the book version didn't contain Disney's famous “I wanna be like you” song, Mowgi's story in the novel and in the film are very similar. The story goes that Mowgli, a feral jungle “half devil and half child” who was raised by wolves finally found redemption once he left the jungle for civilization. If you're not picking up on the symbolism I'll just say that Kipling had some racially biased opinions about who was and was not civilized.

The Jungle Book has a lot in common with The White Man's Burden. Both works depict non-whites as a poor souls in need of a civilizing outside influence. Kipling proposed in The White Man's Burden that it was the responsibility of “civilized” white men to “fix and reform” the “savage” colored peoples of the world; the arrogance of his proposal is astounding. Sadly many people thought Kipling had the right idea and they used their whiteness and alleged moral superiority to excuse the exploitation of Africans, Indians, Native Americans and countless other peoples. C.S. Lewis calls this sort of morally motivated oppression the “worst sort of tyranny.”

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. -C.S. Lewis

So “The White Man's Burden” in a nutshell is the flawed idea that white person's supposed superiority gives them both the responsibility and authority to take leadership and resources away from anyone who is not white. This ideology couples tightly with the tyrannical idea that non-white persons are unfit to govern themselves. “The White Man's Burden” is an abominable propaganda tool that is used to excuse exploitation and oppression. This isn't what I've seen from Invisible Children.

I personally haven't seen this idea represented in Invisible Children's videos or literature. The founders of the organization, and many of it's volunteers, are white. The citizens of Uganda are largely black. As long as Invisible Children isn't attempting to take power or resources away from Ugandans then I don't care in the slightest what color any of them are. The core problem with The White Man's Burden poem is not that it promotes people of one race helping people of another race, its problem is the awful idea that one race can be inherently superior to another.

There need be nothing racist about a white person supporting a program that assists black persons, just as there need be nothing racist about a black person supporting a program that assists white persons. Race may not be an issue. I would take issue with anyone who refused to help their neighbor because of their neighbor's race, and I may even take issue with someone demanding to help their neighbor because of their neighbor's race. Those actions are racially motivated. Invisible Children's work doesn't appear to be racially motivated. They talk about children and they talk about soldiers, but not race. Invisible Children promotes people helping other people; more specifically they promote students helping other students. It is hard for me to see that as racist.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

RE: A Call To Conscience Chapter Four

I began reading A Call To Conscience with the intention of gleaning wisdom to advance The Orant's Lenten “fast from racism”. In this particular speech Dr. King addressed what he saw as the pivotal issues of racial injustice effecting citizens in the North. Because I am under the impression that racial injustice is no longer legally sanctioned in the United States, I believe these issues to be particularly relevant to today's struggle for racial and social justice.

“Now in the North it’s different in that it [racism] doesn’t have the legal sanction that it has in the South. But it has its subtle and hidden forms and it exists in three areas: in the area of employment discrimination, in the area of housing discrimination, and in the area of de facto segregation in the public schools. And we must come to see that de facto segregation in the North is just as injurious as the actual segregation in the South.” - Dr. King in Detroit 1963

To review, our goal of reading this book is to better recognize and eliminate racism in ourselves. Unless you are an employer or landlord, King's first two issues don't effect you directly. If you are an employer or landlord I admonish you to be just and equitable in your practices, avoiding favoritism of any kind (James 2:9). However the issue of public school segregation is an issue that effects every parent and child in my country.

As a parent, student or taxpayer you are connected to this issue. You and I contribute money each year to a system of education that is tailor made to fit certain demographics, but leaves others out in the cold. A Harvard University study found that schools were more segregated in 2006 than they were in 1991 (read more here at The SAT test, although it is revised regularly, consistently awards black students with lower grades than white students (

Although the system has real problems, I am convinced that the real solution is to invest in it. The public schools of our communities need our full support, full attention, and full funding. I am convinced that when privileged parents keep their kids out of public schools, they do a disservice to both their children and their communities. If you're a parent who is going to demand excellence from teachers and administration then I want your kid in a public school. If you're a parent that holds your child to a standard of academic excellence then I want your kid in a public school. If you're a parent who cares passionately that your child be raised in the Christian faith then I want your kid in a public school.

If you have the resources to send your children to a private school, or the time to invest in schooling them at home, then you have time and resources that could benefit your kid as they learn side by side with people different from themselves. I attended a parochial school, which means it was a faith-based school that you had to pay in order to go to. Out of my class of thirty five students I had only two black classmates. Although I do not believe the curriculum at my school deliberately encouraged racism, the absence of diversity created an ideal environment for racist ideas to develop and thrive. I labored under some very prejudiced attitudes until my senior year of high school. I believe the de facto segregation represented in my school contributed to those attitudes.

De facto segregation is a real and living remnant of racism in the United States. It exists in virtually every community, and I believe it will continue to do so without widespread intentional intervention.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Jesus Forgives, & Heals, A Paralytic

Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!” Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to human beings. -Matthew 9:2-8
There is no miracle greater than the forgiveness of our sins. As Christians it becomes easy after a while to take our forgiveness for granted, but to the first century Jews forgiveness was an exclusively divine act that required a holy priest and a blood sacrifice. It still is. We have a great a beautiful privilege to live in a world where our sins have all already been paid for by Christ's blood, and in which the Spirit dwells in the hearts of men and women, equipping and inspiring them to acts of divine forgiveness.
Challenge: Is there someone you need to forgive? It is a proof of God being in us when we offer forgiveness. Pray and declare the forgiveness in Jesus name for anyone who's wronged you. Be as specific as you can. Remember that you stand forgiven as well and are welcomed enthusiastically into God's kingdom through no virtue of your own.

Jesus Heals A Man With A Shriveled Hand (On The Sabbath)

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. -Mark 3:1-6

It is dangerous to be right in matters where established men are wrong (Voltaire). We live in a messed up world where kindness and mercy are capitol offenses. We live in a world that has fallen from God's plan for it, a world which rages against love with every fiber of its being. Christ came to transform this corruption. He loved the unlovable and he showed mercy, even on the Sabbath. At the end of all that he sent his own Spirit to live in his followers. So although our world is corrupt, everyday, in places all over the world the light of Christ's love shines and dispels more of the darkness that once held this globe so completely. This light is in you too if you have been forgiven much. Nothing good lives in the sinful natures of man; if there is to be light, hope, and goodness in our world then we must let our lights shine. Dare to do good even on the sabbath.

Challenge: Show mercy to someone who doesn't deserve it, love someone who won't love you back, or attempt an act of unacceptable generosity. Let your light shine. The Lord is with you to empower your actions and forgive your failures.

Jesus Heals A Man Born Blind

Read John 9:1-12

Have you ever looked your day in the face and asked yourself, “Why me?” Whatever it was that seemed like too much at the time, it probably doesn't compare to going through life blind. We all ask, “why me,” and Jesus, in front of everyone, asked why a man why he was born blind. This must have been embarrassing for the blind fellow, because it was widely believed that disabled people were disabled because of their sin. This blind guy wakes up each morning to go out begging, and if he asks, “why me” people will gladly tell him that he is blind because God is punishing him. Jesus thinks this way of viewing the world is absurd. Jesus knows we all have sinned and all deserve punishment, it's why he came, God isn't giving out diseases to certain people he hates as punishments; that just doesn't make sense. A blind man is blind for the same reason that another man can see, and that reason is the same reason that our world exists: to glorify God.

Challenge: Think about of something about yourself you aren't too proud of. Maybe you're slow, clumsy, or have weird teeth, but whatever it is I want you to praise God that you are exactly as you are. You are this way, at this time, in this place so that the work of God might be displayed in your life.

Jesus Heals Simon's Mother-In-Law

And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon's house. Now Simon's mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them. -Luke 4:38-39

I love it when Jesus just tells the universe to do something and it does it, because it has to. Our universe was created by God's word, it literally could not exist without God's Word. So when Jesus commands a lake, a disease, or a temperature to do something, well it's going to do just what it told him to do.

Challenges: The God who formed the universe by his word wants to speak to you today. Lay your cares, worries and concerns at his feet and leave them there. Rest in the presence of God and in his peace. (Phil 4:6-7)

Jesus Heals A Bleeding Woman

Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. -Matthew 9:20-22

The boldness of this woman is incredibly admirable. Women were not allowed, according to the Jewish laws, to touch anyone when they were bleeding. Touching Jesus meant that she would make him unclean, but she up and did it anyways. Having been infirmed and frustrated for twelve years she was determined to be well no matter what it cost her. The consequence? Jesus took her uncleanliness and made her clean. I'm sure there are people who would have told her not to go to Jesus until she was well. Coming to Jesus when you're broken gives him the chance to heal you, more than that, if we were to wait until we were no longer broken we would never come to him at all.

Challenge: What is broken in your life? Tell Jesus about that. He may not heal you instantly but he is able to share our burdens. Day by day God continues his work of making us whole, and he will continue to complete it until the last day.

Jesus Raises Lazarus

Jesus cried in today's reading, which seems weird at first because he knew how the story would end. He cried anyway. I believe he cried because the pain his friends felt was absolutely real, and he felt their pain. Mary and Martha were struggling not to resent Jesus for being late, they struggled to believe that God was still good, and they struggled to accept the death of their brother and friend. Jesus got that; he not only understood but actually shared the depth of their pain, which was all the deeper for him who had designed us to neither suffer nor die. He designed us for a relationship with him, not for pain and tears, and even though our rebellion ruined this world he's building another one.

Challenge: Imagine a world without suffering. If you think that sounds boring go watch Kony 2012 (parental guidance recommended) and reconsider that a world without suffering would be boring. Imagine a world where children aren't working in sweat shops, where no one dies in war, and there is no abuse or divorce. What you've begun to imagine is the Kingdom of God. God is building this kingdom. Pray that it would come to us also.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Jesus Turns Water Into Wine

Read John 2:1-11

When we talk about Jesus we often talk about him in heady theological terms, we use words like begotten, co-eternal and incarnate. Those words have a place, but I invite you to take note of the Jesus' in our reading today. Today Jesus is at a wedding party, and he's having a good time with family and friends, and then his mother starts bothering him about wine. If you've ever been at a party with friends and had to go run errands because your mom had called you will understand. That is what happened to Jesus at this wedding. I think it's hilarious.

Jesus got bossed around by his mom at a party. It doesn't matter how perfect you are, in that situation it is reasonable and sinless to feel some irritation with mom. Truly our savior has known every kind of suffering.

Challenge: Wait for your parents to bother you today. Remember that Jesus has been where you are now, he knows what it is to feel frustrated and powerless. He is with you and feels your pain. In the midst of your worst days, he loves you as much as ever. He has been where you are. Pause to remember that.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Parable Of A Lost Sheep - 3rd Tuesday In Lent

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.  In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”
-Matthew 18:12-14

    Imagine a scrappy young man with a black eye and scraped knees.  Imagine that this disinherited youth has felt the pangs of hunger, the shame of poverty, and knows what it is to have others look down their noses at him.  He knows what it is like to be hit by someone who hits just to feel strong.  This sort of young man, a person acquainted with abuse and suffering will sometimes gain an incredible drive to protect the weak.  Having known much pain, he will strive with all his being to save his loved ones from the pain he has known.
    This is what our savior is like.  The Anointed One, through whom all things were made, has an unparalleled relentless hero streak that is beyond human reckoning.  He is not interested in making a mere show of mercy, but is actually willing that none should perish.

Challenge:  Reflect on your rebellions against our merciful God.  Know that God does not remember those rebellions.  You are covered in Christ's blood, and there is no second death awaiting you.  Jesus Christ has sought you out and found you.  God rejoices over you.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Childish - 3rd Monday In Lent

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” Matthew 18:1-5
Kids can be irritating. They can be noisy. They can be messy. If you've ever been in a restaurant with a rambunctious kid at the next table, you know exactly what I mean. If you have a younger sibling, you know even better.
Not only are they a firestorm of chaos and toys, they ask questions ALL THE TIME. Questions like “why?” five or six times in a row. Oddly enough, they'll trust the answers you give them. They just want to know more. Always.
Being grown men, it's likely Jesus' disciples knew a thing or two about kids. Chances are, they'd been kids before if nothing else. Knowing that they were likely to send kids away when the adults were talking (see Matt 19:13-14), Jesus' decision to bring in a little kid in as an example of what to do is really shocking.
But can you imagine what I would be like if we did accept God's Kingdom like little children? When He tells us He loves us we'd believe Him. We'd ask Him every question that popped into our heads fearlessly, and we'd take His answers at their word. We'd accept His gifts as gratefully and excitedly as a kid getting a birthday present from their mom or dad. We'd never pretend to know more than our Dad. May God give you the Spirit to do this today, and every day.

Find a way to become like a little child, and put it into practice.

Parable Of The Talents - 3rd Sunday In Lent

Read Matthew 25:14-30

This Jesus scares me. I, a Lutheran, cling tightly to the grace of God and the Gospel that says there is nothing I may do to merit the favor of God. What's going on in this parable then? I'm pretty sure Jesus just told a story where successful people were rewarded and less successful people where rewarded, but not at much. How is that grace?
Well, for starters the man with the smallest amount entrusted to him was given what amounted to twenty years wages. Twenty years wages he didn't merit by his work, twenty years wages he did not deserve or earn. Which starts to sound like grace.
So the master returns and asks what the servant has done with his trust, and he's done nothing. He buried it. He literally didn't even receive the gift. He hid it, and refused to let it change how he lived or worked. He couldn't choose whether or not his master gave him anything, but he could refuse to let the gift change him. Now it starts to sound like the gospel we know.
Just like each servant received a gift, we've each received God's grace, forgiveness, and a portion of his Spirit for good measure. Some have receive more and some have receive less (since whoever is forgiven much loves much (Luke 7:47), but Christ has in fact died for the sins of the world and given all people his love. He's given you a great gift. What will you do with it?

The Challenge: Have you let God's deposit of love change you or have you hid it away and resisted being changed by God's gift to you? If you have resisted, take a load off; rest and repent. There is always forgiveness for us, though we are free to refuse it. Accept God's staggeringly generous gift of grace. Revel in it, celebrate it, and treasure it. It will produce growth in you.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Joseph Kony 2012 Scandal

My wife and I work with adolescents, and have recently joked that, it's become cool to hate nice things.  Though it started as a joke I've been amazed by how much truth there is in that insipid little statement. It is popular, and easy, to dislike things. Whenever I encounter a song, idea, or movement that appears to be above reproach, someone inevitably comes along and explains why they believe that the thing I like is dumb and terrible.

I recently posted about Invisible Children and their Kony 2012 campaign. Within hours of doing so I heard complaints about what a lousy organization Invisible Children is. I've read some articles, and I concede that Invisible Children is not the paragon of virtue I wish they were, but I don't think they're all that bad either.

The criticisms are these: IC doesn't spend enough money on tangible relief work, IC was intentionally foggy the facts of Kony's current whereabouts and actions, and IC fabricated the rumor that US forces planned to leave Uganda. As far as I can tell, all of these criticisms are legitimate ones. If you'd like, you can read about them in detail on, and

What I really want to ask of you is this: if you can't stand to align yourself with Invisible Children, please find a humanitarian organization that you can enthusiastically support. I personally recommend World Vision, but no matter what, please do your homework. Charity Navigator and similar sites offer free reviews in order to keep charitable organizations accountable. Please do pray for Uganda and please do contact your representatives about Kony, the LRA, and whatever other issues you care deeply about. Finally, if you have spent energy criticizing Invisible Children, please spend twice as much energy in vocal and generous support of a superior organization. It is not enough to merely expose and discuss problems; we must diligently research and share good solutions as well.

Parable Of A Rich Man - 3rd Saturday In Lent

Today's devotion brought to you by Beth:
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Luke 12:13-21
What does it mean to be “rich toward God?” Do you give all your money to church? Perhaps you sell all your clothes and go barefoot in the streets. Maybe you eat only what you find, and call nothing your own. There are certainly people who serve God this way.
What is it to be poor toward God? Do you own mansions and exploit people? Maybe you refuse to give away anything, and buy everything to heal or conceal a private pain. Perhaps poverty to God is when you pour your heart and soul into getting the biggest house with the best yard and the nicest swimming pool that nobody but nobody is getting into.
I think the line is finer than these extremes. We can be rich towards God with all we have, and we can be poor towards God while having nothing. God tells us His word that “man looks at outward appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart.” We can never look at a rich man and know that he has been poor towards God, or a poor man and know He has been rich to God. What we do know is that with God in our hearts, we are filled with His joy. It doesn't come through stuff. It's the joy of being with people you love. It's in the first breath of spring, and the taste of frost in winter. It is in His presence, and in being His child. It is in the act of forgiveness that brought you to Him, and continues to hold you safe.

Are there things you have been poor towards God in? Whether it is in time, money, trust or anything else, take time to ask Him to show you true richness there, and act on it.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Parable Of An Honest Liar - 3rd Friday In Lent

Today's thoughts brought to you by Beth:
“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14
It is painfully easy to categorize people. We like to put them in boxes. It keeps things organized; it helps us understand our world. We understand partiers, and drinkers, conservatives, liberals, straight-laced people, super-saved types and rebels. We love words like two-faced and shallow. That's comfortable for us. It makes sense, and usually give us a chance to feel better about ourselves. Funny how God doesn't see his creation that way. The One who made us would never dream of narrowing down who and what we are to a label.
This parable has always been a favorite of mine. It's a beautiful picture of God seeing past the things that are fake. Jesus takes a church-guy, and shows a heart full of labels, where mercy should be. Where humility could be. Then he takes a liar, a cheat, and shows an honest man. Somebody who's made mistakes. Somebody who can't deny the wrong in his own life, but knows that God has more than that label for him. God is so in love with this creation, that He made a way in Jesus to take away that wrong. He offers it to both men, but only one is open to receive it. Amazing. We have a God who pulls off our labels, and for His sake marks us as forgiven, letting us be all the things we were created to be.

What labels do you put on yourself? What labels do you put on others? Ask God to take away your labels, and the things you are ashamed of. Ask him for the strength to look at others with mercy and humility, as part of His beautiful light in this world.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

RE: A Call To Conscience Chapter Three– Give Us The Ballot

“Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man. We must not become victimized with a philosophy of black supremacy. God is not interested merely in freeing black men and brown men and yellow men, but God is interested in freeing the whole human race. (Yes, All right) We must work with determination to create a society (Yes), not where black men are superior and other men are inferior and vice versa, but a society in which all men will live together as brothers (Yes) and respect the dignity and worth of human personality. (Yes)”
­Give Us The Ballot, 1957 Martin Luther King Jr.

Each time I read from King’s speeches I am startled by the boldness with which he proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ, the coming Kingdom of Heaven, and Jesus’ command to love and forgive our enemies without condition.  I’m convinced that the heart and action that King advocates isn’t possible to achieve by human striving alone.  Our striving to live as wise and righteous people is as filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6); instead we must be clothed in Jesus’ righteousness and filled with the Spirit of God himself.  Only when our actions are the overflow of  Jesus in us do we have any hope of acting in a way that will benefit our neighbors or bring glory to God (Romans 8:5).

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Parable Of A Mustard Seed - 3rd Thursday In Lent

He told them another parable: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.'” - Matthew 13:31-32

The kingdom of heaven is just awesome, though it is not a bit what the Israelites expected. It's not what anyone expected, because God's kingdom is as much unlike an earthly kingdom as it is superior to an earthly kingdom. The kingdom of God doesn't move forward with conspicuous revolutions, brave violence, or government change. The kingdom of God moves forward in unearned forgiveness, in undeterred faith, and in unconditional love. Just like a mustard seed, the kingdom of God is not always impressive to look at, but inside it dwell life, comfort and growth unlike anything else the world has ever known.

Challenge: Have you wished and worked for a human kingdom instead of God's kingdom? Lay your ambitions, not matter how great or small before the cross. Knowing you are forgiven and made new, advance the Lord's powerful and unseen kingdom today by loving, forgiving and serving your neighbors.

Parable Of Shameless Audacity - 3rd Wednesday In Lent

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
- Luke 11:5-8

When I was fifteen I read these verses one morning and decided to pray for each desire I had throughout my day. I figured I'd lose nothing if God said no, and by praying throughout my day I'd be involving God in my whole life. I hit a snag latter that morning when I had a sudden and inexplicable craving for a mint. I was just about to ask God for a mint but I hesitated. I thought, “A mint is a stupid thing to waste a prayer on; I will not ask.” As soon as I decided not pray I looked down and found a neatly wrapped mint, just waiting for me to ask for it. The Lord is infinite, which means that there is no problem too big for him and there is no desire too small for him. God is infinite and inexhaustible. Also God is love.

Challenge: Is there a piece of your life you've not invited God into? Invite God in. Nothing is so big or too small that God doesn't care about it. Throughout your day today, tell Jesus the desires of your heart. He wants to hear them from you because he cares for you.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Joseph Kony 2012

When I was a senior in high school I watched the first Invisible Children film, and the following weekend slept in the parking lot of Ann Arbor's city hall to gain attention for the issue. I was prepared to put everything on hold to go to Uganda and see what I could do about stopping Joseph Kony and the LRA. During a 24/7 prayer week I committed a day to praying for the children in Uganda who were being abducted, raped, enslaved, mutilated, and forced to kill, all in the name of Jesus. The following morning peace talks began.
It is seven years later and peace talks have not been successful. Joseph Kony has gone unchecked and unpunished, using peace talks to regroup and rearm himself. However, there is hope; a short while ago the United States committed a small force of troops to train and equip the Ugandan government to pursue and capture Joseph Kony. Because on the scale of global events this action is small, it is possible that if Kony is not captured in 2012, national attention will wane and the US government will withdraw its small support.
I'm asking you to contact your congressmen, representatives, and friends. Let them know that you care about this issue. Help raise awareness, help get Kony.

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RE: A Call To Conscience Chapter Two

The Birth Of A New Nation introduced me to the story of Kwame Nkrumah (KWAH-me en-KROO-muh), a native of the colony that would become Ghana and a child of two illiterate parents. Nkrumah worked his way to the US; put himself through college working as a dishwasher and a bellhop. He then returned home to lead nonviolent protests which resulted first in his imprisonment and ultimately in the freeing of his nation from British colonialism. I have a new hero.
Powerfully, King praised the righteousness of nonviolent protest, and how it wins hearts instead of battles, though he promised that no oppressor ever voluntarily gives freedom to the oppressed. King promised that any nonviolent protest must expect some violent opposition. Referencing the story of Israel’s Exodus he observed that when you leave Egypt, you have to face a wilderness. The whole time he kept reminding me of Jesus telling his disciples that following him would mean facing persecution.
King also spoke very critically of the Church of England, and though he pulled no punches he quickly moved past criticism to praise God that inaction on the part of a church can never mean inactivity on God’s part. The following excerpt is long for a quote, but I copied it by hand into my notebook because of how deeply empowering I found it. I hope it empowers you.
“I thought of many things. I thought of the fact that the British Empire exploited India. Think about it! A nation with four hundred million people and the British exploited them so much that out of a population of four hundred million, three hundred and fifty million made an annual income of less than fifty dollars a year. Twenty-five of that had to be used for taxes and the other things of life. I thought about dark Africa, and how the people there, if they can make a hundred dollars a year they are living very well, they think. Two shillings a day—one shilling is fourteen cents, two shillings, twenty-eight cents—that’s a good wage. That’s because of the domination of the British Empire. All of these things came to my mind, and when I stood there in Westminster Abbey with all of its beauty, and I thought about all of the beautiful hymns and anthems that the people would go in there to sing. And yet the Church of England never took a stand against this system. The Church of England sanctioned it The Church of England gave it moral stature. All of the exploitation perpetuated by the British Empire was sanctioned by the Church of England. But something else came to my mind: God comes in the picture even when the Church won’t take a stand. God has injected a principle in this universe. God has said that all men must respect the dignity and worth of all human personality, ‘And if you don’t do that, I will take charge.’ It seems this morning that I can hear God speaking. I can hear him speaking throughout the universe, saying, ‘Be still and know that I am God. And if you don’t stop, if you don’t straighten up, if you don’t stop exploiting people, I’m going to rise up and break the backbone of your power. And your power will be no more!’ . . . . And I say to you this morning, my friends, rise up and know that, as you struggle for justice, you do not struggle alone, but God struggles with you. And He is working every day.” – King, The Birth Of A New Nation 1957

We never labor alone. We can do everything through Christ, who gives us strength (Phil 4:23)

RE: A Call To Conscience Chapter One

My friend Billy of The Orant recently asked his readers to join him in a personal effort to give up racism for lent. Knowing that prejudice is a malady of perception and that it is difficult to identify racism in oneself, Billy has posted a book list and asked his readers to each pick a book to reflect on and to let him know how it has challenged their perspectives. I picked, A Call to Conscience which is a collection of Martin Luther King Junior’s pivotal speeches. I’ve only read two of the eleven speeches, but I can see I won’t be able to fit my thoughts on the book into a single reflection, so I’ll be updating as I read through the book.
The first speech in the book was given at the inception of the Civil Right’s Movement. It is the address that King delivered to the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) at the start of the famous bus boycotts initiated by the arrest of Rosa Parks. Throughout the talk King encouraged his audience to stand united, he condemned violence and rumors of violence, and gave thanks to God that he lived in a nation that protected the freedoms of speech and assembly.
I was surprised to find that it was not just inspiring but also fun to read. The emotional interjections of those present at the historic meeting are recorded in the text, which makes it easy to imagine hearing King’s words delivered in a crowded meeting hall that simmered with emotion and energy. If I took one thing away from the MIA speech it is the following exhortation to keep God at the forefront and to be Christian in all our actions:

“May I say to you, my friends, as I come to a close, and just giving some idea of why we are assembled here, that we must keep--and I want to stress this, in all of our doings, in all of our deliberations here this evening and all of the week and while, --whatever we do--, we must keep God in the forefront. (Yeah) Let us be Christian in all of our actions. (That's right) But I want to tell you this evening that it is not enough for us to talk about love, love is one of the pivotal points of the Christian faith. There is another side called justice. And justice is really love in calculation. (All right) Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love. (Well)” –King 1955
Pray that we may we ever keep God at the forefront as we seek to correct that which revolts against love.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

RE:Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglas, An American Slave

Last month I read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave and I am very glad I did. It is a short book of only about 100 pages but is very emotionally intense all the same. It tells in his own words, the story of a man born into bondage, who experienced an oppression unfathomable to my mind. Douglas writes, with gut wrenching honesty, about the corruption brought by slavery to the soul of slave holders, he writes with unparalleled eloquence about the power of literacy to free the human mind, and he writes, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, about the discrepancies between the Christianity of Christ and the Christianity practised in the United States.

If you are unfamiliar with the book I give it my highest recommendation. A first hand account of a man raised as a slave offers marvellous insight into the human condition, the Gospel of Christ, the power of the written word. If you have a sensitive heart and cannot stand to read the whole bloody story I recommend chapter VII for its it's insights on the power of reading, chapter X which contains Fredrick Douglas' pivotal anagnorisis, and also the appendix, which contrasts Christianity and the religion of oppression.

The full text is available on Project Gutenberg.

Or available at Amazon.

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Blessed are the Persecuted - 2nd Tuesday Of Lent

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Matthew 5:10

Two guys were waiting by my brothers yellow truck. They pushed him and spat on him, while Im sure he couldve taken them both down, he stood and took their abuse until they got bored. My brothers offence was a small bumper sticker hed gotten to cover one that came on his truck.Jesuswas all that the sticker said.

My brother doesnt talk about that event. He brushed it off his shoulder, forgave the guys and to my knowledge he never looked back. I admire how he continued to witness by turning his cheek and be forgiving so readily. Im sure it was hard. Jesuswords here are a comfort if you are being hurt for living rightly. If youve ever had this experience you know what a comfort they are. Ive met too many Christians who complain of what they call persecution, which is often only resentment theyve earned from the people theyve brow beaten.

your heart; are you righteous when righteousness is unpopular? Do you show off when you do? Have you resented your persecutors instead of forgiving them? Jesus energetically desires to forgive all your sin, invite him to take it from you. God alone can make you righteous, depend on him and he will do it.

Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.” –Psalm 32:2