Oct 29, 2011

Judas and Grace

Jesus had his disciples make the preparations for the Passover meal in Jerusalem.

Jesus knew it would be his last meal with his disciples.

Jesus also knew within moments after the meal, one of his disciples would betray him and hand him over to the authorities.

What I find astonishing is that Jesus still broke bread with Judas.

In fact, because Jesus knew what Judas was about to do, Jesus intentionally served him the bread and wine and declared, "This is my body broken for you Judas. Take and eat, and remember me."

After they had finished their passover meal, Jesus looked into Judas' eyes and declared, "This is the blood of the new covenant, given for the forgiveness of sins. Take and drink, and remember me."

It's as if Jesus was saying to Judas, "It's never too late. You can always ask for forgiveness and it will always be given to you. I am going to the cross to forgive you for what you are about to do. Remember me. Remember you are forgiven. Remember you have been redeemed!"

The grace demonstrated here is beyond understanding. It is truly unbelievable.

This is the grace that is offered to all of us.

For how many times do we do things knowing it is hurtful, knowing it is sin? And yet we still do it.

How many times have we said things and done things knowing it to be sin, knowing we will ask for forgiveness, knowing Jesus would forgive?

How many times have we withheld from giving our best, doing what we know to be right and still not doing it?

Thank God his mercy is from everlasting to everlasting!

Thank God his grace is never ending!

For that's our only hope.

Thank God for God!

Oct 28, 2011

I Know It's Only a Game...But Dang!!!!!

I know it's only a game.

But dang! I shouldn't be this disappointed.

It really is only a game.


Just one strike. That's all the Rangers needed. One strike!!!

I didn't think the Rangers could come back after a heartbreaking loss like last night's win. I had some hope that I might be wrong when the Rangers scored two runs in the top of the first inning. But by the time the fifth inning, you could literally feel it slipping away.

It was one the greatest World Series I've ever seen.

You can't get any closer to actually winning the whole thing than the Texas Rangers in game 6. They were one pitch away from uncorking the bubbly.....TWICE for goodness sakes!!!

One pitch.

Less than one second away from jumping for joy and bringing the first World Series to Texas.

Not once, but twice, the Cardinals would get crucial hits. You couldn't duplicate that on the play ground let alone in the World Series with the entire series on the line. Even the pitcher was getting a crucial bunt down to keep the rally going.

You just can't hit clutch like that. If you were to see it in the movies, you'd laugh it off as impossible.

That's how crazy the Saint Louis Cardinal's win is.

Hats off the Cards! One heck of a series.

I do have to say, I hate the way we give home field advantage for something as important as the World Series on a meaningless game as the All Star Game. I think the series could have been very different if the Rangers had home field advantage.

Alas...could of, should of...another year of asking what ifs. And that's the worst part of a loss like this.

There were so many missed opportunities that slipped away.

Things that Matter

Borrowed from AP
One strike away from winning the first world series........twice!!!

Literally moments away from the biggest celebration in Rangers history...only to have those chances be rebuffed.

It was truly unbelievable to see what was actually taking place in the World Series game last night between the Saint Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers.

In fact, no one had ever seen anything like it before because it's never happened before.

It was truly amazing to watch. First as a baseball fan, to see one of the most intense games ever. Whenever the Cardinals would make an error, the Rangers would score. But the Rangers would be sloppy and allow the Cardinals right back in the game.

So it went back and forth.

And who will forget the incredible 9th, 10th, and 11th innings?

It looked like the Rangers had it in the bag with a three run lead going into the final half of the inning with Felix on the mound. But the Cardinals never quit. With one strike away from losing the world series, they would tie it up.

The Rangers would go up again in the 10th, and the Cards would come right back.

When the Rangers didn't score in the 11th, and also used up all their pitchers by then, you knew the Rangers were done. And the Cards hometown boy Freese would deliver the death blow with a home run to the center field grass.


Here's the thing...As terrible as most Rangers fans felt, and as joyous the Cardinal's fans were last night, give it a few years and very few people will even remember who their hometown team played against, let alone the details of the drama.

That's the way it is with games. Because that's what they are...games.

As I reflect back on the of the up and down emotions of the game last night, I wonder how I might be that engaged and that into it about life, marriage, my family, the ministry, about God, about the things that actually matter in this life and for all of eternity.

Why is it that I am not as fully engaged in things that matter?

Because the way I want to live my life is to enjoy the games, but to invest myself fully in the things that have eternal ramifications.

Oct 27, 2011

Willing to Do Whatever It Takes...

Jesus declared, "Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

This means that the church has been given everything we need to be what God desires for the church to be. God has given to the church everything we need to be a prevailing church.

I am not sure what all prevailing entails, but whatever prevailing is I don't think it is what most American churches are experiencing. I would venture to say that what most churches in America is the opposite of whatever prevailing is.

What's the problem then?

Did Jesus lie?

Was Jesus exaggerating?

Was this hyperbole?

What's the deal?

Perhaps the issue is that while God has given the church everything we need to be what he desires for the church to be, but the church has not been willing to do everything we need to do become the church God wants us to be.

I think that's really the question - Are we willing to do what it takes for the church to be the church?

Oct 26, 2011

Daily Reading of God's Word - Why?

Only God Can Make Colors Like This - Pic I took with my G2x Phone
Most Christians know that they ought to read the Bible on a regular basis.

And most of us who have been doing this Christianity thing have had every good intention to read through the Bible.

But the thing is that once we get going, well....honestly....the Bible can seem pretty boring, and on top of that it can be pretty confusing.

Have you read Leviticus lately?

If you've never read the Bible, my recommendation is that folks start with one of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John).

Spend some good time reading through the story of Jesus and familiarizing yourself with Jesus.

After the gospels, spend some time reading through the Psalms and the other New Testament texts before trying to tackle the Old Testament.

Daily reading of the Bible is essential for Christians, not necessarily because of the information it passes to its readers but because reading the Bible daily reorients our lives to what God has been doing throughout history. Daily reading of the Bible helps to remind us of how our lives fit into the story of God.

It is this daily exposure to the word of God that helps us to start seeing this world of ours in the proper perspective.

So I hope that you will get to it and start reading God's story and how your life fits into God's grand narrative.

Oct 14, 2011

The Stupid Things We Do...

The stupid things we do.....

The way things normally work in the doctor to patient relationship is that the patient calls and makes appointments with the doctor.

I have come to experience that there are occasions in which the doctor will call the patient and insist on seeing you as soon as possible.

I have also come to know whenever the doctor's office calls and tells me to come in asap, it's not a good thing.

That happened to me yesterday.

The stupid things we do...

And it's all my fault. I have no one to blame but myself. I know better.

The stupid things we do...

You see, right after Russia at the beginning of September, I ran out of all my prescription meds and I had them ready to pick up at the pharmacy but for one reason or another I never got around to picking it up.

About a week went by and I felt fine and my blood sugar numbers were staying in the normal range so I figured I must be doing fine.

Even with insurance, my meds were costing me about $400 month and I figured I just might have found $400 extra dollars a month!

Woo hoo!

The stupid things we do...

I had my regular blood test done about a week ago.

That's when it all started.

My endocrinologist (internal med/diabetes) doctor got those results and her office called me to inform me that I was to be in the doctor's office asap. The doctor saw some numbers that she was not happy with.

To make a long story short, while my blood sugar numbers were normal, my triglyceride, cholesterol, potassium, blood pressure, etc. numbers were way off the charts. The doc told me that I was fortunate that I had only been "experimenting" with not taking meds for about five weeks. Because had the numbers been any worse, she would have admitted me to the CCU.

I've learned my lesson. I'm back on meds.

Boy, the stupid things I do....

Oct 13, 2011

Pastors...Fulfilled and Depressed

We have all heard that healthy organizations/institutions are the result of healthy leaders. As the leaders go, so will the organization and institution.

What is alarming about the above statement is that while many pastors find themselves in a calling that is very fulfilling, pastors also find themselves incredibly vulnerable to burnout and depression.

Read recently on an email from Willowcreek the following stats:

  • 80% of pastors feel unquilaified and discouraged in their role as a pastor
  • 50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living
  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression
  • 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first 5 years.

(The stats were distilled from Barna research, Focus on the Family, and Fuller Seminary). 
More than ever, in the midst of our current realities of immense change and uncertainties, good and Godly leadership is absolutely essential to the future viability and vitality of our congregations.
It is unacceptable that the current way of doing church and leadership is destroying the very leaders that the churches need.
The million dollar question is: what will you do to help change these statistics?

Oct 12, 2011

The Church Jesus Wants Us to Be...

Back in August, I had the privilege of addressing +1900 presbyterians at the Fellowship of Presbyterian Gathering in Minneapolis, MN. I was asked to speak about my understanding of what it was God was calling the PC(USA) to be about.

The Church Christ Wants Us to Be...

Oct 10, 2011

Steve Jobs, Buddhism, Jesus Christ

It's been about a week since the death of Steve Jobs.

Let me start by saying that I am currently blogging on my macbook pro, with my iPad next to me, while listening to music on iTunes.

I have been a Mac fan since the very first Macintosh computers came out back in the 80's.

There is no doubt that Steve Jobs was an amazing innovator and leader of Apple Computers. Contemporary life in America has been impacted by the life and work of Steve Jobs.

Steve Job's early death is a shock to many and his life and innovation will be missed.

That's not why I am writing this blog.

The reason why I am writing is because the first time I saw a cartoon like this after his death, I thought it was funny and a fitting tribute to Steve Job's life.

But I began to see cartoons like this all over the place on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

And the thing was that lots of people were posting such tributes. And increasingly more and more Christians and pastors were putting up cartoons like this on their pages.

I can't help but wonder and ask, what are we saying about the absolute exclusive claims of Jesus Christ when Christians and pastors post cartoons like this?

Do we still believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through him?

Many people know that Steve Jobs was a devout Buddhist.

He was a man of great influence. Even a man of great importance. He single handedly changed the way we listen to music and how we use a smartphone.

I'm not debating that.

What I am questioning is the easy way universalism creeps into our world view.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think my Christian friends and pastors are universalists. But, I am stating my discomfort with how easily we participate in perpetuating some of the confusion of our culture.

I pray for Steve Job's and his family. I pray that God will be both merciful and just and loving with Steve Jobs.

But I also know, as hard and difficult and insensitive as this sounds, that Steve Jobs by affirming Buddhism rejected the invitation of Jesus Christ.

If Jesus isn't the only way, then I need to start looking for another calling. It's because Jesus offers the only pathway to eternal life that I do what I do. 

Oct 8, 2011

Giving and Doing our Best

I love sports.

Ever since I was a kid, anything that was outdoors, or anything involving a ball, I was game.

Growing up, I played baseball, basketball, volleyball, football, tennis, wrestled, ran track.

I love sports.

Now that I am a dad, I get to enjoy my children's involvement in sports.

Oct 7, 2011

Wisdom is Hindsight in Advance

I love hindsight. It's always right. It's always so clear.

I love hindsight.

The only problem of course is that hindsight is only available after the fact.

As we go through life, there are occasions when decisions have to be made but the clarity of what decision needs to be made is as clear as mud.

Oct 5, 2011

No Regrets. No What If's. I'm All In!!!

The Little Church on the Prairie Sanctuary. Ain't she pretty!!!
Not one of the churches that the Apostle Paul established are still around.

Jesus promised, "Upon this rock (that Jesus is the Son of God) I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail."

The church of Jesus Christ prevails.

The church of Jesus Christ is eternal.

However, all local churches, like all institutions have a life-cycle.

This is a hard truth for most folks in local churches to swallow. Most in the local church assume that their church will last forever.