Friday, April 28, 2006

Have Mercy

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.

I read this morning from Habakkuk. He was complaining about how the Lord, who was so pure and without evil, would use the Babylonians, who were so high on themselves, to execute judgment. The Lord assured him that they would get theirs; they would not escape wrath. The last chapter of Habakkuk is a prayer of his. He says, “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” This last phrase struck me: “in wrath remember mercy.”

I so many times forget to fall before God asking for mercy. It is only through his mercy that I can live at all. With the sin that is so prevalent in our country we need the mercy of God. I so easily think to myself, “You know...I have been doing pretty good for the past week or so in regard to sin.” This tends to lead me to think that I am cool with God and somehow don’t need to ask for mercy. “I haven’t really sinned recently,” I might think, “so I don’t need to ask for mercy.” How small a thinking we have! We need to always keep our station before us. We are sinners in need of the mercy of God. To remember this all the time keeps us humble not only before the Almighty God, but also before our fellow humans.

Someone reading this might have thought to themselves when reading the first paragraph, “What in the world has he done? No one says these things without having sinned big time.” This person would be right. We tend to spread our sins out over our lifetime. They don’t look that bad if we do this. But, if I were to pull all my sins together to where I could see them all at once, I would realize how much I need the mercy of God.

Lord, as I walk today. Keep before the attitude that I am a sinner in need of your grace. Even Paul was able to keep his sins before him, to the point of calling himself ‘the worst of sinners.’ Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Light of the World

I let my reflection on Jesus' I AM statements slip a little this week. I didn't think about the next one ("I am the light of the world") in John 8:12 until this morning.

This is a statement that is an obvious concept, but hard to seek. The movies even portray darkness as something evil: in dark alleys people get mugged; evil villains come out at night; dark clothes convey bad behavior. While they portray darkness in a bad light (get it?), they also show light as something associated with goodness: crime deceases in daytime; vampires will die in the light; the hero wears white clothes.

As familiar as this image is, I am amazed at how Jesus says, "Whoever follows me will NEVER walk in darkness." Are you sure that I will never walk in darkness? "Yes," Jesus would say, "because you will have the light of life; you have me."

As physical trouble (and "darkness") might surround those who belong to Jesus, they continue to walk in light because they follow Jesus' light-filled path. It might look dark, but it is not. Christians follow the path that is filled with hope; it is filled with life. They have eternal life that goes beyond the circumstances in which they find themselves. Despite the circumstances, they have 'the light of life,' that is, Jesus.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Nice Teeth Dude, part 2

Well, I went to the dentist. It is kindof embarrassing. Nothing wrong with my tooth. All that was there was a little shell of a kernel from popcorn. I can't believe that this was all there was. The swelling is completely gone. Funny how a small little piece of food sitting where it is not supposed to be can disrupt everything. Gums swell, schedules change, money spent, and altogether not much fun in the end.

Makes me think about how a little sin in your life (somewhere where it is not supposed to be) can disrupt everything. Egos swell, God's plans change, money wasted, and altogether not much fun in the end.

Lord, keep us away from the destructive nature of sin. It does not belong in our life. I finish with Paul's admonition to the Roman church (Rom 6:11-13): "Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him an instruments of righteousness."

Nice Rain

Last night brought a lot of rain for us. The thunder and lightening woke me up early this morning. We needed it though. Right now the windows are open, and the cool day is very refreshing.

Thank you, Lord, for giving us seasons of heat and seasons of coolness. Even in our own lives we know that the heat will not continue forever. There will be times of refreshing. May we cherish those times as we cherish our own lives. Keep filling us with your Spirit who refreshes our soul. Amen!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Nice Teeth Dude

My tooth is killing me. Last night I woke up at 4:30 or so because our dog, Chica, was wanting outside. I could hardly go back to sleep because of the pain in the back of my mouth around one of my molars. Even now it hurts as I swallow. The pain when I swallow is like the pain of swallowing when I have a sore throat. I don't understand that. All I know is that it hurts...bad.

Teeth have never been something that I take care of. I don't floss. I am doing good if I remember to brush my teeth before going to bed. But that is getting easier because Tanya brushes her teeth for about 45 minutes before she goes to bed, so I have plenty of time to be reminded. Sometimes, though, I am just too tired to put out the effort of brushing my teeth, so I don't (it will wait until the morning).

In the back of my head, I know that I should take care of my teeth if I want to keep them. But, in the moment, it seems like something I can put off. Now I am experiencing the pain of that choice. It seemed like such a small choice over a long period of time, but now it seems like a small choice that I should have chosen to do. I wish I could have been smarter.

All is not lost, however. I can use this as a way to encourage the small choices that I make in my spiritual discipline. It is a small choice to spend 5 minutes in serious prayer. Over a long period of time a real relationship begins to form with my Lord, and in a true moment of need a prayer can be answered quickly.

It is a small choice to give a complement, but this small choice changes the whole environment of the group with which you identify. The group feels more encourages and god-like. How much energy is spent on giving a complement?

It is a small choice to read 5 chapters in the Bible every day. As you do this, it increases your understanding of God's will in your life and decisions that you make become somewhat more effortless. The word of God "is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness."

It is a small choice to listen to your spouse or someone else in need. But, as you do this, you begin to nourish a relationship that God can use for His glory. The focus then turns toward God rather than your own selfishness.

So many little choices that prevent bad tooth problems. Let's brush our teeth today...multiple times.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bread of Life 3

It occurred to me that we cannot live without food (duh!). If we do not eat, we die. Jesus talks in a spiritual manner saying that if we do not eat of the spiritual food of Jesus, who comes from the Father, then we will die spiritually. There is part of me that already knew this, but I guess my growing desire to commune with God intimately throughout the day has made this 'eating of the bread of life' more real. The life I have in Christ is only made possible because of the ever-growing relationship I have with him. How could I not eat from the bread of life and still live?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Bread of Life 2

The connection between Jesus' statements about being the bread of life and communion are pretty obvious. Especially since John is the only gospel writer who does not mention the Last Supper with his disciples. So, for most (myself included), John 6 functions as John's "Last Supper" or "communion" passage.

Thinking in terms of the Lord's Supper we see that Jesus' statements take on a new and fuller meaning. As we learn to identify with Jesus by "coming to him" and "believing in him" we begin follow through with this identity in how we live. We take on the flesh and blood of Jesus in living out his life on earth now. This is the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood that repulses those literalists in Jesus' day (cf. 6:53-60).

Every Sunday we recommit ourselves to identify with Jesus' death as we take the Lord's Supper. In this act, we receive the bread that truly sustains us. It is the bread of life. It is Jesus' body and blood that we proclaim keeps us going. It is the hope of eternal life right now that sustains the life we live.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Weeds revisited

I posted a blog fairly recently about weeds and their application to weeds in my life. Tonight, I preached a sermon about weeds. I used the text of Hebrews 12:1b-2a to really focus on how to get rid of the weeds in our life. I just decided this, but I am going to post my sermon text for those who are interested. Some of it is a repeat of the earlier blog, but it is only 1.5 pages in Word. I expanded in many places where I felt led, but the general idea is captured in my script. I hope you enjoy.

--Sermon given Sunday night, April 16, 2006--
1. Weed Story
Tanya and I like to joke around with each other. One time, probably about a three months ago, Tanya came from letting Chica (our little toy poodle) in and said that I need to do something about those trees out in our backyard. I laughed out loud because I knew exactly what she was talking about. We just have one real tree in our yard. She was not talking about that. She was talking about those weeds in our yard that were about this high at the time. I thought it was hilarious.

Like many males in our world, I said, “yeah, I need to do something about that,” but I didn’t give too much thought to when I would actually get out the chain saw to cut those suckers down. By the way…this is not good if you are trying to work on your relationship with your spouse (don’t just say sure to get someone off your back). Up until about two months ago, this was a ongoing joke that Tanya and I had between us. Every now and then I would let Chica in and tell Tanya that I almost didn’t find her. It was a great joke. I loved it.

But, about two months ago, I finally decided to tackle this job I was not looking forward to. I got out there and realized that this is not going to be your normal, everyday weed-pullin job. I got serious. I got my gloves on and everything. So, I went to town. Now, you know that this is a big weed-pullin job when you actually think about keeping your back straight so you don’t pull a muscle. And that’s what I was doing. This is a big job!

But, I didn’t finish the job without getting hurt. By the time I finish pulling all these suckers up, my nose is dripping so bad I can’t look down because this huge snot string begins to gush out. At this point, I decide it wuld be best not to mow the will wait for tomorrow. So, I go inside, take a shower, get out, and look down at my arms. They are broken out all over. They are puffy red with welts all over them. And these aren’t your small, ordinary welts. These are big! I can't believe I am actually looking at my own arms! So I call Mark Waldron, end up taking TWO Benadryl (not just one), and I am out! So, I learned a lesson: Get rid of your weeds…early. Don’t let them grow…or they may become so big that they wound you worse than me.

2. Weed Lesson – Why do I tell you this story tonight?

Because all of us have weeds growing in our life. They are just sitting there unattended, minding their own business. I let a bad thought linger in my mind; I quietly let my anger build as I 'valiently' remain quiet when I feel wronged; I just explode every once in a while (its not all the time); I fill my eyes with unproductive TV; I listen to music that would make my mother blush; I have an extra cookie or five when I know I don't need them; I go ahead and have another coke when I know I probably sould drink water instead. All these weeds I just let grow ever so slowly. You won’t notice them if you are looking at them. Then, all of a sudden, they are bigger than I am…these innocent little weeds that I have not attended to. When I finally try to tackle them, [pause] they leave marks that don't go away quickly. I must suffer through my choice to let these weeds grow so big...there is no way around them or the affects they had on my battle against them. But I have got to get rid of them. I’ve got to start somewhere

Let us pull up the weeds of sin that so easily entangle us. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way: “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a).

“It is an innocent little show on MTV. They even bleep out the words so I don’t hear them, but, yeah, I still know what they said. That kind of language is not something I say. It really doesn’t affect me at all does it?”

“It is an innocent little sporting event where I just happen to look a little too close at those nice lookin’ women. I mean this is public TV isn’t it. There are regulations here. Those images are okay aren’t they.”

“I’m just listening to the music and the beat, but the words don’t really affect me very much. I might drive a little faster when I listen or I might ignore my parents cause ‘They just don’t understand’, but it doesn’t affect me does it?”

“You don’t understand what he said to me. He obviously cares nothing about me or else he would not say those things. I can’t open myself up to him again until he apologizes! You would be angry for longer than I have been if someone said these hurtful words to you, wouldn’t you!”

“This dessert tastes so good. I mean…I know I shouldn’t have any more; I’m stuffed already, but its really not going hurt that much to have one more little bowl, right?”

Repeat for last time: “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…”

3. The Challenge

What weed are you going to choose to tackle tonight? There is something there that is growing slowly. God is telling you what it is right now. He is whispering that you need to tackle it…that weed that is just sitting there unattended…you need to do something. Maybe you have tried to start, but realized just how big the project was, felt discouraged, and gave up.

What do you need to do? You need to start by fixing your eyes on Jesus, the one who is helping write your story. He is the author of your faith. You need to fix your eyes on the one who is making you better…stronger. He is the perfector of your faith. Jesus is where you start.

He knows what you are going through. He has been tempted in every way, just as we are; yet he was without sin. Jesus is where you start.

He gave his life so that you can start tackling your weeds. He lives so that you can live. He shows you how real living goes…without weeds choking out life.

Cry out to him. Call out and say, “Lord, I need you. I can’t handle it alone. Come near me and rescue me.”

We are not alone; you are not alone. All of us here have had struggles with our own weeds. We need each other. I want to pray for you. I want you to come down here right now so that we can pray.

“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…”

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Bread of Life 1

Well, here are some of my initial observations on Jesus' statement in John 6. Most of it is going to be text focus, which is where most reflection begins for me anyway.

I notice that the people are drawn to Jesus because they ate bread and were full; the feeding of the five thousand just happened at the beginning of the chapter. They at least recognize that Jesus can provide for them, even though it is physically motivated on banal needs.

Jesus takes advantage of this opportunity to do a little teaching on the true nature of the food that he offers. This is bread that endures to eternal life. He changes their slightly misplaced focus from Moses to God: " is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father" (6:32). They like the proposal and ask Jesus to not give them something he has already given them (physical bread), but to give them this bread that gives life to the world (6:33-34).

It is at this point that Jesus makes the emphatic statement, "I (not someone or something else) am the bread of life." I can't get past how Jesus says that 'coming to him' (whatever that means) will allay their hunger and 'believing in him' (whatever that means) will assuage their thirst. The presence of Christ in their life will actually take away their hunger and their thirst.

When I really think about this, I want this. To know (and beyond experience) God's presence in such a deep and real way is something for which I passionately long. The only way that I can describe it in words is to be caught up in the Spirit, to be overwhelmed with God's holiness. It forces me to fall down to my knees. I can't help but be taken and shaken, yet firmly established in the hands of the one called 'The Bread of Life.'

Father, continue to help me understand Jesus statement here in John 6. Reveal the depth of this statement to me. It seems a little hidden and I don't understanding it completely. But, I know that you are the revealer of all mysteries. Help open my eyes to this bread from heaven.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


In a conversation with Doug, our Youth Minister at church, I felt compelled to do some meditation on God's word over a period of weeks or months. Because he was taking one of the beatitudes a week on which to meditate I felt like I couldn't just copy him, as good as that would be.

This morning I was reading through Psalm 119. Anyone who does this even halfway awake cannot miss how meditating on God's word is something to be sought after. One particular section (Psalm 119:97-104), which happens to be the 'M' section, really encouraged me to take this meditation that Doug mentioned seriously. "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long."

So, I decided to meditate on Jesus' 'I am' statements in John over the next month or two. I will take one a week to do some meditation and reflection. Be ready to read about my thoughts every now and then on these things. The first one is in John 6 regarding the Bread of Life.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

ONE Campus-wide Worship Service

Last Monday night, we had the opportunity to participate in a campus-wide worship service that has been in the works for a little bit. A student (Nathan) from the Wesley Foundation (Methodist Student Center) was really the driving force for making this happen. It was really good to see him not lose heart and really make it happen; I am glad that he stepped up to the challenge.

I really didn't know what Kats for Christ was going to do doing this service even though it was for us to decide. It didn't take much reflection on it to decide though. We were going to sing a few songs a cappella. There might have been a half of second hesitation on my part for two reasons. One, I knew most of the people there would not be accustomed to singing a cappella and we would probably follow a band (great!!). And two, I didn't know if our group would actually want to show up to sing. But, like I said, that only lasted like half a second.

In the end, I didn't want the focus to be on us or on our music. I didn't want to perform songs for all these other students. I did want to bring these other students to a place where they could encounter God through a cappella singing. The focus should be and was on worshiping our God together with other Christian groups.

We ended up being the last group to go. When Nathan came to tell me he was almost apologetic, but I didn't care where we were. As I got to thinking about it (and I said this before we started the first song), we were like the end of many instrumental worship songs I hear on the radio. In these songs the music typically stops and you just offer up your voices to God. I think it was fitting that we were at the end after all the other groups, stripped before God with nothing but our voices and hearts.

I was caught up in praises to him as we sang, but the few times I opened my eyes to see the students before us I saw their hearts exploding with praises to him. It was a wonderful thing to see. Nathan came in just a minute ago and even affirmed what I saw on Monday night. Many people thought it was a fitting way to end the evening.

I praise you Lord for this time. I pray that you were and continue to be glorified in our worship to you. Thank you for giving us this opportunity. May you draw people to yourself as we lift you up. Amen.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Redhead Kayla

Kayla is definitely a redhead. We are teaching her that she doesn’t get what she wants all the time. Just because she cries when we firmly say no, doesn’t mean that she gets it. Amazingly enough, she usually stops crying pretty quickly when she realizes that this crying business is getting her nowhere. Tanya and I know that we cannot absolutely control her crying and wailing around. Have you ever tried to get a 14 month old to stop doing it. She will do it regardless of how many times we spank her. What we can control, however, is where she does this. So, we are teaching her that if she acts this way, she must do so in her room. We will not allow it in our presence...and this is well within our control.

This morning she wanted an egg that was on the table. (We are collecting the eggs for the easter egg hunt at the church this coming Sunday.) She has plenty of eggs with her toys, so I would not allow her to get the ones on the table. I said, “No! If you want eggs, then you can go get your own over there!” pointing to her toy area. Well, she immediately started wailing like the drama queen she is. I got up from my chair, told her that she can do that, but she has to go to her room. I grabbed her hand and we walked to her room. We hadn’t walked 10 feet before she had stopped crying. She got to her room and enjoyed some time getting in and out of the rocking chair. It is crazy how we can guide her thinking at such a young age. She thinks the world is going to end when she doesn’t get this egg she wants right now. She can see nothing else but fulfilling her all-consuming selfish desire in that moment, but then I show her that the world is still here and that she can behave in a better way...then she (most of the time) calms down. Fourteen month olds can understand a tremendous amount more than we give them credit for.

Lord, guide us as we continue to learn to be better parents.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Prepare Thyself

Well, this week has flown by. I can't believe tomorrow is already Sunday. I guess I get another opportunity to worship God with the rest of the congregation. May God give me wisdom and strength to prepare my heart for offering up praises to Him.

It starts right now. Saturday night. What am I doing right now to prepare my mind for worship tomorrow morning with the assembly? I will read my Bible before going to bed. I will offer my heart up to God in prayer. I will ask God to show me mercy as I offer these things to him. I will sit and reflect on my day today and see where God was working. I will imagine my day tomorrow and how I can be an encouragement to those around me. As I prepare myself to serve on the table in a few minutes, may I recognize my humble state before the awesome God who offered himself for us.

Help me father in my times of weakness. When I don't feel like I know how to enter your presence, may you allow me the grace to proceed with an attitude of humility and fear. Enliven me with your Spirit through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Super Slushy Worship

This morning I got to teach part of the youth group (10th through 12th grade). It was, I think, a good class. At least it seemed like they were interested and involved in what we were talking about: worship.

I find it completely interesting that I am teaching a class on a subject that has been questioned this last week (see a previous blog of mine). At least our young people are getting a few things. One, the connection that worship is active, not passive is huge. We are not watching something, but participating in something greater than we are. Two, worship is doing something that pleases our creator. That means worship happens throughout the week, not just on Sunday morning. When I am serving at the local Super Slushy, I have the opportunity to engage in worship. "Have a good day as I praise God serving you, sir."

I guess what encourages me more than anything else is that our youth are getting it. This is good sign that God is pumping freshness into our body. Lord, help us to change our hearts to reflect yours more this week.

Worship Time

I do find it fascinating the approach to worship that says it happens between the opening prayer and the closing prayer (or benediction). Anything between those two things is considered a part of worship while anything outside those lines is not.

I had this conversation recently with one of our elders (who came in behalf of most of the other elders). The presenting issue was that I showed a video during "worship services" on Sunday night last week that had instrumental music in it. I had stepped over (or confused) the line of having instruments in worship, which is something that we do not permit. I don't want to hash out the issue as much as I want to talk about what is considered worship. During my conversation, I found out that the video would have been fine if we had had the closing prayer immediately before showing it.

This speaks volumes as to when we think worship happens and what definition we have of worship. It seems a little legalistic if you ask me. "Here is the line that gives us peace. Say this prayer, then its okay to do anything because it is not technically 'in' worship." Two scripture were given to me as a proof of this line drawing phenomenon: Col 3:16 and Eph 5:19. I do want to consider these briefly and in order.

The Colossians text reads, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God." The admonition is definitely toward singing in our hearts, but it says nothing about instrumental music; thus, for most in our heritage, we cannot use instruments. When I look at the text however, the only command I see is that the word of Christ must dwell in our hearts as we teach, admonish, and sing. It doesn't really command no instruments.

Let's say we decide, for argument's sake, that we are not going to have instruments, something I am an advocate for by the way. We might say this is how we let the word of Christ dwell in our hearts. The context of this passage demands a broader understanding of worship than we typically give it, however. The context of this passage is one of regular, everyday life. We are being (see 3:12ff) compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, forgiving, loving, and peaceful as God's people living in the world. The verse right after it (3:17) even says, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Reading on we find must talk about household admonitions. Why do we use this text as just a comment on our times of worship on Sundays? It demands a broader application that many in our heritage seem to claim. Are all the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs I sing at any time only a capella? If this is where I want to go, it seems like I need to be consitent in applying it to my life by not singing with instruments ever. This is somewhere that I will not go, so that is why I don't use this text as an explicative of why we sing a capella.

The Ephesians text reads and typically applied in a manner much like the Colossians, "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." The only command is found in the previous verse (Eph 5:18b): "be filled with the spirit." All the ideas in our particular text hinge on our being filled with the we speak, as we sing and make psalms, and as we give thanks.

Again, I see no command to refrain from instrumental music. If I did, I would need to apply it to my whole life rather than a couple of hours of my week. All of my time should be geared toward being filled with the spirit. I see freedom to allow our hands to express themselves as an overflow of the heart in playing an instrument. Indeed, most times that I experience the moving of the spirit in my life happens to be as I am playing or listening to instrumental music.

In summary, I do not like the complete separation of worship from every other aspect of my life. I do not see this in the pages of scripture at all. My whole life (not just part of it) needs to be geared toward pleasing God. He demands my whole heart, 24-7. Let us encourage one another as long as it is called today toward love and good deeds (in all parts of our life). Amen!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Humility Before Honor

Proverbs 15:33 and 18:12 use the phrase "...humility comes before honor." I learned this yet again last night. Tanya and I had been at odds with each other. I felt like she was demanding too much of me; she felt like I didn't care about her needs. She was stressed; I was bothered. Both of us could not really have a productive conversation at all. Most of the things we did, innocent though they might be, ended up being interpreted in the worst possible light.

This escalation continued until humility entered the picture. Once both of us were able to humble ourselves and commit to work things out instead of tear things down, honor came back into our relationship. Once we were able to humbly and actively listen, we were able to progress toward honoring one another above ourselves. Once we were able to, in humility, pray to our creator, we were able to, in honor, glorify God in our relationship.

The next time you feel like strangling your spouse (or significant other), remember that "humility comes before honor."