Wednesday, April 27, 2011
I have tried my best to be loyal in all areas of my life - I followed all the Bro. Codes with friends back in the day; I have 1 sports team in each sport that I pull for, and no more; I even shop at certain places based on loyalty. Nothing exemplifies this loyalty more than my shoes. The shoes I'm wearing today, as I type this, are...7 years old! Yep, for 7 years I have been wearing these brown Rockport shoes. I've worked, preached, walked, played, and stumbled many miles in these puppies, and frankly I just don't see any reason to buy more shoes. My sister got them for me as a Christmas present, and since I still like them, and I hate shoe shopping so much, I just keep wearing them.
Recently, though, there has been a problem - its seems the insoles of shoes aren't generally made to last for 7 years of continuous use, and so mine wore out. In fact, they were so worn out they were eating holes in all my socks because my socks were rubbing against the hard inside of the sole!
Now, a normal person may think this was a sign that it was time to buy new shoes. Wrong! You don't replace your car when the tires wear out do you? Well, neither do I, so yesterday I bought some new insoles. Now, since this blog isn't sponsored (though it could be, hint hint) I won't give the brand name. Let's just say they were made by a doctor, and they are full of something called "comfort gel."
At this point some of you have, no doubt, asked why I am talking about my shoes. Some of you have asked, "why should I care about this?" Some of you just stopped reading, jerks! (those of you who read this far, don't tell the others I called them jerks, ok?)
Today, on the other side of Easter, my shoes have new life. Sure, they still bear all the scuffs and scars of their previous life, those don't just magically disappear. Far too often I think we preachery folks give the impression from the pulpit that they will. Our old lives and the decisions we made "back then" will forever be part of the fabric of who we are, just as the miles I have trod in these shoes will be with them forever.
Inside, though, where it matters most, my shoes are brand new! That is the very simple truth of the Resurrection. Jesus, though battered and bruised, arose to new life. He promises us that same kind of new life, beginning today.
Are you worn out? Filled with holes inside? Are you in misery? You can have new life. Everyone can have new life. That is the very simple message of the Gospel.
After hearing that truth, we have only two places: We either need new life, or we need to be living fully in the new life we've been granted.
It wouldn't make much sense to buy new insoles for these shoes only to put them on the shelf, never to be worn again would it? That's not new life at all, that's just a prettier death. New life means, a new kind of living! The other great mistake we preachery folks make from the pulpit is to give the impression that new life is a once-and-for-all one time decision. Jesus teaches us that new life is lived - weekly, daily, hourly. When we waste our new life, we waste the cross. When we waste our new life, we waste the resurrection. When we waste our new life, we waste the very grace of God.
The commercials for these inserts are famous. They show people asking one another, "are you gellin'?" Their feet are so comfortable in their new insoles, they can't help but live in joy. They can't help but express that joy to everyone around them, so they too can live in footstacy. (foot + ecstasy = footstacy!)
If only we could be so motivated to live our new life!
at 11:21 AM
Monday, April 18, 2011
I wanted to wait until after yesterday's sermon to post this, so it wouldn't spoil my sermon starter. (click HERE to see the sermon) Its a story of one event, and how that one event created two very distinct reactions within me. No, The Event is not a TV show about aliens who have escaped from their prison in Alaska and, have teleportation powers and unlimited funds, and the ability to send messages across light years of space, yet still use our crummy cell phones to talk to each other and thus get blown up on public transportation.... sorry, I digress. No, I'm talking about a real life event that happened to me one week ago today.
I was heading home from work, running a little late after having to stop for dog food at good ol' Wally World. It was about 4:30 so traffic had gotten pretty thick, and the last thing standing between me and my babe and my baby was the stoplight at Lawyers Rd. and Wilson Grove Rd. in Mint Hill. I had just stopped to put a check into the ATM, and made a turnaround in the Bloom parking lot so I could get in the turning lane rather than take my chances with traffic. A man pulled out in front of me chugging a bottle of beer, and veered into Arby's. Needless to say at this point, I was pretty distracted.
So there I am, in the left turning lane, behind an F150, and we are both pulled out into the intersection because there is no way I'm letting this light delay me! The light goes yellow and the Ford goes through, with me tucked right in behind him. I knew the light was red by the time I went through, but hey, that's big city drivin', right! Wrong! I look up into my mirror to see one of Mint Hill's finest turning around.
For just a moment I flashed back to my days of playing Dukes of Hazzard as a kid, but alas, the Tacoma with all 225,000 miles is not exactly the General Lee, so I pulled over.
"License and registration please."
In my mind, I begin to sulk. I go through all the stages of grief in about 5 seconds:
- Denial - This isn't happening!
- Anger - Stupid Poooolice! Why is the man trying to keep me down!
- Bargaining - Dear God, if you get me out of this ticket, I will go to church every Sunday, except when I'm on vacation. (ok, so that wasn't really a good bargain)
- Depression - Good grief, now my insurance is going to go up, and I have to pay this ticket, and court costs, and we just finished paying Uncle Sam, and, and, and...
- Acceptance - Yeah, I guess I really did run that light. Poop.
Sad, angry, frustrated. Poop.
Then, a miracle! The good officer hands me my ticket and says those magic words everybody longs to hear, but usually only hot women or women who can make themselves cry actually get to hear: "This is just a warning ticket."
Haaaaaallelujah Haaaaallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah Halleeeeluuuuujaaaahhhhh!
Suddenly, all was forgiven. Suddenly despair turned to rejoicing, darkness to light, rain into a rainbow! The same event registered two completely different emotions.
Doesn't God do this all the time? We go through change and we feel like its the most horrible thing, only to find ourselves so much happier on the other side. We lose our job, only to find a better one. We get dumped by a girl/boy, only to realize there was somebody else so much better all along. On and on it goes.
The crowd in Jerusalem went from "Hosanna! "to "Crucify Him!" in the course of a week, only to turn back to those cries of "Hosanna!" Same event, different emotions.
God is working, constantly, tirelessly, to perfect us. To refine us. To redeem us. Sometimes it really does take a little pain to get a little gain. The biggest doubts create the deepest faith. The darkest nights produce the brightest sunrise. God only asks us to persevere.
Every day of all of our lives is composed of millions of events. Are you living yours through to the end?
at 9:54 AM
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
I am pretty much an easy going guy. Most people that know me would say that I don't have a short fuse, hot head, or any other slang for somebody that gets mad and yells a lot. I can probably count on one hand the people in my entire life that I have just really really not liked.
I have an enemy. Not just an enemy, NAY! A nemesis! Like Khan to Captain Kirk. Like Lex Luther to Superman. Like the Acme corporation to Mr. Wile E. Coyote. I have an enemy...
The wobbly plate.
Jenn and I still use the same plain black dishes that I bought from Wally World when I was in my first year of graduate school. There are good reasons we still use those old black dishes. For starters, we could never agree on the dishes we wanted to register for. We knew ourselves well enough to know we didn't want any fine china to sit on a shelf. And of course, there is pure economics - we just don't want to spend money to buy new dishes.
The black dishes are nice, functional dishes. They are, well, black. Black goes with everything thing, right? And they hold food. So I guess you could say they do everything a plate should do. But oh, there is one. One diabolical, eeevil plate - the wobbly plate!
The wobbly plate wobbles. The bottom is just a little bulgy and so when you try to eat on it, it wobbles. Try to cut something - wobble. Try to scoop something - wobble. Look at it with pure hate burning in your eyes...... - wobble! It is annoying. It is awful. It is - my sworn enemy.
This is how I know my wife loves me - she takes the wobbly plate. We put it on the bottom of the stack of plates, but we almost always get to it a couple times a week, and that happened just the other night. I had it there, wobbling in front of me. Mocking me. Laughing at me. Talking plate smack. I shook my fist (literally, I shake my fist at it!) and said "Wobbly plate!" Then Jenn said something amazing, "oh, I always try to make sure that I get that one, lets trade."
That's how I know my wife loves me. She takes the wobbly plate. Evan knows Daddy loves him because Daddy shares his bacon. Jenn knows her husband loves her because he comes home from work and takes Evan for a long walk so she can have "mommy time." I know Jenn loves me because she takes the wobbly plate.
I had a friend, who was once a traveling speaker, and now a pastor, named Art Mace. Art used to stand in front of churches and say, "I am here to confess to you that I beat my wife." People would gasp and swoon, and then he'd finish, "I beat her to the dishes. I beat her to the vacuum cleaner. I beat her to the trash." Jenn and I love each other, and so it is only natural that we serve each other. We put the other in front of ourselves.
And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
- Deuteronomy 10:12-13
- Deuteronomy 10:12-13
How do we measure relationships? We measure them with love, which is lived out in service. Here's the most amazing thing - its "for [our] own good!"
My relationship with my family is for my own good. My relationship with God is for my own good!
So husbands, beat your wives. Wives, beat your husbands. Children, beat your parents! Lets all beat each other in a great race to serve and love. Let's direct all that love from God back to God, and to each other, and to a world that so badly needs love.
Let's take the wobbly plate for our neighbor because we love them. Its for your own good!
at 9:27 AM
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Every evening, after supper is over, and just before time for bed, we get to do something amazing at my house - we get to have bath time! No, not me and Jenn! This blog is rated PG! I'm, of course, talking about Evan's bath time.
Its pure joy. He plays with his little toys, splashes around, talks to NAVE (read it backwards) in the shiny parts of the tub. Best of all, he splashes around while the water drains and tells it "bye bye." Bath time with Evan is always fun, and each time its my turn, I enjoy it more and more.
Of course, it also gets him clean. I mean, that is what a bath is for, right?
I've been reading about the history of Palestine/Israel before, during, and immediately after Jesus' life. Its part of my lenten commitment to do more focused study, and its really been great discipline for me.
(confession: too often I feel like study time isn't really "work" time, which is silly because study time allows me to perform my primary role to the best of my ability. still the feeling is there and real. confession over.)
Yesterday, I ran across this quote in The Message and the Kingdom, "When John baptized, he asked for the following public commitment: "to live righteous lives, to practice justice towards their fellow man, and piety towards God." It was actually an echo of the commitment the Essene community was asking their members to take, though they baptized themselves repeatedly as a part of their worship experience.
It got me thinking about our own, Christian, baptism. What is it, exactly, that we are having people do when we baptize them?
For the Essene, baptism was a mark of membership into a worship community. They were pledging to each other to live a certain way towards one another within their particular community.
For John, it wasn't something secret, or limited, rather it was a very public event. It was a statement about a kind of life the person being baptized was pledging to live as part of the larger community.
For Christians, it seems both apply, and neither. Jesus asks that we "make disciples," and then "baptize them into the NAME of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."
The word "into" means here "into the possession of, " so Christian baptism is a transfer of ownership from self to the "name," (which is singular in Matthew) of Father, Son, Spirit. So when we are baptized, we are stating publicly that we have transferred ownership of ourselves over to God in his three forms. After that, we are told by Jesus, we are to teach the people we have baptized so they can learn to live in the community they have pledged themselves to.
Now, if you've read what Jesus teaches in the Gospels, it sounds very much like "living righteous lives, to practicing justice towards our fellow man, and piety towards God."
So we are making a commitment to each other as a Christian community (as the Essenes) but also pledging to live that life in full view of the public (as John taught) in order that we may multiply ourselves as disciples. The commitment we are making is to be under ownership of God, to be led by Him and Him alone, and to do so in Churches that exist within larger communities.
For far too long we as believers have focused on how much water to use, or when in a person's life it was appropriate to use the water, and I fear we've done so at the expense of the greater meaning behind the act.
Baptism is not just another bath. Its a public sale of myself to God. In transferring ownership, I agree to live as my Lord designs, since He is, after all, the owner.
So what name owns you?
at 1:41 PM