Monday, April 30, 2007

And for the poor, the prisoner, the heartbroken;
For all of those who mourn, weep, and cry out for justice;
For the homeless, the hungry, the lonely;
For all the victims in every part of the world;
Sometimes the conversation should be silence.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Changes week one: Bart

Mark 1:14-15
After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee preaching the Message of God: "Time's up! God's kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message."

The Kingdom of God is at hand. In His own person the Kingdom of God has arrived. That word repent, metanoia, means to convert, to change, to make a 180-degree turn. It means to change and get a real life, the real life, the with-God life!

Metanoia means to change your mind, to go beyond the mind that you have. The kingdom is now at hand, it is here. We tend to live in the narrow space of our own ego, our self-centredness- the small soul. Jesus says give your life to me and you discover the real life where we are linked to God’s power and lifted beyond our own thoughts, dreams, hopes and fears.

Mark is the shortest gospel, and it has Jesus in a hurry to get to the cross. It dispenses of anything that slows Jesus getting to the cross.

The stories of people encountering Jesus are fascinating in Mark. They are meant to help us find our way into the life of Jesus. An ancient Christ follower named Origen said that we should reverence every word of scrpiture. They all mean something.

Mark 10:46-52
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."

"Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Jericho. Remember Jericho in the Old Testament? Jericho stood in the way fo the people of God making it to the promised land. It is the false way of ordering things. It was an ancient ‘city of sin’, kind of like Las Vegas.

Standing outside of Jericho was a man names Bartimaeus. He stands for all of us who have taken in the values of the city of sin, the city opposed to God’s kingdom.

Bartimaeus is blind. Blindness- we don’t see. To be holy, to be a saint, to be a friend of God is to see with the eyes of God.

Bart is also a beggar. Remember in 12-Step parlance that the first step is to admit you’re powerless. The next step is to realize that there is a greater power that can help us and then we make a conscious decision to surrender to Him.

I thought I could change the world. It took me a hundred years to figure out I can’t change the world. I can only change Bessie. And honey, that ain’t easy either. Bessie Delany (she lived to be over 100 years-old!)

Acknowledge you can’t save yourself! We therefore surrender all- our pride, envy, anger, lust, addictions, self-centeredness. We surrender it because we can’t will ourselves out of it. We beg for something, better yet someone to come and help us out.

Bart calls out to Jesus, “Have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet.

When we start begging for help from God, from the Lord Jesus Christ, we learn not to expect a lot of help from the wider culture, from our family, from our relational networks that are far from God.

When I had chosen to become a Christ follower I recall explaining it to some friends. None of my friends were remotely religious, and while they wanted the best for me I could see it in their eyes: “You’re nuts.”

We usually have two voices inside of us. The first says things like, “Be sure you make it on your own. You can do it yourself. Become an independent person and don’t rely on anyone. Go ahead, make yourself proud.”

The other voice says, “Whatever you do, even when you don’t do anything great, be sure to stay close to God.”

The voice in Bart that cries out to Jesus is the second voice. He’d likely had enough of trying things his way. When you cry out to God, just remember to expect opposition from the wider culture.

“I used to be so rock-solid sure; I used to misunderstand so much. And I used to preach that misunderstanding, preach it hard like my rock of faith. I used to pound that misunderstanding hard until other people believed it. I used to be so sure. Now I preach questions and a little faith. And reaching out to take the steady hand of Jesus, and reaching out to steady someone else. And forgiveness. I preach forgiveness. I do this not for any credit in heaven or for an eternal reward, but because this is how I try to live my life. I try to have a little faith and two outstretched hands. A little faith and two outstretched hands.” Russell Rathbun

At this point many translations say Jesus stopped, but it’s more that he stood still. Jesus becomes the still point in a wildly changing world. He sets Himself as the anchor, as the center point. We can have peace in our center because of who Jesus is; we no longer have to live on the surface of life, riding the ups and downs. They kept coming to Jesus from all sides. He was like a magnet.

When we live our life with Jesus as the centre, we learn to allow His love to become the magnet that others are attracted to. We don’t have to think of witty things to say, we allow Him to be the magnet and we are faithful to the opportunities.

Jesus calls Bart. We are called, the word kaleo. It’s the root of the word ecclesia, the church. When we meet Jesus we are called into communion with Him and everyone else he’s called, the local group of people we journey with and the broader community that follows the Jesus way.

To be converted means to change your way of life leaving behind the old ways of life. Sin is like having the monkey of your own ego on your back. Imagine a day where you go through it without even thinking of your own ego- your pride, what others are thinking of you, who you’re scared of, whatever worries you.

Instead you are immersed in giving yourself to others because of love, not because you get anything in return. Psychologists call the state where time seems to stand still, where you are fully immersed as flow.

We can flow with God’s Spirit. Amazing! Instead of, ‘What are others thinking of me?’ Or ‘Who likes me?’ We flow with the love of God.

Bart jumps up; he now has a lightness of being. Coming to Jesus he is asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

If you ever want to do a spiritual retreat alone or with others just spend some time with the questions that Jesus asks.

What if the Lord Jesus Christ asked you this morning, this very morning, right here, right now, here in our midst, “What do you want me to do for you?”

I’d like a Maserati, maybe a Hummer, too. Wrong answer.

I want to see! Amazing Grace, I once was blind but now I see!

I want to see the Kingdom breaking in. I want to see with your eyes, to see with eyes of compassion, with eyes of love.

Jesus says to Bart, “Your faith has healed you.” Is that a belief in propositions? Mental assent to a framework of ideas?

Perhaps there is an element of that here, but it’s much more the opportunity to follow Jesus, to trust Him with life, to leave fear behind. To accept love, to hope, to trust God and surrender everything that we have and are.

Sign this statement of beliefs please.

“The way to Christian growth is often to allow oneself to be puzzled and startled by new apparent complexity. There is great simplicity at the heart of this picture, and to us strange and perhaps even repellent, first century ways of thinking that characterized Jesus. Is it after all Jesus we want to discover and follow, or would we prefer an idol of our own making?” N. T. Wright

Bart follows Jesus up the road. Where is Jesus going? To Jerusalem. He’s going to the cross, and right behind is a formerly blind person.

There’s another famous Bart. We all know him. He is the epitome of the selfish life and of absorbing the values of the culture around us. What does it look like when it’s not surrendered to God?

Matt Groening was exposed to religiosity while growing up in Saskatchewan and we see the effects on the characters he created. We show people more about God when we’re open about the blindness that has been taken away, and living a life of love following the living God than pronouncing judgment upon them.

How many of us aspire to be a Bart or a Homer? We are invited to enter a relationship with Christ that changes everything.

Make your life a gift like Jesus did.

Communion: “What do you want me to do for you?”

Have mercy on me…
Where I judge others
where I dismiss others
where I abuse others
where I ignore others
where I ridicule others
where I use others

Have mercy on me…
Where I elevate myself
where I think only of myself
where I want only for myself
where I gather to myself
where I hold to myself
where I value only myself

Have mercy on me…
Where I seek for power
where I seek for control
where I seek for praise
where I seek for status
where I seek for fame
where I seek for wealth

Jesus have mercy on me.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Once we have committed our life to Christ, is our spiritual purpose to go around the diamond- learn our gifts, join a small group, and find a program to serve in the church? But then what?

Friday, April 27, 2007

A real scary evolution...

In DARWIN’S NIGHTMARE I tried to transform the bizarre success story of a fish and the ephemeral boom around this "fittest" animal into an ironic, frightening allegory for what is called the New World Order.

I could make the same kind of movie in Sierra Leone, only the fish would be diamonds, in Honduras, bananas, and in Libya, Nigeria or Angola, crude oil.

Most of us I guess, know about the destructive mechanisms of our time, but we cannot fully picture them.

We are unable to "get it", unable to actually believe what we know. It is, for example, incredible that wherever prime raw material is discovered, the locals die in misery, their sons become soldiers, and their daughters are turned into servants and whores. Hearing and seeing the same stories over and over makes me feel sick. After hundreds of years of slavery and colonisation of Africa, globalisation of african markets is the third and deadliest humiliation for the people of this continent. The arrogance of rich countries towards the third world (that's three quarters of humanity) is creating immeasurable future dangers for all peoples. Herbert Sauper

Does a Christ follower have a responsibilty to address this?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

It never ceases to amaze me about how God leads us. About a year-and-a-half ago my friend Dave gave me this movie to watch- With Honors. I never could quite watch it; something always came up, or I was sort of 'blocked' from watching it. It finally seemed to be the right time yesterday.

The movie plays on the quirks of life, the unexpected twists and turns that happen. This is common to all good movies, stories, even to life itself. The wild goose calls and life is never the same.

Monty's senior year takes an unexpected turn when a power outage sends him into a thesis panic. His computer has just crashed; what would he do if something happened to the only hard copy? Monty sets out in the snow to a nearby copy shop, only to take a nasty fall and see the precious envelope go flying through a grate. He sneaks into the basement of Widener Library and finds his manuscript in the dirty hands of Simon Wilder (Joe Pesci), a homeless man who's moved into a corner of the cellar and is feeding sheets of Monty's masterwork into the flames for warmth. Monty makes a deal, allowing Simon to move into the abandoned van in his yard if Simon will give back the manuscript...

I knew the story line, yet early on I really didn't like Simon. God gently but very clearly spoke to me about my own ability to resist His grace, His leading. We all often react when our best laid plans go awry. That's what makes life, life!

God's leading is often in the form of a Mary Grace, a book in the head, an unexpected twist or turn or a new adventure in life. The new adventure turns into a life-giving experience for Monty. Simon dies, yet Monty has a new life (sound familiar?). That's another spiritual truth about God's leading, but that's for another post.

Monty set out to get a degree with honors, yet he leaves that pidly dream behind because he received an education and a life with honors!

My favorite part was the geese that I heard flying outside of the house while I watched the movie. Perhaps they were the same two geese that flew around the field several times last night at James' soccer game. These geese are doves that push us into the wild!

Mark 1:10-12
God's Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice: "You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life."

At once, this same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Over 1500 years ago the Celtic Christ followers represented the Holy Spirit as a wild goose rather than the peaceful dove. The Celts chose wild geese as the image because they aren't controllable. There is no illusion of being in charge of wild geese, unlike that of a cooing dove. And so it is with the Holy Spirit- where we are beckoned we are to follow, often unpredictably so!

Jesus was inherently unpredictable for the disciples. Many missed the boat because they could never have imagined a suffering messiah. One minute Peter is the rock and then Jesus calls him Satan! Even the heartiest disciples were crushed and missed the presence of Jesus on the Emmaus Road. Many times Jesus is in our midst & we don’t see it.

One of the goals of the spiritual life is to continue to wake up to the voice of the spirit, the quiet voice, and the testimony of scripture. Most people don’t read their Bible not because they don’t want to hear from God but because when they read they never hear from God! We can read as a textbook and not read spiritually, to eat, to ingest it, to put us into the stories and ask what God might be saying to ourselves. We do this same thing in prayer time and again if we only go to God with a shopping list.

When I look back upon my life in Christ I can’t think of a more apt metaphor for the Spirit of God than that of wild geese.

Right after becoming a Christ follower I get these crazy ideas to quit my job and go on missions. I do some short-term stuff & then get this crazy idea to go back to university, which I really didn’t want to do. Half way through I wanted to quit university but in the backwoods of Africa on a mission for God I hear God say, “I asked you to go to school. Are you finished?” I end up going back to finish not knowing the next step, only to find myself at seminary & a youth pastor.

The stuff the Holy Spirit told me, and then Anola & I to do over those years as individuals, families, as a group, yikes, crazy, unpredictable, amazing, humbling, yet always substantiated by scripture. Many time I wanted the route mapped out and a detailed itinerary, especially smuggling Bibles in rural china, getting caught, trying to rendezvous with people we’d never met in country we couldn’t speak the language in. Yet God did what we set out to do!

The Holy Spirit wants to lead the way, and in that sense we listen for the wild goose. We’re in the back seat, and backseat drivers are usually terrible drivers!

I find the early Christ followers following the leading of the Holy Spirit as the wild goose, especially in Acts, and their experience was the very thing I saw in my own life! There were delays and detours, yet never really a delay or detour because they began to see that the interruption was what God had in store for them to begin with. Shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonments, even crazy answers to prayer for people who pray yet don’t believe it can happen! Read Peter's experience in Acts 12-

Still shaking his head, amazed, he went to Mary's house, the Mary who was John Mark's mother. The house was packed with praying friends. When he knocked on the door to the courtyard, a young woman named Rhoda came to see who it was. But when she recognized his voice—Peter's voice!—she was so excited and eager to tell everyone Peter was there that she forgot to open the door and left him standing in the street.

But they wouldn't believe her, dismissing her, dismissing her report. "You're crazy," they said. She stuck by her story, insisting. They still wouldn't believe her and said, "It must be his angel." All this time poor Peter was standing out in the street, knocking away.

Finally they opened up and saw him—and went wild! Peter put his hands up and calmed them down. He described how the Master had gotten him out of jail, then said, "Tell James and the brothers what's happened." He left them and went off to another place.

I can echo the words of Phil Yancey, “As I travel, I have observed a pattern, a strange historical phenomenon of God moving geographically from the Middle East, to Europe to North America to the developing world. My theory is this: God goes where he's wanted." Follow the wild goose!

God's character is never unpredictable. Where He shows up often is.

"To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation." Oswald Chambers

For me, one of the charms of outdoor life is the unpredictability of its conditions. A river, for example, may be too high, too low, or just right; the wind ahead or behind or still; the weather wet, dry, cold, or hot. It's in our reactions to these conditions that we discover our essential qualities. Those of us accustomed to being in control, or perhaps needing to be, often become anxious when events fail to accord with our well-laid plans. We always see most clearly into our own souls -- and the souls of others, too -- when adversity has peeled us, like onions, several layers deep. Willem Lange

Where is the Spirit showing up in your life? Go ahead and follow. I dare you to move...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Your Life Isn't About You!

Philippians 2:5-11
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Jesus Way: your life isn’t about you!

Seinfeld, The Invitation, Chapter 2 7:57-9:01; Chapter 3, 18:32-19:15

"I could never be a saint, but perhaps maybe a martyr if they killed me quickly."

"Man wanted for Hazardous Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success." There is something bigger than us and we are drawn towards it.

Today is Earth Day.

Psalm 24:1
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.

From the beginning of the Bible we have human history intertwined with cosmic history.

God said that what He had created was good. Very good! Even in the New Testament, this is how John writes history:

John 1:1-3
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

And everything was good, really good. There’s even a Cathedral in Laon France that symbolizes this beautifully- cows near the top of the tower!

Fellowship in some cultures is even defined by ‘sharing a cow’! There’s a cosmic drama going on, a Theodrama, and even cows have a part. St Francis used to speak of ‘Brother sun and sister moon’ as having their parts.

Are we in it? Yes. Are we the only thing? No.

We have been likened to God’s army in a cosmic battle against evil. Now just imagine if during the Normandy invasion, Operation Overlord, that you as a buck private said you’re not going to do your part on Juno Beach. “I don’t understand the plan”, you say. So what. You do your part.

God is also an artist.

God is a sculptor. Ever walk through a sculptor’s studio? The universe is like God’s studio. If you did go to one, you’d see some completed beautiful pieces. Some unfinished, some things that don’t make sense, some areas of complete mess and rubble. Papers with crude drawings.

God is an artist a sculptor and we don’t understand it all. But most certainly there is a point to life and to our own particular life.

In many cultures there is a rite of passage into manhood, or the greater meaning of the culture, tribe, etc. These times are where young people are lifted out of self-centeredness and self-preoccupation to see that there is a bigger perspective for their own existence.

1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a
You are not your own; you were bought at a price.

Many years ago, well over a century in fact, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. It’s 7x10 work that hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago. It was the first large-scale pointillist painting. Seurat sat on a tall stool with a very long brush and created little dabs.

Only he saw the whole.

This picture makes no sense!

We often say that to God. I’ve said it, you’ve said it, and some of us are probably thinking it right now.

Job thought that. Remember Job? He had it all, and then he lost it all, through no fault of his own. His friends tried to comfort him, but ultimately they became angry with God and then so did God. “This picture makes no sense!”

After much complaining God answers in Job 38:1
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said

Basically God was saying, “You see nothing. Now let me ask you some questions. Where were you when I created the world?”

Job 40:15
Look at the behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox.

"Can you pull in the leviathan with a fishhook or tie down his tongue with a rope?”

I Babbled On About Things Far Beyond Me
Job answered God: "I'm convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, 'Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?'
I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head.
You told me, 'Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.'
I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I'm sorry—forgive me. I'll never do that again, I promise! I'll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor."

Meeting last week with Irv at Starbucks. God had outsmarted me once again. And I was in awe and sang to Him about that on the drive home, with the windows shut to prevent noise pollution!

Acts 17:24-27
"The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn't live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn't take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don't make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near. We live and move in him, can't get away from him! One of your poets said it well: 'We're the God-created.' Well, if we are the God-created, it doesn't make a lot of sense to think we could hire a sculptor to chisel a god out of stone for us, does it?

There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud. Carl Sandberg

The question is never “Is God speaking?” But rather, “What is God saying?”

When Rachel was two she fell off of a chair while being watched by her grandpa. He called me at work as she was bleeding. I raced home and took her to the hospital where she was given some stitches on her head. She couldn’t see the wound; she only knew her head hurt; she also knew that I was there but the pain was still strong and she was being hurt even as I held her! She didn’t grasp fully that the pain of the doctors was different than the other pain of the fall.

Now imagine if you will two dogs. One is on the outskirts of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. He sees a flash of light and is knocked to the ground by a blast of heat. Struggling to his feet a few minutes after and now unable to see out of one eye. The dog is suffering, but within his framework of canine consciousness, he ‘grasps’ his suffering. But never could he begin to understand that his suffering is the result of a terrible war among beings of a higher existence. The higher plane impinged on his world, but he remains oblivious to it. (C. S. Lewis)

Now think of another dog wandering into your library, your den at home. He sees everything there, the globe, the newspapers, the shelves of books, the computer, but he grasps none of it. That’s what we are like in the cosmos, says William James. We see it all, the joys and the sorrows, the colors that are so bright and so dark, but we have little or no insight into the higher world that it represents.

Let’s compare these ideas to a popular book called The Secret:

The Secret
You are God in a physical body. You are Spirit in the flesh. You are Eternal Life expressing itself as You. You are a cosmic being. You are all power. You are all wisdom. You are all intelligence. You are perfection. You are magnificence. You are the creator, and you are creating the creation of You on this planet (p. 164).

The earth turns on its orbit for You. The oceans ebb and flow for You. The birds sing for You. The sun rises and it sets for You. The stars come out for You. Every beautiful thing you see, every wondrous thing you experience, is all there for You. Take a look around. None of it can exist, without You. No matter who you thought you were, now you know the Truth of Who You Really Are. You are the master of the Universe. You are the heir to the kingdom. You are the perfection of Life. And now you know The Secret (p. 183).

Colossians 2:2-4
I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God's great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else. And we've been shown the mystery! I'm telling you this because I don't want anyone leading you after other so-called mysteries, or "the Secret."

Your life isn’t about you!

You’re in the picture but it’s not about you!

The comforting thought, though, is the fact that we’re not alone. We are initiated into the great work of God, the Theodrama, with all of these other people!

"Good Friday and Easter Sunday have earned names on the church calendar. Yet in a real sense we live on Saturday, the day with no name. What the disciples experienced in small scale—three days in grief over one man who had died on a cross—we now live through on cosmic scale. Human history grinds on, between the time of promise and fulfillment. Can we trust that God can make something holy and beautiful and good out of a world that includes Bosnia and Rwanda [the Virginia Tech Massacre] and inner-city ghettos and jammed prisons in the richest nation on earth? It's Saturday on planet earth. Will Sunday ever come?

That dark, Golgothan Friday can only be called Good because of what happened on Easter Sunday, a day which gives a tantalizing clue to the riddle of the universe. Easter opened up a
crack in a universe winding down toward entropy and decay, sealing the promise that someday God will enlarge the miracle of Easter to cosmic scale.

It is a good thing to remember that in the cosmic drama, we live out our days on Saturday, the in-between day with no name. I know a woman whose grandmother lies buried under 150 year old live oak trees in the cemetery of an Episcopal church in rural Louisiana. In accordance with the grandmother's instructions, only one word is carved on the tombstone: "Waiting."

Though Jesus cast a vision for a better kingdom now and in the future, as long as it is Saturday, the fulfillment of that vision still awaits until Sunday dawns.”
Philip Yancey

Dog the Bounty Hunter and his little son: “I stopped praying for me and started praying for him.”

Ephesians 3:20-21
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

Bad religion is about not trusting God, trying to avoid God or even outwitting him. Rowan Williams

We can trust the power, obey God, and follow Him even when we don’t see clearly. Imitate God.

Since we’ve been in some ways talking about suffering and evil and perspective we need to consider a particular response as a form of discipleship, of a faithful rendering of the Jesus Way.

Matthew 5:38-42
“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.

Usually in confrontation with evil we have two options: fight or flight. Both are dysfunctional. If we fight fire with fire it just makes the world hotter. Gandhi said “an eye for an eye and soon the whole world is blind.”

Jesus offers us a third way.

In ancient Israel you didn’t use your left hand as it was considered unclean. To hit with the back of the hand was to be in contempt. When Jesus says turn the other cheek He is saying to refuse to cooperate.

Apartheid South Africa- Bishop Desmond Tutu is walking by a construction site on a temporary sidewalk the width of one person. Tutu is at the beginning of the sidewalk.
A white man appears at the other end and recognizes Tutu:

“So it’s you, Bishop Tutu. Get off of the sidewalk. I don’t make way for gorillas.”

At which Bishop Tutu steps aside, makes a sweeping gesture, and says, “Ah, yes, but I do.”

"Where are you, God? It's something I have often asked myself. But I have learned that the real question is whether I have the courage to look for God in the midst of violence". Tom Barnet, pastor in Sierra Leone

Pope John Paul II's 1979 trip to Poland was the fulcrum of a revolution, which led to the collapse of Communism. Timothy Garton Ash put it this way, "Without the Pope, no Solidarity. Without Solidarity, no Gorbachev. Without Gorbachev, no fall of Communism." Gorbachev himself gave the Kremlin's long-term enemy this due, "It would have been impossible without the Pope."

When the Pope met General Jaruzelski, the General was shaking as he read his speech. The Pope took his speech out and held it in front of him as if to say, “I’m not shaking.” Over a million people gathered to hear the Pope’s speech. He rode no tanks. People chanted, “We want God” for 17 minutes. General Jaruzelski said, "That was the detonator."

It changed everything. Turn the other cheek- it makes a difference!

1-1-1 principle: I hour of worship, 1 hour of spiritual growth and 1 hour of service. Not that much given a 168-hour week.

When being is divorced from doing, pious thoughts become a substitute for washing dirty feet. Brennan Manning

Mother Teresa referred to serving as reaching out to Christ "in all his distressing disguises."

..if one of us is chained…none of us are free!

We can’t se all the details when we’re on this path of the Jesus Way. But if we are centred, and being healed and sent, then even though we don’t understand it all we know what it means to be God’s friend, a saint.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Psalm 24
Of David. A psalm.
The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


As a child, Liviu Librescu had survived the Holocaust. As an adult, he had survived persecution for defying Romania’s brutal communist regime during the Cold War. At last, with their children grown, he and his wife, Marlena, seemed to have found a safe haven on a quiet university campus in rural Virginia.

But on Monday, trouble found him once more. With bursts of gunfire rattling through the second floor of Norris Hall at Virginia Tech University, Librescu, 76, closed his classroom door and urged his students to escape out the windows, recalled senior Caroline Merrey of Baltimore, the third student to jump.

As they fled, Librescu held the door shut with his body as the gunman, Cho Seung-Hui, tried to force his way in.

Moments after the last student leapt to safety, Cho apparently succeeded in forcing the door open and shot Librescu to death.

“My father has showed a sense of his courage in standing up for what he believed since long ago,” said Joe Librescu, the professor’s son.

“Just one candle can light up a room filled with darkness. Professor Librescu has lit the entire world with hope, reminding us that heroes can still exist even in our dark times,” Evan Goldenthal of Toronto wrote on a page of tributes to the professor.

"He and my mom led a simple life in a pastoral place in Virginia, between hills and mountains, and he loved the school in which he taught," said Joe Librescu, who is a Virginia Tech alumnus.

In Israel, Monday was Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Your life isn't your own.

Philippians 1:27-30
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Let Us Pray...

Matthew 6:5-8
"And when you come before God, don't turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?

Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.

If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.

If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.

But if a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident.

If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.

If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.

If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


"God I know that today I am going to have the opportunity to choose something. Help me to choose well. Help me to choose You."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Psalm 40
I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn't slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Micah Challenge

One of the purposes for doing and being the church together is so that we may come together to understand the nature of God and learn how to live this nature out. This is sometimes a difficult task as we can be easily lured into the trap of conforming God to our own image and understanding…and comfort levels.

Yesterday we held an awareness event for the International Justice Mission and many of us met on Friday night to watch the movie Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce and his tireless efforts to abolish the slave trade in Britain.

Today is Compassion Sunday and we saw a moving video that tends to remind us all that there are weak and oppressed children who need our love, commitment and financial support.

It is sometimes difficult for us to embrace the concept of a God of love and a God of justice. The God of love that has first loved us so that we may love others, we rationalize, certainly desires me to have compassion for others. The God of justice, on the other hand, seems to demand vengeance and anger and wrath towards those who would oppress. How can these two, seemingly opposite, character traits co-exist in not only God but co-exist in ourselves.

Of course to understand how God would have us live, we come to understand that we need to know more about God, His Story, and His people. We sometimes believe that we can do this by only reading the New Covenant, the New Testament as it pertains to the gospel of Christ. But we are missing a tremendous amount of the story if we claim that the Old Testament does not apply to us. Jesus constantly quoted the Hebrew Bible in his ministry on earth and this in itself tells us that His covenant acts as a lens from which to read the wisdom of the OT.

Micah the prophet spoke God’s word and truth at a time when Israel and Judah rose to great heights of economic affluence but had fallen to great depths of spiritual decadence. Micah, for the most part, spoke truth against the social injustices of the ruling classes. Many people were going through religious motions and yet their hearts were very far from the heart of God. Micah is correcting this legalistic understanding of God when he writes.

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 NASB

We often wrestle with the question of understanding God’s will for our lives. Sometimes we feel like we want to do more for God. We watch movies like Amazing Grace or read the stories of the history makers for God and there is something deep inside of each of us that says

“I want to make a difference, I want to be used by God for noble reasons.”

But life seems to be going along the same way as it always has. We start believing that we cannot make a difference, that as long as I am comfortable, going to church, tithing appropriately, praying, serving, and controlling my anger that this is as good as it gets. There is nothing wrong in these actions in themselves, in fact all serious followers of the Jesus way will be doing these things, but this is what Micah is correcting in God’s people way back when. He is saying that these actions of sacrifice and outward activities are not what God truly wants from us. The heart of God, the essence of God is one of justice and compassion. He desires us to know his heart and in the process that our own heart, our essence is transformed into his. So lets look more closely at the three requirements of Micah 6.

Do justice!

Some translations use the terms “act justly” but in several translations there is the outward action of doing justice. It is clear from the Bible that justice is very close to God’s heart.

1. ‘Act justly’ or ‘do justice.’ You will probably not remember any definition of justice I give you, but you will want real life practical examples. But for you definition people out there, here are a few definitions.

Walter Kaiser says, Justice is “to act with equity, fairness and deference to those who are in a weaker social position…”

Bruce Waltke says, “Beyond obeying commands, this encompassing, ethical term pertains to establishing a relationship that one gives back what is due and beyond that, as one is able, to deliver the oppressed and to punish the oppressor.”

I like another definition: “Doing justice is repairing the fabric of society where it is falling apart.”

The people of Israel weren’t doing justice but they were very religious. They did the sacrifices of worship but justice and care for others was ignored. Jesus went off on the Pharisees because of this and probably even quotes a little bit of Micah 6:8 in Matthew 23:23,

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things."

He is not dismissing the requirements of tithing but He exposes their hypocrisy. They are doing the outward act of tithing but not practicing justice, mercy and faithfulness. Jesus and Micah are basically saying that,

Worship without justice is hypocrisy.

Even if you do religious things like tithe or offer sacrifices but you don’t love others then your walk with God is fake. We can sit in here and nod in agreement with the Word of God, sing songs and give an offering but never do justice and love mercy. We can have ‘church’ and then go out of here and just think about ourselves, what we will acquire, do and achieve but not care about others. Worship without Justice is Hypocrisy. Religion without justice is hypocrisy. Church without justice is hypocrisy.

Jesus tells us, “Do not neglect the more important things.”

This aspect of doing justice needs to naturally come out of who we have become as new creations in God. Think about the times when we are angry at an injustice. If we were to be honest with ourselves we are far more angry and indignant when we have been personally wronged. Someone breaks into our car….We are mad! Someone gossips about us…we are mad! The city hasn’t filled in that pothole down the street… we are mad! Ryan Smyth is traded from Edmonton…there is crying in the streets…we are mad!

A child is kidnapped, raped, and sold into prostitution…our heart is sad momentarilyand life goes on. Where is the righteous indignancy of the church in these cases? Where are the doers of justice?

Micah 6:8
What does the Lord require of you? Do justice. This is clearly an essence of God that is at the core of who He is.

Proverbs 21:3
To do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord rather than sacrifice"

We live in a society where we feel it is not politically correct to take a stand on what is right and wrong. The apparent subjectivity of what is right and wrong has hamstrung us to believe that we cannot be a prophetic voice for the victims, the oppressed, the helpless. Why are we so afraid to speak truth in love? Why are we afraid to speak boldly, clearly and with conviction that,

“This action is not okay.”

Doing justice comes out of what is going on in your heart. If you have been given a new heart as the bible tells us when we believe in Jesus as saviour and Lord then what comes with that new heart is a clearer awareness of the heart of God as His spirit transforms us back into His image.

If we are not bothered by injustice, if we find ourselves not really concerned about the plight of others, if our heart doesn’t break at the abuse of children, or the psychological abuse of others, or the abuse of power by the strong over the weak…if there is not something inside of us screaming….

“This is wrong and must be stopped!”

Then we need to really consider whether in fact we have experienced a spiritual re-birth or not?

Imagine if you called for help and no one came.

If we find ourselves more concerned about our comfort, our rights, than we are about the suffering and injustice in the world, it is time for us to re-evaluate what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

“Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it politic? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular- but one must take it simply because it is right.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

We cannot do justice if we do not believe that God has something to say about right and wrong.

The Bible is clear, the wisdom books, the prophets, Jesus Christ…. ll confirm, God is a God of justice.

Restorative justice asks is there is a form of punishment that e that will actually help restore the wrongdoer to the doing of what is right.

Outrage and lament are the proper, sensitive, and morally appropriate responses to injury and oppression.

The righteous person cares about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.

Proverbs 29:7
Learn to do right! Seek justice, Encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, Plead the case of the widow.

300,000 people die in Africa approximately every month because of HIV/Aids. That’s just about the same as perished in the tsunami last Boxing Day. HIV/Aids is delivering a tsunami a month to Africa. And yet many of those people who die could live usefully and productively very much longer than they do if access to anti-retroviral drugs were available and affordable as they are in the West. But there, they are either unavailable or totally unaffordable. That’s a matter not just of charity, but also of justice.

"Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere."
"True peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of Justice."
"We who have been seared in the flames of withering injustice, will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty river."
Martin Luther King, Jr

A strong passion for Justice without mercy or compassion is generally harsh, narrowminded and punitive. So Micah reminds us that justice must be hand in hand with the love of mercy and compassion.

Do Justice
Love Mercy

Love Compassion, love kindness.

If we love justice more than we love kindness and compassion then we are in trouble.

“The quality of mercy is not strained, It dropped as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the plain beneath . . . . And earthly power doth then show like God's When mercy seasons justice.”
Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice"

Justice must be seasoned with mercy and compassion.

Compassion is utterly central to the teaching of Jesus. This is the ethical paradigm of the life of faithfulness to God, as we see it in Jesus. Jesus sums up theology and ethics in a very short saying (six words in English). It is found in Luke 6:36 with a parallel in Matthew 5:48.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.

It is so easy for us to forget compassion. Or it is easy to have compassion from afar. We can pray for and love the poor and oppressed, we can consider the life that brought someone else to a place of brokenness and have compassion on them but what about when it is in our own backyard? What about when it encroaches on our right to be comfortable?

We can only love mercy when we know we have received mercy. We can only understand that we have received mercy when we can not only accept that we are forgiven by God for the sins we have committed, but that we rely on his grace daily to forgive our very sin nature.

The most gracious people I know have recognized and confessed their sin nature and claim God’s grace.

When we understand that we have been made right with God not by our own goodness, rather by his own sacrifice. When we have come face to face with our ugly side, our sin nature, and our own capacity for evil and hatred….And know in our hearts that it has been made right by the blood of Christ that we can’t help but have compassion for others.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10

This great passage doesn't end on the truth that we can't earn our salvation. Instead, it goes on to remind us that grace is God's way of working his artistry in us — we are his "workmanship." God's grace makes us new so that we can do something significant by his power to display his glorious grace to others. Put bluntly, grace is not just about saving us FROM the wrath of God, but it is also about saving us FOR God's purposes in the world.

God has prepared for us in advance good works for us to do. We are not saved by our works, but we are saved for good works…..We are not forgiven so that we may simply bask in the forgiveness of God and go on our own self centered way….Rather we are forgiven so that we develop a heart of gratitude and we desire to do God’s work.

The absence of compassion in one’s makeup is indicative of the absence of understanding of their own capacity for sin and evil. The absence of compassion is indicative of our own slavery to our natural sin nature.

So we recognize that the life that God would desire for us to live is a life of doing out of our being.
Live a life of doing out of your being

We do God’s work out of being saved and made right with God for his purposes. Doing God’s work comes from developing a heart and soul and mind that understands and applies God’s justice and mercy.

Finally, Micah tells us, walk humbly with your Lord.

Do Justice
Love Mercy
Walk humbly with your Lord

When we are doing justice and loving mercy then we are walking humbly with our God. When we are intent on ‘repairing the fabric of society where it is falling apart’ and acting ‘with equity, fairness and deference to those who are in a weaker social position’ then we are walking humbly with our God. This is in imitation of God. Jesus gave up His position in Heaven and stepped down and died the shameful and painful death of the cross to rescue us in our weaker spiritual position of sin. We have experienced grace and therefore we enter into the life of those who are in a weaker physical position of suffering and do justice and show mercy. This is walking humbly with our God. Our justice doesn’t lead to pride because we were in bondage in the sin of Egypt but now we are free by grace. So, we enter in to serve others not in a position of pride but of humility walking humbly with our God.

Get it from your head and your heart to your hands: What could it look like individually and corporately to live Micah 6:8?

We are not to live this way out of guilt, which won’t last very long. We lived this way because we have experienced grace. That is we want to live this way because of what Jesus has done for us.

Corporately, becoming a fellowship of followers of the Jesus way who do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly….Volunteering at the Mustard Seed, sponsoring a Compassion child, A corporate missions trip to a Compassion project, we cannot become corporate doers of justice until we become individual doers of justice.

Developing a heart of justice and mercy begins with the little things.

So what we need is individual’s in here to take the truth of God’s Word from their heads and their hearts and get it into their hands. We need people who truly believe that Worship without Justice is Hypocrisy. We need people who are not just ‘doing church’ and the rest of the week basically living for themselves.

Micah 6:8
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Get it from your head, to your heart to your hands.

Would others say I am a doer of justice, a lover of mercy, and a humble follower of Jesus?

If not, why not?

Grace call us to the Jesus lifestyle of making real differences in the world around us. This high and holy calling is what we've been remade by grace to do — God planned in advance as our role in this world. So let's be more than reminded; let's be changed. Like Newton and Wilberforce, let's recognize that God has great things for us to do by his powerful grace so that the world can see the church as Jesus in action in today's world.

Lets leave here today and choose to accept the Micah challenge.

Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly.
What do we offer God today?
This is my offering…….Bob Stenhouse

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Anyone here believe that?

There was about 30 of us on Friday night watching Amazing Grace at South Ed Common. The theatre was sold out, preventing some from even getting in!

What a great story- what a powerful song. I have fallen for this version by Tree63. Enjoy, and remember that "Heaven is an acquired taste." (C. S. Lewis)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Uncensored Grace

Grace uncensored is what you get from a loving God when all the religious types have gone home, and every last hope for your own effort has blown up in your face.

An uncensored grace church is simply a community of believers who are passionate about reaching people far from God, no matter what their life story may be.

Welcome home to Community of Hope. God’s grace is alive, thriving, and radically changing lives from the inside out at CoHo.

Friday, April 13, 2007

This made me think of ScreamFree Parenting and is a sobering wake-up call about what we model for our own children and children in general!

Philippians 4:9
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Psalm 95:6-8
So come, let us worship: bow before him, on your knees before God, who made us! Oh yes, he's our God, and we're the people he pastures, the flock he feeds. Drop everything and listen, listen as he speaks: "Don't turn a deaf ear."
God does not have laryngitis. His voice is not hard to hear. His voice is not hard to understand.
Then the Lord replied,"Write down the vision and make it plain on tablets, so that whoever reads it may run with it!" Habbakuk 2:2
Run with what He says!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Your Life Is Not About You

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I cannot see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But, I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Thomas Merton

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Bible and School

It's very rare when Time Magazine runs an article on "Why We Should Teach The Bible In Public School", and that mimics an article in Folio, the alumni paper for the University of Alberta. Their article, Separation of church and classroom, has remarkable similarities to the Time piece.
James Emery White quotes Stephen Prothero of Boston University who encourages the same idea. Clearly somehting is afoot here. Prothro tests his undergraduate students with a 15 question test that they regularly fail. Why not take it and see how you do?
Here’s the test (answers below):

1 point each:
Name the Four Gospels.

1 point:
Name a sacred text of Hinduism.

1 point:
What is the name of the holy book of Islam?

1 point:
Where according to the Bible was Jesus born?

1 point:
President George W. Bush spoke in his first inaugural address of the Jericho road. What Bible story was he invoking?

1 point each:
What are the first five books of the Hebrew Bible or the Christian Old Testament?

1 point:
What is the Golden Rule?

2 points:
“God helps those who help themselves.” Is this in the Bible? If so, where?

2 points:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” Does this appear in the Bible?

10 points:
Name the Ten Commandments.

4 points:
Name the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.

7 points:
What are the Seven Sacraments of Catholicism?

2 points:
What is Ramadan? In what religion is it celebrated?

7 points:
Match the Bible characters with the stories in which they appear. Some characters may be matched with more than one story or vice versa. Characters: Adam and Eve, Noah, Paul, Moses, Jesus, Abraham, Serpent. Stories: Exodus, Binding of Isaac, Olive Branch, Garden of Eden, Parting of the Red Sea, Road to Damascus, Garden of Gethsemane.
Regardless of how well you did on the quiz, or your thoughts about the Bible in public education, my question is,
How comfortable are you discussing what your spirituality means to you with others?
That's the important question in my mind.
*Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
*Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanishads, Puranas, Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, Yoga Sutras, Laws of Manu, or Kama Sutra
*Good Samaritan
*Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
*”Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Mt. 7:12) Or a similar statement from Rabbi Hillel or Confucius. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is not the Golden Rule.
*No, this is not in the Bible. In fact, it is contradicted in Proverbs 28:26. “He who trusts in himself is a fool.” The words are Ben Franklin’s.
*Yes, in the Beatitudes of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:3).
*No other gods before me; you shall not make yourself a graven image; you shall not take the name of the Lord in vain; remember the Sabbath and keep it holy; honor your father and mother; you shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor; you shall not covet.
*Life is suffering; suffering has an origin; suffering can be overcome (nirvana); the path to overcoming suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path.
*baptism, eucharist/mass, reconciliation/confession/penance, confirmation, marriage, holy orders, anointing of the sick/last rites
*Ramadan is a Muslim holiday characterized by a month of fasting.
*Adam and Eve + Garden of Eden; Serpent + Garden of Eden; Abraham + Binding of Isaac; Moses + Exodus/Parting of the Red Sea; Noah + Olive Branch; Jesus + Garden of Gethsemane; Paul + Road to Damascus.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Jesus Way: Your Life Isn’t About You!

About ten years ago a number of Buddhist monks and scholars, including the Dalai Lama himself visited Christian a monastery in Kentucky. After several days of discussion and cordiality one of the Buddhist participants finally spoke of a deeper question in their midst. "Why are there so many crosses and crucifixions all over the place?" The crucifix represented suffering to him and the meditation and practices of Buddhism were the solution. What was the point of showing this terrible scene over and over again?

That’s the reason we’re hear celebrating Easter together; Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross but was resurrected, was brought back to life. And in over coming death He offers the same life to all of us.

We have been looking at Dante descending to hell, realizing that he is a sinner and coming face to face with the pathetic nature of Satan. In the Divine Comedy that occurs on Good Friday. Dante then surfaces for the next stage on Easter, to see the light of God giving hope for the ascending of purgatory and the mount of God. That hope is for God’s mission.

The ancient philosopher Plotinus said that the goal of the spiritual life is to be alone with the Alone. That isn’t in the Bible. Again and again in scripture we see people come into contact with God, the author of life and creator of the cosmos, and then be sent out on a mission.

Abraham hears the call of God and is sent to a different land. Moses sees the burning bush and is sent to liberate God’s people. Isaiah see God in all His splendor in the Temple, becomes crippled by his sin, is cleansed by God and says, “Here I am; send me.” In the New Testament Saul is blinded by a light and subsequently sent as a missionary to the Gentiles, all the non-Jews. Their lives weren’t about themselves.

I’ll let you in on The Secret. Your life isn’t about you.

At the end of the Gospel of John Jesus says to Peter, “When you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." That’s the spiritual life.

When we’re young we set the agenda. Whenever we wake up, perhaps like Dante, “Midway along the road of life”; we get tired of worthless causes, and our own ideas, and really desire God’s best.

And God’s best is really good. Listen to Paul in Ephesians 3:20-21:
God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

James Hillman in his book The Soul’s Code said that we are all born with a seed inside of who we are destined to become. He calls it the acorn theory. As we looked at the idea of being a friend of God, a saint, we realized we needed to come to grips with a real problem: there is evil in the world and it’s in our hearts. But we also realize that there is something amazing inside of us, something resilient, something beautiful- the image of God.

Jesus likens this to a buried treasure in Matthew 13:44-46. A man stumbles upon the treasure buried there so he sells everything that he has to buy that field. Could the field be the human heart, the treasure the image of God, and the selling of everything be the surrendering of all for the sake of the cause of Jesus Christ?

Jesus says we are like a merchant who searches for a beautiful pearl; the thing that we’ll devote our life to. When he finds one of great value he sells everything he had to buy it.

How many of us have climbed the ladder of success only to find it propped up against the wrong building? Do you want to spend your entire life pursuing goals that are worthless, or good goals; things that you want, or do you want to pursue Christ’s goals for you? Do you want to sing with Billy Joel,

My Life
Got a call from an old friend
We used to be real close
Said he couldn't go on the American way
Closed the shop, sold the house
Bought a ticket to the West Coast
Now he gives them a stand-up routine in L.A.

I don't need you to worry for me cause I'm alright
I don't want you to tell me it's time to come home
I don't care what you say anymore, this is my life
Go ahead with your own life, and leave me alone
Keep it to yourself, it's my life.

Billy Joel was really hurt by some early experiences with Catholicism. I wonder whether this song is sung to a friend, an old flame or to God Himself.

Most of us think that we are the directors, writers, and most importantly of all, the stars of our own movie, with other people functioning as the supporting cast and the villains. Of course, our dramas are always uninteresting, even if we are playing the lead role.

It's My Life, Bon Jovi
This ain't a song for the broken-hearted
No silent prayer for the faith-departed
I ain't gonna be just a face in the crowd
You're gonna hear my voice
When I shout it out loud

It's my life
It's now or never
I ain't gonna live forever
I just want to live while I'm alive
It's my life

My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said I did it my way
I just wanna live while I'm alive
It's my life

Now instead of our own pathetic little homemade video, we can enlist the master and discover our part in the great movie of history- His story. God is in the midst of creating a Theodrama, involving the whole cosmos. Finding your role in God’s drama is the pearl of great price. When you find it, sell everything you’ve got to buy it.

The key is finding the role that God has designed for us, even if it looks like a bit part.

And therein lies our problem. We live an ego drama! Egocentricity is our problem. We have a script written by me, produced by me, and most importantly starring me.

This church building began its life with the name of Sir Thomas More. In the movie about Thomas More, A Man For All Seasons, Richie Rich, a real character, asks More for a job in the prestige of the Kings court. After sometime More finally offers up a teaching job at a little a school. Rich is clearly disappointed and so More tells him, “You’d be a good teacher.” Rich balks, saying, “And if I were, who would know?”

Thomas More tells him, “Yourself, your friends, your pupils and God would know it.”

Richie Rich doesn’t take the job, instead opting to wangle his way into prominence another way. In doing so he perjures More who is sent to the glows. As rich passes More on the gallows with the noose around his neck, More says to him, “You know Rich, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world…but for Wales?” It profits you or I nothing to achieve success in our ego drama if we lose our role in the Theodrama.

The only audience worth playing to is the divine audience, God Himself. The audience of One.

Satan always offers up more prestige though. Lucifer says in Paradise Lost, “To reign is worth ambition, though in hell: Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven.”

Satan always has a big job. He’ll say that you deserve the applause and the promotion. Jesus says, “Clean the toilet.”

Which was does your ego tell you to go?

In his groundbreaking book Habits Of The Heart Robert Bellah introduced us what egocentric religion looks like:

Sheila Larson is a young nurse who has received a good deal of therapy and describes her faith as "Sheilaism." This suggests the logical possibility of more than 300 million North American religions, one for each of us. "I believe in God," Sheila says. "I am not a religious fanatic. [Notice at once that in our culture any strong statement of belief seems to imply fanaticism so you have to offset that.] I can’t remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It’s Sheilaism. Just my own little voice." Sheila’s faith has some tenets beyond belief in God, though not many. In defining what she calls "my own Sheilaism," she said: "It’s just try to love yourself and be gentle with yourself. You know, I guess, take care of each other. I think God would want us to take care of each other." Like many others, Sheila would be willing to endorse few more specific points. Robert Bellah

Sheilaism, Stewieism, is all about my will, my rights, my needs, my feelings, my desires, my wants- ME!

Sheilaism is the dominant religion of North America, of Canada. Contrast that with what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1,
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul is called out, kaleo. The church is kaleo, called, you are called, and I am kaleo. It’s not my will, my rights or my needs, we are instead called by God’s will.

Paul was an apostle: to send. That’s where the word postal originates, as I sending letters. God says go postal and get sent!

You with all your powers, gifts and abilities are sent by a Higher will. Sheilaism is the opposite of that and will fight with God’s plan.

We define freedom politically, even as Christ followers for the most part. We want freedom from external constraints to have self-expression. Nobody is going to tell me what to do or not to do, least of all the Man, the Bible, God or anybody else! Not my mother or father, my brother or sister, my friends or family, my church or pastor, nobody. I’m free at last.

Holy people, those precious saints are those who realize that they participate in something greater, Someone infinitely greater than themselves, that they are but a fragment of that reality. But far from crushing them, this awareness makes them great, inspired, and whole. It encourages us to live in joyful surrender, and with a sense of wonder.

That's how the Bible speaks about freedom. It speaks of freedom from attachment so I can do the will of God and find joyful surrender.

Philippians 3:7-12
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

That kind of freedom enables us to abandon our lives–even in the smallest details–to this divine love, trusting that God will show us the way.

What is God doing for me now? What path is opening up to me? Why did God send that person, that trial, that pleasure to me just now?

Don’t listen to the lie "It’s all about you." Instead be like the mom whose daughter said of her,

"She taught me that my talents were God’s gift to me; what I did with them was my gift back to God."

Imagine if for one moment you forgot the self and its desires and its rights; you gave a scrap of your life away, and in return you get this incredible candle in the heart for a moment. What if the candle never went out, but spread and strengthened and filled your whole consciousness forever? What new and miraculous life might you hope to get, if you ever managed to throw your life away entirely? That is what Jesus told us to try for. The full blaze of God's love, inexpressible delight of soul and body, joy beyond all joys. That is what we were put into the world to find; and the world itself, seen clearly, exists primarily to help us find it; as a hothouse to nurse our growing spirits along until they are strong enough for the unimaginable outdoors we call heaven." Joy Davidman (wife of C.S. Lewis)

Jesus didn’t just teach principles; he taught practices. He gave people something to do. He didn’t just teach them about forgiveness; he told them to forgive their debtors. He didn’t just talk about love as a concept (eros, phileo, and agape); he told people to love their enemies. He didn’t just tell people to think about changing their behaviors; he told them to repent (change their actions). Sure it’s challenging, but it doesn’t take a weekend seminar to understand what he means. Jim Henderson

He sends us into the world to make a difference! Your life isn’t your own!

["When our depravity meets His Divinity, it is a beautiful collision." This recording is about that collision. It is the collision of our fallen state and our Maker's transcendence. It is a rendering of our mortality and eternal life. It is about the tension that exists in the living of life, here, where the sky meets the broken earth. It is about a tsunami in East Asia. It is about a sunrise over Hiroshima. It is about too many who know too intensely what pain the word cancer holds and the words of my friend whispered in my ear, "It's ok. None of us are getting out of here alive you know." It is about victory. It is about the joy that comes when blood tests come back and a miracle is announced. It is the hope in a rescue that has come. The hope in a rescue that has found us. And the relentless hope in a greater rescue that is still coming. One that has not yet arrived but is no less present. This music, broken, improper and inadequate in its response, is rooted in that hope. The Kingdom of Heaven is here and now and coming. it comes, a beautiful collision is happening now.] David Crowder

Here is our king, the director of the Theodrama. Talk to Him about your role today!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Jesus Way: your life isn’t about you!

May we be at all times, both now and forever
a protector for those without protection
a guide for those who have lost their way
a ship for those with oceans to cross
a bridge for those with rivers to cross
a sanctuary for those in danger
a lamp for those without light
a place of refuge for those who lack shelter
and a servant to all in need.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Your Life Is Not Your Own

God has sent you to be the one who cares.

Go ahead, Live the Resurrection!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Meet Jesus in the Room

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with small index-card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read "Girls I Have Liked." I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one.

And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match.

A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. A file named "Friends" was next to one marked "Friends I Have Betrayed."

The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. "Books I Have Read," "Lies I Have Told," "Comfort I Have Given," "Jokes I Have Laughed At." Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: "Things I've Yelled at My Brothers." Others I couldn't laugh at: "Things I Have Done in My Anger," "Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents." I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 20 years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked "Songs I Have Listened To," I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked "Lustful Thoughts," I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.

An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: "No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!" In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn't matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title bore "People I Have Shared the Gospel With." The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.

But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus.

I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?

Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn't say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card.

"No!" I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was "No, no," as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood.

He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don't think I'll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is finished."

I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written. Joshua Harris

Thank you Jesus!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Good Friday Service @ 630 PM; Potluck after

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Macbeth Effect

I Wannna Be Clean
"At your feet Lord I bow. Search me oh God and know me now. Take this sin from my heart. I wanna be just as you are. I wanna be clean. I wanna be pure. I wanna be holy. I wanna be yours."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Easter Sunday: The Jesus Way- Your Life Isn't Your Own!

Romans 14:7-8
For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Jesus Way: the Way of the Cross

Saints know that they are sinners because they are driving towards the light. Mary Grace has broken through and they see their need for forgiveness.

Hebrews 12:14b-15
Without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

The proper goal of the Christian life is growth in holiness, seeing our characters conform more and more to the character of Jesus. Why not be a saint?

This path is not always easy and without pain. It is more like a spiritual boot camp! We need to experience our pain and brokenness, euphemism for our sin, in order to seize upon the grace and healing that Jesus Christ brings.

Dante has written so eloquently about this nearly 700 years ago in The Divine Comedy. After descending to hell, he then goes forth to purgatory.

Now whereas purgatory entails suffering like hell, there is a difference: those sufferings from purgatory are accepted out of love and become redemptive, while the pain of hell is resisted and ultimately is meaningless.

The new journey for Dante and Virgil begins with a long spell in ‘ante-purgatory’, a sort of holding area occupied by all waiting to climb. Some put off the work for too long and have to wait. They learn the discipline of silence and inactivity, limits, in order to prepare for the greater lessons. All of those waiting pray and encourage one another. On this road to redemption, to healing, God provides Kingdom Friends for support.

Along the journey you get the mark of the seven deadly sins on your forehead. It is symbolic that our sins are always more readily apparent to others, and vive versa. This is one reason we are to love our enemies: their hatred is the mirror in which we see our own dysfunction. In humility you then climb the seven-story mountain.

Pride: best definition- self regard; looking at oneself. Two conversations- one that flows and the other where you are watching yourself, wondering if you fit in, looking for desirable results, hoping to be found interesting, etc.

The prideful are forced to carry huge rocks on their backs that press them towards the earth. Pride is a huge weight. A group of people sit on a bus that is passing through the mountains, but they have the shades pulled and are arguing about who gets the front seat and the window seats!

Envy: their eyelids are sown shut. Envy is looking out at the world and comparing it to what the ego has.

“When a friend of mine succeeds, something in me dies.” Gore Vidal

Cain is jealous of Abel; Jacob envies his twin, Esau; Joseph’s brothers envy his special status; Saul resents David. It’s everywhere in the Bible because it’s everywhere in our human experience.

Admiration is the antidote. The fact that we exist at all is cause for us to live in continual gratitude. We are owed nothing by God.

Wrath, or Anger: a lust for vengeance that isn’t God’s. Sinful anger obscures seeing, so a smoke that chokes their throat and burns the eyes torments them.

Luke 2: young Jesus in the Temple.

Sloth: sin through a lack of spiritual energy. They have to run around to overcome it. Sometimes our busyness in life is actual spiritual sloth- it keeps us occupied and away from the painful parts of life.

Coveting: the love of material stuff. The greedy are pressed to the ground, unable to acquire anything. How fitting.

Gluttony: Psalm 51: O lord open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise. Our mouth is for food and drink but also to announce praise to God.

Luke 4: the temptation of Jesus.

Lust: lust is the use of another human being, made in God’s image, for our own desire. Objectification. Lust can occur in marriage, when one partner treats the other as less than a person. These folks are burned in a fire to remind them the pain that their misdirected sexuality has done to them and others.

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Isaiah 26:12
LORD, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.

The seven deadly sins are not sins as we typically think of sins, that is, evil thoughts, words, or deeds. Instead, they are the branches that connect the root of sin, our fallen human nature, with the fruits of sin, evil thoughts, words, and deeds.

Adultery, for example, is a sin. It is a sin that may arise out of lust, but can just as easily arise out of one of the other deadly sins.

For example,
Pride: I am entitled to whatever I want and others are tools. Today I want sex.
Wrath: I can use sex to get back at others: my partner, my partner's spouse, my spouse, my parents, or my church.
Covetousness: I want what God has providentially and wisely given to someone else.

Burdened by his sin, Dante drinks from two streams. First, he drinks from the Water of Oblivion and all memory of evil and of sin vanishes. Then he drinks from the Water of Remembrance. These waters "restore remembrance of the sin, but only as an historical fact and as the occasion of grace and blessedness."

It sounds remarkably like a 2006 study from the University of Toronto that stated that people have "a powerful urge to wash themselves" when suffering from a guilty conscience. This urge is known as the "Macbeth effect."

In order to study this effect, the researchers asked volunteers to think about immoral acts they had committed in the past—shoplifting, betraying a friend, and so on. The volunteers were then offered an opportunity to clean their hands. According to the results of the study those who had retraced their sins "jumped at the offer at twice the rate of study subjects who had not imagined past transgressions."

God has wired us with an internal desire to become cleansed, to be healed. As sinners we realize that comes in our surrender to Jesus and the cross of Christ. The cross enables us to recall the sin and brokeness from our past as just a memory and the occasion of healing grace.

I received the following email from a friend who lives out of town, concerning the subject of sin we discussed last week:

Because the word ‘sin’ has been in my mind so abused, I sometimes think of it as error or mistake, so I don’t react and shut down. When I think of the word sin, it seems to throw me into the realm of believing there’s no hope. I had a really bad experience as a very young child, in a church unfamiliar to me, and I was literally shamed into leaving a large gathering in the sanctuary when I truthfully acknowledged I didn’t know if I had a personal relationship with Jesus. Had the pastor instead welcomed people to get to know Jesus, rather than condemning (or shunning) us, he likely would have opened up the Kingdom to many more. (Growing up in the United Church, his question came in a form I wasn’t accustomed to.) Maybe that’s part of why I have trouble in groups.

There has been ample damage done in the name of Christianity, (and I’m sure all other world religions) creating barriers rather than embracing people who most need embracing. I don’t for a moment believe it would have been Jesus’ approach, and that’s what upsets me – all the things done in the name of Jesus that have nothing to do with Jesus, but everything to do with power, control, fear – not love. (and I am a part of it all; the judging, condemning, not trusting, not forgiving, fearing…)

So now that I’ve got that out of my system, I have an opportunity to demonstrate forgiveness of that early experience (and many more experiences)…and move on. It seems the less we forgive, the more we stay stuck, and self-righteous. Yes, our minds do much to confuse us and misrepresent who Jesus knows us to be.

Webster “sin”: a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God.’

Any time we disconnect or estrange ourselves from God (and there are so many ways in which to do it) we indeed are weakened or ‘debased.’ I’ll accept I sin and move forward; false sense of pride (ego) has kept from acknowledging it in those words, as if I’m admitting something beyond reconciliation. And it is through grace I am reconciled.
It feels liberating to work this through…

I believe there is a deep honesty reflected in the email. A saint on his way to knowing that she is a sinner. How utterly blessed!

On Tuesday at a meeting with my mentor, he shared the kind words many had spoken at his last church staff meeting, and then recently at his last executive denominational meeting. While he accepted that they believed what they were saying, he knew what was in his heart. He commented, “Anything accomplished was God working through me because I know I am a sinner. I know the thoughts I have and the judgments I make.” I thought I was in the presence of the apostle Paul at that moment.

“If you don’t believe in evil, come to Africa." So begins a World Vision video I recently viewed.

Saints know that they are sinners. Usually it takes a little age to bring this out, I guess like the flavor of a fine wine.

Confession is a discipline for sinners. “Don't struggle alone. Come share your sins with us.” How’s that for a small group slogan?

Luke 18:9-14
He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: "Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: 'Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this taxman. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.'
"Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, 'God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.'"

Jesus commented, "This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face, but if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself."

Recall Mrs. Turpin thanking God for her great disposition. She ended up on her back. Grace doesn’t always tickle does it? I spoke to someone this last week that was hit on the head, but has seen that as a grace-filled wake-up call.

When we find Jesus in the centre, God gathers us to Himself. When we’re able to admit the self-centredness of our life, we can begin to find healing. Jesus gathers us; he heals us; He’s also what Hans Urs von Balthasar calls, “The keynote player.” As in an orchestra, where everyone tunes into Him to follow the harmony, otherwise we all play our own song. How terrible that sounds. And then Mary Grace usually shows up.

Jesus is also a warrior. C. S. Lewis said that Jesus came as a little tiny baby because He needed to infiltrate and slip quietly and clandestinely behind enemy lines.

Our sinful world is enemy occupied territory. There are powers of hatred, violence, and spiritual sickness.

Jesus doesn’t fight the way of the world though. But make no mistake; He’s come to fight.

In Luke 2 it begins with, “In those days Caesar Augustus and Quirinius take a census.” The story begins by invoking the names of the powerful, and they are taking a census. Remember when David took a census in the Hebrew Scriptures, the OT? God was not pleased. A census was an expression of power – count the people, tax them better, draft them better, manipulate them more, act as if you’re in charge rather than stewarding a gift that God has given.

This is a story of two kings. Lets keep Augustus in mind as we look at the other king. When there was no room in the inn for Mary and Joseph, there is no place for their son Jesus to be born but that of abject poverty.

Where was Caesar when this happened? Likely in his palace on Palatine Hill. He had the best house in the ancient world. The most protected: best roof, most elegant, safest. This new king is born in a tiny cave!

In the eyes of the world the best place to be is protected. In the life of this new king the place to be is vulnerable and unprotected.

Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes. Caesar, the world’s most powerful person has the best wardrobe in the world! Jesus isn’t even free to squirm in his!

What’s the good life? Freedom, power, my dominion. For Jesus, He was bound to love others. His swaddling clothes mimicked His burial clothes at Easter.

Who was the best fed person in the ancient world? In the eyes of the world: Caesar had it all. He was George Bush and Donald Trump all rolled into one: free, well protected, powerful, very well fed.

Who did Caesar hang out with? The best-looking, most influential people. Jesus had shepherds come visit Him. Caesar wouldn’t associate with shepherds. They were shifty, lowlife kinds of people. Jesus associates with poor and the marginalized.

Then the angels show up. This isn’t touched by an angel kind of stuff. When angels show up in the Bible people get scared and fall on their face. A stratia of angel’s shows up, an army.

Who had the biggest army in the ancient world? Caesar. At Christmas a new army shows up. They don’t use the pathetic weapons of Caesar. They are rather led by a baby king. They will fight with weapons like those mentioned in Ephesians 6:

the armor of God, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

In other words, defeat Caesar by outflanking him! Jesus ends His life on a cross.

In the ancient world the cross was terrifying: it was state-sponsored terrorism. Caesar says, “challenge me and I will expose you to the elements and animals will eat the leftovers.”

Above Jesus is a joke, the inscriptions reading, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” On Christmas Day, the two kings started fighting, and on Easter the fight seemed to end. That’s what made it so sad for everyone. There had been so much promise, so much hope, and so many dreams- all to be dashed on the cross.

If that were the way it did end it would be sad. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:19 that "if Jesus wasn’t resurrected we are to be pitied."

Remember the old gangster movies? A guy is hurt, so one of the other men is killed. They take retribution and kill a more powerful person. Soon it’s a bloodbath of one-upmanship until a full-scale war breaks out or the Boss is killed.

In the movie The Untouchables, Al Capone says, “Somebody messes with me, I'm gonna mess with him.”

Elliot Ness and Jimmy Malone are out to get Capone.
Malone: You said you wanted to get Capone. Do you really wanna get him? You see what I'm saying is, what are you prepared to do?
Ness: Anything and everything in my power.
Malone: And then what are you prepared to do? If you open the can on these worms you must be prepared to go all the way because they're not gonna give up the fight until one of you is dead.
Ness: How do you do it then?
Malone: You wanna know how you do it? Here's how, they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way, and that's how you get Capone! Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?

That’s the way of the world folks. Caesar did it to Jesus. You messed with me and now you get to pay. Except that on the third day Jesus rose.

In Luke 24 Jesus is resurrected and appears to several. When He appears to the disciples, they are startled and frightened. This could be the oldest ghost story in the world, the precursor to the slasher movies of today. We killed Him; we betrayed Him, and He’s back for vengeance. Run!

Jesus does two things in all the accounts of His resurrection: He shows His wounds- they are real. Don’t forget what sin did to God! As Virgil picks up a fainting Dante from the sight of his own sin Virgil says, “Look, see! That’s the horror of your own sin!”

Jesus says, "Shalom, peace be with you." We killed God, you and I, and He returns to offer peace!

Luke 24
"You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, and then a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations—starting from here, from Jerusalem!”

The way of Caesar is an eye for an eye. Hatred, retribution, violence, vengeance. God restore order through peace, compassion, and love on the cross.

Romans 8:31-39
So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn't hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn't gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God's chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us! —Is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We're sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

That’s the Jesus Way. God’s grace and mercy is greater than any sin. The ‘King of the Jews’ sign placed above Jesus on the cross was meant to mock Him and show the power of Caesar. We hold the cross up to repudiate worldly power and violence.

Our own sin is swallowed up in God’s shalom, His peace. Through the power of the cross.

2 Corinthians 4:17
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.