Showing posts from April, 2009

"Outside and up close"

"Outside and up close" -- does this describe how you relate to the people and the world around you?

This phrase really caught my attention. It was mentioned by Dwight Robertson, author of Plan A. He will be teaching a conference at King's Harbor in June. Plan A is about how all of us need to see ourselves as laborers in God's kingdom. As we like to say around KHC, no spectators!

Anyway, Dwight was talking to a group of us pastors, and he made a wonderful observation about the disciples' experience in the upper room (Acts 1-2). The resurrected Jesus had instructed them to wait in the city until they received "power from on high," which would be fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. They faithfully prayed and waited, sequestered in a room where there was a relative degree of safety and privacy. Dwight observed that this was the first time they had gathered for any length of time inside and away from other people. Jesus had done all his training in the field --…

Visiting missionaries in the field

Last weekend something Mando Velasquez said registered in a new way with me. Mando and his family are serving as missionaries in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. He said:

"We miss you. Sometimes we get lonely. It doesn't mean we don't want to be there. It's just that God has called us somewhere else."

I always knew that missionaries gave up a lot to serve in the way they do. And I understand that they miss the comforts of America. But somehow Mando's quote got through to me in a unique way.

They like it here, but they were called there.

Going there was an act of obedience. Staying there is surrender. Enduring the pangs of loneliness is ongoing sacrifice. I am not saying that missionaries dislike where they are; only that their separation from the places and the people of their former home is a very real sacrifice.

This puts into a new perspective what it means for us to visit missionaries in the field. It is not so much that we are bringing them nostalgic reminders of th…

The comedy of Tim Hawkins

I have been at the Catalyst pastors' conference the last two days, and one of the unexpected treats was the comedy of Tim Hawkins. Check him out at this and many other YouTube links:

What Martha and Mary illustrate about prayer

The way the two sisters interact with Jesus in the story (Luke 10) makes us think about how we interact with God in prayer. What Martha and Mary have in common is that both of them are interacting with Jesus. However, they are interacting with him in completely different and symbolic ways.

Martha is talking at Jesus. She wants him to do something for her. Note that her cause is right. If fairness had been the only standard for conduct, then Mary should have joined her sister in preparing for the dinner party. However, there are often more important things than fairness. In this case, what was going on between Mary and Jesus was more important than the letter of the law of fairness.

Martha was talking at Jesus, but Mary was communing with Jesus. She sat at his feet, hanging on his every word and action. Mary was enjoying a personal connection with Jesus. We can't say the same for Martha.

Another way to describe the difference is this: Martha was looking at Jesus; Mary was looking into…

What is the "simple life"?

Does this sound familiar? Life feels like it is a train rumbling down the tracks at breakneck speed, and you are holding onto the back of the caboose with your feet flying off the ground.

A lot of us feel this way, and that is why conversations frequently pop up about the "simple life." Here is the question. What is the simple life? Does simplicity mean doing less, or does it mean being clear about our priorities?

If simplicity means doing less, then we need to attack our schedules. We need to put more "margins" into our lives so we have time to breathe and relate to others.

If simplicity means being clear about our priorities, then we need to sit down and examine what we think is important. Our use of time and energy should then reflect our priorities.

So which is it? Doing less? Having clear priorities? A little of both?

Interacting with the Bible in community

I want to say a few things about a very accessible and simple way to read Scripture together in community. Each week I lead members of the church staff in a time we call "Shabbat" (Sabbath). It is 20 minutes of resting from our labor and enjoying God's presence. There is no "Bible study" here, but I have found it to be an incredibly rich time of interacting with Scripture in a prayerful atmosphere.

Here is what we do:
1. Read a passage together. We read one chapter a week. In recent months, we have gone through Ruth and Esther, and now we are starting Daniel.

2.Ask, "What do you hear? What do you notice in this passage?" One thing I have found is that people notice a lot of interesting things when we allow Scripture to speak to us. (That is because the Holy Spirit illuminates Scripture to us.) I have been in discussions over passages I have read dozens and dozens of times on my own and studied thoroughly, and then found completely new and valid insights…

Jesus' death as an act of power

Yesterday I was reflecting more on the meaning of the cross. I have been meditating this year on the direct tie between Jesus' willingness to suffer on the cross and God's love for us. Jesus was filled with this love, and that is why he went to the cross. God loves us that much!

My further thoughts went to another great paradox of the cross. The power of God is demonstrated nowhere like it is on the cross. God has done a lot of things worth marveling over. Just read through the accounts of the Israelites' liberation from Egypt, and you get a host of large-scale miracles. In Jesus' ministry there were miracles that were large-scale (like the feeding of the 5000) and individual-scale (name any of his healings or exorcisms). The natural response to these miracles is to exclaim, "God is mighty!"

However, the most natural response to the cross is to say, "Jesus was not manifesting God's power in that time." Not so! The power of God was manifest in Jesu…

Reflections on this Good Friday

Following is the text of a message I am delivering at our Good Friday service today. The Good Friday services at King's Harbor are rather intense and somber, and the message is meant to match the character of the day...

Good Friday Message 2009
In Philippians 2, Paul quotes the lyrics of a hymn sung in the earliest Christian churches. This hymn paints a compelling portrait of the self-emptying and humble nature of Christ Jesus. The first half of the hymn says this:
6[Christ Jesus] Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, taking the very nature of a slave, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!
This hymn describes how God the Son took two giant steps downward in his plan to come and rescue us from our own self-destruction. The first giant step downward is that God the Son became human. People have long wondered how the i…

Daniel: a man against culture or a light within culture?

I have always viewed Daniel as a hardnosed young man who stood steadfastly against all things Babylonian. After reading the first chapter of Daniel this morning, I am now changing my view of him. He appears not as a man against culture but a light within culture.

Daniel was among the first Israelites deported to Babylon, sometime around 600 BCE. It is reported that King Nebuchadnezzar gathered up a group of young Israelite men from the royal family and the nobility. He took these men into the palace for enculteration in the ways of Babylon. He commanded that the young men eat choice foods from the king's own kitchen. However, the story reports that Daniel refused to eat the king's food. Why?

I have thought, along with many other Christians, that Daniel did this because he refused to be made into a Babylonian. There may be some truth to this, but the text presents Daniel in a different light. Why did he refuse to eat the king's food? Because in doing so, he would defile himse…