Sunday, December 5, 2010



    How would you prepare for God? What kind of cleaning would you need in your life? Would you be frantically cleaning toilets, porches, and floors to give the appearance of a clean house? Would you have to remove certain movies from the DVD stand or music from your CD tower to avoid embarrassment? Would you stifle your temper to prevent angry outbursts? Would websites you normally visit have to be erased from your "internet history"? Would you wash your car? Would you keep God away from your friends? Would you feed him certain food? How would you prepare for God?

    Matthew 3 says that John the Baptist was "preparing the way of the Lord." The Scripture refers to him dressing in camel's hair, eating locusts and preaching in the boonies. He preached a simple message, " Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." He exhorted people to " bear fruit worthy of repentance." He baptized with water for repentance. There seems to be a trend here. A life of repentance is a life of preparation. We are returning (the literal meaning of repent) to God to prepare from him to return. We don't repent to gain favor in God's eyes. We repent because we know he is returning and we must prepare for the new world he is creating. How are you preparing for God?

Friday, December 3, 2010

“Stay Awake”


        As a little boy, Christmas was the most anticipated day of the year. I looked forward every year to the new stuff I was going to receive. Often, I would stay awake all or most of the night just waiting for 7 am when my parents said it was ok to start opening presents. This was a time of great joy! Oh, the birth of Christ was in the back of my mind too. But at age 8, the birth of the Savior took at least second place to a new bike or video game system.

I couldn't wait to see what presents my parents and friends had gotten for me. Some of the gifts were great, like the aforementioned bike. Others were of the sock and underwear variety. Nevertheless, the joy of Christmas was a day to look forward to every year.

Many Christian tribes (or the churchy word denominations) celebrate the season known as Advent, a time to anticipate the arrival of the Savior. I like that! Just as the nation of Israel was anticipating the arrival of the Messiah, Christians ought to be anticipating the second arrival of Jesus. I come from a background where the focus of the second coming of Christ is judgment. This leads to a sense of dread and fear, dreading the day it comes and fear that we will not be worthy once he arrives.

The reality is that without Christ, we are not worthy. He is our righteousness. Jesus, in answering the question about when he was coming again, said we should, "keep awake, for we do not know" the day when he is coming. What does that mean? We should anticipate his coming and prepare for it. We should look forward to it. We should be aware that the day is coming. But I believe that our awareness should not be like the awareness we have about April 15th, dreading the fact that we have to pull out the old calculator and render unto Caesar! Every day should be like Christmas Eve, anticipating with joy that he will come again to make all things new, to right the wrongs of injustice, abuse, and poverty. "Keep awake…The Lord is coming!"

Monday, September 14, 2009

You need Devotion

As the NFL season begins, rabid football fans will declare their loyalties and devotion to their teams. Some will wear favorite player's uniforms. Others will paint their faces in their favorite team's colors. Devotion is something that is not lacking in our world, whether it is a devotion to our country, our school, our jobs, or our favorite football teams. As Christians, God calls us to be devoted as well. Luke in Acts 2:42 described the early church as a group devoted to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers. As Christians, what are we devoted to? Is our life a reflection of these four "marks" of the church? Do we have a devotion to God's word? Do we have a devotion to hanging out with each other? Do we have a devotion to the sacraments of the church and to worship? Do we have a devotion to prayers? In the tradition of rabid football fans, Jews have a tradition of showing their devotion to the word by writing scripture on their bodies and all over their homes. Catholics show their devotion to prayer through pocket-sized rosaries. As I think about devotion, how can I be devited more to my faith and express that devotion in a tangible way?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Need glasses?

For about as long as I can remember, I've been basically blind without the aid of glasses or contacts. A quick glance around my office with my naked eye reminds me of this fact. The picture of my wife and me on my desk looks like two brown blurs, with one of us (presumably my wife) having a black, blobby blur on top of it with both brown blurs surrounded by a silver blob. The emergency exit sign on top of the back door appears like a red traffic light would appear to a slightly inebriated driver on a dark, rainy night. (Not that I would have first hand knowledge, wink wink!) The calendar on the wall opened to the month of August with a beautiful picture of a river valley looks like a distorted white and green spot.
Often our naked, unaided desires to seek God are much like my naked eye seeing the world. We squint and squint trying to see God, guessing at the blobs, wondering if what we think is God working really is God working. Unfortunately, much of what passes as "spirituality" is marked by this same sort of conjecture. We think we have a clear view of God but don't realize that without some aid, we are merely seeing blobs. Bottom line: We need glasses! Fortunately, God has sent us glasses to help us get a better sense of him in the world. The theologian John Calvin, from whom I graciously stole this metaphor, reminded us over 400 years ago that Scripture is like glasses given to help us see God. But God has also blessed us with other glasses. He has given us a community called the church, through whom years and years of reflection on God, Scripture, and the world help us to see God more clearly. He also blesses us with the "glasses" of suffering. Job reflected on this when he said in Job 42:5, "Now my eyes have seen you!" This was after Job's trial of suffering where he lost his children, health, and wealth. God became clearer to me when I was out of work for nine months after dropping out of grad school. He was able to sustain me when I was no longer depending on "me." I was able to see him clearer as a result.
Never grow to the point where you start to believe that you need nothing and no one in order to grow closer to God. Our vision is blurred because of sin, our perspective, our background, and our limited knowledge. Yet God graciously has provided us with glasses so that, in spite of our impediments, we can one day clearly see him.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What does God see?


Image is everything! I still believe that slogan to the old Canon (or was it Minolta) commercial with Andre Agassi holds true today…And from reading the Scripture this week, it apparently held true yesterday as well. This week I read the story of the calling of David in 1 Samuel 16. The story goes that God had lost his patience with King Saul and was taking the kingship of Israel away from him and bestowing it upon another. The prophet Samuel is instructed to go to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to find this new king. Samuel goes to Bethlehem, has an "invitation-only" worship service where he invites Jesse and the clan. The family comes in and Samuel is immediately drawn to Eliab. Maybe it's because he's the oldest. Maybe it's because he's tall or attractive. But something about Eliab led Samuel to believe he was the one that was to be the next king. But God has a way of shattering our belief in appearances and image. He tells Samuel literally, "God does not see what man sees." As I look at my life, I wonder what does God see? On the outside, I'm a good churchgoing person who tries to live a moral life. I certainly have the appearance of a good Christian. But I struggle in my heart with extreme selfishness and lust, attributes that I'm able to hide from the world with some degree of success. As I look at the church, I wonder what does God see? Does he see a church more concerned with image and appearances than with spiritual growth? Does he see a church that is busy with everything except kingdom building? God does not see what man can see nor can man even begin to see what God sees. God saw the next king of Israel in a "ruddy" shepherd boy named David, the son that Jesse didn't even bother to bring. When he looks into your life, I wonder what will God see?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Seriousness of Sin


    I was reading the famous story of the Israelites and the Bronze Serpent, a story that Jesus references in John 3 when he says "Just as the serpent was lifted in the desert so must the son of Man be lifted. " The story goes that the Israelites, in typical fashion, were complaining about being in the desert. "They spoke against God and against Moses," according to well, Moses himself, saying, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food." Well, God didn't like this complaining and he promptly sent serpents among the people causing many of them to die. At first glance this seems mean and capricious. After all, can't people have a right to complain or to voice their protest? Well, yes they can but there is a difference between complaining and questioning the providence and justice of God. This act was not just a mere complaint but an act of rebellion. They were suggesting that God, the one who had delivered them from Egypt and Moses, his emissary, were no longer worthy of being their leaders. Let's take a modern example. Let's say that I and a few of my like minded friends decided to storm the White House in protest of its sovereignty. There is a name for this act. It's called treason. The punishment for treason is death. Make no mistake about it. The Israelites were declaring treason on God. God, in protecting his sovereignty, punished the rebels. This is a picture of God's response, by the way, to all sin. All sin is a rebellion against God. It is a way of saying "I don't care what your word says or what you believe. I'm going to do what I want and ignore your rule." Well, we can certainly do that, but the consequence for that rebellion, for that act of treason is death. Sin is serious. We must constantly see it in that light and be thankful that God, in spite of our rebellion, provides a snake in the desert or a Son on a cross to provide grace and life!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What’s your gift??

The past couple of months I've been leading a men's group in spiritual gifts….Mine turn out to be teaching and helping… My weakest are evangelism and mercy…pretty scary, huh?? It's my ISTP makeup I guess (for those unfamiliar with Myers-Briggs it basically means I'm an uptight introvert). One thing I've taken away is that God has intended ministry to not be a one man show but to me a team effort. God blesses us with different gifts so that we can work together for the good of the body. That means that preachers (most of whom are gifted teachers) can't be the evangelist and the mercy giver and the administrator and the servant and the teacher…well you get the idea..A church works best when it places members in the places where they are most equipped….By the way, what is your gift?