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Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

There’s been a lot going on lately.  In the midst of the roller coaster I’ve been living, I’ve been slowly working my way through Henri Nouwen’s The Inner Voice of Love.  Last night I was brought to tears as I read and re-read “Let Jesus Transform You.”  This is good stuff folks, a window into my soul in the words of Henri Nouwen:

You are looking for ways to meet Jesus.  You are trying to meet him not only in your mind but also in your body.  You seek his affection, and you know that this affection involves his body as well as yours.  He became flesh for you so that you could encounter him in the flesh and receive his love in the flesh.

But something remains in you that prevents this meeting.  There is still a lot of shame and guilt stuck away in your body, blocking the presence of Jesus. You do not fully feel at home in your body; you look down on it as if it were not a good enough, beautiful enough, or pure enough place to meet Jesus.

When you look attentively at your life, you will see how filled it has been with fears, especially fears of people in authority: your parents, your teachers, your bishops, your spiritual guides, even your friends.  You never felt equal to them and kept putting yourself down in front of them.  For most of your life, you have felt as if you needed their permission to be yourself.

Think about Jesus.  He was totally free before the authorities of his time.  He told people not to be guided by the behavior of the scribes and Pharisees.  Jesus came among us as an equal, a brother.  He broke down the pyramidal structures of relationship between God and people as well as those among people and offered a new model: the circle, where God lives in full solidarity with the people and the people with one another.

You will not be able to meet Jesus in your body while your body remains full of doubts and fears. Jesus came to free you from these bonds and to create in you a space where you can be with him.  He wants you to live the freedom of the children of God.

Do not despair, thinking that you cannot change yourself after so many years.  Simply enter into the presence of Jesus as you are and ask him to give you a fearless heart where he can be with you.  You cannot make yourself different. Jesus came to give you a new heart, a new spirit, a new mind, and a new body.  Let him transform you by his love and so enable you to receive his affection in your whole being.

I’ve been walking lately through some of the refining fires of the process of transformation by Jesus’ love.  How is Jesus working to transform you?

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I’ve Got Nothing

It’s not that I have nothing to say.  I’m just not sure how to say what I’ve been wanting to say.

I’m finding myself in kind of a strange season right now – I’ve been internalizing a lot, but experiencing a lack of words to express that with which I am wrestling.

Praying.

Wrestling.

Waiting.

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Every generation has a defining moment.  Everybody has days that will foever be ingrained in their memory.  While there are have been a number of those moments and days in my own life, there are few that I remember with such emotional clarity as April 20, 1999.

It was on this day 10 years ago that news quickly spread across the country of the horrific events at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.  Two armed students entered the school, opening fire and tossing homemade bombs killing 12 students and a teacher and then turning their guns on themselves.

I remember coming home from school that day (I was in 8th grade, which in my district is included at the high school) and being glued to the coverage on CNN.  Fear, grief and uncertainty overcame me as I watched the continuing reports.  There are images (like the one above) that will be forever ingrained in my memory from that day.  Students running for their lives out the door of their high school, a place that up until that point had always seemed to be a “safe” place.  No high school would ever again be considered “safe.”

Even more than the media coverage, though, I was shaken to the core by the stories that began emerging regarding the supposed martyrdom of Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernall.  I had heard ancient stories of people who had been killed for their faith, but the emerging stories (whether fully true or not) of these girls being questioned about their faith in God or being targeted in the shooting for their Christian faith made such martyrdom a reality.  These girls were just like me – typical American teenagers who happened to be actively involved in their churches – and in an instant they were gone.

In light of this year’s 10th anniversary of the shooting, I have been re-reading some of the books on my shelf about the stories of these two girls: Rachel’s Tears and She Said Yes.  I first read these books in high school, and re-reading them has allowed me to revisit some of the emotions and challenges that I faced as a high schooler dealing with the nation wide impact of the events at Columbine.

Now, 10 years later, I choose to remember: not the violence and tragedy of that day, but rather the hope that I have seen rising up as a result.  The events that took place on April 20, 1999 will forever be etched on our minds and hearts – may we rise to the challenges, remember the lost, and embrace the hope of healing.

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Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you – unless you have come to believe in vain.

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was burried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.  For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.  On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them – though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.  Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.  (1 Corinthians 15:1-11 NRSV)

This, my friends is the promise of Easter:  Christ crucified has risen from the dead!  Like Eric, today I am reminded of the promise that Jesus is more than a “good man”.  A good man doesn’t do much for me other than give me a warm fuzzy feeling.  The Son of God in human flesh crucified, dead and burried and then resurrected from the dead – that is a promise that I can cling to.  That is the promise that gives me hope and joy.

It is with the assurance of that promise that I now step out of this Lenten Journey and into the hope of the resurrected Christ.  I pray that you were blessed both in this Lenten Season as well as in today’s joyous Easter celebration.

May you know the hope and promise of Christ raised from the dead.

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It seems hard to believe that holy week is upon us: the jubilance of the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem, the dramatic events of the last supper and intensity of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal, trial and passion of Christ’s death on Good Friday, the period of solemn yet hopeful waiting on Holy Saturday, and then the glorious Easter celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.  It is a week that covers the whole gamet of emotion and one that deserves much more of our attention than what it often receives.  Holy Week begs for pause in our lives – pause which serves to remind us that this life is not about us.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.” John 3:16-17 (The Message)

It is in the observance of Holy Week that we are to be reminded of those events on which all of eternity hangs.  Our eternal destiny is secured by our faith in this one thing: Christ crucified and Christ risen.

May we be reminded this week of the ultimate sacrifice that was paid in behalf of our sins – as Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, submitted himself to the penalty of death as the sacrificial lamb for the sins of all humankind.  May we not make light of this sacrifice but once again be reminded of the greatest gift that has ever been given.  And may we open our hands and hearts to accept that gift.

May the remembrance of Christ crucified and Christ risen capture our hearts once again during this Holy Week.

Jesus Christ, I think upon Your sacrifice
You became nothing, poured out to death
Many times, I’ve wondered at Your gift of life
And I’m in that place once again
I’m in that place once again

Once again I look upon the cross where You died
I’m humbled by Your mercy and I’m broken inside
Once again I thank You
Once again I pour out my life

Thank You for the cross
Thank You for the cross
Thank You for the cross, my friend

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We live in a culture that is obsessed with instant gratification.  We are conditioned to want the world, and to want it now.  We tap our foot with impatience as we wait in line at the fast food drive through, despite the fact that we don’t even have to get out of our car to get food anymore.  If someone is driving “too slowly” on the freeway we flash our lights, give some gestures and then zip around in anger as though that person were interfering with some divine plan for us to get where we’re going in record time.  Newspapers and “snail mail” are becoming obsolete as people get their news instantaneously online and send e-mails, instant messages and texts in lieu of hand written mail.

So, what’s the deal?  Have we lost something in this sea of instant gratification?

I’ve had a lot on my mind the past few days.  During this this Lenten season I’ve experienced some of the joys of living at a more relaxed pace of life, and have gained quite an appreciation for some of those things that you just can’t get in an instant.  There are just some things that an instant won’t bring – things for which we must wait.

We don’t like to wait.  We’re conditioned to think that we’re somehow entitled to not have to wait.

You know what, though?  God wants us to wait.  He wants us to learn to wait.

Tonight, as we were studying Luke-Acts in my New Testament class, Dr. Myers pointed out a brilliang juxtaposition.  At the end of Luke, Jesus gives some clear instructions to his disciples before ascending into heaven.  He says:

“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

At the beginning of Acts, we are given another account of the ascension with similar instructions from Jesus to his disciples.  He says:

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about… It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerualem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:4, 7-8)

In both of these cases, Jesus final instructions to the disciples before he ascends into heaven are not to go, but rather to wait.

So, what’s all this waiting about?  What’s the use in waiting around for something?

Like I said before: There are just some things that an instant won’t bring – things for which we must wait.

I’ve got more thoughts on this topic, but before I share my thoughts, I want to know what you (you know, my four faithful readers) think about this topic.  What are the things that you have to wait for?  Is it worth the wait?

While you’re thinking about it, check out this song by Brandon Heath called “Wait and See”:

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There is an older gentleman in my church who was diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer a while back.  At the time it was estimated that he would probably have less than a year to live.  As I observe this man in church it is clear to me that he is a firm believer in the power of God, the power of prayer, and in the importance of fellowship with other believers.  I’m pretty sure that since beginning his treatments for the cancer he has only missed maybe one or two Sundays.

Back in November our church held a benefit dinner for he and his wife to help cover medical expenses that raised upwards of $20,000.  That money helped to cover enormous medical bills that had been piling up while he and his wife were both out of work.

Tonight as we opened our last Lenten soup supper in prayer, we were able to rejoice with the saints in heaven at a miraculous victory.  The tumor which had previously been present in his pancreas is gone.  The tumor in his liver has shrunk to half its size, and appears to be continuing in its disappearance.  The doctors are calling it nothing short of a miracle.

The doctor’s advice: keep doing whatever it is you’re doing.

His response: “All I do is go home and pray.”

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