4/18/14

The Day God Died.

If you didn’t know it, today, well at least about 2,000 years ago today, is the anniversary of the day that God was put on trial, convicted and killed.  Here’s a snapshot of the trial. As with any trial, we have the prosecution representing the people, the defendant and the judge. The prosecution starts by listing God’s crimes…

At first the crimes seem extensive; the prosecution has pages and pages of crimes. Yet when they get to the last page the lead prosecutor sits down, pauses and says in a very low and slow voice so that the judge has to lean forward to hear him say, “This man’s greatest crime is that he’s not who he said he was. He is not God.”

The prosecutor doesn’t end there though. Like a whip he raises his voice, stands up and starts shouting, “This man’s greatest crime was that he claimed to be God. He is a lunatic. He’s a nobody from nowhere. All he is doing is causing problems. He gives people false hope and has fallen just short of instigating riots. This is just a man, He is not God. If he were God surely he could prove it right here, right now.” He turns his head to gaze at the defendant, but the defendant just sits there.

Unable to get a rise out of the defendant, the prosecutor goes back to his final accusation, “I want to reiterate that this man’s greatest crime was that he claimed to be God and yet, cannot prove it.” He sits down.

The defense has no-opening remarks other than to state that this man is who he said he was. The prosecution rolls their eyes and the judge orders a quick recess. The judge invites the defendant into his chambers. The judge has seen men die under his care and he knows the weight that this trial has. He asks him, “the prosecution has said that you claimed to be God,” and then before the judge asks his question he pauses, looks him in the eyes and says, “You are…God?” The response came confident, restrained and yet meek, “You have not asked a question, you yourself have said so.”

After the recess the prosecution brings up evidence. It’s very dramatic and magical. They try to get you watching one hand while the other hand is trying to steel your wallet. And then the prosecution rests. It is now the defenses turn and in a radical move they rest their case. No one, not even the prosecution saw that one coming. The prosecution, feeling as though they have just won, now confidently awaited the judge to give his judgment.

“I have found no fault with this man. Yet he will receive a brief sentence and then I shall release him.”

The courtroom erupts. A small contingency of people were relived, including the family of the defendant. Yet, the prosecution furious with this decision, demands death and starts beating their table demanding, “death death death…” until the majority of the crowd starts demanding death as well. Some wonder now who is responsible for instigating riots.

After order is restored. The judge says, “Very well. If it is death you want, then it is death you shall have. But let his blood be on your hands, not mine.”

The defendant has to carry his method of execution (imagine someone carrying an electric chair or stretcher). He lugs it through the town. Disgraced, disowned, exiled, depressed, oppressed, and humbled…if this is God he certainly isn’t acting like a God. No God would ever stand for a trial, conviction and sentence like this.

The next day the family and friends are grieved. The prosecution was relieved. The Judge, troubled. The day after that, the man was no where to be found. Could he have been telling the truth all along? Was he God?

Today the trial continues. We are the judge, prosecution and jury. We come to God with our laundry lists of unanswered prayers, missed opportunities, and faults. We set the terms of how we will put God on trial. And finally we’re the ones to sentence him to death, a sentience of exile from our lives. God sits there, endures and says that He is God. Sometimes it’s just enough to know that truth, sometimes it’s hard for us to face that truth, as was the case some 2,000 years ago.


Every time God is put on trial, no matter the severity or insignificance, the outcome is the same. God dies for you and me. They are not His crimes, they are ours and each time He puts up no fight or argument whatsoever. As I sat down to write this, I felt guilty for the times I have crucified Christ in my life. Not only that, but Jesus willingly takes my place when it’s my turn to be tried for my faults and shortcomings. No matter the trial, no matter the day, it’s not our justice that wins…it’s His grace.

10/24/13

Thy Kingdom Come

Of late, my thoughts have been occupied by the Lords prayer and the coming of the kingdom of God. This has largely been due to N.T. Wright and Scot McKnight. They have challenged how I view and interact with the world around me. I’ve recognized in my own life two perverse views that have distorted what it means to seek, pray, and usher in the kingdom of God.

The first is exclusionary. Unfortunately this is a large pool of several prevailing thoughts. Basically what this all boils down to is to think one has the option of opting out of bringing the kingdom to earth. I will pay money to someone else; I’m physically unable; I don’t have the time; I don’t want to get my hands dirty; they’re too much of a mess; it’s the clergy’s job; and lastly, Jesus will fix it all when he returns (more on this down below). When in actuality, Jesus may be calling us to work in a particular situation…no matter the excuse.

Jesus informed us that everyone is our neighbor (Luke 10:25-37). He challenges us to love those who are unloved asking what good is it to love the people we already love? If God loves the world and all that are that in it (John 3:16)…shouldn’t we? In a few chapters later in Luke, Jesus tells the story of the lost coin, sheep, and son. These parables show us that in each instance when the person was searching for what was lost and they then found what they were looking for, there was a party. We can wage moral and religious fights all we want…but that’s not what we’re called to do, we're called to be party hosts! We must have open eyes and keep our ears to the ground to ever be aware of the kingdom around us and to help others see it and hear it too. What is God asking you to do to help bring the kingdom to the people, workplace, community, and neighbors in your life?

The other perverse kingdom view that I wish to discuss is evacuation from earth to heaven, that when we die, we will go somewhere anywhere...just not here. I was sitting with Wes Tongue at Starbucks and I suggested that we sing “I’ll fly away” while we were in the Organ Recital Hall for the next several weeks. We both thought it a good idea, Wes talked about how he sang that song at his Grandfather’s funeral, and I loved the simplicity of this hymn. But then we listened to what the words were communicating and the look on both our faces was a realization that there’s no way we could sing it. This song is a perfect example of evacuation away and from what will become the kingdom. Earth won't be departed for something new; newness will enter into the present.

I sometimes think that we view God as an artist. He starts painting a picture and then doesn’t like that tree there or that happy cloud up there and that sunset color over there just isn’t the right orange. When God see’s these imperfections, unlike humans who are likely to reach for a new canvas, God chooses to work in the current one. Looking at the entirety of scripture God is always working with and within the original until he gets the perfect picture. You can try to argue that the flood was a reset but if it were He wouldn’t have used Noah or any of the animals.

We’ve got to care for time and place in the same way that God does. Heaven will come to Earth and we will not be going anywhere. Those that are dead will rise and won’t be excavated or removed…they will be resurrected. As we are here, let’s pick up a paintbrush and get to work bringing heaven to earth for those that have gone before us, for those that are here and for those that have yet to come, most importantly our King.


8/9/13

Eugene Peterson's 5 Rules for Small Groups


I was recently browsing books on Amazon to see if there were any books that might spark my interest. In doing so I found a book written by Eugene Peterson titled “Like Dew Your Youth.” I perused the table of contents, the introduction and the final pages. In doing so, I found a brief note in an appendix about rules for small groups. Here they are as I read them word-for-word by Eugene:
  1. Start and stop at an agreed-upon time. Even if the discussion is going great, stop when you said you would. There will be another session. Late-night bull sessions are for people who don’t have to go to work the next day.
  2. Don’t dominate. Some people, if they don’t watch themselves, take over a group. If you have this tendency, discipline yourself. Instead of always giving your own opinions try asking a few questions of quieter members of the group, drawing them into more participation.
  3. Take the group seriously. Give it high priority. Refuse to let anything but illness keep you from it. Sporadic attendance weakens the group. Since each person is part of the content, the group won’t function well without you.
  4. Don’t gossip. What goes on in the group should stay in the group. This isn’t material to be discussed with the neighbors over coffee. The group is an extension of the people of God in the church in which friends are sharing important aspects of their lives in Christ in a spirit of confidence and prayer.
  5. Take the Lord seriously. He is more interested in you than you are. Open yourself to the strength He provides in Jesus Christ. Set apart time during each session, either as you begin or as you conclude, to express this openness to God in prayer.
These are simple rules, and yet they set a profound framework for groups that regularly meet. I thought I would have something to say about each one of these rules…but I don’t need to dominate what Mr. Peterson has already said.

7/31/13

Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold


“Revenge is a dish best served cold.” ~ Old Klingon Proverb

In talking about justice this morning, I found myself at odds. I don’t like justice…I like revenge. So there’s two questions I had to ask myself. 1) What is the difference between justice and revenge? 2) Why do I like revenge more than justice?

In response to question one here’s how I would define each term. Revenge is usually swift and causes greater pain and suffering to both parties. Revenge is often about one person taking a situation in their own hands, and ultimately reveals that the person is selfish, lacks self-control and is un-submissive. On the other hand justice takes time and requires patience and trust. It means that no matter the outcome you are submitted to someone or some greater power and their decision.

I think in my own life, I mistakingly see the world through harmonious cause and effect lenses. In that when an imbalance occurs something else has to happen in order to bring things back into harmony. So that, I don’t want justice for those that have been wronged, I want revenge. Not just any revenge either, I like full on Tarantino revenge! I want swift retribution to bring things back into balance. As a Christian I realize my belief in a harmonious cause and effect system is completely misaligned with what the Bible says. 

C.S. Lewis wrote, and I’m paraphrasing, that evil does not exist in equal harmony, like we so often let ourselves believe, with good. But rather evil exists as a parasite on good. It’s very existence relies upon something else existing in order that it, evil, might find existence. The cause of evil and the effect of God playing catchup and responding to the cause of evil...is a horrible non-theological idea! Which brings me back full circle to revenge vs. justice. I want revenge, a form of justice, only because it quickly feeds my impatience and returns things to harmony…albeit a false harmony. Whereas full justice as a Christian, is only fulfilled by and through Jesus. It requires a patient prayer life and hope.

While we are called to patiently pray for Christ’s return…we also don’t sit idly by and watch the world go to hell in a hand basket. There is the faith piece to diligently pray…and then there’s the work/justice piece where we need to see what the Father is doing and partner with him in redeeming and righting wrongs created by evil in this world. So if you’re like me and you’re hungry for revenge…change your appetite for justice, because we’re running a marathon and not a race. The marathon requires us to have patience, endurance, a steady pace and will be more fulfilling as you help the kingdom to come. Whereas revenge leaves you unfulfilled and an insatiable desire for more ____________.

12/4/12

Come and See!


And Nathaniel said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip (Nathaniel’s brother) said to him, “Come and see." - John 1:46

I read this scripture in my devotional time this morning…and it just floored me. There are several things that I walked away with, that caused me to reflect on the whole of scripture and it’s relation to our lives today.

The first is that we often dismiss or forget about God’s ability to perform miracles and His ability to redeem. I’ve never been, but from my understanding, Bethlehem/Nazareth hasn’t changed much over 2000 years. It’s a region without much prosperity, technological advancement, or social progression. Nathan asks the question because he forgot.

Nathans question forgets that David, came from Bethlehem. He forgot that God promised to redeem all of Israel through David’s bloodline. He, like most of the region at the time would have dismissed any claims that a prophet had come out of Bethlehem because in recent history nothing of any importance had come from Bethlehem. But God has a great sense of redeeming humor, he likes surprises, and he likes to go against our expectations. He keeps His promises. At the time it would have probably been easier for Nathan to believe that a prophet or king had come from Jerusalem than from Bethlehem.

The second point is that Philip doesn’t provide an elaborate explanation of Jesus to convince his brother that indeed something good has come from Bethlehem. Rather Philip just offers up a simple invitation echoed throughout scripture: “Come and See”.

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, but and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost."  – Isaiah 55:1

It’s the looming invitation that’s always there, come see that the Lord is good, He is who He says that He is...not who we think or say He is.

This one little verse caused me to ask myself, when was the last time I dismissed someone because of where they were from, their education, their socio-economic status, or their social awkwardness. Would I dismiss Jesus today because he wasn’t from the city, had a Harvard education, and made six-figures? What list of credentials have I constructed before I hear someone...anyone out?

And the other question, I found myself asking was how often do I try to explain away scripture and theology…or get into an argument when I really should just simply say, “Come and see.”