Saturday, November 29, 2008


Yesterday I had the chance to go take a free yoga class on the North Shore. They said the focus of the class was gratitude, and we were to hold an image in our mind for which we were grateful. I chose baptism, the Spirit-filled waters that are teeming throughout our faith, sanctifying us and claiming us as Christ's own. Over the Thanksgiving Holiday, when we think about what we are grateful for, we should begin at baptism, for that is the moment when we recognize how much God has given to us so that we might have a relationship with God.

Romans 6:1-11

What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.


Each sin of ours was washed away, cleansed by the blood of the lamb. Upon that cross, each one of our sins was nailed by the force of love, held up there by the gift of a Savior, and it was gift we hadn't even thought to ask for yet. We were claimed by love, and all we have to do in return is to be grateful for the gift, for the opportunity to live as a forgiven and renewed people. What is Thanksgiving? It is an opportunity to recognize the new creation that has taken place within us and to claim that as our true identity, to be windows to the cross and mirrors to God's unchanging and eternal love.

Thanks be to God!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

John 16:25-33

25-28"I've used figures of speech in telling you these things. Soon I'll drop the figures and tell you about the Father in plain language. Then you can make your requests directly to him in relation to this life I've revealed to you. I won't continue making requests of the Father on your behalf. I won't need to. Because you've gone out on a limb, committed yourselves to love and trust in me, believing I came directly from the Father, the Father loves you directly. First, I left the Father and arrived in the world; now I leave the world and travel to the Father."

29-30His disciples said, "Finally! You're giving it to us straight, in plain talk—no more figures of speech. Now we know that you know everything—it all comes together in you. You won't have to put up with our questions anymore. We're convinced you came from God."

31-33Jesus answered them, "Do you finally believe? In fact, you're about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I'm not abandoned. The Father is with me. I've told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I've conquered the world."


We speak most plainly through our actions. That is how the world realized who Jesus Christ was. That is how others will realize where our eternal treasure is, also. If we act in ways that show who it is we truly love, then others will see our actions and wonder what it is that drives us to serve others, to love others, to reach out to those in desperate need of hearing about God's love. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, it is a challenge for us to be a thankful people, but also to be a people focused upon the needs of others, for this is a time of year when those needs are so apparent. Remember that as we give thanks, thousands all around us are in desperate need of warm food, a dry room and someone to show them they are loved. Perhaps, as Dan Sansbury says, 'you are the answer to their prayers.'


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

John 16:16-24

16"In a day or so you're not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me."
Joy Like a River Overflowing
17-18That stirred up a hornet's nest of questions among the disciples: "What's he talking about: 'In a day or so you're not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me'? And, 'Because I'm on my way to the Father'? What is this 'day or so'? We don't know what he's talking about."

19-20Jesus knew they were dying to ask him what he meant, so he said, "Are you trying to figure out among yourselves what I meant when I said, 'In a day or so you're not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me'? Then fix this firmly in your minds: You're going to be in deep mourning while the godless world throws a party. You'll be sad, very sad, but your sadness will develop into gladness.

21-23"When a woman gives birth, she has a hard time, there's no getting around it. But when the baby is born, there is joy in the birth. This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain. The sadness you have right now is similar to that pain, but the coming joy is also similar. When I see you again, you'll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you. You'll no longer be so full of questions.

23-24"This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I've revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he'll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!


Joy. Pure joy. The kind of joy that comes only from knowing that the Almighty God who created heaven and earth is in control of the world. This is the kind of joy Jesus talks about. It isn't the joy we get when we get paid, or when we discover that it's double-coupon day at Bi-Lo (although those are good days!). This is a deeper joy, one that rests in the soul and bursts forth upon our faces and we can't control how widely we smile because all of the fear and anxiety is driven away, leaving us face-to-face with the reality of our risen Lord. When we sing 'Joy to the World' this holiday season, think about real joy, Christ-centered joy, the joy that drives us to go out and spread the joy, spread out gifts out so that others may live. Let's go into the world and offer some of that joy that Christ has given us.


Monday, November 24, 2008

John 16:1-15

1-4 "I've told you these things to prepare you for rough times ahead. They are going to throw you out of the meeting places. There will even come a time when anyone who kills you will think he's doing God a favor. They will do these things because they never really understood the Father. I've told you these things so that when the time comes and they start in on you, you'll be well-warned and ready for them.
The Friend Will Come
4-7"I didn't tell you this earlier because I was with you every day. But now I am on my way to the One who sent me. Not one of you has asked, 'Where are you going?' Instead, the longer I've talked, the sadder you've become. So let me say it again, this truth: It's better for you that I leave. If I don't leave, the Friend won't come. But if I go, I'll send him to you.

8-11"When he comes, he'll expose the error of the godless world's view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He'll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted.

12-15"I still have many things to tell you, but you can't handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won't draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I've said, 'He takes from me and delivers to you.'


What do you think of the translation of Holy Spirit as 'Friend'? Seems strange, doesn't it? I am accustomed to Comforter, but friend? Maybe it pushes us in a new direction. I think what Christ is saying is that we need to be prepared to think of the Spirit as a friend, as someone who will be with us always, pushing us to grow, to be challenged, to see the world through God's eyes. The Spirit won't let us be comfortable and simply accept the things around us, but rather compel us to go out into the world and be the hands and feet of Christ. The life of Christ is a blessing beyond words; the Friend reminds us to go forward and be a blessing to others.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

John 15:18-27

18-19"If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world's terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God's terms and no longer on the world's terms, the world is going to hate you.

20"When that happens, remember this: Servants don't get better treatment than their masters. If they beat on me, they will certainly beat on you. If they did what I told them, they will do what you tell them.

21-25"They are going to do all these things to you because of the way they treated me, because they don't know the One who sent me. If I hadn't come and told them all this in plain language, it wouldn't be so bad. As it is, they have no excuse. Hate me, hate my Father—it's all the same. If I hadn't done what I have done among them, works no one has ever done, they wouldn't be to blame. But they saw the God-signs and hated anyway, both me and my Father. Interesting—they have verified the truth of their own Scriptures where it is written, 'They hated me for no good reason.'

26-27"When the Friend I plan to send you from the Father comes—the Spirit of Truth issuing from the Father—he will confirm everything about me. You, too, from your side must give your confirming evidence, since you are in this with me from the start."


It's amazing that there is a church today, after all the ominous things Jesus said. Seems like the most logical thing to do would have been for the disciples to find a nice, peaceful house somewhere in the country and live out there days talking (very quietly) about the amazing things Jesus Christ did. They could have even built a small church to worship in, not bothering to invite the rest of the world, which was filled with hate and ready to kill them

Jesus sent them into a world of anger and hatred. How is our world the same? We do not risk our lives when we proclaim our faith in God, but what do we risk? How has the world changed? How is it the same? How does the Word of Jesus Christ form us into a community different from society, and how do we embark on the adventure of our faith together? We are risking our lives, investing our lives, in something far bigger than ourselves. This faith is the adventure of our lives.


Friday, November 21, 2008

John 15:1-17

John 15
The Vine and the Branches
1-3 "I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn't bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

4"Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can't bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can't bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

5-8"I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

9-10"I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love. That's what I've done—kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love.

11-15"I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father.

16"You didn't choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won't spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.

17"But remember the root command: Love one another.


Home is where the heart is. This coming week we will be celebrating Thanksgiving and all things home. Some will travel many miles to get home, others will have family members come into their homes. Some homes will feel full, others will feel empty without the presence of a certain loved one. Home is loaded with meaning, some good, some bad. Christ is calling us home. Christ is calling us to make our home in Him, so that we seek to be home, we seek to be in a place where we are surrounded by love, where we are surrounded by care. The home that Christ offers is one that disposes our anxiety, defeats our fears, and secures our future. If we are to call it home we are challenged to go out and invite others in, to go out and tell others of our home, but we always know there is a place for us, a warm, loving place, where Jesus Christ will welcome us with open arms.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Scots Confession, Chapter 1

"We confess and acknowledge one God alone, to whom alone we must cleave, whom alone we must serve, whom only we must worship, and in whom alone we put our trust. Who is eternal, infinite, immeasurable, incomprehensible, omnipotent, invisible; one in substance and yet distinct in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. By whom we confess and believe all things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, to have been created, to be retained in their being, and to be ruled and guided by his inscrutable providence for such end as his eternal wisdom, goodness, and justice have appointed, and to the manifestation of his own glory."
Trying to describe God is like trying to count the stars. God is huge and impossibly vast beyond measure. Trying to describe God is like trying to imagine what the universe might have been like before creation. God is so other than we are, so different and so foreign, that we can never understand the mind of God. We will never know what it is like to have our words create trees, to have the ability to cast away sin and death, to have the depth of love God has. Trying to describe God is like trying to capture a sunset on film; we can take all the pictures we want, we can try to hold onto each moment, but at the end of the day, the best way to do it is simply sit back and bask in its beauty and radiance.

John 14:15-31

The Spirit of Truth
15-17"If you love me, show it by doing what I've told you. I will talk to the Father, and he'll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can't take him in because it doesn't have eyes to see him, doesn't know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!

18-20"I will not leave you orphaned. I'm coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you're going to see me because I am alive and you're about to come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I'm in my Father, and you're in me, and I'm in you.

21"The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that's who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him."

22Judas (not Iscariot) said, "Master, why is it that you are about to make yourself plain to us but not to the world?"

23-24"Because a loveless world," said Jesus, "is a sightless world. If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him—we'll move right into the neighborhood! Not loving me means not keeping my words. The message you are hearing isn't mine. It's the message of the Father who sent me.

25-27"I'm telling you these things while I'm still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I'm leaving you well and whole. That's my parting gift to you. Peace. I don't leave you the way you're used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don't be upset. Don't be distraught.

28"You've heard me tell you, 'I'm going away, and I'm coming back.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I'm on my way to the Father because the Father is the goal and purpose of my life.

29-31"I've told you this ahead of time, before it happens, so that when it does happen, the confirmation will deepen your belief in me. I'll not be talking with you much more like this because the chief of this godless world is about to attack. But don't worry—he has nothing on me, no claim on me. But so the world might know how thoroughly I love the Father, I am carrying out my Father's instructions right down to the last detail.

"Get up. Let's go. It's time to leave here."


Get up. The disciples don't get any time to think about what Jesus has just said; they must keep moving forward. They must go out and keep his commandments, go out and live by the law of love he has taught them not only with his words but also with his actions. He will be leaving, but they are to stay and continue to testify to Him and His love by their actions.

Get up. Christ calls us to do the same. He doesn't leave us alone to do so, but sends the Spirit so that we might have strength and guidance, so that we might have hope and life, so that we might see clearly the path God is calling us down. We have to get up, we have to go out into the world and be active in love, showing the world how strong the love of God is.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

John 14:1-14

1-4 "Don't let this throw you. You trust God, don't you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father's home. If that weren't so, would I have told you that I'm on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I'm on my way to get your room ready, I'll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I'm taking."

5Thomas said, "Master, we have no idea where you're going. How do you expect us to know the road?"

6-7Jesus said, "I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You've even seen him!"

8Philip said, "Master, show us the Father; then we'll be content."

9-10"You've been with me all this time, Philip, and you still don't understand? To see me is to see the Father. So how can you ask, 'Where is the Father?' Don't you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you aren't mere words. I don't just make them up on my own. The Father who resides in me crafts each word into a divine act.

11-14"Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can't believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I'm doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I've been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I'll do it. That's how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I'll do.


We have the luxury of looking back on the resurrection, the assurance that everything Jesus said or did was confirmed by his defeat of death after three days in the tomb. The disciples had none of that. They followed him everywhere, and yet they each wanted something to be sure they were doing the right thing. Apparently the feedings and other miracles weren't enough; there had to be something more.

We always need something more. Being content doesn't seem to be a gift we have in our society. More proof, more faith, more knowledge; we are always seeking more. In many ways, this is a good thing, for we don't get comfortable and forget to continue seeking after the will of God. Yet we also need to rest in the comfort that Christ offers through his saving death and resurrection. Rest easy, assured that he is the way, the truth and the life, and we have no need of anxiety for the love of Christ will hold us and keep us.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

John 13:31-38

31-32When he had left, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man is seen for who he is, and God seen for who he is in him. The moment God is seen in him, God's glory will be on display. In glorifying him, he himself is glorified—glory all around!

33"Children, I am with you for only a short time longer. You are going to look high and low for me. But just as I told the Jews, I'm telling you: 'Where I go, you are not able to come.'

34-35"Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other."

36Simon Peter asked, "Master, just where are you going?"

Jesus answered, "You can't now follow me where I'm going. You will follow later."

37"Master," said Peter, "why can't I follow now? I'll lay down my life for you!"

38"Really? You'll lay down your life for me? The truth is that before the rooster crows, you'll deny me three times."


Reading this I feel like there's a celebration going on but Jesus is the only one who realizes what exactly is going on. He wants everyone to be excited, to revel in the amazing thing that God has done and rejoice in God's power and gracious love, but instead everybody has so many questions. They just can't see. They can't wrap their minds around exactly who Jesus Christ is and what that means.

It is often our vision that is the problem. Our desires our not the problem; we want our lives to be lifted up in worship. It's just that we can't see to understand how that will happen. We can't understand the steps we need to take so that we are followers of Christ. We pray for revelation from God that seems to never come. We don't see the world God sees it, and it is so difficult to wrap our minds around how God works. This is the God whose power was displayed on a cross. This is a God whose love was displayed through death. This is the God who speaks through silence and moves through soup kitchens. Be still, be calm, and seek for God, but do not despair if it is not all laid out before you. God is present, I promise you that, but God is working in your life slowly, day by day, and often in the small things we tend to not notice. Be still, and know that God is with you every second of the way.


Monday, November 17, 2008

John 13:21-30

21After he said these things, Jesus became visibly upset, and then he told them why. "One of you is going to betray me."

22-25The disciples looked around at one another, wondering who on earth he was talking about. One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved dearly, was reclining against him, his head on his shoulder. Peter motioned to him to ask who Jesus might be talking about. So, being the closest, he said, "Master, who?"

26-27Jesus said, "The one to whom I give this crust of bread after I've dipped it." Then he dipped the crust and gave it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. As soon as the bread was in his hand, Satan entered him.

"What you must do," said Jesus, "do. Do it and get it over with."

28-29No one around the supper table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas was their treasurer, Jesus was telling him to buy what they needed for the Feast, or that he should give something to the poor.

30Judas, with the piece of bread, left. It was night.


Judas, one who had followed Jesus throughout his ministry, was about to betray Jesus Christ. Jesus knew he had only so many sunsets left, and the actions of Judas were bringing the end closer and closer.

I am continue to be surprised by the inner strength of Jesus. Surely the easier path was so tempting. But he maintained a focus, a resoluteness, and did what he had come to do. I admire that focus and dedication. How do we focus ourselves on what must be done? How do we uphold our determination in the face of opposition? How do we make it through the challenges that face us?

Only because God is our strength in the midst of it. God does not promise to keep us out of the shadows and dark parts of our lives, only to be with us in the middle of them. God is our rock, our refuge, and our hope that we willmake it through the darkness and return to the light and the joy we once knew.