Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wednesday Morning

Holy Lord,

  We draw near to Maundy Thursday.  It lurks nearby like an unwelcome reminder of your death.  It is a celebration, yet a heartbreaking one we see through veils of tears, knowing the end of the story but hating the way we get there.  Death lurks over every word we say today and tomorrow. 
  Remind us once more of the life we have in you.  Console us with your grace, and always point our vision towards the empty tomb, towards Easter, towards your amazing and all-powerful love.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday Morning 3/30/2010

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord--
  We draw closer to Friday, closer to Sunday, closer to grief, nearer to celebration--draw us close, that we may pass through this week knowing that you abide with us.  Help us to know how to be grateful, to know how to mourn, to know how to celebrate.  You the Lord of this week, just as you prove when you conquer sin, when you destroy death.  Remind us once more of your power, of your love, that we may wander as your faithful people.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Strange Things Will Be Seen

Luke 5:17-26               Jesus Heals a Paralytic

17 One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting nearby (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal.* 18Just then some men came, carrying a paralysed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus;* 19but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd* in front of Jesus. 20When he saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend,* your sins are forgiven you.’

21Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, ‘Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ 22When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? 23Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you”, or to say, “Stand up and walk”? 24But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the one who was paralysed—‘I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.’ 25Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God. 26Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today.’

Strange things will be seen

How many of you have ever been a patient? At some point or another, we all find ourselves in the familiar position of having to depend on the health care system. It isn’t always pleasant, it’s never cheap, but it does give us a brief window into the experience this man has while his friends are lowering him through the roof—let’s face it, sometimes the healthcare tapdance is just as confusing as though you were on a litter being dropped through the ceiling.

During my last knee surgery I had the great pleasure of being on a gurney that was wheeled around the hospital at great speeds to places unknown. I would end up in some mysterious holding room, with needles jabbed into my arm and numbers unknown were checked. Eventually, half awake and less alert, I was in the operating room, when something rather disconcerting happened. I was handed a sharpie and told to put a big ‘X’ on the knee that wasn’t being operated on. While I understand the simplicity of this action, it made me shudder to think that there were, in fact, doctors who had no idea what they were doing on that particular day. I made this big, giant black ‘X’, ensuring that for the next two months all who saw my left knee would know it was not meant to be operated upon. It’s scary to be the patient sometimes—we have no control, let people we don’t know make us unconscious and put holes in our body, and even when we are awake and alert we aren’t always sure what’s going on. We give up a lot of control when we lay upon those hospital beds.

Any experience like this gives us some common ground with our patient today. A paralytic, he didn’t have the option of wandering off if he didn’t understand the commotion—he was completely dependent on those around him to carry him to where he needed to be. Thankfully he had some devoted friends, for they had decided that they were going to get their friend healed, and would stop at nothing.

We’ve all seen large crowds. We’ve seen people gathered around buildings, but I’m trying to understand the crowd that was gathered around this particular house. It was obviously massive, but it’s hard to understand a crowd so large that, rather than try and push through, these guys decide their best possible option is to go up onto the roof and drop him down that way. Obviously they were a creative bunch, because that’s exactly what they do, but it puts into perspective how in demand Jesus was. Word kept spreading around the entire countryside, and people were responding to this word, some to come and be healed, others to come and listen to what this wise man had to say. So many had gathered around the house that access to Jesus with a litter was entirely impossible. But these were not the type to be put off by such a simple problem like that—so they found the stairs that were evidently there, and carried this man up, peeled back the roof tiles, and lowered him down.

Imagine the bewilderment of this man on the litter. You can’t walk, so there’s no option of bailing out of this wild ride, but these friends are carrying you toward Jesus, only to discover that the door is not an option. The next thing you know, you’re being jostled up a set of stairs, or maybe pitched over the top, onto the roof, wondering the whole time what in the world is going on, then suddenly you see roof tiles discarded and you’re being lowered—perhaps dropped—down onto the floor before Jesus. What kind of look do you give the man who’s supposed to heal you then? The entire crowd is gasping at this remarkable entrance, and you’re laying there waiting on Jesus, saying nothing.

Jesus must have looked down, looked skyward, saw these faithful faces peering down, waiting for him to work a miracle, partly simply so they wouldn’t have to hoist this guy back up through the ceiling, and smiled. What faith they had in Jesus! Such was their faith that they would do anything to get their friend before Jesus. Love is dropping your paralyzed friend through a roof so that he might be healed!

“Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”

This is the point where he needs his Sharpie.

“No, you see, Jesus, the thing is, I can’t walk. My legs need healing, not my sins. Right here, just above the knee. That’s what you need to work on.”

“Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”

“That’s all well and good, but what about my legs?”

“Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”

We don’t have the reaction of the paralyzed man. We don’t have the reaction of the friends, seeing their act of dropping a paralyzed man down through the roof turn into a forgiveness show, not a healing. Didn’t Jesus understand the need?

The only reaction we get is that of the Pharisees, those who are gathered to hear him teach. Their reaction is one of confusion—they’re appalled. Who does this guy think he is? Healing people is one thing, but forgiving the sins of others? Doesn’t he know that only God can do that? And doesn’t he know what it takes—the offerings and the complicated maneuverings? Doesn’t he realize how complicated forgiveness is?

Jesus perceives their thoughts, and must have gathered everyone else’s as well. I think it’s safe to say that every single person in the room was mighty confused at what was going on—Jesus was forgiving the sins of a paralyzed man when everyone could tell he needed healing. Just who was this guy? And why didn’t he get it?

Meanwhile, Jesus is looking at everyone around and saying, “Which is easier—to forgive sins or to heal?” In other words, “Why don’t you get it?”

Jesus does heal the paralyzed man, to demonstrate his power and authority. The man goes off glorifying God—indeed, everyone who saw this glorified God. We can’t be sure they truly got the message, but they understand the dramatic, the physical healing that took place, and for that reason they gave glory to God.

But maybe, just maybe, they saw what else had just happened. Maybe they recognized the priority that Jesus set here—that the spiritual healing, the process of being reconciled with God, is far more important than the dramatic physical healings that had drawn so many to Jesus. Maybe they began to see that all of these healings were a sign of his power, but his true power, his true reason for coming to earth, was far bigger than simply to heal. He was drawing people to himself, to God, through the power of forgiveness.

Sin is separation from God. So basically, what we do with every sin is add another block to the wall we are building between ourselves and God. We are determined to do everything we can to build this wall, to reinforce it, to isolate ourselves so we can buy into the lie of self-sufficiency.

But Jesus has come to tear down that wall. Jesus comes crashing through it, caring not about the stones or our method of construction but about the person on the other side of the wall. Jesus comes to tear down the wall so that, once more, we might have access to God. Jesus has come to reunite us with the Father, and that mission is far more important than any other thing. It may not have been as dramatic as these incredible physical healings, but it has lasting, eternal impact.

That’s what Christ does—he changes our eternity. Because of Christ we have eternal life, eternal hope. Because of Christ, we have life.

Here in this story, Christ is teaching us something. He uses this man, dropped through the roof, as his example. This paralyzed man, a man so obviously in need of healing, is forgiven his sins first. Jesus thinks the single most important thing in this man’s life is his relationship with God.

I hope we do, too. I hope we recognize the importance of placing God first in our every moment. I hope that we see Jesus Christ as the man who came to tear down the wall we are still trying to build between ourselves and God. I hope we pour ourselves out before Christ, asking for forgiveness for the things we have done and for strength to live as the children he wants us to be. I hope that we rely on the church to bring us before Christ, to drop us down from the ceiling sometimes, that we might experience the grace of God once more. I hope that we live each moment, always ready to glorify God for the miraculous forgiveness and grace we have experienced. God cares about our souls, about his children, first and foremost. He cares most about how we are living as Christians, how we are being built up as the body of Christ, how we are growing towards God—may we have the wisdom to care first about the things God cares most about, rather than getting so caught up in everything else that we forget about the radical and transformative grace of God.

Let us pray

Monday Morning 3/29/2010

Precious Lord,

  Take my hand on this beautiful morning and lead me to still waters, that my soul might be restored.  I have spent a frantic weekend trying to do everything myself--comfort me in your grace.  Remind me that it is you, and you alone, that save.  As we make this journey to the table, to the cross, to the bottom of the valley of the shadow of death, and to the cross, hold me in your arms, point me towards your grace, and sustain me with your love.  Remind me again why you have done all this, that I may rejoice in who you are.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Presbyterian Comedy by Mark Lowry

The Scots Confession, Chapter XVI


(Before we begin, by Kirk, they mean Church)

As we believe in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, so we firmly believe that from the beginning there has been, now is, and to the end of the world shall be, one Kirk, that is to say, one company and multitude of men chosen by God, who rightly worship and embrace him by true faith in Christ Jesus, who is the only Head of the Kirk, even as it is the body and spouse of Christ Jesus.

This Kirk is catholic, that is, universal, because it contains the chosen of all ages, of all realms, nations, and tongues, be they of the Jews or be they of the Gentiles, who have communion and society with God the Father, and with his Son, Christ Jesus, through the sanctification of his Holy Spirit. It is therefore called the communion, not of profane persons, but of saints, who, as citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, have the fruit of inestimable benefits, one God, one Lord Jesus, one faith, and one baptism.

Out of this Kirk there is neither life nor eternal felicity. Therefore we utterly abhor the blasphemy of those who hold that men who live according to equity and justice shall be saved, no matter what religion they profess. For since there is neither life nor salvation without Christ Jesus; so shall none have part therein but those whom the Father has given unto his Son Christ Jesus, and those who in time come to him, avow his doctrine, and believe in him. (We include the children with the believing parents.)

This Kirk is invisible, known only to God, who alone knows whom he has chosen, and includes both the chosen who are departed, the Kirk triumphant, those who yet live and fight against sin and Satan, and those who shall live hereafter.

I love the church. I love the way we gather to worship, the way we hurt for each other, the way we celebrate with each other. May faith in Christ is strengthened because of the interactions I have with my fellow Christians--I see their faith and examine my own. I see their joy and share in it. I hear their prayers and am strengthened by them.

I couldn't be a Christian living on my own in the desert--I need the interactions and the faith of others to be in community. I believe that God designed us to be together (From the very beginning in Genesis it has said that it is not good for us to be alone) and that in the church we live that.

Being in the community takes work. It requires sacrifice and it requires devotion. I believe the rewards we reap are worth every ounce of the sacrifice, but that doesn't mean it is easy. But just like with every family and every other form of community, when we work together it can be so beautiful, and I believe that is worth all the hard work, the sweat and the tears, because it is so joyous to rejoice together!

The Bucket List

I had a surprisingly large number of people tell me I needed to see The Bucket List. It just keep coming up, again and again, so I finally decided to see it. I have to admit, I'm glad I did, for several reasons.

The first, I have to admit, is the wildly entertaining special effects. They are terrible. I would have assumed that with the unlimited amount of money it must have cost to have Nicholson and Freeman in a movie there would have been basically no budget. Apparently there was a very small budget. The scene where the two men are driving classic cars comically reminds me the old movies where the car wasn't moving, only the screen behind it was. The reason it reminds me of that is because I'm pretty sure that's what they did. The two men go on safari, to the Taj Mahal and to the Himalayas, and not once does it look at all like they are really there. It's funny, in my opinion, but if you Google 'The Bucket List green screen' you will find many people who find it more annoying than humorous.

The second reason, though, is far deeper. The two men are diagnosed with terminal cancer and given about a year to live. Nicholson has boatloads of money and no family, while Freeman has the opposite. They decide to go for a jaunt around the world (Roger Ebert takes great offense that they don't act like real cancer patients, but aren't movies to escape reality, not to revel in the reality of pain and suffering?), and in the process become close friends. They return changed men, as can be expected, but there is great value in the adventure. Is it escape? Is it a pilgrimage? Is it simply predictable Hollywood? While the movie isn't always deep and meaningful, the story behind it is.

It's a question of how we face death, and in asking the question we have to ask how we face life? Do we treasure those around us? Are we grateful for our time? Are we afraid to think about death?

It's easy to criticize this movie for its imperfections, but in doing so I think I'd miss the opportunity to have a more meaningful conversation about death and life. I think we need a bucket list of sorts, not necessarily of adrenaline charged experiences but of a more meaningful type. Are we actively seeking to love one another and to show that in our days? Are we filling our life with love, or are we so caught up in other things (money, power, success, etc.) that we are missing the truly meaningful parts of life, the things that add value and purpose to life? Are we serving Christ by serving others, or are we merely serving ourselves?

This film is a chance to ask all sorts of questions of ourselves and how we face our lives.



Awaken my mind to pursue the love of you. It is so often running in different directions, seeking the love of self, passing pleasures and mindless distractions. May I recognize the value in building a life centered around you and the love of you. May my mind direct my feet to follow your Son, Jesus Christ, the only Truth in a world surrounded with lies. May this life sing to you, Lord.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday Morning 2/23/2010

Holy Lord,

On this morning may I remember that the Son is Risen! As the earth warms, may my soul be lifted up to you in gratitude and thanksgiving. You have given every gift, opened my eyes to the reality of love in the world, and poured forth blessings and mercy upon me. May I offer this day to you out of gratitude.


Monday, March 22, 2010

The Hurt Locker

Rachel and I finally watched it! We had The Hurt Locker at home for a good three weeks before finally taking the time to sit down and watch it. We knew that it wouldn't be the most uplifting movie, and we had a hard getting excited about. We actually had it before it won the award for best picture, and even when it won we didn't rush out and watch it. It took us a while.

I was glad we did. It's an amazing movie, even if it is hard to watch at times. We both agreed that for a movie about war, it didn't feel violent. The violence that is in this movie is not graphic, and there is only one scene that made Rachel squirm, and even I wasn't enjoying it too much!

I am most grateful for this movie in the way that it makes one feel grateful to those who make the sacrifice to go and serve their countries. I can't imagine the challenge of making a movie over such a controversial war, but I thought this one was excellent in that it portrays the reality of the brutality of war while still reminding us that these soldiers are humans caught up in this thing, most of whom just want to return home.

I can't imagine serving in Iraq. What a mixture of emotions, of brutality, of violence. Peace is nowhere to be found, and it is to be suspected when it is found. Every pile of trash is a suspect, and each street corner could be fatal. The soldiers are so high strung, and each situation so impossible to determine.

I am grateful for their service. This movie helped me appreciate what they are going through. For that reason alone it is worth watching.

Monday Morning 3/22/10

Holy Lord,

On this morning, draw near that I may feel your abiding presence with me.

Whisper gently in my ear, that I may know of your love and your plans for me. I so often set my head against the wind and try to force my will forward--may your will be done in my life, that I might follow and obey, trusting in your gracious love and following your son, Jesus Christ, who laid down his life that I may have an eternal one.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lucky Man: A Memoir

What a story. I finished reading Michael J. Fox's Lucky Man: A Memoir the other night and am still turning it over in my mind. It's hard to make sense of it all.

Basically, Fox, better known to me as Marty McFly from the Back to the Future trilogy, comes out and says that his early onset Parkinson's Disease is a blessing. It's a lot more complicated than that in the book, but everything in his life changes because of his diagnosis. The support of a wife strong enough to encourage him to give up drinking, the love of a family when he needed it most and the support of friends and loved ones helped him get through the crisis and treasure each day, the small moments, with gratitude. It hasn't been an easy walk for Fox, but it's been a blessed, eye-opening one that has transformed his life.

Fox is not religious, and the language can be a little harsh, but it's a fascinating adventure in which we see the depths of celebrity as well as the high points. He invites us into his struggles, not claiming perfection or a higher wisdom, but revealing his path and what he has learned. It's a good read, one that expands my horizons, for which I am always grateful. Plus, I get to remember this:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday Morning


May this day be something holy in my eyes--may I realize the precious gift and choose to offer it to you. May the strength in my hands and the light in my eyes be offered to you in gratitude for all that you have so freely given, that I may joyfully say this day, Jesus Christ is Lord!


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Everything is Spiritual, part I

Wednesday Morning

Dear Lord,

Open my eyes, that I might see the world around me as a place where you are at work. When I see the poor and the oppressed, may I see your love that surrounds them, and your hands that beckon me into a relationship with them. When I see the hungry, may I see the bread of life that you offer to them, and may my hands loosen their grip on the possessions I have, that some love may slip through. Open my ears to hear the cries of the lonely, and open my heart, that your love may pour through it.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Holy God,

Transform me by your grace. I am unworthy of all that you have offered--yet it doesn't depend on me, but on you. Your amazing love covers me, and in Christ I am changed. Thank you for your gifts and your grace, and may my life be an offering of thanks to you.


Monday, March 8, 2010



On this blessed day, as the sun shines and the flowers continue to wander their way towards the sky, create in me a heart ready to please you, a soul desiring to worship you, a life that finds opportunities to serve you, and a mind ready to pray.


Friday, March 5, 2010

TGIF 3/5/10

Lord God Almighty,

Holy is your name. It seems as though I am a tiny blade of grass staring up at the mightiest oak tree, hoping to understand you. I shall never understand your majesty, and at the very greatest moments of my life I can only point to your glory. My I have the courage to accept this with humility and the gratitude to say thank you for sustaining and blessing me so richly.
Thank you, Lord.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thursday Morning

God of infinite love,

This morning, may I begin to gain a glimpse of how wild and free your love is. You are greater than anything I can imagine, and your capability to love is endless. Your son, Jesus Christ, was a sacrifice made for us. Your love didn't stop there--you keep pouring it into our lives, so that we are never alone, never abandoned, never forsaken. You are an amazing, awesome God. May my life worship you.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Strange but true...

Today is National What If Dogs and Cats had Opposable Thumbs Day? Just imagine the possibilities... Go on, dream big!

Which leads to the controversy over cats (domestic) not being mentioned in the Bible... (I had no idea!)

Which leads to the debate over pets going to heaven

Which is all really just an excuse to post this

Christianity's Dangerous Idea

I just finished Alister McGrath's Christianity's Dangerous Idea. (Side note: I totally judged this book by its cover. Loved the cover, bought the book. Whatever that says about me, I'm comfortable with) Overall impression: different than what I thought, great survey of Protestantism.

I had expected this book to focus on the history of the reformation. I had thought the 478 pages would be a timeline of reformation thought, surges and struggles. I was not disappointed in the beginning. McGrath does an excellent job chronicling the Reformation, focusing on the key leaders (like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc.) and how different they were. He is very careful not to lump them in together, rather parsing them and their theological & geographical differences, noting the effect this will have on later Protestantism.

From there, he changes gears, going into the theology of Protestantism. This was a surprise, but I enjoyed reading his survey of the different branches of the Protestant churches and the subtle (and not so subtle) differences between them. He indicates the history of different types of thought, going through the leaders of key movements and illustrating how positions were adopted and discarded through the last few centuries.

McGrath engages what could be a dry subject very well. He keeps things interesting and covers a lot of ground. I learned a lot (much of which was forgotten by the end!) about the history and differences in the Protestant church. He closes with a discussion of Pentecostalism and the future of the Protestant church, doing so very well, not leaving me in the dust trying to pick up the pieces!

I love reading books that make me feel smarter at the end, and if I were to ever attend cocktail parties, this book is chock full of interesting conflicts and decisions that played out in major and minor ways throughout the history of the church. I'll just have to bore my wife with all these facts instead!

Wednesday Morning

Beautiful Lord,

I come before you as a humble sinner, fully convicted of my inability to live rightly. I come before you in awe of your majesty and grace, wondering how I am to begin to understand you. I come before you in gratitude of what you have done, of how richly you have loved, of how much you have given. I come before you in love, bowing deeply before the throne of grace in excited joy to be in your presence.

Please accept the sacrifice of my hopes and dreams, of my life and love, that you might be glorified through all that I do. I lay down myself, that you may fill me with your will and send me out into this world to be a window to the cross, an open conduit through which your love reaches out to touch those who surround me.

I love you.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Since it looks like Christmas outside...

Tuesday Morning 3/2/10


It's snowing. Again.

Feels like we're over the hump and into spring, and then we fall back into the snow.

My life does the same--I have so much hope that I have finally cleared a hurdle and put some habit or sin behind me, then it rears its head and returns.

Redeem me once more. Dwell within me so richly that I am transformed by your grace on this very day, that hope may abound and grace may lead, that all I do will be for your glory.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday Morning

Gracious God,

Empower me to remember your name. May it dwell before me this very morning, so that my words and deeds might reflect a glory far greater than my own. May the actions of my hands be pointed to you, and may my footsteps lead me into a life that draws nearer to you. Remind me that this is not all about me, but rather should be focused on glorifying your holy name.