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August 31, 2007

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 18

At about the same time, the disciples came to Jesus asking, "Who gets the highest rank in God's kingdom?" Matthew 18:1 (TM)

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Our culture is obsessed with success. There's nothing wrong with striving for excellence, but our pursuit to be excellent at what we're doing can easily become a desire to feel better than others. Instead of striving to please God we strive to feel superior. Jesus makes it clear that our attitude should be the exact opposite of the world. We should humble ourselves, serve, and lift others up - not ourselves.

Who can I serve today?

August 30, 2007

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 17

Peter broke in, "Master, this is a great moment! What would you think if I built three memorials here on the mountain—one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah?"

While he was going on like this, babbling, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and sounding from deep in the cloud a voice: "This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him."
Matthew 17:4-5 (TM)

It's funny how we humans think in comparison to God. The Son of God  stands in His Glory and the world is on the verge of experiencing the one act that will be the salvation for all mankind. The disciples reaction? Let's memorialize the event!

This moment was so not about Peter and the boys. God even interrupted him. Jesus presence on the Earth was about action and the disciples part was about action:

Be my witnesses.
Go out into the world.
Preach the Message.
Heal the sick.
Feed the hungry.
Clothe the needy

How often it is that we prefer to sit and build memorials to God rather than doing what we are called to do.

August 27, 2007

Word of the Day: Pontificate

Pontiff Pontificate is my word for the day. Wendy used it last night and all of a sudden my brain and my mouth are having fun saying it. It rolls off the tongue in three glorious syllables filled with edgy consonants.

Wendy's use of the word came on the way home from church. She asked the question, "Why do church leaders always feel the need to pontificate?"

It's another reason we're such a good match for each other. We think alike in so many ways. If we're having an organizational meeting, then let's organize. We don't need a ten minute devotional thought on the Apostle Paul's admonishment to do things decently and in order. If we're getting together to make a decision on the building project we don't need a mini-book study of Nehemiah. It's especially unappreciated when the mini-sermon was, itself, hastily organized and thrown together. Then it's more aggravating because they are obviously doing it out of some sense of obligation, not because they have something on their heart they really want to say. Seriously, I won't think less of you as a member of the church staff if you skip the homily.

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 15

Jesus replied, "You, too? Are you being willfully stupid? Don't you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated? But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It's from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That's what pollutes. Eating or not eating certain foods, washing or not washing your hands—that's neither here nor there." Matthew 15:16-20 (TM)

The religious leaders of Jesus day were great at passing judgment and pontificating on things that were easy to see. Did he wash his hands? Did they give their tithe? Did that person avoid associating with 'unclean' peoples? Did she eat only foods that have the priest's stamp of approval?

Actually, we do the same thing today. It's easy to preach about the evils of drugs, alcohol, or sexual sin. When was the last time you heard a sermon talking about the evils of gossip? slander? malicious conversations? a critical spirit?

God is as concerned about what comes out of us as he is about what we let in.

August 24, 2007

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 14

Fish Jesus said, "Bring them here." Then he had the people sit on the grass. He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples. The disciples then gave the food to the congregation. They all ate their fill. They gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. About five thousand were fed. Matthew 14:18-21 (TM)

The miracles of Jesus had a point. In a grand scale, the miracles provided the "credentials" (the Pharisees were asking for in Chapter 12) of who He really was. Here Jesus adds to the resume that He is Jehovah-Jireh (Hebrew: "God Provides"). Jesus also wanted people to learn spiritual truth from a temporal experience. In the miracle of the loaves and the fish, the message is clear: God will provide what we need each day. But, it's not just about our immediate needs. In fact, that's the secondary lesson.

In John's telling of this story (John  6), Jesus goes on to teach the crowds that the point isn't that He can conjure up a few fish sandwiches at will. The physical shore lunch isn't the focus, though it was certainly the thing the crowds were interested in. Certainly, the immediate temporal need is often the thing on which we're focused. Jesus' focus is on spiritual food that provides eternal sustenance.

For that meal, He will give up his own body and blood to be our bread and wine.

August 23, 2007

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 13

The disciples came up and asked, "Why do you tell stories?" Matthew 13:10 (TM)

Everyone loves a story. Stories are captivating. Stories inspire. Stories engage.

Jesus, the author of creation, was a creative teacher. Instead of didactic lectures that flew over the heads of everyone but the most learned, Jesus told simple stories for the masses. Instead of dull, life-less sermons on arcane Old Testament texts, Jesus took everyday objects and experiences and used them as engaging metaphors for universal spiritual principles.

Frustrated with how to talk to others about Jesus? Follow Jesus example. Tell them your story.

August 22, 2007

Trivial Pursuit

Ntn A couple of my friends from USP, Doug and Spence, have tried for a long time to get me to their weekly Trivia night. I went for the first time a couple of weeks ago and finished last place. Last night I decided to give it another whirl. Believe it or not, I won! Bascially, I just won bragging rights for the night and a dollar off my beer - but hey,  I don't get the chance to say "I won" very often :)


Back to School Tomorrow

Locker Taylor and Madison head back to school tomorrow. It's hard to believe that Taylor-Made is a senior this year. Madison will start her sophomore year. Madison had an "end of summer" party last night. There were about 20 high schoolers in and out of our house (it was hard to count because they kept coming and going through both the front and back doors - Wendy and I just kept waving as they came and went). They celebrated the final night of freedom before early mornings of class and late evenings of homework take over.

As for the parents. Well, we're celebrating a return to some structure and schedule to life once more :)

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 12

Later a few religion scholars and Pharisees got on him. "Teacher, we want to see your credentials. Give us some hard evidence that God is in this. How about a miracle?" Matthew 12:38 (TM)

Some things never change. When I was a boy and wanted my friend to preach at the Methodist Church they refused because "he wasn't Methodist approved". After a year serving in the Baptist Church there was an uproar caused by one of the deacons because I had never officially became a "member" of the church, nor had I been baptized in the Baptist church. After a year as pastor of a Friend's church there was an (un-Friendly) dilemma because I had never transferred my "membership" to the church.

If we applied the standard of "credentials" required by most American churches to serve on the pastoral staff, not one of the twelve apostles would pass the test. They were basically uneducated men with questionable pasts and little that would look good on a resume for the search committee. And yet, without human credentials these twelve men "turned the world upside down".

Human nature is always looking for the right "credentials" for our own human comfort and prejudice. Often, "credentials" are used as a sword, dividing between who we deem humanly capable and worthy of holding positions or carrying out tasks. Yet, God makes it clear that He will give spiritual gifts to every one, and that He calls each one to do the work of the body. His gifts and calling are all the credentials required for any spiritual task.

August 21, 2007

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 11

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." Matthew 11:28-30 (TM)

Yes. Yes. Yes.

On our trip to the lake this past weekend, Wendy and I were listening to the Audiobook of the third Harry Potter book. In the book, Harry is attacked by Dementors, who "suck all the happiness out of you". As I read this morning's chapter I thought about all of the things in life that act as our own "Dementors". There are so many things in life that are, in and of themselves, good and worthwhile. Yet, it is so easy to become overwhelmed with the sheer number and incessant demands of them. They end up becoming our Dementors, "sucking the happiness out of you".

Harry learns that the antidote after a Dementor attack is chocolate - a simple pleasure. Jesus gives us his own antidote for life burnout: "get away with me; keep company with me."

I realized this morning that I've become Martha...so busy doing things that I haven't sat at the feet of the Master and kept company with Him.