Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sin and Prosperity

I think it is inherent in our human nature to want more. It is the major issue facing us today in our American society. The desire for more has caused thousands to lose their homes in the last year, to ruin their marriages and to harm to future generations through their selfish acts. We usually think that the grass is greener somewhere else, with something or someone else, but we fail to realize the grass us usually over a septic tank!!

I was reading yesterday in Proverbs 28 when this verse struck me: "He who conceals his sin does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy." The truth of that simple verse is a great reminder for us.

We view prosperity through a lens. More, better, bigger. Those words define prosperity in our minds. But the kingdom of God is a kingdom of upside down economics. To be rich, you must be poor in spirit. To be full you must empty yourself. To prosper, you must humble yourself before God. All of these things play against the course of human nature.

Here's my question: are we seeking worldly wealth through worldly gain, or Godly wealth through spiritual renewal? Are we seeking our own prosperity at the cost of our souls?

I like everyone else desire to have more financial freedom and to be able to enjoy certain other things in life. But I desire more than anything else Godly freedom that money and possessions of this world can never buy.

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep in order to gain that which he can never lose." Jim Elliot

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rescue Mission

I was reading a quote today from John Stott that has my head spinning. He says, "Christianity is in its very essence a rescue religion." When I first read that I had an instant reaction that I have fallen short in my vision of Christianity. It seems that I have lost that type of focus. I know that all things we do are spiritual and that there is an element of rescue in the most mundane of tasks at times, but I never thought of Christianity as being rooted int he concept of rescue.

It makes perfect sense. God sent Jesus Christ to rescue us from our sins. Jesus sent the disciples to share the message of this rescue. We are now commissioned to carry out the same mission as the disciples. It seems to me that, at least in my own life, I have lost the sense of rescue in my mission and ministry.

I have no immediate thoughts, plans, visions or six step processes to fix this. It is something my brain is simply wrestling with today. In all of my life and ministry, how do I live out the basic plan of a rescue mission?

Any thoughts?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Offended or Humbled?

Yesterday I spoke form Mark 6:1-6 where Jesus returns to Nazareth to teach. In his own hometown no one has Faith that he is who he says he is. They simply see him as the kid int eh carpenter shop or as the guy who studied int he synagogue with them. They were amazed at his teaching, but offended at the same time. In this passage he famously says, "only in his hometown is a prophet without honor."

The bottom line of the talk was that we respond to Jesus in one of two ways: we get offended or we get humbled. In Mark 5 we find the story of Jairus who, as far as we know, did not know Jesus. Yet when his daughter was dying he threw himself at Jesus' feet and begged Jesus to help. In Mark 6, the people who should have known Jesus best were offended that he spoke truth into their lives. I am amazed at how easily people get when Jesus gets involved.

The main reason people get offended is pride. It is the same issue as all sin. Pride and our own selfish desires drive us to a hardness of heart and to a closed mind. We never want to hear truth if it is going to invade our space or our life.

So, how do you react to Jesus. In what areas are you offended when Jesus shows up? Are you open to humbling yourself before Christ or are you going to cling to your pride? How has that been working out for you?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Brian Dump

After a two hour nap (yes, I crashed!!) here are a few things running through my brain from the weekend:
* I worked hard around my house this weekend.
* I love all the people who have helped me work on this house project.
* Electricians work really hard! (Jeff, you rock!!!)
* I love that my son wanted to watch a movie with me last night.
* My daughter led worship for the first time in the service this morning. She was awesome!!
* God is doing some stuff. It may be a slower pace than I want, but he is up to something.

I am so thankful that my life is not in my hands but in Christ. It lets me nap a lot easier!!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Markers and the Journey

I have really gotten into the lessons and teaching of Ray Vander Lann lately. Over the past few years I have been amazed at his ability to bring the geography of the Holy Land and the message of the scripture to life. If you are not familiar with Ray, you need to check him out at He takes the land of Israel and brings it to life to teach us valuable lessons from the culture, history and people of scripture.

Have you ever wondered why God told the nation of Israel to gather stones when they crossed the river into the land? Of course it was to build an alter to God, but it was also to leave a history marker to tell future generations what God did in that place. The practice of "standing stones" was a very common practice in the Middle East.

Thinking through this concept makes you reflect on what markers your life has left. There are markers that others have placed in us that we have no control over. The words spoken that cut our heart, the pain of broken relationships, the celebration of true love. There are also markers that our life leaves on others. Are we testimonies to God's love and grace, or are we barriers that keep hidden true joy and acceptance from the one true God?

Life is full of markers. I have a rock from the Berlin wall, a brick from a factory in Mexico, and dirt from the first load of fill brought onto our property during our construction project. They all tell a story about an aspect of my life. The greatest marker we have is not something that can be touched. It is not a memento that can be passed around a room. It is a life lived in love and grace before an eternal Heavenly Father. Our life is the marker for someone else's spiritual journey. That is at one time exciting and at another time painful.

What story does your life share? What or who are the "standing stones" in your life? how are you living today to be a standing stone in the life of someone else?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I have been thinking a great deal lately about how God moves in our lives. Sometimes it happens with a great revelation or a crisis moment that turns into a life changing event. These become markers or boundaries in our life that help tell the narrative of how we got to where we are today. Other times God moves in our lives through people. We see him in others and we become curious and begin to ask some questions or seek some truth. I see him show up all the time in my kids. They say or do something and it paints a picture of God and his love and grace for me.

Most of the time, God shows up in very quiet whispers throughout our life. He shows up in a conversation we have with an old friend. He shows up in a voice of concern over our tears or in sharing laughter that leads to tears. He shows up in opportunities to help and serve others. The key is not how shows up, but that he shows up.

I was looking over a message from several weeks ago and was reminded how God showed up int he lives of the first followers of Christ. It was through three simple words that changed their lives forever: "Come, follow me." In those words Christ began a revolution of movement that still is going strong today. In those words the infinite God of the universe reached into the lives of ordinary men and changed the course of eternity.

Today, we still get to be in on the movement. We get to play a role in the narrative of all history. We get to step back and touch the waters of history stirred by twelve simple, uneducated men. We get to move!!!

Life is full of movements. There is the Green Movement to save the planet. There is the Peace Movement to end the war. There is the Political Movement to elect a new president. All of them are important and all of them matter. You have to make decisions on which side of those movements you are on. However, at some point, all of those movements will end. There is only one movement that will last forever and that is the movement of God in the hearts and lives of humanity made possible through his son Jesus Christ.

Which side of that movement do you find yourself?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Random Thoughts for Tuesday

  • God loves me. Sometimes that is all you can hold onto.
  • I am not perfect, but I am forgiven.
  • Life is not all about me but how I fit into God's narrative.
  • God is the one who sustains, provides and forgives.
  • He has a plan. I don't always understand it, but he he has one.
  • Jesus hung out with a bunch of "used to be's." She used to be a prostitute, he used to be a tax collector, she used to be filled with demons.
  • Sometimes my life is so sanitized that I can't see any potential "used to be's" around me.
  • I long for more! I want to see God more and more in my life and ministry.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Jesus and the Law

Yesterday I spoke out of Mark 5 where Jesus heals the woman with an issue of blood. I went into some historic detail about why it was so improper for her to come to Jesus and what significance her touching his cloak was all about. After the service, a friend pointed out something that really stuck in my head.

As we were talking in the lobby, my friend commented that Jesus never considered himself unclean after the woman touched him. He never went and ceremonially washed or stayed away from the temple as far as scripture tells us. He simply went about his business and carried out his mission. Jesus never gave the law a second thought in this case.

The reason this stuck with me is that we often think of Jesus, and by extension God, as the Great Rule God!! He is ready to beat us down and hold our sin over our heads if we break his rules. Now I am not suggesting that God ignores our sin. In fact, nothing could be further form the truth. What God does is forgets our sin and covers it with the blood of Jesus.

Wouldn't it be great if we could forget our past as God does? Wouldn't it be awesome if we let ourselves off the hook the way god lets us off the hook? Jesus paid for our sins completely. he overcame the results of our sin on the cross. By his grace we are free from the penalty our sin deserves.

This is called grace. It is what Jesus demonstrated to the woman in Mark 5 and it is what he wants to give all of us who call on his name. How amazing it is to think that the God of the universe sees us through the lens of grace. If only we could see ourselves that way!!!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Little Less Talk

Okay, I expect to take some heat for this, but take your best shot. There is a song I remember hearing somewhere that struck me as I was reading scripture yesterday. The song is "A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action" by Toby Keith. Now, don't quit reading. I know, country music is an oxymoron, but this jumped into my brain. I don't listen to country music, don't condone country music, and have a hard time even admitting there was a time I liked country music. It is not that I think the lyrics are bad or anything, but how many songs about a dog, a pick-up truck and a girl named Louise can you write? Give me some classic rock, some Zepplin or old school Aerosmith, but not country. I may be committing heresy here by using country music in context of scripture, but cut me a little slack. (If you are a country music fan, I apologize. And may God have mercy on your sin sick soul!!)

However this little phrase jumped into my head as I reflected on Romans 12:9-21. Paul is writing about what our lives should look like as followers of Christ. He says this at the very beginning: "Love must be sincere." If you go no further in the passage you have a whole ton of stuff to wrestle with.

As I was sharing with some high school students last night about this verse I brought it down to the very simple concept: Love = Action!! Christians are great about talking about love. We like love. We focus on love. We dream about love. But what does it mean if love never translates to action? If I tell my wife I love her, but I never demonstrate it to her by buying her a card or flowers or sending her a little text message, do I really demonstrate love?

As followers of the Way of Christ, we must begin to model love. We put it into action. It leads us to inconvenience and self-sacrifice. It costs something. But the reward is awesome. Love acted upon is the greatest example of God's love for us. Check out Romans 5:8 for a picture of his love.

So, today, let's do one thing. I never thought I would say this, and I know it is taken out of context of the song, but let's put love into practice. In the words of Toby Keith, "We need a little less talk and a lot more action."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Life at the Zoo!

People sometimes wonder what happens around a church between Sundays. Every now and then the adventures have nothing to do with spiritual things.

Today we found three baby raccoons. One had fallen off the roof and two were just hanging out watching him. Our resident wildlife expert Carey took care of them. We called Animal Control to take them away. And yes, I am man enough to admit I would not hold one of them!!!

Covering the Basics

I have been coaching my son's basketball team this summer. It has been a lot of fun. Zach has gotten into it and the Lakers haven't done all that bad. this Saturday, we lost a game we should have won. It was no big deal. There was no screaming or pouting or crying. The boys handled the loss pretty well also.

Last night we had practice. I talked to the boys and told them that the reason we lost the game on Saturday was that we forgot the one thing that has been a solid point for us all season: aggressive defense. The Lakers play some defense. They hustle after balls, they rebound, they run all the time. Saturday, it just didn't happen. So last night at practice we went over the basics. how to stand, how to shuffle your feet, how to attack the basketball. It was almost like the first practice of the season.

As I was thinking about it this morning, I realized there are some great parallels to our spiritual lives here. (You knew there would be, right?) Sometimes the Christian life is not about lofty theology, or passionate worship or incredible messages. Sometimes it is simply about getting back to the basics. Reading scripture, honest prayer before God, and serving others even when we don't feel like it all become the basics of our faith. Sometimes, instead of looking for the three point shot, games are won and lost with aggressive rebounds. So is our spiritual life. We must rebound from our sin, our laziness and our guilt. We must be aggressive in going after our faith in Christ.

So, what can you do today? What one thing can you do to get back the the basics of the faith?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Going Deeper

I have a need to be deep. What I mean is that I desire to think on deeper levels, to have relationships that are deeper than the surface and to have deeper insights about God and his desires for my life. What I guess I really mean is that I am discontent with where I am. When I read this again, I realize how shallow I am.

We all strive to be more than we are. At least I hope to!! I want to be a better husband and dad. I want to be a better friend and neighbor. I want to be a better pastor and leader. I have a desire and an idea that somehow better means deeper. I don't know if that is reality, but it is where I am. I am not sure I even know how to be deeper, but I think it has to do with wanting more than just the surface.

I want more than the surface of Christ. I want more than just the title of pastor. I want more than just the mantle of leadership. I want to live it, breath it, and pass it on to others. Some people say that in going deeper we lose ourselves. I disagree. I believe that as you go deeper in your relationship to God, you do not lose yourself, but you find a more accurate reality of who you were meant to be.

That is my prayer. That is my desire. I want to find exactly who I was created to be and live in that reality. I want to go deeper.

How about you?