Monday, April 27, 2009

Jesus: The Center of History

"I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history." H.G. Wells, British author (1866-1946)

I came across this quote over the weekend and am fascinated by the sheer truth that is speaks. Jesus Christ is the very center of human history. There is no denying that on so many levels all of human history uses Jesus as a dividing line. He literally divides time as we know it into B.C. and A.D. He has divided mankind in philosophies, religions, education, and even war. There is no denying that Jesus is the framework and structure of history. But how seriously do we in the church take that role of our Lord?

For us, Jesus is the line over which we crossed into eternity with value and life. Through his death and sacrifice we have received life and grace from our Heavenly Father. In my time in scripture this morning I read these words: “He (Jesus) was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Romans 4:25. Jesus again becomes the fabric through which our life of faith is woven.

But are we content to leave it at that? Is the centerpiece of history our own personal Jesus? I believe that Jesus exists at the center of history not to be a polarizing figure but to be a magnetic force that draws mankind to him. As magnets push or attract one another based on their orientation, so humanity is either attracted to Christ or repelled by him based on our response to the question of who he is. When we orient ourselves to believe Jesus is merely a good man or a great teacher, we find ourselves moving farther from the truth of who he is in his nature. When we bow before his majesty and recognize him as Lord, we are attracted to him and realize that he gives meaning and purpose to life.

Jesus is the most dominant figure in human history. The question becomes, “what are we going to decide to do with him?” As the church, we must strive to constantly be attached to his presence and his lordship. As a movement, we must be continually on a quest to raise the truth of his majesty to those who have never heard.

What do you believe bout Jesus?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What Am I Doing with My Life?

Every now and then, God has to remind me of some very foundational things in my life. Occasionally I will sit back and wonder what I am doing with my life. I have a voice inside my head that constantly tells me that I am not good enough, smart enough and gosh darn it people DON’T like me. It is in those moments where I have a choice about how to respond. I can give in to the feelings or I can live in the truth of Jesus.

When we feel alone or lost in our struggles, we need to step back and remember that God is the one who has poured out love, grace and mercy into our lives so that we do not have to be good enough on our own. The fact of the matter is we will never be good enough on our own. As I read Romans 3 this morning I came across a passage that reminded me that although I was separated from God by my sin, God chose to give Jesus Christ to become the fulfillment for the cost of my sin.

When I wonder what I am doing with my life, God tends to bring people to show me that he is using me to help them. My life is a filter through which others can see the grace of God. It is not always perfect, not always focused, and not always conscious, but it is still an avenue God uses to touch others.

All of us are part of that calling. God has given his followers the task to bring light into darkness and to bring hope into the midst of despair. Many people think that pastors have it all figured out when it comes to life and light and purpose. But doubts are as real in a pastor’s life as they are in everyone else’s life.

Today, choose to live in this reality: God wants to use you!! God has called you to follow him, to demonstrate his love, and to guide others into relationship with him. That is what I am doing with my life. What about you?

Monday, April 20, 2009


I spent last week on vacation with my family. We went with some of our good friends camping at Fort Wilderness in Disney. It was great to have a few days to relax, unwind, and catch our breath after the big Easter push. We spent a day at Epcot and laughed and enjoyed one another as we got soaked by the rain and chilled by the wind. But all in all it was a great time.

One of the incredible things about being at Disney is realizing that someone dreamed up all of the cool stuff. Someone designed the flowers, someone engineered the rides, and someone designed the costumes of the workers. At Disney, those people are called Imagineers.

While I was gone I couldn’t escape the idea that coming back and speaking on Sunday morning was going to be a huge challenge. It wasn’t just that it was hard to get back into preparation mode from vacation, it was that the message God has been brewing in my heart has such deep relevance for us as a church and more importantly for me as a leader.

Yesterday I launched our “Imagine” series. I spoke of how after the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus into heaven his apostles could never imagine what God had in store for them. In the same way, as 21st century American Christians I feel like we have only scratched the surface of what God wants to do in us and through us to impact this culture.

What would happen if we as followers of Christ really developed the understanding of living I the “power” of the Holy Spirit of God today? Is it possible that within a matter of year’s countries and cultures could be changed as they were in the first century? Is it possible that instead of thousands of people entering eternity without Jesus every day, more and more would enter eternity with Jesus? Is it possible that instead of Newsweek declaring the death of Christianity we could see the death of Newsweek? Imagine!!!

I am praying today that God will begin a renewal in me. I am praying that God will revive our church and that we will see his name and his fame lifted up in ways that we cannot take credit for. I want to see the power of God. Can you "Imagine?"

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Resurrection Sunday

“You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.” Mark 16:6

The greatest words in all of human history followed the most tragic of eternal events. Jesus who died, Jesus the Son of God, Jesus the Messiah was alive. And because of that, his followers now have new life. We no longer have to fear death and shame because Jesus overcame them with the empty tomb.

Today is resurrection Sunday. It is the celebration that what was dead is now alive. Every day that we as fallen and sinful human beings live in forgiveness and grace, we remember the death of Jesus and the triumphal exit from the tomb. Today we celebrate that all of history was changed forever.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Passion Thoughts 5

“And they crucified him.” Mark 15:24. This is what we call “Good Friday.” Nothing seems good about it to me. Every year this day of the year is filled with a deeper sense of history than any other. I reflect back through the biblical narrative on what was happening to Jesus that day almost two thousand years ago. And my heart is filled with angst, frustration, guilt and pain.

I also recognize that without Good Friday my life would be hopeless. I would not have life and freedom that is found through the sacrifice of Jesus. Good Friday is good because of the eternal rewards that come from the pain and shame of the cross. Jesus had an eternal view of the cross.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

If Jesus could find joy in the cross, how much more should we cherish the goodness of the events of Good Friday?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Passion Thoughts 4

Human beings are not always nice. We are petty, rude, selfish, and demanding. As Jesus was arrested, tried, beaten and crucified, humanity was displayed at its worst. Not only was the physical brutality unimaginable to the modern mind, but the emotional torment that Jesus was put through must have been horrific.

On several different occasions Jesus is mocked. The chief priests and Jewish rulers of the day mocked him at the trial at Caiaphas house. The people in the crowd mocked him and made slandered his name. The Roman guards mocked him with verbal assaults and pretend kingly honor. The one who created all things is now the butt of the jokes of the creation.

So often I read the biblical accounts and wonder what I would have done had I been there. Would I have betrayed Jesus to save my own skin as Peter did or would I have betrayed him for thirty silver coins as Judas? Would I have scattered like John and all the other disciples or would I have followed like the women? Would I have seethed in the corner as my Lord was mocked or would I have delivered a blow to the face of the King? It is in those moments when I desire nobility and honor that I am faced with my own pitiful reality: I am a mocker.

All of humanity mocks Jesus at one time or another. When we desire our own plans and kingdoms more than his, we mock. When we seek temporary treasures over eternal riches we mock. When we live our faith in quiet comfort and tell those around us who don’t know Jesus to go to hell, we mock. Passion Week reminds me that at some level, conscious or not, I mock my Lord. And still, Easter comes.

Lord, forgive my mocking. Forgive my failure to honor you as you deserve. Thank you that those who mock on Thursday can be restored on Sunday. Amen.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Passion Thoughts 3

Darkness and light have such an obvious contrast. In one we strain and stumble and injure ourselves on the unseen objects in our path. In the other there is freedom and warmth. We are able to run instead of creep and able to roam instead of ramble. It has been that way since the beginning of creation. The crucifixion of Jesus became a defining point of the stark contrast.

Genesis tells us that before the creation of the world there was “darkness over the face of the deep.” Then God spoke and light appeared. Instantly upon the command of God a separation was made between that which was dark and that which was light. John 1:1 tells us that “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” John identifies Jesus as the very Word of God spoken to bring light into the world. In Colossians, Paul tells us that “by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.”

While Jesus hung on the cross, light turned to darkness. Mark 15 tells us that from noon until 3:00 darkness reigned over the entire land. It seemed like sin had thrown the world into utter chaos. When there was supposed to be light there was darkness. The one who was the “light of the world” now hung in the shadows of night.

In our lives, sin is darkness. The scripture says that men hate the light because it reveals the darkness of our hearts and the sinfulness of our nature. We are exposed for the shameful and sinful creatures that we have become. Humanity loves the darkness.

But the death of Jesus brought new light into history. No longer was humanity slave to our dark nature, but we were free to experience light because of the love of the source of light. While still on the earth Jesus compared his disciples to a city on a hill; a light not hidden in the darkness of this world.

As Friday approaches, our minds turn toward the darkness of the cross. We sense the pain and frailty of human existence as it is brutally executed. It is easy to turn dark. However, without the darkness we could never comprehend the light. In the depth of the darkness the brilliance of the light is even more majestic.

Jesus, thank you for taking on the darkness and overcoming it with the light of your love. Help me to experience this life in light and love that you bought on a painful cross on a darkened hill. Amen.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Passion Thoughts 2

Betrayal. The Passion Week is the result of betrayal. It started in the Garden as Adam and Eve chose to betray the intimacy with God and choose the selfishness of ambition. It passed on through the ages. Through the nation of Israel turning their back on God, to the kings leading the nation into pagan worship, to Roman brutality, to crusades to force conversion to Nazi death camps, to taking the lives of the unborn, human history is filled with betrayal.

In the midst of the week of Jesus’ death, betrayal from two sources is brush strokes on the canvas of history. Judas, with a heart turned by Satan, betrays Jesus with a kiss in the garden to start the events of the last few hours of Jesus life. How fitting that this betrayal took place in a garden just as the first human betrayal of God. Then Peter betrays Christ three times; the final time actually declaring that he doesn’t even know Jesus. Betrayal.

But the betrayal has vastly different outcomes. Just as Adam’s betrayal led to the death of the human soul, Judas’ betrayal led to his physical death. He was so overcome with guilt and shame that he hanged himself. He went to the priests to try and overcome his guilt, but they could not restore what Satan had already birthed in his soul. Judas went into eternity, and history known only for his betrayal.

Peter also betrayed. The one who had declared that Jesus was the Messiah now runs weeping away from a young servant girl. Betrayal cuts deep into his heart. But three days later, Peter has a restoration moment. This man who denied Christ, who ran away to hide was singled out by the resurrected Christ to be restored to ministry. My two favorite words in all of scripture occur after Jesus is resurrected. He tells the women in the garden to go and tell the disciples “and Peter” that he will meet them in Galilee just as he said. “And Peter” are words of forgiveness and restoration.

We have all betrayed Christ. Our lives are not perfect and our hearts and stained by the grime of this world, but there is hope. The resurrection of Jesus brings forgiveness for those who trust in him. Betrayal becomes new birth in the soul of those who follow.

Lord, forgive my betrayals. Jesus breathe in me new life. Christ, replace the pain and shame of betrayal with joy and hope brought on by the glory of your resurrection. Amen

Monday, April 6, 2009

Passion Thoughts

The week of Easter is always a crazy time in my life. There are always a million details to be finished before Sunday, a sense of urgency to make sure everything is just right, and a desire to take time to slow down and contemplate what this week is really all about. For pastors and church staff, Passion Week is not about spring break or slowing down. Yet somehow in the middle of all the chaos I am compelled to look into the deeper ramifications of the death and resurrection of Christ.

During Lent I very often read the daily devotionals by Walt Wangerin called “Reliving the Passion.” They are deeply personal and moving and tell the story of the week through the book of Mark. For years I have been compelled to reflect on the depth of insight and struggle of the final days of the life of Christ through the words of Wangerin.

Today as I was reading a thought hit me that I had never considered. While Jesus was on the cross he became my sin. He didn’t absorb my sin. He didn’t identify with my sin. He became my sin. “God made him to be sin who knew no sin…”(2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus became all of the mess and disgust that is the shame and the torment of my life. The perfect Son of God took on all of my pride, guilt and shame.

But that is not all. The next phrase of this verse, Paul writes, “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus substituted sin for righteousness in our lives. We literally get to have the righteousness of God because Jesus Christ fully took our sin. The cross became a spiritual bank where Jesus made the most personal and costly of transactions on our behalf.

Jesus, may I live in your righteousness this week. May I see your glory and forsake my sin which you bore on the cross. May my life be a light of your righteousness in all that I am and all that I do. Amen.