Tag Archives: discipleship

In our weakness

Sometimes we need to outright declare, to tell the heavens that LIFE, LIFE with capital letters, will have its way. Life, the living breathing Word of God. The Logos. *THE* Truth with a capital T. It is going to set things right, and we get to join in. So, I wrote this song with a few friends in mind… some of them are embattled in the trenches of cancer and sickness. But they’re still crying out to the Father. They’re still clinging to the hope and truth that is, and always will be. _________________________

life takes over the sun in it cracks through the clouds to dry the sweat on our backs A breeze it blows to refresh and to revive we can’t keep this joy inside   Life takes over and the concrete breaks with flowers blooming that erase the hate of the daily life, and all its strife the mundane is swallowed by joy   life takes over bursting from the ground no death can keep the Father’s chosen down No bitter cold – nor getting old can keep us from singing these songs of old   We will sing Your praises in our weakness And we will sing Your praises in our strength   Life takes over hear the heavens sing They see through the lives of pain That the kingdom comes Hear their message as it echoes across the plains   life takes over bursting from the ground no death can keep the Father’s chosen down No bitter cold – nor getting old can keep us from singing these songs of old We will sing Your praises in our weakness And we will sing Your praises in our strength We will sing Your praises from our sick beds We will sing Your praises in our strength   We will sing Your praises in our weakness And we will sing Your praises in our strength

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broken things

photo by Nichole Park Photography

photo by Nichole Park Photography, http://goo.gl/u7JJ90

I had a wonderful thing happen the other day, seriously, a heart-wrenching God-send.

I’m working on these songs, grappling with what I feel they’re saying to me. This may sound neurotic, but once I’ve gotten them out, it’s like a birth… they’re now their own separate thing and I have to honor whatever those emotions were trying to say.

In turn, the songs also have to honor what I’m trying to say. This is the first time I’ve genuinely had an overarching theme that is complete and concise. It makes me so glad. In the end, these songs are saying to me the things that I’ve been needing to hear. I’m getting a chance to write an album of songs that *I* want to listen to and spend time with God in.

Some of the songs get kicked out, because they’re not talking about what I’m wanting to convey… so they have to go, or wait for some other time before they get to exist.

Wednesday night I was driving to Memphis with my wife. She drove so I could write. (very kind of her) I wanted to listen to some of the songs that didn’t yet have lyrics. I pulled up one that I hadn’t messed with in a good 6 months, and to my surprise, I had already written lyrics.

I had completely forgotten. A while back, in a night of sadness I was praying and just trying to find the sorrowful feeling I was having inside… I had forgotten that there was a whole song that gushed out and I had recorded it really fast as a rough draft so that I wouldn’t forget it.

I cried. It really ministered to me the other day.

You see, we’re broken. We’re all broken. We all try to spend so much time pretending that we’re not but we are. The good news is that there’s a God who absolutely adores the broken things. He longs for our company… and in his presence, but by bit, he makes us whole.

Sometimes I’m amazed at the words that the Father will send us in our messes. He speaks so kindly, and his kindness certainly brings us to repentance.

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Broken Things

clear my mind – tell my soul to be still
So I can hear You whisper in the middle of my noise
Tell my waves to be still
be still

I just don’t get you sometimes
I see you sleeping in the boat when I’m terrified
Tell my waves to be still
be still

God of my anxiety
Lord of my rest
Author of my being
Messiah, saviour of all these broken things

We just don’t get it
We probably never will
Your perfection doesn’t make much sense to our minds
We argue about you all the time

We want to prove to you that we know what to do
But when we try we only prove that the opposite is true
We argue about it all the time

God of our anxiety
Lord of our rest
Author of our being
Messiah, saviour of all these broken things

Let us learn to let go of the ruins we call home

Failure as a companion…

So, a friend of mine posted this comic/blog on Facebook the other day.

Be Friends With Failure

It’s very, very well written. I was very encouraged by it. So much so that I showed it to my kids.

But I’ve been thinking on it this morning, and there’s a lot of this that I just don’t live out. If left unchecked, I will tend to desire to be treated with mercy, but to demand perfection from others.

I don’t think that it’s just me. I believe that many of us feel this.

I can’t presume to understand everyone else’s hearts. But I have to look at my own. Both in the way that I parent, and the way that I manage the office I work at.

Am I friends with Failure?

Can I be cool with the reality of the learning curve?

Real and lasting success, in anything, doesn’t come by force and violence, but by dedication and hard work. Maybe you can argue that, but I can’t.

Even in my parenting, I’m finding more and more that it’s much easier to lead my kids with fear than building a deep bond and relationship with them that will guard their hearts from wanting to do what is wrong.

The violence of spanking will deter them for a bit. But the bond of relationship will guard and guide them even when I’m not around. They want to protect that. But the easy way, introducing violence into the relationship on a regular basis is just as “the world” does things.

I was reading an NT Wright commentary on the book of James this morning, he mentioned being *friends* with the world, the violent ways that they go about everything. Not mere physical violence, but violence of the mind, soul, heart, oppression… you name it. The world governs by violence, and it will always amp up the violence to have its way.

But Christ’s way is not so. He governs by atonement… drawing us close and bridging gaps.

Do I do this in others?

Do I consider them precious?

Do I delight in them, letting them know that I truly value them and do not want my life to be without them?

If I can’t say yes, then I have no business correcting them, and I have no humility.

Let me restate that… If I don’t need the people around me, if they’re just functions that are disposable, I am an arrogant, blind man.

So, lots of questions here for the purpose of soul searching. It’s good stuff…

Here’s a parting quote:

“ You can employ men and hire hands to work for you, but you will have to win their hearts to have them work with you. ”

— William J.H. Boetcker

I wrote a song for my kids along these lines. It’s called Smile. (it’s a loud one) But it’s my prayer for how I’d like to build and build my relationship with not only my girls, but everyone.

 

Well… how many loaves have you got? – or – Why don’t you give them something?

Mark 6:34-42 (from the Kingdom New Testament… emphasis mine to show you what stuck out to me today)

When Jesus got out of the boat he saw the huge crowd, and was deeply sorry for them, because they were like a flock without a shepherd. So he started to teach them many things.

It was already getting late when his disciples came to him and said, “Look: there’s nothing here. It’s getting late. Send them away. They need to go off into the countryside and the villages and buy themselves some food.”

“Why don’t you give them something?” Jesus replied.

“Are you suggesting,” they asked, “that we should go and spend two hundred dinars and get food for this lot?”

“Well,” said Jesus, “how many loaves have got?” Go and see.”

They found out, and said, “Five, and a couple of fish.”

Jesus told them to sit everyone down … Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples to give to the crowd… Everyone ate, and had plenty.

Maybe I’m just emotional, (a few people have hinted that I have those tendencies) but what I see here is an amazing example of the Father’s heart for us. Set aside the spectacle of the miracle and you see a relationship. You see mercy, and you see grace (power from heaven) coming through to make up for where we fall short.

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A few weeks ago I had the privilege of visiting a missions organization who does disaster relief. They train young people in the scriptures, in hearing the word of God, and to discipline their bodies relentlessly. A few loved ones are participating in their year-long program, and they had graduated from the “boot camp” portion of the internship, so we went for this event.

We toured their  dorms, which are on a cargo ship. The ship is no cruise liner. Paint is peeling. Things are not pristine. But… things are clean, well loved, and maintained. They’re using what they’ve got to the fullest extent that they can.

In fact, every single piece of machinery that this relief organization owned had been given by the same faith that Christ had when he asked the Father to bless those loaves and fishes.

These folk impressed me with the lack of excess in what they utilized. They didn’t squander their finances trying to transform a crusty ole ship into a fancy, cozy ship. No, they said, “What have we got? oh… it’s a crusty old ship. Let’s lift it up to the Father and ask him to bless it to feed the many.”

And you know what, the Father has done the same thing with them, no… he’s done more with them than he has with the feeding of the 5,000 we read about in Mark. Yep, we’re meant to do greater things than Jesus, so we shouldn’t be surprised when we see the proof. Seriously, you wouldn’t believe the stories.

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I want that too…I’m jealous.

_____________

I look at my home. I live in a trailer, in a village of trailers. Not all of them are in the greatest shape. They’re kind of like those ships I was talking about… run down and such.

We can spend our finances on life together, on people who we can have fellowship, on necessities, or … we can try to transform our trailers into something their not, attempting to make them into condos and fancy places that people are in awe of.

Sure, I want people to feel welcome, safe, loved in my home. I want it to be a place where people come to be creative and find life.

But will I do that by getting fancy stuff and redoing everything? I’m more and more convinced that, no, this isn’t the way. Sure, if God wants that, he’ll provide it. But no, I feel him asking me to take my finances, my stuff, my everything, and lift it up and ask him to use it to feed the people. And a lot of time that money goes to food, feasts, and fun, meeting needs… (kinda like the lady pouring out the expensive perfume on Christ’s feet)

This is my beautiful wife utilizing what we've got to make our house pretty

This is my beautiful wife utilizing what we’ve got to make our house pretty

The people need spiritual food. The Father wants us to utilize what we’ve got and let the Kingdom infect everyone. He wants to take our lack and make those around us wide eyed with the glory of God… but it’s bigger than that, this is a principal at the very foundation of life in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom  is upside down.

We build earthly kingdoms with might, money, aggression and strength.

But the Kingdom of heaven is built on grace, that amazing power from heave. It is built on mercy, utilizing even the weakest aspects of our lives for great, great things. On the creative and incredible heart of a Father who loves to make something out of nothing… those moments when we cry out, “But Father! There’s nothing here!”

I have often felt like I’m nothing to work with. Even more, that I’m in the way. But no, I’m me… he made me, me. And he made you, you. Offer it up, just like those pitiful few loaves and fishes, and he will bless it to feed the multitudes.

I’m disturbed… but I want to hear more

TheDeliberateDetective5Have you ever felt that way, disturbed by something… but yet, you want more.

I love reading the Kingdom New Testament. It’s a great translation by NT Wright, and he loves to word things in a way that really hits you as new and fresh. He purposely went out of his way to have texts almost seem like you’re reading them for the first time… because we need to.

This morning, I was reading through Mark. The story in chapter 6 about Herod and John the baptist really caught me in a totally different way.

We all know the story: Herod snatched up his brother, Philip’s wife. John apparently spoke out against this, directly to Herod and out in the open, on a very regular basis. The King of Israel is, after all, supposed to be aspiring to greater things. But I’ll quote the passage here at vs 20. (emphasis mine)

Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a just and holy man. So he protected him, and used to listen to him regularly. What he heard disturbed him greatly, and yet he enjoyed listening to him.

This caught my attention. Herod enjoyed listening to John. I enjoy listening to good teaching too. Herod listened to the teaching regularly. Herod protected John.

Wow… I had never really noticed that.

The rest of the story is scandalous. Herod has some fancy party on his birthday. Everyone has their eyes on him. Herodias, this wife of his has her daughter come out and do a sexy dance. Herod was so taken by this, that he blurts out, “Tell me what you’d like, and I’ll give it to you! Whatever you ask me, I’ll give it to you-right up to half my kingdom!

(oh… the words of so many a man only thinking with the flesh)

She asks for John’s head on a platter, and because he had all eyes on him, his status, ego, lust driving him… he gives in and has his guards serve up the head of the greatest prophet of all time.

It’s harsh, and I believe that this happens to me all the time. Well, doesn’t happen, in specific, but the scenario is certainly set up.

I have never found myself relating to Herod in this story until today. Maybe that’s good, maybe it’s bad. But either way, I learned something.

Herod knew the Word of God, and knew well enough to protect it. He was disturbed by it. It bugged him. He revered it, however, enough to keep John alive despite him publicly and loudly slandering and correcting him. It was no small thing to be a ratty prophet wandering around the wilderness shouting that the king of the Jews was living a sinful life… no small thing at all. And when you put it in that perspective, the fact that John had survived this long says something about what had to have been going on in Herod’s conscience.

This fateful party was a turning point for Herod.

Personally, I believe that all of us have been given this ability. I also believe that one way or another, at one time or another, we wind up in this metaphoric party as well. There’s a decision we know we’re supposed to make. The call of the living Word of God is crying out to us from the dry and lonely places, trying to call us out from our comfort zone that keeps us from hearing the voice of the Father.

And then it happens. The stage is set for us to choose. Comfort, desire, pleasure, ease is dancing before us… that moment is so imperative.

I don’t know, maybe this is a bit extreme, but I know that in my life there have been times when I’ve been lured in by the siren’s dance, and, enamored with her beauty, realized that I couldn’t have both the living word and her comforts. I’ve cut off the head of the messenger of God to silence him and stay in my ease.

****

I’m sitting here staring at the screen. I hate ending on this note. I always want to wrap things up all happy and inspirational, but maybe God is just putting a warning on my heart. It’s tugging at me, and it’s real. I better pay attention… so I suppose that I will end with that… I’m being warned, and I’m sharing it with you so that you can be warned too.

Beware the metaphoric Herodias in your life. Beware the choice to cut off the Body of the Living Christ in order to stay in your ease. If his voice beckons us, and disturbs our slumber, may we drop to our knees and rejoice that his everlasting love and mercy has been given to us once again, and that power from heaven has fallen to give us ears to hear and eyes to see.

We will all be judged! But we don’t have to live in stress about it. – or – How I stopped trying to be Shane Claiborne and learned to love being John Bob

light bearersMy friend, Paul Pavao posted a great blog today about the judgment seat of Christ. We will be judged. It’s true. If you want to follow Christ you have to believe this. It’s all over his teachings… it’s all over the teachings of his disciples.

(so, disclaimer: if you want to debate that, don’t do it here. I’m not inviting it. I think you’re doing yourself a disservice to overlook and write off everything that Jesus and his beloved wrote about this topic. I, however, am no debater. So don’t debate it here. Go back and look. Ignore your theological teachings that have only come from the last 100 years and just look at what Jesus said. It’s really, really clear if you’ll look with the eyes of a child, instead of those of the *wise* and learned)

That stresses me out.

Seriously, I can lie awake at night stressing about whether or not I’m good enough.

This won’t work.

I’m not Shane Claiborne. I’m not Katie Davis. I’m the dad of four amazing little girls who love My Little Pony and love adorning people with gifts… hey, wait a sec. Hmm… I’ll get back to that.

One thing that Paul made clear in his blog post was that there is a big difference between judgment and condemnation. This helps me out a lot. Our culture tends to make the two synonymous. But they’re not. When I look at an apple and an orange, I make a judgment. One is an apple. One is an orange. That is my judgement, and my judgement is true. (see what I did there?)

When I decide to drink a smoothie instead of make greasy hash browns, I’m making a judgment. When I love a friend who is falling into sin, I have to make a judgment in order to even love them. “Hey, you’re not being who God made you to be… take my hand… get up… let’s go back to the Father.” That’s a good judgment.

But then there’s condemnation. “Hey, you’re a jerk.”

There’s no out. No hope. You’re labeled and done.

Make sense? Cool… on we go.

In Christ, the reality is that we still own our actions. We still are responsible for what we do with our skin. God isn’t pretending we’re good when we’re not. No, when we choose to confess Christ as King and Lord, to accept that truth and reality in our lives, we are in the family of God. We’re adopted. Dad doesn’t damn his kids as long as they’re willing to stay under his rule and leadership. It’s simple logic.

He’s not the pagan God needing a sacrifice to appease his anger and then somehow magically transforms himself into his own son to… er… appease himself and torture… uh… what the heck. Messed up logic.

Yes, logic… God gave it to us. It’s okay to use it. His way is simple. He’s King, (with a capital K) Lord, Friend, Brother… he’s family. You can blow off family. You can cut yourself off from family. You can do your own thing. If he didn’t want us to have that freedom, there wouldn’t have been that pesky tree in the garden. He longs for our freedom, and he longs for our fellowship.

His family is amazing. And his judgment is just. But to separate those two words, condemnation and judgment, truly gave me a better look at the difference.

Why am I saying all of this… well, there was another part of the post that caught my attention.

“You will rise from spiritual death into spiritual life; old things will pass away; all things will become new; you will become his workmanship, created in King Jesus to do good works, just the ones that God has prepared in advance for you to do.”

Wow. Seriously, take a sec to look at that whole sentence, let it sink in. Go about your business for a while and then come back.

….

….

…. go on …. no, don’t keep reading, go back and look at it and go away… I’ll see you in a bit…

….

We good? Okay, cool.

So, that statement, that you and I were created in King Jesus to do great things, things that God planned specifically with us in mind.

I tell my girls all the time that God loves creating. They love creating because God loves to create. I think we all love to create in one way or another. You’re made in His image after all. You’re made as a sign post, reflecting a tiny piece of the creator of the universe. That’s who you are. Like it or not, it’s who you are and you won’t be happy being anything but that. It’s like a dog trying to be a cat. It won’t work out.

He’s designed you to be with him in making all things new.

When I hear that statement, that he’s made specific things for me to do, there’s a sweet thing that rises up in me. I was made to be me, and I’ve got awesome stuff to do that no one but me has to do. I’m not supposed to be just like Katie Davis, Shane Claiborne, David Servant or Paul Pavao. I’m meant to be me.

Each day, I get the privilege of waking up and hanging out with the King of the universe, look him full in the face and say, “What are we doing today…” Just like Jesus did. And he’ll show me, guide me, through speaking to my innermost being, as well as through his body, the church, who I am and what I’m meant to be. I can trust that. But the second I start comparing… the moment that I take my eyes of his and start comparing myself to his other children, other parts of his living, breathing body, I become like Peter on the water. If I look my Lord square in the face and let him call out to me… if I believe that his Word gives life and I can do anything he says I can do, then I can do it. But if I look around me, at the raging waters, I will only sink.

These are true things that I can rest in. I may not revolutionize a homeless shanty town in downtown Philly, but I may raise little girls who will care for the hurting around them. I may not adopt orphans in Africa, but there are young ones here, right in my midst that need a good papa who cares. The accuser loves to get us thinking we’re not good enough, or this enough, or that enough. But am I me enough? Am I picking up the things that are mine?

It could be easy to miss the small things that are mine, trying to do the big things that are somebody else’s.

May you look at the Father, rest in his body. Enjoy being you, within his body and believe that together, each of us being who we are, we can be Christ in the earth.

May you never despise the amazing, small things he’s given you to do today. If every single one of us does our small little thing, today, the world will see his huge, corporate body standing tall tomorrow.

More thoughts on the election

These are some excellent and pointed posts about our life as Christians in a very political world… and warning, these will challenge you out of your comfort.

From Donald Miller “The President isn’t going to have much of an influence over your life in the next four years. But this person will: http://bit.ly/RU8Xo6 “

 

My friend Luke has a very wise post this morning.
buff.ly/T2vO2r