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Showing posts from July, 2016

Reaching Out To Jesus

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This morning I read a passage in the Gospel of Matthew filled with stories of Jesus healing people, raising the dead, giving sight to the blind.  There was this one story in particular, though, that caught my attention.  
20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” 22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.
"If I can only touch his cloak," the woman thought, "I will be healed."  The cloak the passage is referring to here is a tallit or a prayer shawl that Jesus would have been wearing.  

His shawl, like the shawls worn by all faithful Jewish men (even today), would have had tassels that dragged the ground, strands with knots tied in them.  These strands are known as tzittzits, and the knots (613 of them) represent the law of Moses.…

God, Superman & Comic Book Theology

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Nearly twenty-five years ago, DC Comics published one of the highest selling comic books in it's history: Superman #75, entitled "The Death Of Superman."  The idea that DC would kill off such an iconic character was unfathomable, and a little hokey.  It also didn't last. 

I used to collect comic books back then, and I got swept up in the hype.  It was kind of a forgone conclusion that Superman wasn't really dead. No one believed it.  
And, of course, DC brought Superman back--three months later through a convoluted storyline that made absolutely no sense at all to me at the time.  

The whole thing was a gimmick to be sure, but it definitely made Superman more accessible.  Despite his powers, he wasn't indestructible, after all.  

I got to thinking about all of this today because of a conversation Merideth and I were having this morning about the way that most people view God.  I think most of us view God in much the same way we imagine our fictional heroes:  Bigg…

Emptying Yourself of Self & Hearing The Voice of God

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I've been trying to figure out how prayer works for most of my life.  

There are times when I feel like I might be on to something--that I might have come up with a working theory. I'll have seasons where it feels like I'm in direct connection to God, and all of the things I'm praying about seem to be finding answers that couldn't be just happenstance.  

And then all of my theories get tossed out the window in other seasons in my life when there seems to be nothing but silence--a Divine and deafening silence that leaves me feeling as though all of my prayers are simply wasted breath, wasted energy.  

The truth of the matter is that all theories about the power of prayer are simply theories. I don't know of anyone who has a corner on the market when it comes to concrete, explanations of prayer.  

But what I have come to understand is that I need it.  If I don't pray, I feel the absence of it.  When I am struggling through the challenges of life as I pray, I feel…

Pokemon Go & The Light of The World

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past few weeks, you undoubtedly have heard about the latest gaming craze: Pokemon Go.  Both of my older boys played Pokemon video games when they were small, and my oldest boy collected Pokemon cards, if I recall.  

So what is Pokemon (if you are wondering)?  Pokemon is a game where you capture magical/mystical animals, and then train them to use their magical/mystical powers to combat other magical/mystical animals in friendly competition.  The more experience points your creatures obtain, the more they "evolve" and develop skills to become better at the friendly competition.  

Pokemon Go uses smart phone technology to take the video game out of the house and into the great wide world.  EVERYWHERE you go, you encounter pokemon creatures to capture (including my church, which is a "poke-stop").  

The small town where my church is located has already hosted a night where Pokemon Go players gathered to capture pokemon, …

Discovering That God Is All You Need

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Being a parent is hard.  I'm discovering over time that no matter how old your kids are, you never stop wanting to help them, guide them, parent them as best you can.  Your relationship with them might change as they grow into adulthood, but your love for them, your desire for them to succeed never wavers.  

And sometimes you wish that you could just live their lives for them, even though you know you can't.  

I've learned so much about my relationship with God as I struggle though parenthood.  I try to teach my kids things that matter.  I try to keep them from making big mistakes, but when they do make mistakes, I try to be there for them to soften their landing when they fall.  

Recently, I read a quote that struck me, and it has been sitting in the back of my mind ever since:   "Our problem is that we want to test God rather than trust him."  I probably test God a whole more than I would like to admit.  I also can make a real mess of things when I try to wrestle …

You Have Heard It Said, But Jesus Says...

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In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus begins his greatest sermon, his essential teachings: The Sermon On The Mount.  One of the interesting aspects of The Sermon On The Mount is the pattern in which Jesus teaches.  

He begins each new teaching with these words:  "You have heard it said..."  These words indicated that he was reminding them of the religious rules and regulations that they were supposed to follow as faithful, covenant people of God.  

But then Jesus did something unexpected.  He would follow up his "You have heard it said," explanations of the religious laws with a new way of viewing the old commandments, and he would begin these new teachings with the words, "But I say to you..."  

It would go something like this:  "You have heard it said, you must not murder...  But I say to you, if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be judged." 

Or like this:   "You have heard it said, you must not commit adultery... But I say to you anyone…

Jesus Picks The Worst People

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Jesus' disciples were washouts.  They were not even has-beens.  Each one of them was a never-was.  They were a motley crew to be sure.  While the Bible is clear about the occupation of some of the disciples, scholars can only guess at the background of some of them.

Peter, Andrew, James the Elder, & John were all fisherman, according to Scripture. 
Philip, Thomas & James the Younger were most likely fisherman as well.  
Nathaniel was described as a Seeker of the Truth, a perpetual student, who never graduated (and also probably a fisherman). 
Judas, Thaddeus, Simon were all Zealots, conspiracy theorists, who hated the Romans, and who were most likely violent Jewish nationalists.  
Matthew was a Tax Collector, one of the most reviled of all vocations in Israel.  

These guys were nobodies.  In the Jewish tradition they lacked the skills to be scholars, religious leaders, rabbis.  They'd flunked out of the rabbi system as a young age.  They weren't good enough to be any rep…

At The Movies Week 3 - "Captain America - Civil War"

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This week we are continuing the sermon series "At The Movies" for the month of July--and if it sounds a bit familiar, you would be correct in assuming we've done something like this before.  I say like this, because this is actually the second year in a row that we have scheduled the sermon series "At The Movies" during the month of July. 

We did this for a couple of good reasons:  First, July typically is the worst month of the year for church attendance and so most churches just fold it up for the entire month.  But not us.  We decided to ramp up this month for the most interactive, creative sermon series of the year. 

The second reason why we are doing At The Movies again, is because as Christians we need to learn a powerful lesson about the universe:  Everything is Spiritual.  We need to be able to look at the world around us, at culture, at art, at theater, music and even movies and be able to find the spiritual core at the center of it all.  

We need to lear…

Working With Love For The Glory of God

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Author Seth Godin has written extensively about the joy of doing good work.  He recalled a time when he was on vacation, and had spent a wonderful day at a resort in Jamaica with his family.   

That evening after everyone had settled down for the night, he went to the hotel lobby where there was a computer hooked up to internet.  He settled in and was happily answering emails and doing a bit of work.  A couple walked by then and he heard the man say, "Look at that poor guy, working on his vacation."  

Godin remembers thinking, "Poor guy?"  He enjoyed his work, and was happy to be doing it.  He thought about how he'd spent a wonderful day relaxing and decompressing, spending time with his family, and how much joy it brought him.  

He also thought about how much joy he got from working, and considered himself blessed that both aspects of his life were joyful and life-giving.  

I like to work.  I'm one of those people who will spend at least a portion of his day o…

Forgiveness Can Set You Free

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Have you ever had someone in your life that you knew you needed to forgive, but you just didn't want to?  Maybe you knew it was the right thing to do, but you were mad or hurt or a little of both.  

Perhaps, this person is just a rotten so-and-so, who constantly does or says things that are worthy of being on your "no-forgiveness" list.  Or, it could be that you have held on to your anger toward that person for so long, you have no idea what your life would be like without it. 

And if you are trying to be a "good Christian" you sometimes feel a little guilty that you don't want to forgive them.  

In his wonderful book, What's So Amazing About Grace? Philip Yancey gives some very good reasons why forgiveness is so much more than just being magnanimous, or "doing the right thing."  It's a life-giving, resurrection-powered action.    

He asserts first that forgiveness can "halt the cycle of blame and pain," that keeps us bound to the gu…

Today I Am Just Going To Be Angry

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I got angry yesterday when I heard the news from Baton Rouge that there had been another assault on police, which resulted in the deaths of three officers, and the injury of three others, including one who is still fighting for his life. 

Another senseless attack. Another crazed, demented and deranged killer inspired by the militant, angry rhetoric, twisted ideas and perhaps the very example of others, and enabled by a culture that is steeped in violence.  

This on the heels of nearly one hundred people dead from an attack in France, and the deadly shootings in Dallas that took the lives of five police officers.  

So yesterday I got angry, and I'm still angry today.  I am tired of having to explain all of this.  I'm wondering where God is, and why all of these things keep happening.  I am at a loss on how to respond.  

I am tired of prayer vigils, and weekly prepared statements from elected officials telling us that "this is not who we are."  

Today I woke up and read Psa…

The Greatest Story In Any Language

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I saw an article the other day when I was reading through the tech section of an online magazine. It was for a device you could wear in your ear, almost like a hearing aid.  This device would provide real time translation  of whatever language it was "hearing."  

In other words, we are very close to the day when people from different countries and origins will be able to speak their own languages to one another without confusion.  

I love the symbolism of the earpiece translator.  It's a huge technological advance, to be sure, but it also requires a certain amount of humility and a willingness to be vulnerable in order to use it.  But when it is used, it has the potential to connect, unify and heal--depending on the grace and peace of the words spoken and heard.   

There's this passage of Scripture in the book of Genesis chapter 11 that tells the story of the Tower of Babel. 

"Come, let us build ourselves a city," the people in the story exclaim, "with a t…

A Message From God On A Brick Wall

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Several years ago, I was in Pittsburgh for a week of doctoral classes, and I decided to make a pilgrimage (or three) to the famous Primanti Brothers sandwich shop.  I went to the original restaurant, which is in an area known as the Strip District.  

Listen, don't judge me, but the sandwiches at Primanti Brothers are amazing.  Two large fluffy pieces of bread, a mountain of meat, or sausage, or whatever you want, topped with french fries, and incredible cole slaw.  

I just discovered they opened a Primanti Brothers in Orlando.  Yeah.  

So I pulled up in the parking lot of Primanti Brothers in the Strip District of Pittsburgh, and got out of my car.  On the brick wall in front of my car someone had taken chalk and written the message: "Shine."  I couldn't help but take a photo of it: 

All these years later, I still remember how I felt seeing that message.  It made me feel a surge of hope--thinking about the fact that another human being took the time to write it there.  

I…

At The Movies - Week 2: "Finding Dory"

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This week we are launching a new sermon series for the month of July--and if it sounds a bit familiar, you would be correct in assuming we've done something like this before.  I say like this, because this is actually the second year in a row that we have scheduled the sermon series "At The Movies" during the month of July. 

We did this for a couple of good reasons:  First, July typically is the worst month of the year for church attendance and so most churches just fold it up for the entire month.  But not us.  We decided to ramp up this month for the most interactive, creative sermon series of the year. 

The second reason why we are doing At The Movies again, is because as Christians we need to learn a powerful lesson about the universe:  Everything is Spiritual.  We need to be able to look at the world around us, at culture, at art, at theater, music and even movies and be able to find the spiritual core at the center of it all.  

We need to learn to look at the world th…