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April 2009

Walk of Worship

Tonight our high school student ministries department sponsored a Walk of Worship (W.O.W.) night for any interested staff and students.  It was a great event.  There were five worship stations that we moved through as a group.  The first involved corporate prayer, the second was a skit/message that my daughter, Sarah, participated in--it was powerful.  (Below I have included a video of the presentation done by a different group of students in a church in the USA.)  The third station involved a journaling/reflecting process on our response to the skit's message and the promptings of the Holy Spirit upon our hearts.  The fourth station involved praying in small groups for one another and the final station involved a time of celebratory singing, praise and worship.  It was an incredible night of worship--and it was completely led by high school and middle school students.

Here is the video of the skit.  Actually, it is a skit done to a song by Switchfoot.  The combination of the skit and the lyrics are very meaningful.  Take a moment to watch and listen to the video and be ready to be challenged and blessed.

Doubts and Expectations

Everybody has doubts at one time or another…even John the Baptist.

Matthew 11:1-5 (NIV)
After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.

When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"

Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” 

“God in Christ doesn’t come among us to meet our expectations, but to save us from our sins.”—Eugene Peterson

We all have a lot of questions and that is ok.  John’s questions in Matthew 11 are spoken from a jail cell.  He is hours away from losing his life and he knows it.  Oftentimes our questions come with expectations of how they should be answered by God.  We must be careful to not let our expectations supersede our faith and trust in the answer—Jesus Christ.

“Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."  Matthew 11:6 (NIV)

Life to the Hilt

3429689923_cd7171db21_b “Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be in the will of God.”Jim Elliot

These are the words of a man who lived his life in the light of the Resurrection.  Just over fifty years ago Jim Elliot and four missionary companions were speared to death on a remote river beach in Ecuador, South America.  The missionaries were there to share the gospel of Jesus Christ—the Risen One—with the Auca Indian tribe.  They gave their lives to share with others about the God who is greater than death.  In the light of the Resurrection, they found the freedom to truly live.

How are you living your life?  Are you living in freedom?  As the sun rises over the empty tomb on this Easter morning are you living in the light of the Resurrection?  Are you living to the hilt your life and your situation in God?  Regardless of where you are, what your condition, or whom you are with—you can live your story fully and completely for Jesus Christ—leaving the details to be played out in the eternal light of the Resurrection.

Today, the Auca Indian tribe exists as a community of Christ followers.  The warriors who brandished the machetes and spears so long ago are now preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their own people and to neighboring tribes.  Some of the warriors have passed on from this life and are now walking the streets of heaven with Jesus, Jim Elliot and the other missionaries.  In the light of the Resurrection, their story continues—and so does ours.  Eternity will tell the stories of our lives.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”Jim  Elliot

He is Risen!  Live life to the hilt.

Inching Through Holy Saturday

3429689061_cbb5db0f55_b I woke up this morning feeling a sense of dread for the day.  I felt blank and blasé.  I didn’t want to get out of bed and I have no idea why.  I have no regrets.  I am not sick.  It is not raining outside.  I even got to bed at a decent time the night before.  There is no reason for me to feel this way.

Today is Holy Saturday—the day after the crucifixion of Jesus and the day before His glorious resurrection.

I did finally get out of bed this morning and I read John 19—it is the account in the Bible of the crucifixion of Jesus.  As I read about Jesus on the cross, my attention went to those who witnessed the horrific event:  Mary, John, the disciples, Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus and the others.

Chapter 19 in the book of John details the crucifixion of Jesus and chapter 20 tells of the resurrection of Christ on Easter morning.  But what about Holy Saturday?  In my Bible there is an inch of space between the end of John 19 and the beginning of John 20 that is as blank and empty as I felt this morning.

If they slept at all, I wonder how Mary, John, the disciples, Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus and the others felt on that Saturday morning?  I can’t imagine-but what I do know is that their doubts, questions, feelings and fears did not go unaddressed.

I don’t think we are supposed to spend too much time and energy in the realm of the painful, awkward silence of Holy Saturday—rather, give it its allotted space and read on to the next chapter.  We need to rise up from the gloom and despair of Holy Saturday morning realizing that with each tick of the clock we are inching closer to the hope and life of Easter morning.

"Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." (Ephesians 5:14, NIV)

Good Friday

3422375779_7b289f3973_b Here are a few things to reflect upon this Good Friday. The cross of Christ and the empty tomb should not be considered independent of one another. In the cross of Christ and the Resurrection we find a God who truly knows the extent of our sufferings, who redeems us from the pit of our sins and makes us new, now and forever more.

“In the cross of his Son, God took upon himself not only death, so that man might be able to die comforted with the certainty that even death could not separate him from God, but still more, in order to make the crucified Christ the ground of his new creation, in which death itself is swallowed up in the victory of life and there will be ‘no sorrow, no crying, and no more tears’.” (The Crucified God by J. Moltmann)

Finally, please take a moment to listen to the song, "To a Broken God" by Michael Card.  The lyrics are below.  Have a Good Friday.

Didn’t see you there, didn’t know you were weeping too;
I think of tears as a human wound.
Though of course you care, you have shown you were human too;
They say you cried at Lazarus’ tomb.

I was unaware how it is with a broken God;
I thought of you as above my pain.
Lost in my despair, so it is with a broken heart;
I never dreamed you could feel the same.

In a magazine I saw a face,
Wrinkled up in grief and travailed grace.
I kept looking to that face,
Some sad refugee in some sad place;
And in his eyes the sorrow of our race.
And then I saw, it was the face of God,
the face of God, your face dear God.

Some say you’re not there, just a myth for a lazy life;
An artifact from an ancient scroll.
But I have known you near in the gift of a weary sigh;
Lord of the lost and the lonesome soul.

I was unaware how it is with a broken God;
I never dreamed you could feel the same.

Life, Real Life

3394391321_d689ab24bf_b I am currently reading the biography of Amy Carmichael, A Chance to Die.  So far, I am inspired and humbled by my look into Miss Carmichael’s life.  According to the world’s standards, her life is unremarkable—poor, unknown, difficult and mundane.  But according to heavenly standards, hers is a life of riches, meaning, wisdom and love.  One of the main reasons that I read the biographies of followers of Christ is to gain a bit of wisdom from their lives.  I need wisdom for living.

This morning I read Proverbs 8 from the Message translation of the Bible.   It is all about wisdom.  In the chapter, “wisdom” is personified as a “lady” that was made by God (Proverbs 8:22) who can be seen, heard, dwelt with, heeded, recognized and found.

“When you find me, you find life, real life.” (Proverbs 8:35, MSG)

As I write this, I am living, and if you are reading this, you are alive too.  But, in the midst of life, have we found “real life?”  Lady Wisdom says that real life is found in her.  Where is she to be found?  Is wisdom only found in the halls of education, in the quiet of the monastery, and within the walls of the church?  Lady Wisdom says that, “those who look for me find me.”  Where?

“Do you hear Lady Wisdom calling? Can you hear Madame Insight raising her voice?  She's taken her stand at First and Main, at the busiest intersection.  Right in the city square where the traffic is thickest, she shouts, "You—I'm talking to all of you, everyone out here on the streets!” (Proverbs 8:1-4, MSG)

Wisdom is found smack dab in the middle of life.  It is not reserved for only a few, but rather it is available to all.  Wisdom for living finds its source in God and the scripture says that wisdom is calling out to each one of us in the very midst of our daily lives.  In other words—God is calling us to live in Him.

Every day, along the mundane streets and in the midst of the snarled traffic of our lives (our biographies), God is there, calling out to us—offering us mercy, grace, hope, wisdom and … “life, real life.” 

Are you listening?

Holy Math

“God’s predestinations are the voluntary choosings of the saint who is in the will of God.”  --Oswald Chambers

Spend some time and try to wrap your head and heart around that mysterious, intertwined concept.  Only in the arithmetic of God’s love does “predestinations” equal “voluntary choosings.”