A Time Before Certainty

Matthew 13:1-32

I worked on an organic farm for 4 seasons. It’s interesting how many factors go into having a fruitful crop: the seed, the soil, the sun, the water, the bugs. Some of these can be controlled. We can add water, we can spray pesticides (technically not in organic farming).

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Much of farming maintains a level of uncertainty in regard to how abundant a crop will be. One thing you can count on though is you will get what you plant. Another certainty is: it does not matter how abundant a crop is, if no one harvests it, no one gets anything.

“You reap what you sow,” is familiar sentiment in Scipture and as much I hate to admit it, in life it is often true. But it is just as true that we may also reap what someone else  sows.

I am both grieved and adulated at the concept of sowing and reaping. I am grieved because I know what I deserve in some areas of my life. I am adulated because of the goodness God allows me to reap despite my efforts. I am also perplexed as to why God would give us so much good.

Why does our Creator, who owes us nothing want good for us despite the bad we choose for ourselves? And how can I become more poor (desperate) in my posture to willingly receive good things?

Psalm 51:17 states:

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

This verse gives me an indication of what God looks for. He doesn’t want a puffed out chest or a lofty, knowledgeable mind that thinks it knows best. His utmost priority is not even my greatest talent. God’s desire on his way to death and resurrection and God’s desire today is my heart in its most vulnerable condition:

A heart when it is broken, a heart when it is sorry, a heart when it feels like it can’t love right, a heart that seems uncertain how to love, a heart that gets giddy at the sight of friends and significant others. God is so keenly and intimately close to this hidden organ. This unseen imagination is the place God chooses to meet us.

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God meets us behind the doors of our skin, so when we step out into the world, the light of God’s Kingdom might shine forth through us.

I have a hope as I read Matthew 13 because I am reminded that as much as I am responsible for what I sow, I am also responsible for what I harvest. When the harvest comes, what will I choose to reap? Will I gather weeds or damaged fruit or will I gather what is best and what is abundant?

I can be forgetful of the seasons. I can be afraid of abundance and things working out well. (I know that’s weird). Which is why I am the type of person that is keenly aware that I need Jesus more (even if it is really only just as much) when things are going well than when things are bad.

But even when things are going well, things are seldom certain. That is the limbo of my life currently and for the next month, perhaps the next year… so much uncertainty. And for some that can be daunting, but I’ll be honest, this is where I thrive, or rather this where God thrives me and sustains me.

The best seasons of life have been the uncertain ones because my reliance and trust has been heavy on God, while a sense of urgency to obey is tangibly at hand. I am thankful.

I am thankful that I have a Father that sustains me and knows exactly what is happening even when I am not certain.

The Catching Gospel: Assured to Shore

John 21:1-14 – The Dive-in Depths

It never ceases to surprise me how quick I am to stumble, how at such arbitrary times our struggle with sin seems to affect us and leaves us without excuse. I am prone to wavering in my affection and in those moments I feel as if I forget myself. I forget who I belong to, who I live for.

Yesterday, on my way to work, a car in front of me slammed into the back of another while trying to switch lanes. I surveyed the damage and eased my way past both cars to keep pressing down Route 1. Less than 30 seconds later on the road a guy flags me down and asks me for a ride. I’m pretty secure, so I gave him a ride 3 stoplights down to the complex in which he lived.

It’s actually amazing how much can happen in five minutes.

In five minutes we can ride high, then fall to temptation. How easy it is to lose focus, to take your eye off the road, to miss your shot when aiming for the mark.

But I also write this to remind us that through a story in the Gospel of John, in the urgency of a moment, our eyes can be so opened to what was right in front of us that nothing else in the whole world matters as we lay side everything to chase it down.

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In John 21, this is Peter in a boat while fishing; he wraps his outer garment around himself and dives in, swimming desperately to shore to meet Jesus, his Lord, his loving friend, and the one he denied. He does this after Jesus calls out to the disciples to let them know again where to let their nets down in order to catch some fish.

Why do our hearts or actions ever deny him? Why do I even after Jesus proves He is always good to me? He does things and shares things with me that I don’t deserve at the most surprising of times, yet my response is forgetfulness or disobedience. I let doubt dictate a decision in a moment and am reminded quickly of how empty it is.

But Peter’s story and action teaches me two things. The first isn’t as important but fascinates me:

People will always follow people with passion and charisma even if they make terrible mistakes. Peter says he’s going to fish and 6 other disciples go with him.

and Secondly:

when you make terrible mistakes or sin, sometimes you are so self aware of the pain you cause yourself and the grief you bring to the Spirit that when you encounter God in a moment afterward, whether you feel forgiven or not, you run after or in Peter’s case swim toward God with abandon.

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Peter understands or at least hopes a sentiment I’ve recently heard in song on the album Garden by Untied Pursuit on the track “Beautiful” by Andrea Marie. The lyric goes:

“Though I am weak it doesn’t change the way you think about me
And when I fall, I fall on you
For your grace surrounds me”

In the second half of this chapter, Peter will experience a slight painful sting but will realize the full truth of the way the Godhead feels about him and us. He’ll realize that the whole point of this program of life, of creation, of the crucifixion is the loving reconciliation of God and creation, the renewal of unrestricted relationship with the Father.

So all I want to leave you with this morning, and to remind myself this morning is a picture of child running, stumbling and falling into the arms of their Father. And after falling into their Father, they get up and run again laughing,  full of love, confident in pursuing the presence and power of a relationship with God.

Father, thank you for forgiveness, for the sacrifice of Jesus, for resurrection life, for the better things you have in store for us your children.

The Gospel of Life: Believe

John 20: 24-31 – Let God Show Me

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A disciple, Thomas, states what it takes for him to believe. Jesus waits a week, then appears to Thomas even though all the other disciples told Thomas that they saw the Lord.

I don’t know if Thomas did not want to be left out or if he just could not wrap his mind around the resurrection. What I do know is Thomas did doubt. What I also know is Jesus quells doubt willingly and wants our faith.

Faith/belief is so essential to Jesus and so important to John in his gospel, that John paused before the concluding scene of his version of the story that he writes in verses 30-31 his intention for the book.

He writes, “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” I love what John sneaks into that sentence: by believing you will have life.

John cannot separate belief in Christ from life itself. And neither should we. Our lives and its quality, as it pertains to the value ascribed by Heaven, is indicative of how we relate to the Father, Son and Spirit.

And how we relate to the Father, Son and Spirit should cause us to value life. Our relationship with God works itself out by how we love others and what moves us to give that love.

What should give us pause, when thinking of life and love is what else we value, or perhaps, what we value most.

See Thomas could have asked for any other evidence, but He asked to see and handle Jesus. And though he asks with doubt, I believe he is asking for the right thing.

So often we ask, first, for the wrong things: more safety, more money, our neighbors green card, the right to harm ourselves others and the unborn, a change in our gender identification, free tuition.

Are they wrong, if they are asked for in a different order or just always wrong?

My answer: I have an opinion and with some of them I’m confident in what I believe, but moreover, I know who to ask. Ask God and ask to have revelation of the love and life of Christ.

Ask everyday!

Read Scripture. Read it and listen to it more than the news. Be willing to drastically conform your opinion not just through Scriptural text but also Scriptural context. Then pray with it and pray through difficult questions. Then practice to see if it works, see if your renewed mind is filling you with life and purpose and compassion.

Or don’t.

Be a troll on social media. Obsess with giving off the best impression of the moments in our lives through pictures and short video clips. Don’t ever give people who disagree with you the benefit of the doubt. Instead of lifting a finger to help the hurting, point the finger, and lecture them and the people trying to help them about why they don’t deserve it or why they don’t do enough. Buy tons of crap that goes out of style or stops working in 2 years. Extol people of terrible character because they “look good” and stay in the public eye.

Or…

Write blogs and watch cat videos at work. Search for autographed copies of books for the cheapest price possible. Read about wrestling rumors. Follow your crushes Instagram too eagerly while saying you don’t care. Worry about if you can afford to pay your bills 6 months from now. Sell useless things on Ebay, while buying $35 worth of lapel pins to display on your sun visor in your car. Forget your friends birthdays but remember the birthday of your favorite celebrity cat…etc…etc

What is the point of this post again?

Ask to see Jesus…

everyday, don’t get distracted.

And you’ll find life, real overflowing life as you follow Him.

I know it’s worth it, which is why I keep trying, asking, knocking.

 

Also…

Happy 7th Birthday Lil Bub!

 

The Appearing Gospel: Look Who Showed Up

John 20: 1-23 – Stay in Awe

When was the last time you stood in awe or wonder of something?

When was the last time something left you dazed and confused?

IMAG1053In the Gospel of John chapter 20, individuals are still living in the shock and shadow of the death of Jesus. Early, on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb of Jesus, finds it empty, and ran to Simon Peter and another disciple, presumably John himself.

Mary relays to them an incorrect story. She thinks someone took Jesus’ body and now does not know where it is. The disciples run to the tomb and notice strips of linen and a cloth that covered Jesus’ head. Surely no one would take a corpse and unwrap it first.

This line of thinking brings John to write that in that moment he believed. The disciples go home but Mary stays by the tomb.

At the tomb Mary weeps, bent over near the tomb until she sees two angels. Mary has a conversation with the angels still supposing Jesus had been taken away by the “they”. Who know’s who the “they” were? Who knows if Mary was rational in this moment?

She neglects the clues.

Then, Jesus shows up, and she doesn’t realize. Perhaps, she is too overcome by emotion in this moment to look at her surroundings. Maybe she finds it hard to see through her tears.

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Mary thinks Jesus is the gardener, and she says something that I don’t quite understand why it makes my eyes water while I write this at work. She says, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

And Jesus says back, “Mary.”

At the sound of her name coming from her Lord and friend, her disposition and perception changes instantly.

Have you ever so misinterpreted a situation that it muddled your outlook on life to the point where truth became very difficult to comprehend?

For Mary, the death, the empty tomb, the angels were for her, all reminders that Jesus was not there. Yet in the mind and heart of God, these were all to serve to remind that Jesus has always been there. To the end, his love was present and powerful.

And it wasn’t until Mary heard her name from Jesus that this came into view. Hindsight flooded her, and Jesus sends her to deliver a very good message: “I have seen the Lord!”

I like to imagine Mary frantically out of breath recounting this story. “I went and saw the tomb empty and talked to people dressed in white and then I saw the Lord. I thought he was the gardener, but it was Jesus. He said my name. I knew as soon as he said my name. He is really alive.”

I imagine in that moment Mary felt alive too, more alive than ever before.

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Later, that same night, Jesus appears to his disciples, who are hiding from the Jewish leaders. He reveals himself and they are overjoyed. He breathes on them while giving them instruction to receive the Holy Spirit and to forgive.

This chapter moves from surprise to surprise, but the surprise doesn’t at this point lead to unction. Jesus tells them to receive the Holy Spirit, but I’m not sure they do in this moment. That’s not to say they don’t, but later he will tell them to wait for the Holy Spirit.

In moments of awe, we are to embrace the surprise and wait for instruction. If something awes us, it should change us even if only slightly. Moments of awe make way for the eventual unction to move.

And when we move, we likewise, appear.

Trading the 2nd Amendment for the 2nd Commandment

John 18:11, Matthew 26:52-54, Luke 22:49-51

Our Swords are Our Guns and It’s Time to Put Them Away

I’m not writing specifically about the 2nd amendment. And my intention here is not to lobby for change in the political arena. I don’t like loud yelling, whistle blowing or things that divide people unless it is over Jesus.

So I’ll talk about Jesus going to his death. In the gospels, one of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, takes a sword and aims for someone’s head. This happens as another disciple asks Jesus, “Shall we strike with our swords?” Before the inquiring disciple can finish the question, Peter is quick to pull the trigger and cuts off a dudes ear.

After the incident Jesus says, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”

Why have a sword you would never use?

The 2nd Amendment exists as a clause that we’d hope we would never have to use. It does not exist for our pleasure or for our enjoyment. It existed in the case of an emergency not as a pathway to more frequent emergencies. We would hope we would never need a gun to protect us from our government, and we would hope our government would protect us from one another. More specifically, to protect us from an enemy or the violent among us.

Why have the sword at all?

After Jesus makes the statement about living and dying by the sword, Jesus heals the mans ear who Peter had cut off with the sword. Then he says this in the gospel of Matthew 26:53 “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”

Jesus makes an obvious statement to His followers. Being one with God implies He has access to an army but chooses to relinquish that power in the face of death. Why? Because he is fearless and faithful.

But more than any of that, Jesus is humble, self-sacrificing and willing to lay down his life in love. He was willing to lay aside his power to become a servant.

He laid aside power.

Why relinquish our perception of power?

Look, I get it, I’ve worked in construction on an off for the last 6 years. I shared an office with a guy who hoarded ammunition and had it delivered every day to our work. I understand lots of men and women like to shoot guns because it gives them an adrenaline rush or rather the false sense of feeling powerful.

I understand the normalization of guns and the perception that they can be operated safely and frequently by responsible individuals.

But what I don’t understand is the American Evangelical Christian fascination with guns and (about to a make a really unpopular statement) the military.

We idolize what we perceive protects us.

And it is our faith in thinking guns protect and faith in the military as exclusively altruistic that fuel a fascination with violence and the glorification war. As a country America has found a way to consistently make violence profitable. We’ve done the same with sex, and instead of considering the cost, we normalize.

We begin to recite a story that suggests the rights we’ve “always” had are being infringed upon and it is oppressing our freedom.  And we begin to use the word freedom as an excuse to fight, conquer, and finance violence disguised as virtue

But that insistence is the sign of how bound we’ve become. We’ve become bound to our guns like being bound to an idol.

Anyone in our culture who would rather have a semi-automatic weapon or hand-gun to maintain their own sense of security at the expense of not being permitted to have one for the potential safety of the masses is looking to a conceal a pretty ugly idol.

How to Put Them Away

The disposition I advocate for among Christians is this: “I am willing to lay down my right to bear arms in hopes that others would also lay down that right, to live in a society where no child dies in a classroom from a firearm.” The 2nd Amendment says nothing  about laying aside our rights as a demonstration of love, but Jesus’ 2nd greatest commandment does. He advocates being inconvenienced for the love of your neighbor.

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Jesus advocates for this to the point where He asks His followers to lay down their lives. Despite this, it does not seem  we are  even at a place where Christians are willing to lay down their guns. That must change.

I believe only a radical movement of surrender will change culture, not lobbyists or legislation.

And I believe the solution is rather simple: “Put your guns away.”

– Stop considering them toys.

– Don’t resist stricter gun laws. In fact, don’t ignore the statistics, look around at the rest of the world and be willing to admit that maybe the events point to requiring America to have the strictest gun laws of any nation.

– Relegate that sense of power and adrenaline rush to highly secure shooting ranges.

– Regulate hunting rifles to be used or visible only during designated times of the year, the rest of the year those weapons are to be stored at a weapons bank.

– If we desire to hold to that 2nd Amendment piece about a “well-regulated” militia, have a militia bank/shooting range combo. If the goal is to be well-regulated, that’s the place you go to pick up your guns if the poop hits the fan and we have to wage war on the government.

I’m a pacifist, who has never shot a gun who has some great ideas.

Why it is definitely time

It’s time because we’ve lost our sense of urgency. This most recent shooting was forgotten quickly by the media because there was a Royal Wedding to watch. It also could be that a lot of people in Texas own guns and pushing  stricter gun policies would rub the majority the wrong way (which is what has to happen).

I admit I liked the Royal Wedding, but what I don’t like is the feeling I now have when I hear about mass shootings.

When Columbine happened, there was weight attached to it, real fear because it was unprecedented and admittedly no one knew what to do because nothing like it had happened. We had an excuse at that time for being frozen in fear.

Bowling for Columbine, produced and written by Michael Moore, actually made me think. Even if you fall on the side that it was a decent propaganda piece, it also explored what perpetuating an ideology centered around fear creates. That movie was made in 2002 about a shooting that happened that in 1999, almost 20 years ago. I’m fairly convinced that in 20 years the climate has gotten worse.

20 years later we have no excuse for being frozen in indifference or in the fantasy that my gun makes me feel more secure.

Fear creates a demand for entitlement until the mind gives way to the assumption that this was always mine. Once you’ve arrived, you cling tightly because the alternative is to live without hope or lose the impression of power.

The alternative that will overcome is the one that casts out fear with love. Love finds solutions and finds a way often at the expense or as a cost to the one who is loving. We lay down our weapons so our enemies ears might be healed. Or if you prefer you lay down your weapons so Jesus heals our ears.

Why it’s worth it

By now, anyone who would disagree and has continued to read could be thinking, “I’ve heard you; I’m empathetic or sympathetic, but even if I did lay down my gun, what if it doesn’t work? What if the solution is more about treating mental illness or arming more people and teachers?”

Teachers have bad days, the last thing I want when I have kids is to worry about them in school with a teacher they have consistently irritated who also has a firearm. It’s not that I don’t trust teachers, but why unnecessarily require people to be armed who already have pretty stressful jobs with my future annoying, hilarious kids.

As far as treating mental illness, this is a much wider discussion and one that is essential, but we know far less about the human mind, then we know about guns. The mind of an individual by in large is something that we still cannot comprehend. Even with heavily medicating, a missed dose, the wrong dose can change things pretty quickly and often without much explanation.

Guns are the object we as people can control. It’s the object in the equation we can discard. It is the idol. We can’t discard people, but I fear that’s what we do with every cry we ignore.

It’s worth it because laying down your right to bear arms is a practical demonstration of love that goes beyond words. How often do we actually see events or decisions like that anymore? It’s a movement more powerful than a Royal Wedding. And it’s worth it for the Church to finally lead the charge in something worth writing about or covering by the media, rather than being lambasted for indifference or hypocrisy.

It’s worth it because through it, we can in part, fulfill the 2nd great commandment to love our neighbor.

 

The Cutting Gospel: Separating the Should and Should Not

John 18:1-27- Imagine the Divine Impulse

Have you ever been disappointed in yourself after acting on impulse? Considering how frequently in the Gospels Peter acts on impulse, I imagine he was disappointed in himself often.

But I am convinced that our impulsive action in ignorance does not disappoint God as much as it disappoints us. I’m not suggesting God is less disappointed when our impulse to sin is acted upon with a sense of knowing. I believe that disappoints God more than it disappoints us, but I could be convinced otherwise.

There is something about acting in ignorance, with good intentions, that I think Jesus has a large degree of empathy for. And I think the Gospel of John does a perfect job of showing us a Jesus that cares most about reconciliation and administering the grace to keep going.

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Jesus is about to be arrested. He knows this. When the ones coming to arrest him approach him Jesus steps towards them and asks them “Who is it you want?” He asks a question but really he is making an authoritative statement. In asking, he is actually showing them that He is the one they want.

John paints us a picture of a Jesus that is steps into his mission willingly. And those bold steps cause the party seeking to arrest him to fall over.

I believe when we take steps in faith Jesus causes us to knock down our doubters and our doubts.

Jesus steps towards his arrest with confidence. And though he knocks down his doubters and enemies, he does not stop his eager friend with a sword who supposes he is lending support.

After the act Jesus says, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

See Jesus does offer rebuke, and in other gospels, he heals the ear of the man who Peter slices at. But Jesus does not have time for our impulsive decisions and our denials. In fact, while we sit there and deny or rush to act, Jesus takes the burden of truth and opposition to His will upon Himself. In His strength, he waits for our surrender through our posture of receiving.

In a span of 12 verses, Peter denies Jesus 3 times. In the span of one evening Peter goes from getting his feet washed to taking a sword in his hand. He goes from believing it is not within him to deny Jesus to executing what he did not desire.

But what would this story look like if Peter did nothing? What would the end of this book look like if Peter did not chop an ear off and did not deny? Or what if John left it all out?

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Without Peter, I don’t think I would fully understand the grace of Jesus and His appreciation for radical faith. I don’t think I would learn the difference between the divine impulse and the carnal (fleshly) impulse.

Because the divine impulse is one that follows Jesus not one that fights for Jesus. It is recognizing that Jesus fought for and bought me, which now means I obey in love.

It shows me that Jesus is able to sever my mistakes and my sin from my identity. Peter denies, but Jesus prevents denial from defining Peter. Peter denies and is spared while Jesus speaks truth and is slapped.

And God allows this to awaken the heart of Peter, of you, and of me to gaze at Jesus in life, death and resurrection in order to know that obedience to what God has called us to leads to eternal joy and the experience of genuine love.

But what happens first is crucifixion. Specifically Jesus’ crucifixion. Specifically, the imagination of God working itself out in human history to display to all that God’s plan, action, and work not only could not be stopped but worked out for the good of all so our imagination and purpose would be fulfilled in Him.

More on that next time.

The Overcoming Gospel: Are you Over?

John 16

John 16 is the 3rd of 4 chapters of very long expositions from Jesus. This chapter in particular, deals with Jesus leaving. He is explaining to his followers that when He leaves, the Holy Spirit will come and fill them. The Spirit will also give them knowledge.

Then he talks about not being seen.

Then he talks about being seen again.

There will be mourning, then rejoicing.

It is also the third chapter in a row where Jesus makes a statement like this:

“In that day, you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”

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He concludes this exposition, letting the disciples know they will be scattered and scared and confused, but to take heart and have courage. It is all apart of the plan for Jesus to overcome and conquer in a way, vastly different from their expectations.

Jesus is hyper-aware. He says, “you will all leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.”

That awareness is for you and for me. Maybe more for me than for you.

John 16 is suggested to take place in the last 2 weeks before Jesus’ crucifixion. At this point in time, Jesus has tamed his ministry and focused a lot more on his followers and friends instead of the crowds. The crowd mentality was no longer the prescription for his mission. They would soon turn against him.

*In wrestling there is a word that describes one’s popularity. The word is “over” If you are over, it means you are popular with the crowd, if you are “putting yourself over” it means you are going to great lengths, often at someone else’s expense, to become popular with the crowd.*

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At this point, Jesus is putting himself under, and will give off the appearance that he is sinking his own ship. He is making the unpopular decision in the present hour because he anticipates the promise of the future hours.

I think I live in that state. Or at least I live in the face of a temptation to live without purpose in order to be comfortable in the present.

For the second time in my life, I am preparing to leave a comfortable job with prospect of promotion to pursue ministry (what I feel called to do). I don’t know if it’s more or less painful this time. I don’t even know if it is more or less lonely.

But I hoped it wouldn’t be lonely at all. More specifically, I hoped that by 30 I wouldn’t be the same status of single I was at 20.

I didn’t think I would be confronted with the lies of being less desirable now that I’m older as I prepare for a career that will place me on paper as someone less likely able to provide. I didn’t think I would grow accustom to expecting rejection.

Which is why life inversely is so strange. Why then do I seemingly have the courage to follow God into hospital chaplaincy and why was I so convinced that the one 600 miles away was the better choice? Why does the process have to be difficult? or rather why do I make it difficult?

I’ve often discussed with my roommate, who formerly served in the military, was a semi-professional rower,  is in great shape, finishing his PhD in Physics, and loves Jesus wholeheartedly about what we are doing wrong. (I’ll put him over not myself)

But it’s not so much what we are doing wrong, it’s what we might be doing right.

I’m sorry to say, but it seems that trying to live an obedient, faithful life of seeking and serving does not make you more desirable to the masses. It doesn’t even make you more desirable to most people in church. Some days it doesn’t make you desirable to yourself.

But it does keep you tender-hearted towards Jesus and others.

I am willing to concede that it makes you more sensitive to the Holy Spirit, although there are days I’m not certain of that, if I’m being honest. I said it makes me sensitive not certain *shrug*.

And one thing I can say in confidence is I am way more sensitive, aware, and optimistic about the hurting and suffering of others.  Even when I have a multitude of doubts about what to feel about myself. When someone is vulnerable I can smile and see beauty. When someone is experiencing holy joy I can rejoice with them.

I can see when I can’t see myself.

My brother helped me with a budget last night that did not look promising come August.

But my calling didn’t come from a spreadsheet or a bank account. It didn’t come from my future spouse or my wavering optimism regarding whether or not she exists. It didn’t even come from supportive friends and family.

My calling came from the One who overcame the world.

The only way I share in that is if I follow my call from Christ in faith. That’s how I overcome.

Walk despite reasons to worry,

love despite rejection,

hope until you don’t need to anymore.

The Betrayal and Denial Gospel: When you “Can’t” Control Yourself

John 13:18-38: Shared Bread

Psalm 41:9

 Even my close friend,
    someone I trusted,
one who shared my bread,
    has turned (lifted up their heel) against me.

The thing about betrayal, the thing about denial that allows both of them to deal damage is intimacy. Truth be told, I give as much credence to  ridicule or rejection from someone I don’t like or know as I give consideration to the amount of toilet paper I use after the second time I flush. If I have to flush twice, I care about being clean not about how much shit there was. If I am to be betrayed or denied “……^”

“That’s crude,” you say.

I say, “True and perhaps unnecessary, but I am far more willing to tolerate crude than cruel.”

To be crude is to have disregard toward or to jest about the outward appearance of things, whereas to be cruel is to have disregard for or the intent to harm the internal disposition of things.

Cruelty, whether intentional or not targets identity through apathy or vindictiveness. To be crude only considers the surface. It is intentionally unaware of depth. Cruelty either disregards depth selfishly or digs deeper than it needs to without care.

Now we can discuss betrayal and denial.

In John 13:18-30 Jesus announces that a disciple will betray him. And in this room full of men, John gives us insight into some of their personalities.

Scripture tells us in v. 21 that Jesus was troubled in his spirit and says, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” He is telling them this to strengthen their faith so they would believe in who Jesus says he is, but Jesus is still troubled by this.

John, who was reclining comfortably leans again Jesus to ask him, “Lord, who is it?” John does this because Simon Peter gives John a nod and says, “Yo, find out who.”

In this scenario, I kind of imagine John having a little too much wine. He was just looking to have a good time at the party. He’s chilling out and then Peter disrupts his chill and then he leans back and asks seemingly to appease Peter’s nervous curiosity.

Or is Peter not nervous, but rather seeking to prevent the betrayal by roughing up the betrayer?

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Jesus then gives a piece of bread dipped in wine to his betrayer Judas. V. 27 reads, “as soon as Judas had taken the bread, Satan entered him” and v. 30, “he went out.”

Jesus also told him after he gave the bread, “What you do, do it quickly.”

What he says makes sense for a man to say. I say man because in my experience, if a person is going to betray me or reject me I’d rather you get to the point rather than drag your feet with the deal.

Being strung along just to be hung out is like taking your dog for a walk before killing it with a shovel and refusing to bury it.  What’s the alternative? Just take your dog for a walk or don’t betray someone. Be a quality person.

The Difference between Betrayal and Denial

I’m going to get to denial in a minute. But I want to define betrayal just so we are clear with the terms. Because someone can reject you or even go so far as to kill you without betraying you. For example, random woman I meet on the street finds out I’m awesome, kills me for no reason after greeting one another. She didn’t betray me, she certainly surprised me but nothing she did indicates a betrayal, unless we are strictly talking on an existential plain in which she betrayed mine and her own humanity for deciding at randomly to kill me.

This is me defining in long-hand that betrayal assumes a certain kind or level of intimacy and the greater the bond of intimacy the deeper the betrayal goes. For example, a marriage vow followed by adultery > (greater betrayal than) making a blood pact in 5th grade with your friend who stopped talking to you in middle school.

The action of betrayal is the willing handing of someone over or selling someone out, or intentionally tripping them up along their path. It is the moment while walking alongside someone with certain expectations, they hinder you from where you intended to go. Betrayal happens when one agrees to the parameters of the journey and then tries to hinder another from the journeys intended goal.

The Sting Without War

 

breaking_bread-2017Now for denial. Denial is sometimes the passive more weaselly of the two actions but typically without as severe a consequence. Denial is not stringing the noose, but it is watching someone be hung.

In v. 31, Judas had left, and now Jesus talks about His glory to come, his exit (death) and gives the disciples a command to love one another. He makes a statement that if true contains unimaginable power. V. 35 reads “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Rather than pausing and thinking about the implications of that statement, Peter is more concerned with where Jesus is going. And because Peter is weak and lacks understanding He misses what Jesus is getting at. Rather than going where Peter wants to go, Jesus wants Peter to be faithful to where He wants Peter to go.

Peter wants to die before he fully lives as Christ. In order for Peter to die like Christ, Jesus has a massive internal work to do first in Peter’s life. He asks this sincere question, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

…..

..

.

You know how it ends, Jesus predicts Peter’s inevitable denial. Sometimes we “can’t” (or just don’t) follow through on our best laid schemes. But here we actually are not looking at Peter’s denial just yet. That happens 5 chapters later.

This is Jesus’ denial. Jesus denies Peter’s ability to fulfill an empty promise without the power of the Holy Spirit. But Jesus’ denial has been immersed in prayer and preceded by demonstrations of genuine love. Jesus knows Peter’s end which is why He denies his intentions in the now.

Jesus says, “you will follow later.” The denial does not presume permanence, but it expects obedience. In other words, Jesus is telling Peter to “let it play out.”

It won’t be easy nor fun, but it will lead to perfecting and refining and new joy. But Peter is not that deep yet. Eager but not deep and unaware of what is required of him.

He is a fisherman, not a fighter and that is fortunate because the kingdom of God is not won in the way he is expecting.

Jesus cleans Peter a few verses prior and that cleansing functions as a reminder for what’s about to hit the fan in spite of his future denial.

 

 

 

 

The Cleansing Gospel: My Favorite

Sufficiency

This currency of mine

it will lift you

like a house hung from a balloon

or a wife off her feet by her husband

This urgency of time

let it pass you

like the drive in a car to vacation

like angst before returning home

This destination is a comma

in the adventure

where nothing is left behind

as moments move us toward what’s whole

The past may have scratched

skipped the favorite part of your song

though it’s been pardoned in your present

buffered into tomorrow

and now your flawless to me

you’ve become my lens of love

as I’ve become your trade

My ambition is to be spent for you

My ambition is to be sent by you

to the store for groceries

to your room to fetch you something

to aid the family

to the earth until its end or my own

My yearning is to be mercy in your hand

My yearning is to glow in your eyes

to be a trust in generosity

to be evocative of Love

to be an advocate of you.

I give you my breath and my beat and my me

and I hope its enough.

I’m enough.

John 13:1-17: Love Cleans Up

The phrasing in verse 1 always moves me.

“Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

Then, Jesus shocks the system. The Divine touches the lowest part of our existence, to wash off wherever the disciples feet have tread. It’s absurd, yet Jesus insists. In the middle of dinner, he stops to clean the dirty:

No holiday, no meal, no moment in my life compares to the gravity of this moment with Jesus and his disciples. Furthermore, in this moment, Jesus washes the feet of someone who already decided to betray Him and what’s more, He knew about it.

Jesus took his hands just prior to being pierced and washed the feet of the man who sold Him out. He washed the feet also of Peter who debated with Him about whether Jesus should wash His feet.

Foot-Washing-Today

In verse 7 and 8 are more game changing verses.

“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

I could write a book on verse 7 alone, but I’ll settle for a paragraph or two for now.

How many times have you wondered what God is doing and why you don’t understand?

There have been times and seasons when I did not realize what was going on then and have often pleaded with God for understanding. Because I didn’t understand, sometimes, to my detriment I have said to God, “do not touch me,” which was another way of saying “I don’t trust you to fix this.” A wounded dog fears greater pain.

But Jesus’ response in verse 8 puts the emphasis on His actions, not Peter’s understanding. To take part in this love, Jesus says, “allow me to do this.” Jesus is cleansing where they have been and even where they are going, which makes the thought of Judas’ betrayal so heart wrenching.

I’m cleansing your feet yet where your feet are about to take you will carry us both to our death. For Jesus there was a resurrection.

After washing their feet Jesus closes in verses 14-17 saying, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet… Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

Jesus often likes to end things with good promises. He likes us to be #blessed.

MaryAnointingJesusSocial

But what makes us blessed is the way in which we share ourselves. You will be blessed if you wash one another’s feet, you will be blessed if you give your time and intimacy to God and if you share love with others. You will be blessed if you offer the gospel to your enemy. I hope I find my blessing in being able to relinquish my self-serving for the sake of Jesus Christ my Savior.

This is my endeavor and this is why I can’t shake taking a step of faith in this season of life. Jesus cleansing and the grace he gives, makes me enough. It is my reminder in my next footstep.