Cease Striving

Cease Striving

Accomplishment.

This word drives our culture in many ways. In some ways, you’re only as good your best accomplishment. I know that in many parts of our world this is not the case, but when you look at the media what we see is a pretty clear testimony that our accomplishments define us.

Championship games, award shows, game shows, and even politics all point to what we have done and can do. It’s not hard to understand why, then, we strive to do. We want to succeed and to be recognized for our accomplishments. We have task managers and attend time management classes. We want to be able to do more and to do it better so that we can be the best. Your value is only in what you have done. Continue reading

Don’t Be a Tourist

Don't be a

“Religion in our time has been captured by the tourist mindset. Religion is understood as a visit to an attractive site to be made when we have adequate leisure.” Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

When I started to work on the Discipleship Pathway at Westbrook, I looked for a metaphor that would do a decent job of describing our life in Christ. What does it look like to be a life long follower of Jesus Christ? After a lot of thinking and searching a landed on the idea of a pilgrim. In America, we tend to think of pilgrims as the people who started thanksgiving, but a pilgrim is a person who has set out on a journey for some sort of religious or spiritual reason. Some pilgrims travel to holy sites, other travel to discover themselves, or, like the pilgrims who came to america, they are traveling to find religious freedom.

For me, this has become one of the best metaphors for being a disciple of Jesus. There are a lot of good ways to describe what it’s like to be a Christian, but I think that this one does a fantastic job of capturing the lifelong journey of becoming more like Jesus. Continue reading

What to Expect in 2016

What to expect in

It’s been a while since I have been regularly posting on my blog. From April to September of Last year, I was posting almost weekly. After September, however, it seemed like the ideas weren’t coming as readily and October is the month where things start to get really busy for me, so I let it slide. Since then, I’ve only had three posts.

Part of me feels like that’s a failure. At the beginning of 2015 I wanted to write weekly. I wanted to be more consistent in my writing and be more intentional about sharing what was on my mind and heart. The great thing about last year is that I seemed to go through a season where I had a lot of ideas and I was able to be really consistent with my writing habits. That is, until I found myself in October with a lot to do without much to write about. What I’m beginning to realize, is that it’s not a failure when I don’t post. I’m not a professional blogger and I don’t have thousands of readers waiting for me to make another post. So this year, I’m changing my expectations for this blog. Continue reading

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Even so,My heart is heavy and my spirit is weary. There’s so much happening in the world right now. It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of year, but it doesn’t feel wonderful. The countdown to Christmas is on, but it also feels like in many ways that the world itself is falling apart.

First, the violence in America (and even around the world) feels like it is escalating. Maybe it’s just more media coverage, but still it’s bad. The more shootings and attacks happen in our country and around the world the more my heart sinks. To make matters worse, every time shootings happen it’s followed by a very predictable set of responses. I can’t help but think our division over these issues only makes matters worse and postpones any kind of an attempt at making things better.

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For All The People

I bring you good news that will cause

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Thanks to the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, I think that we’ve all probably heard some version of this before. It’s the part of the Christmas story where the angel announces for the first time that Jesus has been born and that he is the long awaited Messiah. He is the one who was to come. And the first people to hear it were shepherds. Lowly shepherds who had probably never been recognized as important receive the most important message in the world. The Savior has been born and this news is for all the people.

The problem with this passage is that we have such a hard time living it out. We want the Good News to be for all the people we like, or all the people who aren’t weird, or even for all the people who look like me. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus brings the good news to people who would have been neglected or even the outcasts of society. If we were one of the disciples we would have been thinking, “Surely not him or her, Lord. You mean we need to take the Gospel to them, too?” Continue reading

Gratitude and Greed: The story of Thanksgiving & Black Friday

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Photo Credit: Matt Jones

As I begin writing this post, I’m sitting in Sam’s Club waiting for tires to be put on my car. From the café area, I can see most of the store and it’s stocked to the brim with bulk food, low prices, and junk. I spent some time in the electronics area thinking about getting a Roku TV to replace the old TV/DVD/VCR combo tv we have (yes, we still have a VCR). Because of the time of year, my thoughts quickly jumped to Black Friday sales.

Most of us have the same kind of thoughts this time of year. “What’s on sale? What do I want? Where can I get it? What time do I have to get up to get the deals? I’ll be done with dinner by the time that store opens on Thanksgiving, maybe I’ll just run over and pick something up.” Then, of course, a week later we realize we still have Christmas gifts to buy since we’ve mostly bought for ourselves. Continue reading

Why #AllLivesMatter isn’t enough for the Church

Photo Credit: Delta57 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Delta57 via Compfight cc

Not too long after Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson the #BlackLivesMatter movement started. Since then there’s been a lot of push back from different sides. One of those sides is from people who say we should be saying #AllLivesMatter and not just #BlackLivesMatter. To a certain extent I agree that we should say that all lives matter. It’s Biblical. Christian theology argues that all people are made in the image of God. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, what language you speak, or what country you were born in, you were made in the image of God. We are all equally made in the image of God and we all matter in God’s eyes. I believe, however, that because of what has happened since Genesis 1 & 2, it’s important to emphasize which lives matter.

Whether we want to recognize it or not, we (meaning Americans) live in a country that has a deeply embedded racist history. The most visible of part of our history is slavery, but there have also been points when our country has been blatantly racist toward Chinese, Japanese, Germans, Mexicans, and others of Hispanic descent. I’m sure that list is hardly exhaustive either. Racism is not just an American problem either. I’m sure you could go to any country and pinpoint a time in history and a people that they have been against simply because of their skin, language, or heritage. Continue reading

The Greatest of These…

I’ve taken a few weeks to write about the two “theological virtues” of faith and hope, but now I want to take some time to focus on love.  If you were ask Jesus or the New Testament authors what the most important characteristic of a disciple is, I’m pretty confident that love would be the answer:

IMG_0599“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Matthew 5:43-44

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

“…whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” Romans 13:9-10

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8

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More than Wishful Thinking

Photo Credit: pol sifter via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: pol sifter via Compfight cc

Hope is a powerful word. When you hear stories of people who made it through terrible trials, you often hear them say that they had hope or that they tried to not lose hope. It’s one of the words that helped propel President Obama to win his election. It’s also a very important word in the pages of scripture. It is a word that is supposed to describe God’s people, but what is it?

Much like faith, we use the word hope frequently and to some extent have missed the deeper meaning of the word. Especially in the case of hope, we often tend to water down the word so that when we see it in scripture it doesn’t have the power that it ought to have. If you’re like me most of the time, most of the time that you hear the word hope it’s wishful thinking, something that you would like to come to pass but it may not happen. Hope in scripture has a different meaning. It’s not wishful thinking. It’s confidence. Continue reading

Cultivating a life of Faith

Photo Credit: Zaprittsky via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Zaprittsky via Compfight cc

There’s a scene in the movie Princess Bride where Inigo Montoya, Vizzini, and Fezzik are looking out over a cliff as the masked man dangles from the rock face even though they just cut the rope that he was climbing. Vizzini says, “He didn’t fall? Inconceivable!” To which Inigo replies, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” That’s the way I feel sometimes about the way that we use faith.

Faith is considered one of the three theological virtues along with Hope and Love. Of the three, however, I think faith may be the one that is the fuzziest. I think it’s the one we use the most and define about the least. Many people will say that they have faith, meaning that they believe in God or that they hold to a particular “Faith” like Christianity or Judaism. We are told to have faith or encouraged to come to faith in Jesus, but what does that really mean? Continue reading