May 19, 2018

The Truth Is Out There

Laurel vs. yanny. Blue dress vs. white dress. Duck vs. rabbit. Left vs. right. And on and on we go. This week I experienced my own version of perception vs. reality.

40 professional people were asked to read sentences on cards and count the number of Fs in our sentence. The group was evenly split between 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8; I had 3. Then: "Are you sure? Count again." We all got the same number again, and I was even more sure of my 3. Then we were told to pass the cards around the room to see what other people were reading: we were all reading the same sentence! Was there a right answer or were we all right? There was a right answer, of course: 6. And the people who counted 6 were asked to open the eyes of the rest of us. Amazing!

What else am I wrong about? What are you wrong about? Some things don't matter, of course, but some things do. Just because somebody disagrees with you that doesn't mean you're right and they're wrong or, worse, you're good and they're bad. Whatever the disagreement let's assume the best of each other and work together in our search for reality. Confirmation bias is a very real and powerful thing.

The first step is always humility: "You know what? You might be right, I might be wrong. Let's explore this together." I love the work of Christian philosopher Esther Lightcap Meek (Covenant Epistemology): right and wrong may only be discovered or transmitted in loving relationships! "The truth is out there."

May 08, 2018

Luke 24: The Mind-Blowing Difference Jesus Makes!



Plus a beautiful song by our worship leader Taylor Leonhardt beginning at the 21:21 mark.

April 30, 2018

You Have Abandoned Your First Love (Rev. 2:4)

I love [fill in the blank]. I love family, I love the beach, I love football, I love lots of people and things. What do you love?

We’ve been talking about some of our idols. Listen and see if you can find the idol here in Genesis 29: After Jacob had stayed with Laban for a month, Laban said to him, “Should you work for free? Tell me what your wages should be.” Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the older was Leah [which means cow], and the name of the younger was Rachel [which means sheep]. Leah had weak eyes [which might mean she was not easy to look at], but Rachel, on the other hand, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel” [four times the customary price for a bride]. So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because he loved her so much…Then Jacob said to Laban, “My seven years is done. Give me my wife. I want to make love to her.”

What, or who, is the idol here? It’s love, or lust, or romance, or all the above. But it’s really Rachel, isn’t it? And you know the rest of the story: Jacob [which means deceiver] is deceived when he wakes up the next morning to find Leah in his bed. And he’s furious! But Laban replies: “You knew the oldest daughter must marry first.” Jacob the deceiver, who has a history of getting his way by cheating and cutting corners and bucking tradition, thought he could get away with another one but he fell into his own snare this time. So he agrees to work another seven years for his beloved Rachel! He was so blinded by love, blinded by love [I think that was the Rolling Stones?].

March 03, 2018

You Know A Man By The Company He Keeps

It was my name atop his list of party peeps?
So read the invitation—and not surprising.
For you know a man by the company he keeps!

Though he had a bad rap with the law and with drinks.
Good guy that I am, yes, I admit to some puzzling:
It was my name atop his list of party peeps?

Usually too busy for friends and family alike.
Curiosity got the best of me and—oh—what a sight!
For you know a man by the company he keeps?

The worthless, the vulgar, illegals, racists, thugs!
Abusers, molesters, dealers, pimps with their drugs!
It was my name atop his list of party peeps?

Naturally, aghast and agape, in fear I gawked.
So appalled and disgusted, in anger I balked.
For you know a man by the company he keeps.

“Physicians call the sick; your prognosis is clear.”
Said Jesus: “Welcome my friend, I’m so glad you’re here!”
It was my name atop his list of party peeps!
For you know a man by the company he keeps.

December 26, 2017

But This Gospel

Thy Kingdom come, here as in heav’n, we plead we pray.
But this gospel who can believe, and what to whom is now revealed?
I believe, Lord, my doubts assuage, help me today!

Many will come, rule in my name: esteemed of men, admired and crowned.
But lo a child, born in a barn: of no esteem, by men despised.
Thy Kingdom come, here as in heav’n, we plead we pray.

Nations shall rise, kingdoms shall war, doom and despair, death and the grave.
But he is called: the Prince of Peace—no war, no death, forevermore.
I believe, Lord, my doubts assuage, help me today!

Against this low, wannabe king, devils and men, they seethe and rage.
But God decrees: “No end shall be of his kingdom and of his rule.”
Thy Kingdom come, here as in heav’n, we plead we pray.

Yet injustice, with oppression, affliction too: this king they slew!
But by suff’ring—how can it be--he justified many, you, me.
I believe, Lord, my doubts assuage, help me today!

They say he lives, they say he rules, they say he comes, the Prince of Peace.
But this gospel who can believe, and what to whom is now revealed?
Thy Kingdom come, here as in heav’n, we plead we pray.
I believe, Lord, my doubts assuage, help me today!

December 17, 2017

An Advent Devotional: Put On Your Dancing Shoes!

Has God ever messed up your life? Mary, “a virgin engaged to be married to a man named Joseph” (Luke 1), had big plans. When, suddenly, the angel Gabriel showed up with big news: “Jesus is coming…in you!” And “Mary was greatly troubled,” for all the reasons you would be too: “Oh what a scandal!” “Joseph will surely leave me!” “Should I even keep the baby?” And she asked the angel a very good question: “But how is this possible, since I am a virgin?” After years of waiting and longing and hoping and preparing for the coming of Jesus, the good news (“gospel”) of his coming wasn’t such good news after all. Because it was suddenly personal, too personal. Because when God shows up, his plans are often very different from our plans.

He messed up Zechariah too. That’s the other birth announcement in Luke 1: “Your wife Elizabeth will bear a son, and you are to name him John.” Like Mary, he too was greatly troubled. And, like Mary, he too asked a very good question: “But how is this possible, since we’re too old to bear children?” For which he was struck mute. Why? Because Scripture says he asked the question out of unbelief.

November 16, 2017

GPS: God's Positioning System

"Christian" does not mean one who merely prayed the sinner's prayer when they encountered Christ but one who continues to follow Christ every day. And that's not easy. Because he took the way less traveled. The Way of Christ is a narrow road and our nature-habit-default is to hop on the freeway instead (Matthew 7).

The only way I know to stay on the straight and narrow, to use a different metaphor, is to "eat the word of God" (Jeremiah 15) as part of my daily diet. For "man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."

So the Bible is sort of like a Christian GPS. Because every day I get that voice navigation that is so radically course-altering that I have to decide once again whether or not I really want to continue down this Jesus path. I mean crazy-sounding stuff like this from today's readings:

"The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous are gracious and continue to give."--Psalm 37

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."--Luke 6

This Christian Way may be the death of me yet; and that just may be the point (Matthew 16)!