Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Church as Counter-Cultural

“What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.” The Carpenters sing these words in a society torn by anger, fear and selfishness. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun”[1]. As the world was evil, the world is evil and the world will continue as evil. “Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”[2]

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”[3] We are all wicked. None seeks God. None draws near to him. We are evil in our very being. God spoke saying, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”[4] The words cause our hearts to scream out, “Certainly I am not evil! Certainly I am not corrupted! Yes, I can see the darkness of others. I see their worthless schemes. But not I, I am not corrupt! Sure, I make mistakes, but I am a good person! I should not be punished!” And yet, we hear the Spirit testify to us that we are evil, that we need help. Denial wraps us like a blanket, as though lies can clothe darkness with light. “Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”[5] The cold grips of death grab us like chains, in the prison of our misery.

“What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.”[6]

In the deep darkness, that covers so completely that the hand can not be seen an inch from the face, a light suddenly pierces. A light so bright, that pain grips the eyes, they shut, teeth clench, the head jerks away, as arms instinctively rise to cover the face. What is it? Who can it be?!?!

A voice speaks, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”[7]

Can it be? Is it true? Are we to be freed from our prison of misery? Will chains which have held us here so tightly be lifted, fall off? “Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? [Pause] Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”[8]

The Bride of Christ has been freed! Liberated from the prison we made with our own hands of death. “For by the grace of God we have been saved, and this is not of our own righteousness, not of our own deeds, but is the gift of God, that none should boast.”[9]

And now, those who have accepted this gift, who have surrendered their destructive control to God through Christ, are redeemed. They no longer sit alone, but stand together, as one Bride, in one Spirit, unified, in fellowship, in community, as they were designed to be, one holy people.

This is radical. This is unusual. They stood as wicked, now stand as righteous, clothed no longer in lies, but in Christ’s own righteousness. They, like their bridegroom, lay down their collective life for others. But why? They are motivated by love. The love God lavished on them, they now lavish on those who hate them. Returning beatings with kisses. Returning cursing with blessing.

Indeed the Bride is counter-cultural, for where the culture seeks pain, suffering, selfishness; the Church seeks reconciliation, joy, selflessness. Where the culture sees worthless interruptions, the Church sees divine appointments. Where the culture sees unexpected children as a hindrance to careers, success, money and power, the Bride sees these children as a blessing, demonstrating love by laying down careers, success, money, power, even ministry.

The Bride sees through new eyes, eyes she was given by her Bridegroom, God, the true truth. The culture is blinded, snickering as her as though she cannot see the truth! As though she is foolish for loving! Her love may cost her, this she knows, for she has suffered for her love and will again. She chooses the better path, the one of costly love, following her Bridegroom to joy and happiness.

[1] Ecclesiastes 1:9
[2] Romans 7:24
[3] Romans 3:23
[4] Jeremiah 17:9
[5] Romans 7:24
[6] The Carpenters, “What the World Needs Now”
[7] Luke 2:10-11
[8] Romans 7:24-25a
[9] Ephesians 2:8-9

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

another adventure at the barber's

I know, it's quite unusual for me to post anything. It takes something so big that I actually sit down and write instead of attacking the piles of work before me. I got another haircut, yesterday. It reminded me of a while back when I got a cut that resulted in a tuff in the back and a tuff in the front. This time my hair resembles a soccer ball with bangs. Who thinks that looks cool? Who says, "Can I have a soccer ball with bangs cut please?" Apparently a lot of guys do, or a lot of guys just end up with those cuts. If you see someone with a cut like this, remember they probably didn't ask to look this way, it was chosen for them. Maybe it's a technique they teach them in school. Maybe imagining that the head is a round ball helps them get over their fear of cutting hair, like imagining everyone looking silly is suppose to help give better speeches.... Whatever it may be, for cryin' out loud, just make it look even, mullets went out with the 80s, thanks to too many guys trying to look like MacGyver. He's in a class all by himself, so just give up. You'll never make a bomb with a gum wrapper, spit and pocket lint, so ditch the mullet. And let's all ditch the soccer ball with bangs cut too.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

on sacred speech

Into the dark nothingness, God spoke. Saying, “Let there be light!” These words carry with them the newness of creation, for God is the Creator! And here, from the depths of God, speech is born. And here, from the holiness of God, sacredness exists. And thus, it is testified truthfully that God’s speech is sacred.
God is the origin of sacred speech. For there is one origin of speech, God. There is one origin of the sacred, God. Their common origin finds its fullness in, God.
His words are not those of weakness, but of strength, of power, of reverence. To the human ear, his voice is as pounding thunder. Yet, he gently whispers to us in the quietness of our souls. This is a great mystery.
In his presence, holy men fall as dead. His voice is proclaimed throughout Creation, Creation formed by his very words.
As Isaiah, many will hear God’s voice saying “Whom shall I send, and whom will go for us?” As Isaiah, let them answer, “Here am I! Send me.” Let them proclaim the words of God to a generation of men who have turned away and followed idols.
How will they speak? What will make them worthy to carry this holy message, this sacred speech? (pause) He will. His Spirit in them will. His Spirit is holy, sacred, set apart.
How can this Spirit of holiness dwell in men of mud? How can God, in his holiness, dwell in houses of wickedness? (pause) He will cleanse. His blood will cleanse them! Jesus the Anointed, Son of the Most High, whose blood was spilled for the race of men, whose spirit was given over to death, in their place, he will purify them with his blood. They will call upon him, and he will answer them, he will comfort them.
They will be called Christians, and God’s sacred, Holy Spirit will dwell in them. They will walk in his power. They will love in his power. They will speak in his power. They will abide in his Spirit.
And this is sacred speech, that God’s voice would pour out of their hearts. Sacred speech is made not only with the lips, or formed only in the vocal cords. Sacred speech is seen in their eyes, in their posture. Sacred speech shows itself with body language. Sacred speech cannot be contained by a pulpit, or a Sunday morning service. Sacred speech is not given only to one who speaks as pastor, for all are ministers in different roles.
Sacred speech is poured out on all of God’s children, through His Spirit. The body of Christ, the bride, the Church speaks this sacred speech every day. We speak it through our attitudes. We speak it through our actions. We speak it through our words.
Let the one who speaks on the behalf of God, with the authority of the local church, be careful of the words they speak. Let them find times of deep meditation with God over His Word. Let them live a life of prayer, unceasing, of relationship with God. Let them hide His words of life deep in their hearts. Let them abide in him. For apart from Him, they can do nothing.
May the words they will speak be written down. May they ask Him for guidance, in how to move themselves out of the way, and let Him shine forth.
As they seek to follow Him, to make him shine forth, and to lay down themselves, they will find a joy, a deep abiding joy. A joy that comes from obeying God. A joy that comes from seeing God work. A joy that comes from being in the center of His divine will for their lives. A joy that isn’t selfish, but selfless. A godly joy.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

the call of every disciple

In his incarnate ministry on earth, Jesus gathered many whom he called disciples. There were the masses that followed after. The group of 70 men whom he sent out. The group of 12 men whom would be drawn into deeper fellowship with him. The three, Peter, James and John. Jesus did not chose his twelve by their vast knowledge of the Scriptures or their honor among the people as skilled in their profession. He chose men of many backgrounds, of many personalities to found his church on. Often I find myself humbled that the God of the universe would chose me to follow him.
As we know from the Scriptures, the disciples, once hid themselves, locked in a room following his arrest, persecution, and death. They then were transformed with the empowerment of the Spirit following his resurrection. Indeed, God’s power has been given to us as children of the new covenant. Yet, I see in the disciples, something changed, something affected in them by their time with the Master. And I hear his voice, “follow me”.
I think of Peter and Andrew, James and John in their fishing boats, tending to the nets on the shore. Jesus is walking by, and he stops. He looks Peter directly in the eye, lifts his hand out to Peter, motioning him to come and says, “follow me”. The draw of the Master is too great for Peter to resist. He drops his net, steps out of the boat into the cold water and onto the shore, to Jesus, to the Master. Jesus then looks to Andrew, eye to eye they meet, and again Jesus calls, “follow me”. The invitation pulling so strong, as though Andrew can do no other, he drops his net and follows the Master.
Jesus continues to James and John, looking to them, and again repeating, “follow me”. They also come with him, in their hearts feeling joy and excitement. “This is it!” There is something so familiar, so true to the heart, that when this Jesus, this ordinary looking man from Nazareth comes, they know. They know. It is the call of God, they don’t know how they know, but they know. And they drop their nets, they drop their security, and follow Jesus.
For me, it was a Saturday night in February, I was gathered with hundreds of other Christians who were praising God. His Spirit came upon me, calling me, “follow me.” A slight pain came in the back of my throat, and then it grew, larger and larger, my eyes were burning, my mouth dropped. I was on my knees, hands on my face, tears streaming down, surrendered. I had fought so hard to be an engineer. And then as Peter, as Andrew, as James and John, I dropped my net, my security, and said, “Ok, I’ll follow you.”
And as we sit here today, I ask you, do you heard him calling? The voice of the Master, calling us. He is saying, “follow me.”

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


"Who can really be faithful in great things if he has not learned to be faithful in the things of daily life?" ~ Bonhoeffer