Monday, May 31, 2010

freedom.

On a day of remembering those who have served others sacrificially, we take pause to also recognize what freedom is, and what it compels.  How freedom transforms the minuscule patterns of life, as well as the over-arching "way" that things occur.  Both action and nature become something entirely different.


When the Israelites were freed from their Egyptian captivity.  The could walk away, following a new leader.  There was hope, and something they'd believed in a long time was being fulfilled.  Yet they soon found themselves falling right back into many of the patterns of a life in slavery.  In need of the predictable routine, even when that routine was killing them individually, and as a people. 

When they were freed from their period of exile to Babylon, some great things began to happen as they were allowed to rebuild the temple (even though that itself took some prophetic encouragement).  But as we see in the world Christ was born into, they'd once again allowed other influences into how they functioned as the chosen people of God.

In both major cases, we see an entire people experiencing bondage and control for a long period of time, the celebration of their freedom, and finally the plateau and fall of their excitement about freedom to the point where they find new realms of bondage and captivity to place themselves in.

Here we are.  Both as free citizens of the United States of America, and as free citizens of the Kingdom of God.

When we declared our freedom as the original 13 colonies, we were shedding the rule of an outside influence.  We were making a very important statement about the inherent rights of all human beings, and our lives immediately began to celebrate and live by those rights existence.

And so here we are, slaves to culture.  A-mused by entertainment.  Planning for our own current and future financial health at the expense of those under our feet.  Disregarding the rights of "all humanity" and recognizing the rights of "humanity that meets our expectations".

When Jesus was crucified and resurrected, He inaugurated a new way of life.  A New way of existing.  Freedom from the previous existence.  The Spirit of Truth came, and revealed the powers, systems, and brokenness of this world as empty.  Established a Kingdom where Heaven and Earth were being joined together, and invited us to continue His work and experience His Life.

And so here we are, bearing burdens of temptation.  Broken relationships, bad habits, and living according to the value systems of the world.  Hype, sales pitches, flashy images, and "being trendy" fill finance & strategy meetings of churches with so much financial stability they're in the news regularly for how many incredible things they do....which usually means more about an exchange of goods and services, and less about what the Holy Spirit is accomplishing.  church growth trumps Church health.

We find ourselves in need of experiencing freedom again.  An experience made New.  A refreshed existence of celebrating freedom as if tasting it for the first time.  In a way that transforms not only action, but our very nature.  We search for the face of our captors, and recognize them as if gazing into a mirror.  We repent.

Lord, make us free once more.  Free us wholly, and forever. 

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Road (no spoilers)

Finally was able to watch "The Road" last night.  So many thoughts about the movie and the book, by Cormac McCarthy, but altogether thought they were both very well done.  I read the book accidentally a couple years ago, and never got a chance to see the movie in theaters.  I waited patiently.

In an entertainment culture that wants their sequences and plot lines about the same as they want their drive through order: fast, cheap, super sized, and without much thought/nutrition to it...here is a story that is counter-culture.  Borderline boring, at some points, but never quite going over the edge.

But seriously.  Society collapsed years ago, there's no signs of new life anywhere, despair and hunger fill almost every moment that fills the screen.....how much flashy excitement would you risk trying to shove in there?  It's a genuine movie/story.  A father and son journeying toward a hope that lies always beyond their reach.

As they travel, we see a world that hasn't seen new life in many years.  Trees are falling spontaneously, the sky is gray everywhere, and they attempt to keep from resorting to cannibalism like so many others have.  I suppose that's the one caveat to the film - it can be intensely disturbing at some points.  Also his solid dedication to protecting his son, who embodies the only hope that pulls him forward.  I imagine that's what earned the "R" rating, along with some of the language.  Not to mention a couple scenes where he jumps into the water and you see his bare rear in the distance.  I'd say if your TEEN wants to watch it....watch it with them to discuss together.  Definitely not appropriate for younger audiences.

But in a world where most ratings of this nature come from mindless, purposeless, struggles for our money...this one is earned by simply portraying brutally genuine scenes of a world that has lost life, green, newness, and almost all hope.

If ever there was a movie that captured how much our current world is in need of God bringing together Heaven and Earth and making all things NEW, of bringing life from death, of a world desperate and  hungry for something "Other" to move....here is one. 

Come, Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Stanley Cup Finals

Detroit was out a few weeks ago.  But I'm still paying attention.  That's right, I still care. Mainly because it's the NHL, and I love hockey, and get a bit teary eyed when Lord Stanley's Cup is hoisted. But this year, there's a new reason:

Chicago may actually win the cup.

What that may do for their fan base in Central, Illinois, I'm not sure. So far, there seems to be a bit of a wall somewhere around Bloomington, and most people south of that wall seem to forget hockey exists.

Will this shatter the wall? Or at least, make a larger hole?  
I'll be honest, there's a small part of me who wants to see something else happen:  I'd love the media to really hype Marian Hossa, and how this will be his 3rd year in the finals, with a different team each year. How the past two years he's watched "the other team" hoist the cup, and how this may be his year.  Then to see him cry once again, as Philadelphia steals the cup from his grasp...

But that's probably just a bit childish.  GO HAWKS!!!

Saturday, May 29th - @ Chicago, 8pm - NBC
Monday, May 31st - @ Chicago, 8pm - NBC
Wednesday, June 2nd - @ Philadelphia, 8pm - VERSUS
Friday, June 4th - @ Philadelphia, 8pm - VERSUS
Sunday, June 6th - @ Chicago, 8pm - NBC
Wednesday, June 9th - @ Philadelphia, 8pm - NBC
Friday, June 11th - @ Chicago, 8pm - NBC


My guess is:  Chicago takes the cup in Game 6.  Mainly because that's a Wednesday night, and I'm planning on having a STANLEY CUP party with the teens that night.  A good night for new hockey fans to be born. :)


ps.  Steve Yzerman heading to Tampa Bay for a GM position.....we'll miss you Captain.  
You're welcome back ANYtime.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

pentecost

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rC3Bz62FfNU

Friday, May 21, 2010

miracles vs. power

In Acts chapter 2 we read the story of God pouring His Spirit out over all people and creation in a way like never before.  Like NEVER before.  Seriously, that part is easy to lose.  It changed EVERYTHING.  The coming together of Heaven and Earth in new ways began something incredible here, and they are continuing to come together today.

In verse 22, we read words describing Jesus, whose Spirit they're now receiving.  Clarifying that this is not some "new" or "separate" thing that God is accomplishing, rather the continuation of what had been happening through the physical presence of Jesus Christ.  In these words, we find the word "dunamis", describing things Jesus had accomplished while He walked among them.

This word is used about 38 times throughout all the Gospels.  Rarely is it ever translated as "miracle/s".  Rather, it's definition is more focused on "power, ability, inherent nature, resources, etc."  The meaning here was clear - this is NOT a Spirit that is coming to help us do parlor tricks.  To help us defy laws of nature, or win contests, or prove anything to skeptics.

This is the raw, natural, inherent, wonder-inducing SPIRIT OF GOD being poured out as something transformingly accessible to all.  The Spirit who was rightly feared for generations before, now bursting through the veil, colliding with humanity and creation in a way that CHANGES THINGS.  Which brings me to a closing thought:  How USEFUL is the Holy Spirit in our lives?

In Revelation 3, we hear the famous verses about God vomiting lukewarm water out of his mouth.  Commonly, we hear that this points out "hot water is good, cold water is bad, so we need to be on fire for Jesus!!" (the crowds cheer)  But that could be missing out on something.  Laodicea had sources of water on both sides, hot springs of Hierapolis, and Colossae had the cold waters of Lycus.  Laodicea had ducts from Hierapolis, but the water would've become lukewarm by the time it got there.

Hot water is useful.  Cold water is useful.  Lukewarm water is just wet.  

We've been given the Holy Spirit for more purposes than simply to have it.  God's Spirit is always active, or it isn't there.  Not hype.  Not miracles.  Not explosive showy tricks and intricately planned out emotionally driven worship services.

But transformed and empowered living in a way that is only made possible by the Spirit of Jesus who lived the same way.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

yet another "things I've learned" post.

- The more rears there are in a home, the faster the toilet paper is used up.  Adding to that effect, is that every booger needs it's own square.

 - Bedtime is an art.  Not a science.

 - If toys can fit in the mouth, they will fit in the mouth.

 - My wife may not be Superwoman, but Superwoman could never do all that my wife does.  I win.

 - My daughters are just as cute when I'm upset with them.  This does not help with discipline.  The first step of which, is disciplining myself to be more disciplinary.  Sometimes I approach it the wrong way and hurt my feelings.  Then I find me apologizing to myself, skipping past the discipline, and in the end - Addie is down the hall with a new toy.

 - I'd much rather decide to get up at 5:30am, than be woken up at 7am.

 - If my life involves more things that require organization, I become a more organized person.  (slightly)

 - I enjoy the art involved in putting words together.

 - The Redwings no longer have Yzerman playing for them.   Or Chelios.  Or Legace.  Or Federov.  Or Larianov.  Or Shanahan.  (but I still love them.)

 - When saving a date for something important, it's good to have the correct date.

 - Speaking of dates, date nights resemble college once again.  Can't afford anything big, but don't need much more than to be together, away from the bustle.

 - I miss having 7 or so guys to jump in a mini-van together and drive to a concert, ending the night hitting someone's dog on accident, arguing a bit, and locking ourselves in the van until we've settled.

 - Facebook is awesome.

 - Facebook is horrible.

 - I'm simultaneously so glad and jealous that I didn't have social networking websites available to me when I was a teenager.

 - Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a man whose life is worth over 1,000 pages of biographing.

 - Ants LOVE my daughters and their inability to keep food in their mouths and dishes.

 - I enjoy doing the dishes, because there is a measurable start, finish, and sense of accomplishment.

 - No, I won't do yours.

 - I am blessed, and still thirsty for the supernaturally unexplainable outpouring of God's Spirit on a life that is complete, and yet incomplete without each of these areas being given New Life...looking forward to Pentecost Sunday...

Monday, May 17, 2010

works

In our scripture this past week was a verse that opens up some discussion on "faith vs. works". Ephesians 2:8-9 remind us that it is by faith we've been saved, not by works, so that no one may boast.  But the words we read in Revelation 22:12 seem unfamiliar in a land that has lost the value of works:

"See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone's work." Rev. 22:12

Now, just in "Googling" the verse, I found some popular explanations out there already.  One take, was that this verse is related to John 6:29, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him who he has sent."  That our "work" is simply to believe.  Which meshes well with the "saved by faith" message we are preaching.  But it seems to extract that verse alone is to cheapen the dialogue Jesus was having with His followers.  They're wanting to do great things for God, and ask how they can go about doing them.  Jesus points out that it's God actually doing the miraculous things, that all they need to do is believe, and the great things will be accomplished as they live.  But this simple explanation and dismissal also seems to be missing something.

When we look at the Greek, the literal translation of Rev. 22:12 becomes, "behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me to give to each one as the work of him is."

The word used for "as" here is "hos" (sounds like "host" without the "t"). As you can see in the word list on that link, nowhere in the KJV, and only 2 places in the NAS is this word translated as "according".  So what does that mean about the verse we're looking at?  That perhaps it's less about being "results/payment for work that was done", and more simply about being very much connected. 

This past Sunday, Pastor Gerry reminded us of something important.  This is "my reward" (Jesus speaking).  It is not our reward that Jesus is giving us for something we've done.  When my oldest daughter Addie comes to me, and asks me for a drink for her sister who is thirsty, it is MY reward to be able to give her what she's asked me for.

We talk about "Kingdom work" all the time.  That these things we're doing are somehow connected to what God began in Jesus Christ, and promises to bring to completion.  So it makes sense that in talking about Jesus bringing about New Heaven/New Earth, and bringing in a New Jerusalem; Jesus would consider it HIS reward to be able to give to us the fulfillment of everything we've been working toward.

This verse is a reminder that these things we're doing are somehow connected to the fulfillment of God making all things new.  That God isn't going to scrap all the work we've done, the things that have been made new, the love we've developed, the fellowship and beauty and artistic life filled things that exist - they will all somehow be involved in what Jesus considers His reward to bring about.

May we continue our Kingdom work with that knowledge...

Friday, May 14, 2010

unclean may not be so bad. :)

Over this past week, our church heard from Revelation 21:10 through 22:5.  Within those verses, is verse 21:27, speaking of the New Jerusalem.  It says, "nothing unclean will enter it".  That seems like a pretty factual statement, and one worth knowing more about...especially if we desire to enter that city someday.

The Greek word used here is "Koinos".  Its meaning is pretty obvious and straightforward.  "Common, ordinary, belonging to generality; unhallowed, profane, Levitically unclean."

When looking at the word, however, a larger word came to mind.  Many of us have even heard of this word, often used as a catchy name for a Sunday School or Small Group.  The word, "Koinonia", meaning fellowship, community, joint participation, intimacy, etc.  "Koinonia"  comes from "Koinonos", which means partner, associate, comrade, or companion.  "Koinonos" comes from "Koinos" mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Just looking at this two words then, it would seem "Koinonia" might not be a great thing to be involved in. "Fellowship of unclean"?

Then we go one step further to find out what the root of the word "Koinos" might be.  The word "soon", which simply means "with".  At the very root of all of this is a simple word that connects one thing to another.  Not good or bad, simply offering a relational signifier.

So what does all this mean?

It makes sense now, that John doesn't simply say "unclean", but adds to it things like "anyone who practices abomination or falsehood..." which most of us would say belong to the category "unclean".  But unclean doesn't seem to automatically have a very negative connotation, as noted above.  "Unclean" may simply mean something that is "common, unhallowed, belonging to generality"...something that's not any different.

Even though that seems to soften the blow, it really becomes a much more urgent understanding.  Many of us would raise our hands if asked "who here believes in Jesus Christ, and has accepted Him as Savior?"  But do our lives look very different from the lives of those who haven't? 

May we pray for God to continue making our lives "different".  Not just wearing shirts that say Jesus, and praying before meals. But actually living differently than the world around us, even and especially when it's difficult.  When is the last time we made a decision that felt like we were letting go of what we wanted, for what God wants?

May we live differently, love differently, celebrate differently, 
and exist differently this week...in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

a re-ordering

"Dear Jesus, come into my heart" - we pray.

What we often mean - "Dear Jesus, save me from burning in hell, and help my life to make more sense.  Make me successful.  Give me super-healing powers from sickness.  Bring purpose into the road that I'm already on, and help it to smooth out a bit."

Heard a quote from a book I'm reading this past week.  It's from Francis Chan's "Forgotten God".  Chan says, "Jesus Christ did not die on the cross in order to follow us."


So often we join our Israelite fathers in forgetting why God offers what He does.  They often missed the point, assuming God's presence was with them for their own sake alone.  We do the same thing, assuming God offers to transform our heart and life simply for our own benefit.  How often to we pray, "God, please help me with this thing I'm about to do?" compared to how often we seek where God is working, and join in?


Salvation is a prayer that says - "God, forgive me.  Come and fill me.  Transform my nature to yours, for your sake.  Use me in the lives of others, and in creation, bringing about life, Love, forgiveness, mercy, etc.  I want to make all things "new" with you."  (although even this prayer falls a bit short, by focusing quite a bit on "me". In reality, our salvation is only a small part of the amazingly huge thing God is doing, that we join with.)


We make plans, and ask God to bless them.  We arrange our lives, and then ask God to come and fill it.  We launch our ships, and on the way we pray that God would fill our sails.


But what if we re-ordered the way we live?  

If we re-thunk what "salvation's" purpose was?


What if it was our nature to pray and seek where God is at work first?  Where is God bringing healing?  Where is God giving life?  Where is mercy being offered?  Where is humanity and creation being restored and made new?  Where are prisoners being set free?  Where are blind being made to see?  Where are the lame walking, and the mute speaking?

Those questions lead to others.  Where does God desire to work?  Where is brokenness?  Where is death?  Where are the offenders?  Where are suffering humans, and imperfections in them and creation?  Where are the captives?  Where are the blind?  Where are the lame?  Where are those who have no voice?


May we find those places, and pray that God would empower us to join in...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Horse-like Human-faced Locusts

In Revelation Chapter 9, John continues to speak of what it's like when God's Kingdom comes in the midst of a broken, fallen Babylon, world.  I remember hearing these verses when I was young, and wondering why in the world the God of both Old and New Testaments would suddenly be interested in creating a world straight out of a horrible B-Movie you'd watch around midnight while eating way too much ice cream.

Seriously....giant horse-like, human-faced locusts?

John makes it obvious to his readers in verse 4, that these locusts are not actually locusts at all.  After all, grass/green growth/trees are about all genuine locusts are interested in devouring.  But leading into this section, verses 1 and 2 point us toward an understanding/reading that is less science fiction, and more revealing why Christ's Kingdom coming is so needed:

Verse one - Lucifer being cast out, and given keys....not to death/hades...but simply to a "shaft" leading there.  Should be obvious here, this isn't something that's "going to" happen in end times.  This is something that has happened.  We continue to read with that understanding.


Verse two - the sin released impacts not only humanity, but creation as well.  This point is more expanded in the previous chapter 8, where it talks more broadly about the impact sin has had on this broken world.

Verse three - we see sin becoming more actively described here, as locusts.  Locusts that impact those whose mode of being (forehead) is not marked by Christ more harshly than those of us made free from them.

Verse five & six- humanity will not helplessly lose life simply due to sins existence.  But sin will definitely impact humanity from it's beginning to end.  The life cycle of a locust is about 5 months, which seems to point to humanity being tortured by sins existence without a break, as long as it exists...with no relief.

Verses seven & eight - sin can begin as simply an attractive option.  Deceptively "beautiful" in many regards, comforting our egos, our wallets, and our esteem.

Verse nine - sin also allures us with promises of power, control, and dominance.

Verses ten through twelve - sin is by nature destructive, painful, leading to suffering, and evil.  It destroys individuals, relationships, and entire communities, and it's source is the "fallen star"...who's focus was self.

May we continue to study the Word of God, and not be afraid of the book that promises to be a Revelation of Jesus Christ...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Submission Quotient...

I've been married for almost 8 years now, so I obviously know everything there is to know about marriage.  But stay with me...

An interesting illustration was made this past week, that I felt worth repeating/fleshing out.  Many of us have heard of the "IQ" or "Intelligence Quotient" tests.  These tests do not measure how smart a person is.  They don't speak of what has happened, is happening, or will happen.  These tests simply pointed to the "potential" level of mental capacities a person has.

In a marriage, there are many aspects and topics that can be discussed.  Communication in both directions, both of difficult topics and joyful words from the heart, can be an area that couples struggle in simply due to varying modes of "Love Languages".  Many more topics flow out of this, the marriage relationship, that has often been identified as one of, if not THE most important relationship with a human God offers us.  A relationship from which so many others can flow from.  The importance of doing this one well....is huge.

In Ephesians chapter 5, we hear the word of God to both husbands and wives.  It speaks about submission in love.  The illustration used this past week was the comparison of a "submission quotient" to the "IQ" tests.  the "SQ" of a couple can be a great indicator of how healthy their marriage is/can be.  Not a guarantee or proof.  The beautiful thing about an "SQ" is that God offers to help us increase it on a regular basis, in our relationship with him.  Most of us would naturally score fairly low on the "putting others before ourselves" area.  But so much of our journey in Christ is about being released from our selves, and directed toward a care/love/concern for the other.

I'm not sure what Sarah and my "SQ" score would be.  I'm certain it's better when hockey playoffs aren't on.  I suppose that's another important aspect....submission is not dependent on half of the relationship.  It's a mutual submissiveness that allows for a healthy marriage.  Love and desire to put the other before ourselves, coming from both directions, allows for balance, and points to the kind of relationship God desires to have with His bride.  A self-less, sacrificial, and hope-filled love for the other that speaks Gods' Kingdom into a broken world unable to relate well to each other on their own.

As a husband, I pray God continues to increase what I bring to our cumulative "SQ".  Not only in calendar planning, but in toothpaste cap securing, etc.  That I would moment by moment learn to let go of self, and increase in my ability to Love my wife, and speak God's Love into/over/at her in private and in public...

Happy Mothers Day, Moundford...

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Update from below.

Detroit 0 - San Jose 3

We're down 3 games in a playoff series.  (Best of 7 means when someone wins 4, it's over.)  This hasn't happened in a while.  I just stared numbly at the screen last night, as San Jose celebrated their overtime win.  There has been talk of "end of an era".  Maybe.  But it was one incredible era, and it birthed a pretty hardcore fan here.

And, it's not over.

Twice in NHL history, this has happened before.  In 1942, everyone thought Detroit was going to seal the deal on the Toronto Maple Leafs.  But no, they came back winning 4 games straight to win the Stanley Cup!!!!  In 1975 quarterfinals, everyone was cheering for the Pittsburgh Penguins, as they looked to clinch the series and head into round 2.  But no, the NY Islanders came back winning 4 games in a row, climbing right over the waddling birds.

It has happened = It CAN happen.

Detroit has got to be pretty ticked off right now.  Some of the officiating, if not skewed, at least has been spectacularly horrible in recent games.  Howard, although not as solid as he could be, is still stopping plenty of shots, and looking like the starter goalie they're treating him as. 

It all comes down to this.  Game 4.  In Detroit.  Thursday night.  I don't care who you are, or where you live, or if you're about to have a baby (shout out to Katy and Richie)...you need to watch this game.  No matter who wins, you will see some desperate hockey being played.  And if Detroit comes out with a victory, it will extend the incredible hockey at least one more game.  Hopefully more. :)

These games birth hockey fans.  

If ever you've wondered why people watch it...watch Thursday night.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Weldon with Jesus.

I spent the first half of today taking a hike with Jesus @ Weldon Springs. I asked Him to lead me and clarify the messages I would be giving to Junior High Camp this summer. He was definitely faithful in those. But here is why I love taking walks with Jesus...

He gives so much more than we ask. I saw bull frogs larger than my fist here. Brought back great memories of catching frogs at Columbia Creek Park, in Michigan...while mom got the strawberry shortcake ready. :)

A neat moment where I saw the barren terrain (think "beginning of Lion King"), and it was as if this was that same scene after God's return/making new.


I took a moment here to acknowledge the possibility that God was using the dew all over my feet, and symbolically "washing them"...another reason to always wear flip flops. :)


When you bring a pole, you worry about catching one, but when you use your eyes - every fish is yours. :)


I thought about the effort it took to carry these few stone circles into the middle of a path in the woods. I hope that person knows how beautifully they've worked with what God has made here. :)  Perhaps we are laying such stones in our own lives...may we be encouraged to know what can become when we work with God...


A great morning, got a jump start on a transformational week this summer, and burned a few calories.  Thanks God. :)

Monday, May 03, 2010

καινός & New Youth Logo

Definition:
NEW

1. as respects form:
recently made, fresh, recent, unused, unworn 

2. as respects substance:
of a new kind, unprecedented, novel, uncommon, unheard of 

"So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!" - 2 Corinthians 5:17

"Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it." - Revelation 2:17

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more." Revelation 21:1

"And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." - Revelation 21:5

Many thanks for Josh Jenkins for his assistance in using graphic design to bring our logo idea to life!