Offended… by Jesus? & other musings…

Continuing in the vein of my last post, “Who? Me? Offended?” I’m writing about being offended by Jesus. (Yes, you read that last sentence right. Offended. By. Jesus.) “But how,” you might ask, “would it happen that I would be offended by JESUS?” I’m glad you did.

I believe we can be offended by Jesus (God, the Holy Spirit, & God’s Word,) when:

  • We have expectations that aren’t met.
  • Prayers go unanswered.
  • A tragedy strikes us/someone close to us.
  • We’re confronted with the “hard sayings” of Jesus. You know, the passages of Scripture which tick you off. Make you say “no way.” The passages that seem to fly against what we, personally, know & believe to be Right. And Good. And Loving. Sometimes they’re passages about sin. Sometimes they’re about the cost of Christianity. Sometimes we just don’t get it, like the passage where Jesus tells the crowd, “Want eternal life? Eat My flesh, & drink My blood.” Eww. (For the context, look at John 6:22-66 )

In 1Peter 2:4-8Peter compares Jesus to a stone: for some people (those who believe in Him & obey His teachings,) Jesus is the Cornerstone, aka the stone that is used by builders as a reference for every other stone in the structure. For others people, (those who do not believe Him/obey His teachings,) Jesus is called “The Stumbling Stone,” & “The Rock of Offense.” Notice: the thing that determines HOW we experience Christ is what we do/how we respond to His Word. With belief & obedience or with unbelief & disobedience.


There are several passages in Scripture where people get offended with Jesus. Here’s a few examples:

  • Matthew 15:1-20 – The Pharisees: they came to Jesus complaining because His disciples didn’t follow their special tradition of ceremonial hand washing before eating. It really bothered them… And Jesus’ response: “It really bothers Me that you’re NOT concerned with the direct commandment of God to honor your parents. What’s worse, you make up religious reasons to justify it. Bunch of hypocrites!” And they were offended.
  • Matthew 13:53-58 – The people in His hometown: Jesus went home for a visit & continued declaring the gospel Good News, & inviting people to believe & put their trust in Him. You’d think the ample evidence shown by those healed, transformed, etc… coupled with the powerful declaration of God’s truth, with authority, would be convincing. It wasn’t. Their response: “How can this be? We KNOW this guy. We KNOW who His dad was? We KNOW His mom? We KNOW His brothers & sisters (they’re right over there.) No way this guy can be who He says.” And they were OFFENDED at Him, & did not believe. And as a direct result, Jesus didn’t do many mighty works there.
  • Mark 3:1-21 – Jesus’ family: In Mark 3, we hear stories of Jesus healing a bunch of people, bringing deliverance to people oppressed by evil spirits, & calling a group of guys to follow Him, learn from Him, & then DO what He was doing. He went home, the crowds gathered, people followed, & Jesus’ family freaked out. They couldn’t believe what He was doing. And they didn’t see it as good or positive. They said, “We have to take Him & put Him away. He’s out of His mind!

All that to say… It stands to reason – if it hasn’t happened already, there WILL come a time where we will be at a crossroads… where the very edges of commitment to believing in Christ unconditionally are tested, when our own sense of Right & Wrong are challenged by something in Scripture… & how we respond to Jesus (& His Word) in that situation will determine if He will be our Cornerstone or the Rock of Offense we stumble over.

Family dinner, IT’S A BOY!, & a journey to feeling…

One of my favorite things at this phase of life is getting together with my family – my kids, their spouses/fiance’ & families – for a meal. Being able to gather in one of our houses for a couple hours of good talks, laughter, fun, & of course food. This last Saturday we got together at Joey & Grace’s place for an early dinner – tacos. It was a little surreal for theBean & me as we brought drinks & let the rest of the family take care of the cooking. And goodness! Those Locke girls are really great cooks! I could get used to this.


Upon our arrival, we discovered that the girls had planned a surprise for us – not only were we going to eat great food… it was a gender-reveal party for Johnny & Joelle’s little 22-weeks-along-or-so biscuit… our grandbaby. They were really creative in how they set up the living room/kitchen… there was a white board where everyone not in the know could place their vote (Mister or Miss)… pink & blue balloons abounded… as did white-chocolate covered pink & blue popcorn… Nuts or No-Nuts M&M’s… lots of fun.

And then it was time to find out… a closed box full of chocolate strawberries was produced & Joelle teased the moment just long enough for my emotions to kick-in & my eyes to get misty… & then she popped the lid… IT’S A BOY! They’re having a boy. Which means grandson #3 for us. We couldn’t be happier.


Up until I was about 30 years old, I would have had a difficult time identifying the majority of emotions I felt. Mostly I cultivated a stoic, Spock-like (or Lt. Data, pre-emotion chip, for you TNG fans,) visage to cope with the overflowing cauldron of unidentified, powerful, & often incapacitating feelings swirling around somewhere near where I’d identify the location of my guts.

Sorting through faded memories I remember some of my early life’s painful things: being bullied… I was a pretty small kid who turned his L’s & R’s into W’s, which made me the target of a handful of boys (& one 5th grade girl) at ages 5 & 6. Being mocked for wearing Toughskins jeans sized “Husky” (which evidently got translated as “Fat” by my 3rd grade class). Being picked last for sports. Abuse at the hands of a relative. Being told in 6th grade I didn’t have a good voice for public speaking (I had had to do a speech for reading class & after I finished my ‘helpful’ teacher was evidently trying to point me away from a career path where I’d have to talk in public…) The list goes on.

I also remember GOOD memories. Positive things. Finding out I was going to be a big brother, 3x/over. Excelling in school. Making a real friend who would stand with me. Parents who worked long hours at multiple jobs to provide for our family. Falling in love with the Giants via my transistor radio & a headphone… knowing in the deepest part of me that I knew Jesus Christ, & even more importantly, He knew me too.

Through all of it, good & bad, joy & pain, I never really knew what to do with my feelings when they rose up, other than not being quick to get angry… (learned that from the Bible). So, I kinda just let them be, not realizing the impact that would have on my own life, but especially on my relationships with others. I kept people at a distance (physical & emotional). I rarely shared my real thoughts & feelings with others, & the few times I really risked, my over-correction/self-protection responses kicked in at the speed of a snapping resistance band that’d been stretched too far. This led to me being angry a lot of the time… or at least on the verge of being angry. Loved ones, esp. theBean, Pasty, iDoey, & theWeez, walked on egg-shells around me, never knowing what would make me ‘snap.’ And I never cried.


So what changed when I hit 30? I came home from work & heard my oldest son say, “Dad’s home!” This was accompanied by the sound of little feet scampering… AWAY from the front door. They all ran to hide. In their rooms. I was crushed… & asked theBean if I was really as bad as it seemed I was… & she bravely answered my pop-the-lid-off-the-can-of-worms question truthfully. And hearing her answers, watching her tears, & seeing her pain (& fear) hurt worse than just about anything I’d ever been through… I hated this, & felt powerless to do anything about it.

And then I felt a nudge. “Go see a counselor.” A guy I’d grown up with had just moved back into the area to open a counseling office… & his name was the one that I believe God popped into my head… so I called his office, & made an appointment. I saw him 12 times, (1x/week for 12 weeks). There were no real “A-ha” moments in those weeks, no ground-breaking, earth-shattering times when the angels sang, the heavens parted, & the lights shone down on me. But something definitely changed, or at least began to change. The counseling sessions, the questions asked, & the investment of money we really didn’t have to spare (still remember it was $120/session…) coupled with my drive for self-improvement & the insights of the Holy Spirit helped me identify WHAT I was feeling… another dear friend & mentor, Chuck, helped me through countless conversations & questions discover how to find out WHY I was feeling what I was. Through it all I was growing in what I’ve since discovered is called “Emotional Intelligence.” 


And then one day I was wrestling with a general feeling of “blah.” Like I was stuck in emotional quicksand, aware of the overwhelming-ness of being down in a hole with no real idea or ability to get out. I remember asking myself out loud, “WHAT is wrong with me?” And I got a response from the Holy Spirit… “You need to grieve the loss of your brother.”  I had no idea what that meant. I thought I’d done that when he’d died 11 years earlier.. How was I supposed to grieve him again?

So I talked myself through it, & verbally identified different feelings I had surrounding the memories of the discovery of Johnny’s cancer. The months of separation, distance, & treatment. Good news from the doctors only to be followed by news of a relapse. Nothing more to be done. The anger I felt at the nurse who asked him, “So, you want to die here in the hospital or at home…” His last weeks. Our last conversation. My heaven-directed, heart-rending desperate prayer in my parents driveway, asking for a hope-beyond-hope miracle. The phone call that came on Fathers’ Day, June 16, 1990 at the crack of dawn/doom. The empty spot in my heart. The funeral. The conversations with well-meaning friends who, not knowing what to say, said stupid things anyway. (NOTE:” If you don’t know what to say, limit your words. Sometimes your presence does more than any words you could say.” -Jerry Cook.)

And the tears started to flow. Like a summer rain, it started slow & then turned into a tempest. I was crying. Snotty-faced, out of control, can’t breathe, no sounds coming out/terrible anguish sounds coming out – Crying. The dam in my soul that had been there seemingly my whole life broke. And not just a little. It BLEW UP.  And I cried. About everything. Nothing. It felt like I spent the next year crying, & I didn’t know how to make it stop. Chuck wisely said, “Well, maybe you’re just catching up on all the years you DIDN’T cry.” And he smiled when he said it.


I don’t think any of my kids remember their dad who didn’t cry & who was pissed off most of the time. What they remember (& rehearse to the point that it’s an inside joke) is that I am a crier. I cry when I’m happy. I cry when I’m sad. I cry at movies. When I listen to really great music. I cry when I’m proud of them, & I cry when they hurt. TheWeez said she didn’t want me to do her wedding because, after all, “You’ll just be a crying mess. You can sit in the front row & do that.”  She knows me :).


And so I go back to Saturday, to the gender-reveal party… I had already cried at finding out they were pregnant. And in that moment right before the pink box was opened to let us know IT’S A BOY!, I felt the flood of emotion overcome me. By this point in my life, I have gotten more comfortable with my feelings & emotions, & its not a foregone conclusion anymore that I’m going to be a weepy & melty mess when it happens. I can remember thinking, “K.I.T. Keep It Together.” And I only cried a little bit. A couple tears, rolling down the face in a most-meaningful way.

And we celebrated our soon-coming grandson. And a growing family. And I thought about the  journey of emotional discovery, growth, & freedom of the last 16 years… & I’m so thankful for a God who wouldn’t leave me bottled up & broken, but who answered my prayers with people to help me.

Lost…& found…

When I went to get dressed this morning, I couldn’t find my pants. So, I did what we most like were all taught to do: think. Where was the last time you had your ______? That tactic usually works… except with my pants, I was pretty sure I knew where my pants were, because, hey, I don’t normally take my pants off until I get into the privacy of my own room. It’s a thing.

So then I had to ask myself the question: Is there any other place I could have taken my pants off? I have to say I couldn’t think of ANYWHERE I could have… & then I was sad. REALLY sad. Those were my pants, the pants that I liked, the pants that fit me. It is hard to find pants that fit, & those really did.

My sadness flowed into a low-grade melancholy as I searched around the closet for something else to wear… I’d had my heart set on my pants, & now they were gone, who knows where. I sighed. And remembered…

I went to the gym last night after work, & I hadn’t had time to change into my gym clothes before I left work (normally I change before I leave work. It’s a thing. But I digress). Maybe I left my pants in the locker at the gym. With no lock on the locker. NOTE: I know it’s probably not a good thing to rely solely on a presumed Mens’ Locker room etiquette or code that no one would touch my pants (& my black Under Armour polo!), but its been working for me so far.

However, I’d never stretched the limits of this “Mens’ Locker Room Code” overnight. So hoping beyond hope, I called the gym & asked if someone would check to see if my pants were still in the locker I used; left the guessed locker number, my name & number & waited for a call back. Figured it would take about 5 minutes or so. I waited 10 & decided to go check the locker room myself.


 

Arrived at the gym 10 minutes later, identified myself as the caller who may have left his pants overnight in a locker. The girl at the front desk said, “My manager was just in there & couldn’t find anything.” Wonderful. But I wouldn’t believe it until I checked.

Over the years, I have learned that when something doesn’t belong to someone, they aren’t nearly as diligent in looking for lost things as is the individual who lost it. Those were my pants, & if they were in the locker room, I would find them. I went to the locker number I had guessed & BOOM! There were my pants, still hanging majestically on the hook where I’d left them the night before.

A flood of joy WAY too big for the occasion poured over me. I was giddy. Laughed out loud & danced a little jig. The melancholy was gone as quickly as it had come, & a joy replaced it. I walked from the locker room, pants held high all the way out the front door. The girl at the front desk clapped for me & cheered, “Yay!” (Evidently she values pants nearly as much as I do.) The manager who “looked” for my pants didn’t meet my victorious gaze as I walked to my car. This was going to be a good day.


 

I sat down in my car getting ready to head to work & I heard God say, “You know how happy you are because you found your pants? Think how happy I get when a person who’s lost turns back to Me.” Made me cry happy tears. Not for my pants, but for a God who could use something as trivial as my pants to remind me how valuable each one of us is to Him.

Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.” Luke 15:7, The Message


For more on what God thinks about people turning to Him, check out Luke 15.

Through the valley…in the fire…

Yesterday I had the privilege of sitting with dear friends, a couple that’s been married over 50 years. The wife is recovering from cancer surgery… recovering well. We’ve believed for a good prognosis & post-surgery update. It turns out the doctor’s report said the cancer they went in to get was “got…” but… There were other cancer cells that they found somewhere else. And they weren’t contained. And the doctors were in the process of putting together a plan of attack, a plan for treatment. The room swam in front of us.

My friends are faith-filled. Hopeful. Tired. Sad. The whole gamut of emotions. Wanting to hear what the doctors will say, & at the same time knowing that the doctor’s prognosis isn’t the final word.


I had a flashback. Cancer. My brother Johnny – he had an (at the time) experimental treatment in the attempt to eradicate the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that had ravaged his body… the bone marrow transplant. I remember hearing the all-too-simple sum up of what this procedure entailed: 1st, the docs harvest the bone marrow from the hip; 2nd they bombard him with enough chemo to kill the cancer & hopefully not him; 3rd, they reintroduce the bone marrow & hope that it acts like a ‘reset button’ allowing him to recover & heal, sans the cancer. Post-procedure, the news came in… it didn’t work. And there were more cancer cells, in other places. Not contained. One nurse callously asked him, “So, you want to die here or at home?” I could’ve punched her.

Johnny & I talked once about this upon his arrival at home – I asked him what he was thinking, especially about the prognosis he’d been given. He said, “I feel like Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego. You know when they were threatened with the fiery furnace if they didn’t worship the golden image (you can read the story HERE.) This is my fiery furnace… & just like they said, ‘my God is able to deliver me from this… but even if He doesn’t, I’m still not gonna bow down.’”


That was the same general feeling/spirit in my office yesterday – no matter what, we will hold onto the fact that God is in charge, & that He is the one with the final say on our lives & when we go home to be with Him. And in the meantime, we will live with determination, persevering in our trust in Christ. With the knowledge that this faith in Christ really shines in the midst of our difficult times. He’s our Rock. Fortress. Deliverer. Healer. Salvation. The One who is with us, even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

 

Surprised & other musings on a Monday…

After Church yesterday, I was in the typical rush to prep for the next thing we had to do… 45 minutes of “free time.” Which means running around crazy to make sure life is dialed in for the next round of stuff. And then a smile. KIRSTIN. A dear friend who moved away a couple years back. But now she is HERE. Standing there with her Kirstin Smile. Surprise. Had to come to town for a ‘thing’. Thought she’d swing by to say “hey.” I wept.


We connected with Nick & Kirstin at College Group. Sunday night Study. Eating dinner together. Sitting in our living room with other friends. Reading the Scriptures. Questions. Debates. Ponders. (I declare Ponders is a word.) Prayer. Connecting. Sharing life’s joys. Pains. Challenges. Celebrations. It knit us together in a way that time & life will never separate. And it makes me think.


Last night, we had Study. Dinner. A great group of very diverse people gathered around the counter. Eating. Laughing. Enjoying each other. To the living room, everyone claiming “their” spots. Sharing their highlight of the week, giving us insight into what makes them tick. Reading the Scriptures. Talking about them. Chasing rabbit trails. Praying. Talking about the happenings of the day. I brought up my highlight – seeing Kirstin this afternoon. Daniel asked, “Who’s Kirstin?”

The flood of memories & life experiences shared flooded my brain as I thought how to answer him. And I said, “Kirstin is YOU Daniel, in a different lifetime.” We had a good laugh. And it made me think.

For the majority of the last 25 years, theBean & I have hosted people in our home on Sunday nights. It’s looked different – I’m cracking up thinking about how we used to go to the park next to our house & play BALL, a hybrid between rugby, football, soccer, basketball & handball. And MMA. There were several trips to the ER before that round of Study. I think of Cap’ns coffee stains on my floor. That boy couldn’t control a cup of coffee to save his life. I think of Josh-bum semi-napping on the couch, only to respond in context when asked a question. I remember pulling a newly dating couple aside & asking them to stop groping each other. I think of the Squirrel Gurls – 2 opposites that became like sisters.

I think about the privilege of seeing peoples’ lives developing & growing as they moved through high school/college into the life standing in front of them. In my minds eye, I see lives opening up like flowers as God healed them from life’s hurts, & blossoming into the people God made them to be. Pete & Debi becoming best friends. And then getting married. There are literally hundreds of memories of people flooding my mind. And I’m privileged to have been in this spot.

And many of these people have become ‘chosen family.’ People who have left indelible marks on our lives – & they have moved on, moved away, pursuing their lives, careers, & passions. And these people follow Jesus & inevitably help others learn to do the same through their life examples. And my heart sometimes aches as I miss them & the impact they’ve had on my/our life/lives.

And yet… God is good. He always sends more people. And it seems that the only thing we have in common is Jesus & a desire to pursue Him, His words, & wanting to figure out HOW to apply this to our lives, to bring it from theory to action & practice.

It gives me joy. And I feel rich. Because there is life. Meaning. Worth. In relationship. Community. Fellowship.

I love this.

What’s your story?

When it comes to sharing with others about the message of the Gospel (Good News,) many of us can feel intimidated & inadequate. It’s almost as though the task of talking to others about Jesus effectively requires something MORE than we are or we have.

More education. More knowledge. More experience. More answers. MORE. I mean, what happens if we start talking to someone & they ask us a question about our faith, the Bible, etc. that we don’t know how to answer? :)

A couple weeks ago, my supervisor reminded me that sharing the Gospel doesn’t require communicating a theological masterpiece, massive amounts of memorized Scripture, or a certified-spiritual-gifts-test-result-qualifying-you-as-an-evangelist.

He simply asked, “What’s your story? What has Christ done in your life? Why did you choose to put your faith & trust in Him? That’s what your friends & family need to hear. Share your STORY.”

Revelation 12:11 tells us that we, believers in Christ, will overcome the devil through the blood of the Lamb (Christ’s sacrifice on the cross which paid the penalty for our sins,) & through the word of our testimony (our story, what Christ has done, is doing in our lives.) We each have a  GREAT story, & the more we rehearse it, remember it, & tell it, we give glory to God, point to Jesus as the Savior, & we share the Good News.

I like to take the cue from a blind man who Jesus healed – the religious leaders were hounding him with a barrage of questions about WHO healed him, HOW He had done it, & WHETHER this Jesus was a good guy or not. The man said, “Well, I don’t really know much, except that I was blind, & now I can see.”  (See more on this in John 9.)

Beautiful answer.

Read the ingredients labels & a thought from 1st John

My daughter, theWeez, likes to eat healthy. Which means she reads the ingredients labels on everything. I mean, EVERYTHING. The other morning, I was making an egg burrito, & she declared, “Those tortillas are gross. Dad, do you know how many ingredients are in them?”

“Um. 3?”

“Nope. Like 20. You really have to be careful what you’re putting in your body.”

“Duly noted.”

Next day, we had the TortillaLand tortillas, which are made with a total of 4 ingredients. Better. And tastier.


Reminds me of John’s great challenge to his readers in 1John 3 & 4. He tells them that  BELIEVING in the Name of Jesus Christ, & loving one another – are indicators that we are abiding (remaining, living in) God & His family. John also puts forward a couple of warnings – 1st: don’t be like Cain, who hated (& eventually murdered) his brother, Abel. 2nd, he challenges them to be very discerning about the spiritual input they accept from others. Specifically, he tells them to TEST every spirit (the motivating force/entity) behind any instruction or prophetic utterance given by a teacher, prophet, &/or spiritual leader.  So, since we can’t “read the ingredients label,” what does that mean, & how do we do that?

John reminds them that not everyone who claims to be speaking for God &/or on Christ’s behalf is actually doing so – & he gives a couple of TESTS for his readers to use in determining the source of the spiritual input:

  1. Does the individual confirm that Jesus Christ came physically in the flesh, as a man? There were many teaching at the time that anything in the material world (including our bodies) was inherently evil; only things of the higher, spirit world were good. So, the conclusion reached was that Jesus Christ only seemed  to have a real body; He was in fact a spirit. John says that the denial of this core truth is a dead giveaway that the spirit motivating the teaching is off.
  2. Does the individual/teaching confess Jesus Christ? This confession centers on embracing Christ fully as God, as revealed in the eyewitness accounts of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John. Anytime Jesus is reimagined, reinvented, &/or redefined by a prophet/teacher/etc. in any manner different than God chose to reveal Him is an indication that the source of the input is the spirit of antichrist. Anytime Christ is diminished or reduced from being FULLY God & FULLY man – from being the sole source of our relationship with God the Father – the spirit of antichrist is exposed.

For us, 2000 years later, these TESTS are a great encouragement – & help remind us to be wary about what we’re ingesting, spiritually, & to regularly, with Holy Spirit insight, discernment, & wisdom, examine the spiritual input we are seeking out/getting from others. If it’s of God, it will stand up to the test.

New Year’s REVOLUTIONS…

You know those AT&T commercials where a guy sits at a table with 4 or 5 little kids & asks them questions, then helps guide them on entertaining rambles? Those are among my favorites. New Years’ week, one came out with a kid going on & on about “New Year’s Revolutions…” I laughed. :) (You can watch it HERE.)

Later, I was thinking about “New Year’s Revolutions” – in the context of the “Holy Night” series we just finished. Everyone expected the Messiah, the Christ to bring a revolution – to deliver Israel (using military means) from the tyrannical oppression of the Roman Empire, to reclaim the throne of His ancestor, King David, & to dispense God’s judgment on the enemies of God’s people. Here’s something John the Baptist declared about the mission of the Christ:

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, & He will clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:11,12

Whew! Fire? Threshing? Judgment? Unquenchable fire? That  sounds revolutionary.

And yet as we look through the Gospels at Christ’s actions, we see a very different picture of ‘revolution’ – Jesus, a humble, submitted servant of God, launching into public ministry with His own water baptism, & visible infilling of the Holy Spirit. He then promptly was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert for 40 days of fasting… & temptation at the hands of humanity’s ancient enemy, the devil. Christ resisted each & every temptation with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit & the proper application of God’s Word, the Scriptures.

It reminds me of the familiar scene in the garden of Eden when Adam & Eve disobeyed God when they gave in to the same devil’s temptation to eat a fruit God had forbidden. Where Adam & Eve’s actions led to humanity’s fall into sin & separation from God, Christ’s example in resisting temptation through Scripture lit a fuse that led to Him declaring the day of God’s favor & the restoration of relationship with God, as sons & daughters, for all who would receive Him.

Jesus did start a revolution… & it is still going on today.

O Holy Night #4 – Making Wrongs, Right…

Over the last few weeks of our “O Holy Night” series, I have really been enjoying spending time reviewing the revelation of God’s goodness & faithfulness to His people. First, in the accounts of the time between the book of Malachi & the Gospels – seeing God’s working in & through the ‘silent times.’ I have been encouraged with the promises of new hope given to Joseph, Mary, Zechariah, & Elizabeth – which signaled the advent of God’s plan. I have been challenged in the stories of the “waiting time,” aka, the time between God’s promise being MADE & God’s promise being FULFILLED. In preparation for this week’s theme, I have been thinking about a couple of Scriptures that declare a couple of the main purposes Jesus Christ came to earth.

These Scriptures are:

John 10:10 The thief (our enemy, the devil,) has come only to steal, kill, & destroy. I came that they may have life & have it abundantly.
&
1 John 3:8b …The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

Think about that – Christ came to give us life & life abundantly – & also to destroy the works of the devil. This enemy has been humanity’s adversary since God created people in His image – & the enemy has been working to steal, kill, destroy. As we look around our world, it is easy to find evidences that this satan has been busy.

I love that Christ is actively at work as well – destroying that which the enemy has meant for our harm & damage. That Christ can undo, correct, heal, renovate, restore, & transform those things & make them something beautiful.

This Sunday, the message is called, “O Holy Night #4 – Making Wrongs, Right.” We will have our friend, Mike Mercer from Compassion First (CF) with us to talk about a couple of ways that we can participate in the mission of God to destroy the works of the enemy, make some wrongs, right, & also help some precious people begin to walk into & live out the abundant life God intends for us. Hillside will be receiving a special offering at the end of the service to help support the “Holy Night” initiative – an outreach to the cemetery prostitutes (& their families) of Surabaya, Indonesia. Please consider participating in this offering, & in praying for the work of CF as they continue to work to make wrongs, right, in the Name of Jesus.

Life, right side up, & other musings…

Friends@FenwayI never thought I would have the opportunity to go to Fenway Park… Boston is on the other side of the country, a mere 2,888.2 miles (by car) from where I live. And then some dear friends moved there to take the pastorate of a church just outside the city… & then there was a hope that somehow, someway, we’d be able to visit them. One day.

One day happened. Jason & Alyse (our theWeez’ namesake) invited theBean & I to come be with them, their family & church for a week in early August. And, Jason said, if we came then, the Red Sox were in town. BOOM! It took me about 3 seconds to consider the invite & we accepted. It was a fantastic trip.

There were a lot of highlights from our time there – here’s a few:

  • walking the streets of downtown Boston in beautiful weather
  • visiting the park known as Boston Common, a place that I saw the whitest human beings in the history of the world attempting to add color to their skin through exposure to the Glowing Orb, which evidently doesn’t make many appearances in the great Northeast
  • watching theWeez & iDoey ride the trains like pros.
  • dining at the fabulous Regina’s Pizza in the North End
  • spending precious time with theAge & Sandra Nell, & getting to check out their new place
  • entering Fenway Park from the crowded street lined with vendors, getting a little weepy at the realization of a dream I’ve had since I was 10.
  • trying to squeeze into the oh-so-small bleacher seats in right field.
  • the anticipation of the space between the top & bottom of the 8th inning – its the time Fenway faithful erupt in a Boston rendition of the Neil Diamond classic, “Sweet Caroline.”
  • Singing “Sweet Caroline,” & catching the experience on video. It was SO GOOD, SO GOOD, SO GOOD!
  • Hanging out, doing nothing at our friends’ house in the forest.
  • Touring the Sam Adams brewery with theAge & Sandra… (it’s free, & if you go, you will enjoy it.)
  • Getting the opportunity to spend an intensive 3 day period with another church family… & rediscovering the commonality & bond that we have because of Christ.
  • hearing one of the people who attended the conference we spoke at tell us that the speech that evening was “Wicked Awesome!”

Happy sigh.


Our time invested in family, friends, & fun stands in stark contrast to a big section of the life I have lived up to this point. I haven’t vacationed much, relaxed much, let down much. Instead, I work. Study. Pour myself into my tasks. Something in my brain tells me that this is how life is supposed to go, working & producing, & yet I have found that in doing so, I have robbed my family of time that would have been better spent doing nothing. Somewhere fun. Something simple, time away, not working, being together. I have lived a portion of life Upside-down.

Rather than bemoan the messed up priorities & practices of days passed, I’m making changes – turning life right side up. Saying a resounding “No” to the voices & inner clock that drives to dominate my mind, & saying “Yes” to the things that matter. To the pursuit of abundant life, life in all of its fullness. To the taking on of the yoke of Christ, the One who promises rest & restoration of our souls.

It’s not too late.

And as long as I have breath, I will continue this pursuit.