Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bono, Jesus, & Identity Implications

So this morning I read an interview with Bono (you know, the Catholic-U2 lead singer-outspoken global advocate for the poor…) and his thoughts on Christ.  It is an interesting interview.  During an interaction between the interviewer and Bone, the interviewer states that it is hard to believe Jesus’ claims that He was actually the Son of God.  Prophet, OK.  Wise man, sure.  Just not the actual messiah.  Not the Son of God.  Here is Bono’s response:
"...But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you..." (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankviola/bono-on-jesus/)
I find this response fascinating!  In fact, I have been thinking about it since I read it (and my guess is that I will be thinking about it for some time).  You see, the real question for all of us to consider is what we think of Jesus.  I mean, what we really think of Jesus!  Was Jesus just a cool dude?  Was Jesus one prophetic voice among many?  Or was Jesus…more?  Was He, as He claimed, the Son of God?  The second person of the Trinity?  God incarnate?  How you respond to such questions matters.
In John’s gospel account, Jesus talks directly with His disciples more about His identity than He does any other subject.  More than anything!  Jesus wanted His disciples to understand that He was…and is…God incarnate!  We may not like the implications of His claimed identity, but it is who He was!  We may prefer to reduce Him to some manageable role, but Jesus doesn’t allow us that! 
So, I continue to ponder and reflect.  What does it mean for my life that I have been united with the life of Christ?  What does it mean that, through baptism, I died and now Christ lives in me?  What should my life look like as a result of such death and rebirth?  What should others see in my life?  How does my life reflect my new identity in Christ?  How am I growing in what it means to love God, to love others in His name, and to make disciples…followers…of the Son of God?  Like I said, I continue to reflect…but I also continue to pursue a life that reflects my new identity!  And I encourage you to join me…

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Honoring God's Name

What is the undisputed, unqualified, undeniable purpose of your life?  Too profound?  How about this…what will the goal of your day be?  Are you just trying to get to the next weekend?  Are you desiring to get that next product, promotion, or praise?  Are you trying to raise good kids or be a good spouse?  Are you trying to be the best bank manager, teacher, police officer, sales rep, or whatever that you can be?  What is the real purpose of your day?  Take a minute to be honest with yourself…
Now, can I suggest something to you?
What if, as a baptized child of God, the real goal of your day was to glorify the name of your Father?  What if this entire day was about living out your identity as a child of the Father?  How would your day be different if that was how you approached today?
In John 12 (my assigned devotional reading for today), Jesus is experiencing a moment of inner conflict.  He is praying.  Here is what He prays…
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”
Interesting.  Should Jesus pray to His Father to save Him?  Is that the ultimate goal?  Safety?  Rescue?  Security?  No.  Instead, Jesus prays that the Father would be glorified.  That the divine name would receive the honor that it deserves.  That is the purpose of Jesus’ coming.  That is the purpose of the precise moment He faced, as well as His entire life.  That God’s name would be glorified/honored/acknowledged.
So what about us?  This is the question I am reflecting on this morning as I sit in Starbucks.  What is the goal of my life?  What is the goal of my today?  What is the goal of my right now?  As we enter the season of Lent, am I focused on the right things in my life?  What would my life look like (how would THIS day be different) if I tried to live with the primary goal of honoring the name of the Father?
This is what I am thinking of today.  Not in generalities, but trying to think of specific things that I might do today to honor God’s name.  This is my goal today.  I invite you to join me…

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Post Kenya Thoughts...

The following is an e-mail that I sent out to our the 14 people who traveled with us to Kenya a couple of weeks ago for a medical mission trip.  As I have reflected on the message, I thought maybe it was worth sharing here.   It is about living the "Thin Life".  So here goes...



This morning I am sitting in our dining room, Pandora rocking on the headphones, and a fresh French press of coffee by my side (though it doesn’t taste nearly as good as what Jeff usually had waiting for me those Kenyan mornings).  We have now been back in the states for a full week.  So I wanted to ask you:  How is it going?  How has re-entry been for you?  How have the story-sharing sessions been?  How have the reflection times gone?  How has the photo sorting/deleting/publishing worked out?

OK…now that we have that out of the way…let’s get to the real intent of this message.  How is your “Thin Life” different this week than it was before Kenya?  Let me refresh you a bit on what I am talking about here.  When we were together in Kenya, I shared the idea that Celtic Christians had about certain places on the planet being “thin” – meaning, they thought they were closer to God (the distance between themselves and God in these places was “thinner” than it was at other places).  This idea seemed to resonate with several of you.  In fact, several of you expressed a desire to join me in the journey of the thin life.  You wanted to join me in seeking after God’s will, in what He was doing daily, in your life and in the world around you. 

Let me assure you that I am no expert in living the thin life.  It is a journey.  It is sometimes a struggle.  But it is a desire.  It is something that I want to experience more fully.  It is something that, like the Olympic athletes that I have watched intermittently this week on TV, requires training.  It seems to require me to intentionally challenge myself to stop and think about what God may be teaching me in any given circumstance.  It seems to be tied up in my ability to see life through different eyes than my own fast-paced, self-centered, lenses.  It seems for me to realize that my life is not my own…to remember than when I was baptized I died.  I died and now Christ lives in me.  It is His life I now live.  Imperfectly.  And yet, I live. 

So let me ask you again:  how is your “Thin Life” different this week than it was before Kenya?  I want to encourage you to keep going.  It is OK for the “Kenya Buzz” to fade.  It is OK for each of us to reengage the rhythms of daily life in the states.  But…I would encourage you not to go back to being the “you” you were before Kenya.  Allow what God showed you there to change your focus here. 

As I asked a couple of you while we were abroad, “How would your life as a ________ (police chief, doctor, pharmacist, student, pharmaceutical sales rep, vicar, pastor, mom, dad, daughter, person) be different in the states if you lived with the same mission/focus/passion that you are showing here in Kenya?”  Take a minute to think about that question this morning.  How would it look different if we saw the goal of life as trusting in God and sharing about our life in Him (witnessing)?  I want to challenge you to see all of life as God’s.  Everything is His.  We are His.  I want to challenge you to strive after the thin life by striving to see everyday events through the lenses of faith.  Consider how making pancakes for the kids can remind us of God as the bread of life.  Consider how that quick trip to the bank can challenge where our trust is.  Consider how a stroll through Wal-Mart can be an opportunity to see into the lives of other people we are called to love in His name.  Consider how He made the beautiful sunset…and He made you!  For the same purpose!  To glorify His name and to delight Him!

And, thanks for joining me in the quest for the “Thin Life”.  My life goal?  To live out my identity in Christ Jesus by growing in my love of God, my love of others, and in the disciple-making process.  After all…

…he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Making Disciples...(from Kenya)

Of the three areas that I try to use to live out my new identity in Christ (love God, love others, and make disciples), none is more difficult to think through than making disciples.  What does it mean?  How do you even start?  Well...the answer to the last question (if I read my Bible and the command of Jesus correctly) is to emphasize the role of baptism.  After all, that is where discipleship begins.  With God stamping the name of the Trinity on us and claiming us as His kids.  But what do we do then?  What does it look like to live out that identity by making disciples of others?  How does discipleship work?

This past week, I got a small glimpse of what I think might be part of the answer.  You see, I spent the day last Tuesday (with Pastors Short and Trump) meeting with Church leaders here in Kenya.  It was a VERY cool day!  In the midst of the day we met with the Archbishop of the evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya, we met (in the Nairobi hospital) with a high ranking Church leader, we met with the incredible team from Nuru (Lutheran Hour Ministries), we met with a very cool volunteer teacher/administrator/missionary.  Like I said, it was a very cool day.

But I also noticed something interesting.  In most of the meetings, the person we were to meet with invited others to join us.  No big deal, right?  Well...it might be.  You see, for the past week I have reflected on my day and I thought about something.  It is something that I have thought about before, but last week it was fresh on my mind.  What if making disciples is (partially at least) as simple as including others people in your day and allowing them to walk with you?  What if making disciples was about sharing life...functionally, by trying to never do things alone?  What if we fought our individualistic tendencies and invited others to share our daily experiences with us?  How might such an approach to life help in our attempts to make disciples?

Just a thought...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

SOAP Thoughts: John 5

As part of a Bible class time a while back, I introduced the idea of the S.O.A.P. method of Bible/Devotional reflection. In short, the letters stand for: S (Scripture), O (Observation), A (Application), and P (Prayer). Here are some of the idea that we talked about in that class from our brief time together in John 5:1-17:

Scripture:
5:1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic[a] called Bethesda,[b] which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.[c] 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews[d] said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’ 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
Observation:
We noticed that the man at the well blamed others in his interaction with the Jews (v. 10+). Then, we realized that the man's initial reaction to Jesus' question could also be seen as placing blame. He never actually answers Jesus, but rather offers excuses as to why he hasn't been healed already.

We also observed that Jesus doesn't just heal the man but also includes a command to walk and to sin no more. We talked about how Jesus often includes a command at the conclusion of His miracles (go home, walk, sin no more, go and tell the priests, etc).

Application:
Simply stated...to become increasingly aware of our desire to provide excuses for why we don't do something and to commit (through the power of the Holy Spirit) to get better at limiting our excuse-giving.

We also talked about being "doers of the Word" instead of simply being "hearers of the Word".

Prayer:
Heavenly Father,
Just as you healed the man even in the midst of his excuses, so to you have healed us in the midst of our stubborn resistance to your will. Thanks you, Father.
Empower us to live differently. To not offer excuses, but rather to become doers of your will.
In Jesus name,
Amen.