Friday, August 31, 2012

Modeling Christ

"Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ." 

-Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:1

Paul did something I have not seen others do.  He offered himself as the model of what a Christ follower should look like.  As I read these words this morning they once more stopped me to think about what that would look like in my life and yours.

Paul was so confident that he understood the Christ life and was living it that he invited others to follow him and imitate his life.  "Boys, just watch me and do it like I do it" would be Paul's words to a young disciple.  

It demands two important things in a life, 1. that you know what a life lived as an imitator of Christ looks like, and 2. that you are actually living that way.  It demands a clear map of the route and a confidence you are on the path as a disciple yourself...that you are in fact imitating Christ.

But this is exactly what we are supposed to be doing in our lives, isn't it?  Dads, are you telling your sons and daughters, "just watch me live the Christian life and you will be ok"?  Pastors, are you inviting others to follow you around and imitate your life, your words?  You should!  

Paul has given us the foundational principle of discipleship- modeling.  "Imitate me as I imitate Christ" are heady words to say to someone.  It means you must know where you are going, what it looks like, and actually be going the right way. It means you know that others are watching you, following you, imitating you.  

If someone is imitating your life will they get it right? Will they be a follower of Christ or a deformed version of one?  Have you invited someone to imitate you as a Christ follower?  If not, what do you need to change? Where are you going that you wouldn't want another to follow?  Are you modeling Christ for others to follow?

This is our greatest need in the church and women following Christ and inviting others to imitate them in the way.  What do you need to change to make that offer to another?  Could it be that most of us don't know where we are going in the first place?  If you have never offered this invitation to another what must you change to invite another to follow you?  

"Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ."  What an amazing invitation from the pen of Paul.  I've never been invited to follow another in this way, nor have I made the invitation.  I wonder what would change if we did.......

Monday, August 27, 2012

There are days...

Photo by Caras Ionut

There are days when it feels like life and death are in the balance.  Days when anything you do will mean total victory or complete disaster. Days when the world is watching to see if you will fall or if you will make it.  There are days when it seems this is the most important thing you have ever done or will ever do.

Then there is the rest of life.

Most of life is not like this.  It's filled with the boring normal days of living.  Get up, go to work, come home, go to a soccer game, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed, get up and do it again.  Boring normal is most of our life.

We long for days that make us feel alive, but those are few and we are glad when they are over.  Funny, isn't it, how we long for the excitement, but can't wait to get to the other side and back to "real life".  We are torn....wanting a life that matters, but unable to stand the stress of what that we sink back into boring normal and dream of the days when our whole life is on the line and what we do "really matters".

Why do we live like this?  Why do we hate the boring normal days, but dread the days of life and death?  Why do we think that the normal life we live each day doesn't really make a difference?  No one can live on the edge of life and death all the time, we all live about 98% of our lives in the routine so how do we make the routine of our days "really matter"?  

I have to tell you that it's the everyday life of Jesus...walking down a dusty road, eating with the disciples, listening to the hurting, sleeping in a boat...that really mattered not so much because of who he was, but how he lived.  He lived as if each moment and each person was the most important person and encounter of eternity.  People mattered to Jesus.  Moments were significant with him.  Food tasted better when you ate a meal with him.  He relished it all and loved each one he encountered. 

In the midst of a culture with no TV, no iPad, iPod, internet or cell phones Jesus made every moment significant because he was living out the life God called him to, walking with God in each encounter, in each moment.  Every day is a day that "really matters" if you know that you matter to God and he wants a moment by moment life with you, through you....even in the boring normal.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Looking at the stars

In my last post I mentioned a book I was reading by Scot McKnight.  I just finished it.  It's fascinating how your views change, broaden and gain new depth with a good book, but they do.  I'm still meditating on Scot's words and thoughts.  They were a rich feast for my spirit.  

I think that I too easily become a micro-biologist instead of an astronomer.  I get stuck in the small details of life instead of seeing the grand scope of things.  It often takes the thoughts of a star gazer to lift my head to the skies again.  There is so much to see when we share our insights with others, so much more to understand when a friend says, "Oh, look at that!"  

So today I'm once more looking at the stars, but quite aware of how easily I drop my vision to get the focus on my microscope just right.  I hope I can keep my vision on the vastness of who God is and what he is doing, but I know I will soon turn inward once more and will need another voice to say, "Oh look, isn't that wonderful?"

Friday, August 24, 2012

What I'm reading

Today I'm reading Scot's book, "The King Jesus Gospel".  In his book Scot discusses what the gospel really is.  I am thoroughly enjoying it and changing some long held views because of it.  I love books like this that make me think. My head hurts a bit from the change in perspective, but a couple of aspirin will take care of that.

Post Script-  I just finished Scot's book this afternoon.  It is a wonderful work on the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It's a book I highly recommend to anyone wanting to grow in faith and gain an understanding of God's work in our midst.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Quote of the day

"I can't stand your religious meetings. 
   I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects, 
   your pretentious slogans and goals.
I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes, 
   your public relations and image making.
I've had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. 
   When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want? 
   I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it. 
   That's what I want. That's all I want."
-God (Amos 5, THE MESSAGE)

Monday, August 20, 2012


I hate to admit it, but I live in a box.  It's a box created for me by others, by business, family, friends and the world around me. But the really sad truth is that I willingly climbed in the box and taped the lid shut...never asking if it was a box I should be in at all, never thinking about the implications of such a box in my life.  Like everyone around me I was given a box by someone somewhere and willingly made it my own and even wrote my name on it!  It became part of my identity.

Like children playing, making cars, houses and forts out of boxes we adults build invisible boxes for one another.  Boxes of expectation, roles, position, and a hundred other words to describe the box we have come to call our identity, or role, our "place".  We never stop to think about what that box means, how it might affect us and our choices or the way we think. Our box limits our choices, restricts our vision, and frustrates our gifts.

This morning I had coffee with a good friend who told me I was living in a box.  He didn't know where I got it, but he described it well.  As he listened to me he made me aware  of how restricted my vision had become because of the box I had accepted many years ago.  It was humbling to realize I had been given a box and had never questioned its role in my life.  Was it right? Should I get into it? Is this the way I should live?  Is this how I should think?

Without any questions I took the boxes handed me and made them my own. They have limited me, identified me, and restricted God's work in my life.  How did I ever let this happen? Why did I believe this box was what I needed to identify me?

Children love boxes.  They aren't so much fun when they define your life, your thinking or your values as an adult.  I can't believe that I let this happen....happy to look out the hole I had cut in my box and survey the world around me....trying to make boxes like mine for others....only to find I had made prisoners of us all.  

I'm taking a different tack today as I look at my thoughts and my life.  I've decided it's time to be done with the boxes of childhood and walk in the freedom of the grace that Christ has provided.  

Read Romans 8 as you look at your own life. What boxes have you made your own?  How have you missed God's grace by accepting the boxes others have given you?  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The center of the universe

I've been at a restaurant since early this morning waiting for a man I was to meet.  He forgot.  I've watched the sun rise, watched people come and go, watched the waitress try to please everyone.  

I'm fascinated by people.  We all, aware of it or not, consider ourselves the center of the universe.  The world doesn't really revolve around the sun, it revolves around us!  Just watch people in a restaurant and you will see how true this is.

It's this self centering way we live that God is dealing with in the Bible.  We live our lives as if everything revolves around us.  God wants us to live as if everything revolves around HIM.  It's a complete change of what, who and how we live.  It changes how we think, how we interact with others, how we view ourselves and the world around us.  A God-centered life looks completely different than a life lived with me as the center.  

When I live my life, no longer as the center but centered around God, all the pressure is gone.  I no longer strive to find approval of others.  Approval is fleeting at best because everyone else wants the same thing.  We are like a bunch of puppies all wanting our bellies scratched.  We all want and need to be validated as the center of the universe.

How's that working for us?  To be honest it's a disaster!  A major shift in who is the center of the universe is needed.  Clearly, God says he is the center of all things and when we give him his rightful place life is easier, things work better and we find a peace we never longer needing "our bellies scratched."  

So, who's the center of your universe?

Saturday's cartoon

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


There are times when I think my friends who enjoy a good cigar have the right idea.  They will intentionally pause for a time of quiet contemplation, unwrap a cigar, run the full length of it under their nose and take a big whiff of it and then the preparation to smoke it begins. 

There is an intentional purpose to cigars and it's not all about smoking them.  It's about a time away from the whirlwind of life for a quiet, calm and contemplative change of pace.  There may also be an adult beverage included in this interruption in the day, but at the heart is quiet, contemplation, a time to step away.

Contemplation demands a change of pace.  It will not mix with the crazy pace of the day.  You have to step aside, find a quiet place, be quiet yourself and think, be, rest, and reflect.  It's a wonderful idea because it facilitates a time to quiet your mind, your heart, your life and your's a stopping of everything to just listen.

Listen to nothing and everything all at the same time.  Sounds very Zen doesn't it? It's actually meant to be a time when you don't have to do anything, mentally or physically.  It's a complete stepping aside from the world as it passes by. 

I've just come back after three months of this kind of rest.  I didn't smoke a single cigar, but I definitely took time to step away from the world and quietly listen to everything and to nothing.  To hear God and listen to the silence.  To be able to manage the crazy world we live in a time of contemplation is a healthy part of a day, a necessary part of the day.

When do you step aside and listen?  When do you turn off all the noise and sit for a bit so God can reach through the noise of your life to speak to you?  When, in your day, do you stop and say to God, "Speak Lord, your servant is listening"?

Smile for the day

Monday, August 13, 2012

After the storm

Photo by Caras Lonut 

Storms come.  

They always come.

But don't forget they pass too. 

One day the sun will shine, the clouds will clear and life once more resumes.  Life never stopped mind you, but during a storm it feels as if life is suspended and we hold our breath waiting for a better day.

Life is full of storms.  Everyone has them.  No life is exempt.  If you meet a person who has never been through a storm in his life he will be one of the most boring people you will ever meet.  Storms deepen us and simplify our lives.  They blow away the things that aren't important and focus our attention on what is important.  Storms clarify our lives.  We suddenly realize what really matters.  

And after the storm life goes on.  A new day dawns and we begin afresh.  A life without a storm will never find a bold faith in God.  It takes a storm to turn our attention to him.  In the midst of the storm God feels very close, but when the skies clear we resume our lives and our need for God, our focus on him fades.  The very thing we dreaded....the the thing that brought us close to the God who made us.  

Why does it take a storm to draw our attention to God?  Why do we have to be threatened with the loss of everything to truly seek him? I think it's because in the storm we lose the ability to care for ourselves.  Without God's help we are lost, doomed!  

Looking at it this way storms look like a true blessing don't they?  If they bring us closer to God why aren't we praying for more storms in our lives?  Why aren't we drawn to the storm because it also draws us to God?  

Why do we resist the very thing that focuses our attention most clearly on God and dependence on him?  I wonder......

"A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm." -Mark 4:37-39

Truth defined

"Truth is a path not a possession."  - Julian (a "pagan") in the UK

This short quote is part of a response from a reader of another blog I write for.  He is responding to an article I wrote about the choices we make.   Julian's comments reveal bits and pieces of different beliefs he has put together to define what he believes.  Of course he tried to correct me and my "wrong" beliefs. One of his belief statements is what I have quoted above. 

It sounds very spiritual doesn't it?  It feels good, this idea of truth being a path not a possession...but truth isn't a path, it is a destination.  We all seek truth, we want to know what's right, what's wrong and truth as a path is never the goal....truth as a destination is! 

He also claims it's not a possession. But if we didn't want to possess it why the quest to find it?  The statement sounds very spiritual, but it's utter nonsense!  Here is truth defined by the one who knows it best,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." -Jesus

Truth isn't a path, it's not a possession, it's a person and in that person all truth comes together. Julian might think the quest is the goal, but without a goal the quest is meaningless.  Truth defined is Jesus Christ.  He is the quest at the end of the path and the great desire of each heart.  Truth is a person, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Both grandsons for two days = priceless.

These sweet boys are wonderful!  

No Simple Lives

One thing I've noticed about people is that things are never simple. I think it's because we are not simple. Our lives are made up of hundreds of nicks and bruises we have each experienced. All those blows, bad relationships, disappointments and life experiences make us who we are and it's never simple to sort out.

A few weeks ago, as I listened to a couple working through some real problems in their marriage, I thought...."this is really complicated. There are no easy answers." Honestly, I think that same thing almost every time I talk with someone. It's difficult to sort out all the pieces of our lives that have brought us to where we are today. How do we get it all tied together so we aren't tripping over ourselves? How do we work through all that we are to fix what we have become? Honestly, there are no simple lives. There are no simple answers.

But as I watch Jesus in the gospels I see his encounters with people in a different way. The difference is that he knew the heart of man and was able to go to the very heart of each person's problem. With a word, a touch, a smile Jesus healed broken lives. He knew what each life needed.
Here is a story of one man's encounter with Jesus. In this brief encounter Jesus meets the needs of this broken man,

Mark 1:40-45- 40A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." (If you are willing. It's almost a question, Are you willing? Not can you help me? but will you help me? The most important question is this one, Lord, will you help me?)41Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" (The compassion of Jesus brought a response that I'm sure no one expected. In fact this leper was in front of Jesus contrary to the law that would keep him apart from others who didn't have leprosy.)
42Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
43Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44"See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them."45Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
This story is one of my favorites in the gospels. It's a story of the prayer we have all prayed, "if you are willing." We wait, hoping God is indeed willing to meet our needs, but he does so much more. This man had been without a human touch, without real love and without acceptance for so long that his first need, in spite of his obvious illness, was a touch. In that amazing moment of time Jesus did the unthinkable....he reached out and touched this dirty, diseased man. The touch did so much more than heal the disease, it healed the whole man.

Like this poor leper in Mark we each come to Jesus with all our sickness and disease visible for all to see...the bible calls it sin. Our plea is simple, if you're willing you can make me clean, you can forgive my sins. And with a touch...that amazing touch....we each find healing and forgiveness.

As a result of that touch and the love of Jesus to meet this man's needs a great exchange happened. It happens with us when we trust him. Some call it the exchanged life and indeed it is. But with this man the exchange was dramatic. The man who had lived alone and removed from mankind was now among them. Talking, touching, hugging and telling everyone about Jesus to such an extent that Jesus had to go to the wilderness away from mankind and even there the people, all in need of his touch, sought him out.

Mankind is still asking this man's simple question, "If you are willing you can make me clean." And his response is the same, with a touch of his hand he replies, "I'm willing, be clean." And so, with all our warts and wrinkles, all our problems and struggles Jesus comes to touch the hurting and heal each one. If you're wondering if he can fix your messy life just ask him. You'll be amazed at the smile, the touch, the acceptance and the reply, "I'm willing, be clean."

Saturday's cartoon

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Quote of the day

What most surprises me about life is how much of it is spent with my focus on me.  All the while I miss what God is doing around me.

Living in color

I love color.

I love the beauty of color and texture as nature entertains us with the glory of every color imaginable.  Plants, flowers, animals....all different textures, shapes and colors.  Beauty is all around us and those of us who take a lot of photos try to capture the color and beauty God has made, but we can't.  There is nothing to match the color and beauty of God's creation.  With our best efforts we can only capture a poor copy of what God has made.

One photographer said recently, "I hate my camera".  He described his frustration with trying to capture the beauty his eyes saw and realizing there is no camera on earth that can copy what he sees.  It is frustrating, but what we all know and sense is that this creation is amazing!  Why is there color?  Why is beauty woven into our world?  Why not just black and white?  Why is beauty so important to us?

I think we love color and beauty because God does.  He wove the entire color spectrum into the world around us just as an artist would do expressing his heart and passion.  We live in a color universe, what a beautiful place to be as we see the flowers, the sunset, the glory of the sky sprinkled with beautiful clouds.  All around us is color and texture.  

Living in a world of color is one of the rich blessings of God's creation.  He didn't simply make a world to exist in, he made a world to enjoy!  So, today take a moment and survey the beauty around you, the colors, the textures and tell God "thank you" for his amazing artistic hand. 

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Friend of sinners

"The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'"  Luke 7:34

"Friend of sinners."  What a title.  It wasn't one Jesus asked for or sought, but because of the way he interacted with people the religious leaders gave him this label.  It was a slam, derogatory, a put down.  

I think Jesus smiled when he heard it.  It's the very reason he be friend to sinners.  To touch the untouchable.  To love the unloved.  He did that, he does it still.  

Friend of sinners....just the thought of this name spoken in derision makes me wish I could have seen Jesus in action, encountering the dirty, the lost, the disenfranchised, the "sinners" as they were called.  He loved them!  He hung out with them and they enjoyed his company.  The "sinners" actually liked hanging out with Jesus!  

It means he didn't condemn them.  He didn't look down on them.  He was God in flesh and he loved the "sinners" of his world.   It gives me great comfort because I'm one of them.  I'm one of the broken, the hurting, the struggling ones that religious people of Jesus day would have called "sinner".  

To think that Jesus not only loves me but that he actually likes "hanging out with me", being my friend and companion is just more than I can absorb.  

"Friend of sinners" was meant to be a slam, but I'm glad the religious leaders understood what Jesus was about, what he cared about.  I'm glad they could see that in his life.  It gives me great hope as I approach him knowing that if he was their friend he will be mine as well.

The question that then comes to me is this, Am I a friend to what the world around me would call "sinner"?  Although the term sinner is almost obsolete in our culture the idea is still there.  Would those who consider themselves broken, rejected and lost think of me as a friend?  Would they be comfortable around me?  Would they see the love of Christ in me?

I pray that as Jesus was ridiculed for his friendship with "sinners" I might be seen the same way...loving the rejected, spending time with the broken, listening to the "sinners" of our world.  What a high praise it would be to be called a "friend of sinners".  

Monday, August 06, 2012

Year Seven!

It's hard to believe but I'm starting year seven on this blog.  It has surprised me that I have written this for so long.  I know it pales in light of other authors, but writing has not been one of my strengths so this has been both a challenge and a joy.  Thank you all for enjoying the ride with me as I've watched God work in my life and the lives of others.  So, here we go into year seven.  Let's see what amazing things God does with us this year.  I can't wait!  And, surprisingly...this is post 2,500!  

God loves me

I'm thankful this morning for God's great love.  

He is so kind.  

In moments when I stop and quiet my mind I sense he is watching me.  


How can God love ME?

But he does and that amazes me.

Quote of the day

Contrary to our culture, the biblical doctrine of grace humbles us without degrading us, and elevates us without inflating us. -Ken Boa

Thursday, August 02, 2012

War of the Worlds

We are in a war, but it's not the war we are trying to fight.

It's not a war between Republicans and Democrats.

It's not a war between conservatives and liberals.

It's not a war between Christians and Muslims.

It's not a war between gay and straight.

It's not a war between "us" and "them".

These are the wars we are fighting in the Christian world I live in, but they are the wrong wars, the wrong battlefields, attacks against the wrong enemies.  

We are taking blows at symptoms, not at the real enemies.  We find ourselves boxing shadows and completely missing the real enemies among us.  It is a war of the worlds, but not the one we fight now.  Here's the real battlefield, here's the real enemy,

"For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places."  -Ephesians 6

I'm sure our real enemies are thrilled with the shadow boxing we are doing....swinging at what is not the real enemy at all...and all the while our unseen enemy continues the fight.  

The real battlefield is spiritual.  

The real enemy is the devil and his angels.  

The real war is fought in prayer and with love for others.  

The Christian world I live in has chosen to fight the wrong war, focus on what is not the enemy,  oppose what isn't the real problem at all....and all the while the real enemy prospers and smiles at our foolishness.  He has masterfully misdirected our attention at the wrong things. We are in a war of the worlds....I pray we realize who the real enemy is and focus our attacks in the right way, with the right weapons at the real enemy.  

Our battle is never with people, let me repeat that....our battle is never with's always spiritual and with an enemy unseen.   

If the enemy can get us to focus our attention on the wrong battle, the wrong enemy, the wrong battlefield all the better for him.  

In this war of the worlds I pray we see what the real war is about, who the real enemy really is and how we are to respond.  The real war is for the souls of men, the real enemy is the devil, and the proper response for us is love and prayer.  Those are the "weapons" that will change the culture around us and deal a death blow to the enemy's plans.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

I'm back!

Today is my first day back at the church after a three month sabbatical.  

I have really missed this place and especially these people.  This is a wonderful staff!

And, thank you church for this time of rest.  You have been a rich blessing to Joye and me.  Thank you.