Thursday, March 20, 2014

so, about that - -

Yes - you may have seen the Jackrabbit's rather negative poem... It has now been deleted. It was a rough night... after a rough week... after a rough month... after a rough year... 
Though I do believe it is a good poem, I know that I was wrong to post it. I felt like the spirit was saying NOOOOOOO!! but I really didn't care - -
[8] Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8 ESV)

my friend failure

today you had to take a test
and found out what was in it
you beat your head and did your best
and hoped you pushed the limit

and all the things you didn't know
will soon be plain to see
and all the nights not studying
and watching dumb TV

there's nowhere else in all of life
that you can take this stand
there's nowhere someone writes it out
a kind of reversed plan

a thing that makes you conscious of
the stuff you need to know
and big red marks like quandary's blood
to lead you through the snow

it's been said evaluation
is a thing that you should fear
but I think it's a thing to hold
and learn from failure's tears

if all of life had written tests
and study guides and books
we wouldn't have to base our days
on other's sordid looks

and failure what a funny friend
who punches when you're down
and waits and laughs beside the lake
like he wants to see you drown

then gives a glance just to his left
and nods a little smile
your feet touch bottom and you know
its been there all the while

and stronger now your head emerges
from the water's end
and failure grabs your hand and says
you're learning much, my friend

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Did you ever notice that when you really trust someone, you don't think critically about what they tell you? It is almost as if the trust that was built can override your own sensibilities to the point that if they tell you something, you can assume that the thinking has already been done for you, and there is no need for you to engage your "critical" brain. It could be as simple as good advise on how to handle a situation or as sinister as steering the thoughts of others in a negative way against another person. It's all about our influence and how we use it. The faith that others put in us can easily and unintentionally be misused for our own gain. Conversely, it is easy to find ourselves on the receiving end of this misuse of trust, and dismiss suspicions because we know that this person would never do anything to intentionally wrong us.
So where is the balance? Is there a time when can we love and trust completely, and shift critical brain to neutral? Matthew 10:16-22 says

[16] “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. [17] Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, [18] and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. [19] When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. [20] For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. [21] Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, [22] and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Jesus is talking about persecution here, and what will happen to his followers for "his name's sake". While most of the time we are not being persecuted for his name, there is one part here that stands out. Verse 21 says; "Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death," He makes a point here that even in our most trusted relationships, there will be the ultimate betrayal. Remember, we live in a fallen world and we are all fallen people and this means that none of us are exempt from the heart's temptation to revert back to reprehensible behavior. Not brothers, mothers, fathers or children - for all have Sin and fall short of the glory of God. So I think the answer to our question is... never.

The critical brain needs to always stay engaged, no matter the person and the role they play in our lives, we must always hear critically. Still give the appropriate weight to the advise while considering the source, but hear the truth spoken through the filter that God gives us to hear correctly. If we feel uneasy about something being said, that may be reason to question it, to pray about it and seek the counsel of others. The intentions behind advise that is given may be good, and coming from a good and loving source, but they could also be just plain wrong. Remember, questioning someone who loves you can only serve to bring better clarity and seeing a situation with clarity is better than any one person's advise will ever be.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wonderfully Made

I look back at all the stuff I wrote the past couple of years and think about the seriousness in which I wrote most of it. Not that it is bad to be serious, but sometimes I wonder if people get tired of reading things that should "change their lives". I wonder if people just need to know that someone loves them just the way they are without changing their lives... I know that is where I am a lot. I just want to hear that I am a rockstar - that I knocked it out of the park, and more than that, that it was expected that I would just because I am who I am. But the problem with this is that it has to mean something. It can't just be an empty comment from a passerby. It has to be a sincere, direct, specific compliment from someone who really knows me. It sucks because this rarely happens. It's like when someone says something good, I am always thinking "Well, they have to say that because..." and I take all the sincerity and meaning out of it by justifying why they are insincere or not qualified to make that particular compliment. It kind of leaves a person in a hopeless place. A place that I put myself unknowingly, but nonetheless, a place just the same. Psalm 139:14 says;
"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."I have read this before and you probably have too, but have I really taken this in? Those wiry wild eyebrows that I voraciously pluck are wonderfully made. Those love handles are wonderfully made. That scratchy voice is wonderfully made. That ADD personality helps to make me wonderfully made... wonderfully made... really? Me? I have a hard time believing that. I mean, the rocky mountains are wonderfully made, works of art are wonderfully made, Toyotas are wonderfully made... me?So it's probably the second part of the verse where it hits home. The part that says "Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." Though I am no scholar, the way I see it is this. When I am confronted with something truly wonderful; the power of thunder in a storm, the view from a mountain peak, my wife's smile, I get this feeling in my gut. This feeling that says that I am part of something way bigger than I could ever be by myself. The part that makes me just want to yell at the top of my lungs with a smile that goes down to my gut and penetrates my heart... my soul knows it very well... and that is how He sees me. Down in the gut with a smile that pins your cheeks back "MAN!!! Look at what I did!" the Father says as he points at me! At me...I don't think I will ever get it in this life, but I would like to move in that direction until I die... fearfully and wonderfully made... me...

poem on a rainy night

it's rainy in my town tonight
the weather's kind of crappy
it's cold and wet and yeah I bet
it's late because I'm slappy

it's nights like these i start to think
there's holes inside a life
that starts with cries and lullabies
and ends with toil and strife

it means you move across the world
because of what is right
and even though you leave and go
you still get mugged that night

you fight and win you fight and lose
but lose more than you fight
this callous world, it takes it's tole
what's left is barely bright

it's then you know and so you blow
to fan the little flame
that fights to burn and so you learn
how you fit in the blame

it doesn't mean you're paranoid
or scared to light a room
it only means you're smarter now
though memories will loom

cause in this life there is no hope
no shelter in the rain
and the other end of the tunnel now
is probably a train

so maybe there is something more
than what this world can bring
and maybe there is something that
can make you want to sing

and maybe there is something
that was not created here
and maybe there is someone who
is stronger than a tear

and maybe it is not too far
to carry all this load
and make a dreary, rainy night
a stroll along the road

Thursday, March 6, 2014

another sermon I wrote a few years back...

Ephesians 3:14-21

Laura and I met many years before we dated, not because there was no spark, but because the kindling and logs hadn’t yet been gathered and set into place. Neither of us were ready yet. In fact, Laura never even considered me because I was not what Laura thought she needed and, truth be told, she was not what I thought I needed either. Now, after almost ten years of marriage, I can truly say that she is more than I could have asked or imagined. I didn’t know what I needed, but God did, and I am forever grateful. 

PRAY (End prayer with scripture)

Ephesians 3:20,21
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

I have always used these verses in isolation when looking at my life, and while I believe there is truth here even if taken as a small chunk, I found something much deeper as I studied the chapter this week. So I started my study thinking that I would focus on how God can and has already given us more than we could ask or imagine and that it would many times be hard to see because of the simple fact that it was “more than we could ask or think.” I wanted to preach that we simply needed to look at our lives from that perspective in order to see it. We needed to ask ourselves questions like “How is my wife more than I could ever ask or imagine? How is my situation more than I could ever ask or imagine?” but as I read the chapter preceding these verses, I realized I would only be creating a “Self Help” list. While I think that it is good to see things from this perspective, and should be something to strive for, a push in this direction would only leave us feeling defeated after trying to maintain something that our hearts couldn’t support. This isn’t something that comes naturally, and as it is with all heavenly mindsets, unless it was able to come from some place deep within, it would eventually be forgotten. What I found this week, was that the point that Paul is making here is much deeper than pushing myself into a certain mindset, it’s much bigger than that, it’s a transformation inside my very soul. 

These verses are the cumulative ending of a prayer that the ESV titles “Prayer for Spiritual Strength”. As a former English teacher and a writer, I see these two verses as a conclusion statement from Paul. I can almost see him reading over this section of his letter to be sure that the last line summed everything up and gave it the punch he was looking for. This means that if we are to fully understand his intent, we need to back up a few verses to see his heart.

Ephesians 3:14-16
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory, he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith -

Paul is praying for the people of Ephesus. They were the model church who really understood the Gospel, and as such, they were beginning to realize what he called the “Mystery of the Gospel” and were finding that the impact of this unveiling was demanding a response both personally and communally. What they were discovering was so counter-culture and contrary that they needed strength. This Gospel was for both Jews and Gentiles and thus called them to love those that they always thought they should hate. This Gospel was calling them to give even when their culture told them to hoard, to worship one God instead of many and to put others before themselves. This Gospel was requiring the impossible.

So as not to get lost in the trap that would lead us to claim cultural irrelevancy on account that most of us are not anti any race or people group, lets look beyond the outward manifestations (symptoms) and look at the real disease that was in their hearts... and in ours as well. 

Maybe I feel personal superiority in my abilities at work or in how I am able to keep up with the style police even on a modest budget. Maybe I am a better mother or keep my house cleaner. Maybe I am going through a trial that I don’t think I deserve because of what a good person I am. This list can be endless, but really ends in one place. We lack something in our “inner being” and we are trying to find significance in order to make up for what we lack.

I see this in my three year old as he learns that he is able to do more and more. “Daddy, I have three shirts on today!”
“That’s awesome!! But I would go take off two of them because it’s pretty hot outside and you are going to be very uncomfortable.” 
To this response, he whines about wanting to wear them because he knows that he needs these three shirts and usually I don’t argue, and I let him discover the fallacy of his thought process. His desire is not to disobey directly, but rather to display to me that he knows more than I do and to make himself feel powerful and significant.

Just like my three year old, our need causes us to want to prove that we know better than the God who made us. When our attitudes toward God shift to this prideful way of thinking, weakness is revealed that manifests itself through our thoughts and actions. We need to see others as lesser, or we need to see ourselves as undeserving of our circumstances because on a very deep level, we don’t really know what to want. This attitude stems from the garden of eden where we turned our backs on God and only later realized that we couldn’t never make it on our own.

The problem is not that we desire, but that we desire without direction of what to desire. We know there is something we need, but aren’t sure what it is, so we grab on to things that seem to work. Maybe it’s a feeling of superiority, maybe it’s being the best at what we do every day, or maybe it’s the pursuit of that special someone. These are all things that can be pursued and provide focus while we are in pursuit, but once they are attained, they are not enough. Paul is telling us that the pursuit of the love of Christ is the only that has no end and is the only thing that will be enough.

Matthew 20:30-34 
And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.

It must’ve been awesome to see Jesus heal and even better to be healed, but I wonder what happened to those people who were directly healed by the hand of Jesus as they continued on living life. Some may have forgotten about the one who healed them while others may have pursued him and as a result become changed on a deeper level forever. The difference is in the answer to Jesus’ question. “What do you want me to do for you?” We are not wrong in praying for love, healing, or to be removed from a bad situation, but once these prayers are answered, we are always left to face another new situation. I think a better answer to the question of “What do you want me to do for you?” is the answer that Paul provides.
Paul’s prayer is for us to be “strengthened with power through his spirit in our inner being.” He wants us to know that the spirit who is already at work will continue to work inside our hearts, tearing out our rebelliousness and replacing it with his strength.

Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation, had a good friend and assistant by the name of Friedrich Myconius. In 1540, Myconius became sick and was expected to die shortly. On his deathbed he wrote a tender farewell message to Luther. When Luther read the message, he immediately sent a reply: “I command you in the name of God to live because I still have need of you in the work of reforming the church. The Lord will never let me hear that you are dead, but will permit you to survive me. For this I am praying, this is my will, and may my will be done, because I seek only to glorify the name of God.” When Luther’s reply came, Myconius had already lost the ability to speak but soon recovered from his illness, and lived six more years. He finally died two months after Luther did.

This was a prayer for the impossible, that was seen as possible through the eyes of someone with a heart that had been transformed through the power of the Gospel. It is bold, it is almost offensive, but it is a perfect example of how “spiritual strength” is the root of what we need in order to receive more than all that we ask or think.

Let’s look at that memory verse again
Ephesians 3:20,21
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

When someone moves into your house or apartment, it usually starts with them bringing in the basics. Bed, nightstand, dresser, desk, and of course bicycle. There will probably be a different car in your driveway. But over time, you notice that the silverware drawer has some new stuff. The bathroom countertop is slowly filling up and eventually, the house shows evidence of the new person in every corner. Sometimes this causes painful conversation as we feel that they may be overstepping their bounds. Other times (as hopefully it is with a spouse) this is welcomed until the entire house is filled with the presence of the person you love. This is what it means for Christ to “Dwell” in our hearts. Paul is saying that as the spirit strengthens us, Christ will take up permanent residence. It is because of this that we can be strengthened in our inner being. As we stop resisting and start embracing his presence, Christ becomes the dominating factor of who we are. 

How does this dwelling and subsequent strengthening happen? 

Ephesians 3:17
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - 

It happens through faith.

It is only by having faith that he is who he says he is and will do what he says he will do and loves the way he says and displays that he loves that we will gain strength. 
Here’s where most people give up. We have been in too many conversations where someone says something like “well, that’s where faith comes in...” or “this is one of those areas where you just have to believe...” Though these statements are often true, I think they leave us with an unanswered question that is like someone handing you a bowl of unset jello and expects you to be satisfied. 

But this isn’t an unfinished or unanswered concept. Belief in Christ’s work on the cross is to believe that somewhere inside our souls, we have an empty place. In the church we recognize that emptiness as the wall created between us and God because of our desire to make it on our own. In effect, we have rebelled against our loving creator who made us. Our faith is one that recognizes our inability to fill that empty place in our hearts no matter how hard we try, but it is the gospel of Jesus Christ that takes an impossible situation and provides an answer that that same loving God that we turned our backs on provides for us. The gospel message is the act of the creator God of everything seen and unseen sending his own son out of love for us, and a desire to see us restored to a relationship with him. It is this same God who allowed his son to be killed on a cross to provide payment for the situation that our rebelliousness had caused and that because of this, we can actually know the God who created the universe. An awareness of this unexplainable love is the beginning of what then becomes a process of strengthening in your “inner being” as Christ dwells in your heart.

Like loving your spouses’ presence in your home, having Christ dwell within you as a welcome guest can only happen through deep conversation with your Savior. I think that when we first believe, it is easy to feel satisfied. It’s like getting to know someone for the first time. Like a first date. Conversation is moderately surfacy, but still exciting. We are still in a state of shock that this person is actually interested in us, and are reveling in the fact that our admiration is reciprocated. But as we continue in the relationship, we need to start being able to read behind the lines of that person’s facade before intimate closeness becomes reality. Getting to really know them takes time. It takes asking good questions and accepting the answers that make us uncomfortable. 

Unlike human relationships however, conversation with God must necessarily be accompanied by scripture or it is simply a one-way conversation. Without accompanying my prayers with the word of God I am talking “at” God instead of engaging in dialogue with him. Without the scriptures, there is no way I can know what to pray for or be sure that it is “his voice” when he speaks. Like Fred talked about last week, I am finding that the more I know his word, the more that his “word dwells in me richly”, the more my love for God is enriched and strengthened. The more I love Him, the more I am able to see others the way he sees them and in turn am able to love them more like he loves. This is why this is much bigger than just seeing our lives and situations from a different perspective. This is an ongoing thing that has to stem from the heart to be permanent, or like any good new-years resolution, it soon goes the way of the dinosaur. There is a strengthening in my inner being that results in Christ taking up residence, and this is where life is different, my perspective modified, and the I am changed. 
Let’s continue on with verse 18
Ephesians 3:18,19
that you being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

As I am filled, I become rooted and grounded in love, just like Christ. The impossible becomes possible. Paul even says “to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge”. To know that which surpasses knowledge is a contradictory statement. It is an impossibility, but I am learning that God works best in the places I think are impossible, to show me the possibility that lies within my finite definition of impossible. If I internalize and believe in the possibility of this impossibility, I am told that I may be filled with all the fullness of God. How exciting is it to see something like this in the scriptures! To know that eternal life is just another plus of the Gospel! That at this very moment, you and I are being filled with the fullness of God! Think about that for a moment and all it’s implications. The fullness of God is his character and his character is personified in Jesus. This means that as we get to know the Jesus of the bible more and more that we actually become more and more like him! Now that is more than I could ever ask or think!

Now Paul’s closing statement. A statement that we could end all of our prayers with as we push forward believing in a God who knows that whatever we pray for won’t even scratch the surface of what he has in store for us. A God who knows us better than we know ourselves and has promised to fill us with all of his fullness according to his riches in Glory (which is again more than we can imagine!)

Let’s look at that memory verse again.

Ephesians 3:20,21
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

So what do we take away from today?
  1. Do I really believe that he can do more than I can ask or think? The easy answer is yes, but we need to test ourselves and ask the second question.
  2. What is my current desire? Is it a desire for success or love, or maybe just that I would be a good parent or student. If I find that these are the dominating desires in my heart, I am putting a limit on what God can do. 

Let’s change our prayers this week to reflect a heart that longs for Christ to dwell within us and to strengthen our inner being. Let’s pray that through his presence we may be grounded in the love of Christ and may be filled with the fullness of God. It is an impossible prayer, but through the work of the cross, it can become a reality.

what do you have for me today daddy? (a sermon I wrote three years ago)

Luke 18:15-17 ESV) Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

So the people brought infants to Jesus and the disciples sent them away, later to be lovingly rebuked by their savior... This was not the first time they had been rebuked. This was not the first time that Jesus had acted out of the norm and was by far not the only time I had read about Jesus being gentle toward the lowly and ill, the unpolished and un-esteemed. What is Jesus saying to me? What is he saying to us? It shouldn't be that hard right?

 “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

When I think about what is different now than when I was a child, I see just a couple of things; 
my outlook on possibility 
my wonder and longing, passionate pursuit for things of beauty.
 So I decided to explore these areas in the hope that what Jesus was saying wasn't complicated at all, but rather something that could be understood by a child such as myself.

Outlook on Possibility
The older I get I see less and less as possible. 
It’s easy to think you are going to be a race car driver or famous musician while you are young, but as you get older, even the most practical dreams start to fade into the reality of time.
I was talking to Laura the other night and posed the question, "I wonder what it's like to come to a place where you realize that there is more to look back on than to look forward to". I think about how Abram must have felt when Sarai was barren. God had done all this great stuff through him and around him and had promised to make a great nation out of his offspring but this one thing, this one promise was still left unfulfilled. WIthout children, how could a great nation be born, and the older Abram and Sarai got, the more the reality of time must have taken over his psyche. Logic shone a spotlight on the reality that very old people just don’t have babies. I bet he would lie next to Sarai in the tent and lament, "well, it's been a good run, but looks like we are about out of time for that kid that God promised..." 
So we settle for less and contrive ways to bring about those dreams in lesser forms. Maybe we didn’t become a race car driver, but we can save up for BMW and feel like one.

I heard a story once about some soldiers who had made it safely out of a horrible battle only to find out that one of them had been left behind. After much deliberation, they decided that they would go back into battle, even though they were almost certain that their comrade could not be saved. So they fought their way back into the thick of the fight and found their friend still alive, hunkered down in a foxhole or something. When he looked up into the faces of his friends he smiled sheepishly and said "I knew you'd come."
They had all but lost hope, but the spark that remained was enough for them to try against all odds. There as a possibility, faint though it was, that their friend was still alive.

So maybe when Jesus says that to enter the kingdom, I need to come as a child, he is talking about that glimmer of hope. Maybe he is speaking to that place where I feel the possibility pool has been drained - that I’ll never write a novel or I’ll never be the husband I need to be; maybe that is where he wants me to come to him like a child and ignore my knowledge of what was or what should be,  and replace it with the childlike possibility that my son Jonathan comes to me with when he hands me the wooden race car that he broke from using it as a hammer, "fix it daddy" he says. There is no doubt in his mind that I will. He may have used it improperly or broken it on purpose, but aside from a gentle urging to him not to repeat the misuse, he is immediately forgiven as I rush to the shop for the wood glue. Maybe you are out of work or hanging on to a job you hate because you fear leaving before you have something else lined up. Maybe you are struggling with that same sin over and over again, or the guilt that comes from divorce. Maybe he's calling you and me to come to him with fresh eyes of possibility and to ask with a heart full of trust for daddy to "fix it".

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.

Longing and passionate pursuit of beauty 
I love being a dad. Its like everything I do is met with the wide eyes of my son. As long as I act excited about something, he is excited too. I remember when he was a baby I would hold him near the window in his room so he could look out at the sun or the stars and I would tell him "see, outside is better than inside". Now that he is older, I approach him with the wonder of adventure as I tell him with maniacal eyes and an excited voice that we are headed on an adventure today, and if I craft it just right, he stays excited as we travel to the mysterious land of Wal Mart. But I can already see how it is getting harder and harder to fill him with a sense of wonder. One day, Shrek and donkey won't be enough. 
As a teenager I had this insatiable longing to be in love. Not the way my parents were in love or the way that other couples I knew were in love, but real, love the way Hollywood does it. You know, the real stuff. While I grew up on the beaches of south florida with beautiful ocean around, under and over me, none of it was as elusive as what I believed was the love I saw in the movies. It was passionate and filled with a central focus in which nothing else mattered. There were no bills to pay, worries about the cost of gas, and no one ever took Advil for a headache and went to bed at eight. This was what I wanted, something beautiful that was worth giving it all and sacrificing everything for my quest or for the girl who was my “soulmate” 
One day I would find out that the love in the movies was contrived and that the passion that I hungered for within relationships only occurred in inadequate moments. So what happened to my wonder and passion for beauty? I think it died because I was finding my motivation and inspiration in the wrong place. I was looking for the infinite in the finite, for an unending flame in a pile of burning wood. How could the beauty of the inside of a curling wave or the touch of someone’s hand ever transcend their discovery?

People were bringing their children to Jesus so that he would bless them. Why do we pray blessing for our children and the ones that we love? Could it be that we desire that our loved ones live full and passionate lives and that the blessing that we seek is asked for in hope that God would grant it? If that is the motivation, and Jesus knows our hearts, then we can come to the conclusion that when he says "let them come to me", he is saying that a blessed life is exactly what he wants to give us! A life full of longing for him in wonder of what he will reveal next about what and who he has made you to be. You see the wonder that we have as a child dies because it lies within that which can be explained. We are amazed by the things we experience or see for the first time, but become less amazing each time we experience them. Could it be that Jesus is asking us to come to him daily, with wide eyes in expectation as we ask “What is our adventure today daddy?”

John Piper says :”God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him”
Do we agree with that statement? Because if we really do, we are faced with a decision that requires us to come to Jesus like a child; with all our sin (yes, children have sin) all our inadequacies, all our prejudices, all our pride - all our junk. Jesus is telling us to throw ourselves passionately, into his arms with wonder as to his greatness and to say “I have nothing to offer you, but I know You love me, so what do you have for me today?” 
God has made me, and God has made you exactly how he intended to make you and exactly how he intended to make me.

So what is my problem? How many times do I find myself doubting the person that God has made me and I feel like my opinion doesn’t matter, so I don’t speak up. How many times do I see the person that I know I need to carefully serve today, and I quietly walk by hoping they won’t notice me. How many times do I look Jesus in the face and say I know you love me and want what is best for me, but I’m just not trusting it today, so I’m going to do my own thing... besides, what you are asking is way too radical, and I’m just not sure you are going to come through. The problem is that I have gotten old, and wise and I haven’t tempered my wisdom with a proper understanding of how much Jesus really loves me and wants more than anything for me to be the man that he made me to be.

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.

That day there were important things to do, and people with needs much bigger issues than the blessing of infants. The disciples knew this as they began to try to chase the parents with their children away so that Jesus could get to the important stuff. But the Bible tells us that Jesus lovingly pulls them aside. He didn’t want to make a spectacle out of their lack of understanding, but wanted to teach them. It is as if he was saying, “I know you think you understand what is going on here, but you don’t. Because if you did, you would see that each person, no matter age, status, sinfulness or stature holds the same position in my kingdom. If you really understood, you would see that those who really know why I am here are those whose eyes haven’t been clouded by hurt, and whose open arms have never been rejected and whose requests are always met with understanding and love. 

Repeat this statement out loud with me. Jon, I know who you are and what you are made for more than you will ever know; open your eyes to the wonder of what I have prepared for you, the one I love. For to such as these belongs the kingdom of heaven.

 Am I limiting what He has made me to be and do because my outlook on possibility is skewed and my passionate pursuit of beauty is focused on the finite instead of the infinite? Am I coming to God like a child and saying “What adventure do you have for me today?” 

I called my mom this week just to catch up, and we started talking about this very thing. You see, my mom is the most giving person I know. At Christmas and thanksgiving, she is the hardest person to buy for because she never wants something just for her. It’s always something like, “I want a table big enough for everyone to sit down together.” or if it is for her it’s always practical like a new dishwasher. On Christmas and Thanksgiving when everyone is focused on having a nice time with family, my mom is thinking about people who have no where to go... and as a result, they have Christmas with our family. And as we spoke, my mom said to me “I hope that my desire to care for others isn’t motivated selfishly so I can get another feather in my cap.” and I stopped her right there. I said, “Mom, if that were the case, it would have stopped a long time ago. This is who God has made you to be - hyper, joyful and all about those who don’t have what you do, whether it’s is material or spiritual.” You see, when my mom sees someone hurting, she hurts, and when she sees someone joyful or finds a light in a dark place, she camps out there and brings everyone around her with her.
And I don’t tell you this to glorify my mom, because it hasn’t always been this way, it has been a process. But I think that where she is succeeding is in seeing God rightly. She fought through negativity and hurt and watching the sickness of others her whole life, and through the power of God’s grace and the miracle of God-given unjaded child eyes, my mom still sees Jesus as a father who says, “I know it’s hard, but I made you to care for others and to bring comfort and joy. You are made perfectly for my purpose and I am proud of you.”

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.

So my challenge to you is this. Am I starting every day with eyes full of wonder, asking my father “What adventure do you have for us today dad?”
Over and over again, we see Jesus rebuke the religious leaders and prefer those who come to him in humility with nothing of themselves to offer, and he gives them everything they will ever need by simply revealing to them who he has made them to be. 
It is a process, and even in writing this entry, he had to tear away the walls that I constructed so that he could say - “Yeah, I know all that you wrote is true, but what do I want YOU to say today... I gave you your outlook viewpoint and even directed you to this passage. Your job today is to discover what I want to reveal about me through who I made you. Join me on our adventure today.” 

the paper I just wrote for my ethics class...

A Scriptural View of Capitol Punishment and Civil Disobedience 
(Two issues that need each other to reach a satisfactory conclusion)

Two position papers in one by Jon Marsden

There is a lot of killing in the Bible. Even from the very beginning when Cain kills Abel, God’s created, His image bearers are killing each other and being killed by their creator. So what does the bible have to say about the role of justice in killing? If someone murders one of my children, do I have the right to retaliate? Is the justice department justified in sentencing a murderer or rapist to the electric chair? While the old testament may seem to suggest the rightness of capitol punishment, does the new testament share this view? I believe that a close look at the scriptures can point us to an answer that not only purveys true justice, but also allows societal interpretation in order to ultimately bring glory to God.
Genesis 9:6 (ESV) “Whoever sheds the blood of a man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”
The stage is set and the standard declared. It is clear that if you kill that you should be killed. There is no gray in this black and white statement. Only nine chapters in and we know what to do with murderers. While we do not know where this would inevitably stop (if a man kills a man, then a man should kill him but now that man has killed a man so another man should kill him and so on...) we at least know where to start. If this isn’t clear enough, we get it again in Exodus 12:12 (ESV) “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death...” and again in Leviticus 24:17 (ESV) “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death.” and in Numbers, and in Deuteronomy, we can’t help but see how God feels about what to do with those who murder. 
The sixth commandment (do not murder) seems to stand in stark contrast to this idea. Isn’t murdering a person the same as murdering the person who murdered the person? Has a murdered murderer been murdered by a murderer murdering to avenge the murder committed by the murderer? Okay, I am taking it a bit too far, but I think the question lies in the word Murder. The Hebrew term used here is ratsakh. It’s meaning is broader than the word we use for murder and is never used when describing the kind of killing we see in war. It refers more to human death caused by carelessness or negligence. So if we are to look at the subject of capitol punishment from an old testament standpoint, we will have to look at killing apart from murder. They are not the same. We do not see God murder, however we do see him kill. Assuming the authority is law paradigm, we know that God’s laws are always consistent with his character  and must then conclude that there are times that killing is permissible. 
The laws that God gives to Moses at Sinai provide explanation to God’s intention in the idea of permissible killing. These laws were to help govern Israel in the promised land and thus were situational in accordance with relevant issues that the nation would face. They were in effect civil laws, designed to work in the nation of Israel at that specific time in history. They were never meant to be instituted in other cultures or even other time periods, rather, they were designed to promote the purity and well being of God’s chosen people. This old testament event, provides the groundwork for what we see Paul speak of later on in the new testament.
Romans 13:1-14 (ESV) Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
Most people have heard that Christians are to be subject to authority, but we get uneasy at the idea of it going further than imprisonment for stealing, or fines and community service for alcohol use as a minor. The idea that resisting authority is to “resist what God has appointed.” doesn’t sit well with most of us and always brings up thoughts of tyrannical governments, Stalin and Hitler. But this wasn’t written to a culture in the midst of intense persecution and obvious tyranny. The most probable source of strife in the church in Rome was the integration of Jewish Christians into the mostly Gentile Christian congregations... cultural diversity. So let’s not get sidetracked on a very different subject and see ourselves to be in a very similar situation to that of the Christians in Rome.
The Roman officials were not all Christian. The laws were not all based in Judaea-Christian ethics and the people of Rome shared a variety of different belief systems with the worship of many different Gods being common. So it is in this setting that Paul states plainly that one should follow the law, for to follow the civil laws was also to follow God’s law. So the idea of submission to the law of God is expanded into the civil laws in the specific time and place in which you live. Not that these laws should not be looked at critically, tested and changed accordingly, but that as long as they are active, they should be followed. Apparently, Jesus felt the same way about civil law. In John 19:11, After Jesus was betrayed and delivered to the authorities, he says; “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
Both the old and the new testament have examples of the validity of the use of death as a punishment with the only caveat being the institution of a non-tyrannical civil government. Therefore in the setting I know best (USA) I agree with the government’s proper use of the death penalty and I believe that both the old and the new testament agree with the idea of capitol punishment... at least in places where the governing authorities deem it culpable.
But now let’s look back at the big question that I asked the reader to submerge earlier in this essay. Isn’t it unsafe to simply accept that what the government says is the word of God? Does the bible teach that civil disobedience is a sin? What if the authorities are in direct conflict with what we know to be true in the scriptures?
Acts 5:29 (ESV) “We must obey God rather than men.”
Again, for a proper understanding of this statement by Peter, we must take it in context. The Sadducees had Peter and the Apostles arrested for speaking in the name of Jesus. The apostles had been performing many great works and were spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The scriptures speak of the “many signs and wonders” that were done by these men, and now they were being held captive for the message they were propounding and the works that they were doing. They were faced with a decision of following civil law or following the command of Jesus to fulfill the great commission. In this case, the right thing to do was pretty black and white, and Peter proclaimed the truth boldly. In response, the authorities had them beaten and released, charging them not to continue doing and saying the things that they were doing and saying, and of course, they again disobeyed the authorities and kept about the father’s business.
The old testament is also full of stories such as these. Daniel, not bowing down to worship the king, but instead worshiping the one true God. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who were thrown into a furnace for not bowing to worship a golden statue and even the three wise men who followed the star to find the promised savior and disobeyed the king by not returning to tell him where they found Jesus. Incidents where black and white is very black and white and the choice is between following a directive from the word of God or an opposite command from an earthly law source that was obviously the direct opposite of right and good. Could it be that these are the only cases in which the ideas expressed by Paul in Romans 13 are deemed inappropriate?
I think the answer lies in the systems within the government that allow or disallow reform. Historian and moralist Lord Acton’s most famous quote “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We see this repeatedly in the history of the kings of the nation of Israel as time after time we see them being evil in the sight of the Lord. The idea of accountability lies only within the prophets who advise the kings. History here saw these prophets often ignored and even at times put to death as the kings avoided accountability from God. In the new testament Paul’s words in Romans 13 can be seen as a warning to authority as well as a plea to follow that authority as though it was from God. The charge to officials is that they are appointed by God and that they should not be “a terror to good conduct”. Officials are “God’s servant(s) for your good.”
If the structure of the government supports the idea that officials are servants of God for the good of the people, than there would need to be a system by which these men could be held accountable, both to the word of God as well as the people that they govern. If the system of accountability were being eliminated or had never been established, the possibility for that system to be in direct opposition to God greatly increases. It is in these situations that acts of civil disobedience may be appropriate, whether it be on the state level, national level or even within the structure of your place of occupation (although you should expect to lose your job if you do choose this route!)
As I wrote this essay, I became quickly aware that the idea of capitol punishment opened up questions about other ethical topics that would need to be discussed in order to better come to a conclusion that was acceptable. The one most closely related and needing discussion in order to accept the conclusion that was reached about capitol punishment was the idea of civil disobedience, which would need to be explored since the strongest argument for the permissibility of capitol punishment was that of following the civil laws. What if these laws were created by lawless tyrants? What if justice in the area in question was no longer just? What then of Capitol punishment. Therefore, the second topic had to be discussed at further length in order to bring proper closure to the first. In conclusion, the Bible seems to suggest that capitol punishment is permissible and even supported by scripture as a means of enforcing the laws of civil government. However, in the case of a governmental system that is in direct contrast to the will of God, the civil government should be disobeyed and the capitol punishment standards of that particular culture may no longer be culpable.

Just Me

Could it be that when you ask God to take all of who you are that he actually acts? Could our prayers for growth actually bring pain? Could it be that our God who loves us enough to give himself up for us would give us a situation in which those who we love and trust the most are taken from us? It may be death or abandonment, or backstabbing or the sheer technicalities of life, but is God answering my prayers for depth by ransacking my life? He has shaken my illusion of good health with cancer, pierced my love of things through poverty and pulled out the safe rug of church through the ugliness that lies within the politics of it... and today I stand only because of Him. Today I cannot rest on occupation, ability to provide or health. I cannot stand on my appearance or good nature - in fact I cannot stand at all if not for Him. It is only in Him that I stand and though I feel weak, I feel big. Today, I am a man... only a man, but at least I am a man. Not a child. Not less than. Not more than. Just me.