"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Friday, February 25, 2011

Best Wedding Blunder

Last weekend I was at a wedding. The bride stood elegantly at the front--full of confidence, excitement and beauty. The groom stood at the front--sweating, clammy, knees bent as to prevent fainting. It was beautiful. I love weddings! They are a time when the sacred collides with the common--two individuals becoming one flesh before God in holy matrimony, and yet has anyone ever been to a wedding where everything went perfect? Nervousness abounds, people faint, unity candles refuse to light, awkward speeches are made, the flower girl picks her nose...

We've been looking through the life of Christ in Youth group. Last week we looked at Jesus visiting a wedding in Cana (John 2:1-12). Like every other wedding in history, things didn't go exactly as planned. Jesus' mother comes to him and says they have ran out of wine. Considering that weddings were week long celebrations in Jesus' time, this is no small blunder. There are several lessons we can take from Jesus' response to this problem. Jesus says,

“Woman, why do you involve me?”...“My hour has not yet come.”(John 2:4)

Interesting response. I admit I don't fully understand it. We don't know exactly what Mary expected Jesus to do, but apparently she believed that Jesus could do something. Yet, Jesus responds, "Its not my time yet." This is a good reminder to us--sometimes we may have good questions, good goals, good desires, but when we bring these things to God we must always remember that His time table is not our own. It might not be time yet.

Mary tells the servants of the wedding to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. This is where the next lesson I see in the story comes. The servants could panic, they could run searching the town for wine to share, they could admit defeat apologizing emphatically. Instead they go to Jesus, listening to and obeying him--even when he suggests something strange! When things get tough where do you run? Do you take it to Jesus first? Do you lean in faith on the arms of Christ?

And then Jesus does something amazing. His time has come! The servants fill six stone jars with water to the brim. Jesus tells them to dip a cup, pull it out, and bring it to the master of ceremonies. What was once water is no longer. It is transformed into wine. That's significant--Jesus doesn't make water into really good water, and he's not offering watered down wine either (Koolaid really wasn't an option back then). He turns water into wine. Jesus is in the transformation business. This is the third lesson I offer. Are we like water made to wine? Have we been transformed? I hope when people encounter me I give off a sweet fragrance and flavor that points out the transforming miracle Christ has worked in my life.

The last lesson is found at the end of the story. verse 11 says,

"What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him."

Didn't the disciples already believe in Jesus? In the previous chapter we here them call him "Messiah" and "Son of God". Before they believed because John the Baptist had pointed Jesus to them, or because they had spent time talking with Jesus themselves. Now they had seen what Jesus could do. We may believe on Christ because he was once pointed out to us, or because we have heard his words. The more time we spend with Jesus, however, the greater our belief becomes because we become witness to the worker of miracles.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

All the single pastors

Two great articles

Sometimes writing a blog post is not necessary because someone else has said exactly what you would like to say.  All I can say in response to these two articles is YES!

Well, and I guess this...

I do not feel called to singleness as a life style.  I actually hope to be married some day with a house full of children.  I do, however, hate the pressure I often feel as a single pastor to "get the ball rolling."  Now, to speak fairly, I don't think my married friends realize the pressure they place on me or how painful it can feel to a single person when their singleness is spoken of as something that needs to be corrected.  But it is painful.  I advise those of you who are married to examine your own hearts and see if you hold prejudice towards singleness.   I do believe, and I think I have pretty good company with 1 Corinthians 7, that singleness--like married life--can be a great gift from God.  I confess that I miss out on that gift all to often because my focus shifts from how I can be using this time of singleness for the glory of God to how can I fix this singleness problem.  That's really unfortunate.  I don't think I am the only person that struggles with that mindset.  I do think that the church can help cure these wrong ideas.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I have two younger sisters.  I couldn't be more proud of each of them.  I am constantly being challenged by their love for God and humble submission to the Spirit's leading in their lives.  It has been a treat to watch them grow up and see the ways God has--and is--using them.  Since I'm the oldest, I often feel as if I'm supposed to be the spiritual example, but I'm learning so much from them.  They both blog here and here.

Lyss works with a ministry called Living Hope in NE Minneapolis.  She reaches out to young people who have seen things I can only imagine.  Poverty, violence, and brokenness are a reality to these kids, but because Lyss has experienced the living hope of Jesus Christ, she and the ministry she is a part of bring hope to what the world would call hopeless and helpless.  To get an idea of Alyssa's heart, check out this blog post.

I would invite you to consider how you might partner with the ministry of Living Hope.  If you feel stirred to support Lyss or Living Hope financially, through prayer, or in any other way, you can find more info at Lyss's blog.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Behavior is to Belief as Belief is to Behavior?

When we were wild, rambunctious children it may not have been unlikely that at some point we heard our parents say, "I can't believe your behavior!?!?!"  As we get older, there are times when we examine our own lives and say the same thing.  "I can't believe I did that!"  I think that often we default to think that our behavior flows out of what we believe, and this is true; our world view will determine the way we live our lives down to our most basic behaviors.  But often our sinful natures will cry out the exact opposite.  Not " I can't believe I behaved this way" but "I can't bend my behavior to this belief".  What happens when a deep-seated stronghold of a behavior stands in opposition to our world view?  Either the behavior has to change or the world view has to.

Behavior can determine ones world view.

I read a really interesting article on Christianity Today' website called Unreasonable Doubt, dealing with those un-admitted reasons why some people become atheists.

Romans  1:19 states clearly that God has made plane to man what can be known about Him.  And yet, many are strongly convinced that God is nothing more real then the Easter bunny.  How is that?

The answer comes prior in Romans 1:18.  It speaks of how we are capable of suppressing truth through wickedness.  Literally our behavior snuffs out the truth so that we are incapable of seeing it.

I see this happen in me.  I find that the more I've given in to certain sins over time, the more comfortable I become with them...so much so that I begin to wonder why I thought the behavior was so wrong in the first place.  I'll shrug it off, or maybe even go as far as to look at it as growing up..."maturing".  Maybe this is why so many people have a shift of world view in college.  A lot of college-aged "self discovery" is nothing more than embracing moral depravity and not recognizing sin for what it really is.

We may ask ourselves how it was possible for Christians in this country at one time to own slaves.  Does the Christian world view promote such behavior towards other human beings?  Slaves were useful and slavery was common.  Behavior determined belief.  People were so numb to the sinful dehumanization of slavery that they didn't believe what they were doing was wrong.

How could Germany have supported the Nazi regime?  How did it get to the point that people were cooked in ovens and gassed in showers?  Behavior eventually changes belief.  Its much easier to treat someone that way when they aren't human.

This is a profound truth that we need to recognize.

I think we all have our little pet sins that we like to nurture and feed, hold in our laps and scratch their bellies.  Sure we know that they can be naughty little mutts--barking out against what we say we believe, but they are manageable; they can be hidden and muzzled when needed.  Though these pet sins are perceived as small, they are ferocious dragons ready to overpower both us and the world view we claim.  If we hold on to these "little" pets to long, pretty soon we become enslaved to them,  unaware of how foolish we look walking around on the wrong end of the leash.

Sin can't be managed.  Don't walk your pet sin around on a leash; take the leash and make a noose.  Sin needs to be killed.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Its only cute when babies do it

Have you ever been having a lovely conversation filled with keen insights, good humor, jovial laughter, and then, out of the blue you say, "Hey, I wonder how much of my foot I can fit in my mouth?"  Today I put my foot in my mouth.  My whole foot.  I have a size eleven mouth.  There is a reason saying something stupid and hurtful is called "foot in mouth"--it leaves a nasty taste like sweaty gym sock.  I felt awful.  I've offered my apology, and through grace have been forgiven.  Now its not that I haven't munched my toes ever before (anyone who knows me well also knows I'm capable of saying stupid things) but I hope I've learned my lesson from this experience.  First, I will not be so quick to mutter idiot under my breath the next time someone else sucks their gym sock.  Second, I will be more careful with the reigns of my own tongue--such a wild beast to tame.  Lastly, when I do fail (which inevitably I will) I'll be quick to own up to my mistake and make things right by apologizing.

To any infant readers out there, suck your toes now.  It's not as cute when you're an adult.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

A tall man in a small shop

I love La Blogotheque's Take Away Shows.  What they do is record musicians playing their art in unlikely venues--tour buses, under bridges, up on roof tops, in hall ways, on the street, and in cramped music shops like the one in this video.  This creates an incredibly unique and intimate musical experience.  Sometimes a house show is just as stirring as a stadium of thousands.

Here is what La Blogotheque had to say about this performance by Kristian Matsson, otherwise known as "The Tallest Man on Earth".

"One catch: after soundcheck the day before, Tallest Man’s guitars were locked inside the NYC music venue, Town Hall, where he’d be playing later that night with Bon Iver. Solution: we’d have to shoot somewhere with a decent supply of guitars that he might borrow. A fan of music of all kinds, Jeff, the awesome, museum-quality proprietor of the legendary Music Inn on West 4th Street in Greenwich Village was happy to oblige. The staff took refuge downstairs, where they ripped through some take-out tacos while the Swedish guy played songs from his debut Shallow Grave. The Tallest Man, who inevitably gets talked about in terms of Dylan apparently had no idea he was playing just three doors down from where Dylan actually lived and just around the corner from where the cover photo of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was shot."