Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Our Life

This is a picture of Jennifer driving the handicapped grocery cart at Walmart. She has been on bedrest for about a month now. Last time we went after an appointment, we ate lunch and she worked on thank you cards in the Walmart Subway. The doctor has banned her from walking around shopping at Walmart. I told her it would only be ok to shop around if she was in the "cripple cart", and she finally got desparate enough to drive.
Bedrest has been a long road for Jenny. She is a take charge person, and an active person. She can hardly stand being forced to sit still and lay down so much. Yet, with my nagging and her determiniation, she has continued to keep the baby healthy by resting. Strangely, she has been losing weight with her lack of exercise. She has only gained a net of 8 pounds and is in her third trimester.
I am so impressed with how strong she has been. She has been super faithful about eating healthy, watching her blood sugar and her blood pressure, and doing all the things you are supposed to do. She hasn't even had a coffee or a caffeinated pop since she has been pregnant.
Karis is blessed to have such a loving and hard-working momma.

A funny pic

We saw this at Hollywood Video in Pueblo. Who knew, in addition to renting videos, they were giving away children? Could adoption be so inexpensive and simple? Surely not! There must be a catch
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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Book Review

My latest book review for the book review site I write for is HERE

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rough Draft of Last Sunday’s Sermon



 1 "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,
'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 2 "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."



Revelation is probably the most controversial books in the Bible. It is a prophetic book in many ways. Now often times we get caught up with the futuristic parts of prophecy. This is understandable, especially in the Book of Revelation. After all, the book of Revelation ends at the end of time.


Prophecy, though, through Scripture is as much about forth-telling as it is about mysteriously foretelling future events. In other words, most of prophecy in the Old and New Testament, whether talking about the present, the near future, or the way-ahead far in the future, is really telling us about what is going to happen so that it will change our hearts, our attitudes, and even our behavior in the present time and the present moment.


Nowhere is this more obvious than in the Book of Revelation. Before we get to the four horsemen of the apocalypse or the seven trumpets or the seven bowls of judgment, we hear about seven churches. Why do we hear about the seven churches first? Because the book of Revelation is written to the churches about how the churches are living their lives together and their lives as believers. Everything that follows is designed to challenge and comfort the church. But first, Jesus speaks directly to his Church through seven local congregations.


There are seven congregations, and in Apocalyptic prophecy numbers mean everything. Seven is a number of wholeness, completeness, and perfection. These seven congregations that Jesus talks to are seven real, historical congregations. They also represent the churches as a whole throughout time and throughout history.


So when we read Revelation we should not just be thinking about what happens at the end of time. Instead as we read the book we should be asking what that is saying to me and to you, and to us as a local church. We should be asking about what God is doing in our churches, how God is blessing and encouraging us, how he is challenging us, and how we should respond to his call as we move into the future.


So, for the next several weeks we are going to be looking at the different churches in Revelation, and thus hear what Christ has to say to ALL the churches.

The first church that Jesus addresses in these letters to the churches is the church in Ephesus. The Ephesian church is a fascinating church. My mother actually visited Ephesus last year. Before Christianity, Ephesus was a center of the pagan worship of the goddess Artemis. When Paul first started doing his work there, they got so angry with his evangelistic effort that they stoned him until they thought he was dead. He was possibly imprisoned there at times. The ministry went on. The apostle John is reputed to have moved to Ephesus with Jesus' mother Mary, Priscilla and her husband Acquila helped to plant the church there in Ephesus, and eventually were pastors of the young church. Eventually, Timothy came to be the leader of the church in Ephesus as well.


The church in Ephesus was a prominent church, but it was not the most prominent church of the early church. It wasn't in the governmental center in Rome. It wasn't the Jerusalem church centered in the Holy Land. It was in the back woods of Asia Minor, which is modern day Turkey. It had a history, but it was an average church in an average place in the Mediterreanean world.


The Ephesian church was an important congregation in the early church, but Ephesus was not the easiest place to have a church. It was a center of idol worship. It was one of those places where every kind of kooky religious philosophy and cult made its way into. It is no surprise then, that Paul's letter to the Ephesians talks a lot about spiritual warfare, and a supernatural, spiritual realm. Christians were viewed with suspicion because idolatry was big business in that community, and the Ephesian church stood against that idolatry. It cost something to be a Christian in Ephesus. It cost a lot to follow Jesus in the community of Ephesus actually.


In each letter to the churches Jesus is introduced or identified as the letter starts, but each in a different way, with an emphasis on different characteristics. When Jesus is introduced to the Ephesian church he is introduced as the one who walks among the seven lampstands with seven stars in his hand. He is emphasizing that the church is a light in a very dark place, and that Jesus is walking among them.


We can see that they are a light in a dark place from what Jesus says about them. Jesus commends the church for standing against evil. For living right. For having good doctrine.


The Ephesian church was a church that had good theology. They stood for what was right. They taught what was right. Their people were moral. Most people would look at them and see a faithful church. They would see a good church. Yet Jesus had a concern for them.


Jesus said that they lost their first love. He said that they needed to return to the works that they had at first.


Sit and think about that for a second. They had lost their first love. The love that they had at first. They said all the right things. They did all the right things. But somewhere along the way they had lost their passion. They had lost their heart. They had left the love they had at first.


Do you remember the first time you fell in love? Remember the crazy things you would do? Stay up all night visiting on the phone, then go to work the next day? You remember how you couldn't hardly wait to spend time with that person again, even though you had just left them five minutes ago? Do you remember the silly things you would do to impress that person you were trying to impress?


Do you remember the improvements it made in you when you first fell in love? How you outlook on life was hopeful? How you were more joyful? How people wondered exactly what had happened to you with that goofy smile on your face?


Do you remember when you first accepted Christ? Do you remember when you first began to understand what following Jesus was all about? I hope you do. I hope you remember staying up late at night, wondering if your friend had accepted Christ. I hope you remember the joy of reading Scripture and noticing how it seemed every time you opened the Bible it spoke to you and your life right now. Do you remember how nervous and excited you felt that day that you were baptized? Do you remember those moments when you wanted everybody to know about Christ because your faith meant so much to you? Do you still have that kind of love for Jesus that you had at first? Do you still have that passion for the gospel that you knew when you first got close to Jesus? Do you still have that urgency to reach those who don't know Jesus? Do you still have the eagerness to serve that you had when you first started to believe that Christ in you could make a difference in others' lives? Or, God forbid, have you lost your first love?

I want you to notice that Jesus is walking among the lampstands that are present and representative of each church. Jesus is walking among his church, wanting to be close to it. Wanting to be in relationship with His church. Yet when he is in the church, he notices that the church has lost its love for Him. Its love for others. Can you imagine? Jesus coming into the church that meets in his name. And he is wondering….where is the passion? Where is the love?


It is a lot like when people first starting sinning in Genesis. Jesus walked among the lamp stands in Revelation. God came to walk with Adam and Eve in the cool in the evening in Genesis. And they were hiding. Where there was once love, there was then fear. Where there is once healthy relationship, there was then broken relationship.


The Ephesisan church thought God wanted them to be doctrinally pure. The Ephesian church thought God wanted them to stand against evil. God did. But they forgot that God wanted them to love Him, and love the people he created.


God wants them to return to the love that they had at first. He says if they do not, he will remove their lamp stand from them. In other words, if the church does not rediscover their love and their passion for God and his good news, they will cease to be a church of Christ. And God will not bless them. They will cease to be a church if they do not rediscover the love they had at first.


Stange thing. There is not a Christian church in Ephesus today. This once prominent church no longer exists. Could it be because they lost their first love?

Could it be that God did remove their lampstand?


Could God be saying the same thing to us that he is saying to the Ephesian church?


Church, you have been faithful. You have stood for what is right. We have a church full of people who don't have to be here. You have each made a choice to worship in this place, as a part of this church body. You are a kind church. You are a committed church. All of these are good things.



Yet I wonder, do you have the love for Christ that you had at first? Do you have that passion, that burning heart, that fire in the belly for living Jesus everyday and in every way? Do you have that passion to see God at work in your life? Do you pray for your church? Do you even talk about your church as "us" and "our church" or do you talk and think about your church as "that church" when you talk about it? Are you eager to see what God can do in your church in the next week, month, or year? Are you eagerly seeking to join God in that thing that you see Him doing here at First Baptist? Or are you just ho-humming along, putting in your hour or two once a week, patting yourselves on the back for showing up this Sunday? Have you settled for a Christianity without a heart? I hope not!


I hope if I asked you how you are growing in your faith, you could give me an answer about how God is working in your life. I pray that if I asked you what you are most excited about in your relationship with Christ you would have a few words to say, or even a story to tell. Even if you had to swear me to confidentiality to tell me. I pray you have not fallen from the love you had at first.


What step of faith is God leading you toward? How is God calling you to return to your first love? Could it be that God is asking you to make a deeper commitment to your faith? Could it be that God is asking you to stop ordering your world around your moods and how you feel from day to day, and start really committing to loving your neighbor, or your spouse, or your kids? Could it be that God is simply calling you to live with joy and passion instead of feeling sorry for yourself or being angry at the world?


You see, my friends, when your love for Christ dies, then your love for others dies, and it is not long before you are a heartless, compassionless, bitter shell of a person who tries to do the right things, but never has the right heart. And it not long if we are like that as a church that we are a shell of a church, with no real good news to offer. I don't want that for me. I don't want that for us. I don't want that for you. I hope you don't want that either. I hope you will return to the love you had at first.



Saturday, April 10, 2010

Best Of....

Questions people ARE NOT asking when they come to church

An editorial on gambling and the Civil Rights Movmement by Will Willimon

Easter with triplet infants

Eric's attempt at April Fools' Humor

Don Miller's single, thirty-something take on what women and men want in a relationship.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Calvin and Calvinism: What is the distinction?

Again this is a simplistic summary, given as a part of a request to discuss this issue by Eric Lundy.

John Calvin was one of the key leaders of the Reformation. In many things, Calvin and Luther agreed. In some, especially their theology of the Lord's Supper, they did not agree. Their contributions were different enough that they were each seen as Reformers in their own right, and each had different schools of thought that followed.

It is impossible to underestimate the rediscovery of Classical Language and Classical Writings on the development of the Reformation. Luther, although familiar with the philosophers, is more closely associated with language studies and his work with Scripture. Luther becomes more interested in development of the Protestant Churches in Germany than he does in governmental affairs. Protestants owe their passion for the word of God to Luther. However, Luther is not all that radical of a reformer in church practice.

John Calvin, on the other hand, was better schooled in the classical philosphers and scholars of ancient times. In fact, as one reads Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion it is easy to note not only the reference back to theologians like Augustine, but also philosophers like Cicero. Calvin eventually establishes a church and attempts a "Christian" government in Geneva, Switzerland.

Central to Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, which is Calvin's magnum opus, is the insistence on God's Soveriegnty. God is all powerful. God is all knowing. God is the source of everything. Any goodness in humanity was the result of the goodness of God working in human beings. God knows all that will happen. In short, as a theology professor of mine told me, all of creation is a theatre for the sovieriegnty of God for Calvin. This in turn, elevated the importance of God's grace toward humanity, because the root of evil in the world comes from the human propensity to sin, and the root of all God is from God's good gift.

In my opinion, Calvin states most of this in a positive way in the Institutes. And, the outgrowth of the Institutes was to translate the power of God, in my opinion well stated in the book, into political power. Calvin's Geneva was a city-state that attempted to be a theocracy. For many years it was successful. At times, Calvin's Geneva went overboard in its power and control. But that is another story.

What is known as Calvinism evolved from Calvin, and primarily from his Institutes. After a theologian named Armenius attempted to be both Reformed, and an advocate of free-will, the leaders of the Reformed theology met at the Synod of Dordt. At Dordt, the Reformed (read Calvinist) churches further defined what we know as Calvinist theology.

Specifically, these Dutch Reformers developed a summary of Calvinist belief that has come to be known by the best known of Dutch flowers. That flower is the tulip. TULIP is an acronym for the five Calvinist distinctives. Those distinctives are:

Total Depravity--There is not one person who has any part of their lives that are not somehow stained by sin and selfishness. Nobody on their own can choose God. We are too sin-sodden.

Unconditional Election--There is nothing one can do to earn God's favor. There is no quality that God looks for to choose one person over another. Anyone who is saved is saved by God's mercy alone. Not by any merit they have.

Limited Atonement--Christ did not die for all. Christ died for those he had chosen to save. Those who God has chosen are those who are believers. Those who never believe did not have Christ die for them. Christ's blood paid the price only for those who have been chosen by God before the foundation of the world to be saved.

Irresistable Grace--Because salvation is an act of God's grace, when God chooses us to be his followers we are powerless to resist his saving work in our lives.

Perseverance of the Saints--This is the doctrine of eternal security. Because we are chosen by God, no power in the world, even the power of our own choice, cannot keep us from following Christ and being saved. Those who are saved by God need not fear "losing" their salvation. God saved those who are believers, they did not save themselves. We do not choose God, he chooses us.

Although these beliefs are based loosely upon the Institutes, the Institutes did not delineate TULIP and Calvinism in general as a belief system. Calvinism, rather, is an outgrowth of John Calvin's teachings and belief system over generations.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Old Spiritual Disciplines in a New Networked World

Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent,

and discerning if he holds his tongue.

Proverbs 17:28

I am by nature an opinionated, hot-headed man. In my interpersonal relationships, it took several years to learn how to control my tongue. I still am not always good at it. For instance, I remember a dating relationship I had in college. My girlfriend would often express her opinions about people and in issues in a manner that I thought was judgmental and poorly-thought out. I would ask her if she had thought about the issue from a different particular perspective, or try and express how a person might come to the other point of view. It wasn't long before that relationship ended.

As a pastor, I had to learn quickly how to be diplomatic. Especially in a support staff position, my opinions were not always welcome. And unlike the role of a senior pastor, where support staff and congregation learn to adapt to overcome the leaders poor or often inartful communication, poorly chosen words of support staff often end up with the person being disciplined by both the congregation and the staff leader.

Now in the days of blogging, social networking and microblogging, I have found it is taking more intentionality to restrain myself from responding to statements made by persons that trigger an emotional response. Or, people who trigger a smart-alek response. For some reason I feel a need to rebutt a status update or a poorly informed blog post even more than a stupid statement. I am not sure why this is.

There are reasons why a decision to speak my mind in this way is a bad idea. It causes conflict between myself and others. It is even harder to do away with a written response than it is a verbal one. The real reason why I avoid these discussions though is that it does not relieve my anger, it just makes me angrier. There is little resolution in such discussion. Furthermore, my comments, often well-intentioned and in good humor, are not interpreted as such by the reader without my non-verbal cues.
Furthermore, although several people associated with the ministry I do read my blog, it is a relatively small group of people that I relate to that are regular devotees. When I discuss things on other folks' blogs, or even more on facebook, I end up having a greater number of people I work with that read what I write. Some people I communicate with more on facebook than in person.

So, more and more, I learn to learn about people without responding. I learn to keep my mouth shut. I take a deep breathe. After all, better to be thought a fool, than to open my mouth and be shown to be one.

The Modern Calvinists and Openness Theology--The Contemporary Landscape

The debate between Calvinism and Armenianism is an old one. It acutally predates Calvin by over a 1ooo years. In the early church, people talked about Augustinianism v. Pelagianism. In the enlightenment people debated Armenian v. Calvinist Theology. Later, people have described the debate as Wesleyan v. Reformed. However you label it, the theological debate between predestination vs. free-will is as old as any denomination, and a discussion that every generation of Christians share.

Today, two visible groups of church leaders and theologians stand on opposite sides of the issue. Suprisingly, two of the key leaders of each movement are members of the same denomination. Both Greg Boyd and John Piper belong to the Baptist General Conference, and both of them live in the Twin Cities metro area. Both of them have a history of being highly competent academics. As a matter of fact, they are both most strongly associated with Bethel College and Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, MN. They are both now pastor-scholars (which in and of itself is a welcome development in evangelical lives. Too often theologians and theological study were divorced from local church ministry. Thank God this has changed). Yet on issues of charasmatic issues, women in ministry, and free-will vs. predestination, they could not disagree more.

Although everything I could say could be defined as "oversimplification", I will attempt to paint a picture between the two camps of Openness Theology and The New Reformed Crowd.

Armenian theology and Openness Theology takes seriously the Scripture passages that focus on choice. They believe that God gives people free will to accept Christ or reject him. They also believe that some of God's decisions are "live" or "open". In other words, God does not have the future completely planned. God leaves room in his continuing creation for both changing his mind, and for human decision to have a real impact on individaul lives and the course of creation as a whole. Boyd, in his books on openness theology, points to Scriptures where people prayed and changed God's mind (Such as Moses talking God into not destroying the whole nation of Israel). For the openness theologians, the calls by God throughout Scripture to choose require that God gives us real options for decisions, and does not predestine us toward a certain decision or even at time foreknow the choices we make. In its extreme Openess Theology and Wesleyan theology more generally can degenerate into Process Theology, which posits that God is still growing, learning, and evolving with us.

Calvinist, or Reformed theology holds most strongly to the sovereignty of God. The most famous book written by Piper, grounded in Reformed Theology, is Desiring God. Desiring God is about Christian Hedonism, namely that the most pleasurable life is a life lived for the pleasure of God. John Piper is the oldest and most established of the New Calvinists. Calvinists believe in the inability of man to do anything good, including choose correctly. without that ability being given by God. Also, a Calvinist believes that everything good, including one's individual faith, is a gift given by God. Many Calvinists believe in God's complete predestination (everything is planned by God that happens) and complete foreknowledge (everything that has ever happened God knew about from the beginning of time). Some Calvinists would posit that the space-time continuum is something invented by God in the first place, and something that God is not constrained by as we are. Nearly all openness theologians would say that God lives within time, instead of over and above it.

This has a number of implications in our ordinary lives. Some of these examples include:

  1. Great tragedy. Is it part of God's plan? Is it God's will? OR Is it not something God wanted God planned, or even controlled or knew what was going to happen?

  2. A marriage partner. Is that person divnely planned or designed by God for you? OR Is that person one of many people you can choose to marry?

  3. Eternal Destiny Does God have a purpose and plan for you since the creation of the world? OR Does God hope that you do the right thing and hope you choose to spend eternity with him?

Again, this is a gross oversimplication, but it is enough to begin a conversation and give a brief overview. What are your thoughts and questions?

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Ask the Friar Book Giveaway....

We are starting a new feature here at Friar Tuck's Fleeting Thoughts. Each week, I am hoping to have you share your questions with me about Christian theology and spirituality. Each week I will be giving away one book to someone who has asked the question that we are going to deal with.

This week Eric Lundy asked several questions about Calvinism. Eric said:

In my blog reading today I came across this article from the Christian Science
Monitor about a resurgence of Calvinism within the Christian community.
http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2010/0327/Christian-faith-Calvinism-is-back It was a fascinating article and this description of Calvin piqued my brain."When people today hear the name John Calvin, they think mainly of predestination – the controversial idea that God has foreordained everything that will happen, including who will and won't be saved, no matter what they do in life."My limited historical knowledge of Calvin, and my lack of knowledge about Calvinism in specifics, leads me to believe that the above statement is a fair representation of Calvin/Calvinism. So, I wonder if you would agree. Also, one of the churches featured in the article was a Baptist Church, which made me wonder if most Baptist Churches would fall into the Calvinism theological category or if just these particular ones talked about in the story do.

I ask because that paragraph immediately made me think about the television
show "FlashForward".
The wife and I recently watched the first half of the show on Netflix and the most recent episodes on Hulu. Probably the most intersting (to me) thread within the show is that no matter what the characters try to do to prevent the (usually bad) events of their futures that they saw in their Flash Forward, they are helpless to stop the hands of fate.

This will be addressed in several articles in the next week. These include:

The Modern Neo-Calvinists and Openness Theology: The Contemporary Landscape
Calvin and Calvinism: How are they the same? How are they different?
Predestination v. Fate: How are they the same? How are they different?
Everyday implications of Calvinism for pastoral and personal spirituality
Calvin and Me: Where I stand

Eric--Your choices on books are:

66 Love Letters
Doctor Jesus
His Battle
What Your Son Isn't Telling You

So what are your views on Calvinism as a theology. What questions do you have that you would like me to discuss?

Easter Sermon



13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles[d] from Jerusalem. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.
17 And He said to them, "What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?"[e]
18 Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, "Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?"
19 And He said to them, "What things?"
So they said to Him, "The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. 22 Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. 23 When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. 24 And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see."
25 Then He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?" 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

28 Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. 29 But they constrained Him, saying, "Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent." And He went in to stay with them.
30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.
32 And they said to one another, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?" 33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, "The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" 35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.


Some things are just hard to take in all at once. You know what I mean? You were there. You saw what happened. You may have even experienced what happened. But you don't know what happened. The moment, the time, before you could grab a hold of it, the whole thing went racing past you.

Some of you have had moments like that. For some of you, those moments are a major crisis. You have lost a loved one. And you spend your days, even years later, trying to remember that look that they had that you loved. Or you try and relive those last few moments you spent with them, and replay those final words they said. Or maybe you have a note from that person right before they slipped away, and you put it in your dresser to take out to read over and over. Time keeps moving forward, but you want to get everything you can out of that moment you lived a week, a year, a decade ago.

For others of you, those moments are more joyous. Twenty-eight months ago last Wednesday my wife and I were married. Even today, it seems like a dream I was watching more than a day that I lived. It was in fact, a wonderful dream and a wonderful day. I still remember pulling out my hankercheif to wipe her tears away as we said our vows, I still remember holding her hands and swaying them gently to the music as the congregation sang. I remember how she felt in my arms as we had our first dance.

Yet, a little under two years, I am still learning about the moment. I am still learning about what it means for me and for us as a family. I am still learning what that commitment means. I am still experiencing the power of that moment as my love continues to grow for Jennifer.

The two on that walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus, were in the middle of a similar moment in their lives. They had considered themselves believers in Jesus. They had accepted his teachings and tried to follow his ways. Then, a week after the crowds cheered him as he entered Jerusalem, another crowd had cried out for him to be crucified. He was crucified. The powers of Rome and religion had grabbed him. They had spat on him and beat him. They had taken his clothes from him and nailed his hands and feet to a cross. He had gargled on his spit and blood until he could not breathe anymore. Then he had cried out a final prayer and died. They could hardly take it all in. Who are we kidding? They really could not take it all in. Days later they were still trying to wrap their minds around what had happened.

Cleopas and his companion, who most believe is his wife, stayed in Jerusalem for the Sabbath. They were to leave Sunday, but once again more news. The women had went to the tomb, and Jesus was not there. They had said he had risen from the dead. Then some of the disciples had said they had seen the empty tomb but had not seen Jesus. As the day got later, they began to walk the 6 miles home. The Bible says they were discussing what had happened.

Actually the Bible uses a stronger word, "syzetein". This Greek word implies a more vigorous, boisterous discussion, a debate, or an argument. Neither of them really could wrap their heads around what was going on. They were arguing about exactly what had happened, and what it all meant.

Then a stranger comes up to them on the road. He asks what all the hub-ub is about. They tell them all that has happened. They share their opinions. They share that they expected a person to come and deliver Israel from occupation by the Romans and be the Messiah. Then the person they thought was the Messiah died. Then there were rumors that he rose again. They share that they hadn't figured out what was going on yet. They needed someone to help them to take it all in. They needed someone to help them make sense of everything.

The Bible says that the stranger scolded them a little bit for not understanding better. Then he opened the Scripture to them. He started in Genesis, and went through the whole Old Testament, showing how the whole Scripture pointed to Jesus. Then the stranger along the road showed how Moses and the prophets all pointed to Jesus suffering and dying, and then rising in glory.

They got to the house of Cleopas in Emmaus, and he and his companion invited this stranger into their house for the evening. After all, in the ancient world evenings are dangerous times to be walking alone. They get out some wine and some bread. The bible said that the guest blessed the bread and broke it, and in the breaking of bread they recognized that the stranger was not a stranger at all. It was in fact Jesus himself. And as soon as they recognized Jesus, he was gone.

Then they say to each other, "Of course it was Him. Didn't you notice how our hearts were burning within us as he opened the Scriptures"? They run back into Jerusalem at night and tell the other disciples what had happened. It was no longer too much to take in. Somehow Jesus had made sense of all of the confusion, heartache, and frustration that they were feeling. In part, because they took in what Jesus had to offer.

There are a lot of pastors and a lot of believers that will spend Easter offering proofs of how Jesus died and rose again. I think this is important to do. Especially for those of us who make decision in part through reasoning our way through them. Maybe I will do it next year.

But, I think it is important as we look at this passage to notice that faith is not something we work hard to attain, or some secret knowledge that we discover through an obscure philosophy that only a few people find. Saving faith, faith in Jesus, is first and foremost a gift. A gift that we can never earn but we can only receive.

Last fall, and the fall before that I went with some of you on a youth activity to the corn maze out of Old Highway 50 in the lanes east of Pueblo and west of Avondale. This last year I wandered around that maze for well over an hour. I walked and walked and walked. Seeking for a direction, a hope, a way to make it. And finally, at the end, I just walked out. I was angry, frustrated, and I could not make sense of where I was. I could not make sense of where I was going. So, after a while, I just quit.

For me, being lost in the dark in a maze (and I am speaking for myself here) is what my life would be about Jesus. I would not be able to make sense of anything. I would feel lost and alone. I would feel cold and in the dark. I could not make sense of anything without Christ in my life. I could not take it all in. I would just feel stuck. Stuck in my selfishness. Stuck in my heartache and pain. But like those men on the road Jesus FOUND ME, came beside me, and helped me make sense of my life. Gave my life hope and meaning.

I am not saying life with Jesus has always been easy. I will say that Jesus has this amazing way of taking the hard things and the easy things, the bad things and the good things, and knitting them all together in my life so that they make sense, have purpose, and have meaning. So that it all matters. When I take him into my life, I am able to take in all life has to offer.

Here is what I believe. I believe that there are some of you here that are struggling to understand what is going on. I don't know what that struggle is. Maybe you are wounded by some circumstance. Maybe some part of your life feels out of control. Maybe you just feel like your life is floating along, and all the days and years are getting away from you. You are wondering how to make sense of it all.

Let me assure you, that Jesus is longing to come beside you, and guide you. He wants you to surrender your life to him, and allow him to add some light, to offer some solice and direction. Actually, I believe he has been there all along, you just have not listened to him or recognized him.

For the disciples on the road that day, it happened as Jesus opened the Scripture to them. As they were able to hear from God's Word, they were able to be changed. Their minds were convinced by the Word. But even more, the Scripture said that their "hearts burned within them". I urge you to open your hearts to God's Word. Pray before you read God's Word that he would speak to you, and then open your hearts to God's Word by beginning to listen to it and read it. Open it in your homes. Read it together with your spouse. Come to Scripture with your questions and concerns. Let God's Word speak to you. Open your heart to the Word in worship and study with others as God leads you. Don't just read the Word for knowledge! Come to Scripture with your life, and allow it to speak to your life. Put into action what you learn. Believe the truth of Scripture and base your life on it. You will find your life being made new. You might even find yourself with a burning heart.

For the disciples that day, the recognized him when they were at the table. They recognized him in the breaking of bread. Now in Scripture the breaking of bread is synonymous with two things.

First, it is synonymous with church community. If you want to recognize Jesus, it helps for you to invest in some Christian community. You will find as you invest yourself in a Bible Study, in church, in some sort of group of believers, you will be able to see Jesus in a whole new light. In how others bless you. With how you deal with people who make you angry. There is something about being together, working together, studying together, and growing together that helps us to see Jesus, and understand more of what he wants for us.

Breaking of the bread also speaks of this table. As we come to this table, we are confronted with some sobering truths. We remember Jesus died for us. Gave his life for us. We remember he did that because he loves us. And we remember the promise ahead. One of the images we have of heaven throughout Scripture is a giant banquet. A meal of celebration. For all Jesus has done, and for the joy of the life that can be discovered through what he has done. He died on the cross. He rose from the dead. He offers us eternal hope. And when we come to the table, and we in faith take the elements, we cannot help but see Jesus. The Jesus who came to earth to save us. The Jesus who walks along side us on the road we are on. The Jesus who calls out for us to trust Him and his word as we

Jesus urges us to not grasp at the fragments of our lives, or to live our lives as a spectator watching as life happens to us. Jesus urges us to take it all in, as we take in the bread and the cup, and know that he wants to be with us. And I pray that as your do take the bread and cup, you will truly see him, and your heart will burn within you. And you will know Him. And you will know….you have been in his presence.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Quote of the Day

From Art Source 4 from Youth Specialties

Verse for Tody

(courtesy Youth Specialties "Art Source 4)

Imaginary Jesus promotional trailer

Book Review

The first of what I hope are many reviews of books for online sites is up now at Author's Choice Reviews. Check out my review, as well as several others.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

A New Calvinism Series

One of my most faithful readers, Mr. Eric Lundy, has asked me to share a little bit on Calvinism. I plan on making this a series to discuss after Easter.

Before I do this I am scouring my blog for previous posts on the subject. I have found a couple:

On the pastoral function of free-will v. predestination

Calvin quote