The Bible. TL; DR; GiHR (Too Long; Didn’t Read; Got it Horribly Wrong) Version

There has been this post circulating around the webospheres recently that has grabbed my attention.  A lot of people I know have reposted this in some way. A lot of people who’s theological outlook I respect. So, even though I generally try to not be distracted by these crazy headlines that bait you in, I clicked away to see what this summary of the Bible was all about.

I’ll let you read it…

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Kind of fun right! It’s especially fun to read out loud. the things. the things. the things.  It’s kinda funny.

What has been troubling me about it though is how blatantly wrong it is!  And not only is it recklessly inaccurate, I think it feeds the painfully wrong idea that following Jesus is simply about not doing bad things!

This particularly bothers me because I see so many people disregard or disrespect a life in pursuit of Jesus as a direct result of these false assumptions of who Jesus is.

I’ve often felt a personal mandate or vendetta to be an agent for dismantling these inaccurate views of Jesus.  It’s not like I have all the answers. But I feel like I’ve got some thoughts that can sometimes be helpful!

If the above summary of the Bible were even a little bit accurate I’d be the first to check my faith at the door and live life in pursuit of my own pleasures.

The trouble with this “too long; didn’t read” version is that it stops being true almost immediately.  In the real version of the Bible, as soon as Adam and Even do the things, it stops being about the things and starts being the plague the inherit and about the very nature of who they now are.

Once Adam & Eve do the thing, they changed the entire landscape. Everything changed. They exchanged their identity of being heirs to the Creator of the Universe for receiving an inheritance of death. From that point on, even if they could stop doing the thing, they were plagued with the reality of death and eternal separation for the Father.

It’s not about “doing” the things. It’s about the fact that everything was now broken!

Then Jesus comes on the scene and and He changes everything again.

Yeah, He doesn’t do the things. Not only does He never do the things, He pays the price, fulfilling the consequences for all the things that anyone has ever done or ever will do.

Now, we still do the things. On this side of eternity we will always do the things.

But we are promised that when we trust that Jesus took care of THE THING, sin, He paid the price for it in full and defeated death. We are promised that when we believe that to be true, it’s not about the things anymore. Instead, the Father now looks at us and rather than telling us to stop doing the things, He says He sees Jesus and the absence of the things in His life. And He says the consequences of the things having been taken care of – in full.

Colossians 2 tells us God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Jesus and through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross, to reconcile to Himself, ALL THINGS. That’s us. We have been reconciled, brought back to the right standing relationship with the Father, brought back to the fullness of life.

And this is the crazy part. It has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with our ability to not do the things.

There are no amount of the things we can do to disqualify ourselves from being eligible to receive His reconciliation.

And no matter how much we try to avoid doing the things, even if we never did the things again, we could never earn back right standing with the Father.

It’s incredible!

Jesus changes everything!

It’s not about the things. It hasn’t been about the things since the first things were every done.

Now it’s about Jesus.

js
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Seasons: the bittersweet reality of Student Ministries

I know it’s late and that I should just go to bed, but I just got home from our last WASHBASIN of 2012/2013. It was a super great night. It is the tenth time that I’ve had a “Washbasin Wrap Up” so you’d think that’d I’d know what’s coming, but for whatever reason I feel really caught up in the emotion of the end of a season.

Tonight a number of our graduating students shared some words, speaking out to testify of how God has spoken to them and the ways that He has been real in their lives “thus far.” Also sort of speaking out an exhortation to the younger students. It was incredible. These students are an inspiration!

For me, it’s bitter-sweet in the craziest kind of way. I’m so proud, I’m so excited, I have so much hope for who they are and what they will become. Yet I’m heartbroken in the best kind of way. I’ve seen children become men and women. I recognize that this season of living life with these young men and women has come to an end, but I am overjoyed in knowing that just because this season has come to an end, doesn’t mean that our “living life togetherness” has come to an end.

And that is the joy I have known in youth ministry for these past ten years. So many of my friends today, so many of the people who continue to speak into my life were students that I got to share a special season of life with.

It’s nights like tonight that I wish I could call up so many past students and tell them how much they encourage me, tell them how much of an inspiration they are and have been.

If you’re reading this, you know who you are!

Feel encouraged. I know I do!

It’s also nights like this that I want to just stay up all night and worship my face off. Jesus is SO good! Tonight I got to hear a number of young men and women speak out the realities of the impact Jesus has had on their lives!

It’s incredible! I’m so blessed and grateful for the amazing things that Jesus has chosen to do in and through Central Student Ministries and I’m blown away that He continues to choose me to be a part of it. It’s nights like tonight though that I feel wildly aware that it has very little to do with me and everything to do with Jesus!

Tonight, I go to bed with a very full heart! Thank you Jesus for who you are and for how you blow me away more and more each day. You rock!!

js

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This is why He came

We need Jesus.

As I’ve been trying to think and pray and make sense of the tragic massacre that happened in Connecticut on December 14th I can’t shake this painful awareness that we need Jesus!!

Crayons(Photo credit: Unknown… Google Image Search)

I’ve seen the write ups calling for better gun control in the US and others saying that we need better mental health facilities and awareness. Don’t get me wrong, I think those are issues that are in great need of attention… But gun registry doesn’t stop what happened. Better social services doesn’t fix the mess we’re in… We need Jesus.

Things are messy. This world is broken. This world is dark. The shooting in Newtown is tragic in every way, but unfortunately it’s not a one-of-a-kind. We’ve heard of more shootings in public places than we can handle, we read of thousands of children dying EVERY DAY of malnutritionment and lack of clean water… This world is broken. It’s dark.

I’m not going to try to suggest I know how to fix it or that I have a solution to any of these travesties, but I think we’d all agree… Something ain’t right!

I’ve found some encouragement in the realization that I’m not the only person who feels this way. Clearly I look around and I see that we all agree… But most importantly, He agrees. If we think that Jesus is anything less than heart broken and really angry then I don’t think we know Jesus.

I’m not talking about needing more religion. Same as these polarized political debates won’t bring us light, more religion will just continue to tear us apart. The last thing we need is religious hatred blaming this tragedy on someone else’s immorality!

But Jesus!!! Jesus IS light. Jesus IS life.

Jesus saw the brokenness and the devastation that this world was in and He traded in his God-card and humbled himself and showed us what life COULD look like if we put others needs before our own, if we turn from our selfish ways, if we turn to our Creator and give Him our very lives.

This is why He came.

This world is dark. There is EVIL and wickedness hidden in every dark corner. As much as I don’t want to say it… The root of wickedness and selfishness that drove the shooter to do his work yesterday is the same root of wickedness and selfishness that lurks in the corners of my heart, pushing me to be arrogant, pushing me to care more about what I want more than the needs of my family, leading me to justify any rank of deceitfulness that I may think “doesn’t hurt anyone.”

To be clear, I’m not saying that me being selfish is on par with someone shooting up an elementary school and taking the lives of over a dozen children. But the root of evil is evil. Darkness is darkness. Absence of light is darkness.

But this is why He came!!

Jesus is light. Jesus is THE Light. The true light that gives light to every man has come into the world. (John 1:9)

We need Jesus. Not more religious or moralistic weight put on our shoulders, but the freedom and the life and joy that comes in Knowing Jesus Christ!!

The irony is that in times of tragedy some people try to blame Jesus for what has happened. Thinking that perhaps it’s his fault, that He sits idle, watching these tragedies unfold. I wonder about that too. I don’t know what to do with the reality that He is an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God yet these things continue to take place. I really can’t explain how I find peace in who He is in these times. But it seems pretty ridiculous for me to think that I can blame God, as if somehow I have better answers or plans or solutions than He does! Seems pretty presumptuous to think that somehow if only God would listen to me, the world would be a better place.

I can’t explain why this would happen or if or why God would “let” this happen (if it even works that way). But what I feel like I can say in pretty certain terms is that Jesus is more heartbroken by the hurts in our world than I will ever understand. Especially as it relates to children… Jesus says that His Kingdom belongs to children (Matt 19:14) and says that if anyone harms a child, it’d be better for that person to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea (Matt 18:6)!JesusBFF

So if we need Jesus, what does that look like? Do we need more Jesus BFF TShirts or bumper stickers? Probably not.

Jesus says that if we want to find our life we need to lose it. That if we lose our life for his sake we will truly find it (Matt 10:39).

The stuff of Jesus’ Way might be hard, but if we want life, and REAL LIFE, life that respects others and draws people together in love and humility more than it drives people apart and drives people to hate then we must turn from our wicked ways, humble ourselves and pray and seek His face ( 1 Chronicles 7:14)!

Jesus says that we should pray for our enemies. That rather than seeking vengeance when wronged that we submit ourselves further. Jesus says that to give is better than to receive. He says that we shouldn’t be too quick to see the flaws of others and neglect our own. He says that we should pray, inviting Jesus’ to do his will here on earth, as it is in heaven. Which by the way is void of tears, mourning and death (Rev 21:4)!! He says that we should ALWAYS love, love our enemies even!

Seems hard to believe that if we truly sought to live His Way that there’d be much room for these tragedies.

I can recall few moments in my life when it has been so unequivocally clear that we need Jesus!

I need to step up and let His light shine through me in every way I can! I can’t fix the world and keep tragedies from happening, but I can love my family, my neighbours, even seek to show love to strangers! I can seek first Jesus and His Kingdom and trust that in His Kingdom there is no shame, there is confidence, there is peace, there is joy, He is Hope!

And I can pray!

I can spend myself, face to the ground, seeking Jesus’ face, asking that He would move in me, move in this world, to bring his Kingdom, his Reign here on earth! That He would raise up a generation who seeks His face, who loves recklessly, who turns from the patters of this world and are transformed into His likeness with EVERY INCREASING GLORY!

I can pray for the broken hearted. I can love and listen and serve those around me who are crushed in spirit. I can pray that somehow, in these moments of immeasurable pain, that Jesus’ peace, a peace that transcends understanding, would be tangible in every way. I can pray that Jesus would make His presence known, that those who are weary and burdened would know the rest that Jesus has for them.

I can seek to speak truth, seek to be an ambassador and a model of the trueness of Jesus.. the man who was not concerned about religious right and passage but who simply loved, loving those who seemed most distant. The man who was a friend of sinners. The man whom the religious elite hated.

I can pray for those who have heard a version of the gospel that spoke condemnation and hatred and not love and acceptance. Who have seen a form of godliness void of the power of Jesus and have given up.

I can trust. Trust that even when I can’t make sense of the mess we’re in, that Jesus is the author of Life. That Jesus is the Hope of the world. That Jesus is the King of kings, the Lord of lords.

I can rest. I can rest in the security that Jesus has triumphed and is Victorious. That death could not hold Him back. That He has conquered sin and death! And though there is a “not yet” to seeing His reign in its fullness that there is a completeness to his Triumph over wickedness!

I can worship. I can choose to agree that Jesus is who He says He is and that His ways are better than my ways and that His wisdom makes our wisdom look like foolishness. I can declare that He is worthy! Worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!

Yes, we need Jesus! I need Jesus!

Your will be done, Lord. On earth, here, now!

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

js

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A New Year

As the date of the last post to this blog would suggest, I have not been very disciplined in writing.  I find that I’ve been writing some, just posting even less. But that’s okay.

It’s not a little less than an hour into a new year. I’m not usually one to put a whole lot of stock into specific twenty four hour time periods on a calendar.

2011 was good though. I can’t say I have any real complaints. It’s been so awesome to see my boys growing up. I’m so proud of them. I have so much fun just being with them. Not so say they don’t often drive me absolutely crazy, but they’re awesome.

We celebrated 8 years of marriage this year. That was fun, even if we didn’t see each other on the actual day. It’s crazy to think that we’ve known each other for pretty much half of our lives now. Thanks for loving me still. Thanks for continuing to let me love you. You’re awesome. You’re a great mom, even when you don’t feel like it!

I turned 30 this year. That felt like a bit of a big deal, but then quickly just felt normal.  I did throw myself a party and had people remind me how we met and share some memories they have with me in them. That was fun. I was so encouraged to see the ways that relationships carve meaning into every day experiences.

Like I said, 2011 has been pretty good. All these things have been great but I’m not sure any of them would be the highlight of the year. That delegation is reserved for something different, even, someone different. Although it may seem like its harder to quantify, the highlight of 2011 would have to be… well, Jesus.

Might sound cheesy, or especially token considering my profession (I hate to call it that). But I feel like 2011 was a year brimming with life and discovery. I feel like I met a Jesus I never knew (funny to say it that way considering I’ve never read Yancy). It seems that as much as I would maybe be a guy that should know lots about Jesus and by the time I turned 30 should really have had it all sorted out, it seems like I met Jesus in a new way this year.  And I’m not going to lie to you, He’s AWESOME! He really really is.

He’s the reason I’m so excited for 2012. Not that I’m not excited to keep loving my wife and boys, but to do that and continue to have Jesus unveil more and more of His love – that’s going to be a treat!

2012. There’s going to be some adventures to be sure (more on that later). I’m sure there will be lows. I’m sure there will be a little bit of everything. Maybe even some Leafs playoff games (don’t worry – not holding my breath).

Mostly though, I hope for more Jesus.

I want to know more.

I want to love more.

What if 365 days from now I could say the same thing, I could speak to the new discoveries? I could speak to the new Life? I could speak to new joys?

2012… bring it!

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Trust, Peace & Joy

I’m in Tijuana Mexico right now with a group of 70 other students and leaders and parents. We’re with YWAM on a Mission Adventure program. We’ve spent the last few days on the base working through some pretty incredible sessions.

During these times I’ve had some great conversations and prayer times with student. These kids are wrestling with some hard stuff… And it’s GOOD! some of the questions I’ve been asked are hard though, and messy …

… If God say all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His name then why is there so much junk in my life… Why am I so angry? Why does my mom have cancer? Why are there hurting and dying children all over the world?

… If what Jesus did for me in and through His death and resurrection was a gift for me, what if I don’t want to accept it.. What if I can’t understand that? What if I don’t ever feel worthy to receive such a gift?

… Why can’t I feel Jesus Presence? I want to be filled with Jesus to a point where there is no room for anything else, but I can’t hear His voice.

These are had questions.

I sometimes wish Jesus didn’t leave things so messy. I sometimes wish Jesus gave more clear answers, even step-by-step instructions about everything under the sun.. But He didn’t.

As I’ve been trying to walk with students in wrestling through these questions I refuse to feed then some theologically tight-knit answer for the ways things are. I don’t want to talk to them about ideas of truth and theories and philosophies of truth. I want to walk with them in discovering again the Person of Truth, Jesus Christ!!

Jesus IS Truth, not that He just tells us the truth. He IS Truth. Jesus doesnt just point is to the way, He IS the Way! Jesus doesn’t just communicate good news, He IS the Good News!

My prayer during these days and in tracking w these students is that we would truly discover and experience the Person of Jesus Christ who is alive and active today!

My prayer is that as we know Him that more and more we would Trust Him. And not some naïve trust but a deep Trust that comes only in truly knowing and loving and trusting someone.

My prayer is that Trusting Him would lead us to a place of receiving His peace. That the Peace that only Jesus can bring would allow us to be okay with the fact that we don’t have all the answers.

My prayer is that in knowing and Trusting Jesus and resting in a place of His peace that we would ultimately taste and be filled with Jesus’ Joy! Not that we would be content or happy, but that the fullness of Jesus’ Joy would surge through us and breathe new Life into our very beings!

Trust, Peace & Joy. In and through the Person of Jesus Christ, the Risen and Living Lord!

js

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Gathering chicks! (not what it sounds like)

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. (Matthew 23:37 NIV)

Matthew 23 is INTENSE! I’m definitely going to work through it slower the next time I come through Matthew.

Even though it’s mostly a chapter of rebuke and warning, I love the way that Jesus wraps things up … “how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

I love that picture. Even though I think chickens are gross and smell bad, I get the imagery of a mother hen gathering her chicks. I’m sure it’s a difficult task. Trying to keep the ones near that are already close while at the same time trying to maneuver her way to the others. From what I can picture, it’s not like she just sits there with her wings a bit perched open and calls for her chicks to come to her. She’s active. Not only does she have to move around to gather the strays, but she has to bring those already gathered with her. This seems like a fairly difficult balancing act.

Maybe I’m reading into this too much. But it seems like a good picture. Jesus pursues us. He does it. He brings us into the fold. But once we’re there it’s not like the work is done. He brings us with Him as He continues to pursue and enfold others. We don’t really have the option to sit and baske in the new found shelter. Cause He’s on the move. Seems like we need to be on board with Him in that or we might find ourselves on the outside again.

Come to think of it even the role of the chick seems like a balancing act of being pursued, resting in the shelter yet being ready and willing to be on the move as soon as another chick is in need of rescue.

Huh. Yeah, maybe I’m reading a bit much into that. But maybe not.

Either way. I wanna see what Jesus is doing around me and be found quick to join in. I wanna be grateful that He has pursued and gathered me. Not because of anything that I did to deserve it but only because I’m His. And isn’t that what parents do? They love, protect, run after and provide for their children for no reason other than that they are your children!

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Impossible.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27 NIV84)

After telling everyone how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God, especially for those who are rich Jesus is asked who then can be saved.

With man it is impossible. But not with God. All things are possible with God.

Maybe it’s just because I’ve been thinking from this perspective lots lately but I kind of hear him talking about the man-made-ness of religion and tradition. If we rely on ourselves and the things we’ve created it is impossible to see the Kingdom. But just as much, if we trust in God and truly believe that Jesus is who he said he was and that he is in fact Good News… Maybe that’s the Good News itself… That with Him all things are possible.

Often we talk about being saved in the context of having once prayed a prayer in which we “asked Jesus into our heart.” Funny that that prayer is not found anywhere in scripture.
In our lives there is often nothing difficult at all about being saved. No sacrifice. No life change. No submission. No trust. No heart. Just words. Certainly that is an overly cynical view but I’ve been very caught off guard before when Jesus talks about it. Saying things like “how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God,” or “make every effort to enter through the narrow door.” Yet, seemingly in contrast he says that the work of the father is simply to believe in him who was sent.

Again, I wander if Jesus is trying to confuse us a little to teach us that we can’t have it all figured out. To teach us that truly He IS the way. He doesn’t point to the way or teach us the way but He IS the way.

Rather than trust a prayer I once prayed or an emotion I once felt or a fear I shuttered from… I want to trust Jesus. I can’t escape that He demands my all. To find my life I must lose it. And maybe that’s really hard. For sure it’s really hard. It’s actually impossible. But with God… Nothing is impossible. Trust is not impossible. Surrender is not impossible. New life is not impossible. New perspective is not impossible.

I once heard a guy use a new term. Rather than speaking of people “accepting Jesus” he spoke of them “trusting Jesus with their lives.”

I like that. I really do.

Acceptance speaks of an agreement to terms like some sort of treaty. Acceptance speaks of ideas and theories. Trust speaks of relationship and it speaks of the journey of things. We learn trust, we develop trust. And that happens only as we learn to know and understand the PERSON we are trusting.

And just as Jesus shows us here, the best people to look to for us to learn to trust are children. Children trust people. We may say it’s because they are naive and innocent. But either way, Jesus says that unless we receive the Kingdom like a little child we will not enter it.

I’ve been asking my son to tell me about the Kingdom… I suspect that even though he always says “I don’t know Dad,” that there’s an awful lot I can learn from him.

That’d be fun to write about someday .. “Stuff I learned about the Kingdom from my 3 year old.”

Maybe another time.

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