Posts Tagged ‘ church ’

The answer is in the ice cream truck

Have you ever needed God like you needed your next breath of air? As if you were suffocating in your own self image. Have you ever felt crucified to a way of life? You’re nailed to this place and you long to come down, to run away, to be given a second chance. You’re nailed to this place and you long for the email, the letter, the opportunity from God to step away and become the man you know you were destined to be.

I sometimes feel like that man. I found my self crying out to God this morning. “Remember me, Lord don’t forget me. Take me with you on your next adventure.” I long to see danger, confront my fear, and really know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have what it takes to ride shotgun for Jesus. To know I have been tested and molded by the hands of God himself.

Jesus was crucified next to a man that prayed the same prayer I prayed this morning. “Remember me, Lord don’t forget me. Take me with you on your next adventure.”
Why did he say remember me? The first five books of the bible were memorized by Jewish boys by the time they were 12. Scattered like stars throughout the first 5 books is the word remember. 156 times, God was either making a promise to remember us, or men and women crying out for God to remember them. 156 times of us being broken, scared and longing to be rescued from a life we know we weren’t meant to live.

We see time as something moving. God sees time as a still picture, past present and future. 156 times leading up to the cross, 156 times the pray prayed after the cross…It doesn’t matter. He heard them all. He heard me this morning.

“Lord remember me.”
Looking into the thieves eyes Jesus saw mine, he saw yours.

“Remember me, remember me.” It was the codeword, the hot button, the send in the troops because I’m dying catch phrase.
Remember me = God I’m nailed to a place I don’t want to be. I’m suffocating in my self image and I need you more than I need my next breath of air.

Jesus’ answer, “I tell you the truth , today you will be with me in paradise.”

What does that mean? Jesus was a Rabbi. A Rabbi was a very adventurous, respected teacher of the Jewish Bible. They would travel from village to village teaching people how to live what the bible said. These rabbis only taught what they were taught. They never offered any ideas of there own. Among these rabbis was a VERY small group, who had what ancient jews called “s’mikah”.

S’mikah was the God given authority, to explain new ideas of what Gods word means. Rabbi’s with Smikah would say, “you’ve looked at what God said through these lenses all of your life, try looking through these lenses. You’ve been taught the bible means this all of your life, but I tell you it really means that.”

Jesus rolled with this Smikah, and whenever he was going to teach something new , whenever he was ready to blow peoples minds, whenever he was ready to hand them this new lens, he would say “I tell you the truth”.

“I tell you the truth.” It was like the ice cream trucks theme song. Da di nit a lint a dint ta dint, Da dint da dint da dint ta! Kids would spring up with dreams of ice pops, chocolate Sunday lovers would start salivating, and a whole community would gather to offer their hard earned dollars for the soft serve on a hot summer day.

So here we have the thief on the cross asking Jesus to remember him and all he hears coming out of Jesus’ mouth is, “Da di nit a lint a dint ta dint, Da dint da dint da dint ta!” Jesus was about to literally hand him a vanilla ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles.

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Paradise? What does that mean? The original Hebrew word for Paradise is Gen Eden. It refers it The Garden of Eden. The Garden of Eden was a place where adam and eve walked in harmony with God. Jewish people call it “olam haba.” It was a place where God made us in his image, a place where we reflected the beauty, creativity and wonder of God. In this Garden we were pure, whole, and complete. We lived a life of love and adventure and we definitely rode shotgun for Jesus.

Today you will be with me in paradise = The adventure starts today kiddo.

It was the answered email, the letter he was waiting for all of his life, the opportunity to step away and become the man he knew he was destined to be. Maybe our destiny and adventure begins at a cross. Maybe it begins when we realize we need God more than our next breath of air. Maybe it begins when we ask God to remember us.


Mother Theresa’s Simple Path

I just finished reading, “A simple path”, by Mother Theresa. One word,…Amazing.  I to0k notes on some of the things I learned from the book.

“Let Jesus use you without consulting you.” Mother Theresa

“God give me the strength to accept what is in your plan for me.” A dentist that volunteers with the order

“God is so busy with us, you just can’t resist him.” Sister Delores

“One volunteer had a tough time in Calcutta, he felt he didn’t do much besides sit with people, feed them, and stroke them while they died. When asked by a sister how he got on he said, ‘I was there.’ She said, ‘What were St. John and our blessed mother doing at the foot of the cross.'” Sister Theresa

“People often ask me, what I think about homosexuals, I always answer that I do not judge people.” Sister Theresa

These are just a few that really inspired me. Throughout the book I was challenged to live my faith and grow closer to God. One thing she mentioned over and over again was the fact that she didn’t preach to people, she loved them. She showed up, shut up and went to work and expected her volunteers to do the same. I agree with much of the way she lived her life and hope to one day have the courage to live as bold as her.

I was out celebrating mother’s day with my own mom yesterday and we got to talking about Mother Theresa. My dad said, “You know it’s a shame that Princess Diana died the same time as Mother Theresa, she took all of the Media and Attention.”

I thought about that a little. You know. I think Mother Theresa would have preferred it exactly the way it happened. She didn’t life a life of glamour and recognition. She lived a life of shadows and secretly loving people with no one watching. Even though in my soul I would have liked to demand her more honor, I know her humble soul wouldn’t allow it.

May God help me not to walk a path that is complicated, media driven, recognition craving and very lonely. May he help me learn to walk a simple path.

Cain and a pile of horse crap

Matthew 5:21-24

21″You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother[b]will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,[c]’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23″Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

I have been doing a considerable amount of thinking about this. I know I have been angry with my brother. I know my brother may have something against me. I guess that means I am subject to judgment and the things I long to offer God need to be put on pause. I wonder if God puts our relationship on pause until things are squared away between me and my brother. Weather or not that is true, I do indeed feel like I am in a life “pause”. And it sucks. I am fighting with everything in me to move forward but I can’t.

Genesis 4:1-7

1 Adam [a] lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. [b] She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth [c] a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

Way back, way-way back ever since the days I learned the  “Jesus loves me this I know” song, I was taught this passage was  a  right offering to God.  The sunday school teacher would say, “God wants your first, God wants your best and He won’t accept anything less.” I would think as a little kid,  “That is horse crap.”  As I got older and more mature in the  faith, the pastor would say, “God didn’t accept Cains sacrifice because God demanded a blood sacrifice and Cains agriculture just wouldn’t  do.” I would sit back and think, “Thats horse crap.”

The truth is sometimes my first isn’t my best, and  isn’t  God more pleased with the heart of the giver, not the  gift the giver gives? What if the Garden wasn’t about Able outperforming his brother and winning Gods attention. What if this whole dramatic scene wasn’t about a blood sacrifice? What if it was simply Gods way of trying to reunite two fighting brothers?

If we were to put the story of Cain and Able in Matthew 5, it would sound like this…

Matthew 5:22-24/Genesis 4

But I tell you Cain, you are angry with your brother Able and that subjects you to judgement. Sin is crouching at your door and it desires to have you, but you must master it.
“Therefore, I see the gift you are offering, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. If you do the right thing wont you be accepted?

What if God didn’t accept Cains offering, not because it wasn’t the first, or because it wasn’t a blood sacrifice, but because Cain wasn’t right with his brother Able. It would kind of put a brand  new spin on the whole thing. I ask God for ideas, ways, things to do to be reconciled to my brother. Because until I do my life is on pause,  I guess my acceptance is on pause, my relationship with God is on pause. The only way out of this pause is Murder, or Reconciliation. I choose reconciliation. How about you? Who knows, this too could just be a bunch of horse crap.

House of Prayer

Mark 11
The Triumphal Entry
1As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethpage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’ “4They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
“Hosanna! [A]”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b]
10″Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”11Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

It was a full day, A day where everyone in the city recognized Jesus as the messiah, the king. People took off their jackets and made a red carpet out of them for Jesus to ride over. Children were dancing, people were shouting and singing. Banners were being waved, Everyone had a sign on their lawn “Vote for Jesus, Vote for change”. Hands were shaken, hugs were shared, and babies were kissed and blessed. Old school reporters were journaling, photographers were painting.

Religious leaders of the day are recorded in the book of John saying, “Look how the whole world has gone after him. The whole world is right. Jerusalem was jammed packed, it was the one time of year that everyone came, Jews, and Gentiles from across the globe ended their pilgrimage there. A pilgrimage to essentially get close to God. It says in the book of mark that Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything. He looked around at everything?

As he went to the temple he would have ascended a set of stairs that led to a big courtyard. It would have been labeled, “The Courtyard of the Gentiles”.

If you were not Jewish by blood this was as close to God as you were going to get. If you were lucky you might faintly hear the shafar horn blowing and the prayers of the priest. You might catch a glimpse of the smoke rising from your sacrifice, but it was known, “you gentiles are on thin ice”. You’re one step away from being kicked out, just be lucky we let you this far. Walking through the courtyard Jesus would of saw the many tables of the money exchangers and the pens filled with sacrificial livestock for sale. Birds, calves, lambs, goats, you get the idea. As he walked through this ancient flea market he must have thought, “How on earth does anyone find me in this place. How does anyone get close to me with all of this noise and distraction? Why are they doing this here?”

I don’t think God disagreed with the Temple tax men had to pay or the livestock that was being sold for worship, but there was a time and place for that. The place they chose was very offensive and rude.
Not only to the Gentiles searching for God, But God searching for the Gentiles. That’s when he comes face to face with another sign above a doorway that read. “Jews only.”

Then through another doorway that read “Jewish men only.”

Then through another doorway that read “High priest only.”

Then through another doorway that read, “Tie this rope around your ankle before you come in, Just in case you’re not right before God and he kills you, you’ll need someone to pull you out.”

Jesus’ heart must have broke. As he looked at a doorway inside a wall that separated people from uniting, from being of one heart and one mind. The Jews were to be a nation that blessed the rest of the earth, with inclusion, love, and justice. The Jews became a nation that burdened the rest of the earth with separation, sexism, racism, and injustice. Jesus must have looked around, He must have said to himself,
“The season of people being afraid to get close to God is over. The season of people reaching out for God and not grabbing hold of him is over. The season of courtyards, walls, signs, and ropes is over. May this system never be a way for people to get close to me ever again?”

Since it was already late, Jesus leaves the temple to get some rest.

Jesus Clears the Temple
12The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.15On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written:
“‘My house will be called
A house of prayer for all nations'[c]? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'[d]”18The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.19When evening came, they[e] went out of the city.

The fig tree is symbolic of the nation of Israel. The Figs are symbolic of the fruit God designed the Jewish people to bear. Fruit that tasted like, men and women working Gods heart in the world around them. The Fig tree incident is a real time picture of what Jesus felt the night before. Jesus came into Jerusalem the night before, hungry to see his father’s heart being worked out. Hungry to see people of all kinds being taught what it meant to walk with God. Hungry to see people being encouraged to get as close to God as they could. Hungry to see people being included, accepted, and blessed. Hungry to see people being equipped to be his image as they went back home, to see people, touched, changed, and set free from sin. The Fig tree of Israel looked like the right place for this to happen. People were hungry for the promises they saw from afar.

But there was one problem.

They had the roots, they had the leaves, but they didn’t have the fruit. Their season was over. Jesus must have whispered in his heart the night before. “May no one ever eat fruit from you again?” So Jesus reaches into the tree, finds no fruit, and curses the tree. May no one ever eat fruit from you again.

I could see his disciples, “Chill out Jesus, it’s alright, I know you got allot on your mind, and I’m sure well find something to eat in side the city.”
I could hear Thomas saying, “Man this is going to be a long day, if it’s starting out like this.”
Another disciple shaking his head, “Okay…what was that all about?” As soon as they enter the temple, I could picture Jesus looking at the crowds of spiritually hungry people; I can see him spanning the money changers, the livestock tables of goats, lamb, birds. I can see him flashing back and forth at all of the signs, No Gentiles, No Women, No Men, No God.

May no one ever eat fruit from you again, May no one ever eat fruit from you again. Boom! The money table gets flipped with a yell. May no one ever be taught by you what it means to walk with God ever again. People start step back, money is bouncing all over the place. May no one ever come here to be included, accepted, or blessed ever again. He approaches the table selling the doves, “May no one ever be equipped to bear my image here ever again.” Crash!, tables are flying, people are watching, merchants are trying to calm Jesus down. “May no one ever come here to be touched, changed, or set free from their sin ever again.”

The Court of the Gentiles is silenced. Tables are flipped; animals are running around, birds are flying. The disciples are wide eyed: John whispers, “I told you to pack my boy an egg sandwich…. 

Jesus breaks the silence and says, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of robbers.”

Now when Jesus says this line, it’s kind of like him saying a line from a movie to us.

When I say “Ill be back” you think, Terminator. When I say, “Show me the money”, you think, Jerry McGuire. When I say, “The name is Bond. James Bond” you think, James Bond. May the force be with you, Houston we’ve got a problem. Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.

When I say these lines, you already know the movie; you know the story, the characters. You remember how you felt when you watched the film. Whether you liked it, hated it, or were confused. It was the same for the people worshiping in the temple. They had the first five books of the bible literally memorized. They know the story, and the characters. They know whether they liked the story, hated it, or didn’t understand it.

So when Jesus spits this line, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of robbers.” Everyone knows exactly what he is talking about. Let’s go to the full chapter of Isaiah so we can too.

Isaiah 56
Salvation for Others
1 This is what the LORD says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed. 2 Blessed is the man who does this, the man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” 3 Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” And let not any eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” 4 For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant- 5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off. 6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant- 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” 8 The Sovereign LORD declares— he who gathers the exiles of Israel: “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.”

This whole chapter is a chapter about Gentiles reaching out for God with all of their heart, And God reaching out to Gentiles with all of his. As soon as Jesus quotes this, everyone gets it. They get it and they understand that people are being robbed of a relationship with God. People are robbing people of a relationship with God. The story goes on to say that the chief priests and the teachers of the law began looking for a way to kill him. They were afraid because people were amazed. What were they amazed by? In the spirit the curtain was beginning to tear, the signs of racism were beginning to shattered, walls of separation were beginning to crumble, and the fig tree was starting to shrivel. God was leaving the temple built our hands to live among hearts crafted by his.

In 2009 the fruit has not changed but the tree has. What has God uniquely called your community to do? When God reaches in to our leaves hungry, what does he find? I do hope there are no distractions, signs, walls or ropes. Are people really being taught what it means to walk with God? People being encouraged to get as close to God as they can. Are people being included, accepted, and blessed? Are they being equipped to be his image as they go to work, lead their family, and laid their life down in the area God has called them. Are people being touched, changed, and set free from sin. If not where can we improve?

1 Corinthians 3:16 (New International Version)
16Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?

I wonder what kind of sign, walls, ropes are in our own lives. When my wife reaches into my life, when my daughter needs to be changed. When my brother needs support or my mom wants me there to watch her blow out her birthday candles. Am I so busy with money tables, and selling doves, am I so busy with church stuff, that I actually distract and limit them to Gods presence?

God has called many of us into places that don’t know him. We are called to be his temple, someone people can come to and hear the voice of the Lord. Someone people can see the Lords image in, in the way we serve and accept and lay our life down. Someone people can experience Gods peace and reconciliation with. In our jobs, in our school, in our dreams are we bearing fruit?