Archive for November, 2007

On Luke 19:1-10

img_0075-2.jpg

 In a city that had streets lined with Sycamore trees and that was at the heart and center of a vast trade route network, Christ defies cultural norms with the words “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector for a large tax district and was undoubtedly a wealthy man that gained his wealth from the exploitation of others. Because of his occupation, Zacchaeus was regarded as a traitor and crook. Christ’s response is a direct invitation if not a command to commune with Him. Through this act of divine necessity Christ shows us that there will be no bias with God. As a tax collector and social outcast, Zacchaeus would have never normally had this type of invitation extended to him. 

It is also important to note the crowd’s reaction to Christ’s invitation for communion. The crowd was largely made up of Pilgrims headed to the Passover in Jerusalem. As shown in verse 7 “when they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” This reaction is significant because it shows that even though they were following Christ they did not yet understand His purpose and motives. We must also keep in mind that this is the very crowd who had previously given praise to God after Christ restored Bartimaeus’ sight. (Luke 18: 35-43).  

Christ’s loving invitation for communion was greatly looked down upon, but it caused a man who lived a life of injustice to repent and give back more than he had taken (Luke 19:8). Because of Christ’s love and willingness to go against the social norms, Zacchaeus was made righteous (Luke 19:9). Christ actively sought out Zacchaeus and actively seeks to commune with us. In a world plagued with injustice Christ longs for reconciliation and righteousness. He longs to bring us to a place where we can experience His deep and intimate love.  

  Some questions to consider:  

How do we treat those who are oppressed? How do we treat those who are the oppressors? Do we live like Christ and seek to love without bias? Or are we like the crowd of people who follow Christ and are quick to tell the poor to be quiet (Luke 18:39) and the sinner they are not worthy? 

 Let us be a community that desperately seeks the righteousness of Christ and to love despite what we have been told and what others may think.   

Percy

philly2006-064-3.jpg

 

I can still remember that warm summer day in my brother’s garden. I remember the bright sun shinning down on us and the cool from the shade that the trees provided. I remember listening to the birds sing in perfect harmony with each other as they flew from tree to tree. I could feel the vast acres of green grass and tall old oaks call my name; nature’s simplistic yet complex beauty was calling me to rest. I can still taste the sweetness of the fresh raspberries we picked from the bush. I can still feel the communion with my brother as we picked the raspberries and tried not to smash the fragile fruit that had been warmed by the summer sun. I know that we both thought the same thing as the raspberries just seemed to melt in our mouths…the moment seemed perfect, it seemed too good to be true. As I look back I can see God’s perfect grace filling our hearts and the beauty of His love running through our veins. We were so undeserving of that moment and yet completely blessed by it.

 

 As I walked from one garden plot to the next, I ran into a man named Percy. Percy lived in Philadelphia all of his live and had been gardening in the same spot far before my existence. There was some hesitance on my part as he invited me in to “take a look”, but I naturally couldn’t resist. I was amazed at his perfectly formed rows of dirt and how the string that was held up by two sticks did not deviate too far to the left or the right. Percy’s garden put all the other gardens to same…Percy meant business. As I stood and quietly watched Percy carefully plant his garden, I could tell that every action he took was done out of love. His wrinkled brown hands placed each plant in the dirt like a surgeon’s carefully place scalpel. The sweat that dripped off his darkened forehead and onto the ground gave life to the garden and in return the garden thanked him with its vibrant blooms and luscious fruit. As Percy stopped to rest he looked at me and said “drink?” while lifting up his cooler filled with every imaginable off brand soda. I remember saying “no thanks…I have to go”, but the strange thing was that I didn’t. Still to this day I don’t know why I didn’t have a drink with Percy, but I wish that I had. I wish I could have enjoyed the fast approaching dusk with Percy. I wish I could have talked to him a little bit more about his wonderful garden.

 

I often ask my brother if he has seen Percy at the garden, but the usual response is no. My brother hasn’t seen Percy for some time now and his beautiful garden now has weeds and is overgrown. I really didn’t know Percy but I still remember him, I still remember the way he looked and how he loved his garden. I still remember that warm summer day and how it seemed perfect. I can still remember the peace and the presence of God. A garden needs a gardener just as we need God. A garden must be tended to just as we need to be tended to. As the gardener tends to their garden they will eventually see its fruits and as Christ tends to us we will eventually yield His.

 

Breathe in the grace of God.

 

Thanks Percy.

On Gossip Magazines

We are constantly bombarded by the media and its attempt to infiltrate our minds with the latest cultural fads and fleeting passions. We have entire magazines that are devoted to celebrities and their seemingly exotic lifestyle. These gossip magazines are everywhere from local news racks, grocery stores, gas stations and even in your doctor’s office. In fact it’s hard to think of a place where we don’t find these types of magazines or this use of media.

 

One can argue that gossip magazines are not even ethical, the reason being that they portray a false image of reality. As we devote more time into reading about what celebrities walked the red carpet and what fashion designer they were wearing, we become increasingly debased and lose track of the bigger picture. There are greater things in the world that need addressing and far more pressing issues. We must also keep in mind that the media may just be giving us (society) what we really want. Or should we dare to ask if the media giving us what they want us to have? Either way this is a striking reflection upon the world in which we live and the ethics which we live by. I’m hesitant to say that it is wrong to read these types of magazines due to the fact that it’s boarder line legalistic and in fact I’m not even interested in addressing that issue. What I’m interested in is how our society has become consumed by the self. When God’s righteousness and the beauty of Christ’s love have been put on the back burner we must ask ourselves what are we truly living for? These magazines are just a tangible example of how we are living for ourselves. We have lost sight of what really matters and have found ourselves in the midst of self-indulgence. As we begin to look around we can see that we have been given over to our degrading passions and our hearts are becoming increasingly hardened towards God. Gossip magazines are just an example that show us how we have begun to worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). We begin to idolize humanity not recognizing its sinful and completely flawed nature. In fact gossip magazines and this type of media can be actually seen as worship of humanity’s sinful nature. These magazines pride themselves on the lust of the flesh and pride of live. They do not reflect the heart of God but rather the heart of man.

 

I believe that the beauty of man can be celebrated, but with the recognition that God is the creator. All things belong to Him and we have been created in His image and not our own. When we lose focus of this we begin to fill the truth of God with the lies of Satan. Our society has embraced the lies of Satan and has begun to replace the beauty of God with lies that only leave us with insecurities, doubt, passions that can never be quenched and a sense of pride that will never truly be filled.

On Psalm 23

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd,

I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside quiet waters.

He restores my soul;

He guides me in the path of righteousness

For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You have anointed my head with oil;

My cup overflows.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever

 

There are times when our lives don’t make much sense and it seems like God just isn’t there or He has failed to listen to the lament within our heart. This Psalm made me realize that God is beyond faithful. The beauty of this Psalm is that David is reflecting upon his life, it is a reflection upon David’s heart and his understanding of the greatness and faithfulness of our Father. If we look at David’s life we can see that it was filled with many hardships and extremely difficult times, but as we can see in this Psalm and throughout scripture God’s faithfulness leads us into a place of rest.

As the Shepherd mentioned in the first part of the Psalm Christ cares and watches out for us. It seems that this world presses against our sides and tries to rob us of or joy and destroy any remaining hope with the seeds of confusion and doubt. But we must remember that Christ remains by our side and has laid down His life so that we may have life and have it abundantly. As we strive for contentment we are lead into a place where our souls are given rest and where we can rest our weary heads against the tall green grass and drink from the restful waters that hydrate our weak and aching hearts. In this place we are simply able be with our Father as we look up at the heavens with the sun and all of its glory shinning upon or face, all the while knowing that the Good Shepherd is watching over us.

As we set out on our journey into the presence of Christ we may at times find ourselves seemingly alone walking through the valley of the shadow of death. In these dark places our soul begins its hardest journey. It begins to travel into a place where our faith, our love and our perseverance are refined and tested. This is a place where our Christianity takes on new meaning. This is a place where we drudge through the mire with every step becoming increasingly harder. Our legs and hearts grow weary as we travel further into the dark night so that we might rest our fragile bodies against the outstretched arms of Christ. During this time we are guided by the right hand of God and protected by his rod and staff. This dark night may seem lonely as if the wilderness has consumed our very heart, but we must know that God has not left our side (Deut 31:6). Just as the Children of Israel lifted their heads and gazed upon the cloud and fire in their time of wilderness we can see that God remains with us. The veil has been torn and we can now inter into His presence. We can now walk into the most holy of places and worship and commune with Him. As we sit at the table that God has prepared before us we can take refuge as we find ourselves in a place of true and absolute communion. Much like ancient covenants were concluded with a meal symbolizing the bond of friendship, our covenant with God has been sealed by the blood of the lamb. This perfect sacrifice has freed us from any form of oppression and has anointed us as heirs to the Kingdom.

There is a joy to be found in hard times, a joy that surpasses all understanding. The goodness and lovingkindness of God fills our hearts and God’s faithfulness becomes strikingly clear. As you sojourn for God’s presence you may find yourself in places where you may have never intended to go, but where God has guided you. These dark places are good places even though at times they may seem unbearable. God has prepared a way for you and has prepared a place for you at His table. Whether it’s climbing a sycamore tree, touching the fringe of Christ’s robe or finding the strength to lift your head and press through the pain.

 

Your faithfulness will be rewarded.

Beyond Myself

They say that if we do not have a way to express ourselves we will die. Expression has no end nor does it have a beginning. Expression is our thoughts, our pain and our triumphs. We cannot live a life without expression. “Expression is the result of conviction.” Let our lives resound with the expression of God. We are the expression of our loving Father. We are His passion; made in His image through mercy and grace. The promise of eternal life rests within our hearts, our soul longs to be home with the Father. We are strangers in this world; we are lost children trying to find our way back to the home that we so dearly long for. How can I belong to a world that chooses to reap pain and sorrow? How can I live a life without the expression of God? It’s simply like this…I can’t. God has written his word into our hearts and it is calling us back to Him, back into His arms. Though I may struggle to be with Him, I know that He is always with me. There are so may of us that do not and sometimes feel we can not understand God as our father. We have become spiritually frustrated at the emptiness that has found a place within our lives. Hope has now just become a word with little meaning and faith has no assurance. We must hold on to the fact that God is beyond what you can do alone. Let us rest in the fact that we are His beloved.  His love for us is the expression of His victory over death. God has poured all of His soul into our lives; He has chosen us to eternally commune with Him. God is our father, He is our strength in weakness and our rock in this world made of sand.

 

We no longer live in emptiness.

Home

Even as I write the word “Home” I don’t know what I should think or feel. It’s such a powerful word invoking numerous emotions. For some home is a place of comfort and where they feel loved, and for others it’s a place of anguish and pain. Home should be a place of rest; it should be a place where we can take refuge from all the pain in this world. It should be understood that the true sense of the word can only be found in Christ. Home isn’t where we sleep, it isn’t where we eat with our families, spend birthdays and Christmas. Home is where we can never be abused; it’s where we will never be looked down upon or feel unloved.  Home is where we dwell in the presence of Christ. It’s where we are one with Him in the midst of our joy and our suffering. Home is where our loving Father can whisper into our ear that we have been chosen.

Let our home be with Christ, let it be that inner place where we walk beside our loving Father and most compassionate God. Let us come home and look into the eyes and heart of Jesus. Our home is the understanding that we are His sons and daughters; we are the heirs of Christ adopted into His kingdom.