Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Unashamed (116)

This past Sunday I had the privilege of sharing a sermon on being Unashamed.
Today I want to share a few brief notes and observations from that sermon - which can be seen here:


The main verse was Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of the Gospel (of Jesus Christ), for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and th en to the Greek.

But to understand where Paul was coming from, you need to look back before the For to see what was in verses 14 and 15:
I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and the foolish.  So I am eager to preach the Gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the Gospel..."

Paul felt that he was Obligated to share this message, he had to do it, there was no option here, the message was that important, it was that Powerful.

Remember, I believe the most important point of this is to remember that Paul made these points as he was going into Rome.  Not only could he expect imprisonment, but Paul (who was a man of great prominence, stature, and notoriety, "boastful qualities since birth") was also less than a nobody.  Rome could not have cared less that he was circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee.  Paul was a poor insignificant Jew who sewed tents - no different than the other few hundred of his countrymen living in the Roman ghetto.  He was poor, he was traveled, he was dusty and dirty (not to mention a lengthy criminal record...), and walking into the center of power and wealth.
As he would have walked into this seat of power with his dusty sandals, dirty feet, and traveled clothes, he claimed (this poor refuge) he had the single most important secret the world had ever known - something so powerful it could save them all (not to mention the audacity to say they needed saving in the first place!)

It was in this scenario that he yields to obligation and says he is Not ashamed of the gospel.

The 'good news' Paul was presenting, the Romans would find foolish, the story of a man dying a criminals death by the single most shameful death available in the world (on a cross) was to save them.  He was not ashamed.

The gospel message wasn't what made him unashamed, in fact, the gospel he was presenting was the very thing that had, was, and always would cause him to be shamed - but the Power of it to bring salvation to EVERYone was what made him not be Ashamed Of it.

We will be misunderstood, misquoted, chastised, accused of division and elitism, and we will be shamed, but we should not be Ashamed.
Remember, it is the Power of the message, the message that Paul says Just before making this statement is his Obligation to share with everyone!

Jesus was shamed his whole life.  See, in Hebrews 12:2 it says that Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, “For the JOY set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.

Jesus was Shamed just as Paul was Shamed, just as we all at times are Shamed, but Jesus told shame, No.  No, I will not quit, I will not stop, I will not yield, I will not let you take me because I can offer Hope and a future, I can offer Joy, I came to give Abundant life, I am SALVATION and the JOY of that message cannot be stopped. 

You may shame me, you may shame me right out of my job, my family, my friends, my hometown, my temple, even my life, but I will not be Ashamed.

Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life; No man comes to the Father buy by me”.  That is absolute truth.  Our story may be crazy, and our level of comfort with sharing it changes day to day year to year decade to decade, but that message is the Power of God for Salvation for ALL.

John Piper says it like this, 
“You will be shamed for the Gospel, but you do not have to be Ashamed of the Gospel."

Friday, January 18, 2013

What is the Gospel?

Me:  What is the "Gospel?"
         No, really, what is it?
         What is the Gospel?

"B":  Good News

Me:   Sure, ok, it means "good news", but so what, who cares, why is it good news?

"B":   well, it's about Jesus coming.

Me:   uh, huh...

"B":  That he was the son of God and he died

Me:  So it's 'good news' that the son of God died.  Brilliant.

"B":  well, yeah, right?

Me:  Are you asking or telling?

"B":  I'm not sure

Me:  So what is the gospel again?

"B": God's rules for living

Me:  So the good news is a rule book?  awesome.

"B":  I didn't mean it like that

Me:  ok, how did you mean it?  Why in the world would anyone think rules were
        'good new'?


Now, I'm not picking on anyone, I'm attempting to teach someone to fish instead of giving them fish.  What good is your faith if you only know it because someone told you?  it's not.

So think for a minute, how would You answer that question? What is the gospel?
and not how you'd answer it to your preacher, but if one of your peers walked up to you out of the blue and asked "what's the gospel and why do I care?"  how would you respond?  How would you explain it?

Then, perhaps even more importantly, once you've come up with your answer, really, truly look at it, examine it, meditate on it, and decide:
Is this this your answer?  Or is it your parents answer, your pastor's answer, your preacher's answer, your youth minister's answer, your family's answer... or is it yours.  Do you own it?

What is the Gospel (and why do you care)?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Blue Monday/Blue Tuesday

Yesterday and today are deemed "Blue Monday" and "Blue Tuesday" and are said to be the 2 most depressing days of the year.

What's interesting (hmm... maybe) is that they actually calculate this by temperature, weather (rainy), time of year (holidays are over), debt (everyone coming off of the Christmas 'high' and coming down to the all the bills and debt they incurred for it), and number of dementors per capita (ok, I made that last one up).

So what do you think about this?

What I do know is that, as humans, our mood can at times be affected by outside forces such as gloomy weather, uncomfortable temperatures, the fact that it's a Monday, bills, etc.  But we also must remember that for many people Christmas (and other 'family' holidays) can be very depressing because of who is missing from them (as it was for me for years after my mother passed).

What I also know is that annoying saying of "you can't dictate what happens to you but you can dictate your reaction/outlook" is largely true.  This life is hard.
But we are so blessed and so gifted, even in our worst of days.  Through tragedy, death, and loss, often times the Only thing that can give us peace is The peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7).

We not only have joy that is independent of our surroundings and circumstances, but we are called to maintain that joy.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says
"16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

This verse doesn't say be joyful when it's easy, or be happy when things are going well, it assumes that that, of course, will not always be the case at all, and instead reminds us to "rejoice Always" and "give thanks in All circumstances" - and how?  Because Christ is the unchanging, the ever present, the peace that can be there when everything else falls apart, the only thing that can always pick us up after we've turned into a puddle, the only thing that makes sense out of chaos, the peace that can be there when it shouldn't be, when no one else can see it, when WE can't see it... the peace that makes no sense... the peace that passes all understanding.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Family is important.  There's no way around it.  Every culture, every creed, every religion, every time period, every history book.  Family is important.

Novels aren't written about events, not even the historical ones, they are written about relationships, love, connections, and the "main event" is nothing more than the backdrop for the story of family.

Most of my life I've tried to be calloused about some of my family, indifferent about their opinions and reactions (or complete lack thereof), and have tried to discount their affect on me.
A facade.
Sometimes elaborate, sometimes thinly veiled, sometimes believable even to me, but a facade nonetheless.

I wish I could be indifferent to those who abandoned, to those who hate, to those who are... indifferent of me and mine.  And I can, as long as they are 'out of sight and out of mind'.  During the years of silence I can almost distract myself enough to forget the abandonment, the laying judgement and responsibility of adults actions on a child, the indifference towards all others around them, the betrayal, I can even sometimes push out the crushing pain and disbelief of family being indifferent to the next generation as well, forgetting at times that my beautiful 5 year old daughter, sweet and perfectly innocent, does not even know their faces, even (in the simplicity of a baby) asking my wife "daddy's daddy is dead, right?"
I can feel resolved in my forward focus and have security in my "moved on" until...  when every other year a casual "Merry Christmas" text crosses my phone and those few dead pixels send me into a spiral of pain, doubt, fear, anger, resentment, disbelief; reverting me back to that 10 year old boy who's fault this all is.

I am a firm believer in being in charge of your life, taking ownership of your feelings, and deciding how you will respond (you dictate your life-your life does not dictate you) and was taught these by great examples who made me who I am today (my older brother, my uncle, and my grandfather, and my 2 grandmothers to name a few)... but occasionally, despite all my best efforts, my resolve and practiced indifference melts into a scared, scarred, huddled up little boy who, despite his truly blessed life, amazing family, and innumerable friends and loved ones, just misses his mom who passed and longs for his dad he never had.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Home invasion

So.... I read about this guy who broke into someone's house.
The homeowner was actually home so then the home-invader pulls a gun on the homeowner and starts screaming that he wants everything the guy has and flat out tells him that after he gets it he's going to kill the homeowner anyway.

Luckily the police show up and rush into the house to find the guy, with a backpack full of stolen stuff from the house, standing over the homeowner with a gun to the homeowner's head.  With all the police surrounding him he drops his gun and turns himself in.

At trial, they bring eyewitness after eyewitness, the homeowner, the neighbor (who was actually the ADA and who saw the whole thing - and was the one to actually call the police in the first place), and each of the dozen officers who responded and subdued the suspect.

The whole time, the defendant just sits and smiles, laughing and shaking his head at times.

Then, the defendant, the home-invader, insists that he be allowed to take the stand, despite his lawyer trying to convince him not to.  When he gets on the stand, he doesn't even wait for a question, he simply turns straight to the judge, leans into the bench, smirks and laughs and says, quote:
"You know what, guilty as charged.  I did it all, every bit of it, only these fools left out the dozens of other times I've done this same thing and that if they hadn't shown up that dude (the homeowner) was good as dead"

The entire courtroom takes a collective gasp and the previously composed judge is all of the sudden visibly taken aback, but before anyone can even muster a 'proper' reaction, this guy continues:

"But you know what judge, I just can't help it, it's what I do, but it's not who I am, what I do can't be helped by nobody, but - you know my heart though!"

The judge takes a second as the entire courtroom holds it's breath and then the judge leans back in his chair and responds:

"well, let's see... we caught you at the scene, we have more than a dozen eye witnesses, and as if that wasn't enough, we have your own Complete admittance."

-at this point the courtroom can't take it anymore and bursts into cheers and applause as the judge raises his gavel-

"But" the judge continues, gavel paused in the air, "we're going to forget about the law, you are free to go" and the gavel slammed down.


Not that you need anytime to think, but take a moment  -- what's your reaction to this 'judge'?

We can all agree that this guy has lost his ever loving Mind, he's a fool, and a mockery to the court!


This is what many expect God to do when he judges us.

Let that sink in a minute.

People live their whole life ignoring the existence of God, indifferent at best, and make statements like "well, I'm a good person", "I'm good enough", "I'm better than That guy", "if God's really just he'll know my heart", "a Loving God wouldn't really judge people", "if God's really the 'god of love' than he would never find anyone guilty", "My God wouldn't have any laws!", ....

Any of these sound familiar?

**story adapted from PRo's (Derek Minor) song "Not Guilty"**

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Reading the Bible in a year

Many people attempt to set out to read the Bible in a year, and some do... many however don't quite make it.  For many reasons, people get discouraged and stop (Leviticus not being the least of these....).

This year I'm in a facebook group for everyone who wants to read the Bible in a year and I invite any and all of you to join this group.
The group will serve a lot of purposes I would say, but one of the chief reasons is accountability (even the accountability of a group also serves more than the implicit purpose by creating a sense of camaraderie among those involved).

I will share some of my observations from reading the Bible through in a year on here (I will be using The One Year Bible in ESV which takes a passage of Old Testament, a passage of New Testament, a passage from Psalms, and a passage from Proverbs each day) as well.

Everyone is doing different versions, different plans, and different translations so it doesn't matter what you have.  For our group, it will also serve as a place to ask questions and share insight (my favorite part!).  The group is made up of the crazy, the busy, the crazy busy, the parents, the workaholics, the frazzled, the real, and the honest and I would Love for you to be one of them!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I am a sinner. I am a Christian.

I am a sinner.

Try as I might, I will always be.
Though I am saved by the undeserved Grace of Jesus Christ and my eternity is secure, I will never stop being a wretched, imperfect, selfish, self-centered man.

I want to do good and yet am continually shocked at my nature and ability to think and do 'bad'.  I pray with Paul for the removal of my innate nature (purposely redundant), but remain with Paul as the Chief of sinners.

As a Christian, I am set apart, saved, sanctified, and redeemed... but by NO act or ability of my own-and that will never change.

My prayer for the new year is more of Him and less of me, for transparency in actually Being who people Think that I am, and for grace and mercy (both undeserved) everyday.

No matter how many times I bargain, beg, promise, and voice deals with God for his grace (funny, right?), there is nothing I can offer on my own of myself, no promise of Holiness can I keep on my own.
I am a Christian.

The worst blogger ever.

For the people who follow this blog, for those who check it, I have 2 things I must say to you today.

Thank you.
and, more importantly,
I'm sorry.

I am, in deed, a terrible blogger, ha!

I started this blog to share and as the time passed and 'life' happened, and church events piled up, I simply didn't continue it and it became easier and easier to not blog and harder and harder to 'find' time to write (something about a road and good intentions...).

This year I plan to change that, I want to focus on This blog.

Again, for those who follow this blog, thank you.  If you like it, I ask that you share it, tell your friends about it, facebook it, tweet it, instagram it, shoot it through outerspace, smoke signals, whatever your thing is ;)

I dislike, greatly, New Year Resolutions, but I suppose that's what this is - a resolution to re-dedicate myself to this blog and to all of you.