From a MORAL powerhouse! Rabbi Sacks

1Moral Philosophy is HUGE in my world…and whether you want to acknowledge it or not, it is in YOURS too!  This video presentation by Rabbi J Sacks is HUGE!  Listen carefully and take notes…this is one of the watershed moments in history to contemplate this epic shift in moral reasoning and action.

 

Advertisements

One of my fav pals and his wisdom…”Larry-isms”

1My BESTEST pal is a pretty wise guy…no, not THAT type of wise guy.  I’m talking wisdom…Godly wisdom…Jesus honoring wisdom…wisdom of the ages.  He blesses me often with snippets that become for me “life’s proverbs.”  Thanks Larry…you are a treasure indeed!

“I am not living my life so that you will love me, I’m living my life so I can love you”

“The only way I can love ANYONE is by loving Jesus with my whole heart, mind, & strength…if I love ANYONE OR ANYTHING above Jesus, it only leads me back to living to please others and hoping they will love me in return.”

“I want to live my life for Jesus…if I live my life so that others will think that I am smart, that I know what I’m talking about or to be recognized by others, that becomes my mission in life- Recognition! To win the recognition of others! We need to live our lives so that when people look at us they see Jesus, they hear Jesus, they only think of Jesus. Every time they see you, they have taken their eyes off Jesus.” Matt. 6:33 Seek first His Kingdom & His righteousness and ……

“If you’re going to talk about people, talk about Jesus. If you’re going to talk about people, talk to Jesus about those people.”

“I am not living my life so that you will love me, I’m living my life so that I can love you.”

Here’s something I ran into – A “Creed” for those who Struggle…

A Creed for strugglers – I ran into this not too long ago on one of my fav blogs.  I liked it for some reason…it made me uncomfortable.  Why?  Because some of it is true…we all struggle…but thank you JESUS for the gift of faith and the gift of Jesus’ constant love, grace and presence that takes our struggles and uncertainties and beautifies them (“beauty for ashes…oil of JOY in mourning”).  So, here goes…you read it and see how you feel!

1Since many of us were small children, we’ve recited The Apostles’ Creed in church.

 For those of you who may be unfamiliar, the Creed is essentially a synopsis of the essential tenets of the Christian faith, intended to be professed in corporate worship as a shared declaration of belief. It’s world-altering big picture stuff touching on the reality and Trinitarian nature of God, the identity, life, mission, and resurrection of Christ, the existence of the Trinity, the concept of eternal salvation, the function of the Church, and the return of Christ as  judge.

 And while we’ve said the words consistently throughout our lives in thousands of gatherings (most times likely believing every word deeply), the truth is for most Jesus followers we’ve often been less than fully convinced of at least one bit or another at any given moment yet unable to reveal it.  After all the Creed is a moral litmus test, a spiritual bellwether; a verbal line in the sand separating:

 the insiders from the outsiders, the faithful from the heathens, the saved from the lost, the saints from the sinners, the believers from the heretics, the rescued and the sanctified “us,” from the morally broken “them.”

 Would you admit that there have been times over the course of your journey of faith (since you have grown more transparent and honest), to admit the times that your heart and mind have vacillated?  Have you ever felt like a walking spiritual contradiction? Maybe you have struggled…that is ok.  There are times when all Jesus followers find their faith far less absolute or fixed than what the Apostles’ Creed demands.  This then, is a creed for those times…

 A Creed for strugglers

I believe in God—usually. I mean most of the time I’m absolutely sure that God exists, though sometimes dying children and serial killers and Cancer and Tsunamis do make me wonder about His power or goodness. And on a few really bad days I’ve even been terrified that God may not be there at all. But yes, I do believe in God.

I believe in Jesus yet sometimes struggle with the Christ. The idea that God hated the flawed children He created so much that he had to send His only son (who is also God) to earth and then brutally murder Him to satisfy—Himself, seems rather wasteful and petty and mean. Many days I hesitate to go all-in with that part of the story. I also sometimes wonder about the science of the whole Virgin Birth thing and the miracle stories too, if I’m being honest.  Yet Jesus is the closest thing to bedrock I’ve ever found; my peace and rest and many times the only thing that keeps me from totally losing my religion. I always find his words and his ways beautiful and life-giving, yet even then I wonder just how this whole salvation thing really works and what I’m missing that others seem to get without trying.

I believe in the Holy Spirit but confess I often can’t tell what is God speaking to me, and what is just me talking to myself. God as Spirit gets a little nebulous and weird and loosey-goosey for me sometimes too, especially when trying to trying to find something supernatural and sacred in the mundane, ordinary, fluorescent-lit, traffic-jammed, mosquito-occupied days I stumble through.

I believe in the Church, though if I’m honest it seems to do as much harm as good in the world, and I’m not sure what to do with that tragic reality. I’ve been both gripped by The Church’s beauty yet repelled by the horrors it has manufactured. I can (many times in the very same days) find it both fully lovely and entirely gruesome and this unsettles me greatly. I daily fight for the Church and fight with The Church with equal vigor and often wonder which is the better path.

I believe in Prayer yet I don’t really know what it does or whether or not it works, or if it does work just how and when. Some days I pray earnestly, some days I live life as a continual silent prayer of gratitude, and some days I say empty, showy words to the sky and hope that God doesn’t catch it (or forgives me if He does).

I believe the Bible, while providing many people a way to hear from and know God, has ironically also been the single most damaging weapon to ever exist in the hands of Christians; used to justify hatred, war, bigotry, greed, and every kind of ugliness we wish to wallow in and inflict upon each other. The Bible is often the greatest barrier to God that people ever encounter— and this is the stuff that keeps me up at night.

I believe that I am tired, worn out, and exhausted from forever feeling I’m chasing after the wind that is God, when I’d just rather stop running and stop believing altogether.

I believe that I sometimes passionately, vigorously defend God while simultaneously being unsure He’s even there.

I believe that as I walk further down this road of faith, I find surety in only my questions and the forever not-knowing of it all.I believe that God is far bigger than my words or thoughts or feelings, and since those are all I have to go on, I’ll always have a bit less than I’d like to of God.

I believe that God is far bigger than my words or thoughts or feelings, and since those are all I have to go on, I’ll always have a bit less than I’d like to of God.

I believe in Heaven and Hell—and sometimes I just don’t.

I believe I regularly conclude that I need to be saved from the wretched mire of my sin, yet just as often wonder if sin isn’t something we’ve conjured up; a convenient way of excusing ourselves for being simply terrible to each other.

I believe that I want desperately to know things that I may not be able to know—and this stinks royally.

I believe that some days I have the faith of a mustard seed and some days far, far less.

I believe that my spiritual life is often equal parts deep conviction and fake it ’till you make it.

Most of all, I believe that God (if He is truly God) knows all of this in ways no one else ever could; all my trying and failing, and following and falling, and grasping and losing— and He relentlessly and unwaveringly loves me through it all.

God knows the meandering, perpetually broken road I have traveled to reach Him, and knows too just how much my heart breaks when blessed assurance that has been captured after a long and brutal fight, invariably eludes me almost instantly.

God knows that I am a seeker, a pilgrim, an open-hearted lover, a learner, a rabid chaser of the Divine, but I am a fraud and a failure and a traitor and a rebel all the while.

Thank God, that God is God.

This is the honest creed of an exhausted apostle who struggles and stumbles toward Love.

I may not like it all, but I can fully own it all.

 

The Bible Project – I’m one of their RAVING FANS!

10302183_300x300I’m loving The Bible Project!  These guys are nailing it in terms of giving people a great overview of the Biblical Story.  Check out their YOUTUBE channel … it is worth your time.  In addition, their website provides extra resources and stuff that could help you in personal or corporate Bible study.  I haven’t met these guys yet…but my prayer is that that opportunity comes soon.  All I know is that I’m one of their RAVING FANS!

Below are some excellent videos on the Gospel of Luke – as some of you know, I’m a Biblical Studies Online Professor at Azusa Pacific University…one of my courses is the Gospel of Luke.  I am always in the process of studying this marvelous gospel story.  If you are curious, here’s a good place to start with the Bible Project’s videos.  Give them a peek!

Luke Part 1 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIb_dCIxzr0&index=6&t=37s&list=PLH0Szn1yYNecanpQqdixWAm3zHdhY2kPR

Luke Part 2 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26z_KhwNdD8&index=7&t=32s&list=PLH0Szn1yYNecanpQqdixWAm3zHdhY2kPR

Luke Chapters 1 and 2 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OLezoUvOEQ&index=2&t=8s&list=PLH0Szn1yYNec6O3ZOZzAMb2WW2abJwzZ-

Luke Chapters 3-9 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0k4GbvZUPuo&index=3&list=PLH0Szn1yYNec6O3ZOZzAMb2WW2abJwzZ-

2

 

Not my normal habit, but…

Under the circumstances, I thought I would publish this list of messages that I am giving at our faith communities in the mountains of Idaho this summer.  I look forward to this every year…I hand out suggestion sheets and then spend the summer exploring some of the BIG questions that people have about faith, God and living as a Jesus follower.  If you are in Idaho for vacation, you live in our area or if you just want to check the messages out on our website (Our Savior, McCall), now you know what’s coming…

Summer Sermon Series FAQ Our Savior and Shepherd of the Mtns_Page_1

This is an AMAZING article!

8c373-6a00d83451607369e20120a8840eb1970b-piHi my friends,

Many of you are in leadership…spiritual leadership. You join me in praying for the Lord Jesus to guide and direct us as His disciples in making decisions necessary for the health of our faith communities.

Despite what you have heard, read, or thought, people don’t need trendy or flashy to be brought to Jesus…they need Jesus and HIS love, pure and simple.

I ran into this article and thought to myself, “my leader friends need to see this!” This speaks the truth! I pray it is encouraging to you in what matters most…our love of Jesus and how He ministers to the people He loves through US.

Why the church doesn’t need Coffee bars…

Shocking…but true!

cb064-helpEd Stetzer is a prophet!  He has researched the life (and death) of local churches of all “stripes” and tribes for years.  This weekend, he published an editorial that, if it wasn’t so filled with indisputable facts, would be seen as lunacy in the scope of its analysis.  Some might call him a prophet of doom…I’d rather simply call it as I would most of Biblical prophecy – he is reading the signs of the times.  Here’s the link – read it yourself.

Here’s a shocking taste:  “Christians recently celebrated Easter, a Sunday where many churches are robust and full. But, if current trends continue, mainline Protestantism has about 23 Easters left.”

Yes, you read that right…23 years left for some of the stalwarts of denominational Christianity in America.  For most, this will be a call to prayer.  For others, it will be a challenge to rethink old paradigms and challenge assumptions.  Frankly, if it wasn’t for the fact that Churches are good at prayer and NOT acting, I would be hopeful.  But it is way past time for simply gathering together for prayer and beseeching God for intervention…it is a time for a TRUE intervention, the truth needs to be told…we need to be rethinking of our attachment to “insanity” (doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results) and then move to creative action and a re-embracing of mission and disciple-making.   It is way past time for the Church to be the dispenser of religious goods and services…now it is time for Spirit to invade the Church and breathe a fresh and new life upon God’s people.  There are no simple answers – we can’t return to the glory days of old nor can we purely adopt better marketing practices in order to gain a crowd.  Rather, disciples of Jesus, followers of Christ in community need to be re-examining our purpose in fulfilling the call of Jesus.  Truthfully, the Church would NOT move (institutions rarely do) unless they were faced with this tragic reality.   Head in the sand?  No longer!  Time to wake up!

7cfa7-livefaith_2

Some more information on the voracity of the Resurrection

69597-6a00d83451607369e20133f2f2261b970b-piOn Easter, I wrote a message about the resurrection and its intellectual underpinnings. As you may have guessed, many “smart” people have postured that the resurrection is something that is easily dismissed because of the weakness of its intellectual foundations.  In other words, you can excuse it without much thought given the fact that the people of antiquity did not have “smarts” or sophistication that we have in the 21st century.  These are not new arguments….in fact, I love what CS Lewis labels those who desire to marginalize the people of Jesus’ time – he calls them “chronological snobs.” Excellent article here!

Here are a few of the points I made on the voracity of the Easter event:

The Resurrection was not a private event.  This was how it went…if you were following a Messiah, and again, there were many of them in the first century who claimed to be a Messiah…and your guy got crucified by Rome, as Jesus did, you had two choices:

1. Disband the movement…everybody go home and give it up

2. Or look for a new Messiah.

The Gospels are really clear. As we would expect, Jesus’ followers believed at and after the cross that they were finished. They were done. The movement was toast. And then two things happened, both of them spoken of in Matthew 28:

1. First, on Sunday, the tomb was empty.

2. Second, Jesus appeared to His followers then and for days afterward.

It was the combination of these two factors together that was overwhelming. One without the other wouldn’t do it.

• If it was just an empty tomb but Jesus didn’t appear to anybody, then skeptics could say, “It was just a case of grave robbery.”

• But Jesus did appear. The apostle Paul wrote within two decades of Jesus’ life that the “risen Christ had appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve, and then to more than 500 of the brothers, most of whom are still living.”

• Now you would not dare say something like that within twenty years of the event unless you know that there are those who can back you up.

On the other hand, if people had reported that they had seen Jesus somehow, but the tomb still had Jesus’ body in it, then skeptics could claim it was visions or hallucinations or something like that.

• Trust me, if the Romans could have produced the body they would have.  Roman leaders were every paranoid of any “messiah” or “king” taking “press” and veneration from them.

• The graves of heroes, especially crucified messiahs, were commonly venerated as shrines by their followers, except for this one because the tomb was empty.

See this is simply not a story that could have been made up by somebody because it violated their understanding of what was happening in history.

Another reason why it was not a made-up story, the gospels say the empty tomb was discovered by “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.” Notice what the two of these people have in common. They’re all women.

• Now we tend not to notice that.

• But In ancient Israel…this is really important…women were low enough in status, that they were not regarded as credible witnesses.

• In fact, they were not allowed to give testimony in court. You could commit a terrible crime, if it was only witnessed by women, you’d go scot-free.

• But the first eyewitnesses to the empty tomb are women. And this is recorded not just in Matthew but in all four Gospels.

• If they were made-up stories, there is simply no advantage to having women serve as the eyewitnesses. It would have seriously undermined the credibility of the claim.

• The only plausible explanation for why all four Gospels say that it was women who found the empty tomb is that it was women who found the empty tomb.

Jesus’ followers were driven to an understanding, to an explanation of what happened that was impossible for them to have predicted or even thought about ahead of time. And it was not, “We have a sense of inspiration. We still somehow feel His presence. His vibe seems to be in our lives.”

No.

It was, “Jesus is alive somehow.  We don’t understand it, but He is not just alive. He is more alive than He has ever been before.” And then they came to understand that that LIFE, resurrected life, just doesn’t affect Jesus.  You see, this is the twist that nobody was looking for…when they thought about the empty tomb, they started to understand that…

• Somehow in Jesus, the resurrection has begun…

• Somehow that age to come that every human being has been yearning for has started…

• That the fact that we were dead in our brokenness and ability to fall again and again and live out an essential imperfection in life that hurts/destroy

• The fact that we were cut off from God….And somehow when Jesus was raised again, through this risen Jesus, God promised He would fix the world. He would forgive…He would heal…He would redeem…through the resurrection, it has begun – now

You see, after the resurrection they realized that when Jesus died on the Cross it was more than just a death.  They didn’t know that when it was happening. It took the resurrection for them to look back on that and say, “It wasn’t just His death. Somehow that was our death. Somehow our sin that we know need to be forgiven, your sin and my sin, they were forgiven through what Jesus did. He was the ultimate sacrifice…He paid the ultimate price. My death died on that Cross.” They did not understand that until the resurrection. Death and guilt were defeated.

Well, I read an excellent article today that gave MORE great info on the resurrection.  In fact, this is an article written with “science” in mind.  You can read that excellent article here!