Follow Me

That’s the offer Jesus made to two men in the Gospel of Matthew. One was a tax-collector who dropped everything and followed. The other was a rich young ruler who might have wanted to follow but loved his possessions too much and said no.

That’s the offer Jesus still makes: follow me.

Most of us won’t have to sell everything and give the proceeds to the poor.

But eventually everyone of us must decide one way or the other: to follow or not to follow.

I know that I have never regretted deciding to follow Jesus.

I wonder if the rich young ruler ever looked back and wished he could go back and choose differently.

As a pastor once said, Jesus didn’t run after the young man or beg him to follow. He respected his decision and let him walk away.

So my question to you is this: will you follow Jesus?


Feeding the Multitudes: Inspired by Tonight’s Kairos Message


Jesus said something that struck me as a bit odd during the account of the first feeding of the 5,000. When the disciples asked how they were to feed all the multitudes who had followed Jesus, Jesus said to them, “You feed them.”

On the surface, it seems strange that Jesus should ask such a monumental task of 12 men to feed what probably amounted to 20,000 people (counting women and children). Why would Jesus ask that?

I think what Jesus wanted was their willingness to sacrifice whatever they held in their hands for the work of Jesus. In this case, it was two fishes and five loaves given to them by a small boy. It was at the same time a sacrifice and a confession of woeful inadequacy.

That was what Jesus blessed and multiplied to minister to the many.

In this day and age, many of us are praying for peace. We ask that Jesus step in and make peace by bringing unity to the racial tensions and strife.

Jesus says to us in turn, “You go and make peace.”

“How?” we ask.

“What do you have in your hand?” Jesus asks us.

“Not much. Not nearly enough to accomplish reconciliation. But whatever I have is Yours. I give it to You.”

What Jesus is looking for in us isn’t extraordinary ability but unconditional availability. What He asks from us isn’t great acts or passionate speeches. What He asks for from us is our very selves.

That’s where the miracle begins.


Friday Eve (Also Known as Thursday)

It’s Friday Eve, known to most of the normal folks of the world as Thursday. For me, it’s the one day of the week where I don’t have to be anywhere or do anything.

As usual, I was very deliberate in my choice of musical accompaniment for my daily trek to and from work. I chose Miles Davis, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Van Morrison (along with WAY-FM and Mornings with Wally).

As usual, the best day of my week lasted as long as the worst (and I really didn’t have any bad days– I’m just making a point here). The very worst day you’ll ever face still only has 24 hours. As much as it may feel like it some days, the horrible no-good very bad days do not last forever.

I still need God as much on my best days when all my traffic lights are green and the commute is light as I do when I seem to hit every traffic light just as it’s turning red and everything I touch implodes. My need for Jesus hasn’t diminished with any spiritual growth or maturity. In contrast, all my growing up has shown me with increasing clarity my increasing awareness of my total and complete dependence on God.

That’s not a bad thing. As Jesus says in His beatitudes, blessed are those who know their own poverty of spirit and desperate need, for God’s Kingdom belongs to these people. Those are the ones always with open hands rather than closed fists who ask and receive in such abundance that the overflow touches the lives of those in their circle with whom they live, work, and play.

I find myself praying a lot more in traffic, especially on that one part when I have to cross over four lanes to get to my exit. I’m always relieved to get that part out of the way.

I doubt I’ll ever reach a point in my life where I’m not grateful for Friday. It’s automatically awesome for being the last day of the work week.

Oh, by the way, TGIF in advance.


Do Not Seek the Treasure!


 “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being” (Matthew 6:19).

I went to dinner with some friends and the topic of discussion turned to internet security and hackers. There was much that I did not understand and that made my brain hurt, but the gist of the conversation is this– if someone wants your stuff bad enough, they’re probably going to find a way to get it.

There’s no such thing as security when it comes to the internet. Someone (or maybe several someones) out there is smart enough, patient enough, wily enough to crack any encryption and figure out any password.

Besides, even if you manage to fend off every thief, swindler, and hacker out there, you still can’t take it with you when you die. Case in point: have you ever seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul? Me neither.

Jesus told us that true treasures aren’t the kind behind bank vaults or in walnut frames behind your desk or the initials before and after your name. True treasures aren’t things; they’re people.

I heard a pastor say once that the reason the streets in heaven are paved with gold is that gold isn’t the real currency there. It’s like asphalt is here. The true currency in heaven is L-O-V-E. Not the syrupy, romantic kind in all those power ballads, but the kind that gives up its rights and lays down its life for the beloved. Like Jesus.

What’s the point to all this? I’m not saying to withdraw all your money and put it under your mattress. I’m telling you to remember that your worth isn’t found in your bank account or your job title or your degrees. Your true worth is in how much you love and how much you are loved.

The best treasure of all is knowing that the King of the Universe loves you truly, madly, deeply, and that love will never change.

The end.

PS I just remembered a great line from It’s a Wonderful Life that seems appropriate here– you can only take with you that which you’ve given away.

An Essay I Wrote


I may or may not have mentioned that I’m currently involved in an intensive discipleship training class at my church. Part of the class involved writing an essay.

I chose to write on the unique contributions that each of the four Gospels make to our overall understanding of Jesus and Christianity. It almost felt like a part of my brain got turned on that hadn’t seen much action since my seminary days of yore. Here is the result (with the reminder that it is an essay and reads like one):

“Each gospel has made its own unique contributions to the overall biblical canon and to our understanding of who Jesus is and what His purpose and mission were while He was here on earth. Although each of these is technically anonymous, there are enough clues and evidence, both biblical and extra-biblical, to safely say that these were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Matthew writes primarily for a Hebrew audience, emphasizing how Jesus is truly the prophesied Messiah. He brings in the genealogy of Jesus and parallels him to Moses on several occasions. Matthew brings out Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of God and how it is both now and not yet. Many see Matthew as represented by a man, because he emphasized the humanity of Jesus.

Mark, the first of the Gospels to be written, focuses on Jesus as the Son of God, the true Messiah sent from God into the world. His Gospel is fast-paced, accentuated by his frequent use of the word “immediately.” He is represented by a lion, because he brought out the kingly nature of Jesus.

Luke writes to Theophilus, but likely his intended audience is both Jews and Gentiles. He gives a convincing defense of Jesus and the gospel for both evangelistic and discipling purposes. He is represented by an ox, the lowliest of animals, for his attention to the lowly and outcasts, such as the shepherds, and the Gentiles. His theme is the universality of salvation, how it’s not only for a specific race or region, but for all peoples everywhere.

All three of these Gospels are called the Synoptic Gospels because they share many similarities, such as miracles, parables, and teachings. Matthew and Luke probably borrow from Mark, who in turn uses a source of collected sayings and teachings, commonly referred to as “Q”, to build his own writings upon.

John writes to a primarily Gentile audience in Ephesus and is by far the most intentionally evangelical of the Gospels. He writes that His purpose is to show that Jesus is indeed the Christ that those who read may believe and have eternal life in His name. He is often represented by an eagle for his high Christology and his lyrical and poetic imagery, as well as his epic style of writing, as evidenced by the opening 18 verses of chapter one.

Each Gospel reflects the personality and background of the writers and brings out different aspects to the character, life, and teachings of Christ. Some emphasize his teachings, while others focus on His ministry. Yet all four together present a compelling portrait of Jesus as both God and man, Savior and Lord.”

Just Some Thoughts From Another Good Night at Kairos

In spite of the cold and rain, it was a good night. At Kairos, Mike Glenn wrapped up the series called “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” with some final thoughts on what true love is. And yes, you know that Tina Turner song is now stuck in your head.

I remember reading somewhere that love isn’t sentiment as much as it is service. It isn’t feelings as much as it is action. As the old dc talk song says, “Love is a verb.”

Most of the time, we think of love as a contract. I’ll love you if you love me back, but don’t expect me to keep loving you if you quit. In other words, you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

But God’s love isn’t a contract. It’s a covenant where he essentially says to his people, “I will always be your God, your Savior, your Lord, your Provider, and your Defender.”

His love isn’t contingent on ours. I’d be in serious trouble if that were the case. His love is forever.

In Matthew, Jesus defines real love. It’s one thing to love those who love you back and be friends with those who are easy to get along with that. Anybody can do that, with or without God’s help. But it’s entirely another thing to love your enemies and do good for those who despise you. It takes supernatural grace to do that.

In other words, people expect you to give as good as you get. They expect you to fight fire with fire, anger with anger, grudges with grudges, and hate with hate. But Jesus is calling us to fight anger with kindness, grudges with forgiveness, and hate with love. That’s the only way to end the seemingly endless cycle.

Love doesn’t stay put. It goes to where the hurting people are, to where the need is greatest, to the dangerous places that most people won’t go. It looks for and draws out the best in the other person, even when that other person can’t see it.

We need more love like that. I need more love like that. An unbelieving and lost and hurting world needs to see love like that.

Last Thoughts on the Beatitudes

Obviously, I’ve had the Beatitudes on my mind for some time now, having blogged on each one individually for the past several days. The question that remains is how do they all fit together. And what is the purpose? Ok, so I lied about only having one question. Sue me.

How do they fit together? It seems like they are all describing one person. A believer.

What is the purpose? If it’s a to-do list, I’m sunk. I can never make myself be poor in spirit or meek or any other of these things. The same goes if it’s a list of to-be’s, as in you should be all these things if you are a believer. Then what? I heard someone say that the Beatitudes are what it looks like when the Kingdom of God breaks through in a person. When God’s reign is manifested in an individual.

Well, then. How can we seek for a Kingdom breakthrough? By seeking the Kingdom. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). And the Kingdom is nothing more than God Himself, God ruling over His creation. So seek God first, and everything else will fall into place. Make Jesus your first– your only priority– and you will have found your purpose.

Again, I like how the Message puts it: “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” Steep your life in God. Let every part of your life be filled with every part of God. Let every thought, breath, word and action be a living prayer to Jesus. Live with open hands and open minds toward all that God has for you.

Jesus, be thou my vision, as the old hymn says. So fill me with Your Spirit that all I see is You and how You are working in the world. So inhabit my senses that my heart breaks with what breaks Your heart. So enrapture me with Your love that everything else fades away.


Blessed are the peacemakers

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9)

Blessed are those who make peace, not those who wait for peace to fall into their laps. We have to work for peace sometimes. As crazy and contradictory as it may seem, we even have to fight for peace sometimes. We have to be willing to pray against the powers of darkness. We have to be willing to practice tough love when the easy thing to do would be to ignore the situation until it goes away. Sometimes peace making can be a bloody and brutal event. Just ask Jesus, who in order to make peace with God for us endured the cross and all the horror and shame there.

There are three types of peace: peace with God, peace with others and peace with yourself. I think that this verse is not so much about finding peace with God as it is establishing or reestablishing peace with others and with yourself.

The Message says, “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.” Jesus prayed for unity of believers above all things for His people. If there is unforgiveness or conflict, it grieves the Holy Spirit. It also is a bad witness to an unbelieving world. If we can’t love each other who we see every day, how can we claim to love a God whom we have not seen? How can anything we say be true if there’s no love to back it up?

Father, forgive me for the times when I was not brave enough to fight for peace and instead settled for truce or a cold war of lost opportunities and relationships. Help me to see that You want your children to love each other and forgive each other and bless each other. Send your Spirit to bring revival into your people so we can be the ones through whom You radically change the world.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Blessed are the merciful

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7)

In the Bible, grace and mercy are many times used together. I’ve heard it put this way that grace is getting what you don’t deserve, and mercy is not getting what you do deserve. Mercy is withholding the right to revenge and giving grace instead. One of God’s characteristics is that He is merciful. If anyone had the right to exact judgment on what we’ve done wrong and how we’ve screwed up and when we’ve outright rebelled against Him, it’s God. But He in HIs grace gives us what we don’t deserve– forgiveness– and in His mercy withholds from us what we do deserve– everlasting punishment in hell.

To be merciful is to be like God. To forgive, even when forgiveness is not sought, is to be like God. Mercy is loving the unloveable. It’s easy to love someone who loves you back, but God calls us to love those who are so caught up in and trapped by fear and addictions that they are unable to love us back.

I like the Message version. It says, “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.”

If you show mercy, you get mercy. I also like to think that one of the characteristics of those who have experienced God’s grace and mercy is that they live out that grace and mercy toward others. You forgive much because you have been forgiven much. You don’t worry about the $100 worth of wrong someone did to you when God just forgave the $1 million worth of wrong you did against Him.

Brennan Manning says it best: “Our encounter with Mercy profoundly affects our interaction with others . . . . We look beyond appearances, beneath surfaces, to recognize others as companions in woundedness. Human flesh is heir to the assaults, within and without, of negative, judgmental thoughts, but we will not consent to them because God is merciful to us. We will not allow these attacks to lead us into the sins of self-preoccupation and self-defense. Swimming in the merciful love of Christ, we are free to laugh at the tendency to assume spiritual superiority– in ourselves. We are free to extend to others the mercy we have received.”

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6)

When I think of hungering and thirsting for righteousness, I don’t think of when I would like dessert after a good meal. I don’t even think about when I am late for a meal and how “hungry” I feel. I think of someone who is starving to death and the lengths they will go to get food. To hunger and thirst for righteousness means more than simply wanting to in right standing with God and to please Him; it means that everything in me longs and yearns to see God glorified by my life.

The Message puts it this way: “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.”

The question is: How badly do you want God? Not how badly do you want your prayers answered or how badly do you want gifts and blessings from God, but how badly do you long for God Himself? Honestly, I seek after many other things more than I seek after God, including but not limited to approval, attention, a dating life, and spiritual experiences. Is it any wonder that these things, whether I obtain them or not, will leave me empty and hollow? Only God can fill a God-shaped hole in my heart.

The hard part is that if you love and long for God, you will love and long for fellowship and community with His people. If you don’t love and long for His people, you don’t really long for God. Jesus says, If you love me, you will love my church (and that doesn’t mean you will love a building or a campus, it means you will love God’s people). If you are pulling away from God’s people, how can you say you are drawing near to God? I know there are seasons of solitude that God calls us to, but if we have no desire to pray for and support and encourage our brothers and sisters, we really are saying we have no desire for God.

Sometimes, when someone isn’t in a place where they can seek God and God’s people, we can rally around that person and pray God’s healing and restoration for him or her. A friend of mine said sometimes when you can only give 40%, I must be the one to give the 160% to make up the difference.

What does it mean to be filled? It means overflowing beyond your capacity to receive. It means God gives you so much that it runs over in you and spills into the lives of those around you. To be filled means to have life abundantly, or life to the full, that God will give beyond anything we could ever ask or expect or hope. As John Piper says, “God will not give up the glory of being the Giver.”

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.