Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

Today, together with Christians from around the world, I am reflecting on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. One way that I have been connecting with the story in a new way this year has been through visualizing the story as if I was there. I highly recommend this type of visualization.

Lets do it together now. We'll read a section together and then I'll give some visualization suggestions.

READ Matthew 26:36-46

  • Feel the tiredness of the disciples
  • Notice the change in Jesus demeanor
  • Smell the smells of the garden
    • earth
    • flowers
    • cedar
  • Feel embarrassed as Jesus returns to find you sleeping
  • Feel your eye lids falling as you fight like you've never fought before to keep your eyes open
  • Feel confused as Jesus says things that don't makes sense about a betrayer. 
 READ Matthew 26: 47-56

  • See Judas off in the distance.
  • Feel excited to see a friendly face
  • Notice the crowd of people following him
  • Feel curious as to why there are men with clubs and swords following Judas
  • Feel your mind ease as he comes up and kisses Jesus
  • Feel the anger rise in you realize Judas has led the men to Jesus for them to take Him
  • See Peter wildly swing his sword and cut off the servants ear
  • Feel confusion as Jesus says that you shouldn't fight for his life
  • Feel the intense fear inside you
  • Feel the branches hitting your face as you run away
  • Feel your legs throbbing as you run as fast and as far as you can
  • As you notice you're probably safe, you keep running because it's the only thing keeping you from sobbing because your friend and teacher is going to be killed. 
  • Feel the understanding that you are guilty by association and will probably be killed also
Anyway, you get the idea. I would encourage you to continue this process through the rest of the crucifixion story! It's amazing how much more real the whole thing becomes.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Blood and Wine

Lately I've been reading through the Old Testament. I recently found a bit of a parallel between Exodus 7:14-21 and John 2:1-11. The account in John's gospel is the first "sign" that Jesus performs which is that of turning water into wine. Here is the passage from Exodus:

Exodus 7:14-21

English Standard Version (ESV)

The First Plague: Water Turned to Blood

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh's heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. 15  Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water. Stand on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that turned into a serpent. 16 And you shall say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness.” But so far, you have not obeyed. 17 Thus says the Lord, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile will stink, and the Egyptians will grow weary of drinking water from the Nile.”’” 19 And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, so that they may become blood, and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’”
20 Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. 21 And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.

This is the only other account in scripture that I know of that tells of water being changed into something else. This is an account that every Jewish person at the time of Jesus wouldn't have known very very well! The whole Jewish religion is based on national identity as the people of God. In fact, by age 10, Jewish boys would have memorized the entire Torah(Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). In this is a passage that all the disciples would have had memorized, God is  saying that they would know that He was God by the water being changed to blood. Then they saw it happening in the presence of Jesus. They saw the water turn red, just like it did in Egypt. I can see them gasp as the servant draws some for the head of the party. This isn't the blood of Egypt though, it is the blood of a new covenant. It is blood that is sweet. It is the "best saved for last". Christ is the best saved for last. Christ's blood is that of the new covenant. This is how he began His ministry; by making the most bold and true statement possible. He was saying to them, "I am God".

I love this.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I'm engaged!

So as of Thursday evening, I am now officially engaged! My plan was originally to wait until next Saturday, but after about three hours of having the ring, I decided to expedite the process a little. I frantically zipped around Charleston to put together a special evening, but it all pretty much got thrown out because she got out of class early and I didn't have the time I thought I had. Anyway, I was able to light 32 candles, lay out a dozen red roses, uncork and spill everywhere one bottle of expensive champagne, and put on fancy clothes (and sweat more than I thought was humanly possible). Anyway, she said yes and that's the important thing!

So, this marks the official beginning of the wedding planning process. I'm excited to get the ball rolling, but I also understand that wedding planning tends to stress everyone out and be really expensive. In this season, our goal is simplicity. In light of this, I will be focusing on the important things. Here is a past blog post that I thought seemed appropriate to share again.

Wise words on marriage that I recently read

Hello to all my blog followers and to those of you who read this on facebook! I really appreciate the fact that you care what I have to say. I know most of it ends up being complaining about one thing or another, but that is just what I use my blog for. To complain... It's my outlet :-)

Anyway, I wanted to share some advice I recently read about how a husband should treat his wife. I am planning(and I encourage you too also if you're a man) to pray that if I am supposed to get married that I can be the kind of husband described below.
Honor her maritally. Take a wife honorably. Establish right priorities, and be a one woman man—absolutely faithful to your wife.

Honor her physically. Be strong for your wife, not against her. Be protective of her and present with her.

Honor her emotionally. Be emotionally present and intimate. Take her on dates.

Honor her verbally. Speak honorably to her. Speak honorably of her, when she is present and absent.

Honor her financially. Provide for the financial needs of your family, organize your budget, and be generous towards your wife.

Honor her practically. Consider her needs and how you can serve her.

Honor her parentally. Be “Pastor Dad” by shepherding your children (praying with them, teaching them about Jesus, reading the Bible with them, etc.).

Honor her spiritually. You initiate and lead prayer, Bible, chats, church attendance, etc. Take responsibility for your church.



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hi, I'm Derek... I'm a Christian... And a hypocrite.

So, I got an email this morning from Steve Taylor, the director of the likewise titled film adaptation of the book "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Miller. The email outlined some of the criticism of the new movie. Apparently some christians are upset because the movie doesn't paint Christianity in a beautiful rosy light. He then pointed out that this method of making Christians out to be perfect just makes us look like we don't realize that we're screwed up. I'm inclined to agree with him.

I remember reading "Blue Like Jazz" for the first time a few years ago. There is one scene in the book that will forever stand out in my mind and it's also the one that Taylor points to as the reason he decided to make the movie. The scene takes place on the campus of Reed College in Portland, a traditionally very liberal campus that isn't super friendly to Christianity. Miller devises the plan to setup a confessional booth on the campus where he wouldn't receive confessions, but would confess the sins of the church to those who ventured into the booth. When I read this my eyes welled with tears. I saw all the people who have been hurt by the church over it's history. I saw every white preacher of the south arguing for slavery with the Bible. I saw Hitler justifying genocide with the Bible. I saw every politician who has used faith for personal gain. I saw everyone who has ever used the Bible to hurt anyone! Then I saw myself with the Bible, trying to make myself look presentable, and like a good christian. First I felt hate and resent for those who distorted the truth of scripture. Then I saw how similar we were. I saw myself there with all my sin and saw that I was connected to all these people. Connected by a condition called Sin. A condition we all inherit at birth. A condition that separates us from God and from the way we were meant to live.

It was in this reflection that I found connection with Don in the story. We both realized our brokenness and found connection with our fellow man. It became no longer about putting on a facade that looks nice. It became all about living in the midst of our brokenness and not being afraid to mess up or afraid to let others see those mess ups.

That being said, I still fight the urge to appear better and more spiritual than I am. The truth is that I stand in the company of many honest saints when I stand up and say that I'm a Christian and a hypocrite. Those on the outside of Christianity have been saying it since the beginning and I'm done trying to make them think otherwise. They're right. I am a sinner, but I'm also a saint. the only difference between myself and "non-christians" is that I have given my life to the journey of becoming more saint than sinner, to then ultimately become all saint forever.

I'm really glad that Steve's email could help me revisit all those original feelings that came with reading the book. I am more than a little bit excited to see the movie. I've followed the process pretty closely and look forward to seeing some decent christian art!


Friday, March 16, 2012

Prayer via a song by Gungor

We Will Run
by Gungor

Create in me a clean heart, a clean heart
For I have turned my face from You
Teach us of Your ways oh God, oh God
For we have turned away from You
Lord have mercy

We will run to you, we will run to you

Turning from our sin we return to You
Father heal your world, make all things new
Make all things new

Your love and mercy build and shape us

Break us and recreate us now
Lord have mercy

Oh, bring us back to you

I absolutely love this song. So simple, so profound.  My prayer today is the prayer of this song:

Father, create in me a clean heart. I continually turn my face from the only truth that exists in this world, You. Teach me your ways, oh loving Father. Have mercy on me because my human nature is to sin. Because of the sacrifice of your Son, dear Lord, I don't have to live as a slave to this nature. I have traded my sinfulness for Christ's righteousness. So, I will turn from my sin and run to You! I pray, Father, that your love and mercy will build and shape me into the man you created me to be. I realize my pride and self-reliance keeps me from being made completely new. Break me and recreate me, Lord. Again, have mercy on me in my failure. Thank You for continually bringing me back to You. Thank You for Your continued mercy. Help me to never take it for granted. Amen.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The resurrection of my blog:-)

Ok, so I'm going to give this thing another go. A few of the staff at River Ridge Church have taken up blogging, so it feels like a good time to revive the old blog! Feel free to browse the old posts and get a feel for the flavor of my writings. It's been a couple years since I've blogged on a regular basis, so hopefully I've learned something insightful in that period.  

For today, I was reading through some of my old posts and came across one that I wrote just following my cousin's death. You can read it HERE. I told a bit of the story of how his death impacted my faith at River Ridge a few weeks ago. Here is the sermon AUDIO(it's the second one- "Pivotal Circumstances"). I didn't even remember that I'd written the blog about it. Pretty cool to see how much God was using it even in the moment! Love it!


Monday, March 15, 2010

Nothing Can Separate!

Hello there. I told you all that I would write more about identity and I promise I will eventually, but something else is really on my heart right now. What I am thinking about right now is the idea that nothing can separate us from God. The text is Romans 8:38-39 and it reads as follows in the ESV:

38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I would like to encourage you to take a second and think about what this means if we truly believe it. Just to preface, this passage was written to the church in Rome. This means that its intended audience would have been people who already had begun following Christ. I, however, do not believe that Paul was insinuating that God's love is exclusive to Christ followers.

Ok, now take a deep breath and we will discuss what that means in our lives. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing can separate you from God's love. It doesn't even matter if you don't want it... It doesn't matter what you've done, who you are, or who you think you might be... God loves you.

God's love is pure. We, as broken humans, have perverted everything that God created in us to be good. Everything we are is in some way a reflection of the characteristics of God (Gen. 1:26). We love because God first loved. His love is better than the best version of our love.

I don't really care what you've heard before, this is how God feels about you. Think about how you feel inside when you reeeeeeaaaaaalllllllly love someone. Are you starting to get an idea of how much God loves you?

Okay, here is an example. God being infinitely great, took on all the limitations of a human body to suffer and die to give us a shot at spending eternity with him. That is love. To be perfectly clear, God has no issues with His self-image. He has a clear picture of who he is. He is Great and he knows that spending eternity in his presence is the best thing for us.

Sooooooooo, just to summarize (because my writing is sometimes erratic at best) God's love is perfect and absolutely nothing can separate you from that love. No matter what you have or have not done you are stuck.... He loves YOU!:-) Embrace it and begin to truly live.(Rom. 8:11)



P.S. Sorry I don't have an image to go along with this post. I searched and came up with nothing... Have an awesome day!