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Reflections

Reflections: I'm a Fool

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Reflections: I'm a Fool

Sometimes, the Bible is funny and makes me laugh.  Tonight is such a night.  From Mark Chapter 9:

 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.  His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.  And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus...  As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

After you know that the book ends with Jesus rising from the dead, this can be pretty funny.  The disciples just witnessed an intense miracle and Jesus gives them some plain instructions in plain language:  Don't tell people until I rise from the dead.  They then discuss amongst themselves trying to figure out the "deep" meaning behind Jesus words.  After all, Jesus is fond of speaking in parables, why not this time?

Part of the humor is that I act like the disciples.  When I don't understand a passage from the Bible I try to find a deeper meaning.  I see academics and bible scholars doing this all the time.  It seems so easy to just let myself be caught up by the debates and parsing of words to get at the "real" meaning.  Surely, it can't just mean what it says.

This is a good reminder to read the scripture as a student instead of a scholar.  I do not know what the Bible is saying until God shows me.  The best thing I can do is sit and submit my thoughts to scripture so as to learn.  The worst thing I could do is let my foolish notions of what is true keep me from learning from God and the letters He left behind.

Remember to laugh today.  God has a sense of humor.

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Reflections: Fighting the Man Through Peace

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Reflections: Fighting the Man Through Peace

Peter wrote a letter to a suffering church.  Roman power was orderly but corrupt.  To work within the system, you would give and take bribes, wink for the right people, etc.  The church was radical to some degree:  The people claimed a King other than Caesar.  They resisted the corruption of the system. 

When you step out of the cultural system, especially when it is corrupt, you are likely to get negative feedback.  History tells us that the early church was widely accused of cannibalism and shunned from the rest of society.  Many were imprisoned and martyred.

The government was not kind to them, and yet Peter gave them some advice that defied common sense.  He told them to submit to the powers that were above them and work within the system.  He implored them to be the best citizens they could, so that no one could find fault with them.

When we are persecuted and mistreated, the Christian response is to turn the other cheek.  In addition, to those in authority, we are to submit to their rule, trusting God to give us justice.  God delivered the Israelites out of slavery, and he will deliver us too.  Think of someone like Martin Luther King Jr:  He fought systemic government injustice through a peaceful process of protest.  It cost him his life.  This is a good Christian response.

The next time you feel mistreated, think about Jesus' suffering.  He took the pain of the cross for the benefit of people who hated him and killed him.  Then, think about your own suffering and ask Jesus what you should do.

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Reflections: Jesus Wept

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Reflections: Jesus Wept

Have you ever wondered what Jesus was thinking when he wept?

Just after he had marched toward Jerusalem victorious (Palm Sunday), Jesus wept when he saw the city.  Luke records Jesus' words:

"If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.  The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.  They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you."

Jesus wept because with remorse because people in the city were unable to see the peace that he was bringing.  The Kingdom of God had come.  Jesus was restoring people: healing the sick, the lame, the blind, the sinner, and the saint.  Those who did not come to Jesus were missing a chance at a new life.

Jesus wept because the time was passing for people in the city to know peace.  Jesus death would bring God's wrath upon the city.  With Jesus there, the city had time to repent, to seek life, to change -- but the people did not avail themselves of it.  Maybe they did not believe... maybe they were busy... maybe they only followed for the show... Jesus wept for them all.

Jesus wept because they missed God's coming.  Ultimately, Jesus came so that people might know him and receive new life.  When Jesus came that day, many people followed him.  Many more stayed at home.  He wept for those who missed the opportunity to be reconciled to God simply because they had better things to do.  Those things were probably good, but the thing they missed was priceless.

Jesus wept.

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Reflections: Pivot and a Hockey Stick

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Reflections: Pivot and a Hockey Stick

Following Jesus is a hockey stick.  For those of you not familiar with Silicon Valley speak, a hockey stick is the graph that Google saw when it realized that advertizing was making money.  It is exponential growth upward with no ceiling in sight.  It is what Silicon Valley start-ups dream about every single day.

When you start following Jesus you may not see very much, there is just a pivot in your life direction.  Pretty soon though, you realize this business is not like the last one.  This business is going somewhere -- fast!

The Apostle Paul had one of these pivots.  For him, it was profitable to persecute the early church, killing its followers and marking him as the most zealous of Jews.  However, once he met Jesus, his trajectory changed. 

At first, it may have just seemed like more religion with minor updates, but by the time Paul died, he would have traveled all through the Roman world, experiencing miracles, tragedy, joy, persecution, and more.  His life went from religious zealotry to an intimate relationship with God.  He became spiritually rich.

Unlike the Silicon Valley lottery, the process for spiritual fulfillment is repeatable.  Jesus is alive and people are following Him and growing rich every day.  For many, the promise of richness seems like a hoax.  It is too good to be true -- "God does not care about me" and "God is not big enough" are the lies we believe.

Find a Christian.  Ask them to show you Jesus.  Better yet, find Jesus and ask him for life.

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Reflections: Pray Life

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Reflections: Pray Life

One of Jesus' first followers was John.  He wrote a short letter to the early church where he charged the new Christian community to live with Jesus in the reality of the power that he offered.  He was also extremely confident that Jesus would hear us.  The remarkable thing is what he asks us to do with that.

John felt that if Jesus is actually able to grant us what we ask, then why not pray for those who are doing evil?  If we do, John says, we will bring life to those people.  It is remarkable to think that my prayers will cause God to give a person life.

If we look around ourselves, we will find a myriad of ways in which people are doing things we know are wrong.  It can be easy to react in all sorts of ways:  confrontation, anger, complacency, etc.  Instead, we can ask God to give them life and they will be changed.  It sounds too simple and too good to be true.

If we live as if this physical world is all there is, then we rob ourselves of the opportunity to see God work.  God is active and able to work.  If we look beyond the physical, we can see him actively engaged, and it will change our behavior.  God is present, and a simple request can have lasting consequences for good.

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