Friday, May 31, 2013


Both mortified and pleased by the fact that my neighbor is harboring mutant weeds, I begin to weigh my options and the best course of action to address this dangerous threat to the health and well-being of our neighborhood lawns. Suddenly,  I feel something wet and slippery smothering my face, the dribble of saliva covering the microscope.

Whatcha doing here, neighbor? Bob curiously tilts his head,  examining a strange sight of a middle-aged woman crawling on all fours with a microscope attached to her eyeball, smack in the center of his front yard, being licked to death by his equally curious dogs. I clear my throat with a nervous cough as I straighten out.

Well, Bob… it is my neighborly duty to inform you that I found some weeds… eight weeds to be more precise… growing in your yard. And three of them…

The frown on Bob’s face interrupts my speech and makes me pause for a second. He looks like he has something to say.

Hmmmm... Really?!!! I know he is just buying some time, realizing that he is in deep trouble with our HOA. He takes his turn to clear his throat, before he continues,

I do appreciate your attention to details… but don’t you have enough stuff to do in your own yard before you bother inspecting my grass, with a microscope, and count my weeds?!!  He sounds sincerely confused for the puzzled frown doesn't leave his face. Before I can answer, he adds,

By the way, my puppies were sick and I was a nervous wreck all day yesterday, so I baked a dozen chocolate cream pies. Would you like one?

With those words, my great neighbor Bob taught me that minding my own business is lesson number one in all gardening enterprises.

Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. Luke 6:41,42

Thursday, May 30, 2013

From Mission Impossible To Mission Quite Possible

Equally nauseated by the sight of the wasteland AKA our front lawn as well as by the sprawling emerald green of my next-door neighbor's yard, I know I must do something.  Since I have already concluded that our yard is mission impossible I decide to focus my efforts and attention on something that is within my reach. With renewed determination I launch the 'Mission Possible', namely discovering a flaw in my neighbor's perfectly manicured yard.  I was left off in exactly this spot, crawling on all fours, with my son's microscope firmly attached to my eyeball.

I know that nobody is perfect, which assures me of the eventual success of my mission.  This is much more hopeful place than facing the depressing reality of what's going on within our property lines.  And I would much rather feel better about myself than worse.

After about an hour and a half of careful combing of his lush St. Augustine I am finally proven right! For there, in the middle of his yard, I spot an enormous mutant weed – and flowering weed at that! I am horrified and strangely pleased at the same time. I feel deeply justified for now I have solid proof that Mr. Perfect Lawn is not as perfect as he appears, evidenced by the aforementioned weed. I continue with my search with even more vigor and notify seven more mutants.

Strangely enough, most of the superhumongousy enormous mutant weeds are located right next to our property line. The total of three of those are already in bloom, ready to spread their nasty seeds and contaminate not only our small suburban enclave but our entire county and beyond.

A noble sense of civil duty interspersed with a powerful urge to advertise my findings sweeps over me. I must warn and protect our neighborhood. 

I must not allow this!  

While I am considering the best course of action to address the dire threat his yard represents to our peace and quiet,  I feel something wet and slippery smothering my face.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Be Kind - Rewind

Back in February, I started a series on life and gardening, the first entry published under the title I Can Quit Any Time. The story was spawned in the context of my first ever Lental fast.  From day to day, I begun to realize that this story is taking a life of its own and my job was to do my best to follow along.

Well into the story, about two weeks before Easter, I decided I needed to push a pause button on the Dummy's adventures with the Gardener from Outer Space and follow Jesus along during His last couple of weeks before Easter  I had all the intentions of resuming the Gardener story right after Easter.  But, as my stories tend to assume a life of their own, this one also proved me wrong. I realized I simply couldn't stop with Easter! Easter  isn’t the end, but just a beginning.  Plus there were too many loose ends, too much unfinished business left by the events leading up to Good Friday and Glorious Sunday that I felt I had to stick around and see what will happen next. So begun the sequel to the Final Weeks of Jesus titled Resurrection 101.

My sticking around, mostly with the apostle Peter, turned out to last for more than fifty days. These correspond to the time Christ spent with His disciples post-resurrection, leading up to the day of His Ascension all the way to the day of Pentecost. The day which marks a dramatic change in human history, commenced by the coming of the Holy Spirit to live inside all believers. This might be the most revolutionary truth (obviously after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ), which forever changed the balance of power in our lives in God's favor. I could spend the rest of my life writing about the all-important role of the Holy Spirit. 

However, I believe now is the time shift gears and resume pretty much with the very same topic but with a little different slant. The time to say good-bye to Peter, and go back to the Dummy and the Gardener from Outer Space. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Resurrection 101 - Peter and the Path From Pedestal to Prison

In one short chapter Peter went from being placed on a pedestal to being put in prison for the same act of compassion and healing of the lame beggar. It's a bit of a deja vu, for many of the same players who crucified the Lord were present in Peter's trial. 

The irony of the scene is that it actually gave opportunity to Peter to fulfill his own words - of course, not in his own timing and not according to his own strength and power. (Eventually, based on the historical writings and Christian tradition, Peter was martyred during the time of Nero, being crucified upside down as he considered himself unworthy to suffer in the same way his Lord did.)

What a roller-coaster Peter's life is - from damaged-goods to dynamite, from pedestal to prison

But being elevated in the eyes of the people didn't get into Peter's head, nor being in prison caused him to get depressed.  

His message - obviously tweaked a little as he addressed different audiences - remained pretty much the same:

You crucified Him. 

But, God raised Him from the dead.

It's not too late to turn around, believe and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be savedActs 4:12

As we follow Peter along through the book of Acts and other New Testament writings, we understand that being filled with the Holy Spirit doesn't mean that Peter suddenly grew wings and became angelically perfect. He was still very much human like the rest of us.

He still struggled with peer pressure so much so that the Lord sent him Paul as a booster vaccine.

But we see growth and maturity that enabled him to pen some of the most profound words of hope, encouragement and the purpose of pain in a believer's life. 

The Weight of the Weak Saves the Strong

Who has despised the day of small things? Zechariah 4:10

Monday, May 27, 2013

Freedom Isn't Free

Many Americans are celebrating Memorial Day today.  It's the day to remember that freedom is never free. Freedom comes with a high price that somebody had to pay.

Most of us would agree that it would be simply inconceivable to frivolously surrender such freedom, to mindlessly allow foreign infiltration and occupation without a fight.   

Somebody laid down his life... her life... so we  can live as  free people!

But, there is even greater freedom we must not forget, we must not frivolously surrender.  It is the freedom Christ purchased for us with His own blood.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

It is for freedom that Christ set us free.
He didn't die to enslave us again.  He died so we can live as free men and women.

Free from the power and punishment of sin.

Free from judgment and condemnation. From the demands of the law in order to make us right with God. Free from empty rituals. From self-promotion, pride and empty conceit..

He bought for us freedom from crippling fear and anxiety. Freedom from slavery to obsessions and addictions. Freedom from comparison. From consumerism and peer pressure.  Freedom from insisting, even demanding our own rights.  Freedom from prejudice, bigotry and labels. Freedom from believing the lies... about God, about life, about who we are and where our true worth resides.

Freedom to enter into an eternal relationship with Christ as His brothers and sisters.  Freedom to become children of God.  Freedom to enter His rest. Free unlimited access to the Throne of Mercy and Grace.  Freedom to love… to give… to forgive… as we have been loved and forgiven.

Freedom from the inside out.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;  and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. John 8:31,32

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Resurrection 101 - The Inoculation We All Wish We Had

Three thousand men and women said ‘yes’ to Jesus that day.  Three thousand.

The increase to the small band of Jesus followers went up by about 300 percent in one day. 

300 percent!

It’s the kind of statistic that can easily get into one’s head.  Make one feel like they are all that. Make them want to stay in that place, receive the accolades for their successful service to God and bask in the glory for a while.  Try to manufacture the results, replicate the event so they can experience the rush again and again.

But, Peter and the disciples show no sign of popularity fever.  It’s as if they’ve been inoculated... against fear, against craving for approval and peer praise. Finally secure and resting their full weight on who Jesus is and what He has done for them.  For us.  They remain in the Word of God. They remain in prayer.  They hang out with each other. Day in, day out.  Their success doesn’t make them too busy or too important for simple life of devotional discipline.  The hour of prayer.  Having compassion for the lame beggar.

The next time a notable miracle is accomplished by his hands, to the gawking audience Peter makes it clear:

Why are you amazed  at this, or why do you stare at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made this man walk? Acts 3:12

Peter knows it’s not his power.  And Peter knows it’s not his super-spirituality.

Peter knows he is an empty, broken vessel and apart from His Lord, he can do nothing. Nothing.  




And this is perhaps even more incredible than Peter’s undaunted boldness.  For, last time we saw Peter on a mountaintop with Jesus, he wanted to stay right there, even contemplated a building project. 

But, the disciple of Jesus doesn’t live on a mountaintop.  The disciple is not an approval junkie. The disciple of Jesus descends into demon-possessed valley, where he or she becomes broken bread and poured out wine. Just like Jesus became broken bread and poured out wine for us. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Resurrection 101 - The Medicine for the Soul

It's really hard to hear, truly hear the good news without the bad news first.  I wish it wasn't that way.

Bad news are difficult to deliver.  They are difficult to swallow and even more difficult to digest.  I want to avoid the process altogether and hop from one fluffy spiritual cloud onto the next, from health to wealth to popularity in ever-ascending skyward line until I am safely cushioned in heaven (or at least my version of it).

But that's not real life.  That's a seductive phantom, the illusion of life where comfort, safety and luxury are brazenly taken for granted.

Life is not always comfortable.

Life is not always safe.

As Mr. Beaver tells Lucy, Aslan, the great lion, the King of the beasts is not safe but he is good.

It's the deep, heart-knowledge and belief in God's goodness that empowers us to swallow the bitter pill of sometimes brutal reality. Without His goodness we are left at the merciless mercy of despair.

Peter's hearers got the full brunt of the bad news. They crucified the One God sent to save us.

You crucified Him... I crucified Him...

We may think that our sin is gluttony, or avarice, or lust or all the rest combined. But, those are just the manifestations of our core sin, which is unbelief. And in our unbelief, we end up crucifying the One God is sending us to save us. We still do to this very day.

Most of us get so tripped up in managing, covering up, excusing the manifestations that we never reach the core. Peter's audience, however, understood their impossible predicament and were ready to do anything to change.

Peter!  Brothers! Is there anything - ANYTHING - we can do to make it right? Acts 2:37

Looking at them, Peter remembers the place of bitter agony he himself experienced just few weeks ago:

Change your life. Turn away from the useless phantoms to God. Be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven, your slate wiped clean by His blood. But don't stop there. Receive also the gift of the Holy Spirit. This gift is for you and your children. But it doesn't stop with you. It is also for all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites. Acts 2:38-39 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Resurrection 101 - From Peter the Fearful to Peter the Fearless

What stands out the most, however, is not Peter's impressive knowledge of the Scriptures, his surprising eloquence and flawless theological exegesis. Make no mistake, these all are quite astounding given the fact that he is just an ordinary fisherman with no seminary training.

But, when we see Peter taking his stand, it's almost like he has just been handed a whole new life script and was running with it, all old rules that kept tripping him up out of the window.

Just few weeks ago, he cowered in front of a teenage girl and with swearing and cursing denied that he even knew Jesus. Then, as if that wasn't enough, he did it again.  And again.

Today, he is standing before thousands of people, some of whom had passionately denounced Jesus a short month and a half ago, sending Him to the cross. Peter shows no sign of being intimidated by this potentially volatile crowd . He knows that they need to hear this message, for their very lives depend on it, so he says it, simple as that:

This Man... you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. Acts 2:23

And as if that wasn't enough, he does it again, just to make sure they don't miss the punch line:

Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified. Acts 2:36

Peter?!!! Are you crazy??? Do you realize what you are doing?!!! You are offending a whole bunch of people who not too long ago played a major part in killing your Lord, and they are fully capable of doing it again - to you.

But, Peter doesn't seem to care. And as far as being offensive? Well, his own miserable failure earned him the right to speak in such a way with all other miserable failures of this world.

Strangely, however, his powerful, in-your-face message doesn't appear to offend. His message moves his listeners where it matters the most and they are pierced to the heart.

Pierced to the heart.  Just like Peter was pierced... just like the Lord was pierced.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Resurrection 101 - From Peter the Damaged Goods to Peter the Dynamite

The incredible manifestation of the Holy Spirit created no small confusion among the people of Jerusalem that day.

Supernatural tends to blow up our normal functioning paradigms. We really don't know what to do with it. When confronted with supernatural, in addition to being confused, most of us are afraid, even terrified... or, left speechless. We need help to make sense of it all.

Of course, in any crowd there are always the doubters and the skeptics, the-know-it-alls whose limited grid doesn't allow for the supernatural breach into their ordinary.  They come up with their own interpretation and explanation for the strange events unfolding before their very eyes. In Jerusalem, fifty days after the resurrection of Christ, the Spirit-filled disciples seemed to those observers a little tipsy, the Holy Spirit inspired words - babbling of drunkards.

But Peter would have none of this. He steps up to the plate and faces the crowd several thousand people strong, who not too long ago cried out,

Crucify Him! Crucify Him!

and delivered his Master and Lord to the Roman soldiers to be condemned to death and nailed to the cross.

This Peter, however, is not the same Peter from few weeks ago.

The damaged goods Peter.

Peter the overconfident.  Peter - take one foot out of his mouth, only to stick in the other. Peter the fatigued... the fearful... the denier.

The Failure Peter with the capital F.

For, after the resurrection and heart-to-heart talk with Jesus, that Peter became the Forgiven.

Redeemed.  Restored. Re-instituted.

And, on the day of Pentecost, Peter becomes Peter the dynamite  He takes his stand, not as self-confident brat but as sober, Christ-confident spokesman - a witness! His voice loud and clear, commanding both his audience and the situation.

No, these guys are not intoxicated. It's only 9 AM, for common sense sake! But let me tell you what this is...

Then he launches three Holy Spirit inspired Scripture-loaded missiles - the old prophecies they all knew but never dreamed would see fulfilled in their lifetime. In simple words, he connects their history-prophecy-present day dots for them.  He is understanding and  the interpretation of the Scriptures is better than of a seasoned theology professor... and he is only a fisherman!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Beauty from Brokeness

I learned about Nozomi Project through a friend's Facebook post. Here's how she introduces this remarkable example of turning brokenness and devastation into a thing of beauty:

I am deeply convinced that the very brokenness we all try desperately to avoid, can be transformed in a far deeper expression of life-giving beauty, hope, freedom than perfect "wholeness" we try to preserve. Light shines through the cracks. My own kintsugi pottery (Cracks which would render a piece worthless are filled with gold, making the very thing that defined its ruin it into its greatest asset) is an expression of this, a pointer to the greater truth of the brokenness in our own lives.

My friend Sue is genuinely helping make beautiful things out of the brokenness which the earthquake and tsunami in Japan wrought. Shards of pottery are being transformed into jewelry, shards of lives are being transformed, given hope and purpose again. Sue's inspiration is bringing incredible Hope and Help to broken lives, and bringing beauty to everyone who gets involved.

To learn more about this project of hope, or Nozomi Project, visit their website at

Resurrection 101 - The Birth of the Ecclesia

Any birth is exciting. The rush of exhilarated emotions, almost transcendent marvel over the bundle of new life squirming in our hands. It's a life-altering event not only for the child being born (that's obvious!), but also for the parents, siblings, family, friends and community both near and far.

The birth of Ecclesia was not much different. It was a life-altering event for 100+ individuals present that day - but it went beyond that, exceeding anything any one of them could see or imagine.

There is a continuity with the past...

God appeared to Moses in a burning bush.

John the Baptist spoke of it as he clearly identified himself by who he is and who he is not:

As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Luke 3:16

Jesus Himself spoke of this birth from above. In His conversation with Jewish religious teacher, Nicodemus, Jesus answers Nicodemus unspoken question:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.

How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit..    

The fire. The water. The wind. The Spirit. Mix it all together as one uncontainable, uncontrollable yet by divine standards, perfectly controlled, perfectly measured Presence and God's new creation is born.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Resurrection 101 - Hindsight 20/20 - The Fifty-Day Boot-camp

We really don’t know a person until we hear their history. 

Where did you come from?

What makes you laugh?

What makes you cry?

What do you love?

What do you hate?

What do you wish to erase from your life... and why?

Where are you now?

What is your deepest longing for the future?

What is your biggest fear?

We all have histories. Who we are today is a sum total of all our yesterdays and the unrepeatable, unique mix of countless factors that make you – you and me – me.

When we first met Peter he already sees himself as ‘damaged goods’. But Jesus sees something in him that nobody, not even Peter sees in himself, and calls him Rocky.

From then on, Peter’s life is a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows the fisherman turned into fisher-of-men couldn’t have conceived in his wildest dreams.  Being with Jesus caused Peter’s confidence to soar to unimaginable heights.

But then there was a tragic turn of events that also turned Peter into a denier. Not once. Not twice.  But three times. The sense of failure and self-condemnation was so overwhelming, the wound so deep that even seeing the resurrected Christ wasn’t quite enough to heal Peter’s broken heart.

Strangely, all this is a part of God’s unorthodox custom-designed training for His chosen disciple.  Jesus deals with both Peter’s self-confidence and self-condemnation, and reaffirms His calling to the distracted follower. There is only one debt left, and it is a debt of love

After 40 days following His resurrection, Jesus leaves them with a promise of the coming of the the Holy Spirit - finally the power to be - to become - who we are made to be.  The power to do what we were created to do.

Isn't this what we all need? What we really want?

For I don't need anybody to come alongside and tell me all the wrong things I need to stop doing.

I don't need anyone to come alongside and tell me all the good and right things that I should be doing.

What I need is somebody - Somebody - to come alongside and empower me to do what I already know I should be doing, to give me a kick in the butt, to blow wind into my sagging sail, to recharge the depleted battery on my smart phone... so it can do what it was made to do, what it's supposed to do all along. 

The disciples wait and on Day Fifty – the promise finally arrives. And it blows all the paradigms of what’s and how’s of God’s presence and activity among His people. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Resurrection 101 - I'm Diving In

The weather forecast predicted afternoon storms, but the glorious morning turned into a hot early afternoon, so we made an impulsive decision, loaded up the car and took off for the beach.

Life has been so incredibly stressful, the daily demands relentless and we all needed a change of pace, some time for re-alignment when you most feel you can't afford it.

Before we can see anything, we smell it.  The salty air stirred by the ocean breeze.  We walk down the boardwalk loaded with junk as if we were tourists. The moment we turn the last corner - there it is! Every time I see it, I am shocked like I've never seen it before:

The endless sand sprawled along the beach;

The endless white-capped vastness of the ocean - its breadth, its depth, the rhythms of the waves;

The endless blue of the cloudless sky.

The colliding immensity of the elements never fails to frame my little stressed-out life in liberating brush-strokes of the extravagant grace and power of God.

I breathe in, breathe out, feeling so blissfully small and out of control, my worries shrinking down to the size of the specks of sand under my feet.  I sink them deeper in, close my eyes, feeling the muscles in my neck and upper back slowly loosen. I stand there with my eyes closed for a few seconds, savoring it all. 

Then I see her.

So intent  as if the fate of the world depends on the success of her project.  Her castle sticks about a foot up in the air, the leaning tower of Pisa.  She is building the trench now, abandoned tools behind her back, her long fingers digging into the wet sand.  Then she stands up, the sand falling off her polka-dot bathing suit, and rushes toward the ocean.

She grabs a handful of water, and races back… Pours the handful into the trench… Runs back to the ocean… grabs another handful of water… rushes back…

As if she is taking something that ocean doesn't already want to give…

As if she might diminish the volume by what she holds in her hand…

As if she wants to contain the entire ocean between her squeezed fingers. 

I am exhausted just watching her.

I recognize myself in this little girl, and the mirror is both convicting and strangely freeing.

I stand up at the same time she decides to accept the steady invitation of the ocean to dive in. Her fingers unfurled. The palms of her hands wide open.  She rushes into the waves, further... and further, until she dives in, her head under, immersed, submerged, held by the same ocean she was holding in the cup of her hand. When she pops back up, her face is radiating with pure joy.  

She turns around, dripping with shimmering sparkle, waves to somebody behind me, inviting, beckoning on behalf of the ocean, then she faces the waves and goes under again. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Resurrection 101 - The Holy Spirit - No Secondary Deity

Jesus wasn't introducing some new God when He promised the Holy Spirit to His disciples. He was introducing them into the continuity of the presence and activity of the God who is the Spirit, who has been from the beginning. 

The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:2

The God whose coming to His people was announced by the kings and the prophets, all the way to John the Baptist:

I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: the main character in this drama—compared to him I’m a mere stagehand—will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. Matthew 3:11

The God who came to us as a human baby:

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you; therefore, the child you bring to birth will be called Holy, Son of God. Luke 1:35

The God who still actively seeks out true worshipers:

But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration. John 4:23-24

The God explains all things to us:

It’s better for you that I leave. If I don’t leave, the Friend, (the Holy Spirit) won’t come. But if I go, I’ll send him to you. When he comes, he’ll expose the error of the godless world’s view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He’ll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted. John 16:7-11

We must recognize that the value and the contribution our individual lives have for the eternal Kingdom of God is determined by the source of its power, its energy.  Either we are empowered by the Holy Spirit or we are not. 

'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts. Zechariah 4:6


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Resurrection 101 - What If ...?

I often wonder what would have happened if the disciples decided that the wait time was too long, the uncertainty too difficult to bear, Jerusalem as location too limiting, and the allure of 'making-it-happen' themselves was too strong that they abandoned their praying post and dispersed to the ends of the earth... before receiving the Holy Spirit?

Before they were empowered from the inside out?

What if the Holy Spirit had showed up on the Day of Pentecost and the upper room was empty, the disciples too eager to get busy building the Kingdom of God to wait for Him?

Would there be church today?  Would there be the New Testament? Would you and I, as the 21st century believers even exist, lacking the supernatural continuity - day by day, year by year, century after century - with those early followers of Christ?

This, of course, is blissfully useless musing, since they did none of that.  There is no record that they even entertained that option - on the contrary! They did exactly what Jesus had told them to do, went back to their home turf, armed with hope and confident expectation that what He had promised He would certainly fulfill.

Prepared to wait, for as long as it takes.

They didn't think there was something more important they could do than being together and praying.

They didn't find Jerusalem or the upper room too confining and claustrophobic to start right there. They didn't get so carried away by the global mission that they skipped important, even crucial steps in fulfilling it.

They felt a biding connection to the living Word of God and did what they had to do in order to fully align their reality with the revelation of the Scriptures. No matter too small, no word too insignificant to ignore.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Resurrection 101 - Making of the HIStory - A Bird's-Eye View

Of course, we are so used to viewing life from our own perspective, preoccupied by our own concerns and losses and heartaches that it is hard to imagine what it was like for Jesus to return to His Father after all He accomplished during His thirty-some years living as an ordinary, yet extraordinary  human being.

Finally back home where He is seen as He really is… where He is loved and enjoyed and worshiped like He should be…No more despised, no more rejected, no more misunderstood, ignored, scoffed, maltreated... crucified... 

The crown of thorns is now the crown of glory.

The awe-struck gaze of the amazed angels.

The adoring  jubilation of the saints…

The swelling pleasure of God the Abba, Daddy, Father…

This is My beloved Son chosen and marked by My love, the delight of My life Matthew 3:17

Everything that the Enemy has taken by his trickery, starting with the Garden of Eden, everything we have handed to Him by believing his lies, by yielding to temptation, Jesus took back on our behalf. 

And now He is ready at last  to take His seat at the right hand of the Throne of God as the perfect Son of Man, as our Mediator, our Prayer Warrior, our great High Priest.

But even though the key, deciding battle has been won forever, the war continues to rage on. The human history has not been consummated yet. Our work of faith is not finished – for some of us, it has only begun.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Resurrection 101 - When the HIStory is in the Making...

I could almost visualize the disciples with their mouths hanging open, staring at the sky where just moments ago Jesus disappeared from their sight. And they thought they'd already seen it all...

But they ain't seen nothin' yet.

They knew - they were told - that something big is coming.  Someone big.  Someone big enough to fill that gaping Son-of-God-shaped hole left with Jesus' departure.

The Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit???

The same Spirit who in the beginning was moving over the darkness of the formless void, over the surface of the deep. Genesis 1:2

The same Spirit who spoke to Noah, and Abram, and Moses, who moved the prophets and talked to the kings; the same Spirit who overshadowed the virgin from the house of David and caused her to give birth to her firstborn son.

That very same Spirit who created this amazing world out of nothing and rose Jesus from the dead, was coming to live in them...

In us...?!!!

They didn't know the whens.

They didn't know the hows. They could not explain the nuts and bolts, the whys and the wherefores...

All they knew was that they were empty vessels, waiting to be filled.

They were marvelously unsure of their own capacity to contain this incredible gift.  Thoroughly stripped of the last shred of self-reliance.  Scoured clean of their own goodness and righteousness through failure, betrayal, ignorance and sin. Convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that if God could use them, He could use anyone.

Including you... and me?!!

There was nothing left for them to do except wait… and pray.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Resurrection 101 - The Incredibly Credible Witness

Fortunately - or not - most of us don't live our lives under the harsh scrutiny and the demand of the dots and tittles of the law. Most of us live our lives outside the courtroom.  In the marketplace. On the street.  In the educational institutions. In the government offices. In homes and families where lines are blurred, where judgments are skewed.  Where a little cheating, and a little lying can be acceptable or excused, if not encouraged and flaunted - at least until we get caught. Until then, especially when compared to the next guy, I can look pretty good in my own eyes.

But, that doesn't change the unyielding standard of truth. Under its perfect standard, I fail miserably. If examined in the court of law, I would be the first one to throw my own testimony out for more reasons than one. And if you are honest, you would do the same with yours.

This is what sets Jesus apart, what makes Him so infinitely different from the rest of us. For He is called the Faithful Witness.  He doesn't present us with rumors and gossip about God.  His life never contradicted His words - even his enemies couldn't find a point of accusation to condemn Him! He never changed His testimony for personal gain or to avoid rejection... or even to make it more palatable for His audience, which in the end cost Him His life... He was a true witness - martyr - who testified to the truth both by His life and by His death.

And His last words to His disciples were,

You shall be My witnesses...

When I hear this, I am both terrified and irresistibly drawn to the unspeakable honor of it.  For I know that in my own strength, I am too weak, too cowardly, too self-protective and screwed up to qualify.  I need the supernatural power of God - I need God Himself to show up and make this true - through and through - in my own life. For He is the only one who can do it.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Resurrection 101 - A Reliable Hypocrite

Every time I sit inside a courtroom I am reminded of the demanding nature of justice and clear expectations that are placed on the witness in regards to his or her roles and responsibilities. I stare at the stern mirror of the law and cringe on the inside. I don't want to be examined under the glare of its searchlight!

Even though I rarely tell outright lies (I think I am too stupid for that) and find telling truth actually easier, this goes only up to a point. At that crucial point, when I start weighing what I could gain - or lose - by telling the whole unembellished truth, well... I may actually choose to opt out.  I may even decide to leave a very important, relevant detail on the front door if that would make my testimony more palatable or less messy for my audience... if it would spare me some grief or earn me a pat on the back.

There are times when I feel it is impossible for me to tell what happened without adding my own personal opinion or slant, as if the truth would cease to exist unless I add my own spin to the story.  The world is holding its breath, waiting for the emergence of yet another opinionator.  Why can't I be the next one? Not that I want to impress or draw attention to myself or anything like that....

As far as ascertaining my credibility.... I admit I am good at telling people what they should do and even how they should do it... but, doing the same myself....? Hmmm.... I never thought that it would be considered hypocritical to scream and yell at your kids that they should love and respect each other. That's just being a mom, right?

I quote the Bible as if it's my personal autobiography,  but when push comes to shove, I would have to admit that majority of my God-knowledge is second-hand at best. The regurgitated rumors about God from vaguely identified third-party sources do count as credible testimonials,... or do they?

So, when I put it this way, I realize I really can't trust myself. If examined in the court of law, I would be the first one to throw my own testimony out for more reasons than one.

And if you are honest, you would do the same with yours.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Resurrection 101 - And You Shall Be My Witnesses

What differentiates a witness from everyone else is that he or she can give a first-hand account of what they have seen and heard regarding a specific event.  In the court of law, a witness is expected to present an honest testimony, which is under-girded by the oath – to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth -  with God's help - for He is the God of truth and He knows we need His help!

The witness tells truth, not lies or fabrications of his own imagination.

The witness doesn't leave the important, relevant details out to make his testimony more palatable or less messy.

The witness doesn't add his own personal opinion or slant to his testimony to impress.  He doesn't change his testimony to acquire some kind of gain - monetary or other, or avoid pain and consequences. It is inappropriate for the witness to act and speak in such a way to distract the court or draw attention to himself.

A lot of time and effort is put into ascertaining the credibility of the witness. His or her credibility can be called into question if his testimony contradicts the testimony of other credible witnesses. Also, if the witness lied and cheated in an area unrelated to the case at hand, if his words are not consistently supported by the reality of his life, his entire testimony can be thrown out as invalid on the basis of his personal un-trustworthiness or bias.

It would be unthinkable in the court of law to have a witness take a stand and then proceed to give the testimony based on what somebody else has seen or heard.  Rumors and gossip don’t represent an acceptable testimony.

One may claim that qualifications for a witness are too harsh, too rigid and stern. That only a narrow-minded judge scrutinizes his witnesses in such a way. We may see it this way until the day comes when our own life depends on the truthfulness of the witness at the stand.

If earthly judges scrutinize their witnesses to determine the matters of the law and this earthly government, it seems to me all the more  important to test the matters pertaining to the Kingdom of God and eternal life. 

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Resurrection 101 - The Loss is the Gain?

I hate good-byes.

The day comes, always all-too-soon, when one must let go.  And in the letting go, we realize we are left with an aching vacuum, a soul-shaped vacuum that only the one we’d let go can fill.  

Imagine the Son of God shaped vacuum left in the hearts of the disciples when Jesus bid His final good-bye to them.  Three years and forty post-resurrection days packed with sounds, sights, emotions and seismic-shift experiences wrapped in an ordinary human body.

With the mob of dark hair tangled by the wind, untamed by a brush. 

With the carpenter-strong hands that stilled the stormy sea and cleansed the leper and broke the bread and received the five loaves and two fish from a boy’s lunch bag.  The way those hands touched the blind man.  The dead girl. The make-up laden prostitute.

And then, His eyes… they've never seen eyes quite like His.  The way He looked inside their souls, and read their minds and their deepest thoughts.  The eyes that saw beyond their squabbles and sins and insecurities, flowing with heaven-fueled passion and love, and mirth-mingled truth.

The inflection of His voice.  His laughter. The thunder and the whisper, the sermons and the secrets.

But, now it’s time to let go… let go of all of it, except what is stored in the treasure-troves of memories.  It’s time to allow the sky that sent Him to take Him back. 

The clenched fists open up, one finger at a time.

It is to your advantage that I go away…John 16:7a

But, how?  How can this be to our advantage? How can You make this loss and this gaping hole, this emptiness… good? Even better?!?!!!

If I don’t go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you John 16:7b

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you John 14:18

They stand on the top of the hill and watch Him go – the scarred hands, the pierced feet.  

Their earth-bound existence will never be the same, for they have been marked, they have been tagged by heaven.  

The celestial texture of heaven forever changed for the eternal Son of God has been marked by the earth He created. Now, eternally, inseparably the Son of Man also. 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Resurrection 101 - The Time is Now!

It must have been amazing for the apostles to spend those 40post-resurrection days with Jesus.

Jesus walking with them along the road to Emmaus.

Jesus cooking breakfast for them on the beach.

Jesus healing their broken hearts and disbelieving, distracted minds.

Jesus speaking the Scriptures to them while their hearts burned with understanding and passion and revelation.

Jesus – Emmanuel. God who is near.  

God right now.  

God right here.

It’s a good place to be.  I want to pitch my tent and stay in the ‘right here’ and ‘right now’, just like Peter did on the Mount of Transfiguration.

I finally see what I’ve been missing all along.  I finally get it. I am ready for action, Lord!

Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel? Acts 1:6

The disciples saw what they needed to see.  They heard what they needed to hear. They got all the proof anyone could ever ask, and now they were ready.  In their minds, the timing was perfect. 

The Time is Now. 

Jesus doesn't appear to hesitate in pouring a bucket of ice-cold water over their red-hot enthusiasm.

It is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority. Acts 1:7


It is not for you to know the times or epochs…

In other words, you are not in charge of timing.  And neither am I.

And if this causes disappointment, if this causes anguish, if this causes faltering, it simply shows I am not quite where I need to be.  I am still playing God.  I am still trying to be in charge.  I am still calculating and manipulating. I am still trying to live this incredible God-life by my own power. 

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Resurrection 101 - Cracked Bowl

Why do I ALWAYS have to get the cracked bowl?, whined my spoiled brat as she pulled up her chair to a mouth-watering breakfast, bursting with colors, flavors and nutrients of a freshly cut fruit. The delicious bounty was served in a simple old bowl which over the years has had an encounter or two with our kitchen floor. The dinged survivor has somehow managed to keep its place on the shelf inside the kitchen cabinet, despite frequent complaints of my aesthetically-endowed children and their regular squabbles over who gets stuck with their breakfast served in the bosom of the damaged veteran.

I was about to launch into my usual sermon on the topic of ingratitude and proverbial starving children in Africa when something stopped me and instead I said,

Sometimes I feel exactly the same way...

More often than not, when I look at the bowl of my life all I see are the cracks and dings, imperfections and irritations.

My yard is infested with weeds and pests. My garage is a fire hazard. My children whine and squabble over the most insignificant things (I wonder who they got that from?!!!). And, my own mirror - covered with spots, streaks and tiny fingerprints, I must add - reflects daily the same sad story of flawed, petty, grouchy existence.

And just like my children, I remain blind to the delicious bounty waiting at my fingertips:

The rich, infinitely varied feast of God’s written Word

His divine Presence imparting meaning and significance to seemingly irrelevant streams of thoughts, words and actions

The treasured moments of communion with soul-friends, far and near, some long dead, some still living

The joyful satisfaction of a red cardinal pecking at the sunflower seeds inside the bird-feeder

The inspiring creativity spreading its arms from a Subway sandwich and my friend Valerie’s birthday cakes to Pachelbel’s Canon in D major to the heart-wrenching beauty of Starry Night… and the mystery and beauty that fills them all.

I look into my child's eyes, the dark rounds reflecting me like a mirror. But this mirror doesn't point out the spots and the streaks, the wrinkles and the freckles. This mirror goes beyond surface and reflection and reveals the unmistakable features of the One in whose image we were all created.

I bend over the counter and lean in, until my lips almost touch her ear, and I whisper a secret she needs to learn and I need to remember again and again:

It’s not really the bowl and what’s on the outside that matters. It’s what’s inside the bowl that matters most of all.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
2 Corinthians 4:7

Monday, May 06, 2013

A Drinking Town with a Sailing Problem

Last year I went to visit a friend who lives near Annapolis, MD. I can't quite explain why, but I simply fell in love with the town at first sight.

It might have been the water. It could have been the sailboats and the laid-back lifestyle permeating  everything and everywhere I looked. Or, all the history oozing out of every corner, every street, every building.

Regardless of the reason, it was a delightful change from my regular life and the perfectly choreographed plastic beauty of Mouseville where we reside.

Since I was there without my family, I decided to do what any good mama tourist would do.  I bought T-shirts for all of us. The one I kept for me says,


This morning, I put it on and my observant daughter frowned when she read it.

Mom, something is wrong with your shirt! 

It is?!!

Yes, she replies emphatically. It says,

A Drinking Town with a Sailing Problem

when it should say,

A Sailing Town with a Drinking Problem.

You are too young to know this, I think to myself, taking my turn now to frown.  How in the world did my daughter learn to differentiate between what are socially acceptable and socially NOT acceptable sins?  I wonder. And being so quick to categorize behaviors in one category or the other.  Drinking - bad.  Sailing - good. The measuring rod of morality, clean and simple. 

Actually, I think that the T-shirt says exactly what is supposed to say. I respond slowly, For Annapolis is a town full of fun people who enjoy a drink or two with their friends, but, what they have a real problem is... is with sailing... It's the sailing that trips them up, not the drinking.  Isn't that ... curious?!!!

Her big eyes double up in size, trying to encompass the seismic shift in her black-and-white world view.

Looking into those eyes,  I suddenly realize why I like Annapolis so much. It's the town that wears it's sins - the obvious and the obscure - on its T-shirt! What you see is what you get.

Now, I find that incredibly refreshing. And, it seems to me, Jesus might too.