Tuesday, November 21, 2006


I was reflecting this morning on God's creation...not the six days of creation in Genesis, but his ongoing work of creation. Particularly, I was thinking about his ongoing work of creation in me. As every day goes by, I become someone different. I'm not the same as I was, though I'm a continuation of that person. I see how I have changed over time, for better or worse, and have been trying to recognize God's hand in that continued work of creation. Sometimes it's hard to see. Sometimes I feel like it's me that is doing all the work, but I can't beat my own heart. I can't send electric impulses from my brain throughout the rest of my body. I can't cause cells to divide and grow and die. All of that is God's creative work and a sign of the presence of God within me.

If it's hard to recognize God's creative work in me, then how much harder is it to recognize God's creative work in others. It is particularly difficult to recognize God's creative work in "the least of these", "the poor in spirit". How often to I recognize the presence of God in those who are less fortunate than me? More likely I see them as a drain on society, as lazy people who need to work harder, as people to have pity upon, as those who need help from us rich people in order to find meaning, fulfillment, and God.

But what if God is already there? What if they don't need me to bring God to them? What if they don't need my condescension? What if instead I affirmed the presence of God that is already creatively at work in the bodies and in their spirits? What if my role is to help them to be aware of the God who is already present? Perhaps my role is to approach them with humility and honor, as image-bearers of God who are still being creatively formed by his transforming presence?

I'm on my way to a meeting with pastors of eight other churches plus a variety of community leaders (bank presidents, city officials, law enforcement, etc.). These are great people with wonderful hearts and it has been a privilege to get to know them more deeply. Together we have created a new organization to bless those who need help in the name of Christ. All of the churches will combine their mercy ministries into a central clearinghouse and work together to serve the community. My fear, however, is that we may approach this with the wrong attitude. I am terrified that we will be perceived as arrogant or smug and that Christ's love will be masked beneath a veneer of our good intentions. I really hope that we will be able to approach this ministry with a realization that the poor in spirit are already blessed because Jesus is desperately concerned for them. As blessed ones, we ought to treat them with a great deal of honor and respect, which I hope will be the case.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Well, not so much a spiritual revival...there's no twitching bodies in the aisle or anything...but a revival of my blog!!

So I've begun preaching through the sermon on the mount. I'm beginning to understand why people typically avoid it. It's not necessarily the easiest teaching in the world. Certainly I'm not a big fan of how people have normally interpreted it. Currently I'm in the Beatitudes. There are a number of schools of thought as to how to figure out what Jesus was talking about. Most of them teach that it is our duty as followers of Jesus to put the beatitudes into practice...that these are Jesus' high ideals around which we ought to orient our lives. In other words, if we are good Christians, we will work hard to become poor in spirit, to mourn, to be meek, to be merciful, and so on. Some would go as far as to say that these are the entrance requirements into the Kingdom of God...do these things and you're in.

I have a real problem with the beatitudes as Jesus' ethics for us to live by. First, they don't really make sense. So if I'm a good Christian, I need to seek out persecution? I need to look for things to mourn? I need to become spiritually and physically impoverished? Also, a list of things to do might fit a Pharisaical perspective, but it flies in the face of the freedom that Jesus teaches everywhere else. Instead of releasing us, it confines us to guilt and shame because we can't live up to his expectations and causes us to avoid Jesus' teachings all together.

I've been reading books by people like Robert Guelich, Glen Stassen, and Dallas Willard who take an entirely different perspective. The focus is on the blessings of the Kingdom, not on what is done to attain them. The focus is prophetic rather than legalistic. Blessed are you when you find yourself in a place of spiritual bankruptcy because God is on the way to rescue you, redeem you, and restore you to wholeness. You are blessed when the world has crashed and you are mourning the life that you could have had because God is coming to make all things new through Jesus. You have access to the Kingdom now because God sees you in your brokenness and desperately wants to restore you.

This is the freeing message of the Gospel...that Jesus has come to restore all things that are broken.