Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Change the Way You Think

“Change the way you think.” That’s what the Lord has been saying to me for several months now. I think the Lord wants me to repent, not in a modern day sense of the understanding of that word, i.e. to ask for forgiveness for sin, but, rather, to allow for a spiritual renewal of my thoughts and attitudes (Eph 4:23). To transform me by changing the way I think (Rom 12:2), how I perceive and observe, and how I process what I observe and perceive.

Anytime the word repentance is mentioned, we immediately think someone has done something wrong and needs to ask for forgiveness, but in the original language, is not turning away from our sins; even though, it’s what we’ve been taught for years. In fact, when you look through the New Testament and the 32 verses that mention the word “repent” in some form, nowhere does it say “Repent of your sins.” It does say:
  • Repent, and believe (Mark 1:15)
  • Repent, and be baptized (Acts 2:38)
  • Repent, and be converted (Acts 3:19)
  • Repent, and turn to God (Acts 26:20)
The word “repent” in the New Testament is the Greek word metanoeo. It’s a combination of two words:
  • meta: to change (like metamorphosis)
  • noieo: the mind, our “thinker” (like the word knowledge)

“To repent” literally means, “to change the way you think.”

When Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17), he was saying, “Stop thinking the old way and think a new way, the way God wants you to think.”  He was simply saying, “Think differently.”

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Like looking through a broken window,
Our lives are fragmented.
They have been and always will be.
Don’t fool yourself,
Our ancestors warped our opportunity
The day, they devoured that apple, giving up their freedom for a life of hostility.

Oh, I’ve vowed to be different,
But it’s led to disappointment, cause I suck at keeping my promises.
And you, you’ve said you are different,
But your lies, they keep catching up to you.

So, where does that leave us?
How can we mend what we, ourselves, have broken?
It begins with a kiss, a seed, a hug, a someone
Who chooses to do something unordinary, extraordinary
And somehow, given the opportunity,
Brings our lives into compliance.

Isn’t that what we really want?
Something to hope for, to cling to,
A chance to make this thing right

I had my chance, did I blow it, or can we together
Figure out another way to make this thing work.

My fingers are crossed; my agenda has been silenced
And now, I turn away and look at you.

Will you help me?
Can you take the pieces of this life and put this shit together?
Because I’m broken, shipwrecked, and in need of something,
At this moment, anything that you can give me

Monday, February 17, 2014

Chronicles of Jesus: Part 4 Confirmation of Identity

Yearly, Jews, both modern and ancient, tell the story of Passover. And yearly, they end that story describing how Yahweh divided the Red Sea allowing them to come through the water to their freedom. Through the waters to life, this is how the symbolism behind baptism has always been described to me.

It shouldn’t surprise us then to find John the Baptist standing in the Jordan River bringing people through the water into new life (Jn 1). That is, until Jesus shows up to be baptized. Immediately, like John, our response is why?

Why is Jesus requesting to be baptized?

Everyone else who entered the river that day was being baptized unto repentance, but did Jesus require this type of baptism? If so, this would have devastating implications for Christianity, for it would mean that Jesus wasn’t without sin. This idea, along with its connotations, has led the church for centuries to describe Jesus’ baptism as merely a symbolic event pointing the cross and his resurrection. But, is it just symbolism playing itself out as Jesus enters the water of the Jordan River to be baptized by John, or is there something more profound going on here?

I think it’s safe to say that Jesus was not baptized as an affirmation of his repentance, but rather his baptism was a confirmation of his identity. As Jesus entered the water of the Jordan River to be baptized by John, John admits he wouldn’t have known Jesus was “the Son of God,” if not for a dove descending and resting on him (Jn 1:32). John certainly knew who Jesus was because they were related (Luke 1:36). What is implied in his testimony is that Jesus had not revealed to him that he was the chosen One of God (Jn 1:31). This raises some interesting ideas.

If it took a special revelation to disclose that Jesus was the “Son of God”

What does this say about His humanity?
What does this say about His own realization that he was God’s chosen one?

What had Jesus done to provoke the Father's exclamation of pleasure in him at his baptism (Mt 3:17)?

And . . .

What are the implications of this particular proclamation?

In order to understand what is being affirmed in Jesus, and what the phrase, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” means; we must look at other places in scripture where the statement is found. The prophet Isaiah declares that the Lord has chosen a servant, with whom he is pleased who will establish justice for the whole earth (Is 42:1-4). These verses, written some 700 years before Jesus, point to a servant who will be cast as a restored Israel and capable of bringing truth and righteousness to the whole earth. This was YHWH intention for the nation of Israel, and Jesus, as representative of an ideally obedient community, has been given the Spirit of the Lord to bring Israel’s story to fruition. The Father confirms this at Jesus’ baptism with the declaration of Jesus as his “Son, in whom he is fully pleased,” and later, Jesus acknowledges the same with his application of Isaiah 61:1-2 to himself (Lk 4:16-21).

It is significant then that Jesus is said to have been “full of the Spirit” and “led by the Spirit” in the wilderness to be tempted (Mt 4:1). Whereas Israel was unable to overcome their testing and rebelled against God in the desert, Jesus resisted his temptation and declared himself completely dependent on the Father for everything in the wilderness (more detail about this coming in my next blog).

Psalm 2:7 may have also influenced the affirmation of Jesus that we find in Luke and Mark: “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” This statement, typically spoken at the coronation of Davidic kings, marked a way of confirming their legitimacy and authority, but, following the fall of Jerusalem and proceeding exile of Israel in 587 BC, the declaration was given new meaning and directly pointed to a future king in the line of David who would reign and restore Israel. Jesus appears to have been confirmed and identified as that king at his baptism, but unlike those kings before him, he would not rule through power, but rather through frustration, suffering, rejection, and eventually his own death.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Chronicles of Jesus: Part 3 Growing Pains

I grew up with the Cosby’s, the Tanners, and the Brady bunch. My kids are growing up with the Dunphys, the Whites, and the Wild Thornberrys. These popular TV shows give us a look into what it’s like to be raised in the dysfunctionality of a modern/postmodern family. Unfortunately, there were no camera’s present during Jesus’ upbringing. However, I can assure you, just like Mike Seaver (Kirk Cameron), he experienced growing pains.

In fact, with the exception of Luke 2:41-52, the Bible does not contain any information regarding Jesus’ childhood. However, there are certain things that can be drawn from the families pilgrimage to Jerusalem that will help us better understand the early stages of Jesus’ life.

First, his parents were devout in their religious practices. As required by their Jewish faith, Joseph and Mary made yearly trips to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Passover (i.e. a festival commemorating the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt). This time they’d brought along their 12-year-old son in preparation for his bar mitzvah, a ceremony signifying the boy’s passage from childhood into adult life. As is customary, Jesus, like all other 13-year-old Jewish boys, would’ve been considered a man at this point in his young life and capable of assuming responsibility for his own actions and obliged to perform and fulfill good deeds (mitzvah).

Here we see a typical Jewish boy in a typical Jewish family doing typical Jewish things. And just like other children, Jesus was taught what to believe. Through both written (Torah) and oral (Mishna) teaching, Jesus learned the law, religion, history and ethics, and that each one was inseparable from the others.

Jesus’ education would have started around the age of 5, in a level of study called Bet Sefer, which means “House of the Book”. Over the next few years, he would learn how to read and write. Around the age of 10, Jesus would begin learning the Jewish law and would’ve already memorized most, if not all of the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), hoping to qualify for the next level of education called Bet Talmud or “House of Learning”, which lasted until around the age of fourteen. At the end of Bet Talmud, the best students would apply to a well-known rabbi in hopes of becoming that rabbi’s disciple. If a student decided not to continue his studies, or wasn’t qualified, he would dedicate his time and energy to learning the family trade, which in Jesus’ case would have been carpentry.

Jesus grew up in the farming village of Nazareth, were life was patterned after traditions, roles, and rituals passed down from many generations beforehand.
Jesus grew up in a very strict moral, social, and religious setting.
Jesus grew up being taught to believe in one God (monotheism).
Jesus grew up believing that God would one day send a “Messiah” who would bring spiritual renewal and political freedom from centuries of foreign oppression (Egypt, Syria, Babylon, Persia, Greek, Roman, etc.).
Jesus grew up believing that the world was divided into two types of people: Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews). Early in his life Jesus, like other Jews, would’ve worked hard to disassociate himself from the Gentiles.
Jesus grew up being taught multiple languages and probably was able to speak Greek (most common language of the Roman Empire), Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin. Jesus’ everyday language would have been Aramaic.
Jesus grew up eating only certain kinds of foods (cheese, wine, vegetables, fruits, fish, chicken or fowl, and occasionally red meat) and was taught that pork and crustaceans were absolutely forbidden.

Here’s the point, if you haven’t already figured it out. Jesus grew. The Boy grew into youth, and the young man into adulthood. In fact, scripture tells us, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). The purpose of this brief statement is clear. Jesus’ bodily development proceeded in the same orderly fashion as it does with other people. While his wisdom and knowledge - deepening with the years – increased like other human beings, by the ordinary channels of instruction, study, and thought.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chronicles of Jesus: Part 2 Just Another Baby?

The stories told about Jesus’ life are just that, stories told about a person’s life.

Just like us, Jesus
Had a family
Had to attend school
Had a social network
Had hobbies

And just like us,
He got frustrated
He made mistakes
He was tempted
He lost his cool

People, just like us, did their best to tell these stories and to put language behind his experiences. Some of them had personal knowledge of these things; some gave eyewitness accounts, while others just relayed the information, like in a game of phone tag. However it was received; the events of Jesus’ life reveal with certainty that he was a person just like any of us.

And just like us, Jesus was born.

The story we typically hear repeated goes something like this:
A couple thousand years ago, on the evening of December 25th, Mary rides into Bethlehem on a donkey, ready to pop and needing to deliver her baby. Although it’s an emergency, all the innkeepers in town turn Joseph and her away. The couple eventually finds an animal stable to settle into and Mary gives birth to a boy that she names Jesus. Afterwards, three kings bring gifts and worship the newborn child.

The problem is, this story may be almost entirely wrong. In fact, the first two chapters of Matthew and the first two of Luke contain few of the details we include in our traditional ideas of what happened. Although the particulars of this tale may be vague, what we do know is Jesus began his life being labeled as the bastard son of a poor Judean girl, whose fiancé threatened to leave her when he found out that she was pregnant. It was only after a supernatural encounter that Joseph changed his mind and decided to stick around (Mt 1:20-21).

There’s also the controversy surrounding the Hebrew idea of the word “virgin”, which Mary is said to have been when she conceived her baby boy (Mt 1:18). In biblical times, the word carried several different meanings. Including, but not limited to the idea that if one were “born of a virgin” it simply meant that your mother had become pregnant the first time she had had intercourse.

With so many uncertainties surrounding the birth of Jesus, what conclusions, if any, can be drawn during the Advent season? Is our attention during this season focused on …

How Mary and Joseph got to Bethlehem
How long they were in town before Mary gave birth
How and where Mary gave birth
How Mary became pregnant and whether or not she was a virgin

Or, is Advent about the fact that Jesus became a living human being out of a deep desire to know us and to love us?

What’s important to remember is that Jesus didn’t just become like one of us, he actually became one of us and was subjected to everything we experience in this life. Like us, he was pushed out of his mother’s womb, breathed his first breath, and became totally dependent on his parents (other human beings) to raise and nurture him. We know his story, because his story is our story.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Chronicles of Jesus: Part 1 Introduction

For thousands of years people have studied, worshiped, committed their lives, and even died for the sake of a man named Jesus. Who was this man? What was it about him that led people to leave their families, jobs, homes, and way of life behind to follow him? For centuries people have debated, denied, and searched for historical evidence to prove his existence.

The Canonical Gospels are a great resource of information on this Jewish man from Palestine, but typically when people ask for proof of Jesus’ existence they’re looking for sources outside of the Bible itself. Considering that Jesus life was spent in a largely confined and relatively unimportant part of the Roman world, there’s a surprising amount of information about him to be discovered in secular historical sources. In fact, when you piece together these non-Christian references, what appears is a reconstruction of the gospel story itself:

A man named Jesus was called the Christ (Josephus, Antiquities), he did “magic,” led Israel into new teachings, and was eventually hung on Passover for them (Babylonian Talmud) in Judea (Tacitus, Annals 15.44). Jesus claimed to be God and would return (Eliezar), which his followers believed, worshipping him as God (Pliny the Younger, Letters 10:96).

No attempt will be made here to prove the existence of Jesus; instead I’d like to take a closer look at this man’s life and see what it can teach us about ours. If Jesus really did exist, and I believe he did, what can be gained from the sources we have available to us to determine just who this man was? While much has been said regarding his divine nature, very little has been written about his humanity. This series of essays will explore the person of Jesus, as he would appear if we could see directly into his life.

Some of the things we will discover about this man will seem obvious, but they’re often forgotten, overlooked, and sometimes discarded in light of a focused attention on his divine nature. Things like . . .

His upbringing

His temptation

His miracles

His disregard of legal systems

His stories

His death

His resurrection

I am certain that as we explore the ins and outs of Jesus’ life, what we will see is that it’s these particular details about Jesus that make him very human and very much like any of us. My conviction is that we learn more about what it means to follow God from Jesus’ humanity than from his divinity.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Way Things Are

When I think about the places I’ve been and where I come from,
what I’ve seen and the things I shouldn’t of,
I shiver at the idea that it all means something.

And sometimes I wish my eyes were blind to everything but beauty,
but that isn’t the kind of world we live in, is it?

I am an island lost at sea searching for God knows what;
Trudging through this life of muddy water wanting more,
but nothing seems to satisfy the thirst of my youth.

I guess I’ll keep looking for that which I already possess.
The thing, they said, “Wasn’t enough,”
in a life where I could have more.

This puzzle doesn’t even make sense,
so how in the hell am I suppose to piece it together.

For the sake of having a purpose,
I’ll keep walking this path of righteousness,
running from a past that haunts me.

This crutch is all I got,
I don’t have anything else to fall on.

And what does that say about me?
You know I worry far too much about that.

You see, only the mask of my charades,
and I even can fool myself sometimes.
But he sees right through me,
to the heart of my demise.

And that’s what I gather it will take
for things to be different.
So, in fear I fight against it.
Cause in some sick way
I like the way things are.