Monday, March 29, 2010

The name that makes people squirm

As the time for Easter celebration draws near, I find myself thinking more and more about Jesus. I suppose this is natural during this time of year and yet, when I talk to other people, I guess it’s not natural for some. I’m not really sure how the life, death and resurrection of Jesus got translated into rabbits and eggs but then again, I don’t understand a lot of things.

The more I dwell on this and the more I get to know Jesus, the more things change for me. I spent awhile praying yesterday and found myself in the middle of a love fest. A Jesus love fest. It was like an hour spent in the arms of the love of your life, only better. It was like an hour spent in the most beautiful spot in the galaxy, surrounded by exquisite beauty that takes your breath away and brings tears to your eyes, only better. I found myself in the presence of the Love of my life, both in the now and forever.

Jesus has changed my life so dramatically, that I found myself unable to express to Him how appreciative I am and how much I love Him. Words to Him can’t express it, tears seems shallow. For those who knew me or have known me for a long time and those who know me now, I believe you will agree. Meeting Jesus has completely changed my life. Don’t get me wrong, I was a “believer” long ago. I signed my ‘get out of hell free’ card at a young age. But, Jesus wasn’t real to me, He didn’t reveal Himself to me as my friend until relatively recently. My dad put it well last night when he said, “You believed but didn’t walk with Him.”

That was perfectly put. What I have discovered is a walk, a journey through this thing we call life with a real Friend, a true Lover, a Brother and Father, a Savior and Redeemer, a King. That He would love me and want to walk with me was something I wasn’t really ready for. Nor do I think many are. We find it such a foreign concept that, not only does He love us, but He wants us. He desires to walk with me, with you. He desires you.

Imagine that.

Seriously, stop what you’re doing and dwell on that for a few minutes and let it sink in really good. The Creator of all that is loves you and wants to walk through your life with you. He cares about the little things of your life. He cares so much that He sent His Son, the perfect human incarnation of Himself to this crappy place to live, die and come back from the dead.

For me.

For you.

Now that you’ve thought about that for a minute, riddle me this. Why are people so uncomfortable with the idea of this Man? Why do we fight against this Jesus? The only being ever who will always love you, no matter what, just wants you to choose Him, to follow, to love Him back. Why does that make people so uncomfortable? Why does it make those who call themselves believers so uncomfortable, this name of Jesus?!

Then again, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this. He said He would divide families, He said He would bring a sword rather than peace. He told us people were going to hate us, revile us, treat us differently. He knew this because everybody seemed to hate Him so much. Why????

All He wanted to do was show them the way to the Father. All He wants to do is love us and show us a way of living that honors our Creator. Why do we shun that, why are we so angry about it, why would we reject that? Here’s what I really don’t get about God. He knew that His offer of salvation, His offering of love to the world that He created was going to be rejected, killed, mocked, shunned.

By His own people.

And we are still rejecting Him, still killing His spirit in our lives, still mocking His call to service, love, humility and holiness, still shunning His call to our hearts. Why? Two thousand years ago, the Jews and Romans crucified the only Man who loved them even while they were killing Him. Today, we are still crucifying His love every time we reject His call on our hearts.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Words from one of the greatest Christian thinkers...

Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it: the old Christian rule is, ‘Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.’ Now this is so difficult and contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong. One or the other. Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong.
But I have other reasons for thinking so. The biological purpose of sex is children, just as the biological purpose of eating is to repair the body. Now if we eat whenever we feel inclined and just as much as we want, it is quite true that most of us will eat too much: but not terrifically too much. One man may eat enough for two, but he does not eat enough for ten. The appetite goes a little beyond its biological purpose, but not enormously. But if a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined, and if each act produced a baby, then in ten years he might easily populate a small village. This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.
Or take it another way. You can get a large audience together for a striptease act – that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?
They tell you sex has become a mess because it was hushed up. But for the last twenty years it has not been hushed up. It has been chattered about all day long. Yet it is still in a mess. If hushing up had been the cause of the trouble, ventilation would have set it right. But it has not. I think it is the other way round. I think the human race originally hushed it up because it had become such a mess. Modern people are always saying, ‘Sex in nothing to be ashamed of.’ They may mean two things. They may mean ‘There is nothing to be ashamed of in the fact that the human race reproduces itself in a certain way, nor in the fact that it gives pleasure.’ If they mean that, they are right. Christianity says the same. It is not the thing, nor the pleasure, that is the trouble. The old Christian teachers said that if man had never fallen, sexual pleasure, instead of being less than it is now, would actually have been greater. I know some muddle-headed Christians have talked as if Christianity thought that sex, or the body, or pleasure, were bad in themselves. But they were wrong. Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions which thoroughly approves of the body - which believes that matter is good, that God Himself once took on a human body, that some kind of body is going to be given to us even in Heaven and is going to be an essential part of our happiness, our beauty, and our energy. Christianity has glorified marriage more than any other religion: and nearly all the greatest love poetry in world has been produced by Christians. If anyone says that sex, in itself, is bad, Christianity contradicts him at once. But, of course, when people say, ‘Sex in nothing to be ashamed of’, they mean ‘the state into which the sexual instinct has not got is nothing to be ashamed of’…
I think it is everything to be ashamed of. There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives…There are people who want to keep our sex instinct inflamed in order to make money out of us. Because, of course, a man with an obsession is a man who has very little sales resistance.

- C.S. Lewis, The Business of Heaven

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Face to face

Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked.

John 18: 37- 38(a), NLT

I’m a little different than a lot of people. Go ahead, laugh now and get it out of your system. What I mean by that is, I find myself looking at things a little differently than some people. I meet with several different groups of men to study the Word, do life and hang out together. One of the groups meets on Tuesday nights. Right now, we are in the process of finishing the gospel of John. This week, we read most of chapters 18 and 19; Jesus’ arrest, trial before Caiphas and Pilate, beating and crucifixion. The trial, if that’s what you call it, was of course a mockery. So, we’re all talking about this and the focus of most of the conversation was on Jesus. Rightly so, I might add.

But, as I said, my mind works a little differently than some and I became fascinated by the exchange between Jesus and Pilate. If you read the passage, it appears that most of their conversation occurred in private. Just the two of them. So, all the other guys were talking about this and I began to wonder how Pilate felt. I began to wonder what emotions he experienced while talking with Jesus and afterward, when Jesus was crucified.

Here’s why I say this. Pilate came face to face with Jesus, inches from God in the flesh. Do you think he felt that? The presence of something different, Someone unlike anyone he had ever known? I mean, Pilate had probably sentenced a lot of people to die, had a lot of people beg for mercy, curse at him, weep at his feet. But, Pilate had to be thinking that this dude was different.

Imagine what Pilate felt, what he experienced. He looked right into the face of Jesus. I wonder what he saw in Jesus’ face, His eyes. Pilate looked right into the face of God and froze, incapable of action, unable to believe in the moment of truth.

So what about us? There are times when we come face to face with God. Jesus meets us where we are. We’re cruising along with our lives, we round a corner and there He is.

Inches from us.

Face to face.

What do we say when we look into the eyes of our Savior, when we see His love pouring from His wounds? What do we do now? Do we freeze and refuse to act, like Pilate? See, I identify with Pilate. I am Pilate at times, standing there looking into the face of Truth, asking stupid questions like, ‘What is truth?’

I believe that Pilate walked away from this encounter with Jesus and was crushed by what he saw. Haunted by the pain and love he saw in Jesus’ eyes. Why do I say that?

Because you cannot come into the presence of Jesus, look in His eyes and be unchanged.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I used to wonder if Jesus was married. I brought it up in a conversation with my dad one day and it was like I farted at somebody’s funeral. The idea of Jesus being married seemed to be kind of offensive to him. I’m not real sure why. I don’t know if Jesus was married or not and, frankly, I’m not sure if I care one way or the other.

I guess I wanted to know because I think I just needed to get in touch with His humanity, to see Him get pissed off at somebody like I do at my brother or the loud cell phone talker in the line at Starbucks or that dude in the truck who cut me off in traffic. I’m not trying to be sacrilegious or make light of anything, I’m just sort of talking out loud here.

I mean, if Jesus was fully human, then He had to worry about stuff like a job or his neighbor’s dog barking in the middle of the night and paying bills and stuff like that, right? Every day stuff. I know Jesus was and is God. What I think is cool is that He also came to us as fully human. Makes me feel a little better about being human with all my screw ups and mistakes and screaming at people in traffic. Then, I read in the Bible where it says He was perfect too and I thought, ‘Whoops, there goes my excuse.’

Seriously though, isn’t it cool to know that God himself took time out of His busy schedule to become fully human and save us? He didn’t have to do that. Then, just to show it could be done, He was perfect. He never sinned. I know a lot of people who say, “Yeah but He’s God.” Gee, I never thought of that. Well, yes He is God. But Jesus was also fully human. So, he got hungry and tired and impatient and angry, right? At least He didn’t have to deal with rush hour traffic. Or those annoying kids at the grocery store that won’t stop screaming for gummy bears and you just want to smack em upside the head. Or smack their parents.

I find a lot of comfort in the fact that Jesus is human. That means He gets it. He knows what it’s like to be us. To be cold, hungry, have a pot belly, go to family dinners, wake up in the middle of the night to pee and have trouble going back to sleep. I love it that He’s human because I can connect with a guy who gets me.

Jesus gets us.

He understands.

And He loves us anyway.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Walk

“Abide in Me.”

I hear the call of Your voice in my heart. ‘Take me there, Lord. Show me what it means to abide. Show me what it means to be where You are.’

“Walk with Me,” I hear Your voice from up ahead.

…A foggy morning. A clearing, small and intimate it seems. Seated at a small fire at the edge of the wood, You are there. Smiling in the gloom of the pre-dawn hush, the flickering of the fire draws stark relief on Your face, etching it in sharp lines. A quiver runs through me. Anticipation. Fear.

“What are we doing here, Lord?” The question hangs in the air, shattering the silence in sharp tones, shrill it feels. You look at me over the orange-red of the fire, piercing me with the love in Your eyes, the strength of Your passion, the purity of Your fire. And then, a smile as the words seem to tumble from somewhere deep inside You, all around me. Your voice as clear as trumpets, soft as the dawn. “Walk with Me.”

Your robe whispers as You stand. Your hand reaches for mine, pulling me to my feet. Walking into the wood, I longingly look back at the warmth of the fire fading in the fog. With a start, I realize You are nowhere in sight and I don’t know where I’m going. Panic jumps into my throat, thickening it. From the fog ahead, Your voice on the path. “Stay close to Me. Stay with Me, don’t wander.” Rushing ahead, I find You mere feet ahead, waiting. A soft chuckle rolls from Your smile. “You don’t have to run. I won’t leave You. But, stay close.”

The climb feels long, taxing. I find myself gasping for air in the thick morning, the low air. Scrambling, it feels, to keep up. No sound, save our footfalls and my breathing. The trees seem to press in close at times, grasping it seems, and I want to cry out to You not to move fast, to wait, to speak to me, say something. Your silence is deafening. I can hear the birds as we climb, singing, warbling their song in the trees. All around me I feel, sense the moving vibrance of the wood, creation.

Stumbling, I look up in frustration. “What are we doing here, Lord?” I cringe as I hear my voice echo but I can’t stop now. “Why won’t you tell me…”my voice dies in my throat as I realize; we have broken free of the fog and the wood.

Standing on a steep mountain path, the world opens up around me. The wind is sharp, cold. The air is crystal clear. The silence is so deep it feels as though it might crack. Looking down, I see what I thought was the choking, close wood. What I see takes my breath. Tears begin to slide down my cheeks, dripping from my chin as I am overcome by the majesty and aching beauty around me. A lake sits below me, wrapped in trees. Glistening in the sun, the water is absolutely clear; like glass, I can see through it to the rocky bottom of the lake.

Then, I feel Your hand on my shoulder. Its warmth presses into me. I can feel You near, hear You breathing with the exertion of the climb. I turn to look at Your face, glowing with Your smile. Weeping and laughing simultaneously at the beauty around me, at Your touch, I am swept into a silence of awe. And then, I see the smile creeping at the corners of Your mouth, growing into a huge, luminous smile. Throwing Your head back, You laugh in utter abandon until tears begin to roll down Your cheeks. Wrapping me in Your arms, You speak.

“See? Just walk with Me.”

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


This last weekend, I went to Columbus, Ohio to compete in the CrossFit Games Sectionals. If you’re not sure what CrossFit is, look it up. It’s intense. And hard. And takes a lot of work and sweat and sometimes, blood. It is the single greatest fitness program I have ever been involved with. I wish that I had discovered this seven years ago before the injuries starting piling up. I can only imagine where I’d be had I learned proper technique. But I digress.

So, I went to compete this last weekend. Now, I’m a competitive guy. I mean, really competitive. I hate losing, loathe it with a passion. Once upon a time, I was not a good loser either. I wasn’t gracious in the least in defeat. Nor was I very gracious in winning at times either. I tended to run my mouth entirely too much. However, this is one of the things I love about CrossFit. Just as you are feeling good about yourself, you get humbled by a soul-crushing workout and the girl in the gym with you just smokes your time. And you’re humbled.

It’s funny to me as I look back over my life and how God has begun to teach me humility. He’s not always gentle about it and uses some very strange ways to do it. For example, my knees. To tell you how bad my knees hurt sometimes is sorta laughable. I mean, hurt. But, if my knees didn’t hurt and my shoulders weren’t a little jacked up, I might not have a lot of physical limits and then I really would be full of myself, cause I’d be able to do things that I could point at. Make sense?

Anyways, back to the weekend. I got to go into that event, knowing I wasn’t going to win it but craving the competition. To test myself. See if I still had something at almost 37 years of age. And it turned out to be really, really physically challenging. Not to mention a mental exercise and emotional struggle. See, when you get that tired physically, it becomes a mental exercise. You have to push yourself to limits that you’re not really very comfortable with.

And then go beyond it.

That’s where it becomes mental. You have to be willing to push yourself beyond that physical barrier. You have to be able to keep going when your body says, ‘Dude, you’re done’. You gotta strap up mentally and refuse to surrender. If you’ve never been there, you think I’m crazy right about now and shame on you. You will never know your limits if you are unwilling to drive right through them. If you have, good for you! And this is where it begins to become emotional as well. You will be so drained, your emotions become cracked. Seriously.

I have to be honest, I don’t trust people who aren’t sold out to something. I don’t trust people who don’t live with utter abandon about something. There has to be something that fuels you, something that drives you to be more, something you are willing to go all the way for, sell out for. Maybe even die for.

Have you never been there? Have you found that thing, that cause, that person? If not, you don’t know what you’re missing. I’m very serious about this and I know some of you will think I’m a little (or a lot) nuts.

Anyway, back to the weekend. It was a blast! It was very hard. Three hard and fast workouts. I was in there competing with dudes that were, on average, ten years younger than me. And it was a riot! Several of them began to talk to me, asking me how old I was. When they found out, several of them started calling me Pops. It was great! We laughed and hung out together, sweated and screamed together doing those workouts. What a great weekend! What community!

It was wonderful to be in a group of people, a community of people who were just as dedicated as I am to something. We have all drank the kool-aid, as the saying goes. A lot of other people think enjoying that kind of pain is nuts. And maybe it is but what’s the point of being alive and healthy if we’re not going to challenge ourselves a little?

I reflect back on that and I’m kinda sad in a way. I already miss my new friends. I miss those young guys calling me Pops and laughing with me.

What I’m really sad about is that we who call ourselves Christ followers don’t share that sense of community with each other. When did we lose that? Where did we lose it? How do we get it back?

Through shared experience, life together. We have to go there with each other, be willing to take it to the limit with and for each other. I think that’s what Christ modeled with his disciples. Think about it seriously. Christ modeled community for us. He and His disciples lived, laughed, cried and, in some cases, died together. Why?

Because they all believed in something, in Someone. They all drank the kool-aid, right? They were the real crazies, willing to take it to the limit every day, even if they failed. And I dig that!

Because they believed in Someone greater than themselves. Because they took it seriously when Jesus said that you will never have greater love than to lay down your life for another.

So, why aren’t we pouring ourselves out for something, Someone? Get up off the couch and stop coasting through life and invest yourself in something greater than you!