Reflections on the scenes leading to the Cross. (pt. 1)

There are so many focal points associated with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. It all started with a celebration as Jesus entered Jerusalem and, the disciples amongst the crowds cheered and lay cloaks and palm branches down in a makeshift parade of a mistaken earthly royal processional. How the tone of the city abruptly changed in only a matter of days.

Then there is the scene of the last supper as the disciples gathered around a borrowed table in an upper room to celebrate their last Passover with their Rabbi. The furtive glances from the other disciples as Peter adamantly challenged Jesus and even attempted to admonish Him. The startling news that someone in the room would betray Him and then the abrupt exit of Judas…

Then there was the prayer garden scene in Gethsemane where Jesus passionately prays for the cup of suffering to be taken from him, and almost as a foreshadowing of what was to come, his disciples abandon him to their exhausted revery and slumber. Then Jesus is arrested in that same garden and kissed on the cheek by Judas which seals the deal of betrayal for thirty pieces of silver. How interesting that we consider it to be the sealing of Jesus’ fate and yet sadly, Judas ends his own life when confronted with the consequences of his misplaced ambitions. Thus, perhaps it was sadly Judas’ life that was fatedly sealed with that peck on the cheek.

Another focal point is the illegal court appearance of Jesus in the middle of the night so as to not ignite a riot in the streets. Jesus is found guilty for crimes he never committed and the leaders knew it and even washed their hands of it all… later, the large crowds gathered, shouting Barabbas as the city officials struggled to maintain order, and Jesus was first led to be whipped then paraded through the streets in a humiliating display of cruelty. How distant that triumphant entrance into Jerusalem seemed on that dark “Good Friday” as an innocent Author of the Universe, now in human form, was led to His slaughter. The ultimate sacrificial lamb and atonement for the sins of every human being on the planet.

And yet how frightened Simon Peter was as he gathered around the fires that night completely shell shocked at the atrocity of the horrific crucifixion scene. He was confronted with his allegiance to Messiah, and instead of his typical bravado, he was reduced to denying his discipleship to Jesus. How dark it all must have seemed as the glowing embers of the fire danced and flickered on the faces of everyone gathered there. The Light of the World seemingly extinguished at the hands of those He came to save, and with the crowing of the rooster that early morning, Peter knew he had betrayed Jesus. How the guilt must have flooded in and washed away the remaining fortitude of ‘the rock’…

If the story had only ended here, it would have been the saddest tragedy to ever have befallen humankind. God was truly dead and, we had killed Him. Yet, the divine plan, foretold nearly a thousand years before Jesus arrived was unfolding and coming to fruition. How the Angels in heaven must have held their collective breaths as those devoted to Him mourned and hid themselves away.

There is an anticipation of what is to come, and yet we should linger here for just a little while longer. When we confront this darkness head-on we must begin to acknowledge the darkness still living within us. We try to deny that it is there and yet we, like Peter betray Him over and over again. Perhaps if we were to linger here we would hear our own rooster crowing…

Perhaps if we lingered here we would understand that we could never be Messiah in our own life. We might begin to realize that our strength has never, ever been enough. Sin still sits cold and heavy upon our souls. We cannot remove it by doing more good deeds or praying harder or reading another self-help book. If we linger here for just a little while longer we would begin to see how majestic and victorious that empty tomb really is for our salvation and for the salvation of all living beings on this planet.

Jesus resurrected hope on empty tomb day.
Jesus resurrected life for more than just himself.
Jesus reconnected what had been broken since the fall of Adam and Eve in that garden so long ago.
Jesus removed the barrier of sin between our mortal souls and the Creator of ALL.

But we should linger here for just a little while longer…
Let it all soak in.
Let the power of the cross and of the death of Messiah sink in…
really go deep within this chapter of our salvation story.

Let’s ponder this for a few days.
But Sunday is coming…

Something’s Worn

The world is a scary place.
Fire and war
war and fire
And I grow tired
of the sadness
poured out
and shaken
like the people
caught
in the middle
of the fight

And I cannot
bring an ounce
of relief in
my worrying
my fretting
and the half-chewed
nail

Still, I am worn
emotionally
spent
left wanting
and wishing
this
were all
a dream
perhaps tomorrow
when I wake
sunlight will
remind me
that we aren’t
alone.

The Dangers of Christian Narcissism

Christian narcissism is more prevalent than you think. It is the conscious or subconscious notion that every act or service or leadership decision revolves around that person. It is the notion we are doing God a favor by serving Him, or that a certain ministry or program would fail without us leading it.

There is a danger within the realms of church leadership to become so filled with pride that it becomes less about what God is doing and more about what we are doing.

I have met Christian narcissists and sometimes he has been there looking back at me in the mirror. It might be sobering to consider, but every time we take the praise and accolades that were intended for God, we are essentially saying God needs us and He couldn’t do it (whatever ‘it’ is) without us. Instead of saying to God “have your way in my heart”, we say “look at me, this worship couldn’t happen without me.”

How dangerous is that? Instead of bowing the knee in humility, many Christians have fallen into the trap of ego with their puffed-up pride and shallow faith. Such behavior is a works-driven service that fills a person with self-importance to the point that God is a second thought. They become like superman, flying here and there attempting to save everyone all because of their holy hubris.

Sometimes the dangers of narcissism is that Christian narcissists develop little groupies and followers and these followers do not follow God, but the Leader that they admire and wish to be like. Could it be that this infiltration of narcissism within the Church is leading people astray? Could it be that Christian narcissists are false prophets who are seeking personal gains and person profits?

What I am not saying

I am not saying that we as Christians need to stop serving others. Nor am I saying that we should cease all evangelistic advances for God’s kingdom. We are all called to be Christ’s ambassadors to offer this Good News, hope and love.

What I am sayin

Check your motivations.
Check your egos at the door.
This Great Commission – is NOT about you – it is about God’s redeeming love for EVERYONE.
There is nothing beneath your presumed “status”.
If you are serving Christendom because of status, power, position, notoriety you may be a Christian Narcissisit.

“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4)

If you discover that all of your ministarial ventures revolves around your gifts and abilities instead of a Christ-centered intent then perhaps it is time to repent and turn from your inflated ego and seek humility once again.

God doesn’t need you to save the world, He moves you into spaces of service for His glory and honor.

Just something more to ponder today. To God be the glory!

3 Reasons Why I am falling in love with Worship Music again.

I will admit that I used to change the channel when certain “praise” songs came on the radio. I wasn’t a fan of the repetition, a music snob critiquing everything I heard and overanalyzing the lyrics that didn’t mesh with my doctrinal beliefs.

I will also admit that I still hold certain prejudices to style, format, and lyric selection. I am a picky audiophile who loves to listen to a wide array of music. My Spotify account contains so many genres from Rap, R&B, Rock, Country (yes, it’s for my wife *wink, wink*), and even study music.

So why the change of heart? Why am I falling in love with Worship Music again? Let me preface this with, “some” worship music. I still believe that there is a distinction between Worship Songs and Performance songs.

For example, last Christmas my family and me attended a Christmas Eve service at a local large congregation. The sanctuary had a welcoming feel to it, we enjoyed our time there, but when it came to the worship music most of the songs were designed to elevate the performer and not lead the church-goer into a state of worship. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great Christmas Eve service, but it could have been better had the music been vertically driven and included the audience. (Again, I’m a picky audiophile and musician).

“The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.”
C.S. Lewis

So, here are 3 Reasons why I am falling in Love with Worship Music again:

  1. Worship Music is Maturing – What I mean by that is this: the days of Maranantha repetition and simplistic lyrics is behind us. The “Shout to the Lord” and “I could sing of your love forever”tunes are songs from our past. Important as they were, and they certainly helped to pave the way for richer, more complicated themes and melodies. I love to hear songs like Battle Belongs, Reckless Love & You Say. One might argue that some of the lyrics are not completely doctrinally sound. And, while I would somewhat agree, most of the time I would contend that the writers of these modern worship songs are attempting to connect the worshipper to the Almighty in beautiful ways.
  2. I am Maturing – Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a transition in life, a recognition or reminder of my mortality, I have discovered a deeper longing to connect with my Savior. Music is not the only conveyer of Spirit to Savior, but it does help provide a vital connection piece. There is something about music that transports you and allows your heart and mind to meditate on not just good music but a deeper level of relationship to the Father. I am constantly in awe His presence when I still my heart and meditate on words sung that are verticle in worship.
  3. A Hurting World is A Mission Field – Not only is Worship Music maturing, but the lyrics are delving into, and addressing a hurting world who is in need of a loving Savior. The Great Commission is not just to fill church pews for Sunday morning service, but to create community and unite people from all walks of life with the redeeming love and Jesus Christ. There is a longing that many Worship writers and evangelists are conveying to their fellow Christ-followers: The World needs to see authenticity in Christians and the Church. The World needs to know that they are loved and cared for. Much of the modern worship music is “Get out of the four walls of Church and love people for Jesus” – driven.
“God is to be praised with the voice,
and the heart should go therewith in holy exultation.”
Charles H. Spurgeon

So there you have it. My shortlist on why I am falling in love with Worship Music again. That is not to say that I will stop analyzing song lyrics or checking for doctrinal truths – that is still so important. Rather, I will not let small stylistic issues distract me from worshipping. After all, Worship music, though important, is only one component of true and authentic worship of God. It helps to connect us or point us to Christ, but let us not forget about the disciplines of silence (meditation), solitude, fasting, study, simplicity, service & submission.

This is something more to ponder today…see you next time!

The Abusive Relationship

You used to be there in my life
a shadow of dread
a threat of consequence
for missed deadlines
or poor performance appraisals
or because I didn’t look or
talk like the rest of them.
the robots
the others abused
the broken and beaten down…

You used to be there in my life
uniform pressed and starched
puffed up with self-importance
standing on the necks of
your inferiors.

You used to be there in my life
like a dark lumpy bruise
Just under the surface
isn’t it funny how much like
a wound you were to me?

You used to be…
past tense.
in my rearview
like an abusive relationship
unhealthy, and jealous
I kept coming back to you…
but not anymore
out of my cage
sprung back to life
bruises all healing
and you are no longer
in my present and future.

The Farewell of Tad -“see ya later” (A poem)

You asked me to officiate your son’s wedding.
You, my lifelong friend
a medical survivor
still fighting each day
as antirejection drugs slowly
killed you.

On the drive over
I reminisced about my childhood
how you always seemed
to be at the center of it
How I looked up to you
like the big brother
I never had.

You spoke so freely
of love and affection.
Me – so guarded and jaded
surprised by your emotional
generosity

You rode with me to the
wedding site
shotgun and honest.
You told me not asked me
that I would perform your funeral.
I responded in outrage
and told you to linger on
and fight the good fight.
Yet I could it in your eyes…

After the wedding
with my family in tow
We said our goodbyes
and you hugged me and
told me how much you loved me
My heart was warmed
my brother
my first best friend…

and that was the last time
I saw you in the land of the living
and true to my word
I did your funeral
making my way in the cold
winter to shiver at your graveside
Your quick words of kindness
still swirling in my mind
I whispered the amens
a benediction for the end
of death
Yet, as I stepped back
into my car
I could imagine you there
a year removed when flesh and blood
you sat there with me.

This is not the end
Just a “see you later”
my big brother,
I love you.

Beyond the Finite Universe.

You once asked me if I felt accomplished
to think on it now
greying beard
crows feet growing each passing year
I am not wiser
because of time
I have not become more
or found the secrets to this life
I am still its student
and I have much to learn.
The drive for accomplishment
is a loud clanging band of one
beckoning others to look on
and clap…
full of hubris
sprinkled with an
unhealthy dose of
narcissism.
I would like to think
that I have left a mark
on the side of the universe
as it ever expands.
But I am reminded
of its infinite glory
and this insignificance
of breathing
how small am I?
Still, I long to measure
this existence
with thoughts
to pass onto my descendants
the things to invest in
and the things to run from.
Life, fragile and limited
can break the finite confines
and carry on beyond the course
of one’s skin and bones.
Thus, it would be an honor
to tarry here after I have
long past my due date…
through the fluttering of words
on a page
and on into the hearts of my
children’s children
a ripple in a pond
moving hearts,
ebbing courses
and nudging lives for good
now, this
is interesting…

Urban Bedouins (Prose of truth)

There is a peculiar smell associated with packing tape. Boxes with “this side up” stamped on the sides, brown and crisp all stacked up in neat lines. This is what we are good at. The professional packer. The seasoned traveler that gets “the itch” after two Christmases have passed.

We are chameleons at adapting to new environments. It is a learned trait that pushes nostalgic feelings aside and presses the “this is an adventure” mantra out into the universe praying that one day those words will become reality…but they never will. Yet, with the U-Haul packed and the Tetris champion still undefeated in solid blocks of boxes without gaps or air pockets – the nomadic tribe that is our family piles into borrowed vehicles and closes yet another chapter in yet another state. The unspoken rule of not looking back nor clinging to a past that will only haunt and hurt. The city disappears from our rearview mirror and once more we are between homes. We are between spaces of rest and leisure, where familiar paths lead down into what can be imagined within the unfamiliar landscapes of the next chapter.

We are urban bedouins designed to travel and explore. We are adaptive and flexible and we purposefully seek out what the next hill and valley will reveal to our ever-hungry souls. Tomorrow does not bring dread as one more sleep lingers within this in-between time from one chapter to the next. When we are here in this space we are invisible, unidentifiable, and travelers without compass or map. And there is comfort here. No roots left in our past, we are merely succulents leaning towards the sunlight of tomorrow’s day.

Someday perhaps we will stop our exploration and the frequency of our journeys. We will sleep in beds we own and are not borrowed. We will travel familiar roads without the lingering nomadic call to move on. Perhaps at that moment those roots, shallow and malnourished will find fertile soil and we will dig down, down, down and we will finally be home.

Until then, the urban bedouins journey on…

Revealing All of Our Embarrassing Sins…

“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” -John 4:29

Imagine experiencing this.
Someone knows you, I mean knows you thoroughly. All of your mistakes, your failures, and your deepest, darkest secrets. Can you imagine the shame and embarrassment? I can. Some of us would be absolutely mortified of this prospect. Yet, standing before Jesus the Messiah, this Samaritan woman is filled with complete joy and amazement.

Perhaps she has for too long with her shame. Maybe, as the town’s pariah, she finally found someone who understood her, even showed her respect, and still did not shrink away in disgust and outrage.

Jesus asked her for a drink of water, yet He was there for so much more. He was there to offer her more than just surviving a disgraced life, and she was all too familiar with living with the scorn of her neighbors. Jesus offered her not only a listening ear but in His very presence a modicum of redemption and love. Isn’t that what agape love does for all of us? This Godly love, coming to our level, picking us back up, knowing all that we have done…and despite this knowledge of our shame – still loving us? God, in human flesh, making a way for us to be reunited – Imago Dei restored within us. This atonement: too good to be true, and yet it is. Living water flowing through us, restoring us, renewing us, redeeming us.

“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did…”

Before a wound can be healed, the healer must first see it. Then, all of the impurities of that wound and the potential infection must be removed and the injury – sanitized…

Jesus saw this woman – wound and all. Then living water was given to her.

Still today, Jesus longs to come to each of us, no matter if we consider ourselves sinners or saints, and He wants to see our wounds, our deepest darkest secrets, our shame, and the things that keep us from truly living. He wants to see it all, and he wants to remove the infection from us. Jesus doesn’t want to shame us. He doesn’t want to embarrass us. He comes to our level and offers us this living, restorative water for our body, heart, soul, mind, and spirit.

Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did…”

“…I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” -John 10:10.

If you are still seeking something in life and you struggle with internal shame and sadness in some of the decisions that you have made in life – Jesus desires to give you living water that will cleanse you and help you to live again. This is a new year with new hope, dreams and aspirations. Perhaps, for some of us, it is time to allow Jesus to cleanse us and restore us – and He will.

Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did…”
It’s not as scary and embarrassing as you once thought it was.
Come and see Him today!

Something more to ponder today! God Bless you!
Check out my new podcast on Spotify I will cover more topics like this over on that site so subscribe and get notifications when the next episode drops: https://open.spotify.com/show/0R08uxwKoAJhGGmwbWjd0V

Retrospect & life.

you once asked me,
with a hint of frustration,
what you were good at.
If I could only answer that
in but a simple sentence
but
I cannot.
The book I would
have to write
to explain all the things
that you do
would be immense.
It is not
about being good
but in your case
you exceed
those boundaries
and for that reason
I cannot
fully put into words
the depths
of your mastery
nor the breadth of
your intuition.
But perhaps it has never been
about the goodness
of something
but rather the
journey we take
along the way.

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