Rock Climbing, The Kingdom-Gospel & the Angst It Creates

00 I remember the first time I went rock climbing for real; it was a nightmare.  I was 20 and totally amped going into that weekend of adventure.  For about a month, over multiple lunches, my instructor friend tried to break me in by teaching me all the climbing terminology; ascend, belay, friction knot, hauling, lead climbing, top roping etc.  He showed me how to use the rope as we sat in a parking lot outside our dorm.  He clarified the need for responding to communication while climbing.  We talked about climbing and rappelling a ton.  I really thought I had the hang of it until I actually did it.  It proved to be a stressful and humbling experience.  I couldn’t recall any of the terminology in the heat of the moment.  It was like I had test anxiety while hanging 150 feet up in the air.  My friend was frustrated with my lack of communication and slowness in responding to his.  All the talk in the world could not prep me for the actual immersion in climbing.  I learned quickly that I needed to learn quickly. Being introduced to the Gospel of the Kingdom seems to have the same […]

Lord of the Sabbath

00According to Levitical law the Sabbath is one of the key identity markers for the Israelite’s that they are “of Yahweh.” The rhythm of the Sabbath in all its forms (every 7th day, every 7th year and every 50 years) was the clearest living liturgy to remind them that God cares for them, provides for them and compels them to live generously (God also instructed them to allow the poor to eat off their land on the 7th day and then for an entire year during the 7th year). God gave the Israelite’s the gift of Sabbath to help aid them in keeping track of their place in this world (sorry Michael W. Smith). Sabbath helped the Jews identify whose they were, as well as it was to “bear witness” to the pagan nations. The Sabbath was a living rhythm that communicated the provision of God amongst those who worshiped false gods. So when Jesus gives himself the title “Lord of the Sabbath” in the end of Mark chapter 2 He is stomping on some toes. At the point that Jesus arrives on the scene there are a combined 60 oral and written laws surrounding how to keep the Sabbath. […]

Gospel Thoughts: Insights from the Beginning of Mark.

00 I like to pay attention to how things start. They often give you insight into what matters most in the future. No one likes to hear a story from the middle point. We know intuitively that the beginning of a story typically lays out foundational issues and behaviors that will be addressed or built upon as the story unfolds. One of my favorite movies is Unbreakable by M. Night Shyamalan. In Unbreakable the start of the movie is essential to understanding the climax at the end of the movie. The movie starts out introducing us to a man named David Dunn (Bruce Willis) who is obviously depressed. There is an air of sadness, self-contempt and an overall low self-esteem that hovers over David Dunn. The director makes it clear this guy has very little drive or self-worth. He’s not lazy he’s actually a hard worker; he just has very little belief in himself. His co-workers know it; his wife knows it and the opening sequences make it abundantly clear his own son knows it. Everything else that happens in the story pokes at this issue. The major event in the film being a train crash that he’s the only […]

The Real End of the Age

00What does it mean in Matthew 13 when Jesus says to his disciples “I will be with you until the end of the age.” Jesus promises to be with them until the end of the age. The end of the age in Matthew is not the end of the whole world. Most American evangelicals quickly interpret this phrase and might I dare say read into this phrase; images of a Left Behind type destruction and the rapture of Christians out of this world during some type of apocalypse fantasy where God wages war on the earth, the devil and its ungodly inhabitants. Instead let’s look at this phrase “end of the age” in context to what the present disciples and Jews were experiencing and would inevitably face in their actual life time, not our life time. The end of the age was the end of an era, temple worship (John 4:20-) and ethnic status. The end of the age is the last judgment on God’s chosen people Israel. When was this you might ask? During the last days of his earthly life Jesus had assembled his disciples together on the Mt. of Olives overlooking the Temple. The disciples were uncertain […]

How We Are Defined

00Most of us know the feeling of exhilaration when we are part of a large group united against a common enemy. There’s a certain energy elicited. It’s exhilarating. There is a certain “high” we feel as we all have something to fight against. It is always easier to unite a community around a common enemy than cultivate goals together that will create a preferred future. This is a personality of cultures – it’s incredibly easy to organize a people against a common enemy. This modus-operandi has infiltrated the church. As an organized church we’ve been increasingly defining ourselves over-and-against others. We have made it our mission to make the central focus of being a Christian; what we are against. This dynamic however has a shelf life and the current church has not seemed to figure it out. The church consistently attempts to define itself by what it’s against. We cannot lead a community this way without constantly keeping the threat of the “others” preeminent. If we somehow don’t have enemies, then we must invent them or else the community will have nothing to get excited about. This kind of church culture works off an antagonistic energy. The continual enmity is […]

Reclaiming the Kingdom of God

00A snapshot from the study/conversation our Axiom church planting team is currently journeying through. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are all in their various ways about God going public on earth about the kingdom of God. The central message is that the Creator God, Israel’s God, is at last reclaiming the whole world as His own, in and through Jesus of Nazareth. That is the message of the kingdom of God, which is Jesus’ answer to the question, What would it look like if God were running this show? Arguably the fullest vision of what the Reign of God looks like is contained in the great discourses of the Gospels, The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew (Matthew 5-7) and The Sermon on the Plain in Luke (Luke 6: 17-49). Here we are presented with beatitudes which turn the world upside down. The things which the world blesses; violence, greed, power, comfort, hoarding, self-defense, physical-indulgence, vengeance, selfishness and wealth are not blessed by God. Instead, Jesus says that God blesses the meek, the teachable, the generous, those who hunger for truth, the desperate, those persecuted for their loyalty to Jesus, those who carry burdens for others, the pure in motive, […]

1st Priority?

00Jesus entrance into this world, His death and His resurrection marked the beginning of His earthly and eternal term in office as the Good King of this world. It inaugurated His reign. The entire book of Colossians states loudly the qualifications of the Lord Jesus Christ as He begins to set up His earthly kingdom. Colossians 1:15-20 “When we look at the Son we see the invisible God. For in Jesus Christ all things were created and find their original purpose. For absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank of angels—everything gets it start in Him and finds its purpose in Him. He is before all things and He holds all things together. He is the founder and leader of the church. He was supreme in the beginning and through His resurrection He is supreme in the end. From beginning to end He’s there, reigning over everything. Everything finds its fullness and its proper place in submission to Him. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of this world are recovered and put back together by Him”. Why is the so significant? Jesus was stating His rightful place as the integrity-center of life. […]

Clearing Space for the Gospel: Part 1

00 The gospel needs room, room to breathe. We don’t realize it sometimes but we can gradually suffocate the gospel’s power in our lives and in our church communities. It happens ever so slowly. The centrality of what Jesus Christ did, began, said and accomplished can be scootched to the perimeter of our spiritual life without us being aware of it. In my assessment I don’t think we intentionally take something that is at the center of our lives and move it aggressively to the back corner of our lives. In most cases something else subtly begins to take center stage and whatever was there before finds that it doesn’t have space anymore and so vacates the center. In the next few blogs I want to briefly converse about 3 different agendas (politics, moralism and pragmatism) that end up crowding out the power and life of the Gospel in a church or in an individual life. For this post let’s look at political agendas. There is an interesting back story to Judas the betrayer. Judas was a rich man and an active member of the Zealot Political Party of the Jews. This political party was advocating for the forceful removal […]