Resurrection

Jesus Empty tomb

Death is the one time we see Jesus angry in one situation and tearful in another. Death for all even God is a powerful occurrence.

He responded to one of his disciples, “Let the dead bury themselves…” (Matt 8:22) when a young follower needed to go to a family funeral, Jesus was angry because other business had to be taken care of at that moment.

In another incident Jesus was approached by two sisters who had a history with him; Mary and Martha. Their brother Lazarus was lying dead in a tomb and they needed the help of Jesus. (John 11)

A pause follows, and then we read that Jesus wept, simply and shortly said, but powerfully visual (John 11:35) this thing called death even brought Jesus to tears.

When I hear that vibrant “come forth” for Lazarus to rise out of that tomb from the lips of a trembling Jesus, I personally hear, come forth dead dreams, dead hopes. Maybe Jesus was trying to hint at something bigger than just physical death. He being God would have been familiar with death and departure.

I am defined by what I overcome.

Jesus taught that we, yes you, and even me, we can overcome this death. Because I’ve died, I’ve woken up and I’ve felt so dead some mornings and with some unexpected blessing Life comes out of nowhere.

This week we have heard much about death and even Jesus resurrecting. Often in my teaching I quote Paul in his principle of an often spiritual and physical meaning in many things. Many of the acts of Jesus are not unavoidable instances but certain solid statements. The cross was a statement. The resurrection was a statement for each and everyone of us. The resurrection was not about death is was about Life.

I can go on all day about life because I’ve experienced death, death is not who I am, I have overcome death, and I am overcoming death every day.

Death cannot stop you, depression cannot stop you. Life is promised to you.

In the Christian life we will view death as less of an unexpected occurrence and more of an opportunity for Life.

Death is an opportunity for God to bring back things that have died and bring life again.

Those unfinished classes.

That business.

That record.

That book.

I’m sure you’ve had some dead things in your life and maybe still have some dead things. But today is a reminder that dead is no longer the end. Jesus proved to us that death does not have the last word. Go and experience life this week.

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What Jesus taught me about being an ass

6214666-jesus-journey-on-the-donkey“And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him.
And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither.
And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him.
And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt?”

Mark 11:2

We have an example of a God who would come bearing weakness and wearing brokenness. A God who came giving up his robe rather than wearing it. A God who sat in the dirt with a whore rather than on a throne, and ate with the scum. This is a God who needs me, even in my imperfection.

Heading into Passover Jesus called for a donkey to enter the city in.

In what I consider one of the Bibles most revealing and revolutionary statements Jesus says, “The Lord has need.”

Jesus has a need!

We receive a vital piece of information and insight into the person of Jesus by finding that he has a need for something and in that moment it is a need for a donkey.

As I’ve always taught and will continue to teach, the Bible has more layers and deeper meanings that will allow God to speak in a new way.

This story isn’t just about an ass that was an animal in the right place and right time to give the savior a ride though the city.

That colt is all of us; you and me. It is the story of a life bound and forgotten not being  experienced and one day a savior smiles upon him.

Why, because he has to make himself feel great? No. He has need.

He has need of a person tied down. He has need of that junky that has lost everything. He has need of that teen who feels like failure awaits every person she attempts to love.

This is one of the most powerful verses in scripture because it tells us why.

For God so loved…

But why?

Because he had need!

It’s exciting to me because this means Jesus wanted me with all my doubts.

Jesus wanted me even with all of my mess.

He wanted me with all my uncertainties and my insecurities. He has a need for me.

The gospel isn’t about winning souls; it’s about connecting an ass that is tied up to a savior who will liberate.

One thing I just have to say that I love about this scripture is that Jesus chooses the inexperienced donkey.

He didn’t want the donkey that traveled the land. He didn’t want a donkey who knew what it was like to carry a king. He wanted the donkey that was tied up and never ridden.

Some of the best people for the job will have never done the job.

Some of the best experience is the least experience.

The end of the verse reflects often what we see in our own lives as we begin something new.

As the disciples untied the colt and was about to bring it to Jesus as he asked, people questioned.

How many times have you wanted to start something, a business or even a career and the people around you seem to have all these questions.

Jesus had no incentive to question this colt, he just wanted to free it.

Don’t ever let your inexperience hinder you from dreaming. Out of your inexperience will come many blessings. You may be an ass with no experiance, no money and nothing looking up, But Jesus has need for you.

Struggling with Perfection

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“You shall be perfect with the LORD your God”
Deut 18:13

Man searches for perfection. God charges us with perfection. However perfection is not always what we think.

In the passage above, Moses commands us to be tamim (תָּמִים), or, “finished,” “complete,” or “perfect” before the LORD. This Hebrew word is not defined as ideal moral perfectionism but is defined as being thoroughly made or heading to a complete or wholeness.

The rabbi note that tamim is used to describe completed years (Gen. 47:18); healthy animal sacrifices (Lev. 22:21-22); nourishing vines (Ezek. 15:5); truthful speech (Amos 5:10); finished building projects (1 Kings 6:22); and even the fulfilled destruction of a people (Num. 14:33).
Jesus echoed this when He said, “Be perfect…” (Matt. 5:48).

Our definition of perfection is different than God’s definition of perfection.

Perfection is not in an action, but in an acceptance. An acceptance of the perfection you are pursuing in your life.

God created and did things that we would see as imperfect. Since perfection isn’t a standard but a labor, perfection will then look different for each person.

Perfection is not something to be obtained but something to be embraced.

I am no longer struggling with perfection.

I am no longer striving to be perfect.

I, me. I am thriving as a perfect, complete me.

Our Last Easter

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Our last Easter

With a handful of colored eggs and Jesus in a tomb on TV. I had the task of explaining Easter to my two year old.

If Easter is to offer a universal truth that goes beyond age and culture, then our celebration of Easter isn’t to be wrapped in atonement arguments or something as mundane as colored eggs and candy. My explanation couldn’t include the roots of 13 Century gods, bunnies or religion. It had to be bigger.

With this task ahead, I wanted to get rid of my theological assumptions and explanations and figure out what the Easter season means to me and my son.

Growing up I knew what it was like to fall; to be down.

Emotionally my childhood was spent very low. What often brought me back to the Jesus story was the notion of resurrection, and we are celebrating that around the world very soon. But how does a child understand resurrection?

I speak of resurrection not fully in the physical sense of rising from the dead. But the metaphorical idea of things not ending when it looks as if the end has come.

My two year old like many kids know what it’s like to fall or get hurt. He knows what it’s like to crash into a wall or two. He often knows what it’s like to be stopped in his tracks.

So we sat down last week and my explanation of Easter didn’t include bunnies or tombs but something he and I could relate to very easily.

I told him we would be celebrating possibilities and second chances.
You might find us eating candy, or painting eggs we may read some scriptures of the resurrection.

But most of all Easter at our house will be celebrating the timeless example of Jesus and that dead things, dead dreams, dead opportunities do not have to die. They can rise up.

How will your family be celebrating the Easter season this year?

An Undeserved Love

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—-
Mark 10:17-22

As Jesus started on His way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before Him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone. you know the commandments: “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honour your father and mother.”
‘Teacher,’ he declared, ‘all these I have kept since I was a boy.’
Jesus looked at him and loved him.
‘One thing you lack’, he said, ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. The come, follow me.’
At this, the man’s face fell. he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
—-

A few months back I was visiting a church in a small suburb of Cincinnati. I was ushered around the church in a spur of the moment tour.

I was told how the building is a city landmark and of the recent remodeling and modernizing of the sanctuary and meeting areas.

At one point in my Christian life I would have listened attentively and gasped in exclamation of the work this church had completed. However my mind wandered as he spoke of the church only being able add genuine marble to walls and pillars as if they had failed somehow. The giant translucent cross on the stage was hand carved into one solid piece of precious stone and lit with color LED lights.

As he went over a small list of the remodeling and additions I couldn’t help but notice after living in this city for year I had never heard of it. Later I asked dozens of homeless individuals, children in foster care and others I work with. But no one had heard of it.

Jesus, being approached by this man we have dubbed “The Rich Young Ruler”, notices one thing at the forefront of the conversation. The mans definition of Good is very twisted. But even still he kept the law. He did what was written. He was successful.

Jesus told him he’s lacking something bigger; giving.

Most of you reading the beginning of this stood where I stood. We gathered a distaste for this church. I wanted to hate them. Money going into the walls (literally) and not into the community of where it’s needed.

What hit me was how Jesus reacted to his “wrongness.” He was wrong, he was lacking, and Jesus said so.

But what reaction do we see from Jesus?

Subtly it’s written, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”

It’s easy to say we wanna love the misfits when we are misfits. But to extend our love to those of pious living, selfishness and hate… That is a true test of faith.

I walked out of that church that day and loved what they were creating. One thing they lacked, but I looked at them and loved them.

Scars

Scars can be painful, what I mean to say is that scars can ultimately be full of pain, even after the incident occurs.
Scars don’t solve, they usually are prone to bring more questions to the surface. Scars don’t resolve, they often offer more confusion, and the questions begin to follow.
Why me?
Why not him or her, or them?
Or even why, just why?
What often happens is that a scar or event can become part of our physical, spiritual or emotional makeup. We let this tragic event in so much that it becomes part of us. That ugly event, that moment of hurt is now a part of you.
I love the phrase, “light of the world.” I do however think it is a little lost on this society. The light of the world isn’t a lamp or light. (Matt 5:14)
What is it that lights up the world? Stars. Stars light up the natural sky and the world around us. Stars would have been the light of the world.
Stars are made from gaseous explosions and collisions of elements. What we are looking at are bruises of the universe. We are gazing at the travail of the worlds around us.
Let me put it this way, stars are the scars of the universe.
A star is the result of something that couldn’t make it, couldn’t contain itself so it combusted; stars are the wounds of the worlds.
Just as these stars that surround us I bet you have some scars, some physical, some spiritual, some mental and some emotional.
My arms are filled with visual reminders of the physical pain I inflicted on myself in my teen years, over 15 years later they are still there for the world to see. I used to cover my arms, I used to be ashamed but now I have a beautiful story of triumph and overcoming to tell. My scars contribute to my beauty.
You and the wounds you carry are very much like those stars we stare at, I would challenge you to think twice about the way you look at your own scars. There can indeed be beauty in devastation.
We don’t look at the stars in the universe and say how tragic they are, how bruised they are, even though that is what they are. We look at them and speak of the beauty they contain. The inspiration they give us.

Even though stars are the scars of the universe we don’t see them as these broken pieces of gaseous matter, we see them as these majestic astrological blessings that give hope to billions.

What if you saw yourself in that same light, or better yet what if you saw others in a similar way; beautiful despite…? Or as Jesus calls each one of us to shine, inspire and offer light, despite….

–Taken from Ricky’s new book Barefoot Christianity available now wherever books are sold.

Reflections of God’s greatest Artwork

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For as long as Man has existed there have been metaphors to explain the relationship between man and God. The one metaphor I personally enjoy is God as a type of artist.

In the Bible we see references and explanations of God as a poet, as an artist, as a painter, as a sculptor and as a potter.

God is not solely an artist, But God at this moment in your life may be acting as an artist.

In keeping with that characteristic of God we must remember the work of an artist, sculptor, painter or potter is not finished until the artist says it is finished. God has not finished his work in you yet. This is a beautiful word for where a lot of us are at right now.

God’s work in me is not done yet. God’s work in my life is not done yet. God’s work in my ministry is not done yet. That the work that God is doing in my family is not completed yet. The work that God is doing in my doctrine and my theology, in my life is not finished yet. The Bible exclaims this theme by stating, “He who began a good work in you… Will carry it on to completion.” (Philippians 1:6)

Also it is important to remember that the beauty of a work of art is only relative to the beauty that the artist sees in it. Onlookers may not see the same beauty that the artist sees. What may look as a blemish to some, to the artist it is a perfect representation of his imagination.

What may look like a blemish in your life may be God the artist’ inspiration and imagination coming to life. That bad attitude, that impulsive nature, the OCD or ADD isn’t a blemish on the artwork that is you, it is a representation of God’s divine imagination.

You are an artwork of the creator. Some may stare and not get it.
Others may mumble and rant about the seemingly slight imperfections.
But you are a culmination of God’s imagination.