Archive for April, 2013

Peter’s audience was well acquainted with injustice. They were persecuted because of their Christian faith by their neighbors, the Roman Empire, and even by their masters (employers). We tend to think of adversity as a form of injustice, but the biblical model for injustice lies primarily in the hands of people, not circumstances.

Recent news headlines have shared stories of injustice, such as happened to Brian Banks. At 17, Brian Banks had what high school junior’s dream of. Ranked 11th nationwide as middle linebacker, the Californian had committed to play football at the University of Southern California after a series of offers from other Division 1 schools. All of that went away the day he was wrongfully convicted of rape. Now, at age 27, after spending five years in prison, five on probation and receiving an exoneration due to the accuser admitting she made up the story, Banks revived his dream and was recently signed with the Atlanta Falcons.

1 Peter 1:12-25 outlines some basic principles for how Christians can appropriately respond when facing injustice.

1. Christ is our example and he expects us to do the right thing regardless of how we’ve been treated. (1 Peter 2:21)
2. If Jesus was treated unfairly, we can not assume that we are exempt to unjust treatment just because we are Christians. (1 Peter 2:22)
3. Retaliation and revenge are not options available to us. (1 Peter 2:23)
4. God is the judge and He will settle every injustice either in this life or the life to come. (1 Peter 2:23b)
5. We do not have the strength to overcome unfair treatment on our own. Christ’s death empowers us to do the right thing. (1 Peter 2:24)
6. We must trust God, for God has pledged to be the guardian of your soul. (1 Peter 2:25)

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Four years ago today I posted the first of 706 posts here at I began with three goals for my blog. I wanted to post frequently enough to develop a base of resources that could be easily accessed. While some of my individual posts have been gratifying, my deeper sense of fulfillment has been the site as a whole. One of our new members approached me Sunday and remarked that he had checked out the blog. His comment was, “There’s a lot of stuff on there.” That was my first objective–I wanted to create something worth my time over the long haul.

My second goal was to say something substantive. I am actively involved in social media and have a Facebook account, a Twitter account, and a Linked In account. Those are the places I go when I want to share random pictures of my dessert and such. Here, however, I wanted to say something of value so that the site is worth your time. So I’ll do some theology or share a quick book review. I also try to share helpful articles related to pastoral ministry or culture that I find interesting, even though I tend not to comment on those articles. Your time is limited and you have more to read than you can get to. So before I publish, I ask myself a quick question, “Is this a waste of the reader’s time?”

Finally, I wanted to make theology and pastoral ministry my primary pursuit. Perhaps the secret to the longevity of this site has been that I have tried to post subject matter from a posture of strength instead of weakness, and have preferred topics that interest me versus topics that I think interest you. I don’t know if that makes me selfish, but it does keep me coming back to the keyboard three to five times per week.

I would like to thank some people who’ve helped me along the way. Without their help I wouldn’t have gotten past the first month. I’d like to thank my long time friend Greg Clark who has supported me in many ways over the past 15 years, not least of which was the donation of a Mac Book Pro from which the lion’s share of these posts have been composed. I’d also like to thank Brent Clark who kept me from paying stupid tax in the blogosphere. Brent set up my first site on Blogger, then did the transition to Word Press. He did many of the enhancements that made the site appealing and easy to navigate. I’d like to thank Tara Reiter-Marolff who helped with the graphic design for the site that you see, and finally Terence Hancock who over the past several months has maintained and updated it as needed.

Most of all I’d like to thank those of you who read, subscribe, and recommend my blog. When I began I had no idea that after four years it would reach thousands of readers from all seven continents. I never cease to be amazed at how our world has grown smaller through technology. While writing for this site is something I do primarily for myself, I am deeply humbled when anytime something I’ve written blesses or benefits anyone in anyway.

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I came across an important article this weekend that is worth your time. Barna has released yet another study on charitable contributions in America, including comparative numbers between evangelicals and other faiths as well as other useful information. If you have interest in church finances either as a minister or a volunteer you need to check out these IMPORTANT STATISTICS.

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As a part of my preparation for last weekend’s message on the second Eden, I came across a list of 12 things that won’t be in heaven. Check it out:

1. No more sea (Revelation 21:1)
2. No more tears (Revelation 21:4)
3. No more death (Revelation 21:4)
4. No more mourning (Revelation 21:4)
5. No more crying (Revelation 21:4)
6. No more pain (Revelation 21:4)
7. No more thirst (Revelation 21:6)
8. No more wickedness (Revelation 21:8, 27)
9. No more Temple (Revelation (21:22)
10. No more night (Revelation 21:23-25; 22:5)
11. No more closed gates (Revelation 21:25)
12. No more curse (Revelation 22:3)

The curious representative on this list is the sea. I’ve been to the ocean as the primary destination of family vacations as you probably have. And like you, we had a pretty good time. So why is the sea absent from heaven? In biblical literature, the sea is symbolic of chaos and danger. Further, it is symbolic of evil. In previous chapters in Revelation, for example, the “beast” rises from the sea, then is cast into the lake of fire consummating his doom. Its an interesting concept, especially when you think of the children of Israel passing through the parted waters of the Red Sea, the story of Jonah, Jesus walking on water and calming the Sea of Galilee, and Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 27-28 en route to Rome.

Categories : Gardens
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Second Eden: The Garden of Forever

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Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:1-5, NLT).

The Bible begins with a garden and ends with a garden. It is the goal toward which all creation is moving. Sometimes people ask the question, “What is the meaning of life?” The short answer, for me anyway, is to view life as a gift from God whereby we come to know Him and enjoy him forever. The final garden of Scripture is a picture of life in eternity with God.

Before the end comes the end of evil. Revelation 20 describes the climactic end of evil. It’s not the conquest of evil, for that was achieved by Christ on the cross. With the coming of Christ comes the cessation of all evil in the world. On the heels of that end comes life forever with God in the garden.

The first thing the Apostle John wants the reader to know about heaven is that everything there is new. He writes of a new heaven, a new earth, and a new city (Jerusalem). At the same time, all that is old is gone forever. When John speaks of the newness of second Eden, he intends for us to understand that its not another of the same kind. It’s not a re-mastered or remixed edition of the old. It is new in kind. There is enough continuity that makes it recognizable, but this new heaven and new earth is the unveiling of a totally transformed and redeemed place. Everything that was lost in original Eden will then be redeemed and renewed.

The second thing John cites is that this city is holy and new, separate and unique from anything we have known or experienced. The fact that it is a city reminds us of the communal nature of our faith. And the fact that it comes down from God helps us understand that it is a gift. It’s not like our city’s growth which is often described as building up. It comes down from God. It’s beauty and presentation is like a bride prepared to come down the aisle.

The purpose of all of this is to restore God’s presence among his people…the kind of presence Adam and Eve enjoyed in original Eden where God came and spoke freely with them in the cool of the day. God is so vested in this new city that He calls it his home. Home is a place of consolation, and we find consolation from God as he wipes away all tears from our eyes. They are not tears of joy, but the tears that came from sin’s distortion of God’s purposes for people. This is such a vivid and certain image that God instructed John to put it in writing. It’s going to happen this way!
John pauses at this moment to share an invitation. The new heaven, the new earth and city have been unveiled for us so that we might live with hope. But there are many who are without hope.

“It is finished! I am the Alpha and Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be there God, and they will be my children” (Revelation 21:6-7).

This is Jesus’ invitation to find life and experience immortality in his presence in eternity. But the invitation implies a choice.

“But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshippers, and all liars—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

In short, all are invited, but not all will accept the invitation. We may be tempted to read verse eight and then use it as an instrument of judgment or to make it a point of arrogance. But that’s not the point. The point of included verse eight is to remind us that as the people of God we are on mission. While we may be comforted and even inspired by John’s images of heaven, we must be reminded that we are called to carry the message to those who need the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.

Categories : Gardens
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Why Our Kids Are Leaving Church

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Marc Solos has a thought provoking article posted on The article gives ten reasons why our kids go through our children and youth ministries and then depart from the life of the church. This one is worth your time! You can read it by clicking HERE.

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The Value of Seminary Education

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I waited until I was 33 years old to attend seminary. For me, seminary education meant that I had to uproot my family of four and relocate, crossing two state lines to do so. Even though I had a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology, the standard was still Master’s level work. I had two failed attempts at non traditional seminary education, one through and accredited seminary that offered satellite classes at a local college and the other through a non accredited correspondence school. Staying with one meant that it would take years to complete the cycle of offerings that would come to me. Seeing through the correspondence route meant that at the end of the substantial investment of time and money I still would have an unaccredited degree.

Part of my problem was the sheer irony of it all. On one hand, I felt judged that I had not attended seminary. At the same time, those who were most prone to judge my lack of formalized theological education were simultaneously the most committed to condemning their own seminary experience. They would say things like, “Seminary didn’t prepare me for ministry,” or “The don’t teach (fill in the practical skill set) in seminary.”

I graduated with my Master’s of Divinity in 1998, and completed my Doctor of Ministry Degree in 2005. Looking back, I have no regrets. While my seminary experience was not perfect by any means, I’m glad I went because I went for the education, not the degree. I was fortunate to have met many outstanding Christian men and women who passionately taught their subject matter, and even though I was enrolled in a large seminary, took the time to learn my name, ask about my story, and care about my calling. Cynicism was quickly erased as one professor explained the purpose of the experience. He told me that the purpose of seminary was not to give me every answer I would need for ministry, but to prepare me to be an ongoing learner. Seminary was designed to provide the tools I would need to discover the answers myself.

It was with that challenge I undertook nine years of graduate education. I’m glad I did, and I’m glad I did it the right way. This mild reflection comes to you courtesy of Skye Jethani, who blogged yesterday about the CURRENT STATE OF SEMINARY EDUCATION in America. I hope you’ll read his post, for I think he does a good job of raising some very important questions about where seminary education is and the direction it needs to take.

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The Garden of Immortality

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John chapter 20 begins with this: “Early on Sunday morning while it was still dark…”
That simple phrase tells the reader that something transitional has happened. The plot has moved from the last day of the week to the first, and darkness is preparing to give way to dawn.

Early on Sunday morning while it was still dark Mary went to the tomb and saw the stone had been rolled away. There she made an assumption: someone had taken the body of the Lord. In a culture where grave robbing had become common enough to earn capital punishment, Mary assumed something was wrong. So she ran to tell the disciples. Peter and John ran to the tomb and looked in and went home. For the first time in three years Peter was speechless.

Even though the men left Mary lingered. She stayed and decided to take a look for herself. Surely her mind was preoccupied with her last memories—stuck in the yesterday of death and loss. She was hitched to history, so to speak. John reports that she was crying. Literally “wailing” as she looked into the tomb. She wept alone. Jewish culture valued community mourning so much that it was not uncommon for families to hire professional mourners to come along side them in times of grief. But in this instance, Mary wept by herself.

When your eyes are clouded with tears, your vision is distorted.

As the story unfolds we read that there were two angels in the tomb. The text is unclear as to whether or not Mary recognized them as such. It would appear that Mary stood in the midst of the supernatural and miraculous and didn’t even know it. As she turned to leave she saw Jesus. Again, she didn’t recognize him. She thought he was the gardener who had come to tend to the work of the day. Her tears kept her from seeing the reality of the present and the possibility of the future.

In that moment, Jesus asked her two questions. “Why are you crying?” and “Who are you looking for?” She offered no answer but we know that Mary was crying over something that wasn’t real and that she was looking for someone that wasn’t there. It occurred to me that most of our tears are Friday tears: tears of pain, loss, guilt, regret, failure, and sin. Tears tied to last week, last month, or last year. Many times we are like Mary, guilty of looking for something that doesn’t exist to bring comfort to our broken hearts. But things are different. It’s daybreak of the first day of the week.

It all turned when Jesus called her name. “Mary!” Upon hearing her name, Mary utters a new cry, “Teacher!” and clung to him. Jesus didn’t scold her for clinging to him. He simply wanted her to understand that with the resurrection a chapter had closed and a new one had begun. Things were different. Jesus wasn’t going back to his past three years of ministry. He was going forward. He would ascend, the Spirit would descend, and the Church would be birthed.

Because of that Mary was given a special job. She was called upon to carry the first gospel message to the disciples. Friday is over. Sunday has come. It’s a new day and there’s a new life to live.

Categories : Easter, Gardens
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