Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Paul, spiritual giant, striving to be free:

So, I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

If Paul, of all people, fought this hard for freedom, how can we do any less for ourselves?
How can we do any less for others?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Betrayal is kind of a big thing. It normally isn't something you just jump into. I can't imagine a husband just waking up one morning and saying, "I think I'll cheat on my wife today." I highly doubt that Benedict Arnold had a sudden revelation of, "I'm gonna switch sides, that's the ticket." These things happen over time, they are the culmination of a series of small decisions, small choices, ones that may seem insignificant at the time. Which decisions like this am I making?

If I was going to turn my back on my country, it might start with disagreeing with government decisions or regretting paying taxes or doubting the abilities of our leaders. Uh oh. If I was going to cheat on my wife (WHICH I'M NOT), it might start with fantasies about celebrities, looking too long at other women in real life or having intimate conversations with other ladies.

When do we check ourselves? When do we look at our lives and see what tiny choices are leading us in the wrong direction?

During the Last Supper, Jesus told the disciples that he would be betrayed by one of them. The guys got a little nervous. They started checking themselves and their hearts. They asked Jesus if they would be the one.

Here's the point...
Some of us will cheat on our wives. If I want to uphold the promise I've made not to, I've got to check myself and see where I'm messing up. If I just blindly say, "Nope, I'm good, nothing to worry about here," I've already lost.

All of us are in bondage in one way or another, we're not free. If I want to experience life the way God intended, I've got to check myself and see where I'm not free. If I just blindly say, "Of course I'm free, nobody can tell me what to do," I've already lost.
Some of us

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Faux Freedom

He lived among the tombs and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him.

Now this sounds like freedom. "No one had the strength to subdue him." Nobody could tell this guy what to do. Imagine that, he would be completely free...

Except he was possessed by demons and used this "freedom" to hang out in graveyards, cry out in pain and repeatedly cut himself with stones. How different is he from so many on us. Free on the outside, completely bound on the inside.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Discipleship is Leading while Staying out of the Way

"A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind."
- from Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom p19

Thursday, February 11, 2010


20 years ago today, Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in prison in South Africa. He was imprisoned for "sabotage" against the South African government, particularly for his work against apartheid, or segregation. In essence, we was thrown in jail for trying to free his race from oppression. In honor of this anniversary, I'm picking up a copy of Mandela's autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom" from the library this afternoon.

I don't know what it is like to be in prison. I don't know what it is like to be a prisoner in my own country. But, in some way I do know what it is like to be a prisoner. I know what it is like to be held hostage by sin and shame. And I know the relief and joy of being set free. I know the struggle that I went through to get free and the daily fight that it takes to stay free.

I also know that there are some areas of my life where I'm not free. I'm still be a prisoner of finding the approval of others and of my need to succeed. I still fight to understand that God loves me and will use me even if I'm not perfect. I'm still bound by thinking that God's blessings for me and the church are tied to how good I am. I still need to find freedom.

That's why I'm excited that Parkside is spending 6 weeks to travel together on the road to Freedom. I'm excited to journey with the members of my group together to find where we're captives and to fight for our freedom and the freedom of others.

Monday, February 8, 2010


9 times.

From when Jesus shows up in verse 9 until the end of the first chapter of Mark, the word "immediately" is used 9 times. One could argue that the authors (or translators) just got lazy and repetitive and kept using the same adverb to describe the events surrounding Jesus. We could also argue that the whole of Mark 1 happened in about the span of 39 seconds - each event happening right on the heals of the last. Or we could argue that Jesus is just incredible.

When he shows up on the scene, things change. Things do not go according to plan. The natural order is not followed. The timing we get used to in normal life gets turned on its head. The world with Jesus in it is a different place. Immediately.

When Jesus is added to a situation even today, we can expect results immediately. Don't get me wrong, they might not be the results we want, but there will be results.

Sell all you have and give it to the poor. You'll see results immediately.
Love your enemies. Immediate results.
Bless those who curse you. Immediate results.
Love God with all your heart, soul and strength. Immediate results.
Love your neighbor as yourself. Immediate results.

If we take Jesus at his word and truly follow him, our lives will change. Immediately.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

My wife has a decision to make. We discussed it thoroughly last night. We made a Pros and Cons list. We prayed about it. We stressed about it. We think we've come down on one side of the choice. We also think that in the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter.

She'll still learn and grow no matter what she is faced with. She'll still build relationships and be intentional with them, regardless of who her coworkers are. Her life will still be about following Jesus and discipling others, no matter where she works.

That's the only decision that really matters, the rest is just details.

Like Esther, she was made for a time such as this.
(The place can go either way.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mysterious Fear

The (final) season premiere of LOST was last night and true to form, nothing was cleared up and more questions were raised. (Talk about split personalities!) That's the show's modus operandi and that is why people love it. It is a mystery. It keeps people guessing and never makes things completely crystal clear. We love intrigue. We love not knowing. We love to guess and dream.
But only on TV.

In real life, mystery is a whole different matter. Then we want certainty, fact and proof. If geometry class taught us anything it is that we can't just look at two triangles with two like angles and say that they are proportional; we have to write a page-long proof in something resembling a foreign language to make certain.

Mystery in real life means danger. It means we don't know what's going to happen, so we can't take every precaution before it happens. It's no mystery that driving a car into a tree, telephone pole, brick wall or another car will cause the car to stop faster than those riding in the car. We know this, so we can prepare with seat belts, antilock brakes and airbags. Less mystery, less danger, less fear.

I say forget that. No mystery means no excitement means no fun. No mystery means no fear means no faith. Jesus spends all of Matthew 24 confusing his disciples. He tells them the temple is going to come crashing down, that people will claim to be him, that there will be wars and famines and destruction and false prophets and death and destruction and that they will never know when the end is really coming. He fills them with mystery... and with fear.

Fear and mystery aren't the end goal, but they are main ingredients in what Jesus was really preparing. Faith is trusting God in the midst of fear and mystery. Jesus tells them that their futures will have plenty of both, it is up to them to trust him through it all. The same it true of us.

We spend so much time trying to figure God out, when really we should be focused on trusting him when we're scared and unsure.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tricky, Tricky, Tricky

I try not to be skeptical.
I try to think the best of situations.
I try not to look for the catch.

I'm sitting in Starbucks looking at their new promotional materials. The ask the question, "Can we buy you a drink?" This year they've rebranded their rewards cards in an effort to "serve their customers better". The short of it is this, if you earn enough points to get a Gold Card, you get every 15th drink free. What could be better than free drinks? How about more free drinks?

The Gold Card is a replacement for the black card. Last year you could buy a black card and anytime you used it, you got 10% off any drink. To compare - Gold Card = 15th drink free. Black Card = 10% off. A little math shows the clever little catch. Assuming you had the Black Card, you were actually getting every 10th drink free, you just didn't get it all at once. They've reduced the benefit by 50% and claim its an upgrade. Tricky.

Free Drinks! It sounds good. It sounds good. It sounds like a deal. It's a trick.

Freedom can work the same way. There's an enemy out there that tries to sell us a warped version of freedom. "Do whatever you want." "You're your own boss." "You deserve to be happy." "You've suffered long enough." "Who knows better than you?" "It won't hurt." "What do they know?" "What is right for you is right." "It can all be yours." "Just try it, you'll like it." "Nobody will ever know." "You can make up for it later." "The ends justify the means." "Just this once."

The idea is that freedom is doing whatever you want, whenever you want with whoever you want for whatever reason you want and as often as you want. It boils down to a bristling, "Nobody can tell me what to do." It's a trick.

There is a world out there that wants to imprison us with fear, with guilt, with addiction, with a need for attention, with bonds that we think are just a part of life. This twisted version of "freedom" is a trap to lure us in. It is a bait and switch. We're offered freedom from everything outside, when we really need freedom from ourselves. Tricky.