Thursday, May 27, 2010


What does your soul long for? What is it that you want most in life? What competes for your heart? What do you desire?

So many times we hear this word and think of erotic passion, but it doesn't only have that particular meaning. U2 sings about desire as ambition, addiction, power, riches, love, position or fame:

Lover, I'm off the street
Gonna go where the bright lights and the big city meet
With a red guitar, on fire

She's a candle burning in my room
Yeah, I'm like the needle, needle and spoon
Over the counter with a shotgun
Pretty soon, everybody got one
And the fever, when I'm beside her
Desire, desire

And the fever getting higher
Desire, desire
Burning, burning

She's the dollars, she's my protection
Yeah, she's a promise in the year of election
Oh sister, I can't let you go
I'm like a preacher stealing hearts at a travelling show
For love or money, money, money...
And the fever, getting higher
Desire, desire
Desire, desire

Your desire might be one of these. Or, it might be something particular for you, something that is uniquely yours, something special. Desire drives us, pushes us, moves us on to bigger and better things.

Or it destroys us.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. The desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

It all comes down to what you desire.
Are the desires that drive you God's desires, or your desires?
Are you regularly working to bring your desires in line with God's?
Who is helping you?
Who knows your true desires?
Who is holding you accountable?

ESV props

"While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab."

My compliments to the translators of the English Standard Version. Using whore as a verb is always an accomplishment. (And so much more readable than 'live in whoredom'.)

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

False Advertising

I drive by a certain church on my way to work (also at a church) that ummm.... creatively uses their front sign to ummm.... educate? entertain? amuse? Invite? Anyway, they put lots of different sayings on their front sign. Right now it says, "Free trip to heaven! Details inside."

Fun. Funny. False. For too long this is how we've presented Christianity. It's easy, it's fun and you get a great prize for playing. We've cheapened it.

Our society caters to the consumer. We offer choice and price competition on nearly everything. Why should church be any different? If we can advertise the lowest cost and the best pay-out at the end, we should get the most customers, right?

Apple doesn't play this way. They are convinced their product surpasses all others and they refuse to cheapen it with sales or slashed prices. APPL stock is at an all time high. Coincidence?

Why don't we place the same value on Christianity? If you take your faith seriously you know it is the furthest thing from free. In fact, it will cost you everything you have. Yet, we try to portray it as cheap or free.

Instead, we need to remember that nothing out there compares to a relationship with God. Christianity surpasses all and it is worth the cost.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


You can't consume your way to discipleship.

- Alan Hirsch

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Love is a Battlefield

Two blocks from my house I saw a teen being lead away in handcuffs this morning. I have no idea who he was or what happened, but seeing that sucks. It makes me feel like this:

My heart is in anguish before me;
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
And I say, "Oh that I had wings like a dove!"
I would fly away and be at rest;
yes, I would wander far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness;
I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.

There are things that make us want to run and hide, to bury our heads in the sand, to escape from the evils of the world. That's what I wanted to do this morning. I didn't want to deal with the junk that goes on just yards from my house. I didn't want to help in the lives of others. I just wanted to escape.

Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues;
for I see violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they go around it on its walls,
and iniquity and trouble are within it;
ruin is in its midst;
oppression and fraud do not depart from its marketplace.

But, this is where I live. This is where God has called me to live. This is my calling.

For it is not an enemy who taunts me
-- then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me
-- then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Double Edged

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

I've spent a lot of time over the last week thinking about and studying fear. Particularly, I've looked at the fear of God as it is described in the Bible. In many instances, this fear is an awe or reverence. We used the phrase "Holy sense of divine WOW" this weekend, and in general that's true. But not always.

There are times when fear of God means shaking in your boots, teeth chattering, sweat breaking out, hairs standing on end fear. Read Hebrews 10:26-31 and try to interpret it any other way. You can't. Crossing God is a dangerous thing to do and we should be afraid to do it in any sense of the word. Just ask the followers of Korah... of wait, you can't - because the earth cracked open, swallowed them and closed again. That's a holy sense of "I'm gonna need some new pants."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Grace in Black and White

Too often we think of the Old Testament as the black and white part of the bible. There are no words in red, no words from Jesus, and we can look at this with a negative connotation. If Jesus wasn't there, what else was missing? We tend to think that grace and mercy would be missing as well. That's all Jesus, right?

Before Jesus, God was just smiting people left and right. He was condemning entire nations and making examples of people. If you messed up, BAM, fire and brimstone - no room for error, no room for second chances.

But, that's not entirely the case. There are some egregious examples of God's wrath in the OT, but there are also examples of God's grace.

In Numbers 13 and 14 a group of Israelites had lied about the promised land and invoked God's anger. They suffered the consequences. In Numbers 15, God talks to Moses about sacrifice. He explains how to make up for sins and wrongs. Then he brings up the idea of unintentional sin. In the case of this sin, which people don't even know they've committed, we might think that the OT God would just let 'em have it. They messed up, they pay the price, right?

Instead, God says that a sacrifice will be made on behalf of all the people, to cover over all these sins. He's not looking for an opportunity to punish, he's working to save. That's grace. The NT shows the same grace and highlights the lengths God is willing to go to offer it to us.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

When Metaphor and Reality Mix

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at it's swelling.

I have never once seen a mountain moved into the heart of the sea. Chances are, I never will.

But, if I ever find myself in that situation, scripture and song have both taught me that I should turn to God in this situation. In the face of mountains sliding in the sea, most people's natural reaction wou,d be to turn to God.

When we are faced with huge, insurmountable situations, God seems like the only possible help. Not many of us have the personal strength or access to resources that can make any difference when confronted by moving mountains. God is our only recourse. What about moving molehills?

Most of the "times of trouble" we face aren't mountainous. They're more molehill like. They are things we feel like we can control on our own, situations we can handle, "I got this".

When faced with death we turn to God. I've got no power when it comes to the afterlife. (Plus, I'll be dead, which tends to cramp my abilities.). But my checkbook, on the other hand, I got that. My job I can handle. I am fully in control of my ____________, no problems there.

It's these small things that cause many more of our times of trouble. Those are the times we need to turn to God. If we turn to him with the small things, we'll be right where we need to be when the big ones come.

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Monday, May 10, 2010


What does it mean to be blessed?

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and given you peace.
- Numbers 6:24-26

Often, we seem to think it means God has given us stuff. You see someone's family photo and exclaim, "You are so blessed." Someone tries to explain away their beautiful house or fortune with, "I've been blessed."
Is that what it means to be blessed by God? He's given you stuff?

Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him; the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.
-Psalm 41:1-2

When we were growing up, we used to go with my grandmother to get our Easter baskets blessed. We'd pack the baskets with certain foods and then head to the basement of the church building with all the other families. We'd line the tables with our baskets and wait for the priests. I could never understand what he said when he finally arrived and I never knew what was in the censer he shook over our eggs, horseradish, lamb-shaped butter and chocolate cross. But, that was what you were supposed to do and that was how you received the blessing on your Easter basket.

Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!
-Psalm 40:4

The best picture I've seen of what it means to be blessed came from watching Rocky. In the movie, before his big fight, Rocky goes to the closed church building and wakes up the priest. He begs him for a blessing as the priest hangs out the window in his bedclothes. Rocky doesn't ask for victory, just for protection. He wants to be in God's hands.

Rocky Balboa, theologian.
Who woulda thought?

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Perspective, Please

Show me, O Lord, my life's end
and the number of my days;
Let me know how fleeting is my life.

You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man's life is but a breath.

David begs God to put him in his place. He wants to understand just how insignificant he is. This sounds crazy in our positive self-esteem age. Why would someone possibly think they need to be knocked down a peg?

Maybe he just got finished watching a American Idol audition show and he was afraid he was as deluded as some of those hopefuls. "I don't care what Simon says, I know I can sing good!"

Maybe he was tired of failing on his own and wanted to finally be in a place where he could rely on others for help.

Maybe he was truly a man after God's own heart and knew he needed some help staying there.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


We're individualists. Almost to a person, we assume it is best to do things on our own. We celebrate the self-made man, talk of pulling one's self up by one's bootstraps and love watching the lone-wolf hero save the day against all odds.

We are so inundated and enamored with this ideal that we don't even realize it at times. We expect individuality and independence to such a degree that we assume anything else is an aberration.

The Flying Pig marathon this past weekend was in many ways a celebration of individual drive, individual effort and individual accomplishment. 18,500 runners set out to prove themselves. Each one on a personal mission to overcome a 26.2 mile obstacle. Except when they weren't alone.

Somewhere in the midst of the main throng of runners, something stood out. It had volunteers talking and radio operators alerting stations further down the course.

The scene could be interpreted in two completely different ways.

A senior gentleman was clearly struggling through the race. He was panting and wheezing, but this was common and didn't set him apart from so many other runners. What did set him apart was the fact that he couldn't stand upright. He was leaning... at something close to a 45 degree angle.

I'm no running expert, but I'm pretty sure that standing upright is crucial to proper running and plays a big part in endurance. Leaning hard to the right side is a recipe for a short run.

But this man was going strong at mile 21 because he wasn't running on his own. He had a partner. Next to the gaunt old man was a younger, thicker, muscular runner who was quite literally holding him up.

The senior man's right elbow was tucked in the crux of the younger man's left arm and they ran together.

When they approached our location, you couldn't miss them. The radio operator called to teh medical tent and the next station, letting them know that a runner was coming who would need their help. It was the obvious explanation. This man had bit off more than he could chew and was now struggling.

But, I don't think that was the correct interpretation. The younger man wasn't wearing a race number. He wasn't a runner that had stepped in to help a struggling stranger. But, he was clearly a runner. He was dressed for the event and knew what he was doing. He was not a spectator who stepped in either. The two men also didn't stop when they reached us. They didn't ask for help, signal a need or even slow down when they got to us.

This wasn't an emergency help situation. This was a team. A team that was determined to accomplish something that would be impossible alone.

There was no way the older man could run a marathon on his own. From the look of things, he couldn't even stand upright. But this impossibility became a 26.2 mile opportunity when he did one simple thing. He abandoned individuality and embraced community. If he did his part and depended on his partner to do his part, they could accomplish the impossible. I wasn't at the finish line, but something tells me this is exactly what they did.

How often do we judge something as impossible because of our individual limitations?
How much could be do if we embraced mission in community?
What would it take for you to step out of individuality?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Journey, Complimentary

My wife takes the same route to work every day. She passes the same buildings, the same trees and the same signs everyday. And everyday, one of those signs sticks out. It began as an ordinary Stop sign, but someone with a can of gray spray paint changed that red octagon, so it brightens my wife's morning again and again.

The sign now reads, "Don't STOP Believin'" instead of the everyday ordinary STOP. The sign now brings a little joy to her heart and conjures up a few notes in her head. Not bad for a $1.29 can of spray paint and a misdemeanor.

As we were driving to her office this past weekend, I was putting together a playlist for the Flying Pig marathon water station we were going to be working. I put together all the songs we had in our library that had the word "run" in the chorus and anything that had ever been in a Rocky movie.

As we drove by that STOP sign, I decided to splurge and buy the Journey song that my wife found herself humming every morning. It wasn't in our library, although I'd considered buying it many times. Up until now it just didn't seem worth it.

If you've never spent 6 hours relentlessly encouraging complete strangers as many of them struggle through one of the hardest things they've ever done, I highly recommend it. Five miles from the finish of a marathon is a grueling thing to see, but inspiring as well.

There were people who looked like they were simply out for a (very wet) Sunday morning jog and people who looked like they were in complete and utter agony. There were people who were extremely fit and looked the part, and there were people who looked like they should never consider running at all. There were people in costumes, there were people in trash bags, there were people in expense running gear, there were people in sweatpants, there were people running barefoot. And it was my job to cheer for them all (and pick up their trash).

It was a rain-soaked blast. Cheering for these people was so much fun. Some of them had desperation written all over their faces. You could see their struggle in every inch of their tired, aching bodies. Shouts and cheers from complete strangers were the only things holding them up and keeping them going. It was gratifying to see the physical impact of encouragement.

As I stood with my trash bag held out, cheering for people and telling them they could make it if they kept pushing, one woman stopped. She finished her drink and dropped her cup in my bag. She smiled and exclaimed, "You're right! I can do it - just "Don't stop believin', right!?!"

She turned and jogged off as Journey blared from the speakers behind us both. $1.29 well spent.