Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Searching for the Real Jesus

Kevin DeYoung shared these great thoughts on his blog recently. He gives us great food for thought and reflection for the Easter season. I'll bet you'll be blessed, too.

The greatness of God is most clearly displayed in his Son. And the glory of the gospel is only made evident in his Son. That's why Jesus' question to his disciples [in Matthew 16] is so important: "Who do you say that I am?"

The question is doubly crucial in our day, because [no one is as popular in the U.S. as Jesus]—and not every Jesus is the real Jesus. …
  • There's the Republican Jesus—who is against tax increases and activist judges, for family values and owning firearms.
  • There's Democrat Jesus—who is against Wall Street and Wal-Mart, for reducing our carbon footprint and printing money.
  • There's Therapist Jesus—who helps us cope with life's problems, heals our past, tells us how valuable we are and not to be so hard on ourselves.
  • There's Starbucks Jesus—who drinks fair trade coffee, loves spiritual conversations, drives a hybrid, and goes to film festivals.
  • There's Open-minded Jesus—who loves everyone all the time no matter what (except for people who are not as open-minded as you).
  • There's Touchdown Jesus—who helps athletes fun faster and jump higher than non-Christians and determines the outcomes of Super Bowls.
  • There's Martyr Jesus—a good man who died a cruel death so we can feel sorry for him.
  • There's Gentle Jesus—who was meek and mild, with high cheek bones, flowing hair, and walks around barefoot, wearing a sash (while looking very German).
  • There's Hippie Jesus—who teaches everyone to give peace a chance, imagines a world without religion, and helps us remember that "all you need is love."
  • There's Yuppie Jesus—who encourages us to reach our full potential, reach for the stars, and buy a boat.
  • There's Spirituality Jesus—who hates religion, churches, pastors, priests, and doctrine, and would rather have people out in nature, finding "the god within" while listening to ambiguously spiritual music.
  • There's Platitude Jesus—good for Christmas specials, greeting cards, and bad sermons, inspiring people to believe in themselves.
  • There's Revolutionary Jesus—who teaches us to rebel against the status quo, stick it to the man, and blame things on "the system."
  • There's Guru Jesus—a wise, inspirational teacher who believes in you and helps you find your center.
  • There's Boyfriend Jesus—who wraps his arms around us as we sing about his intoxicating love in our secret place.
  • There's Good Example Jesus—who shows you how to help people, change the planet, and become a better you.
And then there's Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Not just another prophet. Not just another Rabbi. Not just another wonder-worker. He was the one they had been waiting for: the Son of David and Abraham's chosen seed; the one to deliver us from captivity; the goal of the Mosaic law; Yahweh in the flesh; the one to establish God's reign and rule; the one to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, freedom to the prisoners and proclaim Good News to the poor; the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.

This Christ is not a reflection of the current mood or the projection of our own desires. He is our Lord and God. He is the Father's Son, Savior of the world, and substitute for our sins—more loving, more holy, and more wonderfully terrifying than we ever thought possible.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Life and What You Make of It: Part 2

God writes a lot of comedy . . . the trouble is, he's stuck with so many bad actors who don't know how to play funny.  (Garrison Keillor)

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.  (E. B. White)

I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.  (John Burroughs)

He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.  (Friedrich Nietzsche)

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.  (Robert Frost)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Making the Most of Manure

In his book Tell It Slant, Eugene Peterson uses the short parable in Luke 13:6-9, a parable about manure, of all things—to talk about our need to practice resurrection in everyday life. In the parable, a man has a fig tree in his vineyard that doesn't yield any fruit. Frustrated, he says to the man who takes care of the vineyard that after three years, it's time to cut the thing down. But the caretaker replies, "Leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down." Peterson reflects on how this parable challenges us as believers—a challenge worth hearing at Easter, when we celebrate the power of resurrection. He writes:

Instead of goading us into action, [Jesus' Manure Story] takes us out of action. We have just come across something that offends us, some person who is useless to us or the kingdom of God, "taking up the ground," and we lose patience and either physically or verbally get rid of him or her. "Chop him down! Chop her down! Chop it down." We solve kingdom problems by amputation.

Internationally and historically, killing is the predominant method of choice to make the world a better place. It is the easiest, quickest, and most efficient way by far to clear the ground for someone or something with more promise. The Manure Story interrupts our noisy, aggressive problem-solving mission. In a quiet voice the parable says, "Hold on, not so fast. Wait a minute. Give me some more time. Let me put some manure on this tree." Manure?

Manure is not a quick fix. It has no immediate results—it is going to take a long time to see if it makes any difference. If it's results that we are after, chopping down a tree is just the thing: we clear the ground and make it ready for a fresh start. We love beginning: birthing a baby, christening a ship, the first day on a new job, starting a war. But spreading manure carries none of that exhilaration. It is not dramatic work, not glamorous work, not work that gets anyone's admiring attention. Manure is a slow solution. Still, when it comes to doing something about what is wrong in the world, Jesus is known for his fondness for the minute, the invisible, the quiet, the slow—yeast, salt, seeds, light. And manure.

Manure does not rank high in the world's economies. It is refuse. Garbage. We organize efficient and sometimes elaborate systems to collect it, haul it away, get it out of sight and smell. But the observant and wise know that this apparently dead and despised waste is teeming with life—enzymes, numerous microorganisms. It's the stuff of resurrection.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Three Things Prized Most in Heaven

I read an excerpt from Frederick Buechner this morning that seemed to put life in a healthy, straight forward perspective. I was blessed. See what you think.

"May the shadow of Christ fall on thee. May the garment of Christ cover thee. May the breath of Christ breathe in thee," she told them each morning at sun-up. . . . True faith. A simple life. A helping hand. She said those was the three things prized most in Heaven. On earth it was a fair wife, a stout ox, a swift hound. Beg not, refuse not, she said. One step forward each day was the way to the Land of the Blessed. Don't eat till your stomach cries out. Don't sleep till you can't stay awake. Don't open your mouth till it's the truth opens it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Life and What You Make of It: Part 1

I think I have discovered the secret of life - you just hang around until you get used to it. (Charles M. Schulz)

I have a simple philosophy: Fill what's empty. Empty what's full. Scratch where it itches. (Alice Roosevelt Longworth)

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on. (Henry Ellis)

Life is a long lesson in humility. (James M. Barrie)

Look, I don't want to wax philosophic, but I will say that if you're alive you've got to flap your arms and legs, you've got to jump around a lot, for life is the very opposite of death, and therefore you must at very least think noisy and colorfully, or you're not alive. (Mel Brooks)