Thursday, August 28, 2008


Mt. 7:24

A quick read of the stories of Jesus, like the parable about the wise builder who built on solid rock and the stupid builder who built on sand, appear to be harmless tales, no grounds for a capitol offense charge. But since the offense was taken, let’s not let the opportunity slip by while we seek to discover what precipitated the charge and launched a scandal.

‘Be wise about what you build your life upon’ Doesn’t that agree with the teaching of His day? Deuteronomy was well known to them, they knew that to follow the laws’ boundaries would keep them from trouble (Deut. 5:29) This is a good lesson, and surely this was nothing new or scandalous to the religious of His day. But when Jesus goes on to say to build upon a firm foundation, He is saying much more – listen and put my words into action. Now this gets scandalous for the established church. This is not a story of practicing good moral principles or biblical law. This is all about living in dialog with the creator of the universe. It’s beyond the commitment to read and follow a roadmap that directs your life in a legal or moral code. It’s about adding GPS – God’s Positioning System – and hearing His instructions as we go. God’s approach goes beyond a mechanized ‘turn right in 50 yards.” It’s a live conversation with the love of your life.

Seeking hearts were stirred to believe and code-conscious hearts got riled up in offense. This was no innoculous feel-good sermon. It was offensive to believe a message that traded mere dependency upon a religious institution for listening to the voice of God. It’s simple to do – just listen and follow GPS. But follow a voice that others may not hear? YOU hear the voice of the Great I AM, creator of the universe, speaker of the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai, the voice of the prophets of old? People who are more comfortable with that voice staying in a leather-bound book on the coffee table may no longer be a part of your support system. But just chill, you’ve got GPS.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Timeless Treasure

Matthew 13:44-52

Jesus describes the kingdom as like treasure. One man finds it quite by accident. Another is searching diligently. But both are willing to give up all to purchase the treasure. In life, some are searching for life’s spiritual meaning diligently; some are just getting by doing their jobs, and quite unexpectedly stumble upon the true spiritual treasure. However it is found, it is worth diligence to make it our own. Jesus paints a vivid picture of the spiritual life, our salvation, though like a treasure beyond our capability to produce, is worth our diligence to secure through discipleship. And lest our picture be limited to what we experience in this short life, Jesus reminds us of the eternal effects of the coming heavenly sorting. He gives us this picture of both the free gift of salvation and the costly price of being a disciple. This paradoxically related duo has another: the treasure is both old and new. The old, the sacred truths of scripture and the new inspiration thru this prophet above all prophets: Jesus. We have both - a scriptural map and the GPS of the spirit. The kingdom is a paradox of such profound simplicity and depth, Jesus just keeps on giving us enough parable pictures to fill our heart and mind’s album. The kingdom is not only an heirloom, and it’s not just heir of future rewards, but it is a present reality connected to both. It is Timeless Treasure.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

God's Wine Cellar

Mt. 9:14-17

The church is a wine cellar, and each vintage is a faith story in process.

Jesus cautions us not to put the new wine into old wine skins. As wine ferments, it expands and the elasticity of a new wine skin can swell with the aging wine. At the end of this parable, in Matthew’s version, it says that when new wine is put into fresh wineskins, both are preserved. When wine has reached a maturity, it has a potency that doesn’t exist in the new wine. The wine at wedding feasts in Jesus’ day made some drunk. It was potent. In Luke’s telling of this parable, it is written that the people prefer the old wine. There are many vintages in the church. Some found the Lord decades ago. Some found the Lord more recently. The more time passes, our faith stories develop a depth, and character. There is a fresh and exuberant expression of faith in newer vintages of faith, for someone new in the Lord, which is exciting to us all. Each possesses a quality which is unique to its vintage. And I picture Jesus talking about a wine cellar of Christians all chosen to be in the cellar together. Now, John’s Disciples come to Jesus, practicing their faith differently than Jesus’ disciples. And John’s Disciples have a question which sounds like a request for ammunition in the war of superiority and religious correctness. ‘Now wait a minute! WE fast, and you don’t?!’ They want Jesus to take sides in the fight. Jesus never gives them any ammo. He gives validity to the various vintages. This is not to say that Jesus does not teach accountability. However, John’s Disciples were trying to do the very thing that Jesus addressed in another, related parable- the wheat and the tares. In a garden, the good seed sprouted right next to the weeds, and they looked alike. Jesus said don’t pull out the wheat with the tares. Don’t uproot the good with the bad. Wait and let the Father in heaven take care of it. Let the Lord do the sorting. This is not a replacement for group accountability, but humility to admit that only God knows the heart. Let God weed His own garden. The disciples of John are trying to weed out a brand – one kind of wine skin. Jesus could have critiqued John’s disciples, but He chose to teach them a lesson. We find today, faith practiced in many different ways. We pray, worship, and live out the faith in diverse ways- a variety of vintages. We live for Christ, and let the Lord weed his own garden. We focus our energy growing in Christ, serving and following. If you call upon the name of Jesus, then here’s my hand. I’ll walk with you, and I’ll talk with you – let’s be the church, and show the love of Jesus Christ. No matter what kind of vintage you are, you’re the right vintage for your faith - Whether you found the Lord 50 years ago, or today. Some of you have a lot more kick than others, some are fresh, and others are at points in-between. Vintage faith can tell you what it’s like to be happily married for 60 years, or, how tender love overcame abandonment. The wine steward was pleased to choose each of us as an irreplaceable vintage, in the fermenting process of growing in the spirit.