Month: April 2011

We Must Join Judas Before We Join Jesus

Last night, on the eve of Jesus death, I found myself listening to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. In the Dublin ’93 performance of “Until the End of the World,” Bono screams just before the song: “Judas, Come Out!” The song is a lyrical reflection on Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. It depicts the striking juxtaposition of intimacy and bitter betrayal in the Upper Room:

We were as close together as a bride and groom
We ate the food, we drank the wine
Everybody having a good time
Except you
You were talking about the end of the world

Lest we cast judgment too soon, Good Friday is an opportune time to reflect on our betrayal of Jesus. Like Judas, we all “kissed your lips and broke your heart.” With every sin we commit, we trade “bride and groom” intimacy with Christ for something much more fleeting. Judas traded it for a bag of silver (Matt 26:15); the chief priests traded it for the approval of men (Luke 22:2), Peter for temporary “security” (22: 54-62), the disciples for success in ministry (22:24-30), the mockers and scoffers for a sense of superiority or self-righteousness (22:63-65; 23:35-38), Pilate for the love of influence, and Herod for the love of entertainment (23:6-9).

Till sin be bitter Christ will not be sweet.

It is these sins, and billions more, that Jesus died for, for your sin and for mine. It is good to consider our sins, to name them, and confess them to Christ. In confession, we come to our senses, we return to our Christ. To hide our sin is to hide from our true identity, a deep in-authenticity. We must “join Judas” before we “join Jesus.” Identify your sin so you can identify with Christ.

Bring your betrayal to Jesus today, but bring it with hope because in the words of Thomas Watson: “Till sin be bitter Christ will not be sweet.” This Friday is good because we can bring our bad to the cross. It is bitter because our Beloved Groom had to die. Consider the bitterness of your own sin this Good Friday, but lift your eyes to the cross, where bitterness and love flow mingled down in the sweetness of Christ’s inestimable love. This is love, that a man lays down his life for his friends, even his enemies. Why did he die? Bono replies:

Love…love…love…love…love…love…
Love…love…love…love…love…love…
Love…love…love…love…

GCM Conference 2011

The GCM Collective Conference for 2011 will be September 14-16. The new website is live and you can EARLY BIRD register right now. Its theologically grounded and practically focused–rare–Gonna be great!

More Info

You will get to hear from, meet and interact with leaders who are daily practitioners, living in gospel communities on mission in their cities. This is a unique experience that will present the why, what and how-to of starting, leading and multiplying missional communities. Interactive plenary sessions, breakouts and unique training experiences will fill our days both on-site and off.

Big church, small church, multi-site or neighborhood…this event is for every church that seeks to effectively expand the gospel in their context.

Speakers:, Steve Timmis, Jeff Vanderstelt, Caesar Kalinowski, David Fairchild, Drew Goodmanson and Jonathan Dodson.

Reflections on Rosamund

Rosamund was born just 24 hours ago. She carries her grandmother’s name and her mother’s beauty. A gangly twenty-one inches lined with almost eight pounds, she wraps up nicely, staring at us with steely blue eyes or crying with them shut through the night. She has not started our rhythms. She fumbles around, helpless apart from those who care for her, particularly her mother, who continues to fill her with life.

As our third child, I guess this could all be passĂ©. And in some ways, its clear we’ve been down this road before, but not with Rosamund. Each child brings their own life, unique circumstances, and eventual personality into the life of a parent. Yes, we’re just beginning to discoverer those, but they are here, some more subtle than others. One in particular–Rosamund arrived peacefully in the midst of some lingering fear.

Your Delivery Isn’t Going to Go Well

Two days before Robie discovered she was pregnant, she was driving by a hospital, when she was assaulted with this thought: “You will have a baby there, and it will not go well.” I was in Uganda, where I heard about Robie’s pregnancy over a video-less Skype call a couple of days later. I didn’t not, however, hear about the foreboding premonition until I returned.

Can you imagine struggling with that thought for nine months of pregnancy? Was it true or false? Is it from God, the Devil, or my own fearful subconscious? What am I to do with this fear?

Eventually, I returned home and we talked about the bizarre premonition. We talked about what kind of “won’t go well,” considering outcomes that disturb your emotional center. We both envisioned scenarios of losing our baby and losing one another. I struggled in how to respond. What to say?

Does God Scare Us With Suffering?

Does God send premonitions about suffering? Wouldn’t that be mean? Actually, he does send them but not because he is mean. Consider a couple of these kinds of premonitions from the Bible:

  • Joseph interpreted a dream about a famine that actually happened, and he became instrumental in helping many survive it (Genesis 41).
  • Isaiah was told he would be rejected by his people, but carried God’s message of judgment and grace anyway (Isaiah 6).
  • Peter was told that he would die for following Christ, and purportedly followed him to death by an upside-down crucifixion (John 20).
  • Paul was regularly told by the Spirit that in “every city that imprisonment and afflictions” awaited him, and he insisted on taking the gospel to as many different cities and regions as possible (Acts 20:22-24).
  • All who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted (1 Timothy ).

Although all these texts didn’t spring to mind in my conversation with Robie, they slowly began to make sense of how to respond. First, I realized that, if this was a warning from God, it wasn’t to strike fear in our hearts, but to nurture faith. God warned Joseph, Isaiah, Peter, and Paul, not to scare them but to draw them closer to himself. He’s a personal God with an agenda of love to bring us closer to trusting him and push us further away from trusting ourselves. This truth, that our God is a God who instills faith not fear, was a comfort to us. We clung to his promise to that God by trusting Isaiah 41:10

fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

So, when suffering and trial enter our lives, announced or unannounced, God is working, not for our fear but for our faith. He is our God, one we can trust, who is lovingly present in trial, drawing us close, lifting us up with his strong and righteous hand.

Second, notice how each of these premonitions had a redemptive turn, an expression of God’s grace. God’s agenda was bigger than the individuals he warned. He wanted to increase their faith, in suffering, in order to bless others. Joseph fed thousands; Isaiah offered hope of redemption, Peter led the Early Church, Paul spread the gospel to cities across the known world, and God want’s to use our sufferings to display his grace to others.

We’ve had the opportunity to spread grace at the hospital. When things were going unnecessarily long in labor, Robie didn’t bark orders from fear but extended grace from faith. Fortunately, our little Rosamund was born without complication in that hospital. Things went well, not badly. The nine months of uncertainty were a battle between fear and faith. Fear diminished and faith grew. We see that God’s plans are bigger than our own, and so is his trustworthiness.

Diary of a Church Planter (Pt 6)

This series is taken from my personal diary during the first couple of years of church planting. The entries range from painfully raw to joyfully visionary. I hope they bring encouragement to anyone who reads them, especially church planters.

Austin, Texas August 24, 2007

We are away from the kids for the first time since our U Haul move from Boston to Austin in November 2006. My parents graciously paid for a trip to San Francisco, where we are on our second of five days. Time away from Owen and Ellie has already proven fruitful as we discuss our desires to “be the best mother and father by being a good ‘son’ and ‘daughter’.” This trip is an active reflection of our desire for Owen and Ellie to know who loves them most and who they should love most–God. As wonderful and delightful as they are, they cannot take the place of our marriage, and most importantly God.

As wonderful and delightful as they are, they cannot take the place of our marriage, and most importantly God.

This trip is also a time to consider the greatness of God, and his acts in creation, and my life. It’s not hard. I’m sitting in a cushioned chair, feet propped up on a small wooden table, knees bent, legs leaning slightly to the left. Each time I lift my head, my eyes rest on San Francisco Bay, as I look out our 27th floor balcony upon the vast Pacific dotted with sail boats and surrounded by low-level clouds that look like the will be ready to shower in a few hours. To the right is a small peninsula and to the left is Alcatraz and the Golden Gate, though it is hiding behind the fog…the sounds of the city below call me to business but the Bay to consider God’s blessedness.

the sounds of the city below call me to business but the Bay to consider God’s blessedness.

O Lord, grand that both Owen and Ellie would have moments and vacations like this time away from the busyness of life, and into the blessedness of living. May they see and savor you in creation as well as in the urban. The air is crisp and the sky mostly clear and blue. Caught somewhere between the city below and the city to come, moments like this are rare with two children. THANK you Lord, not merely for the moment but for allowing me to know you’re in it—generous, kind, loving, sovereign, and powerful.