Friday, March 30, 2007

Who's worthy?

I am not worthy to have you come (Luke 7:6)

The man was only a servant, but yet beloved by his owner. A serious illness had brought him face to face with death and so his owner acted. But this was no ordinary owner. This man was a Roman military officer, able to issue orders that would be instantly obeyed. He understood authority. And obviously he understood compassion as well, for not only was he concerned for his servant, but when he sent an appeal to Jesus through his Jewish friends, they reported that he was “worthy” to have Jesus come because he loved the Jews and had helped the Jews many times.

The centurion was not so proud, however. He declared that he was not worthy. He understood authority and he recognized Jesus had greater authority than he had. He asked Jesus to do what a man in power was able to do: speak a command and it is done.

Jesus was amazed. “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith." (Luke 7:9). It was the centurion’s faith, not his authority, which earned Jesus’ praise.

Faith in what? Faith in Jesus’ authority. This man could have proudly claimed that his own authority was sufficient. He had position, power, riches (he built a synagogue, after all). But he recognized accurately his own unworthiness and Jesus’ authority.

We sometimes worship our own worthiness and authority. We think that we are worthy to be on Jesus’ team and he should be glad to have us. Or, just as bad, we think we're not worthy because we haven't done enough for Jesus.

But that's all about me, whether I do enough or don't do enough. Can we respond as this Roman officer? “…only speak the word…” (Luke 7:7). Is our faith in the authority of Jesus and the power of his Word? Or is it in my spiritual resume?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Trying to be safe?

Neil Cole is a passionate church planter. He’s come up with a couple of acronyms about following Jesus that are interesting:

When we choose to be SAFE in our life and church…..

Self-preservation is our mission.

Avoidance of the world and risk becomes our wisdom.

Financial security becomes our idea of responsible faith.

Education equals maturity.

However, Jesus calls us to death. Here’s what DEATH looks like….

Die daily to who I am.

Empowering others is my life.

Acceptance that risk is normal.

Theology is not just knowledge, but regular action.

Hold tight to Christ with an open hand for everything else.

Those who try to make their life secure will lose it,

but those who lose their life will keep it.” Luke 17:33

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Praying and walking

Last summer, a small group of us walked and prayed over the town of Brush (it isn't quite as close to the end of the earth as Houghton [see below]) but that effort was incredibly rewarding and I think it made a difference as we reached out to people.

This summer, we want to walk and pray over the town of Fort Morgan. Waymakers has a great site with resources to help with the "caught in the headlight" look that many have before they start prayerwalking.

If you want to help pray with us, please let me know. Post a comment to this message.

If you thought YOU lived out in the boonies...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Is it lawful?

Then Jesus said to them, "I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?" After looking around at all of them, he said to him, "Stretch out your hand." He did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. Luke 6:9-11

The man had perhaps been born with a withered right hand. The right hand was the hand of honor. Think about who got to sit at the right hand of a king – or the right hand of God. A king showed favor with his right hand. The right hand symbolized strength and agreement. The man would even have had problems washing and cleansing his hands to fulfill his religious duties- or shaking on a deal.

His had not been a life of ease and Jesus responded. He set up a test as well. He spoke not only to the man but also to the crowd in the synagogue Is it better to do good or harm on the Sabbath? Is it better to save life or destroy it? Then he asked the man, with all the Pharisees and scribes watching, to put out his hand. This withered hand that brought him shame he now had to reveal to the crowd and to Jesus.

Rage was boiling around him. The religious leaders saw the test as well – the challenge to their way of thinking. The religious leaders were intimidating. Where would he look? Who would he follow.

He stretched. He extended his hand and it was healed. He looked at Jesus and his life was saved. He obeyed and good was done.

Where’s your focus? On Jesus or on rules? On life or on tradition? On needs or on institutions?

Jesus said to him, ‘Stretch…’

Monday, March 26, 2007

Find a Way

They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus. (Luke 5:18-19)

Jesus was teaching to a large group of people crowded around him. Imagine some of the celebrities of our day, with their fans and the curious pressing in around them, and you’ll have an idea of this crammed house. Then four friends come along with their paralyzed man. They were willing to carry him on a stretcher to Jesus because they believed Jesus could make a difference in this man’s life.

We don’t know if they brought him to be healed or to hear Jesus. We know from Luke 5:15 that the news of Jesus’ teaching and healing was spreading. Either way, these men came. And they were unable to get to Jesus because of the throng.

The assembly, we assume, was filled with the curious and the needy and the skeptic as well. They wanted something from Jesus. Jesus was teaching and preaching to this gathering. Because Jesus’ first words to the paralytic were “Friend, your sins are forgiven,” was that the topic of Jesus’ teaching that day? Repentance means turn and go a new direction. Along comes a paralyzed man and the crowd ignores him. Did their application of Jesus’ teachings fail? We know that they saw no need to allow this needy man through to get into Jesus’ presence.

“Finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd…”

Do our needs or desires or traditions or expectations keep others away from Jesus? I’m fascinated by the friends’ response: they found a way. Am I so sure that Jesus makes a difference that I will overcome resistance, searching until I found the way to bring another to Jesus? Will I go on the rooftop to bring another to Jesus? Or does tradition keep me on the ground, pressing against a crowd that will not budge?

Preserve me from being a part of that crowd, unwilling to see the needs of people that Jesus came to meet. And give me to wings to climb to the roof, to do what it takes to bring another to Jesus.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


My husband, Matt, and I just returned from a refreshing conference in Black Forest near Colorado Springs. It was one of those "see old friends, make new ones" kind of conference on sharing the good news about Jesus. Lots to tell you but some of that will have to percolate just a little longer.

One thing I want to try, and want you to consider trying as well. Take some paper and draw 7 circles on it. Label each circle for a people group you are involved with. For example, one might be "family" (or "close family" and another would be "extended family"), "co-workers," "neighbors," "people I know who have moved," "missionaries overseas." I hope you get the idea. You come up with your own labels and they will be different than that. But the goal is to have at least one name in each of the circles. Then just take a moment each day to pray for the people in one of the circles. Seven circles, seven days.

If you have a cell phone, dig out your instruction manual and set an alarm on it. Every day, at that time, pray for your circle of names. You could pray for protection or God's healing or maybe even just ask God how to pray for that person if you can't think of anything.

Think how you'd feel to know somebody was praying for you regularly. This is a gift you can give to someone else!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Sing of spring

My daily chores include feeding 3 horses. (I'd say hungry horses but I think that's redundant...) This morning I was out earlier than usual and stopped for a minute in the spring air to breath in the crispness of promise and listen to the rejoicing of birds. Heaven will be incredible because it will even better than this.

All the analogies of life flow in the spring. There's such promise. Green buds are peeking out, the oranges and yellows of tulips are finally pushing through the drab dusty garden. It gives my soul new strength.

Today, try this. Take five minutes and write down the things of spring you see outside. Or better, go for a short walk and absorb spring. Use all your senses. Listen. Touch. Look. Smell. Notice the new life. Then write down some of what you saw. Make a list - this doesn't have to be fancy. It's for your eyes only. Then see how many of those things remind you of the new life in Jesus. (Don't be too literal!! I know Jesus is not new robin eggs, but think of the new life in there.) Then speak out: tell God how you love his life and his work. Tell him how his work reminds you of something about him. Have a joyous time talking with him.

From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. (Romans 1:20)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

World blog

At our house, everyone had quick hands when it comes to grabbing the new issue of World magazine. The kids will squirrel it away in their bedrooms if we don't watch out. And of course we as parents will squirrel it away in our bedroom if they don't watch out.

It is available online, un-squirrelable and ready for reading.

World also has an interesting, thought-provoking blog with daily posts. There is a lot of discussion, various viewpoints, and all sorts of news pieces. If you post a comment, you have to let me know!


And he got up, left everything, and followed him. (Luke 5:28)

Matthew was a tax collector, an outcast in Judean society. Tax collectors were seen as renegades for serving the Romans, a petty tyrant with power to examine goods, and an extortionist for somewhat arbitrarily setting the taxes. A tax collector bid on the right to assess taxes and got to keep whatever he collected above the agreed-upon tax.

Jesus’ call to Matthew (also called Levi) was straightforward: “Follow me.” Matthew could not walk any fences on this one. Don’t focus so much on the immediacy of his decision as the results: he got up from his tax booth (think of it more like a toll booth on a busy market road), making himself noticeable to all. He left everything, presumably including the money at his booth and certainly the future potential for profit. He followed Jesus. This is a picture of repentance, the getting up, leaving the old, and following the new.

A friend of mine once had to cling to a runaway horse as it dashed in panic across an open field. Both horse and rider were in danger as the horse’s muscles churned in terror. Most riders pull back hard on both reins, trying to get the “stop” signal through the waves of fear in the horse’s brain. A runaway horse isn’t listening to the rider, but just to his own terror. My friend, however, pulled on one rein and managed to pull the horse’s head around. Once that horse was looking the other way, he stopped. It’s hard to run with your nose in your armpit.

That’s a picture of repentance. That was Matthew, running in a frenzy for the money and the power. Jesus tugged on one rein. “Follow me. When Matthew got a picture of what had been behind him – Jesus – he left everything and followed him. Once Matthew was looking the other way, he stopped. He changed directions and followed.

Fifty times in the gospels, Jesus said, “follow me.” A horse can't run two ways at once, and neither could Matthew. He changed ways to follow.

Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. (John 12:26)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The tomb of Jesus controversy

If you've been following the debate over Discovery Channel's presentation on the supposed tomb of Jesus, you ought to check out this website. Dr. James White at Alpha-Omega is an accomplished apologetic debater and he's just completed (literally) a book examining the claims of the tomb of Jesus. He was my apologetics professor at Golden Gate and is energetic and intelligent. It's worth taking a look.

Evildoers for the Lord??

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge (1 Peter 2:11-12)

I could make a case to you that these verses show the “bring them to Jesus by my actions” sort of evangelism: conduct myself honorably. Be honest, be hard working, be committed to my family and they’ll glorify God when he comes. But notice the first sentence: abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war.

I am being called in to warfare. What desires wage war against the soul? Am I honest when it hurts to tell the truth? Am I willing to shed an attitude when it tears at my soul? Am I prepared to crush a habit because it focuses me on my desires? For me, it may be food. Or pride. Or self-indulgence. For the next person, it may be fear. Or self-righteousness. Or love of man’s approval.

Peter is not talking about returning incorrect change at the gas station. He is talking about warfare. Am I willing to be labeled an evildoer because of Jesus? In the Roman Empire, religions were tolerated and many gods were honored. The Christian way of serving only one God was viewed as unreligious and so Christians were sometimes viewed with suspicion as dishonorable and evil.

Peter counsels his readers to wage war against physical desires – to look different from the indulgent ways of the Romans. This comes not by a pious appearance but by a war of spiritual forces. Wage war for your soul. Battle those things that would destroy the heart. Seek to crush the pride and jealousy and envy and fear and self-righteousness which woo the heart and threaten our relationship with God. Then they will see God in our lives.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Just in case...

There was a solar eclipse yesterday in India. Such astral occurrences apparently trigger some “just in case” activities among the superstitious. Many fear an eclipse is an omen of evil and their newspapers give them “just in case” advice. It can’t hurt, they reason, to have a nava graham puja done immediately. That’s a Hindu ceremony to undo the bad influences of the solar eclipse. It also can’t hurt, they advise, to consult one’s horoscope and to give specific gifts to the temples: wheat, copper coins or a small copper pot, a red cloth, saffron, fruits that are red or deep yellow in color. It can’t hurt, they reason.

Ancient Israel lived in a world like ours, surrounded by “just in case” people who didn’t deny God’s existence but saw him more as a god of crisis than their Creator. There were gods for nearly every condition, just in case. It couldn’t hurt, they reasoned.

While visiting Athens, Paul spoke against the many “just in case” gods he saw there. He credited the people for their religious fervor, and then offered to simplify their lives. He identified the unknown god they included “just in case” as the Creator of the universe.

He told them, “since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone--an image made by man's design and skill.” (Acts 17:29)

God is not a “just in case” god to fill in the gaps. We are not the boy at the dike, plugging the holes with our design and skill. It’s much simpler than that.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

There is no other name. As followers of Jesus, we are an “all the eggs in one basket” people. Anything else is not “just in case” but idolatry.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Running the race to win

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?

Run in such a way as to get the prize"

The young man had the chiseled face of an athlete and the long, lean body of an iron man. But he started the race in a rubber raft, lying in the sun as his father, wearing a harness with a rope attached to the raft, swam with strong strokes across the lake along with the other marathon racers. The son was unable to lift his head and his arms jutted out at odd angles from his body. His hands were bent at the wrist, moving aimlessly with each stroke. His lanky legs had obviously been placed in the position they were in, not moving without other hands helping.

The pair was the last ones to shore in the first stage of the race, but the father tenderly lifted his son out of the raft and belted him into a bicycle seat, strapping a helmet on his head. Then the father hopped onto the bike, his calf muscles bulging, and off they went. By this time, there were no other athletes in sight and the father rode with long pedal strokes down a deserted highway. His son’s eyes flitted from side to side, taking in the scenery.

It was dark by the time they arrived at the third exchange. The man again carried his son, whose arms lolled out to the side, and put him in a cart. Grasping the handles, the dad began pushing his son on the third leg of this Ironman marathon.

Lights were on at the finish line and people held candles, cheering the pair on as the father neared the end of the race. As they came close, his son lifted his head and somehow awkwardly thrust both arms into the air. Victory!

The son, we learned, had always dreamed of doing the Ironman marathon. I don’t know what had happened during his journey there but I know that he had not been able to complete that dream. He had no reason to be crossing the finish line with his arms upheld in victory, except his father had carried him every step of the way.

The song behind this video clip played on and on: “I know that my Redeemer lives.”

This race cost his father sweat and time – months and months of difficult training and pain. The day of the race held more agony as he raced alone, muscles throbbing and lungs screaming.

I knew, watching the clip, that the young man, unable to wipe his own nose or drink a water bottle unaided, was me. I knew that he had drank deeply from the cup of victory, not because of his own training and condition, but because his father loved him so deeply to run the race for him.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.

1 John 3:16

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Words have power. Remember the childhood chant: sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Maybe the 8 year olds believe that, but I don’t. Words have amazing power. How long do you glow from a genuine compliment? How long do you mope from a stinging insult? Words affect us.

Take a look at Luke 4 today with just one goal in mind: to notice how Jesus used his own words. Notice what he was able to do with his words.

Luke has strung together several reports from Jesus’ ministry, all having to do with authority. Luke presents a question: who has authority? Whose words are stronger?

Notice Jesus first has a debate with the devil, who tempts him with words. Jesus won this battle of words. He used Old Testament texts to respond with surgical precision to the devil's scams.

Jesus then speaks to his fellow Nazarenes in the synagogue. The crowd is fine with him reading from Isaiah, but not with him criticizing them. They take him out to stone him – the penalty for heresy and blasphemy, not the penalty for criticism. They hear him giving his own words the same authority as the Isaiah text and reject his right to speak with that authority. They hear him claim authority for his own words.

As you continue reading Luke 4, you’ll see that Jesus casts out demons and heals sick – speaking with authority in every case. He rebukes demons and commands them to keep quiet. He rebukes the fever in Simon’s mother-in-law.

Chapter 4 closes with a wonderful summary of Jesus’ ministry, as he speaks these words: But he said to them, "I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose." (Luke 4:43)

Jesus’ words have authority and power. John 1:1 tells us he is the Word of God and we see here in Luke how his words carry the power of God. Who has authority? Who is stronger? In Luke 4, it is Jesus, hands down.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Celebrating Patrick

The Celts were perhaps the last group of people by 440 AD to hear about the life and death of Jesus Christ. When Patrick felt God calling him to Ireland, nearly all of Europe had been visited by missionaries. But not the Celts. Yet within 100 years of Patrick’s work in Ireland, the Celts were sending missionaries out to Europe.

Ironically, the monasteries of the Celts became the safe haven for many Christian documents. When barbarians rushed through Europe burning and pillaging, most copies of the Bible were destroyed. But the texts were kept safe in Ireland.

Patrick was Scottish and had been kidnapped by Celtic raiders at 16. He was a servant to a Celtic farmer for several years but escaped. In that time, his life was turned around. In his own words, he called himself “the least of all the faithful, and utterly despised by many….I did not know the true God. I was taken into captivity to Ireland with many thousands of people – and deservedly so, because we turned away from God…” (From The Confession of St. Patrick)

Patrick’s life is an example of acting on God’s grace. Did you notice that Patrick was Scottish and his captors were Irish? Yet Patrick obeyed God’s call to return to Ireland and tell the people about God’s salvation.

Some of his accomplishments:

  • Founded 365 churches, with schools attached
  • Monasteries not isolated from world but involved in community.
  • Monasteries were colleges for training young men.
  • “Monks” transcribed Bible, cultivated sciences and instructed youth.
  • Community/relationally evangelical.
  • No printing press, no Roman roads, no finances, BUT calling from God.
  • Mission teams sent out to Europe based on Patrick’s work in Ireland.

Patrick changed the face of Ireland – and Europe – because he reached out with God’s grace to the very people who had kidnapped and enslaved him.

Today’s St. Patrick’s day – when he died in 461 in Downpatrick, Ireland after a rich life serving God and loving God’s people. Patrick made a difference to the people of Ireland and further. Let’s celebrate his work – not with green beer and wild revelry – but by recognizing the grace that underlined his life and facing the One who is that Amazing Grace.

Some recommended resources if you'd like to know more about Patrick:

An online history at NewAdvent

F.F. Bruce The Spreading Flame

George Hunter III The Celtic Way of Evangelism

Friday, March 16, 2007

Nehemiah's grief

Now we’ll return to our discussion about Nehemiah. What did Nehemiah hear from his brother that upset him? He grieved when he learned the survivors in Jerusalem were in shame.

For the ancients, the city represented the greatest success of the nation. Its splendor mirrored the splendor of the nation. A strong and beautiful city revealed the culture and order of the nation. So Nehemiah cried out for his people who were without honor, mocked by those around them. Their walls were down and they were exposed.

Nehemiah knew that his people had spiritually been exposed for centuries, refusing to wall out the idolatry of those around them. The walls had come down because God had punished them for that idolatry. Now that spiritual condition could be seen in their physical state: they were uncovered and vulnerable.

The walls had to be rebuilt to restore national honor. The walls would provide protection from the outsiders but also provide the boundaries for those within. Nehemiah’s people would have their own limits, their own spiritual protection, restored.

Nehemiah’s plan ultimately was to go to Jerusalem to muster the people and rebuild the walls. But notice in Nehemiah 1:5 that his first step was prayer, because he could not do anything without God’s direction. He recognized God as keeping covenants and having love for those who love him and keep his commandments.

That’s the wall the people needed to rebuild. They needed to love God and keep his commandments. In doing so, they established the boundaries, the walls, of their nation.

Do you have walls that have been broken down by your wandering eye? Have you left God’s love and commandments for the lure of a different comfort or indulgence? Nehemiah started with mourning and fasting, followed by prayer and praise. It wasn’t too late for Jerusalem and it’s not too late for us.

Start today. Review God’s nature and remember his covenant. He has not left us nor forsaken us. We, too, can rebuild our wall.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


OK, OK, so I'm a history nerd. I'm with Isaac Newton on this one: If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.

History is not meant to be a dusty Trivial Pursuit game with just a collection of unrelated facts. It is meant to be used, to learn from, to analyze, to understand. History is the story of people - what motivates them, what scares them, what works for them.

If you'll check my links, you'll see a website for the Gutenburg project. Those folks are dedicated to digitally preserving old historical texts. You can read, for free, many texts no longer copyrighted. It's a great way (did I mention for free?) to dabble in the genius of the past.

Click here for The Gutenberg Project.

But if you're a English nerd (maybe I know a few. Well, maybe I am one...), there's an interesting challenge for you. You can get involved in this preservation. There is a group (and I am not making this up) called Distributed Proofreaders who voluntarily read old texts before they are converted into e-texts. They catch the mispellings and the scanner errors.

Starting with Nehemiah

When you read the book of Nehemiah, you have to think about starting over. If you haven’t read Nehemiah for a while, open it up. Here are some things to notice…

This story takes place in Israel’s history after the nation had repeatedly ignored God and worshipped false gods. Finally, God got their attention with a major time-out. He had them exiled to Babylon (modern day Iraq) for 70 years and live under the thumb of the powerful kings of Babylon, and then later, Persia.

Nehemiah was among those taken into exile and he served the king of Persia as a cupbearer. He got news one day from his brother, who reported in to describe the people left behind and the current state in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the capital city of Israel and housed the temple of God. Both the temple and the city itself had been crumbled by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (how’d you like to holler that name out the back door for supper?).

Nehemiah’s brother saw that the first wave of Jews had returned to Jerusalem and had rebuilt the temple. But they hadn’t rebuilt the walls of the city, so the city was an open gate to surrounding renegades. There was no protection for the temple or for any people who might want to settle in Jerusalem. No walls in those days meant no city.

The nation of Israel had no capital city to return to and, after spending 70 years in another king’s courts, maybe had forgotten how to live like Jews.

But here’s my first question for you: when Nehemiah heard the news about Jerusalem from his brother, he wept aloud and mourned for several days. Now, those walls had been down for 70 years so that was no surprise for Nehemiah. Why was he so upset?

Hint: see if you find some clues in Nehemiah 1:3 and we’ll chat more later.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sumballo: converse

Welcome to my devotional blog! I am on a spiritual journey as a follower of Jesus, devoted to his teachings and to understanding his word. I'd like you to join me. I have many questions but also many observations that I'll be sharing. The name of this blog is from the Greek word, "Sumballo," which means to ponder or to discuss, to throw together, to meet with, to converse. That's what I hope we'll do. You are joining a conversation. Cast in your line and join the discussion.