Deals with the Devil

27 02 2010

Tonight I googled “make a deal with the devil” (uhhh….it was for a sermon I was writing…honest! :)) and here was the first site that popped up:

Ehow: How To Make a Deal with the Devil.

Just in case you were wondering.


21 02 2010

Just wanted to share a poem by Frederick Ohler that spoke to me today:


Great and holy God
awe and reverence
fear and trembling
do not come easily to us
for we are not
Old Testament Jews
or Moses
or mystics
or sensitive enough.
Forgive us
for slouching into Your presence
with little expectation
and less awe
than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.
We need
neither Jehovah nor a buddy —
neither “the Great and Powerful Oz” nor “the man upstairs.”
Help us
to want what we need…
and may the altar of our hearts
tremble with delight
Your visitation

At our Ash Wednesday service last week, Ashley talked about the spiritual practice of confession. She made the point that we often we get into the habit of thinking that the Protestant Reformation did away with the necessity for confession. But that’s not the case! It only did away with the necessity for an intermediary (the priest). It still is an important part of Christian practice to recognize the ways in which we fall short, and then to confess them to God and/or other people.

And sometimes we think that when we pray the Lord’s Prayer — forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us — that we are making some sort of blanket statement to absolve ourselves from everything, all at once. It’s not that we need to be keeping tallies of our sins in our heads…but true confession requires us to search our souls and notice the specific ways in which we have missed the mark. Ohler’s poem employs a sort of linguistic precision that speaks directly into my own heart:

Forgive us for slouching into Your presence…

Let this be my prayer today…

Letting Jesus out of the box

19 02 2010

On Monday afternoon, while cleaning out the Sunday School closets of the Youth Wing, some of the youth and I ran across the big party box of the game Apples to Apples. (If you’re unfamiliar with the game, click on the link to read wikipedia’s version of the rules…very briefly, it involves matching nouns and descriptive adjectives).

So, during our Wednesday night Bible study, we put Jesus at the center of the game. (The youth informed me that there is apparently a Bible version of the game that may have been more immediately relevant, but we used the real game). I scattered all of the green cards — the adjectives — around the floor, and asked the students to find the word that best described Jesus. We discussed their choices, and then went on to read some Bible passages that showed some conflicting images of Jesus: i.e. the meek and mild moral teacher vs. the conquering king of Revelation. After each reading, the youth were invited to pick up a new card.

One thing I’ve learned about my role as a youth director: every week, I get to learn, teach, and experience the lessons, all at the same time. By the end of the game, I had collected cards that said “Revolutionary,” “Rare,” and “Stunning.” My answers surprised me, as they were different from the cards that I thought I would choose.

But that was what the lesson was all about: expanding our image of Jesus. Too often we put Jesus in a box and never let him out (like Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights, who insists on praying to little baby Jesus in a manger). But that’s no way to treat the Son of God!

The very next day, I began reading a book called ReJesus: A Wild Messiah For a Missional Church. Authors Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch argue that a “rediscovery of the biblical Jesus will reshape our view of God, the church, and the world,” but in order to open our eyes, we must “resist capturing Jesus for our ends or molding him to our theological or political agendas” (23, 24).

For this Lenten season, I challenged my students, as I challenge myself, to try to see Jesus in a different way. If you’re interested in trying something similar, I encourage you to check out this gallery of images called “Faces of Jesus.” Which Jesus is most familiar to you? Which Jesus is the “real” Jesus? Which Jesus is calling out to you today?


1 02 2010

Over the past week I’ve thought more about grace than i ever have in my life. I’ve been reading and pondering and absorbing so many different perspectives: John Wesley. Anne Lamott. The Apostle Paul. John Newton. Phliip Yancey. Brennan Manning. Martin Luther. Victor Hugo. All of them have something important to say about grace. And now…well, I don’t really have anything important to say, but this is what jumps out at me:

Grace is a story. It’s always a story. And sometimes it’s a Story. You can talk about faith and justification and righteousness and sanctification as much as you want, but those words don’t mean anything until they can find their place within the story. And that story is called, Grace.

Grace is even greater than mercy. It’s greater than simply righting a wrong. It doesn’t ask for recognition, or a reward. Grace is welcoming strangers. Seeing them for who they were originally created to be. Looking through the eyes of God.

Grace can be doing the dishes. Dancing. Taking the fall for someone else. Checking your prejudices at the door. Giving away candlesticks.

Amazing grace. Life-giving grace. Soul-healing grace. It’s always unexpected, and it’s never easy. But it’s simple enough. It is counter-cultural. It can be confusing.

Grace does more than say, “It’s going to be okay.” It supplies the tools and time to really make it okay, and it loves all the way through. Grace fixes our brokenness, not just with Band-Aids, but from the inside out, in love. Grace makes us whole again, and welcomes us into a Wholeness greater than we have ever known before.

Grace happens in the moments that nearly pass us by, and we are left, not knowing fully what has happened, but understanding that we have somehow received a gift. And we keep giving…