Friday, March 30, 2007

What I'm Watching

1. Who Killed the Electric Car (2006) A great documentary that made me so mad! If you like Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, you'll like this one, too. The facts about the electric car are astounding and hard to believe. The movie goes a bit long, I think, the pace slows toward the end, but not too bad. Highly recommended.

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2. Life is Beautiful (1997) An incredible performance by Roberto Benigni. A great feel-good story of beauty and redemption in the midst of chaos and brutality from the perspective of a Jewish father and his young son in a Nazi concentration camp. A comedy/drama that deals with suffering in a light-hearted way that does not minimize the pain, either. Again, Benigni is brilliant here. Highly recommended.

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3. American History X (1998) Already a bit dated in its head-on treatment of racism. I prefer the more subtle and humorous Crash. It had been a while since I'd seen this film, and Katherine had never seen it. Ed Norton is terrific (as usual). While the movie reflects a bit of reality, that's not where much of us live. While this movie is set in contemporary times, I think it reflects a much older generation better than the 1990s. The blatant racism of this movie can still be found and ought to be condemned, but this movie turns our wagging fingers away from ourselves and onto the "really bad people." Nonetheless, the laundry room scenes when Norton is in prison are fantastic, redemptive, and illustrate the principle of redemptive suffering quite well. Worth seeing, but hard to watch.

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4. Along Came a Spider (2001) A (somewhat) clever who-donnit mystery we watched because we like Morgan Freeman. The female lead, Monica Potter, was quite distracting because she looks so much like Julia Roberts. Anyway, if you like twisting plots -- Law and Order - style drama, you'll probably enjoy it. The characters are not well developed. I don't think this is anyone's favorite movie, but a solid entry into the genre. We were both surprised (and not disappointed) with the ending.

5. Luther (2003) The movie quality is not great. The characters are not well-developed. I think you'd have to know a bit about Luther's life and work in order to understand the plot. Nonetheless, it's worth watching to help put Luther in a more human light. Luther is portrayed more conflicted about his convictions than I see historical warrant for, but that seems to be the cultural value of today. Sorta like how Peter Jackson made Aragorn more conflicted (and at times, reluctant) about his rise to power than Tolkein intended. For the educational value, and to remind us of this incredibly important story of God's work in the world, I recommend it.

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6. Hotel Rwanda (2004) Don Cheadle is brilliant in this terrific true story of redemptive suffering. If you haven't learned about the Rwandan genocide of perhaps 1,000,000 people in the summer of 1994, this is a good entry point -- it's not a documentary, it's a movie. I found the "extras" on the DVD to be amazingly powerful -- interviews with the actual hotel owner (played by Cheadle in the movie), and video footage of some of the places, ruins and artifacts of the brutality. The movie could have had a quicker pace for me, but definately worth watching. Highly recommended.

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7. Philadelphia (1993) Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. Both are great, but this is not the best work of either. This is a tear-jerker. About discrimination and oppression of homosexuals. We're not where we should be as a society on the issue, but I'm glad we're past this point, mostly. The ending was way too long! Otherwise, it's a well-made movie dealing with an important issue in a sensitive but powerful story. Worth seeing, but I'm still waiting for a definative movie on this topic.

8. Dear Frankie (2004) Scottish film directed by Shona Auerbach, perhaps my favorite in this list (or perhaps, Life is Beautiful, another foriegn film). Another feel-good story dealing with all sorts of family-systems issues and the pain of broken relationships. Redemptive suffering of a mother, of a son, and of a stranger. They all give themselves to help each other for various reasons. Does that sound boring? It's not. The movie relies on a slower pace that requires attention to relational details that are often subtle. However, the director does a terrific job to train the eye toward them, making for a terrific piece of art. Emily Mortimer's performance is really quite amazing, I think. Highly recommended.

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9. 300 (2006) What can I say. It's a bloody mess. Think of all the climactic battle scenes of the Lord of the Rings, but without any character development or plot. Honor, glory, sacrifice, brotherhood, bravery. More violence than any other movie I've ever seen -- and the violence is stylized -- almost artistic. I'm not sure that's a good thing, but maybe it is. The movie interplays a bit of sex with the violence, but not pornographic (which is how I'd describe some movies I've seen rated R). Sex as seen in a wholesome way from a man's perspective. However, I'm not sure this is the best medium for that message. I can pour a lot of manhood spirituality into this movie and make it worth my time, which I did -- God created men to fight, protect and risk. With a lot of qualifications, I recommend it.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Value of Myth

"The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by the veil of familiarity . . . By putting bread, gold, horse, apple, or the very roads into a myth, we do not retreat from reality: we rediscover it. As long as the story lingers in our mind, the real things are more themselves. [The Lord of the Rings] applies the treatment not only to bread or apple but to good and evil, to our endless perils, our anguish and our joys. By dipping them in myth we see them more clearly. I do not think [Tolkien] could have done it in any other way.”

- C.S. Lewis

Harry Potter's final chapter coming soon! Hooray!

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New Student

We welcomed a new student into our home last night. He's 25 years old, from Istanbul. I think he'll be staying with us for 2 weeks only. He seems like a delightful young man with very little English, yet.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Enough for Everyone 06

The Bible and Money 06: The Epistles

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The Crafty Manager (from last week). This parable is sometimes called “The ‘Dishonest’ Manager.” However, the reduction in debt may not be dishonest. Perhaps the manager is lowering the amount he would have taken as his commission or his “cut” of the debt. Perhaps he is lowering an overly inflated interest rate to a more reasonable amount. Or, maybe he is being dishonest. One thing is sure – his motive. He plans to win friends that might help him after he loses his job.

In this parable, we ought to learn to set our priorities in this life to ensure that our eternal destiny is secure. Our death is analogous to the manager’s loss of his job. Just like the manager, we are each managers of God’s resources and he will praise us when we are generous with them, not keeping his resources to ourselves. What most managers consider a bad investment (giving money away generously to help people in need), God considers a good investment. This is followed with the famous words of Jesus, “No one can serve two masters.” If you serve God, you will give his money away.

Luke 16.1-13, Jesus also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who was informed of accusations that his manager was wasting his assets. So he called the manager in and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Turn in the account of your administration, because you can no longer be my manager.’ Then the manager said to himself, ‘What should I do, since my master is taking my position away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m too ashamed to beg. I know what to do so that when I am put out of management, people will welcome me into their homes.’ So he contacted his master’s debtors one by one. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ The man replied, ‘A hundred measures of olive oil.’ The manager said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ The second man replied, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ The manager said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest manager because he acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their contemporaries than the people of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by how you use worldly wealth, so that when it runs out you will be welcomed into the eternal homes.

“The one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and the one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you haven’t been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will entrust you with the true riches? And if you haven’t been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Different Members, One Body
1 Corinthians 12.12-26, For just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body – though many – are one body, so too is Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether we are Jews or Greeks or slaves or free we were all made to drink of the one Spirit. For in fact the body is not a single member, but many. If the foot says, “Since I man not a hand, I am not part of the body,” it does not lose its membership in the body because of that. And if the ear says, “Since I am not an eye, I am not part of the body,” it does not lose its membership in the body because of that. If the whole body were an eye, what part would do the hearing? If the whole were an ear, what part would do the smelling? But as a matter of fact, God has placed each of the members in the body just as he decided. If they were all the same member, where would the body be? So now there are many members, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor in turn can the head say to the foot, “I do not need you.” On the contrary, those members that seem to be weaker are essential, and those members we consider less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our unpresentable members are clothed with dignity, but our presentable members do not need this. Instead, God has blended together the body, giving greater honor to the lesser member, so that there may be no division in the body, but the members may have mutual concern for one another. If one member suffers, everyone suffers with it. If a member is honored, all rejoice with it.

Paul asks for a collection of money from the Corinthians for the poor
2 Corinthians 8.1-15, Now we make known to you, brothers and sisters, the grace of God given to the churches of Macedonia, that during a severe ordeal of suffering, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in the wealth of their generosity. For I testify, they gave according to their means and beyond their means. They did so voluntarily, begging us with great earnestness for the blessing and fellowship of helping with saints. And they did this not just as we had hoped, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and to us by the will of God. Thus we urged Titus that, just as he had previously begun this work, so also he should complete this act of kindness for you. But as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, and in all eagerness and in the love from us that is in you – make sure that you excel in this act of kindness too. I am not saying this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love by comparison with the eagerness of others. For you know that grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that although he was rich, he became poor for your sakes, so that you by his poverty could become rich. So here is my opinion on this matter: It is to your advantage, since you made a good start last year both in your giving and your desire to give, to finish what you started, so that just as you wanted to do it eagerly, you can also complete it according to your means. For is the eagerness is present, the gift itself is acceptable according to whatever one has, not according to what he does not have. For I do not say this so there would be relief for others and suffering for you, but as a matter of equality. At the present time, your abundance will meet their need, so that one day their abundance may also meet your need, and thus there may be equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”

James 1.27 – 2.8, Pure and undefiled religion is before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world. My brothers and sisters, do not show prejudice if you possess faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For if someone comes into your assembly wearing a gold ring and fine clothing, and a poor person inters in filthy clothes, do you pay attention to the one finely dressed and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and to the poor person, “You stand over there,” or “Sit under my feet”? If so, have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil motive? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters! Did not God choose the poor in the world to be rich n faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor! Are not the rich oppressing you and dragging you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme the good name of the one you belong to? But if you fulfill the royal law as expressed in this scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.

James 5.1-6, Come now, you rich! Weep and cry aloud over the miseries that are coming on you. Your riches have rotted and your clothing has become moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted and their rust will be a witness against you. It will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have hoarded treasure! Look, the pay you have held back from the workers who mowed your fields cries out against you, and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived indulgently and luxuriously on the earth. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person, although he does not resist you.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Jesus is for Losers

I was trying to hook yet another critical music lover (who also loves Jesus, and is a new friend) on to Steve Taylor last night. I sent him home with Squint. I'm reminded of one of Taylor's best:

If I was driven
Driven ahead by some noble ideal
Who took the wheel?
If I was given
Given a glimpse of some glorious road
When was it sold?
So caught up in the chase
I keep forgetting my place
Just as I am
I am stiff-necked and proud
Jesus is for losers
Why do I still play to the crowd?
Just as I am
Pass the compass, please
Jesus is for losers
I'm off about a hundred degrees
If I was groping
Groping around for some ladder to fame
I am ashamed
If I was hoping
Hoping respect would make a sturdy footstool
I am a fool
Bone-weary every climb
Blindsided every time
Just as I am
I am needy and dry
Jesus is for losers
The self-made need not apply
Just as I am
In a desert crawl
Lord, I'm so thirsty
Take me to the waterfall
And if you're certain
Certain your life is some cosmic mistake
Why do you shake?
And if you're certain
Certain that faith is some know-nothing mask
Why do you still ask?
They don't grade here on the curve
We both know what we deserve
Just as you are
Just a wretch like me
Jesus is for losers
Grace from the blood of a tree
Just as we are
At a total loss
Jesus is for losers
Broken at the foot of the cross
Just as I am
Pass the compass, please
Jesus is for losers
I'm off about a hundred degrees
Just as I am
In a desert crawl
Lord, I'm so thirsty
Take me to the waterfall

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

I need a good laugh

I recently realized I haven't taken a day off work (other than major holidays, which are required) since my trip to Costa Rica last summer. I'm feeling it -- big time. I'm kinda burned out.

Fortunately, I've got several trips planned starting after Easter. I may take some extra time off of work this summer, too. For now, here's a good laugh.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Do Not Be Afraid

Tonight I will give a short homily for the annual Memorial Service at Baptist Hospital for our volunteers who have died this year. Many of them have served the hospital for many years. Today also marks the death of one of my friends who died a few yards from where I now sit. Here is the scripture passage and my homily. The last quotation of the homily is the chorus to the song that the congregation will sing immediately after the homily.

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Isaiah 43.1-2, 5-7, But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you… Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will gather you and your children from east and west. I will say to the north and south, ‘Bring my sons and daughters back to Israel from the distant corners of the earth. Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.’”

Do not be afraid. I have called you by name. You are mine. When you go through deep waters . . . We are here this evening because we have seen the deep water. When you go through the deep waters . . . I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty . . . We are here this evening because we've seen some difficult rivers . . . you will not drown, don't be afraid, I will be with you.

So many of our volunteers come to our hospital because they love this place. We love Baptist Hospital. We love the people here. Our friends are here. This has become a second home -- and we are like a second family -- the family of Baptist Hospital. Take a look around this room. Look who's here -- our brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles, our nephews and nieces. Sometimes we bicker like a family, don't we? But here we are! If you were to hand-pick the people you would want to work with -- would you hand pick these people? Probably not. You know, I wouldn't have chosen a bull-riding redneck living in rural Tennessee to be my little brother. But I love him just the same and I know that he loves me. That's how it is with family. I wouldn't have picked him, but on Christmas day, I don't want to sit next to anyone else but him.

So many of our volunteers come back to our hospital when they're sick. It's a great testament to the level of care Baptist Hospital provides. It's one thing to work in the kitchen of a fancy restaurant. It's another thing to eat at that restaurant after you've seen the messes in the back. And a hospital is not like a restaurant exactly. Poor care at a hospital is more significant than simply a fly in your soup. I've visited many volunteers of our hospital when they become our patients, when they put their lives in our hands. So have you, haven't you? You've seen them -- maybe you've been seen by others who visit you in one of the rooms here. Family members stop by for a visit -- brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces of Baptist Hospital who stop by to check on each other when they're sick. That's how family works, doesn't it.

So many of our volunteers have served our hospital for years and are taken from us. Some are taken suddenly and we can hardly believe it. Some are taken slowly, an agonizing inch at a time. Well, that's what brings us here this evening. We are here to remember our brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles, our nephews and nieces -- here at Baptist Hospital. They worked side-by-side with us. Things are not the same without them.

We are reminded this evening that some of the rivers of life are difficult and dangerous . . . but I am with you, don't be afraid. You may walk through the fire . . . but the flames will not consume you, because I am with you, don't be afraid. Some of the waters of life are deep, very deep . . . but when you go through them, I will be with you, don't be afraid.

We trust that God will, one day, bring us back together -- from east and west, from north and south, from the distant corners of the world. He will one day, call us by name and take us home -- home to be with our family again. He says to us this evening, "Do not be afraid, I am with you. I have called you each by name. Come and follow me, I will bring you home; I love you and you are mine."

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Enough for Everyone 04

Money and the Bible 04: The teachings of Jesus, not parables.

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Jesus was poor. His parents gave the sacrifices according to the lowest income bracket available. He was homeless throughout his adult life. See also Philippians 2.5-11.

Matthew 8.20, Jesus said to him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9.58).

Luke 2.22..23, Now when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord… and to offer a sacrifice according to what is specified in the law of the Lord, “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” (Leviticus 12.8; 5.11)

Jesus announces his purpose in ministry. At the start of his ministry, he identifies himself as the fulfillment of prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures. He finds a passage from the prophet Isaiah that he uses as his “calling card” to say to everyone, “This is who I am, this what my job.” Some call this the Nazareth Manifesto.

Luke 4.16-21, Now Jesus came to Nazareth where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as he customarily did. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him, and he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (See also Matthew 11.5)

Jesus’ signature sermon. Matthew records one version (The Sermon on the Mount) in chapters 5-7. Luke records another version (The Sermon on the Plain) in chapter 6.

Matthew 5.3..6, Blessed are the poor in spirit, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them…Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, because they will be satisfied.

Luke 6.20, 21..24,25, Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied…. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your comfort already. Woe you who are well satisfied with food now, for you will be hungry.

Matthew 6.1-4, Be careful about not living righteously merely to be seen by people. Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven. Thus whenever you do charitable giving, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in synagogues and on streets so that people will praise them. I tell you the truth, they have their reward. But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift may be in secret. And your Father , who sees in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6.19-34, Do not accumulate for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But accumulate for yourself treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not bread in and steal. For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also. They eye is the lamp of the body. If then your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one is able to serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. No one is able to serve God and possessions.

Because of this I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat or drink, or about your body, as to what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky: they do not sow, or harvest, or gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? Can any of you add time to his life by worrying? Why worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow. They do not work or spin, yet I say to you that Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. And if God clothes the grass of the field this way, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.

Luke 12.22-34, Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God provides food for them. How much more valuable are you than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add an hour to the length of his life? So if you cannot do such a very little thing as this, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies grow; they do not work or spin. But I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. Yet if this is how God clothes the wild grass that is alive today and tomorrow is tossed into a fire to heat the oven, how much more will he clothe you, you of little faith! So do not be overly concerned about what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not worry about it. For all the nations of the world pursue these tings, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead pursue God’s kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father is well pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide yourselves purses that do not wear out, a treasure in heaven that never decreases, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, your heart will be there too.

The Rich Young Ruler.

Mark 10.17-31, As Jesus was starting out on his way, a man ran up to him, fell on his knees and said, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” The man said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things since my youth.” As Jesus looked at him, he loved him and said, “You lack one thing. Go, sell whatever you have and give it to the poor. You will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me.” But at this statement, the man looked sad and went away sorrowful, for he had great property.

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at these words. But again Jesus said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.” They were even more amazed and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “This is impossible with people, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.

Peter begain to speak to him, “We have left everything and followed you!” Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel, who will not receive in this present age a hundred times as much – homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fields – all with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Matthew 19.16-30, Luke 18.18-30)


Luke 19.1-10, Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. Now a man named Zacchaeus was there; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to get a look at Jesus, but being a short man he could not see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, because Jesus was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to that place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, because I must stay at your house today.” So he came down quickly and welcomed Jesus joyfully. And when the people saw it, they all complained, “he has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, half of my possessions I now give to the poor; and if I have cheated anyone of anything, I am paying back four times as much!” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this household, since he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Paying Taxes

Mark 12.13-17, Then they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to trap him in what he said. When they came they said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and do not court anyone’s favor, because you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” Aware of their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” They brought it and he said to them, “Whose likeness is this, and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed by him. (Matthew 22.15-22)

A Widow’s Offering

Mark 12.41-44, Then he sat down opposite the offering box, and watched the crowd putting coins into the temple treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth less than a penny. He called his disciples and said to them, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow put more into the offering box than all the others. They all gave form their abundance. But she, out of her poverty, put in what she had to live on , everything she had.” (Luke 21.1-4)

Mary Anoints Jesus

Mark 14.3-9, Now while Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of costly aromatic oil from pure nard. After breaking open the jar, she poured it on his head. Some there were angry and said to one another, “Why was there this waste of ointment? It could have been sold for more than three hundred silver coins and given to the poor!” So they spoke angrily to her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a good service for me. For you will always have the poor with you and whenever you want to, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She anointed my body before hand for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” (Matthew 26.6-13 and John 12.1-8)

John 12.1-8, Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom he had raised from the dead. So they prepared a dinner for Jesus there. Martha was serving, and Lazarus was among those present at the table with him. Then Mary took three quarters of a pound of perfumed oil made of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus. She then wiped his feet dry with her hair. (Now the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfumed oil.) But Judas Isacriot, one of his disciples (the one who was going to betray him) said, “Why wasn’t this perfumed oil sold for three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor?” (Now Judas said this not because he was concerned abou thte poor, but because he was a thief. As keeper of the money box he used to take what was put into it.) So Jesus said, Leave her alone. She has kept it for the day of my burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you don’t always have me.”

Next Week – the Parables of Jesus – The Two Debtors, The Parable of the Sower, The Pearl of Great Price, The Unforgiving Servant, The Good Samaritan, The Rich Fool, Inviting the Outcast, Counting the Cost, The Unjust Steward, The Rich Man and Lazarus, The Laborers in the Vineyard, The Sheep and the Goats and more!

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

My Friend Jesus

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Those who like to think of Jesus as their friend are sad to me. Perhaps they don't have any friends, so Jesus become their imaginary friend. Friendship is great, but I don't really need more friends -- I need a righteous Savior, not a life coach. I need a powerful King, not a listening ear. I need a divine Hero, not an encouraging friend. I need someone to fix my world. My heart is so dark, I need radical and divine intervention. I suppose we can deceive ourselves into thinking that we're doing pretty good.

Paul tells us (Galatians 1, Philippians 3, etc.) that he was better than anyone else at "being good." And it didn't work. No peace that way. In fact, Paul says that "goodness" is a hindrance to the gospel's work and I've seen this. The good, rich, friendly, church people rarely understand the gospel. When I tell them, "Jesus died for you," they yawn and say, "Lots of people do lots of great things for me. I'm so glad Jesus died for me -- that was really nice of him to do. Thanks, Jesus! I'll do something for you, too, sometime." Actually, I think they are trying to avoid Jesus. "If I keep my nose clean, I'll never have to come begging to Jesus. I'm not perfect, but I'm hoping to get close so that I don't have to beg often."

The Jesus in the Bible is looking for people who are begging, begging for forgiveness, begging for mercy, begging for justice. He is drawn to these people, and they love him. To everyone who asks, it will be given. Everyone who seeks will find.

The poor, the broken, the weak, the vulnerable understand it so quickly. That's probably why the church is growing so much faster in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and China than in the United States.

Lord, have mercy on me, a rich, educated, white man. Teach me to be a begger -- so that I may enjoy the lavish grace you offer to make me wealthy and wise beyond my imagination.

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photograph courtesy Tudor Hulubei

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