My Theology

When you’re around someone who loves theology, you know it. It drips and seeps into every thought they have and every conversation you have with them. They’ll tell you about what scripture verse(s) constitute the truth they’re expressing, or what well-known (even if just to them) theologian of days-gone-by thought/wrote/said about that particular subject. It’s exhilarating and exhausting all at once.

Years ago, I recall a great theologian (and friend/former pastor of mine) named Jerome Hancock said something to this effect:

The word theology is the most absurd word there is. To think that we can ‘study God’ is at the height of human absurdity.”

You can cringe at that, or bristle against it, or you can choose to see his point–and rather easily. We’re studying the One who is so far beyond our comprehension that His great charity is to allow us to near Him, let alone know Him. We call it theology, the study of God (“theos” in the Greek) but what it actually is is our finite minds straining at embracing the incomprehensible reality of the infinite Divine.

The greatest theological minds in all of history have but sipped at the ladle of all their minds could grasp, while standing on the shoreline of the boundless ocean depths of all that God is and all there can be known of Him.

As I was driving from here to there today, I passed a church with a marquee out front that said:

“Theology is God’s Holy Spirit making it’s way through your brain.”

Hmm. Okay. That’s an interesting thought, I suppose. Still, no matter how you understand it, the word theology is an adequate description of what we’re endeavoring to do here. So I thought I’d share with you in rapid-fire fashion, my own personal theology. I’ll state the topic/issue/thing and then share the nutshell version of my belief on that. As you read, keep track of what you agree with, disagree with, and/or want to challenge. Use the comment section to share all that. You ready? Here we go…

God

Yes, I believe there is a God. I believe He is eternal, all powerful, all present, and all knowing. I believe He exists in 3 persons, yet is one God. I believe these three persons to be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. While the word “Trinity” is not found in scripture, the concept is clearly seen in scripture. From the creation story, through the Torah, through the prophets, most obviously at Jesus’ baptism, and even in the apocalyptic literature known as Revelation. I believe God is supremely holy, just, gracious, and patient–to name a very few of His attributes.

Life Purpose

I believe that my life’s purpose is to so completely embrace the grace God offers humanity through Jesus (more on Him in a minute) that my life is literally transformed from the inside out. A man by the name of D.T. Niles once said “Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.” and while I love the poetic nature of that and while I think it scratches the surface of what I have found in this gracious God, I believe it goes far beyond and deeper than that. I am so captivated by grace that–God helping me–it oozes out of every pore of every thought, word, conversation, and decision I have. My life’s purpose is summarized in Galatians 1:24: “And they praised God because of me.” I ask no wealth, no notoriety, no ego-based platform, no fame but to know that my life has in some way, somehow caused someone…ANYONE to praise God because of me.

Jesus

I believe that Jesus is the one and only Son of God. Jesus is eternal by virtue of being God Himself. Jesus is the bodily manifestation of God who came to earth, created the BC/AD split, was born miraculously of a virgin named Mary, grew, served, taught, loved, listened, healed, and ultimately died on a Roman cross of crucifixion, fulfilling prophecies spoken hundreds of years before His birth. But I believe that because Jesus is God, the grave had no hope of holding Him and because of His resurrection, I have the full assurance of resurrection as well. I believe that Jesus will return for His bride, the Church, of which I am a part, along with all others who claim Him as Savior and love Him as Lord. I believe I will spend eternity in His presence because of His promises, not because of my performance.

The Bible

Ugh. The Bible. I have to admit to you that while I love this book with my whole heart, I am often both confounded by it and distracted from it. Still, I believe the bible to be the written revelation of God’s will for humanity. In it you’ll find testifying history, narrative, stories, instructions, eye-witness accounts, and blueprints on how to live a life that is fully God’s. Though this collection of 66 books may vex me at points, I cling to it as the beautiful, accurate, inerrant, revealed story of God’s redemption of humanity. I don’t believe it is all there is, because the bible itself says that it doesn’t hold all there is (John 21:25). But I do believe, as it says of itself in 2 Peter 1:3 and 2 Timothy 3:16, we have within it all we need to know salvation and holiness, as well as how we are to live in light of who God is, and by His power.

The World

By “world” I mean earth, its inhabitants, and also the culture that surrounds us. I believe the world we’re on is unraveling. I believe that we are living on a disintegrating dust ball. Yet I also believe we are called to care well for the physical earth and to be good stewards of the majesty God has handcrafted. In regards to the people of earth, I believe every one of them is fully deserving of dignity, love, family, community, support, and an opportunity to personally encounter the good news of salvation so each one can make their own choice about it. I believe that humans are the pinnacle of creation, even if you define creation as accidentally evolutionary. I believe our (American) culture is potentially beautifully but tragically corrupt. We are naturally self-centered and that has caused nearly every discord and ill we as a culture live in each day. I am not fatalistic, however. I believe in the power of love to turn any person, regardless of their past into a person that reflects the character of God, our Creator.

Hell

Yes, I believe in a literal hell. I believe it is the full absence of God’s presence. There is more to know about it than this, but other than that I believe that it is reserved for the unrepentant who repeatedly reject God.

What other areas of “theology” should be included here? What are the big pieces of YOUR theology? I welcome any comments/thoughts/respectful disagreements below.

Practically Pastoring in 2022

I spend most Mondays at 11 a.m. in a very similar fashion. I open up Facebook and watch “The Morning After Ministry Show” with Andrew Larsen and Timothy Miller. I’ve been watching their web show for quite a while now and always enjoy the way in which they communicate authentically with each other as friends and as fellow pastors who live in the Tampa, FL area. They’ve got a great chemistry together and their show always delivers laughs, insights, and thought-provoking material. It doesn’t hurt that both of them have their own unique sense of humor, so they play off each other really well. Whenever I can watch, I always enjoy the show and their hour always seems to fly by. Its not uncommon to hear my wife ask on Monday evenings, “Hey did you see the show today?” and then we talk/laugh about whatever was shared.

These two friends are also part of a group of 5 pastors who host the “Practically Pastoring Podcast”. Jeff, Delmar, and Frank the other pastors in the group who share their real-life situations, cultural commentary, and theological conversations in a way that’s always relatable and enjoyable. So, when this group of 5 pastors announced in 2021 that they would be hosting the first ever “Practically Pastoring Conference” in February of 2022, it didn’t take long at all for me to register, book my flight, and wait until the day arrived.

That day was 2 days ago, February 21. I’m sitting in the Tampa International Airport waiting for my flight and while the whole experience is fresh in my mind, I thought I’d put down some details; really for my own benefit (thanks a lot, zero memory power), but also in hopes that perhaps these reflections might spark something in you, whether you’re a pastor, an atheist, a student, or anyone else with a pulse.

If nothing else, this conference–albeit brief–was definitely true to its name and DNA: it certainly passed the “practical” test. Every conversation, presentation, and piece of content was practically helpful in some way. It was either directly related to my life and ministry or it was something at least worth tucking away to stew on later. I was honestly concerned that my backpack (my lone piece of luggage) would never fit all the books we were given. Not to mention the transparent, helpful, thoughtful words that were shared during each session. So that’s my first kudos to these 5 pastors: they created a practical experience that I trust will prove helpful in the lives and ministries of those who attended.

I’m the type of person that has thoughts triggered by listening to others but sometimes those thoughts have precious little to do with what I’m hearing while I’m listening. Anyone else? Just me? Is that weird?

Let me give you an example.

(By the way, I doodle when I listen. So here’s a doodle I doodled while listening…) We were discussing ministry in context and I began to think of ministry OUT of context. That is, what does the ministry of fostering spiritual community look like regardless of the “who” and the “where”?

As a pastor who’s lived through and survived the last 2 years of the madness and mass exodus of countless Christians trying to navigate spiritual community in the context of a global pandemic, I have definitely and repeatedly revisited the “why” behind everything we do.

In this instance, its a questioning of why we do things and what we do and when we do them.

When we as a people (the Church) gather together, there are two primary objectives. The first is to lean. That is, to find strength, comfort, welcoming, acceptance, inclusion, and fellowship. Certainly it can happen virtually. And it does. But the better method is physically and in person. Is it inconvenient? Mundate at times? Perhaps even predictable which for some equates to boring? Sure. But that makes it no less imperative. I am fully convinced that you cannot grow spiritually in the way God designed and desires apart from spiritual community. And authentic spiritual community is best delivered through the discipline of leaning. When we lean, we find that those around us are also leaning and lean-worthy. None of us are perfect, but all of us are perfect candidates for the beautiful community God invites us all into.

The next objective when we gather is to learn. Please understand that I do NOT mean that this is the only time when you learn and grow spiritually as if there is a day and time to your spiritual nourishment. None of us would feed our physical selves once a week or even twice a week, so why would we think that a weekly meal of whatever the pastor is serving will be sufficient to sustain our spiritual health and vitality? The idea of learning when we gather is that we maintain a hunger for God’s Word, for clear instruction, for holiness, and the interweaving of our journey with that of others who are also following Jesus. These are all ways in which we learn.

The right outcome of all this leaning and learning is that we are launched into the rest of our week ready to love and to lead. So, let’s flesh out in simple terms what that might look like.

You likely have certain responses to the word “love”. You might think a wide variety of things in regards to what love looks like. For our purposes here, we will embrace God’s definition of love that was penned through the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

“Love is patient, love is kind, Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Since you’re not perfect and neither am I, we can always, always look at this standard of love and see where we stand. With God’s help (and you don’t need much help here), we can see clearly and instantly where we fall short in terms of this standard. Ask yourself practical questions like…

When and with whom have I been impatient?

Where has kindness been visible in me?

Who am I jealous of right now and why?

How has pride manifested in my thoughts and words?

Have I thought or done anything in an effort to place someone below me?

Where is selfishness showing up in my daily life?

When have I too easily gotten angry this week and why?

Against who am I holding a grudge right now?

Is my heart currently embracing and living in truth?

Who in my life needs protection?

Who am I trusting fully?

What am I hoping and who needs me to share hope with them?

What we’ve done with these few lines of scripture is we have translated them into practical, more measurable goals. Not as a legalistic checklist for our own egos, but for reaping the benefits of seeking to love others as we are loved by God.

Lastly, an outcome of our spiritual community is that we lead. I believe the concept of leadership is quite tainted in our time. We have defined it quite narrowly and therefore have inadvertently exempted those who do not view (or value) themselves as what pop culture considers “leaders”. What if anyone who claimed Jesus as Savior and Lord were to also accept their place of servant leadership in their own everyday world? What if we embraced the opportunities for initiative and influence that surround us continually? We may be inclined to dismiss this thought because the opportunities seem too small or insignificant, but I would say that there is no such thing in the Kingdom of God. In fact, from a biblical standpoint the case could be made that the places, and tasks, and people that culture might consider “small” or “insignificant” are exactly where Jesus loved to hang out. How can we so simply decide for Him that our obedience won’t matter simply because we deem the opportunity too small?

In what ways do you need to reframe and redefine your understanding of what it means to lead? You there–you mother of those toddlers, do you think you’re not leading right now? Seriously? You there–the high schooler who’s still floundering to find a sure faith footing. Do you think you’re not making an impact on your school community as you simply love Jesus honestly and carelessly? Of course you are. And what about you–the one who has found themselves working a job you didn’t count on and perhaps don’t even want right now; do you really think you’re not a force of leadership among other employees? Indeed you are. And what about you, the widow(er)–are you resigned to coast the rest of the way simply because things aren’t as they were before your spouse passed on? Have you reckoned yourself without influence and ability to lead because of the grief you bear? With all due respect, this is hogwash. Or perhaps I should look at you–the one who feels broken, used, hurt, damaged, or disqualified because of past decisions and shame. Do you really think there’s no room at the Table of God’s Grace and therefore God’s gloriousness usefulness for you? You couldn’t be more wrong.

There are scads of other doodles and thoughts I’ll be taking away from these last 36 hours in Tarpon Springs, FL. But I’ll need to do some more processing before I can share those. I hope that you’ve read something here to make you smile, make you think, make you mad, or make you change. If I’ve triggered anything in your mind, I’d love to know that. I always leave the comment section open and I love to hear from those who read my blog.

As I close, here’s a photo I took this morning with Andrew and Tim. I’m honored to now call them more than just those 2 guys who are on that show that I watch. I’m proud to call them friends.

A Love Story

I wasn’t a stellar student in high school. I liked my classes and teachers for the most part, but only as long as they didn’t interfere with all the other parts of my life; namely my friends and spending time with them. I was a slightly above average student–hold on–you know what? Let’s just say I was average. In a graduating class of 225 students, I was ranked #101. So when I say slightly above average, that’s really quite literal, if perhaps a little generous.

So you can imagine my utter shock (and my parents’ utter delight) when 2 admissions counselors from a teeny tiny school called Pinebrook Junior College in Coopersburg, PA sat in my living room and were apparently wanting me to attend, starting that coming fall. That I was wanted by any school at all was a mind-bender, if I’m being honest. Like I said I wasn’t anything special, especially not academically.

That conversation in my childhood living room was a game changer though. When those two folks walked out, I was all but a signed and committed Pinebrook Panther. And the outlook of my life would never ever be the same.

I seem to recall my parents walking a few inches above the ground when we stepped foot on the Pinebrook Junior College campus. The thought that their youngest and only son, in all his averageness was actually heading off to college, was clearly filling them with glee.

The campus was miniscule but at the time I had no recognition of that. I had no point of reference, so the size of the school was inconsequential. What I remember most about that move-in day was when from across a parking lot I saw a group of students who I would later learn had been there for a summer term so were already connected and settled in. And in that small group of faces I saw the one that would have my heart entranced from that moment forward.

When I use the expression “love at first sight”, I sometimes get eye-rolls and general disbelief. But the best way I can describe seeing this young woman (I was just shy of 18 years old at this point), was the good gift of God in the form of neon arrows that only I could see hovering all around her, pointing to this absolutely stunning woman. Scoff if you’d like but my eyes, my heart, my spirit, my soul, and all my attention were completely fixated on this one I had yet to meet. In a word, it was “over”. And remember, this was my very first day of college.

I soon got to know who that young woman was. Her name was Merritt Medlock and even now as I type her name my heart quickens. So you can imagine that as a young man, just barely out of boyhood in many ways, I simply could not stop thinking about her. I still can’t.

The thing was–that “love at first sight” thing? It was only a one-way street at that point. This woman I was gob smacked over didn’t really seem to reciprocate. But that minor detail would not deter or derail what I was convinced was the script of heaven when it came to my future and who I’d walk through life with. So needless to say, I had some work to do but I did it with utter confidence of impending victory.

Over the coming weeks I did my dead level best to woo her. Or at least wear her down. I think it was a combination of both. A little over a month later, a month filled with daily walks after class and hours spent talking and getting to know one another, we found ourselves at a concert with some friends when I “officially” asked her to be my “girlfriend”. It’s a term I still apply to her today.

We dated all four years of college. That cute little junior college where we met is no longer on the map because within a couple weeks of us arriving it was announced to us that that would be their last year in existence. Financial woes, apparently. But a wonderful college in New York by the name of Nyack College showed up as if out of nowhere and a small army of Panthers would agree to transfer to Nyack College at the end of that academic year. Thankfully, Merritt Medlock and I BOTH planned to transfer to Nyack College. And that next fall, we moved to Nyack, New York right on the bank of the Hudson River just north of New York City.

Most if not all love stories have a bit of turbulence. Ours did, but I alone am fully responsible for all of it. After 4 years of dating and at the beginning of our senior year of college, I broke up with her. I will never forgive myself for the pain that caused her. I don’t even have a good reason for that decision. I think I was seeing the oncoming train of real life after college and just freaked. I know I will never be able to sufficiently explain my thought process there because I don’t fully understand it either. But I know that I hurt deeply the one I loved most. On the night I should have proposed, I ended it.

We spent some time apart and from the moment that time started, I was in agony. My heart hurt and I had no one to blame but myself. I had wrecked the one person that meant everything to me. Over a period of time we began to speak again. It was the first week or so in October now and I was headed to Ohio for a quick trip to be in my cousin’s wedding. While I stood there in that ceremony, all tuxedoed up and watching them exchange their vows, I again felt the full weight of the colossal mistake I had made in hurting the woman I love.

The next day I returned to Nyack College and asked Merritt to take a hike with me up nearby Hook Mountain. It was one of my favorite spots, overlooking the beautiful Hudson River. We hiked to the top and sat on the cliff’s edge talking. I was so glad we had reconnected but I was so much more than ready to show her how deeply in love with her I was (am) and only one question would do that.

We sat, ate some snacks, and were getting ready to head back down. We were sitting on the ground, so I suggested we stand up for a hug before heading back down the mountain. When she stood, I dug into my pocket to where I had tucked the tiny box with the tiny diamond ring. In my recollection, I was stunningly awkward, nervous, and even though I was on one knee and thus low to the ground, I felt like I was shaking so much I would likely fall over. I looked up at her, this beautiful woman I loved, and asked the question:

Merritt….. Will you marry me?”

Her response in that moment was the most glorious, beautiful, slowest of slow motions. And I was glad for that because I wanted to savor every single moment of this question/answer exchange. So sweetly, so carefully, she bent down to be eye to eye with me, kissed me softly and said:

“Yes.”

The time it takes a human to stand from kneeling isn’t in my mind because before I knew it I was standing upright again embracing my fiancée. We walked down the mountain, hand in hand, and I couldn’t stop smiling. I still can’t.

That day was over 28 years ago and while my memory won’t let me recall every moment of those 28 years, I can tell you unequivocally that I am the happiest man there is. I was given by God the greatest gift of a woman that I couldn’t even have ever dreamed of. But then when I completely screwed that up and had no one to blame but myself, that woman still stayed. I’ve said on many occasions and to many people that to me, Merritt Medlock IS the greatest reminder and representation of God’s grace in my life. Everyday I wake up is another day to love her in a way that seeks to show that I know I don’t deserve her.

I’m so in love with this woman. I’m convinced that I have indeed been given as my bride the most incredible woman I could’ve ever dreamed of. She is so loving, so wise, so giving, so gracious, so strong, so hilarious, so caring, and so beautiful. And I love her with all I am. And that’s our story…so far.

Slip Slidin’ Away…

This may not be an earth-shaking confession, but I’m a Paul Simon fan. In fact, “Live Rhymin'” was one of the first CDs I ever bought as a teenager. Not sure if that qualifies me as an “old soul” or not; that album was recorded the year I was born. There’s something about his style and eclectic approach to music and collaborations that I really enjoy. Songs like “Duncan”, “The Boxer”, “Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard”, “American Tune”, are songs that always bring a smile. And don’t even get me started on “You Can Call Me Al” and “Kodachrome”. For me, those songs have pure lift.

Another Paul Simon great is “Slip Slidin’ Away”. I can’t help but think about how life works and how time really is slip slidin’ away. Mathematically speaking: the more I live life, the less life there is to live. If that’s true, then the less of life I have to live, the more living I ought to be doing. As far as I’m concerned, that demands a deep and honest assessment of what actually is real and true. Calibration is really the only right outcome.

So how do we do such a thing? How do we accurately assess and qualify what registers on the scale of important and what doesn’t? Then, how do we assure that our lives are continually calibrated to live accordingly?

Let’s start by entertaining this thought: Whatever lasts longest matters most.

What in your life are you investing in that will be around long after your life is over? This might include business endeavors; like if you’re wanting to establish a family business that can be passed down to your children and their children and then to their children–a generational impact. It might include a benevolent effort that impacts the community around you. Maybe you see a clear need in your community and you can’t rest until it is addressed. So you go through the channels (or go rogue) in order to meet the needs of the underprivileged, or the marginalized, or the overlooked, or the exploited, or the malnourished, or the victims of injustice. There are dozens of people groups surrounding you right now that could benefit from a benevolent effort that not merely hands them a fish, but hands them a fishing pole. Maybe your life’s goal is to usher in the eradication of the needs of a particular people group in your own community, and THAT continues long after you’re gone. Maybe you’d rather take this “generational” thing far more literally and you look to your own children and pour all your attention and effort into them, their future, and their well-being. What can you do for them today that will establish the greatest likelihood for their success in the future? What blessings/lessons can they see in you that they will pass on to their own children and grandchildren?

Whatever lasts longest matters most. I suppose its an arguable statement, but in a general and very real sense, it can also serve to calibrate thoughts in a helpful way. I don’t know of many people who have as their aim to daily waste as much time and as many opportunities as they possibly can.

There’s a great verse in the bible that says this:

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:18

I believe that no matter what your worldview or spiritual persuasion may be, these are words to consider seriously and deeply because the ramifications here are profound. If we only gauge our own sense of purpose and success on the results we see (especially immediately as we are prone to do), we will soon end up deflated, discouraged, and struggling to see the point in any of it.

So what would fixing our eyes on what is unseen look like? Here’s a crazy exercise: Examine and inventory what you can’t see as you go about your day. What if you saw yourself as a planter or a waterer in the growth process of others as opposed to seeing each day as merely a list of tasks you have to complete while other humans get in your way and slow you down? I believe that’s a great place to start seeing what is unseen and investing there. Why invest in what is unseen? Because what is unseen is what will last. And what will last is what is worth living for. For every person you see, there is a story you don’t see.

A wise sage once uttered these poignant words: “Life is like a roll of toilet paper: the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.” My friends, THAT will preach.

So what will you do today to fix your eyes on what is unseen? And what changes might need to be made in order to bring your daily life into calibration with what is truly important rather than that is merely urgent?

I don’t think Paul Simon meant for me to take this song the way I’ve taken it. I suppose that’s the upside of art: we can all take it differently. At any rate, here’s the man himself reminding you that we’re “slip slidin’ away”…

The Interview.

“There’s a first for everything”, they say. Well, as far as I know this is the first time I’ve posted an audio file on my blog. If you’ve only ever been a reader of my blog, this is what I sound like. Riveting, I know. Here’s the story of why I felt it was worth posting and why I feel it’s worth you taking the time to listen…

Last week I sat down with a wonderful young woman named Megan. Megan is a senior in high school and has a Senior Thesis project that prompted her to ask me for an interview. The core of the interview is about what it is that causes people to leave the Church. Her questions were well-crafted and created for us what I felt was a wonderful conversation with some poignant moments. It’s unscripted, unrehearsed, and uncut. We said it, you get it.

I thoroughly enjoyed doing this interview and I hope that you can find something here that is either encouraging, challenging, helpful, or thought-provoking. The beginning and end of the recording are a bit abrupt (no intros/outros), but the content is solid.

As always, I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts. Leave a comment below or reach out to me in some other way. Thank you for reading (and now listening to) jerrythinks!

Recipe For A Miracle

Can you honestly envision what 5,000 people looks like? Close your eyes (after reading this next line):

Imagine 10 men. Then 100. Can you imagine 200? What about 1,000?
Do you honestly know what a crowd of 5,000 men looks like?

I’ve been to convention centers, conferences, and in large crowds. It’s always impressive and the energy that size crowd brings is electric. You got it? Can you see it?

If you need help, here’s a photo. Its from 1973. That’s the year I was born, coincidentally. Its in New York and 5,000 Sabres fans gathered to say Thank You to the team. It looked like this:

Full disclosure: I didn’t count each face on this photo. I’m sure there’s an app for that, so if you’re so inclined then go for it. But the headline reads: “5,000 People Say ‘Thank You, Sabres’ in 1973”. So there you go. Hope that helps.

I want you to have a picture of the crowd because I honestly don’t think we are thinking clearly when it comes to Jesus. Let me be more specific. I think we tone down the magnanimous reality of scripture. I think we’re missing a lot of the WOW that should be hitting us but isn’t.

Here’s the story: Jesus had been talking/teaching/healing a large crowd, probably for hours now. But it was getting late in the day and his disciples very reasonable suggested to Jesus that they send the crowd away before they got hangry. If you want to read for yourself, mosey on over to Matthew 13, or Mark 6, or John 6.

Basically, Jesus seemingly put the responsibility of figuring out how to feed 5,000 men on His 12 men. The 12 disciples clearly didn’t have the resources or wherewithal to feed the masses, but they did find a kid who’s lunch was either absconded or volunteered; a veritable feast of 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread. Personally, I identify with this kid because he obviously is serious about his carb intake. Amen, kid.

But let’s take a quick look at the progression of what transpires with this boy and his lunch. It actually has everything to do with how you’re living your life right now.

In case you want to just grab the alliteration and run, here it is: Bring it, Bless it, Break it, Broadcast it.

Bring it. God has always used what is at hand to accomplish his divine, miraculous purposes. Remember Moses and God’s chat when Moses was doubting if God could really use him? God asked “What’s in your hand?” Moses offers his shepherd’s staff and watches God turn it into a snake. God is still asking you and me: “What’s in your hand?” What you offer to God will be used by God. No exceptions. Furthermore, God will do far more with what you have than you ever could. That lunch in the hands of that boy was a lunch for one, carbolicious as it was. But in the hands of God, that lunch for one became lunch for 5,000. Step 1 in triggering the miracle is to bring it. Whatever “it” is that’s in your hand: Bring it.

Bless it. We’re told that once Jesus took the fish and loaves, he blessed it. Kind of a lofty, churchy, spiritual term isn’t it? Jesus gave thanks for the fish and loaves. He recognized it might have come from a boy but it ultimately came from God. After all, who made the fish? Who made the wheat that would be ground into bread? So what we bring should also be blessed. Acknowledge God’s provision: Bless it.

Break it. Okay, let’s take this one in a couple different ways. Jesus obviously broke the bread literally; he split it, ripped it, cut it, whatever he did to make one piece into two pieces, into three pieces, four pieces, 57 pieces, 5,000+ pieces, etc. You get it. He broke it. But for us, it can also represent the “breaking” that needs to happen between ourselves and our own sense of ownership of that thing. I wonder if we would be so tight-fisted with our belongings, money, and even our time if we remembered that we actually own nothing more than the breath that is currently within our lungs? And even that breath (the Hebrew word “ruach”) is literally on loan from God Himself? What kind of breaking needs to happen in your attitude toward “your” stuff? Break it.

Broadcast it. In this scene Jesus gave the newly brought, blessed, and broken fish and loaves to the disciples to broadcast it to the crowded who had now been broken into groups of 50 and 100, seated and waiting to be fed. But for you and for me, how is love broadcast from my life and yours? Not everyone is called to take a stage and a mic, but everyone does have a platform to broadcast from. The call is not to preach, but to broadcast in the context of every conversation you have with every person you interact with. Broadcast it.

If we were to subtract any of these steps from the equation, I’d dare say the miracle would not have been what it was. What can I do and what can you do to internalize and contextualize the Bring it, Bless it, Break it, & Broadcast it way of living?

The One Central Truth

We’re only a few days away from Christmas Day. You can feel it in the air. People are more hurried, yet often more pleasant. People are excited for the advent of traditional scenes, giving of gifts, smelling and consuming of comfort foods, and all that comes along with the several days that surround the day we celebrate Christ’s birth.

Just 15 minutes ago on my short drive to work I passed what I would categorize as a little worse than a fender bender. One car was turned sideways across the two lanes and the other car involved was sitting in a side street. I slowed down as I approached; clearly this accident was only a few minutes old. One man was standing in the road, presumably the owner of the car in the middle of the road. He was on his cell phone when I rolled slowly to a stop, put my window down and asked, “You okay? You need anything?” With a remarkable smile on his face he replied, “No, I’m all good! Thank you!” I wonder if we were in the depths of February or the midst of May, would his response have been so chipper?

There’s a truth that permeates this season, whether it is acknowledged or not. Like a bike tire with a hundred thin spokes all connected to one hub that holds them all together, so are our activities, busyness, and traditions of the Christmas season when it relates to this one central truth. Without the hub, the rest of it would be utterly meaningless.

Here is the truth hub. I hope (but never assume) that through this blog you have caught glimpses of it if not been outright smacked in the face with it by way of things I’ve written in the past…

Because of God’s immeasurable love for humanity, and in light of our sinfulness that has created a separation between us and Him–a distance we could never do anything about on our own–He sent the Way for us to be reunited with Him: That Way is Jesus. Jesus was God among us; God with us. Jesus grew, lived, loved, healed, taught, served, died, and rose again to complete the very mission God the Father sent Him to accomplish. And because of Jesus’ birth and completed mission, you and I can have all that God desires to give us right here and right now. In this season of traditions, blurry hurriedness, pop songs that pay lip service to what its all about, and our insatiable appetite for our own comfort, we gaze into a stone trough that held a human baby that contained all of Divinity in fragile bone, soft skin, and the helplessness of a held child. Help came to us and through His birth and our faith placed in Who He is, we are made alive in Him. Apart from Him, though we may amass to ourselves the stuff of success as the world sees it, we are completely lost and empty.

In this Christmas season, I pray that beyond all the things to check off on your task list and on all the wish lists, that we may return to the center and embrace the person of Jesus. He is the Center, the Hope, the Healing, the Messiah promised to us in Genesis 3, and the One who holds all we need for all we face.