Archives For faith

I’ve always felt like the most important messages a pastor can ever give are the ones that they preach to themselves first. This week I preached a message that said “The greater the distance, the stronger the arm.” It was part one of a new series we are doing called “Promised Land” where we are tracing the life of Moses. This first message was mostly about the world Moses was born into. It was a time after Joseph had died and now a whole group of Hebrews was finding themselves enslaved and subject to genocide. The Promised Land they all had heard about never felt farther away than it did in that moment. And yet that’s the exact time that God was already moving and Moses was born. The deliver was in the reeds.

It reminded me of what most dudes do when they get around a football. There’s always one who will utter the two words “Go Long.” Every guy wants an opportunity to show off his arm strength. It’s innate really. I believe this is what God is doing sometimes when the Promised Land feels far away. I believe God is just waiting for the opportunity to show off his arm strength.

And so this week’s message was first and foremost for me. I’m right smack in the middle of one of the biggest faith stretching times I’ve ever experienced. For our church we’re trusting God for helping us accomplish a pretty big financial goal in order to renovate our first permanent facility. For my family we are two weeks away from not having a place of our own – all the while trusting God to sell our home in CA and at the same time hoping the house we love will still be available here in NC.

If there ever felt like I time when God was saying “Go long” it is now. We’re praying and hoping and trusting we are running the right route and that God’s arm is strong enough. But that doesn’t make it easy. Some days my faith feels really thin. I doubt. I question. I second guess.

And so I go back and listen to a podcast of me teaching to myself hoping and praying that this guy is right. Because he sounds a lot more sure than I feel sometimes.

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New wineskins

June 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

The more I follow Jesus, the more my assumptions about Him get blown up.

There’s this little passage in the gospel of Luke where Jesus is questioned by some of the leading religious leaders of his day about why His disciples don’t seem to follow the same rules that theirs do. Apparently it was customary for really religious people to fast up to two days a week and yet Jesus’s disciples seem to be in feast mode all the time. It’s interesting to me that wherever Jesus goes there seems to be celebrating, partying, eating and drinking. And so they asked him why His disciples were doing this.

Jesus answers with a parable in two parts. First, there’s this example of a patch cut from a new garment and sewn on an old one. He says that by doing this we ruin the new thing as well as the old. The new garment now has a hole in it, and the old garment looks weird with a patch that doesn’t fit or match. The second example is of wineskins. He says that no one pours new wine into old wineskins, because if they do then the old wineskins (which have already expanded with the fermenting of wine) will burst as the new wine ages. Again, the new thing (new wine) will be ruined and so will the old thing (the wineskins).

Here’s the interesting thing. Neither the new thing nor the old thing are bad things. They are just different things.

So why this response to their question?

I think Jesus is basically saying, “Look, I’m doing something new here. The old ways that you thought about faith and your relationship to God don’t really work with the new thing that I’m doing.” The old thing isn’t necessarily bad, but neither is the new thing. And this is where I find this to be so relevant. It’s popular amongst some to dismiss the way that people used to worship, the way they did church, or the way they thought about God as if those ways were some how faulty. Many others will look at new expressions of faith, new ways of doing church, or new ways of thinking about God and dismiss those as well. The reality is that the old wineskins aren’t bad. Neither are the new ones.

But let’s be clear – Jesus is doing something new. He’s not satisfied with the old wineskins.

I’ve gone through stages in my life where old wineskins have given way to new ones. Some of those things are superficial (I gave up my PC for the world of Apple, for example), and some of them have been quite profound. The Jesus I know today is not the same Jesus that I was sure I knew ten years ago, or even five years ago. And my guess is that the Jesus I know today is not the same Jesus I will know in five years. Or at least I hope so. (There might be some who would quickly say – “wait, Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Yes that is true, but I would hope that as I get to know him more that my understanding of him continues to expand.)

I’m so thankful for the old wineskins. I’m thankful for the black and white version of faith of my childhood. I’m thankful for the foundation that provided for me. I’m thankful for the youth group faith of my teenage years. I’m thankful for the ways my faith grew as I was exposed to more of the world and the poverty and suffering I’ve seen. And I’m thankful for the faith of my college years that shaped my love for Scripture and discovery of truth.

But today my faith is more nuanced. It’s less black and white. It’s less stringent and less fixed. It’s more flexible. I think it is expanding as Jesus continues to pour new wine into these new wineskins. I love Jesus more than ever. I trust Him more than ever. I’m more certain of Him than ever. And yet, I’m less certain of all the details. And I’m ok with that.

The unfortunate thing is that many of us choose to resist new wine and new wineskins. The passage from Luke ends with this phrase: “No one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.'” At first I really didn’t understand this. Here Jesus has just talked about what He is doing as “new wine” and yet this verse says that the “old wine” is better. But I don’t think Jesus is saying that the old is better. He’s simply stating what is common to most of us. That is, that most of us will choose what is familiar over what is new. It’s why every generation believes that their cartoons were the best cartoons, that the athletes they watched were better than the ones today, that the old days were better than these ones.

My hope and prayer is that I won’t ever become resistant to the new wine. I don’t ever want to be someone who wants to go back to Egypt rather than pressing forward to the promised land (as did the Israelites in the Old Testament). I don’t want to be on the opposite end of the new thing Jesus is doing. Not that the old thing was bad. It wasn’t. But because if Jesus is choosing to expand the kingdom even further than I thought was possible, I want to be part of that.

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It seems like we continue to get reminders every so often about the brokenness of the world. This time, from Boston. But it’s not just the news is it? I was sick all day Monday this week and didn’t want to move. Today my daughter is undergoing surgery even as I write this.

Pain. Sickness. Relational friction. Bombs.

It’s easy to grow cynical and jaded. It’s easy to believe that there must not be a God, or at least He must not care.

But then we see pictures of people running toward explosions seconds after they happen. We see doctors who are doing everything they can to comfort people and to fix what’s broken.

The world is full of bad news. But it’s even more full of good news. For every bomber there are thousands who are celebrating life by running a marathon.

In Romans 8 we are told that all of creation groans with the pains of childbirth. But as Bono told us a long time ago – “There’s always pain before the child is born.”

I choose to believe that this isn’t the end. That the pain and struggle simply tells us that it isn’t over.

Don’t let the cynicism win today. Choose to focus on what is good. And while you’re at it, be part of what is good with the world today.

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