Viva Las Vegas? What Jesus Says in the Midst of Tragedy, Chaos and Pain

Viva Las Vegas? What Jesus Says in the Midst of Tragedy, Chaos and Pain

This morning in my Bible time, I feel that God spoke to me… (and I was moved to blog about it… naturally).

This morning I was in Matthew 14, which is a chapter most noted for 3 pretty sizeable events: the death of John the Baptist, Jesus Feeding the 5,000 and Jesus walking on water.

At first, I caught myself thinking: man this is a weighty chapter for Jesus and very clearly you see him-every other paragraph-trying to steal away… to be alone, still and quiet. When you read the Gospels carefully, you’ll see this remarkable trait of Jesus’ and it’s our first marker for what I want to talk about today.

You see Jesus was in anguish… I mean just generally speaking he was-think about it: the weight of the world on your shoulders-literally to carry the burden of every human being’s brokenness all around you… painful, unimaginable. This is, perhaps, one reason why he was in constant pursuit of alone time with the Father.

But then when we find him in chapter 14 he’s also in a degree of specific anguish I imagine. In the preceding chapter he’s coming home and I’m just amazed how quickly the scene changes here in verse 57…

54 He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” 55 Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. 56 All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” 57 And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.

And even though he goes on in the rest of that last verse saying, ‘yeah well typical… a prophet is never well-received in his home town’ as if he had already anticipated their response (duh, he’s Jesus), but still: these are his people, his hometown, his neighborhood, his original community. And please don’t underrate the community ties of 1st century Palestine… they did not have the same universally accepted norms of individuality.

So he’s coming off of that slap in the face and goes right into hearing the news of the mortifying death of his dear friend, cousin and, in his words, (Matthew 11:11) the most enviable man who ever lived.

That happens, he tries once again to get some solace and yet people find him, track him down, follow him and even here (in feeding the 5,000) he’s very moved (in anguish) for these people-and no, not just because they’re hungry, but I would venture that he was ‘moved with compassion’ for their spiritual hunger… they were ‘sheep without a shepherd.’

It’s what happens next that interests me the most as a teachable moment for what we are going through in our country and our world RIGHT NOW…

The disciples are caught in a storm and here’s what happens…

24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

And here’s the radical perplexity of a life oriented toward Jesus and Kingdom-living:

Yes, even in tragedy, even in tremendous loss and sorrow, even in unimaginable pain-these may all be used as an invitation to experience the real and living God.

So when it may seem callous and untimely to suggest, ‘yes all things do happen for a reason’ it is nonetheless the truth of what we believe, the hope of what we live for:

that all things may be redeemed
that all things can be used for good
that all things are a means for showing us and growing us in something

So here is what I want to say:

For you out there where it’s 3 am and the waves are pounding in depression and anxiety…
For you out there where it’s 3 am and the waves are pounding in your marriage or parenting…
For you out there where it’s 3 am and the waves are pounding feeling isolation, lonliness or rejection…
For you out there where it’s 3 am and the waves are pounding in sickness and death…

For any of these, Jesus is very present, very real and he bids you come…

To the person who says, ‘keep your prayers’ HE says YES COME
To the person who says, ‘why does God let this happen’ HE says YES COME
To the person who says, ‘why God, how God, Where’s God’ HE says YES COME

I’ll leave you with one more proof for this as God’s operation in the world.

There’s a wonderful passage from Jeremiah 29. Jeremiah-God’s messenger-brings a word from the Lord to his chosen people-the Jews-who are in captivity (again, 3 a.m., darkest hour) and while there’s a hugely popular part of the passage in verse 11 (for I know the plans I have for you says the Lord…), what I love is what comes next in verse 13: “if you search for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”

Do me a favor and repost/share this with anyone in you life who may be struggling in this way and if someone reaches out-good, bad or otherwise-send them a direct message, setup a phone call or coffee date and really lean into it with them… it’s worth it and it might just change a life.

A Microblog about What’s Wrong in Our Country Right Now

A Microblog about What’s Wrong in Our Country Right Now

Are you ready? Here we go: 

  1. We are possessed with listening to respond rather than listening to understand 
  2. We fundamentally cannot agreee to disagree well. Not only that; when we come upon a differing view we must demonize that person (or group behind that claim) by making them morally reprehensible 
  3. (Bonus point) we all just need a little more Jesus…

I’ll expound only on this last one then make prescriptions (cause diagnosing problems/making declarative statements about “what’s wrong” is damn folly without actually prescribing potential solutions… as Ghandi said, “BE the change you wish to see.”)

So I’m sorry for playing into the really old church joke (the answers always “Jesus!”), but I’m afraid it’s just plain true.

In other words, I believe placing Christ at the center of each and every area of our lives in greater and greater proportion is the very essence of the Christian faith. 

So yes, a little more Jesus; 1% more Jesus each day might do us all very well…

At the risk of being redundant, I make this claim because Jesus is the literal complete manifestation of perfect: truth, love, peace, hope, grace, mercy, strength, justice, goodness and life that ever was. 

He is life giving; his words and his life (as preserved historically in the Gospels). 

Our national dialogue is not very life giving right now. 

So do yourself a favor and invite some life into your… life.

That’s prescription #1.

#2 is this: practice.

When you come upon someone, in person or in community or online who has a different view than yours: practice just actually hearing them… 

Ask questions-not in order to load up rebuttals-but rather to fully hear and understand. 

And keep asking questions until you get to a part of them that’s so personal and vulnerable that you begin to see their humanity.

When you run out of questions, just sit quietly until you think of more. 

And then thank them and walk away… 

What you do next is critical:

Think about what you heard-compare it to the origins, factual accuracy, logical consistency and existential reality of your worldview and move forward. 

This, I think, may present us with a better way to live…

52 Week Blog Anniversary 

52 Week Blog Anniversary 

This week marks 1 year since I started this blog.

It also marks the completion of quite a sizeable goal: to write 1 post a week for 1 year. 

When I look at my dashboard it says that I’ve posted 51 times, which means after clicking ‘publish’ on this post I will have reached my goal. 

There’s a guy who writes about goal setting, I think its James Clear, when he talks about the aspiration to write a book-the discipline behind which is really just about writing consistently. And how if you could just commit to the discipline of writing consistently you would amass the equivalent of a full written work. 

Well with the average non-fiction book length of 50,000-60,000 words, I’ve produced over 57,000 words this past year (at an average post length of 1,100-a few hundred words too long by the way!). 

Obviously the purpose behind the goal was much more than to simply amass a load of written words. It was the implied meaning behind the words and the mission of my homepage-to impact, influence and ignite. And I can only hope that 1400 visitors from over 30 countries and 14 followers would feel in some way encouraged and motivated by these words this past year. 

In this past year I’ve tried my best to honestly convey the learnings and major takeaways from my life that they might be a living testimony to you and yours. This should show my attempts at being committed to lifelong learning (as opposed to presenting the words as an established profession). 

And, by the way, the blog is a fabulous learning journal medium to do just that-catalog all the things you’ve learned and processed as a means for looking back and actually tracking the wisdom and development that you’ve acquired. I don’t think we do this enough-life moves too quickly and we are prone to drift (as opposed to intentionally). 

And so maybe there will be a book… but what would be the big idea? Who would be the primary audience? How would it serve people? What book would you like to read or do you feel needs to be written?

Here are some early thoughts; send me your votes and ideas…

  1. I talk to a lot of people, typically millenials, who are perplexed and transient when it comes to their calling in life. This first book idea would be driven at these young people (and any others who feel at a vocational identity crisis). “Developing a personal mission statement: the 7 stages of discovering where all of you connects with the needs of the world”
  2. I believe that churches are at a loss in so many areas from the pragmatic (strategy, management and structural needs) to the spiritual (theology, mandate to reach the lost/next generation, mission and vision), this would be a call and a guide for churches to take the time to work ON the ministry not just IN the ministry. Passion: My personal manifesto for how the church ought to look. 
  3. For the longest time I have carried the conviction that you could tether a line from almost any social problem directly back to it’s family of origin experience; the common denominator for almost all spiritual, social and political flashpoints can be connected directly to what happens in that first community. The Family: the center and solution for every social problem

Okay, so there you have it. Would love to hear from you.