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Pentecost (or “They Were In What Now?”)

Pentecost (or “They Were In What Now?”)

As I contemplate tomorrow’s celebration of Pentecost, my brain keeps coming back to one thing: Dairy Queen Snickers Blizzards.  You see, I was sitting in the outdoor seating of a local DQ one warm summer night with a couple of college friends.  We were discussing random theological things and the topic drifted toward the work of the Holy Spirit.

“Well, the greatest thing the Holy Spirit does, in my opinion,” says the scholar on my right, “is to bring unity to the body of Christ.”

That’s when it happened.  I did a kind of snort/spit take and a piece of snickers (from the aforementioned blizzard) got stuck in a place in my sinuses that was… well, unpleasant.

Once things got back in order, I asked “Why do you say that the Holy Spirit brings unity?”

“Because in Acts chapter 2,” says he, “it says that the Holy Spirit brought unity to the people in the upper room.”

I’ve been thinking about that statement a lot today.  Because, as you probably know, that isn’t quite what the Bible says at all.  Acts 2 opens with this statement:

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

The word translated “accord” in that verse is the Greek word ὁμοθυμαδόν (homothumadon) and it means… well… that’s tricky. See, in the NIV, CEV (my personal favorite), NASB, Message and others, it says that they were “together” in one place. That is a perfectly fine translation.  However…

Homothumadon is a combination of two words. The general meaning of this compound word is to “rushalong” “in unison”.  The image it paints is one of harmony. In other places in the New Testament, the word is translated as “unity” or “one mind.”  And these are fine translations as well. However…

Let’s go back to this compound word thing.  The two root words independently are homou which means “assembled together” and thumos which means, among other things, “passion,” “heat,” and “ardour.”  So what does Acts 2 say?

The people assembled in the upper room had come together with passion and ardour, earnestly seeking the promise Jesus had said would come. There was a burning heat of unity in them already when the Holy Spirit showed up and did an amazing thing in them and then through them.

So, as we approach Pentecost this year, I pray that – as much as we rely on the Holy Spirit to be our Comforter, our Guide and all of the the other roles the Holy Spirit is here to fulfill and be – we will recall, reaffirm and then recreate the passionate unity that was present in the upper room. Then, let the Holy Spirit come and do amazing things in and through us.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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A Quick Announcement

A Quick Announcement

Happy birthday, Rebecca Christine! I can’t wait to see you again.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2013 in Article

 

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Yes, Penelope, There Is A Judge

Yes, Penelope, There Is A Judge

It may be one of my favorite pictures of all time. It’s certainly the most honest.

Let me clarify…

Penelope Soto was in court on drug possession charges. You can tell from the video (posted below) that she is taking her appearance in court anything but seriously. When asked how much money she makes, she replies “about 200 bucks a week.” When asked if she has anything of legitimate value (e.g., a house, car, jewelry), inexplicably, she says “yes.” When asked to clarify she says she “own[s] a lot of jewelry, all right.” When the judge asks for clarification regarding her jewelry’s worth, she says “it’s worth a lot of money… like Rick Rolls.” (Now, either this girl has no idea what a “rick roll” is, or there is an entire generation of clubbidiots who have appropriated the name of one of the greatest bait-and-switch jokes in internet history as their new slang for “a lot of money.”)

The Public Defender, to his credit, offers to take the girl on, but the judge sagely points out that, if she has all of this expensive jewelry, she can sell it and hire her own defender. She is initially fined $5,000. She coyly bids the judge “adios”, and, with a smile on her face, turns to leave. As she’s walking away, the judge laughs… but then calls her back. What happens next is just… I have…. “no words… they should have sent a poet.”

The judge takes back the paper and changes the fine for Count 1 (there were multiple counts) to $10,000. And then… this… glorious thing happened.

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Yes, Penelope… There are consequences for your actions.

Just look at her face! She pleads with the judge, as innocently as she can, “Are you serious?”

And that awesome arbiter of justice responded, “I am serious. Adios!”

In a world where teenagers weren’t habitually spoiled and coddled from the ramifications of their words and actions, this would be the end of this story. But, luckily for all of us, it isn’t.

Penelope, turns to leave, gives the judge the finger and says something that contained the f-bomb. And, like a boss, he calls her back. The courtroom expresses it’s shock as she begins to lose her playful demeanor.

The judge, channeling his inner “Tony Montana” asks for clarification as to what exactly she just said. He then finds her in direct criminal contempt, and sentences her to the fine PLUS thirty days in county.

And, in case you’re interested, here’s the full video.

Why am I talking about this HERE?

Well, partly, because I can. Partly because I love justice. Partly because we need to pray for Penelope Soto and Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat.

But mostly to say this: We must remember that our actions, even just the words we speak, have consequences.  In Number 32:23b we read:

…you may be sure that your sin will find you out.

The point here is that sin always, always, ALWAYS has consequences, and there is no escaping that. More importantly, sin is progressive. Look at what happened with Penelope. She was in court on charges of drug possession. Xanax Bars, they’re called. In the great scheme of things, probably not that big a deal (that is not an endorsement of drugs, ok,? Don’t start. I’m talking BIG PICTURE.). But she had allowed her involvement in that culture to affect her thinking and decision making processes.

What was, initially, a slap on the wrist, became a huge financial burden accompanied by a prison sentence.

Yes, there are consequences. And, ultimately, there are eternal consequences.

Our great blessing is that there is One who bore our eternal consequences for us.

Yes, that screen cap is a great picture. It makes me smile. The video made me laugh.

But it also makes me terribly sad. There are so many who are so hopelessly lost.

for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? – Romans 10:13-14

We are the ones sent to them. Quick, do an exercise… Find a map of your city. Put a pushpin on your house. Find the legend. Draw a circle around your house that has an equivalent 5 mile radius. That’s your mission field.

Go!

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2013 in Article

 

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2013: Let’s Do This

2013: Let’s Do This

We are officially a week into the new year.  My colleagues in the blogosphere have already hit the ground running. Michael Hyatt released a great podcast on “How To Develop More Discipline“, Cliff Ravenscraft released “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That – Goals Vs Resolutions And More!“, Jeff Jones sets up an interesting challenge in “How to Have the Year You’ve Always Wanted“, Dan Miller even decided to engage his readers with a contest. Churches in my area have started a Daniel Fast, and various Bible reading initiatives, some reading through the entire Bible in a year, some covering just the gospels in the same time and some reading through the entire Bible live in the sanctuary in less than ten days!

The approaching new year has always caused me frustration. Resolutions, failure, rinse, repeat. 11 months later, repeat again. The approaching twelve months always seemed so huge… so overwhelming… so much bigger than me. The annus novus was my enemy. No… my nemesis.

But then something changed. I can’t pin down when it happened, but in the course of 2012 I discovered the power of the word “in.”

For years, I’ve had faith “in” Christ. I put my trust “in” His salvation. I believe “in” the promises found in Scripture.

But something was still off…

Then I read Colossians 1:26-27 like it was the first time:

For ages and ages this message was kept secret from everyone, but now it has been explained to God’s people. God did this because he wanted you Gentiles to understand his wonderful and glorious mystery. And the mystery is that Christ lives in you…

I realized that the important was “in” me. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives inside me. It almost sounds like children’s Sunday School, but that is a HUGE deal.

Since I’ve begun to embrace this reality, I have been confirmed in my calling, my father in the ministry has blessed me and broken chains off of me that I didn’t even know were there, and the doors have begun opening up for me in a way I have hardly dreamed.

I’m kicking off 2013 a little differently than I ever have before. I’ve made no resolutions. I have started doing some things that are resolution-like, but they are not built into resolutions. I have instead set particular and specific goals for the year. I’ve never done that before. The New Year isn’t the overwhelming thing it once was.  The months, weeks, days, hours and minutes that lay ahead are not the enemy; they are the canvas upon which I am called to paint this scene of His Masterpiece.

Another year? Gladly.

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Posted by on January 9, 2013 in Article

 

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Book Review: The Fantasy Fallacy by Shannon Ethridge

Book Review: The Fantasy Fallacy by Shannon Ethridge

SEX! There, I said it.  Now let’s move on.

In all seriousness, the intimate moment is one that many in the church are afraid of discussing.  That’s one of the things that makes The Fantasy Fallacy so important. To many people, believers and unbelievers alike, the subject of sex, nevermind sexual fantasy, is a topic so taboo that the discussion of it is relegated to hushed whispers and secret book reading.

Not so this new work by Shannon Etheridge (incidentally the author of another great work on this subject, The Sexually Confident Wife: Connecting with Your Husband Mind Body Heart Spirit). In her work, The Fantasy Fallacy, has not pandered to titillation or indiscrete arousal. Instead, she seeks to help the reader “connect [our] own dots and make sense of [their] own sexual thoughts.”  Etheridge is refreshingly forthcoming and honest, yet maintains a sincerely compassionate approach. The book’s artwork (as well as the time of release) tends to make the reader connect to the insanely popular “Fifty Shades of Grey” novels.  I have written my thoughts on that series, but Stephen Arterburn, author of Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time, takes time and care to point out that Etheridge’s purpose is not to bash E.L. James story, but instead to “help women and men — both married and single — to take a second look at the fantasy world they may be creating through romance novels, pornography, or their own imaginations. It will also help them get out of that fantasy world and back to building real, healthy relationships.”

Etheridge divides all chapters into two sections.  The first part is the basic information covering the chapters topic, while part two “Behind The Curtain” takes all of that information and presents a real-life, rubber-meets-the-road application.  It is this approach that was most practical for this reviewer.  Too often authors give good information but leave the reader in the position of figuring out a way to apply the lesson on their own.

This book is one to read alone, with your spouse, and then read again.  The content of the chapters is excellent, but this book also gives some incredible content in the appendices. Long story short? Get this book NOW!

My Rating

Just Get It

The Fantasy Fallacy: Exposing the Deeper Meaning Behind Sexual Thoughts
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (October 16, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0849964695
ISBN-13: 978-0849964695
Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches

Buy the Print Version or the Kindle Version

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Posted by on January 8, 2013 in Article, Book Review

 

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Lessons from the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

Lessons from the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

I wish it had not been my daughter. You see, the moment I tell you that this story involves my daughter, you will read these things and think, “He’s embellishing that.” I both swear and affirm that I am not. This conversation is burned into my brain. Some of you are going to drift. “Oh, he’s just a dad bragging on his daughter.” Believe me when I tell you that there are elements of that here, but what I wish to convey to you is surprise and hard truths that came from a very unexpected source.

As a preacher, you’re always looking for stories, examples, analogies… ANYTHING to help convey a larger point in a memorable way. I was once called the king of analogies.

We were riding in the car the other day, when my eldest, 10-year-old Liliana, said, “Daddy, I think we should get a Charlie Brown Christmas tree this year.” (We had seen them in the pharmacy and other stores. You can buy a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree of your very own here.)

“Why is that, sweetie?”

Well, it reminds me of my favorite verse.

……….. (That’s actually what appeared in my head. Just a stream of dots trying to make a connection)

“What do you mean, Lili?”

“Well, you know how when Charlie Brown went to get the tree? He really liked it. But it couldn’t support more than one ornament, and nobody else thought it measured up. Everybody said it was a dumb tree and didn’t look like a real Christmas tree.”

………..

“How does this remind you of your favorite verse?”

“Well, I don’t remember where it is, like the numbers and stuff, but it says, ‘Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.'” (For reference sake, that’s I Timothy 4:12, and, yes, she actually said the whole thing.)

……….. (Starting to grasp it, but the shock is setting in)

“And, like, God wants me to be me, and do the stuff He wants me to do. And I might not look like everybody else, and I might not even be what people expect me to be, but I can be what God wants me to be.”

The eyes are getting wider. She is oblivious.

“And, like, the ornament, you know? Remember when you said that God has a calling for each of us? That’s our ornament. That’s the ONE THING that we need to focus on because that’s our calling. And, so if I do that, and I try my best to be who God wants me to be, then it doesn’t matter what anybody else says. So, I just think we should get a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.”

I literally had to stop the car. I was crying. I tried to hug her and tell her how awesome she was, and how proud I was of her… I am certain I failed miserably. I don’t have the vocabulary to express my pride, my wonder, my amazement.

Yes, I was once the king of analogies, the master of the illustrated point.

I have been dethroned.

And, yes, we did buy the tree.

Liliana and the TreeMerry Christmas, everyone!

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2012 in Article

 

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Thoughts On Sandy Hook Elementary School

Thoughts On Sandy Hook Elementary School

I started writing this post a couple of days ago. This morning, news broke that both informed and fundamentally changed much of what I was going to say. You see, in case you haven’t heard, this morning in Newtown, Connecticut, a 20-year-old man walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary school and began firing guns, one of which was a .223-caliber rifle. At the latest report, 27 people, including the gunman are dead.

18 of those are children.

18.

Now, in the days to come, I am sure we will see the standard media blitz. Some journalists will convey information, some will sensationalize, some will use the events there to boost ratings. Punditry will kick into high gear, we can be sure, over gun laws and interpretations of the 2nd Amendment. You may even hear “experts” try to explain the behavior of a man doing what people on Facebook, and news forums have called, “unthinkable”, “horrible”, “wicked”, “awful”, etc.

And that, really, is what this post was supposed to be about. How can someone do something so horrible to something or someone so helpless?

My daughter occasionally deals with this. I see in her a wisdom beyond her years. It is a wisdom untainted, so far, by cynicism and experience. She sees things as they are and notes that when something is wrong. Not just wrong to her, but universally, fundamentally wrong. I am usually in the position of “person-to-go-to-when-something-doesn’t-make-sense” (a position I treasure), and so I have to answer these questions. She reads or hears stories about people using drugs… “Daddy, why….?” She hears about child abuse? “Daddy, how can….?” She reads about assassinations, wars, addictions and all manner of evil…

I’m sure that when she finds out what happened today I will get questions. Here’s my answer.

In Proverbs 29:18 says:

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law. (ESV)

Look first at the opening phrase, “where there is no prophetic vision.” What this means is that in a place, people or nation, where the truth of God has been dismissed; where God’s law no longer had merit; where God Himself is dismissed. It isn’t just about prophecy or seeing the future.

What happens when those circumstances are the norm? “The people cast off restraint.” The “unthinkable” becomes acceptable. What was “horrible” is defended as personal choice.  What was once “wicked” becomes “weird” and then, “well, whatever.”

I am not saying that my expectation is to see anyone defend the gunman’s attacks on this school, and the murder of these poor children.  What I am saying is that when events like these happen, it behooves us to look into the mind of the perpetrator and realize that the normal restraint expected (even in a godless social contract) has been cast off because God Himself has been cast off.

I have prayed today for the families affected by this shooting, for the lives lost, for the potential cut short.  I am left with only the urgency to say “Do not throw God – the One Who loves you, Who created you, Who stepped out of eternity for you – away!”

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalms 1:1-3)

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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Article

 

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