Monday, February 8, 2016

The Apostle Paul at the Super Bowl - a targum of Acts 17:16-34

At the close of my sermon yesterday I shared a targum of Acts 17:16-34. Targums were used by rabbis to paraphrase Scripture in order to help foreigners understand Scriptures in their current times. This is my attempt at a targum that i've titled "Apostle Paul at the Super Bowl. May it encourage you to engage the world around you like Paul did.

16 While Paul was a missionary in the United States of America he happened to be touring during the week leading up to the Super Bowl, the NFL’s championship game and host of the world’s most watched television programming. This single event contained worship of many things like sports, music, sexuality, greed, and hyper-capitolism.

17 So he used his fame to submit articles for Time magazine, the New York Times, the Washington Post, spoke on shows on all the major news networks, and even recorded a sermon that could be viewed online on the matter, and it went viral. He also went to the sports bars and the grocery stores and struck up conversations with people who he overheard talking about their Super Bowl plans.

18-21 The news stations ridiculed him, but a few executives saw their chance to gain viewers by the outlandish opinions that Paul had concerning modern day idols and the ironic religiosity of football being played on Sundays, the day that Jesus, the true target of our should-be worship, who was resurrected once for all.

22-28 In a surprising nationally televised address, he spoke, and began saying, “People of ‘Merica! I see that in every way Super Bowl Sunday strikes up worship in your heart, but your worship falls on athletes who fade, on guacamole that last only a few chips (way too few, the guac to chip ratio is always too low if you ask me, anyway), at a television screen that can’t really hear you, nor a team who benefits from you, nor do you really benefit much from them. But worship itself is not where your fault lies, but the fault is in where you aim your worship. Your adoration, your praise, your energy, your money, your cheering, your time-orienting should all be centered around Jesus, for He centered His all around you so you could have football. For it was He who created football and nachos and music and everything else this world has to offer. He is not swayed by your cheers for one team or another, nor does He listen to your heartfelt prayer for that field goal to go through the goalposts or wide of them. But what He has done is this, He has placed human beings in the past, like Adam, Abraham, and Jesus, like your parents, their parents, and their parents’ parents, in the nations they lived knowing that you, yes you as an individual, would one day live in a nation that produced something like a Super Bowl and would be inspired to set your heart, your stomach, your eyes, your energy, your wallets totally aside for one Super Day and one Super Team, when your heart, your stomach, your eyes, your energy, your wallets were always meant for one man: Jesus. Though it is Coldplay who sings at halftime that “You’re a sky, ‘cause you’re a sky full of stars, I’m gonna give you my heart… ‘Cause you’re a sky, ‘cause you’re a sky full of stars I want to die in your arms.” It is God who feels this way about you, you are the stars that fill His sky, and He has died for you. When you believe in His love, His death, and resurrection it is He that sings “Lights will guide you home, and ignite your bones, and I will try and fix you.” For He does fix us through and through, by and by, and he fixes us a spot in heaven to eternally worship Him as well.

29-31 “Don’t you see it’s silly to put all of your worship eggs in this one bowl? It’s ok to enjoy the game, the music, the guacamole because they all have God’s fingerprint on them, though they have been crafted by mere human hands. God overlooked such silliness in the ages before Christ. But with Christ having come, fully revealing God’s nature, through His death and resurrection, through His forgiveness and mercy, He also has set a future date for his reappearance to judge who or what we’ve worshipped with our lives. It’s time to decide now on your end what He will see on His end on that day when He comes back. What will you want to say you worshiped: the God who gives us all these good gifts of football, music, and delicious foods, or the plate of wings and a soon to be forgotten sporting event?

32-34 When he was finished, Anderson Cooper and Stephen Hawking were in tears, repenting openly and recognizing the error of their ways. The Commissioners of the major sports weren't’ convinced but all wanted to hear more, and yet many businessmen, professors, and even some very strict and religious Christians all snickered and said “this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” A dejected janitor named Steven had no idea his new friend he made just the other day at the bar was going to speak on national television and change his heart forever. In fact, many like Steven who listened to Paul enjoyed the game (and the guacamole), but worshiped the Creator instead of the game that Sunday.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

I'm short.

I'm five feet, nine inches tall.

On a good day.

I was the starting center for the basketball team.

In sixth grade.

I was on an intramural basketball team where the average height on the team was six feet, three inches.

Mind you, i "contributed" to that average.

I'm not super short, but i have settled on the fact that for a guy, i'm short.

Matthew 6:27 can be translated "Who of you by worrying can add a single cubit to his height?"

Worry silently kills even our best days, let alone our bad ones.

Worry is the belief that you somehow have the ability to do a greater amount of bad than God can do good. At the end of the day, worry is at best a distraction and at worst an idol that is unable to eclipse the Son.

You should not worry not because God commands you not to, but because your worry hides you from God and His goodness.

That chapter in Matthew ends with the command, "But seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (v. 33)

Do you trust that His storehouse of goodness does not compare to the worst-case-scenario? Do you trust enough to seek. Because seeking takes faith.

Trust is for what has already occurred. Faith gives us the boldness to step into what hasn't yet occurred. We need both to stand and then move forward in any scenario of our faith.

Worry keeps us in our seats.

Keeps us short, and more importantly, non-effective in our faith.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

You are the light.

As a little leaguer i got hit by the pitch a lot. A whole lot. As in "i was the kid with the facemask in little league" - a lot.

As a result, i was afraid of a particular kind of pitch: the fast one. I was naturally a good hitter, but i remember sometime around the age of 15 i reached a point where the pitcher was throwing 90 miles per hour. That was the first time i understood the term "radio ball" so named because the ball made a sound as it came in that sounded a lot like the "fuzz" you hear on the radio between radio stations. That's just how fast the ball was moving.

I had never feared a pitch more in my life, and yet i remember being faced with this reality:

Nothing i could do with a pitch that fast would prevent me from getting hit by it. Am i going to be afraid of something i have no control over? Or am i going to decide against my fear, and go all in to standing in there and taking a full hack at the ball.

I took a deep breath and decided that would be the day i stopped fearing the ball. On the second pitch i rocketed a single right back at the pitcher's head, narrowly missing his face.

I can't say i lost 100% of my fear from then on (i ended up facing a guy that threw 94 mph once. Yahtzee! I went 2 for 4.) but i can say that i was forever changed.

In a really odd way, i wonder if we have the same sort of fear when we come across Matthew 5:14 when Jesus looks to a crowd and declares to them that they "are the light of the world."

When i put aside my fear, my ability to hit the ball came right out into the open and now the pitchers had to think twice about facing me.

When we put aside our fear and recognize that Jesus declares us to already be the light of the world, and to "let your light shine before men" (v. 16) we often well up in fear rather than show up in light. What if Jesus would have worded it, "Let your light shine so the darkness has to think twice about you."

What is it exactly that we fear? What will people say? What if i offend somebody? What if i'm wrong? What if i come across as prideful?

Here's what we fear: that we won't be in control.

Once i let go of the fact that i could not control that fastball from hitting me, i hit it.

The only thing the darkness can do is hide us, but it can not control us. And we can not control it. We can only drive it back by not succumbing to it and its fear-mongers.

Worse off, our fear drives us back from the thing we want the most. Success.

Perhaps success will be one for another time. But for now, consider the passage in Matthew 5:13-16 where Jesus proclaims that you are the light to the world. What are you going to do with that passage? Fear it, or hit it right on the sweet spot?

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Whether or not you are a sports fan, you probably got a fair dose of this word:


Whether it was Lance Armstrong answering to Oprah for a decade and a half of lying, cheating, and intentionally suing other people to maintain his lying and cheating or it was Manti Te'o revealing that his girlfriend that recently passed away not only did not pass away, but she didn't even exist.

I have plenty of opinions on both stories and what I think about the characters in these stories (for one I'd like to invite Armstrong over to lunch and ask him if he things he could ever make amends to all the people he's hurt in his life like he suggested at one point. I think receiving God's grace would make a much better solution to his situation. And for Te'o, I think he needs a friend, and an assuring word from his dad. But anyway...) it amazed me that such incredible degrees of deception have occurred on such a public stage.

There is a lot of evil in the world, and many many words to describe all the evils. But intentionally deceiving someone, or what we have been calling this past week a "hoax," is at the heart of the throne of satan. And I don't just say that to add drama. In Genesis 3 and Luke 4 we see satan in clear view, intentionally deceiving the likes of Adam, Eve, and Jesus. satan whispers half-truths, outright lies and deception in attempt to increase his own rule, his own kingdom. To what end? To be honest, i'm still not entirely sure. Does he want the attention? The authority? Is he just plain evil? I honestly couldn't tell you. But what I do know is that his plan and his hoax can be thwarted.

Colossians 1:12-14 says, "[God] has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness (or of satan) and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (emphasis by italicizing and parenthetical statements are mine.)

One of the promises of God is that He has delivered us from satan's rule, the "dominion of darkness," and brought us into His Son's kingdom, one of light. Light often represents truth, and the presence of God. And though i cannot guarantee that growing in your relationship with God will act like a force-field keeping us far from the efforts of deceptive people, I can promise that it means that we ourselves grow into people who despise deceiving others. This is why Jesus was so emphatic about maintaining our "yes to mean yes and our no, no" in Matthew 5:33-36, even including that "anything beyond this comes from the evil one."

Unfortunately, many have been deceived by those from within the church, and it's time for us to take our citizenship in the Kingdom of Light seriously from here on forward. And do not think for one second that you could never end up like Lance Armstrong, deceiving people to the (international) level that he has. That is the very step on a very slippery slope. The moment you think such a thing is the moment you allow yourself to have one foot in the kingdom of light and one in darkness.

I'll leave you with Psalm 37:3-6 and a last word:

"Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun."

Notice that our light increases as we dwell in the land (the kingdom of light, if you will), delight ourselves in Him (not in darkness), and commit our way to Him.

May your light grow like the dawn and its increasing light, all the way to the noonday sun.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Dead Dogs and Echoes of the Soul

You must read II Samuel chapter 9 or be very familiar of the story of David and Mephibosheth to understand this post. Feel free to click here to read II Samuel 9 before reading on.

And for the sake of me having to type out Mephibosheth, he will now be referred to as Bo.

Bo goes through a classic case of identity that i believe we all are going through in one way or another. Bo is crippled in both feet, and even though he has a royal lineage (he is the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, Israel's first king) he sees himself as a "dead dog" (v. 8).

How many of us judge ourselves according to what we see in the mirror? Or what we see on the report card? Or in our annual review at our job? Or in (or what's not in) our wallet? And when we do look at such things, no doubt the result is we see ourselves as good as a "dead dog." We all have an ache somewhere in our lives that cries out, and the yell bounces off the walls of our own soul and somehow echo back:

"dead dog!"

But in this passage David restores Bo in two huge ways.

The first is provision. Did you see the message that was repeated FOUR times in this one short chapter? It was the fact that Bo "ate at the king's table" (or something equal to that) in verses 7, 10, 11, and 13. Look at the question in life that particularly bugs you. The question underneath it probably lies in the realm of provision. Will there be enough money? A high enough social standing? A good enough resume? Etc. But one of the great promises of God is provision. Look at these passages:

Matthew 6:25-33

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

II Peter 1:3
"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness."

Do you believe these promises to be more true than the echoes of your soul telling you otherwise? I promise you that Scripture always holds more sway than our fear of lack in our lives. 

The second way that David helps restore Bo is through fruitfulness

Notice that at the end of the passage Bo actually bears a son. The son's name is Mika which curiously can mean "Who is afraid?" or "Who is a wimp?" The ultimate show of fruitfulness in the Old Testament (and still today in many ways) is to bear a child. It's part of God's command of fruitfulness in Genesis 1, it's the long awaited promise for Abraham, etc. And Bo names his son Mika, I believe as a testimony that he (Bo) is no longer afraid, and no longer sees himself as weak/a wimp! It's a nomenclative brushing off of the shoulders! It's Bo's way of saying "I'm provided for, therefore I can be fruitful. Nothing can stop me."

Colossians 3:1 says, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." And where is Christ seated? On a throne.

Even more interestingly we are reminded with the very last words of this passage that Bo is lame in both feet. And yet his whole identity has undergone a giant transformation! Now, I believe our God is one that can heal feet, but He is also one that is not afraid to keep our circumstances the same until our soul, our identity is elevated to that of royalty. Kingdom of God royalty.

Provided for, fruitful, the divine meshing with human, from dead dog to


Sunday, January 6, 2013


We are all guilty. We all have fallen short. None of us have ever reached the top.

No I’m not talking about the affects our fallen, sinful state. I’m talking about New Year’s resolutions!

How many times have we promised to lose the weight, pick up that new hobby or habit, or made vague
promises about becoming a better person? We all have in one way or another, and most often around
this time of the year. The question that always weighs on my mind as I work with college students is this:
how does a person actually change?

If the answer was quick and easy, we would go to the drive-thru of the McResolutions or download the app or buy the product for 3 easy payments within the next eight minutes or of course miss out. But the answer is not easy; no, the answer is Biblical in its proportions! Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” That is the NIV’s rendering of it. Here’s the Phil Living Translation:

“You have a choice. Live out the story that the world offers you and feel hollow, or choose to live out the
story that God offers you and become fully alive.”

Too often we make these resolutions without considering what the best overarching story would be
for our lives. I believe this makes us like waves tossed in the ocean (see the warning in Ephesians 4:14).
I have come to believe that if we really want to change, we must become enchanted by the story of
God’s great love for us, a love that frees us to be history makers and world changers. A story that reflects God's story, His love.

I'm also amazed around this time that we as followers and children of God don't lead the charge on making and keeping great resolutions, around New Year's and all the time! In Matthew 5:33-37 Jesus tells us not to swear by anything, whether it's heaven, earth, Jerusalem or our own head. I think the idea here is that we would no longer say things like "I swear by my mother's grave" or "cross my heart..." type phrases. But i also think Jesus would address our need to always "Betchya" that we can do something. But why does He give us the standard of "Let your 'Yes' be 'Yes' and your 'No' be 'No."?

Because imagine if God was any different. Imagine if God had to coax us into His promises! And keeping oaths or promises or resolutions wasn't a new level of legalism that Jesus was setting up for us, nor a new level of perfection, per se. He was setting us up for a new level of responding to and reflecting His love expressed to us and to creation.

Again, keeping our oaths, promises, resolutsions, etc. causes us to reflect His likeness on earth, in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods, in our circles. Anything less displays a God that has to somehow coax us and lay wagers on His dependency!

May you have grace and peace and boldness going into this new year, especially along the lines of your New Year's resolutions/reflections of God! The following are a few books that have helped me along the lines of this blogpost in my own day to day life. Enjoy!


“Engaging God’s World” by Cornelius Plantiga Jr. A brief Biblical look on how the overarching story of
God impacts the way we live out our faith.

“Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend. This duo has penned several books that get into the practicality
of taking back our lives so we can fully offer them to God.

“Reordered Love, Reordered Lives…” by David K. Naugle. I haven’t finished this book yet but Naugle
offers a fantastic look into our own souls to help us discover how happiness effects our lives every day in
every way.

“A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller. Miller is being touted by many as being the voice
to the young adult generation. I consider this his best book! It isn’t going to aide you on the practical
end, but it will change your life from the inside out. It’s the best book out of this group I’ve offered.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Smyrnan Wealth

To the Church in Smyrna

“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death."

Revelation 2:8-11

The most shocking verse in this section to me is this:

"I know your afflictions and your poverty - yet you are rich!"

When was the last time you looked at "your afflictions and your poverty" and said to yourself, "my spiritual wallet is full because of these." "To God, i am rich in this moment of affliction." It's totally like God to look at the poor and afflicted and see them as wealthy. It's totally unlike us to see ourselves in the same way, the way God sees us. 

I'm completely on board with us when we look to God for healing, wholeness, completion, redemption, etc. in any of our situations. But often times, when what we are looking for in our circumstances doesn't happen the way we want or change the way we want, we think we have become "spiritually poor." Or that something's wrong. Or we go as far as thinking that God Himself must be wrong!

But fortunately we have the promise of the "crown of life." I don't necessarily see this as something that is only received when we "get to heaven." I believe that we can wear this crown of life on this side of heaven by persevering through our afflictions that we have now. And by seeing that we become wealthy (crown-wearers if you will) by persevering through the things that seemingly kill us, give us death.

Our first look at Jesus in this passage is one that shows us that He is the one who died and came to life again. If we are to follow Him, we will follow Him all the way to and through death and (back) into life. I once heard a preacher say "You can't have a resurrection without a death." And again, I'm not saying this is a literal death, these are the things that kill little parts of us, greeds, lusts, idolatry, all sorts of evil desires (Colossians 3:5-11). And lastly this is not punishment by any means. If anything it is reward because now we have the opporutnity to see His love in a way that we become zealous and repent (Rev 3:19 ESV). 

We all have at least one story where we can look back and say "I'm glad I went through that really bad thing, because now I'm better for it." What Jesus longs for us to see is that in our moment of affliction we can have a "living hope" (I Peter 1:3) through the things we see as affliction. 

Are you willing to see your afflictions and poverty as a means to your truest wealth?

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