The Unofficial Israel Tour::The Garden Tomb

Where was Jesus crucified and buried? There are two locations that have been suggested, but ultimately the specifics don’t matter as much as this fact: he is risen.

Joy in the Morning

My friend, Dan, gave me a book to read this year.  I’ve added it to my daily morning readings.  It’s called, “The Book of Mysteries” by Jonathan Cahn, who is a messianic Jew.  It’s set up like a story.  A man goes out to learn from a teacher in a small school in the desert.  Each day is another lesson from the teacher.  One of them connects with our theme of joy…let’s check out the “Night and Day Paradigm”.  If you’re been listening to Pastor Denny’s teaching for very long, it will sound familiar…

Living Out Joy

I’ve been thinking about the ways that we live out JOY in our lives.  One of the ways we do that as believer is through praising God.  That could be through singing, but it doesn’t have to be.  But when we PRAISE GOD, we are living our his role for us in creation AND finding a better quality of life.  Let’s talk and drive…

 

Worship is Lament AND Praise

6 years ago, we lost my son. Since then, we’ve been on a journey through lament (expressing our pain to God), mercy, healing, joy and praise. I think this is the process God wants for all of us. As Psalm 126 says, “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.”

Also, here is a copy of the “Psalm 142 Spoken Word”:

Psalm 142 Spoken Word

Lord, I am crying aloud to you.

Lord, I am lifting my voice

Because I have no choice,

but to cry for mercy.

I am pouring out my heart,

I am pouring out my trouble,

Amidst the rubble

of confusion and complaint.

Now when my spirit is faint inside of me.

It is you who watches my way

Even when evil tries to lay

A snare for my feet.

There is no friend beside me;

Lord, look and see,
no one is concerned for me.
I have no safety for my soul;

It feels like no one cares for my life.

Lord, I am crying out to you.

Lord, you guard my heart

And I know this is all apart

Of living in your loving life.

So listen to my heart’s cry,
for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from fears that feed

On my soul, for they are too strong.

Set me free from my prison of pain,
that I may praise your holy name.

that the righteous who came

to comfort me, will praise You…

Because of your goodness,

Because of your goodness,

Because of your goodness, Jesus,

…to me.

Down & Dirty Theology: Giving Death the Finger

Some of you might remember that I wrote about Troy back in December.  At the time, he was facing terminal cancer.  At the time I wrote,

This past weekend, I led singing for a baptism service.  It was for a man named Troy.  Troy wanted to make a profession of faith about his love for Jesus, above all else.  He also wanted to tell his kids that God is a better Father than he will ever be.  “So when I’m gone,” Troy said, “remember this day.”

I also wrote,

I’m following the example of Troy.  I want to serve God now.  I want to worship God now, instead of idols, in the wilderness of our world.

Troy died this week and went to be with Jesus in eternity.  As I reflected on Troy’s life and how to worship in this wilderness, I was reminded of something else I wrote, after my son died.  I want to share it with you as we remember the testimony of Troy Mann and follow his example in walking with Jesus through the valley of the shadow of death…

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Life moves on.  I get up in the morning and put my pants on, one leg at a time.  I eat my cereal and drive to work just like everyone else.  As I watch the faces of the other drivers, I wonder, “What they are thinking about?”.

The death of a loved one changes us in too many ways to count.  And now as I look again at the faces of the people driving past me on the way work, I realize at least one thing my son’s death has enabled me to do…

It enables me to give death “the finger”.

You might be shocked that I would say that.  But stay with me…at my son’s funeral, we sang Matt Mahr’s song, “Christ is Risen”.  The bridge is taken directly from Paul in 1 Corinthians where he paraphrases Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14.  He writes about the resurrection…

THEN THE SAYING THAT IS WRITTEN WILL COME TRUE:                        “DEATH HAS BEEN SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY.”

“WHERE, O DEATH, IS YOUR VICTORY?
WHERE, O DEATH, IS YOUR STING?”

As we sang, Sara and I raised our hands to worship the Lord of Life, but as we did that, I instinctively turned my open hand into a fist.  I wasn’t just praising God, I was insulting sin and death that had taken our son.

I was giving death the finger.

Death might think that it took my son forever.  Death might think that it took Troy forever, but we know that because of Jesus this is temporary.  And as we live now, we are following Paul’s lead in defiantly living in the face of death with tears in our eyes.  Think about it…

Where is death’s power to hurt us?  We believers are dead and then we come back to live again forever.  We are out of death’s reach.  What kind of heat is it packing now?  We can trash-talk it’s power and give the finger to it’s wrath.  And the grave?!?!?! Where is it’s victory?  We used to be it’s prisoners, but now the doors are blown open.  The locks and dead-bolts have been broken.  Our chains are thrown off.  Death has died and captivity is now captive.

I still get up in the morning and put my pants on, one leg at a time, just like the other drivers on their way to work every day.  But for me, for us, we can now give death the finger.

God chooses to restore humanity not by a decree of reconciliation, not by a sentimental forgiveness, not by a soft love, but by entering into union with humanity. In Jesus, God comes in human skin to reverse the human condition and reconcile humanity to the Father. . .

-Robert Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals

Worship itself is a re-presentation of Christ. . . . Consequently, when we worship, the conflict between good and evil that we experience in our everyday lives is confronted and resolved.  We leave worship once again with the personal assurance that the battle is won—Satan has been, is now being, and will be defeated. Because we are confident in Christ’s victory, we experience a great release from the burden of our sin and we become filled with joy and peace.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

The God who acted, acts.

In worship God is present, loving me, caring for me, bringing me to himself, and offering me the benefits of his work on my behalf. How can I not respond to his work? How can I remain silent, or passive, or indifferent? I can’t. So I respond with an appropriate “Amen”…and more.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

The Long Road

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We are still sleep-deprived and happy after the birth of our son.  He was born two weeks ago so I’ve have had a small amount of time (mostly around 3 AM in the morning) to reflect on what God has been up to over the last two years.

When we started this journey, we thought that we would have a baby in a year.  Then, at the end of 2015, we had a meeting with a birth mom and ended up in the hospital with her caring for a baby.  As you know, we didn’t come home with that baby, but also knew that God had other plans.  Later in April, it happened all over again and we began to wonder.  I didn’t say much out loud, but in my spirit I was murmuring and complaining just like the Israelites in the wilderness.  “God, if you loved us so much, why did you place this desire for another baby in our hearts, give us so much support from our community and then leave us to wander around without one for a whole year?  Why?”

It came to a head towards the end of the year when a well meaning person asked about our adoption process.  I explained everything that had happened and that we were still waiting for the “right baby for us”.

“How do you know that this is God’s will for you?” she asked innocently.

At first, I was taken aback, but I stammered an answer about Sara and I praying about it separately and then coming together with the same desire.  I talked about how we had the support of our family, friends and church community.  I also talked about the amazing financial gifts and messages from all over the country that had surprised and overwhelmed us.

But even as I talked, I wondered the same thing.  Had we missed something?

Now that Zion is born and in our home, it’s easier to talk about this journey.  It’s easier to admit that like the Israelites, my tendency is to doubt God.  I am “prone to wander”.  But, I also see God’s grace in taking us around by the long, desert road.

God knew that I would have these doubts so he gave us the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt.  They had just seen God show off his power through the plagues and the death of all the first borns in Egypt.  And yet Moses writes this:

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter.  For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’  So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.” -Exodus 13:17-18a NIV

We know how that turns out, don’t we?  God shows up again and parts the Red Sea so the people walk through on dry ground.

What strikes me, is that God knew that the Israelites couldn’t handle the short road so he took them down the long road.  He took them down the road so they could learn to trust and wait on the Lord.  He took them down the long road so they could learn again and again that he would never leave them or forsake them.  The took them down the long road so they could truly see His glory and learn his direction for their lives.  He took them down the long road because they weren’t ready…

And I wasn’t ready.

It was God’s grace and mercy that he made us wait 2+ years for this little boy.

It was God’s grace that he led us around by the long road.

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**Photo credits go to Abbie Phillips Pebble of Delivering Memories {Photography}.  She is our cousin and offered to take these amazing photos of our little man.  Thank you, Abbie!