Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Upside down and backwards

Mark 8:27-38 (TNIV) -

27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?"

28 They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets."

29 "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

Peter answered, "You are the Messiah."

30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns."

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? 37 Or what can you give in exchange for your soul? 38 If any of you are ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."

My thoughts -

Peter, who acknowledges here that Jesus is the Messiah, still can't get with the program when it comes to what that means. How can the Messiah be made to suffer and die? That just feels so wrong.

It seems like Jesus lived to take our assumptions about the nature of God and flip them around. Everything gets all upside down and backwards. The first will be last. Want to lead? Then you must serve. To gain life you must lose it.

He hanged out with sinners. He preached preferential for the poor and disenfranchised. He chastised the rich and powerful. His biggest criticisms were reserved for the most "religious" people of his time. Every assumption you could make Jesus flipped around on its head.

This is who we serve. This is who we worship. This is who we are called to follow. Are we ashamed of this rebel? Do we need to tame him? Do we need to tone his message down? Do we still fall prey to the worries and trappings of this life? Lord, help us overcome them.

Monday, August 30, 2010

That's your responsibility

Matthew 27:1-4, 19-24 (TNIV) -

1 Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. 2 They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4 "I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood."

"What is that to us?" they replied. "That's your responsibility."

19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge's seat, his wife sent him this message: "Don't have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him."

20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

21 "Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" asked the governor.

"Barabbas," they answered.

22 "What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?" Pilate asked.

They all answered, "Crucify him!"

23 "Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!"

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!"

My thoughts -

The chief priests wanted Jesus dead. Judas betrayed Jesus and then came to regret it. Who is responsible here? Did Judas want Jesus dead? That I don't know. Clearly he made a mistake. But he was acting on orders from the chief priests. Can them telling Judas he is responsible for his own sins really negate that his sins came directly from them?

Pilate alone had the power to take Jesus's life. He didn't really want to, at least not according to the scripture. But the crowd was being worked up into a frenzy. So Pilate washes his hands and says he's not responsible for this death. Yet, he's the only one here with the power to take Jesus's life. Can he really not be responsible?

How often do we declare ourselves to not be responsible for our own actions? There's always a reason. There's mitigating circumstances. There's always something someone really needs to understand and if they did they'd know that it wasn't really our fault.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Some random thoughts on the universe

I probably spend way too much time thinking about things. There's no sense in judging it, though. I can't stop. The nature of the universe just bugs me some times.

Honest question: Is atheism a religion? I'm not studied on the subject to have any kind of a valuable opinion. Atheism does fascinate me, though. I've never really considered a Godless universe. I can't wrap my head around the concept. Sure, a theistic approach to the universe makes a lot of assumptions but I can't come up with any kind of plausible way to explain how ANYTHING is. You have to start with something, right? Be it raw elemental materials or some kind of diety. There's really not an air tight way to come up with why and how there's a "here" here, and I've always started with God. What we mean by God is another matter altogether.

Also, I find an important aspect of Christianity to have an interesting twist to it, at least from my own experience. As Christians we are essentially asked, in following the example of Christ, to forsake the things of this life for the hope of the next. As mortals we effectively have only the guarantee of this life. Any existence after death is purely wild, hopeful, speculation. And yet we are called to not place too much stock in what we have tangibly before us. We are called to not value that which will perish (aka our stuff, standing, etc.) For that which we are told is eternal (the Kingdom of God). We do this by loving others like we do ourselves, serving others before ourselves, caring for the needs of the poor and disenfranchised, and spreading the hope and love that we have found in Jesus.

The twist? When we do this. When forsake the wants and needs of this life for what we believe to be eternal, we find more fulfillment in this life. Or at least I know that I do. I find that following the example of Christ fills me with meaning, hope, and purpose right here and right now. My life in this existence is far better.

I have no idea how eternity works. I don't think that's something we can know. I don't know why we're here. Any attempt to explain that, either with or without a creator, has it's own issues. I don't know that there's a way to "know" there's a God in the same way that we "know" that Lexington is in Kentucky or that 2 + 2 = 4 or that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. It just doesn't work that way. Or maybe it just doesn't work that way for me.

But I believe. I always have. I can't explain why. It just makes more sense to me. Believing has not steered me wrong. It has not served me ill. I sense that God has been faithful. There's so much in life that doesn't make sense. There's so much that seems so messed up. There's so much pain and suffering. But there's beauty, too. There is hope. There is love. There is redemption. I experience these things as God.

Maybe I'm delusional. Maybe I'm overly optimistic. Maybe I'm just flat out wrong. But I just can't NOT believe.

Beautiful girl, fool mouth, beheading

Mark 6:17-29 (TNIV) -

17 For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled ; yet he liked to listen to him.

21 Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.

The king said to the girl, "Ask me for anything you want, and I'll give it to you." 23 And he promised her with an oath, "Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom."

24 She went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask for?"

"The head of John the Baptist," she answered.

25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: "I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter."

26 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, 28 and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. 29 On hearing of this, John's disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

My thoughts -

This is why it's best to not get too carried away and make promises in the heat of the moment:

Herod's having a nice birthday party, a beautiful woman dances for him, he gets all carried away and tells her she can have anything, and what she wants is - well, crap - John the Baptist's head on a plate. Seriously, who asks for that? At a dinner party, no less.

But, see, Herod's stuck here. Sure, that religious guy was weird. And he objected to Herod's marriage. But he sure was interesting to listen to. And a little scary, being so righteous and all. But Herod swore an oath. Everyone at the party heard him. He can't just go back on his word. That would not be good. That's just not do-able. Herod's hands are tied. John's head is removed.

So what caused this? Was it pride on Herod's part? Was he too proud to go back on his word? Was it lust? Did he just get taken in by a beautiful woman and lose his mind? What if she had asked for more? Didn't he say she could have anything? Would there have been anything she could have asked for that he would not have been obligated by his fool mouth to give her?

Friday, August 27, 2010

1 out of 3 ain't that bad

You know the saying "Early to bead and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise". I like that, no doubt because, like my father before me, I'm usually about ready to pass out by 9. Also, I have my alarm set for 5:30 every morning. I never hear it. I'm always up before it and turn it off so it doesn't bother Shannon. I'm usually up between 4:30 and 5:00. That's just how I roll. Sometimes I wish I could sleep in but it's just not for me.

So, obviously by my peers' standards I fit the early to bed and early to rise bit to a tee. But what about the rest?


Yeah, I'd say so. I watch what I eat, exercise regularly, and don't get sick a lot. I'd say I'm quite healthy.


Let's just not go there, Ok?


Alright, now you're just messing with me, right? Let's REALLY not go there.

I guess 1 out of 3 really ain't that bad.

That carpenter's kid

Mark 6:1-6a (TNIV) -

1 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

"Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "What's this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him.

4 Jesus said to them, "Only in their own towns, among their relatives and in their own homes are prophets without honor." 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.

My thoughts -

I think it's kind of interesting how people who have know you the longest think they know you the best. They might not have seen you in years but they knew you "way back when", so they know the "real" you. They do not allow for growth and maturity. To them you'll always be that kid who they babysat, or whose diaper they changed, or whatever.

I find it comforting when something that happens in my life also happened to Jesus. Here he is, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Son of Man, and he can't perform miracles in his home town because to them he'll always be that carpenter's kid. They couldn't see past his childhood. They couldn't see past the box they placed him in. In fact, they got kinda ticked that he didn't really fit in that box anymore.

I pray that we may learn to see the growth in others; that we may allow people to change; that we may see the people who stand before us today for who they are now and not for who we remember them to be.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Nothing is irredeemable

Mark 5:21-43

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, "My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live." 24 So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"

31 "You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?' "

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. "Your daughter is dead," they said. "Why bother the teacher anymore?"

36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, "Don't be afraid; just believe."

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep." 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means "Little girl, I say to you, get up!"). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

My thoughts -

There's a couple of things that I love about this story. First, Jesus is on his way to heal a sick child and still stops to heal an ailing woman. Well, he didn't need to stop to heal her. Her faith was such that she believed he could without even engaging him. She probably, after years of being shunned, felt so low that she didn't want to be a "bother" to this great man. Jesus didn't stop to heal her bleeding. He stopped to validate her. To let her know that she is precious and loved and doesn't have to suffer any longer.

The second thing I love is the reaction of Jairus to this whole thing. He comes to Jesus and literally throws himself at his feet begging for his daughter to be healed. This is a desperate man. And yet Jesus stops along the way and heals someone else and we don't see anything here about Jairus flipping his lid. Then, after the delay, people from his house come and tell him not to bother Jesus, his daughter has died. And yet, even in this he trust Jesus. He has faith that Jesus can redeem this.

And Jesus did. And Jesus does. There is no situation that is irredeemable. Jesus has conquered even death. There is nothing that Grace can't fix.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Matthew 5:1-20 (TNIV) -

1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God's name don't torture me!" 8 For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!"

9 Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"

"My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many." 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, "Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them." 13 He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.

18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, "Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

My thoughts -

A couple of things jump out at me every time I read this. First, this man was in a bad way. Not only was he suffering but his own people kept him chained. Whether this was for his or their protection isn't quite clear to me. Either way his situation was horrible.

The people there knew all about how horrible this situation was. They had to deal with it on a daily basis. So you would think that they would have been overjoyed when Jesus heals this man. But they weren't. Instead they were terrified and a little pissed off. In healing this man Jesus destroyed a part of their local economy. That was something they would not tolerate. They asked Jesus to leave.

I find it interesting that Jesus had the man whom he had healed stay behind. I can't think of a better testimony to both the love and power of Jesus than this man. He was given his life back. Everyone there knew how bad it had been for him and now they would see him, whole and well, as a reminder and a testimony.

He should be a reminder to us, as well. Things can never get so bad that Jesus can not redeem them. There is no limit to his love. There is no limit to the redemptive power of grace.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Start planting

Mark 4:26-29 (TNIV) -

26 He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come."

My thoughts -

I've been thinking a lot lately about evangelism and discipleship. Both are important. I would argue both are essential. I feel a stronger pull towards discipleship most of the time. I often wonder what good we do when we focus on bringing people to Christ but then don't allow them to grow and mature in their relationship with God. But then, what good does it do to focus on deeper relationships with God when we're not sharing the Gospel with others?

And then we get so bogged down in the process of both and our inevitable "failures" and "successes" that we forget that we can't make the seeds grow. We don't even really understand the process. Whether you're trying to cultivate more mature plants (discipleship) or just getting seed in the ground and hoping something will grow (evangelism) there's a limit to what you can do.

We often call environmental tragedies "Acts of God". Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, mudslide, etc. We didn't do it. We can't control it. It was an Act of God. I think God gets a bad rap on that. Why don't we give God credit for the good that is beyond our ability to comprehend, too?

The growth of a seed is an Act of God. We need to get them in the ground and be prepared to cultivate, but growth is beyond our control. It is an Act of God.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sheep and goats

Matthew 25:31-46

31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40 "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'

41 "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

44 "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

45 "He will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

My thoughts -

Interesting. This passage doesn't mention going to church every week. It doesn't mention wearing nice clothes and smiling all the time. It doesn't mention being for all of the "right" things and being against all of the "wrong" things politically. I would have thought those things would help here with the amount of religious/cultural capital they provide. Huh. How odd. Maybe Jesus forgot about those things being important.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

To do good or to do evil?

Mark 3:1-6 (TNIV) -

1 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Stand up in front of everyone."

4 Then Jesus asked them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they remained silent.

5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

My thoughts -

I have a hard time identifying with a kind of legalism that would not allow for healing on the Sabbath. I have a hard time identifying with a kind of legalism that would not allow you to help someone out based on the day, the time, who they are, or any other factors. I don't see anything in the Gospels that allows for a "I'd love to help here but my hands are tied" mentality.

We are called to love our neighbors. We are called to care for the poor. Loving others and serving others is how we love God. It's time we set about doing that as our primary focus.

Jesus faced death and that didn't stop him. What's stopping us?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Almost messed up

I'm a creature of habit. I have my routines and I stick to them. I'm also ALWAYS an early riser. The alarm is set for 5:30 but I never get up that late. It's usually between 4:30 and 5:00. Since I'm already up the responsibility for getting everyone else in the house up when they need to falls to me. I don't mind it. I've got a way of being annoying in the morning (I think I learned it from David Sparks on youth retreats) that translates into people getting out of bed in a hurry.

On school days I start waking the kids up around 6:20 so they can get ready because they need to walk out the door by 6:50 to get to school on time. They don't like this but are learning to live with it. Friday is, although we hate to admit it, still a part of the work/school week. It feels like the weekend but it isn't. At least not until the afternoon. That is, with the exception of today. The kids do not have school today. The why for that is a mystery to me. I'd like to get in on the whole long weekend action but no one offered it to me this week.

So I guess you can see where this is going. I'm a creature of habit. It's a work day. I'm up. It's time for the kids to get up for school. Fortunately as I was about to start singing loudly while jumping on beds (blame David Sparks, I learned from the master of morning motivation) it occurred to me that maybe something was amiss here. Then I remembered letting the kids stay up late last night watching TV and playing video games because (ding ding ding - We have a winner!) they DON'T HAVE SCHOOL TODAY.

Bullet dodged. I think if I had actually pounced my daughter might have killed me.

Good news?

Matthew 24:45-51 (TNIV) -

45 "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, 'My master is staying away a long time,' 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

My thoughts -

I'm sure you've seen the bumper stickers that say "Jesus is coming - Look busy". While that is making fun of Christians a bit I kind of like it. It's snarky. It's funny. I like those things. They amuse me and then don't really require anything from me.

This passage I don't like. Any time Jesus mentions "weeping and gnashing of teeth" I am not filled with warm fuzzies. I'm not trying to defend beating your servants and living a life of depraved debauchery or anything. But "weeping and gnashing of teeth" just doesn't do it for me.

Give me the good news. Make it entertaining. Make it funny. And then don't require anything from me. That's what I want.

No one wants to be called a hypocrite. But if you say you follow Jesus but live a life that does not reflect that what else can you be called? No one wants to be told that you don't know the number of your days but one day you will be called to account for how you spent them and you'd better be ready. It's not a comforting message. But living a life that serves God is more rewarding than narcissism, any way. I've tried both. Narcissism didn't work for me. (Is that irony?)

So what do we do? We do the best we are able and trust God. That's all I know to do. We love everyone as best we can and serve others ahead of ourselves. We follow the example set by Christ.

I don't have all the answers. I haven't unlocked all of the secrets to the universe. I just feel compelled to love God and love others as best I can and trust God to help me do better when, by my own strength, I fail. I figure the rest will work itself out.

Now if only you could entertain me some with that good news I've heard so much about.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My wife is smarter than me

I just noticed this.

We both use laptops as replacements for our old desktops. Since most of the time we use them at home they are usually plugged in. Mine is plugged in on the computer desk in the place you would expect to find a computer. That's where I use it. It just makes sense, right?

My wife's is plugged in next to the bed. My wife is smarter than me.

Do we only heal the healthy?

Mark 2:13-17 (TNIV) -

13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?"

17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

My thoughts -

Do we only heal the healthy? Do we only preach to the converted? Do we build large churches that are self contained communities so that we don't have to deal with people who aren't like us? Have we isolated ourselves from non-believers? Have we created our own counterculture to be separate from what we call "the world"?

Jesus didn't build a mega-church and wait for people to come to him. He went and spent time with "sinners" where they were. (I hate that term, "sinners", by the way. We are all sinners. There's no sense in trying to label people we think are worse. We all have sinned and all need grace.) If we want to reach people we need to minister to the needs of our communities, not build our own communities to escape them. We don't just need to be shelter for the converted to take refuge in.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

We could all use friends like this

Mark 2:1-5 (TNIV) -

1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

My thoughts -

I love this passage. These friends are amazing. They wanted to get this man to Jesus so bad that they cut a hole in the roof and lower their paralyzed buddy through it. That just blows me away. I wish I could have been there when that plan was hatched. And it worked, too! Jesus saw their faith and healed their friend.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Kind words

Luke 23:35-43 (TNIV) -

35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is God's Messiah, the Chosen One."

36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself."

38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!"

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."

42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. "

43 Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."

My thoughts -

There's really nothing like a kind word, is there? Yesterday when I was biking home I was cussed at, called a gay slur, threatened, and nearly run over. It's amazing how cruel people can be. And yet there was a kind person who was stopped behind me at a light who had words of support, strength, and encouragement for me. Words like that can carry you a long ways.

In this passage Jesus is being executed. As if that isn't bad enough the crowd is mocking him. As if that isn't bad enough the soldiers are, too. And if even that isn't bad enough the criminals being execute along side of him are mocking him as well. It never ceases to astonish me how cruel some people can be.

And yet there is a voice of support. There is a man who, while in the process of being executed, still musters the courage and strength and compassion to tell the others to leave Jesus alone. He even goes so far as to say that while the others are being executed for their crimes Jesus has done nothing wrong.

Kind words. I'm not sure I'd have been able to offer them in that situation. But those aren't the only kind words offered here. Jesus returns the favor:

"Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."

We can debate the nature of grace and whether there was any conversion here or if Jesus is making a special exception or whatever until we're blue in the face, but if ever there were a man who "deserves" to be saved it's the man who, while dying, can still find a way to be compassionate in someone else's suffering.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Religion: You're doing it wrong

Matthew 23:1-33 (TNIV) -

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

5 "Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to have people call them 'Rabbi.'

8 "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

15 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and then you make that convert twice as much a child of hell as you are.

16 "Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is bound by the oath.' 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but whoever swears by the gift on the altar is bound by the oath.' 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it.

23 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

29 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your ancestors!

33 "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?

My thoughts -

I find it interesting that some of Jesus's only words about hell are about the most "religious" people of his day. This is a dissertation on how NOT to be a religious leader. Take notes.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Luke 22:41-44 (TNIV) -

41 He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

My thoughts -

Jesus is praying as he is about to be handed over to be killed. He knows what will happen and, based on this passage. He seems to have some anxiety about it. Selfishly I like this.

Jesus prays that God may "take this cup" from him, and yet in the same breath asks for God's will to be done. He is a willing servant, if not an eager one.

There are things that I don't want to do. There are things that I may be unwilling to do and certainly don't want to be asked to do. And yet, how I feel about the matter is of little omportance. My response when asked is. Am I willing? Am I willing to pray that God's will be done no matter the situation or the sacrifice necessary on my part? Am I willing to follow Jesus's lead here?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Parisian Wedding

I'm playing for a wedding in Paris (Kentucky, that is) today. The bride has requested to process to "Lullaby (Goodnight, My Angel)" by Billy Joel. I worked up an arrangement in DADGAD tuning (the rest of the music for the wedding music is in this tuning and I don't want to be that idiot guitar player retuning in the middle of the ceremony) at 5:00 this morning. Nothing like waiting until the last minute, huh?

I like it when the bride has something she wants that's special to her. My sister-in-law wanted "Linus and Lucy". That was a fun wedding, in no small part because it was in Punta Cana. Seriously, fly me to Punta Cana for your wedding and I'll play anything you want. No worries.

I know no one has asked and likely never will, but here's some unsolicited advice for marriage. It comes straight from 1 Corinthians 13. Most likely you're familiar with it, but it has served my marriage well for almost 11 years.

Be patient with each other. Be kind to each other. Don't be jealous or boastful. Don't be proud, rude or selfish. Don't carry anger and resentment with you. Always be honest with each other and not deceptive in any way. Always protect each other. Always trust each other. Always hope and always persevere. This never fails.

No, I haven't done all of these things perfectly. By nature I'm a very proud person. I'm also pretty rude at times. In fact, I can be a real jerk. I'm also, and I hate to admit this, a jealous person and I'm especially good at holding on to anger and resentment. This never serves me well. In fact, any deviation from the above ideal just brings suffering in my life and in my marriage.

If two people in a relationship can commit to trying to love each other the way Paul describes here I don't think there's anything that can separate them. Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13 (TNIV) -

1 If I speak in human or angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

All You Need is Love

Matthew 22:36-40 (TNIV) -

36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

37 Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

My thoughts -

Sounds pretty simple, right? I think we're still looking for loop holes. Love God. Love others like you love yourself. Measure everything you do against these criteria. If what your doing puts you above God or you above others you probably shouldn't be doing it. Nuff said. Am I missing something here?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Morning bike ride

I have noticed that my morning bike ride pretty much seems to always feel the same. I hit the same hills at pretty much the same speed in the same gear with the same amount of effort almost every morning. Every once in a while I'll feel especially good and it will seem almost effortless. Also, every once in a while I will feel weak, as if I'm trying to bike through marshmallows or something, and everything will feel much slower and more difficult. But most of the time it feels about the same. Yet there is some variance in the time.

It seems like the biggest factors in this variance are things that are beyond my control. My effort is pretty even. My speed is about the same. But sometimes the timing of the lights is just all wrong. Or I get stuck behind a bus or something. There is a train track near my office and about once a month I get stuck behind a train. Yesterday I blew out a tire. It seems like there may be a metaphor here.

There are things in life that can be controlled and things that you have no control over. If you control that which you can (most importantly here is your effort and attention) then you can trust the process. Sometimes the results may vary but you can't let that get you too far up or too far down. Most likely, if what you can control is consistent, then the change in result has nothing to do with you, anyway.


While I was trying to stretch before the bike ride to work today the dog came up to me, layed down at my feet, and presented her tummy to be scratched. Well, who am I to deny such a clearly stated request? If I pull a muscle or something today you will know that I am not very good at multitasking.

Jesus vs The Church

Matthew 21:28-46 (TNIV) -

28 "What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.'

29 " 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 "Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go.

31 "Which of the two did what his father wanted?"

"The first," they answered.

Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

33 "Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

35 "The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. 'They will respect my son,' he said.

38 "But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

40 "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?"

41 "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time."

42 Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures:

" 'The stone the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone;

the Lord has done this,

and it is marvelous in our eyes' ?

43 "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but anyone on whom it falls will be crushed."

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

My thoughts -

We're pretty well trained to think that criticism is a bad thing. If someone criticizes you they're coming down on you, right? They don't like what you're doing. It's not pleasant. But if you don't receive criticism how can you grow? How can you know you're doing the right thing if the only person evaluating your actions is you?

Jesus reserved his sharpest criticism for the religious leaders of his day. Clearly in this scripture they didn't take it well. Granted, Jesus had some very harsh words for them. I'm not sure I would react well, either. But it makes me wonder: How would Jesus respond to us, the Church?

Sure, there are a lot of denominations and congregations within them and not really any universal Church to speak of. But hypothetically, take the cumulative actions of those claiming to be the hands and feet of Christ: How are we doing? Would Jesus be proud? Would Jesus be ashamed? Would Jesus be angry? What would Jesus's response to us be?

I don't know if I can answer that question. But I'm pretty sure if we're not asking ourselves it and evaluating all that we do against the teachings of Christ then we run the risk of being on the business end of some pretty harsh criticism by our Lord.

If there's one thing Jesus showed during his life it was a willingness to aggressively oppose the religious establishment. And guess what. That's us.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My namesake

John 20:24-29 (TNIV) -

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus ), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"

But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

29 Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

My thoughts -

I've always identified with Thomas. Maybe it's just the name. Maybe it's the skeptic in me. Thomas gets a bad rap as a "doubter". First, I'm not sure doubt is a universally bad thing. Second, even if it is I find it to be completely unavoidable.

Thomas need evidence. Don't we all. Fortunately God is good and Jesus showed Thomas exactly what he needed to be able to believe. I love the enthusiasm in Thomas's response. Robert Lopez gave a sermon on this scripture while visiting Trinity Hill once and the church shook as he exclaimed, for Thomas "My Lord and my God!" In fact, the way he exclaimed it requires all caps: "MY LORD AND MY GOD!" There. That's better.

I don't know what to do with doubt. I can't ignore it. It doesn't go away. Sometimes what we believe just feels to good to be true. Maybe I'm just an unfortunate product of a cynical generation. And yet Jesus continues to show me what I need to believe. Maybe it's not quite as concrete as physically touching his side, but it's enough for me for now.

All I have left is to exclaim in response "My Lord and my God!" Maybe some day I will even be able to do so with the same enthusiasm as Robert Lopez.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Good giving

Luke 21:1-4 (TNIV) -

1 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 "Truly I tell you," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

My thoughts -

I often allow what I don't think I have affect my generosity. When there is plenty it is very easy to give. When you're not sure if the next paycheck will cover all of the bills giving becomes much more difficult. I wish I had the faith of this woman. I wish I could trust God completely.

I wonder how much my anxiety about money has to do with an attachment to a lifestyle that is not sustainable and a bunch of stuff that I really don't need. It's about time to take a hard look at some things and make some tough decisions. In the meantime I pray to have faith like this woman and to be generous with what I have.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Is the reward not also in the work?

Matthew 20:1-16 (TNIV) -

1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 "About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' 5 So they went.

"He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?'

7 " 'Because no one has hired us,' they answered.

"He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.'

8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his supervisor, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.'

9 "The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'

13 "But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'

16 "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

My thoughts -

I wonder how often we compare how we have been blessed and how much we have been forgiven. This used to be a big issue for me. I had a hard time with the idea that someone could live a sinful life and then pray for forgiveness at the very end and receive it while others "had" to be faithful followers of Christ for their entire lives. This, however, begs the question: What is the reward? Is it in the pay only or also in the work?

The people who labored in the fields all day had a purpose. They also had a promised reward. Those who only worked the last hour spent the day purposeless and had to promise of pay. There's a lot of anxiety living that way. Is it not better to just do the work?

Is life not better when we trust God and live according to the will of our Creator? Is the promise of heaven not enough? Is a life well lived not enough? Is God's generosity to us not enough? Do we have to see how we compare to others?

It's just not that big of a deal to me anymore. Maybe that's maturity. Maybe that's apathy. I'm good. I have a purpose. I'm occupied. In fact, I'd like some more work to do. The pay is more than generous. The biggest reward for me right now is in the work.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Great quote

"Jesus said whatever you do to the least of these my brothers you’ve done it to me. And this is what I’ve come to think. That if I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, who I claim to be my savior and Lord, the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor. This I know will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers. But they’re just wrong. They’re not bad, they’re just wrong. Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in a beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken." - Rich Mullins

What a response!

Luke 19:1-10 (TNIV) -

1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a sinner."

8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."

9 Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."

My thoughts -

How do we respond to grace? We have been forgiven much. I know that I, at least, was and still am desperate for forgiveness. We need it. We need mercy. We need grace. I have been awake all night at times begging for it. And God is good. What we ask for we receive.

Zacchaeus was desperate. He climbed a tree just to catch a glimpse of Jesus. Jesus sees Zacchaeus and tells him he will be staying with him. Zacchaeus doesn't hesitate. He climbs down and welcomes Jesus gladly. Not only that, but in his joy exclaims that he's giving half of his wealth away to the poor right then and there. Not only is he giving to the poor but he is also settling up with anyone he has cheated. With interest.

How do we respond to Jesus? My changes have been a lot more subtle than Zacchaeus'. Zacchaeus was lost, knew he was lost, knew he needed Jesus, and Jesus saved him. He responded with joy and with generosity. Not only where his sins forgiven but he paid restitution. He did so gladly.

Do we follow Zacchaeus's example? Do we not only receive forgiveness but also turn from our sins and give as generously as we have received?

I don't. Not yet, at least. But I'm working on it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What is impossible with human beings

Luke 18:9-14, 18-27 (TNIV) -

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

14 "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

18 A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

19 "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: 'You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.' "

21 "All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said.

22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God."

26 Those who heard this asked, "Who then can be saved?"

27 Jesus replied, "What is impossible with human beings is possible with God."

My thoughts -

I'm not good enough. Sure I try. And I'm pretty good, too. I go to church. I read the Bible. I pray. I am pretty generous with what I have. I give my time to try to help others. I'm a pretty nice guy. As far as the commandments I've pretty much been keeping them like the rich guy who went to Jesus asking about eternal life. But I'm not good enough.
I can't save myself. My efforts to do so seem to make me more like the Pharisee praying in the temple. Even as I follow the law (well, most of it - I have been known to eat shrimp and wear cotton/poly blends) I do so with a certain amount of pride, like eventually I will get good enough at this to deserve eternal life.

That's not going to happen. Like the rich man there's always going to be something holding me back, keeping me from fully living God's will.

Sell all I have? Does he really mean everything? I can't do that. Is it not enough to trust God with most everything? I have to give up all of my earthly security, too? I can't cling to any of it? I can't just keep a little for myself? Does God really want everything?

Like the people in verse 26 I find myself a little dejected here. Who can be saved? Fortunately verse 27 rolls around:

"Jesus replied, 'What is impossible with human beings is possible with God.'"