Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Some of you will recall that the church leadership approved a 3 month sabbatical for me during the summer of 2011. In order to fund some special church projects in relation to the sabbatical as well as some extensive travel and study opportunities for myself and my family, a committee of church members worked with me to submit a proposal for an outside grant. Last month we were informed that we were not selected.Among the many words I could choose to describe my thoughts and feelings, disappointment is probably the most accurate. The word reflects loss of expectations, unrealized dreams, even a sense of personal failure. The dictionary says "to thwart or frustrate".

As the news settled I wondered "had good plans been thwarted?" It left me at a fork in the road. Do I follow in my mind and heart the path of "good plans thwarted" or was there another path - "God's plans unveiled" ?
Considering the character and sovereignty of God I had to step onto the latter road. The actual sabbatical will still take place and the lack of funding has no effect on the purpose and focus of my time. As I reworked the schedule of my time and  shaped a sabbatical mostly confined to Tucson I discovered that the things I didn't like about the change(and still don't like) and the source of my disappointment all spoke to areas of my life that needed refreshment and reformation. The sabbatical - at its heart - was designed for that very purpose. Turns out that the grant proposal process was God's design to bring clarity to the sabbitcal's focus and its role in my life and the life of the church.

So what do we do with disappointment? Embrace it. Walk through it. Look deeper. Most of all - see the Lord's faithful hand in the middle of it.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Isaiah 40:5
"Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all flesh will see it together;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken." 

This great verse put to music by Handel has stirred my spirit this past week. Jesus, God in flesh, having the full glory of God came to this place and veiled His glory. We see a glimpse of  it when the angels sing to the shepherds, on the mount of transfiguration, and strong hints of it in His miracles. Yet, His first advent was marked more by silence, obscurity, poverty and sacrifice. I still don't get it but I rejoice over the rescue it brought us. Isaiah, which has well over 30 verses referring to His first advent also points us to another Advent and the 2nd coming of Jesus. We see it in Is. 40:5 and Jesus refers to it in such places as Matt. 24:29-30. It will not be like the Christmas story but it will be marked by power, majesty, authority and GLORY. We will not just gets hints at His glory or a brief look but the whole world - all flesh- will see it for all it is! That day is coming! Jesus, the baby, will arrive as Jesus the King in all His glorious splendor. As you read and meditate and sing this week about Christmas, let your heart and mind and longings look ahead to another Advent still to come.

Monday, December 13, 2010


The Lord has a way of doing what we would not expect. Jesus rarely said what people expected to hear. His Kingdom operates on a completely different platform. This is evident in Mary's song from Luke 1 ...

    He scatters the proud
      He brings down rulers from their thrones
          He exalts the humble
             He fills the hungry
                The rich go away empty

Those we expect to receive are passed over and those to whom we would not pay any attention have His blessing in abundance. Several of the parables of Jesus refer to this great reversal. Of course we see these unexpected reversals in the Christmas story. We have shepherds and foreigners being invited and kings being overlooked; we have a baby rather than a King; a lamb instead of a conqueror, poverty and obscurity rather than riches and renown, a crucifixion instead of ruling...

This is Good News for us!! He brings us from darkness to light, from rags to clothing of righteousness, from separation and isolation to nearness and intimacy, from enemies to beloved children!! The arrival of a baby - God in flesh - brought the great hope and promise of a reversal in our lives. As a recipient - I am now called to live by these new kingdom foundations - to bless those who don't expect it, to give to those in need , to love the unloved, to demonstrate the heart of the Gospel!

Monday, December 6, 2010


I am not sure all the ingredients in Nyquil - I am afraid to look - but when I get really sick and am desperate for some sleep - out comes the Nyquil - 1 sip and I'm affected for days! I came down with something a couple days ago and it is really knocking me down. When I get sick, I suddenly get very organized with my time. I get a great deal done very quickly and drop a bunch of stuff off my schedule that only days ago I insisted to myself were essential calendar items - all for the sake of creating time to rest.   Psalm 90:12 tells us to "number our days, that we might present to You a heart of wisdom." Days like today show me how much time I must waste on my "good" days and they show me that my schedule could be much more flexible than I let on. Flexible in order to serve more, listen longer, get in a bit of exercise, patiently help with  a few more math problems, write that note or make that extra phone call, sit with the Lord a little longer. Each minute is a gift, an opportunity, a privilege.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Da Bulls!

Last week my son and I put on our red shirts and traveled up to Phoenix to watch our team, the Chicago Bulls, play against the Suns. At the half, the Bulls were down by 23 points! My heart sank. In the 2nd half the game went back and forth until the Bulls finally battled back to win in the 2nd overtime. My emotions were a roller coaster of highs and lows. It was exhausting!

I was recently considering the Nativity stories and the great and wondrous moments recorded. The announcement to Zacharias, the loosening of his tongue, the visit of the angel to Mary, the song she sings upon meeting with Elizabeth, the choir of angels in the night sky and the incredible visit of the wise men. These must have been impacting and emotional events. What we don't see in the story are all the "low" times in between and following these events. Nine months of silence for Zacharias, Mary's pregnancy and the day in and day out difficulties she must have endured, the time when no one was visiting the baby anymore and the return of the shepherds to a hard life of work. I like the emotional events when our faith seems so alive and present and fresh but they are usually few and far between. Life is usually lived out in the normal daily routines that are more often punctuated with difficulty. The good news is that Jesus - God with us - walked on this earth and lived amidst the same day to day routines and difficulties. He knew the ups and downs, the great wondrous moments as well as the many lows. Acts 17:28 say that "in Him we live and move and exist." Every moment of today is a chance to experience His work and presence because He is always at work in our days. I believe it is during those times of "business as usual" that He might be most at work around us.
   I like the story of Jacob and his dream. In Genesis 28:16-17, Jacobs wakes up and says, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it ... How awesome is this place!"  Today may not hold any "great moments" but it does promise His work, His grace, and His presence - that is something to rejoice in.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lights Up

   I hate to admit this but I put the Christmas lights up on our house this past Saturday - 5 days before Thanksgiving!! I have rationalized it by noting that it is the only Saturday I have free but down deep its probably because I look forward to Christmas - putting lights up just seems to bring it that much closer... Anticipation ... longing... 
   Advent means "coming" and as we celebrate the Advent Season we are supposed to reflect on the Lord's first advent and look forward to His 2nd advent. Upon His arrival as a baby, very few were found looking and longing for it and I suspect (if my own heart is any indication) that the same is true concerning His 2nd advent. Titus 2:11,12 tells us to be "looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." At Christmas it is great to celebrate His 1st coming and the redemption it brought us, but Christmas should be an encouragement to be looking ahead, to develop a longing for His soon return. I find it difficult to develop that kind of a heart because this immediate world is so tangible and dominates my senses. How can we see past all that? I would suggest as a starting point to actively look for His work right now - pay attention to His present movement in your life. Secondly, make time for worship - mark out small sabbath moments in your day to stop everything and lift Him up. A longing for and anticipation of His return grows from a greater focus on Him today.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Kid's Table

I spent a multitude of Thanksgivings at the "kid's table." It was usually a card table or two and because it was so unstable we were always spilling our milk. I didn't care when I was 6, 7, 8 years old but it just didn't feel right at ages 17, 18, 19 ... I started wondering, "what does it take to get promoted to the 'adult table'"?

The scriptures give many marks of maturity and surely one of them is THANKFULNESS. I Thess. 5:18 just puts it out there - "... in everything GIVE THANKS for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." A heart rightly related to God cannot help but to give praise.The kid's table is characterized by expectations, demands, being served, grumbling (I hate sweet potatoes!)... the "grown up" table is characterized by contentment, service, taking note of God's goodness and regular sharing of the wonders He has done.

This coming Sunday is our open microphone sharing service. Come ready to share stories of God's goodness and to faithfully carry out His will by GIVING THANKS! Especially be sure to demonstrate that attitude of thanksgiving outside the walls of our fellowship.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Who Messed Up the Chairs?

The last 2 Sundays our "rearranged chairs" produced a number of responses including confusion and being uncomfortable. Yet, the overwhelming response has been greatly positive. I believe the encouraging responses reflected a desire for something deeper in our fellowship - a longing for keeping Jesus central, greater participatory worship and a step towards ongoing community. Does church architecture, the color of paint and the arrangement of seating really matter?Ultimately, when the Spirit of God moves, it matters not whether we are in a cathedral, a grass hut with dirt floors or in an old gym. Even so, our arrangement can reflect something about our fellowship or encourage something better.

Historically, church buildings during the first few centuries were set up with the Lord's table and pulpit in the center with the seating gathered around. It reflected a church that was focused on participatory worship, centrality of Jesus and a community gathered around the teaching of the Word that encouraged dialogue. Many centuries later the architecture of the church began to change. People wanted high ceilings and grand buildings and so to support the vaulted ceilings they had to construct the buildings long and narrow. Truth is - this reflected a changing orientation of God's people. Seating was put into straight rows and the Lord's table and pulpit were put in front. the longer the church buildings became, the more distant the people were from the events of worship. The building reflected a church that was no longer participatory, there was no dialogue and even worship was something done "up front" while everyone else just watched.

I believe they way we "set up" church can encourage better things. It can remind us that the church is a group of believers who have all been given gifts, who are all "called" to engage in worship, dialogue, community. The Lord is pleased when we are "gathered together" not just showing up to watch a few people talk and worship. I like the picture of Acts 1:12-14 which describes a little group of believers, squeezing together in a small upper room after a week in their various worlds to participate together with "one mind" praising God and growing up into Him who is the head - even Christ.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What is a Shipwrecked Pilgrim?

     Thomas Merton in The Wisdom of the Desert states: "Society ... was regarded by the Desert Fathers as a SHIPWRECK from which each single individual man had to swim for his life ...These were men who believed that to let oneself drift along, passively accepting the tenents and values of what they knew as society, was purely and simply a disaster" The picture on this blog gives me a vivid reminder of what the world (society, culture) is really like - desperate people in need of rescue. God's Word tells me that I too was trapped in that shipwreck and in need of rescue. The Good News is that in the finished work of Jesus we experience the remedy for our condition and rescue from the wreck!
    As His redeemed I am now a PILGRIM in this world. My citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20) but I live here in this world - in the midst of a shipwrecked society. What does life look like for a rescued pilgrim moving through a shipwrecked world? How can I avoid drifting along with the wreck and yet still engage this world with the life of Christ?
    I believe that we are called to develop sabbath rhythms comprised of "swimming away" from the shipwreck to places of rest, renewal, refreshment, and reshaping by God's presence and then swimming back into the wreck again to make God's invisible Kingdom visible, to intelligently and lovingly engage with our culture and to truly be salt and light. This "swimming away" and "swimming back" are to be daily patterns discovered and lived out in the life of every believer. So, our title, "Shipwrecked Pilgrim"! A regular part of this blog will be to discover how to both move away from the wreck and how to engage with it again as God's people.

In His Kingdom,
pastor chris