Church of the Disreputable Sinners

Mark 2: Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him. Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?

I do not mean to make a blanket statement about the church throughout the U.S. I know that there are churches that look like this passage; however, my experience has shown me that it is not common. Sadly, this really hasn’t bothered me over the years. I hate to admit it, but had I been in Caesarea in Levi’s house that day, I would have historically been in the Pharisees’ camp and would have been asking the “scum” question myself.

I do marvel at how things change. I suppose age and experience do tend to make you a tad bit more wise. At the very least, they help you to not open your mouth quite as often, proving to all how foolish you really are. I’m awed at the transformation that occurs when Holy Spirit shows up and emboldened by the authority of Jesus that becomes personal. If I were Jacob, son of Isaac, I would be setting up a pillar stone and inundating it with copious amounts of oil as a memorial, at this very moment, to the mercy of Yahweh.

But, seriously. Why does the church not look like this description of Jesus’ crew in Caesarea? I know it’s messy, time-consuming, frustrating, irritating, and, to top it off, wildly unpopular. We tend to like popular and organized and successful and socially acceptable and financially stable. Who likes drama? Predictable, programmable, and popular — that’s the yardstick often employed to measure success in the church scene. And, I’m really not against that; my query is simple — Why does the church not look like disreputable sinners and scum?

Just ruminating…

Exodus and friends

I so tire of folks claiming divine inspiration in regards to things of which they are so confused. Most times I simply shrug it off; this morning it actually made me intensely sad.

I recently saw the Exodus film. I had been barraged by reviews of it prior to going and was a bit ambivalent by the time I got to the theater. May I fly in the face of popular Christian culture and say that I loved it? If that causes you concern, please allow me the chance to write in stone the depth of my heresy by revealing that I also liked the recent “Noah” film as well.

I’ll not regal you with the reasons at the moment, but I’ll simply state that we who claim to be believers really need to take one of those proverbial chill pills. My sadness this morning comes after seeing yet another purported follower of Jesus slamming the veracity of the Exodus film on the basis of THEIR knowledge of Scripture. I think we assume the God we claim to follow is quite a stupid God, rather dull of intellect and mildly obsessive-compulsive over ancient, dry stuff.

He’s not.

That excites me, even in the face of rather dull, unimaginative people who purport to know more than He.

The Armor-Bearer and the Reubenite

Naharai from Beeroth, Joab’s armor bearer… Adina son of Shiza, the Reubenite leader who had thirty men with him… (NLT)

I was listening to this text being read in the Portuguese NTLH (New Living Translation). I had been following along in the text but momentarily had lost my place in the text and hearing the text read aloud. As I was trying to find my place, I heard these verses being read and they so strongly struck me that I stopped the reading, found the place and stared at the text with that amazement that often comes when I’ve read a text many times (and had even recently preached from it), yet have never seen what I’m seeing.

I jumped to an English version, the NIV, and it didn’t strike me at all like the Portuguese had. I went to the NLT and there it was!

I know I have no reason to be so amazed. I should actually be accustomed to having this happen. How many times have I experienced this moment?! I’m honestly glad that the revelation of the understanding of the Word is always new and always fresh. How in the world could I have been so dense for so long? 

Within the most famous, the most powerful group of warriors in all the Bible, there are two who no one even knows. In their time, they were famous, but now, after all these years, they are completely unknown. They are accorded “fame” because they are in THE list, but honestly, no one today cares. What a shame!

Naharai, Joab’s armor bearer. A man who was a servant, not a warrior. Yet, because he was always around Joab, a fierce warrior, he learned the ways of war, successful war, from observation of his charge’s activity. Head knowledge is always trumped by experience knowledge. Nothing compares with actually putting your hands on it! Blessed is the man who Yahweh gives both knowledge AND experience.

Naharai became so adept in the warrior arts that he rises to the peak of achievement and acknowledgement by becoming one of David’s “30.” He is famous in his own right, a fierce warrior. Yet he continues to serve Joab as a servant.


Then there’s Adina. There’s probably a story in his being a Reubenite. However, he’s called a leader before he was famous AND he has his own band of “30.” This is what really struck me. Isn’t this what it’s about, the leader being a servant, which makes him into a leader? Skill with humility equals honor. The disciple becomes a leader and creates disciples; he is aligned with a disciple-leader and is cultivated into an even greater leader and his disciples drink from his fame and become greater as a result.


Cone of Shame

I’m an admitted techie. The fact that it is an intregal part of my work helps to hide the otherwise obvious addiction.

Social media, on the other hand, hasn’t been such an attraction. Oh, don’t misunderstand me, I’m as draw to the cute baby pictures, funny animal videos and political satire cartoons just as much as anyone else. But it’s sort of like eating chocolates… a few are delicious, the rest is simply gluttony.

Yesterday, on a call with a patient who has serious health issues, she interrupted me five times to respond to texts, Facebook notifications and another phone call. She had called ME because her health was so bad she couldn’t carry on with life in such a state; now I’m second fiddle to Facebook?

That is some serious addictive mojo.

We’ve become accustomed to being interrupted, put “on hold,” the recipient of the index finger lifted in the air in our direction to communicate the need to “wait a minute” in the midst of conversations so that someone could respond to a text. It has become the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) of life in 21st century American culture.

It appears the Coke company has a solution – the Social Media Guard. As crazy as it might seem, I think there might be some merit in it. Remember the Disney movie “Up” and Dug the dog’s “cone of shame?”

Yeah, it could work.

The Gift

Dear diary. I received a gift yesterday.

Who doesn’t like getting presents. Typically we associate them with special events like birthdays and Christmas. When one is given out of the blue, that is always a titivating moment. A delicious interruption into the ordinary. A savory morsel that you don’t want to swallow because it tastes so good in your mouth and on your taste buds.

When that gift has connections with the heavenlies, it is almost impossible to put on a stoic face and pretend that it’s no big deal.

I’d never received such a gift. Until yesterday. Only the gift-giver and myself understood what transpired to make that moment occur. Everyone else thought it was really nice, but they simply had no reference point from which to fathom what they witnessed.

It was a poignant reminder of how much Abba is involved in the happenings of my life. Not only the gift but the timing of the gift, as we say here in the south, brought me up short. I could hear him say, “Gotcha!”

Yeah, he really does…


I live in the south. More correctly, I live in the south at the beach. I’m supposed to be immune from all weather events except hurricanes. I signed a contract to that effect when I moved here fourteen years ago. One of the amendments to the contract was that a nice snowfall could occur every 3-4 years but would be removed within 24 hours. But that was the extend of “winter weather events” that would be allowed to occur.

So, what’s up with all this frozen stuff falling out of the sky at the beach, in the south?

As long as I’m complaining, why can’t it at least be the pretty snow that everyone else gets? Remember the aforementioned addendum to the contract I referenced? Freezing rain and drizzle, sleet and other forms of ice do not classify as “snow.” Nothing pretty about it. I’ve got a knot on my head, a bruise on my butt and a totaled Pathfinder that all say this ain’t fun!

Low teens and single digit temperatures ARE NOT a part of my contract either! I specifically stated that I would agree to some 30-degree temps around Christmas time but 50-degree temperatures were the stipulated lows I was to endure during the winter months. In the south. At the beach.

I mistitled this post. Snowcalypse it isn’t; Icecalypse is what it’s been. In the south. At the beach.

If it were Christmas, I’d be called Ebenezer…

Encounter with God

That’s a pretty intimidating title. Seriously. Who starts off a post like that?

One of the  most interesting things I’ve experienced is an intentional effort to arrange a trap (an ambush, actually) to catch God. Granted, that sounds about as whacky as the title, but it is actually the most biblical mandate you could ever receive. Tommy Tenney phrases it as being a “God chaser.” You see, Abba (that’s God; in fact, it was Jesus’ favorite way to address him), is wildly enthralled with us and actually planned and orchestrated ALL of creation centered around, and for, us. We are his centerpiece, his masterpiece, the “apple of his eye” (Psalms 17:8). That phrase is actually one of the most important theological concepts that you’ll ever run across. “Apple of his eye” is viewed as being quaint, antiquated and not given much credit for really meaning anything. It’s use in the English language refers to someone who is cherished above all others. The Hebrew for the idiom is ‘iyshown ‘ayin (אישון עין), and can be literally translated as “little man of the eye.” It is a reference to the tiny reflection of yourself that you can see in someone else’s pupils – Abba sees himself reflected in us! That’s pretty heady stuff!

But, back to the ambush.

Abba is like an adult, a dad, who wants to play with his favorite daughter or son. His child wants to catch him, to have him pick him up, but he enjoys the mutual game of “catch,” intentionally side stepping the child’s attempts to catch him. At first the child likes the game, but quickly arrives at the point of wanting to be held by daddy and begins to cry when he can’t catch him. At that point the dad stops, allows the child to “catch” him and swoops him up with wild abandon to the delight of the child. Or, the dad plays “hide n’ seek” with the child and when the child can’t find him, he does something obvious to let the child “find” him; this always makes the child deliciously happy!

Why we don’t see this relationship with the God of the universe when he states it repeatedly in his Word is a bit of a mystery. It doesn’t change the reality of the truth of the matter, but our blindness tends to make us believe that it just ain’t so.

This is where the ambush comes in.

We think we’re distant from God; or rather, that he is distant from us. We hold our hands over our eyes and proclaim, “I can’t see you” and that becomes proof positive that he’s nowhere to be found. Sometimes we have to sneak up on him, lay a trap that he’ll unintentionally intentionally step into, and catch him when he isn’t looking. Then he’ll have to swoop us up into his arms and love on us. An Encounter with God is just that – an intentional ambush to catch him when he’s “not looking.”

The Message laid just such a God-trap this past weekend. And the interesting thing is that we caught him!



36,000 Deaths from Flu!

I can’t stand it any longer!

I become so incensed at all this incessant harping on the need for the flu shot that there are times I want to scream. How has mankind managed to stay alive for all these thousands of years without this magic potion? Seriously.

So, for the viewing pleasure of the two of you who read this, here’s an interesting video from a “real” M.D.:

Camping out…

I’ve been camping out in Luke 6 this week.

I’m amazed at how many times I have read this and have simply skimmed through it. I suppose that is true of so much of what I have read in the Word over the course of many years. At the risk of sounding trite, I guess I really want to know what the message is. I mean, I’ve always wanted to know the message, but now the desire of consuming it with almost a wild abandon has become overwhelming.

I find this to be interesting. Who would’ve thought that the Word could be so intriguing, so exciting, and so liberating, that I would camp out for days on end in a single passage? “But you’re a pastor!” you might remind me. “If YOU can say that, what does that put me?”

Ahhh! I do believe that THAT is my point.

My “pastor-ship” is as useful as last year’s newspaper. It’s much like saying I have hair. So? I’ve had the literal words of life in my hands for many decades and have not seen it for what it was. It is time that it becomes mine. What I can have, you can have (in fact, you already do), and it has nothing to do with being a pastor.

I am a chaser of Abba, a treasure hunter of the ways of Jesus, and an end user of the presence of Holy Spirit. THAT has charged me like nothing I’ve experienced and it is what drives me at The Message… I’m not content to go this alone, I want multitudes to go with me!

Picture = 1000 words