Jesus-Language

Photo by Eran Menashri on Unsplash.

In the breadth of Scripture, there are many ways God reveals Himself, each accompanied by a distinct name. These names each carry a revelation of the nature and essence of the Godhead. YHWH, Jehovah Raffa, Elohim.

While each name is potent and deserving of awe, the name has taken on significant meaning for me personally is given to Jesus, “The Word made Flesh” (Jn. 1:14). Jesus is the Word. He is the perfect utterance of the Father to all creation. Everything and anything that needs to be announced about God is articulated in the person of Jesus. He is the essence of all language, and knows how to speak intimately in our native tongue.

A few weeks ago, I was speaking at Vinelife – the local church I have the privilege of serving. We’ve been going through the book of Acts, passage by passage, and exploring the in-breaking of the power of Jesus in the lives of ordinary men and women. It’s a powerful narrative of what happened when Jesus left and the Holy Spirit came. The centerpiece of the book of Acts comes quickly in chapter two when the disciples, who were waiting and praying patiently in the upper room were dramatically blessed with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.

On this particular week, while I was recounting this passage, something happened that I didn’t expect. I was moved so deeply, I began to sob. I tried to pull it together, but to no avail. I had to stop speaking and drop to my knees. It took a good 2-3 minutes to regain composure. I can’t quite explain what happened, except to say, I was overwhelmed by the God who knows the language of our hearts.

I’ve read Acts 2 dozens of times in my life. It’s a cornerstone of the faith, especially for those in charismatic traditions. But as I sat with the text again, I noticed something in a new way. As the Spirit of God was poured out, one of the first signs was “tongues of fire” resting on the heads of the disciples. They stumbled like drunken men out of the upper room out into the streets.  We know that thousands of world travelers had descended upon Jerusalem to observe Passover. The story continues that the disciples began to speak in tongues, and as they did, men and women from other nations began to hear them speak in their own language.

I’ve always understood that speaking in tongues was supernatural.  So I thought the main thrust of this passage had to do with a cool, new comic-book like superpower the disciples could now do by the power of the Holy Spirit. “Wow…do you hear that? Thomas is speaking perfect Spanish. That’s amazing, because he flunked Spanish in high school. Praise God. Miracles DO happen!”

That interpretation may be respectable, but I believe it misses the point. The power of this story has less to do with a new ability the disciples acquired. Rather, it points to the fact that there was someone in the crowd hearing their own language while they were far from home.

Why is this important? This was the first manifestation we read about as the Spirit of God was poured out in a brand new way. It’s as if God wanted the men and women of different nations to know “I know your language. I know the unique expression of your heart.” This was a sign that the heart of God has never been for us to get smart enough, behave well enough, or learn another language in order to relate to him. He loves us enough to show up precisely in our experience of the world. He learns our language and meets us there. He’s the Word made flesh.

Why is this good news? Because the language we speak is our best attempt to make sense of our reality. Language is intimate and fragile. It’s powerful yet incompetent. Think about it. All we have is a collage of nouns and verbs and question marks and semicolons to help us communicate cosmic realities. And I’m not just referring just to English and French and Mandarin Chinese. We each have a limited language that flows from our hearts and mouths to describe what really matters to us. All of our vocabularies are custom-tailored to our unique perspective. How amazing is it that the Holy Spirit knows every language?

As a pastor, I talk to so many people that feel misunderstood. They feel like God doesn’t know them. Much of this narrative is formed because their experience with church people leaves them feeling like they have to learn a new language just to be a part. They feel estranged because they don’t connect with the same music, or expression, or ways of describing the world. And new languages are often really hard to learn, so most of us throw in the towel before we get too far into the journey. There are so many people who have given up on God because they’ve been told they have to meet God where He is.

What we read in Acts 2 seems to be the opposite of that. God in Christ loves us enough to get into our skin. He eats our food, enjoys our music, walks our roads, and speaks the way we do. Yes, a life surrendered to Jesus will always lead to change and transformation. But the starting point is the revelation that the Word made flesh meets us right where we are, in the language of our hearts, and invites us to dine with him.

I know that God uses us despite our weaknesses, but what if he uses us because of our weaknesses?

A few nights ago, I drew a picture.

My family was together in the living room looking for something to do. Megan thought it would be fun for each of us to draw a picture as a gift for someone else in the family. We each took a minute to ask God for a picture and then we’d draw what we see. I decided to draw something for my daughter, Amelie. So I prayed and the picture that came to mind had to do with angels, and pools, and water. Each image was a few steps removed from the basic shapes in my wheelhouse. I wanted to skip the drawing and just write a letter or preach a sermon about what I saw. Instead, I self-consciously had to work it out on paper. The final product is about what you’d expect from a guy wielding colored pencils for the first time since art class in high school.

I started to wonder if this art experiment had any real value since it didn’t appear to be great.

Continue Reading…

A new year is upon us. Whether you’re a resolutions person or not, I’ll bet you’re making some adjustments in your life.

As I’ve spent time over the last few weeks praying and looking forward, I noticed a theme with most of my goals. Many of them had to do with recovering attention and the ability to be present.

Like many, I’ve noticed myself being caught in the onslought of attention deficit. All of my disposable attention was being held captive by the news cycle and a wide swath of social media connectivity. I realized A.D.D. isn’t just a condition for a few, but cultural epidemic that plagues many.

Even the over-consumption of good, helpful, insightful articles and posts from trusted spiritual leaders led me to feeling overwhelmed. I noticed an increase of anxiety, fear of missing out (F.O.M.O), and the disappearance of the space needed to listen, pray, and create.

In order to recover the abililty to listen, be attentive to the people who matter most, and order my days with creative intentionality, I’ve known this has needed to change. I’ve needed to identify the “bad news” I’ve believed (ie. to be “out of the loop” is to be less valauble). Also, I’ve needed the right combination of adjustments that wouldn’t just be a pendulum swing reaction, but a intentional harnessing of the culture I live in.

This is not a new message, but it is still a relevant one.

What if we were able to move from an attention deficit to an attention surplus?

Here’s what I’m going to try this year…

Continue Reading…

You were created for a life of significance. It’s true.

In church world we talk a lot about this. We spend a lot of time celebrating “God’s plans” for our lives and encourage each other to do great things for God. As we tap into our creative purpose in the kingdom of God, we push each other to be people of big faith and bold dreams. This is not rooted in selfish ambition, but part of understanding that Jesus invited us to be a part of his restorative work on earth. We haven’t been sidelined, but are joyful participants in the story of God.

So what then are we to do with the mundane moments – the moments, days, weeks, and months where it doesn’t quite feel as exciting as the way we talk when we’re together?

Photo by Mikael Kristenson. Unsplash.

Photo by Mikael Kristenson. Unsplash.

For instance – today. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I stay home with my two boys who are 5 and 2 while my wife works. Today, I will change some diapers, make grilled cheese, shuttle the boys around on errands, and mow the lawn during nap time. Don’t get me wrong – these are all things I like doing. But maybe you’re like me. Sometimes its hard to know what to do with days that are average, slow, and ordinary. Especially coming off of Sunday where I’m usually encouraging hundreds of people to live a life of significance.

Often times, I see the super-creative, “dreaming with God” conversations cause just as much anxiety as it does hope. It’s easy for us to feel like our Mondays are inconsequential. I wonder if there’s something we need to re-think.

Continue Reading…

Andrea di Lione, “Adoration of the Golden Calf”

Andrea di Lione, “Adoration of the Golden Calf”

Some studies show that we spend 1 – 2 years of our lives waiting in line. Think traffic, grocery stores, on hold with Comcast, etc…

This doesn’t count the time we spend waiting for life to resolve, waiting for our leaders to “get with it”, and waiting for God to bring change to our lives.

Everyone would agree that waiting is necessary, but when waiting turns to impatience interesting things can happen.

I was reading the other day of what happened to the children of Israel as they were at Mt. Sinai waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain. They had already been miraculously delivered from the Egyptians, sustained in their desert wanderings, and accompanied by clouds and fire tornados. You know…normal stuff. But when Moses didn’t come down soon enough from the mountain, bad things happened.

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. – Exodus 32:1

Yikes. It was when their waiting turned into impatience, they decided it would be best to fashion a golden calf who would be their new God to lead them forward. On one hand, it sounds ridiculous to think of creating and worshipping a cow made out of jewelry and such. However, I don’t think it was just the cow they were worshipping. Their real hero that day was being able to elevate something they could see, something they could touch, something that could keep them moving forward, something that could visibly produce results….NOW.

I can look at my own life and see the places where my waiting has turned to impatience.
Places where God hasn’t spoken loud enough or moved fast enough.
Places where I’ve grown discontent in waiting for my leaders to show up and tell me what to do.
Places where I’ve chosen to fashion a new future in my own hands.

May we become a people who are faithful in the delays and worshipful in the waiting.

What about you?  How do you handle moments of waiting?

 

Fatherly Blessings

March 5, 2015 — Leave a comment

This post was originally written for my friends at the ONE PROJECT.

On April 14th, 1983 my parents were at home in Ft. Wayne, IN singing and playing their guitars. As recently converted hippie rockers, this was not an unusual way for them to spend their downtime. Most nights they were exploring their relatively new-found faith in Christ together by making music and finding their lyrics in the Scriptures. On this particular night, my dad found inspiration from the prophet Isaiah – a great book to accompany any psychedelic inclinations.

As my mom went to bed, my dad found himself in Isaiah 40 and started writing a song about what we know as the coming of Jesus and the call of John the Baptist to prepare the way for the Messiah. He penned the words to a brand new song called “Clear the Way.”

“Clear the way for the Lord, clear the way
In the wilderness, clear the way
Make straight in the desert a highway for God
In the wilderness, clear the way”

While the ink was drying on his lyrics, my mom who had been sleeping, woke up in intense pain and notified my dad that the baby was coming. A few hours later, I was born.

“Hi, there.”

As I grew up, my parents would remind me of that story, and that in some way they believed that God wanted me to know that similar to John the Baptist, I was called to be a person that would make way for Jesus in this world. It’s a story I’ve always held close. While my dad had no way of knowing that I would enter the world on the same night he stumbled into a new song, my parents would very intentionally retell me this story so I would know this was a generational blessing from them to me. Continue Reading…

Image Courtesy of Lightstock.

Image Courtesy of Lightstock.

A recap from my breakfast musings with Jarrod. (Disclaimer: It didn’t sound this good when we were talking)

Too often we spend our days endlessly searching for “our true selves”. Always looking to express our unique voice and extract a deep sense of meaning from our labor and relationships. While the exploration of our deepest identity is a critical part of our lives, the Christ follower derives motivation from a different place. Rather than begining and ending every day with the act of searching and finding, we rest in the thought that we’ve already been sought out and found. If the King of the universe has already done the exploratory work and fully found me, then what am I still trying to find in myself?

The pursuit of ourselves leads to anxiety and restlessness.

Yet somehow, in the pursuit of Christ, we not only get the fullness of Him, but we are in a roundabout way re-introduced to our real selves because we are completely known in Him.

“We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity; more than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.”

– Charles Chaplin

We Need Humanity

2Questions

Last week during Christmas, my family spent a couple days down at Megan’s parents house in Castle Rock.  For the last few years, at some point during the post-gift exchange lull of the early afternoon, somebody suggests that we watch vintage home videos of Megan’s family.  After rummaging through a collection of VHS tapes marked with Sharpie scribbles, somebody pops in the featured film of the afternoon.  If you can remember, the early 80’s was the era when recording home videos required real work.  Carrying a microwave-sized box on your shoulder took a serious investment of time which means that you end up recording hours of one single shot in order for the moment to be worth it.

In this particular episode, we got to watch a snippet from an hour long episode of 3 year old Megan and her 5 year old brother playing on a swing set.  It was hysterical watching Megan try to figure why the teeter-totter doesn’t work with just one person.  More amazingly was how much my wife has changed in 30 years.  I didn’t know her back then.  I only know her has she is now.

But this is how we see growth…right? By looking back at how we used to be, how we used to think, how we used to behave and then looking at who we’ve become since then.  Looking at these videos, and even looking back at our last 8 years of marriage, I can see that the Megan I am married to today is more caring, thoughtful, hospitable, loving, generous, and beautiful.

As we reflect over this last year and turn our sights to next year, it’s normal at this time to be thinking about what we accomplished and what we want to accomplish. While there is nothing inherently spiritual about the start of a new calendar year, this is commonly a week where we evaluate and take inventory of our lives and start making resolutions.

But I want to challenge us in what questions we are asking. Instead of only thinking in terms of goals and accomplishments, let’s think in terms of growth and maturity. What if we all spent some time this week asking…

  1. This last year, who have I become?

  2. This next year, who is the Father inviting me to become?

Yep…. Those are BIG questions and maybe a little daunting. Where do we even start in answering questions like that?

The reason these questions are important is because Ephesians 4 tells us that God’s intention for us is to grow into the “fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ.” Meaning that God is most glorified in our maturity, not just our accomplishments.  The Father loves to grow us up – still preserving our “child-likeness” but leaving behind our “child-ishness”.

When we only look at our accomplishments and goals, we only leave room to celebrate our victories.

But when we are looking at who we are becoming, we have permission to look back to moments of pain, tragedy, and failure and ask God what he formed in us through those circumstances. This doesn’t mean that God purposefully makes bad things happen to us. But he uses every opportunity to reveal Himself in us. Our growth and maturity is defined when we can identify Jesus more fully in us.

Remember, setting goals is good and necessary, but the fullness of Christ is what we’re after.

In my opinion, that’s the best way to end and begin a new year.  Cheers!

Hey there!

Since 2014 is just about in the can, I thought I’d get at least one post up here for this calendar year!

Recently, as I’ve walked through a lot of personal transition, my creative energy has been focused more in the world of speaking and teaching in the Vinelife community.  I anticipate that this blog will become more of a hybrid space for me to share and expand on some of the same content and insights.

With that said, we recently jumped into a new Advent series called “Birthing the Miraculous.”  The idea was inspired by Heidi Baker’s memoir of the same title.  It’s not so much about childbirth, nor is it simply about miracles.  In short, it’s about the process by which God accomplishes great and supernatural things in us and through us.

As we explore the story of the virgin Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel detailed in Luke 1:28, there are so many important observations that we can be shaped by. Unfortunately, I don’t have the audio from Pt. 1, but you can listen to Pt. 2 here.

Also, here are 4 quotes from the last couple weeks.  Feel free to share!

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