Thus saith the Lord, “Take a Vacation!” (Pt. 2)

The next time someone makes you feel guilty for taking a much needed vacation, consider sharing with them the following case for biblical rest and vacation. (Note: The following make the case for both a weekly day off (sabbath rest) and occasional extended vacations (a week or two)).

We are a mess without sabbath. I think sabbath rest is largely an unAmerican practice. America prides itself in hard work, ambition, self-determination and getting ahead. “The early bird gets the worm” describes the folk wisdom of our founding Father’s better than Jesus’ invitation to “Consider the lilies, they neither toil nor spin, and God takes care of them…” Compared to other countries around the world, Americans work longer days, take less vacation days, bring our work home more, and value “getting ahead” and “climbing the career ladder” more than most. How is this working for us? We’re richer than most but also lead the world in mental health issues, unhappiness, discontentment, broken marriages and dysfunctional families (often due to placing career advancement over family priorities). Are we working ourselves to death? Are we not busier than we’ve ever been as a society and least content?

We were hardwired for sabbath. Built into our DNA (and the entire created order) is the need for a healthy, balanced work-rest rhythm. God worked for 6 days and then rested on the 7th. We are hardwired to do the same. There are times to cultivate the fields, plant and harvest; and then there are time we are to let the ground lie fallow and rest. Our minds, bodies, souls and spirits require the same fallow time of healing and rest. We are human beings, not human doings. Our value and worth is defined by our creator who made us in His Image; our self-worth and value is not defined by how much we accomplish, how well we perform, and whether or not we met our daily quota at work. Do we believe this? If so, does our actual behavior line up with this belief?

God modeled sabbath. Again, if God chose to rest a full day after working 6, then what makes us think we can outwork God? Why do we think we can go 20 days without a sabbath, when God modeled a 6 + 1 rhythm? Jesus also modeled healthy boundaries and restorative times with God alone. He didn’t heal every person who came up to him. He didn’t go to every city that awaited his message. He had limits and knew them.  Continue reading Thus saith the Lord, “Take a Vacation!” (Pt. 2)

Thus saith the Lord, “Take a Vacation!” (Pt. 1)

I’m currently trying to enjoy some time away from work — for me that means church related stuff and ministry situations. My email ‘Out of the Office’ notice is on, and my voicemail alerts people that I am not taking calls.

I asked our leadership team not just for a vacation (which typically means family time, traveling, etc.) but for a “spiritual renewal leave” which I define as time away from day-to-day tasks (sermon prep, meetings) and ministering to people (a drain for a high introvert) to engage fully in things that are truly life-giving and soul-recharging. Since I’m a high introvert who is constantly surrounded by people, this means spending a lot of time alone.

I’m largely spending my time reading 2 or 3 good books (both pastor-related and just for fun), reading those books on the boat or while sipping a drink by a pool/beach, doing some writing to stimulate my brain muscles and spark fresh inspiration for future sermon series, and, of course, playing some golf and doing some lawn work. I also try to catch up with a friend or two outside my normal church social circle and possibly browse a guitar store or two. Continue reading Thus saith the Lord, “Take a Vacation!” (Pt. 1)

PARABLES: Let’s Party 4 (Matt. 22:1-14)

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. 13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

To summarize the main thrust of this allegorical parable, Douglas Hare writes:

“This is an allegory of salvation history. The king is clearly God; the wedding eeast or his son represents the messianic banquet (cf. Rev. 19:7-9). Those sent to invite the guests are God’s prophets, including Christian missionaries. The reference to the mistreatment of the king’s slaves recalls the tradition concerning Israel’s violent treatment of God’s prophets. The burning of the rebel’s city seems to be an allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E., an event that Christians regarded as God’s punishment upon Israel for its rejection of Jesus and the gospel. The invitation offered to others, “both bad and good,” signifies the Gentile mission of the church” (Hare, Interpretation Commentary, 251).

Now, near the end, we find the banquet hall full and a surprising punishment for one guest who failed to wear proper wedding attire. What’s going on here?  Didn’t this poor person just get grabbed last minute off the street?  Is not the hasty last minute invitation of the king to blame for his not having time to go home and dress up? Here we must remember that we are not dealing with an ordinary story but an allegory.

So, what is the spiritual truth behind image of the wedding garment?  What does it represent? Continue reading PARABLES: Let’s Party 4 (Matt. 22:1-14)

Happy 10th Anniversary: Our Story

44e4d8b96a373382166499c214b2de36Exactly 10 years ago today I married the most beautiful, fun, strong, life-giving, faith-filled woman on planet earth. I struck gold and now she’s given me 3 amazing kids and a life that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I’ve shared bits and pieces of our story over the years but thought it’d be good to put our beginning in a longer narrative. It will be fun for our kids to look back on (and groan!). :)

So, here goes my telling of the story (I know Keri has her version, too). 

All the guys had secret crushes on her. They may deny it but its true. And I was just one of the guys back then. I was intimidated by her fun, radiating presence in any room. (She still has this effect! She still turns heads. And its not just outer beauty but her attractive, disarming personality that draws you in.)

She was one of those innocent accidental flirts. She was “buddy buddy” with all the guys, and while we watched the Minnesota Wild and Timberwolves playoff games (at the same time that year – 2003 I believe), she’d be throwing high fives, making cracks, sitting on a couch with her legs on someone’s lap, and maybe even smacking a butt or two.

She didn’t mean anything by it. She was just being herself. But we guys were reading into it all. Is she flirting with me? Is she flirting with him? Does she like me? Is she making the moves on him? No, she wasn’t. She was just being ‘one of the guys.’

But I thought she was untouchable and I figured she could have had any guy she wanted and why would that guy be me?

Continue reading Happy 10th Anniversary: Our Story

PARABLES: Let’s Party 3 (Matt. 22:1-14)

8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”

In the original context of this parable of the King throwing a wedding party for his son, there were grievous consequences for refusing the king’s invitation. This was a great insult to the king.

I am struck with the king’s unrelenting determination to have the wedding hall filled with guests. These images point to a God who also is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” and be saved. Those who are excluded from the Kingdom and the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus, are excluded by their own choice.

Yet, O, how the church needs to imitate the King’s desperate attempts to fill his house for the party!  God wants his churches filled with worshipers today as well.  He is not content with a hand full of the faithful while many pews sit empty Sunday after Sunday.  And we, his servants, are called to “go to the street corners” and invite anyone we can find!  We  are not to show partiality in our invitations. We are not to discriminate saying, “Oh, they would never come to church.”  We need to invite “the bad as well as the good” — and that means risking the invitation to our coarse coworker, our foul-mouthed neighbor, our too-busy, excuse-ridden friends, the town gossip, and the brawler from the bar.

But the bottom line message for the church today in this parable seems to be: Go. Go out. Go out into the streets. Go out into the streets and make disciples. This is a timely reminder as Easter approaches when people are more open to coming to God’s banquet to celebrate the Risen Son!

Let us go. Let us go. 

While the day is aglow.

Let us get back to our fishing!

PARABLES: Let’s Party 2 (Matt. 22:1-14)

Ever been rejected?  It hurts. Ever put yourself out there so far, and having been rejected so bad, you vow never to risk it again?  Perhaps we can take some consolation in the fact that even God experiences rejection. I believe God doesn’t force his will on anyone, but rather desires for us to freely choose Him.

But we can refuse. This parable is filled with rejection. Listen in:

“He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. 4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business”(Matt. 22:3-5).

God is throwing a party, and instead of using e-vites, wedding invitations, or a postcard reminder, he sends his servants to personally invite people to the banquet. Do you realize that God is still taking the same approach today?  Yes, he’s still relying on ordinary Christians like you and I to go out and extend the invitation.  And the most effective invitation is still the most personal one. And that means we’re the lucky ones who get to be rejected sometimes.

Have you invited someone to church lately?  Have you invited a friend to a concert, or conference, or any event that you thought might bring them closer to God, “but they refused to come” (v.3)?  It hurts. Church planting is all about word-of-mouth invitations — and, therefore, many rejections. I need not remind my MainStreet friends that of the 100+ people I had hoped would join the MainStreet adventure, almost none of them did. Continue reading PARABLES: Let’s Party 2 (Matt. 22:1-14)

PARABLES: Let’s Party 1 (Matt. 22:1-14)

Let’s pick apart a parable together.

Our modern American church culture is obsessed with the big and flashy. This “bigger is better” mindset usually cuts right against the Kingdom way of Jesus that celebrates small looking things that appear unimpressive- – like mustard seeds. But one thing Jesus and our churches both can unite around is throwing a big party!  We love big parties. God loves big parties.

So, let’s explore the parable of the Wedding Banquet.

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, 2“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son…” (Matt 22:1-14)

As a child, for me church = boredom. I didn’t mind church. I didn’t hate church. I didn’t complain about going to church. I was never hurt by the church. I made the most of it.  I just never got goosebumps and lost sleep the night before because I was so excited to go to church.

How about you?  If you were completely honest, what image might you use to describe your idea of church. (Yes, Jesus is talking about ‘the kingdom’, not church; but I’m assuming that church is what happens when a bunch of Kingdom people get together to talk about and do kingdom stuff.)

I can imagine many people I’ve talked to — especially teenagers — beginning their own parable with something like:

“The kingdom of God / going to church is like a dentist appointment…..it’s good for your but it never feels good.”

“The kingdom of God / going to church is like visiting your great-grandma at the nursing home….it’s the decent thing to do but you’d rather be doing something else.”

“The kingdom of God / going to church is like pulling off a band-aid….it’s best to get it over with quickly and not linger too long.”

When Jesus wanted to describe the Kingdom of God, what image did he use? Continue reading PARABLES: Let’s Party 1 (Matt. 22:1-14)

Nocturnal Summer 4

For fun I’m reposting a summer series from 2010 from when I took a paper route while trying to get MainStreet started. Enjoy!

Almost every night on my paper route this past summer and fall, I would stop into Super America for junk food and pop.  Don’t tell Keri.

Richard is the cashier for the graveyard shift, and we actually worked together back in high school at the local nursing home.  He remembered me, and we would spend ten minutes of bantering every morning as I purchased my Mountain Dew and Snickers.

Richard is a baseball fanatic.  We would shoot the breeze about the Twins and he would tell me about his recent road trip to Chicago to see the Twins at White Sox.  I came to discover that Richard has a unique hobby of buying official MLB score books and scoring old games.  He mentioned the desire to have the chance to score all the games of the 1991 Twins World Series.

As “luck” would have it, I happen to have all of those 7 games recorded off the TV on VHS tapes — old commercials and all!  So, Richard and I began this fun little thing where I would drop off one tape for him to watch and score, and then when he was done, I’d exchange it for the next game.

It’s February, and it’s time for me to get him game 6.  Unfortunately, I don’t get out to SA after midnight these days.  Those who remember the ’91 series realize how cruel it is to leave Richard waiting for game 6 and 7!

But these are the kinds of relationships that are fun when you are starting a church and trying to invite others into community.  I hope to invite Richard to join our LifeGroup sometime in the future — as soon as I feel like making a midnight walk to Super America. Richard is also someone I would never have come across had I not been driving the lonely streets of Mound all night on this paper route.

Reports from the intersection of faith & everyday life .

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