Choices

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Choices

Jeremiah 42:18-22

“For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Just as my anger and my wrath were poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so my wrath will be poured out on you when you go to Egypt. You shall become an object of execration and horror, of cursing and ridicule. You shall see this place no more. The Lord has said to you, O remnant of Judah, Do not go to Egypt. Be well aware that I have warned you today that you have made a fatal mistake. For you yourselves sent me to the Lord your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to the Lord our God, and whatever the Lord our God says, tell us and we will do it.’ So I have told you today, but you have not obeyed the voice of the Lord your God in anything that he sent me to tell you. Be well aware, then, that you shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence in the place where you desire to go and settle.”

Mathew 10:5-23

The Mission of the Twelve1

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

Coming Persecutions2

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

Sometimes it feels like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place and I’m going to lose no matter what happens.Have you ever felt that way? These are some of my points of lowest motivation for following God instead of my own selfish desires. I mean, if the result is going to be the same anyway, why does it matter?

That is a hard place to be in and an even harder place to speak to, when you are not in it yourself. The Chalmers Center has a book called When Helping Hurts that describes ways that our attempts to speak into and intervene in the lives of those caught in tough places often ends up doing more harm than good. If you are not in one of those places but know someone who is, be sure to get your facts straight before barging in with a cure-all for their woes… because, the truth is, it really does matter.

It matters whether we are suffering as a consequence of our own disobedience or if we are suffering for obeying God. It matters in the moment because suffering out of obedience is suffering that takes on meaning. It shows the world its own corruption and brokenness. Prophets face persecution for their faithfulness because a world that wanted to hear what they had to say would not need them to say it. Their role is to stand in between unfaithful people and a God demanding justice, the unstoppable force and the immovable object, and to mediate between them. Most prophets do not survive the task, but their work is honored and their suffering brings healing to those around them. On the other hand, God uses our disobedience as well. If we will not be lifted up as a good example, He will use us as the bad example. He has His ways of getting the point across whether we want to go along or not.

The choices we have before us each day are really not as much about suffering or comfort, which we have less control of than we think. They are about honor and shame. That may not mean as much to you today, but if you look at the big picture, it may mean a lot tomorrow. Honor opens doors. Shame closes them. Doors you may not even see yet. It is why we tell our students to study and get good grades, knowing it will take years of their life away from friends, family, making money, and many other pursuits they may have. There is nothing inherently valuable about a good grade. In fact, most of our grades will never be looked at by people other than our parents and teachers. But they will open doors to places of honor that would otherwise be unattainable when we get to those paths down the road. That is the difference between a rock and a hard place.

What difficult choices do you have to make today?

What guidance is God giving you?


  1. (Mk 6:6b—13; Lk 9:1–6)
  2. (Mk 13:9–13; Lk 21:12–17)

A Clouded Brilliance

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A Clouded Brilliance

John 12:20-36

Some Greeks Wish to See Jesus

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

Jesus Speaks about His Death

“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Christ the Power and Wisdom of God

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”1

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

The greatest wisdom of God looks like foolishness to those of us with worldly eyes.

Life coming from death is a paradox – not logical, and more importantly not convenient. There must be an easier way.

The greatest glory of God came from His love. It was not His wrath and judgment that show His true power. It is not even His power of creation. God’s ultimate glory is displayed when He became human and allowed Himself to be killed on a cross, all to show us how much He loved us. It is a kind of brilliance that can only be seen in the darkness. It is a love that can get lost in the light, but nothing shines brighter in the clouds of suffering.

There is a cross and a glory prepared for us as well. It is not something to be feared. We are made to embrace it.

Where do you most clearly see the love of God in the stories around the death of Jesus?

What part of those stories do you most identify with yourself?

How can you shine for Jesus today in your own cloudy world?


  1. (Cp Isa 29:14)

Tough Decisions

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Tough Decisions

Philippians 1:21-30

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. “

Suffering is only temporary, but not in the way we might hope.

I wonder why Jesus died so quickly on the cross. Two thieves may have hung there longer than He. Don’t get me wrong, He did not deserve any of it. Yet for those who claim He took our punishment upon Himself, I wonder if our own crucifixion would have been as short. Why does Jesus give a loud shout and die when most die slowly of suffocation? I don’t know.

One of my professors, Robert Tuttle once told me that the suffering of Christ did not begin on the cross, it began in the manger. If he was right, than Jesus really did have one of the longest punishments – 33 years worth! What all would that include then?


  1. Being born helpless and vulnerable.


  2. Being hunted


  3. Being misunderstood by his own family


  4. Being tempted by the devil himself

…and that is all before he actually starts any of his ministry. It also does not count much of the first 33 years of His life for which we have very little information on.

It was fairly downhill after that. Doubts, questioning, betrayals… people always around trying to use Him for their own agendas. Some of those were the ones He called friends. Most of them called themselves leaders and upstanding citizens. A few called themselves revolutionaries. Jesus called Himself the Son of Man). Those who knew Him best called Him the Son of God and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Paul called Him Christ, which means messiah or “anointed one”. Somehow knowing the suffering of Jesus inspired Paul to carry on despite his own suffering. As far as starting new movements went, Paul was not terribly successful in his own lifetime. He was kicked out of more towns than he had friends, and even the places he was able to establish Christian communities were often corrupted by false teachers who followed after him. It was then and continues to be an act of God that the church perseveres.

In all this Paul wonders, would it be better to die and be with Jesus than to continue suffering through the day to day pains of trying to be a witness for God to a world that wants nothing to do with Him? That is a question we all have to answer for ourselves.

Paul found his answer in the same way Jesus found His own. He loved God, and he also loved all those around them. Well, he may have struggled to love all of those around him, but he certainly loved some of them. He knew that death might bring him some relief and maybe even some joy. But he also knew that those left here on earth would suffer without him. Even if he could not end or even ease their suffering, there was something powerful and loving about being willing to suffer with them. There is a word for that. It is called compassion(which literally means to suffer with).

What tough decisions do you face today?

What role does suffering play in these decisions?

What choice most reflects the compassion of Jesus?

Don’t shoot the Angels

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Editorial Preview

Don’t shoot the Angels

Hebrews 2:5–10 (NRSV)

Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere,

“What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
or mortals, that you care for them?
You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned them with glory and honor, subjecting all things under their feet.”

Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

Angels have always been a unique topic. Most Christians believe in angels and view them as distant but helpful spirits. However, many of those same people avoid even talking about spirit entities outside of God. It takes us too close to idolatry, which is not just a modern problem, but as John shows us, was a problem for himself1: and the early church as well.

Here is a biblical definition of the word translated “angels”:

“In many languages a term for ‘angels’ is borrowed from another dominant language, but in other instances a somewhat descriptive phrase may be employed. The most common expressions for the ‘angels of God’ are ‘messengers’ and ‘messengers from heaven.’ Sometimes these angels are called ‘spirit messengers’ and even ‘flying messengers.’ In some instances they have been called ‘the holy servants of God,’ but an expression such as ‘servants of God’ or even ‘messengers of God’ tends to overlap in meaning with expressions used to characterize the role and function of the prophets who were sent as messengers from God. In some languages a term for ‘angels’ is contrasted with that for ‘prophets’ by calling angels ‘messengers from heaven’ and prophets ‘messengers from God.’ The ‘angels of the Devil’ are often called ‘the Devil’s servants.’”2

Spirit messengers, in shorthand.

Look at the passage from Hebrews again. This is a passage that points out the connection between vulnerability and authority. Angels, who do not suffer, serve in God’s presence. Yet it is human beings, who were “made a little lower” than the angels, to whom authority over the world was given. It is not strength, but vulnerability… or perhaps the ability to suffer, that is rewarded with authority in God’s Kingdom.

This passage is not primarily about you and I. It is about Jesus. Jesus supersedes our own authority not because of His power, but because of His ability to suffer. This may be why He resisted the devil’s temptation in the wilderness. Without suffering, there is no authority rewarded.

Why is that? I don’t know for sure. But Jesus speaks about His own authority like this:

John 10:1-18

““Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” ”

Jesus ties together willingness to suffer for… responsibility, with authority. He has “bought” us and gained authority over us through His suffering for us. He took the bullet the angels never would.

Who do you suffer for?

Are you willing and able to suffer for those God has put you in charge of?

 

 

Dirty Hands

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Dirty hands pressed together

searching for a spring

to wash away these frosty days

and ease this suffering

 

Dirty hands push the plow

to sow tomorrow’s pain

a blistered blessing glist’ning sweat

held out in hope of rain

 

Dirty hands reach up

grasping for a plate

to feed a fickle fantasy

a hunger for to sate

 

Dirty hands dealt down

clenched and forming fists

a promise for preeminental

pummels upon wrists

 

Dirty hands pointing out

for bags of silver three

the way for bloody feet to tread

and darkened eyes to see

 

Dirty hands dig themselves

deeper everyday

a pity as their penitence

but buried there to stay

 

Dirty hands rub upon

dirty arms and legs

with dreams pristine they seek to clean

themselves down in the dregs

 

Dirty hands pressed together

nowhere left to go

despair set in through sordid sin

without forgiving flow

 

Dirty hands drift above

and flail to stay aloft

within the miry muck downpoured

from clouds above the waft

 

Dirty hands plunged beneath

the dark and stormy tides

for their at last once all has past

their cleanliness abides

 

An Acrostic on Midnight – Life XVII

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We hide each night

not in gestures, however timely

in stature

and living marks of strained torque –

deeds of no extent.

 

A new day

set upon nimble reaches in sure event,

glows red on waiting shores,

sighing onward

‘neath each awaiting response.

 

This hour answers those

warring emotions,

crashing and neurotic,

tipped over unconditionally, crying horrendously

to heroic endearments,

slighting pillars, and culling each sentinel.

 

It ticks softly,

this intimate moment evading

the other

siding midway over on the hearth

to hither ears

hidden above iridescent regality.

 

Addled, noted digressions

greet each tether,

together heading everywhere,

dreaming in multiplexed prickles, leaning ever south,

reverencing every addler, despite yourself.

 

All now declare

with open numinosity, declaring eighty reaches

without end,

cradled over us, lowered down,

crossed and redeeming evermore.

 

For our respite

there heralds a trophy,

only left dying

for a death-eating democracy

marked in damned notes, in great hellish thoughts.

 

This has a troubling,

fear-ridden intensity, garnished here this evening, next empty doors,

but underneath this,

another note…

hope – our understanding renewed.

Your Godless Utopia

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What is a god?

Bright-eyed sprouts,

their clumsy dissertations

in primitive dialects

striking profoundly;

Tell’s arrows

plunged deep into

the heart not there

moments before.

Such fragile fingers

whose snowflake touch

emasculates all darkness

fear and loneliness –

Who can stand against

their innocence?

 

Only the dead

remain unscathed;

untouched.

No light to burst

a dry husk;

unbreathing,

ghastly grips

and warm steel

still smash sprouts –

But…

 

Sprouts will see

roots will grow

blooming fire

sharp hard hate

traded innocence

for killing cold

to see you burn.

 

This is your Godless Utopia