Loving a “Charlie Brown” Tree

“When all else fades one thing remains: Your love is still pursuing me.” – Daniel Gonzales, Celebration Church

Getting out of the car we smelled the scent of pine that enveloped the area. Dad and I enjoyed the tree hunt, and I of course picked out the fullest, greenest, and awesome-est tree for his budget. I would tell him the one I’d chosen, the lumber guy would take it to trim the trunk and nail the base, we’d strap it to the top of the car, my dad would hand the guy a $5 tip, and we’d proudly drive home listening for any movements on the roof. If, for some reason, my noble expertise wasn’t provided and, for some odd reason, Mom would assist Dad, then we would definitely get something less than par. One bare side would be missing a large portion of branches and most likely the tree was pitifully leaning to one side; we debated which side needed the wall’s cover the most. This tree would also probably be the cause of old childhood ornaments falling and breaking off of unstable branches. And, every now and then, it would likely be too small to stand proud on the ground and reach the ceiling, to which Mom would grab a side table, drape it with Christmas cloth, and attempt to fit presents around the legs. This tree would desperately need, as we learned to withhold our critiques and complaints, my mother’s unashamed and unconditional love.
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Redemption of Culture and Modern-Day Pharisees

I still have the sunburn as a trophy to remind me of the awesome Easter service we participated in this year. While my wife played a pivotal role in the sanctuary with the volunteers’ kids, I spent the entire morning and afternoon on the hill with 1,000 other volunteers. Easter on the Hill at Celebration Church was from start to finish a God-anointed event. From the moment Celebration Church got the call from Tim Tebow‘s representatives that he would be interested in speaking, the plans for Easter changed. No longer would they be deciding how to approach the upcoming celebration of Christ’s victory over death in their sanctuary, but reconsidered preparations by dropping to their knees in humble prayer. Perhaps this call was the response Celebration Church received after saturating their spirits in fasting and prayer at the beginning of the year. In January members of the church all had the same conviction–God was going to bring His power and transform the church in a new and mighty way–though the staff and pastors had yet to make specific plans.

Easter Sunday of 2012 has been the most unique and unorthodox service I have ever been a part of, or even attended. Various people dressed in costumes and had interacted with the people awaiting the service in a Woodstock-like fashion (of course, without the clouds of smoke). Recognizable characters such as Elmo (who “Tebowed” with some kids), Woody and Jesse (Toy Story), Football players, Snow White, Mr. Incredible (The Incredibles), and a few others all made the people feel comfortable and at home. Although they primarily served to bring a smile to everyone’s faces, what made them indirectly part of the ministry was the simple message that said, “Come as you are!” This was the entire thrust of Jesus’ ministry. He never established a building and “invited people to church”, but brought the Kingdom to them! Continue reading

John 14:6 – Part 1 – “I Am The Way”

5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

John 14:5-6

Perhaps John 14 has grown affectionately recently, but the profundity of Jesus’ claim motivates one to contemplate and write.  Thomas, often known as “Doubting Thomas”, is someone I can relate to well.  He’s the one who says, “Wait a minute, let me get this straight!”  People have often put him down for not having enough faith, and maybe he sometimes wasn’t paying attention, but I think Thomas was a bit of a rational thinker.  The incident for which he is most remembered is in John 20 when he missed Jesus’ appearance after His resurrection when he says, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (Jn. 20:25).  He didn’t necessarily doubt that Jesus was risen, but that they truly saw Him.  Thomas struggled with the same thing I myself do–he always wanted to know for sure because he needed certainty.  That’s why his faith was lacking, as does perhaps my own–he needed to know.

sneak peak at the Sri Lanka 2k11 trip

Yet Jesus said, “I am the way”, thus answering Thomas’ question.  In this statement Jesus equated Himself with the Father, who with Moses in Exodus 3 says, “I AM who I AM”.  Essentially, Jesus is saying, “I am the way to life”.  He changes our expectations on how the question should be answered.   Continue reading

Christ’s “Greater” Works

 8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? he words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. 12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that he Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.  (John 14:8-14 NASB)

I notice many people attaching the idea of having “great” faith with the result of “great” works or acts.  People tend to do the “if, then” formulaic statements when it relates to our understanding of Jesus’ explanation of faith with “If you ask Me anything in My name, [then] I will do it” (v.14).  When it doesn’t happen at all, or even perhaps just in the manner expected, we tend to explain that away as either lacking faith or God’s will coming in direct conflict with that which is being asked.  Perhaps what’s simply happening, though, is a misunderstanding of the “anything” Jesus is talking about.  Perhaps our wants and desires are misguided and misappropriated. Continue reading