Integrity In Your Bones

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Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out. –proverbs 10:9

Want to freak yourself out?  Next time you’re in a crowd, remind yourself that you are in a room full of skeletons.

It’s not something we tend to think of when we look at each other, but just a couple inches beneath each person’s surface lies a collection of bones.  Boo!  Here lies the object of infinite Halloween frights, and the symbol of all things unmentionably hidden.

One does not put one’s bones on display.  Not the ones inside our bodies, or the ones we’ve stuffed into our closets.  They’re private. These bones represent our collection of indiscretions, our taboo secrets, our hidden sins.

With all these skeletons in our closets (and inches beneath our skin), how could a single one of us walk with integrity?  Politicians throw that word around, but managing integrity is a rare feat.   It doesn’t seem like our elected officials have much integrity these days, although they are masters at appearing like it.

They’re not the only ones.  Many people today avoid the church because Christians seem so proficient at integrity — until greed, or abuse, or all manners of non Christ-like behaviors reveal us to be as “boney” as everybody else.

The #MeToo movement is a perfect example of the state of integrity — pulling back the curtain on decades of hidden harassment and demeaning behavior.  I’ve surely hated to see the pitiful contents of some of my favorite public figure’s closets. I’m cautious at pointing a finger, however, because I’d just as soon no one ever peek in my closet.

How about you? Anything to hide?

So, shy of, say, the Dalai Lama, is there anyone with integrity left in this cursed world? Are we all doomed, as proverbs mentions, to walk crooked paths until the day God and humanity discovers what lies beneath each of our feeble attempts to appear good?

No.  We’re not doomed.  Jesus came to save us from the evil that has settled into our very bones.  When Jesus died on that cross, the earthquake that filled the land cleaned out every closet and gave us the ability to walk with our heads held high.  Not with some mock piety, but with the assurance of grace.  We’re not perfect.  Just forgiven.

I wonder if integrity can grow even through our attempt to find it.  Maybe so.  Instead of hiding away the frail remnants of our past, our bones can be made strong in Christ. Stronger than a tanker truck of milk ever could.

The next time you’re in a crowd, don’t freak out about all the skeletons surrounding you.  It’s part of human nature to carry a few sins with us as we go through life.

But strive (with God’s help) for integrity.  It comes when we make room for grace, in our bodies, minds, spirits..

and closets.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Jesus Texting

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For God does speak—now one way, now another—
though no one perceives it. –Job 33:14

Luv4all:  Hey!

You:  Hey!  What’s up Jesus?

Luv4all:  Happy Birthday!

You:  Hehe, not my bday, dude!

Luv4all:  Yes it is.  I would know. 😉

You:  My birthday isn’t for 5 months.  You feeling okay?

Luv4all:  It’s all good.  You don’t get it.

You:  Get what?

Luv4all:  My present.  I send you one every day.

You:  Okay… what?

Luv4all: Life!  You get Life from me everyday.  So everyday is your birthday.

You:  Oh…like REbirth.  I get you.

Luv4all:  No.  Rebirth is important.  You get that too.  But every day is a NEW BIRTH.  A new chance.  A new opportunity.  A new lease on Life.

You: This is deep, JC.

Luv4all:  I KNOW it’s deep.  Remember this: “In him was life, and that life was the light of all humankind”?  I want you to embrace my light, like it’s the candle on your birthday cake, every single day.

You: How come I’m just hearing about this?

Luv4all: *groans* I tried scripture–you’re too busy.  I tried talking to you in your prayers–you have trouble listening.  I tried speaking through other people–you always have somewhere else to be.

You:  Sorry.

Luv4all:  It’s alright.  I’m just pointing out that the only way you seem to be able to communicate these days is through texting.  Not exactly the easiest mode for transmitting Grace and Truth, you feeling me?

You:  I feel you.  Sorry.

Luv4all:  Don’t hassle it.  Short and sweet is better than nothing.

You:  So, it’s my birthday.  New Life.

Luv4all:  That’s right.  Celebrate by living the freedom that comes with it.

You:  Okay.  I will.

Luv4all:  Okay.  Gotta go.  Thumbs getting tired.

You:  LOL.  Thanks, Jesus.

Luv4all:  No prob.  But remember, a little prayer never hurt anyone.  And my data plan?

It’s unlimited.

 

Have a good week,

Mitch

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Who’s Gonna Be Your King?

Who’s gonna be your King?  Who is deserving of the Top Spot in your life?  Our world throws out all kinds of options for us to choose from, but you can only offer supreme allegiance to one.

Here are some words and pictures to help you decide.

Take your time.  Choose wisely!

“King: noun…

authority, bigwig, boss

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chief, chieftain, commander,

lionking

czar, dictator, director,

kingtut

emperor, executive, governor,

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head, head honcho, high chief,

King-of-Pop-king-of-pop-mj-9455606-1280-1024

imperator, leader, lord,

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magnate, majesty, master,

billie jean king

monarch, overlord, paramount lord,

stephen king

patriarch, person who is reported to, power,

Dr-Martin-Luther-King-Jr

royal personage, ruler, superior.” (thefreedictionary.com)

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Who will it be?  An entertainer?  A sports figure?  An ancient ruler?  A consumer brand?

Maybe something fictional.  Maybe a crusader for peace who would never want the job.

Or maybe you’d pick the person you see when you look in the mirror?

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Who’s gonna be your king?  I am convinced that there is only One person suited for the job.  Try out these words:

I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords  –1 Timothy 6:14-15

And this image:

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No kingly crown.  No kingly name.  Just an Easter promise to rule in your heart…

so much more than this guy

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ever could.

Have a great week,

 

Mitch

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No Crying In Basketball.

Jesus wept.  —John 11:35

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So…you foul out with :36 left on the clock.  Down by 5.  You watch, helpless, as it all slips away. This is the hardest you’ve worked in your life, and it’s come down to this:  A loss.

It’s enough to make you want to cry.

And so you look around the arena for your mother.  She’s sitting over there with your family.  As your bottom lip begins to tremble, you run across the court, climbing up into the stands, and you throw your arms around your mom.

As an astonished venue looks on, you let loose with a gut wrenching sob.  WAHHHHHH!!!  All the mental and physical exhaustion you’re feeling, plus the deep disappointment at not making it to the championship comes gushing out of you in great big torrents for all to see and hear.

Oh wait.  Scratch that.  That’s not right. That’s not how we do things. It’s perfectly acceptable for 15,000 fans to scream themselves hoarse rooting for a game, but to have one player show a few tears can somehow seem uncouth.  Even embarrassing.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’d be that guy burying my face in a towel.  I don’t want my anguish broadcast on TBS and around the world.  To me, painful emotions are private, intimate things.  But why?

Many people (especially men) have been raised to view showing sad emotions as a sign of weakness and a cause for embarrassment.  If you’ve sneakily brushed away tears after a sappy commercial, you may know what I’m talking about.  And I can’t tell you the number of people I see at a funeral, doing all they can to clamp down on those pesky feelings.

I wonder.  What would it take for you or I to come out of hiding and let our tears be a public statement of grief?  It would have to be for a very good reason, even more significant than losing a basketball game.

Well…it is Holy Week.  Kind of the epicenter of anguish for the Christian year.  What if we allowed ourselves to truly experience the depths of Holy Thursday or Good Friday?  What if we opened ourselves up to the brokenness of the world and the suffering of our savior?  Could we let it move us to tears?

All of our personal turning away from God.  All the pain of betrayal and denial and crucifixion and death and darkness.  Talk about a loss! This is no game–it’s the light of Christ snuffed out.  If there’s ever been a week for crying in public, isn’t this it?

Yes!  So here’s what you do.  You push your cart up and down the aisles of the grocery store, sniffing and blubbering. Every time someone asks you if you are alright, you say, “No.  Not this week,” and then tell them why.

Okay.  I’m dubious if any of us are going make that much of a scene, but I challenge you to feel something. If we can have our emotions stirred up by a basketball game, surely we can travel these last days of Lent, giving our whole hearts to Jesus.  There’s still time to discern, to reflect, and yes, to weep.  But know this…

in terms of days before Easter…

we’re down to the Final Four.

Have a Holy Week,

Mitch

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SPOILERS

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It may be the darkest scripture in the whole Bible:  “My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?” My goal last Sunday was to preach it as is — without spoilers about what comes next.

But I couldn’t do it.

I wanted to let this part of the story stand on its own.  I didn’t want to soften the words, or cheapen Jesus’ suffering.  But I couldn’t let this darkest of moments remain pitch black.  I couldn’t just leave him hanging there.

There, at the end of my sermon, I had to throw in a little bit of Easter.  Without even a “spoiler alert” I revealed the big surprise:  Hope, Triumph, Resurrection.

I’m not alone in this. In my reading about this tough verse, not a single writer was willing to just sit with Jesus’ pain.  Nobody could resist spilling the beans about the happy ending that was to come.

Another example — My choir sings a cantata on Palm Sunday every year.  No matter how deep into Holy Week the music takes us, the last song — a long standing tradition — is “The King is Coming!” It’s a great song, but I have mixed feelings about it, because of all the spoilers!  Maundy Thursday and Good Friday have yet to come, and already we’re promising Easter.

I wonder if a new Christian would find themselves annoyed to have the big Easter Surprise revealed just at this agonizing climax?  I know I’d have been mad if someone spoiled the ending of the 6th Sense, or the Usual Suspects, Or The Empire Strikes Back.

Should we treat the story of the cross (and beyond) as a sacred mystery, only to be unveiled on Easter morning?  If we did, how would we handle passages such as this?

17 Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, 18 “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”  Matthew 20:17-19

Umm….SPOILER ALERT, Jesus!

Jesus couldn’t have been any clearer about how this story ends.  In fact, Jesus’ whole life is a spoiler alert.  If we pay careful attention to how Jesus lives, we’ll have all the clues we need to find out how he dies.  And lives again.

I’ve decided it’s not necessary to just sink into “Why have you forsaken me,” and stay there.  The whole point is that Jesus DIDN’T stay there.

He had more to reveal than Keyser Soze, Bruce Willis, and Darth Vader combined.

Have a good week,

Mitch

20 of the Best Movie And TV Spoilers

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Surprise! 4 Days Until Christmas!

 

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“But about that day or hour no one knows… –Matthew 24:36a

At a press conference today in Nazareth, Archaeologist I.M.Fixion holds up a fragile set of scrolls, and makes the following announcement:

“These scrolls were recovered from an ancient rubbish heap outside of Nazareth.  They have been dated to somewhere around 10 a.d.  They appear to be a stack of birthday cards…to Jesus.

“That’s right.  These are cards written to Jesus on the occasion of his surprise 10th birthday party.  One is from an aunt Elizabeth, some are from a bunch of shepherds, and even some very expensive cards appear to come from distant royalty.

“Of course, this is a find of extreme importance, but there’s more.”  He gestures to several of the pages.  “The cards all list the date of Jesus’ birthday.  Adjusting for changes in calendar and so forth, there can be no doubt.  Jesus was born…

“On December 8th.  Thank you.”


 

Surprise! CHRISTMAS IS IN 4 DAYS!

Jesus may (or may not) have had a surprise 10th birthday party, but his birthday has never been a surprise for us.  There it sits on the calendar, bottom of December, circled in red and green.  We know what’s coming, we make our lists, we plan it out.  No surprise.

But what if Christmas showed up unexpectedly, say, on December 10th? What if there wasn’t enough time to do all the million and one holiday traditions we’ve laid out over the course of our lives?  What if Christmas came as a surprise, leaving us to celebrate without all the boxes in our garage, or all the excess baggage in our hearts?

If you had to celebrate the birth of Jesus right away, how would you do it?

Here’s what I think I’d do:
I guess I’d pray.
And give some $ to the church or a charity.
And volunteer somewhere.
And call my family.
And go to church.

What would you do?  In the face of a surprise Christmas, maybe we’d have to let the other stuff go, and focus on what’s most important.  Remember, Jesus doesn’t really need tinsel, or a plate of cookies, or a bunch of parties, or even an overpriced birthday card. If a simpler, more spiritual Christmas celebration sounds as enticing to you as it does to me, maybe we can dial back a little on the pomp and circumstance, and surprise Jesus with an Advent filled with meaning.

This year, for Jesus’ birthday, all he really wants us to send him is our attention, and our devotion.

Those are the real Hallmarks of a Merry Christmas.

Have a great Advent,

Mitch

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Parannoyed

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Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.  Luke 21:10-11

This can’t be good for us.

Living like this.  Looking over our shoulders for the next terrible thing to happen.  Waiting for the other size 15 shoe to drop.  Watching it raining crazy around the globe.

I’ve decided I’m being parannoyed.  Both paranoid with fear over what comes next, and annoyed that this appears to be my new normal.  Do you feel this way too?

It doesn’t really feel like the end of the world, to me.  Just more of the same long line of crazy stuff we humans are capable of.  However, that list in Luke makes me feel the same as all the recent things happening in our world make me feel.

It’s this feeling of doom.  Of non-stop yuckiness.  Of powerlessness.  It just keeps coming.  So much so that it’s beyond distressing.

It’s parannoying.  One irritating reason to be afraid after another.

This can’t be good for us!  The human body can only take so much stress.  The human mind can only process so much negativity.  The human heart can only be slapped around so many times before we’re brought to our knees.

Ah, but here’s some help:  Mid way through Jesus’ list of end times event, he says,  “Stand firm, and you will win life.”

For us to stand firm means to put our trust in Christ as our sure foundation.  In Christ, we remember that we live according to God’s plans, not the world’s chaos.  And Christ reminds us that there is more to the story than what we see on the nightly news.

So stand firm, dear Christian. Trade out your paranoia for passion.  Exchange your annoyance for assurance.

That’s right. It will be very very good for us, if we

trade out our parannoyance…

for some Blessed Passurance.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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