Redefined


For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (NIV)

The distractions of today and yesterday too often skew the way we see God and His creation.  We rationalize, contextualize, scrutinize with faulty eyes the way we should act/think/feel in each situation that comes our way.  We use broken eyes, behind broken lenses to perceive a broken world to help define a perfect God and our relationship to him.  But love redefines everything.

Before God first breathed life into the dirt that would become Adam, to his son laying down his life for all, to the day he returns to judge the quick and the dead, one thing remains the same: God loves us.  He created us to love him.  He formed us with love in mind.  We long for it, search for it, try with epic effort to find it on our own, but it is not a love that can be reproduced or replicated.  It is a love that redefines us.

I was typing a note on a tablet and it asked me if I wanted to add “God” to the dictionary.  It seemed an odd question, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how this question reflects a reality in the human – we are far more comfortable defining God than letting God define us.  We add him to our dictionary instead of allowing him to write our dictionary for us.  We like to have our own dictionary because we can control how we see the world, but sooner or later we will be faced with the unchangeable truth that God cannot be controlled by our dictionary.  His love redefines everything.

So we have a choice – to continue in our dream world of self-referencing everything to fit into our broken view through broken lenses, or we can have our sight healed by the love of God and allow ourselves to be defined by his word and will.  Will we be Pharisees or mustard seeds?  Will we be children of God or childish about God?  Will we stamp our labels on people we meet (criminal, homeless, sinner, lost), or will we get close enough to read what God has written on them (hurting, suffering, broken, loved by God)?

Lord, help me to be defined by your dictionary each day.  May my vocabulary increase as my fear decreases and may I find the words to share your love with others.  Give me eyes to see, ears to hear, a mind to understand and a heart to love without reservations.  Amen.

Advertisements

Poetry: A Dangerous Life


A Dangerous Life

 

I’m tired of safety and security

Weary of my imitation purity

I’d rather have a dangerous life

I’d rather have a measure of strife

If it brings me closer to you

 

I want to sing a dangerous song

And cast my fears aside

I want to pray a dangerous prayer

Your kingdom come and abide

I want to live a dangerous life

That stays on heaven’s side

I want to be dangerous

 

I long for empowered ministry

To walk in kingdom liberty

I’d rather risk my life by living

Than grasp at what the world is giving

I want a dangerous life

Poetry: The Thorn in My Side


The Thorn in My Side

 

A gentle prick in my holy veneer

Piercing where no eye can see

Ignoring the pain with a candy smile

The thorn in my side is me

 

Pain and grief and shame pour in

Self-mutilation with the sharp point of sin

Sinful desires rise once again

Leading to places I’ve already been

 

The thorn in my side is me

I’m missing the point, but it won’t miss me

The thorn in my side is me

I should get paid, but I’m doing the Devil’s work for free

 

God is patient, God is kind

Hoping He can change my double mind

Take this thorn and set me free

‘Cause the thorn in my side is me

 

Can’t blame mom, can’t blame dad

Don’t see anyone holding a gun to my head

Who can save me from this body of sin?

The son of God, raised from the dead

 

The thorn in my side is me

I’m getting the point, I’m beginning to see

The thorn in my side is me

Christ paid the price for one such as me

 

God is gracious, God forgives

In Him alone salvation lives

Take this thorn and set me free

‘Cause the thorn in my side is me

Good Friday Poem – Hammer and Nail


Hammer and Nail

 

Muscled hands, calloused and rough,

Work with care and a gentle touch.

Tree to timber with saw and stone;

Through patient skill a form has grown.

A stable manger of humble scale,

Put together by hammer and nail.

 

A babe is born inBethlehem;

A wooden manger a bed for him.

Babe becomes child, child becomes man;

The Carpenter’s skill flows through His hands.

Left His home on a long, hard trail.

Earning His keep by hammer and nail.

 

Love has led Him to a lonely hill;

The Cross His burden for doing God’s will.

The mockers taunt, the angry yell,

Those sinners He would save from hell.

A slaughtered Lamb to rend the veil.

Hung on the Cross by hammer and nail.

 

I strike a blow each time I fail;

Hand and foot, hammer and nail.

Life in Community: Everyone is Broken


During our small group meeting a gentleman shared about his recent journey to the Philippines and the life changing experiences he had there.  One of the most powerful truths he saw during his visit was the importance and influence of community.  It reminded me of some blog posts I did about two years ago on living life in community and so I submit them again for your perusal.  I will be posting the series again over the next two weeks while I am working on a set of posts about Acts.  I hope that this series is a blessing to you.

Everyone who believes has God’s approval through faith in Jesus Christ. There is no difference between people.  Because all people have sinned, they have fallen short of God’s glory.
Romans 3:22-23 (GW)

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1-4 NIV)

My daughter asked me one day why people do bad things and I quickly replied, “Some people are just bad.”  It was a lazy answer, certainly wrong and dreadfully insensitive, but in the moment it satisfied the ponderings of a seven-year-old little girl.  Fortunately the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me get away with such bad theology – and bad parenting – and kept bringing me back to her question.  Why do people do bad things?

I came across the passage in Philippians 2 one day soon after the conversation with my daughter (it is one of my favorites), and the words jumped out at me.  Obviously my view of “bad” people was not in line with what Jesus desired of me, especially in light of Paul’s words in Romans 3.  Somewhere I had let a false perception creep into my thinking and it had skewed how I thought of others.  The devastating realization was that I had in essence told my little girl she was a bad person.

I have always enjoyed the writings of C.S. Lewis and his essay, “The Weight of Glory” is one I need to return to from time to time.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.”

It is very easy to lump people into categories and affix our labels and go about our lives in the comfort of our well-organized world.  However, if we are looking for a better life, a richer experience of God’s presence, a deeper understanding of His love at work in our lives and the lives of others we will change our perception of what humanity is and what it can be.  When we understand that each of us will either be forever broken or forever made whole, we should be motivated to work toward the one and work against the other.  Instead we think we are okay because of how bad someone else is or because we are good at hiding our own brokenness.

After reflecting on these passages, I had to sit down with my daughter and explain that people do bad things because they are broken and that all of us are broken.  It was a simple conversation and a simple explanation, but her education in this area will advance with years.  She needs to know that we are all broken, that we all do bad things, and that it is the love of God that heals us and makes us whole; that in loving Him we find the grace and mercy to love ourselves and others because His love is greater than our own.  She will need to know that brokenness is not an excuse for our transgressions.  I will need to teach her that humility is the key to loving other people in the midst of their brokenness.  I will try to show her that it is a far great thing to be better for the sake of others than it is to be better than others.  I will try to show her what it looks like to move toward wholeness so she will know her way along the journey.

Paint on Us


So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (NIV)

Paint on Us

We are the canvasses
You are the artist
But we keep trying
To take the brush from Your hand
 
We have come with nothing
You give us fullness
Why is it so hard
To be still where You need us to stand
 
Paint on us
Brush us with Your love and grace
Paint on us
While we stand in this Holy place
Cover us with the image of Your Son
Color us until Your will is done
 
Empty us of everything
Then fill us with the truth
Lead us to the rest
That stills our hearts for Your work
 
Create us in Your image
Holy Spirit, make us new
Pictures of God’s grace
On display for all the world
 
Paint on us
Brush us with Your love and grace
Paint on us
While we stand in this Holy place
Cover us with the image of Your Son
Color us until Your will is done

Broken and Beloved


Here we are, the broken,

Waiting while we praise

Praying for Your hand, oh God,

To heal, to help, to raise

Your people from their fallen ways

 

Here we are, the blessed,

Watching for Your grace

Praying for Your love to change

Our hearts, our heads, our hands

Your children need to learn Your ways

 

We are beloved and broken,

Children of the living God

Marked by grace, transformed by love

Your kingdom come today we pray

 

Here we are, beloved,

Washed in the blood of Christ

Praying for clean hearts and hands

To serve, to teach, to reach

Your lost sheep, Your broken lambs.

 

We are beloved and broken

Children of the living God

Saved from sin, changed within

Work Your will in us we pray

 

We are beloved and broken

Our God can make us whole

We are beloved and broken

He heals the wounded soul

We are beloved and broken

Your kingdom come

Your will be done

Make us whole

 

By Chris Yeager

The Right Kind of Righteousness: Conclusion


But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. – Romans 3:21-24 (NIV)

Righteousness is an amazing thing; we all need, none of us have it and there is only one place to get it.  Talk about evening the playing field.  Righteousness requires us all to become spiritual paupers. This makes Jesus’ statements in Matthew 5 come into clearer focus.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) and, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

There is no difference between me or the murderer in jail, until either of us admit our spiritual poverty and hunger for something better than all other things.  God has made His righteousness known and available, but we can get too involved in concocting our own righteousness instead.  We can look at the murderer and say, “At least I am not a murderer” all the while hating the murderer in our heart.  This isn’t righteousness, it is spiritual hypocrisy rooted in arrogance.

Righteousness asks us all to start at the same place, to count everything we have done on our own as rubbish.  We empty our pockets, we deny our credentials, we surrender our pedigree and we come before God naked and poor.  We need Him to clothe us.  We need Him to bless us with the riches of His kingdom.  We need His righteousness.

This life is too short to spend time trying to be right; too precious to spend our talents and treasures just to prove someone else wrong.  Make your argument with your life.  Hunger and thirst for righteousness and you will make the best argument possible; that God’s righteousness is better than man’s.  I certainly don’t say this from a place of success.  Every day is a struggle to seek God’s righteousness instead of creating my own, but I believe I am closer than I was last week, last month, last year.  I still hunger.  I still thirst.

Righteousness is an amazing thing, but it is not impossible.  My hope is rooted in the victories in my own life and the cloud of witnesses who testify to this truth.  The righteousness of God is our inheritance, but we must let go of the petty riches we cling to in this world.  We have to let go of our reputations, our degrees, our experiences and grab a hold of the hem of His garment.  Lord, let us hunger and thirst for You more every day.

The Right Kind of Righteousness: Unrighteous Anger


My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. – James 1:19-20 (NIV)

There is a lot of anger being thrown around today.  We see it on our TV screens, we hear it on our radios, we read it in magazines and papers and it seeps into our hearts and minds.  In Christian circles we have made excuses that our anger is “righteous,” but it is just that; an excuse.  Anger makes us feel powerful; it makes us feel like we are in the right.  When we look at the world and others through the lens of wrath, we see too much of what proves our point and are blind to most everything else.

Righteousness is rooted in not getting angry.  While James may not have had this in mind, it is clear that the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) are remedies to the angry heart and mind.  If we are day by day allowing the Spirit to do His work in our lives, the fruit will be righteous.  James tells us three things that helps put us in the Spirit’s hands: listen, be quiet and get a longer fuse.  Good advice, but hard to follow in our angry world.

If we want to avoid the anger James is warning us about, we need a quiet place, a quiet heart & mind and a humble attitude.  Our days are full of noise and busyness, which can shorten our fuse.  If we can find that quiet place, even if it is a closet in our room, it can provide the opportunity to listen for God’s voice.  However, the quiet place has to be matched with a quiet heart and mind.  It does no good if we spend all of our time in a quiet place making noise about our life and our wants.  There is a real need of being still before God.  Each day we need to let the quietness of that place sink into our hearts and minds to drive out the angry noise of the world.  But that is still just a beginning.

Anger is too easily motivated by pride.  To be slow to anger is to be humble.  When we consider the needs of others, the hurts and pains that may be at the center of their life, we will have a different attitude toward them.  Instead of anger, we may find compassion, love, mercy and grace.  Humility is the last place that anger tries to find a home.  Humility is the open door for the Spirit to bear fruit in our lives.

Where is your quiet place?  When was the last time you felt silence and calm in your heart and mind?  How long have you held anger toward someone who may need your love and kindness?  Let’s work together to come against the anger of our world with the fruit of the Spirit and the humility of Christ.

Remembering September 11th and What Followed: A Moment of Honor and Nobility


The rest tent is the white rectangle in the middle of the picture.  You can view a current picture of the World Trade Center here.

Something I post every September 11th.  Pray for peace.

“But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
November 19, 1863

It was early on Tuesday morning as I got dressed and ready for work.  Molly and Keely were still asleep when the phone rang and my Mother’s broken voice came across the line, “Turn on the TV, Christopher!”  The image of that first tower smoldering in the New York Skyline is still fresh in my mind, ingrained there with so many other images that came into homes and business throughout that day on screens too small for the enormity of the event.

A few weeks later the call came from The Salvation Army Headquarters that they needed officers to volunteer for duty at Ground Zero; I had my name in the same day.  There were five of us from California and we arrived in New York October 15th of 2001.  We went through the standard briefing, received our assignments and then they took us to Ground Zero.  When the subway arrived at the Chambers Street station you could feel the quiet, the normally bustling crowds subdued and solemn.

Words fail to describe the scene at the World Trade Center.  Photographs may be worth a thousand words, but a thousand words would not be enough to describe what that place of desolation felt or smelled or sounded like on that day.  Those with me said little and walked on in silence around the perimeter of Ground Zero.  With each stop we would meet the men and women who worked diligently to recover those who had fallen what seemed ages ago.  They would smile and welcome us to the work, but the weariness and sorrow in their eyes was deep.

Our team worked at Ground Zero for two weeks and much could be written about what we saw and heard in those 14 days, but I will only share one event as the nation remembers September 11th, 2001.  I was assigned with a fellow officer to man a rest tent across the street from the World Trade Center and what was now called “The Pile.”  We provided drinks, snacks, basic first aid supplies, magazines and other items for the recovery workers, but we also served as chaplains as the need arose.

I was by myself one evening (I worked the shift from 11pm to 11am) when a firefighter asked if I was a chaplain.  I answered “Yes” and followed him to The Pile.  The crews had just uncovered an elevator car and were recovering the remains of seven people; seven sons and daughters taken from their resting place to be identified and laid to rest again with honor and dignity.  As they lifted each stretcher from the hole, an American flag was draped across the body and then they placed the stretcher on a motorized cart to transport them to the morgue.  I was asked to accompany one of the fallen and took my place at the foot of the stretcher and waited to make the walk.

That is when the siren sounded.  One long, deep clarion tone and everything stopped.  Truckers stopped their dump trucks and shut off the engines.  Cranes paused with loads of debris still in their grasp.  Dozens of workers stopped where they were and faced the Pile, hats off and held over their hearts.  A hush settled on that hallowed ground and we began the long procession to take the seven on their way to loved ones and a better resting place.  It was one of the most noble and honorable moments of my life.

Over the next few days that moment rested in my heart and mind and changed the way I saw what was around me.  Perspective comes at a high price sometimes, but then it can help us value what we ought.  Our team headed back to California on October 29th, ready to be with family and to consider all that we had seen the past two weeks.  I remember seeing my little girl, Keely, waiting with her mother in the concourse.  The sound of, “Daddy! Daddy!” was the sweetest sound I had heard in weeks.  She ran toward me and I toward her and we hugged and cried and mommy joined in soon after.

It has been 15 years since the towers fell and America rose to the resulting challenges and I have not forgotten that moment.  Each day is a day to live the life that hateful men tried to destroy. I will spend this September 11th with my family.  I will go and worship God with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I will rest at home with my wife, daughters and extended family.  I will celebrate the life I have and give thanks to God.  We will play and laugh and eat good food.  We will snuggle and watch funny cartoons and read a book or two.  There will be days ahead when grief will visit us again, but we will not let it stay for long.  If you let it settle in and get comfortable, it is harder to kick out and it does not suffer roommates. This day is about God’s grace turning mourning into dancing.

Love your family, be grateful, remember what was sacrificed so you don’t forget what was gained and never take freedom for granted.  Remember the words of Abraham Lincoln, “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”