And now we begin . . . again

31416_426471080179_582995179_5896140_5420886_n.jpgIn the world of baseball the first month of the season is coming to an end this week.
Spring Training is a distant memory. All those games played – the wins and the losses – do not matter.  Now the long season has begun and everything counts and everyone started equal.

Shoot … even what you did last season doesn’t matter.

What you did yesterday will not determine the game today.
Each game is a do over in this long season of baseball.
Every spring optimism is abundant within every player and every team. Scott O’Connell, director of new ballpark development for the Minnesota Twins, once told me, “Optimism is what every team has during spring training. Reality is what every team knows by July.”

Every player strives to get ready during spring training, but at the same time the veterans know that the games don’t count and the real season begins with Opening Day.

Players that have struggled all spring will play like All-Stars in April and All Star players with great springs will struggle.
The Good News is that today, like each day stretched out this season, will offer the opportunity for redemption.  An at-bat following an inning with an error. A fielding chance after striking out. And a game tomorrow after today’s loss.

The day after Easter is the beginning of season as Christ-followers.

What will you do with the resurrection?
Everything up to this point was a dress rehearsal for this moment.
God’s plan for salvation and relationship was finished and now it is up to us to respond.
What will you do in this season after Easter?

It doesn’t matter what has taken place in the past.

Today everything is new.

So, Batter up!

The time is NOW to live your faith.

An Easter Surprise!

Picture1.pngDid you know that God loves surprises?

Easter is the reminder that God loves us, but it is also a reminder of how surprising God’s love can be.  Let me share with you some of God’s surprises.

God told Noah to build and ark because it was going to rain, but no one had ever seen rain before but then … SURPRISE! it rained and God saved Noah and his family because of their faith.

Shadrach Meshach and Abendigo refused to worship anyone other than God and so the King had them thrown in the fiery furnace but then … SURPRISE! God saved them from the fire because of their faith.

Daniel refused to stop praying to God and so the king had Daniel thrown into the Lion’s Den but then … SURPRISE! God saved Daniel from the lion’s because of his faith.

God promised that He would one day come as a King but then … SURPRISE! God arrived as a baby born in a manger.

Zacheaus just wanted to see Jesus so he climbed into a tree for just a view, but then … SURPRISE! Jesus went home with Zacheaus and ate dinner with him.

The disciples went fishing but didn’t catch any fish, but then … SURPRISE! Jesus said try one more time on the other side of the boat and they caught so many fish the boat nearly sank.

The disciples got caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee and they were afraid the boat would sink but then … SURPRISE! Jesus came to rescue them walking on the water and then … SURPRISE! Peter walked on the water because of his faith.

God loved us so much that Jesus died for us as payment for our sin and was buried in a tomb, but then … SURPRISE! Jesus is alive.

After Jesus conquered death, He went up into Heaven to be with God, but … SURPRISE! Jesus promised that one day He would come back to us.

Until that day, Jesus promised that we would not be alone. He also promised that we didn’t need to be afraid because He was with us. The way that God cares for us can be surprising. God loves to use surprises to remind us over and over again how much He loves us.

So, don’t forget and don’t be surprised that God loves you.

Jesus died for you – and today we know the good news that Jesus is Alive!

Jesus is alive and promises that if we believe that one, day we will get to be with Him in heaven.  So as you hunt for Easter eggs today, remember that the Egg is a reminder that the tomb was empty – After all the candy is gone the empty egg is a reminder that the tomb was empty.

Be open to the surprises of life …

they are simple reminders that God loves you!

Holy Week : Holy Saturday

Garden Tomb outside of Jerusalem

On Holy Saturday the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb, meditating on his suffering and death. Only after the solemn vigil during the day and night, does the Easter celebration begin.

On Holy Saturday long ago the followers of Christ began to gather in the safety of the Upper Room where they had days earlier dined with Jesus.  They gathered to meditate on the suffering and death of Christ – Why had this happened? What was the purpose? What would they do now?

Did anyone remember the story Jesus told? 

Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”  Luke 12:35ff NIV

Today as we wait for Easter morning, what will you be doing?
As we wait for the return of Christ, will you be found ready?

See you at Church … I’ll be doing my best to be ready … will you join me?

Holy Week : Good Friday

Today is Good Friday. This is the Friday before Easter Sunday and on this day Christians commemorate the suffering and death on the cross of Jesus Christ. On the surface ‘Good Friday’ seems a ridiculous name for the day that Christ was crucified.

But let me explain …
I have a millennial print edition of Rembrandt’s etching “Descent from the Cross” hanging in my office (image above). I often stop to marvel at the detail in the etching – each pen stroke carefully placed and meticulously made – with skill and love the picture is completed. With care and love the people in the painting are lowering Christ from the cross to take Him to be buried. The detail and compassion revealed in this etching are the same reasons that this dark day is remembered as good!

God doesn’t miss a detail on this day. While Christ suffered and died on this day, He did so by making a choice to die – to die for all sinners – past, present, and future. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son (John 3:16). On this day, every detail is cared for – every prophecy complete. Each detail is lovingly and meticulously cared for until the picture is complete and Christ can declare, “It is finished!

The work is done. My sins forgiven. My life redeemed.

If that isn’t reason to call a day – Good. I don’t if there ever will be a day.

This day is good, but Sunday is coming and it gets even better!

See you Sunday, until then I might take another look at that picture …

Holy Week : Maundy Thursday

“Maundy Thursday” is the traditional name for this day of Holy Week in England. It is therefore the usual name also in English-speaking protestant churches that originated in England. The word Maundy is derived through Middle English and the old French word, mandé, from the Latin mandatum. This is the first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you).

This is from the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John (13:34) in which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet. 

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
John 13:1-7 NIV

As the meal preparations are coming to a head. It is time for a customary cleansing. It would have been customary to bathe before attending a feast. This is in part why the custom of foot washing existed. You would bathe in preparation for the feast and then walk to the place of the feast. Upon arriving at the feast you would be seated at the tables. These tables would not be like those that we see portrayed in movies or in paintings.

Olive wood carving in Bethlehem

You would sit in a nearly reclined position; your feet would be near the table and others. Therefore, the custom of washing your feet before the meal comes in place. The rest of your body was clean, but your feet would get dirty while traveling to the feast. This task of foot washing was a menial task and was relegated to the lowliest of the servants present at the meal.

Imagine yourself at this meal. You have already asked who is the greatest among you with no real answer. Yet you still want to know who will it be? You see the customary wash basin in the room. You begin to look around sizing up those that are around you. You may not discover who the greatest is, but tonight you will learn who is the least. There are no servants present, it is just the disciples and Jesus and no one has volunteered to perform the task.  Who will be washing the feet? Who will it be? Surely not me! And then it happens. Jesus picks up the basin and the towels. No! Surely this cannot be. Jesus is not the least among us. He cannot be the one to wash my feet.

So much time has passed, but we are still looking for someone else to clean us up. We are willing to acknowledge that we are not clean, but we are reluctant to let Jesus be the one who will clean us up.
We want to be the one. Who will it be?

We still live in a world that is reluctant to let Jesus be the one.
And now as the meal concludes, Jesus tells us that this flock of followers will scatter (Matt 26:31).
We listen as Peter loudly declares that he will not leave (Matt 26:33).
And isn’t that so much like us?
We come together and loudly proclaim in our places of worship that we will follow, but then morning comes.

As we rise from the table, I wonder, “Who will be left to follow?”
Who will choose to pray this night with Jesus in the garden?
Who will claim to be His follower as the crowd rises to shout crucify?
Who will be at the cross on Friday?

Holy Week: Spy Wednesday

Wednesday of Holy Week is traditionally known as “Spy Wednesday” because on this day Judas made a “secret” bargain with the high priest to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. 
On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 

He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. 
When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 
They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” 
Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” 
Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.”    Mathew 26:14-25 NIV

We identify with the disciples when they ask, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” 

After all, we would never act like Judas did.

Yet, we miss how the story begins …

What are you willing to give me if …

Truth is that’s how we live most of our lives … bargaining.

We bargain in our relationships with one another and with God.

On this day of Holy Week we discover we aren’t that different than Judas.

And even as we discover this and seek to dismiss it, we sound just like him,

Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?

Jump on the Band Wagon!

A bandwagon fan is a phrase used among sports fans and sports writers to describe a fan that only roots for popular or successful sports teams. This kind of fan is typically despised by fans who consider themselves to be die-hard fans.

In sports, bandwagons fan support their team only when they are winning. They will often “jump” on or off the “bandwagon” of teams depending on the their most recent success. Bandwagon fans will often leave a game before completion because their team is losing. Bandwagon fans will cheer for another team if their team is not doing well – just to cheer for a winning team. Bandwagon fans will only support their team when they are successful, but will claim they have always supported the team.

However, just because a sports team wins frequently does not mean the team will have bandwagon fans. A team must not only win but must also have dynamic and popular players on the team for a successful bandwagon to begin rolling. This is what is called the bandwagon effect. This effect results in people doing (or believing) things because so many other people are doing (or believing) the same thing.

60370_1612026063526_1140087_nI have never been accused of being a bandwagon fan when it comes to sports teams. I live and die with my teams – Purdue and The Minnesota Twins.  There is certainly evidence of bandwagon fans all around – faded jerseys, claims of allegience, March Madness will do that to folks.

Which bandwagon have you jumped on/off?  Why do we call it a bandwagon anyway?

Literally, a bandwagon is a wagon that carries the band in a parade or circus. The phrase “jump on the bandwagon” was first used in American politics in 1848 as a result of Dan Rice. Dan Rice was the first truly great American clown, as well as the first clown star of the circus. Dan Rice was born in New York City in 1823. He made his first appearance as a circus clown in Galena, Illinois in 1844 at $15 a week. Gradually his popularity grew and it became so great that he was able to buy his own shows, both wagon and riverboat. He is often regarded as a forerunner of Will Rogers. By 1862 he was earning over $50,000 a year (over a million dollars in today’s terms). Rice and President Lincoln were good friends and Rice was often referred to as the president’s court jester.

In 1848, he campaigned for Zachary Taylor for president. Rice used his own circus bandwagon for Taylor’s appearances, gaining great attention by way of the music. He would invite Taylor to ride on the circus bandwagon in the circus parades. As Taylor’s campaign became more successful, more politicians sought a seat on the bandwagon, hoping Taylor’s popularity would benefit them as well. People would comment, “Look who is on Taylor’s bandwagon,” inspiring the phrase “jump on the bandwagon.”

By the 1900 presidential campaign, bandwagons had become a standard fixture of campaigns, and ‘jump on the bandwagon’ was now being used as a derogatory term, implying that people were associating themselves with something without considering what they had associated themselves with. And as they current saying goes, “now you know the rest of the story.”

Perhaps Palm Sunday was the first bandwagon:

The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” 

 “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

 “Blessed is the King of Israel!” 

Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”  

Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 

So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”                John 12:12-19 (NIV) 

Who knew that a donkey could carry that many people? And yet, by the end of this week, we will ask, “Where did they all go?” The bandwagon will be empty by week’s end and our wagon leader will walk the streets alone.

As John wrote about Palm Sunday, it seemed the whole world was following Jesus.  That would not be the case later in the week when the crowd would turn and yell, “Crucify!”

So as you gather with friends and cheer on the team of choice, consider for a moment the choices you make as part of the crowd.  And then ask yourself,  “Where you will be when the cries of Hosanna turn to shouts of Crucify?”

I know where I want to be, but the illusion of victory is hard to resist.

See you Sunday, I’ll be in the parade waving palms.