I confess: I love applause.  I find comfort in the approval of others.

Applause can be a good thing if that which is being approved or cheered is true
But applause can be also be deceitful, it can woo us into doing not what is right or true, but only what the crowd will cheer for, only what others will find acceptable – whether true or not.

There’s a lot of cheering going on in the final days of Jesus’ life on earth.  Some are cheering for the truth.  Some are cheering for a lie.  Thing is, you can’t tell by the cheering alone.  The cheering sounds the same either way.

But Jesus isn’t swayed by the cheering.  Or the jeering.  It’s like he doesn’t hear it. 

Instead his ear is tuned to just one voice.  Jesus knows whose he is.  Therefore Jesus knows who he is.  And others’ approval (or lack thereof) fades…

It’s possible to meet a lot of expectations but totally miss the truth.  


Prevailing view on sex (in 1st C. Corinth and 21st C. U.S.A.):

Body: Doesn’t matter. Do with it what you want: if you’re hungry, eat; if you want sex, have sex.  We’re all going to die soon anyway.
Intimacy: It’s about gratifying my physical and emotional needs.  Maintaining my independence in the process is important (if I don’t want to get hurt).  It’s casual.
The Apostle Paul’s view on sex:
Body: It matters!  It was created for God.  It will be resurrected by God.  It is the temple of God. 
Intimacy: It unifies.  Two become one.  It’s designed to be a full surrender of my independence to another.  It’s more powerful than we realize.
What fuels Paul’s view of sex is his understanding that this life is not all there in to life (I Cor. 7:2-31).  Therefore human relationships are, at least in part, designed to teach us about the ultimate relationship: that between God and humanity. Marriage is ultimately designed to teach us about God.  And so is singleness.  
Relationships are not neutral.  They are either helping us know God or hindering our knowledge of God. 
If you remove God/eternal life from the picture, intimacy is all about gratification and my body becomes a tool.  And all that really matters is physical appearance, sex, and the romantic pursuit.  Because that’s as close as I can get to heaven. 
(But my soul knows better and longs for more, whether my mind is willing to acknowledge God or not.)

lent: noise

God has a soft voice.  You have to be quiet if you want to hear him speak.  And that’s the problem: we’re so rarely quiet.  We’re almost never still.  And our world is even noisier and busier than we are.  

In our culture, communication is a competition.  If you want a share of people’s limited attention, you must talk more loudly, be more dramatic, flash more shiny things, promise more benefits, make more noise more often…  That’s the game we play.  

But here’s the thing: God’s not playing.   

In a world of hurricane winds, rock-splitting earthquakes, and raging infernos, God speaks in the thin whisper, in the resonate silence.  (See 1 Kings 19).

My world and my mind are noisy places.  Are yours?

Is all this noise keeping you from hearing?

[ hear the entire teaching at ]

lent: the comfort tension

[Un]comfort[able].  adj.

The word means : causing discomfort.  Like: that’s the most uncomfortable couch.
But recently I’ve been thinking about how the word may also be a description of me, of us, of our culture…that many of us are – to some degree – uncomfortable.  Like: I am un able to be comforted
And of course the great irony here is that most of us live in such comfort.
I was away, praying, thinking, reflecting on my deep need to be comforted by God. 
                        (I am not alone in this need –
                                    many of us are carrying sorrow,
                                    some of us physical pain,
                                    a sense of dread about the future, etc.) 
Many of us are aware of our need for God’s comfort. 
So as I was praying about this: my need for comfort from God, I was simultaneously aware of the fact that I have nearly every earthly comfort available to me at any time:
                        if I’m hungry there’s usually something to eat,
                        if I’m cold, there’s wood for the fire or a sweatshirt,
                        if I’m lonely, I have people to talk to,
                        if I’m feeling useless, I have ways to feel useful…
And I became aware of this tension– like a tight wire between two poles:
            I need God’s comfort, and I’m so easily comforted. 
            I’m so easily comforted, but I still need God’s comfort. 
And then this thought landed in my mind like a bird on the wire:
            Are your comforts keeping you from being comforted?
Are the very things which promise to ease your pain – and, to some degree, do – keeping you from receiving truer, deeper, comfort from God’s Spirit, whom Jesus calls “The Comforter”?
I’m fascinated by these words from the prophet Zechariah (chapter 10): 
1 Ask the LORD for rain in the springtime;
it is the LORD who sends the thunder-storms.
He gives showers of rain to all people,
and plants of the field to everyone.
2 The idols speak deceit, 
diviners see visions that lie; 
they tell dreams that are false, 
they give comfort in vain. 
Therefore the people wander like sheep
oppressed for lack of a shepherd.

lent: critical for the comfortable

Some push back on the idea of observing Lent because “the early church didn’t observe Lent.”  Which is true.  The season of Lent wasn’t introduced to the typical Christian experience until almost 400 years after Christ. 
But another thing that wasn’t introduced to the typical Christian experience until almost 400 years after Christ was the phenomenal season of physical, economic, and political comfort which began to characterize the Christian community.
For the first 300 years, the Christian community was under nearly constant persecution.  Political abuse and violence were constant realities.  Killing Christians became a sport.  
And yet, somewhat ironically to our way of thinking, instead of crushing the church this severe discomfort seemed to make the church grow.
Finally an emperor of Rome named Constantine claimed to convert to Christianity. Shortly thereafter the Roman state, rather than crushing house church communities, began building beautiful church buildings. And the bishops (overseers) of the church, instead of being killed as examples of Rome’s power, were given political power within the Roman government.
For a few generations, the Christian faith enjoyed unprecedented comfort.
Isn’t it interesting that it was at this time that the church fathers formalized the church calendar which included a season called Lent?   

I wonder if, in their wisdom, the church fathers recognized that in the relative state of comfort the church was enjoying they were beginning to lose something of the power of the resurrection. 
I wonder if in their comfort, the church’s need for God to comfort them became less intense. In other words: the message that Jesus saves is only good news to those who are aware that they need a savior. The message that God is a comforter in times of trouble makes little difference for those who aren’t in trouble. 
If you’re comfortable you don’t need a Comforter.
I’ve seen this play out a dozen times: a person lives a very comfortable life – and it may even include God on a comfortable level. Except that God is never really looked to for comfort – He isn’t needed there; other things are doing the comforting
Then life happens and some of the key “other comforts” – some are good things – get washed away. And the person, who has known God at some level for years, has no idea how to go to God for comfort because they’ve never done that before. 

So I think it’s fascinating that near the end of the 4th century, the church essentially said, “Things have changed for us. We’re much more comfortable than we’ve ever been.  We should take a season of several weeks to remind ourselves that we are in need of grace.  We need to remember that we need a savior and that without the resurrection we are completely lost.  Our only hope is not the government which now says they’re on our side but Jesus himself.  We have some human comforts but we still need spiritual comfort.  We must recognize that our bodies are more comfortable which historically has always led to the neglect of the soul.”