good shepherd

Trust is a funny thing.  We trust others only as much as we see them live out their convictions.  Over the years our society has systematically lost trust in people who hold leadership positions.  This is for a good reason by the way.

Before my parents were even alive there were some well-meaning people who thought that they had a system of governance that would mean equality for all and that would solve a bunch of problems in society.  The outcome of this system was supposed to be an utopia.  This remedy was not just a system but “truth.” Pretty soon, some not so well meaning people got a hold of this truth and after a man names Stalin got a hold of it, we can count the cost at around 30 million lives.

Hitler claimed to have truth.  But in order for truth to prevail, he had to exercise his final solution.  We look at these people and say, “but they were evil!”  Sure but now, “truth” is suspect.  I believe that Jesus is who he says he was and that he is the truth and the life.  But that is suspect too, especially when people who work for the guy start having affairs, doing drugs, steeling money and molesting children.

Systematically our society has lost trust in the notion of truth because of the way it has been lived out.

When spiritual leaders fall, there is a black mark that is made in the mind next to the church.  All of the sudden this institution that had the trust of the people, abused it, all of the sudden this institution that proclaimed that they had the truth, didn’t.  All of the sudden there was fallout everywhere because of people who have abused their authority.  These people were bad shepherds.  The scripture handles bad shepherds pretty harshly.  But it also describes a good shepherd, a shepherd that abandons the group that is safe to go looking for the one that is lost, a shepherd that protects his flock, a shepherd that lays his life down for the sheep.

A lot of times when we think of church, we think of the one bad shepherd that screwed up.  (And by the way, there is grace for them too.)  But we don’t tend to think about the one shepherd that is leading this group of imperfect people.  We don’t think of the one whose burden is light and easy to carry, the one who will never leave or forsake us.  Only when we begin to follow the good shepherd will we truly be able to forgive the imperfect shepherd. Only when we forgive the imperfect shepherd will we be able to walk freely.

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light

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light”

It sounds dramatic.

The earth, which was once formless and empty, is now full of light.  Light that guides and provides a path.  God even reminds the Hebrew people that he has placed a light with in them; they are supposed to be the light to the nations.

Now a man born blind is asking Jesus to be healed.  Imagine being blind from birth, seeing nothing but total darkness.  Jesus spit on the ground, made mud and put it on the man’s eyes.  He asked him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam and remarkably, he could see for the very first time.

Now imagine it, all you’ve known is darkness and you open your eyes, pupils dilated from darkness, only to see a flood of light coming into your eyes.  Imagine hearing the words of Jesus, “I am the light of the world.”

Today, just think about how remarkable that would be.

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fear

Yesterday I was driving to my office at the church when I saw a man sprinting down a residential neighborhood clutching a small child.  Since I don’t see this every day I flipped around to make sure the child was okay.  When I turned around I saw the man who was now beating a car to a pulp.  He was standing on top of the car jumping up and down.  He was throwing a scooter at the car, he had shattered all the windows and all the while, this kid was just watching this man go nuts.

Yesterday when I saw this, for the protection of the child, I called the police.  But inwardly I was grieving for the man, he didn’t look like a guy who had gone off his medication, he looked like a guy who was desperate.  He looked like a man who had been deeply hurt.

Today with the Spanish pastor of our church we walked the community and prayed.  We know a lot of people from the community but there are still many more to get to know.  It struck us how gripped our community is with fear.  Almost every house has multiple large scary dogs.  Each house has a fence around it.  There were many homes with signs that said, “Keep out” or “no parking.”

Today I had the realization that this community (and many like it) for the sake of privacy has lost what it means to be neighborly.  When you walk this community, you don’t get the sense that these people have BBQ’s together or have block parties.  You get the very real sense that people are afraid and have locked themselves in their homes to feel safe.  I began to wonder if any of the neighbors actually know each other or want to, and I began to ask and dream.  What would it look like if people loved their neighbors in this community?  How would the quality of life change?  Would someone reach out to the man having an emotional break down?  Would the neighbors have come together to stop the man?

The saddest part about yesterday was that when I was on the phone with the police, they told me that there were multiple other callers, and there were plenty of people on their front lawns watching.  But this is the precise issue; we’ve become spectators in the full contact world of community.

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bread

This Sunday at church I am starting a new series that is going through the “I am” statements of Jesus.  The way that God revealed himself in the person of Jesus is so incredible.  It can’t be a contained in a single blog post or multiple for that matter.  It can’t be fully explained in a sermon or even in the volumes of work produced on it over the ages.  This week we are kicking off the series with the first statement, “I am the bread of life.”

When Moses was called to free the Israelites from Egypt, he was a bit intimidated at the task and he asked God, “who should I say sent me?”  In other words, “what is your name?” God answered, “I AM WHO I AM,” this can also be translated, “I will be who I will be,” meaning, “my nature will become evident with my actions.”  God led his people out of Israel and they grumbled.  They were upset that back in Egypt they used to enjoy sitting around pots of food eating their fill.  Now they were in the dessert far from home and hungry.  God did something to show his people that he loved them and he cared for them.  They woke up one day and a substance like frost was on the ground.  Moses had them collect it and make a kind of food out of it.  They ended up calling this substance manna, (probably from an Egyptian word meaning food).

Moses was later remembering the true meaning of manna. It wasn’t just food but it was a tool to teach God’s people that they do not live on bread alone, but every word that comes from the mouth of God.  So manna was something that was a lot bigger than just food, it actually pointed to God in a powerful way, it fed them.  Moses was a great prophet, he even told his people that God would raise up another prophet and God even said that he will “put his words in his mouth.”  Because of this people were expecting a new Moses, and even a greater Moses.  The Jews were actually looking for this person to come and they expected a lot.  Some Rabbi’s even said that just as Moses rode out of Egypt on a donkey so the Messiah will ride on a donkey into his kingdom. The rabbinical expectation was that the messiah would bring new manna from heaven.

So this takes us to a point when over 5,000 people were following around a man named Jesus who seemed to be some kind of prophet.  All of these people were on the far shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus asked his disciples how they would provide for the people.  The only thing that they could come up with was buying food but this miracle worker had something else in mind.  He would stretch out five loaves of barley and two fish to feed everyone.  I probably eat more than five loaves of bread every time I go to the Olive Garden.  Everyone was provided for and ate their fill.  Then Jesus made this ridiculous statement, “I am the bread of life.” He said that if you go to him then you would never go thirsty or hungry. Later on Jesus says that his “bread” are actually words and his words are, “spirit and life.” Peter remarked that Jesus has the words of eternal life.

In the feeding of these 5,000 souls we see the nature of God as one who speaks over his people and feeds them.  He is the kind of God that provides and gives life, but fullness of that life is contained in the words he speaks.  Jesus is the bread of life, give us today our daily bread.

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