Archive for April, 2011


The Third Day

Christ has Risen!

What does that mean for us?

As I write these words down, all the world seems to be as caught up in its own business as usual. People are going to the beach, others are walking out of church for the first time since Christmas and others are justifying today as another reason to spend or drink.

In my case, there doesn’t seem to be as much peace as I would like…

What does Jesus’ resurrection actually mean, though?

My wife made a constructive addendum to my “Holy Saturday” entry, suggesting that some kind of comment referring to Jesus’ harrowing of hell is certainly worth mentioning. I agree.

Some scholars have argued that Jesus’ descent into hell is to be taken figuratively, not literally. Others have claimed that the descent was into death itself. Still others believe that it was Jesus’ taking on of flesh that establishes Jesus’ time in hell.

What is true is that regardless of what the actual place or condition may have been of Jesus’ descent into hell, the absence of Jesus’ presence in the lives of so many – including those who claim to have him present (but He actually isn’t), leaves an emptiness within and around the human being which is equitable to living in hell.

The fire and brimstone aspect of living there is possibly comparable to the cold & hellish life of loneliness, addiction, self-hatred, lust, self-deception, superficiality of life, loose living, selfishness, ignorance of God (willful and/or unwilling), living without purpose, living without any authentic source of substance to one’s life and/or choices, worldliness, sexualized existence and lack of existential meaning to why we do what we do & think the way we do.

Like Christmas, Easter is commercialized and often we desire to have a perfect day. Life has a way of ensuring a measure of reality for most of us, notwithstanding.

Unlike Christmas, Easter is a time when we need to face the often avoided subject of crucifixion and death. During this time of the rolling year, the empty tomb is sometimes overwhelmed by a bunny and egg hunts – this is included at church, too.

What resurrection means is that we can die in Christ’s service and actually awaken to life itself. That the step into death assures us of an abundant life which is inconceivable for all of us – no matter how close we are to God on this side of the Jordan. What resurrection means is that we do not have to fear the conditions and constraints of this world and its “expectations”. We can live free and radical lives for Jesus. We can surrender things to God and we can turn over our most precious selves to God so that He can do what we cannot and will not ever be able to do, live a life worth living to the honor and glory of God. Anything short of this is to be seen as what it is – counterfeit and idolatrous. We invest and invent an alternative to living in, through and because of Christ. We make the profoundly sinful decision of passing this lie to our children and in doing so, we worship ourselves, i.e., our achievements, bodies, people, material things, expectations and our independence.

Resurrection unveils the lie of death and uncovers for us the condemned state of our existence without Him. The empty tomb comes at an unimaginable price. The price we can never repay. The price which we are not supposed to pay, but woe to any of us who disregard the gift and set ourselves off to exile from God (and His priceless gift).

Easter is about claiming the resurrection as a daily reality for our lives and a constant reminder that we must die to self – everyday. That the empty tomb comes only when we are obedient to God and live obediently within God’s economy – church, marriage, family, home, life, friends, work, etc. All must be under the Christ and all must be subject to His standard for living. A standard that defeated death once and for all and in doing so affords us life beyond our wildest imagination – forever.

He has Risen indeed!



Change!?!, Ministry Formation, Spiritual Formation

Does Failing Equal Failure?

I was at a pastor’s retreat earlier this week. During one of the group conversations, I remembered a quote from when I used to work with and learn from emergent churches and pastors. One of them once told me, “Failing is not failure, unless you fail to learn from the experience.” I also remembered how some churches encourage their leaders to take risks. They believe that in taking risks for Christ, you are more likely to experience his power at work.

Remember the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 (Mt. 14:15-21)? The disciples wanted Jesus to send the people home, so they could find food. Instead, Jesus tells them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” If I had been one of the disciples, I probably would have disagreed and started encouraging people to leave to find food. There were no supermarkets or Micky D’s nearby. Instead, the disciples took a risk, finding 5 loaves and two fish. They brought the food to Jesus, he blessed it, and everyone get a bellyful of food. They took a risk to obey Jesus, not seeing how it could be done, and a miracle took place.

I also remember conversations with emergent pastors where they ask their prospective ministry leaders during an interview, “Tell me about a recent failure. What did you learn from the experience? What are you doing differently since your experience?” These churches desire to be risk-taking and learning organizations in order to be faithful to their calling to ministry.

I wish I was more obedient in risk-taking, like the disciples were. I wish I was not fearful of failing, but fearful of playing it safe, of only doing what my mind can figure-out. I hope I can remember more often that “Failing is not failure, unless you fail to learn from it.”