[in]complete: Why didn’t Jesus simply come and out and say “I am God?”

The first Christians did not get in trouble for saying “Jesus is God.” The Romans believed in a myriad of so-called “gods,” so saying Jesus is another one of those is just to add Him to the pantheon of supposed gods they could worship. That wasn’t the offense of their message.

Instead, the message was “Jesus is Lord,” which is much deeper and far-reaching in the claims about the God-Man (and is “sneeze-able“).

Those three tiny words were actually hugely offensive. Why?

Who was the so-called “Lord” of the Roman Empire?

Caesar.

He was the “God of the gods,” who ruled over all, on earth and in the heavens. Or so they thought. Pagans saw gods in everything, and everything was a god. So, calling Jesus “God” isn’t as forceful as what believers more commonly called Him: Lord.

When we say Jesus is Lord, we must become like the first believers, who were not using religious jargon. They were saying that Jesus replaced Caesar, and anyone else, as the one receiving their worship. These thoughtful Jesus-followers were making a whole-life claim as to who they will obey and follow in this life. They were saying He is above all, the one true ruler, the God who calls the shots. He is in control of all; He is the Caesar of the Caesar.

More than saying “Jesus is Lord,” they were living as if Jesus is Lord, which maks all the difference in the world.

Jesus was not an add-on. They realized that before Jesus they were busy serving other kings and masters, who abused them and let them down. In contrast, Jesus is a good Master, who will not let us down.

He wants our whole life. When He is Lord, life becomes good. Because He is the one Good God.

Mark 12:13-17 (NLT):

 13 Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. 14 “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?”

Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin,[a denarius] and I’ll tell you.” 16 When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

17 “Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

His reply completely amazed them.

Image credits: “Caesar’s or God’s” by Lawrence OP, and “The Biblical Tribute Penny: Tiberius AR Denarius 16-34 AD” by Icarus Kuwait, both on Flickr

When you must create something.

Christians are called to be “salt and light” in our culture, which is to say we must create culture, not just critique it. We have special resources to renew, restore, and create godly culture embodying the life of Jesus. He told us not just to believe the things He said; He taught us to also do whatever we saw Him doing. Since He is the one Creator, we get to borrow His creativity as co-creators.

Many today are “culture warriors,” which is to say they want to go to war against any and all anti-Christian sentiments. They battle against evil worldviews with the force of their far superior “Christian worldview.” I think a biblical worldview is important (and am convinced you cannot attain one without meditating on the Scriptures constantly), but what I find lacking among these “culture warriors” is an awareness of the true enemy. Paul said we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but rather an hidden, wicked enemy, that (Ephesians 2:1-3).

Are other people the real enemy, whatever their category or label? Are these our enemies: liberals (or conservatives), those for (or against) gun control, politicians, public schools, taxes? Our enemies become our prime targets in an election year like 2012. (Maybe you’ve seen the expensive propaganda mailers in your mailbox already.)

Let me ask you: is this really making things better? Can someone be salt and light, known for the message of Jesus, if they’re whole platform in life is what they are AGAINST?

How about we fight the real enemies that war against our souls: pride and greed.

How about we rail against those?

Pride and greed are daily on display in our foolishness, where we resist following God’s ways and choose to run our own lives. When we try to be the hero of our tiny stories, and be sure to “get ours,” we become everything we ardently criticize. Yet we remain blind to our real problem, thinking it is “out there.”

 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. —Philippians 2:14-18

When we resist the urge to grumble and complain, we give ourselves opportunities to cultivate a culture of grace and peace, right where we live. As we follow Christ (who never complained or played the ‘victim’ card), we become like Him, borrowing powerful light from the Light of the World. As His light shines, we become co-creators of new, attractive opportunities for righteousness, peace, justice, mercy, and grace to live.

One day the whole world will be just as He designed it to be. Until them, we’re invited to live like we are as He designed us to be — loving God and loving people. We’ll be imitating Jesus who created the world, and then stepped into our fallen mess to re-create it again in His image.

Go create something good.

In the meantime, if you have a hard time knowing what to create in the darkness, trying some of these:

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Top photo credit: “Go on creating” by fotologic

Frugal Living: do you really live like you’re on food stamps?

A few friends have texted, tweeted, emailed and called us to say they say the features last night on KATU news, a “Frugal Living” segment in two parts at 5 PM and 11 PM. (Click on links below or on the image to the right to see the features.)

Last Fall reporter Shellie Bailey-Shah contacted my wife Kari to see if KATU could interview her for an upcoming feature segment of “Problem Solvers.” (Little did they know the ‘problem’ we were after solving was our own tendency to love ourselves more than others.) When she and the cameraman arrived at our just-sold home, we didn’t know what to expect. Yet, the interviews were fun, as they were a joy to work with. They particularly welcomed our kids to be part of it all. When the time came for the segments to run, we likewise didn’t know what to expect. We’ll leave it to you to see if the stories were worth sharing:

Frugal Living: Downsizing the dream house (video), was featured on the 5 o’clock news. I was especially pleased with how they mentioned the  book The Hole in Our Gospel, which was a key part of our journey in following Christ toward becoming more generous like Him. We aren’t after simply spending less; it’s saving more to give more.

Frugal Living: Take the ‘Food Stamp Challenge’ (video), was featured on the 11 o’clock news. Kari was asked to follow-up the KATU story with a frugal family meal plan.

To answer the question: we don’t live like we’re on food stamps. But our food budget is at that level. We’re grateful to be far from poor, and desire to steward well the resources we have on loan from God. Being frugal is unlike being stingy or miserly, as our frugality is part of a bigger plan to invest wisely instead of hoarding for ourselves.

So, with Kari’s ingenuity (and enthusiasm) we’ve sought to pare down our budget over the last few years. One aspect is spending less on food while eating better, and setting aside more to give. (People who know me well, know I still like to snack.)

While prioritizing our local church, we also support missionaries who labor among college students here in the States, and then our hearts are aimed at helping those in need abroad, supporting kids with Compassion and World Vision, and friends who are missionaries to unreached peoples, along with Gospel for Asia. Simplifying also frees us up to do spontaneous giving as we sense the Spirit leading. It gets fun. We long to do more.

For those in the Portland area, Kari will be speaking at a workshop entitled Faithfully Frugal – how to live more and spend less. It’s Wednesday night, Feb. 15th at 6 PM, hosted by Beaverton SDA church as part of their weekly family night (14645 SW Davis Road, Beaverton). Dinner and childcare are provided, and the event is free.

Page CXVI » these are a few of your favorite hymns.

Most people have a favorite hymn. Perhaps you request yours and long to sing it with the church gathered on Sundays. I generally enjoy singing the old hymns as much as newer songs. Yet, since no church gathering can should cater to the favorites of everyone, here’s a great way to revisit your favorites anytime.

Page CXVI is a project started with the idea of making hymns accessible and known again. They are some of the richest, most meaningful, and moving pieces of music ever written.

HYMNS I, II, III, IV

If you haven’t already, check out Hymns I, II, III and IV available directly from pagecxvi.com or as a digital download from and

Perhaps you know some of these (most recent albums first).

Continue reading

What are you trying to do?

Okay, I shall make it personal first: what am I trying to do?

Ask yourself the same.

Together, and personally, there are many goals we could focus our time, energies and talents toward fulfilling. Let’s ask ourselves, what must I be doing? What is my grand purpose in life?

As a believer in Jesus I believe the purpose of all humans is to know and enjoy our Creator, specifically shown through loving and serving one another. Those two directions — vertical, our relationship with God; horizontal, our relationships with one another — are inextricably linked.

The Apostle John puts it this way:

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” —1 John 4:20

We cannot see God. Yet we can see people made in His image.

Our neglect in loving God and people is the reason why we feel to urge to renew our resolutions in the new year. We aren’t our true self when we’re living selfishly. It’s also the reason why more than 80% of us will fail in these new resolutions. (And the other 20% are pretending we ‘did it.’)

The Godward life is lived in the service of others. Yet the paradox is that this service is done not in order to earn their approval, but to show His approval that we already have in Christ. As my five-year-old would say, a paraphrase of his favorite verse of Scripture: “Jesus came to serve” (Mark 10:45). If we want to be great, we must become a servant like Him.

If you’re daily in fear of not living up to the demands of your boss, spouse, children, even ‘culture’ in general, then pleasing God is not your goal. Something else has become your god, and you will serve it relentlessly. It will prove to be a terrible substitute for the good Master. (As Bob Dylan famously sang, “You gotta serve somebody…”) Why do you and I feel the need to impress others and win their approval?

Back to question at the top: What are you trying to do? More to the point: Who are you seeking to serve? 

The power to change.

“…the most effectual way of withdrawing the mind from one object, is not by turning it away (to nothing), but by presenting to its regards another object still more alluring…The love of the world cannot be expunged by a mere demonstration of the world’s worthlessness. But may it not be supplanted by the love of that which is more worthy than itself? The heart cannot be prevailed upon to part with the world, by a simple act of resignation. But may not the heart be prevailed upon to admit into its preference another, who shall subordinate the world, and bring it down from its wonted ascendancy? …In a word, if the way to disengage the heart from the positive love of one great and ascendant object, is to fasten it in positive love to another, then it is not by exposing the worthlessness of the former, but by addressing to the mental eye the worth and excellence of the latter, that all old things are to be done away and all things are to become new… the only way to dispossess [the heart] of an old affection, is by the expulsive power of a new one.”
—Thomas Chalmers, The Expulsive Power of a New Affection,” (sermon date unknown), 2-8.