Monthly Archives: March 2016

Living Temples

In Simply Jesus, N.T. Wright says, “Jesus was, as it were, a walking Temple. A living, breathing place-where-Israel’s-God-was-living” (p. 133)

I love that concept. Jesus, in his life here on earth, was the embodiment of heaven and earth, the location were God dwelt in all his holiness in and amongst humanity. And he spent his life explaining that to people who were not all that ready to hear it, perhaps. The Temple in Jerusalem was the only real place to be in touch with God, most people probably thought. But then Jesus said, “Follow me!” And he showed them “a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31).

templeOf course, when we extend the metaphor, we encounter this:

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Each one of us is a walking temple as well, a place where God dwells. So what we do with that body needs to reflect the reality of the holiness that resides there because of Christ’s sacrifice for us.

As Christians, we cannot in good faith harm our bodies or show disrespect to them. Our bodies are a gift from God, so we should show glory to God through them.

That means using our bodies, as Jesus did his, going off by ourselves to fold our hands and pray to our heavenly Father, using our legs to walk into the house of God, using our eyes to read the Scripture, using our mouths to proclaim the Gospel to others.

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I saw the movie Risen in the theater a couple weeks ago, and was especially struck by how the actors portrayed the disciples’ individual reunions with their Savior. There was utter joy on their faces at seeing their Master again and Jesus responded with pure exuberance at seeing them again as they embraced one another. The movie’s portrayals of these interactions spoke to the depth of the bonds that Jesus had with his disciples and the eagerness they all had to be together.

empty tomb

He is risen indeed!

It reminds me that Jesus desires the same sort of relationship with me and with each one of us. But I find myself not as quick to respond as the disciples did. I moan a little when I wake up on some Sundays before heading to church. I hesitate to pray before a meal or at bedtime, because I feel uncomfortable about engaging in the activity.

But worship and prayer should be something that come naturally to us as Christians. They should be things that we crave and that we are eager to involve ourselves in. Why? Because they give us more personal time with our best Friend, Jesus. They help us to grow closer to him, to build a stronger relationship with our Lord who only wants to be with us and love us. Continue reading →

Easter Eggs

I am always fascinated by the attraction to Easter egg hunts. Why do we get so excited about them? I know that lots of parishes hold them every year, and even the Easter Egg Roll at the White House on Easter Monday is a huge event with thousands in attendance.Easter eggs

I thought to myself, “What does an Easter egg hunt entail?” First, there is the act of first dying the eggs in various colors for the hunt. Then there is the hiding of the eggs, and finally the finding.

Then it hit me: the Easter egg hunt is a microcosm of what happened that first Easter.

First, Christ died for us and drops of his red blood fell to the ground, much the same way dye drops onto the pure white of the egg. After Jesus dies, he is hidden, buried in a tomb behind a large Continue reading →

Are You Facing Out?

crossOn this Good Friday, when we focus on the cross, I would like to share with you a devotion I wrote a while back for one of our past periodicals Living the Gospel Life. May your observance of this day be faith-strengthening.

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified. 1 Cor 1:22-23

When my father graduated from the seminary, my mother gave him a ring with a cross at the center. But in his first weeks as a new pastor in Odell, Nebraska, a farmer observed, “You’re wearing that Continue reading →

Foot-Washing Phobia


Many churches include footwashing as a part of their Maundy Thursday services.

On this Maundy Thursday, when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, I am posting a devotion I wrote for a previous publication of ours, Living the Gospel Life, on an experience I had with foot-washing:

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. John 13:14

At a recent event at my church the group leader (me!?) was supposed to wash the feet of the members of my group. The prospect of washing these people’s feet did not thrill me, and all of the adults in the group declined to participate. Only one 8-year-old boy named Colin was game. I found Continue reading →

Palms to Passion

I consider Palm Sunday to be one of the most bipolar days of the Church Year. In fact it is given two titles on the liturgical calendar: Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion.

It begins with a parade of people waving palm branches joyfully praising God for Jesus as he enters Jerusalem. Children and adults alike enjoy re-enacting this scene in our churches on this day. I know I enjoy waving a palm frond my church provides each parishioner as I sing “All Glory, Laud and Honor” as much as the next guy. There are usually little kids laughing and people smiling as we do this sort of playful activity as worship leaders process in.

palm branch

Parishioners wave palm branches like these at the start of Palm Sunday worship.

But eventually the tone of the service shifts abruptly (by design) as we turn our faces to the cross that looms before our Savior as he fulfills the purpose for which he came: releasing us from sin, death and the devil through his suffering, death and resurrection.

The church I attend often has various readers speak portions of the passion narratives as parishioners go to Communion toward the close of the service. The mood is somber and reflective and evokes a sense of dread.

As I think about the effect such a shift in tone has on me, it reminds me of how shocking and disconcerting this must have been for the disciples. Here Continue reading →

Environmental Projection

stained glass

Here is a simple (natural) example of environmental projection within a worship space.

When I was at the Best Practices in Ministry conference in Phoenix, AZ, last month, I attended a breakout session called, “Environmental Projection: Telling a Visual Story in Worship.” The moderator, James Lavendar, a worship leader at a church in Arizona, presented ways in which he has projected images and colors, both moving and stationary, onto all the walls of his church’s worship space in order to bring out certain feeling or highlight a particular theme or season in the church year.

The possibilities seem endless. There could be snow falling during a Christmas service. Twinkling stars could bring out the message of the Epiphany star that led the wise men to the baby Jesus. Various shades of red could be used to indicate the blood Christ shed on the cross in a Lenten service. The rising sun could warm the room with the joy of the resurrection. The session was crackling with good ideas.

Yet beyond all the bells and whistles of the technology that can make all this happen, my thoughts turned to what we can do as leaders in the church to build a certain atmosphere within a worship space? What thoughts and/or feelings do we project or elicit by anything that is visually present in a worship space?

Stained glass windows were the long-standing traditional way to set the tone in a church. They made the parishioner feel a sense of holiness, peace and reflection. (Projection of the imagery of stained Continue reading →


shutterstock_143211790In The Reason for God, Timothy Keller challenges, “I ask you to put on Christianity like a pair of spectacles and look at the world with it. See what power it has to explain what we know and see” (The Reason for God, p. 137).

As someone who has worn glasses since the age of three, this concept rang a chord with me. Without my glasses on, I do not see the world clearly at all. With glasses, things appear in sharper focus and I have a better idea of how to respond to what I see.

So it is with the “spectacles” of Christianity. When we don’t have them on, life in general looks blurry, confusing, out of sync. But through Christianity’s vision, my focus is clearly on Christ and my response to what I see before me is based on my relationship to him.

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Everybody Matters

I recently read the book Everybody Matters, in which the authors, Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia, extol the virtues of a new kind of business culture taking hold in more and more pockets of our corporate world today. It is “a culture that puts people first and where true success is measured by the way we touch the lives of people” and a culture in which “all team members can realize their gifts, share those gifts, and go home each day fulfilled” (Everybody Matters, p. 12).

“Everybody matters” is a principle that can be applied to the church as well, of course. It is a principle that should define our mission statements and be at the heart of our strategic planning as a people of God.

hands clap

We need to cheer everyone on.

I am reminded of the description St. Paul gives of the Body of Christ when he says, in 1 Corinthians 12:14-20:

The body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

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In Good Time

Lamb of Bod

A stone bass relief of a Lamb of God image

In an article “Shape of the Future” in the January 23, 2016 edition of World magazine, essayist Andrée Seu Peterson talks about how Christ chose to lay down his life for us on the cross during the Jewish Feast of Passover. It is no coincidence then that Jesus is referred to many times in Scripture as the Lamb of God and the Passover Lamb, who was sacrificed for the sins of the people.

Interestingly enough, Peterson points out, two other Jewish feasts tie perfectly to the events that follow in the story of Christ. The Resurrection, like the Firstfruits Feast, occurs next, and then the Continue reading →