It’s the second week of creation!

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Jesus said to them, “Do you have anything to eat?” – Luke 24:41

Since moving to North Carolina, we’ve had Easter sunrise ice, we’ve had Easter sunrise rain, and we’ve had Easter Sunrise “spring forward” time-change. This year we had clear skies and perfect temperatures. What a beautiful day.

IMG_8992Rebekah preached about another question Jesus asked, and this time it was, “Do you have anything to eat?” Sharing food together was a vital part of Christ’s public ministry, and he wanted to make sure that the deep intimacy of breaking bread together was not lost in the disciples’ new life together, moving forward.

(watch one of the services – Rebekah’s Message starts around the 20-minute mark)

It’s as if Jesus was saying, “Don’t just stare at me with your mouths hanging open like you’ve seen a ghost, invite me to sit down with you and become a vital part of your day-to-day lives!”

“Don’t just stare at me with your mouths hanging open like you’ve seen a ghost, invite me to sit down with you and become a vital part of your day-to-day lives!”

This is the heart of the Easter invitation – and especially for those of you who only come to church for these special occasions: Take Jesus home with you; invite him to breakfast, and lunch, and dinner. I know you don’t intend leaving Jesus on the cross – but let’s not leave him in the tomb either, or even in the church.

I know you don’t intend leaving Jesus on the cross – but let’s not leave him in the tomb either, or even in the church.

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image from John Akerman

It’s the first day after Easter Sunday, it’s the beginning of the second week of creation. Jesus is waiting for us to enter into all the fullness and the promise!

So hold on, this should be quite the ride!

– Peace, and more peace – DEREK

 

Faith and Thinkology

 Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. – Romans 12:3

IMG_2507Today I’m experimenting with a new title for this blog. I’m deeply concerned that too many of us seldom engage the important discipline of thinking – intelligently and creatively – about faith in God and how being followers of the living way of Jesus necessarily impacts who we are and how we live.

Instead, and from the very beginnings of the human story, arrogance has got the better of us. In the Genesis creation narrative, Adam and Eve weigh their own wisdom against God’s, rule in favor of themselves, and choose accordingly.

It’s a perfect “origin story” because it explains the entire human experience so well; everything that follows can find its “genesis” in that kind of pride, egotism, hubris, and willful arrogance.

GOOD NEWS!

Then, two thousand years ago, Jesus came to model anti-arrogance, and to demonstrate what humility looks like. That quality of self-giving love –he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings” (read Philippians 2:1-11) – stood at such odds with the way the world works that he was killed. 

But in dying, and via his subsequent resurrection, Jesus set into motion the possibility for humanity to move beyond the soul-crushing limitations of egocentricity and self-interest, ushering in “a new and living way” (Hebrews 10:20). Jesus was/is, Paul explained in Romans 5, a new Adam. Or, in my words, “The firstborn of the second chance.”

Jesus set into motion the possibility for humanity to move beyond the soul-crushing limitations of egocentricity and self-interest…

Romans 12 does a great job of outlining what this new orientation to life looks like, and it is distressing to note how little of our current national conversation is rooted in any of the principles, values, and God-breathed truths Jesus lived, died, and conquered death in order to set in motion.

JESUS STANDS AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM!

This post is already bristling with life-charged scripture references, but I’ll add one more idea from Jesus to bring today’s blog entry toward its conclusion. It comes from Matthew 15, where the legalists try to come down on The Master because – get this – Jesus is nowhere near a literalist or a fundamentalist when it comes to reading scripture!

Here’s what Jesus says: “You nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition….” He also says, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” Then Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah: “’These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’

At the opening of his Gospel, the disciple John points out that Jesus is the Word made flesh. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1).

Jesus himself makes a point of repeatedly telling people not to get words about religion confused with The Word; not to let what people have written about religious practice inhibit anyone from actually knowing God; not to – as Peter said when he testified at the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15“…try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

HUMILITY:

Quickly now – before I ramble any more – what I’m saying is that making the decision to follow Jesus introduces us to a New and Living Way! The responsibility that comes along with such a privilege is not the requirement to march in lockstep to the legal code that throttles, but – instead – an obedience to the imperative of love.

We are set free, and we are invited to live in humility and compassion: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

Peace and love – DEREK

 

Rest, Reconciliation, and Restoration from the Emerald Isle…

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Rebekah teaching

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

It’s not easy to post when we’re in the middle of teaching, but I wanted to share a brief word about this new adventure together Rebekah and I are enjoying.

I’ve led conferences and retreats before; Rebekah has been keynote speaker and conference leader many times too. But this is the first time we’ve been asked to do something like this together.

IMG_4466I’m especially grateful to have been included, because this is a retreat for preachers. Not ministers and their spouses, but just preachers. Our topic is “Rest, Reconciliation, and Restoration.”

I’ll share more details after we’re done. But for now it’s a blessing to be here, in this beautiful location on North Carolina’s Emerald Isle, and to have this opportunity to be an encouragement to all these “ministers of word and sacrament.”

Just one note on content. Tomorrow I’m teaching a session on “Restoration.” What I’m coming to realize (as I go over my notes one more time), is that spiritual restoration involves bringing us back to the intention of Creation. And, unlike restoring a piece of furniture “back” to its former glory, this kind of restoration is a restoration “forward,” to a kind of glory we hadn’t experienced before, one where we engage the purpose for which we were created. It’s a restoration because we resting in – and are being reconciled to – God.

Peace and restoration, from this little slice of heaven – DEREK

(images from Trinity Center on Emerald Isle)

“Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?”

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Maul-Hall washed and fresh from a day of rain

“Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” – Acts 8:37

I love the freshness that comes with a good, long, soaking rain. The air is clear, the plants look stronger, the coating of pollen and dust is washed away; you can just breathe in the sense of growth and possibility.

DSC_0009-001It’s like the world has been baptized.

I love the concept of baptism. On the one hand I’m a huge advocate for the “you shouldn’t need to be baptized more than once” point of view (especially when people say infant baptism doesn’t count, or that people have to be baptized again to join their particular church); but on the other hand I think sometimes I’d like to be baptized every day! And I believe that I am.

Each new morning, each moment of awareness that this is a new day – This is the day the Lord has made! – in a sense demands a fresh washing away of all that comes between us and the amazing opportunity God presents to serve and to grow and to know and to live like we really mean it!

But maybe that’s what it means to be filled with the Spirit? To be filled to overflowing so that God washes all over me, cleansing me anew every moment; a baptism of sorts in each degree of awakening to this recreated, recreating life!

DSC_0018-001It’s happened again this morning, meeting with my brothers for Bible study, walking around the freshly washed garden with Rebekah, drinking from the well of salvation…

“Look, here is water. What is to prevent me from being baptized?” Again, and again, and again; every new day of re-creation!

– DEREK

 

new life – the message and the evidence

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Maul-Hall this week, as springtime burst out

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” – Luke 24:1-5

DSC_0520Early this morning Scout and I enjoyed walking in 45-degree temperatures with clear skies. It’s going to be sunny all day, and this afternoon we expect a high pushing 70. All around the house, trees and shrubs are bursting out in color. Fresh, vibrant greens; rich lavenders; pure whites; soft blues; stunning reds. We see more leaves every day – you can note the progression from morning to evening – literally scores of varieties of every imaginable hue.

After breakfast, I’ll likely find an excuse to give Scout an extra walk. When I get back I think I’ll abandon my study in favor of writing on the deck.

There is an insistent voice to springtime, as all creation picks up the echo of Easter morning. “Get up!” “Get moving!” “Join with God in the continual re-creation of this world!” Live into your salvation!”

IMG_1218THE MESSAGE: Sunday morning Rebekah shared the Easter story with crowds of people by speaking on, “The 8th Day of Creation.” She made a series of brilliant points leading up to the exciting truth that God is still in the creation and re-creation business. When Jesus defeated death, God ushered in something  brand new, something we can not only appreciate, but participate in!

If you’d like to hear Rebekah’s Easter message, click here – “The 8th Day of Creation.” The recording is exactly 18 minutes, and I don’t think you’ll hear a more inspirational message this week.

 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! – 2 Corinthians 5:17

In fact, sitting here at my desk on an inspirationally beautiful Wednesday morning, I have to say that this new creation is something we absolutely must participate in! New life! Abundant life! Bountiful, overflowing, plentiful, generous!

Monday’s post featured “Images of Resurrection” at our church. This time I’d like to share more evidences of resurrection, right here in my neighborhood.

Enjoy – DEREK

planting resurrection trees for Easter morning

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 “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Blessed Resurrection Morning!

IMG_1142-001Rebekah and I have a tradition over the Easter weekend. We started this back in Pensacola, and we’ve found it’s a beautiful way to deal with the angst of the crucifixion while at the same time preparing our hearts for Easter morning.

Every Good Friday, or Holy Saturday, we plant something in our garden in honor of someone who has died during the previous year. Consequently, Maul-Hall Pensacola, Maul-Hall Brandon, and now Maul-Hall Wake Forest, have beautiful trees, shrubs, and other plantings that were lovingly chosen, planted, and nurtured in memory of loved ones.

This year we worked hard on a number of projects – and what a wonderful way to spend my 60th birthday! Saturday was a beautiful, cool, North Carolina spring day, and – among the more than 25 holes that were dug, prepped, and filled with plants and trees – Rebekah and I put in three beautiful Japanese Maples, two of which came from Larry and Robin Roper.

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Myrt’s tree

TREES FOR PARENTS: The first, placed amidst the azaleas and pines that crowd our front garden, was planted for Myrt Hubbard Alexander, who passed away this past summer after living an amazing witness (you can read about Rebekah’s step-mom at The Grace of a Great Story). Myrt bloomed her heart out her entire life, gracing the community of Apopka in Central Florida with her signal talents and unique charms.

Then, in our “secret garden” behind the house, we planted gorgeous Japanese Maple trees for Rebekah’s mama, Nelle (who died in 1999), and her dad, Bob (who passed away in 2007). One tree has an unusual “corkscrew” trunk, with cascading “waterfall” branches. The other has a distinctive purple-ish hue, and a perfectly balanced profile. It’s going to fill in the corner of the garden beautifully.

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The Bob Alexander maple

PLANTING IS GOOD THEOLOGY: We worked really hard, and for most of the day. But the result of all that effort is – maybe for the first time since we arrived here – a clear beginning in terms of creating a garden that reflects both our personalities and what’s possible in a state that is still somewhat of a mystery when it comes to understanding exactly how we should tend our garden.

Easter morning is all about the explosion of new life and fresh growth that is possible only in the context of Christ’s resurrection story – a fact that launched not only a revolution, but what I like to call, “The Second Week of Creation.”

You see, when Jesus defeated death he didn’t come “back” to life… he was born “forward” into a new kind of life. Paul refers to Jesus as “the second Adam,” because – in resurrection – he was the firstborn of the new creation.

 “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

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The front garden

Brand new life. Life that was first revealed to Christ’s friends in a garden. Life that is ours. Life that is something far more revolutionary than the “coming back to life” miracle that happened to Lazarus.

So we plant; we honor and remember those we love and have loved; and we will spend this Easter morning with our friends at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church, celebrating the amazing reality of what Christ has done… what Christ is doing.

Amen, and Amen! – DEREK

 

groundhog day redux

All things are wearisome;
    more than one can express;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
    or the ear filled with hearing.
 What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
 Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
It has already been,
    in the ages before us. – Ecclesiastes 1:8-10

February 2:

groundhog_dayI have to admit it, the 1993 Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day, is still one of my all time favorite motion pictures. The film works on a number of levels; but mostly it works because, rather than being fantastical, the premise is actually very close to real life.

The story – in a nutshell – goes like this. Weatherman Phil (Bill Murray) takes his crew to Punxsutawney Pennsylvania to film live Groundhog Day shots for his show. Murray’s character is flippant and self centered, and things don’t go well. A blizzard shuts down travel and Phil gets trapped in some hiccup in the space-time continuum. Mr. “It’s all about me” is doomed to relive the same day over and over again until he gets it right.

SAY WHAT? So how does that sound even remotely close to real life, you ask? Well, I’m really coming at this from a hybrid Ecclesiastes 1/Hebrews 12 reference point. Let me explain.

First, just about everyone reading these words woke up this morning to an alarm clock, rolled out of bed, and thereby launched a fairly predictable routine checklist of tasks, down to what order we put our socks on, where we sit for breakfast, how we fix our coffee, and what page of the newspaper we begin reading.

We then move out into our day to day lives in much the same manner. Sometimes we arrive at work not even remembering one single mile, turn, radio news item, or view of the commute. Auto-pilot; auto-think; auto-respond; auto-life.

The opening of Ecclesiastes – part of the Wisdom Literature section of our Bibles – is fairly convinced that nothing new ever happens, and presents the routine of life as a kind of hopelessness. The writer of Hebrews also sees the routine, but interprets it as an opportunity, a contest that needs to be engaged with diligence and commitment, an exercise in following Jesus.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. – Hebrews 12:1-2

bill-murray-groundhog-day-iataREINCARNATION? So it’s not so much that we are like Bill Murray’s character, doomed to a closed-loop cycle, a kind of perpetual reincarnation, so much as that – without Jesus – we are doomed to experiencing the dull monotony of pointlessness, day after day after day after day, days that might as well be exactly the same, when we fail to live as renewed, redeemed, reconciled, restored disciples.

Phil in Groundhog Day found meaning – and eventually a way into the rest of his life – by doing a couple of very important things:

  1. He shifted the focus of his life from himself to others (he becomes the most popular guy in town by learning people’s stories, going out of his way to help them, and eventually genuinely caring).
  2. He became the absolute best version of himself possible, doing everything with quality, creativity, and total commitment).

Newness, the kind of everyday wonder we long to experience, is always possible in the context of embracing the fact that – because of Jesus – we are a new creation, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

cropped-img_51281.jpgJesus challenges us to move out of mediocrity, out of sameness, and into the transformational, dynamic, charged-with-meaning experience of being a disciple. That’s how we can live to capacity, how we can serve others with joyful hearts, how we can live as a new creation!

– DEREK

 

All things are wearisome;
    more than one can express;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
    or the ear filled with hearing.
 What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
 Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
It has already been,
    in the ages before us. – Ecclesiastes 1:8-10

February 2:

groundhog_dayI have to admit it, the 1993 Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day, is still one of my all time favorite motion pictures. The film works on a number of levels; but mostly it works because, rather than being fantastical, the premise is actually very close to real life.

The story – in a nutshell – goes like this. Weatherman Phil (Bill Murray) takes his crew to Punxsutawney Pennsylvania to film live Groundhog Day shots for his show. Murray’s character is flippant and self centered, and things don’t go well. A blizzard shuts down travel and Phil gets trapped in some hiccup in the space-time continuum. Mr. “It’s all about me” is doomed to relive the same day over and over again until he gets it right.

SAY WHAT? So how does that sound even remotely close to real life, you ask? Well, I’m really coming at this from a hybrid Ecclesiastes 1/Hebrews 12 reference point. Let me explain.

First, just about everyone reading these words woke up this morning to an alarm clock, rolled out of bed, and thereby launched a fairly predictable routine checklist of tasks, down to what order we put our socks on, where we sit for breakfast, how we fix our coffee, and what page of the newspaper we begin reading.

We then move out into our day to day lives in much the same manner. Sometimes we arrive at work not even remembering one single mile, turn, radio news item, or view of the commute. Auto-pilot; auto-think; auto-respond; auto-life.

The opening of Ecclesiastes – part of the Wisdom Literature section of our Bibles – is fairly convinced that nothing new ever happens, and presents the routine of life as a kind of hopelessness. The writer of Hebrews also sees the routine, but interprets it as an opportunity, a contest that needs to be engaged with diligence and commitment, an exercise in following Jesus.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. – Hebrews 12:1-2

bill-murray-groundhog-day-iataREINCARNATION? So it’s not so much that we are like Bill Murray’s character, doomed to a closed-loop cycle, a kind of perpetual reincarnation, so much as that – without Jesus – we are doomed to experiencing the dull monotony of pointlessness, day after day after day after day, days that might as well be exactly the same, when we fail to live as renewed, redeemed, reconciled, restored disciples.

Phil in Groundhog Day found meaning – and eventually a way into the rest of his life – by doing a couple of very important things:

  1. He shifted the focus of his life from himself to others (he becomes the most popular guy in town by learning people’s stories, going out of his way to help them, and eventually genuinely caring).
  2. He became the absolute best version of himself possible, doing everything with quality, creativity, and total commitment).

Newness, the kind of everyday wonder we long to experience, is always possible in the context of embracing the fact that – because of Jesus – we are a new creation, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

cropped-img_51281.jpgJesus challenges us to move out of mediocrity, out of sameness, and into the transformational, dynamic, charged-with-meaning experience of being a disciple. That’s how we can live to capacity, how we can serve others with joyful hearts, how we can live as a new creation!

– DEREK

All things are wearisome;
    more than one can express;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
    or the ear filled with hearing.
 What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
 Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
It has already been,
    in the ages before us. – Ecclesiastes 1:8-10

February 2:

groundhog_dayI have to admit it, the 1993 Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day, is still one of my all time favorite motion pictures. The film works on a number of levels; but mostly it works because, rather than being fantastical, the premise is actually very close to real life.

The story – in a nutshell – goes like this. Weatherman Phil (Bill Murray) takes his crew to Punxsutawney Pennsylvania to film live Groundhog Day shots for his show. Murray’s character is flippant and self centered, and things don’t go well. A blizzard shuts down travel and Phil gets trapped in some hiccup in the space-time continuum. Mr. “It’s all about me” is doomed to relive the same day over and over again until he gets it right.

SAY WHAT? So how does that sound even remotely close to real life, you ask? Well, I’m really coming at this from a hybrid Ecclesiastes 1/Hebrews 12 reference point. Let me explain.

First, just about everyone reading these words woke up this morning to an alarm clock, rolled out of bed, and thereby launched a fairly predictable routine checklist of tasks, down to what order we put our socks on, where we sit for breakfast, how we fix our coffee, and what page of the newspaper we begin reading.

We then move out into our day to day lives in much the same manner. Sometimes we arrive at work not even remembering one single mile, turn, radio news item, or view of the commute. Auto-pilot; auto-think; auto-respond; auto-life.

The opening of Ecclesiastes – part of the Wisdom Literature section of our Bibles – is fairly convinced that nothing new ever happens, and presents the routine of life as a kind of hopelessness. The writer of Hebrews also sees the routine, but interprets it as an opportunity, a contest that needs to be engaged with diligence and commitment, an exercise in following Jesus.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. – Hebrews 12:1-2

bill-murray-groundhog-day-iataREINCARNATION? So it’s not so much that we are like Bill Murray’s character, doomed to a closed-loop cycle, a kind of perpetual reincarnation, so much as that – without Jesus – we are doomed to experiencing the dull monotony of pointlessness, day after day after day after day, days that might as well be exactly the same, when we fail to live as renewed, redeemed, reconciled, restored disciples.

Phil in Groundhog Day found meaning – and eventually a way into the rest of his life – by doing a couple of very important things:

  1. He shifted the focus of his life from himself to others (he becomes the most popular guy in town by learning people’s stories, going out of his way to help them, and eventually genuinely caring).
  2. He became the absolute best version of himself possible, doing everything with quality, creativity, and total commitment).

Newness, the kind of everyday wonder we long to experience, is always possible in the context of embracing the fact that – because of Jesus – we are a new creation, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

cropped-img_51281.jpgJesus challenges us to move out of mediocrity, out of sameness, and into the transformational, dynamic, charged-with-meaning experience of being a disciple. That’s how we can live to capacity, how we can serve others with joyful hearts, how we can live as a new creation!

– DEREK

All things are wearisome;
    more than one can express;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
    or the ear filled with hearing.
 What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
 Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
It has already been,
    in the ages before us. – Ecclesiastes 1:8-10

February 2:

groundhog_dayI have to admit it, the 1993 Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day, is still one of my all time favorite motion pictures. The film works on a number of levels; but mostly it works because, rather than being fantastical, the premise is actually very close to real life.

The story – in a nutshell – goes like this. Weatherman Phil (Bill Murray) takes his crew to Punxsutawney Pennsylvania to film live Groundhog Day shots for his show. Murray’s character is flippant and self centered, and things don’t go well. A blizzard shuts down travel and Phil gets trapped in some hiccup in the space-time continuum. Mr. “It’s all about me” is doomed to relive the same day over and over again until he gets it right.

SAY WHAT? So how does that sound even remotely close to real life, you ask? Well, I’m really coming at this from a hybrid Ecclesiastes 1/Hebrews 12 reference point. Let me explain.

First, just about everyone reading these words woke up this morning to an alarm clock, rolled out of bed, and thereby launched a fairly predictable routine checklist of tasks, down to what order we put our socks on, where we sit for breakfast, how we fix our coffee, and what page of the newspaper we begin reading.

We then move out into our day to day lives in much the same manner. Sometimes we arrive at work not even remembering one single mile, turn, radio news item, or view of the commute. Auto-pilot; auto-think; auto-respond; auto-life.

The opening of Ecclesiastes – part of the Wisdom Literature section of our Bibles – is fairly convinced that nothing new ever happens, and presents the routine of life as a kind of hopelessness. The writer of Hebrews also sees the routine, but interprets it as an opportunity, a contest that needs to be engaged with diligence and commitment, an exercise in following Jesus.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. – Hebrews 12:1-2

bill-murray-groundhog-day-iataREINCARNATION? So it’s not so much that we are like Bill Murray’s character, doomed to a closed-loop cycle, a kind of perpetual reincarnation, so much as that – without Jesus – we are doomed to experiencing the dull monotony of pointlessness, day after day after day after day, days that might as well be exactly the same, when we fail to live as renewed, redeemed, reconciled, restored disciples.

Phil in Groundhog Day found meaning – and eventually a way into the rest of his life – by doing a couple of very important things:

  1. He shifted the focus of his life from himself to others (he becomes the most popular guy in town by learning people’s stories, going out of his way to help them, and eventually genuinely caring).
  2. He became the absolute best version of himself possible, doing everything with quality, creativity, and total commitment).

Newness, the kind of everyday wonder we long to experience, is always possible in the context of embracing the fact that – because of Jesus – we are a new creation, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

cropped-img_51281.jpgJesus challenges us to move out of mediocrity, out of sameness, and into the transformational, dynamic, charged-with-meaning experience of being a disciple. That’s how we can live to capacity, how we can serve others with joyful hearts, how we can live as a new creation!

– DEREK

All things are wearisome;
    more than one can express;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
    or the ear filled with hearing.
 What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
 Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
It has already been,
    in the ages before us. – Ecclesiastes 1:8-10

February 2:

groundhog_dayI have to admit it, the 1993 Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day, is still one of my all time favorite motion pictures. The film works on a number of levels; but mostly it works because, rather than being fantastical, the premise is actually very close to real life.

The story – in a nutshell – goes like this. Weatherman Phil (Bill Murray) takes his crew to Punxsutawney Pennsylvania to film live Groundhog Day shots for his show. Murray’s character is flippant and self centered, and things don’t go well. A blizzard shuts down travel and Phil gets trapped in some hiccup in the space-time continuum. Mr. “It’s all about me” is doomed to relive the same day over and over again until he gets it right.

SAY WHAT? So how does that sound even remotely close to real life, you ask? Well, I’m really coming at this from a hybrid Ecclesiastes 1/Hebrews 12 reference point. Let me explain.

First, just about everyone reading these words woke up this morning to an alarm clock, rolled out of bed, and thereby launched a fairly predictable routine checklist of tasks, down to what order we put our socks on, where we sit for breakfast, how we fix our coffee, and what page of the newspaper we begin reading.

We then move out into our day to day lives in much the same manner. Sometimes we arrive at work not even remembering one single mile, turn, radio news item, or view of the commute. Auto-pilot; auto-think; auto-respond; auto-life.

The opening of Ecclesiastes – part of the Wisdom Literature section of our Bibles – is fairly convinced that nothing new ever happens, and presents the routine of life as a kind of hopelessness. The writer of Hebrews also sees the routine, but interprets it as an opportunity, a contest that needs to be engaged with diligence and commitment, an exercise in following Jesus.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. – Hebrews 12:1-2

bill-murray-groundhog-day-iataREINCARNATION? So it’s not so much that we are like Bill Murray’s character, doomed to a closed-loop cycle, a kind of perpetual reincarnation, so much as that – without Jesus – we are doomed to experiencing the dull monotony of pointlessness, day after day after day after day, days that might as well be exactly the same, when we fail to live as renewed, redeemed, reconciled, restored disciples.

Phil in Groundhog Day found meaning – and eventually a way into the rest of his life – by doing a couple of very important things:

  1. He shifted the focus of his life from himself to others (he becomes the most popular guy in town by learning people’s stories, going out of his way to help them, and eventually genuinely caring).
  2. He became the absolute best version of himself possible, doing everything with quality, creativity, and total commitment).

Newness, the kind of everyday wonder we long to experience, is always possible in the context of embracing the fact that – because of Jesus – we are a new creation, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

cropped-img_51281.jpgJesus challenges us to move out of mediocrity, out of sameness, and into the transformational, dynamic, charged-with-meaning experience of being a disciple. That’s how we can live to capacity, how we can serve others with joyful hearts, how we can live as a new creation!

– DEREK

….

Joining Jesus in the re-creation business

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So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!- 1 Corinthians 5:17

What a wonderful Easter at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church! Sunrise (very chilly!), 9:00 Praise, and then an 11:15 crowd so big that this year we had to move worship from the sanctuary down to the CLC.

I love the enthusiasm; love the deep joy of so many believers; love the eloquent testimony to life in this place.

9:00 Praise Service
9:00 Praise Service

SO WHAT? There’s no better way to turn a gym into a sanctuary than to stuff it to the gills with beautiful people, celebrating the risen Jesus, and worshiping God in Spirit and in truth.

All this begs question, “SO WHAT?” It’s Monday morning. It’s a new week. Does the amazing Easter story come into play at all?

The story of new life in Jesus is all about the opportunity for regular people like you and me to live into a restored relationship with our Creator; it’s about transformation; and it’s about bringing light and life into this desperately needy world.

Sunrise
Sunrise

QUIZ: At this time of writing it is 11:00 AM. So let me ask you these questions:

  1. How has Easter light and life figured into your day thus far?
  2. Is it possible that the people you encountered up to this point are now convinced that God’s love is real and accessible because of the time they spent with you?
  3. Since you left church Sunday, has any of the darkness you run into succumbed to the light?
  4. Are you telling the truth about the Gospel of Love simply by the way that you live?
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9:00 Praise Service

The final chapter of my Easter book was designed to be read today – the day after Easter Sunday. I hope you purchase a copy of the book (I can guarantee it will change the way that you live your discipleship).

But for today, here is the abbreviated version I shared with my Sunday morning class.

Please share the idea expressed here with everyone you know – and most especially those who may have attended some kind of a church service Sunday… but who essentially missed Easter!

Love and blessings – DEREK

Easter Monday, April 6: Eighth Day Believers:

(Reaching Toward Easter is Available at Upper Room and Amazon)

It’s the day after Easter… Or is it? “After” is such an unsatisfactory word when talking about Jesus. So let’s discard “after” in favor of this idea: “Easter is the Eighth Day of Creation.”

I’ve never bought in to the suggestion that God has ever stopped creating. Creation limited to “Six days and I’m done” simply doesn’t work.

Available at Upper Room and AmazonHow easy it is to consign Jesus back to the tomb come Monday morning! But Easter Sunday wasn’t our final destination during Lent – it was as an inspirational staging area for what comes next. If we leave the church as confirmed Eighth Day Believers, then what we’re really doing is signing up to join Jesus in the re-creation business.

We’re no longer spectators; God is up to something significant, and we get to be participants. If our journey through Lent together has prepared us for anything, then I pray it has prepared us for this.

PRAYER: Easter is a huge idea, Creator God. We’re both grateful and unnerved by the implications of resurrection. Help us to live, fully, in the truth of Easter Triumph and by the power of the Holy Spirit. We ask in the name of the Christ, because all things are possible when we believe. Amen

Excerpt from Derek Maul’s book, “Reaching Toward Easter” (Upper Room Books)

 

 

your prayers make all the difference

Derek

This morning – and this happens once in a while – I’ve hit a fairly significant writing block. I don’t have any idea about what to write for my “Wake Forest Today” column (due in a couple of hours); I can’t begin to come up with any direction for my FOCUS magazine column (due by the end of the week); and I don’t have a clue where this blog post is going.

So I’ll begin – as the best of my work always does – with scripture. Today’s reading from The Upper Room devotional guide came from Colossians:

Paul wrote, “We have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Colossians 1:9

Rebekah and I read these words, together, on the deck after breakfast. It’s a beautiful morning, cool and clear, so we took our cereal bowls outside and sat together on the rocking bench.

Scripture with a devotion is the best way to transition from the morning newspaper to the beginnings of the day’s work. We read, we reflect, we pray, and we root our consciousness – going forward – in the context of the transformational Spirit of God.

WFPC
WFPC

YEAR TWO: This week, at the beginning of Rebekah’s second year as pastor here at the Wake Forest Presbyterian Church, the certainty that people “have not ceased praying for [her] and asking that [she] may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” is not only a huge blessing, but a powerful resource in ministry.

So I’m going to use this post as a community-wide… state-wide… nation-wide… world-wide prayer request.

Yes, I understand I can’t make the assumption that every person who reads this blog is on the same page regarding faith. But I do have this confidence, and that is that all of you respect and value the great spirit, the life-changing ministries, and the positive community-building work of churches like Wake Forest Presbyterian.

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First Sunday at WFPC

PRAY for YEAR-2: On that basis, and because I believe that prayer makes a difference, I’m asking for a world-wide outpouring of prayer and love on behalf of this Great Adventure that is year-two of our new life in Wake Forest. We feel the Spirit of God moving here, active and fresh in all the imaginative and life-affirming power of new creation. We not only value your prayers, we depend on them.

We feel the Spirit of God moving here, active and fresh in all the imaginative and life-affirming power of new creation.

My morning began to shift, in terms of creativity and productivity, when Rebekah and I opened the scriptures and placed this day into the hands of God.

Doing everything together - especially faith
Doing everything together – especially faith

May your day – every day – take on such meaning and focus; and please remember to pray.

Love and blessings – DEREK

rooted in Jesus – not tradition

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! – 2 Corinthians 5:17

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dead roses in our window!

If you read this space often you know that I’ve quoted this scripture a lot lately. I think it’s because – for me – the heart of the gospel message, the good news about Jesus, is so clearly about new life, new possibilities, new creation, and a future loaded with living promise.

Consequently, both Rebekah and I were a little surprised this morning at breakfast to note that the roses on the kitchen table were beyond dead; and they’d evidently been that way for some time.

How had we let that one slip by?

Truth be told, leaving dead things in place is not that unusual. Sometimes we hang on to deceased traditions in the hopes that somehow they’ll spontaneously revive again; sometimes we’re simply in denial (“Oh, it’s not that bad, yellow roses often come back, maybe it’ll look better tomorrow…”); but mostly we just get used to the decline, we become inured to the decay, and we simply don’t see it any more.

THE GOOD OLD DAYS: I know a lot of church communities where people just seem to be hanging on, waiting for “the good old days” to come back around; but the blooms are drying up, the petals are falling off, and the leaves are curling. Because what they’re hanging on to isn’t Jesus, it’s tradition. They are, essentially, a vase of cut flowers and they aren’t rooted in anything that has any ability to give them life.

The vase of dead flowers reminds me of the story of Gamaliel (Acts 5) who pointed out that the early church would fall flat on its face if The Way was merely a human construction… “Because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them (vv 38-39).”

THE VINE: Here’s the thing. If the church is dying, then it’s not connected to the vine.

  • The gospel isn’t about propping up human traditions, it’s about following Jesus;
  • the good news is not about nostalgia, it’s about a restored relationship with God;
  • the church won’t flourish because we follow the latest interpretation of The Law, it’s going to thrive because people meet Jesus there;
  • salvation isn’t offered because people meet your particular catalog of standards, it comes when we accept – and live into – the saving grace of Jesus;
  • new life will never animate the soul of a community that builds walls to protects itself, but will vitalize a community that gives itself away.
the WFPC garden has the right idea!
the WFPC garden has the right idea!

Rebekah and I often say that we have been called to bloom where we are planted; but that planting must be rooted in Jesus, or we’re simply going to dry up and die. The mission statement of Wake Forest Presbyterian Church puts it this way, “Rooted in Christ; Growing together in faith; Reaching out to others.”

Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)