Thursday, December 20, 2012

Counted, but Not Fully Accounted For

Luke 2:1 - The powerful Roman Empire wanted to take inventory of its power. So they required that all the inhabitants of their world, return to the home town, to register. Register so that Rome would know that you existed. Rome had to know if one existed, so that they would know that you could pay taxes. That was the real purpose for the census, to count heads and to make sure they were getting all the tax revenue that was coming to them. Caesar Augustus took a census. He wanted to take a look at the numbers. How many people do we have in the empire, how many do we control? How many do we rule over? How many owe us money? So they counted. The numbers were important. While this massive count was going on, a hard working carpenter and good citizen named Joseph took his family to his hometown of Bethlehem. The city was packed, for the required homecoming. It was a homecoming of sorts, as people that had moved away were required to return home. So in Bethlehem were people Joseph hadn’t seen in years. Back in Bethlehem, back to the hood for the census. And he with all the inhabitants of Bethlehem came to be counted. Sometimes I like being counted. Like when I vote, I like to know that my vote counts. I like to know I’m being counted. In fact whenever I have an opinion about something, I like to know mine is counted taken into consideration. When people are handing out pecan pie for dessert, I like to be counted. Sometimes I like to be counted. When I go to lunch with friends, I like it when there is a chair there for me. I like to be counted for dinners. When I go to my kid's performances or events at school and they want to know how many parents are in the audience, I want to be counted. I want them to know that I’m there, sometimes I lift two hands. When I was in school and the teacher would ask, how many read your assignment last night. I liked to raise my hand, look around with a shot of superiority, and be counted. That didn’t happen very often. Sometimes I like to be counted. One September, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of 9/11 a human flag was assembled on Mount Trashmore. It was a Monday at about 9:00am, JT and I went. We were part of the second red stripe. We held a red 4’ square. We were five rows from the bottom, and four from the end. When they counted how many were there I wanted to be counted. Sometimes I like to be counted. Some times you like to be counted too. You like to know there’s a chair at the table for you, you like to know that you’re voted counts, that your opinion is taken into consideration, that your presence matters. But sometimes I don’t like being counted. Sometimes I get mad when people tell me to take a number and seat. Sometimes I don’t like it when people ask me for my account number before they address me by name. Sometimes I like to duck when people are counting heads. Some times when I’m told to take number...I take two and double my chances. Sometimes I don’t like being counted. Some thing about being counted...some times it makes me feel kind of empty though does it you? Being counted kind of doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t feel quite appropriate. I mean who likes to be a number. Some people quit jobs, and they tell us it’s because they felt like a number. And we all know what that means. Some people get disgruntled with churches because they feel like they are just a number. Being counted can feel like being used. We’ve all been in situations where it seemed like people were more concerned with who wasn’t there, than the fact that we were there. I’ve been both criminal and victim in that deal. And it doesn’t feel good. That happens at Christmas gatherings doesn’t it. Sometimes we gather, and all everyone can talk about is who isn’t there. Who could have come but didn’t, because they’re too selfish or lazy or whatever. Sometimes worse than being counted is, to be in the room but not counting. I bet you don’t like that much either. I don’t like being counted some times. I bet that’s how Joseph felt. He probably didn’t like being counted by Rome. He probably felt used. All of his friends and family probably felt a little like property. Because the empire was only interested in “who are we missing.” Like counting subjects...funny thing about counting can make you feel like an object. I bet that is how Joseph felt, like an object of Rome. He and his wife and the baby, they were counted. But didn’t feel like they much counted. People still like to do a lot of counting at Christmas. At the Christmas play we like to count the wise men, to make sure it’s biblically accurate and has three. People like to count gifts. And if their gift count is less than another’s, the its is perceived that the other is loved more. They think it means they count, or don’t count as much. Parents count how much other parents spend on their children, and say rude things about them. People count pounds at Christmas too. They have given up on counting calories. A lot of counting still goes on for Christmas. Retailers like to count at Christmas. They rely so heavily on our materialism to survive. They depend on our indulgence to make it through the trying days of seasonal change. So they count. They calculate revenue, the count sales, they count shoppers, they count profit margin. A lot of counting goes on at Christmas time. There was a lot of counting going on the night of the first Christmas. Rome was counting. People were being counted. And the census was going well. The numbers were up. Leading indicators suggested Rome was strong. But numbers can lie. Well numbers don’t lie, but people do. I think that’s why I don’t always like being counted. The numbers didn’t tell the whole story. You see that night in Bethlehem the numbers didn’t tell the whole story. You see according to the census there were two in Joseph’s family. But a baby was I guess that counts as three. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. You see the census told Rome how many were in the kingdom, it told them how many were in Joseph’s family...but the numbers didn’t tell the story. According to the numbers there were just three. Nothing significant, nice small family. Rome’s census could count the birth of Jesus, but it could not account for the one who was born. Because as anyone who has ever been in a meeting knows, it’s not how many are far a decision, it matter who many are for it. I guess what I’m saying is that what was significant on Christmas night, was not how many were in Joseph’s family, or how many were in Bethlehem that evening. You see counting, could not account for WHO was born that night. ON the spreadsheet he was just one. But he was so much more than that. Each year we come back to Christmas. And we gather for Christmas eve, and in our homes, and remember that the world can’t fully account for the impact of Jesus’ life death and resurrection. While the numbers are impressive....millions of devoted followers of Jesus all over the world. But the numbers, as impressive as they are, don’t account fully for who Jesus was, and who he is. And so we come to Christmas eve, and we light the candles, and we sing the songs, and marvel. Because who he was and what he has done can’t be calculated. There is not a spreadsheet long enough, or calculator complex enough that it can explain what this baby has meant to our world. The lives changed, the hope that he has restored, the strength that he has given, the goodness that he has brought to this world. Nations have risen and fallen because of him, people have been healed because of him, and relationships have been restored because of him. All of this, from just a “1” on a Roman spreadsheet. We come again and again and marvel, because the impact of his life can’t be counted. The empire had no idea what the child born in Bethlehem would accomplish, what he would teach us about love, righteousness, goodness, faith, sacrifice, and victory. He taught the world a side of those things it had never known before, and would have never figured out on its own. All from just a number 1, on a Roman Spreadsheet. He could be counted but not fully accounted for. No one here knew what his life would become. That’s why there was no room for him. That is why no special arrangements were made for him, no VIP accommodations. Just a feeding trough on the backside of a Bethlehem inn. No one here could imagine what he would become, how could we? But heaven took an accurate account. Heaven knew what he was and what he would be, and what he would make possible for the earth’s inhabitants. And the announced it publicly on the first Christmas night “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior is born to you: he is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger.” ..... “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Lk. 2. 10-14) It wasn’t how many were in Bethlehem or in Rome. I’m sure there were other babies born that night...but there was none like him. There never has been, there never will be. It wasn’t how many were born, it was Who was born. The inventory, the census missed that. Here’s the strange twist to this story. There was an important inventory being taken in the days of Caesar Augustus. But it wasn’t a physical inventory of heads. No in those days, a spiritual inventory was being taken. And the one taking inventory wasn’t Caesar, it was God. An inventory, a census of the hearts and souls of human beings was being done. And to those whose hearts were found hungry for truth and righteousness and redemption, well to them good news was headed their way. To those who were too at home in this world, too at ease with its wisdom and wickedness, well to them the news wasn’t so good. There was a census being taken. But the important census was being taken by God...and he is still taking it. He is still searching for hearts that long to be made whole, lives that long to be restored, people who have sinned and who want to be forgiven. And to those who receive him and believe in his name, they find themselves in the Book of Life...the book that lists all those who have become children of God. We discover that in God’s book we count. The inventory began during the reign of Caesar August, in a manager in Bethlehem. The numbers are in, and the result is clear, there is just one appropriate response Jesus: Lord, we greet Thee, Born this happy morning, O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored. Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing. God, born as a baby and became a man- we FALL DOWN BEFORE HIM AND WORSHIP HIM AS GOD. Whether you do or whether you don’t, the census has begun. Amen

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Wise Guidance for Christmas

As we approach another holiday season, my thoughts take me to Matthew’s gospel and a few guys who knew a lot about making a successful Christmas journey. Here are some facts from their story I found very helpful. I trust they will be enlightening to you too. 1. Be Wise. The Wise Men were, well… wise. This not only describes their job as magi or wise men for Persian Royals, it also says what was true of them. They were men of wisdom. At Christmas time it seems wisdom is always called for but too often buried under a month of feel good, impulse decisions that too often create in its wake eleven months of regret. At Christmas, financial wisdom is needed to spend appropriately. Relational wisdom is needed to deal with that one relative (or a dozen) that seems to know just how to turn your egg nog. And spiritual wisdom is needed to keep the focus on Christ through all the many festivities that will call for our time and focus. May we be wise people. 2. Approach the Season as a Journey. The magi journeyed a long way to find the Christ Child. It is helpful to approach the season of time from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas Day as a journey. The celebration of Advent is the way Christians have historically reenacted the anticipation that preceded the first arrival (advent) of Christ. This is why I love advent calendars. They help me savor this Season as a daily journey and not just a one day event. May we enjoy and fully experience the Advent journey. 3. Remember the Search is for a King. What raised the intensity and excitement of the magi’s journey is for whom they were searching. They were not combat shopping, better known as Black Friday shopping. I am assured by many that there is an adrenaline rush that comes with combat shopping though personally I do not have that Black Friday adrenaline gland. The Magi were not driven by the quest to land the latest toy or gadget. The thrill of the wise men’s journey was what was at stake. What waited at the end of a successful journey would change their lives. May we search as those searching for a living King, not merely for a historical figure. 4. Be Willing to Learn. The magi were really smart guys and yet their humility is what made finding Christ a possibility for them. Intelligence alone never leads anyone to Christ (or away from him for that matter). The journey always eventually requires faith and humility. The Magi first went to Jerusalem thinking they would find the king there. They were wrong. He was born in Bethlehem. Yet, to their credit they didn’t try to make an argument for, "The Rightness of Israel’s King Birthed in the City of David.” No, in joyful humility they turned and traveled to Bethlehem. We get the most out of any experience when we are willing to learn. Willingness to learn means, in part, being open to truths we don’t know and admit that some assumptions we hold may be wrong. May we be humble enough to learn and to change. 5. Spontaneously Worship. These smart worldly men spontaneously worshipped when, at the end of their search, they found Christ. The first gift they gave Christ was not gold, frankincense nor myrrh. They first offered their search, then their worship, then their treasures. Their worship was spontaneous and full of joy! May our journey to Christmas Day be sprinkled with divine encounters and may it culminate in spontaneous overflowing joy at the feet of Christ the King. This Christmas season will provide the opportunity to once again journey toward Christ. Enjoy the Season and learn from the journey.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


I enjoy running. Yes, I run even though I’m not being chased. Anyway, I use this I-Phone app when I run called “mapmyrun.” It’s a neat little tool that lets me know through my earphones in an unemotional and direct female voice, how long I’ve been running, how far I’ve gone, and how slow my minute per mile pace is. One of the coolest aspects of the app is that when my run is finished I can see a picture of my route. I like pictures. It’s always interesting to see what the route looks like. Usually my route resembles some state. Sometimes it makes a big state like Texas or Alaska, sometimes an Oklahoma or Illinois. And sometimes when I’m tired a Hawaii or Rhode Island. Two Biblical passages come to mind when thinking of routes. The first one comes from the Old Testament. Just imagine Israel’s route in the wilderness. Can you say scribble scratch!? Remember Israel was freed from Egypt and traveled through the wilderness on their way toward the Promised Land. A journey that should have taken about two weeks was stretched into forty years! If we were to look at that route, it would tell a story. It would tell the story of a people who weren’t sure where they were going and who were not prepared to enter the place God prepared for them. Their map was a tightly woven circular route of cleansing and preparation. It was a painful, extended, and redundant journey that eventually prepared them for crossing the Jordan River. As a church staff, we have been in the process of prayerfully sketching out the route God wants to take. Strategic ministry planning is challenging but exciting work. We have been inspired to think and dream about where God wants to take the Bayside church family. We know this. We do not want to be Israel wandering in the wilderness. The other Biblical route that comes to mind is from the ministry of Jesus told in the New Testament. It is found in John 4. Jesus was in Judea in the South on his way to Galilee in the North. We are told that Jesus ‘had to go through’ Samaria. Interestingly, what we know from history is that during that time period Jews intentionally avoided going through Samaria to avoid being defiled by a people considered unclean. But Jesus ‘had to go’ through Samaria because Samaritans had to be reached with the gospel. His route tells a story. That journey tells as story of fearless love for all people, “even the least of these.” As for our church family, Jesus’ example tells us that a route that is faithful to the mission of reaching people will often be unconventional and rarely safe. I’ve often wondered what my personal route would like if I had an application called “map my spiritual route.” I think it would be filled with straight lines, a few big loops, and even a few well worn dots- places where it looked like I wasn’t moving at all. What would your route look like? Today wherever you are on your route, step toward Jesus. That, you can be sure, is never a wrong move. And one day we will see what shape our completed route took. As a Christian, regardless of the final shape we know where our route ends. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Cor. 2:9

Thursday, August 30, 2012


"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18 Benny was a really smart kid I went to elementary school with. I was smart for a while too, but then for some strange reason in the fourth grade I got a “C” on my report card. I wasn’t smart anymore. Benny didn’t stop in the 4th grade, he just kept getting smarter. The saving grace in my unspoken competition with Benny was that I was much better basketball player than him. So I was usually eager to get out of the classroom and onto the court for practice. The court provided me opportunities to put it in Benny’s face (in the love of Christ of course). My dominance was assisted by the fact that he was about 4 inches shorter than me. But one day in the third grade, Benny beat me at my own game. Our coach had the team doing layups at the end of practice. In the course of doing the lay ups, everyone had missed at least one layup except for Benny and me. A teammate noticed this and began to provoke the competition. Who would miss first? So it went back and forth. He would make a layup and then I would make one. He made one. Then I made one. Then him. Then I, with a little bit too much confidence, went to the basket too strong. The ball ricocheted off the backboard, grazed the front of the rim and bounced onto the hardwood. The thud of the basketball was a dagger. He had beaten me at my game. I always respected Benny as the smart kid in the classroom, but from that day on I respect him a bit more as a ball player. I’ve met a lot of people who respect Jesus as a compassionate and caring person. On the field of kind words and warm hearts many people respect Jesus. Many even admire him because they know that in the compassion arena no one has a game like Jesus. And that is true. Jesus has exemplified for the world much about kindness and compassion. What many miss is the “smart Jesus.” I don’t know that we speak enough about how smart Jesus was. This is important because if we doubt a person’s intelligence it’s very unlikely that we will heed their advice, much less obey their direction. Very few talk much about the intelligence of Jesus. Some talk about his courage. Many laud his grace, his mercy, and even his devotion to God. But too few talk about how smart he was. People seem comfortable talking about his spirit and heart, but not as much about his mind. That to me is a missing link in much of our understanding of Jesus of Nazareth. If you’re a thinker, if you are a brain, let me just say it. Jesus was really smart. He was indeed the smartest person to ever grace this planet. The apostle Paul was one of the most well-educated, fiercest debaters, and sharpest minds of his day. And he found no problem bending his intellectual knee to the superior mind of Christ. In fact, Paul would pray that people might have the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:1) and he marveled at the knowledge held in the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). I want to encourage you to continue to love the Lord with all your heart, with all soul, with all your strength and with all of your mind. It could deepen your worship of Jesus more than you thought possible. Jesus invites us, “Come let us reason together.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Time To Shine

In a few weeks the Games of the XXX Olympiad will begin. We will watch young Olympians compete at the highest level. Young athletes we’ve never heard of before, with success in their disciplines, will become household names. Yet, what we know is that these overnight successes have been years, sometimes decades in the making. Countless hours of training and preparation has gone in to ready them for peak performance in their “moment.” That moment for some will begin with fingertips on a starting line, for some toes on the edge of a diving board, for others hands raised on the corner of a gymnastics mat. With the pride and support of their homeland, each individual’s ability will be on display for the World to observe. It will be their moment to shine. Everything they have worked for will matter in that moment. As Christians we resonate deeply with such Olympic themes as training, perseverance, honor and victory because we too are in a great competition. Our Apostolic trainer, St. Paul called on the themes of sport to inspire and instruct Christ-followers toward the worthy prize of godliness and the ultimate reward of heaven. God’s Word teaches us that now is our time to shine. “Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky…” (Phil 2:15). On August 5th we will be starting a sermon series through the book of Philippians. Philippians is a training guide for how we can compete with joy at the highest level. Join as at Bayside as we seek to apply its principles and win the most important prize of life…and have fun doing it! August 5 Finish What You Start / Philippians 1:1-11 August 12 Live Up To the Hype / Philippians 1:12-29 August 19 Be Remarkable / Philippians 2:1-11 August 26 Time to Shine / Philippians 2:12-21 September 2 Understand the Scoring System / Philippians 3:1-11 September 9 Dig Deep / Philippians 3:12-21 September 16 Joy in Everything / Philippians 4:1-7 September 23 Contentment Always / Philippians 4:8-23

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Leader Check List

Eight Questions in Identifying a Leader

1. Are they discontent?
A person with the leadership gift usually thinks s/he could do it better if only they were running things. Leaders are always looking to improve things and are often discontent with status quo. A constructive spirit of discontentment is found in the heart of Godly leaders.

2. Do they bring ideas to the table?
There is a difference between critics and leaders. Criticism is easy. Leadership is not. Like a critic, leaders see problems but unlike the critic the leader chooses to be part of the solution. Leaders find practical solutions to the problems they see.

3. Is anybody listening to them?
If people are paying attention to what "x" is saying. Then "x" is a leader. Identify those that others are listening to.

4. Are they respected by others?
Some people talk but are not respected. They are not leaders. Find those whose opinions and ideas carry weight because the person voicing them is respected.

5. Can they create and/or catch vision?
Not all leaders are able to cast vision, but all leaders get jazzed about possibilities. Their eyes widen when vision is spoken.

6. Do they show a willingness to take responsibility?
Leaders step up.

7. Do they finish the job?
Good leaders get-'r-done. They show perseverance and determination, not stopping until the job is complete. A quitter is not worth following.

8. Can they handle Criticism?
All leaders face criticism, doubt and questions. Leaders learn not to whimper every time people talk negatively about them. Followers are suppose to talk about leaders... you're the leader! If they aren't talking about you then you probably aren't leading them any where. Criticism is part of the price tag of leadership so tough mindedness is a must.

(adapted from Multi-site Church Revolution)

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Gospel of Mark

Click Here To View Series Video Introduction.

Fast. Raw. Razor Sharp. Unrefined. Urgent. Poignant. Each an appropriate characteristic of the gospel of Mark. No shepherds, no manger or silent night, Mark blasts out of the blocks with, "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."
"Immediately" is one of the most used words in Mark. Jesus is presented as the Son of Man who has a mission to accomplish, an urgent job to do. Namely, crush Sin and set Sinners free through the Cross.
Written to a Church facing intensely unjust persecution, literally being burned as living torches for Rome's perverse entertainment, Mark wants to make powerfully clear that Jesus Christ is Sovereign and therefore all suffering for his name is worth it and will be rewarded mightily.
Like a top fuel dragster off the line, Jesus accelerates throughout the book of Mark until he takes the Roman Centurion's checkered flag, "Surely this man was the Son of God" (15:39).
Experience the thrill ride of Mark's gospel with us. Fasten your seat belt, the green flag drops February 26th.