underwhelmedJesus sweat great drops of blood when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane about to go to the cross (Lk. 22:44).  While he was in agony, wrestling with his Father’s will, his disciples were sleepy.  Why?  Not because they were tired, but because they were overwhelmed.  Twice, Jesus tells them to pray “that you may not enter into temptation” (Lk. 22:40, 46).  They needed to pray for God to give them strength to endure what they were about to witness.  The expression “sleeping for sorrow” means that they were pushed beyond their capacity to cope.  They were emotionally exhausted.

That’s why Jesus tells them to pray.  He knows that what they were witnessing (and about to witness) was so horrific that their lives would come apart.  What was it?  The Son of God was being handed over to sinners, condemned for sin, and made into sin.  This was the most outrageous atrocity of justice that the world has ever known.  Can you imagine what it must have been like for them?

I believe that we have the opposite problem today.  We are not overwhelmed at the death of Jesus for sinners, but we are underwhelmedWe don’t sleep for sorrow, but for familiarity.

This story doesn’t affect us anymore.  We just shrug it off, like it were no big deal that God would be condemned for sinners.  But there is something so terrible about it, that were we there, we would collapse, just like the disciples, from exhaustion.  We would fall apart.

If Jesus were taking to us, he would not say, “Pray so that you are not overwhelmed,” rather, he would say, “Pray so that you are not underwhelmed.”  Pray against being numb to God, being cold to Jesus Christ.

So often we let this story go in one ear and out the other, as if it were no big deal that a glorious King was condemned for his slimy servants.

Let’s pray so that we’re not underwhelmed and therefore unchanged.

Child of the Resurrection

Hope Stands —  September 24, 2014 — Leave a comment

rain

Click the player below to hear a song of hope…

Child of the Resurrection

(Music by Robbie Kellogg; lyrics by Sam Kee) 

I am a seed, cracked up and crushed, turning to dust. Hollow and empty.

Flung to the ground, covered in dirt, I ache and I hurt. Weeping for sound.

I groan and I gaze, rain dumping down, I feel heaven frown. Unable to pray.

There’s none who sees, I am alone, I melt and I moan. At the root of the Tree.

Christ is with me, stoking his love, blowing his blood. He waters this seed.

His veins drip the fuel, that purifies sin, my dross becomes thin. My desert, a pool.  

My curse finds his head, the Savior looks up, he savors my cup. My sins glow blood red.

God is a storm, ruthless is he, relentless with me. Until I am formed.

His love strikes my heart, transform me with grace, restore my lost face. His mercy is hard.

I am the child, of resurrection, the dying is done. Where hope meets the wild.

Up from my pit, I stand and I bloom, the vine cracks the tomb. You reclaim every bit.  

 

My Favorite Joke

Hope Stands —  September 20, 2014 — 4 Comments

fence eyeA man was walking on a sidewalk.  He heard a commotion from the distance.  As he got closer, the excited cries became louder.  From behind a tall fence, he heard people chanting in unison, “Thirteen!  Thirteen! Thirteen!”  Though he couldn’t see past the fence to know what was going on, he knew that the property belonged to an insane asylum.  His curiosity was getting the best of him, so he scanned the fence for a way to look through it.  He wanted to know what was going on with the crazy people on the other side.  The noise continued, as if prompted by a magical drumbeat.

Finally, he found a hole in the fence.  It would be just big enough for him to peer through to see the cause of all the commotion.  He leaned over and looked through the hole.  Just as he did, a pencil jabbed him in the eye.  Then he only heard the wild cry, “Fourteen!  Fourteen!  Fourteen!”

I like this joke because it turns the tables and presents “those on the outside” as the fools and those who are marginalized as the superior.  The ones that the world wants to forget about and lock away, end up with the last laugh.  But those who are smug, who want to get a good chuckle at the expense of the less fortunate, end up being stung at the point of where they looked down on others.

Jesus, of course, had a special place in his heart for those the world kicked to the curb.

This reminds me of one of my favorite poems by William Butler Yeats, called “Sweet Dancer.”

THE girl goes dancing there
On the leaf-sown, new-mown, smooth
Grass plot of the garden;
Escaped from bitter youth,
Escaped out of her crowd,
Or out of her black cloud.
Ah, dancer, ah, sweet dancer!

If strange men come from the house
To lead her away, do not say
That she is happy being crazy;
Lead them gently astray;
Let her finish her dance,
Let her finish her dance.
Ah, dancer, ah, sweet dancer!

She obviously escapes her “bitter youth” or her depression (“black cloud”) by dancing.  The “strange men of the house” must be those who work at the mental hospital, who try to make her stop dancing.  They say she does it only because she’s crazy or “happy.”  But there’s a deeper meaning to her dance, which only she and God know.

We’re to be captivated by her dance.  “Let her finish her dance / Let her finish her dance.”  There’s almost a note of triumph and victory as the last line culminates, “Ah, dancer, ah, sweet dancer!”  You imagine a standing ovation.  She’s not just another crazy, but has transformed herself into a beautiful interpreter of life, while the onlookers become her captivated audience, caught with rapture by her performance.

Don’t ever think that you’re not how God wanted you to be, that you’re not perfect.  Yes, you and I both have sin, but that’s not what I’m referring to.  I’m speaking about the quirks, disabilities, limitations, proclivities, syndromes, and uniqueness of you.  They are the textures and colors that make your life a beautiful masterpiece.

If the world stares at you, poke it in the eye.  If someone tries to drag you away, just keep dancing.   

pig tattooLet me take you to school for a second, so I can show you that you’re not a pig.  There was a Greek king named Antiochus IV, who ruled the Seleucid Empire from 175 BC to 164 BC.  He was pretty powerful and swept away most of his enemies, until he met his match.  He was finally defeated by Rome at a battle in Egypt.  Humiliated and angry, he retreated north to his home.

Along the way, he stormed into Jerusalem and slaughtered many Jewish people.  Taking out his frustration on the Jews, he banned Jewish practices, like circumcision and the daily offerings.  His goal was to Hellenize the Jews, which meant that he forced them to adopt Greek customs and practices that went against God’s laws.

He even went so far as to barge into the temple and offer pig’s flesh on the altar.  This was an abomination to God’s people!  He desecrated the Holy of Holies in the temple.  Then he dedicated the Jewish temple to the Greek god Zeus.

Antiochus IV

I’m sure he thought it was pretty funny to offer a pig on the altar in order to mock the Jewish people.  Pigs were not appropriate sacrifices, but profane.  The history books famously name this action “the abomination of desolation.”  (See Daniel 11:31, too, which foretold it all in advance!)

When it comes to religion and faith in God, culture thinks that any pig will do.  We’re taught that it really doesn’t matter what you believe in, just so long as you’re sincere.  One way is not necessarily better than another way.  Do you want to put a pig on the altar?  Fine, go ahead, just so long as you mean it!

But, I have to tell you, I really struggle with this idea from culture.  I struggle with believing that one thing is just as good as another thing.  For instance, there are good donuts and bad donuts.  There are good friends and manipulative friends.  There are good seasons of life and bad seasons of life.  It seems like in every other area of life, good and bad, right and wrong, are quite distinguishable.  And nobody, after a rotten haircut or abysmal movie, walks out and smiles with satisfaction, “That was as good as all the others!”

When it comes to religion and God, why the heck do we think it’s all the same?  Why are we afraid to see the differences?  Why don’t we have the courage to say that one is better than the other?  Why can’t we take ownership of our beliefs?

If you’re courageous, you’ll admit that not just any pig on the altar will do.

Why?  We humans need someone who can adequately summarize our lives in order to stand in our place before God.  Since we are corrupt and God is holy, then we need a substitute, both to absorb the wrath of God and to represent us in wholeness.  We need someone to summarize our lives—and we are more than a pigs!

We need someone who was fully human, because we are human.

We need someone who was fully divine, because we sinned against God and owe payment to him.

Not just any pig will do.

Only someone who was fully human and fully God can adequately summarize our lives.  Then this God-Man has to be offered on the altar as a sacrifice, paying the penalty for our sins and representing us before God.

Jesus Christ offered himself on the cross, standing in our place, summarizing our lives before God.  His sacrifice not only took away my filth, but also gave me a clean slate.

Jesus Christ is superior to any pig.

You’ve heard it said, “No one can take your place,” but, that’s not completely true.  Jesus Christ can.

Maybe we often think we’re worthless, because we allow so many worthless things to represent us and stand in our place.  But we are more than our appearance, possessions, offerings, or achievements.  We are worth as much as God was willing to give for us.

All I’m saying is, think about what your beliefs are saying about you.

You are more than a pig.

Sam Kee is a sinner, husband, father, and pastor.

Sam Kee is a sinner, husband, father, and pastor.

Be sure to check out Sam’s new book, Soul Tattoo: A Life and Spirit Bearing the Marks of God.