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Where Healing Begins March 8, 2009

Posted by dan snyder in Bible - Meditation, Bible: New Testament, Jesus Christ.
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Some people wish they could rewind life and go back to the spot where things went wrong to fix them.

Some people think that “healing” involves returning life to the way it was. This isn’t healing, it’s nostalgia.

Some people simply substitute “holding onto the pain of the past” for living in the present.

Luke 5:17-25 (the familiar story of Jesus healing the paralytic lowered down through the roof of a house by his friends) identifies four places where healing begins. And as a memory device, let’s connect each of these places to personalities in the story.

Personality 1: The Crowd – they didn’t see the need for healing in the man or in their community.

The Miracle: Healing begins with Jesus’ vision for “normal” (wholeness) for our lives.

Repentance: Give up believing your “normal” and ask the Holy Spirit to show you what living could look like.

Personality 2: The Pharisees – were sure only God could know if someone was worthy of forgiveness.

The Miracle: Healing begins with letting go of the past to live responsibly today.

Repentance: Give up the idea that you have the right to know ‘why’/’how’ and ask the Holy Spirit to help you trust God.

Personality 3: The Paralyzed Man – came expecting one kind of healing.

The Miracle: Healing begins with nurturing an attitude of expectancy in relationship with God.

Repentance: Close the distance between you and God and (re)establish that relationship.

Personality 4: The Friends – were content getting nothing personal for their effort.

The Miracle: Healing begins with knowing that wholeness is not a personal matter.

Repentance: Stop believing that someone else’s wholeness is none of your business; and start believing that issues of healing in your life are effecting everyone at Cherry Street.

“The power of the Lord is on Jesus to heal (the sick).” (Luke 5:17)

Where does healing begin for you?

Saying Yes and Saying No February 25, 2009

Posted by dan snyder in art, Bible - Meditation, Bible: New Testament, Jesus Christ.
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a man must choose

he is not a spray of

flowers nor of birdsong

nor the fall of dry twigs

in a rising wind

Francis Sullivan, “Vision with Its Outcome”

Whenever we say “yes” to something or someone, we are saying “no” to something or someone else. “To say yes and no means taking on responsibilities and obligations. Saying yes and saying no are companions in the process of constituting a whole and holy life.” (M. Shawn Copeland as quoted in Practicing Our Faith ed. by Dorothy C. Bass, 1997.)

As you look at the painting below ask yourself, “to what was the person saying ‘no’ or ‘yes’?”

Credits: Tanner, Henry Ossawa The Annunciation 1898. (oil on canvas, Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Henry Ossawa Tanner "The Annunciation"

Henry Ossawa Tanner "The Annunciation"

What sort of support do you and Mary, the mother of Jesus, have to help you to say “yes” or “no”?

Watching the Cloudy Skies December 3, 2008

Posted by dan snyder in art, Bible: New Testament, Jesus Christ.
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When you were a child, what were the first signs that clued-you-in that Christmas was coming?

For my dad, who grew up in the 40’s, it was that he saw smoke coming out of the chimney’s. For my mom, it wasn’t until the day before Christmas when the Christmas Tree made it’s way into the living room that she new Christmas was upon them. In my childhood it was Thanksgiving Dinner at Grandma’s that ushered in the holiday’s.

What about this year? What are you watching for that let you know the Season is here? Or perhaps, the signs just burst into your life whether your ready and watching or not!

The disciples of Jesus ask him to tell them what the sign(s) of his return will be. And included in his answer is the text for this week, Mark 13:24-37

24“But in those days, following that distress,
” ‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
25the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

26“At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens”

As I read through Mark 13 (and other such apocalyptic passages) I get the impression that Jesus is pretty excited about his return. As this passage continues, he says that no one except the Father really knows when this return will happen, but this doesn’t really seem to concern Jesus. It seems that he’s okay not knowing as long as the there is the assurance that his Father knows. I suppose we should be as satisfied.

But it seems that the return of Jesus is not so exciting to contemporary people. With the exception of a few fundamentalist TV preachers who have an almost overly enthusiastic sense of urgency, most people I meet are hoping it will happen but suppose that it won’t happen like – tomorrow!

Maybe this is because year after year at Advent, we talk about the the Coming of Jesus and then it never happens. But the Gospel Writers like Mark aren’t really biting their nails over the fact. PROBABLY BECAUSE THE COMING OF JESUS IS NOT SO MUCH AN EVENT AS IT IS A HOPE. I’m not saying that I don’t believe that Jesus won’t ‘literally’ return one day. But the ‘relevant living’ theology is that Jesus gives us signs that will help us know that his coming is very close – signs that are practical for today!

In verses prior to those in our text, Jesus says that one of the signs will be that the Temple (which the disciples found to be very impressive – v.1) will be torn down. There were times in Jewish History when the Temple became more sacred, provided more security, and gave a greater sense of identity than the God of the Temple. The building and its ethos was their strength, hope, wisdom, power, wealth, etc., – things that should have been found in God alone.

What are your Temples?

When our Temples are crumbling – when strengths become our weaknesses – Jesus said, “[Now] you will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” When you’ve tried everything you know to do, when you’ve run out of options, when you’ve exhausted all possibilities, and you throw your hands in the air in surrender – Jesus says, “YES! I am coming to you in your deepest need. Now you’re ready!”

Some people stand in piles of rubble – their Temples have crumbled all around them – and they keep trying, they won’t give up. Little do they know, they have no room for Jesus. If they would only surrender their Temple, Jesus could bring his great power and the glory of his Name to their situation.

One thing Jesus says about these signs is that you won’t miss them. It will be like the darkening of the sun and moon and the falling of stars. Everyone will know the time is near. How about your life, your neighborhood, your nation, your world? Is it dark enough yet for you to see that your Temples aren’t working? When you become (self)aware of the desperate situation around you which makes you cry out to Jesus for help – then he will come with great power and glory.

Sometimes we don’t recognize that our Temples are working because our vision is puny compared to what God hopes to do. And, so, we keep on doing small things thinking we’re doing okay. But the kingdom never grows because we’re using the rubble of our Temples to build it with our strength. We need to see the marvel of the Kingdom before we’ll admit that we’re too small, too weak to build it.

So what do you want for Christmas? What do you need for Christmas?

If your answer is anything less than the power and glory that is found in the Person of Jesus Christ then you’ll always be disappointed. These are tough times – relationships, finances, sickness and death are wearing us all down. If there was ever a time we needed Jesus to come to us, it’s now.

Take a few minutes and meditate on this painting by Salvador Dali of The Girl Stand at the Window. As you imagine yourself in the painting, reflect on your sense of urgency and hope as you look to the clouds.

Salvador Dali, The Girl Standing at the Window (1925)

Salvador Dali, The Girl Standing at the Window (1925)

The Beatitudes – Dallas Willard style November 16, 2007

Posted by dan snyder in Bible: New Testament, Jesus Christ.
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The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) as from The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard (pp.100, 116-119)

 3        Blessed are the poor in spirit [“the spiritual zeroes- the spiritually bankrupt, deprived and deficient, the spiritual beggars, those without a wisp of ‘religion’”], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4        Blessed are those who mourn [“the weeping ones”], for they will be comforted.

5        Blessed are the meek [“the shy ones, the intimidated, the mild, the unassertive”], for they will inherit the earth.

6        Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [“who burn with desire for things to be made right . . . in themselves” or in others], for they will be filled.

7        Blessed are the merciful [those who are “taken advantage of”], for they will receive mercy.

8        Blessed are the pure in heart [those “for whom nothing is good enough, not even themselves”], for they will see God.

9        Blessed are the peacemakers [the ones “in the middle” where “neither side trusts you”], for they will be called children of God.

10    Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, [those who stand up “for what is right”], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11    Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account [you’ve “gone off” your “rocker and taken up with that Jesus”]. 

12    Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Our life group discussed this text last evening. We were all enthralled at the down to earth simplicity of Jesus’s teaching and astonished at how He opens the doors wide to the Kingdom of the Heavens just for us. Share a comment about how you used to view the Beatitudes and how you view them today.


Peace and joy.

Jesus, Sustainer of Life – North Star 2.5 (Hebrews 1:3) November 16, 2007

Posted by dan snyder in Bible: New Testament, Jesus Christ, NorthStar 2.0 (Heb 1).
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“The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command.” (Hebrews 1:3a, NLT)

The voice of God in Jesus nourishes and keeps the universe. All that is needed to survive robustly comes from the “powerful word” of Jesus. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

When I or my church or my family or my neighborhood are feeling depleted it is because the “seed” of His voice is falling on hard soil. It is not that He is not speaking. His voice goes out over the whole earth continually sustaining everything that lives – evidence of His voice. Repenting of the belief that He has stopped speaking and receiving the “powerful word” will fill those barren, dry, empty, weary places to regenerate life.

The voice of God in Jesus holds the universe together. Planets and atoms stay in perfect orbits by His “powerful word”.

When I or my church or my family of my neighborhood are feeling that things are unraveling it is because the “seed” of His voice is falling on hard soil. It is not that His voice has stopped or that He has abandoned us to silence. That planets are not colliding, that elementary particles are not imploding are evidence of His “keeping” voice. Repenting of the belief that He has gone silent and receiving His “powerful word” will restore order to chaos and mission to aimlessness and purposelessness.

Jesus does not sustain with a storehouse and a shovel. His voice is sufficient. For He has in Himself everything to sustain.

Jesus does not hold-together with duct tape and His hands. His voice is sufficient. For it is powerful enough, yet tender enough, to hold everything together.

Are you feeling a need for his Voice to hold you together today?

Jesus is the speech of Now! – North Star 2.1 (Hebrews 1:1) November 6, 2007

Posted by dan snyder in Bible - Meditation, Bible: New Testament, Jesus Christ, NorthStar 2.0 (Heb 1).
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“Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son.”

You and I are at the end of a long line of “hearers”.  Hearing is an ancient practice that began the moment God first spoke. [Actually listening is probably the more likely practice of the truly ancient-holy, but that will be a journal entry for another time.] “God spoke”. O, what grace! Transformation from darkness to light, from distortion to wholeness begins (and is sustained) with the voice and speech of God.

His voice has come ‘at many times and in many ways’. His message has come through the prophets in modes that are multi-sensory, personal and active. Thanks be to God that certain key messages have been written down and preserved for us to hear again today. Not read. Heard. A simple, cursory read of the Old Testament Prophets indicates a low priority on the written word as God’s plan for transformational speech (at least the written word to be read alone in silence).

But the ‘many ways and many times’ (i.e. – situations) for the prophets were not sufficient. These, collectively, were not comprehensive enough, full and pregnant enough, to compare with God’s Supreme Revelation, His Final Word, His new, living, perfect, lasting, mode – His Son, Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t replace the “long ago speech of God.” Jesus fulfills and completes what was constricted and limited without His Revelation. That old prophet-speech was ‘long ago’, ‘in ancient times’. But you and I are part of NOW – these days. And, like the wine in Cana (John 2), He has saved the best for now.

North Star 1.6 – Genesis 1:5 November 2, 2007

Posted by dan snyder in Bible - Meditation, Bible: Old Testament, Jesus Christ, NorthStar 1.0 (Gen 1).
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God names the light and the darkness. Naming conveys honor and instills value. Day and Night now have a place of honor in the story – God’s meta-narrative. They are declared “intended”. Without names they may go unnoticed. Or, at least, we would wonder if God knows, sees, and intends what is now known and seen by all of us (light and dark are hard to miss). but when god names them He gives them their place in the story.

Naming also establishes God’s place. He is the generative character behind all that He names. He is keeper of what He names. He is above all that He names. He is the idea, the dreamer, behind names.

Most of us were not named by God at birth. Attached to my name is a story (and perhaps the stories of those who share my name). But God will change my name – give me a new name (Rev. 2:17), a name that conveys a new relationship, a new intention, a new place in the story.

Notice the priority in verses 3-5: God creates, God delights, God sets apart, God names. In Jesus each of these actions can be real to us each day. But only naming is expected to be permanent and stable. God will find new voids in which to create, new things to declare his delight over, new tasks to which we will be set apart.

But we are named once. May we listen and live into this name.

Just Stewards – Luke 16:1-12 (A Meditation) October 29, 2007

Posted by dan snyder in Bible - Meditation, Bible: New Testament, Jesus Christ.
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I’ve been asked to be a fundraiser now for several Christian organizations. Each one has been the same story: Big ideas for all of the things that could be done in the name of God to help more people, reach more people, save more people . . . but a dwindling funding source for these dreams. I’ve heard “God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He’ll come through for our ideas.” And, “if His people would just open their wallets and give more, imagine all we could do.”

The parable of the ‘unjust steward’ and the verses that follow shed light on some problems at the heart of these dilemmas. Primarily it gets us to look at our role in the work of God before blaming Him or His people for not keeping up their end.

The story is about stewardship and determining whether or not one is a trustworthy steward. The unjust steward of the story is found to be ‘wasteful’. This is a reflection of his attitude toward his rich master. Perhaps he became wasteful of someone else’s stuff/money by thinking thoughts like, “my master is rich, there’s no end to his money, surely he won’t miss a few dollars here or there.” And he reinforces this belief each time he spends or gives wastefully.

After he is caught, he loses his job. But he acts shrewdly going around reducing everyone’s debt (again, spending his master’s money) before the debtors know he doesn’t work for the master anymore. The debtors end up liking both the master and the steward more as a result; and the steward is commended by the master and by Jesus for understanding how money can be used to influence friends and promote your boss.

Next Jesus preaches (vv. 10-15) clearly about trustworthiness with what we own as a way of developing the kind of heart that can be trusted in eternity with the Life and Riches of God. First He says – if you have been trustworthy with very little you will be trusted with much. When we compare ourselves to God and when we compare what we are entrusted with on earth to what we will inherit in heaven, every human being has “very little”. Very little is the portion we’ve been given with the hearts we have to exercise our giving and spending muscles to ready them for eternity. This means that while God may own the cattle on a thousand hills (and a few solar systems), we do not.

We have been allotted a very small amount of God’s possessions that we must steward. This will require clear, strategic and focused giving and spending patterns. We have been allocated a limited amount in proportion to our limited skills and finite hearts. We can also be sure that the resources are sufficient for the work God desires for us to do. Whenever we overspend that allotment we are acting like the unjust steward. The words Jesus uses to describe such a person are “wasteful”, “dishonest” and “untrustworthy”.

The lack of discipline in this area does nothing to prepare our hearts for our eternal work. “If you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own [especially those things you will possess forever]?”