What Neighbors Do


A very brief one, stretching out St. Patrick’s Day a little longer.  I played in an ultimate tournament today and I am, paradoxically, both a little disappointed and immensely satisfied.

We have a team in town.  By “team,” I mean a group from a church back where we’re from who are here for a week+ to experience Nicaragua, see and help with what we do, and try to grasp what it’s like to live here.  Before we moved to Nicaragua, I did a bunch of these trips.  They’re increasingly controversial, with many insightful concerns being raised about them.  But I also know we would not have moved here if we had not gone (come) on several trips.  I can see both sides.

Last night, our neighbors Mileydi and Juan Carlos invited the team over for dinner, for, as she said, “real Nica food.”  The team had a wonderful time.  Mileydi and Juan Carlos are good friends of ours; Mileydi runs the preschool with Kim.  Mileydi and Juan Carlos are generous and hospitable, and that is one of the things I hoped our visitors would experience.  Receiving generosity from those whom, by your standards, live in poverty is powerful and humbling.  Doing so can break through some of the automatic superiority that most of us feel, whether we acknowledge it to ourselves or not.

I had told the team that we weren’t coming for dinner (a tricky dance in itself, but having us there would have really changed the dynamic) but that they could come back over for dessert, since we still had way too much left over from earlier in the week.  After dinner they returned, bubbling over with how much they’d enjoyed it.  My hopes were realized.  They ate dessert.  I drove them back to where they’re staying.

When I got home, Mileydi yelled across the street, “What about dessert?”

¿Quieres helado?”  (“Do you want ice cream?”)


¿Chocolate o vainilla?


Here’s the beauty of this moment:  it was so marvelously normal.

I’d thought Mileydi and Juan Carlos might come back over with the group and we would all have dessert.  They didn’t.  But I had offered dessert!

When you live among people in poverty and you are rich (as we are, in comparison) things are always a little weird.  You learn to deal with it.  That’s just one challenge of living in the community instead of outside of it.

But this wasn’t weird!  It was normal and comfortable and funny!  It’s the thing a neighbor would say, who is also a friend with whom you laugh and who, at times, makes fun of you.  It’s not giving because one has more and the other less but sharing because that’s what neighbors do.  You can ask, in a joking way, because that’s what neighbors do.

This may not strike you as a big deal, but it’s one of those moments when I realize, “This worked!”  We did this crazy thing moving into our barrio and we’re still the crazy gringos but somehow now we’re also the neighbors who laugh and look out for each other and can share ice cream without it feeling awkward or like charity.

Because that’s what neighbors do.


*Obviously this is a mistake, but that’s not the point of my story.

Strange Day or That Day


I am exhausted and uncertain and a bit euphoric.  It has been a strange day.  

The strange thing that happened:  A pregnant woman in our congregation had a medical emergency while I was preaching.  We have several nurses in our little part of the Body of Christ and they immediately jumped into action.  I love them.  They brought a wheelchair and rushed her to the best hospital in Managua, where she was diagnosed as having suffered a seizure.  They also diagnosed high blood pressure and hypertention.  I was afraid she had pre-eclampsia.  People I love have had their babies die because of pre-eclampsia, so I was mightily relieved to hear she was not suffering from this.  She was released mid-afternoon.  Baby seems fine.  

I don’t know her well.  She is, however, in a Bible study within our fellowship and our folks rallied around her.  When it happened, her husband was in another city, but got back today.  Would you take a moment and pray for her?  In whatever form or whatever version you might do that.  Thank you.  

So that wasn’t about me, it was about her, obviously.  It was also one of my Top 5 strangest things to happen while preaching. I couldn’t tell what was going on.  There was activity on that side of the room, people looking, a few people moving.  She was sitting in her chair while people attended to her.  The service stopped.  The preacher stopped.  Maybe the other way around.  

 I watched. I prayed.  She was sitting up, looking alert.  I thought, “If this were one of my daughters and I were causing all this attention instead of going ahead, I. Would. Be. Dead.”  But it felt sacrilegious to continue.  So I walked back and forth a little, tried to get a sense of what was going on, and finally got some information.  They took her out.  I prayed for her.  Then I tried to find my place in the sermon again.  

After that, today went like a normal Sunday for me.  We came home, did a few chores, hung out and had a quick lunch (we’re not roast and potatoes for Sunday Dinner people like my family sometimes was growing up; we’re grab stuff from the fridge for Sunday brunch and stand around the kitchen chatting while listening to music folks).  I took my Sunday afternoon nap, which is sacrosanct in my life, especially after I’ve preached.  I got up, had a video call pre-marital counseling session with a couple I love, then hurried off to Sunday ultimate where I chased guys 20 to 30 years younger than myself around the field and, in my best moments, had them chasing me.  

It was not beautiful ultimate, but it was great exercise.  Two of the younger Nica guys who are sensational athletes and becoming great ultimate players guarded me, which is both flattering and exhausting.  They don’t yet recognize that they’ve moved a level or three above me (and please don’t mention it to them).  I used to get extremely frustrated about the Sunday game, which can be more chaos than regulation ultimate, but something magical happened in my heart somehwere along the line; I really have grown to love a bunch of those young guys and realize that I’m mentoring more than anything in that time.*

So my euphoria comes from post-adrenaline-and-endorphin-rush-caffeine-push buzz.  Most of it. We had dinner together and then ended up watching Weird Al videos together, so I’m also feeling warm and fuzzy about my family.  Somewhere in there is a sense that the sermon went well, maybe, because God showed up and some people got what I was trying to say and maybe, maybe someone feels, if not less screwed up, more loved by God in their screwed up state.  That would make the day worthwhile right there.  

I’m going to take a brief excursus (so much more intellectual sounding than “I’m going off on a tangent now”) to hit this point from my sermon.  I was preaching today on sharing Jesus through our weakness. I had one of those things I wanted to express in my sermon but couldn’t figure out how to put it in my manuscript, so I finally just gave up and, when the time came, said it.  By that, I mean I was stuck and realized I needed to trust God to help me say it in the moment.  

We know that grace is for our sin.  Grace is also for how we feel deeply, fundamentally flawed. In some ways, it’s easier to talk about my sin than about how I feel really messed up.  It can be easier to deal with sin in our lives than that part of us that we just can’t fix.  It’s not that you need to repent; it’s just broken.  People who don’t know God’s love need to know that God won’t magically fix that in us, but will give us the strength to live with it and will love and heal us through it. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, God bless you and I hope you get something out of the rest of this post.  For you who know exactly what I’m talking about, if it feels like I read your email (or your journal), grace means you are loved not in spite of this but fully with this.  There is hope that you can learn to love yourself.  There is hope that God’s grace for you is greater than how f***ed up you feel.  

There is hope.  

–Oh, a gecko is crawling up the front door.  I love living in a place where lizards randomly appear.  Good luck, little guy.  Watch out for the cats.– (Okay, that one was a tangent.)

Coming back around, then, we’re in the midst of making some big decisions as a family and I’m waiting on God, trying to hear how God is leading me.  I’m reminded that hearing God is more art than science.  I’m remembering that trusting God can be difficult. Or even bloody hard. 

 “Waiting in prayer is a disciplined refusal to act before God acts.”  Eugene Peterson.  

(Kudos to those of you who were tracking and waiting to hear about “uncertain” between “euphoric” and “exhausted.”)  

All that, and I remember a day when Kim’s pregnancy took a sudden turn and–I’m not exaggerating–life has never been the same since.  Full of grace and redemption?  Absolutely.  Soaked with joy and full of children.  Quite so.  But as I’ve said more than once, you don’t “recover” from the death of a child because it’s not an injury, it’s an amputation.  You learn to cope. You adapt to living without a piece of yourself that never grows back.  I was pacing the front of the room, waiting to preach again, and praying for her.  Some part of me, all day long, has wondered/worried/feared that today would become that day for her.

So I’ll end where I began:  pray for her, please.  


*And playing a game on Saturday helps, too. 

This Week, or What I Think Is Important


This past week, a member of our congregation died.  Gerry was a servant-hearted man with a huge smile and three kids, 14, 8, and 2.  His wife loved him dearly, in spite of his many flaws, just like my wife loves me.  We celebrated his life last night. Today, his body was buried in the ground.

Today, we prayed for a friend at our school, Tom, who is flying to the US to receive treatment for the cancer that is in his lungs.  He has a wife and young child.  He is scared and trying to trust God and he wants more time to be with his family.  He wants to live.

Last week, we read with horror and despair that a young man who had been identified in every way as a threat planned and carried out an attack on the school from which he’d been expelled, killed 17 people–14 of his former classmates and 3 staff.  He shot them to death.  At least 14 others were injured and taken to area hospitals.  He had bragged on YouTube “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

People around me, people in my life, people dear to me are falling apart beyond my capacity to put them back together.  Admittedly, that capacity is woefully limited; I mostly rely on God’s power of redemption to healing.  But sometimes I feel like I can help.  Sometimes I’m praying hard and I can’t see anything but things getting worse.  

That’s all this week.  One week.  There’s more, of course.  A few major things going down with my family that even I, open window that I am, must choose not to share.  

Also this week: I shared the story of Isaac and Annalise with my senior Bible class.  It was the first class session in which they all stayed awake and all paid attention the entire time.  I think I’m a decent teacher in my own unorthodox way, but this class has been challenging thus far.  After going through Gerry’s very rapid decline and death, after discussing whether Jesus really heals people and if it’s as easy as it seems in the Gospels, I decided it was time to tell them my experience of God not answering our prayers for healing and of God answering our prayers for healing.*

So I find myself thinking about life and death right now.  It’s in my face.  People shared this testimony at Gerry’s vela (memorial/wake):  “He loved his family.  He loved his kids. Everyone could see how much he loved them!”  Gerry had some problems and his life was not easy, but that is how I hope and pray that I am remembered.  

Some kids went to school and never came home; a mechanic, a friend, a father was diagnosed with leukemia and died a few days later; a fellow teacher, a guy who loves our students with God’s love is fighting for his life.  I’m praying, we’re all praying, that he lives.  I don’t know what will happen, not because I lack faith, but because I’ve seen one of our children die who we were told would live and one live who we were told would die.  

I’m taking a deep breath, another one, and I’m going to tell you what I think is important, because life is too short and too uncertain.  

Nothing can separate you from the love of God.  Nothing.  

I’m encouraged recently that people I’ve been trying to love get that I love them.  We are here to love one another.  We are here to learn to love ourselves and become people who can love one another.  I’ve struggled my whole life to love myself, but I’m getting there.  That’s making it easier to love other people.  

I’ve struggled my whole life to love myself, but I’m getting there.  That’s making it easier to love other people.  

This life you live is grace and that breath you just took is grace and your eyesight and your ability to read are grace and your mental capacity to ponder how (or if) this fits in your worldview and applies to your life is grace.  The old woman who sells me avocados so I can give them to my wife, the old woman who smiles at me with such a wrinkled face and talks to me though her throat can barely make sounds, the old woman who today charged me ten cordobas less for my avocado and I have no idea why, she is grace in my life.  Getting to love young people who have energy and hope and believe the world can change even though they get knocked to the ground when their beloved dumps them,** this is grace in my life.  My children are grace in my life.  

Grace is greater.  God doesn’t hate you, dislike you, or find you mildly annoying.  God loves you, not “in spite of” how awful you think you are, as if that were a pretty big hurdle for God but somehow, somehow…  Grace is so wildly much greater that God delights in you and can’t get enough of you, never tires of your company, loves hearing from you no matter how you communicate, and would like to hang out with you for the rest of time.  

 There won’t always be one more.  There just won’t.  There will be a last one and after that, no more.  

At Gerry’s vela, his daughter Sasha sang a song for him.  She said, “Well, Poppa, I guess this is the last time I get to sing for you.”  That wrecked me.  It reminded me of giving the eulogy at my dad’s memorial, which was my last chance to honor him.  I start to breath heavily and feel my throat closing just typing that.  There won’t always be one more.  There just won’t.  There will be a last one and after that, no more.  

Don’t get stopped by the need to do something “big” or paralyzed that this isn’t “enough.” Use what you have to do what you can.  “Justice is what love looks like in public.”  Cornell West

Fight injustice in whatever way you can.  Side with the oppressed and the persecuted. Take the side of the lonely kid and the single mom.  Care more that there are people poorer than you than that there are people richer than you.  Don’t get stopped by the need to do something “big” or paralyzed that this isn’t “enough.” Use what you have to do what you can.  “Justice is what love looks like in public.”  Cornell West

Don’t get stopped by the need to do something “big” or paralyzed that this isn’t “enough.” Use what you have to do what you can.  “Justice is what love looks like in public.”  Cornell West  

The struggle to stay alive, to overcome depression and anxiety, the daily and hourly choice to stay sober, the work to become healthy and live healthily, these matter because you matter.  They don’t matter “if…” or “so that…”  You matter.  Your. Life. Matters.  

“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.”  Frederick Buechner

One of my biggest privileges in life is that I get to stand up in front of people on a regular basis and tell them God loves them.  I’m told, fairly often, that I’m gifted at this, that people like my preaching, etc.  You know what’s cool about that?  Not that it strokes my ego or even that it contradicts my ridiculously low self-esteem.  What’s cool is that means they are listening.  That means God has gifted me so that sometimes, when I tell people God loves them, they hear it!  How cool is that?

Nothing can separate you from the love of God.  Nothing.  



*I swear, if you tell me “God did answer your prayer, the answer was just ‘No'” about the death of my child…  Deep breath.  Deep breath.  I’ve been told that before.  Yes, really.  

**Daniel: “Well, I mean, I’m a little relieved.”

Sam: “Why?”

Daniel: “Well, because I thought it would be something worse.”

Sam: “Worse than the total agony of being in love?”

Daniel: “Oh. No, you’re right. Yeah, total agony.”

Love, Actually



A very brief one tonight.  Nothing on the Superbowl.  Except this:


Okay, only that one thing on the Superbowl.  And this:

That was the gutsiest call I’ve ever seen in a Superbowl.

Nothing else.

Today, I got feedback.  Sometimes feedback is the best.  I try to affirm people because I believe words have power.  Motivation through criticism over the long haul bears bad fruit (just as guilt and shame do, in the long term), and as a coach, a mentor, a teacher, a preacher, and as a dad, I’m interested in lifetime impact, not short-term results.  I have moments when I lose sight of this, but I try to carry this view front and center in all my roles.

Today, the mom of a great athlete gave me feedback on my coaching.  I could have cried.  First, her child told her everything I said, exactly what I said.  That means the words sank in.  That means it’s working.

Second, this young person accurately grasped and repeated that I was affirming something I saw in the person’s character, not merely athletic ability.  Athletic ability is nice.  It’s a gift.  It’s fun and a little like being good-looking (I’ve heard): you can be all proud of it if you want, but you didn’t do it for yourself nor do anything to earn it.  You just won that cosmic lottery.  Maybe.*

Character, on the other hand, is the long term fruit.  Character matters.  “Character and competency,” as my friend Erik likes to say.  When I get to see a kid’s character coming out on the field or the court, that’s huge.  That matters more than throws and catches or shots and steals.  I still believe sports can build strong, godly character.  I’ve seen it happen.  I’m seeing it happen.

So that’s what I got to recognize and affirm: character growth, the kind I know will transfer over into other areas of life.

Here’s what I also got in the deal: I learned this great athlete is very sensitive to criticism.  I had no idea.  I didn’t find out because I’d screwed up (for once! Yay!), but because I did it right, congruent with my own values, and through our conversation, the mom let me know this and how much her athlete appreciates my positive approach.

I also don’t like criticism.  Yes, I know, sometimes it’s necessary, and if you can’t take criticism, etc, etc.  I’ve heard.  I also know that I hear one criticism louder than 5 10 a bunch of affirmations.  Bummer, I know, but that’s my stuff and I live with it.  I didn’t know this young person felt the same way.*  I’m not that insightful…or maybe my intuition actually works.  Possibly.

Here’s my conclusion: in retrospect, I’m going to say the moment when I thought, “I should make a point of going over and looking that kid in the eye and saying this” was a nudge from God.  It didn’t feel like divine intervention, just one of those impulses that I acted on because it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Maybe those are the same thing.

But I will tell you this: that nudge will be easier to act on next time because of the feedback.

Maybe that’s exactly how faith works.


*How you choose to develop your athletic ability–or not–and how you use it, these are very much character questions.

**You’re going to ask, “Isn’t everyone sensitive to criticism.”  No. Not in the same way.  Some people are very thick-skinned.  Some people simply don’t care what you think.  And some people will pay no attention to affirmation at all and will only listen to critique.  It’s a weird world.

Two Views on Social Media, Part 2


This second view on social media is a guest post by Paul Brown, a best friend of mine since elementary school days.  Paul’s views are, unapologetically, his own.

There is a portion of the population who are completely entrenched. There is always that portion regardless of whether you are talking about the President or science or religion or economics or whatever. A small fraction exists on either side that is totally intractable.  Realizing that and realizing that I am in fact powerless to influence those people has helped me quite a bit in keeping my peace of mind and in withdrawing substantially from social media. We are powerless because THEY, Those intractable people, must first WANT to find the truth. Until they do none of the methods people use to communicate can persuade them because they believe they already have the truth.

I have come to the conclusion that these people are not the targets for those wanting to reach out and change minds. The targets are the ones outside that group.  They are a much larger demographic with which we may have some success, though not without much work.

There are quite literally millions of people that ARE potentially reachable. To concentrate on the much smaller unreachable, intractable group is to invite failure, depression, anxiety and cynicism, just as concentrating on the news gives people a false impression that there has been a massive deterioration of the world’s moral character and that we are in constant peril.

At this point I want to address cynicism. I can come off like a cynic, and of course I am cynical in some respects. But I am not nearly as cynical as I appear to be. No matter my rhetoric, I still cannot stop believing in people, even though I want to quite often. The way I live my life is not great by Christian standards, but everything I do and believe is based on treating people well and that good systems of government, social programs, healthcare etc., will work if given the opportunity. And all of that relies on enough people doing the right thing if they understand the issues involved.


What I think has damaged so many people recently is that those who want not to be cynical or want to be optimistic have seen a whole bunch of walls crash down during this last election. Even many pessimists like myself never really believed that this large of a percentage of our friends, relatives and neighbors could or would gleefully abandon almost every moral tenant they not only claim to have held, but that they have also used to judge others for decades. I think this has been a much harder blow to optimists. It was pretty damaging to me, and I already had a dark view. Unfortunately it lends some credence to the belief that optimists often blind themselves to reality and that recognizing reality for what it is, is not actually cynicism, a belief I contend is valid. And I do realize that is a tough and fine line to walk.


Back to social media. Here is one of the things social media has done to us.  I think if most of us were in a crowd, or at a kids football game or an amusement park and we heard someone espousing stupid sounding political bullshit (not bullying someone with it or attacking a person) we would just simply be pissed but ignore it.  Probably move away so we wouldn’t have to listen to it. How many people would chime in or confront those people? But on social media not only do we feel empowered to comment on anything all the time, but we have actually been conditioned that if we don’t address it we are complicit. As if everything that is said is now our responsibility to correct to our own viewpoint. I maintain that these differences in viewpoints have always been there, we are just now much more aware of them because of social media and 24-hour news saturation, and having become aware of them, they are now a matter of emergency action when in reality they have always been there. And this detracts from the real enemy, which is the attack on truth across the board and the control of all aspects of the country and it’s systems by powerful, wealthy interests.

What social media has revealed about people’s hearts is really hard to deal with, though. It shows how easy it is to deceive people, even the ones you interact with on a regular basis or think you know well. The platform and the seemingly all-consuming need to use it to comment on everything has exposed people’s dark interior and there is no denying it now.  There are however still far more people that are simply deceived by the information they have. At least that is my belief. President Trump didn’t win the election because of his core, he won it because many people didn’t vote because they were truly disgusted with the choices and because some were so disgusted with Hillary Clinton that they were willing to vote for what they considered the lesser of evils. (And because people have been conditioned to two parties for too long.) Many of those people are uncomfortable with what has been going on.  I think it’s obvious, though, that the Democrats are also so corrupt and out of touch that they may ruin their possibility for gains in congress. They clearly have learned nothing from the HC debacle and are turning the screws on independents and moderates rather than attempting to reach out and embrace them.  They (Democratic leadership) are attacking everything instead of offering solutions that perhaps independents or moderate Republicans could get on board with.  They are not taking the high road but the low road.  They are doing exactly what they condemned Republicans for doing with Pres. Obama. Which rightfully stokes the fears of Republicans and gives validity to their claims of massive Democratic corruption.


All of this to say, because we are given a voice on social media doesn’t always mean that is the best place to use it. Picking and choosing battles is important too. While social media may have started as a way for grassroots activism to work more quickly, I believe that time has passed.  Social media is every bit as powerful as regular media or more so and is now part of the same system that is causing most of the trouble in the world. (BTW, I am not talking about the media system, I am referring to the whole corrupt thing) It is beginning to become like The One Ring in Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings: can you use the devices of the enemy for good? Maybe, but even if it doesn’t subvert you it will likely destroy you in the process.

Two Views On Social Media, Part 1


I’ve given this a lot of thought.  I’ve spent way too many hours being angry at “people” for the stupid, ignorant things “they” say. I’ve let myself read through discussions of posts, seemingly for the sole purpose of getting myself angry.  What am I looking for?  What do I hope to find, reading through hateful statements that only provoke the next person to escalate?

I’m a fundamentally hopeful person, as in, “hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”  Hope rooted in God’s love.  I’m not blindly optimistic that people are just nice.  I don’t think they are, particularly.  Some are awful.  But I believe in love that changes us.  Not magical pixie dust love, but God’s love that we see every day in forgiveness and reconciliation, God’s love that heals and redeems.  

So this begs the question: if my basic orientation is hopefulness, if my central belief is in God’s goodness and willingness to love us no matter how we are and change us through this love, why am I so drawn to read people’s expressions of ugliness?  Why do I choose–why do I have to force myself to stop–reading some of the worst people have to offer? 

Honest answers.  Here we go.

I’m dying to tell them off.  I really am.  Deep in my crooked little heart, I have the same ugliness and sin and I also feel I’m right and smart and understand the world better.  Occasionally, not horribly often, a stranger or someone I barely know will comment on one of my posts in such a patronizingly simplistic fashion that I can only assume they believe I’ve simply lacked this information all my life:

“If you color with the green crayon, you’ll get green.”  


 Now truthfully, that shouldn’t bother me.  I already knew about the green crayon, from way back, and this is not actually someone I’m close to and have tea with or who gives me helpful feedback on my sermons.  This is a person insulting my intelligence whose insult should have no bearing on me, because A)Who is this person? and B)That was a very patronizing thing to say, which reflects badly not on me but back on this person.

Yet some ferocious beast in me yearns to crush my keyboard into shards explaining just what an inane comment the stranger made and demonstrating to “the world” how much more I understand everything than this person does.  


If I weren’t careful, I’d suspect that this same beast is behind much, perhaps most, of the comments I read that enrage me.  If I were especially incautious, I’d infer that the same thing that offends me about them is within me, wanting to fire back.  If I were wildly reckless, I might even call that “thing” a spirit.

 Or just sin.  

And that would knock down my whole house of cards.  

I think Facebook, Twitter, perhaps all social media platforms that people use as spaces for uncivil (anti-social) debate, lend to the sense that there is this collective soul, a generic “they” out there who just needs to be straightened out.  In the old days, “they” were far away, out there somewhere.  Now they type!  And their comments show up on my screen!  I’m angry all the time when I’m on these days because They think such Stupid Things! But it’s rarely the same person twice.  I’m not actually mad (okay, I probably am) pissed off at everyone, or even everyone who might hold that position, but because there is a constant stream of “someones” saying stupid things,* I begin to lump them together.  

But this is unchristian.  I think that’s the best way to say it. Social media generates not only anonymous interactions, which we all know allow for some people to show their most hateful side seemingly repercussion-free, but generalizing interactions, removed from individual context or connection (I see the tiny little icon of your cat or a flag next to your comment, nothing more).  That lack of any rooting in our individual peculiarities and uniqueness, the things that can make us endearing to one another even when we disagree, leaves us in the same mindset that people have when they practice racism or sexism or homophobia.**  “You people make me angry; you people are all alike.”  

But that’s false.  When I’m collecting evidence of how stupid people are, reading through their comments, I’m lumping together the person’s Ayn Rand comment with the one about Vespugian immigrants threatening our jobs and the one about how recycling doesn’t matter.  They weren’t by the same person.  They might all disagree with one another’s comments.  The person unhappy with immigrants might hate Ayn Rand and recycle more faithfully than I ever dream of doing.  The anti-recycle person might spend evenings helping shut-ins by delivering their groceries.  Heck, the Ayn Rand fan might be quite hilarious and have great taste in movies.

But they aren’t people to me; that’s what I mean by “unchristian.”  Jesus, who is God Almighty existing before time, came to earth in a very specific time and place in a particular human body, and he became friends with individual people whose names we know, Peter and Mary and Lazarus and Levi and Joanna.  God in the flesh got to know them personally, individually.  Our most basic claim about following Jesus, even before “I’m a sinner,” is “God cares for me.”  Specifically.  Individually.  He cares for you, in all aspects and in most minute detail, down to the very hairs on your head.  

When I turn around and disdain people I don’t know based on a few words they type, I’m defying what my faith is about.  I’m left to conclude, then, that this compulsion to read comments with which I will disagree–and you know, the moment you start reading comments, where it will most likely go–is simply a temptation to sin.  Pride, arrogance, my need to be superior, maybe even insecurity and inferiority that drive me to “prove them wrong.”  Yeah, I can mask that as “getting a better sense of what people on the other side are thinking,” or some such smokescreen, but the real way to do that is to engage my friends in real, direct conversation.  I have enough friends who see things differently than I do (go figure).  

This means I am talking about “a spirit.”  I’m talking about exactly the spirit by which I do not want to be led in my decisions and actions.  It’s obvious, in retrospect, because I can see that my comment-reading-and-lumping almost invariably produces bad fruit in me–meaning it does bad things in my heart and mind, aggravates my insomnia, and doesn’t make me more Jesus-like, even a teensy bit.  You’d think that would have been enough to give me a clue, but funny thing about sin: it makes us think wrong.  It clouds our judgment and allows us to rationalize our destructive and self-destructive behaviors as somehow being benign or even productive.  

I am repenting here.  I hope I am also challenging our thinking on how we see and interact on social media.  You may be way ahead of me on this.  I want to stop dehumanizing people.  Jesus came to help us become fully human, to become the most alive and joyful we can be.  

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

I think this is what I’m saying: I want to interact with people as Jesus taught, not as the thief leads.  



*I know we don’t all agree on what constitute “stupid things.”  If, as in my subsequent example, you happen to love Ayn Rand, fear Vespugian immigrants, and despise recycling, I apologize; I wasn’t trying to single you out.  

**Don’t begin to tell me homophobia is not real.  I had a conversation not long ago with a self-proclaimed Christian who, when the subject of gays came up, stated “I hate them. I hate them all.”  

Rachel Denhollander, Costly Grace, and the possibility of Redemption, Part 2

[I originally intended to post this and part one together.  Kim suggested that it might reduce the impact of Part 1 to make it that long.  My wife is wise.  I didn’t want to take away from Rachael Denhollander’s story.  I do think this will make more sense if you’ve read Part 1 first.]
In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer warned against “cheap grace.”

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”*

Cheap grace is excusing violaters, molesters, and assaulters, who have not asked forgiveness, much less demonstrated repentance.  Looking the other way in the face of such evil is the antithesis of the Gospel of grace, which calls all evil and sin into the light for justice as well as grace, for healing of the victim and then, we pray, repentance, forgiveness, and redemption for the violater.  Grace leads to transformation because God’s spirit works in us.  Anything that offers excuses instead of sincere repentance, that falsely calls victims of abuse “liars” instead of exhorting abusers to face  the “crushing guilt” of the abuser is not Christianity.  If it declares itself “Christianity,” it is a false Gospel.  Paul, the chief of sinners who experienced true repentance, wrote:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—  not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed!  As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!        Galatians 1:6-9
“Let that one be accursed” is a polite translation.  Paul is saying, “Damn them!  Let them be damned!”  Paul could not say this any stronger.**  The Gospel of God’s grace takes our breath away because it offers true, costly forgiveness for literally anything; God offers forgiveness freely because God pays for that costly grace that condemns sin yet sets sinners free.  Jesus gave his life for this.
Rachael Denhollander gives face and voice to true, costly grace.  She embodies the forgiveness that Jesus makes possible through his death and resurrection.  She offers forgiveness to her attacker.  She offers what she has received, what God has given her.  Through God’s love in her, she has the strength to forgive even this man.  
Contrast the women who received justice, who were able to face and address the man who violated them, with those who are disregarded, discredited, maligned, whose characters are torn apart, while the man who violated them continues on unperturbed.
Contrast the true Gospel, in which Rachael Denhollander can both confront her attacker–and the system that allowed him to continue–and offer him a chance of redemption
a perverted Gospel in which an attacker takes no responsibility, is defended by people calling themselves Christians, and consequently experiences no guilt, no grace, and no redemption.
Where is the healing for the one abused?  
Where is the hope of transformation for the abuser?  
I understand why Paul speaks so vehemently.
 Every day, people are told that both of these contradicting things are the Gospel.  Are Christianity.  Are grace.
But I am compelled again to say what Rachael Hollander reminded me is true:
There is only one Gospel.
There is only costly grace.
Grace is greater.

“Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you. I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me — though I extend that to you as well.”  Rachael Denollander***

Every abuser needs to hear these words.  This is their only chance for Grace.  
*Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship.  
**Paul writes later in Romans that he wishes the false teachers leading disciples away would “emasculate” themselves, i.e. dismember themselves.  That’s vivid, too, but not in Paul’s view not even this is as serious as being damned.
***I encourage you to research what Rachael Denhollander went through to seek justice for her abuser under the law.  She paid a huge cost.  She exhibited incredible courage and faith.

“Those first few weeks and months waiting to see if anyone else was going to speak up was absolutely hellish. Within 24 hours, Nassar knew that I’d come forward. And I was alone. That was really scary.

In the first few weeks until the child porn was found, the things that were said about me, the things that were said about Jamie (Dantzscher), who was anonymous at the time, were really quite vile. And it demonstrated perfectly why these victims were silent.

I was not surprised. I knew what the cost would be.”

Final thoughts: we admire what Rachael Denhollander did and the incredible strength of her faith.  But she was attacked and threatened and bullied, called a liar and slandered in any number of ways by those trying to cover up what Larry Nassar had done to her, by those in power who had much to lose.

If we are living the Gospel, if we believe in Grace, we take the side of the victims and seek to empower them in their pursuit of justice.  We seek to amplify their voice.  If we are silent, if we pretend we don’t realize what crimes abusers have committed, if we turn away and close our ears to the cries of abused women and men, we put ourselves on the opposite side from God and we oppose grace.

Rachael Denhollander, Costly Grace, and the possibilty of Redemption – Part 1


I haven’t written a blog post in January.  There are a number of reasons: numerous commitments, sick wife and son, waning motivation, prioritizing writing time, discouragement.

But I read a quote and feel compelled to respond.  Simply put, it epitomizes “Grace is Greater.”  I have to write about it.

“Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you. I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me — though I extend that to you as well.”

Rachael Denhollander spoke these words, in a courtroom, to the man accused and found guilty of molesting her, repeatedly, when she was fifteen.  The accused, Larry Nassar, had more than 150 women testify against him.  They spoke their minds.  They spoke their hearts. As Denhollander expressed it:

I do want to thank you, first, Judge Aquilina, for giving all of us the chance to reclaim our voices. Our voices were taken from us for so long, and I’m grateful beyond what I can express that you have given us the chance to restore them.
Nassar was sentenced to between 40 and 175 years for decades of sexual abuse against one hundred fifty-six girls.  He also was found guilty and sentenced to 60 years for federal child pornography charges. He will die in prison.
The depth of Nassar’s atrocities, his sheer, depraved sinfulness (I’m guessing even secular folks may be comfortable with that description in this case) is difficult to fathom.  You and I might argue that he is beyond forgiveness.
But Rachael Denhollander has forgiven him.
I take her at her word.  She offers the man whom I would be sorely tempted to describe as a monster and an abomination her forgiveness and exhorts him–prays for him to receive, to experience, true repentance and then true forgiveness from God.
I have spent years (and years) forgiving some people in my life whose sins against me, by my own measure, are a trifle compared to what Ms. Denhollander suffered.  I try to grasp her process of saying with sincerity that she forgives her abuser and I fail.
But I believe her.
And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.
Reflect on these words for a moment.  Then consider to what “that” refers in her sentence:
“Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet.
The crushing guilt is what makes the Gospel of Christ so sweet.  The Gospel of Christ “extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found.”  To the extent that Larry Nassar is a monster, precisely to that extent God offers him grace.  Ms. Denhollander forgives/has forgiven Nassar and so will God, if Nassar truly repents.
Does that offend you?  Because I am offended.  I believe in grace and know that God’s grace has saved my life and yet I’m offended.  But it’s good for me to be offended. It displays for me my own hypocrisy, and yet proves my blog’s thesis statement: to whatever degree we grasp God’s grace, it is greater. than. that.
The power of the Gospel is that there is no one living who is beyond God’s grace.  No one.  God will forgive anyone who repents for anything, for everything they have done.  Me, Larry Nassar, you.  All of us.
Understand that no one is excusing Larry Nassar’s crimes, least of all Rachael Denhollander.  Her courage, determination, and persistance put him in prison, not single-handedly but as the single biggest contributor to bringing about justice for his abusive violence.  To excuse means to wave off, to look the other way or ignore, to accept an excuse as covering the sin.  Hardly.  Sin has consequences, and sins that harm others have greater consequences.   A sentence of two hundred years in prison is the opposite of “excusing.”
Grace looks directly at the crime, the sin, the atrocity.  It recognizes the crushing, appropriate guilt.  Then, while allowing consequences, it offers forgiveness and the opportunity for redemption.  None of this has anything to do with deserving or earning forgiveness: grace means precisely that you do not and cannot earn forgiveness.  Grace is giving something good when something bad is is deserved, giving love and forgiveness and love when condemnation and death are deserved.
Grace is more powerful than revenge.  Forgiveness frees the victim. It frees the victim from being a victim anymore, sets the abused one free from the power of the sin*, and, astoundingly, opens up the possibility of redemption for the sinner, for the violator, in a way that revenge never can.  We have historical examples.  Saul of Tarsus.  He hunted down followers of “The Way,” the radical heretic Jesus, and dragged them from their homes in chains, seeking their death sentence.  “Breathing violence and threats.”  Then Jesus redeemed his life.
Confrontation, repentance, forgiveness, transformation.  Grace.
Paul understood the crushing guilt.  When he describes himself as the worst of all sinners (“the chief of sinners”), I don’t think he’s speaking lightly or being falsely self-deprecating.  I think he’s remembering accosting mothers and fathers in their homes, remembering the eyes of their children watching him make their parents disappear, turning their children into orphans, for the crime of responding to a teacher who taught love and forgiveness.
But that was ancient history and we elevate “The Apostle Paul” to saint status, forgetting who he was, what he was.
Today, Rachael Denhollander offers Larry Nassar forgiveness.  She points the way to his redemption, because God can redeem even his life.
#MeToo and #ChurchToo call out sinners for their sins, abusers for their crimes.  The women and men who have suffered abuse deserve a voice, they deserve to see justice for their abusers.  Then they must decide if they can forgive.  I’m not standing in their shoes.  I’m not claiming that I would.
I’m saying that Rachael Denhollander did.  She reminds me, I hope she reminds us all, of the breathtaking, shocking power of grace.  She’s my new hero.  Plus Jesus is my hero, for giving her the love and the strength to do this.  I’m pretty sure she’s fond of him, too.
*I don’t say this lightly and forgiveness for in some situations may be a lifelong process.

Sharing Jesus–Manuscript


[Note: I underline Scripture in my manuscripts to make certain I read it word for word. I’ve left it underlined below to avoid confusion, since I’m reading through all of John 6]

I posted this comic this week in a Far Side group. For those of you who don’t recognize it, who were born like last year, this is a comic strip called The Far Side. I see two schools of thought on interpretation here. First, people running amok in the world are an accident. We were supposed to stay in a bottle in God’s chemistry set, but God bumped us with an elbow, knocked us off, and the rest is history. The second is God intended to set us loose, but wasn’t actually finished fine tuning us yet, which would also explain a lot. I understand this is not 100% theologically accurate with the Genesis account of Creation. But it is funny. If it isn’t funny to you, um…


We’re starting a series today on Sharing Jesus. I want to tell you this is not a series on evangelism, but it is…but it isn’t. Evangelism is sharing Jesus, but Sharing Jesus is greater than evangelism.

So people think

Evangelism=Sharing Jesus,


Sharing Jesus>Evangelism


If Sharing Jesus and Evangelism are concentric circles, evangelism is the small circle within sharing Jesus.



We’re doing a series on Sharing Jesus, the Big Circle. We’ll address evangelism in several ways, but I’m hoping we’ll understand it as part of the larger, more expansive view, the Life of Sharing Jesus.

Okay, if that’s not enough Big Picture for you, I’ll do one more. There are different ways to conceptualize, to picture what all of Life is about. One is to say “All of Life is Worshiping God.” And that’s true. We don’t just have an hour and half of worship on Sunday morning; we followers of Jesus worship God with our whole lives, every minute. That’s our calling and we’re learning to make every aspect of our lives worship. Another perspective is that all of Life is discipleship to Jesus. Life on earth, for us, is learning to follow Jesus, every minute of every day (plus every night, in my case), so we can conceptualize Life as discipleship, learning to live the calling, “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” There are strengths and weaknesses to each view. I would say each is true, and useful to think about to help us to grasp that there is no life apart from God; we’re not part-time followers of Jesus. Jesus is our life. C.S. Lewis writes:

“What cannot be admitted–what must exist only as an undefeated but daily resisted enemy–is the idea of something that is ‘our own,’ some area in which we are to be ‘out of school,’ on which God has no claim… When we try to keep within us an area of our own, we try to keep an area of death…”

(As always, when I quote C.S. Lewis I’m tempted to read the entire book or essay to you, but I won’t. Read “A Slip of the Tongue” in The Weight of Glory. Please.)

So if you want to understand what this series is about, “Sharing Jesus” is another way to understand that Jesus is our whole lives and must be our whole lives. Imperfectly, of course, because that’s us, and grace abounds, but this is always our intention. Our lives are to be Sharing Jesus, sharing in Jesus, sharing Jesus with one another as community, sharing Jesus with our world, those who don’t know Jesus and those who know Jesus.

Reading from John 6:

6 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

This is one dividing line for people who do and don’t believe in Jesus: do you believe that God literally made more bread and fish, that Jesus multiplied the food so that there was enough for everyone or is this more of a symbolic “multiplication,” in which people shared uncharacteristically because they were inspired by Jesus’ example to be generous? In other words, do you believe in miracles or do you not? Do you prefer to explain events in other ways? Personally, I think John wrote it this way to prevent other explanations. We know how many fish and how many loaves they started with and John says specifically, “So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets” Five barley loaves, whole, don’t fill twelve baskets. John doesn’t say, “and from what everyone pitched in, there were twelve baskets left.” No. From the five barley loaves, all five thousand people ate their fill, and twelve baskets of bread were left over. Likewise the two fish went around: “So also the fish, as much as they wanted.”

Then disciples got into a boat to cross the Sea of Capernaum and Jesus walked on the water. Lots of sermons in that, but I’m not focusing there today except to say that’s how they got across the water. Only the folks in the boat saw Jesus do this, and I don’t think you’d forget it if you were there and saw it with your own eyes. Miracles.

The Bread from Heaven. 

22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Just to summarize, those people who enjoyed that miraculous feast come looking for Jesus, which is understandable to me. Jesus says, “you’re looking for me because you liked that feeling of having a full tummy, not because you saw a miracle, an act of God. Don’t put your energy into just getting food that will eventually go bad; pour yourself into getting the food that will last forever, the food only I can give you.” The people kind of miss the point and ask, “So what works of God, what actions of ours to obey God’s Law, do we gotta do? What will qualify as the right obedience on our part?”

Jesus says, “Believe in the one God sent. That’s the work of God which will give you life.”

Then the people are like, “Well, what sign are you going to give us to prove it? Because our ancestors received manna, so what do you got?” And I just think, isn’t this funny and exactly what we’re like? Yesterday, something crazy and inexplicable happened and this much food fed a massive crowd. I had a great meal yesterday and today I’m asking, “What are you going to show me?” When I’m having conversations with God about whether he will provide for us, I’m sure I sound exactly like this. “Just because you always have provided, God, why would I think you will today?” And God is patient and answers me.
Jesus, in the same was, is patient and answers, “Yeah, that manna wasn’t from Moses, but from my Father”—Jesus is big on the my Father thing—“because my Father sends the true bread, the bread from heaven, that gives life to the world.”

Now the people are intrigued. Who wouldn’t be? True bread! Life-giving bread! “Yeah, multiply that, Jesus. Let’s see it! I’ll have seconds! Give it to us always.”

And Jesus says, “Yes, I will give you that bread always. Absolutely.” What is that bread?

Jesus is. 

35 Jesus said to them, “I AM the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; 38 for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”

So that’s the Gospel, right? Anyone who comes to Jesus, Jesus will receive and never drive away. Jesus is doing the Father’s will, that if you see the Son and believe in him you have eternal life, and you will join Jesus in his resurrection. You will overcome Death. Jesus will atone for your sins (that’s part of believing in him).

But the crowd doesn’t love this answer: 

41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

So Jesus, being Jesus, reads their thoughts, knows their conversation among themselves, and pushes it a lot farther:

43 Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

 It’s not just that Jesus is the bread from heaven that God sent into the world to give people life; to believe in Jesus means that you have to eat of this bread.


52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

Remember, they started out saying, “Sir, give us this bread always.

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. [Remember they asked “What must we do to perform the works of God?” This is the answer. There is nothing. You can do. To give yourself life. Jesus. Gives. Life.] The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”

66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.


Sir, give us this bread always. No, wait, I don’t want the bread like that.” Literally, Jesus taught this and they bailed on him. Cause and effect. “Because of this, many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.”

And now we’re down to it. We’ve gone through this whole chapter to get here: “Do you also wish to go away?”

Simon Peter has his moments. He rebukes Jesus when Jesus talks about being betrayed and crucified, to which Jesus says, “Get behind me Satan.” But here, Peter answers just the way we hope we would in that situation. Truthfully, I have reached this conclusion, many times, when I’ve come to crossroads in my life with God of “This teaching—this suffering—this life is hard! Who can accept it?” In the end, my only real answer is, “Jesus, where else would I go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Sharing Jesus. The first thing, the primary thing, the thing we have to say for anything else in this series to make sense, is: There is no life without Jesus. Jesus is the bread of life. We share the bread of life together. With one another, we share the bread of life. We share Jesus. Together.

Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.


Do you believe in miracles? Because I believe this is one. We’re going to do something completely ordinary: eat a piece of cracker, drink a thimble of juice. And we’re going to share JESUS together. That’s what he says. We have life in Jesus, all the sinners in this room, after all the things we’ve done this week, and because we share Jesus, we have life in him. You think multiplying fish and bread was a miracle? This is the real miracle.



 When the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles with him.15 He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I tell you, I will not eat it [again] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”17 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.