Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Don't Drink the Blood

Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.” ” (Leviticus 7:27, ESV)

Ok, that's a simple command, "Don't eat blood"... got it.

““You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes. ” (Leviticus 19:26, ESV)

Ok, so apparently drinking blood is right up there with witch doctor stuff. I'll try to stay away from that.  But why? What's the big deal about drinking blood? We eat the rest of the animal.

“But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. ” (Genesis 9:4, ESV)

“For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off. ” (Leviticus 17:14, ESV)

Oh, got it, apparently the life is in the blood so there's something sacred about it. We don't want the life of an animal in us. That's no good. Ok, I'm tracking now.

But what about the blood of the sacrifices? Could they eat that blood? It was poured out for their lives right?

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood. ” (Leviticus 17:11–12, ESV)

Oh, I guess that would be a big NO on that. 

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. ” (Matthew 26:26–28, ESV emphasis mine)

Say WHAT!? I thought eating the blood was forbidden? Why is Jesus asking his church to drink it all the sudden. Especially his blood, if ever there was sacred blood, that would be it. 

“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. ” (John 6:53–54, ESV)

Oh, the life is still in the blood, but this life is different. We couldn't drink the blood of the other sacrifices because they didn't have eternal life, but this blood does. It is from a resurrected sacrifice. This blood is sacred indeed...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mentor Graphs

I have been pondering the nature of discipleship in an effort to do it well. Here are some of my thoughts of late.

When we talk about discipleship most of the time, we seem to communicate this basic idea of how it works. An older / more mature person meets with a younger / less mature person and calls them upward in their maturity. (See image below)

However, when I get in the nitty gritty every day life of this task I feel an uneasiness with this model and have heard it expressed by countless others. “what if I’m not really far enough ahead of the disciple to help them out?,” “What if I am too old and can’t reach far enough back to relate with the disciple?”

Then, when I look at Jesus and how he went about this task, something still feels wrong about the way we look at it. I can’t picture him standing above his disciples trying to reach down with his supernaturally long arms to pull them up to his level of maturity (perfection). Rather, I see him standing with them at every phase of their growth, looking ahead to see how they might grow from every experience. (See image below)

It was not the level of maturity that he was concerned about, but their potential for growth. Think about Jesus’ interaction with Peter at their last Passover meal. (Luke 22:31-34) Jesus knew Peter was about to fall and that both his growth and maturity would plummet in the next few hours, but he also could see past that to his bitter weeping (22:54-62) (an incredible growth point) and on to Pentecost where, having learned from the experience, Peter did not hesitate to risk his life for the cause of Christ (Acts 2:36).

I believe this was because Jesus was more concerned with Peter’s overall direction of growth than his level of maturity and it appears that he was certainly willing to stand with him in every phase for the sake of the next even if it meant losing ground for a while.

It also helps to look at this process as one in which we walk through life’s events together rather than the disciple maker seeing themselves as further ahead in time than the disciple.

The big advantage to this model in my mind is that it is transferable to us as humans. Each of us is walking in our own roller coaster of growth rates. One day it might be going well and the next we seem to plummet, but if we are in the same sort of roller coaster as those we are mentoring, then we aught to be able to relate with them well. And if we have been in it for a while, we can see how each experience can be an opportunity for growth, both for ourselves those with whom we are walking.

“So father, I pray that each experience in my life and the life of those I walk with would be seen as an opportunity to grow closer to you. Not because we are that much closer to the infinitely distant goal of perfection, but because we walked through it with you. Grant me the wisdom and insight to see the potential in every circumstance and the courage to see it through to the point of growth. Thank you for walking with us.

Fine print: For those of you who are critiquing the mathematical accuracy of my graphs, I apologize for their roughness. They are based on the visual estimation of someone who has not taken a math class in 7 years. For those of you who are just confused by the graphs, I’m afraid I can’t apologize because this really is how my brain works. I hope the explanation is sufficient for you to get the idea. I also lay no claim to having “the perfect model” for discipleship. I just find it more helpful than before.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

When a surveyor teaches Bible survey

Anna, Melissa, Megan, Del, Me
After listening to Dell Tackett (from the Truth Project) speak here at Ministry Family Retreat last week, I was inspired on multiple levels. Dell spoke of how the Christian life and hope itself aught not to be defined by our story and what we might gain at the end, but by the Larger Story written in perfection by God himself. The extent that we have real hope is the extent that we consider ourselves a part of His story rather than our own. When I realized what he was saying, I immediately knew I had to communicate this idea to my students so they also could find true hope.

 The second challenge that Dell issued was concerning the glorious yet treacherous task of teaching. He suggested that the teacher’s highest calling is not merely to help information enter the minds of students, but to find some way to work with the Holy Spirit in helping the truth penetrate to the inner recesses of the mind known as the heart in which beliefs are held and therefore actions are born. It was then that I realized I had to find a way to communicate this idea of our story vs. God’s story to the heart. 

I needed something really big to compare to something really small. Well, it just so happens that I live next to a 3000 ft runway. So after hatching a plan, I took the students out there for our “intro to Bible” day. We walked up the runway a ways and I had them stand side by side in a line facing the far end. I told them that where they stand now represents the present, behind them is the past and in front is the future. Then using 1 inch = 1 year. We marked out on the ground their estimated lifespan, none of which exceeded 9 feet. Then I had them mark out the beginning of time, assuming it was approximately 6,000 years ago, by walking 178 paces (~500’) back toward the beginning of the runway. Then I had them guess at how long the world might last before Christ comes back and several guessed that it would be before their life was over while the longest was a mere 25’ in the future. Then we stepped back to consider which story they really wanted to be a part of, the little one that represented their lives, or the gigantic one we could barely see the marker for the beginning of and the end of which was alarmingly close. We then talked about how those aren’t really the beginning and the end, but God knew us before the foundation of the world (which in this case was somewhere out in the middle of the lake) and his story continued with us as a part of it far beyond the far end of the runway into eternity. From there it was an easy jump to show how the Word of God is his invitation to not only learn his story, but to join Him in it. 

 So next time you’re out on a walk and hit a straight stretch of road, count off a 178 paces, then look back and consider how your life is less than 9 feet of that. Whose story do you want to be a part of?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I don’t like having too many things, they weigh me down.
I don’t like having too much money with no purpose. It makes me feel like I’ve fallen for an ideal that’s not worth the paper it’s printed on. Like I’m chasing a dream that never actually invaded my sleep.
So what is my dream?
I want to be free to serve. My God has given his all for me, how can I not give my all for him. What purpose do things serve in that? Especially for someone who is not primarily a gift giver. I love to give time, I love to teach, I love to walk through life with people and help them Grow closer to God.
So why does God keep blessing me financially? 4 years ago, I realized that it was so that I could go to school and learn to teach the Word and lead. So for 4 years that’s where the money God gave me went. Now, here I am with a degree, debt free and God is still blessing me. I don’t suppose I really make that much compared to most. I have an incredible team of supporters who give faithfully allowing me to live the dream that God gave me. I have a great summer job for a few months, but the biggest thing is that I have remained mostly free of financial burdens. So the question is, what do I do with what I have to serve my God most faithfully?
Well, remember that whole thing about wanting to be free to serve? What does that look like in Alaska, in the bush. According to our Guest Mentor Paul Boskoffsky of Naknek who is a well respected leader in the church and who has first hand experience with the good and the bad of Alaska missions over the years, we need to observe. A good servant of the people of Alaska will take the time to listen, to be involved in people’s lives in multiple settings, to be present.
I have not lived in Port Alsworth for very long, but I can tell you it is a very hard thing to do when you are stuck in “the Port Alsworth bubble.” It is a great place to live, but it’s also a great place to get out of touch with what’s going on around you and with the reality of the lives of the very people that we want to serve.
So how do we break free of the bubble? How do we get out to be available to those that don’t live here? It’s simple…


So that’s exactly what I intend to do. After putting it to prayer, it appears that the time is right, the resources are there and there is no better way for me to invest my time and money at this point in life.  I have a new scene in my dream and I’m beginning to get excited about it. Learning to fly is something that I’ve never even allowed myself to dream about before, but now it seems that I get to.
I have no idea how this is going to work out in the long run, only that I can take the first steps into a new adventure so I could use many prayers to carry me along the way.
And who knows, I might even enjoy it. J

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Bible in 1200 words

I just finished teaching the first of what looks to be many bible survey classes here at Tanalian Leadership Center and I can tell you it is one of the most life changing experiences piecing the story of the Bible together and stepping back to admire the complete picture. Because the process impacted me so deeply, I thought I would share my attempt at painting the picture for you in a few paragraphs. Of course it won’t come anywhere near the picture we have painted here over the last three months on several hundred feet of butcher paper, but it is the same story after all.

There were two trees that had names in the garden, The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and The Tree of Life. Man, being the brilliant creature that he is, chose the Tree of Knowledge and was off from the Tree of Life and found himself face to face with death. Yet even as God is dealing out the consequences, he is also hinting at a plan for restoration. The offspring of Eve will crush Satan’s head.[1]
As the reader walks down the rest of the Old Testament road, he finds that this is only the first of many road signs all pointing to something ahead; something that brings hope.[2]
In Noah and Babel, we see God’s forbearance and mercy toward people who seem to be hopelessly sinful[3] and a promise not to wipe them out again.[4] In Abraham we see a man who was considered righteous because of his faith[5] and a promise to make him a blessing to all nations.[6] In Joseph we see forgiveness[7], in the Passover we see redemption by the blood of a lamb[8], in Moses we see communion with God,[9] in the Law we see the holiness of God[10] and a promise of blessing for obedience, cursing for disobedience,[11] and restoration for repentance.[12] In David we see glimpses of a godly king,[13] yet he too is taken by sin and dies,[14] but not before the promise of a king to rule in his house forever[15].
Then the prophets paint for us ugly pictures of sin and judgment contrasted with beautiful pictures of restoration and a promise that the coming king from David’s house will be the deliverer. Through suffering,[16] he will give us new hearts, hearts of flesh in place of stone[17], hearts with the law written on them.[18]
Yet at the end of the Old Testament, we see persistent sin,[19] Chaos, partial restoration, but a devastated people still looking and waiting for this promised messiah.[20]

Then silence for 400 years…

And the story picks up again with some very strange circumstances. In Luke, it’s the announcement of the birth of a herald. A specially anointed man who would prepare the way for the Messiah. Then the Messiah himself is announced.[21] Yet instead of a mighty warrior riding in and taking over, he comes in the least expected way, a child born in a stable to common folk. Raised in a humble town in a simple family.[22] Then we begin to see why when he quotes Isaiah and claims the words as his own.

"The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18, Is 61:1-2)

Consistent with this, he lives a life of humility and compassion and when he does finally ride into Jerusalem to set her free, it’s on a donkey and it’s with tears over the impending rejection of her king.[23] Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the words of the prophets were fulfilled.[24]

"Surely he has borne our grief’s and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with his stripes we are healed."
(Is 53:4-5)

In this we see that his death was not in vain, but it was actually in our place. Looking back at the history into which his life and death speaks, we see that he was the substitute ram,[25] he was the lamb who’s blood was shed,[26] he was the forgiver of sins,[27] he was the righteousness of God,[28] he was the coming king.[29] History begins to make sense at the foot of the cross. And suddenly we have a choice to make. We are all thieves nailed to our doom by the blood on our hands,[30] yet the promise from Deuteronomy still stands, whispering in our ear, restoration for repentance.[31] Yet some still scoff.

he was” is a depressing term though. What is a dead king to a hurting nation? That’s why he didn’t stay dead. The women come to the tomb only to be met with a pile of empty grave clothes and a question, “why do you look for the living among the dead?[32]
A few days later two disciples are walking lonely road to Emmaus, trying to make sense of everything that has happened, not sure what to believe. A man appears and in a seven-mile long conversation he hands them the keys to unlock history and prophesy.[33]
It was not long before the disciples found themselves hearing Jesus say,

 "you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth."[34]

And they watched him ascend to heaven leaving the promise to send a helper.[35]
Then at the harvest feast, the helper comes and the Church is born with Spirit and fire. Thus God has returned to dwell among us, but these hands and feet aren’t pierced by nails, rather they bear a striking resemblance to our own.[36] The Spirit dwells in us and suddenly we find ourselves caught up in the story, no longer as casual observers but as active participants. A crucial component of God’s plan to bring light to the nations.[37]

Through the painful rejection of their messiah, Israel slammed the door in the face of God and the door to the gentiles is opened.[38] Now the gospel goes out unchecked by even the worst of persecutions.[39] In the hands of the formerly poor, imprisoned, blind and oppressed, the good news goes out to the same.[40] And we work with an urgency, knowing only that he is coming soon,[41] and when he comes, he brings judgment for the wicked[42] but for those who’s names are in the book of life, the story ends back where it started, with the Tree of Life. But then, instead of standing alone in the garden with only two souls to nourish, it will stand in the midst of a huge city bringing healing to all the nations who will have been restored to it’s life by the blood of the lamb who was slain and is worthy to receive all the glory. [43]

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come.” [44]

[1] Genesis 2-3
[2] Luke 24:27
[3] Gen 8-11
[4] Gen 8:21-22
[5] Gen 15:6
[6] Gen 17:5, 26:4
[7] Gen 45
[8] Exodus 12
[9] Exod 33:11
[10] Leviticus 11:44
[11] Deuteronomy 28
[12] Deut 30
[13] I Samuel 13:14
[14] II Samuel 11
[15] II Samuel 7
[16] Isaiah 52:13-53:12
[17] Ezekiel 36:26
[18] Jeremiah 31:33
[19] Ezra 9-10
[20] Luke 2:22-38
[21] Luke 1-2
[22] Luke 2:1-21
[23] Luke 19:28-44
[24] Luke 22:37
[25] Gen 22
[26] Exodus 12
[27] Deut 30
[28] Hebrews 4:15
[29] Luke 23:3
[30] Luke 23:39-43
[31] Deut 30
[32] Luke 24:5
[33] Luke 24:13-35
[34] Acts 1:8
[35] Acts 1:6-10
[36] Acts 2
[37] Acts 26:23, Isa 42:6, Isa 49:6, Luke 2:32, Gen 26:4
[38] Acts 28:23-28
[39] Acts 8:4
[40] Luke 4:18, Is 61:1-2, II Cor 4:1-6
[41] Revelation 3:11, 22:7, 12, 20
[42] Revelation 20:15
[43] Revelation 22:1-5
[44] Revelation 4:8

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Perspective 4000'

Lake Clark covered in ice fog
There are several reasons why I like flying; one is experiencing the simply incredible scientific phenomenon of flight itself. It is, well… Phenomenal. The other is the perspective that it gives you. They say sometimes you miss the forest for the trees, but I think sometimes in Alaska it’s more like missing the mountain range for the mountains.

Tanalian Mtn.
Here in Port Alsworth you can see a number of mountains but most of the view is just the one that looms overhead known as Tanalian Mountain. But this past weekend, Mark brought me with him on a trip down to Naknek. In a matter of minutes after taking off with his Cherokee Six we leave the Alaska Range behind us, fly over Alaska’s largest lake, across seemingly endless flats, and find the ocean. I’ve seen it all on maps before, but there’s nothing like seeing it all from the air to help you really understand the terrain.
I will not deny, that a botanist who gets down on his hands and knees with a magnifying glass and studies the tundra that I am flying 4000 feet over at 160 mph will also see the nature of God reflected in his creation, but I also believe there is a time to step back and remember what we are looking at.
I have spent entire semesters at Multnomah Bible College focusing on single books. The pages of Jonah and Ephesians are a little extra worn in my bibles and I have gleaned incredible life changing truths from them. But now my knees are sore and my back is tired and I’m itching to fly. I want a fresh perspective. What is this book that I’ve spent my life studying really about. How does the Story flow? How does each book build on the others? Who are the main characters? What is the plot? Who are the heroes and who are the villains? What character do I get to play?
The Alaska Range
That is my task for the next 3 months, to gain some altitude, get a better view, see the sights. And the best part is that I don’t have to do it alone. Eric and myself have been having a blast as we begin the process of looking over what we will teach the students at Tanalian Leadership Center this year. And while Eric and I are more equipped, I expect it will be more like asking the students to join us on an exploration adventure than it will be teaching them what we’ve learned.

We bought a roll of paper 18 inches x 1200 feet so we can record our progress on the journey and always look back to see where we’ve been. The length of the paper, however, does not limit the potential for adventure, and I have a feeling that if we ever come back from this one, we will not be the same.