The Doors Are Open

27 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:27-32 (ESV)

I have never been one to appreciate change merely for the sake of change.  When change is thrust upon me, I tend to bristle a bit.  

Maybe it’s the whole “old dog, new tricks” thing.  

Maybe I just get comfy in my rut.

Maybe it’s like the scene in the movie “The Shawshank Redemption”, where the old man is paroled after spending most of his lifeincarcerated.  He doesn’t want to leave.  Shawshank is his home, all he knows.  He’s comfortable in his prison. 

Comfortable in his prison.  Sounds strange, doesn’t it?  To think this sinful world has us so institutionalized that we don’t care to leave it’s cold embrace.

Yet, whenever we encounter Christ, this is exactly what He calls us to do.  He pulls us from our cell and radically changes us.  

Sometimes we recognize with gratitude what the Lord has done for us.  

Sometimes we go kicking and screaming, clinging desperately to the cell bars.

But, the good news is that the of the Lord, once recognized, is irresistible.  We begin to see that we cannot possibly go one mile, one minute, one motion, without the constant presence of the Lord.  

And, if we could, we wouldn’t want to.

Jesus offers us a beautiful change so radical that our very identity is altered. 

Simon the fisherman is now Peter the rock.

Saul the Pharisee Christian hunter is now Paul the apostle of Christ.

Levi, the scoundrel tax collector – a profession so lurid and low in Jesus’ day that it ranked near prostitution in the list of jobs that would make mom and dad proud – became the apostle Matthew.  Jesus transformed him from one who took advantage of the people to a gift for us all, used to our profit by God.

You see, that is how God works.  He woks through us, to the betterment of others and, in turn, ourselves.  He turns our shipwrecks into beautiful memorials.  He builds us to build others.  He changes all things to our good.  

But it isn’t really about us being good, is it?  If that we the case, the law would have been sufficient for our salvation.  One can be evil and appear good by simply connecting some of the dots of the law in public.  Likewise, no one has ever been so good that they kept perfectly every nuance of the law.  (Save Jesus, that is.  But Christ is a bit of a special case, don’t you think?)

We need change.  And we are incapable of producing that change ourselves.  We have to, in faith, let the Holy Spirit move in and take over.  We have to relinquish control of our lives to the Lord.
Even when the change hurts.

Even when His direction is illogical to us.

Even when we want what we should not partake of.

Even when we don’t understand.

When I was a kid, We used to sing a hymn in church about the wonder working power of the blood of the Lamb.  Back then it was a bong old hymn, sung loudly and out of tune by a small group of senior citizens in our tiny rural church.  It is only now, forty years after, that I am beginning to get some understanding of what that means.

Sometimes I’ve been blinded by the Pharisees who claimed I had no business hanging out with Jesus.

More often it is my own inner-Pharisee condemning me, reminding me of my sins and telling me I’m not worthy of Christ, of love, of any help or accomplishment.

Lies.  All lies.

But the lies persist as long as I resist the change by the power of Jesus.  

In Him, I am loved.

In Him, I am not weird.

In Hm, I am not a loser.

In Him, I am redeemed, a child of great worth.  Not because of who I am, but who He is within me.

In Him, very simply, I am.

And so are you.

The doors of your cell are wide open.  Walk out.  Go find your place at the Lord’s table and enjoy the feast.  Seek the Lord first.  Love.  Go. Do.


Live in peace.

Rest in love.


Meeting God at the Sandbox


The McDonald’s Locomocoburger.  I gotta go to Tokyo and try one of these.

I hate to admit this.  I mean, I really hate to admit this.  I almost feel like a sinner in the confessional booth on this one.  But… it’s time to come clean.

Fess up.

Let the world know.

After all, in the words of fellow sinner Martin Luther, “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.”

OK.  Here goes…

(Closes eyes and draws in deep breath.)

I like McDonald’s.

There.  I said it.  It’s out in the open.

It’s not that I grew up on their food.  I can only remember eating at a McDonald’s once as a small child.  And I didn’t like the finely chopped onions on my burger.

I was a Burger Chef kid.  In the small town I grew up in, the choices for fast food fare were few and far between.  KFC.  Long John Silver’s.  Burger Chef.

And Jeff, the big man’s sidekick.

Burger Chef had the Works Bar.  You ordered your burger and fixed it up however you liked.  I’d get a cheeseburger and put tartar sauce on it.  (Yes, this is the same kid who had an issue with the teensy-tiny onions on a McDonald’s burger.)

I was very sad to see Hardee’s eat up Burger Chef in the ’80s.  But that’s another story.

When we were in China, we ate at a McDonald’s.  Their menu isn’t quite the same as McDonald’s in the U.S.  There were plenty of exclusively Chinese McDonald’s items to be had.  However, my jones for some American food far outweighed my adventurous spirit at that point in our trip.

I ordered a Big Mac (without vegetables – no sense taking chances of getting sick on raw lettuce).  We ate a lot of “western” food while we were in China.  That Big Mac only thing I ate in China that tasted just like it tastes here at home.

I’ve been looking at some international McDonald’s websites.  First I pulled up McDonald’s India, which has a lot of creatively different options (which makes perfect sense when you’re a burger restaurant in a non-beef eating society).

Then I checked out McDonald’s Japan.  The website was in Japanese (of course), so I had to use Microsoft Translator to read it in English.  As I looked at their menu I saw the “Locomocoburger”.  It is described as:


When I translated the page, it gave me this:

“Two beef patties with egg powder cheese topping buns at sandbox.”

This description is a bit off the mark.  I looked at a photo of the Locomocoburger and saw no traces of powder.  No sandbox.  It’s two hamburger patties, a slice of cheese, a McMuffin-style egg, lettuce and some Japanese sauce on a bun.

It actually looks quite good.  If I’m ever at a McDonald’s in Japan, I’ll give it a try.

McDonald’s is great at adapting itself to local cultures.  This started me thinking about how we approach Scripture, and just how amazing the Bible truly is.

Consider these facts:

  1. The 66 books that make up the Protestant Bible were written by over 40 different people.
  2. The people penned their books over the span of at least 1400 years (perhaps longer).
  3. These men came from many, varied backgrounds: kings, prophets, wise men, wise men who lost it all, prisoners, a tax collector, a physician, fishermen, a former Pharisee…
  4. These men came from different cultures, different historical epochs.
  5. The books are written in several different styles (history, prophecy, poetry, letters, eyewitness accounts, collections of wise sayings).

All of these factors and still – astoundingly – the books of the Bible work as a whole, one cohesive narrative, sound and without error of message.

This is “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, ESV).  “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV).

The Bible isn’t just a book.  It is God’s Word to His people.   It adapts to different cultures and stands up to multiple translations (over 500 languages thus far) and paraphrases.  While differences in interpretation abound, and theological approaches reveal different facets of the message, this doesn’t create a problem with the Bible itself.  Indeed, it is like viewing a precious stone and the different characteristics we see when we turn it.

The thing is, you have to take God at His Word, and take God’s Word for what it is.  Don’t just accept someone’s evaluation of what the Bible says as gospel.  Read it!  Eating a burger with powdered egg cheese (whatever that is) served in a sandbox doesn’t sound very appealing.  But, when we you realize the description is waaaay off and you see the real thing…

God meets each of us where we are.  We may be in captivity or wandering the desert.  We may be in battle or just traveling along the road.  We may be in the midst of dark times, on the mountaintop or deep in the valley of death.  Wherever we are, wherever we go, the Lord goes with us.  And His Word is just as relevant, no matter what, no matter where.

Be comforted by that today.  Be strengthened by knowing that the Bible is living, active, vital, relevant, true, God-breathed Word of our Lord.  Trust in the Lord.  Rest in His promises.  Know that what His Word says is true, and right, and applicable to you and your life and your situation.  And God will speak to you through His Word (or however He chooses) wherever you are.

Even at the sandbox.