Gates of Hades

Recently did some sermon prep on a famous passage in Matthew 16…

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[b] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[c] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[d] in heaven.” (ESV – Source – BibleGateway.com) 

A few details about this passage worth investigating further;

  1. Jesus went 30 miles out of his way to visit Caesarea Philippi, why? I believe it was because this place was deeply symbolic and very specific to his mission. 
  2. Peter and the disciples had already discovered or discerned Christ’s identity on the sea of Galilee a few chapters earlier.  (Matthew 14:33)
  3. The Gates of Hades was not a metaphor, but a literal place known for generations as a place of evil and pagan worship of Molech, Ashtaroth, Baal and Pan. It was in this particular place ( a cave with a deep pit) that Christ spoke his famous words of Matthew 16.
  4. The gates of Hades (or the dead) was also a ‘metaphor’ for those who were in bondage to living a life without ‘life’. Dead in their sins… captured and held by ‘gate’s that would not open. Life without Christ or his redemptive spiritual gift, left men and women without hope and full of despair. Caught by sin and self in a world that was chaotic and full of pointless pain.
  5. The ‘church’ that Christ references as ‘prevailing’ is known as “ekklesia” or the “called out ones”.
  6. In the context of this passage (Mt 16) the ‘called out’ would imply strongly those who had been rescued from ‘hades’ – not in the future, but the present. The power of Christ on earth – released through the ‘church’ to lead the ongoing ‘rescue’ of men and women trapped behind the proverbial gates’ of hades.
  7. The authority of God himself would be re-established to the ‘ekklesia’ to bind and loose the constraints of death and hades in the lives of men and women who were trapped in the hopeless patterns and self-destructive habits of a sinful nature and it’s consequences.

For me… the passage came ‘alive’ 🙂 (No pun intended – but appreciated here) It opened up a profound insight that the ministry we do as parents, pastors, as the Church – as people who have been rescued… (Ekklesia – Called out ones) is offensive, and not defensive. We are called to ‘break through the gates,’ to invade hell to populate heaven! 

Translated… the power and authority and promise of God in Matthew 16 is strong and reassuring. I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

liveforchristresources.com

Guys – we’re on the winning side here. No matter the hopelessness of your current situation, the weakness you may feel… or the doubts you carry… God is available to you. We just need to ask…  He is ready to stand by your side as we live out of our re-born hearts. Sharing ‘his’ hope and encouragement to a world empty of both.

It’s a reminder that our God has won, is winning… and will reign. He’s completing the recovery of all that’s been lost, broken, or defeated in us, our kids, and our world.

This passage contains an honest and pragmatic truth – the reminder that we are the church “Ekklesia” and as ‘called out ones‘ we too were once trapped in cynicism, and despair, broken by this world’s pain… as messed up and weak as anyone.  But with Christ as our savior… with Jesus as ‘Lord”, we’re assured of new life and hope that will not disappoint.

We are able to truly ‘live’ as we were intended to… now that is something powerful and brilliantly full of light. A promise of goodness in a very dark place, and it’s enough to prevail against the very gates of hell itself.

Thank you Jesus!

Pastor B.

 

Advertisements

The Suddenness of Life

Parents… it’s a strange world as you get older… after two decades of ridiculously busy… it get’s quiet.

My wife and I said it over and over this past week… it was all so ‘sudden’…. Dictionary; “refers to the quickness of an occurrence, although the event may have been expected” : (ie. a sudden change in the weather.) 

Graduations… engagements, marriages, births, deaths, dementia, and everything in-between. Life is moving forward, with or without us.  jessica-graduation-2

We knew these transitions, these major life moments were coming… watching others for years go through it before it came to us. We get the big idea…there is a cycle to life and there are specific seasons…moments for beginning and ending. A time for dying, birthing and aging…but no one can express to you how it ‘feels‘.  

The years and weeks of anticipation… drag so slow in the moments and then life will sneak by us in a heartbeat. Everything once so familiar, now absent. A life built around our kids, or a spouse… now vacant. We wonder at the empty spaces of our days and pause… tempted to linger in the past, we risk missing the present.

Christ said it like this… 34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (Matthew 6:35 MSG) 

We can mourn the passing of what was…AND enjoy and love what is. We should be prepared to celebrate and treasure life, past – present – future. It’s all in the perspective we choose. Life isn’t to only be savored and slowly poured… it’s also a huge rush of living and loving, bringing life and dying. It’s all about the stuff in-between. The sharing of hope and suffering, of pain and passions… nothing in living is ever passive. 

Only a fool would consider the future with casual disregard, ignoring the suddenness of our lives and the moments we’ve been granted. Wouldn’t it be wiser to treasure the gift hidden within our journey.

What will you do with your ‘gift’? 

Pastor B.

PS – from poet R.L. Sharpe:

Isn’t it strange how princes and kings,
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
And common people like you and me
Are builders for eternity?
 
To each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass and a book of rules.
And each will build, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.

 

Passing on our Passion for Life! RoadTrip Parenting

RoadTrip passion runs deep in my heart of hearts.

moraine lake brad 08 DSC_0242[1] (2)

Pastor B at Moraine Lake, Canadian Rockies

The allure of finding the next scenic wonder, the twist of a two lane highway as it snakes past ancient pine and scarred rock, the scent of the hunt has me now…

I long for the sight of it, a glimpse of the far far away, the glory of hidden creation… ancient beauty.

I catch a hint of it in the rugged strength of a towering sequoia, in the roar of a spring time stream straining to break out of its channel, foaming -ripping its way to somewhere ‘below.

I sense the artist heart of God in the crisp bite of pre-dawn at high altitude, the clarity of a mountain vista surround by pink hues of sunrise, a valley hidden by the sea of clouds below. The sacred romance of beauty and wonder tug deeply in my heart. Whispering. THESE are the things of LIFE. The glory of God’s creation… filtered by thousands of years and a millennium of mankind’s industrial advance, it still echoes of perfection!

Exposing our kids to this much pure beauty changes everything! 

It reveals the nature of our creator’s heart, stirring us deeply as ‘awe’ dawns in the mind’s eye and we can’t help but gaze intently into the splendor of life as it was always intended to be…

RoadTrips do so much more than simply connect us to each other, they connect our heart to the possibilities of a life with our creator.

Hiking the Teton's

Hiking the Teton’s

Next week I’m taking my 18-year-old on a hiking – driving – roadtrip to the Canadian Rockies, Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP…(for his second time) of what I’m sure will be ‘many’ adventures he will have in the wilderness world.

By God’s grace I can see my faith and passion for living being passed to the next generation, one roadtrip at a time.

Peace Out!

Pastor B.

PS – for more info on my roadtrips and the mountain west, check out my book, Road Trip to Redemption.

For an idea of what I’m talking about… check this out 

Zest for Life… a tribute to my mom on her birthday!

Motherhood is oft celebrated, bemoaned and otherwise dramatically described, an essential part of any life… the very beginning of every story.

For some… it’s the journey in between that becomes so remarkable, the memories of life and family that creates an “EPIC” tapestry for all to see. Those of us who do take a moment to slow down and consider… to stop and look a bit deeper, you will note the amazing tapestry of a mothers life! You will see the remarkable thread design…a marvel of intricate detail, the sweeping beauty contained in it’s lines and a grace in which such a life is displayed.

Mimi and her family! Circa 2010

Mimi and her family! Circa 2010

For those few fortunate enough to know and be raised by such a great lady, the larger tale becomes interwoven with our own.

A blessing that cannot be counted…as the threads of a mothers life blend and wind their way through our own, reaching out to spark us with life and warm love and in my case… signature Chardonnay. 🙂

The significance though is this… as most lives wind down at the end of their story, my mom’s has been ramping up! Instead of slowing down and getting stiff and sore at the entire miserable world of modern technology and accelerated living, my mom ‘jumps-right-in’ smiling as she fires off another text or Facebook post to one of her seven grand-kids!

Mimi and Colleen - Canada 2010

Mimi !

 

The joy her life radiates is supernatural. Seriously. 

My mom never met a stranger, loves any and all who wander by or through her life and is always doing ‘something’ to help someone! The witness of her life is staggering… I’ve tried to just figure up all of the men, women and children (that I know of ) she has invested a piece of herself into and it’s beyond my calculation. Thousands of people are significantly ‘better’ for having known “Mimi”!

She has demonstrated to me… and countless others what it means to love Jesus and live for Christ, and I do mean LIVE !

This isn’t a church lady in a pew. My mom wears leather pants and African animal print blouses, colors her hair blonde, loves bling and has an iPhone 6. She goes out with the girls and serves in church, takes care of her husband and family and then serves a home cooked meal to a shut-in. She loves Monday Night Football, Peyton Manning and Brie. Mom shares fashion tips with her granddaughters and cherishes the life-long memories made with her husband of over fifty years, she is a true lady, a loyal friend and a confidant to be trusted!

She seems to be getting younger every year…. how could that be ? It’s a remarkable thing to observe… The book of Isaiah in the bible ( chapter 40)  tells us the secret to her youthful vigor.

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.” (ESV) 

If you ever met my mom you would know this is only a small fraction of the truth of her life, but it’s my simple tribute to celebrate how amazing she really is !

Happy Birthday Mimi, I LOVE you and all you are becoming – you’re a legitimate legend in your own time and an amazing lady 🙂

If you readers get a chance, take a minute to wish her a special happy birthday – !

Peace out,

“Buford Earl”  aka Pastor B.

 

Musings on Moods

Life is sudden and slow, abrupt and deliberate.

Moments of extreme happiness…followed by long dull marches through grey days.

It’s impossible to live and remain unaffected.

Emotions will rise and fall according to the chemistry and circumstances of our lives at any given moment. If we surrender ourselves to simply what we ‘feel’ like doing or being, we’re risking more than stability… but our very sanity. mood swing

Faith binds us to something ‘more’. It’s the antidote for the erratic shifts in our emotions and the anchor of our soul. Belief in truth that exceeds our senses, is a glue that will bind our behaviors to our beliefs. 

 

“The promise, made when I am in love and because I am in love, to be true to the beloved as long as I live, commits me to being true even if I cease to be in love. A promise must be about things that I can do, about actions: no one can promise to go on feeling in a certain way. He might as well promise to never have a headache or always to feel hungry.” CS Lewis -‘Mere Christianity

Let’s take a deep breath. Take a moment to consider what we’re feeling vs. who we are by faith in Christ. Let’s re-attach to our savior before going any further into this day… banishing the mood monster from controlling our lives.

Peace,

Pastor B.

 

Heart-Felt

What’s the difference between someone whose being polite… and someone we want to suddenly give a hug ? 

Why do some movies or songs make us start to cry ? 

How does a six-year old’s crumpled-up crazy, crayon creation get a frame and spot of art-honor in the living room?

Why do meals made at home taste so much better ? 

Why is it when we travel too long or wander too far…. nothing but returning to our homes and families will make us happy?

I believe all of the above are ‘heart-felt’ examples of life.

ourdjrocks.com

ourdjrocks.com

 

The intangibles are difficult to describe, but ‘Heart-Felt” is an immensely important part of being a Christ-follower.

We’re all drawn to the ‘authentic’ emotion and inner truth we sense in someone or something that’s genuine and true.

We crave the original uniqueness of a ‘real’ person or home-made meal. We stand in line for hours to hear or see a movie or catch an artist that really “connects” with us … and we’re all starving for food that tastes just like ‘moms’! 

As a parent, I’m constantly reminded of how important it is for me to share my life authentically with my kids. Not acting as a peer to my teens, but opening up appropriately about the day-to-day, real – life struggles of adulthood, ministry and marriage.

In that dialogue… let’s be sure to include our faith and how God meets our every need along the way. 

I believe it’s the honest and true expression of a real-life faith that will connect with our kids. They don’t need us to be perfect parents, just real and ‘heart-felt’.

Peace and Grace to you,

Pastor B.

 

Finding Faith… again

Faith… trust, hope and purpose. As parents sometimes these get a bit foggy for us, we “stay calm and carry on” for the sake of our families, our marriages and our sanity… but occasionally we slow down long enough to notice the waning influence of a once vibrant faith, or an absence of real trust. As we start a new year, no one seriously wants to go forward much further with lives on empty, almost out of fuel and lacking clear direction.  

Finding Faith... again

Faith…Following or believing in someone enough to take the risk again to be vulnerable, trusting in something other than us… and buried even deeper is the childish hope that maybe dreams do come true or that our lives do have purpose, meaning beyond mere survival. These are the deeper motivations of the thoughtful and awakened mind and heart. For those no longer content with the day-to-day predictability of our lives, these are the wonderful rich but painful dialogues we have within ourselves. It leads us to really want, to desire, to be hungry for the rest of it. Only we can’t find IT.

Sort of like waking up from the most amazing dream only to be disappointed it was only a dream. Our lives can feel like that…torn up inside, under our masks by the pieces that are missing. By the fragments of our lost hopes and passions, misplaced along the way by the obligations of adulthood and the painful lessons we’ve endured at the pit of pragmatic acceptance.

No wonder we seek so desperately to escape.

We look for love in the lives of others, in novels and movies and songs that describe a world that we could only imagine. We run from one relationship to another trying to find that soul-mate to “complete” the parts of us that seem to be broken. We work an extra 20 hours a week trying to earn that next promotion or raise, believing so desperately that if we could just “achieve” something with our lives,we could make some sense out of the endless cycle of survival.

Into this mix, religion appears. Promising redemption and hope and unmerited love. Our hearts respond, our minds consider and our desire withdraws… suspicious of the cost to believe. When raising a family…its so easy to get caught, torn equally between fear and guilt and in that dual distraction we may leave one really essential ingredient for life behind…

Faith.

It’s the ultimate question for us all. We all have an equal measure of it, we all have an equal opportunity to spend and invest it in our lifetimes. The painful part is the realization that what or where we’ve placed or mis-placed it, could lead to disaster. Like the memories of an unfaithful spouse or abusive parent, the tyrannical or manipulative boss, the shallow friend who betrays for the smallest of gains. Life and it’s scars build dark walls between us and our hearts. Between us and life. Between us and faith.

Serious Question?

Is it time to try again… maybe this time without presumption of failure ahead of time? Is it time to ask for God to come near to you ? Would you be willing to go back to the beginning of your life with God and revisit the places shared and the dreams once held onto. That evening of worship at a summer camp before life became complicated, the day you were baptized. The day of your engagement or the birth of your first child. Maybe it was the darkest moment you’ve ever survived, the loss of a loved one… the biggest failure you’ve ever made, or the greatest regret of your life to date. In all of those moments, you may well find the Lover of your soul there, waiting, patiently for your return.

Don’t give up on Faith.

Don’t allow the pain and the past and foolishness of others keep YOU from the greatest love you can ever know. Yes… i’m aware of the pain of loving and being loved, but this is different. God is NOT like the others in your life, He is not fickle or cliche’ or manipulative. He is not bi-polar or inconsistent. He is steadfast, unchanging and He wants to know you and be known by you.

It’s called intimacy, and it’s one short step of Faith away.

All you need to do… is believe. Believe it could be possible, believe it could be possible for YOU, and then ask for it by name. Jesus… I need you. Jesus, I want to know if you are true. Jesus… come and be with me, inside of my heart, heal my soul and remove the broken and battered spaces that I can’t seem to.

If you sincerely seek and ask and risk to believe… I promise things will change. I believe you will find the elusive lost and ever so precious gift of Faith. Not because you got it all right, not because you made it church every time the doors were opened or make a massive sacrifice to earn the favor of fate . But simply because you dared to get honest and real and authentically asked for help.

Come on… take the plunge, ask for help and maybe, just maybe… you will Find your Faith Again?

Psalm 37: 3-4 (ESV-biblegateway.com)

Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.