Monday, July 8, 2019

Boundary Waters

Just to whet your appetite, here are a few of the best shots from my recent Boundary Waters trip.


This was my early morning devotions spot on Hanson Lake, just south of the Canadian border. Pretty much all our days looked like this: calm water, beautiful blue skies. Gorgeous weather.


This waterfall is just off the South Arm of Knife Lake, along the portage up to Eddy Lake. That's me out in the midst of it all.


My good friend Nate who coordinated our whole trip likes to get up at sunrise and get out solo for a bit. I caught him on his way out to catch an impressive stringer of smallmouth bass this particular morning.

Luke 24:1-12

The resurrection narrative starts with this glorious word, "But." In Greek it's a tiny, indeterminate connecting word, not the conjunction that implies a clear contrast. That's correct, of course; the crucifixion and resurrection (as well as Jesus' entire ministry) is a continuous outworking of God's necessity and plan. It's not like Satan won the crucifixion, but now Jesus is going to win the resurrection, even though it sometimes gets preached like that.

And yet, in the experience of the disciples, and probably in our experience as well, there is a marked contrast. "But" is not too strong a way to transition into this resurrection story. J.R.R. Tolkien in his remarkable essay "On Fairy Stories" says that every good fantasy story (in the broadest sense of fantasy, of which the gospel story is the most supreme and most true example) includes the "dyscatastrophe" of tragedy but then also includes a turn, a "eucatastrophe" of joy. I want to quote Tolkien here at some length:
The consolation of fairy-stories, of the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous 'turn' (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially 'escapist' nor 'fugitive.' In its fairy-tale–or other-world–setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the idea of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.
If we do not enter into the gospel story enough to experience the depth of grief, of "dyscatastrophe" that the disciples, huddled in fear in an upper room, are experiencing, then we will never receive the fullness of the resurrection. If we cannot bring our own grief and tragedy into the story, the resurrection will remain outside of us. This small conjunction, "But," holds for us the turning of the story. The women come to the tomb and experience something quite different than they had expected. The angels announce to them, just as they announced to the shepherds at Jesus' birth, an amazing truth beyond the expected continuation of tragedy, oppression, and fear.

Our grief seems so permanent to us. Our fears and our frustrations dominate our days. If you have walked through grief, loss, separation, longing, you can feel the weight like gravestones on the hearts of the women as they walk to the tomb. Jesus is dead, and with him their hope has died. The announcement of the angels rings like breaking chains.

A word here about endurance. The greater the surprise in God's word to us, the clearer he will communicate. If God is asking you to do something truly surprising, he will make that direction clear. And like with Moses' objections or Gideon's fleece, he will be patient with your questions and discernment. Jesus is so tenderly patient with those who need a moment to adjust to his resurrection. But once he has made that new direction clear, once he has revealed a new path, his voice will fade. He is still patient, but he will not continue to provide signs and speak in the silence of your heart to confront each doubt. Having revealed himself, he will ask you to wait with him. This is why the remainder of the New Testament speaks so much and so eloquently about endurance. Now that we know the risen Christ, we endure the waiting for the fulfillment of his Kingdom. In the same way, if God has spoken a surprising word to you, once it is clear you may need to endure for a long while before you see movement toward its fulfillment.

Like the women at the tomb, the meantime is often fraught with confusion. Though they go and announce their disorienting experience, the rest of the disciples can't receive it, and in fact reject the idea as an idle tale. Don't let the confusion of others dissuade you from all Jesus has spoken to you. In his own good time, Jesus will reveal himself to the others. 

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The need for conversation

I realized this morning that it's been more than a month since I blogged anything. I have lots of reasons for that, of course: day job, a Boundary Waters trip, other writing projects, the delights of a beautiful Minnesota summer, lots more. But overall I've just had kind of a malaise about writing anything.

Been thinking about that malaise the last few days. I realize that throughout my life, writing has been an uphill battle not because it's work (it definitely is, and it should be) and not because I'm a perfectionist (that's complicated but not the reason I get funky about writing). No, the reason I back away from writing is the lack of dialogue. I realize I have always wanted writing to be a conversation. Maybe it's part of my impatience. I want the conversation NOW. I want immediate feedback. Currently I'm slogging through the process of writing a novel as an exercise in self-discipline, knowing that I won't get much feedback until I've finished the first draft and then completed a significant revision of that. At that point I'll allow myself to put it out there where a few people can read and offer insights. Until then it continues to whirl in my head until I put it away in frustration, then force myself back to the slow-growing manuscript. When there's no conversation around the project, I retreat to parts of my life where there are conversations to be had.

When the conversation isn't there, the writing spirals inside my head as the echoes fade away.

Part of the struggle is needing the right conversation partner. Just to test my own perceptions, I posted a chapter of this work-in-progress onto a writers' site for feedback. Three immediate critiques said it's boring, it's hard to understand, it doesn't work. Good for me to hear, and sent me back to seriously revise some things. But at my core, I began to doubt the overall value of the project. Then yesterday I got a note, not even a critique, from an individual who ran across that chapter. Totally different demographic from the first three people to critique, and this individual was eating it up. Looking for more. Intrigued by the story and the characters. Resonating with theme and style and all of it.

For me, at least, conversation is a huge source of hope and encouragement. Lacking it, I end up inside my own head like a whirligig beetle (check it out) on the surface of those Boundary Waters lakes. Spin and spin and spin.

Self-discipline is a good thing, and the lack of feedback forces me to rest back on my own volition as a writer. Maybe it's good for developing character, or maturity. We are, after all, inherently relational beings, but we also need a little suffering in this life to develop strength. Guess I'm still a work in progress.

That said, I frequently think about this "commentary on Luke" project I've been blogging through here. I'm up against the final chapter. Just a couple more sections to write, and they're the fun ones, focusing on Jesus' resurrection. So for all you starved blog readers, know that I'm working on it. Pondering it. Reading it. Living it. And soon I will be writing about it.


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Luke 23:18-56

Looking at the crucifixion of Jesus is always overwhelming. It's a little like trying to see North America from downtown Kansas City. No matter where you look there's something significant, something that is a part of the greater whole, but it's nearly impossible to see the whole thing all at once. And like trying to see all of North America, trying to see all of the crucifixion and its implications requires getting such a distance that you really can't pick out very many details.

This moment, the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth under the Roman governor Pontius Pilate in about 29 or 30AD, becomes a fulcrum for the rest of human history. Massive changes rooted in this moment will ripple out and transform Jewish identity and significance, the Roman Empire, and all of human history.

Why does the death of one Galilean man, sentenced to torture and death for pretensions of being a Jewish king, have such impact?

If the crucifixion was the end of Jesus' story, we would know nothing about him, as we know next to nothing about so many other prophets and revolutionaries from his time period. It is the resurrection that fuels the fires and makes Jesus' impact unimaginably significant. But given that we know what comes next, we examine the details of Jesus' death and find immeasurable wealth here.

Take one tiny moment out of the narrative as an example. The story of the dialogue between Jesus and one of the two criminals crucified next to him is unique to Luke. We don't know the names of these criminals, and scholars debate if they were thieves, rebels, or what. Luke reports that one of the two recognized their sentences were just, however, and that Jesus' was not. He appeals to Jesus to "remember me when you come into your kingdom." It is an odd statement to say the least. Jesus is hours away from death, just as he himself is. Neither will be coming down from their crosses alive, and the coming hours will include unimaginable pain.

The gospels stop just short of stating the fact that the cross is, in fact, Jesus' throne, but the implication is clear. He is crowned with thorns, and the sign above his head (a Roman custom so that passersby could see the sentence for which each criminal had received this terrible punishment) proclaims him "king of the Jews." He has just completed a procession into Jerusalem in which he received accolades as "son of David." He has debated the meaning of that title with Jewish authorities. A few days earlier, when two of his closest followers asked to sit at his right and left when he was enthroned, he deflected their question, stating that those positions were not his to grant, but that they belonged to those for whom they had been prepared. And here are the two thieves, one on Jesus' right and one on his left, as he hangs in agony and glory.

"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Perhaps this is the plea of a dying man, looking for a way off the cross, hoping to see the miracle worker do one last amazing thing. Or maybe it's the recognition by a criminal that his sentence is just, but the universe is ruled over by a merciful God -- and he is bold to ask for pardon.

Jesus' response shows that either he is privy to information unavailable to the soldiers and mockers watching him die a slow death, or else he is completely deluded: "Today you will be with me in paradise." Theologians and cosmologists have debated ad nauseam what these words mean. At the very least, they seem to provide hope for a dying criminal. Down through the ages, countless numbers of Jesus' followers have seen themselves in this thief's place, asking for mercy from Jesus in their desperate hour. Note that the request doesn't say, "Help me avoid the consequences of my actions," nor does it say "Make it as if I'd never done anything wrong." The request is simply, "Remember me." What that looks like, the petitioner leaves up to Jesus.

At the very least, such a request requires trust, and trust is perhaps the oddest of commodities coming from a man being executed on a cross. There's a lot here to learn about the nature of faith: It comes when all other options are gone, when hope itself looks like a delusion. And in this utter helplessness, we see anew the depth and power of the incarnation of Jesus: Being in the form of God, he didn't count equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself, and took the form of a criminal on a Roman cross so that he could reach this criminal who has thrown self-justification to the wind and has simply reached out for mercy.

In a few hours, Jesus' lifeless body will be pierced with a spear even as the thieves' legs are broken to hasten their deaths. Jesus will be buried in a borrowed tomb and his followers will quietly reassemble in an upper room in Jerusalem, convinced they need to figure out how to go back to life as it was before Jesus called them to follow.

It looks a lot like the end of a tragic story. Appearances can be deceiving.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Joy in the moment

Every morning, almost without exception, I start my day reading Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest along with a few other readings. I was telling a friend the other day that for me, reading Chambers isn't like reading the Bible; rather, Chambers becomes a good sparring partner, a fellow saint who often sees things differently than I do and we have interesting and challenging conversations about what it means to follow Jesus.

Today, Chambers was on about God's provision, and how we need to recognize (among other things) what it is God has given us. We are (I am) too prone to self pity, and that attitude leads inevitably to a cesspit of ... well, here's how he says it:

If we give way to self-pity and indulge in the luxury of misery, we banish God’s riches from our own lives and hinder others from entering into His provision.

He goes on to say that no sin is worse than self pity, because it "obliterates God and puts self interest on the throne." I started thinking about this and realized yet again how richly blessed I am:


  • Just in the last few days I've had multiple conversations with good friends about important topics -- conversations laced with humor and grace and joy. I've had the privilege of hosting some of these treasured friends in my home, cooking and eating and relaxing together in this very peaceful place, and I anticipate more of that tonight. Among the most important of those excellent encounters are regular in-depth conversations with each of my daughters and my son-in-law. Those relationships are incredibly rich these days.

  • I get to work both my mind and my body in the most amazing combination of physical, mental, and spiritual exercise that enriches me and blesses others and feels like a tangible way to do what God commanded Adam -- to steward the earth and tend it well. It doesn't hurt that for me, that work has lately included putting in a couple of docks here on "my" lake, driving all over my almost 70 acres of Eden in a beat up old pickup (not to mention getting farther back into the woods on a 4-wheeler) to do acts of service to make others' ministry possible, and watching deer, squirrels, rabbits, pheasants, bass, a surprising catfish and innumerable birds. The fruit trees are blooming these days and flowers are poking up through the detritus of winter all around. 

  • Since early April when the church I serve re-ordained me into official pastoral roles, ministry has been a growing thing. So I balance the more physical groundskeeping parts of my life and living onsite at Decision Hills with building communities that meet in homes and pursuing that passion, working like a sheepdog for the health and beauty of this particular congregation, and -- this is one I really love lately -- developing a new format for our Wednesday night worship called "Growing Deeper" that gives me a chance to teach at a deeper level each week around topics that are, biblically speaking, really important, and designed for people who want to grapple with intellectually challenging facets of Christianity. (BTW if you're interested in listening to those teachings, we're posting the audio as podcasts on iTunes -- just search for The Open Door Christian Church and you can find us.) 

  • New opportunities to have a "voice" in this world abound. Yesterday I had a conversation about maybe going to Colombia in August to explore mission opportunities, so I need to resurrect my rusty Spanish. I'm in conversation about bopping off to the Philippines next winter to explore new relationships and renew old ones. I'm working on my writing at a new level these days, getting over some of my inherent sloth and disengagement in intentional ways. I'm learning and growing in multiple ways that are deeply satisfying to me and that have the potential to increase that ability to speak into the world.


There are more examples of God's abundant provision in my life, and I could go on. Does this mean everything in life is delightful and I'm content? Not hardly. I could easily make a list of challenging things, unpleasant things. I could enumerate all the ways life is less than satisfying. That's the point of writing out this list, at least in part. There are times when I get down in the weeds of things I wish were different. Sometimes my longing, my sense of brokenness and alienation and loneliness and deprivation and dissatisfaction makes me want to tear my teeth out. If I allow my focus to become myopic on those parts of my life, I can swirl down into the cesspit pretty quickly. It's important to recount for myself the incredible ways God has provided for me. As Chambers says this morning, "What does it matter if external circumstances are hard? Why should they not be!" It's a good reminder that just because God invites us into "good pastures" (Psalm 37) doesn't mean we have everything we desire and it certainly doesn't mean that we will be content.

Recounting the good God has done is an important spiritual discipline. Recognizing provision in the moment -- even if there are elements of God's provision we still long for, completely unsatisfied -- provides perspective and opens the possibility of joy in the moment, trusting God for joy in the future.




Thursday, May 9, 2019

Luke 22:63-23:16

In his excellent book, The Day the Revolution Began, N.T. Wright asserts that the crucifixion of Jesus initiates a revolution. The revolution, he says, is that self-sacrificing love is taking over. In fact, he makes a powerful argument that self-sacrificing love is the most powerful force in the universe, and that Jesus' life, death and resurrection start setting the broken, sin-sick universe back in line with the character of God whose nature is self-sacrificing love.

Most of us have a soft spot, however deeply hidden, for stories of "true love." While we may trivialize this term with tales of overblown heroes and heroines, there's something in us that loves a love story.

This section of Luke's gospel brings us into such a story, the most true love story of all time, and we may be surprised what love looks like. Jesus stands, in turn, before the temple guard, before the Sanhedrin, before Pilate (and Caesar, whose power is the foundation of all Pilate does), before Herod, and before Pilate again. In short, Jesus stands in apparent weakness before the greatest powers ruling over that part of the world. What power does he bring to bear in this contest?

Weakness. Jesus brings the willingness to sacrifice himself. Why? Out of love. "Greater love has no one than this," Jesus said, "that he lay down his life for his friends" (see John 15). Jesus stands without making a defense in the presence of those who have made themselves his enemies, and he goes to the cross for their sake and for the sake of the world. The New Living Translation of Romans 5:10 says that "our friendship with God was restored while we were still his enemies." Jesus sacrifices himself in love for Pilate, Herod, the Jewish authorities, the temple guard with their whips and their crown of thorns, the Roman soldiers tasked with flogging him within an inch of his life, and us.

But is it reasonable to say that Jesus' self-sacrificing love is a greater power than all these worldly authorities? Isn't that just insipid idealism?

Look at the results. The temple guard and the Roman soldiers are nameless to us. Herod is remembered by history as an egotistical tyrant in a long line of egotistical tyrants who bore that name. Pilate washed his hands to avoid guilt and is remembered for little else today but this one action. Tiberius Caesar's empire endured the ravages of history for another four hundred years before the Visigoths sacked Rome and brought the empire to a whimpering end.

In comparison, the impact and influence of Jesus has just continued to grow. This bleeding man, sacrificing himself before the authorities and powers of his day, sparked a revolution that has expanded from that day to this. The irreconcilable divide between Jews and Gentiles was bridged within a generation and continues to pull together what the world keeps trying to split apart. Jesus' followers stood loving in the face of a Greek and Roman culture that discarded the handicapped, aborted and exposed unwanted infants, and abandoned the sick. Christ-followers willingly gave up their lives to protest the grisly spectacle of gladiatorial games and needless violence simply for the sake of entertainment. When Europe descended into darkness and ignorance after the fall of Rome, tight-knit communities of Jesus' followers preserved learning and invented western science. Similar communities created large-scale health care and hospitals. This movement that Jesus started became a refuge for women who were normally viewed as property.

The record of Christianity has been far from perfect. Far too often those who claim the name of Jesus act more like Herod or Pilate. But compared to what the world was without Jesus' self-sacrificing love, the changes wrought by this Galilean and his followers are staggering. Looking at the broad sweep of history, Jesus' movement has indeed been a revolution.

It is a sinking feeling to stand in the face of power, willing to be brutalized for the sake of love. But I am convinced Wright has expressed this accurately: In the long run, there is no power in the universe capable of greater things than self-sacrificing love.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Seagull Lake

Pines at my back stand tower straight, their
shadows like arrows drag sharp blades across the
early morning misty lake in front of me,
slow-slicing through minnows and whirligigs,
climbing sun behind, drawing their
shafts ever shorter and northward but
then the loon calls clear soprano across the
water the ripples stop mid-rip and for just
that moment I see clearly the pine-shadow arrowheads
point me westward like a summons, like yearning
like an invitation to adventurous joy

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Christ loves the church

The idea of marriage as a metaphor for Christ's relationship with the church is a difficult one and is rarely dealt with graciously and biblically. Biola University has been producing a series of Lenten devotions I've been following, and in their post-Easter days I found this reflection very profound. Each devotion includes artwork, music, scripture, poetry, meditation, and prayer. Profound, solid biblical stuff.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Luke 22:39-62

There is a powerful song -- probably one of the earliest Christian worship songs -- recorded in Philippians 2. It talks about how the eternal Son of God did not count his status as God something to be grasped but emptied himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. Theologians talk about this as Jesus' kenosis, from the Greek word used here to describe this "emptying." What we see in this passage of Luke is still more of Jesus emptying himself. At the beginning of this passage you could make the argument that Jesus is still a powerful figure. He is an influential teacher, the leader of a committed group of disciples. He has widespread appeal to masses of people and some influential friends. His miracles and his movement have drawn the attention of both the crowds of common people and of the ruling elite. Little by little, everything is stripped from Jesus.

Jesus goes in darkness to the Mount of Olives, just across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem, to pray. This was near the home of his friends Mary and Martha and Lazarus, but Jesus stays in the garden that night, in a grove of ancient olive trees. He is in agony, knowing what is to come and yearning for another way forward. His committed disciples are a short distance away, but they're sleeping. Of course they still believe themselves loyal, even to death, but they just can't stay awake.

Except Judas. Judas is wide awake, and he leads a band of thugs to this spot precisely for the purpose of betraying Jesus. The disciples try to fight and Jesus prevents the conflict from escalating. Cut off from their "fight" reflex, the disciples resort to "flight" and run off into the darkness. Jesus is left alone with his betrayer and with those who will take him to an illegal trial under cover of darkness.

Peter trails along at a distance in the dark. He longs to stand up for Jesus, but after being rebuked by Jesus for striking out with his sword (not to mention proving himself a less-than-adequate swordsman by merely cutting off a man's ear) he is uncertain. Like so many of us Peter is drawn to Jesus but afraid to take a stand.

Peter's presence provides the next step in Jesus' emptying. As long as Peter kept his mouth shut, we might believe that at the very least, scattered though they are, Jesus' followers remain loyal. We might say that Jesus still has some stalwarts hidden here and there. But Peter betrays this fantasy for what it is. Peter speaks three times, each time denying that he even knows Jesus -- and this (in all likelihood) happens in Jesus' hearing.

The eternal Son of God gave up the glory of heaven -- the incessant worship of angels who  sang his praises and proclaimed his power, the acknowledgement that it is him, the Son, who holds all the universe together -- he gave all that up to become human. In the measureless wisdom of God, he was born as a tiny baby in an out-of-the-way corner of Judea. We celebrate that at Christmas every year. But here the incarnation becomes complete in its unfathomable existential measure: Jesus is cut off from his community, his influence, his reputation. He is no longer the one who gave sight to the blind and raised Lazarus from the dead. Instead, he is a shameful criminal, deserted by his band of rabble and pressed into an inquisition under cover of darkness.

He is truly what Isaiah described -- despised and rejected, a man from whom we hide our faces. Smitten and rejected, utterly alone, without appeal and without beauty.

Strangely, the Bible insists that Jesus did this for us. There are depths to plumb here, but for the moment let it be enough to say this: No matter what rejection you have suffered, what betrayals you have endured; no matter what loneliness haunts you, what isolation cuts you off from love and from community; no matter how your reputation has been smeared, no matter how your actions and words have been twisted, Jesus has been there before you, and he has fallen deeper into the abyss than you have gone. You are not alone in the pit. The Son of God loved you and gave his life -- not just his ability to breathe, not just his heartbeat, but his relationships, his reputation, his status -- for you. He died the death you fear, so that you are never, can never be alone. Even if your narrative gets worse -- and it might -- so will Jesus' story. He has the trials, the flogging, the cross yet to endure. But in the end, he died your death so that you need not endure without hope, and he rose from death so that you know you, too, will rise -- not just from death but from meaninglessness, from hopelessness, from alienation and isolation. The Garden of Gethsemane is for you. The cross is for you. The resurrection is for you.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Luke 22:24-38

It is the night of Jesus' betrayal and arrest. He has shared in his last meal with the disciples, and now he has a few key things to teach them before he is taken from them. What will he focus on?

Jesus' initial teaching goes to the heart of his message, but it doesn't arise from a carefully prepared lesson plan. Instead, Jesus responds to his disciples' bickering -- whether playful or serious, we can't know -- about who would have the highest station in his coming kingdom. There is so much a person could say about this: the height of the disciples' rudeness, how completely they have missed his point over the past three years, the radical shift in understanding that is to come in the next few days, and more. Let's focus for just a moment on what seems to be Jesus' key point. He contrasts the world's understanding of authority and power and greatness over against his own kingdom and a kingdom-based understanding of power. Jesus says "I am among you as one who serves."

Then Jesus says something that, if we're not careful, sounds like underneath it all he truly does buy into this world's views on power. He affirms that the disciples have stayed with him in his trials (v. 28) and he goes on to say that he is giving them his kingdom, just as his Father gave it to him, that they may eat and drink and serve as judges in that kingdom. Our initial assumption about Jesus' meaning might be that finally they will be rewarded for their faithfulness -- that Jesus will give them some indulgence, some reward. Be careful here: Our views on what constitutes power have been so twisted by this world's assumptions that we are in great danger of completely missing Jesus here.

When Jesus assigns a kingdom to his disciples, when he affirms them for standing with him over time and trial, when he tells them they will eat and drink and judge the twelve tribes of Israel, he is not conferring titles and uniforms and power structures on them. Rather, he is telling them that as he has invited them to follow him and they have obeyed, they will step into his character and his role. He is the one who rules over the kingdom as the suffering king. He is the one who eats (by being obedient to his Father's will, cf. John 4) and drinks the cup he is about to suffer (cf. v. 42). He is the judge who, by his very presence and by people's reactions to him, judges the nation. So the disciples will "rule" by embodying Jesus' nature as the suffering king. They will be figures of immense spiritual authority as they go out into the world to proclaim Jesus' resurrection, and they will suffer terribly. They will recognize God's will to save the nations through Jesus' death and resurrection and through their proclamation, and they will strive to be obedient to that will. They will take up the cup of martyrdom. They will indeed inherit Jesus' kingdom. They will proclaim freedom for the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, liberty for the oppressed in the name of the risen King Jesus.

None of this confers on them the authority to raise an army, levy taxes, build a property base, or line their own pockets. When Jesus' followers have stepped into these kinds of worldly activities, we are a far cry from his kingship and his kingdom. As if to make this comically clear, Jesus advises the disciples to arm themselves (this is a tough passage for those who say Jesus is a pure pacifist). In response to Jesus' words about making sure they have swords, the disciples say they have two. Hardly an army, not enough even to be an armed gang -- but Jesus says it is enough.

Working through the gospel of Luke these past months, I have been struck over and over again how completely Jesus turns the values of our world upside-down, and how hard it is for us to read his words without simply importing them into our own understandings. We must learn to know Jesus' character and read his heart. As we do, we will find ourselves bit by bit transformed until we look like him in some ways ... and we will begin to take up the kingdom of servant-love he has assigned to us.