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I have spent the better part of the weekend moving my things from the old modular into our new administrative center.  For the past decade all the staff offices have been in a rotting, dank, dim, and mold infested trailer behind the church’s main building.  Recently, though, my wonderful church has spent a lot of time and energy (not to mention cash) to build us a wonderful new complex of office suites.  I am so deeply appreciative of the effort they have put in and how nice it is.  This weekend I made the transition from my old study to the new one.  I’ll try and have some pics up soon!

As I moved I went through the sort of process people always go through whenever they move.  Some things have to go with me into the new room.  These objects are non-negotiable.  Other things, though, I’m simply leaving behind.  Its not that these things were bad and I do not intend to throw them away (maybe someone else can use them) but I simply will not need it in my new workspace.  There are still some other things, mostly books, which I need to bring home and keep at the church anymore.  I want them and maybe even need them; but I don’t need them there.  I need them somewhere else.  Finally—some of the junk I’ve accumulated in that office just needs to find its way to the landfill.  It is easy to throw some of the things away, but not all of it.  Yet I know it needs to be done.

Jesus promised us in John 14:1-4 that he is going to “prepare a place” for us.  It is an interesting metaphor for a man raised as a carpenter’s son to say.  He is building us new digs in heaven.  Sometimes we think of this as a mansion or maybe even luscious rooms inside of the great palace of heaven itself. 

What if; now I’m just hypothesizing and daydreaming a little, but what if the process of living life and then the eventual work of dying wasn’t a lot like me culling out the stuff from one room, my old study, into a new room.  If I think like that for a moment; then a little clarity about heaven occurs. 

  • The things we take to heaven; the only things we take to heaven are our relationships, our spiritual vitality and our positive memories.  These are the non-negotiables that make the move with us from earth to heaven. 


  • A great deal of the things I accumulate here on earth; though not evil, will be left behind in the move.  This includes my home, money, retirement, and dashing good looks.  With the exception of my good looks everything else will be left for someone else to pick through and see what they might want.


  • What of the things which I still want to keep but not take with me to the new room, things I need but put somewhere else?  These are the words I need to speak to other people—to store them inside their souls.  What kind of words?  Words of affirmation, encouragement, reconciliation, and hope that we need to make sure we say to certain people before it is too late.


  • Finally, there are some things that just need to be junked.  In a lot of ways this metaphor reflects the greatest part of living the Christian life.  I must always be working to cast aside and discard anger, bitterness, hate, grudges, jealousies, sin, bad memories, and wasted opportunities.  This process of holy sanctification is what lightens my load as I prepare to move into my eternal new digs.


Today I post what I translated last week in my Gospel Advent readings.  These verses are very dramatic, featuring the conclusion of the frightening Olivet Discourse, Jesus predicting Peter’s denial, Judas’ betrayal and the Lord’s Supper.  Curiously, the Gospel readings take a side trip away from Luke and over to John 8 for the “woman taken in adultery.”  Some of the horrorific language in the Olivet Discourse was hard to straighten out; but as always it was fun. 

Luke 21:20-28

But when you see armies encircling Jerusalem, then you will know devastation is near.  Then those of you in Judea escape into the mountain and you leave from her midst and also do not let those in other towns come back into her.  That day vindication of those cities will fulfill everything written.  Woe for those pregnant and those nursing then, for it will be a great disaster upon the land and wrath to this people.  And they will fall by the edge of the sword.  They will be taken prisoner into every nation and Jerusalem will be under the heel of the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled.  There will be a sign on the sun, and on the moon, and among the stars as well as upon the land.  The Gentiles will have anxiety over not knowing what to do, like a sound tossing the sea.  Men will have died for fear and the whole inhabitation of the earth will be waiting, for the power of the heavens will be shaken.  Then they will see ‘the son of man coming in the clouds’ with power and all glory.  Now, when these things begin to occur, you straighten up and lift up your heads because your redemption is near.   

Luke 21:29-38

And he spoke a parable to them, “You see the fig and all those other trees?  When it blossoms you see for yourselves and you know now that summer is near.  In the same way, when you notice these things happening you will know that the kingdom of God is near.  Truly I say to you that this generation will not pass by until everything happens.  The heavens and the earth will pass away but my words will never pass away.  Watch yourselves, that you do not let wildness, drunkenness, and the cares of everyday life overtake your hearts in those days.  It will come upon every one of those living everywhere like a trap.  You must be awake at all times; praying that you will have the strength to flee out of all these things that are about to happen and to stand before the son of man.”  Now he was in the temple teaching in those days, but every night he came out and spent the night on the Mount of Olives.  All the people rose up early to hear him in the temple.

Luke 22:1-13

Now, it drew near time for the Feast of Unleavened Bread; which is called Passover.  And the chief priests and the scribes kept looking for how they might kill him, but they feared the people.  But Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the Twelve.  He went away to speak with the chief priests and soldiers about how he might hand him over to them.  And they were overjoyed and agreed to give him silver.  He consented to seek a good opportunity to hand him over apart from the crowd. 

Now, the Day of Unleavened came.  This is the day in which it is necessary to kill the Passover.  And Jesus sent Peter and John saying, “You yourselves go and prepare the Passover so that we may eat it.”  And they said to him, “Where do you want us to prepare?”  He said to them, “Behold, as you are going into the city you will meet a man carrying a jar of water to his house.  Follow him in.  If the owner of the house should ask, you say, “The teacher asks, ‘Where is the guestroom where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’  Then he will show you a great room upstairs spread with couches where you may prepare.” So they went away and found it just as he said to them and so they prepared the Passover.

Luke 22:14-30

And when he came to the house he and the apostles with him reclined.  He said to them, “I eagerly desire to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  For I say to you, I will not eat it again until the time of the kingdom of God is fulfilled.”  Then, taking the wine cup, he blessed it and said “You receive this and share it among yourselves.  I say to you that I will not drink from now on of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  And receiving bread he blessed it and broke and gave to them saying, “This is my body that I am giving for you, you do this as a remembrance of me.”  And the wine cup he did likewise after they ate the meal, saying, “This is the wine cup of the new covenant in my blood poured out for you.  Behold, however, the hand of the one handing me over is with me upon the table.  For now, the son of man will be taken away, as it has been appointed.  Nevertheless, woe to the man who hands him over.”  They began to discuss among themselves who from them could be going to do it when a dispute arose among them about who is considered greatest.  Then he said to them, “The kings of the nations rule and wield authority over people and they call them benefactors.  But with you it is not so.  The greatest among you will be the youngest and the leader as the servant.  For who is greater, the one reclining at table or the one serving?  Is it not the one reclining?  But I am in the midst of you as one serving.  You are those people who remained throughout with me in my trials.  I myself appoint you, just as the Father put me upon my kingdom, so that you eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and you yourselves will sit upon thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Luke 22:31-38

“Simon, Simon, behold Satan requests to sift you as wheat!  But I prayed about you so that you would not fail.  But when you return to yourself, strengthen your brothers.”  Then he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to follow you into prison and into death.”  But he said, “I say to you, Peter, before the rooster crows tonight you will deny me three times.” 

Then he said to them, “When I sent you without purse and bag and sandals, did you lack anything?”  They said, “Nothing.”  Then he said to them, “But now those having a purse, take it and the same for those with a bag.  The ones not having these things should sell his coat and buy a sword.  For I say to you that in me the Scripture saying, ‘And with the lawless he was reckoned’ is completed.  It is near realization.”  So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.”  He said to them, “It is enough.”

John 7:53-8:11

And they lead off each one into his home.  But Jesus went out onto the Mount of Olives.  Again at dawn he appeared in the temple and all the people came to him, so he, sitting down, taught them.  But the Scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman they had captured in the act of adultery and made her stand in the midst of the crowd.  They said to him, “Teacher, this very woman she was seized in the act of adultery.  Now, in our law Moses commanded such as these to be stoned, but what do you say?”  Now this they said testing him, so that they would have accusation of him.  But Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dirt with his finger.  As those remaining behind inquired of him, he gazed up and said to them, “The sinless among you should be first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped, writing in the dirt.  Those hearing this began to depart, one by one, starting with the oldest until the only one remaining was the woman in the middle.  Jesus now gazed up again and said to her, “Woman, where are they?  Do you have no one to judge you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.”  Jesus said, “Neither do I judge you.  Go.  From now on do not sin any longer.”


Last night the Greenbeans settled in to watch a family film after a long but satisfying day of ministry through our church.  We seriously pondered watching Elf.  Even though I’m not a big Will Ferrell fan Elf is still one of the funniest movies around.  I like to give all the credit for that to Bob Newhart.  We decided to save Elf for later in the holiday season.  We might get desperate if we get snowed in again during the 2 week Christmas break like we did a couple of years ago.  In the end we settled on an On-Demand film and we picked the reboot of The Karate Kid.

Overall it is very good film.  It is nowhere near as good as the original and I missed Pat Morita.  Nevertheless, I was won over by Jackie Chan’s Mr. Han.  Jaden Smith also turned in a very strong performance.  He was truly born for Hollywood and he has an ease and comfort on film that is apparent (or should I say, a couple of parents.)  The choice to move the film to China was brilliant, although I would have liked a few more cultural insertions rather than the obligatory Great Wall scene or the Forbidden City.  I don’t know what else, but having never been to China I suspect there is more going on there.  It would be like filming a movie in America and making sure a shot was filmed at the Grand Canyon and the White House, as if Americans go there everyday. 

For some reason I think the movie would have been a bit funnier had there been a cameo of Owen Wilson somewhere.

I digress.  What I really want to address is the greatest line I’ve heard in anything in a long time.  The main character, Dre, is having a hard time staying in the moment with his Kung Fu lessons.  Mr. Han says “focus” and the kid says “I am focused.”  Then Mr. Miyagi, oops, I mean Mr. Han (played by Jackie Chan) says to the kid, “Your focus needs more focus.”

Your FOCUS needs more focus.

Your focus needs more FOCUS.

Immediately my mind leapt to Christmas.  This is the time of year where we tend to build everything around the season.  In a very real and measurable way we, as a culture and as individuals, are very focused on Christmas.  Christmas gifts, Christmas cards, Christmas trees, Christmas cookies, Christmas decorations, Christmas carols, Christmas books, Christmas movies, Christmas parties and the list goes on and on.  We are clearly focused.

But, sadly, our focus needs more focus.

In our age of digital cameras which automatically focus for us (and poorly I might say) many people don’t remember real cameras.  On those old cameras the photographer had to make adjustments to the lens in order to focus.  With those old cameras the whole image might be in the frame, but it might be blurry and indistinct.  Only when the lens was adjusted, when it was focused, did the shot become crystal clear with distinct lines and images.

If we could tweak it just a bit I think our Christmas focus could be focused a little bit more.  If we turn the right knob we just might see Jesus and what he means in our still frame called Christmas. 

Jackie Chan was right. 

My focus needs more focus.


As promised, I have posted my translation from the Greek New Testament of the Gospel readings for the first week of Advent. 

Luke 20:1-8

It happened on one of those days as he was teaching and evangelizing the people in the temple that the chief priests and the scribes with the elders attacked.    They said to him, “Exactly what authority do you speak in and do these things?  Who is giving you this authority?”  He answered them, “I will answer you just as you said if you say to me whether the baptism of John was from heaven or was it from humans?”  They debated with themselves saying, “If we say ‘from heaven’ he will say ‘why then did you not believe him?’ but if we say, ‘from man’ the people all will stone us for they are convinced John is a prophet.  So they answered, “We do not know from where.”  Jesus said to them, “Neither will I myself say to where the authority I do these things is from.”

Luke 20:9-19

He began to speak this parable to the people, “Once upon a time someone planted a vineyard and leased it to farmers then he went out of town for a long while.  In time, he sent a servant to the farmers so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard but those farmers flogged him and drove him away empty handed.  Again he sent another servant and they also flogged, disrespected, and drove him out empty handed.  Again a third time he sent to them and this time they wounded and threw the servant out.  Then the lord of the vineyard pondered, “What will I do?  I will send my beloved son.  Perhaps this one they will respect.  But seeing him, the farmers discussed among themselves saying, “This is the heir!  Let us kill him so that the inheritance will become ours.  So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.  What, therefore, will the lord of the vineyard do to them?  He will come and he will execute those farmers and give the vineyard to others.”  Then Jesus looked straight at them and said, “Therefore who is it written of?  ‘A stone, the one rejected by the builders, this one has become as the capstone.’  All those falling upon this stone will be smashed to pieces.  Whoever it falls on will be crushed to powder.”  The scribes and the chief priests wanted to seize him right then for they knew this parable was against them yet they feared the people.

Luke 20:20-26

They watched and sent spies, pretending to be righteous themselves so that they might collect his words and then hand him over to the police and prosecutors.  The spy asked him saying, “Teacher, we know that you say what is right and teach the way of God without showing favoritism.  Is it permissible for us to give Caesar his tax or not?”  But he knew their trickery and said, “Show me a coin.  Whose icon does it have embossed on it?”  And they replied, “Caesar’s.”  Then he said to them, “Therefore, you give to Caesar the things of Caesar and the things of God to God.”  They were no longer able to use his words against him because of the people.  Meanwhile they were in stunned silence.

Luke 20:27-40

Some of the Sadducees—those saying there is no resurrection—came to him asking, “Teacher, Moses wrote us that if someone’s brother should happen to die and he has a wife and no children that his brother should take the wife and raise up seed for his brother’s sake.  Therefore, once upon a time there were seven brothers.  The first took a wife then he died childless.  And the second, and the third, and likewise all seven and they did not leave any children and they died.  At last the woman died.  So, whose wife will she be in the resurrection?  For all seven were married to her.” And Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and are married but those who are deemed worthy to attain the age to come and the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are married.  They will not be able to die anymore either.  When they become children of the resurrection they will be as angels and as children of God.  The dead are raised.  By the way, Moses pointed this out at the bush when he said, “The Lord God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob” because he is not the God of the dead but those who are living.  Everyone is alive to him.  Now one of the scribes answered him saying, “You did a good job, teacher,” because no one dared to ask him anything any longer. 

Luke 20:41-21:4 

Now he said to them, “How do you say the Christ is David’s son?  For David himself said in the Book of Psalms, “The Lord said to my lord, sit down at my right until such a time as I will put your enemies as a footstool for your feet.”  Notice David called him lord, and how then is he his son?  When all the people heard this he said to his disciples, “Watch out for the scribes, those people who enjoy walking in robes and love greetings in the market and the best seats in the synagogues and the best chair at the dinner table.  They devour the houses of the widows and in pretense make long prayers.  They will receive greater judgment.  Now looking up he saw the gifts of the rich being thrown into the treasury but he also saw some poor widow throwing in two small coins.  Then he said, “Truly I say to you the poor widow’s offering is greater than everything else thrown in.  For they, out of their abundance threw in their gift.  But she, out of her poverty, threw in all she has in this life.

Luke 21:5-19

Some were talking about the temple’s beautiful stones and adorned offering altars when he said, “A day will come when these things you look at will be destroyed.  Not one stone will remain upon stone.”  They asked him saying, “Teacher, when will these days be and what sign will be when these things are going to happen?”  He said, “See that you are not led astray; because many will come in my name say, ‘I am myself’ and ‘the time is near,’ do not follow out after them!  Do not panic when you hear the noise of battle and revolutions for these things must happen first, and even then the end is not immediately after.  Then he said to them, “Ethnicity will rise against ethnicity and kingdom against kingdom.  Great earthquakes, famine and plague will be in various places and cause terror.  There will also be a great sign from heaven.  But before all these things happen they will seize you and persecute you, handing you over in the synagogues and prisons, bring you before kings and rulers all because of my name.  This will be your chance to testify.  Decide in your heart and do not prepare ahead to defend yourself because I myself will give you words and wisdom.  Not one of your opponents will be able to resist your reasoning or contradict anything about you.  Nevertheless, you will be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends.  They will kill some of you and you will be hated by many because of my name but not a hair from your head will be lost.  By your endurance you yourselves will gain your souls.