Monthly Archives: April 2013

You really want to know this guy. (Thoughts on Matthew 1:1-17)

Tonight we began a journey as a brand new community on the northwest side of Atlanta.  We moved into our garage (picture here) and opened up the Good News of Matthew and began our journey to discover Jesus by going verse by verse through his book.  When we decided this was going to be our initial step into church planting I was so excited.  What could be better than looking at the life of Jesus together and asking the hard questions about who Jesus really is and what it means to follow him?  I was stoked.

Then I read the beginning of Matthew.  Crap.

My first sermon…the one that is going to start everything off…the one that is going to set the momentum for who we are…the one that is going to show everyone how crazy talented I am so they never want to leave…the one that is going to make everyone cry so hard they want to get saved all over again…is a genealogy.  It’s Matthew helping us know that a lot of people got it on and had kids who got it on and had kids who got it on and had kids etc.  Throw in a few begats and some awesome names (Thank you Amminadab) and that’s what I call a party.

But…you can’t really go verse by verse through a book and just skip 17 of them.  Especially week 1.  So I spent some time with Matthew and his first thoughts.  And you want to know what?  He won me over.  The first few times I sat down with this passage all I could think about was “this is going to suck,” but then I just took a step back and asked Matthew to talk with me.  I asked Matthew to tell me his story and to tell me why it mattered that I knew this part of the story.

And it was like Matthew leaned in and whispered, “I want to tell you about a King named Jesus.  I promise, you really want to know this guy.”

From this point on, instead of seeing a list, I saw Matthew sitting at a table next to me with coffee in hand about to tell me an incredible story about a King named Jesus.  But before he could get into the story, I needed to know some things about this Messiah.  Some things that if I listened were really going to matter.  So as I swirled my coffee I decided to let a list of begats tell me a story.

I imagined Matthew leaning back in his chair and saying, “You’re never going to understand Jesus if you don’t understand Abraham and David.  Jesus’ story starts a long ago with promises that were made to his fathers.  Jesus is the heir to all of those promises.  He is the son of David and the son of Abraham.  God spoke a lot of things to these men, and all of it was about to be fulfilled in Jesus.  When I say that Jesus is the son of Abraham and David I want you to know what I mean.  You can actually find the genetic trail that links their bloodlines if you want to, but more importantly he is the one who fulfills all of the promises given to these men.”

Jesus is the fulfillment of all of God’s promises.

When God promised Abraham he would bless him so he could be a blessing to the world…it was all about Jesus.  When God pulled Abraham out of his tent and asked him to look up…it was all about Jesus.  When God told Abraham to count the stars and dream of his descendants…it was all about Jesus.  When God made a covenant with Abraham where he would count all of the cost…it was all about Jesus  God’s wild love has always been after the whole world and he communicated that to Abraham.  Then Jesus came and fulfilled it.

When God saw a shepherd boy and made him king…it was all about Jesus.  When God promised David a kingdom that would never end…it was all about Jesus.  When God said one of David’s sons would reign forever…it was all about Jesus.  God was speaking to the world through David that one day a good and perfect king would reign forever.  He would not be like all of the others kings that wielded their power and conquered through violence, he would be the king every heart has longed for.  Then Jesus came and fulfilled it.

Jesus, Son of David, Son of Abraham is the true King.  He is the King of Israel and the King of the world.  He is the fulfillment of every promise…and the king you’ve been waiting for.  As Bill Johnson says, “Everybody wants a king like Jesus.  If we’ll represent him well, they will want us too.”

As I considered this King Jesus I realized that Matthew was telling me that Jesus wasn’t simply the fulfillment of God’s promises, he was the fulfillment of all of my promises too.  Do I believe this?  Could this really be true?  And Matthew looked back at me and said, “But there’s more…Jesus came from some pretty screwed up people.”

I thought about my own family when I let Matthew tell me this.  I have my French Canadian fur trapping family from my Momma and my loud, boisterous, easily-angered Italian family from my Dad.  I love my family…but we are pretty screwed up.  You look to the left and see a lot of addiction, you look to the right and you see a lot of abuse.  You look all around and you see secrets and shame.  Then I thought about myself, and I have my rightful place in this Manginelli/Maupin ball of screw-ups.  I don’t tell a lot of people that; those parts of my story and my family’s story contains a lot of shame.  But Matthew tells me this about Jesus right up front.  He doesn’t hide the mess he come from, he claims it boldly.

Jesus is the son of really broken people.  They all have a place in His Kingdom.

Prostitutes, thieves, bastards, whores, murders, adulterers, liars, drunks.  This is who Jesus came from.  He wears it like a badge of honor.  Most kings would tell you something else, the kings around the time of Jesus certainly did.  Julius Caesar had the Goddess Venus in his lineage.  So right here in the middle of this list Matthew is telling me something very important…

I have a place with this King.

We all have a place with this King.  In every other kingdom, I’m a peasant.  I’m too poor and from too weak a history (my last name literally means little left-hander) to have a place with any other king.  I’m not good-looking enough.  I’m not talented enough.  I’m not elite enough.  But I have a place with Jesus.  I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not, because I fit in his lineage.

I imagine Matthew telling me the stories of these broken lives and the moments of redemption weaved within them.  When we get to the end, we finally get to Jesus.  He tells me, “And Jesus was the seventh seven.”  At first I’m confused, but intrigued.  He begins to show me that all of these names are broken into sections…three section of fourteen.  A list of seven, then a list of seven, then a list of seven, then another list of seven, a list of seven, a final list of seven, and then Jesus.  Matthew tells me that he had to play around with Jesus’ genealogy a little bit to make this happen, but it was more important to tell me this part of Jesus’ story than to give me a few more names.  I asked him back, “What does it mean that Jesus is the seventh seven?”

Jesus is the fulfillment of everything we’ve been longing for.

From Abraham to Mary, every name of this list has been waiting.  Their lives have been lived in the expectation that something was coming.  Something that was going to make sense of this life and give meaning to everything they have done.  They were waiting for God to come back, for Yahweh to rule in Zion again.  They were waiting and hoping and dreaming and it was all about Jesus.  He was everything they were waiting for.

I stared at this list for a while.  Jesus is the fulfillment of everything I’m longing for, and I began to think about my longings.  I thought about my family, my boys and my little one to come.  I thought about my dreams and the desires I have in this life.  I thought about security and finances, about possessions and wishing I had hair.  I thought about friendships and people.  I thought about everything I’ve been longing for and it was like Matthew was reading my mind, “Jesus is the only one that can fulfill those desires.”  He’s it.

He’s the one I’ve been waiting for.

At this point I realized that I officially really like Matthew.  If we were actually having this faux coffee date this would be about the point where I’d say, “We should hang out more.”  Matthew has one more thing to tell me though.  All of these people, they’ve all been waiting, but they have been waiting in different seasons.  This story has markers, very important markers.

I imagine Matthew saying, “The first set of names, they are from Abraham to David.  This was the season when God’s promises were alive.  They were moving and God’s people were in the middle of experiencing the beauty of what it meant to be part of God’s movement.  The second set of names, from David to the exile, were part of a very different season.  This was the season when God’s people threw away everything God had given them and tore apart their lives.  While they had everything they needed, they traded it in to be their own kings.  The last set of names, from the exile to Mary, were in the quiet season.  It was here that God’s people wanted to hear God, but he was silent.  They wanted to be with him again, but they didn’t know where to find him.  This Jesus, he’s king of every season.  Jesus was the real king when everything was working.  Jesus was the real king when everything was failing.  And Jesus was the real king when silence was deafening.”

Jesus reigns if we are in seasons of beauty, seasons of loss, or seasons of silence.

As I sit back in my chair, I realize that through it all Matthew is trying to tell me one central thing.  Jesus is credible.  He’s faithful.  It doesn’t matter what lens you look through, Jesus is trustworthy.  No matter what is going on in my life, no matter the strength of my faith or my doubt, Jesus is someone worth hearing out.  He’s credible to handle my sin.  He’s credible to understand my life.  He’s credible to hear my heartache.  He’s credible to know my needs.  He’s credible to carry my life.  He’s credible to know my story.  He’s credible to know my needs.  He’s credible to fulfill on his word.  He’s credible.

He’s a good King.  A really really good King.

May you today be reminded that Jesus isn’t like other kings.  He has a lineage that you belong in and is inviting you to become family.  May you see that whatever season of life you find yourself in, Jesus can carry the weight.  He’s sufficient.  And may you let Matthew and his brothers remind you that there is a King named Jesus and you are really going to want to know Him.  And the best part is…you can.

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Developing Rhythm.

It’s been too long since my last blog.  I’ve started about four different blogs since the one I last published, but at some point I hit that turn and I can’t seem to bring it to completion.  I’ve thought a lot about this and have asked a lot of questions internally.  Mainly, “Why do you suck so much at keeping a blog?”  And the best part of asking that question is that I actually came to an answer.  The truth is that I approach writing blogs like I approach life…

I have a really hard time not being perfect.

I don’t stop blogs because I can’t finish projects, which at times is a truth in my life.  I don’t stop blogs because I can’t think of things to say (we all know that’s not true).  I stop blogs because at some point right in the middle it isn’t poignant enough, deep enough, poetic enough or some other selfish reason that just makes me turn my head and say…”Eeehhhhhh.”  I get this idea in my head that every stroke of my keyboard needs to be leading to a transcendent moment…and when they don’t I tell my own words that they aren’t valuable.  And that has made me realize not only how much I do this with my writing, but how much I do this with my life.

How many aspects of the mundane have I criticized?

How many moments of the faithful roll of life have I viewed as unimportant?

One thing I’ve learned about my life is that I love catalytic experiences.  I love creating moments.  I’m the kind of guy that if I have some money to spend, I want to spend it on an experience.  Who wants to replace a cracked windshield when we could drive to Savannah for a night?  Who wants to buy a shirt when we could try dinner somewhere we have never gone before?  Who wants to buy furniture when we could go to Harry Potter world?  Pay for a hair cut?  Ppppfffff…I’ve got clippers for you honey.  You’re beginning to see why Emily Manginelli is truly the saint that she is.  I’ve somehow bought into the idea that if I can’t take a snapshot of a moment, it isn’t that great of a moment.  And I’m beginning to realize what a lie that is.

Translate that to right now.  To planting a church in Atlanta.

When people ask me how things are going I always say the same thing, “Good I think.”  What I’m really saying behind those three words is, “We aren’t a thousand people yet, so I’m pretty sure we are failing entirely.”  That might be a bit of hyperbole, but it’s true to some extent.  Almost four months into life in Atlanta I’m beginning to realize that my perspective is completely dominated by the lack of highlight moments.  I wanted church planting to be like the Miami Heat…and it’s a lot more like the San Antonio spurs.  For those who know that means you really know what I mean.  We haven’t had a night where tons of people are giving their life to Jesus.  We haven’t had moments where everyone in the room is bawling their eyes out because my preaching is just that good.  We haven’t remedied Atlanta’s poverty problems and have the photo-op that is going to keep everyone giving.

But you know what we have had?

A good transition.  I like Atlanta and my boys and girl are happy.

A closeness with Emily’s family that we have never had before.  Everyday God is moving in our family life.

We’re developing relationships with amazing people.  Some Christian.  Some not.  We are becoming close with neighbors, single moms, coffee-shop workers, doctors, college students and the amazing random friendships that God is brining our way.

We’re learning how to live every moment for the gospel.  I don’t go to a grocery store, coffee shop, soccer game or meeting without asking Jesus to move.  I’ve never lived life so intentionally.

We’re gathering faithful people to worship Jesus and listen to the word on Sunday nights.  Right now it’s a whole lot of family and some really epic people…but God is stirring things.  Jesus is glorified and in the middle of so many questions of “How in the world do we do this?”,  God is just doing this.

And you want to know what is in the middle of all of the mundane?  A rhythm.  A Jesus rhythm that is helping me realize that he really doesn’t live in the highlights…he lives right in the real.  I’m sure there are going to be those occasional epic moments that me and Jesus get to do some high-fiving, but right now I’m completely OK just hanging with Jesus in the real.  Because it’s in the real that I’ve got to grow with Andy, Christina, Eliza, Braden, Zach, Shawn, Whitney, Daniel, David, Lauren, Chris, Jennie, Ethan, Shelley, John, Emily, Brandon, Tyler, Mel, Holly, and so many more.  God has started to give me people to love.

And for me…that’s all the highlight reel I need.

May you today stop measuring life by your own definitions of perfection.  May you stop ignoring what is right in front of you because it isn’t as epic as you wish it was.  May you finally realize that grass will only be greener in heaven…and oh yeah, I actually already have that now as well.  Stop living life like a half done blog…because I’m pretty sure what really matters is in the middle of whatever you just gave up on.