Last Thursday we left our campsite in Flagstaff, AZ, and headed north in a rented car toward the Grand Canyon. It would be my second time to the Grand Canyon, but for Breena and the kids, it was their first. Before we arrived at the park, we drove through some beautiful country on the Arizona backroads.

Just south of the park is a little town that has benefitted greatly from the tourism the Canyon draws. I don’t remember it being there when I last visited the park in 2003, and anyway, all the buildings look as though they’ve been built in the last five years. The kids were grateful to stop someplace familiar: Wendy’s. As we waited in line, Breena spotted a brochure for a helicopter ride over the Canyon. On a normal trip this wouldn’t even be a consideration, but this is the Zekey Trip after all, and we’re here to make memories. So we booked our helicopter ride for 4:10, and we sped off toward the Canyon to get as much sight-seeing in as we could in the meantime.

The Canyon defies description. It is vast and deep and intricate and beautiful. That first glimpse into the Canyon’s depths will take your breath away, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. Photographs, obviously, cannot do it justice. The kids loved it, especially the girls. Bexley had no fear – she wanted to get as close to the edge as she could. But all Cyrus and Eisley could seem to talk about was the impending helicopter ride.

It was amazing. It was worth the cost. I almost threw up.

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We’re calling it the Zekey Trip. We had made arrangements with Make-A-Wish to take an RV trip all across the country, but when Zekey passed away in March, Make-A-Wish could no longer make the trip happen. Breena and I both felt that the trip would be an important investment in the healing of our family, so we set up a fund to help make it a reality. Many of you who read my and/or Breena’s blogs gave generously, and so the Zekey Trip has become a reality. (I’m sitting in the back of an RV in Flagstaff, AZ typing this.) To you we are so very grateful. Though many of you have never personally met us, you have poured generously into our lives, blessing us profoundly.

Below are some of my favorite pictures from the first couple of days of the trip. I hope to post more soon, but as you can imagine, our days are so full that I am usually exhausted by 8:00 and ready to fall asleep, incapable of stringing even one coherent sentence together. The trip started in Denver, and we spent our first night in Cripple Creek, CO, up near Pike’s Peak. On the second day we ate lunch at Garden of the Gods before driving to Santa Fe, NM down I-25. That drive was absolutely beautiful. On day 3 we drove to Flagstaff, AZ, stopping at the Petrified Forest National Park and the Meteor Crater along the way. The American West is stunning.

Several folks have been asking if they can still donate to Zeke’s Memorial Fund. The answer to that is, “Of course!” You can click on the PayPal Donate button in the left column of this blog, which will take you to a secure donation page. Again, we are eternally grateful for all who have made this trip a reality. God bless you!

Since our son Ezekiel passed away two and a half months ago, Breena and I have been often asked: How are you doing? The truth is, we’re doing well. This fact can be difficult for some to understand. After all, our 4 1/2 year old son died of a terrible disease that slowly destroyed his brain and his body for more than two years. How could we possibly be doing well after experiencing something like that?

IMG_0158The only answer we have to that question is that we’ve found a hope that transcends death. We’re doing well because we have hope that there is something, or someone, who is greater than death. This hope, which has buried itself deep within our hearts over the past two years, is rooted in Jesus and his resurrection from the dead. We believe that Jesus conquered death once and for all; not that he has yet eradicated it and our bodies will never die, but that he has risen again from the dead, thereby destroying the power of death. If Jesus rose again, then death isn’t final, at least not for those who follow Jesus.

Nothing else on earth offers this kind of hope. No other religion or ideology offers the kind of hope that Christianity does through the resurrection of Jesus. The cross and resurrection, the “true message of the Gospel,” gives humanity a hope that no other way of life can – a hope that strips death of its power to make us afraid and replaces it with a vision of an unimaginably glorious and good life beyond death. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15,

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This morning I preached a sermon at Grace on Matthew 12 called Sacred Cows. Jesus and his disciples were walking through a grainfield on the Sabbath, and because they were hungry, his disciples picked some heads of grain and ate them. The Pharisees, who enforced strict Sabbath-keeping laws, were incensed by their irreverence for the Sabbath, which had become the theological symbol of Moses’ law and the litmus test for Jewish faithfulness. The Sabbath had become a sacred cow for the Pharisees, and Jesus and his disciples were, in a sense, kicking the cow. He responded to their outcry with a bold claim: The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. 

We all have sacred cows, the things that have become primary identity markers, or litmus tests of faithfulness. It could be any number of things, including politics, our family, an ideology, or even the Bible. But when Jesus declared himself Lord of the Sabbath, he made the powerful statement that he is greater than all of our sacred cows. He is the Lord of all of our sacred identity markers and theological litmus tests. When any of these things come into conflict with him – as they did through the hunger of his disciples in that grainfield – we must choose him. We cannot serve two masters; we cannot serve both God and Sabbath.

If you’ve been holding onto something the way the Pharisees held onto the Sabbath, it’s time to let go. You’re crushing it under the weight of your expectations and demands. What the Pharisees should have done, and what we need to do, is to remind ourselves of this truth and live in it daily: Jesus is greater than. Because when you get that right, Jesus can do to the Bible, and to your family, and to your politics what he did to the Sabbath – he can redeem it from a dead list of dos and don’ts and transform it into something that breathes life into your spirit, sustains your soul, and brings healing and freedom to your whole being.

 

Benefit of the Doubt by Greg BoydWhat is faith? What does it mean to have great faith? What does faith look like in our relationship with God? What is the nature of our relationship with God? These are the questions that drive Greg Boyd’s book Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty. Part theology, part philosophy, part auto-biography, Boyd takes the reader on a journey of exploring the nature of biblical faith, contrasting it with the certainty-seeking faith he sees in many believers today.

Boyd argues that the problem with faith today is that it is most often expressed as an intellectual, or psychological, certitude. Using the metaphor of the “Strength Tester” carnival game, Boyd writes that the goal for many Christians today is “to hit a faith mallet as hard as you can in order to send the faith puck up the faith pole to get as close to the certainty bell as you possibly can.” (26) Faith has become the removal of, or the resistance to, doubt. The greatness of our faith is directly related to how certain we are about various beliefs; and God, of course, will reward our great faith by answering our prayers and showering us with blessing. Our relationship with God, then, is entirely dependent upon how certain we are in our minds that various things are true.

In chapter 2, Boyd gives eight compelling reasons why this approach to faith is misguided and unbiblical. While each of his objections to certainty-seeking faith give cause for reflection, I found the third objection quite compelling: “It replaces biblical faith with magic.” Some would immediately object to this statement, but I think there is deep truth in this statement. What, after all, is magic? Boyd defines it this way: “Magic is generally understood to involve people engaging in special behaviors that empower them to gain favor with, or to otherwise influence, the spiritual realm in order to get it to work to their advantage.” (38) Certainty-seeking faith aims to make God act on our behalf (through healing, perhaps). It is a means to an end. “One of the many differences between ‘magic’ and biblical faith is that magic is about engaging in behaviors that ultimately benefit the practitioner, while biblical faith is about cultivating a covenantal relationship with God that is built on mutual trust.” (39)

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