Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Joyful Urgency


Mark 6: 7-13 (from The Message)
Jesus called the Twelve to him, and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority and power to deal with the evil opposition. He sent them off with these instructions:

“Don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this. You are the equipment. No special appeals for funds. Keep it simple. And no luxury inns. Get a modest place and be content there until you leave. If you’re not welcomed, not listened to, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way.”


Then they were on the road. They preached with joyful urgency that life can be radically different; right and left they sent the demons packing; they brought wellness to the sick, anointing their bodies, healing their spirits.

From my journal: 12/14/2000
Now here's something worth emulating: "They preached with joyful urgency...." Not intense warnings of doom; not flaming arrows aimed at the heathen culture. Instead, a declaration of Good News; of escape and improvement from the evils of the day; of faith that lends assurance and strength.


*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...I'm not sure if anyone has ever come to faith in Jesus because of losing an argument. The world could use a lot fewer preachers yelling at non-Christians for behaving like non-Christians and a lot more people who proclaim with lives of joyful urgency that there's a better way. "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:17) Or, as Peterson puts it in The Message, "God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again."

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

How Scriptural IS Your Nativity Scene?


A San Diego-based company is getting a lot of press...and a lot of flak...concerning its 2016 creation of a Nativity set designed as if Jesus were born to a Millennial couple in 2016. The wise men are on Segways, bearing gifts from Amazon Prime. A shepherd is posting the event on Instagram. The "100% Organic" cow is eating gluten-free feed.

And at the center of it all, in a solar-paneled stable, are the new parents, sipping a Starbucks and taking selfies.



Not surprisingly, there are two equal and opposite reactions to this product. Some think it's hilarious and they're buying the sets as fast as they can be produced. Others think it's sacrilegious and are condemning it loud and long.

But before anybody gets out the tar and feathers, maybe we should stop and consider...just how Scriptural (or not) are the "traditional" Nativity scenes (which have only been around for about 700 years or so)?

It's nothing new to mention that the Bible does not specify the number of wise men, just the number of gifts. And it's probably good to remind ourselves that there's no Scriptural precedent for having the wise men and the shepherds visiting the baby at the same time.

But how about that meeting place? Why have it all take place in a stable?

Presumably, because of Luke 2:7, which in the King James translation says, "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes,and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn."

We read that and in our minds we think, "No vacancy at the local motel; a manger is a feeding trough for animals; that adds up to Mary and Joseph being in a stable, right?"

Not necessarily.

There are some other factors to put into our mental equation:

  • Bethlehem was Joseph's ancestral home. (That's why they were going there to register with the government.) He had family there.
  • Extending hospitality to family members was (and is) very important in the Semitic culture.

Joseph and Mary would be staying with family, not in some generic "inn". And that makes the NIV's alternate translation of the word "inn" more likely: "...there was no guest room available for them."

"But wait a minute!" you interject. "If they were at a relative's house, what's the deal with laying the baby in a manger?"

Good question...and here's what I think is a good answer.

According to my Adult Bible Fellowship (aka Sunday School) teacher, who got his info from N. T. Wright's Luke for Everyone, a standard house in first century Palestine would have two rooms: the main room where all the cooking and living took place, and a guest room/sleeping area where the family was always prepared to accept guests and offer hospitality. Also likely was the existence of a kind of lean-to along the outside of a wall of the main room that served as shelter for any animals a family might have. And in that wall would be an opening or two that the sheltered horse or mule or whatever could stick its head through to eat hay or feed from the manger that was on the INSIDE of the wall of the main room.

So here's how it could have all gone down...

Joseph and the very pregnant Mary arrive at Joseph's relative's house and are welcomed to stay in the main room, as the guest room is already filled because of the massive influx of people coming to register with the government. Mary delivers her baby (Jesus), wraps him up, and lays him in the only available cradle: a feeding trough.

An extra point in this interpretation's favor is that it eliminates the need for Mary and Joseph to purchase a house and live in Bethlehem for two years before the wise men show up.

Truth is...this isn't going to change anyone's life, unless it causes someone to be a little less judgmental and self-righteous. And in that case...have yourself a merry little Christmas!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

#ThreeFictionalCharacters


The challenge was simple: Describe yourself in three fictional characters.

Fairly quickly, I came up with my answers and posted them on Facebook. Then a friend from church said, "I want to hear at least two reasons for each character you've selected. Though I think you've chosen wisely."

That's when the REAL introspection began...



GEORGE BAILEY
A truly honest man, who possesses a deep appreciation for friends (and whose friends return that love and respect); also feels like he kind of fell into his career without having pursued his childhood dreams



ROB PETRIE
Adores his wife unceasingly; takes joy in being creative, even if he looks foolish at times



BARNEY FIFE
A real rule-keeper who isn't as influential as he likes to think he is

Truth is...it was a good exercise, and only coincidental, I trust, that all three are in black and white.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Church is Not an Option


Many are the times I've heard someone say something to the effect of "I don't need to be part of a church. The forest [or mountain or beach or prairie] is my sanctuary. I can worship God wherever I am."

True enough...if we just consider the last sentence. But if we are to worship God "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24)  -  with our hearts, yes, but also rightly/Scripturally  -  we cannot do it completely on our own.

And I'm not just talking about checking off church membership on a list of required duties. There's something in it for us besides just keeping a rule or obeying a command. In The Normal Christian Life, Watchman Nee writes about the personal benefit of being a Christian as part of a larger group.




Romans 12:3-6 draws from the figure of the human body the lesson of our inter-dependence. Individual Christians are not the Body. They are its members, and in a human body "all the members have not the same office". The ear must not imagine itself to be an eye. No amount of prayer will give sight to the ear  -  but the whole body can see through the eye. So (speaking figuratively) I may have only the gift of hearing, but I can see through others who have the gift of sight; or, perhaps I can walk but cannot work, so I receive help from the hands. An all-too-common attitude to the things of the Lord is that, "What I know, I know; and what I don't know, I don't know, and can do quite well without." But in Christ, the things we do not know others do, and we may know them and enter into the enjoyment of them through others.

Let me stress that this is not just a comfortable thought. It is a vital factor in the life of God's people. We cannot get along without one another. That is why fellowship in prayer is so important. Prayer together brings in the help of the Body, as must be clear from Matthew 18:19-20. Trusting the Lord by myself may not be enough. I must trust Him with others. I must learn to pray "Our Father..." on the basis of oneness with the Body, for without the help of the Body I cannot get through. In the sphere of service this is even more apparent. Alone I cannot serve the Lord effectively, and He will spare no pains to teach me this. He will bring things to an end, allowing doors to close and leaving me ineffectively knocking my head against a blank wall until I realize that I need the help of the Body as well as of the Lord. For the life of Christ is the life of the Body, and His gifts are given to us for work that builds up the Body.


*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...we are all individuals, and God certainly saves each person, not just a faceless group of people. But the New Testament tells us nothing about such a thing as a Lone Ranger Christian. As Nee puts it: "God does not blame me for being an individual, but for my individualism. His greatest problem is not the outward divisions and denominations that divide His Church but our own individualistic hearts."


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Wind Ran Out of Breath


Mark 4:35-41 (The Message)

Late that day [Jesus] said to [the disciples], “Let’s go across to the other side.” They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, “Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?”

Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”

They were in absolute awe, staggered. “Who is this, anyway?” they asked. “Wind and sea at his beck and call!”


From my journal, December 7, 2000

I'm trying hard to imagine what that was like: fearing for your life because of a big storm and the next minute, at the command of your friend, the storm stops and you're safe.

Befuddlement.

Astonishment bordering on disbelief.

You'd try to be happy about it, but it was all just so  -  so  -  so STRANGE that all you can do is drop your jaw and gape.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...we've done a pretty good job over the years of making Jesus less and less astonishing (see a previous post about that thought HERE). To counteract that, try reading the Gospels as if you were one of the participants.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Problem with Watchman Nee


I'm almost done with my re-reading of Watchman Nee's The Normal Christian Life and I've got an issue I don't think I can solve.

There's so much really good stuff in this book, and it really does take a few pages to lead up to Nee's strong conclusions and statements...it's impossible to do his thoughts justice in the limited space of a blog post.

So rather than attempt to fully support any overarching theological pronouncement, allow me to sprinkle some salt here in hopes that it will create a thirst for reading the whole thing.



*  Just as no man could ever commit suicide by crucifixion, for it were a physical impossibility to do so, so also, in spiritual terms, God does not require us to crucify ourselves. We were crucified when Christ was crucified, for God put us there in Him. That we have died in Christ is not merely a doctrinal position, it is an eternal and indisputable fact.

*  There is an old world and a new world, and between the two there is a tomb. God has already crucified me, but I must consent to be consigned to the tomb. My baptism confirms God's sentence, passed upon me in the Cross of His Son. It affirms that I am cut off from the old world and belong now to the new. So baptism is no small thing.

*  [God's] finger will touch, point by point, everything that is not of Him, and will say: "This must go." Are you willing? It is foolish to resist God, and always wise to submit to Him.

*  Man's thought is always of the punishment that will come to him if he sins, but God's thought is always of the glory man will miss.

*  Because the Lord Jesus died on the Cross, I have received forgiveness of sins; because the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, I have received new life; because the Lord Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of the Father, I have received the outpoured Spirit. All is because of Him; nothing is because of me.


*  *  *  *  *  *  *
Truth is...I was thirsty for a rebirth of my appreciation for what Jesus has done for me and what He is doing through me. This book is a large glass of cold water.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Running On Empty?


While raking the leaves in my backyard a week and a half ago, I was listening to a Pandora station that I've titled "Three Dog Night Radio". It's full of music from the Seventies...but that's okay, because so am I.

Jackson Browne's song, Running on Empty, came on. It's always been an enjoyable listen, but with the earbuds in, I could understand the lyric better than ever before.




Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields
In sixty-five I was seventeen and running up one-oh-one
I don't know where I'm running now, I'm just running on


Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I'm running behind


Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive
Trying not to confuse it with what you do to survive
In sixty-nine I was twenty-one and I called the road my own
I don't know when that road turned onto the road I'm on


Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I'm running behind


Everyone I know, everywhere I go
People need some reason to believe
I don't know about anyone but me
If it takes all night, that'll be all right
If I can get you to smile before I leave


Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
I don't know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
Look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too


Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I'm running behind


Honey you really tempt me
You know the way you look so kind
I'd love to stick around but I'm running behind
You know I don't even know what I'm hoping to find
Running into the sun but I'm running behind





Truth is...In sixty-nine I was turning twelve and called neither the road nor much of anything else my own. Teenage angst was a couple years away and mid-life despair was unimaginable. But I consider these words now and feel empathy and compassion for those who don't know how they ended up on the road they're on...those who "don't even know what [they're] hoping to find" and constantly feel like they're running behind. I understand and ache for those who "look around for the friends that [they] used to turn to to pull [them] through; looking into their eyes [and] see them running, too."

If you find yourself at that point of your journey, I invite you to click on the "Hope" label and see what this blog has had to say about all that.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

That's My King!


Voting booths vanish. Ballots are blotted out. Opinion polls and expert analyses are absolutely inconsequential...compared to a certain Galilean carpenter.


I wish I could describe Him to you (like Dr. S. M. Lockridge does)...


Truth is...no matter who wins today's election, Jesus is still my King.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Imagine No Religion


I know, I know...everybody thinks John Lennon's song, Imagine, is so beautiful and peaceful. It's kind of become an anthem for inclusiveness and acceptance.

But have you ever paid attention to the lyric?

You've heard about Coffee With Jesus in this space before (HERE and HERE). Well, the folks at Radio Free Babylon took the time to notice Lennon's words and have them coming out of the appropriate character's mouth...followed by a fitting response from Jesus.



Then Satan just keeps pushing his point...



...until Jesus points out the irony in the whole thing.



Truth is...religion probably DOESN'T do all that much for world peace and love and brotherhood. But then, religion is only mankind's pursuit of God. Christianity, however, is the story of God's pursuit of mankind. A world full of Jesus followers whose allegiance is untarnished by man-made boundaries and anti-Biblical traditions would be a world worth imagining indeed. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Joyous Surrender


You know what an oxymoron is, right? It's when two words of a common phrase can be seen as contradicting each other. For example:

  • Jumbo Shrimp
  • Civil War
  • Political Ethics


In the worship song, Hear Our Song, Jadon Lavik, Marc Byrd, and Steve Hindalong have given us a two-word phrase that just may be asking for inclusion in that list: Joyous Surrender

Consider:

joyous (joi-uhs)adj. 1. Having a happy nature or mood;  2. joyful  Synonyms: cheerful, ecstatic, exuberant, festive, jubilant, merry, upbeat

surrender (suh-ren-der) verb  1. to yield (something) to the possession or power of another; deliver up possession of on demand or under duress;  2. to give (oneself) up, as to the police;  3. to give up, abandon, or relinquish (comfort, hope, etc.)  Synonyms: abdication, capitulation, relinquishment, succumbing

And now...consider how the phrase is used in the song:


Truth is...while giving up seems like a negative thing that certainly wouldn't result in an abundance of joy, when a person stops fighting against God and instead trusts in His perfect love and says, with the Apostle Paul, "To live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21), there is a deep joy that surpasses the fleeting happiness of happenstance.

And so I joyously say...I surrender all. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

You Can't BE "Good Enough"


More from Watchman Nee's The Normal Christian Life:

God's way of deliverance is altogether different from man's way. Man's way is to try to suppress sin by seeking to overcome it; God's way is to remove the sinner. Many Christians mourn over their weakness, thinking that if only they were stronger all would be well. The idea that, because failure to lead a holy life is due to our impotence, something more is therefore demanded of us, leads naturally to this false conception of the way of deliverance. If we are preoccupied with the power of sin and with our inability to meet it, then we naturally conclude that to gain the victory over sin we must have more power. "If only I were stronger," we say, "I could overcome my violent outbursts of temper," and so we plead with the Lord to strengthen us that we may exercise more self-control.



But this is altogether a fallacy; it is not Christianity. God's means of delivering us from sin is not by making us stronger and stronger, but by making us weaker and weaker. That is surely rather a peculiar way of victory, you say; but it is the divine way. God sets us free from the dominion of sin, not by strengthening our old man but by crucifying him.


*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...There's not a thing you can do to gain forgiveness from your sins or deliverance from the power of Sin over you. Trying harder won't do it. Praying harder won't do it. Locking yourself in a tower or stranding yourself on a remote island won't do it. Only when you realize that it's not about what you do...but it's all about what Jesus did...only then will God's forgiveness and grace take its full effect in your soul.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Heavenly Stuff I'm Pretty Sure About


I certainly don't know all there is to know.

[I'll just wait here a little bit while the shock of that statement washes over you.]

However...

There are a couple misconceptions about heaven I've heard recently that I'd like to clear up.


When we die, we do not become angels.
Angels are a separate category of created beings, not the souls of our dearly departed relatives. So...sorry...Uncle Billy is not your guardian angel and the attempt to comfort the grieving by saying "I guess God needed another angel, so He chose Uncle Billy" is just wrong-headed. Right-hearted, but wrong-headed. (In the same breath, I might as well burst the bubbles of those who think we all live in heaven until we are born.)

The main attraction in heaven will not be seeing all our loved ones who died before we did.
The big deal in heaven will be worshiping Jesus; seeing Him face-to-face. Do you really think we'll prefer sitting around talking to Uncle Billy over knowing Jesus fully, just as He fully knows us now? (I Corinthians 13:12)

Truth is...I could have titled this "Stuff We KNOW About Heaven" and left the page blank.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Watch My Knee!


I don't think very many people have the Chinese preacher, teacher, writer, Watchman Nee, on their personal radar. When I first heard about him, in my post-high school years, I didn't even understand his name...thought someone was telling me to be careful around their leg joint.


But he was pretty popular among my small group of radical, let's-create-a-Christian-coffeehouse, Jesus People wannabees. He spent the final 20 years of his life in a Chinese prison, dying at the age of 68 in 1972, but before that, he traveled extensively, telling anyone who would listen about Jesus Christ.

I hadn't heard ANYbody quote him or say anything about him for a long, long time until last week, when I heard him referenced two or three times within a couple days. "That tears it," I thought. "I need to dig out my old copy of The Normal Christian Life and read it again."


The Normal Christian Life is based on sermons and lessons originally given by Mr. Nee during and shortly after a visit to Europe in 1938-39. It was compiled and edited while Nee was in prison and first published in 1957. (I own the third revised edition, published in 1961.)

Even as old as it is...even as foreign as Watchman Nee's culture is to we Westerners...there is profound truth here, starting in Chapter One.

In the first section [of Romans 1-8] it is a question of the sins I have committed before God, which are many and can be enumerated, whereas in the second it is a question of sin as a principle working in me. No matter how many sins I commit, it is always the one sin-principle that leads to them. I need forgiveness for my sins, but I need also deliverance from the power of sin. The former touches my conscience, the latter my life. I may receive forgiveness for all my sins, but because of my sin I have, even then, no abiding peace of mind.

When God's light first shines into my heart my one cry is for forgiveness, for I realize I have committed sins before Him; but when once I have received forgiveness of sins I make a new discovery, namely, the discovery of sin, and I realize not only that I have committed sins before God but that there is something wrong within. I discover that I have the nature of a sinner. There is an inward inclination to sin, a power within that draws to sin. When that power breaks out I commit sins. I may seek and receive forgiveness, but then I sin once more. So life goes on in a vicious circle of sinning and being forgiven and then sinning again. I appreciate the blessed fact of God's forgiveness, but I want something more than that: I want deliverance. I need forgiveness for what I have done, but I need also deliverance from what I am.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...While it is accurate to say that I sin and therefore, I am a sinner, it is far more accurate to say that because I am a sinner, I commit sins. And...the greatest truth of all...Jesus both saves from sins and delivers from sin.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Can't See the Savior for the Saved


Sporting events and concerts aren't the only time crowds can become an issue.

Mark 2:1-4 (NIV)
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. (To read the rest of the story, click here.)



From my journal, November 21, 2000
Today, what strikes me about this story are the crowds of people who wanted to see Jesus, who wanted to hear Jesus  -  people who, for the most part, really thought Jesus was special  -  it is this crowd of people who are blamed by Mark as being the reason the crippled man's friends couldn't get the guy to Jesus.

Lord, are there times when we exclude...when the church is so intent on peripherals...that we actually make it harder for people to come to know You?

(Duh.)


*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...and it's a sad truth...whether it's a concentration on showmanship during "worship" or selfishness during the week, sometimes the biggest hindrances to seekers becoming believers are the people who already believe. Or, as C. S. Lewis put it: "When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world."

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dancing in the Streets of Innocence


An earlier post that included the Margaret Becker song, Who Am I, reminded me of another work of hers that the whole world needs to rediscover.


Innocence, innocence
In innocence, in innocence

Tonight I'll sleep like a baby
On the bed of no regrets
Well listen, you, you can have your money
Now you, you can keep your pride
I don't need nothing
'Cause I'll be living rich tonight
In innocence, in innocence

Tonight I will count my blessings
Contemplate the treasure of the meek
Like the peace that passes understanding
The joy that keeps my soul
Well I, I am planning
On taking home the holy gold of
Innocence, of innocence

Resistance, resistance
I turn the other cheek
Well, there's no freedom like the freedom 
Dancing in the streets of

Resistance, resistance
I turn the other cheek, well
Freedom, freedom you will find me
Dancing in the streets of
Innocence, of innocence



Truth is...because Jesus has wiped out everything that stood between me and my maker, I have every reason in the world to sleep well, consider myself wealthy beyond belief, forgive others......and dance with joy like no one's watching.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Take My Mother-in-Law...Please


Jesus never had a mother-in-law of his own, yet he still had to deal with one...Peter's (Simon's).


Mark 1:29-31 (NIV):
As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

From my journal, November 17, 2000:
The first response of Peter's mother-in-law when Jesus healed her: service. She fixed dinner for them. In the same way, may I daily renew my sense of wonder at the love God expresses to me, and live out of a grateful heart.

Truth is...we don't do good things so Jesus will love us, but out of gratitude because He loves us.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Old MacDonald Spoke of Forgiveness


...E, I, E, I, O...

But seriously, George MacDonald (1824-1905) was not only a literary inspiration for the likes of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein, but a Scottish preacher who also published three volumes of Unspoken Sermons...from which comes the following words about one of my favorite topics, forgiveness.


I do not know that it is of much use to go back to the Greek or the English word -- It will be enough if we look at the feelings associated with the exercise of what is called forgiveness.

A man will say: "I forgive, but I cannot forget. Let the fellow never come in my sight again." To what does such a forgiveness reach? To the remission or sending away of the penalties which the wronged believes he can claim from the wrong-doer.


But there is no sending away of the wrong itself from between them.


Again, a man will say: "He has done a very mean action, but he has the worst of it himself in that he is capable of doing so. I despise him too much to desire revenge. I will take no notice of it. I forgive him. I don't care."


Here, again, there is no sending away of the wrong from between them-- no remission of the sin.


A third will say: "I suppose I must forgive him; for if I do not forgive him, God will not forgive me."


This man is a little nearer the truth, inasmuch as a ground of sympathy, though only that of common sin, is recognized as between the offender and himself.


One more will say: "He has wronged me grievously. It is a dreadful thing to me, and more dreadful still to him, that he should have done it. He has hurt me, but he has nearly killed himself. He shall have no more injury from it that I can save him. I cannot feel the same towards him yet; but I will try to make him acknowledge the wrong he has done me, and so put it away from him. Then, perhaps, I shall be able to feel towards him as I used to feel. For this end I will show him all the kindness I can, not forcing it upon him, but seizing every fit opportunity; not, I hope, from a wish to make myself great through bounty to him, but because I love him so much that I want to love him more in reconciling him to his true self. I would destroy this evil deed that has come between us. I send it away. And I would have him destroy it from between us too, by abjuring it utterly."


Which comes nearest to the divine idea of forgiveness?


*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...we all know the answer to that question. May we love people enough to truly forgive them; restoring the relationship between us and the people who wrong us, and between the people who wrong us and God.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Me So Little, He So Big, And Yet...


I was privileged to grow up on a farm that was far enough away from the big city of Fort Wayne, Indiana that I could actually see stars. Many were the nights I would lay in our yard, stare up at the diamond-studded sky, and feel an inner twinge of extreme smallness.


Apparently, the young shepherd David did the same thing, and it led him to write a song that would become the 8th Psalm...

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them;
human beings that you care for them?

Margaret Becker turns those thoughts into a more-personal question: Who am I?


Truth is...I may never know why it is He loves me so, but I will live my life celebrating the fact that He does.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

JtB or JC?


Mark gets right to it in his account of Jesus' life...cuts to the chase, as it were.

Mark 1:1-11 from Eugene Peterson's The Message:
The good news of Jesus Christ—the Message!—begins here, following to the letter the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

Watch closely: I’m sending my preacher ahead of you;
He’ll make the road smooth for you.
Thunder in the desert!
Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight!

John the Baptizer appeared in the wild, preaching a baptism of life-change that leads to forgiveness of sins. People thronged to him from Judea and Jerusalem and, as they confessed their sins, were baptized by him in the Jordan River into a changed life. John wore a camel-hair habit, tied at the waist with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild field honey.

As he preached he said, “The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life. I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.”



At this time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. The moment he came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God’s Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice: “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.”

From my journal, November 15, 2000:
Which would I rather be: Jesus, or John the Baptist? Would I rather have my way prepared for me, or prepare the way for another?  -  At one time or another, I'm sure that each of us is each of them. But oh, to hear God say, "You are chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life."

Truth is...None of us can actually be either John the Baptist or Jesus Christ, but we can, to a certain extent, fill similar roles in the lives of people we have contact with. I can help prepare a person to be ready to receive Jesus by speaking truth, living out love in practical ways, and offering grace and forgiveness like a "little Christ" (a literal definition of "Christian").

The song, You're the Only Jesus, as sung by The Imperials:


Or, if you prefer prose to poetry, this quick thought from David Whiting:


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ruler of Islam Saves Protestantism


It's not Scripture (in fact, it's probably from a 19th century hymn by William Cowper), but it's still true: God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.

The phrase came to mind when I recently read an excerpt from Martin Luther (by Scott H. Hendrix) that explained how the Catholic church could have easily nipped Martin Luther and his fellow protesters in the bud except for being occupied with the military threat posed by the Islamic leader of "the Turks", Sultan Suleymon.


Which in turn reminded me of a song by Rich Mullins (long-time readers should not be surprised):  Who God Is Gonna Use



Truth is...if God can use a donkey or an Islamic sultan or a Roman Governor to bring about His grand story of redemption, He can certainly use you or me.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Fill My Cup


Feeling empty?

Let's escape from the current political news and social chaos and rumor-mongering and turn to what has proven to be a source of comfort and hope to millions of people through the course of thousands of years...music.

And the particular piece of music I'd like to direct you to today is not just a song; it's also a prayer.


Well, if you've got six minutes to spare, let the message of this song, as recorded by Debbie Roth of Rest in Him Ministry, become your personal plea for refreshment.





Truth is...yes, that IS my wife and yes, I would love for you to arrange for her to sing and/or speak at your next ladies' retreat or fellowship event. However...it would give me even more joy to know that this little oasis of hope has made today's journey through the desert more bearable.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Making Memories


The entertainment industry recently lost not only a prolific instigator of laughter, but by all accounts a genuinely kind-hearted fellow...Garry Marshall.

From writing episodes of hits like The Lucy Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show in the 60's, through having his finger in what seemed like every ABC sitcom in the 70's (The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy), to directing, and often writing, a string of successful films in the 80's and beyond (Beaches, Pretty Woman, The Other Sister, Runaway Bride...), Garry Marshall launched careers, propelled people to stardom, and taught a generation (or two) how to laugh without ridiculing or pandering.


Anne Hathaway became a star being directed by Marshall in The Princess Diaries. In her written remarks upon his death, she quotes Marshall's words to her before filming began:


“You never know if a movie is going to be a hit or not. The only thing you can control is the memories you make when shooting it. So, let’s make some good memories.”

Truth is...the same thing can be said about almost any earthly endeavor or even about life itself. The importance of the destination dims if there is no joy in the journey. So get out there and live a memorable life!   

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Who Hit the Self-Destruct Button?


You've heard the frantic and/or depressed declarations, haven't you?

"The world has gone crazy."

"These are the end times."

"I don't feel safe driving to the store anymore."

First of all, as heartfelt and desperate as some of these kind of statements may be, 2016 is not the first time they've been said. Every time some faction strikes out against another in the Middle East, 12 new books are published about end-time prophecy (boldly flying in the face of Jesus' words in Matthew 24:6, "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come."). Every new generation seems to throw away the values of the old one. Each election cycle stirs up fears of how the country will be ruined if The Other Guy (or Gal) gets more votes. I'm old enough to remember how "the whole world [was] watching" as 10,000 protesters and 23,000 Chicago police and National Guardsmen violently interacted at the 1968 Democratic convention.


Second of all, there is a distinct possibility of good coming from all this bad. Yes, I'm serious. If nothing else, isn't it possible for the current unrest to break through the personal barriers to faith that some people have erected and lead them to see that, left to our own devices, we will surely destroy ourselves. Won't some be enabled to open their eyes and see that, indeed, the world needs Jesus?


When we share the love of Jesus
See each other as He sees us
Then His love will see us through 





Truth is...Some will look at current events and see the absence of God. Some will see the retaliation of God. Some will predict the soon return of God's Son. Me? I see our need for God. In any case, could there be a better time to do some reflecting on how a person ought to live and who a person ought to follow?