Tag Archives: Jesus

Why Do We Tell Our Kids A Lie – Christmas

Santa Christmas

 

Why do we tell our kids a lie,
Of that old man up in the sky,
And tell them that if they are good,
He’ll give them what they think he should?
But if they’ve been bad kids this year,
That old grey man won’t even hear
Their plea for what they want to have.
And so they learn to just be sad,
And to try harder every year,
To earn his favor and his cheer.

If this is how we’ve all been raised,
Why is it that we’re all amazed
That kids confuse that old grey man,
With He whose gracious, master plan
Was then to give his Son for us,
For us in our rebelliousness!
Before we knew the mighty task,
Or even had a chance to ask!
And so I hope you will this year
Participate in holy cheer,
As we all praise our God who gave
His only Son for us to save.

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Down To The Sea (Poem based on Psalm 107:23-32)

ships-sea

Down to the sea in ships they went,
They went down to the sea.
They went as those who had been sent;
In ships down to the sea.

They went for business on this trip,
Each man upon the sea.
And so each loaded up their ship
To sail upon the sea.

But not soon after they had left,
As sure as they could be.
There came upon them something which,
They thought they’d never see.

The waves they reached up to the sky,
And soon they fell below,
Which made each man a passer by,
As each went to and fro.

So up they went and down they came,
Each man went pound for pound,
They put all drunken men to shame,
With how they staggered round.

The storm was more than they could bear,
The chaos wouldn’t cease,
And so they shouted out in prayer,
They asked the Lord for peace.

And then the Lord, with His right hand,
And from His heart of love,
He calmed the storm so every man
Was rescued from above.

So let each man whose life was saved
Tell what the Lord has done.
Let them in wonder stand amazed,
And in His Spirit, run.

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Only God Knows How Things Should Be

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Fish would say the whole world should be water. Elephants would call ivory the most desirable substance on Earth. Flutes would say woodwinds make the most beautiful sounding music. Those struck by lightning would say all the world’s funding should go to lightning research. Those raised by wolves who go on to live normal lives would swear it was how every kid should be raised. Only God knows how things should be.

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Abide In Him – Or Die

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“Redemption is meaningless unless there is cause for it in the actual life we live, and for the last few centuries there has been operating in our culture the secular belief that there is no such cause.”
-Flannery O’Connor, 1957

I want to add something to Ms. O’Connor’s thought. And it is that right now (I can’t speak for the 1950’s), not only is it a secular belief but a widespread religious belief that there is no reason for Redemption in the actual lives we live. And nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus had a word for the Pharisees who believed that: hypocrites. He called them white-washed tombs.

Much of Christianity today acts like once you (the sick, the weary, the poor, the sinful) start following Jesus, He makes you perfect and you never doubt, sin, or get sick again. You are now a righteous person in yourself and so your relationship with God is pretty mutual. You keep doing good stuff for Him and he just keeps blessing you. Nothing is further from the truth! Hell is full of “righteous” people who believed some fact about God, thought they were then perfect, and then went on living trying to earn God’s favor with what they did. That teaching, whether explicit or implicit in any institution is an outright lie. It may seem harmless, but it has real world ramifications.

I recently heard someone tell me that at a church several years ago (not in Little Rock) in Sunday school, the leader asked for everyone to write down a personal need on a card along with your phone number, which he would then read the need out loud, and someone would raise their hand for that need, and get in touch with that person during the week to help. My friend wrote down a personal struggle with sin he was having, and obviously wanted prayer or help from anyone in the class. The Sunday school teacher started reading the requests – somebody needed help with a broken mower, somebody’s dog was sick, somebody needed prayer to sell their car, somebody wanted prayer for their business – etc, etc. My friend’s request was never read to his brothers and sisters in that room. It was thrown away by the leader. He didn’t want to read it. And what was the message that that sent to my friend? Don’t bring up your stuff in church. We keep it artificial here.

Later he was able to be transparent at another church, and found out that most everyone else was like him anyway, on the inside. All it took was him being transparent, and they all started opening up. It’s called community, and every human on the planet needs it. “Here’s who I am & what I’ve done, the very worst and the very best. Tell me about you. Ok, cool. That sounds a lot like me. Now we all see the good and the bad in each other, and yet, we’re strangely OK and happy to know each other. It’s like a little refuge from all the fake people out there. I really love you guys. We know the way to life, and we encourage each other along the way.” This necessarily involves vulnerability, transparency, and intimacy. We are like this because God is like this – Father, Son, and Spirit, who made each of us in their image. You will either find community in the body of Christ or in the body of another. Bars, clubs, anonymous groups, rehab facilities, affairs – all of these offer some form of transparent community that every human needs. It’s just who we are. And some of them (not affairs…) are useful and good for what they are. However, none of them can provide what only the body of Christ can provide.

I’m glad my friend found a group of believers he can be real with. We all need that. I know I do, and am thankful for the people in my life.

Jesus said “Come to me all you who are weary” and he also said “Abide in me…If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away”. To me that sounds like we come to Him and then we stay with Him because we still need Him. The New Testament also tells believers to confess our sins to each other, and also not to say that we do not sin, or else we make God out to be a liar. Practically, I know this is hard, because no one wants to hear somebody be negative all the time. Also, American culture is just generally very positive in nature. But, somewhere along the way the American church started replacing “Come to Me….Abide in Me” with “Come to Me…Ok now you’re good, you won’t sin anymore, therefore you don’t need me. Go do something FOR me. And, if you notice something wretched in you, just don’t tell anyone.”

I think we “abide in Him” by listening to him (his word), talking to Him (prayer), and being with and loving His body, the church. Kind of makes sense, really, since to know someone you need to be with them, talk to them, and listen to them. Also, for people that are married, knowing your spouse I think is a part of how you know God, though I am as yet unqualified to speak in that area! 🙂

And, part of all of those is admitting to yourself, Him, and each other – STILL – that we need Him. If our lives are perfect and we’ve got it all figured out, we just don’t need Him. We don’t.

However, we are far from perfect. And even what we think we know isn’t even a drop in the bucket of all knowledge. The good news, though, is that if you know Him, you know all you need to know. You know the one who has it all figured out, the one who is perfect, the supreme creator and ruler of the universe. If you know Him then He has your back, and He will never let you go.

If you know Him, our confession of sin and brokenness to Him and to each other will not make Him angry, but will bring Him joy, as we abide in Him.

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What is Easter?

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Easter weekend is more than just remembering something that happened in the past. It has to do with your own life, death, and redemption. It has to do with who you are, what you feel inside, how you know things aren’t right in yourself, or in the world — but it is a celebration of He who defeated death for us, and in His life lie all the answers to every eternal question, longing, and yearning we feel – we, who are still marred by sin. We, who know the answers and solutions to life can’t come from within us. We’ve tried that before and it always fails. We are excited to look outside ourselves for real satisfaction, joy, and meaning. In His resurrection we get to celebrate in the glory of another – in His glory which he has given to us!

If you are a Christian, don’t let Easter or Christmas be like every other holiday we have – bunnies and Santas are nice but these times of year celebrate the real, personal, eternal truths of who Jesus is, what He’s done, and what it all actually means. These are the most important, impactful things out there that we, our kids, and our world need. If you’re not into holidays period, that is fine. And really every Sunday should be Easter Sunday for us. But as Moses mentioned when instructing the Israelites about the Passover memorial day, “When your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ You shall say…”, I think we ought to be prepared for questions from kids about our holidays. You know, kids – the ones that ask a million questions?

Christmas is alright, but I absolutely love Easter. To me, it represents hope. It’s a remembrance of that day when the Son of Man, Jesus of Nazareth, defeated death because he just did not deserve it. He had lived in the world we all know and dread where you get what you pay for, where you are held to a standard of 100% perfection. It’s the world where God requires you to be perfect, where Jesus says to be perfect, and if you are not – you die. Jesus lived in this same world but he didn’t do a thing wrong. Every thing he did was righteous. By his life, he broke through Adam’s curse, and death just could not hold him down. He didn’t need to trust in a bloody lamb which would represent the future perfect sacrifice for God’s people – he was the very thing those lambs, Passover meals, prophets, priests, and kings all represented – Himself! His active obedience proved himself righteous before God’s law, which no man had ever done, before or since.

The Easter weekend is also a remembrance of the Son of God who bridged the gap between God and man. God’s only son, sent by God the Father to die in order to reconcile us to the Father. God the Son who took the form of a man knowing he was coming here to suffer and die, all to restore our relationship with the Father. It reminds me of the Greeks and their stories of gods coming down to earth and interacting with humanity. Only, this actually happened.

On that glorious Sunday, heaven and earth collided, and the spiritual met the physical. I say that because, even though physical death is something we see that is rooted in the Fall and our sin problem, it is such a common spiritual reality that we see it as normal when someone dies. It is so common that people get lulled into thinking that physical life and death is all there is. However, when Jesus physically rose from the dead, it was so abnormal that it really proved to people the spiritual realities of what was going on. Maybe he really was blameless? Maybe he really was God? We all feel broken, and we all die, so maybe he who defeated death wasn’t broken and messed up like us? Maybe what he said was true? Maybe there is a kingdom of God?

His resurrection also proved God’s love for us physically. It (He) was something you could touch, and see with your eyes. Even people who wrote Jesus and his followers off as nuts, or as believers in fairy tales couldn’t deny the physical man standing before them. All God’s promises and assurances in the Old Testament were validated physically – in front of real people’s eyes. All those years of hoping and praying, signs and shadows (with many seeing it as hocus pocus, pie in the sky wishful thinking); now it was here, and you couldn’t deny it.

“A man who was dead is now alive, his followers are healing people, and we’re beginning to see how the ancient Scriptures point to Him as the Messiah!” That is how I imagine those early Christians reacting.

Just as people today remember where they were when they heard Elvis was dead, JFK was dead, saw the man on the moon, or saw the events of 9/11, those people near Jerusalem who saw Jesus after he had died forever marked their lives by it, as did their kids and grandkids. Even those who didn’t believe all the meaning behind it still acknowledged what had happened. It was such a big deal that the whole world still marks time by His life today, 2,000 years later.

And it was such a big deal, that Christians still look to Jesus’ death and resurrection to make us right before God. To give us peace with Him. To quench that burning desire in our souls for things to just be right. Jesus’ work is the very grace we need, since our own works just don’t do the job. God knows that – that’s why he gave us His Son! It really is an amazing thing.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (It ain’t there!!!)

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What is Joy? [Poem]

sunrise-walk

There is a thing I’m finding out.

It’s really true, I have no doubt.

It has to do with: What is joy?

A subject which, since as a boy,

I’ve struggled with, and has been real,

Complete with shadows which appeal

Straight to the heart which was made for

Pure joy itself, and nothing more.

And so within a lonely tension

I’ve struggled with this comprehension:

Just what is joy, and how’s it found?

And why can’t I see greener ground?

And who with certainty can say

Just when to leave, and where’s the way?

The problem is, I’ve always thought

Of joy like something sold or bought

Like: here is what you’re sposed to do,

Just X, Y, Z to a happy you.

But what, in fact, I’ve seen take place

Are happy people in the race.

They may not even know the way

Or what they’re doing the next day.

Yet still they run, content to be

To just be happy, hopeful, free!

And what it is, I’m finding out

That they’ve got along the route

Is not a certainty of mind

Or some sure knowledge that they’ll find

Some better thing along the way —

Their minds aren’t on another day!

What they’ve learned along the trip,

Is joy within relationship!

It’s what they have within their soul

They makes them joyful, happy, whole.

And so this thing I’m finding out

It makes me want to scream and shout!

People aren’t just there for kicks,

Joy is found in relationship!

Joy’s not a thing that’s other than

What happens, when, within a man,

He has someone along the way

To just be with, content, today.

Someone, like him, perplexed by fate.

With whom he can commiserate.

Or someone who within his eyes

Will stare and not his soul despise.

And likewise, he, at will can glare

Upon his friend, a peaceful stare.

And so most people when they see

A friend they know, or family,

They see a chance to bond again

To reconnect with that dear friend.

They’re not like “Crap, it’s her”, “Oh, Hey”

“I wish I could get on my way.

Because I’ve got this stuff to do,

This stuff, which once I know I’m through,

Will let me then be happy, free,

So you be you, and I’ll be me.”

They don’t see life like that at all.

They see each moment, big or small,

In terms of those around them there.

And any joy a soul can spare,

They’ll bring it out of them, in fact,

And make it big – then throw it back.

And so within this back and forth

A thing is born and starts to morph.

It grows into it, bit by bit;

This thing we call “relationship.”

Now at this time I’d like to pause

And contemplate the root, the cause.

Just why is it that joy is found

Not by yourself but at the sound

And sight and feel of someone else;

Who’s not just there and has a pulse,

But seems to be there by design,

And there at just the perfect time?

I think it speaks to who God is,

And to his Son, who made me His.

To Jesus Christ, Who long ago

From up above came down below,

To take my grief and make it his.

It’s really true, I know it is.

To take his perfect joy divine,

To lose it all and make it mine.

I can’t explain just how or why,

And still I will believe a lie.

But at my core I know it’s true

He bled and died for me and you.

He left His own community

To give his joy to you and me.

To save us from the shame of sin,

To save us to a life with Him!

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Life Is Broken – But God

Life is not all cut and dry. It is not all neat. Things don’t happen like they should. This is not an exception, it is the rule. We are all broken. Everything is broken. Life is not like I thought it would be as a kid. As a kid I had the belief that life was very predictable, certain, and neat. That if you did the right things and worked hard enough, things would turn out just as you planned them and you would be happy. Real life is NOT like that. It is not a formula. Life is messy, confusing, seemingly random, and broken. But the good news is that there is a God who is using this broken life in such a way that, when we look back on it from heaven, we will say “I’m glad it happened that way!” Only then will we realize fully what God was up to.

I think that this is the best of all possible worlds.

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