Sunday, December 3, 2017

Crap

My son has reached that age at which he doesn't have time for diaper changes. He's got far too much to do to lay still while I clean him. The other day, he had a particularly poopy diaper. It lay still for a solid 5 seconds, and then the squirming began followed by full body flailing and screaming as he voiced his protest. "Buddy, this would all be over if you just stayed still. By fighting me, you're making it much worse than it needs to be."

As he walked away clothed in a fresh diaper, I was convicted. How often do I do the exact same thing? How often has God called me to be still and wait on Him to clean up my crap, but instead I flail and fight to do it on my own. "My child, be still. By fighting Me, you're making it much worse than it needs to be."

Familiar

Ever find yourself bored by the Bible? You've heard the same stories so many times that you've grown numb? Reading through the book of Daniel, I found myself there.

I read the same story that I've heard for decades: King Darius' officials convince the king to make a degree forbidding praying to anyone but himself. Daniel defies this degree and prays to God. His consequence? Being thrown into the lions' den, which of course he survives. Yawn. We all know how the story goes.
Hold up! Blame it on my new found love of Marvel movies. Blame it on God graciously giving me fresh eyes. This is not a "yawn" story. This is miraculous!

Imagine Stan Lee making a "Daniel and the Lions' Den" movie. We see Daniel in a crowd listineing to the king's new decree. His God is suddenly illegal. The camera zooms in on Daniel's face which is both forlorn and confident. He will not abandon his God. Somehow, his God will save him, and even if He doesn't, Daniel confidently trust Him (sounds like a few other characters from a few chapters back *couth Shadrach, Meshach, an Abedigo cough*). The scene switches to Daniel kneeling in his room in prayer when guards bust through the door and apprehend him. With smug faces, they drag Daniel to a pit filled with roaring, leaping lions. As Daniel falls in slow motion into the pit, out of no where an angel zooms in Tony Stark style, gently placing Daniel in the corner of the pit and then shuts the mouths of each and every lion in an epic fight scene (because it won't be a Marvel movie with an epic fight scene).

The scene returns to Darius pacing the night away in his castle. "Daniel's God, if You're real, protect Your servant." As the light barely peaks over the horizon, Darius runs full sprint to the den. "Daniel? Daniel!"

"I'm here, king. My God has protected me."

The film appears to be over, but there's a hidden scene within the credits. Not only has God miraculously saved Daniel's earthly life, but He's also transformed Darius' heart, and as a result, changed his kingdom. We see a final scene that hints at a coming story, of God's plan for salvation for all.

In this advent season, as we hear stories that are often so familiar, I pray that God gives us fresh eyes to see. May we marvel at the miracles of God using a humble virgin to bring His beloved Son to earth to save us all. Lord, remove the veil of familiarity. Trade in our flannel graph understanding for a marvelous epic. Give us eyes to see Your miraculous plan. May we know You more.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Baby Changes Everything

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid,Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.Mary Visits Elizabeth39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”Mary’s Song46 And Mary said:“My soul glorifies the Lord47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,48 for he has been mindful    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—    holy is his name.50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,    from generation to generation.51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones    but has lifted up the humble.53 He has filled the hungry with good things    but has sent the rich away empty.54 He has helped his servant Israel,    remembering to be merciful55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,    just as he promised our ancestors.”56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
Luke 1
Mary has always stuck out to me as I reflect on the Christmas story, and this year more than ever as we're expecting our own baby boy. As I read Mary's response to the news that she will bear the son of God, I'm amazed. As her whole world, her entire plan for her life, is turned upside down, she doesn't respond with anger or fear. Rather, she responds with total surrender and praise.
Lord, teach me to be like Mary. When things don't go my way, teach me to respond with gratitude and praise. When the unexpected comes, teach me to be ever trusting of Your plan. You are in control, and I'm not. And I won't have it any other way.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Omniscient

"'Yet there are some of you who do not believe.' For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray Him. He went on to say, 'This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless the Father has enabled them.'
From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.
'You do not want to leave too, do you?' Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered Him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that You are the Holy One of God'
Then Jesus replied, 'Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil! (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray Him.)"
John 6:64-71

After miraculously feeding over 5,000 people with a young boy's lunch, Jesus declared that He alone is the Bread of Life, that it is only through Him that people can be sustained eternally. He offered gruesome imagery of eating His flesh and drinking His blood in order to live eternally. In response, many turned from Him; this man didn't fit their cultural norms or ideas of the Messiah. Even one in His innermost circle would betray Him.

Astonishingly, Jesus knew all of this. He wasn't surprised when Judas betrayed Him. He wasn't surprised when followers who yelled "Hosanna!" on  Sunday would yell, "Crucify Him!" on Friday. He knew who would reject Him, beat Him, kill Him. Yet despite this knowledge, Jesus still draws them in. He continues to share the truth of the Father with them, continues to heal and provide the miraculous, continues to share His very self with them, continues to love with abandon.

And so He does today. My God knows my heart. He knows the ugliness and beauty. He knows when I will turn from Him to do my own will. He knows how I will fail Him. He knows my sins that put Him on the cross. And yet! And yet, He still loves me. He still draws near to me, speaking the Father's love, truth, and justice into my life. Despite knowing my failures, selfishness, and hardheartedness, my Jesus draws close. He loves me still, loves me enough to die a brutal death.

What love is this?

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Law of Tradition

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.[a])
So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’[b]
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe[c] your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’[d] and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[e] 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”


In what ways have we replaced God's laws with man's traditions today?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Grace

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend.Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Matthew 20

Saturday, January 16, 2016