|Thursday, April 06, 2023|
Is that us? So familiar with the Easter story that we don't really connect? We know the facts in our heads, but they don't penetrate our hearts. Like three-year-old Emma listening to her six-year-old sister Ava:
AVA: Easter is when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Then they put him in the tomb for…
EMMA: (Interrupting)…forty days and forty nights (said with rolled eyes, as if exasperated from rehearsing the story yet again).
AVA: No, Emma. That’s Noah! Jesus was in the tomb for three days.
EMMA: (Still unimpressed) Yeah—three days.
If the Easter story does not affect us or rolls off us, just like Emma's rolled eyes, we've got a problem. So, what’s the solution?
This Holy Week, take time to pause. Stop the hamster wheel of life and sit still for a few moments.
Next, ponder. Ponder the sadness Jesus felt locking eyes with His friend Judas, who kissed Him in the act of betrayal. Ponder the humiliation of Christ's trial, the fists on His cheeks, the whip on his back, the thorns on His head, and the nails in His hands and feet.
Finally, pray. Can we not make time to say thank you to our Savior? Can we not spend some moments on our knees expressing our heart's gratitude?
|Not Pure Enough
|Thursday, March 30, 2023|
When ten-year-old Caleb trotted in, his story tumbled out.
He’d just returned from his weekly Bible club at church, which includes a game time. Judging by the look on his face, something unusual had happened—and Caleb’s siblings leaned in to hear the juicy details.
"So, a boy got a scrape on his leg at game time. He got some blood on his new white shoes. He was so mad he said the 'H' and the 'D' words!"
Incredulous, six-year-old Sadie responded, “Hot Diggity Dog?!”
Ponder the purity of a six-year-old whose best shot at guessing the "H" and "D" words took her to "Hot Diggity Dog.” She knows nothing more shocking or vile.
Don't you envy her purity? Don't you love that unspoiled speech? Jesus does.
In the spirit of Sadie's innocent heart, may I ask you (as I ask myself) how pure is your speech? Bear in mind that if your answer is "mostly pure," it's the same as acknowledging your words are impure, at least sometimes. How could we possibly be comfortable with “mostly pure” water or “mostly pure” food?
No secret that Christ has called His followers to a higher standard. And whether it's our food, water, or speech, "somewhat pure" is just not pure enough.
|A Hearer and a Doer
|Thursday, March 23, 2023|
Bumped into an awkward Bible scene this week.
In Luke 8, Jesus' mother and brothers decide to visit him. The problem is that the crowd inside the house is so dense it is squashing Him. When word is given to Jesus that His mother and brother are outside wishing to see Him, He replies, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
Was this moment awkward for Christ's family? Likely. But let's allow the total weight of His words to fall on us—which is what the Savior intended.
Do I want to be known as Jesus’ brother? Of course! And do you want to be known as His brother or sister? Certainly! Then—what are His criteria?
Many of us come to church week after week—and that’s good. We hear sermon after sermon—and that’s good. But so often (at least for me), it fails to result in life change—and that's bad!
On that basis, how can we say that we are really hearing the Word, let alone doing the Word of God? Isn’t it more like self-medicating using the Bible as a “fairly helpful guide?” We "check in" for our devotions--and then check out when we're done.
I ask you. Are you satisfied with filling out the sermon note page—or does it fill out your soul? Are you merely a collector of sermons—or are you a doer of the Word?
|The Outrageous Power of Praise
|Thursday, March 16, 2023|
What if God filled out a monthly report card for each of us—and His sole grading criteria was how much we praised Him? Would He have plenty to comment on in your life?
"Of course!" you answer. "Every Sunday, our church leads us in a powerful time of worship." Great! But what about when you're not at church? Do you praise God, then? How often? Under what circumstances?
Do we praise Him only when He provides the parking spot, the cure for our cold, or the raise for which we prayed? How likely is God to hear our praise when the wheels fall off everything?
It’s easy to sing praise songs in church. But it’s pricey to praise—really and truly praise—when we’re in agony. Picture Paul and Silas beaten and in chains.
But there's a flipside to praise you may have already discovered. At the very moment we least feel like praising God—when we are most down in the dumps—the act of giving Him praise has a way of lifting our souls (remember the miracle that happened to Paul and Silas!).
In his book, Practicing Peace, Glyn Evans declares, “Praise forcibly drives out doubt, suspicion, jealousy, bitterness, anxiety, depression, and other dark moods that often result from our difficulties and that hinder the coming of joy in our lives. In short, praise relaxes us. We cannot fume and fret and praise at the same time.”
Who knew—praise relaxes us! And there’s more.
Evans adds, “Praise doesn’t deny pain. It displaces it. It displaces it by exercising faith in God’s healing and restoring power….Praise and negative feelings cannot cohabit the same mind.”
I have a feeling God might very soon offer us all a test or two to prove we’re serious about learning to praise. Here’s to better grades!
|Thursday, March 09, 2023|
Do you have a vision problem?
If you're like me, you easily miss some of life's poignant moments.
Example? I'm in Florida, walking around Ponte Vedra’s Bird Island Park. Think palm trees, tropical bushes, and exotic birds. These are what grab your immediate attention. The wood-planked walking path sweeping the pond at Bird Island offers soul-refreshing views, especially if you have just arrived from winter-weary Chicago as we have.
Inevitably, your gaze fixes on the mirrored reflection of the gazebo in the water. The glassy upside-down image is so perfect you're confident that if you had a canvas and some oil paints, you could create a masterpiece worthy of Monet. Almost.
But since you are from Chicago and not used to the intensity of a Florida sun, you seek the shade of that gazebo. You see nothing but liquid tranquility when peering into the dark water beneath its overhang.
Eventually—maybe—you notice what appear to be tiny scraps of driftwood. Or are those leaves? I am about to dismiss them until, upon further inspection, I see they are heads of living creatures—turtles!
They swim toward you as if on a mission. And they are! These foot-long turtles are hungry and hope you toss them a snack.
As they swim by, they are careful to stay just beneath the surface except for an occasional glance above the water. And when they do look, it's more of a forlorn stare—if turtles can do that.
They remind me of the hurting people around us: easy to miss as they struggle to keep their heads above water. To uncaring eyes, they are little more than human driftwood. But make no mistake—they are people with eternal souls. Not to mention immediate needs.
So often, we don't see them. We have a vision problem. A problem made worse by our tendency to judge first: "These people wouldn't be in this predicament if they only…" (and we're "sure" we know precisely why).
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