lens of love

Last week I was in a workshop with some students, teachers and administrators from Austin ISD, case workers from Child Protective Services, as well as a few other agencies. We focused on understanding racism, it’s impact on all of us, and what steps we could take as we face it in our society.

Our discussions were difficult and emotionally charged because we all have been touched by the topic in one way or another. It was, thankfully, a very diverse crowd. I say thankfully because if we’re going to affect change in our community, we need to gather and hear one another, across all perspectives.

The Church came into the crosshairs of our discussion. I heard different perspectives on the Church, from some folks who don’t have any interest in attending church. Some of them have general assumptions about the Church, and some have genuinely been hurt in their experience.

Lest you think I always react in a perfectly pastoral way (whatever that is), please know I’m just a guy and my blood is as prone to boil as yours. Through God’s grace, I was able to listen. In listening, I was challenged. 

Some of the comments I heard were hard for me to hear, but they were honest experiences and opinions. Someone in the Church needs to hear, and respond with grace, to those who have been hurt. So, I signed a few of you up for the next workshop :)

As I considered what I heard, I ran across this quote:

“Seek to live in My love, which covers a multitude of sins: both yours and others’. Wear My Love like a cloak of Light, covering you from head to toe. Have no fear, for perfect Love decimates fear. Look at other people through lenses of Love; see them from My perspective.”– Jesus Calling, Sarah Young

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Look at others through the lens of love. Ever wonder how The LORD sees those who hold political views that oppose ours? Sure, we cannot imagine how anyone could support such views or different lifestyle choices, especially those who have such hostility toward Him. 

If we’re honest, we more closely identify with King David’s words “shouldn’t I hate those who hate You?” from Psalm 139, than Jesus’ idea of loving others…even our enemies. Yet, we as a Church are called to love others. Every. Single. Believer.

“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” – 1 John 4:16

How can we love them…

if we only want to prove we’re right, and they’re wrong?  

if our social media posts take shots at their political views? 

if we don’t know their names, their stories, or what they hold dear? 

if we haven’t sat across from them and listened to their point of view?

What became clear to me, and I keep thinking about, is this: Those who harbor anger and hostility for the Church have no idea how much The LORD loves them.

“Each one of us is unique, known by name, and loved by the One who fashioned us.” – Adam, Henri J. M. Nouwen

Do they know He has made them to be in intimate union with Him? Do they know He loves them with an everlasting love? Do they know in the midst of their tragedies, He is there, with them, hurting and wanting to comfort them?

“How precious are Your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable! I can’t event count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up in the morning, You are still with me!” – Psalm 139:17-18

When we look at others through His lens of love, we will more clearly see their hurt, hostility or point of view in the correct light, through their eyes. And then, He might just be able to use us to comfort them.

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what they hold dear

You know when something happens, and it seems uneventful at the time, but then slowly you notice the little thing is changing how you think about something larger? Last fall, a racial incident happened at our local high school. A few community members, and folks from the school reached out to see if we would help. 

Some students and parents were hurt, but those who were not offended wanted to quickly move past the event and say the issue had been resolved. As I stepped into the discussion, I was joined by some other friends with different skin color than mine. Most of these friends serve as pastors or ministry leaders in different areas in our city. 

Our group now meets periodically, to get to know each other and share our experiences.  We're willing to have difficult discussions about how we could help our city deal with issues related to race.

Through this event, and some other events in our nation, I want to see the Church be a part of healing racial strife in our community and in our nation. The Church isn’t ever going be the agent of change I want her to be, until I own my place and understand how to do my part. It has to be personal.

I believe our community, our city, our state and our nation would love to be able to look to the Church and see a group of people who love one another regardless of their skin color. In principle, we all agree, love one another. 

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While we agree on this principle, our busyness makes getting together a challenge. In addition, our different experiences cause discomfort when we talk about race. We’ve had to remind ourselves we share an eternal goal, to be the Church Jesus talked about in John 17 – perfectly one, so the world knows we belong to Him.

I was fortunate to meet with Pastor Joseph Parker at David Chapel. He said something to me I won’t forget. People have asked Pastor Parker to show up to different city events over the years, as an African American representative of the Church. He shared with me, “that sometimes I need them to show up to the things I hold dear.” 

What a great description of how to truly love others – to show up to the things they hold dear!

If I am going to show up for those things, I have to know their name, where they work, their family and friends. It means making space in my schedule to be available to get to know someone else, likely in a different part of our city. I have to know them well enough to know what is dear to them. It requires time.

For us to be a beautiful example of what His love looks like, it will cost us something. But, like everything else we do for our Heavenly Father, when we surrender our time and plans, we wind up getting way more than we give.

 One of many blessings for me on this journey is working with people like Sherwynn & Kim Patton, Pete Inman, and the pastors I work with at ACF (Patrick, Rick & Russell). We were able to attend the MLK50 conference together.

One of many blessings for me on this journey is working with people like Sherwynn & Kim Patton, Pete Inman, and the pastors I work with at ACF (Patrick, Rick & Russell). We were able to attend the MLK50 conference together.

My friend Aaron Reyes, pastor of Church of the Violet Crown, is co-hosting an event this Thursday, May 17th, at 7 PM, at the For the City Center. The event is called “Standing with Dreamers.” As I have become friends with Aaron, he’s shared his heart for Jesus, and those in his community. 

One of the issues dear to Aaron and his church is the plight of undocumented migrants, who arrived in the U. S. as children (dreamers). This event isn’t designed to be political. Instead, they want to talk about how we respond to God’s desire for justice and mercy, and how we have compassion for all of those made in His image.

“If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.” – 1 Corinthians 12:26

Greater than our political affiliations and leanings, we have a responsibility how we love our brothers and sisters who are dreamers. If you can make time, I’d love for you to join us.

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“Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” – Romans 12: 9-10

less and less

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” – John 3:30

John the Baptist’s response to his disciples, as some of his followers began pursuing Jesus, wasn’t natural. He understood his assignment and place in the kingdom. Everyone desires a reward for their efforts. No one would have been troubled if John’s response would have been more combative.

John, though, knew his role. John’s purpose was to prepare people for the coming of Christ. I’m sure his disciples understood his role but must have been troubled to see his following dwindling.

True humility is a rare quality. We believe bigger is better and true success requires greater impact.

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At the beginning of parenthood, we’re a huge deal to our kids. Mom or Dad come home, and the little ones rejoice! “Daddy’s home,” they shriek and run toward us with outstretched arms. So, I’ve noticed it goes for grandparents, too. I watched my parents & in-laws excitedly become grandparents, and then become older grandparents.

The younger the child, the more excited they are to be with their grandparent. Their time is high quantity and high quality. The child rejoices when they come through the door and is thrilled to learn they’ll be spending a few days at their grandparents’ house.

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When those same kids hit their teenage years, they don’t love their grandparents any less, but their enthusiasm diminishes. While I know grandparents understand, it’s surely a little disappointing. Their entrance was once the biggest deal, and it becomes a “hey, good to see you” moment.

Imagine a grandpa, sitting in the bleachers, watching his grandson playing 2nd base. Now, in his late 70s, this man was a good ballplayer himself and he taught his grandson how to play. Here he sits, in the heat, just watching and waiting without anyone asking his opinion. Because he patiently waits, he will have a sweet moment to affirm his grandson.

Parents and grandparents don’t lose their opportunity to have influence in their loved one’s life, provided they’re willing to accept a diminished role (with regard to time spent together). Their windows of impact may be shorter, but they're no less profound.

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As a grandparent gracefully accepts a different role over time, so we’re called to become less and less on our journey. When we willingly surrender, Jesus becomes greater. Even as we become less, our experience, intimacy and impact increase because He is increasing.

Jesus is the One who restores, redeems, makes new and turns broken into beautiful. Why shouldn't we be thrilled to allow our role to be reduced, so His role can increase? We can trust Him to use us in a way that is most effective for His Kingdom.

I was recently asked to look back over the last 10 years and consider if I had any idea I would be where I am right now, doing what I am doing currently. Not even close! So much has changed in my last 10 years.

How about you? Are you doing exactly what you thought you’d be doing? Are you in the place you expected to be?

Why resist giving Jesus control, or allowing Him to become greater in our lives, when we struggle to control our trajectory and circumstances? Why not be willing to set aside our ambitions, pride and desires to let the King rule our lives?

For me, it means being willing to be insignificant. Becoming less means not worrying with my impression of the results.

My job is to be obedient, no matter how small I consider the task may be. As I commit to say yes to Him, I realize I may step down, but I trust Jesus is doing something greater through me than I would ever have accomplished on my own.

deep calls to deep

“Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your waves & breakers have swept over me.” – Psalm 42:7

 Something about deep calling to deep resonates in me.

Last week, I spent a couple of nights on a ranch in West Texas and gazed into a clear, night sky. The vastness of the stars and space around them is too much to fully comprehend. Something deep in the arrangement of those stars and the space they occupy calls to something deep in me when I look up and am quiet.

This is true of our relationship with our Heavenly Father. However deep our need, He has enough. He will meet us with exactly what we need on our darkest day, in the midst of our greatest struggle, and in the face of our hardest questions about why things are the way they are.

“The deep of divine redemption calls to the deep of human need.” – F B Meyer

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Horatio Spafford, after learning his four daughters died on the ship carrying them to Europe sank, traveled to Europe to be with his wife. He had the boat captain point out the spot in the deep blue sea, where their boat had gone down. I cannot imagine the agony or the questions of God, as he looked into the depths and wondered why.

Yet, after seeing this tragic site, Spafford somehow penned the words to “It Is Well With My Soul.” As he cried out to The LORD with his greatest heartache, he was enveloped in The LORD’s peace.

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

 It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

 Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul”

Years ago, Celia and I traveled to Reynosa, MX on a mission trip and met a young couple with 3 kids. A couple of days before we met, Marta and Miguel had lost their youngest child (a toddler) in a fire, while a relative was keeping all 3 of their kids.

The city initially deemed the couple as unfit parents and took their remaining 2 kids into Reynosa’s child protection agency. When we met, Marta and Miguel were devastated. They were understandably inconsolable. We prayed, cried out to God on their behalf, begging for The Spirit to comfort them and return their kids.

In a matter of weeks, they were reunited with their 2 kids, and in a matter of months, Marta’s parents moved from Vera Cruz (13 hours by bus) to live next door. On my follow-up trip, later in the year, we ran into Marta and saw this incredible change in her.

She was glowing, radiant and full of life and joy.

In their darkest moment, The LORD had met them, cared for them through many believers who surrounded them. He walked them through the dark valley of death. As we spoke, I saw a supernatural change in her only possible by the love and mercy of God.

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Friends, I don’t know your question, your struggle, or the depth of your troubles. I do know our Heavenly Father has everything you need, and He will meet you where you are, right now, if you will but come to Him.

Ask your question. Cry out to The LORD. Lay your worries and cares at His feet. He will listen, and He will respond to you. He is able.

“Whatever depths there are in God, they appeal to corresponding depths in us. And whatever be the depths of our sorrow, desire, or necessity, there are correspondences in God from which full supplies may be obtained. Thou hast a pitcher of faith, and the well is deep.” – F B Meyer

 

masterpiece

masterpiece ˈmastərˌpēs -- a work of outstanding artistry, skill or workmanship; an artist’s or craftsman’s best piece of work

When you think of a masterpiece, do you think of a specific piece of art?

Do you think of The Mona Lisa, or a sculpture like The Pieta?

Maybe your mind wanders to the Sistine Chapel, or you think of a beautiful piece of furniture put together by an expert craftsman.

MIchelangelo's Sistine Chapel

MIchelangelo's Sistine Chapel

I think of art. After years of beautiful, inspired work and perfected skill, this one work stands out as the best. A masterpiece.

Imagine Jesus being interviewed by Oprah. Can you picture it? As He sits on her couch, and she probes Him about all of the wonders of His life, she finally asks this question, “Of all the things you have made, what would you consider your best work? What’s your masterpiece?”

Wouldn’t you believe that Jesus would begin talking about something big, like the Milky Way Galaxy. Isaiah 40 says He created all the stars, and brings them out one after another, calling each by name. When we study the Milky Way, we learn there are over 300 billion stars, and to travel from one end to the other would take 100,000 light years. Our solar system travels within our galaxy at a snail’s pace of 515,000 mph. You ever feel rushed? Now you know why! Even at this overwhelming speed, it would take 230 million years for our solar system to travel all around our home galaxy, The Milky Way.

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These are only a few facts about our galaxy. Surely Jesus would look at Oprah, and say, “Let me tell you what I did with the Milky Way that no one even knows, yet. It is incredible, my best work.”

That’s not what He says, though. His answer is us. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, we are His magnum opus.

 “For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”—Ephesians 2:10

Maybe if Jesus began to speak about someone else, we’d embrace the idea. I can almost believe He’d say, “When I knit Mother Teresa together in her mother’s womb, I made her so compassionate. She’s my greatest creation, my finest workmanship.”  

But that’s not exactly what Ephesians tells us. He talks about her, but He is also talking about you and me. It's easier for me to imagine Him bragging on one of my friends, how they loved others, loved the least of these by starting an orphanage in another country, and gave so selflessly. I agree – yes, I can see they’re a masterpiece, and I can see it in you, too. My struggle (and I bet your struggle), is to imagine that Jesus would begin talking about me.

I cannot see the masterpiece in the mirror.

“Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved. Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence. Henri J. M. Nouwen

Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night

Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night

Our greatest journey is from accepting the truth that there is a God, to fully believing how much He loves us. It is a fight to fully receive the depth of His love, for each one of us.

 “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank You for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – and how well I know it.” – Psalm 139:13-14

 “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep His love really is.” – Ephesians 3:18

 For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” – John 3:16

Real truths like these are in verses all through the Bible. You have been fearfully and wonderfully made. We have an enemy, who works to convince us our Heavenly Father is disappointed in us, or angry with us. The truth, though, is that the Maker of Heaven and Earth considers you and me His masterpiece. And He has made a great sacrifice for us to be His.

When we receive and embrace this truth, we can begin to do those things He made us to do. There are things no one else can do. He set them aside for you, His masterpiece, to do.

Leonardo da Vinci's The Mona Lisa

Leonardo da Vinci's The Mona Lisa

seek first

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” – Matthew 6:33

This past Sunday, I spoke about Jesus’ call for us to seek the Kingdom first. The Kingdom is beautiful, and thoughts of it strike deeply within our souls.

Seeking The Kingdom of God first is a struggle, because we’re physically trapped in this broken world, and we see only glimpses of The Kingdom. We see beautiful things like a child, a sunset, a mountain top, a majestic creature like a moose in a mountain stream and our hearts leap for The Kingdom. We look into a full moon on a clear, cold night and feel closer to our King. Maybe we share an incredible moment of silence and quiet with Him and know, “Jesus is my King, and His Kingdom is real…I will see it one day.”

And then, the moment is gone. Our lives are busy, filled with worries and concerns about making ends meet and taking care of our loved ones.

We’re tempted to rush from obligations, jobs, responsibilities, to events, and long for time to slow down. Working hard, so we can hold it all together, and hopefully pull away for a little bit of time, to be some place sweet with our people. Only our busyness has legs, and seems to follow us.

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This car, with this license plate summed it well for me. If we’re honest, I think we all feel at some point in our week, their plate could be on my car…or scooter. Busyness blinds and anesthetizes the realities of the Kingdom. The Kingdom, though, puts holes in the façade of this present, physical world. And when we seek The Kingdom, we get The King.

When we take a moment to seek the King, His people and priorities, we experience the Kingdom. I wanted share a few verses and quotes with you, that I hope will help you pull away, and experience The Kingdom, waiting for you:

“God blesses those who realize their need for Him, for The Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.” – Matthew 5:3

 “Do not look for God to come in any particular way, but look for Him. That is the way to make room for Him. Expect Him to come, but do not expect Him only in a certain way. …However much we may know God, the great lesson to learn is that at any minute He may break in. …All of a sudden God meets life.” – My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God's right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” – Colossians 3:1-3

 “It is important for us to realize that Jesus in no way wants us to leave our many-faceted world. Rather, He wants us to live in it, but firmly rooted in the center of all things. Jesus does not speak about a change of activities, a change of contacts, or even a change of pace. He speaks about a change of heart. …This is the meaning of, “Set your hearts on the kingdom first…and all these things will be given to you as well.”, Making All Things New, Henri Nouwen

 “Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are?” –Matthew 6:26

 “Come to Me, and rest in My loving Presence. You know that this day will bring difficulties, and you are trying to think your way through those trials. As you anticipate what is ahead of you, you forget that I am with you – now and always.” – Jesus Calling, Sarah Young

 I heard a load shout from the throne, saying, “Look the home of God is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever.”And the One sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making all things new.”” - Revelation 21:3-5

illustration by Beth Rinke

illustration by Beth Rinke

 

 

 

 

an inspirational legacy

Over the last two weeks, I’ve reflected on the life of my friend, Dick Roberson. Jesus brought Dick  into His Presence on January 5th, 2018. In preparing to do his memorial service with his wife Teresa, I had the remarkable privilege to spend the last 10 days in his Bible.

Dick grew up in Austin, played baseball for UT at the old Clark Field. I remember this field from my early days in Austin. It had a stone wall in the outfield, which was a huge home field advantage for the Longhorns. Dick shared with me how they taught him, as a freshman, to stick his spike in the wall to jump on top.

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My friend was a national champion in baseball and handball, at the University of Texas. Dick also played professional baseball, and coached UT’s handball team to national championships.

He became a successful broker in Austin for more than 37 years. His clients became close friends, because of how Dick loved and cared for them. Many of them were with us on Thursday as we celebrated his life.

Most impressive, though, was the commitment Dick made in the 70s, to read his Bible every night. As I turned through his Bible, I was overwhelmed by his notes, all the underlined passages, with comments like “Amen!” and “Wow!”, along with the names of his loved ones written by specific verses.

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We celebrated Dick’s 86 years with us and the fact that he is now in the presence of The Lord. His friends and family remembered him, using words like generous, kind, accomplished, integrity, encouraging, wise, gracious and gentleman.

Every single one of those descriptive complimentary words made sense to me. Having spent time in his Bible, I could see the fruit of his effort. His wisdom, humility, accomplishments and integrity had their source in an underlined book of Proverbs.

His knowledge of The Lord, trust in Him and heart for Him were discovered in his time in the book of Psalms. He learned each night the character of God and how trustworthy He is by reading all the things David says about Him.

As I read through the Gospels, I noticed Dick had blocked in the charge Jesus gave His disciples to love others, even giving up their lives for their friends. Under this passage, Dick wrote “Key to Abundant Life.”

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Ultimately, my friend experienced this truth he had underlined in the passage of Romans:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:1-2 NIV

The secret to this old book held together by duct tape isn’t the wisdom that’s in it. Truly, the words bring life and offer incredible insight. But, the secret is as we spend time in God’s Word, He meets us in it.

Dick underlined the Romans verses, and wrote beside them “change your life.” Dick is right! As we spend time in the Bible, we begin to sense the Presence of the Lord. In the most gentle way possible, the Creator, our Father, begins to change our life.

He did this for my friend Dick, and He will do it for you, too!

 

“The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them.”  - Psalm 16:3

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it is good news

For those of us who grew up in the 80s, when we hear John 3:16, we picture the guy with the rainbow wig who somehow wound up on the camera at the Super Bowl, NBA Championships and World Series. If you’ve grown up since, you might think of Tim Tebow’s eye black during the national championship game. 

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Or, it may just deep enough in your sub-conscious that you can relate to the Simpson’s episode. Regardless of your affiliation with John 3:16, let me say this – it is incredibly good news.

We live in what I would describe as a increasingly post Christian world. According to a 10-year Barna study, 42% of the folks in Austin ascribe to being post Christian, meaning they typically don’t read the Bible, believe it to be accurate or believe in its message. As a result, they are not involved in the Church, either.

Only 27% of our city believes in The Bible, reads it on more than a weekly basis, and is engaged in Church on some level. Most of us respond to this news with sadness, depression or a desire to fight, to win back a mainstream position for our faith.

As a former sales guy, this data clarifies our current situation and audience. We have been entrusted a position of being ambassadors to the greatest Kingdom by The Most High King. And what we represent is incredibly Good News! Not just for us, but for the very ones who oppose it, too.

I see us (Christians) trying to wrestle back our lifestyle, our status quo, not so much as a means of reaching others with the winsome love of Jesus Christ, but more like we’re fighting at all cost to win an argument. We’re right, and they’re…lost.

That's not the point of Jesus' message in John 3:16.

So, whether you’re a Christian, post Christian or have no concern about the subject, I invite you to consider the simple message of John 3:16. It is Good News.

For God so loved: if you’ve never read this verse, please consider the very simple, but incredibly profound motivation of the Gospel, the reason for our existence is because God loves.

The world. We are the point and object of His love. He loves us. Us = the world. All people, from every skin color, gender, affiliation, political party, culture, movement or background. God loves the world.

That He gave His only Son: To begin to absorb the magnitude of this act, we have to come to grips with the idea of giving up what is most dear to us for the sake of someone who not only doesn’t deserve the gift, but might even oppose us. Simply put, God gave His Son up for you and me.

So that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life: He’s not holding a clipboard, keeping track of all our mistakes and waiting to let us have it. No, He loves us. In fact, He sent Jesus to reconcile us with Him today and forever.

If this news is new, I invite you to explore it. If you’ve heard it before and believe it, will you take this new year to re-read His Word (1 chapter a day, for 90 days, will take you through Jesus’ life and words; Matthew – John)?

Rather than reacting to what we think we know, or the platitudes of others, it is good to consider the actual words and acts of Jesus.

It is for you and me. And it is Good News.

For God so loved the world that he gave—the message of the gospel could be summed up into those nine words. The only way we can truly understand the message of the gospel is if we realize how incredibly loved we are by God.

good news of great joy, for all people!

“Suddenly, an angel of The LORD appeared among them, and the radiance of The LORD’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, The Messiah, The LORD – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” – Luke 2:9-11

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Shepherds in a field, quietly guarding their flocks of sheep, under a beautiful starry night were suddenly, divinely interrupted by an angel with good news, promising great joy to all people! The long-awaited Messiah, born today in the city of Bethlehem.

The story is incredible, and on a day filled with presents, traditions, family and feasts, it can easily fall into a category of a nice, little, well-known fable. But, that’s not what the angel has proclaimed; this isn’t just a sweet story that goes with your manger scene.

This is the invasion of the ages, the turning point of all History!

The LORD, entering into a dark world, desperate for a Savior, as a baby to an unassuming young couple, almost under cover. But, it all was predicted hundreds of years ahead. It was foretold, and each detail came to be exactly as prophesied:

  • He would have a forerunner, announcing to people The Messiah was coming (Malachi 3:1, 400 years before He was born; fulfilled in Luke 1:13-17,76)
  • He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14, 750 years before He was born; fulfilled in Matthew 1:20-25)
  • He would be born into the house of David (2 Samuel 7:12-13, 1000 years before Jesus was born; fulfilled in Luke 1:31-33)
  • He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2, 740 years before His birth; fulfilled Luke 2:6-7)
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In all, 333 prophecies were made about this Child. Through His birth, life, death and resurrection, 109 have been fulfilled just as predicted – every detail! The balance of prophecies (224) will be fulfilled when Christ returns, at the end of days.

The odds of one person fulfilling 8 of the prophecies about Jesus are staggering. The odds, as figured out by a professor and his students at Westmont college, are 1 in 10^17 power. That’s a number with 17 zeroes!

The Westmont scholars concluded this would be the same as covering the State of Texas with silver dollars, two feet deep, and marking one silver dollar with a red ‘x’. You would be blind-folded, while they stirred all of the silver dollars (as if stirring all of those would even be possible). Then, you would be asked to walk some place into our great state, and pick out the one silver dollar with the red ‘x’.

Remember, these are the calculated odds of only 8 prophecies of Jesus being fulfilled!

Why would the Son of God come to us, so quietly, so humbly and gently, in a tiny little hamlet in Judea? The King of kings into a feeding trough at a stable?

For the last two years, I’ve memorized the Christmas story, to share at our Christmas Eve service. This practice has caused the words of the story to roll around in my head for the last month, over and over again. It has been an incredible gift.

Based on my experience, I feel like I more clearly see that Jesus came exactly as He did, not to conquer us but to woo us. His desire is to be loved by you and me.

Oh, He could have completely overwhelmed us. He would have been right and just to do so. He is The Almighty God who merely spoke, and the heavens came to be. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born. He’s so big! He’s powerful!

Yet, He became one of us, that He might win our hearts and bring us into His Presence, to know and love Him forever and ever. The only thing bigger than Him is His love for you and me.

Merry Christmas!!

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church, broken & beautiful

Monday morning, standing in the hall at Anderson High, working as a volunteer hall monitor, I noticed a girl putting up signs. She looked like an underclassman, and didn’t carry herself with a lot of confidence, but she was busy taping several hand-written signs up on the walls of the hallway.

After she walked by and we said quiet hellos, I got up to read one of her signs.

“we are all broken. that’s how the light gets in.”

Brilliant. Beautiful. Honest. Raw. Truth.

Others' perceptions of believers can kill their journey into a church. Let me say to any who are on the outside of church looking in, we are not perfect. Since Adam & Eve, we have been flawed.

It's Christmas. If you read the beginning of the New Testament, in Matthew chapter 1, you’ll see a list of Jesus’ ancestors traced all the way back to Abraham. In this list, you’ll find liars, adulterers, murderers, swindlers and prostitutes.

Is the ancestry of Jesus corrupt? Well, I think you and I might have hesitated before we invited some of His people to dinner.

The reality is all of our ancestries are corrupt. What does it say to you that the ancestry of Jesus wasn’t perfect?

Humanity has been broken from the very beginning. You’ve seen little children, seemingly innocent, lie or attack another child to get their toy. In those moments, you know what David said in Psalm 14 and 53 – no one is perfect, not a single one of us.

If we were perfect, or capable of presenting ourselves before our perfect and holy Heavenly Father, there would not have been a need for Christ to come and die for our sins.

“I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” – Galatians 2:21

In our brokenness, we struggle to be as honest about our condition as this high school girl was. We’re afraid to operate out of her level of transparency.

There’s freedom in saying, “I’m broken...I need help.” It opens the door for real conversation. While we may not be able to be transparent in all of our circumstances, surely, we can be in our church.

Imagine meeting weekly with a group of people where you can honestly share your burdens, peeling away layers of self-protection, and not being ashamed. This is the beauty of the words of this young girl at Anderson. When we let people see the brokenness of our lives, they also get to see the beautiful work Jesus is doing in us.

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7

Only because the fragile clay jar is broken are we able to see the great treasure within. When we own our brokenness, superficial gives way to deep, and we can rejoice together as The LORD does marvelous things in our lives.

Friends, we are the Church only because God has made us right by what Christ did for us on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Jesus’ desire for us is to love each other, as we are. This is who we are to be for one another and for those we come in contact with today, especially those we sense are broken.

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