Do What You Sing

This morning we sang a song in church that had the words, “I give you everything”. Even as I sang those words I couldn’t help but feel that I was being hypocritical. I loved the power in them. I truly want to believe them. I want to be that person.

But I’m not.

When I sing them… I mean them. They are very much from my heart. But somewhere along the way I hold something back. I may even barter to keep something else. I may hang on to ego in some situations or tithe less than both God and I know I should.

I thought about how God hears this song I’m pouring out of my heart and I think he listens the way I listen to my child.

When my child says, I’ll be good. He doesn’t always keep that promise. And even though I’ve only been a dad for a little over 2 years, I learned on day 1 that I can’t reward the promise… I have to reward the action.

So when my boy says ‘if I promise to eat my broccoli, can I have the cookie first?’ The answer is always, ‘no!’. “eating the broccoli is rewarding… not the promise of it”. Because I see in him my same flaws. Even though he means well, there are far too many temptations along the way to reward the intent.

I believe that God does not reward the song… he rewards the moment. The moment when temptation is beating you over the head and you choose Him anyway. That time away form church and away from good influences, and you choose against the world to do what is right. When no one is watching, when nothing seems to count… that is when God wants to see what you will truly give.

I’m not suggesting we don’t sing this song. It’s beautiful. But it’s only the promise… the real work begins after… and that is what matters most. Many of us would sing this song… very few will live it out in every portion of our lives.

The prophecies of Jesus weren’t fulfilled until His resurrection. He could have been a prophet or a mad man. But when the actions and results matched the promise… then He became so much more to us. What would Jesus have been to you and I had He not kept and met each promise of the scripture? What do we mean to Him if we do not do the same?

Sing it. Mean it. Do it.

Christmas is Done

It’s a refreshing feeling. Everything is back to normal. Stores are open. The house is back in order. The radio DJ’s I know are back on live and all the ‘best of/syndication’ is finished. Traveling is behind me, business hours make sense again and my friends are all back in town. The commercials, the tv specials, the marketing… it’s all about spending money now. That fear of ordering in time or would I receive a gift from someone I didn’t consider? All gone!

Everything changes for the holidays and I usually sigh in relief when it all changes back. I wouldn’t call myself a scrooge… I just see the busyness and stress in all of it. My summary might be…

It was great, but I’m glad its over

Do you cringe any when you see the commercialization of Christmas? Do you see childhood memories and innocent ideals squashed by the machine and trivialized by the masses? Rudolph, Santa and Frosty all have price tags now and Baby Jesus is either left out or promoted with an agenda.

I think we can do this same exercise with church and our relationship with God if we aren’t careful. Sundays can quickly become about parking, childcare, awkward conversations, “I hope he doesn’t ask us to greet our neighbor for 5 minutes”. Whose seat did I take? Song choices are weird, sit down, stand up, I can’t find that verse in the Bible, sit down again, another offering?!!? Lunch plans, getting asked to serve, guilt trips… and when we find our way back home… wheh! That is all behind me now.

When Jesus turned the tables over in the temple He noted that His Father’s house was being operated by a bunch of thieves. But before He called out their transgression, He first stated the original intent.

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers

Matthew 21:13

“My house shall be called a house of prayer”. What a contrast! It would have worked had He just called them robbers and drove them out, but He first established the proper baseline. This place is for prayer. Prayer is communication and worshiping THE God. You have taken something Holy and made it into something human.

While I’m not writing this to call us all thieves… I do see us approaching our time of worship against the original intent. I know this easily because I have done it.

What if we decided to approach the church with the same humility, love, and sacrifice that Jesus approached the cross for us?

Could we simply change some verbiage? I don’t have to lead a prayer or pass out cards, or shake hands, or smile, or meet new people, or teach a class… I get to. I am honored to. A man climbed on a torture device that I deserve and He took my place because He desperately wanted me to be saved.

He didn’t just die for me… I was His prize. He cherished a relationship with me. The thought of not having me was worse than the pain of the cross. He longs for me. When Jesus was born into animal filth and the cruelty of this world, the angels cheered! His plan was in motion… the plan to get me to Him.

So can my response match His? Can I muster together activity in my heart that will allow me to reciprocate in this life a desire to be with Him?

When my six year old gets vegetables on his plate he eats what he likes and then claims he is full. If I offer chocolate, he invariably exclaims, “YES!”. But he was just full one second ago. And, if I return to the vegetable, he is still full. He has no desire for what is good for him, only for what his appetite enjoys.

He has to want to be healthy. He has to learn about what harming his body with junk can really do. He will never truly be healthy… he will always return to the bad food, as long as his thought process is… ‘I have to eat vegetables to get what I want”.

What he needs is a love of himself. A love for health and purity and for what the body was created to take in and process. What we need is a love for Christ. A desire for the bread of life and to yearn to be what we, as temples of the Holy Spirit were created to be.

This can easily be checked. Do we have to… or do we get to? Is it a task or an honor? Do we anticipate, or are we glad when it’s over? Do we come to pray, or have we commercialized religion?

Some of the trivial things will not change, but our outlook on them certainly will. Christ gave His all… His very best. Do we have to give back? Do we cringe when we give a tenth? Do we roll our eyes or sigh when the newsletter announces service days? Are we proud of the response to our Savior? Can we go to simply pray to our Savior and commune with Him… or do we have another agenda?

Remember the Price, because we are the Prize.

A manger is defined as an animal feeding trough. It is what the hay goes in. The cow or horse will stick its head into the box and use it’s lips, gums, and tongue to maneuver the straw into it’s mouth. In addition to eating, these mammals will scratch up against the corners to cure a good itch as well as sneeze and cough into the eating area while consuming food.

In short, a manger contains animal hair, germs, mucus, saliva, some blood and any remnants of feed that fell back out of the animals mouth. oh… and bugs along with whatever bugs do (molt, lose wings and legs, leave waste, etc). I asked Lysol and they said they couldn’t do much to disinfect the manger that Jesus laid in… they didn’t come to be until almost 1900 years after Jesus was born.

I see two problems with how we view our Savior. First, we don’t view Him accurately in the manger. And second, we don’t view Him properly on the cross.

We try. Especially on the cross. We have some bloody and gory movie depictions of what He must have gone through. And it’s difficult to watch. But in our day to day, I think we lean toward miracle Jesus. He is the man that walked on water. He told the children to come to Him. He freed possessed people, cured blind, and raised the dead. He confronted the pharisees and really put them in their place.

His birth was stage one of His death. Filthy and disgusting, he lay in the mess of this world. Our hero, our Savior, our King, longingly anticipated is now finally here… laying in the place animals eat. Not in the same room, but in their actual food dish.

And as He lay with the animals, who just happened to be the only ones who would accept Him when He needed a birthing place, He was now on path to die a miserable death. These are His book ends. His alpha and omega are miserable birth and torturous death.

When we think about how unpleasant it is to think of our Savior this way, we tend to go back into the habit of picturing the kind man that fed thousands. Rarely do we ponder His discomfort. How often do we consider that His birth pain was merely foreshadowing to what He came to do for us?

He was overwhelmingly un-welcomed by those He came to save. Yes we have the angels and the shepherds and the wise men… but we also have the Herod’s, the pharisees, the mobs, the Romans, and even the disciples who neglected Him in prayer and in allegiance.

Yes, the disciples. Denying Him. Fleeing. Selling Him out. Yet we well up with pride when the shepherds are exited to see baby Jesus. Jesus was condemned to die in that manger. It was His mission. We disservice Him directly when we pretty up the picture to something it wasn’t. We imagine a hollywood moment where Jesus is comfortably resting in cozy clothes and the animals all bow down in honor set under a star filled, clear sky with peaceful quiet all around.

I’m not a fan of going for the harsh, bitter, gruesomeness of it all… but that is all it was. This is our Savior. It’s what He came to do. When we forget the story… the whole story, we reduce His sacrifice for us. He came to die. From day one He gave for us. He gave His birthright as King. He gave up comfort, prestige, peace, family, friends, dignity, and so much more.

This time of year we have help in one thing we must always do… remember. Remember who He was, what He made Himself, and who exactly He gave it all away for. You. He took your place. He is your King, lying helplessly among the animals… occupying their feed box, and waiting His turn for the nails to go through as punishment for all the things He didn’t do, but we did.

We remember Jesus in all of His pain, because He did that for us. He took our place. He battled the enemy we can’t beat and He won for each of us. We have to remember the price because we are the prize. He did it for us. To receive us to Himself. A miracle wielding Savior isn’t the whole story. He humbled Himself. He subjected Himself. He was humiliated, shamed, and discarded.

Don’t remember Him out of pity. Cherish the accurate story of what He endured to make it possible to get to us. No one becomes a Christian because they have to. A Christian is someone who experiences the gifts of Jesus and runs out of their life to follow Him. He gave Himself. He is the gift. We are the prize to Him. We will meet and relish that the journey is over. Until then, we remember. He gave everything to receive us.

He doesn’t want a Sunday morning “Christian” that looks the part for a fraction of the story. He wants someone who remembers and follows. The angles rejoiced as Jesus lay in that manger. Can you imagine that? Look at God… in that filth. Yet it invoked a joyous response.

If the angels can rejoice at Jesus’ arrival to pain and misery… what can we muster at the thought of His triumphant return that marks the end of this mess that sparked both the manger and the cross?

And that sums it up splendidly for me. The life and death of Jesus isn’t meant to inspire guilt… It’s meant to bring hope. Because of what He did for us, we have an amazing, supernatural hope. But we must remember what He did and respond.

How will you respond to the Man that endured both the manger and the cross for you? Do you think about the rules and the difficulties like the disciples in their weakest moments? They struggled because they had not yet experienced the cross. But once they did… they traded in everything for the honor of wielding His name. We have double the hindsight as we have both the manger and the cross in our good news.

How can we celebrate the Son who started in a feeder and ended as a tortured spectacle? While that answer must ultimately be up to you, I’ll start you off with this. I think the angels celebrated Christ’s arrival to the manger because they knew something not yet known to the rest of us. I think they knew of the tomb. When you finish the story with an empty tomb… it changes everything.

Christ didn’t suffer so we wouldn’t have to. He suffered and died so that we could have an empty tomb too. Being a Christian is hard. To do what is right, our lives would look like that of Jesus, misery and all. We would know pain and strife. But the empty tomb is the gift Jesus gives to those who remember and follow Him. Not miracles and not easy lives. But hope and eternity in a restored world.

So many refuse Jesus because life doesn’t get easier. It won’t get easier. He didn’t promise that. He promised an empty tomb among other things, but never an easy life. But as He endured the cross I believe He looked at the end game and saw us with Him… and that reminded Him to finish His goal. I also believe we need to do the same. To look to the end game and see Him and the restoration and the empty tomb and we will find nothing is worth not remembering and following Him.

The Blueprint Doesn’t Match Because it isn’t Built

Our son wished us to be gone. While the words felt devastating coming from a 6 year old, it was comforting to learn from other parents that it is much more common than we first thought.

I asked him what he would do with us out of the picture and he sniffled through the tears to tell me that he would take care of himself. Oh, it was because we turned off the TV and he wanted to watch more. No beatings, no yelling, no grounding, we just turned off the TV because it was time to do other things besides watch TV. I know, we are monsters.

I asked how he would take care of himself and he shrugged his shoulders. (fun fact, he can’t use the remotes yet… he doesn’t know how. So you can see how well he thought this out. With us gone, he will have zero TV).

I asked how he would get food and he told me he would just go downstairs and get it from the cupboard. This is where we keep his chips, fruit snacks and crackers. And that was the extent of his plan. Which makes perfect sense… because he is JUST NOW 6 years old.

His master plan of living the good life is watching TV all day and night by getting rid of the only people that know how to operate said TV and he will sustain himself for the rest of his life on gummies and potato chips… enough to last maybe a few days. And because he is 6, we can’t even explain why this is such a bad idea.

His emotions take over and he knows more than anyone else. At first our feelings were hurt. We’ve done nothing but show patience and kindness and love to this child. We went through frustration, concern, a little laughter over the absurdity, and then it hit us.

God has a sense of humor, I think. Because even though we may not use the words, we speak this out in our life actions. We brush God away and claim, “I’ll handle this myself”. Either through distrust or lack of wisdom or lack of patience, or ego… we start trying to call the shots.

When the miracle doesn’t happen fast enough, it can feel like someone just turned off the TV. When the pain persists. When the hunger remains. When the relationship collapses… I’ll fix it. I’ll make my own way. I’ll do my own thing. I’ll make a move now. And how quickly forget that the God we push back, is the one that filled the cupboard for us to begin with. We think we don’t need God because we have all the gifts He has given us at our disposal.

Be still and know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10 ESV

Another translation reads:

Cease striving and know that I am God

Psalm 46:10 NASB

Cease striving. Trust. Patience. Let God take control. Allow life to fall outside of the tiny box you crafted for it. Get bruises, accept scrapes, shed tears, and be mocked… In other words, line up behind Jesus and walk in his footsteps. But also, and this is key, allow the Father to lead through ANY valley, just as Jesus did. And accept and walk through those lows with eyes fixed on greater things.

Growth doesn’t fashion out of comfort. The things worth our moments aren’t conceived from our 6 year old minds. Our Master has put in us a blueprint full of pain, sorrow, and misunderstanding. But on the other end of that sketch is the love, protection, sustenance and all the saving we will ever need.

Until our fulfillment, we trust and we grow. Growth comes through effort, challenge, and acceptance of God’s gifts. There is a reason the blueprint doesn’t look like the finished product… we have to build it first. Until we finish building, all we have are parts and instructions. Once we finish, we have a God-inspired masterpiece.

When we don’t feel like building, when we think the effort is unfair or the destination looks off… we tend to turn towards ourselves. We grab the remote and pout against all the monsters that stand in our way. What if, instead of blaming the blueprint maker, we ask for His help instead? What if, instead of fleeing from Him, we wander to Him and spend more time with the architect and less time trying to figure it out through our own shallow and short-lived plans?

What if we could slow down and even come to a full stop… and know that TV and crackers aren’t the essence of life. Nor our jobs or accomplishments or hobbies. You know what is the most fun? When the desires of our hearts matches the blueprints within us. And don’t run after that frustration… the one that says the blueprint is wrong! That is what the 6 year old does.

The infant wants a new blueprint. The adult wants to complete the work. Lets grow in Christ. Be Still and know…


Image by Justin Martin from Pixabay

True Love’s Kiss. What Will Break the Curse?

The TV show Once Upon a Time goes into great details about how the amazing power of true love’s kiss can break any curse. There are 2 rules the show expounds on that I think are worth covering briefly before we examine who our true love is.

First, the love must be reciprocated. If only one party has love for the other, then true love is not established and the kiss is powerless against any magic.

Second, The biggest curse is broken by the love between a mother and son. When Emma kisses Henry on his forehead, the entire kingdom is freed because of their true bond and maternal love for each other.

The sad moments generated from this knowledge showed failed couples, who had fallen out of love in one way or another, unable to wield the magic breaking power of true love. Either one party or both no longer cherished the other and the kiss would simply fall flat.

Nothing spoke stronger about the deepest, truest feelings one could have for another than seeing the results of a kiss when needing powerful spells broken.

So I’d like to pose a challenging question for each of us to ponder for a while. What is our true love? Before you answer, consider that many people think they have a true love, only to find that circumstances can prove surprising and upsetting results.

We don’t need fairy-tales to see the wreckage of failed marriages, broken homes, friendless individuals and desperate souls. How many people find their true love only to wake up to an empty bed and a broken heart? Easily more than half. We all know the lies told of “love”. Few of us know the truth of real love.

So when life’s curse falls on you, what truth would be revealed? Would your spouse be able to break the spell? Would your love for them, and their love for you unite in an explosion of salvation and healing? Or would it fizzle into despair as you realize that at least one of you only lives for another?

Would it be your children? Would their love for you be pure? Is it your career? Would cold hard cash release the spell as the thing you love most in this world? Popularity? Health? Status? Possessions?

What about Jesus? Would His kiss on your forehead have the reciprocating power of true, eternal love?

Remember, this is a magical fairy-tale and the deepest thoughts of the heart are revealed against all will and logic. It’s not a question of, would you want it to… It’s a question of, would it work? Is the love already there, deep deep down in your heart. If Jesus planted one on your cheek, would the world find out that you truly love Him back above all others, or would He walk away broken hearted?

Who do you really love? For some of us… the question may be, what do we really love? While this might be a revealing and depressing process for those of us being really honest with ourselves… remember this. The cross proved Jesus’ love for us once and for all.

Instead of true love in the form of a kiss, He showed His love by taking on our mistakes and nailing them to a torture device while He still held them. Should we choose to love Jesus the way He first loved us… we never have to wonder if He might return the sentiment or not.

We never have to question that we are His greatest desire. The price He paid proved that far beyond what any make believe story could attempt to describe.


Image by JacLou DL from Pixabay

Remember that Movie about the Things and the Stuff?

What is your favorite movie? When you share it with friends in conversation how do you describe it? What if you had to sum it up in only 1 short sentence? No commas. No run on. No compounding. Just a short, simple sentence.

I’ll describe some of my favorite movies this way and lets see if you can guess any of them:

  1. A love story about a billionaire and his secretary.
  2. A young man finally stands up to his father.
  3. The world obsesses over jewelry.
  4. He took back what was his!
  5. A shy girl takes a risk on a loser.
  6. A small door is more versatile than expected.
  7. They danced in Chicago.
  8. Roasting marshmallows in New York
  9. Everyone just watched.
  10. One of the best Christmas movies.

You can scroll down a bit to see the answers if you want them now. They are in bold.

Did you get them all? Did you guess any correctly? Let’s be honest, you can’t accurately depict a movie in this way. Two hours doesn’t condense into a single simple sentence. The math doesn’t work that way, and even when you try, the logic doesn’t follow.

Most movies are so good for the very deep things that would require lots of explanation. What we tend to enjoy are masterfully wrapped surprises that are slowly unveiled throughout the course of the story. While every synopsis above was accurate in one way or another, none of them get to the heart of what makes each movie so good.

Before we go any further, here are the movies I was attempting to summarize:

  1. Iron Man.
  2. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
  3. Lord of the Rings
  4. Lion King
  5. Rocky
  6. Titanic
  7. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
  8. Ghostbusters
  9. Truman Show
  10. Die Hard

Isn’t it silly to think that we could convince somebody to give up 2 hours of their day to watch something we recommend in under 1 sentence?

Even the most basic life fundamentals require discussion and dissection. Have you ever seen someone about to get hit by a ball or some other projectile? Someone yells “duck!” or “Look out!” and what happens? Does the person duck or dive out of the way without any followup? Not usually. The first thing they tend to do is to look right towards the person yelling. The fastest way to get someone to put their face directly in the path of the object about to hit them is to yell, “look out!”.

We are conditioned to see for ourselves. We just can’t take someone else’s word for it… even when its to our own peril. The lesson is also true of hot stoves. You can tell a child not to touch it, but the lesson is only temporary at best until they actually touch it and experience the pain for themselves. THEN, we could say the lesson is burned into their thinking.

If we can’t accurately depict a feature film in one sentence, what would it take to share the life of Jesus to a world conditioned in receiving information 140 characters at a time?

What story are we telling when we only give snippets of the Bible? What message is our audience receiving when we dwell on the rules of the scripture? Do non-believers go rushing to the Bible book stores when we dive into politics? What if we just try to live by example, and so people only ever see a nice person living out their days? Maybe we only talk about God on Sundays?

We can be really good at summing up the Bible in all the wrong ways, just like I did with the movies a moment ago. And if you thought that exercise was futile… so it is with preaching only a tiny fraction of God’s word. If you thought it ludicrous that anyone would guess the movie after such a short and poor description… imagine what the world thinks of God when we can do the same thing with a much larger, more complicated work about the life of Jesus.

We aren’t a short Psalm. God didn’t craft us to be a parable. None of us can be summed up by a list of rules. We are children of God and have good news to share. Let’s share the whole story!

The common excuse is that we are waiting on something. We need money, power, status, followers, time and strength. We need spiritual gifts and a platform to perform them.

The followers that Jesus accepted decided to follow Him before He made Himself truly known (i.e. before any of the excuses listed above). They dropped what they were doing and walked away from their lives over a simple request, “Follow me”.

The people that wanted to follow Jesus after He made Himself known were turned away (Luke 9). So how do we change the world? How do we get the attention of the lost and share this amazing story with a people that get bored before we get the first sentence out of our mouths?

We act like Jesus. We talk like Him. We pray like Him. We love like Him. We lead to the Father in our every breath, step, and motion. We don’t seek numbers of followers or reports of grand conversions or even baptisms. We simply go about the Father’s business and He will take care of the rest.

This was the faith of Jesus. We must have faith like Jesus. That even on the cross, when things look the bleakest, we can know that Dad will take care of everything. When we trust in God, the story is heard. When we pray faithfully and love unconditionally, the truth is told. When people can see Jesus everyday rather than hearing poorly worded, second hand summaries…The good news is told and spread.

When we know the whole story, we know the great commission isn’t just to retell the story. We are to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus. The life saving gospel is only fully told when we are fully engaged in Christ. Otherwise, we are just spitting out one-liners and hoping people will go and watch for themselves.

If we want people to know Jesus… we have to introduce them. They have to see Him for themselves. We can’t introduce them to someone we barely know.


Image by creative_designer from Pixabay

Capital I and Understood You Make Jesus Sad

We do something subtle in the English language that I think speaks volumes to how we think of ourselves and treat others in respect.

The pronoun ‘I’ is the only pronoun capitalized. But this wasn’t the original intention. After very brief research, it seems the only reason it was changed was because i (lowercase) didn’t stand out enough when written. We have the word ‘a’ that remains lowercase, but i became I so it could be more easily noticed.

I might not have thought much more of that if we didn’t also do something peculiar with the word ‘you’. We completely take it away. Its called the understood you. So, I can say, ‘go to the market’ and the ‘you’ remains absent from print because everyone simply understands what I meant, so I shouldn’t have to say it.

Did you catch that? ‘I’ needs to stand out and be noticed, while ‘you’ needs to remain hidden. ‘I’ is the exception to the rule. And we know how to do that so very well.

I’m reminded of the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, who after being forgiven his massive debt rounded up those who owed him smaller debts and refused to forgive them. He was a capital I. He sought mercy when he couldn’t pay. It was all about him. And once the mercy was received he sent the lowercase ‘you’s’ to jail because it was still all about the important capital ‘I’. They owed him money.

He simply couldn’t understand how they could be in the same boat he was in. They had families and needs and sicknesses and circumstances and they cried for mercy just as he had. This is exactly what happens when I am capital and you are lowercase… or even worse, you aren’t even on the page with me.

It’s in how we write and talk, It’s in how we drive, how we treat each other online, it’s even seen in the churches… we just can’t stop admiring that tall, slender, capital ‘I’. There are so many scriptures to quote about how God intended for us to treat each other that I feel like just handing over the Bible should cover it. It’s everywhere. It’s in every book, in every timeline, in every parable. Both Old and New Testament, both before and after Jesus..

Even as Jesus hung from the cross he found a moment of compassion and made sure someone would take care of his mother after he finished dying.

We have spent so much time learning how unique and special we are, we forget that everyone else is too. And while there are some good lessons to be learned about how God created us as individuals and why… it kind of lets the air out of the balloon when we consider that if every single one of us is special, then the very thing we all have in common is our special-ness.

In other words…. none of us are special because we all have something special. Special is common among God’s creation. Instead of finding our servant and demanding what is ours, we are meant to forgive as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32, Luke 6:31, John 15:12, Matthew 7:12, Romans 12:10… and so, so many more)

What an amazing verse, that Romans 12:10… ” Outdo one another in showing honor ” Its a contest to come in last place. By our standards, we need to concede. We should yield. Words that don’t sound positive at all… lose, forfeit, surrender, sacrifice.

Ah, sacrifice. So many verses in the Bible talk about forgiving as we have been forgiven. Just like the unforgiving servant. A sacrifice has been made for us as well. Should we accept the sacrificial lamb and then refuse to sacrifice for others? I don’t believe that was the spirit of the gift.

I believe we are meant to deflate the I. It’s time to put you back on the page. The most significant man to walk the earth made himself insignificant with us in mind. He did it completely so we could have some significance. Our response is not to demean or belittle others.

There is an age old lie being whispered to your inner conscience. It was told to Jesus when he fasted for 40 days. I will make you a king. I will give it all to you. Others will serve you. You will never want again. Look at how big and shiny that ‘I’ is. Nothing can compare. You deserve this. Those insignificants can’t take that from you…

We are supposed to be fighting. It is a war. But the battle is to lift each other up. To outdo one another in showing honor. To lover greater, sacrifice more, and forgive first.


Photo by Anto Fredric on Unsplash

We Need More Strange and Dim

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace”

Helen Howarth Lemmel (1922)

Those words are from a beautiful hymn and if you haven’t heard it there is a short clip of the chorus embedded at the bottom of the page. You might wonder about a few things. Strange. And dim. Those aren’t typically positive things. Try asking your best friend or spouse if they could start being strangely dim for you. Some of them may be way ahead of the game or already there… others will just look at you weird.

The best way to explain why we want strange and dim in our earthly things can be described in a short camera tutorial.

Examine the picture at the top of this page. You might recognize Emmet from the Lego movie. Hi Emmet! Can I ask you to see what is behind him? I’m going to presume you can’t… even if I tell you. From left to right we have Chloe from Secret Life of Pets, A Camel from Prince of Egypt, the Ghostbuster’s car, Bob the minion, Teddy Pierce from Community and the General Lee from the Dukes of Hazard. How many did you get right? I’ll show you another picture in a moment.

That blurriness in the back that you can’t make out is called bokeh and most photographers will pronounce it wrong. It’s pronounced BOH-kay. It is intentionally putting parts of an image out of focus using light and depth of field. You might start noticing that most pictures and even movies and TV use this effect because it makes the subject stand out. It separates items from the background and immediately draws the eyes in to what you want the viewer to look at.

To pull this off you have to do a few things that I will itemize below.

  1. You have to put the subject in focus.
  2. You have to open up the aperture to let in more light.
  3. You have to separate the subject from the background.

Briefly put, you have to put your focus on what matters. You can’t be a good image of Jesus if you aren’t even looking at Him. We must focus. If you have used a camera, you likely know that isn’t as easy as it sounds. You may have to zoom in and isolate the object you desire. You have to wait for lighting, move things around to get them in or out of view. Adjust settings, change positions, etc. You don’t just click a button and walk away. You may need to brace yourself against something to reduce arm shake, or get down on a knee to get the correct angle. Focus means taking time and really studying the subject.

We are taking an image. A likeness. The more time we spend on the subject, the more accurate the picture will be. The more time we spend with Jesus, the more reflective we will be of Him. We can’t just take a quick glance and claim Christ-likeness, its a lifelong process filled with blessings of pain and hope. And each step along the way we are perfecting our portrait of Him in our lives.

Opening up the aperture is widening the hole that lets light come in to hit the sensor. More light means a better picture and less grain. But as you do this it creates a depth of field. The more light you let in the easier it is to focus on what matters. The subject pops off the screen and looks incredibly sharp as it is contrasted against things that begin to blur away. The more depth of field you have, the more the focal point stands out. We need more light to look like Jesus. He is the light of the world and many of us turn out underexposed when we try and act like Him… without Him in our hearts.

If you need to, scroll back up and check out Emmet again. He is the only discernible thing on the page. The final way this happened is that I separated Him physically from the background items. If they all existed on the same focal plane (i.e. they were all side by side), there would be no way to visually differentiate them to create any depth. They would all be blurry, or they would all be sharp, but either way, no one would like the image. It would just be a jumble of items.

When we focus on Jesus, and separate Him from the garbage of this world, and let His light into our life… the stuff that doesn’t matter begins to blur. The junk disappears. The treasure in heaven becomes sharper, brighter, and closer and the things that will burn up with this world will darken into a distant background.

If what you want is Jesus, there isn’t room for the other stuff. We either take Him and only Him and we push back the lies and garbage that the enemy promises… or we buy the lies and enjoy the temporary treasures of this world. But look at what happens when you leave the camera in the same place and adjust the focus…

Now you can see the cool toys I lined up behind Emmet. But what happened to Him? Like I said, you can’t focus on both. If we make a grab for the strange and dim… we lose the Savior. Focusing on Jesus isn’t easy. But once we realize the things of this world are traps, garbage, and extremely temporary use-once kind of things… We can begin to see how its easy to find joy in seeing them fade out.

What are you focused on? What is keeping your eyes from locking in on Jesus? Why is it so hard to let go of addictions, pride, greed, lust, anger, and all of that trash? We hate it, we are ashamed of it… but we can’t seem to let it out of sight. Try focusing on the Master and letting His light in your life. And when things that seem important now start to slip away… let them! It’s the only way to get Him in clear view. That is when we can start to look like Him and draw others to the one we strive to imitate.

I Wanna Be As Smart As a Rock

You have likely heard the expression, “Dumb as a rock”. I feel extra special because my coach in high school told me I was dumber than a box of rocks. It took many years, but I now know what that expression truly means. It can be found in the Bible… At least, this is how I’m defining it now.


I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Luke 19:40

This was Jesus’ response to the pharisees who were telling him to quiet down His disciples. They were praising Jesus. ‘Stop them from praising Jesus!’ ‘no, if they don’t do it, the rocks will’. In other words… Jesus WILL be praised. The question remains as to who will be doing the praising?

I have a range of emotions when I visit this passage. First, I’m excited. I think of other scriptures that talk about mountains bowing down before the Lord and paths straightening, and trees singing. Wouldn’t these be sites to behold! (psalm 98, Nahum 1:5, Micah 1:4, Isaiah 55:12, 1 Chronicles 16:33, Psalm 96:12, Matthew 3:9, Psalm 148:7, etc).

I don’t believe God created those things to be animated. But the fact remains that God did create those things and I believe that He can have them do whatever pleases Him. In short, it’s not beyond His ability to have the forest dancing if He chooses to.

So when I think in terms of God’s power and abilities, and all of His creation praising Him in unison… I get excited. But then I get very sad. Because if the rocks are singing praises, then it means someone else chose not to. Back to my high school coach… if he put in my backup, that meant I was sitting on the bench.

I would rather play. If I was on the sidelines, it means I messed up. I didn’t do my job. Not only was I not in the game, I was sulking in my poor performance and worrying over who all I let down. I think of Jesus on the cross and and how He knows who loves Him and thanks Him and praises Him for all that He did for us. And to think of someone choosing not to partake in such an event… It’s completely heartbreaking.

So when I think of the rocks clearing their throats and warming up their voices, I can’t help but wonder who would choose not to sing? Who would take themselves out of the game and sit on the bench on purpose? Was the cross not splintery enough? Was the beating not convincing? Were the miracles unimpressive? Was it too much love He showed? The healing, the forgiving, the resurrections… were these not our cup of tea?

Can you imagine a scenario where someone in this world saved your life? A real human made of flesh and blood performed a heroic action, and because of them you now live where you would have otherwise certainly died. Would you just walk away? Would you withhold a thank you or a hand shake? Upon seeing this person in your life, would you take a different path to avoid them?

I claim you would run to them and embrace them. They would have to ask you to stop hugging them. Some of us are so grateful, they may seek a restraining order 😉

Jesus will be praised. Either we will thank Him directly, or a box of rocks will take our place. Surely we are smarter than that? How embarrassing. Right there on the bench sits our backup. Our replacement. If we can’t muster up enough faith and courage to put God in His rightful place, God has crafted a stand in that will get the job done.


And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

Matthew 3:9

How about right now? Can we remember what Jesus did for us in this moment? Can we say thank you? Can we open that mouth of ours and let nature take a break? Will you kneel before the throne? Or, will the gravel be taking your place?

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.

John 4:23

I know many will question whether the rocks will actually, physically, literally sing. First, I would say, if God tells them to, they will. I’m not willing to put God in His place by predicting how that will play out either way. But I will offer that it doesn’t change the message. Whether the rocks are simply witnessing a failed generation neglecting the Savior, or whether they will get an encore, the core of the message remains in tact. We were built to praise. We were given vocal chords and lips and tongues and rhythm and hearts and brains and freedom and salvation… If we don’t put all of those together and praise God, a great travesty has occurred.

Consistently in scripture nature points to God. The heavens, the skies, the seas, the creatures in the deeps, the stars… are we at least doing what the rocks are doing? I want to be constantly pointing to Him. Praising Him. I want to at least be as smart as a rock.


Photo by Oliver Paaske on Unsplash

When Will God Fix My Life?

One of the more difficult tasks I face as a Christian is to see the perfect and holy plan of God play out in a fallen world.

There are some great selling points in the Bible. Lining up behind God means I never have to fear again. God is my rock, my strength, my resting place. Rest! Oh, how I love the sound of rest. Peace is also promised along with never having to worry again.

Verse, chapter, and book, all line up to show the amazing, wonderful, and awesome life of a Christian. Sign me up twice!

Then I have a bad day at work. The car breaks down. The kid gets in trouble. My friends are all on sabbatical, I get sick, A loved one dies, moths have taken up residency in my wallet, and in this crowded world with so many people in my face I can hardly breath… I feel all alone.

Do you ever flip through the pages of your Bible like you just signed a bad agreement with a used car salesman? I have. This isn’t what I thought I had bought. Is there fine print in there? Where are the parts that talk about fun, freedom, and constant happiness? I could have sworn those were in there somewhere.

Part of my problem is my ability to selectively read. When its positive, I tend to take it as literal and immediate fact. But when the Bible mentions picking up my cross and following in the footsteps of Jesus… the one who stepped through torture, and death, I tend to feel like this part is more symbolic.

When the disciples faced fear while Jesus was in the boat with them… or when we are told that prophets are never accepted in their own home towns, or even when Jesus promises suffering and persecution… well I thought He meant that for everyone else.

When we look at Christianity as a fix to our problems we end up being sorely disappointed. It’s not a cure for sickness, nor immunity to pain or loneliness. God isn’t our genie and Jesus didn’t die to take away our pity parties. With Christ we still suffer and we will all die.

Jesus didn’t take away death, he defeated it. He took away its sting. He turned it upside down. Instead of death being the end, its now the beginning. Where it once was the defeat, its now the victory. Funerals have become celebrations.

When Jesus said, “it is finished” as He died on the cross, He created the ability for us to do the same. We get to bury our loved ones knowing they are in rest. They have now gone to a place where pain can’t get to them. After a life of loss they have passed into an eternity of gain. They will never be taxed, cheated, or mistreated ever again.

No more alarm clocks, no sickness, no barking dogs, no crying babies, no traffic… we retire from the pains and losses of this life. Jesus made this possible by going first. He heaped our sins on Himself and paid the price.

He didn’t sacrifice Himself to cure hangnails or stop cars from breaking down. He came to us to take the permanency away from death. His empty tomb is the real promise made. Yes, life is better with Jesus. Yes, God can and will do amazing things in this life… but we will still suffer. We are still human. We still live in a fallen world with a terrible enemy that wants to destroy everything.

The promise Jesus made is that one day, our grave will be empty too. And because Jesus paid that ultimate price for us, we get a choice. Do we want to spend our eternity on the other side of death with the one who causes pain, promotes sickness, breaks up families, destroys lives, and deceives… or do we embrace the man who meekly climbed on the cross?

The man who cured blindness, raised the dead, walked on water, prophesied the future, and exposed the true hearts of all He encountered… just calmly allowed human men to torture and execute Him. Why? I mean, really… why?

We have to grapple with that question and come to terms with our own understanding of why someone capable of commanding the weather and the seas would simply give up Himself. The answer I have come up with is that He loves me. He loves me so much, He wants me on His side of eternity. He loves me so much He doesn’t want me to be sick anymore. He doesn’t want me to lose loved ones. He can’t stand seeing me in poverty.

And His solution is Heaven. He is going to take us home. To the place where we belong. With death defeated, we will still die… but the grave becomes a cheap hotel on the way to an amusement park. It’s the temporary place holder until the amazing and indescribable happens.

So today, I’m going to stump my toe, deal with a headache, work a tiresome job, offend someone unintentionally and get offended. Soon, I’ll lose a loved one, get sick, and eventually die myself. And that is what I live for. I have a relationship with God that assures me that life begins with Jesus’ return.

Until then, there is an enemy who has everything to lose. More specifically, he has me to lose. He will lie, corrupt, and kill to get at me. But I love the one who loved me first. The man who gave it all to me… I will give to Him. He will call my name and I’ll run out of that grave.

But this choice we have… it isn’t made at the gates of heaven with one of the saints holding a list, like we see in so many cartoons. The choice is made while we still live. It’s the decisions we make in spite of the pain. It’s how we respond, how we act, and what we do with the minutes afforded to us.

If there was a really long line to get into a great club, would a complete stranger invite you to skip the line and stand with them? Would they give up their spot for some random person wandering by? No. But a friend might. I believe Jesus plans to vouch for His friends. He is going to mark our sins as “paid” when He recognizes those that chose Him in those darker moments of life. He has every incentive to because He chose us in His absolute darkest, most lonely, moment.


Photo by Hunter Haley on Unsplash