“I don’t know.” She stares out over the river, her mind distant. “I mean, I try to do good. But my mind keeps on doing things. And I’ve done things.” She lapses into silence again. “I mean, I’ve done things that are bad. Really bad.” She looks down. “If it’s the Ten Commandments, if it’s really the Ten Commandments, I don’t know what I’d do.”
And I tell her.
I tell her it is the Ten Commandments. God says, “Be holy, as I the Lord your God am holy.” Jesus says, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” He says, “Do this and you will live.”
I really don’t have any hope, either. Not if it’s based on the Ten Commandments. No way. “The soul who sins is the one who dies.”
But then I point her to Jesus. “So, Jesus was holy. He was perfect. He really deserved life! And do you know what happened to him instead?”
She nods, a little hesitant. “He died on the cross.” (more…)
Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash
Twenty-four hours ago, I dreaded Easter morning worship. It was coming. It was well-planned. I had practiced it several times.
I wanted nothing to do with the upcoming worship service.
The people. Oh, the people. I had been without rest for so long, it seems, and now nearly any interaction I had with a person for longer than a few minutes would bring me down. It wore at me so much that depression was able to gnaw at my soul.
And Easter morning? Do you have any idea how many people I’d have to interact with?
I braced myself. (more…)
Easter begins with a trumpet fanfare.
That’s the way it is every year here. A family here has three generations of trumpet players, and they join together in a beautiful prelude to our worship. It is loud and boisterous and wonderful.
Thinking about it makes me nauseous.
Not because the family is unfaithful; they are faithful in worship and growing in Christ. Not because they’re not talented; all three are different kinds of professional musicians. Not because I don’t like the arrangement they’re playing; I mean it when I say it’s beautiful.
I’m nauseous because I’ve OD’ed on people in the last month, and this last week and a half before Easter, it’s only going to get worse. See, when I spend too much time with people, I deplete my energy. And the lower my energy, the easier it is for my depression to attack. And for the last month, I’ve not had time to recharge.
As I think ahead to Easter morning, to the big smiles and the trumpets and the singing and the people and the crowds and everything – it’s too much. It’s too loud. (more…)
Photo by Matthew Ansley on Unsplash
The tears start the second she sees me. She was taken into custody yesterday. The reason doesn’t matter for now. What does matter is the shame that overwhelms her. What does matter is her fear of abandonment. What does matter is the uncertainty of the future.
And then she sees me.
Look, ain’t no one gonna accuse me of being pretty. My face does not bring joy to millions.
But today, it brought joy to her. She was not forgotten. (more…)
Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? 12 False Christs
by Matthew Richard
Which Jesus is real? Is it the national icon who stands for America at all times (and probably your political party)? How about the moral example who shows you how to live? Or is Jesus a therapist who helps you get past your problems? All of these Jesuses are spooking around, depending who you talk to. Which one is real, and what do we do with all the other Jesuses?
Matthew Richard has done a fantastic job in this book showing many ways our North American culture has reshaped Jesus into various idols that look Christian but really, really aren’t. Every chapter begins with a story demonstrating a time someone in Richard’s life espoused a fake Jesus. It continues to show the presuppositions that undergird each fake Jesus and this fake Jesus’s weaknesses. Then there’s a section detailing how to respond to each fake Jesus, followed by a brief summary of what the real Jesus does in contrast to the fake Jesus. (more…)
Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash
Nemo’s dad is a coward. He has been scarred by life; he lost his wife and all his children but Nemo, one little fish with a bad fin. And when Nemo is kidnapped by a human and put in a fish tank, all hope is lost. Nemo gives up. No one will come to rescue him.
Until he hears that his father is fighting for him.
Tonight we watched Finding Nemo with my family. The boys were jumping up and down with excitement. My oldest daughter watched, enraptured. My newest daughter lay on my chest sleeping.
The animators captured Nemo’s expression perfectly. The second he realizes how far his dad is going, he is awed. My dad? He’s going that far for me? And there is a sense of hope, of amazement, of love.
And as I look at my children, their gazes locked on the screen, I want to tell them: “I will fight for you.”
I want to be Marlin. I want to be the dad that has crossed the ocean to save his child. (more…)
Photo by Lane Smith on Unsplash
I’ve never met you. We’ve exchanged emails back and forth for months. I’m supposed to be your shepherd, the one called by God to feed you the Gospel, but you keep saying you’re “too busy.”
You have too busied yourself to hell.
Jesus claimed you for his own. In your baptism, so many years ago, you were washed and made new. Later you spent years investigating God’s promises, and you stood before a congregation. You claimed that you would face anything, even death, rather than turn from Jesus. You rejected the devil and all his lies.
And now the lies, long taken root, have borne bitter, bitter fruit. (more…)
Photo by Benjamín Castillo on Unsplash
I know you are broken. I know there’s no reason. I know that you’re hollow. I know that tears come, and there’s no cause.
I love you.
I know there’s no reason for me to do it. I know you don’t have anything to offer.
I love you.
I don’t love you because you offer me anything. If I did, it would be a transaction, not love. If I loved you because you gave me something, as soon as you had nothing left to give, there would be nothing for me to love.
No. I love you.
I don’t regret it. I don’t look at you and think that I’ve wasted my love. I don’t look at you and wish you were more worthy.
I love you. (more…)
I would be willing to die for my faith. At least I think I would be; if God is real, he is worth dying for. But watching adults who have lived twenty or thirty years longer than I have act as they are acting right now makes me wonder if this whole Christianity thing is real at all. If older Christians are showing me where this faith is going, I don’t want to go with them. I don’t want to be on that team.
That’s Rebecca K. Reynolds quoting a college student she worked with in her book Courage, Dear Heart: Letters to a Weary World (my review shall be forthcoming!).
The young woman’s emotions strike me. I agree with her.
I look at the many apathetic Christians that line the halls of the many churches I’ve belonged to. Don’t the get it? Jesus is so much bigger and more exciting and important than weekend sports (every weekend) or work (did you ask about getting the shift off or did it not matter?) or sleeping in (I get it. Sleep is important. I’m a new dad again. I miss sleep.).
I think about how many leadership teams are stressed about what’s going on with the church-as-organization but don’t seem to get invested in Jesus-as-head-of-church.
I think about how many people seem to limp through worship. The Law doesn’t seem to cut. The Gospel doesn’t seem to revive. The music doesn’t seem to touch them, and the prayers are something to be mumbled. And Communion? Oh, it’s Communion week again. Sure. Whatever.
Do they not get it? (more…)
She died in her sleep over a year ago, and I wasn’t there.
A dear, dear daughter of God. “Oh come in, Pastor! Come in! Tell me, how are your wife and the kids? Oh, sit down, sit down! Don’t mind the mess. I’m trying to make sure Frisky doesn’t cause any more messes. She got so angry last time I was at the hospital!” She died. Over a year ago. And I wasn’t there.
“Pastor, take this money. Get some ice cream for the kids. If there’s any left, you have some too!” she’d say with that smile. That wonderful, wonderful smile. And now she’s dead. Over a year ago. And I wasn’t there.
“Pastor, I’m not superwoman! I can’t keep up the house the way I want. But I’ve got help now! They come in twice a week and clean anything I can’t. They do the laundry, too! Oh, I could never leave. My husband built this home.” It’s the home she died in a year ago.
I was her shepherd. I visited her every month. She encouraged me so often. She was eager for Communion. She longed for God’s Word. She called in to listen to the church service every week. I got to hear her sing and hold her hand when she went to the hospital.
And now she sings in glory. Now there are no more hospitals for her. Now she sees her Jesus face to face.
But I failed her. (more…)