Jesus

Turn Back

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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…)

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I love you when you’re empty.

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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…)

If Jesus Is Real

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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…)

Someone I love is dead.

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…)

Not Good Enough

And all the festering puss that had built up in her wounded soul spilled out. Her fear at her weakness. How close she was to death. She missed her dead husband so much. Why did her brother die so young? Her daughter hadn’t called in two years. And all her misery, all her tears, her wailing for comfort, all of it flooded from her and over me.

Her hospital room is dark. Her nose keeps running in her grief. There’s no decorations here like in other patients’ rooms; no smiling pictures from family, no get-well cards, no vases of flowers.

I’ve come because she requested me. I serve as a chaplain in this little hospital; I listen and then share the Gospel. It’s pretty straightforward. I’ve gotten to speak Jesus to so, so many people who have needed to know what Jesus did for them, and what that has to do with their pain today.

And this woman today. Her fear and her sorrow enveloped me. And then she asked, “I want to be with my husband in heaven. But why would God ever take me?” (more…)

It’s fine.

Yesterday I got to stop two men from clobbering each other in a hospital parking lot. I was there to visit a member, but as I walked through the parking lot, one man I didn’t know attacked another man I didn’t know. I got between them. It was either angelic intervention or the fact I was carrying a Bible that kept them from turning on me. I escaped with only shaking hands and a heart beating just a titch too fast.

One of the things shouted in the fight was, “I’m here for cancer treatment!”

I don’t know what caused the fight. The two men seemed to not know each other at all. But I suspect that for at least one, the sheer stress of facing what might well be death caused him to cling to what pride he had and burst at some affront to said pride.

And he broke.

…I forgot what it was like to be broken. (more…)

The Fall of Christ, Chapter One: The Beginning of Sorrows

Listen.

Listen, for what I am about to tell you is true. It is the heartbeat of the world. It is your heartbeat. These things are true, and they are the only reason we have hope. It is the heartbeat of the Bible, and every verse, every syllable leans in toward this story: The story,the true story, what happened in history with real people with flesh and bone and blood and hopes and dreams. The Fall of Christ.

Chapter One: The Beginning of Sorrows.

The Prince sat on the Throne in the City of Light, and he looked toward creation. His creation. His love. And what he saw was sorrow. His creation rejected him. And rejecting him meant they rejected every good thing, for every good gift comes from him. He and the Father wove a plan. It held a high cost, a dear cost, but it would be enough to redeem the entire world, to bring it back to them, to grow joy where sorrow had laid down deep, deep roots. The Prince was willing to pay that cost.

The Father whispered: “It’s time.” (more…)

The Last Enemy

Death is the final enemy. But if it is… why do we pretend it’s not there?

I remember Mike.* He was my first death. Pastors can say things like that; other than doctors, soldiers, and funeral workers, we probably see death the most. And Mike… he was my first. The doctors declared him brain dead, and after a fairly lengthy time, the oldest son decided to pull the plug. The son came, signed the papers, and then fled. He would not stay.

I sat in the room as the machines beeped around Mike. I was there with his younger son and a family friend. A CD player plunked out a version of “I am Jesus’ Little Lamb.”

And Mike awoke in heaven.

I didn’t get to see that. I saw a younger son in great grief. I saw a family friend in pain. But I saw them there, in their pain, admitting it.

But the older son? I don’t think I ever saw him again, not even at the funeral. (more…)

Review: The Lay of the Lord


The Lay of the Lord

by Christopher Yokel

The true story of Jesus’s life remains an epic full of emotion, unexpected twists and turns, and tragedy and triumph. Sometimes its familiarity makes us forget, though. Christopher Yokel recasts the gospels as an epic poem, recapturing our wonder at what Jesus has done. Beginning with the announcement of John’s impending birth to Zechariah and ending Easter evening, the book walks with Jesus and leads us to gasp again at the story we have known for so long.

This book has power. I would not give it to a newbie Christian or someone who isn’t Christian unless they were the type of person who likes looking deeper and looking up allusions. It is filled with poetic shadows and illustrations and mentions that I understood, but would fly over the head of someone not familiar with the history of salvation. Scapegoats? Moriah? Fig trees? (more…)

Sorrows Await

Friends came to visit. Dear friends we care for. They stayed a few days before going home. We laughed together. Ate out way too much. Their oldest daughter and our daughter played together a lot. We got to hold their newest child. It was good to see them. Healing.

They’re getting divorced.

They came to visit in part as a last-ditch effort to get back together. As if I could work a miracle and undo years of hurt they’ve caused each other. He’s been stupid. She’s been stubborn. They’ve been to counselors and roundly ignored what they’ve been told. They could have a good marriage. They could. Instead, they march away from each other.

I grieve for them. (more…)