Tuesday, April 28, 2009


A few months ago I read a neat article about this dad who decided he wanted to create an heirloom for his children. So when each of his four kids was born, he'd go out and buy a Bible, and then devote himself to reading it cover to cover over the next 18 years -- marking it up, taking notes, underlining good verses. Four kids, four Bibles. On their 18th birthday, he'd give them the Bible for their own, hopefully to continue the tradition and one day give to their own child.

I liked that idea, for more than one reason. Personally, I've never read the Bible cover-to-cover, although I have digested large chunks of it. A pastor should read the whole Bible, right? So there's that. And my desperate prayer to God over the past week is that Jeremiah grows up to be a man after God's own heart. A man who avoids the weaknesses and mistakes I've made and becomes something better. I want him to cling to God, to be a strong witness, to crave that relationship. I'm terrified I won't be up to the task of raising him right in that way, that my own faulty nature will be less-than-ideal as a role model for his spiritual life.

So I bought a Bible, started reading, started marking it up. God's a better role model in the end, after all. I want him to read it years from now and see my notes, connect with me in some way, and know that being a Christian for me isn't a hobby but who I am. I hope this heirloom will be complete for him on his 18th, and that he will take it eagerly instead of reluctantly.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Jeremiah: Sent By God

Back in August 2008 when my wife told me that she was pregnant with our first child, we had a rough couple of weeks where we fussed and debated and argued and contemplated and fought for our favorite names. She and I have very different tastes when it comes to what we think are cool names (hey, Oz *is* a cool name!), so we settled on the first name that pleased us both for a boy: Jeremiah.

It means "Sent by God", most famously in reference to the great prophet of the Old Testament. Our Jeremiah was sent by God to us yesterday, April 20, and he burst into this world quickly, loudly and triumphantly. I'm perhaps more sappy than my wife, so my tears couldn't stop coming -- this was my son, no small miracle that will take our life in a bold new direction. From his namesake's book, God says, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." (Jer 1:5) That's what I told him this morning, that our Lord knew him from the beginning of time and before, and prepared him to come into this world at the right moment, for a specific purpose in his plan. I'm eager to discover what that purpose may be, and I gave my solemn promise to raise Jeremiah to know the Lord as well as he knows us.

One of my online friends said that they looked up Jeremiah 1:19 -- because he was born at 1:19pm -- and it gives this great testimonial: "'They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,' declares the LORD." I know he's going to have hardships and trails and pain in his life, and while I'll try to help and protect in any way I can, ultimately I have to lift him up to God for the Almighty's protection and wisdom.

It's a good day to be blessed, for sure.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Inner Beauty

Susan Boyle rocked the world recently with an incredible performance on Britain's version of American Idol. A great singer is a dime a dozen on these shows, but what made this story electric is that, for lack of a better way to put it, Susan is not what most people would consider beautiful or attractive. Watch this clip and observe the reactions of everyone around her:


At first they patronize her, and you can literally see the "eckkk" on Simon's face as she comes out. She's ugly. This will just be sad. She's the poster child for anti-beauty, someone no one would typically look at twice.

And then she sings.

Watch the faces of everyone in the audience, the judges, the back stage guys. They are just floored. In a matter of seconds, their perception of beauty is turned on its ear as she fills the room with her amazing voice. She gets a standing ovation, including from one of the judges.

I got chills from this, because this is exactly how God operates through all history. He uses the weak things to shame the strong, the ugly to shame the beautiful. He places a higher worth on inner beauty, talent and giving than all of the surface vanity that we can boast. Everyone in his eyes has tremendous value, even those who are 47 and never been kissed.

This is why we reject the world and embrace Christ. The world says that ugly people can only do ugly things; that the fat, the losers, the geeks, the average are just useless. The world pants after an unrealistic, shallow definition of beauty without ever considering the whole picture. Christ always considers the entire person and loves them completely, fully, wholly. He made Susan, he made me, and he made you, and he gave each of us very beautiful aspects to share with the world.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Thought for the Day

"In truth you cannot read too much in Scriptures;
and what you read you cannot read too carefully,
and what you read carefully you cannot understand too well,
and what you understand well you cannot teach too well,
and what you teach well you cannot live too well."

--Martin Luther

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He Is Risen Indeed

Next Sunday I've been asked to do the post-Easter sermon at our church, on the topic of "joy". It is the logical conclusion to the subject of the resurrection of Christ that we celebrate today -- the influx of complete joy that could only be caused by our God forgiving our sins, defeating death, giving us true hope, providing us with a real future, and paving the way for reunification between God and man.

It always boggles my mind to see people who put in their two token visits to church -- Easter and Christmas Eve -- yet are never enticed beyond that. In those two holidays, so much joy bursts out that it really can't be contained, but more often than not the real reason isn't examined. It's attributed to goodwill and the happiness of the holidays, yet Christians know that it goes much further than that. We cannot be the producers of complete joy, just the recipients of it.

I look around and see a world in need of some serious joy these days. The economy, wars, politics, injustices, suicides, abortions, family separations, rebellions, untrust, racism, evening news -- these don't spark the excitement of joy in our hearts, just terror at being trapped in the same world as all of this. It's not a basically good world populated by basically good people; it's a corrupt world given over to the devil populated by fallen, broken souls. It's a world in bad need of joy, so bad in fact that it can hardly recognize that joy when it sees it.

Without the resurrection, there is no joy for us, only hopelessness. Without it, we are indeed lost and quite damned. Without it, we face a future as hollow and meaningless as anything else we might make under our own power. Without it, we live a lie when we trundle off to church on Easter morning singing "Up from the grave he arose!" And yet people spend their whole lives striving to deny the resurrection, fighting it, arguing against it. The image of small children being offered the best candy in the world by parents, only for them to kick and scream and bite their way out of accepting it comes to mind.

But with the resurrection... with it there is joy. Ours is not a God of mere words, who said some common-sense things about human decency and then left us to our own means. He is a God of action, who put his life where his mouth was, who came to earth to live as one of us, who offered a second chance to all around him, and who freely gave his life up as a sacrifice so that the wrath of God may not fall upon those who believe, because our sins are washed clean.

On Easter morning, we are emerging from the tomb with Jesus himself, blinking as we step into the sunlight for the first time, feeling the webs of darkness and despair fall away. We shout "He is risen!" because we are risen too, in him. Our joy is made complete, it overflows, it seeks out the dark pain of our life and overwhelms it. Our joy is not a mere fairy tale, but the simple truth. Our joy cannot be denied, even when people shout in our faces to give it up, to grow up, to be as they are. But, like Jesus, we cannot go back into the tomb -- it holds nothing for us.

He is risen. He is risen indeed.