the.sherpherds.see

What would you have done after seeing that angel choir? I would have done just what they did! I would have gone the fastest way that I could to see “this thing that has happened!” Can you imagine what they felt in their hearts as they saw the child – exactly as the angels told them? They could not contain it – they had to tell! Do you feel that way?

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. (Luke 2:15-18)

the.angels.sing

Remember, I do not believe in coincidences, so I believe that the stable and the manger were absolutely God’s plan. I believe that he intended Jesus’ entrance to be lowly and humble, alluding to the life he would live. He, who being God, took on the nature of a mortal, human.

When I read the scene below, I can’t help but to imagine that God gathered the angels around Him and said, “alright now, remember, I don’t want any fanfare. I want this to be low-key. I know how much you want to shout the good news, but let’s try to restrain ourselves.”

But, bursting with joy, the angels went to a place where few people would be, the remote shepherding fields. Unable to contain their excitement, they fill the sky with song. The shepherds had the best seat in the “house.”

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:8-14)

the.christ.is.born

Sometimes I think we forget how scandalous the whole thing was. Joseph ad Mary were not married, yet she was pregnant. Yes, WE know that it was the Holy Spirit, but do you think everyone they explained that too believed it? Probably not. I sometimes wonder why they didn’t stay with family. After all, this was the home of Joseph’s line. Perhaps they did not want to deal with the questions and stares of judgmental family. I don’t know. But I do know this. They tried to get a room at an inn, and ended up in a stable. And, that’s where the Savior of the World was born. The God of the Universe, who became a child, was born in a stable, and slept in a feeding trough.

5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:5-7)

to.bethlehem

It never ceases to amaze me how God orchestrates His plans. I’ve always sad that there is no such thing as a coincidence. God does not do anything by accident. He has a plan, and His will shall be accomplished.

It was no coincidence that Caesar Augustus chose to take a census. It was no coincidence that Joseph as of the line of David. It was no coincidence that Bethlehem was the family hometown.

God foretold these things through His prophets, and at just the right time, He started these things in motion.

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. (Luke 2:1-4)

chaos.peace

I have two dogs. Both are mix-breads, but both have Labrador as half the mix. While both are spoiled rotten, they could not be more different from one another. One of the more humorous differences is how they react to water.

The older one, Cody, hates water. He’s the one who tip-toes in the morning dew. He’s the one who will hold his bodily functions all day rather than go outside during a drizzle. I took him to the lake and he was noticeably fearful being near the water. And, he hates to get a bath – fighting us the whole way. Water is torture to him.

The younger one, Molly Grace, loves water. When we let her out in the morning, she’ll roll around in the morning dew. She dances in the rain. We haven’t taken her to a lake yet, but I just know she’ll jump into the water as if she entered heaven. And, she loves to bathe. Water is joy to her.

2 …he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul…
(Psalm 23:2-3)

In ancient Hebrew culture water is a dichotomy – two sides of one coin.

First, water is symbolic of chaos and violent power. In the creation story, when we are told about water covering the earth, the ancient Hebrew person would have visions of a giant ball of tumultuous, violent seas. A river is violent, powerful, unchained, unrestrained and uncontrolled.

Second, water is symbolic of tranquility and peace – especially in the context of when water is controlled or contained. For instance, a pool of water is a source of tranquility, restoration and healing.

In the passage above, the two natures of water scream loudly to be understood. “He leads” allows one to infer that the writer was, at one time, not near still waters, but violent ones, and here, the Lord takes us from that place to a place of tranquility and restoration.

Just one verse later, reality is brought forth – the writer is walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Life around him is still a struggle, still “work” – but in the midst of this dark valley, peace and restoration is found.

Will you allow the Lord to be your shepherd – to lead you by the still waters – to refresh and restore your soul, even though that valley may still be dark and dreadful?

post for strivefromaturity – stack.of.stuff

You may not believe the amount of mail that churches get. Of course some of it’s junk and deserves an immediate introduction to “file 13” (know what that is?). But some of it – OK a lot of it – can be truly useful. The problem is that I rarely have the time to read and react to all the good mail that comes in. So, I place it on a corner of my “desk” for later review. You may be guessing it already, but that pile builds up. It starts with a few relatively thin postcards, and ends up a mountain of postcards and envelopes, threatening to crash onto my poor dog laying below.

I really had good intentions. I intended to read every one. But I just let it stack up.

I promise, I am not a pack-rat, but I let these stacks pile up over the place – including my marriage. Seemingly innocuous things – little things – stack up and become problems.

Sometimes, I forget to say, “I love you,” as I leave for the store. Sometimes, I forget to say “thank you, that was amazing,” when she labors over a meal. Sometimes, I forget that the blog post I am writing can wait – she’s trying to talk to me. Sometimes I forget to open the car door for her. Sometimes I forget to carry that box from the children’s worship center for her. Sometimes I sit and watch her work. Sometimes I forget that I am just as capable of washing dishes as she is.

If any of these things happen as an isolated occurrence, there’s no big deal. But, when I stack all these things together, I look like a terrible husband – she might see me as a terrible husband. It’s not like I intentionally took advantage of her, or overlooked her, or took her for granted. But the stack of stuff threatens to topple over – and it’s intimidating. What can I do about it?

Unlike that stack of mail, this stack does not require tearing through each individual item and reacting to it. All I have to do is be intentional about making another stack. I must purposefully create a new stack of things done just for her.

I can send her flowers for no reason at all (trust me, as much as they gripe about you spending money on something fleeting, they still LOVE to get flowers). I can plan a birthday party at her office for her and her friends. I can prop her feet up on my lap on the couch and massage them for her. I can surprise her with dinner (home-cooked or not!). I can hold her hand as we walk from the car to the store. I’m sure I can think of more.

Here’s the thing. I can’t do anything at all about that stack of bad stuff that I’ve created in our marriage. But, as I build a stack of good stuff, I notice that she’ll throw away gobs of that bad stack – all on her own.

Let’s start building that “good” stack. (1 John 3:18)

stack.of.stuff

I posted another article for Strive for Maturity, a blog ministry dedicated to helping Christian men become better men. Would you honor me by going over there and reading stack.of.stuff? Oh, and pass it on to others if you find it useful or encouraging – oh, and leave a comment too! Here’s the link: http://striveformaturity.com/stack-of-stuff/ and here’s an excerpt:

You may not believe the amount of mail that churches get. Of course some of it’s junk and deserves an immediate introduction to “file 13” (know what that is?). But some of it – OK a lot of it – can be truly useful. The problem is that I rarely have the time to read and react to all the good mail that comes in. So, I place it on a corner of my “desk” for later review. You may be guessing it already, but that pile builds up. It starts with a few relatively thin postcards, and ends up a mountain of postcards and envelopes, threatening to crash onto my poor dog laying below. I really had good intentions. I intended to read every one. But I just let it stack up. I promise, I am not a pack-rat, but I let these stacks pile up over the place – including my marriage.

Read the rest.

holy.scoffers

Something has been bugging me. I’ve been careful to think about this “issue” before discussing it. I’ve been a Christian for a while, having come to Christ as a teenager who lived a violent and vile life. I’ve seen both sides of the cross – those who follow Christ and those who do not. While I have experienced radical transformation in my life, I am not perfect, so I try to give grace to others. But, like I said, I am not perfect.

Unfortunately, I am not alone in my imperfection, and grace is not as pervasive as I would hope in the church.

You’ve seen/heard the sensational stories of churches gone on the attack. We can see that animal. We can compartmentalize it. However, there is a more stealthy beast in the house. He (or she) does nothing so grand. Yet, he is just as dangerous, maybe more so. He sits in judgment of other Christians. He makes wild assumptions of motives, and uses those assumptions as fodder for scoffing. He wears cynics glasses and views his faith family through mocking lenses.

1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
(Psalm 1:1-3)

It almost seems “cool” to be cynical about church people and their endeavors. We mock Christian movies. We mock Christian advertisements. We mock Christian business. We mock Christian religious practices. We mock Christian websites. We mock Christian music. We mock Christian piety. I can go on and on!

It’s been bothering for weeks, and then just today, I saw someone who is supposedly in the business of making churches better, who made a huge assumption of an unnamed customer’s motives and publicly mocked them. Let us not walk in the way of the wicked, scoffing and mocking. Let us walk in encouragement. Let us endeavor to lift the bar with one another, not over one another. Let us truly put others’ interests first.

In confession, I am sometimes that “holy” scoffer. The recognition of this in myself only fuels my concern about it and sensitivity to it. God, forgive me, and transform me as I recognize my failing.

guest post for taterhouse

When my daughter was in the first grade (she is now 22), I decide that I should get involved in her spiritual education. So, I volunteered to be an assistant teacher in her Caravans class (a Christian scouting program). The guy who taught the class, Gavin, was amazing and really loved the kids. I really began to respect him highly and wanted to be as helpful as possible to him in these classes. A couple of times, he asked me to fill-in as teacher when he could not make it during work. I enjoyed it an discovered that I do pretty well at teaching kids.

Every year they have a award ceremony where they award the kids the various sashes, patches, and badges that they’ve earned during the year. It really is quite an event and parents even invite family members who don’t normally come to that church to share in cheering the kids on. It’s really cool.

That year, Gavin called me minutes before the ceremony to tell me that he was going to have to work late, so he needed me to stand up i front of all those people and lead the kids in the various recitals they had to do to get their awards.

The problem was that I get absolutely horror-stricken when it comes to speaking in public. I just can’t do it. I get physically sick and I actually nearly passed out that night from anxiety. Thankfully, the director of the program took pity on me and led my groups part of the ceremony for me.

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

Today, I get up in front of a crowd every Sunday and pour out my heart as I preach the Word of God to my closest friends. I have no fear. In fact I am pretty euphoric before the hour arrives. I am 180-degrees the opposite of what I was back then. God took a pretty unremarkable person and equipped him for His purposes. He put power where there was fear. He put strength where there was anxiety.

By His grace and power I can do what He called me to do. He will do the same for you. Go, follow his calling for your life, and lean on Him to get it done through you.

unremarkable.me

Ryan Tate gave me the honor of guest posting at his blog today. Thanks, Ryan! Here’s and excerpt:

When my daughter was in the first grade (she is now 22), I decide that I should get involved in her spiritual education. So, I volunteered to be an assistant teacher in her Caravans class (a Christian scouting program). The guy who taught the class, Gavin, was amazing and really loved the kids. I really began to respect him highly and wanted to be as helpful as possible to him in these classes. A couple of times, he asked me to fill-in as teacher when he could not make it during work. I enjoyed it and discovered that I do pretty well at teaching kids.

Every year they have a award ceremony where they award the kids the various sashes, patches, and badges that they’ve earned during the year. It really is quite an event and parents even invite family members who don’t normally come to that church to share in cheering the kids on. It’s really cool.

(Continue reading at Ryan’s blog)