Friday, March 30, 2007

Outshining Stars

Hurry! Run for the hills! I just read that our solar system is moving at a break-neck speed of 43,000 miles per hour toward a cluster of stars we call the Hercules constellation which is in the Andromeda galaxy, and here’s the really bad news… the Andromeda galaxy itself (which is huge and made up of around one trillion stars) is speeding its way toward our sun at the speed of 186 miles per second!

Actually, you don’t have to get too worked up about it because the Andromeda galaxy is around 2.5 million light years away from the Milky Way where we are safely tucked away. Our universe is so huge and full of wonders… explosive and dangerous stars, multicolored spiral, speeding, spinning nebulae and worm holes where the time continuum gets twisted up and stretched like saltwater taffy… Did you know that there was a comet called Hyakutake that was so big and full of ice that when it was passing near the sun it was ejecting 10 tons of water in its wake every second?! Did you know that there is a star in the Orion constellation called Alnilam that is 1,360 light years away from us and is 112,000 times brighter than our sun?! Did you know that our sun sometimes spits out a bunch of extra electrons and when they get to us, they sort of ignite upon hitting our atmosphere giving the folks in the northern part of the western hemisphere a celestial fireworks show we call the Northern Lights?

You see outer space is full of the biggest, fastest, brightest, coolest, most interesting, colorful and most beautiful things in all the universe… but did you know that we’re still God’s favorites? That’s right… us little bitty humans. We may be small, slow, dull, lumpy and wrinkled, but He still likes us the best. We may not always follow the path He’s set out for us the way heavenly bodies do, but He still leads us on. Each one of our hearts may have more darkness than the vast reaches of the celestial void, but He still causes His light to shine in there. Why is this so? Why does God like us better than stars, comets and galaxies? Well, because He just decided to.

Deuteronomy 10 says this, “To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the Lord set His affection on your forefathers and loved them, and He chose you…” See, even though God has Orion’s belt in His closet and both the big and little dippers in His kitchen cabinets, the thing that He really loves is people. Why? Because He set His affection on us, loves us and chose us. And then He became one of us in the person of Jesus, lived as one of us and died for all of us to pay for all of that darkness so that we might become as Paul says in Philippians 2, “…blameless and pure children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe.”

Friday, March 23, 2007

Christy and Norah...


If there’s one thing people in our society hate to do, it is to wait… We want everything and we want it now. That’s why we have fast food, fast cars, fast-access DSL, instant rice, instant coffee and instant oats. It’s why we have quick oil changes and quick weight loss programs. It’s why we have shorthand, shortcuts and short tempers! We don’t have time to sit around and wait for stuff… we don’t want to burn daylight or we’ll wind up burning the midnight oil… We need results and we need them five minutes ago!

I think the enemy of our soul loves this about us… the way we get in a hurry and hate waiting. He knows that our inability to wait for stuff is really grounded in our unwillingness to trust God. If we trusted God we wouldn’t work ourselves up into a fit because we sometimes have to wait for stuff. If we trusted God we would be able to relax and wait for Him to give us everything we need in His time.

When Satan appeared to Jesus in the wilderness to tempt Him, he attacked that trust… He tempted Jesus with quick and painless results to see if our Lord would trust His Father. Luke 4:5-7 says, “The devil led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to Him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you will worship me, it will all be yours.”

Somehow all the kingdoms of the world flashed before Jesus’ eyes in an instant… a fast-access kingship… An immediate sovereignty… This is the way our old enemy always works. He can’t actually think of anything good on his own, so he just takes whatever good and wonderful things God is already planning on giving us and tries to convince us to take them for ourselves out of God’s context or out of God’s timing… You see, The Father is going to give Jesus all the authority and splendor of all the kingdoms of this world, but it will be in the Father’s time. And Jesus had to wait and He had to go to the cross in order to get the crown.

We need to learn how to wait… how to be patient. We need to learn to trust God to give us every good and perfect gift at the right time… after (and only after) He has brought us through all He has in mind for us to be all He has planned. We don’t need everything now. We’re not ready for all of it yet. So let’s trust the Father and just wait on Him.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Norah is walking now!

Waking Up

One of the things that I love about music is that it goes with everything… There is music that can make you dance and there is music that can make you cry. There is music that is good for tight-rope walking and music that is good for smooching… There are lullabies for putting babies to sleep and reveilles for walking up soldiers. There is nothing in the world like that one scene in a great movie where the story, cinematography and musical score all come together to make you feel certain things… and it wouldn’t be the same without that music! Got a situation? I bet there’s music for that… just name it and somebody somewhere has some great music for whatever you’ve got going on!

God has created this universe in such a way that columns of air and vibrating strings can produce frequencies that when combined tastefully by skillful hands can actually do more than register in our ears… they sneak all the way down inside our heart and spirit and tug at something eternal inside us…

This is especially true with praise music… which is music that is written, played and sung not simply to be entertaining or beautiful or mood-setting, but music that is made to be an offering of worship to the Living God who created music. Praise music is unique in that when we use music to praise God, we are using music to accomplish the very purpose of music… in other words, music can be fun, cute, funny, sad, hokey as well as lush, rich, intense and beautiful, but it was created for the purpose of glorifying God.

When God created the universe, thousands upon thousands of angels were watching the whole thing with front row seats and when they witnessed the amazing creative hand of our Lord Jesus, they burst forth in singing! So music itself is older than human beings and older even than this whole world… and the first music was sung to God to say how awesome He is! The first sunrise had a soundtrack of worshipping angels and every day since then, angels have been praising Jesus in song to wake up the day.

Singing praise to God can wake the day, and it can also wake your very heart! Psalm 57 says, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake my soul! Awake harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.” You know, in the beginning of that Psalm, his heart wasn’t so steadfast… how did it get there? Music… and to be more specific, praise music! The praise of angels is what wakes up the day and praise is what will wake your heart up out of darkness and confusion to the light of a day filled with joy…So start your day with praise… fill your day with praise! It will awaken your soul and make your heart steadfast.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Spring is finally here: Anna with a Blooming Daffodil

Talking About Death

Anna and I were driving around listening to the new Norah Jones record when Anna said, “Oh no, Dad… that’s sad.” I hadn’t really been paying attention to anything but the road when she said that, but I rewound the track a little and heard that blusey, rhaspy voice sing the words, “Someday we all have to die.” Again Anna said, “That’s sad… that we all die.”

Some people would say I was wrong to let my child hear lyrics like that… that the idea of death is something a child shouldn’t be faced with thinking about, but I don’t really think that’s true. One of Dostoyevsky’s characters called Myshkin said this about children: “Children can be told anything –anything. Nothing should be concealed from children on the pretext that they are little and it is too early for them to understand. What a miserable and unfortunate idea! Grown-up people do not know that a child can give exceedingly good advice even in the most difficult case.” I pretty much believe this to be true, and so on the way home from Thursday School, my three-year-old and I had a conversation about death.

I told her that Norah Jones was right and that every single person will one day be dead, but that it doesn’t have to be a sad thing for everyone. We talked about Nan’s husband Bob who passed away last August and Anna got excited as she remembered and said, “Dad, Bob went to heaven to be with Jesus!” We talked about how everyone who believes in Jesus and loves Him will be in heaven forever where there will never be sadness or tears again. To which Anna asked, “And no more spankings Dad?” We talked about how this life is just the very beginning of an amazing forever waiting on us and that death is just the last little moment before we get to see Jesus face to face.

Psalm 49:15 says, “But God will redeem my life from the grave. He will surely take me to Himself.” This is the hope of our faith. This is the truth that can flood a heart with peace in the last moments of life and the hard moments of life… that no matter how bad things get down here, there’s heaven waiting and that death is nothing but a passage, because as Christ was raised from the dead, so will I be raised from the dead to real and everlasting life in heaven… Everyone has to die, but anyone who wants to can get up out of their grave and be taken to God for an eternity of true life and ceaseless love with no more sadness, no more tears, and yes, no more spankings.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Anna finally got to eat some snow...


I can remember that when I was a little boy it was very important to me to figure out what it means to be manly… I also remember that my impression of manliness came mostly from characters in movies… I thought that to be manly was to be some sort of mix between Rocky, Indiana Jones and Rambo. (By the way, I guess it’s part of the magic of movies that Sylvester Stallone made that list twice…) I thought a true man was someone who was brave, fearless, adventurous, never cried, had a truck load of attitude, was completely physically ripped and pretty much just unstoppable.

Then I met Jesus.

You know, the more I get to know Him, the more things change… His definitions are different than ours. He has a whole different set of priorities and a whole different idea about what makes a man. I was reading Psalm 45 which is a wedding song for the Messiah King who would one day come… the sons of Korah were praising this great one and said, “You are the most excellent of men… Gird your sword upon your side, O mighty one; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty.” At this point I’m thinking, “Awesome! This sounds like a true man… what else will they say about him? “In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness…”

I don’t know about you, but I’m reading along about this mighty warrior riding forth in victory in some big parade with His sword and all that and I’m standing there on the road watching the procession pass by as they say the He rides forth in behalf of Truth, and we all cheer… “Yay!” Righteousness, and we all cheer… “Yay!” and… Humility… and while everyone else is cheering, I’m thinking, “What? Humility? That’s not on my list… How can a mighty warrior be humble? How can a true man put humility in his top three? I mean truth and righteousness yes, but making yourself low? Putting yourself below others?

One time James and John asked Jesus if they could be in God’s top three along with Him… seated on His left and right in heaven. All the other guys got mad at them, but probably not because they had the right priorities, rather because somebody else asked the question they wanted to ask before them… Jesus replied “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45)

Humility is a required ingredient to greatness because God has made the world that way. It was the humility and condescension of God the Son that overturned the Fall, spoiled principalities and powers, defeated sin and conquered death. It seems backwards, but it’s all a part of the way God has ordered this universe… that weakness is strength, the first will be last, wisdom is foolishness and the greatest will serve. Real men are those who make themselves low, look out for others’ needs first and are servants. Humility is a powerful thing and the humble are mighty indeed.

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