Thursday, April 29, 2010

Term Limits
One time Anna and Norah ran up and asked me if we were going to go to the park that afternoon. I answered them by saying, “Maybe.” As soon as that word was out of my mouth, Anna grabbed Norah and said, “Come one Norah, let’s go play. When adults say “maybe” they just mean “no” but they’re trying to be nice...” 
Ouch! Busted!
What if you had all your hope wrapped up in something that could only ever tell you “no” and let you down? What if you hoped in something or someone who was actually powerless to help you in any way? Well, the long and short of it is that you will be disappointed a lot. As I look back over my life, I can think of so many places, people, companies and things I had my hopes set on that simply didn’t produce... like those cereal box tops I mailed in to get a free He-Man action figure that never showed up or the $140 Air Jordans that were too small for my feet after three or four weeks. Over the years there have been concert tickets I’ve bought for artists who couldn’t or didn’t show up and jeans I’ve bought that have fallen apart in no time. For weeks I’ve been patiently waiting for our tax refund and right now I’m waiting on a drywall guy that was supposed to be here four hours ago! If there’s one thing this world rocks at, it’s letting you down. 
There is no person, privilege, ability, group or government that can meet all the convoluted and complicated needs of the human heart and when we start pinning our hopes on anything or anyone in this world, we wind up frustrated, disenchanted, confused and disoriented or even betrayed. When we expect the people in our lives to completely ‘get’ us, we wind up hurt when they don’t. When we expect our leaders to perfectly represent us and our values, we wind up angry when they don’t.
That’s why I was so pumped when I read Psalm 146 this morning... “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God...”
You see, I have real needs that weigh me down and real problems I can’t solve. I have issues a-plenty that I can’t even begin to handle and I desperately need someone who absolutely can handle these things. I need someone I can actually count on who not only completely knows me, but completely knows what to do and has the power to do it! I need Someone without term limits who wasn’t elected by anyone’s wisdom, but simply is the Sovereign Lord. I need God, who reigns over all to help me! The people in your life will eventually let you down. Your government, no matter how much you tailored it to your own preference, can’t save you. When those folks are gone, so is there power and impetus! The only real change that can take place in the life of a person is the change that happens when the Lord of heaven and earth comes in and helps by His Almighty power! That’s the help I need! That’s the One I’m going to call out to!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wedding Bands

Every time I go with Tom to the jail, I notice something different that is only true of that particular place. For instance, a few weeks ago I noticed that the Anderson County jail has a very specific smell. We pulled into the parking lot, got out of the car and BAM... there it was: the smell. I had never really noticed it before that one day and even now I can’t really describe it, but it totally exists and is just part of the (I guess you could say) charm of that place. Today when we went I noticed something new... and it was sad.

Tom was going through his message for those guys and asked them, “How many of you brothers are married?” Out of the eighteen guys that showed up that day, four or five of them raised their hands and that’s when I saw it... That’s when I realized that none of those guys had on wedding rings. Their wedding rings had been confiscated at some point between their arrest and their having been placed in the cell block. Now, maybe for you this seems like a no-brainer, and sure, when I give it even a little thought, I realize that they couldn’t let guys keep any jewelry on their person, but it shocked me just the same. 

I sat there as Tom talked, just thinking about these guys that I had come to know and care about, and how they had been forced to take off their wedding bands and put them in plastic bags marked with their names. I thought about how I would feel if I had to go there... if I had to go to jail. What if I had to take off my wedding band... the ring my girl gave me all those years ago? What if I had to feel it’s conspicuous absence all day long? The terrible thought expanded in my head... what if I didn’t have my wife? What if I didn’t get to see her smiling face at the end of the day or call her anytime I wanted? I began to miss her like crazy!

Then I remembered the words of Paul in Ephesians 5 when he got himself all wrapped up into thinking and talking about marriage and said this: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” 

You see, marriage is just about the most awesome thing ever and one of the reasons it’s so awesome is that God designed it to be a picture of what He wants with all of us! The way a groom feels about his bride is the way God feels about you! The incredible and almost magical closeness shared by a loving husband and wife is what He wants with you! While I was sitting in the middle of the jail in that Bible Study, I thought to myself, what if I weren’t allowed to worship God with brothers and sisters in Christ? What if someone confiscated my Bible and took away all my praise music and my guitar? What if I weren’t allowed to meet together to pray along with others who love Him? What if someone ripped up my journal and didn’t allow me to talk to people about Jesus? What if someone took away all the outward signs of my relationship with Him? Would I miss Him? Would I long for fellowship and encouragement and hope from the Blessed Scriptures? You know it! Folks, we’re free! Nobody’s taken our ring away yet! We’re free to worship, free to love each other and free to enjoy Him... don’t take it for granted!

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Christmas Song in April

Here's a song I wrote back during the Christmas season, you can listen to it here or download it for absolutely FREE!

<a href="">Jesus, Song of Angels Holy by Lee Younger</a>

Thursday, April 15, 2010

One-track Mind

Do you ever wake up in the morning just so thankful for your bed? What about your car and your central heating and air? How about the kitchen that has your own food in it and the bathroom you get to use privately? What about the tons of different clothes you get to choose from everyday that are all yours? When was the last time you just felt so thankful for all these things?

For me, I’ve only started to really notice these kingly luxuries very recently... as in, since November 5, which was the very first day I went with Tom to the Anderson County jail. Now that I’ve been going there pretty regularly, I know its sounds, smells and particular charms. The biggest effect this ministry has had on my daily life has been gratitude. I find myself so much more aware of just how blessed I am to have a comfortable home with my sweet family and to be able to enjoy privacy and possessions. It makes me  hope that if I ever had to find myself in the jail I would be able to live it well, but it sure is a bleak place... 

Sometimes when I go there, I think about the Apostle Paul and how much time he spent in prison. The thing that really blows me away is that the Anderson County jail is probably like the Ritz Carlton compared to the jails Paul was thrown into! I would do just about anything to keep myself out of those block walls and orange PJ’s, where at least a person will be kept warm and dry, clean and fed; while Paul was beaten and shackled in dark, dank dungeons. On top of all of this, he was happy! Not only was he mistreated, misrepresented, flogged and confined, but he was pumped! Paul spent his jail time singing to his guards, praying for his ‘cellies’ and joyfully preaching to anything with ears! I would have cried, sulked and wrestled with my very faith in God, while Paul worshiped God out loud and managed to write some of the most amazing and inspiring documents the world has ever known!

How in the world was he like this?! What was it that kept him joyfully fired up in the midst of the worst circumstances ever, and how can I get some of that?!?

Well, this week I have been reading the little letter Paul wrote to Titus. It’s short. It barely takes up more than a page in your Bible and you could stop reading this thing and read the whole letter in just a few minutes. One of the things I noticed is that in a pretty short little letter that’s only three chapters long, Paul talks about one thing three times... once at the very beginning, once in the middle and once at the end. So, what was this thing that was so on his mind that it gets a treble mention in such a short work? Heaven.

Verse 2 says, “...a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time...” In chapter 2 He says that the grace of God teaches us to live holy lives in the present age “while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” In chapter 3, near the very end, he says, “...having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs, having the hope of eternal life.” 

Paul was able to endure anything with joy and praise and fruitful labor because he had a one-track mind! He simply thought about heaven and the return of Jesus all day long! In a letter that takes only a few minutes to read, he literally can’t stop talking about eternal life! Wow, what if I were like that!? What if the reason we’re not that happy is that we have gone too long without thinking about our ‘blessed hope,’ our eternal life? What if we thought about and talked about heaven all day long? God has made promises to us! Jesus is coming back for us! Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King and when we do, we will live in joy forever and ever! It’s our blessed hope! Think about that!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Child of Wandering Will

Here's a song I wrote a few years back on the story Jesus told in Luke 15 about a man who had two sons and lost one...

<a href="">Child of Wandering Will by Lee Younger</a>

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

More Real Than Real
I have been to a lot of funerals in my life and some of them have been for people I was really close to and really cared about. When you first find out someone you love has died, it takes your breath away and the very rotation of the earth seems to stop. Then you start planning and getting ready for the funeral. You call family, you use quiet voices around the house... it’s somber and delicate. Then you have the funeral and someone talks about the one who has passed, and all the emotion you feel and have felt for that person floods over your heart and out of your eyes. You feel, you hurt, you cry and then you talk... you talk to family and friends, you eat food and eventually you start to tell old stories, and then at some point you realize it’s okay to laugh again.
On a strange and singular Friday, Jesus died. The sun burned out in the middle of the day and in those dark hours, Jesus really stopped breathing and was gone. His friends couldn’t believe it. Joseph laid Him in a tomb and some women helped prepare His body. Everyone went home and slept. Amazingly, almost unimaginably, the sun rose on Saturday, as if somehow, anything in the world could ever be the same again...
Then, on Sunday morning, just as He said He would, He rose. 
Luke tells us that in the evening of that Sunday when our Lord rose from the dead, two people were walking the seven mile road from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus. They were still in the throws of all of the emotion of Jesus’ death along with the confusion of reports that His body was not in the tomb. Apparently some angels showed up and told the women that He had risen from the dead! They didn’t know what to think or what to feel when all of a sudden Jesus showed up. The two on the road didn’t recognize Him, but He walked that seven miles with them and gave them what must have been the greatest Bible Study lesson of all time... the Resurrected Jesus unfolding the Old Testament Scriptures that spoke of Him! Wow. Then, before they knew it, He disappeared from the dinner table like that, POOF! They were so excited, they ran the whole seven miles back to Jerusalem to find the Disciples and tell them that it was all true! He was back! He’s not dead! We saw Him! He told us everything! And then, BAM! Poof! He was back again! Right there, in their presence again!! 
When you read these accounts, it’s hard to get a handle on what Jesus risen from the dead was/is really like. I mean, He appears and disappears at will. He eats food, lights fires and touches people. He is unrecognizable, and then totally recognizable... what’s the deal? Some might say He is like some sort of less-than-real ghost, the way He passes through space and matter, but He can’t be a ghost because people touched Him and ate food with Him! He can’t be less-than-real... Somehow, Jesus risen from the dead is more real than reality. He is more real than walls and miles and wavelengths of light. He is wherever He wants to be instantly. He is so much more substantial than our reality that He passes through our matter without even disturbing it!
How can this be?! How can something be more real than real? How can something be more substantial than solid matter? Well, did you know that an eagle can see an image that is three times sharper than anything the human eye can perceive? Whoa! That means that with all our amazing HD TVs, we’re still no where near the clarity and detail that eagles have been enjoying for thousands of years! There is a whole world of crisp, sharp images we have never even dreamed of seeing! There is a level of real that we know nothing about, and Jesus is real like that! He is really risen from the dead! He’s alive and powerful, which means You’re not alone! He’s here, right when you need Him to be! You can call on Him and He will help you! As He Himself told His Disciples, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Here's an Easter song for the Simon Peter in all us:

<a href="">After All - demo by Lee Younger</a>

Listen here or download for FREE

Thursday, April 01, 2010

When Anna was just a little girl, we went for a walk around the block that Christy and I will never forget... Anna decided she wanted to walk on ahead of us and took off down the sidewalk, leaving us holding hands and thinking about how cute our little girl was. After a few paces, Anna’s foot caught an uneven segment of the pavement and she went straight to the ground. Not only that, she had her hands in her pockets and without being able to stop herself, smacked her face on the pavement. Her front teeth were all pushed in and the right front tooth was chipped along the edge. Her little face was instantly covered in tears and blood, and that was the shocking thing: blood on our baby’s face. When you see blood, you know that things have become very serious. When the skin breaks and oxygen hits blood, it instantaneously turns bright red and yells out to everyone looking, “HEY! We have a problem here!” When you see blood, it’s time to drop everything else and determine what needs to be done.
This week is Holy Week and today, on Good Friday we remember our Lord’s sacrifice on the cross. In preparing my own heart for this week, I have been reading the different accounts of Jesus’ trials in the Gospels. Every time I do something like this, a new detail jumps out and grabs my mind and heart, begging my attention. This week, in reading through our Lord’s various trials, I keep coming back to His trial before Herod. It was unique in that Jesus never said a word to Herod. For the high priest, He answered questions. To Pilate, He reached out; but with Herod, Jesus simply didn’t respond. Whoa. Jesus always talked to people. His compassion always reached out. It made me wonder what on earth it would take to make Jesus shut down completely...
Luke 23 says, “When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.”
For Herod, the purpose of life was entertainment, pleasure and personal comfort. When Jesus was brought before him, he was excited because he had heard about the miracles Jesus had been performing and wanted to see some magic tricks. But the miracles of Jesus were never about entertainment. They were about compassion, mercy and freeing people from bondage. Herod wanted fireworks while Jesus was looking for faith. And this night was not about entertainment! Jesus had already been beaten and when He appeared before Herod, He was already bleeding... blood means, “Stop everything! This is serious.” Herod just wanted to laugh, clap and eat popcorn. When Jesus refused to perform or even respond, Herod and his men ridiculed and mocked our Lord. In the end, Herod was entertained... he got his laughs. 
Life is not all about being entertained and comfortable. Life is serious. It’s all about love and the blood that was shed on that night. If our goal is simply to have a good time, we may miss out on everything that really matters. To the needy, broken, helpless and poor, the heart of Jesus always reached out, but to Herod, He said nothing at all. On this Good Friday, let’s be among those who take it seriously and remember with reverent hearts the blood that was shed for us.

Here are a couple of songs written for Good Friday: listen or download for FREE...

<a href="">Agnus Dei (in latin) - demo by Lee Younger</a>

<a href="">O Love Incomprehensible - demo by Lee Younger</a>

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