John 3:16

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NLT).

Anybody remember that guy with the rainbow colored afro who used to hold up the John 3:16 signs at sporting events? I do.

Some of you reading this may not be old enough to remember him, but you’re at least familiar with the verse. Perhaps too familiar. Maybe you’re like me and you’ve heard these words so many times that you’ve almost stopped listening to them.

I think I heard them in a fresh new way today at Room in the Inn when the guest speaker chose that as the theme of his message to the homeless men.

“For God . . .” Every great story begins with God. Every story of hope and redemption, every story where good overcomes evil, begins with God.

“For God loved . . .” If your God is known more for what He hates and what He is against rather than what He loves and what He is for, perhaps you’re serving a god instead of God. The defining verse about the God of the bible starts out with “For God so loved . . .”

“For God loved the world . . .” God doesn’t just love white Republicans. God doesn’t just love Americans. God doesn’t just love religious people. God doesn’t just love “successful” people with the perfect resumes and perfect lives.

“For God loved the world  so much that He gave . . .” True love always involves sacrifice. The epitome and the ultimate example of sacrificial love is God giving us Jesus both to live and to die for us.

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone . . .” Salvation is for everyone. Not just a select few. Not just for some. Not for those who deserve it (because none of us do). It’s for anyone who asks for it. It’s for you and me.

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes . . .” Sometimes, faith gets overcomplicated. Sometimes faith gets reduced to pithy bumper sticker slogans. Faith is simple yet profound. It costs nothing yet it is priceless. Faith means believing not just with your heart or your mind but with your whole life.

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

That’s it. You don’t have to perish. You have the choice of eternal life. Not just a future pie in the sky by and by kind of life, but real and robust life to the full right here and now. God will always respect the decision you make, whether for Him or not.

The choice is yours. What will you do with it?

 

Held

Tonight at Kairos, Mike Glenn spoke from John 10:10 about how while the thief came to steal and kill and destroy, Jesus came that we might have life to the fullest. It was another in a long line of great sermons from Uncle Mikey, but that’s not what I’m writing about.

My mind took a tangent during the sermon, as those with ADD can testify happens frequently, and here’s where my thoughts took me.

Sometimes, it’s all you can do to put one foot in front of the other. Even breathing in and out is a tremendous effort of the will. You feel like your life is about to completely fall apart at any minute and your kingdoms will come crashing down.

Know in those moments that it is Jesus holding you together and you are safe.

Sometimes, you feel great. It’s one of those days where the stars align and everything falls into place and all your traffic lights are green. You feel almost invincible, like anything and everything is possible.

Know that even then your world is secure only because it is still Jesus holding you and your world together.

The same Word that spoke the world into being holds it all together. The same Jesus that holds the world in place has your life in His hands. You’ve never been more safe than when it’s Him holding your universe in orbit, keeping you at every moment from spinning completely out of control.

For some of you, that’s a nice sentiment. For others, it may be a much-needed reminder in a stormy season of your life.

As for Mike’s sermon, the gist is that the world around you lies to you about who you are and what you need to be happy and have a good life. Jesus is the only one who delivers on His promise of the good life. What He offers is more than just a good life, but life abundant, where you live out of the overflow of love and mercy, where you are drowning in the love of God, where all that peace can’t help but flow out to those around you.

See? I paid attention. Mostly.

I Love Me a Good Quote

I love a good quote. I love the way someone can express a thought so succinctly. Better yet, I love how someone can take what I’ve been trying to say and state it in a way better than I ever could.

Here is a small sample of some of the quotes that I’ve run across recently that have impacted me.

“To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world” (Karl Barth).

“Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair” (G. K. Chesterton).

“Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself” (Charlie Chaplin).

“Religion is what you are left with after the Holy Spirit has left the building” (Bono).

“See, I return good for evil, love for injuries, and for deeper wounds a deeper love” (Father Peter Chrysologus).

“Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much” (Blaise Pascal)

“The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy” (Henri Nouwen).

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable” (Brennan Manning).

“Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup” (Someone Wise).

“I want neither a terrorist spirituality that keeps me in a perpetual state of fright about being in right relationship with my heavenly Father nor a sappy spirituality that portrays God as such a benign teddy bear that there is no aberrant behavior or desire of mine that he will not condone. I want a relationship with the Abba of Jesus, who is infinitely compassionate with my brokenness and at the same time an awesome, incomprehensible, and unwieldy Mystery” (Brennan Manning).

Additional Worthwhile Christmas Music

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I may or may not have mentioned that I have one of the most awesome collections of Christmas music ever. If not, then I do have one of the most awesome collections of Christmas music ever.

Although I prefer the older Christmas music, I still occasionally pick up new recordings by newer artists from time to time.

Here’s a list of some of my most recent acquisitions that I think are pretty darn good:

1) Sting – If On a Winter’s Night

2) Barbra Streisand- A Christmas Album

3) Johnny Mathis- Merry Christmas

4) Pentatonix- That’s Christmas to Me

5) Bing Crosby- The Voice of Christmas: The Complete Decca Christmas Recordings

6) Richard Marx- Christmas Spirit

7) Mahalia Jackson – Mahalia Sings Songs of Christmas

8) Shawn Colvin- Holiday Songs and Lullabies

9) Mary Chapin Carpenter- Come Darkness Come Light: Twelve Songs of Christmas

10) Barry Manilow- In the Swing of Christmas

That’s not a definitive list of all my new favorites. First of all, I don’t have that kind of time to list them all. Second, I don’t want to come across as the world’s biggest nerd. But that is a sampling of what I’m listening to these days.

To me, it’s not really the Christmas season without Christmas music. So I hope this will help you add to your enjoyment of the season of celebrating Christ’s birth.

My Creed (A Work in Progress)

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Note: I don’t intend this to be in any way universal or a replacement for any of the historical creeds that have served the Church so well down through the centuries. I do think it’s a good thing to formulate your own beliefs and to be able to summarize all that you believe. It’s vitally important to KNOW what you believe and to be able to explain it to someone else. So here goes:

I believe God created the heavens and the earth and called it good.

I believe God created male and female and called it very good.

I believe the woman was deceived and the man soon followed after and sin entered the world.

I believe in that moment, death entered the world.

I believe that God became one of us and came to dwell among us.

I believe He died in my place for my sins so that I might live with Him.

I believe He rose again to defeat death once and for all.

I believe He offers rest to the weary, hope to the despairing, and life to all who call on His name.

I believe that whoever calls on His name will be saved from death to eternal life.

I believe He is returning soon for His own.

I believe in the end, Love wins.

Easter Season Liturgy Part I

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Tonight at Kairos we had a liturgical Easter service but with a Kairos-style twist. It was a very cool blend of modern and ancient forms of worship. I was particularly moved by the responsive reading we did at the start:

“Blest are you, Lord Jesus who came to us a little child 
one of us,
flesh and blood to share in our humanity
For God so loved the world
ALL: That all might have eternal life.

Blest are you, Lord Jesus who came to us as carpenter
and yet in whose creative hands a world was fashioned
For God so loved the world
ALL: That all might have eternal life.

Blest are you, Lord Jesus who came to us as fisherman
and yet pointed to a harvest that was yet to come
For God so loved the world
ALL: That all might have eternal life.

Blest are you, Lord Jesus who came to us as teacher
and opened eyes to truths that only 
the poor could understand
For God so loved the world
ALL: That all might have eternal life.

Blest are you, Lord Jesus who came to us as healer
and opened hearts to the reality of wholeness
For God so loved the world
ALL: That all might have eternal life.

Blest are you, Lord Jesus who came to us as prophet, priest and king
and yet humbled himself 
to take our place upon the cross
For God so loved the world
ALL: That all might have eternal life.

Blest are you, Lord Jesus who came to us as servant
and revealed to us the extent of his Father’s love 
for human kind
For God so loved the world
ALL: That all might have eternal life.

Blest are you, Lord Jesus, who rose 
from the ignominy of a sinner’s death
to the triumph of a Saviour’s resurrection
For God so loved the world
ALL: That all might have eternal life.

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son
for the sake of me
and you
and other sinners too
God so loved the world
Blest are you Lord Jesus, our Saviour and Redeemer.
ALL: Thanks be to the God of Love. Amen”

I think it’s good to step out of your comfort zone when it comes to worship. For me, that meant going to a Roman Catholic Ash Wednesday service last year. Whatever it is for you, it’s good to get out of your own faith tradition and see things from different points of view sometimes. It helps you to know what you believe and– better still– why you believe what you believe.

More on that to come tomorrow.

 

Cruise-liner Christianity?

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I have another confession. I’ve spent way too much of my life seeking out comfort and convenience. I’ve avoided any possibility of suffering and some places because they were “less than safe.”

I know I’m not alone. So many go to their comfortable, air-conditioned churches and then to comfortable, air-conditioned restaurants and then on to comfortable, air-conditioned lives. We want to feel good and look good, but I think God is calling us more to do good and be good.

So many will use rain as an excuse for staying away from worship services. But the same will sit in the rain for hours at a Titans or Vols game.

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I’ve used just about every excuse to not pick up my Bible and actually read it. I’ll tell myself I’m too tired to pray. I will say that I can’t afford to tithe this week, but I’ll start back next week.

Jesus promised us there would be suffering. But He also promised that the reward at the other side would be more than worth it. Like when a mother forgets her delivery pains when she holds her newborn baby in her arms.

The problem with Cruise-line Christianity isn’t so much that it’s disobedience (which it is), but that you miss so many blessings and rewards and joys that only come with taking that narrow path, the road less travelled, the trail marked with suffering.

I don’t mean to intentionally seek out suffering. Just not to seek first and foremost to avoid it. I do mean saying YES to Jesus, whatever Jesus asks of you and wherever He calls you to go, whether it’s next door or across the world or even to the unsafe part of time.

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For me, it might mean getting up earlier in the morning and making time for God. Maybe it means going without Starbucks for a whole week. Egads.

All I know is that I want God more than I want to stay comfortable and safe and vaguely dissatisfied. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and wonder what I could have done for God if I’d only been more trusting and more faithful. I want to find out now.

I’ll keep you posted on how the whole waking up earlier thing goes. But for now, it means waking up at 5:30 instead of 6 am. Yikes.

Saturday Night’s Alright for Slacking

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I did nothing tonight. Hard as it is to believe, I spent this Saturday evening in front of the idiot box with a very sleepy cat/therapist named Lucy. This jetsetter, this man about town, actually had a quiet night.

And the world didn’t come to a screeching halt.

Do you ever wonder that people forget about you the moment you leave the room? That when it comes to priorities, you’re not high up on anybody’s list? That ultimately you don’t truly matter to anyone?

Sure, I’ve felt that way some nights. But I know this.

There is never a moment that goes by where I’m not in God’s sight, on His mind, and engraved on His hands and on His heart. He loves me completely, unconditionally, unwaveringly, every second of every day of eternity.

God loves you the same way. God loves each person as if they were the only person who had ever lived and could receive the fullness of Love itself.

That kind of love meets you where you are but does not leave you that way. It can’t help but transform the beloved into the image of the Lover. You become most like what you love most. Always.

I can’t say that staying home was my first choice. Or even on my list of top twenty choices.

But here I am, thankful even on a slow Saturday night that I have everything I need in the world right here. Finding the joy on nights like this really does transform how you see the rest of your life. Giving thanks for the small things makes room to receive the greater things.

I think I’ll sign off in a bit here and go do some actual reading of an actual book, with actual pages that turn and everything. How novel.

May you know in full (or as fully as a finite human can comprehend the infinite) how much your Abba really does love you at every moment, whether you feel it or not.

That’s all for now.

Yes, It’s Hump Daaaaay (and Yes, I’m Sick of That Geico Commercial. Enough Already)

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it’s Wednesday (in case you were one of the two people living under a rock who didn’t know what hump day was). Currently, I am in one of my many therapy sessions with Doctor Lucy, per usual, sleeping on the job. At least her rates are very affordable and she accepts my insurance.

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I am at peace with the world. Or at least my world. I am very content with where I am and what I have, knowing that I am smack dab in the middle of God’s plan for me and that I am in Christ and He is in me. Every promise of God belongs to me and there is nothing that I lack. Every single thing I need for life to the full and holiness is mine.

So why is that not enough for me most of the time? Why do I always want more than what God offers in the moment? Why can’t I let go of the trinkets in my hands to receive eternal treasures?

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I don’t have any good answers.

i do know that I am still living my miracle, surrounded by a cloud of witnesses and spurred on daily by family and friends who speak blessings and life and healing and peace into my being.

Joy is still found not by looking ahead or looking back but from seeing the now and being present in this moment. It is so elusive to those with no time or patience for it but is found by those who need it most. When they need it the most.

 

Life is still good, God is still great, and I am still so very blessed.

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Dar Williams and the Song in Your Heart

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According to Foursquare (an app on my iPhone), I hadn’t been to any concerts or movies at the Franklin Theatre since April. Until tonight.

I was in row D, seat 3 to hear one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Dar Williams, put on a great show. Even her opening act, Angel Snow, was fantastic. It was a good night.

Dar performed my two favorite songs of hers, “The One Who Knows” and “The Beauty of the Rain,” as well as several other gems. Her music always takes me to a peaceful place and her songs are most definitely an integral part of the ever-changing and ever-growing soundtrack to my life.

Jesus has been reminding me of the song in my own heart that I had begun to forget. Joy and thanksgiving, or eucharisteo, is my song and I’m thankful for friends and family who periodically remind me when I’ve forgotten the words or lost the melody.

I am one note in a living symphony of God’s love for the world He made. I may be only one small part, but without me, the symphony loses something. The same with you. The world around you needs to hear your own unique song and your small but vital part in God’s overture.

Let your life be the biggest hymn of praise that you sing. A hymn of thanksgiving, of hope restored, of dreams reborn, and of grace. Especially grace.

I will help to remind you of your song when you forget the words and root for you when your part in the Grand Symphony arrives. That’s what Church is for– to remind each other of the goodness of God and to love each other and God well. That’s a song the world around us has been dying to hear.