Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Christmas Letter to the Wise Men
“Wise men asked, ‘Where is He who has been born king of the Jews?
We saw His star and have come to worship Him.’
Herod the king was troubled to hear the news; saying to them,
‘When you find Him, let me know where He is
so I can worship Him with you.’
After leaving Herod, the star that they had
seen when it rose went before them until
it came to rest over the place where
the child was born.
They rejoiced exceedingly with great joy!
They worshiped Him!
Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts,
gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Warned in a dream about Herod, they
did not report back to him.”
Dear Wise Men,
Knowledge is different from wisdom.
Anybody can accumulate knowledge from books, newspapers, libraries, television, movies, schools, workshops, conferences, cyberspace, and countless other catalogues.
I’ll never forget the student who said he didn’t feel he had what it takes to finish a graduate degree. I told him to look at people who have done it before him. I said, “If they can do it,…” He was relieved, encouraged, and completed the courses.
Anybody can get answers to fill in blanks.
Meaning is harder to grasp.
Degrees and diplomas don’t guarantee it.
Graduating from gathering information about someone or something to comprehending someone or something requires wisdom.
It happens when knowing about someone or something matures into knowing them.
Knowledge without wisdom is like Christianity without Jesus by the book – more hollow than holy…style without substance…form without content.
Knowledge is right in front of us. We can grab it for ourselves.
Knowledge, by itself, is like those pieces of paper hung on walls with no purpose other than hanging on walls to prove we’ve got lots of information stored up about someone or something.
It’s useless without wisdom.
Wisdom is knowing what to do with what you know.
Wisdom is mysterious…Spiritual. We can’t get it without God. That’s why we pray for it; asking God to take what we know and employ it.
Knowledge with wisdom is taking what’s been accumulated and doing something with it for God’s sake; and when something’s done for God’s sake, it always ends up benefiting others including the ones who did it.
How too many people have talked about you over the years is pret’ near perfectly illustrative.
They gather facts and details and then don’t know what to do with them.
They dig and dig and dig trying to discover where “from the east” you came from as if it mattered then or matters now to Him who never respected class, color, or culture.
They try to estimate your wealth – people, especially Americans, are into that – because you must have had enough of it to open your treasure chests and give part of it to Him; again, as if money mattered then or matters now to Him who said to get rid of everything that gets in the way of following Him.
They talk about how smart you were; as if He’s ever been into astrology, magic, and the other stuff that would get you kicked out of lots of churches today with more litmus tests for salvation than Jesus ever had.
Annnnnnnd by spending sooooooo much time on all of that knowledge not to mention laboring over those symbolic gifts ad nauseam, too many well-
meaning but misguided folks have missed what made you so notoriously wise.
You looked for Jesus at the Spirit’s leading and worshiped Him as soon as you found Him.
That’s wisdom making the best use of the most important knowledge of all.
People are so easily distracted from what’s really important.
Those gifts come to mind: gold for king as if Jesus ever demanded being treated like royalty at the expense of anyone else and even made a very big deal about serving rather than being served after the example that He set which comes as a big surprise to churches and clergy who are into expensive ornaments and clothes at the expense of the poor; incense for a priest as if Jesus needed anything but Himself to enable holy communion and made a very big deal about religious things getting in the way of direct holy communion with Him by grace through faith; and, finally, myrrh, a gooey substance used to help embalm the bodies of the dead, which probably bothered mom and dad in an Isaiah 53 suffering servant kinda way as a preview of coming attractions.
Come to think of it, except for Jesus, I haven’t ever heard of a mom getting myrrh for a baby shower or baby getting it on her/his birthday.
Of course, this baby was different from every other baby that ever entered time – “Before you were born,” He said of all of us, “I knew you. Then I made you. I knit you together in your mother’s womb!” – which is a good thing because everybody knows salvation had to come from out of this world.
So it wasn’t your money or education or any other accumulation of anything else that made you wise.
It was worshiping Jesus as Lord and Savior that set you and people like you ever since apart as wise.
I remember Dean Adams being asked if it’s possible to be a Christian without worshiping regularly with other Christians. He paused, pondered, and then said, “Well, I guess it’s possible to be a Christian without worshiping regularly with other Christians; but I’ve never met a Christian who didn’t worship regularly with other Christians.”
One more thing.
Matthew says you were “warned in a dream not to return to Herod.”
I remember you asking him for directions to the child; and he pretended that he wanted to know where he could rendez-vous with you to join you in worship.
We know he wasn’t really interested in Him as Lord and Savior; only interested in getting Him out of the way as a rival to his control over people.
Maybe that’s where that “Wise Men Still Seek Him” bumper sticker originated.
When we’re wise, we look for Him alone.
When we’re wise, we’re not distracted by anyone or anything else from who He is and what only He can offer.
When we’re wise, we manage everything that we are and have accumulated over time in ways that honor Him.
We place all of it on an altar of sacrifice before Him; knowing that what we’ve just given up in time can’t be compared to what’s been given to us by Him forever.
Thank you for accepting it from Him to share with us.
Part of the Family
Blessings and Love!
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Christmas Letter to Simeon
“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
…for my eyes have seen Your salvation.”
The Bible says you were “righteous and devout.”
While I’ve often been ignorant about what the Bible says and too often been rebellious against what it prescribes for me, I’ve never disputed its accuracy in delivering what’s on God’s mind. I take Him at His explained as well as enfleshed Word.
So I’m believing you were praying and trying your best to be right and tight with God.
God knows we know like you knew that doesn’t make us immune to doubts, temptations, or anxieties; though God has made it clear in His explained and enfleshed Word that the righter and tighter we get with Him, the less control those emotions have over us.
That’s why we can understand you were still “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” You knew you didn’t know it/Him all; and you were getting righter and tighter with Him because you wanted to know more.
Surely, like those anticipating His first advent and those anticipating the next one, you knew things would become clearer, more compelling, and comforting once He showed up with skin on.
My guess is you were waiting for Him to show up so you could live then die with calm assurance that He will be taking care of you and everyone else from here to eternity.
Like me and everybody else, you wanted/needed Someone out of this world to prove you/me/everyone doesn’t expire or die like in forever never living again or turn into worm food at our best or…gulp…sigh…cease to exist in any way and vanish from being.
It’s the most terrifying thought of life – thinking there is no more life of any kind after this one’s done.
Without knowing something happens beyond the last breath is awfully disconcerting…depressing…devastating…paralyzing.
God knows we know like you knew this life doesn’t last forever.
That’s why you didn’t want to die before meeting the only One who could convince you that there’s more to life than what’s spent in human form with its built-in obsolescence.
Fortunately for you, me, and everybody else, God’s Holy Spirit revealed you would not die before seeing Him; and you were “guided” by the Holy Spirit into the temple where Mary and Joseph brought in baby Jesus to do what they were supposed to do for Him according to tradition.
From what I’ve been able to find out, Mary and Joseph were doing their religious thing; meaning they’d already circumcised Jesus because the deal with Abraham was boys had to be marked off eight days after birth to show they belonged to God kinda like we do in baptism and then the mother was supposed to go to the temple for a ritual cleansing that I’ve never really understood just like some of the other things that religious people do that make no sense to me and so many others because they’re only coincidental to Jesus by the book.
I don’t know all of the details; and I’ve always thought you can’t build faith on broken pickle jars anyway.
Besides, getting hung up on the details is like missing the forest for the trees.
It wasn’t remotely about what they did.
It was and remains about who He is.
It’s about moving from a religion about Jesus to a relationship with Him.
Guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit, you got it/Him as soon as you saw and embraced Him: “Now I can die! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord! I have seen Your salvation!”
Once you saw or grasped who He was/remains as the Christ aka Messiah or the deliverer from here to eternity, you lost any fear of death; rejoicing in the ultimate truth of trusting God that the worst thing that can happen to us in time is the best thing that can happen to us forever.
Or as He said later on, we will end up with Him in paradise.
That’s why one messenger of this greatest news of all time and beyond said, “Anyone who feels sorry of a dead Christians, as though the poor chap were missing something, is himself missing the transfiguring promotion involved.”
It’s like my grandfather Hayden said while dying in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania when I called from Kansas City and said I would catch a plane to be by his side as he headed for heaven, “That’s not necessary. When I die, you’ll preside at the memorial service. Then I’ll see you later!”
Because I’ve been going to homes, hospitals, and nursing facilities for years to visit and pray with folks about to meet our Maker, I’ve seen the difference that knowing Jesus can make for that transition.
I’ve seen the terror on the faces of pathetic people who don’t really know Him; as they dread there will be nothing more for them after the last breath in time.
That’s one of the reasons why I tell as many people as I can about Jesus; so they don’t fear that last breath but rather embrace it as only a nano-second just before entering the pure and perfect place of personal peace with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit where “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
People who know Jesus want to sing during the transfer, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future.”
People who know Jesus are just like you about it/Him: “Now I can die! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord! I have seen Your salvation!”
That’s what Jesus does for us.
That’s who He is – Lord and Savior.
Just like the difference that He made in your life, He makes all the difference in and beyond the world for anyone who gets it/Him.
Part of the Family
Blessings and Love!
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Christmas Letter to Joseph
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When
his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before
they came together, she was found to be with child
from the Holy Spirit…Joseph, being a just man
and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved
to divorce her quietly…
But as he was considering these things,…an
angel of the Lord appeared to him…saying,
‘Do not fear to take Mary as your wife,
for that which is conceived in her is
from the Holy Spirit. She will bear
a son, and you shall call his name
for He will save His people
from their sins.’”
An elder came to me not too long ago and complained about a member who said I’m a jackass: “I don’t like people saying my pastor is a jackass.”
“But,” I admitted, “I can be a jackass every now and then.”
Paul’s right: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Nobody, except, you know, your “son” was ever pure and perfect in every way.
Of course, He was out of this world even while spending some time in it.
That’s why calling Him your “son” doesn’t, you know, make sense to me.
Reaaaaaaallllllly, none of this makes much sense; but since when has anything about God made sense since He started it all by making everything out of nothing?
I just can’t wrap my head around that/Him.
It gives me a headache to even try.
I’ve come to realize you’ve got to accept some things on faith value.
God knows I know you know all about that.
Getting back to me and everybody else but you know who being a jackass, I give lots of credit to you for not acting like a jackass when you found out Mary was pregnant without any help from you.
I probably would’ve picked up a bat or gun and gone looking for the guy who did it.
After all, you were engaged.
They called it betrothal back then; and it was everything included in marriage except, you know, how babies are made.
Reaaaaaaallllllly, if my betrothed came to me and said she was pregnant and it was miracle, I’d be, like, “I’m outta here! Feet do your duty! Wait until I tell ‘em about you on Facebook!”
Buuuuuuut, then again, I can be a jackass every now and then.
You’re a better man of God than me.
You didn’t blab to anyone about what/who you didn’t know.
You decided to put everything in the rearview mirror without making any fuss about it.
You understood how love works long before your “son” explained it in such great agape detail.
You humble me, Joseph.
I guess that’s why God sent an angel to tell you all about it/Him.
The rest is history – His story.
You went with His program for the Son of God without any fanfare then or now or ever – no songs written about you, not much more in the Bible about you after He kinda put you in your place in the temple as a divinely precocious 12 year old who told everybody that He had to be “about His Father’s business” and everyone got the impression from then on that it
had nothing to do with you, and you just faded so far into the background that nobody even knows if you were dead or alive when everything predicted about Him came true from passion through resurrection and ascending reign with Father and Spirit.
Getting back to jackasses like me, it’s sooooooo much more than ironic to see us in fancy church clothes in fancy buildings with overpriced and overdone and over the top religious trappings more hollow than holy when you and mom rode on one of our relatives to a barn where He was born in a cow trough; proving any relationship with the real Son is impurely coincidental among those who’ve made a religion, industry, and mockery of Him.
Maybe that’s why that guy from Germany wrote, “The agenda for today’s church is to discover what is permanent – originally meant – before it was covered with the dust and debris of two thousand years of church history. This is not another gospel; but the same ancient gospel rediscovered for today.”
You got it/Him back then; and, maybe, if we’re faithful to what you got about it/Him by the book, we will too.
All I know is you prove we don’t have to stay jackasses about it/Him.
I’m guessing you’d still rather not have us write a song about you; but you know we should know it’s not about anyone but Him.
Part of the Family
Blessings and Love!
Monday, December 8, 2014
Christmas Letter to Mary
“The virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and shall call his name Immanuel.”
“She was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”
“The angel said, ‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’”
The angel said you were “favored” by God.
Parts of our family make too much of that; idolizing you to levels not reasonable or revealed in the enfleshed or explained Word.
Parts of our family make too little of your place in the mysterious plan; forgetting you were elected by God’s intellectually unapproachable omnipotence for unnatural maternity.
I don’t pretend to get it/you/Him; and thank God for Paul who calms my curiosity: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
Still, it’s hard for someone like me who’s just scratching the surface of my relationship with God to fathom your “favored” role in the ultimate revelation of history – His story.
Not many men known to me, especially me, would/could ever swallow pregnancy apart from conventional familiarity; and I’d never have believed/defended my betrothed’s announcing such a pregnancy with me knowing I had nothing to do with it.
O.K., angels are convincing.
One convinced you: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.”
One convinced your fiancé: “Do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
But surely you know, lots of people remain unconvinced; especially those who make too much or too little of your "favored" relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Silly ones like me are always trying to limit the One who was before the beginning who will be after the end who guarantees the eternal beyond the existential.
That’s too much for me; and I must go back to Paul to make any sense of the nonsense.
You help me to get it/Him: “I am a servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word from Him.”
From family tree to supernatural conception to birthplace and other exceedingly extraordinary confirmations of prophecy climaxing in passion, resurrection, and reign for the son of humanity as the Son of God who had to be “about His Father’s business,” you cooperated in the perfect placement of every part of the predestined puzzle.
Sometimes I’ve gone from silly to insipid by speculating on how you received those symbolic gifts from royalties wise enough to seek Him, reacted to an old man’s readiness to pass on immediately after seeing Him, handled or even had more children, lived with Joseph in anything close to resembling normal marriage, accepted His horrid role as suffering servant, and other unknowns to anyone but Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Paul helps my desire to get over that/me.
You exemplified such maturity while being so young: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of His servant...All generations will call me blessed."
Thank you for helping others like me, in supporting/elected roles assigned to us, to return the favor with you: "Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart."
Yes, parts of our family make too much or too little of you being the mother of God; yet, all things considered, I like singing Ave Maria.
Part of the Family
Blessings and Love!
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Tim asked if I'm going to write another book.
I've written six non-best-sellers; trailing Joel in sales by maxitrillions.
I cannot begin to explain how humiliating it is to trail that guy in sales by that much.
Makes me feel like a Republican in Chicago, urbanite in Capron, civilized human being in ISIS, or believer in a mainline denomination.
Yeah, I get the hint.
You know that guy on Fox who lusts to be America's next Uncle Walter?
He's always yapping on and on and on about smartphones dumbing down everyone and ruining rather than expanding/enhancing/enabling/encouraging relationships/communications/messaging.
He's gotta point.
Been in a restaurant lately?
Nobody's talking to each other.
They're glued to their screens.
They even text rather than talk to people within range of bad breath or body odor.
And how're those laws about texting while driving going?
On the other hand, heroin use is down.
The Mayo Clinic says there are only two healthy reasons for going to bed.
If I have to explain that to you, you're sick or single.
From what I've heard, there's more gaming, texting, surfing, and...going on between the sheets than what the Mayo Clinic says is healthy when in the sack.
No wonder hospitals and courts are so busy.
Of course, that's not why I'm writing this.
I'm getting more and more and more concerned about expanding/enhancing/enabling/encouraging relationships/communications/messaging.
The blood bank no longer sends postcards to remind me about my next draining.
Missed my last appointment.
Starbucks stopped sending rewards by snail mail.
Forfeited gallons of caffeine.
The church I used to pastor no longer sends out hard copies of their newsletter.
I've lost contact.
Lost in cyberspace.
On the other hand, I don't take as many Lutein pills.
Here's the one I'm trying to make.
Don't discard what used to work until everybody's on board with what's supposed to work better but ain't yet.
So maybe I'll write another book.
But not until I get the message.
Blessings and Love!
Monday, December 1, 2014
Scratching the Surface
(A Brief and Incomplete Look at the Difference Between Like/Is)
Albert Einstein was a familiar face at Princeton Theological Seminary. While teaching at the university, he was a frequent guest lecturer at the seminary.
Although one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century, he was very forgetful.
It wasn’t unusual to spot him strolling across the seminary campus without one of his socks or both of his shoes!
There is one story of how the university switchboard received a call asking for Dr. Einstein’s address. The operator said, “I’m sorry, but Dr. Einstein has made it clear to us that we are not to give out his address to anyone.” “But,” the voice whispered after a short pause, “This is Dr. Einstein.”
It is important to know who you are.
Buuuuuuut it is even more important to know who Jesus is.
That’s why Constantine called the bishops to Nicaea in the first quarter of the 4th century.
Arius had confused people with his Biblically illiterate nonsense about Jesus being kinda like God but not really true God.
There is a difference between like and is.
That’s what the Council of Nicaea was all about. It was called to declare definitively if Jesus was like God or is God.
Relying on Biblical revelation (e.g., John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1), the answer was unmistakable: “We believe…in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.”
Simply, Jesus is not like God. Jesus is God.
Jesus is Emmanuel or God-with-us – the incarnation/enfleshment of God.
Or as one child exclaimed upon finally figuring Him out, “Jesus is God with skin on.”
That’s why the earliest confession of the church was so clear, concise, and conclusive: “Jesus Christ is Lord!”
Jesus is God.
The message of Christmas is God’s incarnation/enfleshment in Jesus with the intent of enabling our confident living and eternal life through faith in Him as Lord and Savior.
Here’s a letter for parents about the real meaning of Christmas:
Dear Mom and Dad,
It’s hard to believe Christmas is just around the corner. Tree lots are springing up and McDonald’s is selling movies again; though I’m not sure what their selections have to do with the season. But in some strange way, all of it gets me pretty excited.
I know you’re wondering what to give the kids this year. It seems nobody remembers what you gave them last year. There aren’t many things that don’t wear out, get thrown out, or become played out. That’s why I’m writing. I’ve got an idea that can change all of that.
Do you remember when your babies were born? Do you remember how you were lost in wonder, love, and praise? Do you remember when they were baptized? You promised to tell them about Jesus. Do you remember those first Christmas Eve services when their faces seemed to glow even more than the candles in their little hands? Do you remember listening to them sing about that “Silent Night, Holy Night” for the first time? I know you remember when they saw the manger scene and exclaimed with such innocent joy, “There’s baby Jesus!”
I know you know what to give them for Christmas.
I’m not one of those Scrooge-like posing “Christians” who make holidays look like a bad case of hemorrhoids. I like popcorn balls, candy canes, cookies with sprinkles, eggnog, mistletoe, and even the funny man in the red suit. They help to make the season bright.
I just want you to remember why we’re always excited; and not just around this time of the year.
It’s all about a baby. Jesus. Emmanuel.
So give Jesus to the kids! He is the only gift that last forever!
Blessings and Love!
Are you still looking for a different way to do church?
Are you tired of the SOSO RELIGION?
Are you put off by posers in pews, politics, and pulpits?
Are you searching for something/Someone real/timely/true?
Try our family of faith on the corner of Lincoln and Main!
Sundays at 7:20 and 10:00 a.m.
Blessings and Love!