RSS

Emails to God – Confronting Heresy (John 1:14-18)

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Dear God, why am I afraid to answer the door to a Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon? Why am I nervous about defending my theology to them when theirs is so obviously flawed? I talk about wanting to be a better evangelist, but I won’t even speak out when a heretic comes to my door. What’s up with that?

I was driving to my house the other day when I thought I spotted some Jehovah’s Witnesses about a block from my house. My first set of thoughts were, Get to the house, close the garage, close the blinds, and don’t answer the door. Pretend like I’m not home. But my next thoughts focused around the conversations I have had with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons in the past and the apologetics I have gotten into regarding defending Christianity against their heresy. Could I remember them? Should I meet the challenge at my door?

As it turned out, they never came, but I know that, if they had knocked on my door, I would not have opened it. I would have remained silent until they went away. Is that really the example I want to set for my children? Is that really what you are calling me to? Do you not want them to know the truth, and would you not want to use me to deliver it to them when given the chance?

Father, there are times when I feel so pathetic in this area. There are things about my personality that are great, and there are things that I cannot stand. This area falls into the latter. Please remind me of this moment. As I read this passage and the truth about who Jesus was, is, and is to come, help me to find my confidence and faith in it, and help me to be at peace in the knowledge that, at your core, you, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one God, and I am your servant.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 13, 2012 in John

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Emails to God – Counting myself as a shepherd (Luke 2:8-20)

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.”

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. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Dear God, this was the passage on which the pastor preached on Sunday. The story of the shepherds has touched me over the last few years. There are a few things I realize now that I didn’t realize before:

  1. It is possible that the shepherds either knew or knew of Joseph and Mary. Verse 6 says, “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born.” While they were there. We always get this image of Mary and Joseph coming into town and Mary instantly going into labor. But that isn’t the case. And these are not people who could have afforded to stay in a motel every night. They were likely camping outside of town. They might have met the shepherds. They might have been familiar with the stable where she gave birth, and thought of it at the last minute as an option. In fact, I wonder just how many children were born in similar situations during those days.
  2. The shepherds “spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child…” They didn’t just show up, meet Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and then leave. They couldn’t contain their excitement over what was going on. They were pumped and they went out to “spread the word.”

The pastor made the point, which I think is a good one, that we are the shepherds in this story. The Holy Spirit has taught us about Jesus (through others and/or directly into our own souls), and we have embraced Him as our God. Now, what will we do? Will we just enjoy the view and leave, or will we “spread the word” concerning what we have learned about this Jesus, our God?

Father, I am not much of an evangelist. Part of it is apathy. Part of it is fear. Part of it is being shy. But I know that you have put people in my life over whom I have influence. They include  coworkers, volunteers, patients, friends, and family members. Help me to share your news with them. Help me to live out your power and grace in my life and to spread the word to them about what your power and grace can do for them. Help me to embrace the role of a shepherd so that others might be “amazed at what [I] said to them.”

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Luke

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Emails to God – “Better Days” by the Goo Goo Dolls

Okay, for those of you who haven’t heard the Goo Goo Dolls, don’t judge their sound by their name. They are actually a very middle-of-the-road pop group. I was listening to this song the other day and there were a couple of lines that caught my ear. They made me wonder about the spiritual significance of this song and where the leaders of this band might be in their spiritual lives. First, before I go any further, here are the lyrics along with a link to the YouTube video.

And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days
Cuz I don’t need boxes wrapped in strings
And desire and love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight’s the night the world begins again

And it’s someplace simple where we could live
And something only you can give
And thats faith and trust and peace while we’re alive
And the one poor child that saved this world
And there’s 10 million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight’s the night the world begins again

I wish everyone was loved tonight
And somehow stop this endless fight
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight’s the night the world begins again
Cuz tonight’s the night the world begins again

So, when I looked at the whole song’s lyrics I started to wonder if it wasn’t a Christmas song (see the first line). Well, thank goodness for Wikipedia. I looked the song up and found that it originally appeared on a Christmas album produced for Target. Who knew? It IS a Christmas song after all. In fact, I encourage anyone reading this to take a look at the Wikipedia page and see how the song has been used in different tragedies over the last 7 years.

Now for the question, how do I feel about the song and its lyrics. I want to zoom in on the second verse (the one that originally caught my ear listening on the radio). There seems to be a lot of theology here. I’ll reprint it again here:

And it’s someplace simple where we could live
And something only you can give
And that’s faith and trust and peace while we’re alive
And the one poor child that saved this world
And there’s 10 million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them

The second and third lines are something that I have felt for a long time. There is more to our faith than the promise of heaven. There is the idea there is something that only God can give: faith, trust, and peace while we are alive. I have friends who are struggling to find peace. Frankly, this has been a rough season for me, personally, and I have had moments of not feeling peace. But the other thing I have learned is that, in the midst of any turmoil I might experience, the only source of peace is God. So here’s my prayer:

Father, I don’t know the spiritual state of this song’s writers, but they left a message/reminder here for me. While they hope for “better days,” I don’t know that that is where my heart is focused. My focus is more on the idea of the idea that I can find peace in you, and there are so many people in the world for whom I need to pray. There are leaders of countries, mobs, terrorist organizations, armies, etc., and so many of them have influence on your world. So use my prayer and multiply it for those whom you know need it. Please guide this world. Represent yourself through your people, and influence the world through us. Influence it through our humility, servant hearts, and work. Bless our work and use it as unto yourself.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 8, 2012 in Hymns and Songs

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Emails to God – Supporting My Wife Going Catholic, Part 6

This is the final installment in my pieces accompanying my wife’s writings about her joining the Catholic church. Here is a link to her blog so you can see what she wrote and to what I am responding.

As we wrapped up the Right of Catholic Initiation for Adults (RCIA) classes, I was kind of surprised that Megan decided to be confirmed. As she said at the end of her post about this, there were some aspects of the theology with which she still struggled. I explained in the last post why I didn’t go through confirmation, but she decided to move forward.

Frankly, it was awkward for me to know how to respond to this. When we met twenty-three years ago and married three years later, I just never imagined that we wouldn’t be members of the same church, or worship at the same church. To my surprise, the idea of worshipping separately didn’t bother her, but it really bothered me. At the same time, I could tell (as you can see in how she writes about this in her blog) that this really was important to her and God was meeting a need in her that needed to be filled. So I purposed in my heart that I would follow her as closely as I could.

The kids and I went to her confirmation, and I invited her father too. He is a wonderful man who loves her, and was glad to come. It was a lovely service that seemed to go faster than the 2+ hours that it lasted. As she said today, the kids were supportive, and the service and her experience seemed to touch our son in particular.

Now, we are in mass together nearly every Sunday. I find that I miss communion every once in a while, but other than that I enjoy worshipping there. As we both said in earlier posts, the priest is a wonderful man, and I have found the people I know there to be genuine lovers of God. For what else can I ask? I will confess, however, that if she is out of town on a Sunday morning, I have been known to visit a nice Baptist church down the street by myself. It’s comforting for me to feel that familiarity.

I hope that reading about this process has blessed at least one person out there. Of course, our journey continues and I really don’t know how it will unfold. I guess that is part of the joy in the journey.

 
 

Tags: , , ,

Emails to God – Every Parent’s Prayer (“Breath of Heaven” by Chris Eaton and Amy Grant)

I used to work for Word, a Christian music publisher. I was a bookstore sales rep when Amy Grant’s Home for Christmas album came out, and the song “Breath of Heaven” took Christendom and churches by storm. I still remember the 10-digit UPC product number for the accompaniment track (301-7996-204) from entering it into the computer so many times.

Last night, I was at a local Christmas concert by a chamber choir called Canto. In the only solo of the night, a young woman sang “Breath of Heaven.” I happen to know that this woman has a young child. As she sang, I wondered if part of the prayer of that song was for her. Then I looked at the verses more closely and wondered if, outside of the first stanza, if most of the song isn’t for every parent, including me.

Here are the lyrics to the entire song, and here is a link to a youtube video that includes the lyrics:

I have traveled many moonless nights,
Cold and weary with a babe inside,
And I wonder what I’ve done.
Holy father you have come,
And chosen me now to carry your son.
I am waiting in a silent prayer.
I am frightened by the load I bear.
In a world as cold as stone,
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now. Be with me now.
Breath of heaven, Hold me together,
Be forever near me, Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven, Lighten my darkness,
Pour over me your holiness, For you are holy.
Breath of heaven.
Do you wonder as you watch my face,
If a wiser one should have had my place,
But I offer all I am For the mercy of your plan.
Help me be strong. Help me be. Help me.
Breath of heaven, Hold me together,
Be forever near me, Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven, Lighten my darkness,
Pour over me your holiness, For you are holy.
Breath of heaven, Hold me together,
Be forever near me, Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven, Lighten my darkness,
Pour over me your holiness, For you are holy.
Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven.
As we listened to her sing last night, these verses became my prayer. There is a burden of parenting a child into adulthood that I considered, but didn’t understand fully until I began to do it. Oh, how I want to do it right. When Chris Eaton and Amy Grant wrote this song, I’m sure that they wrote it out of their own fears and emotions of being a parent. That is probably why we absolutely could not keep this accompaniment track in stock when the song first released. Even though Mary and Joseph had much more daunting responsibilities that we do, I think that all parents could at least partially relate to the fear of a young girl and her husband as they took on the most precious job God has ever called anyone to do.
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Hymns and Songs

 

Tags: , , , ,

Emails to God – ‘Til he appeared and the soul felt its worth

“O Holy Night”

Dear God, I was driving in my truck last week when the song “O Holy Night” came on the radio. I was singing along shamelessly loud (thank goodness I was alone in the car) when I came across the lyrics in the middle of the first verse. I have sung this song thousands of times in my life, but these words floored me: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ’til he appeared and the soul felt its worth.” What unbelievably beautiful and communicative poetry that is.

I love the imagery because, apart from you, a soul has no clue what its worth is. I am trying to imagine what it would be like to wake up this morning and not know you. How would I feel? Where would my sense of hope and peace come from? Where would my sense of worth come from?

Father, thank you for the reminder of something that I tend to take for granted–that your presence in my life enables me to know my worth in the universe. I am not lost. I did not find my way. I was found by you. Now I pray that you help me, as a husband and a father, to help me foster an environment in my home where my wife and children will know their worth in you.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Hymns and Songs

 

Tags: , ,

Emails to God – Free Will Submission (John 1:9-13)

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Dear God, the decision to submit our will to you is, for some, the easiest thing to do, and, for others, the most impossible thing to do. One of the themes that keeps coming up in my life over and over again is the sense of a respect for authority. I would like to think that it all has to do with parenting, but I don’t think that is necessarily true. I have known people whom I considered to be excellent parents who had troubled, rebellious children, and I have known people who I thought to be terrible parents who have excellent, accomplished, self-disciplined children. That said, however, I do think that parenting plays a large role. If I were to put percentages to it, I would say that 80% of it is parenting, and the other 20% is just the child/adult exercising their free will.

I talked with a friend this week who has a grown son in his 40’s still living with her. She was expressing frustrations with the son’s behavior now, and how she wishes she had done things differently when he was a teenager. My advice to her was to go home, and do now what you wish you had done then because she is continuing to do the things now that she regrets doing then.

I mention all of this because of verses 11 and 12. Verse 11 talks about those who rejected Jesus, and verse 12 talks about those who received him. Those who rejected him were unwilling to yield to his authority, but those who accepted him willingly accepted the notion of being your child.

Father, for the 80% or so influence that you have given my wife and me over our children, please help us to parent them and nurture them in a way that they might be willing to fully submit themselves to you and be your child. Help them to find your peace. Help them to find your love. Raise up other voices in their lives that you will use to influence them. Draw them into yourself and give them a sense of your grace, love, acceptance, and power. Make it something for which they hunger.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 30, 2012 in John

 

Tags: , , , , ,