A Child’s Precious Understanding of Easter & The Simplicity of the Gospel

A Child’s Precious Understanding of Easter & The Simplicity of the Gospel

My lovely wife volunteers in the elementary-aged kids ministry at our church. Tonight, our church offered a couple special Saturday evening services to accomodate the influx of church visitors for Easter remembrance and celebration.

My wife was teaching the 4 year old kiddos about Easter and asked them, “Do you know why we celebrate Easter?”. She was fully expecting an answer about [the illogical connection between] stealth-ninja, egg-painting bunny rabbits, ultimate kaleidoscopic scavenger expeditions, and the inevitable free-range parental consent of sugar-comas.

This precious little boy said “I know! I know!” and offered a beautiful and perfectly complete answer that illustratively explains the simplicity of the Gospel…

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Jesus Sat Up

Jesus Sat Up

Again, Easter offers an odd dichotomy for Christians: horrible pain and transcendent celebration, overbearing weight and jubilant joy , total depravity and complete grace.

We know there is overwhelming evil in the world. We know we “are not perfect”. We know our actions… much less the depths of our thoughts. This is called sin. Sin creates debt. However, there is a problem… how can the debtor pay this debt? The debtor cannot undo what has been done. For humans, time is linear. We live and die.

Romans 3:23: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

The past is unchangeable. Justice and the satisfaction of “payment” must be made. This is not optional.

The payment is Jesus’ death. 

John 3:16-1816 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

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“Good / Brutal Murder Friday”: Medical, Visual, Historical, Social & Cultural Perspectives on the Crucifixion

“Good / Brutal Murder Friday”: Medical, Visual, Historical, Social & Cultural Perspectives on the Crucifixion

Easter offers an odd dichotomy for Christians: horrible pain and transcendent celebration, overbearing weight and jubilant joy, total depravity and complete grace.

Today is Good Friday. The term “Good Friday” is such a misnomer… “Good Friday” = The Brutally Bloody, Grotesque & Definitive Physical Murder of Jesus Christ. The reason it matters and that it is “good” is because of Glorious Sunday, when Jesus Sat Up.

In contemplative observance of “Good Friday”, I thought I would post a few videos and resources that provide various perspectives on Jesus’ crucifixion.

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A Prayer for Our Unborn Son & the Cry of a Future Father

A Prayer for Our Unborn Son & the Cry of a Future Father

Dear Heavenly Father,

I am so very excited and extremely freaked out! You have blessed us with a son!!!! I can’t wait to meet him in August. You are entrusting a helpless baby with no knowledge or experience of the wretched world or your beauty to our care.

I’m typing this prayer with tears bursting from my eyeball sockets… in awe of you, overpowered by the responsibility you’ve entrusted to us, reverent of your sovereignty, and marveling at your creation.

Seeing our child wiggling around today in the ultrasound session was an unique and life-changing experience. What I’ve witnessed in this process so far is such a testament to your existence, creativity, power, and vastness. You have created LIFE in my wife! Only you have the power to create LIFE. Wow.

I am curious, excited, and anxious about the child you are forming in my precious wife’s womb.  Protect his body and mind as they grow and mature. I earnestly pray this boy is born healthfully. My biggest fear is losing him. My second biggest fear is having a son born with a deep physical or mental ailment. If I’m honest, the second fear is often my primary fear. Help us worship you and be thankful for your provision regardless of if our fears come to fruition. You are bigger than that. You are bigger than us. You are God.

Forgive me for my fears and anxieties. Please continue growing my excitement and trust in you in whatever happens and however you choose to bless us. Help me believe that. Much more importantly, help me live that in words, thoughts, and actions.

By your grace alone, help us be the parents you have called us to be. Help us model joy in and service of Christ, each other, your Church, and others.

I pray with every ounce of my body and spirit that this child meets you in a profound way as a young boy, and is never drawn away. They he is captivated by your glory, Son, creation, the Bible… Your people, and your commission. I hope he genuinely confesses faith in and allegiance to you as a young boy. I ask for miraculously profound faith in the death and resurrection of the crucified Jesus Christ as the only Lord and Savior of humanity. I pray his life is a testimony of a passionate and faithful soldier and servant of the risen Christ.

Please protect him from the sordidly pathetic Satan. The enemy is not welcome in our family or home. The enemy is fighting in a battle that has been over since the beginning of creation when you decided to come reconcile humanity to you through Christ. You have provided protection through the blood Christ… with a dependent, trusting, and humble heart… I run to your provision of protection.

Please provide him with good friends who know and love you. Help him be a shining light of your love as he encounters the darkness of the world. Help him trust you. Help him trust the wisdom and eternal Truth of Scripture.

Help him trust your commands over experiencing the sin of a fallen world. In moments where He ignores your divine design and sins… help him confess, repent, be fortified by Holy Spirit and Christian brothers, and have faith in the the complete provision of forgiveness and grace offered only in Jesus.

Give him wisdom and discernment in pursuing your plans and purposes for how he will glorify you in life… in school, in relationships, in occupations, when dating, and by your grace, as a husband, father, and grandpa.

Thank you for the church you’ve provided to our family… where we have the privilege of worshiping you and serving you with others. Our church is such a blessing. Please protect the leadership at our church and their families from the enemy. Please give them wisdom, discernment, passion, and humility to lead us and serve you and your people. Please continue growing their love and knowledge of you… and let that explode from within our church into the people, community and world.

Grow our appreciation and service of the church Christ died for… that He commissioned to reflect His glory, to preach and live the Good News to all the nations, to care for communities, and to pass on from generation to generation as a testament to Jesus. Your church is central to the great commission. Active engaged participation is not just our responsibility, but your commandment, and our privilege.

Help us serve our small group well. Thank you that our child will grow up in Christian community from birth… on day zero, our child will be around a flock of your seekers and followers.  Holy moly… that is amazing. Our child is being born into a spiritual family that is a community of people earnestly seeking you. Praise you for that. That is yet another overwhelming blessing.

I get worried about what kind of father I may be. The task and responsibility are overwhelming. Help me prioritize according to your design and the Holy Scriptures you have provided. Thank you for providing a book testifying to Christ and your design in creation of man and woman. Continue growing me in the grace and knowledge of Jesus for your glory.

I often feel unworthy of the precious wife you have provided. I adore her. Help me not idolize her. Help me worship you alone. Help me serve her. Help me love her ever so deeply. Grow our friendship and care for each other. Help me increase you. Help me glorify you in how I think about, talk about, touch, serve, protect, and care for her. Protect my mind, eyes, and heart from the enemy who desires to separate me from you and my wife. Please continue growing me into the husband you call me to be.

Thank you for her caring, compassionate, and tender heart. Thank you for her love of you. Thank you for the time she spends with you and in your word.  Thank you for the motherly instincts and skills that you have absolutely blessed her with.

Help my son see in me a father who serves, cherishes, honors, dates, respects, loves, and protects his mother.

I know my wife gets scared about the pain of childbirth. Please give her strength. Please protect her body during her pregnancy. While the pains of childbearing are a curse… pregnancy and children are a blessing. Help us cherish your blessing. Help her learn about you and relish the experience you uniquely created for and entrusted to women. If not for entrusting childbirth to women, humanity would surely have been short-lived.

My wife is scared about how physically demanding the next few years will be. As you know, she is quickly drained, feels sick, and get horribly exhausted when she does not get a full nights rest. I ask for a miracle in preparing her body for the sleepless nights required to nurse and care for a little baby.

Help me selflessly serve and pray for my wife. Help me go overboard in caring for and serving her. Give me energy to tirelessly serve her beyond my capacity. Grow my capacity to be more in line with yours.

Please give my wife’s and my friends and family wisdom on when to offer advice and wisdom. Please also help my wife and I humbly and excitedly receive the wisdom you provide through the wonderful community with which you have surrounded us. Help them give good advice!

As people attempt to push ungodly advice and opinions about our family’s decisions… help us be gracious. Help me not yield to anger. Help my wife not yield to insecurity. Help us use those opportunities to glorify you in action, words, or lack thereof when fitting and appropriate.

When moments of frustration, impatience, disrespect, dishonor, pain and everything else that comes to parenting arise… help us be thankful for the child-blessing we asked for… and remember your provision of the blessing… as a blessing and answer to prayer. 

Please give us wisdom and discernment for the 1000s of decisions required for parenting… from decisions over the next few months, before we meet him… to providing counsel on colleges and life in his adulthood. Help us run to you for answers and lean on the community you have provided to us. Grow our faith in you. Help us teach him well.

Please give my wife and I opportunities and courage to verbally share about our faith in you and the testimony of Christ with others… so our son will see parents that courageously and joyfully share the Gospel. Help our actions back up our words.

Thank you for how you have financially provided to our family. Thank you for health insurance. Thank you for the warm home. Thank you for the extra room. Help us be thankful, but not dependent on those things. Help us not take your provision for granted, not worship it, and to steward it for your glory and kingdom. I also unabashedly ask for a plethora of MORE resources that can be used for multiplying and glorifying your name. Please continue cultivating in us hearts of thanksgiving and gratitude.

We are yours. I am yours. I offer you all of me to serve you and my family well. All we have is on loan from you… whereby you alone provide the intellect, wisdom and opportunity to multiply it for your glory.

Help my wife and I serve and honor you with our lives and worship. Help us be unified in how we model you to our son. Give us strength and wisdom in how we discipline him.

Our family is yours. We offer you our decisions and futures. We are your missionaries and disciples.

We live for your glory, and worship you alone.

I pray these things in desperation, with my face and knees on the ground at the foot of the bloodied cross, and the feet of your beloved, risen, Son.

In Jesus’ name alone,

Amen.

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An Authentic Conversation with My Family-In-Law About “The Blessing” from Dr. John Trent

An Authentic Conversation with My Family-In-Law About “The Blessing” from Dr. John Trent

A couple weekends ago I witnessed a wonderful conversation with my honey-cakes (wife) and my amazing family-in-law. I can’t tell you how much I have learned about Jesus from them over the years. I may dive into this in a future post… in this post I want to focus on the conversation.

A great book called The Blessing deeply impacted my parents-in-law. Originally published in 1986, the book has recently been re-released after selling over a million copies in the past 25 years. The author, Dr. John Trent, is a fantastically sweet guy, teacher, and lover of Christ. With the re-release, they launched a campaign called The Blessing Challenge with the goal of impacting a new generation of parents and families.

The Blessing Challenge campaign also includes an accompanying campaign called Music That Blesses Others that seeks to continually inspire people with songs of blessing and worship. Shon Stewart is the host of Music that Blesses Other. Shon’s story is compelling… he was born 2.5 months prematurely and was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Despite his considerable challenges, he is an inspirational speaker and singer. Watch a video of his story and listen to him sing a song inspired by his life, written by his mother. 

Again… I digress :-). I will further profile The Blessing Challenge and Music that Blesses Others in a future post because the mission is important.

As a response to the book and to further facilitate contemplation and conversation, my mother-in-law wrote a study / discussion guide to accompany it. My mother-in-law then requested that everyone go through the book and study guide, and honor / gift her with a family conversation about it for her birthday in lieu of a present. Her goal was to listen to and learn from her children and facilitate a conversation among the siblings… so everyone could grow in their knowledge and grace of Christ. Isn’t that incredible?

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Celebrating the Spiritual Discipline of Celebration

Celebrating the Spiritual Discipline of Celebration

The discussion of the spiritual discipline of “celebration” is quite confrontational and deep. We celebrate what we intrinsically value. If we look at our discipline(s) in life and/or lack thereof… it might actually point to an unsettling reality that we do not value with our actions what we profess to value with our words. 

As you look at your daily life, what do your actions show you celebrate and deeply value? How often do you celebrate your comforts, preferences, or freedoms instead of celebrating Christ for what He accomplished on the cross? Do you celebrate yourself? Are you worthy of being celebrated?  Are the things, people, or ambitions you celebrate worthy of your adoration?

Our small group is currently exploring the various spiritual disciplines. Tonight we discussed the disciplines of celebration and gratitude. I thought I would quickly post notes on celebration from the books we are going through. The books are Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster and Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us by Adele Calhoun. The content in this post is referenced and adapted from those books.

There are a variety of ways to practice celebration. Unfortunately, most of us confine celebration to church gatherings, corporate worship, singing in the car, and occasional parties. The longest book in the Bible, Psalms, is a collection of celebratory art in the form of poetry. Sometimes the Psalms are filled with God-glorifying and focused joy and celebration… other times they are filled with depravity, lament, complaining, whining, and frustration. We need to stretch and challenge our understanding, experience, and practice of celebration! Celebration erupts out of our adoration of Jesus.

Joy is the end result of the spiritual disciplines being a reality in our lives and devotion to Christ. God brings about the transformation of our lives through the Holy Spirit and the disciplines… and we only know true joy as the Holy Spirit transforms and cleans us from the inside out. Holy Spirit transformation causes us to radiate in and from the Spirit, show abundant love, sanctifies us, grows our understanding and giving of grace, and molds us into Christlikeness.

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