Archive for the ‘Children’ category

Reformation and Renewal

October 31, 2017

depositphotos Image ID: 10694365 Copyright: rumifaz

Since some of us are celebrating the Reformation today. I don’t really care about Halloween, so I figure I should say something about the Reformation.

You might call me a reformed Catholic. I grew up in the Catholic Church. When I encountered Jesus Christ, the living Son of God, who shed His glory to become a man, walked in obedience to His own purposes, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again from the dead, my life changed.

When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I left the Catholic Church for greener pastures and still waters. I have been involved with and visited many churches since then, and I am still looking for greener pastures and still waters. Along the way, I have learned that Catholics haven’t cornered the market on rigid structures and white-washed tombs.

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Interplay of the Word and the Spirit

August 28, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 36662225 Copyright: alexraths

I recently heard a Sermon on Matthew 3:15. The verse was posited for the proposition that believers in Christ should be baptized as a public expression of faith in obedience to God. This is a pretty fundamental proposition that most Christian denominations would advocate in some form or another.

In Matthew 3, John the Baptist has been preaching repentance, turning to God and baptism to make the way for one who “is coming soon who is greater than I am – so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals”.[1] This was Jesus, of course. Then we are told that Jesus went to Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John, and John tried to talk him out of it, saying, “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you….”[2] This is the context in which Jesus makes the statement that was the focus of the sermon.

The New Living Translation of the Bible was used for the textual reference. I tend to use the ESV and NASB translations because they are more literal. They are word for word translations, rather than phrase for phrase (or idea for idea) translations, like the NLT. The word for word translations tend to be considered more accurate and more authentic to the original text. These are things I was thinking as I listened to the message, and I wondered what difference a more literal translation would make.

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Would I Be Different Than They?

May 11, 2017


Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him…. John 12:37

Imagine being there when Jesus lived to hear Him speak, watch Him interact with people and maybe even perform a miracle – right in front of you! How could you not believe?!

It’s easy to think these things. But, what would it really be like? Though Jesus performed many signs in front of people, still they didn’t believe Him. People still believed what they were disposed to believe. People saw what they expected to see.

Would we be any different?

Some people heard Him speak and saw the miracles and believed. But more people heard Him speak, saw the miracles and did not believe. In the 1st Century, they accused Him of performing black magic. Today, we might accuse Him of performing ordinary magic, planting people in the audience and doing sleight of hand.

He would most certainly rock our notions of right and wrong, proper and improper, sense and insensitivity. He would challenge our sacred ideas about ourselves and our freedoms, our causes and our individual rights.

He would be too politically incorrect for the left. He would be too progressive for the right.

Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Isaiah 53:1-3)

Into Her Dreams

December 11, 2016

Like skaters on icy pavement
gliding together into the city skyline,
grey against clouds of snow.
Winter storm warning, veiled
by music and coffee, conversation and silence.
Precious cargo
delivered into the Windy City,
big shoulders
Blonde and steel,
she slips into the hurried streets,
the streaming crowd,
Out into the world.
This father beams in consolation.
Sighs.
She doesn’t look back,
blue eyes piercing into her future.
No hesitation.
Heading home,
grey fading into western twilight.
slipping past long headlights.
Silence in music playing.
Snow dust, shifting like dry mist,
passing like sands of time.
Falling, the flurries whirling .
How easily she slipped out of my car and into her dreams.

The Light Shines Lightest in the Darkness: the American & Global Church

October 16, 2016

I just watched God’s Not Dead 2. I know, I am a bit behind the times. But the movie sparked some thoughts about the plight of the Church in the US and around the world.

Before getting to the point, it’s worth noting that courtroom movies are usually not very realistic. Movies rarely get the courtroom scenes right. But, I was pleasantly surprised. They got it right! I am talking about the rules of evidence, the questioning of  witnesses, the objections.

I am an attorney and did a brief in college focusing on religious freedom in schools. That was a long ago, and I have not remained completely up to date on the details regarding how the law has evolved since then, but I pay attention to what is going on. I have represented public school districts, which has given me the opportunity to update my knowledge periodically.

Unfortunately, the odds in this country are increasingly being stacked against the believer. (more…)

Christmas Thoughts

December 24, 2014

Christmas Tree with PresentsThis time of year is a joyful, festive time of year filled with family time, days off from work, presents given and received and celebration. At least, that is how we look forward to this time of year; and I believe it is, for most of us, for the most part, a joyful time of year. But, life is not so consistent with our expectations and experiences.

I checked Facebook this morning when I awoke. A high school classmate reports that his wife and mother of his daughters when to “be with the angels” last night. A friend I met in college said goodbye to his mother yesterday, and she is no longer with us today. An acquaintance I know through wrestling described a colleague, only a few months past 50, passed yesterday after a two-week bout of pneumonia. Another high school friend asked for prayers for his daughter, going in two weeks in the hospital. Another friend from high school started chemo again this week.

These are only a few circumstances among the people I know of people who are struggling with loss, sickness and other difficulties right now. I am painfully aware that this joyful time of year is anything but happy for many people dealing with financial, health and other struggles. The incongruity of the festive, outward showings and the dark, inward struggles makes this time of year especially difficult for many people.

In quieter reflection, we know that the reason for celebration is not the outward trappings. We celebrate the birth of Christ and the hope He brings. Implicit in the story of God shedding his omnipresence and exchanging an eternal, omnipotent position for the humble perspective of dependent newborn baby is that God is not unaware or unable to identify with us in our humanity and our struggles. He is not unaccustomed to suffering.lightstock_798_xsmall_user_7997290

Jesus Christ became God with us, Emmanuel, as foretold many centuries before. He lived as we live and suffered as we suffered. Jesus felt weight of depression and the sorrow of loss. He intimately knows our struggles.

Though we celebrate the birth of Christ at this time of year, we cannot help but see that joyful time in the context of the purpose for which He was born – to bear in Himself the sin of mankind, to carry that burden to the cross – and, in dying, to bury sin; and in rising, to conquer death and give us hope.

We have a God who is not distant, but is now poised at the door to each of our hearts. He is still God with us, but He is also now able to be God in us – if we are willing to receive Him. I pray that you would open the door to Him today and receive the hope He has to bring.

Though life is still marked by sorrows and suffering, we have hope. I wish and pray for God to fill each person on this Christmas Eve day with that hope and, with it, peace and comfort and, yes, even joy. In the midst of the difficulties and struggles, we can have joy. Our hope is not in the things of this world, but is anchored in something deeper and more substantial.

In that vein, have a Merry Christmas everyone!

Christmas nativity

Connecting to Our Theological Hardwiring

December 22, 2014
Julia at Hershey - Copy (sm)

Jesus instructed His disciples to let the children come to Him, and he instructed His disciples to become like children to enter the Kingdom of God.

“Faith comes naturally and normally for children. Certain assumptions about the world and its creator seem to arise intuitively at an early age. For example, children tend to believe in spiritual beings without any trouble, and they distinguish between fairy tales and God in sophisticated ways. They believe the world was made for a purpose and by something greater than human beings. Essentially we have the beginnings of theology in some way hardwired.” (A statement from an article in Christianity Today, The Great Congruence of Science and Faith.)

Faith and science hardly seem to be a place of congruence in popular opinion and even less congruent with that popular opinion is a statement about theology hardwired in children. Or is it? Charles Darwin once commented that he could not trust his “inward conviction… that the Universe is not the result of chance”. (The Darwin Project, UK) Darwin recognized the “hard wiring” the author of the article asserted, but he rejected it. (See also Random Thoughts on Evolution)

Children come by this inward conviction naturally; adults have a harder time with it. Modern thinkers might say that other things are hardwired into people, such as sexual tendencies and gender identity. The Bible recognizes that we are born into sin, which is why we need to be born again. There is something in the way a child approaches the world, however, that is productive toward faith.

I am reminded of the words of Jesus, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” (Luke 18:16) The context in which He spoke those words is as important as the words themselves. People were bringing small children to Jesus for him to pray for them, but the disciples attempted to keep them away from the important things Jesus was doing. Instead continuing with whatever he was doing, Jesus stopped and gladly welcomed the children. Then he said something even more important:

“‘Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’” (Luke 18:17)

God does not want us to lose that “theological hard wiring”. We have in us a tendency toward sin as well as a tendency toward faith. Paul would say that would say that truth is written our hearts so we are without excuse.

As we get older, we become more self-sufficient and more self-important. We become more dependent on ourselves, and we have a hard time allowing anyone or anything to dictate to us. We blaze our own trails. We chart our own courses. We separate from our parents, and we separate from God. We lose the wonder of childhood. We become jaded, hardened and tend toward the sinful tendencies if we are not careful.

Disillusioned Politician


Is it any wonder that we need to be born again to see the kingdom of heaven? We need a different approach than what we would naturally take as we get older. We need to become like a child to approach God, stripped of the self-reliance that we strive to attain as adults.

Faith opens the eyes of the believer up to the wonder of God in the world. The congruence of faith and science and reason and the reality in which we live is natural and normal, but we live in a fallen world that is tending away from God, tending toward destruction and decay. Faith takes us in a different direction.

At the end of the day, what is more reliable about our ability to reason over that inward conviction? Both reside in the finite human frailty. One will take us to the gate of heaven; the other will take us no further than the grave. One is not more prone to error than the other. Or is it?

Without faith we will not see the kingdom of heaven. If we will not receive what God has provided for us like a child, we cannot grasp it at all. The congruence of faith and truth is found in God who can only be worshiped in spirit and truth. Spirit requires that we let go of our own conceptions that are limited by our finite experience and knowledge and ability to reason and open up to what God would reveal to us.

To approach the world like children, as God instructs us, is to remain open to correction and change of direction as God would guide us. In fact, in the same context in which Jesus said we must be born again, Jesus added:

“‘You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’” (John 3:7-8)

If we are to be born again, born of God, was must be open to the influence of God, to the direction of God. We must be sensitive to the wind, the breath of God, His Holy Spirit. Like a child, we may not always be happy or understand the direction that we are going, but a child would not think to go in any direction apart from God in whom and on whom we are utterly dependent. We need to plug into the hard-wiring God built into us that is connected to Him and walk away from any sinful tendencies we might have.

Reprinted from NavigatingByFaith


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