What Mary, Joseph, and Mulan Taught me About Regrets

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Mary and Joseph (wonder why) and one thing that struck me for the first time was that they must have felt terrible when Jesus was born.

Think about it. Mary, who is legally bound to Joseph, becomes pregnant before the wedding day. Joseph, instead of divorcing her quietly, as he was tempted to do, takes her public shame and covers it with marriage. Now, not only does Mary look bad for being pregnant, but people are probably looking at Joseph and thinking either he sinned and the Child is his, or he has no problem with Mary’s apparent sin and is guilty by association.

I’m sure they were the biggest scandal to hit their town in quite a while.

Then Joseph and Mary make the long journey to Bethlehem and end up spending the night in the stables with the animals, where Mary goes into labor.

If I were in their shoes, I would have panicked. Mary has known this whole time that she is carrying the Messiah and Joseph has just had a confirming dream. They must be feeling overwhelming pressure. And they end up in a situation where the King of kings, the Savior of the world, is going to be born in the hay, amidst animal droppings and half chewed food.

Joseph and Marry must have wondered where they went wrong.

Their circumstances were as far from ideal as it gets. They must have wanted to give so much more to God. They must have expected it to be so much more glorious than it was.

If I were them, I would have felt like I’d let God down, by allowing His Son to be born in such a place, to disgraced parents, with nobody caring about the birth except for a few shepherds.

I think we all feel like that from time to time. We sit down and sing the shoulda’/coulda’/woulda’s, tasting the bitter regret of having failed God.

I know I have. I’ve sacrificed a lot to be where I am today. Only, where I am isn’t where I expected to be. Not even close.

I feel like I let God down. I expected my sacrifices to produce something so glorious for Him. My struggles in obedience, my striving to do His will… it all seems empty now. I wonder where I went wrong.

When we feel God’s calling on our lives, we start to dream big. We think of all the things we want to do for Him, all that we want to accomplish for His Kingdom. But the accolades we plan are not what matter to God.

I’m going to do something completely uncharacteristic now and quote Disney, because it’s what popped into my head as I was writing this. In the movie Mulan, a young woman sets out to bring her family honor and ends up saving China. But when she returns home and offers the Emperor’s gifts to her father, he throws them aside and tells her, “The greatest gift and honor, is having you for a daughter.”

Day 21-favorite quote

God prizes people.

God is after you. He is after your heart. He is after your love and obedience. He wants to be your Dad.

The successes and honors of this world mean nothing to Him. He planned for His Son to be laid in a manger, instead of in a palace. He planned for me to write this to an audience of 100+ instead of 100,000+.

He does not value the things of this world like we do. He values us.

So if you, like me, are harboring regrets, let them go and grab hold of God.

Because you are all He’s ever wanted. And by making Him all you want, you bring Him glory.

 

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Get Behind me, Santa

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Tis the season, so I suppose I should probably have a Christmas themed post or two. Trouble is, I’m a self professed Grinch.

The other trouble is that I love and follow Jesus and I enjoy giving gifts to no end.

As I’m sure you can imagine, this time of year is a bit confusing for me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love all the holiday spirit: the tree, the food, the gifts, and most of all the family and friends. I love the traditions and the general good-will mood.

The part I can’t stand about this time of year is the politics.

Everywhere you turn there are the debates over ‘Happy Holidays’ vs. ‘Merry Christmas,’ Hymns vs. Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, nativity scenes vs. Santa and his sleigh. It seems like you can’t make a move without stepping on someone’s toes.

It’s the season for political correctness to run rampant and offenses to run high.

We Christians are all but commanded by the church community to ‘Keep Christ in Christmas.’ But I was thinking about that phrase the other day and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s really a very dumb phrase.

Think about it: the implication here is that if we Christians do not fight tooth and nail campaigning for our rights to our music, decorations, seasonal greetings, and shopping hours, that Jesus will be taken out of Christmas. This call to action is basically stating that non-Christians have the power over Jesus to ban Him from this time of year.

And it’s not just Christmas either. The Church is campaigning to keep Jesus in our schools, in our government buildings, in our currency, in our laws, etc. As though to say that if we were to step out of politics, Jesus would be ousted and denied re-entry.

But I’ve got news on the political fighting point: God is omnipresent.

The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
Watching the evil and the good.

Prov. 15:3

This means that God is in every single government office, every school, every college lecture hall, every supermarket, etc. Furthermore, wherever there is a Christian, there can and will be Holy Spirit anointed prayer.

Even if there were no Christians for miles, God would still be there. His presence is not dependent on us. It’s not like He needs us to get Him into a building and the lack of Christians will keep Him from standing in the oval office and seeing that everything goes according to His perfect plan.

I really don’t think that we Christians are meant to be campaigning so hard on the political front (with the exception, of course, of those who God has called to political office). I don’t think it shows the love of Christ to get our noses bent out of shape when we hear ‘Happy Holidays.’

Those types of political concerns are for the world to worry about. There’s no mention of the apostles marching up and down the street with picket signs. They were too busy loving on people and preaching against sins. Not the sin of Santa and his reindeer, either.

I just worry that the church may have its priorities out of order and that we are fighting in battles that don’t concern us.

If someone wants to sing frosty the snowman and wish me Happy Holidays, then groovy. The far greater concern to me should be whether or not that person realizes how much Jesus loves them and how much they need Him. Because if they don’t have that, then they could celebrate Christmas in the Godliest manner possible and still lose their soul.

So this year, let’s not worry about keeping Jesus in Christmas, in government buildings, in schools, etc. He is already there, and I can assure you that no scheme of man can keep Jesus away from any place He wants to be.

Let’s focus instead on whether or not He is in our hearts and the hearts of those around us. Let’s just love on people this year, pray for those in power, and live lives that are glorifying to God.

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1 Tim.2:1-4


The Christmas Scandal

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A scandal has arisen in the UK over the release of a Christmas commercial by Sainsbury Grocery. The commercial (which can be viewed here) spends about 3 minutes depicting the Christmas Truce of 1914, with the end goal of selling chocolate.

Apparently, people are upset that such an extraordinary event should be used for advertising purposes… which, let’s be honest, is a tad ironic given that the whole season – one said to celebrate the birth of Christ – is basically one be advertisement at this point. (Yes, I’m Charlie Brown, I admit.)

However, I’m very grateful to this ad and its controversy because it stopped me dead in my tracks and caused me to look at the Jesus’ advent in a way I never had before.

We all know (some have experienced) the trauma of childbirth for the mother, but I think few of us really reflect on the trauma the child goes through.

Everything the baby has ever known about safety and warmth and care is suddenly ripped away as the poor little infant is squeezed slowly through the birth canal.

He then emerges into a world of lights and sounds and cold that is completely foreign and uncomfortable. The baby experiences hunger for the first time, and cold, and weakness.

He is totally and completely helpless, too frail to even lift his own head and completely at the mercy of the strange giants around him. He can’t communicate his needs or desires through anything other than plaintive wails.

He is completely helpless.

Now picture the Almighty Creator of the Universe, Perfect and Holy God condescending to put Himself through this.

Condescending to experience pain, hunger, weakness, shame, rejection, betrayal, helplessness… in short, humanity, in all its splendor.

I don’t know where theologians stand with this, but I personally believe that Jesus was fully conscience of His God state in the midst of this event.

And He suffered through all this completely blamelessly, totally undeservedly.

From the Lord’s side of things, His birth was more unjust, more scandalous than anything that has happened or ever could happen here on earth, in war time or in peace.

And yet He submitted to it willingly, for your sake and for mine.

Every year, we hear a lot about ‘the reason for the season’ and words like ‘gratitude’ and ‘greatest gift’ get bandied about. I feel like this discussion has grown stale, and we don’t stop often enough to think about what it is that we are actually grateful for.

We’ve been told that Jesus died for our sins, but how often do we stop to think about how He lived for them? If you ponder the physical side of humanity, it can be stated that we begin to die as soon as we’re born, so Jesus’ death really began with His birth.

I like the commercial above. The company uses the word ‘share,’ but what I see is sacrifice. And maybe that’s what this season is really all about, the opportunity to truly reflect on the Sacrifice that was made on our behalf, and the chance to look around for opportunities to make sacrifices on behalf of others.

(Originally published 12/1/2014)


Good Gifts

 

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I think that sometimes people can have a misconception of the term ‘good gifts’ as used in the Bible. When we look at what society terms ‘the good life’ and look at the lives that many Christians lead, there can be cause for some confusion.

I’m reading through Isaiah right now and right in the midst of all the terrifying prophesies of doom and destruction, I came across Is.30:18a:

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion.

It is such a beautiful reminder of God’s infinitely gracious heart. Even though His children have rebelled against Him time after time and refused to repent, He still longs to forgive them and show them His mercy and goodness.

A major aspect of the Gospel message is that God is offering forgiveness; an escape from judgment and assurance of heaven.

But I think a commonly held opinion here on earth is that if we repent and start living ‘good Christian lives,’ then God is obliged to stop ‘punishing’ us and start ‘rewarding’ us in the here and now. What we can fail to realize is that God is reward enough.

Verses like this one can be misconstrued to mean that God wants to give us prosperity here on earth. And while that is certainly true at times (I am by no means trying to deliver a ‘vow of poverty’ message), those earthly rewards should not be the be all and end all.

God loves us and will give us what He knows is best for us. Like a father refusing his child a cookie before dinner, God will not give us things that will harm us, draw us away from Him, or work contrary to His kingdom plans.

The beautiful thing about God is that He is all sufficient. The grace and compassion He offers us is so far and away more than we could ever need or ask for and is so inexhaustible. God really is enough.

All the shinies here are on earth that seem just out of reach to us can lead us to the very wrong, yet still hurtful, conclusion that God is holding out on us. We start to think that He must be punishing us for a sin, or even be taking things away out of cruelty. The end result is that we are left feeling beaten up and poorly cared for.

But God wants to satisfy us. He wants us to find our all-in-all in Him. He desires – even commands – that we live lives full of peace and joy and love. God wants you to be happy but He wants you to find that happiness in Him. Because the world does not satisfy, and it’s weak version of happiness has no staying power.True contentment can only be found in the love of Jesus.

Today, as I look around me, it’s easy to begin compiling a mental ‘wish list’ that I could start praying for. The list can become long and overwhelming very quickly, and I’m often left feeling alone and neglected. Sound familiar?

I want to start focusing more on the Giver than on His gifts. The blessing God offers me of just being His child is more than enough to sustain my short life on earth, regardless of trials and tribulations. The fact that the Almighty Creator of the Universe longs for me to call Him Daddy is all the blessing and gift I could ever need.


The Book Release

This One

It’s here! Well, to be more specific, it’s here. Don’t miss out on the promotional opening weekend! This Saturday and Sunday only, pick up your copy for FREE!!! And to those of you who prefer the weight of good, old-fashioned paper in your hands, keep your eyes peeled for the paper-back edition, coming soon =D

It is my deepest hope and prayer that God will be glorified and that you, my dear reader, will enjoy!!


Will the Real Victims Please Stand Up

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There’s a word that’s popping up a lot lately, especially in church. It often prompts controversial discussion, leaving most people feeling angry and/or scared.

That word? ‘Rights.’ Particularly ‘Christian,’ ‘religious,’ and ‘American’ rights.

It can’t be denied that the political climate of our country is changing and that freedoms we once enjoyed are being threatened. In reaction to this, the church has become a political force and Christians everywhere are being urged to stand up and defend their rights.

Trouble is, I honestly don’t see anything in the Scriptures about fighting for our rights. In fact, in 1 Peter 2:17, I found what seems to me to be the direct opposite:

‘Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.’

That doesn’t sound very much like the current Christian agenda. But, we are living in a different culture with different sins. Surly, if Peter were to see our president today, he wouldn’t tell us to honor a man who is so clearly against our Christian values. Right?

Only, Peter wrote this letter to the Roman provinces in Asia. And the king at that time? Nero.

And I looked into it, the word honor as used here in the Greek basically means honor. Does that mean we obey the laws of the land if that requires disobeying the laws of God? Of course not. Does that mean we stop gossiping and complaining about the government and pray for them instead…?

If honoring a king you don’t agree with is hard, how much more so people whom you interact with every day. ‘Honor all people.’ Well, it does say all. Does that mean that we defend actions that are clearly sinful according to God’s definition? Of course not. Does it mean we stop trying to save people in our own strength by manipulating them into repentance and simply share the Gospel with them instead…?

We’ve lost ourselves to a screaming match with culture.  Social media is lifting up sin as heroic and empowering while the church is condemning its practitioners to the pits of hell. Meanwhile, what we’re failing to realize is that we are fighting the wounded.

When did we get so caught up in ‘rights’ that we forgot to preach the Gospel? When did we forget that we laid down our rights to fair treatment at the foot of the cross?

Christ died to take our rights away from us, because our inalienable birthright is eternal punishment for our sins.

Do we really want to fight for our rights, for what we deserve?

But then, what about defending the Scriptures, and God’s laws? I read an article recently that said we have to defend the sanctity of marriage from the government because it’s a God-ordained institution. The implication here being that the Supreme Court’s decision supersedes God’s opinion, that if the Federal Government of America calls it a marriage, then God is forced to acknowledge it as such. That’s just silly.

We defend the Scriptures by living by them and by allowing God to exhibit His glory and love in our lives. We need to be wary of distractions; Jesus didn’t get mixed up in politics, nor did the apostles. Instead, the early church did what it was mandated to do: spread the Gospel.

By doing that, they turned the world upside down.

That’s all we have to do. Instead, we Christians are playing the persecution card, cloaking ourselves in victim-hood. But we are the ones with full access to God. We are the ones who have tasted of His love and forgiveness. We are the ones looking forward to eternity in paradise with Him.

We aren’t the victims. The people we’re fighting are. That makes us the bullies.

We are so eager to save a dying world for God that we condemn the homosexual, conveniently forgetting that he’s the one who isn’t enjoying God’s best for his life. We shout hate at the pregnant teenager as if killing her unborn child won’t scar her for life. We gossip about and pray against politicians who’ve traded their morality for the perception of power.

That can’t be right. They are the ones who are truly suffering in their sins. They’re the ones who will be hurt by their choices. Why are we offended? Why are we hurt? Why are we fighting for our rights? And most importantly, why aren’t we loving these people instead?

Let’s bring the focus away from political agendas and back to Jesus and His saving power, instead of trying to save people our way. Instead of defending our rights, let’s defend the Gospel with our lives by displaying it in our lives and show a dying world what the Savior can do.


Author Update

This One

Well, after too many months of agonizing, editing, re-writing, re-editing, and discouragement-fighting, the manuscript for ‘To Watch me Burn’ has been ‘finalized’*. The release date is set for the first week in October, when it will be available exclusively on amazon in e-book and paperback. Keep a wary eye for more news and updates on promotional weekends and fun things like that. Here’s a slightly more detailed description than the last… enjoy =)

Life is simple on the island nation of Melior: the just are rewarded for their good deeds, while the criminals are branded for their failings and sent to live outside the proud city’s walls.

In the midst of this society that emphasizes worth via achievement, Merritt’s sole aim in life is to earn value. When he discovers that his domineering mother has been lying to him, he leaves the city to find out for himself the truth of the Branded community. It is there, among the untouchables, that he finally begins to feel a sense of belonging.

But this acceptance comes at a terrible price. When false accusations leave Merritt guilty in the eyes of the law, he must set out to reinvent his identity and answer the question: Can a man be worth more than his actions?

 

*Until such time as I happen to read it again and decide to change everything.


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