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Thursday, December 31, 2015

2016 Resolution: Grow into a Wiser Person

I want to be someone who not only makes good decisions but consistently great decisions, which will bless my wife, my kids, my neighbor, my church and will bring maximum glory to God. So I thought I'd pass on this resolution for 2016 and then point you to a couple of sources to help if you'd like to resolve to join me. I just spent the last three days on a prayer and planning retreat - primarily meditating on the Book of Proverbs. Talk about humbling. 

My main takeaway was this: I barely know anything about life. I checked this conclusion against some old journals and notes I'd jotted down. My twenties were full of more self-assurance than I'm happy to admit. When I turned 30, I started to doubt how much I really know. Now, as I get closer to 40, I'm much more confident in my ignorance (By 50 I hope to be fully convinced!). No matter your age, perhaps you feel similarly. What God showed me is that a heavy dose of humility accompanied by a full admission of ignorance is indeed good preparation (Proverbs 28:26), but I need to keep going. What's the next step? 

According to, Solomon, the wisest person who ever lived outside of Jesus himself:  
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom (Proverbs 4:5).
No one is going to spoon feed us wisdom nor does it typically just fall into our laps (nor our inboxes or Facebook feeds). We have to go out and get it. Seek after it, pay attention, ask good questions - and do this everyday. 

Proverbs recommends two consistent and reliable sources of wisdom - a wise God and wise people.

1. So make a Bible reading plan today before the clock strikes midnight. We average 35,000 conscious decisions per day - relying primarily on our own common sense (at best!) to make them (though Proverbs suggests this isn't a reliable source of wisdom - Prov. 3:5, Prov 28:26). Rather, with the feeding and renewing of our mind with the Word of God comes a better ability to test and approve God's will with everyday decisions (Romans 12:2). Get wisdom by getting in His Word every day.


Proverbs 28:9 - "If one turns his ear away from hearing the Law, even his prayer is an abomination." Consider both the wisdom and warning of this statement. Such a person considers his/her own words to God as more valuable than His Words to us. Imagine telling God: "I don't really want to hear what You say but will you please listen to me." Yet those of us who regularly move our lips upward but never crack the Book open are effectively saying just that. 

The very real God assigns perhaps His harshest warning for that person's next prayer: abomination. Perhaps it's not healthy to ponder too long on the harshness of that assessment but rather recognize God is lovingly trying to warn you about something He feels very strongly about - your growth, your flourishing, your becoming the person you've always wanted to be. 

2. Consistently get around people who possess and are seeking godly wisdom like you (a.k.a. Join a Community Group). Here's the link. Sign up before you talk yourself out it (and for those of you with children but short on funds, the church has set aside funds specifically to help with childcare for CG participation - simply let myself or Pastor Brett know).

Proverbs 14:7 - "Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge."
Proverbs 27:9 - "Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel."

Whom are you around most consistently? A fool or a friend. From which kind of persons are consistently trying to get wisdom? A fool or a friend. The weight of Proverbs suggests it is sometimes appropriate to stick it out and love someone making foolish decisions - but our relational priority ought to be getting around brothers and sisters seeking wisdom (Hebrews 10:24-25, Galatians 6:10). 

Wishing you a happy 2016!  Auld Lang Syne.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cradle.Cross.Comfort.

You might remember John Donne from English Lit. Class. A passionate dude and we’re talking 17th century England, here. If you don’t believe me, check out his poem The Ecstasy. Many forget this 17th c. man, having trusted his life to Jesus, spent his later years as a London Pastor at St. Paul's Cathedral. I ran across something he wrote about the birth of Christ in one of his Christmas day sermons.
The whole of Christ's life was a continual passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha, where he was crucified, even in Bethlehem, where he was born; for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as the cross at last. His birth and death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of one and the same day. From the cradle to the cross is an inseparable line.

I recall Christ being misunderstood in his adult ministry, insulted and mocked by his enemies, betrayed by his friends during Holy week, persecuted by religious leaders, beaten by strangers, and finally murdered by the powers-that-be in a most public & humiliating fashion. In other words, I’m continually struck by the fact that, from ages 27-30, Christ was never at home - except during these little moments like a retreat to be with his Father or a few minutes of fellowship with Moses & Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (how sweet those moments must have been for Jesus).

John Donne
Discomfort at the Cradle. However as Donne correctly points out, the incarnation itself -- God taking on flesh & blood through this miraculous birth -- must've been remarkably discomforting and alienating for Jesus. If wasn't for taking on God's just punishment for our sin, the birth would’ve been as discomforting as cross. The physical aspect alone must've been sent a shock down the Trinitarian backbone – the God all of eternity not only becoming a man, but a tiny, 7 lbs., 4 oz baby (unless you think he was an XXL baby because he was God).

Discomfort at Childhood. That discomfort, that alienation must've then continued through his childhood. Consider Jesus' childhood as well as the teenage years. Imagine watching your friends, schoolmates, and fellow temple parishoners grow up to dream of marrying a woman, pursuing a career, having kids, seeing their g-kids. He could never relate. He knew his road would lead to an early death -- the road to Calvary. So the very persons he loved, indeed those he came to save, would grow increasingly distant as both they & he grew older.

Christmas can be a lonely time, even for people who will be with family but especially for those who will be without. We tend to seek comfort during the Holiday season more than any other time. Gifts, carols, well-wishes, Christmas Cookies, traditions with family like making Christmas cookies, then eating more Christmas Cookies. And praise God for these because they each have the potential to remind us of our true home in Christ.

Discomfort at the Cross. This is the Christ whose discomfort in Bethlehem culminated on a hill outside the walls of Jerusalem, where he was alienated not only from the world but from God the Father. The Father alienated His Son while the latter took the sins of the world upon Himself (Mark 15:34; cf. II Corinthians 5:21).

If you trust in Jesus and find yourself in a place of discomfort and alienation this holiday season, don't lose heart -- that's where Jesus is (Hebrews 13:12-13). You will find him there. You see, he lived his whole life there beginning at birth -- so that through seeking him by faith, you will find comfort and a home for Christmas.