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Bludgeoning Badges



…or else.

Sometimes being a Christian can become like being a Girl Scout. It all seems innocuous at first – singing songs about making new friends and keeping the old, selling delicious baked goods, giggling. Soon, however, competition is stirred and the jade sash comes on – badges become instruments with which to bludgeon others spirits into the ground.

It would be great if after becoming followers of Christ, we could all be friends, stand in a circle singing hymns of faith and fellowship, and enjoy one another as members of the Body. Unfortunately, legalism often creeps in and doing good things or doing things in the name of good become badges which we wear with the intent of either putting people down or showing off like a Girl Scout with a sash full of badges.

I have a spiritual sash. Thankfully, it’s not as full of badges as it used to be. To be certain, some badges are still as tightly stitched to my sash as the day they were sewn there. A few are hanging by threads.

One badge – the “I-only-have-godly-friends” badge – is in the process of being torn away. I used to wear this badge proudly, toward the top of my sash. I lived by the idea that my not having worldly, sinful friends was a sign of my own spiritual prowess and well-being.

Then I read about Jesus a little more carefully. Far from rejecting him for his godly standard of living, “the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him” (Luke 15:1). In fact, you don’t have to pay attention that hard while reading the Gospels to notice that Jesus got invited to a lot of parties, most of which were hosted by or attended by people who we would look down upon – tax collectors, prostitutes, sinners. And in the first century, eating with someone meant that you put them on the same level as yourself, that you accepted them as friends. The Pharisees expressed this sentiment when they said accusingly of Jesus, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2).

Over the next few months, I want to go past a casual reading and look at the people that Jesus showed friendship toward – specifically, prostitutes, tax collectors, the Pharisees, and Judas. The first two flocked to Jesus. The second two tried to get away from him. What was it about Jesus that made loose women, thieves, sinners, and the most marginalized people in society flock to him? And if those same types of people don’t feel comfortable around Jesus’s followers today, where have we gone wrong?

Your thoughts?

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Posted by on May 24, 2012 in Uncategorized



Advent – Faith – There Was No Place For Them

Luke 2:1-7 (ESV)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And all went to be registered, each to his own town.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.  And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Have you ever thought about what must have been going through Joseph and Mary’s minds as they went through this ordeal?  In faith, Mary had told God he could do what he wanted with her and Joseph went and took Mary as his wife even though she was pregnant.  Now, their faith is being stretched to, what would be for many of us, the snapping point.

First of all, my reaction to the news of having to travel by foot for over a week somewhere if my wife were pregnant would not make me jump up and down with glee.  No, I would probably laugh and say, “No.”  But I respect Joseph for giving what was Caesar’s to Caesar.  He obeyed the authorities that God had placed over him, and in faith, obeyed God through those authorities, even when it was hard.

And then when they got there, the most suitable place for them to stay was in the stable.  I have to imagine that, based on their previous faith, they met these circumstances with the same resolute and reckless faith that they had already proven themselves to have.  A few days later, we see Mary treasuring in her heart all of the things that the shepherds were saying; true treasuring doesn’t happen in a heart that is embittered and weighted with doubt.  I also have to think that, even though their faith was being stretched, it was also being broadened.  That’s what trials do.  When we faithfully obey and yet go through hard trials, we can count it all joy when we meet them, because “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness,” which leads to maturity and completion (James 1:2-4).

And so, when the fulness of time had come, God sent forth his Son; he was born of woman and wrapped in swaddling cloths.  But he was “born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).  In faith, we trust in Christ, who was born to save the sons of earth and died to give them second birth.  In faith, we continue to follow him.

What Child is This?
words by William C. Dix

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

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Posted by on December 13, 2008 in Uncategorized


Advent Songs by Sojourn

I downloaded this album by Sojourn from NoiseTrade this morning and have really enjoyed it.  My favorite so far: God is With Us.

You can listen to samples and download the album by clicking below.

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Posted by on December 12, 2008 in Uncategorized


Advent – Faith – He Who is Mighty Has Done Great Things

Luke 1:46-55 (ESV)

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.  For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.  He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he he has sent empty away.  He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” 

How refreshing it must have been for Mary to go visit Elizabeth and for her to immediately know what was going on.  Mary had no doubt suffered under the hatred of people who assumed the worst, not unlike in our own day when people show hatred when they should give compassion.

But Mary was counting these trials all joy.  With renewed faith in the goodness and excellence of God, she magnified him from the very depths of her soul.  What was she specifically rejoicing in?  That he had “looked on the humble estate of his servant.”  He had counted her worthy to be blessed by all generations. 

Then she went into an all-out praisefest.  She rattled off all of her favorite things about God; she could do that because she was intimately familiar with them.  She knew that God, who is mighty, had done great things.  He had shown mercy and strength.  He had made a promise to bless Abraham, his offspring, and the entire world through them.  In faith, she was confident that he would continue to keep his promises because of his track record.  Holy is his name.

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Posted by on December 12, 2008 in Uncategorized


Advent – Faith – He Took His Wife

Matthew 1:20-24 (ESV) *

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).  When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife.

As Joseph was making plans to call off his marriage with Mary, Joseph too was visited by an angel.  Via a dream, the messenger from God told Joseph that he need not have fear in taking Mary for wife.  He didn’t need to worry about Mary being defiled, because she wasn’t.  “That which [was] conceived in her [was] from the Holy Spirit.”  Joseph was then told that she would bear a son, but that he would call his name Immanuel. 

What faith that would take!  Just like Mary, Joseph surely wasn’t so naïve as to think that there would be no repercussions from this.  Being a just man as he was, I’m sure he took his reputation seriously.  This wouldn’t look good – either people would think that they had gotten pregnant before they were married or that he was raising a son that wasn’t his.  He had to have known how people talk.  He had to have known how this would look.  And even though it wasn’t his biological son, he was to name him as if he was…God was giving the earthly care of his Son to Joseph.

What faith it would take to believe this, but even greater faith to follow through.  But Joseph did.  “When he woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife.”

*Please note the change in the Scripture reference.  I had it wrong on my original post regarding the daily passages.

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Posted by on December 11, 2008 in Uncategorized


Mary, Do You Know the Words in Spanish?

Me, singing “María Sabes Tú”

Every once in a while, I’m asked to sing at church here.  Once or twice, I have sung in English with the words translated and shown on the overhead.  But that always seems weird, since about 5% of the congregation understand English.  So, when I’m asked to sing a specific song or if I have one I want to sing, I always try to find the Spanish equivalent, which has not always been easy.

So when I was asked to sing “Mary, Did You Know?” I was bound and determined to find it in Spanish.  I googled and googled but to no avail.  I couldn’t find the “letra” to the song.  So, I searched youtube and found someone singing it and transcribed it.

Because of the distant chance that you too may someday need to sing “Mary, Did You Know?” in Spanish, here are the lyrics.

María, Sabes Tú

¿María sabes tú que tu pequeño caminará sobre el agua?

¿María sabes tú que tu pequeño salvará a nuestros hijos?

¿Sabes tú que tu pequeño ha venido a salvarte.

Este hijo que has cargado algún día te librará.

¿María sabes tú que tu pequeño dará vista al ciego?

¿María sabes tú que tu pequeño calmará la tempestad?

¿Sabes tú que tu pequeño con angeles ha caminado.

Cuando besas a tu niño, besas el rostro de Dios.

El ciego verá.

El sordo oirá.

El muerto revivirá.

El cojo saltará. *

El mudo hablará

Alabanzas al Rey.

¿María sabes tú que tu pequeño es Dios de la creación?

¿María sabes tú que tu pequeño reinará a las naciones?

¿Sabes tú que tu pequeño es el cordero de Dios?

El niño que sostienes es el gran YO SOY.

*I couldn’t understand for the life of me what in the world the word they were singing here.  I put “saltará,” because I know that they are talking about jumping.  But, can’t understand the word and there is one extra syllable you have to sneak in.

And here is the Youtube version.

¿María, Sabes Tú?

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Posted by on December 8, 2008 in Uncategorized


Advent – Hope – I Will Pour Out…a Spirit of Grace and Pleas for Mercy

Flowers in El Valle, Panama, watered by a stream that flows by them.

Zechariah 12:10 (ESV)

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.”

Through Zechariah, God promises grace and mercy to Israel.  But first, he says, you’re going to weep and wail.  This passage is like a telescope, because the main focus is not the closer incarnation but rather the more distant second coming of Christ.  However, Christ’s first coming is still in the blurry foreground.  In essence, he says, “Christ will come, but you will pierce him.  But then much later, you will mourn over that, and I will pour out my grace and mercy upon you.”

When Christ returns to establish his Kingdom on this earth, the people of Israel will see Christ, “him whom they have pierced,” and will mourn.  They will weep bitterly, “as one weeps over a firstborn.”  What is all this crying about?

They will see their sin; they will see how they rejected him.  When we see our sin in light of what Christ has done and yet how we have rejected him, we should rightly mourn.  But it’s at that moment that God clears away the weeds of selfish ambition and hatred and tills the soil of our hearts for the seed of the gospel and waters it with grace and mercy.  Hope in God grows where mourning once flourished.

Mourning is a fertile growing bed for hope.


by Charles Wesley

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

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Posted by on December 4, 2008 in Uncategorized