Why Easter is better than Christmas

This weekend marks the most important day on the Christian calendar. While the Orthodox will celebrate a week later, the Catholics and Protestants all around the world, that means approximately 2 billion people, see today as the most important of their faith.

Easter doesn’t have the pop appeal of Christmas with its reindeer, sleigh songs, an overweight hairy man who dresses in red velvet, knows everything kids do, and breaks into homes (wait, why is this guy famous…, sounds creepy). Still, I believe that Easter is the pinnacle of all the Christian Holidays.

While Christmas is wicked awesome, it doesn’t carry the gravitas of Easter. Yes, Christmas is the day when God veiled His divinity in human flesh. It’s amazing! Yet, no matter how epic everything surrounding the birth of Jesus is, it all points to one weekend, EASTER! That’s right; Easter is the day.

So, why is Easter the best? While there is much debate about what exactly is happening when Jesus died on the cross, there are a few things that all Christians agree with.

  1. We need a saviour

As much as we try to strain, push, and pull—fighting to fill the vacuum of purpose—we cannot overcome the brokenness that comes in and from our life. There is not enough status that can take away the shame we all experience. There isn’t enough good behaviour that will mitigate the brokenness we carry. We need something outside of ourselves to take the brokenness and shame and deal with it in some way. 

2. Jesus did what we couldn’t

What exactly, we don’t know. It’s the great mystery of the cross. What we do know is that our life was wanting. The way we live has caused a debt or you might say has placed us in slavery. We could not free ourselves. We needed a saviour, and Jesus came when we had no power to save ourselves and gave His life in our place. 

We needed help, and God didn’t count us too far gone. When we were still broken, Jesus gave His life so we could have ours. The greatest gift arrived Christmas morning, but the gift wasn’t fully realized until Good Friday when Christ laid down His life for us.

Easter may not have all the pop of Christmas; it makes up for it in the sizzle. God took our worst and did His best—a best that is better than any Christmas present we could ever receive…except for Jesus, but that brings us back to Easter.

Fear is not your friend

There’s a lot of fear going around the world today. This isn’t an exaggeration. Right now, the world is united in their fight against a virus that for 20% of the people who get it, can be devastating.

My wife speaks with people all around the world, teaching conversational English. The topic with every single person, whether in Japan, Saudi Arabia, or Brazil, is the same. There is fear. Probably rightfully so. After all, it is better safe than sorry. My kids’ school is cancelled for three weeks, and my church has done the same. People are going to the grocery stored and stocking up on their apocalypse supplies like it’s Y2K all over again. As my country has closed the border, it is like the country is singing as a choir, the David Bowie song that goes, “I’m afraid of Americans, I’m afraid of the world.”

One of my favourite books is The Barbarian Way by Erwin McManus. While speaking of fear, McManus writes,

“What we fear is what we’re subject to; our fears define our master. Where there is no fear, there is no control.”

Right now, who is our master?

Before you jump to conclusions, I am not talking about ignoring Health and Safety advice and running into the senior’s home because you have no fear, or walking into the home of an isolated individual. Fear and recklessness are different. The verse “no weapon formed against you shall stand” does not mean that you will never get sick, be hurt, or die, let alone what you might give to someone else.

Just because there is danger doesn’t mean we need to fear. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus is speaking to his disciples about worrying when he says,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Matthew 6:25-34

There are a lot of things you could worry about. However, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, life is but a vapour. Jesus came to show us that this life is merely the stepping stone into eternity. It is because of that we do not have to worry. After all, Jesus has come in perfect love, and as John tells us, perfect love drives out all fear.

When we open up our hearts to perfect love, we invite Jesus to be the master. Jesus drives out fear. Let’s confess our fear to Christ, allow him to squeeze it from our hearts, and choose to walk, not in fear but the life and hope of Christ. For we know that no matter what happens in this life, whether good or bad, that Jesus is still King, that his kingdom will come, that our present life isn’t all that there is, but there is an eternity ahead with the God of love.

It is because of this I can give that extra toilet paper roll away. It’s because of Jesus that I don’t have to be scared to go outside for a walk, while still being smart about my interaction with others. What it means is that even if I catch the virus, I can follow the steps, not getting all worked up, letting my mind going to the worst-case scenario. It means that we can hope and trust that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who leads by still waters, if not in this life, the next.

Be safe. Be smart. But do not live in fear.

Challenges lead to creativity

The problem with much of our lives is that we become comfortable. It’s quite easy to stay where we are, do what we have always done, and not try something different, new or creative. To many of us can run from the creativity within us. But cretivity is sewn into the fabric of our being by a creative God. We run because everything is “fine” where we are.

We can often dwell on the cost of stepping out of the comfortable. Maybe it’s financial. It could be relational. It might even be the pure stress of the matter. No matter the excuss, we find one, good or bad, and lean on it with all our weight.

While this manifests itself in our personal lives and corporate lives, the church has not been exempt. After all, the church is people and people like comfortable. More often than not, it takes an event to move us in creative directions. It is like the company that is on the verge collapse and has to sell cereal just to stay afloat, like Air BNB. Or like the person who has to find time in their already busy schedule to exercise after their doctor gave them bad news regarding their health. In both crises, it is the challenges that force us out of the comfortable and into the creative. I would argue that it is perseverance in moments like these that cause us to grow as people, and I believe perseverance takes creativity.

Think of the human body. Exercise causes the body to go under stress, which causes the muscles that you’re working to break down. It’s the stress that creates growth. Here’s the thing, if you always do the exact same thing, same weight, same exercises, same exertion, you will never grow. Your body learns what to expect. It has a memory. You have to be creative with your workouts if you want the full benefit. You must do lifts and twists, different weights and reps in order to get the full impact.

To come back to the church, it can feel like we have to fight an uphill battle when it comes to creative change within the church (or any change for that matter). It’s like how we seek comfort personally, so too do our congregations and institutions accept their happy and comfortable existence. However, just like the body needs stress to grow, so it is with our congregations.

In the wake of Covid-19, I have been able to see something amazing. The stress of not being able to gather with our congregations has compelled churches to become creative. For many, this has meant trying out live feeds of their service or sermon on social media. This is a massive step for some congregations, and I’m proud of you. For others, they have become creative on how to reach out to their communities in the wake of isolation.

Challenge is forcing creativity.

My encouragement is for you to keep pushing to find new ways to show who Jesus is through good, bad, and ugly times. If this infectious disease goes away soon, don’t let the creativity fade along with it. Don’t settle back into the comfortable. We must keep pushing ourselves past the comfortable and into the creative. After all, we were made for creativity. It’s a beautiful place that though challenging, is real and stretching and the place of growth.

Let’s open up our hearts to the Holy Spirit. Let’s allow the divine creativity to flow through us. Let’s, in a paraphrase of Acts 1:8, receive the Holy Spirit and be God’s creative witnesses in our cities, our municipalities, to people we don’t like, and even to the ends of the earth.

Do I really need to give up my life for everyone: a fresh look at John 15

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”

John 15:12-13

What does it mean to lay down our life for another?

Is Jesus telling us to die for another literally? Or maybe he is saying give your life, with the emphasis on the word give? As in, you give your love, resources, your essence away to those who are your friends.

However, this brings up another question. Who is a friend? Like, what qualifies a person to move into the friend-you-give-up-your-life-for (whatever that means) category? It may seem a little extreme for either interpretation of “give up your life” to be applied to the guy you see on the bus every once in a while and have a chat with between stops.

Jesus also tells us to love one another as He has loved us. Good luck with that. To be honest, I don’t think I could love anyone as much as Jesus loves them or me. Has Jesus fastened us to perpetual failure?

If we look, as one commentator labels it, at the full formula in verse 12, Jesus is calling us to lay down our lives as he literally laid down His. WHOA. Are you ready for that? I’m not sure I am.

Craig Keener, in his amazing two-volume set on the Gospel of John, points out that in the ancient world, the subject of friendship was much debated in many essays. Greco-Roman and Jewish philosophers debated. The word signified a gambit of interpretation from a dependant to a political dependent of a royal patron to a high official in Hellenistic Syria to a friend of Caesar. Most commonly, in the ancient world, the word friendship meant alliances, cooperation, or nonaggression treaties among people. No matter what the exact definition is,

“Hellenistic ideals of friendship include a strong emphasis on loyalty.”

Keener p.1009

So what does this mean? Keener points out,

“John therefore portrays friendship with Jesus as an intimate relationship with God and his agent, one that John believed was continuing in his own community, and one that no doubt set them apart from the synagogue, which has a much more limited understanding in continuing pneumatic revelation.”

Keener p.1015

While we are called to love and be grace-filled in every interaction, we are not to give up our life for everyone. That would be physically impossible. After all, I am not Jesus, and neither are you. What is interesting is that if every follower of Jesus gave up themselves to their sphere of people, YOU or I wouldn’t have to give up ourselves for everyone because WE would give up our lives for everyone.

In chapter 14 Jesus is talking to the disciples (we) and says that the Holy Spirit will come upon them “and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12). It is not Peter, John, Matthew, or Simon, who is going to do great things than Jesus through the Holy Spirit. It is the WE. It is you and I—all of us together.

The burden of doing greater things and the burden of laying our lives down for others isn’t a burden that lays upon one of us. It is a burden that, as my friends in the south would say, is for all y’all.

Don’t be anxious about all the burdens in your community. You or your church can’t do it all. What we are called to do is to give ourselves to our sphere of influence. We are to join with all followers of Jesus to meet the needs of the whole. The pressure is on, and the pressure is off.

Let’s carry the burden together.

Are you a church builder or community impacter?

Are you building a church or reaching a community? Neither one is wrong, but they are different. You can build a church and reach a community; you can reach a community and build a church. They are are not mutually exclusive.

The difference lies in the approach. When you build a church, where people come from doesn’t matter. They could live on the other end of the city or in a different county, but they are a part of your church. Building a church has more of a macro approach. It might be more aimed at a demographic (i.e. young families, single professionals, boomers…jk) within a region. Building a church is contingent upon gathering a crowd. You then use that crowd to reach more people with Jesus. Naturally, within this church, you have people from many different areas who can take Jesus to their community. Awesome, right! They build a church and reach a community. The primary cause is to attract people to your church. The effect of that cause, hopefully, is to reach communities.

The other approach is to reach a community. It is pinpointed not so much one demographic over a broad area, as it is trying to reach the people (even boomers) in a community, town, borough, etc. If you reach enough people with who Jesus is, you attract a crowd, and a church can grow. The primary cause is to reach a community. The effect of that cause, hopefully, is to build a church.

The subtle difference isn’t so subtle. When we take the wrong approach to a community, it causes frustration, burnout, and even kills the ministry. Some neighbourhoods in large cities need and want specialized care. Maybe they feel segregated from another district who seems to get all the attention. Perhaps you’re in a rural area where there are no surrounding communities to draw. Try building a church in a community of a thousand, and it might be tough sledding. Yes, there may be people who travel from outside your ‘hood to attend whatever your gathering is, but you will miss out on reaching the community right in front of you because your net is cast too wide. In business, you might say, “Know your lane and do it well.”

However, you could find yourself in a municipality with a transient community. People may take pride in their community, but they are willing to travel across town or into a different city to have the amenity that they want. If someone became super focused on a specific area in this context, they could be throttling their growth. In business, you might call this diversification.

Where this can get challenging is in the comparison game. Pastors, boards, and parishioners always have, and it appears they always will compare themselves to one another. While both approaches goal is ultimately to reach people, they are different and cannot be compared. You might say you cannot compare Walmart to Patagonia. While one seems to literally sell everything, the other has a particular focus. You might like the example of Karl Vaters, who compares these types of churches to Ikea and Starbucks. There is one Ikea per million people where there might be a Starbucks in every neighbourhood. They both want to reach new customers, however, their approach is different. Starbucks doesn’t want you to drive across town for your double mocha blond roast with extra whip. They want you to go to your neighbourhood shop to the barista who knows your name. How bad would it be for business if Ikea were to set up shop in each district? That would be insane!!!

Yet so often in our church world, pastors don’t apply the right model. They want the numerical growth of this church or the neighbourhood impact of that church. While in either model, you can eventually have both, and it is something to build toward.

If your church is in a small community, a niche demographic, a segregated borough, remember what God has called you to. He has called you to reach those people. Never ignore the one for the hundreds you might wish you had.

If your church is in a city or a commuting municipality, remember that you have an opportunity to throw a broad net to reach out to many different people in different places. God has called you to that region. Never tunnel your vision so narrow that you cannot see the forest for the trees.

Finally, please…learn from one another. Church builders learn how to reach communities from community impactors and apply the principles to your small groups. Community reachers learn from the church builders on how to scale the impact you are making so that you can grow and multiply to reach other communities and people.

We are all a part of the kingdom. We just must remember which is your part.

Rejecting fear: Embracing others amid COVID-19

Toilet paper and bottled water are flying off the shelves as if it’s December 1999. As a parent of three asthmatic children and the spouse of someone who might be a verge hypochondriac, the threat is real. 

As Facebook fills with articles on the severity and memes that give perspective regarding other health issues, casual readers are left with conflicting voices that pendulum in our minds. When it comes to leaving our homes and going out in public, The Clashes famous lyric is flipped upon its head, if I stay there will be trouble, if I go there will be double.

Safety and hygiene are essential. However, I’m not qualified to comment on best practices or give health advice. My role is to remind us that there is a difference between fear and safety.

We have entered a time where sports teams have told players not to high-five fans and school boards are temporarily closing schools; it seems each decision is a roll of the dice in a true to life game of snakes and ladders. We either slide down the snake of fear or climb up the ladder of safety.

While safety is important, what I fear is that our fear drives us away from meaningful connections with others as we allow fear to drive us toward isolation and increased stereotypes.

Mitch Albom, in his book, The First Phone Call From Heaven gives an accurate commentary on fear when he writes,

Fear is how you lose your life…a little bit at a time…what we give to fear, we take away from…faith.

When we give in to fear piece by piece, we disappear. We become the opposite of who God created us to be. Fear causes us to become insular and reject love—both giving and receiving.

In 1 John 4:18 Jesus disciple John writes,

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

What I fear is this,

I fear that we let fear control us. As media uses fear to drive us to our screens to see the latest updates, I can’t help but notice a society that is allowing Covid-19 to drive us away from loving each other. Have we rejected the orphan and widow? Do we no longer take in the strange? Is it no longer worth visiting the shut-in?

Like John states, fear has to do with punishment. We punish ourselves and others for what might—possibly,—maybe—happen if we reach or step out of our Lysol sanitized bubble.

Of course, we must be smart. Yes, precautions are probably wise. Saying this, the question we must ask ourselves is, are we not doing something right because we fear what might happen to our family or us. Smart, yes. Negligent, no! We must weigh the risks of our particular situation and make a smart decision that we weigh in love. 

While there are parallels to various situations, the Covid-19 situation seems to be putting people on edge. We must ask ourselves, how would Jesus show love in this situation? As Erwin McManus states,

“We are not free from the emotion of fear, but we are free from its control and paralyzing effect. Our course is guided by an internal compass of convictions fuelled by passions.”

God has not given you a spirit of fear. God has sown creativity, compassion, and intelligence in you. As we approach a possibly dangerous, contagious virus, let’s reject fear and use the gifts that God has given us to respond to both ours and others fear and show that love and connection can and will endure. It may not look the same, but we will not be siloed. We will not be prejudice, and we will not stop helping because love endures no matter what happens, God still reigns on the throne.

Check out the resources used in this post

The art of letting things slip through the cracks

I missed the deadline. I probably could have reached it. I most certainly had content that I could push out there that would have been mildly entertaining, slightly informative, and might be worthy of a share. However, I could not. Wednesday night, Thursday morning, and as the day progressively carried on and the deadline passed further and further into the distance, my mind and body couldn’t bring itself to type a single word.

Flashes of the Youtuber who lost a million followers when he didn’t post a video one week went through my mind. I was ignoring the advice of some of the most respected voices in the blogging world, voices like Michael Hyatt, who says you must post often and consistently. The gong of advice inside my head couldn’t compel me to persevere.

Why?

Well, I’m glad you (and I) asked.

I’m tired. 

Over the last four months, I feel as though I am going at an insane pace. My everyday life consists of my job as a pastor of a church plant, father, and husband. What this means is that I am studying and producing a sermon every week. We have a small church, so it also means, I lead all the music, I do the youth, and run the programs and admin. There is some help here and there, but it up to me to get it done. I have four young kids. They need to be read with, put to bed (which is an ordeal consisting of a plethora of prescription drugs that would make a pharmacist salivate), and have family and one on one time. It’s a worthy investment, but as any parent knows, it can leave you dried up and tired.

On top of that, I have a relationship with my wife to maintain. She is blogging, watching kids throughout the day, and teaching conversational English at night. After I put the kids to bed, while she works, it is our only time together (as we try and make our way through the Marvel chronology). 

Now we need to add up all the additional things that we add into our lives. I am trying to write my second book, I’m studying to be a personal trainer, I am working out three hours a day to be in shape, so I can be a personal trainer (four years of injuries have taken their toll), and blogging twice a week.

I’ve kept up the pace. Thursday, I just couldn’t. Something had to give. I just hope I don’t lose a million followers (as if I could).

I believe we all have deadlines, goals, and priorities we need to let slip. We have to ask ourselves what are the primary responsibilities that we have.

For me, husband, father, and pastor (in that order). We then have secondary responsibilities. Again for me, studying to be a physical trainer and exercising so I look like a physical trainer. Even though I love to do it, writing has to fall into a third category. Yes, I may not sell as many books, get as many hits, or raise my social media platform (which has been suffering a lot the last few weeks), but it is not worth sacrificing the former two categories to be prolific in the later.

What I have yet to mention the uncategorically most important, my spiritual life. I need time for prayer, study, scripture, worship, meditation, and sabbath. I cannot even come close to achieving anything on the priority list with even half an ounce of “average” unless I pour into myself. It’s like the picture a flight attendant might show us how we put our mask on first before we help anyone else. 

After all, isn’t this what Jesus did? Sure there weren’t social media or blogs (although I’m sure he would if they had). Even though Jesus didn’t have all the noise of modern society around him, Jesus still had to deal with pressure, family, friends, and yes, even his own spiritual life. We see him waking early and retreating, he goes to temple, he goes to pray with a few friends, and he even says no to people requesting his assistance. 

Jesus needed to set the priorities, so do you and I. We have to be willing to let some things slide. What is vital, though, is that we don’t let the most important things slide. We must not let our spouse or kids fall through the cracks of our busy lives. It might mean we disappoint a few people when a post doesn’t come or the deadline isn’t reached in time, however, as Jesus once said, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” We must not lose our soul, the essence of life, in the process.

Today, give yourself permission to let something, that’s not all that important, slip through the cracks.

Grace for days: The greatest love story ever told

When I think of my life, the moments of pain, stress, and disappointment, I wish I could say that I am quick to give grace to other people or even myself. Grace is a mystery. This is especially true when it comes to the grace of God.

I love how James Emery White defines it, 

“Grace, at its heart, is getting what you don’t deserve and not getting what you do.” 

The crux is this, we don’t deserve it, especially when it comes to God’s grace. This is why grace is part of the greatest love story. Understand, I don’t think that we don’t deserve (to use White’s words) because we are vile, or as one hymn states “wormwood and gall.” What makes us undeserving is, well… we do dumb stuff. We hurt people and ourselves and create destructive patterns and pass them on to our kids. We push God’s love away. 

Yet, God continually comes and gives us unbounded grace. My favourite verses on this are found in Romans 5:6-8

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We were powerless when we received God’s grace. We are like Steve Rogers (before being transformed into Captain America) being beaten up in an ally having to be saved by our best friend, Bucky. We are not the heroes in the grace story. It is God. It will always be God. Why? Just as verse 7 points out, as a whole, us humans rarely would give up our lives for a completely innocent person. We maybe, might possibly, if we’re in a good mood, give up our life for someone who has done nice things for us (what “a good person” is insinuating).

As verse 8 points out, we were none of those. We are not innocent. We have not given anything “good” enough to deserve the unmerited grace we have received. Simply while we were still sinners—while we were still opposed to God—Christ died for us. Unrequited grace. We didn’t want it, even though we needed it.

It is because of this unrequited grace that I love the theologically contested song, “Reckless Love,” by Corey Asbury. For God to love the way God does, while we reject Him is reckless. If it were our child who was chasing after someone they loved and that person continually rejected them and pushed them away, we would say they are being reckless. We might even say the same thing to a parent who has experienced incredible hurt and brokenness from a child. We might say they are enabling them by giving unrequited love. When we anthropomorphize this divine love, it is reckless. 

Saying all that, a love that perseveres is the thing that the greatest stories on earth are written of. Knights and dragons, princesses and witches, sleepless nights in rainy cities—as compelling as authors and directors have made these fantastic stories— they still don’t compare to the love that bestows grace and sheds it abroad upon our hearts freely to us.

We must always remember that the prerequisite for grace is, and will always be love. Tina Turner may ask, “what’s love got to do with it?” but our answer was, is, and will always be everything.

As John 3:16 famously states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his son.” It’s all for love and love for all. God’s love is bigger and grander, and because of grace. God would rather love us, give grace, and be hurt than to not have us a part of His family. Now that’s amazing grace.

Check out the resources used in this post

He stood with the boy: a story of how weakness was turned to strength.

As a parent, I feel as though it is my job to instill in my kids how to be a functional human being. Sometimes us parents get it right, and sometimes we don’t. There are moments when they can look at how we interact with others and see Jesus in our example, while there are other moments when we find ourselves giving them the opposite pattern. At best, I hope that the positives outweigh the negatives, and they don’t need too much therapy.

There are also other moments when your kids surprise you. The hope is that there is more good than bad; however, there are no promises. There are no promises that your kids will listen to the good things you teach them. There are no promises that they will choose to live out the good examples that you set rather than the bad. A parent can only hope. The best parents can have a child who lives in a cycle of destructive patterns, and harmful parents can raise a well-adjusted child. Parenting can sometimes be a great mystery.

The other day my wife and I had one of those surprises. When the teacher called us, it left us in tears. Luckily for us, it was positive. The most perplexing is that we don’t know where it came from, why he thought to do what he did, but it was a day we were proud that he was our son. To go further, my son showed me what it means to be like Jesus. I was proud and convicted. First, at his age, I would have never done what he did. I probably would have done the opposite of my son. Secondly, I don’t know if I would have the courage as a grown man to do what my son did.

When the phone rang, and it was my son’s teacher, we thought there was maybe an injury or had an allergic reaction. His teacher went on to tell us that during class, a boy was trying to read a poem to the rest of the class. The boy was struggling greatly. It was embarrassing for him. That is when my son, my beautiful son, who is so much braver and caring than me (he must take after his mother), stood up, walked to the front of the class and stood with the boy to help him read.

Even now, it brings tears to my eyes.

There is something you need to know; my son isn’t a great reader. Just like his dad, he’s in Resource because his reading isn’t up to par.

My son was Jesus to that young boy.

Through weakness, there was a great strength.

In our weakness, we can turn to Christ, who, in ultimate weakness, the cross, demonstrated great strength. When we are weak, we can trust that Jesus is standing there with us.

The Apostle Paul writes to the Chruch in Corinth,

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 cor 12:9-10

My son reminded me that just as Christ comes to stand with us in our weakness and makes us strong, so we, too, are called to do the same for others. Though we are weak, we can stand with others amid their weakness through the strength found in Christ—relying entirely on His grace to bring us through.

Let’s be Jesus in someone’s weakness today. Let’s learn a lesson from a seven-year-old boy.

The most overlooked Book in the Bible, just might be one of the most important

I’ve recently been on a preaching journey through the book of Lamentations. To be honest, I’ve never heard a sermon on the subject, and my theological library only had half a book on the subject (minus my commentaries). While Lamentations is a difficult book, it’s a rich piece of art that, when we read with foresight that Jesus comes as the Christ, becomes a very powerful book speaking to the darkest moments of our life. Christopher Wright tells of this fantastic book,

“There is hope in this book, not just because it is set within the whole Bible story with its redemptive heart and glorious climax, but because the book is saturated with prayer. Even when it is angry, pain-soaked, protesting, grieving, questioning, prayer, it is prayer anyway.”

It is an important book that challenges God, their circumstances, and dives deep into our emotions. In a society that is all about speaking our truth, we need this sacred text to show us how to mourn.

A little about Lamentations, it originally bore no title. In Hebrew, they called it “Alas, How…” In the Septuagint, which is the Greek NT, they call it Threnoi, which means wailings. The Vulgate, which is the Latin translation, kept this name and added the subtitle, “It comprises the Lamentations of Jeremiah the prophet.” Thus, the name slowly became known as Lamentations. It is usually attributed to Jeremiah for many reasons. However, we don’t know the author. What we do know is that they seem to be an eye witness to the events of Babylon invading Jerusalem, and it is a man. Lamentations is called a Dirge poem. While the Sumerians were the first to write sombre works commemorating the destruction of their great cities from enemies, I think Lamentations perfects it.

It is a sad commentary on the outworking of the prophetic that you reap what you sow. Nevertheless, I believe it speaks to all of us to remember the dark realities of life. I think it’s especially poignant today as we see wars and threats of wars around the world. It speaks of the pain of the casualties. In a day and time when the world seems to be at each other’s throats, Lamentations is an essential reminder that there are casualties in war, and they too have feelings of loss, pain, and deep mourning. Lamentations bears witness and pays heed to Israel and Judah’s voice. A voice we need to hear as we look at those under the attack of another country, regime, or force. Understand this is the voice of the everyday person, the mother, father, and child who are affected by governments and regimes.

Lamentations has been ignored too long. It’s a powerful book that teaches us about the consequences of our choices. However, when we view this book with Jesus as the answer to the questions, the book becomes even more powerful.

While Jesus comes as the answer to the eternal questions, he comes to be the shepherd to help us learn and make it through the hard times of life, and we see that as we apply this book to our life, just like Judah and Israel in this poem, we have to struggle through the hard times. Still, we realize we have a God who hears our cries and has answered them himself, through Jesus.

Next time you are told not to question God or not to have doubts remember Lamentations. It is a book of questions and doubts. It’s a book about mourning. And when we read it through Christ, we see that it is okay to mourn, but we, in the words of the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians,

“…do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13

Don’t ignore Lamentations. Dive in deep. Feel the raw emotion that has been poured out upon the page. Also, remember Christ, our hope in the midst of the mourning.

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