Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Jesus In the Background of Christmas

By Pete Wilson
I read a blog post yesterday from my friend, Ian Cron, (when I grow up I want to be able to write like him).  It convicted me in so many ways and I just had to share a portion of it with you guys. He wrote…
A year ago Rob and I were sitting in a Starbucks in Connecticut, drinking lattes and catching up when he turned his gaze toward the ceiling.
“Do you hear that?” Rob said, his expression darkening.
“Hear what?” I said.
“Listen,” he said, glaring at the white speaker grilles above our heads. “Do you know that song?”
I closed my eyes and strained to hear the music over the hiss and gurgle of milk being steamed for someone’s cappuccino.
I shrugged. “Nope,” I said. “I can’t make it out.”
Rob threw his hands up in the air. “That’s a cut off Miles Davis’ record Kind of Blue,” he said, his voice rising with indignation.
“Alright,” I said. “Apparently this bothers you.”
“It’s MILES DAVIS!” he said, slapping the tabletop with his hand.
I’ve known Rob for 30 years. He’s talented. He’s smart. He’s not afraid to speak his mind.
“When brilliant compositions are used for background music it desensitizes people to their genius,” he continued.
I paused. “You mean familiarity breeds contempt?” I said.
“Precisely. If an amazing piece of music is constantly playing in the background your admiration for it doesn’t increase, it diminishes. It becomes no big deal,” Rob said, imitating someone trying to speak and yawn at the same time.
At the time I thought Rob’s remarks were insightful but overstated, and yet something about them rang true. They stuck with me.
Last week I was sitting in another Starbucks, this one two blocks from my home in Franklin, TN reading Max Picard’s The World of Silence and drinking coffee when I made a connection between what Rob had said and the world I live in.

Is Jesus becoming background music in my life?

No matter where I go someone is talking, singing, arguing, writing a book, blogging, putting on a conference, or making a record about…Jesus.
(Yes, I’m aware I’m guilty of doing this right now.)
Not a day goes by when I don’t see tee shirts with Bible verses printed on them or a tattoo of Jesus’ crucifixion inked on someone’s arm. Billboards with warnings about hell dot the highway. I can’t turn on the radio or television without someone talking at me about Jesus; he’s quoted (or misquoted) on bumper stickers, and recently while standing at a urinal in the men’s room at a restaurant I looked up and discovered a framed print of John 3:16 hanging on the wall in front of me. Some people don’t do subtle.
If Rob is right my experience of constant exposure to all things Jesus isn’t increasing my admiration or devotion for him, it’s diminishing it.
Read the entire post HERE
What a timely post. We’re getting ready to enter a season called Christmas that is really all about Jesus, yet it’s so easy for him to quickly become a sort of ambient background music.

I don’t know about you, but I refuse to allow the commercialization of Christmas, along with my self centered, ego-driven, materialistic desires to push Jesus from his rightful place.

So how do I combat this? It takes a lot of focused intentionality but let me give you one practical example.

Over the next four weeks you’re probably going to see hundreds and hundreds of nativity scenes.

One of my Christmas traditions is every time I see a nativity scene (as biblically incorrect as it might be) is to pause and say, “Wow! That really happened. That REALLY happened. God actually stepped into human history and gave us what we really needed, a Savior who bathed us in his life changing, soul shaping grace.”

It’s easy to allow all of these nativity scenes to get lumped into the same category as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy… but it was an actual event that changed everything!

How are you going to keep Jesus from becoming background noise this Christmas?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Caesar or the US?

“Our lives are bracketed, or, boundaried, not by the decisions and actions of Caesar, not by the rise and fall of Rome, nor by the rise and fall of the United States. Our lives are boundaried by him, ‘the first and the last.’ Whatever else happens in our history and whatever else happens in my history, Jesus is there as the first word and Jesus is there as the last word. And Jesus is here in the middle with the Word that gives us life.”
— Darrell W. Johnson
Discipleship On The Edge: An Expository Journey Through The Book of Revelation

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Watering Seeds Already Planted

Prayer from Archbishop Oscar Romero who served the people of El Salvador and was assassinated in 1980 while he was saying mass in San Salvador.


It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

A Prayer about Two Very Different Fridays

 By Scotty Smith
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. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 
Matt. 6:31-33

Lord Jesus, there’s more traffic than usual on the roads early this morning, but not as much as last year. Though it’s just a little after 4:00 am, Black Friday got a jump start this year with doors opening at midnight. People have already been pushing against doors, running up aisles, and grabbing for items for many hours now.

Jesus, I’m not sitting here in condescending judgment of anyone, for there’s no one, by nature, more greedy or grabby than me. I am just as inclined to “run after these things” as anyone else. I thank you that I get to live in a time and place of abundance. I praise you I’ve never had to be concerned about what I’ll eat, drink, or wear. And I’m grateful that many people will enjoy fine savings and get real bargains today.

But all the hubbub of Black Friday, simply makes me more grateful for another Friday—for Good Friday and what you accomplished that day for us on the cross.

At your expense, the riches of grace are freely lavished on ill-deserving people, like me. It’s only because of you, Jesus, that I know God as Abba, Father—who knows my every need; who answers before I ask; who gives me all things richly to enjoy; who satisfies my hunger and slakes my thirst, with the manna of the gospel and the living water of the Spirit; who has clothed my shameful nakedness with your perfect righteousness.

Anybody that knows you is wealthy beyond all imagination, measure and accounting.
We praise you.
We adore you.
We worship you with humble and grateful hearts.

Two days after this Black Friday we will celebrate the first Sunday in Advent. As we reflect upon the promises of your coming and the wonder of your birth, teach us anew what it means to seek your kingdom first, above anything and everything else. What new chapters of your story of redemption and restoration would you write through us?

Even as your righteous has come to us by faith, how might it come through us to the broken places in our communities? Rather than spending more money on ourselves, how would you have us invest our time, talent, and treasure in serving others? We praise you for your transforming kingdom and we long for its consummate fullness. So very Amen we pray, with grateful hearts and great anticipation.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Man’s Maker was Made Man

He determines the number of the stars;
   he gives to all of them their names.
Ps. 147:4

 “Man’s maker was made man, that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey; that the Truth might be accused of false witness, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.”

                   — Augustine, quoted by Trevin Wax

It’s A Gift, Not Punishment

By Pete Wilson
I think one of the first steps in embracing the Sabbath is you’ve got to get it out of the category of I “have” to do this and starting thinking about it as I “get” to do this.

It’s funny, but growing up I always thought the “Sabbath” was some legalistic rule that only Jews still followed. In fact, the neighborhood that I grew up in as a kid had a pretty high population of Orthodox Jews living there. I can remember on Saturday morning watching families walking to church and feeling sorry for them because they couldn’t drive their car. I had heard that they couldn’t even watch TV on the Sabbath. Sounded like a perpetual weekly grounding to me!

In my mind Sabbath was some sort of punishment.

In reality, the fourth commandment, to take a Sabbath, a day each week and not do any work was a gift from God to His people. In Egypt, the Israelites were forced to work every day without a break being treated as objects to be exploited, not people. Many people think part of the reason the Sabbath was commanded was to remind them that they aren’t in Egypt anymore, that their value doesn’t come from how much work they can produce.

Their significance comes from the God who rescued them, the God who loves them.

I think once again we need to be reminded of this truth. So many of us are virtual slaves to our culture mistakenly thinking our value is in what we can produce. So we work harder and harder. Sleep less and less. And we, in fact, produce a crazy amount of stuff, but the irony is this “full” lifestyle leaves us feeling quite empty.


Because God cares more about who you’re becoming than what you’re accomplishing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


"Worship is humble and glad; worship forgets itself in remembering God; worship celebrates the truth as God's truth, not its own. True worship doesn't put on a show or make a fuss; true worship isn't forced, isn't half-hearted, doesn't keep looking at its watch, doesn't worry what the person in the next pew may be doing. True worship is open to God, adoring God, waiting for God, trusting God even in the dark.

"Worship will never end; whether there be buildings, they will crumble; whether there be committees, they will fall asleep; whether there be budgets, they will add up to nothing. For we build for the present age, we discuss for the present age, and we pay for the present age; but when the age to come is here, the present age will be done away. For now we see the beauty of God through a glass, darkly, but then face to face; now we appreciate only part, but then we shall affirm and appreciate God, even as the living God has affirmed and appreciated us. So now our tasks are worship, mission, and management, these three; but the greatest of these is worship.

"And do you see why it's so easy to create that pastiche of 1 Corinthians 13, substituting 'worship' for 'love'? Worship is nothing more nor less than love on its knees before the beloved; just as mission is love on its feet to serve the beloved . . ."

-- N.T. Wright, For All God's Worth (p.9)

I like Tom Wright's thought of substituting "Worship" for the word "Love" in 1 Cor. 13:4-8.  Try also substituting "God" for "Love" and if you are bold try putting your name in for "Love" and see how it fits or in my case, doesn't fit that well.

Friday, November 11, 2011


 The Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because he loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.
            --C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Civil War?

Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.

Enemy-occupied territory--that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.

--C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Sunday, November 6, 2011


By Max Lucado

Why would Jesus, on his first journey, take his followers to a party? Didn’t they have work to do? Didn’t he have principles to teach? Wasn’t his time limited? How could a wedding fit with his purpose on earth?

Why did Jesus go to the wedding?

The answer? It’s found in the second verse of John 2. “Jesus and his followers were also invited to the wedding.”

Jesus wasn’t invited because he was a celebrity. He wasn’t one yet. The invitation wasn’t motivated by his miracles. He’d yet to perform any. Why did they invite him?

I suppose they liked him.

Big deal? I think so. I think it’s significant that common folk in a little town enjoyed being with Jesus. I think it’s noteworthy that the Almighty didn’t act high and mighty. The Holy One wasn’t holier-than-thou. The One who knew it all wasn’t a know-it-all. The One who made the stars didn’t keep his head in them. The One who owns all the stuff of earth never strutted it.

Jesus could have been all of these, but he wasn’t. His purpose was not to show off but to show up. He went to great pains to be as human as the guy down the street. He didn’t need to study, but still went to the synagogue. He had no need for income, but still worked in the workshop. He had known the fellowship of angels and heard the harps of heaven, yet still went to parties thrown by tax collectors. And upon his shoulders rested the challenge of redeeming creation, but he still took time to walk ninety miles from Jericho to Cana to go to a wedding.

As a result, people liked him. Oh, there were those who chaffed at his claims. They called him a blasphemer, but they never called him a braggart. They accused him of heresy, but never arrogance. He was branded as a radical, but never called unapproachable.

His faith made him likable, not detestable. Would that ours would do the same!

When God Whispers Your Name
Copyright (Thomas Nelson, 1994) Max Lucado

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Short Prayer

A prayer by Donald Coggan (former Archbishop of Canterbury):

Take our minds, and think through them.
Take our lips, and speak through them.
Take our hearts, and set them on fire with love for thee.
What we know not, teach us.
What we have not, give us.
What we are not, make us.
For Jesus Christ's sake.