Letters

When God Paused

There is a funny little verse in Genesis chapter 1: “And God said, Let us make man in our image,…” [Genesis 1:26]

There's so much you can learn when God pauses for a little interjection like this.

This is the first – and only – time that God says this. He never said “Say, let's make mountains.” Or “Let's make some stars” It was only when he made man, that he paused and said “Hey, let's do this. Let's make man.”

Apparently there is something about making man that takes more consideration than when you're making sweet potatoes or goldfish or black holes. Apparently there is something about making man, that makes even God pause for a moment, to think about it before he does the making.

Thus far, God had created everything in the universe, except man. All the stars, all the planets, all the asteroids, all the strange things of space. He had already filled the Earth, with fish in the oceans, animals all over the land, green plants growing everywhere, a healthy weather system in place, to make sure it all kept going well.

And I suppose it's fair to say that when that omniscient Trinity of omnipotent beings pause to think about something, that they do a really good job of thinking. I'll bet it's not a mystery to them, when they apply themselves to thinking about making man.

So he thinks about man.

“Well, if we are going to make men really, actually in our image, he has to have free will. And actual free will means he has authority, like God. Now what will he do with that authority, that free will? What will he do with that aspect that makes him like God?”

And God looked further into the future.

I think what he saw might have broken his heart. After a long time of  naming animals and plants, of caring for the garden,  God watched Eve eat an apple from the tree they were instructed not to eat from, and share it with her husband, Adam. He knew he would need to send them out of the garden, lest they eat from the Tree of Life, and live forever in sin.

And still God looked. And God saw. And God saw Cain and Abel, and he wept. And God saw Enoch, and he rejoiced come with a joy that only a God can Rejoice with. And God saw Noah, and he saw the flood, and he wept some more, as he watched the effects of that first sin poison Humanity.

And still God looked down through the years of History. He saw Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac, and Jacob and his multitudes. He saw their years in Egypt, and he made a mental note to prepare a Moses.

And he kept looking. He saw David, and he saw a succession of Kings. And he saw the Dark Ages, Attila the Hun, Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hitler. Such pain. Such heartache.

And then he saw you.

He saw your birth, he saw the squalling mess of your beginning. He watched you grow up.

And he fell in love with you. And in that moment, that God was thinking about what would happen if he created Adam and Eve, in that nanosecond of applied omniscience, God's thinking changed. God was in love.

And because he was in love with you, he no longer had the option of NOT creating man. Because, you see, if he didn't create man, then you would never be born, and that was unthinkable, even by an omniscient thinker. He loved you, even then.

Before your remotest ancestor was created, God was already in love with you.

But that apple. That sin. That disease that would inhabit these humans. Something needed to be done about that sin.

And God said to himself, there's only the one option. I will take off my divinity, I will conceal my Godhood, and I will become one of them. And God said, but they will kill me. And he replied, yes. So? Do you not agree? And God said Yes. We will become the lamb that is too be slain. We will take away, not just their sin, but their sinfulness.

And God knew that dying for these people, these children, would not, could not guarantee a relationship. He was completely adamant about free will. Without free will, we would not be his children. Without free will, we would be pets, or robots, nothing more.

No, his death for us did not, we'll never, overcome our free will. But it will open the door. When God walks among us, now he can tell us of his love. Now he can show us what it's like in his family. Now we have a chance to join him.


That is the story of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. [Revelation 13:8] That was for you. 
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Letters

When God Paused

There is a funny little verse in Genesis chapter 1: “And God said, Let us make man in our image,…” [Genesis 1:26]

There's so much you can learn when God pauses for a little interjection like this.

This is the first – and only – time that God says this. He never said “Say, let's make mountains.” Or “Let's make some stars” It was only when he made man, that he paused and said “Hey, let's do this. Let's make man.”

Apparently there is something about making man that takes more consideration than when you're making sweet potatoes or goldfish or black holes. Apparently there is something about making man, that makes even God pause for a moment, to think about it before he does the making.

Thus far, God had created everything in the universe, except man. All the stars, all the planets, all the asteroids, all the strange things of space. He had already filled the Earth, with fish in the oceans, animals all over the land, green plants growing everywhere, a healthy weather system in place, to make sure it all kept going well.

And I suppose it's fair to say that when that omniscient Trinity of omnipotent beings pause to think about something, that they do a really good job of thinking. I'll bet it's not a mystery to them, when they apply themselves to thinking about making man.

So he thinks about man.

“Well, if we are going to make men really, actually in our image, he has to have free will. And actual free will means he has authority, like God. Now what will he do with that authority, that free will? What will he do with that aspect that makes him like God?”

And God looked further into the future.

I think what he saw might have broken his heart. After a long time of  naming animals and plants, of caring for the garden,  God watched Eve eat an apple from the tree they were instructed not to eat from, and share it with her husband, Adam. He knew he would need to send them out of the garden, lest they eat from the Tree of Life, and live forever in sin.

And still God looked. And God saw. And God saw Cain and Abel, and he wept. And God saw Enoch, and he rejoiced come with a joy that only a God can Rejoice with. And God saw Noah, and he saw the flood, and he wept some more, as he watched the effects of that first sin poison Humanity.

And still God looked down through the years of History. He saw Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac, and Jacob and his multitudes. He saw their years in Egypt, and he made a mental note to prepare a Moses.

And he kept looking. He saw David, and he saw a succession of Kings. And he saw the Dark Ages, Attila the Hun, Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hitler. Such pain. Such heartache.

And then he saw you.

He saw your birth, he saw the squalling mess of your beginning. He watched you grow up.

And he fell in love with you. And in that moment, that God was thinking about what would happen if he created Adam and Eve, in that nanosecond of applied omniscience, God's thinking changed. God was in love.

And because he was in love with you, he no longer had the option of NOT creating man. Because, you see, if he didn't create man, then you would never be born, and that was unthinkable, even by an omniscient thinker. He loved you, even then.

Before your remotest ancestor was created, God was already in love with you.

But that apple. That sin. That disease that would inhabit these humans. Something needed to be done about that sin.

And God said to himself, there's only the one option. I will take off my divinity, I will conceal my Godhood, and I will become one of them. And God said, but they will kill me. And he replied, yes. So? Do you not agree? And God said Yes. We will become the lamb that is too be slain. We will take away, not just their sin, but their sinfulness.

And God knew that dying for these people, these children, would not, could not guarantee a relationship. He was completely adamant about free will. Without free will, we would not be his children. Without free will, we would be pets, or robots, nothing more.

No, his death for us did not, we'll never, overcome our free will. But it will open the door. When God walks among us, now he can tell us of his love. Now he can show us what it's like in his family. Now we have a chance to join him.


That is the story of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. [Revelation 13:8] That was for you. 
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Prophecy

It’s Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve. My home is filled with laughing children. My son is making something wonderful in the kitchen. My wife has forbidden any entry into the bedroom until the last few presents are wrapped. A video game is blaring in the living room, and power tools are finishing up a last-minute gift in the shop.
My home is a very busy place. And honestly, I love it.
But as much as this night is about family, it’s even more about a Birth. I stepped outside to visit with Father about it, to remember that Birth with Him.
Immediately, I had an image of Him, as eager as a grandchild would be, clapping happily, dancing from foot to foot: this is His Happy Dance!
For me, the laboring woman and her not-quite-husband are separated from me by twenty centuries. But as God is Lord of Time (among many other things), He is right this minute, dancing with joyful anticipation over this impending Birth.
God, being omniscient, knew of the failure of man in the Garden before He even spoke the words, “Let Us create man, in Our image…” Before he ever even scooped up mud and shaped it and prepared it to hold His Own breath, he knew that man would fail the test, would eat of the wrong tree, would submit to the wrong voice, and would be doomed to death.
But God, being the best in the universe at planning ahead, already knew that He, Himself, in the flesh and blood of humanity, would die a gruesome death in a backwater, occupied nation in the geographical armpit of that planet in order to establish a New Covenant with them. How he looked forward to that!
And He knew that before God could die for man, God would have to become a man. And this! He looked forward to this with such joy!
And tonight is the night!
The most patient Father that has ever existed has been eagerly, joyfully anticipating this night! This is the beginning of the Covenant that He’s longed for since the Garden: when he would have a nation of Kings and Priests who would know his Father’s heart and love Him as freely as He loves them!
The cross? That torture, that pain, that indescribable humiliation? That was nothing! Nothing! Less than nothing! He would pay ANY price for the privilege of whispering of his love to his wayward children. If there could have been a greater price that could ever have been paid, He would have paid it without hesitation for the children that He treasured above even His own eternal, omnipotent life!
And tonight is the night that it all began.
Tonight! As Mary is breathing hard and sweating heavily, as Joseph is wringing his hands and feeling nearly (but not quite) useless in the face of The Birth, God Himself is dancing with joy! Angels are ministering to the new mother and anxious dad, but God is laughing and jumping and shouting his joy to the heavens!
Tonight it begins. Tomorrow He gets to walk – well, to crawl first – among his wayward children! The beginning of the Via Dolorosa begins in this little, sweaty barn, on the unknown edge of a tiny, powerless nation. This is the beginning of walking among them, and even more, this is the beginning of setting them free from everything that holds them back!
This is the night! This is THAT night.

Do you feel his joy? Can you feel his anticipation? 

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Devotionals, Letters

It’s Christmas Eve


It’s Christmas Eve. My home is filled with laughing children. My son is making something wonderful in the kitchen. My wife has forbidden any entry into the bedroom until the last few presents are wrapped. A video game is blaring in the living room, and power tools are finishing up a last-minute gift in the shop.

My home is a very busy place. And honestly, I love it.

But as much as this night is about family, it’s even more about a Birth. I stepped outside to visit with Father about it, to remember that Birth with Him.

Immediately, I had an image of Him, as eager as a grandchild would be, clapping happily, dancing from foot to foot: this is His Happy Dance!

For me, the laboring woman and her not-quite-husband are separated from me by twenty centuries. But as God is Lord of Time (among many other things), He is right this minute, dancing with joyful anticipation over this impending Birth.

God, being omniscient, knew of the failure of man in the Garden before He even spoke the words, “Let Us create man, in Our image…” Before he ever even scooped up mud and shaped it and prepared it to hold His Own breath, he knew that man would fail the test, would eat of the wrong tree, would submit to the wrong voice, and would be doomed to death.

But God, being the best in the universe at planning ahead, already knew that He, Himself, in the flesh and blood of humanity, would die a gruesome death in a backwater, occupied nation in the geographical armpit of that planet in order to establish a New Covenant with them. How he looked forward to that!

And He knew that before God could die for man, God would have to become a man. And this! He looked forward to this with such joy!
And tonight is the night!

The most patient Father that has ever existed has been eagerly, joyfully anticipating this night! This is the beginning of the Covenant that He’s longed for since the Garden: when he would have a nation of Kings and Priests who would know his Father’s heart and love Him as freely as He loves them!

The cross? That torture, that pain, that indescribable humiliation? That was nothing! Nothing! Less than nothing! He would pay ANY price for the privilege of whispering of his love to his wayward children. If there could have been a greater price that could ever have been paid, He would have paid it without hesitation for the children that He treasured above even His own eternal, omnipotent life!

And tonight is the night that it all began.

Tonight! As Mary is breathing hard and sweating heavily, as Joseph is wringing his hands and feeling nearly (but not quite) useless in the face of The Birth, God Himself is dancing with joy! Angels are ministering to the new mother and anxious dad, but God is laughing and jumping and shouting his joy to the heavens!

Tonight it begins. Tomorrow He gets to walk – well, to crawl first – among his wayward children! The beginning of the Via Dolorosa begins in this little, sweaty barn, on the unknown edge of a tiny, powerless nation. This is the beginning of walking among them, and even more, this is the beginning of setting them free from everything that holds them back!

This is the night! This is THAT night.

Do you feel his joy? Can you feel his anticipation? 


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Devotionals, Letters

It’s Christmas Eve


It’s Christmas Eve. My home is filled with laughing children. My son is making something wonderful in the kitchen. My wife has forbidden any entry into the bedroom until the last few presents are wrapped. A video game is blaring in the living room, and power tools are finishing up a last-minute gift in the shop.

My home is a very busy place. And honestly, I love it.

But as much as this night is about family, it’s even more about a Birth. I stepped outside to visit with Father about it, to remember that Birth with Him.

Immediately, I had an image of Him, as eager as a grandchild would be, clapping happily, dancing from foot to foot: this is His Happy Dance!

For me, the laboring woman and her not-quite-husband are separated from me by twenty centuries. But as God is Lord of Time (among many other things), He is right this minute, dancing with joyful anticipation over this impending Birth.

God, being omniscient, knew of the failure of man in the Garden before He even spoke the words, “Let Us create man, in Our image…” Before he ever even scooped up mud and shaped it and prepared it to hold His Own breath, he knew that man would fail the test, would eat of the wrong tree, would submit to the wrong voice, and would be doomed to death.

But God, being the best in the universe at planning ahead, already knew that He, Himself, in the flesh and blood of humanity, would die a gruesome death in a backwater, occupied nation in the geographical armpit of that planet in order to establish a New Covenant with them. How he looked forward to that!

And He knew that before God could die for man, God would have to become a man. And this! He looked forward to this with such joy!
And tonight is the night!

The most patient Father that has ever existed has been eagerly, joyfully anticipating this night! This is the beginning of the Covenant that He’s longed for since the Garden: when he would have a nation of Kings and Priests who would know his Father’s heart and love Him as freely as He loves them!

The cross? That torture, that pain, that indescribable humiliation? That was nothing! Nothing! Less than nothing! He would pay ANY price for the privilege of whispering of his love to his wayward children. If there could have been a greater price that could ever have been paid, He would have paid it without hesitation for the children that He treasured above even His own eternal, omnipotent life!

And tonight is the night that it all began.

Tonight! As Mary is breathing hard and sweating heavily, as Joseph is wringing his hands and feeling nearly (but not quite) useless in the face of The Birth, God Himself is dancing with joy! Angels are ministering to the new mother and anxious dad, but God is laughing and jumping and shouting his joy to the heavens!

Tonight it begins. Tomorrow He gets to walk – well, to crawl first – among his wayward children! The beginning of the Via Dolorosa begins in this little, sweaty barn, on the unknown edge of a tiny, powerless nation. This is the beginning of walking among them, and even more, this is the beginning of setting them free from everything that holds them back!

This is the night! This is THAT night.

Do you feel his joy? Can you feel his anticipation? 


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Prophecy

I Don’t See It That Way

We confuse two very different thoughts, and I wonder if maybe we do this fairly often:
We begin with “I don’t see it that way,” and that’s well and good. It might be “I don’t see why that baker wouldn’t bake the gay couple a cake,” or “I don’t understand why a gay couple would come to a Christian bakery for a cake,” or even, “I don’t see why Christians would want to drink alcohol.” It’s good to be able to see things differently than others; that’s a sign of health, of our ability to think for ourselves and not just rely on the opinions of others around us.
But it’s easy to take that one step too far, to impose the way we see it on others, and we expect them to see the situation the way we do. This very seldom reaches the point of words, but it works out like this: “I don’t see it that way, so they shouldn’t either.” or something along these lines. Fundamentally, it’s about “They need to think like me!”

I’ll be honest, I don’t see how baking a cake or not baking a cake speaks of Christ. Either one sounds to me more like it speaks of flour and frosting. But those bakers don’t have the benefit of my perspective. They are working with their own conscience. And I applaud them for doing that; it happens so seldom these days.
This issue of “You should think like I think” is pretty rampant in our culture. Regarding the story where a Christian baker declined to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, the intolerance of certain members of the homosexual community were identified (by a lesbian) as “the Gay Gestapo.” But it happens in other realms as well. There’s an “Abortion Gestapo,” an “Evangelical Gestapo” and many others.
I’ve seen the cry, “You need to think like me!” in both sides of the homosexual movement, both sides of the abortion conversation, both sides of several race conversations. I’ve even heard evangelistic sermons based on this way of thinking.
Note that this doesn’t apply to every conversation in these areas. There’s a world of difference between “Abortion is murder, and I’m going to stand against murder,” and “This is the way I oppose abortion, and you should do it this way, too!”
I get it when the unredeemed think and act in unredeemed ways, like this. I don’t understand when Christians, particularly Christian leaders (who are supposed to be mature) tell each other, “This is the way I see it. You should agree with me!”
Fundamentally, this is an argument about which side is the right side on this issue. And fundamentally, Christians aren’t called to take sides, especially not political sides. We’re called to love people. We’re called to heal the sick and raise the dead, whether literally or metaphorically.
It’s particularly frustrating when Christian leaders declare “If you see it differently than I do, then you’re guilty of breaking the unity of the saints!” Not so. Unity doesn’t come from agreeing on doctrine (it’s about being part of the same family, but that’s another conversation).
But it’s just plain foolish when Christians expect non-Christians to think Christianly. (That’s called “hypocrisy,” people. We don’t like hypocrisy.) At no point does the Bible command us to make non-believers act as if they were religious. Let’s get over that right away, shall we? 
Instead of looking for the “the right side of the issue,” I’m going to recommend that when we find ourselves saying, “I don’t see it that way,” to follow that up with “…but you do, and I respect your thinking for yourselves. Look for a way to love those who don’t agree with you. (I think you’ll find that love converts more people than arguments, any day of the week!)
Or we could push for extra credit, and try to see it their way, try to understand why they see it that way, even if only for a moment. Seeing like they see is one way of loving them.

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Devotionals, Letters

I Don’t See It That Way

We confuse two very different thoughts, and I wonder if maybe we do this fairly often:

We begin with "I don't see it that way," and that's well and good. It might be “I don’t see why that baker wouldn’t bake the gay couple a cake,” or "I don't understand why a gay couple would come to a Christian bakery for a cake," or even, “I don’t see why Christians would want to drink alcohol.” It's good to be able to see things differently than others; that’s a sign of health, of our ability to think for ourselves and not just rely on the opinions of others around us.

But it’s easy to take that one step too far, to impose the way we see it on others, and we expect them to see the situation the way we do. This very seldom reaches the point of words, but it works out like this: "I don't see it that way, so they shouldn't either." or something along these lines. Fundamentally, it’s about “They need to think like me!”


I’ll be honest, I don't see how baking a cake or not baking a cake speaks of Christ. Either one sounds to me more like it speaks of flour and frosting. But those bakers don’t have the benefit of my perspective. They are working with their own conscience. And I applaud them for doing that; it happens so seldom these days.

This issue of “You should think like I think” is pretty rampant in our culture. Regarding the story where a Christian baker declined to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, the intolerance of certain members of the homosexual community were identified (by a lesbian) as “the Gay Gestapo.” But it happens in other realms as well. There’s an “Abortion Gestapo,” an “Evangelical Gestapo” and many others.

I’ve seen the cry, “You need to think like me!” in both sides of the homosexual movement, both sides of the abortion conversation, both sides of several race conversations. I’ve even heard evangelistic sermons based on this way of thinking.

Note that this doesn’t apply to every conversation in these areas. There’s a world of difference between “Abortion is murder, and I’m going to stand against murder,” and “This is the way I oppose abortion, and you should do it this way, too!”

I get it when the unredeemed think and act in unredeemed ways, like this. I don’t understand when Christians, particularly Christian leaders (who are supposed to be mature) tell each other, “This is the way I see it. You should agree with me!”

Fundamentally, this is an argument about which side is the right side on this issue. And fundamentally, Christians aren’t called to take sides, especially not political sides. We’re called to love people. We’re called to heal the sick and raise the dead, whether literally or metaphorically.

It’s particularly frustrating when Christian leaders declare “If you see it differently than I do, then you’re guilty of breaking the unity of the saints!” Not so. Unity doesn’t come from agreeing on doctrine (it’s about being part of the same family, but that’s another conversation).

But it’s just plain foolish when Christians expect non-Christians to think Christianly. (That’s called “hypocrisy,” people. We don’t like hypocrisy.) At no point does the Bible command us to make non-believers act as if they were religious. Let’s get over that right away, shall we? 
Instead of looking for the “the right side of the issue,” I’m going to recommend that when we find ourselves saying, “I don’t see it that way,” to follow that up with “…but you do, and I respect your thinking for yourselves. Look for a way to love those who don’t agree with you. (I think you’ll find that love converts more people than arguments, any day of the week!)

Or we could push for extra credit, and try to see it their way, try to understand why they see it that way, even if only for a moment. Seeing like they see is one way of loving them.



Standard
Devotionals, Letters

I Don’t See It That Way

We confuse two very different thoughts, and I wonder if maybe we do this fairly often:

We begin with "I don't see it that way," and that's well and good. It might be “I don’t see why that baker wouldn’t bake the gay couple a cake,” or "I don't understand why a gay couple would come to a Christian bakery for a cake," or even, “I don’t see why Christians would want to drink alcohol.” It's good to be able to see things differently than others; that’s a sign of health, of our ability to think for ourselves and not just rely on the opinions of others around us.

But it’s easy to take that one step too far, to impose the way we see it on others, and we expect them to see the situation the way we do. This very seldom reaches the point of words, but it works out like this: "I don't see it that way, so they shouldn't either." or something along these lines. Fundamentally, it’s about “They need to think like me!”


I’ll be honest, I don't see how baking a cake or not baking a cake speaks of Christ. Either one sounds to me more like it speaks of flour and frosting. But those bakers don’t have the benefit of my perspective. They are working with their own conscience. And I applaud them for doing that; it happens so seldom these days.

This issue of “You should think like I think” is pretty rampant in our culture. Regarding the story where a Christian baker declined to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, the intolerance of certain members of the homosexual community were identified (by a lesbian) as “the Gay Gestapo.” But it happens in other realms as well. There’s an “Abortion Gestapo,” an “Evangelical Gestapo” and many others.

I’ve seen the cry, “You need to think like me!” in both sides of the homosexual movement, both sides of the abortion conversation, both sides of several race conversations. I’ve even heard evangelistic sermons based on this way of thinking.

Note that this doesn’t apply to every conversation in these areas. There’s a world of difference between “Abortion is murder, and I’m going to stand against murder,” and “This is the way I oppose abortion, and you should do it this way, too!”

I get it when the unredeemed think and act in unredeemed ways, like this. I don’t understand when Christians, particularly Christian leaders (who are supposed to be mature) tell each other, “This is the way I see it. You should agree with me!”

Fundamentally, this is an argument about which side is the right side on this issue. And fundamentally, Christians aren’t called to take sides, especially not political sides. We’re called to love people. We’re called to heal the sick and raise the dead, whether literally or metaphorically.

It’s particularly frustrating when Christian leaders declare “If you see it differently than I do, then you’re guilty of breaking the unity of the saints!” Not so. Unity doesn’t come from agreeing on doctrine (it’s about being part of the same family, but that’s another conversation).

But it’s just plain foolish when Christians expect non-Christians to think Christianly. (That’s called “hypocrisy,” people. We don’t like hypocrisy.) At no point does the Bible command us to make non-believers act as if they were religious. Let’s get over that right away, shall we? 
Instead of looking for the “the right side of the issue,” I’m going to recommend that when we find ourselves saying, “I don’t see it that way,” to follow that up with “…but you do, and I respect your thinking for yourselves. Look for a way to love those who don’t agree with you. (I think you’ll find that love converts more people than arguments, any day of the week!)

Or we could push for extra credit, and try to see it their way, try to understand why they see it that way, even if only for a moment. Seeing like they see is one way of loving them.



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