Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Switched at Birth

Sixty years ago in Tokyo a hospital made a terrible mistake.  They sent babies home with the wrong families.  One baby born to a poor family went home with a wealthy family.  Another baby born to a wealthy family went home to a life of poverty.  The mistake was only discovered because of some health problems in the wealthy family that lead to some DNA testing among the siblings.  When one brother showed no genetic kinship to the family they began searching for the reason.

The two men spent their lives in very different ways, the poor man was a truck driver and the rich man runs his own real estate business.  Last week the a court ordered the hospital to pay the poor man - who wishes to remain anonymous - a settlement worth over $370,000, substantially less than the $2.5 million he sought.  "I feel...regret and also anger," the impoverished man said after his settlement, "I want them to turn back the clock."

Contrast this to the birth of our Lord that we celebrate today.  He, as Paul put it in Philippians2:7-8, "... made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!"

He chose the poverty after knowing the wealth of heaven.  C. S. Lewis likened the incarnational drop of going from heaven to earth as being like that of a human choosing to become "a crab or a slug."  He chose to come live in this world of poverty with us.  He chose to die for us to make us rich in ways we never could have dreamed.  It was God's plan that he chose for himself and for us.

Today celebrate where and to whom you were born but also celebrate that you can be born again because he was born among us.

Merry Christmas,


Friday, December 20, 2013


I see traces of it more this time of year than any other - except perhaps Valentine's day.  I saw it on someone's sleeve.  I saw it the other day on the carpet at the church.  I was talking with someone and noticed a single flake of it in their hair.  Another person I spoke with briefly had a speck on their face.  I looked in the mirror this week and found a flake on my face. 

Glitter.  It is everywhere at this time of year and when we brush up against it or touch something that has glitter on it, chances are it is going to stay with us, even if it is just a speck.  It is not a bad thing when you think of it.  It is rather nice to begin to look around for it and see traces of it.  Glitter is a happy thing.  It brings sparkle to plain old paper or bland plastic ornaments.  So seeing it around is not a problem.  Start looking around and you will see what I mean.

I wonder if our glitter "infections" can't tell us something about the love of God we should be carrying around too.  Most of the people that I have seen glitter on are unaware of it yet it was obvious to the observant. It brings a brightness to us even if it is unintentional.

God's love in us usually works that way too.  When we really truly have it, it is something that becomes a part of us and yet we are unaware of it, though others see it clearly.  The way we share God's love is the same way that glitter is transferred to us - we touch it and it stays with us.

So this Christmas season, take some time to allow God's Word and God's story of his love to touch you.  If it really is something we touch, it will linger on us in a way others can see.  We will work on that love this Sunday.  I hope to see you there.

Merry Christmas,


Friday, December 13, 2013

Three Questions on Twelve Days

"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”  Acts 20:35

What is the greatest gift that you have every received? 

Of course we would all need to start answering that question with our salvation from Jesus Christ but what about material things?  Was there a doll or toy that was just what you had waited for all year?Was there a BB gun received at Christmas like Ralphie in the movie, "A Christmas Story?"  Was there a car given at a graduation?  Was there an extravagant unexpected gift given at your wedding?
Large or small, we can all think of things that we were given that touched and impacted our lives.  Chances are though, if it wasn't recent, those actual material things may be gone, but perhaps a sense of the blessing remains.

What is the greatest gift you have ever given?

That is a little harder to answer, isn't it?  We don't always know the impact of what we have done, even with our most extravagant gestures.  We hope we have done something to change someone's life but how can we be sure?   Did we really "bless" someone or just leave them with a sense of obligation to reciprocate?

What is the greatest blessing you have ever received by giving?

The blessing of truly giving from an obedient heart never has an expiration date.  It can go on for eternity.  The blessing can boomerang back long after the warm, fuzzy feeling goes away.  In these past twelve days we have experimented as a church what it means to give of our selves to those in need in twelve different ways.  I hope you have received a blessing.  I pray you have had your life touched by what you received in giving, enough so, that you do not want to stop.

Now here is a final (bonus you might say) question.  Of the three things I just mentioned in the questions above, which one do you honestly seek the most?  Receiving? Giving? or Blessing?  That is a hard one too, I know.  Jesus, not within the Gospels but in the book of Acts, is quoted as saying, "It is more blessed to give than to..."  All of us can finish that statement, but do we live that statement?  Seeking to share so much, so often that we would call our lives, "Blessed."  Maybe that is the best goal we can carry out of these Twelve Days of Christmas.

for the journey...


Friday, December 6, 2013


I recently shared a meal with a very experienced retired minister with a long history of preaching.  We were talking about how at Northside we were reading through Revelation as we neared the end of the SOAP experience of reading and journaling through the New Testament.  He said something that both shocked and comforted me,  "I don't understand Revelation.  Some of it sounds like it runs counter to the rest of the New Testament."

Now he was in no way questioning Revelation's place in the Bible, he was just making an honest confession of his struggle with the book.  I found it shocking that with his experience  he would say he did not understand it.  He is someone who has always seemed sure of himself, his opinions and his insights but here was an admission of where he truly was inside.  I have felt and still feel the same way.

There are places in Revelation that don't sound like the rest of the New Testament.  I will agree to that, but as I am reading it again I am finding that even in all the earth shaking judgments and the cataclysm of the apocalypse there are moments of incredible intimacy - far beyond the rest of the New Testament.

I mentioned in last week's message how it moved me to read in Revelation 1:17 (as if I had read it for the first time) these words as John described his seeing the overpowering, brilliant glory of Jesus in heaven, "When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.  Then he placed his right hand on me and said: 'Do not be afraid.'" 

The all glorious, all powerful Lord Jesus reached down with his almighty right hand and touched this old friend in his fear and faltering understanding.  Then he spoke words that John had heard before from those lips, "Do not be afraid."  In all the near unimaginable images in Revelation, I am glad that intimate encounter is there at the beginning.  It brings to light the unchanging love of Jesus. Even though his appearance is so drastically different, he has the same heart that John knew on earth.

Jesus is the one who was and is and is to come.  That gives us all something to look forward to even if we do not understand it all.

for the journey...