Life Matters

If you asked my students, they would tell you it’s typecasting…Scrooge

I get to play the role of Ebenezer Scrooge at LifeHouse, the theater my family has sort of made our second home.   I am stepping into the show for the final weekend of its run, as the main Scrooge is unavailable.  I am pleased to say that I was their top choice for the part after they were turned down by everyone else they asked.

Well, now, that’s not quite true…

Actually, yeah, it kinda is. Continue reading

One-a-Day Friday, 12/20/13

number 1And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, (Isaiah 9:6)

There can be a lot in a name.  My name is Michael, which means, “Who is like God?”  I like that—it’s a constant reminder of the answer…Nobody.  When I begin to get a little too big for my proverbial britches, my very name brings me back to Earth.

Jesus has been given the name Wonderful Counselor.  Think about it—what does a counselor do?  A good counselor does three things—listen deeply, see to the heart of the issue, and offer wisdom.    So, we serve a God who actually listens to us—listens deeply.  He doesn’t just pretend to listen to you while he is mentally planning out his day, the way I might.  He actually considers every word you speak—and those you don’t.

Jesus also sees to the heart of your issue—after all, he knows you better than you do—remember Psalm 139?  You couldn’t hide the truth from him if you tried, so knock it off already.

Wisdom?  Uh…do I need to point out that his words are the very words of God?  Literally?  Yeah, worth listening to.

You, Beloved, have a Wonderful Counselor.  Walk in his wisdom today.

One-a-Day Thursday, 12/19/13

number 1…and the government will be on his shoulders. (Isaiah 9:6)

Here’s the thing with governments—they’re generally made up of people.  And, well, I hate to tell you this, but people tend toward selfishness and greed.

I just heard a bubble burst…sorry.

Democracy works, except when the people are ignorant, selfish, and lazy.

Oh.

Same holds true for Communism, republics, feudal societies, even theocracies.  On paper, they look great.  It’s when you add the people that things go winky.

Frankly, the best, strongest, most efficient form of government is a benevolent dictatorship.  The problem, of course, is that you can guarantee the dictator part, but not the benevolent bit.

Yet.

But the day will come when we will have an absolute monarch, a king of kings, who will rule with complete authority over all nations.  His reign will be perfect, unhampered by greed, unsullied by sin.  He will know what’s best, want what’s best, do what’s best.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

One-a-Day Wednesday, 12/18/13

number 1For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…  (Isaiah 9:6)

I don’t know if there is anything in life more exciting than the birth of a baby.   The feeling of joy, of life, that you get from holding a newborn—it’s astounding.  It doesn’t even have to be your child.  Hope arrives with every baby.

How wonderful is it that God chose to bring Christ to us in this way.  Think about it—the Christ could have appeared fully grown, striding out of the desert on a Thursday morning.  He could have simply walked into the temple and started preaching.  Instead, we get to see him as a baby—yes, so that his genealogy could be verified and so that prophecy would be fulfilled—but also so that we could see a God willing to humble himself by birth, as he would one day humble himself by death.

Your God loves you so much that he sent a baby—the epitome of life—to call you to eternal life.

Heed the call today.

One-a-Day Tuesday, 12/17/13

number 1The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.  (Isaiah 9:2).

The metaphor of light has been around for so long we’ve become numb to it.

See if you can unnumb (denumb?) yourself a bit.

Imagine the darkest place, the blackest night you have ever experienced.

Multiply it by a factor of infinity.

A blackness so complete it fills you, seeping in through your pores…crushing… suffocating.  It’s every nightmare, every horror coalesced and distilled into a pure, inky nothing that will consume you.

That has consumed you.

Then, a light.  It’s small at first, like a candle’s flame.  Even so, the darkness recoils from it; hope rushes in to fill the space.  The light grows and spreads until it fills you—or did it draw you into itself? Hard to tell.  The nightmare, the horror, the emptiness are revealed as fluff and nonsense by the glory of the light.

Yeah, yeah, I know; the imagery is as old as time.  But…

It’s true, you know.

He’s coming.

One-a-Day Monday, 12/16/13

number 1If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  (James 1: 5-6)

Life has been pretty crazy lately.  Good crazy—holidays, family time, teaching classes, taking classes, house guests, being in a show—but crazy all the same.  So much so that I haven’t gotten out a regular, full-length post for three weeks.  Yesterday, I was struggling with how to spend my morning.  I knew I needed to write a post, but I also had a major rehearsal to prepare for, and I had promised the family waffles for breakfast.  I was stuck.

I prayed that God would help me know what I should do with my morning.

Now, I’m not one of those people who sees angels around every corner and looks at every traffic light as a sign from God.  I do believe there is a certain randomness involved in everyday life.   And yet…

Just after I prayed that God would help me know what I should do with my morning I began to type a post.  I got three or four words in, and my computer shut down.  It didn’t break—I’m using it now—it just said, “Shutting Down,” and did.

Some days, I would call that random.  On this day, I took it as a sign.  I made waffles, studied my lines, and let the Pulitzer wait for another week.  It ended up being a pretty awesome day.

Ask God for something today, and when you do, expect an answer.  Be on the lookout for it.  Listen to it.

It’s kinda fun.

One-a-Day Friday, 12/13/13

number 1The Lord your God is with you; he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.  (Zephaniah 3:17)

I’ve done way too much talking this week.  Just read this verse a few times, savor it, thank him for it.

Have a wonderful Friday.

One-a-Day Thursday, 12/12/13

number 1Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me, and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)

This psalm ends with a request.  Like I said last week, this is a powerful way to check the state of your relationship with Christ.  If the thought of God searching your heart frightens you, you’ve got to ask, why?  Three things to notice here:

1. The psalmist asks God in.  God is a gentleman when it comes to our hearts; he won’t barge in where he’s not invited.

2. The psalm began with the line, “O Lord, you have searched me…”  So this is not a one-time event.  It is a recurring, ongoing process.

3. The psalmist asks for four things: search me, test me, examine me, and lead me.  We present ourselves before God so that he can show us what is getting in the way of our relationship.  Essentially, we’re trying to clear out the junk so that God can bring us closer to him.

Are you in a place where you can ask this of God?  Can you afford not to?

Be courageous, Beloved.  Ask him in.

One-a-Day Wednesday, 12/11/13

number 1If only you would slay the wicked, O God!  Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!  They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.  Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord, and abhor those who rise up against you?  I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.  (Psalm 139:19-22)

Wow.  Right in the middle of this psalm celebrating the wonder of God’s love and care for me, I get a call to holy war.  What’s that about?  If you do a little study on this verse, you find that it echoes the ancient Near East covenant language between King and Vassal.  The vassal swears that any enemy of the king will be his enemy.

Are you impressed with my scholarliosity?  I love those study bible footnotes.

But God is a God of love, right?  Aren’t we supposed to love everyone?

Show me where it says that in the Bible.

Well, Jesus said, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

Oh yeah, he did…huh.

I’ll admit—this is a toughie.  I’ll be happy to hear from any of you who have thoughts about this passage.  It seems to me that, in light of the gospel, we should be pretty careful about hating people.  There is plenty for us to hate—the ways of the world, the devil and his schemes, our own flesh—plenty that rises up against God.  People seem pretty far down the list.

I think this passage is a call to total allegiance.  You have a God who knows every thought you have ever entertained and loves you anyway.  He surrounds you, literally, with his love and protection.  Pledge your fealty to him again.  Go forth into your Wednesday as the sworn enemy of all that stands against him.

Serve the king who loves you.

One-a-Day Tuesday, 12/10/13

number 1How precious to me are your thoughts, God!  How vast the sum of them!  Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.  When I awake, I am still with you.  (Psalm 139:17-18).

Can you imagine what goes on in the mind of God?

No, I don’t suppose you can.  Me neither.

It’s like the worm I dig up in the yard knowing my thoughts.

No…it’s more like the microbial parasite living in the worm that I dig up in the yard knowing my thoughts.

No…it’s more like the subatomic particles that make up the microbial parasite living in the worm that I dig up in the yard knowing my thoughts.

Which probably doesn’t happen.

And yet, God wants us to know at least a portion of his thoughts.  That’s why he gave us his Word.  You can fall asleep with his thoughts in your mind and awake with his thoughts in your heart.  You can move through this day meditating on his Word, and making his thoughts your thoughts.

Because he wants you to know him.

Because he loves you.

Which is just another of many reasons it’s better to be you than a worm.