Archive for the category “Christianity and Culture”

The Church of Chicken Little

churchchickenlittleHere’s what will happen. Maybe you’ve already been through it. Or maybe you’re living it even as your eyes scan these words. I don’t know what will trigger it—I’m no prophet—but I do know, sooner or later, something will. The company you’ve poured your heart and soul into goes belly up. Your spouse slips off her wedding ring, puts it on the counter, and slams the door forever behind her. The details will vary. But in that moment, and in the days and weeks—maybe even years—that follow, you’re convinced that the sky is falling, and your life is basically over. Draw the curtains, turn out the lights, the party’s over.

I’ve been there. As have many of you. It hurts. It’s frightening.

And it’s highly deceiving.

Oh, yes, deceiving. Because as bad as it does get, as much pain as it does inflict upon you, it is not the end of the world. In fact, it’s not even close. It just feels that way. But if you’re not careful—as I was not careful—you’ll become so overwhelmed with all the bad stuff going on, you’ll spend so much time staring up at the sky that you’re convinced is about to fall, that you’ll forget you’ve still got work to do, people to take care of, vocations to fulfill. Your world has changed, to be sure, but it is not over.

The same applies to the church, perhaps even more so. On a recurring basis, Christians spot news headlines that signal yet one more moral collapse in society, the growing paganization of the cultures in which we live, the spread of antipathy toward the faith. It hits social media. Facebook becomes transformed into everything from an online pity-party to a preaching-party, lamenting or decrying all these wicked goings on. Twitter explodes with 140-or-less character doomsday-sounding predictions. And in pulpits across the land, pastors have plenty of fodder for their Sunday morning sermons.

But if we’re not careful, if we become so engrossed with the flood of divorce, the spread of gay marriage, the holocaust of abortion, the loss of religious freedom, and countless other very legitimate concerns, we’ll end up sounding more like the church of Chicken Little than the church of Jesus Christ. We’ll give the impression that our central message is not “Christ crucified” but “The sky is falling.” We’ll forget that we’ve still got people to take care of, vocations to fulfill, plenty of work to do.

And that work, that mission, is not to save our culture from moral collapse, nor to raise up law-abiding citizens, and especially not to spend all day, every day, whining and complaining about the loss of the good ole days. The mission of the church is to bring sinners into communion with the life-giving, sin-forgiving, salvation-imparting flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.

Until the sky really does fall, that’s the work God has given the church to do. Let’s do it.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who welcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

ISIS and Potiphar’s Wife: The Foundational Reason for Christian Persecution

banner-949945_1920The best of stories contain bigger stories within them. The characters are more than heroes, villains, or victims stuck in an isolated narrative; they embody the ugly and the beautiful in life. The bigger story in Charlotte’s Web is how love and sacrifice and friendship enrich our own lives. The larger story in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Huckleberry Finn, and The Grapes of Wrath is the American story—a national narrative that’s a mixture of hope and horror. These best of stories are double-narratives, you might say, for they are tales of single individuals who are simultaneously iconic of whole populations.

The ancient rabbis read the stories of the Old Testament, especially those in Genesis, in a similar way, but with a prophetic nuance as well. They would say, “What happened to the fathers, happened on account of the sons.” What they meant was that you could divine Israel’s future in her past. What happened to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph foretold what would happen to Israel. The lives of the patriarchs were prophetic; these individual lives foreshadowed the future life of the nation. That’s why, for instance, Abraham journeys into Egypt because of a famine, gets into trouble with Pharaoh while there, God smites Egypt with plagues, and Abraham and his family finally leave Egypt laden with wealth from the country (Genesis 12). All of this happened as a mini-exodus. In the story of father Abraham you read the bigger story of the exile, captivity, suffering, and eventual redemption of Israel in Exodus.

On an even grander scale, the same is true of Joseph, whose life in multitude of ways points to the story of Christ and the lives of Christians around the world, especially those who are bearing the cross of persecution. To illustrate this, let’s take one story from Joseph’s life and read within it a much more expansive narrative.

The Seductress Turned Persecutor

Though sold as a slave in Egypt, Joseph performed so faithfully as a servant in Potiphar’s house that his master put him in charge of everything. All was going well until Potiphar’s wife, eyeing Joseph as “handsome in form and appearance” (Genesis 39:6), decided she wanted him as a lover. “Have sex with me,” she urged him, to which Joseph gave this famous refusal: “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in his house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is no greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (39:8-9). Undeterred by his rebuff, the seductress continued, day after day, to woo him to her bed, but Joseph would have nothing to do with her. One day, when Joseph literally ran away from her lustful advances, she grabbed his outer garment as he fled outside. That was the last straw. As if to prove that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, she accused Joseph of attempted rape, proffered his garment as evidence, and Joseph wound up in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

What is most instructive about this episode is what Potiphar’s wife did to Joseph and why. She might have simply had a good cry over her unsuccessful liaison. She might have made his service there a living hell. But, no, that wasn’t enough. This Hebrew servant rejected her will, refused to submit to the evil she desired, for the express reason that he “could not do this great wickedness and sin against God.” There you have it. Ultimately, it was not Joseph who was keeping Joseph from her; God was the barrier. His holy will thwarted her will. His commandment kept Joseph out of her bed.

Whether she realized it or not, this Egyptian woman was at war with the Lord of Israel. Her will was pitted against His will. Her desires were battling God’s desires. Joseph was caught in the crossfire. Or, rather, Joseph embodied the divine enemy. He was the image of God who represented to her the foe who opposed her. Therefore, when she decided to persecute Joseph for not submitting to her wishes, she was in reality persecuting God. For when a person, out of fidelity to the Lord and His word, refuses to submit to evil, the one who is refused lashes out at the faithful child of God because, in truth, the persecutor is at war with heaven itself.

Potiphar’s Wife as the Matriarch of ISIS and Boko Haram

If the best of stories contain bigger stories within them, what is the bigger story in this narrative of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife? How did what happened to this “father” foretell what would happen to the “sons”? In Joseph we see the bigger story of Christ and His followers, who suffer persecution from a world at war not so much with the church as with God Himself.

We have mourned with our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq who have been systematically and brutally murdered, tortured, and driven from their homes by ISIS. We have witnessed many of the same atrocities committed against Christians by Boko Haram in Nigeria. The reason for this persecution goes beyond the political aspirations of these terrorist organizations. It is deeper than any cultural or sociological divide between Christians and their Muslim persecutors. The reason is even more profound than their radical Islamic views, based upon their interpretation of Quranic passages about the killing of infidels [read: Christians]. The foundational reason that Muslims are persecuting Christians is that faithful Christians refuse to submit to the evil these Islamists desire; they cannot do this great wickedness and sin against God; they steadfastly reject spiritual adultery with those who worship a lie. Though they would never admit it, ISIS and Boko Haram see in the Christians whom they persecute the image of the true God whom they reject, whom they hate, with whom they are at war.

To Persecute Christians is to Persecute Christ

Long ago, when a persecutor of Christians named Saul was on his way to terrorize more of the faithful, the Lord Jesus appeared to him, saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). When Saul said, “Who are you, Lord?” He responded, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” (9:5). Saul’s persecution of the church was his persecution of the God of the church, Jesus Christ. The Lord had promised as much when He warned His disciples that “you will be hated by everyone because of me,” (Matthew 10:22). Peel back the layers of prejudice, jealousy, fear, religious ideology and whatever other motivations there might be for the actions of Potiphar’s wife, ISIS, Boka Haram, and other persecutors of the faithful, and you will find the core reason is that the persecutor is at war with God Himself.

As we stand with our fellow Christians who bear the brunt of this violent hatred, let us remember that, more importantly, the resurrected Lord stands with them. This Jesus, whom ISIS persecutes, is the Jesus who was martyred by crucifixion, but who rose from the grave and joins His followers to that saving death and resurrection in the waters of Baptism. And let us pray for the Islamists. The Lord has a proven track record of turning persecutors into prophets, apostates into apostles. Who knows but that one day a former member of ISIS may preach the same Gospel he once despised. And finally let us, with our fellow believers, be faithful even unto death, that we too may receive the crown of life from Him who is our life, the Lord Jesus Christ, who loves even those who hate Him and His church.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who welcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

Facebook and the Edited Me

font-533232_1280The world of Facebook has its own language and culture. And lies. To someone new to social media, it’s like touring around a foreign country. You’re not sure what to consume, where to go, or who to talk to. And to make matters worse, you’re not sure what’s real and what’s not.

As a rule of thumb, I suggest this: assume at least a tiny lie lurks behind everything you see. If Facebook is anything, it’s the land of opportunity for presenting to the world an edited version of ourselves.

Inside scores of smiling family photographs is a couple who’ve been sleeping in separate beds the last few months. Behind many boastful status updates about successes at work is a soul plagued by self-doubt and on the verge of career collapse. Optimistic, life-loving memes are posted right after popping the day’s antidepressant. A wife puts on her wall a picture of the dozen red roses her husband bought her, but doesn’t mention it’s been two weeks since she discovered he was sleeping with his secretary. A pastor praises the work of his congregation on their Facebook page, but edits out the fact that he gets drunk after Elder’s and Voters’ meetings because he loathes this hellhole the Lord has stuck him in.

We teach our children to be careful what they post on social media because, once it’s online, it’s online forever. And that is sound advice. But we also teach—by our actions if not by our words—to be careful to post on social media only the edited version of yourself by which you want to deceive the world into thinking you’re better than you know yourself to be.

We’re seeking affirmation (“like” what I post), or love (PM a flirtatious message), or praise (comment on what a great job I’m doing), or attention (remark how I look pretty in this picture), or sympathy (tell me how sorry you are). Lurking behind so much of what we do on social media is the attempt to control what others think of us. We crave all the things above—affirmation, love, praise, attention, sympathy—but we know they can’t be ours unless we project just the right image. So we Photoshop our lives. We recreate ourselves online to be better, stronger, smarter, prettier, holier, or even more pitiful in order to elicit the responses we desire.

Whether we realize it or not, all these online, self-editing actions are nothing more than our admission that we believe that we are so deeply flawed that no one will love us just as we are. They will love us only if they see our good side, only if we are successful, only if we are happily married. These “only ifs” unveil a fundamental truth about us: we spend our lives in pursuit of that which is unattainable, all the while ignoring the fact that God pursues us with a gift he has already attained.

We pursue other people as god-like figures. We crave their acceptance and affirmation of us. We long for their acknowledgment, their love, their embrace. And so, online and offline, we wear our masks and do our self-editing to attain that goal. And when it comes, because we know that they accept and affirm only a fraction of who we really are, their response never really satisfies. We’re always wondering, “Yes, but what if they knew the real me? They wouldn’t like me then. Therefore, I must continue to edit, to Photoshop, to lie, to control my image in order to achieve the acceptance I desire.”

While we are pursuing this vain goal, God trails behind us with the very gift we desire already in his possession. He sees through the smoke and mirrors of social media; beneath the masks we wear everywhere from the boardroom to the bedroom; around the lies we concoct to make ourselves appear happier, healthier, and more successful than we are. He sees us as we truly are. All the self-hatred and self-love, the ugly envy, the doubt and despair, the dead relationships, the nasty fights, the pills and booze. He sees it all. And he loves us nonetheless.

But he loves us in a weird, God-like way. He loves us into death and back into life. He is a God who kills and makes alive. He finds us ugly and hurting and hateful and mean, and he wraps his arms around us and falls with us into a watery grave. There with him, in him, embraced by him, we drown. We die. We die to self. And in the shock of a lifetime, we open our eyes outside the watery grave, standing alongside our Lord, as newly resurrected people who are the apple of God’s eye.

The Lord with whom we die is Jesus, the Son of God. In that watery grave we are crucified with him. We die and are buried with him. We rise and live with him. And in so doing, who he is becomes who we are. He is the Son of God; in him we become the sons of God. He is beloved of the Father; in him we are beloved of the Father. He is holy, righteous, perfect; in Jesus we are the same.

All we sought to achieve by controlling our image was in vain. The image that brings true peace and contentment in life is not one we achieve but one we receive. It is the image of Christ, likeness to him, that we receive in the watery, crucifixion grave of baptism. There, in Christ, we are accepted, affirmed, loved, embraced by the Father. All of who we are—not the edited us—is enveloped in the Son of God, dies with him, rises with him, and lives with him. And that is no virtual reality.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

christ alone cover

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

Planned Parenthood and Our Complicity in Evil

plannedparenthood109It happened during a meal. In between bites, Planned Parenthood executive Deborah Nucatola bragged that abortionists are “very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part. I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.” All around her people are eating and drinking, waiters are taking orders. She lifts her fork to her mouth, talks about the best way to crush a baby so as to harvest the most commodities from his body, chews the food, swallows it. As my wife and I watched the video last night, despite all the horrific details, the thought that wouldn’t go away was this: it all happened around a table, during polite conversation, as if this were business as usual.

Evil never has the face I want it to. I anticipate a gargoyle-like imp to skulk by but the girl next door fills the room with her smile. I’m scouting for a whispered huddle in darkness behind iron doors but instead three people sit around a restaurant table to dialogue publicly. Serial killers and child rapists and human traffickers look like they might show up at my family reunion as Uncle Charlie and no one would bat an eye. I don’t want evil to look that way. I don’t want it to look ordinary, neighborly, inconspicuous. In other words, I don’t want evil to look like me.

One of the most frightening truths to embrace is that we are complicit in the atrocities of this world. We decry the horrific selfishness of the murder of unborn infants. We oppose all manner of societal evils. And we are right, indeed, duty bound, to do so and to continue doing so. Yes, by every godly means possible, let us labor and fight with unflagging zeal, with truth, with love, against injustice of every kind.

And as we do, let us also recognize that if we go far enough back, we’ll discover that the Deborah Nucatolas of this world are our sister. According to the Bible, we all have the same father and mother. And in this world, east of Eden, that parentage oozes sin from our inmost selves, at times graphic, at times prosaic, but always evil nonetheless. The human population is a family gone wrong. And still going wrong. And none of us are innocent.

In some ways I understand, and in other ways too profound for me to grasp, I have fed the flames of the ongoing corruption of the world. The ripple effect of my callousness, my self-absorption, my demand for preferential treatment, my glory-lust, my pride, my selfish ambition, my perversion of sexuality—the ripple effect of all these extends to my family and friends and often to complete strangers.

Let me give you an example. Last week, a delivery driver for one of my customers zipped in behind me and cut me off when I was backing up to their dock. I lost my cool. I was pissed off. So I confronted him inside the dock area. I told him, in no uncertain terms, just what I thought of his stupid, unsafe action. Unbeknownst to me, his boss was standing nearby. He took me aside and asked me what had happened. So I told him. And he said that he would take care of it.

Now what if that other driver had lost his job because I, in my anger, confronted him the way I did? And what if he stormed home to his wife and children, furious because he was fired. And he and his wife got into a screaming match, the children cowered behind their bedroom doors, and he slammed the door behind him to head to the local bar. And suppose he got wasted that night, climbed behind the wheel, and didn’t see the red light, nor the semi coming from the other direction. And the next day, after a long chain of events begun by my loss of temper, a man wound up in the morgue, his wife a widow, and their little children left with the final memory of their father being an angry, unemployed, embittered man.

This is far from an unrealistic possibility. This stuff happens. And it is but one tiny example of a world in which the web of evil is entirely connected at every juncture. As my friend, William Cwirla, put it on my Facebook page, “We’d like to rid the world of evil. But then, we’d have to rid the world of ourselves.” As long as we continue to sin, we feed the monster of a creation curved inward.

That is why, when I watched the video of the executive talk about harvesting body parts from aborted children, I not only thought, “This is horrific. This must be stopped. This must be exposed.” I also thought, “What have I done to help create a world in which these things happen? What evils have I done that have contributed to such evils within my human family? How have I failed, in love and compassion, to help my brothers and sisters who offer, procure, and even profit from abortions?” No matter how loudly I decry an evil in society, let me even more loudly decry the evils in my own soul.

Dexter Morgan talks about the dark passenger whom he cannot flee. I wish he were right. But that darkness is not a passenger; he’s behind the wheel. He’s within us. He has infiltrated every part of who we are. So as much as we lament abortion, let us lament our lack of love for the neighbor, our hatred for those who do us wrong, for all our aborted attempts to do good. As much as we lament rape, let us lament our perverted fantasies, our lustful desires, our abuse of others for our selfish satisfaction. As much as we lament racism, let us lament our inflated opinions of our own moral superiority to others.

The longer I stare into the face of evil in the world, the more clearly do I see the reflection of my own face. And the more clearly do I do see my need for Jesus Christ, who is the only hope for us all. In him we have forgiveness and in him we have peace. We also have love for our neighbor, who is our brother and sister. It is a love that calls us to confront evil of every form, beginning with the evil inside us and extending outward to all.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

christ alone cover

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

Even Heterosexuals Are Welcome at My Church

jesuswelcomesallHer story had all the makings of a modern medical nightmare. Not for one, not for two, but for twelve long years this woman had suffered from a hemorrhage. You don’t have to be a female to imagine how this condition would have defined her everyday existence, especially in a first century Jewish culture where such bleeding would have rendered her perpetually unclean. She had tried doctors. And what did they do? We’re told she “suffered much” from many of them (Mark 5:26). I don’t even want to know what that means. Use your imagination. And just like today, it’s not as if doctors collect a fee only if they cure you. No, you get charged an arm and a leg even if you stay sick, even if you die. So with her, she “had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.”

Finally, having exhausted every other option, she crafted this outrageous plan that bordered on sacrilege. Imagine if a prostitute, her body teeming with STDs, snuck into your church one Sunday morning through a back door, crawled in her miniskirt unseen behind the altar, reached up, dipped her finger in the chalice, and touched that sacred wine to her lips. And imagine if, at that very moment, she was discovered and stood, in all her unclean glory, before the pastor and congregation. That scenario, as shocking as it would be to us, is not as audacious as our friend’s plan was. This woman, who wouldn’t have even been allowed in the courts of God’s temple because she was ritually unclean, snuck up behind Jesus in a mass of people, and touched the hem of his garment. An unclean woman touched the holy, holy, holy God. If she’d made a wild dash into the temple’s inner sanctum, she wouldn’t have been closer to Yahweh than when she got her hands on Jesus.

What is even more astonishing is what happened next. I’m not talking about the fact that her hemorrhaging stopped. I’m not talking about the fact that Jesus felt power going out of him. No, the most astonishing part of this story is the Son of God’s response. He says, “Who touched me?” And when she comes forward, fearing and trembling, and tells him the whole truth, he says, “Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace, and be healed of your disease,” (5:34). He utters not one word of rebuke. He doesn’t go all fire-and-brimstone on her for daring to put her unholy hands on him. In other words, Jesus does what he always seems to be doing: he welcomes the outcast, embraces the pariah, and gladly and willingly pours into her his holy and healing love. What to others might seem sacrilege, to Jesus is just one more opportunity to exhibit his scandalous, transformative, sanctifying grace.

We can add this woman to the long list of others rejected by many but whom Jesus welcomed with open arms. The hated, traitorous tax collectors. The “sinful” women who sold sex to put food on the table. The woman nabbed in the act of adultery. Those with horrific skin diseases. The Gentiles. Indeed, Jesus says that he did “not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance,” (Luke 6:32). He invites the “weary and heavy laden” to come to him for rest (Matthew 11:28). He doesn’t travel around Israel looking for the right kind of people to believe. If anything, he seems to be calling to himself the wrong kind of people. Gathered around him are people with enough skeletons in their closet to stock a cemetery. They flock to him because they see in him what they never dared dream before: a God who has no qualms about sitting down in the gutter with you, a Savior who’s happy to have a prostitute weep on his feet and dry them with her hair, a Friend who’ll share a meal with the most infamous folks in the community.

The church that Jesus founded is where he’s still doling out this scandalous grace to everyone. There is no list on the front door that spells out the requirements for entrance. All are welcome: addicts, ex-cons, prostitutes and pimps; lawyers and politicians; the homeless and mentally ill; runaways and castaways; the LGBT community and the haters of gays. Amazingly, in his church Jesus even welcomes sinful heterosexuals, happily married couples, and—believe it or not—even religious leaders.

Jesus preaches the same message to all of them: repent and believe the Gospel. Leave behind a life that is a lie, the life in which you pretend you can be your own god, establish your own truths, earn your own way to heaven. You’re lost. You’re unclean. There is no hope for you inside of you. But there is abundance of hope in someone else. There is cleansing and forgiveness and peace and wholeness in the one who bleeds and dies for you. He will turn no one away. How could he? He died for them, one and all. His grace heals all wounds. His love welcomes all sinners.

christ alone coverWhat we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

Hollywood, Nashville, and the Lord’s Supper

Jubelnde Konzertbesucher auf Rock-KonzertThis past fall, Willie Nelson’s hair braids were sold at auction for $37,000. A tissue into which Scarlett Johansson blew her nose on the Tonight Show fetched $5,300 on eBay. And X-rays of Marilyn Monroe’s chest—just the X-rays, mind you—once brought in a whopping $45,000. If you’re lucky enough to be the proud owner of any item once worn or used by a celebrity—and the more intimate the better—then you’re sitting on a mountain of cash. People crave this stuff; and they’re certainly willing to open wide their wallets to add it to their collection.

I don’t know about you, but I like to think that I’m above all that celebrity worship nonsense. But I like to deceive myself about a whole host of other things, too. My home is right outside San Antonio, TX, not far from the stomping grounds of George Strait. I guarantee you that if I ran into George and he invited me over for a BBQ at his place, then I’d be a name-dropping, Facebook-boasting, Twitter-bragging fool for the next three months. Everybody I know—and probably total strangers—would get to hear all about how George and I drank a cold Shiner Bock together late one evening on his back porch in the Texas Hill Country.

What is that magnetism that pulls us toward celebrities? Why do people stand in mile-long lines, worm their way into throngs of people, or pay big money simply for the chance to rub shoulders with the famous? No doubt the motivations vary from individual to individual, but I would suggest that at the core of these motivations is the desire for intimacy with one we deem greater than ourselves. Such closeness, such confidentiality, one might even say such communion with a person exalted by fame or fortune makes us feel better about ourselves. It’s like we share a little in what they have. While we’re with them, we’re more “them” than “us.” Our identity, however briefly, migrates into the sphere of their identity. I am no longer just Chad; I am a guest, one might even say, a friend at George Strait’s table.

The Good Picture Behind the Warped Image

Many of the basic human desires that God formed within us have, like bent arrows, gone in directions the Creator never intended them to go. Hunger becomes gluttony, thirst becomes drunkenness, love becomes lust, worship becomes idolatry. Nevertheless, if we look behind the warped image that man has revised we find the good that God has devised. And that good is indicative of the gifts God gives, the people He has made us to be, and the image in us He wants to restore.

In the case of celebrity worship, behind the almost idolatrous fascination that some fans have with a person of fame, we discover a desire that, in and of itself, is not sinful. It is the desire to connect with one who is greater than we are. We feel small but they make us feel big; we feel unimportant, but our connection with them makes us feel like we matter, we have purpose. To be singled out by them, to take a seat at their table, invests our lives with a sense of worth and transcendence.

That hunger to connect with one who is greater than we are will be satisfied only in the one who created that hunger within us in the first place. We may look for it in people of power or fame or fortune, but they will all fail us because, in truth, they are pilgrims traveling the same road we are. The stars of Hollywood and Nashville are searching for the same goal. Like we are, they too are restless until they rest in the one who finally and perfectly completes them.

A Down-Below-Divinity

The reason we so easily miss the God who is greater than we are is because that great God comes in such an unexpectedly tiny, humdrum package. We are staring up at the stars while the star is pointing down to the no-account town of Bethlehem, to a baby that looks like every other baby. We are looking up for a big and awesome God while the little and humble God is looking up as well—only He looking up at us from down below, wanting us to turn our eyes downward. None of us are really near-sighted or far-sighted, we are all up-sighted. Our eyes scan the heavens for the great one while we’re blind to the great one humbly hiding within arms reach.

But I’m not just talking about Christmas and how easy it is to miss God since He comes into our world as a baby. He remains in our world, He remains active in our lives, as a down-below-divinity. You won’t find Him in heaven’s version of Hollywood glitz and glamour. You won’t find Him riding in limos and hounded by paparazzi. If you’re searching for a God with razzle-dazzle, who’ll knock your socks off with His cool awesomeness, then you’re in for a lifetime of deceptive disappointments. In this world, God is hidden in His opposite. He is cloaked in the simple, the down-to-earth, the seemingly boring and unawesome stuff of this world.

The Old Rugged Table

One place we find not only God, but intimacy with this one greater than ourselves, is at a table. The thing is, the table is kind of like that manger in Bethlehem or the old rugged cross. To the eye, there’s nothing attractive or awe-inspiring about it. In fact, on the surface it’s downright disappointing. A little bread, a sip of wine. Why, even when you invite your friends over, you might have bread on the table and wine in glasses, but along with them you serve ribeyes and baked potatoes and steamed vegetables with pecan pie for dessert. Not God. The great and powerful king of all creation puts bread and wine on His table. That’s all you get.

No, that seems like it’s all you get, but it’s not. Like in that rough and simple manger lay God hidden as a common newborn; like on that bloody and gruesome cross hung God hidden as a common criminal; so in this inconspicuous and everyday meal is God hidden in common food. In that bread He has placed His Son, Jesus, so that when you eat that bread you take the body of Jesus into you. When you sip the wine, you take His blood into you. The Lord almighty is swaddled in bread and wine, the old rugged cross becomes a table. And here, while eating and drinking, you receive intimacy with God above and beyond anything imaginable. He and you merge as one. You take Him into you even as He takes you into Himself.

The Meal That Tells Me Who I Am

This is a closeness, a confidentiality, a communion that does infinitely more than a friendship with George Strait could do for me. It does more than make me feel better about myself. This meal of God, with God, consuming God, establishes my identity. Much as the act of marriage means that a man and woman are now one flesh, so this meal means that I am now one flesh with God. I am bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh. My identity as Chad has been subsumed into His identity so that I can no longer understand myself except in connection with Him. I am a son of our Father. I am the brother of Jesus. I am part of the bride of Christ. And all these are not mere figures of speech but statements of reality. This is who I am, this is who you are, in God through Jesus Christ.

There’s no need to stand in mile-long lines, worm your way into throngs of people, or pay big money to achieve intimacy with one greater than you. Simply take and eat the body of Christ; take and drink the blood of Jesus. Here is the costliest treasure on earth given to you free of charge. It cost Jesus His life, but that life He gives to you gratis. And with that life, comes all that God is and all that you need.

Looking down at Jesus’ humble table, at His humdrum food, I see that as His guest I will be more than an admirer, closer than a friend. Since I will consume Him, it will be no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And that life in and of Christ gives me infinitely more than worth and transcendence; it gives me peace and wholeness and joy of such enduring quality that it spills over from this life into the life to come.

If you’d like to read more of my writings, please check out my two books: Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons and The Infant Priest: Hymns and Poems. Click here if you’d like to purchase Christ Alone or here for The Infant Priest. They are both also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you!

Honky-Tonk Baptism: Carrie Underwood’s “Something in the Water”

Listening to country music these days can feel an awful lot like you’re sitting on a tailgate, drinking a longneck, talking with rednecks about guns and girls and baptism. Yes, you read that right; I said baptism. Carrie Underwood’s newest hit single, “Something in the Water,” is a splash of musical liquid on the sawdust floor of Nashville.

There Must Be Something, or Nothing, in the Water?

bloodwaterThe lyrics lead us into the life of one who, late one night, is “all out of hope and all out of fight.” At the end of her rope, she recalls what someone had recently told her. He said that earlier in his life, he’d been where she’s at now, where “down every hallway’s a slamming door,” where there’s “no way out, no one to come and save me.” Then a friend told him what he’s telling her, “Just a little faith, it’ll all get better, so I followed that preacher man down to the river.” There, on her knees, in tears, she prays the only prayer she knows, “God, if you’re there, come and rescue me.” And He does. She’s “washed in the water, washed in the blood.” And now she’s changed, she’s stronger, because “there must be something in the water.”

Underwood is not trying to transform the jukebox into a pulpit; she’s not a theologian. She’s merely singing about a spiritual journey, as country music often does. But what I find refreshing and ironic about the song is that she ends up saying more about baptism than some preachers do.

One of the reasons this song resonates so strongly with me is because, like many Protestant churchgoers, I grew up hearing from the pulpit, and believing wholeheartedly, that there must be nothing in the water. Nothing but me and the preacher. The preacher did the dunking and I submitted to the act of watery obedience required by Jesus to show Him that I’m really serious about being His follower. In fact, because my baptism was a pledge of allegiance to Christ as Lord, when I failed miserably to keep that allegiance, I hit the repeat button and walked into the fountain a second time (read about that here). Still, even then, I believed there was really nothing in the water but a teenage boy recommitting his life to Christ. And had God not eventually revealed the truth to me—the sweetest, most beautiful truth imaginable—then I fear I’d have been baptized a million more times as I tried, and failed, to be the person God would be proud to call His disciple.

Mishearing the Bible’s Lyrics of Baptism

Have you ever thought you knew the lyrics to a well-known song, only to discover that you were mishearing them all along? Like hearing “‘scuse me while I kiss this guy” instead of “‘scuse me while I kiss the sky,” in Jimi Hendrix’ “Purple Haze.” Or, “reverend blue jeans” instead of “forever in blue jeans” in Neil Diamond’s song by the same title (for a laugh, watch this scene from King of Queens). Once you learn the right lyrics, you go back and listen to the song again, with a fresh set of ears, and you wonder how you ever misunderstood them!

That was basically me when I first listened to the biblical lyrics about baptism. The Scriptures say, “Baptism now saves you,” (1 Peter 3:21) but I misheard those words as, “Baptism now represents that you’re an obedient child of God.” Jesus says, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them,” (Matthew 28:18) but I heard “after you’ve made them disciples, then you baptize them to show their commitment to the faith.” Peter preaches, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children…,” (Acts 2:38-39), but all I heard were the first four words, “repent and be baptized.” I didn’t hear that we’re baptized for forgiveness, that baptism gives the Holy Spirit, that all—including children—are welcomed to the font. Paul writes, “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,” (Ephesians 5:25-26), but I heard “washing of water to symbolize me giving myself up for Christ.” When God was singing about baptism, He didn’t slur His words. He didn’t mumble. Each syllable was clear and crisp. The problem was not in His mouth but in my ears.

When the Holy Spirit finally gave me a fresh set of ears, I heard—really heard—what He’d been saying all along. Baptism really does save. It really gives the forgiveness of sins, life, the Holy Spirit, the whole salvation-shebang. Why? The last phrase from the Ephesians verse says it all: because it’s the “washing of water with the word.” Baptism is God’s word-washing. As Carrie sings, “there must be something in the water.” And she’s right. There indeed is: the word is in the water.

Do you mean the word by which God made the heavens and the earth?
Yes, the same word.
Do you mean the word by which He still upholds all things?
Yes, that very word.
Do you mean the word by which Jesus spoke healing to the lame, sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and life to the Lazaruses of this world?
Yes, that healing, vivifying word is in the water.
And do you also mean the word which was in the beginning, the word that was with God, the word that was God, the word which became flesh and dwelt among us?
Yes, the incarnate word, Jesus Christ, is in the water, too.

Jesus Puts Himself into the Water

baptismThere must be something in the water of baptism—and someone. And both are truly the same. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was baptized to put Himself into the water, in order that when you’re baptized He might put you into Himself. He Himself was baptized in that river, but you might also say that He christened the water, too. All rivers and streams and oceans and little pools of font water everywhere became fit meeting places between Him and you. At every baptism, the Lord of all is in the water to give all of Himself to you. He who made the heavens and the earth remakes you into a new creature. He who uphold all things holds you up like a newborn naked baby to the excited chatter of angels. He who spoke healing to the lame, blind, deaf, and dead, heals and enlivens you in this holy word-washing. And He who is the word made flesh, makes your flesh part of His through His word. You become of Him, as He became of you.

There must be something in the water that does such great things. And there is. You’re there, the Father’s there, the Son’s there, the Spirit’s there. You’re washed in the water, washed in the blood, the water and blood that streamed from Jesus’ side on the day He died for you.

And there’s no better place to be.

P.S. I borrowed the idea for the title of this post from the book, Honky-Tonk Gospel: The Story of Sin and Salvation in Country Music, by Gene Veith and Thomas Wilmeth.

If you’d like to read more of my writings, please check out my two books: Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons and The Infant Priest: Hymns and Poems. Click here if you’d like to purchase Christ Alone or here for The Infant Priest. They are both also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (or here on Kindle). Thank you!

I Am Not Unbroken

zamperiniThanks to the book, Unbroken, and the newly released movie by the same title, the amazing life of Louie Zamperini has been shared with millions. His gifted storyteller, Laura Hillenbrand, takes us through his rebellious boyhood years, his breathtaking run in the 1936 Olympics, his torments in a Japanese POW camp, and his continued struggles with PTSD and alcoholism after his liberation and return stateside. His is a story that needs to be told and retold. As Hillenbrand says, “It is a tale of daring, defiance, persistence, ingenuity, and the ferocious will of a man who refused to be broken.”

Only it isn’t.

Louie Zamperini was not unbroken. He was broken by the 47 days he spent adrift at sea in a lifeboat. He was broken by the sadistic head of the POW camp. He was a broken soldier when he stepped foot back on American soil. He and his wife, Cynthia, were in a broken marriage on the cusp of divorce. He was broken by nightmares of combat and imprisonment and torture. He was broken by the bottle, by an inability to escape his past. And he was broken the night he reluctantly attended a Billy Graham crusade.

On that night, this broken man heard the story of a God who specializes in broken men. The God who will not turn away from a broken and contrite heart—indeed, of a God for whom the best sacrifice is a broken spirit (Ps 51:17). Louie heard of the God who took up permanent residence in our broken world—a world fissured through and through with pain and despair and meanness and selfishness, a world of wars and POW camps and sadists and their victims, a world scarred beyond recognition. To this broken world God came in the person of His Son to bring healing and wholeness to broken people like Louie. And like me and you and all others who walk around carrying in our palms the shards of shattered lives.

I am not unbroken. Indeed, I needed breaking. So God broke me. I thought I had it all together. I had my life figured out. Even though outwardly I was serving God, inwardly I served only the god named Ego. My heart was the shrine at which I bowed the knee. So the Lord of truth let the lord of the lie have his way with me. And down I went. A piece here, a piece there, a Humpty Dumpty mess of man lying fractured on the floor. No man could put me back together, especially me. I was one more broken man in a broken world full of broken people. And I was precisely where God wanted me to be.

He came to me as He came to Louie. He came in the most amazing story ever told. The story of a God who loves broken men back into wholeness. Jesus went around picking up the pieces of me to put them back together. Matching this shard to that shard. Gluing me back together with the adhesive of His blood. But that blood, shed on the cross, did more than adhere. It recreated me. It turned my broken heart of stone into a restored heart of flesh, pumped full of blood that emptied from the broken body of Jesus on the cross. He did more than put me back together; He put me into a new body, His own body, the body of Christ. He reformed me as one who bears His image. He made me, literally, into a new man. So radical is this change that it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me, and I who live in Christ.

God took our pain personally. He suffered for us, with us, because of us. So great is His love that He will follow us into the POW camps; into the squalid backstreets where drugs are cheap and sex is cheaper; into marriages rocked by divorce and punctuated by fights; into the hellish conditions of a world addicted to evil in ever increasing proportions. God will hound us wherever we go, find us wherever we are, and reach down deep to pick us up and carry us home. His mission is your salvation. His mission is to put you back together in Jesus Christ. And He won’t rest until it’s done.

We are not unbroken. We are broken and restored. We are dead and now alive, for we are the ones for whom God was willing to move heaven and earth to make us whole again. That is not only Louie Zamperini’s story. It is ours.

If you’d like to read more of my writings, please check out my two books: Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons and The Infant Priest: Hymns and Poems. Click here if you’d like to purchase Christ Alone or here for The Infant Priest. They are both also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing. Thank you!

Dream Small: The Joy of an Unaccomplished Life

dream-smallWe were probably watching cartoons, or sitting in a Kindergarten class, the first time we were urged to live a life defined by accomplishments. It begins early, this cultural indoctrination. We are told to live life in such a way that each chapter in our biography is something to boast about: “Chad’s Football Team Wins State,” “Chad Graduates with Honors,” “Chad Lands a Job with a Fortune 500 Company,” “Chad Promoted to Management,” and so forth. Whatever path you follow, you are told to dream big, to be all that you can be, to earn trophies that serve as icons of what’s made your life a life worth living.

None of these accomplishments come easy, or without sacrifices. When I was working toward my Ph.D., I spent four days a week apart from my family. And when I was home, I was present in body but absent in mind, always thinking about the next paper I had to write, the next book I had to read. If you’re moving up the corporate ladder, saying no to upper management is not an option, even if that means you miss your daughter’s dance recital or your son’s playoff game to attend yet another meeting or close yet another deal. To fulfill that dream of hearing your song on the radio, or playing for a professional team, or becoming a tenured professor, plan on losing lots of sleep, lots of family time, lots of little moments along the way that all add up to a substantial part of your life.

In the end, you’ll have your degree, your career, your celebrity status, or your six figure income. Your big dreams will come true. You will be an accomplished person, so it’ll all be worth it. Or will it?

The answer to that question depends on what you want to define your life. There was a time when I would have said, “Yes, by all means, the sacrifices are all worth it.” But that was a time when I was blind to how much I was missing. If I could rewind my life, and go back twenty years, I would dream small and relish the joys of an unaccomplished life.

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life,” St. Paul urges (1 Thess 4:11) in what is arguably one of the most un-American verses in all the New Testament. Those words have become almost a mantra for me. I must say them over and over to silence the lifelong indoctrination I have received from a culture that worships those who do big things and urges us all to do the same. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” These words are, I believe, a call for a radical reorientation of our lives away from dreaming big to dreaming small.

To lead a quiet life doesn’t mean that you lower your expectations as much as you lower your gaze. Instead of looking up to the next accomplishment, the next rung on the ladder, you look down at the daily life you live, the children God has given you, the spouse by your side, your aging parents, your dear friends, the poor and needy—all those “little things” you miss when you’re always looking up to the “next big thing” in your life.

I am forty four years old this year. The first half of my adult life was spent dreaming big, acquiring trophies that now gather dust and serve as nothing more than icons of lost loves and lost years. I can’t get those years back. I can’t undo the damage my ambition caused. But I can make it my ambition to lead a quiet life from now on.

I will seek joy, and find it, in those little moments that add up to a lifetime. I hope and pray you do the same.

ChristAloneCoverIf you enjoyed this reflection, please take a moment to check out my new book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons. This is not a collection of feel-good, saccharine devotional material. It’s hard-hitting, Gospel-giving, Christ-focused writing that takes you to the cross of Jesus again and again as the only source of healing for us. Purchase your copy by clicking on CreateSpace or Amazon. And thank you!

InfantPriestfrontcoverThe poems and hymns in my book, The Infant Priest, give voice to the triumphs and tragedies of life in a broken world. Here there is praise of the crucified and risen Christ, dark lamentation of a penitent wrestling with despair, meditations upon the life of our Lord, thanksgiving for family, and much more. If you’d like to purchase a copy, you may do so at this website or on Amazon.com.  Thank you!

The Church of Regal Entertainment: Does Where We Worship Matter?

“I’m gonna hire a wino to decorate our home….” So begins an old country song. Fed up with her husband perched on a bar stool every evening, drinking away his paycheck, then stumbling home three sheets to the wind, this resourceful wife decides to transform their home into a bar. So she hires an alcoholic to assist with the redecoration. They take out the dining room table to make room for the bar. She hangs a neon sign that points the way to the bathroom. Her husband and his buddies can cash their paychecks at the house, and while they’re sleeping off the booze the next morning she’ll deposit the money in the bank

Her whole strategy is summed in the chorus, “I’m gonna hire a wino to decorate our home, so you’ll feel more at ease here and you won’t have to roam…” If she erases the boundaries between home and bar, her husband will feel comfortable, his friends will feel welcome, and she’ll have money in the bank. She will make some sacrifices, but since she’ll regain her husband, it’ll all be worth it.

To Decorate or to Destroy?

But will it be worth it? And will she really regain her husband? The truth is that she hasn’t really made the bar and home equal; the bar wears the pants in that family now. The pub culture, which her husband loves, in which he feels comfortable, has much more control over his thinking, his actions, and his heart, than does the culture of his home. She sacrifices the intimacy of their household in a failed attempt to win back her husband. And, yes, she’ll have him there, but in a space that does nothing more than perpetuate the very lifestyle that is wrecking her home and marriage. Her intentions may be golden, but she’s doing nothing more than enabling his beer-guzzling, family-avoiding lifestyle. She hasn’t so much hired a wino to decorate their home as to destroy their home—to destroy any chance it might be a place where that man is transformed back into the husband he needs to be.

I’m Gonna Hire a Theological Wino to Decorate Our Church

The wife in this old country song bears a strong resemblance to lady church in many parts of America. She is motivated by the desire to connect with people who don’t feel at ease sitting in a pew, surrounded by stained glass, the cross of Jesus sitting atop the altar. They’re not comfortable with organ music, sermons preached from pulpits, songs sung from hymnals. Where are they at ease? In a movie theatre, or a sports stadium, or a bar. They are comfortable jamming to a band full of drums and steel guitars, listening to comedians and other entertainers, and hearing soloists or groups sing to them during concerts. They can kick back with a cup of Starbucks in their hands, wearing their favorite blue jeans, reclining in stadium seats with a big screen in front of them. So lady church hires the equivalent of a theological wino to decorate her church home, so these people will feel more at ease.

Worship in a Movie Theatre

Movie Theatre ChurchFor instance, Regal Entertainment Group offers churches the option of renting one of their theatres for worship services. In their ad, they boast that “clients have even said that holding their services in a theatre was a no-brainer for them because they wanted to reach the unchurched and the theatre was in a familiar, culturally relevant place.” Besides the perks of “ample parking, spacious lobbies, plenty of bathrooms” there is the “perfect view of the screen from a comfortable seat (cup holders included!).” And, of course, they add that “there’s no more powerful way to share your message.”

Yes, but what powerful message is really being shared? What message is the church communicating that chooses a movie theatre for its worship space? Or what message, for instance, is Joel Osteen’s congregation communicating when it chooses a former sports stadium for its gathering space? It’s the same type of message that the frustrated wife in our country song is communicating. Only in the case of lady church, it is this: the church does not have a message that is radically different from that of the world. It is not so radically different as to require a radically different space in which to communicate it. It is a comfortable, entertaining, non-life-altering message. The Gospel is as American as apple pie, Chevrolet, and Regal Cinemas.

Only it’s not. The Gospel is a radical message. It is as contrary to the ways and thoughts of the world as a home is to a bar, as a temple is to a theatre. And because of that, the church where this Gospel is preached dare not ape the architecture of the world. If she does, if she transforms the church into a theatre of entertainment, then she will teach the world that the Gospel is about titillation, feeling good, kicking back and being comfortable.

Holy Worship of a Holy God in a Holy Place

As the Old Testament tabernacle and temple were, so the New Testament church is: a holy place where the holy God dwells to meet with His holy people. I want to feel uncomfortable in church. I want my family and friends and fellow worshipers not to feel at ease, but to feel in awe when they enter the sanctuary of God. I want them to exclaim, as did Jacob, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven,” (Gen 28:17). I don’t want them to say, “How cool is this place! This is none other than the theatre where I watched ‘Annabelle’ last week, and here’s the cup holder where I put my Dr. Pepper while I ate popcorn.”

The church is a place of radical transformation. God meets with His people in this place to speak a law to them that reveals their selfishness, the bad man in all of them, the death that lurks within them. And through that law He kills. He puts them to the death of repentance in order that He might resurrect them through the good news of Jesus Christ. In Him they are not made comfortable and at ease, but are changed. They are made alive, truly alive, in the Son of God who loves them, who gave up His life for their own, who burst forth from the grace triumphant over death. That resurrection proclamation is transformative. It makes living saints out of dead sinners. It gives hope and healing to the wounded and bleeding.

Yes, of course, mission congregations often gather in spaces that are less than ideal. But I pray that even then they choose as neutral a space as possible for their temporary sanctuary, and transform that room or building on Sunday morning into as church-like a setting as possible. Why? Because the architecture, the furnishings, and the decorations of the church are not peripheral to this message. They too preach Christ. Stained glass and icons preach in color and symbol the good news of Jesus. Crosses and crucifixes focus the viewer on the heart of the church’s message of Christ crucified for you. The altar and communion rail beckon the worshiper to the feast of Jesus’ forgiving flesh and vivifying blood. Incense proclaims to our sense of smell the pleasing aroma of Jesus’ sacrifice and the rising smoke visually portrays our prayers that rise to heaven’s throne of grace. Pulpits and altars root the believers in the divine Word that comes down from heaven to feed our souls with words of truth. All together, architecture, sacred furnishings, and holy décor proclaim the Christ who radically transforms us into the children of God, citizens not of this world but a divine kingdom, worshipers who experience heaven on earth every Sunday morning.

You like to drink beer? Fine, enjoy a pint at the pub. You like to watch movies? Me too, so let’s go to the theatre. But when we’re meeting God face-to-face, leave the beer and the popcorn outside, for that place of divine encounter is none other than the house of God, the gate of heaven, the church of Jesus Christ.

ChristAloneCoverIf you enjoyed this reflection, please take a moment to check out my new book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons. This is not a collection of feel-good, saccharine devotional material. It’s hard-hitting, Gospel-giving, Christ-focused writing that takes you to the cross of Jesus again and again as the only source of healing for us. Purchase your copy by clicking on CreateSpace or Amazon. And thank you!

InfantPriestfrontcoverThe poems and hymns in my book, The Infant Priest, give voice to the triumphs and tragedies of life in a broken world. Here there is praise of the crucified and risen Christ, dark lamentation of a penitent wrestling with despair, meditations upon the life of our Lord, thanksgiving for family, and much more. If you’d like to purchase a copy, you may do so at this website or on Amazon.com.  Thank you!

Post Navigation