My Sesame Street Lunchbox and Your Faith

You can restore my childhood by purchasing this (http://ebay.to/17COjrB)
You can restore my childhood by purchasing me this (http://ebay.to/17COjrB)

I would imagine that most of you are familiar with the elementary school practice of “show and tell.”  Each child brings an item from home, they stand in front of the class and they tell their classmates about that item.  The only “show and tell” experience that I remember clearly  happened during kindergarten.

I was five years old and I brought my yellow Sesame Street lunchbox.  I loved my Sesame Street lunchbox.  When I would get home from school, my mom would fix my lunch, put it in my lunchbox, and my little brother and I would have a picnic almost every day.  It was one of my favorite things!  So I brought it to class, stood in front of my classmates, and told them all about my yellow lunchbox.

Later, as everyone was getting ready to leave for the day, two little boys walked over to graciously inform me that Sesame Street was for babies and it was stupid that I had brought my lunchbox for “show and tell.”

Experiences like that make us afraid to share.  They make us afraid to show people how we really feel—what we really think.  It makes us afraid of risk and transparency.  I don’t know if you experienced that in kindergarten or in junior high, but once we’ve reached adulthood many of us become very hesitant to really let our inner thoughts and feelings out into the open, lest we “show and tell” and are subsequently ridiculed for what we have shown and told.

Where am I going with this?  “Show and tell” is really what sharing the Gospel is all about.  We tell other people what we have experienced—what we believe—what we value.  We “show and tell” what Jesus has done for us.

Nobody is going to be fought or argued into the Kingdom of God.  But if we’re afraid to “show and tell”—if we’re afraid of how people are going to respond—then they’re not going to make it into the Kingdom of God then either.  So we can’t argue them in—and we can’t keep silent.  So what do we do?  When your neighbor blasphemes, show and tell what Jesus has done for you!  Yes, they may scoff.  Yes, they may tell you that your views are primitive and silly and damaging.  They may tell you that your favorite thing is stupid and for little kids.  But who cares?

This is life or death business here, one that every one of us should be praying about and considering, to prepare ourselves to show and tell what Jesus has done for us.

Do you find it easier that you don’t have to argue someone into God’s Kingdom?  Or is it harder to be honest and make yourself vulnerable?  Sound off in the comments below!

This is an excerpt from last Sunday’s sermon at Faith Presbyterian Church in Covington, LA.  For more, listen here or subscribe to our podcast here.

Jesus, Celebrity Atheists, and Picking Your Battles

Picture by Joe (http://bit.ly/1vvQDWq)
Picture by Joe (http://bit.ly/1vvQDWq)

People around the world disbelieve in the divinity of Jesus.  But you are not responsible to engage every one of them with the news of the Gospel.  No, you are responsible to engage the ones near you.

Why did Jesus engage the blasphemous people in Matthew chapter 9?  Jesus engaged with those men, (1) because He was near them and (2) because they engaged Him first.

Jesus didn’t write letters to the editor about the blasphemous article last week.  He didn’t decry the latest PBS documentary with Facebook posts.  No, He dealt with the people nearby.
And even then, He didn’t go door-to-door looking for blasphemers under every rock.  He waited until they made themselves known and then He interacted with them.  Here’s my point:

People around the world disbelieve in the divinity of Jesus, but it’s not our job to go hunting them down or to go after the big targets.

  It’s very unlikely that God has called you to convert the heart of Stephen Hawking or Neil deGrasse Tyson or whoever the celebrity atheist is this week.  Jesus didn’t bother with those guys!  He engaged those near Him who engaged Him first.

So if you have people you love who disbelieve in Jesus, you’ll want to engage with them.  That actually makes sense.  You already care for their hearts—you care for their souls and their futures.  So it makes sense you’d engage them.  This means family members, coworkers, next-door neighbors, friends.

If those people don’t believe that Jesus is God—that He came to save the world—and that He proved it with His miraculous power—if those close to you don’t believe, then YES you do engage them!  Basically, we’re talking about those whom the Bible call your “neighbors.  They’re near you physically and/or relationally.

How have you found yourself caught in this cycle of wanting to respond to public unbelief?  How did it work out?  Sound off in the comments below!

This is an excerpt from last Sunday’s sermon at Faith Presbyterian Church in Covington, LA.  For more, listen here or subscribe to our podcast here.

What Is Jesus’ Perspective On Your Suffering?

Used with permission from http://bit.ly/1zjlt9H
Used with permission from http://bit.ly/1zjlt9H

Jesus has an extraordinary perspective on suffering–even on our own very personal suffering.

Well, how could He know what I’m going through right now?  He knows, because He felt your pain on the cross.  On the cross, He took the burden of your sin.  He felt the weight of your heartbreak and your pain, physically, emotionally, relationally.  He endured it all on that dark day that we call Good Friday.  Jesus understands your suffering.

But not only that, He suffers with you.  He is no detached Lord who watches us from afar, thinking, “One day, they’ll understand.”  What happened when Lazarus died and his sisters wept?  Even though Jesus knew that Lazarus would soon be raised from the dead to the glory of God—even though He had that eternal perspective, what did Jesus do?  He wept with them.

When you weep, He weeps with you.  When you hurt, He hurts with you.  He does not abandon us in our suffering, but He walks the road of suffering with us.

So when you suffer, unburden yourself to Jesus.  He understands, He cares, and He hurts with you.

Yet the news of the Gospel urges us to take one more step forward to this part of His perspective: Jesus’ suffering guarantees that our suffering will eventually end.  By bearing the brunt of our sin and suffering, Jesus has undone the eternal grip of suffering on our bodies and our souls.  By dying and being raised from the dead, Jesus has broken the stronghold that suffering had on you.

Your suffering will not last, because Jesus has promised to make all things right through His suffering.  So just because He chooses to allow your suffering right now—it doesn’t mean that it will never end.

How does this thought strike you?  How have you come to terms with it?  Share your thoughts below.

This is an excerpt from last Sunday’s sermon at Faith Presbyterian Church in Covington, LA.  For more, listen here or subscribe to our podcast here.

Is Jesus Willing to Change You?

A man with leprosy came and knelt before [Jesus] and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” (Matthew 8:2)

This man comes to Jesus with faith.  He comes to Jesus in obedience.  Yet he comes lacking hope.

If you’re willing, you can make me clean.  That’s not hope talking.  That’s hopelessness talking!

That’s saying, “I’ve been stuck in this cycle of unhealth and brokenness.  And I don’t know if Jesus wants to save me from it.”  That’s not hope.

Hope is coming to Jesus expecting not only that He is able to change your life, but that He is also willing to do it.  Hear this:

Jesus is willing to help you grow in obedience.

Jesus is willing to help you grow closer to God.

Jesus is willing to make you into the man or woman that He wants you to be.

Jesus is willing to reconstruct your life and your relationships and to put you on a better path.

He is willing!  Hope believes that.

This is an excerpt from last Sunday’s sermon at Faith Presbyterian Church in Covington, LA.  For more, listen here or subscribe to our podcast here.

Hoping for Others What You Hope For Yourself

The work of the Church is not to build herself up, but to make much of Christ and His Gospel.

Do you expect big things from God?

Do you expect Him to convert hearts that hate and revile Him?

Do you expect Him to change the people that you least love?

Do you expect Him to change the world—to bring justice where there is injustice, to bring peace where there is unrest, to bring healing where there is sickness?

Because that’s what the Gospel promises.  If you’ve seen it in your life, do you expect it to continue?  And do you expect it in the lives of others?

Remember God’s end game.  He’s not trying to get a few of us to heaven.  He’s taking over the whole world one person and one family at a time.

So let’s start hoping like it.

This is an excerpt from last Sunday’s sermon at Faith Presbyterian Church in Covington, LA.  For more, listen here or subscribe to our podcast here.

You Are Not Alone In Your Exclusion

On the cross, Jesus cried out a mystifying question: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

A question worth considering!  Why did God allow His only Son to die in disgrace?

The answer is this: God forsook Jesus for us.

The Father’s love for you was so great that He traded His only Son for you.

Jesus was excluded, so that you might be included.  Jesus was killed, that you might live.  Your sin was given to Jesus and everything that was His in His humanity became yours through faith: His righteousness, His place in His Father’s family, His glory.

You inherit all of this by believing that His death was sufficient for you.

Through His own exclusion, Jesus has accomplished your inclusion in God’s family.  You no longer have to fear God.  God is no longer far from you.  Your heavenly Father loves you.  And why?  Because of the work of Jesus alone.

This is an excerpt from last Sunday’s sermon at Faith Presbyterian Church in Covington, LA.  For more, listen here or subscribe to our podcast here.

Why Racism is a Sin Worth Repenting

I grew up in Memphis, TN, where Rev. King was shot and killed.  While I can’t blame my hometown for my own struggle with racism, I can say that I was surrounded by racism in that place.  Friends would joke on Martin Luther King Jr. Day that it was “James Earl Ray Day.”  And I would laugh.  When I lived there, racial prejudice toward people of color was palpable.

Since that time, I’ve lived in several other places around the country.  But the one that exposed my racism most was Birmingham, AL.  While visiting the Civil Rights Museum there, I remember walking through exhibit after exhibit–seeing how people like me had caused such atrocities against black men, women, boys, and girls–and I felt a great weight.

That weight was not white guilt.  It was not feeling bad for the sins of my hometown.  It was not me atoning for slave-owning forefathers.  That weight was conviction for my own sin.  The foolish laughs, the angry words, the judging thoughts.  There in Birmingham my sin was exposed.

I was reminded of all this today, as I was reading Romans chapter 3.  The apostle Paul said this:

Is God the God of Jews only?  Is he not the God of Gentiles also?  Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one…

That phrase “of Jews only” really jumped out at me.  We’ve all seen the signs (if only in museums) that were placed by water fountains and restrooms that read the exact same way.  What is Paul getting at here about God and about race?

Yahweh, the God of Israel, is One.  His love extends equally across every racial and cultural divide.  And when we transgress that tenet of His character, it is sin.  It is an offense to God to speak against, to deride, and to fail to love those whom He loves.  In Birmingham, I first realized my sin.  Today, I continue to see it exposed.  And so I continue to grieve my sins of racism today.  And at the same time, I celebrate the grace of Christ that is enabling me to overcome my sin.

Why is racism a sin worth repenting of?  Here’s the reason:

God loves.  He loves with no attention to racial and cultural barriers.  And He wants us to love in the same way.  Through the Gospel of Jesus, He seeks to undo racism, bringing Jew and Gentile, black and white together into one family.  This is His desire and it should be ours too.

I hope you consider these things deeply today.

And for what it’s worth, if you know very little about Martin Luther King, Jr., I’d strongly recommend this book to you.  It’s been a real encouragement to me in the last several years.