A Confusing Jesus and Learning from Women

But (Jesus’ parents) did not understand what he said to them. Luke 2:50

I woke up especially early, got dressed, made myself a hot cup of coffee, kissed my sleeping wife on the cheek, and walked out into the pre-dawn morning. I remembered that the shore to the Sea of Galilee was about a hundred yards down from our hotel room and started walking that way. With my journal and Bible, I made my way down to the shore. I stopped and grabbed a plastic chair and continued.

Sea of Galilee Lectio Divina

I sat the chair down and opened my Bible to Luke chapter five where Jesus called his first disciples from a boat on the sea in front of me. I could hear the waves gently lap against the shore. The morning breeze rustled the tall reeds beside the shore. The air was warm and moist. The sun started to paint the eastern sky a pastel pink. It was a once in a lifetime moment.

After I read the story, I opened my journal and began to scribble the scene I just described to you when I felt a familiar irritating sting on my arm. I looked down and saw a mosquito swelling with my red blood.

And, honestly, my first thought was, “Really, Jesus? Did they dare bite you when you walked these very shores? Did you ever slap one and kill it? Or did you let it, and its kin, just poke you full of holes like a pin cushion? Why did you create these things?”

My irritation was small that morning but, if I’m being honest, my confusion about Jesus was real.

I have some confusion when it comes to Jesus. From mosquitos to tsunamis. From pain and suffering to the age of the universe. If the universe is really only 6,000 years old, why did he make it look so old that it confuses the scientific community? Does he really not want women to speak in Church?

Do you ever find yourself completely baffled by Jesus?

My wife, Lynette, recently applied for a teaching position in the very school she had a long-term sub assignment for ninety percent of the school year. She was very hopeful that because of her working with the team that would interview her and decide whether to invite her to work fulltime with them she might have a reasonable shot.

She interviewed and was turned down.

Not going to lie, that hurt her. It hurt me, too. I prayed that Jesus would give her that job, not so much for the job, but so that she would not feel the rejection from the very people that she worked side-by-side with for months and months.

I remember we both sat in her car and commiserated for about forty-five minutes. All kinds of questions floated to the surface of our conversation. Questions of identity for her. Questions of if God was punishing us. Questions of why God seemed to be withholding financial, healthcare, sense of purpose, and dignity from Lynette.

We were hurting.

It felt like Jesus was letting us down. Of course, our heads knew better. Of course, our history together with Jesus for nearly forty years would tell us differently. But our hearts were hurting in that red car in front of our house.

What do we do with this hurt? We keep putting our trust in the Jesus that confuses us. That’s what Lynette does, and that’s what I am going to do too.

I love the story where Jesus and the disciples are in the boat and a storm comes up threatening to swamp the boat and yet Jesus is sound asleep. They say, “Jesus, don’t you care that we are all going to die?”

Jesus rubs his sleepy eyes and groggily says, “Where’s your faith?”

One writer pointed out that they weren’t thinking clearly. They already knew enough about Jesus to know better than to be this afraid, but they weren’t using the faith that they already possessed. See, their premise was that if Jesus loved them, he wouldn’t let storms happen to them.

They should have known by this point in their walk with Jesus that he did love them. And, of course, if they don’t feel loved by Jesus then it can only mean that they are not loved by Jesus, right?

I am learning something my friend Timothy Moore told me years ago, “Feelings are damned liars. Enjoy them when you can, but never trust them.”

I find some comfort in the knowledge that I am not the only person that has ever been confused by God. Mary and Joseph were puzzled that twelve-year-old Jesus would linger in the Temple while they went home to Nazareth—pushing them into a panic. The disciples that spent 24/7 with Jesus for three years were so often confused by Jesus I don’t have time to list them here. Paul couldn’t understand why his infamous thorn in the side was never removed.

And if you look through the foliage of the Garden in Gethsemane you would see Jesus wrestling mightily with the thought of the cross and you might wonder if Jesus was baffled by God when he asked for the cup to pass from him.

When Mary was scolded by the twelve-year-old Jesus for wondering where he was and causing her to worry herself to death, Luke tells us,

“His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.”

Mary reminds me that it is natural to be confused by Jesus. But she also teaches me that if I would treasure the Jesus that confuses me in my heart, he will grow inside me. And if I do that long enough in this life, then there will come a time when, perhaps, mosquitos will fly away from feasting on my blood singing,

There is power, power, wonder-working power
In the blood of the Lamb
There is power, power, wonder-working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb

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Seashell Radio

I’ve only read the occasional quote by Rachel Held Evans. I’m not familiar with her work in a personal way. I’ve been attracted to other writers since she became popular. But her tragic death this past weekend and the visceral reaction from both friends and enemies on social media has been mind-blowing, to say the least.

There was something about her that is reflected in the way her friends and fans talk about her that makes me wonder and curious. She had no shortage of critics from my tribe on the right. But her impact was and is unmistakable. I am curious about what she has to say. In fact, sometimes I read authors based, not on their work, but on their critics. For instance, I will read almost anyone that John MacArthur tells me not to read or says is a heretic. That says a lot about me, I realize.

(I always test to see if the sign that says “Wet Paint: Do Not Touch” is telling the truth, by the way.)

We live in a strange world in which there are theological brownshirts that will come knocking on your door and tell you that the person you are reading or quoting is not on the approved reading list. I usually find that mildly irritating—a pebble in my shoe kind of thing. But it has been happening a little more frequently to me lately and it makes me wonder if we are drifting into a spiritual dystopian age.

I had a dream one time in which I was given an office in a bookstore and told I could write about anything I wanted and they would promote it on their bookshelves. Even offered to give me an endcap. So, I wrote and wrote and wrote and when I handed it to them they were so sweet and kind and appreciative. They asked me to write some more books. So, I did. Book after book. I gave it to them and they smiled, thanked me and asked me to write more.

One day I took a break from writing and was wanting to check on a quote I wanted to use in one of my upcoming works so I went out into the stacks to find the book. I walked by the section where my books should have been on display. The endcap was empty.

I asked the manager about my books and he smiled sweetly and said that they were wonderful books and that I should write more but that they would never be on the shelves of this store. I asked why and he said, “You believe the earth is round and everyone knows that it is flat. We wouldn’t want your doctrine to corrupt our readers and patrons.”

“Well, I will leave then, ” I said.

I stomped to the front door and found that it was locked. I asked about that. And the manager said, “You must stay here and write books. You can write about anything you want.” He smiled sweetly and escorted me to my writing cubicle.

“Is this a Phillip Dick story?” I asked.

“No. This is a Christian Bookstore,” he said sweetly.

Do I stay in that bookstore, make a deal with the devil and write in such a way as to get my books on the shelves? Or do I take my little geologists hammer and begin to dig a tunnel and hide it behind a poster of Henri Nouwen and break out of that prison where I can write whatever would warm a wandering soul to the love of God?

Perhaps if I read a Rachel Held Evans book she will show me the way.

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The Book that We Love

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. – Saint John

It has been said that 125 people died for every word of Hitler’s Mein Kampf in WWII. It is a thick book of 720 pages. Words can kill.

I remember what a coach said to me about my body when I was a boy that caused me to be insecure until this day. Words can scar.

A President can give a speech that causes the stock market to soar or tank. A dictator can boast of weapons of mass destruction and war is the result. Words can influence.

A poem written on a napkin and slid across the table can make a heart warm and eyes brim. Words can move us.

I have a note written by my oldest son taped inside my Bible that he sent me on pastor appreciation day many years ago. Every time I read them, my eyes leak. Words can be treasured.

I love words.

I read the little bird tracks across paper, I write them longhand in my journal, and I type them on this computer. I listen to them intoned by a professionally trained actor as he or she reads someone else’s words. I speak them every Sunday morning. I listen to them every day in coffee houses around where I live.

I love words. I love listening to them in a song from a lover or protester. Words can be a salve for a wounded heart.

Words can transport me to another planet when I read C.S. Lewis’ science fiction classic Perelandra. Or, thanks to Larry McMurtry, I can find myself in a dusty border town in Texas called Lonesome Dove. I can laugh at the outrageous characters dreamed up by Flannery O’Connor or feel a tear tracked its way down my cheek at the last scene of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

In so many ways words are my world.

But no words—written or spoken by great authors—compare with the Word of God to bring lasting change to the culture, guidance to a government, or gentle encouragement to a frightened heart.

My wife and I visited an elderly saint in our Church who had broken her hip and was in the hospital. Her daughter was by her side and waved us in.

We washed our hands, walked in, and when this octogenarian saw me, she raised her spindly arms up, tethered with tubes, as if a small child wanting to be picked up and held. I took her knobby hands in mine and assured her of the prayer support of her church family.

Her chest moved up and down with a deep guttural rasp. Every exhale was loud and labored. There was a wild look of concern her eyes; the look you might expect from someone who was uncertain about their next breath.

Her daughter asked if I had a Bible. I felt a rise of embarrassment flush my face and shook my head.

“She’s been asking for a Bible and the hospital staff couldn’t find one. Mom wants to read the twenty-third Psalm,” her daughter said.

“Well, I think I might be able to recite most of it,” I said with more confidence than I had any right to possess.

I put my right hand on her warm forehead and held her hand left hand and began to recite, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

The precious saint closed her eyes and her breathing slowed. I continued, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul…”

Her breathing was as gentle as a baby’s now. I looked at her daughter and tears were streaming down her face.

I continued,

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Give us this day our daily bread. He anointeth my head with oil.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And Yea, though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
Surely mercy and goodness shall follow all the days of my life
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen

I glanced at my wife and her head was cocked to one side like a puppy listing to a squeaky toy. I knew I had botched the verses.

“Did that sound familiar?” I asked the saint. Her eyes grew misty and she slowly nodded her head.

I tried to wrap up the visit so we wouldn’t tire her out. She grasped my hand tightly and said, “Pastor, I have confessed all my sins to Jesus, and I am ready to go.”

I smiled and said, “It’s not the time for that yet.”

She said, “Well, stay or go—either way, it’s fine.”

Her words fell like notes from lover’s ballad to my heart. Words of love and longing. Words of surety. Words of knowing. She knew The Word that became flesh. And that made all the difference.

I love words.

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The King Has One More Move

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Matthew 28:6

For the Christian, death is just a change of address. – Anne Lamott

Do you recognize the name “Mel Blanc?” He was the voice behind all of the cartoon characters in Looney Tunes. At the end of every movie, you would see Porky Pig come on the screen, and he would always say the same thing: “That’s all folks!” A few years ago, Mel Blanc died. Do you know what his family put on his tombstone? “That’s all folks.”

Which is true? He is risen indeed, OR That’s all folks? Does death mean that the show is over, or is it possible that somewhere the real show is just starting?

There is a painting in which Faust is playing chess with the Devil. Faust has only a few pieces left on the board and seems to be check-mated. The expression on his face foretells his doom. The Devil, who seems to be very much in control, has a sneer of glee.

Through the years people would come to the gallery where the picture was displayed and gaze and ponder the hopelessness of the situation. As they would leave, most left with the sense that the artist had captured the essence of their own situation.

Then one day, a great chess master came into the gallery. He stood for hours focused on the painting and specifically the chessboard. Day after day, he would return to study the portrait. Finally, with a shout that disturbed everyone in the gallery, “It’s a lie! You still have a move.”

A man named Moses convinces a nation of oppressed slaves to run away from the most powerful man on earth. Pharaoh sets out after them. They’re standing on the shore with the Red Sea in front of them and the greatest army in the world behind them, and the people say to Moses, Moses, what were you thinking? And Moses says to God, “God, what were You thinking?” But The King still has one more move!

A little boy named David’s up against the giant named Goliath. David is in trouble. He tries to put on King Saul’s armor, but Saul’s a 52-Long, and David’s a 36-Short. He can’t even handle a grown-up’s sword. It looks like Checkmate, but the King still has one more move.

A man named Daniel gets thrown into a den of lions because he refuses to stop praying to his God. The lions are hungry. He’s in there all night. At the first light of dawn, Darius calls down. Daniel tells him that the lions have been put on a “Low Protein Diet,” and he’s fine because the King still has one more move.

This is our great hope. On Good Friday, they tried Him and judged Him; they whipped Him and beat Him; they mocked Him and scorned Him; they hung Him on a cross to die and laid Him low in a tomb to rot the way every human body has rotted ever since death entered this sorry, dark world.

And then they said to everybody, That’s all, folks. The show’s over. Time to go home. Checkmate. But they were wrong because the King still had one more move!

I don’t know what challenges you face. Maybe there is stress at work. Maybe you’re in a marriage that is falling apart, or that has already fallen. Maybe there is a son or daughter, somebody that you love, who is struggling or estranged from you. Maybe you have financial pressures. Maybe you have done the wrong thing, or said the wrong thing, or made a mistake that feels so big it could never be redeemed.

Maybe not. Maybe things are going pretty well, and there is no crisis at all. But there will be one day. The mortality rate is still hovering right around 100%. Whatever you face, whether it’s today or tomorrow, the promise of Jesus to everyone who puts their trust in Him is this: there is hope, even when it feels like “Checkmate.”

That’s not all folks, because the King still has one more move.

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Unforgettable Beauty

And I will give him a white stone and on the stone a new name. ~Jesus

There is a flower that lives above tree line in the Rocky Mountains that has captured my heart for almost forty years. It is a flower that can be difficult to find. I shudder at the thought of how many times I might have trampled this rain-drop sized flower under the lugged sole of my boot and have been none-the-wiser.

I’ve sat at 13,000’, chest heaving, trying to gasp every ounce of oxygen out of the thin air and, while on that tawny carpet of alpine tundra, head between my knees choking back mountain sickness, spied the Lilliputian pinwheel of blue petals and yellow pistils smiling at me in the shadow of my size fourteen hiking boots.

They come from the genus Myosotis, which in Greek means, “mouse ear.” In a German legend, God named all the plants when a tiny unnamed one cried out, “Forget-me-not, O Lord!” God replied, “That shall be your name.” Because the Alpine forget-me-not flourishes on the tundra where the winter wind and snow blow with a fierce intensity, they never grow larger than the top button on your shirt.

In all my years of trekking at altitude, I am filled with wonder when I find this shy flower. And often when I fold my 6’4” frame and kneel down to get a closer look, I whisper something only God would hear, “I see you, little one.”

What has struck me over the years has been how such delicate beauty could survive in such harsh conditions and I marvel at a Creator-God who would plant it in such inaccessible places. I have no idea how many times I have found the flower and thought God is delighting in his creation. Or to paraphrase Anne Lamott, “God is showing off.”

Showing off to whom? I would be the only person to see it. How many millions of little blue, mouse-eared flowers are never seen by any sentient earth-bound being? He must have made those for His own delight. This is so unlike me. I do virtually nothing for the sake of beauty alone. I never prepare a sermon and want to preach it to an empty church. I never write an essay or a story hoping no one will ever read it. Any beauty I might try to create, I want to share with others. I want someone to say something laudatory about my art.

But my ego is fragile, and I am trying to be larger than I am.

Each flower is the same, at least it seems so from my naked eye. Doesn’t God get weary of the sameness of His creation, no matter how heart-poundingly beautiful it might be? I guess the short answer is, “No.” He keeps on doing it season after season, mountain after mountain, flower after flower.

Monotony is my enemy—because I am human, and monotony makes me vulnerable to sin. Perhaps it was monotony that made the forbidden fruit look not so forbidden. Maybe it was monotony that caused King David to look at a bathing beauty. And just maybe it was monotony that made the Pharisees fail to see the Creator-God walking and re-creating in their very midst.

Monotony makes me antsy. So, I distract myself with trivial pursuits.

Not God.

G.K. Chesterton wrote:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

Beauty is a reminder of the “appetite of infancy” that is at the heart of our Creator-God. I find myself valuing it, wanting to possess it, and desiring to create it. There is something about beauty that takes us to the place of the innocent delight of being a child. And perhaps it is in that wonder of delight we step into, if for but a moment, another garden coming down from heaven at the end of days.

So, you don’t know my art? Perhaps you don’t know my name. No matter. Each time I marvel at the beauty of a bashful flower, I remember that it is but a taste of another garden where I will receive my new name.

I will not be forgotten, and neither will you.

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The King and his Son

There once was a king who loved being king. He liked sitting on the throne and making decisions. He liked living in the castle; he liked the symbolic functions of his office; he liked visiting the towns and villages of the kingdom and meeting his subjects; liked the authority and power because he could use them to help his people.

Not only did the king like being king, but his people all over the kingdom praised him for ruling so benevolently and wisely. The people knew they could trust their king to do the right thing for them and for the kingdom, and they were right. Because of the king’s wisdom, the kingdom was prosperous and peaceful.

When the king’s son was born, the people put on a great celebration. Now there was an heir! The people knew the king would be a good father and that his son would someday be as great and as wise as his father.

The king loved his son more than his own life. His greatest joy was to spend time with his son. Each evening after the day’s duties were done, the king would go out into the formal gardens behind the castle and play with his son. The thought of those times with his son often made the hard task of ruling a little easier. Sometimes when he faced a difficult decision or had to settle a dispute or complete a project, the king would think, “When this is over, I can be with my son,” and he would smile.

One day the king’s son got lost. It was one of the most tragic days that ever passed in the kingdom. He didn’t mean to get lost. The loved his father as much as his father loved him, and those times in the evening with his father were the happiest times of his young life.

But one day his father had a really busy day and was late for their daily meeting in the castle gardens. So the boy decided to explore. He went on an adventure. There certainly wasn’t anything wrong with that, except this boy was very little and very young, and nobody had told him how easy it is for a little boy to get lost.

It happened before the boy knew it.  He was just walking and thinking about his father when, looking up, he found himself deep in the forest behind the castle. Nothing looked familiar. He was confused and turned around. At first, he was calm because his father would come soon and find him, but, as he waited, he began to see things in the shadows and hear things moving in the brush and he began to panic. Then he began to run. But he didn’t know which way to run. But the more frightened he became the faster he ran. All the while he was running away from the castle. His clothes caught on broken limbs and tore. A couple of times he fell in mud holes, and once he cut himself on a jagged rock.

Eventually the little boy wandered into one of the villages of the kingdom. To be perfectly honest, by that time he looked more like a little street urchin or a beggar than a prince. He would go up to someone on the street, and grab their coat, and pull on it and say, “Mister, I’m the king’s son. Would you help me get home?”

“Sure you are, kid” the man would laugh, “ And I’m his wife.”

“But you don’t understand. I got lost, and I can’t find my father,’ he would say to another.

Most folks simply ignored the little boy, and those who didn’t ignore him laughed at him. Pretty soon the little boy was forced to beg for pennies just so he could buy bread to keep from starving.

Meanwhile, back and the castle, the king spent many sleepless nights looking for his son. He looked everywhere he knew to look, but the boy was nowhere to be found. By morning of that first day the king suspected that someone had kidnapped his son and feared that we would never see the boy again.

The king called all his armies together, and told them what had happened, and sent them into the kingdom looking for his son. He offered great rewards to anyone who could give him information leading to the discovery of his son. But to the king’s great sorrow, the little boy was not found.

Hours blended into days, days into weeks, weeks into months, months into years. The little boy was no longer a little boy; he had grown into a strong young man.

At first he really had thought he was the king’s son, but so many adults had told him differently that he began to think maybe it had all been a dream. After all, adults know those kinds of things. As the years passed, he forgot about the castle and about his father.

Then the young man began to run with the wrong crowd. Murder, stealing, rape—nothing was beneath him. But he was still a prince. If you are a prince (even when you don’t know it), it shows. Eventually the young man became the leader of a gang.  He was meaner than all of his friends. He murdered the most. He stole the most. He raped the most. Years after he had left the castle and his father, the king’s son had become the most wanted criminal in the kingdom.

Then one day, through a strange set of circumstances, the king found out that his own son was the kingdom’s most wanted and notorious criminal. At first he couldn’t believe it, but the more he checked, the more it became clear that he had found his beloved son, and in finding him, the king faced a terrible dilemma.

The king loved his son, but he was also just and fair. He knew if he released his own son who had committed terrible crimes, he would need to release all the others who had committed crimes. That was unacceptable.

And so the king’s son was arrested and brought before a judge who condemned him to be executed for his crimes. The verdict was just. The king’s son was thrown in a dungeon beneath the castle where he had once lived to wait for his execution.

On the night before the young man was to die, the king made his way to the prison beneath the castle. Opening his son’s cell, he walked in and sat on the bunk across from his son. The king sat there a long time looking at his son before he spoke.

“You are my son. Did you know that?”

“Yeah. Someone told me.”

“Have you ever wondered, over these years, about your parents?”

“Sometimes, but I had a good life, and it wasn’t that important.”

“Well, I have never stopped wondering about you—where you were and what had become of you. You have never been out of my mind and heart.

“My son,” the king continued, voice trembling with emotion and tears running down the age lines in his face, “I loved you with a great love, but you became lost. I did everything I knew to do. I sent out my soldiers; I offered a great reward; I have never ceased to search for you. But now it has come to this and tomorrow you are to die.

“But, son, I have decided to allow you to go free.”

With those words, the old king got up and walked out of his son’s cell into the crisp night air.

The young man went over to the cell door and tested it.  WELL, WHAT DO YOU KNOW?  THAT OLD MAN LEFT IT OPEN.

The king’s son quickly grabbed his coat, threw it over his shoulder, and with a cynical smile said: “That stupid old man!! He thinks because he has set me free, I will come back to his castle and be his slave. Well, he is more senile than I thought.” And with that the young man disappeared up the stone stairs and into the night air.

Some two weeks later the king’s son found out what price his freedom had cost. On the day of his scheduled execution, the requirements of the law had been met. His own father had taken his place—he had died that his son might be free.

You probably have some questions: What did the son do? Did he return to the castle and become king? Did he accept his heritage? Did he even care about the price his father had paid for his freedom? Did he decide to obey the law?

I’m not sure because, you see, you are that son.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

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The Taxman Cometh

The tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’  Luke 18:13

With the scolding stares of everyone on him, he doesn’t even dare to lift his eyes from the ground. He stands cowering in a corner, looking at the cracks in the cobbled stone. He knows all too well everything that’s wrong in his life. He knows everything he is and everything that he isn’t. He knows everything he’s done and everything he’s left undone.

This guy is a traitor to his own people. He is someone who gets rich by keeping his neighbors poor. What kind of character and values does a person have to have in order to do that? This guy knows. First-century rabbis would give you a “get-out-of-jail-free-card” for lying to a Tax Collector.

To get the full impact of this story in our context think of the Taxman as a Grand Wizard for the KKK or as an abortionist Doctor.

The Taxman would have been going to one of two daily worship services that happened at the temple. One that happens at about sunrise and one that happened at about 3 p.m. Both of those services in the outer area of the temple would have begun with the priest sacrificing a lamb on the altar as an atonement for people’s sins and to signify for them God’s mercy.

That’s what this tax collector would have been looking at when he was praying. He sees the sacrificial act of the slain lamb, he sees the shedding of blood, he hears the declaration of atonement and he realizes that it was for his sin that nappy-clad little lamb was killed.

“I need that,” he says.

Scriptures say that Jesus was the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world. To give us the approval that we long for and could never find on our own.

It is often so difficult to live with the truth that we are loved by God and we don’t have to perform to gain that love.

I like the way Henri Nouwen says this in his profound little book Life of the Beloved,

Yes, there is that voice, the voice that speaks from above and from within that whispers softly or declares loudly: “You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.” It certainly is not easy to hear that voice in a world filled with voices that shout: “You are no good, you are ugly; you are worthless; you are despicable, you are nobody—unless you can demonstrate the opposite.”

These negative voices are so loud and so persistent that it’s easy to believe them. That’s the great trap. It is the trap of self-rejection.

The deepest truth about this Taxman was that he was loved by the God of the universe without having to perform for it.

It is true of you, too.

When my oldest son, Cole, was thirteen he went on his first backpacking trip with a wilderness program I was leading at the time. Being the preacher’s kid and an awkward 13-year-old with older boys made for a painful week for Cole. He kept feeling rejected by the cool kids.

He was in a tent with the older boys trying to fit and they kept teasing him so much that he finally left that tent and came to mine.

He said, “Dad, they are so mean to me!  It’s like they don’t care.”

I said, “I know, son.”

He kept looking out of the tent in the direction of the group of boys. Then his head would drop, and he would stare at his hands. Every time laughter would erupt from the group of boys, he would look out of my tent door. He wanted to fit in and be there with those boys.

I remember watching him and thinking, “You are so loved, son. Can’t you feel my love? If you would relax in my love it will mark your life. There will come a day when you will forget those boys’ names, but you will never forget my name. Let my love fill you up right now.”

I squeezed his shoulder, patted him and said, “I love you, son.”

He looked out the tent door towards the laughing boys, sighed heavily and said, “I know. Let’s play some cards, Dad.”

Some of you need to stop looking out of the tent and look up to the Father….you are loved with an everlasting love.

So, may this good news free you from your paranoia that you have to do anything to gain the Father’s love. Live your life from the wonderful story that you are the beloved of God.

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