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Every Day Bible

Children Are Lethal Weapons

Do I have your attention now? I’m not making this up. It’s actually what the Bible says:

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills the quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies at the gate.”

Psalm 127:3-5 ESV

Of all of the metaphors Solomon could have used to describe kids, he calls them “arrows in a warrior’s hand.”

Have you ever thought about that? Plenty of times after stepping on a Lego, I’ve thought they might be the death of me, that’s not what Solomon was trying to say.

By calling children arrows, he says that here our children are the ammunition that defends us and provide us confidence and joy.

That’s an interesting view, isn’t it?

Kids defend us from being shortsighted. I need to think about what sort of world my grandkids will inherit, not just what sort of world I live in. You might get frustrated when the littles make a racket at church, but when you consider the alternative—a church without those cries—you realize that the noise of life is better than the silence of death.

Kids defend us from being selfish. They need so much. They remind us that the world doesn’t revolve around us. Their dependence makes us think outside of ourselves.

Kids defend us from faithlessness. They have such a simple trust. If we learned to trust God like they trust us, what giants of faith we would become!

Solomon was right. No matter how many grey hairs they cause us, our children are one of God’s greatest gifts to us.

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Every Day Bible

Avoiding the Hurt

When I started running, it hurt.

A lot.

I’m a little weird about this, but I don’t like things that hurt.

So I had a great idea: maybe if I ran more and got into better shape, it would hurt less.

That plan was about 60% effective.

Going from 0 to 1 mile was a hundred times harder than going from 1 mile to 10 miles. But the first mile of every run hurts. From what I hear, it always will.

I thought if I ran more, I would hurt less.

The actual result surprised me: the hurt didn’t stop. I learned how to endure the hurt.

We spend our lives doing whatever possible to avoid hurt. Avoiding pain. But deep down, we know it is impossible.

C.S. Lewis said,

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis

Christianity doesn’t promise us an escape from pain. It does promise us a guide through it, comfort despite it, and hope beyond it.

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Every Day Bible

Better Than a Preacher

Augustine said, “Who is so foolishly curious as to send his son to school to learn what the teacher thinks?”

His point was that we don’t want our kids to learn the teacher’s opinions. We want our teachers to point us towards something bigger than themselves. We want a guide to truth.

I hope you didn’t come to worship today to learn what I think the Bible says. I have plenty of opinions, and each one of them is correct, of course. 🙃

I hope that you aren’t counting on me to stand between you and God.  Paul told Timothy that “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

My job is to point you to Jesus.

I’m not trying to give you a book report on the Bible each week. I’m trying to nudge you to get to know its author.

Today, Augustine might say, “Who is so foolish as to go to church to learn what the preacher thinks?” My job today is to introduce Jesus. Your job is to get to know him.

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Every Day Bible

Age & Wisdom

Our culture prefers youth and beauty to age and wisdom. If you don’t believe me, just look! Watch how the news stations predictably replace trusted anchors with the newer, shinier models every few years.  Jack Weinberg coined the phrase, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” Seeing as Jack is now 80, and his phrase is now more than 50 years old, I wonder if we can trust it? Or is it disposable now, too?

Job 12:12 says that “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” Proverbs 23:22 says “Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” And the law of Moses even commanded, “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God” (Leviticus 19:32)

Older people are a treasure trove of wisdom. They have graduated from the school of hard knocks with advanced degrees. Their experience can be a great teacher—if we’re willing to listen.

It sobers me to think how much history is being lost every day. Fewer than 2% of the 16 million American soldiers who fought in World War II are still with us. Each day, these veterans pass away, and their stories with them. We are losing something that cannot be regained.

Take some time this week to listen to an older person in your circle. Hear their stories. Save their history. You will be a blessing and blessed.

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Every Day Bible

Quitting Time

Will you quit comparing your life to others and envying what they have?

Will you quit being surprised that an unbelieving world acts without the moral compass that comes with faith in a wise God?

Will you quit taking criticism from people who you wouldn’t ask advice from?

Will you quit your job as “corrector of the errant” on social media? No matter how right you are, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still!”

Will you quit feeling entitled to anything and instead realize that everything we have is a gift from a generous God?

Will you quit talking about people. If you want to talk about them, talk to God about them.

Will you quit focusing on the negative? If you always think the sky is falling, you might be right one day. But you’ll ruin a lot of otherwise good days.

Will you quit wasting your life on reruns when there is a world outside your phone?

Will you quit passing the buck and not taking responsibility for your life?

Will you quit polluting your heart with news and voices that fill you with dread and fear rather than faith and hope?

Will you quit whatever that thing is that you totally can quit, but you just haven’t yet, and you’ll probably quit in a couple of weeks when you’re ready, this time, for a change?

Everyone needs to quit something. What do you need to quit?

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Every Day Bible

Laughter as Worship

Do you remember the reaction when God promised a child to elderly Abraham and Sarah? Laughter!

Evidently this wasn’t the right response, because Sarah lied about her laughter In Genesis 18:15.

Things changed by Genesis 21 when the child of promise was born.

Abraham chose the name “Isaac” which means, “he laughs.” I really like Sarah’s reaction to her son’s name: “God has made me laugh. Everyone who hears about this will laugh with me” (Genesis 21:6 NET).

When Abraham & Sarah laughed in Genesis 18, the laughter rang with disbelief, but when they laughed in Genesis 21, it seems to me that it is overflowing with joy.

Certainly some kinds of laughter aren’t appropriate—scoffing at others, delight in sin, or enjoying misfortune, but the laughter of Isaac’s birth seems to me to be a laughter of praise.

Psalm 126 treats it that way: “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad!”

Maybe we need to add laughter to our repertoire for worship, and celebrate how God has surprised us with good in this world!

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Every Day Bible

My Favorite Sermons of 2020

Ask any preacher you know, and they will tell you that they have favorite sermons. What is really unfortunate, though, is that seldom are our favorite sermons anyone else’s favorites. So take this post with a grain (or shaker?) of salt. Your mileage may vary!

I hate self-promotion, so please forgive me if I come across that way.

Each year, there are a few sermons that I just really enjoy. Some weeks you see something you hadn’t seen before. Other times you are just grabbed by the power of an idea in scripture. For whatever reason, these are the ones that meant the most to me, so I thought they might mean something to you. Thanks for your time!

Your Church Is Too Small

Having to go virtual during a pandemic actually helps us remember some things we’ve always said we believe about the church, but we tend to forget. The church is bigger than a building, a name, a preacher… Your church is too small!

On the Third

The United States used to be covered by a network of beacon lights and concrete arrows that provided aerial navigation when cross-country flight was brand new. Those beacon lights, on their own, didn’t mean much, but strung together, they pointed the way home. The third day in the Old Testament keeps appearing, and when we get to the resurrection of Jesus, we and the men on the road to Emmaus learn exactly where they were pointing.

The Incomparable Christ Sermon Series

Forgive me for cheating–but I’m putting a whole series on the list. I’ve avoided preaching Hebrews for years because the book intimidates me. The depth and breadth of this Christ-exalting book were refreshing to me.

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Every Day Bible

Hebrews: The Incomparable Christ

We just finished a 15-session study of the book of Hebrews at Burns.

Hebrews was a tough book to me. It takes for granted that you really know your Old Testament, so you’ve got to do some pretty good digging to make sure you understand what the book is saying.

Hebrews has one goal: to elevate Jesus. Nothing, no one, nowhere, nada, NOTHING is better than Jesus.

If you’re interested in following along, you can view all 15 sessions here:

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Every Day Bible

Flexibility

I’m not flexible. I can’t touch my toes. I can’t do most of the stretches that people tell me I should do. I suspect I could make any yoga instructor change careers. Most of us are somewhat rigid: we have an idea of how we want to do things. Once we have a plan, we’d like that plan to come to life. We get stuck on a course of action. We stress when things change on us.

This year has required a lot of flexibility. Our plans have changed both regularly and unexpectedly. We’ve had to get used to doing things in different ways.

There are certainly things we must be rigid about. Malachi 3:6 says, “I the Lord, do not change.” Truth is truth.  But our approaches do change. Paul spoke differently in the synagogue than he did the marketplace.

I imagine that Simon and Andrew had pretty solid plans for their day of fishing when something unexpected happened. A rabbi named Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” I’ve always been impressed that they “immediately” “left their nets and followed him.” Becoming a disciple wasn’t on the schedule that day, but they had enough sense to realize that this itinerant preacher had better plans than they did.

If I’m not careful, my idea for how my day or decade should go might just keep me from responding to a better opportunity God has in front of me. Let’s cultivate a Biblically-anchored sense of flexibility—and be ready to respond to God’s call wherever it comes!

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Every Day Bible

Be Careful of Your Words: Fear Edition

Our words are often blunt instruments that damage when we need the healing power of precision scalpels.

I’ve heard some Christians speak negatively about “those people” who are “afraid” of the virus.

I have no doubt that some people are truly afraid. They feel the weight of anxiety and worry. Their spirit is troubled. The “what-ifs” and stresses consume their thoughts. This sort of fear is unhealthy and in tension with the peace promised by Jesus. It is problematic.

But there are plenty of others of us who have chosen to take protective measures that they deem wise and reasonable. They rest assured knowing Jesus, living with assurance. It isn’t right to label them as cowardly. They aren’t any more faithless or afraid than you are when you lock your door or fasten your seatbelt—they are living their faith by acting wisely.

Be careful that you don’t demean a brother by calling him fearful when he is trying to live faithfully.

Is it possible that he’s wrong? Sure. And it’s possible that you are, too. And it’s possible he knows something you don’t. And it’s possible he has reasons or motivations or experiences that you can’t see.

In the church, we give our family the benefit of the doubt. We bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things. We use our words carefully.