Self-Esteem Kills

“You’re the best!”

“Keep it up, kid!”

*Applause*

My generation is built on hot air. We crave the tasty morsels of a compliment as a heroin addict sells his soul for a hit. We’ve been told we’re great from before we could even spell the word. Our homes were built with shrines honoring our early accomplishments. You got your yellow belt in karate? Let’s hang it up. As we grew up and went to school to be educated in the essentials of life, our only discipline was when we weren’t saying nice things to our classmates. Might as well have put a sign up in the classroom that read, “These are the forbidden F-words: Failure, Forfeit, & Freak.” No one failed, because we’re all winners. No one forfeits, because there was no competition. No one’s a freak, because we’re all unique. We were all great and even if it became painfully evident that not everyone was, we were encouraged to fake it. Now, there’s a useful F-word.

I wish someone was brave enough to tell me the truth. I think honesty is more strengthening than flattery. Character is built upon reality.

You see, our generation was doomed from the beginning. Our lives were built on the precariousness of our own own egos. It’s equivalent to building a skyscraper on top of a marble. We were so filled with lies that once our ego exploded in our face, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. Up until that point, we had never experienced failure or heard the sweet sound of rejection. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we need to stop affirming one another, complimenting each other, or encouraging a friend. That’s all fine and well. But maybe what we do need in our generation is a healthy dose of “you suck” with a side of “no”. Maybe that’s what we need to remedy this epidemic that’s killing our generation. Maybe that will kill our pride. Maybe that will drown our sense of entitlement.

I think this is where the Gospel becomes fresh life-giving news for the heart that craves a dose of painful reality. We’ve been so adorned with our own “greatness” that it’s become nearly impossible to see our own depravity. But when met with it, most respond with a deep sigh of relief. Finally, something that makes sense. I am fallen. I am mistake prone. I am broken. I am not great.

Depravity is good news, not only because it kills our pride, but because it helps us to see things as they really are. Yet we never forget, in our sin, Jesus came to us so that He may purchase our redemption. He is the truly great one. He is the one deserving of all praise. He is the perfect one. And it’s in Him that we find our true identity: great sinners saved by a greater Grace.

You suck, but God is good.


The Decade From Hell

December 7, 2009 Cover

Y2K. Botched Presidential Election. 9/11. War in Afghanistan & Iraq. Corporation Bankruptcy. Mad-cow & SARS. Tsunami killing 200,000 in Southeast Asia. Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Radical Islamic Bombings. Bird Flu. Gas Prices Skyrocket. Steroids in Sports. Virginia Tech Shootings. Moral Failures by Politicians, Preachers, Celebrities, & Sports Figures. Stocks Plummet. Car Industry Fails. Ponzi Scheme. H1N1. Unemployment.

A daunting list by any standard, but only the “lowlights” of an otherwise forgettable decade. What are we going to call this one? “The Decade of Doom”? Whatever we call it, one can hardly argue that it was a decade full of heartache, shattered dreams, and uncertainty.  I’m usually a glass half-full type of guy, but even I can appreciate a good buzz kill when it’s due. And if anything, this decade was a huge wake-up call. We can conjecture all we want about how and why we got here and how we’re going to pull ourselves out of this hole, but it’s pointless. Andy Serwer, the author of the The Decade from Hell in the issue of Time Magazine showed above, says, “So here’s the big question: Why? Why did so much bad stuff happen in this decade? Was it just rotten luck or something more? Sure, some of it was simply randomness, but I think a strong case can be made that it was more than just chance that got things so bollixed up.”

You’re right and you’re wrong, Andy. I’ll tell you this for sure. It wasn’t just randomness. Evil? Maybe. But random? Definitely, not. There’s much more too it. It’s the age-old story really: God creates man. God loves man. Man loves himself. Man chases after other gods. Man chases after false idols with false hopes. Man is left wanting. Man dies never finding true contentment.

And more than previous years, it was in this last decade that our Nation’s idols were tested. If America stands for anything we stand for the American Dream: Health, Wealth, & Happiness. But all three were found wanting this decade. Our health was tried by the frenzy of flu. Our wealth was waned by the spiraling stock market. And our happiness was interrupted by terror and tragedy. America’s idols proved to be lackluster. Yet, America seemed to find more and more hope in their false idols. They chased after their counterfeit gods all the more when they were stripped away. They held even tighter to their empty dreams.

So here’s the deal folks, we’re in Redemptive History. God promised deliverance for His people. Jesus came once and He will surely come again. Even the creation groans and eagerly awaits His coming. Meanwhile, we’re going to see the ugly head of sin rear itself over and over and over and over and over again. We’re going to witness the rise and fall of false idols. This decade was just a preview of things to come. But good news…there’s hope.

However gloomy the first ten years of the 21st century may have seemed, there was room enough for celebration. Not only did the Red Sox win a World Series, but the Nation voted in the first Black President. But what I find most encouraging is what seems to be an undercurrent toward orthodoxy in Jesus’ Church. Old and young are being beckoned back to the Cross. The Church is realizing its deep need for the Gospel. The Body of Christ is showing signs of unity and reconciliation. But even that shouldn’t complete our hope.

Our hope lies in the truth that God is the same God yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Jesus is alive. And the Spirit lives in us. That’s why we have hope. A hope that tomorrow we’ll live by Grace through Faith. A hope that tomorrow God will be good to His people. And a hope that Jesus will be back…real soon.


“What if God was one of us?”

remember that song? i forgot who sang it.

I was waiting until a little after Easter to post this… in reverence of the Holy Day. But, with a sense of humor, this is pretty on point. 🙂

click on the picture to download the whole PDF

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It’s Only the Beginning

Don’t you get the sense that things just aren’t the way they’re supposed to be? I mean, the whole world’s economy is tanking. Thousands of people are dying everyday from ridonculous catastrophes and some very unfortunate circumstances. People of the same blood and heritage can’t seem to get along and fight over land. There are daily attacks on someone’s character simply for their position on this imaginary line we label with “left” or “right”. Polar bears & whales are more cared for than babies. The most respectable people in our culture all seem to be jacked up once the cameras are turned off and the lights go out. It all just doesn’t seem right. Something seems askew.

But the more and more I read the book of Genesis, I realize all this shouldn’t surprise me. The fall has immense and ever increasing effects that extend far beyond that garden. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at Old Testament history to see that it didn’t take long for sin to settle in.

But from the beginning there’s a sign of hope. It’s not just a glimmer, it’s a glaring light. God isn’t one to give up. He doesn’t make a mistake. Instead, He takes the mess we’ve made and has decisively declared a solution. The first beginning, or Genesis, was ruined by sin. But there’s going to be a new beginning, a new Genesis.

Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and  her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

From the beginning, there’s this glaring light of the Gospel. There will be a person coming that will crush the head of the serpent, alluding to a victory over sin. And since there are plenty more allusions to this person’s identity throughout the Old Testament, it’s not just a guess that his name is Jesus.

So, though the world may look bleak out there in these dark times, I’m all the more encouraged that this is just the beginning of that new beginning. Jesus came and crushed the head of the serpent inaugurating that new creation, the new Genesis. We’re living in that new creation reality, however difficult it may be to see it. Let’s keep our heads up folks, ’cause we don’t want to miss God’s beginning work of His new creation.


Grace, then Law

The Gospel is all about Grace, then Law. Religion is about do it, then I will love you. The Gospel is about I love you, so do it.

The Old Testament God is this way: God delivers His people from the grips of Egypt, then gives them the Law in the form of the Ten Commandments through Moses on Mt. Sinai.

The New Testament God is this way: God sends his only Son to this world only to send Him to the Cross to show His great love for us, then commissions us and calls us to be holy as He is holy.

God is consistent. He is the same then and now. The Gospel has always been good news. And I hope it always stays that way.


Obama: A Mere Shifting Shadow

The New Lincoln? The New Eisenhower? The New Roosevelt? The New Reagan? Is Barack Obama all these things? Is he the fulfillment of the dreams of a certain doctor who gave a speech in the shadows of Lincoln’s memorial? Is he the promised liberator of America?

All these things have been stirring in our news, on our blogs, and on the pages of of our books. Some say Obama is the the hope of our nation. Others say that Obama is the fulfillment of a dream and a vision of the better future. And in the midst of all this speculation and forecasting, I can’t help but to think about what it must have been like in the 1st century. The Israelites had experienced the rule of faulty kings and leaders for centuries. And through it all, they had heard all the rumors and put their hope in one final perfect leader that would be the hope of their nation. All of Israel was waiting with bated breath for this Messiah.

Judging from what our nation is currently going through, I can’t help but to think how much more escalated the anticipation was when there were spreading stories of a man that was fulfilling these great promises, visions, and dreams. A man born in the small city of Bethlehem that their great King David was born in. A man that spoke prophetically and mightily like a certain prophet Moses, who God used to liberate their ancestors. A man that proclaimed to be the son of Adam, who was created by the very breath of God. A man that performed the great miracles of a once revered prophet Elijah. A man that fulfilled all the predictions of the Law and the Prophets. His name was Jesus.

Imagine all the questions that were swirling around the cities and towns in those years. Was he really our coming deliverer? Was he to be our protector? Will he finally end our oppression? Will he make our name great?! And imagine the deep sorrow and broken dreams of those that stood in the wake of this pronounced Messiah as he hung on that tree. But those with the eyes of faith knew that this was yet another fulfillment of that which God had planned from the beginning. And they were assured that he indeed was the Son of God! Jesus was the Christ, the Anointed One – Israel’s Messiah.

I’m not certain how Obama’s presidency will pan out, but I know for sure that there is a man named Jesus that fulfilled all that God said he would do. He comes not only to restore one nation, but He came to inaugurate His Kingdom, which included all the nations. Obama is merely a shifting shadow in the brief history of the world, but Jesus is the true king who will claim his rightful place on the throne forever.


Christmas is for Babies!

That’s right. I said it. Christmas is for Babies!

It’s the most amazing miracle that never happened on 34th street – God came down to us. How ridiculous does that sound to you right now? It’s pretty ridiculous to me, for sure! But the truth of the matter is…well, that it’s true. God chose to take on human form so that His son Jesus could walk the earth more perfectly than any human ever could only to fulfill His ultimate purpose of dying on the cross and resurrecting from the dead, all for the salvation of mankind. It’s a ridiculous plot and story, I know! But it’s the Gospel.

The Gospel wasn’t meant to make a whole lot of sense. The Gospel wasn’t supposed to be just another story that’s told on certain days and then placed back on the shelf to collect dust. The Gospel wasn’t meant to create fuzzies in hearts. The Gospel wasn’t meant to fit neatly in packaging. The Gospel wasn’t meant to be peddled and sold. The Gospel wasn’t meant to tickle the ear.

The Gospel was meant to shock and overturn. It draws a distinct line on the most important issue of all: the soul. The Gospel is supposed to be amazing. Why? Because it’s about Jesus – the son of God who came down from heaven to this earth.

The Gospel is good news because God is Emmanuel – “God with us”. The Gospel is good news because of babies, especially one sweet little baby named Jesus.

Christmas is about the Gospel. Christmas is about a baby.