Morning Musing: Mark 14:6-9

“Jesus replied, ‘Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for me. You always have the poor with you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body in advance for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Have you ever been the victim of unfair criticism? That’s never a fun place to be. I once had someone come sit down with me in my office to offer “constructive” criticism. He came prepared a 4×6 note card filled front and back with everything he thought I was doing wrong. His complaints were all rooted in personal preferences of pastoral style rather than anything biblical, but he was convinced, as he told me, that I just didn’t preach the Gospel. Maybe you’ve been through something similar. Much to this man’s credit, he did not air his grievances publicly nor share them with a small group of others in an effort to build a coalition against me. And when it became clear we were not going to find common ground on some of them, he left quietly and found a church more to his liking. Other folks with less character and genuine intent to honor Christ with their life would have made a production of leaving. I respect him for that. Being criticized, no matter the source, is hard. When a woman made an incredible gesture of worship to Jesus, she faced intense criticism for it. Fortunately, she had Jesus in the room to defend her actions. Let’s look at the results this morning.

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Today is a Special Day

“You have captured my heart, my sister, my bride. You have captured my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.”

Today is one of my favorite days of the year. Today marks the beginning of one of the greatest journeys of my life. It has been going on now for 16 years and I can’t wait to see what the next 16 and beyond will bring. Today is the day the woman i love more than any other said, “Yes.” Today is the anniversary of the day I married my beautiful bride. Today is a special day.

As good as today is, it really had its start 17 years and two months ago, not merely 16. That was the day I got out of a van and nervously headed for the door of the dorm I’d called home for the six weeks on the campus of Spalding University in Louisville, KY as a Bible study leader for Passport youth camps. Before I could even reach the door, it burst open and the leadership staff already there came out to greet us for the first time. I don’t remember much else about that day or even that moment, but I do remember the beautiful girl who captured my heart with one glance of her eyes. Just that, and I was hooked.

It took a few weeks for me to convince her I wasn’t just your average nerd. It didn’t hurt that in a skit the staff performed all summer one of the lines was, “Yes, but you’re my nerd, and everyone needs a nerd.” But eventually, I wore her down. A little illegal matchmaking by our assistant camp director who was fully on board with the blossoming relationship we weren’t even supposed to have finally put us on the same page just before the summer’s end. From there, it was a whirlwind of cross country trips between her home and mine, lots of hours burning through cell phone minutes (remember when cell phone plans weren’t all unlimited?) and wearing out our fingers on AOL Instant Messenger (there’s a blast from the past for you), and graduating from college before we could start our life together.

The journey since has been one of a few challenges but far more joys of every sort. There have been things I haven’t gotten right along the way, and she has been more than gracious more times than I can count. I’ve learned far more than I could have ever imagined about how to be a husband, a father, and a man. She has been with me every step of the way, confirming again and again and again just how good the decision to marry her really was.

Lisa is amazing. There’s just no other way to put it. Besides being breathtakingly attractive, she is smart. Really smart. And incredibly talented. She’s got a mind for administrative details like no one else I’ve ever met. Our family would quickly and easily fly apart into chaos without her doing the things she does. More than that, she is wise. She has a strong sense of what is right and a drive to pursue it. She can look at a situation – whether hers or someone else’s – and know quickly what is the right way to go. More even than that, she is willing to share it with humility and graciousness. If I am at all a good man today, she has more to do with that than anyone else in the world. If I have been a successful pastor in any sense, she has played the most profound role in every part of it.

Not only is she an amazing wife, but she’s a superb mom too. We have three remarkable boys who are growing into fine young men. It is a true delight to watch her engage with them to give them all the gifts and wisdom a mother was designed to give on a daily basis. They will be a gift to the world and she has a great deal to do with that.

When I proposed on the morning of New Year’s Eve sixteen and a half years ago, I woke her up and recited the words to the Ben Folds song, The Luckiest. Sixteen years later, I can still say with absolute certainty that I am. Lisa, thank you for being the wonderful woman God created you to be. Thank you for never giving up on me or us. Thank you for showing me the love of God each day in ways I’ve never experienced by any other means. I love you, and more every day. Happy Anniversary! I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Morning Musing: Mark 13:28-33

“Learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, recognize that he is near – at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place. heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Now concerning that day or hour no one knows – neither the angels in heaven nor the Son – but only the Father. Watch! Be alert! For you don’t know when the time is coming.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Do you know what a paradox is? Unless you’re boned up on your literature lessons from middle school, it may be one of those words you know, but not really. I’ll help you out. A paradox is a statement that takes two ideas often considered to be opposites and puts them together in a way that makes them both true at the same time. For example, take the adage, “The louder you are, the less they’ll hear.” On its face, that seems totally counterintuitive. If something gets louder, it seems you would be likely to hear it better. When I’m watching TV and can’t hear what’s being said very well, I’ll turn it up louder to fix the problem. And yet, when when I get angry enough that I yell at my kids, they don’t really hear anything I say to them. A quiet conversation with someone is more likely to convey information accurately than if you shout at them. It’s a paradox. In this last part of Mark 13, Jesus is summarizing His conversation with the disciples about future events. As He does so, He offers them a paradox. Let’s explore this together.

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Morning Musing: Mark 13:21-23

“Then if anyone tells you, ‘See, here is the Messiah! See, there!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and will perform signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, the elect. And you must watch! I have told you everything in advance.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Do you remember the Easy Button commercials from Staples? (Here’s a classic one.) The idea was that offices need an easy button when things get tough. Whenever a thorny challenge comes up, you just tap the button and like magic, the problem is solved. In the context of the commercials, it was often a Staples employee who showed up offering solutions for whatever was the problem. The ad campaign was wildly successful not necessarily in that it generated so much business for Staples (although it probably did), but because it successfully registered the idea of an easy button into the pop cultural lexicon. When your ad becomes a cultural movement, you know you’ve hit it out of the park. The reason the campaign was so successful, though, was that it tapped into a longing all of us have for easy solutions to tricky problems. We don’t like facing resistance to our forward progress. When we do, we want someone to come along, wave a magic wand, and make them all go away. This goes whether we are talking about traffic jams, or challenges entirely more significant than that. Jesus here warns us that such a desire can lead us down the wrong path if we’re not careful. Let’s talk about it.

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Morning Musing: Mark 13:19-20

“For those will be days of tribulation, the kind that hasn’t been from the beginning of creation until now and never will be again. If the Lord had not cut those days short, no one would be saved. But he cu those days short for the sake of the elect, whom he chose.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

The one thing that is consistent about our understanding of the apocalypse is that we don’t understand it very well. Oh, we have lots of creative guesses, some offered with all the confident assurance of knowledge, but we really don’t know very much. Because of this, we greedily grab up anything that seems like it might tell us something. For instance, in 2012, the big news of the year was that an ancient Mayan calendar ended in that year because they believed that’s when the world would end. They even made a fun, global disaster movie about it called…wait for it…2012. Happily, we sailed right on past the December calendar date of the end and are still chugging along nine years later. Let’s look some more this morning at another thing Jesus had to say about it. This bit of teaching really doesn’t add a whole lot of clarity, but it does give us something else worth keeping in mind.

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