Was Jesus a faithless wimp when he wept?

As you approach Jesus, you see him crying with two women, all three clinging to each other; a dear friend of Jesus, and brother of the two women has died; his name was Lazarus.

I recently was “encouraged” to be joyful that my dad will soon be with the Lord, where his pain and sorrow will gone. I should be happy and full of faith, at least enough, to not be so sad and grieved. I received this “encouragement” when I was visibly crying. My friend had good intentions. But they were misguided. I replied, “Jesus knew, and even planned the timing of his best friend’s death. And when his friend died, Jesus openly wept (John 11).” Because this was a teachable moment for my friend, I asked, “Why did Jesus weep for Lazarus even though he would raise him from the dead?”

This is a good question. The answer is even better:

It’s because weeping is the most appropriate response to the loss of someone you love, and it doesn’t matter if you’re Jesus and you know that the outcome is going to be a resurrection. Loss is loss – period. And loss hurts. But, it’s hard to truly cry in front of others because it does feel faithless and wimpy. But why?

I think it’s because of the vulnerability of love. Love is like taking off the mask of self-reliance, as if others really don’t mean that much to you. When you love someone, deeply, it feels threatening and frightening to expose your true self – the one that does not want to be without the other; you, the one who does not want to walk alone; you, the one who feels empty and half-alive without the other. This is not psycho-babble. The Jews remarked upon watching and hearing Jesus weep over Lazarus’ death, “. . . see how he loved him” (vs. 36).

And there it is! To cry for someone is a display of love. But it’s so hard to love someone this way – it’s much easier to buy a Christmas gift, take them out for dinner, or enjoy their company watching football. But to cry . . . saying, “this much . . . this much . . . I have come to love you so over the years . . . I can’t imagine living my life without you. You have become such a part of my joy, my anticipation of a good day lingering over fellowship and coffee with you on the front porch, that to no longer know this sweet communion is breaking my heart. I love you more than words can express.”

This kind of love is not faithless nor wimpy. It takes rock-solid courage to be so vulnerable in the presence of another. In fact, you have to forget yourself and put away any mask of toughness and independence, any fear of looking foolish, any dread of push-back from the one you weep for. Nor is it faithless, as if there is no more comfort to be had. Even the medical professionals, both physical and mental, have written extensively about the healing benefit of weeping. And no wonder, for they are simply acknowledging the order of the universe in which we were made to find healing from crying (Psalm 22).

For those whose hope is in the one who has authority over death, we do not grieve faithlessly (1 Thessalonians 4:13); we believe that all our tears are stored up as fuel for great joy (Psalm 56). So, “weep with those who weep”  – and weep for those you love. It is neither cowardly, nor hopeless. Rather, it is full of faith and backbone.


Is James Taylor’s “secret of life” true?

Published in 1977, Taylor called this an irreverent spiritual song. He didn’t want to come across with absolute certainty, so he titled the song, Secret O’ Life instead of Secret of Life. But still, his first verse claims:

“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.”  And if that is true, then:
“But since we’re on our way down, we might as well enjoy the ride. Isn’t it a lovely ride? Sliding down, gliding down, try not to try too hard, it’s just a lovely ride.”

His second verse is even more philosophical:

“Now the thing about time is that time isn’t really real.
It’s just your point of view, how does it feel for you?
Einstein said he could never understand it all.
Planets spinning through space, the smile upon your face, welcome to the human race.”

I’ve spent my guitar playing years learning to play like Taylor. And I enjoy much of his care-free spirited songs. But this song has push-back, maybe even defensiveness about it, that attempts to silence another voice that quietly whispers: “the secret to life is much bigger than your personal enjoyment of it.” I mean, why even make the assertion that this is the secret to life unless there is an irresistible urge to know what life is really all about?

The human race, as Taylor puts it, is a species that has always sought to know how and why we are here, who are we, and what is our place among the spinning planets in space. Here’s some questions: when you are enjoying a sunset over the ocean, a flower garden, a beautiful rendition of a classic, or the mountains and landscapes of the earth, what explains your capacity for enjoyment of things that you did not make? And, why do you often feel the most joy when the event or the environment has nothing to do with you – like watching a glorious sunrise? And finally, why do we still feel unsatisfied, cheated, and even down right angry, when the “end of the ride” comes?

The secret to Life is knowing the giver of Life. To know him who not only explains my existence, but my desire for enjoyment also. We were made to enjoy this life so that we may have some hint that the one who made this life must be unbelievably enjoyable! Our capacity for joy is not a secret – but the purpose of it is. But no longer. It was revealed when Jesus came, was crucified, rose again, ascended, and is coming back for those who have longed to know him who made us to enjoy the giver more than his gifts. Contrary to Mr. Taylor, time is real. You are real. Your desire to live forever, enjoying life is real.

I am enjoying time with family. But I will not come to the end of this enjoyment and glibly muse, “. . . well that was a good ride.” No one does that because no one feels that way about life – not really. We want more – we didn’t want the ride to end – we want . . . . . .

See . . .!


“We can be Americans Best if we are not Americans First”

This evening in our new class, “Apologetics and the Gospel,” we hear from Russell Moore share his heart from his new book, “Onward”. Below is his opening words on the inside cover jacket:

“We can be Americans best if we are not Americans First. The days ahead will be different than ever before. We may be seen as strange in American culture. We will be forced to articulate things we once could assume. That is nothing to wring our hands over. That is no call to retreat or to surrender, and it’s also no call to keep doing it the way we’ve been doing it, except at a louder volume. If so, onward Christian Strangers. Our message will be seen as increasingly freakish to American culture. Let’s embrace the freakishness, knowing that such freakishness is the power of God unto salvation. Let’s march onward with the confidence of those who know that the gospel didn’t emerge in Mayberry, and doesn’t need a Bible Belt to sustain it.”

I wish every true lover of Christ would read this book because the Church needs to apply “seek first the kingdom of God” in a way that she never has had to, at least here in America. The apostle Peter says,

“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense (apologia) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect . . .” 1 Peter 3:14-15

With the escalating fear of Muslims taking over this country(like the Romans took over Israel), the increasing intolerance of biblical Christianity with its position on marriage and the exclusivity of Jesus as the only way of salvation, and the implosion of a moral center for sustaining a democratic government, true followers of Christ must learn to love/seek/trust in the kingdom of God first, if we are to be the best earthly citizens for our earthly country. America needs more than ever to see that there is an everlasting kingdom and country to die and live for, and a King whose government does not harm its citizens. But if the true church in America acts, talks, and lives its life as if there is no other kingdom besides America, not only will we lose what’s left of our earthly country, but we will lose our ability to be salt and light for those who live in darkness.

I heartily recommend this timely and eye-opening read by Russell Moore!


“France: A Fabric Torn” by John Piper

 France: A Fabric Torn

In France the fabric of family and nation is torn, and ten thousand human fibers are frayed with anger, and wet with grief. Millions more are woven in among the stricken strands, and taste the bitter salt of tears. And from the unsafe distance of four thousand miles, we feel the human fibers pulling on our hearts.

The cry of “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “Allah is great”) punctuates the screaming gap between the gunfire and the detonation. Farewell, dismembered terrorist. This is my wish — farewell — but not what I believe. Your Allah is not great. Nor is he God. For God himself has said, No one who spurns the Son knows God (1 John 2:23). Not only that, but this: No one who loves to murder will have a martyr’s hope (1 John 3:15). O, how deceived you are, to think that you can pave your way to paradise with blood from “infidels.”

     O LORD, God of vengeance, 
        O God of vengeance, shine forth! 
     Rise up, O judge of the earth;
        repay to the proud what they deserve! 
     O LORD, how long shall the wicked, 
        how long shall the wicked exult? (Psalm 94:1–3)

Marc Coupris, a survivor of Le Bataclan (the theatre), said, “It was carnage. . . . They shot from the balcony. I saw my final hour unfurl before me, I thought this was the end. I thought I am finished, I am finished.” But you were not finished, Marc. We are thankful. Would that all could say the same. For many, life was over. They were finished.

O, let us wake up from the stupor of thinking we know when we will be finished. We do not know. God has told us how to speak of our tomorrows. “You ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:15). If you are reading this, you’ve been given another day. Perhaps only one. Think on this.

To all of France, the hands of Jesus are extended. The risen Savior stretches out his bloody hands and says, “Come to me, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17).

Vengeance will come. It need not come from private individuals. “Leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Romans 12:19). There is a time for everything under heaven. Now is a time for France — and all of us — to hear the words of Jesus, “Do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem [or Paris]? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4–5).

And if we do? Sins forgiven. God reconciled. Hell shut. Heaven opened. Spirit given. Love abounding. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

Paris, Memory Loss, Starbucks, and “the counsel of His Will”

It’s Saturday morning, Nov. 14, 2015. We’re in Springfield, IL. with Cheryl’s parents, attending a memory loss seminar for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Cheryl is with her parents and I’m sitting at Starbucks over-hearing several conversations about the horror in Paris. One middle-aged man near me says to his friend, “senseless – someone needs to do something to stop this.” Earlier this morning at the Memory Loss seminar during registration, I observe the alone-ness on many faces as husband, or wife, or daughter, or son, or close friend, attempts to learn more on how to deal with this elongated good-bye to the person that you love dearly; like sand that slowly slips downward in an hour-glass, your life-long friend moves from one kind of existence into another – right in front of you – and they’re never the same again, and you too. Back at Starbucks, there are three young teenage girls who are absorbed in their mutual class work for class next week – “Anatomy and Physiology”. As I sip on my Clover pressed Hawaii Kau, I finish up preparing for our Apologetics & The Gospel class for next Wednesday evening, as we work through “Onward” by Russel Moore. Put it all together:

For my church family, we need, I need, to know that God is working everything according to the counsel of his will so that his grace toward us in Christ will be enjoyed forever. I never do this, but I want to send the sermon outline to you so that you may pray for your church, Jesus’ Universal Church, yourself, your worship of Christ as we meet tomorrow. Let us pray for the few believers in France, that they will show the refuge of Christ in dangerous times to their friends and neighbors. We do not minimize horror. But we neither despair. Prepare for worship!

“He Works  Everything According to the Counsel of His Will.”

                                    Acts 20:27 & Ephesians 1

To the Ephesian Elders:

Acts 20:27  “. . . for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

“Counsel” = aim, goal, plan

 To the entire Ephesian church:

 Ephesians 1:3-14

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Q. What is the goal of all that God the Father has done in his Son?

A. It is to bring sinners to enjoy the beauty of God’s grace.

>Everything is Penultimate

>The Enjoyment of God is Ultimate

Why Do I Love the Whole Counsel of His Will?

  1. God will not leave the ultimate success of the enjoyment of his grace to the will, counsel, or determination of man.
  1. Every reason for joy and every reason for sorrow in this life will be united in Christ.
  1. My salvation in Christ serves a greater purpose than being saved from an eternal hell.
  1. All my questions will be resolved in Christ, someday.
  1. God’s predestination of my salvation in Christ does not encourage lawlessness, but hope for holiness.
  1. The Whole Counsel of His Will shapes my worldview and satisfies my heart like nothing else can.
  1. The Trinitarian God is fully committed to making me eternally happy in Him.