NOTES LEFT BEHIND

November 25, 2009 2 comments

Why do we let so many days pass without telling our loved ones how much they mean to us? Allow 6 year old Elena to inspire you to write a note today to someone you love.
Warning: There is a 99.99% chance you will cry when you watch the video.

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FIND MY FAMILY

November 24, 2009 2 comments

The promo says it all: From the creators of Extreme Makeover Home Edition.

Translation: Grab the box of tissues and get ready for a cry fest.

I know I’m a sucker for sappy shows, but good grief, they sure don’t make it easy on us see-how-many-tears-you-can-hold-in-the-bottom-rim-of-your-eyes-before-one-sneaks-out guys. I sat down with Haven last night to catch a sneak peak of Find My Family, and it was Game Over for me 5 minutes into the episode.

They had me right where they wanted me as a mom tearfully retold the story of handing her newborn across the desk to the adoption agency some 30 years ago, as the couple talked about the sadness they’ve since felt each year on the birthday of their daughter they had to give up, as the 29-year old daughter shared how her adoptive mother and she prayed each night for the lady who gave her up, as the daughter sees pictures of her biological parents for the first time, and as the parents see pictures of their biological daughter and grandson for the first time. And all that was comedy compared to the grand finale, which had the parents walking up a hill to the “family tree” and embracing their daughter for the first time since she was born.

As I watched the parents–parents who had longed for the day when they could begin a relationship with their daughter–as I watched these parents make their way along the narrow path up the hill, I couldn’t help but imagine God making that same journey. He, too, had children who bore His image. He, too, lost the closeness to these children that He once cherished. He, too, desired more than anything to see these relationships restored. He, too, for years pursued His offspring. And He, too, in his search of his children, was lead to a dead tree atop a lonely hill.

And, much like the daughter, it was there I first embraced my Father. It was there I met my Savior who was willing to trudge the hill in search of me. It was there the One who formed me, found me.

It was there I found my Family.

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AN ENTERTAINING EDUCATION

November 23, 2009 1 comment

Dear Miss Hope’s 5th grade class,

My sister has told me that you guys are super creative, technologically savvy, and very intelligent. It sounds like your education is off to a great start and you’ve got a bright future ahead of you. My sister has also told me that, among other things, you are studying letter writing and are about to read Bridge to Terabithia. Sounds like fun! Is she a great teacher, or what? (Don’t say “or what”)

So here’s the deal with this post. I just wanted to to tell you that my sister is really proud of you and to encourage you to view reading as a great adventure. For a long time I thought of reading as a chore, and as a result missed out on a lot of enjoyment that’s to be found in books. It wasn’t until I was much older than you are that I discovered what it meant to get lost in a book. Some of you, I’m sure, have already made this discovery; you know what it’s like for the words on the page of a good book to introduce you to interesting people, transport you to far away lands, and take you on exciting adventures.

Yep, reading will most certainly entertain you. And, beyond that, it will educate you. The more you read the more you’ll know, the clearer you’ll think, and the better you’ll write. Reading will open doors in your mind and to your future.

So what do you say you immerse yourselves in Bridge to Terabithia, continue to acquire a taste for a good read, and discover what an entertaining education is all about? Believe me, you’ll be glad you did! And so will my sister.

Happy reading,
Daniel

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.
— Groucho Marx

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NEED A GOOD REASON TO LOVE GOD? EZEKIEL HAS ONE.

November 22, 2009 Leave a comment

For a long time now I have loved the first 14 verses of Ezekiel 16, where God opens his journal and reads the graphic, love-soaked words to his beloved bride, Israel. Detailing his faithful love from her birth, through adolescence, and into womanhood, God tugs on the heartstrings of anyone who has ever held a child, invested in a teenager, or loved a spouse. Powerful. Intimate. Beautiful.

Hideous. A sudden shift occurs in verse 15. In spite of God’s devoted commitment to the marriage, his bride has left him broken hearted. Jealous, angry, and hurt, God reveals his disgust with her adulterous ways. He unloads: “You’re nothing but a prostitute. No, I take that back. You’re worse than a prostitute. A prostitute gets paid to sleep with strangers. You, on the other hand…you do it for free. Even worse, you’re the one paying for the sleazy service.” A little later in the one-sided conversation, God continues: “You’re as bad as Sodom. No, you’re worse than Sodom. As a matter of fact, you are so much worse that you make Sodom look good.” Heart wrenching. Pitiful. Disgusting.

Amazing. Another sharp break comes in verse 60. In spite of Israel’s rebellious ways, God vows his continued faithfulness to the marriage. God won’t let go. He can’t give her up. He renews the vows that she broke, pledging to establish an everlasting covenant with his wayward bride, atone for her heinous crimes, and someway, somehow rediscover the close relationship that has been lost.

Just in case you’re wondering, this story is not unique. It’s my story. It’s your story. It’s humanity’s story. Praise God for his amazing grace!

PERSON OF THE WEEK

November 21, 2009 2 comments

Curious as to the identity of this silhouetted man? Maybe a few vague, suspense-building clues will help. He’s a guy (hence the personal pronoun at the beginning of this sentence and the word “man” in the first sentence). We met when we were in elementary school, although we went to different schools in different states together. He was my suite mate in college for ONE year, during which time he became convinced to propose to his girlfriend, start planning a wedding, and never step foot in Benson dormitory again. (Coincidence? I think not.) He was a groomsman in my wedding. He’s a coworker of mine and one of my closest friends. And one thing I should mention about the silhouette to avoid any confusion: the dip on the crown is not a wave in his hair; it’s apparently a dent in his head that I hadn’t noticed before.

How about a drum roll? Okay, nevermind. I’ll just tell you. Justin Gerhardt is the person of the week. And here’s why:

  1. Justin is super TALENTED. Among other things, he’s a great thinker and a brilliant writer, as you’ll see by taking a look at his blog. He’s also a gifted communicator who’s effective when speaking to an audience of 800, teaching a class of 30, or counseling 1. He has a way of connecting with people, and in turn, connecting these people to Jesus.
  2. Justin is also a great FRIEND. When you need someone to listen, he’ll listen. When you need someone to make you laugh, he’ll say something ridiculous. If you still need a laugh, he’ll say something even more ridiculous. If you’re tired of laughing…well, you get the idea. When you need someone to tell you you’re an idiot, he’ll get the message across and somehow leave you feeling pretty good about yourself. When you need someone to critique a sermon or paper or plan or whatever, he’ll share insightful suggestions that greatly improve the final product. When you need someone to sympathize with you, he’ll tell you he’s sorry and mean it. He’s just an all-round great friend.
  3. Justin and Jen have a MARRIAGE that’s the envy of many (envy in a good, I-want-to-make-my-marriage-better kind of way). If you were to ask Justin what he loves about Jen, I’d guess that somewhere on his long list would be the way Jen admires and supports him. And if you were to ask Jen what she loves about Justin, I’d guess one of the many things she would say is that Justin is thoughtful and affectionate. From the outside looking in, they seem to have the Ephesians 5 thing pretty much down to an art.

Well, there you have it. Now the only thing left for me to do is collect my $50 from Justin for including this excerpt from his autobiography in my blog. Just kidding.

He actually owes me $75.

A BIBLE STUDY TOOL YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT

November 20, 2009 Leave a comment

I purchased an ESV Study Bible shortly after it was released about a year ago. It wasn’t until about six months later that I paid much attention to the insert at the back of the Bible which told about the ESV Online Study Bible. Since I discovered it, I have probably only picked up the hardback beast once or twice (as proven by my atrophied biceps). Although there are a few things about the site that are admittedly less than ideal, there are a ton of things I love about it. Here are a few:

  1. The price is right. It’s FREE with the purchase of an ESV Study Bible. If you don’t care to purchase one, you can simply pay a fee to use the online version.
  2. You can LISTEN to a real person’s voice read any section of the Bible. Pretty cool, huh?
  3. The site is like a Sandal’s resort (so I hear)–ALL INCLUSIVE. It includes everything the book does: text, cross references, commentary, charts, introductions to books, and more.
  4. Checking a CROSS REFERENCE is as easy as moving the cursor over the Scripture reference on the screen. No marking your place and turning hundreds of pages for a single cross reference. Not that I’m encouraging laziness. Just efficiency (yeah, that sounds much better).
  5. And here’s the biggie…TAKING NOTES is a cinch. You can highlight any text in any one of 5 colors and add your personal notes in the unlimited “margin.” The site saves your notes, so wherever you are, if you have internet access you can pull up your notes in no time.

You can check it out at www.esvstudybible.org. [Remember, to actually use the online study Bible you’ll either need to enter the code you received with the purchase of an ESV Study Bible or pay the fee for online access.] Either way, it’ll be worth it. I can’t guarantee it or anything, but I’m pretty confident in my recommendation.

***Disclaimer: No, I am not a computer-to-computer Bible salesman. Neither do I receive a commission for the referral (although I’d gladly accept one if offered). This post is what is called free advertising. You’re welcome, ESV Study Bible people. I’ll consider myself thanked.

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AND THE ROCK WAS CHRIST

November 19, 2009 1 comment

For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

-1 Corinthians 10:1-4

This passage speaks of four blessings the wilderness generation enjoyed: guidance from the cloud, deliverance through the Red Sea, nourishment from the manna, and water from the rock. Concerning the water, a rabbinic tradition stated that a stream of water, or rock, travelled with the Israelites during their time in the wilderness. In this passage Paul reinterprets that tradition. Whether or not a physical rock followed the Israelites, there was a Rock that followed them. And the Rock was Christ.

In other words, years before his incarnation, Christ was the source of the wilderness generation’s blessings. He was present with them. He was involved in their lives. He was showering them with blessings.

This passage suggests something marvelous about our Lord: Jesus’ involvement on earth is not limited to the 33 or so years of his earthly life. His involvement on earth began before his incarnation on earth and continues today, years after his incarnation on earth.

Jesus is still God-With-Us, present when we worship (Mt. 18:20), when we share in communion (Mt. 26:29), and when we face trials (Acts 18:10). Even more, he’s always with us (Mt. 28:20) because he’s in us (Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27).

Just imagine if we were convinced of and conscious of Christ’s presence with us and in us. Imagine how that knowledge has the potential to powerfully change our lives for the better. Imagine how it would change the way we face suffering, approach worship, and pursue holiness. Imagine how it would infuse us with the courage to seize opportunities for service and trade our modest ministry plans for ones that reflect the greatness of our God–our God who is with us, empowering our efforts for him.

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