Jesus Loves Me (and you)

child hands

I was driving my children somewhere this morning. They began to sing the old song “Jesus loves me”.  You don’t even need to be a churched person to recognize it…  Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…

It was one of those nice dad moments. My daughters almost got the lyrics right.  That song may be relegated to Sunday School or even looked down on for being so simplistic.  Though the truth it contains is simple, it is far from shallow.  The love of Jesus is at the heart of the Good News.

The great Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) was once on a tour of the United States. After a lecture, a student stood up and asked him to summarize his entire theology. Most likely the student was expecting a profound answer from the man who was known neither for his simplicity nor brevity. Instead, Barth allegedly said:  “Yes, I can. In the words of a song I learned at my mother’s knee: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

So from the greatest minds to the youngest of children – the truth is the same. Nothing could be more simple, nothing could be less shallow.

 

Find Yourself? or Lose Yourself?

I was hoping to find a cheesy image to use for this post. The Internet did not disappoint.

I was hoping to find a cheesy image to use for this post. The Internet did not disappoint.

How do we find ourselves?

I did a quick check online and sure enough Oprah an online quiz to help us find ourselves.  But I don’t want to pick on Oprah too much because it was only slightly harder to find Christianized versions of such ideas. The faithful often possess the exact same outlook on life as the surrounding culture, merely shellacked with spiritual gloss.

How we find ourselves is a question not many people asked in previous times. In previous cultures (and present ones different than our own), our identity was for the most part inherited. Our social position in family and society gave us an identity and we found ourselves within it. Now we can easily imagine the shortfalls of this and are probably repulsed by a perceived lack of freedom in determining who we are.

But given our own culture – where are forced to not just find but even to construct our own identities – we may be blind to the dangers on the other side. Whatever the pitfalls of finding identity in social and familial expectations, few wrestled with issues of identity with the same angst as we do today. This is evident from looking at the literature of the day.

It can actually be exhausting on our side of things. Because if we are completely free to find ourselves, or even to self-create ourselves, than it really rests all on us. The burden is entirely individually borne. And it betrays the general fact that if want to find yourself you ought not to look to yourself.

The Gospel – the Good News of Jesus with all its implications – offers something completely different than the older inherit your identity from tribe-social position-family-religious/ethnic affiliation. When people embraced Jesus as Lord they often had to forsake reliance on ethnicity or social position to construct identity.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free the Apostle wrote to the Galatians.  Not even family ties, as vital in the Biblical view as in most other cultures, was where we are to find our identity.  Think on that and consider Jesus’ words about fathers, mother, sons, and daughters.

But the Gospel also does not urge us to look to ourselves or find ourselves. This repudiates the contemporary obsession with self-discovery, self-invention, or self-construction. Instead urging us to find ourselves, we must instead lose ourselves – even our very lives. It’s then that we truly will find what we’re looking for.

Reading to Children – the power of stories

Here is HRH Prince William showing us how its done.

Here is HRH Prince William showing us how its done.

 

I listen to Al Mohler’s podcast The Briefing almost every morning.  This morning he had an especially heartwarming final segment.  It was on the importance and benefit of reading to children even as they grow up.

In my home we are firm believers in the power of good literature and recently I’ve been reading the Chronicles of Narnia to my girls, aged 4 (and a half) and 6 (and a half).  (those half years are very important to them at their ages).  Seeing their faces shine with wonder is all the reward I need but there appears to be great benefits besides.

Listen to these five minutes (and if you have kids, read to them!)

Click link to hear the segment :                                          Play 5:35                   

 

articles referenced:

A Most Amazing Word

but

 

If someone were to ask “what is the most amazing word in the Bible?” there could be lots of answers and many of them would be good. Most of us would probably suggest something like loveGospel, Kingdom, or even the word God. But often the most amazing words are those that are the most humble.

One of the most humble words is “but”.  That’s right, “but”.  Used mostly as a conjunction it finds its way into many sentences but we probably don’t take much notice.  “But” is not a word that preachers will spend time explaining the root of or studying in depth. But it is not the meaning of “but” that is so amazing but its function. As a conjunction it represents contrast with what goes before it; a 180 degree turnaround. Things are going one way, but… they now go this way. That turn around is at the heart of the Gospel.

Watch how it is used:

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart…. (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28)

We may assume that it is relatively easy to obey God’s law, be a good person, or live a righteous life.  Then Jesus comes along and with one little word – “but” – shows us that it is far worse than we can ever imagine. It is not merely what we do which keeps us from God, but the source of our actions that has gone wrong. Our hearts are wrong.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…  (Ephesians 2:4)

It really is bad.  Then God accomplishes a complete turn from where we are and have been heading. We’re dead in trespasses, “but God…”  There is that “but” again.  We are completely prone to what Jesus wants us about “but” God, out of his mercy and love, reaches out to us. The entire Gospel is described in that turning point.

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  (1st Corinthians 6:11)

Another amazing “but”. In every type of sin, Christians are no better than anyone. “But” there is washing and cleansing from that past life. Not just changed “but” transformed into a new kind of life. The entire Gospel of a transformed life is expressed in that tiny conjunction.

 

There are many amazing words in the Bible. Often the smallest and most humble carry far more significance than first appears.

Free in Limits

limits

 

‘Tis within limits that the master shows.”  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832)

 

Goethe wrote that line to illustrate how strict forms of writing poetry, like the sonnet, helped show who were the real gifted poets. Basically being to Germans what Shakespeare is to the English speaking world, he should know. Being confined within the parameters forced them to refine, distill, and perfect their poetic intentions. It was in the limitations that they find their strength. American poet and artist Julia Cameron expresses the same, updated for the twentieth century: “in limits there is freedom. Creativity thrives within structure.”

This may grate against us at first. How can being confined be a freeing thing? Aren’t all limits restrictive? The fact that the idea grates is evidence at just how counter-cultural it is in a world where any restraint upon us is felt to be an injustice. But only within restraint can we be truly free.

But having rules on the field which restrict play free everyone enjoy the game.

A society which has no laws, customs, or social virtues may permit one to do whatever they want to anyone else. But would such freedom really feel like freedom if you were living in it?

Staying faithful in marriage limits intimacy to one partner. But it also frees us to enjoy the extended, long-term, committed love that only such an exclusive relationship can bring.

With God, it is the same. As as a well-known worship song says it’s only in Your will that I am free.  And that idea does not come from nowhere. It comes from God, who desires us to be more free than we would even choose to be on our own.

The Psalmist in Psalm 119, that massive meditation on God’s word, says: I will run in the way of your commandments, when you enlarge my heart… (v 32). The image is one of running free yet while being held within God’s desires for us expressed in His word. A heart set truly free is one within limits.