The Christmas Story as Drawn by our Children

This is an epic time of the year.  It’s what happened 2,000 years ago that makes it so important.  God took on flesh to save the world.  This is the Christmas Story.  This year our children made pictures of the main scenes of the story.  Enjoy.

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daughters, daddy’s, and God’s glory

daughters

I have three little jewels. They came to me as blessed gifts from above.  Each jewel has unique facets and glimmer with unending beauty.  Their beauty rises from within and shines throughout, mixing the temporal and eternal.  I simply enjoy holding my jewels and can look at them for hours upon hours.  I cherish them.  I take time to let them know how much I adore them and do whatever it takes to help them keep their beauty.  For their beauty reflects a greater beauty to a beauty-stricken world.  My jewel are my daughters.

Dads and daughters. It’s a uniquely special relationship. I know, since I have three daughters. Truth be told, I wouldn’t trade my daughters for any son. My daughters are my pint-sized princesses. They were born with a natural ability to pirouette, a spirit bent on loveliness, and contagious giggles. I delight to watch my girls be girls and crush them with squeezes and douse them affectionate words like “Sweetheart,” “Snuggle Bums,” or “Beautiful one”. I even have special, silly songs for them that I like to sing only over them.

Where does the delight that daddy’s have for their daughters originate? It is eternal.  It came before time began.  It originated from another Father.  You see it first in his love for the eternal Son.  But it spreads to his creation which he lavishes with his embrace, pours out affectionate words, even sings overs.  There are many songs God has written for his children.  Zephaniah 3:14-17 is perhaps the most enchanting.

14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.
16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.
17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing

God has a daughter?

Did you know God had a daughter too?  Did you think God only had a Son?  It might come to you as a surprise, but God’s daughter is Israel (v.14).  God calls an entire nation his daughter.  He chose Israel from among all nations of the world and adopted her as his own.  He favors her, treasures her, sings to her, and loves her deeply.  Israel is the apple of his eye.  His heart melts for her, even when aa Zephaniah tells us how bad his daughter had become (see 3:1-5).

God is his daughter’s keeper

Daughters are precious jewels and there is within a good father a God-given inclination to protect her and keep her from evil (v.15).  Most daughters do not like this about their fathers at first or at all because some father tend to be either passive or overprotect.  However, good fathers are aware of the enemies that steal and destroy the hearts of daughters such as vanity, seductiveness, and self-image.

The enemy and the world are clever at redefining and distorting beauty and says, “This is what beauty looks like. Follow this way, and you will be known and liked and loved.”  Most daughters or women will tell you that  way is shallow and is an endless pursuit leading to much frustration and regret.  Therefore good fathers go to great lengths to remind their daughters where the well of beauty is found and strive to lead them there.

God warned Israel over and over, “Do not turn away from my voice and follow other gods (or faux-fathers).”  He is jealous for his daughter.  He delights in his daughter as the apple of his eye, but knows they were a surrounded by rotten apples.  Yet God assures them that though there was much to fear around them they had nothing to fear because God was with them.  God is his daughter’s keeper (vs.15-16; cf. Psalm 91:14ff; 59:1-2).

I remember when I first brought my girls to Chad, Justus in particular, was afraid and intimidated to talk to people. She was surrounded by many new faces she did not know.  There was so many new fears.  She would cling to her mom or me.  Sometimes when I would lead her outside the gate for a walk she would ask for me to hold her and she would hug my neck tight.  She thought is was safe to be near to me.

The safest place for you to be is with your Father.  Cling to him.  Hear his words.  Trust he is near.  Clasp onto his strong hands.  Do not fear.  He is your protector.  He will keep you.

Fathers, keep your daughters.  Teach them about the love of God.  Guard them from enemies and teach her his lies.  Stand in the line of attack so that your daughter sees how you fight against the enemy when the day comes when she doesn’t have you nearby to protect her.

No father wants to see their daughter fall or get hurt because they walked outside the umbrella of your counsel.  That’s when it becomes a temptation to overprotect, but an overprotective father is not a loving father.  Overprotection seeks control your daughter.  A father cannot control everything.  And when you do you play god, but don’t play god very well.  The intended result of overprotect is often the opposite.  Instead of your daughter running to you for counsel, they will be repelled by it.

Fathers, trust God to protect your daughters when they venture out on their own.  Pick them up when they fall and embrace them when they return to you.  Remember, even Israel became a harlot and shamed God, but she was still God’s daughter and he keeps all his promises to her and loves her deeply.  God is like the father of the prodigal, full of grace and love.

Daughters, maybe your view of God the Father is tainted because you’ve had an abusive or passive earthly father.  This happens.  But God the Father is not like this.  He is a good Father.  Yet if you have an earthly father, trust him as he seeks to protect you.  He might not always be the best at it.  He may have many holes in their armor.  He might miss an enemy or two, but God has called them to protect you.  If you step outside their protection the enemy has better aim at you.  For your own protection heed the words of your father and your God and learn how to fight the enemy from him.  There is nothing to fear.

God is his daughter’s warrior and songwriter

God often fought many battles for Israel, but sometimes he let her go out to battle alone.  This was a test to her faith and resolve.  Sometime Israel would fear and flee.  Sometimes she would call on the Father for help and he would rescue.  Sometimes she would make an alliance with the enemy and not listen to the Father’s words.  But always, God was there with her.  He was with her on good and bad and ugly days. Loving her, soothing her, holding her, rejoicing over her, and singing over her (v.17).

When are daughters most afraid?  I find that my daughter is most afraid when she feels alone or unsure or she has done wrong.  In those moments, my daughter is looking for a warrior, a fighter, someone to champion her fear.  It is then that I remind her that I love her (even if I must discipline her) and sing over her.

Fathers, rejoice over your children.  Sing praises over them.  For real!  Even if you sound silly or think you look stupid or sing severely out of tune.  As God sings over you with loud frivolous exultations, mirror that to your daughters.  Your daughter will remember this the rest of her life.  These will be her battle songs.

Daughters, encourage your father to be a strong warrior.  He needs to hear this from you.  Ask him to help you, pray with you, and advise you through your battles.  Also, don’t be embarrassed when he sings silly songs of praises over you.  He loves you because you are his jewel. the apple of his eye.  He cannot help but sing over you.

God quiets us with His singing, its a singing that drowns out all other competing noises of life that clamor for our attentions and do what they can do to distract us.  He is drowning out the noisy lies of the enemy and quieting our raging heart with his beautiful songs of praise.

What does God sing over us?  He sings songs of truth.  He sings his promises over us.  He reminds us of his faithfulness, that as we abide in Him, He abides in us and keeps us in his love.  He sings to remind us that as we draw near to him, he will draw near to us.  He is for us and not against us.  How wonderful it is that our good good Father sings over us.

Sons and daughters of God.  Run into your Daddies arms.  Listen for his songs of praise over you.  Know that you are his precious jewel…

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” – 1 John 3:1-3

God’s grace on display in my childhood

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I was born to two teenage parents. My parents submitted to their parents and married while I was still in the womb. Their marriage lasted two years, but they remained close. I bounced between apartments and my grandparents. It was frustrating and heart-aching for me not to have consistency in the home, but I imagine it was equally difficult for my parents whose young adult lives now included a little boy.

During my elementary school years, I was both distracted and a distraction. I was known as the class jester. I became such a distraction that my school moved me to the ‘special class’ where I received ‘special’ attention. I got the attention I desired, but I still craved more.  My attitude grew out of control. Rage and bitterness held the reins of my life. Most wouldn’t know it because I learned how to manufacture masks to cover what really was under my skin. Occasionally, it would flare up and my outbursts got me into a lot of trouble. It became such a problem that my school sent me to multiple counselors and child psychologists.

It was about this time, my mom remarried and we moved 3-hours north, away from my dad. I started going to a new school, but my past behavior soon followed. My new guidance counselor created a motivational tool he called, “The Hutts-O-Meter”. It hung just outside the principal’s office. The meter would go up one ‘tick’ on a detention-free day, but it went down two ‘ticks’ if I sat in detention. If the meter reached 100 “ticks”, the entire 5th grade would receive a pizza party in my honor. At first, it was cool. I was overdosing on attention. It didn’t take long to see through my classmate who just wanted a party. On top of this, a certain teacher said to me, “Justin, you will either end up in jail or the psych ward.” I was crushed.

My family started attending a small Bible Church, which was different from the Catholic church I grew up attending. I received a lot of attention there, but it was different. People cared for my spirit and mended my wounds with the Word of God. It was there, Jesus redeemed my life. Thereafter, certain men in the church discipled me and helped me to find joy and affection in Christ.

Years later, I met the teacher who prophesied on my future. He didn’t recognize me, as I was fitting his feet with new shoes. I was working at Schmidt’s Sporting Goods through high school to save enough money to go to Bible College. I asked him if he knew who I was. It took him a minute with a look of surprise he said, “Justin? No! Really? Wow, you’ve got a job?” I shared with him what Jesus had done and was doing. His look of surprise became a look of shock. God’s grace was on display that day.

Also in this Series…

Part 1: God’s grace is powerful enough to redeem anyone (3-weeks ago).

Part 2: God’s grace can lead to a sudden conversion (2-weeks ago).

Part 3: God’s grace uses people as his instruments (last week).

Part 4: God’s grace on display in my childhood (today).

Lessons for parents from Jesus’ parents

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We don’t often think of Jesus being a child, teenager, or even a tween, but He was one. I suppose the reason is that there isn’t a lot of material written about Jesus’ childhood between His birth and late-twenties. What was it like to parent a young Jesus? Perfect right? No tension, no discipline, no disappointment. Well, not exactly. Jesus had a moment of tension, but the tension was only there from the perspective of His parents.

The situation occurred following a family trip to Jerusalem (Luke 2:41ff). Jesus’ family annually observed the Feast of the Passover. It is here that we see some valuable lessons for parents from Jesus’ parents.

1. Godly parents’ obey God first (Luke 2:41-42).

In celebrating Passover, Jesus’ parents were not just taking a fun trip to see local attractions, they were showing their appreciate for the Law and their love for God. Mary and Joseph were living their faith openly before Jesus. This is not the first time we see this young couple loving God and obeying Him (cf. 2:22-24, 39).

Parents who obey God first will often have children who follow closely behind. Children learn by what they see, not just what they hear. Parents who allow their children or society dictate their mode of parenting will be frustrated and disillusioned as will be their children. Put God first before your children. Even when you blow it, let your children see you bend your knees back to Him.

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)

Note Jesus’ timing in Jerusalem. He is 12 years old, the age that marked the final year of preparation for a son before he entered full participation in the religious life of the synagogue. Up until this point his parents, especially his father, would teach him the commandments of the law, which were completed with a ceremony where he formally became a “son of the commandment” (bar mitzvah). It was this moment Jesus chose to stay behind in the temple. Perhaps, He wants to demonstrate that He is more than an ordinary Jewish bar mitzvah.

2. Godly parents entrust their children to God early in their childhood preparing them for adulthood (Luke 2:43–50).

Jesus’ family likely traveled in a large group with other relatives, friends, and neighbors. “And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey.” (vs.43-44) Now the journey from Jerusalem to Nazareth was 153 kilometers (95 miles), and traveling by foot was probably more than a day trip.

Then it happened—a Home Alone moment. In the commotion of leaving the celebration Mary and Joseph didn’t account for their most precious cargo: their son, Jesus. Think about that moment as a parent. Immediately they check every person for details, “When did you see him last?” No quick flights. No cellphones. No 911 or Amber Alert. Quickly they traced their steps back Jerusalem probably checked every town and wayside along the road back.

Do you feel Joseph and Mary were neglectful to leave Jesus behind? There are two interesting things happening here that seem inconsistent. First, Jesus’ seems to disrespect his parents’ time and feelings. Second, there seems to be an implicit faith Mary and Joseph have in their young son. He was not an irresponsible boy nor was He rebellious. They trusted Him and knew He had wisdom. This suggests that Jesus’ motive in staying behind was not carelessness or disrespectful, rather it was purposeful.

After 3-days in Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph finally find Jesus. Where was He? He’s in the temple of all places talking, listening, and asking question of the teachers. He was not like other 12-year old boys who’d probably be at the pool or arcade! Joseph and Mary were beside themselves, frustrated at the circumstances separating them from Jesus. They responded as most parents would, “Why would you do this to us? We’ve been worried sick!”

Jesus’ response is astounding. No doubt this is the point to Luke’s inclusion of this story in his gospel, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house (or doing my Father’s business)?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.” (Luke 2:49-50) Mary and Joseph’s human emotions clouded their understanding that Jesus is God and Savior. They saw themselves as parents and Jesus as their son. And the lack of understanding Jesus’ word showed that there was more going here than meets the eye (cf. Luke 18:34).

Jesus chose this crucial stage in his life, on the brink of manhood, to tell his parents in an unforgettable fashion that He now knows whom His real Father is and what His mission is. In a real sense Simeon prophecy to Mary and Joseph in Luke 2:33-35 was already coming to pass, “a sword will pierce through your own soul also.” The time will come when Jesus will be killed in Jerusalem, 3-days rise from the dead, and that will be a great pain to Mary. And the past 3-day for Mary and Joseph foreshadow that pain.

Joseph and Mary probably saw their parenting role in transition that day. Sometimes the biggest pain in parenting is the pain of having to cut the strings of ownership over the lives of your children. Yet that is the goal of parenting. From the very moment your child enters the world, you are preparing them to live outside your roost and walk in loving obedience to God’s commands. As painful as it is to cut the ties it is even more hurtful to keep them tied. Godly parents entrust their children to God in childhood preparing them for adulthood.

3. Godly parents help their children learn to be obedient to God and to them (Luke 2:51–52).

Following this tense situation Jesus “went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:51-52) Jesus understands who He is in God (the Son of God), and man (submissive to His parents). Jesus continued to be under the authority of His parents, but He also recognizes His unique sonship to God and that His mission will require of him a devotion to God’s purposes even if it brought pain and misunderstanding from those closest to Him. In the end, Mary rejoices and treasures this situation in her heart.

Luke now sets the stage for Jesus’ adult ministry as the Son of God. 18 years later, when perhaps some of these very same teachers who marveled at Jesus’ understanding would mock and murder Him. He came to do His Father’s business even if it cost Him His life.

Parents, when teaching your children obedience it must first be modeled by your obedience to God and other authorities over you. I’ve counseled many parents with rebellious teens. Rather than dealing with their children right away I usually have a few questions for the parents, “How do you talk about your boss at the dinner table? How do you talk about the President while watch the news? Or what do you say about the pastor after the service in the car on the way home?” It’s then that the light bulbs turn on for the parents.

Obedience to authority is a milestone of maturity first modeled in parents then followed by their children. When disciplining your children to obey authority it is important to discipline rebellion against it rather than immaturity in it. This teaches children that maturity is a process, but rebellion is direct disobedience that not only has consequences in childhood that if not dealt with will have even severer consequences in adulthood.

bringing the gospel home (book review)

I ordered this book out of curiosity.

Sharing the gospel with family is tough!

First, I have unsaved family members that I really desire to share the gospel with, but direly fall short of doing regularly. I really love and care for them and want to see them in heaven someday too. This is a book on evangelism that hits close to home.

Second, there are not many books out there on the subject of evangelize friends and family, but never have I read one quite like this. I am certainly surprised by what I am reading. It is not your ordinary book on evangelism with step my step or play by play approaches for witnessing to different kinds of people. It is not methodological or programmatic. It is simply a book about the gospel and it’s ramifications on me and my family. The illustrations are refreshingly honest and easy to relate to. I heavily recommend it to anyone interested in sharing Christ with their loved ones (which should be everyone).

Third, the book has a beautiful explanation of the gospel. Although I wished the book explained the gospel clearer the implications of the gospel could not have been more clearer. That is the beef of the book. And it is good to eat!

The chapters flow is unexpected, but once immersed you quickly see how they flow in a biblical and natural sort of way:

Chapter 1: FAMILY, a beatitude and yet a burden. All here in this chapter is a theology of the family from the Scripture. THe theology of the family includes two opposing angles; God and Satan. Both have their strategy and purpose for your family. It is good to understand both since one strategy is established before time the other is to destroy what’s always been. And there is hope to redeem what’s been destroy.

Chapter 2: GRACE, Amazing and yet breaking. A very important chapter on putting yourself on the same plain as your family in need of grace, rather than letting pride put you above them. Grace is one of the most neglected components when sharing the gospel, but one of the key components to understanding the gospel.

Chapter 3: TRUTH, liberating and yet narrow. In Acts 17, Paul is communicating with intelligent and religious people. People who are proud and think they’ve nailed the meaning of truth. That is until Paul introduces them to the gospel of truth. Some mocked, but some believed. Is that a familiar response in your family? In a truth starved world we need to understand where it went wrong and rightly meet it with the gospel. That’s where this chapter begins.

Since gospel truth has substance, we should think deeply about it. Since it draws lines, we should stand boldly in it. Since it illuminates all of life, we should celebrate its fullness. Since it prompts a response, we should ask for one. Since it’s easy to get wrong, we should reflect carefully about how to communicate it. (102-103)

Chapter 4: LOVE, always craved and yet seldom conveyed. Love is a mysterious and romanticized word. Defining love can be hard, but the Bible makes it easy. Learning to love your family with a gospel-love will help them see the initiative and sacrifice of Christ in action. This chapter helps you not only with the content of the gospel message but your context of sharing it.

Chapter 5: HUMILITY, divinely modeled and yet difficult to find. I can extend grace, truth and love to my family, but humility? Are you serious? Yes. And so is Jesus. He had humble holiness. This chapter helps you not only dish your pride and eat humility, but serves up Christ on a silver platter.

Humility us to see ourselves as God sees us in Christ–hopelessly sinful but graciously saved, rebellious yet redeemed, incapable of producing any righteousness on our own yet empowered to do all that God calls us to, appropriately bold yet taking no credit for the basis of that boldness. (136, Titus 3:3-8)

Chapter 6: TIME, freeing and yet fleeting. What time you ask? With eternity as our deadline we feel the pressure to dump the gospel on those we love and press them for a decision like life insurance agents. Sometimes the simple yet so heavy truths of the gospel need time to settle and marinate. This chapter helps us not to rush, but let God do His work in His time.

The God who calls us to live in time lives outside of time. We feel the burden of deadlines, but He never does. We grow impatient, while He knows nothing of that weakness. (155) Witnessing to family takes wisdom…and all that takes time.

Chapter 7: ETERNITY, comforting and yet terrifying. 100% of the people reading this will die. That truth can either cause your jaw to drop or draw you into unfathomable joy. Death is not the end only the beginning. This chapter touches on lives reality while giving you hope in the gospel as you share it with those you love the remainder of their days.

The distinct nature of the finished work of the gospel delivers people from fear, denial, and false hope. When we point people to Christ, we show them a way that takes the sting out of death, thus making it something to anticipate instead of dread. As Dietrich Bonheoffer once preached, “Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in Him.” (182; John 3:16-18)

Two dominant world views vie for our affections: One sees this life as all there is. The other sees life as preparation for the next. One thinks only in terms of the temporal. The other values the temporal because it sees it in light of the eternal. The first way does all that it can to avoid thinking about death. The other faces death squarely. The first speaks only of people “living in our hearts” after they die. The other envisions Revelation 7:9-10. (205-206)

thumb licks [4.26.12]

Is the internet ruining your brain?

How to deal with the loss of a spouse.

That’s not fair.

Sweet gadgets for the one percent who can afford them.

Do pets go to heaven?

10 of the most difficult theological issues Christians must face today.

How to lead a child to Christ?

The secret life of plankton. So small but so great.

More than just Christmas.

4/14 Window

What is the 4/14 Window?

The 4/14 Window refers to all children between the ages of 4 to 14. During this decade or “window,” most children in this demographic develop their moral and spiritual foundations.

Why is this age group so important?

There are 2.3 billion children on earth under age 15 and they represent the largest unreached people group in the world. Boys and girls in the 4/14 Window are given priority because they are more open and receptive to the gospel than older youth and adults. Nearly 85% of people who make a decision for Christ, do so between the ages of 4 to 14!

What is the 4/14 Window Initiative?

The 4/14 Window Initiative is “to raise-up a new generation from the 4/14 Window to transform the world for Christ.” This is simply the mission statement of the 4/14 Window Movement.

Who oversees the 4/14 Window Movement?

The 4/14 Window Movement is a partnership of Christ followers and Christian leaders from the Body of Christ around the world. While many denominations and ministries are represented, the 4/14 Movement is non-denominational. Many who serve within the movement are employed by local churches or other ministries. The 4/14 Movement has no headquarters, no formal organization and no paid staff. Everyone who serves, does so out their love for Jesus Christ and the children in the 4/14 Window.

Find out more about at the 4/14 Window website. Download the prayer and fasting guide.

thumb licks [3.14.12]

Fight sin is tiring.

The gospel of art.

8 ways to protect your children from sexual abuse.

5 reasons God said “NO.”

Why daylight savings time is pointless.

Harold Camping admits sin and doomsday predictions.

Be careful what you say to your pastor.

Why imposters love church.

3 Little Pigs. If it were told today in today’s world.

Kony 2012. I hope this movement does not make this man famous, but that justice would be taken. I appreciate this letter from a fellow brother in Africa to a lady who has questions about Kony.

thumb licks [1.27.11]

5 Ways Wives Can Encourage Their Husbands.

An Open Letter to Christian Wives with Unbelieving Husbands.

20 Things a Husband Could Say to Defuse an Argument with His Wife.

Don’t Know How To Act When Someone Corrects You? Your Worries Are Over!

How to Honor your wife. Treating your woman like a queen.

Parenting Wisdom 101. Straight from Proverbs.

What Does God Want From Me? Some Important Thoughts For Children.

Why pray? Learning from the lips of Jesus.

Tom Hanks and Toddlers & Tiara’s:

consider adoption

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.—James 1:27

Considering adoption? [great sites to start your search]

Adoption 101: God’s heart and our call

A biblical view of adoption

Q&A on Adoption: Countries and More. Where should I adopt?

Love Basket

America World Adoption

All God’s Children

Adoption Advocates

Lifesong for Orphans

The LYDIA Fund

ABBA Fund. On funding adoptions.

Unveiled Face

Five Reflections on Evangelicalism and Adoption

Friends of adoption

Whipple Words

Mandy Joy. Echoes of Mercy.

Mag News

One thankful Mom

what is man?

I am sure the untimely and inconvenient news was a shock to the two unwed teenagers the summer of 1979. The news, “You’re pregnant!” Abortion might have been an option, but both their Catholic parents discouraged it and encouraged the baby to be born. I am grateful my two parents decided on the side of life.

Before my sister Samantha was born, my mother and step-dad were already aware she would be born with Spina Bifida. The doctors recommended an abortion thinking it would be laborious to bring a physically disabled child into the world. It is true, my family would have to adjust and Sam would not have the use of her legs, but no one would know the blessing of my beautiful, intelligent, and warm sister, now an incredible young woman.

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. I hate this day. I don’t hate it because I think it is unbiblical. I hate it because I have to say things in church that shouldn’t have to be said. Mothers shouldn’t kill their children. Fathers shouldn’t abandon their babies. No human life is worthless, regardless of skin color, age, disability, or economic status. The very fact that these things must be said is a reminder of the horrors of this present darkness.

I hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday because I’m reminded that as preach there are babies warmly nestled in wombs that won’t be there tomorrow. I’m reminded that there are children—maybe even blocks from this church—who will be slapped, punched, and burned with cigarettes butts before this message is over. I’m reminded that there are elderly men and women whose lives are pronounced a waste and euthanasia is considered a viable option.

But I also love Sanctity of Human Life Sunday when I think about the fact that I am in a church with ex-orphans, adopted into loving families. I am in a church that supports local pregnancy centers for women in crisis. Like Proverbs 31:8-9 you, “Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and the needy.” May the church continue to be a haven for men and women—who have aborted babies—find their sins forgiven and consciences cleansed by Christ.

Believe it or not the Bible is silent on the topic of abortion [as it is on the humanity of whites, blacks, Hispanics, etc]. Jesus never said, “thou shalt not abort,” even though it was practiced during His day too. Although the Bible does not condemn abortion does not mean it condones it. Likewise, just because culture or government condones it as legal doesn’t it mean it’s God-honoring. The Bible is clear: you are not to take innocent human life without justification.

Therefore, if a positive case can be made for the humanity of the unborn apart from the Bible you can logically conclude that Biblical commands against the unjust taking of human life apply to the unborn as they do other human beings whether they are red, yellow, black or white, young, old, skinny or fat, healthy or not. And to this point, science confirms theology. In other words, science gives the facts you need to arrive at a theologically sound conclusion. What the science of embryology makes clear is that from the earliest stages of development, human embryos and fetuses are human beings but just less developed than the adults they will soon become.

The question I pose this morning: at what point does the embryo begin to be made in the image of God? The answer to this question comes down to your view of God and human life in connection with God. The answer to this important theological question is packed into a little song that David wrote in Psalm 8.

1. GOD IS MAJESTIC IN ALL THE EARTH [Psalm 8:1, 9]

The psalm begins and ends with its main point: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!” [8:1, 9]

The two words for lord (O LORD, our Lord) are not the same in Hebrew. The first LORD, with all caps, is a translation of the name YHWH. It’s His personal name. The name He gives Himself. It is built on the statement in Exodus 3:14, “I am who I am.” It’s a name to remind us that He absolute exists. He simply is. He did not come into being, and does not go out of being. He never changes in His being, because He is absolutely exists in His being.

His name is majestic in all the earth. There is no place in all the earth where God is not YHWH—where He is not the absolute One. Everything everywhere depends absolutely on Him. He depends on nothing, but everything depends on Him. He has no viable competitors anywhere. He has no challengers to His throne. He is above all things everywhere. He sustains all things everywhere. He is the aim and goal of all things everywhere. He is greater and wiser and more beautiful and wonderful than everything everywhere. “O YHWH, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth.” That’s the main point of the psalm.

In response you and I are to stand in awe of His majesty and worship. The majesty of God is awe-inspiring. Those who have seen His majesty have never been the same. John fell on His face in the presence of God. Isaiah cried, “I’m unworthy,” when in the thundering presence of God. Do you have a majestic view of God? If you have a majestic view of God you will have a majestic view of life. If you have a low view of God you will have low view of life.

2. GOD’S MAJESTY IS SEEN IN HIS SUPREME CREATION [Psalm 8:3-8]

We are going to skip over verse 2 for a moment. I promise we will come back to it. In verses 3-4 David responds to His majestic Creator, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” The point of these two verses is to see God’s bigness and my smallness. God is infinitely great, and man, by comparison, is nothing. God creates stars with His fingers and I am so small compared to Earth, the sun, and the billions of suns that form up our galaxy, and the millions of galaxies that are laid out in our universe.

Have you ever stood underneath the night sky and thought, “Wow, I am small and insignificant?” That’s the point. God created all that bigness so you’d have a sense of smallness. Some consider it a lot of wasted space, but space God’s natural billboard proclaiming His praise. Worship is not found in feeling big, but rather in feeling small.

An honest question arises in verse 4, “Why do You consider man when You are so majestic?” The answer comes in verses 5-8: “You [O God] have crowned him with glory and honor…You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet…” Now that is absolutely astonishing! John Calvin summarized it by saying, “Whoever, therefore is not astonished and deeply affected at this miracle—God being mindful of man—is more than ungrateful and stupid.” Although man is nothing compared to God, He makes man His supreme creation.

God’s majesty is seen as He creates man in His image [Genesis 1:26-27]. One might ask when does the image of God begin in man? According to God, it begins even before one cell splits and multiplies in the womb. In the human embryo are found the marks of your Maker. No other creature in God’s creation is crowned with glory and honor like mankind.

God’s majesty is seen as He makes man dominioneers over all His creation [Genesis 1:28-31]. God gives you a job—care and protect life. However, when we read the Genesis account of Adam and Eve, their children, and observe history thereafter man does not do a good job caring for and protecting life. We don’t like our job. We want a new job. We’d rather redefine the job. Therefore we join a union and march with picket signs that say, “God, I have a rights!”

Do I have rights? Sure. In our society a woman has her rights. She can murder a child and get away with it. I am an advocate for civil and judicial rights, but not rights-gone-wild. The freedom and liberty to use our rights is not always right. Especially when it comes to shedding innocent blood. A human that demands, “I have rights!” Is saying what a sinner says when it rejects God’s moral rules. God determines what is right and wrong. He says we are to care for and protect life. Every man has the right to life.

You cannot starve an elderly human to death and worship the majesty of God. You cannot dismember an unborn human and worship the majesty of God. You cannot gas a Jewish human and worship the majesty of God. You cannot lynch a black human and worship the majesty of God. You cannot gossip, harbor bitterness, or curse a man to his face and worship the majesty of God. Jesus says to hate another human is commit abortion in your heart. You cannot worship the majesty of God while treating His supreme creation with dishonor.

3. GOD VALUES THE LIFE OF CHILDREN [Psalm 8:2]

You might be wondering what does this have to do with the sanctity of life or abortion? Let’s go back to verse 2. There is an incredible contrast between verse 1 and 2. Verse 1 says, “You have set your glory above the heavens.” And Verse 2: “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.” The contrast is strange. God is highest of all beings. None could be stronger, wiser, or greater. But babies are weak; they seem to have no wisdom or knowledge. They are utterly dependent on others. They are insignificant in the world’s eyes.

So why does the psalm mention babies? Why are they here? What are they doing? The verse says what they are doing: They are defeating the enemies of God. They are opening their mouths and saying or crying something. And whatever they are saying or crying is powerful enough “to still the enemy and the avenger.”

God has enemies. His foes are those who rebel against His majesty [8:1,9]. They do not see Him as majestic, nor do they want to worship Him. They get far more pleasure out of getting praise for themselves than giving praise to God. Our world has been ruined because of these enemies. And in order for the world to return to its proper purpose, these enemies will have to be dealt with. And what verse 2 tells us is that God, in His majesty and greatness makes babies the means of His triumph over His enemies. Let the strangeness of this sink in. God conquers his foes through the weaknesses of the weak—the worshipful coo’s of baby’s lips.

To understand verse 2 in it’s fullness you have to realize God comes to earth in the form of a cooing and crying baby. Jesus, the God-man, came into the world in childlike lowliness and human weakness. God takes on skin. He’s born of a virgin in a barn. He grows into a man, lives a sinless life, but certain men convict Him of a crime He did not commit. He dies on a cross and 3-day later He rises crushing His enemies under His feet [cf. 1 Corinthians 15:27].

During His earth ministry He welcomed children when others wanted to shoo them away [Mark 10:13-16]. Jesus loves all the little children.  Moreover, He said the measure of our love for Him would be measured by our love for children [Mark 9:36-37]. He took the children in His arms as if to say, “Honor these little ones, and you honor Me. Send them away because they are weak, socially insignificant, and bothersome, and you’ve demonstrated you don’t understand the values of the kingdom.”

In Matthew 21, Jesus draws near to Jerusalem. It is Palm Sunday. He enters the city riding on a donkey. The crowds see what this means and they cry out in verse 9, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Hosanna means “salvation.” They are shouting that God’s salvation is coming. They see Him as a prophet or perhaps the Messiah himself—The king of Israel who would defeat the enemies of God.

Now there are children in the crowd. They see what’s happening. They hear their parents shouting. So they take up the chant in verse 15, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” These children are calling Him the king of Israel. The chief priests and the scribes cannot endure the ruckus any longer. They think it’s outrageous for Jesus to hear this kind of praise and not stop or correct them. So they say to Jesus in verse 16, “Do you hear what these are saying?” What they meant was, “We know you can hear what these are saying, but we cannot imagine why you don’t stop them, since you are most certainly not the Messiah.”

Jesus’ answer is as clear as crystal, and its connection to Psalm 8 is frightening. He simply says, “Yes, I hear.” With those few words He says, “Yes. I didn’t miss a word. They are not mistaken. They are not blaspheming. They are not foolish. They just seem foolish. I approve what they are saying” Jesus receives worship from children. And Jesus goes on to say to the chief priests and scribes: “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” It’s a direct quote of Psalm 8:2.

Two things happen when Jesus quotes this Psalm. First, it comes true. His enemy is silenced. The chief priests and scribes are speechless. The praise of the children’s lips won the day. God is defeating His enemies through the weakness of children and man. Second, the meaning of psalm 8 is amplified. When these children cry out, “Hosanna to the Son of David !” Their praise was directed to Jesus. Jesus knew it. The chief priests and scribes knew it. And Jesus accepts their worship being God—the absolute One–Himself. On that day, the majesty of God had a face of flesh and a name. His name is Jesus.

In closing I want to share with you a story about my best friend, Ben. In high school our friendship grew through helping each other live for Christ. When I went to college I had less contact with Ben. While I went to Bible College, Ben was going to parties and sleeping with girls. His life became a mess. He got a girl pregnant. To cover it up she aborted. Although Ben had abandoned God, God did not abandon Him. He was relentlessly pursuing Ben.

I remember coming home on college break and visited Ben’s apartment. It looked like a disaster, smelled like beer, and felt dark. I asked Ben, “So what’s God been doing in your life?” I am sure he wanted to kill me for asking a question with an obvious answer. What Ben needed I could not give. He needed his enemies of pride and guilt and thinking “I have rights” to be defeated. In Christ they already were. I kept in contact with Ben. He left for Florida where he thought he’d be anonymous. The majesty of God prevailed, He would not leave him alone, pursuing his heart, and Ben repented of his sin.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him.” [Psalm 103:11-13]

Jesus forgives sinners who come to Him with child-like faith. God redeemed Ben’s life. God has given him a godly wife and blessed him with two (so to be three) beautiful children. Today Ben is serving God in the ministry. Ben is an advocate for life.

Jesus can forgive you too. No matter how bad your sin or how dirty your past. He will not only forgive you but welcome you as His child in His compassionate arms. Come. He awaits you with an embrace.

Why do I need psalm 8? It inflames my heart with wonder, awe, and love for God. Seeing the majesty of God is the first step towards looking at myself and other humans rightly. In His majesty we see the sanctity of life.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST OF THIS MESSAGE.

the sanctity of life

January 22nd is the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. As a result, today in the US, 1 unborn child is killed every 23 seconds.

When you stop to realize that the US only accounts for 3% of abortions worldwide, you realize that there is a relentless global slaughter underway. May God exercise both his mercy and judgment, and may Christ return quickly.

Here are some articles I would encourage you to read or watch to equip you and your church for the sanctity of life:

How sacred is human life?

One gospel, unabortable. Who are children?

Is there a connection between birth control and abortion?

What is the task of a pro-life pastor in the 21st Century?

Woman meets child born out of rape given up for adoption 77 year ago.

Does rape justify abortion?

What should I do after abortion?

Does the Bible’s silence justify abortion?

How can I defend life in a new generation?

5 bad ways to argue about abortion.

Jesus loves the little children.

10 reasons I am optimistically pro-life.

Exposing the Dark Work of Abortion. Free book.

RESOURCES FOR THE CHURCH:

Abort 73
Case for Life
Prolife Training

thumb licks [12.3.11]

Beholding the beauty of Christ in Wal-Mart

What Tim Tebow can’t do? Some want to make him super man, but he’s not.

The Devil’s playbook. And how he aims to defeat you.

Lessons for the church from Joe Paterno. Listen up young and old.

How to be better prepared for your next major presentation.

Are you mature? Mature believers possess these 5 indicators.

Man enough to love a real woman. Great post for daters or want-to-be daters.

God with us. Such a great promise from God.

joyful Justus

Today my baby girl surprised us all by growing way too fast. As of 4:30am this morning she has breathed 365 days on this earth. Each of those days have been a joy and blessing. Here is a letter Justus’ mom and I wrote for her today,

Dear Justus,

We are so glad that you are our first baby girl.  God has used you to teach us about Himself, and He has blessed us with joy through you.  We pray often that you will come to know Him and that You will love His truth. This last year has gone by really fast, which is a simple reminder that you’re going to be an adult before we know it. Some of the characteristics that God is shaping in you even now are: a gentle spirit, a love for His creation, and an obedient heart. Your smile blows us away.  We hope these things continue to shape your life and are culminated by God’s Spirit in your salvation.

The last three months have not been easy for you since we’ve been traveling on the road and introducing you to  alot of strangers.  You’ve slept in so many places, and we hope you understand that as we prepare to raise you in a strange land, it is God’s power that we depend on and He will accomplish His purposes.

Some of the fun memories with you this year have been: flying to North Africa and taking a bumpy car ride,  going to the beach with Gramp, Nana, aunts, uncles, and cousin Lyla, visiting the zoo in Indy and Green Bay, and seeing you take your first steps at the Ristau’s house.

You have done turkey calls, learned to give kisses, and become obsessed with ducks (first at the Houchen’s house) this year.  We found out some special news on your special day. We can’t wait to see what God will do next year! Happy first Birthday!

Love,

Mom and Dad