Letter #575: Why Newtown?

Dear why,

Life’s major questions. We all ask them, and honestly as we grow up the questions don’t change much. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why are babies born with Down’s syndrome or to parents who don’t want them? Why can a 15 year old have sex once and get pregnant and a couple married for years not? Why? Why? Why?

Life keeps happening, and we keep asking. We’ll continue to ask our entire lives because we’ll never fully understand. “Bad things’ are going to continue to happen.

Last week an angry gunman killed 26 women and children in a school. Since then, I have heard media coverage on nothing but Newtown, CT. Gun control immediately became the most prominent political issue. Our economy is horrendous, jobs are difficult to find, we’re still in a war, healthcare, taxes, fiscal cliff”…all of these things immediately took a back seat. Why? Because we, Americans or at least Capital Hill, believe legislation fixes the hearts of man.

I’m not saying the tragedy in Newtown shouldn’t be covered. I’m not saying gun control shouldn’t be addressed. I’m not even saying politicians are handling the situation wrong. What I am saying is tragedies like Newtown have happened for thousands of years. They will continue to happen. We should be proactive, but no matter how proactive we are man is still sinful.

The sinfulness of man cannot be banned because of a law, policy or agenda. We will continue to deal with sin and evil as long as man remains unredeemed eternally. One day Jesus will come back and restore us completely. Until then, people are going to die far too young, people are going to do horrific things and we will continue to ask the questions of why.

Sin. It’s wretched and goes completely against the character of God. Yet every single one of us has it. The only way to combat the major ‘why’ questions we ask is to understand the goodness of God in giving His Son to save us from our sinfulness. That’s what Christmas is truly about. The Savior of a wretched world was born. He is the only true and long-term hope.

Legislation is fine. Stricter laws may help a little. Famous people speaking out on behalf of various issues may build some momentum. None of these things are bad, but if we truly want to honor the 26 lost in Newtown, the nearly 3,000 lost in 9/11, the 12 lost and nearly 60 injured in the Batman shooting, the 13 killed at Columbine, and every other tragedy that’s ever happened, we will address the hearts of man. We desperately need a Savior, a reason for living, hope. Jesus is the only eternal hope.

My heart goes out to all those experiencing great loss through tragedy and asking major “why’ questions concerning any personal struggle. I pray the Newtown tragedy would bring our nation to its knees, to a point where we acknowledge our sinfulness and need for a Savior.

Continue to look for the good in the midst of the storms,

Why asker who finds hope in Christ

Letter #564: Election Thoughts…

Dear presidential elections,

I voted in my second one of you last week (here’s to absentee voting with no lines!). I will never get super controversial, heated or irrational concerning you, but I do vow to do my best to be informed and actively participate. This being said, I collected a hodgepodge of random thoughts concerning you”…

  • Social media during election day is”…”…fun (obnoxious). Thankful I don’t have to see any more selfies with a dang “I Voted’ sticker.
  • Don’t forget to recycle all those political signs today.
  • How long did it take to find out the winner of elections before technology, social media and exit polls? (I looked it up and couldn’t find it”…)
  • Maybe the even bigger story of yesterday wasn’t Obama winning but that the Senate falling Democrat as well. President and Senate aligning means the possibility of more things being accomplished.
  • Random thought of the night: What would happen if the losing candidate never conceded?!?!
  • Who knew people cared so much about politics?! A) People are funny. Some classic comments made on social media. B) People are idiots. Seriously, think before you post.
  • Is the amount of money spent on political coverage and campaigns considered part of the economic stimulus? It’s baffling to me what could have been done for good with the billions of dollars spent”…heck, we could have paid off half a percent of our nation’s debt.
  • Who’s moving to Colorado with me?? Kidding but on a serious note, our world isn’t getting any more “moral.’ Lord, I pray we, believers, would cling to Your Word as truth and live our lives accordingly.
  • I’m not sure if there’s been a day in life with more “Jesus Jukes’ than today. Believers, put money where your mouth is, rise up, share and live out the Gospel with urgency and don’t just post views on social media outlets.
  • No leader, politician, businessman, athlete, entertainer or anyone else is going to fix our world. We live in a sinful and broken world. It doesn’t matter what policies or programs are put into place, bad things are going to happen. People are going to suffer. At our very core, we are broken, sinful and have failed to meet God’s standard. He is holy; we are not. We deserve hell, but our God is SO good He made a way for us to be in fellowship with Him. It’s through faith in Christ alone. Jesus is our eternal hope. We need Christ. If we want hope, we’re not going to find it in earthly things, a political candidate or anything else. We need to realize our need for a Savior. We are in desperate need of repentance. Lord, we need You. Remind us of this as everyone is freaking out or celebrating about an election.
  • God is sovereign. He establishes and removes authority. He is bigger than any man made institution. God is God and He will always sit on the throne. Don’t forget this…ever. Daniel 2:20-21; Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13-17;

I’m really thankful you’re over. Let’s all move on regardless of who we voted for or where we stand. Obama is the president of the United States. We aren’t a country of two parties; we’re a country of Americans. You are final. Let’s come together. Be as invested in our world as the comments on social media have been the last three months. Let’s be the change we want to see.

Thankful for the right to vote and praying for repentance among mankind far more than for political business,

Election observer

Letter #496: Happy Easter!

Dear Easter weekend,

You are always fun to celebrate, but I think I’m more aware and thankful than I’ve ever been of why we celebrate you. The bunnies, egg hunts and chickens are all great, but today I’m simply grateful for the sacrifice Christ made of His own life on the cross to save sinful people from eternity in hell.

In my 25 years of life, I have never been more thankful my time on earth is temporary. I look around and see brokenness, turmoil and sin. Lots of it. Sure, I see good in the midst of the junk, but the brokenness I see outweighs the good right now. People fail and disappoint us. I screw up and fail and disappoint myself and others. More importantly than others, we don’t live up to the standards God has set out for us. We fail and disappoint Him.

Every failure and disappointment really translates into sin. Christ came to live a perfect life and to become sin in His death. Our sin, my sin, separates me from the holy God. Christ gave everything to be the ultimate sacrifice to give sinners a chance to spend eternity with Him. We must respond. We must acknowledge our sinfulness, our need for a Savior and our desire for forgiveness. We must fully surrender to Christ as King of our lives.

Once this occurs, we are forgiven. We will continue to make mistakes, but those mistakes will be forgiven as well. However, no matter how forgiven we are, it doesn’t change that there is consequence to our sin on earth. Everything we do, every mistake we make, results in something. Sometimes our individual decisions only affect us. Sometimes our entire families. Sometimes an entire group of people. Sometimes more people than we will ever realize.

The Lord grieves our sin. Our sin affects much more than just our small sphere of living. Today, I think I’m more aware of this than ever. My prayer lately has been that my sin, no matter how big or how small, would grieve me the way it grieves the Lord. It is so easy for me to be unaffected by my pride, my idolatry, my callous heart. I want to see all my sin for what it is and allow the Lord to refine me to be more like Him.

I am unbelievably thankful for what you represent. Without Christ’s death and resurrection, we would be hopeless; because of it, we get to be hopeful. I’m equally thankful my time here on earth is temporary, that one day Christ will prevail over Satan for good and sin will be no more. Until then, I will continue to pray and fight against sin taking strongholds in my life.

Thankful to celebrate Christ’s death but more importantly His resurrection,

Sinner saved by the grace of God

Happy Easter to the world’s greatest readers!

Letter #432: ‘Wish[ing] YOU a Merry Christmas’

Dear December 25th,

You’re here!!! I’ve been reading tweets about Christmas music and hearing it in Branson, the mecca of Christmas, for two months. Today I will write through all our favorite Christmas songs!

As they say, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!’ I’d like to begin this letter by wishing all my readers to “Have [Themselves] a Merry Little Christmas!’ It doesn’t look like we’ll be walking in a “Winter Wonderland’ here in Oklahoma this year, but after last year when they “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow’ all the way to a blizzard, I’m ok with this!

Santa, “Frosty the Snowman’ and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ have all become staple figures during Christmas time. All these guys have sure done well making you even more fun! We dream of “Santa Claus Coming to Town,’ pray we never see “Momma Kissing Santa Claus’ and long to hear “Jingle Bells.’ We sing about “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire’ and “Deck[ing] the Halls’…does anyone know what either of these really mean?! Regardless, we sing!

In the midst of you, it’s sure easy to forget the true reason we celebrate. Long ago in “O Little Town of Bethlehem,’ a baby was born. Not just any baby, or “Santa Baby,’ but the one that would change everything. The people cried out, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,’ as they longed for the Messiah to come be with them. Oh and He did!!! “Mary Did You Know?,’ you would birth the Savior of the world? Jesus: Emmanuel, which means God with us. On what was likely not a “Silent Night,’ Jesus became a man in the form of a baby. Emmanuel, God with us.

Had the true Christmas story never happened and Jesus never come to earth as a man, His death and resurrection would never have happened either. Because He came to earth, He was able to take my place on the cross in a death I deserved. I’m the sinner He came to save as are you. Much like the magi, the only reasonable response on our part is to fall on our faces in worship, give Him everything and trust in Him as our Savior. Today we celebrate the birth of a Savior, the One who brings ALL the “Joy to the World!’

“Wish[ing] YOU a Merry Christmas!’

Rester in the fact that Jesus is Lord, Savior and Emmanuel…He is with me (and you!)

Letter #429: Christmas Posts

Dear Christmas,

I wish I had some really profound thoughts on you today. The truth is I don’t. Last night I went through some of my old posts and came across all your posts from last year. There’s nothing I have to say this year that remotely rivals last year. Thus, I’d simply like to share a few of my favorite posts I wrote concerning you from last year! Rereading these was super refreshing and a great reminder of why I blog.

You are coming quickly! Hope everyone’s shopping is nearing the end and that you’re gearing up for relatives’ arrivals.

Thankful for memories and truth that don’t change from year to year,

Christmas Reflector

Letter #419: Lila’s Legacy

Dear death,

You are inevitable. Every day I am one day closer to you. Whether you are thousands of days away or just a few, I’ll never know. This is kind of a neat part of life. We take life for granted, but hopefully we’re living each day to the fullest because we never know when you’re going to arrive. You are one of very few things we have zero control over. Kind of surreal.

Now let’s clear the air. I am not thinking about death at an unhealthy level. No need for suicide watch. That being said, if I do die young there’s no need to bury me in satin like The Band Perry sings about! I’ll take something way more fitting of my personality! I digress.

On November 23rd, sweet Lila Rapp met you, the inevitable. Lila is Todd’s mom and while I didn’t know her super well, her family, Todd, Bronwyn and their children, has become very dear friends over the years. She was 72 years old and had been fighting sicknesses for some time, but losing loved ones is never easy. My thoughts and prayers are definitely with the Rapp family during this time of loss.

As this all was happening I received an email including Lila’s obituary. I must confess, I don’t spend much time reading obituaries, but I read Lila’s. I have never read a sweeter, more meaningful, more well-written obituary in my life. Seriously, it’s worth reading whether you know these people or not (click here to read it).

As I was reading, I couldn’t help but think about what my obituary would say if you were to consume me. Sure it would talk about my immediate family being survivors, about growing up in Lawton, graduating from OSU, working for Kanakuk Kamps. All the basics would be present, but what would the details reveal?

“Lila lived a life characterized by a single-minded pursuit of her Savior.”

“Her selflessness was her defining quality, constantly praying for and serving others in the name of Christ.”

“And, if one knew Lila but didn’t know her greatest love, that person would certainly hear the Good News from her and be relentlessly prayed for by Lila and her friends.”

Wow. What a legacy. A few days after Lila died, I sent Bronwyn a text checking on the family. In her response she included that as they were going through Lila’s things they just ‘kept finding pages of scripture written out or things she was praying for.’ Again, what a legacy.

Thus, I’ve been thinking. If I were to encounter you, what would people find when going through my things? Anything of value or insight? How would people remember me…honestly, not fluffed up because that’s what you’re supposed to do? I know for a fact the legacy Lila left is genuine. I pray my heart would be so consumed by the Lord that my legacy, when I’m dead and gone, would bring glory and praise to the only thing that matters….Christ.

Lila, you will be missed, but we also find peace in your legacy and knowing you’re celebrating with Jesus,

Reflector of you

Letter #204: Good Friday

Dear Good Friday,

I’m overwhelmed by your significance. I’m grateful for your symbolism. My emotions are conflicted with sadness and great joy. Sad about the great rejection Christ faced on the cross and still today, but joyful that rejection and attempts at squelching his impact on society didn’t succeed. In AD 33 (ish), the people didn’t have the knowledge that Christ had indeed fulfilled the Scriptures and rose from the dead on the third day. So, imagine His followers then. Lack of understanding. Great mourning. Questioning whether He really was who He said He was and wondering if He really would raise from the dead.

Here I sit in 2011, with full knowledge of the big picture, and I am still grieved by what Christ went through to save me from my sins, yet I am overwhelmed with thankfulness that He made a way for me to be in communion with God.

As I think through what you really entail, reflect on your meaning and read through the Gospels at the actual account of your events, my mind keeps taking me back to 14 months ago. Last night and this morning I read Matthew’s accounts of the last couple days of Christ’s life, and mental pictures of Gethsemane, Caiaphas’ house and Golgotha vividly paint themselves in my mind.

Fourteen months ago, I had the opportunity to go with my Kanakuk Institute class to Israel. Brief commercial: if you ever get the chance to visit Israel, GO…trip of a lifetime. Back to the regularly scheduled broadcasting. I saw more in nine days than I can share right now, but the last day was spent walking through the last days and moments of Jesus’ life.

I walked down the path where the triumphal entry is thought to have been. (Matt. 21)

Possible path of triumphal entry overlooking Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount.

I sat and prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus pleaded with God for another way of this all playing out, but also placed the will of God above His own. Jesus was also betrayed and arrested here. (Matt. 26:36-55)

Thankful a friend captured this during our time in the garden.
In the Garden of Gethsemane overlooking Jerusalem...specifically the Dome of the Rock, also known as Temple Mount.

I visited Caiaphas’ house, the first place Jesus was held prisoner and questioned. (Matt. 26: 57-68)

An actual jail cell in Caiaphas' house...Jesus'??

I walked on part of the Via Dolorosa, the path believed to be where Jesus carried the cross.

I stood at Golgotha, the place of the skull, where Jesus was crucified for my sins and for yours and the place where He eventually died. Surreal…more than you can imagine. (Matt. 27:33-56)

Golgatha...look closely and you can see a skull face in the rock!
Golgatha with an Islamic bus station right next to it. Weird how city has been built where Jesus was crucified.

There are a hundred stories I could tell you about each of these locations. How prophecy was fulfilled perfectly. How Gethsemane is the only quiet place I visited while in the city of Jerusalem. How part of Golgotha has been blown up and a bus station owned by Islamic people built. Tons of stories, but there’s only one story that really matters. Christ died so we may live. A completely innocent, sinless man endured the cross and made Himself the ultimate sacrifice, so you and I could spend eternity with Him.

Blown away by gratefulness for Christ and the cross,

Sinner saved by God’s grace

Letter #160: Different Lenten Approach

Dear Lent,

Well, well, well, it’s hard to believe it’s already time for you again. I can’t remember if I participated in you last year or not…obviously not too impactful!

I grew up Catholic, so you have been a huge part of my life. Every year, I gave up something that I loved for your 40 day period…chocolate, coke (I don’t drink pop to this day after giving it up my junior year of high school), sweets altogether. Sometimes, I’d be super strict on myself and never touch whatever I’d given up until Easter. Other times, I’d justify that Sunday didn’t count because they weren’t included in your actual 40 days.

Every Friday during you growing up meant dinner at Captain D’s or Long John Silver’s and a lunch of peanut butter or grilled cheese sandwiches. In the Catholic tradition, we couldn’t eat meat on Fridays…confession: it’s pretty well known I didn’t observe this in college, but in high school I ate meat during basketball season. I needed protein for energy to shoot the three!

Typically, my heart isn’t in the right place in this process. You were mainly another box checked off my to-do list. Selfishly, you were a way for me to be more healthy and maybe even lose a couple pounds. I think I’ve been missing your point.

Your purpose is to prepare our hearts for Easter, the death and resurrection of Christ. The single most important event in history. I drop the ball miserably in how I approach Easter. I’m notorious for flippantly taking it for granted, for not understanding or placing the true value and weight of what Easter and your preparation really mean. I want my heart to value Christ’s sacrifice more than ever.

This year, I’m taking a different approach to you. I’m adding a couple things into my daily activities rather than giving something up…heck, I’m going to San Diego; there will be no giving up dessert for that week!

So, for the next 46 days, I’m vowing to some sort of daily physical activity. A walk, run, shooting baskets, dance party (this is more of a workout than you’d ever imagine), anything to get me moving. I’m well on my way to achieving this, but for the same reason I did Insanity this provides me with accountability. I don’t just want to work out though. Sure, getting in better shape is great, but I want this to be time I spend in prayer as well as activity.

I’m adding one other activity, but I want to keep it between myself and the Lord. Regardless  of how you’re approached, I pray my heart would anticipate Christ’s coming more than ever before.

Looking forward to you,

Waiting on the Lord

 

Letter #83: The Importance of Christmas

Dear Christmas,

My family played a game at Brueggen Christmas this weekend. Somehow I managed to win, but more than anything it got me thinking. How much do we really know about you? Sure, we willingly embrace the gifts, the big guy in the red suit and good food. We all stress out about how we’re going to have enough money to buy gifts, figuring out what the perfect gifts are and whether or not the holidays will be filled with family drama or not. The majority of our country even understands that Christ might have something to do with you as church attendance skyrockets. But how much do we really know?

The game consisted of 15 questions about Christ’s life. I thought I’d share a few of the questions and explain the answers.

  • Why did Joseph marry Mary after he learned she was going to have a child?

An angel told him to marry her. Joseph and Mary were only betrothed when Mary discovered she was with child. This meant they were promised to be married, but they weren’t married. It was a 12 month period where sex was not part of the relationship, and if the woman were found pregnant everyone knew she had been unfaithful. This was looked down upon and could even result in stoning. Matthew tells us Joseph was a righteous man and was going to send her away secretly so not to disgrace her when he found out. However, God had different plans. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream telling him to marry Mary because the Child had been conceived by the Holy Spirit, she would bear a Son, He would be named Jesus and would save His people from their sins. Joseph obeyed, took Mary as his wife and kept her a virgin until after Christ’s birth. Why? Well, I believe so prophecy could be fulfilled without any question. The Messiah’s arrival was supposed to be through a virgin according to Isaiah 7:14, and it was! Joseph waited to consummate his marriage extra long to ensure a virgin birth…no wonder Matthew describes him as righteous.

  • After the magi left Bethlehem, an angel told Joseph to take Mary and the baby Jesus to…?

Egypt. After the magi came to Jerusalem asking where the “King of the Jews’ had been born, Herod was troubled. He sought after the chief priests and scribes to tell him exactly where Jesus was expected to be born, then told the magi to return to share His whereabouts. They went home a different way because God had warned them in a dream. Herod was enraged and declared a slaughter of all male children in Bethlehem and all its vicinity from two years old and under to ensure the death of this “King of the Jews.’ Little did he know an angel had appeared to Joseph after the magi’s departure to tell him to flee to Egypt because Herod would attempt to destroy Jesus. All this happened to fulfill multiple prophecies of the Messiah. Hosea 11:1 declares He would come out of Egypt and Jeremiah 31:15 discusses the death of children.

  • What city did Jesus grow up in?

Nazareth. Once Herod died, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream in Egypt telling him to return to Israel and through a series of events settled in Nazareth. This fulfilled the prophecy of the Messiah being a Nazarene.

I’m not an expert on you at all, but I do know that we celebrate you openly without really knowing a ton of details. All of the above explanations were found in Matthew 1 and 2. Any old Joe can figure this stuff out. However, knowledge isn’t enough. Are our lives transformed because God was born into our world when we celebrate you? Do we realize “baby Jesus’ grants us eternal life, and are we different because of it?

Thankful for knowledge but let my heart be changed because of it,

Adorer of Christ this holiday season