The Character of God

Have you ever had a friend who you trusted completely? For reasons of time and circumstance you thought–this person has my back.

Or something…

Most of us would like it if God were a glorified Santa Claus, providing winning lottery tickets and easy answers.

He is not. He is “not a tame lion.”. And this is a dark world.

But if you get to know Him well, you learn something–God is completely trustworthy.

Lucky for us His love never fails.

The Day After Christmas

The first question this morning: when will it be Christmas again?

365 days can seem like forever. A long time to wait for Christmas.

It has been about 736,570 days since the first Christmas. And it was about 1.46 million days of recorded history before the first Christmas.

Suddenly a single year doesn’t seem so long. To wait for a Savior? To wait for hope?

The good news of Christmas is the gift of a child–precious, poor, unlikely, who shed his light over us.

Every day Christmas when Jesus is with us.

How will you celebrate salvation?

The Story of an “Unplanned” Pregnancy

I was in a barn the other day, marveling at the smell. I have given birth to all my babies in temperature and germ-controlled hospitals.

I am not going to lie, I would not want to have a baby in a barn then put him in a feeding trough to sleep.

I love animals, but the whole thing seems so desperate and impoverished.

Surely the Lord of the universe could have given the kid a motel room?!

The birth of Jesus was deeply inconvenient, fraught with the appearance of impropriety, and a life-long exile from paradise for the Baby in the manger.

To many people his life would look like a mistake, but they would be wrong. The birth of this child in the barn was the most important in history.

An event I take quite personally. My life and hope returned, my spiritual debt paid. My life sentence taken by Another.

What would I do without you, Jesus?

Stay close to Jesus

It is the Sunday before Christmas and I am not in a church.

I am in a messy house watching over sleeping children.

But I know I have to stick close to Jesus.

I know because I am broken
The world is broken
And he is the only one who can fix it
Did fix it.

A while back I was talking to my daughter about Jesus’ pronouncement at the point of his own death–

It is finished.

She shook her head in surprise.

By the time she was five she had seen her world crumble. She has walked through incredible suffering, loss, and loneliness.

Nothing seems finished.

But it is.

When Jesus dies for us he pays a complete price for us. We have been given back our wasted lives.

If we wanted them.

Many of us don’t. We willingly hand our lives over to selfishness, pride, immorality, anger, fear….other gods.

Gods who in fact will happily consume our wasted eternities.

But not Jesus.

Jesus stripped himself down to a naked convict and took every ounce of the pain and wrath of this broken world.

He was and is and will be the Finisher, the hope and Judge of this broken world.

Don’t be fooled by substitutes. Seek Jesus. Don’t rest until you find him.

He is worth the search. He is our only hope.

Is. 53
Is. 11

Happy singing in the fields!

When I was in the fourth grade I had an Alabama history textbook that would have been a real hoot if I didn’t have to actually slog through the antiquated images and commentary about happy slaves singing in the fields.

I mention this because I am fascinated and repelled by revisionist history and our fear of real free speech.

In the 1970s Jimmy Carter was mocked for comments about lust published in Playboy.

Right. Because the faithful readers of that mag are really interested in fidelity.

So now Phil Robertson has mouthed off in GQ–another bastion of women’s rights and conservative photo shoots–and he has gotten his burly, duck-tricking wrist slapped.

For the wrong thing! If the offensive, airbrushed, hypersexualized images of women in magazines like Playboy and GQ are considered free speech, then why not Carter’s and Robertson’s clumsy moralizing within the same publications?

Go nuts boys, but don’t expect me to respect you for your poor choice of words or venue.

But that stuff Robertson says about only experiencing happy, singing field-hands in the glory days of the 60s in Louisiana?!

Ridiculous. Ridiculous and offensive. Life in the south for African Americans is still no picnic, but back in the day you could get lynched for being black and poor in Louisiana


Not just that he said it, but that no one seems to be listening to what really matters and truly should offend.

I don’t really believe in the “real” in reality tv. But I know the answer isn’t to suspend Robertson.

How about adding some new characters to the show?

The gay, lesbian, African American, and other minority neighbors of Mr. Robertson he needs to get to know better.

No One Is that White

I have clung to this verse rather feverishly through the last 4 years:

Isaiah 53:12 (NIV)
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Because I am a transgressor
And he was numbered with me

It really does not feel good being a transgressor. First there is the spiritual malaise of sin. Then there is the divide it creates between me and God. Next there is this fun fact: while all regular humans are sinners, we pretend we are not.

Jesus was no regular human.

He was poor, dark, and hated. His nickname was “bastard.”

He bore our shame.
He bore my shame.

Isaiah 53 is a chapter as hard as obsidian, so painful, so crucial. And it was written by a guy who walked around naked for 3 years just because God told him to do it.

I figure the naked walking was God’s writing seminar. Not fun or pretty, but soaring, redemptive, essential.

Do you know Jesus?

If you do, you know the only color that matters when describing him is blood red. Blood shed for me, one miserable transgressor.

And if you don’t? Walk that road, that narrow road he lights for us, to the Cross that sets us free.

Isaiah 1:18

Reann Murphy

What we know is scant:

A little girl plays in the snow
In a trailer park
In Ohio

She goes missing
They look for her
Only to find
Her too late.

Years ago I lived and worked in a community where a little girl was found murdered and discarded in a dumpster.

This seems to be defining: how do we respond to any story of any child murdered and treated like trash?

Do we mourn? Do we demand justice? Do we search for answers?

Or do we distance ourselves from our poverty–moral or tangible, and say,

not my kid, not my problem?

A Damned Good Sermon

This morning I listened to an excellent sermon.

The pastor had a great pastor voice–warm, sincere, sonorant.

The text was a biggie–Abraham and Isaac and the God who provides.

The sermon points were worth writing down, like a good recipe.


But if my calculations are correct the sermon was delivered when the pastor was sliding down a hill of temptation, sin, and loss that he would not survive.

Good sermon. Worth playing at a funeral.

The truth of the sermon does not change if the speaker is not following the recipe.

But his willful hypocrisy will make the valley harder for his community, his family, his children.

By contrast Jesus preached a sermon and then exceeded the scope of that sermon by miles, years, eternity, and hell.

That is right: Jesus was damned for us.

We will be judged by the measure of our lives or his, our words or his.

I choose the God of life because he walks a path of sacrifice and love and then looks over his shoulder and says,

c’mon, follow me.

Follow Him, walk the hard road all the way to life…everlasting.

Who Will Save Us?

I drove by the outlet mall on Black Friday; people were parked on the grassy margins, everywhere.

I go to the store; the area by the checkout is bunkered with coffee makers and candy canes.

I see pictures of Santa Claus everywhere. Movies about with saccharine messages about the “Christmas spirit.”

Like that is a real thing.

The truth is a poor teenager in a barn laboring to bring forth a child. If Santa did not give Jesus a decent hotel room to be born in, who are we to expect xboxes and flat screen tvs?

We are defined by gods and idols or…we are defined by that little child in the manger.

Somethings are either/or propositions:

Life or death

Angels or demons

Truth or fiction

A small tribe on the outpost of history waited for thousands of years for news of their King, the God who saves.

And it has taken us a cool 50 years to forget he is the reason for this celebration–the only Christmas gift that will matter forever.


When a great man dies it is fitting for the rest of us to stand in his honor.

So I do.

But it is even more worth noting that Mr. Mandela was just an ordinary man who stood when it cost him.

Stood when others ran.

Stood when sitting, hiding, turning, leaving would have been easier.

He paid in minutes, days, hours, years, indignity, and heartbreak for a freedom that should have been his birthright.

What ordinary men do…