Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Gift Fit for a King

An Inkling
“Yo, Mr. Angel!  I need your help.  We drew names at church for a Christmas gift exchange, and – you’re not going to believe this – I drew Jesus.  Holy Holidays!  What should I get?  Talk about Someone who really does have everything!”
“What have you thought of so far?”
“Well, I remember the gifts that the wisemen brought:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  I thought maybe I’d try one of those.  I know he got them once already, but it’s been 2000 years – maybe he could use some more.”
“Well, actually, I’m not sure they really worked the first time.  The wisemen meant well, but they didn’t understand what sort of king Jesus would be.  What Jesus really needed at that point was not gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but food, blankets, and a place to stay.”
“Oh well.  It’s the thought that counts....  And I’m think­ing, but it’s not counting for much.”
“That's because you’re thinking about what to buy.  Think instead about what you already have.”
“Oh, I get it!  Jesus is into recycling!  That’s cool!  We have some stuff in our shed we’re not using anymore:  some hand me downs and old appliances.  They just need a little work and they’ll be ready to go.”
“I think you’re missing my point.  He still doesn’t need gold, frankincense, or myrrh, recycled or new, or really any kind of stuff.”
“Well then, I’m stumped.  What should I give him?”
“He’s not interested in what you have.  He’s interested in you.  How about giving yourself this Christmas?!”
“Hmmm.  That’s a little pricier than I was thinking.”
“Yep – it’s the cost of a gift money can’t buy.” 
“Of course, if I do give myself, at least I won’t have to worry about him getting two the same.”
“That’s for sure!  And I happen to know that you’re exactly what he wants for Christmas this year.”
And you – what will you be giving Jesus this Christmas?  He really wants only one thing: 


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Reason for Hallelujahs

An Inkling
Sentiment is fun.  And if ever there were a sentimental season, this is it.  Oohs and aahs flow forth as we set out our favorite decorations and gather as families, with a baby at the center of it all.  Great!  But the most that such sentimental things can elicit is a sigh of satisfaction.

On the night Jesus was born the joy went far beyond sighs of satisfaction.  It went over the top.  Why?  Perhaps these pictures can help us remember why – we are desperate for a Savior.
Riot police trying to contain chaos with force:  we need a Savior!
Even with all of our medical wizardry,  we can't
protect ourselves from all peril:  we need a Savior!
Girls sold like so much meat here and abroad:  we need a Savior!
The most powerful nation in the world driven by fear to great darkness,
with the knowing nods of almost all of us:  we need a Savior!
People who don't know their own darkness,
unleashing it with fury on others:  we need a Savior!
In our desperation we resort to horror,
and try to cover it all with euphemism:  we need a Savior!
Even in my best moments, I'm still self-centered and self-serving,
and those best moments are rare:  I need a Savior!
Whole choirs of angels don’t fill the sky with song and light for the sake of season’s sentiments.  They do so because the world which so desperately needs a Savior now has one.  Now that’s a reason for Hallelujahs!
Merry Christmas,

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Shut Up and Listen

An Inkling
I could go on at length about Ferguson.  We all could and have.  But today, as a white man, it’s time for me to shut up and listen.  And so I offer no pontifications, but only three hints to my white friends about listening.
First, make an opportunity to listen to our black friends whom God has brought to be part of St. Giles.  We’re in a covenant relationship with some folks who have the eyes to see what we can’t.  Shut up and listen.
Second, listen to the voices we ordinarily muzzle with our contempt, people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.  It’s been long years since I actually listened to them.  Today, repenting for my contemptuous heart, it’s time to shut up and listen.
And third, listen to the voices of some black evangelicals.  I just today discovered a series that’s been running on Christianity Today since the initial Ferguson events.  These are friends with similar biblical commitments, but with a different set of eyes.  Shut up and listen.
Then pray,


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

You Have a Sister!

Pastor Abdelmassih, with his family,
Janette, Bassel, and Bassma
An Inkling
Thirteen years ago my wife, Sarah, was amazed to hear, “You have a sister!”  And so she learned for the first time about Amira, an Egyptian!  (That’s a long story for another time.)
Keith preaching, with
Ameny translating
Sarah and her three American sisters contacted Amira, and began writing back and forth, laboriously translating from English to Arabic and vice versa.  Finally they devised a way to bring Amira to the U.S. to visit.  What a thrill!  I’ll always remember the tears, smiles, and hugs of that first meeting in the Atlanta Airport.  They were from such different backgrounds, and yet they had a father in common – sisters!  And as they got to know each other they became sisters not just in fact, but in relationship.  That growing relationship produced loads of learning and laughter, and even more love.
St. Giles, you have a sister, the El Talbiya Evangelical Church of Giza, Egypt!  (That’s at the western edge of Cairo, next to the pyramids.)  You don’t know your sister yet, but she is very much your sister – you have the same Father.  And now, in the time of his choosing, he has arranged a meeting of his daughters.
Sarah and a bunch of the children
As most of you know, Sarah and I went to Cairo last week as part of the E.C.O. delegation to the 150th anniversary of the Evangelical Seminary of Cairo.  That was the official reason for our trip, but we discovered that the Father had another reason in mind, that his daughters, St. Giles and El Talbiya, meet each other.
The Music Team at their
pre-rehearsal Bible study
In our week there, we got to know your sister just a bit.  Allow me to introduce her.  El Talbiya is in a modest and crowded neighborhood of Giza.  She has grown since Pastor Abdelmassih Tadros and his family arrived five years ago from five members to 150.  They have a six story building, with the top three floors still to be finished, making a kindergarten for 150 children and an apartment for ministry workers.  They have a good relationship with their neighbors, although things were much more difficult during the recent revolution.  And having witnessed their worship, fellowship, and passion for reaching the lost, I can say their life with Jesus truly honors their (our!) Father.
Our Elders have now approved us entering this sister church relationship.  Last week I witnessed again what I had witnessed years ago with the introduction of Sarah and Amira, lots of learning, laughter, and love.  I’m confident that there is much more of that to come as we learn how to serve Jesus together.  Stay tuned for more details coming on that.
But this I already know from being with them for a week – I know more about our Father from having spent time with another of his daughters.  May our growing relationship bring joy to his Father’s heart!
His, yours, and theirs, 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Faith That Matters

An Inkling
I remember little from philosophy classes, but one professor’s claim has helped me for years in understanding the nature of faith.  (And he wasn’t even a Christian!) 
The professor claimed that the value of faith is determined more by the reliability of the object than by the sincerity of the subject.  In other words, the value of your faith is determined less by the sincerity with which you believe than it is by the worthiness of the one in whom you’ve placed that faith.
Consider this example.  Tom went to skate on a frozen pond.  He was fully confident that the ice would hold his weight, and skated out toward the middle with great abandon.  But the ice was thin, and Tom fell through.  Tina, too, went skating on a frozen pond.  She was not at all sure that the ice would hold her weight, and so she edged toward the middle with great caution.  But the ice was thick, and Tina was secure.
Whose faith was of greater value: Tom’s sincere faith in thin ice, or Tina’s tentative faith in thick ice?  Tina’s, of course. 
It seems so obvious, and yet so many people persist in the myth that it doesn’t matter what you believe, so long as you believe sincerely.  Tom’s sincere faith only got him wet and cold because the object of his faith was not worthy of his trust.
Jesus once made a similar claim about the nature of faith:  “If you have faith the size of a tiny mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”  For those of us whose faith often amounts to little more than a mustard seed, that’s especially good news!  It means that any faith in the One who is perfect­ly reliable is of great value.  For he is surer than the thickest ice!  We trust not in the sincerity of our faith, but in the reliability of our God.
Let’s go skating!