The King and His Champion

Once upon a time in a Kingdom ruled by a very wise King, there was a certain knight who was famous for feats of gallantry in battle. This knight was the best sword fighter, best with a spear, best with a bow and arrow, best at jousting– All the Kingdom knew and saluted this champion and praised and cheered each victory.

But under the armor, the knight was very unhappy. Every day this knight would ride into battle with this fear: “I am not worthy to be loved just for me.” This champion also had one weakness carefully concealed: being incredibly slow at running. Because of this, could you guess how many foot races this knight entered? That’s right. Zero!

Until one day, the King made a proclamation that he was holding a footrace in which every knight in his service must compete. But as a peculiar twist, one knight was to wear the King’s own colors. Can you guess which one? Yup. our very own best-at-almost-everything champion. How do you think that knight felt?

The day of the race arrived, and the King’s champion was sick with worry. Soon the whole kingdom would see just how unworthy this knight was to wear the King’s colors. The race began. Very soon every other knight had passed the “champion” who at this moment was feeling like anything but a “champion.” The race concluded and every knight crossed the finish line, but last of all, a whole minute later, in front of the whole laughing crowd of the kingdom, and in front of the King, hustled the Knight who carried the kings colors.

How embarrassing! Can you imagine how that knight felt then? That knight was so mortified with shame, that off came the kings colors, and left off was the armor of a knight, and our hero went home and stayed inside too ashamed to be seen in the kingdom again.

Then one day, a knock came at the door of the knight’s house. It was the King himself! The knight blushed for shame. What could the king want with such a disgraceful, unworthy champion.

“I want you to come back into my service as my own personal assistant.” said the King.

“My Lord, why? Why would you want such a slow foot-soldier in your service? And why would you have ME run in the race wearing your colors?”

The king answered, “I have watched you fight so hard to prove to everyone and yourself that you are worthy of admiration and love, but I organized the race to teach you that love is something you cannot win. Love is a gift. I do not love you because you’re the best. I choose you and love you because I see your heart and I treasure it. You will be my errand runner if you will accept my love.”

The knight was speechless and from somewhere deep inside tears streamed down. The King came near and embraced the knight. From that day on, the champion happily became personal assistant for the King and did not care about being the best fighter or the fastest, because of this truth: he was loved just for him.

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This story is was written for a friend who I recognized was struggling with tendencies to cover feelings of unworthiness with achievement. The ending can also read: she was loved just for her.

The Cave and the River

Toes stubbing on uneven wet shale
The weight of rock dampening overhead
The horizon was a distant ribbon of blue and white sky
Here in the cold I trudge comfortless

Each step feels like moving backwards
The flow of time is a stopped train restarting
Futility I breathe in, Hopelessness I breathe out
How do invisible thorns grow where there is no sun?

Above, all is dirty, burdensome black
I remember when the heaven’s used to sing my name
When the life growing with me danced in rhythm
And the others did not fear my face

But here, a gloom has shaded my eyes.
The fire within once lit my way inside
Then I quenched the flame from the giver,
And gave myself over to the tangles of the dark.

O to soothe my tear-smudged face
With the crystals offering pale ghost light
Just some digging in the dirt
And my strength can feel real again for a moment.

No! Like Puddleglum in the Underworld,
I remember to myself reminded
That the sky is not made of ore
Nor is there any thing of life to be found in here.

My Beloved is near. He never leaves me.
He bids me lift my eyes to the hills.
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, Maker of Heaven and Earth.

With time, my strength regathers,
And I keep on toward that blue ribbon
Fattening on the assurance of hope undeserved
Until I step over the lip of this dreadful dungeon.

The stiff blades of grass spring beneath my feet
Light and lightness as the open air descends
The dome touches my heart with longing
As the warm sun stings my eyes with tears of joy

I spring off the edge into the river
Sweeping me away as if it never stopped
Fresh grace I breathe in, fresh thanks I breathe out.
How can the cut of cold make me more alive as I shiver?

What fire cannot be quenched by any water?
What Symphony of light knows no drowning out?
I ride the current, yea, I lead it in dance
Unashamed of the strong Truth Creation gently whispers

My eyes are glowing like embers
My heart is melted in his heat
Like a wicked candle consumed with holy flame
I can feel once again that I, though unworthy, am His.

I am new! The day is new!
I am warm from within and without all is glad.
The music sings it’s melody in me again
A glorious noon of Springtide made young.

All stains of the dark are washed away
The Sun has disgraced the moon’s facade
I kneel gratefully in the dirt
Raising my arms to receive their nourishment

Yes! I am returned to Your country, O Lord
The dark memory of the past instructs
This is the place for which my heart was designed
Where life’s eternity cannot fence in the roaming of my soul.

My Beloved is near. He never leaves me.
He bids me lift my eyes to the hills.
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, Maker of Heaven and Earth.

With time my strength regathers,
And I face the rolling countryside windswept and free
Faith settles simple within me,
As I lift my foot to run the length of it.

I Got Pulled Over…

Some of my thoughts on the Black Lives Matter controversy are in this story.

I got pulled over.

Around midday, I was driving my ’97 F-150 home from a Mediterranean restaurant down 484. I was in a hurry to get home so I accelerated to make a yellow light that turned red before I went under it. Immediately, I heard the chirp of the siren and saw the lights dancing behind me. I pulled over into a parking lot, and I was not ready for what happened next.

Before the officer came over to the window I had both hands on the wheel and my license in my hand. I am white, and the officer that came up to my window was black.

“Hello.” said the officer.

“Hello, officer.” I said.

“You know why I pulled you over?”

Now, I had been feeling frustrated due to the reason for my visit to the Mediterranean restaurant, and I also have a high respect for law enforcement, so I’ll share with you what I said, and the conversation that followed.

“Yes sir, I do. I know I ran a red light back there, and I am sorry. I can explain the situation if you would be willing to hear it. But even if you’re not willing to listen, I understand what I did was wrong. I broke the law. Would you please be willing to hear me as I share with you what is personally going on?”

“Okay.” The officer said shifting his weight to get comfortable listening to me.

“I love my wife. She wanted some Mediterranean food for lunch, and she only had an hour for us to eat lunch together. I wanted to get her some food she wanted because she’s cooped up doing work training on Zoom because of the Pandemic. I was delayed getting the food because there were other people ahead of me, and when I came back it was 40 minutes into her lunch break. When she opened the black bags she didn’t have any sauce or humus. And the menu online was not set up right, so I offered to go back to the restaurant and get her sauce and humus, and to let them know they needed to update her menu. So I went back just now, got the stuff and by this time, I have driven 15 minutes there, 15 minutes back, 15 minutes there again, and now I’m trying to get back because she’s hungry, even though I won’t be able to enjoy lunch break with her. And when I saw the light turn yellow, I was like, “No!” and I pushed for it. And it turned red. I shouldn’t have, but I was frustrated and acted out of that frustration.

“I am sorry. I recognize what I should have done, and I ask you for a warning. I am not entitled to one, and I don’t deserve one, but I boldly ask you for one. I trust your judgment in this case, and if you give me a ticket, I will receive it.”

The officer paused a moment and took my license and said, “Wait here.”

He went back to his car, and looked through, presumably my traffic record. After about 5 minutes he came back to say this:

“Sir, I see in my records that you are a teacher at a Christian school is that right?

“Yes sir.”

“If any one of those kids saw you run that red light what would you say to them?”

“I would tell them I was wrong to do so and that I have repented.”

“You better have. I see on my records you’ve gotten pulled over one other time for running a red light, and you told the officer that time it was due to ‘frustration’.”

“Yes sir.”

“You need to deal with this frustration issue. I don’t want to catch you doing this again. Red lights aren’t optional. You could get yourself or someone else seriously hurt.”

“Yes sir.”

“That’s your warning.” He said as put his notepad back into his pocket. “Now, I’d like to ask you a personal question, if you’re willing.”

My eyebrows furrowed as I blinked and said, “Okay.”

“Does your wife usually send you back to get things that restaurants miss?”

“No sir. This is something I wanted to do for her.”

“Alright,” the officer said as he pulled out his wallet and handed me 40 dollars! “This should cover it.”

I was shocked as I said, “Officer, this is not necessary.”

“You teach the Bible, right?” asked the officer.

“Yes sir.” I answered

“Then you probably know that in Romans 13, it says the governing authorities are servants of God for good, to punish evil behavior and praise the good. Your willingness to go and make things right for your wife is commendable, so let me help cover the cost.”

Tears filled my eyes and streaked my cheeks as I reached out my hand to shake his hand.

“Thank you, sir. I know things are really hard for the police right now. I just want you to know how glad I am that there are those of you on the force who seek not only punitive justice, but restorative justice.”

The officer shook my hand firmly and said, “I hope I never forget that.”

He bid me “Take care,” and I went home to my wife.

The story is fictional, but should it be?

I have seen Enough–Part 3

Suddenly, countless gleaming jewels of all different colors covered the surface of the earth. Each one in turn told the Story in a different way. Their multi-colored glow grows brighter and brighter.

The one who stood to the East said:

-I see the tree a bounty of seeds has born.
-The fruit is sweet yet hemmed about with thorns.
-Broken o’er creation again is the new light of day.
-Brightening more brilliantly, chasing night away.
-The Man also, he is reborn
-With joy he bears suffering and scorn.
-His re-creation has made him play and sing
-To his Creator for all things new making.
I . . .

The one who stood to the South said:

-I see the world still fallen down so steep.
-Injustice’s wounds have run so deep.
-Still there is something which smacks of injustice
-To self, so that others may become rich.
-The Man also, is failing and broken.
-He toils to heal deep wounds unspoken.
-He chooses to make himself nothing
-That through his poverty others might have life abounding.
I have . . .

The one who stood to the West said:

-I see death here still takes its toll.
-Like a great tide it’s waters still roll.
-And yet each death like a crushed leaf.
-Bears the promise of life that spells death’s defeat.
-The Man also, his days are few.
-His death is like to the Man who knew.
-Yet, in his end, he bears witness
-Of the life beyond which he meets with bliss.
I have seen . . .

The one who stood to the North said:

-I see the powers of the world are crumbling
-They thrash and clamber to scramble out from tumbling
-Into the chasm opening beneath to finish him off
-As a new kingdom eternally takes its place built on solid rock.
-The Man also, rejects power as futile.
-He takes his stand while the earth sinks around him.
-He opens his arms to receive the penitent
-And the power and riches of the new Kingdom, he shares
. . . enough!

And The Voice came from the throne above:

“Have you seen enough?”

To the Laughing Son of God’s Grace

Dearest fellow Christ seeker!
– – In my search for Christ, I discovered some clues to the significance in his life in a deeper study of Luke’s Gospel, which I thought I’d share with you, “O most excellent Theophilus.”

Mary (Mariam) was a virgin in Nazareth, and Gabriel is sent from God to her. Suddenly this one who has stood before the face of Yahweh is speaking to her!

  • Gabriel’s first word is a very common greeting in those times, “Hey! May your days be well! Great to see you! Rejoice!” all summed up in “Greetings” My that english word can be a bit of a let-down, but in the original it’s a joyful salutation. It’s like “Heyyyyyyy!!!” with a big smile.
  • Then he calls her “highly favored.” It’s like In The Matrix, Dozer greets Neo with great excitement and anticipation for what is about to take place. The common solemnity of this occasion is enough to excite some people to fear, but here, this first word from Gabriel to Mary is very a version of: “Hey, you super-special person!”
  • The Lord is with you. He is not trying to calm her down yet. He is pointing out what David recognized is the source of the fullness of Joy. “The Presence of the Lord.”

These three parts of his salutation are awesome. It’s about to be some very good news. And earlier in the chapter we got an example of what happens when people don’t believe when an angel is telling them good news. Cousin Zacharias has been silenced now for over 6 months rather inexplicably, because this same angel delivered some super special news, and he didn’t believe him. Mary’s response however is very human and humble. She is doing two things. She is deeply perplexed through and through, and she’s also pondering what kind of visit this is.

Then Gabriel unloads on her a super-duper bombshell of a lifestory.

Now, just to reveal: as I studied each verse, I wondered “What it would mean if he had just stopped there?” What was the significance of everything Gabriel told Mary. Since it was divine communication, kept treasured forever in the heart of a human concerning the salvation of all humanity and the world, I figured it be worth looking into.

  • Don’t be afraid.–Mary needed to be calm enough to hear this.
  • You have found favor with God–It always starts with God’s grace!
  • Behold you will conceive in womb–Life will start
  • And you will bill bear a son–Life will be born
  • And you will call his name Jesus–The child shall be named.
  • He will be great–this will be his quality
  • And He will be called the son of the Most High–The child shall be named again.
  • And the Lord will give him the throne of his father David.–He will inherit David’s Kingdom
  • And he will rule over the house of Israel forever–He will rule in this kingdom forever
  • And of his Kingdom there will be no end.–And there won’t be a time when he stops ruling, or when his kingdom falls apart.

These insights stand out to me from these poetic lines from Gabriel’s word.

  1. The Lord is compassionate of our frailty. He knows we can’t hear or remember anything He said if we are afraid.
  2. God’s Grace is what shone on Noah before it described him as righteous. It is His way to begin with the face of God’s gracious favor being turned in the direction of an individual through whom he would bring about His salvation. In these moments we glimpse the mirth of God who is glad at the beauty and effectiveness of His plan.
  3. Jesus’ life is outlined here from “Conceived, born, named . . . to given a throne, ruling, and never-ending. Each piece is important, and each piece speaks to something special that God is doing.
  4. The middle section is “He will be great and be called son of the Highest One.” There any many high ones, but this child will be son of the “Highest One.” Also, He is called twice, did you notice? First his name is called “Jesus” then he will be called “Son of the Most High.” A mystery, but is this just common parallelistic repeating in the scriptures or is there an intentional pattern here?

In any case, dear Laughing Son of God’s Grace, there is a lot of joy packed into these verses which overuse and traditional limelight can really make hard for our eyes to see.

Merry celebration of Jesus’ Birth! Which probably happened right around this time of year btw!

😀

News!

Guess what?! The world we live in with all its problems, brokenness, wrong-doing, craziness, and bad things has a King who is in the process of fixing everything! That King is God, and He is saving the world by rebuilding His Kingdom in His World, and one day it will be the only kingdom left standing. So get on board with this Kingdom now, so you don’t lose big when the other kingdoms fall!

What is this Kingdom like? It’s a kingdom where the only rule is Love one another the same way the King’s Son Jesus has loved us. This means there is justice for all, restoration available to all who humbly ask for it, and forgiveness for any wrong thing. Have you ever done something really awful? You felt guilty for it right? You can be forgiven for it. From stealing a piece of candy from a cookie jar to molesting a child, you can be forgiven for that. But if you’re one of those guys who keeps on doing evil, watch out, cause He’s coming to bring about justice, unless you stop doing it and start doing the right things.

Also, it has the coolest King ever. Not only is he all-powerful, but He is very humble. He is willing to talk with you as His friend, even though he made the world and destroys evil. He is constantly well-managing and growing His kingdom, and no enemy will ever be able to take it from him. He has won the battle to keep it forever, and now people get a chance to rule right alongside him! Seriously, He even gives days off! He’s a great boss! He genuinely cares about you, and is willing to get to the bottom of any thing that is broken in your heart. He will fully utilize everything in your life for the purpose of the glory and goodness of this Kingdom.

What’s the catch? Thankfully, the cost has been completely paid. With all our mess-ups and sin that we keep doing, we don’t deserve this opportunity, but Jesus came and died on the cross to make it possible. What do you have to do to be a part of this kingdom? Simple but not Easy. Swear allegiance to God, obey Him, turn your back on everything that was a part of your life in the kingdom’s of this world, and live as an emissary to others to bring them into this kingdom. You can’t bring anything with you, no possessions, no positions, no prestige, even relationships and family have to be on the table of whether or not they continue. As a citizen of this new Kingdom, God calls the shots, He gives you a new Spirit to live inside you and make you a new person. The old person with his old sinful habits, and mediocre purposelessness is not going to allowed to be in this Kingdom. You go through this thing called “Dying to yourself, and living to God” where you actually learn how to be like the God who made you in his image. This is painful, and whats worse, is that most people are either going to ridicule you, misunderstand you, resist you, oppose you, threaten you, or hurt you, or kill you. There’s rewards for enduring all of that, and there’s a joy that comes from knowing that you’re a part of this Kingdom that never ends, but it’s not an easy life.

Seriously, I hope you will consider this offer. There is a lot of pain and trials in the way of being a citizen of this Kingdom, but it’s so worth it. Humans were designed to serve God, and there is a lot of power available in this Kingdom for the accomplishment of God’s purposes. It’s the side that is the winning side, but it’s going to feel like losing a lot of the time. The reward: eternal life forever with God, as co-rulers with Christ Jesus in a Heaven and Earth where there is absolutely no death, evil, or any bad things. You’ll be a new person who won’t have any of those old things broken inside you or with other people. It’s the most awesome thing ever.

How do you sign up? How do you say I do want to do this? You’ll have to address the King directly in what is called “Prayer” which is just talking to God. He’s very wise and very powerful, and he loves you a lot so be honest. You can let him know that you would like to be His citizen, and leave your old life behind. You can tell him that you need a new heart so that you can be a new person, and that for the rest of your life you will serve and love him with everything you’ve got. He knows your heart already, and He can send His Holy Spirit in to fill you up, so that you can have His presence, His love, and all kinds of amazingness that can’t really be described except “Joy” and then comes some of the harder challenges, which He will show you.

Once you let him know, you’re in! You are going to need some training in what to do with all of this, so find a Christian who is an active part of building this kingdom, especially a group of them called a “church” and get going. Follow them, they’ll show you the ropes. SUPER excited for you!!!

Venting: The Depth of the Cross

Any “so-called” gospel that doesn’t bring the truth about the cross to bear in people’s lives will end in disappointment and disillusionment. The Gospel is basically call to die each day. Anyone who is not dying each day is not living the Gospel.

The Pastor who says “God has a wonderful plan for your life” yet falls into adultery, is one who has not crucified his old life, but is seeking God’s ‘wonderful plan’ for his old life. Such a man, even if he hasn’t yet fallen, will one day.

The church who says, “God wants you to be healthy and wealthy” is preaching faith without obedience. Jesus learned obedience by the things he suffered, and it is this obedience of faith that was the goal of Paul’s gospel in Romans 1 and 16.

The Gospel isn’t a sales pitch. It is to own your unworthiness, and to follow Christ’s trail which begins and ends each day with the laying down of one’s own life, so that Christ can live in them. This is a way to sum up Christianity: Owning your unworthiness, and trusting in God’s love by living like Jesus beginning and ending each day with laying down your own life so that Jesus can live in them.

The school which does not have a vision to see children grow up to give their lives for Jesus is not teaching the gospel. Upstanding moral human beings minus the cross still mean shallow and broken human beings who are the problem with the world.

The person who acts like he’s all together, not living in light of the cross, is living in a dream that will shatter one day. “He who loves his life will lose it.” Jesus said, “But who ever hates his life will keep it forever.” John 12:25

Any declaration that says, “Jesus suffered on the cross so you wouldn’t have to.” is fallacious and hazardously self-oriented. Jesus suffered on the cross to show people who didn’t know how to do it the right way.

The King and the Seven Realms

Once upon a time there was a powerful King over a vast kingdom, and the Kingdom was beautiful in his eyes. He appointed rulers over the kingdom, but the representatives rebelled and turned the whole kingdom against the King. The Castle was the only place left where the light still shined and where people served the King. All the rest of the lands around were enshrouded in darkness.

But the King loved his people even though they had rebelled. He divided his realm into Five realms which competed with each other, until they could rejoin him. Though this slowed his people’s rebellion down, things kept getting worse and worse.

He selected a man from his people and called him to leave the Five dark realms to be the King’s representative. He wanted the man to show the rest of the realms how they could rejoin the King whom they hated so much. The man wasn’t perfect, but he trusted in his king. The King took this one man and his wife and protected and provided for them until they became a huge family, which became a people. The King set them up in a space that became the sixth realm in the middle of the Five dark realms.

Still, even this family of people which the King had set apart didn’t show the other people how to rejoin the King. They started to take over the other realms claiming they were serving the King. But everyone else despised them. The Sixth realm had become even darker than the other Five realms.

But the King loved the family, and he sent his new-born son, the Prince, to grow up in this family. He hoped that his son would show all six realms a way back to serving the King. But when the Prince was full grown, he looked just like his father, and the whole sixth realm came together against him, and the Five other dark realms came together in agreement that they wanted nothing to do with the Prince or his King, so they had him killed!

Now the tables had turned. All the people were shown for what they truly were: selfish rebels against a good King.  And the Prince who had become one with his people, did not stay dead, but the King  brought him back to the castle where he was brought back to life again! The King was shown to have the power of life over death!

The people from all the realms around, the five and the Sixth, heard the news that the Prince had come back to life. Some would never serve the King again, but others resubmitted to the King’s Rule, and they established little pockets of what was now the Seventh realm: The King’s Kingdom. Light started shining in the dark realms again.

Once all was arranged for the King’s reclamation, the King and his Son went out with a huge army to cast out the rebels who refused to rejoin the King and destroyed their lands. All that was left, he gave to those who had returned again to serve him as their King. He made the Seven realms into One realm again: The King’s Kingdom was fully renewed.

The Prince took for himself a Bride from among the people whom he loved so much and he became the new King. He appointed new rulers: faithful ones who would not betray the King who fought for them, and the new King who gave his life for them. They all lived happily ever after.

Math Myth

At lunch today I told this story to some 5th grade kids.

Once there was a division between the Sum and the multiplication. There was also a guy named Minus, who wasn’t very good at doing things. He wanted to remove the division between the Sum and the multiplication.

Minus had one problem. He didn’t have a heart big enough.

So he drank a lot of milk to make himself stronger.
But his heart didn’t grow any bigger.

He went to school and learned everything he could about the division between the Sum and the multiplication.
But his heart didn’t grow any bigger.

After school he gathered as many numbers around him as he could: all kinds of possessions.
But his heart didn’t grow any bigger.

Finally, he prayed and asked God to give him a bigger heart.
And God gave him a bigger heart.

After this, Minus found Sum and multiplication still divided.
And because his heart was bigger now,
He applied himself to the division between the Sum and the multiplication
And Viola! He “subtracted” the division from between the Sum and the multiplication.

The Sum and the multiplication had a party and celebrated with cupcakes.

Then they all made an equation to remember how a Minus is always able to remove the division between the Sum and the multiplication.

That is why there is a minus sign used in the Division symbol.

The Gospel of the Cross

Reflections on Theology of the Cross by Gerharde O. Forde

The Cross means I must die
The Resurrection means I will live again by God’s kindness if I have faith.
The world is either heading toward the cross
Or it has already been crucified
All who are found to be on the side going toward the cross
Will not be resurrected
But all who embrace the cross
Will be resurrected
He who seeks to save his life by ignoring the cross
Will lose his life
But who loses his life for Jesus sake by dying to self
Will find that his life is saved

Why? Because our sinfulness, our pride, insubordination, and rebellion must die.
We must die since our sin means destruction of ourselves and all that is good.
But God made a doorway for the life He wanted to save.
Only those who die in submission and subordination to God will live.
God will make a new creation, but He won’t resurrect the old creation.

If you wish to be saved
Identify yourself as a rebel, a sinner, unworthy of God’s kindness
Lose your life of serving yourself
When you ignored the message of the cross: That you cannot save yourself
Like the child who knows he has done wrong, confesses and accepts punishment
Who thus shows his humility of heart to his parent’s jurisdiction
So submit your life to God, which to the detriment of all, falls short of holiness
And the God who is good, welcomes you to be resurrected into His New Creation

This is the Offensive Gospel.
This is the Narrow Gate.
Narrow as the beams of the cross itself.