Needing The Lord Isn’t Shameful

They intended to shame me by reciting the tired old line that I used Jesus as a crutch. Looking back 48 years later, I wish I’d pointed out the rather ironic (and actually humorous) detail that I physically depend on a wheelchair. I mean, a mere crutch doesn’t demand nearly as much reliance as a wheelchair!

Furthermore, I feel no shame for needing a wheelchair, nor should I. Instead, I feel gratitude that I live in a time and place that allows me to have a power wheelchair. My wheelchair helps me get around the apartment, travel between Adult Sunday School and church services, and roam around downtown Boston. Crutches and wheelchairs provide marvelous freedom to people who would otherwise be bedridden.

My high school friends didn’t understand that I need Jesus even more than I need my wheelchair. Sin  cripples every aspect of my life, preventing me from honoring the Lord as fully as He deserves. So I gladly depend on Him, ashamed of my sin but eternally grateful that He stands close to hold me up.

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Familiar Psalm, Unfamiliar Hymn

Tragically, one could argue that hymns in general are unfamiliar to most professing evangelicals. But I digress.

Psalm 23 is well-known, even among non-Christians. Almost any movie with a funeral scene includes a minister somberly reciting its words as mourners gather around the grave, allowing avid movie buffs to subconsciously memorize it regardless of their religious views. And those who identify as Christians definitely find comfort in its beautiful imagery.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” We draw strength from these words, as well as the words which follow them. Often we speak them to ourselves in times of crisis, assuring ourselves that — despite the most unspeakable circumstances — our Shepherd continues to guide and protect us. We take solace in knowing that we “will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Last Sunday I encountered a hymn based on Psalm 23 that I’d never heard until then. I’m guessing it’s unfamiliar to many of you. Perhaps it might give you fresh perspective on this psalm that we know so well.

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Giving Thanks Should Have A Direction

2004_0810Plymouth0052Does anyone seriously deny that America has become a secular society?  On the local news this morning, for instance, reporters had difficulty concealing their celebratory attitudes as the first shops to legally sell recreational marijuana opened at 8:00 a.m. today. Two of them. Only shops on the East Coast. Right here in Massachusetts! I grieved over the obvious disregard for God’s standards of sobriety.

Not long after running the story showing the massive amount of people lining up to buy their legal pot, the station ran another story predicting the massive amount of people who will be traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday. Maybe I have a quirky way of viewing things, but it struck me as odd that Americans thumb their noses at the God of the Bible as they flock to celebrate a holiday originally intended as worship for His care and provision.

The Christians who celebrated that first American Thanksgiving (right here in Massachusetts, by the way), called for the feast as an expression of thanks to the Lord for sustaining them through that harsh New England winter and for the abundant harvest that ensuing Fall. (Do public schools still teach that part of American history?) Their thankfulness was more than a nebulous gratitude directed at nobody in particular, but heartfelt thankfulness to a personal Lord Who had lovingly taken care of them.

It’s important to count our blessings. Absolutely! In some ways,  I suppose it’s good that secular people step back and recognize the value of being grateful to something beyond themselves.

At the same time, I feel troubled that so many Americans have such enthusiasm about the Thanksgiving holiday when they demonstrate a total lack of interest in God Himself. As I see it, their nebulous gratitude lacks the beauty and depth of praising the glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
    nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
    and worship before you, O Lord,
    and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
    you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
    you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. ~~Psalm 86:8-13 (ESV)

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Ironic Attitudes At Thanksgiving

Untitled-1Eight weeks ago, I turned 65. Almost on cue, my aches and pains accelerated and circumstances limited my recreational opportunities (New England, of all places, bypassed Fall this year, with winter beginning immediately after my birthday).

And I’ve been complaining. A lot!

Okay, so I don’t like my present circumstances. I feel cheated by a hot, rainy summer followed by a cold, rainy October and a rainy, snowy November that kept me from going to Boston more than a handful of times. And I’m decidedly displeased that I rarely feel well physically. I keep remembering my mother-in-law looking me in the eye one afternoon and Continue reading

Looking At The Cross Costs Something

When you first heard that Jesus died for your sins, how did you respond? Did you shrug it off as a somewhat perplexing idea? Maybe you felt a measure of relief, but didn’t really think the knowledge of His sacrifice required more than a thank you and a smile from you. Perhaps you thought you needed to augment His work on the cross, making yourself worthy of salvation.

Or maybe you had comprehended the true weight of your sins against a holy God, and therefore received the message of the cross with an attitude of grateful amazement. You wondered why the Lord would bestow such grace on you. And, although you realized your total inability to pay Him back for His grace and mercy, you wanted to show your  gratitude by acknowledging His claim on your whole life.

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Reformation Day Is Like Christmas (At Least For Reformed Bloggers)

Reformation Day

Pastors must feel a sense of panic each December, knowing they’ll need to preach Christmas sermons the Sunday before Christmas as well as Christmas Eve. How can they find a fresh angle? What can they say that pastors haven’t said for centuries on end? How do they keep their congregations from becoming jaded to the wonder of Christ’s Incarnation?

As a blogger, I believe I empathize with their plight. Before starting The Outspoken TULIP, I maintained another blog for  nine years, giving me a total of twelve years and three months doing this ministry. Around Christmastime, I panic a little myself. What can I add to the conversation that’s different from my Christmas blog posts lying in my archives? And how can my articles complement, rather than parrot, those of my fellow Christian bloggers?

Today I feel the same sort of panic. It’s Reformation Day, and I am Continue reading