Friday, December 30, 2016


Tucked away in the Old Testament is a small, little-known book called Lamentations. Most Christians know very little about this book. It is, however, a book that sheds so much light on our world today and speaks to people in the 21st Century.

In 587 B.C. Jerusalem fell to the powerful army of King Nebuchadnezzar. The best and brightest were deported to Babylon to feed the growing empire’s need for leaders. The tragedy of that day is depicted in poetic language in five laments in this book. Jeremiah had spent most of his life warning the leaders and people of the impending judgment; the people, however, ignored the warnings. The prophet’s words had very forcefully and eloquently predicted the horrific events that happened on that fateful day.

Jeremiah was there, and every emotion was stirred as he saw and felt the suffering of his people. It didn’t matter that the suffering was deserved unlike in Job’s situation. The prophet described the city as a despondent queen who had now become a slave.

This tiny book is so relevant for us today because of pervasive suffering that surrounds us. Lamentations describes what is going on in the far reaches of forgotten places and in the loneliest heart that grieves from loss. The prophet, under the inspiration of the Spirit, gives voice to our emotions of anger, shame, guilt, abandonment, and fear.

In the second lament, Jeremiah describes all of our most bitter disappointments when we feel there is absolutely no hope. All the negative emotions we could possibly encounter have overwhelmed us. Listen to his words as he speaks perhaps for you at this very moment:

Lam 3:15-18
15 He has filled me with bitter herbs
and sated me with gall.
16 He has broken my teeth with gravel;
he has trampled me in the dust.
17 I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 So I say, "My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the Lord."

Then with all the dreams trampled underfoot, Jeremiah remembers something so profound that it changes how he sees life and impacts how he feels. Jeremiah remembers God’s faithfulness and an amazing transformation takes place despite the pain he feels:

Lam 3:19-24
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."

Do you remember that God is with us? That is what Jeremiah remembered on that day. Nothing, not even King Nebuchadnezzar with his powerful army, could stop the mighty love and compassion of God. In fact, that is one of the names given to Jesus at his birth “Immanuel” which means God is with us. 

This week I fell on the ice, but it was really more like I got slammed. It was like somebody picked my feet up and then slammed by head down on the ice. It all happened so fast that I was on the ground before I knew what happened. That is how life is for us sometimes. We get slammed with disappointment, and we didn’t even see it coming. Christmas means even there on the ground Jesus is with you. His faithful acts never stop, and Christmas is a reminder of that great truth.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Learning About Humility

C.S. Lewis said that pride was far more difficult to deal with in the Christian life than other sin like anger or greed. Pride is a powerful force that blinds us. The only effective antidote against pride is humility. That may be why Jesus often taught about humility. Once, when Jesus noticed how the guests were conniving to get the places of honor at the table at a prominent event, he told them a parable (Luke 14:1-14). The story Jesus told sounds like instruction in social etiquette, but it’s really about having the right kind of attitude in life. The first part of the story is about how not to seat yourself. Let’s imagine the scene as the guests arrive. They look the place over and see where they want to sit. One proud guest says to himself, “That is my seat,” and of course he takes it. People watch as he takes the seat, and he says to himself—“They are thinking he must be really important.”

The problem is that is not how the host sees it.  Then suddenly the proud guest looks up, and there is the host. The host asks him to move because he has reserved that seat for someone more important. His embarrassment knows no limit. The second part of the story is about how to seat yourself so this kind of thing doesn’t happen to you. Jesus says look for the lowest seat, and then it won’t be a problem when the host asks you to move up.

Jesus lived out humility, and in so doing he demonstrated it is possible to overcome pride. Jesus summed up everything with these words: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:11). Jesus hated the pride that pre­tends to be humble. He wants the real thing. If we want authenticity, then let us strive to be like Jesus.

Once when I was working at my computer, one of my little granddaughters was sitting in my lap. She was digging in my shirt pocket. As I looked out of the corner of my eye, I watched the stuff all being extracted piece by piece from my pocket. She examined each piece very meticulously; my glasses, my pens, my papers, and I thought that was all I had, but she kept putting her little hand deep into my pocket. I didn’t pay much attention because I thought she had pretty well cleaned me out. After a few minutes I noticed she was rather quiet and wasn’t fidgeting. I looked down at her, and she had found a toothpick and had it in the corner of her mouth exactly the way I do. She was imitating me. The one thing we want to do is learn to imitate Christ and not this world. We want to learn to imitate him and not the people around us. We also want to live in such a way that those who are watching us will be imitating Christ when they imitate us.