Tag Archives: Faith

The Christmas Paradox: A Labor of Love

This Christmas post is going to be a little different.  There is going to be a lot about Jesus, of course, but there will also be what I am going to call Theological Physics.  A little science mixed in with knowlege about God…hey, it’s Christmas!  Don’t worry, it won’t be too bad.  I hope.  This is part one.  I will save the physics and theology for part two.

For the last couple of years, a friend of mine has been telling me about Andrew Peterson’s Christmas Concert.  Andrew Peterson is a Contemporary Christian Music Artist and he has been doing a Christmas tour since 1999 where he goes through the story of Christmas but starts in the Old Testament and works his way through to the birth of Christ and its significance.  My friend said that there is an amazing song in this called, “A Labor of Love,” that talks about the birth of Christ in a very real way.  It was, afterall, an actual birth with everything that comes with that.

The tour and CD is called Behold the Lamb of God.  I knew we were going to be doing a lot of driving this year to our various Christmas gatherings and I wanted some new Christmas music to listen to besides the same songs they always play on the radio.  I remembered my friend talking about Andrew Peterson and that song, so we got the whole CD…I am a big fan of how the Christmas story fits into the “whole story” of the Bible, so I figured it would probably be pretty good.  It is.

We gave it a listen on one of our long drives to a family Christmas party.  I was completely enthralled with how they were able to weave the story of the Bible in such a cool way.  The songs about the Old Testament were amazing.  He wrapped the gest of Israel’s Biblical history into just a few songs, but it was done beautifully.  He built it up to the birth of Christ.  Then the song “Labor of Love” came on.  It was everything my friend said it was.  Graphic yet beautiful.  Then suddenly a line was sung that I was not prepared for…I didn’t see it coming and I don’t know that I will ever be theologically or philosophically the same.  A very simple string of words that left me in tears at the wonder of the gospel and amazing love of God.

I would encourage you to get the CD, listen to all the songs up to this one, and then hear these lyrics in context, but I am going to share the lines that rocked my little world.  It is a simple thought, but such a huge effect on me.  The context within the song is that Mary is giving birth on the ground of a dirty stable with no family except her new husband.  Joseph is there with her being as brave as he can given the earthy and heavenly circumstances.

So he held her and he prayed, shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb, he was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the Faith that could make the mountains move

This thought…I almost don’t have words to convey how God sent shockwaves through me with it.  You have a poor family in a stable.  A birth happening in the worst of situations.  We would call this horrible in our time.  Think about it.  A baby being born in a dirty, fifthy stable.  A place were dusty animals eat and use the bathroom.  No professionals around.  Just a man with rough hands from carpentry who probably did not know much about childbirth.  And there is Joseph trying to have enough faith to believe that an angel really did come to him and tell him that his wife is going to have a baby that is not his but was the work of the Holy Spirit.  Mary is going through the real pain of child birth.  No family.  No help.  Just Joseph.  She was probably trying her hardest to believe that he truly believed that all of this was really the work of God.

And then there is the baby.  The real son of God.  God in flesh.  The very Word of God that created the created everything was now a part of creation.  Get ready, because here is the thought that blew me away…Joseph had moonlight/starlight on his face as he mustered up the faith needed to guide this baby into the world as Mary gave birth…and this baby was the one who made the moon, and the stars, and gives us the ability to have faith in him.  He came up with the birthing process and was now experiencing it.  His hands molded the first man, Adam, and now one of Adam’s decendents was using his hands to guide the creator into creation.

Wow.  Do you get the contradictiction here?

I am going to let this one sink in.  Take some time to meditate on the thought of the maker of the moon being brought into the world to have the moonlight on his face.

Father, Jesus, Spirit, please fill us with the starking contrast of the reality that Jesus made the world and then was born into it.  You gave up the glory of the role of Creator to become part of creation.  More than that is why you did it.  You did it because we needed you to.  Only you could unravel the curse of sin by taking on a body that has the curse.  Then you lived a life that went against the curse…then you died to kill the curse.  Halellujah, what a savior.  Jesus, make yourself real to us today.  We pray this in your name.  I love you.  your son, joe


Posted by on December 25, 2012 in Christmas, Gospel and Faith


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the sinners prayer PART III

I am back among the blogger living.  At least for another week or so.  It has been a busy school year as a teacher and a father of a now almost one year-old and almost four year-old.  But, I have finally found some time (winter break) to do a little writing.  So now it is time for the final installment of what God has taught me about the sinner’s prayer.

For a refresher, go back and read Part 1 and Part 2 and then come back.

Are you back?  Great!  Here we go.

Quick summary (in case you did not go read):

  • Part 1- I am amazingly disobedient and selfish toward God, and he is exceedingly patient and loving towards me.  His “no” and discipline it is out of love and care for my soul.
  • Part 2- Being a Christian and my hope of salvation is not built on a moment in time when I “did” something.  It is not a prayer, a pastor handshake, or a dip in water.  It is a life marked by change that can only be explained by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

In other words, I am a destable sinner in utter need of the saving, life changing gracce that is found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  And that circle me back around to the original thought that sparked the start of this series of posts.  The sinner’s prayer and what it means for my life today.

The basics of the sinners prayer is communicating this to God:

  • We realize our sinfulness and inablity to do anything about it.
  • We know our separation from God because of this sinfulness.
  • We accept and believe that Jesus came, lived a sinless life, died a gruesome death, and came back to life again…and that he did this all to make us right with God.
  • We commit to a life of loving, trusting, and believing God and following him.

Some of us were lead through prescribed prayers that cover all of this, some of us were given the basics and encouraged to pray from our heart, and others may even have just been lead to pray without any leading at all.  But the gest of it is that we acknowledge that we are sinners separated from God, Jesus paid the price for our sin before God, and that we will live in trust of this and follow where he leads our lives.  The sinner’s prayer.  Basic and simple.  Proof of a change of heart.

“CupofJoe Guy, we get it.  What’s your point?”

Well, my getting irrated with the comment I mentioned that I read on Facebook (mentioned in Part II), led God to work on my heart.  Why did the overemphasis on the prayer itself bother me so much?  What was wrong with my heart that this was such a big deal?

God started to burn in my heart and mind the idea of the simplicity of the sinner’s prayer.  If the evidence of my salvation is a marked life with change and not a momentary prayer, how am I doing with that?  What does my life look like?  Am I characterized by this change of heart and life?

Slowly, the fact was impressed upon me that the sinner’s prayer is for me.  It is about me.  It is about my relationship with God.  Not the time I said it when I was six, but it is about my daily relationship with him.  Do I start each day with an admittance of my sinfulness and separation, a renewal of trust in Jesus sacrafice and resurrection, and a commitment to follow and trust him?

I don’t.  I live many days without any thoughts in this direction.  I am so focused on my day-to-day life that my relationship with God is mostly an afterthought if I give it any thought at all.  God gave me the realization that I need to begin each morning with the sinner’s prayer.  I need to start each day fresh.  I need to live each day in trust of Jesus.  I need to remind myself of that.  I need to preach the gospel to myself, accept it, and pray to admit and commit that day to follow God.

Have I lived each day this way since these revelations?  No.  But I have somewhere to start from each day, and I pray that it will become a daily instinct to one day start each day this way.

I know it has taken a long time to finish this thought, blogwise, but hopefully God will use the lesson God taught me to help you in your daily relationship with him.

Father, Jesus, Spirit, I am a sinner.  I am sperated from you based on anything I do or offer of myself.  Only Jesus was able to live a life that did not deserve death.  I know that his death on the cross allowed him to take my sin and your wrath.  I believe that he really died and was truly raised again.  I commit to you today.  Help me follow you today.  Please lead me and help me to obey.  I love you.  your son, joe


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the sinner’s prayer

As the parent of a three year-old, I have learned an awful lot more aboout myself than how to be a good parent.  And I guess that is how it goes.  Being a parent teaches us how selfish, stubborn, deceitful, and self-seeking we are…or at least that has been the case for me.  Now, my friends without kids, hang on and keep reading.  I share all of this because of a realization God has brought me to recently.

It is so hard for NB, my son, to trust my wife and I. He doesn’t want to listen or obey because he trusts more in what he wants or understands for himself. He doesn’t seem to get that “no” or “don’t” is usually for the purpose of safety or something better. I love him so much that I am willing to put off his “happiness” for the sake of something better. “No” and discipline come from a deep love and the want for him to have something greater down the road. He just sees it all as a denial of what he wants and perceives that he needs. There is a fustration on both sides…NB gets frustrated with us because we are not working within his realm of self, and we, as parents, get frustrated with his lack of trust that we are really working towards his good (especially when this is lived out over and over again and he sees that we do know what we are talking about sometimes).

Even while I type this, it is amazing to me how long it took me to get the lesson God is teaching me through the struggles of parenting. God is my Father. He loves me more than I will ever be able to comprehend on either side of Heaven. He is truly out for my good. In good times and bad, in times of plenty or in need, in closeness when I am obedient, or in distance and hard times of discipline…God is always after one thing: my heart. He wants me to love and trust him completely. And he is overwelmingly patient with me…even when I have to learn the same lesson over and over and over. God is out for my good. Always. Even when life isn’t working like I feel that it should.

“Okay, CoffeeJoe, that is a great story and lesson, but what in the world does it have to do with the sinner’s prayer?”

Don’t worry,the tie-in is huge…and it has even grown a bit since I hace started writing this post (it has taken me a couple of days to find the time to write completely). And for this reason, you will have to wait for part two. 🙂

I do want to leave you with some scripture, though. 1 John 3:1-3:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Father, Jesus, Spirit, please help me to trust you. Please help me to see your great love for me and just trust you. I love you. your son, joe


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Call Me Israel…

Life has gotten busy.  My newborn and three year-old, time for my wife, and then work takes up most of my time.  It is hard to focus long enough on God everyday just in seeking him, let alone finding the time to put thoughts to virtual paper.

I have struggled to read the Bible every day as I had been for nearly a year.  When I do, I just don’t have the time to dig in and spend in it as I had been.  However, I am back on track, most days.

I am on my second time through the Bible.  I am not saying this to boast.  No, quite the opposite.  It is quite humbling.  I did not see the same things when I read before.  And what I am seeing is not good.

I am reading a chronological Bible this time through.  What this means is that this Bible puts everything in a time order of when they happened and/or were written.  Because of this, I am not getting the Old and New Testaments together each day (unless I do a seperate reading).  Spending this much time in the OT (Old Testament) has been eye-opening.

The first time through, I remember thinking, “Man, those Israelites just didn’t get it.  God was constantly taking care of them, providing for them, and protecting them, and all they do is run away from him.  How could they have done that?”

This time through, I am realizing that I am Israel.  Their lives as a nation mirror my life as a Christian.  I constantly run from God and what I know is right…all the while God keeps providing and protecting.  More than that, God gave the ultimate sacrafice of Jesus to pay for my sins (my turning from him) and to give me life with hm forever.  How could I keep turning away from him?

I am Israel.  I don’t trust God, even though he is trustworthy.

I am Israel.  I offer little as I ask for much.  God offers much and asks for little.

I am Israel.  I run away from God, and all he wants me to do is turn to him…even in my sin…so that his faithful love and mercy can change me and bring glory to his name.

Call me Israel.  That is my name.  We are one and the same.  The point is God’s mercy for the glory of his own name.  I just need to trust him, look to him, run to him, and know him as my source for everything.  This is when I will change.

Israel is the name God gave Jacob because of Jacob’s trust and faith in God.  Not the good that Jacob did, but because of faith and trust.  This is the other side of this coin.  The history of Israel is a mirror of my life…but the story of Israel (Jacob) should be the goal of my life.  To trust God and put my faith in him, even though I am clearly not deserving of it.

Call me Israel…I have nothing to trust or put my faith in but God.

Father, Jesus, and Spirit, please make this message clear to me today.  Please help me to trust you in every moment of the day.  Please help me to look to you.  Please help me to see everything as yours…even my time and energy.  Please use me to show your glory today.  Love, your son, joe.


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September 10th

Over the last week, there have been a lot of retrospectives on the ten years since 9/11.  I know for all of us, that date has forever changed.  It is now synonymous with the tragedy that happened.  Even ten years later, it is hard for me to think about what happened.  I watched a video timeline this morning, and I couldn’t help but cry at the end.  All of those people who died.  Their families.  The sadness.  The grief.  It is all still so real to me.  For me, though, 9/11 is not the only anniversary that I think about this time of year.

The events of 9/11 have given my heart a timeline that affects me now.  This year, God is starting to teach me through it.  There are three dates: 9/10, 9/11, and 9/12.  Each one has specific feelings for me.  And today being 9/10, I would like to reflect briefly on that day.

Looking back, 9/10 now represents innocence to me.  My life changed so much on the day after the 10th, there is now a “simpler time” nostagia about it.  I don’t remember the 10th.  I don’t know what that day was like.  However, in my mind, it looks a lot like the sunny morning of the 11th that we see when we see footage right before the first plane crash.

On 9/10, I was not as paranoid.  I was a little paranoid because that is my personality, but it was not a global paranoia.  I wasn’t worried about how our government handled security.  I was not apprehensive about people and other countries’ thoughts about America.  I was not waiting for the next “shoe to drop.”  It is a sunny day in my mind, with no clouds in sight.

I was not as willing to give up some of my freedom for security.  I was more trusting.  I was less into watching the news.  I feel like I think older generations are when they talk about the “good old days.”  The world just didn’t seem as grim.  The weight of the world is more on my shoulders now because I have an ingrained worry about what could happen.

I don’t know how to explain it better.  9/10 is just a time of deep reflection for me.  I felt safe that day.  Safe because I felt like our country was invincible.  Bad things happened elsewhere.  Not here.  Not in America.

This year, God is making me think about him in this time of reflection.  Where is my security?  What do I trust in?  What do I hope in?

I am not going to get into the whole why-would-God-let-this-happen thing.   But, God is in control.  No matter what happens, God is who we can trust in.  Bad things will happen.  Big things (like 9/11) or small things (losing my keys).  The key is, where is my hope and trust when these things happen?

The weight of the world is not ours to carry.  It isn’t.  God is the sustainer of the world.  My hope is only in Jesus.  Jesus died for my sins to make me right with God.  The proof is in the resurrection.  Jesus coming back from the dead is what tells me that his sacrafice was accepted and complete (see Action Hero Jesus).  I am right with God, no matter what happens.  This is what frees me up to not bear the weight of planet Earth.  What does this mean?  It means I am free to love.  I am free to serve others.  I am free to let go of my daily schedule to connect with others.  I am free to be Jesus’ hands and feet in the world, especialy during a time of tragedy.

Though I might not be secure in this world, I am secure in the next.  I can rest in that.  I can have a 9/10 spiritual life.  And this 9/10 relationship to God allows me to love people through tragedies that happen every day in a 9/11 world.

I don’t know if this made sense or not.  Just trying to articulate how I have been feeling this week, especially today.  What do you think?  How do you feel when you think about 9/10?  Do you have a sense of spiritual security that lets you love and serve other people without the weight of the world on your shoulders?

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The Teacher and the Trash Can


Life has been busy.  I have not been able to blog for a couple days.  Such is the life of a teacher.  The first couple of weeks (teacher days and then the students coming back) can be jam-packed and tiring.  I am exhausted today.  It was the first day back for the students.

I had the idea for this post a couple of weeks ago, and even set it up to start writing.  Something came up (one of the other posts I actually wrote), and I put this to the side.  On my way home from school, I realized it was a lesson that I need to revisit for myself…and it works out to be quite timely since it is a story about teaching, or at least my role as a teacher and a challenge God gave me.

Get ready, kids, today is going to be about humility.

Last week I talked a lot about my testimony and what God is doing in my life.  What I am about to tell you about happened during the time of God really moving in my life and causing all of the big changes in my heart (My Time Travel Testimony and What’s in a Name: Jesus, Jesus, Bo-Bes…).  I was in a real place of the Spirit speaking to me constantly and challenging me in my everyday life.  He is still moving in me, it just felt more present because it had been a while since I was this close in my relationship to him.

Well anyway, I was really trying to be genuine in my dealings with my students and others.  I was really trying to get to know my students so I can be a better teacher to them, and one of the best times to do this was at lunch.  I had a few guys that would sit with me, and we would talk and joke around most days.

One of the days, near the end of lunch as I was about to take my trash and throw it away, one of the guys (a real character) says, “Mr. B, take my tray.”

I laughed at him, as I usually did, because he tried this once a week or so.  But that day it was different.  I felt a nudge in my heart to go ahead and take his trash.  I looked at him, and then said, “Okay.”  I took his tray and dumped it.

Needless to say, he was a bit surprised.  After I came back from the trash can, the Spirit started working again.  By the time I was back to my seat, I had a challenge: dump more trays.  I almost ignored it.  I really wanted to sit down.  I just about did…but I knew what I had to do.  I knew that if I sat, the Spirit would do a work on my heart becuase of my selfish and proud attitude.  I swallowed that pride and took trays from the students at my table and dumped them.

It was quite humbling.  I do not know what was worse, the laughs and stange looks from the students or the wondering eyes from other teachers.  It was a difficult task, especially because I could only carry a couple of trays at a time.  It took quite a few trips, but I got through it.  I learned my lesson.  I will not be prideful.

The next day…challenged again.  Dump more trays.  I did for my table again.  Thanks, God.  I got it.  I am prideful.  I will work on it.  Please help me work on it.

Day three…the Spirit spoke to my heart again: more trays.  Once more, I dumped the trays at my table.  Lesson learned?  No.

The next week (day three was on a Friday)…Dump more trays…MORE trays.  I dumped the trays at my table.  MORE TRAYS.  I dumped trays for the surrounding tables.  Am I done yet, God?

Everyday the challenge was for more trays.  By the end of the week I was dumping the trays of most of the students that I taught.  In the coming weeks the challenge got to the point that I was dumping which ever trays I could get to.  I started to want to dump trays for more students.  The challenges continued for a month or two.

What I found that happened was I stopped wondering when I would learn my lesson.  I actually started to like the humbling effect.

It helped me truly care about my students.  It is hard not to care when you are throwing away their garbage.

It made me more patient with my students.  It is hard not to be more patient when you are literally serving them in a real way.

More than this, though, it showed me some major heart issues.  The biggest one came up when I had the thought, “Why am I doing this?  These kids don’t deserve this.”

This was another slap-in-the-back-of-the-head moment for me.  What immediately came to mine is, “Why did I die for you?  You did not deserve it.  I did it because I love you.  Now I need you to show the same love for others.”  That shut me up.  A smile went on my face, and it was back to business.  I think this was the turning point when I started to enjoy the “challenges”.

Humbling is hard.  The breaking down of pride is painful.  But it is good.  And this is what really starts the process of conforming us into the image of Christ.

If you want a challenging message, we recently had a sermon from Proverbs about humility at my church.  Check it out, but be ready for a challenge of your own!  Humility and How I Achieved It by Bill White at Grace Church in Greenville/Powdersville.

What do you think about this?  How has God taught you about your pride issues?  What challenges has he given you?  Please share with the group.  🙂

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The Monitor and the Incredible Yelling Boy

I am a teacher. This is summer. I am home. I know, I know, teachers have such a cushy job getting off at 3:30 and getting summers off. I won’t get into all of that here, but as most teachers I work hard and consider the summer “comp. time.”

I say all of this in order to “brag” about the fact that I have gotten to spend all three of my two-and-a-half year-old son’s summers with him. I call it our Daddy/Son Summers. I love it. It is not always relaxing, to say the least, but it is good and worth every minute of fun and fustration.

Before I continue, let me throw this in…from this point on in the blog I will be referring to my son as NB and my wife as LA (per LA’s request to leave their names out of it).

Okay, where was I. Oh yes. As a father, even early on, I realized that I was going to learn a lot more about myself and my relationship to God than I was ever going to be able to teach my little buddy NB. Summers have become almost a time of self-reflection as much as they have been quality time for me and the boy. Many a lesson has been learned through our relationship.

This is the story about one that happened this week.  And it is a message that hit me like a thud to the back of the head…God likes to teach me that way A LOT.

Our daily routine this summer has usually boiled down to this:  get up, eat, drive Mommy (LA) to work, find a “man-venture” to go on (usually the Zoo, park, or just stopping at various stores), home, lunch, nap, “learning time”, then pick up Mommy from work and spend the evenings together.  Did you see that list?  There is little to no daddy-down-time built in, except for during the nap.  Nap time is my time to get things done or rest.  Best case senario is that I am not tired and can actually do some things that need to get done (including grab a shower since that is not quite penciled into the formerly stated schedule).

The length of naps vary, but I can usually count on a minimum of 2 hours.  This means I need to budget my time wisely.  So if I want to rest a little while and get anything done (especially the shower that LA would prefer me to have each day), I need to keep a watchful eye on the ticking clock…and I need to be honest, I almost always choose to take a little bit (or a lot) of rest time during this alloted span.

Occasionally, NB’s sleeping schedule does not agree with mine.  When this happens, I have to get creative.  It has not been too often, but it has happened enough that I have had to start teaching him how to play in his room by himself.  What I will do is go into his room, talk to him about needing him to stay and play, make sure he has plenty to play with or books to look at, and then listen closely to the monitor (or turn it way up if I am taking a shower).

The day that this story happens, NB did not seem real jazzed about this idea.  He wanted to come out his room and hang out with Daddy.  So, I talked to him a little longer and even gave him a special treat by having the dog stay in there with him and keep him company (you have no idea how much he LOVES that dog!  I will have to write a blog post just about that someday).  He seemed to get a big kick about that, so all seemed good to go.  I told him I loved him and that I would not be long, and then reassured him that if he needed anything I would hear him through the monitor and be right there.

I proceded to prepare to take the required daily shower.  Before I could move much past stepping into the bathroom I hear, “DADDDDDDY!”  I wait a few seconds.  Nothing.  I took another step into the bathroom.  “DADDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDY!”  I rush to his room.

I get there, and he is just grinning at me.  “What’s wrong, buddy,” I ask.

NB lifts his arm and points, “Ebow (elbow for those that do not speak two year-old).  Bed hurt me.  Bad bed.”  He points to the footboard.

I go in an look…and of course see nothing.  I talk with him for a second and figure out he bumped his elbow on the bed.  I comfort him, scold the bed, and then encourage him to be careful.  I again reassure him that I am just on the other side of the monitor, and then am off to attempt my shower.

This time, success.  I am able to take a quick shower (we’re talking like five minutes here…I knew the boy was getting antsy, so I needed to try to just get as clean as I can in the shortest possible amount of time).

All seems peaceful in the Land of Two…until I am in the process of drying.  There is a stirring.  I hear talking.  I assume he is talking to the dog.  As I start to get dressed, it happens.


Okay, that middle part is not what he said, but I have no idea what the jibberish there was, so that is my interpretation.

I hurry to throw the rest of my clothes on.  The whole time I am getting dressed the “daddy” and jibberish continues.  Actually, it started to get kind of funny.  It started to become clear that there was nothing really wrong and that he was just trying to get my attention.  He got louder and louder and the talking became more and more random.

I stopped worrying and slowed down with my getting myself together.  I was even able to make sure that I put on deodorant (something else that LA prefers me to do each day, as well).  The yelling continued, but I knew everything was okay.  He would have to learn to wait.  He had everything that he needed and there was no imminent danger.  He needed to learn to trust me.

I went to his room, and of course he was estatic to see me, but before we played I talked to him about not needing to yell to get my attention and how he needs to trust that Mommy and Daddy are aware of him and are looking out for him (the best you can do with a two year-old).

About the time that the yelling became funny over the monitor is when God smacked me in the back of the head.  He spoke to my heart and said, “Dude, that is you.  Why don’t you trust me?  Why don’t you know that I hear you?  Why don’t you think I am in control and will move when I need to move?”

This is all of us.  We get anxious.  We get worried.  We doubt God.  We don’t trust his timing.  We think he forgets about us.  We start to wonder if he is really there.  We start lashing out.  We scream and complain.  We get caught up with the worries of this life and stop believing God has it all in his hands and he knows.

He is there.  He is God.  And he knows.  He will be there when he needs to be.  We need to trust that.  Matthew 6:19-34  Be encouraged!

Oh, and for another perspective on this, please check out this post by my friend Bill Moore, “That Guy“.

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Posted by on July 29, 2011 in Gospel and Faith


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