Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).

"Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ—the Son of the Father—will continue to be with us who live in truth and love. How happy I was to meet some of your children and find them living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded" (2 John 3-4).

"Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. Some of the brothers recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth. I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth" (3 John 2-4).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Free indeed

I was sitting by a pond in the Illinois suburb, where my sweetheart and I were visiting family. I had found a comfortable spot in the shade to read my Bible for my Daniel and Revelation distance learning class. All of a sudden, I noticed something flapping around wildly down by shore.

As I looked closer, I saw a bird with his foot tangled in a fishing line. This robin had been snagged by the line, which was now wrapped tightly around a small leafless bush by the water’s edge.

I continued watching, and it seemed with all the robin’s effort, he would soon be free. After a few moments, I realized that the more this little bird struggled, trying to free himself, the tighter the line was wrapping around his leg. His wings were catching on the sticks of the bush. He kept making crash landings into the dusty ground as the nylon thread yanked him down. He was bleeding and bruised.

I wondered if anyone would help the stuck little bird.  There were ducks swimming playfully nearby. Their loud quacks made them oblivious to their fellow bird’s predicament. A blue heron was strutting his stuff just a few feet away. He majestically lifted his spindly legs out of the water one after the other.  His long pointed beak had the power to rescue the perishing robin. Maybe he just wasn’t willing, or maybe he was so focused on his own fishing trip that he remained unaware of the captive robin’s suffering.

A tree near the shore was peppered with a flock of blackbirds, who had come to watch the show. The longer the robin wrestled, the more the tree above darkened as black feathers covered its branches. There were a few large crows in the mix, cawing piercingly. It seemed they led the blackbirds in taunting the robin: “Come on, little bird! What’s the matter? You stuck? You too weak? That bush got the best of you?” They cackled at their own jokes. They thought themselves so clever. I wondered if they were merely waiting for the robin to die of exhaustion, so they could feast on his remains.

When I moved in closer to help him, the robin thrashed around wildly, struggling even harder to escape. The tree above us squawked even louder at the spectacle, thinking I’d steal their lunch.

I spoke softly to the robin trying to convince him I wanted to save him. He refused to listen. Finally, using a bit of wood, I set the little bird free.

He was ungrateful. His first act as a free bird wasn’t to give thanks but to hobble away up the hill to hide in a large bush.

Do we act the same way when One bigger and wiser, who cares about us deeply, comes to our rescue? Do we kick, scream and fight away? As breakers of God’s Law, we are in bondage to sin that’s too strong for us to break. Only the Lord Jesus, who shed His Blood on the cross, is strong enough to save. He rose from the dead. He’s able, and He wants our good.

Are you an oblivious duck, a self-focused heron, a pliable blackbird or a mocking crow? Do you rescue those in bondage with the message of freedom in Jesus? Are we in the business of breaking chains? Are you still trapped? You’d be surprised. All it takes is surrendered stillness to the only One strong enough to break the line.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Let the children come to Jesus

Sixty-two college students, 48 inner-city Chicago kids and I went to camp in Michigan. At the Big Brother Big Sister program camp, the opportunities to share Jesus with kids are worth losing sleep and getting dirty for. At camp, the Lord Jesus taught me, by full immersion, more of what it looks like to parent.

At camp when 10-year-old Jumar had to sit out from game time, I opened a window to teach about God’s mercy. Sitting on the sidelines, I asked him, “Jumar, do you know what mercy means?” He shook his head no. “When we give our lives to Jesus, God doesn’t give us what we deserve. For breaking His Law, we deserve Hell. Instead, He gives us life with Jesus here on earth and forever—that’s mercy.” I let Jumar get back in the game five minutes early. With eyes aglow, Jumar said, “That’s mercy.”

According to 1 Thessalonians 5:6 and 1 Peter 5:8, we’re not to remain spiritual babes but to become self-controlled and alert. Yet Jesus commands us in Matthew 18:1-5 to be like children in the simplicity and unwavering nature of our faith. When you explain the Gospel to a child, you’re privileged to boil it down to its most basic truth. Jumar left me reveling anew in the marvelous beauty of the Gospel of God’s mercy toward us. Let the children come to Jesus. Be their guide to Him.

As you’re learning to parent, remember kids don’t need the company of another goofball who’s just like them. They need the companionship of Jesus. Don’t descend all the way to a childish level. Call children up to a higher level. Teach, train, and equip them. Make the most of every opportunity with them. For instance, during the camp scavenger hunt, big and little siblings paired up and walked around the grounds, and I talked with Jumar about his relationship with Jesus, what he believes, and what he’s living for.

At camp, I didn’t bounce off the walls, but I did compliment the children, encouraged their strengths, caught them doing right, urged them to be polite, disciplined them when disobedient, and talked about Jesus constantly. When camp buses dropped us back at Moody, one of the younger boys, named Robert, called, “I want Marcus to walk me home. He’s fun!”

I thought, “No, pal, Marcus isn’t particularly fun. He’s tired, but he is learning to love you from the deepest part of his heart with love that he’s first received from his Savior.” In teaching me to practice unconditional love, Jesus was showing me the heart of parenting.

I’ve been reminded that if you enter a romantic relationship, you must be prepared to become married. Acknowledge also that marriage usually produces children. It’s the Lord’s design. If God’s will for you includes a family, you may be a parent sooner than you think. If His will for you includes no biological kids, you’re in the company of men like Paul and Jesus (1 Th. 2:7; Jn. 13:33). Raise and nurture spiritual children by parenting those younger in the faith as evidenced in 1 Timothy 1:2 and Titus 1:4. Let’s ready ourselves now by studying biblical parenting and sharing the Gospel with children.

Mayor Daley will not run for reelection, was honored to serve Chicago

After 21 years and six terms of serving as Chicago’s mayor, Richard Daley announced on Sept. 7th at a City Hall news conference that he will not be running for reelection in 2011. 68-year-old Daley said, "It's time…for me, it's time for Chicago to move on."

Daley gave little explanation calling this a “personal decision” that “just feels right.” He stated, “Improving Chicago has been the ongoing work of my life, and I have loved every minute of it. There has been no greater privilege or honor than serving as your mayor.”

After his speech, which lasted less than five minutes, Daley took no questions. His wife, Maggie, stood beside him, supporting herself with a crutch. Since 2002, Maggie has wrestled with metastatic breast cancer. Mayor Daley said, “I am ready with my family to begin the new phase of our lives.”