A Favorite Christmas Poem

christmas_piano

Adrian Plass has been a favorite Christian poet and humorist of mine for the last 15 years. I found him on an album I bought before a family vacation years ago. A portion of the following poem was read by Adrian on the album, and I go back to it every Christmas. Perhaps you’ll be blessed by it as well. Merry Christmas.

 

When I’m in heaven
Tell me there’ll be kites to fly,
The kind they say you can control,
Although I never did for long.
The kind that spin and spin and spin and spin,
Then sulk and dive and die,
And rise again and spin again,
And dive and die and rise up yet again.
I love those kites.

When I’m in heaven
Tell me there’ll be friends to meet
In ancient oak-beamed Sussex pubs
Enfolded by the wanton Downs,
And summer evenings lapping lazily against the shore
Of sweet, familiar little lands
Inhabited by silence or by nonsenses,
The things you cannot safely say in any other place.
I love those times.

When I’m in heaven
Tell me there’ll be seasons when the colors fly,
Poppies splashing flame
Through dying yellow, living green,
And autumn’s burning sadness that has always made me cry
For things that have to end.
For winter fires that blaze like captive suns,
But look so cold when morning comes.
I love the way the seasons change.

When I’m in heaven
Tell me there’ll be peace at last,
That in some meadow filled with sunshine,
Filled with buttercups and filled with friends,
You’ll chew a straw and fill us in on how things really are.
And if there is some harm at laying earthly hope at heaven’s door,
Or in this saying so,
Have mercy on my foolishness, dear Lord.
I love this world you made—it’s all I know.

When I’m in heaven
Tell me there’ll be Christmases without the pain,
No memories that will not fade,
No chilled and sullen sense of loss
That cannot face the festive flame
Nor breathe excitement from the ice-cream air.
Tell me how the things that Christmas should have been
Will be there for eternity in one long, shining dawn
For all of us to share.
I love the promises of Christmas.

 

First Steps: A Free Resource for Teaching Your Child Biblical Truth

Cover

Over the years I’ve counseled many parents who want to lead their children to Jesus, and I’ve found that they have two common concerns:

  1. Does my child understand the truth?
  2. How can I know my child really believes the gospel?

Question one concerns knowledge. Your child must posses the proper concepts and truths of the faith before they can profess genuine faith in the gospel. What is sin? Who is God? Why is Jesus important? These represent the kind of questions your child needs to be able to answer.

The second question tries to dig into the heart, and it’s far more difficult to answer. Many children understand the concepts and truths of the Christian faith. But knowing the truth saves no one. James told us that even demons know who God is, but they are, nonetheless, fallen (James 2:19). Let’s make sure we don’t simply foster minds that know the gospel, but hearts that love the sacrifice of Jesus and hope in the gospel. This booklet contains a plan to address question 1: does my child know the truth?

While most parents know they need to teach Biblical truth to their children many don’t know where to begin, which truths to teach, or how to go about teaching them. In the following pages you will find an edited version of a child’s catechism. It’s a manual of basic Biblical truths in the form of questions and answers along with scriptural supports.

In my family we began using this tool in the car, at the dinner table, or even during play time. I’d ask a question from the catechism then supply the answer. Over time your child will memorize the answers and you can also use the scriptural supports for further study/discussion in God’s Word.

Remember, knowing these truths doesn’t bring anyone into the Kingdom. You are simply using this tool as a plan for transferring basic Christian doctrine into your child’s mind.

As your child begins to assimilate Biblical truth you must constantly remind them that Jesus doesn’t just call us to know him. He wants us to love him. Here are a few thoughts on aiding their heart awareness as you are instructing them in truth.

  1. Continually talk about the love of Jesus and his sacrifice for sin on the cross.
  2. Pray that the Holy Spirit convicts and leads them. It’s not your job to pile on guilt. Don’t rob the Holy Spirit of his role. Be patient and know that God’s plan/timing is better than yours.
  3. Don’t ask leading questions, or yes/no questions.
  • You don’t want to go to hell do you?
  • Don’t you want to go to heaven?
  • You know you’re a sinner, right?
  • You believe that Jesus died for you, right?

No 7 year old wants to go to hell. These questions assume the correct answers and don’t allow you to assess their heart.

  1. Realize that the new birth is internal. Salvation isn’t change in behavior. It’s the new life of God coming into our life. Many parents long for certitude of their child’s salvation, but because it’s internal you will struggle to see it at times. Don’t feel like you need to see a convincing moment of conversion.

I pray that this guide gets you started on the right track to leading your child to know the truth. I also pray you’ll trust Jesus to lead you and your child both to him. Always remember, that I’m  more than excited to meet and talk about these things with you.

Download the free resource here.

-Pastor Jonathan

 

Everyone Has a Story: A Step-By-Step Guide to Sharing Your Testimony

Everyone Has a Story

This evening I walked my church through a step-by-step guide to sharing a personal salvation story. Next week I’ll write a few posts to elaborate on the content from the event, as well as to interact with any questions you may have. For now here’s a download of the resource in case you missed the event:

Everyone Has a Story: A Step-By-Step Guide to Sharing Your Testimony

 

Getting into Narnia

download

“No,” he said, “I don’t think it will be any good trying to go back through the wardrobe door to get the coats. You won’t get into Narnia again by that route… Eh? What’s that? Yes, of course you’ll get back to Narnia again some day. Once a King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia. But don’t go trying to use the same route twice. Indeed, don’t try to get there at all. It’ll happen when you’re not looking for it.” -The Professor in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

You must strike a difficult balance in your devotion to God. Psalm 1 tells us to meditate upon God’s Word day and night. In other words, the devotional life depends upon a routine method of experiencing God: meditation. On the other hand we know that our encounters with God never happen exactly alike.

One evening I meditate and the Spirit speaks. The next morning my heart is cold, cracked, and callused. Almost nothing has happened. I’ve only slept. How could I sense God’s love so deeply and 9 hours later feel a million miles from him?

One Sunday the prayers and songs of the church break my heart and drown my sin in grace. Next week I worship, but there’s a height or depth my heart isn’t reaching as it did before; or the effort required seems to have doubled.

You never get into Narnia the same way twice. When the Spirit of God gives you a moment of piercing clarity and assurance just be in the moment. Don’t try to remember how you got to that moment. Don’t try and replicate the moment later. It won’t work. Do your daily meditation as the Scripture commands and wait. Gather with the church to sing, pray, and wait. God’s presence, the high assurance, only comes by his grace, not our effort.

5 Scripture Passages I Wish Every Christian Knew: Romans 8:26

download

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. – Romans 8:26

We do not know what to pray for. We never know what to pray for. Paul tells us that the Spirit helps us, not in our weaknesses, but in our weakness, singular. We aren’t people who mostly have it together with a few weaknesses. We are weak. That is a definitive word on our current fallen condition. Part of our weakness is that we do not know what to pray for.

We do not know the will of God. We do not naturally love and desire what he loves and desires. We are weak. Our prayer is weak, small, distracted; a candle blown out by the slightest breeze. Even the deepest prayers offered by the godliest saints are weak.

But, the Spirit helps us. The Spirit knows the will of the Father. He naturally loves and desires what the Father loves and desires. He’s strong, all encompassing, a blazing fire no flood and quench. I hope you can take the same encouragement from this verse that I do.

If you want to go back and read other posts in this series just click the following links:

Galatians 3:2-7

Hosea 2:16-23

John 5:18

Equip Notes on Meditation

download

Last month I taught at a discipleship event on the topic of meditation. Below is a link to a PDF of my slides from the event. I admitted freely in the talk that I’m indebted to Tim Keller for his thoughts and research on the subject. Consider going to his ministry resource site, gospelinlife.com, and purchasing his series on meditation. Don’t be surprised when you hear anything that sounds familiar.

Meditation

Bible Study Basic: Genre in Scripture

photo-1423492759094-e98da7756991

“The nature of the material under investigation determines the rules by which you interpret it.”

It’s been 10 years since I sat in his class but I can still hear Dr. McKenzie hammering that sentence down, down, down into our skulls. In today’s Bible Study Basic post I’ll be explaining the concept of genre (in a rather simplistic way).

You read a love letter differently than you read a textbook, differently than you read a newspaper. That’s because they are each written in a different genre. The love letter is bound to contain flowery symbolic language aimed at tugging your heart strings, but you’d hate to read a textbook full of symbolism. In the same way you’d never profess your love in textbook form with discussion questions at the end of each chapter. Those differences are (basically) the differences of genre and though the discussion on genre can get pretty deep, I don’t have to explain the basics. You instinctively learn the difference between a love letter and a newspaper.

When you come to study the Bible you are coming to a book filled with different genre. A few examples include:

  • Historical Narrative: Joshua
  • Gospel (Theological Biography): Matthew
  • Prophetic: Isaiah
  • Apocalyptic: Revelation

Each of these forms must be read differently in order to understand their meaning. Dr. McKenzie taught us that the text itself (the material under investigation) will help you interpret it (determines the rules by which you interpret it.) What does that mean? It means that you should read with an eye towards genre. As you read a book of the Bible you are also teaching yourself (or the text is teaching you) how that book should be read. Reading the Psalter repeatedly over time will make you a better interpreter of the genre of Biblical wisdom literature. As you read the Gospel of John over and over you’ll develop a keener sense of the rules of interpreting a gospel.