What Can “Baby Shark” Teach Us?

It has taken the toddler country by storm. My toddler is obsessed with “Baby Shark.” Actually, obsessed may be too nice of a word. She has the toy shark that swims and sings in the bathtub. The phone that plays the song. A book. A Baby Shark puppet. She wears herself out dancing to the song! (If we need to keep her awake a little longer or get her to cooperate, we play the song. So this may be our fault. 😂)


Then it happened.


One day I was listening to the song and I realized there is a lesson we could learn. (Maybe I was hallucinating after hearing it like 5,000 times that day.)
If you feel brave, listen to the song now.

What do you hear? What do you think? It is very repetitive and repetition is good to learn.
The part that caught my attention was the end, (run away… Safe at last). That is the end of the song. This is really what we long for in life; to be safe at last.


We have all sorts of things coming at us. Little, or “baby“, things that want to try to take us down. There are bigger things that want to try to take us down. There’s old things that want to try to take us down. All of these “enemies“ want to cause us to live in fear. But the end says we are safe at last.


Now, apply this to your life. You have many things coming against you. Things that seem small. Things that seem big. Stuff from your past. All of it is trying to take you down. But take this time to trust in Christ to be with you always. To protect you. To guide you on the path to safety.


Now, before we take this to mean just individual level of protection, we need to realize this is bigger than us, then just us alone. Whenever fish are swimming away from sharks or their predators, they typically swim with other fish, so they are in a community. We are part of a community, and as the light of Christ, we get to play a part in protecting those around us because that’s what Christ calls us to do. We get to lead people to the safety found in Christ.

Now, before we take this to mean just individual level of protection, we need to realize this is bigger than us, then just us alone. Whenever fish are swimming away from sharks or their predators, they typically swim with other fish, so they are in a community. We are part of a community, and as the light of Christ, we get to play a part in protecting those around us because that’s what Christ calls us to do. We get to lead people to safety because that’s where Christ is.


So we have a call. To stay in the safety of Christ and to bring others to this place of safety.


This may be a little far fetched, but this is a lesson I think we can, and should, learn from “Baby Shark.”


(You’re welcome for it being stuck in your head now 😂. )

John the Baptist

John the Baptist is one of my favorite biblical characters because he definitely stands out and people take notice of him. He is memorable, not only of his message, but of his clothing and food choices.

Though the Gospel of Luke does not mention him wearing camel’s hair and eating locusts and wild honey, Matthew and Mark do. This is still the image we can have of John as we read his proclamation to “Prepare the way of the Lord!”

Click here to read this week’s scripture passage.

Mark Twain said, “the two greatest days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” I imagine John felt excitement when his time had come to deliver God’s message to the people the Messiah is coming.

What joy! What exhilaration! He was finally able to go and do what he was born to do! He went out to preach a sermon that no one really wanted to hear; but needed to hear: prepare for the Lord’s Messiah, seek forgiveness and repent. I would imagine the people did not want to hear they have to change their hearts, their lives, their will. I imagine the people only wanted to hear their lives will be better and that God will com in to take care of the “real” problem: the Romans.

What message is it you want to hear at Christmas? The sweet story of a baby being born and the angels and shepherds giving God glory and praise? Or, are we preparing ourselves fully for the complete gift of God through Jesus Christ and realize His life, His death, AND His resurrection are the reason we are reconciled to God.

To fully see the beautiful picture of Christ at Christmas, we have to be different from our culture and see the gruesome death that is coming.

How do you stand out to show the full meaning of Christmas?

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Really Ready for Christmas?

This week, we have asked some tough questions, hopefully preparing us and challenging us to embrace the real Christmas event so our lives reflect Christ in this world.

Once more, I invite you to read the scripture focus for this week. Take some time to ponder what we have talked about this week. Most importantly, see what God may be speaking to you through this passage. You can read the scripture for this week here.

The questions we asked this week are:

  • What are we preparing for?
  • Do we take Jesus Christ seriously enough?
  • How different do our lives look?
  • Are we ready to share our faith in urgency?

There are many more questions to ask, and we will ask, that help prepare us for the coming of the Christ child and the return of the Son of Man.

Our challenge is to make the birth of Jesus Christ more real for us, so He is born anew in our hearts this year. This event should deepen our faith and allow God to transform us into new creations.

Are we ready for Christmas?

Christ coming into the world changes everything!

A baby born and laying  in an animal feeding trough is to become King of kings. A Savior is born to live just to die so that we can truly live. His life is not what we would expect someone from the riches of heaven to look or be like. God, Himself, is here with us in human flesh to live the same life we live and experience everything we experience. The Creator of the universe becomes one of the creations. This changes everything!

Are you ready to continue this journey to the cradle which leads us to the cross?

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Urgency

Today, we again look at the passage in Luke 21 of Jesus speaking about the end and the glorious return of the Son of Man. This time, I invite us to look at verses 34-36.

“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

You can read the entire scripture for this week here.

Jesus says to “be on guard,” “be alert at all times.” Other places in the Gospels, Jesus says that we will not know the time when all this will happen. This event is referred to come like a thief in the night. There is urgency to make sure we are ready for the return of Jesus Christ.

Many people become skeptical about the “end times” or the “end of the world,” thinking that this is too much for us to try and understand or it is still in the future. The truth of the matter is the end of the world comes for some people everyday.

Isn’t it heartbreaking when people live in fear and without hope. People around the world, especially in our communities and own homes, need to hear about the Gospel of Jesus Christ that brings good news to all people. We should not think we have plenty of time because we do not know when that person will pass on.

For me, these passages do not really cause me to be worried about the future; but they do help me realize how important it is to share our faith every opportunity we have (in actions and in words).

I invite you today to pray for someone who needs to hear about Jesus Christ and then trust that God is with you as you share your faith. If you find it challenging, there are people who can help: pastors, church, friends, Bible study groups, etc.

Are you ready to give the gift of Christ to another person this Christmas?

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Our Lives Look Different

Christmas is a wonderful time of year for many and a tragic, depressing or sad time of year for many. This time of year for others is…frustrating.

Advent is a time of preparation for the birth of the Christ child into the world, and into our hearts once again. How we live demonstrates our devotion for Christ. This does not mean that we earn our way into God’s favor or we have to work to get grace. What this does mean is that our lives should reflect the outpouring of God’s grace upon our lives. Our lives should be different from those who do not believe (either never believed, or have fallen from belief).

Our scripture for this week is Jesus speaking of the end of time and about the Son of Man’s (His) return in glory. You can read the scripture for this week here.

What stand out to you today? One thing I would like to bring into the conversation is, how we react to this passage, about the end of time, shows how we’ll act toward God and others here and now. We do not know when the end will come and when Christ will return. Jesus says to “be on guard so your hearts will not be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life…” We are to live as people of faith with hope in all God has done, is doing and will do in the future.

We do not have to be worried or be part of anything that will take our minds and hearts off of Christ. We trust that Christ is with us and will continue to be with us during difficult times. So, what we watch on media, what we read, what we write should all be different from those who do not have faith.

Our love of and for God and people should set us apart. It is through our actions and our lives that may people will see and experience Emmanuel (God with us). God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is working in and through us to show the world He is here and is working for restoration and reconciliation.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Do We Take Christ Seriously Enough?

This may seem like a strange question as we begin Advent, but I believe it is an important question we should ask ourselves. This is a questions I ponder most days. How we think about Christ changes our to do list and what we do day to day. What we believe about Christ changes our lives from the inside out.

You can read the scripture for this week here. I am inviting us to read the same passage each day this week (as will be the invitation for the other weeks in Advent). The reason for this is to see how the scripture speaks to us throughout the week.

So, the question for today is “do we take Christ seriously?” Jesus speaks of the end times and the Son of Man coming in glory and that we need to be on guard and be prepared for that time. We will not know when it is coming, for it will happening suddenly.

Many people like to skip these kind of passages because they find it scary or don’t think the end will happen like this. Even though these passages may seem kind of harsh, they do point to a Christ that is not all feel good and every thing will be just fine if we have enough faith. He shows us there is more to Jesus than just offering peace. He shows us more depth into who God is. If we take Christ serious, we’ll love all the messages He brings because they are God’s word to us. We should always take serious Christ and His word. This doesn’t mean we understand everything, but we trust that God knows what He is talking about.

I challenge each of us to think about how serious we take Christ and His word today and this week. I hope we are more serious about the faith we have in Him more and more each day.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Preparing for What?

We have just entered into the season of Advent. This marks the beginning of a new Christian church year. Advent is one of my favorite times because we have the opportunity to focus on the actions God took by becoming man, Jesus Christ. We are invited, once again, to deepen our faith and allow the message of the Christmas Story – the birth of Jesus Christ to change our hearts so we can work with God to change the world. Let’s make this season come alive with deeper meaning and joy.

As we begin this journey, we begin with a scripture passage of Jesus talking about the end times and the return of the Son of Man in glory. We will be asked some questions this week that I pray will cause us to really think about who Christ is to us and how His birth turned the world upside down.

You can read the scripture for this week here.

Today, we begin our journey by asking the question,”what are we preparing for?” It may seem a little strange to start the season of Advent with a passage about the end times and the Son of Man returning; but this is an ancient tradition that has helped Christians through the centuries to prepare their hearts and lives to fully celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

We are preparing our hearts, our lives, our eyes for God’s actions in the world. Think about it, when we talk to God (pray), do we expect God to act? Another way to put it, when we pray for rain, do we pray with an umbrella in our hand or simply wish for it to rain without trusting that it will? God is acting in our world. Jesus said, “let those with eyes see and those with ear hear.” Do we notice all God is doing, even in the midst of turmoil?

We are also preparing for the birth of a Savior. This Savior is different. We do not have a Savior that will make our lives easier; but a Savior that will be with us every step of our life journey. When we need strength and endurance to endure hardships or difficulties in our life, Christ is with us.

We prepare for something new. Births of children are always the reminder of new life. This Advent, I hope we experience the new life God gives us each year, each day. We can trust that, even in the darkest times, Christ is with us in glory. Are we ready to celebrate His birth? Are we ready for His return?

How will we prepare for the birth of Christ in our hearts and lives this year so it’s not something we go through, but rather something we live for.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Identity

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Galatians 2:19-21 19 I died to the Law through the Law, so that I could live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in my body, I live by faith, indeed, by the faithfulness of God’s Son, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I don’t ignore the grace of God, because if we become righteous through the Law, then Christ died for no purpose.

We often go through life, through our day, it seems we get more preoccupied with what we are able to accomplish than our reason for doing what we do. Our to-do lists fill out day with stuff to do that we can easily forget who we are. We can also be so adamant about following rules that we forget to be in relationship with other people. This means that we identify ourselves with what we are able to accomplish rather than who we really are.

If I were to ask you who you are, how would you answer? Would your first response be to say what you do for a living? If you are a Christian would you say you are a Christian ____(profession)  ? The challenge everyday is to remember not only the reason we do what we do, but who we really are. Our real identity is not in what we do. Our identity is found in Jesus Christ.

We can also begin to remember our past and what we have done. Then we may say that I am a “thief, liar, cheater, loser, hypocrite, uneducated, etc.” These are not who we are. If we identify with how we used to live, then we can keep ourselves down and allow our past to control and define us rather than the One who lives in us.

Now we get to today’s text. This has been an important passage (more specifically Galatians 2:20) in my life and reminding me who I am and who/what I live for.

Paul is teaching that he died to the Law. What does this mean? The Law (found in the first five books of the Bible) is basically a “check-off list” (to put it into today’s terms) that people followed so they can prove and show they want to be forgiven or have God bless and not curse them. Living with an attitude to try and make God do things because we do certain things can create a superstitious thinking. We can also become “slaves” to the Law and allow our actions to be so routine that we can forget the real meaning behind them.

Though Paul remained Jewish, he did not let the Law define how he would connect to God. We shouldn’t either. He then says that he has been “crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” He knew that he was being transformed into the image of Christ more and more each day. It was made clear that Christ’s dreams were Paul’s dreams. Christ’s thoughts were Paul’s thoughts. Christ’s motivations were Paul’s motivations. So did Paul lose his individual identity? Absolutely not! He became more and more human as God intended from the beginning. Now Paul is free from the Law and is free to live as Christ did (and does in us when we allow him in).

Living with this kind of faith can help us love people more, reach out to those hurting or in need (physical and spiritual need), telling people about the Kingdom of God around us. This is incredible freedom because we are not bound to what people think about us and we do not let material items or “check-off” lists define us.

You can have this incredible gift of freedom too! As we continue in the book of Galatians we will continue to unpack the idea of freedom in Christ.

Tomorrow we begin Galatians 3.

#LiveFreeInChrist

New Year

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Grace and Peace to you this year and welcome to 2015!

From Paul, an apostle who is not sent from human authority or commissioned through human agency, but sent through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead; and from all the brothers and sisters with me. To the churches in Galatia. Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He gave himself for our sins, so he could deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. To God be the glory forever and always! Amen. (‭Galatians‬ ‭1‬:‭1-5‬ CEB)

The promise of a new year is a great reminder of the fresh mercies and new beginnings our God gives us constantly. We have new chances to walk and live in the freedom Christ gives.

The power of the Holy Spirit lives inside you and me and we are sent by the Holy Spirit into the world to show and remind people of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

So as New Year Resolutions are being made now we should remember the plea of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians: to live into the calling God has given us, to remember what Christ has done for us, to be true representatives of grace and peace and allow our lives to reflect this, to give God glory in all we do forever and ever Amen.

It’s going to be easy to slip back into our normal and usual routines and forget what God has done and what we resolved to do this year. But God continually asks and commands us to be different and reflect His love and glory.

My prayer for each of us is to remember that we are called and sent out by God. You are commissioned to go into the world to spread the news Christ is alive! We have the promise of Christ in Matthew 28 that He will be with us even to the end of the age; and in Acts 1 that we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon us.

Imagine what will be unleashed this year when we know our calling, trust in Jesus Christ and give God glory in all we do.

Live in Christ’s freedom this year! Love God and love people. Amen

Battling the Giants

As they were heading over the field, they took cover behind some rocks and looked at the land. The land was beautiful. Everything they were promised and dreamed about. It was the perfect place for their tribe to settle down. All of a sudden, one of the lookouts spotted the inhabitants of the land. They became scared because they saw the inhabitants as “giants” and did not feel they had the ability to trust their tribe or the skills to go and win the land. So it was reported to the rest of the tribe, the challenges are too great. All but two of the lookouts were covered in fear. The two courageous ones saw the opportunities ahead and the potential.

Fear and uncertainty usually keeps us from pursing what we know we should do and be who we know we should be. So, how do you see yourself in the story above? I think we see ourselves as the fearful people and as the courageous people. It really depends on the situation.

We all have sat in meetings and have been around people who cannot see past the problem or the issue at hand. When we take this approach to dealing with a problem, we allow the problem to become a giant and appear undefeatable. What are some giants (problems) you might be dealing with at this point in your life? (debt, relational, low attendance, low funds coming in, etc.) Are these really problems? Or can we turn it around to see that most of the situations we face are really challenges that are waiting to be conquered?

The Israelite army only heard the taunts from the Philistine giant, Goliath, and saw his enormous size compared to them. But one teenager, kind of a runt, stepped out and said, “I can defeat him. God will defeat this giant through me.” Imagine what would really be accomplished if we remembered the size, power and sheer awesomeness of our God!

“for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NRSV)

We should not allow our perceived “lack” (lack of resources, lack of education, lack of personality, lack of people, etc) because God has and will provide everything we need. “By his divine power the Lord has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of the one who called us by his own honor and glory.” (2 Peter 1:3 CEB)

There are many “giants” we face in our lives but we serve and worship a God who is bigger than any giant we may face. Just because we cannot see the outcome does not mean there hasn’t been a victory. The Israelite’s just needed to go in and possess the land because God has given it to them. The battle has been won, even before it started for us.

How will you see things in this upcoming year? As problems? As “giants”? As challenges? As victories we just move into?

We do not need to fear or worry because we have everything we need in Jesus Christ. Sometimes we should simply open our eyes and hearts to see the enormous resources at our disposal before we think about quitting and throwing in the towel.


Challenge: Read and journal about each day about what these scriptures say to you about battling and overcoming  “giants” in your life:

  • Day 1: Numbers 13
  • Day 2: 1 Samuel 17
  • Day 3: 2 Chronicles 32
  • Day 4: John 20
  • Day 5: Revelation 19

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