The Fear of Death and Why You Should Stop Saying Stay Safe.

Fourteen years ago today, I was much younger and much more naive about life and God’s ways. I thought if I did the right thing, good things would happen every time. That if I said the right things, people would feel comfort and joy every time. I found out that God doesn’t work the way I think he should work. God is not tame, but he is good. I found out that the God we serve is not safe. All my life to that point, I thought he was safe, and the day I realized he was not safe was also the day I began to question if he was even good. 

How I have come to know God over the past decade and a half has changed the way I see him, the way I trust Him, and the way I see everything because of him. It is not an overstatement to say I was blind, but now I see. That day fourteen years ago, led to a chain of events that made me question the goodness of God; it led me to struggle with anxiety as a result of an overwhelming fear of dying. 

It was nearly two years of working through the implications of me thinking that if I pray enough, give enough and serve enough, good things will come from that as my payment from God because of my goodness. I had grown up in church my whole life, and I thought the gospel was for sinners, not for me. I thought God was in my debt because I hadn’t done anything wrong. I was angry fourteen years ago because I didn’t think God heard the prayers of a sweet family suffering far more than I ever had. I was angry because I prayed for a boy filled with more faith than I had ever had. He didn’t rise. I was angry with God because he owed me and wasn’t coming through when I was calling in my favors, eared through years and years of good behavior. 

I was a Pharisee. People look at Pharisees in the Bible and say they are religious zealots who don’t love God they love themselves. That isn’t so. They were some of the most outwardly perfect people you could ever imagine. A pattern of good behavior marked their understanding of life. They encountered Jesus, and he was not the Messiah they imagined. They killed Jesus because he was not and could not have been the God they had long-awaited. I was one of those. I had an idea of God that he always answered my prayers in the way I prayed them, He always did what I thought was right, that he is more pleased with me because of my goodness. I knew God but not his ways. 

It changed one day reading The Jesus Storybook Bible to one of my babies. I read how a woman who was a sinner came to Jesus and took the most important and expensive thing; she had a jar of perfume she broke it, and poured it on the feet of Jesus. The religious people thought this was a waste. It smelled like the lilies in the summer field. It wasn’t a waste. They were mad at God’s kindness to this sinner. They thought Jesus should not be kind to her. “That woman is a sinner!” they grumbled. “We’re the good ones,” God spoke to me as I was reading that to my child and said, that’s you. I knew God but not the ways of God. 

7 answers you need to hear from award winning author Sally Lloyd-Jones

This is a repost of an interview I did with best-selling author Sally Lloyd-Jones. She is celebrating the 10 year anniversary of her best-selling Bible for kids ‘The Jesus Storybook Bible’ She has released a beautiful new anniversary edition to celebrate you can find out more about it here.

Sally Lloyd-Jones has written an amazing new book called “Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing” it is an amazing follow-up to her best-selling book “Jesus Storybook Bible” We have had Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing for a week and it has already lead to conversations about faith and the supreme value of Christ. Every time I read one of Sally’s books to my kids I’m not sure who gets more from what she has written me or them.  She was gracious enough to allow me to ask her a few questions about her new book that was released October 9th.

How do you see Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing and Jesus Storybook Bible dovetailing together?

The JSB (Jesus Storybook Bible) tells the great story of the Bible–the magnificent story under all the other stories of the Bible–The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. And at the center of that story is the Rescuer.

TTMYHS (Thoughts That Make Your Heart Sing) I think (at least my hope and prayer is) takes the child by the hand and gently introduces them to what Corrie ten Boom called, ” the Fantastic Adventure In Trusting Him” (The Rescuer). Faith. What it looks like in everyday life.

What made you want to write this new book?

My niece was the inspiration. She was 8 at the time. And almost overnight, she went from being a vivacious little girl full of life to a quite hidden child. Even her voice changed–into a very quiet voice you could hardly hear.

And we found out she was being bullied at school. I wished she had a book that she would want to have by her bedside, a book she would look forward to reading, a book no one would have to make her read–but that she would choose to read–a book that would tell her what God says about her instead of what these bullies were saying.

And so I wrote the book for her–and every child like her.

How can parents best leverage this book?

I’d love parents to be free to just let the book be the child’s book–without attaching any should’s or ought’s to it. Perhaps the child will want to share it with the family. Let them lead in that. That’s what I’d love to see.

Having said that, I think it’s great to read it together as a family and wonder aloud together about the questions it raises. I wrote the book deliberately to inspire wonder and open up the child to questions–I didn’t write it to try and give all the answers. (I would encourage parents to let the wondering happen–and not feel they have to come in immediately with answers. The best thing a book can do, I think, is engage the child and get them thinking… And you know the definition of a boring book? One that does the work of the reader for them!

What is the target age range of this book?

Initially the publisher had an age cap. But I asked for them to remove it and instead say “6 and up”–because I had a hunch that grownups would like it too… and sure enough that’s what we’re hearing which makes me very happy… so it’s 6 to 106! : )

Very few books provoke me to tears but both Thoughts That Make Your Heart Sing and Jesus Storybook Bible do that for me as an adult. I still to this day cannot read washed with tears without choking up. Is that something you did on purpose or did it happen on the way? Were you targeting kids and got adults by accident or did you intentionally target both?

That’s a high compliment. And while I don’t do it deliberately, I’m coming to realize that unless I write from the place that moves me, it won’t move the reader. “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader” didn’t Frost say that? And what did C S Lewis say? That a children’s book that can only be read by children isn’t a good children’s book in the least.

As a writer how do you overcome resistance? How do you get new ideas?

I think it has a lot to do with trust. And getting out of your own way. If you think it’s all about you and you coming up with everything that’s a very different place to work from than if you think it’s not all about you–and you discover the book rather than create it…and you’re offering back to the One who gave you everything to begin with. It’s worship rather than performance.

When I read your books and listen to Dr. Keller speak the thing I take away is that both of you are excellent “Distillers” is what I call it, of the gospel. So often especially for kids, the gospel is “simplified” and in the simplification, the power and the beauty of the gospel is lost. How do you do this so well? What advice can you give to kids pastors and student pastors to do this better?

It’s very easy to make this mistake. And we’ve all done it. After all the Bible is a “grown up” book and by its very nature, if we are to reach children, we’re going to have to simplify it. But in our effort to simplify the Bible for children, we often drill it down into a moral lesson. We have to be alert and vigilant against this. The Bible isn’t a moral lesson–it’s above all a story.

The other thing we need to constantly remind ourselves of is this: being child-like isn’t being childish. Being simple isn’t being simple-minded. Being simple is distilling down to the core truth and expressing it in words that the young can understand. What children need from us are not silly voices. What they need from us is to take them seriously. And we show how seriously we take our audience by how much time we prepare.

It takes longer to be shorter. Blaize Pascal apologized for writing a long letter–and said that he didn’t have time to make it shorter. It takes hard work and thought to reach children. And for children, the standard needs to be higher because the responsibility is greater.

Thanks again to Sally for time thoughtfulness and for the amazing Gospel-centered tools to help our kids find Jesus more valuable than anything else on earth.  Head over to amazon right now and your copy of Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing you will thank me later.

 

3 Things every pastor should say during Christmas

Yesterday I talked about the value of old things and how consumerism keeps us from understanding and seeing the value in redeeming something old rather than always looking for the rush something new provides. One of the mistakes many pastors (kids pastors, youth pastors and senior pastor alike) make is during Christmas we demonize culture rather than show people how to redeem it. If you attend church during Christmas in most churches, you will hear some form of this rant. “Christmas is not about stuff, or buying things; we need to put Christ back in Christmas.” While this is true, it falls short. The church for the past few years has done a good job of talking about what Christmas isn’t and haven’t done a good enough job describing the beauty of Christ.

3 Things Every Pastor Should Preach During the Christmas Season:

Baby Dedication Idea: Jesus Storybook Bible

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We are doing our baby dedication service next Saturday. It is always such a joy and privilege to share this special moment with the families of our church. At every Baby Dedication service we give each child a Jesus Storybook Bible it is the best gift you can give any young family. Kids and adults alike need to understand the gospel. I know of no other book that explains the totally of scripture and the purpose behind the bible in a such a simple and profound way as the Jesus Storybook Bible does. If you do baby dedications I beg you to give this to every family. They will be better for it.

Below is the letter I enclose for every parent.

Looking for a free Easter Curriculum? Try God to the Rescue

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I can’t believe that it’s been 3 years now since a few of my friends and I got together and created a curriculum that intentionally makes much of Jesus. The need for this kind of curriculum has only increased in the past 3 years. The lessons that we wrote together have more relevance than ever. The most important thing we can teach our kids is who Jesus is and what he has done for them. At our church we want our kids to leave our kids ministry with the understanding that “Jesus is everything”. I hope these lessons will help you and your team this Easter. To get the links to the videos and lessons fill out the form below and you should get a confirmation code with links to download the curriculum.