The Difference Between Expectation and Hope

It is often that our best intentions become totally wrecked.

It reminds me of this great line, in this great movie:

Sometimes the wreckage is catastrophic and devastating. The man, in Acts 3, couldn’t walk, and had to be carried every day to a place where he could plead for money from those who came to pray.Aftermath of Redemption

Sometimes the wreckage is astounding and beautiful. Two men, going to pray, couldn’t offer this lame many any money, but they could offer him a power that would fully restore his legs.

And sometimes the catastrophes and the beautiful things intersect.

One of the greatest questions of faith I have now — right now — is if our faith in God limits what God can do, or even what God will do. Does my faith stand at the intersection of my own wreckage, because if it does, then my every situation is mired in hopelessness. (Please pardon my honesty, but I felt it necessary to share that with you.)

I wonder if this passage answers that question. But even when I think I’m on the cusp of an acceptable answer, it slips through my fingers like sand. An overwhelming, chart-stopping faith often seems to be out of my reach.

My pursuit for an answer made me rewatch a particular scene in The X-Files, a scene that, at least, hinted such an answer is possible.

It was  episode twenty-two of season three, called “Quagmire.” Fox Mulder and his partner Dana Scully searched for a hard-to-find lake monster. Scully, ever the scientific mind, questioned Mulder, “You really expect to find this thing, don’t you Mulder?”

Mulder replied to her condescending question with this line: “I know the difference between expectation and hope. Seek and ye shall find, Scully.”

Maybe it’s just that simple.

In Acts 3 we find the difference between expectation and hope, and what happens when there is faith — not that a healing can happen, but that a healing will happen. I’m challenged every time I read this this story. I encourage you to read it yourself, before you proceed with this post. And feel free to find the other posts from Acts in the menu.

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Acts 3:1-26 (The Commentary)

Luke reported in Acts 2:43 that the apostles performed many wonders and miraculous signs. Of all those, Luke highlighted this one. There must be good reason.

Following the description of the community of believers which emerged after Peter’s sermon, Peter and John went to the temple at the Jewish time of afternoon prayer as observant Jews. They went to the place Jesus had declared would soon be abolished.

As Peter and John approached the temple gate, they noticed a lame man there, begging for alms. The lame man was at the entrance to the temple when it would be most crowded — at prayer time. He obviously couldn’t walk inside, but neither was he even allowed inside. His physical condition prohibited him from participating in the rituals of temple life.

We should probably recall, though, Jesus’ words, that people like this lame man were to be full participants in the kingdom, specifically because of his physical condition.

The lame man expected money from Peter and John — yes, expected — because he expected money from everyone. It was a common occurrence for those coming to pray to give alms, publicly, before they entered the temple area. Yet the two apostles had no money, because they shared everything with other disciples. So Peter, instead of giving him money, offered the lame man his fully restored health, restored “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”

The man was healed immediately. In fact, Luke used seven verbs to describe the reaction of this man to his healing: jump, walk, walking, jumping, praising, walking, praising. This was (is?) the response of a person healed, and rescued, from the depths of shame and disease. And a viewing public noticed.

It seemed that Peter and John didn’t want the attention, and tried to move to another place in the temple, but while they walked, the now-healed man literally clung to Peter and John. All three of them were followed, and Peter, like he did earlier, needed to explain to the gathered crowd what they had just witnessed.¹

Peter then made a direct connection between the man’s healing and Jesus’ resurrection. Not one to hold back any punches, though, Peter then implicated the crowd for killing the Author of life, even though they had acted in ignorance.

Then Peter told the crowd that the power to heal the lame man came from “faith in the name of Jesus,” and “through the faith that comes through him.” Notice, though, that neither Peter, nor Luke, was clear whose faith was responsible for the healing – the lame man’s or Peter’s — the “him” doesn’t clearly refer to any particular person.

Remarkably, though, Peter called this crowd to repentance, not just from sin (what sin, if they acted in ignorance?), but to God. The crowd was living in an extended time of mercy, but Jesus would return from heaven, as the linchpin effort by God to restore all things

If they did not repent, though, they would be completely cut off from their own people. Notice that there is no mention of hell, or some eternal punishment.

So, a time of prayer, a lame man healed, a gathered crowd, and words of repentance, all very different occurrences from the original intention to come and pray. This entire moment at the temple, was electric. And it was just getting just getting started.

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A Few Discussion Questions

  • Do you know someone who has been healed, especially someone who has been healed miraculously? If you are using this in a group setting, share that with your group.
  • Read Acts 3:1-10.
    • Read Acts 2:43. Why is this description included in Acts?
    • Of all the miracles, then, why is the healing of the lame man highlighted?
    • Where were the apostles when this happened? Why were they there? If the Mosaic Law had been cancelled with Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the temple rendered useless, why did Jesus’ disciples continue to go to the temple at the Jewish time of prayer?
    • Why was the lame man there, again? Why didn’t the apostles have money?
  • What was the physical response of the man who was healed, from Acts 3? Why did Luke make sure we knew this man’s specific actions?
    • Is a physical response of our own spiritual or physical salvation a natural occurrence? Should it be? Every time we worship? Why or why not? (Read Acts 2:5-12 before you answer.)
    • How do we celebrate our salvation, then? And how often? Does our celebration matter to others? Did this man’s salvation matter to others?
    • Do we ever have the right to criticize, or question, the way someone celebrates their salvation? Why or why not?
  • Read Acts 3:11-16.
    • Peter’s speech was addressed to whom? Same crowd, or different, than Acts 2? Why does that matter?
    • How did Peter describe Jesus? And how did he describe the crowd’s relationship to Jesus? Why?
    • Whose faith was responsible for the lame man’s healing? Why didn’t Luke, or Peter, make this more specific?
    • Do you need faith to be healed of something extraordinary? Is faith measurable? Explain.
    • Is faith enough to be healed? Explain. (Read Luke 7:11-17 before you answer.)
  • Read Acts 3:17-23.
    • Why would these people need to repent, if they acted in ignorance for killing Jesus (v 17, 19)?
    • Does God pardon ignorance? Why does your answer to that question matter?
    • In v 21 we find that Jesus’ return would also prompt the restoration of everything. What does that mean?
    • What was the penalty for not repenting (v 23)? What does that mean, anyway?
    • Peter mentioned baptism in Acts 2, to that particular crowd, but didn’t mention that this crowd, in Acts 3, needed to be baptized? Why not?
  • So, again, of all the miracles the apostles performed, why did Luke highlight this one?
  • How important is Peter’s speech for us today?
  • What’s the difference between expectation and hope?

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A Prayer

Father, you desire to restore everything. All things. People. Creation. The lame. The broken. The outcast. The power of the resurrected Jesus, though, is the power that makes that restoration possible even now. Even in my broken life. Even in my broken relationships. Even for those I know who are sick. Even in my broken heart.

I pray for a faith, today, that is enough to believe in the miraculous. I pray for that now, God, that you help my unbelief. Lord Jesus, it is faith in your name that heals, and I need healing, now … healing from anxiety, from self-confidence, from pain, from disappointment. I am the lame man at the temple gates, begging for things that won’t satisfy. Father, I commit my healing to your hands, in the name of Jesus.

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¹This second speech by Peter is a little different from the first one he gave. True, both speeches emphasized repentance and the release of sins, but there are some notable differences. For instance, after healing the lame man, Peter made no appeal for his listeners to have faith in Jesus’ name. Nor did he make an appeal for them to be baptized. In the first three chapters of Acts, Peter talked to two different crowds, and in both of his speeches, he gave both crowds two different “instructions” on “how” to repent — he mentioned baptism in the name of Jesus his first speech, but didn’t mention it at all in his second speech. Nor did Peter even mention the Holy Spirit after healing the lame man.

²Isa 62:1-565:1766:22.

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A Strange Tale of Suspected Intoxication

A group of drunks would certainly attract a crowd.

There is a pretty famous story, actually, of some suspected drunks talking in different languages. The suspected drunks did speak other languages, but they weren’t drunk at all.

It’s no surprise that intoxication was the original reason for the anomalous activity. The larger crowd just couldn’t tolerate the idea that anything supernatural could occur.

And humanity still seems to want to explain phenomenon that can’t, or won’t, be explained. I mean, what would you think if you saw a crowd of people inexplicably begin speaking in languages you had never heard before?

See.

We just don’t like the idea of seeing or hearing something we can’t explain.

Which makes Acts 2 seem more like fantasy than reality, more like inebriation than sobriety. That intolerance still keeps many believers stale and sterile, because there is something “more,” but it doesn’t look anything like our idea of “normal.”

This is the third post in Acts: The Aftermath of Redemption discipleship group conversations, by the way. You can read the previous posts here.


Acts 2:1-47

It was Pentecost, the feast at the end of harvest, and the first great Jewish feast day after the Passover (Acts 2:1).

The Passover, by the way, was the celebration, fifty days earlier, when unleavened loaves of bread were eaten during their Aftermath of Redemptioncommemoration meal. Unleavened bread was the meal of the Passover because the Hebrews were required to eat unleavened bread, or bread without yeast, during their exodus from Egypt. They were told to make their bread without yeast because their exodus would happen suddenly, and they would have no time to wait for the bread to rise (Exodus 12:7-13).

But Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover, was the celebration when the Hebrews offered the wheat of their first harvest to God (Exodus 34:18-24). The haste of the Exodus, remembered with the bread of haste (the bread without yeast) during Passover, gave way to the feast of the promise, in Pentecost, which featured bread with yeast — because there was no need to escape anymore.

Pentecost, then, was the celebration of peace. Practically, they could wait for their bread to rise, because they weren’t going anywhere — ever again.

So, realize something as you keep reading. Pentecost was a celebration with lots of food, full bellies, laughter, joy, and celebration, because God had rescued his people and given them a bountiful harvest. There was no more need to escape, nor to eat in a hurry, because they were in the promised land, and God had rescued them. This small bit of information frames what happens in the coming verses.

So, let’s begin again.

It was Pentecost, the feast at the end of harvest, and the first great Jewish feast day after the Passover (Acts 2:1).

There were 120 disciples (Acts 1:15), celebrating Pentecost, but also waiting, in essence, for the promise of the Holy Spirit. They had no way to know, though, that Pentecost would be the day they would also receive the only gift that would ever matter.

So, in the midst of their own celebrations, something spectacular happened.

A sound, like a violent wind, filled the house where they were — but it wasn’t wind. And what looked like tongues of fire filled the house and rested on each of them — but it wasn’t fire (Acts 2:2, 3). And all 120 people experienced this (Acts 2:17ff). They were aware that this was the moment the Holy Spirit filled each of them.¹

Outside, in the city of Jerusalem, perhaps 180,000 Jewish pilgrims from some 15 different nations — from the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8) — celebrated Pentecost in the streets. Thousands of these pilgrims knew something spectacular happened to the small group of people, though, but these street-walking pilgrims couldn’t understand it. The only explanation they could offer was that Peter and his friends were intoxicated (Acts 2:5-12).

The first public response toward those filled with the Holy Spirit, then, was doubt and confusion. Perhaps it’s enough to wonder if people, filled with the Holy Spirit, still elicit this kind of response from others.

So Peter addressed the crowd, and the rumors of his intoxication (again, Luke 12:11, 12). And he did so with the Twelve Apostles, not Eleven. He spoke to the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Luke 22:28-30; Acts 2:36), as they celebrated the peace of God during Pentecost, in spite of their own Roman occupation, and he told them that a new age had dawned (Acts 2:17ff).

And that this new age began with a countdown toward its own demise.

He quoted to this crowd a prophecy from one of their own prophets, Joel, who wrote at least 400 years prior to this moment in Acts 2 (Joel 2:28-32). I encourage you to click the link to Joel and read it. You should immediately notice that the introductory words are different from what Peter quoted.

Joel wrote “In those days,” while Peter said “In the last days.” And that, dear reader, is a pretty significant detail.

Luke, Peter, and the first-generation believers actually believed that the last days had begun, and had begun with cosmic events (events, by the way, not reserved for the “end of time,” but rather when the Spirit was given). The Holy Spirit — the very Presence of God — was given to the world, and everyone could receive this gift, from the least to the greatest, both women and men.

These were not the last days of their Roman occupation, though. Peter had no way to know that. Jesus had already said that specific times and dates were reserved for God alone (Acts 1:7). So these weren’t “the last days” of being occupied.

Instead, they were “last days” filled with the very Presence of God. The pilgrims weren’t losing anything, but were instead gaining everything.

So, obviously, Peter told these Jewish pilgrims that he and his friends weren’t intoxicated, but were filled with the very Presence of God, and this Presence would obviously produce things in their lives not necessarily described as “normal,” could even possibly be confused with intoxication, and would give anyone access to the dreams and visions of God.

But Peter wasn’t finished.

Having dealt with the rumors of his inebriation, he turned his attention, and his words, to Jesus. There are four notable themes to his speech.

  • First, Peter did not hide Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. He squarely dealt with any doubt that God would allow the Messiah of Israel to come from a dirt-poor, out-of-touch town like Nazareth (see John 1:46). Yes, Nazareth was an unlikely, even scandalous place, from which the Messiah could emerge, but Nazareth was also completely acceptable in God’s plan.
  • Two, Peter did not defend the resurrection of Jesus. He simply proclaimed it.
  • Three, Peter said that Jesus was, at that very moment, exalted at the right hand of the Father, where Jesus had received the Holy Spirit – only to give it to his disciples (Acts 2:32, 33). Jesus, then, was alive, even though he had been killed!
  • Four, God had made Jesus to be both Lord and Christ (v 36). He was both the Master and the Messiah of the world.

Peter’s message stunned and convicted the crowd (Acts 2:37), and three thousand of these Jewish pilgrims were baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38) for the forgiveness of sins. But be careful here. Baptism for the forgiveness of sins has been traditionally interpreted as meaning that forgiveness can’t be given until baptism occurs. But it’s equally possible to see Peter’s statement as asking the crowd to be baptized because their sins had already been forgiven. The Greek word translated as for in English translations can also be translated because of, and, if done so in this particular verse, would change the way many of us have learned to understand Peter’s appeal.²

As Acts 2 closes, then, we find these believers sharing life together in a distinct form of fellowship. Most English translations list the word “fellowship” in v 42 as what this group enjoyed. In fact, the word could be better translated as “communal form of life,” and, once translated such, becomes Luke’s first description and title of the church. In fact, this is probably what early believers actually called themselves, before they called themselves “the church.”

This group also had an expectation of the supernatural (Acts 2:43).

And finally, we find the second of Luke’s accounting of the number of believers. The group had grown from 120 to 3,000, and continued to grow because of daily addition (Acts 2:47). Soon, though, mere addition would not be enough, and the Lord would begin to multiply the number of believers (Acts 6:7).


A Few Discussion Questions:

  1. Read Acts 2:1-4.
    1. Why do you think this happened on the day of Pentecost? What do you know about Pentecost, anyway?
    2. Imagine being in that room. How would you have described what happened?
    3. Why, exactly, did God choose to give the gift of the Spirit this way?
    4. Why do you think Luke had trouble reporting exactly what happened?
  2. Read Acts 2:5-6, 12-13.
    1. Does the gift of the Holy Spirit provide a physical change? All the time? Explain.
  3. Read Acts 2:14-21.
    1. Peter described this event as the beginning of “the last days.” Why? How did he know?
    2. What were the things that would happen in “the last days”?
    3. Are we still in “the last days”? If we are, do these things still happen? Should they? What happens if they do occur, but we don’t see them? 5.
  4. Read Acts 2:22-24.
    1. How did Peter describe Jesus?
    2. Did Peter defend Jesus’ resurrection? Why not? Should we need to defend the resurrection? Explain.
  5. Read Acts 2:42-47.
    1. How did the first group of believers live? Is this just a utopian society, or should believers still live this way?
    2. The early believers had a sense of awe. What does that mean?
    3. They called themselves “the fellowship.” That was an early title for “the church.” What does that kind of title imply?

A Prayer:

Father, it is no wonder that these people accepted, as fact, that the supernatural workings of your Spirit were accepted and expected. We pray for that same sense of awe. We pray for a renewed sense of wonder, that you are alive and are working in unbelievable ways.


¹It’s worth mentioning that no other New Testament writer mentioned this moment. Paul wrote of the gift of the Spirit (Gal 3:2; Rom 8:4-11; Eph 1:13), but said nothing about Pentecost. And John wrote that the apostles received the Spirit the day of Jesus’ resurrection (John 20:22), fifty days before Pentecost.

²For a much, much more detailed explanation, click here. Read, too, Acts 10:43; 13:38-39, 48; 15:11; 16:30-31; 26:18.

A Jolly Conspiracy

In one of those awful Disney movies about dogs who talk, there is a scene where a sleigh pulled by puppies is trying to get back to the North Pole. Yet these puppies had never pulled a sleigh before, and they didn’t fully believe in the North Pole anyway, so they had to ask how to get there. The driver of the sleigh, another puppy, said, “Just follow the North Star!”

My family watched that scene, just last night, and after the sleigh puppies were told to follow the North Star, one of my daughters said, “That’s not how you get to the North Pole. That’s how you get to Jesus!”

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Saint Nicholas is everywhere. His image is on boxes of cereal and band aids and chocolate goodies. He is featured in countless commercials, seated on firetrucks in local parades, and is embroidered on those really bad Christmas sweaters. He’s mostly caucasian, with a white beard and a red suit. And he’s always smiling.

It struck me as odd, though, that for an annual season, an entire culture (the entire world?) promotes a belief in a supernatural benefactor that requires an inherent goodness from people before gifts are given — and his name isn’t God. And mostly, we are fine with that, until we realize that we are the ones giving gifts in the name of the patron saint of both thieves and children.

We spend money so gifts can be given in the name of someone who really isn’t even alive. Inordinate amounts of money, by the way — amounts that are probably disproportional to our income. We spend gobs just to make sure that this jolly conspiracy is perpetuated.

I wouldn’t call it lying.

But I would call it a masterful deception.

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One day a year, children awake with sleepy eyes and generous dreams, with the hope that Saint Nicholas has visited their home. They soon hold in their hands the gifts and presents that were given to them in the name of Saint Nicholas. (“We don’t need no stinkin’ parents!”)

Parents smile, and create Instagram shots of their kids. Grandmothers call and say sweet things like, “Santa was good to you this year, wasn’t he?”

And then, a few days later, when the tree becomes a nuisance, parents receive the credit card statements, and wonder why they spent so much money on gifts that are already forgotten.

So the budget-shuffling to pay those bills begins, because the minimum monthly payment has just grown by more than moms and dads had expected.

(“We just wanted them to have a good Christmas!”)

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We are slaves to something that, in the end, does more damage to our family than does it good.

This jolly conspiracy is built around debt, over-consumption, and excess, and it enslaves us. Moreover, it becomes difficult to find the mission of Jesus in the midst of soaring credit card bills. Yet we continue to be a part of it, even when it hurts.

When it’s put that way, it sounds almost diabolic, doesn’t it?

Or, like an addiction that needs some serious therapy.

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It’s hard — really hard — to not look at this jolly conspiracy as it is filtered through a gospel lens. Read no farther than Luke 4, and Jesus’ own mission statement, where he believed his divine mission was to feed the poor, to give sight to the blind, to give freedom to prisoners and to give freedom to the oppressed.

Freedom.

Freedom!

Jesus’ mission was to give freedom, yet our national spending habits from November 25 through December 25 rob us of freedom.

We willingly make decisions that teach our children about the gross excess of Americanism, at the expense of the very freedom Jesus offers.

And, by default, our kids will continue the cycle of ignoring the the most profound blessing of Jesus on the biggest gift-giving day of the year.

I’m not sure that’s exactly what we want to teach our kids, especially if we believe in Jesus, and believe in his message of freedom.

(An iPad mini just doesn’t seem to compare to that kind of freedom, does it?)

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Isn’t it interesting that we are partial to such a conspiracy, though? To underscore the point, consider this question:

What would Christmas morning look like if our children received gifts from their parents in the name of Jesus, instead of the name of Santa?

I think gift-giving, and gift-receiving would change. I know, because I speak from experience.

My family ended this jolly conspiracy a few years ago, telling our own children that the gifts they would receive, meager though they may be in the eyes of some, and extravagant in the eyes of others, would be because we were blessed by God to give those gifts. These gifts would no longer come in the name of a man in a red suit. And, we told them,  there may come a day when the Lord gives us trials, and gifts would be sparse. I am not a pessimist, but no one is spared from times of desperation, and I didn’t want to find myself enslaved to something, and someone, that — if that day ever came — wasn’t even real.

So, no more conspiracy. No more strange men visiting our home in the middle of the night, while everyone sleeps.

(And no more strange rabbit delivering eggs, either.)

In fairness, it took us almost a year to reach this decision, in large part because our culture says to uphold this jolly conspiracy as long as we can. For the longest time we thought perpetuating the deception was the right thing to do.

In the end, though, I grew tired of my kids “praying” to Santa — in the form of a Christmas list — and asking him for the things that would make their lives complete. I found myself to blame for those strange moments, when I began to believe that this loved tradition ignored the God who had graciously provided for my family.

I wanted to praise God on Christmas morning, and I wanted my kids to do the same.

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I’m dreaming of a better Christmas — a Christmas that doesn’t mix a fictional character with the birth of the Messiah. Our world has very little against the man in the red suit, but is quick to disregard the baby in the manger. I, for one, am tired of that.

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So here I am, and here you are, together, on some strange corner of the Internet, talking about Christmas. We haven’t discussed children in foster care, who wish to be reconciled to their families. We haven’t discussed the poverty experienced by some children, and we certainly don’t want to discuss it when we gather around a table of plenty. We haven’t talked about those who sleep in their cars on Christmas eve, or those who wake up with a hangover on Christmas morning. I’m not sure we need to.

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If the reason for the season is Jesus, then let Jesus be that reason. Let the gifts we give be in his name. Let those in our circle, in our community, know we care because we become the hands that give the gift of freedom in the name of Jesus. Let our kids see Jesus throughout the season, not only in pedantic Christmas specials on television, but in the face of the hungry who are fed.

It’s time to end this jolly conspiracy.

I’m not trying to start a movement. I just want you to pray about it, and let the Lord show you what you should do next.

Scandalous Parenting

I’ve been writing small group studies through the Gospel of Luke this semester. So I’ve spent the past five weeks praying through, fasting over, and reading about Luke 1 and Luke 2. Those two chapters are concerned, primarily, with two families: John’s family, and Jesus’ family.

In both cases, the parents were devout. John’s parents were devout to the letter. His father, Zechariah, was a priest, honored with the extreme opportunity to serve in the Jerusalem Temple. And though we initially saw Zechariah’s doubts,  he praised God as soon as he saw God’s incredible plan unfold.

Jesus’ parents were devout to the letter. Even when Augustus’ census forced families across the Roman Empire to travel, Joseph, who was not yet even married to Mary, took his young fiancee, and her unborn child, across the Palestinian desert to his hometown, per the Roman Imperial decree — because they were going to do the right thing, regardless of the suspicious murmurs that would be sure to happen once he arrived back in his hometown of Bethlehem.

Later, Joseph and Mary made sure to consecrate Jesus, and Mary, according to the Jewish standards. And we find out, too, that this family, though poor (we know they were poor because of Mary’s sacrifices, which were animals for the impoverished), they traveled to Jerusalem every year, for Jesus’ first twelve years, to celebrate Passover.

Devout. Loyal. Worshipers. It’s startling to find that Luke spent no time on the trivial.

John, who lived “in the wilderness” was a child of anticipation, waiting for deliverance, like Israel did in the years preceding their entry into Canaan. This is how he spent his childhood — waiting for the movement of God. I wonder if we are encouraging our kids, while they are in our care, to wait, daily, on the movements of God.

And Jesus spent a week, once a year, listening to the Jewish scribes. These boys grew up in homes where the parents knew the value of worshiping the Lord.

American parents are challenged in difficult ways, in a Disney-world utopia, where we can provide iPhones, expensive cars, meals at restaurants, personalized bedrooms, and individual Netflix accounts for our kids.

We give them these things, and still have the audacity to think they are deprived.

We even start leaning on churches, then, to continue the fun, thereby ensuring our kids learn that the value of their faith is built on the corruption of a personalized experience at their every turn.

The gospel I read is filled with suffering. Bearing burdens. Total depravity. Total dependence on God. Mission. Mobility. Devotion.

I want to be a dad who leads his family as did Zechariah and Joseph. I want my kids to learn to wait on the Lord, and to anticipate the times they listen to the Word. And I want the parents I know to do the same.

In America, this is scandalous parenting.

Because if we become scandalous parents, we will see the explosion of the kingdom that Luke shares in the first few chapters of Acts of the Apostles. The kingdom will flourish when we sacrifice these candy-land desires, die to ourselves, and surrender our families to the sovereignty of God.

Lord, help us to no longer chase fun, and help us to chase joy. Help us to be scandalous parents.

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In a Row of Graves

Check out this picture …

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Eran and I took our daughters last weekend to visit all of the headstones of those in our family who have passed away. This row of markers is the row of my grandfather’s family. The headstone, in the bottom left corner, is my grandfather’s. Trace the row to the top right corner, and you’ll see the headstones of his brothers and sisters, and his parents.

This is their family. Once upon a time, my grandfather was a kid, in a house full of kids. His parents were in the middle of parenting. There was once a lot of noise in their house; memories were being made, and exhaustion was being fought. But the kids grew up. They left their house, fought a war, had a family, and had their own grandchildren. And now, he and his family are together again, next to each other in their graves.

The time we have with our children is precious. And it’s fleeting. Don’t waste a minute with them. Don’t emphasize petty things like sports and movies. Emphasize, instead, God’s love and grace and mercy, and how God wants to use them to heal a broken world.

Read the gospels together.

Pray together.

Speak to them of how God is testing you, and how he is blessing you.

Remind them that Facebook and Twitter and Instagram are just illusions of community.

Teach them how God wants his church to be a kingdom — the kingdom — on earth, and not an organization with great things to do, and with fantastic personalities to hear.

All of this has been especially heightened for me, though, in my two experiences in the past month serving the families of children with cancer. To say that I was humbled, and overwhelmed, at the serious tests these families endure is a vast understatement. These parents truly know the value of family, and they embrace it to its fullest experience, every day — in ways I cannot.

So again, I say, the time we have with our children is precious.

Because one day, regardless of our health and wealth right now, each of our families will only be known by the words etched in the stones at our graves.