serving the nazarene

the gospel and the death of a fish

we got a goldfish to give away as a “white elephant” gift at a party we attended early in december.  it got a few laughs, and then was handed back to us at the end of the evening.  “we don’t need a fish,” they said.  alright, fine.  madeline seemed pretty interested in the fish anyway.

we took the fish home.  madeline was thrilled.  she thought we were giving it away (so did we.).  she reminded us multiple times a day to feed her fish (whom she named… you guessed it – nemo).  she sat in a chair next to his bowl often and just looked at him.  she was a good fish companion.

until last friday.  i passed by nemo’s bowl on my way into the kitchen, and in the corner of my eye noticed that he seemed very pale.  i examined him more closely and discovered that his gills were not moving, his fins were not waving about through the water, his eyes were not blinking, and his mouth was not doing the usual fish pucker thing.  he was dead. 

i delayed relaying the news to madeline as long as i could (i was still waiting for lindsey to come home from shopping, and preferred for us to handle it together if possible).  i knew, however, when madeline insisted that we feed nemo his lunch that i could not tell a lie or simply redirect her attention elsewhere.  the truth had to come out.  with all the articulate wisdom of a third-grader with stage fright i stuttered out a few sentences about nemo.  “honey, fish don’t live forever.  in fact, they have very short lives.  i think nemo must have gotten sick.  he died.”  a confused stare from my daughter.  

“he can’t eat his lunch?” 

“no, honey.  he isn’t alive anymore.  he can’t swim, or eat, or see, or smell.”  she started to look really sad, which made me assume she was beginning to grasp at least that it was sad for her fish to be dead, though i’m sure she didn’t understand the concept of death. 

“nemo’s gone?”

“yes, honey.”

a few moments passed quietly, and then she asked, “can i see him?”

she saw the fish.  i tried to explain to her what it meant that he was dead.  i don’t think she got it.  i suggested that we flush him down the potty as a way of saying goodbye to him.  she thought that was silly, but i told her it was better than putting him in the trash, and assured her that, as gill proclaims in one of her favorite movies, “all drains lead to the ocean.”

i’m not sure what all this has to do with the gospel.  as i put off the discussion of the dead fish, i contemplated the possibility of using it as a springboard to talk about death and life, and sin, and jesus’ death.  but then i thought, “she’s three!  surely that’s not fitting for one so young.”  is it?  perhaps all she would come away with is a fear that at any moment she might get sick and die like nemo did.  that didn’t seem like what i wanted her to take away.  so i decided to leave out the connection.

so i wonder, when, and under what circumstances, does it become right and fitting to teach youngsters about the realities of sin and death and judgment and eternity?  of course we’ve talked with her about jesus’ as the ruler of the universe, and we celebrated his birth at christmas.  we’ve read a couple books that talk about jesus dying on a cross.  but how and when do you bring home these enormous realities? 

rest in peace, nemo.

grace.   

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January 22, 2008 Posted by | family news, theological pondering | Leave a comment

living proof at bridgepoint

beth moore blogged about us.

January 14, 2008 Posted by | random | Leave a comment

whose image?

here’s why we need a savior:

we take the mirror of god’s image, which was intended to reflect his glory in the world, and turn our backs to the light, and fall in love with the contours of our own dark shadow, trying desperately to convince ourselves (with technological advances or management skills or athletic prowess or academic achievements or sexual exploits or counterculture hair styles) that the dark shadow of the image on the ground in front of us is really glorious and satisfying.  and in our proud love affair with ourselves, we pour contempt (whether we know it or not!) on the worth of god’s glory.”

– john piper, the supremacy of god in preaching, p. 32

what are you treasuring today – the reflection of god’s infinite worth, or your own dark shadow cast on the ground by his glory?

grace.

January 10, 2008 Posted by | biblical reflection | Leave a comment

what is the power of god to save?

last semester in school, I heard dr. jim hamilton lecture through 1 corinthians, and then he preached in chapel about 1 corinthians 1:18-31.  he summoned preachers – and, by extension, seminarians – to expound the gospel of christ, even though to the world it is “folly” and “a stumbling block.” according to worldly standards, a messiah, a promised ruler, who is executed as a common criminal looks weak and foolish. unregenerate people are able to cognitively grasp the gospel story enough to think that it is foolish. a fairy tale. a crutch for the weak. but they will not, of their own volition, believe and embrace this message of a crucified christ.

and yet, it is this very message, foolish and weak in the world’s eyes, that god uses to save sinners. “since, in the wisdom of god the world did not know him through wisdom, it pleased god by the foolishness of what is preached to save those who believe” (1 cor. 18:21; emphasis added). so the call for the christian preacher – and youth pastor, and children’s minister, and education director, and sunday school teacher, and worship pastor – is to proclaim the gospel message of this murdered messiah – “a stumbling block to jews, and folly to gentiles, but to those who are the called, both jews and greeks, christ the power of god and the wisdom of god” (1 cor. 18:23-24).

here’s the application for us as pastors, teachers, leaders in corporate worship, or christian laypersons: our calling is the very same. our goal in every element of the church’s worship gatherings is to proclaim this crucified christ. in our sermons, songs, scriptures, prayers, congregational readings, and personal reflections, we must expound the gospel of a messiah who was executed at the hands of wicked men (though, ultimately, at the hands of a wrathful god), and who was raised by the spirit’s power. though the world sees this message as foolish and weak, it is the power of god to save those who believe.

as a leader of corporate worship myself, reflecting on these verses has caused me to be committed all the more to christ-exalting, gospel-saturated, god-centered songs and liturgy in congregational worship. may we, as members of the body of christ, celebrate and marvel at the glories of this gospel, and its power to save damned sinners like us, and may its power cause us to live life for the glory of our great god.

grace.

January 8, 2008 Posted by | biblical reflection, corporate worship | | 1 Comment

greetings, no one

if you’re reading this, hello.

if you’re not, why am i writing this sentence?

i hope to see more of you, and you can hope to hear more from me.

January 7, 2008 Posted by | first post | | 1 Comment