No Gift To Bring

On Christmas Eve I attended a worship service at my church as I do every year. I went with my family and had a great time seeing and talking with people that I don’t always have the chance to see or talk to. The format of the service was a few worship songs, a sermon delivered by our pastor, followed by another few worship songs. The last song on the worship set this year was a very well performed rendition of Drummer Boy, a song I’m now realizing I’ve overlooked for quite a long time. My initial reaction was disappointment. To me, Drummer Boy was just a fictitious Christmas song popular in American culture that had little to do with the good news of great joy we all celebrate this time of year. I preferred the idea of ending our Christmas service with a song that I thought might have been more explicitly worship-oriented (because it’s all about me, right?), not a song about some pretend boy who liked drums. As the afternoon progressed, I found the song to be stuck in my head. While the well known lyrics beat through my mind over and over again I began to realize I had severely undervalued the importance of the message it carried. It was a song I’d heard countless times. It became so familiar to me as a child that I never stopped to assess the parallels between the life of the drummer boy and my own, or the amazing truths the song seemed to hide in plain sight. I opened Spotify on my phone to listen to the song played by a band I enjoy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPAoTaM4p2E) while I drove to my parent’s house. As the band sang some words I’d formerly taken forgranted I found myself overcome with joy:

I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum

There, in the midst of sundry pa-rum-pum-pum-pums, was the heart of the gospel. I am a poor boy with nothing suitable to bring the King. The same moment those lyrics crossed my ears I was abruptly reminded of the indescribable grace of God, and the way that He loves me, even though I’m not worthy of a second glance. While I’m fortunate to be able to count myself a disciple of Jesus Christ, even my best works are about as clean as a polluted garment (Is. 64:6), and the faith I do have in Christ is a faith that must be given to me by God (Eph. 2:8), because in the depravity of my natural state I would do nothing but defy Him (Rom 1). Perhaps even more humbling, is that being fully aware of the truth of God, His love for me, and the expectations He has placed on my life, I am still prone to turn away and knowingly enter into things that are sinful, preferring something temporary and worthless to the glory of the almighty God. I cannot even imagine the depth of these cosmic acts of treason. Yet here I am, eternally loved and valued by the one whose face I’m so prone to spitting in.

When I think about the Christmas narrative, I often find myself shocked and a little bit terrified when I consider what comes next in the story. The King of the universe, the one who created and sustains all things, the one who is eternal and eternally worthy of endless praise was born among us. He was born among us, walked in righteousness, demonstrated perfect love to all people, and we killed Him. Not only did we kill Him, we subjected Him to one of the most gruesome deaths imaginable after an endless torrent of mockery because He had the audacity to suppose that He was our king. Our response to meeting our maker, the most glorious and worthy being that has or ever will exist was to kill Him, and we all contributed. Neither you, nor I, were present at the execution, but the death of Christ was necessary as atonement for the sins you and I commit. You and I are as much responsible for His torn flesh as the executioner.

The fact that God saw fit to rescue a people so destitute and wicked through His own death is completely unimaginable. I tremble as I type this, wholly unable to fathom the idea that a King like Jesus saw fit to humble Himself and lay down His life for a person like me. Someone who was not only denying the need for forgiveness, but living in active defiance and hatred of His reign. This salvation is the unimaginable love of God! This salvation is the thing to which even the angels long to look (1 Pe. 1:12)! The angels in heaven, who know God and have lived in perfect communion with Him can’t get enough of the incredible glory of God demonstrated in the rescuing of His people! It’s unbelievable! Through the life and death of Jesus Christ, God restores people to Himself, that we might be privileged to know the extreme joy of serving our King!

This Christmas, it would seem I have nothing suitable to bring my King. He is the creator of all things, and is not in need of anything I could ever provide Him with. How could he be? In fact, I’m dependent on Him for everything that I do have. While I find immense joy in learning to walk in holiness and glorify my creator, even those things are granted me by God Himself. However, God loves me enough to show me the purest joy in the honor of glorifying Him. He makes me happy in the pursuit of Himself, and He accepts my praise even from my most humble position. God knows me, loves me, and delights in even my admittedly pitiful small steps of obedience. He died that He might give them to me, and I celebrate the day.


 

And so here I am. A poor boy with nothing to give the King. Yet He desires my song.

This is good news of great joy.

Merry Christmas,

Connor

 

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No Fear in Life, No Fear in Death.

Today what I want to write about is death. Specifically, why we need not fear death, and the joy we have in this life through Jesus Christ.

I recently returned home from counseling a group of 6th graders at a summer church camp. This is something I participate in every year, and is easily one of the most anticipated weeks on my calendar. It’s a time of rejoicing in the wonder of God and watching lives be changed forever. On the first night at camp, kids are led in a devotional which asks them five challenging spiritual questions, the answers of which they record on an index card. Throughout the week their counselor reviews their index cards and speaks with them one-on-one in order to help them grow spiritually. The fourth question the campers are asked is something to the effect of: “When you’re lying in bed at night, or really thinking about it, what is something that worries you?” This year, seven of my eight campers recorded the same fear on their notecard. Death. Be it their own death, or the death of a loved one, my kids were all concerned with loss of life. This fear is more than understandable, and is one of the most common fears in the world. However for Christians, it doesn’t need to be. Great joy, and the opportunity to live boldly is found in clinging to the promise of life as given by God.

As Christians, we know the Bible to be entirely true and inspired by God. Because of this, we can have full confidence in God’s promises as we read them in the Bible. Those of us who have chosen to ask forgiveness of our sins and follow Christ have assurance when we read that all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:3). Or when we read that, if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). Or when we read that, God loved the world so much that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Or when we read that the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). The Bible is littered with promises of salvation to those who choose to follow Jesus Christ. The implications of this are amazing, and worth considering.

One of the results of these promises is that death has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55)! The way I look at it, on any given day the worst thing that could happen to me is death. However, I know as a follower of Christ that when my body dies, I’ll get to leave this broken world full of misery, suffering, and death, and join my creator, celebrating His glory for the rest of eternity. Living in heaven will be infinitely better than living in this sinful world. This is why the apostle Paul records in Philippians 1:21 “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” On Earth, I have fulfilment and purpose in life living for God’s glory; in death, I can finally see the fullness of God and live peacefully in his presence forever. Death, which was formerly the worst thing for any human being, has been transformed into something that has no sting. It’s a time to return to our true home (John 15:19).

Not only is fear in death removed by God’s promise of salvation, but by the consideration of the implications of God’s sovereignty. God’s total sovereignty over all the world means that nothing happens without him, apart from him, or against his will. There is not a single soul on this Earth that passes away before God is okay with it. No matter how bad things are for me in any particular situation, if God doesn’t want me to die, I’m not going to. “Our God is in the heavens, he does whatever he pleases” (Psalm 115:3) is one of the most joyous, exciting verses in the entire Bible to me. I know my God sits on his throne working his plan. I know that His plan is good, and that no one can frustrate it. I’ll die when God is ready for me to die – and if God is ready for me to die I’m not going to argue! Until that day I’ll keep fighting to live for Christ. Because God is sovereign I can have certainty that he will keep the promises he makes.

One of the greatest promises in the entire Bible can be found in Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Even when our situation seems bleak, or when difficult things happen to us or those that we know – we maintain confidence that our God is on his throne, working his good plan, and that ultimately it will be for our good. It’s these kinds of promises from a sovereign God that enable the Christian to live with the unique perspective of rejoicing in suffering (Romans 5:3-5), and boldly proclaiming the name of Christ. We can even see a Biblical example in the story of Joseph. “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good. (Genesis 50:20)” Even when everything seems to be working against us, we know that God is faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9), sovereign, and working everything for our good.

We don’t have to worry that God will forsake us, or that we will lose our salvation either. We have been stamped with and given the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). We have been placed in the hands of Jesus, out of which no one may snatch us (John 10:27-30). God has begun a good work in us, and will be faithful to carry it out unto completion (Philippians 1:6). Our names have been recorded in the book of life belonging to Jesus, and will never be blotted out (Revelation 3:5). God truly defeated death once and for all on the cross. For that, I shout for joy.

No fear in life, no fear in death.

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