Dear Jordan, Merry Christmas, My Son…

Dear Jordan,

Merry Christmas, my son.

We worshipped Jesus this morning (just like you did). Kelsie sang a mini-concert. She sang about the King you now see with your own eyes. (The photo below was taken after church this morning.)

I don’t have a lot to say. I simply wanted you to know something: we’re making it.

In fact, we’re not merely “making it”; we’re learning again, through Christ, to “live”, to “dance”, to “sing”.

Believe it or not, I’ve completed my first semester pursuant of a Masters Degree in Apologetics. It’s hard! These professors are geniuses. But, I’ve learned so much.

Remember almost two years ago when you and I went to Texas Tech and listened to Dr. Mike Licona discuss evidence for the resurrection of Jesus? (Remember, how I got a parking ticket, and you didn’t? :)) Well, Dr. Licona is one of my professors next semester.

You and I used to sit and have so many conversations about C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Middle-Earth, Narnia, etc. You loved adventure. Your small group from church met in our basement. You called our basement “the Shire.” That said, you cannot know how many times, after learning yet another timeless truth and/or principle this past semester, I’ve whispered aloud, “Oh Jordan – I would so love to know your thoughts about this…”

You would love what I’m learning. But, this I know, son: what I’m learning is mere shadow compared to the greater reality you now experience. I can only imagine kingdoms. You live in one!

By the way, in my studies I’ve “met” so many other brilliant apologists you would absolutely love, many of whom, like Lewis, are now in heaven. Wait a minute – I just thought of something – they’re with YOU! Oh, my son, I’m merely reading and studying their works – you know them! Perfectly! (Selah – wow, I’ve gotta pause and think about that for a moment.))

Our church family (Christ’s Body) has been the personification of the Good Samaritan Jesus described in the familiar parable. When they’ve seen us “beaten & bleeding on the side of the road,” they’ve not once grown weary of lifting our broken, bruised bodies, tenderly caring for our needs, holding us close, and helping us remember what is true (God’s mighty Word.)

A dear friend of ours named Joyce Rowe is one of the many who check on us all the time. Her son died too when he was young. She told us just last week that research shows that, after the first year (which is absolutely maddening), emotional breakdowns tend to become more infrequent. (This has been true in our case.) However, that same research shows that, at the 18-month mark, emotional breakdowns tend to spike for a little while. (This has also been true in our case.) The good news is that one rebounds much more quickly than they used to. Thanksgiving marked 18 months since Jesus embraced you and carried you to Paradise – as well as 18 months since I found you that day, forever changing our lives.

However,…. (and this is huge, my love…)

Jesus is blurring that image in my mind. No, let me re-word that: Jesus is redeeming that image in my mind.

Our faith in Christ is strong, my son. We are more sensitive to the pain and hurt around us locally, nationally and globally. It would be difficult to convey to you how many hurting people God has allowed us to minister to this past year.

Satan tried to steal our story. But, far from losing our faith, Christ has infused it with power. We have a story to tell. Not a story of sadness, but of Hope. And that Hope has a name: Jesus Christ; Emmanuel: God With Us.

The Lord continues to open up opportunities for me to preach and teach about this Hope. Next month, I will speak to hundreds of teenagers from high schools all over the region about depression. And your mom ministers to hurting boys & girls (and their parents) every single day as a school teacher. It’s absolutely amazing what Jesus is doing through her!

Well, I better go, my love. I just wanted you to know that the darkness that enveloped our home no longer exists. Sure, there are “moments”. However, we’ve made a choice to believe that God is not only good, but that He is trustworthyeven in the face of unspeakable suffering.

If you see Job, tell him his faith (after having lost ten children of his own) has helped me so much: “The Lord gives; and the Lord takes away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (I talked about Job at your Memorial Service :))

Paul (who you’ve possibly met) wrote: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

We profoundly believe this to be true.

The cross, and the empty tomb make it all possible.

We love you. So much.

Love, Dad (for Narnia!!) :))

watts fam - 2014

The Manger I Never Knew

Below is a link to Chapter 2 of Philip Yancey’s award-winning book, The Jesus I Never Knew.  Published in 1995, it is one of my all-time favorites.

Entitling this chapter, “Birth: The Visited Planet”, Yancey brilliantly brings to light truth and nuance most of us would otherwise miss when considering the story of Jesus’ birth.  “How could we possibly miss important details of the birth of Jesus Christ?” you may ask.  Well – the problem  actually lies in the story’s familiarity – we’ve heard it so many times the tendency is to forget or, at best, minimize exactly what “went down” that critical night in Bethlehem.

May this narrative commentary bring depth and richness to your Christmas season.

Merry Christmas, St. Nick

THE JESUS I NEVER KNEW – Chapter 2 – Birth of Jesus – Yancey

nativity

 

Atheism Failed Me

You know – I tried to disprove the existence of God – immediately after finding my 19-year-old son dead in his bedroom from suicide.

I looked at the most recent, most compelling evidence to make God sound like a ludicrous alternative. I looked at the best arguments from the best atheists, both in modern & historical times.

You must understand that I wanted desperately to know, in those first 48 hours after finding my son, that there was no God.  God’s non-existence would have made more sense to me than “a loving God who would allow my son to suffer so much from clinical depression that he would take his life.”

But atheism failed me.

The words of the best, most intelligent atheists rang hollow. Their rebuttals and refutations against the existence of God were, in my opinion, incomplete, short-sighted, and, at times, as ludicrous as the very arguments for God they attack. While the atheists scream loudly trying to speak for their evidence, the theists, in my opinion, simply step back and allow the evidence to speak for itself. For the arguments of theists, it was akin to the familiar statement: “You don’t need to defend a lion; you simply open the cage and allow him to defend himself.”

In the end of my investigation for a God-less universe, I found myself like Peter in John 6 (I tend to so resonate with Peter – impetuous, speaks before he thinks, reckless at times, etc., but always passionate.) By chapter 6 of John’s gospel account, Jesus has fed the thousands, healed the sick, and cast out demons. But now, he’s teaching the crowd what following Him really means. The response is heartbreaking. For most of them, it turns out, had no interest in following Jesus. They wanted the sizzle, but not the substance; the blessing, but not the commitment.  In the words of Bonhoeffer, they wanted grace that was “cheap” rather than “costly”. In short, they wanted an “A in the course” without doing the homework. And in verse 66, John records, “It was at this time many of those who followed Jesus turned away and deserted him.” Jesus then turned to the twelve and asked, “Are you going to leave me too?” Peter replied, “Lord, where else would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

After trying as hard as I could to prove God was a fairy-tale, I found myself repeating those exact words stated by Peter, 20 centuries ago.

Can I prove the existence of God in a laboratory? No. (Frankly, I don’t want a God I can explain – the Incarnation, the Trinity, etc. are all inexplicable.) A God we can explain would be,…well, more like a man than God; at best, a super-hero. But, what I was reminded of following my son’s death was this: the evidence for the existence of a transcendent, outside-the-laws-of-physics, “wholly other” (as Kierkagaard described Him) is not merely compelling, it’s overwhelming.

I cannot overstate how I felt in the moments immediately following finding my dead son: I. Hated. God.

But, God – who we see in the Person of Jesus Christ – held me.  Even as I fought to run away, He wouldn’t let go. The same love that drove Christ to the cross drove Him to love me deeply, holding me tenderly in His arms. He was patient with me, allowing me time to scream at Him, accuse Him, and even hate Him (all of these emotions,by the way, are found in the imprecatory psalms in our Bible).

Despite the best I could hurl at God, He never left me. Ever. He nursed me back to psychological and emotional health. And, in those early hours, when I began to investigate whether I had been wrong all my life about Him, He didn’t punish me – He loved me, and told me, “I’ve got this.”

In the darkest moment of my life, Jesus whispered to me, “I. Am. Here. I’ve got this. Trust Me.”

“I do, my King. Where else would I go? You have the words of eternal life.”

To those of you trying to figure out life’s pain, know this: God is faithful; His Word is true; “He is close to the broken-hearted, and He saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18); Jesus did exist, live a sinless life, and die on a Roman cross.

The tomb is still empty. And, that changes everything.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick