Dr. Horton & Edna Voss

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When I first started writing guitar-based music of faith in the late 1960s, there was a lot of opposition from the church. Guitars were from the pit of hell, rock and roll was the devil’s music, even the back beat was evil. Elvis had broken new ground, but in the adult culture, the music he forged was all about sex, drugs and rock and roll, meaning rock and roll was all about sex and drugs.

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Who gave you wings?

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In the story, It’s a Wonderful Life, Clarence, the angel, earns his wings by showing George the people his life had touched to enable George to see that, indeed, he did make a difference in the world. I bet we all could tell stories about someone who made a difference in our lives — someone who, if they were never born, would leave a huge hole in our personal histories and so life might have led us to different ends had that person not been there.

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Worried about you

I spend time with an eighty-something man who is bedridden and not very communicative, at least not until yesterday. Until yesterday, I haven’t even been sure how well his mind is working. I hadn’t had a conversation with him that lasted more than one sentence with a yes or no answer. Ask him an open-ended question and most of the time he will not respond. His eyes are closed about 80% of the time giving the impression that he is trapped inside his shell. That’s why I was pretty shocked yesterday when he suggested I sit down next to the bed, clearly indicating he had something in mind. That initiated a 15-minute conversation that began with him saying he was worried about me.

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Christ was born; so what?

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Last night, on our BlogTalkRadio interview I asked Craig McNair Wilson what the world would be like if Jesus hadn’t been born and got an answer I wasn’t expecting. He answered the question with another question (something Jesus did often, actually). It’s a sobering question and one we all need to ask ourselves, and ask ourselves again and again and again: Does it make any difference?

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Walking with Jesus

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If Jesus had never been born, we would not know that God is love. We would know some things about God that we could learn from the Old Testament, but the Old Testament tells us much more about what God expects of us than what He is like. We know His laws; we know what happens when we break them; we know how hard it is not to break them; and we know that He pretty much expects the impossible.

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It’s a wonderful life

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In the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey, at a desperate time in his life, wishes he were never born. Clarence Odbody, Angel 2nd Class, sees this as his opportunity to save George from a drunken suicide and earn his angel wings. George is so despondent, he is about ready to jump into a river and drown himself when Clarence shows up and jumps ahead of him. Forgetting all about his own predicament, George jumps in after Clarence in order to save him. Clarence knew George would do this because it was always his instinct to put other people’s needs in front of his own. Clarence, then, through his angelic powers, grants George his wish and shows him what the town of Bedford Falls would have been like if he had never existed.

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The universal tragedy of being good

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Holy, holy, is what the angels sing,

And I expect to help them make the courts of Heaven ring;

But when I sing redemption’s story, they will fold their wings,

For angels never felt the joys that our salvation brings.

Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1856-1922)

Think of the host of angelic voices that pierced the darkness of night to announce the birth of a suffering savior. How can you appreciate light if you have never known the fear of darkness? How can you appreciate love if you have never known the absence of it? How can you know what it is to be found if you have never been lost? How can you know mercy if you have never needed it?

When you have spent your whole life trying to be good, and you’ve been relatively successful at it, you are of all people to be most pitied. The part that makes this sadness most operable is the “relatively successful” part. If you had failed miserably at trying to be good and you know it, you are much better off than the one who hasn’t. Understand, being relatively good is a serious flaw in the way in which you perceive yourself. It doesn’t mean you have been relatively good, it means that you think you have. It takes a good deal of self-deception to pull this off, but it’s possible. Thinking you are relatively good disqualifies you for mercy and that is a most miserable state since mercy is mankind’s only hope.

I understand mercy intellectually. I get it. That God has locked us all up in sin so He could have mercy on us all. But what if you’ve spent your whole life thinking your sin is only marginal, and this understanding of yourself is firmly rooted in your psyche? How do you root it out? How do you rid yourself of the thought that God is lucky to have you on His team? When the dirty ones get washed, where do the clean ones go? Here, just let me dust myself off a little; I don’t need the bath. Just a little dust from the road.

Too many self-preserving tactics in my inner workings. Too many subtle judgments of others. All of this is neatly protected and reinforced by years of rationalizations. How do you convince yourself that you are a dirty rotten scoundrel to the core when you know better?

When the only hope for sinners eludes the righteous, the righteous are without hope, and the greatest tragedy is that they don’t know it. When the blind think they see, they are twice blind. And if they stay in this state, they will never even know what they missed.

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‘Everyone’ means everyone

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For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone. Romans 11:32

Mercy is what everyone gets because everyone is guilty. Read that last sentence again, slowly, and then the verse above it, making particular notice of the word: “everyone.” Everyone. Shall I write it again? Everyone. If we could get this, we would be the most amazing people on the planet.

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