My slightly crooked Crown of Life (Good Gifts 4:1)

*image made with the retype app

My oldest daughter, Macee, and I are avid watchers of the Netflix original series, “The Crown”, which depicts the early reign of Queen Elizabeth II in 20th century England. It’s a lovely show with deep emotion and tenderness. It is careful to show many and various perspectives, but highlights that of a brand spanking new queen.

The queen at the time of the first season is young. Shockingly young almost, since in my entire lifetime I remember Queen Elizabeth as a classy lady of at least retirement age or older.  The young Queen has immediate responsibilities, expectations, budgets, and the needs of a nation. While this is just a show, it brings to mind all kinds of monarchs throughout time and the weight of the crown, any crown.

It sounds like a nice idea to be a princess, a queen, a king, royalty of any kind, but we would be fooling ourselves if we didn’t also think it was hard. A crown, even when ceremonial, bears with it the weight of a thousand and some expectations.

James tells us in James 1:12 that we also have a crown.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

But our crown isn’t a crown of expectation – heavy, overbearing, laden with the jewels of what we need to do and how. In order to understand the crown of life James references, we need to broaden our Scriptural vantage point. My study Bible encourages me to consider all of James 1 that leads into James 1:12, first. James 1, remember from week one of our study, is all about the faithfulness of God, the impartiality of our Savior, His wisdom, and His generosity. All those characteristics, James suggests, are first and only found in our Creator and Redeemer God, and then He shares them with us.

Listen to James 1:12 again…

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Christ Jesus remained steadfast under trial. He received the crown of life on Easter morning. He is Love itself and loved us first. But He never keeps it for Himself. That is not part of His character. I think this is part of James’s message-

God does not want to keep His gifts to Himself.

This week, we’ll settle on the gift He gives us called a Future. Today, that future comes to us as the crown of Life. Our crown can be gifted because of that particular crown worn on Good Friday.

Look at the following verses that use the same Greek word for crown – stephanon.

Matthew 27:29 – and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

John 19:5 – So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”

Revelation 14:14 – Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand.

All these crowns are the same Greek word, although to us, they seem a million miles apart. Isn’t He so worthy? He took the crown that was full of the weight of death so that we could have life, and really, really LIVE.

Yes, we will have trial and fears, struggle and temptation, but we see life from a crown bearing perspective. The Queen on the show “The Crown” had to practice for weeks before her coronation. She walked halls and stairs wearing this gigantic crown on her head. It didn’t make her less Queen when it shifted to the right because she wasn’t an “expert” crown-wearer.

Neither are we. There are no experts at life and “winners” who receive this crown. We don’t get it because we lived our challenges better than the guy next to us – we receive it because it is a gift. Crowns, like crosses, occasionally “feel” heavy, but we have a Savior who says,

28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This is the crown of LIFE, after all. LIFE! The Greek word for life here – zoes – insinuates not just present life but a fuller life that includes the future. Every time we undergo trial, a deep and personal struggle or even a trial of the everyday variety, we remember our crowns and remember Whom it tells us we belong to. The crown has been won, the victory secured.

Straighten that crown, friend. Look to the future. God is already there. He has this day and every day before us under His care.

My crown may be slightly crooked, but it’s 100% secure.



What things happen in life that make you most aware of your crooked crown? (This is an imperfect metaphor, but what in life makes you very much aware that you are less than perfect?)

What burdens are you most thankful that Jesus carries for and with you in this life?

Read 1 Corinthians 9:25-26. How does knowing you have been given the crown of life in Jesus’s death and resurrection change the way you run the race?

Say Goodbye to Incongruence

Spring hasn’t even sprung and I’m so hungry for something new.

I’m ready for a new day, a new song, a new landscape out my kitchen window. While we know that new isn’t always better, I think we were made for the knowledge of something to come, something waiting just around the corner.

We live in eternity, you see, but we can’t see it and we can’t hold it in our hands. So, we live with eternity as an idea, a place saved for later. We call it heaven and we tuck it away for deathbeds and difficult days. We imagine golden gates and gemstones and a giant mansion of many rooms that hold pints upon pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. (Ok, maybe that’s just my daydream.)

While that may be a sliver of eternity, it’s not the real deal, and I’m tired of settling for the pretty picture when I can have the real thing. How about you?

Eternity is now. Eternity is God with us, placing His Spirit inside of us, and that Spirit flowing out like a mighty river that can not be stopped up.

Jesus’s brother, James, knew a little bit about Eternity walking around the earth right in front of him. He ate food with the Son of God. He played games with the Son of God. And like the disciples, he walked away from the Son of God in His darkest hours. I wonder if that is why walking with the Son of God, walking in the Eternal Life that we are offered, today, this day, is so important to James, and written all over the pages of his book.

James is worried about a little thing called congruence. He’s worried about whether we’re living Eternity now, or whether we’re living one way and saving eternity for later.

The reverse – often our daily struggle – is incongruence.

Incongruence happens when we say we love God, but ignore our neighbor who is struggling with cancer, with addiction, with any number of very present needs.

Incongruence is when we go to church, but push aside making disciples for the ever present to-do list of the day.

Incongruence happens when I can not, for the life of me, get it together to put my husband’s needs before my own and give him the best parts of me on a daily basis.

I am incredibly incongruent. We all are, but the book of James teaches us that as we grow up into Christ, as we acknowledge and remember the eternity we have been offered today, we will become more and more congruent in every tomorrow.

Congruence is that blessed thing we seek when we understand what we value and put it into action rather than push it under the couch. Congruence is when we know Who our God is and how He changes everything, makes everything new.

When faith becomes life, rather than a part of our life. 

Who’s hungry for that?

Oh, I am. We’ll never be perfect, friends. Chief of sinners though we be. Jesus died so we can live in eternity, though, rather than guilt ridden and incongruent. This is the work of the book of James. We’ll look at what we’ve been given, and all the good in the gifts we never even knew were sitting on our front door step, from a God who loves us so very much.

Join us for New.

Join us for Congruent.

Join us for Good Gifts.

This is a six week study. Find all the posts on the blog here by searching for “Good Gifts.”

There are short 10-15 minute study posts 4 days a week. You can find video lessons on the I Love My Shepherd YouTube Channel.

Let’s get started by walking this road together.

To Eternity, to a God who walks with me, and to congruence…let’s do this.

This study will make it’s way to the print version in 2020. See more on the Studies Available page.

Meaningless, meaningless

Vanity, meaninglessness, purposelessness, emptiness, frailty, instability, ineffectiveness…all possible translations of the Greek mataiotés translated futility in this passage of the ESV.
Adam and Eve’s sin, the fall plunged humankind into darkness. Sin’s consequence is death and destruction. It creates a meaninglessness, futility, and emptiness in life. Sin is real, as you know and it leaves the world frail. Futility equals a lack of hope, without reason to hope, and hope is perhaps our greatest human need. Without God’s intervention, by means of the curse, humankind would still be there, without hope, trapped in meaninglessness.
God had another plan.
He always does…for our good. God transforms futility into life filled with meaning and purpose. He subjects creation, all of creation to the curse, for a purpose. We go kicking and screaming. We hate the results of sin in the form of this curse. We despise hard labor and pains of childbearing and the headship of the husband, while helpful, is a challenge for many a household. God subjects us to the curse in order to save us. God created a solution, so that we would not be lost forever in condemnation. The curse, however difficult and seemingly harsh to the world, makes a way for redemption, makes a way for Christ. The serpent nips at the heel, we feel it as sin in our lives and in the world around us, but the Savior crushes his head. Christ’s redemption makes even the things of the curse, good in this life.
Hard labor, the work of the church, the work of running the home often seems monotonous and futile in the daily living of life, but look around you. See what God has done in your work, in your family. He makes the hard labor a thing with purpose and meaning and beauty. Worth the toil. Mundane planning meals, cleaning bathrooms, toiling over sermons, double checking bulletins, and finding 30 minutes for exercise in a day become moments to proclaim hope and community with the Father and one another, and purpose.
Submission isn’t always easy, but we find the truth that it is always to our benefit. God’s order, even in the curse mirrors our submission to our Savior as the head of our families and our churches.
Hope is what God gives us, even in the darkest moments, even in curses and struggles. He has a plan and a purpose.
            For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

                                                                          Jeremiah 29:11