Receiving the Kingdom Like a Child

I love to give children’s sermons.

For one thing, they require far less preparation than regular sermons. But their impact sometimes seems to be far greater. Adults tell me how much my children’s sermons mean to them. They latch onto the object lessons as well as (or better than) the kids. And they are amused by the kids’ reactions to my messages. A couple weeks ago, I was taken aback by the number of children that came forward for the lesson. I asked rhetorically, “Where did all these kids come from?!” One little boy answered with bluster, “From our mothers’ wombs!”

This morning my children’s sermon was about discouragement. I told the children that one of the things that discourage us is our sin. It’s discouraging, I said, to realize that we sin against God and the people we love. I held up sheets of paper, on each of which was printed the name of a sin. I asked, “Which of you has ever told a lie?” Half the kids’ hands went up. “Who has ever disobeyed your mom or dad?” Almost every c…

Why I Love the Doctrine of Predestination

When I was a senior pastor, one of my favorite responsibilities was taking people through the church membership class. Not only did it give me a chance to get to know our new people; it also gave me the opportunity to teach some of our Presbyterian doctrinal distinctives. One of the doctrinal distinctives I love most is predestination. I believe and teach that God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, including the salvation of certain human beings. As Paul says in Ephesians 1:4-5, God chose us in Christ "before the creation of the world," and "predestined us to be adopted as his sons." Peter opens his first letter by saying that we "have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" (1 Peter 1:2). Every time I present this doctrine, people ask good and reasonable questions: "Why didn't God choose everybody?" "What about free will?" "How can God judge people he has not chosen?" Sometimes I have to sa…


(I posted this back in 2009 but thought a re-post with minor revisions would be appropriate for Lent in 2018.)

The 40 days leading up to Easter, not counting Sundays, are collectively called Lent. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends the day before Easter.

Historically, Christians have used Lent to remember the 40 days and nights Jesus was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). So fasting has been the main thing believers do during Lent. Some traditions are more rigid about this than others. Many, like my own, take little or no official notice of Lent at all. Personally, I like the Christian calendar and think it would be good for our church to refer to it more often.

Anyway, when it comes to fasting it's important to remember that there's nothing meritorious about fasting per se. And there's nothing at all evil about food or the enjoyment of it. Fasting is done in order to break our addiction to anything we trust in or depend on instead of Christ. It's a means of…

News addiction

Like many others (see this for example), I've finally come to the conclusion that watching too much news on TV is bad for my health--especially the health of my soul.

And for me, it's become an obsession. Maybe an addiction. 
I turn on a cable news channel soon after waking up in the morning. I check a local TV news station as well, just to make sure I didn't get murdered or robbed during the night. A few times during the day I click on my favorite news websites to see what's happening in Washington. My wife and I watch at least one political news show after I get home from work.
And what do I get in exchange for all this news watching? A sense of powerlessness. It's like our problems are overwhelming and I can do nothing about them but sit here and get more informed. It also leaves me with a sense of foreboding. Things are getting worse and worse. America's ills are insurmountable. Never in history have things been so bad. There's no one on the planet com…

Best Christmas gifts ever

For the past several years, our son James Michael has blessed his three siblings (and my wife and me) with the most creative, amazing Christmas gifts: drawings of his nephews and nieces in various settings borrowed from pop culture. Not only do the drawings capture the unique personalities and appearance of each child, but in almost every case Michael has incorporated into each drawing something of the personality or tastes of the relevant family. For pictures 1, 3, and 4 below, Michael's girlfriend Meredith did the coloring. God has blessed both Michael and Meredith with a truckload of artistic talent, and it makes our family so happy at Christmas time!

Here is a sampling...  

I'm Back

Yes, after a LOOOOOONG break from blogging, I'm back.

A word of explanation: The subtitle of my blog comes from the 17th century. The Puritan John Bunyan published his famous allegory, Pilgrim's Progress, around 1678. In the Conclusion to the First Part, he writes

   What of my dross thou findest here, be bold
   To throw away, but yet preserve the Gold.
   What if my Gold be wrapped up in ore?
   None throws away the Apple for the Core.
   But if thou shalt cast all away as vain,
   I know not but 'twill make me dream again.

Following these lines Bunyan penned the Second Part (about Christiana) of Pilgrim's Progress.

I thought Bunyan's lines about dross and gold were fitting to describe my blog. It used to be called "The Greener Grass." While I've changed the title to simply "Mike Osborne," most of the old posts are still here. My new posts will continue to be reflections on religion, theology, my personal and family life, pop culture, movi…

The Crook in the Lot

This tree sits next to our house as a constant reminder of human frailty and God's sovereignty.

It's right beside our driveway. I see it every day as I pull in from work. In the summer it's heavy with leaves that hide its deformity, but when the leaves fall off you see just how crooked it is. I often wonder: Was this tree planted hurriedly and incorrectly, without adequate thought of the angle it would take as it grew? Did it miss out on some critical ingredient in its infancy? Did a child thoughtlessly kick the tree, hammer a nail into it, or push it over and then try to prop it up--is that why it got off to a bad start?

But then look at the photo: In time the tree sensed its nonconformity, tried to correct itself, but overcompensated. Now it goes too far in the other direction. It's easily the ugliest tree in the cul-de-sac. The fact that other, more beautiful trees and shrubs grow around this tree only underscores its woundedness.

Still, this tree bears fruit. It…