Growing Old. Fast.

When I get together with my extended family for Thanksgiving, we eat cookies and watch the Detroit Lions find new and exciting ways to lose.

Not so with this family.

They had a photographer shoot portraits of the youngest cousins all the way through to the oldest relatives. The result is a fascinating documentation of what it looks like to age several decades in just under five minutes.

Coincidentally, this is also what happens to you when you have to spend more than five minutes at Wal-Mart in Griffin, Georgia.

Missing The Game

My oldest son has been playing soccer for about four years. Each year, the competition has gotten tougher. And each year, he’s gotten better. If he’s ever missed a practice in that four year span, I’ve forgotten about it. He has never missed a game. But there’s a first time for everything. In a couple of days, my son will miss his first soccer game.

Shortly after this season began we got word that there would be a few games played on Sundays. Sundays at 1:00.

He’s not going to miss these games because Sunday is the Sabbath. It isn’t (Acts 20:7; Colossians 2:16-23). And we’re not trying for some church perfect attendance award. I think that it’s okay to miss every now and then. But there are other reasons why he won’t be playing this Sunday.

Our church is about thirty minutes away from the fields where my son plays his games. I never look at my watch that much on Sunday mornings. But I always take a look when I’m standing in the parking lot. After everyone is gone, the conversations are over and my wife and I are trying to load the kids into the car, my watch usually tells me that it’s 12:15.

We could make it to the game on time. But it would probably mean that a few conversations would have to be cut short. And instead of a nice meal around our table, sometimes with guests, we would be stuffing sandwiches down our throats while speeding up the interstate.

I’m trying to teach my son the importance of slowing down. It’s good to be busy but only if you know when and how to step away. Between school, practices and games, our week can be pretty hectic. Sunday is a good day for us to slow down.

There’s something here to be learned about commitment too. My son made a commitment to his team. When he misses a game, the team suffers. But he made another commitment long before the one he made to his friends on his soccer team. He made a commitment to his church. He needs to be around the people there. He needs to worship with them. He needs to see men in their 80s standing up and singing songs to Jesus. And as he gets older, they’ll need him too (Hebrews 10:23-25).

But I’m also trying to teach my son how not to be a Pharisee. There’s a fine line here. So I’ll be doing my best to remind him that, under the new covenant, our Sabbath rest is found in a man, not a day (Hebrews 4:1-13). That’s why we can play outside and eat out on Sundays with a clean conscience. When he’s a little older, I’ll probably let him play in a game or two on a Sunday. Just as long as it’s not conflicting with his commitments to worship Jesus with his church family. As long as it’s not consuming his schedule.

This is just how it works for our family. A lot of families go to huge churches with services on Saturday nights. For them, Sunday games are no problem. Great! But that’s not the context my family lives in. In our situation, games at 1:00 on a Sunday would lead towards chaos. So we’re missing out.

But this is about more than just a day of the week. It’s about learning how to say no. We live in a culture where saying no to the sports gods is heresy. But everyone has to say no to something. Part of growing up is learning the right way to say no.

We’ve all been told that sports builds character. This is true but only if there is someone there to guide that character building. Otherwise the sport just becomes another idol. And the kid does become a character. Only not the kind of character that you would like to be around. Kids need someone who can remind them that there are things more important than sports. Someone to tell them that they will quit playing someday. And then what?

When he found out that he was missing his first game, my son wasn’t upset. He just couldn’t figure out why a game was scheduled on a Sunday. I didn’t really know how to explain it to him. Later on he told me that Sundays were for taking it easy. Taking it easy and worshiping Jesus with our friends.

I think that he already has it figured out.

The Good Kind of Rape

Judge G. Todd Baugh handed down the most severe punishment possible. But there was only one problem. That severe punishment was delivered to the victim. The man who was actually convicted of the crime got off easy. Real easy. Too easy.

Stacey Rambold was a middle-aged high school teacher in Montana. Like most teachers, he had students with whom he really connected. Cherice Moralez was one of those students. But things went too far. In 2007, Stacey Rambold raped Cherice. At the time, she was 14-years-old.

Rambold was convicted of his crimes. It was then in Judge Baugh’s hands to determine the sentencing. And that he did.

15 years.

Suspended sentence.

Stacey Rambold would serve 30 days for the rape of a 14-year-old student trusted to his care.

That’s the easy punishment that was given by the judge. Here’s the severe punishment.

Judge Baugh said that Cherice, 14, was “as much in control of the situation,” as was Rambold, the middle-aged teacher. He went on to explain his sentencing by saying that Cherice, 14, was “older than her chronological age.”

And then he had this to say.

“It was horrible enough as it is, just given her age, but it wasn’t this forceable beat-up rape.”

Oh, I see. It was the good kind of rape. I guess that’s sort of like the good kind of cancer. It all makes perfect sense now.

Efforts are being made to have Judge Baugh removed from the bench. People are saying that a man like this should be disqualified from his position. And they’re right. But maybe there’s something more to this than a rogue, irresponsible judge.

Maybe this is another terrible example of what happens when a society immerses itself in sex and views even the youngest of girls as sexual objects.

Everyone went nuts a while back when Miley Cyrus went nuts on MTV. Not many people managed to link that event to the semi-nude photos taken of her when she was still in her teens. Photos that her father approved of.

Halloween is coming up soon. At some point, the day stopped being about horror and started being about sex. And not just for adults. The ghost costume has been replaced by the sexy witch.

Listen to the reasoning that is being given by advocates of same-sex marriage. They tell us that two people who love each other should be allowed to be together.  And everyone cheers. But is that really all that different from what Judge Baugh said? Both are misguided. Misguided and dangerous.

A while back I bought my kids a trampoline. One of those with a net around it to keep everyone safe. It really went against my libertarian wiring. Nostalgia kicked in. I thought about when I was a kid and jumped on an old trampoline with rusty springs and no safety net. I think there were even alligators involved. Kids today with their safety nets.

But today, when I jump on that trampoline with my kids I’m thankful for those nets. They actually make it more fun. I can bounce my kids as high as I want without worrying about them getting impaled on something.

Sometimes boundaries lead to more enjoyment. Even when we convince ourselves that we would be better off without them.

God designed sex. He designed it to be enjoyed. And the further away we get from his original design, the less genuine joy there really is. Only perversion and cruelty. Like the kind we saw from that Montana teacher and judge.

Cherice Moralez wasn’t able to comment on Judge Baugh’s decision. When she was 16-years-old, before the trial of her rapist ever began, she committed suicide.

That makes Judge Baugh’s comments about “forceable beat-up rape” and “chronological age” all the more disturbing. Cherice was a victim but the judge treated her like a criminal that had somehow evaded the law. It’s almost as if he saw her rape as normal. As if there was some form of diet rape as long as the 14-year-old victim was the least bit willing.

But Judge Baugh is not alone. His vicious acceptance of rape is yet another example of the imminent dangers facing a culture that seeks pleasure from God’s gift outside of God’s boundaries.

A culture where predatory teachers are given a free pass.

A culture where powerful judges mock the victims of those predatory teachers.

A culture where anything goes.

Just as long as it is outside of the boundaries.

Evil At The Magic Kingdom

If you go to Disney World and you happen to be in a wheelchair, you don’t have to wait in line. An employee will escort you and your party to the front of the line and then into the attraction. But if you plan on enjoying such charity, you better go to Disney in the next few days. When the calendar changes to October, people in wheelchairs will have to start waiting in line.

It’s not that the folks at Disney are sitting back, twisting their mustaches and trying to think up something evil. Disney isn’t the problem here. It’s the people in the wheelchairs.

Not all of the people in the wheelchairs. Just the ones that can walk. The ones who are too lazy to wait in line. The ones who are bold enough to exploit an organization’s kind policy, abusing it for their own benefit.

A while back someone came up with the idea of faking an injury or disease to avoid waiting in line at Disney. Not just a someone. A bunch of someones. Enough to make Disney make a change.

If you leave The Magic Kingdom and travel a few hundred miles north through the city of Atlanta you’ll run into a similar problem.

You see, there was this habit that people had at toll booths. A good habit. When it was time to pay their toll, they would throw in a few extra dollars to cover the next car behind them. Good old southern hospitality.

Well, you’re not allowed to do that anymore. It seems that some of the workers (enough to make officials outlaw charitable giving at the toll booth) were intercepting the extra money and keeping it for themselves. Good old southern criminality.

Evil shows up in a variety of ways. Sometimes it’s the murder of a helpless victim, sometimes sexual perversions and sometimes brutality and violence. You could call this top story evil. Turn on your late local news and these kinds of stories will be what you hear first.

You have to dig a little deeper to find out about the other kind of evil. The kind that is subtle enough to go largely unnoticed but powerful enough to outlaw a kind act towards a stranger.

Evolutionists tell us that the universe is growing. On it’s own. And improving. Billions of years ago we were goo and resting next to another pile of goo somewhere in the cosmos. And now, we’ve got iPhones. Look at us!

Progress.

Plant a garden in your back yard. Okay, now leave it alone. Don’t touch it for six months. And now, go look at your progress.

Open a theme park centered around a mouse. Allow people in wheelchairs to skip to the front of the line. Sit back and wait. Wait until you have to do something about all of the healthy people abusing your policy. What is the opposite of evolution?

Some theologians tell us that we’re not all that bad. Jesus made our lives better, sure, but we certainly didn’t need him. They even skip over the part in Amazing Grace where it says “a wretch like me.” We’re not wretches, they remind us. We’re great decision makers. Good people. Good enough to find Jesus on our own. Remind me again why a society full of good people steals money from generous folks in the toll line and pretends to be handicapped just to get on Peter Pan’s Flight a little quicker. I’m sure it was for the kids.

The Bible tells us a different story. It tells us that we have a sin problem. If that’s a hard one to swallow, turn that late local newscast back on for some supporting evidence. Rape! Murder! Mayhem!

But the Bible gets the point across pretty good on its own.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV)

The next time that you’re in line at Disney World and you notice a person in a wheelchair waiting a few feet behind you, remember that we are not evolving.

If you’re ever at a toll booth in Atlanta and you think about paying for the guy behind you, keep your money. That kind of charity isn’t allowed anymore. Just sit back and remember that we are not good decision makers. We cannot somehow discover Jesus on our own. We are sinners. Dead sinners. Doing what dead sinners do. And we need a Savior.

If you don’t believe me, just go to Disney World.

But bring some extra money with you.

You’ll have to pay your own toll.

The Brotherhood of Rules

One boy is a big fan of rules. When he plays a game, he stops every few minutes to make up a new rule. When he thinks that someone is breaking a rule, even if that someone is his dad, he has to let everyone know. For him, a day without a couple of hundred new rules isn’t really a day.

I took him to school Monday morning. He was all business.

“Hey, you should tell your teacher how many goals you scored in your soccer game the other day.”

“Really?.”

“Sure! She’d love to hear about that.”

“I just don’t know.”

“Come on. Just tell her. Why wouldn’t you?”

“Well, it’s school. We’re there to learn. Not talk about soccer.”

All business.

Rules.

He’s only seven. I’m guessing that he would probably be a United States Senator by the time he turns 14 if it wasn’t against the rules. Definitely by his early 40s.

His younger brother is completely different. He hates rules. And clothing. He spends most of his day trying to get around his brother’s rules. While naked. Never let structure get in the way of a good time. Never. That’s his motto. In our state, you have to be 18 to get a tattoo. I’m guessing his motto will be tattooed on his chest before his 6th birthday.

We were watching a show about alligators and snakes. My oldest son picked it out. It was structured family time. Just like the rule book says. Halfway through the show there was a trivia question.

What is the heaviest snake?

a.) The Burmese Python

b.) The Anaconda

c.) The Southeastern Spine Backed Devil Rattler Cobra

Answer after the commercial break.

I guessed b. So did my older son. Rules. Keep the rules and say what dad says.

My wife chose a.

I asked my younger son what he thought.

“I’ll give my guess after they tell us the answer.”

The commercial break was over. The answer was b.

My wife sighed.

My older son and I cheered.

So did my younger son.

He’s never been wrong a day in his life.

Who needs the rules?

Come to think of it, he just might become a United States Senator too.

The first twelve-year-old Senator.

With a tattoo on his chest.

Disasters Like Me And You

There’s this building at my church. It’s been getting a lot of attention lately. At least once a week, I get the same question.

“How’s that building looking?”

And, at least once a week, I lie.

“Good.”

It does not look good. Not at all. Mountain Dew and Red Bull cans are everywhere. Years from now, we’ll tell our grandkids that this country was built on Mountain Dew and Red Bull.

The concrete is torn up too. Right outside of my office door, where I used to park, the once smooth pavement is now a pile of rubble. Just outside of my window, there’s a Coke can. A man left it there the other day while he was talking to some woman on his phone and preparing to take a nap. I learned a lot about romance listening to one half of that phone conversation.

The building itself is a disaster too. Half of the bricks and most of the doors are missing. Inside, wires are hanging from every direction. In some places, you can see straight through to the other side of the building.

It’s not good.

It’s a disaster.

Sort of like me. And you.

Like when that guy in traffic pulled out in front of me and I held a grudge against him for the next five miles. My wife gave me a look. I told her that the guy needed to be taught a lesson. I sped up behind him. She gave me another look.

Not good.

When is the last time you said something dumb? Something that you knew was dumb before you even said it but it came out anyway. You would fight another person if they talked to or about your wife that way. But it’s okay for you to say it.

Disaster.

Think about all of the scenes, comebacks and desires that play out in your head on a daily basis.

Not good.

There’s something about us, even the best of us, that’s just not right. Something is missing. But there is good news.

God isn’t done with us.

That’s not to say that we can continue in our sin, letting go and letting God while resting in the fact that we’ll always be this way until Christ returns.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Romans 6:1-2 (ESV)

Instead, we should be motivated. If we truly belong to Christ we are in the process of being made more and more like him.

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Colossians 3:9-10 (ESV)

Being renewed.

Process.

Following Jesus on this earth is a process. A progressive process. It’s not an arrival. We never really arrive. Not until Jesus does and forever puts an end to sin, death and ugly incompletions.

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:22-23 (ESV)

But while we wait, we work. We work in full reliance upon the Spirit who guides us and helps us to be more like Jesus. Daily, we ask him to kill our lusts, skewed judgments, greed, score settling in traffic and hurtful words (Colossians 3:5-9). And under his sovereign care, we do the hard work of building up and restoration (Colossians 3:10).

I guess that I’m not really lying when I answer all of those people who ask about the new building that is being built right outside of my office. Sure, it is a mess. But that’s only half of the story. The job isn’t done yet. One day all of the bricks will be laid. The cans of Mountain Dew and Red Bull will be gone. The building will be complete.

We are not complete.

But God is not done yet.

Hell House

It’s that time of year again when churches all over the southeast transform into haunted houses. Christian haunted houses. They have names like Judgement Journey, Tribulation Trail and Hell House. And if things work out okay, these places will scare you away from sinning and make you more like Jesus. If you’re not familiar with the phenomenon, here’s how it works.

Step One: Find an open field somewhere on the church property. That one where they normally park the bus should do just fine.

Step Two: Build some kind of structure for everyone to walk through. It has to be big enough to show plenty of really scary scenes. You know, a car wreck scene, a dude trying meth for the first time scene and a scene where a girl contemplates downloading a Miley Cyrus album. Oh, and there has to be plenty of room for middle school kids dressed up like demons and middle aged men on horses to jump out at unsuspecting customers.

Step Three: Advertise. This is easy. Just put a scary looking sign reading Hell House! out front where it used to say Jake Roberts Memorial Baptist Church. People driving by will either think that the church is having another business meeting or some sort of a Halloween event. Either way, they’re sure to check it out.

Step Four: Close the deal. At the end of the entire experience, have everyone sit in a room where one of the deacons is dressed up like “the angel of death” and asks them a few simple questions. Note: “the angel of death” has a thick southern accent and really doesn’t want to be there.

“That was bad, huh?”

“Who wants to go to a place like that?”

“If you don’t, raise your hand and repeat this prayer after me.”

And just like that, you’ve got yourself the beginnings of a full blown revival.

In real life the frightening things are often much more subtle. And the scarier we try to make those things, the closer we get to just playing games.

Ephesus was steeped in idolatry, sexual perversion and Satanism. When Paul came to town, he diligently and lovingly confronted these sins head on (Acts 19:26-27). As a result, the Holy Spirit really started to work. Sick people were healed and possessed people were set free. Some just by touching garments that had Paul’s sweat on it. This is where TV preachers got the idea of mailing out prayer cloths. Only Paul didn’t charge $22.99. Or use hairspray.

Anyway, people were watching and they were astonished.

Some were so in awe that they tried to get in on the action (Acts 19:13). But instead of doing so under the power of their Lord, Jesus Christ, they tried to cast out demons, “by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims” (Acts 19:13). Jesus was not their Lord and Savior. He was Paul’s. For them, Jesus was just another good luck charm or magical spell to keep evil spirits away. The same guy you mumble some prayer to or about before eating or flying for the first time but certainly don’t consider to be the Man who rules the universe and demands total obedience.

There were seven men who were making a habit of this. Imagine them going door to door or setting up a booth in the middle of town to cast out demons. What a way to get a following.

“Demon, I command you by this guy who Paul talks about, what was his name? Jesus? Yes, that’s right. Jesus. I command you by Paul’s Jesus to come out.”

This got them more than a following. It got them a response. A response that they were sure to carry with them for the rest of their lives. It was a verbal response. And then a physical one. But it didn’t come from a mere man. It came from a demon. A real one. Not a middle school one. Here’s what he said.

“Jesus I know.”

Of course the demons knew Jesus. He created them and had them at his service before they rebelled. And still today they shudder in fear of him (James 2:19).

“Paul I recognize.”

Satan uses all of his resources to keep men blinded from seeing the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). Paul’s mission in life was to undo that blinding. And Satan took notice. He recognized Paul, not just as an enemy, but as a threat.

“But who are you?”

The Enemy was only really paying attention to those who were a direct threat to his kingdom. Why should he bother with seven boys who only cared about using Jesus to make a name for themselves? Today, why would Satan bother with a man who neglects prayer and prefers spending hours online looking at porn?  That’s just maintenance work for Satan. Keep the Internet connection going strong and let the rest take care of itself.

After that question, the demon possessed man jumped on the seven brothers, beat them and sent them running away naked. But that’s not nearly as troubling as that question.

“Who are you?”

This questions forces us to wonder if we are merely playing games and building our own kingdoms? Are our churches known by our adversary as a threat or are we seen as just another maintenance issue? Have another business meeting and let the rest take care of itself.

A couple of months from now all of the Hell Houses, Tribulation Trails and Judgement Journeys will be torn down. That big, open field will be empty again, except for the bus. And a lot of the people who had Jesus scared into them will already be back to their old way of living.

But the war will continue. For Christians, it’s a war that has already been fought and won on our behalf (Colossians 2:13-15). Nevertheless, battles still rage.

So we must continue to fight and endure until our Master returns.

And we must remember that the battlefield is no place for playing games.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)

There Is Something Evil In Our Society

Well, that didn’t take long. Roughly 90 seconds after news broke of Monday’s mass shooting in Washington D.C., the usual suspects fell in line and went to the Internet, radio and television to do what they do.

The conspiracy theorists told us that this was obviously a false flag operation designed by three men in the basement of a Norwegian castle. Don’t get me wrong. History is filled with conspiracies. But history is also filled with evil. And sometimes evil people do evil things without conspiring with anyone. Well, anyone but the devil.

The progressive politicians were at it too. They used the opportunity, and I use that word intentionally, to promote gun control. The president used guarded words to say that he and his administration would do, “everything that we can to prevent” tragedies like this one.

Senator Dianne Feinstein was more direct. “Congress must stop shirking its responsibility and resume a thoughtful debate on gun violence in this country.”

Of course, not too many politicians are asking how a man in a city with some of the strictest gun laws in the nation managed to walk into, get this, a highly secure military facility carrying a shotgun. Perhaps the federal government should spend more time investigating how to keep its own bases and employees safe instead of worrying about making it harder for average citizens to buy guns. But that would require politicians to stop finger-pointing and begin a bit of self-examination. Go ahead and carry on with your plans and I’ll let you know when something like that happens.

Maybe the best response to all of this came from a doctor. Janis Orlowski is the chief medical officer at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. She was the doctor overseeing the treatment of Monday’s victims and she has become an expert in tragedies like these.

“There’s something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work to try and eradicate.”

Tragedies like the one in D.C. on Monday tend to make us think that evil just kind of shows up every other month or so. But it’s with us everyday. It’s with us as our government funds the killing of babies and plans unprovoked attacks on other countries. It’s with us as we allow hate to fester and injustice to go unchecked.

But the real source of evil in our society isn’t a power-hungry politician with bad ideas. It’s an blood-thirsty adversary, bent on death and destruction.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)

No amount of gun control laws or libertarian principles can eradicate this evil. The answer isn’t found in wrapping ourselves in the American flag. We have to look deeper. Looking deeper takes work. It involves painful self-examination. It takes us to dark places and reminds us that we are in a daily battle where hanging in the balance are life and death, Heaven and Hell.

Wayne McDill once said, “the fundamental reality of every need is to trust God.” That’s a good word for us today. But it’s a hard one to apply. We want to feel like we’re doing something. We need more laws. Give us another speech. Show me something I can sign or like on Facebook. Something! Anything!

While there certainly is a time for action, that action tends to be counterproductive if it is not first rooted in trusting God (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9-10). That’s because we are not primarily working against bad laws or security flaws. We are fighting against an evil that is not new to our society. It has been attacking us and killing us since the Garden of Eden.

Sometimes it shows up in horrific ways like we saw on Monday.

Sometimes it’s federally funded.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Think About The Victims

Thirteen people are dead as a result of the latest American tragedy. Now, hundreds of loved ones are grieving. And an entire nation is grieving too.

You can tell a lot about people by how they grieve.

Take, for example, Monday night’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Before the game started, even before the national anthem was sung, a solemn voice came over the stadium’s intercom. Those in attendance were asked to stand. Stand and reflect. Stand and think about the victims of the mass shooting that had taken place earlier that day.

Reflect.

Think.

Maybe I’m just missing something. But what exactly is the point of reflecting? And how are families of victims benefited by our thoughts?

I get it. We’re not a Christian nation. Maybe we never were. That’s a debate for another time. But it’s not like I expected the public address announcer to begin a church service.

“And now, please rise as A.J. Green reads a selection from C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed while your Bengal cheerleaders do a creative movement routine to It Is Well with My Soul.”

But some cliches, no matter how ingrained they are in our vernacular, still make no sense. At best, they serve as ugly reminders of the void left when a culture has tried its best to do away with anything having to do with God.

I always have people telling me that they are praying for me. Before I preached last Sunday, I’m guessing that ten or fifteen people told me that they were praying for me. It did me a lot of good to know that a fellow Christian was going before the Creator of the universe on my behalf. And it encourages me to know that prayer is an action that involves each member of the Trinity, working for my ultimate good.

The Father hears me and knows what I need before I even approach him.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:7-8 (ESV)

Jesus, the Son, actually prays on my behalf. As nice as it is to know that friends are praying for me, I am overwhelmed that God’s Son takes my name and needs to the Father as he sees fit.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32 (ESV)

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Romans 8:34 (ESV)

And when we pray, the Holy Spirit takes our weak efforts to the Father, laying them before him with love and passion that words cannot describe.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26 (ESV)

With all that in mind, it seems a little silly to “send out my thoughts to the families.” It’s sort of like giving someone last week’s losing lottery ticket. Thanks for nothing.

So the next time something bad happens, whatever you do, don’t think about the victims. Pray for them. It really does work (Matthew 7:7-11).

And if something bad happens to you, don’t go nuts when someone says that they are, “thinking about you” or “sending positive energy your way.” I’m sure that the people mean well.

But just remember that the God who created you is doing more than thinking about you.

He is listening to you.

He is working on your behalf.

He is praying for you.