Christian, Nothing Will Happen To You Today

There are very few guarantees. You can’t be sure what will happen to you today. Things could be bad. The earthquake could hit your town. The siren could stop at your door. We can’t be sure.

But if you are a Christian, there’s something you can be sure of.

Nothing will happen to you today.

Nothing will happen to you today that God can’t redeem.

His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:18-20 (ESV)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (ESV)

Nothing will happen to you today that will diminish the source of your joy.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (ESV)

Nothing will happen to you today that is beyond God’s forgiveness.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (ESV)

Nothing will happen to you today that is outside of the loving control of Jesus Christ.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17 (ESV)

Nothing will happen to you today that will separate you from your Creator.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 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. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39 (ESV)

Nothing will happen to you today that will take away your inheritance.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV)

This day could end up being a bad one for you. I hope not but it could. We just don’t know. But when you lay your head down tonight to go to sleep, you will still be able to say that nothing happened to you today.

Nothing.

Nothing but the overwhelming love of Jesus played out before you in a thousand different ways.

Does He Have More Faith Than Anyone In Your Church?

photo-32

I have more faith than anyone else in my church.

I believe that the Bible is God’s word.

I sincerely believe that Jesus was born of a virgin.

I believe that he never sinned.

I believe that he is the Son of God.

I believe that he was crucified.

I believe that he died and was buried.

I believe that he rose from death on the third day.

I was there for it all. And it all scares me. I shudder just thinking about it. But I believe.

The people at my church are different. Their faith isn’t as strong as mine. It wasn’t always that way. I was assigned there a century ago when the people really believed. Jesus being crucified wasn’t just head knowledge for them. It was a truth that came from their hearts and played itself out in what they said with their mouths and did with their hands.

That too was a really scary time for me.

But with a lot of work, I got things under control.

Now concepts like the virgin birth, the crucifixion and the resurrection are just that. Concepts. Most of the people in the church check all of those boxes. But their belief never leaves their heads. It hasn’t found its way to their hearts and it certainly doesn’t make a difference in what they do or what they say.

We believe that the Bible is God’s word.

We sincerely believe that Jesus was born of a virgin.

We believe that he never sinned.

We believe that he is the Son of God.

We believe that he was crucified.

We believe that he died and was buried.

We believe that he rose from death on the third day.

Our beliefs will do us no good when Jesus returns to settle his score. The only works they have produced in me is my shuddering spirit. But that’s more than I can say for the people at my church. Their beliefs have produced nothing. Their belief alone will do them no good when the Enemy returns.

Their faith without works will condemn them to hell.

And by hell’s power, I’m fighting to keep it that way.

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! James 2:19 (ESV)

She’s Old, Blind And Slow But We Shouldn’t Want Her To Be Any Other Way

photo

There’s one thing we know about what happened in Ferguson, Missouri.

We don’t know what happened in Ferguson, Missouri.

Just under 100 percent of the population has no clue in regards to the events that day when Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown. Almost that many people want justice to be served. Well, at least that’s what we say. But a lot of times, we’d rather justice be our errand boy than our standard. We want justice to work for us. For our circle. For our movement. We’re not so concerned with her working for those who happen to be outside of our circle or our movement. Especially when it turns out that our circle or movement is in the wrong.

Here are a few questions for you to consider that should help you to see if it’s justice that you want or just blood.

What if it turns out that Darren Wilson was defending himself? What if Michael Brown really was coming at him with intent to kill after having already beaten him? And what if there was undeniable evidence to support this? Would you want justice or blood?

What if Darren Wilson yelled a racial slur at Michael Brown upon meeting him in the middle of the road? What if Darren Wilson really was out to get a black guy that day and planned on hiding behind his badge during the fallout. And what if there was undeniable evidence to support this? Would you want justice or blood?

What about the store owner who was allegedly bullied and robbed by Michael Brown? Do you care about him getting justice or is it okay for him to be forgotten about in all of this?

These are all what ifs. And like I said, none of us has the answers to what really happened that day. Eventually, we’ll have more. But it takes time.

In the meantime, it’s good to take your questions, concerns and even frustrations before the media. It’s fine to have peaceful protests in the street. But there’s one thing that can’t happen right now through the media and in the streets.

Court.

If it’s justice that we really want, we’ll resist the urge to find her by listening to media outlets that are, at best, speculative. If it’s justice that we want, we won’t go looking for her to make an appearance right this second in the streets.

No, that doesn’t mean that you are to sit back and do nothing while you watch things get bogged down in the court system. You should hold officials accountable. You should question the narrative that is being fed to you from both sides. And you should prepare yourself for the possibility that the guy you’ve supported through all of this is in the wrong.

Lady justice is slow. That’s frustrating but it’s also how she does some of her best work. She rarely serves us well when she is forced to make her decision right this second nor does she do us any favors by getting tangled up in red tape and corruption. So, by all means, question those who claim to work on her behalf. Hold them accountable so that they will do their job with integrity. Carry signs and march around their buildings. Just remember to be patient.

Since the 15th century, Lady Justice has been depicted in statues and paintings wearing a blindfold. This small symbol reminds us that when she is working correctly, Lady Justice makes no decision based on color, income or social standing. Truth, not public opinion or even sympathy, is her guide.

Lady Justice is blindfolded.

But she’s not wearing earplugs.

If an accurate depiction of Lady Justice were done today, the blindfolded lady would have Fox News, MSNBC, angry mobs and those with long held prejudices whispering in her ear.

But in the end, Lady Justice won’t listen to those voices. It’s only the truth that she cares about.

And if it’s truth and not blood that we’re after, we’ll respond to those voices just like that old, blind and slow lady.

Are You Sure That You Want The Separation Of Church And State?

photo-22

A Georgia high school football coach is in hot water. He didn’t punch one of his players. He wasn’t having an inappropriate relationship with a student.

He was praying.

With his football team.

There were also Bible verses on several team documents.

In an absolutely non-shocking development, the American Humanist Association is threatening to sue the school district. They are demanding that the coaching staff at Chestatee High School stop participating in team prayers and that they no longer include Bible verses or other religious materials on team documents.

In cases like this one, groups such as the American Humanist Association always use the same phrase. The separation of church and state. And the state usually always goes along with the separating. But it’s not a total separation that the state really wants.

I never hear anything about the separation of church and state when the state wants to use a church building so that people in the community can get a shower and a warm meal after a tornado wipes out an entire neighborhood. Can you imagine that one?

“Sorry, folks. Can’t go in there. I know you’re tired and hungry but it’s a church! Run away!”

I wonder how the people in my voting district would respond this November if they found out that they had to drive out of their district to vote, all in an effort to avoid casting their ballot inside of a church building. Gasp!

When a few kids at a Georgia high school get killed in a car wreck, church and state separation always seems to take a break. For some reason, your son’s old principal saying, “We’re thinking about you and sending good thoughts your way during this difficult time” doesn’t carry as much weight as your son’s old football coach saying, wait for it, an actual prayer. Oh the humanity!

The state isn’t really interested in the separation of church and state. They want the two to work together just so long as it’s the church working for and in total submission to the state.

In that sense, I’m all for a separation of church and state.

When bakers, wedding planners and pastors decide not to perform a marriage for a gay couple because homosexual marriage violates their beliefs, will the state and the American Humanist Association come to the defense of those bakers, wedding planners and pastors? Will they stand in his defense, referencing their favorite separation of church and state arguments? Not likely.

You can legislate prayer out of school. You can bully prayer out of school. But you can never really take prayer out of school.

For those who truly belong to Jesus, prayer is more than a political statement or a freedom issue. It’s communion with their Master. And that Master happens not to be the state. That Master is the One who gives the state its power and the One who can just as easily take it away. That’s the One we pray to. And that’s why a law will never keep us from praying or obeying Scripture.

Neither will a bully.

Neither will a den of hungry lions.

What Every Kid Needs To Hear At The End Of A Bad Day

photo-5

Bad days are inevitable. You have them. And if they haven’t already, your kids will too.

Here’s what they’re going to need to hear from you.

1. “What happened?”

At some point your kid is going to need to process what went wrong. There’s no one better for him to do that processing with than you. This isn’t the time for you to give advice on how to throw a better curve ball. It isn’t the time for you to flip out over the grade on his math test. This is the part where you listen.

At the end of one of those days where it seems like everything went wrong, your kid is looking for more than an expert. He’s looking for someone who will listen. So if you must be an expert in something, be an expert in listening to your kid.

2. “I fail too.”

Have you ever noticed how rare it is for the children of highly successful people to be successful in the same field as their parent? Growing up in the shadow of greatness can be harder than it looks. If you’re any kind of a parent, your daughter is going to think that you’re great. Perfect, even. She’s going to think that you never blew it like she did today.

You need to tell her that she’s wrong. You need to tell her about that time when you got a 13 on your history test. Or the one where you struck out. In softball. Slow pitch church league softball.

Just don’t stop there. Tell her how you moved on. Any good fall down story ends with getting back up. Remind her that you still fall down. But be sure to tell her how you keep getting up. Encourage her to do the same.

3. “You don’t have to be the best but you better try your best.”

This is where parents get sidetracked. We think that our kid being the 12th best player on his team of 15 is somehow an indictment against us. So we push him harder. We demand that he be the best. But we forget something very important. Being the best at a young age is probably one of the worst things that can happen to a kid.

When he’s number 12 out of 15, he only has two options if he wants to keep up and not get run over. He can either work hard or he can give up. Since giving up isn’t an option, being around a dozen or so people who are better than him will force your kid to work harder. During all of that hard work, something is happening. He’s getting better.

Your son may never be the best kid on his team. But, if he keeps giving his best effort, he’ll be better than he was yesterday. And the benefits of that kind of growth will stay with him for the rest of his life.

4. “What do you think that you need to work on.”

This is the advice stage. This is the part where you find a tutor. It’s the part where you spend some time in the backyard working on that curve ball. And it’s the part where your child learns the value of hard work and the patience that comes with trying to master a skill. There is a lot of growth happening here. You’ll want to be around for it.

Just be careful.

Make sure that this skill development and hard work isn’t happening for your benefit. There’s nothing wrong with helping your kid get better at something. There’s a lot wrong with using your kid to help you look better. Never confuse the two.

5. “I’m proud of you.”

It’s possible for a parent to be lying when he says this. That’s because he’s really not proud of his daughter. He’s proud of what she’s accomplished. It may not seem like much but there is a big difference here.

If you truly are proud of your daughter, and not just some number on a page, you’ll be proud when she finishes the semester with an 84 in Chemistry. You’ll be proud, not because she was at the top of her class but because you saw how hard she worked to bring her grade up after a rough start to the semester. You saw her late nights spent studying. You saw her early morning tutorial sessions.

And when you see her, you may not see the best Chemistry student in the class but you do see a girl who tried her best.

And that makes you proud.

Be sure to let her know.

6. “I’ll have two cookies and cream milkshakes.”

Talk is good. Advice is too. But sometimes, at the end of a bad day, your son just needs to sit down with his dad and drink a milkshake. Maybe you talk about your favorite movies. Maybe you talk about places you’d like to travel to. Talk about anything. Anything but that missed shot, that bad grade and that broken relationship. Or, perhaps, you could even talk about nothing.

There’s a time for talk.

But, every now and then, there are those times when the only sound a kid needs to hear is that noise his dad makes when he’s trying to get the last drop of a cookies and cream milkshake through a straw.

Bad days are inevitable. You have them. Your kids will too.

But they should never have them alone.

Mercy And Judgment On The Side Of The Road

photo-2

I pulled over to the side of the road. My friend was in the passenger’s seat. He didn’t know what I was doing. It’s not his fault. He’s didn’t grow up in the south.

A funeral procession was coming by. In the south, that means that you pull over to the side of the road. The south isn’t perfect. No place on earth is. But it’s home for me. And pulling over on the side of the road during a funeral procession is one of the things I like about my home.

Last weekend I was on the other side of the funeral procession. I was the one who preached the funeral. I was the one driving in the car directly behind the hearse. I was the one watching everyone else pull over.

It was a Saturday afternoon in one of the more highly populated counties in Georgia. There was business to be done and places to get to. But for a few minutes at least, none of that mattered. For a few minutes, everyone stopped.

All for a man they never knew.

Black kids stopped.

Older white women stopped.

Men in loaded down work trucks stopped.

Women in convertibles stopped.

We drove by two different men who were cutting their grass. Both of them stopped.

All for a man they never knew.

No one asked the political persuasion of the deceased. No one asked what color he was. No one asked about his views on immigration or Iraq. They just stopped. Everyone stopped.

I was proud of my home while I was driving behind that hearse. People say that things are slower down here. Maybe they’re right. Pulling over to the side of the road and stopping everything has a way of slowing you down. Slow isn’t always so bad.

Slow makes it easier for you to think.

And nothing makes you think quite like a funeral procession.

For all of the differences between conservatives and progressives, whites and blacks, old and young, we all have one thing in common. We’re all going to die. We may even take a ride in a hearse. Hopefully people will pull over for us.

There is another certainty.

After we die, we will be judged. We will all stand before our Creator to give an account for our life. He won’t ask us if we forwarded that picture of Jesus to ten friends. He won’t ask us if we did a good enough job of getting our point across. He won’t ask us how many followers we had. In his own way, he’ll ask us whose righteousness we had.

There are only two possible answers.

My righteousness, which comes through pride and effort and leads to eternal punishment or Jesus’ righteousness which comes through faith and repentance and leads to eternal life.

If you have Jesus’ righteousness, you know mercy.

And if you really know mercy, you’ll show it to others.

So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:12-13 (ESV)

Why What’s Happening In Ferguson, Missouri Matters To All Of Us

photo-9

Ferguson, Missouri has been on fire since earlier this week when police shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed black male. You probably don’t live in Ferguson, Missouri so you think that this isn’t your problem. You’re not a black male youth so you convince yourself that none of this has anything to do with you. And you certainly don’t want to be associated with Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and all of the looters so you convince yourself that the riots in Ferguson really don’t matter to you.

You couldn’t be more wrong.

What’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri should matter to all of us because justice should matter to all of us.

If police shoot an unarmed person, whether it’s your homecoming queen daughter or a black male youth in a hoodie, we should all want justice. And here’s the thing about those more and more frequent miscarriages of justice that we are seeing in our neighborhoods. If you enjoy the bliss of ignorance while the injustice is happening in someone else’s neighborhood, it’ll be too late to do anything when it comes to yours.

Oppression and tyranny are not bound by race. Justice and compassion shouldn’t be either.

What’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri should matter to all of us because it forces us to come to grips with our own hypocrisy.

On Thursday, the president and other members of his party called for the police to scale back in Ferguson. President Obama called it “excessive force.” “Excessive force” is another word for too much government. It’s always interesting to see the proponents of large government suddenly get uncomfortable when the fruits of their labors spill out into the streets.

On the other side we have so-called conservative commentators who question every aspect about President Obama’s agenda. Nothing is off limits. Every word from the White House is met with skepticism. All of this is done in the name of fighting against big government. But when big government comes crashing down on the other side of the tracks, residents of Ferguson are told not to question their local police.

Both extremes are examples of what happens when we value systems of political thought over concepts like justice and compassion. Both extremes are reminders of just how deep our hypocrisy runs.

What’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri should matter to all of us because we need to be reminded of our stereotypes and how the media fuels them.

Remember when Tony Stewart was driving his race car and ran over that guy who was running toward him. Common sense would tell us that you should never pick a fight with a man who is driving toward you in a race car. But our stereotypes often trump common sense. So Tony Stewart suddenly becomes a rich, raging, murderous redneck.

The same force is at play here. Don’t let Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and all of the looters fool you. They are the bottom feeders in this situation and the media loves to shine a light on the bottom feeders. That’s why you never see a television station interview a chemical engineer after a tornado comes through and wipes out his neighborhood. They’d rather get a soundbite from the toothless guy in his pajamas.

Whenever something like this happens, knuckleheads and professional instigators will always show up. It’s what they do. But don’t let them doing what they do distract you from what’s really happening. I’m a white male who strongly supports limited government but I certainly don’t want Sean Hannity or the Klan representing me. There are a lot of black people in Ferguson right now who feel the same way about Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and the looters.

Focus on the issue, not the media’s go to pitchmen and knuckleheads.

What’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri should matter to all of us because when the local police start acting like the military, it’s never a good thing.

Police are like preachers and bloggers. There are a lot of good ones. But you better be on the lookout for the bad ones because they’re around too. Even the police chief for the city of St. Louis encouraged skepticism among citizens in this case. It’s just too bad that the police in Ferguson don’t feel the same way.

Allowing citizens and the press to ask questions might get in the way of what seems to be a totalitarian agenda in Ferguson. That’s why you see police driving around in an armored vehicle, arresting city leaders and journalists for using camera phones and, for no reason and without constitutional support, clearing out local businesses and thus having almost the same impact on those businesses as the looters did. It’s also why you saw local business owners having to defend themselves against looters while the police were nowhere to be found.

To those in power who pervert justice, a man with a camera and a microphone is much more threatening than a mob looking for free TVs.

What’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri should matter to all of us because we are all carriers of God’s image. Oppression, totalitarianism, government bullying and murder all do damage to God’s image bearers. That’s why nothing ever really is “a black issue” or “a white issue.” It’s a we issue. And right now we are watching justice hang in the balance in Ferguson.

If justice doesn’t matter to us all, may God have mercy on us.

Because we can be sure that our oppressors will not.

23 Cents

photo-4

It was one of the only restaurants in town.

And then it closed down.

In a way, it was my fault.

We used to meet there every Sunday morning. I was teaching a Sunday School class for teenagers. When I first started teaching, they would beg me to take them out for some breakfast. I usually said no. More and more, I started to give in. Eventually, we were meeting there every week.

That restaurant was a funny place.

If you looked behind the counter you could see buckets full of grease sitting on the floor. Well, it looked like grease. I hope it was grease. I think.

And they were usually out of stuff. At least two Sunday mornings a month, we’d hear, “We ain’t got no more” when we ordered a biscuit or some eggs. How can you not have “no more” sausage? It’s 9 in the morning. You’ve been open for two hours. How do you run out of sausage in just two hours? Were you looted just before we came in? But we never asked those questions. We just turned and walked to our tables and enjoyed our sausage and biscuit without the sausage.

My favorite thing about that restaurant was paying for our food. I wish that the NSA was recording everything back then so that I could pull it up on YouTube and show you how this all went down.

Restaurant Worker: “What you want?”

Me: “I’ll have a biscuit, eggs and a large orange juice.”

Restaurant worker: “That’ll be 23 cents.”

Me: “Sorry?”

Restaurant worker: “23 cents.”

Eventually, I stopped saying sorry and just paid the 23 cents. Coincidentally, I also started ordering a lot more food.

Me: “I’d like a biscuit, eggs, a large orange juice, two hamburgers, a milkshake, one of those hats they make you wear and the drive-thru intercom.”

Restaurant worker: “That’ll be 23 cents. But we ain’t got no more hats.”

I was amazed. This was quickly becoming my favorite restaurant. Sure, the food was questionable, the grease buckets were full, the roaches were active and there weren’t usually any eggs for the omelet you ordered but it was cheap. Dirt cheap.

But how?

I found out that one of the workers was friends with the mother of one of the guys in my Sunday School class. Apparently they were really good friends. I’m guessing that this guy’s mother must have saved the restaurant worker’s life at some point. But who cares? Just give me my 23 cent breakfast.

I did wonder from time to time how this restaurant afforded to give us these bargain prices. It turns out that they couldn’t. Which explains why we arrived one Sunday morning to discover that our Sunday School class had been boarded up.

The worker thought that she was doing us a favor. And I guess that she was. We got to eat a lot of food without paying a lot of money. But she wasn’t doing herself any favors. She certainly wasn’t doing her boss any favors.

That lady that gave us all of those deals wasn’t the owner of our Sunday School restaurant. She just worked there. It was her job to provide quality service to the customer while generating revenue for the business. Instead, she just gave stuff away. Until the place where she worked went out of business.

There’s a fine line between compassion and stealing. Compassion is an act of self-sacrifice to help another in need. Stealing is what you do when you act as though someone else’s money is yours.

I wish that old restaurant would open back up for just one day. I’d like to have a meal there with a few of our leaders up in Washington D.C. You know, the ones who think that the answer to every problem is just to spend more money that doesn’t belong to them. I’d like to see the look on their faces when they walk up to the counter to place their order.

Politician: “I’d like sausage and eggs.”

Restaurant Worker: “We ain’t got no more.”

At some point, if things don’t change, that’s a phrase that those politicians will have to say to their hand-out seeking constituents. But, although there will be nothing more to give, those politicians will still want all of us to pay up.

And it will be a lot more than 23 cents.