In Defense of Kirk Herbstreit

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I’ve been critical of Kirk Herbstreit, the analyst for ESPN’s College GameDay. My problem wasn’t personal. It was petty. I always thought that Kirk was biased toward the team he once played for, the Ohio State Buckeyes. I hate the Ohio State Buckeyes. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that we’re all biased. If I had Kirk’s job, 15 minutes of every episode of College GameDay would be devoted to the Georgia Bulldogs. And ESPN’s ratings would tank.

Something else has happened with age. And I’m not just referring to my age.

I’ve realized that Kirk Herbstreit is an example of what it means to be a man.

Herbstreit and Coach Lee Corso have been analysts for College GameDay since the show’s beginning. Herbstreit has always come to the table with the expertise that comes with having played quarterback for a major college football program. Corso always brought a level of goofiness to the show. But it wasn’t too much. Even when the old coach picked against our team, we all still loved him. Not everyone would admit it, but Corso has always been a big reason why we keep tuning back in every Saturday in the fall.

In 2009, Corso, who is now 81, had a stroke. He spent a significant amount of time in the hospital and rehab. He made it back to his spot in front of the camera by the next football season. And he’s still there, putting on mascot headgear and firing up fanbases all across the country.

But he’s not the same.

Coach Corso’s timing is a little off. He gets confused. He stumbles over words. He looks, well, like a guy in his 80s who had a stroke a few years ago. Our culture frowns upon that sort of thing. We prefer the young and unblemished over the old and wrinkled. The old and wrinkled have a way of reminding us of where we’re all headed.

A few weeks ago, I watched College GameDay with my kids. Coach Corso was having a hard time saying what he wanted to say. It was like his mind and his mouth weren’t in tune with each other. That week’s celebrity guests even gave him a little grief for his frequent verbal fumbles.

It was hard to watch.

But as I paid closer attention, I saw the beauty in what was happening.

While I was listening to what Corso was trying to say, I couldn’t help but notice what he was doing. He and Kirk Herbstreit, the former college football quarterback and current ambassador of the game, were holding hands with each other. If you’ve ever had to talk on TV, you know that losing your train of thought for a split second feels like three hours. It’s brutal.

Kirk was lending his hand to the aging coach to remind him that it was okay. He wasn’t alone. And when the words just wouldn’t come out, Herbstreit was there to fill in the blanks. Or offer a gentle correction.

There are plenty of men who can run fast and lift a lot of weight but who don’t know what it really means to be a man. Kirk Herbstreit seems to know. God didn’t design men to be strong as an end in itself. The strength he gave to men is meant to serve those whose strength is fading.

Christians talk a lot about respecting life. Usually, we’re referring to the unborn when we talk that way. That’s a good thing. But it’s not the whole story. Respecting life also involves caring for the young adult who has to dodge bullets on his way to work. And it refers to serving those who have been around for the better part of a century and who aren’t what they used to be. Sort of like Kirk Herbstriet has been doing every Saturday since Lee Corso’s stroke.

Kirk Herbstreit likes Ohio State. It’s obvious.

But Kirk Herbstreit loves and respects Lee Corso. That’s even more obvious.

And for that, I’ll always be a fan of the former Ohio State quarterback.

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Four Things To Remember Before Fear Consumes You

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Christians are not immune to frightening situations. But we do not have to be consumed with fear. If you are in Christ, here are four things that are true for you. They were true on the day that you became a Christian. They’ll be true the day after the elections.

Your reasons to trust in God are greater than your reasons to fear man. 

To the choirmaster: according to The Dove on Far-off Terebinths. A Miktam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath.

Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.
When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 56:1-4 (ESV)

God’s justice is greater than man’s schemes.

All day long they injure my cause;
all their thoughts are against me for evil.
They stir up strife, they lurk;
they watch my steps,
as they have waited for my life.
For their crime will they escape?
In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!

Psalm 56:5-7 (ESV)

The one who is for you is greater than the one who is against you.

You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

Psalm 56:8-11 (ESV)

The God who lifts you up is greater than the grave that holds you down. 

I must perform my vows to you, O God;
I will render thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.

Psalm 56:12-13 (ESV)

When you feel overwhelmed by the evil schemes of man, just look to the character of God.

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Four Things That Every Christian Has Been Given

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Peter knew suffering. And he knew suffering people. But that didn’t crush his hope. In fact, it strengthened it. Here’s what Peter, the man who would later know what it’s like to be crucified for his faith, wrote to a community of fellow believers who were all too familiar with persecution.

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. 1 Peter 1:3 (ESV)

That’s a short verse but it’s loaded with encouragement for believers. You may not be facing death for your faith. Perhaps you haven’t lost a parent to persecution. But, no doubt, there have been times when you have felt like all hope was lost. Well, if you’re a Christian, it wasn’t. And it never will be.

Usually when people talk about hope, we roll our eyes. Hope seems like one of those nice things we like to talk about but never actually realize. That’s a fair assessment of the world’s hope. But Christian hope is different. It is rooted in an actual person – Jesus Christ. It’s traced back to an actual event – the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And it is directed toward a specific people – those who have been set free from sin by Jesus Christ.

When you became Christian, God gave you so much more than a Get Out Of Hell Free card. He has given us more than we could possibly ever imagine. Focusing on these four gifts from God will help us to see that, no matter how hot the fires burn against us, we are never without hope.

Christian, God has given you a Savior. 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”

Our.

Our!

Because of the grace of God the Father and the sacrifice of God the Son, we have belonging in the family of God. Because of your Savior, Jesus Christ, you have a Father who is in heaven. You have been adopted out of the slums of hopelessness and into the family of God. There is One who hears your cry. There is One who calls you his own.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7 (ESV)

Christian, God has given you mercy. 

This isn’t NFL Draft Day where the elite shine and all of the teams fight for the player they need the most. We have nothing to offer God. God was doing just fine without us. He does not need us. He never was lonely without us. But he has still chosen us when he had every right to crush us. That’s called mercy. It’s God not giving you what you deserve. The last thing you want from God is what you deserve.

David realized that after his great sin with Bathsheba.

 

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions. Psalm 51:1 (ESV)

God does not wash away our sins according to our goodness. God’s washing away of our sins is solely the result of his goodness and mercy.

Christian, God has given you new life. 

Born again is a phrase that those of us who have grown up in the church have heard a lot but often forget what it means. We think that it was invented by a presidential candidate or some gospel singer. It goes back long before that.

One night, Jesus talked to a Pharisee named Nicodemus and told him that he must be born again. Nicodemus was blown away. He was thinking of a physical rebirth. But Jesus cleared things up.

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 (ESV)

Being born again gives us more than just a new status in this life. It gives us a new dwelling in the next life. Since you have been born again, you have a place for all eternity in the kingdom of God. And as Peter goes on to tell his readers, nothing can take that place away from you.

Christian, you have real hope. 

There are millions of gods in our world but the one thing that sets our God apart from the rest is the empty tomb. Muhammad died. The Buddha died. And Jesus died. But Jesus didn’t stay that way. He has no final resting place, at least in the sense that we use the term. And because of that, your final resting place will be in a new heaven and a new earth. Finally and forever, you will rest from sin and death and temptation and worry and hopelessness.

So Christian, stop allowing your fears, your adversaries and the scary world you live in to defeat you. You come from a long line of suffering saints who didn’t give up. Rather, they looked back to an empty tomb and they looked ahead to eternal joy. That is to say, they looked to Jesus.

In him, you have victory.

Guaranteed.

And that’s real hope.

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Scars In Heaven

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Christians have a lot to look forward to. No matter how bad it gets on this earth, we know that things won’t stay this way. Pain and heartache will not last. Death does not get the final say.

That’s not to say that life isn’t hard for Christians. It is. And it doesn’t mean that we look forward to the day of our death with some creepy fascination. We just know that hardships are no match for the eternal joy that will be ours with Christ. We know that death, though painful, does not get the final say.

Of all people, Christians have the greatest reason for hope.

As our bodies age, hurt and betray us, we know that we have the promise of a new and imperishable body that will be beyond description and equipped with everything that we need to fully enjoy and obey God (1 Corinthians 15:42-49).

In the new heavens and new earth, there will be no cancer hospitals, no AIDS, no jails, no political corruption, no divorce, no broken hearts and no sin.

But there will be scars in heaven.

Those scars won’t be ours. That weird mark just above your eyebrow from the time when you thought that the sliding glass door was opened will be long gone in heaven. Your new body will not carry the marks of your kidney surgery or that old football injury.

The only scars in heaven will belong to Jesus.

In talking about our new bodies, Paul tells the Corinthians that we will bear the image of the resurrected Christ (1 Corinthians 15:49). After Jesus rose from the grave, he was not the bloody mess that he was while the Romans beat him. He didn’t walk around with the fatigue he had on the cross. But he still the scars.

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:24-28 (ESV)

In his resurrected body, Jesus walked with people and carried on conversations with them (Luke 24:13-35). He walked through walls (John 20:26) but he was no ghost. In his resurrected body, Jesus even prepared and ate breakfast with his disciples (John 21:1-14).

But why? Jesus had the power to conquer death. Couldn’t he also get rid of the scars that the crucifixion left on his body? Of course he could. But there’s a reason why he didn’t.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)

Jesus did not die simply to redeem our souls. His death redeemed us as whole persons. That includes our bodies.

When we finally get to enjoy the new heavens and the new earth with our scar free bodies we will look to Jesus and be constantly reminded of how it all came to be. Scars have a way of reminding us of things.

Every scar has a story just beneath it.

Several years ago I was playing with my dog in the backyard. I named him Hines after Hines Ward, the great Georgia Bulldog football star. My dog was big and looked mean but he was really friendly. Sometimes he was too friendly. I have a scar on my hand from one of Hines’ friendly moments. Whenever I look at that scar, I think about Hines.

And so it will be for us in eternity. The scars that remain on our Lord will remind us of what really matters. They will help us to remember that our new bodies are only possible because of Christ’s broken body.

I can’t wait for the day when all diseases are gone. I’m looking forward to finding out what it will be like to have a body that is not broken by sin. But, as nice as that will be, none of it is the ultimate point.

Christ is.

And for all eternity, his scars will remind us of that.

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Peaceful Easy Feeling

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I mean no disrespect to David Bowie. I was sad to hear of his death last week. I felt bad for his fans. But I wasn’t one of them. The same goes for Alan Rickman. And Dan Haggerty.

Glenn Frey joined them in death on Monday night. But his passing really bothered me. Whenever the folks in Hollywood finally get around to making a movie about my life, there will be quite a few songs on the soundtrack that were written by Glenn Frey.

Their Greatest Hits album was among the first CDs I ever bought from those Columbia House mail outs where you could by 12 albums for a penny. Later on, when I needed money in college, I pawned it for five bucks. And a few years after that, when you could download your albums online, guess which one was among of the first.

I put a lot of miles on my car while listening to the Eagles. I thought about life while listening to the Eagles. I wondered how a Don Henley could play the drums and sing at the same time while listening to the Eagles. Don was the most talented and had the most successful solo career. But Glenn was always my favorite.

We have a tradition in our house. At pretty much every meal, we listen to music. A lot of meals in our home have been eaten while Glenn Frey sang to us about taking it easy. It didn’t take long for my sons to fall in love with the Eagles like their father did. There were quite a few nights when they would ask me if they could listen to the Eagles while they fell asleep.

I always said yes.

Glenn Frey was 67 when he died on Monday. That seems to be the norm for the rock stars who make it out of their 20s. Whenever I listen to the Eagles, that’s where Glenn Frey is. His 20s.

On Monday night, I was reminded of how wrong I was. Glenn Frey wasn’t 20. He was 67. His music may live on and on but he will not. And that makes me sad.

When I was in college, right around the time the Eagles got back together, we had to go to chapel everyday. On Fridays, there was usually a band that played the cool, cutting edge music that apparently wasn’t allowed to be played the rest of the week. They played a song called Sweet Home Up Above Us to the tune of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama. See what they did there? And they also used to play Amazing Grace to the tune of the Eagle’s Peaceful Easy Feeling. It was basically the same words as the old hymn with the chorus to Peaceful Easy Feeling thrown in.

I’ve got a peaceful easy feeling

And I know you won’t let me down

Cause I’m already standing on the ground

Glenn Frey lived the life of a rock and roll star. It’s that lifestyle that likely caught up with him at 67. It wasn’t always peaceful and easy for Glenn. Sure, he was successful, but there was still turmoil. There was heartache. And there was sickness.

I just hope that at some point before Monday night, Glenn Frey, even in the face of death, got to experience God’s Amazing Grace.

The Least Segregated Place In America

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It’s been said that the Sunday morning service is the most racially segregated hour of the week. Last Sunday, I went to the least segregated hour.

I parked my car in one of the last spaces available and took a deep breath. I had been inside this building before but that still didn’t make it any easier. I always feel like I need to prepare myself before I go into this place.

Inside, I walked quietly through the hallway with my head down. I finally noticed the man that I came to see. He’s white and he was in the middle of a conversation with a black lady. When he saw me, he stopped talking and introduced me to the lady.

He told me that they were helping each other.

They couldn’t have been more different. Their genders, their race and their background where opposites. But that didn’t matter. One thing brought them together.

Death.

I was in a hospice. My friend’s father had just passed away. He was holding it together as good as you might expect. The lady I had just met was helping him. And he was helping her as she coped with the loss of her loved one. Although they were strangers, they were there for each other.

My friend walked me down the hallway to see his dad. Other family members were in there. They were grieving too. But not as those who have no hope. They knew that the man who had been sick for so many years was with Jesus now. Stories of the man’s life and legacy came out with ease.

The family told stories of fatherly discipline.

There were stories of hunting trips, school and playing in the band.

And there was one last story.

Just before death came to that room, one of the hospice nurses came in. She sang a hymn. She was black. The man she was singing over was white. The Savior who was about to receive the man created and loved them both.

We can go to churches and even school based on our racial preferences. Death doesn’t work that way. It comes to us all. And in a weird way, it brings us together.

In that hospice, there was no talk of confederate flags or white privilege or Louis Farrakhan or #blacklivesmatter. None of that mattered. There was only pain. Shared pain. And a hope that was shared too.

A while back I asked a man who has been alive for a few decades longer than me what he thought about the racial tension in our country today. How does it compare to the 1950s and 1960s?

“It doesn’t,” he told me. “It’s much worse today.”

A lot has been done in the name of stopping it. New words have been added to our culture’s non-written Do Not Use List. People are getting angry. The government is spending money. But none of it is helping.

Last Sunday, sitting in that hospice and surrounded by death, it hit me. Maybe we could all get along better if we started living like we do when we’re in the hospice. Maybe if we remembered that in life, just like in the hospice, no one gets out alive, we would stop letting our differences separate us.

For all of our differences, whites and blacks have one thing in common.

Death.

There is no amount of privilege, pride or resistance that will help us to escape it. For all of the pain that it brings us, death brings us something better. It brings us together. That’s how Jesus works. He is the Master of redeeming even the most painful of situations.

When I finally walked out of that hospice building last Sunday, I prayed a prayer. It’s the same prayer that I always pray when I leave those places.

“Lord, send Jesus back quickly.”

There’s nothing quite like a trip to the hospice to remind you of what we will not have once Jesus returns.

But there was more to this particular trip. This time, I got to see just a glimpse of what we will have after Jesus comes back.

The One who will one day forever remove death’s sting is the same one who will One day forever remove society’s segregation. In eternity, the worship services will not be segregated. All followers of Christ will offer up our praise to Jesus. Together.

And they sang a new song, saying,“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:9-10 (ESV)

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The Worst Thing God Could Do To You

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What is the worst thing that God could do to you?

Give you cancer?

Make you go through a bankruptcy?

Send you a letter from the IRS?

Here’s another question. Imagine how your life would look if God gave you everything you ever wanted.

You would be wildly popular. And fit. And rich.

And dead.

And maybe even in hell.

Hell, in case you are unaware, is one of only two places where popularity, fitness and wealth do not matter.

The worst thing that God could possibly ever do to you is to give you everything you’ve ever wanted. Take a moment to think about all of the bad things that have happened to you. Think about all of the bad things that have happened to family and friends that you would rather have had happen to you.

The endless nights in tiny ICU waiting rooms.

Speaking to the long line of well-meaning friends when you would really rather just be speaking to the person in the casket behind you.

The rejection.

The failure.

The heartache.

Think about all of those moments from your life. Now, think about where you would be without those moments. It’s not as pretty as you might think.

This is the part where I’m supposed to say something about your Fight Song or about whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.

I’m not.

The message of the Bible is not whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.

Instead, the Bible tells us that whatever tries to kill us reminds us of our weaknesses, not our strengths. And it tells us that sometimes what seems to make us stronger is what kills us (Proverbs 16:18). But it is in our weaknesses that we find a strength greater than we could ever possess.

The strength of Christ.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV)

And the strength of Christ is something that we will never know if we’re busy merely counting our blessings, pulling ourselves up by our boot straps or singing our Fight Song.

Christians are given a simple promise from God. It’s not a promise of a new Bentley on 26-inch rims with Slow-n-Low written on the top of the tinted windshield and a tag on the front bumper that reads #TrulyBlessed. His promise is much better than that.

His promise is his presence (Matthew 1:23; 28:20).

Sometimes it’s easy to recognize the presence of God. We can be reminded of it while we sit back and look at a beautiful sunset with our family at our side.

But, too often, we miss it. Our supposed strength tends to get in the way sometimes. Thankfully, the faithful presence of our good God is not confined to sunsets on the beach.

We can know his presence in the funeral home. We can know it in the ICU waiting room. We can know it in the actual ICU room.

If God always gave us everything that we ever wanted, we would all believe that terrible lie that we can make it on our own. God sometimes sends pain our way (2 Corinthians 12:7). But that pain is never an end in itself. And it is always grace. It is grace because it points us to a strength greater than our own and a Savior greater than our possessions.

 

The worst thing that God could ever do to you is to give you everything you ever wanted.

The best thing that God could ever do for you is to give you more of himself. To make you more aware of his loving, sovereign presence. To make you more like Jesus.

Jesus.

He is the beginning of our journey. He is the heart of our journey. And he is the objective of our journey.

Sometimes that journey will lead you through beautiful beaches.

Sometimes it will lead you through the ICU.

But God’s promise is always true.

You are never alone. Jesus is with you and his power if perfect in you.

I have no idea why some people have to walk a path through hospital waiting rooms while others spend their nights enjoying moonlit beaches. I’ve been in both places. And if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t change either one.

That’s because the beach and the waiting room have something in common.

Jesus is in both places.

But sometimes he’s easier to recognize in the waiting room.

But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:1-2 (ESV)

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Time Tells A Story

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A kid my age wasn’t supposed to like that sort of thing. I was captivated. I couldn’t help it.

My grandfather was a storyteller. He could tell a story better than anyone I’ve ever heard. On Sunday afternoons, after eating the massive lunch that my grandmother had prepared, we would all find a chair and listen to the master do his work.

He told stories about haints. A haint, in case you’re not from the south, is a ghost. I used to think that there was no such thing as haints but I’ve visited a few churches that cause me to have my doubts. His haint stories were the perfect balance of scary and funny.

He told stories about his time fighting in the South Pacific during the second World War. There were friends who died just after finding out that they’d be going home soon. There were crazy soldiers walking around with the ears of the men they had killed. There were enemy soldiers who came way too close to putting an end to my grandfather and his stories. Again, there was balance. These stories were part patriotic masterpieces and part horror. There was no humor.

And he told stories about quitting school as a kid to take care of his family after his father died. In spite of the hardships, these stories made us laugh. No matter how often we heard them.

The stories all had one thing in common. Each one highlighted the faithfulness of God. My grandfather was no theologian but, in his own way, he was doing more than just telling stories. He was preaching sermons. His sermons told of a God who is trustworthy. Even while bullets are flying in the South Pacific. Even when fathers die. And even when something called a haint appears to be walking in the middle of the road.

When the stories ended, my mom, my sister and I climbed back into our wood paneled station wagon for the hour long trip up Interstate 75 back to our south Atlanta home. Mom drove, my sister sat up front and I was always in the very back, where the party is.

My grandparents hated that. They would always remind us of some kid they saw on the news who had to have his spleen removed because he was riding in the back of a station wagon when it wrecked. As we drove off, the look of worry on their faces made it seem like they were shipping us off to the South Pacific to fight another war.

After being taken care of in a war, provided for through childhood and comforted from supposed southern ghosts, my grandparents were still consumed with worry.

This is exactly how worry works for all of us.

Time tells a story. The past, if we take the time to notice, always tells the truth. It tells of a faithful God who rules over all things for the ultimate good of his people. But the present can be a liar. Much like the diet that always begins tomorrow, the present sometimes tells us that the unraveling will begin tomorrow. Sure, maybe God was in control yesterday but tomorrow will be a different story. You will be on your own. You are in trouble.

Jesus speaks a word of truth to counteract the lies the present likes to tell us about the future.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34 (ESV)

For a minute, that doesn’t look too comforting. It sort of reads like Jesus is saying, “Why are you worried about tomorrow? Worry about today. That’s where the real trouble is.”

Thankfully, he’s not saying that.

Each day has sufficient trouble. But that’s not all that it has. Read what Jesus told a suffering Paul about sufficiency.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)

The present likes to tell you a story about troubles coming in the future. That part isn’t a lie. You will have troubles in the future. But it’s only a half truth. Along with those troubles, God will give you grace. His grace. Sufficient grace. And it will be enough.

The Christian’s source of hope is never the absence of trouble. Rather, it is the presence of Jesus in the trouble.

If you listen carefully to the stories of your past, no matter how tragic they may be, you will be reminded of Jesus’ presence and the sufficient grace that comes along with it.

There is plenty to worry about. But Christian, there is no need to worry. That’s because the Author of your story is in complete control.

 

And he loves you.

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The Spiritual Timeline Of A Bible Belt Boy

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He was born with great potential. Mom and dad were pillars of their church. They were always there. They were the unofficial leaders of the church. It was assumed, even before he was born, that he would take their place.

When he was a kid, it looked like that assumption would come to pass. He was the first one to raise his hand when his Sunday School teacher asked a question. He was the first one to get the attention whenever an adult felt like publicly praising some of the kids in the church. The future was bright for the boy. It was assumed.

But the Sunday School years ended and gave way to the teenage years. The Rebellious Teenage Years. Right around the time when he turned 16 and didn’t need a ride from mom and dad anymore, church stopped being a requirement and started being an option. An option, that is, that was rarely ever chosen. But he would come around. All teenagers go through phases like this one. But the ones who grew up in good homes and went to good churches would eventually come back around. Surely, this boy would be no different. It was assumed.

In college, the boy started hearing things that chipped away at the foundation his parents had built for him. Up until this time, church wasn’t a big part of his life but he still seemed to carry the things that he had learned there as a kid. Now, those teachings were being questioned. Maybe truth really was just arrogance in disguise. Maybe Christianity was just an elaborate hoax. He wasn’t sure. All he knew was that that night’s party was going to be fun. And girls would be there. And everything would work out in the end. Or so he assumed.

He started spending more time with one of the girls at that party. After a few months of dating, they were engaged. The summer after graduation, they were married. Two years after that, they had kids. Now, like any respectable set of parents in the Bible Belt, the couple decided to go back to church. Actually, the wife decided. Our boy just kind of followed along in hopes of avoiding another pointless argument. But the experts were right. The boy did come back to his old church. He would be the pillar his parents had been after all. It was assumed.

But then little league baseball happened. And soccer. And dance recitals. And much needed weekends away. Suddenly, one or two busy weekends turned into a lifestyle of busyness. And before the family reached the point of overload they made the decision, without ever really even talking about it, to cut some things out. One of those things was church. But it was okay. It’s not as bad as it sounds. They would still send their kids to a Christian school just like the one they had gone to. They would still occasionally talk about the Bible. The boy who had become a busy husband and father reasoned to himself that he cut back on his church attendance when he was his kids age and he turned out okay. Sort of. Surely they would be just fine. It was assumed.

Before he knew it, the kids were gone. And he had retired from his job with a solid financial portfolio. Time and money were his to burn. So that’s what he did. When he was coaching little league teams and filming dance recitals, it was the busyness of doing the right thing that kept him away. Now, it was the busyness of having fun. There were trips to take. There were once in a lifetime events to go to. Later, there were grandkids to visit. Still, the church days of his youth nagged him. He convinced himself that now was the time to get back. So he would, he assumed, find his way back to church.

And he did. On a Tuesday morning at 11:00. There was a pretty good crowd. His wife was there. His kids were there. Their kids were there. A few friends were there. And he was too. In a casket, right at the front of the church. That wasn’t the way that he had planned to make it back to the small but unforgettable church of his youth.

The pastor stood up to say a few words after a long time family friend sang In the Garden. The young reverend said what he was supposed to say. He read Psalm 23. He talked about what a great father our boy was. He told funny stories. But when it was time to get down to business, the pastor hesitated. He wanted to talk about streets of gold. He wanted to say something about being with Jesus. But he didn’t know that for sure. The young boy who started out with so much potential and a firm foundation hadn’t done anything even closely resembling following Jesus for several decades. He wasn’t a bad person. But the pastor didn’t know if he was a saved person.

Finally, the pastor spoke of matters relating to eternity.

“He’s in a better place now.”

But the pastor didn’t say that with any certainty.

He just assumed.

Just like everyone else in the Bible Belt likes to do when it comes to matters of faith, life and death.

But assumptions, as you may know, aren’t always truth.

Especially in the Bible Belt.

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A Little Boy’s Diary

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Safe. That’s the first feeling I can remember. It was like waking up. I was confused. I didn’t know hardly anything. But I knew one thing. I was safe.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

But it’s okay.

I’m safe now.

From everything I could tell, things were looking good. My mother was active. And she was compassionate. There was always some rally we were going to. Most of them had to do with saving the environment or helping other women. It was stuff that I didn’t understand but I at least knew that she was working for the good of others. With a mom like this, I felt, life was going to be good.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

But it’s okay.

I’m safe now.

There were a few visits to doctors. From what I could tell, they did a real good job of taking care of my mom. And they took real good care of me. They were always talking about vitamins, diet, exercise and even classical music. I know that it sounds crazy but there’s something to all of that. To this day, I still love Bach.

I can remember the thrill of hearing the doctor tell my mom the date. June 23. It was coming soon. Obviously, I didn’t understand calendars too well at the time but I could still somehow sense the excitement. I grew even more excited each time that I thought about what was waiting for me. I couldn’t wait for my mom to hold me. I couldn’t wait to match faces to the voices I kept hearing. I was pretty nervous but everything was good. Life was about to be amazing.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

But it’s okay.

I’m safe now.

The last visit was different. The doctor’s office was different. At the old place, I could feel the the happiness. Not at this one. It seemed cold. And everyone was quiet. The doctors seemed to be taking care of my mother but that didn’t keep her from crying like she did. I had heard her cry a lot but never like this. Surely everything would be okay. The doctor would fix whatever was wrong so that we could go back home and wait for June 23rd to get here. Me and my mom.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

But it’s okay.

I’m safe now.

The noise that I heard sounded familiar. I had heard it before when my mom was cleaning the house. At the time, I didn’t understand what she was doing. I just knew that she was moving around a lot and there was a loud noise that I didn’t like too much. I preferred the sounds of Bach to the sound of that old vacuum cleaner. This vacuum cleaner was louder. And closer.

Too close.

I’ve never been strong. I’ve never gotten into a fight. Well, just once and it was more than I could handle. I was no match for that doctor and his loud vacuum machine. My arm was gone is seconds. And then I felt a pull on my head.

And then nothing.

And then, instantly, safety like I had never known before.

I’m with my Creator now. It’s good to finally be wanted. Forever. I don’t know why my mom would do something like that to me. But I’m not mad at her. I’m not bitter. There is no bitterness here. And no one here worries. I often join the martyrs when they say, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth.”

That will stop when my Creator returns to earth to fix everything forever. Then it will all make sense. Somehow.

I thought that no one could love me more than my mother loved me. I thought that her world would be paradise.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

But it’s okay.

I’m safe now.

Safe in the arms of Someone who really loves me.

Hopefully one day, my mom will be rescued from that dreadful world she lives in so that she can come here and be safe too.

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