Red Ferrari

I don’t know anything about cars but I know a nice one when I see it. This was a nice one. It was a red Ferrari. When I looked at it, I saw a little bit of myself. Now before you bail out on me for comparing myself to a Ferrari, just hang on.

I don’t see cars like this where I live. It seemed to appear from nowhere just outside of my driver’s side window while I was stopped at a red light. When I pointed the car out to my sons, the questions started flowing. And they were questions that I didn’t have the answers to. But that’s never stopped me before.

“Dad, is that a fast car?”

“Oh you bet. It’s got twin dual cam headers.”

The three of us sat and gazed at that red sports car. It was almost like we felt honored to have such a fine vehicle visit our common town and to be so kind to share the same road with our humble Chevrolet. When the light turned green, a little piece of us died. The Ferrari would soon be out of our sight and out of our lives forever. I thought about racing, just to prolong the experience. Cooler heads prevailed.

I was going straight and the car was turning left. Well, the car wasn’t exactly turning left. It was being taken to the left. That beautiful red Ferrari was tied down to the back of a flat bed truck. And this wasn’t one of those trucks that carries rich people’s expensive cars across the country. This was the type of truck that some dude named Big Ed uses when he comes to pick up your gently used Toyota Tercel after you drive it off into a ditch.

That’s when I saw a little bit of myself and my brothers and sisters in the body of Christ in that Ferrari.

By God’s grace and through faith and repentance, we have been given much. God has given us eternal life. But he has also given us the resources we need to glorify and enjoy him in this life.

In Christ, we have power over evil, both the kind in our hearts and the kind in the world (Ephesians 6:10-20).

In Christ, we have joy (John 17:13).

In Christ, we have access to our Creator (Hebrews 4:14-16).

In Christ, we have peace and love and self-control and so much more (Galatians 5:22-24).

But we don’t use those gifts. Instead, we settle for getting through life on the back of some spiritual tow truck.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that God is going to bless you with a beautiful new Ferrari. And I’m not saying that Christians never have hard times or that we never deal with issues like depression or anxiety.  What I am saying is that our identity is not found in those things.

Too many Christians put a heavy emphasis on their sin while ignoring the righteousness that is theirs in Christ. An emphasis on personal sin is a good thing. It’s a necessary thing if you care to keep in step with the Holy Spirit. But it’s incomplete if it does not lead us to see our new identity in Christ.

Yes, Christian, you were a wretch. You were an enemy of God.

And yes, your struggle against sin is still very real.

But please do not forget that great exchange that took place by God’s grace. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, when God looks at you, he sees the perfect righteousness of his perfect Son (2 Corinthians 5:21).

You are no longer an orphan.

You are no longer an enemy of God.

You have been given eternal life.

You have been given hope and joy in this life.

And here’s the thing about God’s gifts. They are meant to be used. So ditch the flat bed truck and take your gift for a spin.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 (ESV)

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Praying.

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Praying.

Sometimes that word can be a source of great hope. Like when you post something online about a tragedy in your life and you come back 15 minutes later to see 30 comments with one simple word.

Praying.

Praying.

Praying.

It can make you feel good. But does it actually do any good? In a lot of cases, the answer is no. But that’s not because God doesn’t care or he doesn’t have the power to change something. It’s because sometimes the one true God who is in Sovereign control of the universe isn’t the one who is being prayed to.

Sometimes the god who exists only to meet our needs and to make us feel better about ourselves is being prayed to.

Dear friendly, nameless being,

Make my name great.

Do everything you can to promote my kingdom and to see that my will is done, both here and in eternity. My wish is your command.

Don’t just settle for giving me what I need today. Give me more than I need. Give me everything that I want. 

Forgive me for whatever generic, harmless sins that other people may have caused me to commit. And forgive those people if you want but I’m not going to. 

I can handle temptation on my own. I control my own destiny. Evil can’t touch me if I surround myself with enough positive and encouraging goodness. When it comes to evil, assuming that evil even exists, I’ve got this. Devote your energy to someone else because I’m good.

Sometimes it’s the fundamentalist god who only answers to lofty sounding religious lingo that is being prayed to.

Dearest father who dwelleth in the most high heavens,

I am praying this prayer now in hopes that people will see me making thou name sound great while at the same time adding a little popularity boost to mine.

May your kingdom advance against all of the other kingdoms of this world (except for my own) and may your will be done in my home as well as in Washington D.C. Who cares about the neighbors?

Givest thou me the daily portion that you see fit. I am your humble servant. Christian breath mints will suffice (not really but that’s what I want my prayer audience to think so feel free to give me a bunch of stuff). 

Forgive us for our many sins of which I will not be naming mine here in front of everyone in fear that such specificity might not make my name sound as great as I would like for it to. Also, forgive those who have failed to live up to my standards for them. Thank you that I am not like them.

Thank you that temptation isn’t a problem for me. I haven’t committed a serious sin in well over 20 years. But others haven’t gotten to where I am. Deliver them from evil.

And sometimes people are just praying to their buddy, homeboy or boyfriend.

Dear Invisible Peer,

Fix stuff, give me stuff and take bad stuff away. Also, help me to get married before the rapture happens.

Word.

There is another way. The Jesus way. He took the time to teach his disciples how to pray, not so that we would follow that prayer word for word every time we pray but so that we would have a clear picture of what prayer is really all about. Here’s a hint. It’s not as much about us as we’d like to think. Instead, it’s about a holy God who likes to hear from his people. Prayer isn’t a tool that spiritual people use in an attempt to get God to change his mind. Prayer is a discipline of spiritually broken people who want God to change their heart. Here’s what Jesus’ example looks like.

 

“Pray then like this:

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.'”Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV)

But Jesus didn’t leave us with just a guideline. He also gave us the Holy Spirit because, no matter how spiritual you are or how long you’ve been in church or how often you pray, you still really don’t know what you’re doing. Neither do I. But the Spirit is there to help.

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)

What a picture. Our best efforts at prayer, just like our best efforts at most anything else, fall short. But the Spirit takes those broken prayers to the Father with passion and in a language too deep for us to understand. Prayer is far more powerful than you think.

Praying.

It’s good to know that people care enough to do that for you.

It’s even better when you know that they are praying to their Father in heaven with the assistance of the Holy Spirit instead of to some fake deity just so they can sound more spiritual.

The good news doesn’t stop there.

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)

Jesus didn’t stop working on your behalf when he rose from the grave. He is still approaching the Father on your behalf. Christian, you are being prayed for and it is someone far more important than your parents or pastor who is doing the praying.

You may feel alone. It may seem as though no one cares. Perhaps God seems distant. But if you asked Jesus what he is doing for you right now, he would give you a one word answer.

Praying.

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Hope For While You Hope

There’s this old church saying that goes, “Don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.”

I usually don’t like old church sayings but whoever came up with this one had a point. I’ve known quite a few people who were so heavenly minded that they were no earthly good.

Like the lady I knew when I was a kid who invited people over to her house for prayer and dinner. Without the dinner. Her rationale was that dinner got in the way of prayer. “We don’t eat, we pray,” were her exact words if I remember correctly.

And let’s not forget the folks who are kind enough this time of year to use Facebook to remind us of how many people went to hell while we were watching that last touchdown drive.

Man, I wish that this was just a problem with other people. I’ve got no problem with eating while praying and I’ll definitely be watching the Super Bowl but I’ve got my own ways of being so heavenly minded that I’m no earthly good.

The older I get, the more suffering I see. I hate it.

Parents are diagnosed with ALS.

Divorce ravages a seemingly healthy family.

Suicide.

Wars.

Terrorist attacks.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

I find myself saying that a lot lately. And that’s good. Christians should remember that Jesus has given us a hope beyond this life. But we must also remember that he has given us hope in this life. If we forget that, we’re well on our way to becoming another casualty of the Heavenly Minded Brigade.

In Romans 5, Paul reminds us of what God has given his people, not just in the life to come, but in this one as well.

1. Christian, God has given you victory over fear.

Your boss might fire you. The IRS may audit you. Despite your best efforts, peace with your fellow man is not guaranteed. But, because of Jesus, peace with God is guaranteed. Safe in the care of your Father, you have nothing to fear.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1 (ESV)

2. Christian, God is with you.

You have access to him. You don’t need to get to him through a pastor, priest or pope. You don’t have to wait for Sunday to come. Because of Jesus, you can stand before your Father now. And, because of Jesus, you can do so confidently.

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2 (ESV)

3. Christian, you have legitimate hope.

This isn’t the, “I hope that the Falcons win the Super Bowl” kind of hope that leaves you disappointed every October when you finally realize that it’s just not going to happen.

It’s a hope that points you to the day when Jesus returns and all things are made right.

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2 (ESV)

But Paul tells us that it’s even more than that. It’s a hope that is very much present during your trials.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Romans 5:3-4 (ESV)

In the middle of suicides, divorces, wars, attacks and everything else that comes with life in a fallen world, God is working. He is working over all things. That includes you. He is shaping you to be more like his Son. That is the Christian’s hope even during the most intense times of suffering.

4. Christian, God loves you.

I know. It sounds like another one of those old church sayings. But, again, this one is true. Jesus’ death on the cross is a historical event and a theological fact. But it is so much more. It is proof that God loves you. And God’s love is more than a feeling that we sing about in songs. It is very real. It has been poured into your heart.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:5 (ESV)

5. Christian, the Holy Spirit is with you.

I’ve been a baptist my whole life. I grew up in a baptist church. I’m now the pastor of a baptist church. I know baptist culture. Part of our culture tends to act as if the Holy Spirit is just for the folks at the weird church down the road where they play with snakes. It’s as if we believe that accepting what the Bible tells us about the Holy Spirit is going to turn us into Benny Hinn or one of the other hucksters on TV.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:5 (ESV)

Christian, and I’m looking at you, my fellow baptists, when God saved you, he gave you the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit is not some force or good luck charm. He is a person. He is God. And he is working to show you more of Jesus.

I’ll leave you with another old church saying.

“There’s a better home awaiting.”

That one is right too.

But it makes no sense for us to live defeated in our current home while we await our new one. God loves you. He is with you. He is not done with you.

You have hope. Even now.

So act like it.

Maybe You Need To Stop Calling Yourself A Christian In 2015

Racism.

Now there’s a word that gets thrown around a lot. Too much. The white kid who cheers for Duke is a racist. The black guy with a strong opinion about politics is a racist. Racist. Racist. Racist. As one famous radio caller once said, “It’s all about the racial.”

As a result, we’ve become jaded. We roll our eyes at such outrageous accusations. And, perhaps out of habit, we roll our eyes when legitimate racism pops up. We tell ourselves that it’s not 1965 anymore. We have a black president. Racism is a thing of the past.

Sadly, it’s not.

If you don’t believe me, look no further than the one place on this planet where there shouldn’t even be a hint of racism.

The church.

I know where you’re expecting me to go with this. Sunday mornings are the most segregated time of the week, right? Maybe so but that’s not my point.

A while back someone was telling me about life in their racially-blended family growing up in a heavily populated, diverse suburban area. While racism certainly existed, it wasn’t all out in the middle of the streets. Biracial couples and families were able to navigate their way through life without awkward stares and cruel remarks. For the most part, white kids and black kids got along at school. From this person’s perspective, racism wasn’t even really on the radar, even after a move to a much larger city.

It wasn’t until adulthood that my friend encountered actual racism. It was at church. A Bible-believing church. One where the people loved Jesus and each other. There were men who knew an awful lot about the Bible but who also didn’t think twice about telling nigger jokes. There were women who seemed to model their lives after all of the bad people in that movie, The Help. But boy did the folks in that church ever love Jesus! And each other. But not others. You know, the ones on the other side of the track.

This is no indictment on the church. Jesus came to save sinners so that’s what we should expect to be filling the pews of our churches. But Jesus did not come to affirm sinners. His saving involves repentance from sin, not ignoring it or letting it slide. Immanuel, God with us, was not sent to laugh at your racist jokes or to reinforce your stereotypes. He came because of your racist jokes. Which begs the question. If you’re still hanging on to your silly jokes and stereotypes, no matter how much you go to church, do you really know Immanuel, God with us?

My guess is no.

Don’t get mad at me. Take it up with the Holy Spirit who spoke through the Apostle John.

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8 (ESV)

If you are a Christian and you struggle with loving people from another race, you need to take that to Jesus. That’s part of the point of him being Immanuel, God with us. He didn’t leave you alone when he ascended back to the Father. He is with you to help you to become more like him. He is with you to help you to put away hate and to love like he loves.

But if you harbor hatred toward another race without any struggle or without leaning on Jesus to forgive you and to help you love more like him, please do yourself a favor. Stop calling yourself a Christian.

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8 (ESV)

We don’t all have to agree. We don’t have to come to the same conclusions on music, the crime rate among black youth or who the next president should be.

But if we claim to be Christians, we better be loving others.

We do not love others so that God will love us and save us from our sins.

Rather, we love others because God has first loved us and set us free from our sins. From God’s holy and just perspective, we were the others. We were on the wrong side of the track. All of us. All races. But God came to us anyway to forgive us, set us free and give us new life.

If you are not willing to show that same kind of mercy and grace to others, it’s because you have never known God’s mercy and grace.

It’s because you have never known God.

Cover Your Kids

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The world is a frightening place. Your kids know that much. It’s why they sometimes don’t want to go to sleep. It’s why they wake up scared in the middle of the night. It’s why they need you to cover them.

Cover your kids with laughter. There are a lot of reasons to cry. Kids learn that at an early age. As much as we may try to shelter them from all that is wrong in the world, eventually word gets out. They overhear the news reports about another war. They see the house where dozens of police cars are parked outside and know that those officers aren’t just paying a friendly visit.

They see pain.

That’s why they need to see you laugh.

Even when you’ve had a long day and don’t feel very much like laughing. And they need you to make them laugh. Even when you would much rather they remain quiet. You can’t shelter your kids from the pain in this world. You can cover with them laughter.

Cover your kids with music. Kids today live under a lot of stress. Some have sports schedules that rival that of pro athletes. Music, if handled properly, can be a great source of fun and relaxation. Introduce them to the good stuff. Let them hear a rapper who is talented enough to say what seems like 400 words in one minute without every three or four of those words being profane. Open their ears to historic guitar and drum solos. Don’t bother pressuring them by saying, “That could be you someday.” Just let them enjoy what they hear.

At night, when they are in their rooms fighting off fears of bad dreams and monsters under the bed, make hymns each night’s soundtrack. Allow music to be their theology teacher. Make music their friendly reminder that they are being held by a God who is infinitely bigger than any boogeyman or creepy sound.

Cover you kids with music. If you play your cards right, it just might muffle those creepy sounds kids usually hear at night.

Most of all, cover your kids with prayer. There are places in this world where naked babies sit all alone on the side of streets. When those of us from the western world cross paths with these children, we cringe at the dangers these kids face because of their exposure. If your kids are not covered in prayer, their exposure is just as dangerous.

Pray for God to protect them from their enemy. Most of the world laughs at the idea that we have a spiritual enemy who is bent on our destruction. And he laughs back. He wants your kids. But he doesn’t have to have them. Pray for them to your Father under the authority of your Savior and in the power of the Holy Spirit. The enemy of you and your family will get the message.

Pray for them to have the wisdom to know how to live in the world without being shaped by the world. Pray for them to be different. Not weird clothes and funny hair cut different. Fruit of the Spirit different. In a world where normal means perverse, angry, entitled and hateful, pray that your kids are anything but normal.

Pray for God to protect your kids from themselves. Satan and the world won’t be leaving them alone anytime soon. But if they did, our kids would still find enough trouble from within their own hearts. Pray that they would know what it means to fight against their evil desires. And pray that they would know what it means to win those fights.

The world is a frightening place.

The potential for disaster is all around.

Cover your kids.

One Of The Things I Like Most About Being A Pastor

 

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My Monday mornings all start out the same.

Gambling on chicken fights in the church basement.

Wait. Did I really just write that? Note to self: Have my staff of ghostwriting interns edit out my reference to chicken fights before publishing this post.

My Monday mornings all start out the same.

Looking at a blank legal pad.

I take notes on legal pads for each week’s sermon. I write down my personal observations. I write out the passage I will be preaching on. I take notes from what others have written. And I pray. I pray lot.

There are some passages of Scripture that are so familiar to church people that they basically preach themselves. And then there’s the book of Esther.

Right now I’m preaching through the book of Esther. Looking at that blank yellow sheet of paper on Monday mornings can be intimidating. How will I preach about Esther, the hero of our story, going into the palace to give sexual pleasure to a perverted, pagan king?

Now you know why I pray so much.

But a funny thing happens during the week that I spend asking God to show me what to say. God reminds me of events from my life that relate to what I’m preaching on. He puts news stories in front of me that remind me that the Bible I’m preaching from is just as relevant today as it was hundreds of years ago when it was written. That yellow legal pad doesn’t stay blank.

One time I heard a skeptic say that they didn’t mind people talking to God but it was when God started talking back that he began to worry.

Being a pastor can be hard. But hard tasks, ones like preaching through Esther, are blessings in disguise because they force me to talk to God. And when I talk to God, he talks back.

He never responds to me with a deep booming voice or a vision. It’s much more subtle. It’s a week’s worth of notes scribbled on a once empty yellow legal pad. It’s a lifetime of memories that remind me that we have a lot more in common with Esther and King Xerxes than we first thought. It’s the Holy Spirit, the same one who inspired the Bible, quietly pointing my attention to Jesus and helping me to grasp what he is saying through the passage.

Prayer is not a one way street. If understood biblically, it is a holy interaction between the Creator and his people. It is our confession that life is too hard on our own. But it is  more than God simply listening to us. In his own way and in his own timing, it is God responding.

He doesn’t respond to me like he does because I’m a pastor. He responds the way he does because I am his. It has nothing to do with my job and everything to do with what Christ has done for me – transferring me from a child of wrath to a child of God (Ephesians 2:1-10).

The path of least resistance is awfully appealing. But it is more dangerous than it appears. With it comes a false sense of self-confidence that makes our inevitable crash and burn even more difficult (Proverbs 3).

But grace is abundant when we find ourselves in a position where our only two options are failure or prayer (2 Corinthians 12:1-10; Psalm 70).

I’m reminded of those options every Monday morning when I look at that blank yellow legal pad.

So I pray.

And God answers back.

That’s one of the things I like most about being a pastor.

Scenes from a Church Parking Lot

If I ever have a near-death experience and my whole life flashes before my eyes, most of the scenes will be from a church parking lot.

You can tell a lot about a church by its parking lot.

At some churches, the parking lot is always empty. Even on Sundays. Others are always crowded but only because there’s always busyness with endless activities. But the good ones, the churches where people are loving God and each other, always seem to have something going on in the parking lot. These are the churches where people aren’t in a hurry to get home or to some chicken restaurant as soon as the closing prayer is over. These are the churches where the good that has been talked about and sung about inside the building always seems to spill out into the parking lot.

Growing up, that’s how my church was.

It’s the place where my friends and I would hang around after a worship service to talk about what the pastor said or why the Hawks decided to give Jon Koncak so much money.

On Friday and Saturday nights it was where I would meet those same friends before we piled into a car to go to a movie or a baseball game.

That church parking lot was the place where older men like Al Autrey or Brent Benedetti came up beside me to give me a word of encouragement.

I don’t think that parking lot was ever empty. During the week it’s where parents dropped their kids off for school. At nights there was usually some guy who was just passing through and needed some help. He always seemed to find it in that parking lot. On Sunday mornings, it’s where some of the deacons hung out to smoke cigarettes during Sunday School.

In Acts 11, when Luke documents the growth of the church among Gentiles, he says that, “the hand of the Lord was with them” (21). I think that’s why my church parking lot was always so busy. God’s hand was on our church. And we couldn’t get enough of enjoying his presence together.

But some churches don’t like a busy parking lot. They put up signs to keep the riff-raff out of their parking lots.

No Thru Traffic!

No Skateboards!

No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service!

Those things can certainly keep a parking lot empty. But, there’s an even better way to protect your church from the potential lawsuits and inconveniences that come with thru-traffic, skateboards and kids with no shoes or shirts.

All you have to do is remove the hand of the Lord.

You can still tell yourself that you’re doing his work. You can even carry on with VBS and missions offerings. But just be sure to do it all under your own agenda. Even if you have to convince yourself and others that God approves of your agenda, make sure that yours takes precedent over his.

Eventually word of your agenda will spread. A lot of people will leave but that’s just because they don’t understand what you’re trying to do. But stick with it. Sooner or later, you’ll show up for church on a Sunday morning, step out into the parking lot and notice that it’s just you.

Not you and Jesus.

Just you.

And your car.

And your agenda.

Sometimes, just for old time’s sake, I drive through my old church’s parking lot. There are a few more buildings in that parking lot but there are never that many cars there.

And it breaks my heart.

The Long, Gone Golden Age of Christianity

I grew up listening to 97.1.  At the time it was called Fox 97 and it played nothing but oldies.  For several years, it was one of the more popular radio stations in the Atlanta market.

Fox 97 is how I found out about Elvis Presley, Credence Clearwater Revival and the Beach Boys.  Whenever my mom drove me somewhere in her 1970ish Chevy Nova with wood panels I would get a lesson in rock and roll history.  For her, it was more of a reminder.  I guess that you could say that we both grew up on the exact same music.  I called it oldies but I don’t know that she ever used that term.

Several years later I was at a pizza restaurant with high school students from my youth ministry.  During our meal, a song from Journey came on.  One of the kids at our table got real excited and started to sing along.  I was shocked.

“How do you know this song?  It came out a decade before you were born.”

Her response crushed me.

“Oh, I love oldies.”

I was only about 25 but I had never felt so old.

Fox 97 eventually went away.  Now it’s called 97.1 The River and it plays classic rock.  Whenever I drive my kids places, we listen to 97.1 and they get introduced to Led Zepplin, Def Lepard and the Allman Brothers.  For me, it’s more of a reminder.  A reminder of my childhood.  And a reminder of how old I am.  Now the music I grew up listening to, even the music I listened to in college, could be considered oldies.  But I don’t use that term.

A lot of people look at Christianity like an old radio station.  It had its day and ran its course.  Now it’s time for another religion or worldview to take center stage.  It’s easy to think this way after last week’s events.  After all, if Christianity is so great then why are people getting killed with bombs on the streets of Boston?  If Jesus is still Lord, why are dozens of people getting killed in fertilizer plant explosions?

Some within the Church hope for the return of the long, gone golden age of Christianity when it was possible to at least pretend that the president was an evangelical.  They miss the days when the movement had its swagger and evangelicals were considered a voting bloc to be reckoned with.  If only we could get our power back, then things in this country would turn around, they reason.

But power, at least as it relates to the kingdom of Christ, has a way of looking different than you might expect.

The early Church didn’t look very powerful when one of their new leaders, Stephen, was staring down an angry mob.  But Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit and saw the glory of God with Jesus standing at the Father’s right hand (Acts 7:54-56).

The power of the Holy Spirit sustains us in our weakest moments.

Things weren’t looking good for the body of Christ when that same angry mob started throwing rocks at Stephen’s head.  One after another until, finally, Stephen died.  But during his execution, Stephen was acting just like his Savior (Acts 7:57-60).

“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

This sounds almost exactly like the words that Jesus spoke during his crucifixion.

The power of the cross helps us to live and die like our Savior.

I’m sure that most cultural observers in that day thought that Christianity was done as a man named Saul carried believers from their home and threw them in prison.  And it looked even worse when the remaining believers scattered, leaving only the apostles in Jerusalem.

But consider where these believers scattered to.  Judea and Samaria.  Just like Jesus said that they would in Acts 1:8.  And as they scattered, what were these believers doing?

Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.  Acts 8:4 (ESV)

God’s sovereign power has a way of redeeming even the worst of circumstances.

Throughout the Scriptures and the rest of human history, we tend to see God’s power on display when his people are at their weakest.  Jesus doesn’t need the president’s ear or a really big voting bloc to accomplish his purposes.  In fact, those things have a way of becoming obstacles that prevent us from really knowing God’s power.

So the Church hasn’t lost any power.  That’s never a concern because nothing can separate us from the love of God.  But the real issue is whether or not we are willing to rely on God’s power.

Even if it means living without the facade of man’s power.

Just A Little Patience

One of the first horror movies that I ever saw was about a bunch of children that terrorized their parents.  Children of the Corn, I think it was called.  I only saw about ten minutes of it but it really got to me.

Now that I’m the father of two small boys, hardly a day goes by without me thinking that I’m living in some sequel to that movie.  Children of the Pastor, maybe?  Either way, it’s really starting to get to me.

Being a father has reminded me of how selfish I am and how I want everything to be in order.  Things are never in order when you’re a parent.  And with every whine, spill, hit, pout and poked out bottom lip there is something inside of me that seems to be on the verge of snapping.  Children of the Pastor 2: Daddy’s Revenge.

By nature, I’m not one to snap.  But that’s not good enough.  Sometimes kids can make you react in ways that you never thought were possible for you.  I need something else to help me to raise my boys in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) instead of just plain old discipline and instruction.

Thankfully, I have it.

In John 14:16 Jesus promised to give his disciples a Helper that would be with them forever.  In Acts 2 that promise was fulfilled when the Holy Spirit filled believers on the day of Pentecost.  In Romans 8:9 Paul writes that all believers have that same Spirit living inside of them.  And in Galatians 5 Paul says that the Holy Spirit makes his presence known in the believer’s life through certain attributes or fruit.

Attributes like patience.

People used to tell me to never pray for patience.  The implication was that God, like some evil genie, would run me through a series of trials so tough that I would end up regretting my request.

When one of my sons spills his milk at breakfast for the third time while the other one laughs at him, I don’t ask God to give me patience like I’m asking for something that’s completely foreign to me.  I’m asking for something that, because of the Holy Spirit, is already there.  More than anything, my prayer is a request for help to “keep in step with the Spirit” that lives inside of me (Galatians 5:25).

Early yesterday afternoon my wife took our two sons on a long trip to see their newborn cousin.  At the end of the day I came home to an empty house.

While I made my dinner, there were no little hands trying to touch the hot stove top and no voices begging me to leave the food alone and come to play.

Just silence.

I turned the radio on.

While I ate my dinner, there was no one throwing up all over the table, spilling milk or asking if he could be done.

Just silence.

I turned the TV on.

And while I wrote this, there was no one fighting with his brother over covers or running out to tell me that he had a bad dream.

Just silence.

So I prayed for God to help me to be patient until my kids get home.