Why Harvey?

If God is good, why is there a flood in Texas?

That’s the question my eight-year-old had for me this week when I picked him up from school. It made me proud. I wasn’t exactly expecting it but it made me proud.

I want to make sure that the faith of my kids is their own faith, not just some hand-me-down faith from their pastoral father. Questions like this one lead me to believe that their faith is their own. Kids just looking for a Get Out of Hell Free Card tend not to ask questions like that.

So I talked to my son about sin and all of its ugly consequences. And I told him about the drastic actions God took to undo those consequences and the living hope all believers have for a new heaven and new earth, one without hurricanes. I kept my answer general.

It’s not my place to say specifically why God allowed Hurricane Harvey to happen. Preachers and pundits like to do that sort of thing but it amounts to nothing more than taking God’s name in vain. They say things like, “God was punishing the gulf for their (fill in the blank with whatever pet sin they hate more than all of the others at that particular moment).” God most certainly can and does punish sin in a variety of ways. But rather than causing us to make reckless assertions about Houston, it should cause us to get our own house in order.

When I finished talking, I asked my son if he understood.

He said yes and went on to thinking about the Cheetos that he was going to eat when we got home.

But I didn’t quit thinking about that question. Isn’t it interesting how kids have a way of saying things that stay in your head and heart days later?

Our country is divided. Everyone is fighting. And it’s all over the news. In fact, I think that the news kind of likes the fighting. You can see the excitement in some of the reporter’s eyes. With each new riot, it’s like they can see their Pulitzer getting closer.

Bloodshed is good for business.

Last week that excitement shifted from the riots to the hurricane in the gulf. As Harvey increased in categories, they could see their ratings increase.

Bloodshed is good for business.

But something strange happened on the way to the Emmy Awards show.

People got unified. Well, people on the gulf coast of Texas did at least. There were still rioters on the other coasts but not as many people were paying attention to them. And the talking heads on the news were still blaming one another’s political persuasion for the hurricane. But not as many people were listening.

Most people were too busy watching Americans save other Americans. Of course, there were first responders doing what first responders do. But, by no fault of their own, they were overwhelmed. There’s no way to really have the man power for a storm of this magnitude.

So neighbors started saving neighbors. Guys with huge trucks rescued total strangers from their flooded homes. A black man carried a white man and his confederate flag from the rising waters. Pastors went door to door in bass boats, looking for people in need of help. And when they found their targets, they comforted them with a hug and words from Scripture. Even Chick-fil-a got in on the helping. That shouldn’t surprise us.

Everything is political these days. You can’t even sell a chicken sandwich anymore without having to jump through certain hoops and appease those who pride themselves on being on the right side of history. But, for a while at least, all of that stopped. There were no Antifa or white supremacists boats. When rescuers assisted women and children, no one said anything about gender being a social construct.

Don’t get me wrong.

It’s not that this storm has fixed America.

The national debt hasn’t gone away.

There are still racists out there doing what racists do.

Politicians are still blaming each other for pretty much everything.

But not on the coast of Texas. No, on the coast of Texas, people are loving their neighbor in the realest possible sense of the phrase. And, in a lot of ways, that’s been going on long before Hurricane Harvey was a thing.

It’s just a shame that it took the storm of the century to get reporters live on the scene.

Self-sacrifie for the good of another, it turns out, isn’t so good for business.

Earlier this week I was talking to my son about the new heavens and the new earth. He wanted to know what it would be like when Jesus comes back. He wasn’t interested in what 666 meant or who the AntiChrist was. He cared more about the main point. I wish we were all more like that. Before I finished talking he cut me off.

“I wish Jesus would come back right now.”

I couldn’t disagree with him.

But watching the people in Texas help each other made this broken world a little more bearable while we wait for Jesus to come back and fix it.

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The Woman With One Of The Most Important Jobs In The World

Her ancestors were slaves.

The word ancestors doesn’t seem appropriate. It wasn’t all that long ago. Her parents spent time being educated in segregated schools and drinking from segregated water fountains. Her father was called cruel, racist names by respectable pillars of the community. Once, her mother was assaulted for daring not to move off of the sidewalk when four young white boys came walking by. Her mother still has a small scar under her right eye to remind her of that day.

But those were different days. Slavery is over. Jim Crow is no more. We all drink our water from the same fountain and share the same sidewalk. After all, it is 2017.

But not for her.

No, when she goes to work, it’s 1955 all over again.

She always did well in school. Helping others was what drove her. She knew what it was like to face one roadblock after another. She saw how bitter it made some of the people who she loved. She was determined not to let that happen. She wanted to serve the weak, not keep them down. As she saw it, there was no better career path for her to take than nursing.

She dreamed of working in a busy emergency room in one of the big city hospitals. That didn’t work out. But she never gave up on nursing. She got as much education as she could. It just wasn’t enough to get her out of her small town. Eventually, she came to accept that small towns need nurses too. Sure, there’s no big hospital or busy emergency room where she lives.

But there is a nursing home.

So that’s where she went to work.

For the better part of four decades, that’s where she’s been picking patients up off of the floor, distributing medicine, cleaning out bedpans and helping folks go to the bathroom. She does it with a happy heart, even when smiling doesn’t come easy. She’s not much for talking but when she does speak, it’s never negative. The same can’t be said for her patients.

Every time she walks into room 4A, she gets greeted with a racial slur. She always responds with a smile and some comment about how this is the day that the Lord has made. She sees the irony in helping a man go to the bathroom who in his younger days wouldn’t use the same water fountain as her parents.

The lady in 1C frequently tells her in a creepy, whispery voice, “If you steal from me again I’ll have you killed and no one will care.” Of course, she never has stolen from the lady in 1C. But she has picked her up off of the floor five times in the last two months and gave the lady’s son a strong talk about coming to visit his mother more often.

3B is the hardest. She used to have nightmares about 3B. The guy in that room knew her parents. He’s the one responsible for that scar under her mother’s right eye.

She thought of recusing herself from that room, sort of like judges do when there’s some sort of conflict of interest. But then she thought better of it. She decided that instead of running away from the man responsible for her mother’s facial scar and countless other emotional scars, she would run toward him in his weakness. She remembered the passion that drove her into nursing. Instead of keeping the weak down, she would try to help them. This wasn’t what she had in mind. It is what God had in mind.

The man doesn’t know who she is. She thought about telling him once. It wouldn’t matter. He’s a shell of his former self. His memory, his strength and his family are all gone.

 

She doesn’t think that her job is all that important to the kingdom of God. If you asked her, she’d tell you that the ones with the really important jobs are the pastors and missionaries and famous Christian authors. She’s wrong. As far as the kingdom of God goes, this woman has one of the most important jobs in the world.

Every day before she walks into room 3B, she prays for strength. She asks her Lord to give her the strength to be like family to the lonely man who did so much harm to hers. She asks for God to give her the power to resist the temptation to turn a blind eye to the man’s suffering and let him get what’s coming to him. Day after day, God answers her prayers. And day after day, the light of Christ shines when a nurse walks into room 3B. By the time she walks out, she has loved her neighbor, loved her enemy and ministered to the least of these.

Just like Jesus did.

And he is pleased.

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13 (ESV)

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Fear And Great Joy: A Resurrection Meditation

So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Matthew 28:8 (ESV)

It’s a strange mixture. We don’t usually hear about people being afraid and joyful at the same time. It’s always one or the other. Either someone is afraid or they are happy. It never seems to be both.

But this was different. This was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Nothing like it had ever happened before. Nothing would ever be the same again.

The women who had followed Jesus were afraid because this was all new to them. They had seen God’s power before but never like this. This was more than feeding the five thousand and turning water into wine. This was the defeat of death, once and for all. When you come face to face with whatever it is that’s scary enough to beat something as scary as death itself, fear seems to be the natural emotion.

But it wasn’t the only emotion.

There was joy as well. There was joy because separation was gone. There was joy because the cross was not the end. There was good news to tell and these women were overjoyed because they were the ones chosen by God to deliver it. The angel of the Lord could have gone straight to Peter and John and the boys. Instead, he appeared to Mary Magdalene, a woman who had once been possessed by seven demons, and another lady who Matthew affectionately refers to as, “the other Mary.” None of that mattered. The body that they had come to visit was not there. It had not been stolen. It got up under it’s own power.

That’s a scary thing.

But it’s also a joyous thing.

That strange combination of fear and joy is still with us today. We often find ourselves afraid because things are not as they should be. We live under the curse of Adam’s sin.

That’s a scary thing.

But Jesus came to undo the curse, take it from us and put it on himself. When we consider our sins in relation to the holiness of God, things definitely are not as they should be.

That’s a joyous thing.

 

From the perspective of the religious elites of the day, the cross should have been the end of our faith. Instead, it is the source of our hope.

If you were hearing this story for the first time, you would think that some of Jesus’ last words would be, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Instead, just a few days later, the women who heard him utter that frightening sentence would hear him say, “Do not be afraid.”

In this world, there are a million reasons to be afraid. When you think about it, there is only one reason not to be.

Jesus is alive.

That is enough.

That is our great joy.

“So what are we supposed to do?”

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For the first time in their lives, there are many Christians who have no idea what to do when it comes time to vote for the president in November. They’re used to stepping into the booth and voting for their guy without a second thought. Those days are over. The lies, corruption, arrogance, injustice and disregard for human life displayed by both major candidates is simply too much to ignore. And it’s certainly too much to condone.

So what are we supposed to do? I get asked that question a lot. It is not the purpose of this blog post to tell you what name to write-in or what third party to go with. But I can tell you what Christians need to do.

We need to pray very hard for God to help us to love and obey him more. When we blow it, we need to ask God to forgive us rather than comparing ourselves to those who we think are worse sinners than we are. We need to ask God to help us to love the hurting, the forgotten and the hard to love. We need to make the effort to know God as he is presented in his word.

Husbands, you need to love your wives as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). Wives, respect your husbands. Pray that they would lead your family, not as tyrants, but as servants of Christ. Pray that the Holy Spirit will work in both of  you in such a way that you find more delight in sacrificing for the good of the other than you do in your own personal comfort.

Parents, pour into your kids. Use their victories and their failures in sports and academics to teach them what it means to be men and women. But teach them also that there is more to life than their victories and failures in sports and academics. Take on the challenge of teaching them about the Trinity. It’s worth it. Kick soccer balls, play Legos and play on the rope swing in your backyard. Don’t let the panic industry bleed into your family.

Pastors, ask God to help you to be like Ezra, who, “set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10, ESV). By God’s grace, use your position to teach people, in word and in deed, biblical concepts like discernment, holiness, sacrifice, faithfulness, repentance and cross-carrying. Don’t settle for appeasing the congregation. Stand for truth and holiness, even if it means being called self-righteous. This is going to get harder as the days move on. The pressure to sit down and shut up until someone needs you to preach a wedding or funeral will be even more real than it already is. Don’t believe those who tell you to, “Stick to the word,” whenever you have the nerve to actually say what the word teaches about some new sin the church in on the verge of embracing. Stay strong. You are not alone.

Listen to music. Laugh. Cry. Rest. Stand. Learn. Repent. Often.

If you’re not voting for either of the two main presidential candidates, there are those who will tell you that you’re wasting your vote. You’re not. The system doesn’t work that way. But it is possible for you to waste your opportunity to stand while others bow and shine while others blend in. Don’t waste that.

I still don’t know whose name I’ll be writing in on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. I do know that on Wednesday, November 9, 2016, Jesus will still be God. His command for his people to love him and to be a voice for the voiceless will still be binding. His protection from evil will still be sufficient. His plan for how we should lead those he has put under our care will still be relevant. A body of believers remembering those truths and living them out is far more powerful than any president.

Church, remember that our Savior is not elected. In his grace, he has elected us (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 2:1-10). And we are his body (Colossians 1:18), not an extension of the Democratic or Republican parties.

And church, remember that 0ur identity is found on a bloody cross on Skull Hill, not in a white mansion on Capitol Hill.

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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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The Children Of God Myth

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Sometimes, in an effort to be comforting, Christians can say the dumbest things.

A mother gives birth to a baby three months early. The baby spends the next two months in the hospital, separated from his mother. When the mother is finally able to go to church with her baby, she’s met with, “I just don’t think I could be away from my baby that long.”

As if the mother had a choice.

A man loses his wife in an automobile accident. He stands next to her casket while friends and relatives wait in line to share their support and love. The hugs and tears of others bring him the most comfort. The comment that, “God just needed another flower in his heavenly garden” did not.

It just made him mad.

We would do well to follow the example of what not to do from Job’s friends. They were okay when all they did was sit and mourn with their suffering brother. It’s when they started speaking for God that they got themselves into trouble. That’s not to say that we should never use theology to bring comfort. We must. But when we do, it’s important to make sure that the theology is correct.

After the terror attack in Orlando, many Christians went to social media to remind us that we are all God’s children. And by all, they meant all. As in every human being on the planet. While this may bring comfort to some, it simply isn’t true. It’s dangerously unbiblical. It’s sort of like convincing the skydiver that the big thing strapped to his back will only weigh him down.

The idea that we are all God’s children is only partially true. According to the Bible, apart from Christ, we are all children. Children of wrath fighting against God.

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

Here’s a quick experiment. Go to Walmart. I’ll wait for you to get back.

You saw a kid having a fit, didn’t you? I knew it. He was all upset because his mother wouldn’t let him drink his Red Bull before they got to the car. She was threatening him with a hairbrush she found in the cosmetics section. I know. I know. It’s almost like I was there with you.

And I bet I know how you responded to that screaming kid. You kept on walking. You got as far away from him as you could. And you came back home and hugged your own kids a little tighter. Or you gave thanks for not having any kids. The screaming kid wasn’t yours so you just carried on with your visit.

That’s because there is a difference between a child of wrath and a child of God.

A child of wrath is not a part of the family. A child of God is.

But before we start getting the big head, we must remember that the Christian’s status of child of God is not due to any quality of that individual over others. It is solely a result of God’s grace. It is a product of faith, not accomplishments or achievements. Even that faith is a gift from God.

One more experiment. If you have a kid, think back to a time when you heard him cry. You couldn’t see him. Maybe he was in the backyard while you were inside. But still, you heard that cry. You know that cry. Above all other noises on the planet, you know that cry. And when you heard it, you didn’t carry on with your day. You responded. It was not just any cry. It was your child’s cry.

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 4:6-7 (ESV)

In one way or another, everyone cries. But not everyone has a heavenly Father to cry to. Only Christians enjoy such a privilege. So, my fellow Christians, the next time something terrible happens, be careful what you say. Weep and mourn with those who weep and mourn before you get theological.

When that time finally comes, point your brothers and sisters in Christ to their heavenly Father who rules over all things and cares for them immeasurably. And point those who do not have that same hope to all that could be theirs in Christ through faith and repentance.

Speak hope.

But be extra careful to speak it in the right way.

You Have No Reason To Lose Hope

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I’ve never been more hopeless for our country.

Our major cities are overrun with crime. A single murder in a city like Chicago doesn’t even make the local news. But the crime has not been confined to urban areas. In recent days there have been two stories of mass murders in small, relatively rural American towns.

People are angry. They fight for no good reason. We are fractured from one another. We’ve forgotten how to get along. Rather than looking at others simply as human beings, we have grouped everyone into their own community. And all of those communities just can’t figure out how to get along.

Even churches aren’t immune from the bad news. People who have shared the same general worship space for years and who claim to worship the same God act as if they hate each other. Prayer has been replaced with gossip. Worship has been replaced by entertainment. Defensiveness and skepticism have taken the place of repentance.

I’ll spare you the details on the family. Just know that things are bad there too.

Happy Thursday!

It’s times like these when Christians need to evaluate where they are finding their hope. If it’s in safety, getting along with everyone, the church or the family, we’re all in trouble. The one good thing about dark times is that they serve as a painful reminder of the Church’s real hope.

It’s a hope that cannot be voted on, hired, drafted or built. Rather, it is a hope without beginning or end. It is a hope that is faithful to the end.

Our hope is Jesus Christ.

In the first chapter of Colossians, Paul reminded his readers of that. But he didn’t do so by explaining how hard they had to work to pull themselves up out of trouble. He did it by describing how big Jesus Christ is.

More than just a simple carpenter or teacher, Jesus is God.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Colossians 1:15 (ESV)

But he isn’t just God in the sense that many people think of. He isn’t just God over heaven or spiritual things. He is God over all creation.

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. Colossians 1:16 (ESV)

Not one thing has ever happened or ever will happen in spiritual warfare, politics, family life, international trade meetings or family meals that is beyond Jesus Christ. Even the most minute details of life are governed by him. He is God of the small things too. No matter how chaotic or insignificant the details and worries of your life may seem, they are held together by Jesus Christ.

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

Finally, Jesus is God of the Church.

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. Colossians 1:18 (ESV)

He is the head of the Church. To be clear, he may not be the head of your church. If that’s the case, find a new one. Quick.

I have never felt more hopeless for our country. But I have never been more assured of the Church’s future. That’s because Jesus didn’t die for America or Germany or Uganda. He died for his Church. And he is the head of his Church. If you are a Christian, you belong to that body we call the Church whose head is Christ. And here’s the good news. If a body has Christ as its head, that body will never die.

Christian, when anxiety, fear and doubt try to take up residence in your life, do not turn to a presidential candidate for your hope. They will let you down. Do not look back to the good old days to bring you joy. They weren’t as heavenly as you like to think.

Instead, look to Christ.

He is God.

He is good.

He rules over all things, even the little things.

And he loves you.

You have no reason to lose hope.

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The Most Important Missions Trip

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I don’t know how many times I’ve driven by the house. It’s a nice house. And it’s located in a nice part of the community. Homes there aren’t known so much for the cars parked out front as they are the airplanes kept in fancy hangars in the back. This was not the kind of neighborhood where the police make routine visits to carry people away or collect evidence from some gruesome crime.

All of that changed on Monday.

Friends of the family were concerned. The man and woman had not shown up for work. When police arrived for a welfare check they found opened doors that should be closed and unlocked doors that one might expect to find bolted shut. After walking in, police discovered a man, a woman and a child. All three were dead.

As I write this, details are still coming in. Stories like this one have a way of changing between the initial news reports and the setting in of reality. What we do know is that a nearby school was not placed on lockdown. Police also stated that they were not searching for a suspect. That’s likely because this was no home invasion or robbery gone wrong. By all accounts, it was a murder suicide.

When I got the news, my mind went back to a small classroom in Louisville, Kentucky. We had spent months discussing how churches could do better at reaching out to hurting people. Most of our time was spent examining a church in Florida that had spent years successfully providing food, jobs and a fresh start for poor people.

Near the end of our time together, I had a question. So I asked our professor, Dr. T. Vaughn Walker.

“What about Peachtree City?”

Geographically, Peachtree City is very close to Atlanta, Georgia. In reality, it’s a million miles away. People in Peachtree City drive golf carts to go shopping at high end stores. The schools are good. The athletic opportunities for kids are endless. The lawns are manicured. The houses are beautiful. Which led to my question.

“What about Peachtree City? How are churches in areas like that supposed to minister to hurting people when, by all accounts, no one is hurting?”

With his usual wisdom and kindness, Dr. Walker corrected me.

“Don’t assume that just because the house looks nice on the outside that there are no problems on the inside. People in nice houses aren’t immune to cancer and divorce.”

And murder suicides.

The Church puts a big emphasis on helping hurting people. And that’s a good thing. That’s how it should be. But as we do this, we must remember that not all hurts are equally broadcasted.

Poverty is pretty easy to spot.

A broken marriage isn’t.

Poverty, at least to a certain degree, can be addressed from afar. Money can be sent. Trips can be taken. New structures can be set up.

But there is no check or summer missions trip that can adequately speak the gospel into a family that has been ravaged by adultery or cancer.

If we really care about helping hurting people, we must not forget about the crowded villages in Haiti. But we also need to remember the spacious house next door with a 3.5 car garage and an airplane parked out back.

Pain, suffering and evil pay no attention to zoning laws or tax brackets. They make their presence felt in all types of homes. And if we really want to help hurting people, we will do the same.

This summer, it could be that the most important missions trip your church could ever be a part of is the one that begins with you walking up the hill, knocking on your neighbor’s fancy door and inviting the whole family over for a meal.

Chances are, you have no idea what’s on the other side of that fancy door.

And you have no idea what an impact your presence can make.

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” Isaiah 52:7 (ESV)

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Who Gets To Crush The Serpent?

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Here’s a question you’ve probably never considered before.

Who gets to crush Satan?

If you’ve grown up in the church or if you’re familiar with the Bible, your immediate response is Jesus. And that’s an accurate response.

After the Serpent deceived Adam and Eve, God handed down his punishment and it was more than simply having to slither on the ground from there on out.

“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15 (ESV)

One day, Genesis tells us, Satan’s head will be crushed by the heel of a man. We know that man to be Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, Paul says of Jesus that God, “Put all things under his feet” (Ephesians 1:22). That would include Satan’s head. Paul gets more specific in 1 Corinthians.

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 1 Corinthians 15:24-25 (ESV)

The Bible is clear. Satan will be crushed under the heel of Jesus. But then there’s this verse.

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Romans 16:20 (ESV)

Paul is writing to Christians when he says, “your feet.” So which is it? Who gets to finally crush the head of Satan, Jesus or us?

When we put these passages together, they tell us that if we stand in Christ, we will stand over Satan.

We will crush the great accuser.

We will crush the thief.

We will crush the murderer and deceiver.

But before we get too excited about our supposed power, we must remember something. In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God. The of God part is very important. He didn’t tell us to put on the full armor of self-determination, self-righteousness or religious effort. If that’s the only armor we have, Satan will surely stand over and crush us.

When we submit and obey Jesus Christ, living out his attributes while relying on his grace, we are living in his armor. Only by sharing in the identity of Christ can we share in the victory of Christ.

Satan is powerful.

He’s destructive.

But his days are numbered. The head of the old serpent already rests under the nail-scarred foot of our Savior. And soon, those of us who are in Christ will know the joy of crushing the serpent’s head finally and forever.

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They Have Seen Better Days

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This afternoon I’ll preach at a Good Friday service. It’s not at the Georgia Dome. No one is selling tickets to it. No Grammy winners will be there. But there’s is a very strong chance that a lot of the people there have been called Grammy a time or two in their lives.

This Good Friday service will be at the nursing home in the community where I live and work. There will be people singing off key. To be fair, I’ll be one of them. There will be people there who can’t hear or see very well. There will be strange requests for strange songs I’ve never heard of before. But, like the other years that I have been a part of this service, I’m really going to like it.

Being at that nursing home on Good Friday reminds me that Jesus didn’t just die for me. He didn’t just die for the younger generation. The cross wasn’t exclusively for church kids. Jesus didn’t die only for the young, fit and popular crowd. He also died for the old, the feeble and the dying.

He died for the lady struggling to play the role of mother for her aging mother.

He died for nurses and administrators who refuse to cut corners, even if no one else would notice, because they do their work as unto the Lord.

He died for his Church and some of the people who belong to his Church spend a lot of their days in a nursing home. Some because that’s their place of employment. Others because it’s where illness has left them.

But Jesus didn’t just die for his Church. He rose again for it. And that gives us a living hope, no matter how dire our circumstances are here on earth.

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)

I’m guessing that five minutes or so after I’m done speaking to this group, most of them will forget what I said.

Their memory isn’t what it used to be.

They have seen better days.

But because of the grace of God and an empty Middle Eastern tomb, the folks in that nursing home who belong to Jesus have not yet seen the best days.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 (ESV)

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