We Have A Food Problem

Have you eaten your kale today? If so, congratulations! You’re going to live to be 119 years old. If not, it’s been nice knowing you but your number’s probably getting called later this week.

You can tell a lot about a society by how they view food. Our society has a lot of explaining to do.

Imagine what it would be like if Moses were standing before the burning bush today and God was promising to use him to lead the people of Israel into a “land flowing with milk and honey.”

Moses had his hesitations when this originally happened. I’m convinced that he would have a whole new set of concerns today.

“Explain this milk, Lord. Was it sourced from grass-fed, free-range cows? And about that honey, sorry, but I’ll have to pass. I just watched a Netflix documentary on how anything that tastes sweet will make your kidneys swell and your eyes sink in. Would you happen to have available a land flowing with kale and emu oil?”

As crazy as that sounds, it’s not too far off from the way it actually went down. The people of Israel were living under harsh conditions as slaves in Egypt. When God rescued them and sent them on their way to a home of their own, he made food rain down from the sky for them.

But it just wasn’t good enough.

Today, for most of us in the United States at least, God has blessed us with more food than our ancestors could imagine.

And still, it’s just not good enough.

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Each week there seems to be a new Netflix documentary about food. And whenever I hear a friend talking about it, they say basically the same thing.

“I’m never eating again.”

That’s because the basic point of most of these documentaries is that Cobra Commander has laced our food supply with poison and if we want to live to see tomorrow, we had better cut back to a diet consisting mainly of organic, free-range, fair-trade hummingbird spit.

Look, I get it. We’ve had a food problem for a long time. People have become too dependent on McDonald’s and frozen “meat” burgers. Side note: never eat any food out of a box with the word meat in scare quotes. But you get my point. Our society has an eating disorder. More specifically, we eat too much and that’s not good.

But recently there has been a shift. Because of the Netflix documentaries and Nutrition Nazis and Food Pharisees we follow on social media, with each bite we take, we take on more guilt. Or fear. Or shame. Or all of the above.

“I can’t believe I just ate a piece of my kid’s birthday cake.”

“Where was the tomato in my salad harvested from and what type of pesticide was used on it?”

“What kind of damage will that ice cream cone do to next week’s Instagram pool selfie?”

Instead of scaring ourselves and our kids to death with another food documentary, we need to cook with them and model the right way to enjoy food. We need to demonstrate self-control and gratitude. We need to stop stressing over every calorie we consume.

We need to relax.

For those who tend to eat too much food, we must relax in the sufficiency of Christ. We must remember that no matter how much we eat, we will be hungry again. And if we don’t keep that hunger in check, our appetite will strangle us. Instead, we must, “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). Only then will we find satisfaction. Only in the righteousness of Christ do continual desire and continual satisfaction live in harmony.

For those of us who are slowly working themselves down to a diet of nothing, we must relax in the sovereignty of Christ. Otherwise, we will make ourselves crazy worrying about the cow that our milk came from and the grass that the cow ate and the water that the farmer gave to the cow and the mental health history of the farmer who cared for the cow. It never ends. Each bite we take must be done with gratitude to Christ while trusting that, “In him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). Yes, all things. Even the molecular structure of your quinoa.

God gave us one body and a lot of food. We need to figure out how to be good stewards of both. The answer is not found in full on gluttony nor is it found in documentary fueled deprivation. Both reveal disorders that run much deeper than the amount of food on our plate. The one who gravitates toward gluttony must humbly and Scripturally address his heart’s idolatry of food. The one who lives in fear, guilt and shame with each bite must examine his heart’s idolatry of perfect health and long life.

There is no doubt that too much fried chicken is bad for your heart. But in a completely different sense, too many unnecessary food restrictions can be a sign of a bad heart, that is, a heart that cherishes the gift of live over the Giver of life.

I am what you might call a health nut. I can’t remember the last time that I ate at McDonald’s. I stay away from white sugar. We have a lot of organic food in our pantry. There are two things that I have notice about our lifestyle. First, there’s always someone more nutty about their health. Two, there are no guarantees that I’ll live any longer than the guy who eats McDonald’s every day. My body will just biodegrade faster than his.

Unless we’re still alive when Jesus returns, none of us is getting out of here alive. No amount of carrot juice can alter that reality. Bu that doesn’t have to be a sad reality. For the believer in Christ, death does not get the final say. Rather, it is just the beginning of an eternity with no crazy food documentaries, no weird diseases and no food allergies.

In eternity, it will be Jesus, his people, a new heaven and earth and a giant supper where no one will ever be over-served and no one will have to request the gluten-free rolls.

But I’m still not sure if there’s going to be any kale there.

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Cootie Catcher

My son climbed into the truck and told me to name a color.

I said red.

Then he asked me for a number.

I said eight.

Apparently I gave the right answers because he told me that I was going to be a millionaire.

At school he had made what he called a fortune teller. A generation or two ago it was called a cootie catcher. You’ve probably seen one of these before. It’s made out of a piece of notebook paper and it fits over your hand sort of like a puppet. Written on the outside are numbers and colors that correspond with something about your future.

After I got over the initial thrill of knowing that I would be a millionaire when I grow up, something else amazed me.

Kids today can access a world of information on a phone. If they want to know how many touchdowns Matt Ryan has thrown this year, it’s just a few clicks away. They can watch entire television shows and download albums on their phones. But they still like to play the same paper game their grandparents played way back in another world. Score one for the simpler things.

But simpler things have a way of becoming complex things. In the second grade, you dream about the car you’ll drive and the house you’ll live in. In your thirties, when you get the car and the house, you long for the good old days when those things were just dreams rather than bills to be paid. Sometimes, the life we dream of isn’t as peaceful as we thought it would be when we were holding a cootie catcher in our hand.

Forget about the nice car. Is there a cootie catcher that promises us peace in the future?

Usually, when we hear about someone being at peace, it means that they’re dead. “Billy lived a hard life, especially there at the end, but he’s at peace now.” It doesn’t have to be that way. While we will never know a perfect life on this side of eternity, we can know peace. Peace among the dreams that never came true. Peace among the dreams that did come true but turned out to not to be so dreamy. In the thick of anxiety and fear, the Bible offers us hope.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. Psalm 131:2 (ESV)

In the heat of your stress and anxiety, it is possible to know peace. It is possible to silence the unnecessary noise around you and to rest in Jesus like a child in his mother’s lap. David Powlison says, “Most of the noise in our souls is generated by our attempts to control the uncontrollable.” It’s as if we’ve grown to believe that the cootie catcher really works, that we really are in control of our future. We aren’t. Failure to recognize this is the root cause of much of our anxiety. That’s why David wrote, “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me (Psalm 131:1).

The future is too great for us.

But it’s not too great for the One to whom we belong.

David’s peace was not like the so-called inner peace that people talk about these days. You know, the kind that makes us feel better about ourselves but never really goes beyond ourselves. Real peace is shared peace.

O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore. Psalm 131:3 (ESV)

We live in a world where most people are being driven crazy by the noise of what they cannot control. It could be that your greatest testimony is living out the peace you have from being content in the God who controls all things.

In the town where I live, there used to be a guy whose job it was to stand out in front of the pizza place and try to get the attention of the people who drove by. Stand isn’t the best word to describe what this guy did. He danced. He danced like it was his goal in life to get people to stop at that place and buy a pizza. I don’t even like the restaurant he worked for but sometimes I would think to myself, “Well, if he feels that strongly about it, maybe I should try a few slices.”

He was the exact opposite of the guy who works for the place that sells Halloween costumes in October and does taxes in March. You know the place and you know this guy. He’s always dressed up like the Statue of Liberty, leaning on a sign that says, “We’ll do your taxes” while texting. That’s it. No dancing. Just texting. I hate to be so judgmental but I don’t want my financial future in that guy’s hands.

You are that guy. Or the pizza guy.

Whatever it is that you put your hope in, that’s what you advertise to a hopeless world.

If your hope is ultimately in your ability to control the future, you have nothing to offer a hopeless world.

But if you are trusting in the Sovereign God who has calmed and quieted your soul, even when everything else in your life is falling apart, the world stops and takes notice.

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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A Political Warning For The Church

Silver Islet, Sleeping Giant / Sibley Peninsula, Ontario, Canada

There are a few people in my church who will be voting for Hillary Clinton. There are more who will vote for Donald Trump. And then there’s me. I’ll find someone else to vote for because I don’t like either candidate.

But I love the people in my church, regardless of who they’re voting for.

We really need to be careful. This election year has been more intense than any I have ever seen. The country is divided. It’s been divided for a while but the divisions are becoming more and more obvious. And if we don’t watch out, those divisions will find their way into our churches.

Two emotions seem to rule our political age. They are anger and worry. People are angry with the way that politicians are representing them. And for good reason. But inevitably, that anger toward a broken system usually redirects itself toward other people. We’re not just angry at Washington D.C. We’re angry with one another.

And we’re afraid. Some are afraid of what might happen if Hillary is elected and rules the country with her progressive agenda. Others fear the chaos of a nation led by President Trump.

With that in mind, the words Paul wrote to the Philippian church two thousand years ago seem like they were written this morning.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Philippians 4:2 (ESV)

Some issue had divided these two Christian women. It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t simply tell them to figure out how to get along. And he doesn’t tell them to find some common interest that they can agree on. If he were writing it today, Paul wouldn’t tell these women to vote for the same person. Instead, he tells them to agree, “in the Lord.”

Everyone in our churches won’t vote the same. There will be people who have different opinions on education, state politics and who the next president should be. And not everyone will agree with the pastor’s political views. We shouldn’t want that. An assembly where everyone shares the same views on every single cultural issue is more like a cult than a unified body.

So the source of our unity will not be our politics. For the church, Christ is what binds us together. At the appropriate times, we can have discussions on school choice and Hillary and Donald. And we can agree to disagree. But we must always find agreement in the reality that Jesus Christ is the crucified and living God who died for the sins of his people and is coming again.

There’s another “in the Lord” phrase in this passage.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4 (ESV)

The answer to your fear of Hillary is not found in Donald Trump. Your worries over a Trump presidency will not ultimately be relieved by a Clinton presidency. Yep, you guessed it. The remedy to our fears are found, “in the Lord.”

When we place our identity in a political party or candidate, consuming fear is a natural result. But when we realize that as believers our identity is found in Christ, we really start to respond to scary situations differently.

Instead of doubting God’s sovereign control, we worship him (Philippians 4:4).

Instead of lashing out at others, we treat them with grace and love, knowing that the Lord is always near (Philippians 4:5).

And rather than allowing ourselves to become consumed with fear, we take our concerns to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6).

That’s when we experience the peace of God (Philippians 4:7).

In just under a month, we will elect a new president. That new president will have a lot of power. But the next president of the United States will not have the power to heal fractured relationships. And that president will not have the power to bring genuine peace to our hearts and minds.

So, no matter our political differences, let’s remember to love each other. And let’s not believe those who profit from preaching a gospel of fear. Let’s not look to Hillary or Donald to give us what can only be found in the Lord.

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Is God Really In Control?

A while back I was having a theological conversation with someone. They were taking issue with my belief in the sovereignty of God, that is, the belief that God is in control of all things at all times. The person’s main concern was that if all Christians believed that God was in control of all things, none of them would do missions.

I thought about that on Wednesday night while I sat and heard a woman telling a story of the sovereignty of God. She and her husband and their five children packed up everything and left behind the comforts of Georgia for the challenges of Romania. For eleven years now the family has been working to break down barriers or racism, rescue women who are or otherwise might be caught in the sex trafficking industry, pulling children out of orphanages and giving them a better home, providing an education and yes, evangelizing the lost.

This family’s belief in the sovereignty of God didn’t keep them from the mission God had for them. It fueled their mission.

Christians like to say that God is in control but I wonder how many of us really believe that. Sure, we can say that he is in control on a random Tuesday morning. But what about on a Wednesday morning when a tornado hits? Or when there’s a bad phone call from your brother? Or when it feels like you can’t possibly go any further? Is God still in control then?

The Bible answers that question with a resounding yes.

I form light and create darkness;
I make well-being and create calamity;
I am the LORD, who does all these things. Isaiah 45:7 (ESV)

This would be quite scary were it not for God’s goodness. Hitler had a pretty good measure of control over Germany. An abusive husband can control his wife. But neither Hitler or the abusive husband are good.

It does us no good to speak of the sovereignty of God if we do not also speak of the goodness of God.

 

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:1-5 (ESV)

So the sovereignty of God is not intended to free us from the mandate to make disciples of all nations or from any other more specific mission God may have for us. But there are a few things that the sovereignty of God, when understood in union with the goodness of God, will free us from.

Things like fear and anxiety.

It’s interesting to hear how people talk about the upcoming presidential election in the United States. Here’s a basic summary of one point I hear frequently.

“Well, neither one of the candidates are any good but we need to vote for ______________ because at least God can work through that one.”

But God can’t work through the other one? Read the Bible. It’s one big, long story of God working through tyrants to accomplish his perfect will for the good of his imperfect people. Or, to put it another way, the Bible is an account of God’s complete control over all things. That doesn’t mean that we have to support tyranny or some supposed lighter version of it. It just means that we don’t need to be afraid when it comes knocking on our door.

God’s sovereignty and God’s goodness work together to free us from the constant hand wringing that so many have given in to.

God was good and he was in control when he created the heavens and the earth.

God was good and he was in control when Jesus was crucified.

God was good and he was in control on the day that I was saved.

God was good and he was in control on the day that my parents divorced and on the day that my mother got sick and on the day that she died.

When we have our presidential election, God will still be good and he will still be in control, no matter who wins.

And, whether God calls you to Romania or to stay in the states to make disciples, he will still be good and he will still be in control.

Because God is both good and sovereign, we can trust that when bad things happen, God will eventually, some way and some how, work them for our good. We don’t need to know all of the details. When tragedy strikes, the world is better off without us trying to excuse God, speak where he has not spoken or explain away his sovereignty.

We say something much more powerful when we simply trust God and worship him.

He really is in control.

He really is good.

And that frees us to obey him boldly and worship him gladly.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11:33-36 (ESV)

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Be Careful What You Fear

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Fear can make you do some crazy things. It can physically shut your body down. It can convince you to make decisions that you’ll later regret. It can convince you to buy some products and get rid of others. As followers of Christ, we have to be very careful of what we fear.

None of us are taught how to fear. At varying degrees, we just enter the world that way. And to make it all better, our parents lie to us. They tell us, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” As we get older, we realize that they were lying to us. There’s plenty to be afraid of. It might not be under our bed but it’s certainly outside our door. If not, we tell ourselves, why do we have security systems on our cars and homes? But then we get even older and we tell the same lie to our kids. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. Go back to sleep.”

Jesus doesn’t work this way.

Consider the story of Ananias. Ananias doesn’t get much attention. I don’t know of any VBS themes devoted to him. But if you’re a Christian, it’s very likely that the story of your salvation could be traced back to Ananias. All by God’s grace, of course.

God came to Ananias in a vision one day. Ananias responded like any good follower of Christ. “Here I am, Lord.”

By the time Ananias found out what God was requesting, perhaps Ananias was wishing that he wouldn’t have answered so quickly.

There was a man named Saul. He was well known among Christians for all the wrong reasons. He wanted to kill them. And God wanted Ananias to meet Saul.

Ananias was afraid. So afraid that he felt compelled to talk the Sovereign God of the universe out of his plan.

But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” Acts 9:13-14 (ESV)

As if God would say, “Oh. Good point. I didn’t think about that. Scratch that. My bad.”

When I read this, I picture God laughing when a frightened Ananias talks about the “authority from the chief priests.” Do you remember one of the last things that Jesus told his disciples after his resurrection? In Matthew 28 he told them that, “All authority in heaven and on earth” had been given to him. All authority. Ananias had either forgotten that or hadn’t learned it yet. And the same seems to be true of us.

In this age of fear over elections and Supreme Court appointments and terror strikes it is important for us to remember who the authority really belongs to.

It’s not Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

It’s not ISIS.

It’s not the Supreme Court.

It’s Jesus. And any authority anyone on this earth has ultimately rests under his authority. He gives it. He takes it away. All for the good of his Church.

When the Lord responded to Ananias, he didn’t say what parents usually say. He didn’t say, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” And he didn’t even promise that Ananias would be safe. He just said, in so many words, “Go, because I’ve got a plan for Saul and you play a part in the beginning of it.”

So Ananias went. He wasn’t given the assurance that his going would be free of difficulty or danger. But he wasn’t going alone. He was going with the presence of his Lord. And he was going in the fear of the Lord.

The fear of the Lord is different from the fear of man. The fear of man sees man as ultimate and leads to paralysis. The fear of God sees God as ultimate and leads to worship and obedience and joy.

It’s a scary world that we live in. There is plenty to be afraid of but we must be careful what we fear. It is impossible to simultaneously live our lives in fear of man and obedience to God. Our only hope is to fear God.

If we allow the fear of man to consume us we will eventually embrace evil. Our fears will convince us that evil is our only option. But if we fear God, that is, stand before him in reverential awe and obedience, we will see the world in a whole new way.

Yes, the world will still be a frightening place when we fear God.

But the terrors of this world will have no control over us.

That’s because our eyes will be fixed on the Authority that is over this world.

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A Word From Jesus That You’ve Probably Never Noticed But Really Need To Hear

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It’s far from the most popular phrase that Jesus ever spoke. It never shows up in any of the movies. We don’t repeat it today. In fact, even if you’ve spent your whole life in a really good church, there’s a chance that you’ve missed this phrase.

Jesus was getting away. His confrontations with the religious elites had been intense and, no doubt, draining. On top of that, someone had just told him about the death of John the Baptist. So Jesus got in a boat to get away from the noise. But something was waiting for him on the other side of his getaway. Another crowd.

Imagine how you would feel if you went on vacation and when you showed up to your condo on the first day all of the people at work were waiting on you. Jesus didn’t feel that way. Rather than turning back around or telling the people to go away or calling down fire from heaven, the Bible says that Jesus “had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14).

At some point, Jesus’ disciples decided that there had been enough compassion for one day.

Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Matthew 14:15 (ESV)

The disciples were clear. They were ready for the people to move along and start taking care of themselves. Jesus wasn’t.

But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” Matthew 14:16 (ESV)

Jesus was asking his disciples to do the impossible. Buying food for this many people would cost well over half of a laborer’s yearly salary. And no one happened to have that kind of food packed away in a bag. The best the disciples could come up with was a few fish and some bread. That’s when Jesus spoke the phrase that all of us need to hear but few of us have ever noticed.

And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Matthew 14:18 (ESV)

Not, “That’s it?!”

Not, “Oh, you of little faith.”

Just that one simple command. Bring them here to me.

Jesus knew what he was doing. He wasn’t chewing his finger nails and giving himself a stomach ulcer along with the disciples as they tried to figure out what to do with the crowd. Instead, he was intentionally putting them in a situation where all of their resources had run out. There was nothing that they could do. They couldn’t send the crowd home. They couldn’t afford to buy food for everyone there. And they couldn’t just make food appear out of nowhere.

But Jesus could. And he did. Over ten thousand people were fed that day. And the plotting, planning and administrating of the disciples had absolutely nothing to do with it. It was all the result of the God who remained God when the disciples had come to the end of their rope.

Sometimes the best place we can be is in the place where all of our talent, resources and knowledge has run out. It’s in that place where we really begin to understand the lordship of Jesus Christ over all things.

He is Lord over the hurts the people brought to him that day.

He is Lord over the worries that you have today.

He is Lord over the seemingly impossible.

And he looks at the handfuls of nothing you have to offer him and says, “Bring them here to me.” Instead of allowing your worries to consume you, bring them to Jesus.

Parenting is difficult and overwhelming. Bring your inadequacies and failures to Jesus and trust him with the results.

The temptation you face is much more than you can handle on your own. Bring your compromises and sins to Jesus.

Fears about what will happen tomorrow have a way of keeping you up at night. Bring those fears to Jesus, trusting that the same God who has been Lord for all eternity will still be Lord over your tomorrow.

You might find yourself in a tight spot today. And the miracle required to get you out of it may never come in this life. But remember, Christian, that Jesus is with you. And he has one simple command for what you should do with your insufficient funds.

“Bring them here to me.”

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You Are Going To Be Okay And There Is No Need To Worry

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A while back, my son asked me about ISIS. He was scared. He had heard about them on the news and seen pictures of them dressed in black uniforms and holding knives. I tried to calm his fears with logic. Looking back, my logic was all wrong.

I told him that ISIS was small. They’re not.

I told him that ISIS wasn’t in our country. They are.

But the next thing that I told him was exactly right. One for three isn’t so bad, I guess.

I told him that we were going to be okay and that there was nothing to worry about.

We really are going to be okay. As followers of Christ, we may find ourselves hanging on crosses like some of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. “Allahu Akbar” could be the last words that we hear spoken on this planet. But we are still going to be okay. Now, I didn’t go into quite that detail with my young son but my telling him that we were going to be okay was not just something that parents say to get their kids to quit worrying. It is truth. Gospel truth.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 (ESV)

Christian, no matter what ISIS does, you are going to be okay.

And you have nothing to worry about. That’s not a call to apathy. It doesn’t mean that you won’t find yourself in a situation where you have to fight to defend your loved ones. Rather, it is a reminder of Jesus’ complete control over all things. No matter what someone on earth does to destroy your life, family or country, no one can do anything to damage the infinitely better home that awaits you because of what Christ has done for you.

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. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-7 (ESV)

There really is nothing to worry about because Jesus will see you through to the end. And, as all Christians know, the end is just when it starts to get good.

Christian, as you watch the news, as you think through scenarios, as you try to comfort your kids, as you pray for wisdom and courage and preparedness to handle whatever situations may come your way by the hands of ISIS, don’t worry about how big ISIS is. They are big enough. And don’t worry about whether or not they are here. They are. Instead, live your life in confidence based on what the One True God tells you in his word.

You are going to be okay and there is no need to worry.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:1-6 (ESV)

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Back To School Fears

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This is a weird time of year. Some people are really happy. Others are bordering on depression.

School is starting back.

My wife loves school. She works at one. I think that secretly she wants to live inside of one.

I’m the opposite. I can’t prove it but I think that my blood pressure used to go up about 20 every morning when I walked through those double doors and into my school building. I’m all for education. It’s just that some of the most difficult moments of my life were spent in school buildings.

I shouldn’t say difficult. It’s not like I had to bust rocks. I just had to find x. And let’s be honest, what’s the difference really? I’m kidding, teachers! Sort of.

If you’re a lover of all things school, congratulations. Your Super Bowl is coming up. And while you are certainly free to continue reading, this post isn’t for you.

This post is for the students, teachers and parents who are on the verge of worrying a hole into their stomach because of what is waiting for them in just a few days. This if for the tragically average student. I’m writing this for the teacher who fights back tears whenever she thinks of all the fun she had with her family this summer while wishing that that season could somehow swallow up the other three. This is for the parent who is really nervous about loosening the grip on her child even more as another school year brings her baby one step closer to adulthood. This one goes out to the home school parents that are already overwhelmed before the year even starts.

Right now, you probably feel sort of like that lion-hunting dentist that everyone is mad at. Your time to come out of hiding is approaching. And you know that it’s not going to be pretty.

Take heart.

If you are a Christian, you are never alone.

Here are a few things to remember.

1. Trust Jesus when you are scared. 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)

Fear can consume you or it can be your friend. It consumes you when you believe its lies that the future really is hopeless. It is your friend when it is nothing more than a gentle reminder to pray to the One who is in control and taking care of you. This is best done through prayer.

Be honest in your prayers.

Tell your Father what scares you.

And then remember what Jesus is doing. He is protecting you by standing guard at your heart and mind.

2. Trust Jesus when you don’t understand what to do next, 

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8 (ESV)

There’s nothing like school to remind you that you’re not as smart and independent as you think you are. There are tests that seem designed for failure. And not just the written ones that students take with number 2 pencils. Parents and teachers face their share of difficult exams too. Instead of coming on white sheets of paper, these exams come at surprising moments in the speed of life.

Your lack of understanding can lead you to apathy, despair and depression. Or it can lead you to your Father in Heaven.

When you find yourself in a situation where you do not know what to do, and you will, ask God to show you. God never promised to give you all of the answers on a test or to fill you in on all of the things the kids are doing while you’re not looking. He has promised something better. He has promised to give you his wisdom. Just ask in faith. You’ll be glad that you did.

3. Remember why you are here.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)

Your main, Divine objective is not an A in math. It is to glorify God.

You can get an A in math or raise an honor roll student or win teacher of the year and still miss the point. You were put here to glorify Jesus Christ.

Yes, it is possible to do well in school without glorifying Jesus.

However, it is impossible to fully glorify Jesus if you’re cheating, complaining or being lazy.

Maybe God didn’t design you to be scientist. That’s okay. But he did design you to glorify him. So, for the sake of Jesus Christ, do your best.

It’s Thursday.

But Monday is coming.

And this is a Monday that is perhaps more dreaded than any other.

Don’t let it be that way. Instead, know that you are not walking through those double doors and down those hallways alone.

The Sovereign Creator of the universe is with you.

And he has promised to see you through until the end.

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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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