Remembering Where We’re Going


I’m living in the 18th house I’ve lived in.  I’m 32 years old and I’ve never lived at any one place for more than 3 years.  I was thinking about that as I enjoyed this feeling I’ve been having all day.  It’s a feeling of longing for home.  For the place I belong.  The place I fit.  

I’m in the book of Deuteronomy right now, and I’m reading Moses recounting to the Israelites their long journey to this land God had set aside for them.  He knew their sin would sever them from it, but that’s not what I’m thinking about right now.  The picture I have in my head is of Moses trekking this long, providentially hard road to the Promised Home.  Despite missteps and faithlessness and sin and fears and scoffers and enemies and hunger, Moses clung to the Promise and to the One who made it.  And day after day, month after month, year after year after year he wound his way to the spot where he’d been called, right there on the mountain where God would bury him.  

And of course someday raise him.   

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired.  Raising kids isn’t easy, and neither is being a spouse or an employee, and most of all being a Christian is hard.  I forget, a couple of days a week, probably, to remember what I’m actually walking for.  I forget to hope for the day when I can meet Him face to face.  I forget what it was like to long for the return of Christ so deeply you can’t put words to it.  To know that your truest home isn’t in some nostalgic past but in the future.  To have a sweet sorrow in your heart that He hasn’t come yet but will.  I drive to work and drive home and discipline kids and pay bills and do good things as though they’re only things, and I drift from that hope.  The hope that feels magic when you let it out.  

Home.  There is a place, Christian, where we fit.  There is a family we were made to join.  There is a seat at a great banquet table with my name on it, and there will be brothers and sisters and friends all around.  And a God I was made to enjoy.  

Home, Christian. 

This road leads somewhere.  Eyes up.  We’re not just wandering through the desert this time.  

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There Will Be Pain


If you are not prepared to see setbacks, you are not prepared to see the Christian life.  

If, however, you are simply not prepared to withstand setbacks, then you actually have one of the ingredients necessary for the Christian life:  Broken, incapable humanity.   

One thing you must not be able to do if you are to be a Christian is survive on your own.  There are no Clint Eastwoods among this species.  None of us have a rugged, mysterious self-determination.  We are His, and He has rescued us from what we would have drowned in.  

You must know that this life He makes for us, this thing we call Christianity, is thoroughly laced with pains, because He uses pains to grow us.  Not all of them are agonizing; some of them are like the surprisingly pleasurable muscle pain the day after a good workout.  But some are agonizing.  Some are like a car wreck you only just barely survived from.  If you are a Christian and have never thought anything like, “Please, Father, I’m not sure how much more I can take, please be tender with me tomorrow,” then I can tell you you almost certainly will.  And it will be a blessing, though it probably won’t feel like one.  The moments I think I can’t slog on anymore, not one more step, are the moments I feel least like someone who is trying to be a Christian and most like someone who needs to be a Christian.   If I can do some word play, the moments of intense pain and doubt are the ones when I feel least like a Christian and most like a Christian.  

One of God’s prophets, an anointed and faithful minister of the Word of God named Jeremiah, wrote this through the moving of the Holy Spirit:

Cursed be the day on which I was born!  The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed!  Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, ‘A son is born to you,’ making him very glad.  Let that man be like the cities that the Lord overthrew without pity; let him hear a cry in the morning and an alarm at noon, because he did not kill me in the womb; so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb forever great.  Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame? 

Jeremiah 20:14-18

Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?

If you do not want to see setbacks or pain, do not begin the Christian life.  It is threaded with them.  But it’s important to know first that it is threaded with them the way a tapestry is interwoven with grays and blacks an browns in order to highlight the brilliant yellows and the bright azure.  The pain is designed, in other words.  It is a part of the story being told.  It is purposed.  It is not an end unto itself.  

I have been a part of churches dying, I have seen family members die, I have had bills I could not seemingly pay.  My wife and I have had our cars break down, health scares in our little ones, and we have been wounded by Christians very close to our hearts.  We have seen Satan assault the church and our family, people reject the love of Christ, beloved families torn apart by selfishness or sexual sin, and been sapped of all our earthly strength.  But we have never been abandoned.   I have always had the Spirit of Christ to strengthen me, the promises of Christ to give me hope, and the love of Christ to remind me of who God says I am.  

Be prepared to see setbacks and feel pain and stumble in your own clumsy, self-centered, shortsighted way, Christian brother or sister.  It is a part of the life we have chosen and that chose us.  And if you are considering Christ for the first time, count the cost.  Because there is a cost.  

But take heart.   If you trust in Jesus Christ, you will never have to stand merely on your own two feet.  Despite all the pain, all the isolation, all the falls, you will never be a man wholly unto yourself. 

You will never be abandoned. 

This God always finishes what He starts.  

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge — even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you — so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

1 Corinthians 1:4-9

I Know, Brother and Sister


If you’ve ever been at a crossroads where you felt like the choices were to let yourself drown or to dig in and cling to Christ and just be a Christian, I know how you feel.  

I know what it feels like to be dead certain that if you keep going in the way that God commends, if you keep trying to live the Christian life, you’re going to have the snot beat out of you.  Life is going to just grind you to bits.  I know.  

And I know what it’s like to think there’s just no way you can keep going.  You just can’t.  The depression, the anxiety, the fear, the self-hatred, the anger that hollows you out and eats away at the relationships that should be most important to you; these things have all made just being awake unbearable.  They’ve turned you into something you never expected:  A tired, tired believer.  

Here’s my Friday evening, Dunkin’ Donuts fueled blog version of an outstretched hand to you:  Cling to Him and don’t let go.  Grab Jesus, and drop everything else as you do.  Drop your hopes for being a great employee, the mirage sketch you had in your head of a perfect family life, your impossibly high standards for yourself and for others; let them all go and grab Jesus Christ with both hands.  

I know how searing, life-changing pain feels.  But I’m telling you from the deepest parts of my soul:  You really can trust this man.  He will be here for you.  

That’s it.  No cliches; I’m going to go carve pumpkins with my wife and kids now and I don’t have time to try and be pithy.  But I mean this from my heart:  Trust Jesus.  

I can’t promise you what’s coming down your pike.  But here’s what I can promise you:  He will not abandon you.  

Comfort In the Chasm


I’m a lay elder in a rough neighborhood.

Along with two other men (so far), I pastor some people with some deep, deep wounds from broken families and from awful or absent fathers.  And today, after being shaken by one of those stories, a comfort the Lord brought to my mind from Scripture is this:  The chasm between Hell and Heaven.

It’s a great hope.

There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.  And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table.  Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.  The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.  The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.  And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’  But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.  And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 

Luke 16:19-26

How is that a hope to me right now, as I’m grieving the past and present pain of my brother in Christ?

Because once my friend is with his Savior face to face, his unrepentant father will have no more wounds to inflict.

The final coming chasm between Hell and God’s people is one way of God telling every unrepentant belligerent, every drunken and abusive dad, every nasty and violent parent or relative who refuses, to the end, to repent and bend their knees to King Jesus:  “Once I have brought my busted saint home, you will have inflicted your last damage.”

When you have an unrepentant drunk who takes his bitterness and his selfishness out on little kids, kids who end up believing in Jesus, or when you have this rich man who viewed Lazarus the way you or I would view a weed, one of the justices of Hell is that the person who ends up there can’t sting the saint anymore.

Their hate cannot cross over.

That hateful father’s sin can cry out from an echo chamber, but it will not deafen his little boy’s ears ever again.  He is hearing a different voice, now.  Different altogether.

And to the unrepentant dad on the other side of that chasm, that voice says something he may have never expected.

“There is a great chasm, here. You cannot hurt him anymore. You cannot wound him. All that is over.  Look around you at where you are.  Your power is gone.  

“And his power is me.”

60 More Seconds of Christian Comfort

Look at the birds of the air:  they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  And why are you anxious about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow:  they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 

Matthew 6:26-30

Look around you, Christian.  God feeds birds and causes flowers to grow and makes lilies and tulips beautiful.  This is His world.  And if you have truly been born again in Christ, then the God who owns and runs this universe spent His all to adopt you.  

Look at how tender this God is with robins and finches and dandelions and grass.  And you are His child.  Trust Him!

The word Jesus uses at the beginning of verse 28 doesn’t mean just to watch.  He uses a word like that in verse 26, but in the sentence that begins verse 28 He uses a word that means to study or observe or learn from.  So, seriously:  Go outside and look.  Step into your backyard and watch the petals of a flower flicker in a breeze like a candle flame, and know that every step in that dance is by His hand.  Go look at a tree and see the odd shape and direction of its branches, gnarled like an old man’s fingers, and know that every moment from that tree’s first break through the soil to its falling back down back into it are all by the decree of the God who loves and adopted and values you, Christian.  

“Do you see that sun coming up over the horizon, over there, tracing the blue sky with its warm gold?  Do you see that bright yellow star our side of the earth is facing right now?  Study it.  Look at it.  Birds and plants and stars and sins; this is all in His hands, child.  Trust Him.”

This is a good God.  This is a King we can trust.  This is a beautiful, caring, creating, provident, kind, remaking, rescuing, adoring, wise God.  

Let us seek His Kingdom first.  

Let us trust Him.

Grace and peace.

Peace.

30 Seconds of Christian Comfort

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Matthew 6:25-30

Comfort.  

The disciple of Jesus is supposed to feel better, sense that he’s more secure, after reading this from His Savior.  He should be comforted.

Now, Jesus is not saying that every single believer will be given more beautiful clothing than the flowers.  Why do I know that?  Well, Solomon himself was a servant of God, and Jesus just said that he wasn’t clothed as beautifully as flowers are.  And of course Jesus Himself died with His clothes on the ground below Him, being gambled for by wicked Roman soldiers.  And Paul, His greatest missionary, died penniless.  I have to assume his wardrobe was relatively sparse.

So what is Jesus saying?  How exactly is this supposed to comfort me if I’m a disciple of King Jesus?

He is teaching His followers that God cares for them more than He cares for flowers.  God cares for them.  

God almighty has an intention, a purpose, to care for wildflowers and grass and little birds.  And each of His children is far more valuable than any of them.  After all, the Father spent His Son to have them.

So, how do these words from Christ comfort a Christian?  They teach him two things:  (1) That he is precious to God Almighty, and (2) that this is a caring God.

And so whatever comes, the Christian can know it is for his good.

Would He Be Enough?


Would He enough if I lost everything else?  

If my reputation were destroyed.  If my name were shattered and everyone who’s opinion I cared about most began to think I was a joke. 

If my family were taken away from me.  If the the deep and abiding love of my wife and children were somehow lost to me.

If all my material comforts were gone.  If television and good food and my house and the internet and books were all taken away.  If I had none of my first world diversions or enjoyments or hobbies.

If my job any my ministry and my vocation fell apart.  If I had no obvious successes, and after 20 or 30 or 40 years, nothing had worked out as I’d hoped.  If everything I’d tried to build landed flat, and I was branded a failure.  

If all the lives I’d wanted to see changed seemed simply static.  No growth.  No healing.  No apparent revival.  

If everything were taken from me but Christ, would He be enough for me to live on?  Would I feel like I still had my one most precious thing?  Would I be content despite my sadness, because I still had the thing my heart feasted most on:  The love of my Savior?  

Your inner impulses run like little workers on a sinking ship to protect whatever your deeest treasures are.  When whatever it is you most love, the thing you find the most peace and joy and satisfaction in, is being threatened, you’ll your nerves and behaviors all scurrying to protect it, to patch the hole and make sure no water breaches the hull there.  You can feel it when you lash out in anger over your reputation being damaged.  You can feel it when you protect at all costs your time in front of the TV.  You can feel it when you ignore prayer or family or work for social media and internet videos.  You will protect and gravitate toward whatever you most treasure, whatever you most enjoy.  

So am I worshiping idols?  Or is He that treasure for me?

Do I ask family or reputation or comfort to bear all the weight of my soul and my hope?  Or would He be enough?

I’ll answer in private.  And in prayer.  But I thought hearing the question might benefit some of you.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 

Philippians 3:7-11