A Tick On the Clock

If none of the things you want most out of life could be resolved by Jesus coming back, your heart is not calibrated correctly.  

Your heart was designed to commune with God.  It’s in God that you can have the peace and hope and joy that you thirst for.  And when the Son of God returns to make all things right, to judge the still-living and the dead, and to remake all things for His people, those who love Him will get to know Him and be with Him fully, in bodies that will not perish or wear out.  Nothing can be more satisfying than knowing Jesus Christ face to face and forever.  Nothing.  Not retirement.  Not romance.  Not a career.  The greatest prize a human being can have is still to come.  

Much of 21st century American life seems designed to make you forget that there is an eternity, a neverending series of tomorrows that you will either enjoy or endure.  Netflix and soccer practices and Chipotle and heated car seats and Friday nights and Facebook and ESPN all seem to insulate us against the reality that this American life of creature comforts is not the last chapter of anyone’s life.  It is not the way things will always be.  Every human being will either meet Jesus to enjoy Him forever or meet Jesus as judge to face what they deserve for their sins.  The great finish line you should be keeping in your mind is not the date you can withdraw from your 401k but the day you are raised to find Jesus looking back at you.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 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 20:11-21:4

What do you want most out of life?  Creature comforts?  Entertainment?  Peace and quiet?  Financial security?  Sex?  Respect?

Or do you want people to know God?  To see Him glorified?  To enjoy Him?  To see pain and death banished?

We weren’t born into a day and place that make it easy to remember we’ll each die, much less that the world will be destroyed and remade some day.  Ours is a country and culture filled with distractions and amusements.  But despite how satisfying we may find Netflix comedy specials and shopping on Amazon, there is something greater to live for.  The King is coming to fix what is broken and to fill every soul who is His to the brim with joy and peace.  Every moment is a tick on the clock towards the Day when Jesus splits the skies and puts an end to evil and a start to a peace on which the lights will never go out.

Which is why the Bible ends this way.

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Revelation 22:20-21

Amen indeed.

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30 Seconds On Christmas


Christmas is hope for the worst of us.  

It is God’s electing to be born in a forgotten place in the shadow of His own death rather than to let us all perish in our sins.  It is proof He is not as apathetic or vindictive or arbitrary as we are.  It is evidence that His ways are very much not our ways.  

Christmas is the message that we are not alone.  That despite what we have done, God is available.  He is seeking.  He is merciful.  

Christmas is a part of the only hope for thieves and adulterers and murderers and gossipers and traitors and liars, of which we were each born an example.  It is a part of the Gospel that God came to be what we could not be, do what we could not do, and give us what we could not earn.  

Christmas is a time to remember that God is with us.  

He is with us.  

And that is a hopeless man’s hope.  

Merry Christmas.  

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.  When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ which means, God with us. 

Matthew 1:18-23

60 Seconds Exhorting You Not to Complain


Ultimately, complaining is you indicting God. 

And that is neither a safe nor a wise thing to do.  

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.  And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.  Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity?  Curse God and die.’  But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak.  Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’  In all this Job did not sin with his lips. 

Job 2:7-10

When you complain, at least 2 sinful assumptions in your heart are being revealed.  

  1. You believe you deserve better than the thing you’re complaining about.  This is sinful because you are denying God’s pronouncement that you have sinned gravely against Him, and the only thing that you truly deserve is His eternal wrath.  You are indicting God’s goodness.  
  2. You believe you know better than God.  After all, you certainly would not have chosen this thing that happened, which is of course why you are huffing and puffing about the fact that it did.  This is sinful because you are placing your own wisdom above God’s.  You are indicting God’s wisdom.  

For a complainer, the chief problem is not the thing he is complaining about.  The biggest issue at hand is the sin in his heart that his complaining is revealing.  

To complain is to indict God for not being good enough and not being wise enough.  And the fact that we are not right this moment in His Hell, the place our wickedness and selfishness merits, is proof that He is plenty good.  And His rocksteady Word and the fact that in contrast to Him I am a fickle, petty, shortsighted man remind me He darn sure is wise

So the answer to the bitterness and anger and fear and rage that swirl around your complaint is not merely to fix what ticked you off.  That won’t fix the underlying cause.  That’s just treating the symptom.  

Ultimately, the solution you need in the midst of your complaint is repentance, followed by wholeheartedly casting yourself on the mercy and wisdom of the God of Jesus Christ.  You must call your sin sin and then entrust yourself to the undeserved love of Jesus Christ.  

But don’t ever think that getting rid of the annoying or frustrating thing will be the ultimate answer.  

Complaining is the symptom.  

Sin is the disease.  

Politics Is Too Small A Story


So this past weekend the New York Times published an editorial that I think was pretty revealing about a pulse I sense in the current American bloodstream.  If I can put a name to that pulse:  A lot of Americans currently see themselves primarily as actors in a political play.  Whether they are Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, one of the most interesting parts of life to them is this political narrative.  They are willing to make major life choices (like, ahem, who they will be friends with) based on political storylines.  

Now, I think some of this is due to the fact that the secular west that America is a part of has largely removed at least three major components from the center of human life:  Worship of a deity (whether a false one or the one true God of Jesus Christ), marriage, and bearing and raising children.  But it has to put something at the center of its people’s lives, because human beings inherently live for things.  So since deity, marriage, and raising children are pushed to the cultural side, the secular West places a cosmic political battle at the heart of life.  It says that this is what we live for.  By contrast, I don’t think the political landscape is central to the average Nigerian, who is plugged into a church and has six children.

But more than talking about the cause, I wanted to take a second and simply highlight a better story (and, thankfully, a truer story) than the one that cradles mindsets like this editorialist’s.  

Human beings need to see themselves in story.  We are made this way by the Author of the grand Autobiography around us.  This editorialist’s posture makes sense if you see yourself in a story where every human being is either an oppressor or oppressed (or an instrument of oppression).   But that is not the story the Bible tells.  And hence it is not the story we are in.  

The Bible places us in a much grander story, a cosmic narrative in which a spiritual rebel against the good Creating King has seduced humanity to follow him.  And this rebellion has scarred the universe by bringing upon it the curse of death and suffering.  But in this shadowed and groaning world, that good King has entered the drama as chief groaner, and all to take into His own heart and flesh the pain and agony and judgment and death that our sin makes us deserve.  

Through that sacrifice that He willingly and passionately made, and because of the victory He won by coming back from the other side of death, this King is ransoming for Himsef a people out of this wicked rebellion.  He is winning them back.  And He will one day plant them on a remade world, a new creation that is everything that should have been and everything that once was.  

That is the story we are in.  Not one of merely political schema or of America versus North Korea.  Not one of Good People Group A against Malevolent People Group B.  Not one of one humanly constructed ideaology triumphing over another.  (Not even one of how far I can rise at the office or how many people I can get to admire me on Facebook.)  This current American narrative of one political group heroically fighting against a villainous counterpart is too small to live for and too fragile to hope in.  

And that is the heartbeat, an all too common one, that I see revealed in this editorial.  And it’s a sad one.  A person who believes the greatest struggle is politics has no greater demon to fight than the other party.  He has no greater worship song to sing than the voices of his favorite pundits.  He has no stronger altar to kneel at than the one engraved with his favorite political issue.  

We have a greater story to live for than Barack Obama versus Donald Trump.  We have a better hope than either house of Congress can provide.  There is a King on the throne, and He has done something remarkable.  

And it’s not done yet.  

He is returning to finish what He started.  

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

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 Seconds On the Truest Love


Worldview matters.  Ask anyone who’s spent time in both Riyadh and Beverly Hills.  Or in Pyongyang and Paris.  How a people views the world dictates much of what they do.  And why they do it.  

Sharia reveals Islam to be an ultimately political worldview.  Contemporary life in the West reveals secularism to be a materialistic worldview.  But what we see in Scripture is that the Trinity reveals Biblical Christianity to be a relational worldview.  The Bible teaches that the foundation of reality is a God who has always existed in relationship with Himself.   

True Christians worship a God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and who always has been.  We worship a God who did not need to make people to love; He already was loving and indeed Himself was love.  Instead He made people and things out of pure grace, and then invited human beings into the blessed love that He already enjoyed.  

Christians worship a God who has always been in community, a God who loves to love.  The Father has always enjoyed the Son, the Son has always loved the Father, the Spirit has always adored and glorified the Father and Son, and all the way around and through the Godhead.  We worship a God who is three persons, each of whom is thoroughly other-centered.  

Compare that to the gods of Beverly Hills.  Or Riyadh.  Or Pyongyang.  Or ESPN.  

Unlike the world’s other worldviews and religions and messages, Biblical Christianity proclaims a God of pervasive, truthful, complete compassion.  We worship a God who has never known a moment without radical, unfathomable love.

True Christians worship a God of three persons, each loving the others in beautiful, harmonious community.  We worship a God of love.  

And remember:  You become like what you worship.   

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.  They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.  They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.  They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat.  Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.  O Israel, trust in the Lord!

Psalm 115:4-9(a)