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.

Hang On to Your Towel

  
To my fellow believers in Jesus Christ:

Don’t throw in the towel.  

I know what discouragement feels like and tastes like. I know what it is to have pain or failure or sadness grip your throat in the middle of the day. Or to have them crash over you in waves a few seconds after you wake up in the morning, once your head clears. I know what that’s like.  

But don’t give up.  

We have a Savior who knew great sorrow. And He now stands resurrected and glorious and radiating power and beauty at the right hand of God. Our Savior knew the sounds of mocking, and knew what it felt like to be deserted by your friends and your family. He saw the brutal ugliness of sin up close, where it snarls and spits at you and beats you with whips until you bleed.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  

Hebrews 4:14-16

Peter knew what it was like to sin massively and publicly and then be repaired and restored by the grace of that Great High Priest. Moses knew the patience of that same God after having the Lord mercifully respond to his anxieties about being a poor speaker or leader. Ezra and Nehemiah saw the power of that God’s unshakeable love as He brought His people back from their exile and their discipline. Those who have gone before us have seen that their flaws and their frailties and their failures are not the last word in the story of a child of God; the forgiving and resurrecting grace of that God is.  

Since then, we have this great hope procured by this great Priest, don’t give up. Don’t lose heart. I don’t care how bad it is, I can tell you with confidence that He knows your pain, that He cares, and that He can bring you to eternal joy by grace through faith. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart that you are truly an adopted child of God, and that you have all that comes with that unspeakbly sweet adoption.  

Your chest may tighten over a financial collapse, but it can’t separate you from Jesus. Despair over brokenness in your marriage may crush you, but it can’t pull you from your Savior. You may feel guilt and shame over your sins, but they cannot remove the seal of the Holy Spirit from your soul.  

If you’re feeling the pull to give up, hang on to that towel a little longer. For the believer, it never ends badly. The grave won’t be able to hold your bones, and the Devil will see you dancing at the dinner of the Lamb he so hates.  

I can sympathize with your pain, but more important than that is the fact that He can.  

Hang tight. You have a better Jesus than you can even begin to imagine.  

A Pastor’s Letter to His Congressman

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The following is a letter I sent to my Congressman, Steve Chabot:

Dear Congressman Chabot,

I appreciate your service to this country and the people of Cincinnati. I have never written one of my political representatives before. My reason for doing so now is quite simple: I have never been this outraged.

The videos thus far released by The Center for Medical Progress in which Planned Parenthood officials discuss how much they’ll charge for the body parts of murdered infants, for human flesh and blood killed and extracted from the womb, is morally repugnant. It is an affront to God, and it should be an affront to a nation that considers itself a force for good in the world.

“So then you’re kind of cognizant where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax so that, you know, we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna’ crush that part, I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna’ crush above.” That is Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Medical Services for Planned Parenthood, on dismembering infants in the womb in such a way that the body parts can then be sold.

This behavior is quite literally diabolical. It is monstrous. And I am disgusted that our tax dollars go to support it. I do not care if it was legal. I do not care if Planned Parenthood made money or lost money. They murdered infants, flippantly discussed it, and sold parts of those human babies. What they do to children in the womb is phenomenally wicked. The moral blindness they display after-the-fact is simply more obvious evidence of their evil folly.

I have voted for you regularly since 2006. As a thirty-year-old, I have many voting years ahead of me. I pledge to you my vote in the upcoming election if you denounce Planned Parenthood and work to end any federal financial support or governmental support of any kind for this hideous organization. I will never vote for you again if you refuse to say or do anything about Planned Parenthood.

As a fellow citizen of the United States, a democratic republic where the citizens and their constitution are sovereign, I ask you to uphold the Constitution, written to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

A leader’s first responsibility is to what is right. I respectfully call you to that task.

Wade Thomas

A Hypothetical Gun with Live Ammo

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Let me paint for you a quick hypothetical picture. It’s a useful one because it could easily happen, and those are of course the most helpful sorts of hypotheticals.

On my way home today, someone flies through a red light going 50 mph and hits me in the driver’s side. God allows my earthly life to end and so I am almost immediately after impact with Him, standing before His Son.

Now the point of this hypothetical: What matters? With eternity now stretching out before my eyes, unfolding in front of me like a golden river at the feet of Jesus, what matters? What was meaningful in my life while living in this frail body on this fractured planet, before both of them get remade? With all of my decades on earth now looking like one grain of sand on a beach of moments stretching a million miles in either direction, what was of value?

Whether or not I finally got the house in order? If I got to see the last episode of that TV series I was watching? How annoying it was to clean the litter boxes? Whether or not I got the raise I wanted?

Either eternity is real or it’s not. Either Heaven and Hell exist, one of which will contain every single friend, co-worker, neighbor, and family member I have, or they don’t. Either Jesus rose from the dead and will return to judge every single soul that’s ever been woven into existence or not. And if eternity is real, and the universe really is as Jesus said it was (namely under His feet), then all my priorities have to be different from my neighbors and buddies who don’t think as such. I can’t think about raising my kids the the way they think about raising theirs. I can’t think about retirement or free time or finances or prayer or death or forgiveness the way they do. Because I am living with the certain, rock-solid awareness that every single human being will either experience unending happiness at the feet of Jesus Christ or unending misery under His wrath for their sin.

Every thing I do here touches the silver thread of eternity. I can hide from that fact more easily in America than many other human beings can, because unlike the Christians in Nigeria, Iraq, or Cambodia I can play with electronics in my central air to the point of numbing myself to eternity. And unlike most Christians (and humans) throughout history I haven’t lost a child in infancy or early childhood. So I can, if I choose to, pretend that I won’t stand before God with a trillion moments of either incalculable joy or just, deserved agony awaiting me. I live in a time and place with the privilege of diversion (or the diversion of privilege, perhaps), and so I can pretend that this life is bigger than it is and that the grave is smaller.

But guys, I won’t just hypothetically die. Unless King Jesus comes back in my lifetime, I will truly, honestly go to sleep and awaken to His shining face and heart-stopping glory. And I refuse to live in such a way that’ll win me the world but cause me to forfeit my soul. I want to please Him now so I can enjoy His pleasure forever.

I plead with you to join me, and all of His true saints, in that. Let’s run together towards eternity.

*Note: This post is adapted from an e-mail I sent to our church.

Letters from Jesus: Pergamum

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Everyone holds fast to something.

Every single soul runs to, finds peace in, seeks meaning and satisfaction from something.

The 7 churches in the Roman province of Asia that Jesus gave messages to through the Apostle John (Revelation 2-3) were getting persecuted. They were in cities and places and times where claiming Christ could get you (a) slandered and (b) imprisoned/killed. So in those dark and lonely places, Jesus reminded each of the churches to persevere in devotion to Him. To cling to Him.

To hold fast to Him.

The third letter was to the little church of believers in the eclectic, artsy, spiritualistic city of Pergamum. It had one of the world’s biggest libraries, a famous theater (see below), temples to all sorts of gods… Think Greenwich Village.

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Jesus spoke this to them, through John:

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.

I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’”

Some of these Christians were being seduced by the same sort of trickery Balaam pulled on God’s people in the Old Testament. Balaam had gotten God’s Israelites to fall into spiritual disrepair by getting unbelieving, non-God-loving women to seduce the Israelite men. And the Moabite idolatry and wickedness and sexual immorality spread like an infection among God’s elect.

So, rather than a light to and for the world they became darkened by the world.

Now some in Pergamum, like the faithful Christians in Smyrna, had held to Jesus. Had persevered through trouble and had sifted through the teachings and preaching of those claiming to be Christian, and had jettisoned what was false and clung to what was true.

But some hadn’t. A few had been (probably willingly) fooled into believing that sexual immorality was okay for a Christian. That loving or worshiping something other than God was okay for a Christian.

Jesus’ Word to them was “Repent. Turn from those sins. Stop facing the sinful desires of your still-fleshly hearts and face and follow and love Me.”

And He also told them that if they didn’t, He would war against them with the sword of His mouth.

John had seen that sword in the vision of Jesus that kicked off this letter/book (Revelation) of his. It was a two-edged sword, like the New Testament says the Word of God is. It was coming out of Jesus’ mouth, just like the Word of God does.

In other words, Jesus was ready to war against the unrepentant Christians (or “Christians”) with the true, freeing, wonderful, binding, concrete Word of God.

He was warning them, lovingly: Repent yourself, or deal with Me.

The Lamb who is a Lion. The Savior, as John saw, who has feet of bronze and eyes of fire and a voice like many waters.

He is ferociously loving, ferociously gracious, and ferociously jealous for His people’s hearts.

Loving money or acceptance more than Him (idolatry), or loving pornography or fornication at all (sexual immorality) will only end tragically for us.

His warning is loving.

He said it this way during His earthly ministry:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

Don’t hold to false teaching that leads to false Christianity.

Don’t hold to any idol, any thing, as though it could satisfy you more than the Most High and His free peace and hope in Jesus.

Hold to the only One who can get you through the worst, and the only One who can take you to the best.

Hold to the true and life-giving Gospel, the firm and wonderful Word of Jesus Christ.

And hold to that Word as you hold to Him.

3 Things Jesus is Better Than and How

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1) Your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife.

Romantic love is good. God made it when He made the first humans in His image. He created Adam, and then He bonded him with a helper whom Adam named “Eve.” God began the leaving of parents to join a husband or a wife, the thing we call “marriage,” right there. He authored romance and designed what it should lead to.

But it is not as good as the love of God in Christ. It was never intended to be. In the New Testament God tells us that when a husband lovingly cares for a wife and when a wife respectfully submits to that loving husband, a reality is hinted at that is better than the hint itself.

The relationship between the insanely loving Jesus and His insanely loved people.

The people whom Jesus has saved should delight in Him the way a good wife delights in a good husband. A healthy marriage is a decent shadow of how wonderful Jesus’ relationship to His people is. He’s good, faithful, powerful, and holy. He’s always righteous and never petty. He is always about the good and never about the wicked. He’s the husband not even the best husbands can truly be yet, and he makes His people into the bride they should really be for Him.

Now, by comparison, what does the guy you’ve been dating for six months whom you met at work have to offer?

I’m being a little tongue in cheek, but the bedrock, unshakeable truth is this: The best, most powerful pangs of passionate romantic love are at best only a sneak peak of the radial mercy and grace we can taste in Jesus.

2) An education.

I don’t know if it was The Cosby Show or Welcome Back Kotter or those “Knowledge is Power” PSA’s, but something somewhere started the permeating idea in American culture, which is by now virtually everywhere, that education is “the key.”

There’s a letter to a church in the New Testament, a church filled with people who apparently wanted to be smart and to be seen as smart. The letter is 1 Corinthians, and in it one of the Apostles responsible for spreading the Good News of Jesus says that God loves real wisdom, His wisdom, but that the wisdom of the world won’t get you very far with Him

Now, God made the world. So is it wrong to major in biology and study the life forms He made? Or geology and study His rocks and minerals? Sociology? English Literature? Is it wrong to read a book on Apartheid or the Mariana Trench or hot air balloon travel, just to learn?

No. Paul doesn’t chide them for learning. He chides them for loving and resting their hopes in the wisdom of the world rather than the wisdom of God in the Gospel.

All learning, all education, is second or third or fourth best to Jesus and His forgiveness. But the wisdom of the world, its self-running machine of cool new ideas and ways to sound smarter than the other guy, is like 986th best.

Whatever a good and true and Godly education can offer you pales in comparison to the eternal peace with God offered in Christ. And whatever a flimsy and pretentious education offers you might as well be a half eaten black jelly bean next to the unending wedding banquet Jesus invites us to.

God loves real wisdom, and knowledge is good. But we should never put our hopes in knowledge, we should know the difference between worldly wisdom and Godly wisdom, and we should never mistake knowledge in its own sake for the One worth truly knowing.

3) Money.

Mo $, mo problems, right?

Word.

That said, money is a fleeting thing in at least two ways: It can be taken from you in this life very quickly, and almost all of what it can buy you will be left here to decompose while you await the day of judgment before God.

One day, even as a believer in Christ washed clean by His blood, I’ll answer for what I’ve done with my time and money and gifts in this life.

My Sony television and all 9 seasons of The Office won’t be there to comfort me.

But in addition to the seriousness and healthy fear that that truth should bring to the surface of my mind, I should also be glad about meeting Jesus face to face. I should ask Him to prepare me for it, help me love Him in advance of it, and pray that He might soften my heart to the point where I’d give away everything my money has bought me now for Him.

Will He ask me to give up all my stuff?

Maybe. I simply don’t know.

Is it wrong to have money and the things it buys?

No, not intrinsically. But Jesus Himself and His Apostle Paul said that being rich was dangerous. A snare. That it made it hard to enter the Kingdom of God.

Since we have fleshly, short-sighted eyes, flat panel TVs and BMWs can look more fun than Jesus.

They’re not.

They turn back into dust; He doesn’t. They don’t love; He laid down Himself for rebellious punks because He adored them. They get boring; it takes an eternity to learn how good He is. Their colors and sensations came from Him, are derivative; He is wholly original.

There are nice things, pleasant gifts that Jesus is better than. Children, a sunny day, a spouse, or a good meal would fall into that category.

There are sinful things that Jesus is better than. The temporary warmth of drunkenness or the weekly new toys that greed causes someone to buy would fall into that one.

But the point I’m trying to make is that He’s better. He’s more unending, more exciting, more worthy of the praise and the gladness and the fervor that comes from being happy in something.

He’s more bright and good and beautiful and creative and true and honest and knowing and compassionate and sacrificial.

He’s simply better.

The Only Worthy God

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It isn’t sinful jealousy to desire your children’s hearts. To seek them and win them through love and faithfulness and courage and sacrifice.

It isn’t sinful jealousy to rescue your broken and deceitful wife from a crack house and bring her home, and then to guard her eyes from other, lesser men.

“You shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

From Exodus. The Bible is laced, filled with God saying this. Do not look to lesser gods. Do not kneel to them. Do not seek meaning or peace or hope from them.

I am the One who made your bones and your breath and your hair color and the ground you walk on. I am the only truly good Father (Jesus said that we are evil parents by comparison).

I am the only One worthy of worship and sacrifice and offering and the sweaty, furious beating of a million hearts surrounding and singing to my beautiful, glorious throne.

Your girlfriend isn’t worth that.

Nor your husband.

Nor Allah.

Nor equality, social justice, Republicanism, patriotism, vacation, retirement, popularity, the internet, nor sex.

They are not worthy of worship.

“You shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

When the Pharisees told Jesus He had better tell His disciples to stop praising Him, He responded:

“I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Only the God who is Jesus and Father and Holy Spirit is worthy of granite singing. Of stones springing to life to shout His Name and His greatness.

Only Jesus of Nazareth is worthy of stars spinning and birds making nests and rain falling to water the ground and humans bending their knees.

Only Jesus.

What was the last really, amazingly, heart-stopping, breath-caught-in-your-chest beautiful thing you saw? Really, what was it? Your wife on your wedding day? Your newborn daughter? A silvery, sunkissed waterfall? A city skyline underneath an impossibly orange sky as the light fell under the horizon?

Jesus Christ is the reality and all those things are but the shadow.

Picture a perfect God who owes us nothing, but gives us everything. A world He dreamt and spoke out into firm existence. A world of green and liquid and sounds echoing off rock and perfect breath filling perfect lungs, and all out of sheer grace.

A God who gives perfect gifts to children He birthed. Specifically 2 children: one Adam, the other Eve.

Now picture those children rejecting, ignoring, willingly denying that God and Father. Instead loving the lies of a lesser whisperer. Feasting on the treacheries of a rebel who hates them almost as much as he hates their Father. Wanting the wicked and spurning all the graces of home.

Obeying Satan.

Picture what they deserve.

Now picture that perfect God, the only intrinsically real thing, the only unshakably good Spirit, descending.

Incarnating.

Taking on flesh.

Living among the violent and deceitful and rejectors.

Entering the filth of the crack house. The moist, itchy, awful shadows of Earth’s sins and sinners.

Picture Him bearing the spit and sarcasm and slaps of rejection. Allowing Himself to be disbelieved and disdained by human beings. Again.

Enduring the hatred darkness has for light.

And then picture Him bearing the wrath and judgment that that light must have for the twisted, genocidal, idolatrous darkness.

Jesus the Christ taking on the wrath of God, and then gifting those who would believe on Him with His righteousness.

Grace after grace.

Mercy upon mercy.

We worship cars and hot girls and boys and dollar bills and a good night’s sleep. We chase identity and hope into toy stores and banks and board rooms and wedding chapels.

We worship shadows that were meant to make us turn around and see real beauty.

We eat from trees that were meant to be marveled.

The only worthy God died to bear the wrath of God, for all who would trust in Him.

And He rose to give them eternal life and be their King and their Hope.

He is the only worthy god.

He is the only god it is fitting to adore and trust in and die for. The only one capable of remaking us and untangling us. Of giving back what we abandoned in Adam.

The only treasure worth selling everything to have.

He is the only worthwhile god.

Do your heart good: Chase and worship no other.