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.

30 Seconds On Idols

  
One of the duties of a child of God is to call the people of his day, of his nation, to stop worshiping their idols.  
Their idols, mind you.  Not somebody else’s.  It wouldn’t do any good for me to tell 21st century Cincinnatians to stop falling down before a golden calf, and it wouldn’t do any good for me to have told Moses’ brothers and sisters to stop worshiping their smartphones and square footage.  

But to stand here, in this day and place, and to magnify Jesus for the people around me who put their identity and emotional weight into gadgets or political battles or job successes or social media following, that is a Christian calling on my life.  

We have idolatry in America.  We worship many false gods.  We seek meaning and ultimate hope in many, many things which we were not made to seek them in.  

And no idol, Egyptian or American, can do what God can do.  

The Republican or Democratic party cannot bear the weight of your soul.  

Your Facebook likes cannot truly and throughly satisfy you.  

Success at work cannot give you deep, abiding peace.  

All of the things of Eden that we seek, restored relationships and contentment and perfect love, can only be had through the Cross of Jesus Christ.  

And so, if you have never come to Jesus empty handed, looking for what only He can give, my word to you is this:  His Father is seeking worshippers.  He is adopting many sons and daughters.  He has much to give away.  

Come to His altar.  

He can deliver on all of His promises.  

4 Thoughts On God and Race

The Holy Spirit spoke through His Word at Velocity Church in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Price Hill today.  Pastor Steve Staton expounded Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 to a gathered group of people who were probably 50/50 black/white.  

And I wrote down a few thoughts.

  • The Gospel of forgiveness for terrible  people through the bloody Cross of Jesus Christ has something to say to every uncomfortable and sin-stained conflict our culture could bubble up.  And in the race-based conflicts that have sprung up in 2016, it does particularly in (at least) this way:  The Gospel produces empathy.    If you do not care about someone else’s pain, whether you end up determining it is wholly justified, partially justified, or unjustified, you are not fully grasping what Jesus did when He forsook His throne to rescue you from your self-inflicted pain and spiritual suicide.  
  • The people of Jesus should lead the way in racial reconciliation, because they have a key ingredient the people of the world lack:  Peace with God.  And true peace with your fellow man flows from peace with your Maker. 
  • Satan loves hate and hates love.  He would have you start by loving your friends and hating your enemies and deteriorate into hating your friends, your enemies, and your God. But in Luke 10, where he was successful in sowing discord between two ethnic Jews and another ethnic Jew, he ran into a brick wall with the heart of an ethnic Samaritan.  This God-changed man of faith spent his cash and his time rescuing a busted and bloody stranger of a different race, having no idea of how the man got to the side of road unconscious.  But of course he knew full well what God has done for him, and so he knew (from the heart) what he was compelled to do for others.  
  • It is a testament to the glory of the beautiful triune God that Heaven’s songs will be sung by every tribe, tongue, and nation.  

A PSA On Suffering

  
If you want do your heart a favor, prepare it now for where it should run when sorrow comes.  Because if you live past the age of 40, it is going to come.  

There’s a radio PSA I hear every once in a while that uses humor to make the point that families should have plans about where to go in the event of an emergency situation.  A dad asks each of his kids where the meeting point is and what they’re supposed to do, and each kid fires back a different and increasingly ridiculous answer.  The father then praises everyone for sticking to “the plan.”  Point taken, Ad Council.  I should have a plan for where my kids should go in case there’s a tsunami.  Got it.  

But after I’m done telling them to go the basement if and when they ever hear sirens, I’m going to sit for a second and give my heart a talking to about where it is to go when I am diagnosed with terminal cancer, or I lose a family member, or we go broke.  

Because this side of the return of Jesus is laced with all kinds of shadows for all kinds of people.  Pain is not restricted to those who self-inflict it.  

Good, God-believing people wrote into the book of Psalms (as they were moved by the Holy Spirit) their tears to God.  For instance, Psalm 123 (in its entirety):

To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he has mercy upon us. Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.

The Psalms are threaded through and through with this sort of thing.  So is Lamentations.  And Ecclesiastes.  And Job.  The sorrows of people who love God and trust in Him, and whose hope in the middle of pain and sadness is Him and Him alone. 

The Christian is going to suffer in this life.  Maybe not always, and maybe less than a brother or sister nearby him, but he will suffer and struggle.  At some point, God’s hand will bring about some affliction for him.  

At some point God will allow something awful to happen to me.

I want to plan now for where I’ll run to.  

I don’t want to make a good thing an idol on that day.  I don’t want to just work a bunch of hours to drown out my pain, or go for a hundred hikes all over tri-state parks while praying little and worshiping less.  I don’t want to (merely) cook or write or play games.  

I want to prepare myself now to run to my Father on that day.  

The promises of God in the person and Gospel of Jesus Christ are the purest hope for a Christian who just found out he has brain cancer.  They are what sustained Paul awaiting his execution, what gave Peter and John boldness to proclaim the Good News though they were threatened with death by the authorities in Jerusalem, and what sent our Savior to the Cross on our behalf.  

The promise of rescue and eternal life for all who trust in Jesus.  

When I’m told terrible news or drowning in terrible thoughts, I want to flee to the certain promise of God that when I die I will be with King Jesus.  That when He returns, my body will be resurrected, shed of all its rust and bruises and glistening like clear dew under a new sun.  

Sure, I might write and take a hike and learn to cook a new dish, too.  But the only thing that’ll slow my heart in the middle of the night, the background music that’ll make the worst of my sufferings less terrifying, is the promise of God in Christ.  

After all, if Christ isn’t resurrected, then I of all men should be most pitied when that terminal diagnosis comes.  

But praise be to God that lying is one thing this Father can’t do. 

15 Seconds On the Happier Life

  

 You can’t have a happy life and a fretful one at the same time.  The happier life is the self-forgetful one, the one where you don’t take your worldly standing or pecking order very seriously.  The one where you cherish Jesus and His Kingdom more than wealth or physical comfort or whether other people thought you were sexy or smart. 

The happier life starts with worshiping God, and with taking your heart back from whatever shadowy prize this world and your tortured psyche promised they’d give you if you were just anxious about it for a few more hours.  

Offered from one anxious hand to another.

For Troubled Hearts

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We worship a God of peace. A God who is never troubled, never worried, never unsure of what will happen. I may tremble, worry about my inabilities or weaknesses, or wrestle with the effects of my sin. But not Him. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly pure. When I freak out because I’m not sure how to pay for something or whether someone has a serious health problem, He is standing guard over me and all of His other children, providing only what is for their ultimate good and molding them to be more like His Son. When I have to humble myself, confess my sin, and turn from it, He proves Himself to be the God of perfect grace and mercy, and then continues to give me strength to overcome the world.

In my weakness, His strength is magnified. In my uncertainty, His faithfulness stands firmer than ever.

When my life feels tumultuous or tenuous or tragic, I can know in the marrow of my bones that He is as good as He is sovereign, and put my mind on that instead of my troubles.

We worship a God of peace. He will someday destroy all the conflict, pain, and anxiety that result from the horror of sin. And He will watch over His children until that day comes.

“May the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance.”

From 2 Thessalonians 3

Spotlight

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I hope to change.

I hope to use my life to highlight God’s greatness more.

Most of my life, and most of time and energy in 2014, has been spent on me. I seek pleasure and attention and respect and a hundred other things that not only fail to deliver what they promise (as all idols do), but that also rob God of what He deserves. The God of Father, Son, and Spirit is good and big and fair and wonderful and righteous in a million ways I am not, and he deserves to be worshiped as such. To be thought of and honored and treasured for the wonder that He is.

I’ve noticed that in the few moments when I actually surrender and allow myself to become an appreciator of His glory rather than a seeker or my own, I feel better. I feel more at peace. The inner clamor for affection and admiration fades a bit. I have more of a sense of humor about myself and less of a need to be taken seriously. I can laugh at my honest failures a bit, and can truly grieve over my forgiven sins. I can gratefully savor how merciful my victorious God is.

It’s a pretty freeing experience.

And then ten minutes or four hours or thirty seconds later I’m chasing the idols again, palms sweating and anxious heart racing as I chase meaning and happiness down dead end streets. Thinking maybe if I can get five or six people to respect me this month I’ll feel real and substantial and satisfied. Maybe if one or two people tell me how wonderful and unique I am this week I’ll have peace and gladness.

I don’t know how much goodness there is in setting a goal for the first of January. Maybe a lot for some people. Maybe for some it’s a genuine launchpad into a noble effort. For me it feels a little more forced and fake. But regardless of the date on my Google Calendar, I resolve to highlight how wonderful the God of Jesus Christ is more with my life. I resolve to spend, use my life to make God look as good as He is to others. To enjoy Him as as wonderful and soul-satisfying as He is in my own heart.

Someday I’ll give an account to Him, and so much of what I’ve done will be revealed to be selfish and idolatrous and false. I’ll have only one merit to plead: That of the perfect blood and life and work of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. My Lord and Savior. But between now and then, I want to spend more of my years and more of my heart in genuine service to and worship of Him. More than I have. And I ask for His grace and His Spirit to help me do it.

But one thing I’ve learned is that when you ask Him to help you be His, to rip away idols, be prepared for some painful destruction. What is to be resurrected must first be killed. His yoke is easy, but it weighs no less than a cross. It’s one of the reasons, I believe, that the Messiah said we should count the cost before we sign up. But the great part is that what is taken from you is given back renewed and sanctified. You lose some earthly pleasures and idols, but you’re given the eternal joy of the Creator of Earth and all she has in her.

I resolve to count everything as rubbish when compared to the incalculable value of my Shepherd and Savior. And I ask for His help, because my heart must be changed for that to happen.