When Life is Hard

Life always has seasons of difficulty.  It is rare for anyone to go too long in life without being confronted with a situation or circumstance that makes you realize how out of your control your life really is.  It is in these circumstances that we really find out where our trust is and where we find our encouragement.   Where do you turn for comfort?  Where do you look for encouragement?

Many believers have specific passages that are their ‘go to’ in these seasons of uncertainty.  These are passages that speak to our aching bones, that lift us out of the mire and lift our perspective to Christ.  I have a few passages that I turn to, but one has stood out in my mind, Matthew 11:28-30.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus is showing that His compassion meets us in those dark moments, when the burdens of life have brought us low.  He presents a picture of oxen in a yoke to bring us comfort.  At first glance, this hardly sounds comforting.  Having grown up in an agricultural community, I can picture the significance of this illustration.

A yoke is a tool that is used to join two animals together to accomplish a single task.  Generally, oxen wear the yoke to help keep them unified in their efforts to pull or plow.  The yoke helps guide them and train them.  596f5218871128ed7db860948b1f9521.jpg

Jesus puts His yoke upon us to guide us through these dark times.  He puts it on us to teach us things we would not learn any other way.  He guides us in these moments because it is really the only way our souls can really find rest.

The trap we often fall into is looking for an end to the trial/suffering/pain as the escape.  Maybe we think if we just ‘grin and bear it’ we will be able to survive.  Maybe we look to other things for our escape, for our peace.  But the only peace that will reach our souls and counsel our hearts comes from Christ.

You may think, “That doesn’t look very comfortable!”  But Jesus says this yoke that He gives is easy and the burden is light.  It isn’t burdensome or cumbersome.  It doesn’t bring us down, it keeps us up.

In seasons where I feel the temptation to turn to a puddle, I look to Christ and remember His yoke is guiding me through this.  If I trust Him, look to Him, then the burden will be light.  This truth sets my heart at ease and gives me a confidence that nothing else can.

What is your ‘go to’ verse or passage?

How Could You Believe THAT?!

 

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One of the more interesting, completely unexpected, and entertaining story lines of the NBA season is the revelation that the NBA is sprinkled with “Flat Earth” theorists.  About a month ago, Cleveland Cavalier’s Kyrie Irving (proud product of Duke University) came out in an interview as believing the Earth is flat.

“This is not even a conspiracy. The Earth is flat. The Earth is flat. The Earth is flat.”

“For what I’ve known for many years and what I’ve been taught is that the Earth is round, but if you really think about it from a landscape of the way we travel, the way we move and the fact that — can you really think of us rotating around the sun, and all planets align, rotating in specific dates, being perpendicular with what’s going on with these ‘planets’ and stuff like this.”

When he was talking about his theory, it was recognized as being pretty crazy, but just an isolated opinion of someone who thinks he is smarter than the rest of the class.  But then something odd and unexpected happened: other NBA stars started coming to his defense!  Some were tame, not wanting to create controversy.  LeBron James, his teammate, said, “If Kyrie says the earth is flat, then the earth is flat.”  Obviously, he was just trying to avoid creating an issue with a friend and teammate.

But then players started coming out of the woodwork, saying they, too, thought the earth was flat.  Wilson Chandler and Draymond Green, among others, came out in support of Irving’s claims, saying they not only supported him, but agreed.  Even Shaquille O’Neal, never one to shy away from attention, initially claimed to believe it, only to days later say he was just trolling everyone.

My first reaction is to recognize the complete absurdity of this.  All one has to do is fly in one direction for long enough to end up back where you started.  These are all players who have gone overseas for exhibitions, made trips to China, and have seen the curvature of the earth from an airplane on a weekly basis.  Never mind the fact that Kyrie Irving was born in Australia!  I’m sure he has travelled plenty.  And does the water flow off the edge of the earth?  Why has someone never been ‘underneath’ the Earth?  This is clearly shooting fish in a barrel.

But it was my second thought that had me making an uncomfortable connection.  You see, when I read everyone’s quick criticism of the statements, I realized that this is the way that many see Creationists.  Creationists, myself included, have been heavily criticized for ignoring ‘evidence’ and slammed as being blind to the obvious truth of Evolution.

Here are some criticisms of the Flat Earthers:

“it is really concerning when you have people in the public eye, or you have people in general who think that the Earth might not be round because it devalues the scientific method.”   Bill Nye

Irving defended his view saying, “It’s OK to have your own thoughts and be able to function and be able to formulate your own thoughts and opinions and still be able to convey them to other people.”  The columnist responded by writing, “The problem, of course, is that not all thoughts are equal. Facts require evidence. That is essentially the point of science. Sigh.”

It doesn’t take too much of an imagination or memory to recall similar things being said of those who reject the claims that the theory of evolution has been proven out scientifically.  I had an epiphany.  This is exactly how many view me.  To many, Bill Nye included, I am just as crazy as Kyrie Irving.

We’ve seen it in the recent reaction to Ken Ham’s Ark Encounters museum in Kentucky.  He’s just a raving lunatic.  He ignores the obvious evidence.  He should be ashamed of his convictions.  He should be quiet and not have any influence over people, never mind serve as an educator.

But this is the world that we live in.  And I’m content to be labelled an idiot, ignorant, or foolish for the sake of believing Genesis 1-2 is real.  Don’t be surprised when the masses turn and let this serve as a small lesson and window into how Creationists are viewed in the world today.

 

Learning from Other’s Repeated Failures

Every time that I read/study/teach through the Old Testament, I am struck by something different.  When I brought my kids through the last couple of years, I was struck by the constant example of a faithful God to unfaithful people.  From Adam and Even, to Noah, Abraham, the people through the wilderness, and then into the land, the people exhibit an all too familiar penchant for exchanging the glory of God for the world around them.  They pursued the creation rather than the Creator.

Over the course of our study with the Foundation’s Bible Study, I have been hit with something new.  I think this pattern is one that I have noticed now due to it connecting with my own fears.  It was never too much of a concern, but as I get older, and, more specifically, my kids get older, I realize this hits much closer to home than it used to.

The pattern is this:  throughout Israel’s history, the nation and its leaders show an astounding failure to pass God’s truth onto their children.  While I cannot say authoritatively that the reason many of their children fell away, there is definitely a pattern and many were not taught the fear of the Lord or to walk in His ways.

The list is somewhat comprehensive.  Let me provide a few examples of this pattern:

  • From the get go, Cain kills his own brother in a jealous rage over not understanding what pleases the Lord in worship!
  • Abraham’s failure to bring Ishmael up in the fear of the Lord.
  • Jacob raising sons who think killing their little brother is ok and then resigning to pretend he is dead and sell him into slavery.
  • Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, offering profane fire to the Lord.  They would have been intricately involved in leading the people in worship.
  • In the beginning of Judges, after the conquest of the land (2:10) it says, “There arose another generation that did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for them.”  The generation of the conquest didn’t pass on the fear of the Lord to the next generation, preparing the way for the constant cycles of faithlessness in Judges.
  • In I Samuel, we see Eli, the religious leader of the nation, raise two completely morally corrupt sons.  They were supposed to be leading the nation in worship before God and they were sleeping around with women who were serving God.
  • Samuel, who replaced Eli, had his own failure.  The nation of Israel was so afraid of his corrupt kids taking over that they demanded a king to rule over them.
  • David’s sons didn’t win any “Sons of the Year” awards, either.  Amnon, one of his sons, raped his half sister, Tamar.  When Absolam, Tamar’s brother found out, he eventually hunts Amnon down and kills him.  This is shortly followed by Absolam leading a rebellion and claiming the kingdom his while his dad is alive and well.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, by any means, but you get the idea. Here are examples of people, many of them who served the Lord in faithfulness, whose own children fell so far away.  One doesn’t have to look far today to see young ones brought up in Christian homes who grow to want nothing to do with their parent’s faith.

As the father of two adorable children who claim to believe and want to grow in obedience, I fear that they too will walk down that road some day.  I know that nothing I do will save them, that there is no winning formula to guarantee their desires will be for Christlikeness.  But I think the tools to put them on the best path possible lay in my hands, just as they did with the children of Israel.

Deuteronomy 4:9 “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.”

 

Deuteronomy 6:20-25 “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt.  And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to our fathers. And the lORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day.  And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.”

 

Deuteronomy 11:19 “You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.”

 

It is clear that there is no way to guarantee your child will follow in your steps in their pursuit of the LORD, but there are things that we MUST do, not only for the good of our children, but primarily for the glory of God.  Teach them God’s Word.  Instruct their hearts to fear the LORD.  Train their hearts to beat for God’s glory.  Failure to do so is more of a guarantee that they will fall away.

It is astounding for me to read those words in Judges 2:10.  How does a nation fail to pass along the law of the LORD and tell of His great faithfulness and works on their behalf?!  A generation that saw the walls of Jericho fall at their feet, who saw armies destroyed by God, saw water just separate at His commands, fail to pass those along?  Again, it is easy to point disbelievingly at them, but the greater miracle has happened in the redemption of our rebellious hearts through the death and resurrection of God’s Son.  And there are those that fail to pass this along to their children.  May we be a people that do not hesitate to proclaim God’s unending faithfulness in our lives, and may God be gracious to open the hearts of our young ones to bring Him glory.

 

 

 

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

For those that know me well, you know that I like music.  I think that music a special gift from God.  There is little in this world that can move people so deeply and powerfully as music can.  You don’t have to even know the language or understand the words to be moved to the core.  Music changes everything.  Imagine the scene of a favorite movie without the musical score behind it!  When the preview for Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out, I cried just hearing the familiar tune.

Throughout my life, I have found myself attached to different artists at different times.  Each have had a profound impact on my life, usually for better than worse.  As I’ve grown in maturity in Christ, many of these men and women have comforted and counseled my heart at different stages of my life.  One of the most profound impacts has been caused by the music of Caedmon’s Call.

As a 18 year old college student, I remember the first time I heard Caedmon’s Call, it was walking in a room at The Master’s College, hearing the cries of Derek Webb in “I Just Don’t Want Coffee”.  It was a sound that I hadn’t heard before, but I loved it.  I immediately connected with him and Caedmon’s Call.  Immediately, I listened to everything of theirs that I could.  I looked forward to new music, to see what they would sing about, what they would challenge me on, and what songs by Derek Webb I would connect to.

I can still connect specific songs to specific times in my life.  It seemed like Derek Webb and I were connected some how.  He would sing of “wondering if I have ‘The Gift’ that everyone speaks so highly of”, referring to singleness.  When he sang that, I was struggling with it.  When he sang of missing his home town, I was there, too.  When he sang of being moved to repentance, I was there.

When God did bring a wonderful woman into my life, we dated (albeit for a short time) at a long distance.  Our song would be “Somewhere North” where Derek sang of being so far from the one he loved.  I listened to that song over and over and over again, being moved so powerfully every time.

Then Derek got married to his love and I got married to my love.  He sang songs about how their love was better than wine, about wanting to marry her all over again.  I related so powerfully!  I still think of those songs and how they are beautiful descriptions of my love for my wife.   I loved Derek Webb and couldn’t wait for anything that he would release.

As time went on, he began to release music that started to concern me.  His songs seemed to reflect less on the power of Christ.  It made waves when he cursed in a song.  He seemed to relish the increasing role of the Christian rebel.  He started going places I couldn’t follow, places I didn’t think reflected a Biblical grounding.  Then I just stopped buying his music.  And the relationship was functionally over.

It didn’t necessarily surprise me when the news came out that he and his wife were splitting and getting a divorce because of his infidelity.  It didn’t surprise me, but it hurt.  It hurt in a way that sounds foolish and childish.  It hurt because when things happened in Derek Webb’s life, they seemed to happen in mind.  My concern wasn’t that I would go through the same experience, but that he had become something I just didn’t admire.

Until recently, I have still had him on my Facebook feed.  I haven’t bought any of his music recently, knowing that the integrity I admired was gone.  And as time has gone by, his posts have proven to be less and less about Christ and more and more about being different, standing against ‘Evangelical Christianity’ or the status quo, whatever that means.  I realized, Derek Webb doesn’t make me excited about God’s grace anymore.

Recently, it has become chic for his followers to mock people like me.  People who have seen the direction he has gone and say they don’t like what he’s become.  You’ll occasionally see someone say how they miss the old Derek Webb, and he’ll admit he has changed, but for the good in his mind.  He said something to the effect of “no one should be who they were ten years ago.”  This is true, but as a Christian, I would hope it would look more like Christ and less like the world, not the other way around.

So it is, that I have decided to say goodbye.  I still have old music of his, but even that seems affected by the direction things have gone.  Sadly, I can’t listen to them the same way.  I don’t say these things thinking anyone would really care, but more as a cathartic way to say goodbye to a friend I never knew.  A way to say goodbye to an influence that pushed me and guided me through difficult years.  I’ve thought about writing him directly, but I don’t think that would be productive, so this will have to do.

Filling in the Blanks for God

Continuing in our study from through the Old Testament, our past study saw us go through the lives of Ruth and Saul, up until the anointing of David.  Ruth takes place during the time of the Judges, and helps us in a twofold manner.  First, it gives us a fascinating look into the life and times of Israel during the time of the judges.  Second, it introduces us to a family line that leads to King David and on to Christ.

As Israel makes it way to the end of the era of the judges, they find themselves under the judgeship of Samuel.  Under his leadership, they seem to be functioning as God envisioned and intended when He gave them the law at Sinai.  Samuel is leading them in pure worship, counseling their hearts and leading them to real victory of the Philistines.  The climate of submission to God is highlighted by a victory of the imposing Philistines that results in the recapturing of much of their land.

But like Eli before him, Samuel has a blind spot.  His two sons do not share in his zeal for God’s glory, instead using their position to seek financial gain and influence. As Samuel grows older, the people grow increasingly uneasy about the possibility of being judged by his sons.   The people look into the future and see instability under their leadership rather than growth they realized under Samuel.

Their concern was understandable and valid.  It is true that Samuel’s sons would most likely not have made good leaders.  They had not exercised good judgment and had shown that they were not faithful in the little things.  But what they failed to include in the equation was a God who promised to care for them and bless them in their obedience.

Once again, the people of Israel failed to trust God and instead looked to their own resources and the resources of the nations around them for protection.  They go so far as to say they want a king like the nations around them so that he can go out and fight their battles for them.  This is the same nation that saw their God drown the Egyptian army, destroy a city that they just walked around, eliminate an army by having 300 men surround it with torches and trumpets and more.  God had made it very clear that he fought their battles, that is in fact what terrified the people of Jericho before they got there.

It is easy for us to to sit and criticize the people for continuing to fail to trust God after He had done so much for them, but we ought to look to our own hearts and lives and ask ourselves where we fail in this respect.  I know in my own life that I far too often look to my own resources and try to fill in the blanks myself rather than trust God to fill them for me.  I show that I trust in my own limited resources rather than the endless resources of the unlimited God.  Its foolish to think of, but it is exactly what we do.

 

Sparing the Gospel from Prejudice

As the year draws to the end, it is a time reflecting on the year gone by.  Any casual observation of the last year leaves most recognizing it leaves us much to be desired.  This past year has produced a division in our country unlike anything I’ve seen in my short 36 years.  Friends and family alike have been divided by personal convictions and the lines that they’ve drawn.  It could be Trump vs. Hillary, liberal media vs. conservative media, gun control vs. 2nd Amendment, common core vs. anti common core, black lives matter vs. blue lives matter, or other debates that surround sexuality and how one self identifies.  They have all produced divisions in our lives.

It often appeared that any conversation would turn to some sort of divisive subject.  Often times, the topic of conversation compelled a discussion that would either embolden each other’s resolve if you were found to be in agreement, or, if not, it would create a gulf between the parties that slowly produced some amount of animosity.  “Agree to disagree” has quickly become impossible.

As many of you know, I am a person of strong conviction.  If a subject comes up and I feel strongly about it, one way or another, I will often make my convictions known.  But I don’t believe we live in a world where this is always wise or prudent anymore.  My concern has not been losing respect in someone else’s eyes or suffer some sort of social disgrace, but losing the opportunity for the Gospel.

The great missionary William Carey has a list of “11 Commandments of Missions” that I recently discovered.  As I was reading through this list, I noticed one of them said what I thought in a much better way than I ever could.  His third commandment was, “Abstain from all English manners which might increase prejudice against the gospel.”

For William Carey, he sacrificed everything for the sake of the gospel, even general customs that would burn bridges with someone of a different culture.  When Carey moved to India, he was careful to consider his manners and customs and what would immediately close the ears of those around him.  This mentality of viewing all behavior and conversation in view of the Gospel has been one of my main concerns this year.

My concern was that, should I become vocal about a subject that was incredibly divisive but lacking in the impact of consequences that hang in the balance when it comes to the Gospel, I might lose that opportunity for the greater truth.  It isn’t that those things are not important, but I wouldn’t want to burn a bridge the Gospel can travel over.

We must beware, though.  I’m not in favor of sticking my head in the sand and not standing up for what I believe to be good and true.  If someone asks me what my convictions are, I will quickly and eagerly explain them, doing my best to connect them and point them to the Gospel.  But I think it is wise to not wave a flag that is so quick to divide.  If I am going to offend someone, then I want it to be the message of the Gospel, not my stance on gun rights, education, health care, political parties, or any other number of lightening rod topics.

The unfortunate thing is, I believe too many Christians have settled with waving the banner of the 2nd Amendment or voicing their boisterous support of a political party at the cost of reaching those around them with the Gospel.  If I turn people off with non-essentials, how quick will they be to listen to the ultimate essential, the beautiful truth of God’s unbounding love in the Gospel?

 

I’m Back… sort of

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After a 7 1/2 year hiatus, I’m back!  Over the course of the last week or so I have been trying to get this blog cleaned up a bit.  Gone are quite a few posts that had cluttered it up (i.e. ‘Lost’ episode recaps) and quite a few blogs that had gone in the same direction as this one.  It has been quite an experience looking through the posts of the past!  It’s like walking down memory lane or visiting a past life.

With this return will come some changes.  This won’t be like before, at least for now.

  1. I won’t be posting nearly as often.  The sudden decline of this blog coincided with gaining employment after moving back to NH.  Since then, I have only worked more hours.  I don’t have the time that I had previously, to sit and write.  It’s crazy to read back over some of these posts, knowing that I had the time to come up with something to write and take any significant amount of time to write it down.  That has obviously changed and I don’t see that getting any easier.
  2. I will also be monitoring all comments.  There are some who would like to have unprofitable conversations and post things that are highly inappropriate.  For that reason, if you leave a comment, I will have to approve it before it appears.  If you would like the satisfaction of instantaneous comments, then you can leave them on my Facebook page.
  3. Previously, many posts were updates on family and reviews of a TV show.  This won’t be a place for that.  If you want to know what’s going on with my family, either go to Facebook or talk to me!

So what will I be putting up, you ask?  I’m not completely sure!  I know there have been plenty of times where I have finished up the Bible Study I teach, Foundation’s, and have a though I’d like to write on, or a thought I’d like to expand on.  I’d love to put recaps up for those that can’t make it, as well.

There have also been many times where I have wanted to write something in response to something going on in the world, trying to lend a Biblical perspective to it.  The events of the past year have provided a lot of opportunities to reflect on Biblical truth and how it should inform our thoughts and actions.  Facebook isn’t always the best platform for that.  I will be posting those thoughts here.

And, as always, if I find something that is of interest, have read something encouraging or convicting, then this is a great outlet to get that out.  Who knows!

You can either subscribe to this blog, so you can know when I do post something, or just keep an eye on my Facebook and I will post a link on there.   And if you are indifferent and you just don’t care, that’s fine.  I just don’t know why you are still reading this.

For those that do care, stay tuned.  I’m sure I will continue to tweak things as I get back in the saddle here.  I look forward to getting back into this!