Overcoming Election Anxieties

It’s very easy to say, Jesus is Lord. It’s not easy to live like Jesus is Lord.

Watching the presidential debate the other night reminded me of this. After it was over I felt anxious. And when I woke up the next morning I still felt residual anxiety.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

My feelings of anxiety were not bad in and of themselves, but they did point to something bad. Like a flashing “Check Engine” light in my car, these feelings signaled that something within me was broken and in need of repair.

That broken-something was my lost vision of Jesus. Specifically, that broken-something was my lost vision of Jesus as Lord.  I had lost sight of who Jesus really is.  And as a result, I was no longer living as if Jesus really is Lord.

The remedy was the God-breathed words of Psalm 97:

The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him
and burns up his adversaries all around.

His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all the peoples see his glory
.
All worshipers of images are put to shame,
who make their boast in worthless idols;
worship him, all you gods!

Zion hears and is glad,
and the daughters of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgments, O Lord.

For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods
.

O you who love the Lord, hate evil!
He preserves the lives of his saints;
    he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Light is sown for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!

 

These divine words filled my heart and mind with a fresh vision of Jesus as Lord. That Jesus reigns. That his reign is built on righteousness and justice. That Jesus is exalted above all. That he preserves my life and is able to deliver me from the wicked. That because of all these things, I can “rejoice in the Lord” and “give thanks to his holy name.”

With fresh vision came fresh healing. As I reflected on the psalm my attention was taken away from the frustrations of the election and instead was transfixed on the goodness of Jesus. As a result, my feelings of anxiety faded away. I was left, like the people of Zion, feeling “glad.” I was now living like Jesus really is Lord.

If this election season has you feeling anxious, maybe it’s because your “Check Engine” light is flashing. Maybe something within you is broken. Maybe you too have lost sight of Jesus as Lord. Maybe you’re not living as if Jesus really is Lord.

If so, let Jesus heal you.

Come to God’s Word. Reflect on the words of Psalm 97. Then, take a moment to rejoice and to give thanks that Jesus is still the Lord. I promise you’ll feel better… I sure did.

 

The Secret of Strong Families

I have to hand it to Facebook. They finally figured me out.

For the longest time the ads in my feed were useless and annoying. But last month there was an ad from Crossway Publishing promoting a free five day email course on Family Worship.

I clicked on it, signed up, read the emails and watch the videos for each of the five days. And to my surprise the videos were all very helpful. So I bought the book the videos were promoting.

The book is called Family Worship: In the Bible, In History, and In Your Home by Donald S. Whitney. And it really is a great book…so great, I wrote the following review on Amazon:

Every Christian family should read this book. Clear, simple, short but very informative, and very practical. This book will be helpful for any family interested in family worship…especially for those that have never done it before. As a pastor I will be recommending this book to every family in our church.

The book is really that great. So here I am recommending it to every family in our church.

One thing that has become clear to me over the years is, families who worship together flourish together.

Worshiping families are closer. Their kids do better in school, and they make better choices with their friends. Their kids don’t leave their faith in college and they tend do better after college.

Worshiping families flourish because they make Jesus the foundation of the family…and that’s a foundation that doesn’t break.

But here’s the thing,  if you’re like me, maybe you’re not sure how to do family worship. Growing up my family was a Christian family. But we never spent time as a family reading the Bible, praying, or singing. Those were things we did “at church”…not at home.

So when I wanted to start family worship in my own home I didn’t have a clue what to do. It was awkward. It was frustrating. It often felt forced.

I needed help.

Family Worship: In the Bible, In History, and In Your Home has been that help.

My hope is that every Christian family will buy this book. Not because I want to add one more thing to your to-do list. But because it is my prayer that every Christian family will commit to worshiping as a family throughout the week. Because I want every Christian family to be a strong family…built on the strong foundation of Jesus Christ.

If your family does not worship together, consider getting a copy of Family Worship: In the Bible, In History, and In Your Home. If you want to preview things before you buy here’s the link to the five day video course. And if you just need someone to talk to (or vent to) about family worship leave a comment, I’d be happy to help in any way I can.

May God bless your family!

The Need for Dominion

Have you ever thought about what were God’s first words to human beings?

In Genesis 1:28 we read “God blessed them [Adam and Eve] and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” God’s first words to Adam and Eve were a command. A command for them to exercise dominion over their world by filling it and ruling over it.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Sadly, when a crafty little serpent known as Satan entered their world they didn’t exercise authority over it. Adam allowed the serpent to tempt Eve and lead her to sin.

What should Adam have done?

He should have killed the serpent. Or, at the very least, thrown it out of the garden.

The results of Adam’s carelessness were tragic. Adam and Eve sinned and were separated from God. Sin entered and contaminated all of their world. Adam and Eve lost their perfect life—literally their perfect life.

What does this have to do with us today?

There are days when I know I should read my Bible first thing in the morning, but instead I check my email and Facebook. I’m completely aware that I if I read my Bible first I will experience peace and have focus for the day. I’m also completely aware that if I check my emails and social media first, often peace and focus are nowhere to be found.

Why do I still do it?

There’s something about email and social media that calls to me. It says “you need to do this first, to make sure you haven’t missed anything.” Or “you need to make sure you’re prepared for the rest of the day.” Or “if you do this you’ll be getting a head start, you’ll actually be more effective.”

Lies. Lies. Lies.

All for the Evil One… or least one of his henchmen.

So what’s keeping me from stopping? Dominion.

I lack dominion over my world. And my careless actions have led to my world having dominion over me. Change will come when I choose to do what Adam should have done: subdue my world and everything in it, including my phone.

That might mean turning my phone off completely (what? no!I know, I know, that’s drastic). It might mean asking someone to hold me accountable for how I use it (well, that would be awkward). If none of that works it could even mean getting rid of it (ok, now you’re just talking crazy).

In reality, none of those tactics will work until something else happens first. Dominion.

Not my exercise of dominion, but Jesus’s dominion over me. If I want to subdue my phone then I must first let Jesus subdue me.

It was supposed to work like this in the Garden. Adam and Eve were to rule as vice regents (little kings) under the authority and direction of The Great Regent, God himself. Their power to rule came from conforming to God’s rule, not by rebelling against it.

In the same way, our ability to have dominion over our world, phones included, comes only through the power and authority of Jesus Christ—the one true King over all creation.

That means I have to repent of my belief and actions that say “this little part of my life [my phone] belongs to me…and not Jesus.” Instead I must confess that if Jesus is my Lord, then he is Lord of all. Everything then, even my phone, belongs to him.

The story of Adam and Eve reminds us that the perfect life is found in the fully submitted life. A life completely submitted to God’s dominion. And it reminds us that apart from God’s dominion even the smallest thing—serpent, phone, or otherwise—is able to rob us of life and lead us to destruction.

 

Where or what in your life do you need to bring under dominion of Jesus Christ?

Wonderful, Merciful Savior

 


Wonderful, merciful Savior
Precious Redeemer and Friend
Who would have thought that a Lamb
Could rescue the souls of men
Oh, You rescue the souls of men

Counselor, Comforter, Keeper
Spirit we long to embrace
You offer hope when our hearts have
Hopelessly lost our way
Oh, we’ve hopelessly lost the way

You are the One that we praise
You are the One we adore
You give the healing and grace
Our hearts always hunger for
Oh, our hearts always hunger for

Almighty, infinite Father
Faithfully loving Your own
Here in our weakness You find us
Falling before Your throne
Oh, we’re falling before Your throne

You are the One that we praise
You are the One we adore
You give the healing and grace
Our hearts always hunger for
Oh, our hearts always hunger for

You are the One that we praise
You are the One we adore
You give the healing and grace
Our hearts always hunger for
Oh, our hearts always hunger for

The Trouble With Democracy

Today is one of those days I’m tempted to feel nervous about the future. I just voted. But I have no way of knowing whether or not the people I voted for will do what they said they would do. Nor do I have any control over how other people voted. And there is a good chance some people, maybe a lot of people, voted for different people than me.

Which leads to fear. Fear that if we don’t get the right people in the right offices, all is lost.

I’m reading Revelation right now. It’s a great book that speaks comfort to those of us who struggle with political fear. Although the book does look toward the future it was written at a time when all the wrong people were in office. And for the people of God everything looked lost.

And yet through an apocalyptic vision give to the Apostle John, God’s people are given hope. Hope that even when the wrong people are in power, and those wrong people are abusing their power, God is still in control. And though there are seasons to come when God’s people will feel powerless, ultimately there will come a time when God wins. That is there will come a time when all power (political or otherwise) will be taken back by the hands of God, and specifically put into the hands of the God-Man Jesus Christ.

In Revelation 15:1-4 we read:

I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb:

“Great and marvelous are your deeds,
Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
King of the nations.
Who will not fear you, Lord,
and bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

 

Maybe I’m a little anti-democracy, but I look forward to the day when I don’t have to vote anymore. I look forward to the day when there are no more political campaigns or commercials. When I no longer have to do research to find out who are the best candidates. And I no longer have to trust that the candidates I chose will work out.

I look forward to the day when there is one King of Kings over all the nations and all power rests in his hands. I look forward to that day, because on that day I can live free from the temptation of fear, knowing that the one who is in every way perfect is now ruling over all things.

 

A Better Way To Pray…

Last Sunday at Fellowship I led the congregation in a Scripture reading and prayer. The text was Deut. 30:11-20. A key verse in the text was Deut. 30:16:

For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

Often the temptation is to respond to such a text by praying something like this:

Heavenly Father, help us to keep your commands so that we might live and receive your blessing…

We’re tempted to pray this way because we want God to bless us. We want God’s favor upon us.

The problem is that this kind of prayer is, in some way, unnecessary.

Here’s why….

You and I will never (this side of heaven) be able to walk in perfect obedience to God. We will never be able to perfectly keep all of God’s commands. We will never be good enough to receive God’s blessing.

God actually knows this.

So why then does God give us commands?

God’s commands exist for two reasons. First, they exist as a reflection of the character of God. God’s commands show us just how holy God is. Second, God’s commands show us just how unholy we are.

In other words, the commands of God show us we need help. They show us we need a savior.

Jesus Christ is that Savior.

When Jesus lived on earth he did what we could not do. He walked in perfect obedience to God the Father. He fulfilled every command of God. He showed us what a perfect life actually looks like.

But Jesus did more than just show us how to live. Jesus lived a righteous [right relationship to God] life for a bigger reason.  He desired to give his righteousness away…

In Romans 3:21-24 the Apostle Paul writes:

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Paul’s point is this: because none of us can keep the commandments of God perfectly, none of us on our own can be righteous [in right relationship to God]. Therefore we need another way of being righteous. A way that is outside of the law of  God. Jesus is that other way.

Furthermore, when we put our faith [trust] in Jesus Christ, we are justified [judged innocent] by God. And redeemed [put back in right relationship] by God.

This is called “The Great Exchange”. When we repent and put our faith in Jesus, he takes on all our sin, and in turn gives us all his righteousness.

This changes how we pray.

Now when we read verses such as Deut. 30:16, we can respond very differently than before.

Our prayer no longer needs to be “God help me to keep your commands,” but instead something like this:

“God, thank you that you sent your Son, Jesus, to keep all the commands on my behalf.

Thank you, Jesus, that you lived a righteous and perfect life, and that you gave the righteousness you earned to me. Thank you that by your grace you delivered to me the favor and blessings of God.

Jesus, I want to do your will—not so I can earn your favor, but as an act of gratitude for what you have done for me!

When we see Jesus Christ as our righteousness, we will no longer be burdened by the law of God. What is more, the entire Old Testament will open up to us, beautifully displaying just how much Jesus has done for us. Understanding this will allow us to pray in a better way.

 

Today,  I pray that you will put your trust in Jesus. That you will trust that Jesus has made you righteous. I pray that you would know that, because Jesus has made you righteous, the favor and blessing of God is already upon you. And I pray that, because God’s favor is already upon you, your life today will be filled with grace and gratitude.

Maybe We Need More Cathedrals…

You might have already seen this video floating around the internet. But if you haven’t it’s worth a few moments of your time to watch and listen to. The singers are from Iceland and their group is called, Arstidir.  The song they are singing is a 13th century Icelandic hymn entitle Heyr himna smiður (“Hear, Smith of heavens”).

After watching this video my first thought was, we need to start building cathedrals again. But until that happens, train stations will have to do. Enjoy!

For those who are curious, here’s a translation of what they’re singing:

Hear, smith of heavens.
The poet seeketh.
In thy still small voice
Mayest thou show grace.
As I call on thee,
Thou my creator.
I am thy servant,
Thou art my true Lord.

God, I call on thee;
For thee to heal me.
Bid me, prince of peace,
Thou my supreme need.
Ever I need thee,
Generous and great,
O’er all human woe,
City of thy heart.

Guard me, my savior.
Ever I need thee,
Through ev’ry moment
In this world so wide.
Virgin–born, send me
Noble motives now.
Aid cometh from thee,
To my deepest heart.

 

If you like what you heard, you can find more of their music and videos at

http://www.arstidir.com/#music

Tozer on Whole-Life Worship

Every soul belongs to God and exists by His pleasure. God being who and what He is, and we being who and what we are, the only thinkable relation between us is one of full Lordship on His part and complete submission on ours. We owe Him every honor that is in our power to give Him. Our everlasting grief lies in giving Him anything less.

The pursuit of God will embrace the labor of bringing our total personality into conformity to His. And this not judicially, but actually. I do not here refer to the act of justification by faith in Christ. I speak of voluntary exalting of God to His proper station over us and a willing surrender of our whole being to the place of worshipful submission which the Creator-creature circumstance makes proper.

The moment we make up our minds that we are going on with this determination to exalt God over all, we step out of the world’s parade. We shall find ourselves out of adjustment to the ways of the world, and increasingly so as we make progress in the holy way. We shall acquire a new viewpoint; a new and different psychology will be formed within us; a new power will begin to surprise us by its upsurgings and its outgoings.

 

_____________________________________

Excerpt from A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst For the Divine p.96

Butterflies and Hope

The other day I watched a video on the life cycle of butterflies with my six year old daughter, Adeline. I was reminded just how amazingly mysterious metamorphosis really is.

Curious, I did some research to find out how science explains this process. Turns out there’s some debate.

In an interview with NPR, biologist Bernd Heinrich, contended that one animal (the caterpillar) is reincarnated into another animal (the butterfly). As he put it, “The radical change that occurs, does indeed arguably involve death followed by reincarnation… the adult forms of these insects are actually new organisms.”

Yet others, like Ferris Jabr, tell us something else is happening. In Scientific America he describes the process of metamorphosis as a caterpillar digesting itself and then maturing into a butterfly by activating certain previously unused cells. He writes:

First, the caterpillar digests itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve all of its tissues. If you were to cut open a cocoon or chrysalis at just the right time, caterpillar soup would ooze out. But the contents of the pupa are not entirely an amorphous mess. Certain highly organized groups of cells known as imaginal discs survive the digestive process. Before hatching, when a caterpillar is still developing inside its egg, it grows an imaginal disc for each of the adult body parts it will need as a mature butterfly or moth—discs for its eyes, for its wings, its legs and so on.

Did you get all that? Yeah me neither.

But here’s what I did get.  Whether through “reincarnation”, or “imaginal discs” there is something still kind of magical about the whole thing.

And this gives me hope.

Hope in a God who creates moments that are fun, magical, and mysterious. Moments that display his art, his work, for all to see, yet will largely go unnoticed. Moments that are just for his enjoyment.

Hope in his creation. That there is still so much more to be explored. And there is still so much more worth exploring. Hope that there are so many more magical moments to be discovered.

Hope that there are still things worth staring at. That there are moments worth watching over and over again. That there are still simple creations to marvel at, because their wonder never goes away.

In some strange way watching a video on the life cycle of butterflies with my six year old daughter gives me hope.

I hope it gives you hope too!

Here’s the video, enjoy!

Expectations of Jesus

What are your expectations of Jesus?

On Psalm Sunday the crowds praised Jesus shouting “Hosanna in the highest”. But the following Friday they chanted “crucify him!”

How could a crowd of people have such a dramatic change of heart in just six days?

The short answer– Jesus did not meet their expectations.

When the crowds shouted “Hosanna” to Jesus, they did so because they believed he was the Messiah. The one who had come to save God’s people. But not just in a spiritual sense, but in a political sense. As New Testament scholar Dr. Craig Evans asserts, most Jews expected Jesus to overthrow the Romans government.  Evans, draws on commentary from the Dead Sea Scrolls to give us insight into the Messianic expectations of the Jews.   He points to the commentary on Isaiah 10:34-11:5, which speaks of the Messiah as the “Branch of David, who will destroy Israel’s enemies, [specially] the Romans (called the “Kittim”).”[1] And also the commentary on Isaiah 10:34-11:1 which says, “it is said that [the Messiah] will put to death the “king of the Kittim,” or the Roman emperor.”[2]

In the minds of the crowd, Jesus as the Messiah, had come to set up God’s kingdom on earth. So imagine their surprise when six days later they saw Jesus bound in chains, standing as a prisoner before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. For them, in that moment, it was no longer possible that Jesus could be the Messiah. Because how could God’s chosen king be in Romans shackles? Feeling hurt and likely very hopeless, their hearts became hard, and they turned on Jesus. And thus, chanted for his crucifixion.

The thing is, the crowd’s expectations of Jesus were incomplete. Their minds were set on the promised political victory of the Messiah and not the promised suffering of the Messiah. They were not thinking about messianic passages such as Isaiah 53:3-5:

3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Because the Palm Sunday crowds did not include Isaiah 53 in their expectations of the Messiah, they changed from worshipers of Jesus to enemies of Jesus—in just six days.

All of us have certain expectations of Jesus. But are those expectations complete? In parts of our life are we in danger of moving from worshipers of Jesus to enemies of Jesus, because it feels like Jesus is not meeting our expectations?

We must remember that Jesus did come to meet our expectations, but his. And to the degree that our expectations for him are different than his expectations, is to the degree that we will no longer shout “Hosanna” but instead “crucify him”.