Enduring Men

Enduring Men

enduring men• A college student’s Philosophy professor argued to the whole class that Christians made Satan and are therefore responsible for evil in the world.

• A cashier was screamed at being called a racist and threatened with a lawsuit simply because she made a mistake and charged a slightly higher price on an item.

• On his first day of school, a 12 year old boy’s class was asked about which pronoun each student wanted to be identified by.

All of those anecdotes are 100% true because they happened either to one of my children or a neighbor. 

But, the most outlandish story comes from Texas where The Temple of Satan is preparing to preserve their member’s right to an abortion by making the case that the “Satanic Abortion Ritual” is protected by religious liberty laws. These are alarming headlines. 

Battling Fear?

As a father of eight, I battle fear for how my children will fare in a an increasingly polarized and anti-Christian society. Will they stand firm and not abandon their faith in Jesus Christ? Will they be able to rise above fear and intimidation and provide an answer for the hope that is within them to the many people who are lost in all of this upheaval? 

Hebrews’ Example

My thoughts turn to the book of Hebrews where the Christians being written to were facing far worse circumstances. For example, some were jailed and some had their property taken away just because they were Christians.

The writer exhorts his audience to endure. But he does this in a way that might seem impractical and even tone deaf to us today.

What The Hebrews Did Not Hear

What they did NOT hear was a political strategy for fighting Rome to stop the persecution. Nor, did they hear a simple 5-Step plan (with alliteration) to deal with the troubles of persecution (not that those are not bad things to do but they certainly are not what he says).

What The Hebrews Heard

Instead, he pleads with them to, “pay close attention to what you have heard.” (Heb. 2:1). Then, he passionately reminds them of what they had heard. He goes into great detail about how much greater Jesus is than the angels, the prophets (even Moses!); he is the final sacrifice, the perfect high priest who continually intercedes for us in heaven. 

To disturbing practical problems, the writer gives a theology lesson. Who in these days would value that that?

Are We Listening?

If Hebrews were a Sunday school class, imagine the conversation on the ride home from church. A teenager pipes up: “Can you believe it?! Like, he spent like the whole Sunday School talking about Jesus as a sacrifice and high priest stuff. I mean, totes, but man, I am freaking about the friends I’m losing after liking that tweet.” 

Is Jesus Enough?

This gets right to the problem we have with our problems. We struggle to see how Jesus is the solution. We struggle to even take time to really look at Jesus; who he was and what he did for us. Doing that is often the overlooked key to enduring trials—says the author of Hebrews. Not because it works like a magic fu-fu, but because an intentionally faithful pursuit of the person and work of Jesus will increasingly fill us with joy and gratitude that causes us to more and more choose obedience (endurance) over sin (failure).

We always want something. We are always trying to get something from our experiences or other people. What are our problems other than things that get in the way of pursuing what we want? So, if what we constantly want is Jesus, then we can always have him, no matter what. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Jesus is superior in value to anything we gain, lose, or face in this life. Is it our aim to remember (and rediscover, if necessary) that and to faithfully proclaim it to ourselves and to our children every day?

NOTE: I am excited to announce a special teaching we have designed to encourage and equip men in this very pursuit. We call it, “Enduring Men in Troubled Times”. This is a simple look at keeping Jesus in view, why it is important, and how to actually do it in your home. There will be discussion and practical application. Please consider this for your men’s group. For more information click here.

Weeping for Dictators

Weeping for Dictators

weeping for dictatorsIt was one of those memorable conversations…

I was sitting in my whale-size 15 passenger van in a busy parking lot having a phone conversation with a pastor about a host of thorny issues. At one point we waxed political. (I told you it was thorny!) He asked, “Did you watch when they hung Saddam Hussein?” Before I could answer he said, “I was sitting in front of the T.V. watching the last moments of his life—weeping…”

A torrent of emotion swept over him as he retold the experience. I didn’t need to see him; his tears and stuttering voice were vivid evidence of his sincerity. Not knowing this brother as an emotional type I was a little shocked that he was weeping but far more that he was weeping for a man whose dastardly deeds were well-known to the world. A man about whom reasonable people would say without reservation, “he’s getting what he deserves!” But this brother’s heart was deeply concerned for Hussein’s soul as he watched him transition into what he feared was a Christ-less eternity.

This brief clip in our marathon conversation impacted me greatly. In these politically perverted times, it is easy to comment with contempt and derision on our politicians, dubious leaders of other nations, reporters, and the CEOs of well-known companies. As I watch, the darkness; the blindness is stark.

My brother’s surprising response served as a reminder.

First, I am no better.

We are all debtors to grace. Jesus had to die for the “little” sins as well as the “big” ones. In a sense, little or big are of no consequence because each required the death of Jesus. When we see ourselves and our sin that way, we are cut down to size. We are humbled. We are given the wonderful opportunity to be reminded of our own debt to grace that we easily forget when indignantly focused on the “larger” misdeeds of others.

Second, I need to pray for the salvation of my enemies.

It is good to weep for dictators and those whose actions are clearly criminal and/or a complete mystery to us. It is hard to hate someone you are sincerely praying for. Our weeping can take the form of fervent prayers with our families around the dinner table. These people desperately need the grace of God (just like us). They need grace for the sake of their own souls and for the sake of the many, many people who suffer under their rule or influence.

Third, I need to remember where my real citizenship lies.

We are citizens of heaven. Everything of lasting value is there. Clearly, we in the West have lived through an unprecedented season of freedom and prosperity. A mind focused on this world, would look at my pastor friend and not understand the weeping. But his weeping shows a heart properly aligned with the values of his true citizenship.

Optimism in Depressing Times

I am optimistic about the times ahead. Not because I think life is going to get easier. I wish it would, but it will likely get harder and many of us will probably suffer. But God is no stranger to dispensing unmeasured grace and mercy in the harshest of circumstances.

My optimism is instead based upon my confidence that our Sovereign God is working through every detail to build his Church. He is making us more like who we already are in Jesus and he is using us to do eternally rewarding work—dispensing true hope and joy to those who are being swallowed up by the darkness of our times.

God has a plan that will not be thwarted by any human or principality. His plan operates on a different set of rules. And we who are in Christ have already benefitted beyond measure. We are ambassadors of hope and joy to people who need it, including ourselves. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to share this good news, see righteousness pierce darkness and witness an abundant harvest for King Jesus.

Four Ways to Make your Home a Refuge from Fear

Four Ways to Make your Home a Refuge from Fear

Refuge from fearIf I were a fly on the wall in your kitchen, or if I scrolled through your texts, what would I learn about how you’re handling the news these days? Banter over the news might sound less like afternoon tea with the Queen and more like a barroom brawl.

It is easy for frustration over what we cannot control (namely, most news) to degenerate into fear. Fear is a powerful tool of the enemy of our souls. As parents, we are concerned for our children that disturbing news not lead to fear.

In these contentious and uncertain days, how do we keep from allowing fear to rule us? Following are four ideas.

First, restrain “conversation” about fearful news.

Note that I did not say to not talk about the news. These days our children often know the news before we do, and we must talk about it with them. Isn’t it hard at times to find the line between righteous indignation and angry outbursts? At times, it feels justified to just vent. Afterall, I should be able to say exactly what I think in my own home. Right?

Overwhelmingly negative emotions are often a warning about where our confidence really is. I am not suggesting that a right response is easy. It is a struggle as we all know. By being mindful and restraining discussion when needed, we model the godly leadership our children need and set up the second way we can stop fear from gripping our homes.

Remind your family where our confidence is.

In writing to persecuted Christians, the writer of Hebrews says in 10:23. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” These believers were enduring far, far worse things than any bad news we have heard. The encouragement is to hold fast to Christ! We are not alone. God is with us. He is our confidence through to the end.

As the temperature rises, stop, and say something that breaks the emotional vortex and turns our attention back to God. “Wow, I am really struggling here. I/we need to remember that God is in control of all this.” Or “God is our refuge and strength.”

This morning as the conversation turned again to the news, I reminded my myself and my teenage son, that we are sojourners here on this earth. This is not our home. In the moment, it can be hard to say these things. My failure to say these things usually comes when I fear that saying them will sound preachy or out of touch. I have to be honest with myself and realize I also need to hear what I’m about to say. I will tell my kids, “I need to hear this too. I need you to help me remember what is true.” These are things we should be saying anyway! It is part of speaking the truth to one another in love.

Read the Word of God together.

The Word of God endures forever. It is unchanging Truth. It equips us for every good work. It is powerful. In it we find the accounts of many who have gone before us and overcome fearful challenges by faith in its promises.

Perfect love casts out fear. The word testifies to the perfect love of God. When we read it together out loud it brings calm to distressing situations. Developing a pattern of reading the word as a family prepares us for obedient living—especially in the next news cycle.

There are many Psalms that talk about God being our refuge. Over the next week, consider reading the following: Psalms 34, 62, 71, 91, 118, 142, 144 to your family. Each of these Psalms provide mental rest and emotional peace in the face of fear.

Pray for the salvation of our enemies.

It helps reorient our thinking away from people we don’t like by praying for them. This requires us to first remember our own place. We are sinners saved by grace. We need grace as much as the people we would otherwise hate in our hearts. Our sin is no less odious in God’s eyes and we have done nothing to earn anything but his judgement. Yet, we are undeserving recipients of his mercy and grace. This realization humbles us and fills us with compassion.

Last week there was a news article about a state law that would make it legal to deny care to babies that survived abortion. As I scrolled down and read the comments one particularly stood out to me:

…BABY KILLERS, DEMONIC, GOVERNMENT WORSHIPPING MARXISTS, AT LEAST WE WILL BE FREE OF THESE SOUL-LESS MONSTERS WHEN WE ARE ACCEPTED BY GOD’S GRACE INTO HEAVEN (All caps in the original post).

Certainly, a law like this is wrong and stirs righteous anger! But it’s hard to find anything redemptive in that comment. Its bitter and self-righteous. No grace there. Only judgement. God commands us to pray for our enemies. When we are humbled by our own debt and the mercy we have received, we see them differently and then we pray. Isn’t it harder to disparage someone we are praying for?

In many cases, they are afraid although that fear is masked by hostility. They act the way they do because they have no hope or feel that what their hope is in is being threatened.

This more than any other thing has helped me when I’ve wanted to stew or vent my frustrations about others. Would that I always remembered this. Pray for our enemies to come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I doubt that’s a newsflash. But are we doing it?

Remember who we are.

Because we are objects of mercy, we can be messengers of the hope we have in Christ. We will lose opportunities to bring that message of hope if we allow our conversations at home to be driven by frustration and fear. Hope is needed everywhere, beginning in our homes! Speaking hopefully in our home equips our children to be ambassadors of hope to their friends.

Bad news will continue. But praise be to God that we have an eternal hope in Christ! Do we really believe that? Does it impact how we discuss bad news? It must so our homes will be refuges from fear.