In Dark Times: why I'm not freaking out on facebook

We are truly in dark times right now. This I understand and am not naive to. But alas there are some ways I do not find myself reacting with the larger population when I see the realities of our world playing out. There are a couple things I keep hold of in my heart and mind. 1. I do not place my faith, trust, or confidence (or lack thereof) in what I see on the news or in the world. 2. I have to clamor for more of the important dependence of life instead of living in fear of what I see outside.

First, truth is not anchored in my feelings or my circumstances. I believe truth is anchored in God's Word, and I will align all my confidence there. The Christian life is one of faith lead by Scripture (Jn. 15:7). In all parts of life it is critical that I have the Word of God and always ask, "God, what are YOU saying?" My ears need to be far more in tune to His voice than to the world around us (Ps. 28:1-2, 7). I am not moved by what I see, I am moved by what God says (2 Cor. 5:7). So is it does not matter what I see on the news; I do not pray what I see on the news, I pray what God says.

Secondly, a German philosopher said, "the more a man has in his own heart the less he will require from the outside; excessive need for support from without is proof of the bankruptcy of the inner man." In times that are truly dark, I am more frustrated by own and others' dependency on what they see outside themselves. My level of worry reveals the emptiness of my heart; it reveals how little I trust God. AW Tozer wrote, "Is it not a strange thing that in an hour when mature saints are so desperately needed vast numbers of believers should revert to spiritual childhood...?" We are in a dark time, yes, but I fear more for the faint of heart Christians with eyes dimmed.

We have come to be affected far more by what we see around us, and this is because we have not spent inordinately more time taking care of our inner lives. We ought to be clamoring to hear from God far more than we hear from FOXNews and facebook posts.

We cannot, and I do not propose here, we avoid reality by sticking our heads in the sand like an ostrich, but we also cannot run around like another bird with its head cut off. As my pastor, Banning said, "We are so impressed by darkness, we have all the statistics about it. My prayer life is not based on statistics."

The grammar of power

2 Timothy 1:7"For God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and discipline."

Here is a verse so many Christians love to misuse for the courage to face daunting moments in life. We are reminded in quoting this verse you ought to not be fearful because God has placed within you power. We will quote this verse and challenge one another to live in the power God has given to you instead of neglecting it by living in fear.

But there is a misuse here, and it is entirely grammatical. We are placing a period where there are commas. We read and quote this passage as though all we need to do is not be afraid, but be powerful, PERIOD! We have removed the commas and cut off the rest of the passage.

No! You are not given a spirit of fear. Yes! You have been given a spirit of power, COMMA, AND love, COMMA, AND discipline. In the moments most daunting, you are given a spirit of power, and love, and discipline. In the most difficult and "fearful" moments of life how often have you ever been challenged to draw upon love and discipline as much as power? Could the spirit of power only be found in the compound of love and discipline? In the daunting moments of life when you are tempted to fear, will you discipline yourself to love God and people; because there is power in that!

Fear and Faith

When I search my heart and find my faith lacking lately, it is less about doubt than it is about fear. My lacking faith is really my increasing fear. I fear a great many things, and I wonder how or if certain things will happen. I am afraid of certain outcomes happening and other outcomes not happening. I am confident in who God is. I am confident in what He is able to do. My lacking faith is not so much about any doubts I have. It is about the fears and worries my mind and heart feel at particular points in life.

Lately I have been wondering whether faith has more to do with lacking fear than it does with lacking doubt.

Sinking boat holes

holesOver and over again we hear our culture, our country, and our world compared to a particular hand-basket on a journey. We are caught in this crazy battle to see how we ought to be engaged with the culture or whether we even should be engaged with our culture in any capacity. We watch FOXNews to solidify our paranoia and anger. We lash out against a culture who left us years ago. We are concerned that this culture is sinking, and sinking fast.

What strikes about realizing we are sinking is that too many people are content to shoot holes in a sinking ship...that we are in.

We drastically misunderstand what it means to be "in the world but not of it", when we think we can actually escape the world, much less when we seek to attack and shoot holes in it. At some point, it may be helpful to place ourselves specifically into that metaphor I have laid out.

If I were in a sinking boat, regardless of how disgusting that boat may be, I am not going to be content to sit within it firing holes to expedite the process. I may even try to do what I can to redeem, repair, and restore as many of the cracks that I can.

On treasure and heart

I fear I treasure too many of the wrong things in my life. If my treasure were where it should be, it would not seem so painful to think of separating from other less important things in my life. If my treasure were where it should be, I would be far less impatient and anxious about what might happen any given moment.

God, strengthen and teach me to change my heart to treasure what I should and far less of what I need not desire.

Peace and strength

"The Lord will give strength to his people; The Lord will bless his people with peace." Psalm 29.11

God, I am strongest when I am in your peace. I am strongest when I rest in a peace only you and your presence can give to me. Please help me know your peace. Help my heart, mind, and soul experience peace only you can give to me. I am weak, timid, and weary, but I can know strength in peace if you give to me both. I cannot give myself real peace. Only your gospel working change in me can give me peace where I would not otherwise know peace; in the places I would normally stress, freak out, give up, and fail.

Help me know peace in those moments and in those places. Change my weary and bedraggled heart to know peace. Give me peace and change me that I may know a strength I cannot attain myself.

The moment when...PEACE

When we discovered we were pregnant again our world was jostled a great deal more than we imagined it would be. We knew one day we wanted another, but NOW?! That was not in our plan or expectation. We were very nervous, anxious, and fearful as to HOW that was ever going to work. Where would the finances come for this? Where would childcare come while we both have to work to support our family? Is this the best neighborhood for raising a family? Should we move to a better more expensive place? How could this work?

We came to worship together in that same way we all come to worship some days. Our minds and hearts clouded and distanced with all of life's impossibilities and troubles. It makes our worship feel faint and fake.

Once the opening chord of Forever Reign is begun, God met us in that place. We sang the words "You are peace. You are peace when my fear is crippling," and our worship became sincere and authentic in a moment's time.

God would be peace in our crippling fear. We slowly learned to trust those words in the following moments.

Months later (say about 9 or so), we were still without a name for our second daughter who would be born the next day. In a seemingly unrelated moment, we would name her Haddisen PEACE.

A couple months after she was given to us, my wife made the connection that was there all along. "How incredible that the moment we were so worried, we sang that song and now her name is PEACE!" God must have known.

Yesterday, on Father's Day, we had both of our girls dedicated. It is nothing magical or mystical. It is a symbol by which we set apart or dedicate our children to God. It is also when we are dedicated as parents. We are saying in this moment that we will raise our children to know Jesus. To say "These are Your children entrusted to us, and we will honor You in that."

We came into the worship center and stood to worship together as a family. I held Haddisen Peace in my arms and we heard God whisper his outrageous love for us in the opening chord of Forever Reign.

Why rest for the weary is so hard

"Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." - Matthew 11:28 Sounds great! Why is it so hard to do?

We all have moments when our spirit could really use a rest. We all have moments when our hearts have been bested by our sin, our struggles, and the general beating that life often has to offer. We all have moments when we feel attacked by our past, held down by our present, and fearful of our future. Some of us live weary and heavy-laden, and this passage sounds like the most amazing freedom. Our hearts jump at the possibility.

But for the most part, our hearts remain weary and rest remains a "possibility"; never a reality. Why is it so hard to actually come to God? Why is coming to Jesus for rest so difficult?

First of all, it's humiliating. We feel like peasants before God; utterly unworthy of the rest he offers. We see ourselves in the reality of our filth. We look at our sin and our predicament, and it paralyzes us. We stay back and grovel just outside of Jesus' presence because we know we are unworthy, but we have convinced ourselves we are worthless, and there is a difference. We stay just outside of Jesus' open arms, which offer our weary hearts rest because we fear rejection. We fear ourselves to be too filthy, too broken, and too far gone.

But Jesus still calls out to us, "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden." So he knows our predicament. He sees our filth. He realizes what has worn us down and languished our soul, and he STILL calls out to us to come to him.

It is only hard to come to Jesus for rest because we would rather stay in sorrow than to accept God's GRACE that says, "I know you are weary, filthy, and broken, and I love you so much. Please come to me, and I will love the hell out of you."

Why you cannot JUST trust God

Trusting God is a discipline. You have to work at and learn how to trust God. You cannot sit with someone who is going through a difficult time or situation and say, "JUST trust in God."

You cannot JUST trust in God. Trust in God has to be learned and maintained. It is a discipline which needs daily dedication. You have to trust more each day. You have to be intentional about trusting God, because as with trust in anything, it must have a risk involved. You have to risk something, some security, some comfort in order to trust in anything. Trusting God requires some sort of risk you are willing to take. You trust each day by facing those risks and making a choice EACH DAY to say:

"Today I am going to trust God in this situation."

"Today I will pray in the midst of my pain."

"Today i will tell God I am scared and lonely, because that is honest and I know he hears me."

"Today i will believe that God is sovereign; even if I can only half-believe it."

"Today I will trust God."

You cannot JUST trust God. Trust in God is a learned and dedicated discipline.