Monday, July 27, 2015

The Answer(s) to the Why Question: I'm not sure you'll like any of them

I preached yesterday on the terrible psalm of darkness, #88.  It wasn't much fun for anyone.  It certainly wasn't for me.  But I'm grateful for it because it breaks the silence we don't know how to break when the darkness settles in.  And along the way, when we ask the inevitable question of why it's happening, here were and are my thoughts.

(I hope these are helpful, even if they're not necessarily pleasant)

Answer 1:  darkness can be happening to you because it's a consequence of some choice(s) you made.  Galatians 6 is very clear:  don't be deceived, God isn't going to be mocked.  If you sow something, you will reap that very same kind of something.  In the same way you can't sow an apple seed expecting an orange tree, so you can't so disobedience of any sort and expect godly fruit.  It just doesn't happen that way.

There can be direct consequences or indirect ones.  Direct:  I kill someone and then go to jail.  Indirect:  I don't deal with my addictions to anger or porn addiction or unforgiveness or something else that's allegedly secret, but because it's in the nature of those demonic beasts, they seep into the other areas of my life and poison them.  Either way, that's reaping what you sow.

The best way to rid yourself of that darkness is repenting of the sin and asking for forgiveness and the transforming power of Jesus.

Answer 2:  darkness can be happening to you because God is using it to shape you uniquely, doing so in some way that couldn't be accomplished as deeply or effectively in any other way.  I pointed our church (and now you) to Romans 5.3-5 and James 1.2-4 as well as the Old Testament story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50).  Nobody likes this part, but it's even true of Jesus.  He was led BY THE SPIRIT into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil (Matthew 4).

The best way to endure this darkness is to think of what is to come.  None of these trials are in vain.  They weren't for Joseph.  They weren't for Jesus.  They're not for you.

How do you know if you're in this particular kind of darkness?  Most likely you sense God doing something even though you can't put your finger on it yet.  Furthermore, the things of God are still sweet to the taste (as Jonathan Edwards would say) and you have hope.

That's not the case of the last answer.

Answer 3:  darkness can be happening because God is up to something but doesn't tell you about it at all.  It's just dark.  This is the issue in Psalm 88.  It's emptiness on this end of the line and silence on the other end.  The sermon I preached on this will be up this morning, so if you want more to think about on this topic, I'd point you there.

But what do you do when this happens?  Position yourself to be near God.  Even if you don't know what He's up to and He's not speaking to you anyway.  Even if your prayers hit the ceiling (or don't even rise that high) and the Bible has words and punctuation but no meaning.  Even if you are irritated by church and truth and testimonies and the coffee in Sunday School.  Even if.  Just be near Him.  Whatever it takes, be near Him.

It's your good (Psalm 73.28).

One day the darkness will lift.  One day the fog will be blown away.  One day the sun will shine.  One day the good will outweigh the struggle.  One day it will be okay again.  One day.

Be near Him until then.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

On Planned Parenthood and the Sale of Baby Parts

A pic of PP Medical Director Debora Nucatola

I have no idea what to say about this story.  By all verifiable sources, it is true that Planned Parenthood is taking body parts of aborted babies and selling them to increase their profits.

I don't even...

I can't even...

On the one hand, it's wicked enough to kill the unborn.  As an adoptive dad, I've put my money where my mouth is twice.  And I commend that route to birth moms and parents who can adopt.

On the other hand, to turn a profit twice over by this murderous act is heinous beyond imagination.  What kind of wickedness is this?  As one said, "It's not only that they were deprived of their lives, but also that their corpses were desecrated for profit."

Some thoughts...

1.  If there is any justice left in the U.S. justice system, people like this will go to jail.

2.  The justice of God, though potentially unseen now, will indeed prevail.  They are set in slippery places; they will fall to ruin - destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors (Ps. 73.18-19).

3.   If the church is to have any moral voice in the world, we darn sure better speak up here and now and to this issue.  Furthermore, we better darn sure step up our game for orphan care and advocacy.  If we can't get angry about this (without sinning, as instructed), then we should become monks and wait on the Second Coming.

4.  If the word "evil" isn't in your vocabulary, it should be.  We shouldn't surrender that in the name of political correctness or cultural relevance.  In days of old, the people living around the Israelites would sacrifice their children by fire to the god Molech by rolling them down into a ramp into a pit.  God spoke about it multiple times in the OT.  And this is worse.

May God have mercy on us all.

Monday, July 13, 2015

6 Years - Happy Gotcha Day!

It's been six years.  And we've gone from...


Happy Gotcha Day, Peanut.  You are loved and adored.  We are blessed and amazed.  I'm glad you call us mom and dad.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

On Lines in the Sand

There's a relatively new book out that talks about the holiness of not judging another (upfront disclaimer:  I have not read the book nor am I commenting on any particular content of it).  I appreciate the thrust of that as Jesus is pretty clear on what that means and looks like.  What I have significant concern about is the lack of discernment that often comes with it when applied in our cultural moment.

One description of the book talks about ways we can erase lines in the sand that keep people from coming to Jesus, or even coming to us and then to Jesus.  Again, I appreciate the thrust of that.  I think any barrier that can be removed should.

But some can't.

And frankly, it's not lines in the sand that keep people from coming to Jesus.  It's the line that is drawn right through the human heart that bends it toward selfishness and rebellion and ends in brokenness and...wait for it...judgment.

Away with the manmade, line-in-the-sand barriers.  I'm all for that.  But some heartmade barriers cannot be put aside.

If anyone wants to be my apprentice, let he or she live self-denyingly, take up a cross everyday, and follow Me. ~ Jesus

If anyone comes to Me and the other relationships of parents, family, and even his or her own life don't look like hate in comparison to following Me, then that person is not really a follower at all. ~ Jesus (again)

The people who deny that Jesus is who He says He is and say He didn't come in the flesh:  they aren't followers of Christ but the antiChrist. ~ John

Like children following the example of their father, don't wrap your life around or give room to desires you used to do, but be holy like God is holy. ~ Peter

There are things to put to death, there are things to put away, and there are things to put on.  Be careful to do all of that as the Word of Christ instructs you. ~ Paul

On and on we could go.  Those just can't be taken away which is where so many end up, even though they never intend to get there, when they start talking about removing barriers to the Gospel.  And that approach is long on tolerance but weighed and found wanting on discernment.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Today is a Big Day

There's something special about July 8.  Want to guess?

She's the kind of feisty that makes you think her natural hair color is red.

She's the kind of strong-willed that has made her a fighter and a survivor, putting Ronda Rousey to shame and leaving highly educated people scratching their heads.

She's the kind of hilarious that invokes a belly laugh by simply remembering some of the shenanigans that lie in her wake.

She's the kind of beauty that smiles from so deep within that her eyes disappear.

She's the kind of trouble that has The Queen and I saying, "If you had been a first, you'd have been an only."

She's the kind of cute that has 1000 faces and infects us with her giggles.

Happy Birthday, Minion.

Monday, July 6, 2015

7 Reasons Why I'm a Fan of Camp

I know I've written on this before, but I wanted to take a second and explain why I'm a fan of Preteen Camp, Youth Camp, and various expressions like it.  Here are some of my thoughts...

1.  The "Away" factor helps kids and students grow up, or at least show them where they need to do some growing up.

2.  The "Away" factor helps limit distractions so that heart-level work can be done that, while not impossible, is more difficult in the normal rhythms of life.  Moses was away in the desert when he saw the bush ablaze (Exodus 3).  Jesus drew away to pray (Mark 1.35).  I'm not saying youth camp is the desert, Mount Sinai, or the empty tomb.  I am saying the principle of drawing away is often an important part of people's spiritual journeys.

3.  The "Away" factor helps people hear from different [human] voices.  I get to preach most Sundays to our church.  They deserve to hear from God through different people.

4.  The "Away" factor provokes an intentionality about their lives.  They intentionally invest in discussion groups, taking sermon notes, Bible study, purposeful recreation, meaningful conversation, and so forth.  In the best possible scenario, that carries over and lingers through the year.

5.  The "Away" factor often (certainly not always) puts them in situations and settings where ministry is done with a level of excellence that is not reached and cannot be reached in a local church setting.  Every Sunday isn't like camp.  That's what makes camp special.

6.  The "Away" factor is often a locus of prayer for those 4-5 days.  Beforehand people pray.  During people pray.  That's helpful to those sent and those staying at home.

7.  The "Away" factor puts our people in touch with other Jesus-people and the rub off is a reminder that the Kingdom is bigger than Heritage Park.  It helps our people stay focused on the command that we seek the Kingdom and Jesus builds the church.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Exactly 1 Year Ago

One year ago at this very moment, my phone rang with the incalculably valuable Bec on the other end of the line, giving me horrific news that our baby girl was in the middle of two massive strokes.

One year ago right now, I couldn't breathe and was trying to drive on the Gulf Freeway with my other 3 in the car...trying not to fall apart until I could get them settled.

One year ago right now, The Queen was holding the Minion and, in the kind of gift of mercy that you never ask for but are grateful for, knew exactly what to do and what to say.

One year ago, Framily showed up like an army of yard-mowers, food-deliverers, bed-providers, and most of all prayer-warriors.

One year ago, all hell broke loose but Reigning Father rubbed His hands together eagerly in anticipation of the process of redeeming of it all.

One year ago, we were pressed but not crushed, struck down but not destroyed.  We were corks in the hurricane - tossed but held afloat somehow.  We were sieves, with a few solid spots but mostly holes.

One year ago, Dr. Ken Brady in the CVICU and another attending named Cesár began the process of medically treating and saving my little girl's life.

One year ago right now, I was never sure that I'd be typing what I'm typing.

Through it all, God is faithful.  Through it all, God is good.  Amen.