How Do I Trust God When…

How Do I Trust God When I’ve Been Through Devastating Circumstances?                During a Q&A time with the youth last night, a young lady with a troubled past asked a question which cut straights to the heart of the matter. She said, “How can I trust God when he’s let me go through devastating situations?” Here, in brief, were some thoughts that I hope you too can find helpful in your journey with God.

  1. Much suffering comes as a result of abandoning God’s ways. Many times, our pain results from lying, gossip, anger, envy, jealousy, adultery, the love of money, or other types of sin. Sometimes deep societal problems exist because of the love of power and comfort at the expense of others. When I experience suffering due to people (or myself) having abandoned God’s ways, it causes me to trust God more. I see the beauty in following Jesus, and I recognize that it offers a path to wholeness and abundant life.
  2. “Natural Evil” helps me long for heaven. Some suffering is not the direct result of human sin. We have diseases, earthquakes, unexpected house fires, accidents, and other types of suffering. The Bible says that when humanity sinned, the entire creation was broken. It may seem unfair, but God allows this present world to go unredeemed in the present time. Again, this gives us the opportunity to follow Jesus and see the beauty of God’s ways. Jesus says, “Anyone who has two coats should share with him who has none.” Jesus calls us away from comfort and into the suffering of others. And hopefully, if you’ve been through some sort of “Natural Evil,” God’s people have offered you physical, spiritual, and emotional comfort in your time of loss. As a pastor, I get to see this happen quite often.
  3. Jesus went through devastating circumstances for us. If there is one thing we know for sure, it is that God cares. He sent his son to die, so that for us a perfect paradise would be secured. Because God in Christ was willing to suffer and die for us, we know that he cares and is with us no matter what we face. Reflecting on God’s love at the cross can help us face any trials.

A prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to trust you when this world is grim. You have overcome the world. You are the source of light, life, and love. Raise us from this present darkness and make us beacons of hope through the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.


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The Word of the Cross is Folly

As we approach Good Friday, I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 1:18-19. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,        “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” In our current information age, we are more convinced of man’s wisdom than the Greeks ever were. Formally, we have the university system and academia. We have science. We have philosophy departments. We have powerful and innovative tech companies pushing new ground every day. We have Elon Musk! Informally, we have wikipedia, social media, and a constant barrage of “enlightened” (woke) people who see things as they “really” are. Here, however, Paul looks at the message of the cross and says true wisdom is found in the vulgar, unsophisticated, ancient method of humiliation and execution. Paul says it is in the cross that we find true wisdom, that is where we find the path to true progress. He was openly scoffed at in Athens when he spoke the their distinguished philosophers. And to make a claim like that today would get most people scoffed at, as well. Tonight I am going to ask my youth group two simple questions to show the truth that Paul teaches in this passage. Question 1: What are some things in the past that the “wise people” of that age knew for sure to be true, that we found to not be true? Question 2: Do you think there are any things in the present that the “wise people” of this age know for sure to be true, that we will find not to be true? The wisdom of man is constantly changing and always evolving. In America’s past, it was once ruled in the court of law that it was okay to sterilize disabled people against their will. We say, “That is absolutely barbaric! An affront to basic human rights!” Yet I am convinced that in the future, people will look at our society today and see ways that we are barbaric. Ways that we violate human rights. We are currently every bit as backward as the previous generations were. Tim Keller puts it this way, when he says, “We do not live in the ultimate cultural moment.” People are morally outraged at all sorts of injustices and errors in our world, and in our past. But future people will be morally outraged at us! In contrast to this stands the word of the cross. The message of the cross is about humility, self sacrifice, and altruistic love for your enemy and neighbor. It is a message of a God who loves us enough to die for us. It is a message of a God who is close to us. It is a vision that creates a humble and diverse community of different ethnic groups, languages, and ages. The message of the cross is folly to the world – yet in it is the wisdom of God. And it holds what people most deeply long for. Man would never come to know God through its wisdom. But this Good Friday, reflect on the message of the cross, because that is where we can come to know the wisdom of God.


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Communication Breakdown

“What we have here is a failure to communicate!” When Natalie and I were in premarital counseling with Dr. Jimmy Agan, he walked us through the different levels of conflict. He said, essentially, there were 5 levels of conflict. Level 1: Tension This is something any healthy relationship faces. People sometimes have different opinions and there is tension. The situation is: “We both want to know how these perspectives fit together. What can we learn from each other?” Level 2: Opposition This is also something any healthy relationship faces. There are two positions and only one is possible. The situation is: “We both want to discover which of these perspectives is true. How can we solve the problem?” Level 3: Adversarial Relations This is where things begin to get unhealthy. Trust and respect is lost. The situation is: “I want to win, and I want you to lose. This means more to me than learning or discovering the truth.” There are also levels four and five, where things get even uglier, but that’s not where I want to go today….. What I see happening in a lot of areas of discourse is level 3 type conflict. This “I want to win, and I want you to lose” mentality is modeled by politicians, non-government leaders, and social activists alike. This situation arises when trust and respect is lost. I fear this method of communicating is slowly becoming the norm through memes, soundbite communication, and snarky news/comedy shows. For example, look at the recent gun control debate which is raging in all corners. On one side, you have the accusation that there is a group of people who simply want to remove the rights of all gun owners to even have guns. On the other side, there is the accusation that “If you do not care about gun control, you are fine sacrificing our children for your gun rights.” Neither accurately depicts the other side’s position. Complicating matters is the fact that there are not merely two sides, but millions of Americans with nuanced positions. Painting others with a broad brush and labeling them is a lot easier than learning and discovering the truth, fostering trust and respect, and moving forward to a better future. When I was in high school debate class, we were told that if we could not accurately state the other person’s position in a way they would agree with it, then we could not engage their argument and would automatically lose the debate. Yet it is so much easier to misrepresent the other side and tear down ideas that really nobody believes. Here are some thoughts for fostering positive dialogue, in your own personal life and even within societal conversations.

  1. Labor to understand the other side. If you can’t communicate the other side’s position in a way that they would agree with, then listen more. Learn more. Research more. Read their own sources, not summaries of their positions by snarky comedians and those who disagree with them. Jesus is a great example of understanding the other side. Look at how he engaged with the Pharisees’ position in John 5:39 – “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life…” Jesus was able to say what they believed in a way they could agree with. Because of this, he could gain ground in winning not only the argument, but the people he was talking to as well.
  2. Know the people on the other side. The other side is composed of human beings. They have stories, emotions, families, and lives. They are rarely the one-dimensional monsters we can make them to be in our minds. Jesus sat down with people of every stripe in order to win them. He ate with them, walked with them, stayed up late talking to them, and extended a relationship to them. No surprise that so many willingly followed him. No surprise that he was able to speak to the issues they were concerned with!
  3. Craft your argument to engage the other side. Too often, what passes for dialogue is simply people talking past each other to people they already agree with. It’s an attempt to rally the base. What if instead of saying, “You want to take our guns away,” you said, “I hear you desiring the ban of 30 round mags. Here is why I find that particular suggestion ill-advised?” What if instead of saying, “You are going to sacrifice the lives or our kids so you can keep your guns,” you said, “Here is the connection I see between certain types of gun ownership and mass killings of children?”

I’ve used the gun debate as an example, but this can pay dividends in every area of life. When actual communication takes place, trust and relationship are fostered, solutions are reached, and the future looks better than the past. But when one group gains power over the other and squashes them to the ground in an adversarial contest, the conclusions reached only further the divisions and hostility of the two groups. This is never the path forward for a healthy family, church, society, or organization.


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Responsibility

About Taking Responsibility While in Omaha on vacation, I spent several hours working through a book titled “One Piece of Paper.” It was a leadership book by Mike Figliuolo. The premise of the book was that leadership is different for each person, and is shaped by an individual’s unique history. There were workbook style questions designed to help you remember times when you learned leadership lessons, and then the book instructed you to create memorable one liners (maxims) to encapsulate the lesson. Your “one piece of paper” is a single document that contains these maxims, which are leadership lessons derived from your life of experience. The simplicity of the document helps create clarity about what drives you as a leader. One of the questions which I had to wrestle with was, “How will you hold yourself accountable?” When I was 20 years old, on a beach in Mexico with about 50 other Christian guys, I remember taking an oath of sorts to “reject passivity, expect God’s great reward, accept responsibility, and lead courageously.” Why is this biblical, and how could I help myself do it? One thing that always strikes me is that God holds leaders to higher standards. In the Old Testament, there were various kings that ruled in the land of Judah. Some of them were evil, and some of them were good. Their actions, or inactions, set the stage for whether the entire land would experience the flourishing of righteousness or the decay of sin. God held the kings more accountable than the people. In the New Testament, we see the same thing with teachers and pastors in the church.  James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”  Hebrews 13:17 says that, “Church leaders will have to give an account.” When someone has leadership, their actions affect many, and will be held responsible. My maxim for accepting responsibility goes all the way back to high school. When I was 16, I started playing a very famous game called Starcraft (South Korea’s national sport). I would regularly play with both real life and online friends. We would lose our share of games, and after every loss, I would immediately declare, “My fault.” Now, the game had a scoring system where you could see how well you did, and I was very rarely the weakest link in the chain. Even so, I always told my teammates that I could and needed to play better. The loss was “my fault.” By accepting responsibility, a lot of good things happened. First, blaming others immediately looked ridiculous. “My teammates are already blaming themselves, why should/how can I blame them?” Second, when everyone else is looking in the mirror, it helps you to look in the mirror too. Finally, even if I did play the best on my team, I wasn’t content with being better than my teammates. I wanted to be good enough to win, period. That was the standard I would hold myself to. Failure comes with shame. With shame comes isolation. The reasons for passing the buck are obvious. However, when a leader consistently accepts responsibility, it removes the shame from failure. Therefore, with the acknowledgment of failure comes growth. And with the growth comes less failure and a better organization. Better results. The Christian should accept responsibility more than anyone else. Our identity is in Christ. We are forgiven for our failures, and Christ has removed our shame. Therefore, because of Jesus, we are free to own our mistakes and grow into the greatness he has in store for us.


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Why I Love Christmas

I love Christmastime each year. I know a lot of you out there are bah-humbug types, ready for the season to end before it has even begun. I don’t care. I love Christmas, and I am gloriously unashamed of the magnificence of this unparalleled time in the annum. I wanted to give a top 7 list of why I love Christmas. Here we go.  

  1. Christmas is about priorities. We take some time off work. We clear out space for relationships, for family, for church. We turn off the TV to wrap some presents, or squeeze in a few hours here and there to think of what gifts would make people happy. We write a card to a friend, send an update to people on the state of our family. And we take off some work to make it happen, too.
  2. Christmas is cozy. I don’t know about you, but I take a couple extra trips to the coffee shop. I light up my wood burning fireplace and wrestle the kids on the carpeted basement floor. We cover ourselves with blankets while we sit on the couch and watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
  3. We spend money. I like spending money. I keep it pretty tight throughout the year, but this is the one month a year where I pull the goalie and spoil my family. I’m getting Luther and James a Nintendo Switch for Christmas. The review said that the new Mario Kart even had a way for the cars to autopilot, and that the littlest kids could play it. One mom said her four-year-old was laughing uncontrollably. I’m pretty psyched to spoil my kids a bit.
  4. I take some vacation. For me, work is a pretty constant grind from mid-August to the end of May. But even if I must put in some extra hours at work, I make sure that I can take some much-needed rest around Christmas. After the sprint to Christmas Day, I regroup for the next five-month push. I like to splurge on some really nice steaks that I cook for whichever family I happen to be staying with, and this year I am going to do some homemade buffalo wings for my in-laws too. My kids are ready to see dad, and I’m pumped for a week with them.
  5. Christmas is about Jesus. Really, this is the most important. Check these lyrics. ‘Mild he lays his glory by Born that man no more may die Born to raise the sons of earth Born to give them second birth Hark the herald angels sing Glory to the newborn king’ Just writing it causes tears to well up in my eyes. Christmas is actually about the big questions, the most important things, and a hope that lasts forever.

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Thoughts Are Not Prayers

The Difference Between Thoughts and Prayers We’ve heard a lot about “thoughts and prayers” in the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre. Many people offered “thoughts and prayers.” Some people were thankful for the “thoughts and prayers.” Others decried the uselessness of “thoughts and prayers.” To most people today, thoughts and prayers accomplish the same purpose. To say you are praying for someone, or thinking of them, is a way of showing solidarity with them and concern. It is a nice gesture of support and care to say, “I am thinking of you in your hardship.” For those without a religious faith, to use the language of thinking of someone is more honest than saying you are praying for them. Some people believe that thinking positive thoughts for someone else has its own effect, like the effect of prayer. When there is no action that can be taken on someone else’s behalf, sending good thoughts is the best many can do. Some of my unbelieving friends ask for “good vibes” as they enter a job interview or make a big move. Prayers are different than thoughts. There is a very big difference, from the Christian perspective, between thoughts and prayers. Prayer to the Christian is not simply a way of saying that you are supporting someone, showing them solidarity, or concern. Prayer is the act of interceding for a person or situation before God. The Bible says that because of Christ, we can go directly into the throne room of God and ask him for what we need. We believe that God will respond when we pray, and give us power and peace that are not achievable simply with our own thoughts. We might put it this way: Prayer activates God’s power. Thoughts activate our own power. Prayer as preparation for action. Several times in the Bible, prayer is preparation for decisive action. Nehemiah prayed before he set off to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. The disciples prayed for 10 days before Pentecost. We know from Paul’s letters that he prayed before embarking on evangelistic crusades. Jesus himself prayed before going out to teach the crowds. We should not devalue prayer as it relates to decisive action. Prayer is invaluable in seeking the hand of God, aligning yourself with him, and drawing upon his power as you seek to accomplish things in his name. Prayer should precede action and never be used as an excuse for complacency! Prayer as the only option.                Sometimes in the Bible, prayer is the last resort of powerless people. The disciples prayed for Peter’s release from prison. Hezekiah prayed that Israel be spared from the insurmountable army of Senaccherib. In dire circumstances, may be the only available recourse from catastrophic loss. God welcomes such prayers and is often pleased to show his gracious hand to those who seek him. Prayer as accepting conformity to God’s will. Finally, many times we see prayer as a way of communing with God to conform and accept his will. The Lord’s prayer includes, “your kingdom come, your will be done.” Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but your will be done.” Paul prays for believers throughout the New Testament that their eyes be opened, that they would know God and the power of the resurrection inside them. Prayer can help us perceive the mind of God toward us. Christians, stop demoting prayer to thoughts! To my fellow followers of Jesus, let us commit ourselves to actual prayer. Too often we say, “I’ll be praying for you” and what we really mean is, “your situation is hard and I sympathize with your difficulty.” Instead, stop, and remember that God has granted us the right to come boldly into his presence, directly before the throne of grace, that we might come to Him in our time of need. If you want to show sympathy to someone, you could instead say, “That sounds extremely difficult. I am very sorry for what you are going through.” Do not substitute sympathetic feelings for actual prayer, where we come humbly before God and ask him to intervene. If we promise prayer as a Christian way of showing sympathy, we are really just showing our unbelief. To my unbelieving friends, please understand.                In our perspective, prayer is not the least we can do. It is often the most we can do. When prayers are truly offered, it is because the Christian in great humility sees great problems and needs that he knows he cannot address in his own power. The prayers are offered as an act of both love and faith, believing God will work invisibly and supernaturally to heal and guide us forward.


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Hurricane Harvey

Are these Hurricanes God’s Judgment?    7 Thoughts from Pastor Brian.

  • God is in control of all things. Certainly, God is sovereign over the hurricanes and has a purpose for them. He can send or prevent a storm. (Jonah 1:4)
  • God’s ways are unsearchable.  To declare, however, that a hurricane is God’s judgment goes beyond the knowledge that we have as Christians. We agree with Paul, when he rhetorically asks, “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:34)
  • God has given great blessing amid these hurricanes. Many people have been preserved alive through these hurricanes. Many people still have homes, still have food, water, and shelter. There is an outpouring of both publicly and privately funded support for those victimized by the hurricanes. Fred Rogers said, that when there was a tragedy, his mom told him, “Look for the helpers.” To declare God’s condemnation upon this situation and not to see his mercy is to misrepresent the God who is close to the brokenhearted. (Isaiah 57:15)
  • All deserve judgment. I deserve judgment, as do all people. One question I have is, “Why would these hurricanes fall upon Florida and Texas, but St. Louis be preserved?” We are not less sinners than them. God says he is saving up his judgment for the end of time, and has made a way to escape by pouring out his judgment on Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24)
  • God is full of patience and kindness. In the parable of the prodigal son, we have a story of a rebellious son who deserved the wrath of his Father. But Jesus presented God as full of mercy and love, anxiously awaiting his return. Romans 2:4 asks, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”
  • The Hurricane Shows Us How Small We Are. There is a feeling of helplessness that we should feel in face of a mighty storm. No matter how much we want to be in control, we are not. The stock market could crash. A war could break out. We are not as safe or as powerful as we like to think. (Psalm 8:3-6)
  • God is a Fortress from Every Storm. God asks us to seek refuge in him, not just from a hurricane but from all of life’s storms. He is with us and will not forsake those who turn to him. A hurricane should make us remember our dependence on him who is faithful to provide each day with what we need. (Psalm 46)

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Jesus Off the Cross

              This past week I was reminded of a great, basic, and easily forgotten part of Christianity. Jesus is not on the cross anymore. I was at a camp, and the speaker said something like this: “We like Jesus on the cross. When Jesus is on the cross, we know where he is. We know what he is doing. We can predict the outcome.” When Jesus is on the cross, he is dying for the sins of the world. He is there for us to see. He is offering forgiveness to those who trust him. These are basic and beautiful truths, but we were reminded that he is no longer on the cross. When Jesus was raised from the dead, he began to act in unpredictable and exciting ways. He veiled himself from the two men who walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus. He appeared mysteriously in the room to the eleven disciples that evening. He visibly ascended into heaven. He shone a bright light and caused the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. People began speaking in tongues. He repealed the food laws in a vision to Peter. The Gospel began to reverberate and spread throughout the Mediterranean, all the way to India and Ethiopia. Nobody predicted it, and nobody was in control of it. It was God. I sometimes find myself wanting to control God. I think, “If God was real, he would do X, Y, and Z. He would show himself in this way. He would do this thing.” There was a time when Paul wanted to go to Asia, but the “Spirit of Jesus” forbid him (Acts 16:6-10). Just like Paul, I find myself with a vision for my future and sometimes Jesus slams doors closed. Often, he opens other unexpected doors for me to walk through. The path that I am on is not one that I have chosen, but it is the one that Jesus has for me. I trust that his path is better! The best thing about Jesus being off the cross is that he is with us in the journey. Jesus promised, “I will be with you always, even until the end of the age.” We don’t plan our path and ask Jesus to accompany us on it. We follow the path that Jesus has for us. We submit to him, listen to his voice, and follow him as best we are able. He is no longer on the cross, and this is much better for us. He is with us. His Spirit is inside us. He will never leave us on our journey. Lord Jesus, help us to remember that you are with us. You are walking beside us, and you have promised never to leave or forsake us. Help us to be open to whatever you have in store for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


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Attack on the Mosque

A Full-Bodied Christian Response to Terrorism Six times in the past year, vehicles have been used by terrorists against unsuspecting pedestrians for the sole purpose killing them. What happened today is scary, because it is the first time that the terrorist was motivated differently than the previous attacks. The previous five attacks were done by ISIS-related extremists. The sixth, which happened earlier today, was led by what seems to be a normal man, pushed to the brink by the news and his perception of the threat at hand. Darren Osborn, age 48, seemed by all outsiders to be a regular person, a father of four. Yet earlier today he screamed, “I am going to kill all Muslims” as he rammed his van into worshipers in front of a mosque, injuring ten and killing one. He is quoted as saying, “I’ve done my bit” and “I’d do it again.” It seems to me that he was retaliating. He took vengeance into his own hands. I’d like to spend this blog processing this from a variety of different angles with regard to Christian thought and theology. Also, I hope it goes without saying, I am saddened by the actions which took place today and pray for God’s comfort on the innocent Muslim victims.

  1. The principal of forgiveness.

One of the most fantastic things about Christianity is the way that it inspires its adherents to forgive those who wrong them. So, for the sake of argument, let’s say we find out in the next week or so that Darren Osborn lost a friend in last week’s attack on the London Bridge. How would God enable someone like Darren to approach it differently? When Charles Roberts killed five of ten hostages in an Amish community called Nickel Mines, the grandfather of one of the murdered girls responded, “We must not think evil of this man.” Further, at the funeral of murderer, the Amish outnumbered those related to Charles Roberts. The Amish even set up a fund to help Charles Roberts’ family. In Turkey, there were several missionaries who were teaching the Bible to some young Muslim men. The Muslim men had a secret plan to kill the missionaries, and then proceeded to torture them prior to finally slitting their throats. The wives of the missionaries, being interviewed on Turkish national news, repeatedly forgave the killers saying, “They know not what they do.” This was a direct quote from Jesus who forgave those crucifying him. This Easter, in Egypt at least 44 Coptic Christians were attacked by ISIS terrorists in a suicide bombing. The wife of one of the deceased told the press, “I’m not angry at the one who did this. I’m telling him, ‘May God forgive you, and we also forgive you. Believe me, we forgive you.’” Earlier in 2015, twenty-one Coptic Christians were beheaded, and similar messages of forgiveness came forth. Christians believe that that they must forgive their enemies, because God forgave us when we sinned against him.

  1. The role of the government.

               Another resource for such a situation is the Christian teaching that the government plays a unique, God-given role in establishing law and protecting its citizens. It is clear enough in Scripture passages such as Romans 13:1-7. There is also the formidable work of great scholars such as Abraham Kuyper, who recognized that the state was authorized by God to carry forth certain tasks. So imagine, for example, that there truly was a credible threat to peaceful citizens of a nation. Should they take matters into their own hands? The Christian can say, “No, God has given the government the authority to make that declaration. It is not my choice, I am not in charge of that.” A person of Larry Osborn’s persuasion, then, would be able to say, “God is in control of the laws of this land. The British government is not in favor of destroying the Muslim population. Although I disagree with this, I will submit myself to God.” This is an interesting line of thought. Hopefully a Christian would not, in the first place, think that destroying the Muslim population would be a good thing. But even if a Christian did come to that conclusion, other Christian principles would work to hold back that evil from coming to fruition. (There is more to say on the role of government, feel free to comment if you like for the purpose of dialogue).

  1. The Justice of God.

If you have been on this earth for very long, you have experienced anger. You have experienced evil firsthand, in one form or another, and you have been overcome with the desire to eliminate it yourself. Those coming face to face with terrorism, no doubt, have felt this stronger than I have. If we are going to not act, but simply allow the perpetrator to go unpunished, then we need a compelling reason, deeply rooted in our hearts, to forbear and not exact revenge. Christians should have this. God says, in his Word, several times. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” In the Bible, he deals with evil in several ways. Sometimes immediately, with human means (think Haman hanging from the gallows). Sometimes he deals with it after a long period of time, like God’s punishment of Israel’s sins in the Assyrian and Babylonians conquests. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Check it out here). Finally, we know for sure that he will deal with it eternally as he judges sin and evil once for all at the end of time, and renders to each person what they deserve.   Christianity is a full-orbed system of thinking, with many intersecting lines of thought coming together to speak into any given situation. Here is a little as it regards the latest terrorism. Feel free to tell me what you think in a comment.   A Prayer: Heavenly Father, we need you to reign in our hearts if there is going to be a lasting peace. Please help in these tumultuous times, and guide us on your eternal path of love and peace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


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Vacation to Work

Don’t Work to Vacation – Vacation to Work! What is the dream life? Early retirement and leisure? 10 weeks vacation? Plenty of time to do what you want? A friend of mine joined a mom’s group about a year ago, and observed that the most frequent topic of conversation was where each family would spend their next vacation. Last week, I wrote about what God says concerning vacation. Periods of rest and refreshment are not merely recommended or advised, but indeed are commanded in God’s word. It says that God gives the gift of sleep to the ones he loves. Although God does not tire or get weary, he rested on the 7th day as an example for us. Even so, I think that most of us today err on the side of valuing leisure too much. Many of us work hard so that we can vacation. But it should really be the other way around – we should vacation so that we can work hard. Our View of Work is too Small                The Bible begins with God making man to rule over the world. To subdue it, to study it, to engage in science (Gen 2:18-20), to engage in culture making (Gen 1:28), and to order the world. In Genesis 4:20-22, God records the creation of the first musical instruments and advances in metalworking. Work is the primary call upon a person’s life. This was the great truth reclaimed 500 years ago by Luther, when he de-mystified Christianity by reclaiming the value of ALL work. Before Luther, it was only the monks, priests, and nuns who did God’s work. But Luther, reading the Bible, said, “God feeds the world milk through the hands of the milk maid.” The Puritans carried on this tradition, emphasizing the importance of work training for their children from a young age. Work in our world can be an expression of selfish ambition. A way to get ahead, to differentiate yourself from others, to make a name for yourself, to get rich, etc. But it need not be that way. Work to the Christian need be nothing more than fulfilling the great commandment. Loving God – by using your gifts to order the world more righteously, and loving others – by using your gifts for the betterment of those around you. Let us not seek to escape from work, but to enter into it with all of our mind and strength, to the glory of God and the love of those around us. Our View of Leisure is too Great                The flip side of this coin is that our view of leisure is too great. The world constantly markets to us the good life. “Find your beach.” “Want to get away?” “The Happiest Place on Earth.” If we buy into what’s being sold here, we will think that most of life is meaningless toil simply to have a little bit of fun in between. One time, a fisherman told me he calculated how many more times he could go fishing in his life before he died. It made him sad to think of it. Perhaps what is sadder is that we would only find meaning in a small part of our leisure time, instead of the bulk of what we do 40+ hours per week. Leisure does not satisfy. If you look at the lives of the rich, you will find that many of them have arrived at sufficient wealth to spend life in constant leisure. However, they know that is ultimately boring and unfulfilling. That’s why you have Barb Corcoran or Robert Herjavec on Shark Tank trying to help others fulfill their dreams. That’s why people like Bill Gates spend their time trying to do good work in Africa. I received a scholarship from the founders of Generac brand generators, who after building a fortune through hard work then invested themselves in the lives of countless young students in engineering and the pastorate. They are still going as strong as they can at age 90. Ultimately, happiness isn’t about what you get. It’s about what you give. Jesus explained this when he said, “Those who gain their life will lose it, but those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Let’s listen to him and seek to give ourselves away to God and others, and remember that our work might be the most important way we do this.


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