Mar 03 2015

Anything Is Possible

Published by under Life

It was the last lap of the Indianapolis 500. Rookie driver, 23-year old, J.R. Hildebrand was leading the world’s most famous race, poised to become the youngest man to ever win the event. As he came down the back straightaway, it became clear he would have to pass one more lapped car (a slow car at the back of the pack) before the race ended. As he drove through turn 3 and into turn 4, Hildebrand moved his National Guard car to the outside of the lapped car. As he exited turn 4, Hildebrand’s car drifted further and further toward the wall. I was watching the race on that May 29th in 2011 and my stomach sank. I audibly gasped and shouted, “OH NO!”

J.R. Hildebrand’s car slammed into the Turn 4 wall, launching a plume of debris into the air. He skidded down the front straightaway toward the finish line. But it was too late. Second-place driver, Dan Wheldon, came roaring out of Turn 4, passed Hildebrand’s crippled car, and won the race. Hildebrand had lost the Indianapolis 500 – a 500-mile race equivalent to 2.6 MILLION feet – in the final 300 feet.

IT AIN’T OVER TIL IT’S OVER

Sean Flynn, writing for GQ Magazine about the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, put it best:

When nothing is certain, everything is possible. 

HOPE
No matter what you’ve done, no matter where you find yourself, your life is not over. You haven’t lost. Jesus Christ was murdered and buried in the ground. It seemed the story was over. His family and friends wept bitterly over their loss. But things were just getting started. The man who performed so many miracles during his life BECAME the greatest miracle in human history. Three days after being laid to rest, he was miraculously resurrected. 

We call it hope!

Sometimes things seem hopeless. Events and circumstances seem unconquerable. And perhaps they are for you. But God is bigger than everything. When it feels like you’re losing or that you’ve lost, remember that the Psalmist once felt the same way.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
_Psalm‬ ‭42‬:‭5‬

Notice something: the Psalmist isn’t looking for specific reasons why his soul is downcast. Imagine a kid who’s crying because she lost her toy. But her mom says, “Why are you crying? Your toy is right here.” The Psalmist is telling himself this massive truth: “You’re despairing so deeply because you’ve forgotten God and his power. He’s right here. Remember him! Put your hope in him!”

My brothers and sisters, saviors save. If your soul is crushed today, put your hope in God. It won’t magically fix everything. But your despair will have hope. Your life is not a loss. Because Jesus proved something incredible to us: Even when things seem certain, anything is possible with God (Matthew 19:26). 

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Feb 19 2015

Give It Now!!!

Published by under Life

Give me what I want. And give it now.

That’s how a toddler behaves in a store when they whine to their parents for a new toy.

Their parents say no. The kid cries.

It’s not that the parent doesn’t love their kid. It just may not be the right toy or the right time.

THE WORLD
To see images of war, homelessness, and the other ravages of sickness and poverty is to want peace, comfort, and health.

Seeing pictures of bombed out cities in Syria and Iraq drive us to ask God to end it all. Executions break our hearts. Genocide is virtually impossible to process.

Sometimes God answers us. Sometimes he doesn’t.

When he doesn’t, we can become undone and get angry with him – like a kid in a toy store.

And I understand how someone would protest and say, “A kid wanting a toy is way different than us wanting peace. God should answer that prayer!!”

But, even in that light, the two situations are more similar than they appear.

In the store, that toy means everything to the kid. It’s his whole world. They can’t see whether mom or dad has enough money or that more toys may make them spoiled. They can’t see the big picture.

FOREVER
God lives in forever. He sees the entire landscape of everything that has and will happen. To us, peace and comfort mean everything. It’s what we want for our whole world. We can’t see that God may have bigger things up his sleeve. We see suffering and too often think it means God is a monster.

Are parents monsters for not buying more stuff for their kids? No. And neither is God.

Just as a parent is loving when they deny their kids good things, so too, God remains loving even when he occasionally denies us good things.

God sees the big picture. He sees the whole picture.

After Job had suffered bitterly and made his complaint known to God, God spoke to him as a parent speaks to a child who has complained for too long – sternly.

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?
_Job 38:4-5

God is huge. He’s not totally understandable. Just as a toddler doesn’t understand their parents, but can know their love. So we sometimes don’t understand God, but can still know his love.

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Jan 02 2015

Stop Lamenting Last Year

Published by under Life

I know this is a harsh title, but please stick with me.

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
_John‬ ‭12‬:‭24‬

Do not despise last year. Great difficulty requires great perseverance. And this is not an empty container.

…the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
_‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭3-4‬

I deeply empathize with those of you who had a difficult 2014. My 2014 began with one of the sharpest battles I’ve faced against depression in the 20+ years I’ve been affected by it. I couldn’t stop crying at almost any point during the day. This went on through June. Typically a strong person, I became genuinely scared I was losing my mind.

It’s in these moments we’re tempted to get angry with God and/or give up. We shouldn’t.

ALL KIDS
Imagine an infant crying in their crib. They’re fussy and it’s clear they want their mom or dad to pick them up. Parents will often let their kids “cry it out.” The mom or dad may be standing right outside the room, but they allow their precious baby to suffer because it’s required for their growth.

If God is our Father, should we expect he’d treat us much differently as his sons and daughters?

Jesus promised us he would never leave us nor forsake us. But, from experience, it does seem there are times God stands, like a parent, at a distance. Not because he doesn’t care but precisely because he does. He wants to see us grow. He knows: Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.

THE THREE KIDS
Watching kids deal with pain is fascinating. Some throw screaming-and-yelling tantrums, stomping around like miniature, outraged protestors. Others give up and collapse onto the ground in a puddle of tears. Not much changes as we get older. I’m no different.

But there’s a third response I find most interesting. Some kids will run to their parents’ arms and cry in their laps. The pain is still there but they don’t resist it. We can learn from them.

Go meet God.

Call out to him.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…
_Matthew 10:28

Cry in his lap.

Speak his name through your tears. Say to him, “Oh, Jesus…”, “Oh, my Lord and Savior…”, “Oh, God my Father…”

And say it repeatedly like a toddler would cry out, “mommy” or “daddy” over and over and over.

My brother and sister… Your pain is a result of God wanting to grow you. I know it feels bitter. Most medicine does. But, in the the end, this temporary discomfort will lead to joy.

We must train our hearts and minds to see pain as the means by which God accomplishes much of his work in us. As athletes forge themselves in gyms in order to perform better on the field, so we sometimes must be forged by life in order to become more like God and also perform better in the kingdom.

This is one reason the bible becomes indispensable. It teaches us perseverance.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
_Romans 15:4

Through the accounts of other people in the bible we learn endurance. Endurance! How to push forward! And the root of this hope?

…God who gives endurance…
_Romans‬ ‭15‬:‭5

Oh, my soul, don’t miss this! It is GOD who gives the endurance to stand up underneath all our challenges.

We’re right to look forward to a new year. Not because it’s an escape from LAST year or from discomfort. But because now we may well see the FRUIT of our struggles. Our pain is not pointless. Don’t lament last year, brother and sister. God is preparing you for glory.

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Dec 31 2014

Older, Fatter, Slower, Better: On Age and Sexuality

Published by under Life

Do we lament the crappiness inside us as much as we lament not having bigger boobs or tighter abs?

We’ve been tricked!

We’re too often body-obsessed to the point of being negligent about our souls.

It’s completely normal that younger people look physically better than older people. It’s completely normal that WE are not the most physically beautiful person alive. But that’s not the basis of true beauty. As some great theologian once said: We aren’t bodies. We HAVE bodies. We’re souls.

If my main emphasis is on bodies, then, yes, I’ll be disappointed as I get older. My body will go downhill and so will my partner’s. And it’ll make me want something (or, MUCH WORSE, someone) else. It’s a fool’s game.

Imagine a little kid who gets a present. It’s a stuffed teddy bear in a box. She opens the box and sees the stuffed animal. But she throws the bear aside. Instead, for the rest of her life, she carries the box with her everywhere she goes. She treats the packinging like it’s the present.

Our bodies are merely packages. They get banged up over time and deteriorate. They protect the important bits inside!

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
_2 Corinthians‬ ‭4‬:‭16‬

We shouldn’t be careless with our bodies. They protect us and they’re tools to help our souls do good in the world! But today, we too often look at bodies as an end. We evaluate how big or small someone’s <fill in the blank> is. Like it really matters! How depressing! How wrong! When did Jesus ever talk of human beings this way?

It’s true that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. You can have a great body and a great heart. A great body is a great help. But a corrective is needed in our society. It’s the teddy bears that are precious, not the packaging.

May He continue to do his work inside all of us and make us beautiful – most especially as time wears on! And may we be given more understanding about the nature of life – that bodies perish and souls live forever!

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