I’m Tired (of Social Media)

In our modern era of social media, we love to post pics of our family, vacations, the food we ate, parties we went to, the games we played or watched, links to funny videos, and so much more. It’s a great way to share a part of our lives with our family and friends. Those of you who follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter know that I post A LOT of things about my family whom I love, my friends that I care about, the church that I pastor, and my Savior, Jesus, whom I follow by faith.

But, countless studies have linked extended use of social media to depression, not only in adults, but even more in the hearts and minds of our kids. (Here are just a couple from JAMACNN and Psychology Today).

“Adolescents who spend more than 3 hours per day using social media may be at heightened risk for mental health problems, particularly internalizing problems.” – Journal of the American Medical Association

Seeing all the exciting things that others are doing, the “likes” their pictures got, the parties we were not invited to, the vacations we can’t afford to take, the relationships we wish we had can all be discouraging, if not depressing, by comparison. Social media only reveals the tip of the iceberg of people’s lives and, usually, it’s disguised as a tropical island resort.

Perhaps I’m part of the problem. Just this past weekend, we had a great time watching our son play in his high school band during a thrilling football game. I posted pics and a video of the game winning score. On Saturday, we drove to see our daughter where she goes to college for family weekend. I shared some fun pics of our time with her, her boyfriend, and friends (#GoCru). I love my kids and wife, so I love to share what God is doing in their lives. But, I also realize that my social media posts, likes, links, and shares can give an inaccurate, incomplete picture of the reality of my life.

It’s really easy, especially on social media and even from a church pulpit, to act like I’ve got it all together. Rather than fake it, I need to recognize and admit that there are times, like David (see Psalm 34 and 1 Samuel 21:12), when I fear people more than the LORD. There are many times when the adversities of life, relationships, and ministry get to me.

To be real, I’m feeling pretty worn down and worn out right now. The weight of ministry over the years, personal conflicts with people, as well as, resolving conflict between people, and, even, personal rejection of, not just people, but friends, is a personal struggle that is a present reality. Part of the problem is that I’m tired. Perhaps social media is affecting me, too. The bigger problem, however, is that I’m fearful. Fearful of disappointing people. I’m fearful of not measuring up or meeting expectations. I’m afraid, at times, of conflict and the feelings of rejection that come with it. I’m afraid of people leaving our church because of me, something I’ve done, or not done well enough. I’m even a little bit afraid to share these things because of how some people might react. I can play the comparison game , too, and feel discouraged – even though I know that the grass isn’t greener in anyone else’s life or ministry – the manure is just different.  There are times and seasons, like today, that I’m fearful of circumstances, situations, and relationships.

Recently at Plano Bible Chapel, we began studying, meditating on, and memorizing Psalm 34 because, as a pastor, I needed to study it, meditate on it, and learn how to fear the LORD. I’m in process of learning and applying the blessings of fearing the Lord MORE THAN my personal fears. More than simply naming my fears, I’m counting God’s blessings. (You can listen to a recent sermon about this here)

“One who is righteous has many adversities, but the LORD rescues him from them all.” Psalm 34:19

Because we can experience the God’s redemption by faith in His Son, JESUS, we can praise the LORD at ALL times. When we’re afraid. When we’re broken-hearted. When we’re crushed. When we’ve failed. When we feel excluded. When our lives seem boring or meaningless compared to others. Even when we’ve sinned. The LORD rescues those who fear Him. The LORD watches over us. The LORD redeems us and saves us for an eternal relationship with Him.

So, wherever I am, whatever’s going on, and whenever I’m browsing your photos on social media, I can “bless the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will boast in the Lord; the humble will hear and be glad. Proclaim the Lord’s greatness with me; let us exalt his name together.” (Psalm 34:1-3).

Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.

Chronicles

History Books

By the time we get to the Old Testament Chronicles (reading through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation), we’re tired of history.

Done.

After all, the Chronicles seems to repeat what we’ve just read in Samuel and Kings. Making it more difficult, it seems, is the really slow beginning of nine chapters of genealogies. Name after name. Son after son (with an occasional daughter, wife, or mother thrown in). Familiar narratives we’ve heard before.

BORING.

Why not just skip past Chronicles?

Here’s why. The Chronicles summarize Jewish Scripture, from Adam to the Exile, telling stories about the past that provide hope for the future. There are character studies not only of David, but of obedient kings of Judah who experienced success and blessing. There are, also, stories of unfaithful leaders who faced failure and hardship. All of these stories are not just part of the past, they are for our present and future. The Chronicles are recorded so that we’ll walk with God by faith with faithfulness. If we don’t learn from others in the books of history, we are bound to repeat their failures in our own story.

Like the God’s people of old, we’re living in an era where truth has become relative. God’s Word considered antiquated. Progressive thought valued more than biblical morality. Individual feelings trump personal faith. God’s promises have been forgotten, so human philosophy and empty deceit has taken many, if not the masses, captive. Our culture worships the idols of personal happiness, individualism, materialism, sexual freedom. Meanwhile, issues of heartless racism and systemic injustice rule just as much today as back in the day. It’s an age of mass confusion, fake tolerance, stolen identity, personal choice, disregard for human life, and disheartened fate. Like the unfaithful leaders of Judah (1 Chronicles 9:1, 10:13, 12:14, 2 Chronicles 28:22-25; 33:7-9), our world has, “multiplied their unfaithful deeds, imitating all the detestable practices of the nations”(2 Chronicle 36:14).

If we don’t learn from others in the books of history, we are bound to repeat their failures in our own story.

The Chronicles, however, end on a note of encouragement from, of all people, King Cyrus of Persia. After the 70 years of exile in Babylon were completed, he directs the people of God to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple of God. The last sentence (2 Chronicles 36:23) is an incomplete one, “Whomever among you of His people may go up, and may the LORD his God be with him…”

It’s a story in search of an ending with the hope of a new (better) David, a new (better) priesthood, and a new (better) temple. The book of Hebrews points us to Jesus who is not only better – He’s the best!

The end of the story of our lives has not been written, yet. God is still with us. There is still hope for the faithful followers of Jesus. Even though it’s been almost 2,000 years, we’re still waiting for the return of our Messiah. Like the returning exiles to Jerusalem longing for a new temple, we anticipate the day when“God’s dwelling is with men and He will live with them”(Revelation 21:3). Do not be afraid or discouraged. Instead, be faithful in a world of unfaithfulness because the LORD our God is faithful.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for His faithful love endures forever” (1 Chronicles 7:3; 2 Chronicles 20:21).

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.

Good Friday

What’s so good about someone being crucified on a cross?

After sixteen centuries and more during which the cross has been a sacred symbol, it’s difficult to realize the unspeakable horror and loathing which the very mention or thought of the cross provoked during the tyranny of the Roman Empire. In the first century, the word for cross, σταυρός (latin crux), was unmentionable in polite Roman society.

When the early disciples talked about the crucified Christ, every listener from Jerusalem to Illyricum (Romans 15:19) knew that Jesus had suffered a particularly cruel and shameful death, which as a rule was reserved for the most hardened criminals, incorrigible slaves, and egregious rebels against the Roman state. Cicero (Pro Rabirio Perduellionis Reo 5.16) decries the crucifixion of a Roman citizen, exclaiming, “The very word ‘cross’ should be far removed not only from the person of a Roman citizen but from his thoughts, his eyes, and his ears.”

The story behind Jesus’ death on the cross discloses that He was rejected by the very people He came to save (Matthew 26:1-5), was deserted by His own friends (Matthew 26:47-4869-75), was strung up by the proper authorities (Matthew 27:22-26), and, apparently, was powerless to save His own skin (Matthew 27:38-44).

Following Christ’s resurrection, Peter served as faithful follower of the Lord proclaiming,

“You know the events that took place throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him. We ourselves are witnesses of everything He did in both the Judean country and in Jerusalem, yet they killed Him by hanging Him on a tree. God raised up this man on the third day and permitted Him to be seen.” Acts 10:37–40

The beginning of Christianity was cradled in what looks like disastrous defeat, and the unspeakable stigma of the cross exposed “Christians” to woeful contempt.  In fact, the word, “Christian” is found only three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28, 1 Peter 4:16) and when it is used, it’s a label formed by people who were not followers of Jesus to designate those who were. It’s a manufactured term with a derogatory slant, meant to be a dig.

Similar to Peter, Paul did not refer to Jesus’ death on the cross with embarrassment or skip over the awkward facts:

“I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)

“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written: Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed.” (Galatians 3:13)

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

The cross of Jesus was central to Paul’s preaching because the resurrection disclosed Christ’s suffering and death as the way of life for His believing followers in the world. Paul taught the early church that followers of the crucified Lord must also share the suffering of the cross:

“The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:16-17)

“My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.” (Philippians 3:10)

As followers of Jesus today, we want to share in the celebration of the cross, we would just rather avoid it’s suffering and shame. The message of the cross, however, is about trusting God’s will in submission and sacrifice (Matthew 27:36-46) rather than fighting for control or positioning for comfort. The message of the cross is an antidote to our self-glorification and self-satisfaction. The message of the cross is hope for the tired and weary, rest for the rejected refugee, grace for the humbled, and mercy for the broken sinner.

The Gospel of Christ crucified transforms the cross from a symbol of Roman terror and political domination into a symbol of God’s love and power. The cross shows that the power of God’s love is greater than human love of power. The cross reveals the love of God at its best and the sin of man at its worst. Isaac Watts said it well, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” 

The death of Jesus on a cross on that Friday long ago was good for us.

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.

Read thru the Bible

Want to read the Bible with others and me in 2019?

Here are a couple options: read thru the entire Bible (http://bit.ly/2F0ABCn) or just the New Testament (http://bit.ly/2s1xRgq).

The most important thing is taking time to know God through His Word on a regular basis and living it out each day with others.

“Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:16-17

Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.

Christmas Clothes

Born on Christmas morning, Jesus was wrapped in swaddling cloths and placed in a feeding trough (Luke 2:1-15).

Transfigured on the mountain, His clothes became dazzling white to reveal His heavenly glory (Luke 9:28-36).

Condemned by sinful men, He was dressed with a purple robe and mocked as the King of the Jews (Mark 15:16-20, Luke 23:11).

Crucified on Good Friday, He was disrobed of His clothes as the soldiers divided it among themselves (John 19:23-24).

Buried that same day, He was wrapped in linen cloths and placed in a sealed tomb (Luke 23:50-53).

Resurrected on Easter morning, He left only the burial clothes to be found by his friends in the empty tomb (Luke 24:1-12).

Coming again, Jesus will wear a robe dipped in blood with a name written on it and on his thigh: King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:11-16).

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12-14)

We’re dressed and ready this Christmas day. Come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20-21).

Never Alone

Lonely.

Everyone gets lonely. There are frequent moments when we feel unknown, forgotten, ignored, or even rejected. Feeling lonely is not about being isolated because you can be alone a crowded lunchroom, a full house, a birthday party, or even a packed church. Sometimes, the greater the number of people present, the more intense the feelings of loneliness can be.

In Psalm 143, David cries out to God in part because of the suffering of his own sin, “Do not bring Your servant into judgment” (vs. 2), and also because of an enemy who had ground David down so that he felt depressed and alone in the dark (vv. 3-4). He felt like no one understood the depth of his emotions. No one seemed to care what he felt or how he suffered. He was lonely.

That’s when he turned to the Lord. “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all You have done; I reflect on the work of Your hands” (vs. 5). David remembered, meditated, and reflected on the character of God, his relationship with Him, and what God had done in the past. “Let me experience Your faithful love in the morning, for I trust in You” (Psalm 143:8).

That’s it, isn’t it? During the inevitable times when we feel alone, worthless, and rejected, we remember who God is, meditate on what He has done, and reflect on His promises to always be with us.

“Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
“I will never leave you or abandon you (Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 13:5)

There are also many modern songs that reflect His promises to help carry us through the darkest of nights.

“Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside
Great is Thy faithfulness” 
Thomas Obediah Chisholm | William Marion Runyan

“Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes our hearts can say 
Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful God You are faithful” 
Never Once | Jason Ingram | Matt Redman | Tim Wanstall

“I cried out with no reply and I can’t feel You by my side
So I’ll hold tight to what I know – You’re here and I”m never alone
And though I cannot see You and I can’t explain why
Such a deep, deep reassurance You’ve placed in my life” 
Never Alone | BarlowGirl

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all You have done; I reflect on the work of Your hands. Let me experience Your faithful love in the morning, for I trust in You” (Psalm 143:3-5).

Because God is always faithfully present, you and I are never alone.

Follow me…. as I follow Jesus Christ.

God keeps His promises

Over the past few weeks, my heart has been breaking over the tragedies across our country and around the world. Closer to home, I have talked with friends whose lives and families are crumbling. I’ve got some fears and some doubts about things swirling around me, as well. We know that God is sovereign, but things, people, and life itself feels out of control.

Langford tornadoIf God is real, where is He? Why doesn’t He act? Why doesn’t He show up and make things right? Why doesn’t He change the hearts of people – including me? Right now!

 

As I was reading through the Bible (Joshua 21:1-22:9), I was reminded of the battles, both physical and spiritual, that the LORD required His people, Israel, as they entered the Promised Land.

While the Hebrews were still in Egypt, the LORD God led them out of slavery’s bondage and promised to give them possession of a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8, 17). After wandering in the wilderness  for 40 years because of their lack of faith and obedience, they finally crossed the Jordan river. But, even then, they had to take the physical land of Canaan and fight the people of Canaan by faith in God’s promises.

In Joshua 21 we are told, “the LORD gave Israel all the land He had sworn to give their fathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The LORD gave them rest on every side according to all He had sworn to their fathers. None of their enemies were able to stand against them, for the LORD handed over all their enemies to them.” (Joshua 21:43-44)

The complete fulfillment of God’s promise was inseparably connected with the faithfulness of His people.

None of the good promises the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed. Everything was fulfilled. (Joshua 21:45)

God keeps His Promises. All of them. Every one of them.

The battles that Israel fought were real. The doubts they faced were great. The complaining was pandemic. But Joshua was faithful.

Joshua’s challenge to God’s people in view of His fulfilled promises remains the same: “love the Lord your God, walk in all His ways, keep His commands, remain faithful to Him, and serve Him with all your heart and all your soul” (Joshua 22:5).

Langford RainbowThis morning, nothing of significance has changed around me. The storms are still raging. Terrorism is still rising. Political arguments are continuing. People are still suffering. The world is the same — maybe even worse. The deep, lonely hurts of my friends, my family, and my heart are still there.

But, I am reminded: God keeps His promises. Trust in Him. Rest in them.

Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.