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.

Marcescence

Marcescence.

You know what that is, right?

Yea, neither did I when I first saw the word, although I have seen it in action.

Marcescence is the retention of dead plant organs that normally are shed. It’s the ‘holding-on’ of dead leaves through the winter months. We see it today in our shumard red oaks. A “marcescent” leaf  is one that has withered but not fallen (Latin marcescere, to wither, languish).  Still connected to a branch, a marcescent leaf appears to be alive, but inside, it’s no different than other leaves on the ground.

Figuratively, a marcescent person is someone who is withering away; someone who has the appearance of life, but isn’t growing. We live in a world of people who are languishing, discouraged, spiritually dead. And there’s nothing they can do to change it on their own. Like a marcescent leaf, the only thing that will change their situation is new life from the tree.

As the weather warms up with the coming of spring, marcescent leaves still hanging on to their branches will soon be pushed off as new leaves begin to grow. The dead and languishing will be replaced with those alive and flourishing.

In the same way,  it’s only the life of Jesus Christ that can regenerate new life within us.

“If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Marcescence is replaced with the presence of Jesus Christ by faith and the power of His Spirit within us to regenerate new life.

As you see the remaining marcescent leaves still hanging on to trees today get pushed out in the next couple weeks, give thanks to God for new life that comes each spring. Give thanks to Jesus for the new life we have in Him. “The old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.

Love One Another

At the core of every person’s life is a need for relationships — with God and with God’s people.  God designed us, as people made in His image, with a desire to love and be loved. And yet, in our selfishness and sinfulness, it seems all we can think of is ourselves – me, myself, and I.

In the New Testament of the Bible,  many “one another” commands reorient our thinking and our living to think of others more and live for others above ourselves – all because JESUS loves us, loved us first, and loves us the best.

Are you stuck in a rut of feeling lonely and alone? Meditate with me on these commands to be lived out by Jesus’ power within us to love others as He loves you and me.

Accept one another
Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepted you, to the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)
Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one anotherand forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. (Colossians 3:12–13)

Admonish one another
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. (Colossians 3:16)

Agree with one another
Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. (Romans 12:16)

Bear with one another
Walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)

Build up one another
So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another. (Romans 14:19)

Care for one another
God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable, so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other. (1 Corinthians 12:25)

Carry one another’s burdens
Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

Comfort one another
Therefore encourage (comfort) one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:18)

Be Compassionate to one another
And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. (Ephesians 4:32)

Confess sins to one another
Therefore, confess your sins to one anotherand pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.(James 5:16)

Be Devoted to one another
Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. (Romans 12:10a)

Encourage one another
Encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. (Hebrews 3:13)

Forgive one another
And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. (Ephesians 4:32)
Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one anotherif anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. (Colossians 3:12–13)

Get along with one another
Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement allow you to live in harmony with one another, according to the command of Christ Jesus. (Romans 15:5)

Be Honest with one another
Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices (Colossians 3:9)

Honor one another
Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10b)

Be Hospitable to one another
Be hospitable to one another without complaining. (1 Peter. 4:9)
Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

Be Kind to one another
And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. (Ephesians 4:32)

Love one another
“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. . .(Romans 13:8)

Motivate another
And let us inspire one anotherin order to promote love and good works. (Hebrews 10:24)

Pray for one another
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.(James 5:16)

Serve one another
For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. (Galatians 5:13)

Share with one another
Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

Submit to one another
Give thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

Unity with one another
We who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. (Romans 12:5)

Welcome one another
Greet one another with a holy kiss. (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26)

Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.

Defenseless

Since the U. S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion 45 years ago today, January 22, 1973, it’s estimated that more than 60 million abortions have been performed in America. Unborn babies are living human beings (regardless of the circumstances of conception), created and loved by God and deserving, though defenseless, of our love and protection.

Some may see this as just a personal issue for each individual to decide or a political one for leaders to legislate. I believe, however, that this is the most significant moral dilemma of people today because it really is a matter of life and death. Also, it seems to me that it’s a spiritual attack of our enemy, the Devil, against the image and glory of God reflected in mankind — men & women, boys & girls, and babies inside & outside a mother’s womb. It seems to me that the debate about women’s rights, fairness, equality, and situational ethics really questions God’s goodness and sovereignty. The discussion either rejects God altogether or skeptically asks, “Did God really say…?”

“For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well. My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.” (Psalm 139:13-16)

Join me in praying for God’s truth and grace to be compassionatly communicated in personal conversations and public spaces. Pray for God to continue working through credible, loving organizations like Real Options for Women who provide help, hope, and support for expectant mothers and others. Ask God to help us and defend the defenseless.

follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.

Resolving Conflict

As we gather together this week to celebrate Thanksgiving, we begin the Holiday season that provides significant time with family and friends. For many, however, the extra time with people is not a time of celebration, but of significant stress because of unresolved conflict — maybe even many years of it.

thanksgiving-fail

The easy thing, the normal thing to do when we’re involved in a conflict is to blame the other person (write them off) and walk away (either emotionally or physically or both). For me personally, nothing wears me out or weighs me down more than unresolved conflict.

How do we resolve conflict when personal disagreements arise?carnage1jpg-f75362bb0d786a9c-2

 

What we need when sharp disagreements arise and when differences have caused serious pain is for God’s Spirit to HEAL our relationships. How? 

Humble yourself before the Lord to recognize different viewpoints.

Often when we “agree to disagree”, what we mean is, “well, I’m right and you’re wrong, and you’re too stubborn to see it.” It’s easier to be objective when you don’t have a personal emotional stake in a situation or conflict, so sometimes we need someone else with some emotional or relational distance to help us see and hear what we can’t on our own.

Humble yourselves (not defend yourselves) before the Lord, and He will exalt you….don’t criticize one another” (James 4:10-11) Humility is able to say and believe, “It’s not wrong, it’s just different” It also says, “Hey, that hurts…”

Engage in conversation before jumping to conclusions.

Emotions can move us to action, but as they intensify, reasoning diminishes.  If we slow down, calm down, are able to listen, and be controlled by the Holy Spirit (rather than our emotions) we can begin to see the issue from the other side. And if we’re honest, we’ll have to admit that the conflict is really a matter of personal perspective (viewpoint) rather than who’s right and who’s wrong. If the other person has valid viewpoints, what is it that I don’t see or understand? Sometimes the picture is not as black or white as we want to see it. What we personally observe or intelligently perceive isn’t enough. We have to listen to God’s Word and His Spirit, then listen to others.

“My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.” (James 1:19–20)

Recently, I was feeling unfairly criticized by a friend. I felt like they were being somewhat condescending in our conversations, and I was hurt, upset. God’s Spirit prodded me to talk to this person. So, I asked, “How are we doing? I’ve noticed…. And felt… Is there something I’ve said or done?” They were shocked and surprised. It led to a good conversation and resolved a conflict that I was feeling.

Ask for forgiveness for what you are personally responsible.

You are 100% responsible for your attitudes, words, and actions.  Most of us give lousy confessions… if we confess at all. Most of us are pretty sorry at saying, “I’m sorry.” When we do something wrong or hurt someone personally, our typical responses are to conceal it, deny it, excuse it or blame it on others. (Gen. 3:12-13). Here is some relational wisdom and key components of asking forgiveness from Ken Sande:

7 A’s of Asking Forgiveness:

  1. Address everyone involved. (All those whom you affected)
  2. Avoid if, but, and maybe, (Don’t try to excuse your wrongs)
  3. Admit specifically, (Both attitudes and actions)
  4. Acknowledge the hurt, (Express sorrow for hurting someone)
  5. Accept the consequences, (Such as broken trust, restitution, etc)
  6. Alter your behavior, (Change your attitudes and actions)
  7. Ask for forgiveness. (Say the words, “I’m sorry, will you please forgive me?”)

Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity.” (Col. 3:12–14)

Perhaps the greatest, most notable difference between a believer in Christ and an unbeliever is the ability to seek and extend forgiveness. It’s when we forgive, as Christ has forgiven, that we are most like Him.

Look for ways to compromise more than seeking to be proven right.

When the conflict persists, care enough to work it out. Don’t run from it, gossip about it, rally support for your viewpoint, or stuff it. Don’t quit your job, your church, or your marriage because of disagreements. In Christ-like love, look for common ground and creative solutions. DeeDee: “When given the choice between being right and being kind, always choose kindness.”

St. Augustine prayed, “O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.” Truly loving others and forgiving others requires the power of Christ who loves and forgives us even while we were still sinning against Him.

How do we resolve conflict when personal disagreements arise? HEAL: Humble yourself, Engage in conversation, Ask for forgiveness, Look for compromise.

Conflict between friends and, especially, family is inevitable. Unresolved conflict is a choice.

As you prepare to celebrate the Holiday season maybe the best gift you could give to loved ones is initiating some healing in your relationships because reconciliation is the best celebration.

People are celebrating Thanksgiving day

We don’t know how or when, but we find evidence that Paul and Barnabas and John Mark (Acts 15:36-40) were reconciled and celebrated their friendship and partnership in the Gospel.

  • (1 Corinthians 9:5–6) “Don’t we have the right to be accompanied by a Christian wife like the other apostles, the Lord’s brothers, and Cephas? Or do Barnabas and I alone have no right to refrain from working?
  • (Colossians 4:10–11) “Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, greets you, as does Mark, Barnabas’s cousin (concerning whom you have received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), and so does Jesus who is called Justus. These alone of the circumcision are my coworkers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.”
  • (Philemon 23–24) “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my coworkers.”
  • (2 Timothy 4:11) “Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry.”

Resolving personal conflicts is a work of God’s Spirit controlling the spirit of a believer in Christ. We can talk about God’s grace, sing about His love, preach the Gospel, and share its message, but it’s in resolving conflict, sharp disputes that we prove its worth and work.

In the same way God personally reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, we have been commanded (biblically) to reconcile with each other. Only God can HEAL the wounds and reconcile relationships when sharp disagreements come up, be we can’t ignore our part in His healing work in our hearts and in our relationships.

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.
Happy Thanksgiving! And Merry Christmas!