Not Even A Little Bit

 
How much does God want to see you suffer? Not even a little bit.

He is for, beside, around, inside you. A lot. It’s his peace that carries you past the point of understanding the incomprehensible. His joy that flexes in the face of the frailty of our fear.

How much does God want to see you fail? Not even a little bit.

His Word is the way that lights up our every possible step. It shines into our every season. His Spirit is the still the small voice that pierces uncertainty and calms the raging of tumultuous emotion. 

How much does God want to see you quit? Not even a little bit.

His hope is our help. His Son is our sure thing. His favor our final word. His Church is our cheerleader. His mission is our motivation.

God wants every bit of who you are to love and lean into him. How much is he willing to leave to you for yourself? Not even a little bit.

The Apologetic Muslim

  

Something both wonderful and sad took place earlier this week. I was hanging out with a large crowd of students in the minutes before a midweek worship gathering at our church when I began a conversation with a wonderful young man that I will call Tahm.

We engaged in several minutes of very interesting conversation about travelling and our common interest in helping others. As the conversation continued and the service drew near this delightful guy shifted gears. It was then, with apologetic tones, he felt the need to inform me that he was a practicing Muslim—and the look he gave me that followed was one I will never forget. It said, “how will you treat me now?”

In September 2001 I was wrapping up my first collegiate tour of duty, finishing up a degree in communications, journalism, & public relations. I was surrounded on a daily basis by international students at a time in my life when, overnight, our nation turned hostile toward almost anyone of middle eastern ancestry. I remember how ugly it was. How afraid everyone was. I remember my Pakistani friend Zishon was whisked away to a safe place off campus in a storm of confusion. Zishon was a Muslim too. He didn’t identify with the hateful acts of violence perpetrated by those who claimed to share his faith.

That’s what I remembered this week when Tahm shared his faith with me. He was afraid of my response. It broke my heart. He wanted to know if he was in a safe place. 

Do I have strong opinions about Islam? Absolutely. Should I allow that to influence my treatment of Muslims? Absolutely not.

Many, many, many, times in life I completely blow it. I let Jesus down. I fail to respond as he may have in a given situation. But I think I got it right with Tahm. I invited him to lunch. I expressed my genuine desire to get to know him. And then I walked him to the sanctuary myself as the service started.

Jesus said that he came to “seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) That my friends includes anyone and everyone. But how often, I wonder, do our responses to people’s lives get in the way? How we respond to the vulnerability of those who walk into our lives says more about us than any sermon we can preach, book we can write, or song we can sing.

Thanks for reading. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Walk-a-what?!?

40 years…….F-O-R-T-Y! That’s a long freaking time to walk. And for what or why?

Moses and the children of Israel wandered aimlessly through the dessert. Well, that’s not entirely true. They had a target. They had somewhere to be. An appointment with the Promised Land, but they chickened out.

Twelve guys went in to check it out and only two came back ready to obey God and take the land. Ten naysayers got loud and got their way.

Pessimism talks. And people listen.

But as people of faith, when God speaks we should let his clear directive ring in true in our hearts long after the doubting crowd has shuffled off to the next fad cause.

Listen. Believe. Obey.

I don’t always make the mark. Sometimes I just straight up fail. But we can’t afford to fail like those guys Moses sent out did. They delayed destiny, robbed a generation of their inheritance, and had to walk it off for forty years. YIKES!

You can read the story for yourself in Exodus through Deuteronomy in the Old Testament of the Bible.

June 17 – Fear No Man

Read: John 9: 18-23

(His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) (John 9:22 ESV)

When Jesus healed the blind man it caused quite the uproar. Religious elitists felt threatened. Someone had come along that demonstrated real authority. Jesus was able to do things they couldn’t do. He was able to bring about the miraculous. And he did it all without cowing to their ridiculous rules, politics, or bureaucracy.

In an attempt to reassert control, the established religious leaders defaulted to fear and intimidation. Intimidation and fear are cowardly ploys, but when people’s comfort, power, and security are threatened they will do nearly anything to keep it within their grasp. So the threat was voiced that should anyone declare Jesus to be the Messiah they would be barred from the Jewish Synagogues.

At some point in your walk with Christ you will face an unavoidable moment when you must choose. You will face the encumbering ridiculousness of religiosity, with its many rules and politics. You must choose either to be a part of it, or to not be a part of it.

Jesus is the Christ. He is the One and Only Son of God. To embrace the fullness of that truth. To live life on those terms. Loving your neighbor, loving God, serving others before yourself. That is a life that throws off religious manipulation. It is a life that avoids the stifling busyness of religious distraction. Fear no one. Love Christ. Serve him.

June 7 – Help My Unbelief

Read: Mark 9:14-29

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 ESV)

The disciples encountered a boy possessed by an evil spirit that frequently tried to harm him. It had made him mute and caused other physical manifestations of pain and suffering. For some reason the disciples were not able to make it go away. Jesus alluded to a lack of faith among those present. And I love how the father of the boy responded. “I believe; help my unbelief!”

There are days when faith comes so easy to me. It is nearly effortless to fully, completely, and eagerly accept both the big claims of Christianity and all of its various implications for my life. And then there are the days when I feel like I am having a strong case of unbelief. Not because I have ceased to believe in the truth about Jesus, but because I am internally wrestling with some of what it will mean for my life.

I don’t know if you’re like that. Maybe you don’t have a problem pushing the unbelief out of your life. Or maybe you feel inundated by the doldrums of unbelief on a very frequent basis. Jesus can help. He can help with the prevailing feelings of a lacking belief , and he can help with the root of the issue. All we have to do is ask. All we have to do is communicate our heart to him. He is waiting.

Jesus, we believe; help us with our unbelief.

June 6 – Overshadowed Certainty

Read: Luke 9:28-36

As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. (Luke 9:34 ESV)

There are multiple occasions in the bible when a cloud, fire, or smoke accompanies the supernatural presence of God. The Transfiguration of Jesus was similar. God told the disciples to listen to Jesus, His son. And a cloud enveloped them as God spoke.

This passage is talking about a literal cloud of something that obscured vision and made the disciples fearful. I think sometimes being in the place where God is leading you will also cause you to find yourself in a place of obscured vision and potential uncertainty. Those are trust moments.

When you can’t see what’s around you. When you can’t see ahead, side-to-side, or behind. Those are the moments ripe with opportunity to trust in God. That’s probably why He seems to allow us to experience so many if them.

The Jewish psalmist, king, and prophet David wrote about God’s protection in times like this. He talked about being in the “shadow of His wings.” It is a beautiful metaphor that recalls the protective obscurity of parental shielding.

Maybe we’re not certain of the future, and maybe God wants it that way. Ultimately He wants us to depend on Him by trusting in Jesus. When life seems hazy we can be at our most fearful, but that’s also a moment of divine opportunity. God wants us to embrace His certainty in a way that will overshadow all uncertainty in our lives.

June 5 – Have No Fear

Read: Matthew 17:1-13

But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” (Matthew 17:7 ESV)

Jesus took his closest friends with him to the top of a mountain and there they witnessed a supernatural event. This is often referred to as the Transfiguration. It was a moment when Jesus was momentarily revealed in his divine glory. It was revelatory moment for the disciples. It was something they did not fully comprehend.

Moses was there, Elijah was there, and Peter spoke prophetic things he didn’t even understand. But the climactic event took place when God spoke in such a way that all in attendance heard and understood.

“This is my beloved son, listen to him.”

The disciples were on their faces before the powerful voice of God. It was probably terrifying to hear the disembodied voice of the one true God. When the Father had finished speaking Jesus touched them and assured them that there was no reason to be afraid.

Today, we can walk, live, breathe, and enjoy the presence of The Holy God by way of His only begotten son. Jesus removes the fearfulness that exists between fallen man and God almighty, at least for those that have been covered by the righteousness of Christ. Apart from Christ there is much to fear about eternity. In Jesus there is an eternal reason to have no fear.