Still Offended By Goodness

“And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” 1 Peter 3:13-15

There is a predictably one-sided and hysterical article that came out at HuffPo bemoaning the fact that Chick-Fil-A is still continuing in their “legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior” by donating vast amounts of money to hate groups. Genuine shock and outrage that they did not receive the previous memo to abandon their beliefs has ensued. I’m not going to link to it this time, it’s too ridiculous and it’s easy to look up. The ‘hate groups’ that are referred to by the way are Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army, so there’s that. Without heading down a huge rabbit hole (or shall I say chicken), I want to use this as a little jumping off point to talk about this marvelous paragraph in 1 Peter about how we believers are to deal with the haters.

It’s a story as old as humanity itself, Peter is addressing his letter to Christians who are suffering persecution and rejection because of their obedience to Christ. Their contemporaries are shocked and a little insulted that these folks don’t still choose to run with them in the same sinful circles (4:4) as they once did. Peter urges patience and humility in the face of unjust persecution.

So he begins by asking the question, “who is going to harm you for being a follower of what is good?” The answer is clearly those who aren’t following what is good. Misery loves company… sin loves company… and when you choose not to walk in it or celebrate it, you become a natural target. The Chick- Fil -A debacle was a manufactured outrage from the beginning, a lose-lose battle for anyone holding Christian beliefs. As painful as it is, being a follower of what is good automatically makes you a target.

Peter goes on to say that even when we suffer for what is right, we will be blessed. The enemy will do everything in his power to get us to jump ship or join forces with the other side. The media is in an all out war against a chicken restaurant for heavens sakes, the likes of which you simply do not see with any other company. God says be blessed in the midst of it. Chick-Fil-A is closed on Sundays and still does better than McDonalds and Starbucks franchises combined. Obviously, something is working. We think we need to do things the world’s way to keep up and it just isn’t true. Honor God, honor His ways, and be blessed by being different.

The last few sentences Peter writes are powerful. “Be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…” Now honestly, how often is this happening? Do people see a hope in us that makes them genuinely want what we have? Or are we too busy fortifying our own little walls to keep everyone out? Peter is telling us we need to be shining examples of HOPE in a world gone totally bonkers. How do we do that? “With meekness and fear…” Meekness and humility are almost entirely extinct traits in our society. What if we could be settled in our beliefs, but still humble enough to want to share them with others? What if we could stand our ground against this anti-Biblical agenda that wants to erase truth, but do it in a way that our conscience is clear before God? That’s the ‘fear’ part right there…we have to fear God more than men. Chick-Fil-A, as a company, is doing exactly what we all need to be doing on a personal level.

“They think it strange that you do not run with them…” (4:4)

Let them. We have to be ok with this. Biblical love is sharing the hope and truth that is in us with others. It is not nodding and agreeing with sin so that people will like us. Peter and the early church faced persecution and so will we, and friends, Chick-Fil-A is the tip of the iceberg. I use it as an encouraging example to be true to God, serve Him, serve others, and let the haters dig their own proverbial graves.

Whats that silly internet meme? “Ain’t nobody got time for this?” That’s the truth.

Are people mad that you still haven’t caved to their demands that you embrace the world? It’s ok.

Are folks offended that you continue to believe what Jesus said even though their own modern-day analysis says you are a fool? Super.

We need not be afraid of suffering for what is right. Not ever.

Draw people with the hope that is in you, and do it with meekness and fear. The gospel has a beautiful way of proving itself true time and time again.

Self Care Shenanigans

“Lets talk like Christians. Lets talk about fellowship and rest. Let’s talk about serving God and others. Let’s talk about thinking others are more important than yourself. Your time in the Word is not self-care, it is obedience. Having a coffee is not self-care, it is something to thank God for. The selfish bus is going to hell, and it is driving there fast, why would we want to be on it at all? ” Rachel Jankovic

It’s all the rage lately, the self-care phenomenon has been in full-force since the new year. Everywhere I go, I am encouraged to take a moment for myself, be mindful of what is stressing me out, and simply turn to something that makes me feel better about it all. This bag here was at Target, reminding me to love myself more. It’s not a new craze, but it seems to be really taking off lately. From living minimalist to blowing bubbles in the park, the universe (or the savvy marketers) want me to get hold of some awesome me-time. Here’s a helpful little list from some scholarly people at the University of Buffalo in case you need some ideas.

Such mindfulness! After you’ve listened to the cat purr, planted a flower, and/or walked a labyrinth… do you feel better? If not, you need to up the workout routine and drink more water, obviously. The anxiety has disappeared. Or not.

Hold on, you say… there’s nothing wrong with taking care of ourselves!

Mark 12:30-31 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Notice the often overlooked part of that verse… love your neighbor as yourself. We already love ourselves pretty well I’d say. We are born loving ourselves. God wants us to value ourselves, we are His creation!

Ephesians 5:29 says, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church…”

None of us need to “practice” loving ourselves as they say. We value, nourish and cherish ourselves as His creation, but we certainly don’t need any more help looking inward.

So what is wrong with a little self-care? The entire movement is an experiment in mindlessness. Do yoga, watch a candle burn or whatever else is on that list and feel better for a minute because you are focused on that particular thing. Taking a hike usually makes me feel better. So does eating a cake-pop. Life has little pleasures that are meant to be enjoyed (without guilt by the way) and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But to look out onto the sunrise with no acknowledgement of it’s Creator? To worship and obsess over my aging body without remembering Who made me and numbers my days? Futile. Sad, actually.

I honestly believe the world has turned everything into an inward-pointing exercise and is discovering there’s not much “in there” to get very excited about. Social media leaves us empty and longing. Drugs and alcohol hold things off for just a little while and wear off. We’ve minimized our pantry and gotten rid of things that don’t ‘bring us joy’. In the name of freedom, we’ve banished all rules moral codes that held us back from enjoying our own lives. So now we try the self-care thing and see where that will take us.

But Jesus took time for Himself! Indeed He did. But not in the way the Target bag suggests.

Jesus took time to be alone with the Father, for sure, but it wasn’t under the silly guise of “self-care”… it was because He knew His very life-source was in something outside of Himself. He looked up, not in. We go to the Father because nothing in this world can fill us but Him.

The worship of self is a dead-end street. Looking inward and living for self is one of the most futile and vapid things we could possibly do. I feel like the more the world realizes this, the more rabid they get about chasing it: when one thing doesn’t work, it’s on to the next. Now we need bags and mugs and shirts to remind us that we need to love ourselves more? Ick.

No thanks. The human definition of fulfillment is not God’s. If the thought of being ’empty’ scares you, the worst thing you can do is try and fill your own cup. We don’t share a moral compass with a “me first” world, so to glean self-care tips and tricks from them is a recipe for disaster. I for one, refuse to take my cues from a bunch of people whose morality changes according to the latest political fad.

God’s kingdom works backwards from all that. When Jesus fills us up, we have an endless river of Living Water to pour out onto others. We don’t need to obsess over where our next fix is coming from. As we understand the treasure we are in His eyes, our self-care routing becomes so much bigger than our own fulfillment.

Psalm 115 talks about the ways in which we become like what we worship. The idol-maker worshipped his idols, the work of his own hands. If we just look inward at our own sinful and flawed selves, we will become more sinful and flawed. How exhausting. Love who you are in Christ, but don’t fall into self-worship.

It’s ok to talk like a Christian. We need to think like Christians too. We are new creations, image bearers of the Living God. We can love ourselves while keeping the worship on God where it belongs.

We have to get God’s words ingrained on our hearts, because the inspirational quotes are out there… and they are coming for all of us. 🙂

Secular Puritains

“A mob of secular Puritans…” 

I read that phrase this morning in a Wall Street Journal article and it really struck a chord with me. It was a write up on the recent hysteria over the fact that the Vice President’s wife, Karen Pence, works at a Christian school that is… well… Christian.

This past week has been both discouraging and maddening. I’m dumbfounded by the ability our culture has to create chaos at will, out of thin air. Take a big ‘nothing-burger’ as my son would say and drop in some phony accusations, half-truths, innuendos and ‘voila!’… you have yourself a scandal. Let’s all be outraged.

While we were all focused on taking some Catholic kids and a Christian art teacher down a notch, something else happened.

They said it was a big deal and it sure is. Read up on it if you can stomach it. See through the loopholes and the fancy language. This is pretty rich coming from a guy who wants the death penalty off the books. In addition to the unimaginable ‘abortion up until birth’ bit, do you know what else these folks did? They redefined what it means to be a person. A person is now “a human being who has been born and is alive.” In order to keep the industry thriving, you have to sanitize it a bit I suppose. If it’s not an actual person, there’s nothing to feel yucky about. And how special that One World Trade Center was lit up in pink to celebrate. You know who else did this?  Slave owners. Actual Nazis.

The mob of secular Puritans is an impossible group to reason with or fight against because they have no real truth other than what they deem good in the moment. Their false righteousness will embrace you one day and slay you the next. You can be a Christian, but you can’t espouse any beliefs that make you actually act differently than the world. You can fully embrace government programs for children while simultaneously celebrating their murder when they are not convenient. This is a sad and pathetic way to live for sure, but aside from complaining about it, what is a Christian to do? I’m genuinely asking here… I certainly don’t have the answers, but here are some thoughts:

  • While doing all the fact-checks, make sure you do a heart check as well.
    • Facts mean nothing if we can’t present them with some kind of humanity. “…in humility, correcting those who are in opposition” (2 Timothy 2:25)
  • Pay a visit to the issues, but dwell with Jesus.
    • Life still has beauty and worth and God is still good. We can’t be effective disciples if we only surround ourselves with controversy. Shut down the apps, the media, and go hang out with some actual people. “Let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things which one may edify another” (Romans 14:19).
  • Remember what’s behind the curtain.
    • The evil can be overwhelming. The battles can seem too much. We don’t need to get tangled up in personal offenses and conflicts that lead to more strife. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

God is still good.

We can walk in the light and expose the darkness at the same time (Ephesians 5:11).

We can be His children in the midst of a crooked generation (Philippians 2:14).

In Biblical times the people would tear their clothes and put ashes on their heads. I thought of that when I saw that building all lit up in celebration. Things aren’t as “nuanced” as they would like us to believe. God is pretty black and white, and He won’t be mocked. In the meantime, keep on keepin on as they say. Love the truth, love your neighbor, and pray for this great country.

 

 

Rejecting and Reinterpreting

“Oh be careful little eyes what you see… be careful little ears what you hear… be careful little hands what you do… be careful little feet where you go… be careful little mouth what you say… there’s a Father up above and He’s looking down in love… so be careful little eyes what you see…” 

Anyone know that song? It’s Sunday school 101, my boys used to love driving and listening to it. They would cover their eyes and ears and mouth as they sang it and yell “be CARE-ful eyes! be CARE-ful ears!”  Oh my stars how I wish we could still practice that little exercise. The song randomly popped into my head this past week and I was humming it for a good few minutes before I stopped to wonder why I was singing a kid song from years ago. I had been reading some quotes on Instagram from Rachel Held Evans new book and they had me all knotted up. The world we live in today allows for such easy sharing and spreading of ideas. This isn’t a book I would ever buy, but thanks to the glory of the internet and enthusiastic book reviewers, little pieces of it found their way to me. I don’t mind when this happens, I think we need to at least examine ideas we disagree with and know why we believe the things we do. I’ve been focused lately on the unchanging Word of God, the unchanging character of God and what that means to us living in a world that is rapidly changing. Anywho… here’s kind of the crux of her new book:

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“Spiritual maturation”… sounds excellent. “Wholeness” also sounds downright lovely. How do we become mature and whole? Her answer is apparently by downright rejecting or reinterpreting certain Biblical stories that no longer suit our cultural sensitivities. Her writings have a distaste and disdain for God’s word and character that make me question why one would even continue to give this Jesus the time of day. I’m all for critical thinking and asking the hard questions, but reinterpreting the Bible to fit your tastes is backwards. Her insistence that God’s word didn’t quite turn out the way it was meant to is blasphemous. I don’t mean to sound like an old curmudgeon, but the beauty of the Bible is that it is pure and true for all mankind, no strings attached. The obsession with divisions and differences has changed all that:

“By that I mean we’re all actually interpreting the Bible in a context. We’re all bringing our backgrounds, our gender, our socioeconomic status or race. We bring all of that to the Bible, so we’re limited in how much we can really learn from it because of that, unless we deliberately and willingly and joyfully hear what other people have to say. Somebody coming from a minority community is going to read the Bible differently than I am. 

So. Many. Buzzwords. It’s a given that we all come from different backgrounds and experiences. However, it is not correct to assume that because of those differences we all are limited in what we can “learn” from God’s word. The Bible continually reminds us that we must receive before we learn. We receive Christ as a gift. We receive wisdom and truth through the Word and through the Holy Spirit. These are not intellectual pursuits, but spiritual ones. Learning is fantastic but not until you have first received. The same surrender that is required of a servant is also required of a king. You see, her way of studying God’s Word is doomed from the start. It may be interesting to turn stories on their head and reinterpret them, but this is powerless Christianity. In trying so hard to make the Bible relevant, she’s completely neutered it. If that’s what you’re going for, by all means enjoy the study. I am of the opinion that “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” Hebrews 4:12.

I picture it as a river in which God is upstream from all of us. His love and truth flow downward to us all. There is no discrimination or altering of any of it. We all get washed with the same truth. It may be cold, but it’s pure. That truth is our starting point. Doing it backwards leads to confusion and obsession over the wrong things. Trying to get pure water from our little downstream inlets just doesn’t work.

This stuff is a hit with those who want to be told it’s ok to be blasé about God’s Word. It’s a fun study, but an utterly feelings-based and humanistic one. It’s the kind of thing I feel like my college-self would have been drawn to. It’s artistic and witty with a touch of intellectualism. Before we fully experience the sufficiency of God’s Word and the joy that comes from it, we are eager to find something new and exciting, but it’s akin to getting blood from a turnip. No amount of human creativity can compare to the power that lies in His word. The idea that we can just enjoy all these poems and letters and stories for the distant writings they are is very scholarly, but they put Jesus on the same level as any other historical figure.

The truth of the Word convicts us of our sin and asks us to sacrifice. It frees us from habitual questioning and doubting and guides us into a place of joy and trust. We don’t check our brain at the door or stop asking questions, we simply start from a place of holiness instead of offense at the scriptures. Books like this are rebellion in its purest and sneakiest form. We aren’t called to sit in judgment of the Bible and decide for ourselves. Sliding down the path of least resistance, consuming whatever is tossed out to us is not a path to victory. Little by little, the repetition of the narrative chisels away at our foundations making us shaky and unsure. Park yourself in God’s Word. All of it. Most of these arguments can be refuted with a basic understanding of scripture. God is not a genocidal maniac and Jesus isn’t a mild-mannered pushover who wants us to be nice.

God’s stories are not harmful nor are they as complicated as they are made out to be. We don’t need to do a large-scale sociological study on them simply because they are offensive to our current ideals.

Our experiences are valid, but we are not to be defined by our sin, no matter how much attention it may get us. Start with God. Begin with Him, and let everything else fall into its proper place. True maturity and wholeness come not by picking apart God’s attributes, but by surrendering our offenses and hurts to the One who came and died for us. Freedom is found by narrowing in more and more on Jesus and His Word, so that we become an arrow pointing straight to Him.

-Leading seekers to an abiding relationship with Jesus? Yes.

-Pointing people back to themselves and wallowing in victimhood? Pass.

-Putting out a slick message that embraces rebellion and waters down the necessity of a Savior? Nope.

-Speaking honestly and sincerely about hurts while trusting God’s Word holds the balm we need to be healed? Absolutely, all day long.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

God is upstream to us. That’s our starting point. Don’t let human interpretations muddy your waters and get in the way of your most sacred relationship.

Be careful little eyes what you see.

Joy Is Our Default Setting

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We behaved with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God. 2 Corinthians 1:12

November days can be dreary. The world seems like a foggy and grey place as well. The past few days we find ourselves in a familiar cycle of shock, sadness and general confusion. We dig deep to understand the complexities of the human heart, usually ending up where we started, in our corner with the particular brand of beliefs or anxieties we started with. We start down rabbit holes that don’t have an end, find ourselves in labyrinths that just keep twisting, and notice our questions just lead to more unanswered questions.

We demand to know why evil is allowed to run amok, we fly around trying to figure out how to make it stop… we go through the same motions over and over again. With each awful, heart-shredding event, we bow our heads and repeat the anxious prayers of our hearts with the hope that they will somehow stick.

But this sin. This crazy, from the pit of hell, not real life sin… it has us pinned down. It can be bold and brazen. We see it on the evening news and we die a little inside at the reality of it all. It can also creep up silently and set up shop in our minds and hearts as we navigate a world gone off the rails. We hear people say things like “where is your God now and if He’s so good why does He allow such evil?” After the Texas church slaughter a fancy pants politician quipped “We have priests and rabbis to offer thoughts and prayers” hoping to push us away from such silliness and towards a law that would have prevented this mess. Wrong. I want to write four paragraphs about that quote alone, but just… no.

Those who have never experienced love have a hard time loving. Someone who doesn’t know the truth of prayer mocks it recklessly. Making fun of what you don’t know is weak. So we divide up into our two teams and reload. This is not sustainable behavior.

I don’t have any fancy answers and quite frankly, I’m tired of hearing the cacophony of talking heads on both sides. Sin gripping the heart of man was, is, and always will be the problem. If we know the story of Jesus at all, we know that the law was powerless to make men live right, but what the law couldn’t do, God did do through His Son (Romans 8:3). Change the heart and you change the whole man. Love doesn’t delight in evil but rejoices in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:16). Therefore, we have got to be in the business of being love and speaking the truth friends. Back to the Bible. Back to doing what Jesus instructed when He said “Go and make disciples.” We’ve got to get out of our comfort zones for this. It might get awkward. It might save a life.

So again, I go back to Paul’s reminder: “We behaved with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God.”

Behave and act with simplicity and sincerity. Not sticking our heads in the sand, but not running around like a chicken with it’s head lopped off either. The wisdom of the world is not real wisdom, it is anti-Jesus, anti-love and soul-sucking selfishness. We act by the grace of God. We live by the simple and sincere truths in His word. That’s how we find pops of color in a grey world. That’s how we find joy in tragedy. We aren’t immune to the consequences of sin, but we aren’t ruled by sin either. Joy that runs deep is our default setting dear friends – if you’ve lost it, return to Him in simplicity and sincerity and find it again.

Is Holiness A Turn-Off?

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“As we study the holiness of God, we shall see in increasing clearness  how, like fire, it repels and attracts, how it combines into one His infinite distance and His infinite nearness. But the distance will be that which comes out first and most strongly. The sense of sin, of unfitness for God’s presence, is the groundwork of true knowledge or worship of Him as the Holy One.” Andrew Murray

Remember the story in Exodus 3 where God tells Moses to take off his shoes because where he is standing is holy ground? Moses hides his face in absolute fear, understandably so. We are well aware of our distance, of our unfitness. We feel it through our sin, our selfishness that we can’t always overcome, our flesh when it demands it’s way. It isn’t necessarily a bad place to be, but it does push us into making a decision: does it repel us from God further into our own darkness and hardness or does it bring us low and nearer to Him? God sees Moses’ pain and dilemma and shows him there’s a way out.  The man cries out “I’M NOT” (eloquent, ready, etc.) and God replies  “I AM” (all those things and more).

We are not, but He is.

We are not holy or worthy, but He is. He tells us “Be holy because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). The Old Testament makes us acutely aware of this distance, our unfitness to draw near, and the New Testament provides our promised savior who came and bridged that gap. If What is in Him, it now also in us. The holiness of God in the ‘old’ leads straight into the love of God in the ‘new’ – but it’s not a one way street. That love should point us right back around to desiring holiness.

We hear about the need these days to just love more. Yes and amen. Our greatest commandment is still to love God and love people. What does that look like? Love doesn’t just pop up as some separate entity or feeling because we want it to, not real love anyway. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). We all have the capacity for it, but it’s through Jesus that we are able to actually walk it out.

Be holy because I am holy. Love because I first loved you.

As we draw near the fire, we become holy and we receive the ability to love. Holiness gets a bad rap though sometimes – it means judgment gets reconciled with all that love. We need holiness. Not to go alongside our love, but to give birth to it in a sense, because without it, it’s just fleeting human emotion. Sin has hooked us and the world has guilted us into thinking convictions equal unholy and cruel judgment.  The “no hate”/”all you need is love” campaigns mean nothing without the backing of a Holy God behind them. If those things worked, we’d be living in a pretty wonderful world and we’d have no need for a Savior at all. Jesus came not to improve us, but to give us new life. His holiness gets grafted right into our very being. If we find ourselves empowered by the idea of love that starts and ends with our own awesome abilities, we are missing love the way God intended it to be, the emptiness of it all will eventually come to the surface.

Love flows out of holiness. It’s the source from which all else is made possible. It’s not some extra attribute we strive for like kindness or charity, holiness is the pure character of God where mercy and judgment join together. Sin has so desensitized us that we no longer recognize holiness or even seek it. Love is the idol of the day, it sits separate out on it’s own little island and gets trotted out by Christians and non-believers alike as a kind of argument-ending silencer – who can argue with love? It sounds good. Only a jerk wouldn’t want people to love more. It just doesn’t thrive without holiness as its foundation. When coupled with Christ, that love is tangible and unstoppable. When it is born of our own desires, it’s fragile and fleeting.

As believers, it’s vital we value and receive God’s holiness in our lives. It’s not something we strive after like some pie in the sky behavior chart where God gives us a gold star for good deeds – it happens when we let ourselves be drawn to the holy fire, not repelled by it. We must crave all of Him, the merciful and the holy because that’s who He is.

It repels or it attracts. It hardens or it melts. Don’t ever underestimate the need we all have for repentance and drawing near, even if it is uncomfortable at first. We don’t escape any hardship by pulling away from the heat, but like Moses we come to find out that He does actually hear us and see us:

“I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heart their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows… I will certainly be with you.”(Exodus 3:7-8)

Is love the way to holiness? Is holiness the way to love? Is it like the chicken and the egg? Here’s what I know: They don’t exist in a vacuum. God is all-loving AND He’s all-holiness… a contradiction that fits perfectly together when we stop focusing on just one.

Hashtag Campaign Or A Sound Mind?

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I noticed on ‘the Twitter’ today that “world mental health day” is trending. For those less inclined to serious topics, it’s also “national handbag day”, so take your pick. A day for literally everything, because someone started a hashtag. It’s fascinating. I’m all for a mental health day though, the world feels positively apocalyptic lately. The keyboard life-coaches are out in force, giving us tips on loving ourselves, giving ourselves a break, and doing more yoga. (I’m not kidding, I just read a tweet that said veganism and yoga are the way to perfect mental health.) I think bacon is, but whatever. Hashtag #BreakfastMeats…

I’d like to offer up the non-fancy, not-new (but AMAZINGLY EFFECTIVE) idea that all the self-help on the planet and awareness campaigns aren’t going to help chase the demons we all deal with away. Quickie solutions sound good, but why oh why do we need other messed up humans to tell us how to not be messed up?

I’m not making light of needing help. Who doesn’t? We struggle more than ever with fear, anxiety, depression and everything in between. I’m saying, if there ever was a lasting answer, it’s found in God’s word to us, not in some guru’s latest bestseller.

Here’s why: God created us to live with sanity and sound minds. 2 Timothy 1:7 is one of my favorite verses in the whole Bible, it says “God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” I struggle with fear. Fear of letting my kids out the door some mornings. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the known. But that fear isn’t from God, its the enemy whispering into my ear to disable me. The world feeds on fear, even if they don’t realize it. Twenty-four hour news cycles, disgusting tv dramas that elevate death and gore to an art form, commercials telling us we’d better get these  pills because new this disease is gonna get us. On and on.

We long for a sound mind but we don’t spend any time at all pursuing one. And we wonder why we are riddled with such manic instability in our culture. Our kids are pressured to compare themselves to everyone else, to be perfect at all times and always win the trophy. Middle schoolers are racked with issues I never even knew about at their age. They are living their lives based on what feels right or doesn’t feel right, and have become lost to the idea that a sound mind settled on Jesus is the rest they long for.

There’s a popular little idea going around that assures us we aren’t really the problem, the messy world we live in is the problem. I see the meme all over and it drives me nuts, takes away my sound mind, you might say. People, sometimes we actually are the problem, as hard as it is to admit that. Our selfishness, our refusal to obey and do our own thing, it gets us into trouble. Jesus takes care of all of that if we let Him. It takes humility, not pride in our abilities. He alone is our mental health solution. He promises us a sound mind, He took the place of all our shame and guilt and made us FREE to move forward in perfect peace.

Please don’t fall for the trendy sayings and feel-good band-aids for such deep issues of the heart. Don’t fall for the lie that you can replace the emptiness with material things or status updates or someone else’s idea of truth. The fact that we are “shocked” when humans we’ve put on a pedestal fail and act as humans baffles me. Friends, we are all human and not one of us has an upper hand when it comes to issues of the heart, unless we’ve handed our lives over to Jesus.

We have a duty to run after holiness, to pursue Jesus the way He pursues us. When our focus is abiding in Him, our mind is set in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). He keeps us steady, sane, sober and healthy. No shortcuts, no cute hashtags, no useless symbolic awareness campaigns… the living word and Jesus Himself. Anchored and at rest in a world that is tossed to and fro.