An Important Word for Parents

An Important Word for Parents

Wednesday, January 30, 2013
5:30 AM

Proverbs 9:10 – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

A few weeks ago I found myself talking to a man I hadn’t seen in a while. We talked about a little of everything mostly small talk, but then for some reason the conversation turned to our children. We talked about how blessed we were to have them and how joyous and how busy they made our lives
But then we began to talk about their abilities and talents. I said well my oldest is very smart and my youngest seems to be more athletic. Granted this can change because they are only 7 and 4, but presently this seems to be a pretty good observation. Then he said, “well I’m lucky mine are both. They are intelligent and athletic.” I said wow that is good and then shortly thereafter we went on our separate ways.
I’ve thought about that conversation many times since then. I’ve thought mine may also be smart and athletic, or they may not. They may play football for the University of Alabama and be Rhodes scholars, but they may not. It would be great if they were and it would be great if they weren’t.
I’ve thought many times about that conversation, sometimes with a smile on my face, sometimes in almost disbelief. But recently when I’ve thought about it, its been more along the lines of “what do I really want for my children?” What do I want for my 3 sons? Is it important for them to be smart? To be athletic? To be both? What do I want for them?
More than that however what does God want for them. I know that he wants them to achieve their potential in everything. He wants them to be intelligent, but even more than that He wants them to be wise. He wants them to have wisdom. Where does wisdom come from? The Bible says the “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” So now the question has to become, what is my responsibility as a dad? Is it to help them learn to be athletic? Sure there is definitely a place for sports. I used to coach football and grew up with a dad who was a football coach. Our church has a soccer league ,so yes there is a place for sports.
Is my responsibility to help them become good students and to teach them to use their minds? Of course is it. It is extremely important that children learn and it is the responsibility of the parents to make this happen. But even more than those responsibilities is my responsibility to teach them about Jesus.
In the book of Deuteronomy God instructs the people of Israel to take time to teach His precepts, His ways, and His commandments to their children. “You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” When we sit, when we walk, when we lie down, and when we rise up, that’s pretty much all the time isn’t it. Our minds and our lives are to be so saturated with Jesus that we talk about Him all the time. That we teach our children about Him DILIGENTLY. That doesn’t mean hap hazardly, or occasionally, or when the urge hits us. It means that we are to do it all the time, in fact I would say that it means that teaching our children about Jesus becomes a family priority. A family priority that flows naturally from our love for Him.
A very wealthy man said one time, “if I leave my children all my worldly possessions but don’t teach them about Jesus I’ve really left them nothing.” If I teach them about science, math, literature, and history but not about Jesus I’ve taught them nothing. If I show them how to throw a football like Joe Flacco, catch a baseball like Steve Garvey, kick a soccer ball like Pele, or shoot a basketball like Lebron James but don’t teach them about Jesus I’ve really taught them nothing. Nothing of any value at all. Remember the things of this world fade away but the things of God stand forever.
Sometimes we as parents want to live through our children. Maybe we didn’t live up to our athletic potential, so we want them to. Maybe we didn’t live up to our potential in school so we want them to. To a degree that is ok but if it becomes part of our identity then we have a problem because then our children have become our idols. Paul David Tripp puts it this way, “our children were not given to us to be centerpieces on the mantels of our identity.” Our children were given to us for US to teach them about Jesus. That is the most important job, the most important calling, the most important privilege of any parent. And one that we can fulfill through the love, power, and grace of Jesus Christ.

A World of Falsehood

A World of Falsehood

Tuesday, January 29, 2013
4:53 AM

Colossians 3:4 – “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”

Over the past few weeks we have seen many well known people admit that at least part of their lives were a lie. Manti Te’o had a girlfriend that wasn’t real and Lance Armstrong enhanced his performance by taking some sort of illegal supplement. The baseball world was reminded of falsehood as well as the voted on who would or would not be admitted this year into the baseball hall of fame. Not a single person was admitted, many of them denied entrance because it is reported that they used steroids to enhance their performance. In other words they pretended to be something that in reality they were not.
Te’o’s situation maybe the most interesting. Did he know about his “girlfriend” or did he not know. Did he purposely mislead us for publicities sake? What did he know and when did he know it? He has admitted that after he found out she wasn’t real that he went along with the game because he “didn’t know what else to do.”
When I heard him make that statement my first thought was tell the truth. That is what you should do. Be truthful. I remember my dad telling me when I was very young, “son if you always tell the truth you don’t have to worry about what you said.” Good advice isn’t it?
Advice that gets broken a lot in our world however. And if we are HONEST its advice that we break from time to time too. We may look at Armstrong or Te’o or one of the baseball players and shake our heads in disgust but a lot of times we put on a mask don’t we? A lot of times we pretend to be someone we are not. A lot of times we are deceptive as well.
Why? Why would an athlete use performance enhancing drugs to win events? Why would someone not come clean about having a fake girlfriend who never existed and who really didn’t die because she was never really alive? After all these people are already great athletes. Te’o already had a great college football career and a high paying job in the NFL waiting on him. So why? Simply put to be someone they are not. (Maybe steroids should be called image enhancing drugs as well). Those athletes used those chemicals to enhance their identity. Now instead of just being a professional baseball player, they could be known as the home run king or the man who hit the ball 500 feet, or the one who is a threat to hit it out of the park everytime they get up to bat. The drugs enhanced their identities.
Te’o didn’t come clean because he was afraid it would damage his identity. He didn’t want to be known as the man with the fake dead girlfriend (words I never thought I’d write). He didn’t want to damage his identity, so he at least went along with the game to enhance his identity.
Again we can be hard on them, but in a lot of ways we do the same thing. We try to do things to enhance our identities. Sometimes those things are deceptive, sometimes those things are not. But we too want our identities enhanced. We want people to think highly of us don’t we?
Go back and read the Scripture from Colossians 3:4, “When Christ who is your life appears then you will appear with Him in glory.” Wow! What Paul (the writer of Colossians) is saying is Christ is our identity. In fact that is one of the main themes of Colossians, we are “in Christ”. Since we are in Christ, He is our identity and here is reality there is nothing we can do to improve upon Jesus. He is already perfect. We are “in Him” He is our identity. He is our life, He is what matters. The Bible says, “in Him we live, we move, and we have our being.” Again He is our identity. If we are found in Him we are seen as belonging to Him, being forgiven by Him, and having His righteousness.
How do we become “in Christ”? Its really very simple we repent of our sins and we place our faith in Him. In other words instead of being deceptive (to ourselves, to God, and to others) we come clean. We are honest about our sin, about our need to be forgiven, about our need for a Savior, and about our need for God. In short we admit that we need Jesus. Because in Him we find forgiveness, we find our Savior, and we find our God.
Then we have the promise, “we will appear with Him in glory.” We become His children, His brothers, a part of His kingdom and we have this promise of hope to look forward to. In Him “we live, we move, we have our being.” In Him we have hope, in Him we have life, and in Him we have an identity as children of God.
So lets be real. In a world of fake, lets be real. Let’s REALly love God and lets REALly show Jesus to this world around us. After all He is our life

Hide and Seek and God’s Amazing Grace

Hide and Seek

Monday, January 28, 2013
5:27 PM

Numbers 32:23 – “But if you will not do so, behold you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.”

One of the joys of being a father is being able to play with my children. My wife is 9 months pregnant and so recently I have tried to be home almost every night so that she isn’t overwhelmed with trying to keep up with 2 boys and do everything else that life entails at our house. This has given me many opportunities to play with my children.
Tonight we were playing hide and seek. My four year old counts extremely fast so when he reached 10 and yelled “ready or not here I come,” I was standing in the middle of the baby’s room with nowhere to hide. I hurriedly went into a corner beside the baby bed and threw a quilt over my head, thinking if I was really still he might not notice me. He came in, screamed and left.
Then in just a few seconds he was back. I still thought I was safe until I heard him laughing and then I felt the tug at the quilt, I was found. When he pulled the quilt down I saw what gave me away, the dog was standing about 4 feet away from me staring at the quilt. I had heard him come in earlier but I had no idea he was telling on me. But there he was pointing me out. My son and I exploded into laughter. He was laughing because he had found me, I was laughing because of his partner in crime so to speak. As we were leaving the room however I had a serious thought, its impossible to truly hide isn’t it?
Just as a dog found me out, the Bible affirms to us that our sins find us out. Moses is talking to the children of Israel in Numbers 32 and he basically tells them to go to war, to fight against their evil enemy. He also tells them to do good and then he gives them this charge, “if you do not do these things, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure that your sin will find you out.” They always do don’t they?
We may think that we get away with things and that nobody knows the sins that we commit. In reality though nothing that we do is done in secret. We know the sins that we commit but even more than that God knows the sins that we forget. Our sins find us out.
God doesn’t have a heavenly watch dog that points out our sins, He doesn’t need one. He is omnipresent, which means that He is everywhere all the time. We can’t hide our sins from God. He knows them all. That is a frightening thought isn’t it? He knows all our sins, He knows everything about us. He knows our bad thoughts, our bad words, our bad deeds. He even knows the motives behind what we do. He knows if we do the right thing with the wrong motive.
He knows how sin sick we really are. But here is the good news, He loves us and He died on a cross so that our sins (the ones everyone knows about, the ones only a few know about, and the ones we think no one knows about) could be forgiven.
That is what is amazing about the Gospel. While I was an enemy of God, while I was covered in the wickedness of my sins, Jesus died for me. That amazes me. It amazes me to think that someone would die for me. It amazes me even more that He would die for me when I was covered in sin. I was His enemy and He still chose to die a horrific death on a cross. Anyway you slice it that is amazing.
Thomas Chalmers says “that we should make the putting on of the propitiation of Christ our initial duty of every morning. What he means is that every morning we need to think of what Jesus did for us. He became our propitiation, which means He took God’s wrath in my place. That is amazing isn’t it? God is wrathful against sin, but Jesus took that wrath for us. So that if we are in Christ our sins are forgiven and we are set free. What an amazing God of love we serve.

Nyquil Really Can’t Give You Rest

“Nyquil Really Can’t Give You Rest”

Hebrews 3:11 – “As I swore in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.”
A recent survey of people who were close to death asked the question, “what regrets do you have in your life?” The answers very widely varied but the top 5 answers were:
*I wish I would have stayed in touch with my friends
*I wish I would have lived more courageously
*I wish I would have let myself be happy
*I wish I would have been more true to my own feelings
*I wish I would not have worked so much
In other words I wish I would have valued people more (stayed in touch with friends, been more true to feelings, not worked so much), I wish I would have made a difference (lived more courageously and let myself be happy) and I wish I would have rested more. Rest is a missing commodity in our world today isn’t it We no sooner get done with one vacation than we begin dreaming about the next one. Of course sadly enough even on many of those vacations we don’t take time to rest. We desperately need rest. We work long and hard and while we do we dream of finding time to rest. To quote the 80s band, Loverboy, “Everybody’s working for the weekend.” In other words we work so much we are just living for a chance to rest and enjoy life.
But is that why we miss out on rest? Is the only reason we miss out on rest the fact that we work so much? We know the answer don’t we, the answer is no. Sure we do work to much sometimes, but that is not the only reason that rest is missing from our lives. Things like worry, anxiety, fear, and feeling as if we have to be busy (pride) also cause us not to rest. To use a Biblical word sometimes we miss out on rest because of sin.
We don’t like that word do we? In fact we are offended by it but the reality is that we all are sinners, we all sin, and sin is one of the reasons that we miss out on rest. Worry, anxiety, fear, pride, an unquenchable materialism all of these things cause us to miss out on rest and all of these things are sin. In fact I would submit to you today that the number one rest stealer that we have in our lives is sin. Hebrews 3 tells us that doesn’t it? The writer pleads with the people basically to not let sin and disobedience and unbelief have any place in their lives. Why? Because those things cause us to miss out on rest. God says, “I swore in my wrath they will not enter into my rest.” What is God angry at? That verse is a quote from Psalm 95 in which the psalmist recaps for us some of the history of Israel and he points to the exodus event and how after God delivered His people they still found themselves wandering in the desert for 40 years. God had promised them the promised land, but they weren’t in the promised land they were wandering through the desert. Why? Unbelief, lack of trust, disobedience, SIN. Their sin kept them from the promised land, which means that their sin kept them from the rest of God. They wandered in the wilderness having no real rest, when a land flowing with milk and honey was waiting on them. Sin and unbelief had extremely destructive consequences in their lives.
It does in ours as well doesn’t it. They didn’t get to experience the rest of God because God was wrathful against their sin, and in the same way we miss out today because of our sin don’t we? We miss out on the rest of God because of sin as well. Jesus says, “come unto me all you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Look around there are a lot of weak and heavy laden people today aren’t they? And all the while, Jesus is saying “come to me, come to me, come to me,” and many times we don’t. Why not? Sin. The sin of pride, or worry, or materialism, or unforgiveness, or self-sufficiency. Sin diverts us from God which keeps us missing out on what we so desperately need, which is rest.
If your don’t believe that think about David. He said after his sin with Bathsheeba and the murder of Urriah the Hittite, her husband “my bones are crushed within me,” in other words the guilt of my sin weighs me down and I have no rest. Or think about the prodigal son in Luke 15. He went and chased after the ways of the world. He pursued sin and he found himself in a horrible place, having to clean up after the pigs and feed them, and he was so desperate he wanted to eat what the pigs were eating. For a Jewish man things couldn’t get much worse. It was a place of absolutely no rest and what was it that brought him to that place? His sin.
Peter went out and wept bitterly after denying Jesus. His sin brought him to a place where rest couldn’t be found. Judas hung himself after betraying Jesus. Why? He was in a place of no rest. Adam and Eve once had a great garden, a paradise they could rest in, but they were evicted because of their sin. Stephen on the other hand in Acts 7 simply “fell asleep” even though he was being stoned for being a follower of Jesus. What made the difference? He had had his sins forgiven and he wasn’t living in those sins anymore.
Sin keeps us from God, sin keeps us from rest. So how do we find rest? Only in the arms of Jesus. Listen again, “come unto me all you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you REST.” True, real, satisfying rest. If you are weak and heavy laden from sin and from worry and from chasing after the things of the world (Solomon says trying to find satisfaction in things in like a chasing after the wind, you run run run but never catch it – again a picture of no rest), turn around and run to Jesus. Run to Him, come unto Him and He will give your rest.

Scandalous by D.A. Carson, a book review

Scandalous by D.A. Carson, a book review

Saturday, January 26, 2013
7:05 AM

Scandalous was one of the books that cried out to me from the bookshelf. I had went into a Books a Million to look for some Christmas presents and I found myself as I always do wandering into the Christian Living and Theology sections. I was looking for something else but I had always wanted to read something by D.A. Carson so when I saw Scandalous I picked it up and browsed the Table of Contents and of course the endorsements on the back.
Carson was said to be a great communicator of Scripture, who was both theologically rich and devotionally warm. This book certainly showed that. It is a book that is extremely well written and that keeps the reader engaged from the first page. At times I felt as if I was sitting in a Master’s level theology class, while at others I felt like I was in church listening to Carson preach, and then there were other times I felt like I was sitting in front of a fire, drinking a cup of coffee and having a one on one conversation with Carson.
Scandalous is a book about the Scandalous love of God on the cross. It is a book about the resurrection of Jesus, news that would have been considered Scandalous 2000 years ago. Throughout the book Carson stays focused on the themes of the cross and resurrection, death and life, but he doesn’t stay with just the Scriptures that talk about Jesus’ death and resurrection. You will find yourself being taken from the cross to the book of Romans to the story of the Triumphant Lamb in Revelation 12, to the graveside of Lazarus, and ultimately back to the story of the Resurrection. All along the way however Carson stays focused on the cross, letting us know that without the cross, without the death of Jesus nothing else in Christianity matters. He weaves all of these Scriptures and more together to show us that the entire Christian narrative is about the cross. The scandalous love of God that was displayed on the cross.
The first chapter lets us know the preeminence of the cross, as it talks about the ironies of the cross:
*The man who is mocked as King is the King
*The man who is utterly powerless is powerful
*The man who can’t save Himself saves others
*The man who cries out in despair trusts God
These are rich, life changing truths about the cross. Things that we as followers of Christ need to know and meditate upon because they show us that God is in Sovereign control, even at the cross God is in control. This chapter felt like a sermon to me, but it is a sermon that needs to be heard.
The following chapter details the center passage of the Bible, Romans 3:21-26. It is not the center passage location wise, but it is the center passage theologically. This is the central message of the Bible. Carson tells us, and rightfully so that leading up to this point in the book of Romans, that Paul has been showing the sinfulness of sin, with its damaging effects. Now however Paul shifts gears to let us know that redemption from this terrible thing called sin is possible, forgiveness is offered, we can be justified. How? Through the blood of Jesus Christ, through the cross, where Jesus willingly became a propitiation for our sins. The word propitiation is a word that Carson focuses on, and it is one of the most important words in the entire Bible for it means that Jesus took God’s wrath in my place. That is an amazing, life changing truth. This chapter is almost like a lecture in a seminary theology class, but hopefully it is a message that will be heard because we (Christians) need to hear the message of propitiation. We need to realize what Jesus accomplished on the cross. We need to know the depth and the richness of the love of God. Someone recently said, “many pastors stay away from the subject of wrath and from the word propitiation, and people miss out when they do.” We need to know the depth and richness of Jesus’ love for us, and that is seen in the word propitiation. He willingly took God’s wrath in my place. God’s wrath against sin had to be satisfied, for God is a holy God, and Jesus satisfied it on the cross. When we dwell on the theological implications of propitiation, this theology leads us to doxology and we can’t help but to break out in praise and live for the glory of God. “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me….”
Which brings me to the next point, Carson closes his chapters with a poem or a song. In doing so he lets us know by demonstration that just learning about Jesus and the cross isn’t enough, it must cause us to break forth into praise . It must cause us to live our lives for the glory of God.
The following chapter talks about the triumphant of the slaughtered Lamb of God. This is probably the hardest chapter to understand as Carson reveals to us his eschatolgy. His beliefs about last things. But in it he reminds us that the church in many places throughout the world is experiencing persecution, and that regardless of what we are experiencing in our culture that we need to continue to be faithful to the task that Jesus left us with. The task of clinging to the blood of the Lamb and testifying to other people about the power of that blood.
The next 2 chapters of the book, dealing with the resurrection of Lazarus and then ultimately the resurrection of Jesus are certainly the 2 easiest chapters to understand. Carson beautifully lays out the Scriptural story of the death of Lazarus and shows us how God does surprising things to glorify Himself. It is a chapter that reminds us to be alert to what God is doing around us, those surprises we might miss out on, those things that God does to bring glory to Himself. It is a chapter that shows us that sometimes what is best for us is a delay in an answer to our prayers. Mary and Martha have asked Jesus to come because their brother Lazarus is at death’s door. Jesus delays, which results in Lazarus dying but that ultimately results in him being resurrected. God is glorified and Mary and Martha see His power and have their faith solidified.
The last chapter feels as if you are having a conversation with a man who knows the Bible and how to apply it to life. It is a chapter on Jesus’ resurrection but it is also a chapter on doubt, specifically the doubt of Thomas about the resurrection, but it also deals with our doubt. And it is here that Carson becomes his most pastoral as he deals with the reasons for doubt. He lists 6 reasons that believers doubt (ignorance, moral choices, part of the maturation process, small choices that lead to sin, sleep deprivation, and dealing with a crisis in life). He says that these aren’t all the reasons for doubt but that they are some of the reasons that people doubt in the Scripture and some of the reasons that we doubt today. Still the beauty of the Gospel, the love of God, and the power of the resurrection helps us to triumph over those doubts.
Carson’s book is aptly titled, Scandalous. The love of God displayed in the cross was and is scandalous. The reports of resurrection were scandalous. It is scandalous today to think about Jesus reigning triumphant, and it is also scandalous to believe in resurrection. I would also say that it is scandalous to think that this message, the cross and resurrection of Jesus, has been quickly disappearing from the life of the church. It is scandalous that it is being replaced with a gospel of morals, how tos, and ways to live your best now. Still it is the Scandalous love of God that our world so desperately needs. It is the scandal of the cross and resurrection that can transform our churches. Carson powerfully reminds us of that. It is a book to be read, marked, meditated on, and cherished as we think about the love of Almighty God.
(8 out of 10 stars)

Ray Lewis and Inspiration

Ray Lewis and Inspiration

Friday, January 25, 2013
6:53 AM

Romans 8:37 – “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Jesus who loved us.”

February 3, 2013 the date of this year’s Super Bowl. The Baltimore Ravens vs. The San Francisco 49ers. My dad and one of my close friends are 49ers fans, I’m a Ravens fan, its going to be a lot of fun. John Harbaugh coaches the Ravens while his brother Jim is the head coach of the 49ers. What a game its going to be.
A few weeks ago however no one gave it a chance of happening. The Ravens were in the midst of a 3 game losing streak, which included a blow out loss to the Denver Broncos. The 49ers were experiencing their own struggles as they tried to break in a new quarterback halfway into a season. The 49ers however soon got their troubles straightened out and appeared ready to make a run towards the Super Bowl. That certainly wasn’t the case in Baltimore. Even after the 3 game losing streak was over they still weren’t playing well, and the limped into the playoffs looking like a team that might win one game if that and then go home.
It was then however that the team found inspiration from its usual source, linebacker Ray Lewis. This is Lewis’ 17th season and it will be his last. He suffered a horrific triceps injury earlier in the year, and people wondered aloud whether he would ever play again. But then as the playoffs began he found his way back to the field after pouring his heart into rehab. It was obvious that he once again inspired his team, as the defense shut down the Indianapolis Colts.
Still no one gave them much of a chance to win in Denver against the Broncos. When the victory was won there, everyone said its been fun, there’s no way they will defeat the New England Patriots in Boston. And yet last Sunday night the victory was once again achieved. And there was Ray Lewis inspiring his team all along the way, in what has been deemed his “last ride”.
Lewis has always been a very inspirational player. Fiery, violent, focused, everything you want in a linebacker and a defensive leader. On the field he was amazing, off of it early in his career he was also amazing but for all the wrong reasons. He was indicted on murder charges in 2000. These charges were later dropped in exchange for his testimony against the two men that he was with. That was 13 years ago, now Lewis has reportedly cleaned up his life and become a follower of Jesus Christ, even preaching occasionally and inspiring young followers of Jesus around the country.
He inspires his team each week, with his fire, his drive, his passion, his pregame speeches that one reporter said “scorches the ground in the stadiums that he plays in.” He is an inspiration to his team, and since his return they have played much better, much more focused. People debate whether he is playing at the top of his game, but there is no debating the impact that he has on his team. He inspires them.
Which leads to the question, what inspires you? What inspires you on a daily basis, as you go throughout this world with all its problems, difficulties, and challenges. Where do you find inspiration? It can only truly be found in one place and that is in the person of Jesus Christ for He is the only person who will not disappoint us. As much as I like Ray Lewis and the story of him being transformed, he will still disappoint. Jesus however never will. He should always be our inspiration.
Our inspiration against temptation, our inspiration in the midst of troubles, our inspiration to always do the right thing, our inspiration to love and forgive other people. After all that is what He did. He overcame temptation and never sinned. He always did the right thing. He triumphed over troubles. He loved and forgave others, we see that from His cry on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Jesus is our inspiration. He has to be for He is the only one who truly can be. Yes we can be touched and moved by other people and their stories. Yes our families and friends should be an encouragement to us, but Jesus is the one who inspires us because He is the one who will never disappoint. That is what Paul talks about in Romans 8, that is why he victoriously proclaims (maybe from a prison cell), “we are more than conquerors through Jesus who loves us.” Does that mean life will always be easy? No way. Paul goes on to talk about the world’s difficulties and problems, but then he proclaims that “nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus.” He is our inspiration. That love that drove Him to the inspires us and transforms us everyday. We are loved by God through Jesus Christ. His Gospel changes us. The cross lets us know we are loved, and that love gives us strength in the midst of troubles. It helps us overcome sin and temptation. It inspires us to do the right thing. It helps us love and forgive others, after all the Bible says, “we love because He first loved us.” Jesus is our inspiration.

The Blue Highway and the Promises of God

The Blue Highway and the Promises of God

Thursday, January 24, 2013
6:17 AM

John 16:33 – “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart I have overcome the world.”

Bluegrass band Blue Highway begins one of their songs with a high tenor, “Troubles up and down the road and trials all the way around……” Those are true words aren’t they? We live in a world of trouble, and as we live we experience troubles of our own. We can turn on the news and be reminded everyday of the troubles of the world, many of them we just shake our head at. We are genuinely moved by the sadness and the difficulties that people have to endure. Hopefully in those times we stop and pray for those affected.
But then sometimes trouble comes home doesn’t it? It invades our lives and we hurt from it. We hurt physically, we hurt mentally, we hurt emotionally and hopefully we cry out for help. Hopefully we are transparent enough to ask others to pray for us, and even more than that hopefully we cry out to God for His help.
Sometimes the difficulties are so dark that we even hurt spiritually. Maybe its then that we ask the question, “why?” Maybe we don’t voice it loudly but we whisper it, or we think it, or we silently wonder. Why is this happening to me or to my family or to someone I love?
The answer is found in Jesus’ words, “in this world you will have tribulation (other translations say trouble).” He promises that and the reason for it can be found all the way back in the book of Genesis and we get a glimpse of it in Romans 8. There are troubles in this world because of sin. These are the consequences of the fall of humanity into sin in Genesis 3. Because of that there is trouble in the world, and sometimes that trouble finds its way to people that we know, to people that we love, and even to us. “Troubles up and down the road…..” They happen because of sin. Not necessarily as punishment for our sins, but now because of the collective sin of humanity throughout history troubles have become a part of life.
In many cases they have become a big part of life. I hear about this on a weekly and sometimes even daily basis. Sickness, cancer, other things doctors can’t even diagnosis, relationship problems, divorce, financial problems, job loss, children who are sick, and the list goes on and on. “Troubles up and down the road and trials all the way around.”
That is life in this world. It started in Genesis 3 and Jesus reminds us in John 16:33 that it continues today. Fortunately however Jesus doesn’t stop when He says there will be troubles. He doesn’t leave us hopeless, in fact He never does. He does on to tell us, “but take heart I have overcome the world.” Through His birth, His life, His death, and His resurrection, Jesus has set up a kingdom, a kingdom in which troubles will be destroyed.
He is victorious over death, over hell, over the grave, even over sin, and one day He will return triumphant. And then the troubles will be gone. No wonder Paul tells Christians who are being persecuted, “set your minds on heavenly things.” In other words think about the promises of God.
He promises trouble, but He also promises that He is returning. That one day there will be “a new heaven and a new earth.” That one day there will be a place with no weeping, no crying, no mourning, no pain. In other words a place where troubles are no more. John says in Revelation, “and behold I saw the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven and now the dwelling of God is among men.” And Jesus says, “in His presence there is fullness of joy.” For their to be fullness of joy, troubles and pain and death and sin has to be gone. It will be! One day it will be. How do I know? Because He promised that it will be, and God always keeps His promises, even our troubles remind us of that.