Archives For Trust


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It’s inevitable. As long as mankind is on this earth Satan is doing his best to thwart the plans, goals and desires of those in the kingdom of God. He loves doing that type of thing. Remember when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness and Jesus defeated his temptations? Luke records something that we miss from Matthew’s account:

And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:13)

An opportune time? Eugene Peterson in The Message words it this way, “The Devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity.” He did not give up on Jesus as Deity in Flesh was presumably tempted up to his death. Yet we presume to believe that all of our resolutions, goals, vision and plans for 2013 will somehow be accomplished by our effort with no forthcoming barriers standing in our way.

It doesn’t happen that way. Every vision/goal/plan must account for the realities of stumbling blocks and challenges that inevitably come thrashing at our way. Satan has a way of doing that. Here are 10 things I believe Satan will do in an attempt to destroy you, your church, your organization, your initiative, your marriage and anything else you are associated with.

10. He will distract you.

Distractions are those little pieces of things that look good at first (business ventures, relationships, initiatives) but all they do is distract you from your vision. It is hard for you to accomplish anything without some sort of distraction coming your way. The key, I think, is the ability to discern what is a justifiable distraction versus a satanic distraction. Stay focused.

9. He will make you afraid.

Fear is something I have a lot of and it is difficult to manage. The “what if’s” pile up and cause me to become unfocused, timid and distrustful. This is one of Satan’s greatest tools. He promotes fear in you that will distract you (#1) and cause you to do what everyone is doing: which is nothing.

8. He will lie to you

He may even cause people to lie about you but one thing is for sure…he is full of lies. The trick is to not buy the lie that Satan is selling you. You are too this or not enough that or you need this or you need that. He will lie to you and bait you with something that is so tantalizing that you will not have the will power to resist. When you do bite on the bait it is only when you get burned do you realize that you bought the lie.

7. He will attack your finances.

Odds are, he has already done this. Credit cards, keeping up with the Jones’, and keeping your expenses greater than your income is a recipe for disaster. Of course, this is a heart issue as Satan does not control your bank account (or does he?) but the truth is that most couples, churches and organizations fight over money and in a consumerist, money-driven, American-dream smoking world that we live in this is Satan’s easiest weapon.

6. He will make you lazy.

Technology does a lot for our culture but one thing is for sure, it has made us lazy. Phil Robertson (from Duck Dynasty) has a lot of wisdom saying he is “low-tech in a high-tech society.” It’s not just technology though that has done this. It is complacency and a hunger and thirst for anything and everything to quench our selfish desires. Instead of working, thinking, meditating we have become reactive, defensive and ultimately lazy.

5. He will take something from you.

I don’t want to get in a theological debate about this but in Job it seems to me that in Job 1 God allows Satan to take things from Job. His wealth, his possessions, his family and ultimately his health. Something will be taken from you this year. You might not be able to say it is from Satan but nonetheless Satan will have his hand in it in some capacity. When what we hold treasure to on this earth is taken from us that is an immediate challenge to see if we serve God or gods. We may lose a loved one, we may lose our jobs, we may lose the house, we may lose a friend, we may lose safety and security. But what does it profit a man if he gains the whole word yet loses his own soul?

Stay tuned tomorrow for the final 4…


1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and there is none to help.

12 Many bulls encompass me;
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
    O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.

I saw a video[1] that said when Jesus quoted the beginning of Psalm 22 that he was using a rabbinic technique called “ramez” where the entire Psalm applies when Jesus mentions the first verse. I would like to believe that and it still may be true but the problem is that we do not have a shred of evidence to support this. It sounds more like something you would hear in a Rob Bell video (not slamming him but just sayin’) than you would in a commentary. Having said that, Psalm 22 is the most popular lament psalm in the entire psalter. Why? Jesus quoted this (already mentioned) in his prayer to God while dying on the cross (see Matthew 27:45-50). Yet this was first uttered by David hundreds of years before Christ died. It was a personal lament that placed him in perspective but also asked God the brutal question of “Why?”.

Why did he ask the brutal question? Certainly because of his enemies:

  • They mock him – v. 7
  • They are bulls surrounding him – v. 12
  • He experiences physical pain because of them – vv. 14-16
  • They divide his garments – v. 18

I am tempted to talk about Christ as Christ later exemplifies this in many aspects. Yet, David, in our context, is enduring much at the hands of many. He struggles with this not because the concept of impending pressure of enemies is uncommon but for David the struggle lies in the very nature of God himself. God, you are holy (v. 3), you answered our fathers when they cried (v. 5) and you protected and will protect your people but right now you have left me (v. 1), you are not answering me (v. 2) and because of this I find no rest.

Let’s stop for a minute and think about this. Have you ever felt like that before? I talk with teenagers all the time who experience in part what David experiences in whole. I hear comments like, “Robbie, it’s so hard to trust in God because it feels like he is not there and not listening.” If pressed they would probably admit that they feel like God has left them. Ever felt that way before? Ever experience that type of brokenness before?

What’s David’s solution?

Intense trust in God’s ETERNAL character (vv. 8-10), a request for his presence and deliverance (vv. 11, 19-21) and in all of this personal anguish he promises (fancy word is “vows”) to praise God (vv. 22-31).

You tracking with that?

David vows to praise God in the midst of impending destruction and intense physical, emotional and spiritual anguish. We think the world is going to end because a democrat got elected president but last time I check people don’t want our heads on a platter. Our issues are not even a blip on David’s radar. He would consider many of our issues as wastes of time. But even David said, “I will tell of your name…” (v. 22).

What would it look like for many of us who have cancer, terminal illnesses or many of us who have lost loved ones to proclaim in the midst of intense anguish, “I will tell of your name”?

“Yeah God, you have left us and I don’t fully understand it all but I trust in your divine purposes as one who created me (see vv. 9-10) and because of your infinite ways I will tell of your name.”

That is what you call BIG FAITH!

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does this psalm help in your ups and downs with God?
  2. Why praise God in the midst of intense suffering?
  3. In what ways does this entire psalm help inform you about Christ’s suffering and death?

© articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Let me start with my story so that you can understand where I am coming from. First, I have to give a disclaimer. I was taught to be careful when disclosing information about my past as it might give license for people to justify their actions. Sort of a “Well Robbie went through it so can I” mentality. I think the readers of this post know better than that so please do not misinterpret my story as license. Secondly, I am not sure why I am telling all of you this now as many of you are finding this out for the first time. I guess because I have seen a few of my own youth struggle and have heard of so many others that I feel it is probably time to share my story. I have been ashamed of my past and have told very few people but now I am no longer ashamed because the past is what has made me into the man I am right now. In the words of Paul:

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. (1 Cor. 15:9-10).

I hope this post (albeit long) will help you if your child is using drugs or if you are using drugs and are reading this. I certainly did not get mixed-up heavy into drugs but nonetheless…

My Story

I was in the sixth grade when I first tried marijuana.

Let that sink in a bit.

I was 12 years old. Some neighborhood buddies and I had skipped school and we had gone into the woods when a guy pulled out this little bag filled with what looked like grass clippings to me. I remember he pulled out this weird looking pipe and put the “grass clippings” into this pipe and inhaled as he lit it. The stuff smelled like body odor with a hint of the smell when one burns leaves. It was my turn to take a “hit” from the pipe. I inhaled and coughed my brains out. I felt nothing… My friends were acting like idiots while I felt nothing.

The next time I tried it was when I was in the 8th grade. My buddy and I went to the top of a hill by the elementary school I attended and I tried it again. Only this time I felt something. I felt good. I felt relaxed. It was amazing. They tell you “Nothing beats the feeling of your first high” and you really don’t understand what that means until you experience it. From that moment on, I was hooked.

I would smoke on and off maybe once or twice a week but I remember longing for the moments where I would be able to smoke weed the next time. After my 8th grade year I moved to Chattanooga and I thought maybe my bad times were behind me but sometimes your past catches up with you and you find the same people just in a different context. I continued smoking on and off. I started attending a Christian high-school and I thought my past was behind me.

I met some Christians who smoked weed as well and my past was not behind me.

The last time I smoked weed was the fall of 1998. I met this girl whose father was a youth minister and I became a Christian and suddenly weed was not important to me. I am not sure if I was addicted to it because I usually did it with other people and it was more social for me. But I did like it. I could share countless stories of staying up at night, running from the police, my parents finding out and all sorts of other stories. I tried LSD once and drank some alcohol but weed was my drug of choice. I did it to escape. I did it because it felt good. I did it because my friends did it.

Shortly after that, I received the news that one of my best friends growing up (who I smoked with) overdosed and died from drug use. I never got to say goodbye.

I was walking in San Francisco this past weekend leaving a Giants-Braves game and I caught a whiff of weed someone was smoking among the crowd. Even almost 15 years without touching the stuff my body had tingles and my mind traced back to those many days.

So why this post? Why my story? I hope to give you advice on what to do based on experience with what my parents did but also watching and learning from others.

HOW TO HELP YOUR TEEN…OR HOW HOW TO HELP YOU.

First off, don’t panic. I saw a stat that said that teen marijuana use is actually more than teen cigarette use. I know that your child using drugs is difficult and somewhat hard to fathom but your child needs your careful, objective and loving guidance and that takes some discernment and patience. I knew of a guy whose parents sent him off to rehab because he had tried some weed. Maybe there was more to the story but it seems it would have been better for them to discern then to panic and make rash decisions.  That does not mean minimize what they have done but don’t maximize it either.

Secondly, understand this could be a long road. Depending on their drug (mine was small in comparison) they could be in for a long road to recovery. Especially if meth, heroine, crack, cocaine and other highly addictive drugs are involved. It takes some patience, love and support to walk them through this. Remember, you are wrestling against evil and dark forces and every part of them does not want you to win. Seek the Lord’s counsel and help.

Thirdly, trust has to be earned. They broke trust when they started using drugs and it has to be earned and gained in order for them to have certain privileges. So the questioning of who they are talking to, where they are going, what are the text messages, let me see the Facebook, what did you do at school, and others are legitimate exercises to learn and earn trust.

Fourth, context is key to help. What I mean by that is what helped me was finding the right friends and purging myself of old ones. As harsh as that sounds I knew that if I was going to be clean I had to remove the unclean context. They were close friends but I knew that they would find new ones and maybe down the road when I was more mature and the time was right we could be friends again. I don’t understand why people who struggle with drugs go back to their druggie friends. That’s like saying you hate cold weather and want to rid yourself of it so you buy a house in Fairbanks, Alaska. Makes no sense. Context is key.

Fifth, find a support group, specifically one that is Christian. Ideally your home church network should be that support group but you also need to network among those parents who are struggling in a similar manner. Nobody wants to be alone and it helps to have fellow travelers who have been there and done that and can share the wounds and the victories.

Sixth, love your child unconditionally. They may scream at you. They may run away. They may struggle for years. They may cost you thousands of dollars. They may do unthinkable amounts of evil. But you love them. Unconditionally as Christ loved you. That doesn’t mean they go undisciplined or that they drain your savings but it means you relentlessly pursue them until they live a life of glorification to God. Sometimes we lose the ones we love the most but more often than not teenagers find healing and sobriety from relentless parents and a relentless God.

I hope this helps and has encouraged and strengthened you. What would you add?


God has objective existence independent of and apart from any notions which we may have concerning Him. The worshipping heart does not create its Object. It finds Him here when it wakes from its moral slumber in the morning of its regeneration.

Tozer, A. W. (Aiden Wilson) (2011-03-24). The Pursuit of God (pp. 38-39). . Kindle Edition.

The Graduation Speech

May 16, 2011 — 1 Comment

[DISCLAIMER: It is 3,299 words so pack a lunch and read it then.]

The Graduation Speech

By Robbie Mackenzie (Preached at the Main Street church of Christ May 15, 2011)

            I have done many things since I have been alive.  I have been to South America and Africa.  I have attended numerous World Series games.  I hiked down the Grand Canyon and back up in one day.  I have watched four beautiful kids come into this world.  But there are many things in this world I have not experienced.  I have never jumped out of an airplane.  I have never, unfortunately, found gold on the other side of a rainbow.  I have never been to the North Pole and I have never, ever participated in synchronized swimming.  Something else I have never done is speak at a graduation.  I have probably sat through some thirty graduations and even leaving one in the middle only to arrive at another in the middle.  I have heard every quote imaginable like, “This is the first day of the rest of your life,” and “If it’s to be it’s up to me.”  I have heard many people misquote enough Scripture for me to pull my hair out and by the looks of my hair I have heard a lot of misquoted Scripture.  Nobody remembers a graduation speech because they are all the same.  This is why I am offering you a different graduation speech but in the end it will be forgettable and pretty soon it will be—well—just another graduation speech.

            If I were to graduate again (which may happen) I would want to hear this type of speech at my graduation.  I would want to have someone tell me what really might happen as opposed to God’s plans to “prosper us and not to harm us” (Jer. 29:11; taken out of context of course :)).  Those who have battled drugs, alcohol, divorce, financial heartache and difficult circumstances usually are not the ones invited to speak at graduations.  Why?  People want to hear the wealthy, famous, successful and “problem-free” at graduations yet those people are in the minority.  Most of us fit into the second category of simple, problem-full, but content with our lives.  That’s boring and nobody wants to hear about it.  So this is my attempt to put pen to paper and give flesh to words that I would say if it were the last words I would say to a graduate.  The speech is more about what you really may experience but it is a little uncertain.  So here we go.

            First of all, you’re going to grow apart from your friends.  There are certain people in your graduating class you will never ever see or talk to again.  Even your BFFs, whom you swore, pinkie-promised, and vowed to stay in touch via text, phone, SKYPE, or even just a visit on weekends, will grow apart from you.  It’s going to be awkward when you come home and go back to a high-school football game and see your old buddies.  You will realize they have changed and so have you and it will be a cool feeling knowing you are the college kid.  Pretty soon you will just feel old and then you will stop going back to high-school functions.  The saddest part about going different ways is watching some of your friends who cannot accept the fact that they are no longer in high-school.  They still talk like high-schoolers, hang out with high-schoolers, and their maturity level stays that way for years.  If they could just grow up and move on life would be better but they can’t.  That may be you by the way.  What they don’t tell you after you graduate is that life happens and things get in the way and we just become too busy.  You might even lose a friend tragically in a car accident, overdose, or a physical ailment like cancer or something else.  It’s going to hurt and you will cry.

            You’re going to realize that the boyfriend or girlfriend you thought you would spend the rest of your life with will not work out.  Nor will the next three or four.  You will realize that there are some seriously messed-up people out there who are looking for nothing more to score with you and that is going to hurt.  Perhaps you’re on the other spectrum and you will just wait, and wait, and wait while everyone around you is getting a significant other without trying yet you pray, ask someone out and still nobody will date you.  Then you’re going to go home and it’s going to sting every time someone asks you, “Are you seeing anybody yet?” and then the awkward look you get when you say, “No!”  To make matters worse they will offer you a monologue about them having two kids by the time they were your age.  That doesn’t help either.  Life does not consist in a relationship but it sure beats being lonely sometimes.

            You’re going to have to say goodbye to your parents.  Whether you work at home or go off to college you will have to say goodbye to them somehow.  You’re going to have to convince your parents that them moving in with you in your dorm room is actually a horrible idea.  They are going to call you, once, twice maybe three times a day just to hear your voice.  Some of you will want to run from your parents so bad and so fast that you are going to blaze a trail along the way but some of you are not going to want to leave your parents because you will be afraid.  You will get homesick because you’re going to miss the family meals, nights at the park, and games of uno, vacation and long conversations on the way to school.  The phone calls from mom will get really annoying but deep down inside her voice will be like water in the driest African desert.

            You’re going to be broke.  Growing up your mom and dad were like a free-flowing ATM but now that day is long gone and you actually might have to work which, by the way, you don’t have time for.  You may get into credit card trouble thinking you can pay the balance sometime later if you just meet the minimum payment and it’s going to come back to bite you in a very personal way.  Worst of all, you might actually get that date with that someone only to be so broke you have to spend your romantic night at the dining hall or McDonald’s because you can’t afford anything else.  By the way, your mom is calling you and you probably should pick the phone up.

            You’re going to change physically.  It’s a strange thing that actually eating 8-10 Krystals used to be fun and proper nourishment but now all of that eating during freshman year has become a part of your backside that you, literally, carry with you wherever you go.  The concept of “freshman 15” no longer is a myth as you’re just trying to avoid freshman forty as you huff and puff up the stairs to your room.  On top of that, guys you might start to notice that you lose hair at this time and girls you might start getting wrinkles.  Your chaotic schedule and stressful demands does not make your physical issues any better.  You may also get the world’s worst case of Athlete’s Foot because apparently your roommate does not have the human dignity to wear shower shoes or at least cut his feet off.  The sad part of this is that you’re going to realize quickly that the physical issues, from this point on, only get worse.

            You’re going to struggle attending worship services because mom and dad are not there to wake you up.  Wait—is that mom calling me again?  You are going to wonder what’s the point of attending services.  You’re going to look at the people in the church and say it is filled with hypocrites and, you may be right.  You’re going to struggle immensely at fitting-in and you are going to wish you could come back and participate in youth group again but your jerk of a youth minister will not let you.  You’re going to wrestle with what the church is versus what it was in Scripture (welcome to the club).  You’re going to wonder why churches invest so much time, resources and money with programs like the youth, older members, missions, building funds and yet not much time, resources and money (if any) are invested in college students.  For you, church is going to be difficult.

            You’re going to do some things you’re going to regret.  Some of them may be minor but some of them are going to be major.  You’re going to wish you could take it all back but you won’t be able to.  You’re going to remember what your parents said about the dangers and now you’re going to have to tell them what you just did.  It’s going to break their heart.  The saddest part of it all is that you’re too stubborn to learn your lesson and so you’re going to do it all over again.  You’re going to sit there late at night looking up at the ceiling wondering what you are going to do with your life.  You may want to end it all.

            You’re going to struggle with God.  Who is this divine being that was taught so heavily to you?  God has not been helpful to you and by the looks at what’s happening in the world God really doesn’t seem to care anymore.  You’re going to have people cast doubt on your faith with different beliefs, ideologies and philosophical inquiries which some seem possible to believe.  You’re going to try to help your faith by doing what your parents, youth minister or preacher suggested.  It’s going to be tough and in my experience, when the going gets tough sometimes…well…the tough gets tougher.  There are going to be moments when all you can think about God is anger, frustration and confusion.  Like David, you are going to say, “How long, O Lord?  How long?” (Psalm 13).

But…

However…

Nevertheless…

            You’re going to make new friends.  The kind of friends who do not have strings attached to them.  The kind of friends whom you will laugh with, cry with and the kind of friends who will be, like the Proverb writer said, “closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24).  The friends you make will be in your weddings,Teen girls on college campus at the hospital when you have a baby and next to you when you lose someone you love.  The kind of friend who will utterly depend on you and years down the road these friends will need you most when their own world is turned upside down.  You’re going to go to baseball games with these friends, have cookouts, go on mission trips with them and you might even have the opportunity lead a few of those friends to Christ.

            You’re going to meet someone…it may take years…and you know what…it may not happen.  You’re going to look at that sweet lady who keeps asking you if you’re married yet because she had two children by your age and you’re going to smile and say, “that’s not what God wants me to do right now.”  God will make it happen if it needs to happen and you’re going to be just fine with that.  You just might have four kids before you are thirty though and people, by the way, will make fun of you and call you crazy and psycho but you will realize that you will be 47 by the time your last one graduates high-school which will be the age your buddy will be when his first one starts middle school.  But it’s also ok if you wait that long.  You follow what God wants you to do not someone else.  It’s ok to be crazy so don’t change that for a second.  In the words of the musician Tom Cochrane, “Life is a highway and I want to ride it all night long.”  You’re going to be able to look at the person you will spend the rest of your life with and vow to be with them in sickness, and in health until death due you part.  You’re going to get that same passion every time you go to someone else’s wedding and you’re going to wake up each day feeling unworthy to wake up beside the most beautiful person in the world…not your youngest child who crawled in the bed…but your spouse.  You’re going to really feel blessed to be next to that beautiful person especially when you make it to the mirror in the mornings.

              You’re going to regret trying to run away from your mom and dad so quickly.  You’re going to want to pick up the phone and call them as much as possible.  You’re going to remember their lectures, words of “wisdom”, and caution and know that they were actually right.   If God blesses you with a child you’re going to name the child after your parents because of the influence that had on your life.  However, if home was a nightmare filled with abuse then you’re going to prove mom and dad wrong.  You’re going to make a difference and with God’s help you will show them what you can do even when they told you it couldn’t be done.

            You will eventually make money but still, somehow, be broke for a while.  It will be tough at first (remember the credit cards and loans?) but God will provide and mom and dad will help you out.  I promise.  If you don’t go to college then no worries because no matter what anyone says it’s ok for you not to go to college because, get this, college is not for everyone.  You will show them that you can still provide and work hard and do what God wants you to do.  The church will step in and provide for you in times when you could not provide for yourself.  You will have to fight the evils of consumerism and you will eventually give much of your income to the church.  People will think of you as crazy, stupid and a little off kilter but you will consider that suffering for the kingdom’s sake and little bit like emptying yourself which is what Jesus did for you.  You will have ups and downs financially and there will be days you will have to eat beans and rice and rice and beans but you will make it because all you need is a roof over your head and food on the table.

            You will learn to live with your body.  It’s ok that your body is not in pristine shape or that it’s shape looks like a hamburger rather than an hour glass.  It’s ok.  God just wants you to be healthy.  You will eventually enjoy eating things like salads, grapefruits, tree bark and you will especially enjoy drinking lots and lots of water.  Balding only gets worse and so do the wrinkles and your physical deterioration will be a daily reminder thanks to your kids and sometimes teenagers who decide to take a stab.  Laugh at this and consider it a way God humbles you.  Look at your body as a gift from God and each day is another opportunity that someone else did not get.

            You will eventually grow to love and adore the church.  Yes there are hypocrites in church but your experience in life will show you that there are hypocrites everywhere inside and outside the church.  The church never claimed to be perfect anyways besides there are so many people in the church who have changed their lives drastically because of the work of the church through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  The church will need you to teach a class, lead a song, direct a program, visit the sick or teach a bible class.  You will have a renewed commitment to the church and it will drive you and you will soon find out that it is not you that is driving you but it is the Spirit of God inside of you.  You’re going to find out that the church is filled with plenty of people as messed-up as you!  That will put a smile on your face and the face of thousands of angels watching.

            You’re going to think about the regrets from time-to-time and they will enter your thoughts at weird moments.  The regrets will be like a bruise that won’t go away or rainstorm that will not depart.  You may have to call people to apologize for what you did and you may have to tell them you have changed.  You may have to earn someone’s trust back because of what you did but it’s going to be worth it.  You’re going to show God and others that you are a radical disciple who has radically changed.  “I’m not that way anymore” will come out of your mouth as effortless as air discharged from your lungs and you will say it with a smile.  Like Paul, your past will not break you rather it will shape you.  Your story will become a testimony for so many people to hear.

            Then there is God.  He always was and always is and always will be.  You’re going to find him because you’re going to long for him.  Like a fire in the midst of a blizzard you will long for his warmth and light.  He will show up in your life not as a boxed-in, compartmentalized God but as the living, active God.  He is going to lead you to places in life you never thought were possible but pretty soon you will realize that God is in the making-the-impossible-possible business.  You are going to realize that truly Jesus came so, like John told you, “we may have life, and life to the fullest” (John 10:10).  You will long for something John and Isaiah described as the New Heavens and New Earth.  You will feel God’s presence in your life with the utmost assurance that nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ (Rom. 8:31-39).  You will feel God in your bones and in your core and it will be most satisfying.  There will still be valleys where the questions of theodicy (making God just) come back but you will know, deep down in your core, that eventually God will reign over all and all will be made right.

            This is my graduation speech and it is filled with paradoxes, difficulties, some contradictions and uncertainties.  But such is life right?  Life is never a linear process but often we find it as a cyclical pattern that repeats itself but rests on the grace of God.  So may you find the friends you need.  May you discover the spouse who is yours or may you rest in the state you are in.  May you love every minute your family is alive.  May you live fiscally sound so you can give until it hurts.  May you rejoice in the body God gave you but may you treat it well.  May you love the church and realize it truly is, like the preacher said, a hospital for the sick.  May you use your regrets to empower and inform your future.  And may you run to God, wrap your arms around him and never, ever let go.

            So, Dr. Seuss was right…a little…“be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places! Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.  So…get on your way!”


There have been times where you’ve written them off. “They’re teenagers. What’d you expect them to do?”

And there have been times when they’ve written themselves off, “I’m just a teenager. What I can really do?”

But we hope for them.

We hope that these teens will figure out this thing called life (because we’ve got it figured out, right?).

We hope that we can awaken a faith deep within them that will sustain them in the toughest of times and circumstances.

But I kind of hope a lot of things.

I hope that I never meet “that fish” in the Amazon. (Y’all know what I’m talking about…)

I hope that one day my jaw doesn’t get stuck and fall out into my hands when I try to move it.

That kind of hope is kind of like junk food: it just doesn’t do a lot of good, because it doesn’t have any substance to it.

We might as well face it: they are hopeless (and so are we) if we don’t connect them to the Source of hope.

Somehow we have to connect these kids to the power of the Word of God and to its Author.

Imagine hearing of God’s power for the first time.

This is hard for most of us who grew up in the church to do…that is until I use my neuralizer!!!

Boom.

That’s right. I just went all Men in Black on ya. Winning.

Imagine hearing stories like when God parted the Red Sea.

Whoa?!! You mean to tell me that God did WHAT?

Or how about the story of Noah?

Seriously? God put all of the animals on this giant boat, floated them for 40 days and landed them on a mountain? Wow, you can’t be serious…

But best of all, there’s the story of Jesus.

You mean God loved so much that He gave His Son for me? Jesus went to the cross to save a jerk like me? He wants a relationship with me? He loves me? He wants to forgive me? He wants me to go to heaven?

I think my neuralizer’s busted, because that one just still doesn’t sink in.

The truth is, I think sometimes we take God’s power for granted. We hear story after story from His Word, and hear time after time how powerful that He is, yet we forget who we’re dealing with!

We take verses like “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and connect it to our performances on the football field instead of connecting it to Christ’s power to conquer our every day struggles.

My girlfriend broke up with me.

I feel alone.

My parents are getting a divorce.

I’ve been thinking about killing myself.

The Bible is God’s résumé. We cannot forget that!

It’s the paperwork to show us that He’s qualified for the job. It’s His accomplishments. His experience. A list of reasons why He qualifies.

He wants to be your God. His Son wants to be your Savior.

May we NEVER take it for granted. May our ears never tire of hearing Him. May our hearts never become calloused to His power. May our lives never become dull to His touch.

He is who He says He is. He does what He says He does.

Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

Philip Jenkins is the Youth Minister at the Mt. Juliet church of Christ in Mt. Juliet, TN.  He is married to Laura and they are expecting their first child.  Philip is an amazing friend, minister and encourager and I know you have been blessed by his words.

Life does exist after 30

January 18, 2011 — 7 Comments

I have delayed writing this post much like I delay going to the dentist, doctor or even a car repair shop.  It is the self-discovery that I dread and the inevitable bad news that comes from a doctor’s office or a repair shop that I loathe.  Nevertheless I drudge on through because it is only through self-discovery where we truly find the living God who dwells in our past, present and future.  Last Friday I turned 30 and it was a wonderful experience that capped off a week of a softball party and a surprise birthday party.  I feel both loved and supported by so many individuals and I truly am a man most blessed by God.  I would like to share some lessons I have learned in my life in the first 30 years that will help you live your teens and twenties to its fullest potential.  I will try to avoid trite sayings that preachers use but I find that those sayings are regretabbly unavoidable…

  1. It’s not all about you. If there is one word that could characterize my first 30 years it would be the word, “narcissism.”  I know we all are a little selfish at times but it seems that I struggled with this more than most people.  In my teenage years  if there was a worldly pleasure easily accessible to me than I took advantage (without disclosing much just let me say, for the record, that I have not always been a moral person).  If I had to walk over someone to benefit my cause then I did it.  If someone neglected me, punished me or ridiculed me then they were ignored, ostracized or even punished for lambasting my integrity.  As I recall some dark periods of my past I can’t help but to think much of my pain was avoidable if I just realize that it was not about me.
  2. Life is a roller-coaster. Different seasons call for different experiences and the ever-changing ebb and flow of life brings about conflicting narratives that tug on a person’s soul.  Early in our marriage (December 29, 2003) Heather had a miscarriage and we were devastated at our loss.  Amelia (our second-born) was born with a whole in her lung, Kaleb had RSV as a child and recently my youngest broke his leg.  Mix that with financial troubles (some self-inflicted…see point #1) and economic hardships and life can be very hectic.  God created us to weather serious storms in our lives and it seems that while a current struggle may be significant we should always look at the trial with a lens of perspective.  Some people flip-out over the small things but lately I have learned to not worry as much and it has made me a better husband, father, son, friend and minister.
  3. Not much is happenstance. I look back at my life and believe in the providence of God.  I place my finger on significant events in my life and ask the million-dollar question, “Why did __________ happen like that?”  A friend of mine overdosed years after I moved and I ask, “Why was that not me?”  After dropping off a high-school girlfriend my car spun out of control in the rain in the direction of a 20 foot drop-off.  “Why did my car stop right before the edge?”  A girl in college just recently got out of a relationship and I did too and I asked her out.  “Why did Heather  say yes?”  Not much is happenstance…not much is chance…we are merely paint on the canvas of the divine painter.
  4. “God is not made by human hands…” Paul said that in Acts 17:24 to the men of Athens and I believe it strongly to this day.  I have shifted in theology since I first arrived at Freed-Hardeman in 1999.  I used to think I had everything figured out and that I could put God in this neatly packaged box and if someone needed me to explain who God is/was then I would open this box and show them who God was.  That worked until I realized that God was doing some amazing things that confronted (opposed) my preconceived notion of how God operated.  Scripture used to be information for me to dissect, translate and pattern for people to understand.  Now I still believe in good exegesis I think we can almost treat Scripture as an idol instead of its intended purpose as transformation (Psalm 1; Rom. 12:1-2).  God is not solely bound to leafs of paper but is living, active and powerful.  Scripture, at best, is an attempt by God to describe an infinite concept using finite terms.  That is why no perfect description of heaven exists…it cannot be contained by human vernacular but God paints the best picture he believes we can understand.
  5. Life is never over. Abraham got his call to ministry when he was 75 years old!  We never should get to the point where we think God is through with me I shall now die.  As a minister I see at Main Street God using people who are infants and who are 90 years old!!!  God uses us for his purposes in every season of our life no matter what age we are.  Sarah laughed because she thought she was too old, Jeremiah was afraid because he thought he was too young and God essentially told both of them that nothing is impossible with God.

So here I am, 30 years old and ready to do whatever God wants me to do wherever he sends me.  I am not wise, but I am wiser than I once was.  I am not experienced but I am a little more experienced than I once was.  Regardless…I am content.

I came across this verse today in my reading and thought that it was not happenstance.  A lot happened to Joseph that could have caused him to be bitter and angry but because of God’s providence Joseph did some amazing things.

“Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt…” (Gen 41:46a).

Decision Making

August 18, 2010 — 1 Comment

Thought this quote was next to awesome!

“There are many life destinations we’ve never visited but desire with all our hearts to see and experience.  And our only option is to pick a path and hope it will get us there.” 

Andy Stanley, The Principle of the Path, p. 36.

Silencing the Haters

July 26, 2010 — 4 Comments

Last night the youth group and I had an excellent period of worship at our monthly teen devotional.  I directed our thoughts from Philippians 1:27-30 and it seemed to be a good grounding point for the challenging next few weeks for the teenagers.  The Philippian church was not without her faults as apparently there were some preachers who were selfish in their desire to proclaim the gospel (1:15-17).  This must have been frustrating for Paul to see men proclaim a gospel yet only do so for selfish interests and personal gain.  Then Paul addressed something in Philippians 1:27-30 that caught my attention:

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have (NIV). 

“Whatever happens” is a bit of an understatement when you see the difficulties Paul himself faced (e.g. 2 Cor. 11:16-32).  He told them to act like citizens who are worthy of the death of Christ which is the gospel of Christ.  But he told them to not be alarmed by those who oppose you (ESV “opponents”).  We all have our “haters” don’t we?  Haters come in all shapes and sizes.  Haters are those who poke fun at the fact that you are a Christian and do things differently than they do.  Haters like to belittle your church participation and often are cynical at what you are trying to do.  Haters look at the church and are quick to point out her flaws, her inconsistencies and her hypocrisies.  Haters do not recognize the good that comes out of the church only the bad aspects.  Haters try to stifle, stymie, stall and cause the church to stalemate.  Haters, like the Devil, are equal opportunity destroyers lurking about seeking ways to bring the church down.  Haters are outside the church but often you will find some haters who are inside the church.     

What do we do about them?  Paul says to not be afraid of them and to keep on acting in a manner worthy of the gospel.  In the words of Nehemiah we need to say:

 “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down” (6:3). 

Paul said that these haters will eventually go away because doing the right thing as a Christian is a sign of their destruction.  So may I encourage you to keep doing what you are doing—yea—do what you are doing with even more zeal and let God and the gospel take care of the haters.

Walking by Faith

July 15, 2010 — 2 Comments

“We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). 

What does that even mean?  In context Paul has heaven in mind when experiencing earthly afflictions (4:16-5:1) and that we long to be somewhere else (5:2-4) and that longing can be satisfied on this earth with the Holy Spirit which is a snippet of what is to come (5:5).  Why verse 7 in this context?  What does it mean?  Paul has no home and his plans are those etched not by human intuition but by the Spirit of God.  As he travels from city to city preaching and teaching about the good news of Jesus Christ he is ever apparent that at any moment he could be called up to heaven which is what he would prefer anyways (5:8; cf. Phil. 1:21).  This tension for Paul creates a mindset that what he is doing is truly living by faith.  There is no “nest egg” for Paul, no U.S. Constitution that protects his rights (although Roman citizenship protected him on occasion), no 3500 square foot house with a pretty green lawn and a little gnome in the back yard on top of a stocked Koi fish pond.  Each day for Paul was a day he would wake up and have to trust in nothing else than God.  We live by faith and not be sight!

Take a glance at 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 and you will see the battle scars Paul has endured for the kingdom of God.  All of the things that has happened to Paul you would think he would desire a life that is a little more “comfortable” and safe but he says with grit in his teeth and sweat on his brow: “We live by faith and not by sight!” 

Take a look at your life and it is my estimation that most of you have no clue what it means to walk by faith and not by sight.  Most of you go home to a house with climate controlled temperatures, multiple television sets, a plethora of clothes and a host of gadgets that would rival any Apple warehouse.  For most of you it is not the question of whether there will be food on the table but rather the tough thing for you to choose is what food you will eat from the pantry.  Your greatest grief is not if they will have the appropriate medicine to save your baby’s life but it is what type of options you are going to choose on the brand new car you are going to buy. 

I would argue that most of Christianity as practiced in America has got 2 Corinthians 5:7 all backwards…”For we live by sight and not by faith.”  Admit it.  What would it really look like for you to trust in the living God and to do something on faith?  What if you did sell all of your possessions, hedge funds, retirement accounts and moved to Thailand and said, “I am going to work for the Lord!”?  What if you did that? 

Ahhhh…that would take risk right?  We want to minimize the amount of risk in our lives which is a safe way of saying we don’t want to maximize the potential for God in our lives.  Admit it.  That would be crazy though!  Would it? 

For we live by faith…the belief that God will be faithful to us because we are faithful to him.  The belief that God knows the very hairs on our heads and will clothe us and feed us like he has always done.  The belief that change in this world does not happen with comfort and convenience but change only happens when we risk and trust God. 

Not by sight…for wisdom of this world is foolishness anyways and money and possessions are fleeting.  What matters at the end is that we fear God and have held him as the Lord of our lives. 

For we live by faith, not by sight.