Trials of Life

The Sermon that Took 20 Years to Prepare

Twenty years. Two decades. It represents half of my life. The first half and the second as different as night and day, hot and cold... dead and alive.

When I came to Christ in 1995, I was 20 years old. A stranger led me to Christ. Not a pastor. Not sitting in church. Just a stranger who loved the Lord and shared the Gospel with me.

I don’t know why this “half my life” thing is hitting me so hard, but it is. Maybe it is because of how radically I was changed way back then. Maybe it is because I was expecting to be more mature at this point.

So to commemorate 20 years of walking with Christ, here are 20 things I’ve learned in the last 2 decades being born again. Have I mastered these? No. I’ve learned some things along the way that Christ continues to work on in me. This is in random order.

  1. The more I learn, the more I see how much I don’t know. God’s Word is amazing. It’s only “one book," but the more I study this “one book” the more profound it becomes.

  2. God calls people that I wouldn’t have picked. Looking at the several billion people on earth in 1995, I should have been the LAST person the Lord called to follow Him.

  3. God is faithful even when I am not. I have blown it. I have failed. I have let people down. God is very much opposite of that. Always.

  4. People matter. I spent a long time running on “the mission matters, the mission matters”. It does. But it only matters when people matter. And I have wrongly avoided loving people at times because I thought I was doing the mission.

  5. Taking care of home must come before taking care of church. 1 Timothy 3:4-5 is pretty clear on that. I’m starting to get it.

  6. I have needed to forgive much. But I have needed to be forgiven more. I have managed to fail in my relationships with just about everyone. I have been shown much grace. I wish I could reflect the same.

  7. I tend to over-promise and under-deliver. I don’t know 20 things. I’m still learning, though.

BUT this Sunday, I WILL share something very personal I have learned along the way – some things I wish someone had told me 20 years ago. It’s all about the trials of life. Stuff every Christian needs to know... sooner is much better than later. And it’s all in 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:5. Please join us.

p.s. - here’s to learning 7 more things in the next 20 years!

Five Minutes of Crying

A couple of weeks ago, we had to get blood drawn from each of our kids. We are getting some tests run from a new doctor, and that requires a lot of blood work. Have you ever tried to get blood drawn from 8 and 6 year old autistic boys? Let’s put it this way: time-traveling, finding Bigfoot, and putting spandex on an octopus: all easier than getting blood drawn from an autistic boy. And we have two.

We had to sort of wrap them up in a blanket (one at a time of course) with only a head and arm exposed. Then I had to hold them totally still, in a wrap-around reverse over-the-shoulder leg scissor maneuver that would make an MMA fighter proud.

There was screaming. A lot of loud, panicked, confused screaming. Some of it was from the boys.

My wife Erin went into the waiting room where she saw an elderly woman crying. Erin asked, “Are you OK?” The woman replied, “It just breaks my heart to hear those children crying like that.”

Erin replied, “Five minutes of crying now will lead to something better for them in the future.”

Don’t we miss that lesson ourselves sometimes, fellow believers?

The Apostle Paul writes:

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

The pain we experience in this life is described in 2 ways: light and momentary. It’s really not that bad, and the day is coming that it will all be over. You don’t know what I am going through. How can you say that? Because the glory ahead is described in 2 ways: eternal and “weighty” - it’s going to last forever, and it is going to be amazing.

How shall we compare the trials of life with the glory of heaven? We can’t. It’s beyond all comparison.

Going through a difficult trial right now? Keep your head up and your eyes on the LORD. Because five minutes of crying now will lead to something better in the future.

p.s. - only slightly stronger than an 8 year-old

He's Alive!

On March 20, my then-4 year old son was kicked by a horse. 

It was a freak accident. He was in the barn at my in-laws' house, a horse got out into the yard, and an excited little boy ran up behind it to get a closer look. Before anyone could even react, he was kicked square in the chest and neck and launched across the yard. All I could think as I ran to him was, "There is no way he survived that impact." And as I picked his limp body up, I thought my fears were reality. Until, after what seemed like an eternity but was probably only a few seconds, he gargled and began to cry. I screamed, "HE'S ALIVE!!!"

The Lord protected him that day, and he baffled all the doctors at Children's Hospital as he had not one broken bone, no internal injuries... and he was up playing and laughing the next day. He came out of that experience with only a few broken teeth.

Though he didn't die, I thought for a few moments that he had. So when I realized I was joyfully wrong, all I could say is, "HE'S ALIVE!" And I ran around telling everybody that for about 2 weeks. He's alive. My son is alive. Praise God, my son is alive. 

The whole ordeal gave me a tiny morsel of what the disciples must have felt three days after the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified. Just a morsel. Because Jesus was really dead. Beaten, crucified, hung on display for people to walk by and insult him, dying on that cross in the worst agony as God was pouring out judgment on Him for the sin of the world. Stabbed with a spear. Laid in a tomb. Dead. He's gone, our Teacher, our Rabbi, our Master... we watched Him die. 

Imagine what was going through their minds the next 2 days. "Now what? We left everything to follow Him, and He's gone."

Those brief couple days must have felt like months. But on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to His disciples. How did they react? Luke 24:41 uses an interesting phrase, they "disbelieved for joy." In other words, they exclaimed, "I can't believe it!", with smiles and tears, I'm sure. 

He's alive. HE'S ALIVE! And that means everything. 

His promises are true, He always keeps His Word. "...Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things...and be killed, and on the third day be raised." (Matthew 16:21)

Satan and death are defeated. "...through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil..." (Hebrews 2:14)

We can be forgiven of our sins and made alive. "For the death He died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." (Romans 6:10-11)

God help us to never lose the impact that those first disciples felt. We are not following the moral teachings of a dead Jewish man from ancient history. We have been pardoned from sin, restored to God, and given life. 

Because HE'S ALIVE!

p.s. - "I died, and behold I am alive forevermore." (Revelation 1:18)