How Does Knowing Jesus Change How I Think About Sex?


Knowing Jesus really does change everything. Not only does it mean that I know that I have a relationship with God, that my sins are forgiven, and that I will be in Heaven forever after I die–but knowing Jesus changes all of life now.

Knowing Jesus changes how I think about work, finances, friendship, parenting, marriage, and yes–also sex. You might even be able to say, “especially sex.”

For example, knowing Jesus changes how I think about work being for God’s glory, but some of the biblical principles that change how I work are also principles that are often still looked upon highly in society–working hard, for example, or providing for my family.

But the ways that knowing Jesus changes how I think about sex are not something that our culture usually agrees with–or even comes close to understanding. I think as believers, we have to be ok with that to a certain degree. After all, without knowing Jesus we would surely think about sex very differently than we do. Here are three ways that knowing Jesus radically changes how you and I think about sex.

“God knew what he was doing when he created sex and the parameters that would ultimately bring us joy and human flourishing.”

  1. Knowing Jesus shows me that sex is for only within biblical marriage.
    When I was in High School and heard the “locker room talk” from other guys around me, it was obvious that there was a huge difference in the way that the world generally thought about sex, and the way that followers of Jesus are called to think about sex. But I had no idea then the complexities that the current “sexual revolution” was bringing to the way that people would think about sex just two decades later. In my first week of Spanish class, I learned words like “food” and “homework.” In my son’s first week of Spanish class, he learned the word “bisexual” (yes, it is spelled the same in Spanish and English). Yet all societal changes aside, whether in the 90s or 2020s or the 60s or the time of the Roman Empire, knowing Jesus shows me that sex is for only within biblical marriage.

    No matter how much our cultural tides may come and go, God’s design for sex continues to be obeyed only within the committed monogamous covenant relationship of marriage between a man and a woman.

    The Apostle Paul saw this understanding of sex as so basic to knowing Jesus, he wrote an entire paragraph about it to the young church in Thessalonica: “…For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” (1 Thessalonians 4:2-8)

    God knew what he was doing when he created sex and the parameters that would ultimately bring us joy and human flourishing. He knew that sex is powerful like fire, and that it can bring great destruction like when a house burns down, or great warmth and joy like when a fire stays within a fireplace on a snowy night.

    It takes faith to really believe this today. But it doesn’t take a lot of analysis of the consequences of sexual sin to realize that the Creator knew exactly what he was doing when he loved us enough to give us the gift of sex, and loved us enough to give us the parameters for sex.

  2. Knowing Jesus shows me that my sexuality is a power to be used for my spouse’s benefit.
    Everybody knows that sex is powerful. Advertisers leverage this. Abusers take advantage of this. All sorts of people experiment with this. Christians, however, in obedience to God’s commands, use this power to benefit their spouse (1 Corinthians 7:1-5).

    Listen to the attitude that God says we are to have in all situations, including in the bedroom: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to this interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant.” (Philippians 2:3-7a)

    Applying Philippians 2 to your physical intimacy as a couple, would your spouse say:
    a) That you in bed, in humility count your spouse as more significant than yourself?
    b) That you in bed look not only to your own interests, but also to your spouse’s interests?
    c) That you in bed are a servant?

    Knowing Jesus means that Christians are called to a radically different sexual ethic than what the world constantly proclaims. Rather than using sex to take, we are to use sex to give. It is a power that God has entrusted to each husband or wife to use for the benefit of his or her spouse.

    This desire to please and serve the other through the gift of sex is one of a myriad of ways to apply Paul’s instructions to husbands to “love their wives as their own bodies.” (Ephesians 5:28) In other words, a married man and woman are to pursue their “one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31) union so much that they are thinking of ways they may leverage their sexuality to please their spouse.

    This means they will not be afraid to talk about sex with each other in a time, place, and manner that will help each other to become better lovers. One way this can be done is by asking, “What is something I could do for you in bed that would be a blessing to you?” Then listen, don’t assume. You may not often think of talking about sex with your spouse and then learning and growing through that as a way to glorify God, but it is.

    During sex, there is a powerful hormone called oxytocin that is released. Studies have shown that oxytocin is the “bonding chemical.” This is part of God’s good design.

    But as potent and important as this is, there is a spiritual bonding component of sex that goes even deeper. Right after God brought Eve to Adam, the Holy Spirit explains, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Yes, being one flesh is about more than sex, but it is not less than sex. In the very next verse we read, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:25)

    God designed sex partly to bond you together–even chemically and spiritually–with your spouse in a deeper way than any other human relationship.

    You have a stewardship in your sexual relationship with your spouse. You probably don’t often think of standing before God and giving an account for looking out for the interests of your spouse in bed. But God says it matters, and that this kind of attitude and these kinds of actions glorify him (1 Corinthians 7:3).

  3. Knowing Jesus shows me that my sexuality is to be enjoyed as a good gift from a good God.
    I am so glad God created a world in which there is sex.

And I am so glad that God created me to enjoy sex with my wife, with God’s blessing and God’s joy.

Too often, we as Christians are uncomfortable saying things like this. But God is not uncomfortable saying these things. In the section of the Bible that we call wisdom literature, God says this: “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” (Proverbs 5:18-20)

When God talks about sex within marriage, he doesn’t blush–he blesses.

Here is his blessing over the marriage bed: “Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!” (Song of Solomon 5:1b)

Imagine if you invented something so fantastic that you knew it would greatly encourage and bless the lives of those who used it according to your instructions. But because some people used it wrongly, even those who followed your directions and enjoyed it immensely refused to talk about it.

God invented something that would bond people who are in a covenant together, which also could bring new life into the world, all while giving you pleasure you can hardly imagine exists. We dishonor him when we are afraid to talk about enjoying this invention, or afraid to enjoy it at all. All of the glory for sex belongs to God! So give him glory for the gift of sex, with your spouse.

There is a spiritual aspect of sex that we too often ignore, at our own peril, because it amplifies our enjoyment of God’s good “wedding gift,” a gift that is intended by the Giver to keep on giving. The concept that is often used in the Bible to explain our covenant relationship with Christ is “union.” The only human relationship that was specifically designed to point to this union with Christ is the marriage relationship (Ephesians 5:28-32). And the marriage covenant celebration of sex not only points a husband and wife to their one-flesh union, but for the one who has eyes to see it, it also points to the union we enjoy with Christ. Even the bliss we can experience in sex points ahead to the bliss of the marriage supper of the Lamb.

For some of you reading this, you want to honor God with your sexuality. But you wonder if your past, or the current state of your marriage, disqualifies you from ever enjoying sex as a good gift from a good God. As I once heard Sam Allberry say, “Messes are Jesus’s specialty. You can’t over-mess him.” As Paul the Apostle said, “…but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…” (Romans 5:20b)

That “pit” your marriage is in right now? Jesus’s power and transforming love will meet you and your spouse right there if you look for him. His arm is not short to save–your soul, or your marriage. He makes all things new. And that includes your sex life.

The Lord Does Not Despise the Day of Small Things

This article originally appeared at Small Town Summits Articles. I serve as the Content Manager for STS Articles.

“Oh, that’s good that you’ll be in a small church for your first Lead Pastorate,” the well-meaning former church member commented. “It will be a great opportunity before God expands your ministry.” In the context of our conversation, the idea was that a small church would be a place of growth until God called me on to bigger and better things. They weren’t trying to be rude or demeaning, but the insinuation was that a small church in a small town was a good place for a pastor in his mid-thirties, so that God could use him in a bigger place when he was older and wiser and could handle more responsibility.

My friend did not seem to know that being a pastor of a small church means that you have to wear more hats and be more of a “Renaissance man” than you usually have to be in a larger church. I was going from an Associate Pastor role with five full-time or part-time support staff members who partly helped my ministry through administration, copying, scheduling or helping with e-mails, to being the only staff member. My first week in the new church office, my first week preparing and copying the bulletin on my own, my first week sending out the Children’s Church volunteer e-mail and checking the church post office box, my respect grew exponentially for all of the small-town pastors who have to broaden their skills and manage their schedules to handle a more diverse set of responsibilities. No matter how much you delegate, the rubber-meets-the-road reality of being a small-town pastor will sometimes mean that the joke I once heard is true: “Happy ‘Small-Church Pastor Day.’ Here’s a plunger.” 

Most days I don’t mind this reality, and today I am helped in some of those responsibilities by volunteers or part-time staff. But other days I need God’s help to see that not only does God not want me to despise the day of small things, but he does not despise it either.

This glorious reality became fresh to me again in a recent Men’s Bible Study through the minor prophets. We were studying Zechariah and we came to chapter 4. I was floored by this verse: “For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice…(Zechariah 4:10a)

Zechariah was a prophet to the nation of Israel during a difficult time. About 50,000 Israelites had returned from exile in Babylon to rebuild the country that had fallen into ruin for 70 years. But opposition from enemies and apathy from within God’s own people had caused the work to be abandoned for 16 years. When the foundation of the temple had been completed, the young men who had never seen it in its former glory rejoiced greatly, but the older men who remembered its prior greatness wept out loud. Now, years later, the faithful were hopeless, having seen God start to work but wondering if they would ever see the completion. And many of God’s chosen people were there in person but just didn’t seem to care in spirit.

God sent both Zechariah and Haggai to stir up his people. Part of their mission, like the mission of any faithful preacher today, was to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. God promised that what was started with the temple would be completed, even soon. What seemed impossible would happen because the Lord of all the earth would accomplish it: “Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’ Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.” (Zechariah 4:7-10)

What seemed impossible would happen because the Lord of hosts would accomplish it. Those who had despised the day of small things would rejoice. But here is the truth that you and I need to see, fellow small-town pastor or ministry leader: even though God promised that a day of rejoicing would come when the work on the temple would be accomplished, that temple was so much smaller than the temple during Solomon’s splendor. It would be a great work, but it would be a small work.

It would bring rejoicing even from those who had despised the small beginnings before, but it would still be small. And God was pleased with it.

God was saying in effect, “Don’t despise what I am pleased with.”

This call to both long for God to do great things and yet to be content with where God has our church and our work in our small places today can seem impossible sometimes. How can we both want revival more and yet need it less, as Small Town Summits co-founder Stephen Witmer calls us to?  

The secret is in Zechariah 4:6: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.”

Fellow laborers in small places, you have an even better word than Zechariah received because you are a minister of the New Covenant. You not only have the promise that God will accomplish his work in small places because of his Spirit’s work, you actually have the Holy Spirit living in you to bring you God’s power and strength and joy for each new day.

And if you have ever despised the day of small things, be still before the Lord and seek his heart for your small-place ministry. Hear him say to you, “Whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice.”

That rejoicing can begin today. God’s Spirit guarantees it.

Senior Adult, You Are Loved and Needed

This article was featured on The Gospel Coalition.

In our world that so often prizes and idolizes youth, it can be hard to sense that “Gray hair is a crown of glory” (Prov. 16:31). As I’ve talked over the years with those who are retired and beyond, I’ve noticed that many think they’ve lost their place in society and the church.

But God places no expiration date on serving him. There is no moment until our last breath that we aren’t to live our lives for his glory. Your church body needs you. We need the gifts and unique life experience of all generations. And there is something particularly helpful to your church family that points to God’s faithfulness when you continue to serve—even if the ways you serve may change across the years.

As Psalm 92:14–15 expresses it, “They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”

Sometimes you may not feel that your church wants you to serve. I will tell you, as a pastor in his early 40s, that you are loved and needed. We may not always be good at expressing this, but most of us want to grow in communicating our love for you and in helping you find ways to serve in the church body. What a blessing it has been to me when a senior has taken the initiative to ask me how to serve. Maybe it is time for you to take that initiative, or maybe you need encouragement to continue what you’re already doing.

Six Ways to Serve

I want to cheer you on with six ways you can serve your church. There are more, but I hope this will give you several ways to pray and consider. I hope they give you the boldness you may need to continue to serve God all your days.

1. Pray

The ways you can serve God through serving your church will change as you change across the years. You may need to change from serving in the music ministry to serving on the greeting team. You may find you don’t have the energy to teach the children’s class anymore, but you can still serve in the nursery.

But one thing that will never change is the gift of serving your church through prayer. I have often seen the gospel advance and then heard from a senior that she was praying. It doesn’t matter if you’re fresh out of retirement or homebound. You can make an eternal difference through prayer. Sometimes, contrary to all appearances, it’s a bent-over little old lady who makes the gates of hell tremble as Jesus uses her prayers to build his church.

2. Encourage and Love

Recently I listened with a smile and praised God as a lady in her 80s told me she was bringing soup to a man in our church who’s in a wheelchair and has been sick. Could you thank young moms for bringing their babies to church, as you remember how hard it was to attend church with a baby? Ladies, is there a single lady or a recent empty-nester you could call, asking her how you could pray for her? Men, is there a young man in the church you could talk to this Sunday about his job and family, asking how you could pray for him? Could you send a note to someone in the church body this week or visit someone in the hospital or someone who is lonely?

3. Be Present

Once I invited an elderly member of our congregation to come over for our coffee after the worship service. She held onto her walker in the foyer with both hands and said she would love to, but she has to go home immediately after worship because of her strength and health. That conversation has stuck with me. She hardly misses a Sunday, but her presence during the worship service is her sacrificial way to serve God and love others. Each Sunday I see her hugging someone in the congregation and shaking her head in agreement as I preach God’s Word. We need her. The day will come when we will need to go to her rather than her coming to us, but until then her ministry is to be present for one service a week. God sees that effort and is pleased. And he is using it to bless me and others.

4. Talk About God’s Faithfulness

“One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Ps. 145:4). We need to hear your stories of God’s provision, of him helping you through the loss of your child, of him saving the hard relative that you prayed for across years. We need to hear of your marriage struggles and triumphs, and of what God is teaching you right now through your cancer fight.

This may happen through a phone call or a note, through a comment in Bible study, or through a conversation after church. There are things God has taught you that only come through marinating in his Word for decades, experiencing some of the disappointments of life, and realizing that he is your greatest treasure and joy. Don’t hesitate to share with us what God has taught you. We need to hear it.

5. Look for Ways to Help

My grandmother, who is turning 90 this summer, goes into her church office weekly and folds the bulletin. This not only saves the office manager time, but my grandmother blesses her each week. (The office manager went out of her way to tell me this.) Our church has recently been helped by church members in their 70s who have used their knowledge of home repair and construction to do things from installing new light fixtures to overseeing a remodel on our sanctuary.

They’ve saved us thousands of dollars that we can devote to ministry and missions because they were willing to use daytime hours to help with a project when others were at work. Would you serve your church body by praying about how you could help, and then ask your pastor or ministry leaders if you could serve in specific ways?

6. Ask Us For Help

One of the ways that you can best serve us is sometimes in not meeting a need, but in allowing us to meet your need. I have found the body of Christ is resilient and responsive when needs are known, whether it is helping with meals during a sickness or giving a ride to the doctor or a Bible study, or helping with a needed home repair. One of the ways that seniors have blessed me the most as a pastor is by being open with me about what their needs are, giving others an opportunity to serve them. We are at our best when we look like the family of God that we are, and you can help us by letting us know if there’s a specific way we can serve you.

The enemy wants you to believe that you’re rejected and useless. But God speaks a better word over your life: “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you” (Isa. 46:4). Let’s believe this together.

5 Reasons I Love Being a Pastor

My article first appeared on the Baptist Convention of New England’s blog.

Being a pastor is difficult. I remember my mentor in ministry telling me when I was in my early twenties that if I could do anything else, I should do that. He warned me there would be days that I wished I was working in any other sort of job. He was right. I can tend towards dwelling on the difficult and the negative some days because they are what so often are calling for our attention: solving problems, considering the next step in loosening or tightening COVID restrictions, wondering how this next phone call or meeting will go, remembering that I forgot to check in with somebody undergoing a trial. The list goes on.

But there are also many blessings in being a pastor. There are so many reasons I count it one of the greatest privileges of my life, so many reasons to thank God for being a pastor and so many reasons I love being a pastor.

In keeping with Paul’s admonition to think about “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things,” (Phil. 4:8) I want to list five of the many reasons I love being a pastor.

1. I get to teach and study God’s Word as part of my job.

For all of the stresses that being a pastor entails, and the pressure of the Sunday morning sermon deadline, and all of the spiritual battles that come my way, every week I get to – and am expected to – spend hours studying God’s Word and preparing to teach it. This is an inestimable privilege.

I once heard an older pastor say that he couldn’t believe that he gets paid to study God’s Word. That is a perspective that I need to keep in mind and thank God for weekly. It is a joy to spend time in God’s Word and be filled up with it and challenged by it so that I can have the joy of equipping, encouraging and stretching God’s people with it. May I never take this for granted.

2. I get to be there for people’s highs and lows in life.

Some of my favorite moments in pastoring are being right there for the ups and downs of people’s lives and being used by God in those situations to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).

It is a joy to pray with new parents while holding a newborn baby, and it is a joy to see the radiance in the eyes of a couple getting married while standing right behind them. It is also a different, somber kind of joy to be able to help a couple apply God’s Word to their marriage struggles when the need for counseling comes. It is something I would never trade to have the privilege of praying with a newly bereaved relative thanking God for the life of their loved one, sometimes while the body is still in the room.

These intense times of ministry bond me with God’s people and remind me each time of some of the unique reasons I love being God’s hands and feet. It is also special to be able to often minister during these highs and lows in people’s lives with my wife as she uses her gifts with me. May I never take this for granted.

3. I get a front-row seat to God’s work.

Another benefit to being a pastor that I love is getting a front-row seat to God’s work. The average church member does not have the joy of seeing some of the mercy ministry that goes on in secret in the life of a church. It is a holy privilege to know about an act of love in Jesus’ name that only God, myself and the other person involved know about due to confidentiality. It is a distinctive joy to not only ache at marriage problems but also to rejoice with a couple who is now reaping the benefits of following God’s ways in their relationship. I alone get to “see the lightbulb come on” in the middle of a sermon for that person who has been trying to figure out what they believe about Jesus. I alone sometimes get to see tears of repentance over sin or tears of hope due to longing for Heaven and being reunited with a beloved spouse or child.

I know that God is always doing a million things and that we are usually only aware of a few of them at any given moment, but as a pastor I literally get to see God’s invisible hand working out his plan for His glory and His people’s good every week, if I have the eyes to see it. May I never take this for granted.

4. I get to see people come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord and then baptize them.

“I wasn’t sure before, but I know that I know Jesus now,” the 16-year old boy told me in the car as we drove from Subway after getting his monthly favorite sub (ham with black olives – lots of black olives!) and catching up on high school life.

“What’s the change?” I asked, excited as I had been praying for him for years as he had been coming to youth group ever since I became a youth pastor.

“I didn’t care about sin before, but now I don’t want to sin anymore because I love Jesus,” he replied.

I never would have been part of that conversation if God had not called me to be a pastor. Baptisms – whether the believer going public grew up in the church or recently began to attend – are some of the most joyous Sundays on the calendar. When you get to talk about the gospel, make disciples and baptize as part of your job, you are blessed. May I never take this for granted.

5. I get the privilege of serving Jesus as His errand boy.

Harold Senkbeil, in his book The Care of Souls, says that a sheepdog’s tail is always wagging when he is working and that he always has one eye on his master. Too often my tail is not wagging because in those moments or days I have my eyes off of the master. But some days, as I look to the day ahead and ask Jesus for strength and wisdom to serve His church that He has promised to build, it will hit me with a wave of joy: I get the privilege to serve Jesus as His errand boy today – wherever and in whatever way He may choose to take me for that day or that season. May I never take this for granted.

I don’t say it often enough – I love being a pastor.

The Voice That Raises The Dead

This article was featured at For The Church.

The scene was all too familiar. Wailing pierced the air. A procession went through the village, holding the young body on a homemade stretcher. Some tore their mourning clothes. Others had a faint cloud of ashes near their head as they walked, remnants of the small pile of ashes they had put on top of their hair as a sign of mourning to identify with their destitute friend. How would she survive?

First her husband had died, and now her only child was gone, her son who had been her hope of financial stability. But she wasn’t concerned about money right now. She looked over at the lifeless body being paraded through town on the way to the burial place, and she let out another mournful, guttural cry deep from within her, the cry of despair that only a mother who has lost her child can feel.

What Jesus did for this young man and widow is a preview of what he will do one day for all of us who have believing loved ones who have died before us: one day Jesus will give us to each other again.

But then Jesus appeared on the scene. She was glad to see him. She had heard he was kind. She had heard that he could heal. But it was too late. Her son was dead.

She didn’t know that Jesus can turn funerals into parties.

Then he stopped the procession. He spoke to her, “Do not weep.” And then he spoke to her son–her dead son. “Young man, I say to you, arise.”

When Luke the physician wrote his Gospel, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he chose this phrase to describe what happened next: “And the dead man sat up and began to speak…” (Luke 7:15a) The Savior spoke to the dead man. And the dead man began to speak. The young man was no longer dead and he could speak because the giver of life had spoken to him.

Just imagine the reaction of the crowd! Jesus had stopped a funeral, spoken the word, and they had watched a dead man sit up. But our tender Savior was not done yet. “Jesus gave him to his mother.” (Luke 7:15b)

What Jesus did for this young man and widow is a preview of what he will do one day for all of us who have believing loved ones who have died before us: one day Jesus will give us to each other again. On that day Jesus stopped one funeral procession, but on THAT day Jesus will stop all funerals! Jesus has the voice that raises the dead.

There are five times that Jesus’s voice raises the dead in the Bible. I will be included in one of them and so will you (John 5:24-29). Each time before our resurrection day was simply a preview of what is to come. The question is, will you be part of the resurrection of life or the resurrection of judgment? The question is, have your sins been paid for by he who is the resurrection and the life?

The second time that Jesus’s voice raised the dead comes in the very next chapter of Luke. In Luke 8 Jairus, the synagogue ruler, has given up all hope except for Jesus intervening. He fell at Jesus’s feet and begged him to come heal his young daughter. Jesus said he would, but then a woman who needed to be healed of her bleeding touched Jesus’s robe. Jesus–the ambulance at this point–stopped. The woman who had suffered for 12 years seemed to take precedence over the girl who it seemed would only live for 12 years. Hadn’t Jesus heard of triage? But Jesus spoke to the woman who had touched his robe, comforted her, and grew her faith. Then the dreaded announcement came: a messenger from Jairus’s house said he could stop troubling the Teacher. His little girl was dead.

But Jesus replied, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” (Luke 8:50) When they arrived at his house, the scene was chaotic to say the least. A little girl had just died. But Jesus sent everyone out of the house except for Peter, John, James, and Jairus and his wife. Jesus took her by the hand as if he were gently waking her up in the morning. And then he spoke: “Child, arise.”

Before Christ spoke to her, there had been laughing. But it was the laughing of the mourners at the thought that Jesus would awaken her from death like a little girl is awakened from a drowsy Sunday afternoon nap. Now the laughing came from her room as her father and mother and undoubtedly Peter and James and John rejoiced in what Jesus had done–with his voice. Jesus has the voice that raises the dead.

The third time that Jesus’s voice raised the dead, he is standing outside of Lazarus’s tomb. His sisters are standing next to him, with tear-stained cheeks and quivers in their voices: does the stone really need to be rolled away? Doesn’t the Lord know that there will be the stench of death coming out of that tomb? But every time Jesus goes toe-to-toe with death, he wins. Lazarus will soon be washing off the smell of death with his own two hands to put on clean clothes and eat a feast with his loved ones and his Savior.

I used to think that it was just something that preachers said to have us feel emotion when they claimed that if Jesus had not said, “Lazarus” when he cried, “Lazarus, come out,” (John 11:43) that everyone would have come out of their graves. But I now see that this is nothing other than gospel truth: this is Jesus’s voice. And Jesus has the voice that raises the dead.

The fourth time that Jesus’s voice raises the dead is easy to miss. When Jesus gives up his spirit, right before he dies, he cries out with a loud voice, “It is finished!” (Matthew 27:50, see also John 19:30). We are well acquainted with what happens in the next verse in Matthew: the curtain of the temple is torn in two, and the earth shakes and the rocks split. But two verses after we read of Jesus crying out that his saving work is done, people are raised from the dead. The voice of the creator in human flesh declared that His atoning work for our sin was done, and some who were believers rose from the dead. 

They are raised to life at the voice of Jesus announcing his triumph over the penalty of sin. But they don’t come into Jerusalem and appear to many until after Jesus himself has risen from the dead (Matthew 27:53).  It’s as if they are deferring to the One whose voice raised them from the dead.

The fifth time Jesus’s voice raises the dead has yet to happen. It is the day Christ himself promises will come. Jesus tells those listening to him in John 5 to not be amazed that the Father has given him the authority to judge. For an even greater act of power will be shown on that great day of judgment: “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29)

Which resurrection will you be part of? There is a day that you will hear Jesus’s voice telling you to get up. Like to the young man and to the little girl, he will tell you to arise as if you are simply waking up from a long nap. If you are trusting in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and eternal life, at the moment that your soul is joined to your resurrection body, a miracle will happen for you much like the young man, the little girl, Lazarus, and the saints in Jerusalem who were raised.

The first words that your resurrected ears will hear are Jesus saying to you something like, arise–come out of that grave! And you will obey with joy at the voice of the giver of life–and you will live, never to die again.

Celebrating the Years Together: A Husband Shares Christ-Centered Insights Gleaned From Sixteen Years of Marriage

Note from Tim: I originally wrote this article for Lifeway’s HomeLife Magazine. It is republished here with permission & this blog post may be shared. By God’s grace we have now celebrated 17 years of marriage!

MY WIFE, MELANIE, AND I recently celebrated 16 years of marriage. Sometimes it seems people think that because our marriage is sweet that it must be easy. I’m actually skeptical of people who proclaim that marriage is easy. Joyful, yes. Easy, most days. A Christ-honoring marriage requires commitment, sacrifice, and a willingness to grow. We’re both sinners, but God in His great grace loves to empower, redeem, and bless couples that are committed to growing in love for Him and for each other.

Knowing that Jesus should make a difference in our marriage and yours, here are 16 Christ-centered insights gleaned from 16 years of marriage.

Hold onto hope & onto each other, no matter what kind of season you’re in right now.

  1. Stay Close to God
    When I’m reading my Bible daily and talking regularly to the Lord in prayer, my relationship with my wife is usually improved greatly. Why? Your spouse was never designed by the Creator to fulfill for you what only He can.

  2. Don’t Forget Your Covenant Vows 
    Love is a wonderful gift from God, but feelings or even acts of love in and of themselves will not sustain a marriage. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from prison to an engaged couple in his church, “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but … the marriage that sustains your love.” When you said I do, you entered into a covenant before God and witnesses. Remember that the vows you said at your marriage can sustain and even strengthen your love.

  3. Embrace Love as a Sweet Gift of God
    Enjoy every moment of wedded bliss. Life in a fallen world will throw curve balls at you. Sickness and stress will remind you often enough that you don’t live together in Eden. So relish those moments that are echoes of Eden! There is a Bible verse that reminds me to enjoy life with my wife, and that not everybody is given even 16 years together: “Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting life, which has been given to you under the sun, all your fleeting days. For that is your portion in life and in your struggle under the sun” (Eccl. 9:9). Life is a vapor. Enjoy your spouse’s love and love your spouse back with all that you have.

  4. Help Each Other Grow in Christ-likeness 
    Encourage your spouse to take advantage of opportunities to grow in Christ. Make it easy for him or her to be involved in a Bible study. Talk about what God is doing in your life and what you’re learning about Him. Get deeply involved in a local church where you can worship, learn, and serve together.

  5. Have Fun Together
    My grandparents, who were married for 64 years, used to say that one of their secrets for a happy marriage was laughing together. They were right. If your marriage seems more like a roommate situation than friends and lovers, maybe it’s time to plan a fun outing together that you will both enjoy. The happiest part of any of my days is seeing my bride laugh.

  6. Grow in Communication
    Anyone married for more than a few weeks knows that we don’t automatically communicate in God-glorifying ways that lift each other up. God has put you on the same team to help each other out as you work, serve Him, create a home, and grow together. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thess. 5:11).

  7. Always Look to Christ
    We, as married couples, have the awesome job of reflecting the relationship between Christ and the church to the world, our families, and other believers. Our marriage is to be a picture of the gospel to others. “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband” (Eph. 5:22-33). When we look to Jesus for how to treat our spouse, He also gives us strength to do so.

  8. Plan Time Together
    Work and life responsibilities can be consuming. I’m so thankful for the pastor I worked with when Melanie and I were married. He brought me to Deuteronomy 24:5 and taught me how the Israelite men would stay home from war for one year after getting married so they could focus on their new marriage. He taught me that spending time with my wife was never wasted time. God makes it a priority and so should we. Don’t coast in your marriage.

  9. Pursue and Embrace Forgiveness
    Melanie has taught me more about how Jesus loves me than anyone else because she has lived with me point blank for 16 years and yet she continues to love me and forgive me when I sin against her. “And be kind and compas- sionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ” (Eph. 4:32).

  10. Remember That You’re on the Same Team
    We clear up conflict much quicker than we did when we were first married 16 years ago. Why? Partly because we know that we’re on the same team. There is only one who is our enemy and that’s Satan. When you know deep down that you’re on the same team, it goes a long way to building the “one flesh” kind of unity that God calls us to in Genesis 2:24.

  11. Love With a Serving Love
    The Savior wants me to love my wife like He loves her. One of the best ways I can do that is by learning to serve her. Jesus showed His love to His disciples with a basin and towel as He washed their feet. There is nothing God can call me to do for my wife that is too great of a sacrifice. “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Your Savior laid down His very life for His bride.

  12. Love With a Hopeful Love
    God calls us to not only love our spouse for who he or she is, but also to pray for him or her to grow into godliness, even as you grow in your walk with Christ. Remember that God isn’t finished with your spouse yet. Who your spouse is 16 years from now will in part be a reflection of how well you have loved him or her.

  13. Pray Together
    I’m still growing into this. Over the years, I’ve been challenged by godly men to pray every day with my wife — and more than just at meals. I’ve found that without purposeful planning, it won’t happen. Praying together will help you to pursue God as a couple. It will reveal and knit your hearts together as you come to the throne of grace as one.

  14. Hold Onto Each Other During the Changing Seasons
    Your marriage will change with the different seasons of life as you both change over the years. I’ve known my wife as a college student, young professional, pastor’s wife, new mother, and mother of a middle schooler. She has known me in a similar way. One day, Lord willing, we will know each other as grandparents and retirees who are still serving the Lord. Some seasons are more difficult than others, but when we press into Christ and toward each other, even the trying seasons can become beautiful as God matures us. Hold onto hope and onto each other, no matter what kind of season you’re in right now.

  15. Build a Legacy
    Live with each other not just for this moment, but also for the next decade and the next five decades. Having the perspective that our choices today will impact our children and grandchildren — even generations that we will never meet — will build patterns in our lives that put eternity first. The legacy of a couple that is deeply in love with God and madly in love with each other has a bigger impact than we will ever know until heaven.

  16. Expect the Best to Keep Getting Better 
    I thank God every day for Melanie. I can’t imagine life and love without her. She’s mine and mine alone. This applies to your spouse too. The pastor who married us 16 years ago looked at me during the ceremony and said, “Tim, Melanie is God’s best for you.” Then he looked at Melanie and said, “Melanie, Tim is God’s best for you.”

Continue to pursue your spouse, God’s best for you, every day. “Be lost in her love forever” (Prov. 5:19).

Faithful Endurance: A Book Review of a Book Pastors Need in 2021

My article originally appeared at the Small Town Summits website as part of Small Town Summits Articles, for which I serve as Content Manager. This article was also featured on The Gospel Coalition’s “Around the Web” listing.

This past year has found me asking God now more than ever, “Help me to faithfully endure as a pastor. I need your strength. I need your wisdom. I need your grace.” It’s not that I have wanted to quit. And it’s not that we do not see God’s blessing on our church during one of the most difficult years in recent memory. In fact, in 2020 we saw God’s hand on our church in blessing and sustaining and expanding our ministry more than we have in past years. So why did I desperately pray for God’s help so often this year? Simply for the same reason that I hear from my other pastor friends: we are tired. 

We are tired of walking the tightrope between government regulations and freedom of worship. We are tired of the tension of valid health concerns and wanting to do ministry boldly at a time that people need it most. We are tired of trying to shepherd some through masks and others through Zoom. We are tired of facing the stresses and constant changes and challenges of doing our job during a worldwide pandemic—as all in our church are in their work also. 

But there is gospel hope in pandemic fatigue. The same Lord who shepherds our people is the same Lord who stands with us every day as pastors (2 Timothy 4:17). We need powerful reminders of this as we look ahead to 2021 and continue to pray for God’s strength, wisdom, and grace. 

A few months ago, I had the privilege of sitting down for a long chat with a good cup of coffee with my pastoral mentor. There was something refreshing, encouraging, challenging, and strengthening in talking and praying with somebody who has “been there” and who is still in the fight, serving faithfully during a hard season. This is why I picked up Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People For a Lifetime, edited by Collin Hansen and Jeff Robinson Sr. I needed more wisdom and strength and grace from God through his faithful servants. I needed what amounts to a long chat with a good cup of coffee with many different pastors on many different topics who have centuries of combined pastoral ministry experience. I would recommend that you do the same in 2021.

The book’s strength is combining well-known pastors and ministry leaders like Tim Keller, D.A. Carson, Dave Harvey and Bryan Chapell with lesser-known but equally faithful pastors and ministry leaders like Mark McCullough, Scott Patty, and Brandon Shields. They are able to speak from a variety of backgrounds on multiple pressing pastoral concerns such as, “Ministry has left me spiritually listless” (Chapter 1), “My preaching always sounds the same” (Chapter 3), “My critics are a burden for my wife” (Chapter 6), “They’ve left, and I’m crushed!” (Chapter 7), “My church has outgrown my gifts” (Chapter 10), and “How am I going to make it financially?” (Chapter 11). This is all capped off with an interview with John MacArthur on the anniversary of his fiftieth year of serving at Grace Community Church.

I had not read a specific pastoral ministry book this year, and as I read I discovered that it was just what I needed to help me faithfully endure. I needed the reminders of godly, gospel-centered pastors to help me look not to them but to the Jesus whom we serve and trust in. I needed the sharpening in some areas, such as my preaching and my practice of a day of rest. After a difficult year, I needed the reminders of how to serve with and lead my wife more faithfully (Chapter 6), and how to keep difficulties such as people leaving the church in proper perspective (Chapter 7). 

I was challenged to look at the difficulties of ministry with eternity in view: “Pastor, that pain you feel, that stinging pain in your stomach that wells up each time you remember the friend who left—convert that aching moment into a reminder that there is a day coming when you will be reconciled. There’s a day coming when closure will happen.” (Dave Harvey, p. 82) I was encouraged with practical steps to grow in my leadership, all the while being pointed to what is most important: “The wise pastor also remembers that the main goal is to lead people to Jesus. We often overemphasize organizational leadership skills and underemphasize the pastoral skills of preaching, having conversations, and praying with people. Keeping the main emphasis on leading people to Jesus doesn’t mean we accept poorly led organizations as the norm, but it does remind us that we don’t have to be able to run a massive corporation to be an effective pastor. We do, however, need to know Jesus and be able to lead others to him.” (Scott Patty, p. 108)

For small-town pastors such as myself, there are gold nuggets throughout the book that will help us to have faithful endurance in 2021 and beyond. But the most significant chapter for you, like me, will probably be Mark McCullough’s chapter (8), “Does Staying in a Small Rural Church Make Me a Failure?” I learned from Keller and Carson, but I received an arm around my shoulder as a fellow rural pastor when I read McCullough’s words of warmth and joy from a man who has served the same rural congregation for almost three decades. McCullough spurs us on to faithful endurance by focusing on three joys that would serve us well to focus on during 2021: the joy of knowing and being known by God, the joy of making God known, and the joy of knowing others.

I pray that you will have faithful endurance in ministry in 2021. We can do this not from looking to our own wisdom or strength, but from looking to the Jesus who has promised us that he is with us always (Matthew 28:20). Faithful Endurance will help you do exactly that.

A Thrill of Hope, the Weary World Rejoices!

This article will be featured in the December 25, 2020 edition of The Manchester Journal, our local paper.

You don’t need me to tell you that 2020 has been a year that has made us weary. Whether your weariness is social, economic, physical, relational, job-related, screen-related, or a combination of all of these and other reasons, “wearisome” is probably an apt description of your 2020. Experts talk about “pandemic fatigue,” but we might not even read their articles because we are fatigued of thinking about fatigue. While I was writing this article, a news notification popped up, “Can you get coronavirus from Christmas cards?” Mercifully, the basic answer is no, but one year ago who would have ever thought we would have this kind of low-grade stress constantly in the back of our minds? However you are celebrating Christmas this year, you and I are bringing all of that into this holiday season. In the midst of this weariness, however, there is one Christmas carol line that keeps coming back to my mind: “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices!”

This line from O Holy Night is talking about a hope that is just as true and vibrant today as it was the night that Christ was born. The Bible tells us that two of the reasons that Christ came were to bring hope through personal peace today, and forever peace in heaven. We get wearied by our lack of personal peace. We wonder if there is a God who cares. We wonder if anything that happened in Bible times has anything to do with us today. Christmas reminds us that God cares, and God acts for us—today. The Gospel of Matthew explains the relevance of an ancient prophecy, written 700 years before Jesus in the book of Isaiah: “‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”

The reason that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth is because we believe what the Bible teaches, that it marks the entrance of God into the world in human flesh. Jesus entered into our suffering world, and after living a perfect life of love, died on the cross at the time the Passover lambs were being sacrificed, as “The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) The Bible explains in Romans 5:1 why this matters today, after talking about Jesus’s death and resurrection:  “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the gift of God to all who will receive it: our sins are paid for and we are accepted by God as our father. Because of Jesus we can live life knowing that God is for us and with us no matter what kind of suffering or what kind of year we are walking through.

But the message of Christmas doesn’t end with an earth that is so susceptible to viruses and suffering and sin. The thrill of hope isn’t just for now. The weary world rejoices because one day it will be made new. We celebrate Jesus’s first advent, his first coming, now, but the Bible promises that one day, he will come to earth again—his second advent. He will make all things new and create a new heaven and new earth where we will be safe from sin, and suffering, and death. This is God’s Christmas gift to us, encapsulated in the memorable words of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

On Christmas Eve in 1871, during the Franco-Prussian War, an unarmed French soldier jumped out of the trenches, walked onto the battlefield, and sang the first line from O Holy Night in French. After he sang all three verses, a German soldier emerged and sang a popular German carol, “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come.” The story says that both sides then joined together in singing an Austrian carol. The battle stopped for the next 24 hours in honor of Christmas Day. Temporary peace was initiated by O Holy Night.

Wouldn’t it seem too good to be true if peace were initiated not just for 24 hours but for today and for eternity? The gospel always sounds like the best news you’ve ever heard once you understand it. That is the truth Christians celebrate at Christmas, that Jesus came to bring personal peace today, and forever peace in heaven. That is the best reason for a thrill of hope, and for a weary world to rejoice. In the weariness of 2020, may you find peace in Christ this Christmas.

Thanksgiving In (Not in Spite Of) Difficulty

Although there were many Thanksgiving feasts and observances throughout the United States for almost two and a half centuries before Lincoln, the nationally recognized holiday that we will soon celebrate was put into place in the middle of the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day in 1863, while the war was raging and the country was literally divided. 

While citizens were becoming widows and orphans daily, President Lincoln and his Secretary of State William Steward wrote:  “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Even in the midst of great pain and hardship, they were recognizing what 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 commands:  “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” One of the ways that they gave thanks in all circumstances, even horrible ones such as civil war, was by looking to blessings that God had given:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict…

They were looking for God’s good providence and for things to be thankful for, so that God would be praised no matter what, recognizing that He is the giver of all good things (James 1:17). Surely we need to do the same in 2020. 

Philippians 1:29 shocks us into recalibrating our thoughts during a year of great difficulty: “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake…” The word “granted” is the same word used in Romans 8:32 about God graciously giving us all things:  “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” We expect God to “graciously give” us blessings (as we see in Romans 8:32), but we often don’t understand how suffering could be a grace-gift (as we see in Philippians 1:29).

One answer is because God uses it all.  Nothing is wasted in God’s providence.  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28) This is why the Apostle Paul could write, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings…” (Col. 1:24). As a pastor I worked with would often say, “Who talks like this? Rejoicing in our sufferings? Christians do!”

We can bubble over with genuine thanksgiving at any time if we look to the blessings God has given us, even if mixed with suffering and difficulty as we have seen on a large scale this year. Our God is both sovereign and good. He is the God who promised Romans 8:28, a promise that rests on the bedrock of Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Blessings. Thanksgiving. Hope. Even during Civil War. Even during COVID-19. Even in 1863. Even in 2020.

A Christian’s Declaration of Stability In God In an Unstable Country

2020 has been a year of instability for the United States. I–and so many others–have never felt the stresses and strains of living in what we would call an “unstable country,” until now. But that doesn’t change my stability in God.

As we see new developments each day, and new crises and controversies that can stretch our faith and test our sanctification, perhaps you can pray each of these commitments with me, daily.

Every day I will choose to:

  • Praise God regardless of how He is answering my prayers (Psalm 145:2-3). Every day, regardless of the new headlines, I will repeat the Psalmist’s declaration: “Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.” God is worthy of praise because He is God, not because He has answered my prayers the way I think He should.
  • Remember that God sets up & tears down kingdoms for His purposes (Daniel 2:21, 4:34-35). My generation is not the first that He has worked mightily in through upheaval, and unless Jesus returns first, it won’t be the last. God is not wringing His hands in Heaven in despair or wishing He could do more. The “king’s” heart is in His sovereign hands (Proverbs 21:1). I will remember that God is working through generations over decades and centuries and millennia, not just today. Every day I will choose to believe and remember that my time and place is just a small part of His great tapestry of redemption.
  • Be an active and good citizen to the best of my ability, shining light where it needs to be & being involved in the political process as much as is helpful. I will do what I believe God is calling me to do to make our country a better place (Jeremiah 29:7). I will not hesitate to contact my legislators, to vote informed, and to raise awareness when appropriate. I can do this without it overtaking my witness for Christ (I want to win people to Christ, not to a political party). I will work hard to hold the tension between being involved as a citizen because decisions in government do really matter, but remembering that in the end even the country I love is not my ultimate home. I am a citizen of the Unites States, so I care, but I am a citizen of Heaven, so I trust.
  • Trust my children’s unknown future to a known God. Corrie ten Boom said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God,” and I will apply this biblical principle to not only my life, but to the concerns I have for the country my children will inherit. The same God who has been my shepherd will be the same God who will shepherd them in decades to come (Genesis 48:15-16).
  • Pray that God will use this unstable time in our country to prepare hearts for another great awakening of faith in Christ. God has chosen to bring many to Christ through times of national unrest in the past, and I will pray that He will do it again, for His glory. It is often when the rug is pulled out from under people that they begin to ask questions about God or Jesus. In our own country, “The Jesus Movement” followed the tumultuous 60s. In our own time, I will pray that many will come to know Jesus as they begin to question where their trust is. I will pray that many believers will rise up to not be afraid to share the stability of knowing God in Christ, and that churches will be strengthened to be true to the Word, discipleship, and evangelism.
  • Preach the gospel to myself and others, reminding myself that I am not my own but have been bought with a price. My life is not my own. I have been placed in this time in history and this place in the world on purpose, for a purpose–which is to glorify God by knowing Christ and making Him known. It is no accident that I live here and now (Acts 17:26). I will share the hope of Jesus with all in my community who will listen. Jesus truly is our only hope. I will remember that eternity is more significant than this moment in history, and that each person I interact with–either in-person or online–is an eternal being who either needs Jesus or whom I will spend eternity with in Heaven. God will hold me accountable for each word I speak or type (Matthew 12:36-37).
  • Spend more time in the Word than reading or listening or watching politics each day. My mind will be renewed by God speaking through His Word (1 Timothy 3:16), not by being immersed in the latest political development. I can dip into the news and be informed without it becoming the driving force behind my thinking–which is the place of God’s Word alone. Charles Spurgeon is attributed with rightly observing, “A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” I am not putting my head in the sand–I will be informed–but I am intentionally choosing to listen to God’s voice more than any other, which puts my feet on solid rock.
  • Remember that many of the people of God have gone through more difficult trials in their countries and have still held fast to Christ (Hebrews 10:34). From the prophets & faithful Israelites before Christ, to countless faithful believers in church history, to the persecuted church around the world today, many have gone before me in great persecution–and just plain unrest–and have continued to hold fast to Christ. Simply because I was born in the U.S., I am no better than my brothers and sisters in Christ half way around the world who are refugees worshiping in a makeshift tent with only a bag of possessions left to their name. In fact, I will look to them for examples of perseverance in the faith in the face of great political upheaval.
  • Hold fast to God in faith, rather than letting fear build in my heart. I want my actions and my words to be led by faith, not fear. Every day I will choose to remember that God is for me (Romans 8:31), that Jesus loves me (Galatians 2:20), and that the Holy Spirit empowers me and is even in me (John 14:15-20, 27).

At the funeral of the Puritan Richard Sibbes, Isaak Walton remarked, “…Heaven was in him, before he was in heaven.” May heaven be more seen in us because of our longings, actions, prayers, and reflection of God’s heart. May the same be said of us in spite of–no, because of–this moment in our country’s history.