We were created to know and be known, to love and be loved. We're all walking around with this deep seeded need to be fully known and through being fully known, to be fully loved. February has become a month focused on love. You walk into any store and are hit with red hearts and chocolates wrapped in shiny cellophane. There are rows and rows of Valentine's cards, stuffed animals, and candies stamped with words of sentiment. Combine that with the heart eye’s emoji and a meme of a cat holding a flower and you can seemingly express your love and affection to anyone in your life without really expressing anything at all – without knowing or being known. Because to know and be known might mean being rejected, instead of loved.
So, last week in my inbox there were two “news alert” emails.
One claims that 2016 was the hottest year ever on earth (during record-keeping times). Alarming.
More alarming: The other email reports that in 2016 Christians were the most persecuted religious group in the world; 90,000 believers died, or one every 6 minutes.
“I just don’t know what to do!”
“There are too many options to choose from and I don’t want to mess up.”
“So much stuff is going on right now that I need a break.”
“I need to get rejuvenated before heading into my last semester.”
I heard these, and more, phrases throughout the course of this past weekend at our High School retreat. You can call teenagers selfish, entitled, arrogant, brats, or whatever other stereotypical thing our culture calls them, but you cannot call them rested. Now, you might think you know or have the laziest teenager around, but one thing I always learn from a weekend with literally no agenda is that students carry more burdens than we assume.
From the burden of getting into a certain school to handling family issues that most couldn’t dream about, our students need the space and ability to slow down and relax sometimes. This past weekend we gave them that. It was a weekend where we laid our burdens at the foot of the cross knowing that God doesn’t scold us with our load, but offers to take it from us. We assume everyone is willing to dump their junk on to Jesus so we don’t talk about the permission that we need sometimes to let it all go and fall into the arms of our Savior.
What we find in those moments is vulnerability. Vulnerability with each other and with a God who takes us where we are and helps us take a step deeper into Him. Our prayer going into the weekend was that grace would be shown more than it ever has through our students.
I want you to know that from my perspective, rest was needed, and grace was received by a group of students needing the assurance that they are humans, just like the rest of us.
Every Sunday is unique, but most follow the same general pattern. We sing a couple of songs, say hello, make a few announcements, sing some more songs, teach for a while, and end with a song or two as we reflect on the scriptures. I love our pattern of worship at CBC, but every once in a while we stray off of our routine and have the opportunity to be a bit more creative.
Have you ever been in a dark place?
Years ago, I was coming back to my car from taking pictures in the Great Sand Dunes of Colorado (55 square miles of sandy nothingness) and I forgot that after sunset it usually tends to get dark. I just assumed I could find the parking lot. It never occurred to me to pack a flashlight. So it was a race against the gathering gloom, and I realized all the park rangers were gone, all the campers and hikers. I was miles and miles from any town. I had no phone, and no one to call, anyway. It was just me and the trees … and some animals I heard rustling around, coming out for the night. No lights, no markers, no path. I kinda started freaking out.
As early voting started this week, I’ve watched, listened and read much about both candidates. This is a most difficult year for our country. It’s a year when I think I’ve seen more fear in the Christian world than I have ever seen before. Fear from both sides!
When fear is so pungent that you can smell it in the air I always take a moment to recalibrate, to center on what I know. So, here are few things I know even when it seems “the sky is falling.” (Chicken Little reference for you old folks.)
I know that God rules the nations. He is seated on the throne and rules no matter who is ruling our country.
I know that God raises leaders and puts down leaders. They all rule with his permission.
I know, as scripture says, that God directs the hearts of the king and moves it wherever he wishes.
I know he can change the rulers. Look at Daniel 4 if you need a reminder of what God did with one of the worst kings of history.
I know that he watches over the times and his children. We are safe in his hands until the day we have finished our mission.
I know that my task of trusting him goes on no matter who rules my country.
When the election is over and we have a new President, a new leader of our country, whoever it is….God will still be on the throne and we can still trust him.
Rest in that.
So this guy asked me to lunch the other day. He’s an old friend, a very accomplished studio guitarist from a church I used to pastor. We hadn’t talked in a few decades, so we caught up and then he launched into some questions that had been bugging him. “How can I know for sure that I’m a Christian?” “What’s the best way to explain Jesus to somebody who’s asking?” (He gets asked A LOT.) “Do you think the devil messes with my thinking on these issues?”