You are more alone than you could ever imagine.

Ear­lier today I was lis­ten­ing to the News­boys on Spo­tify and an ad ban­ner popped up:

Discover which music is trending with your friends.

 

When I saw this I real­ized how alone and iso­lated we all truly feel. Per­haps that’s why social media is so ram­pant; in an attempt to feel inti­macy we’ve become hyper-connected. The prob­lem is that our social cir­cles have become very wide, but very, very shal­low. It’s almost as if the ad is telling me that now it’s no longer good enough to just lis­ten to music alone, now I also need to know what my friends are lis­ten­ing to. Strange, right?

If you don’t believe me or think I’m read­ing too much into a sim­ple mar­ket­ing gim­mick, take a moment to think about the per­son who knows you best. Per­haps it’s a par­ent or a sib­ling or a spouse. How well do they really know you? For exam­ple, my beau­ti­ful wife prob­a­bly knows about 5% of who I really am. She’s known me just over 5 years, so almost a 1/5 of my life. We were sep­a­rated 1.5 years of that due to deploy­ments. We don’t spend every wak­ing hour together, and even when we are together I don’t tell her every sin­gle thing that I think about. She doesn’t know  what hap­pened every sin­gle day of my life before I met her and she only knows a small por­tion of the days we do spend together.

So how well does my wife truly know me? And how well do I truly know my wife? And how well does that per­son truly know you? How fully and truly do we know any­one? Proverbs 14:10 affirms this when it says “The heart knows its own bit­ter­ness and no stranger shares its joy.” The Hebrew word for heart doesn’t just mean your emo­tional cen­ter or some­thing like that; the heart is the total essence of you as a per­son. The heart is the self that you know and, even deeper, the self that you don’t even know. The heart is who you truly and wholly are and it knows its own bit­ter­ness and no one can fully share its joy. Feel­ing alone yet?

And yet I find great com­fort in this thought. I don’t try to com­pen­sate by telling my wife every­thing in hopes that she’ll under­stand me. Nor do I con­stantly ask my wife what she’s think­ing so I can know her. Why? Because I rest in the firm knowl­edge that God does know me. Tim Keller, in The Wounded Spirit, said that “if you don’t have an inti­mate, per­sonal rela­tion­ship with God, you are utterly alone in the world.” And he’s right!

The com­fort­ing truth is that God knows me bet­ter than I know my self. Read Psalm 139 and you’ll quickly see what I mean. In verse 1, David says “O LORD, you have searched me and known me!” The word for search here means some­thing like “spy; probe; search; exam­ine; explore; sound out; see through; be explored; investigate.” God hasn’t just searched you out and found you, He’s also searched you within and knows you com­pletely. God knows us to a degree that is impos­si­ble for us to know one another or even our­selves. The descrip­tion continues:

“you dis­cern my thoughts from afar.

3You search out my path and my lying down

and are acquainted with all my ways.

4Even before a word is on my tongue,

behold, O LORD, you know it alto­gether.“

(Psalm 139:2b-4)

God knows our thoughts before we have them because He knows the minds that pro­duce them. God knows all our ways far bet­ter than even we do. In fact, God knows us so well that He knows what we’re going to say before we do. David paints this won­der­ful pic­ture of God being with us from the moment we fall asleep to the moment we wake up (I awake, and I am still with you. Psalm 139:18b).

Wikipedia defines lone­li­ness as “an unpleas­ant feel­ing in which a per­son expe­ri­ences a strong sense of empti­ness and soli­tude result­ing from inad­e­quate lev­els of social rela­tion­ships.” Our great com­fort is that we’re never truly alone. In fact, we’re never, ever alone. Not if we know God. The Per­son who knows us bet­ter than we know our­selves is with us always; He will never leave us nor for­sake us. May you be com­forted by the knowl­edge that God does know you and He is always with you.

Gay Jokes?

Two days ago the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” pol­icy was repealed from the Depart­ment of Defense. Nat­u­rally, this has sparked a lot of con­ver­sa­tion online, espe­cially among my Chris­t­ian friends because they see this as a moral fail­ure of our coun­try. Sadly, I’ve also noticed a lot of jok­ing about homosexuality.

That’s why I want to take a moment to share a video about whether or not Chris­tians should joke about homo­sex­u­al­ity. To watch, click here or watch below. Please watch the video all the way through before mak­ing your deci­sion about the message.

Jokes About Gay People? from Harvest Bible Chapel on Vimeo.

It’s not my goal to con­demn any­one or to say we aren’t allowed to talk about this. It’s my goal in shar­ing this video to sanc­tify the con­ver­sa­tion. Let us make sure that we do all things in a way that brings glory to God.

Lesson Two: Means & Ends

Something my professor, Dr. Randy Roberts, said in my “Learning to Love God and Others” class hit really close to home. Therefore, I have a confession to make: my devotional times have been an idol. Almost every day for years now I have made it a priority to spend time alone with God. I like to set aside the first portion of my wakefulness to read my Bible, meditate on God’s message for me, pray, and occasionally read an entry from a devotional. Sometimes I used to even blog as a response to whatever God showed me.

So how could this ever be an idol? This may sound surprising, and indeed I was surprised to realize this about myself. The sad truth is that for far too long I have viewed my quiet times as an ends, not a means. I’m not saying it’s bad to read your Bible, pray, meditate on God’s Word, memorize Scripture, etc. I’m saying they’re not the ultimate point. Our quiet times must always be a means to an ends, not the ends themselves. For years, I would read my Bible for the sake of reading my Bible. Shame on me! For years I would pray for the sake of praying. Oh, what vanity! For years I would do these things because I thought I was supposed to do these things. These things are not meant to terminate on themselves, they are meant to point us upwards.

I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, I forgot why I did these things: to connect to my Savior. I must read my Bible not just for the sake of reading my Bible, but in order that I may know my God in a deeper way. I must pray not for the sake of simply praying but in order that I may commune with my Savior. I must attend church not for the sake of warming up a seat, but so that I may worship my Maker.

Our quiet times are not a ends, they are a means. We must always remember why we read the Bible, why we pray, why we spend time memorizing the Bible, why we attend church, why we do all the things that we do.

We do these things because they are a means to a far greater ends. We do these things so that we may connect with the God of the universe. We do these things to to fall deeper in love with our Savior.

Lesson One: Spiritual Gifts

Once upon a time and for only about 8 long weeks, I was training to be a combat controller (I was medically disqualified because of my eyesight, but now I see God’s hand in that). Becoming a combat controller demands that all candidates be in world-class physical condition and one of the big philosophies ingrained in me early on is that you must focus on your weaknesses. If you’re a really great runner but you’re horrible at push-ups, then you need to double your training-efforts to get better at push-ups. If you can knock out pull-ups with no problem but you sink like a rock in the pool, then you need to spend extra time developing your form. It made a lot of sense, because all combat controllers need to be pretty evenly rounded when they’re out on missions.

Somehow, this mentality stuck with me for the rest of my military career and, even worse, as a Christian. While there is some merit to this approach, I think it’s significantly short-sighted when it comes to our spiritual gifts. This is the first lesson God has taught me in seminary. According to 1 Cor 12:7, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (Another translation I just learned about, the J.B. Phillips New Testament, puts it like this: “Each man is given his gift by the Spirit that he may make the most of it.”) Later on, Paul develops this thought a little more specifically by saying that we’ve each been given very specific gifts for very specific reasons and that no one is a miniature body with all the gifts (1 Cor 12:18-20). This diversity is meant to cause unity and interdependence in the Church.

Coming into seminary, I thought “I feel like God has given me a gift and a calling to teach, so I need to supplement that with classes about pastoring and shepherding.” I had imported the combat control mentality that I needed to be “balanced” or “well-rounded” into my calling. This really doesn’t make sense when you think about it. Paul agreed in 1 Cor 12:17 when he points out how ridiculous it would be for every member of the church to try to have the same spiritual gifts.

I’ve realized that, instead of trying to compensate for areas where God has not gifted me, I should be focusing on the areas where God has gifted me. Instead of trying to be a flashlight and shine over a wide area, I should be like a laser and focus on the central area where God has gifted me. In Maximizing Your Effectiveness: How to Discover and Develop Your Divine Design, Aubrey Malphurs says about spiritual gifts:

“God has sovereignly made us just the way we are–God is the Architect, the Master Designer, the Potter. Whether you are an ear or an eye, 1 Corinthians 12:18 teaches, “God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” Therefore, there is no need to be upset with our place or function in the body of Christ. Instead, there is much satisfaction in knowing we are ministering in accordance with God’s design and purpose for our lives. The key is discovering which body part you are, then functioning according to that design.”

So, the first big lesson that God has taught me is that it’s time to embrace the gifts He’s given me and realize that others in the Body will be able to minister in areas where I’m not gifted. This season of my life is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to harness my spiritual gifts in preparation for full-time ministry. It would be foolish and wasteful of me to try to become the spiritual equivalent of a Swiss-army Knife when God has gifted me to be something far more specific and useful. I encourage you to pray for wisdom and discernment and ask God to reveal the gifts He’s given you; then serve in those areas mightily for God’s glory and your joy.

187 + 182 + 600 = Methuselah

(Fair warning: If you don’t care about some of the Geeky incidental details of the Bible, stop reading now.)

 

This week I start classes at Western Seminary and to prepare I’ve started doing my required readings. For one of my classes I’ll be reading through a large portion of the Old Testament (Genesis through Song of Solomon). I don’t know about you, but any time I read a list of Hebrew names, I always wonder what they mean. Do any of them mean, “he eats his boogers” or “he makes a tasty chicken sandwich”? Yesterday as I was reading Genesis 5, I took the time to look up the names in Gen 5:6-25. But before I show you what I found out, we have to do a little math, so bear with me.

In Gen 5:25, we read that Methuselah fathered Lamech when he was 187. Then, in Gen 5:28, we find out that Lamech fathered Noah when he was 182. Add those two together and you get 396… which means that Methuselah was 369 years old when Noah, his grandson, was born.

We all know what Noah is most famous for:  the Ark! Noah’s Ark, right? Well how old was Noah when the deluge came? Genesis 7:6, says that Noah was 600 years old when the flood came. So add 600 to the 396 and you get… drum roll… 969. Pretty cool, right? Yeah, not really…unless you look at Genesis 5:27 and pay attention to Methuselah’s age when he died:  969!

So why is this (debatably) interesting enough to warrant a blog post? Well, I’m glad you asked! Guess what Methuselah’s name means. Yesterday I found out that, according to The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names, Methuselah can mean “Messenger of death,” ”Man of the dart,” ”A man of the javelin,” or, most commonly and most interesting “When he is dead it shall be sent.”

“When he is dead it shall be sent??” Yeah, that was his name!

What shall be sent? The flood! The year Methuselah died was the same year that God sent the flood to cleanse the earth. For almost 1,000 years, Methuselah’s name served as a warning of judgment that the flood was coming!