Good Luck With That

I saw a recent post on Facebook by my friend Tyrel Bramwell. He was heralding his arrival at five years in the holy ministry. Congrats, Tyrel!

I’ll say that while reading Tyrel’s post, his words regarding the challenges rang true.

It seems as though at any given point on the timeline, as a pastor, I exist in the midst of a handful of volatile situations in my congregation that have more than enough potential for keeping me awake at night—for causing restless friction in my family, impatience with others, and an overall sadness that can pall any sunny day. It’s in these moments when I can easily catch myself at the edge of saying, “I just don’t get paid enough to do this job.”

Interestingly, before I can ever get to the end of that sentence, the Lord so kindly, so faithfully, breathes a bit of refreshing air by His Word, being sure to bolster my resolve with other-worldly whispers of “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:14); and “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10); and “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me… I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:2-3, 33); and finally, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

In those divine reversals, I am reminded that God’s mandates of “Be faithful” are not over-lording commands from an uncaring Master to “toughen up, you crybaby,” but rather they are tender imperatives that bring along with them the viscera-tightening Spirit for actually steering fearlessly into the challenges and enduring them. They are empowering nudges that enable me to recall that by faith, I am the Lord’s, and with that, I’ll be okay. Be faithful. Even if Death is the endpoint, be faithful. Death no longer has mastery over me. I am a child of eternal life.

When the world faces off with a Christian positioned on such a foundation—a foundation that knows Death has been defanged, and as the “last enemy to be destroyed” (1 Corinthians 15:26), has been ultimately defeated by the resurrection of Jesus—the world had better rethink its strategy against such a person. They won’t roll over so easily.

Say what you want. Do what you will. Attack as you find opportunity. Just know that I have everything I need to keep going. And put this in your pipe and smoke it: Keep in mind that if you would tear me down from such a place of certainty, you would also need to dethrone the One who both won and gave it to me by His Holy Spirit through the Gospel of my redemption.

Good luck with that, tough guy.

And so whether any given scene be wrought with challenges or blossoming with joys, all become opportunities to give thanks to the Lord for His great love. I may be at war with the world, but I’m not at war with Him. That war ended at Calvary. In Jesus, I am at peace with God, and everything will be just fine.

Again, any person, place, or thing in this life scheming against someone who stands firmly on this Gospel had better go back into the devil’s basement and come up with a better plan. And once again, I say, good luck to you.

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse

As always, I pray all is well for you this week and that the approaching Fourth of July holiday will be a joyous one.

I had an interesting occurrence this past week, one that, of course, stirred a particular thought that I’d like to share.

During Philip Haney’s visit here at Our Savior, I managed to have a quick conversation with a pastor with whom I’m friends online but have never actually met in person. It was nice to visit together in person, and while we were talking in my office, at one point his eyes shifted to the shelf beyond my desk where I keep all of my classical literature volumes. If you’ve ever been in my office for any length of time, then you’ll know I have reasonably full assemblage of Dickens and Shakespeare and Twain and so many others—all the good stuff. But as he was observing the selections from a short distance, he noticed lying sideways across the top of editions by Hemingway, Hawthorne, and Poe an obviously well-read volume entitled The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks.

Yes, you read that rightly. I have a book that I read pretty regularly about how to survive a zombie apocalypse.

“What’s a guy like you doing reading a book like that?” was the tone of my friend’s commentary.

The essentials of my answer:

While the book is written with a tone of complete seriousness, it’s easy to see how it deals with itself and its own momentousness as being nothing short of laughably entertaining. With that, it’s not entirely uncommon for me, before wading into challenging moments of great seriousness, to first read from Psalm 27 or 32, and then to measure my own emotions by flipping through Brooks’ volume for some satirical levity. In other words, after receiving the right comfort for my soul from the Lord, I’ll say to myself before things get a little crazy, “Well, it could be worse,” and then I’ll turn to a chapter about how important it is in a zombie apocalypse to keep one’s hair short lest the undead have one more thing to grab in close-quarters combat.

Yeah, I know. Silly, right? Still, I share it because it leads to a deeper point, at least for me—and I hope I can explain it properly.

God speaks by way of His Word regarding the ultimate peace we have in Jesus, how it overcomes all things. This Word actually changes us to know that there is nothing that this world can throw at us that is so powerful that it can conquer our Lord and His promises. Giving this serious consideration, that’s what I mean when I read the zombie guide and say, “Well, it could be worse.” Sure, things can always get worse. Zombies are the perfect example. But still, the promise is that even if we suddenly find ourselves surrounded by them, the promises of God do not change. There’s still nothing that can ever be so overwhelming in the life of a Christian that it can actually usurp God’s loving might and His efforts to keep us in steadfast in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Christ died that we might have eternal life—not a zombie-free life. With that in mind, and as silly as it may sound, I really can make my way into some pretty threatening situations without getting too flustered, overly-bothered, or angry. In fact, after reading about strategies for protecting a two-story home from a ghoulish horde, a smile and a lighter step comes a little more easily when talking to someone who’d much rather call me an enemy than a friend. And trust me, a kindly, easier smile in such circumstances is much more fruitful than one that is forced.

With that, take what you can from this casual rambling from a fellow human being who struggles with sin in this world and the challenges it brings just as much as the next person. And I suppose you can be assured that if you ever need a good handbook on zombies, I’m your guy.