What Should We “Do” With Bill Cosby? Probably Nothing.

by Ted Kluck

One of the funnest things about the Happy Rant Podcast is verbally sparring with Stephen. Stephen is opinionated and a little socially awkward which makes him really fun to do this with. He also occasionally helps me to care about things that I’m naturally a little too jaded to care about.

In his Bill Cosby piece, which was very good, Stephen engaged in the time-tested Reformed tradition of helping you know “what to do” with something or someone. We all (writers of a Reformed persuasion) do it. I’ve done it a bunch, and it’s not necessarily wrong though it can sometimes be annoying because it presupposes that we know what to “do” (meaning, in reality, think/blog about) and are telling you. We somehow know how you should think about everything from Ferguson to whether or not Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame (he should…see, I can’t help it).

What’s important is that Stephen said all of the right, hopeful things about the Gospel as it pertains to Cosby, and I really mean that. That’s the best and most important thing about Stephen’s piece. I’ve written many of the same sorts of things about Mike Tyson over the years and have meant every one of them. Stephen did an especially good job of describing the heart-hardening slide of sin and presenting Christ as the only answer to that slide.

But a headline suggesting that we have to “do something” with the Cosby situation, and the implication that we in fact know what to do is probably one reason why Reformed people come off as a little smug, condescending and know-it-all-ish. Unless we’re Cosby’s pastor, we’re not actually going to do anything. We may say that we’ll pray for Cosby and the women (and we should), but we probably won’t (truth be told). Specifically, I don’t think Stephen has to avoid showing The Cosby Show to his kids because it wasn’t Cliff Huxtable who did those things to those women – rather, it was the guy portraying the fictional, loveable, semi-perfect writer’s-room creation that was Cliff Huxtable, whose only vice was trying to sneak junk food past Claire and occasionally getting caught.

By the “can’t watch Cosby” line of logic I wouldn’t be able to watch Jerry Maguire because Tom Cruise is in a wacky God-hating cult, wouldn’t be able to appreciate an Adrian Peterson highlight, and wouldn’t be able to enjoy watching a Tyson fight because of what he did. To be clear, all of these men did or do things are truly sad. However, I also acknowledge that these men have talent that I appreciate in a way that is (right or wrong) compartmentalized from their personal lives. In the same way, I don’t have to see a police record or theological white paper from my plumber before he fixes my toilet.

What makes the Cosby thing slightly more complicated is the fact that he made is living doing the “good, wholesome guy” schtick for so many years…and because of this we feel betrayed or let down by him. He literally made his living by playing a perfect father. He was the comedian about whom we said things like, “I just appreciate him because he so clean and he doesn’t have to swear to be funny!” (see also: Regan, Brian) Because of this, and because of the Cliff charm, we may have just assumed he was a Christian.

Our kids don’t need us to “do anything” with Cosby, because they have no idea, really, who he is. Nor do they care. And unless we know Cosby personally, Cosby doesn’t need us to “do anything” with Cosby. And God certainly doesn’t need us to “do anything” with Bill Cosby…because God IS the perfect father that not even Cliff Huxtable could be.

NOTE:

If anything, Stephen should avoid watching The Cosby Show because it creates a completely unrealistic and unattainable picture of family that makes it look too perfect and easy.  A family where dad works like three hours a week from a doctor’s office in his basement, and the only vestige of mom being a lawyer is the abundance of money and sweet 80s pantsuits.  The big Cosby Show “conflicts” included Rudy learning how to make her bed and Theo finding out he was dyslexic, which is to say that nobody really got hurt in The Cosby Show making it completely unlike a real family.

What Are We Supposed To Do With Bill Cosby?

Bill-Cosby

The Cosby Show will go down in history as one of the great sitcoms of all time. It represents everything that is right in America. A fun-loving dad who is also a devoted husband, some knucklehead kids with really good hearts, and a lot of good ol’ fashioned fun.  For years Bill Cosby cultivated the image of being a wholesome comedian – a guy who endorsed Jello and didn’t curse during his standup comedy.

But it turns out Bill Cosby isn’t the wholesome guy we thought he was. In recent weeks, many women have come forward with disturbing accusations of drug rape and sexual assault. These accusations aren’t new, but they’ve grown in number and in intensity over the last several weeks. I grieve to think of the trauma these women have experienced, and pray that God heals and restores them.

I’ve got to admit: hearing these things about Bill Cosby is confusing, disturbing, disappointing, and even a bit surprising. I mean, we’re talking about Bill “Cliff Huxtable” Cosby! The guy who has the funny dance moves and gives his kids chocolate cake for breakfast and tells stories about his brother, Russell.

But should I really be surprised by what I’m hearing? Should I be shocked every time one of my favorite celebrities turns out to have some really nasty skeletons in his closet? Should I be shocked and disappointed that Mel Gibson is a raging anti-semite, Michael Richards (Kramer) is a furious racist, Chris Martin (Coldplay) can’t keep his marriage together, and Jim Henson was a serial adulterer?

I don’t think so.

Romans 1:28-31 describes every person who doesn’t know Jesus:

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

The longer a person refuses to acknowledge God as king, the more God gives that person over to a debased mind. A mind that is bent on doing terrible, evil things. A mind that leads a person to do what should never be done. A man with a debased mind drugs women and then rapes them. A man with a debased mind repeatedly unleashes terrible racial slurs. A woman with a debased mind strips naked for music videos.

By nature, every person is filled with “all manner of unrighteousness”. All manner of debased, disturbing, vile things. All manner evil inventions. Bill Cosby has acted just as God predicted he would act. God isn’t surprised by Bill’s actions.

Of course, if Bill Cosby is just as evil as God predicted, then God can also rescue Bill Cosby from his own wickedness! That’s the beauty of the gospel. We’re all worse than we thought, and Jesus is a greater Savior than we could have imagined!

Bill and I are in the same boat. I’m a sinner with no righteousness of my own. Without Christ, I too would be indulging in all sorts of repulsive behavior. But the gospel saved me, and it can save Bill Cosby and Michael Richards and Mel Gibson. We’re sinners. Jesus came to save sinners. Therefore we always have hope.

So what are we to make of Bill Cosby? We don’t shake our heads in shock or disappointment. We do appropriately grieve over the sin he has committed. He has massively hurt many women, and it is right to grieve for them. We don’t write Bill Cosby off as a nasty perv who should be shunned forever. We do pray that God would rescue him from his sexual slavery. We don’t look down in self-righteousness on Bill Cosby. We do humbly thank God for rescuing us from the clutches of sin.

I don’t know if I can watch The Cosby Show anymore. The juxtaposition of Cliff Huxtable versus the real Bill Cosby is too jarring. I’m sad that I can’t introduce my kids to the fun of Cliff Huxtable. But I can pray in faith for Bill Cosby, knowing that God can save a sexually deviant old man just as much as he can save anyone else.

5 Questions to Analyze Any Worldview

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Have you ever tried to put a puzzle together without looking at the picture on the box? It?s a losing proposition. Is that red and orange puzzle piece in your hand part of a tree, a barn, a bonfire ? or have your kids mixed the puzzle pieces again? Without some overarching vision for what the whole puzzle looks like, the individual pieces make little sense.

Think of a worldview as your ?picture on the box? for life. How do all the pieces of life fit together? Do they even fit together? Your worldview is the way in which, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, you answer questions like these.

But there?s a problem: that ?unconscious? part in the last paragraph. Too often the way we interpret the world goes by us unnoticed. We act out of unexamined beliefs. We hope in things or people without questioning if they are worthy objects of our hope. We need to slow down and ask ourselves the why question: why did that bother me so much? Why am I convinced I should be treated that way? Why does that outcome excite (or disappoint) me so much? Here are five questions that will help us examine a worldview, ours or anyone else?s.

1) Who is God?

We could expand the question to include even an atheistic worldview: who is in ultimate control? The best way to answer this question is with this thought experiment. Think of all the verbs the Bible uses to describe our relationship to God. Love. Serve. Worship. Trust. Obey. Sacrifice for. Devote yourself to. Seek. Fear. Find refuge in. Now consider: which of those verbs applies to something other than God in your life? Of course for each of these there is a secondary sense in which they might apply to something or someone else. It?s appropriate to love your spouse, to serve your coworkers, or to sacrifice for your family ? but only if the loving, serving, and sacrificing is done with God in the picture. These verbs all describe the way humans are intended to relate to their Creator and Redeemer. Idolatry happens when anything else takes God?s place. So ask yourself: who or what is my functional god?

It?s impossible to give a short version of the biblical answer to this question, but here are three categories. God is Creator ? your Creator, my Creator, and the Creator of all that is. Moreover, God is Redeemer ? through Jesus? life, death, and resurrection, God is redeeming all what sin has ruined. Finally, God is Triune ? one God, three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

2) Who am I?

Hint: we?re after more here than the information on your Social Security Card. What?s your identity? What?s most true, most significant, about you? Is it your genes? Is it your past sins, or past experiences of being sinned against? Your looks? Age? Job? Resume? Skills? Relationship status? Are you your sexuality?

None of these is a sufficient description of who we are ? and yet all of them are potential false answers, wrong answers that will lead to wrong actions. If your looks or youth is your identity, then aging will destroy you. If your career is your identity, losing your job will ruin your life.

The Bible gives a different answer than any of these. Who are you? First and foremost, you are a man or woman made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). Second, you are a sinner. I know, that sounds harsh ? but it?s true. But think about this: if you?re defined by your genetics, your past, or your looks, the only way to deal with your problems is medication, therapy, or Botox. If your problem is sin, there?s a remedy. His name is Jesus. And if you?ve encountered him, there?s a third thing that?s true about you: you are in Christ, joined to him by his Spirit in you, and nothing can break that union.

3) What?s the problem?

Everyone believes there?s something wrong with the world. Even the most laid-back, hippie flower child you?ll ever meet thinks the problem with the world is that people are too uptight about their problems. All of us instinctively recognize something is rotten in Denmark. What is it? Is it a lack of education? Income inequality? The wrong political party in office? Or maybe it?s smaller scale: no spouse. The wrong spouse. A loser boss. Disobedient kids. Not enough time off. Not enough money. What is it that?s wrong in your world, or the world at large?

The Bible?s answer is sin. Sin, God?s curse upon it, and all that flows from that curse is what is wrong with this world. Every human woe, every tear, every groan, can be traced back to our rebellion against God. Give a wrong answer to this question, and you will fail to deal with the ultimate problem. Which leads us to the question four.

4) What?s the solution?

These two questions are inextricably linked. Identifying the problem will naturally lead you to identifying the solution. Is the problem poor health? Then fitness, or a natural diet, or medical experts will be your saviors. Is the problem no spouse? Then the guy who asked you out becomes not just a first date but a potential redeemer from all that?s wrong with your life.

But false redeemers always disappoint. Only Jesus is capable of delivering us from what?s truly wrong with us. He works from the inside out: total cleansing from our guilt and shame, ongoing transformation into who we were meant to be, life beyond the grave, and one day a new resurrected body in which we will enjoy a new heavens and earth. And that leads us to the last question.

5) Where are we going?

What?s in the last chapter of your story? Is it a white picket fence and happily ever after? Retirement at the beach condo? Enough money to never worry about bills again? What do you dream of before you fall asleep at night? What do you hope you?ll one day, finally, achieve? What exactly would arriving look like? We can answer those questions on a personal level, and we can answer them on a grand, humanity-wide level. What?s the trajectory of human life? Where is humanity headed: utopia? Heaven on earth? The collapse of civilization and a Dark Ages remix?

The Bible?s final answer is clear. The last chapter of history is the completion of God?s great work of redemption. Jesus Christ will return and bodily raise every human being who has ever lived. We will all face his judgment: eternal life for those who have believed the gospel, and eternal judgment for those who reject it (John 5:28-29; 2 Thess. 1:5-10). Then the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). Then every tear will be wiped away (Rev. 21:4). Then we will enter into the joy of our master (Matt. 5:21, 23). Then, in a renewed heavens and renewed earth, we will experience all that God intended for his creation. That?s where we?re going ? and no one but King Jesus can take us there.

Scripture doesn?t answer all our questions ? but its answers to these five questions do give us the big picture necessary to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together. And only these answers are a sufficient foundation for life in God?s world.

Photo by Kevin Dooley

Delighting in the Storm

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Let?s talk about the weather. Have you ever had a storm ruin a perfectly good day at the beach? Instead of sunning on the sand you sulked on the sofa, watching the last hours of your vacation drizzle away in a grey fog. Why doesn?t God make every day blue skies and sunshine?

But weather?s a funny thing. Have you ever had a sunshine ruin a perfectly good rainy day to stay inside and not mow the lawn? Okay, that probably hasn?t happened since you were 14 ? but you can easily imagine a scenario where rain, not sun, is the desired weather condition. There?s Murphy?s Law, as it relates to weather: we wish for sunny days, and get rain. We hope for rain as a good excuse for inactivity, and get sunshine instead. ?That?s the weather for you,? we say, and shrug our shoulders and move on.

But there?s a value system imbedded in the whole Murphy?s Law-weather conundrum. It?s so common and universal we almost never notice it. Subtly, unobtrusively, but persuasively, it says, ?A stormy day is bad if it interferes with my plans; it is good if it furthers my plans.? Do you see the value system, the assumed point of reference? Me. My plans. This is my universe, and everything in it must bow to me!

Okay, that?s probably a bit extreme. Most of us don?t take our gripes about the weather quite that far. But the pattern prevails: I rank external circumstances ? sadly, even people ? by whether they serve me or hinder me. Don?t you?

The problem is that such a way of looking at the world will frustrate us (since we all do this, you have seven billion competitors all attempting to run the world to the beat of their own drum) and lead us to an empty, vain life. Actually, even that?s not the ultimate problem. The ultimate problem is that seeing the world through this lens puts us on a collision course with the One who does rule all things for his purposes.

There?s a better way, the way of the creature before our Creator. C.S. Lewis was learning this even before he became a Christian:

The first lifelong friend I made at Oxford was A. K. Hamilton Jenkin?He continued?my education as a seeing, listening, smelling, receptive creature?Jenkin seemed able to enjoy everything; even ugliness. I learned from him that we should attempt a total surrender to whatever atmosphere was offering itself at the moment; in a squalid town to seek out those very places where its squalor rose to grimness and almost grandeur, on a dismal day to find the most dismal and dripping wood, on a windy day to seek the windiest ridge? [to have] a serious, yet gleeful, determination to rub one’s nose in the very quiddity of each thing, to rejoice in its being (so magnificently) what it was.

?To rejoice in its being (so magnificently) what it was.? I don?t know if Jenkin was a Christian, but that?s a Christian virtue. This world is God?s world, not ours. God delights in the windy-ness of the wind and the stormy-ness of the storm just as much as he does the sunniness of the sun. And he invites us to share in his delight ? not to assign value to his creation based on whether it fits our plans.

That?s not to say you can?t ask for sunshine for your beach vacation. But here?s a thought. The next time the weather doesn?t cooperate, when the storm clouds ruin your plans, find a way to ?rub your nose? in the storm, delighting in its stormy-ness. Then we can say with the psalmist,

?O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all? (Psalm 104:24).

Even the storms.

Photo by USFWS.

5 Easy Steps to a Shallow Christian Life

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Wait no longer! Write them on Post-It notes, cross-stitch them on your pillow, have Siri repeat them to you daily.

1. Don?t stop searching until you?ve found ?The Secret to the Christian Life.?

It?s out there! Don?t give up. It might be baptism in the Holy Spirit. It might be true surrender. It might be faith. It might be resting in what God?s already done. It might be?well, you go find it on your own. Don?t let the fact that two thousand years of Christian history has yet to produce the final solution to the perplexities of living as redeemed sinners in a fallen world stop you. Maybe the secret was just waiting for YOU to get out there and discover it?

2. In your advice to yourself and to other believers, use the word ?just? regularly.

This will be a lot easier after you?ve found the answer to #1. Then you can tell people, ?Stop struggling! Just (insert SOCL [Secret of Christian Life] here).? Until then, sprinkle ?just? in as many tidbits of advice as possible: : ?Just believe?just remember?just trust God.? That helps remind people that, after all, the Christian life is really easy. So suck it up and deal with it, wimp.

3. For simplicity?s sake, assume that God deals with everyone in exactly the same way. If you want to make things even simpler, assume that you?re the pattern.

Listen, there are a lot of Christians out there. If you let the thought enter your mind that God is a person who might deal with people as unique individuals, not generic cookie-cutter-Christians, it will overwhelm you! You might have to actually listen to people, charitably assume that God is at work in their life in ways you can?t see, or even learn from the ways they?re different from you. That?s going to take a lot of time. Just don?t go there. Here?s the code you live by: God is easy to figure out, not very creative, and has already used all his tricks in your life. (I know, it seems a little hard on God, but trust me on this one. The alternative is just way too complicated. You?ll thank me later.)

4. Don?t waste time checking your assumptions against the Bible.

After all, there?s only so much time in the day! Begin your sentences about your key beliefs with, ?The Bible clearly says?? but don?t bother with actually proving it. The basis for this is that everything that?s worth knowing in Scripture is so clear that only a fool wouldn?t already see it from your point of view. If you can find one verse that proves your point, that?s more than adequate!

5. Reduce everything to ?5 Easy Steps.?

See? I?ve already modeled it for you! Remember, the point is EASY steps. It?s not enough to just list things that are true (preachers do that all the time). The real test is whether or not you can make them so simplistic that they require no work or deep thought. That?s the mark of a true Easy List.

Actually, these are probably the definitive 5 Easy Steps for the Christian life, so there may be nothing left to reduce to further lists. You?d probably be better off just memorizing this one.

Photo by Barbara Eckstein

Don’t Use Scripture Like This!

Does anybody remember the old Viewmaster toys? The Viewmaster was a plastic contraption that looked like a cheap pair of binoculars. You dropped a circular cardboard reel with tiny squares of 3D film into a slot, looked through the Viewmaster, and voila! The tiny film suddenly became a 3D world. After you got tired of one picture, you moved a lever and advanced to the next square of film. As long as you pointed the Viewmaster at a good light source, the picture was pretty clear, but if you pointed it at a dark corner of the room your vision of Mickey and Minnie Mouse got a lot fuzzier. ?I was fascinated with Viewmaster for several years as a kid before the novelty wore off.

I know, you?re wondering why I?m dragging you down memory lane with me and what this has to do with the Bible. But before I answer that, let me tell you one more story.

When I was about nine, I found out I needed eyeglasses. I was not a happy camper. I cried all the way home from the eye doctor. I wanted to be a mountain man like Davy Crockett when I grew up, and everybody knows mountain men don?t wear glasses. The cursed eyewear crushed my career plans in one fell swoop. There was a silver lining in the cloud, however; blades of grass, leaves, and small insects suddenly returned to my world! I had forgotten there were so many hard edges and clear lines out there. Fuzziness had become the norm.

Viewmasters and eyeglasses. Both let you see things, but with very different results. One let you see, with varying degrees of clarity, a miniature world that had nothing to do with your life. Mickey Mouse might look close enough to touch, but when you put down the Viewmaster you weren?t going to find him standing in your living room. But glasses are different. Put on a pair of glasses and suddenly everything in your world took on new crispness. You could see things you had never seen before.

Too often we read the Bible as though it?s a Viewmaster, not a pair of eyeglasses. The stories, the prayers, the praises and songs become windows into another world that has little to do with our own lives. Maybe we can describe with great accuracy and detail Abraham?s faith in God or Paul?s boldness for Christ ? but when we put the Bible down we?re still just as anxious or timid as we were before.

God intends better things for his Word and his people than mere insight into past lives or historical situations. Scripture is a pair of eyeglasses, not a Viewmaster. It is a story of how God has acted and is acting to save his people through Jesus. It?s the story of how God is saving and transforming you.

Now don?t get me wrong; I?m not saying that you and I are the stars of the show. The star is our God, who saves sinners through Christ in the power of the Spirit. But as we see how God acts we are intended to see the world around us and our own lives with increasing clarity. God is not merely the God who once turned evil to good in the life of Joseph; he is the God who even now, perhaps in the darkest hour of your life, is creating a story with a triumphant, joyful ending. He is not only the God who reversed childless Hannah?s fortunes and gave her Samuel; he is the God who will one day, when Christ returns, repay everything you thought he took away with blessings unimaginable.

It?s not enough to simply know what God did in the past for people whose lives are distant from ours. To live faithfully and joyfully in this world we need to see our present circumstances with new eyes: eyes of faith, eyes trained by the Word to see what God sees. May God ?enlighten the eyes of your hearts, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe? (Ephesians 1:18-19).

Photo by Delirio Verde Anaranjado

Syria, Civil War, and King Jesus

Recently the civil war in Syria and America?s possible military intervention has been occupying a lot of time in the headlines. Attention is focused in both national and international news on President Obama?s request that Congress approve military action in response to the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21st. The death tolls from that specific attack are estimated in the hundreds, possibly as many as 1,400, but the total casualties from the two-year long civil war are around 100,000.

How do we as Christians think about and respond to this kind of human suffering and evil? Let?s be honest ? it?s difficult to process something like this Christianly, isn?t it? I find it easy to alternate between two easier, but unhelpful, responses. It?s easy to have a partisan political reaction and simply ?toe the party line,? supporting whoever you voted for. It?s easy simply to ignore the situation as long as it doesn?t affect you personally. Those are easy ways to process it ? but they don?t ultimately deal with the realities of life in a fallen world, life that includes things like civil wars and sarin gas attacks. Let me suggest four Christians ?lenses? through which we can think about this situation.

The ultimate problem is human sinfulness. Without a worldview that includes God, we?re left straining to explain how humans do such horrible things as gas one another. Is it a lack of education? Is it poverty? Is it rage against injustice and oppression? No, not ultimately. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve rebelled against God; in Genesis 4, the blood of the first murder victim stained the earth. Every tear of sorrow, every crime, every war in human history can be traced back to our rebellion against God. Claiming to be wise, we have become fools. Hating God in our hearts, we hate one another as well (Titus 3:3). Yes, in a situation like Syria there are multiple layers of injustice and wrong committed by both sides. But underneath the entire problem is the seething enmity between God and man. Civil wars come from human sinfulness.

Governments have a role in restraining the effects of sin. With so many discouraging headlines, it?s to become cynical about any government. But we as Christians can?t give in to that temptation. Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2:13-17 make it clear that one way God restrains human evil is through the gift of government. While I don?t pretend to know what the right political solution to a problem like Syria is (and in a fallen world there are often no good solutions, only the ?least worst? solution), it is right for President Obama and other world leaders to attempt to address the situation. Having said that?

Only King Jesus can bring true peace. Until the Lord returns there will be wars and rumors of wars. Governments can restrain human sinfulness; they cannot eradicate it. Only the second coming of our King can finally deal with the problem of sin. On that day justice will be done. On that day peace will finally come. The sins of every human being, great and small, will either be covered by the blood of Christ or charged to the humans who committed them. There are no utopian solutions to our problems in this world, and we of all people should see through shallow claims of false redeemers.

So Christians should pray. We have access to the one Ruler who can actually accomplish his purposes! Pray for peace in Syria, even though all human peace is limited. Pray for God to save men and women through this suffering. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Syria. And pray with those brothers and sisters: come Lord Jesus!

Photo by Freedom House

When All You Can See Is How Bad Things Are

Lazarus of Bethany is dying.? In desperation his sisters Martha and Mary send for Jesus.

He may hesitate to come – the local religious leaders are seething with hatred for him – they’re watching for him with stones in hand – so the sisters don?t ask him directly, but appeal to his love for their brother ? “Lord, he whom you love is ill,” knowing Jesus would want to return to heal languishing Lazarus. But Jesus doesn?t come right away.

But when Jesus heard it he said, ?This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.? (John 11:4).

How can Jesus know this illness won?t lead to death? ?He isn?t there. ?He can?t see Lazarus writhing and groaning on his deathbed. He doesn’t see Martha mopping the sweat on her brother’s brow or Mary helping him take a few precious sips of water.

Jesus knows because he?s God. ?He knows all things, past, present and future. ?And he knows what he will do in the future. From Martha and Mary?s perspective, it looks desperate. ?But Jesus has a different perspective – a divine perspective: ?”This illness does not lead to death. ?It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through It.” ?Someday, something will lead to Lazarus? final death, but THIS illness won?t. This illness will lead to an opportunity to glorify God and glorify the Son of God.

God has a greater perspective than we do.

We might only be able to see how evil a situation is, how gut-wrenchingly sad and burdensome it is. ?And God doesn?t deny that. ?We live in a fallen world pervaded with heartbreak, devastation and death. ?It is sad. ?Jesus doesn?t refute that.

He doesn?t say, ?Oh, Lazarus isn?t that bad.? ?It?s just that Jesus, as God, sees a much more complete panorama than anyone else. ?He can see whole picture, the whole vista. ?He can see the future and knows what he is going to do. ?He?s going to take something evil – Lazarus? death – and turn it to God?s glory.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. ?(Romans 8:28)

For his children, God takes all things, including genuinely evil things – sickness, injustice, sin, hurt, divorce, depression, accidents, hunger, pain, poverty – and triumphs over them, causing them to bring us good. ?He takes poison and transforms it into a cure. ?He takes a crucifixion and transforms it into salvation for multitudes.

Jesus answered Martha and Mary?s request – not in the way they expected, but in a far greater way.

He could have come immediately and healed Lazarus, which would have been wonderful. ?But instead, by delaying, he glorified himself in a much greater way by raising Lazarus from the dead – a much more amazing miracle.? Jesus could answer your prayers immediately if he wanted to.? If he hasn’t he’s got something far greater in mind for you.

Trust him.? Wait for him.

photo by zaana

Listening To The Blues

I?ve noticed a pattern in my heart recently. At the end of the day, after work or preaching or even a day off filled with recreation, I find myself beginning to get just a touch ?blue? ? not a word you?ll find in your Bible, I know, but a good description. This isn?t depression or deep discouragement or hopelessness, but just a barely-present feeling of low-grade dissatisfaction with something, if I could just put my finger on it. It?s easier to describe it by what I notice is lacking: a zeal and an excitement to approach another day in God?s world. Instead, I?ve been feeling just a touch ?ho-hum.? Until this morning.

This morning the Lord spoke to me through the first two verses in Psalm 111. ?Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.? The phrase ?with my whole heart? grabbed me. I had begun my devotions asking the Lord to show me what was going on in my heart. I knew I needed help ?listening to the blues? – in other words, actually interpreting what this ?stuff? going on in my heart meant. When I read that verse I realized that, once again, my heart has been given over to other things recently ? good things, but things other than God Himself. And yet those good things can?t truly bring me life ? hence the blueness.

The more I thought about it and prayed, the more I realized how important ?listening to the blues? is for my soul. This isn?t an isolated experience for me, but something of a cycle. I begin to find my energy and zest for life not in the Lord, but in the things I do for the Lord: pastoring, preaching, studying, talking with people; or my personal pursuits:? hobbies, books, etc. The problem is none of those can really give life ? only the Lord can! And when they become my functional reason for living, no matter how subtle a shift that might be, they are bound to disappoint and leave me dissatisfied. If I just live with that dissatisfaction without listening to what it?s telling me, the ?blues? become like a low grade, untreated fever that never goes away.

So what?s the solution? Repent of hewing out cisterns that can?t hold water and come back to the God who is the fountain of living waters (Jer. 2:13)! This morning I was able to do that, and found my joy and life beginning to return. Will my day change outwardly all that much? Probably not. But inwardly, I?ve been reminded yet again that Jesus alone can provide abundant life. When my heart is inclined towards Him, everything else finds its proper meaning and place. When it?s leaning elsewhere for satisfaction, nothing can give my day meaning and purpose.

So do you know how to listen to the blues? Do you know how to listen to the music of your soul and trace the subtle trail of your heart?s affections? It?s not complicated. Whatever we find life, energy, and meaning from is what has our heart?s affections. Listening to the blues will tell you where those affections are set. The good news is that God is not out to squelch our affections or desires, but to be the fountain of living water that animates every other part of our life. Listen to your blues. Then listen to the One who offers life satisfaction at no cost:

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price? (Isaiah 55:1).

Two Steves, And What Really Matters

I was sad when Steve Jobs died two days ago.

It felt like the sadness when John Lennon was killed.?It?s funny, though most of us don?t know celebrities personally, we often feel a connection to them because we?ve enjoyed their work. ?They?ve contributed something to our lives and we’ll miss them.

But yesterday I couldn’t help but think of how many “unknown” Christians died the same day Steve Jobs did.

Missionaries who served for decades in obscurity. Little old Christian grandmas who quietly left this world from elderly care homes after devoting their lives to their families. Pastors we will never hear about in this life who labored faithfully week after week preaching the word of God. Faithful believers who loved and served who we’ll never know about in this life.

I thought of Carol, a godly Christian wife and mom who died recently after decades of being wheelchair bound and bed-ridden because of MS. I thought of John, a Christian husband and dad who cheerfully battled Lou Gehrig’s disease on his way to heaven.

I couldn’t help but think of my friend Steve Murphy.

Tomorrow it will be 2 years since he lost a battle with cancer and went home to be with the Lord. Steve lived his life for Jesus Christ. He was a pastor in our church for 10 years. He devoted himself to his wife and children. He loved and cared for God’s people. He was a real example of faith. He trusted God for many years through many trials, including his oldest son’s suffering as a result of a car accident.

I couldn?t help but think of the two Steves. ?And what matters.

Steve Jobs gained worldly acclaim, success and wealth.
Steve Murphy knew Christ and gained heaven.

Steve Jobs changed much about the world through his genius, from computers to music.
Steve Murphy changed lives for eternity.

Steve Jobs leaves us the legacy of Apple.
Steve Murphy left the legacy of a godly wife, believing children and hundreds of others he touched for Christ.

Steve Jobs received the praises of men.
Steve Murphy heard Jesus say, ?Well done, good and faithful servant.?

I know very little about Steve Jobs. So I don?t want to say he didn?t affect others for good apart from his work. He may have been a loving husband and father. ?He may have given away millions to charity.? He too may have left a wonderful legacy besides his work.

But thinking of the two Steves made me think of this passage:

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:26-27)

I want to leave a legacy like Steve Murphy.