Every Bubble, Babe

A while back Shannon and I attended a conference where John Piper said something to the effect of:

Sometimes I just stare at a glass of Diet Coke, at the fizz popping into the air. And I think about the fact that God is sovereignly in control of every bubble, which one goes up when and which one goes down. Sometimes I stare at a glass of Diet Coke and worship God. 

Now, my first disclaimer is that this is not a direct quote. My memory isn’t that good and I didn’t take notes. So I’m paraphrasing the idea. My second disclaimer is that I realize that many Christians have a different understanding of God’s sovereignty than Piper. The point of this post is not to defend the intricacies of his view necessarily. So, we can all simma down.

Rather, I want to point out how the fact of God’s sovereignty has been a comfort over the last year. Many take a robust view of God’s sovereignty to be an intrusion, a bore, a sledgehammer, an offense. But to me, this year particularly, knowing that stuff happens and God lets it happen and did not stop it from happening and controls it before, during, and after it happens has been honey on the tongue and cold water of the back of the throat on an August afternoon.

In the space of about 15 months, our family has faced potential medical crises on three continents, moved across the ocean and then across the country, been temporarily relocated for medical reasons twice, been lied about, cursed at, misunderstood, and a host of other everyday problems.

Yet two words keep us focused. Two words give us perspective. Two words wrap us up in a blanket of comfort. Two words remind us of the fundamental Fact of the universe:

Every bubble.

The God who controls every bubble in a glass of Diet Coke—deciding which bubble will dart left and which one will dive right and which one will cannonball  right next to the ice cube—is the God who handed us these difficulties.

And He is also the God who hands us His mercy. Mercy to comfort us in affliction. He’s the God who hands us His grace. Grace to endure. Grace to worship. He’s the God who entered into our suffering and suffered in our place.

It’s amazing the effect two words can have. I’m stressing out and Shannon will look over with that calm look in her eye and gently remind me, “every bubble, babe.” Shannon is texting me, worried about something with the kids’ health. It’s not the only thing I write, but at some point, I type these two words: every bubble. With those two words, calm comes. But these aren’t magic words. It is not an incantation. Rather, these two words point to something deeper, something truer than our circumstances.

We both know what it means. And we know what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean a cold lecture on the sovereignty of God. Nor, does it mean sentimental platitudes, such that you’d find written in pastel colors on a Hallmark card.

It means God is really in control of everything—including this present thing—that He is good, and He is to be trusted. No matter what.

I should also point out that God’s sovereignty is not only severe, which it can be, but is also joyful. I mentioned a host of difficulties that we’ve faced recently. But gratitude and honesty demand that I account for more than just the hardships. In His sovereign kindness God has given us many more joys than heartaches. We’ve welcomed a sweet baby girl into the world. Each medical crisis has been resolved. The great majority of folks we have met in Turkey and in our new city have been incredibly kind, helpful, and hospitable. We’ve made new friends. Half the year we get to see the sunset each evening over the Black Sea from our living room—blazing oranges, blood reds, and joyous yellows.

We have much to be thankful for and we have Someone to be thankful to: the God of every bubble.

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Shaping centuries

Fathers, you are future patriarchs.

You may be young. Your kids may be small. Getting the senior discount at Hardee’s may be the furthest thing from your mind. But if the creeks don’t rise, you will grow old.

Your grandfather and father will go the way of all the earth, just like their fathers before them. You will be left. Your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will look to you.

What will they see?

You will be their patriarch. Their leader. You will hand them a legacy. You are right now handing them a legacy.

What will you hand them? What do you want to hand them? What are you doing now to purposely build what you will hand them?

Every father, whether he realizes it or not is building a legacy. And thus, I am convinced that every father needs to parent with legacy in mind. Not a self-legacy focused on personal reputation, but a legacy of faith that will stretch generations.

We need to remember four things to parent with legacy in mind.

Family culture flows downstream. 

What you do today flows downstream to your decedents. Children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will all grow up and start families of their own.  They’ll become the patriarchs and matriarchs. And they’ll lead with what they learned from you. Decades after your death, they’ll be passing on what you gave them.

Legacies are built out of values.

Do you ever wonder what you will give them? Check your calendar, your attitude, the wear on your Bible, and your outgoing expenses. For good or ill, we will hand our children what we value. When I think about values, I try to imagine being 90 years old, sitting in a rocking chair on Christmas night, looking out over a gaggle kids of all ages and their parents and the wrapping paper strewn about like confetti after the Super Bowl. In that moment what will I think it important for all of them to value? I must value those things now.

So what do you value? Committed corporate worship or convenient cultural Christianity? Children being occupied or engaged? Gratitude or complaining? Prayer or worrying? Wonder or monotony? Sibling loyalty or sibling competition? Books, joy, song, generosity, dinner together?

Legacies are built one small decision at at time. 

Each day brings an opportunity to test our values. It is not enough to say we value something. We have to decide in accordance with those values. With every decision we either keep our values or transgress them.

So with every kiss on the cheek, every bedtime story, every time he opens his Bible, every drive to church, every time he talks to his wife, every tithe of his paycheck, every time he wets a fishing hook, every game of catch, every defeat, every mealtime, every morning his kid toddles in before wake time and catches him praying, and ten thousand other small moments a father is building a legacy.

He is also building—or destroying—a legacy with every angry word, every “just-one-minute,” every “I’ll-read-the-Bible-later,” every look at another woman, every complaint, every “get-your-mom-to-read-that-to-you,” and a myriad of other moments when he is tempted to abdicate.

When I coached football one of our mantras was, “Little things add up to big things.” In football, a little thing like a linebacker’s first two read steps can—over the course of four quarters—add up to enough tackles to win the game. So in a very real sense, what I do with my kids after dinner tonight (and each night) could go a long way toward the family culture that my grandchildren will inherit.

 Fathers are influential, but not determinative. 

One of the most fascinating facts of life is that every father has the opportunity to shape centuries. A father will hand a legacy to those who come after him. They in turn will shape those who come after them, and so on. However, it is a great comfort that the responsibility to shape the future is not determinatively in any earthly father’s hands. That responsibility lies safely in the hands of the perfect father, our Heavenly Father.

Additionally, our children are humans, not mathematical equations. No formula— for example,(x)input=(y)output—will work. However, our children are in fact humans, which means they will be influenced by their fathers. What we do is not neutral. We are called to raise them up in the nurture of the Lord.

For those who do not know their earthly father or else had a lousy one, it is a particularly good grace that fathers are not determinative. These men can take a the-buck-stops-here approach and set a new course for the family. After all, they are the future patriarchs.

For those of us who have been blessed with godly fathers, we are not so much building a legacy as much as we are building on to a legacy. But still, we are responsible to be good stewards of what has been passed to us. We are responsible to build.

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How are you intentionally building a legacy for those who will be born decades from now? What are they things you want to pass on to your great-grandchildren?

Here in the real world

I recently posted about the fundamental confession of Christians: Jesus is Lord.

I think Christians need to be reminded of this fact from time to time. Our hearts are prone to wander and our faces are prone to redden. Remembering that we live in the world that actually exists should set our compass to True North and our strengthen our weak knees.

I say the world that actually exists to make a stark contrast with the wish-worlds of our current culture-shapers. Worlds created in their own image. Worlds that do not recognize that Jesus is Lord. Worlds that deny evil and then have no other adequate word to describe ISIS. Worlds that have to borrow ideas and terms from Christianity even in order bash Christianity (e.g. hate, love, justice).

In the world that actually exists, Jesus is Lord and everything else falls in line.

But in the present, everything doesn’t often appear to be falling in line. So what is a faithful Christian to do when faced with everything from beheadings to state-sponsored lawsuits to everyday cool-shaming?

Remember that in the world that actually exists Jesus is Lord. What He says is good, is good. What He says is evil, is evil.

Just because God’s rivals tell alternate stories does not mean we have to believe them. We don’t have to play by their rules just because they insist we do.

Here in the real world (cue the Alan Jackson soundtrack): the apocalypse will not be ushered in on the bloody sands of Dabiq; calling something marriage doesn’t make it so any more than calling something with four equal sides a triangle doesn’t actually make it a triangle; and we still don’t have to answer a fool according to his folly, despite his attempts to make us blush.

Jesus is Lord. Therefore, we shall not fear. What can man do to us? History will be written by the One who speaks it. Stand for what Christ says is good. Stand against that which He says is evil. Let the chips fall where they may; after all, He’s the one flinging the chips.

Jesus is Lord. Therefore, we shall not be embarrassed by what He says. He says death entered the world by Adam, not by macro—or any other type of—evolution? I believe it. Call me small-minded, anti-intellectual, or ignoring “the science.” I’ll chuckle and have another sip of sweet tea. He says that marriage is between one man and one woman for life? I’m down. Call me a bigot or not able to get on with the times. I’ll smile and go kiss my wife. I won’t be embarrassed that God judged the Canaanites for their sin or that Jesus actually walked on water or that Revelation pictures Jesus on a white horse in the sky. The Bible is the authority for all of life.

Jesus is Lord. Therefore, we are free to love everyone. Jesus loves across races and so should we. Jesus loves across cultures and so should we. Jesus loves sinners—while they are still rebels—and so should we. Even if our love is met with hate, we are free to love. Because vengeance doesn’t belong to us (Romans 12:19), but to the One who reigns forever.

“The Lord reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.”—Psalm 96:10

Dancing unicorns eating Moon Pies

The fundamental confession of the Christian is this: Jesus is Lord.

Three simple words define everything. For if Jesus is Lord, he is Lord all the way up and and all the way down. “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).

All authority.

Jesus is Lord over every gluten-free vegan eatery in Brooklyn and every decidedly non-vegan grease pit looking up at the Mason-Dixon line. He is Lord over every corn field in Iowa and every mosque in London and every slum in southeast Asia. He is Lord over every self-appointed caliphate in the Middle East and every self-appointed apostle on TBN. He is Lord over every human who bears his image, which is to say, he is Lord over every human. He is Lord over every far-away galaxy NASA ever glimpsed with telescope lenses and every dust mote silently floating by your face this very moment. In fact, if God stopped speaking, both the galaxy and the dust mote would cease to exist.

Jesus is the Word of God and he holds all things together.

There is not one square inch, the Kuyperians remind us, over which Christ does not cry, Mine!

This is what we Christians confess to be true. As in really true, corresponding to reality and everything. Which brings us to another point: We believe in reality, an ultimate reality, a fixed reality, an absolute Truth: the Triune God. And God the Father has given all authority to God the Son—Jesus Christ—who will reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet, the last enemy being death itself (1 Corinthians 15:25-26).

Jesus is Lord.

This is the world that actually exists: The world where Jesus is Lord and he is reigning until all his enemies are trampled under foot. I know competing visions of reality are out there. Rival stories are being told. The prevailing secularism, for example, spins a narrative for sure, though I can’t say I find it that compelling of a story: “We came from nothing and are going nowhere!” No one would watch that movie, which is why it would probably win an Oscar.

Rival stories are told. But Christians know them to be myths. Myths of the worst kind—untrue and uninspiring. For instance, when I hear Darwinists talking of billions of years of red-toothed death, culminating in human beings who write symphonies and kiss babies, I see dancing unicorns eating Moon Pies. When religious men tell me to do enough good that will maybe, possibly outweigh my bad in the end, I see Icarus gliding toward the sun.

Myths.

Untrue, uninspiring, tragic myths.

Only one story truly exists. All the rest will fade away with the smoke rising from Gehenna.

Jesus is Lord and we must all come to grips with it. We will all fall in line. Knees will bow. Tongues will confess.

 

 

So that’s why you like Darius Rucker

If you look at the top of this here shiny new weblog you’ll see it’s titled Under Crescent Moons. This title is a tip of the ol’ hat to the two places in the world I have the pleasure of calling home. Although I am an overtly—or is is overly?—proud South Carolinian, I currently live in the Turkish Republic. The flags of both homes feature a crescent moon. The South Carolina flag’s crescent moon is rooted in the uniforms of Palmetto State soldiers in the Revolutionary War. The origin of the moon on Turkey’s national flag is disputed, but it is widely regarded as an insignia of the Turks and Islam.

My South Carolina roots have shaped who I am and how I see the world. That I am South Carolinian explains why I have deep affection for the ocean and mountains with blue ridges; why I like to drink sweet tea by the gallon; why I insist on saying “yes, ma’am” and “y’all;” why I say War Between the States to refer to the War of Northern Aggression; and why I like Darius Rucker.

My Turkish home is shaping who I am becoming. That I live in Turkey explains why I have a deep affection for the Black Sea; why I eat my sunflower seeds like one at a time; why I back up on the highway if I happen to miss my exit; why I drink hot tea in tiny tulip-shaped glasses; why I say “merhaba” and call most any guy my “older brother;” why I love hospitality and feel entirely comfortable staying overnight at the house of someone I just met; and why I am learning to value relationships and community at deeper levels than ever before.

The way I see the world, and thus, the way I write about it is shaped by both homes—their people, cultures, languages, religions, and values. The greatest shaper, however, is the One who spoke the moon into existence. It is He who ultimately shapes me and all things.

So I live—and write—under crescent moons, whose lands and peoples and Creator craft the life and story that I live.

So welcome to my new site.