Coming Undone

In late October 2006 I was approaching the middle of my 4th year at the University of Tennessee. Having just finished another stint as Rush Chairman of the fraternity, I had led or co-led the recruitment of every pledge class underneath me. With natural leadership gifts, Rush Chairman was a good fit. I was good at talking to people, and with the added bonus of fraternity money to throw the rush parties it was a no brainer. But by October 2006 I was spent. Worse, I was devastated, barely able to leave my room. Up to that point most people around me wouldn’t have known anything was wrong, but three years of panic anxiety had run me into the ground… a long time socialite turned recluse, on the brink of despair. The reality is that things had been heading this direction for a long time, but I was finally coming undone.

How did I get to that point? One sin at a time.

As a kid my life revolved around sports, church, and school, probably in that order. I was very involved in my youth group and a regular in the worship service on Sunday mornings. We are all sinners and I was certainly no exception, but my coaches, pastors, and teachers would have considered me a pretty good kid through middle school into early high school. That said, during middle school I began to decidedly move away from God. It was the late 90s, the internet was relatively new, and parental controls were relatively absent. My first experience with pornography was in 7th grade at age 12, and regular, almost daily involvement continued into my early 20s. It was the first addiction of many. AOL instant messenger was the primary way that my peers communicated with one another… texting before there was texting. Frequent immersion in internet pornography combined with increased opportunity for communication with the opposite sex – communication without the healthy constraint that face-to-face interaction provides – created the perfect environment for my sin to fester and flourish. Of course, in today’s world if your first brush with porn is in 7th grade, you are a late bloomer. And with smartphones and social media, we are well past inappropriate instant messages. We are facing an epidemic that, apart from God’s intervening grace, will bring devastating consequences for generations to come, the likes of which we can hardly imagine (and wouldn’t believe even if we could). Personally, what seemed to me to be a hidden and relatively small drift into sexual sin, was in reality a rushing current. Looking back, sin is like that river that almost killed me.

One of my best friends in college was a guy named Paul. Now again, I was an athlete growing up, but mostly a city boy… baseball, football, basketball, and golf. That, in additional to the occasional water sport and ski slope, was about as adventurous as it got. Paul, on the other hand, was a mountaineering nature photographer who once climbed an ice covered mountain with a team in Alaska (for a month!), then stayed an extra week (by himself!) in order to photograph grizzly bears. One day Paul asked me if I would like to learn how to white water kayak, which I assumed would be no big deal, which was dumb. In order to get our bearings we started in a section of the river that looked clear as glass, with no discernible movement whatsoever. Embarrassingly, within 5 seconds of putting out from the shore I had to learn how to eject from the kayak while underwater, because it tipped over. Then, when trying to stand up, the undercurrent – which remember, could not be seen on the surface – ripped my feet out from under me and sent me down my first rapid with no boat.

Sin is like that river. It seems safe to toy around with, but in reality it is a force that takes over and takes you places on the path of destruction that you never dreamed possible. And it does not discriminate. Sin is like cancer in that while it may start to grow in one location, it delights to spread its influence and effects all over.

It was the summer of 2003, about a month after high school graduation and a month before I was to head east from Memphis to UT Knoxville. In only a few years sin had dragged me far away from the athlete church kid of my upbringing. I had quit playing sports, except golf, because a) I didn’t have to answer to anyone else, and b) it was the only sport where I could continue to get trashed all the time and still perform somewhat decently. I hadn’t been in church much at all during the last 2 or 3 years in high school, doing what I had to do to get by in class and get into college. In the main my life was one long party, and frankly, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. That said, things were about to change.

One night that summer, a friend and I were smoking weed and playing PlayStation – Tiger Woods golf I believe – a relatively low-key evening that would have normally put me home before midnight. But an acquaintance of his dropped by and asked if we wanted to help him do an 8ball of cocaine, for free. For those that don’t know, cocaine is expensive and an 8ball is quite a bit. I had been snorting coke regularly for about 6 months, so it was a no brainer. A few hours later, in the middle of the night, while driving my friend to wherever he was going, my heart felt like it drop-kicked the inner wall of my chest cavity. It immediately took my breath away to the point that I slammed on the breaks and put the car in park in the middle of one of the main streets that cuts through the middle of Memphis. I could hardly breathe, much less talk. We switched seats and my friend drove me straight to the hospital. Upon arrival, I threw myself on the check-in counter and somehow communicated that I was having a heart attack. The nurses got me back immediately and the doctor – aware that drugs were involved and not overly sympathetic to that fact – told me not to “croak” or he would have to tell my mom what I had done. For 6-8 hours I had those sticky things on my swollen chest as my heart rate was consistently above 200 beats per minute. That was the end. I was sure of it. My mom was by my side crying, but I told her she had to be strong because when she cried it made me feel even more like I was going to die. I was terrified, and not only because I was sure I was going to die, but primarily because I knew I was about to meet God and he and I were not OK.

A night like that should be enough to put you on the straight and narrow. If sin were not so powerful and so stupid, that would have been the case. It did change my life, but not in the ways you might think. Although I never did cocaine again, it didn’t slow down the party one iota. In reality, the pace only quickened when I got to college. But due to the trauma of that night I developed what they call severe anxiety disorder. So for the next three years I experienced regular, often daily, panic attacks. A clinical panic attack is a sort of out of body experience that involves symptoms very similar to those I experienced the night I overdosed… chest tightness and pain, pounding/racing/skipping heartbeat, loss of breath, and ultimately a very real sense that this is the moment I am about to die. The main difference is that a typical panic attack will usually last around a half hour, whereas the visit to the hospital was an all night affair. Even so, a panic attack is a terrible experience and I was having a whole lot of them. On the outside I was the Rush Chairman party guy, while on the inside I was living in continual chaos. Coming undone.

In the perfect providence of God, it all came to a head that Knoxville fall evening in October 2006. The constant anxiety had led me to be spending a lot more time by myself, which I never would have done entering college. That night I went to watch a couple buddies play in a flag football game. I was sober and had been that way for a few weeks. Unfortunately, the effort to clean my life up had only led to more internal chaos and more emptiness. I remember that night like it was yesterday. As I was standing by myself, trying to watch the game, it was as if the spindles of my mind were reeling, the rope fraying. I was looking out at the game but could not process what was happening in front of me. I was losing it and that was terrifying. Of the hundreds of panic attack I had experienced to that point. this was easily one of the worst. Desperate, I jumped in my truck and called the person who had been my refuge during those years of breakdown – my dad. He wouldn’t have been a fool to think I was suicidal. I was completely helpless and something had to give.

How did he respond? What happened with me?

Coming soon!

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:27-28

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7

Missed Calls, Ongoing Injustice, and The Day of Restoration

That, friends, is one of the worst missed calls in the history of sports, the latest black mark on the increasingly inept NFL. If you are out of the loop, this play took place with less than two minutes left in the NFC Championship game between the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams, a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. The score was tied, the Saints driving toward the end zone. It was 3rd and 10, the defender (in white) was beat, and as the picture shows he hit the receiver (in black) well before the ball arrived. It is a classic case of pass interference (not to mention face-guarding and helmet to helmet). If the interference is called, the Saints get the ball inside the 5 yard line, 1st and 10, with an opportunity to run the clock down to just a few seconds, kick a short field goal, and celebrate with their hometown fans that they are going to the Super Bowl! I don’t know the official statistics on how often a team in that situation wins the game, but I guarantee you it is well over 99% of the time. All they would have to do is take a knee 3 times and kick a chip shot field goal on the way to victory. Not to be. Even though there were two officials within just a few yards of the play, both staring at this scene in real time, they completely missed it. Again, one of the worst missed calls in any sport in the history of sport.

My cards on the table. I am a life long sports fan who roots for the Saints. I am not a life long Saints fan, but I was living in Saints country (in Bay Saint Louis, MS – about an hour from New Orleans) when the Saints won the Super Bowl. My wife and I had moved down to help in the aftermath of Katrina, and like so many other transplants we gladly jumped on the band wagon. It is hard to explain the impact the Saints have had on the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast communities post-Katrina. Wright Thompson explained as well as anyone…

Because of my experience, I have probably thought about The Missed Call more than the average observer. I’m sure there are quite a few Chiefs’ fans, for instance, who said something like, “Yeah, that was bad. We lost too. Sorry, not sorry.” Not so easy for Saints fans, and how much more difficult for the Saints organization and their families. Take Ben Watson, the Saints’ tight end. This is not just a game for Watson. It is his work, his livelihood, his career. Not only that, but a few weeks ago Watson announced that he would retire at the end of the season in order to be at home for his growing family. The week of the NFC Championship Watson came down with appendicitis and had to miss the game. This is not only the way his season ended. This is the way his career ended. It’s one thing to go out on a loss. Most guys have to end their career that way. But Watson is left grieving injustice.

Now some will want to stop reading after those last two words, but hear me out. I am not trying to equate the grief of the Saints with the the greater grief of, for example, the loss of a loved one. But there are varying levels of grief and the grief of the Saints is grief of a kind. Likewise, I am not trying to compare the wrong done to the Saints with, for example, the greater injustice done by our United States government in conjunction with Planned Parenthood. Last year, our government paid Planned Parenthood almost $563,000,000 so that the organization could continue its death march, killing 332,757 human beings. That’s nearly 1,000 murders per day and this has been their norm for years. Of course, the injustice done the Saints is nothing like this, but it is injustice of a kind.

Still don’t think so? Let’s change the scenario. Let’s say you are a regional sales rep and last year your company offered a $100,000 bonus to the highest performing regional rep in the country. The numbers were publicly displayed each month throughout the year, so as to motivate and drive healthy competition. You have been the highest performing rep all year, and in recent months you were clearing second place by $1,000,000 easy. The final numbers reflect the same. You are the clear winner and everyone can see it plain as day. That said, to the shock of everyone involved, at the end of the year banquet the 2nd place rep’s name is called to receive the reward. Chatter can be heard throughout the room. All you can do is offer a red-faced laugh because this must be some kind of bad joke. Not to be. The night ends and the $100,000 was given to the wrong person. Immediately following the event, you pull your boss aside and point out the error. He sees it too. Monday morning you are on a conference call with the executive board of the company and they see it as well. They say they are very sorry and promise that next year they will make an effort to do a better job. What!? Next year!? How about calling ole boy in 2nd place and getting my money!? Not just a game anymore is it?

This is exactly what the NFL has said. They are going to look into changing the rule so that pass interference calls are reviewable by video. For the future. This is completely insane and it is just plain wrong. What about The Missed Call? Is this some kind of joke? I hear all these analysts saying they don’t want to take anything away from the Rams because they played a great game. I agree. They did play a great game. Almost good enough to win. But who freakin cares? Good teams lose every year at this point in the season. The Rams did not do enough to win the game. The Saints did. It really is as simple as that. One of you brainiacs run the stats. How often does the team with a chance to down the ball, run out the clock, and kick a field goal under 30 yards win the game? It’s a complete sham.

And here’s the deal. The bosses at your company had the power to call Mr. 2nd Place and get your money back. And the NFL has a rule in place to protect from something like this. The commissioner has the authority to make the right call… Note, he can choose whether to replay the entire game or to go back, make the right call, and replay the game from that point forward. Know how that would work out? Three downs and a Saints field goal. But you know what? The author of the article is right. There is no way he is going to do this. People say, “can you imagine the can of worms this would open?” Give me a break! Leaders have to make hard decisions all the time. Doing the right thing is not always popular. But there are a whole lot of people under your authority who are counting on you not to be a coward when the going gets tough.

This is injustice, plain and simple. It is not the greatest injustice, but injustice nonetheless. Unfortunately, we live in a world full of it. That is why this event will continue to linger. Because it does not stand in isolation. It speaks to the reality that this world is badly broken; shines light on the fact that this sort of thing happens all the damn time. Some of the wrongs done are smaller than this, some are much bigger. It all reveals the heartbreaking fact that things are not as they should be.

But here is the good news. There will come a day when injustice is no more. There will come a day when there is no more wrong done. In and through Jesus, all things will be fully and finally put right in the end.

19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.

Acts 3:19-21

Here’s the deal. God created us and in so doing he required us to live according to his standard of holy perfection. Yet we have all done the wrong thing. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. This is why we all die. But that is not all. Our sin separated us from God, making us his enemies. And God is Just. He doesn’t miss calls. We will all stand before God when we die and give an account for our life. If you stand there on your own merits you will be punished by the Just Judge for your unholy, unrighteous, unjust life, and that will be the right thing. That said, there is a way for the demands of God’s justice to be satisfied and for you to go free. Jesus, the Son of God, lived a perfectly holy life. Yet he went to the cross to die under the just judgement of God as a substitute for his people. Jesus took the punishment we deserve. He then rose from the dead and went back to heaven, where he now resides “until the time for restoring all things.” Not only did Jesus come to save sinful humanity, he came to make all things right, all things good, all things new.

What should we do with this information? We should repent, turning to Jesus, believing that he came to save us from our sin. And we should look up from our griefs and look ahead from the next injustice, rejoicing with hope that because of Jesus all things will be right in the end.

Honoring My Dad

“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.

Ephesians 6:2-3

You might guess that the 3 men in the picture are related. From left to right, that’s me (Chris), my brother (Tyler), and our dad (Chuck). This was taken at Tyler’s wedding 3 years back, and though wedding pictures can be laborious I assure you those are not forced smiles. For the last 10+ years the 3 of us have lived in different cities and we delight in one another’s company. Even more, we rejoice and marvel at what God has done in our family.

Dad turned 60 this week. He and Mom have been married for 35 years, and I feel confident in speaking for my brother when I say that Dad is our hero. He has loved Mom faithfully, worked with integrity, loved us consistently. Someone recently asked on Twitter for everyone to name their ten spiritual heroes and while the temptation was there to name someone famous, it didn’t take me long to settle on the fact that my #1 is my dad. I realize this is not everyone’s lot in life. It is not hard for me to honor my dad, but for many it would be nearly impossible to honor theirs. This makes me more thankful for the hand that I have been dealt and helps me find more compassion for those with a different one. 

As we spoke this week, Dad and I were overwhelmed with gratitude for the life that God has given us. We were stopped in our tracks and I was brought to my knees in thinking of how the Lord has turned things around in our family over the last many years. Fifteen years ago I was in my freshman year of college, my brother in his freshman year of high school. We were only a couple months removed from Tyler receiving felony charges of arson and me nearly losing my life to an overdose on cocaine, all in the same summer. My parents’ marriage was understandably under duress, their Christian faith being tried in the flames of rebellious children. They were in survival mode, not sure if we would all make it through. 

Fast forward to today. Mom and Dad are moving from NW Arkansas to Nashville as we speak, for a job opportunity that puts Dad one step closer to retirement and a whole lot closer to family. I am a pastor in a God-fearing church in suburban Memphis, with a Jesus-loving wife and 4 wonderful children. Tyler is a Christian business owner in Nashville, expecting his first child with his lovely wife who he met while they were serving together as missionaries to SE Asia. There are some remarkable stories to be told about how we got from teenage idiots to decent men, but those will have to wait for another time. The summary is this: God’s grace is amazing. We were dead in our sins but he made us alive in Christ. And humanly speaking, Tyler and I would both tell you that in bringing us to new life in Christ, God used no one more than our dad. He was certainly not perfect, but he loved us well even when we were unlovable. He imitated the love and grace and mercy and forgiveness of Jesus that eventually brought us to Jesus himself. And as we have been finding our footing as young Christian men, Dad has served as a great example of the kind of man we both want to be. 

A couple takeaways:

1- No matter how dark things get in your life, do not underestimate the power of God’s grace. Turn to Jesus. Confess your sins to him; he is faithful to forgive you and cleanse you of all unrighteousness. Trust the Lord in plenty and in want, give thanks in all circumstances, and look ahead with expectant faith to what God will do. And even if your appointed trial takes you into the grave, our hope is in glory. The joys of healing and restoration that our family has experienced is only a foretaste of the full healing and restoration that awaits every single one of God’s people on the other side of the grave. 

2- It is not too late to repent… to turn from your sin to God in order to receive his grace in forgiveness and be empowered by his grace for change. In God’s strength, you can take up the responsibilities he has assigned to you and work those responsibilities in a way that brings blessing to all involved.  My dad did not even become a Christian until Tyler and I were already born and for much of our childhood he was just learning the ropes of the Christian life, stumbling forward in the path of God’s grace.

And even if you are much older… a few years ago, Dad and I went to a conference together where he was terribly convicted about his passivity as a father, particularly when Tyler and I were in high rebellion. Even then, we were able to rest and rejoice in God’s kindness to us together. God’s grace always out punts our coverage.

3- As Douglas Wilson said in his book, Reforming Marriage, men cannot help but be dominant. Take fathers, for example. A father who leaves his wife and children to pursue the pleasures of this world will dominate his home even in his absence. His absence will dominate. Likewise, a harsh father’s harshness will dominate as everyone walks around on eggshells, and a passive father’s passivity will dominate as things come unraveled. But so too will a faithful father’s faithfulness.

Men, do not underestimate the power of a humble, faithful life. Walk with God. Love your wife. Lead your children. Confess your sin often. Work hard. Work with integrity. Love all those that the Lord puts in your path. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances. Be strong in the Lord and the strength of his might. Own the responsibilities that the Lord has given to you and work them with a glad and sacrificial heart. Of course, all of this is only possible by God’s grace, but take heart because his grace is in abundant supply and he delights to give it. In addition, the fruit of God’s grace is much more than we know how to ask for or imagine. 


Work and Fight

In the book of Nehemiah, God’s people had just come back from 70 years in captivity in Babylon and had been commissioned to rebuild Jerusalem. In chapter 4, we get an up close look at the work of rebuilding the city wall in Jerusalem, which included enemy opposition to the work…

 Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” 

Nonetheless, the people of God were not deterred. They prayed to God for his protection (v4-5), and they got to work (v6)…

So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

And not only did they work, they fought. They had fight in their prayers (v4-5), fight in their hands (v17) and fight on their hips (v18)…

15 When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. 16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, 17 who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. 

There is much to learn here for the Christian church in our day. Of course, we too must have a mind to work, whether in terms of our vocation (Colossians 3:23) or the working out of our salvation (Philippians 2:12-13). And while the weapons of our warfare are not swords and shields, we too must fight (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). In fact, just as work is a part of God’s very good design for the world, so too is warfare.

Author N.D. Wilson pointed out somewhere that in Genesis 3, before sin ever entered the world, God assigned Adam a fight. The very presence of the serpent in the Garden of Eden teaches us that Adam was to fight Satan by fighting for his wife and fighting the temptation to sin. Of course, Adam failed on all fronts. He passively stood by as Satan deceived Eve, and gave into temptation himself (Genesis 3:1-6).

The gospel is that Jesus did not fail as Adam failed. He fought Satan, sin, and death, and he won. And when we come to Christ, not only do we receive the salvation that he fought for, we learn how to fight like our Lord.

The point I want to make here is very simple… it is that Christians must learn to love and embrace the fight. In the same way that we would argue for the inherent goodness of work because of the fact that it is a part of God’s very good, pre-fall design for the world (Genesis 1:28, 2:15), so too we must embrace the inherent goodness of fighting the enemies God assigns.

  • We must fight for the truth, which involves fighting those both outside and inside the church.
  • We must fight personal sin, whether passivity or lustful passion, bitterness or boasting, covetousness or cowardice. Whatever sin the Lord exposes in us, we must fight to kill.
  • We must fight for the biblical vision of marriage and the family, which not only involves opposing the lies in the culture, but also, even primarily in my case, involves loving and shepherding the wife and children the Lord has entrusted to me.
  • Such leadership certainly involves fighting my own sin, but it also involves fighting the sin in my wife and children as I seek to lead them in obedience to the Lord on the path to glory.
  • We need elders who will fight for the sheep, which sometimes involves fighting the sheep themselves in order to bring them back into the fold.
  • We must fight to break the chains of injustice.

On and on it goes. As Christians, we must fight.

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

I am one of the many millions of American Christians who have been closely  and favorably following your Presidency. However, while this may not be unusual for most of “the many” it is a bit unusual for me. For one, I did not vote for you. It should be said that neither did I vote for Hillary, nor would I vote for a Democrat (for various reasons including the fact that as a party they hate and oppose God’s will for marriage and human life). That said, even with my opposition to the left, I did not vote for you because I did not trust your character. I had no reason to believe that you were going to be anything other than another lying, left-leaning, limp-spined Republican, and to be honest I thought you had the potential to be a whole lot worse. By the way, you still do have that potential, although to this point I have been pleasantly surprised.

Thus far I have regularly been thankful to God for your Presidency. It is astounding to think that with a couple strong decisions you could be remembered as the most pro-life President to date. Add to that the fact that God has used you to expose the rotten underbelly of the left, and though I have cringed at many things you have said, and differ with you plenty, I am regularly thankful for what you are doing.

All that to get to the real reason why I am writing. Mr. President, I want to respectfully warn you. This morning, I was reading the book of Daniel in the Bible, and I came across these passages in chapter 4:

King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.

How great are his signs,
    how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and his dominion endures from generation to generation.                                                   (Daniel 4:1-3)


28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.

34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,

for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
    and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
    and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
    or say to him, “What have you done?”

36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.                                                                                        (Daniel 4:28-37)


A bit of the story… Nebuchadnezzar, the king of mighty Babylon, was the most powerful ruler in the world. He was the leader of the great world power of his time.  Nebuchadnezzar was a pagan who cared nothing about God, but had come to praise God (as recorded in vs1-3) in response to seeing God at work all around him. For example, at the end of chapter 3 God delivered Daniel’s friends (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) from the fiery furnace.

Mr. President, you are a lot like Nebuchadnezzar. You are the most powerful leader in the world. But also, up to the point of your Presidency you have cared nothing about God. Yet God is at work all around you. He has surrounded you with some of his people in order to bring himself to your attention. At times you have responded favorably, much like Nebuchadnezzar did at the beginning of Daniel 4. You have been a friend and advocate for God’s people and have even openly bowed before God himself  (It was a pleasure to see you bow in prayer with Pastor Andrew Brunson upon his release). Like you, Nebuchadnezzar was paying attention. He noticed God at work. He even confessed the fact that although he was the most powerful leader in the world, only God has absolute sovereignty (v3). Yet about a year later, he had long forgotten his own confession… “He walked out on the roof of the royal palace and said, ‘Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?’ While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar… the kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts… until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” This is where the warning comes in.

Mr. President, all of the power that you possess and all of the good that you have done with that power… it has all come from God. He alone rules the kingdom of men and gives power and influence to whom he will. Nebuchadnezzar knew that at one point, but it didn’t stick. At least not until he was devastatingly humbled (vs31-33). The prosperity of his nation and the power of his influence were too intoxicating. They were also fleeting. His pride cost him the power and influence he was so enamored with.

It should also be noted that Belshazzar, the ruler in Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar, had a similar pride (chapter 5). Unfortunately, God was not as gracious with Belshazzar as he was with Nebuchadnezzar. God responded to Belshazzar’s pride by not only humbling him to the point of death, but also humbling the mighty Babylon to the point that they were no longer the great world power. They were overtaken by the Medo-Persians.

Mr. President, for God’s glory, for your own good, and for the good of this nation, please do not fall into the same trap of pride. I am of the opinion that the purported “blue wave” at the midterms could die before it hits land. We may even see a red hurricane instead. In large part, that would be because of the way that God has used you to expose the wretchedness of the left, just in the nick of time. But do not forget that it all comes from God. Do not look out from your palace and consider all of your mighty works. Instead, bow yourself before the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who alone rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. Praise him for who he is. Thank him for who he has made you to be. And ask for his wisdom to serve him where he has assigned you. Again and again and again, humble yourself before him. In Jesus name, amen.

Respectfully in Christ,

Chris Leuck

Discipleship at the Movies – Frozen

Most people with little girls in the house have at least heard of the movie Frozen. My 4 year old daughter (and six year old son) have watched it a number of times, as have I. Christians are all over the map with movies for our children… I have friends who wouldn’t let their children watch a Disney movie for anything, and I have friends who seemingly would let their children watch anything. We are somewhere in-between. There are many things Tiffany and I will try to keep our children from while we still can, but Frozen is a good example of a movie that is worth watching, though it should not be watched mindlessly.

The most famous song in the movie is called “Let it Go” and if your kids watch the movie there is little doubt that they will end up singing along. As parents, it is our responsibility to help them understand what they are singing, and to help place the song in the narrative… Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). The two Greek words translated as discipline and instruction here are paideia and nouthesia. Paideia is an overarching, all of life process of enculturation. Paul says parents (with the fathers in the lead) are to raise their children in the enculturation of the Lord. Nouthesia has to do with teaching or counseling. This process of enculturation is driven by parental instruction in the truth in all areas of life.

Let it Go is relatively early in the movie in a scene that is captivating with beauty and special effects. It is meant to draw the children in, but they are not yet mature enough to understand the context, which is necessary to rightly understand the song. Let it Go is Elsa’s anthem to her rebellion. Having frozen her town solid, Elsa is trying to run from her problems and run from her responsibilities as Queen by isolating herself and leaving everyone else to fend for themselves. She doesn’t know it at the time, but she is deeply confused. She is running further into her bondage, though she thinks she is on her way to freedon (there are obvious parallels here in terms of the false promises of sin). This is the context and here are some of the lyrics…

… A kingdom of isolation

and it looks like I’m the queen…

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside

Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I’ve tried

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see

Be the good girl you always have to be

Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know

Well now they know

Let it go, Let it go

Can’t hold it back anymore

Let it go, Let it go

Turn away and slam the door

I don’t care what they’re going to say

Let the storm rage on…

… It’s time to see what I can do

To test the limits and break through

No right, no wrong, no rules for me

I’m free

Let it go…

Elsa is lamenting being the good girl that she always has to be because of the expectations placed on her by others, and she is done hiding the storm that has been raging inside of her, so she is going to let it all out. Who cares what they say!? It’s time to let it all out and see what she can do, to test the limits and have her breakthrough. No more right, no more wrong, no more rules, now she is free. Just let it all go.

Bet you didn’t know that’s what your kids were singing.

In order to know we have to pay attention and then we have to take up the hard work of instruction in the truth. In this scene (and throughout much of the movie) Elsa is believing the lies that are oh so prevalent in our world today. Imagine a teenager coming out of the closet as homosexual or a teenage girl that is going to start sleeping with her boyfriend. This song took the words right out of their mouth. And just like Elsa, rather than finding their true freedom they finds heartache and destruction, for themselves and for those around them. Sin leads to breakdown.

There is much to commend in the narrative of Frozen. In fact, if you watch to the end, Anna’s sacrifice is a good springboard for teaching the love and sacrifice of Jesus. But we have to understand where we are in the story, and teach accordingly.



Red Light, Yellow Light

O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD.” – Isaiah 2:5

Not too long ago I pulled up to a blinking yellow light where everyone was treating it as a 4-way stop. Three or four cars deep on all sides, everyone was being very nice and orderly – one after the other – and to my astonishment they were all working very well together. Only one problem… it was a blinking yellow!  So what did I do? When the car in front of me went, instead of waiting for the next 3 cars to go, I went too. Because it was a blinking yellow, not a blinking red. What a joy it was to break up the party! As I pulled away from this lunch-time extravaganza, I watched in my rearview mirror as a portion of the line followers snapped out of their hypnotic gaze, realizing what was going on, and began treating the blinking yellow as it is meant to be treated. The only problem being, of course, that not everyone was on the same page. I’m sure they figured it out.

This fun little illustration offers a few lessons for Christians in our day:

1- We live in a world where it is becoming the norm to stop at a blinking yellow, so to speak. When truth is what makes you happy, or what seems to be working best at the time, the “truth” is bound to always be changing. But, of course, as Francis Schaeffer said somewhere, “no matter what a man may believe he cannot change the reality of what is.” In other words, the truth is a fixed given. The truth never changes, no matter what you believe and no matter what seems like it might work best at the time. Blinking yellow still means proceed with caution even when everyone else is treating it like it is a 4-way stop and, more importantly, every jot and tittle of God’s word is still true, no matter what is happening all around us.

2- When everyone is stopping at a blinking yellow it is quite disruptive to all of a sudden begin proceeding with caution, even though that is exactly what you are supposed to be doing. In other words, obedience to the truth is going to grow more disruptive in your family, at school, on the sports team, in the youth group, at church, at work, in your friend group, and beyond. As people all around us grow more accustomed to living according to lies, it goes without saying that living according to the truth is going to stand out a bit. And though this may be a bit uncomfortable for us, it is actually a great blessing for the world around us… “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

3- We  cannot be afraid to point out the fact that blinking yellow means proceed with caution. However, I should warn you to be careful… it is one thing to obey the truth for yourself, but when you start saying the truth out loud, acting like it is binding for all people (which it most certainly is), people can get out of sorts.

4- Enjoy yourself. It really was a delight to break up that stoplight party (or maybe I started the party). I was doing the right thing. And it was quite amusing to watch everyone try to figure out what was going on. On the other hand, sin is not funny. It is not funny to see sin’s destruction in the world or in your life or in the lives of those you love. But it really is a delight to walk in God’s ways… “The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart” (Psalm 19:8). So thank God for his grace, thank him for his commands, walk accordingly and enjoy yourself.


The Courage of Rosaria and the Death of the PCA

Quick! What is the first word that comes to mind when you look at this picture of Rosaria Butterfield? If you are not familiar with Rosaria maybe the word is motherly or kind or even dignified. If you are familiar with Rosaria and count her an enemy, maybe it’s traitor or worse. But if like me, you are deeply thankful for the way God is using Rosaria in our day, you might say bold or courageous. I have read Rosaria’s books, spent time with her over dinner (along with our church staff), listened to her speak in person and through the media. The more I read and the more I hear the more I understand that this motherly, kind, dignified sister in Christ is indeed full of boldness and courage. She speaks with clarity in the face of opposition. This recent address surrounding the devastation of the Revoice Conference is case in point… .

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). The lack of swift and clear opposition to the Revoice Tragedy is evidence of a void of the boldness and courage that Rosaria embodies. Thankfully, there are PCA ministers here and there who are opposing Revoice and I’m sure there are many more who are doing the same in their local churches (as my pastor has done). That said, the truth remains that no matter how one wants to chop it up this was essentially a PCA conference. I know, I know. It was not technically a PCA conference, just as Covenant Seminary did not technically sponsor it. But it was hosted in a PCA church and Covenant did send one if its own to speak (Jay Sklar). If there is any understanding of covenant responsibility before God, then the PCA and its flagship seminary must own the fact that this was theirs, and repent.

For a slice of the muddled confusion of Greg Johnson (Lead Pastor of Memorial Pres, PCA, who hosted Revoice), start the following interview at 21:00 and run it to 24:00… I don’t yet fully understand how PCA government works, but isn’t this enough to discipline Greg Johnson? And I don’t mean punish, I mean discipline… lovingly rebuke and correct and admonish according to the word of God, and if he is unwilling or unable to repent of his lack of understanding in regard to original sin, the sinfulness of sin and the nature of repentance (of course, along with his embrace of gay identity and effeminacy), then for the love and care of the church of God, remove him from his shepherding post. I’m sure there are a number of hoops to jump through along the way, but it should be pretty straightforward. Hopefully, surely, these wheels are already in motion behind closed doors in his Missouri Presbytery and across the denomination as a whole. That said, these efforts should not remain behind closed doors.

I am reminded of Spurgeon’s quote of John Angell James… “When a preacher of righteousness has stood in the way of sinners, he should never again open his lips in the great congregation until his repentance is as notorious as his sin” (Lectures to My Students pp13-14). Greg Johnson (and by covenant association, the PCA) is not only standing in the way of at least 400 sinners (those who attended this conference), but is leading them into the outer darkness. He is proclaiming peace where there is no peace to be found. And this conference is getting a lot of airtime, meaning that it has now reached thousands upon thousands more than those 400 who bought tickets. This needs to be covenantally owned, repented of, and disciplined by the PCA out in the open. Let the repentance be more notorious than the sin. To renounce this in 50 years is going to be too little too late.

I do not write this as one who is out to get the PCA, just the opposite. For many years I have been involved with the PCA am thankful for her influence in my life. I was raised in a non-denominational church (and now serve in that same church) that has been pastored by a PCA minister for almost 30 years. When I was converted in college, it was the RUF minister at my school, along with my former youth pastor (himself a PCA minister) that I contacted first. The latter married my wife and I. After we got married, I worked in a PCA church plant on the MS Gulf Coast that was started in response to Hurricane Katrina. While there I was trained through RYM Youth Leader Training, a ministry of the PCA. Currently, I am an online student at RTS and am “under care” of Covenant Presbytery, PCA.

Neither do I write this as one who hates homosexuals. Though I may not understand their specific temptations and sins, I do indeed understand that the internal bent toward sexual sin can be deep and lasting. But I also know that the only true and lasting freedom is in Christ, by the power of his Spirit, according to his commands. It is precisely for the love of Jesus and for the love of homosexuals that the church has to get this right. In fact, if we give permission (to professing Christians who are tempted homosexually) to keep any of the “old man” lying around, we are hating them not loving them.

Back to Rosaria. After listening to Greg Johnson’s confusion, go back and listen to Rosaria’s clarity… (from 17:00 until 20:30). In fact, it would be helpful to listen to the whole thing. May God raise up shepherds in his church, in every denomination, that speak with this kind of boldness and courage… clarity in the face of opposition. As for the death of the PCA, it will come in one of two ways: either in the form of death and resurrection through repentance and faith, leading to future generations of fruitful life, or in the form of death alone, somewhere along the path of cultural accommodation where she now finds herself.

Family Devotions, a Cussing Pastor, and an Unlikely Servant

Here are links to a few articles that I recently ran across and found helpful and/or encouraging…

  1. Mary Lee Bayly, wife of pastor Tim Bayly, on the goodness, necessity, and workability of family devotions… I do not recommend this post as one who has it nailed, but as one who is convinced Mary Lee is right.
  2. Pastor Toby Sumpter defending his use of obscene language in a recent blog post… Some important distinctions and helpful insight.
  3. A very encouraging read about God’s work in Chicago through an unlikely servant…

Mars Hill Music

Mark Driscoll and the former Mars Hill Church in Seattle were very formative in the first few years of my Christian life. Though I cannot speak to the quality of Pastor Mark’s more recent sermons (because I haven’t listened to him in a few years), some of the older stuff was foundational to who I am today. HERE is an archive of Pastor Mark’s sermons. And even though Mars Hill shut down, some of their music is still accessible at

HERE is one of my favorites.