Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled



Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled



I remember it so clearly — a memory you can only remember so clearly when it is from sadness. You can’t let it go.


I was sitting in the mud by the rear passenger side tire of my old Acura cradling my one year old in the steady, driving rain. I was sobbing doing my best not to fall apart in front of my little girl. But the tears ran. My throat hurt as I tried to suppress the guttural cries I wanted to cry there in the mud.


RedState, which got up and running in 2004, was out of money. No one wanted to put ads on a conservative site after the Democrats had just delivered an absolute shellacking to the GOP. We were out of money. Christmas was a week away. I was out of a job.


But that was insignificant compared to where I’d been that day. I’d just left the hospital where I had the task of telling my wife she was dying and there was nothing anybody could do.


Then there I was one week before Christmas in 2006 sitting in mud, leaning up against a tire covering me in black, holding a one year old too young to know what was going on, and sobbing in the rain too shell shocked to even try to pray. Too overwhelmed to even think. Out of money, soon to be a single dad, no job, a one year old, and I was very overwhelmed.


Let not your heart be troubled is not just something Sean Hannity came up with on his radio show. It is not just some trite expression people use to superficially aid and comfort others. It is a phrase spoken by Jesus Christ found in the first verse of John 14. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”


My wife and I got married in 2000. Within three months she had a double mastectomy not because she had cancer, but because we knew she would get it. We waited five years to have our first child. We figured it would be smooth sailing after that.


The Thursday before Labor Day 2006, my wife called me from her office. She said she was dying. She sounded like she was dying.


We got her to the doctor who, based on her symptoms, diagnosed her as having either a pulmonary embolism or a gall bladder attack. He had me take her to the ER with orders to check her for an embolism knowing if it was not that it would be her gall bladder.


The scan came back clear. It was her gall bladder. “Oh by the way,” they seemed to say almost in passing. “We found some spots on her lungs.”


We went to the beach. Within twenty-four hours of arrival my wife was in the Emergency Room at the beach preparing for surgery. She had a blockage in her bile duct. She was in agony. She spent a week at the beach recovering while I took care of our one year old. When we got home we found a message on our answering machine from the local hospital we’d been to before our trip. They had discovered a blockage in her bile duct and it was vitally important we call them to schedule immediate surgery. Ahhh . . . timing.


We finally got around to her going back to the doctor about the spots on her lungs the week before Christmas. I remember she came home with a scared looked on her face. Yes, the spots were still there, but they’d found a blood clot in her jugular vein. She had to be admitted to the hospital for treatment. While there, the doctors got worried about the clots plus the spots. They decided to biopsy. That’s when they told me she was dying. There was nothing they could do.


That night after cleaning myself up and having help for the one year old I went back to the hospital. My wife and I talked as you talk when you know you might not have much longer to talk. In the course of the conversation the surgeon came in, told us everyone had now reviewed the biopsy, and they were sure it was not cancer, she was not going to die, and they’d send off the biopsy for more study.


Turns out she has a relatively benign condition.


Within a day or so, Eagle Publishing, Inc. called and offered to buy RedState. They’d keep me on as an employee. I had my wife and my job.


Fast forward four years. I had not had a pay raise, we were dependent on two incomes to make ends meet, and my wife, given everything she’d been through, wanted to stay home with the kids. We knew it was the right thing to do. We just did not know how to make up the loss of income. We took a leap of faith and my wife left her job.


Literally the next day, and I use literally intentionally as it was literally the next day, my boss called and told me I was finally getting a pay raise. It was identical — dollar for dollar identical to what my wife would be giving up. A week later CNN came calling. I would never have been able to do my job at CNN without my wife staying home.


A year later, Cox Media Group asked me to be on the radio.


My life is not all peaches and roses. But I write this whole story and highlight the ups, not the downs, because I do not believe in coincidences. I do not believe in luck. I believe in an active Creator. I have experienced too much in my life to lead me to think this is all atoms and physics and chemistry and coincidence. I have experienced pain and misfortune and sadness, but as much as those things too define me it is the joys of life I dwell on.


There is a man upstairs. He has a plan. And while I do not know the mind of the Creator, I know this all works for the good of those who are called according to His purpose. I do not know His plan, but I have experienced enough in my life to know I should trust Him and that His plan, however confounding it may seem, is a good plan that will work out in the end for the best.


So I raise my head these last few days and see liberals salivating at the idea that it might be a right wing tea partier who blew up Boston while conservatives are convinced it is a Middle Eastern terrorist. I see the wailing and gnashing of teeth over gun control, the evil of Kermit Gosnell, and the politicization of everything. Then there is the destruction in Waco, the dead and injured — it is enough to make you want to sit in the mud while holding your child close and cry.


It should be hard to be optimistic, but I, a natural pessimist, I am optimistic. I have hope. I know that there is a higher purpose to it all. I know that there is not just the rudimentary day to day existence in which we live, but there is a master plan to it all. I know some of you do not believe that and you are entitled to reject that. But I have experienced too much in my life and see clearly in hindsight an active presence who leads me somewhere down a path I did not choose, but on which I walk.


Choosing to let your heart not be troubled is not easy. It is often hard. We see bombings in Boston, planes flying into tall buildings, random explosions killing many at one time in Texas, politicians and citizens at each others throats and it seems the whole world has gone mad. But the world has always been mad. We are just more aware of it these days with bold events that shock the conscience.


We are on a blue marble circling a giant ball of plasma that if we draw too close to we burn up as we and it hurtle around a black hole at the center of a galaxy scientists believe will one day collide with another galaxy. The world is a crappy, hostile place in a colder than ice dangerous expanse of vacuum, radiation, and sweet meteors of death. The thought that we exist as we do at all borders on absurdity.


And yet there is a one year old who, though she knows not why her father cries in the rain and mud, pats his face to tell him it is okay. There are strangers who, instead of running from the blast, turn to it to help those who have fallen. There is a President some of us care little for who chooses his words carefully to bind the wounds of dark days for all of us regardless of our votes.


The world is not meant to be fair. It is a maddening place filled with bad and evil. But the good shines through. The right overwhelms the wrong. The very real good slays the very real evil. The smiles break through the tears.


You do not have to be mad in a maddening world. You can choose to be happy. You can choose to be optimistic. You can choose to let not your heart be troubled.


I am a man who had to tell my wife she was going to die. By God’s grace she did not die, but is with me still.


I can tell you confidently it is no easy thing to let your heart not be troubled. But I can tell you in a world where so many politicize everything, we yell at each other, and every hill is a hill on which to die, whether you choose to believe or not there is good and there is evil and there is a man upstairs who has a plan that while we may not know it we can be assured that all things, even in the pit of the various hells on this present earth, yes all things do work for the good of those called according to his purpose. He brings forth water from rocks and bread from heaven and you and me from the dust of the earth, stitching us together in our mothers’ wombs.


So let not your heart be troubled. The sun still shines. The smiles are still there. The good graces between neighbors still exist. Bad things will always and have always happened. But love and good and right prevail even in the madness of the present age.


Living By Grace




Then he bowed himself, and said, “What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?”  2 Samuel 9:8



The speaker is Mephibosheth, a descendant of Saul. He was crippled in both feet. The injury was suffered the day his Father, Jonathan, and grandfather, King Saul, were killed in battle. For reasons not explained in Scripture Mephibosheth’s nurse began running. She must have been carrying him. She fell. He was crippled in both feet for the rest of his life.


King David called Ziba, a servant in the house of Saul, to see if Saul had any descendants to whom he could show the kindness of God. Ziba told David about Mephibosheth and added that he was crippled in his feet. He would not be able to serve David.


Without hesitation, David had Mephibosheth brought to him. He bowed before David as a servant would. Then David told him that he was giving to him all of the possessions of King Saul and that he would eat at his table continually. Mephibosheth could not understand. He bowed himself, and said, “What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?”  2 Samuel 9:8


Likely, most of us have gone before the Lord and ,in light of the grace He has shown to us and through us, have said, “Why me Lord?”


God works through anyone who walks in grace to do things far greater that he could ever do in his own wisdom and strength. That is when we are prone to say, “Why me, Lord.”


And there is more grace as we continue to live out our union with Christ.


The Five Commands



Believe              Romans 6:11            Reckon (believe) yourselves to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Choose              Romans 6:12            Do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey it in its lust.


Choose              Romans 6:13a          Do not present your members (body) as instruments of  unrighteousness to sin.


Choose & Believe  Romans 6:13b    Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead.


Choose              Romans 6:13c          (Present) your members (body) as instruments of righteousness to God.

What Subway Can Teach the Church

The Subway sandwich chain has surpassed McDonald’s Corporation as the world’s largest restaurant chain in terms of units.  At the end of 2010, Subway had 33,749 restaurants worldwide to McDonald’s 32,737.

What is even more impressive is that Subway didn’t open its first international restaurant, where growth has been most explosive for chains such as McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, until 1984.  But by 2020, Subway expects its number of international restaurants to exceed its domestic ones.

How did they do it?

Subway has opened outlets in non-traditional locations such as an automobile showroom in California, an appliance store in Brazil, a ferry terminal in Seattle, a riverboat in Germany, a zoo in Taiwan, a Goodwill store in South Carolina, a high school in Detroit and a church in Buffalo, New York.

“We’re continually looking at just about any opportunity for someone to buy a sandwich, wherever that might be,” says Don Fertman, Subway’s Chief Development Officer.  ”The closer we can get to the customer, the better.”

Consider that a lesson, church.

And before you start in on the bigger isn’t always better, and quality trumps quantity, and numbers aren’t everything, and that the church isn’t in the sandwich business, re-read Fertman’s words, and substitute the gospel:

“We’re continually looking at just about any opportunity for someone to be introduced to Christ, wherever that might be.  The closer we can get to an unchurched person, the better.”

Kind of sounds like Paul in I Corinthians 9 writing about becoming all things to all people in order to reach them, doesn’t it?

So how might the church take a cue from Subway and expand its reach?

It’s very common for churches to offer multiple services at varying times.

It’s becoming increasingly common to offer those multiple services over multiple days.

Now, the frontier that needs to be explored is offering multiple services over multiple days through multiple locations.

Meck has become a multi-site church, which simply means one church with multiple locations.  We currently have five campuses with a total of seventeen services each week.  Three of these campuses are physical locations in our immediate area; one is an internet “campus,” and one is international serving expatriates in the United Arab Emirates.  The Charlotte Observer ran a front-page story this past weekend featuring our efforts.

We have plans to launch two more Charlotte campuses by February of 2012, and are open to additional international opportunities (Our staff has already prayed and are convinced that it’s God’s will to start one in the U.K.; they’ve also all volunteered to be on the launch team.).

  Why is this a worthwhile strategy?  It’s simple.  If someone has to drive more than 15 or 20 minutes as a first-time guest, chances are, they won’t.  You might say, “Well, if that’s their attitude, they should just be more committed!”  Quick reminder:  these people aren’t even Christians yet.  Rumor has it that it’s our job to go to them.  Same to those who say, “You’re just trying to make it easy on folks to attend.”  Yes, that’s kind of the point.

When you go to multiple sites you go to where the people are, tearing down any and all geographic barriers to attend, and opening up the ability to offer vast numbers of services at optimal times.  And most importantly of all, you are making it easy for anyone and everyone, no matter where they live, to invite their friends.

Due to breakthroughs in technology, including video and simulcast, in ten years, this will probably be the new normal.  It will be as common for churches to be multi-site as it is now for churches to have multiple service times.  It’s already exploding:  In 2008, 37% of all churches averaging 2,000 or more people per week were multi-site.  In 2009, over five million people attended a multi-site church in the United States and Canada.

Geoff Surratt draws an analogy from World War II in regard to the multi-site approach to reaching a city:

Some 300,000 troops were pinned by Hitler at Dunkirk with their backs to the sea.  The only way out was to retreat across the water.  But how do you move 300,000 people by water?  There isn’t a single boat big enough to carry that many people.  So the call went out to anyone with a boat to rescue them.  One thousand boats arrived, and over the course of ten days, all of the troops were evacuated.

They couldn’t build a boat big enough to move 300,000 people, but 1,000 little boats could do the job.  No single church with a single location can fully reach your city.  But a single church in multiple locations can.

  Hear my heart:  partner with other churches where and when you can; plant new churches wherever it makes sense; but also multiply your current church wherever possible.

At the very least, think about it the next time you eat at Subway.