Don’t ignore hurting people because you’re uncomfortable

When you think about people suffering, generally I think we dredge up images of orphans in third world countries or the homeless on the streets. And that’s true. Those people are suffering, and they’re everywhere. They need healing in their lives. But those people suffer in obvious ways, hunger and sickness and basic needs.

What about people who have all those things covered and are still hurting? What about your coworker who just lost a loved one? What about that friend at church whose kid has totally screwed up his life? What about that teenager you pass in the hallway whose parents are divorcing? All of those people have their physical needs met, but what about their spiritual needs? What about their emotional needs? How do we handle that?

It’s true that in some cases, what those people are dealing with are consequences from their own choices or circumstances God is using to transform their lives. Regardless of what is happening or how it’s happening or who it’s happening to, you should always ask God how to handle the situation.

In my experience, we treat any type of hurting people like they’re the vagabond on the street corner with the cardboard sign. We notice someone hurting and we change the subject rather than being courageous enough to talk about something that might be uncomfortable for us. And that’s not how Jesus did it.

counsellingToday’s verses are Matthew 4:23-25.

Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—he healed them all. Large crowds followed him wherever he went—people from Galilee, the Ten Towns, Jerusalem, from all over Judea, and from east of the Jordan River.

Jesus was merciful and compassionate. When He saw people suffering, He wanted to help them. He didn’t hold them at arm’s length. He went out among them and encouraged them to come to Him. How much of that attitude is missing from our own lives?

People came to Jesus to be healed. They weren’t looking for charity. They wanted life, and Jesus had the power to give it to them. He had the power to heal them. Guess what, Christians? He still does. He hasn’t changed, and He still works the same way. And we have the awesome privilege of being the ones who get to stand in for Christ, the people who get to share His life-changing love with those around us.

Jesus is reaching out to heal anyone and everyone who comes to Him. Jesus’ healing may not look like what you think it should, though, so prepare yourself. If you come to Jesus and ask Him to heal you, that means you have to agree to do things His way. That’s the way this works.

And granted, being healed from something doesn’t mean the problem never happened, but it means you don’t have to worry about it anymore. You can be healed from cancer but still bear the scars. You can be part of a relationship that has been healed, but the consequences may still be something you have to deal with–you just won’t deal with it alone.

Jesus is the healer. People call Him the Great Physician because there’s no pain too terrible for Him to take away. Maybe you’re suffering today, Jesus is just waiting for you to call on Him.

And if you’re a Christ-follower and you encounter someone who is looking for hope or healing or restoration, don’t run away. God put that person in your path for a reason. There are no accidents. So don’t backpedal or make up excuses, and don’t preach either, because that won’t help. If someone needs to be healed, take them to Jesus, and leave them with Him.

There’s nobody He can’t restore, and that means there’s always hope, even for those of us who’ve fallen so far short of His plan. The key is coming to Him with our problems, our hurts, and our broken pieces and letting Him put us back together again.

Nobody is a lost cause

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in this life alone? Like you know that God is there, but He seems content to watch you struggle through frustration after frustration just so that you’ll learn something? I’ll be honest and admit that I’ve been there before. Deep in my heart I know that it’s not true and God will always take care of me, but in the dark moments when I’ve had enough, I’ve definitely felt abandoned. Or even targeted.

But is that really who God–and by extension Jesus–is? Is He really the distant, unfeeling deity in the clouds who would subject His followers to challenges and obstacles and stand back and watch them stumble and fall without interceding? Wouldn’t it be nice if He’d just offer some means of figuring out why you have to go through all this crap? Wouldn’t it be awesome if He’d just show you what you need to learn?

Guess what? He has.

Hanging-off-a-cliff-edgeToday’s verses are Matthew 4:18-20.

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.

When I was little, I thought it was really odd that these grown men would just leave their jobs and follow after this random guy who called out to them. It didn’t seem very practical to me. After all, if they didn’t know the guy, they couldn’t know if he were leading them into some kind of trap … you know, like where they’d be knocked out and have their kidneys stolen or something.

But Jesus wasn’t just some guy. And Peter and Andrew had already heard of Him (honestly I think there were few in the area who hadn’t heard of Him). But Andrew, Peter’s brother, had already met Jesus and decided that He was indeed the Messiah. So they knew who Jesus was and what He was up to when He called them out.

This passage tells us a lot about Peter and Andrew, but it also tells us a lot about Jesus. Jesus called the disciples by telling them He had something to teach them–something different than the trade they already knew. How to fish for people–how to lead others to know God.

It’s not that they were joining a super secret club where only the elite have access. You realize what these men did for a living right? They were blue collar workers, to put it mildly. The Bible actually calls them “unlearned, ignorant men.” Jesus wasn’t calling the brilliant. He was calling the everyday people, and He still is, because we still have a lot to learn. And fortunately He has a lot to teach. And everyone is invited.

He wanted to teach these men how to live life with Him, how to see God in the everyday moments, how to trust God in the tough times, and how to seek God first with everything in their hearts. And we have an example of how to live and what to believe through what these men learned in following Jesus. We have the Bible, God’s own Word handed down to us through the generations.

The truth is that we aren’t alone, and God isn’t just lounging around in heaven watching our struggles like Earth is one giant reality TV show. Neither is Jesus. And neither is the Holy Spirit. All three of Them are active and alive, vivid participants in our world and our universe.

The thing about Jesus is that He never changes, and if He wasn’t exclusive back then, He’s not exclusive now. He doesn’t play favorites, and He won’t ever turn anyone away who comes to Him. Jesus was open to those who were seeking, to those who wanted answers, to those willing to hear the truth. He doesn’t see status, wealth or education. He just sees a willing heart.

That means no matter where you’ve come from or what you’ve done, Jesus wants to hear from you. No matter how you’ve screwed up or how many people you’ve heart or how many times you’ve let people down, you can’t commit a sin too deep that Jesus blood can’t wash away.

That means nobody is a lost cause.

Each of us is but a breath … so don’t waste it in silence

Wednesday and Thursday of last week were very sad days in Wichita, Kansas. The news broke on Thursday that a well-known personality in our amazing city was murdered in a senseless act of violence. It’s one thing when a celebrity in some other part of the country dies or is killed in a car wreck. It’s something else when it happens to someone who touched your own life, even if it were indirectly.

I didn’t know Tanya Tandoc, but I ate at her restaurant frequently. Tanya’s Soup Kitchen is one of those Wichita landmarks that you just have to visit. But beyond her soup and her amazing recipes, from what I am told, Tanya was a really awesome person. And even though I didn’t know her, I feel the city’s loss. I also frequented her brother’s coffee shop–Espresso To Go Go. Both locations. I love their coffee, and everyone inside is always so nice. From what I understand, they had a falling out some time ago, and I’m not sure if they ever made up. Her brother posted a moving, touching statement on Facebook … my heart just hurts for them.

Horrible things happen to good people. The world is broken. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. And it’s a solemn, sobering reminder that if there’s something between you and another loved one–family or not–you should make it right before it’s too late. You might not get another day.

Amazing, beautiful, tasty soups from the incredible Tanya's Soup Kitchen in Wichita, KS

Amazing, beautiful, tasty soups from the incredible Tanya’s Soup Kitchen in Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 39:4-7.

Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.
We are merely moving shadows,
and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
not knowing who will spend it.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.

It’s hard to hold on to hope when bad things happen, but what else can we do? Give up? Sure, you can, but what good does that do? What does that accomplish? And maybe it’s easy to blame God and accuse Him of not caring. He’s an easy target after all, because if He’s so good, why does He let bad things happen?

Well, we know the answer to that. Bad things happen because the world is broken, and we are the ones who broke it. And what our lives come down to is trust–trusting that God is as good as He says He is, trusting that He knows what He’s doing, and that He can bring something beautiful out of tragedy and heartbreak.

It’s easy to get trapped thinking that we have enough time. It’s easy to put stuff off because we can do it tomorrow. But we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. We can’t control that. And if we can wrap our heads around it, it would change the way we live. It would change the way we treat people. It would change the way we spend money.

It might be a difficult choice, but isn’t it worth it? If you don’t wake up in the morning, do the people you love know that you love them? Or have you let life and petty squabbles come between you?

Life is brief. Don’t waste it.

Wearing a crown doesn’t make you better than the crownless

Do you know people who won’t take you seriously because you’re not important enough? I’ve met of few of those. And, honestly, it used to bother me.

Some people see your job title and decide whether or not you’re worth their time. Other people look at your clothes or the way you talk or the car you drive. We all make judgment calls on people. Let’s face it. We do. But how many of us actually judge whether someone is individually worth our time based on what they look like or based on what station in life they currently happen to be in?

It’s hurtful. Because I’m more than the clothes I’m wearing. I’m more than my job title (or lack thereof). And just because I don’t happen to have trails of letters after my name doesn’t make me less intelligent than someone with a PhD. And it certainly doesn’t give anybody the right to call me less important than someone else.

But more and more I see people rating others, their intellect or their worth, based on external factors. And the only explanation I can come up with for it is that we’re falling deeper and deeper into our own pride. But pride has never been the source of success or peace. It’s actually the opposite.

arroganceToday’s verse is Proverbs 3:34.

The Lord mocks the mockers
    but is gracious to the humble.

This is one of those verses that shoes up all over the Bible. I know this same verse is quoted in both James and I Peter. And if there’s one simple thing to know about the Bible, it’s this: If God repeats Himself, you really want to pay attention.

Other versions of this little Proverb say that “God opposes the proud.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be on the side against God. Just saying. I don’t think that sounds like a very secure future.

I know how this life ends. I don’t want to be on the side that God opposes.

The solution is simple. Stop relying on your pride. Don’t be proud.

I said it was simple. Not easy. Because pride is really the root of all our sin. We want to do things our way, not God’s. We want to live our own way, not the way God says is right. And we don’t care what He says. At least, we don’t care until we have to face the consequences of our choices. Then we beg forgiveness and grace, and because God is gracious, He forgives. But once life straightens out again, how many of us go back to making the same stupid choices all over again?

No one person is more important to God than another. God doesn’t play favorites. He never has. He loves us all equally, regardless of history or family or choices. There’s nothing you can do to make Him love you more. Likewise, there’s nothing you can do to make Him love you less.

So why do we get it in our heads that some Christians are better loved than others? That’s our pride talking. Because pride makes us think we can be sufficient. Pride tricks us into believing that God judges on the curve, and He doesn’t.

Maybe you’ve worked hard to achieve your status, and that’s great and wonderful. But please don’t convince yourself that you are solely responsible for it. You’re not. Favor comes from God. Opportunity comes from God. And you’re where you are because God gave you talent and drive and health. Now, it’s up to you to recognize it. Many people don’t, but it doesn’t change the facts.

So the next time you’re tempted to think that super annoying person you’re talking to isn’t worth your time, take a moment and really ask yourself why you believe that. Are you making that call because you don’t like the way they dress? Do you feel that way because they are on a lower pay grade than you?

Granted, if the person you want to avoid is a fool, that’s a different story entirely, and there are biblical definitions for those kinds of people. And you should absolutely run away from those sorts of people. But not everybody is a fool (thank God). More likely, we just let our insecurities get the best of us, and we convince ourselves that we’re superior for some reason that doesn’t really matter.

Just give him or her the benefit of the doubt. Don’t jump to a conclusion about someone just because they are different from you or work in a different industry. After all, you may king of your own little world right now, but that doesn’t mean someday you won’t lose your crown. And then you’ll wish for someone to treat you like an equal.

Don’t wait until then to learn the lesson.

God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. So be humble. And maybe it’s a lesson you won’t have to learn the hard way.

God’s love is bigger than our failures

Nothing stops us in our tracks like shame and guilt. Have you noticed that? You can be booking right along on your path of life, and you do something that causes you shame or makes you feel guilty, and it’s like everything stops.

Maybe it’s just me. But that’s how it works for me. I can feel anger and keep moving forward. I can feel sadness and keep working. I can feel lost and frustrated and totally overwhelmed, but I won’t stop. But nothing causes me to despair more than guilt or shame.

Maybe it’s something I did or said. Maybe it’s something I didn’t do or didn’t say. Whatever. When I’m trapped in despair, I don’t feel like I can get out. In his master work, Pilgrim’s Progress, Charles Bunyan described despair like a swamp, that sucks your feet down and holds you in place while your life wastes away.

But if you’re a Christ-follower, you should never get mired in a swamp. You should never be stopped in your tracks by guilt or shame. Know why? Because all your guilt and all your shame is gone–paid for by none other than the Creator of the Universe.

1435763_14612154Today’s verses are Micah 7:18-20.

Where is another God like you,
who pardons the guilt of the remnant,
overlooking the sins of his special people?
You will not stay angry with your people forever,
because you delight in showing unfailing love.
Once again you will have compassion on us.
You will trample our sins under your feet
and throw them into the depths of the ocean!
You will show us your faithfulness and unfailing love
as you promised to our ancestors Abraham and Jacob long ago.

Our enemy likes to remind us of all the times we’ve screwed up. Satan is called the “Accuser of the Brethren” for a reason, friends. That’s what he does. He stands in heaven and points his fingers at us, reminding God of all the ways we’ve failed and all the ways we are unfaithful.

Not one of us can plead innocent, because we’ve all left God’s way to do our own thing. But Jesus has paid for our sins with His own blood, so when God looks at us, He sees nothing but His Son’s perfection.

If you follow Jesus, if you’ve given your life to Him, and you are feeling shame and guilt, stop. Have you asked God forgiveness? Have you repented?

Don’t be afraid of the churchy word. Repentance is simply a change of thinking. It’s seeing your choices and your attitude the way God sees them. It’s seeing your life from His perspective and changing your mind about which is better–your way or God’s way. That’s all repentance is.

If you’ve asked God to forgive you, He has. He never turns people away when they come to Him. And if you recognize that what you did was wrong, God knows your heart. So if you are continuing to feel guilt and shame, you can have confidence that it isn’t coming from God.

If guilt and shame are weighing you down today, don’t let them. Don’t listen. That’s our enemy roaring in your ears, trying to mire you down in a swamp of despair. If God has forgiven you and you are actively allowing the Scripture to transform your life, guilt and shame have no hold on you. Jesus freed you from their grasp. So don’t give in to them.

God forgives. He throws our sin to the depths of the ocean, regardless of how unfaithful we’ve been, regardless of the sins we’ll commit in the future. He knows all that, but His love is bigger than our failures.