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.

Advertisements

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.

Funky lizard staring me down at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Dawdling

The English language fascinates me. It’s a melting pot, a strange concoction of so many different languages and influences. But I imagine it’s a nightmare to try to translate from and into. I’ve worked with enough people who speak different languages (Arabic, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, German, etc.) to grasp that. English, and especially American English, is broad and indolent and verbose; American English likes the sound of its own voice. But even so, it’s a fun language to learn about because the more you learn about English, the more you learn about other languages.

Granted, I’m a word nerd. But today’s verse made me think of a word that I really haven’t heard used much recently. The word I thought of is dawdle.

Funky lizard staring me down at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Funky lizard staring me down at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is 2 Peter 3:9.

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

Did anyone else hear, “Don’t dawdle!” in this verse? Or was that just me? Maybe it was just me because, again, I’m thinking this word has fallen out of common usage.

I looked it up on dictionary.com, and the word actually started into common usage around 1775, probably based on the word “daddle” which started in 1656 and meant to walk unsteadily. The thought is that the daw bird influenced the word because of its reputation of being sluggish and silly. And that’s what dawdle means. To waste time. Being sluggish. Being idle. Lingering for no purpose other than to linger. It’s the kind of word I used to think only stiff and proper nannies used when telling unruly children to get busy.

The thing about dawdling is that it’s purposeless. It’s a waste.

And what I see in this verse today is that God isn’t dawdling. He’s waiting. Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between waiting and wasting time, but the way you can tell is that one has a purpose and the other doesn’t. Waiting means there’s a plan in action and you’re just anticipating when it’s your turn to jump in; dawdling, wasting time, is knowing the plan but refusing to jump in even when it’s your turn.

God isn’t dawdling. He has a plan. He has a purpose. He’s waiting to come back for us because He wants to give everyone the opportunity to make a choice. He’s waiting because there are still some people who are dawdling.

By that same token, it’s a good idea to think your decision through, though. Don’t make snap judgments ever. I truly believe that many people decide to follow Christ on a whim. It’s easy to say; it’s much more difficult to live. And if that decision wasn’t truly a decision made with both heart and head in tandem, it’s not real. It has to be a commitment, not just a statement. Unfortunately, I think people who don’t believe are confused by those of us who do when we tout the Christian life as easy.

Yes, there are aspects of it that are easy, but it’s not an easy life. Not by a long shot. It’s a life full of joy and gratitude and contentment and wonder and awe at what God can do. But it’s a life of sorrow too because we are constantly surrounded by darkness and contempt and foolishness–and there are days when holding up “This Little Light of Mine” makes my arm really tired. And those are the days that we need to be honest with people about.

So it’s good to think about your choices. But dawdling over choices can get you in trouble. We are a culture of procrastinators, and that would be all right if we had all the time in the world. But we don’t. You need to make sure you understand what you’re changing your mind to, but don’t dawdle about it. Know your choices. Make your choice. Don’t waste time because it’s rapidly running out.

And that works the same in life. We can linger and loiter over choices all day long, but all you’re doing is wasting time. And if God doesn’t dawdle, we shouldn’t either.

So check your heart. Are you wasting time on a decision you need to make? Are you waiting for God to show you what you need to know to make that decision? If you are, that’s between you and Him. But if you already know what you’re supposed to do, do it. Don’t dawdle.

Stairwell in Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

We’ve missed the point

I saw a story on Yahoo! about the Doomsday Clock yesterday, just in passing. I didn’t really read it because the Doomsday Clock isn’t a “real” clock; it’s just a symbolic representation of how close the world is to a global catastrophe, whether it’s nuclear war or environmental issues. Admittedly, it made me smile because if it’s not the Mayan calendar telling us the world is going to end, it’s the Doomsday Clock. And the real irony is that you don’t need either of those, or any of the other symbols of impending doom, to know that our world is in a lot of trouble.

Nobody knows the day that doom is going to come, but it’s going to come. And we need to be ready for it.

Stairwell in Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Stairwell in Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Acts 17:30-31.

God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.

If you have a second, you should read the portion of Acts where these verses are from, Acts 17:16-34. It’s a part of the early Church history where Paul is on a missionary journey, and he ends up in Athens, preaching to the people there. This is his famous message about the Unknown God. What Paul said to the people of Athens is true for us today: We may be very religious, but we’ve missed the point.

What it comes down to is our choice. We can choose to change our minds about God and about what God says is wrong, but we don’t have to. God hasn’t forced anyone to do anything–ever. There’s no point to that anyway. God has told us we need to change our minds about sin. God has said it loud and clear for everyone to know.

He has told us what sin is. He has told us how to have eternal life. He has told us how to have a relationship with Him. The rest is up to us to decide if that’s the path we want to take.

But the truth of Paul’s statement is chilling because whether you choose to follow Christ or not, judgment is still coming. Nothing will stop the end of the world. The world has been dying since our first parents turned against God. It’s been winding down, slowly but surely, getting worse every day, getting darker every hour. And like a clock with batteries that are nearly drained, the day is going to come when it stops keeping time altogether. And when that day gets here, are we going to be ready? Are we going to have an answer for the charges laid against us?

Our culture now is practically free of real consequences. We can do whatever we want with no one to check us. The United States was founded with a checks and balances system, three branches of government designed to keep each other in order. In recent years, it’s become pretty obvious that even they aren’t interested in keeping each other honest; they’re just covering their own backsides now, doing what they want. And the People don’t know enough about what the United States was intended to be to hold them accountable for it.

But a day is coming when all of us will have to face the consequences for our choices, and there won’t be second chances. You’ll have two options. Either you chose to follow Christ in this life or you didn’t. Either you trusted Christ to pay the price for your sins or you chose to cover the debt yourself.

So what does that mean for us today? I’ve already accepted Christ. I trust Him with my life and my future, but that doesn’t mean I know what’s going to happen tomorrow. That doesn’t mean God is required to pull me out of trouble. It just means He won’t abandon me when trouble starts.

I look at the world and the state of this country, and I’m tempted to despair because I know what it used to be. I know what it was meant to be, and we’ve fallen so far from that place today. But I trust God. He knows what He’s doing, and nothing surprises Him.

I used to be afraid when I read scriptures about the end of the world. I used to be scared of the word judgment. But the older I get and the worse the world gets, the more I find comfort in that word. Because for those who know Christ, judgment isn’t something to be scared of. For those who know Christ, our slates are clean. Christ has taken our sins and put them far away from us, and when God looks at our record, all He sees is Christ.

Judgment is coming. The world won’t last forever. So get busy. Talk to people. Build relationships with people. And don’t give up. And if you need to change your mind about sin in your life, do it now rather than later. It won’t speed the end up or slow it down, of course, but it will get in the way of what you need to accomplish.

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God has every right to be angry

Do you know people who do wrong all the time and are never sorry for it? I do. I’m around people like that all the time, and it frustrates me. I believe in an absolute right and an absolute wrong. I’m not capable of doing right all the time, but I want to at least try to be the kind of person who tries to do right. And when I do wrong, I want to own up to it. I want to take responsibility for what I’ve done wrong and do my best to change.

But there are always people who do wrong constantly and have no intention to change. Why should they? Doing what is wrong is so much easier than doing what is right. Maybe it has consequences, but they don’t come right away. And even if they do come, it’s a lot easier to convince other people that you’re the victim in the situation than it is to claim responsibility for it.

Granted there are many circumstances where people truly are victims. We live in a broken world, and it’s the innocent who suffer the consequences for the most part. But I still believe the vast majority of us make our own problems. I really believe that most of us (including myself) end up in rough situations because of our actions, because of our choices, and it comes down to either taking responsibility for what you’ve done or trying to push that responsibility off onto someone else.

When you know someone is shifting the blame from where it really belongs, how does that make you feel? Angry? Frustrated? Well, think about how you feel, and then think about how it makes God feel.

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalms 7:11-13.

God is an honest judge. He is angry with the wicked every day. If a person does not repent, God will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow. He will prepare his deadly weapons and shoot his flaming arrows.

We live in a kinder, gentler era now. We don’t like to think of God as an angry God. We much prefer to focus on His love, and that is true. God is a God of love. He is love.

But how many of us really understand love? And if we can’t even understand love, can’t we hope to understand God? Does anyone understand God? I mean, I believe we can understand His heart. I believe we can understand what He’s telling us to do and how He’s telling us to live. But those are just a fraction of who God is. Saying we understand God because we read the Bible or because we pray is like saying we’ve experience the ocean when we’ve only visited the Gulf of Mexico.

Is it all right for you to be angry with someone who is doing wrong and refuses to change? If it’s all right for you, why is it not all right for God?

Repent is a scary church word. It basically just means to change your thinking. If you repent from your sin, it means you change the way you think about doing what God says is wrong. That’s what repent means. It’s not a stained glass, organ music kind of concept. It’s something we can’t do without.

What’s frustrating about people who won’t repent is that they pretty much live a life that’s flipping God off every day. I’m not talking about the people who don’t know better; I’m talking about people who know what the Bible says and who have chosen not to believe it. I’m talking about people who say they follow Christ but deny Him with their lives every day. I’m talking about typical American Christians who go to church on Sunday and live the rest of their week as though they are the center of the universe.

It’s frustrating. Because they know better, and they’ve chosen to ignore God in spite of it.

Does it frustrate you? Well, it frustrates God. And the plain and simple truth is that none of us can thumb our noses at God and expect to get away with it. He will do what is necessary to show us that we aren’t in control of our lives, and it won’t be pleasant. None of us are unbreakable.

So the next time you feel the urge to do something you know the Bible says is wrong, take a moment to think about how God is going to feel about it. I’m not saying we should cower in the corner because we live our lives based on whether God is angry or not. I’m not saying that at all. But God has given us everything so that we can be free. God has made the ultimate sacrifice, and He’s been patient with us through circumstances where everyone else would have given up on us. And if you can think about all God has done for you and how much He loves you and still be callous enough to go on sinning even though you know what that sin cost Christ, God has every right to be angry.

Repent. Change the way you think about doing what God has said is wrong. It’s worth it. You won’t fear consequences, you won’t face guilt, and God will honor you for doing what is right.

Wheat head close up at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Humility and control

I am a control freak. I like to know what’s coming. I like to plan out my steps before I take them. There are times when I don’t mind spontaneity, but generally speaking I like to have a plan. But there’s only so much a plan can do for me when I’m not in control.

Have you ever been in that situation? Where you do everything right and the world still goes wrong? Where you have been obedient and done what you were supposed to do and even then, the circumstances only get worse instead of better? Have you ever been there? I have. And it’s frustrating. Because all throughout the Bible, God says to do what He says and that He’ll take care of us. But then when we do, sometimes it feels like He doesn’t hold up His end of the bargain.

Wheat head close up at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat head close up at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are 2 Chronicles 6:38-39.

If they turn to you with their whole heart and soul in the land of their captivity and pray toward the land you gave to their ancestors—toward this city you have chosen, and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name—then hear their prayers and their petitions from heaven where you live, and uphold their cause. Forgive your people who have sinned against you.

I usually hear this verse around election time. There is something encouraging about the thought of the believers of America uniting under a common cause and turning back to God. But it’s a dream. I haven’t ever seen it in my lifetime. As far as I can see,typical  American Christians are just as self-centered as the rest of the world, so getting them to agree on anything is practically impossible. But as I read this verse today, something else occurred to me that I hadn’t ever really thought of before.

If we want God to work in our lives, if we want Him to show up, we have to change our attitude. Or, rather, we have to be willing to let Him change our attitudes. Real change is something only He can do, but our attitude is up to us. Attitude is a choice that we make every morning when we roll out of bed.

As I stated before, and in many previous blog posts, I am a control freak. I don’t know why or how I got to be this way. I just like to be in charge of what’s happening around me because I feel like I can keep track of the details better than anybody else can. But there are parts of my life (major parts) that are too big for me. And I need to admit that, not only to God but also to myself. I need to stop trying to control everything, because some situations are above my pay grade. And it’s those situations and circumstances that I need to be humble about and ask God for help with.

So it all comes down to attitude. I need to be humble about my life and realize that I’m not in control. God is going to do what He wants with my life. He made it, just like He made everything else, so He has the right to do what He wants with it. But it’s my choice how I respond to it; I can either go willingly or kicking and screaming. God will have His way no matter how I choose to respond.

I get frustrated when I do everything I’m supposed to do and life still doesn’t work out, but when it comes right down to it, God is in control of my life. And if He needs to allow more difficulty into my life to remind me that He’s the one who calls the shots, so be it. In the end, He’s going to have His way no matter what, and His way is going to be good. His way is better than my way ever can be. And He’s proven that to me over and over and over again.

If we turn our hearts to God, if we change our attitudes about God and recognize that He is the one who’s in charge, and if we ask Him for help and realize that we can’t make it through life without Him, He’ll hear us. He sees us and moves in our lives anyway, whether we ask Him to or not. But when we change our attitudes, we start looking for Him. And then we can see Him.

So check your attitude this morning. Are you trying to control your life? Are you trying to be the one in charge? You can try it, but the more you try to control your life, the more of your life will slip through your fingers. Change your attitude; be willing to let God change your heart. It will make all the difference in the world.

Sunrise on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Transformation is a choice

At the beginning of a New Year, everyone wants to be a new person. People want new habits, new scales, new everything because they are trying to be new people, whether through diet and exercise or style changes or clothes changes. How many people do you know who have started resolutions to change the way they look?

But it isn’t losing weight that will make you a new person. Changing your clothing style or the church you attend (or its frequency) won’t make you a new person. Maybe your clothes or your weight can make you look like a new person, but to truly change you into a new person you need to change something deeper than your shirt.

You need to change your perspective on life. You need to change the way you think.

Sunrise on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Sunrise on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Today’s verse is Romans 12:2.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

You have two choices when it comes to determining how you’re going to think. You can either think about the world and everything in it the way that God has said, or you don’t. There’s no middle ground. And there’s no shortcut either.

There’s no magic switch that makes this easier for you to accomplish. Actually, it isn’t even something you can do. It’s a choice you make, and God is the one who does the rest. That’s what makes this so difficult.

Look at the verse. You can copy the behaviors of the world or you can let God transform you. Those are choices, and those choses are yours.

If you want to be a new person, you have to let God transform your mind from what it is to what He wants it to be. You have to let Him change the way you think. That’s the only way it works. Otherwise, you will stay the same inside, whether you change on the outside or not.

If all you do is change your outside, it’s like putting clean clothes on after you’ve rolled around in the mud. Your clothes look nice, but what’s under it is filthy.

This choice, between the world’s transforming power or God’s transforming power, is something we need to settle in our minds before we even get out of bed in the morning. We have to decide which one is going to hold sway in our lives. Are we going to listen to the world? Or are we going to listen to God?

On the surface, the answer is easy. God all the way, right? That’s the best answer. And if you’re a Christ follower, you know it. But knowing it and living it are two separate things. And usually no matter how good my intentions are to listen to God, I still get sidetracked because thinking the way the world thinks is so much easier.

Letting God transform my life is a process. He started it when I was seven years old, and He’s not even close to finishing with me. It’s a long, painful process because I hold on to the perspectives that the world has taught me, and He keeps telling me that I need to let them go.

Changing the way you think is impossible if you keep filling your head with the status quo of the world. That’s why we need to get to know God. We need to be reading our Bibles. We need to be praying and having conversations with God. However you work your relationship with God, you need to do it, you need to fill your life and your mind with Him, because the more of Him that is in your life, the less of the world can get in.

So before you walk out your door this morning, decide who you’re going to let transform you. The world will try. The world will never stop trying. But the world’s “transformation” is more of a ‘deformation.” There’s nothing the world has changed that has been better for it.

But God? God can take the broken and the hurting and put them back together again. He can heal hearts. He can change lives. He can right wrongs. But it all starts with a choice, and it’s a choice we have to make.