Wednesday, October 19, 2016

It's Okay

I'm sure somebody needs this today - It's Okay Not To be Okay by Jarrid Wilson:
Sometimes it’s hard to express your feelings to the people around you. Not because you’re afraid of what they’ll say, but because our culture doesn’t seem to be very keen on being honest about their pains. The reality is that way too many people are putting on a facade of perfection in order to keep people from knowing how they are truly hurting. It’s as if everyone feels like showing pain is a sign of weakness. I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes. It’s okay to admit that you’re hurting, broken or even confused about your current spot in life. It’s okay…Remember, even Jesus himself wept.


There is nothing wrong with crying and letting out a few tears. Who ever said crying is for babies was a liar, and definitely not ever watched The Notebook. The reality is that even Jesus himself wept and crying can sometimes be the relief you need to move on and regroup. Showing emotion is good for the soul, and crying has been known to help regulate depression, anxiety and even stress.

No one has the answers to everything, and even the smartest of people in the world find themselves frustrated sometimes. It’s ok to not know the answer, solution, or reason for things that have taken place. The light at the end of the tunnel is knowing that God has everything under control, even when we ourselves do not. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s wrong to get frustrated. Sometimes frustration is the breeding ground of change.

Let’s face it, stress is unavoidable. I’m not saying it’s going to consume your entire life, but stress is one of those things that all of us will eventually encounter in one way or another. When you come into areas of your life that are considered stressful, realize that it’s only going to last as long as you allow it to. Stress is unavoidable, but allowing it to control your life is not. It’s ok to be stressed sometimes, just don’t let stress become who you are.

Not everything is going to have an answer, but that’s where the beauty of faith comes in. There are circumstances and events in your life that you aren’t going to understand, but you have to realize that it’s ok to not know all the answers. There is humility in saying “I don’t know.” And frankly, sometimes admitting that you don’t know is the first step in finding peace and comfort in your situation. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s wrong to admit you don’t understand.

It’s okay to not be okay. Job, Elijah, Jonah and Abraham were all men throughout the Bible who dealt with incredible hard times, but God continued to see them through their pain. It was ok for them to not be ok. Why? Because they were human, and God created us to feel all kinds of emotions.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Hurt By The Church

My honeymoon period with the Church has ended.
Did I idolize the Church when I first discovered the beauty of it? Probably a little bit. But more so, I like to think that, with my big new faith, I was seeing the Church for all it was meant to be. It was a place to see God’s love and grace in action.
Fast forward five years and I’ve ended up jaded and hurt. I’ve experienced a lot of Christian talk and not a lot of Christian action. When articles would pop up in my newsfeed about people being hurt and walking away from the Church, the general idea in each would be “The Church is full of broken people, you should expect to get hurt” and “Of course people in the Church are hypocrites—we’re all sinners.”
That’s all true. We are all broken. We are all trying and failing miserably at many things. We will all inevitably hurt others—myself included. I will admit to being a certified expert in doing the wrong things.
My frustration with all of this lies in the fact that everyone seems okay with it. It’s treated as if this is the fact and we can’t change it. But are we really trying? What are we, as a part of the body of Christ, doing differently than we did last year to improve our relationships? How are we loving our brothers and sisters better than we were last month?
The Church is made up of us all—each individual one of us. I’m confronted with the fact that, if I don’t try to change the hurt and hypocrisy, I’m setting a pretty low bar for the Church. Instead I desire for the Church to be people that the world can look at and see Christ.
In an effort to create my own small bit of change, three things I’ve decided to do differently are:
Be vocal.
Sometimes when I’m hurt by someone I’ll keep it to myself. At first it can appear that I’m being a good Christian by not making an issue out of something small. If I am truly hurt or offended by someone, though, it can be healthier to have a conversation about it. By avoiding the issue, unresolved feelings can turn into bitterness. And that leads to more things to confess.
I’m most interested in open, honest connection with people. The more we pretend things are okay, the more lies will build up. That can only lead to disconnection and hurt.
Don't just ask about people, love people.
When I was going through a dark spiritual valley, I kept getting told that so many people love me and that person after person was asking about me. The funny thing was that no one was actually telling me directly that they loved me nor were they coming to me and asking me how I was doing. That caused me to stop and reflect on how often I “ask about” people.
Asking a friend about another friend is quick and easy. It allows me to get a baseline on how that person is doing from a distance without commitment. It also gives a false sense of connection that the person in question never actually feels. When everything in life is good that might not be a big deal, but when your friend is hurting, an honest connection could be the encouragement they need.
Assume less.
Most people know the adage that when you assume, you make something not so good out of you and me. When we assume what a person needs, it can make situations worse. I’m not talking about surprising someone with something nice, I’m talking about truly supporting or encouraging others. One of the most caring things said to me by a friend when I was hurting was, “Even though I don't know how to act or what to say when you're struggling, I do want to be there for you. Let me know if you think of ways I can do that better.”
Even though she was telling me she had no clue how to help, it was an honest, heartfelt expression of care. She didn’t try to fix my problem or assume that I needed anything. She offered her friendship and the space for me to express what I needed. That’s a model I want to follow. I want to stop assuming I know best and allow those around me the space to express their needs and to feel loved through it.
Loving one another sacrificially is hard. We can maintain our status quo and be okay with the fact that people are getting hurt, or we can challenge ourselves to act differently. It will take a lot of time and a lot of effort, but I believe in the Church and the broken people within it. My baby Christian ideals about the Church may be a little hardened around the edges, but I still hold hope in God’s plans to use those in the Church for His glory.

Monday, October 17, 2016

When Helping the Hurting

3 Mistakes To Avoid When Helping Hurting People (excerpt from Dave Furman’s new book, Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting )
No one wants to be like Job’s friends. We have hurting people in our lives, and we want to help them, but how do we manage to not make fools of ourselves? And how can we actually help hurting people without discouraging them even more?
Just like Job’s friends, we may think we have the right approach and goal in caring for our friend who lost his job, or for our sick elderly mother, or for our friends struggling through miscarriage. I’ve experienced many well-meaning individuals with good intentions who, at the end of the day, only exacerbated my hurt (I have a nerve disorder in my arms). And these experiences don’t make me immune to doing or saying the wrong thing—sometimes I’ve thought I was doing good when I was actually causing more pain. We need God’s help to care for our distressed friends.
Here are three mistakes we tend to make when we’re genuinely trying to help the hurting, and some suggestions for how to redirect our efforts: 
Mistake 1: Be the Fix-It Person
First, we try to be the Fix-It Person. But the truth is no one wants another treatment, ointment, acupuncture reference, or diet that’s 100 percent guaranteed to heal them. When you guarantee healing, you may be highlighting the fact that you actually have no idea what kind of issues they’re dealing with. It’s possible that God could miraculously heal me through a smelling salt or a tea, but that’s not the normal prescription for mangled nerves that don’t work. 
The truth is, struggling people have probably already seen numerous doctors, done hours of research, and undergone different treatments. Our desire to help is good and necessary, but sometimes one of the best things you can do is simply be there for them. Listen. Sit and comfort them with a ministry of presence.
Instead of handing down your guaranteed solutions, ask specific questions to learn more about what they’re going through. Sometimes the best thing you can do is ask, “I’m sorry, can you help me better understand what you’re going through?” And then listen.
Mistake 2: Explain Their Suffering
A second way we often think we’re helping is to explain why a hurting person is suffering. Because we live in a world broken by sin, we live with the uncomfortable reality that things aren’t the way they ought to be. Living in this tension is hard, and sometimes we try to cope by explaining the mind of God to others. Watching someone suffer—as they bury their child, pick up the rubble from a house fire, or weep over a unfaithful spouse—is always uncomfortable. But we needn’t feel our hurting friends are waiting for us to explain God’s intentions in order to finally ease their pain. 
It’s amazing how wonderful Job’s friends were to him the first seven days. They put on sackcloth and ashes and wept with him after he lost his family, his livelihood, and his health. But then all of the sudden they started trying to fix it, telling him that his suffering was his fault and making other false accusations. But they really had no idea why their friend was suffering. 
It’s been said Job’s friends were great until they opened their mouths. I think that’s true. We should take time to understand how our hurting friend is doing spiritually. We could simply say, “I’m so sorry,” and then listen to hear what’s going on in his heart. 
You might help the person explore his spiritual health—and not start with the assumption his sin has brought about certain consequences. Brokenness in this world isn’t always (or even often) a direct result of an individual’s sin. We live in fallen world. There will be pain and death regardless of how we live. 
Mistake 3: Promise Deliverance
A third way we think we’re helping is by promising deliverance.
Over the past decade or so, various well-meaning people have kindly told me God was going to heal me. They’ve tried to encourage me that since I’m a man of faith and I love God, I’ll be healed. Some have even said that because I’m a pastor doing the Lord’s work, I’ll be healed.
Now, they’re right and they’re wrong. God will one day heal me, but it might not happen in this life. I may never get to pick up one of my kids. However, when Jesus’s kingdom comes in full, I’ll not shed another tear over my pain or struggle with doubt. In this life I may not be able to button my shirt and put on my shoes, but in the age to come I’ll be perfectly dressed in Christ’s righteousness. 
When we 100 percent guarantee God will deliver our friends from their suffering in this life, we make God out to be a cosmic vending machine. None of us wants to unwittingly encourage their friend to worship a cosmic vending machine. We want to point our friends to the sovereign King who is near to the brokenhearted and who will one day make all things new.
Channel His Comfort
Hearing these things might make you nervous to try and help the hurting. In your pursuit of the hurting, remember the One who cares for them as well. Jesus is the one who has gone through everything both you and your hurting friend have experienced. He faced death and rejection and the wrath of God as he sacrificed himself for the sins of his people. He’s faced pain and rejection, and he provides comfort for those who do.
As Paul wrote to one local church:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor. 1:3–4)
When you don’t know what to do, trust Christ and serve your friends out of the comfort he has given you. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Attend To Truth

If the Church is going to meet and master the forces which are shaping the secular world of our time, she needs to put a far greater proportion of her strength behind the work of the theologians; she needs a theology which is not the mere product of changing moods and fashions but deeply based on Scripture, stated in terms in which the world lives, relevant to the forces which are actually shaping the lives of men. It is not sufficient for the Church to attend to tactics: she must attend first to truth.

      - Lesslie Newbigin

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Screwtape on 2016 Election

Oh, so pertinent for the 2016 election cycle!   From The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis (Imaginary letters from a senior demon - Screwtape -to a protege tempter - Wormwood)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Marvelous and Mighty Paradox

“He, the Life of all, our Lord and Savior,did not arrange the manner of his own deathlest He should seem to be afraid of some other kind.No. He accepted and bore upon the crossa death inflicted by others,and those other His special enemies,a death which to them was supremely terribleand by no means to be faced;and He did this in order that,by destroying even this death,He might Himself be believed to be the Life,and the power of death be recognised as finally annulled.A marvelous and mighty paradox has thus occurred,for the death which they thought to inflict on Him as dishonour and disgracehas become the glorious monument to death’s defeat.”

– Athanasius, On the Incarnation

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Measure

When a candidate becomes the measure of our values, rather than our values the measure of a candidate ...

We lose our witness.

       ~Jim Wright at  Plumbline Faith

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Louder and Bigger

"I don’t care if your music is loud, as long as your theology is louder. I don’t care if your church is big, as long as your view of God is bigger. I don’t care if your stage has bright lights, as long as your love for Christ is brighter. I don’t care if you make a joke or two, as long as you’re serious about the gospel. Don’t get upset about peripheral things; get upset that the gospel isn’t being preached."

- Steven Morales

Friday, September 23, 2016

Nurturing the Habit

You may have noticed that I'm frequently presenting articles on Bible reading.  Why> Because it's that important!  Check out Improve Your Bible Reading With this Course of Action by Ken Brady (via Charisma Magazine)
It's a noble goal and one that every Christian should strive for. Perhaps you just made a personal resolution or you just had a spiritual mountaintop experience and you want to fan the flame of passion you feel for God and His Word.
Whatever it is that has moved you to act, you'll have a better chance of developing a daily habit of time with God if you follow these seven tips for nurturing a daily devotional time with God.
1. Pick a time for your devotional reading. Make it a priority by calendaring it as you would any other important meeting. We set appointments for much less important things like oil changes, haircuts and lunches. How much more important is it to have a daily time with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? The Creator is available to meet with you; are you ready to meet with Him? Set a specific time to meet with Him daily and stick to it.
2. Pick a place for your devotional reading. I have a favorite recliner in my home ... it's "mine." I love to begin my day by sitting in this particular chair with my Bible near me, my copy of Stand Firm (a men's devotional) and a cup of coffee. I find that meeting with God in the same place each day is helpful and helps me to build memories of what God says during my daily devotional time with Him.
3. Pick an accountability partner. When you are trying to establish a new habit, it helps to have someone hold you accountable. I want one or two people to have permission to ask me how my daily devotional time is going, what God is saying to me and whether or not I'm keeping my appointments with God.
4. Tell others. Let your Bible study group, spouse, close friend or children know what you are about to attempt. It is amazing how much more devoted you will be to having a devotional time with God when you know others are watching you to see if you are really serious about it.
5. Don't skip a day. This is not to be legalistic, but to make sure that you don't give yourself an "out." If you choose to have your daily devotional time early in the morning, say 6 a.m., you know that you can't do it if you keep hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock. You may be tempted to skip a day and spend extra time with God the next day, but making up lost time rarely happens, and once time is lost, it's lost. Don't talk yourself out of meeting with God, and don't give yourself permission to skip a day. Do a Google search on creating habits and you'll find plenty of evidence that repeating a habit 21 to 28 days in a row is significant in forming an ongoing habit. Some people may need a little longer than that, but the point is, be consistent and don't skip a day.
6. Reward yourself. While meeting with God is its own reward, of course, consider giving yourself small incentives for consistently having your daily devotional time. For instance, at the end of your first seven days of consistently meeting with God, take yourself out for coffee or a special dessert. Do something like this at the end of each week, and perhaps build up to something big, like buying yourself a new Bible that will become a part of your daily devotional time, and a reminder of your commitment to meeting with God.
7. Persist. Let's face it, our schedules are busy and we lead "time compressed" lives. If you do miss a daily devotional time, don't give up and count yourself a failure. Forgive yourself, recommit and begin again. Don't stop having a daily devotional time. That's exactly what the enemy would like you to do ... so don't.
Beginning a daily devotional time with God can truly be a life-changing experience. You have every possibility of growing closer to the Lord than ever before as you get to know Him through prayer and the reading of His Word.
Your time with God will be motivated by your deep love for Him and the grace He has poured out on your life, not just keeping an appointment so that you can check a box. Allow yourself to experience the blessings of spending time with your Savior and allow Him to transform your heart so that you reflect the image of Christ to others in your family, neighborhood and workplace.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hard Work Pays Off

"Marriage is crazy work, but it is good work. Two people must regularly get over themselves and fight for love. There is no coasting; it’s pretty much foot on the gas forever. Some parts get easier and sometimes not so much, and many of us will fight our way back from disintegration to create something stronger than before - with scars of course."

        - Jen Hatmaker