Monday, February 1, 2016

Everybody Hurts For Everybody

How do you respond when trouble hits? Do you get angry, fearful, resentful, anxious or depressed? Do you withdraw? Do you compartmentalize? Do you lean on others?

Everybody hurts sometime. REM said so. And our experience tells us so. We suffer and we've seen the people around us suffer.

Questions swim around in our mind when we wade through stormy waters:

  • Why is this happening to me?
  • What did I do to deserve this?
  • Is God angry with me?
  • How is this going to end?


Rarely (or never) do we ask a more important question:

  • How might others benefit from my suffering?


Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:
If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

Paul recognized that his desire to share the Gospel with as many people as possible would inevitably lead to suffering. (It did, he almost died on many occasions before he finally died) He also recognized that his suffering was beneficial for other people.

Somewhere along my own journey (I have no idea when), I read this passage and wrote the following notes in the margin of my Bible.

Everything we go through is in part for the good of others. Whether our situation is good or bad, it can be helpful for someone else. This is God's way of reconciling us not only to Him but also to one another. A question we should ask in every situation is, "For whom am I experiencing this?"... This could be a game-changer.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Endurance Is The Pathway To Living Free



James said that suffering leads to endurance and endurance makes us complete.

Paul said that endurance builds character and character leads to hope.

Chumbawamba said "I get knocked down; but I get up again."

We would all like to think that once we start something, we work at it until we finish it. We believe that once we quit something, we never have to worry about it again. Truth is, we rarely finish what we start without slipping up a time or two along the way. We are rarely successful at quitting cold turkey.

The secret is ENDURANCE.

Success is the result of continuous effort in the face of overwhelming odds. Growth occurs when we dust ourselves off and keep going no matter how badly we've failed.

Peter said we need to work out our salvation daily. On the cross, Jesus did everything necessary to set us free from the sin that enslaves us. He offers us that freedom, we only need to accept it and keep accepting it.

John said if we confess our sins, God will forgive us and make us righteous. So, 

next time you mess up... 
next time you fall into an old habit... 
next time you slip back to the old way of life... 

Confess, Get up, Keep Going & Embrace your freedom in Christ.

Friday, January 29, 2016

You Will Become Like The People Who Surround You

Many churches consistently push people toward small groups as a vehicle to help them grow. This isn't just a churchy thing, though. "Secular" research also suggests that the people whom we allow to influence us will either drag us down or pull us up to their level.

Monday, January 4, 2016

9 reMARKable thoughts from Mark 1.


Mark 1:14-15: Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Our question is not just "How did Jesus act?" In view of His action, we must also ask, "What should be my reaction?"
Don't be so consumed waiting for tomorrow's miracle, that you miss God's provisions and opportunities today.
Anywhere the King's authority is accepted and obeyed is a kingdom outpost.
Jesus came to inaugurate the Kingdom of God in the hearts of men.
Repentance is more than just an apology. It is words, not actions. It is an intentional effort to discontinue the old in favor of the new.
Belief is more than just a one time prayer asking Jesus into your heart. It is the full embrace of a new way of life.
Repentance and belief is like remodeling an old house. It's best to simply tear out the old so that the new can be built appropriately.
Jesus understood people wouldn't immediately be made perfect upon hearing His teachings. He was inviting them to join Him on a journey.
Jesus didn't come to earth, die on the cross, rise from the dead and return to heaven so you could "get saved" and then just wait to go to heaven.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Where Do You Look for Help When It Seems God Isn't Paying Attention?

Psalm 121:4:

Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep

If you've ever had a difficult day, or week, or month, or year; you know that it can't be hard to find comfort in words like Psalm 121:1-2. These verses were made famous by the Von Trapp family, "I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth."

You might read those verses and say, "Great. But I don't have any hills to look up to, and I don't feel like anyone is coming to help." We can't all be Maria. We don't all stumble into the perfect family and the perfect solution for our problems.


So, what do you do? How do you find hope, when all you see in front of you is despair?

This morning I stumbled out of verses 1 and 2, sidestepped verse 3 and then got tackled by verse 4.

Indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep
Look! Israel's protector does not sleep or slumber!
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

Get it?

This was written thousands of years ago. It was written during a pretty good time in Israel's history. They had warrior-kings who were expanding their kingdoms. They were united. They were free.

Then stuff happened.

A civil war divided the kingdom forever.
Evil kings oppressed and enslaved the people.
Conquering hoards from far away lands leveled cities and carried away captives
The holy city and the temple were destroyed
The Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Ptolemies, the Syrians and the Romans ruled Israel. Each, more oppressive than the other.
The Romans wiped the nation from the earth.
For nearly 2000 years, Israel had no home.
The Muslims and the Turks and the Crusaders plundered the land.
The Holocaust.

and still...  Israel survives.

Over the course of time, many people groups have been wiped from the earth. No nation, no ethnic group, no people should ever survive what Israel has been through.

But he who is watching over Israel never closes His eyes.

God watches over His people. We may not always get the rescue we expect, when we expect it. We may not always receive the precise solution for which we pray. We may not even feel like looking to the hills for help...

But God is watching. He does not sleep.

He who watches over Israel, who has watched over Israel, is also watching you.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Do You Have A Talking Problem?

I recently read somewhere that if you can't go an entire day without saying something negative about another person, then you have a problem.

Imagine someone says, "I like to drink, but I don't have a drinking problem."
You might ask, "How often do you drink?"
If they respond that they cannot go a day without drinking, you might suggest that they do indeed have a drinking problem.

Consider the person who says they never go a day without getting angry at least once. Would you recommend anger management?

So then...

If a day never passes in which you don't say at least one negative thing about one other person; do you have a "negative speech" problem?

I do.

Remember what James said. "And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself." (James 3:6)



He also said, "For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way." (James 3:2)

I like to think of myself as being somewhat self-disciplined. I like to think I avoid addictive practices and behaviors that will control me. So, even though a lot is percolating in my mind regarding events of the past few days... Tonight, I'm going to be slow to speak.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

5 Things Every Christian Can DO In Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis


Since I already stuck my nose in this, I thought I'd follow up last night's thoughts with a more practical post.
Vast amounts of bandwidth have been used in recent days as American Christians debate what other people (namely the government) should do in response to the Syrian refugee crisis. I am fascinated by the intensity of outrage some direct toward others because of their opinion about what someone else should or should not do.
Realistically, most of us have little to no impact on what our country will do in response to this crisis. So where our national policy finally lands seems like a really silly thing to get angry about.
This comes back to a simple principle I express quiet often. "Don't allow the things you cannot control to control you." You cannot control what the Senate, the House or the President does. So don't allow their actions to control your behavior or your relationships. Instead, consider these five things EVERY CHRISTIAN CAN DO in response to the Syrian refugee crisis:
1. Pray for the refugees. My cousin-in-law who lives in Greece wrote the following, "As someone who is watching these refugees arrive 'live' here in Athens, Greece, I can tell you confidently those arriving here are not strong, healthy men ready for war. These are broken and helpless people arriving traumatized and with nothing... we see many women and children sleeping on pieces of cardboard throughout our city and in desperate need." Whether or not there are terrorists among their midst, many of these people are in desperate need. Pray for them.
2. Pray for your government officials. This is not a simple situation. There is not a clear answer. Those in power must find a balance between compassion, and safety and they must do it in a timely manner with an eye on our own country's resources. They need Gods wisdom. Pray they receive it.
3. Support an organization that is currently assisting refugees. The Nazarene Fund is one place to donate. There are many others as well. Just google "assist with Syrian refugees". You'll find a place you can make a donation.
4. Bake cookies for your neighbor. Seriously. In all the talk about loving our neighbor, let's not forget to do that as literally as possible. Love your neighbor.
5. Clean out your closet. There are people in your city who are in similarly dire straights as the refugees. Heroin, human trafficking, homelessness and other "Giants of Despair" are wreaking havoc especially as the winter rolls in. Find a local shelter, contact them to see what they need and then clean out your closet. Don't just get rid of your old stuff. Give away your best stuff if that's what they need. No one wants just the muffin stump.
There are likely many other things you can DO during this time. At risk of speaking harshly... if you aren't willing to do some of these things, maybe you could just stop talking about the crisis all together. If you aren't taking action, you obviously don't mean it.
Let's all try not to be quite so outraged, let's cast a few stones fewer. As the great country singer once said, "A little less talk and a lot more action!"