Hope in the age of violence; How should Christians respond to the terror and violence in our country and around the world?

As I was watching Dr. Oz and folding laundry last Wednesday afternoon, ‘Breaking News’ cut in to the station just as the show was ending.

‘Uh, oh,’ I thought. The live video appeared.

It was an all too familiar scene: a public place filled with cop cars and police officers in tactical gear; people lined up coming out of buildings with their hands in the air; paramedics and people on stretchers filling the streets.

What happened in San Bernadino, California is tragic. I can’t imagine the grief and sorrow the families must be going through. Not to mention the fear that the community must be experiencing.

My heart breaks when I hear the story of a school, a mall, or another ‘soft’ target under attack. Those intent on hurting people seem to be targeting common people who were just going about their business. When they got up to go to work that day, they had no idea it would be their last.

I have tried to imagine what I would be feeling if a mass shooting happened in my town. How would I process it?

How would I be feeling if the Wal-mart five minutes from my house was on the news because a shooter was gunning down people there; or, an office building along US-31; or, my church just down 146th street; or, the Regal 17 movie theater where I recently saw Jurassic World.

It could happen anywhere.

To be honest, I don’t know how to feel about another tragedy. I am torn between being filled with  compassion and sympathy and feeling annoyed and angry. I am worn out with tragedy. The whole country is, I suspect.

It seems as though about every week or two we hear about another shooting. In the previous week it was a shooting in Texas. I can still see the face of the gunman with wild hair and a crazed look in his eyes.

And before that was the attack on Paris.

I remember Columbine so many years ago. It was April 20th, 1999. 12 students and 1 teacher were killed after a couple students went on a violent rampage. It was this nation’s first big school shooting where students were killed, at least in recent history.

Our nation was so naive and innocent up until that fateful day.

Gone are the days of feeling like our kids are safe when we send them to school. Gone are the days of feeling safe going to work or to the mall or to a movie or to a concert. Gone are the days when we could drop our kids off at college and know that they would be safe.

Gone is the innocence of the ‘wonder years’ in this country.

Maybe, we as a country were ignorant. ‘Ignorance is bliss,’ they say. Little did we know how drastically our country would change in the decades to come.

I remember the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that occurred on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20 children and 6 adults were killed. It crushed me to my core. I know many people across the nation experienced the same sorrow.

How can this happen?
How could someone hurt little children? . . . . practically babies?!
What is wrong with people?!

And then there is terrorism. The violence in Paris is a sobering reminder that it is not just the U.S. that is under attack, it is the whole world.

No one is safe anymore. Maybe we never were.

So, what do we do with all of this? How am I as a Christian supposed to react to these events? How is the body of Christ supposed to answer to the societal woes of the day?

We could . . . .

  • become depressed and cynical
  • become paranoid and paralyzed with fear
  • get up in arms about politics and foreign policy
  • stick our heads in the sand and pretend these events aren’t happening

As followers of Christ, we cannot let these events make us depressed or cynical. Why? Because we have too great a hope in Jesus Christ our Lord. We have been redeemed by the blood of the lamb! That has not changed, nor will it ever. No matter what we see on the news.

They can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.   Luke 20:36

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.   Hebrews 10:23

We need to show the world that our God is still the Lord of the universe. He is still The Creator, The Healer, The Comforter, The Lover of souls, and the Great I AM. He is unchanging. What a great comfort that is!

“I the Lord do not change”   Malachi 3:6

Neither can we be gripped by fear. God is still on His throne. And He is still the Lord over all.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
   do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
   I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.   Isaiah 41:10

He tells us not to be afraid–He’s got this! The world may fall apart, but we are His, and nothing can touch us.

For in the day of trouble
   He will keep me safe in his dwelling;
He will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
   and set me high upon a rock.  Psalm 27:5

Some are called to stand up and work the political/governmental system to bring about change and solutions. God bless those people. I am not one of them.

Those who are, must guard against appearing self-righteous. We don’t have all the answers, so let’s not pretend that we do.

And, for the world’s terrorism and violence, there may not be clear answers. In fact, I am quite sure there aren’t. At least not ones that will likely satisfies us.

God warned us of the trouble to come on this earth. We shouldn’t be surprised.

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.   Matthew 24:6-8

Nor can we just ignore the situation. We must show love and compassion when tragedy strikes. The parable of the good Samaritan tells us that we cannot just walk on by.

Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.   Philippians 2:4

Therefore, I won’t become depressed and cynical. I won’t give in to fear. And, I won’t stick my head in the sand.

So, what is a Christian to do?

The answer is never far from the old rugged cross. Where Christ paid the ultimate price.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,Holy Bible And Rosary Beads
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it someday for a crown.

The answer lies in knowing who the true victor is. We know how this thing ends. God wins in the end. And God is good. Therefore, good wins!

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 15:57

They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings   Revelation 17:14

We must ask ourselves → “What is God calling me to do in response to the events of the last few weeks?”

Pray. Sometimes that’s all we can do.

I pray when I don’t know what else to do. I pray when there seems to be no answers. I pray when I need the comfort of a loving Father.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”   John 16:33

Our God is a big God. He is way bigger than anything that happens on earth. He has overcome the world! Halleluiah!! Nothing is too big for our God.

Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,  Jeremiah 32:17

Remember this Christmas season that we have good news of a great joy! For all the evils of the world, a baby was born. A Savior, that is Christ the Lord! Because of His great sacrifice and love for us, the things of this world no longer have power over us. Amen!

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.   Luke 2:10-11

Giving what we cannot keep to gain what we cannot lose

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  1 Peter 1:3-5


“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
-Jim Elliot

 

Eternity has been on my mind lately.

Among the pile of books that I am currently reading is Money, Possessions, and Eternity by Randy Alcorn. In addition to being an excellent read, it is profoundly changing my thinking . . . . profoundly! He speaks boldly of this world.

“Someday this upside-down world will be turned right side up. Nothing in all eternity will turn it back again. If we are wise, we will spend our brief lives on earth positioning ourselves for the turn.”

I have been a Christian for thirty plus years. Every time I have given money to a mission organization, supported a child living in poverty, sacrificed for my family, or loved and offered hope to someone in need, I considered it an act of obedience. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior and He has commanded me to love and give sacrificially.

Even though compassionate plays into it, my attitude toward these practices has been, “I have lost something for the benefit of another” (money, time, etc.). I thought of it as my loss. Making sacrifices for God is what we are supposed to do. It is the right thing to do.

“ . . . . and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”   Luke 14:14

Most Christians think of serving, sacrificing, and giving as losing something. If we give $100 to the children’s hunger fund, than we now have $100 less than we did before. We are losing something, so that someone else can gain. It is the selfless thing to do.

But . . . is it really selfless? Is it really a loss?

What if we aren’t really losing? What if we are actually gaining when we sacrifice for others?

What if I was actually gaining whenever I lost something for Christ? What if I was actually receiving something whenever I gave something away? What if everything does have an eternal reward?

What if eternity is perfectly just?

Sacrifice is defined as, the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim (dictionary.com). What if there was a higher and more pressing claim in eternity?

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.   2 Corinthians 4:17

If every good thing that I do either gets a reward that I cannot keep here on earth, or a reward in heaven that I can enjoy for all eternity, that changes everything!

Eternity changes everything!

“View the present in light of the future; see time in light of eternity; look beyond sacrifice to reward; bear the cross while anticipating the crown.”
-Randy Alcorn, Money, Possessions, and Eternity

 

Is it selfish to focus and take joy in our future treasures in heaven? Maybe it is. However, the one thing that we are allowed to be selfish about is storing up treasures in heaven.

railway to sunny horizonBut store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.   Matthew 6:20

We tend not to think with an eternal perspective. It is all about the here and now. Most of us would say that we believe in eternity, but don’t really understand what it means. Eternity seems like some abstract idea that we can never fully grasp. The concept is hard to wrap our brains around.

If we did believe in eternity in heaven, and took it seriously, our lives might be drastically different. Our priorities might change. We might think differently about our time, money and treasures. The things that we worry and stress about now might fade away into the distance.

As the hymn goes . . .

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the Light of His glory and grace

Money and how we spend our time doesn’t just affect the here and now. It affects eternity. And, if we are thinking about eternity, there really should be no limit to our generosity.

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.  Malachi 3:10

Gone are the days when we were fixated on these concerns.

Do I have enough? and,
How can I get more?

Focusing on eternity causes us to ask these questions instead.

Am I doing enough for others?
Am I being generous enough? and,
How can I give more?

When we are living for eternity, we are truly free. We can have freedom from the worries of the here and now.

So, it is almost December. Christmas is coming. Sometimes I think that there isn’t any time when Christians resemble the world more than at Christmastime.

What if we viewed Christmas in light of eternity? Would we do anything differently?

It all comes down to, do I want my reward now to enjoy for a short time and then lose it, or do I want to wait and enjoy my reward eternally in heaven? When we look at it this way, it’s a no brainer. If we delay our gratification there is a huge payoff! And the payoff is guaranteed . . . . we all die eventually!

Are we willing to give up a little of what we love so much about Christmas to store up eternal treasures in heaven?

What we usually do at Christmas time:

  • Run around frantically shopping for giftsStriped New Year's Ball With A Red Tape.
  • Decorate our homes in the Christmas spirit
  • Give and receive presents from friends and family
  • Throw parties with our friends and neighbors
  • Listen to Christmas music and enjoy Christmas concerts
  • Participate in a live nativity scene or go caroling
  • Tell the story of baby Jesus
  • Eat a Christmas feast and gobs of Christmas cookies
  • Spend time with family around a Christmas tree in the warmth of a roaring fire
  • Watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman

None of these things are wrong. I love the sights and smells and warm fuzzy feelings of Christmas as much as anybody. I love being with my family. I love a roaring fire in the fireplace and the smell of cookies in the oven. I am not saying that we shouldn’t do these things.

What I am saying is . . .

Why would we forfeit eternal treasures for just these things? Eternity with God in heaven will probably have these wonderful Christmas things times 100 . . . maybe times 1,000,000! And we will get to keep them forever!

What I am saying is that the fun, ‘Christmas-y’ things shouldn’t be the only things that we do this Christmas season. We need to help the poor and serve others. We must focus on blessing others this Christmas more than we expect to be blessed ourselves. We always need to be caring for others. Not only because Christ commands it, but also because Christ will reward it.

If we are celebrating Christ’s birth, how can we celebrate it any other way than to ‘do unto the least of these’?

And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”  Acts 20:35

If we are serving the poor and oppressed, we can still enjoy the other stuff while at the same time being expectant of our future treasure. But when we skip over the commandments of Jesus to celebrate Christmas ‘our way’, we are being ‘of’ the world not just ‘in’ it.

Christmas can be a huge distraction from His mission. If you are like me, it doesn’t take much to distract me. Wave shiny objects in front of me and I am gone –Squirrel! So, we must see beyond the lights and the tinsel. Our focus must remain on Christ and His mission even during the Christmas season.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many   Matthew 20:28

As disciples of Christ, we put Him above all. And putting Christ above all requires that we put others above ourselves. This is how we are going to store up treasures in heaven.

As we look toward the coming holiday, how can we ‘store up treasures in heaven’ with our money, gifts and time?

child living in Mondesa slumWhat if we took what we normally spent on Christmas and gave it to the poor?
What if we gave all of our gifts to people that we will never even meet?
What if we gave gifts to orphaned children halfway across the world?
What if we gave it all to the downcast and lowly?

There are many things we can do. You don’t have to give 100% of your Christmas budget. Maybe think about what you could do without. Try giving a portion of what you normally spend on each other for Christmas to the homeless in your city . . . just a portion. And, see how God blesses you, and next year give a little more.

Here are some other ideas . . .

  • Take a portion of what you normally spend on each other and give it away instead
  • Spend part of your holiday handing out food at a bread pantry
  • Invite an elderly neighbor, or someone who doesn’t have family to Christmas dinner
  • Celebrate Christmas simply so that you can give more money to those in need
  • Hand out blankets to the homeless
  • give money to the bell ringers for The Salvation Army outside of the grocery store
  • be generous in your tipping

God, I pray, make me better than I am without You. Make me more like You. I give everything to You, Abba Father, because YOU are everything. Teach me to be humble and live a life of simplicity. Help me to separate myself from the materialistic things of this world. Change my nature to be more like yours. When people look at me, I want them to see YOU, Jesus.

Embracing weakness; when I am weak, then I am strong

“The Christian often tries to forget his weakness: God wants us to remember it, to feel it deeply. The Christian wants to conquer his weakness and to be freed from it: God wants us to rest and even rejoice in it. The Christian mourns over his weakness: Christ teaches His servant to say, “I take pleasure in infirmities; most gladly will I glory in my infirmities.” The Christian thinks his weakness his greatest hindrance in the life and service of God: God tells us that it is the secret of strength and success. It is our weakness, heartily accepted and continually realized, that gives us our claim and access to the strength of Him who has said, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ

I lead a women’s’ bible study with three other ladies at my church. When I agreed to co-lead this bible study I knew that it would be far out of my comfort zone.

Leading groups and public speaking are not my thing. Talking in front of thirty or so women would just about make me throw up. And it has . . . . just about.

Being a stay at home mom for the past 15 years has been great for my kids, but not so great for my confidence. Frightened and stressed young business woman biting her fingers,Staying home often means that you are not out growing your career, not refining your people skills daily, or gaining confidence in various social settings. You aren’t practicing things like running meetings or giving presentations. For me, those areas are definitely weak.

So, why did I agree to do this, you might ask? There are two reasons.

One, is that I believed that God wanted me to. I have found that saying no to God is generally a bad idea. He is good and wants the best for us. When we say no to God, we are missing out on our best life.

And, two, I knew that God didn’t need much from me to do a good work through me.  

Knowing that I couldn’t do it on my own forced me to rely on Him. And, I have found that most of the wisdom God wants to give us can only be acquired outside the boundaries of our comfort zone. And if that is where I receive His wisdom, then that is where I wanted to go.

I come up painfully short when it comes to most things in life. But, I know that I can give God whatever I have, even my weakness, and He will add Himself to the equation. We don’t have to be enough on our own, because He is enough. I am so much better with God than I could ever be on my own!

My weakness + God = God’s perfect power

I am very aware of my weakness. I often pray when I am in difficult situations that God would make me better than I am . . . . better than I am without Him.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.      Psalm 28:7

We are imperfect creatures. Sometimes we are incapable of being loving and selfless. And that is when the power of the Holy Spirit rests on us and allows us to do what we can’t do in and of ourselves.

Often in relationships I have to ask God to make me better than I am. I am an introvert, therefore, relationships and social situations are hard for me. But I can give Him my weakness, and He gives me the ability to be kind, giving, selfless, and loving. These are things that at times, I can’t do without Him.

It’s amazing how far just being willing and available to God will take you. Being willing is half the battle. And surrendering our will to God is what He desires.

Surrender your heart to God, turn to him in prayer, and give up your sins— even those you do in secret. Then you won’t be ashamed; you will be confident and fearless.  Job 11:13-15 (CEV)

Most Christians are uncomfortable with the concept of weakness. We value the strong, just as the world does. Look at our churches and see who the leaders are. They are usually the strong, eloquent, scholarly ones who exude strength, not those embracing weakness.

We have it backwards. We put those who are strong and powerful in high esteem. Yet, God clearly shows us that He values weakness. His power is made perfect in weakness.

We all have weaknesses. And it takes true courage to admit that we do. Why are we embarrassed or ashamed about our weaknesses when we all have them?

“Never let them see you sweat!” They say.

I say, ‘why not?’

God is the only omnipotent one. God has no weaknesses, He is all powerful. We are human and do have weaknesses . . . . all of us do.

There is a big difference between the words, weak and weakness. We all have weaknesses, but in Christ we are certainly not weak! We can wield great amounts of strength and power through the Holy Spirit. And, more power than we could ever experience on our own.

However, when we are following Christ, we may appear weak to unbelievers.

  • We may not stand up for ourselves if it doesn’t glorify God
  • We might not fight back when something is done to us, or fight at all
  • We might turn the other cheek
  • We might not trample others to get ahead
  • We might experience weakness, frustration or despair
  • We might give our money away
  • We might put ourselves below others

If you call people who do these things weak, than you are calling Jesus weak.

Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:43-45

We have to remember that Jesus was counterculture, and if we want to emulate Him, then we too must be counter culture. That may mean that God is calling us to do things that will make us appear weak to the world. But we know the truth. We know that we are strong in Christ.

Humility and weakness go hand in hand. One must be humble to acknowledge one’s own weakness. And, it is only with humility that you can you embrace it.  

Embracing weakness is not the popular thing to do. And those who do will find themselves on the road less traveled, the narrow path. And they will likely find themselves there alone.

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  Matthew 7:14

Choosing to embrace humility and weakness can lead to difficult places. It can lead to embarrassment and ridicule. It leads to the spaces outside your comfort zone. It leads to places that may make you look unimpressive and weak to others.

He calls the foolish, the weak, the lowly, and the despised things of the world. And He does great things with them.

God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Even Paul had weaknesses . . . Paul! Paul is one of my heros, not in spite of his weakness, but because of it.

I truly believe that most of us have a ‘thorn in the flesh’ just as Paul did in 2 Corinthians 12. This is one of my favorite scriptures.

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Two things stand out to me from this scripture.

  1. Everything that God does is for our good. If we have a thorn in our flesh, then we need it to be there. Paul needed it to keep him from being conceited.
  2. God uses our weaknesses, maybe even more than our strengths. We need to be willing to be weak . . . so that Christ’s power may rest on me  (vs. 9).

Most, if not all, of the people that God used powerfully in scripture had significant weaknesses. Paul was one of many.

Moses didn’t speak well.

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”  Exodus 4:10

Naaman, a great king, was a leper.

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.   2 Kings 5:1

  • Cartoon man holding a dumbell.   Abraham was very old
  •    Samson couldn’t resist women
  •    Jonah ran from God
  •    Naomi was a widow
  •    Peter denied Christ
  •    The disciples fell asleep
  •    Martha had anxiety
  •    Rahab was a prostitute

The key to being great in the kingdom of God is not a lack of weakness. Surrendered weakness is a strength.

We aren’t enough in and of ourselves. If we can acknowledge our weaknesses and need, God can use us greatly. Weakness is part of the human condition. There isn’t a man or woman alive that doesn’t have a weakness. Only those that acknowledge their weakness can be great in the Kingdom of God.

“Lord Jesus, you embraced your cross to redeem the world. Help me to embrace the crosses in my life — the hardships, struggles, disappointments, pain. Only by recognizing my own weakness, can I discover your strength.”

  -Author Unknown

What are your weaknesses? I would love to hear from you!

Jesus Wept: Allowing God to break our heart for what breaks His

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.  Romans 8:22-23

One morning I spent time on my knees crying out to God. I was filled with sorrow and anguish. My soul ached within me and I was heartbroken. I don’t understand what you are doing, Lord. Should I be over this by now? Please tell me. Am I causing my own pain and distress? Is it me, Lord?

I anguished and I groaned in prayer.

I sometimes feel like the people in the bible who tore their robes and beat their chests. I anguish about my wretchedness, I anguish about the state of the church in this country, I anguish about my kids and the next generation, and I anguish over brothers and sisters in Christ who are thoroughly beaten down.

Why do I feel so utterly anguished about certain things? I ponder this question. I don’t know why. I can’t explain it. What society and the current thinking tells me is that76569 there must be something wrong with me.

If I told people about my anguish they would probably look at me like I had three heads. They would probably be horrified and maybe call a priest for an exorcism.

God doesn’t want us to anguish does He?

With these questions came a crisis of faith. Not in the sense that I doubted God. I didn’t. I knew that God was who He said He was. I knew His promises were true and His Word was life and breath to me. No, my crisis wasn’t about God, it was about me.

It centered around these two questions: 1) Why do I experience such deep anguish? and 2) Is something wrong with me?

I haven’t really known what to do with my deep sorrow that I experience from time to time. In a society where pain of any kind is unacceptable, I feel weird and alone. It is more socially acceptable to avoid pain by any means possible than to walk through it.

Some common reactions to a person who experiences anguish might be

  • trying to talk them out of it, “it’s not that bad”
  • seeking to cheer them up, “come on, look at the bright side”
  • telling them how they are being too negative

Some might start avoiding that person completely. Nobody likes a ‘Debby-downer’.

A few weeks ago I saw a friend of mine from college. We went out to dinner and she filled me in about her life in the last 10 years. It was fraught with trials, difficulty, conflict, and trauma. Having known her a long time, I also knew that she had a less than ideal childhood. She never had much of a support system, and I felt bad for having lost touch with her through the years.

After the evening was over, I went home and collapsed on the couch. I was exhausted, almost heavy. It was like she unloaded some of her burden onto me. And, I physically felt it. I felt a little heavier and she probably felt a little lighter.

As the next few days passed, I continued to think about our conversation. I thought about how she was in such a difficult and confusing time. I thought about her experiences that caused her to feel unworthy and unimportant. I thought about how she had been treated so unlovingly by those around her. I thought about the drama in her family that she faced on a regular basis.  And, it filled me with sorrow.

At that moment, I realized how similar my friend and I were. We were both messy people who experienced anguish.

What do we do with messy people?

  • What do we do with people who have serious baggage?
  • How do we handle those who have had a hard life where things haven’t always worked out?
  • What do we do with people who aren’t always happy and upbeat?
  • What do we do with those who don’t have and may never have a strong family or support system?
  • What do we do with people who frequently wrestle with God and experience uncertainty?
  • What do we do with people who are in the storms of life?

When we aren’t avoiding them completely, we tend to say flippant things reflecting a spirit of ‘turn that frown upside down’. We suggest things like, the power of positive thinking. In other words . . . . Get over it!

We don’t want to hear the messy, sad stories. We don’t want to hear about complex problems that don’t have easy solutions.

We tend to embrace joy and reject sorrow. Therefore, we must ask ourselves, “Are we rejecting people, God’s beloved children, because they don’t always fall into the joy category?”

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  Luke 10:33-34

Scripture says that the good Samaritan:

  • took pity him
  • went to him
  • bandaged his wounds
  • poured on him oil and wine
  • took him to where he could get more help

This beaten, bloodied man would not necessarily have been pleasant, upbeat or positive. What if the good Samaritan had responded like this to the man on the road instead?

  • You’re not really hurt
  • Think positively
  • Turn that frown upside down
  • Shake it off

troubled-womanWhat if the good Samaritan would have said something cliché and walked away? Obviously, he wouldn’t be considered ‘the good Samaritan’, and the man on the road would never have gotten the help and attention that he needed.

Some people are just luckier in this life than other people. Some are valued, talented, loved by many, lucky in love, supported and generally have many successes. And, there are some that aren’t or don’t. The majority of us live somewhere in between.

Who is willing to fight for my friend? Who is willing to get in the mess with her and share in her anguish? Who is willing to be burdened with a complicated situation when they don’t have to be?

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  Isaiah 61:1-3

Who will anguish for a tortured soul? Am I willing? Are you? Will we leave these messy people outside the gates while we are within?

So let’s go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is—not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus. This “insider world” is not our home. We have our eyes peeled for the City about to come. Let’s take our place outside with Jesus.  Hebrews 13:13-15 (The Message)


I decided to do some research on anguish in the scriptures. I wanted to know who experienced anguish in the bible and what God had to say about it. As I did, I realized that those who have anguished are in good company.

David anguished.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.  Psalm 22:1-2

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise  Psalm 51:10

So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.  1 Samuel 30:4


Nehemiah anguished.

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.  Nehemiah 1:4


Elijah anguished.

He came to a lone broom bush and collapsed in its shade, wanting in the worst way to be done with it all—to just die: “Enough of this, God! Take my life—I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave!” 1 Kings 19:4-5


Hannah anguished.

So Hannah ate. Then she pulled herself together, slipped away quietly, and entered the sanctuary. . . . . . Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried—
inconsolably.  1 Samuel 1:9-11


Paul anguished.

I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race.  Romans 9:2-3


Even Jesus anguished.

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43
An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.  Luke 22:41-44

Then he (Jesus) said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.  Matthew 26:38

Jesus wept.  John 11:35


Could experiencing anguish be a part of becoming more like Christ?

I also found a blog post that stunned me called, A Call To Anguish by David Wilkerson. It was written by Natalie Nichols on the Shades of Grace Ministries website, http://www.shadesofgrace.org/2009/10/29/call-to-anguish/.

There, I found this 7 minute clip

This clip was based on a powerful sermon by an evangelist who passed away in 2011. He is the author of The Cross and the Switchblade. This clip moved me like nothing else has in a  long time.

I have listened to this clip several times and I still weep. And I ask myself, why? Why does it move me so much? Then God speaks to my heart.

The picture of someone so anguished, and burdened for the heart of God that they walk in heaviness like David Wilkerson in this clip is so beautiful. Preachers that speak with such anguish and emotion don’t really exist anymore.

There is nothing as beautiful to me as someone like my friend in complete anguish because their heart is aligned with the heart of God. It is an awesome thing when a person is willing to suffer for their God.

I started to think that maybe being in anguish was not weird or wrong. Maybe I was being more obedient to God than if I didn’t anguish. Maybe anguish should be a part of the life of a disciple of Christ.

So, maybe . . . .

When we allow God to break our heart for what breaks His, we are the very picture of Christ

Let’s consider getting into the mess with people, because Christ did.


Below, I have written out this clip from David’s Wilkerson’s sermon. Please excuse the grammar as this was originally a sermon not a text.

“I look at the whole religious scene today and all I see are inventions and ministries of man and flesh. It’s mostly powerless. It has no impact on the world. And I see more of the world coming into the church and impacting the church rather than the church impacting the world.

I see the music taking over the house of God. I see entertainment taking over the house of God. Obsess with entertainment in God’s House, a hatred of correction and a hatred of reproof. Nobody wants to hear it anymore.

Whatever happened to anguish in the house of God? Whatever happened to anguish in the ministry? It’s a word you don’t hear in this pampered age. You don’t hear it. Anguish means extreme pain and distress; the emotions so stirred that it becomes painful. Acute deeply felt inner pain because of conditions about you, in you, or around you. Anguish. Deep pain. Deep sorrow. Agony of God’s heart.

We’ve held on to our religious rhetoric and our revival talk but we’ve become so passive. All true passion is born out of anguish. All true passion for Christ comes out of a baptism of anguish. You search the scripture and you’ll find that when God determined to recover a ruined situation He would share His own anguish, for what God saw happening to His church and to His people. And He would find a praying man and He would take that man and literally baptize him in anguish.

You find it in the book of Nehemiah. Jerusalem is in ruins. How is God going to deal with this? How is God going to restore the ruin? Folks, look at me . . . . Nehemiah was not a preacher, he was a career man. This was a praying man. God found a man who would not just have a flash of emotion, not just some great sudden burst of concern and then let it die. He said ”No. I broke down and I wept and I mourned and I fasted. Then I began to pray night and day.

Why didn’t these other men, why didn’t they have an answer? Why didn’t God use them in restoration? Why didn’t they have a word? Because there was no sign of anguish, no weeping, not a word of prayer! It’s all ruin!

Does it matter to you today? Does it matter to you at all that God’s spiritual Jerusalem, the church, is now married to the world? That there is such a coldness sweeping the land? Closer than that, does it matter about the Jerusalem that is in our own hearts? The sign of ruin that is slowly draining spiritual power and passion. Blind to lukewarmness, blind to the mixture that is creeping in.

That’s all the devil wants to do is get the fight out of you. And kill it. So you won’t labor in prayer anymore. You won’t weep before God anymore. You can sit and watch television and your family go to hell.

Let me ask you . . . . Is what I just said convicted you at all?

There’s a great difference between anguish and concern. Concern is something that begins to interest you, you take an interest in a project or a cause or a concern or a need. I want to tell you something I’ve learned over all my years, of 50 years of preaching. If it is not born of anguish, if it had not been born by the Holy Spirit, where what you saw and heard of the ruin that drove you to your knees, took you down into a baptism of anguish where you began to pray and seek God.

I know now . . . . . oh my God do I know it. Until I am in agony, until I have been anguished over it. And all our projects, all our ministries, everything we do . . . where are the Sunday school teachers that weep over kids they know are not hearing and going to hell?

You see, a true prayer life begins at the place of anguish. You see, if you set your heart to pray, God’s going to come and start sharing His heart with you. Your heart begins to cry out – oh God Your name is being blasphemed! Holy Spirit is being mocked! The enemy is out trying to destroy the testimony of the Lord’s Faithfulness. And something has to be done.

There is going to be no renewal, no revival, no awakening, until we are willing to let Him once again break us. Folks, it is getting late, and it’s getting serious. Please don’t tell me, don’t tell me you’re concerned . . . when you’re spending hours in front of internet or television. Come on.

Lord, there’s some need to get to this altar and confess ‘I am not what I was, I am not where I am suppose to be. God, I don’t have your heart or your burden. I’ve wanted it easy. I just wanted to be happy. But Lord, true joy comes, true joy comes out of anguish.

There is nothing of the flesh will give you joy. I don’t care how much money, I don’t care what kind of new house, there is absolutely nothing physical that can give you joy. It’s only what is accomplished by the Holy Spirit when you obey Him and take on His heart.

Build the walls around your family. Build the walls around your own heart. Make you strong and impregnable against the enemy. God that’s what we desire.”


A Call To Anguish clip by David Wilkerson, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGMG_PVaJoI

A Call To Anguish, the complete sermon, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayYizi9TZAQ

Christ be all around me

Above and below me, before and behind me, in every eye that sees me, Christ be all around me. These are the beautiful words from a song by Leeland that I recently heard at a Michael W Smith concert. Doesn’t that just say it all?

Our Lord and savior is everything. He is above all and before all.  He isn’t the first thing, He is EVERYTHING. He is the first and the last, the beginning and the end, and everything in between. Christ be all around me. That isfilepicker-e6qpKbXRmqiuPntnYpag_god_over_everything my prayer.

God, the Father is benevolent, merciful, and compassionate yet He is all-powerful, and just. He is in all things and over all things.

For the past few years, God has ignited a fire within me that I cannot quench. He has been filling me with His grace, goodness, and the power of His Word.  I have been absolutely raw to receiving more of Him with eagerness and anticipation. Sometimes all that I can see is Him, and He is beautiful, and He is enough.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” Ephesians 3:20

At 42, sometimes I ask myself, ‘what have I been doing all my life? Why has it taken me so long to see how big and beyond measure God is?! What has kept me blind all these years to a God that ached with love for me? How did I not see? How did I not know? How did I not hear? Why did I not listen?

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God.”  Isaiah 40:28

How many time have you heard someone say, ‘I was raised in a Christian home’? Many of us have said and heard that. It is the story of the lives of numerous Americans. I, too, grew up in a Christian home. My family was heavily involved in a church, yet my mind wasn’t really renewed (Romans 12:12), and my eyes weren’t opened (Psalm 119:18), and I did not seek to partake of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). I was a Christian, but I wasn’t sold out to Christ.

So, the question crossed my mind; can a young person have a deep relationship with the heavenly Father and an understanding of how great He is? Can a teenager live like Christ is their everything? Can someone grasp the difference between the things of this world and the things of an all-powerful and mighty God while they are still young? Can a young person have right priorities; God first, and then everything else? Or, do we, as humans, have to go through 30 years of life before we can grasp the enormity of the things of God?  That is my question.

If I think about those questions through the lens of what I know about God, my answer would be yes, of course. God certainly would give us the ability to see truth at any age. We are His creation. It seems to me that truth would be a more natural part of us than the ways of the world. Because we were created by God in His likeness. So, where do things go wrong? Where do we stop believing in true things and start believing the lies of this world? Where or when did we fall asleep?

I am sadly aware that most people probably never see a God bigger than their church building. To us, God is as big as we need Him to be. If we don’t need Him, he is not on our radar. If we are going through life and things are going pretty well, then we tend to we_have_a_big_godcompartmentalized Him. We don’t really need a big God so we put Him in the same category as family, jobs, health, school, and whatever else our lives consist of. The word, faith doesn’t mean much, and God is, for the most part, forgotten.

God is forgotten until the you-know-what hits the fan! Crisis hits and we are broken. We are stripped of everything that we love and hold dear. And all of a sudden, God is the only thing keeping us from falling into the abyss. He has to be bigger or we won’t make it.

As I look back on trials in my life, some very recent, I realize that I needed my God to be everything. I needed an ENORMOUS God. At some of the darkest times of my life I would picture myself dangling above a huge canyon or valley. The only thing keeping me from falling to my death was the mighty hand of God. And He never let go. He was big enough to single-handedly hold me and give me exactly what I needed. If He weren’t a big God, I wouldn’t have made it.

Don’t tell God how big your storm is, tell your storm how big your God is”

So, why didn’t I get it that our God was so much bigger than we could ever think or imagine when I was young? Why did I have to wait until now to recognize how big our God is?

The verse, Proverbs 22:6,  “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.,” comes to mind.

Are we training our kids up in the things of God? What are our priorities when it comes to our parenting?  How are our kids going to see the importance of a God-centered life unless we show them?

Kids need to be told the truth of God before and above everything else . . . above their education, above sports, and above clubs and activities. Yes, I said it. God, and the teaching of His Word should come before education and sports.

Education can be an idol. Anything can be an idol when we put it before God. We think it noble when we spend so much of our time and energy lobbying for education reform and stressing about it. We have made education a God. Our schools cram more and more facts and figures into our kids’ schoolday than ever before. And our kids come home exhausted. And, after the school year is over, what have they learned that is eternal?

Sports and other activities can be an idol. Where is our time and energy spent? How many American families run around every afternoon and evening carting kids to this activity or that sport?  How many of us have our weekends tied up by games and tournaments. Even our Sundays are filled.

When is church time? When is family time? When is the time we pass on our legacy of faith to the next generation?

The truth is, our kids aren’t going to ‘get it’ if we don’t make God number 1 in our homes. It starts with parents. Our children will see a small God if that is what we show them. And if we show them nothing at all about God,  then they will live for the world. They may come to know the Lord when they are older or they may not.  If God is not a priority to us, then He’s not going to be a priority to them.

The world speaks loudly to our kids. It speaks through absent fathers, broken families, and childhood abuses. The world speaks loudly through public schools, the media, and their peers.  The world speaks loudly about the issues of pain, suffering, and morality and how to handle them. It is like the snake luring Eve to the forbidden fruit. And, they will listen to whoever is loud enough.

If the world is the only one speaking loudly to them, then the things of this world are what they will hear and learn.

So, the answer to my question of whether young people can see a big God depends on us. Will be speak louder in the name of Christ? Will we be bold and show the next generation that our God is more than enough?

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,”  Ephesians 1:18

 

 

Awake, sleep no more!

On the treadmill this morning I noticed something as I was watching Good Morning America.  The thought hit me that, this isn’t real.

I usually flip between the Today show and GMA when I am working out in the morning. As I watched the polished hosts banter with one another and talk about shoes and good_morning_america_a_hwrinkle cream, and Kim Kardashian, my mind went numb. I watched people gathering around the fences outside of Rockefeller Center trying desperately to get a glimpse of  Pitbull, or John Legend, or whoever.  I watched the who’s who of Hollywood on this segment and on that.

Most of these shows celebrate celebrities, dwell on fashion and beauty, and gossip about breakups and Hollywood drama. They deify the successful, the beautiful, and the rich and powerful. 95% of what I see on these morning shows are nonsense. It is a distraction from what is real.

“We have so much stimulation that we’re going numb.  We stumble into the fog . . . . we sleepwalk to a place where nightmares replace dreams”  Beth Moore, Children of the Day 

Television and much of pop culture is a dream world that Satan uses to keep us ‘asleep’. We get sucked in so easily to what we hear and read on TV, on the web, or on social media. They tell us what should be important to us and how we should live our lives.

Satan wants to keep us in a dream like state; keep us distracted.  When we are mesmerized with this world, we are useless to God.

You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.  1 Thessalonians 5:5-6

It makes me think of the ‘capital’ in the movie The Hunger Games. The capital was the place where the rich, privileged people lived in a futuristic world where freedom is lost to the government.  The people in the capital were strange and wore strange clothes and had goofy colored hair.  It was an obvious fantasy world that they lived in.  They weren’t real.

Sadly, generations of young people are brought up with a distorted sense of reality.  And I don’t just mean because the celebrities and supermodels distort the way young girls view their bodies, which they do.  I mean, the whole picture isn’t reality.  What is portrayed is that beauty is very important, looking young is important because older people have less value, celebrities are more important than the rest of us, and pop cultures should be our way of life.

We have to ask ourselves, ‘is this real’?  We have to teach our kids to constantly ask themselves, ‘is this real’?  And, the only way to answer that question is to check it against the Word of God.

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Ephesians 5:17

Is beauty important?

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  Proverbs 31:30

Do older people have less value?

Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?  Job 12:12

Are celebrities more important than the rest of us?

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female,for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 3:28

Should we adopt pop culture as a way of life?

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.   Romans 12:2

Ask God to show you what is real.

I would define real as anything that is eternal or has eternal impact.  God is REAL, His Word is REAL, and His creation is REAL. God sending His only Son die for us  . . . . that’s REAL!

” . . . Then, something wakes us up. . . . and we are . . . Awake to the activity of God around us; awake to His Word on the surface of the page; awake to the lightning before we hear the thunder; awake to our present season; awake to our people; awake even to our pain lest it end up meaning nothing.”  Beth Moore, Children of the Day

Fighting for lasting marriages, struggling to find purpose in life, raising kids to know Jesus, loving our neighbors, worshiping the Creator, thirsting for God’s Word, feeding the poor, walking in loneliness, searching for belonging, and experiencing suffering.  This is what is REAL in this life!  Matters of the soul are real. Dealing with big questions about serious and sometimes dark subjects are real.

“Our faithful God won’t leave in endless hibernation those of us who still show a pulse for Him.  He seeks to break into our awareness and restore our vision.  God can use a fresh dream to wake us up.”  Beth Moore, Children of the Day

So, let us awake! Be asleep no more!  Let every eye open and every ear eagerly await the word of the Lord, for He is good!

A good scripture to study on this subject is Ephesians 5:6-18

6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness,but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

My Creed

I believe in God the Father – maker of heaven and earth crucifixion-of-jesus-247x300
And in Jesus Christ His only Son 
I believe in the virgin birth 
I believe in the Man of Sorrows bruised for iniquities 
I believe in the Lamb who was crucified and hung between two thieves

I believe in the resurrection on the third and glorious day 
And I believe in the empty tomb and the stone that the angel rolled away 
He descended and set the captives free 
And now He sits at God’s right hand and prepares a place for me

I believe He sent His Spirit to comfort and to reveal 
To lead us into the truth and light, to baptize and to seal 
I believe that He will come back the way He went away 
And receive us all unto Himself, but no man knows the day

Creed, Petra, words and music by Bob Hartman, based on the Apostle’s Creed

I am nothing special.  Yet, Christ died for me . . . it blows my mind still, even after 30ish years in the faith!  The above words represent who I am, and this is MY creed.  I love the Lord my God with everything I am and I strive to know Him more and love Him better.

I have always had somewhat of a rebellious spirit.  And I am OK with that since no one in history has ever been more of a rebel than Jesus Christ.  In churches and in Christian circles I am rarely politically correct, not at all conventional, and tamed . . . never!  The children of God are powerful people.  We cannot be contained and we will not be silent!  God has given us much to say and do.

I frequently ponder the things of God and I question everything.  I created this blog to share with my Christian brothers and sisters my crazy thoughts and ideas about our great faith . . . . AND . . . . to hear yours.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8