I really enjoy sports! I mean real sports like hockey, baseball, football, and occasionally basketball. I follow my teams with great interest and passion. Our family has spent much time travelling to cities to see those teams in action. For us in Canada, Saturday night is hockey night, it is almost as important as going to church (notice the word “almost” lest you think I have really lost it!). But, to actually coach a team or develop a strategy for how to run the “power play” or to play “shorthanded”, would be next to impossible for me.
“Does this hurt?” “How about here?” At certain times all of us have heard those words from a Doctor who is checking out what physical problem we may have. I recall running across the lawn of a neighbours’s yard and not seeing the little wire fence in the dark of night, tripping over it and breaking an arm! It wasn’t difficult for the emergency room nurse to tell I had a problem as my arm twisted in the wrong direction!
Less obvious are the spiritual wounds we carry around that come as a result of our own sin, and that of others. Emotional wounds that were inflicted by a parent, a spouse, or another person we trusted, carry their own set of damages that leave scars. We human beings have an uncanny knack of hurting one another, sometimes we don’t even realize that we do so. But when we put our needs and wants before serving God and others, we cause damage. And, the result is that we ourselves become twisted emotionally and spiritually.
The twelve men who followed Jesus Christ were not exempt from this malady. You will recall that one of their most heated discussions had to do with which one of them would be the greatest, the most important, when the kingdom of God reigns on the earth! Really? How could it be that after the Lord announced to them that he was going to be delivered to the Jewish authorities to be killed, that these men thought it correct to discuss the place of their importance! However, without them even knowing it, these men, in a spiritual sense, began to inflict themselves with a world of hurt.
Whenever we begin to think about “me first”, like the disciples did in Jesus’day, we unknowingly begin to hurt ourselves. We convince ourselves in thinking that this is something we deserve! But unless God is the one who gives it to us, our striving for position or priority actually hurts ourself, and those closest to us. We unknowingly trip over the neighbour’s invisible wire. Our attitude needs to be that which places God first, others second and me last.
Here is the sad thing we need to acknowledge, repent of and confess: the church has been the cause of this type of pain. To be specific, I’m not talking about the church as in the building, rather the church as in people who have knowingly hurt people. We have run over people in our effort to establish our agenda (we use “spiritual” language to do so!). We turn member against member. Sooner or later God will call us to account as to what we have done!
A Holy Spirit led, driven movement of God is not that. It is one where God’s people confess their sins one to another, and they don’t allow hurts to trip up God’s agenda. It is a movement in which the fruit of the Spirit is evidenced and God’s agenda takes first place. Nobody needs to ask who gets the credit but rather everyone knows it is God who gets the glory all day, everyday.
Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift! May we treasure him, and may that be reflected in our desire to encourage others to do so as well!
Tests. No, not the academic type that you can study and prepare for but the “James chapter 1 verse 3” type: “…for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” The thing about the life of faith is that you don’t get to choose what type of test God will give you. I want to share with you how God has tested our fellowship of believers the past year.
The article that I am about to write I could not have written 5 years ago. I believe that I suffered from an identity crisis as a Pastor. What is more, I believe the office of Pastor is suffering from an identity crisis. Between the power model C.E.O. type who demands allegiance, and the average church member who sits in the pew, the gap is deep and the gap is wide. There are Pastors who use their people to achieve fame among denominational leaders, and Pastors who struggle to gain the respect of the people in the pew. Continue reading
The English author C.S. Lewis wrote,
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks
in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
It has been a tough week. We are witnessing before our eyes the humbling of the fourth largest city in the United States. The images we are seeing on our televisions are real. They are difficult to watch because they are people like you and me who are losing everything, literally everything. Furniture, clothing, televisions, cars, precious memories like family pictures, and in some very heart-breaking way are losing their loved ones.
Near where I live, many people have lost their homes and all their belongings in the fires of Western Canada. Through no fault of their own, they were forced to evacuate their homes without notice. Their lives will carry these moments for many years.
What do we do in times like this? I am reminded of the description of Jesus Christ as he witnessed the helplessness of those who are described as “harassed and helpless”, that he did NOT berate them for being in that position. Nor did he call them out for the evilness of their hearts. Here is what we read about our Saviour, “he had compassion for them.” (Matthew 9:36)
His compassion was a result of seeing the condition of their heart. They are described by Matthew as being “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” The predicament they were in describes them as people who were in some sense being taken advantage of through no fault of their own. The response of our Lord is so unlike us. We want to find someone to blame! Someone’s head had to roll because of the mess these people were in. But Jesus does not go there.
What Jesus does do it absolutely amazing! Here is the Son of God with all the power to change the circumstances of these helpless and harassed people. What does he do? He turns to his followers and tells them to pray. What should they pray about? Pray that God would send people to relieve these hurting folks of their difficulty. I find that fascinating. Don’t you?
The “megaphone” of God in the suffering of these dear folks in Houston has as its response, that God’s people pray that He would send compassionate people to help, people who would give if they cannot go and people who will pray. There are so many agencies that are reaching out right now like Samaritan’s Purse, who are sending chaplains as well as sending physical aid to assist Houston’s hurting people.
God now has our attention! He is moving us to action. Let’s not sit this one out but actively pray, give and if possible, go!
It’s not over yet! There are times in life when we think that we have it all figured out and just then God throw us a curveball that knocks us right off our feet! We are left wondering, “What was that all about?” Because we are frail creatures who have a limited sense of understanding we want to know all the details all at once! Thankfully, God has not designed life that way!
We were made to love and be loved. Every human being on this round little sphere we call earth has the same basic need. It matters not your skin colour, your language, or your religion. It is something that each of us are born needing, so it is not a result of personality or emotional need, it is a result of how we were created. Continue reading