Archive for the ‘God’ Category

I was hungry and you formed committees.

I was thirsty and you preached sermons.

I was naked and you said, “That’ not in the budget.”

I was sick and you sang another chorus while internally debating traditional verse contemporary style of worship.

I was lonely and you rushed to the restaurant to get the best booth.

I was in prison an you held another congregational meeting.

I tell you the truth: whatever you did to the least of these, you did unto me.

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The last couple of nights Joshua has been extra clingy (is that a word?).  He wants me by him constantly. While he is playing, he wants me by him. When he is laying down, he wants me by him. I love it, yet it is draining. Sometimes I just need to have a break. I feel drained. Yet, at the same time, I enjoy the fact that he loves me so much. All he wants is for his daddy to be around. He wants to know he is safe. He wants to know he is not alone. He wants to know I am near by.

I want to enjoy these moments. I know that one day he will be older and we will not get this moment back. He will be wanting to do his own thing and I will long to be near him. I pray I learn to embrace these moments.

As I think about Joshua’s desire to be near to his daddy, I am forced to think of my own relationship with God. We are encouraged to draw near to God (James 4:8).  I have to ask myself the hard question: Am I seeking to draw near to God? DO I desire to get closer to Him each day?Do I so long to be with Him that I cannot stand the idea of not being near him? Do I, like Joshua, just want to be near my daddy? I believe God wants me to be that in love with Him. He wants me to seek Him. He wants me to love being with him. He longs for me to long after him. God is my daddy and he loves his child.

I am thankful for the lessons we learn through children. My prayer is that we can all learn to love God so much we cannot stand the thought of not being near Him. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

When we look at the world around us, we can see so much pain and suffering. It gets depressing just watching the news these days. We hear of another rape, another murder, another robbery. We see another terrorist act, another casualty in the war. We see suffering all around. Many of you can recall where you were the exact moment a tragedy such as the Oklahoma City bombing or 9/11 occurred. Bad news is all around us. Tragedy often seems to be around every corner. Human suffering invades our lives on a continual basis.

We live in unstable times. We can recall the things that once seemed so safe and how they now have been scarred. Recall the group of people shopping in a mall when someone opened fire and claimed innocent lives. The tragedy that took place at a college campus when an alienated student went on a shooting rampage. What about the people attending a worship service that is suddenly interrupted by gun fire  – it wasn’t in a communist country it was in the heartland of the United States. We live in a time of uncertainty. And the people cry out, “Where is God?” They say, “If God is such a loving God, then why did this happen? Why did He allow it? Why didn’t He stop it?” We live in uncertain times. Each day people face tragedy: loss of a loved one, unemployment, bankruptcy, victims of violence, homelessness, hunger, poverty, and the list could go on and on. And they cry out, “Where is God? Does He care? Does He even exist?”

I have faced some tragedies of my own and I have found myself asking the same questions at times. I think back to driving in the car on Christmas Eve from Oklahoma City to Muskogee after leaving my grandfather’s funeral. Christmas Eve was always such a special time in our family and yet this one carried with it the loss of a dearly loved man. I think back to those times when I felt so rejected by people. I think back to the kid who was one of the leaders in a gang who said he wanted to make a change. When he asked if I could meet with him the next day, I responded yes and as I went to the housing project where he lived and hugged the kids in the neighborhood who were my friends and talked with parents, uncles, and siblings I hear gun shots and there lies the gang member who said he wanted a better life…And I cried out, “Why?”Why didn’t I make a choice to take him home with me the night before to get him out of the neighborhood? Why did God let this happen?” Tragedy has a way of slapping us in the face and daring us to respond.

Bad news is all around us. Not much has changed over the last couple of millenia. Since the beginning of sin, people have questioned why. Since sin entered the world, bad news has been showing its ugly face. And it is in those moments of bad news that we need hope. It is in the midst of tragedy that we need peace. It is in the eye of the emotional storm that we feel helpless to control that we need to experience the calm, gentle breeze.

God looked at this world and saw the hurt and pain that seemed to have overtaken us as a people. He sent prophets to the people and he sent various messengers, yet God still seemed so distant. He still seemed so far away. God knew the perfect solution. While He would still use people, He would do something that would truly impact the world. He came into the world and walked and talked and lived among us.

Luke 2:8-11 states: And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

This time of year is a reminder that God made a decision to come to this earth in the form of a baby named Jesus. He could not sit by and watch His people suffer, he responded by becoming flesh and blood and moving into the neighborhood. He went through the trials we go through, he suffered like we suffer – that is good news. And although tragedy still occurs, we know how to deal with it because He put on flesh and blood and taught us how to live. He understands what we go through. Have you experienced the death of a loved one, he understands. Have you ever been abandoned and betrayed by a friend, he understands. Have you ever put all your effort into helping someone only to have them reject you, he knows what that is like. That is good news for us. We have a God who understands pain. That is the Christmas story, that is God being proactive. He put on flesh and entered the world as flesh and blood so you and I could have a more peaceful life. This isn’t about nativity scenes, it’s about a God who gave himself as a gift.

Jesus life was spent serving others and bringing them hope, peace, and good news. One of my favorite sayings of Jesus is this: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” DO you need some rest? The world is full of bad news. Wouldn’t you like to take a rest. That tragedy has been heavy on your heart for so long – wouldn’t you like for him to carry it for you? That guilt and shame has taken your peace for too long now – wouldn’t you like to rest? God’s response to this suffering world is an invitation to rest. We live busy lives. We have appointments and deadlines. We have stress and burdens. We get tired and want to rest, but we say we must continue. We think we must keep carrying this weight, we must stay stressed. We feel that life is meant to be stressful, but Jesus offer rest.

When I look at the tragedies around me I wonder, “Where are you, God?” His response is that he is right here offering me some rest, but I look everywhere else. Don’t you think you have looked everywhere else long enough? Wouldn’t you like to rest in Jesus?

I have three questions for you to think about . Feel free to respond on this post or just to quietly answer these for yourself:

What personal hardship has affected your life?

How has it changed your life?

How do you need God to respond?

All month long, we have been studying the story of Esther in JAM time at church. The kids have done a great job being able to relay the story of Esther into their own words. I have been excited about seeing the kids share the story and retell it. They talk about King Xerxes and how he was looking for a queen. Esther entered the pageant and the king liked Esther so much, he chose her to be his king. What I find interesting is that Esther never really desired to be queen. She didn’t want to be in the running. Maybe she was too shy or maybe she just really wasn’t that into the king and all the power and prestige that comes with being queen. For whatever reason she never really considered it. I love that her cousin, Mordecai, convinced her to enter the running to become queen. He believed that God had a plan for her life. He believed that God placed at the right place at the right time to bring about a change that would bring glory and honor to God.

Well, God did use Esther. Mordecai learned of Haman’s plan to kill the Jews. He convinced Esther to take a risk and go before the king and make him aware of Haman’s evil plan. Esther did the right thing. She took the risk. God used her to save His people.

My favorite part of Esther’s story comes when her cousin, Mordecai, tells her in Esther 4:14, “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” I wonder what God has placed us here for at such a time as this? I wondered as I taught the kids how God would use them for such a time as this. We have such a short window of time in this world. What will we do with it? How will God use us? Will we take advantage of this time – or will we miss the opportunity?

Joshua’s leg was red and swollen. He found it difficult to walk and we could tell it was infected. He went to the doctor last Monday. He was prescribed a couple of antibiotics. We came back to the doctor Wednesday, he was given a shot of antibiotics. We checked him into ER on Wednesday night and he was sent home. We took him back to the doctor on Thursday and they immediately admitted him into the hospital. It was scary to Kellie and I.

We sat there at the hospital holding our precious child wanting so badly to protect him. He was given an iv with a steady flow of antibiotics. It broke our hearts to see our 1-year-old child laying there with an iv. We were not sure how bad the situation was until the doctor and nurse began to explain that when we brought him in, it was close to being fatal. That thought still haunts us.

Joshua is a strong kid and he managed a lot of smiles during his hospital stay, but what sticks out most are his screams. He hated to have anyone touch his leg, yet the doctor and nurses had to touch and examine it. They had to see that it was progressively getting better. When he was admitted, his white blood cell count was at 31,000. The normal is 5,000-10,000. He was in bad shape. The lab workers had to prick his finger to get his blood for testing. He screamed. We had to hold him down. There was a time when his iv came loose. He had to have it moved to the other arm. Three nurses and Kellie held him down. I entered the exam room as they were trying to insert the iv. He somehow managed to get a leg loose and kick one of the nurses. I came in to help. It was so hard to look at him. With tears in his eyes, he looked at Kellie and me. Though he was unable to speak verbally, his eyes and tears told us what he was thinking. “Why are you letting them hurt me? Why are you helping them hurt me? Can you pick me up and hold me? Can you tell these people who are hurting me to go away?” It broke our hearts. How do you communicate to a one year old child that we are not hurting him, but helping him? The nurses and Kellie and I knew something he didn’t know. We knew that without this pain, there would be no healing. The pain was a part of the healing process.

I learned something that day. From a father’s perspective, I did want to just pick him up, hold and comfort him, and tell the ladies with the needles to go away and leave my son alone. But had I done that…I don’t want to speculate. I realized that this pain was part of the healing process. I had an image of Jesus as he was being beaten and nailed to the cross. I thought of his prayer in the garden where he asked God if there was any other way. I thought of the pain His heavenly Father must have felt as he saw his son having nails driven through his hands and feet. Jesus words on the cross were “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” It is as though he is questioning, “Why must this happen?” And I pictured God, the heavenly Father looking down at His Son and answering, “Without pain the people have no true healing.” Without the suffering Savior, I have no healing. Without his pain, I am lost. Without his pain, I am hopeless.

I find myself sometimes looking toward the heavens and begging God, ” Why are you letting this happen? Can you make this pain stop? Can you take the hurt away? Will you make these people who are hurting me go away and leave me alone.” His quiet answer is “Without pain, my son, there is no real healing.” My pain helps me realize my need for God. My pain reminds me that although I may not realize it, my condition is severe – it is fatal. If I do not have the pain, I may not seek the doctor of my soul; the healer of my soul. Without the pain, I have no real healing. What about you? Do you have times of pain? Have they caused you to look toward the heavenly Father who is the healer of your soul? Look to Him – he has the cure for your heart’s condition. He is the healer.

Our church recently had a fall festival. It was a lot of fun. The kids were able to play games and get candy – lots of candy! I remember how fun Halloween used to be when I was a kid. I loved dressing up and going door to door saying “Trick or teat” and getting some candy. This year we have three boys. Well, Joshua is only 5 months old, so he does not really know about Halloween and candy. He will still be dressed like a lion and going to get candy for his mommy and daddy. But the two older boys understand that they are able to dress up and get candy. They are excited. I always have mixed feelings about it. Back in 2006, I wrote a post on this blog entitled What Mask Are you Wearing. It got a few comments and made for some interesting conversation. So, I want to once again share that post for all of you. Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts. So without any further babbling, here it is.

Halloween – it is a time where children (and many adults) dress up and pretend to be something they really are not. I am not here to debate whether or not a Christian should celebrate Halloween. Kellie and I took Timothy to four trunk or treats over the weekend. It is probably a good thing since today it is raining. We saw various costumes – power rangers, spider-man, Superman, farmer, vampires, witches, and even two girls dressed as a salt and pepper shaker. It was really quite interesting to see all the various costumes and the creativity of those who made them. Timothy went as Elmo. He did not really understand what was going on but he did enjoy the candy. Kellie and I also enjoy the candy:)
I began to think back to my childhood. I would often wear a towel as a cape and pretend I was Superman as I jumped off the couch onto the pile of pillows that represented my enemy. Life was so much simpler then. I could be anyone I wanted to be. I would pretend to be He-Man and I would stop Skeletor. I would be the hero and the world would be safe because I was there to save the people.

Can you already see where this post is going? How strange that the trunk or treat took place in the parking lot of a church building. How many people put on a mask before entering the doors? The mask that makes us look like something we are not – the mask of a spiritual super-hero. We are often afraid to take off our masks. People will see who we really are – they will see that we do not have it all together, that we are indeed broken. What will they think? So we keep our mask on – we sing “Break My Heart” without taking off the mask and in the process allow our hearts to become even more calloused. My spiritual super-hero mask will not allow you to see my weakness; my sin; my kryptonite.

Why is that? Why do we wear masks? What are we so afraid of? Are we afraid that God might see us? He already knows what we look like inside and out. Are we afraid of what the person across the aisle may think? They are broken too. Why do wear masks?

Why do so many Christians wear masks? Why do ministers wear masks? How do we allow ourselves to get to the point that we feel we need to be spiritual super-heroes out to save the world, as if we can save anyone!? I cannot save anyone from sin; only Jesus can. I cannot save myself; only Jesus can. So why do I get tempted to put on my mask? Could it be that the mask has become comfortable? Could it be that we have tried so hard for so long to live up to the expectations of others that we have forgotten who we are without the mask? God, teach us to take off the mask and fall at your feet.

Last Friday I took Joshua to a doctor’s appointment. It was the routine four month check. I am happy to report that he is healthy and growing strong. A part of the four month check up is immunizations. The word immunizations sounds so much nicer than shots. The nurse came in with three syringes of various immunizations to shoot into my four month old son’s legs. My job was to hold his arms and head while the nurse held down his legs and gave him the shots. He screamed a painful cry as the needle penetrated the skin. Big crocodile tears dripped down his face and then he looked at me. I am not sure what his mind is able to comprehend or how he processes his thoughts; but it seemed to be a look of “Why are you letting this happen to me?” It broke my heart. I did not want to see my child hurt. I did not want to see him in pain. I wanted to hold him and tell the nurse to keep those needles away from my baby boy. But I did not. I knew the temporary pain of receiving a shot would help him be stronger and more equipped to fight off sickness in the future.

I began thinking about that and realized it is similar to our spiritual walk with Christ. Sometimes life hurts. We go through trials, persecution, hardships, sickness, and pain. We like Joshua do not understand what is taking place and we look to our heavenly Father with a “why are you letting this happen?” attitude. Nobody enjoys pain (unless there is something deeply wrong with them), yet we all suffer pain. Nobody likes to hurt. We do not like suffering. We do not like persecution, yet we all face it. I believe the trials, persecution, and sufferings we face are making us stronger and more equipped to stand strong in our faith. They serve as a spiritual shot, an immunization, preparing us to fight against the sin that seeks to overtake us.

When the shots were finished, I picked up my son and held him close. I softly talked to him telling I love him. I sang a song to him. I let him know that he was loved. When I make it through a trial, I feel my Lord grab me and hold me close. He whispers that everything is okay. He sings over me. No, I do not hear an audible voice or feel a physical touch from God, yet I experience something much deeper. I experience an amazing renewal and transfromation that moves me closer to God.

Sometimes life hurts. It is during those times that we must learn to listen to what God is seeking to teach us. He loves us and He does not want to see us in pain, but He knows that when we overcome this temporary trial – we will receive something much greater.