This is what I do, don't try to understand how I do it; I don't really know either

Posts tagged ‘faith’

When bad things happen to good people.

There is a common belief that bad things only happen to bad people and good things to good people – or at least it should be that way. Clearly this is not the case in the world in which we live. I have often wondered why people assume, or even expect that, but as I read Deuteronomy 28 today I made a conclusion.

We expect good things to happen to good people and bad to bad people because that’s what God laid out. In that chapter he says if you obey then you will be blessed, and if you disobey you will be cursed. Pretty straight forward and pretty basic. We also see this in many Proverbs.

So why doesn’t this happen? Was God wrong when he had the authors of the Bible write these things? If you look at Deuteronomy you have to keep in mind he wasn’t making a blanket proclamation to the world. He was directing a certain group of people at a specific time. If you look at Proverbs your clue is right in it’s name – it’s a Proverb. A Proverb is a short popular saying, usually of unknown and ancient origin, that expresses effectively some commonplace truth or useful thought. It is not a universal law of how the world operates.

No where in the Bible does God ever say life is fair. No where does he make any promises of a fairy tale life once you become a Christian. I wrestled with this when my best friend and her children were murdered. She loved God with her whole heart and her twin boys were only 14 months old. How could God not protect them?

God made us with free will. It means we can love others or we can hurt them. His only promise for ultimate safety and protection come after we die, with eternal life. That’s not to say that God is out there somewhere with his arms crossed just watching us like a spectator. He does intervene at specific times for specific purposes. What either of those are I make no claims to know. I just let Him be God.

I do know one specific time with one specific purpose. He came down himself. He stepped into this world of both joy and pain and took all our sin so that his promise of eternity with Him could be possible. Without that act there is no way any one of us could have bridged the gap we created between us and Him.

So for now, if you continue with the expectation that good things will happen to good people, and vice verse, you are going to be frustrated and disappointed for the rest of your life. If however, you chose to let God be God, you will be able to come to terms with the fact that we live in a fallen world but we don’t live for this world. We live to follow Him and He will take us to the next where bad things don’t happen at all.

Susan and the boys are waiting for me there.Susan and babies

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Be a friend & shut your mouth

It was not even 10am and I had already greatly angered a complete stranger. That doesn’t usually happen that early in the day.

I have a pet peeve – well a few to be completely honest. This particular one is when well intentioned people say stupid things to hurting people. YES, I get that they are well intentioned but it doesn’t make what they said any less stupid and I am just not going to ignore it.

I have  a friend who is going through an incredibly difficult time, to put it lightly. She should be celebrating a great joy and instead she is wading through loss and grief in addition to all her regular responsibilities. I can not imagine what she’s going through right now and she was open and honest (publicly) about how she can not imagine how she was going to be able to carry on through the week.

A well intentioned friend commented that “He will never give you more than you can handle.” Where the heck did that stupid phrase come from? Can we eliminate it from English please! I commented that this is no where in scripture and not even accurate. I let her know that I recognized her desire to comfort her friend but there are times we do have more than we can handle and it’s in those times we need Him the most because we can not make it through on our own.

This phrase also superimposes that God has given her all this shit right now. This is not necessarily accurate either. Sometimes we make our own storms, sometimes other people make storms in our life. There is also a devil who wants to seek, kill, and destroy; so please lets not leave him out of the equation of storm making.

The final and most important reason I hate this phrase, is that when you are in the middle of all of that, it does feel like it is more than you can handle. I know I have been there. I have had this very thing said to me and it completely minimizes the pain and hurt you are trying to get above. It makes you feel incompetent and like you are weak because if God never gives you more than you can handle why can’t I handle this? It makes you feel like you should put on a happy face and pretend like your ok when your NOT ok.

We need to be free to be real with people. We need to have others know when we are drowning and need help. Well intentioned people can still cause more hurt and pain, and if we learn anything from the book of Job, it is that sometimes the best thing a friend can do is sit in the ashes with us and keep their mouth shut.

There’s only room for 1 on the pedestal

As a leader I am very aware of my weaknesses and failures.  Being in front of others brings a feeling of amplification of those areas. I am also very aware of the impact they have on others. That awareness helps to keep me accountable but it also stirs in me a temptation to hide those things.

There are lots of people who look to leaders as perfect people. Flawless. They put them on pedestals. It’s easy to be caught in that and feel like you have to maintain this perfect image and pretend to be superhuman. You want to be their hero. You want to be the one to save them and make everything better.

Who else could do that but a perfect person? This is so true and I am not him. Neither is any other leader on this earth in bodily form today. There is only one true hero and only one that can save and His name is Jesus Christ.

He can use me, yes but not to save anyone. That work has already been done on the cross. He uses me to love like He loves. I get to be his hands and feet on this earth today. I point the way to the true hero.

In order to do that, it means I have to first and foremost recognize that I am not Him. I have to make sure no one is putting me on a pedestal that I do not belong on. I have to make sure that I am not putting myself on a pedestal that was never intended for me.

An easy way to do this is to be open and accountable with my faults. This doesn’t mean my failures are on auto-post to social media, but it does mean I have an accountability team that know my inner workings. It also does mean that I am real with the people I lead. I find that the more real and open I am about my pain and about my screw ups. The more people can relate to me.

It’s how I relate to Jesus. He was fully human. He was tempted, he felt afraid, he was alone. He hurt and bled. I can relate to that. Jesus was the perfect human and He is also the perfect God. Without Him being God, His work on the cross is just a sad waste of a perfect life that shouldn’t have been ended.

Him being God and coming to earth, then dying for my sin bridges the gap that exists between my Holy and Perfect God and this sinful human. He saves me from my sin and failure.

That deserves a place on the only pedestal.

pedestal

 

I Deserve Hell

It seems to be that very often I hear the phrase “You deserve it!” It is almost always in conjunction with some self gratifying decision, though at times it can be used with an accommodation by someone else to the individual.

For Example:

I: “Just booked a vacation to Hawaii!” A- “You deserve it”

I: “So grateful to everyone who voted me most popular person” A- “You deserve it”

I: “Bought myself those new boots I wanted” A- “You deserve it”

Lets just look at this from a Biblical standpoint:

Romans 3:23 says: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

That means that everyone DESERVES hell. We deserve to be eternally separated from God – not new shoes, not a vacation, not awards and accolades. It is a serious pet peeve of mine to hear or see that phrase – you deserve it. My amazing friends who mean very well have all received the same response when they use that phrase with me. Yesterday when a dear friend said I deserved a bouquet of flowers I was given I replied, “I deserve hell but by the Grace of God I got flowers.”

I seriously believe this. We all deserve to go to hell because we can not measure up to the perfect holiness that is God and His standard. It is only through the grace and mercy, by the sacrifice of death, that Jesus Christ gave that I am able to have or be anything at all. It is ONLY through Him that I exist. It is only through Him that I have the gifts, talents and abilities to use on this earth. It is only through Him that I am able to be reconciled to God and live eternally in paradise.

I DON’T deserve anything I have, and I have a lot. I have 4 beautiful and amazing children. I have a home, a closet with ample clothes and a fridge filled with food (when I get to the grocery  store and back). I have family and friends. I have business and ministry, and much much more!!

I have the opportunity to love others on this earth as He has loved me. It’s sad how often I fail at this so badly.

Yes my friends I do deserve something and I have worked hard for it – I deserve hell,

BUT

By the Grace of God I am never going there.

Thank you Jesus. I am and will be eternally grateful to you.

Five Bucks

I have a friend named Dave Dalley. He has given my kids and I the opportunity to get to know people of other faiths and also talk about what they believe and why. He often spearheads some really cool projects to bring people together and/or help people.

The latest initiative is that they had donors give $5 bills that they put in envelopes and left around the city. They then left a message with the money asking whoever found it to spend the money according to their values and beliefs. They also asked for the founder to write them back and tell them how they spent it.

The first founder wrote back today and here is what they said, “I went to the library to pick up a book on self compassion! 

I was delighted to find the 5 dollars and I will be holdin on to it for a little while just so I can appreciate it that much more!

Once I am ready to spend it it will either go towards a yoga class or a nice cup of tea at a coffee shop! Thank you!”

It’s amazing how small things can make such a big impact. It was, after all $5. It’s not like we paid her bills or cleaned her house. What’s important is the thought behind it. Someone was thinking of you, even though they didn’t know you, and did something about it. Thought seriously counts!

Is everyone who gets the $5 going to be as impacted, probably not – but does it matter? What matters is that the effort was made and chances are high that when you do something like this people are impacted, even if you never know about it.

Christians should be front of the line in these kinds of things. Showing kindness and loving others is what Jesus modeled for us. I just see people get so busy with all their churchy activities they miss opportunities right in front of them. Alternatively people give their tithes to the church and expect the church to do something with it. They give themselves a pat on the back that they did their part, but hold on: if you claim to have Jesus as your Savior then YOU ARE THE CHURCH.

You don’t get to hand things over to leaders in the church and let them take over. I don’t see Jesus saying, “ok God you do it all and I’ll just give you a cut of what I have, then I can go and enjoy the church social with all my friends.”

Sometimes we get intimidated because we see these leaders who are running massive organizations of outreach and think, “I could never do that.” Well that’s totally fine. Your probably not supposed to do that.

Even if you were, it would still have to start with $5.

 

 

I am a pastor

I am a licensed and ordained pastor.
I wrestle with my faith.
I struggle with temptation.
Every person has a calling. I have the title of pastor because part of my calling includes leading people.

Leading others doesn’t mean I don’t have difficult times, or don’t ever question things anymore.

I actually think it means I have a duty and obligation to question things more, on behalf of the people that I lead.
We all have a lot of different options every day. Even though we hardly recognize the fact, we are often at crossroads.
Each road will take you somewhere.
Some roads lead to challenges,

some to character development,

some to harm and

some to many other things.

Each and every decision we make takes us down a road.
Recently I felt I was standing at crossroads, and took a good long look at each one.

Some were very, very tempting.

Some were even familiar, based on habits and patterns from long ago.
I did look long and hard.

Maybe even with moments of longing, because in some ways those roads are easier, if only for a time, and familiarity breeds comfortability, even if it involves dysfunction.
I realized I was like a vacuum plug.

The cord gets pulled by pain and life events, and it starts to detach from the wall.

The vacuum motor starts to sputter.

It’s not as effective at its job.
In order to be useful it must remain plugged in.
I am a light.

I am not a light source.

If I disconnect from the power supply, my light flickers and starts to fade. I have to remain connected if I am to shine brightly.
Being connected also helps me pick up my feet and chose the harder but better road, because I am not who I used to be.

With each step I am being transformed into the likeness of my Savior.

Hopefully others will follow, because I am a pastor.

Where to stick your bumper sticker theology

I recently read this blog about God not giving us more than we can bear by Nate Pyle. Honest, truthful, bold stuff. The last two years of my life have been filled with a lot of pain and this really hit my heart in a way I needed. I have been through many difficult things in my life: sexual abuse, death of a baby, separation, death of family members and friends by natural causes, accidents and murder.

Almost without fail some, probably well intentioned, Christian has spouted off some little phrase they heard that they think will help. I love how Nate referenced it to bumper sticker theology. So true!

I love how Job’s friends stayed in silence with him, at first. How much better off would they have been if they had stayed that way. We just get so uncomfortable with silence we feel the need to fill it with something – anything. Saying stupid things like, “it’s for the best,” or “they’re in a better place,” really doesn’t help me in my pain.

A dear friend recently said to me, “if He brings you to it, He will bring you through it.” In her case, I know she meant well and we have a relationship where I could comment back that I think there are many things in life that He doesn’t bring us to, but we go running full tilt into ourselves, never the less, He can still bring us through.

What will help, is other people who know when it’s better to not say anything at all. Sometimes I just need people to BE with me. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15

Here are ways to ACTUALLY be helpful:

Learn to be ok with silence

Tell someone you will pray for them and then actually do it

See if there is a tangible need that you can meet

Stay connected

Pain is uncomfortable for the person in it and those around them. The past two years have been a long, hard, painful process for me, but those who have walked with me through it have carried me in more ways than they know. Bumper stickers will fade and peel. True friends, with hearts like Jesus, show love continuously.