Pain (part 2)

You would never know it if you saw me, but I was and am a nerd (sarcasm). I was one who got bullied way more than I bullied. And when the opportunity presented to gain power so that I could hurt others rather than be hurt, I said yes, no questions.

Even when it was saying yes to evil.

Now I see shows like The Order and all things Harry Potter. I’ve heard the arguments.

They all fall flat when I see the pain in this world.

I know there are normal people out there who are unaffected. But I KNOW that there are those who will be affected. Who want their pain to cease so badly they will pursue magic, Halloween, fear, the demonic. Those that a scary movie will cross a line to something darker.

And heaven help us, as parents, our defenses will be so compromised and weak, our belief in Jesus will be so lukewarm and apathetic that our children will have no where to turn.

Pain

Why do we have pain?

Let’s back up and differentiate between physical, externally induced pain and emotional pain, that which is inflicted on our soul, our identity.

On a clinical level, physical pain can be treated, healing can take place, the pain can be tolerated.  And often, pain has to be overcome for healing to occur.

Emotional pain is more difficult, if not impossible to diagnose and treat.  Despite what it says on their signs and in their pamphlets, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists, along with their array of drugs, represent a pitiful arsenal against the issues we face today.

There is commonality in that physical pain can produce deep seated emotional pain and emotional pain can cause very serious physical pain.

But why did God allow it?  Why do we have pain?

I want to know because I see so many people doing really stupid things, wasting insane amounts of money and resources, and causing more pain than they could ever hope to heal, all trying to make it go away.

I have pain of my own that I can’t seem to ever overcome.  And it is nothing compared to what millions face every day.

The short answer is that it’s because of the fall.  Adam and Eve sinned so we have pain.  But if we make it so simplistic, it leaves us with the only solution being to, “suck it up.”

The exciting thing for me in asking this question is that I know my God.  My King is a healer.  My Lord is moved by every tear, every broken and contrite heart.  When a child dies through abortion or cancer or abuse, no one sees it more, feels it more, knows it better.

The issue of pain is often and the center of the atheist’s arguments (knowingly or unknowingly).  So it seems like we need to understand it better.

I want to hear back. Why do you think we have pain?

Bad Reputation

Insert Joan Jett video here.

I’ve heard multiple people how they were in line or walking down the street or some such scenario.  In the story they run across some foul-mouthed person (probably worked in a factory or paper mill) and they set them straight.  That language offends me or my children or a lady or something.

I keep thinking about that idea in the face of our current world situation and I’m trying to figure out how to justify it.

Right now, our world is crying out.  So many are afraid. So many angry, depressed, lost. They’re calling on the government, on health organizations, on doctors to save us.

They aren’t calling on Christians.

The reputation that we have is one of judgment, condemnation, short-sightedness, stupidity, well, you get the idea.

And on the part of many Christians, we want to point them to Jesus, to the bible as the answer to the world’s problems.

I don’t know about you, but I get the feeling He’s pointing the finger back at me.

We get this mystical idea that He’ll move in world events, change the heart of the president, sway the vote, remove the sickness, eliminate sin and poverty.

That’s not actually how He tends to work.

Oh sure, He CAN! But…

He invaded the earth. His Spirit invaded the budding church. And He left! But He left His Spirit in us.

This leaves me short of breath, heart pounding. That means when He said ‘go’, He meant me. When He said He would be with me, it was AS I was going.

So I need to GO!

We may have a bad reputation. But if we go, with the love of Jesus burning bright inside us, maybe we can shine it up a bit.

Remember

“I’ve been lately thinking about my life’s time. All the things I’ve done and how it’s been…” Poems and Prayers and Promises (John Denver)

I remember as a small child going for hikes in the woods around the farm where we lived. I would get lost but was never afraid. I knew I’d find home.

I remember as a teenager being so angry, so lost, so afraid and so alone. I told God I didn’t believe and would rather serve satan than him.

I remember being trapped in my bed as demons tore at me, unable to scream, unable to move.

I remember the freedom and peace and joy I felt when I gave my heart, my life to Jesus.

I remember telling him over and over that he could do whatever he wanted with me.

I remember yelling at him, rejecting his commands. Medicating the pain he wanted to heal and never again saying he could do what he wanted with me.

I remember being rejected in love over and over. Coming to believe no one could.

I remember meeting her. Seeing her smile. Knowing I was done. Knowing she would never love me and I would never stop loving her.

I remember, despite my inner protests, she said ‘yes’. And then, ‘I do’.

I remember children and fighting and leaving and coming home and more children and fighting and leaving and coming home. And being so, so tired.

And I remember falling on my face and asking God to forgive me and help me with the mess I’d made.

And I remember healing and joy and love.

So much love.

And yes, though I got lost, God brought me home again.

Surprise Me

We want to know.

None of us really like surprises.

Oh sure, birthdays, Christmas, something special waiting.

Some say they enjoy the surprises of a scary movie. The horror waiting in the closet, the monster jumping out and eating someone.

We can appreciate the stimulus from the safety of a theater or our couch. We certainly would not like it if it was real, if it was really happening to us.

We want to know, to be prepared, to have assurance of victory.

So then I read in Numbers how, as the children of Israel get close to the Promised Land, God invites the to send out spies to check things out.

I wonder why He did that when He knew they would get scared and ruin everything.

Sure, they would want to know, to be prepared. And, a couple guys actually benefited from that. But most were overwhelmed.

Now I look at my life. How I have let fear and the magnitude of a task overwhelm me. I still want to know, to hedge my bets, minimize my risk.

And He won’t tell me.

He doesn’t give me the “plan”. He doesn’t let me know that I’ll be safe, that I won’t get hurt, or fail. He promises good things. He assures me that He’s right there with me.

But, it’s not enough.

So today I want to try something new.

Lord Jesus, surprise me!

I would like to know, to be prepared. But You know. You’re prepared.

Help me to be faithful. Help me to honor You. I open my heart to you. I trust you.

Surprise me!

Smartest Guy In The Room

When I was young, I thought I wasn’t very smart.  Read through the bible a few times and got my degree and, all of a sudden, I’m the smartest guy in the room.

Then I meet a kid who is explaining advanced differential equations to a PhD. I hear a pastor saying to his staff that God has revealed himself to the pastor in a way that they couldn’t handle.

May not be the smartest, but I’m not the dumbest.

Only then do I realize that my arrogance, the arrogance I see revealed in others and our collective intelligence is pitiful in comparison to the true smartest guy in the room.

Yet I hold on to my pride, my shame, my fear, my self-sufficiency and rage against my God who sees through it all. And then find myself on my knees, claiming dependence, my desperate need of Him.

And, He sees through that too.

I can’t argue people into heaven. I can’t impress them with my intellect, my giftedness, certainly not my spirituality. I have no delusions about condemning others or criticising their efforts to understand.

But can I introduce you to my friend? He’s funny and amazing. He really wants to meet you.

And He is super smart!

You can ask Him anything.

Smiling

He walked by me.

I smiled and said hello.

But he isn’t one of the people I like. He isn’t a hard worker. He doesn’t make me laugh. He does things I dislike or don’t agree with. He is different.

And so my smile was fake. The hello was fake.

GOD NO!

It is my belief that, if we could see things clearly, one of the most deleterious effects of this pandemic is the loss of the smile. Covered up by a mask, socially distant.

So when I don’t have a mask on and I see someone, please God, let my smile be real!

I know I have stresses and things are not easy right now. But I am a man of God, called to LOVE OTHERS because You first loved someone like me.

It’s not so hard. I want it to come naturally. Even for a scruffy old man like me.

Help me smile.

Too Loud

I married a girl who leans toward the shy. I grew up in a family that talks loud, argues loud, laughs loud. The only time I’m quiet is when I’m really angry (or I’m asleep).

Over the years, one of her chief complaints is that I talk too loud.

Bear that in mind with the following:

As the world becomes more fractured and divided against itself, we need to be louder.

And be prepared, as the voice of love, the voices of truth and grace and joy in the middle of trouble speak out, the world will say it’s too loud. They will want you to join their voices of hatred and anger and condemnation.

They may even tell you to be quiet or face the consequences.

Jesus said we were to, “be of good cheer,” because He overcame the world. And we overcome, “by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) and the word of our testimony.” Revelations 12:11

I’m tired of the rhetoric. I’m sick of the way it eats at me.

And I live for the King.

Too loud?

‘Bout to get louder!

Beauty

Hollywood, Nashville, New York, and much of the modern church say you must be beautiful for me to listen to what you say.  The importance of your word is directly proportional to the face that speaks.

I would mention names but then that would take away from the honesty, heartfelt worship and real suffering that are a part of some very beautiful people.

My point isn’t to take away from what they say.

I don’t mean to offend, and I’m preaching to myself. But, if you’re “ugly” and you feel unheard, part of the problem is you.

Two things are at work. First, do you really believe in the God who called you? If you do, then preach it, sing it, live it, share it.

Second, who’s your audience? Who do you want for an audience?

Side note: I don’t accept that we have an audience of one. Remember, Jesus said we were to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. AND love our neighbor.

Where was I? Oh yeah…

I want the big audience. I want everyone telling me how great and deep and amazing I am.

I don’t want the audience that can only stand to listen to me for two minutes (unless I’m reading a book to them). Or the one that gets bored with my intellectual dissertation. Or the one that hates my God, my Bible, my faith, but still needs to see me love them.

We ask, “who am I? Why would they listen to me?” And allow ourselves to be quiet. We ask, “who are they that I should invest my time, pour out my heart and soul?”

I think it is time for the ugly to speak up, to let our voice be heard. We have a unique perspective on God’s love, His calling, a relationship with Him that the beautiful, the popular, the successful need to hear.

Most of them only see their ugly.

And as His light and live shine through us. . .

We become beautiful too.

Waiting On A Starry Night

Christians and prayer are a strange combination. We are ones who trust in an omnipotent, all-loving God and yet believe in our ability to manipulate the system.

Even when He says no.

I often think about my son that died. He wasn’t technically my son, but he was still my son. It hurts so much still that he is gone.

I prayed the prayers, sang the songs, believed in God’s power to heal. But, he still died.

He is still gone.

So what good does it do to pray?

I believe that our prayers move the heart of God, that our approach to God calls out the armies of heaven on our behalf. I believe that amazing, miraculous things happen when we pray.

But wait! There’s more! (TV infomercial voice)

I can’t manipulate or coerce the Great God that I serve. Shoot, my attempts to manipulate and coerce my wife are failures at best. And she’s just a human.

But I can join Him. We can talk.

That’s why I like the imagery of waiting on a starry night. I come out of my house amd look to the sky and see a God who is so much bigger than me. He surrounds me. He surrounds my whole world, figuratively and literally.

And I look to Him. My eyes, my heart, my prayers are open.

More an act of rest, don’t you think?