Its what you do next…

conversation - photo credit - David Marcu

Whether its at work, at home, or in your social circle, when you realize that you are the source of another person’s pain, its what you do next that matters. Truly I hate that moment. Most of us who are conscientious hate it too. These are the moments when our self-defence rituals kick in: blaming, shaming, and fear dancing! We don’t want the conflict. We don’t want a share in the pain. We want it to be the other person’s problem. And so if you are at all familiar with that script it probably means you are going to argue with God when He interrupts your worship.

23“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.  Mathew 5:23-24

When self-justification takes over as our lens for relationships it makes us confident that the real problem is someone else’s problem. “They” have a problem because “they” are wrong, “they” are too sensitive, “they” are too reactive.

But reconciliation is our problem. Jesus wants us to see conflict and pain through the lens of reconciliation not self-justification. When self-justification is our lens for seeing people and conflict then even our worship will be framed by self-justification. We will turn the worship of God into a moment in which we are self-justifying ourselves before Him. We are using God instead of loving God.

That’s why Jesus shows his disciples how God interrupts worship. “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you… leave… Go… and be reconciled…” Why would we suddenly remember? I believe the Spirit of God calls us into the ministry of reconciliation. The Gospel shows us the King’s Mission of reconciliation and brings us into it. A true worshipper saved by Jesus is going to have moments in which worship is interrupted by Jesus for reconciliation within the realm personal relationships.

This passage is one of the reasons why I think our worship gatherings are meant to be way more dynamic and active than they are!

The good news: obedience to Jesus leads us into new options for relationships. You are not in charge of what the other person does next after you approach them. You are only in charge of what you are “doing next” because God approached you in worship and reminded you of the pain another is experiencing in relation to you.

So what are you going to do when you go to them? Try this:
1. I was meeting up with God and He reminded me of you.
2. I think you may be pained by me in some way.
3. Would you like to let me in on what you are feeling and thinking?
Then wait, listen and respond appropriately.

Some of your possible responses: Agreeing with them. Acknowledging their pain. Sharing in their sorrow. Asking forgiveness. Confessing your own. Granting forgiveness. Making amends. Making restitution. Praying together. Creating new boundaries. Waiting. Worshiping God together through Christ.

Reconciliation is a miracle work through the grace of Jesus and it cannot be rushed, but it must be started when the Spirit of God interrupts your worship. When God interrupts your worship, its what you do next that matters.

Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. 17He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. Ephesians 2:16-18

Photo Credit: David Marcu

Make a difference against hate

http://www.preemptivelove.org

Its my birthday today. And I’m astonished to be 48. Thanks already to all who have reached out across our digital world to say hello and give me a happy birthday greeting.

Before you get to far along in your day I’d like to ask you to do something to mark the day with me. Join the coalition over at Preemptive Love and make a donation to assist with the needs of people fleeing Fallujah. Jeremy Courtney and friends are doing a great work, a peace-making work. They are undoing violence through love.

Today they are organizing heart surgeries and making food drops and giving aid and care and comforting words to a people in dire need.

I’m asking you to reach across the digital world and make a difference by giving.

Someone else will be glad too that you were born!

#happybirthday

Mourning loss with a crowded heart

evening walk

My heart feels crowded these days. Grief from a distance does that. My heart is occupied with the day to day concerns of the relationships close to me. My local concerns include celebrations, maintenance, and grief. So it  starts to get crowded in here when the headlines cascade with pain.


When that happens I read Lamentations slowly.

14The elders no longer sit in the city gates; the young men no longer dance and sing.

15Joy has left our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning.

16The garlands have fallen from our heads. Weep for us because we have sinned.

17Our hearts are sick and weary, and our eyes grow dim with tears.

18For Jerusalem is empty and desolate, a place haunted by jackals.

19But LORD, you remain the same forever! Your throne continues from generation to generation.  Lamentations 5:14-19 NLT

 

I know we all get a turn when loss totally occupies the heart. I have had my own days occupied by grief – when death and grief have swallowed up all the space. I have seen in the lives of those close to me how oppressive grief can be. Joy becomes a faint memory. But now for a moment in these days of my local occupation, I need to practice the discipline of “grieving with those who grieve.”

 

My distance from the many cities and tragedies filling the headlines of the news does not leave me immune from the rage. Instead my heart gets crowded with undigested griefs and fears. Its not immediately obvious to me that these are “my people” whether its Cairo, Orlando, or Allepo. However, reflection with the Lord Jesus Christ reminds me that we are all His Creation. The King’s mission of which I am a part always seeks to include His Creatives within the future of His redeemed people.

 

And so I lament.

I lament our distance from the way of holiness.
I lament the violence.
I lament the loss.
I lament the difficulty love requires.
How long O Lord?
I lament the burden of finding answers.
I lament the oppressive fame-seeking germ of Babel making its death march across the planet.
I lament our desperate search for peace.
How long O Lord?
I lament our fear, our shame, our guilt.
I lament the
How long O Lord?

I lament

I lament because I want to pray and to live according to our Father’s heart. People matter to God and His cross interrupts the stupidity of violence. I don’t want a hard, self-righteous, apathetic heart that resists the Spirit of Jesus Christ. I’m convinced that a hard-not-my-people-attitude will take me where I don’t really want us to go.

Restore us, O LORD, and bring us back to you again!

Give us back the joys we once had! Lamentations 5:21

Meeting God through my troubles.

stairs

What happens in your gut when trouble shows up? Perhaps you feel like you are living in the lands of perpetual trouble! So, your gut hasn’t settled down in days. One of the important questions I’ve been asking myself as a follower of Jesus when it comes to trouble is: Ok, what can I learn with God in these days and through this struggle? The good news is that God has been meeting His people through struggle for a long time!

1“Be careful to obey all the commands I am giving you today. Then you will live and multiply, and you will enter and occupy the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors. 2Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. 3Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. 5Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.

6“So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him.  Deuteronomy 8:1-6

Its tempting to rush through these famous verses. I’ve had to re-read them more than once. Did you see what God was up to when the children of Israel sojourned through the wilderness for forty years? Through those years in the wilderness God says He was building them up for a relationship with Him.

 

The wilderness — a land of struggle

The wilderness — the context for their struggle — served as the school for their character. So what was God developing in the wilderness? He was developing their character. Obedience to God is a character issue. Character is the grid through which you habitually respond to the stuff that comes at you in this world. A person who obeys God has a reformatted grid about themselves and life. Even their appetites have been examined in respect to God.

 

The anxiety in my gut!

In these verses Moses says their hunger in the wilderness served a purpose in God’s work. Their hunger was an opportunity to humble themselves and trust God. God abundantly supplied manna for their hunger and they learned to trust Him for their daily bread. But they also learned something about humanity: we cannot live on bread alone. We will truly live “by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

When trouble comes, my gut tells me something is not right. The anxiety in the pit of my stomach makes my world and options seem smaller. But its in these moments that I’m learning to seek God. I’ll tackle what’s in my capacity to tackle by applying His Word to the situation. And, I will let God be God as I relinquish control to Him. That’s when the extra-ordinary provisions of God begin to show up!

 

Learning new reflexes built up by faith.

I love these verses from James, who having been trained by faith in Jesus Christ our Lord, could write the following exhortation to the Believers about troubles:

2Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. 5If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. (James 1:2-5)

Are you in trouble of some kind these days? Perhaps you will be helped in prayer for the next month:  Lord I’m in trouble, what are You showing me about Yourself through these troubles? What do You want to build up in my character? I want to trust You as the good and loving God, so the Cross of Jesus Christ will be my reminder: you are my Deliverer. You are my Provider. You alone are God, worthy of my life and love. You are faithful. What adjustments must I make in order to be faithful, respectful, and full of love toward You?

Jesus sees your faith even if we can’t.

Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-subway-girl-reflection-macnicolae

Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”  Mark 2:5

I’ve heard this story (you can get the whole story below) since I was a kid. I  have read Mark 2 a lot. I think about it often as a picture of genuine friendship and the incredible declaration of divinity made by Jesus when he forgave the man’s sins. But last night at our Alpha Course the Lord pressed me on another angle:

The paralyzed man had faith too.

In my mind and in most sermons its just been the faith of the four friends that Jesus saw.. because they were the ones in motion. They were the ones doing all the work. They were the ones tearing a hole in the roof. They were the ones finding a solution to the barriers between Jesus and their friend. But last night it hit me, Jesus saw “their” faith. There are 5 guys and some faith and Jesus saw them all.

The paralyzed man must have had some faith. He doesn’t seem to be protesting. There must have been a a conversation among the 5 guys beforehand. The man on the mat is a willing participant seeking Jesus.

I don’t know why but I never saw this before! But this realization is full of grace and delight for me! And I’m loving God even more today because of it!

When I can’t perform as others might want…

When I can’t move with grace and power…

When I can’t do everything I wish I could do…

When I can’t express all that I hope for…

When I can’t forgive myself…

When I can’t …

He can!

Jesus can act on the smallest glimmers of faith in Him that are in me.

Jesus sees past all that is left undone and He acts on the faith we turn towards Him. He does what seems impossible. And right there Jesus saw past all the “able bodies” and saw right into this man’s heart and did a miracle. Forgiveness! The miracle of a forgiven and cleansed life is priceless! And then Jesus showed the crowd He really did have the authority to do the larger and more costly act of forgiveness, when He healed the man of his paralysis.

Jesus will act on our faith even if for a time all we can do is lay in bed.

What little glimmers of faith in Jesus, the Creator, the Conquer of death, the Redeemer, the Shepherd of our Souls, are you turning toward Him?

He sees. He hears. He acts.
Mark 2:1- 12 NLT

1When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. 2Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, 3four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. 4They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus.

5Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”
6But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, 7“What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”
8Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? 9Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, 11“Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
12And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”