Answers?

Why Is This Happening?

I don’t know.

Those three words are really scary words to admit out loud. When we say those words, we are admitting that there are things that we do not understand. By saying that phrase we are accepting that there are questions that we do not have the answers to. We confess that we are not in control. We show weakness. We are humbled. We defer to someone wiser than we are.

And that is OK.

Christians, do not be afraid to say those frightening words. Yes, when we say those words we may look like fools. Yes, when we say those words, we may look small and insignificant. Yes, when we say those words, we will probably be scoffed at by those who seek to poke holes in our worldview. Yes, when we say those words, we will surely bring no glory to ourselves.

And that is why we need to say them.

Because when we admit that we are low, we raise Him up. When we confess that we do not have all the answers, we point to the One who does. When we look small and insignificant, we magnify our Lord. When we show weakness, we elevate His strength. When we look foolish, we show God to be wise. When we are scoffed at, we share in His suffering. When we take no glory for ourselves, we give it all to Him.

So why is all this chaos and crisis surrounding us? Why are people dying? Why are our lives being disrupted?

I don’t know.

But I do know who does.

He reminds me that His ways are not my ways and that His thoughts are not my thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9) He reminds me that when we are searching for a way or seeking truth, that He is that Way and He is that Truth. (John 14:6) He tells us that He holds everything together (Colossians 1:7) He commands us to trust in Him and to not fear because nature itself obeys Him. (Matthew 8:23-27) He even loudly proclaims His victory over death itself. (John 11:25)

I don’t know, but Jesus does.

As much as we may not know all the answers, we do have an opportunity to get to know the one who does know everything.

If you don’t know Him, open up a Bible or download a Bible app and start reading the book of John. If you don’t know Him, I pray that you would get to know Him and understand just how much He loves you.

If you do know Him then there are two things that you need to do.

Get to know Him more. And make Him known.

Hurts So Good

Sometimes “nice” words can deeply wound. Sometimes “hurtful” words can build up.

Let me explain. A friend telling us that we have food in our teeth may make us embarrassed, but it is for our own good. We can run to the bathroom and remove the spinach and move on with our life. Alternatively, a person who would tell you “you look so great today” may make us feel good about ourselves, but the reality is the food is still there.

Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”

What this verse is not giving us permission to do is to be rude. We need to speak truth to our loved one in love. Truth without love is harsh and not in line with the example that God has given us. The Bible is filled with truth, and yes, most if not all that truth can be hard to digest. But as much as truth flows through the Bible, love flows just as much.

Many of us have grown up with our moms instructing us, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” While I appreciate the wisdom of biting your tongue, I would slightly amend the saying. My version goes like this…

If you can’t say anything kind don’t say anything at all.

Kindness and niceness are very different words. Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. And you know what? Sometimes being friendly, generous, and considerate can actually hurt another person’s feelings. But it is still necessary.

Sometimes kindness hurts. But that’s because kindness isn’t just about feeling good, it is about what is good for us.

Niceness, on the other hand, is only about making us feel good. There is a lack of depth and substance in a nice comment compared to a kind comment.

Let’s say that you rob a bank and go out and buy a brand-new car. A frenemy who didn’t care about your soul, or the quality of your relationship with God, or even whether or not you went to jail might just simply compliment you on your beautiful new car. But a friend, a true friend would kindly and lovingly tell you that you have done wrong.

We need more people in our lives that are willing to, in love and kindness, tell us the hard truths. We need to know when there is food in our teeth, when we have made mistakes, and when we have drifted in our faith.

So, friends please be kind to me. Please do not be afraid to lovingly wound me. But also, please be sure that your criticism is constructive and not just simply complaining.

We all need to welcome the wounds of our true friends because they are ultimately for our good. This is a scary thing because it makes us vulnerable and it causes us to trust others with our feelings. But eventually, if we are willing to put our pride aside, we will grow for the better.

Be thankful for the wounds of a friend. Beware the kisses of an enemy.

Trouble In Paradise

In October I was blessed to be able to travel to Greece. In the weeks leading up to the trip each time I told someone my destination their reaction was always the same, “oooh how nice!!” And my response was typically a half-smile accompanied by the word “well.”

You see I didn’t go to sit on a beach and work on my sunburn. I went to talk to people. I went to share hope in a hopeless place. I went to share about Jesus and His love.

The island I spent most of the time on was the Island of Lesvos situated just 4 miles from the coast of Turkey. Lesvos is home to an infamous refugee camp named Moria, a camp built for 2,500 people. When I went in October there were more than 13,000 people living in Moria and the surrounding hilly olive grove. As of my writing this my sources in the camp tell me that the number of individual souls, people with real stories, real names, real dreams, is now at an unfathomable 20,000.

One thing, of many, that stuck with me was the incredible contrast that I saw there on the island. If you were to look around and only see 95% of the island you would see an absolute paradise. The sea was clear and beautiful. The olives were plump and picturesque. The sky was clear, and the weather was neither too hot nor too cold. It was beautiful.

And then there was the camp.

The sights, the sounds, the smells. The fear, the pain, the hopelessness.

It serves as a picture of our world. There are great and wonderful beauties, and yet in the same world, there are great and terrible evils.

I am finding that writing this post is a lot harder than I had anticipated. The memories of my time in the camp, the people that I met, and the conversations that I had are all flooding back, and it is truly overwhelming. I will, in time, share more of those stories.

But for now, I have a simple message. Jesus loves.

Jesus loves the half-naked child that I saw playing with a rusty nail and splintered wood next to excrement.

Jesus loves the mother of 5 little ones who stands in line every day for hours upon hours in order to feed her family.

Jesus loves the father who told me his arms were sore from holding his sleeping children above his chest all night so that they didn’t get wet in their flooded tent.

Jesus loves the orphan kid who tried to steal water.

Jesus loves the two grandmothers who got in a fistfight over a piece of cardboard they intended to sleep on.

Jesus loves the 12-year-old who told me he can’t remember life before they left home.

Jesus loves the girl who put his trust in Him and was secretly baptized.

Jesus loves the wealthy person reading this on their phone, tablet, or computer.

Jesus loves the sinner saved by grace who is writing.

There is good news in the midst of all of this. God has a habit of using terrible circumstances for His glory and our good.

Pray that the Good News of the Gospel would shine bright in this darkness. And be willing to be used by God in whatever way He would choose.

Matthew 25:31-46

Pain: An Excuse To Sin?

Recently I was asked a question that I suspect many people have wondered about at one time or another in one way or another.

Is my pain an excuse for me to sin?

What about if life is extra-hard?

What if I have been “dealt a really bad hand” in life?

God understands right?

Let me begin by saying that if you are experiencing some sort of pain or turmoil right now as you read this, I am right now praying for you.

I don’t know who you are other than the fact that you probably have experienced some sort of frustrating pain. So, I pray that in the midst of whatever circumstance you are going through that you would keep your eyes on Jesus. I also pray that God would draw you closer to Himself during this time.

Concerning pain, there are several different types; physical, mental, emotional, even spiritual. The Bible is clear that God cares about us humans in every aspect of who we are. Jesus, when He was on earth, healed the sick and healed people who were out of their minds (taking care of physical and mental pain.) Psalm 34:18 says that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted (addressing emotional pain.) And certainly, Jesus came to address our greatest need which is spiritual when He died on the cross. In doing so He made it possible for us to be free from the pain and ensnarement of sin.

It seems that human beings ever since The Fall have experienced pain of one sort or another in a variety of degrees.

Pain is so much a part of our existence on this earth that God has to go out of His way to declare in Revelation 21 that in the New Heaven and the New Earth there shall be no more pain of any kind! “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Additionally, Romans 8:18 gives a promise to those who have trusted in Jesus. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Wow! God has some really incredible and pain-free things in store for those who have faith in Jesus!

If you are going through some sort of pain at this moment I would encourage you to read the whole chapter of John 9, it really is an awesome and easy read! At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus and His disciples run across a man who had been born blind. When they see the man the disciples ask Jesus who had sinned, the man or his parents? Jesus’ response? Neither. The disciples couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that this poor man had been dealt such a “bad hand.” They were looking for a reason for his pain. Maybe his parent’s sin had caused him to be blind. Perhaps his own?

Instead, Jesus goes around all their expectations and says that the man was born in blindness so that God could be glorified! Jesus goes on to miraculously heal the man. At the end of the chapter, the man can now see both physically and spiritually!

So, to answer the initial question, no.

Pain is never an excuse to sin.

God wants us to have faith in Him no matter what our current situation.

He calls us to follow and obey Him no matter what the circumstance.

We may not always understand His reasons or ways, but we still ought to honor Him with our actions. Because He is good no matter what.