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.

Transforming Society

Chances are that this last week, whether on the news or in a casual conversation, you heard the questions; Why did this happen? and What can we do?

The answers to those questions are both very complicated and yet plainly simple.

This, along with every other mind-numbing tragedy, happened because of sin. And what can we do? A lot.

Before you read on I would challenge you to stop for a moment and pray. Pray for all of those who have been impacted personally by the horrific events of last week. I would also encourage you to pray for the transformation of our society of which has become numb to death and destruction.

It is saddening to see “shares” on social media of numbers of deaths caused by guns vs. drunk drivers vs. knives vs. etc. Giving into those arguments only continues to make us numb. I fear that we have gotten to a place where we forget that there are real people behind each of those numbers represented. Human life is worth more than that.

Laws are important, but I do not want to get into any sort of debate here. The reason is that neither the right nor the left have the remedy for what ails us. That remedy only comes in one form and one form only. His name is Jesus.

Jesus is the centerpiece of the Bible and He carries with Him the message and the mission of the Bible: redemption. In simpler terms, God heals what is broken.

Our society is broken. Our neighbors, co-workers, families, and friends are all broken. We are broken. Jesus can fix that.

2 Corinthians 5:17 promises that if anyone belongs to Jesus they have been made new.

Ephesians 2 tells us that we can be transformed from death to life because of God’s great love.

Romans 5:6-8 reminds us that Jesus welcomes us in our weakest, ugliest, and worst states.

So, what are we, those who have been transformed by the love of Jesus, to do in the midst of times such as these? We do what Jesus always intended for us, the church, to do.

We transform society. (Matthew 5:13-16)

We shine so that others may see. (Matt 5:16)

We don’t conform but rather allow the Holy Spirit to transform us. (Romans 12:2)

We remember where we come from. (John 17:16)

We stand up against what is wrong. (Daniel 1 & 3)

We remember what our mission is. (John 17:15 &23)

We remember who is with us on this mission. (Matthew 28:18-20)

We tell others what Jesus came to do. (Luke 19:10)

We walk what we talk. (James 1:19-27)

We trust God to make beauty from ashes. (Genesis 50:20)

One of my favorite Missions organizations (Send me a message if you’re interested in finding out which one and I will tell you all about them!) has an incredible missions statement. Here are my favorite parts of it.  “A movement of God…that finds its home in the local church and transforms society.”

I love that statement so much because a movement of God that is fueled by local churches and transforms society can and should happen anywhere. Whether we are here or there, God can and will use us, His church, to impact the world around us. Imagine what could happen if believers everywhere began to focus all their time, effort, and energy on transforming society. We transform society by telling people about Jesus and by living our own lives like He did.

We can’t afford to not tell people about Jesus. We can’t afford to not live for and like Jesus. The people around us can’t afford it either.

Revelations 21:3-6

Come soon Lord Jesus.