Real Christians Hurt… And Show It

As Paul concluded his second letter to Timothy, he expressed some hurt. Demas had forsaken him. Alexander the coppersmith had caused him much harm. At one point, no one was willing to stand with Paul. Rejection, criticism, and abandonment hurt! The world is watching believers to see how we’re going to handle it all.

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As American As…

Last night, I saw the inside of the new Busch Stadium as we watched the Los Angeles Angels topple the Cardinals 10 – 6. We did, however, get to see three Cardinals homeruns, including one by Sir Albert! It really is true that there isn’t a poor view in the park. We were in the third tier over the third base dugout, but we could see the game very well and our view of the St. Louis skyline was breathtaking!

My love for baseball has waned in recent years, and attending this game both helped and hurt. On the one hand, I’m terribly annoyed at the price of seeing a game for the average family. If you have the average 2.5 kids, you can expect to drop at least a hundred bucks for the tickets, and possibly another hundred for food, souvenirs, and some of the family activities available. It’s no wonder people are cynical about the salaries of players and the bankrolls of owners.

Nonetheless, on the field, it’s still the old game it used to be. There’s still something a bit magical about the bright green, perfectly manicured grass, the larger-than-life image of the players, and the thrill of watching a homerun fall into the stands. Plus, you can’t beat a stadium hot dog (though the price of $5.75 is a bit much)!

If I could sum up what it’s all about (the game, the parks, the players), I’d have to say… advertising! From an hour before the game until the last pitch was thrown, there were special promotions and activities on the screen, “sponsored by…” There are digital scrolling billboards throughout. The scenery is plastered with the names of big businesses such as banks, stock brokerages, and restaurant chains. The stadium included a Hardee’s, Big Mac land (a McDonald’s promotion), and even a Build-A-Bear workshop tailored especially to the St. Louis Cardinals fan base!

At the end of the day, I’d summarize my experience as absolutely awesome! The skies were clear with a temperature of 65 and a slight breeze blowing. The hot dog was juicy, yet crusty. The view was great, and even riding the Metrolink was a neat experience. Would I do it very often? Everyday!!

Compelling Compassion

“Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.” -Matthew 15:32

It is impossible for us to help everyone we want to help. Certainly Jesus felt this same frustration. Though He healed so many, He did not heal everyone in the world and though He fed thousands, He did not feed all the poor in His day. If we attempted to help everyone, we’d quickly bankrupt ourselves. There is a principle at work in the Lord’s life, however, that we would do well to follow. Jesus allowed His compassion to compel Him to take action, and we should do the same.

Our first problem is that we often feel nothing. We look at a world full of hurting people and its easy to become calloused to their pain. There are so many, after all. What could I do? Jesus connected emotionally with the suffering of the people He loved so much. He had compassion for them. He wept for His people, His heart ached over their lostness. We too must be able to look out on the lostness of humanity and feel a groaning in our hearts. Where there is no suffering in our souls for others, there will certainly be a shallow ministry.

Our second problem is that when we feel, we often do nothing. Of course we can’t help everyone, but we can help someone. We can’t fix all the problems of the world, but we can help to fix one. Often we feel that our giving, our praying, our lending a hand will be a mere drop in the bucket compared with the needs of the world around us. But real compassion compels us to take some kind of action. We cannot sit idly by. We may not save the world, but we might lead one soul to the Savior. We may not feed all the poor, but we can put food in the mouth of one hungry child.

Jesus was willing to feel. He refused to harden His heart toward pain. And Jesus was willing to act. He stepped into people’s lives and offered them a divine hand. Today, we have the privilege of offering Jesus Christ to the world. We can give, we can pray, we can tell, and we can lend a helping hand. In our world of suffering, we have the opportunity to be Jesus’ ministers to the hurting. Allow compassion to compel you today to take action, if but for a moment, if for only one soul. Make a difference today for just one someone.

Prune Thyself

”For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” -1 Corinthians 11:31

Did your parents ever make that ludicrous comment to you, “If you don’t stop crying, I’m going to give you something to cry about?” I never really understood the logic behind that line of reasoning, especially when I was the direct object of the statement. When I read Paul’s words to the Corinthians, it suddenly makes more sense.Paul wrote to a church with severe moral problems within and they were doing nothing about those problems. There was no restorative discipline taking place, yet they came together for the Lord’s Supper as though everything was fine. Paul had the wisdom to foresee that God would judge them for their tolerance of sin, but there was a way they could avoid God’s judgment – handle the problem themselves.

You see, all of us need pruning, and God as our great husbandman and vindresser will certainly take care of us by pruning us. But the process of pruning is always painful. Suffering and crises are often God’s means of cleansing us. He intends for His Son’s bride to be pure, so He purifies us through chastisement… and it hurts. Thankfully, God has given us an escape plan from His punishment in our lives.

That escape plan is to prune ourselves. In our prayer time each morning, we should pray for God to reveal any part of us that He would like to have us prune. When we spend this time judging the sin and evil in our own hearts, we are able to enjoy the wonderful freedom of a relationship with Jesus in purity. Don’t misunderstand. What is necessary is not merely putting ourselves down all the time, rather an honest facing of our darkness with the light of Jesus within.”

Prune thyself, that He prune thee not” might be a good way of looking at it.

Learning to Hate (the Right Things)

“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.”—Proverbs 8:13

Sin is a bitter enemy. Until we learn to spot it, name it, and hate it, we’ll never overcome it. Learning to hate sin is a matter of agreeing with God about sin – sharing His perspective on it. Sin has done nothing but wreck and plunder God’s wonderful creation, so He detests it. Sin is the very opposite of all that is divine in nature, so God loathes it. Repentance demands that we turn from our sin and begin to agree with God about it – to hate it as He does.

Our problem is often that we minimize sin in our lives. Why? Because the world does so. When we laugh along with the world at inappropriate humor, at the triviality of injustice, or at the grossness of sin, we’re sort of participating in it, and we’re desensitizing ourselves to it as well. If you want to overcome sin, you must look at it the way God does – with hatred.

Never hate others. Never hate yourself. But learn to hate that which hurts you and others around you – sin.