Worship Today

Truth is harder than a lie
The dark seems safer than the light
And everyone has a heart that loves to hide
I’m a mess and so are you
We’ve built walls nobody can get through
Yeah, it may be hard, but the best thing we could ever do, ever do

Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine
‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy’s waiting on the other side
If we’re honest

(Francesca Battistelli, If We’re Honest)

Spiritual Re-Infection

bandageGetting an infection is annoying to say the least and life-threatening at its worst. Reinfection exacerbates and amplifies the problems of the original infection. Our defenses are lowered, and we become more susceptible to attack, frustration, and exhaustion. And it’s not just physical infections that can become reinfected. How can you avoid spiritual reinfection?

Pay attention. Notice the details. Consider the questions a doctor might ask when assessing the progression of an infection. When you’re not paying attention, you can’t give accurate information to someone who is qualified to give an accurate diagnosis. You don’t need to diagnose yourself, but you need to pay attention to what’s important in order to help someone else diagnose you. When it comes to your spiritual infections, you need to take the details to God. Share what changes you notice. Share your concerns. He knows what to do, but He wants you to pay attention to anything that indicates change—both positive and negative.

Keep clean. Reinfections often occur because of cross-contamination. Infections compromise the immune system. Hand-washing is important—spiritually as well as physically. Know that only healthy habits will ward off many germs. You must continue to know God’s guidelines and continually trust Him to rid your life of what most compromises your faith in order to avoid a widespread attack on your spiritual life.

Allow time to heal. Let God completely heal you, which will often take much more time than you want to allow. God’s healing, no matter how long it takes, is always the best option. He knows the best timing. He knows the benefit of His timing. When you decide you’re healed before you’re actually healed, you will more quickly be susceptible to reinfection. Follow the Great Physician’s orders every step of the way.

Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me.
Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness,
Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins
And blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You. (Psalm 51:1-13)

Dirty Hands, Clean Touch: Where Does Power Come From?

handJesus doesn’t wait until we’re clean to reach out to us.

And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and *said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. (Mark 1:40-42)

We don’t have to wait until we’re clean to reach out to Jesus.

A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse—after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she thought, “If I just touch His garments, I will get well.” Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. (Mark 5:25-29)

Touching or being touched by either of these people was unheard of. When unclean came in contact with clean, the clean became unclean. Unclean overpowered clean…until Jesus. His cleanness cancels out the unclean.

We can do the same in Jesus’ name. We have power, but it’s only because of God.

We don’t have the power to heal in and of ourselves. We powerfully impact each other’s spiritual lives only because of who God is, how completely we yield to Him, and how He chooses to work through us.

First, we impact each other’s spiritual lives because of who God is. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 reminds us to encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. Encouraging and building up others is healing because it’s restoring. Restoration grows us into who God plans for us to become. God is the source of restoration, redemption, and encouragement. Only He supplies it to and through us, because it is who He is.

Next, we must yield to God in order to let Him use us in one another’s lives. Earthly encouragement doesn’t have God’s power infused into it; only when we yield to His will and way do we become vessels through which He powerfully works through us and in others. Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:19-20)

Finally, God gets to decide how and when to work through us. Just because we want something doesn’t make it His will. He never contradicts Himself, so what He says through one avenue will always line up with the truth of every other avenue through which He speaks. He speaks through His Word: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) He speaks through the Holy Spirit: For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. (Matthew 10:20) He speaks through His creation: For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

Our hands might be dirty, but God has the power to cleanse us to not only right us with Him but to be used by Him. But do we always use the power of Jesus in the way we should? We’ll explore the answer to that question in tomorrow’s post.

Are You a Building Block or a Stumbling Block?

healingthehurtCome to the Lord Jesus, the “stone” that lives. The people of the world did not want this stone, but he was the stone God chose, and he was precious. You also are like living stones, so let yourselves be used to build a spiritual temple—to be holy priests who offer spiritual sacrifices to God. He will accept those sacrifices through Jesus Christ. The Scripture says: “I will put a stone in the ground in Jerusalem. Everything will be built on this important and precious rock. Anyone who trusts in him will never be disappointed.” This stone is worth much to you who believe. But to the people who do not believe, “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (1 Peter 2:4-7)

In these verses, Peter is encouraging believers to be like the stones used to build a holy temple for God. In order for the building blocks to do what they needed to do to fit together with other building blocks, they needed to be carved, molded, and placed together. In order for believers to fulfill individual and collective purpose for God, we must be willing to let God shape us and place us where he wants us to be. That means we don’t decide who we sit alongside. We don’t decide our exact shape. We don’t decide how we serve within the building. We don’t get to decide how pretty our rough edges are or how smooth is smooth enough. God does all that. It’s not about us; it’s about God’s building. It’s about unity. However, in order to come together to make what God intends to make, each piece has to be worked on and fitted together. Each has to be yielding in order for the building to be sound and holy.

We have another option other than yielding. Instead of being building blocks, we can be stumbling blocks. When we don’t allow God to shape us into the right shape for the right fit into the building, we will become displaced. We’ll fall to a place we’re not intended to be and create a stumbling hazard for those around us.

You get to choose which you’ll be, so ask yourself, “Am I a building block, or am I a stumbling block?” Avoid quickly giving the Sunday School answer. Think about specific situations you’ve been involved in recently. Of course, we all want to believe we’re building blocks. We want to believe we’re doing exactly what God wants us to do, but are we…really? Have we checked with him before we’ve proceeded, or have we moved forward in the direction that makes sense, responding first, then asking him to bless the process once we’re in motion? The popular adage “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission” isn’t a biblical principle.

In order to fit well within a body of believers, you must invite God to shape you in order to fit where he intends you to fit. You don’t decide where you fit, then reason through why you’re such a good fit. You don’t decide you were made for such a time as this. God decides the time and place. He decides the process. You seek. You trust. You obey. You can certainly be stubborn about it, but when you don’t allow him to place you where you’re supposed to fit, you’re not just impacting yourself and your purpose. You’re impacting the body of Christ.

So, are you a building block or a stumbling block?

I beg you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that all of you agree with each other and not be split into groups. I beg that you be completely joined together by having the same kind of thinking and the same purpose. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

God’s family is certainly not exempt from hurt, including the hurts that come from within. People in churches are just as vulnerable to unjustly criticize, gossip, neglect, and offend one another as anyone else. It’s true that God sets us apart to reflect his image to the world, but to believe Christ-followers are perfect representations of Jesus will, to say the least, lead to disappointment. What (should) set Christ-followers apart from the world is how they deal with one another to heal the hurt. Will they do the hard work it takes to unite or will they further divide into quarreling, backbiting, judgmental factions? Which will you choose? Welcome to Healing the Hurt, a 10-post series to help hurting communities cope in biblical ways.

Guy Chat

I’m a girl, and I understand girl chat a lot better than guy chat.

I had a short layover in Kansas City and was sitting in a quiet corner enjoying a Starbucks drink. At the small round table not far away from me were two men. They were definitely in their stride of conversation when I slipped into the booth near them. They seemed to be a bit familiar with each other but as they shared about their kids, it was apparent they hadn’t known each other for too long. They were talking sports. Because I’m a college football fan, I quickly recognized some of the teams and terms they mentioned. They started talking about different divisions, especially referring to the schools where one of the men’s sons was playing and all the schools that scouted him. It sounds like he’s quite an athlete.

As one man commented on the apparent athleticism of the other dad’s son, the dad’s voice changed a bit as he said, “Yeah, he’s a good athlete. I’m proud of him. But it was really my younger son who was the great athlete. He was going to be something. There wasn’t much he couldn’t do.”

There was an awkward moment before the other man asked the dad, “How old is he?”

“Well, he was fifteen when we lost him. He would have really been something.”

There was a catch in his voice and a long pause before the other man quietly stated, “Sounds like you have reason to be a proud dad.” Then the conversation quickly returned to football and got animated again.

What just happened? If two women would have been sitting at the booth, that awkward moment would have been immediately filled with questions and consolation. There would have been an invitation to share as much as possible about the tragedy and healing process. There likely would have been tears from both women. And the conversation would probably have not returned to the former topic. They probably wouldn’t even remember what the previous topic had been! They’d part ways with a big hug as new friends, promising to keep in touch and check in with each other.

The way the guys handled it wasn’t wrong. I would have been shocked for them to respond in a girl-chat manner. Yet I felt a bit sad for them. I wondered if the dad needed to be able to process aloud for a moment. Maybe not. Perhaps he just needed a moment to be flooded with memories and to share that he has those memories even if he didn’t share the specifics.

It’s not really fair for me to draw a line between girl chat and guy chat. I know many guys that can talk a lot—in person and on the phone. I know some women who sit back and take in a situation before getting involved and sharing. Sharing isn’t always safe. Women benefit from pouring into others and being poured into, but they also get hurt more frequently. Some have learned that lesson and decided not to invest quickly or deeply.

Don’t rely on your default setting. You need to be investing in others’ lives (and them in yours). Consider there are better ways to share, whether that’s withholding or releasing. Either way makes you vulnerable. Vulnerability isn’t a bad thing as long as you’re discerning through the process.

Invite God to guide, revealing to you when and what you need to share and when and to whom you need to listen. When you’re vulnerable in God’s will, you will always heal, learn, and grow.

Does Time Heal?

Time might change the pain or perspective, but it doesn’t heal. God heals.

He heals the sick: But the crowds found out where he was going, and they followed him. He welcomed them and taught them about the Kingdom of God, and he healed those who were sick. (Luke 9:11)

God’s physical healing isn’t something we demand of him. He knows when healing is best for a person and situation, including all the people who are influenced by that life. God’s response doesn’t always make sense to us. We don’t understand how someone who seems to lack faith is physically healed while someone of great faith suffers through pain. It’s not our job to understand. It’s our responsibility to trust. Our lack of understanding doesn’t change the consistency of who God is. God is never inconsistent. We simply don’t have the perspective he has.

While God’s physical healing might perplex us at times, we can rest assured about his spiritual healing.

God heals souls: “My wayward children,” says the LORD,  “come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts.” “Yes, we’re coming,” the people reply,  “for you are the LORD our God. (Jeremiah 3:22)

There is no doubt about it. When someone turns to God for spiritual healing, when she humbly approaches God in need, he will meet her needs. He tenderly holds sensitive and calloused hearts in his hands and cares for them in ways only he can do. He has the insight to know just what is needed.

God will heal in time, but it’s not in our time. He heals in his time.

We can let time pass, expecting pain to ease, but if we don’t trust God’s timing and provision, we won’t heal.

We can trust God’s timing and provision and still experience pain. Sometimes it’s eased and sometimes it isn’t. What is best for one person isn’t best for another, but one thing is best for all: trusting God through the healing process. There will be times when there is excruciating pain and other times when there seems to be no pain at all. There will be recurring pain, anticipated pain, and surprising pain. It won’t be convenient, but in the process of trusting God, we will be healed.

Time doesn’t heal, but God’s perfect timing restores. Restoration is not often a neat, tidy, concise process. It’s okay. God is used to messes. Trust him with yours.

Well-Loved

My college-age daughter lived with my sister for the Summer and had a great time, but there was one near casualty. Alfred, the (stuffed) bear, was “loved on” by Max the (real) dog. To be honest, Alfred was already well-loved, but by the time Max added his dose of love, Alfred’s arm was hanging by a thread and one ear was nowhere to be found.

At the end of the Summer, I had the privilege of adding my own dose of love to Alfred. A little added stuffing, several stitches, and a new ear later…

Your eyesight isn’t deceiving you. The ear doesn’t exactly match, but it adds character, doesn’t it? Plus, both my girls (and me) are Winnie-the-Pooh fans, and Alfred’s new ear reminds us of Pooh Bear…so much that my youngest daughter renamed Alfred (to Poohfred). However, her sister refuses to accept the name change.

We have a history of well-loved stuffed animals.

  • Pooh appears in a long series of family photos.
  • The entire collection of Christopher Robin and all his friends often transformed our play room into the Hundred Acre Wood.
  • Roo was rescued from a wall under construction before we moved to our current home – with a cake tester taped to a broom handle.
  • A menagerie of animals often accompanied us on walks in wagons and strollers.
  • Smiley Bear – and an entire collection of black bears – tell stories of many trips.
  • GiddyUp the horse (from my childhood) is still ridiculed for his deformed legs (it’s just that I loved him so much!).
  • Donko (from my husband’s childhood) endured neck surgery and a restuffing by Grandma Lucy – at a daughter’s request – while Tim and I were on vacation.
  • I continue to pack my special polar bear, Polar Pop, on many of my travels.

One of my personal favorites was a Raggedy Ann I received when I was four years old. One of my mom’s best friends made it for me. Raggedy Ann was my parenting practice model. I trimmed her hair (before I realized it wouldn’t grow back), applied medicine and bandages when there were boo-boos, and traced her fabric heart in blue ink. At some point, I realized all my love was wearing her out, so I mercifully set her on a shelf.

When I graduated from high school, I opened a large box from the same friend. In it was a “grown up Raggedy Ann for a grown up Susie.” It was one of the most touching gifts I ever received. And the grown up Raggedy Ann rode home from college my freshmen year safely buckled into the car seat beside me.

When I – and my daughters – have loved stuffed animals well, they’ve often looked a bit disheveled. But we loved them no less. Their well-loved appearance often prompted us to love them even more!

I’m so thankful God loves me well. And his love doesn’t wear me out. The world around me might wear on me, but God still embraces me, patches my well-loved areas and repairs my torn off pieces!

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. Psalm 147:3