Where is God When I’m Hurting

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭34:18‬

We all want to know where a God is when out world devolves into pain and heartache. We ask, “Why would God allow this to happen?”

Pain, in whatever form it comes to us, makes our field of vision small. We can’t see 100 feet in front of us when we are being attacked from 3 feet away. We can’t see the blessings tomorrow holds when we are bombarded with heartache today.

Pain, heartache, and suffering do not mean that God has left us. In a very real way, God comes close to us when we experience brokenness.

That was King David’s experience in Psalm 34.

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭34:15‬ ‭‬‬

This isn’t just an Old Testament truth. We see it loved out in the ministry of Jesus.

Jesus had a friend named Lazarus. Jesus dined with Lazarus, knew his family, and was even sent word when Lazarus fell ill.

But rather than rushing to Lazarus’ sickbed, Jesus tarried. By the time Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, where Lazarus lived, He received the news that Lazarus passed away.

“Where have you laid him?” Jesus asked them when He arrived.

Lazarus’ sisters, and the other mourner, took Jesus to the grave. In this context, the Bible recorded the shortest verse in Scripture:

“Jesus Wept.”
John 11:35

Jesus is present to His followers when they hurt. His heart breaks for His loved ones when they suffer.

The weeping Jesus does is different than our weeping. Though He feels the fullness of the sadness of the situation, He also sees past the pain of today, and is able to bring about the blessings of tomorrow.

Read the full account of the power of the presence of Christ among the broken-hearted in John 11.

When we are in the hospital, or at the cemetery, we can trust that God is with us, God is for us, and God in His great grace, is holding us up.

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But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬

Serving God in the Least Likely Places

He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Matthew 25:45

Somewhere, in those places that still use VHS tapes, there is a video going around about a guy who preached a sermon on Matthew 25. He preached it, not so much because he knew the weight of the text, or had much experience in its content, but because the text spoke to him in a special way.

Ok, it was me.

I don’t even know where that tape would be at this point. And if I thought it was being circulated I would surely try to find it and lock it up. I wrote, and delivered, my first sermon from that Matthew 25 with an abundance of naivete.

I poured everything I knew into that one sermon. Sadly, that only consisted of about 4 pages of double spaced texts in a large font. The delivery of the sermon lasted about 7 minutes, including a long prayer at the beginning.

20+ years later, I have a greater appreciation for not only the text but for those who I’ve seen living out this passage.

They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
Matthew 25:44

I’ve been with ministers in the prison who have served Jesus for decades by visiting the incarcerated.

I’ve learned the power of visiting the sick in the hospital, and at home, in the presence of compassionate people who show great care for those who are hurting.

I’ve been with missionaries as they dug wells for thirsty people in the hardest to reach villages in Africa.

I’ve been with those who rose before the break of dawn to prepare food for the hungry.

And I’ve been with friends who have NEVER met a stranger, who show Christlike love to everyone they meet.

And when there were people who needed clothes, the church filled to the brim with generous donations, of all shapes and sizes.

When we serve out of love, we not only meet the needs, but we delight the Lord!

When you come across the hungry, feed them.

When someone is thirsty, offer them a cool cup of water.

Offer your coat to the cold this winter.

Pay a call on the sick and the homebound. You’ll appreciate those who call on you when you’re down.

Visit, and pray for the prisoner. There are steel bars, and there are spiritual bars. They need prayer for both.

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Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people…
Ephesians 6:7

We Draw Strength to Serve from the Springs of Silence

No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain.
Exodus 34:3

We draw strength to serve from the springs of silence.

The Hebrew Children sinned greatly. The first time Moses went up the mountain to receive the Law of the Lord, they rebelled against just about every Law God gave to Moses. Rather than being grateful for their redemption from slavery, the people indulged themselves in idolatry. You can read all about it in Exodus 32.

I can’t help but think, at this point, of Charlton Heston playing Moses in The Ten Commandments!

After God dealt with His people, he summoned Moses back up the mountain a second time. This time around the people were well behaved.

God gave Moses a specific command NOT to let anyone come with him, or even let the animals of the flocks or the herds graze on the mountain at this time.

I think this is largely due to the Holiness of God. The Lord was infinitely irritated with His people for their rebellion and was showing them reasons why they shouldn’t tread lightly on His instructions.

Perhaps there was an additional purpose for this specific command that had something to do with the quality of the time that God wanted have with Moses.

Moses needed to give God his undivided attention. It’s hard to focus on God when you’re in a crowd. God wanted Moses to focus both of his ears, and both of his eyes, and all of his heart, on what God was about to tell him. God wanted enough SILENCE in Moses’ life to drown out the distraction of the crowd and to escape the distractions of life.

Also, God didn’t want Moses’ imagination to wander. Moses had been a shepherd for many years. The bleating of lambs and the braying of donkeys would have caused his mind to return to the busyness of the world. God deserves the kind of time and space we can carve out for Him where we are fully present to what He wants, rather than what we want.

God speaks loudly in the SILENCE and in the solidite; when we escape from the hustle and bustle of life in order to gain strength from His presence.

Every servant needs to recharge their spiritual batteries.

God called Moses to the mountain alone so He could have complete access to Moses’ life. God had BIG plans for Moses, and Moses needed all of the power God would make available to him.

For the plans God has for us, where do we find time to listen, be still and quiet, and draw strength from God in silence?

If we NEVER stop to rest in the Lord, we are like a babbling brook, full of foam and froth. But still waters run DEEP. And in the depth of our relationship with God we find space to recharge our batteries for the tasks at hand.

Draw deeply today, this week, this season of your life, from the well of silence, and use what God gives you in the solitude to serve those He sends you to bless.

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Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
Psalm 42:7

Service is an Act of LOVE

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.
1 Peter 1:22

Service starts with LOVE.

Jesus loved His disciples and showed His love for them through service.

Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end… so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
John 13:1-5

He also demonstrated the immeasurable love of God for us through His ultimate act of service:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

Love is the tether that holds us together and gives us the humility to serve one another.

Mountain climbing is dangerous business. Mountain climbers use rope tethers to attach themselves to their climbing partners. It requires the attention and the concern of every member of a climbing party to secure the safety of the entire group.

Everest was first successfully climbed in 1953 by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. They tethered themselves together to make the climb to the summit. In doing so, they served each other. If one of them fell, the other could catch him. If one of them started to lag behind, the other could lend their strength and pull the straggler ahead. It required trust and LOVE to serve one another in such dangerous circumstances (the peak of Everest is just over 29,000 feet, near the cruising altitude of a Boeing 777).

In 1953, only two men had ever stood on Everest’s summit. In 2019, hundreds of adventure tourists paid guides to lead them to the loftiest pinnacle on earth. Most of them lived to share their experience, but not all. Eleven people perished on Mount Everest in the very brief climbing season in 2019.

The nature of Everest adventure seekers has dramatically changed with the commercialization of the Everest experience.

Today, rather than having concern for their fellow travelers, Everest climbers are characterized by their indifference to the needs of their fellow sojourners. The mountain is literally littered with dead bodies. Over 100 bodies remain on Mount Everest because of the expense and danger involved bringing the deceased down off the mountain.

Everyone who attempts to climb Mount Everest knows the risks going into the trip. And, especially these days, everyone who even attempts to climb Everest coughs up an astounding $45,000. Some pay much more. You can understand how someone might be a little callus toward their struggling fellow-traveler when they’ve paid a year’s salary to take a once-in-a-lifetime kind of journey to the top of the world.

Christians serve one another, not because we are tethered at the waist by a rope, but because we are tethered by bonds of love that reach to the heart.

If we aren’t serving one another, then we aren’t loving one another.

Being tethered together keeps us spiritually alive. The Strong can lend their strength to the Weak. The Helpless can find aid from the Helpers. The Worried can rest in the prayers of the Confident.

When we are tethered together with cords of love, we can all get to the goal of our journey, TOGETHER.

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The Right Gift Is In There

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10

I received something dangerous in the mail last week.

No, it wasn’t a bomb, or a threat of a bomb, or even a hint of a threat of a bomb. It really wasn’t that interesting.

I received a catalogue from Harbor Freight (along with a lot of other junk mail).

That darn catalogue, with hundreds of discount priced gadgets, leads to a lot of temptation to do projects around the house. I always get in trouble when I start a home improvement project. I’ve come to realize that anything more technical than changing a light bulb deserves a phone call to a professional.

Most home projects I start are stymied by my lack of tools. Actually, I have a LOT of tools, but the RIGHT tool always hides from me when I need it the most.

But just because I can’t do EVERY project that comes to mind, does not mean I should do NOTHING. In fact, I should be eager to use whatever tools I have that I can use proficiently (define “proficiently” as broadly as you want).

Most of the tools I have, I’ve inherited. They are Gifts. I can always find my most important tools; hammer, screwdriver, pliers, etc… It’s always the odd sized metric wrenches that I have trouble finding.

As Christians, we have received Gifts from God, or tools if you want to think of it that way, to be used in His service. The New Testament talks about a number of Spiritual Gifts believers possess uniquely, and those we share in common. All of the Gifts are to be used for Serving the Lord and Serving our neighbors. Some Gifts have to do with Speaking, and some Gifts have to do with Serving. But whatever Gift you have at your disposal, use it.

If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:11

In Sunday’s sermon on Service I brought up Philip Smith who was the Principal Trumpeter for the New York Philharmonic Symphony. God blessed him with the ability to play the trumpet. Guess what he uses to serve? He plays the trumpet.

Countless people have heard Philip play as part of the orchestra, but countless more have heard him play while standing beside a Salvation Army Kettle. That’s a BIGTIME upgrade from the standard bell ringer!

Here’s a great article on Philip and his background. Let his words be an inspiration for you to use whatever Gift God has given you to be a Servant this week.

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Enjoy a little of Philip’s music and thank God for all of His amazing Gifts.

 

 

Here Am I. Send Me. No Reservations.

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
Isaiah 6:8 KJV

Wanted. We all want to be wanted. But what are we willing to be wanted for?

We are all familiar, somewhat, with the Pony Express. Brave young men, carrying mail at breakneck speeds on horseback, connecting the far west with the burgeoning frontier of the USA.

Each Pony Express rider would ride for 75 to 100 miles per day, changing horses every 10 to 15 miles along the route.

But the Pony Express was a short lived necessity of western expansion. It was in operation from April 3, 1860 until November 18, 1861. Only 19 months of adventure and service, but we’re still talking about it 160 years later! The telegraph put the Pony Express out of business.

I think part of the reason the Pony Express, and it’s heroic riders, have made it into American adventure lore and mythology is because of the commitment to serve in spite of difficult circumstances, danger, and glory of the Old West.

God is advertising for servants as well. He is sending out His word, calling us, not always to danger, but certainly to humility.

He calls us to join Him and what He’s doing.

He could find better equipped people, but He chooses to use those who respond to His divine invitation.

The prophet Isaiah found himself responding to God’s invitation to serve. The Lord had big things planned, and was looking for a man to carry His message to people who wouldn’t listen, who would ridicule the message and the messenger, and who would ultimately put the prophet to death. Isaiah, mindful of his own inadequacies, responded with faithfulness. “Here am I. Send Me.”

I wonder if Isaiah was thinking “Why Me?”

Whether or not “why me” came into his head or not, Isaiah made himself available to God, and the words he preached are still with us today! What a legacy of faithfulness. Every act of faithful service we perform for the Lord will live on well after we have retired to our heavenly reward.

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Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
C.T. Studd

Fan or Follower

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
John 13:15

Are you a Fan or are you a Follower?

Last week, millions of fans of the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs rooted on their favorite players during the Super Bowl, while the rest of America tuned in for the commercials. I have to admit, I’ve never been a fan of the Chiefs, but as a native Texan, I couldn’t help but to pull for Patrick Mahomes. He’s a true product of the Lone Star State!

Let’s face it, the best QB’s come from Texas.

Though I was pulling for Mahomes and the Chiefs, their victory meant nothing to me. I was a FAN, but only for an evening. Being a fan didn’t require anything of me, it didn’t change my circumstances or my life, and by the time I went to bed after the Super Bowl, I had already changed allegiances!

I’m officially back to being a Cowboys fan!

We have a perfect record right now (just like everyone else).

This is going to be our season!

Jesus didn’t call disciples to be fans. He called them to be Followers. Fans come and go, but followers stay the course.

Fans show up for the party, but followers stay to pick up the trash.

At the height of Jesus’ popularity He had no trouble attracting the FAN crowd. But when He began to teach difficult truths, the FANS faded away and the FOLLOWERS stuck around.

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
John 6:66

After the crowd went away, Jesus was left alone with His followers. He asked them:

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
John 6:67

I love Peter’s response. Peter regularly spoke for the rest of the true followers.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
John 6:68

To be a follower starts with believing, and it proceeds with obeying. On the night that Jesus was betrayed, the night of the Last Supper, Jesus got up from the meal, and began to wash the disciples’ feet.

He did this to set an example for them to follow.

He did this to show the humility they needed.

He did this act of service to set a standard for them to pass along to us.

Jesus doesn’t need fans. He calls us to be followers. Let’s be serious about following Him and keeping in step with the example He has given us.

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The Only Option

But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭31:14‬

This past week has been filled with options. Sometimes we get the pleasure of deciding between “good” and “great.” Those decisions actually require a lot of thought.

When the choice comes down to choosing either “good” or “bad”, the decision making time is reduced dramatically, but the presence of the bad option makes us appreciate how difficulty life can be.

But there are also times when we have to chose between “bad” or “worse.”

There is a lot of unpacking that needs to accompany that last phrase, but we’ll have to get to that later.

Regardless of the options that are in front of you, there is always a response that needs to come from within you: Faith.

King David was often surrounded by enemies and struggling with heartache. But in spite of the limited, or negative, options to chose from, he determined to trust in God.

Job was presented with bad choices. Everything in Job’s life that brought him joy and security were taken away. His response ought inform our response in times of difficulty:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
‭‭Job‬ ‭1:21‬

We can always choose to trust.

Trusting comes easily, praise God, on comfortable days.

Trusting comes with pain, on difficult days.

But everyday we learn that God is worthy of our faith, trust, and praise.

How are you learning to trust God? What are you facing that puts your trust to the test?

Let’s share our prayers for each other so that our trust in God may be strengthened.

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God of the Universe AND God of the Molecules

“Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭30:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Driving to Dallas yesterday, I marveled that it was 70 degrees when I left home, and 38 degrees when I arrived in Dallas.

The airstream that controls the weird Texas weather stretches from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico, and even it is controlled by God.

And the God who keeps the airstream on its course, is the God who is mindful of every blood cell that flows through the tiniest blood vessels.

Did I let you know that Kristi and I are looking forward to twin grand babies? I guess I just did, again.

We’re at Texas Children’s Hospital today because at the last sonogram appointment, they noticed a condition called Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. I don’t know all the details, but here’s a link from the people who do.

Anyway, it all has to do with blood vessels. Some are so tiny that they can’t been seen well except under magnification.

The way they treat TTTS is to cauterize vessels that are allowing one twin to take nourishment from the other (someone is going to be in time out as soon as they make their appearance this summer!).

Birdie and I did what everyone else does when you learn of a medical procedure you or a loved one are going to undergo…we searched Google and YouTube until we were all diagnosed with cancer and/or rabies. Just kidding, kind of.

Anyway, here’s a REALLY cool video of what’s about to happen for the twins:

Unreal, right?

This experience, for us, and for Haley and Hayden, has been an emotional roller coaster. But we trust the God’s mercies are fresh every morning.

This morning the sun rose as a reminder that God’s Got This!

We pray for healing, wholeness and grace. The God who controls the airstream and the bloodstream and the entirety of the galaxy, is mindful enough of us to give us strength for day.

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The LORD is EXACTLY What We Need Him to Be

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.
Psalm 28:7

Our needs differ from moment to moment.

Some moments we need wisdom that is beyond our intelligence, education, or experience.

At other times we need strength. The weight of the worries we carry requires us to call for reinforcements.

At all times we need grace. Grace enough to savor a victory and grace enough to limp away from a defeat. Grace is good at all time.

When King David was in trouble, he called out to God, his “Rock.” (See Psalm 28)

We don’t know the specific enemies King David had in mind as he sought the Lord, but we can rest assured in David’s confidence that the Lord was able to handle any enemy who presented themself.

When David called to God in Psalm 28, he needed the Lord to do what only the Lord could do for him.

He couldn’t go to his friends, though he had many. He couldn’t go to his physicians, though they were well trained. He couldn’t go to his military men, though they were battle hardened and brave.

Kind of reminds me of the story of Humpty Dumpty…

So, he went to the Lord.

The Lord’s Strength is Indefatigable. The Lord’s Wisdom is Unfathomable. The Lord’s Resources are Infinite. The Lord’s Ability is Unimaginable.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21

When God called Moses to return to Egypt to lead the Hebrews out of captivity, Moses asked God, “Who am I to say has sent me?”

God gave the best answer:

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”
Exodus 3:13-14

When we call to God, let’s remember to allow Him to be exactly who He is, because that’s exactly what we need Him to be.

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