Pain


Here we go again! It should be no surprise that another Christian scandal has made it to the headlines and piqued the interest of believers everywhere, the viewing world, and especially the media. Although the truth is yet to be discovered, rumors continue to mount and many have already drawn conclusions on the innocence and guilt of the accused. The devil just doesn’t play fair, does he? It is most sad!

Let me be clear! Christ’s church is no stranger to controversy; and Christians and Christian leaders are never exempt from these routine and riotous hazards of the faith. Regrettably, some of these are self-imposed and the results of ones’ own undoing. Many are not! Throughout history God’s people have been under the microscope of constant judgment and incessant criticism. In fact, Jesus said, “…the kingdom suffers violence and violent men take it by force.” (See Matthew 11:12, NASB). As believers we will never escape satanic attack and the inequitable demonic strategies employed to destroy God’s work and our witness. What, then, are Christians supposed to do? How are we to respond when these tragic and unavoidable black-eyes occur? And believe me, this is undeniably a huge “black-eye!” Let’s see!

First of all, whenever a brother or a sister has been charged or is accused of a thing—a crime, an offense (a sin), an indiscretion, a fault, etc.,—as sad as it may be, don’t be surprised. In Revelation 12:10, our adversary is called “the accuser of the brethren.” Satan is still the “father of lies, the master of disguise, and the author of confusion.” These are the indisputable facts, and there’s no way around them!

Secondly, don’t judge. Any rash conclusions reached or quick judgments made about anyone who is accused is both premature as well as immature. “All the facts” need to be weighed! And even further, it is not our right or responsibility to ever reach a hasty “verdict” without giving those facts due consideration. Yes, believers will eventually judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3), but these will surely be based on facts!

Thirdly, remember grace. Were it not for the grace (goodness) of God, any of us could be under attack (under seize, or even under fire) at any given moment. That means while you may not be on the witness stand or public display (today), you don’t have to be guilty of anything for the enemy to accuse you of something. We are ALL guilty of something(s), and it is only God’s grace that keeps ALL of us out of the lime-light and the public line-of-fire. Thank God for His grace and always be sure to extend the same to others who may be struggling or are presently under attack!

Fourthly (and most of all), PRAY! The fallout associated with these terrible misfortunes is incalculable. We should immediately begin to intercede and pray. Consider for a moment those who are directly affected:

(a) The accused—undoubtedly a human being with feelings, family, friends, some form of fortune, failures, faults, and flaws. It cannot be easy for anyone accused (whether innocent or guilty).
(b) The accusers—no doubt, there are some issues within the hearts and minds of anyone who would pursue a legal (and public) course of action to resolve an apparent personal problem or difficulty. The Bible is clear on the way believers are to resolve offenses and settle differences.
(c) The world of believers—whenever scandalous matters are aired before the world for open debate and public consumption it sadly damages the image of the church and the strength of every believer’s witness. There is absolutely no way around it!
(d) The unbelieving world—these (unsaved sinners) don’t need another excuse for failing to choose Jesus Christ as their portion. When you take a look at it, it’s a no-win situation and we all lose; and the only way to combat these kinds of heinous assaults is to engage the most formidable weapon in our arsenal and at our disposal—prayer!

Fifthly (and lastly), trust God to work it out! God alone is judge, and we should trust Him and His power to work it all out for all of our good and more especially for His glory. It is still true whatever the enemy may mean against us for evil, God can (and will) work it out for our good! Trust Him!

Be encouraged, my brothers and sisters. This certainly won’t be the last attack (or perhaps fall) of a believer or man or woman of God. When it’s all said and done, God will still be God, He is still good, He will still be great, He yet remains gracious, and He will always be greatly to be praised!

For years now I have coined a somewhat lyrical and memorable phrase detailing what it means to be a fully liberated adult. On those occasions when I have incorporated it into a sermonic discourse, it has never failed to generate a rousing response. The statement is this: “You are not a fully liberated adult until you’re actually grown, gone, on your own, and leaving your mama and daddy’s money alone!” A few may disagree, but numerous have noted how it resonates with their own views when it comes to an excellent definition for being a true adult!”

As comical and perhaps factual as this quotation may be, it reminds us of the common quest of every growing (and groaning) teenager as they begin to know privilege, opportunity, more liberty, and some degree of independence. It seems the more they taste it, the more they want of it (and there’s nothing wrong with wanting it either). I believe, however, I can honestly say for every child-rearing adult and loving parent that no child wants to leave home any quicker (or to any degree greater) than their guardians want them to soon be on their way. In the final analysis, there is one inescapable factor we cannot ignore; “these things take time.”

As I pondered this all too familiar dilemma, the Lord pressed upon me another truth—an axiom of sorts—that is indisputably true. It is this: “In one’s quest for autonomy and a want for authority, none get to live without accountability.”

We would all do well to learn this reality. No one should seek to live without the distinct privilege of allowing another (or others) to uphold you in loving and responsible accountability. It is the only guarantor of excellence, ethics, and equality for a healthy society to exist. Lord Acton was right when he wrote, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely!” This certainly holds true when it comes to the management of our lives!

When you think about it, Jabez’s simple prayer included an insightful appeal that recognized his own need for living right in community. While he requested more real estate, resources, and responsibility, he also asked the Lord to “…keep me from evil so that I may not cause pain.” (see 1 Chronicles 4:10). He wanted God to help him manage himself so that he would not create problems for others who lived with, amid, and near him. He knew in the scheme of things he could not be successful without living responsibly and accountably around other people. Joyfully, God did exactly what he asked Him to do. He can do it for you. Just ask Him!

I have never asked God to help me be a better preacher or pastor. If only He would enable me to be a better person. That is why my desperate plea daily is simply: “Lord, help me to live right!”

Great interest has been generated over Steve Harvey’s plainly transparent and particularly moving interview on TBN of late. The many responses to his very emotional display range from positive compliments to overt criticism. Central in the debate is one single unarticulated, but still apparent dichotomy. Can one be emotionally pained, and yet not be spiritually changed? Common today in many an organized church is the uninhibited freedom to be securely open and emotionally expressive. However, does an animated display of a person’s emotions certify one’s spirituality and validate one’s legitimate faith? We need to explore this further.

Paul boldly distinguishes worldly grief from Godly grief in his commentary to the Corinthians in Chapter 7. His second epistle notes several distinct characteristics of Godly sorrow or grief. Godly grief is clearly different because:

1. It begins with clear conviction—the acknowledgment of wrong (9a)
2. It includes genuine regret—sorrow for one’s sinful behavior (9b)
3. It brings about repentance—an obvious change of life’s course(10a)
4. It leads to salvation—deliverance from one’s sinful ways (10b)
5. It leaves no regrets—void of any sense of enduring guilt (10c)
6. It is confirmed by conversion—a new commitment to the things of God (11)
7. It also encourages others—provides needed strength to the church (13)

If the Apostle is right, then it is clear that any expression of mournful emotions that is absent of these qualities should be regarded as suspect. The acid test of true Godly remorse reveals a clear transformative result. If a redemptive change does not emerge from one’s sorrow, the Bible indicates such grief ends only in death (see vs. 10).

Think about it. When is the last time you observed a genuinely penitent sinner consumed by indisputable remorse for their errant ways? If you haven’t seen it in a while, this could mean we are guilty of welcoming many a person to join-the-church, but few sinners to repentance. I pray this is not true!

The church of Jesus Christ is God’s center for corrective change. You see, change without correction falls tragically short. You don’t agree? Then, the next time you have a flat on your automobile, simply take the flat tire off and move it to a place where an inflated tire already sits. You will have change, but you will not have correction. The Lord wants us to experience change with correction. Jesus can help you!

Remember this! God loves each of us just as we are; however, He loves us too much to let us stay that way!

A few years ago (1995) British doctors proposed a revolutionary course of action to save a girl with major heart problems. At two years old, they decided to implant a donor heart directly onto her faulty heart. With two blood-pumping organs co-existing inside her body for 10 years, Hannah Clark’s own heart began to do what many experts had thought impossible. It actually began to heal to the extent that doctors were able to remove the donated heart. While a donor heart sent blood throughout the rest of her body, it miraculously enabled her original heart the chance to be transformed and get well.  Commenting on the discovery, Dr. Douglas Zipes, former president of the American College of Cardiology said, “This shows that the heart can indeed repair itself if given the opportunity.” Though not associated with Clark’s operation and treatment, Zipes continued, “The heart apparently has major regenerative powers, and it is now key to find out how they work.”

A malfunctioning heart caused the Psalmist to beg God to “…give me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10). No matter what is the cause, whenever the heart is not right, life is miserable and devoid of essential peace. Here are a few truths I discovered about good heart health for believers in God. A healthy heart:

1. is necessary for welcome engagement of worship. (Psalm 24:4)

2. allows one to know joy and gladness (Psalm 51:8).

3. enhances one’s effective witness (Psalm 51:13).

4. is crucial for acceptable giving of our offerings (Psalm 51:17).

5. for sure delights God to prosper us (Psalm 51:18).

Are you having heart problems? Is yours hurting because of your own sin, sorrow, or perhaps an injury caused by another? There is good news. We know a donor who is willing to lend you His heart until your own heart can heal and get better. If you would allow Him to attach His heart to yours, a miraculous transformation will take place. Before long, your heart will begin to repair—be transformed—and function like He originally designed it to.

 

Jesus can fix it! I dare you to let Him!

In John 11:35, our Lord succumbed at the grave of his beloved friend—Lazarus—and is unashamedly portrayed expressing His emotional side. The Bible’s shortest verse there is recorded where it says, “Jesus wept.” It is no secret that men (historically) have not been the most comfortable beings when it comes to openly expressing their emotions or displaying any public sensitivity. Much commentary has been offered as to why this fact exists. A major reason is that men have not been (as a general rule) conditioned (nurtured or encouraged) to expose their sensitive sides. In fact, a sensitive side has been largely viewed a weak or feminine (less than masculine) side. No “real” man wants to be seen as feminine. At times, parents (adults) perpetuate this myth when at hurting moments for boys, they (boys) are routinely admonished to, “Be a man!”, or “Don’t cry!” What is up with that? Why can’t a man (a male) openly own and display his painful emotions? Who made that rule? What is the big deal?

 

God has ingeniously engineered the human body with many functional systems for our good. Unlike other creatures, emotional tears are inimitably human. They provide essential cleansing to the eyes as well as the mind, our emotions, and the body. Tears are secreted by our lacrimals—tiny, sponge-like glands which rest above the eye against the eye socket. Pin-head size holes exist at the lower part of the inner eye socket from which the moist secretion is expelled; and for healthy benefits. Crying can reduce stress levels, encourage a good sleep, and retard diseases aggravated by stress, such as high blood pressure, heart problems and peptic ulcers. If more people (men in particular) would cooperate with healthy grief rather than fight it, studies prove it could lessen the tendency to be stressed, have hypertension, endure a stroke, undergo a heart attack, or even be depressed.

 

Jesus proves there is nothing wrong with crying, and there was nothing weak about Him. If we were not designed to occasionally cry, then there is clearly a major flaw in our anatomy. Yielding does not mean one is weak. To the contrary, it can be a sure sign of strength. It minimally conveys to others that the one crying is in some way hurt. And when you’re hurt, the Bible indicates that our God mysteriously leans over the banister of heaven and gives attention when His children cry. David put it like this: “In my distress I called upon the Lord, And cried out to my God. He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.” (Psalm 18:6)

 

My brothers (in particular), if the urge arises, every strong man needs to learn it is okay when the “flood gates” open. It only means that you’re human; and a wonderful miracle is unfolding. You’re going to feel so much better!