Archives For Hope

A Prayer for the People of Walmart A Prayer for the People of Walmart

A Prayer for the People of Walmart – by Joe Wickman

Three children are screaming at the top of their lungs. And I mean scream-ing!

Believe me. I have 4 kids. They have screamed in stores. It happens. I get it.

But here, in the checkout line of our local Walmart, I’m bombarded with these cries of frustration. So is everyone around me. I can feel the tension building in our collective shoulders.

  • One mother (Is she the mother? Dear God, I hope not.) lashes out in frustration.
  • Another family ignores their little guy. “Maybe the kid would stop screaming if they acknowledged his existence.”
  • The third screamer? I can’t even see them. But oh, I can hear them.

The cashier laments, “My head is killing me!” (I wonder why.)

I try to be compassionate, telling her I hope she feels better. She’s so sweet and helpful. But really I just want to get out of there. I feel like my own head’s going to explode, and I’ve only been there a half an hour.

In the parking lot, people are cutting each other off, much like they were in the store, just now with cars, not carts. The collective angst spills out of the doors, past the smiley-face price tags, and into the world at large.

“I’ve got to get to my vehicle.”

There’s that angry mom again. Now she’s angrily buckling her toddler into the seat. I can’t quite make out her words. They’re somewhere between a curse and a grunt. My stomach turns.

  • Do I step in?
  • What would I even say?
  • How does a man, by himself, approach an angry Mom in a parking lot?

All this rushes through my head in 5 seconds as I walk toward my car.

Too late. She drives away first. Gone. Now I wonder what life is like for the little girl in her care.

I drive away.

I’m stunned. I can’t escape the thought, “That was awful!”

I’m not trying to be all “emo” here. But my heart is heavy. What was intended to be a casual stop at the store to pick up a few things turned into a deeply disturbing experience. I’m actually sad.

“What the heck just happened?”

It’s not Walmart’s fault.

As a pastor, I deal with broken people on a daily basis. I’m one of them.

But it seems like here, in the aisles of the discount store, we come face to face with the reality of who we are. At our modern day market, where prices are low enough to lure us in from every corner of our community, we come face-to-face with the unvarnished “us”.

A lot of times we don’t like what we see.

As a people, big picture, we are broken.

People don’t treat each other poorly for no reason. It’s a sign of a deep brokenness within that person. As the old saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people.”

As I drive away from this brief encounter with the hurting people of my community, I think:

  • “How does Jesus love people like that?”
  • “Wait. That’s exactly what I’m like without Him.”
  • “Jesus, how can I love people like you do?”

As I pray, a Scripture flashes to my mind, a fragment of a verse.

“harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”

I look it up. It’s Matthew 9.

Jesus’ attitude toward deep brokenness is laid out here. Let’s see what we can learn:

Matthew 9:35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom.

When Jesus came to earth, He immersed Himself in the everyday. He descended into our brokenness and brought Good News!

35 And he healed every kind of disease and illness.

He didn’t just preach. He got his hands dirty. He healed. He reached into broken lives and changed them for the better. Jesus is capable. He is willing. He is able. Am I? Are you?

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

This is how Jesus sees the broken people. What right do I have to see people any differently?

37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

Jesus came to earth. He laid down His life for broken us. Then He left. He returned to Heaven. Why?

Jesus wanted us, broken us, healed by Him, to carry on His work until He returns.

He sent His Holy Spirit to fill us, to equip us to love like He loved. He calls us to touch broken lives with the “Good News of the Kingdom”!

If you are a Christ follower…

  • How do you respond to brokenness when you see it?
  • Are you part of the solution?
  • Are you stepping into the harvest field?
  • Are you praying for the Lord of the harvest to send more workers?

Don’t let brokenness repulse you. Let it propel you.

Jesus sent His followers into this world to love people. So let’s get to it.

Compassion must be followed by action. It can start with a prayer.

Here is a prayer for the people of Walmart:

Lord, my heart is heavy when I encounter the ugliness of brokenness.

Help me understand that all people are broken, and in need of Your repair (including me).

Open my eyes so I can see like Jesus, instead of judging and complaining.

Turn my anger and sadness into deep compassion. Help me love like You do.

May the light of Christ shine through me, overcoming darkness wherever I go.

Make me a part of Jesus’ healing, transforming ministry in my home, through my church, and in my community.

In Jesus’ brilliant, healing, life-changing name I pray. Amen.

photo 7 300x225 On the Death of my Grandmother

Grandma, Cassie & Christa

This morning my grandmother died.

We are hurting. But God’s words wash over our hearts and comfort us.

God is near.

God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

He has not left us or forsaken us. God’s own presence comforts us in our grief. We are not alone.

Jesus is our hope.

When Jesus encountered Martha, whose brother Lazarus had died, he asked her a crucial question.

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

We do believe this.

Doris Wickman believed this. She held Christ in her heart, and now he holds her.

That doesn’t mean this doesn’t hurt. And it doesn’t mean we don’t weep. However, there is a limitation to our grief. It is not stifled, yet it is not total. God’s promises hem it in. We grieve, but not forever.

Hope Limits Grief.

Paul put it this way:

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

Death does not get the final word with believers in Jesus Christ.

We believe that the spiritual rebirth we experience in Christ is just a foretaste of the bodily resurrection we will someday experience. It is in death that the realities of the resurrection are made real. The deposit of faith that my Grandmother made has now been redeemed. She is now in Heaven, where her Savior has been waiting for her.

We are confident in this.

My Grandfather, Richard, upon hearing of his dear wife’s departure, uttered these words first:

“away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)

He knows where his wife is. For over 64 years, they were one. Now He continues to place His faith in the One who has made him new inside. Someday my Grandpa will also be made new forever. The body that is now frail and failing will be replaced, just as his Spirit has been made new in Christ.

I am blessed to be the grandson of such a man of faith.

When Jesus’ disciples were troubled about His pending bodily departure from this world, He looked ahead. He comforted them by pointing to the new home that they would someday inhabit with Him.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

Someday I will go home.

I will take up residence in the eternal place my Lord is preparing for me. But for now I have the promises of God.

The Lord revealed a glimpse of our someday-home to the Apostle John. This is how he described what is to come:

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 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.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

I do not have that comfort yet. I have the promise of that comfort. But the promise is enough for now.

Now there are tears. Now there is pain. Now I hold onto my family as we weep.

But someday our Savior will end this suffering. The promises made real in Christ’s death and resurrection will be fully completed upon His return. He will gather those who have fled to Him for comfort, and we will make our eternal home with Him.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

Someday He will.

 

I also wrote about my Grandparents this past June. I hope my writing can, in some small way, honor their lives and the immeasurable impact they have had on mine.

Marriage Done Right

602153 10151371699518683 1053363162 n Why I Do What I Do   Mimi

Why I Do What I Do: “Mimi”

I love our church.

My job as a pastor at New Life is pretty gratifying to begin with. It’s got its’ challenges, but as a general rule I get to do what I love to do. Sometimes I get a crystal-clear reminder of why I do what I do. This week “Mimi” was the reminder.

The precious girl in pink, seated in the middle of the stage, is “Mimi”. I have known and prayed for her since she was an infant. She has a tumor that is effecting her eyesight, among other things. The treatment includes a year-long course of Chemotherapy. This little girl is brave, but she also gets scared while undergoing treatment. I would too.

Recently I was casually chatting with Mimi’s Grandma and learned that her Chemo was preventing them from attending KidStuf. It pained my heart to hear that this little girl couldn’t come. I knew how much she loved the fun, hope and joy she experienced at KidStuf.

When I told my friends about the challenges this little girl was facing, they decided to invite her to dress rehearsal. The result is that Mimi, her sister and her Grandma got to a front-row seat to KidStuf as our special guests. Afterwards, Miss Leah, one of our phenomenal actors, presented Mimi with a gift basket including a tiara and an autographed KidStuf T-shirt. Her eyes lit up with wonder.

Finally, we gathered together and did what we do best. We prayed over this child. We prayed for healing. We called on God to bless and touch her body. We believe it will happen.

I get to be part of an amazing group of people who are lazer-focused on the mission of “Knowing God and Making God Known”. I can’t think of a better reminder of our mission than the wide-eyed wonder of a precious child. To see so many compassionate people, all pouring themselves out in love, reminds me why I do what I do.

New.

The spring rains have swelled the creek at the bottom of our road. I paused to take a look. The rush of water captured my attention. It’s been a long time coming.

484850 10151328603988683 1106039206 n The New Washes Out the Old

The New Washes Out the Old

The winters are long in Upstate New York. for about 5 months of the year we huddle indoors, bracing against the cold. The days are short. The nights are long. In the middle of a long, cold season it’s easy to forget what warmth even feels like.

It has a way of sapping your strength.

Then Spring breaks through, providing relief from the harshness of winter. The promise of new life returns.

But long before the trees are full of buds, there is a cleansing that takes place. The fresh breeze blows. The rains fall. The land is saturated and cleansed. Warmth and water melt what was there, awaking what lies dormant.

New.

We need it. Not just in our surroundings. We need to be made new, cleansed and washed from the inside out. We need the crud and the dirt to be washed away, leaving only what is vibrant and alive. We need newness of life within our souls.

It is ours for that taking.

2 Corinthians 5:17 is one of my favorite verses. It is a promise from God to us, that if we are “in Christ”, then He will make us new. Here it is in 3 of my favorite translations:

New International Version (©2011)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

New Living Translation (©2007)
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

English Standard Version (©2001)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

What a bright hope!

Is it your hope? Have you taken hold of this promise? Is it alive and working within you?

You can be made new in Christ.

Yes, you. You can experience as much newness in Christ as anyone in the Bible. You. Today. Now.

How? Simply allow Christ to dwell in you. If you open up your heart to Him, He will pour His presence into you. He will purge all the dirt and crud that build up over time. His purity will overtake your impurity. His flow of cleanliness will flush out all your filth.

  • What needs to be washed out of your heart?
  • What is dead or dormant that needs to be brought to life?

He will make you new.

Pause right now and consider His offer of to form you into a new creation. Then invite Him in. You will be made new.

 

More Hope and Help:

  1. Are there sins that are unforgivable?

  2. Do all sins get forgiven?

  3. Choose One: Good or Forgiven?

The long winter takes a toll on all of us.

Me too.

Read this post I wrote for my friends at “iwokeupyesterday.com“. While you’re there, check out some of their great resources. They offer a lot of help and hope!

 Pray Your Way to a Brand New Day

Pray. Hope. – Joe Wickman

New Book by Joe Wickman coming soon!

This is an adventure. I’ve always wanted to write a book. My first experiment will help people connect with God personally in prayer.

How NOT to Pray” is “a prayer guide for the non-monks among us”.

  • Have you ever felt like you wanted a prayer life that was
  • Have you ever felt like God had more for you in prayer?

Then this book is for you. Click here for a preview. Each of the 10 posts will form the foundation for the book.

More Hope & Help by Joe Wickman:

  1. 29 Reasons to Hope

  2. Comfort – Help for the Hurting

  3. Need Hope? Here’s the 4 Most Inspiring Minutes of Your Day

Goals don’t become realities by accident. We need to be intentional about pursuing them.

Walk in the direction you need to go, and you’ll get closer to your goal. Sounds simple, right?

One young man started walking toward his goal, and walked right into a surprise:

  • He needed to get somewhere.
  • The destination was a long way off.
  • The conditions were rough.
  • He started walking in the direction he needed to go anyway.

He had no idea what was about too happen.

You’re not going to get any closer to your goals by staying where you are.

I have a few questions for you: Where do you need to go?

  • What goal are you walking toward?
  • How far off are they?
  • Are the conditions ever going to be perfect for you to begin walking that direction?
  • What’s stopping you from stepping in that direction today?

If you step in the direction God has for your life, you will find that help comes when you need it most.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

 

More Encouragement:

  1. Comfort – Help for the Hurting

  2. A Pastor’s Only Hope

  3. Feel Like a Failure? Here’s 5 Helps

 Comfort   Help for the Hurting

Comfort – Help for the Hurting

Sometimes there’s nothing we can do to remove the pain we’re experiencing. Circumstances beyond our control find us hurting and in need of help.

Instead of trying to understand or diminish the hurt, embrace the One who is called, “The God of all comfort…” (2 Corinthians 1:3)

Read through these verses. Click on the links to read further. Meditate on God’s goodness, even in the middle of your pain. Receive the comfort He has to offer.

  • Comfort is sometimes hard to find.

Job 7:13-14 13 When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, 14 even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions,

Psalm 119:82 My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, “When will you comfort me?”

Psalm 86:17 Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

  • Those closest to us are often best equipped to comfort us.

Job 2:11When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him andcomfort him.

Job 42:11
All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

2 Corinthians 7:6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,

  • Whatever we face, our Heavenly Father’s presence and promises are comforting.

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 119:50 My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.

Psalm 119:52 I remember, LORD, your ancient laws, and I find comfort in them.

Psalm 119:76 May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.

Isaiah 12:1 In that day you will say: “I will praise you, LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.

Isaiah 49:13 Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

Isaiah 51:3 The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

Isaiah 51:12 “I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mere mortals, human beings who are but grass,

Isaiah 57:18 I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners,

Isaiah 66:13 As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

Jeremiah 8:18 You who are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me.

Jeremiah 31:13 Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

The New Testament offers our ultimate comfort: Jesus

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God ; believe also in me.

2 Corinthians 1:5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

The comfort we receive isn’t just for us. Get it. Then give it.

2 Corinthians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort…

2 Corinthians 1:4 …who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

2 Corinthians 1:7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Isaiah 40:1 Comfortcomfort my people, says your God.

 

God will not be silent forever.

Even in times of incredible pain, questioning and heartache, He will be found. Seek Him. Find Him. Then share the comfort you have received with others who are hurting.

Also Read: “HOPE – 29 Reasons to Hope

and “Hope for the Hurting

Tragedy in Connecticut: Why?

December 14, 2012 — 8 Comments
 Tragedy in Connecticut: Why?

Tragedy in Connecticut: Why?

I am seething.

As a father of four, everything in me wants to wrap my hands around the neck of this man who harmed those innocents today.

Anger may be my first response. When kids are hurt, anger is appropriate. But then we begin to walk through a whole range of emotions and responses.

  • I am enraged at the thought of one man’s actions tearing apart the lives of so many. I don’t care what factors contributed to his state of mind. No one gets to hurt kids. Ever.
  • I am crushed at the thought of what those families are going through. I cannot begin to understand the agony they are facing. The thought is too much to bear.
  • I’m confused. How could God be God in this world soaked in senseless violence? It just doesn’t make sense.

Senseless tragedy causes us to ask some heavy-duty questions.

Why did this happen?

  • We live in a fallen world. Sin is ugly, and sometimes it makes an unfiltered appearance in our world. Make no mistake about it, the devil’s plan for this world is to tear us apart.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy… (John 10:10)

The devil’s plan is to steal, kill and destroy those who God loves. He is good at it. Sometimes he finds a willing accomplice to carry out his will.

In this time of grace, lodged between the resurrection and the return of Christ, we experience the results of both limitless love and of utter, unthinkable selfishness. We know, however, that this time is limited. Some day the window of choice will be shut. The age of grace will be over. We will spend the rest of eternity with the consequences of the decisions we have made here on earth.

Today we are reeling from the reality of sin, which has reared its head in senseless violence.

Someday we will fully know the reality of the second part of John 10:10.

…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

Today it is hard to believe.

Why didn’t God stop it?

  • I don’t know.
  • I wish I did.
  • I might never find out why.

I won’t give you some nicely wrapped answer. I understand that God has granted us a great degree of choice, free will, in this world in which we live. This allows us to ascend to the heights of faith and love, as well as descend into the very pit of hell.

However, when I’m freshly confronted with horrors of this nature, I find it difficult to reconcile in my mind. I think, “If I were God, I would have stopped it.” This, and a million other reasons, are why I am not God. I do not fully comprehend His ways. I do know, however, that the presence of evil in this world does not diminish His goodness.

What happened to those children?

  • They are in the arms of the One who created them.

They are experiencing no pain right now. Instead, they are receiving the perfect comfort of their Father in Heaven. They lack nothing. They do not want. They are not afraid. They are at perfect peace.

How do we know children go to heaven?

God’s Word is clear regarding children and eternity.

In a culture that viewed children as more of a nuisance than a treasure, Jesus welcomed them into his presence.

And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-3)

The innocence of children, as well as God’s love for them, is featured here and multiple other places in Scripture.

There is a biblical concept called, “the age of accountability”. While all children are born with a sinful nature, and are born into a world of sin, they are also considered blameless by God until they reach a certain age. (Deuteronomy 1:39) When children are born, they do not fully perceive the difference to make right and wrong. Eventually, each person arrives at an age where we do understand, and we are morally “of age”. We understand our actions and are culpable for the consequences. Kindergartners are certainly under that age.

God is perfectly just, and does not allow the innocent to go to hell any more than he allows the guilty to go to heaven.

Weep for these children. But realize that the trauma has ended for them. Pray for their families, and for those precious little ones who survived. Pray that God will help them bear and heal from this trauma.

What happened to the shooter?

  • Nothing good.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.” (Matthew 19:14) Jesus advocated for the weak and defenseless his entire ministry. He had words of warning for those who would render harm to others. Speaking of those who cause others to stray in their young faith, he said,

“Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.

It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” (Luke 17:2)

Jesus said that it’s better to face certain, unpleasant death than to lead a new believer astray. I would not want to have to stand before this God of ours after hurting a child.

All throughout Scripture we are assured of God’s goodness and His justice.

The shooter did not escape the consequences of his actions by death. He escaped his chance to accept grace and forgiveness for his awful acts. He stepped from the scene of the crime into the throne room of God. He will face judgment.

“God can not be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7)

We’re also told in Psalms:

The Lord reigns forever;
    he has established his throne for judgment.
He rules the world in righteousness
    and judges the peoples with equity.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

(Psalm 9:7-10)

Even in the face of senseless tragedy, God is still God. Although it appears He is not present, He is. He is the One who knew the number of every hair on those victims’ heads. He is aware of every ounce of pain they experienced, and what their families are going through now. In fact, He even knows what it is like to know that your child is suffering.

This God we serve is not aloof. He is not callous. He is actively comforting and consoling those families whose lives have been torn apart by the temporary victory of the evil one.

In the end, the devil will not win. He has already been defeated. For now he will wound all he can. But there will come a day when he will cease from his work.

And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

(Genesis 3:15)

The devil will cause as much pain as he can in this world. Christ has already defeated him. The cross and the empty tomb ensured it. God has allowed a time of opportunity for people to either accept or reject him. While the devil, “strikes the heel” for now, someday his “head will be crushed” upon the return of Christ.

Are you troubled by this tragedy? You should be. Sin should never make sense.

  • Seek Him as your refuge.
  • Cry out to Him for comfort.
  • Don’t forget to lift up these hurting families in prayer. They need it.

Need comfort & hope?

Here’s “Comfort – Help for the Hurting

Here’s “29 Reasons to Hope

A Pastor’s Only Hope

December 4, 2012 — 9 Comments
 A Pastors Only Hope

A Pastor’s Only Hope

Pastors are human.

If you’ve known one for any length of time, you’ve realized this is all too true. I got another lesson in my own limitations this past weekend.

This weekend was fantastic because:

  • I got to baptize twin girls who made a deep commitment to Christ just months before they go off to college.
  • Worship and the message were off the charts. The hope and help of Jesus Christ flooded the church.
  • Generous donations funded “The Big Give”. We get to feed 30+ families for a month!
  • I met a woman who attended church for the first time in her life. (and liked it)
  • A woman I invited, who is new to the area, attended for the first time, and is planning on coming back.

These things fire me up! They are the “wins” that cause us to celebrate. But…

This weekend was tough because:

  • I learned that 4 couples I know and love are either divorcing or are under extreme duress.
  • Two of my friends who are hurting deeply won’t return my calls.
  • Others that I care about are missing from church, failing in faith, or running from God.

This stark contrast is what I see week in and week out. Being a pastor puts me at the crossroads of peoples’ lives. I get the privilege of sharing profound joy and deep sorrow with many.

The joys buoy me. They fill me with energy. I love nothing more than to share the fullness of Jesus Christ with families and see Him supply healing and wholeness. It’s fun. And it’s what I was called to do as a pastor.

But pastors are also called to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Sometimes, since we live in a fallen and broken world, there is chaos and destruction. Pastors are called to meet people there too. That’s less fun. But it’s still a privilege.

This weekend I was reminded once more that I am finite.

I resonated with Paul’s words. When describing his trials as a man spreading the Gospel he said,

Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:28)

Every pastor understands that burden. Heck, every Christian who cares for others understands it. We want God’s best for the people He has put within our reach. But even though He has won the war, the enemy often steals a battle here and there. Witnessing others hurt makes a man weary.

Bottom line: I left church yesterday feeling 1,000 pounds heavier than when I walked in.

Throughout the day I had “accumulated” concerns and burdens for those I love and care about. It’s weeks like these that I understand why Jesus was called, “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3)

It’s Him that I need.

This Jesus, this God, eternally existing in perfection, took on the form of man and entered this mucked up world we live in. He lived and walked among the broken. Love poured out of every pore of his body. When he looked upon the city that would soon crucify him, he didn’t shy away. Instead…

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

This Jesus is the only hope for all the people I am concerned about. He is the only one who can truly and completely help and heal their hearts and lives. He’s also the only hope for me.

Here’s my conclusion: I was never designed to carry all these burdens. I cannot. I am too weak to even bear my own.

Yes, I get to come alongside many who are hurting, and I will continue to. But the distinguishing factor that makes me effective as a minister of the Gospel is that I myself am not what they need. He is. I get to walk alongside my brothers and sisters in Christ. But my main goal must always be to point them to Him. To carry them, if need be, to the Savior who holds in His hands infinite mercy, grace and compassion for the ones He came to save.

And after leading the way to Him, after exhausting my own feeble resources, I must routinely heed Jesus’ words:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

I will. I must. This Jesus is my only hope.

 Stuck? 5 Steps to Get 4x4 Traction for Your Life!

STUCK

Have you ever gotten stuck?

I have.

I once owned an old Chevy truck. My favorite thing to do was to jump into the old beater, drive it out into our un-mowed field, and blow donuts. Imagine a 350 4-Barrel engine wound right up, screaming through an exhaust that’s full of holes. Goldenrod and mud flying through the air. Me bouncing all over the seat with a big, stupid grin on my face. Good times. Great stress relief.

(I know, I’m a bit of a redneck.)

Well, one day I was having so much fun that I slid right into a mud bog. I buried the truck so deep in the mud, right up to the axles, that it took me most of the rest of the day to get it unstuck. Please take 2:36 to watch this video:

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be cheering for this guy by the time it’s over.

Have you ever gotten STUCK in life?

I have.

It’s no fun. But I’ve landed in a sticky spot before, and wondered, “How am I EVER going to get out of this?” I didn’t see any hope of getting out of the predicament I was in. I had to make some tough choices. These are some of the lessons I’ve learned.

1)  Do not get out of the driver’s seat.

If I was stuck in that river, sitting in the cab of that truck, I might have bailed out. Just swam to shore.

Nobody would blame him for saying, “The heck with it! I’m too stuck. There’s just no getting out of it.”

And I’m sure you’ve been there. Sometimes it’s easier to throw our hands up and say, “Look, I’ve got an overwhelming amount of excuses. Who could blame me for quitting?” But is that really what you want, to start a pattern of quitting when life gets tough? Who’s going to make that movie? I’d rather hang in there, take control of my own life, and do something. Anything.

But don’t think I’m telling you to “go it alone” and that “it’s all on you”. It’s not. In fact, here’s “29 Reasons to Hope” that will point you to the One who you can count on to show you the next step when you’re stuck.

So, if you’re already stuck, what do you do next?

2) Back up and try another approach.

In this case, the driver wisely saw that his efforts weren’t going anywhere. Trying the same exact thing any longer would only have dug him in deeper. So what did he do? He backed up a few feet, to the point of his last steering decision, and took another approach.

Where did you go wrong? Is it possible for you to back and correct the wrong turn? If you can, then do it.

Sometimes you can’t go back. Something broke. You’re immobilized. You just can’t move yourself.

If that is the case, you need to bring more resources to bear. That’s why I’m careful in my life to make sure I’m connected to people who can pull me out of a rut when I need it. Not just anyone can truly help you when you’re stuck. That person has to be un-stuck. They have to have traction of their own so they can pull you out. They need to be healthy enough to give you help that actually helps you out of the hole.

Valuable friendships with trustworthy friends don’t just happen by accident. That’s why my wife and I are super-intentional about developing those relationships. We might not need them today. But we might tomorrow. You never know.

Read More about developing those types of friendships: Why I Go To Church Part 1

3) Drop the hammer!

Often what gets us un-stuck is focused forward motion. Effort!

Sometimes when things don’t go our way we get frustrated. We start believing the lie that life will always be this way. We’ll always be dealing with these same problems. Things will never change. I’ve got news for you. That’s not true! Every day we get to make choices that effect the outcome of our future. That’s the beauty of free will. So don’t get lulled into believing that things will always be the same.

Take a look at this inspiring video of soccer player Lionel Messi. It doesn’t matter whether he’s slide-tackled, fouled or cheap-shotted. This guy never stops moving forward, no matter what gets in his way.

What would that kind of intensity do for you?

Maybe it’s time to charge forward toward your goal with renewed focus. Speaking of renewal…

4) Keep those wheels turning.

If you’ve been stuck for any length of time, you might be just about of fuel. I know you’re exhausted. If you’re out of gas, maybe it’s time to refuel.

Take a minute to read this post about refueling. And if you’re often feeling empty, maybe you need to consider switching up your routine. If you feel like all you do is work, you never get any rest, and the days just blur together, then this post about work and rest is for you.

Once you learn how to refuel on a regular basis, you will find that you get stuck less often. And when you do break traction, you will have the resources on hand to get un-stuck.

5) Don’t forget to celebrate!

My favorite part of this video is the very end. The guy holding the camera lets out a “Woo hoo!”

Hey. With what you’ve been through, don’t forget to celebrate when you climb up out of that hole. Take some time to thank a friend who helped you out when you were stuck. Let them know you’ll be there for them when they’re in the same spot.

For me, that also means thanking God for giving me the fuel and the traction I needed, for not leaving me stuck. I’m not under any illusions about my limitations. I am joyfully dependent on Him. I know I need Him to walk me through every single situation that life finds me in. And He does. He’s always there for me.

Keep these 5 steps in mind the next time you’re stuck. And let me in on the celebration when you climb up out of that hole!

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