Monday, September 27, 2010

Hurt People, Hurt People. (HPHP/LPLP - Part 2)

So here is Part 3, which is actually Part 2 of the 5 Part series on Loved People, Love People. Hurt People, Hurt People. You can read Part 1, which is actually Part 5 (HERE) and Part 2, which is actually Part 1 (HERE). Now that you’re thoroughly confused…we can start.

Just to preface this, hurt people, hurt people, in that people that hurt people are generally hurting themselves. Obviously I am not a counselor, but I’ve done some study on this. I don’t plan on going into the deep psychological aspect of this idea, and I’ll only mention why this happens briefly, the rest of the post will be focused on what this means to those that aren’t hurting.

So the verse that, for me, confirms that hurt people, hurt people is Proverbs 10:12a. The NLT says, “Hatred stirs up quarrels” or as the MSG says, “Hatred starts fights.” The concept being that those that hate are going to cause dissension among others. So it should follow that those that are sad, bring a spirit of sadness with them (we have all been there when we’re having a good time and someone that is locked in this sadness shows up and it changes the whole spirit of the room), anger begets anger and so on.

Now, I don’t want to speculate as to why any of this is the way it is, because I’m sure there are many reasons. I suppose that some are comfortable functioning in environments that are unsettled, some may figure that others should feel what they do or need others to relate to them, and some may not even realize their behavior causes others to hurt. What I do know is this: There is a world of hurting people and a lot of them don’t see any hope for a life different that what they have.

My frustration in this comes when others, namely Christians that are called to LOVE others, say things like, “I tried to love them, but I just can’t, they’re too hard to love.” This is a cop out. Here’s the essential understanding that needs to be had about hurt people: THEY…ARE…HURTING. Hurt people are by definition hurting. Often times, especially if they’re trapped in that hurt; they cause others to become hurt. And sometimes the people they may hurt are the same people that are trying to love the hurting person through that hurt.

When dealing with a hurting person, there is potential for them to lash out at you, maybe turn their anger on you and maybe, quite intentionally, seek to hurt you. They may seek to belittle and criticize your attempts at love, but the Bible says, “Bless those who persecute you. Don't curse them; pray that God will bless them.” Romans 12:14

Now, I’m not saying to let them humiliate you and walk all over you, even though Jesus did… But, far too often it is convenient and easy to walk away from some one that is in desperate need of the love of Christ that you already possess and have been commanded to share. They are looking for the cure all, we have it, and their “hurt attitude” is too much for us to bare. In a word that’s…Crap!

Here’s the bottom line: Part of the nature of hurting people is that they are going to do things, either intentionally or inadvertently, that hurt others and sometimes it might be the person that is trying to love them. But that doesn’t matter. We are called to the hurting. We are called to love them and bring them the love that surpasses all understanding and is the source of all comfort. We don’t have to have all the answers or solutions to their problems…that’s not our job, we’re not their Savior. Sometimes we just have to be willing to “Be” with them. Sometimes that's the love they need, but the point is, they need you.

In Him,

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Relevantly Wrong

Ok, so this idea of being relevant in the church is driving me crazy. There are some that have the idea of relevance as it pertains to the Gospel and the church all wrong. When something is relevant it has “bearing upon or is connected with the matter at hand.” I’m not saying that relevance is unimportant, on the contrary, it is, but many have it backwards.

Here’s what drives me up the stinking wall…there are those that believe we need to make the Gospel relevant to where we are so that it fits into our life and culture. During the three years of His active ministry, Jesus Christ NEVER attempted to make the message that He preached relevant to His time. It simply was not a message that people related to. He was telling people He was God, that regardless of how “unclean” someone was God still desired them, that prostitutes and thieves were more important to the Kingdom of God than the Pharisee that spent decades dedicating his life to the law. This was not a message that related God to the culture they lived in. It was NOT relevant to their culture, how can we be so pompous to believe that it’s relevant to ours. The Gospel message spans eternity. It exists outside of time. How can something that existed before time was created (and thus before there was any culture) be made to relate to any culture.

The idea that Christ gave us the Gospel to relate to us, suggests that God was sitting in Heaven and had no idea what we suffer or go through. It suggest that the only way for Him to know was to send His son, so that we could relate to us and once He figured out that earth was a cesspool, then He hatched His plan of a sinless sacrifice to atone for our sins. NO! His plan can be seen in Genesis (Gen 3:15). The fact is that God sent Jesus to earth to show us the visible image of our invisible God. He came down to us, to lift us up to His Father. He didn’t come to just be with us, but to show us THE example of a life lived to glorify His Father. He didn’t come down to relate to us, but that we might relate to God.

Sadly relevance in our churches has become a catch phrase that allows people to sit in their Christian infancy, never graduating from spiritual milk to meat. Relevance has become our way of excusing ourselves from the uncomfortable parts of the Gospel. The parts that say, Ask and you shall receive are easy because they're for us and who better to relate to us than…us. But the parts that say, die to yourself, take up your cross and love others without exception or expectation demand of us and don't benefit us, so all of the sudden those parts are not relevant to our culture.

Like I said, I am not against relevance. My church (Element Church) makes it a point to be relevant…in their practice! The method by which we deliver the Gospel is important for the culture you’re reaching. Even Jesus was relevant in His practice. He did stuff that was relevant to that time. The parables He told contained elements that the culture would understand. The stuff He did, eating with tax collectors, washing His disciples feet, riding in on a donkey colt (prophecy fulfilled), were all things that were relevant to the culture He was teaching in. BUT, the message NEVER changed!

The bottom line is this: When you attempt to make the Gospel relevant TO the culture you're teaching in, rather than delivering it in a WAY that is relevant, then you end up with something that isn’t the Gospel. You end up with things like the prosperity gospel. I heard Matt Chandler, lead pastor of The Village Church, say that adding anything in front of the Gospel (Prosperity Gospel, Social Gospel, etc.) makes it NOT the Gospel. The Gospel is revolutionary not relevant (prelude to another blog).

In Him,

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Year Two...

So it’s been two years since that fateful day. That day that turned my world literally upside down. This is the two year anniversary (can I call it that) of my awakening. I say it like that only because had things not happened that way, I’m not sure what it would have taken for God to get my attention…I shudder to think.

So where am I now? I’m in a far different place than last year, to say the least. First and foremost, I don’t teach in Elevate (Element Church’s 1st through 5th grade students) anymore. I do miss them so, sometimes. Then I peak my head in on a Sunday morning and remember why I’m not called to children’s ministry. God bless Pastor Derek… (BLOG)

Shortly after the last post, at the end of October 2009, my divorce finalized. At first I thought I was free and released. Then God started stirring my heart for something I really couldn’t define. In February God made it painfully clear that He desired reconciliation between my ex-wife and I and that He was capable of restoring us. If I’m honest, at the time I wanted NOTHING to do with it, but because I desired to be in God’s will, I began praying for reconciliation and in short order God birthed in my heart a deep desire for reconciliation.

Around that same time, Curtis Marshall, theSHIFT Pastor at that time, was scheduled to move to New Mexico. So theSHIFT was facing a slightly uncertain future with no actual leader in sight. Sure we had the roundTABLE in place, but that couldn’t sustain forever. Soon after giving me the desire for reconciliation, I felt God saying that I was supposed to talk to Curtis about leading theSHIFT and unbeknownst to me, God was telling Curtis the same thing. So Curtis and the Element Lead team talked, then he and I talked and viola…this past Easter I was officially announced as theSHIFT Interim Director. (Since then, I’ve been told the Interim part has been dropped…I love that God lets me be a part of this.)

Over the next few months there were moments that my ex-wife would contact me and my anticipation for reconciliation grew, but it never panned out. At the time she was living in Casper, WY, but moved back to Cheyenne in the beginning of June. Shortly after that, I began to feel this disconnect from the deep burden (and yes I mean it that way, my heart was burdened by it; lots of sleepless night and sick feelings) and desire for reconciliation. I think at the time it was essential that my heart be devoted to what God was calling me to in my personal life for me to lead theSHIFT well. The months went on and I felt as if I was in this “waiting” pattern. I had made it known to my ex-wife that God could fix anything and really it was on her shoulders. I prayed EVERY single day and night for God to get her heart and for His will to be done in reconciling us. I wish I could say that a miracle happened and God got her heart and reconciled us, but that’s not what happened. On August 27th my ex-wife married the man she’s been living with for the last two years.

But here’s the thing on that. Understand THIS…God did NOT fail me. He was and is still faithful, He still desired it, and I was obedient to what He called me to. He is my portion, He is enough and He is my prize. Just because my ex-wife rejected reconciliation, doesn’t mean God abandoned me in that desire. He grew me into the man He needed me to be through that and fulfilled His promise to sustain me. He is still God and He is still Good.

So, in that time here’s what happened. Even though I had already forgiven my ex-wife, I really got the opportunity to release her from any residual anger I had held on to. I got to confess absolutely everything to her and ask her forgiveness. I got to help and bless her a few times, which was often quite humbling. I got to tell her, then boyfriend, I forgave him for his part in what had happened (also quite humbling). And I got to look at my responsibility in the whole mess, accept it and hand it to Jesus (also humbling, but so freeing). Through all of that, God has allowed me to lead this AMAZING, out of control awesome, group of people called theSHIFT (BLOG). I have a team that rivals any team I’ve ever seen (they’re ALL volunteers and they pour every ounce of their heart into what God has called them to). I love them and am so lucky to serve in ministry with them. Oh, I’ve completed 8 of my 15 classes for my Master of Arts in Religion, but I’m taking the next school year off to focus on my boys and ministry. There are other things coming down the pipe that I won’t share quite yet, but I’m so excited for them.

Although I learned a boat load of stuff, there are two things I want to focus on.

1. Last year I said, “Obedience is the axis on which everything in God spins.” and quoted John 14:15 in which Jesus says, "If you love me, obey my commandments.” I WAS WRONG! The key to that verse is not “obey my commands,” but “If you love me.” Here’s the way it should have read last year…”Love is the axis on which everything in God spins and the foundation on which everything in Christ is built.” Obedience, like everything else, is simply a byproduct, a result of our love for Jesus. It’s also the action that proves what you say. If you truly love Jesus, everything you do will teem with the obviousness of that love. It will permeate every part of everything you are, have and do. He just wants to love you and have you love Him back.

2. Ministry is NOT about you. And more than that, your relationship with Christ (while there is a selfish part that you must be concerned with) is not about you either. I’m in the middle of a series on this subject so I won’t go too far into it, but Christ pours His love out on you so that it will flow though you (had a great conversation with Thomas BLOG about this) out to others. He loves you and expects that with the love you receive, you will love who He loves…which is everyone else. So many times he said, you feed them, love others, love each other, and take care of my sheep. He wants you to give to others, to serve them, to die to yourself and BE for others. He did. I’ll save the rest of this for another blog.

All in all it’s been an amazing year. Didn’t see most of any of that coming and wouldn’t have been able to plan it better (God saw it though). I’m excited for the year to come and the year after that more (I separate from the military that year – 2012…if the world doesn’t end, heh!).

So Stoked,

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hurt People. (HPHP/LPLP - Part 1)

Quite some time ago (specifically July 8th) I posted a blog titled, Loved People, Love People. Hurt People, Hurt People (HERE). I originally intended for it to be the only posting on that subject, but a couple days later I (and I mean that God impressed on my heart) decided it would be the last (created first like in the Star Wars Saga) of a series of 5 posts. I hadn’t figured out how I was going to put it together until this morning after a friend posted a verse from Ecclesiastes 4:1. That verse broke my heart and sealed this post.

The last few months God has been wrecking my heart about some very specific stuff, culminating in a Holy Spirit induced melt down last Thursday morning. Some great conversations and amazing appointments came from submitting to what I strongly felt God telling me to do. In the coming weeks I’ll share what that stuff was, but for now…I’m going to watch God unfold it. What I can tell you is this…man does God want us to love the hurting and man are there a lot of hurting people out there to love.

Ecc 4:1 says, “Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless.”

I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. There are SO many people that are hurting. I look around and see family after family ravaged and torn apart by divorce; children trapped in violent and vile situations; women told that they are worthless and useless, abused and mistreated, men trapped in their addictions to pornography, helpless to get out and incapable of leading their family; young men and women told that they’ll never amount to anything because of the part of town they live in and they are all helpless. They are bound by their oppressor, ensnared in the lie that there is no hope and it tears my heart to shreds.

As if all that isn’t heart wrenching enough, what about the other hurting people? What about the people that don’t even look like they’re hurting? The people that on the surface look like they have it all together, but deep down they are a mess. They are broken, rejected, torn apart by life and bitter against it. What about those people? The earlier mentioned group might be easier to spot on occasion, but how do you see the other group?

Sadly our culture has allowed us to become content with just showing up to church. If we do that, then we can check it off our “Christian To Do List” and go about our week feeling good about our “holiness.” But there is no commitment in that, ZERO! Just because you drug yourself out of bed at 8:30 to make the 10:00 service so you can get on with the rest of your day ISN’T commitment, it’s self righteous and self serving (key word SELF). The problem is that if we do anything more than that, if we get too close to people we may realize they are hurting or have issues. If that happens we may be obligated (maybe even compelled) to step outside of ourselves and give to that person. We may have to care about someone else and that takes away from our “me” time.

While we sit in our cozy homes, watching NFL ticket on or 50 inch flat screen, eating our coma inducing junk food, there is a world of hurt people literally right outside our doors. I’m not saying that you can’t have that stuff, but at what point does that stuff become pointless? At what point does the fact that people are hurting matter?

Here’s the bottom line, there are hurting people all around us…some sitting literally in the chair next to you. They are helpless victims in a world of oppressors. They are crying out, tears not always visible, but there nonetheless (sometimes those are the worst kind). Without Christ they are hopeless. Without hope, there is nothing.