making atheists of all Nations G reat C ommission G one W rong escaping the Hall of Mirrors
S piritual T ruths in yesterdayâ€™s meatloaf
A publication of On My Own Now Ministries, Inc.
GENUINE MOTIVATION Young Christian Man Jun 2013, Vol. 4 On My Own Now Ministries, Inc., Publisher
in this issue... Foremost
Begin Again by
Rob Beames, Editor Chandler Hunter with Donna Lee Schillinger, Page Design Kimberly M. Schluterman Editorial Support Contributors Rob Beames, Will Dole, Christina Fox, Thom Mollohan, Jason Moore, John Pavlovitz
Somebody Say Amen Go and Make Atheists of all Nations by
Beautiful Truth by
Except where noted, content is copyright 2013 On My Own Now Ministries. Articles may be reprinted with credit to author, Genuine Motivation and www.OnMyOwnNow.com.
Can You Relate
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Escaping the Hall of Mirrors by
Spiritual Truths in Yesterdayâ€™s Meatloaf by
It Gets Worse
John 15:18-16:4a(how I would say it) “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you were one of them, they would naturally love you, but you’re not. I’ve hand-picked you for a life outside this world and because of that fact, the world hates you. Remember how I told you that an apprentice isn’t greater than his boss? Well, if they mistreated me, they’re going to mistreat you too. If they had ever paid attention to my teachings, they would pay attention to yours too. But they won’t and it’s all because of me, because they have no idea who I really am—who I represent. “I could have stayed away and they wouldn’t have known any better. But now that I’ve been here, there’s no excuse for their ignorance. Now that I’ve done things in their presence that were clearly supernatural, they are without an excuse for their disbelief, and so they hate me. Hate me, hate my father; and they have. But this is exactly what is supposed to happen; it fulfills the prophecy in their ancient texts that says, ‘They had no reason to hate me.’ “When the Spirit of truth comes, the one I’m going to send to you when I reach the Father (because the Spirit of truth has to come from the Father), he’ll continue to convince others about me. And you need to do this as well, since you’ve been with me from the start. “I’m telling you all of this so that you’ll keep the faith, because they are going to do all kinds of things to you to get you to try to give up. You’ll be thrown out of the synagogue congregation, and worse. It’s going to get so bad that they’ll be convinced that if they kill one of you, they are actually doing God a favor. And it’s all because they’re ignorant of the Father and me. I’m telling you this so that when all this goes down, you’ll be prepared for it.” Read More of the Gospel of John (how I would say it) 3 GM
Foremost oremost F
Begin Again By Jason Moore
few months ago on Facebook, a friend posted a picture of a sign that simply read, “Begin again.” Depending on our story and the filter we use to process information, this short phrase can be a blessing or a curse. Interpreted as a harsh command, it can quickly take us back to childhood mistakes which were often followed by the criticism of an exasperated parent or teacher, saying something like, “No, no, no! You’re not doing it right. You foolish child, do it again. Try to do a better job this time!” At one point or another, we’ve all been there. We try our best, but then fail. At these times, the last thing we want is to be told to start over. However, what if these words came from an entirely different source, one not rooted in frustration, but rather clad in patience, kindness, and even in a relentless fondness for us? Wouldn’t we see it more as an opportunity and less of a heavy load 4 JUN13
to bear? In fact, we are given the chance to begin over every time we mess up. Our God invites us with words full of grace, quite different than the way we may have heard them in the past. He says, “Dear child, begin again. You don’t have to get it right. Jesus has done everything to fix it and make you right.” At some point in our lives, we will all be there. We’ll try our best only to fail. The first thing we’ll need to hear is the gentle encouragement from a loving Father to begin again. The fact that we can all begin again is the metanarrative of the gospel—the grand story common to all. The Bible is a narrative about a perfect world that is broken by human rebellion, but it’s also a beautiful account of second chances. God began again with a man named Abraham. He promised to bless him and bless the world through him. That promise passed from one generation to the next, and through that promise, God
Feature would restore the world He created. He would reconcile with the people He made in His image, but how? God came to us. He walked among us. Jesus Christ lived the perfect life that we are required to live and died the death that we deserve, but He didn’t stop there. He began again. He rose from the dead as a demonstration of His power and glory. He emerged from the grave to be the first of a new people. His people, in any age, are given a second chance, a new life, and they will become new. This can be our hope, too. We have the chance to begin again, not by our own efforts, but because of what Jesus did for us. He traded His perfect standing with God for our sin. We can trade our sin for His faultless position with God. By grace—God’s undeserved and unearned favor—people like us are able to begin again. Paul wrote about how this takes place, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is the “meta” story. It is selfreferential and explains what we all need. God includes people like you and me in His grand design of making all things new. When this metanarrative meets with everyday life, our lives can finally make sense. By God’s grace, we have a chance to begin again in a reconciled relationship with Him. By God’s grace, we get to begin again, even in the seemingly insignificant moments of each day. Often our lives don’t go the way we would like. We fight with our spouse, blame our kids, lie to a co-worker, betray a friend, kick our dog, or generally fail to meet expectations. We continually hurt others and are damaged by other people. We even bring harm on ourselves with the poor decisions we tend to make. At these times we may hear things like, “You
idiot. You messed up. Begin again. Get it right or I’m done with you.” As we put our faith in Christ, we will recognize that these words do not come from God. Instead, He says, “Yes, you messed up, my child. I knew that you would and I’ve never stopped loving you. It’s okay to try again. Jesus already got it right, so you are off the hook. So, know that I’m with you always. You are saved by grace and you can live by this same grace every day.” God’s unmerited favor and kindness is poured out on imperfect people like us. It is by grace that we are saved and it is by grace that God does the work of perfecting His people. This is an invitation for us to begin again, but not to start over in our own strength or by our own efforts. It’s an offer to start over by faith in the grace of God. It is a call to go back to the cross of Jesus, to rest in the certainty that we are completely pardoned through His work. In Christ, we can be fully forgiven, absolutely accepted and lavishly loved. We can enjoy a reconciled relationship with our Creator and Father. Through this relationship, God works to make us right after already declaring us perfect in His sight. He is constantly covering up our blemishes, fixing our failures and bringing strength to our weaknesses. Daily, He is forming us into new creations, although it may not always seem like it. Martin Luther once said, “To progress is always to begin again.” In His grace, God is inviting us to do the same.
Jason Moore is a church-planting pastor with the Presbyterian Church in America. More than that, he is a child of God saved by His amazing grace. It is his hope that, come what may, God will use his life to display the love of God and make His goodness known. 5 GM
Somebody Say AMEN
“Go, and Make Atheists of All Nations...…” the great commission gone wrong John Pavlovitz
confess, that I sometimes wonder if I would have any interest at all in becoming a Christian, if I weren’t already one. (Heck, if I’m honest, many days I look around and wonder if I still want to be one now). It’s not that Jesus isn’t worth following anymore. It isn’t that the Gospels don’t paint the picture of the most meaningful life possible. And it’s not that Jesus has lost a step, or lost His luster, or lost me. In fact, some days, Jesus is the only thing that keeps me from losing my religion. It’s just getting harder and harder to find Him in the Church. Have you ever gone to a family reunion and seen distant relatives you remember fondly from years past? There’s often that disappointing moment when the sweet memory of them, the idea of them that you once cherished, gets overtaken by the cold, crushing reality that, well… you just don’t fit in anymore. It’s not that you don’t love them; it’s just that you no longer have anything in common, besides blood and DNA. In fact, rather than making you feel at home, or like you’re with family, they make you more than a little uncomfortable. So you sit there 6 JUN13
as they tell some bizarre story, and you smile awkwardly, watching the clock, and you bide your time until you can get in the car, and get out of there before being embarrassed to death. For many of us who really love Jesus, the Church is becoming that weird uncle who makes us nervous. We watch the news, survey our newsfeeds, listen to talk radio, and pass by the bumper stickers, and we get that queasy, disorienting family-picnic feeling. We look at the over-politicized, perpetually defensive, fear-peddling, gun-toting, fightpicking, sign-waving, odd-talking presence that has become the face of American Christianity, and we want to scream, “Are these my people?” Maybe you feel that way. Maybe you’re a Christian, but you feel like a virtual stranger in the Church. (You’re not alone). Maybe you’re not sure what you believe, but you know that Christians generally freak you out. (Again, you’re in good company). But please know that this wasn’t the plan. As the Gospel of Matthew ends, Jesus is getting ready to leave the earth, and he gives his followers that grand, beautiful assignment, to “go and make disciples of
Opinion all nations, baptizing them in the name Am I taking a cheap shot here? Is this of the Father and of the Son and of the the easy way out: vilifying my own Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey family? Am I guilty of the most horrible everything I have commanded you.” Christian-on-Christian crime by painting (Matthew 28:19-20) multitudes of believers with the same broad brush? Maybe. This is known in Christian circles as The Great Commission, and just about 100 But after decades spent inside the percent of the churches in America claim Christian community, and after 15 years as it as their mission statement, in one form a pastor, I simply find myself trying more or another; Jesus telling those who would and more to stand in the shoes of the bear His name to hurting, searching, produce people and broken people who follow Christ. We look at the over politicized, walking around out there wondering If I’m honest, I’m perpetually defensive, fearjust what about the worried anymore Christianity they about what peddling, gun-toting, fightsee so often makes we’re producing. them want more of I know that picking, sign-waving, odd-talking Jesus. we’re producing celebrity pastors, presence that has become the My greatest fear and megachurches, is that the Church and lobbyist face of American Christianity, is becoming the groups, and voting biggest stumbling and we want to scream, "Are block to faith for blocks, and lots and lots of books the faithless, and THESE my people?" and blogs and frankly, it tears me sub-par movies, up. I wish I had but beyond that, things start to get a little more solutions to offer, but right now, hazy. all I have are frustrations, questions and uncomfortable family reunions. Are we actually speaking truth to the people outside of the building? Are we I still believe Jesus is worth following. I’m communicating the clear, real message just not sure that to Him is where we’re of Jesus, or have we simply franchised leading people. out His name to say and do whatever we want? John Pavlovitz is a father of two (Noah Is our presence in this world drawing and Selah) and husband of one (Jennifer); a people into a relationship with God, or 14-year youth ministry veteran, specializing is it repelling them to the precipice of in rabble-rousing, engineering mayhem and unbelief ? Is it setting the table for them generally trying to live-out the red letters of to dine with Jesus, or is it ruining their Jesus. He currently serves as Pastor of Youth appetite altogether? and Children at Good Shepherd Church in The truth is, though the Church is Charlotte, N.C., and oversees BIGHOUSE supposed to be making disciples, with Youth. This article was originally published our political agendas and our judgmental on his blog, JohnPavlovitz.com: Stuff that manner, and our “us against them” Needs to be Said. mentality, we’re probably making more atheists.
Beautiful Truth R Will Dole
ecently, an NBA player announced that he is gay. Since then, the responses have been varied. Mainstream media applauded his courage while many others shrieked in disgust. Still others shrugged their shoulders in indifference. There are Christians in all three of these camps, but they can’t all be correct. Speaking of the same issue in his letter to the Romans, Paul says, “...God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:26-27, 32). It doesn’t get any clearer than that. Homosexuality is condemned by God and worthy of His just wrath. Paul explained that our shameful desires stem from rejecting God while substituting created things in His place, (verse 25). The rejection of God’s truth in favor of lies gets at the very heart of sin and makes us all worthy of His just wrath (Rom 3:12, 5:12). It’s fitting that God consistently conveys our selfish rebellion through sexual metaphors, referring to sin as whoring or prostitution (see Ezekiel chapter 16, for example). The sexual sins we commit with our physical body are a logical outcome of this spiritual whoring. So, homosexuality is just one possible result of rejecting God 8 JUN13
and His authority over all things, including our bodies. This doesn’t diminish the seriousness of sin. God is just as upset about our approval of sin as the sins we commit (verse 32). Both are the result of rejecting Him. Passivity regarding the sin around us implies that we do not care about society. This is incompatible with a Christian mindset. We should be compelled to share the love of God displayed to us in the Gospel. The good news is that God cleanses sinners from their sin, and this constrains us to share the news of this forgiveness with those who need it. Sweeping sin under the rug is not part of gospel. Yet, we can also be susceptible to the pitfall of creating a special category of sin only for outwardly gay people. Unfortunately, this prideful, judgmental attitude has been communicated in such radical forms as posting angry social media updates about “gays ruining America” or judgmental demonstrations by groups, such as the Westboro Baptist Church. It can also be shown in more subtle ways, like cutting ties after discovering a friend struggles with same-sex attraction. We are not called by Christ to these types of loveless responses. The inclination to call sin by its rightful name is good and necessary, especially in a culture that tends to blur the lines between right and wrong, but to do so in a way that embraces other sins, such as pride, or misrepresents the fact that God loves all sinners enough to die for them is a very misguided response. Paul makes no distinction between this sin and a number of others that are more acceptable—for whatever reason—in Christian circles.
When is the last time you posted a Facebook status decrying the destructive effects of envy or tweeted the dangers of ignoring a brother in need? Paul places these failures on the same level as all sexual sins, including those involving same-sex relationships. In his classic book, “Mere Christianity”, C.S. Lewis agrees: “If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong…All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and backbiting, the pleasure of power, of hatred… that is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to Hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.” It’s important to begin with an acknowledgement of clear biblical teaching on this matter. We must believe and accept it as authoritative. God has spoken, and where God has placed a period we should not replace with a question mark. Yet, as we uphold homosexuality as a perversion of marriage, at the same time, we should also express the way the Bible describes marriage as a beautiful thing. In Genesis 2:23-24 we read, “The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Here, one flesh means far more than the physical consummation of marriage. With the creation of Eve, God establishes the most intimate of human bonds— between a man and a woman. Adam sings the first love song as he rejoices over the beautiful wife given to him by God. Adam’s response to the creation of Eve is a poetic overflow of emotion. Adam will not have
these kinds of feelings for anyone else. He certainly isn’t intended to have them with another man. Likewise, Eve is not bone of bone and flesh of flesh of another woman. The incredible, God-ordained differences between men and women are designed to fit together uniquely in this marriage relationship in a way that two men or two women simply cannot. We should seize the beauty of what God designed for marriage; the picture of Christ and His church (see Ephesians 5). We also need to communicate this truth to a world that is desperately looking for love in all the wrong places. This truth is stunningly beautiful. Some may wish to create marriage in their own sinful ways, but God’s ways are the best in all things, especially in marriage. Believing these truths has little value if they keep us from offering the Gospel as it has truly been revealed to us. The solution to all sinful behavior, thoughts and feelings does not lie in moral teaching or standards. We cannot address the spiritual ramifications of our failings, sexual or otherwise. Fortunately, Jesus can. Paul explains, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Four verses earlier, we read what this means when applied to us personally by faith, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” So, we don’t teach people to achieve moral standards, we show them their risen Savior. He alone could achieve what was required on their behalf. This is good news to all sinners ,and this overwhelming beauty must be the primary motivator for us as we address all sinful behaviors. To call sinners away from the darkness, they need to realize they are in a dark place, but the glorious light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is what will ultimately draw them. 9 GM
Can You Relate
Escaping the Hall of Mirrors by
iving life on planet Earth is a lot like growing up in a fun house full of warped mirrors. We think we are ugly, funny looking, too short, too round, too skinny or otherwise misshapen. For others, these mirrors give them a perceived disfigurement which is sociological or psychological. On the other hand, some may be convinced by the same evil images that they are incomparable in beauty or strength, worthy of exceptional honor, and so become insufferable braggarts. If ever there was a snare which men and women like us will stumble over again and again, it is believing distortions which rob us of an intimate fellowship with God. These blatant lies prevent the fruitfulness that our divinely appointed purpose intended. It is a matter of historical record that we too often give ear to the world, our own selfish impulses or the even the devil himself. (For examples of this, 10 JUN13
see the following passages: 1 Samuel 8:5, 20, 2 Samuel 11:2-4 and Genesis 3:1-6.) And it is a phenomenon still today. Too often, we do not perceive ourselves in the light of Godâ€™s truth, but rather see ourselves as twisted images reflected back to us by the shattered world around us. When we act in accord with these distortions, we repeatedly forego the benefits of grace and suffer further brokenness as a result. In fact, even though some buy into the lie that they are so unlovable that God only looks upon them in disgust, there is no one so riddled by the disease of selfishness that they could render God incapable of deliverance. The true grace and love of God are so incalculably great that God will not fail to restore once a heart yields to His love. Yet, no one is actually good enough to merit access to Godâ€”not good enough, not smart enough, and gosh darn it, it doesnâ€™t matter how many people like you. We can be beautiful,
intelligent and skilled, but even our greatest moral and ethical achievements are like dirty rags or polluted garments in comparison to the holiness of God. These are no credit to us, either as individual achievements or taken corporately as a reflection of our society. As the prophet says, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment…” (Isaiah 64:6 ESV). Those who say that a healthy self-esteem is the primary goal in life do well to reconsider, so as not to fall prey to yet another vain pursuit that seeks to uplift the self. Instead, we should learn to submit to the grace lavished upon us through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. In fact, Christians should be very wary of the golden calf of self-esteem and recall that we are called to deny ourselves by following Jesus daily! Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23 ESV). Even by doing so, we find the unwavering esteem we so desperately desire in the perfection of Christ. As Jesus explains, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25). So, by giving up what we desire the most—to be someone special—in Christ, we find that we are exactly this and even more. In his book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, Tullian Tchividjian writes, “Rediscovering the gospel enabled me to see that: because Jesus was strong for me, I was free to be weak; because Jesus won for me, I was free to lose; because Jesus was someone, I was free to be no one; because Jesus was extraordinary, I was free to be ordinary; because Jesus succeeded for me, I was free to fail.” How does the life and death of Jesus free you? The secret to both our greatest happiness and abundant fruitfulness lies not in remaining in our hall of mirrors looking for an image that makes us look good. No. We find much more satisfaction even in this life by leaving the fun house of mixed messages to follow Jesus in the light of His Word. Here is the plain truth: we are loved by our Creator. His love is not based on what we have done or can do. Nor is it based on physical,
emotional or spiritual qualities that we may, or may not, possess. We are loved by the Father through Jesus, His Son, because God’s very nature is love. Accept it. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Worship Him for it! He is love and He is holy. Through faith in Jesus Christ alone, you have been made His forever! “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3 ESV)
Thom Mollohan is a Christian inspirational speaker and writer, instructor of college readiness courses, and pastor of a great bunch of Believers. His favorite roles are that of husband and father. He is especially passionate for the igniting of passionate worship of a passionate God! Thom is also the author of The Fairy Tale Parables: Classis Fairy Tales Pointing to God’s Love and Truth and Crimson Harvest. He may be reached for comments or questions by email at pastorthom@ pathwaygallipolis.com.
Spiritual Truths in
Yesterday’’s Meatloaf by
ate one rainy Saturday morning last month, I gradually awoke from a dreamy slumber. I turned over with a groan to face my wife, who was already wide awake, smiling at me with beckoning eyes. Lying on her side with her head propped by her arm, she began to circle her finger along my shoulder. Her voice lilted as she begged, “Come on, wake up. I’m ready.”
surprise kept right on rolling until she rolled right out of bed. Quick to her feet, she stood, still smiling at me. Her pouting eyes said, “Come on, you can figure it out.”
I cleared my throat, forcing a bewildered yet hopeful reply out of my still drowsy voice, “Ready...ready for what?”
“Today’s the city-wide garage sale! You know I like to hit them all and today it’s going to be so easy for you because I have everything mapped out!”
Easing her head down to my face, she gently pressed her cheek on mine, and moving her lips close to my ear, she whispered, “You know what I like... I’ve been waiting for this all week and this morning; I’m going to make it sooooo easy for you.” Suddenly, wide awake, a smile quickly formed on my face. I jerked her close in a full-body hug. She eagerly rolled over on top of me but to my
Distracted as I was, I couldn’t figure it out. “What’s going on?” I asked confused and disappointed.
Seriously, how can anyone get so excited about going to look at someone else’s junk? If somebody’s trying to sell it dirt cheap, why would I want it? I guess my wife doesn’t see garage sales the same way I do. I suppose she sees another person’s junk as her new treasures. I didn’t find anything that day, but after a lot of thought, I found a spiritual symbolism in the garage sale. (Yes, a lot of thought.)
I used to be one of those people who really didn’t like the Old Testament—and I’m not alone. Some churches even go to the extent to only teach the New Testament because the Old Testament seems so harsh, judgmental and uninviting. Reading through all the rules, both the good and bad examples of God’s people and God’s wrath can be about as enticing as yesterday’s meatloaf. And really, is there anything worse than yesterday’s meatloaf? My wife actually loves it— another way in which we differ. If she could just find a garage sale serving yesterday’s meatloaf, she would be all set. Unfortunately, she’s the only one in our family who likes it. To make things worse, we eat so little of it for the first meal, we have plenty of leftovers for the next meal and the next... and sometimes the next. Such is my enthusiasm for the Old Testament— perhaps because sometimes reading it makes me feel as valued as yesterday’s meatloaf. That’s unfortunate, because there’s so much more to those books which lay the foundation for the Gospel of grace. It really doesn’t deserve the dread I have for moldy, old leftovers. Jesus had quite a different take on the Old Testament. He knew that the law and the prophets pointed to Him (Luke 24:27). If we could look past those musty old characters in the Old Testament and see the face of Jesus, we would breathe new life through some of those barely worn pages of our Bibles. Similarly, Jesus promised new appeal to His contemporaries who had been schooled in the law when He said, “Every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old” (Matthew 13:52). Jesus compared those who had been schooled on the law to a homeowner going into his attic and bringing out some awesome, never-seen-before stuff. Jesus knew that after they understood His role in fulfilling the law, they would no longer beat the same drum of legalism. They wouldn’t find the same old worthless junk in their storerooms, but rather new treasures.
To the surprise of many, Jesus didn’t dictate strict adherence to the law. Instead, He made it clear that God’s law was so demanding that even though some thought they had been obedient (Luke 18:20,21), they weren’t even close. Where some thought the law to be harsh, it turned out to be even harsher (Matthew 5:21-48). Jesus redirected people away from the cyclical death offered by the law, back to the only one able to free them from sin and death (Romans 8:2). His intent was not to remove all hope for salvation, but rather to reveal the only hope for salvation. From the Pharisee to the prostitute, there was only one way then and there is one way now: Give up and trust in Jesus alone. Those who knew the law of God well, and also understood how Christ completely fulfills it, were able to dust off those ancient texts and present beautiful new understandings of the character of God from each passage. These historical accounts then become less about our spiritual forefathers’ triumphs or failures and more about how God, by His good pleasure alone, demonstrates grace and faithfulness to sinful men and women. Ever feel like yesterday’s meatloaf? Perhaps it will help to read the Good Book again in a different light—the light of Jesus (John 9:5). Instead of getting bogged down in the rules and failures of mankind, be blown away by God’s immense concern for His people throughout the Bible from beginning to end. He is in the business of creating amazing beauty out of dust and ugliness. As we focus on the actions of God through the broken vessels He uses, in times past and present, we will be encouraged, not shamed—especially when we realize Jesus entirely bore all of the shame and took away the guilt, then presented us as honored guests at His table. (I believe He wanted me to remind you of this.)
N The church body ought to be a place where people find help and healing, not where we simply voice our social media status face to face.
ow many friends do you have? It’s a surprisingly difficult question. After all, the categories of friendships are many: friends from childhood, college, work, church, online friends, even tweeting. While the number of friends listed on our social media accounts may be many, our true friends are actually very few. How many of your friends know the real you? How many would know if you were struggling, really struggling? And to be honest, how many of them would you tell? For many years, I went through seasons of depression all on my own. I wandered in the darkness, feeling isolated, helpless, and in complete despair. I often stood among the crowd at my church, watching everyone fellowship, and feeling utterly alone. Hiding my thoughts and feelings inside, I felt great shame and guilt about the battle going on in my mind. If people really knew the horrible, dark, and frightening thoughts I had, they would surely reject me.
The Place for Help and Healing by
But then God brought a few friends into my life with whom I could be real, honest, and transparent. I told them my story, revealing the depths of pain I had endured. God used those friends to encourage and support me. They pointed me to the hope of the gospel. Over time, our relationship has become mutual. We share our burdens with one another, point each other to Christ, and walk alongside each other during the difficult trials of life. Silent Pain The sad truth is that not everyone has such friends in their church body. There are many hearts crying out in silent pain within the church. As we sit in our pews each Sunday, surrounded by painted-on smiles and neatly pressed clothes, inside many are weeping. The issues may vary—grief, worry, shame, depression, fear, even severe mental illness—but each one needs the love and encouragement of others in the body of Christ. God uses us in the body to build up, spur on, encourage, and bless one another
(Romans 12, Hebrews 3:13, 10:24-25, 13:1). In fact, the church body ought to be a place where people find help and healing, not where we simply voice our social media status face to face, providing updates on where we had lunch that week and the funny thing our child did the other day. It is important that we recognize that there are hurting people sitting next to us in our pews. We need to look beneath the masks and casual statements to see the hearts of each other. Because we are related to one another through the blood of Christ, each of us has the Spirit living within us. When we go beneath the surface and speak life-affirming words to the heart of another, it stirs the Spirit within them. It triggers hope within their soul. The love and encouragement from one believer to another is not the same as the world gives, for it is empowered by the Spirit himself. May our churches be a place where the definition of friendship means something more than it does online. May God open our eyes and hearts to see those among us who are hurting. And perhaps you already know of someone who needs help. Maybe you’ve wanted to reach out and help but don’t know how. While by no means complete, this list provides a few ways you can love and encourage them. 1. Reach out: It may take time, but be intentional in letting that person know you care. Trust is something that has to be earned, but over time, they will open up and begin to share their burdens. Be sincere, genuine, and real. 2. Listen: Listen with ears of grace. Don’t be like Job’s friends who assumed they knew why Job was suffering. Enter their pain with them and listen. Don’t try to come up with solutions to their problems. You are not responsible to take away their pain or make their life better. You are there to encourage and point them to the One who does take
away all pain and sorrow. 3. Pray: Don’t say, “I’m praying for you,” and then not do it. Ask how you can pray for them and then commit to doing it. Consider writing a gospel-centered prayer and send it to them. I’ve received written prayers from friends, and it gave me great encouragement. Pray and ask God to give you wisdom and grace to encourage them. 4. Speak the gospel: You won’t be able to solve their crisis or change their circumstances, but you can speak the hope of the gospel to their heart. We find true healing in the truths of the gospel. Remind them of who they are in Christ. Remind them of their standing before God, their inheritance, and what Christ has accomplished for them. Point them to the love their heavenly Father has for them, the very same love he has for the Son. And point them to the power of the Holy Spirit to work in and through them to live for Christ, despite their weakness. These gospel truths stand secure, no matter how strong the storm. 5. Check in: For some, the journey through pain is long and tedious. Stick it out with them. Check in often, even if they don’t respond. Send a card, an email, a text. Leave encouraging messages to let them know you care and are praying for them. God will use your efforts. You may not see immediate fruit, but God is at work and will use your attempts to reach out to them for their good and His glory. Christina Fox is a licensed mental health counselor, coffee drinker, writer, and homeschooling mom, not necessarily in that order. She lives with her husband of 16 years and two boys in sunny South Florida. You can find her sharing her journey in faith at www.toshowthemjesus.com and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/ ToShowThemJesus. This article originally appeared on Gospel Coalition.com.
The Christian Alternative to the Men's Magazine. In this issue: Making Athiests of All Nations: Great Commission Gone Wrong; Escaping the Ha...
Published on Jun 5, 2013
The Christian Alternative to the Men's Magazine. In this issue: Making Athiests of All Nations: Great Commission Gone Wrong; Escaping the Ha...