The Least of These

This afternoon I have my first interview for my internship placement. This internship is in marriage and family therapy and counseling. Throughout my studies the past couple years I have come to appreciate those in the mental health field.

It’s not easy being a therapist. It’s not just the fact that people come into your office hoping to unload their problems, which is heavy. It’s not just that you hear stories that make you cry, which is sad. The hardest part is not even watching someone struggle, but who is unwilling to admit that they need help. Those things are hard. Perhaps the hardest part of therapy is learning to overcome your flesh and learn to value each individual.

This has been especially hard for me, but I am confident in saying that I have grown immensely in that area. Passing judgement is a sin, but sin is human’s nature since the Fall. Learning to silence that voice of my flesh is so hard.

However, in order for me to go into the business of soul care and hurt healing, I had to learn to do this. It’s an imperative skill. But that didn’t make it much easier.

In the coming months and years I will find myself sitting across from addicts, rapists, abusers, homeless, and mentally ill. I will see people of all races, nationalities, and religions. I will be surrounded by those who I believe have poor hygiene, misplaced priorities, self-pity, and little motivation to move from the place where they are. I will see people who I think “got what they asked for” or that due to their choices, are right where they want to be in life. I will see people every single day who come to me for help, but aren’t willing to help themselves. Yet I have to control my urge to judge this person and assume that I know their circumstance. Many times we find ourselves comparing our life story to those around us. That’s unfair. Not everyone grew up in a Caucasian, two parent home in the upper-middle-class tax bracket where there were no signs of abuse and neglect. In a home where both parents loved them unconditionally and put their child’s needs before their own. No, that wasn’t everyone’s story. In fact, that was very few people’s story…and oftentimes even those who share my story, end up on a completely different path.

In the very beginning of the Bible it tells us that God created man in his image and with his own likeness (Genesis 1:27). Stop and ponder that for a minute. It doesn’t say only I was made in his image or only my pastor was made in his image. We all were! That makes the human race the most precious creation. Each individual, no matter their ailments or life history, was created in the image of the Almighty God. That means that we each have immeasurable value. I have to train myself to see this value in each person that I encounter. Whether in my career or in the grocery store. This simple revelation will change the entire way that you view others.

Jesus said in Matthew 25, “When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me. Whenever you did this for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.

Wow! That is powerful. Do you have any idea what this means? Those who I mentioned as being hard to sit across the table from are JESUS! Each and every one of them is Jesus. And if I help them, it is the same as if I am helping my sweet Lord.

Though I will never be able to repay Jesus for what he did on the cross for me, and I will never be as perfect or blameless as him, I can serve Him but serving others. Being covered by Him in the eyes of Our Father, I can represent Him through my works here on Earth. I can do as he did when he was here. I can do for the least of these.

To go a step further, we are told in Luke 6, “Lend without expecting to be paid back. Then you will get a great reward, and you will be the true children of God in heaven. He is good even to people who are unthankful and cruel. Have pity on others, just as your Father has pity on you.”

Today I take one of my first steps in pursuing my calling. Pray for me. That I will treat every human as Jesus himself and see the immense value of each life.

Reverend Billy Graham has said, “Just as pastors are called to lead the flock, if you are a child of God, you too are called to your vocation.”

Amen.

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Tis the Season

Tis the season….to be jolly….for giving…

How often are we not jolly and giving? Or either we are not jolly while we are giving?

This holiday season, don’t let your heart be hardened and stingy with your giving and cheer. Everyone needs a blessing and if you are reading this you are sitting in front of a computer or on your phone, you have stable housing and clothes that are free of holes, you probably even have a sustainable source of income. Let me tell you something friend, you are blessed. You may be down on your luck or going through a rough patch, but you are so EXTREMELY rich compared to others around the world and within our own country.

I myself have been guilty of giving sparingly to strangers and even sometimes those whom I know. I justify it by saying “I don’t think they are really homeless” or “I know they’ll just use the money for drugs and alcohol”. That is me!! And that is probably you too. Our society has grown accustomed to those who seem to mooch off the system and get something for nothing. And people like you and me don’t think it’s fair and so we choose to be resentful and stingy when it comes to giving to these people. After all, they already get more than they worked for (since they don’t work) and I am already paying them with my tax dollars.

Today, December 17, 2014 I am telling you that we have to stop this. We must begin to give of ourselves to others as God lays it on our hearts. This could be with our time, money, or resources. But if God is calling you and tugging at your heart to do so and you don’t, that’s an act of disobedience. And we should always strive to be obedient to God in every way, every day.

We must not hoard our riches here on Earth. It is pointless and meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Luke says in Acts 20 “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (v. 35). Regarding this passage, Angela Thomas says, “When we are aware of where everything comes from, who it belongs to, and why it has been given to us, then it seems foolish to hoard anything that God has given.” We must not give to receive. Be that in the form of gifts or recognition. That MUST NOT be our motivation.

When you give to those who will forget to say thank you, all of heaven stands to applaud you. The Lord is omnipresent. He sees it all. And he knows you, inside and out. He knows your motives. In this life we will encounter those people who take from us and do not appreciate or acknowledge what we have done. Although that makes us feel really crappy, know that God has seen you and He loves you more for giving freely. The hardest part about giving is having no expectation of how the person will receive it. Even if we do not strive for recognition, we all strive for appreciation.

Angela Thomas says, “I am supposed to give as I am led by God. How my giving is received is not mind to determine.” Wow. That’s good stuff! There will be times where you give and it will be used for the wrong reasons. There will be times you will be taken for a fool by the person you give to. But we can’t let our pride get in the way of giving. We have to stop caring how we look to others and we absolutely can not put stipulations on the gifts we give to others.

Neil Anderson says, “We should never give people what they deserve- we are called to be merciful…We are to be gracious and give people what they need- the gift of love.” As children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ, we are called to give. Give, give, give. Everyone needs to be loved, even if they don’t deserve it. You must never forget, we don’t deserve it. We deserve the most brutal wrath of God, but it is by grace that Jesus has saved us through faith that we are no longer to receive that wrath. He gave, knowing that he was being viewed as an idiot, being taken advantage of by many, but he gave to you and me his life. And every day we are to strive to be more like Him. Therefore we must give. Happily and freely.

Tis the season to be jolly while giving, for JESUS is the reason for the season!

Merry Christmas! May God continue to bless you in abundance in the coming year.

WWJD?!

Do you remember the popular phrase in the past decade “WWJD”? There were bracelets, bumper stickers, and t-shirts galore with this acronym on them. You could buy it at the gas station or get it for a prize at the arcade. But when is the last time you really stopped to think about what that means?

WWJD. What would Jesus do?

……Well……any thoughts?!

As Christians today I think we have become way to concerned and consumed with social media and “winning” some theological, political debate. We are too busy defending our beliefs instead of just living them. You see if you are truly walking a strong and confident walk with Jesus, you won’t need to quote scripture every day. You won’t need to constantly tell people you are a Christian and you are different. Because if you are doing things right, people will know. They can look at you and see a difference. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person”.

Too often today we get caught up in the endless cycle of trying to be perfect, blameless, and blemish-free. However, that is impossible here on Earth. It’s never going to happen. Lisa TerKeurst says, “Am I trying to prove I am right or to improve the relationship?” Are we living out WWJD?! Tony Nolan says, “There is a difference between the God we know and the God we show.” Are you showing the character of Christ in your life?

Jesus did not spend his time surrounded by priests. He did not seek out the important people in the hierarchy. Jesus loved the unlovable. He surrounded Himself with thieves, whores, tax collectors, lepers, impoverished individuals. Why did the King of Kings do such a thing? Because these are the people who needed to know they were loved and could be forgiven.

Jesus did not push His agenda on people. He shared what he came here to share. He listened to others who agreed and disagreed with His teachings. He did not constantly quote scripture from the Old Testament. No, he LIVED the scripture. That is what made Him different and set Him apart from other priests who always had an underlying agenda based on money or worldly morals. That is the example set before us. That is what we should always strive to do. Even upon His death, when Jesus had told the people over and over who He was, they still chose not to believe. They were still so full of sin. And yet He still forgave them, he still loved them, and still died to save them. Jesus died to save us all, not just the few who go to church every Sunday, never cuss, and don’t have a tattoo. He died for us ALL.

Luke 7:47 says, “If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.” Those who were the most sinful were most grateful for the grace.

As Christians we tend to focus a lot of our time and energy keeping certain individuals away from the church. We may not SAY that’s what we are doing, but we shun them in little ways. Do you go to a “white church” or “black church”? Have you ever noticed the way members of the congregation look at and act towards people who “look” gay, have tattoos, or are not dressed “appropriately”? At that exact moment, I have to think, WWJD. Sometimes it is hard, because it may make me uncomfortable. But I am living in this world for Jesus and Jesus would never cringe or shy away from that person. Jesus would embrace and love. And that is what our Father has commanded us to do as well. The whole premise of our existence can be broken into two requirements, loving God and loving our neighbor. That is all we are here for.

We need to stop all this stereotyping and hatefulness. Is this judging? Yes. Is that our job? No. Now I know the Bible tells us that if a person is in-Christ and is blatantly sinning, we are not to stand by and condone it. But we can find a kind way to point it out and still be loving that person. Lisa TerKeurst says, “if a person criticizes me without ever having built me up or said a kind word to me, it hardly feels like constructive criticism.” We must speak in love first and criticize second.

There are certain things the Bible instructs is against God’s will and is sinning. There are other things that our society has determined is a sin, and is found nowhere in the Bible. For example, tattoos. Just as a disclaimer, I do not have a tattoo, but that is ONLY because I don’t want one. Most people feel that their tattoos are an expression of themselves and is a form of artwork. If that is the case, they may believe that by having tattoos they are simply decorating God’s temple. And when you look at it that way, what’s wrong with that? We paint the walls of the church. We change the color of the carpet.

The bottom line is, just because someone is not like you doesn’t mean they are wrong. It doesn’t mean they are going to Hell. And it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be welcomed in the church. A church is a building FULL of sinners. And as I seem to point out in every post, all sins are the same and equal in the eyes of our Lord. Therefore, we should welcome these people with open arms. We should treat them gently and love them. It is not up to us to cast them out and seal their fate with our judgement. We don’t have that kind of power, and we don’t need it.

Stop and think about what WWJD truly means. Ponder on Jesus’s friends, his disciples, and what he was able to do in their lives. If we do not expose ourselves to such individuals, we may be missing an opportunity for blessing to take place in our lives. It is never too late to help disciple a lost soul. It is not our job to save, that is Jesus’s job. Our job is to love, and in loving, instill the Word of God in each person we meet.

What’s Missing?

I have been quiet for a while. For some reason I just feel that the Lord has quieted my soul. Why, I don’t know. But anytime I sit in the silence for any length of time, one thought often plagues my mind…

What does it mean to miss someone? What does it truly feel like to you? Some people come and go in our lives and some stay forever. Is that a choice they make? Is there such thing as fate?

I know what it’s like to miss someone who is dead. I know how to accept that. It hurts, but I can handle it. It’s the other type of missing that hurts the most.

Missing someone who is still here. Who lives just down the street. Who you’ve shared so many laughs and tears and times with but no longer are no longer welcome to call or catch up with.

The worst part about this missing is the wondering. Wondering what they are doing. If they are okay. If they miss you. Then I think to myself, “Obviously you don’t miss me or you would let me know.” The worst part about missing someone is caring about them, loving them, and that feeling not being reciprocal.

Be it friends or family who have drifted apart, it hurts the same. Our friends are our family. Our family are our friends. I think sometimes we get so busy with our own lives that we forget to reach out to those around us. Then one day we look around and we are alone.

Success is not everything. Money is not everything. Control is not everything. Love covers it all.

Then I wonder…how can family separate like that? I can not imagine or begin to fathom life without my family by my side. Do those who are estranged not miss their loved ones? Do they not ache for an update in the life of their loves? If not, how incredibly sad. How sad a life they lead. And if so, why don’t they do something about it? I truly don’t understand.

If you are reading this, swallow your pride. Pick up the phone.

You can’t choose your family. You have to love them unconditionally or not at all. And if it’s not at all, I can only imagine the hurt in your heart that must cause that.

Tomorrow is not promised. Make today count.