Archive for the ‘Help Line’ Category

In the English language, there isn’t really a word for the opposite of loneliness.

A quick Google search puts the word “popular” as the top hit, but I find the meaning of popular to be too contrived; it defines an outward setting, but misses the condition of the heart. After all, we can be completely surrounded by bodies, yet feel the emptiness of being alone.

I recently read a book of essays and short stories entitled “The Opposite of Loneliness” by Marina Keegan. The article from which her collection of stories and essays proffers its name was first published in the Yale Daily News. Marina addresses her graduating class and speaks of the camaraderie and togetherness she experienced at Yale. It was this indefinable familiarity, which produced a potential energy to make her and her classmates feel worthwhile and abundantly capable.

In describing the opposite of loneliness Marina offers, “It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people who are in this together. Who are on your team.” It is difficult to nail down a concrete definition.

I’m finding that this opposite of loneliness is belonging. It is the knowing of loneliness that gives us an understanding of the opposite of loneliness.

We cannot know what it’s like to be “un-lonely” unless we have known what it’s like to feel alone. Perhaps this mystery lies in the fact that we have yet to fully experienced the true and complete opposite of loneliness, and so we don’t know how to label it.

As we walk this earth, even if we are happily married, happily single, immersed in a beautiful community, surrounded by loving friends and family, there is still a tinge of aloneness because we are not yet fully united with our Maker—the only unflawed, all-knowing being who is love and can fill every cavity of emptiness within us.

When that time comes we will experience a union with our God that will dismantle any form of loneliness because we will belong.

We will have found a place where we are made new; we will be fully known, fully loved and can fully know and fully love our God in return. Right now, in grace, we get a glimpse of this redemption, but it is not complete; for now we will inevitably fall short in loving rightly from time to time.

So what do we do in the interim? How do we live well now in the face of our loneliness?

We fight for those glimpses of belonging for both those around us and ourselves. There is great purpose in the here and now; passivity in waiting goes against our design. We won’t lose the longing to belong, so we harness that longing to propel our world toward Jesus’ return. We use our passions, with our eyes faithfully set on hope, to love with the love of Jesus now as best we can. And the mystery and thrill of it all is that this looks differently for each of us.

In the book of Hebrews, the author interrupts his description of many faithful lives before us to share an element each of them had in common…

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland…they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:13-16

Let us be people who hold the assurances of God in our hands courageously. Let us be people who, through the way we live, shed light on the distant homeland we seek and its promise to be whole and good. Let us lean into the inevitable loneliness now, to yearn more for the opposite of loneliness with eager expectation.

And when that day comes we will greet our Maker, having known what it is to feel alone, and experience the triumph of never having to know that feeling again. We will belong.

MEGAN SEXTON

When we went to Ajegunle for the Lagos Street Store, some vessel inside of me broke.

I felt thoroughly abused by the reality called Nigeria. I’ve been through hell before, but this one was a new level of hell.

I never did a proper recount of our experience, it was intentional.

Those kids wanted something, anything. You could see the agony when you told them you didn’t have their size, their face dried up instantly.

You need to see mothers push to be on the queue for a rubber of rice, oil, tomatoes and seasoning.

One woman kept standing close to me…

Somehow she identified that if she did, something would get to her, I died inside of me.

Then we had to mark people’s hands when they got food, so they don’t come back.

We only served food to women, but one time I heard @Tee_Tayme Scream “Daddy, Na only women we Dey give”…

I had to nudge her to give him, whatever dignity broke inside him to stand in a queue of women to receive raw food, he needs the food.

There was this little girl that screamed “me I just want books o, what do I need clothes for”

It broke me that we didn’t bring books her age.

I remember his eyes when he said “uncle, I didn’t get clothes” I was probably frustrated enough but how could I scream “what do you want me to do?”

The little boy did have genuine heart, what would he wear this Christmas.

As the holiday passed, I remembered him many times.

When we needed rubbers to share the rice with, one woman in the market gladly gave us her tomato cup, I remember how she spoke Yoruba that I didn’t understand, something about it was cheerful when she asked me to keep her own specially.

Then the area boys that almost stopped us?

I wanted to understand them, I couldn’t. How do you ask me to pay to be good to you? How do you take my 5k and throw it in my face because it was not enough to buy you cheap alcohol and weed.

For that, you were willing to scatter our efforts, I desperately wanted to understand.

With their permed and dyed hair, weed in one hand, chanting gibberish and showing feats of violence, how could any set of people be so self absorbed.

I remember the Iyaloja who stood to tell them that if they do anything to us, they’ve done it to her.

What would have happened?

I look back at all of it and realise that as @amb_ore says it, “when these kids grow up, take one bus to the island and realise that life has been unfairly distributed, then they pick up guns or their laptops to level the differences, I hope we all accept our roles in this evil?”
In fact when our bus first came, one of the locals said “Na PDP abi Na APC?” I hated that all he knew good to be was something that had a leash on his neck, something that says “to eat, you must vote for me”

Are we dogs? Are we children of ghouls, is Nigeria a haunted house?

I’ve had to take a virtual course at MIT on the challenges of global poverty even more recently and the realities are daunting. Food prices, labour costs, the lot, are indicators of doom for the Nigerian.

18000 minimum wage? Let me tell you the dynamics of that in Nigeria.

Do you know how much half a bag of rice is? About 9k. Half of minimum wage gone

I spit on your grave If you are going to tell Nigerians to live within their means from the comfort of your banana island and Lekki homes, at least take a trip to Ajegunle, I beg you, just one trip.

People have less than enough to feed, go to their jobs, pay children’s fees, and other health issues.

You know what is a global issue? Mosquito nets, should we give them to Africa for free or not?

Economists don’t have answers, whether foreign aid is helping Africa or not.

The man who is lucky enough to get a 20k paying job, is dead the day his son comes down with cholera from bad drinking water, because his salary doesn’t cover medical emergency, you can’t afford to be sick, how could you of your own volition just become sick?”
When I was serving in Enugu, my boss reduced the old cleaners salary by 1k because she didn’t come early to work one day out of 21.

She didn’t complain, she thanked him, but I saw it in her eyes, when I gave her back that 1k. I saw it.

We can’t keep preaching poverty economics

Real people are trapped behind poverty lines, depression? Na who don’t chop Dey Dey depressed nau.

As we drove off, the kids started singing “Able God” we smiled and laughed so heartily.

Were they content to live within their means? Ajegunle never answered that question for me.

It’s close to two years that I volunteered to teach maths at maiyegun primary school for 5 hours per week. I saw it, I did.

Sodiq was been flogged everyday because he couldn’t afford N2000 uniforms, I had to buy for him.

Rasheedat never wanted to go home after school, no food.

I got her lunch everyday and you could see her top the class in assignments, I remember her dada hair, I didn’t even know it was a girl for weeks.

Sodiq would come to the front of the class, sit on the floor to take notes, I never knew for weeks that he was short sighted…

He never got my class works right, I was supposed to teach for 1hour per week until I realised that the school had primary 5 A, B, C, D and E and each class had at least 60 students.

I remember @Ibukun__ coming to teach with me on one of those days. at least you saw it too.

Kids who ruled their books in halves so they could save pages. There’s that too.

But zoom out of this local school in Lekki are schools like whitesands just across the road, meadow hall, the lot.

We can’t isolate ourselves from the problems, we really can’t.

I was glad when @BankyW ran for office, these were things I would have shared with him, because a5 least, we would have access to help create equitable systems that levels society in say 20 years.

Policy can do that, legislation can.

We can’t keep glossing over real problems.

We are making huger plans for the Lagos Street Store this year, we’ve held two street stores in Osun and Enugu, it’s been massive.

We are meeting new partners, thank you @duchesskk and the @freesanitarypad team, your support overwhelmed us.

There’s more, we have to do more.

The team at @TheLagosSS phenomenal guys, I would love to name names, but we have decided to not beat a gong about our efforts, we will just keep doing.

Can’t be blind to a reality, we won’t attack pseudo issues like population expansion when the ones alive never chop.

Nah Fam.

I’ve received a lot of requests to donate to the event. @paystack has made that happen for us.

Last year, we fed 300 families, we hope to do more this year. Writing materials for kids, maybe a medical outreach, increase number of families fed to 1000.

BY RHONNI GREIG

In the field of special education, students with disabilities are often referred to as children with exceptional needs. As I reflect on the countless students I have worked with over the years, I am reminded of what it means to truly live an exceptional life.

As a speech and language pathologist and a student of “narrative” language, I have come to learn that we tell ourselves stories and then we live by the stories we tell ourselves.

This has never been truer as I consider my own life’s story. From a very young age I have always been directed to the cheerleading frontlines and sometimes broken pathways of working and engaging with the marginalized and disenfranchised in both my professional and my personal life—with my ultimate endeavor to be an instrument of hope, belonging, and restoration for those who have been abandoned on the periphery of opportunity and acceptance.

If asked what my spiritual gifts were, I would most confidently list mercy-showing and exhortation, but I know that these ministry gifts that God gives so freely are only a small reflection of my passion to impact lives through the love and kindness God has first extended to me.

Working with children with special needs I have witnessed them learning to walk (and sometimes crawl) among the ashes that were not of their own making. In those moments of overcoming great obstacles, I have been gifted with a rare glimpse into the shadows of triumphs that can bring redemption to life and work.

In my therapy sessions with students I see why these amazing children are considered exceptional.

It’s hard to describe what happens in the human heart when, in a moment of time, a child’s self-identity is redefined. “Disability” is no longer a part of their personal narrative. The knowledge and perspective of “possibility” releases an inner feeling that can only be described as pure joy for both the student and me the therapist.

Recently, I was captivated by the concept of ‘the glory of God’ which we read about in vivid descriptions in scripture and I wondered if there was a possible connection between God’s glory and our human experience of inner joy and contentment. I was intrigued by a message I heard from a dear friend and pastor from England, Mike Pilavachi, as he reflected on the life of Moses in the book of Exodus; and Moses’ bold request for God to reveal His glory to him.

I thought—the nerve, and in some ways the presumption of Moses! It’s not as if Moses’ life was lacking of any proof of God’s provision and presence—or His glory. God overwhelmingly displayed His glory to Moses in a multitude of ways from the burning bush, the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the sea, His daily provision of manna, through a pillar of fire by night—and the cloud by day.

But somehow even after experiencing all of those signs, Moses still felt that he hadn’t yet truly experienced God’s glory. So Moses prays, “Show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). Really? What more could God do to demonstrate His glory to the people He loved?

The astounding beauty of this exchange between God and Moses is how delicately and intimately God answers Moses’ honest request. God responds. It is not with another supernatural display of His manifest presence such as fire, thunder, lightning or shaking of the earth, but rather God’s response is a close and private exchange in a crevice of a mountain,

And the Lord passed before him [Moses] and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands…”
Exodus 34:6-7

In this exchange God’s Holy presence is tenderly intertwined with His words of remembrance about His character and nature toward mankind. God makes it very clear to Moses that His real glory is proclaimed and revealed through the simple acts and gestures of goodness, mercy, and compassion.

What a revelation to everything within me that calls out for an authentic experience of God. Could it be that in those moments when we are compelled to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God that, God is quietly and affectionately invading our story and ushers in His glory through uncomplicated acts of goodness, mercy, and compassion.  The fruit of which releases “joy” to our soul.

If true, I’m deeply humbled and yet also profoundly moved to receive this great gift God extends to the followers of Jesus Christ—that through the work of His Holy Spirit, when we are afforded the honor to represent the Heavenly Father’s mercy, grace, and goodness—the very nature of God—the glory of God is revealed and I experience His joy. What an exceptional life!

The Apostle Paul understood very well the purpose and effect of seeing and experiencing the glory of God,

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 3:18

Paul is telling us that once you receive this revelation of God’s glory—of his love, mercy, grace and long-suffering—the Holy Spirit will continually open our eyes to more of these aspects of God’s nature and character. We have an ever-increasing revelation of God, in the way God wants to be known to us!

As David Wilkerson paraphrases the Apostle Paul in Galatians 1:15-16, “I have within me much more than some doctrine somebody thought up, more than just a head knowledge of Christ. I have a revelation of who Christ is—a revelation of his grace, mercy and love. And this revelation has become the very source of all I am and do. It’s the very essence of my life!”—an exceptional life.

Scripture tells us that when Moses experienced this revelation of God’s glory in the cleft of the mountain—the revelation that God is good, loving, caring, gracious, forgiving—Moses quickly fell to his knees and began to worship,

So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.
Exodus 34:8

As I worship God today in gratitude and thanksgiving, I too boldly ask to see His glory in my life. Suddenly my eyes and heart open to the young pregnant mother who was just informed that the child within her womb has severe chromosomal abnormalities and will probably not survive the pregnancy, and if the child survives the pregnancy probably will not survive the delivery, and if the child survives the delivery—will not survive his first breath. The courage of this young mother to say, “I will not end the life of this child. He has value and a soul and I will carry him, give birth to him, hold him and pray over him for as long as God gives him life.” Through this young mother’s narrative—I experience God’s glory and bear witness to an exceptional life.

This young mother’s story and the many other young mothers and fathers I have been blessed to work with over the years—add beauty to my life. They help to write a narrative of an exceptional life—worthy of God’s love, mercy, compassion, and sacrifice.

A favorite lyric of mine written by the worship leader Sara Groves reminds me that, “their pain changed me, their dreams inspired, their faces a memory, their hope a fire. Their courage asks me what am I afraid of—what am I made of and what I know of love. And what I know of love.”

Today, God hands each of us a pen to write the stories we tell ourselves—our narrative. Within our grasp is a story filled with tales of God’s goodness, mercy, and compassion—His glory helping to define an exceptional life.

We also have the great privilege and sacred opportunity to inspire others to discover and write their own stories. Is there a friend or individual God is encouraging you to help write—or rewrite their story out of the ashes?

Discover and embrace your spiritual gifts and experience God’s glory as you write your narrative and help others to find the words to their story—experience the joy that comes when you chose to live an exceptional life of love, mercy, compassion, and sacrifice!

Here are some ways to use your spiritual gifts with families of special needs children and those on the margins of life’s opportunity:

▪ Volunteer to mentor a child with special needs in your church’s Sunday School
▪ Offer to babysit for a family with a child with special needs
▪ Volunteer for your local chapter of Special Olympics
▪ Host a “play date” for mothers with special needs children
▪ Begin a “Special Needs” family ministry at your church
▪ Help a family with special needs children find the resources in your community for social, academic, and vocational assistance
▪ Help to eliminate the feelings of isolation and abandonment that families with special needs children experience by inviting them to parties, gatherings, Bible studies, and vacations
▪ Volunteer at a women’s shelter
▪ Become a foster parent to a needy child

BY CARSON LEITH

“You’re going to be a pastor,” God tells me in the summer of 2011 while working at a fishing lodge in the Haida Gwaii in western Canada.

And then I shoot back, “Are you crazy?” It seemed to make sense but I was scared of it being true, even after I told Him that He could finally have a hundred percent of me.

“It sounds like you want to be a pastor,” says John Mark Reynolds, my mentor during my time in the Torrey Honors Institute, a Great Books program at Biola University. “You just need to stop being afraid of it.” I stare around at his office filled with books and think of how I want to lead, write, preach, teach and counsel: all with the motive of helping people grow. Maybe that’s what a pastor does…

“I think you need to be a pastor,” Chad tells me over a meeting that was supposed to be about a fishing trip. “You have the gift of ‘withness’ and presence. You’re just denying it because you’re afraid.” Coming from someone who did not know me in depth, this was both shocking and peaceful. Shocking because he pulled back the curtain on my soul without much history. Peaceful because I knew that what he was saying was a timely truth from God.

I was in business at the time and could play that game well, but it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing long term. God certainly led me into business for a time of growth, which I consider invaluable. But it was time to move on. Four days later, I applied to Regent College in Vancouver Canada without telling anyone but my wife.

Not telling anyone was significant for me. I have historically sought much counsel in large decisions partly to be wise, partly to please others. And I lived in California, where my family lives. But here I was, applying to a graduate school in another country without consulting anyone because I was confident that this was the school I wanted to be shaped by: its people, its setting, its mission, its values, and its vision. Regent is a glove-fit for who I want to become: not just a pastor, but also a whole person who is intelligent, vigorous and joyful about his commitment to Jesus Christ, His Church, and His world. This newfound confidence in my decision to apply showed me that I was sure of this direction without needing anyone else’s opinion.

So what does this have to do with spiritual gifts? Everything.

The journey of discovering your true self is one that is actually quite disruptive. By “disruptive” I mean that it may lead to a geographical move, a career change, hardship, financial stress, and saying goodbye to those you love the most.

This is why many do not attempt to know themselves: it’s a scary process. But I would argue that it is a process through which you’ll experience the truest form of life there is.

Knowing yourself has so many factors to it. To name a few, there’s Meyers-Briggs, Strengths-Finder, family background, heritage, place, personality, weaknesses, passions, natural gifting, and last but not least, spiritual gifting.

It’s unfortunate that many people in Christian circles make a joke out of spiritual gifts—because to deny them or even worse to make fun of them is to miss out on how God himself has gifted you by His good will. It’s to miss out on your destiny.

Spiritual gifts matter a great deal. Because by them, God, out of His grace, uses us to bless a community. The gifts are not to build up our own kingdom, but His Kingdom.

I’ve had jobs all over the place. And it’s fascinating to observe the consistencies in my spiritual gifts across a wide variety of roles.

My primary spiritual gifts are:

  1. Shepherding
  2. Mercy-Showing
  3. Teaching
  4. Exhortation

I am a pastor-shepherd everywhere I go. I love to help people grow, I love protecting and governing and caring for my wife, I am burdened for the love, growth and care of the Church. Even when I was in business, people recognized my pastoral heart toward my coworkers. Nowadays, I’m the Dean of a Residence Hall at the University of British Columbia, where my wife and I get to take care of 40 undergraduate students who all have separate journeys and life stories. This role has been an incredible privilege and has been exhilarating as I get to essentially pastor a small group of students every single day.

To some this might be a draining role, but to me, it is life to my bones.

I feel alive. I don’t think about having to “go to work” or “do my job”—I’m just being myself everyday, and it just happens to be a “job” that the college wants someone to do! This kind of natural fit might be a clue to your own spiritual gifts being utilized.

The gift of mercy-showing comes out whenever I sense a burden or need in someone. I immediately want to surround them with love and compassion and comfort, often through physical touch. I am usually the first to notice someone on the fringes of a community and am drawn toward befriending them. Without really thinking about it, I desire to share in the pain of others and also help them to relieve their pain.

I am gifted in teaching. In every job I’ve had, I like to teach: how to make coffee, create a website, do direct marketing, write a great subject line on an email, study the Bible, start a blog, play guitar, and on and on. It’s my natural bent to teach people, and I’ve seen that gift in everything I do.

Lastly, I am an encourager-exhorter. I love to encourage my wife, friends, parents, brothers and sisters, coworkers, or people just doing great work in a given area. I am thrilled when I can exhort others to action, help them apply a situation to their life, or discover a little more about their purpose. Come to think of it, that’s probably why I wrote The Star Smith, my free 32 page eBook. The book’s primary purpose is to encourage others to find and do work that matters. In nearly all my writing, I end with a line that acts as a “push off the ledge” to go and do something or to be inspired or moved.

As I discovered my spiritual gifts, I slowly realized that they fell under the multi-faceted role of pastor, which was an incredibly freeing and exhilarating thought. Over the slow course of hammering this out, submitting myself to God, and a good deal of conversation with others, I’ve found my calling. I found a role that will require all of my particular gifts, talents, passions, and personality.

There is a great temptation in seminary to feel like you have to wait until you’re in an official role to start using your spiritual gifts. My own common mistake is thinking too much about how I can be utilized in the future while forgetting about what God has given me today.

So I encourage you to look at what’s in your hand. What has God given you today? Who are you in relationship with? What communities do you serve? Your spiritual gifts are for those people and they can be used today.

Someday, if the Lord wants it to happen, I will be at a local church, using my gifts for the people of God there.

But what to do with today?

Use my gifts for the people of God here—the community I am in today.

Now…is enough.

The book of Proverbs has so many timely sayings and ideas that are appropriate for everyday life.

Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint. Proverbs 25:19

This particular verse has always intrigued us because of the completeness of what it says in so few words. If we place our confidence in someone who is not faithful to help us when we need it, we are in serious trouble. When this happens, we are hampered in not only what we say (broken tooth), but also in where we go (foot out of joint)…and both of these are very painful.

I you have ever had the painful experience of having a root canal in your mouth, or if you have bitten into something that was harder than you thought, which resulted in your breaking a tooth, then you know of this type of pain. You cannot eat because of the pain. It is difficult to talk because of the pain. Many times the pain is so intense that your sleep is adversely affected.

Let’s go one step further. Let’s say that along with the pain in your mouth, you have also disjointed your foot. Now not only is it difficult to talk, eat, and maybe sleep, it is almost impossible for you to walk around.

Think of it. Not being able to eat, sleep, walk, and having a hard time explaining any of it to someone else because of the pain. This is truly the picture of a miserable individual. It is certainly a place that we would never want to find ourselves.

But how many people do we put in that very same position when we do not hold what is told to us in private, in the strictest of confidence?

When what is told to the pastor in confidence gets “preached” at the next Sunday sermon?

When someone has for the first time told their deepest secrets to someone that they trusted, and similar information is haphazardly mentioned in a social gathering or shared with others “so that they could pray for the individual”?

When your best friend confides in you…and you open your mouth and let the confidential information slip to someone else, increasing the likelihood of the secret being spread like wildfire?

People’s hearts can be broken, lives can be ruined, trust destroyed, and relationships harmed by careless handling of confidential information.

Being a friend or a caregiver holds a great responsibility to keeping our mouths shut with information told to us in confidence.

However, if you are serving counselor, there are two exceptions you should point out to all people you counsel before they share information with you. These exceptions are valid and important because they can cause you, the caregiver, great legal and ethical trouble if not handled correctly.

  1. When a person tells you that they have either physically or sexually abused a child, most state laws require you to report this information to a local social services person.
  2. You cannot pledge complete confidentiality if the person tells you that they plan to kill themselves or that they plan to harm someone else.

Keep in mind that confidentiality relates to what we say and to whom we say it.

In every case, we need to think before we speak. We need to protect confidential information. We need to be considerate and trustworthy as a friend. And, if you are a counselor, you need to be professional and ethical, and follow the guidelines of the laws in your area.

Don’t be the source of pain in someone’s life through broken confidence.

Be a source of hope and healing to all.

People’s hearts can be broken, lives can be ruined, trust destroyed, and relationships harmed by careless handling of confidential information.

Being a friend or a caregiver holds a great responsibility to keeping our mouths shut with information told to us in confidence.

However, if you are serving counselor, there are two exceptions you should point out to all people you counsel before they share information with you. These exceptions are valid and important because they can cause you, the caregiver, great legal and ethical trouble if not handled correctly.

  1. When a person tells you that they have either physically or sexually abused a child, most state laws require you to report this information to a local social services person.
  2. You cannot pledge complete confidentiality if the person tells you that they plan to kill themselves or that they plan to harm someone else.

Keep in mind that confidentiality relates to what we say and to whom we say it.

In every case, we need to think before we speak. We need to protect confidential information. We need to be considerate and trustworthy as a friend. And, if you are a counselor, you need to be professional and ethical, and follow the guidelines of the laws in your area.

Don’t be the source of pain in someone’s life through broken confidence.

Be a source of hope and healing to all.

“They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord” 2 Thessalonians 2:9

To be shut out from God’s presence and from His power is to be without hope and without love forever. This is one of the hardest truths in the Bible. But here’s something I’ve discovered—the hardest truths can produce the most tender hearts. If you grasp this most difficult of doctrines, God will use it to soften your heart today.

To sustain your faith in a suffering world

“He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled… when the Lord Jesus is revealed.” 2 Thessalonians 1:6

If you’ve suffered at the hands of other people, or if someone you love has suffered at the hands of others, you will be faced with this question: Where is God in all this? How can I believe that God is loving and just when so often good people suffer and those who do evil prosper? This doctrine helps. It tells you that you haven’t yet seen the end of the story.

God says to suffering believers: “A day is coming when Jesus Christ will be revealed. Then you’ll see the full measure of My justice and the full measure of My love. Use this to sustain your faith in a suffering world.”

To restrain your desire to even the score

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge… but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Romans 12:18

Someone hurts you. Your immediate instinct will be to want to hurt them back. They brought you down, and you find a certain pleasure in bringing them down. How do you restrain the desire to even the score?

God will repay, so leave room for His wrath. You don’t need to take it into your hands when you know it is in His. You can leave it to Him.

On this foundation God says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:20). If you don’t believe this, you’ll always be trying to even the score.

To increase your compassion for people who harm you

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you Matthew 5:44

Anyone who’s suffered at the hands of another person, as all of us have, will hear this and say, “Love him? Love her? How is that possible?”

If the person who harmed you was to see what they did and truly to repent, you might find it in your heart to forgive them. But if they just go on with no awareness of what they’ve done, or worse, they continue doing the same thing, it is very hard to have compassion.

Where do you begin in loving this enemy? The Bible’s teaching helps. Think about everlasting destruction in relation to the person who hurt you, and what it would mean to be shut out of the light and joy and hope and love of the Lord forever… You would not wish that on your worst enemy.

A deep grasp of this truth will help you to pray for those who’ve harmed you. Bitterness cannot survive long when you begin to pray, and you’ll be amazed at the way compassion sneaks in the back door of your heart.


This LifeKey is based on the message “God Will Bring Justice for You,” by Pastor Colin S. Smith, delivered January 9, 2011, from the series “Staying the Course When You’re Tired of the Battle.” Colin currently serves as Senior Pastor of the The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois. He is committed to preaching the Bible in a way that nourishes the soul by directing attention to Jesus Christ.

BY KAREN ARKAN

We’ve lived under some “real” persecution.

When I think of some of the situations my husband and I have lived through over the past 10 years, it almost seems like I’m an outsider looking in on my life, watching someone else’s nightmare unfold on some crime show. It seems very surreal and outside of our existence. But the truth is, we have tasted persecution.

Only a few years after we were married, Ramazan and I had come home from work, eaten dinner and then turned on the news in our home in the nation of Turkey. Ramazan left the room for a few minutes and, like some kind of weird prank, suddenly his picture was on the television with a headline that I could make out even with my limited Turkish.

“Man Arrested for Plotting to Kill Pastor”

What!!?? At first I hesitated and doubted my translation. But I read the headline again and I was sure that is what it said.

I called my husband Ramazan into the room and in a very low moment of our relationship he explained to me that indeed someone had tried to kill him and that we had been living under police protection for several days.

Suddenly my concern shifted from the headline into anger towards my husband for hiding this information from me.

He didn’t want me to worry.

For the next 4 months, police with were us 24 hours a day.

The day after the news broke, I went to my teaching job at a Turkish school. During the lesson, the principal’s secretary came into my classroom and asked me to come to see the owner of the school.

I panicked.

I called Ramazan to tell him that surely I was going to be fired. We both assumed that the school was now concerned that parents would be upset after seeing my husband on the news. They may have figured out that the wife of a Christian pastor was teaching their (mostly) Muslim students.

We quickly discussed what I should say to the owner of the school and that I should ask for at least a few months of severance pay.

I was shaking as I walked into the office.

For several moments, the owner of the school chatted with me about how I was doing, what she could do to support me, and how she could help.

This kindness was unexpected.

She finished and I waited for the next part. The firing. But it didn’t come. And I said to her, breathing a sigh of relief, “I assumed you called me here to fire me.” She replied with a generous amount of grace, “If any of the parents of our students are upset that you are working here, they can take their child and leave this school.”

This was the first episode in an outpouring of loving kindness which we received.

Another almost comical story comes to mind. A close friend of ours went to do his military service. He was being trained as an officer. In one of his training sessions, the instructor gave a slide presentation. Our friend was surprised when a picture of my husband Ramazan came up as an “enemy of the state.”

So yes, we have faced some difficult days. Hatred. Threats. False accusations.

Ramazan was even “unofficially” arrested at one point.

But today I’m thinking about something else. Today I’m thinking about a different kind of persecution that has been pretty intense in our lives this year.

I hesitate to even call it persecution. But in so many ways, some of what we’ve been facing hurts even more deeply then having some stranger after your life.

Hebrews 11 has always been one of my very favorite Bible passages. I always read it with such a sense of awe of what these faithful Heroes of Our Faith experienced and endured…

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about (those)…who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies…There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
Hebrews 11:32-38

Whew! That puts our troubles into perspective.

With all that we have walked through, nothing has been as severe as that.

And yet, maybe comparing our persecution isn’t the point.

As I said, it has been a hard year for us. Hard in a different way. It seems almost laughable to call what we have lived through this year “persecution.” But I think it has the same roots. It comes from the same origin. Jealousy, anger, hatred, selfishness, fear. Whenever we become the object upon which these emotions are projected, I think it pretty much feels like persecution.

Its personal persecution.

Ramazan and I are the first to admit that we don’t have it all together. We still feel very young and inexperienced even though we are technically now middle-aged. We don’t claim to have all the answers and it is very hard when we are in the position of helping others and for us to know the best ways to lead, guide, and encourage the people we serve. We don’t take this role lightly and we feel very accountable to the Lord for our decisions and for the counsel we give. We know this is a big responsibility and a job we cannot do on our own.

This year we have faced some trying situations in ministry. We’ve gone into places of helping and guiding to which we haven’t been before. And because of the magnitude of the responsibility we feel, we have carefully and prayerfully plodded these new territories. We slowly and carefully made decisions which we felt were best for handling the relational problems going on in the church we serve.

But the problem is, sometimes people ask for help and then they don’t want the counsel you offer. Sometimes people become resentful of the ways we try to help. Sometimes they blame us for not fixing their situation. And sometimes they lash out. Sometimes they cut us off. Sometimes they choose to stay in their brokenness and become even more angry.

Persecution is defined as: hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs; oppression. Persistent annoyance or harassment.

Persecution hurts because its personal. It hurts because we really love and care about the people we are trying to care for. It hurts when we try to do the right thing, to please and honor God, and then it is misunderstood as something else by others.

I don’t doubt that you’ve experienced the same thing. The same feelings of being the object of someone else’s wrath when you’ve truly tried to help. Its a lonely feeling. Its discouraging. And on the flip side, its the best place to be.

During our discussions, Ramazan and I always end up coming back to the same point. We did what would honor the Lord. Even when it was hard and unpopular. Even when we would have rather excused behaviors for the sake of staying on the good side of someone. Even when it was easier not to get involved. Even when it took us extra time and put us in awkward situations. And surprisingly we have found an ocean of peace in that place.

God has never asked us to be pleasers of people. He has asked us to be faithful. And the deepest place in our hearts yearns to be as faithful and honored as the Heroes of Our Faith.

Years ago, Ramazan chose to take what he thought was the easiest and best way to handle a terrible situation. He chose not to tell me about the man who was arrested for trying to kill him. He was afraid of what my reaction would be. He thought staying silent was the best thing for me (and for him). He thought avoidance would protect me. This kind of tiptoeing actually hurt our relationship more than it helped us. Since then he has definitely learned his lesson and the Lord has redeemed that situation by bringing us closer as we faced that deep trial together.

There are definitely times to stay silent, but fear shouldn’t keep us from making the right choices in standing up for our beliefs and encouraging others towards living lives of integrity.

When He had said this Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 11:43-44 NIV

This event triggered the Pharisees to crucify Jesus. Lazarus had been dead four days. Jewish tradition prompted the family to bury soon after death, but the Jews also believed the spirit hovered over the dead body for up to three days. This time too had passed. Lazarus was a fully dead man! It was a real miracle to bring him back to life, and this was too much for the Pharisees. What the Pharisees underestimated was that this power would continue to be exhibited in the life of Christians for thousands of years to come. If you are a child of God, you have been brought from death unto life.

Jesus had raised Lazarus from the grave. We should love the story because it shows the power of the Savior. We can know that if He can raise the dead to life, we can trust Him to help us make our house payment or whatever struggles our life may hold. We need to remember that today. Since Jesus has power over death, is there anything in your life that He can’t handle?

Jesus came to give us life! Jesus told Lazarus to take off His grave clothes, to quit “living” like he was dead. Shouldn’t we do the same thing? Have you received Christ as your Savior? Is your name recorded in Heaven as a child of God? Have the angels sung “Glory” over your salvation? Have you personally, without reservation, believed that Jesus died for your sins, and that the only way you will enter Heaven is through the grace of His shed blood on the cross?

Well, TAKE OFF YOUR GRAVE CLOTHES! Quit “living” among the dead. Look alive! Jesus saved you by grace, through faith, not unto death, but unto life! Shouldn’t that make a noticeable difference in your life today? SO LIVE! Don’t let this world steal your joy. Don’t let Satan rob you of your peace. Stop worrying over tomorrow.  Start living!

Take off your grave clothes and LIVE!

We’re Talking Power Here. Real. Life-changing. Power.

Christianity isn’t about how to be spiritual, achieve your goals or have your best life now. Christianity isn’t about philosophy. It’s not about talk. Christianity is about power.

Power to obey God. Power to change. Power to love those who are messed up. Power to get back up after being pummeled by wave after wave of affliction. Power to wield the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith to extinguish the devil’s fiery darts.

The gospel itself is the very power of God:

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:17-18

DA Carson, says of this verse, “One might have expected Paul to say, ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the wisdom of God.’ Instead, he insists it is ‘the power of God.’  

And: 

“The gospel is not simply good advice, nor is it good news about God’s power. The gospel IS God’s power to those who believe.”  (emphasis mine).

God’s word confirms this:

For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power1 Corinthians 4:20.   

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:4

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16

Do we believe prayer has great power? I don’t feel electricity when I pray. I feel weak. I’m a jar of clay. But God puts his power in pots. We connect with God’s power through our mustard seed faith. An electric cord is weak and flimsy. But when we plug it into a socket, it connects to all the voltage of the electric company, which courses into our sabre saw or vaccuum sweeper.

Ask God for his mighty power today. Thank him that he promised your prayers are powerful and effective. Remember, the kingdom of God isn’t talk; it’s power.

TheBounce is an Excerpt-based digital publication and was brought to you by Touchstone International. You can follow us on twitter @touchstoney and find us on Facebook @touchstoneinternational
:::There’s Hope for a Tree:::

Inestimable Value 

If we follow Jesus’s advice to fear only God, we come to his intriguing question: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?” The Greek actually says “two assaria,” which were Roman coins made of copper and together were worth about one-eighth of a day’s wage for a laborer. It would take, in other words, roughly half an hour’s worth of work to earn enough to buy a sparrow at the market. A day laborer could earn enough to buy a sparrow without breaking a sweat. And yet, Jesus assures his disciples, God remembers each sparrow individually. 

If we are to think rightly, we must look up—at the birds. But what do sparrows have to do with the preceding command to fear God, not man? Simply this: if we cast our lot with God, he will not forget us, no matter how insignificant we may appear. In fact, Jesus assures his fearful disciples, God knows the very number of hairs on our heads. That’s intimacy beyond our wildest dreams. He made us. Nothing about us or our disheveled lives surprises him. God has things under control and can be trusted completely in the face of any difficulty. 

Even for the disabled, who are often considered to be worth less than birds in today’s culture. Stephanie Hubach is the mother of Timmy, a child with Down syndrome. She has struggled with the anxiety, depression, bewilderment, and brokenness that her son’s chromosomal condition has brought. But she has also seen God bring light to what many consider to be an unremittingly dark path. 

“Disability is essentially a more noticeable form of the brokenness that is common to the human experience—a normal part of life in an abnormal world,” Hubach writes. “It is just a difference of degree along a spectrum that contains difficulty all along its length. Due to God’s common grace, no one exists in the extreme of complete brokenness. Due to the fall, no one enjoys the extreme of complete blessing. We all experience some mixture of the two in every aspect of our humanity.”

God has the mixture just right for each of us to seek him and show forth his glory: neither too much blessing to make us forget him; nor too little to make us curse him. (Proverbs 30:8-9)

This question about sparrows, which touches on our inestimable value in God’s eyes, follows his commands not to fear man but God, and it is followed by one more command not to be afraid: “Fear not,” Jesus still says to us, “you are of more value than many sparrows.” Thinking about this fact, straight from the lips of Jesus, gives unshakeable courage. 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus again touches on things avian. “Look at the birds of the air,” he says; “they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26) The answer is obvious.

Fearing the Future

Sometimes, however, our primary fear isn’t from without but from within. We know God is both powerful and good and can protect us from others, but we are anxious about ourselves. Somehow we think we still have the power to mess things up. We fear that we cannot provide for ourselves, that we can get into messes that even God cannot clean up, knots that even he cannot untie. Ultimately we think our well-being, and that of our families, is up to us, and such thinking paralyzes us.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.(Luke 12:22-31)

Blinded by what passes for reality, we become transfixed with our lives, our bodies, our spans of life—as if we are autonomous, untethered free agents trying to get through a dangerous world as best we can. Or we fear that, no matter what God has promised in his word, we are somehow different, that even if the Lord can keep chaos at bay for other believers, he cannot or will not do so for us. We fear that somehow or other our mistakes are special and beyond the power and reach of God. This is sinful conceit. 

We forget to whom we belong. “Once God takes us into covenant with himself,” J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom write, “as he does the moment we put faith in Christ and are born again by the Holy Spirit, our relationship to God is of child to Father and sheep to shepherd, and that means that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit will hold us fast and not let go of us, even if in moments of madness or sadness, or just plain badness, we stray into the wilderness of sin and death.”

After introducing the disciples to sparrows, Jesus moves on to ravens. Just as we are of more worth to God than the sparrows for which he cares, so we are more valuable than the ravens that he feeds. If God feeds them, he will feed us

God’s care is not theoretical. It is intensely practical. Remember that God used ravens to feed Elijah, his depressed and frightened prophet. (1 Kings 17:6) God is not playing games, promising and not delivering. His care involves real, physical stuff—such as food. 

When I was unexpectedly laid off from my job and groping to regather the shards of my shattered career, our church and other Christians came through. Friends across the street picked up low-cost groceries for us at their church. Another bought and installed more memory for our ailing computer. Others prayed, took us to lunch, pointed us to job leads, and helped with faxes and resumes. Some gave us money—frequently and anonymously. I felt carried along by their prayers and practical expressions of concern. 

God’s family was our family, too. As Jesus said, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29)

Then come the clinching questions. Even if we choose to disregard the truth that God is for us, Jesus points out the utter futility of anxiety, asking, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Luke 12:25) If Jesus’s positive, spiritual encouragement to trust God fails, then Jesus is not afraid to get brutally honest. And the honest truth is this: Anxiety doesn’t work. It never has, and it never will. “Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:26) Anxiety says, “My fate is in my own hands. It is all up to me.” With that kind of thinking, no wonder we remain wide-awake at three in the morning! 

Not only does anxiety fail to produce any positive results for us. It often does the opposite, draining us of life itself. Those who are anxious over debt, for example, are at higher risk of ulcers or digestive tract problems, migraine headaches, severe anxiety, severe depression, heart attacks, muscle tension, losing their temper, and having trouble sleeping or concentrating. Worry kills. 

Author and counselor Bob Phillips tells the story of a man who met Death on the way to a far country. Death told the man he was going to kill ten thousand people in a city, and he went on. Later the man met Death going the opposite way and pointed out that he had heard that seventy thousand had perished. “I only killed ten thousand people,” Death responded. “Worry and Fear killed the others.”

We cannot control life, so we should not worry. Of course we are called to plan and work, but we must leave the results to God. This is because the results, no matter what “self-made” Americans may believe, are ultimately out of our hands. The best-laid plans of mice and men can fail, while God’s providence can bring us to unimaginable (and undeserved) heights. We are not in control of our lives—and that’s okay. 

In fact, our lack of control means we should worry not more, but less. Children have little to no control, yet few display symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder. They have the least control, and probably the fewest worries. There’s a reason babies sleep like babies. Without the crushing burden of responsibility, they don’t have a care in the world. Children have their problems, of course. They are not immune to bullies, bad parents, or disease. As they get older, the stress of school or relationships can rob them of their sleep and wipe the smiles off their faces. But the norm for most kids, who live at the pure mercy of others, is joy. Perhaps this is one reason Jesus tells us we must “become like little children” to “enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) Worry, which is evidence of misplaced self-reliance, has no place in God’s kingdom. We can control nothing. The King will provide. 

Looking Down 

To drive home the point of God’s unimaginable concern for his children, Jesus next tells us to look down, turning from his high-flying avian creations to the humble grass beneath our feet. Jesus points out how our heavenly Father provides wildflowers to decorate the ground more beautifully than Solomon in all his glory. (Matthew 6:28-30) As this simple yet profound act demonstrates, God’s provision is extravagant, promiscuous, sovereign, unasked for, and free. God is not a miser seeking to hoard his goodness. It is in his very nature to share his best, to hold nothing back. 

No wonder Jesus exclaims a rhetorical question, “But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” (Luke 12:28) Such grace, illuminated for us by creation, calls for awe-filled expressions of worship, as when David blurted out in sheer wonder: 

When I consider your heavens, 
   the work of your fingers, 
   the moon and the stars, 
   which you have set in place, 

what is man that you are mindful of him, 
   the son of man that you care for him? 

You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings 
   and crowned him with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:3-5)

Meditating on these facts should bring great assurance. Even if we don’t receive everything we want, we will get everything we truly need—God himself. “What, then, shall we say in response to this?” Paul asked, reflecting on God’s plan of salvation. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Persistent Anxiety 

That should be the end of the matter, but it isn’t. Over and over the Bible tells people who should know better not to be anxious. 

• “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” (Psalm 127:2)

• “Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.'” (Isaiah 35:4)

• “He [who trusts the Lord] is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:8)

• “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)

• “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.” (Matthew 10:19)

• “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

But we naturally turn to worry rather than to God. Why? Yes, there is much to legitimately fear in this sin-scarred world in which the devil is constantly on the prowl. The night we sent one of our sons on his first overnight church camping trip, a late-spring tornado ripped through a Boy Scout camp in the next state and killed four young men and injured dozens more. You can be sure I regularly checked the weather reports. Our son returned home on schedule, but this did not lessen our grief for the parents of the boys who didn’t—or our protective parental instinct. 

I must confess that, whether for reasons of history, genetics, or choice, anxiety is my natural default mode. Much as I try to project an image of quiet confidence, a lot of my inner life is characterized by fear. I get anxious about how I will look. I fear heights. I’m afraid I won’t be able to meet a particular challenge. I even get anxious when writing a chapter about anxiety! And I suspect I’m not all that different from most people. Partly, anxiety represents a perfectly natural response to perceived threats. The fight-or-flight response to danger is deeply imprinted on our humanity. And let’s face it: those who live without fear often find themselves without their health or their lives. Living without due concern for the consequences of your actions will buy you a quick ticket to the hospital or cemetery. That’s why so many teens die from alcohol overdoses or reckless driving: they believe (wrongly) that they are invincible. The anxious person, however, sees himself as completely vincible, as it were. 

And Jesus, far from denying the frailty and danger of the human condition, affirms it. Not only that, he takes it upon himself, day by day, month by month, year by year. He takes it upon himself and gets mockery, slander, arrest, torture, and death for his trouble. As we saw in the introduction to this book, Jesus has the serenity amid life’s storms that only trust in one’s heavenly Father can bring. 

And when [Jesus] got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?” (Matthew 8:23-27)

Jesus’s question remains: why are we afraid, O we of little faith? If he can rebuke the winds and the sea, what is there to fear? The answer: absolutely nothing. Think about it.

Excerpted from:

All That Jesus Asks by Stan Guthrie
Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group
Copyright 2010

Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.