Who is your enemy? Maybe you don’t have one. Take a minute to give God thanks for that. But maybe you have one. Either you made someone your enemy or they made you theirs. These are tough seasons. Everything in you wants to fight the enemy OR get even with the enemy OR get others to align with you against the enemy OR compromise your integrity for the enemy. Several years ago, I had one. I had someone against me, who hurt me. And you bet my instinct was to do everything I just mentioned above. It was a tireless, daunting, full-time mental-job to work against my instinct and do as God would do…love them. Jesus said to love your enemies. If that isn’t a fleshly-contradiction, I don’t know what is! But it doesn’t matter if it’s a contradiction or in opposition to our instinct, God said do it. Because He’s mean? No. Because he modeled it at its worst, and love always wins. Jesus LOVED his enemies that betrayed, beat, whipped, abandoned, slapped, spit, nailed and murdered him. And HE WAS HUMAN with instincts, but He did not serve them. There’s an old saying, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” What if we give that an addendum? “Keep our friends close and our enemies close…because Jesus did and in the end, love wins.
I was listening to a radio program about noise vs. silence in our everyday lives. It got me thinking, hence this post where I download my learnings. By and large, we choose noise. Today, for example, I chose the noise of iTunes when I worked out. I chose the noise of “Mike and Mike” when I made breakfast for the boys. I chose noise when I decided to listen to the radio program that inspired this post. I chose noise when I put the TV on in the background as I put away groceries. I think I’ve made my case. And Jesus chose noise too. He chose to be in the noisy Temple when they turned it into a Festival Flea Market. He chose noise when He walked into a town, unwanted or unexpected. But in as much as Jesus chose noise, He also chose silence (if you want verses that back this up, email me). Which, of course, got me thinking. If Jesus chose silence, should I? I think I know the answer. There’s an old saying, “Silence is golden.” Guess what? Heaven is golden too! Maybe I’d have more moments of Heaven on Earth, if I chose more times to be silent in them…
Mass shootings, hurricanes, earthquakes…all in a short span can make the most seasoned of Christ-follower doubt God. Today I was thinking about some of the greatest biblical heroes, who ironically doubted Christ too: Zechariah (Luke 1), John (Matthew 11), Thomas (John 20), and a Dad with a convulsing child (Mark 5). I specifically chose these because these guys were actually with Jesus Christ. They had faith by believing AND seeing! Yet doubted. I think about the two criminals on each side of Jesus on their execution trees. One doubted Christ his whole life, but in his final moment, converted to faith and entered Heaven. Why didn’t the other criminal? In his last breaths, he not only opted out of faith in Jesus, but doubted and mocked Him to his face. A couple weeks ago, Pastor David did a message (http://cbglades.com/current-serie?album_id=48), and said it’s OK to ask, “Why?” Right now, in our world, it’s reasonable to doubt. There have been times I’ve doubted too. When I’ve fought the tempting voice of suicide, I’ve doubted God. God is life, my thoughts are anything but. “God? Are you there?” But here’s what I know about my bouts of doubt: they’ve NEVER ran God off. When He came into my heart, He came into my life, and all its doubts. He’s not surprised, angry, or annoyed by my doubt. He can handle it. And it gives Him mighty miraculous moments to prove Himself faithful. I know you are living, and you might be doubting, but He’s still unconditionally loving–and never doubting–you.
Before I tell you what I did, I want to explain “leaving.” I’m not talking about a casual departure. I’m talking about a bad kind of leaving. I’m talking about a “leaving” where it leaves a ghostly look on the face and a ghastly feeling in the heart. So what did I do? In 2007, on a hot summer night in Florida, our family pulled into the garage. I swiftly grabbed my purse and groceries and went inside. There we were: Raul watching TV; DJ playing with his trucks; and me putting away groceries. “Raul, where’s Andy?” I asked. He said, “I don’t know.” I asked, “Didn’t you bring him in?” Raul asserted, “No, I thought you did.” I screamed, “Raul, we left him in the car!!” I ran to the garage, there was Andy in his car-seat in the car in the garage: no light, no sound, no way to be heard, no one to see him. A 2-year old who couldn’t help himself, where no one could help him. With a frozen, fearful countenance, he was tearing from his eyes. This is the bad kind of leaving. Though I doted on Andy for the rest of that night, I couldn’t part with the fact that I left him. Years later, this begs a question: who’s left you? Because if someone has left you in the proverbial garage, there is someone who never will… God. God will NEVER leave you. God will NEVER miss the sight of your tears or the sound of your silent cries. God will never close the door on His way to your heart. What I did to Andy, God will NEVER do to you. This world causes pain when it leaves us, doesn’t it? But God is not of this world. It may be human nature to leave. But it is God’s nature to stay. “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” Deuteronomy 31:8 ❤️
I know people who are lonely right now. They might think I don’t know how it feels to be lonely, but I do. Because in 2000 and 2010, I was. During those two seasons, I found someone who got this at a level unmatched by any of us: Jesus. Hours before He would hang on a cross (a lonely time in and of itself) he would be in unfathomable anguish, by himself. The account of this is in Luke 22, “He withdrew [was alone] about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed…And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly...” Jesus experienced loneliness. But his loneliness was not his hopelessness. Loneliness can be terribly afflicting. And it can look hopeless…but it is not. Death is hopeless. There is nothing that can turn it around. But anything shy of death is hopeful. If we are breathing, we can keep hoping; if we can keep hoping, we can be praying; if we are praying, we can be someone’s answer to their loneliness, and someone can be the answer to ours. That was quite the run-on sentence! But somewhere in it, I hope it encourages someone. Though Jesus was lonely, He didn’t STAY lonely. He died with friends near the cross and rose with friends at the tomb. If He is in your heart, He is more near to your loneliness than anyone could ever be (you can’t get closer to someone than in their heart). You might be lonely, but you have God, me, and hope. On these, we keep going.
Today I was reading about a guy Jesus healed. Normally, the healing would be the inspiration for a post. But this time, it was something less noteworthy that inspired me: “One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. (John 5:5) Thirty-eight years. 13,870 days. 332,880 hours. Many of us have struggled or are struggling. What struck me about this man’s struggle is how long it lasted. What struck me even more was Jesus knew that. I don’t know if this is going to encourage everyone, but I hope it encourages someone. Your pain is not in vain. God didn’t forget about your struggle, get distracted by another’s, or lose track of the days you’ve struggled with it. The intersection of this man’s 38th year of struggle with the day Jesus was there to heal it, was planned and purposed with perfection. I wonder if this man thought on the 13,869th day that he’d never be healed. But the timing was perfect because Jesus Christ is perfect. If the perfect Savior is in your heart, the perfect Savior is in your struggle. Every. Hour of Every. Day. | This side of Heaven, we won’t always know the point of our pain. But to some degree, I am comforted that it isn’t wasted. My pain (and your pain) isn’t in vain because we are in the risen hands of a Savior who’s hands had stakes crucify them. Our pain isn’t in vain because our stories are His victories.