Posts Tagged With: Jesus Christ

Jesus Walks the Way of Sorrows

praetorium4It is called, appropriately enough, the Via Dolorosa, Latin for “The Way of Sorrows.”

For Jesus, it absolutely was a way of sorrows — every single excruciatingly painful step of it, from the Antonia Fortress (where Pilate sentenced Him), to Golgotha (where Jesus’ execution awaited Him).

In this PODCAST, we will walk that path together.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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“This Your Day”

jerusalem3You talk about a collision of conflicting emotions, welcome to Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into His beloved city of Jerusalem.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, all of this emotional turmoil will come to a climax as Jesus paused during His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, gazed longingly at breathtaking panorama, and then suddenly sang this song of lament:

“If you had known, even you, especially in This.Your.Day.”

This your day.

The obvious question: What was it about this day that caused Jesus to refer to it with such a pointed specificity?

This was, of course, the day on which Jesus chose to make His return to the Holy City, and thus to trigger all of tumultuous events of His turbulent last week. It was, as you may know, the final Sunday before Passover that year, what we call Palm Sunday. This because the people gathered in their thousands, and waved palm branches all along the route of Jesus’ ride on the back of a donkey into Jerusalem.

I cannot help but to think that the words of Psalm 137 echoed through Jesus’ mind and heart as He rode into the city:

“If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.”

Jerusalem: Jesus’ beloved city indeed. Let there be no doubt that Jerusalem was, and is, and ever shall be Jesus’ highest joy. Which makes His weeping — His crying convulsively — over the Holy City on this her day all the more poignant, all the more powerfully emotional.

Now, I need you to focus on one important fact that overshadows this entire week: Jesus’ thoughts were focused like a laser beam on one particular book of the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament): the prophetic book of Daniel. How do I know this? Because on the Tuesday of this final week, a mere 48 hours after this Palm Sunday, Jesus will give to His disciples His grand and glorious Olivet Discourse, recorded in Matthew 24 – 25, and rivaled in its beauty and majesty only by the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 – 7.

That signature sermon was delivered on the Mount of the Beatitudes in Galilee. This final sermon or discourse was delivered on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem.

In that discourse, Jesus laid out for His disciples and for us the sweeping panorama of the End Times, and all that will lead up to His glorious return. The so-called Signs of Times.

We will, of course, break it down in all of its majestic splendor when we get to that Tuesday in the coming weeks.

What I need for you to note now is what Jesus said right in the middle of that discourse, the interpretive key both for that sermon and for this moment in His Triumphal Entry:

Matthew 24:15, “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel let the reader understand.”

Jesus’ unmistakable reference to Daniel 9:24-27.

Now listen carefully: The Triumphal Entry sets in motion the beginnings of the fulfillment of this great prophecy in Daniel 9, what many call “The Seventy Weeks of Daniel.”

Allow me to read to you the prophecy in full, and then we’ll talk about it.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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Right-Stage Thinking in a Left-Stage World

more-wilderness-of-zin-neve-zoharYou are about to hear an amazing story about a remarkable man, AND about an encounter with Jesus that includes one of the most important and practical biblical principles that you will find anywhere in the pages of the Bible.

Quite a claim, I know. One that I will absolutely prove in this PODCAST.

A principle that I will be presumptuous enough to suggest that you and I need to hear, and of which we need to be reminded, perhaps often.

This is on the surface a story about a man born blind (which would be remarkable enough), but it is also a story about sheep, about a sheepfold, about the door of the sheepfold, about Jesus who identified Himself as the “door of the sheep,” and about life in the desert in which the sheep and shepherds in Israel lived and continue to live.

Before we get to the story itself, I need very briefly to remind you of something we talked about way back on February 2, 2013, nearly 3 years ago. When God appeared to Moses in the Burning Bush, He made a most remarkable statement:

I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

Interesting phrase, “milk and honey.”

Honey (a jam made of figs and dates) refers to the land of the farmer, and the bounty of the fruit of the land that is grown by the farmers.

Milk refers to the land of the shepherd, and that which is produced by the flocks that are raised and cared for by the shepherds.

In Israel, both lands — milk and honey — come together in a breathtaking variety of geography and climate that (NOW GET THIS) puts into its proper perspective EXACTLY the kind of lives that we are living today. More specifically, HOW and WHY we think the way we do today.

We have SO MUCH to learn from this story.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play. Words worth waiting for, I assure you.

God bless you as you listen.

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A Cup of Cold (Refreshing, Thirst-Quenching, Life-Giving) Water

platesThis is going to be So.Much.Fun for me. (And for you, I hope!) So indulge me here, because I LOVE this stuff.

Look carefully and you might see my bemused smile on my face! It is just so comical to me how easily we take what Jesus made so simple, only to make it so insufferably complicated.

And to be perfectly honest with you, I am awestruck. That’s the tone with which I want to teach this PODCAST’s passage.

I am awestruck at Jesus’ ability to say so much in so little, so many thoughts communicated in so few words. All of which so practical, helpful, relevant, refreshing, and inspiring to us today.

Let me set it up like this: You know the guy in the circus with the hundred plates spinning on a hundred poles? OK. So here’s my question: What does that picture of a hundred plates spinning high atop a hundred poles have to do with this portrait that Jesus paints here in Matthew 10?

The simple, uncomplicated picture of giving someone who is thirsty a cup of cold water? A picture, BTW, that forms the conclusion to Jesus’ training manual for ministry. The ministry manual that we have been studying for lo these eleven weeks or so. The Ministry Manual that Jesus gave to His apostles to prepare them for their very first missions trip.

What do spinning plates have to do with a cup of cold water? As you are about to hear, Everything. Everything.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you as you listen!

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Our Uncommon God

At the Safe Haven, we are having a glorious time working our way through the Lord’s Prayer, little by little, phrase by majestic phrase.

Think of the Lord’s Prayer as the Son of God teaching you and me how to pray to God. Amazing.

And it all starts with the enigmatic little phrase:

Hallowed be Your name.

Which means, as is commonly and correctly taught, to treat God’s name as holy.

But what exactly does that mean? To treat God’s name as holy? Not to cuss? Not to joke about God? What does treating God’s name as holy truly mean?

Let me approach it like this: It is THE bedrock declaration of the entire Bible, the foundation upon which our Judeo-Christian heritage rests. I am referring, of course, to Deuteronomy 6:4.

Our Jewish friends call it the Shema, which means “to hear.” The first word of this magnificent verse, Deuteronomy 6:4. As in “Hear O Israel…” As if God Himself is shouting, “HEAR THIS, my people. DON’T MISS THIS! LISTEN!!!”

Deuteronomy 6:4. An absolutely revolutionary statement proclaimed to a people — God’s people — living in a land polluted with (Are you ready?) polytheism, the worship of many gods.

israel134

Deuteronomy 6:4 is the declaration of monotheism, our belief in one God: 

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! 

Now watch this: “Hallowed be Your Name” does indeed mean to treat God’s name as holy. As uncommon. A God unlike any other god. A different God. A God set apart, unique from every other god.

When the Israelites settled in the Promised Land, it was a land awash in gods, filled to overflowing with pagan gods. Gods of the rain, gods of the harvest, gods of the storms, gods of the sea, gods of fertility/prosperity.

Put them all together and you can basically divide these many gods into two categories: gods of nature; gods of the economy. Or to put that a little more crassly: gods of Health and gods of Wealth.

The pagans in the land (those who worshipped these gods) prayed constantly to these gods, begging them for two things: a problem-free life (no droughts, no diseases), and a prosperously-full life (bountiful harvests, robust herds of sheep or goats).

They prayed constantly to their nature gods for happiness and health. They prayed constantly to the economy gods for prosperity and wealth.

In short, they babbled off their prayers to their gods, begging them to send fewer problems and more money.

The point of which is this: Along came the one true God of the Bible. 

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!

The one true God who is not the god of the sea, not the god of the rain, not the god of the harvest, not the god of fertility, not the god of prosperity, not the god of the storms, No!.

Our God, the God of the Bible, the God of the Israelites, the God of Jesus, OUR GOD created the Universe. He transcends the sea, rain, harvest, fertility, prosperity, and storms.

In fact, here’s a news bulletin for you. Our God sometimes sends the storms. 

God uses the sea, rain, harvest, fertility, prosperity (or lack thereof), storms — nature and the economy — to accomplish His purposes.

Now, here comes the key to this entire discussion. Are you ready? Because once you hear and embrace this, you will never view prayer the same way again.

The pagans of Jesus’ day prayed to their gods to make their lives more comfortable and prosperous. Did you get that? The pagans prayed to their gods to make their lives more comfortable and prosperous. Sound familiar? It should. Their “babbling” (Jesus’ word, not mine) sounded like this:

Gimme, gimme, gimme…

I want, I want, I want…

Please, please, please…

They even made bargains with their gods.

If you’ll do  this, then I’ll do this…

If you’ll give me this, then I’ll give you this…

You talk about treating gods as common!

Their gods to them were nothing more than good luck charms. Like a sanctified rabbit’s foot. Like genies in bottles whose sole purpose was to grant to them their wishes. Wishes for lives that were comfortable and prosperous, healthy and wealthy.

Now for the punchline to this entire discussion: 

We don’t treat our God that way.

We don’t treat our God as a common pagan god!

We do not worship God because we hope that He will give us a life that is comfortable and prosperous. We don’t beg God for stuff. We don’t make bargains with our God. We don’t try to manipulate Him, or to force His hand into giving us anything.

That’s what the pagans of Jesus’ day did. That’s what the pagans of our day do.

Do you see it? The people on the hillside that day sure should have seen it. Listen to what Jesus said:

Matthew 6:7-9 (NIV) — And when you pray, do not keep on BABBLING LIKE PAGANS, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

How do pagans pray? They babble on and on to their gods du jour to give them this and that… STUFF. Stuff that will make their lives comfortable and prosperous. Stuff that will make them healthy and wealthy. Stuff that will make them happy.

We don’t. We don’t pray to God to get stuff. We worship God for one, and only one reason: Because He is God.

We don’t have to tell God our needs; He knows our needs. He has already promised to meet our needs.

We don’t beg God to still the storms; God promises to go with us through life’s storms.

We don’t treat our God as a common pagan god to give us stuff — only to get ticked off and bitter, only to have our faith falter or fail — when He doesn’t give us our stuff.

We are not like spoiled children constantly nagging their parents for stuff. 

You heard what Jesus said:

Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 

We don’t even have to ask.

We don’t pray to God to get stuff, stuff that will make us happy, healthy, or wealthy.

We pray for one reason and only one reason: Because He is God. The very fact that we are allowed access into His presence is enough.

Did you read that carefully? It bears repeating:

The very fact that we are allowed access into His presence is enough.  

Or at least it ought to be.

We don’t beg our God to solve all our problems or still all our storms; we trust God to use our problems and our storms for our good and His glory.

Do you see it? We don’t treat God as a common good luck charm — with a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude.

When we shut the door and are alone with God, what’s the first thing we pray? The very first thing we pray?

Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

May I keep Your name holy.

May I treat You today, O God, as utterly uncommon. 

Want to hear more? Click HERE.

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A Matter of Interpretation

This is going to be fun, and oh-so-instructive.

This is the kind of a lesson I LOVE to teach.

Did you realize that in Matthew 5:18, Jesus made one of the single most dramatic, declarative statements He would ever make?

In one sweeping sentence that we explained at length last week, Jesus affirmed the Bible — every book, chapter, verse, word, letter — as absolute truth.

bible-light-raysThrough the process of Revelation, whereby God revealed Truth to His writers, and the process of Inspiration, whereby God guided His writers to write down that Truth w/o error, we now hold in our hands a precious book that 2 Timothy 3:16 (CEV) rightly calls “God’s Word.”

Revelation. Inspiration. In this PODCAST, we consider together a matter of Interpretation. How to understand the Bible… properly.

#WhatDoesItMean??? 

Because the sad fact is this: By stringing a few unrelated verses together, people can literally make the Bible say anything they want it to say. Anything! And they do.

We.Do.Not. We have far too much respect for the Bible to play fast and loose with its divinely inspired text.

Please note that depending upon your web browser, it might take up to 60 seconds for the podcast to begin to play.

HAPPY LISTENING!

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Our Firm Foundation

foundationThe scene could not have been more chaotic. Crowds clamoring for Jesus’ blood. The blood-thirsty mobs hurling their false accusations at Jesus as they tried to convince the Romans that this man needed to die. The Roman soldiers salivating at the prospect of torturing yet another helpless victim.

And through it all, once the mayhem ended, once the maelstrom calmed down, the echoes of one question continued to reverberate against the city’s walls and over her cobblestone streets. You can read this singularly significant question in John’s account of Jesus’ execution.

Pilate, the Roman governor who held Jesus’ fate in his blood-stained hands, looked Jesus right in the eye and inquired of Him a three-word question that, in a haunting sort of way, continues to resound in our day.

Jesus had just said to Pilate, “What I say is true.” Pilate then sneered and cynically asked Jesus, “What is truth?”

In this PODCAST, we will discover the answer together.

And that answer IS the FIRM foundation of our faith!

Please note that depending upon your web browser, it may take up to 60 seconds for the podcast to begin to play.

May God richly bless you as you listen.

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“Why is my mom a crackhead, and why does she choose drugs over me?”

addictionNo junior higher should ever have to ask God a question like this. But that is exactly the question one middle school student asked when given the opportunity.

“If you could ask God one question, and knew that He would give you an honest answer, what would you ask?” One student’s response: 

“Why is my mom a crackhead, and why does she choose drugs over me?”

As I often say when talking to students at camp, I hesitate to speak for God. But I have a hunch as to how He might answer this heart-rending question. I believe that He would say this:

There are many, many kinds of addictions — alcohol addiction, food addiction, pain killer addiction, pornography addiction, sex addiction, nicotine addiction, gambling addiction, so many others — including, in the case of your mom, drug addiction. 

And the two things that absolutely break God’s heart about addictions are these:

1. Every single addiction causes things to break. Broken lives. Broken relationships. Broken hearts — your heart, and God’s heart. And once the pieces of our lives, relationships, and hearts lie broken, it’s so hard, if not impossible, ever to put them back together.

2. Addictions are so, so, so easily avoidable. No one is forced to become an addict. Meaning that countless lives, relationships, and hearts are so often broken needlessly.

Think of it this way: No one is born an addict. Your mom was not born a crackhead. Addictions were never a part of God’s plan for her life.

Addictions always begin in the exact same way: A person (your mom) made a choice. A seemingly innocent choice, or so it would seem at the time. A small choice. An apparently insignificant choice.

Of course, I don’t know the specific back story about your mom. But I do know, and over the years have met, scores of people with  a variety of addictions. And so far as I know, every single one of them at some point in their past made a fateful choice.

Your mom was either at a point of desperation in her life, and thought that smoking or swallowing or inhaling or injecting a substance into her body would dull the pain for just a few precious moments. Or she was with a group of friends just out to have a good time. Her friends were making choices. And they somehow persuaded her to make the same choice. So wanting to fit in, while in her mind minimizing the consequences, she made a choice. 

In either case, she made a choice that had disastrous consequences.

Disastrous because one choice will usually lead to a second, which will then result in a third, that then becomes a fourth. And as is true with every addiction, she eventually passed a point of no return. At some point, she yielded the control of her body to a foreign substance or improper impulse, something that God never intended for her to do.

And the result is a broken life, broken relationships (including her relationship with you), and broken hearts (including God’s and yours).

I say all of that to say this: It’s not personal. Your mom is not choosing a drug over you. She never did choose a drug over you. Please read that again because I want you hear that. She is not choosing drugs over you.

I have no doubt that if your mom could turn the clock back to the split-second before she made her first disastrous choice, she would make a different choice the second time around. Never have I ever had an addict tell me that they are thrilled that they became addicted, and that if they had it to do all over again, they would become addicted again. Never. And that “never” applies to your mom as well.

Now, I know that none of this can repair a broken life, broken relationships, and broken hearts. But it can do the following:

1. You need not think about your mom’s addiction in terms of acceptance or rejection, as if she is accepting drugs and rejecting you. Please believe me: It is not personal. If someone could wave a magic wand and release her of her addiction, your mom would jump at that opportunity. But as you’ll learn in life, there are no magic wands.

2. Your mom needs you now more than ever. Even if she seems to be pushing you away. She needs you to show her the highest form of love in the Universe. We call it unconditional love. The same kind of love that God has for you, and for your mom.

God loves your mom no matter what, addictions included. I mean, if anyone should feel rejection, as if your mom is choosing drugs over Him, it’s God. But He “gets” that it’s not personal with Him either. So in spite of her addiction, God loves your mom. You now have a golden opportunity to learn to love her in exactly the same way that God loves you. God will always love you, no matter what. As I learned a long time ago,

“People need love the most when they are the most unlovely.”

So does your mom.

3. Every time you feel the pain of your mom’s addiction, this can be your most powerful reminder and motivator to be very, very careful about the choices that you make. Choices about what you do with your body, and what you put into your body. Especially when you are tempted to think that you can get away with it, that you will beat the odds. The four deadliest words that I know for a Christ-follower are these: 

“I can handle it.”

“I can handle it if I just take one drink.” “I can handle it if I take that one drug.” “I can handle it if…” I beg you, beg you to be very, very careful about what you do with your body, and what you put into your body. Because it’s a devastating thing to become a slave to any addiction.

I leave you with this. A simple instruction which, if your mom had read this and taken it to heart, would have protected her life, her relationships, and your heart from being broken. It may be too late for her; it is not yet too late for you.

The Apostle Paul was thinking of dear, precious people just like your mom when he wrote this:

Some of you say, “We can do anything we want to.” But I tell you that not everything is good for us. So I refuse to let anything have power over me… We are not supposed to do indecent things with our bodies. We are to use them for the Lord who is in charge of our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:12-13, Contemporary English Version).

If you will make a choice to live according to 1 Corinthians 6:12-13, then out of the ashes of your mom’s addiction will result the beauty of your God-honoring life.

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When the “T” in LGBT Hits Our Own Homes

“How do I as a parent begin to explain to my teenagers that their older cousin whom they’ve looked up to all their lives has decided that he may have been born a boy, but he feels more like a girl? That he is now taking female hormones, beginning to dress as a female, and is looking at legally changing his name from that of a guy to a girl? That he is now living with his lesbian girlfriend? I am at such a loss here. I didn’t see this coming AT ALL. So many questions… How do I still love my nephew, but not approve of his choices? Do we have holiday dinners as usual? Do I choose as a parent that he isn’t a good influence on my kids and therefore can no longer have them around each other? I am so lost here.”

anguish1

It’s not just campers at Christian camps who ask questions; adults ask them too, daily. Questions that come to me via email, snail mail, and social media of all sorts. Questions that they would ask God if given the opportunity and with the assurance that He would give them an honest answer.

As I’ve made clear, repeatedly and emphatically, I am not God. I hesitate to speak for God. To the best of my ability, I can only attempt to offer an answer from the Word of God. And I do so with fear and trembling in my passionate pursuit of respecting the Truth and getting the answer right.

Now, having offered all of those disclaimers, I’ll give it a shot, answering these questions exactly as I would as if we were at camp together.

Believe it or not, you have just been handed a golden opportunity to share a teachable moment with your children. As teenagers, they are old enough to be told the unvarnished truth about their cousin, and about your personal struggles with his lifestyle choices. Your struggles mentally and emotionally are what they are, and are perfectly legitimate. It’s OK for them to see you struggle.

As you let them into your soul, they will see as never before in real time, right before their eyes, how you as a committed Christ-follower, as a parent, as an uncle or aunt, are attempting to respond biblically to this new information about your nephew.

Without in any way minimizing your shock, pain, and confusion, let me ask you to consider a couple of questions as you try to process all of this new information. (Trust me, I am processing this right along with you. So if my thoughts seem to be developing as I write this, they are!) 

  • Would you be asking the same questions — about holidays, contact with their cousins, etc. — if your nephew was heterosexual and living with his girlfriend? Or living at home but sleeping with his girlfriend? Or was into Internet porn?
  • What if instead of something sexual, you discovered that he has cheated on tests at school? Or gossips? Or abuses alcohol? Or uses illegal drugs? Or has been caught telling lies? Or is disrespectful to his parents? Or acts or talks proudly or arrogantly? Or has anger-management issues? Or uses profanity? Or was married and subsequently divorced? 

What I am getting at is this: Is the fact that his behavior falls in the category homosexuality or lesbianism the thing that drives your discomfort, and generates these questions? 

I find it intriguing that God explicitly states,

There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family (Proverbs 6:16-19).

I cite this passage to suggest that if we are consistent, then we would be asking all of your same questions about any family member (or friend) involved in any of the issues that God explicitly states that He hates — including the telling of lies, or having proud-looking eyes!

Point is, we all do things that God hates. This being the case, how should we be treated with regard to holiday meals or contact with teenage family members?

“Consistency, thou art a rare jewel.” Thus my question, asked in all sincerity, is this: How do we respond with consistency when we are talking about LGBT issues?

I will not presume to tell you what to do. I can only tell you what I would do. 

I, too, have a nephew whom I love and respect. If he were to confide to me some lifestyle choices with which I personally disagree, it would make absolutely no difference in how I treated him, or how I would respond to him. 

Because you know what? It’s not up to me to agree or disagree with his or anyone else’s lifestyle. Who am I to sit in judgment of another’s lifestyle choices? (And in the interests of full disclosure, truth be told, I, too, have made some choices with which I disagree! No one, including me — especially me — can claim a monopoly on perfection.)

Did not Jesus say to us, “Do not judge others”? Yes, He did — Matthew 7:1. Did not Jesus say to us, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (the her being a woman caught in the act of adultery)? Yes, He did — John 8:7.

There is one (and only one) exception to my it-would-make-absolutely-no-difference statement: If anyone in my life, be it family or friend, was a clear and present danger to my family, that would be a game-changer. By clear and present danger I mean this: It’s one thing for someone to use illegal drugs; it’s quite another to entice my children into using drugs. It’s one thing to be sexually active outside of marriage; it’s quite another thing to display predatory sexual behavior toward my children. It’s one thing to have anger-management issues; it’s quite another thing to threaten bodily harm to my children.

See the difference?

Back on point, my nephew is not accountable to me for his choices. How he chooses to live his life is between him and God. My love for him is unconditional. I cannot think of anything that would change that. His lifestyle is, quite frankly, none of my business. 

So were I to receive the exact same bombshell revelation that you just received, I would be surprised, shocked, taken aback. But at the end of the day, in terms of my relationship with and love for my nephew, it would change nothing.

That’s where I currently sit on this issue (emphasis upon the word “currently”). But as I continue to process this, I would LOVE to hear from you. Tell me what you think (respectfully, please). We can certainly agree or disagree and remain friends. These are not easy questions. There are no easy answers. I am open to hearing your take on this subject.

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“Why? God, Please Tell Me, Why?”

Why did You let my father molest/rape me?  (He went to prison for  this, was tried and convicted.)  I just want to know why?  I am in pain.

rejectionAs stated in my previous post, from time to time (at a rate of one or two per week) I am going to answer questions that I received from Junior High/Middle School students last month at camp. I asked them to write down for me the one question they would ask God if given the chance.

I will answer each question as if I am speaking directly to them…

I know you are in pain. Pain that I cannot even begin to imagine.

Let me start by stating right up front that “Why?” questions are the most difficult questions to answer. We don’t always know the reasons why.

Oh sure, I could tell you that we live on a fallen planet where bad people do really bad things to good and precious people like you. That this is all the result of Adam and Eve’s sin. That it’s ultimately the devil’s fault. And while there is some truth to each of those statements, you deserve better than a trio of trite clichés, none of which is an adequate explanation for the pain you carry every single day.

What I can tell you is this: Jesus was born into an equally pain-filled world. Within months of His birth, a very bad man by the name of Herod wanted desperately to kill Him. Herod thought of Himself as the “King of the Jews.” So when the Wise Men showed up asking for the whereabouts of the authentic “King of the Jews,” Herod exploded. He ordered every baby boy in Bethlehem two years of age and under to be mercilessly slaughtered. Herod’s murderous rampage caused the streets of Bethlehem to flow with the blood of these innocent toddlers.  The anguished wails of their moms and dads, brothers and sisters, echoed throughout the town.

Like you, a part of me cries out to God the single most painful question you or I could ever ask: Why? Why did so many innocent children have to die such a horribly bloody death? Why did innocent moms and dads have to watch helplessly as their government slaughtered their children? Why didn’t God stop the slaughter? Why did God let Herod get away with it?

Well, nowhere in the story (Matthew 2:16-18) does the Bible answer that hauntingly elusive question, “Why?” But it does answer an equally important question — perhaps an even more important question — “Where?” As in, “Where were You, God, when this senseless slaughter was taking place?”

The answer? (Read this slowly, and allow the power of this answer to sink into your soul.) Jesus was right there in the middle of the horror.

Remember that He was the object of the hate. He was the target of the murderous thugs who rode into Bethlehem that night. He was the focus of the frightful rage that erupted into the slaying of all those little kids. He was right in the middle, sharing and feeling the pain of every baby boy who died in His place. He cried bitter tears as He heard the gut-wrenching cries of all those mommys and daddys who lost their children because of Him. He was right there in the middle of it all.

Thankfully, through the intervention of an angel, Jesus didn’t die that night. But the day did come when Jesus died an even more horrific death at the hands of these same Romans. On that dark day, Jesus died for you, Jesus died for me, and Jesus died for every baby boy in Bethlehem who had died for Him on that infamous night. Yes, every single baby butchered that night was greeted in Heaven that night by the waiting and welcoming hands of God.

Good  ALWAYS wins; evil ALWAYS loses. Always.

OK, so now watch this: Where was God during that entire time that you were being horribly molested by your dad? Right there beside you. Sharing your pain. Feeling your fear. Cradling you in His arms while you cried. And promising that what your dad intended for evil, God will use for your good. And for the good of many, many people.

One of my Old Testament heroes is named Joseph. His brothers tried to murder him. At the last minute, they changed their plan and sold him as a slave. He was purchased by an Egyptian and forced to live in a foreign country, away from all of his family and friends. He was falsely accused of rape and wrongly imprisoned. He suffered unimaginably as he rotted away in an Egyptian dungeon for nearly 13 years for a crime he did not commit. 

“Why?” Why did God let that happen? Why did God let the brothers get away with that? Why didn’t God stop them?

We don’t know why. But we do know where. Where was God during those years of imprisonment? Right in the dungeon with Joseph. 

After 13 years, Joseph was miraculously released from his cell (just as you were finally released from your prison of molestation and rape). Even better, God then used Joseph to save His people from the ravages of a famine that hit their land. And when Joseph faced his brothers who had sold him as a slave, he said something that I hope you will memorize. Words that changed my life; words that can change yours as well. Because what was true of Joseph is true of you. Joseph said to his brothers: 

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people (Genesis 50:20, New Living Translation).

Your dad tried to harm you. But God will now transform your pain-filled heart and violated body into the beautiful and radiant person that you are now becoming. God is so good at that. He takes the ashes of the wrongs that we suffer and transforms them into something breathtakingly beautiful to behold. A whole new YOU!

Just think of all the young women you will be able to help and heal someday because of your story. Think of how God allowed you to survive the darkest of nights so that His sunshine of this new day can sparkle through you to others. Think of how His power spared you from a situation that could have been so much worse. Think of the radiant diamond that you have become after being crushed so many, many times.

The very fact that you could come to a Christian camp and be given the opportunity to ask of God that one most important question — Why? — proves where God was while that was happening. Right there with you.

He is with you now.

And I promise you that the very thing your dad did to harm you is the very thing that God will now use to bring SO MUCH GOOD to so many, many people. Yes, the day will come — sooner rather than later — when you will be able to pray,

God, I would never want to go through that again. But I thank You for allowing me to go through it once.

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