How To Take The Good With The Bad
My memories of Palm Sunday are all glorious-every single one. I grew up in church and can remember as a child-waving palm branches and sitting with my parents and then as a teenager keenly understanding that palm branches can also be used as weapons.
Vicious weapons that left tiny welts on my arms and my friends’ arms as we battled for dominance of the church’s fellowship hall. I also remember the cute girl who would make the palms into crosses and deciding to learn how to do that to impress her.
As a twenty-something who had recommitted my life to Jesus, Palm Sunday took on a deeper, more meaningful tone; riddled with tension. The tension of the crowd who cried “Hosanna!” that would days later cry out, “Crucify him!” It makes my stomach turn every time I think on it.
We always start the story at the triumphal entry, but if you read the account written by John, he makes a very interesting note before the famous story.
Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out Jesus was there (in Bethany) and came, not only to because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him. John 12:9-11
Here are a couple of very simple, logical truths about Jesus.
These truths are basic-if you know anything about Jesus you can deduce these things, but what struck me was the second part of this passage about Lazarus (John 11:38-44)
Here we have a legitimate miracle witnessed by a large group of people. This was not some backroom parlor trick, but a genuine miracle – a man had been publicly raised from the dead after 4 days- 4 DAYS!!!!!
Let’s turn the camera around on each person who has experienced life transformation, or miracle, or the joy of knowing Jesus.
If you have experienced legitimate life change here are some facts:
So what do we do?
Here are a few things:
I have a confession to make. My prayer life ebbs and flows. Yes, it is hard to believe but it is true. There have been times in my life when my prayer life has been white-hot and I could never get enough. Time in prayer was all I wanted. Then there are other times when I struggle to get to that place.
We all go through seasons like this, and over the years I have learned some tools that help me stay in the habit of seeking God on a daily basis.
1. Set Your Alarm – Some time ago I was studying the monastic movement and their prayer life. They would literally stop everything they were doing and pray every 3 hours, talk about commitment!
With alarm settings on every smart phone, we have a great tool to help us practice. So try this: Set your alarm for 3:16pm (am if you are really brave) every day. When it goes off pray John 3:16, “God thank you for loving the world so much that you sent your only son to die for it, so we would not perish but have everlasting life.”
2. Follow A Form – I use a really simple acronym, A.C.T.S. that I have taught my children so I think most people could pick it up.
Adoration- Tell God how awesome he is-it’s not for his benefit (he already knows) it is for yours.
Confession- Confession is like taking out the garbage. If you don’t, your life will begin to stink.
Thanksgiving- The scripture says, “Every good and perfect thing comes from God”-enough said.
Supplication- This is where you ask God for the things that are on your heart.
3. Pray With Others-There is nothing like praying with other people. Yes it feels awkward at first, but so did driving and you got used to it. It even helps if you commit to praying at the same time every day-set your alarm.
When we spend committed time with God, we will have a greater understanding of the life he wants for us. Don’t wait, in fact, pray now!
I don’t like watching the news. There are a myriad of reasons, but my distaste stems from the amount of death and darkness it takes to make a news program successful. For that reason, the news is rarely seen in the Platt home.
A few months ago, we turned the morning news report to check on the weather and then without thinking, walked out of the room. My six-year old continued to watch the program which reported the details of a murder that occurred in Wilkes-Barre. He immediately ran into the room I was in and was very distressed.
The scene went something like this:
L: Dad! You’ll never believe what happened!
Me: What’s up buddy?
L: Someone was murdered in Wilkes Barre! Can you believe it? What is this world coming to?
He looked at me with stunned eyes waiting for me to answer. I stood there feeling sadness. A piece of my son’s innocence had been ripped away. And I realized I was numb. My response to the news was nothing like his.
Fast-forward to yesterday when a gunman walked into a community college in Oregon and killed 10 people. As I watched President Obama speak of the tragedy I saw something I had not seen in him during his seven-year tenure. As he stood at the podium, I recognized genuine heart break. He looked as if he was going to burst into tears or throw-up.
We are numb.
God feels everything.
We are created in the image of God.
So, why are we numb?
Everyday we choose to ignore brokenness. Brokenness has roots in the helplessness we feel about the hurt and suffering in our world. Could we be so wrapped up in our own issues that we do not have time to be concerned about others? Maybe you think it is someone else’s problem and you secretly say to yourself, “Glad it wasn’t me.”
But God’s heart breaks again and again and again.
Here’s why. God created us with ability to love and give life. His act of creating this world and sustaining it with such breathtaking beauty is only the first step toward understanding his passion for you and I. It goes beyond painting us pretty pictures.
His plan was for us to care for each other and the world-but we simply look out for ourselves and reject his plan. This is how we become numb and reject our creator one more time.
The answer is, first, seek God’s heart for the brokenness around you. If you are not sure what to do about it, hook up with someone who is already making a difference. Trust me when I say those who are working to make things better are out there-and they are desperate for help.
Second, see the world through the eyes of a child. Jesus said, “… Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” This is a strong indictment for those who want to ignore the viewpoint of a child. Many days I find that my kids see things through a much clearer lens. If it disturbs my son, it should disturb me.
You may say-well he’s a kid, he’ll learn. I pray he never learns to be numb to the suffering around him. I want his heart to be so aligned with God’s that it breaks and then drives him to action.
Our energy should be spent loving our neighbor. Sitting and caring for those who are marginalized. Seeing those who feel invisible and loving them unconditionally.
How? It could be through a word of encouragement.
A thoughtful gift.
An hour of just listening to their story.
A lawn mowed, or trash cans brought up from the street.
Take time today to meditate on the brokenness around you-then make a plan to fill it with life.
Dismantle the Rant
In my last post I talked about the pitfalls of the micro-rant - the social media post meant to burn a particular person or people. I talked about the problem and here are my thoughts on solutions.
Note that I have said nothing about what the other person should do. The other person cannot be forced into action, but you can make the choice today to act and live differently. In time, as you live your life in a way which honors Jesus, it will change the climate of your relationships.
Here are some starting points:
1. Give it to Jesus. “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28-30
We are most prone to a micro-rant or any anger with others when we have not been resting in Jesus. He wants all of us all the time. When we put our hope in people, we will be disappointed. Their failure to live up to our expectations is frustrating. Instead of ranting, we go to Jesus and put our hope in Him because He will never fail us. He will give us peace beyond our understanding.
2. Go to a Jesus-loving friend for counsel. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
When we get this worked up over something we have lost our practical trust in Jesus. No amount of lip-service about loving God can defend your actions. Our trust in others for our happiness is idolatry and we need to confess. When we admit our struggle to other people who love Jesus, we can heal. Spend time praying for that person and for yourself. Don’t let a frustration derail your journey with Jesus.
If you are taking your problems to social media, you are looking for validation from others. Your validation should come from Jesus. If Jesus would not validate your attitude - it is wrong. A Jesus-loving friend will be able to speak wisdom and truth into the situation where you are unable see clearly.
3. Speak life over them. Your words have power. They have the power to give life and the power to destroy. If all you do is destroy another, they will react in kind. If you speak life over them, it may take a while but they will come alive. Finding the best in people and making it the focus of your thoughts and words. You will find your heart change toward them.
“Do not repay evil for evil or insult with insult. On the contrary repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9
Lastly, we are called to something greater. We need to live lives that are exemplary. The apostle Peter said: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.”
Ask yourself, will others praise God for the life I have lived? Or will they forget it because it looked the same as everyone elses?
You were blessed to be a blessing…so get to blessing others.
It’s heartbreaking. Every time I see it I cringe and my stomach turns, sometimes I can stop the carnage, other times I am helpless to do anything but pray.
Micro-rant-noun-a sentence or two posted on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media regarding volatile subjects better kept private. Usually between family members or friends.
I get it, I really do. There have been days when I am so frustrated with my situation that I want everyone to know-especially the person who wronged me. I’ll even admit that there have been times when I have typed out a justifiable declaration, but then hit delete.
Why? As Christians, we should avoid the micro-rant because:
1. It’s awkward. Have you ever been in a situation where someone says
something that doesn’t quite fit the moment?
Imagine this: We are staring at the sky talking about the beauty of the sunset, being drawn into a place of awe and worship.
Then out of nowhere someone in our group begins relating gruesome details about last night’s episode of the Walking Dead. Listen, I enjoy hearing about that stuff, but it’s a buzzkill and very…well…awkward.
2. It’s harmful. On a more serious note there are two people who suffer when we rant. First is ourselves. Think about this for a moment. Imagine you and I are friends then one day I see you bringing your private life in full view of social media. To me, you have just become untrustworthy. I will hold back from sharing my heart with you because I fear that if you were able to easily post about your private life then my private information will be fair game for you as well.
As a result of this lack of trust (one of the building blocks of friendship), you and I grow apart and you are hurt because of it. It’s not that I don’t like you, I am just afraid.
The second group to suffer is others. Your friends, siblings, spouses, and children, do not want the world to know their business. It’s personal and embarrassing. As believers, we need to value others more than we value ourselves. The Apostle Paul says to the Christians in Philippi: Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. ~Philippians 2:3-4
The micro-rant is the opposite of selflessness. It is selfish and self-serving. Jesus never acted in self-service but in submission and love of God and others.
3. It does not solve the problem. The purpose of the micro-rant is to burn, scald, belittle-and maybe even a touch of revenge. It is also meant to push someone hard enough so maybe they will do what we want. We think the problem will be solved. Never in my life have I seen or heard someone say, “Wow, they came at me with such force and volatility that I said, boy, you’re right-I’ll change my ways.” That is what we are hoping for, but it is never what we get.
4. It creates more problems. The root of all sin is pride. Pride says, “I’m right, and you’re wrong.” So whenever you micro-rant, you are not putting someone in their place, but egging them into battle. Some people roll over and surrender, others fight back. Both of these create problems of distrust, fear, hurt, sadness and so on. None of this is of honors Jesus who calls us to love our neighbor as part of our devotion to Him.
There are better ways to communicate frustration and handle our anger. If our desire is to love and honor God then we must find different ways of handling this. Whenever I identify a problem I like to offer a solution. In my next post I will be offering some useful solutions.
I don’t agree with the Supreme Court’s decision but….
The decision by the United States Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional for states to ban gay marriage was a historical move. The war has been waged on the moral battlefield for years and once again, conservative Christians find themselves struggling, bewildered, and angry.
Wallenpaupack Free Methodist Church will hold to its stance that the definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. Considering our stance is in contrast to the decision of the Supreme Court, it is important for us to remember a few things.
I am going to outline a few thoughts on how we (as Christians) should process and respond:
1. Stop being surprised. We live in a secular culture and for years we have ignored Jesus’ command to “Go and tell” and replaced it with, “Keep it to yourself.” When we do this the cultural climate changes from faith focused to secular.
2. Speak kindly. The Apostle Paul teaches Titus, “Slander no one, be peaceable and gentle toward everyone.” This means in conversations with others and on social media.
3. Get to know LGBTQ. Ask yourself this question: Who did Jesus spend most of his time with and why? We never see Jesus demanding conversion or condemning, they had already received that from religious leaders. He loved them with gentleness and kindness, which led to repentance and life change. They are people just like you and me, and you would be surprised that they are not as obsessed with their sexuality as you are.
4. You don’t get to judge. Not your job, ever…ever. Jesus told us that we will be judged with the weight in which we judge, you don’t want that. If you do, it’s time to find a new faith.
5. Love, love, love, love, then love again. If you are not sure what to do, think about how Jesus handles your struggle then give that love to others.
God did not send his son to condemn the world but to save it. ~John 3:17
You have a unique opportunity to be part of the process of drawing people to God. But if we are angry and speaking condemnation to others we will only push them away.
I recently had an experience where my understanding of a friendship was challenged. It was one of those moments where the person you thought was a friend did not act in a way that you anticipated. It made me feel like a toy that had been carelessly flung to the side-it hurt my heart.
As I meditated on it I felt like this event did not expose a flaw in the life of the other person, but a deep flaw in my own. A problem of where I derive my hope and worth. And the voice of God within me called me to a deeper intimacy with him.
We are built for relationship with others. Most of the time family members, social media contacts, classmates, coworkers, spouses, and children satisfy this need on varying levels. We seek validation from these people by subtly asking for complements or by blatant self-depreciation in hopes that someone will sweep into our comment feed and shower us with blessings.
But it only works for so long and eventually these methods don’t work. So we lose ourselves in things we think will give us worth. We spend more time at work to complete tasks that might matter to someone. We drink or use to numb the pain of the emptiness that we experience. Honestly these are the easy ways of coping but they are wholly insufficient.
God calls us to an intimacy with him that surpasses any other relationship we could have. But the caveat is that it takes some effort on our part.
One of the grievous misconceptions of Christianity is that faith in Christ fixes all problems. I have seen people fall away from the faith because they life did not correct itself. Thankfully God is not a cosmic micromanager who takes control of our every move. He opens the door to a relationship where he disciplines, comforts, guides us in our journey.
What are you doing to help this process?
If you want to know God in this way, it starts by taking some time to share with God. You have to listen and watch for his move in your life. I know the best thing we can do is start with simple prayers to God. In the same way we call on friends to comfort us, we call on God to hear our prayer.
When we start to do the work of going to God first with our problems, cares, and concerns then we are doing to the work of fostering relationship and intimacy with God. So next time you hit the wall-pick up the phone second…call on Jesus first.
I can’t remember the first words my kids spoke. I don’t know if that makes me a bad parent or whatever. But I do remember the experience of them talking for the first time. It was awesome. What had only been babble, gurgle, cries, and noise was becoming communication that I could understand. I hung on every incoherent word and became a professional translator for my two year old. After all he was speaking an incoherent language that only my wife and I could understand. It was really special and quite fun at times.
God loves us like that. God hears us like that. He is not overly concerned with whether we get the words right. He is not a cosmic English teacher who is correcting you every time you misspeak.
Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” What an amazing truth. Last time I was broken hearted I was not taking time to find the right words to pray. Instead I was pouring my heart out to God. I did not care what words I used, just that he heard them-and according to this verse, he did!
Stop holding yourself back from God. He is ready and waiting to hear your prayer.