Dealing With Your Dirty Laundry

Did you know that when you wash a load of whites you need to make sure the load only has whites? (Why are you laughing already?) I was a young husband and father of two toddlers. Karen was out with the boys and I thought I’d surprise her by getting a load of laundry done before she came home.

I set the temperature to hot. I thought “I’ll get these things whiter than they’ve ever been.” I picked up the pile of clothes in one strong swoop, stuffed it in the machine, and closed the lid before anything could pop back out.

When the cycle was finished I grabbed the load in one strong swoop, pushed it into the dryer, closed the lid before anything could pop back out, and turned it on. I thought “If women could only learn to wash and dry like this they’d save so much time.”

When I returned to fold the dry laundry I had another thought. “She’s going to kill me.” For some reason all the whites I pulled out in one strong swoop were pink. I started pulling them out one by one to fold them. As I reached the center of the pile I found it. My orange Denver Bronco shirt. Apparently it had enlisted the whites to Bronco-mania. The best I could tell orange and white make a pinkish color.

In the pile of laundry was Karen’s new white blouse she was proud of.  Just then I heard the door open upstairs.

Karen: “We’re home! Where are you?”

Me: “In the basement.”

Karen: “What are you doing?”

Me: “Folding the laundry.”

Karen: “You’re folding the laundry? What a great husband you are!”

Me: “You might want to hold onto that thought real hard.”

Karen, now joining me in the laundry room: “Why is everything pink?”

Me: “I’m a great husband, remember?”

Karen: I can’t repeat what she said.

Not really. She was disappointed but she forgave me. And then we went shopping to replace all the whites. You know how much it costs to replace a load of whites?

There is a lot life can teach you about forgiveness. We need it. And we need to give it. Jesus teaches us to pray this line: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

The order is important. Before we can even think about talking to our Father about what is owed us we must first remember what we owed. Jesus reminds us of our own need of forgiveness. The truth is we are all in debt to God. “There is no one righteous, not even one.” “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” “If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

We are first reminded of our need for forgiveness because we can forget that the forgiveness we have received is forgiveness we are to give. And we need to forgive others. The Bible says we pay a price when we harbor the debts owed us. “You who tear yourself in anger.” “For anger kills a fool.” Does your experience validate these verses? All torn up inside because of the debts owed you? Feel like you’re dying because you can’t let it go? It’s a prison and you are the prisoner.

When we forgive others we are freed from the prison of our own making. We remember our forgiveness so we can forgive others. Not long after my deed that stained my washing experience, Karen accidently put a favorite sweater of mine in the dryer that I normally hung to dry so it would not shrink. (She says it was an accident. I have to believe her.)

What did I do? I yelled at her? I belittled her? Of course not. And you’d run me out of town if I had. She had forgiven me for presenting her with a pink blouse so I forgave her for presenting me with a toddler sized sweater.

Forgiveness may be the only gift intentionally designed to be re-gifted. Why don’t we do just that? Let’s ask God for the forgiveness we need each day. We’ll find ourselves more patient with the people in our lives and pass on forgiveness to them.

It’s the only way his children can behave. We need a clean start. Our debtors need one too. Might as well get used to it. In heaven everyone will be wearing white: “… the one who conquers will be dressed in white clothes…”

Question: What do you need to be forgiven of? Who do you need to forgive?

 

 

 

 

When You Have a Need…Ask

It’s the only piazza in Rome without a single church. And yet congregants gather in this square every day except on Sunday mornings.  They gather to purchase their daily needs of fresh produce such as vegetables, cheese, spices, fish, meat and flowers. Other products are for sale too, many of which are touristy and not needed by anyone.

A trip to Campo de’ Fiori for modern day food shoppers is like a trip back in time. It is basically the only open air market you can find in the center of Rome. There you can see remnants of a rhythm long lost to our modern way of life. There was a day when people could not store up their food as we do. A daily trip to the market to buy what was needed for the day was routine.

This was true in first century Israel, especially when talking about bread. Bread was so basic a food that it became synonymous with life itself. “Eating bread” came to mean, “eating a meal.”  Bread was made daily in the home or people would buy it daily at the local market.  This was a daily task because it was not possible to keep food for more than a day in the hot climate.  The people of the first century were dependent on God to take care of their daily needs.

Not so much us. Our pantries and refrigerators are full enough to last days if not weeks. And so what makes sense to those first century listeners makes little to us when Jesus instructed us to pray “Give us today our daily bread.” “Why ask for that?” we wonder.

One answer is that there is something formative about asking for bread. Those of us who live in America feel little need to ask for bread. We have a loaf in our pantry and a couple in the freezer.  And if those run out, we can run out to the convenience store and stock up again. We can take care of a bread shortage on our own.

And that’s our problem with this phrase.  It is a request, and a request implies the need for help. We sense that we are self-sufficient.  We’re one step away from seeing ourselves as the providers of our own bread. By kneading the line “give us this day our daily bread” into our prayers, Jesus reminds us that God will take care of us. The request forms the one requesting.

Another answer is that we ask for daily bread because we need bread daily to live. In the wilderness God gave his people manna on a day to day basis. Physical needs are not to be ignored. It is perfectly fine to ask for needs. And God would want us to ask for specific needs. He is well aware of what we need and will give us what we need. We may not receive all we want. Our clothes might come from Marshalls instead of Macy’s. Our food from eating in instead of dining out. You might drive a ’99 Miata instead of a 2017 version. But he’ll give us what we need.

But there is another bread for which we should ask. When Karen and I first married I thought there were only a couple of options. At our house growing up it was either Mrs. Baird’s or Holsum. Then I married into a family of bread freaks. A whole world of bread opened up before my eyes. French. Sourdough. Bagels and Baguettes. Pita and Pumpernickel. I didn’t know what I had been missing.

And neither did the disciples. One day they left Jesus by a well in Samaria to find food in town. While they were gone he had a lively conversation with a woman at the well. When the disciples returned they urged Jesus to eat some of the food they brought back and he said, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.” Like me not knowing about other bread the disciples didn’t know there was another kind of sustenance. They said to each other, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?” Jesus explained, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

There is the food that nourishes our bodies. And there is the food that nourishes our souls. Later Jesus would explain that he is the “manna” that has come down from heaven.” When we are nourished by him we find life, even eternal life. The people were focused on bread of heaven that comes in a loaf.  Jesus moved their focus to himself, bread of heaven that comes in his life.     

We live in an America full of overeaters who are underfed.  Ask for bread daily. Ask: you will be reminded that the Father cares about you. Ask for bread: both physical and spiritual. Ask daily: you can’t store up on manna. It comes daily.

You may not go to an open air market for your daily bread. But you can go to your Father. When you do he’ll give you all you need for today.

Question: What do you need for today?

 

How to Pray When Things Aren’t as They Should Be

If you’re a human being, you’ve asked the question. Maybe you’ve looked in the mirror at the end of the day and seen past your face into your soul.  You’ve wondered how you could have done or thought what you did that day.  You are starkly aware that things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be.

Maybe you’ve watched your friends or coworkers.  You’ve listened to their struggles and wonder why their lives have to be so hard.  For some, you wonder why they have to make it so hard.  But you know the answer.  Things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be.

Or maybe you just read the newspaper.  Whether it’s another concert bombing on the other side of the world or a shooting at another school, you’ve asked the question.  Deep inside you know.  Things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be.

That’s why Jesus taught us to pray: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” How do we pray “…your kingdom come?” We begin by praying that God’s kingdom come in our own lives.  We pray about our own desire to set up our own kingdoms that we rule instead of letting God rule.  We pray for our marriages, that God may rule there.  We pray for our children, that they learn to seek first the kingdom of God.

We pray about places where God’s kingdom is not.  Do you know any marriages where if God’s reign came, things would be better?  Then pray for marriages.  Do you know any people in your neighborhood whose lives would change for the better if God’s reign came to them?  Then pray for your neighbors. Once you begin to see with kingdom eyes and pray with a kingdom heart, you will have an endless prayer list of where God would want his kingdom to come.

Do you see hunger? Injustice? Slavery? These are places where his kingdom has not come fully. And once he starts to show you where things here are not as they are in heaven, pray that God bring heaven here. One way he will answer that prayer will be by moving you and me to act on this earth as people in whom his heavenly kingdom reigns.

The Christian monk Telemachus did. Telemachus had lived a life of service to God when he found himself finally making a visit to the great capitol city of Rome. He heard cheers and followed them to the Coliseum where he sat down to watch what was happening there. What he saw shocked him. Out on the floor of the Coliseum he saw gigantic gladiators torturing and slaughtering defenseless slaves by the score.

The crowd watched and cheered. But Telemachus did not. He stood up from his seat and cried out, “No! Stop!” The people around him were taken aback by his actions. One pulled him back down to his seat. The games on the floor of the Coliseum continued and so did Telemachus. He stood up again and shouted, “No! This is wrong!” This time the crowd ridiculed him, yelling at him to sit down.

But he did not sit. Instead, he made his way down the steps to the edge of the arena. He climbed over the wall and dropped down to the floor of the arena.

Then he ran and placed himself between a fallen slave and a gladiator who was about to finish him off. Telemachus looked up at the gladiator and said, “God says, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ I say in the name of Jesus, stop what you are doing!”

He caught the gladiator off guard. For a moment he paused, amazed at this unusual action. And then, urged on by the crowd, he brought his mace down on Telemachus, ending his earthly life.

For a moment the Coliseum was silent. The crowd struggled to comprehend what they had just witnessed. Then, from the top of the stadium, someone stood up and walked out of the arena. From another section a family made their way out of the entryway. Next an entire section. Then the rest. Not long after the Emperor put an end to the games for good.

That is what God can do with one life willing to pray “Let your kingdom come” and act as if it had. If things aren’t as they should be—and they aren’t—this is the prayer that will bring heaven here.

Question: What areas do you see in your life where heaven needs to be brought to earth?

 

Is Your God “Small and Weak” or “Close and Powerful”?

Jesus teaches us to pray to “our Father in heaven.” The phrase “in heaven” guards against us seeing God as our friend, our buddy, our sidekick. Some have allowed themselves to think too small about God.

The idea of the “heavens” in the first century was that area right around us and also all the way out into the expanse of the stars and moon and sun. The Father is close to us. But he is not small.

He is unlike our fathers. He is the one “in heaven.” There is no one like him. “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and no one is like me” God says through the prophet Isaiah.

We don’t need a small God, do we? We find soon enough that our earthly fathers aren’t as big as we thought they were when we were little. They can’t fix everything. They can’t be with us everywhere. They are limited.

My father stands 5’7” on a good day. As a preteen I remember hoping I’d be as tall as my dad. Around the seventh grade I started hoping I’d keep growing. Our fathers, as much as they may want to be everything for us, can fail us at times.

I did. Kris was in Cub Scouts and it was time for the pinewood derby. He had a willing father but not a woodworking father. We were given our kit that contained a block of wood, four wheels, and four nails. I didn’t have a large set of tools at the time so we borrowed what we needed and I helped guide the creation of the car.

I really did just help. When we got to the Derby it was evident other fathers did more than help. “Took over” would be more accurate. Our crudely crafted car could not stand up against the ones with modified wheels, axles, and blocks. One showed up all blue with the number 43 and I fully expected to see a miniature Richard Petty sitting behind the wheel. Kris needed a father that knew more about how the Derby really operated.

That’s why we need to remember “Our Father in heaven…” We teach preschoolers a song that says, “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty there’s nothing my God cannot do.” We put into simple words for a preschooler to sing what the scriptures proclaim:

“The Lord reigns! He is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed, enveloped in strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be shaken.”

“Our Lord is great, vast in power; his understanding is infinite.”

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”

He is not only powerful, he is good. That’s important to remember. Can you imagine someone with bad character being given all power? We’ve seen it in earthly rulers and we’ve seen what corrupt power can do. This Father in the heavens is a good, good father. The Psalmists proclaim: “You are good, Lord.” “The Lord is good and upright.” “You, Lord, are forgiving and good.”

It makes a difference when you know your father is good. During college I spent a summer in Miami, Florida in an internship program. One assignment was to work with some young boys in Little Havana.  Can you picture that?  Several 20-year-old, Caucasian, mostly Texan kids trying to teach some Cuban kids about God?!

We did the best we could.  One day we talked to them about God and how he was a good father.  Before long we could see they weren’t interested.  So I asked them, “why doesn’t this idea of God as father connect with you?”  One of the boys, Carlos, said, “we don’t ever see our fathers.  Some of us don’t even know our fathers.  They go out a lot, sometimes with other women.  They don’t care about our mothers. They don’t really care about us.”

That was this group’s experience. We had to help them get a new idea of God as a good, good Father. You might need that too. Listen to the repeated cadence in Scripture that God is good, kind, and a Father of steadfast love. The word “hesed” is used 246 times in the Old Testament when speaking of God. His love for you never fails. It never ends. He is kind. He is loving. He is a good, good Father.

Do you need a father like that? Jesus wants you to know his Father in the same way he knows him. Close enough that you can intimately call him “Abba.” Powerful enough that he can hold sustain the world.

If he can do that, he can certainly help you through your day. Why not go to him now and tell him about it?

Question: When do you most need a “close” but “powerful” Father?

 

 

Use a Word of Intimacy When Addressing Your Father

When our two boys were young they could change my day in an instant. They would come home from school and have a couple of hours or so with their mother. She’d have homemade cookies ready for them, they’d sit down and talk about the day, and then go off to play or do homework. (She really would have homemade cookies for them. But no, she did not wear June Cleaver pearls.)

 

I always felt like I was missing a little something by not being able to be home for the after-school routine. But that feeling faded away as soon as I walked in the door. “Daddy!” I’d hear. Sometimes in unison. “Let’s play!”

That’s all I needed. One word. “Daddy!” “Daddy, can you help?” “Of course I can!” “Daddy, can we ride bikes.” “Only if I get to come too.” “Daddy, why are you so funny?” “Looks aren’t everything.”

You used it as a child yourself. And, if you have children and are a father, you’ve heard it too. It’s the word children use for their father that they don’t use for anyone else: “Daddy.”

It’s the word Jesus used to teach us to pray. “Our Father…” This word is given to us in Greek, the word pater for the Greek speaking audiences for whom it was originally written. But most likely Jesus would have spoken in his native language of Aramaic and used the word “Abba.”

Statements in the Talmud and other Jewish documents tell us this is the word infants learn to say when they are weaned, like “dada” or “mama.” But by the time of Jesus “Abba” was a word even adults would use to refer to their father. It includes ideas of “simplicity and intimacy and security.”

It was common to refer to your father in this way, but it was not common to refer to God with this word. And yet, Jesus did. There are seventeen unique prayers of Jesus’ in the Gospels and each begin with “Father.” “Abba.” Jesus had a special relationship with God.

So can you. John, the one closest to Jesus, writes: “But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.”

Do you believe that Jesus is the son of God? Then you are a child of God too. Have you received Jesus? Then you have been given the right to be a child of God.

Paul is very clear about this in his writings. “For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!”

Notice what he says. First, if you are led by God’s Spirit you are his child. Simply put, a child  resembles their Father. Are you taking on his traits more and more? Do you follow the guidance he has given?

I see traits of my father in me. When we were young Dad instilled in us a desire to conserve electricity. He was like the “electricity Meter Man.” If you left your room and did not plan on coming right back, you turned out your light. If you went out the back door in the summer, you made sure you shut it well so the cool air would not escape. I’m sure he had some sort of secret timer on the refrigerator door that would alert him if my brother and I kept it open too long looking for a snack.

Guess who turns lights off in the house and watches the thermostat at our house? If the Father’s Spirit is leading you, you are his child.

Second, a child should not fear their father. Paul said we did not “receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear.” You have been adopted as one of his children. What a difference that makes! Because you are adopted, guess what you can call him? “Abba, Father!”

Simple words. Loving words. Words the Father wants to hear. Notice we do not have to approach prayer with high vocabulary. No, “Oh Great Avenger. Oh Master of the Universe. Oh Guardian of the Galaxy.” You wouldn’t hear my family addressing me with such pious words. Although when I obtained a Master’s degree I thought Karen might start addressing me as “Master.” (It didn’t happen).

No, we address the Father with the same tone we would our own good fathers. “Abba.” “Dad.”

He’s waiting right now to hear you utter that special word.

Question: What traits of the Father are showing up in your life?

 

How to Pray When You Don’t Know How

It sounded like an easy assignment. “You’ll start the day by finding a room in the building by yourself. Then pray for an hour.” “No problem,” I thought. “Sit quietly and pray? No sweat.”

Turns out I did sweat. I had gone with other college students to Miami, Florida to be part of a Spiritual Life Internship conducted by a church located in Little Havana. The church wisely did not run their air conditioning in typically unused parts of the building. A number of us unwisely chose typically unused parts of the church building for our personal prayer spots.

The rooms were warm. The air was heavy. So were my eyelids. My mind was wandering. My head was bobbing. When a bell rang to signal the time to regroup in the meeting area I realized that I had snoozed more than supplicated.

In a moment of honesty, I reported how my time went. To my relief I was not alone. It was a common experience for our group. Blame it on muggy Miami or chalk it up to our inexperience. We discovered what we were expected to discover: we needed to learn to pray.

Might you feel that need too? We pray… at times.  When we need help we pray. When we get bad news we pray. When the doctor calls us in we pray. We may offer a prayer when we come over a rise in the road and see the Rockies. We may remember to say thanks when something good comes our way: a promotion, a birth, a new love.

We pray … at times. But wouldn’t you like to pray more? More often? More powerfully? More selflessly? For all the reasons we don’t pray more often, more often it is simply because we’re not sure how.

We aren’t alone. The first followers of Jesus needed help too. Before you think you can’t pray like Peter or Andrew, James or John, think again. Luke records that on one occasion “one of his disciples said to him ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’” What he doesn’t record is any of the other disciples piping up and saying, “Yeah, he needs help. We’ve got this one. You teach him while we grab some figs and dates.” You won’t find any of the other disciples opting out of the lessons.

That is because prayer is a learned language. Go to Italy and it helps if you know some Italian. In the same way there is a language found in God’s kingdom: prayer. The disciples had watched Jesus’ prayer life and wanted theirs to match what they had seen in his. They had seen him pray before meals and powerful acts and important decisions. They had learned prayer was so vital to him he would disappear to pray.

It seemed Jesus did nothing without prayer. His disciples took notice. So when they asked for training he did not embark on a five-part webinar on “How to Pray.” When the disciples asked him to teach them to pray he simply gave them a simple prayer.

You may know it as The Lord’s Prayer. It is a skeleton of sorts that over time can hold more muscle and heart and lungs.

Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy.

Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And do not bring us into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.

For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

That’s how Jesus said to pray. If you are a prayer novice, you can master this prayer. If you are a prayer warrior, you should not venture too far from this prayer. Prayer is the only thing we find the disciples specifically asking Jesus to teach them. And this is the prayer he gave.

It’s been a long time since that assignment in Miami. I still struggle with prayer at times. But I’ve gotten better. When I get distracted now I use this prayer. When I get sleepy now this one can be uttered quickly.

When you don’t know how to pray this one will help. Your Father wants to talk with you.

Let him teach you how.

Question: What keeps you from prayer?

Live First and Speak When Necessary

Picture the following scene on the movie screen of your mind. The camera pans across a field, moves up the side of a mountain, and settles on a leader with a small band of hand-picked, trained and tested followers surrounding him.

The leader gives them their final assignment and the details of their mission.  They are something like a Special Ops troop being deployed into enemy territory. They are being asked to leave their places of comfort and do hard work for the mission.

Their orders come not on a tape that will self-destruct but in person, straight from the lips of the commander himself.  “As you are going, make disciples of all people groups.”

“All people groups?” you wonder. You take a mental note of those in the scene. None have traveled outside their own people—the Jewish people—and avoid Gentiles like the plague. They have no degrees. If anything they are underqualified. You don’t think this sounds anything like a Special Ops scene. You mumble “this mission is going to be a disaster.”

The reason being that what we see on the outside is different than what Jesus sees on the inside. We see Peter. He’s hard-headed and fish-focused. He popped off when he should have kept quiet. He kept quiet when he should have confessed. We see a failure. Jesus sees his leader.

We see James and John. Hot-blooded. Ready to wipe out unbelieving cities with one stream of fire from heaven. We see reactionaries. Jesus sees revolutionaries who will replace their calling of fire down from heaven with calling heaven’s love down to earth.

If we look closely enough we see ourselves. Common. Afraid of venturing out into a world on a mission of change. Fearful of the change it will bring to our own worlds. That’s what we see on the outside. Jesus sees his Special Ops troops.

It may sound like a daunting task. And it is. But look closely at the directives. “As you are going…” It means “as you continue on your journey.”  Jesus wants us to reclaim territory where we are every day. That’s why your Wednesdays matter as much to Jesus as your Sundays.  The truck you drive is his truck.  The computer station you work at is his computer station. The dentist office you visit, the gym you work out at, the people you meet for dinner, are all people he cares about.  And because you are in those places due to your skills or where you live or your interests you are his Special Ops agent there.

What would happen if you saw yourself in this way?  I imagine we might have ongoing conversations with our Missions Director throughout the day: “What do you want me to do for that co-worker over there?” “How would you help my employer have a better day if you were me?” “Help me know what decision to make on this deal that’s fair to all.”

More than merely getting the job done, you want to accomplish your mission.  You start seeing the people around you as potential learners of the way of Jesus. Jesus says “as you are going.” Be present with people wherever you are.

The gathered church is more like a training camp. When we are serious about making disciples of other people groups we will need some help and instruction. That happens with the church gathered. Then we are deployed on mission between Sundays. Francis of Assisi had it right when he said, “Preach the gospel at all times. And, if necessary, use words.”

The best way to make disciples is to be a disciple. The life of a disciple will cause others to notice.  And once they are noticed, words will help. The life comes first. Words follow.

“As you go make disciples of all people groups.” The first disciples did then and they changed the world. If we do now, the story will not be a disaster. It will be epic.

Question: Where does your “going” take you weekly and who are the people you encounter as you go?

How to Make Peace with your Doubts

A Texas rancher bought 10 ranches and put them together to form one giant spread. His friend asked him the name of his new mega-ranch. He replied, “It’s called The Circle Q, Rambling Brook, Double Bar, Broken Circle, Crooked Creek, Golden Horseshoe, Lazy B, Bent Arrow, Sleepy T, Triple O Ranch.”

“Wow,” said his friend, “I bet you have a lot of cattle.”

“Not really,” explained the rancher. “Not many survive the branding.”

Neither did Thomas. The Bible calls him “Thomas Didymus” or “Thomas the Twin.” Some believe he may have looked like Jesus, thus the nickname. Regardless, you know him as “doubting Thomas.”

You know him by that name because he had missed a meeting with the other disciples where the resurrected Jesus appeared. When they found Thomas they shared their good news with him: “We have seen the Lord!”

Thomas’ reaction was less than enthusiastic. He said the line for which he has been remembered for ages: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

Some see this as a doubt caused by weariness. Thomas has traveled a long road with Jesus. If he were to travel any further he wanted to make sure this really was his Jesus.

Maybe you’ve found yourself in seasons of doubt too. Your weariness that opened you up to doubts was from the world, from over-commitment, from your past or past sin. Life has not turned out the way you planned it to and the door opened for doubt.

Thomas could relate. But a week later Jesus showed up and gave him just what he had asked for: “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be faithless, but believe.” Jesus does not chastise Thomas. He gives him what he needs. In fact, the original Greek hints that Jesus was being playful with him: “Bring your finger over here.”

Thomas needed peace and Jesus gave it to him. Peace in biblical terms is not when life is going as I have planned things. Peace is when life is going as God has planned things. And part of God’s plan is that doubt is part of the life of faith.

If you’re in a season of doubt, here’s what you need to know from Thomas’ story.

First, be honest with your doubts. Thomas was. He knew that the Jesus he followed would carry the marks of the crucifixion. So when Thomas stepped into a place of honesty about his doubts Jesus stepped into the room. Being honest with your doubts is a necessary part of faith.

Second, be with people who aren’t afraid of your doubts. Find a faith culture that allows for doubts and where leaders themselves are free to express their doubts. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be with people who are not afraid of questions? They let you ask yours. They share stories of doubts they’ve had. When you’re in a period of uncertainty they carry you along until you regain your faith equilibrium. They don’t get anxious. They just love you the way Jesus loved Thomas.

Finally, a third lesson from Thomas is that a culture that allows questions can help you be aware of what God is doing with your doubts. Jesus allowed Thomas time to “doubt his doubts” a bit. Jesus knew what he was doing with Thomas. He was allowing him time to think through what it was he believed. And then, when the time was right, he appeared to him. After that moment what Thomas believed was his own belief. Not his parents’ belief. Not his friends’ belief. It was his: “My Lord and my God!”

What Jesus did for Thomas he does for you. He gives you time to doubt and ask questions. If you’re honest, he’ll come to you.

And that kind of experience will give you peace.

Question: When you have faith doubts where do you go with them?

 

 

 

 

Let Go of the Hurt to Take Hold of Hope

The year was 1820.  Ten-year-old Phineas was up before the sun.  This was the day his father was taking him to the island.  His island.  On the day he was born, his grandfather presented Phineas with a deed to a portion of Connecticut land called Ivy Island.  This day he was to see it for the first time.

They climbed into the buggy with a hired-hand.  Phineas could barely sit still.  At the top of each hill he’d ask, “Are we there yet?  Can I see it from here?”  His father would encourage him to be patient and would tell him they were getting close.

Finally, his dad pointed and said, “There, there is Ivy Island.” What he saw caused his heart to sink.  Ivy Island was a snake-infested marshland. It was a joke.  A stunned Phineas stared as the father and the hired hand roared with laughter.

Phineas didn’t laugh.  He didn’t forget either.  That disappointment shaped his life. The little boy who was fooled made a career out of fooling people. You don’t recognize him as Phineas or a landowner.  You know him as a promoter.  He coined the phrase, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”  He spent his life proving it.  You know him as P.T. Barnum.

You’ve known some disappointment too, haven’t you?  Struggles in marriage. Letdown by friends. Let loose from a job. Disillusioned with church. What do you do with your disappointments?

There’s a story about two men on the road to Emmaus. They were disappointed in a big way. They had hoped Jesus was the one who “would free Israel.” But the events of Jerusalem led them to believe he was dead.

The ironic twist in the story is that the Savior they thought was not present was walking right beside them. Jesus had come up to them on the road. They didn’t recognize him. No matter. He listened to their crushed hopes.

Then he told them a story. He told them the story of God and God’s hopes for them. When he was done, he acted as if he were going to walk on after they stopped but they invited him in for a meal. When he broke bread with them they recognized him. Their hope returned and they went back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples that Jesus was alive.

This account can help us today. Jesus cares about your heartaches. When life disappoints you—maybe even when God disappoints you—take a cue from the Emmaus walkers and do what they did.

Tell Jesus your hopes. They told him all that had happened in Jerusalem and how they were feeling about their crushed dreams. Jesus listened to their hopes then and he will listen to your hopes now.

Then listen to Jesus’ hopes for you. Jesus’ cure for the broken heart is the story of God.  What they heard was what we need to hear when we are disappointed. We need to hear that life is a series of chapters in God’s story and when we come to a chapter of disappointment the story is not over. There are more pages to be written.

Finally, share a meal with him. Did you notice it was in the “breaking of the bread” that their eyes were open? My guess is that when Jesus took the bread and broke it and handed it to the disciples, they saw his nail-scarred hands. When Jesus followers take the bread and cup, they remember a story. A story that is still being written through our lives.

Where is your disappointment today? Take a walk with Jesus. You might let go of the hurt and take hold of a new hope.

Question: Where can you use some hope today?

 

What to Do With Your Guilt

One anonymous person had his conscience weigh on himself enough to send this note and money to the U.S. Government: “Back in 1966 I worked for the Government and retired that year. My conscience hurts! Because I stole Government property: two metal panel office dividers with plastic upper portion. I ask your forgiveness and say I am extremely sorry for this rotten act. Enclosed $50 bill to cover cost. (This material was second hand.) May God and you forgive me.”

He’s not alone in his guilt.  The U.S. government began collecting and storing these letters in 1811 and have since seen literally tons of them.  Since that time $6,500,000 has been deposited in what is called the Conscience Fund.

One donor’s conscience was apparently not fully developed. He wrote: “Dear Internal Revenue Service, I have not been able to sleep at night because I cheated on last year’s income tax. Enclosed find a cashier’s check for $1,000. If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send you the balance.”

The weight of guilt and fear of being found out is real.  The disciples felt it. Denying Jesus. Deserting Jesus. The fear they felt sent them into hiding like their ancestors Adam and Eve.

It’s no wonder then that when the women bumped into the angel at the tomb the first word they heard from him was, “Do not be afraid.”  That’s the typical saying from angels.  Angels weren’t the sweet little cherub faced beings you see on greeting cards.  Something about them struck fear in the people they encountered.  This one appeared after an earthquake and his presence made the women quake.

They were afraid.  He calmed them a bit with his news of Jesus’ resurrection and then gives them a task.  “Go, quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee.  There you will see him.’”

Jesus gives his followers then and now a prescription for fear. They were afraid of the authorities. They were afraid of the future. They were afraid of their failures. They had not kept promises made.

You and I have done the same.  In my years of working with people, I’ve seen plenty: Failure to keep promises made to God. Failure to get along with others. Failure to live with integrity. Failure to control your tongue or turn the other cheek. Failure to finish what you started. Those are just my failures that have caused fear. And whatever yours are, the words of Jesus can help.

First, believe Jesus. When he says you do not have to be afraid, don’t be afraid. The disciple John understood that fear has to do with punishment so he wrote, “perfect love casts out fear.” He had known that perfect love. You can too. Believe Jesus.

Then see Jesus. “…there you will see me.” Fear frustrates our focus. It keeps our eyes on the issue and not on Jesus. Refocus. When you face fear, face Jesus.

You may be thinking, “So where will I see Jesus?” He tells us the answer: in Galilee. He tells the disciples then to go to Galilee, back to the place of their daily lives. He doesn’t send them back to a mountaintop but back into the middle of the mundane.

And that’s where he sends us too. When you see Jesus in your familiar moments you will see him in your fearful moments.

So don’t be afraid. Believe Jesus. See Jesus. And get on with the business of living.

Question: What fear(s) are you facing today?