Go Somewhere That Breaks Your Heart

In Giving, We're The Ones Who Receive

Go somewhere that breaks your heart at least once a year.

— Andrew Scott, CEO of Overseas Missionary Fellowship (USA)

Just yesterday, I returned from a place that breaks my heart.  In fact, that’s partly why I went.

Crowded homes with metal roofs and beautiful mountains off in the distance.

I’m not sure about you, but every day my heart gets crusty.  Indifferent towards God, the people around me, and their physical and spiritual condition.

Can you identify?

Do you ever ‘know’ that Jesus left heaven and died a brutal death on your behalf… and yet feel unmoved toward your neighbor?

I wrestle with that kind of dullness in my heart every day.

The bigger question is, ‘What can we do about it?’  Just hearing more facts and figures about how badly other people have it isn’t enough.

We need to go and experience it ourselves.  Today, I want to challenge you to go somewhere that will break your heart.

Entering Another World

As we walked across the main road near our medical clinic, we entered another world.

Our friend and host began to tell us what life is like.

‘People who live here don’t have running water’, he said.  ‘They try to store up water during the rainy season, but it’s not enough for the other 4-5 months.  So they have to buy it from the water trucks, often at prices they can’t really afford.’

Toilets are holes in the ground, and new ones need to be dug every few years.

People who become sick have very limited access to quality healthcare.

Gangs fight for territory and young men.  Kidnappings and murders are not uncommon. Buses that travel major routes must pay extortion money.

The country is still recovering from a brutal civil war that has left deep scars. One pastor watched his parents get shot as he peered through an outhouse door, covered waist high in human waste.

I can’t even begin to say I understand.  I – and everyone on our team – cried more that week than we have in a loooong time.

God’s Heart Breaks, Too

And that’s precisely why God had us there.

Yes, we were there to provide important healthcare services.  And to assist our national partners in sharing the hope that Christ provides.

But God also fought for our hearts, chiseling away at the stony plaque that can accumulate when we live without obvious need.  He wants us to look more like him.

And his heart is torn in two when people he created live without justice and basic necessities.

  • ‘Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy, Now I will arise,’ says the LORD.  (Psalm 12:5)
  • For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.  (Psalm 72:12-13)
  • [Jesus] said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.’  (Luke 6:20, 21)
  • If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:17)

And these are just a few examples.  Although injustice and poverty are everywhere, this is not the way it’s supposed to be!

God cares, and he is honored when we care, too.

Grieving For Our Own Culture

So far, most of what of what I’ve shared might be pretty obvious.  What you were expecting.

But seeing – and caring about – the brokenness of the culture we visit is only half the equation.

Because when we return, we come to see the deep deficiencies of our own culture, too.

Truth is, the country we visited is an absolutely beautiful place.  Not only in its lush array of fruits, birds and plants we don’t have here.  But also (mainly) because of its people.

They know they have physical and spiritual needs.  They can’t hide them, so they don’t really try to.  Relationships matter way more than stuff.  We were welcomed warmly – without exception – by everyone we met.

And our partners gave me gifts as a token of their love and hope of future partnership.

At least where I live, all these beautiful gifts are in seriously short supply.  Going somewhere they are common has opened my eyes, and now I’m in mourning for my own culture and heart, too.

And yet, not without hope.  God is equally at work there, and here, where I live.  And wherever you live, too.  His aim is ‘to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of [Christ’s] name among all the nations’ (Romans 1:5).

Three Ways To Go Somewhere That Breaks Your Heart

It’s time to begin our final descent.  Here are three ways to get your own heart broken.

1 – Take a trip somewhere in the developing world.  While it’s not about us, and we should only go somewhere we’re wanted, if we go with the right heart we are transformed.

2 – Visit a place of need near you.  You don’t need to raise money or jump on a plane to have your heart broken.  Places of need exist all around us right where we live.  For example, some friends run Miriam Medical Center in one of Philadelphia’s most underserved communities where some residents don’t even have running water.

3 – Find a ministry that deals with brokenness different than your own. Then pray, get involved, and support it.  Even if you’re not able to do #1 or #2, anyone with internet access can do this.  Ministries like Compassion, Christ Community Health Fellowship and countless others reflect God’s heart for those in need of practical help.

It takes a little effort and sacrifice, but when we go somewhere that breaks our heart, we always receive more than we give.

Questions for reflection:

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how much does your heart grieve/care about those in need (of any kind)?  For your own neediness?
  2. Consider following the pray, plan and go model.  Pray for God to change your heart and show you where to go; do some research and make a specific plan; then go, ideally with others.

 

Masturbation: Ask Deeper Questions, Receive Better Help

(Hint: Don't Start With, 'Is It Right Or Wrong?')

This blog is about to get more real.  Today we’re going to talk about…

[cue dramatic music] … masturbation.

kitten and puppy stare at each other

I know it’s off-topic, but instead of changing tabs you can pretend you were watching another cute pet video.

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5 Ways To Deal With Difficult People

Are you in a difficult relationship?

Actually, the real question is not, ‘Are you in one?’, but rather, ‘How many are you in?’

And, ‘In how many are you the difficult party?’  But I digress…

The truth is, whether it’s a boss, spouse, one of our kids, or an annoying neighbor, difficult relationships will always be part of our everyday lives.  So, we better learn how to deal with them.

Let’s look at 2 Timothy 2:24-26 for some practical, biblical guidance for how to navigate those relationships we’d rather not be in.  (Hat tip to counselor Jeff Stark for sharing this framework with me. If you live near Philly or Wilmington (DE) and need a solid biblical counselor, he’s a great place to start.)

oscar grouch photo

No doubt this is someone you know (and/or you).  Photo by al.star

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Don’t Miss Your Life By Looking For Life Up Ahead

5 Ways We Can Find Joy Right Now, No Matter What

Tired and bleary-eyed, I stared at the in-flight monitor and sank down into my seat.  This was going to be a loooong trip.

Seventeen hours, to be exact.  I felt my inner five-year-old urging me to ask the flight attendant (in a whiny voice), ‘Are we there yet?’  

In my desire to land in Israel and begin what promised to be a phenomenal vacation with my wife, I was missing the small joys in the journey of getting there.  The thought of life without wifi and being surrounded by passengers who (apparently) didn’t believe in showering had me in ‘just get through it’ mode.  (I know, first-world problems.)

While we’ve all probably had flights like this, I’m not really talking about literal travel.  I’m talking about how we travel through life day-by-day.  

So often, we fixate on whatever we don’t like and begin to look beyond it to the next thing.  When life will (supposedly) be better.  But if we’re really honest, ‘better’ never comes.

How can we break free from the lie that real life lies up ahead so that we can live with joy and contentment now?  

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8 Reasons Your Devotional Times Are Boring & Inconsistent

Every morning, I had the best of intentions.  Today would be the day I had a mind-blowing, distraction-free devotional time.  But – every morning – something always seemed to get me off track.  And, if I was really honest, many times I didn’t want to read my bible or pray all that much.  Something had to change.

Can you identify?  If your times with God are boring, inconsistent, or both, it may because of one of these 8 reasons.  The good news is that, in uncovering the bad news lies the beginning of hope.

 

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Are You Friendly Distant?

How We Keep People At Arm's Length With A Smile (And How To Overcome It)

On a warm autumn day, for five minutes or so, we talked about our lives.  Our jobs, our kids, our weekends, and (of course) the football game later that day.  It was enjoyable, and we sped off with a smile and quick goodbye.

As I drove home, though, I felt a strange dis-ease about our interaction.  It was friendly and nice.  There was no tension.  And there was some back-and-forth.  It’s not like my friend talked my ear off.

But, our time together still felt empty.  We had held each other at arm’s length with a smile.

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7 Secrets To A Lust-Free Summer

Before we know it, summer will be here.   I can already picture long weekends down the shore, the scent of freshly-cut lawns, the sounds of the ice cream truck, and… a bunch of stuff I’d rather not see.

Like women who are dressing to get attention.  Babushkas get traded for bikinis, and that’s a temptation for most of us men.

We want to honor God and the women around us, but that doesn’t just happen all by itself.  It takes some effort and intentionality.

In this post, I want to convince you that it’s worth the effort and then give you 7 specific strategies for success.

Lust: What’s The Big Deal?

Some of my secular readers, and even some Christians, may be thinking, ‘Seriously, what’s the big deal?  There’s no harm in just looking.  Or not much, anyway’.

Is that really true, though?

Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’  But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart”.

Jesus isn’t naive.  He understands that it’s worse to actually sleep with someone than to look at them with lust.  His point is that wrongful desire, which we can’t see, is ultimately behind our sexual sin, which we can.

Lust & Your Favorite Dessert

Author Paul Tripp illustrates this by using an everyday example we’re all (waaay too) familiar with.  Dessert.   Let’s say we’ve just finished dinner and we’re stuffed.  We know we shouldn’t eat that strawberry shortcake staring at us from the middle of the table.  But, truth is, we really, really want it.  The obvious truth is that we don’t want to just look at the cake.  We want to eat it.

It seems crazy to say it, but lust works the same way.  Lust doesn’t just want more lust.  It wants the actual experience.  (See David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11).  That’s why Jesus says what we do with our hearts and eyes is a big deal.

As we rapidly head toward summer and the temptations it presents, we need to be convinced sexual purity is critical if we’re going to stay safe and love the people around us.

Are you convinced?  Really?

7 Secrets For A Lust-Free Summer

If you are convinced, what can you do about it?

  1. Attack it at the root.  Since all our actions can be traced back to the hidden, but real, dynamics of our hearts, this is where the real battle occurs.  Biblical counselor John Bettler has a great, short article where he lays out the ‘pyramid of lust’.  I can’t unpack it all here, but read the article and pray through it.  The basic idea is that underneath obvious sexual sin at the top of the pyramid lies less obvious relational and ‘life’ lusts that drive it.  For example, someone’s struggle with pornography may really be about an easy escape from his loneliness.  Dealing with that is the key to long-term transformation.
  2. Build community.  This should include some loving accountability, but goes way beyond it.  We need to develop healthy, give-and-take relationships where using and objectifying people become less and less natural.
  3. Be where God has placed you.  The story of David’s downfall with Bathsheba begins with this interesting observation: ‘In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war… David stayed behind in Jerusalem’ (2 Samuel 11:1).  That set the stage for him to see Bathsheba and everything unraveled from there.  Sometimes what God is calling us to do is hard, but doing it insulates us from other, far worse things.
  4. Memorize relevant Scripture.  As a starting point, check out this list of 25 verses. Extra credit: find passages that force you to think a little, like 1 Timothy 6:6-10.  This passage is actually about money, but can easily apply to other challenges like sexual sin.  So you have to engage with it (and God) instead of just robotically memorizing it.
  5. Use the Joseph strategy.  When Potiphar’s wife tried to take Joseph to bed (Genesis 39), he didn’t stand there and have an extended discussion with her.  He ran away.  If certain situations are a temptation for you, why not just avoid them as much as you can?
  6. Be careful what you watch and consume.  We know that our bodies will pretty much reflect what we eat, right?  It’s the same with our eyes and hearts.  Are you discerning about what you watch on TV and Netflix?  The stuff you look at online?  If you need to make changes here and have been putting it off, make a commitment to do it. Today.  And tell someone else so that you actually follow through.  Covenant Eyes, Net Nanny, and OpenDNS (whole-house filter) are some good starting points.
  7. Be thankful for your spouse or boy/girlfriend.  If God has blessed you with a wonderful boy/girlfriend or spouse, thinking about them is one of the best ways to honor God – and them! – that I can think of.  My wife Sharon is awesome.  She’s beautiful, funny, a devoted mom, is all-in with our ministry and loves God more than me.  When I think about her, stuff that could be tempting loses its power. Even if you’re in a relationship that isn’t great, though, focusing on what is great about it will only help you.

Obviously, this isn’t a magic formula or quick fix.  But our efforts in this direction really add up and it’s worth it.

Summer is just around the corner and we need to be prepared.  Although our culture doesn’t think that keeping our minds and eyes pure is a big deal, God says it is.  With a little consistent effort this is a fight we can win.

Questions For Reflection:

  1. Which of the suggestions above would help you the most as you prepare for purity this summer?
  2. How can you specifically start to apply it?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Hope For When Your Heart Is Shutting Down

Our hearts are always shutting down.

It can begin with a defining moment where someone says something you can’t forget.  Or maybe it’s been many small disappointments with someone who failed you.  Again.

Either way, it’s so natural to hold people (including God) who disappoint us at arm’s length.  It feels safe and hurts less, but ultimately has disastrous consequences in our lives.

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Easter, God’s Invitation To Hope Again In Life’s Hard Places

As we look toward Easter and the hope of the resurrection, it’s hard not to think about the things in our lives that need transformation, isn’t it?

Strained relationships with family and friends.  Flabby, aging bodies.  Exams and assignments that don’t seem very relevant to the careers they’re supposedly preparing us for.  Your annoying next-door-neighbor or roommate.  Unjust deeds that go unnoticed or unpunished.  And… yeah.

Is there any place in our lives that doesn’t need the hope that Christ brings?

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Seeing God For Who He Really Is

The day wasn’t going well.

We had just learned that my autistic son Matthew’s therapy costs were going to be about a third of my salary.  And, that the insurance company wasn’t going to cover a dime.

As the day wore on, I found myself getting angrier and angrier at God.  ‘God he needs this therapy to make progress, but there’s absolutely NO WAY we can cover it. Wasn’t it enough that you gave us a son with autism?  What are you going to do about it?!’

I wasn’t really asking.  I had been deeply shaken by Matthew’s diagnosis, and this latest bad news seemed to further confirm God’s lack of concern and ability to help.

Can you relate to my microscopic faith and small view of God?  Do you ever feel like you ‘know’ the right answers but wonder if they really mean anything in your real, everyday life?

After 25 years of being in Christ, I’m convinced that our biggest problem is that we really don’t think much of God.  We believe a lot of true things about him, but in practice our confidence in him is pretty low.

I don’t want to live like that, and I know you guys don’t, either.  How can we develop a massive view of God that matches who he really is?

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