The Woman With One Of The Most Important Jobs In The World

Her ancestors were slaves.

The word ancestors doesn’t seem appropriate. It wasn’t all that long ago. Her parents spent time being educated in segregated schools and drinking from segregated water fountains. Her father was called cruel, racist names by respectable pillars of the community. Once, her mother was assaulted for daring not to move off of the sidewalk when four young white boys came walking by. Her mother still has a small scar under her right eye to remind her of that day.

But those were different days. Slavery is over. Jim Crow is no more. We all drink our water from the same fountain and share the same sidewalk. After all, it is 2017.

But not for her.

No, when she goes to work, it’s 1955 all over again.

She always did well in school. Helping others was what drove her. She knew what it was like to face one roadblock after another. She saw how bitter it made some of the people who she loved. She was determined not to let that happen. She wanted to serve the weak, not keep them down. As she saw it, there was no better career path for her to take than nursing.

She dreamed of working in a busy emergency room in one of the big city hospitals. That didn’t work out. But she never gave up on nursing. She got as much education as she could. It just wasn’t enough to get her out of her small town. Eventually, she came to accept that small towns need nurses too. Sure, there’s no big hospital or busy emergency room where she lives.

But there is a nursing home.

So that’s where she went to work.

For the better part of four decades, that’s where she’s been picking patients up off of the floor, distributing medicine, cleaning out bedpans and helping folks go to the bathroom. She does it with a happy heart, even when smiling doesn’t come easy. She’s not much for talking but when she does speak, it’s never negative. The same can’t be said for her patients.

Every time she walks into room 4A, she gets greeted with a racial slur. She always responds with a smile and some comment about how this is the day that the Lord has made. She sees the irony in helping a man go to the bathroom who in his younger days wouldn’t use the same water fountain as her parents.

The lady in 1C frequently tells her in a creepy, whispery voice, “If you steal from me again I’ll have you killed and no one will care.” Of course, she never has stolen from the lady in 1C. But she has picked her up off of the floor five times in the last two months and gave the lady’s son a strong talk about coming to visit his mother more often.

3B is the hardest. She used to have nightmares about 3B. The guy in that room knew her parents. He’s the one responsible for that scar under her mother’s right eye.

She thought of recusing herself from that room, sort of like judges do when there’s some sort of conflict of interest. But then she thought better of it. She decided that instead of running away from the man responsible for her mother’s facial scar and countless other emotional scars, she would run toward him in his weakness. She remembered the passion that drove her into nursing. Instead of keeping the weak down, she would try to help them. This wasn’t what she had in mind. It is what God had in mind.

The man doesn’t know who she is. She thought about telling him once. It wouldn’t matter. He’s a shell of his former self. His memory, his strength and his family are all gone.

 

She doesn’t think that her job is all that important to the kingdom of God. If you asked her, she’d tell you that the ones with the really important jobs are the pastors and missionaries and famous Christian authors. She’s wrong. As far as the kingdom of God goes, this woman has one of the most important jobs in the world.

Every day before she walks into room 3B, she prays for strength. She asks her Lord to give her the strength to be like family to the lonely man who did so much harm to hers. She asks for God to give her the power to resist the temptation to turn a blind eye to the man’s suffering and let him get what’s coming to him. Day after day, God answers her prayers. And day after day, the light of Christ shines when a nurse walks into room 3B. By the time she walks out, she has loved her neighbor, loved her enemy and ministered to the least of these.

Just like Jesus did.

And he is pleased.

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13 (ESV)

image credit

Encouragement For A Bad Day

1210207805_280c17ecfa_b

The brother of Jesus says it best.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2-3 (ESV)

A Trump or Clinton presidency could happen. And it could mean that Christians, and a lot of other Americans for that matter, will face trials of various kinds.

More abortions.

More taxes.

More injustice.

More unconstitutional wars.

Less religious liberty.

While we should do all that we can to fight against these things, we must not lose hope, even if we lose a few of the culture battles. That’s what separates Christians from everyone else. When someone who is not a follower of Christ faces a trial, it usually results in anger, despair, apathy, self-centeredness or some combination of the four.

Not so for the Christian. James tells us to respond to trials with joy. Now that doesn’t mean that we have to laugh when President Hillary decides to give a few million dollars more to Planned Parenthood or President Trump starts a war in our streets or the doctor tells you that there is something terrible wrong with your body and he needs to operate to figure out what it is. What it does mean is that we have to remember that suffering for the Christian is a sign that Jesus is working on us.

Have you ever seen a kid who had an easy childhood? You know, the type of kid who never had to have a job, never had to take out the trash and never had a bedtime. For the most part, those kids are miserable. And when they grow up, well, they’re still kids.

Some of the happiest people I know had extremely difficult childhoods. Some of the hardest laughers I know are also the hardest workers. Resistance leads to growth. It’s true in the weight room, in the voting booth and in the hospital room. Nothing worthwhile is shaped in comfort. Completed masterpieces got the way they are through a lot of cutting, molding, burning and pressing.

You are no different.

When the TV preachers promise you a life of absolute comfort and no suffering, what they are really selling you is a life without maturity. That’s because maturity doesn’t happen without heartache and suffering.

So maybe things aren’t looking so hot for our country. Or maybe your trials of various kinds have nothing to do with presidents and more to do with your own broken body or a broken marriage or a child who just can’t seem to get it together.

Count it all joy.

Not because your suffering isn’t as bad as you think it is. James isn’t telling us to look on the bright side. What he’s telling us to do is to look to our Father. He’s telling us to look to the future.

Christian, whatever trials you are facing are evidence that God is working on you. He’s not done with you yet. He is growing you. He is making you stronger. And he will see you through to the end.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 (ESV)

image credit

How Your Church Can Avoid Persecution: Three Easy Steps

There’s been a lot of talk lately about Christians being persecuted. In our own country, followers of Christ are being sued for standing by their beliefs. In other countries, they are being thrown in prison and killed. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is a way for you  to avoid the persecution that has been so common throughout the history of Christianity.

Of the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, the church in Sardis is unique. It’s one of the few churches where persecution was not mentioned. In the six short verses devoted to Sardis, there is no mention of believers losing their homes, health or lives because of devotion to Christ. Most of the other churches are enduring trials. They are losing members to tyrannical governments bent on shutting down the church. But not Sardis. They managed to avoid the hardships that have been common for so many followers of Christ. And so can you if you just follow the Sardis example. Here’s how.

1. Look the part. 

Jesus told Sardis that they had, “the reputation of being alive” (Revelation 3:1). So focus a lot on your reputation. Build huge buildings that make people think that God is really working at your church. Use social media and mail outs to remind people of how “exciting,” “relevant” and “vibrant” you are because of your upcoming sermon series on sex or the fact that you’ll be having the county’s largest egg hunt. Your church might not really be doing all that great but so what. In a world where appearance is king, reputation always trumps reality. Always.

2. Know who to please.

Jesus told the Sardis church that their works were not complete in the sight of God (3:2). If it’s persecution that you want to avoid, you should do the same. Make sure that your works are complete in the sight of man. Bow to the same idols that everyone else in your culture bows to. In your sermons, Bible studies and doctrinal statements, say essentially the same thing that your local public school would say but sprinkle in a few Christian buzz words here and there. Just don’t go overboard. You wouldn’t want to be seen as salt in a decaying world or light in the darkness. That might offend people. And if you want to avoid persecution, you’ll do everything you can to avoid offending people. Even if it kills them. But hey, as long as it doesn’t kill you, right?

3. Stay the course.

Sure you’ve made mistakes. We all have. But keep at it. You never see politicians apologizing and changing for some action they did and look at how well it works out for them. Do the same thing. Repentance is messy. When people see you repent, they remember that you aren’t as good as you would like them to think that you are. Also, repentance tends to be contagious. If one person genuinely repents, others might do the same. And then the whole church changes into something that resembles, well, an actual church. Remember, you’re trying not to get persecuted here so you don’t want to look anything like a church. That means just say no when it comes to repentance.

Follow these three simple steps and you’re sure to navigate your way through a culture that is growing increasingly hostile to the faith that you claim to hold so dear. But, in full disclosure, you will have something worse on your hands. The Author of that faith you claim to hold so dear will be opposed to you.

“Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.” Revelation 3:3 (ESV)

Jesus is never opposed to his church (Romans 8:1). So why would he say that he will be opposed to the unrepentant members of the church in Sardis? Because it is possible to look the part and not actually be a part of the body of Christ. Those who truly belong to him will obey him. Even if it means persecution. And they will remember that the temporary opposition of men and governments is worth it all compared to eternal communion with Christ.

“Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:4-6 (ESV)

Allahu Akbar is not the worst thing that a Christian can hear just before enduring some form of persecution.

The worst thing that a professing Christian could hear is that he is no different than anyone else.

Seven Things You Can Know When You Just Don’t Know

We want answers. All of us. The most common word in my house is the word why. In childhood, kids are curious and they want to know how the world works. The why word is their way of learning. In adulthood, we get a better idea of how the world works. But we still want to know why. We want to know how God works.

God never promised to give us all of the answers or details involved in the events of our lives. He did, however, promise other things. Better things. Perhaps Joseph, more than any other person in the Bible, shows us how sinners can navigate their way through the whys of suffering without losing their faith.

Here are seven things you can know when you just don’t know.

1. Bad things will happen to you.

You could get audited. You could get sick. You probably will die. Or, like Joseph, you could get sold into slavery by your jealous brothers.

Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. Genesis 37:26-27 (ESV)

A lot of the TV preachers may look like they mean well. Maybe some of them do mean well. But they’re still lying to you when they say that loving Jesus protects you from suffering and tribulations. Joseph suffered. Jesus suffered more than anyone could ever know. And you will suffer too.

But the story doesn’t end there.

2. Your suffering does not leave you beyond the reach of God’s grace.

After being sold by his brothers and ending up in Egypt, Joseph still wasn’t too far gone. And, no matter your trials, neither are you. Your feelings and fears will tell you that God has abandoned you. The Bible paints a different picture. It tells us of a God who blesses his people, even when we’re not exactly where they’d like to be.

The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. Genesis 39:2 (ESV)

So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. Genesis 39:6 (ESV)

3. Your trial is no excuse for sin.

It’s easy to think that your suffering has earned you a sin hall pass of sorts. It hasn’t. The genuineness of our faith is most often seen when that faith is shaken. Anyone can abandon their beliefs in a storm. Only true believers will cling to the truth even when there’s nothing much else to cling to.

Bitterness may come easy. Anger may seem natural. But they are still sins. Your call to holiness doesn’t go on hiatus when you suffer.

And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her. Genesis 39:7-10 (ESV)

4. God loves you and he is with you.

Most people think that their trials are happening because they have done something to make God mad. Christian, you are not under God’s wrath. Discipline? Perhaps. Love? Definitely. But not his wrath. No matter how bad things are for you, God loves you and he is with you.

But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. Genesis 39:21 (ESV)

5. God is not done with you.

When I first started speaking to youth, I got some great advice from a Doug Fields VHS tape. He said that when you tell stories to students, keep the ones about scoring the game winning touchdown or getting voted most likely to succeed to yourself. Instead, tell about the time when you fell up the stairs at the movie theater. Most people can’t relate to your success stories. Everyone can relate to your pain.

While he was in prison, Joseph was able to glorify God in a way that no free man could.

When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.” Genesis 40:6-8 (ESV)

The pain you are experiencing now will give you spiritual street cred later on to help someone experiencing the same trials.

6. God will redeem your trial.

Joseph eventually made it out of jail and, by God’s grace, became the second highest official in the very land where he once lived as a slave and a prisoner. And God used Joseph to help countless numbers of people during a terrible famine in his land. A few of those people were Joseph’s brothers, the very ones who sold him into slavery. Joseph’s response to his brothers is a testimony of trust in God’s sovereign and loving control.

His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:18-21 (ESV)

Bitterness will keep you from seeing this. Only the heart that keeps its trust fixed on God through trials will clearly see God work those trials into good.

7. God keeps his promises.

Years before Joseph, God made a promise to Abraham to make his descendants many. For a time, it looked as though those descendants were in trouble and that God’s promise would not come true. It was more than Joseph’s wisdom or some sort of coincidence that saved God’s people. It was simply God keeping is promise.

And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Genesis 50:24 (ESV)

We typically don’t talk much about what God can’t do. There’s not much to talk about there. But one thing that he can’t do is break his promise. That was true in the Old Testament. And it’s true now.

The same God who kept his promise to Abraham is the same God who promised that he would be with you always and see you through until the end.

There is a lot that we don’t know. At no time is that more evident than when we suffer.

Just remember, our objective in life is not to know it all but to trust the One who does.