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You’ve heard it and probably said it: 

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”–Mom

Of criticism, a leader friend of mine suggests, “Just don’t take ’em on.” Wow, what colors are the flowers in his world?

Maybe I’m just a weak leader, but I’ve heard criticisms that have really hurt me…to to core; way past my bones.

Words that wake me at night.

Words that steal my appetite.

Words that bloody my nose.

Words that take my lunch money, trip me to the ground, kick me where the sun don’t shine, and disappear into the shadows before I even knew what hit me.

Words that break my heart.

Words that feed life-giving morsels to the insecurities slithering from out of the dark corners of my soul.

Are you a critical person?

If so, as one who is criticized professionally–and who is also capable of criticizing others quite proficiently–let’s consider the following.

(These thoughts are a compilation of my ideas and an article in the Discipleship Journal by Todd Catteau.)

 Issues to consider before we criticize:

What are our motives for criticizing?

In Mark 14:3-9 we see the disciples being critical of Mary’s gift, but in John 12:4 we discover that Judas was leading the criticism.  Why would we question Judas’ motives?

When we criticize we should ask ourselves the following questions:

a)     Am I being critical because of personal preferences?

b)     Am I being critical because of a time this person has hurt me in the past?

 

Will criticizing this person be worth it?

James 1:19; 3:1-12—Our tongues can cause a lot of trouble for us if we’re not careful.

 

Is my condemnation based on truth or personal preferences?

Romans 14:4,10,12-13—Paul warns the Roman Christians against judging other believers harshly in debatable matters.

 

Is this person really doing something wrong?

I Corinthians 12:4-6;18-21;24-25—We are different parts of the same body and we have different talents to use to get the same job done.

John Wesley was a colorful religious reformer, and he was also a mod dresser for his day and times. On one occasion he was preaching and he had on a bow tie with long streamers. There was a dear saint in the audience who didn’t like the bow tie and felt offended by it. She didn’t hear a word he said in his sermon. After the service she went up to him and said, “Brother Wesley, would you permit a word of criticism. Your bow tie is entirely too long, and it is an evidence of worldliness to me.” In response Wesley said, “Does anybody here have a pair of scissors?” Someone found a pair of scissors and gave them to him. He turned to the critical woman and said, “Why don’t you cut it off to suit yourself?” And she did. She snipped off a couple of inches on both ends of his tie. “That’s much better she said.” Then Wesley said, “Thank you, Ma’am. Now would you hand me that pair of scissors. Would you stick out your tongue? It’s entirely too long and an evidence of worldliness to me. I want to cut it down to size.”

 

Is my criticism dealing with a “sin” issue that could hurt the body of Christ?

I Corinthians 5:12,13—We have a right to be critical of someone in the body of Christ.

 

Is my criticism based on accurate information?

Rumors and assumptions are not the proper foundation on which to build a criticism.

 

Am I being Christ-like in my criticism?

Mt. 5:38-42—Jesus would “turn the other cheek” and “go the extra mile” when dealing with people.

I heard about a woman who went into a hardware store. She criticized every item on the shelf. Finally she came to some new brooms, and she said, “These brooms will never hold up. They are poorly designed. They are poorly constructed. The materials are shoddy, the handle is rough. I don’t know what possible purpose these brooms could serve.” And the clerk said, “Why don’t you take one and ride it home and see.”

Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots. –Frank A. Clark

Now, let’s look at what we need to consider as we are being criticized.

 Issues to consider as we are being criticized:

Don’t assume that you are wrong.

Even Jesus offended people, so we must be careful not to let an overly critical person control, or limit the way we serve Jesus.

Henry Ward Beecher, the famous New England minister, entered his pulpit one Sunday morning. Awaiting him was an unmarked envelope. Opening it, he found a single sheet of paper on which was written the single word, “FOOL.” After chuckling to himself, he held the paper up to the congregation and said, “I have known many an instance of a man writing letters and forgetting to sign his name. But this is the only instance I’ve ever known of a man signing his name and forgetting to write his letter.

Don’t assume that you are right.

In Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” comic strip, Linus asks Lucy, “Why are you always so anxious to criticize me?” She answers, “I just think I have a knack for seeing other people’s faults.” “What about your own faults?” asks Linus. Her response is, “I have a knack for overlooking them.”

Look to God’s Word for objective truth about whether, or not, you are right or wrong.

Often, in criticism from people it is difficult to find healing after the hurt.

“Expecting the precise scalpel of correction, we can get the blunt axe of criticism.” — Larry W. Osborne

II Timothy 3:16,17—God’s Word can equip us when we apply it to our lives.

Let me close with some random thoughts and a couple of quotes.

Don’t mind criticism. If it is untrue–disregard it; if it is unfair–don’t let it irritate you; if it is ignorant–smile; if it is justified–learn from it.

“The only way I know to avoid criticism is to say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.”–Aristotle

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where he doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is not effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumphs of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. — Theodore Roosevelt

 ©2014 Arron Chambers

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My friend Tammy sent me this note recently about a conversation she had with her son on the way to school:

It was career day today at Ola Elementary and I was having a conversation with Maddox on the way to school about what he wants to be when he grows up. Suggestions from mom fireman, doctor, policeman, etc. Excited about all the possibilities. When I suggested a preacher he just looked at me funny and said … “no way, they get beaten up and eaten by monsters and they are not even real mama….” I think he’s confusing preachers with creatures.

I literally laughed out loud when I read this, but then I stopped laughing as it dawned on me how accurate sweet little Maddox’s description was of the reality of being a creature…I mean a preacher.

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And, then I thought…sweet little Maddox has given us a great template for how you can pray for your creature…I mean preacher.

Protection…because preachers do get beaten up.

Pray that your preacher is protected when the enemy tries to knock him out with:

Criticism

Gossip

Discouragement

Angry Emails

Division

Fatigue

Sin

Needy People

Sexual Temptation

Busyness

Pride

Depression

Low Attendance Numbers

Low Offerings

Family Struggles

Strength…because preachers are sometimes almost eaten by monsters.

As you pray for your preacher, pray that God will strengthen him in the following areas:

Prayer

Devotion to God

Relationship with Jesus

Reading of the Word

Leading of the Holy Spirit

Courage

Faith

Integrity

Physical Health

Marriage

Work Ethic

Gym 🙂

Authenticity…because the best preachers I know are real.

Pray that your preacher resists the temptation to become inauthentic in the following areas:

Preaching

Lifestyle

Marriage and Family Life

Business

Interpersonal Relationships

Accountability with Other Christian Men

Social Media

As you pray for your creature…I mean preacher, may I ask you to also say a prayer for my friend’s son, Maddox.

Pray that, if God calls him, Maddox will have the courage to respond, “Yes way!” And, if he is called into ministry, pray that he knows a life of ministry where he feels God’s protection and strength as he serves the Lord authentically.


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Today our team discussed change and how we deal with it. It was a good discussion. I hope it blesses you as you lead through change.

Click Here: Leading Through Change

I delivered this message last Sunday. I’m posting it in full because so many have asked me to post about our work with flood relief in our community and this message contains a lot of that information. Plus, I thought this message might be helpful to other preachers leading other congregations through the midst of a disaster.

—-

It’s often our first word.

“No!”

Often, it’s good to say “no.”

When your 1-yr.-old is about to put something in the wall outlet. “No.”

When a stranger offers you candy. “No.”

When someone offers you the answers for the test ahead of time. “No.”

When offered drugs. Just say, “No.”

When you start to think to yourself, “I think it’s time to grow my mullet out again.” “No.”

When someone says, “My buddy can do that. He does tattoos in his basement.” “No.”

When someone asks you if you want one of the litter of their kittens. “No.”

When your child asks, “I found this on the ground, can I eat it?” “No.”

There are also times when saying “Yes” can change everything.

Did you study for that exam?

Did you pass your driving test?

When the right person asks you, “Will you marry me?”

When your husband asks, “Are you pregnant?”  (btw…never ask this question recklessly!)

When someone asks, “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”

Are you going to church tomorrow?

When God calls you to do anything.

I was talking with Dan England from the Greeley Tribune on Thursday and he asked me what we did to get our relief efforts started. I told him, “We just said ‘Yes’ to God.”

We saw a need in our community, heard God calling us to help, and said, “Yes, we’re on it.”

God showed up and we ended up helping thousands of flood survivors in the past week.

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Some of the supplies we've been handing out each day since the flood

Some of the supplies we’ve been handing out each day since the flood

Some of the shoes in the "Shoe Room"

Some of the shoes in the “Shoe Room”

Our clothing distribution center, through which Trista Estrin and her team clothed 1000s of people

Our clothing distribution center, through which Trista Estrin and her team clothed 1000s of people

What happened?

God called, during a time of need, and you guys said, “Yes!”

We want to be a relevant blessing during each stage of this crisis, so when we were contacted by Samaritan’s Purse to help with the cleanup phase of this crisis, we said, “Yes!”

Members of Journey preparing to serve with Samaritan's Purse

Members of Journey preparing to serve with Samaritan’s Purse

They will be using Journey as a home base for the next couple of months.

But, this is not how this all started.

We could not have been in a position to help this community if the original core group of Greeley residents hadn’t said “yes” to God when they were called to plant a church in Greeley.

We could not have been in a position to help this community if Rocky Mountain Christian Church hadn’t said “yes” to God when they gave us $100,000 to start Journey.

We could not have been in a position to help this community if you had not been willing to say “yes” to God when he gave us the opportunity to take a Leap of faith into this new building.

My friend, Mark Tyre, and I loved to sing gospel music together. Every once in a while, he’d yell from his office, “Brother Chambers, do you have a ‘yes’ in your spirit?” And, I’d yell back, “Yes, Brother Tyre, I have a ‘yes’ in me spirit?”

Journey, do you have a “yes” in your spirit?

When God calls you, do you typically say, “Yes” or “No”?

You have a choice.

God offered Adam & Eve a life in spectacular garden and, with a “no” in their spirit, they ate that fruit.

God called Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage, but with a “no” in his spirit, he responded,

Exodus 4:13

“Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”

God called Gideon to stand up against the Midianites but, with a “no” in his spirit he responded,

Judges 6:15

“Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”

God called Jonah to share the gospel with the people of Nineveh but, with a “no” in his spirit he responded in the following manner,

Jonah 1:3

Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

God called Jeremiah to be a prophet during a difficult time but, with a “no” in his spirit he responded,

Jeremiah 1:6

“Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” 

Jesus called a rich young man to leave everything and follow him but, with a “no” in his spirit, he walked away sad.

Do you have a “yes” in your spirit?

Let’s take a moment and look at what happened when Isaiah was called by God to take a leap of faith.

Isaiah was probably a young man when God called him and gave him a chance to change the world.

Isaiah 6:1-8

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

Isaiah was a prophet of Southern Kingdom—Judah. For 150 years prior to Isaiah’s time the Assyrian empire had been expanding and  absorbing other nations.  Tiglath-Pilesar came to the Assyrian Throne in 745 B.C. and continued to expand the Assyrian empire threatening surrounding countries–6 years later 739 B.C.

Isaiah was being called to minister in an apparently hopeless situation.  The people of Judah were deep in sin and their hearts were going to be hardened to his message.

They would get deeper and deeper in sin.  The nation of Judah was going to be attacked by Assyria 200,00 captives would be taken into captivity, 46 walled cities would be destroyed, and only a  remnant would survive.  And that remnant would be persecuted.

Isaiah would endure lifelong Assyrian threats,see his nation ruined, and see his kings ignore his warnings and be defeated.  Yet he still says, “Here am I, send me!” and ends up changing his world.

We can talk about how we’re going to change the world for Christ, or we can be like Isaiah and get out there, say “yes” to God, and start changing it.

Why did Isaiah say “yes” to God?

He saw the Power of God.

Isaiah has a vision of the Lord on a throne, with a robe and a train that filled the temple, he sees Seraphs (lit. “burning ones”) which had 6 wings.  2 covering their faces, 2 covering their feet, and 2 used for flying. The sound of their voices shook the temple.  The temple was filled with smoke.

He was humbled!  God is powerful, God is amazing, God is Holy.

God is getting Isaiah’s attention, so that he’ll do what God wants him to do.

We saw the power of God in the flood and we saw the power of God in the response of God’s people in this community.

He saw the Purity of God.

Isaiah, humbled by the glory of the Lord, cries out, “Woe to me. I am ruined. (lit. destroyed)

I’m not the same person I was two weeks ago. That “Arron” has been “destroyed” by this experience and recreated as a more effective servant of God for this church and our community.

In the past week, we’ve seen the best and worst in people.

The worst:

Looting.

People lying to our volunteers about being flood victims.

Unfair criticism of our clothing effort on the internet.

Someone stealing the shoes of one of the young men who was volunteering here.

The best:

People coming together and giving of themselves and their resources generously.

People like Bud Barber.

This is a picture of one of our members, Bud Barber.

Bud is sitting with a flood survivor. He sat with her for about three hours.

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I put this picture on Facebook with the following comments:

Bud Barber ministering to a flood victim. He sat with her for several hours. This is one of my favorite moments of the relief effort, so far.

And Bud posted this response:

Arron thank you so much for the kind words but there are so many that have given so much more of their time to helping sort, distribute and assist those in need.

To which I responded:

Bud, I love your heart & hear what you’re saying. Still, you’re the one in the chair.

Bud was in that chair because he has come into contact with the purity and greatness of God.

A piece of paper is worth: 5 cents.

Unless it was signed by William Shakespeare.  In that case it’s worth about $3,000,000. There are only 6 confirmed signatures in existence.

A piece of ordinary paper becomes valuable because it comes into contact with greatness.

We are valuable because we have come into contact with God.

Isaiah saw the Purpose of God.

Isaiah was so compelled by the glory of God that he couldn’t help but say, “Here am I , send me!”  He was willing to be used.

This week, I was amazed by all the people who said “Yes” to God and served our community.

But, we’re just getting started.  We are now hosting Samaritan’s Purse for the next phase of this crisis.

Journey, we are going to be relevant at each stage of this crisis.

We need to get motivated–time is wasting.

Every day, we have a chance to change the world.

In Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft, Thor Heyerdahl tells how he and a crew of 5 crossed the Pacific from South America to the South Pacific Islands on a crude raft of balsa wood and hemp rope.  During the 3 months journey in 1947 they had little control of the raft and no way to stop it’s forward progress.  If anything fell overboard it was almost impossible to recover.  2 months into the voyage, Herman Watzinger, lost his footing and fell overboard.  The 5 men were horrified as they watch Herman disappear behind them.  Knute Haugland grabbed the lifebelt and dove into the water.  He swam to Herman and tied the rope around them.  They were pulled back into the raft.  Changing the world sometimes requires that someone risks and takes the gospel to those who are lost.

We are partnering with Samaritan’s Purse to take the gospel through the mud, rubble, and sewage and hopefully into the hearts of people who are hurting and lost.

We need to get going–  We can start praying, preparing, and giving so that others can keep serving.

No more excuses!

No more saying “no” to God.

Joyce Hollyday tells the story of a school teacher who was assigned to visit children in a large city hospital who received a routine call requesting that she visit a particular child.

The teacher took the boy’s name and room number, and was told by the teacher on the other end of the line, “We’re studying nouns and adverbs in this class now. I’d be grateful if you could help him with his homework, so he doesn’t fall behind the others.” It wasn’t until the visiting teacher got outside the boy’s room that she realized that it was located in the hospital’s burn unit.

No one had prepared her to find a young boy horribly burned and in great pain. The teacher felt that she couldn’t just turn around and walk out. And so she stammered awkwardly, “I’m the hospital teacher, and your teacher sent me to help you with nouns and adverbs.” This boy was in so much pain that he barely responded. The young teacher stumbled through his English lesson, ashamed at putting him through such a senseless exercise. The next morning a nurse on the burn unit asked her, “What did you do to that boy?” Before the teacher could finish her outburst of apologies, the nurse interrupted her: “You don’t understand. We’ve been very worried about him. But ever since you were here yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He’s fighting back; he’s responding to treatment. It’s as if he has decided to live.”

The boy later explained that he had completely given up hope until he saw the teacher. It all changed when he came to a simple realization. With joyful tears, the boy said: “They wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a boy who was dying, would they?”

That boy got a “yes” in his spirit.

There are people in our community who are scared, lonely, and confused right now. In a meeting with the area Pastors and City officials, I heard about many poor people in our community who feel forgotten.

I hear God calling us to go and serve them and give them hope.

I’m going to say “Yes”. What about you?

Do you have a “yes” in your spirit?

I haven’t posted here for a while because I’m finishing a book that is due to the publisher by October 1st.

That being said, I “came up for air” last week to record a podcast with my team on Worship. We deal with the issue of Worship as Performance.

It was a lively discussion. I’d be interested in your thoughts. Just post them below.

Journey Roundtable Podcast–Worship: Is Performance Bad?

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Just let me start by saying, that I have women who I know who are battling and who have survived breast cancer.  This is breast cancer awareness month, so we’re going to see a lot of pink during the NFL games, on Facebook, and elsewhere.

NFL players and personnel are instructed to wear pink to raise awareness for the importance of women getting screened for breast cancer.

This post, in no way, is written to take away from the importance of raising the awareness of breast cancer and the importance of early detection.

That being said, October is also Pastor Appreciation Month and this Sunday (October 14th) is Pastor Appreciation Sunday.

Last year, in a staff meeting–and in light of all of the pink we see during October each year–our Worship Minister, Matt Estrin, suggested that there should be a color to raise awareness about the importance of appreciating Pastors.

After much discussion and prayer, we landed on blue.

Blue is the official color that you and others in your congregation can wear to show your Pastor how much you appreciate him and to raise awareness of the importance of appreciating Pastors.

So, if you love and appreciate your Pastor…

1) Wear blue to church next Sunday and every Sunday this month.

2) Take a picture of yourself in blue and send it to your Pastor (and me at my Facebook page and we’ll start a website to honor pastors).

3) Buy your Pastor a blue article of clothing.

4) Change the color of your email font to blue for the month of October.

5) Buy him a blue car.

6) Paint your house blue for the month of October.

7) If you live in the Northeast and are thus socially liberal, take him out for a glass of Blue Moon beer.  If you live in the South, you can also raise awareness by praying for all of your wayward Northeastern brethren who are buying their Pastors glasses of Blue Moon beer.

8) Watch an episode of Blue’s Clues with your kids and, at the end, simply say, “I’m so grateful for Pastor _________.”

9) Listen to blues music on your iPod as a reminder of how happy you are to have the Pastor you have.

10) Distribute blue rubber wristbands to the congregation with the initials “WWTPD” (What Would The Pastor Do?) inscribed on them.

11) Buy your Pastor a gift card to his favorite coffee place: The BLUE Mug (this applies only if your Pastor happens to live in Greeley, CO.)

Since this will soon be a nationwide movement, I’d like to invite you to “join the party” and leave some ideas you have for how we can–using the color blue–raise awareness for the importance of appreciating our Pastors.  Please leave your ideas in the comments section so we can all be blessed and be a blessing to our Pastors.

And remember: When you wear blue, your Pastor hears, “I love you!”

©2012 Arron Chambers

I delivered this message at Journey Christian Church last Sunday.

My message started as a post here (What to Do When You Step in Poop), but grew into an entire message.

I’m sharing the entire message here with the hopes that it might be a blessing to you or to someone you know who has stepped in a pile of trial.

——

He Knows Your Name

I’ve always enjoyed sarcasm and, even though I care about people and their problems, I’ve not always enjoyed people who complain all of the time, so I was drawn to this list of sarcastic responses for when someone won’t stop whining about his/her problems.

  • I don’t know what your problem is, but I’ll bet it’s hard to pronounce.
  • It sounds like English, but I can’t understand a word you’re saying.
  • I’m already visualizing the duct tape over your mouth.
  • If I throw a stick, will you leave?
  • Can I swap this job, of listening to you complain about your problems, for what’s behind door……….1?
  • Aren’t YOU a black hole of need?
  • I’d like to help you out, which way did you come in?
  • I’m too busy. Can I ignore you some other time?
  • Have a nice day, somewhere else.
  • What am I, flypaper for whiners?
  • You want some cheese with that whine?

I want to make sure you know that I’m not whining today, but my experience over the past month has taught me some very important lessons.

I want to share one of them with you today.

On Labor Day, I was moving a box and herniated a disc in my back between the L4 and L5 vertebrae.  It was a severe herniation and I was admitted to the hospital for 4 days.

Upon my arrival at NCMC about Midnight on Labor Day, I was instructed on how I was to greet the nursing staff throughout my stay.

(btw…The nurses and doctors who treated me at NCMC were amazing. I have absolutely nothing but praise for them and for how they treated me.)

I was to give my full name, my birthday, and my level of pain.

So, by mid-morning on Tuesday, I was a pro.

My nurse walked in to do some other humiliating thing to me involving a bodily function and I greeted her with, “Arron Scott Chambers, 4/17/69, 9.”

To which she responded, “Wow! You learn quickly.”

I said, “Yes, I do and I expect some great birthday presents.  Do you want my sizes too?”

I can’t remember how many times I said that in 4 days…in fact, I was on so much pain killer I can’t remember too much of what I said during my hospital stay.

Matt Estrin, our worship minister, said he could tell I was on narcotics because I kept telling him how much I loved him.

I had a lot of time to think in that hospital bed, and at one time I actually started to think that it would really be a good thing for a church if we greeted each other like that.

“Sally Smith, 3/21/76, 1.”

“Joe Johnson, 5/30/80, 5.”

“Billy Brown, 2/1/50, 7.”

“Mary Jones, 6/4/69, 15.”

Then we’d know exactly how to interact with each other and exactly from whom we needed to run.

But, the more I thought about it, and the more I awoke out of my narcotic haze, the more I came to the decision that that would be a horrible idea.

I’ve never physically hurt like I have over the past month.

Pain has a way of bringing clarity.

When you’re suffering, it’s very easy to start defining yourself—and being defined by—your pain.

“I’m Sally Smith and I have cancer.”

“I’m Joe Johnson and I can’t find a job.”

“I’m Billy Brown and I can’t pay my bills.”

“I’m Mary Jones and my husband just left me for another woman.”

We all face trials.

Jesus promised us we would.

John 16:33

“In this world you will have trouble”

We have two large Labrador retrievers, who we love, but who also fill our yard with piles of poop we refer to as land mines.  It’s my boys’ job to pick up the poop so we don’t step in it, but we’re always stepping in it because our dogs have very healthy and productive digestive systems and we just can’t keep up.

It’s no fun to step in dog poop.  Especially, barefoot at night.

We all step in poop at some point in life, and when it happens to us, we have two basic choices:

1) We can cover ourselves in it.

Some people, upon “stepping” in a pile of trial, stop and wallow in their misfortune to the point that all you see, hear, and smell when you’re with them is tainted with the scent of the pain in which they have covered themselves.  We can either experience bad things, survive them, learn from them, and move on, or we can sit down in the crap, cry, cover ourselves in it, and spend the rest of our lives complaining that life stinks!

2) or, We can use it as fertilizer.

I think the better option, when something bad happens and we find ourselves standing in a pile of trial, is to search for ways to grow from the experience.  Poop can be powerful. Out here in the west farmers actually buy it as fertilizer for their crops.  Our trials have power, too.  Trials have the power to empower us.  God never wastes a hurt.

God inspired James to write, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your   steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4)

Yes, poop can be powerful, if we’ll only plant in it and not plant ourselves in it.

Yes, we all face trials, but we must refuse to let ourselves become the face of the trials we face.

Do you understand what I’m trying to say?

You have cancer, but you are not diseased.

You may be unemployed, but you’re not worthless.

You may be bankrupt, but you’re not broke.

You may be going through a divorce, but you’re not unlovable.

You may have stepped in pile of trial, but you are not poop!

My pain transformed me into a number at the hospital.

But we are so much more than a number.

I have experienced chronic pain for the past month and for those of you who have never experienced chronic pain, let me tell you that it is not just disabling, disorienting, and discouraging.

Now, I can hear what some of you are thinking and no….I do not want any cheese with my whine, because I’m not whining…I’m learning and now I’m teaching.

God never wastes a hurt and he is using my hurt to teach me how to be a better pastor to people who are in chronic pain.

When you are in chronic pain, the nights are the hardest.

I woke up on my second night in the hospital at 4am and demanded to be removed from my bed.

(Btw…It’s amazing how quickly 5 nurses will show up in your room when you start acting a little “unstable.”)

I was confused and discouraged and I felt like I was becoming one with that bed and I just needed to get up and get out of that bed and I wanted not to have to pee in a bottle.

Do you know that, when you’re in the hospital, they collect everything….and I mean everything that your body produces?  You start to feel not human—like you’re just a lab rat and it’s hard to feel like just a number, especially in the middle of the night.

When you are suffering, it’s always hard, no matter the time of day, but I’ve learned: the nights are the most difficult to endure.

Why? You feel so alone.  Everything has shut down; people are unconscious, yet you are still fighting pain or heartache.

That was a long night as I slept in the chair by my bed.

The next night, I woke up again in the middle of the night, but this time I decided to worship.  I pulled up Spotify on my laptop and turned up my worship playlist and I clung to the promises of God:

“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night” (Psalm 63:6).

 “Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord” (Lamentations 2:19a).

 “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,  that I may meditate on your promises” (Psalm 119:147-148).

 “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

 “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me” (Psalm 3:5)

 “He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:3-4).

 “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him” (Psalm 62:5).

 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

 That next day, God showed up in room B480.

The doctor came in and told me my options and that he could do surgery on me at 5pm the next day.  With the pain I was facing, that sounded like a good option, but we knew we needed to pray about it.

Rhonda and I prayed and God started answering our prayers through the hospital staff.

Unsolicited, the nurses kept saying things like, “I’m not sure it’s my business, but I wouldn’t have surgery just yet.”

No fewer than 4 nurses and a staff member gave us this guidance, but the “kicker” was when a member of Journey came up during a break in surgery because he felt lead to come and caution us against having surgery.

Do you know that, when you are suffering, God cares about you?

Do you know that, in the dark night of your soul, you are not alone?

Do you know that, when you are facing pain, that you are more than a number to Him?

Do you know that, when you are wondering whether or not to have surgery, that God will give you an answer if you ask?

Do you know that, when you are facing a trial, God knows your name?

Let me speak truth to you.

 Isaiah 43:1-3

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

 John 10:1-13

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,

I love this passage for many reasons, but one of the reasons is that it teaches us some important things to remember when we are facing piles of trials.

 1.    We have an enemy.

He wants to steal, kill, and destroy.

2.    We have a Shepherd.

a) A Shepherd who is good.

b) A Shepherd who loves us.

c) A Shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for us.

d) A shepherd who knows our names.

I read an interesting article in the NY Times from September 30, 2007.  (A boy named Godknows: In southern Africa, names that say a mouthful By Michael Wines–Published: Sunday, September 30, 2007)

It was about baby names in Zimbabwe.

They have a tradition of giving non-traditional names to their kids.

Across southern Africa, in fact, one can find any number of Lovemores, Tellmores, Trymores and Learnmores, along with lots of people named Justice, Honour, Trust, Gift, Energy, Knowledge and even a Zambian athlete named Jupiter.

There’s a boy named Oblivious, another named after a cowboy: Hopalong.

One of the worst is a body named “Hatred Zenega.”

How does a boy end up being named, “Hatred”?

Hatred got his name the way millions of other children here have – as a means of recording an event, a circumstance or even the weather conditions that accompanied their births.

Thirty-two years ago in western Zimbabwe, a baby boy named Tlapi was born so sick that his parents feared he would die. They took him to sangomas, or traditional healers, and to Western-style doctors, but nothing worked. It seemed that God, not man, would decide his fate.

So when he was 1 year old, Tlapi’s parents changed his name to reflect that.

His name was changed to “Godknows.”

Funny, that should be our names too!

In the last book of the Bible we get a glimpse of what it will be like for those who survive the piles of trials in this life.

 Revelation 3:5

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.

When we overcome the trials of this life…and we will overcome the trials of this life, Jesus will say our name to God because He knows our names.

When you are suffering, and you are in His presence, you don’t have to stick out your arm and say, “Arron Scott Chambers, 4/17/69, 9.”  First of all, because that’s not your name, but most importantly because that’s all information He already knows…because, we are not numbers to God.

He knows our names.

He knows your name.

©2012 Arron Chambers