A Story Behind Every Face

God builds relationships of trust with us, and in those relationships, He heals us. He teaches how to parent our children the same way. How about if we do it with each other?

In case you don’t know the story, the Bible tells us that one day, Jesus rested by a well after walking all day. He was in Samaria, and lots of people in Jesus’s time had a pretty low opinion of Samaritans.

So when a Samaritan woman came to the well, she was surprised when Jesus asked her for a drink of water. “How is it that you’re talking to me?” she asked Him. And Jesus told her that He was going to give her living water. He said,

“Everyone who drinks this [well] water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst — not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” John 4:13–14

Think about that day. Jesus sat at the well with the Samaritan woman and told her all about her life. “You’ve had five husbands,” He said. “Now you’re living with a man you barely know. You have an issue with your self-esteem! Believe in who you are, and know that I am God.”

I can imagine what she thought. “Man, this guy has told me everything I’ve ever done, and He still loves me.”

That’s right! He loved her. He sat there with her at a well, and asked for water, and then told her, “Drink the water I give you and you’ll never thirst again.”

I think most of us hear about a woman being married five times, and we can’t help but judge. We also speculate! It’s pretty natural to do it. I mean, who has five failed marriages? There must be some kind of mess there!

But that’s not what Jesus did. He helped her. He said, “I know your pain. Five marriages adds up to five large wounds. That is causing you to live with a man whose name you don’t even really know. And he doesn’t know you. You’re just living with him. You’re trying to figure out some sort of security. And now you’ve got women talking behind your back on your way to the well, because they think you’re the town whore.

“You’ve got all these condemnations coming at you, but man, I just want to give you living water. I love you. I created you! I love everything about you.”

He looked at her and said, “I will give you living water and you will never thirst again. That’s what I will give you, because that’s what you need.” There was no judgment there. He just let her know.

What is the lesson here? Well, how should Christians help sinners? “Sinners” includes pretty much everyone, including ourselves. How should we relate? Should we box people on the ears with our Bibles?

Here’s an idea. How about loving on them? Isn’t love better than judgment?

How about trying to figure out why they are not living the way they do? Maybe, like the Samaritan woman, they are struggling with wounds of their own.

When you understand that, it will keep you from judging. When you <emtruly seek to understand the drama of a person’s life, and then love on them just as we see Jesus do, you won’t judge. You’ll figure out how to help them.

You’ll help them get that living water, the water that quenches their thirst.

The church needs to do a whole lot more of this. It’s changing, but we need to do more, because there’s always a drama unfolding. There’s a drama behind every face. Why not look at somebody and really see them? Why not ask them what’s going on? The answer will probably surprise you. It will probably reveal an opportunity to love on them and help them.

The point is to create relationships and provide help. When one of my sons is acting out, my initial impulse is to get angry with him. But I don’t. Instead I try to figure out why he is acting out. What lies behind his behavior? How does he feel? What story does he want to tell? What is hurting him? If I can fix that hurt, then the acting out stops.

That’s what Jesus did. He did it with the woman at the well. He did it with the prostitute. He did it with the woman caught in the act of adultery. He didn’t judge any of them. He even said, “I’m not going to condemn you.”

Think about that. Jesus was the only one that had the authority to condemn people, but He didn’t.

That’s why people came to Him.

When we can learn to do that, people will come to us.

Walking in the Spirit

I have a story for you.

A guy I know was speaking at a conference. He had some friends in town, and they asked him to meet with a woman they knew. This woman had been dealing with a lot of troubles. The friends thought maybe the guy could help her.

So he met her for coffee. They sat down together and he asked her, “How are you doing?” She told him directly, “You know, I’m not a believer.”

“Yes, I know that,” he said. He started to say something else, but she was very defensive and interrupted him. “I don’t even believe that Jesus existed!” she told him. And then she went on in that vein. She was trying, verbally, to push him away.

Finally he got a chance to speak. He gently said, “I just wanted to ask you what you want in your coffee.”

She was so surprised! She said, “You don’t want to try to convert me?” And he said, “No, I just want to have this cup of coffee with you.”

“Okay,” she said.

So he went to the counter and got cups of coffee for both of them. By the time he returned to the table, she had calmed down. They sat there together for a bit, quiet, just sipping. And then she said, “Why are you here?”

He looked directly into her eyes and he said, “I’m here to have a cup of coffee with you.”

“You know I’m not a Christian,” she said. “I don’t believe in Jesus. So if you know that, what could you possibly have to say to me?” And he said, “I can tell you that Jesus not only loves you, but He likes you.”

The woman started weeping. That’s all he said to her, and she released all her pain.

I can guarantee you that scenario is not in scripture. You cannot open up the Bible and find the place where it talks about how to handle a woman in a coffee shop who is angry and hurting. Sometimes, we have to ask for wisdom.

Suppose the guy had told her, “Your time is coming. Jesus is coming back and it’s going to be too late. You’re going to go to hell.” What if he had said that to her? He would have turned her off. She would have walked out of that coffee shop, and that chance to know Jesus would have been crushed.

But that’s not what he said. He didn’t react to her feelings or her words. He just let her speak, and he got her a cup of coffee. He earned enough trust that she was ready to listen to him. And when she asked, “What do you have for me,” he told her, “Jesus loves you, but He also likes you.”

It’s all he had to say.

Not everything you need to know is in the Bible. Sometimes you need to walk in the Spirit. And when you do, you will receive wisdom. He got her a cup of coffee and told her exactly what Jesus wanted her to hear. This is a promise fulfilled!

More on this next time. See you Tuesday.

Beacons of Love

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 1 John 4:20

Why do people who aren’t Christians hate us? They look at us and say, “You’re just a bunch of Bible thumpers who are homophobic and you don’t love anybody.”

Family GuyWe’ve brought that on ourselves. I don’t think we’re showing the love of Jesus. Gay people are asking for equal rights under the law, and we’ve got Christians saying “God hates you.” I get so angry because that’s not true! God loves you! Jesus walks with the gay community! I think Jesus says, “I love you just as I love someone who is not gay. I love you as a human being. I just love you.”

I had homophobia. I know what that’s like. But I was wrong to fear like that. God reached deep within my heart and changed me. Now I have gay friends and colleagues. There is no difference between us. Gay people are human beings, and I’m going to love on them just as God told me to love all human beings. God told us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Maybe if more of us did that, Christians wouldn’t be so hated everywhere we go.

Do we love our neighbors as ourselves? A buddy pointed out to me that we’ve built backyard fences, and we no longer build porches. Is it because we don’t want to love our neighbor as ourselves? Here’s what our fences say: We want to be in our own area. Don’t look at me, don’t talk to me, don’t speak to me, leave me alone.

Where are the front porches, where people come over and have lemonade, hang out and talk, enjoy each other, and just be in community? We’ve gone so far away from that.

Churches need to quit going out fifteen miles from a city, buying a big chunk of land, building a humongous church, and then telling people, “Come to us.” What is that? That doesn’t make sense! The Church needs to go to where the people are, and then love on them.  We need to be with people wherever they are and wherever they hurt, because that’s where Jesus is.

Jesus said, “You call me a drunk and a glutton because I hang with sinners. I hang in the bars, I hang in the slums, and I eat with people that aren’t your people.” He told the religious leaders, “You guys think you’re so great. I don’t even want to hang out with you. I’d rather hang out with sinners.” Sinners loved Jesus! But do sinners love Christians?

As Christians and as a Church, we have to change. We have got to start loving our neighbors. We have got to start setting the captives free. We have got to start feeding the poor. We have got to start loving. We need to be helping and providing. We should be the leaders in our communities for the simple reason that we just straight-out, flat-out love our neighbors.

Just think: we could be beacons of love.

Let’s Do Something!

Last time I wrote about being a man after God’s own heart. I want my works to represent Him. I want to love on people, and bring them joy. I want to bring justice where there is hunger, enslavement, sickness, loneliness, and fear. I strive to do these things, and I repent when I mess up.

I also want to help everyone see that we can make a huge difference when our works represent Him. We can bring justice to the suffering by loving them as we love ourselves. We can smile on them with the smile of Jesus. We can let them feel the warmth and love that He shows us. We can do that.

But sometimes it’s hard to get people moving. I speak about human trafficking or various hunger scenarios, and people get so enthusiastic! They say, “Hey man, preach it, Brother!” And I say, “Yeah! So tell me, what are you going to do?” And they say, “Oh, you know, I’ll pray for them.”

Pray for them? They’re starving to death! What is there to pray about? This is scripture! Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself. Love your neighbor. So I don’t want us to just pray about it. I want us to help do it.

I know I’m being impatient. It’s just that I know how we go to church, preach and pray, and talk about how we need to help. But then we can go home and have a family, and we can go home and sit on our couches and watch TV, and we can go home and watch our kids play in the backyard.

I know people that can’t even meet in a church building without fear of being put into prison. I know people that can be walking home from a church gathering fearing that militiamen will come by and swipe them up — or shoot them. They’re so worried about getting trafficked. They’re so worried about guys like Joseph Kony kidnapping them and making them shoot people. They’re so worried about drinking water that is making them sick. And they’re wondering, “Am I going to have to eat dirt today, or is someone going to be awesome enough to make sure I have a bowl of rice?”

We can go home and enjoy our families and our lives, and they are the blessings of God. I don’t take them for granted. We are His beloved children. But people living in fear or coping with disease and food insecurity are God’s beloved children too. They are made in His image, and they have worries we can’t imagine. How are they supposed to use their giftings? How are they supposed to reflect God?

Understanding the suffering of God’s beloved children is the source of my greatest pain. It frustrates me that they suffer while we relax and talk about how blessed we are. It grieves me.

I know that if I walk into a church and talk with this kind of zeal, I might not get the response that I hope to get. They might try to push me to the edge of the cliff. Maybe they’ll even try to make me walk off of it! (Luke 24:28-30)

So how do I get people moving?

How Do You Evangelize?

How do you evangelize? I do it by trying to reflect the characteristics of God. When I’m around people, I do what I think He would do. I feel joy around them, I’m happy, and I encourage them. I love them! These are all the things that I think Jesus did when He walked the streets with us.

A lot of times when people get around athletes, they think we have big heads, so they don’t try to talk to us. And sometimes we can’t talk to them. We have to focus on doing our jobs! But if I don’t have anything to do, I try to say hi to people in the ballpark. I’m especially focused on the kids. I want them to know that we are human beings like them. I shake their hands and encourage them. I give them high fives. I let them know that I’m real, and I make sure they know that I hope the best for them. Sometimes parents ask if I have any advice, and I tell them to let their children dream. I think they should all dream really, really big.

I try to reflect Christ in a way that’s positive. I’m not necessarily out there telling people that they need to accept Jesus as their savior. When you’re representing a sports team, it’s not really appropriate to do that. Since I don’t always talk about God, I want to make sure that I exemplify the characteristics of Christ as much as possible. That way, people might follow me into other circles, where I do talk about God. Then we can have a dialogue.

When I talk to kids at community functions, I try to do the same thing. For example, I work with kids at a homeless youth shelter, and all I want to do is love on them. So I try as hard as I can to make sure that the characteristics of God positively ooze from me. I try to have the aroma of Christ 2 Corinthians 2:15. Through the aroma that I put off, I want these kids to feel good about who they are.

And I want them to come ask me what makes me different. If they do, then I tell them that I’m trying to reflect the love that I’ve been given. That’s the love of Jesus, my Savior.

He died for me, and He gives me pure joy. I try to give that joy to them. I try to give that joy to you!

See you Monday.

My Pastor Says…

Here’s one of my pet peeves: I see someone doing something, and I ask them why they are doing it, and they say, “I don’t know, just because.” That bugs me! Just because? What do you mean, just because? If you ask me why I do what I do, I’m going to give you a reason. I don’t do things without having a reason.

I see variations of this when I’m talking to other believers. We might be sharing what we believe, and I’ll ask, “Why do you believe that?” It bothers me when they answer, “Well, my pastor says…”

That’s your answer? You believe something just because your pastor says it? Continue reading

Evangelism

How do you evangelize? I try to reflect the characteristics of God. When I’m around kids, or anyone really, I do what I think He would do. I love them, I feel joy around them, I’m happy around them, and I encourage them. These are all the things that I think Jesus did when He walked the streets.

A lot of times when people look at athletes, they think we might be puffed up and full of pride, so they don’t try to talk to fans. Sometimes we can’t talk to them, because we have to focus on doing our jobs! But if I don’t have anything to do, I try to say hi to people in the ballpark, especially the kids, to let them know that we are human beings. I shake their hands and encourage them, I give them high fives, and I let them know that I’m real and I’m human and I hope they do well. Sometimes Dads ask if I have any advice for their sons, and I’ll tell them to dream. To dream really, really big. Continue reading