The Church that Can Carry Any Burden

Brothers, if someone is caught in a trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him with a spirit of gentleness. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)

Seriously – how epic. Jesus wants his church to be a place where people feel unburdened. It should be a building people are tearing off the roofs to enter – a refuge, a house of hope, a place for healing and companionship and peace. Imagine a forty-pound backpack coming off your shoulders after a hike. It’s wonderful; you feel immune to gravity, able to leap ten feet. That’s Jesus’ vision for the church!burden

Of course, that’s not what jumps to mind when many people hear the word “church”. They see it as a place where burdens are added, not lifted.

Part of this is not our fault as Christians. Folks feel their sin when God comes near (he’ll do that), and they resent that burden instead of casting it off through repentance. But we do play a role. Too many congregations view their church as a hospital that must be kept sterilized from any sullying influence, forgetting that the point of sterilization is to heal the sick (Luke 5:31). The result is a seeming allergy to anyone carrying sin or brokenness. Sometimes, honestly, it’s no more than irritation at the quirks and sharp edges of others (“Life would be so much easier without people” and all that).

I read a rather brilliant blog post the other day that included this quote: “You are not a burden. You HAVE a burden, which by definition is too heavy to carry on your own.” Yes. The sick cannot carry burdens. They need help. It reminded me of Galatians 6:2, and it got me thinking – what if we viewed the dirtiness and complications of other people, not as threats or inconveniences to ourselves, but as burdens to be carried? 

Seems obvious at first.

But have we missed some categories of burdens?

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7 Ways the Enemy Wants to Poison Your Singleness

(Part 2 of this incoherent rambling can be viewed here.)

desert-dry-path-track.jpgIn The Screwtape Letters, as he narrates a fictional demon teaching a protege to draw humans away from God, C.S. Lewis takes a fascinating turn in his view of love:

Leave them to discuss whether “Love”, or patriotism, or celibacy, or candles on altars, or teetotalism, or education, are “good” or “bad”. Can’t you see there’s no answer? Nothing matters at all except the tendency of a given state of mind, in given circumstances, to move a particular patient at particular moment nearer to the Enemy or nearer to us.  …this state of falling in love is not, in itself, necessarily favourable either to us or to the other side. It is simply an occasion which we and the Enemy are both trying to exploit. 

Fascinating. Maybe a bit of a downer to we who dream of “God writing our love story”, but Lewis’ view – that sometimes things just happen, and God and Satan engage in a cosmic tug-of-war to turn it to their uses – does carry one marked advantage. It opens our eyes to Satan’s involvement. It keeps us from being “unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11).

Bringing Satan into our travails sounds unpleasant, certainly inconvenient, and possibly melodramatic. I understand. (I also would say that that’s his first line of attack – “I’m not here”). But we need not be disturbed or worried by his operations in our lives. (That fear is his second line.) We need only be informed, and respond with the truth of Jesus Christ.

You’ve probably heard that Satan attacks marriage. That’s easy enough to believe – just look at the institution now. The divorce rate, the poor reputation – it looks like Mordor. You, Christian single, have already committed yourself to beating the odds there. You know a God-centered marriage will thrive.

What you might not have heard is that the enemy also attacks singleness. I’ve seen this to be true in my own celibate journey and that of many others. Basically, he’ll use anything he can get his hands on. I say this not to frighten but to equip. God has given us everything we need to resist Satan. But you can’t resist an attack you don’t see.

My testimony: I allowed Satan to poison my singleness for many years before I let God open my eyes to the symptoms. I want you to avoid the same traps. Here I will list three of them, four in the concluding post, and I agonize that I have only two blog posts’ length when each of these could merit its own book.

But the occasion for joy and relief and bouncing off the walls? Each of these lies has an antidote, formulated straight from God’s Word.

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Jesus in the Bleachers: What I Learned About Grace from a Girls’ Basketball Game

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Girls’ basketball games can be tough to watch.

A few years ago, the school at which I was serving experienced a tough playoff loss. Our girls had pretty much cleaned up in their first game, but sloppy play caught up to them in the second. The star player fouled out by the third quarter; two others would follow. You could tell the moment the downward spiral started: they started playing panicky, their shots becoming wild, turning the ball over, committing more fouls. By the fourth quarter, we were putting in eighth graders.

It was a 73-34 loss and the end of our tournament hopes. There were a lot of tears on our bench, and exhausted athletes are tough to console. I couldn’t do much but watch.

But that wasn’t what bugged me the most. What really got to me was the other teachers who left the stands and went home before the fourth quarter even started.

The reason wasn’t our girls’ performance; it was our crowd. Even by rural standards, some of our school’s traveling fans were absolutely horrid the entire game. They booed the refs, mocked them openly, questioned every single call, when clearly our girls weren’t doing themselves any favors.

Later, one of the teachers told me, “I left because I didn’t want to be seen as part of that crowd.”

I was reminded of the previous season when teachers made a point of skipping our boys’ games entirely over their poor play – ugly technical fouls, constant unsportsmanlike conduct. The teachers were trying to send the same message: “Right now I’m embarrassed to be associated with this school.”

But that night as our girls’ season faded, I stayed in the bleachers.

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