Our society is filled with people for whom the sexual relationship is one where body meets body but where person fails to meet person; where the immediate need for sexual gratification is satisfied but where the deeper need for companionship and understanding is left untouched. The result is that the relationship leads not to fulfillment but to a half-conscious sense of incompleteness, of inner loneliness, which is so much the sickness of our time.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been experiencing a rather intense period of what feels like spiritual opposition — a couple of car accidents, several burglaries and thefts, a drive-by shooting in one of the neighborhoods we’re ministering in, to name just a few incidents. It’s something that many of us on staff have been observing and feeling on a personal level as well, so I’d ask for you to stand with us in this, as “our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12), and prayer is the most effective weapon we have right now.
There are a lot of good things happening: small groups are going really well, new people are finding community, those that are far from God are giving their lives to Christ, and we are making real headway in building connections with other churches and organizations in the city to see more of God’s kingdom in our neighborhoods. (For instance, I had a great meeting with Dr. Evans, the new principal of Miner Elementary, about how we can continue to partner with them to help the kids; and our layout reshuffle [see below] looks great.) So it’s not altogether surprising to be in this situation; but it’s a good, humbling, sobering reminder that we’re not just playing games, and also that none of what we’re doing is possible unless the Lord is in it.
As we’ve been going through our series at The District Church looking at the Minor Prophets, I’ve definitely noticed a heightened sensitivity to sin and evil and injustice–both in my own life and in the world around me. I don’t think it’s that more bad things are happening; I think it’s more that I’m more aware of them. It’s kind of tough to take in; it makes each day a little more challenging to get through when there’s always something to mourn (even as there are always things to be thankful for).
But as a Christian, I want to be more in tune with God’s heart, and I believe God is grieved by a whole lot of things that go on in the world (and in myself), just as I believe God rejoices over a whole lot of other things that go on in the world (and in myself).
With that in mind, I’m grateful for my friend Sandra posting these words, from a 1970 song by Broadman Ware: Teach me, O Lord, to care.
I see the poor, I see the lame,
I hear the sobs the cries of pain;
yet with this hurt I seldom care,
teach me, O Lord, teach me to care.
I see the hungry, sick and ill,
I see them as I sit and fill
a body clothed with clothes so fair,
teach me, O Lord, teach me to care.
I see the lost and dying world;
I watch as Satan’s darts are hurled;
I know the answer, yet I don’t share;
teach me,O Lord, teach me to care.
Teach me, O Lord, to care;
and then thy message may I bear;
may I a witness always share,
teach me, O Lord, to care.
Louis C.K. has some real insight on our smartphone problem, on being alone, and on allowing ourselves to feel bad.
Romans 12:1-2, 9-21 (MSG):
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.
Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.