How Do I Open My Heart To Christ Again?

Question: How do I open my heart to Christ again? I lost my way a long time ago and I want to find it again. I’m just not sure how.

When we lose our way and make choices we know are not pleasing to God, we instinctively conclude that God must be a million miles away, especially if we have continued in this path for a long time. It feels perfectly logical to assume that the path back to God must involve lots of hoops to jump through. But the gospel offers us a radically different perspective. Jesus once said “If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink….” John 7:37. Notice the only prerequisite Jesus requires: being thirsty. In other words, the way back to God is to simply admit to Jesus how spiritually thirsty you are. That’s it. He continually extends to us this invitation: In your thirst, come to Me.

The fact of the matter is, you are actually much closer to Jesus than you think you are. In the ministry of Jesus, there was one group of people He continually rebuked for being so far removed from his heart. It wasn’t the sinners who had lost their way. Rather, it was the religious leaders. The Pharisees. The good guys who were diligently trying to keep God’s law. They were convinced God was pleased with them because of their hard work and effort, because of how well they obeyed God’s law. But Jesus rebuked them for being truly lost. Their problem? They weren’t thirsty. They weren’t aware of how desperately they needed a Savior. They were trusting in their own goodness and as a result, they completely missed Jesus in the process. (See Luke 18:1-9 for an example)

Jesus died on the cross for sinners, for people who disobey and lose their way….which actually describes all of us at various points in our lives. We often choose self over God. The glorious news of the gospel is that our Savior is always available and is always inviting us to come to Him just as we are–failures, sins and all. He has not left us. He is waiting with open arms, longing to pour out His love and grace.

So my encouragement to you is quite simple: In your thirst, open your heart afresh to Jesus. Rest in His unconditional love for you. Let His Spirit fill you with His Presence and His peace. Realize that His purposes for your life are not thwarted. You are right on schedule. Jesus is with you…always. What an amazing Savior we have.

 [This post is a response to a question asked at www.believe.com in their Ask a Pastor section. I was asked to offer a response]

 

How Do We Deal With Grief?

Whenever we experience grief—whether it’s the loss of a loved or the loss of a job or the loss of a friend who moves away—our natural instinct is to try and avoid the feeling all together. We don’t want to be in this place feeling what we feel. Grief is painful. It is lonely. It is sad. We wish we could be any place but here. So we often respond by trying to keep busy or by trying to numb the pain with alcohol or various forms of entertainment. The goal is avoidance. This avoidance even drifts into our relationship with God. After all, He let this happen. How can we trust Him when He allows this sort of thing to happen in our lives? We feel like running away from Him.

            While both of these responses of avoidance are understandable, they are not what our soul ultimately needs. The Bible offers us a healthy and yet counterintuitive alternative. Run to God with your grief. Don’t deny it or stuff it or avoid it. Instead feel it—the anger, the confusion, the sadness, the emptiness. As you feel those things, run to God with them. Experience them in His Presence. This is what makes the Psalms such a powerful picture of how we are to deal with our grief. Throughout the psalms, we see the psalmist being brutally honest with God, articulating to God his frustration, disappointment, sadness and anger. (Check out Psalm 88:6-18)

In John 11, when Jesus finally arrives after Lazarus has died, Martha says to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Can you hear her disappointment with Jesus? He wasn’t there when she needed Him, and she told Him that….to His face. Jesus wasn’t offended in the least.

            Perhaps you have believed that in your relationship with God, you always have to always say “nice” things to Him, even if you don’t feel them. Just pretend that you are okay. But that’s the problem. We’re pretending…when He already knows what we are feeling. Did you know that God is big enough to handle your anger and disappointment and sadness expressed to Him? Jesus has actually felt those things as well. He longs for you to come to Him with those things. Why? Because when we come to Him with our pain, He can actually be with us in our pain.

            I know it’s counterintuitive. When we experience loss, everything within us wants to avoid our grief and even avoid our God. But Jesus welcomes us to come to Him with our confusion, our anger, our sadness, our pain. “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

 [I was recently asked by www.believe.com web site to participate in their “Ask a Pastor” section. This is my answer to someone’s specific question about grief.]

Healing Stories

Since the last two blog posts have been about healing, I thought it might be fun to share some recent stories of God’s activity in the lives of people I know.

Here’s a portion of an email I received a few weeks ago after we had spent time in our services praying for those needing healing:

“When you asked if anyone was in need of prayer for healing, I sat down and had hands laid on me.  I am 48 years old and in very good health, but in the last few months I have been dealing with pain and weakness in my shoulders, neck and arms.  It had gotten to the point that lifting anything was painful.  I kept thinking that I needed to see a doctor, but put it off because I don’t have insurance.  Your sermon reminded me that I hadn’t even thought to pray about it, which is ridiculous. Why would I automatically rely on medicine without even consulting the ultimate healer?

As hands were laid on my shoulders and arm, I felt warmth traveling through them.  I can move them without pain or weakness now, as if they were never sore.  To God be the glory for his healing power!  And thank you for the critical reminder to ask my God for healing, and to rely on Him above all else.  Miracles happen every day, by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

I just checked in with this woman a few days ago and she said she is still pain free. Very cool.

Here’s another story I just received via email from a person in our church who attended a healing conference this past weekend at First Presbyterian Church.

“My husband and I wanted to tell you about some of the awesome results we are experiencing since attending the conference and healing service Saturday night.

John has been dealing with a smashed up lower body since his motorcycle accident in 1998. His right leg took the worst of it. He’s had many surgeries, much therapy, and works hard to maintain mobility. In spite of all this, he has chronic pain in his low back, hips and leg. He was unable to stand or walk very far. We’ve just always felt thankful that he was able to keep his leg and had as much mobility as he did, until Saturday night! After praying with Derek, he has had less pain in his back and hips, and has been able to walk more. (We walked 1.5 miles on Sunday!) John is aware that something has changed in his body, and we hope this is just the beginning!

I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis 6 months after John’s accident. I had to retire from teaching early, and have constant pain, stiffness, fevers, and extreme fatigue. My life had become pretty miserable. I also work at eating healthy and exercising as much as I can, but the disease had beaten me down. I’ve been unable to volunteer and serve the Lord as I would like, and some days spend most of the day in bed.  Honestly, I had given up. But John insisted I go for prayer Saturday night, so I first spoke with two lovely women, Karen and Lisa, who bathed me in healing prayer. John then insisted I talk to Mike and David, and they really dug deep into my feelings, mostly anger, about my illness. I needed to confess my anger to God and ask for forgiveness, which I did. I know that chains have been broken as a result! I have asthma also, and have had pneumonia for 5 weeks with difficult breathing. After Saturday night, I can BREATHE! I can EXERCISE! I will be having a chest X-ray next week, which I’m sure will confirm that the pneumonia is gone. I have very little joint pain, tons of energy, and best of all….. I have HOPE!! For the first time in years I am hopeful that God is doing a good work in me and that things will get better.”

What an awesome testimony! And what a great reminder how sometimes physical healing can be related to emotional healing. Our physical aches and pains can sometimes be rooted in bitterness or anger we are harboring in our heart. When we allow God to heal those heartaches and bitterness through the power of the cross, often our bodies experience healing as well.

One more: My wife has been battling with a cold for 3 weeks—drainage, trouble sleeping, etc. Not fun. The other night she was also getting a migraine. When she mentioned this to my son Joel, he asked if he could pray for her. He had just been to the healing conference as well, so he used the prayer model shared at the conference (I’ll put that model in my next blog post). After he finished praying, my wife felt immediately better. Her headache was gone. As she went to bed, she was able to breathe freely for the first time in weeks. the next morning she looked at me and said, I feel great for the first time in weeks.

Three very real stories of God’s healing activity in our lives. Does God always answer affirmatively our prayers for healing? No. But He does sometimes, and when He does, it’s an incredible reminder of His power and His love. So why not ask?