Q & A with Pastor Mark Haines

A place for heartfelt, honest answers to your questions from a caring pastor

Category Archives: Compassion

A Change Is Gonna Come!

A Change Is Gonna Come! There is hope for those of us seeking to be different when we wake up on Easter Sunday to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection as well as those of us seeking to end slavery and injustice.

TODAY’S PRAYER FOCUS:

Ask the Holy Spirit to fill his people with hope — knowing that God will change us and the injustices of this world.

Read more of this post

WARNING: Slavery Still Exists in the USA!

WARNING: Slavery Still Exists in the USA!

It’s shocking to hear but it is true.  Human trafficking is big business in our world — comparable to illegal drugs and arms sales.  Take a stand against slavery in the USA and beyond.  Together you and I can make a difference.

Find out more at my daughter’s blog: Everyday Abolitionist.

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Today my words will be few.

For Jesus’ sake, for the sake of the little ones he loves, join the fight to end human trafficking.

Join me in prayer and in abolishing all slavery

Beautiful Slave a song by Take No Glory

QUESTION OF THE DAY:

What will you do to set the captives free?

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More Love for Thee, O Christ

'The BEAT CARES holiday food and toy drive at Brentwood Town Centre photos by Ron Sombilon Gallery (239)' photo (c) 2010, Ron Sombilon - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

How can I increase my love for God?

I can think of four ways to increase your love for God.  First, pray.

Ask the Lord for a deeper love for him.  Your prayer can be spoken.  It also can be sung like the hymn written by  Elizabeth P. Pren­tiss, entitled More Love for Thee.  She wrote these four prayerful verses as she dealt with the overwhelming grief of losing two of her children to sickness and death. Read more of this post

Something Important Happened Today

A few years ago, I read a post on Ordinary Attempts, by Carmen Andres, that prompted these thoughts on what is truly important.

My perspective on the important events of life is distorted.

When I hear that something important happened in the world today, I often wondered what news item I had missed.  “Was there an earthquake?  Was there a turning point in the war on terror?  Did scientists find a cure for cancer?  What big event have I failed to spot?”

God’s outlook stands in contrast to my inclination.

He looks for simple, ordinary acts of service done by His people.

  • When a Christian helps a neighbor with a chore, God’s kingdom of love and grace expands.
  • When one of His children takes the time to listen to someone, Jesus touches the speaker.
  • When you hold the door for another person entering a store with you, the Holy Spirit is free to work in his or her life.
  • When a Sunday School class prays and studies together, lives are transformed.
  • When a man, woman or child turns to Jesus, the angels in heaven throw a party to celebrate.

These events seldom make the evening news, but God notices them every moment of every day.

You and I can be involved in the important happenings in the world today.

Never underestimate your simple, ordinary acts of service.  You are sharing Jesus’ love and building God’s kingdom.  We can prepare for bed each night knowing that something important happened in the world during the day because God’s love touched someone through us.

QUESTION OF THE DAY:

What was the last thing you did to share Jesus’ love by simply serving someone?

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Credit: Free images from acobox.com

Stress Relief for Christians

Are there spiritual ways to relieve stress?

On one hand, many of us who strive to follow Jesus are as distressed as the average secular person.  On the other hand, Jesus was called the Prince of Peace.  He promised a peace that the world could not give.  The apostle Paul declared we can experience a peace that defies comprehension.  What are we missing?

Stress Relief for Christians

  1. Rest in God’s grace.  You cannot make God love you more or less by the things you do and say.  All you do as a follower of Jesus should flow out of love for God not fear of him.
  2. Pray with thanksgiving and confident trust.  Tell God about your needs.  Thank him for his blessings and believe in his desire to keep on caring for you.
  3. Meditate (think deeply) about Bible passages.  Write out a verse of Scripture and read it at least five times a day until it saturates your mind and you can think about it at will.
  4. Care for your loved ones.  Giving and receiving love is a wonderful stress reliever.
  5. Show compassion on those in need.  As you allow God to love others through your acts of compassion, some of his love splashes on you.
  6. Sings songs of praise.  Worship helps put things in perspective.  Many things we stress about are not worth the effort.  Praising God helps bring us back to reality.
  7. Spend time contemplating God’s creation.  Go for a walk in the woods or on the beach.  Lay back and watch the stars fill the night sky.  Watch a small child at play.

You can experience the peace only Jesus can give.  Make an appointment to do one of these things with him today.

QUESTION OF THE DAY:

How do you handle stress as a follower of Jesus??

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Repost: Why does God let bad things happen to children?

This post has been found most often by people doing searches so I thought it would be good to repost it with some revisions.

How could God allow a mad man to kill Christina Green, a lovely 9-year-old girl in Tuscon, AZ?  What possible good could this tragedy serve?  Why did God allow it?  In a broader sense, why do bad things happen to children?  Why does our loving God allow a child to die of starvation or related causes every few seconds?  Why does he allow these little ones to be abused, molested, maimed or killed?

Allow me to begin by pointing out that the why question is essentially unanswerable.

If something horrible happened to my granddaughter, you could not comfort me with a list of reasons implying it had to happen.  Think about it with me.  If Jesus himself appeared to you now and said your child will fall ill tomorrow and he gave you a list of reasons, how would you respond?

Nap time on Grandpa's chest

I know what I would do.  I would start arguing with him.  I’d suggest alternatives.  I’d plead for the illness to fall on me and not my child.  There are no reasons good enough to answer this question.  Bearing that in mind, I’d like to make a few observations about God, children and the why question.

God is not afraid of this question.

In fact, his people have asked why for thousands of years.   Some of them are recorded in the Bible’s song book — the book of Psalms.

O LORD, why do you stand so far away?  Why do you hide when I am in trouble? (Psalm 10:1)

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?  Why are you so far away when I groan for help?  (Psalm 22:1)

“O God my rock,” I cry, “Why have you forgotten me?  Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?” (Psalm 42:9)

  For you are God, my only safe haven.  Why have you tossed me aside?  Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?  (Psalm 43:2)

  Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep?  Get up! Do not reject us forever.  Why do you look the other way?  Why do you ignore our suffering and oppression? (Psalm 44:23-24)

Children are especially dear to God too.  Our love and empathy for their pain is a faint reflection of how the Lord feels about them.  God is working all the time through those who are advocates for the hurting children.  His love flows into their lives through their caregivers.

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” (Matthew 19:14)

Jesus put a little child among them.  Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”  (Mark 9:36-37)

Jesus said, “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.  But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.”  (Matthew 18:5-6)

God is closer to us when we are asking why then perhaps any other time.

He has not abandoned us.  One of the mysteries of the crucifixion is that at the same time God the Son was dying for our sins, he felt forsaken by God.

At three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice,  “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”  (Mark 15:34)

That means that when you do not understand why bad things are happening God knows how you feel.  He knows what it’s like to ask the unanswerable question and hear silence in response.  You are not approaching a distant, disconnected Deity.  Our God understands our weaknesses and pain. (Hebrews 4:15)  So, feel free to turn to the Lord and cry out your why questions.  He will welcome you.  He will enfold you in his arms and share your tears.  You will not receive a list of reasons but he will give you help and comfort in your time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

Credit: Free photos from acobox.com

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What is God like? Part 3

Jesus loves all the children of the world

You can discover what God is like by looking at what he did in Creation, by pondering the name he revealed to Moses and by examining Jesus’ reaction to people.

Jesus was moved to compassion when He saw people in pain.

He cared about the sick. (Matthew 14:14)  He was moved to help the blind. (Matthew  20:34)  His heart went out to those who had almost given up all hope.  (Mark 9:14-29)

Jesus was moved to compassion when He saw people in sorrow.

Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him.  As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out – the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.  And a large crowd from the town was with her.  When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”  Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still.  He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”  The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. (Luke 7:11-17).

Jesus was moved to compassion when He saw people living in loneliness.

The loneliest people of Jesus’ day were men and women with skin diseases like leprosy.  They were shut out of their homes and communities.  No one would come close to them.

One leper approached Jesus and said, “You can heal me if you are willing.”  Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man with leprosy. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured (Mark 1:40-45).

Jesus was moved to compassion when He saw people suffering from hunger.

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” (Matthew 15:32).

Jesus was moved to compassion when He saw people stumbling around in spiritual disorientation.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:36-38).

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Seeking to Understand

Pastor, a few days ago you wrote that we need to build relationships with others before we tell them about Jesus.  How can we do that without compromising on the gospel message?  How can I build relationships and stay close to Jesus?

Relationships are the foundation of God’s work in the world.

Hanging out with sinners was something Jesus did.  In fact, I believe the Holy Spirit is still close to unbelievers at work to persuade them to turn to Jesus.  You can be as close to Jesus building a relationship with someone who needs him as you are in a Sunday School class.  Although it’s a vital activity, building relationships is not easy or automatic.  You must be intentional about it.

Saint Francis of Assisi composed a famous prayer.  After hundreds of years it still challenges Christians to strive for a truly intentional lifestyle.  It calls us to the hard work of building relationships with those who are hurting and in need of God’s grace.

One line stands out to me. “Grant that I may not so much seek … to be understood as to understand.”

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life

Understanding is not…

Understanding is not agreeing with someone’s opinion.  Understanding is not approving of another’s behavior or decision.  Understanding is not something you  do in order to convert someone.

Understanding is…

Understanding is listening to someone’s opinion and the reasons for it.  Understanding is asking what led to another’s behavior or decision. Understanding grows by asking questions, listening to the answers and seeking clarification.  Understanding is sharing God’s love with someone whether or not he/she ever turns to Jesus.

We can turn the world upside down by seeking to understand.

We can introduce the opposite of what we usually find in our world.  St. Francis’ prayer is a bold one, asking for strength to give of ourselves to meet the needs of others.  As I said before, it challenges us to a deeper walk with Jesus.

Think about the people you are involved with that need someone simply to listen to them, to understand them.  Then, if you’re bold enough, pray Francis’ prayer and seek to understand him or her.

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Prayer for Persecuted Christians

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How do I offer a prayer for the Christians  facing persecution?

Persecution of Christ’s followers is nothing new.  The apostles, Peter and John were arrested shortly after the church was born. (Acts 4:3)  Their first act after being released was to call a prayer meeting.  In their prayer, they asked for more boldness.  (Acts 4:29-31)

Here are my suggestions for prayer on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world today.

Ask God to give suffering believers:

  • Courage to stand firm and to witness.
  • His protection so that the Church will not be wiped out in their part of the world.
  • Grace to forgive their oppressors.
  • Deliverance of their nations from spiritual bondage.
  • Open doors for religious freedom.
  • Wisdom and understanding for church leaders.
  • Church leaders of great integrity and faith.
  • Unity in the church.
  • Warm fellowship among all kinds of Christians.

What would you add to this prayer for persecuted Christians?

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