Sometimes you go to church and you hear the same stuff over and over.
Sometimes it flies over your head or you’re thinking about what’s for lunch and the pastor sounds like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons going, “Waah, waah, waah,” and you have no idea what he said.
And sometimes you hear something that you’ve heard before but for some reason it’s like you’re hearing it for the first time. Or maybe it’s the thing that you needed to hear precisely at that moment.
When that happens to me, I write it down and stash it away in a folder that I call my Good Stuff file, which also includes good stuff I’ve read.
Here is some of the best of the Good Stuff:
This past weekend at church, the pastor talked about the prophet Habakkuk who took God to task, demanding to know how long Israel would have to suffer their hard times.
God told Habakkuk that he was about to do something amazingly awesome, and then told him that he was going to raise Babylon to power — evil, ruthless, bloodthirsty Babylon.
Knowing that this would most definitely push Israel’s suffering level off the charts — which is exactly what happened — Habakkuk, to put it mildly, did not handle the news well and let God know just how stupid he thought the Creator’s plan was.
Then the pastor gave a mini history lesson on what happened as a result of the evil Babylonian takeover.
Fast-forward hundreds of years and looking back, the pastor said we can see how the Babylonian oppression was actually a root cause of the gospel of Jesus spreading throughout the world, even though it first meant many, many years of pain and suffering for Israel.
“God used injustice and violence to defeat injustice and violence,” the pastor said.
Habakkuk couldn’t see it, and when we are in pain we can’t see what God is doing or how it can be good, but God knows what he’s doing — and we can trust him. When all looks like chaos and insanity, God’s still in control.
“The Holy Spirit convicts of sin, and brings people to repentance. He does this in love, but sometimes it’s the kind of love a friend might show to an addict or someone in a destructive lifestyle. You can almost come to blows in love.
“When the Holy Spirit convicts you, it’s often a hard thing. Tim Keller says, ‘Sometimes he’s against you, for you.’ The Spirit is also the one to pick you up off the mat when you fail.” (From the book, “Rooted: The Apostle’s Creed”)
Oh, yes! I’ve been convicted of sin, I’ve accused God of being uncaring or a bully and I’ve challenged God to a fist fight or two, and when I’ve been knocked down by him I’ve felt his loving arms picking me up and dressing my wounds.
“When you meet the living God, you find healing in the deepest parts of you, at the core of who you are.”
My pastor, Ray Cortese, said that years ago, and I still remember it.
“If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others. We cling to our bad feelings and beat ourselves with the past, when what we should do is let go ... When we dare to live as forgiven men and women, we join the wounded healers and draw closer to Jesus.”
That’s from the late Brennan Manning’s book, “Abba’s Child.”
Isn’t it interesting how we humans are more drawn to people with wounds and scars than to those who would let us believe they have it all together?
It’s also interesting that when Jesus was resurrected, he kept his scars. Our God is the ultimate “wounded healer” and he knows what it is to hurt.
A song we sing often at church, “By Faith,” always makes me feel uplifted and strong. The last verse goes: “By faith the mountain shall be moved, and the power of the gospel shall prevail; for we know in Christ all things are possible, for all who call upon his name.”
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”
That’s Philippians 4:6-7 from The Message Bible paraphrase — and that’s good stuff.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria — I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing” and “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.