For Three Failures, and for Four

13 July 2021

In the beginning, God made Adam and Eve and put them in the Garden with a simple set of instructions.  As we all know, they blew it, and afterwards, they were ashamed, and hid from God.  

How sad would it have been if God had come down into the Garden, looked around, shrugged and said, “Oh well,” and gone back to heaven?  But of course He didn’t, because He loved them.  So God sought Adam and Eve, calling out for them in the Garden.  When Adam responded, God didn’t just pretend everything was okay.  He went right after the root of their shame, the sin they had committed.  He dragged it out into the light, dealt with it, and promised them a restoration (Gen. 3:15).

***

Peter denied Jesus three times, and then went out and wept bitterly.  He knew he’d sinned, but he didn’t let that sin keep him away from Jesus.  Unlike Adam, when the opportunity to be with Jesus arose again, he jumped at it.  John 21 tells the story of how the disciples went fishing, and caught nothing all night.  As they were returning, a man on the shore called out to them to let down their net again, and it was filled with fish.  John recognized that it was Jesus, and Peter jumped in the water and swam to shore to be with Him.  

When the others arrived, they found Jesus already cooking breakfast over a fire.  As they ate, Jesus went right after the root of Peter’s shame: 

“Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.”

“Feed My lambs.”

If Jesus had stopped right there, all the other disciples would know that Jesus still had a use for Peter.  No one would think that he couldn’t be a disciple anymore because he had denied Jesus — after all, Jesus gave him a job to do.  Jesus doesn’t stop there, because He wants to make sure Peter is fully restored.  So He asks again.

“Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord, You know that I love you.”

“Tend My sheep.”

The silence must have hung heavy.  Jesus was clearly up to something.  The other disciples waited.  Peter sat, dreading what he had to know was coming.

“Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord, You know all things; You know that I love you.”

“Feed My sheep.  I tell you the truth: when you were younger, you dressed yourself adn walked where you wished, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and carry you where you do not wish.”

Peter denied Jesus three times; Jesus makes Peter affirm his love for Jesus three times.  The sin can’t be undone, but it is mended.  The root of shame in Peter’s heart has been dragged out into the light.  Three times Jesus affirms that He still has work for Peter to do.  

All this is grace upon grace, but Jesus isn’t done yet.  If He stopped here, Peter would know he was forgiven, and he would know that he was useful, but he would always wonder what would happen the next time his life was on the line.  Would he have the courage to stand up, or would he buckle again, just like the last time?  Peter would wonder, and the devil would prey upon those fears mercilessly.

So Jesus does one more thing: He tells Peter that in the end, he will have the courage to die a martyr’s death after all.  And He says it publicly, where all the disciples can hear.  On the eve of the crucifixion, Peter had claimed to be ready to die for Jesus.  Now, Peter is not only fully restored, he is better off than he was — he is finally the man he thought he was before.  

***

John Mark was a young man when he first went with Paul and Barnabas.  He seems to have grown up in Jerusalem, but he had made his way up to Antioch at some point.  We don’t know why he left them at Pamphylia, only that he did.  Maybe he was afraid.  Maybe he was sickly.  Maybe he was homesick.  In any event, he left them, and returned not to the Antioch church that had sent them out, but to his home church in Jerusalem.

Mark must have been tempted to just not go back, to just disappear into a place where nobody knew him.  Once he was past that temptation, he must have been tempted to stay at home in Jerusalem.  However, he didn’t stay in Jerusalem.  By the time Paul and Barnabas were ready to go back and encourage the churches they had planted on the first trip, John Mark had apparently made it back to Antioch, to the church that had sent him out with Paul and Barnabas, the church that he had let down by leaving the work.  He was ready to try again.  Barnabas was willing, but not Paul.  They split up, Paul taking Silas and Barnabas taking Mark with him to minister in Cyprus.

We lose track of John Mark for about 7 years after that, until Paul wrote to the church at Colosse.  In his letter, he reminded them that they had instructions to welcome John Mark if he should come to them.  This little reminder meant two things.  First, it meant that Paul was instructing people not to ostracize John Mark.  Paul had not been ready to rely on him as a partner, but he was not going to let Mark’s failure follow him around for the rest of his life.  Mark was welcome in the churches where Paul ministered, in person or by letter.  Second, it meant that Paul thought it was possible that John Mark would come to the Colossian church.  Why would he think that?  We get a clue in Paul’s letter to Philemon, which was written around the same time.  At the close of the letter, Paul passes on greetings to Philemon from a number of his “fellow laborers” — Aristarchus, Demas, Luke…and Mark.  In the seven years since Paul refused to take Mark with him as a partner, Mark had grown into someone Paul can rely on.  He was with Paul, working alongside him.  Shortly thereafter, Paul sent him out to work on his own.  We know this because   later that same year, Paul wrote Timothy to get Mark and bring him to Paul, “for he is useful to me for ministry.”

***

Is there a failure that is weighing you down?  Maybe you’ve never even acknowledged it.  Maybe you have confessed it to God, but you don’t really feel forgiven.  Maybe you grasp that you are forgiven, but the festering wound of your failure continues to plague you, even though you know God has forgiven you.

If any of these things are true of you, know that Yahweh is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He sought out Adam, and He is calling for you too.  He will go right to the root of your shame, as He did with Adam.  Jesus restored Peter fully to ministry, and He can do the same for you.  The process will probably be painful, as it was for Peter.  But the pain is brief, and the healing lasts a long, long time.


What About the Girls?

6 July 2021

When instructing teenagers in matters of chastity, it is natural to turn to Proverbs 5 and 7. Solomon is speaking to his sons there, and in those two chapters he paints a vivid portrait of what sexual sin is really like. He pulls no punches about the tactile allure of the immoral woman. “Her lips drip honey; her mouth is smoother than oil.” The imagery of how it all ends is equally tactile. “She is like a two-edged sword.” French kiss that!

All this is great stuff. I’d love to see someone make a 3-minute animated featurette of Proverbs 7 to show to teenaged boys. That would be something.

But what about the girls?

I mean, we can point at the same passages and say, “Don’t be that girl,” but let’s face it, that’s not where the temptation really lies. Young virgins are mostly not tempted to become whores.

When one of our girls falls into immorality, what does she say?

  • “He told me he loved me.”
  • “I love him.”
  • “I never felt like that about anybody before.”
  • “You don’t understand — what we have is special.”

Right?

So where does the Bible speak to the kind of temptations represented in our most common experience?

The Song of Songs.

The Song is not a book bulging with commands. Mostly it’s very frank love poetry. Why would we give that to an unmarried teenaged girl? Because the commands that are in the book are addressed to her. “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, not to stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” Three times the Shulamite gives the daughters of Jerusalem this pointed command. Who are the daughters of Jerusalem? Unmarried young women. In that culture, they would have to be young teenagers — everybody got married in their teens.

Upon reflection, this is not surprising.

In a world where expectations for romance are set by movies like Twilight, to what Scripture do we turn to teach our daughters about real romance? To the book that talks about it.


Bringing the Umbrella

29 June 2021

The last rain was a month ago, and that wasn’t near enough.  Hot, dry wind whips dust along the roads and across the fields, where the scraggly remnants of this year’s crops cling to life.  The church has called an emergency all-night vigil to pray for rain.  People shuffle in, faces somber, heads bowed, hands empty.  Except for one little girl, who marches through the blowing dust toward the church, her small hands clutching a pink, kid-sized umbrella.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  Faith is the concrete thing you do right now because you expect God to hold up His end of the bargain.  Faith is bringing an umbrella to the prayer meeting.

Faith makes you look like an idiot sometimes.  Like Noah did, building an enormous boat on dry land.  Like Abram did, leaving his city behind to go…where, exactly?  Like Gideon did, taking on the armies of Midian with a mere three hundred men.  Like Elijah did, stacking the altar with wood, drenching it with water, and then asking God to supply the fire.

When we insist on real results, and we focus on the things that God told us to…that takes faith.  Because the things God tells us to focus on aren’t things we can control.  They just won’t happen if He doesn’t show up and provide.  Do we think He will?

Faith is acting like He will.  Doing the things that don’t make any sense unless God is going to show up and do something.  And that’s pretty crazy, unless…

…unless we have some sense of what God wants to do, and we’re willing to align with it.  Or at least we know what God wants us to do, and we trust Him to do something useful with it, however crazy that may seem at the time.

In Psalm 25, David prays, “O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed.”  It sounds kinda fancy when you say it like that, but what it means is, “Please don’t let me look like an idiot for trusting You here.”  The key to the request is the first part: “I trust in You.”  Very often we don’t trust in God.  Very often, if we were honest, the more appropriate prayer would be, “God, I didn’t even bother to ask You what You want to do.  I just think my plan is a great idea, but it’s pretty high-risk.  Please don’t let me look like an idiot for taking this risk on something I just decided to do on my own.”  I’m not sure how excited God would be to answer that prayer.  

For many years now, I’ve built my ministry projects around a core of obedience to the things God told us to focus on.  I don’t claim to have the way to do it, but I take it as an article of faith that there must be some way to do what God told us to do, and do it well.  I am partnering with other believers who want to know what obedience looks like. We find out together — not usually on the first try. It’s a messy process, difficult to program and impossible to control.  How do we live with it?

I set goals, but all my goals are prayer requests. When I say the goal of the Victorious Bible curriculum project is to help people understand the biblical story and live in terms of it, I understand something of how the process will work…now.  Even now, I know that if God doesn’t show up and grant clarity and repentance to the people we are teaching, all of it will be for nothing.  But when we started, all we knew was this was something God wanted to do.  Stating the goal was saying, out loud, that we heard what God was saying and we were willing to receive it. We postured ourselves to receive the blessing that would come, and trusted God to deliver whatever we lacked along the way. 

In other words, we brought our umbrella.  What we are doing is taking a posture of reception.  We believe that obedience is the best posture of reception.  If we do what He says to do as far as we can, and trust Him to supply what we cannot, He will.  And we believe we’ll get further that way than we will if we wait for Him to ante up first.  “You bring the flood water, God, then I’ll start building the boat” doesn’t work so well.  

We are preparing to receive what God will give — whatever that will turn out to be.  If God does not give fruit, then we won’t have it, and there’s nothing we can do to change that, because we can’t manufacture Kingdom fruit anyway.

***

Prayer Exercise

Ask God to show you something He wants you to shoot for this year.

It could be something big, like finishing that book project, or something small like striking up an acquaintance with your neighbor. See what God might put on your radar.

Then ask what you need to do to receive that thing. Schedule time to receive, whether that means inviting the neighbor over for coffee, scheduling alone time to sit down and write, whatever. Commit yourself to taking that posture of reception once a week, and see what God will do.


Aiming for the Bullseye

22 June 2021

I talked in a previous post about the tendency to weasel-word our mission statements so we can pretend that whatever happened is what we were aiming for all along.  There’s a second issue also in play in our evangelical culture of ineffectiveness.  When we do aim for something definite, we often aim for the wrong thing.  Often a good and glorious thing — but God didn’t tell us to aim for it.

For example, we focus on planting churches, but where does the Bible ever tell us to plant churches?  It doesn’t.  The closest we get is Paul’s instruction to Titus to appoint elders in all the churches — which is not church planting; it’s organizing the churches that are already there.  Jesus said He would build the church: “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”  What He told us to do is make disciples: “Go and make disciples of all the nations….”

The evangelical church in America is pretty good at building churches, but has forgotten how to make disciples.  In fact, we’ve gotten so bad at disciple-making that at least one major ministry operation I’m aware of gets paid handsomely to travel around the country and teach churches how to do it effectively.  They’re pretty good at it, too.  I’m glad they do what they do, but I can’t overemphasize the absurdity of the situation.  A church that doesn’t know how to make disciples is like a library where the staff can’t read or an army where the soldiers don’t know how to shoot.  It’s crazy — this is the primary mission Jesus gave us.

What are these pastors and their flocks doing, if they’re not occupied with making disciples?  They’re building churches.  When we focus on building churches, we tend to get preoccupied with marketing, building programs, group dynamics, corporate papers, committees, and all the appurtenances of 21st-century organizational structure.  In the process, we lose sight of the priority of making disciples, and we end up not making very many…if any. 

There’s a very compelling built-in motivation to focus on building the church organization rather than on making disciples.  Building an organization is a process we understand and have some control over.  Send out x number of mailers to get y number of responses, do demographic surveys, run some focus groups, meet the felt needs of the community, buy some radio spots, etc.  There are definite action steps to take, and far more often than not, they work.  The hard part is getting the money to do what needs to be done.  

Making disciples is a lot cheaper, but it’s a slippery, messy process.  We have to trust God to operate in other people’s lives, and we have to be willing to accommodate what He is doing rather than try to program it to our convenience.  Disciple-making doesn’t work in semesters, or 10-week series.  It doesn’t confine itself to Wednesday nights from 7 to 8:30.  It’s about inconvenient phone calls, spur-of-the-moment painful conversations, dropping everything to attend to a crisis. It requires being present, involving people in your life, getting elbow-deep in theirs.  It doesn’t just end at a pre-defined point; disciple-making creates relationships (and obligations) that last for years.  

Churches are a good and glorious thing.  If we focus on making disciples, we will eventually have churches — Jesus said He would build His church, did He not?  But we have to trust Jesus to do it His way while we do what He told us to focus on.  That’s really uncomfortable for us.  

There are a lot of other areas where similar loss of proper focus has occurred.  The “worship wars” of the 80s and 90s were about whether we ought to sing the old hymns or the newer spiritual songs.  Paul says twice (Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16) that we should do both — and sing psalms, too.  We focus on social justice programs for third-world coffee farmers and Albanian victims of human trafficking because Jesus said we should love our neighbors — but we don’t even know our literal neighbors’ names, much less tangibly love them.  I could go on, but you get the idea.

But if we focus on the things God told us to, and those things are messy and impossible to program or control…then what do we do?  What does that look like?  Stay tuned….

*****

Prayer Exercise

“God, what are my real priorities, the things I really focus on?  Not just the things I would say on paper, but what I really do?”

Take some time to list them out.

“Father, is there something You want to adjust in my priorities?  What is it?”

Wait in silence and see what God will say to you.  


A Pauline Thicket of Prepositions

15 June 2021

A few years ago, I was talking with a good friend who has been deeply involved in church ministries for years.  She’s a psychotherapist, and part of her professional responsibility is to manage a crisis response team at work (24-hour hotline, that sort of thing.)  Her church recently set out to start a Christian crisis response team, and naturally they asked her to serve on the team that was setting it up.

So they get the team together — a rep from the pastoral staff, people from the congregation with expertise, and a consultant who helps churches do this kind of thing.  One of the first orders of business (after sorting out the snack schedule, of course) was a mission statement.  

The conversation was productive.  The team didn’t just want to pass out band-aids to people with problems.  Any crisis hotline does that — what difference would it make that this was a Christian hotline?  They concluded that in addition to connecting people to the resources they need, they wanted to help people meet God in the midst of the crisis.  Not hand out holy-sounding platitudes, not “evangelize” them, just introduce them to God, for real. So far so good, right?

So someone came out with a mission statement that started off “To redemptively shepherd people in crisis…” and then continued into a string of prepositional phrases and gerunds worthy of the book of Romans.

“Hang on,” my friend said.  “If what we want to do is connect people in crisis with the resources they need and help them meet God in their crisis, then why don’t we just say that? ‘Our mission is to connect people in crisis with the resources they need and help them meet God in their crisis.’”

Well, if you’ve been around churches much, you already know what happened after the hemming and hawing died down. Further chattering ensued, and in the end they adopted a mission statement: “To redemptively shepherd people in crisis…” plus a Pauline thicket of prepositions.

As my friend was telling me the story, somewhat baffled by it all, it suddenly hit me: I know why we do this!

It’s about accountability.  Say the ministry adopted my friend’s suggested mission statement: “Our mission is to connect people in crisis with the resources they need and help them meet God in their crisis.”  Say I take the Tuesday night shift. How would they check to see if I was fulfilling the mission? 

My friend: Jack, I understand you recently called our crisis line and talked to Tim.
Jack: Yeah.
My friend: So, did Tim connect you to the resources you needed?
Jack: Uh, I dunno.  I guess not.
My friend: Tim didn’t connect you to any resources?
Jack: No.
My friend: Did Tim help you to hear from God?
Jack: No.
My friend (turning to me): Tim, what did you do for an hour?

But if I’m working under that “redemptively shepherding” monstrosity of a mission statement, I can let Jack cry into the phone for an hour, do nothing that actually helps him, and still make it sound awesome.  “Mindful of the biblical command to ‘weep with those who weep,’ I provided Jack with a sympathetic ear and built rapport that would allow me to speak into Jack’s life.  I feel Jack is very close to recognizing his true need for a savior.”  Notice I didn’t say that I did speak into Jack’s life, just that I might be able to.

(Now, I recognize that from time to time a particular person in a particular moment needs something that’s off-mission for the ministry, and God will use that ministry to meet the need anyway.  Wise leaders recognize that when it happens and don’t choose that moment to get cranky about the mission statement.  But we’re talking about the overall mission of the ministry here.)

Moral of the story?  Not only do we have a culture of ineffectiveness, at some level, we know it.  So we avoid spelling out what we’re going to do in ways that would expose how little fruit we really see.

Why is that?

****

Prayer Exercise

Ask God to show you if there are areas of your life where you are afraid to ask Him to do specific things — things where it would be obvious if He showed up or not.  Wait in silence and see what He will show you.  

Don’t be concerned if nothing comes to mind; just remain attentive over the next few days and see what comes up.

If God does bring an area to your attention, pray, “God I confess that I am afraid to ask You to show up and act in definite ways in this area of my life.  Please give me the wisdom to know what to ask for, and the courage to keep asking.”  

Then keep praying for wisdom in that area until God shows you what to ask for.  When that happens, keep praying for it.


A Prescription for Free Grace Theology

8 June 2021

Any theology can become a dead ideology instead of a living knowledge of God. For some people, Free Grace theology has become that, and you can see it in their lack of love. But the problem is not universal, and I see that as a promising sign; therein lies my basic prescription. The Free Grace movement must internalize the truth of 1 Corinthians 13: without love, it is nothing. When it begins to genuinely love God and its brothers first, with everything else a distant second priority, then we’ll see real growth.

Where love revives the movement, we’ll see a shift toward service and mission. Many Free Grace people are admirably engaged in evangelism, missions, and discipleship already. What is lacking is for the Free Grace movement as a movement to become outward-facing. As the movement is able to receive and embody life from God, it will serve the broader Church beyond its borders, and in the process, it will recover a robust practice and doctrine of Church unity.

I have written much about unity elsewhere, so I won’t repeat it all here. I will just say that we should love one another and get along together for the sake of our mutual friend Jesus. In my experience, that leads to doing as much as we can in partnership with as many of Christ’s people as we can, across all the denominational boundaries. When God’s people obey in this way, we find that all the scattered branches of the Church have something to offer us, and we to them…and we’ll get a chance to both give and receive. (And you don’t need to be in a Free Grace church to do this, either.)

I expect this proposal to be met with skepticism, if not scorn. I am sure a multitude of theologians can advance armies of reasons why it can’t work. I am willing to hear the counter-arguments, but at the end of the day, I will answer them all with a Chinese proverb: “The man who says it can’t be done should not interrupt the man doing it.” I am already living the proposal I am making here. It can be done, and productively, too: I am far more productive for the cause of Christ now than I ever was in my sectarian days.


Not Literal Enough

2 June 2021

I looked into Progressive Dispensationalism briefly 20+ years ago, didn’t find it remotely compelling, and haven’t felt a need to revisit it. I might be missing something, but life is short, and I kinda don’t think so. It seemed to me at the time that PD was something of a mediating position between Covenant Theology and classic dispensationalism, and I don’t think the weaknesses of dispensationalism lie in that direction. The problem is that dispensationalists don’t read literally enough.

That sounds weird, but it’s true. A dispensationalist sounds like a wooden literalist when he’s standing next to, say, Ken Gentry talking about Matthew 24, or Richard Gaffin talking up the Church as the new Israel. But stand that same dispensationalist next to Jim Reitman talking about Abraham’s children in Galatians, and see what happens. The problem with dispensationalists isn’t so much hermeneutics as a failure of nerve: they won’t apply their own hermeneutic consistently in places where the Scriptures don’t perfectly match the system.

At the end of the day, dispensationalism is a bit like Calvinism — a clever system that takes in some genuinely biblical insights and was God’s gift for a particular historical moment, but can’t be organically generated from the text, and has to flatly contradict Scripture occasionally in order to keep the system going. The biblical insights are well worth keeping, but why try to digest the whole carcass when we can loot the corpse and move on?

One of the major sticky points is the Kingdom of God. Classic dispensationalists tend to hold that there is no present reality to the Kingdom of God because the lion is not presently lying down with the lamb and Jesus is not sitting on David’s literal throne. Against that, I note that Jesus Himself said “if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.” Has come. The lion wasn’t lying down with the lamb then either, but Jesus still said what He said.

The lion really will lay down with the lamb, and Jesus really will sit on David’s literal throne when the Kingdom has come in its fullness. By speaking of the Kingdom as a present reality in His own time, Jesus forces us to acknowledge that it’s possible for the Kingdom to be truly present without being fully present in its final consummation — and what good news that is! Jesus is King now. If He is ruling within the reach of my arm, then His Kingdom is here now.

So with (say) a guy like Grant Hawley (whose book I recommend reading, even though I heartily disagree in spots), I find I agree with him far more than not when it comes to particulars like our present relationship to the covenant with Noah, our relationship to the Law, the future of Israel, and so on. However, the bubbles-on-a-string dispensational charts don’t represent those truths well; they tend to emphasize the discontinuity at the expense of things that really do continue. Our discontinuous relationship with the Law is based on our continuous relationship with Abraham and the (Noahide) priesthood of Melchizedek expressed in our older Brother Jesus (as the book of Hebrews elegantly explains). It’s all One Story, and a lot of the power to read our present circumstances in biblical categories comes from being able to see it as all a single story with motifs and themes that repeat, but like themes in music or dance — never exactly the same. In biblical studies, typology is not first and foremost a feature of literary texts; it is a philosophy of history. Typology in the real world is a mark of authorship, and the world is being authored by the same God who wrote the biblical texts.

In the nature of the case, you can always claim that this instance of the motif is different from the others, because something about it always will be different. The head-crushing women of Judges, David taking on Goliath, and Jesus crushing the serpent’s head are all quite different in certain respects, but the differences are not the most important thing about them.


Is Anyone Sick?

18 May 2021

I had the opportunity to preach on James 5:13-18 at Faith Community in Littleton this past Sunday. You can find the service video here.


Handle with Care

6 May 2021

We live in a touch-starved culture. The church is often no exception, and because touch is such a minefield, we often don’t know what to do about it.

Read this book. It will help you get started in a healthier direction.


Stones into Bread

27 April 2021

What do you do when you have a genuine need going unmet? It’s one of the great tests, and of course Jesus showed us how to handle it. After His baptism, Jesus was driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. Luke tells us that He fasted for 40 days while the devil tempted Him. At the end of that time, He was literally starving. He needed food, and there was none.

At that moment, the devil attacked. “If you’re the son of God, then turn these stones to bread.”

First the devil attacked his identity: are you really the son of God? Are you sure? If you won’t even use the power to feed yourself when you’re starving, then what’s the point anyway? God’s supposed to be taking care of you here, and all I see is rocks.

Jesus responds with a line from Deuteronomy, when Moses is teaching a new generation to trust God by reminding them of their history. He says “God humbled you, allowed you to suffer hunger, and then fed you with manna that you did not know, nor did your father know, in order to teach you” — and this is the part Jesus quotes — “that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from God’s mouth.”

You see what Jesus is saying? He’s applying Israel’s experience as the template. First we have a need, and it hurts. The need is real. Then the devil shows up and tempts us not to trust God, to try to do it our own way. And if we fall for it, then we end up trying to eat rocks.

Jesus resisted, and when the temptations were over, angels came and fed Him.

Give in, and you eat rocks; resist, and God gives you manna.

But it’s hard. You know what? Jesus knows firsthand how hard it is; He’s been there. Right this minute He is sitting at the Father’s right hand as your High Priest. He has all the resources of heaven at His disposal, and He is ready to give you the help you need to get through it. He is sympathetic, not condemning. He wants you to ask for help. So ask for help, and He will help you.