Why life can be so hard.

Life is hard. No denying that… but why?

livewellmagazine.org

Deep question… lots of ways to respond to that statement…but here are couple of thoughts to consider.

  1. Our own ‘Free-Will”. 

  2. There is a “Villain” in our story

  3. Other People’s “free-will’ 

Could it be that simple? I believe it really is…

Item #1 – “Our Own Free Will”.  We make choices. Everyday -it’s free-will that allows us to decide who to live with or run from,  when we will go to bed and what we’re going to eat or wear. All of these choices have a consequence. Each consequence is ours alone to bear. That’s hard. I make bad choices every day. We can’t ‘duck’ our part in the play – so to speak.

Item #2“There is a Villain in our story. Don’t forget you’re in a larger ‘story’ called the Gospel. In that context there is a good King and an evil prince. One is looking to protect and provide for you… the other is stealthy and deceptive, seeking to steal and destroy. For the Christian, our life is a constant heaven and hell skirmish. We’re fighting a two front battle all the time; (1) we’re pushing past the resistance of our own selfish ‘old’ self as well as the (2) demonic push back of Lucifer (the villain) who has lost everything in his rebellion from God. He is ruthless and persistent in the attack. Bad things are thrown at us all the time… without knowing who it is that’s out there, we could be fooled into thinking it’s us, our friends,… or worse, God to blame.

Item #3 – “Other people’s Free-Will; Yep… you know what this means. Other people in and around our story can make totally lame choices that will definitely affect us. From walking out of a marriage to stealing money from our company… each individual can and will fail us from time to time. Understanding that as they fail us… we’re likely to fail them too… we may choose to come to ‘peace’ with that reality or we’ll isolate. We’ll try to run and run and run… until we can’t run any longer. Simply avoiding the risk of being injured by others.

As Christians we must walk out our lives in the same context as everyone else… however, we have an optional fourth item to consider. The Christian’s helper / comforter is the Holy Spirit in us. It radically affects our perspective, infuses us with supernatural power, and warns of danger with discernment and wisdom.

With the presence of the Holy Spirit, we’re well equipped to respond to the world of free-will and the randomness of our lives, and we’re protected from the viciousness of our soul sworn enemy. The Holy Spirit along with God’s truth (scripture) gives us more than an edge in living our lives with victory.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another,

If you’re feeling overwhelmed. If you’re soul tired… you need some newness of life.

I recommend the prayer of the Holy Spirit to jump-start your day.

Start with a spiritual song… sing along to it (out-loud).

Engage your heart and mind in this effort… allow several minutes to pass. Linger in the presence of God, soak up the words you’re listening to and then quietly Pray for God to grant you the grace and strength for your day,  ask the Holy Spirit to ‘fill’ you afresh.

Read in scripture or listen to it on a podcast. Hear the truth. Let it remind you again of God’s plans and purposes for your life… let it’s warmth push out the lies and agreements that may have crept into your psyche. God’s word freeing us from bondage and false accusation, opening us up to restoration. Ask for God’s protection and power to live your day in a posture of optimism and hope. .

Wait. . .

if necessary, ask for forgiveness as any recent sins may come immediately to mind. Don’t avoid this. Then Repeat…

Wait. . .

when God’s’ peace and purity flood your heart… resume your day.

Repeat again tomorrow.

Watch you ‘hard life’ suddenly change. It will steadily keep changing as your days start to morph into a series of satisfying and beautiful ones. A profound change in attitude and posture will start to show in you, as God through his redemptive supernatural power changes you.

A changed “you”… will begin to choose differently. A changed ‘you’ will respond to attacks without fear. A changed ‘you’ will grow in patience for those who  live selfishly. Not because you had a profound breakthrough or read the right book, but simply by seeing your life as it truly is. 

This is the Christian “LIFE”.

Pastor B.

Reference Verse for this blog; Romans 15:4-5a ” 

Ruth’s story…

Some days our faith hangs by a thread so thin we wonder why we even claim to be a Christian. Despair is a the door, hope has left the building and we are all that remains. Our hearts merely empty shells… echoes fading of our past professions of God’s goodness and grace.

If those words resonate… you’re not alone. 

Studying the book of Ruth for a sermon series, I felt the powerful parallels between her story and mine. Her faith and story serving as a powerful source of hope and inspiration, especially for those caught in heartache, loneliness, and a season of profound injustice.

If that’s you… then STOP for a few minutes… read the book of Ruth. It’s only four chapters long. A novella of sorts, written 3,000 years ago from the perspective of a still young widow woman without a country, a family to call her own, or any semblance of a future. Destitute, facing starvation, and homeless… she resisted the temptation to run and chose to stick it out with God.

Her act of faith a heroic tale full of every emotion one can feel. Despair and hopelessness mixed with redemption and restoration. A true story of one woman’s selflessness and God’s intimate and tender touch. 

I can only introduce you to Ruth.

To know her, and possibly yourself… you must explore the passages on your own time. Reading under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit… trusting God to reveal to you the ancient details as they relate to your own tragic moments and empty faith. Watch in wonder and fascination as utter loss and shame becomes renewed hope and a sure future.

image source - sandyfreckletongagonartblog.wordpress.com

image source – sandyfreckletongagonartblog.wordpress.com

In the end Ruth is vindicated for trusting in her God. She is accepted, loved, adored, and exalted to the highest place of honor possible… the great-grandmother of the Messiah.

Her journey is our journey. Her determination to follow after God ‘no-matter-what” resonates with me on so many levels. 

God’s word is like that. Filled with story after story of men and women like us, feeling the same struggles of life and experiencing the personal attention of a loving Father who intervenes and validates each individual moment of suffering and loss as part of His perfect plan.

Ruth renews my trust in God. I hope it does the same for you today. 

To discover more about Ruth and her amazing story, read on at Biblegateway.com !

Pastor B.

When we run and hide…

Met with a dear friend and fellow pastor the other day. We talked and caught up… he shared of his summer and the struggle he’s had with isolation and the allure of pulling back from his church community.  Of his battle with feeling alone and wanting to avoid others… it was a familiar story.

He eventually recognized this internal struggle was more than just an emotional pull or some sort of ministry fatigue. It was spiritual warfare. His church was growing, having just walked through a very difficult season of transition things were finally gaining momentum… the Kingdom of God was pressing forward into their local community and suddenly there was just a sense of unexplainable spiritual fatigue. 

The result… he pulled back from meeting with others in his community of faith for coffee or prayer. He took a ‘break’ from reading his bible. He re-arranged his personal life to allow him to ‘miss’ regular church events and generally pulled away from all things “Christian’ in order to get some ‘space’.

In time it affected his marriage, his kids and of course… his relationship with God. He was sharing with me in the ‘past-tense’ and I noted that he was embarrassed and upset with himself for letting it happen. Wryly he acknowledged he could see these same issues in others easily enough, but seemed so blind about himself…he was sharing out of accountability and support. Bringing it out into the open and letting me know he didn’t want to stay in this place of isolation any longer.

picture credit - www.doctormit.ro

picture credit – http://www.doctormit.ro

That took courage. It mean he had conviction and determination to follow Christ no matter what he was ‘feeling’ or not feeling on any particular day. It also meant, he was walking in humility and purpose. Recognizing he was fighting more than a personal battle, but experiencing spiritual resistance to the work that God was doing in and around him at his local church.

In his family.

In his marriage.

In him.

We all have felt this way in our lives. Many times I’ve wanted to run away and hide from ministry. To just get in my car and drive until I didn’t know where I was. To isolate and hibernate away from people… from problems. From the concerns of others and the petty annoyances of life.

Yet… somewhere deep within we know that’s not the better path. We sense that God is working in these empty moments of life. Developing something ‘more‘ within our heart of hearts. Growing us deeper roots for finding that ‘everlasting’ water and preparing us to serve in new ways. It’s in these moments of isolation that we have to choose to open the bible once more and read. Drinking deep of it’s wisdom and experiencing the grace of God afresh.

picture credit - thelaneblog.wordpress.com

picture credit – thelaneblog.wordpress.com

Faith is tested every day. Sometimes it’s the in-between of our lives that we are most vulnerable. The subtle shift in our attitude… the bitter taste of resentment or past injustice nudging us to pull back. To avoid.

Dear friends… we are desperately in need of each other. The battle for our hearts and minds begins with isolation and division. The enemy of our souls will seek to compromise us anyway he can. It’s easiest when we’re away from the strength and support of our spiritual family.

Stay close to your encourager’s. Don’t run. Don’t hide. Whatever your feeling…whatever you’ve done… God is already making it work for your good and His glory.

Hang in there. Stay close. Be where God has placed you.

Pastor B.

 

 

 

Sadness Sucks!

Sadness… sorrow. Life – struggle – despair. Stuff we as parent’s not only have to deal with… but have to help our kids with.

How do we keep parenting when we’re in the midst of personal grief and or tragedy? sadness sucks

Couple of thoughts….

1 – Sadness is not a sin. Sorrow is a part of the journey we call life. In perspective, sadness is where we can find our truest measure. A time in which God will allow us to suffer or endure difficulty. Not to punish, but to prune.

The struggles force us to draw near or flee from God’s presence. If we choose to demand explanations, we’ll miss the opportunity to get to ‘know’ Him. We’ll be distracted by the injustice of our situation and loose the intimacy of just having Him near us as we go through it.

John 15 (ESV) “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit… 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy (not happiness) may be full.

2- Sorrow and Sadness allow us to ‘see’ the world differently. As if with new eyes. Eyes of Faith. Kingdom lens, whichever Christian metaphor your like… For most of us… we cannot see our world as it really is without being forced to look again… with God’s perspective.

Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” 

3 – Struggle builds muscle… Sadness can be a training tool of God to build up our faith and endurance for the journey ahead. Like any soldier, we must prepare our minds and muscles for the rigors of battle and train ourselves in the use and tactics of our weaponry.

Our weakness is God’s strength… our battle is not as it seems. There is much more to our melancholy and sadness than just our circumstances! We have an enemy of our heart and he is aggressively pushing us to retreat, pull back, abandon our current course…. As parents, or pastors… this gets amplified in times of strategic advance – and with the increased hostility, we should be able to recognize the significance of our work and ministries! We must also arm ourselves with Kingdom truth… abandoning the lies of our world. A few verses to help you reset!

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV) But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (ESV) “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

Ephesians 6:10-13 (ESV) Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that (you)may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm

Christian Parenting isn’t living in denial…it’s not forcing yourself to smile no matter what!

It’s an unfiltered view of the struggle, a illustration to our kids of what a genuine Christian in the real world lives like. It’s a unique opportunity we have as parents to model an authentic faith to our kids as we work to understand the truth of God, His comfort, and His presence in the chaos and tragedy of life.

Sadness does suck… but it has purpose for the Christian!

Pastor B.

Recommended Resource: “Choose Joy, because happiness isn’t enough” Kay Warren

Parenting like an “expert”

Parenting is ridiculously hard. From newborn to young adult, we as parents are confronted with EVERY kind of crazy. We think we’re prepared… 🙂 but then it hits and we’re scrambling to find someone…. ANYONE who has the experience, the wisdom… the freaking sanity to walk us through the chaos that is our kid! 47146

From issues with breastfeeding infants to the scourge of pre-adolescent personality disorders, we’re walking the tightrope of parenting life.

Occasionally during those transitions we find moments where we’re comfortable and somewhat confident that we know what we’re about, but so many times we panic inside! Desperately wondering what to do and how to do it!

Parenting experts are all over the web…. from best-selling books to podcasts, there are ‘expert’s everywhere on everything, sharing freely and confidently how to fix the things in your family that are out of ‘whack’.

Each of these experts will have a certain focus or perspective that they believe will carry the day for you. Each expert will have the aura of invincibility that only comes from successfully parenting their kids from diaper to college degree! (Some are excellent resources, others not so much. Kevin Leman is great)

Sometimes… watching, reading, or listening to the ‘experts’ not only doesn’t help us… it makes us feel worse. Guilt, regret, and a sense of inadequacy start to pile up… weighing us down and pushing our parenting shame through the roof.

IF…. that has happened… IF… that IS happening… take HOPE! All is not lost. There is another expert to consider…

The reality is, no one on the planet knows your kids better than YOU. No educated expert can come close to grasping the nuance’s of your child’s personality, character, spirit, and gifting better than you.

Ask yourself… would God appoint you to be a parent of a specific child randomly? Like some kind of cosmic soul lotto, whipping ping-pong balls around heaven to match parents with babies like a crazy game of chance. I don’t think so.

The precision of God’s creation is so intricate and intentional we can KNOW for certain that He has plans and purposes in everything He touches. No detail is too small, no coincidences allowed.

God hand-picked YOU to parent the children in your home. No one else got the assignment or the privilege to raise your kids to adulthood, only YOU were chosen for that Holy duty. 

So… deep breath, and exhale. Now breath again with fresh confidence and hope.

God is in your parenting life. He is with you to counsel and affirm you. The presence of the Holy Spirit as our guide and support in the roughest moments of parenting is assured to all Christians. Your not all alone, isolated, and unprepared for this.

True, we all can use help with keeping perspective or seeing important things that are obvious to others… but when the-push-comes-to-shoveyou’re the EXPERT that knows what your kids need. Guided by the Holy Spirit and secured by a community of faith to help you ‘stick-with-it’, there is great hope for your situation.

May God give you the wisdom and grace to discern His will for your family and the strength and patience to hang in there until the fruit of those choices comes into sight.

Blessings from Pastor B.

Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family[c] in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (ESV) – BibleGateway.com 

 

Fall Funk

Each year about this time… I get a bit of the funk. Cold and cough, snotty nose… sinus headaches. I blame it on the long grey days of fall, when it rains all week-long and then the leaves are gone. Life seems to go blah, kinda gross. Nothing really fun happening yet. Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is on the horizon and the day-to-day becomes a grind.

74211.com - source

74211.com – source

Parenting… pastoring, living… gets dull. People seem to want their space. It’s just easier to go back to bed… to skip the next church event or party invite. We’re tired. Coffee and Tea and the ol comfy couch are where we want to start and stop each day. 

Kids grind down too. School gets serious about now, homework and tests amping up for the quarter and teachers load on the extra assignments. Short days become long nights and everyone get’s tired of everyone else’s attitude. Family time is squeezed out and we’re all fending for ourselves in the fridge.

Consider this… God is most active in the ordinary. Not the grand and glorious moments of our lives.

He works in and among us when we feel the weakest. The most “blah”. In fact, He works amazing things in and among our least and lowest moments. When we think we’re hopelessly useless… He will show up. Giving us opportunities to do real ministry to our kids and those around us.

This fall… don’t give in to the funk. 

God has plans that only you can carry out. Custom prepared for your unique blend of gifts and gaffs. Don’t isolate and avoid the next opportunity to mingle and mix it up with friends and family. Step out in faith… irregardless of how you ‘feel’. I promise you… the mystery of God’s ways will fill you with renewed wonder and grace for yourself and those around you.

2 Corinthians 12:9 “9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (ESV) Biblegateway Source.

Living in the fall funk is only a moment of time… but without hope, it can stretch darkly far out in front of us. Get up, get out there… change the world. You’ll be surprised how much we need you and how much you need us!

Pastor B.

It takes a church to keep us alive

Many times I’ve felt the pressures of being ‘overwhelmed’. That moment when one-too-many commitments hits our already full schedules. The frantic pulse and shallow breaths of an ‘almost’ panic-attack as our stomach roils with dread, crazy days when we realize we literally lack the time to stop & eat.

Stretched beyond what we thought we could do… we stumble and fumble our way through it, hoping that in the end we’ll somehow cover every base and detail. church

That’s OK when it’s a day or two out of each month…but when it piles up into weeks of crazy, we start to feel the pressure of a life out of control. A nearly panicked state of existence that pushes us to the limit… and then beyond. 

As believers we share a commitment to Christ, a common-bond that links us with each other in ways we don’t always realize or appreciate. It’s in these insanely busy and overwhelming moments that we find out… we’re not in this alone. We have help.

Of course we know ‘theoretically’ the ageless gospel truth… ‘Christ will never leave us or forsake us‘, but it’s a bewildering moment when we understand that “Christ’ in the gospel scenario is ‘you’ and ‘me’. The powerful truth of friendship, soaked in the Holy Spirit which provides the source of a Christians steadfast commitment to help whenever someone is in need.

Recently I’ve felt all of these emotions anew and experienced the powerlessness of running at red-line and realizing there was nothing I could do to slow life down. It was into this hyperactive mix that my fellow Christians and friends willingly dived right in.

studyinuk.universiablogs.net

studyinuk.universiablogs.net

I’m sure it’s wasn’t my winning personality 🙂 or saint-like life that inspired such sacrifice from others…but rather the connection of the Holy Spirit among our community of faith. The shared sensitivity of those who love and care for each other, bringing keen awareness to the needs we have, fueling a genuine desire to serve, to help.  And as of recently…that need has been mine.

The response of our church to the practical needs among us is truly inspiring. Not in the good Christians ‘duty’ kind of way, but in the heroic and sincere effort of giving freely when feeling empty, of not waiting to serve until their schedules cleared…but the extraordinary act of putting the needs of others above their own.

It’s in this moment, that I see Christ, active and alive in the sweat and tears of life, when we stop what we’re busy with to give sacrificially without any expectation of a return.

Parents and friends, I believe it takes a church (not the building, but the people in it) to keep us and our hope alive, for the self-contained and proud… this is a hard truth. For the broken and overwhelmed, it is a comfort that binds us together.

As you navigate your life, let me encourage you to become active in your local body of Christian believers. Trying to go it on your own is always an option for surviving… but it’s certainly not a good path to ‘living.

Truth to consider,

Pastor B.

Inspired by Ephesians 1 (NIV)

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,…22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (BibleGateway.com