It started out like any other day. I was in college. Classes began at 0700. Not my favorite way to start a day, but that’s how it was. Midway through the morning the office contacts me saying I have a phone call. I take the call to hear my frantic mother in a panic. My father had been taken to the Emergency Room with severe chest pain.
Three and a half weeks later, he passed away. He never woke up from a surgery designed to save him from the heart aneurism he had experienced. His body shut down and he would never speak to me again. I often wonder if he could hear me as I spoke to him, sense me as I hugged him and reminded him of my love for him.
My world had been flipped into absolute chaos. I was mad at God. I hated God. I wanted to die. I had no idea how to move forward. Without my father, moving on with life didn’t even make any sense. I had been thrust out of a state of perfect contentment. A great college, beautiful girlfriend, wonderful family. All of that shattered in a single phone call.
Some of you may know the feeling.
Your marriage is in a downward spiral. You don’t know what happened. You can’t explain it. But things just aren’t what they used to be.
Your children have pushed you to the edge. You don’t know how it got so out of control, but you think to yourself, “If only we lived in another place, another state, another house with another school, things would be better.”
You lose someone you love unexpectedly. The circumstances might be a fast-acting, terminal cancer, car accident, suicide or any number of other possibilities. Regardless, someone in your life is now no longer there and you have a hole, a gap, in your world.
Your finances have driven you underground. You are so far in debt you can’t even see the light at the end of the tunnel anymore. You have no room for generosity, you’re stressed about how to feed your kids, you have stopped answering phone calls from debt collectors and you’re just hoping to somehow disappear off their radar.
Everyone one of us has a story. A moment when life got messy, chaotic, unpredictable and painful. A story that makes us ask, “How do I get back on my feet again? How do I recover from this? Will I ever have contentment in my life or will it always be this way? How do I experience peace again?”
If this describes you, I want to offer a solution. A path to contentment. A path to solid footing again. A path that blows the “light at the end of the tunnel” out of the water and brings you into direct contact with the Maker of light.
First, read Psalm 136.
Pathway to Peace #1 – Give “Thanks” to God!
Thank God for the mess and chaos of life. Use those opportunities to seek the will of God and how He might be growing you or preparing you for something bigger and better in life. Read Psalm 136 again and see the times when God’s people could have chosen to give up. We’re reminded even in our worst moments of discontentment, chaos and pain to offer thanks to God for all He has already done. Have the discipline to remember all that God has done for you in the past and to offer an attitude of thankfulness to Him. A heart of thanks turns our attention from ourselves and moves us into a place of peace and contentment. It reminds us that life isn’t about my happiness, but it is about God purifying me into holiness.
Pathway to Peace #2 – Remember God’s Faithfulness!
This is where some discipline is required. In the pain and chaos of life, it can be difficult to see God at work. Our tendency is to assume He has left us for the time being and has moved on to someone else. Maybe He has given up on us or someone else needs Him more badly. Either way, we convince ourselves that if we are going to find peace, to grow our marriage, to heal our pains and to begin to get up on our feet again, it’s all on us. So we put all the pressure on ourselves to make it happen. In doing so, we fail to remember God’s faithfulness. Every verse in Psalm 136 ends with, “His faithful love endures forever.” No matter how far we fall, how unfaithful we are, how bad or deep our hurt is or chaotic life has become, God is the faithful one. We are unfaithful to our God. His love endures forever. He is faithful. If you’re feeling the chaos, it might be time to remember God’s faithfulness.
I was in my favorite Starbucks the other day. Shocking, I know. I ordered my Fall favorite, Triple Venti Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Near the door stood a man, a little shorter than me. We’ll call him 5’11”. He appeared to be very fit and his shirt even advertised it. It said, “Rogue Fitness!” And then had some added information about kettlebells and who knows what. Honestly, I quit reading after, “Rogue Fitness!”
As usual, I started a conversation with a complete stranger.
“Hey, tell me what Rogue Fitness is all about.”
The conversation from that point was a blur. I know I left with a business card, his name (Matt), the fact that Rogue Fitness was his gym and an offer to come and check it out. He was so excited about his gym, I honestly contemplated checking it out. Until I came back to reality and realized that would cost money. Nevertheless, the fact I won’t be going by, didn’t diminish one glaring fact that was blinding me as I walked to my car.
Why can’t Christians be that excited about their faith?
If I was wearing a church shirt and someone asked me about it, would I have responded that excitedly? I sure hope so.
When given an opportunity like this one, do we jump all over it with the tenacity of a Rogue Fitness Coach?
Do our eyes light up? Do they get really big? Do the veins in our neck stand out a little more? Can people see the passion about your faith when you talk with them? Or does your impression leave them feeling as if they would fall asleep at your church?
God has come across the cosmos and intervened in our world. Given us a mission and purpose. Told us that no matter what happens, we will not fail.
And yet we often times act as if we are scared little dogs, afraid to tell anyone what we believe.
So get out there you Christians. You who claim to be followers of Christ. You who show up on Sunday morning and sing the songs, listen to the message, take the communion and claim to live for and obey Jesus. Get out there and be excited about your faith. When someone is done talking to you, they should feel the excitement and passion pouring out of you. Get excited Christians!
And unlike Rogue Fitness, there isn’t even a membership fee. So you can tell that stranger at Starbucks that it’s all free!
1 Peter 3:15 (NLT) – And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.
Who would have thought? Inspiration from a small, Old Testament book, that goes by the name of the prophet, Joel.
I am reading through the Bible in one year. Currently I am well over halfway done, but still in the Old Testament. I will admit that there are some Old Testament books that I get to and honestly think, “What can I possibly get out of what this book has to say? I mean, it’s so…well…old.”
And today I find myself landing in a short, three-chapter, book by a prophet named Joel. First thought, “Here we go again.” Not very encouraging coming from the “pastor.”
But if there’s something in a small book like Joel that can benefit us today, God can certainly show us where. So I prayed before I began to read, “God, please show me what you want me to see in this book. Whatever it is, let me see it clearly.” And wouldn’t you know it, clear as day, Joel 2:12, 13 popped off the page and smacked me in the face.
That is why the Lord says, ‘Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.’ Return to the Lord your God, for He is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.
There it was.
Popping off the page.
God wants more than my outward show.
You see, we all can be good at putting on a show for everyone. We are fantastic at convincing people we are one way, when on the inside we are another. We can show up at church, but internally not allow it to impact us in any way.
God is not interested in the outward show (tearing our clothes in grief). When the Bible says that, we would need to hear, “Don’t come to Me (God) just by looking like it on the outside. Don’t show up at church and pretend to be coming to Me.”
God is interested in the internal happenings (tear your heart). What we need to hear is, “God wants more than the outward show of religion. God isn’t interested in your record for most Sundays attended in a row. God is interested in whether or not your heart is fully, completely, 100%, turned, focused and aimed toward Him. Am I fully surrendered to the God of the universe?
I can be the master of this. Putting on my show for everyone to see. Making it appear that everything between God and I is okay, when internally, God and I are experiencing tension. Tension over whether or not He can have all of me.
Guess Joel is urging me to continually lay down the stuff I want in life and to turn my heart completely to God. Time to give up the tension and allow God to have His way.
Have you ever experienced that tension?
Am I way off?
I had this crazy idea to write about some of the things I learn throughout the day. Maybe transform some of the stuff I write into a journal at some level. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen. But to start, how about some of what I learned today. We’ll call it, “WILT.” Get it? See what I did there?
God breathes life, but you have to be dead first!
I learned that even in a book like Ezekiel, when you seek God, there are some significant spiritual truths that surface. God uses these to transform us, from the inside out. You should read Ezekiel 37. One of the moments that struck me was this one…
Ezekiel 37:9 – “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.'”
In the midst of spiritual death and dryness, God does His best work. God can’t breathe life into me if I don’t die to myself first. I must give up doing life my own way in order for God to breathe into me, true life. If I want to experience all God has to offer me, I need to be willing to die to my own wants, desires, needs and selfish patterns.
Someone needs to know the real you!
It feels good to get beyond the superficial parts of life with someone. It is healthy to share your hurts, pains and struggles with someone you know and trust. For me, it’s a group of guys I meet with for accountability. On a more personal level, it’s my wife.
There’s something healthy and great about allowing her to know what’s really going on inside me. Sitting down for a cup of coffee and really digging in is ultimately liberating. I was able to spend time with my wife today, just the two of us. It was great to be able to connect with her at a deeper level. Taking our relationship into deeper and better waters.
But it is such a good hurt. I love the way I feel when I’m working out. I love how I feel when I’m done. I really love the energy I have the next day. Yes, it hurts. But it’s such a good hurt.
What did you learn today?
The following is a post from one of my contributors, Brandon Foster. He is a high school student in our Student Ministry at New Life.
Pupil: “You say everything happens for a reason.”
Teacher: “Yes; I hold it to be true, at least.”
Pupil: “Even when the initial cause of something doesn’t satisfy it’s intended purpose?”
Teacher: “Can you couple your question with an scenario?”
(characters are named from “the boy’s” perspective)
“Let’s assume a boy plans to hang out with two of his friends at a Lake after school, but during the last period of the day he finds out one of his friends will not be able to come. The boy decides to walk his friend (who can’t make it to the Lake) half way to his house and then head back to return to the Lake.
The bell rings, class is dismissed, and we find the boy and his friend outside of the school building searching for the boy’s other friend who was also invited to the Lake. To the boy’s disappointment, this other friend of his tells him that he won’t be able to make because of a a last minute event. The boy and the first friend continue walking on their way, but — to their surprise — they encounter two of their acquaintances from school whom they have previously noticed also like to frequent the Lake. However, the boy notices that one of the acquaintances isn’t heading for the Lake as she usually would but is heading to to her home, instead (which just so happens to be along the same path that the boy and his friend are taking).
The boy, his friend, and the two acquaintances converse among themselves and eventually arrive at a point where the road splits into three smaller roads. At the fork, one of the acquaintances takes a left, the boy’s friend continues on forward to rest of his way home, the other acquaintance begins to make for a right, and the boy heads back toward the school in order to make his way to the Lake (as he had previously planned). He does this even though his two friend who he had invited won’t be there, because he figures he might find some of his other schoolmates at the Lake anyway.
To the boy’s surprise, yet again, the acquaintance who started to make a right at the fork reconsiders her decision and decides to turn around and go back toward the Lake, in the same direction as the boy. As the boy and the acquaintance walk to the Lake, they have some small talk and learn a little more about each other. They arrive at the vacant Lake only to notice it’s been completely dry for 5 entire weeks. They walk and talk their way back to the fork where they once began their quaint journey to the Lake and depart to their respective homes.”
Teacher: “I see. So, neither the boy nor his friends got to hang out with each other as they planned.”
Pupil: “It is sound to say that the cause of this event is when the boy and his friends planned to hang out.”
Pupil: “Therefore intended purpose of the cause was not yet fulfilled — correct?”
Teacher: “That depends on how the boy sees it.”
Pupil: “How so?”
Teacher: “Well, did he enjoy the time with his acquaintance?”
Pupil: “Without a doubt.”
Teacher: “Now we need to look at the purpose of why the boy wanted to spend time with his friends at the Lake in the first place.”
Pupil: “To have a good time, of course.”
Teacher: “And to expand the relationships among themselves as friends, too, wouldn’t you agree?”
Pupil: “I suppose so.”
Teacher: “Isn’t this the same purpose as the cause in your given example?”
Pupil: “But is it sound to say that the purpose of the boy and his acquaintance walking to the empty Lake was satisfied?”
Teacher: “Then you’d have to ask what the acquaintance thought of it.”
Questions for the Reader