What a mess!

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My heart is absolutely broken.  My wife Kris and I drove down to Brownsville, OR to see where the movie “Stand by Me” was shot.  We had a wonderful time playing in the treehouse where the boys played cards, ran down the gun-shot ridden back alley, and took a Kodak moment picture on the famous bridge where they entered the little town.  It was a surreal time, especially for my precious girl.  But it was on the drive home where I saw it…

“STOP SINNING.  COME TO JESUS.”

Yes, a glaringly obvious sign on the side of a church building.  It could have easily read, “Clean up your act, then you’ll be good enough to approach God.”  How sad is that!  And I’m sure the pastor and the church meant well by this exhortation.  I do not for a minute doubt their sincerity.  But there is something fatally flawed with that statement.

It’s kind of like saying…

  • Fix your car, then take it to the mechanic…
  • Turn on the light, then put a lightbulb in the socket…
  • Watch TV, and then turn it on…

Does that make any sense?  These are impossibilities.  You never fix your car and then take it to a mechanic.  Why?  Because a mechanic is only necessary when the car needs fixing.  And that’s where we come into play.  We (yes, you and me) are in need of a mechanic.  We are all very broken people with very real problems.  And yes, we need a mechanic, the Great Mechanic!

I’ve been attending Sandals Church for about 5 years now.  Their vision?  “Real with ourselves, God and others.”  It’s the vision of authenticity.  It’s about reaching out to real people struggling with a real life problems.  I think if Sandals Church was to put a sign up similar to the one above, it might read…

“STILL SINNING?  COME TO JESUS.”

Yes!  Because we are all still sinning.  We are all struggling with tragedies, let downs, anger, un-forgiveness, sin and a slew of other things that most people wear a mask for in order to avoid being outed.  And so, that mask is proudly displayed by the many parishioners that attend churches like the one I saw in Brownsville.  Unfortunately that only leads to fake Christianity.  I’m not about being fake, I’m about being real.

The fact of the matter is that no church in America, or the world for the matter, should ever put conditions on coming to Jesus.  Jesus never required anything but love from His followers.  They flocked to Him in droves!

I’ve sat and pondered the reason why so many people, in the tens of thousands, followed so closely to Jesus as he walked the streets of Jerusalem or traversed the shores of Galilee.  It’s so simple, He loved them just the way they are.  He never put conditions on his love.  The only people he challenged were the fake religious leaders that put conditions on people.  Here’s a modern day look at what the Pharisees did to people (Matthew 23)…

  • They walked around with a big bible in hand telling others how to live, but in secret spent little time living out what they preach.
  • Like modern day televangelists, they guilt you into giving sacrificially while they jet-set to their third house in Miami Beach.
  • They love to show everyone how much money they give to the church, yet they won’t life a finger to help someone in need.
  • They go around showing everyone how holy they are, but in private, their lives are riddled with all kinds of sinful behavior.

And that’s what I saw yesterday; conditions on approaching Jesus.

Maybe you’ve thought about Christianity and wondered what all the fuss is about.  If I could sum it all up in one word it would be FREEDOM.  Jesus came to give you and I freedom.

  • Freedom from religion
  • Freedom from a world that is constantly tearing at our soul, and…
  • Freedom from the plight of sin.

Here’s the truth, sin is something we all struggle with and Jesus is the answer.  Jesus is the freedom.  But His freedom looks very different from what many churches suggest.

Freedom in Jesus is when he said to the people following him, “Come to me all you who are tired, struggling, hurt, angry, frustrated and in a lot of pain, and I will give you a rest you could never imagine.”  This is my version of Matthew 11:28.  And my guess is that many of you could use some much needed rest.

Is that where you’re at today?  Do you need some rest?  May I suggest you find a church that allows you to be a complete mess.  Jesus would say to you today, “Just come to me how you are.  I will take you, mess and all!”  And if you do just that, you will find rest like you’ve never found before.

Please remember, Jesus is about restoring you, not slamming you for your faults.  He knows everything about you.  And you know what?  He loves you right where you’re at.

Faith isn’t always what is seems…

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As many of you know, for me this past couple of weeks has been nothing short of grimm.  It’s been difficult, but it’s also been wonderful.  This morning I spent some time milling over something incredible that I believe God has shown me about my faith.

Just to recap my week, it started off with feeling so sick that I literally passed out.  It then moved to a family situation that struck me to my core as I realized how much I’ve failed as a father and husband.  My week then moved forward into a situation completely out of my control that cost me quite a bit financially.  And to cap it off, I found myself dealing with these crises by indulging in food and looking at things I shouldn’t have on my computer.  Yes, it’s been a very hard week.  But God was always there.  His faith demanded faith on my part.

Sandals Church had an annual staff retreat that allowed me to refocus my life and begin a new chapter of faith.  But faith has begun to change for me.  I’ve always defined faith to look something like this.

  • If I believe strong enough, God will come through…
  • If I stop doubting, God will begin to work in my situation…
  • If I have faith the size of a mustard seed, God will then move in a way that otherwise He wouldn’t have.

I’ve always viewed faith as something that is tied to the fact that if I believe hard enough, strong enough or just plain old enough, THEN God would decide to move on my behalf.  Have I ever been so wrong!  And maybe you’ve believed something similar.

As I prayed this morning, I was taken to a passage of scripture that most of us are probably familiar with.  And if you aren’t familiar with it, you may look at it and say, “See, we have to have faith in order for God to move.”  But there’s a flaw in that argument because God is continually moving in our lives.  He never stops.  He doesn’t sleep.  He is always working on our behalf because He loves us.

“But Jon, does that mean I don’t have to have faith in order for things to happen?”  NO!  It means that faith might have a radically different meaning than you and I might think.  Here is the verse that God brought me to.

James 1:6-8 “But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”

What an encouraging set of verses!  But something stuck out so hidden yet so obvious to me.  It’s found in the very last verse, “Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” Faith isn’t simply about what God will do for us, faith is about what we will do in our situation.  And I’ll repeat it again, God is always at work, even when our faith is weak or non-existent.

Please know that I’m not saying we all just need to pull up our bootstraps and work really hard in order for God to work.  HE IS ALREADY WORKING.  What I am saying is that our unbelief drives our faith and our actions.  If I lack faith, it will drive everything I do.

I have a very close friend who is in a situation that he believes will never change.  I have told him time and time again that nothing is impossible with God and that his lack of faith is impacting his walk with God.  But, I continue to hear excuse after excuse…

  • The reason things won’t change is because…
  • I can’t see how this will work out because…
  • We really won’t be able to do this because…

Over and over I hear excuse after excuse why God won’t be able to work in his circumstances.  The truth of the matter is that his lack of faith has rendered him sterile and not the God he serves.

Friends, a lack in faith doesn’t put God on the back-burner.  A lack of faith doesn’t cause God to say, “Oh well, if you believed enough I’d be there for you.”  No, a lack of faith causes you and me to give up on our situation.  We actually begin to believe that things will never change or that we aren’t spiritual enough for God to work, causing us to halt our own walk in faith.

Want the real truth?  Not one of us has enough faith to make God move because He is already moving.  However, all of us can move with God in our circumstances.  The key here friend is that we move; and it always begins with where our minds are at.  If we don’t believe, if we don’t have faith, then we will be like a ship tossed around on the ocean.  If we wait around for God to do something, then we’ll be waiting for a really long time.  God is waiting for you and I to begin believing that He is already at work.  He is patiently asking us to begin putting one foot in front of the other and walk out our faith.

  • Are you ready to start walking out your faith?
  • Do you believe that God is already working in your circumstances?
  • Are you willing to look at faith as action on your part and not solely action on God’s part?

If you answered yes to these three simple questions, I believe you have the faith it takes to move mountains.  God is in the business of restoration, healing and changing circumstances for the better.  I think He might just be waiting for you to take the first step of faith.

 

I hate my life…

Hate LifeI received this text a few weeks back. “Jon, I’m so tired of my life. I hate it. I try so hard and nothing ever seems to change.”  I tried to encourage him and we set up a time to meet, but he’s right, it’s pretty bad for him right now.

Maybe that sounds familiar? Is your life messy?  Is it mediocre at best? Maybe it’s not even mediocre, it just downright sucks. Being in ministry, I encounter a lot of people that are hurting. Genuine people. They aren’t faking it, they really hate their life.

I came across a secular article about people that hate their lives.  But it wasn’t the article that caught my eye, it was the comments at the bottom of the page that struck me.

“None of my problems can be solved. I haven’t had friends in years, I never talk to anyone and nobody cares. I tried getting help; I know I have social anxiety.”

“I’m 20, in a job that I hate, never had a proper boyfriend or friends and I just wish I was pretty. Just hate everything.”

“My mom never cares about me, she has depression and all she does is sleep in until 1pm and get drunk and ignores her three children, I always help out, like cleaning etc. And I have no friends, I feel so alone.”

“i’m only in the the 5th grade and i hate my life my mom said that i should be happy, i hardly am… i have never met my brother also i have suicidal thoughts”

My heart was broken when I read these posts.  I know life can be very hard and exceedingly painful. I never pretend to put myself in other peoples shoes and claim to know how they feel.  They have pain, it’s real and I hurt for them.  But so does somebody else.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” ~ Psalm 46:1

That verse seems so glib, right?  God will rescue you.  God will strengthen you.  God is always ready to jump in and save the day… Blah, Blah, Blah… And yet verses like this seem to be missing something. We scream, “Why don’t they apply to me?” They do, they really do.

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses had just led the Israelite people out of bondage in Egypt and were headed towards the promised land. It’s literally less than a 2 week journey.  But along the way, the Israelites messed up and were stuck for 40 years wandering in the wilderness.  They could literally taste the promised land (you know, the land flowing with milk and honey), but their disobedience and lack of faith kept them from entering in, at least for the time being. They would later make their way into the land.

As the Israelites stumbled to the doorway of the promised land, Moses left them with a few instructions.  The most significant was found in Deuteronomy 6:5;

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.”

The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all recorded Jesus repeating this verse. He stated that this is the most important commandment of them all.  As a matter of fact, He said that all of the laws and the prophets teachings were summarized in this one law.  “So how does this make me feel better Jon?”  It may not, at least not yet.

My kids are awesome.  They love their dad and I love them.  They listen to me most of the time.  But then there are those other times when they think (they know) they are right.  I always love when they come back and say, “Dad, I’m so sorry I didn’t listen to you.”  It’s not that I gloat, it’s that they get it.  I love when they get it!  And God loves when we get it too.

Friends, can I be honest with you? Some of you just don’t get it.  You really don’t.  You tell yourself things like;

  • “If only ‘this’ would happen, then things would be better.”
  • “If only he or she would change, then I’d be happy.”
  • “If only I got that promotion at work, my life would be complete.”

The “If only’s” are endless, but the problem isn’t our circumstances, it’s our heart.  We want to feel better, we want our circumstances to change, but for some reason, we don’t feel the need to check our heart or our actions.

So what does it mean to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength? It means we have to play our part.  We can’t just sit back and wait for God to do His “thing,” we have to do our thing too.

And a quick side note, our motivation behind why we do our thing is just as important as our doing it.  In other words, if I find myself being religious in order for my life to get better, I’ll find myself wandering in the wilderness another 40 years.  God wants my motivation to be out of a love for Him, period! I give, not to receive, but to give to a God that loves me.  I go to church, not because I’m afraid God will punish me if I don’t, but I go because I love spending time with God.  My motivation, your motivation, is equally important in our actions.

So what does it mean to do my thing?  It means I have a part to play in the outcome of my life.  It means you have a major role in how your life pans out.  I hear people cry out that their life if terrible, but they bow their heads when I ask them questions like;

  • “Do you spend time reading your bible every day?”
  • “How often do you just sit and talk with God?”
  • “Are you faithful in giving an offering each week at church?”
  • “Do you go to church on the weekends consistently?”
  • “When is the last time you served at church?”
  • “Are you part of a community group during the week?”
  • “Do you spend time with your spouse, kids, family or friends each week, studying God’s word and discussing how it applies to your life?”
  • “Are the people you surround yourself with giving you Godly counsel, or do they just say the things you want to hear?”

Most of the time, their answers go something like this, “No, not often, not really, I know I should, maybe a month ago, I tried to but it didn’t work out for me…”  I hear a lot of excuses from one side of their mouth, while I hear a lot of complaining out of the other side.  And I know this can come off as really harsh, but it’s truth friends.  If your life is falling apart, it probably has more to do with your lack of love for God than it does your circumstances.  It’s just easier to blame it on an unfair life rather than on ourself.

Are you tired of wandering in the wilderness?  A better question might be, are you ready to go into the promised land? The Israelites didn’t want to listen to God, so they spent a generation, 40 years, wandering aimlessly in life. That’s not God’s plan for me or for you. His plan is for us to enter into His promise of a good life. God loves you. He sees your painful situation and wants to meet you in your plight. But He wants you to move too!  It’s a partnership. It’s obedience. God is walking towards you, but He’s looking for you to turn towards Him. It’s only when you make that firm commitment to love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, ALL your soul and ALL your strength that things will begin to turn around for you.  God promises to take care of you; He’d love to hear you say, “Dad, I’m so sorry I didn’t listen to you.”  Now start walking with Him.

#sandalschurch #ROGO #ihatemylife

You better watch yourself, I’m tired of your…

unhealthy-relationshipIt’s just too easy to go off on people these days.

  • Your spouse pisses you off with attitude.
  • A friend gives you the eye.
  • Your co-worker makes a sly comment about you that passes within earshot.

In any case, you get all fired up for what I believe is all the wrong reasons…

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. ~ Ephesians 6:12

Jesus said some radical things like “turn the other cheek” and “give them your shirt too.”  Of course this is right after they were smacked on the other side of their face and had their coat stolen moments before.  Seems harsh, but I think Jesus is getting at something really big here that quite frankly, none of us like to take a hard look at.  The truth of that matter is that sometimes really hurtful things happen to us and our natural reaction is to spew the same poison that we were just splattered with.

But the real issue isn’t the issue, it’s what’s behind the issue.

Have you ever stopped to think why the person did what they did? Has there been any real thought as to the motivation behind their attack? The Word of God tells us pretty clearly that our enemy isn’t who we think it is, our enemy is a dark and evil power commonly known as the devil, Satan, the great deceiver and many, many other “wonderful” names.  He is the real problem, not what you “think” is the problem.  And we certainly do have to attack back, but it’s how we attack and who we attack that might be different.

The bible teaches us to pray for our enemies, love those that aren’t really lovable, and even reach a hand out to those that just hurt you. Yes, it’s radical, but Jesus was radical.  He never asks us to do something that won’t produce great results.

But Jon, how can I love someone that’s just hurt me?  How can I “turn the other cheek” so to speak?  That doesn’t even make sense.  I totally get what you’re saying and what I’m NOT saying is to be a door matt or a punching bag.  Being in an abusive relationship is not healthy for anyone, but that’s not my focus here.  There are day to day relational issues that are really painful that Jesus wants us to take a back seat to.  He tells us that if we show greater love than the hatred we’ve endured, that love has a much better chance of winning in the long run.  It’s love that changes people, not returned hatred.

Want to be radical? Want to be different than just about everyone you know? Then love people, even when they don’t deserve it. Allow yourself to be humbled and to not always try to get even. Get to prayin! Take a knee. Make the person who’s hurt you the object of your affection. This will cause the real enemy to flee your situation.  Your love will push the devil right out of your dilemma.  The most amazing thing? It will change you into a deeper and more loving follower of Jesus! #sandalschurch #ROGO #loveoverhatred #turntheothercheek

God, you are impossible…

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Anyone who spends any good amount of time reading the bible quickly realize that God often works in ways that are completely out of the box. He never seems to do things the way we think He should (or even could).

He parted the Red Sea only after leading His people up against the threatening shoreline.  All of this taking place just as the Egyptians were pursuing them to what appeared to be certain death. Couldn’t God just have taken the Israelite’s another direction and kept the Egyptians from pursuing them?  Of course He could have…

God also let an innocent man sit in prison for 13 years because He wanted to save the Israelite people from a great famine. Why didn’t God just keep the famine from taking place where the Israelite’s were currently living?  No doubt God could have come through in a much easier, more predictable manner…

And then we see Jesus miraculously taking just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish to feed thousands of men, women and children as they became hungry. Why didn’t Jesus just prearrange to have the “In-and-Out” truck show up at dinner time?  He certainly knew the people were going to be hungry after a long day of seminars…

The stories go on and on and on. God does the most crazy things to meet the most simple challenges. I mean think about it, these aren’t very impossible needs to meet, but God uses impossible ways to meet those needs. Why?

I think it’s very simple, God uses these radical means to show us that it’s Him who is coming through, not man. It’s God who gets the praise for saving the day, not a person.

And when we are faced with incredible situations, we often think in human terms too. If God would just do xyz, I’d be just fine. But He doesn’t, and we wait. We wonder. We panic. We freeze. We do everything but trust. And He patiently waits for us to reach the end of ourselves so that He can do something impossibly beautiful in our lives.

Whatever your situation is today, God will probably meet you in the most unique and crazy way. But you simply need to trust. Have some faith. Allow God to put you up against the raging sea, or into a prison for an undetermined amount of time. Because when He’s ready to act, it probably won’t happen the way you think it should. It will happen in a way that leaves you saying, “Only you could have done this God, thank you!”

I’m absolutely finished…

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Man can life be hard!  Fighting with my wife, opening my mail and finding a bill for a thousand dollars that I wasn’t expecting, my car making a funny noise now.

Seriously?

At every turn, this life promises so much, but seemingly delivers so little.  My guess is most of you can relate.

How’s your marriage looking these days?  Is the job panning out the way you’d hoped it would?  Did the kids decide to take the path you took as a youth?  I shutter at the thought…

Really think for a moment about your life.  Yes, at times it can be pretty darn sweet, but more often than not, it’s downright tough.  And then there’s the fact that I live inside my head.  That’s where reality is, right???  And in my mind I’m often defeated, angry, lonely, sad, depressed or disappointed.  Even when everything on the outside is looking good, the inside isn’t quite up to par.  It often speaks a different story.  But I no longer have to live there, it’s been laid to rest…

Today is a day where I’m declaring “I’m Absolutely Finished!”  I’m done with this life.  I’m finished with living on my own terms.  And Jesus said something interesting on this day a couple thousand years back.  He uttered the phrase, “It is finished.”

But what is finished?  What changed after he was beaten, insulted, whipped, mocked and eventually killed on a cross?  Jesus would tell you, death is finished.  That’s what he was referring to, death.  It’s finished, done, over…

Most of you have heard of Good Friday.  It’s a day that celebrates the death of Jesus and the mark of a new beginning.  It represents the final death blow to the problem of sin in this world.  And for that we can truly throw a huge party.  But I don’t believe it ends there…

It is also a day that celebrates a new way to live.  I can now claim that my difficult marriage can be healed.  My kids can walk the narrow path.  My mind can be lifted out of the dark clouds.  I can claim (you can claim) it is finished!  It’s death to my old way of living and life to a new way.  Jesus’ way.

Let me encourage you to take a moment to reflect on what kind of life you truly want to live.  Is it a life that hangs onto death, or one that clings to the power of Life!  Jesus doesn’t have the answer, He IS the answer!

He brings life through His death to OUR lives.  It’s so simple and so incredible.  Thank you God for sending your Son to die for us so that we can truly live…

Single ladies be on notice… Um, single guys too!

Talk-to-the-handI came across this blog post by a fantastic writer, Matt Walsh.  His perspective certainly makes you think.  Although I am not a single person any longer, I thought it was a great post for all my single friends.

And guys, don’t think you’re off the hook, this applies both ways!

http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/11/11/ladies-time-take-responsibility-failed-relationships/#KIhSOulLPdrK9qu2.99

Much love!
JB

Pornography, Overeating, Smoking and Drugs… Does it get any better than this?

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I’ve been asked this simple question many, many times.  And truthfully, there are many ways I can answer it.  Maybe I’d say…

– It was a decision to eat better.
– It was having a much stronger will today than yesterday.
– It was God doing all the work.

I do have to say that I’ve pondered this question for quite some time.  Maybe you’ve pondered it as well…  So what’s this question anyway?

How did you lose all that weight?

It doesn’t appear to be the type of inquisition that will illicit some deep profound answer.  I mean it’s a pretty simple, straight-forward question.  How did you lose all that weight?

Well, I ate right, exercised, prayed a lot, and through all that hard work I’ve been able to drop 76 pounds.  That certainly is quite an achievement and I thank God for it, but those answers aren’t really ALL that’s behind the success.  Let me explain…

I grew up in a fairly normal household.  Yes, my parents had their issues, and our family dynamic proved to be somewhat dysfunctional at times, but I’ve always thought my childhood was a pretty good one.  However, something was obviously amiss.  As I look back, clearly there were issues bubbling under the surface.  At an early age I wet my bed, I wet my pants, I started delving deeply into pornography and I had an insatiable appetite for food.  Of course this is described as “addictive behavior” in the psychological world.  As I grew older, I took to drugs and cigarettes but the pornography and eating also increased.  I think at my worst, I was just shy of 390 pounds (maybe even peaked over 400), smoked a couple packs of cigarettes a day, puffed on a few joints, snorted a couple lines, looked at pornography daily and was essentially headed off a very deep cliff.

Friends, I had a lot of healing to do because I was one messed up dude!  At one point early on, I realized that my addictions were driven by nothing more than a hurting young boy trying to make all the pain in his life go away.  Did I know why I had all this turmoil inside?  Nope.  But over the years, it began to crystallize.  And I wanted to find out what was driving me into these very destructive behaviors.  Truth be told, I eventually hit a wall and God forced me to begin looking at it, but that’s another very long story.

Since that encounter with God, I’ve had the beautiful opportunity to shed some tears and enter into very deep talks with my parents.  They were able to confess many things they had done wrong that more than likely affected my upbringing.  They asked for forgiveness and I forgave them.  And that’s where the healing and deep changes began…

By the way, my parents ROCK! They’ve been highly instrumental in my healing journey and the irony is that they would be the first to admit that much of my pain came from them!  Go ponder that one for a while… God is gracious!

About 19 years ago, I stopped doing drugs.  Several years after that, the cigarette’s ended.  And another few years later, the pornography and weight began to subside dramatically.  I hadn’t really noticed it, but there was this slow yet steady healing taking place in my life.  20 years ago I would pray that God would take it all away in an instance, but that prayer went unanswered for many years.  I’m sure glad I started praying back then!

So what am I getting at?  Why share all this baggage with you?  Because I love you!  And I know that you might have some things that plague your life as well.  Maybe you struggle in some of these areas, like…

– Smoking
– Sexual Additions
– Drugs or Alcohol
– Shopping (yes, this one is true!)
– Overeating
– Depression & Anxiety
– Workaholic
– Fill in the blank…

There isn’t a person on the planet that doesn’t struggle with something in their life.  But some of us are willing to be real and begin the healing process while others want to bury their head in the sand in hopes that one day it will all just go away. And, unless you’re my dog and love to find buried tennis balls in the sand, it probably won’t do you much good to go there.

We all have an opportunity to heal.  Every one of us! Whatever it is that’s got hold of your life, you truly can heal.  Not only have I experienced it in my own life, but I’ve seen healing in many of my friends lives as well.  Healing is available, but it begs that one question again…

How did you lose all that weight?  Or better put, how do you overcome all these problems and addictions?

It’s a journey that would take quite some time to explain, but let me leave you with a few thoughts that will point you in the right direction.

  1. It’s going to take time.  Healing certainly can come in an instance, but more often than not, it’s a process, not a procedure.  Give yourself the grace to work through your “stuff” knowing that God gives you an unlimited amount of grace to keep walking forward.  He loves you and wants to see you heal as well, so allow yourself some rest.
  2. Put your trust in Jesus.  I know some of you have just read this and want to just shut the page.  I encourage you to read on.  Even if you don’t take this step, just be open to it.  Ask yourself, “If this Jesus guy was real and offered this incredible healing, would I be willing to put my trust in Him?” It’s a very simple question.  You will never find someone that loves you more than He does.
  3. Be real.  It’s so very important to be real with yourself, real with God and real with your friends.  Don’t fake it, admit it.  Confess it.  Let others know about your struggles and ask them to pray for you.  It’s just too easy to try and Lone Ranger the healing process, but it never works.  Allow yourself the grace to be a mess.  That’s what being real looks like.  I love what a pastor friend of mine, David Hickman, said at one of my recovery meetings, “I’m not okay, you’re not okay, but that’s okay.”  YES!  That’s being real…

The road to healing is not an easy one, it can be quite difficult at times.  But is an easy adventure ever worth anything?  Dorothy took the yellow brick road and ran into a nasty wicked witch.  Many a mountaineer have travailed the deadly slopes of Everest just to reach the most incredible peak on the planet.  Building the grandiose Hoover Dam cost many lives but became a national landmark. And you have the opportunity to do something very hard, but achieve something so very great.  I know you can do it!  We can do it together!!!

Now that I’m new, I want to fly!

Butterflycaterpillar

There I was, sweating profusely after a really great workout.  I pushed myself hard this morning. In excitement, I jumped on the scale and… Drum role please… Why can’t I drop the weight?  What on earth is going on?  I work hard, I really do, but it just isn’t happening.  I get so discouraged and wonder why I just can’t get it together and lose this #$%& weight!

Fast forward about 30 minutes. Took a shower, got dressed and heard a song on the radio…

“You are making all things new, and we are free.”

These words came from a verse found in Revelation 21:5. “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

For some reason, it stuck with me.  The “You” of course is God.  And He’s making all things new (except my body).  But then it really got me thinking.  I know so many people that are in the same boat as I am, except worse!  Losing weight is important, don’t get me wrong, it’s just not nearly as important as some of these friends struggles… Keep in mind, these are real words from real friends.  Names changed of course, but real none-the-less.

Jim has been looking for a job for literally 2 years!  He sends me text messages every so often, “Jon, I’m going in for an interview with the Director of Sales.  Please pray.”  And of course, I pray and respond with some encouragement. I get the same text 2 months later.

Lisa is going through a painful divorce and feels as if happiness is a long lost friend.  I’ve seen her shed some quiet tears, no doubt pain and confusion are her companions.  “Why can’t things be better…” she utters in a sniffling whimper.  Divorce hurts.  I know where she’s at right now.

John came to me in secret because he’s got some struggles he just can’t seem to get under control.  “I try and I try and I try.  I just keep failing.  I have no hope and I don’t see how God can fix me. I actually think there’s something really wrong with me”  We prayed for freedom, but I wondered if he really believed he could be set free.

“You are making all things new, and we are free.”

Do I really believe that?  Do you?  Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t.  If things are going well, I can belt out those words… “YOU ARE MAKING ALL THINGS NEW, AND I AM FREE!!!” But when the sand begins to shift under my feet and I find myself struggling with life or failing over and over and over, that song seems to change a bit… “You say you are making all things new, but I don’t seem to be free.”

What does it mean when God has the audacity to tell us that He is making all things new as we flow terrifyingly towards a two hundred foot waterfall?  Worse yet, we just took the plunge?

I think it has more to do with defining what’s new and less about our situation.  Does God want my marriage to be a good one?  Yup!  Is God pleased when I find a good job and work hard as a faithful employee?  Sure does!  Wouldn’t God want me to experience freedom in my life over some secret sin that has me in its nasty grip?  Absolutely!  So why doesn’t He “make it happen”?

He has.  He does.  He’s made all things new.  As we walk in the newness of life with Jesus, we are a new creation.

2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” NLT

And as a new creation, it’s ME that’s changed, not my situation.  I think we often fall into the trap of thinking God should be changing our environment (our marriage, our job, our sin issues), instead of us recognizing that we are already a new creation in Jesus!

My marriage may be on the rocks, but its ME that’s new!  God wants to change MY heart, even if my marriage is falling apart.  I will never be satisfied if the outcome of a perfect marriage is what brings me joy.  I will, however, find great joy if my outcome is to trust in Jesus and live in a newness of life NO MATTER WHAT SITUATION I FIND MYSELF IN.

Not finding a job can certainly be painful.  Or having a sin that strangles me produces doubt and a severe loss of hope.  But living a life for Jesus and simply believing that He’s made me a new creation is exactly where He wants you and me to live!

So what happens when I live as a “new creation?” My focus is on Jesus, not on myself and certainly not on my terrifying situation.  When Peter stepped out of the boat to walk on the water, the only reason he began to sink is because he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to look at the wind and the waves crashing all around him. See Matthew 14:22-33.

Our lives are filled with wind and waves.  Life is hard.  Stuff happens!  But I’d encourage you to believe in one simple truth… You are a new creation!  All things are new and you are free.

Free to trust that Jesus has you, not that your situation will turn out the way YOU want it to.  And I know this seems far fetched and extremely difficult, but that’s what faith is.  Trusting that God has your back.  He loves you.  As a matter of fact, He loves you so much, He made you new…

 

 

I will never ask God for His favor again…

I will never ask God for His favor again...

It’s been a struggle for the past several months. One thing after the next in my life going down in flames. I sometimes wonder why God is allowing such nonsense. He can stop it all if He really wanted too, right? He can straighten every river, melt every mountain and turn water into wine (I really like that one…). But why won’t He help me in my situation?

I can only imagine that a few of you are also asking some of the same questions…

– Why did God stand by while they cheated on me?
– How come I’m still looking for a job after 2 long years?
– When will I finally have the life that so many others have?
– How long will I have to wait before God actually notices me and my pain?
– Your question here…

But a classic question many of us wonder is…

– God, don’t you promise me your favor if I follow close to you?

We’ve all heard it a hundred times. “Hey brother, I’m praying for God’s favor on you…” Or, “Sister, just seek God’s favor for your life and things will get better…” But what does that really mean?

If I must pray for God’s favor, then that means I don’t always have it. And if I don’t always have it, then I must go on a quest to find out how to obtain this mystical favor that everyone so desperately seeks.

In my small group, one person said, “I just wish I knew how to gain God’s favor.” It was as if she was desperate to find the “answers” of God, but not necessarily God Himself. I asked her to clarify what that looks like. As the tears softly rolled down her face she went on, “I look around and I see God’s favor on so many lives. People have thriving businesses, spouses aren’t straying from home, things just seem to be going in their favor and I want that: I want that favor.”

When I quickly look through the bible for verses that deal with God’s favor towards his creation, something catches my eye. Nearly all of the Old Testament scriptures seem to indicate that we must do our part in attaining the favor of God. But once we hit the new testament, everything changes. Here are a couple of examples…

Old Testament: 2 Samuel 15:25
Then the king said to Zadok, “Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again.

New Testament: 2 Corinthians 6:2
For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

Can you see the difference? Look it up yourself. Over and over and over in the old testament, we are trying desperately to find God’s favor. But turn the pages a few hundred years after Christ came to the earth, died for our sins and then rose again to bring us life, the favor is now within us. It’s not something to attain any longer, it’s already been provided.

God has given us all the favor and blessings we could EVER receive. And this provides us the freedom to live our lives in such a way that we no longer need to look over our shoulders in hopes that God has (or is) drawing near. If you’ve accepted Jesus as your savior, every bit of God’s blessings are now fully alive within you. There’s nothing to ask for, it’s already there!

I realize that this may not bring you immediate relief from your situation. I certainly pray that relief will come soon! Life is hard. It’s difficult and sometimes very dejecting. But God is here. He’s inside of us, filling us with immense favor and blessing. Let me leave you with one last thought.

When we ask for God’s favor, what we’re really asking is that He make things better. The “favor” actually becomes an idol. We want our situation better, but God is desperately wanting Him to be our need. When we seek favor, we aren’t really seeking Him, we’re seeking His power. And although that may not be entirely wrong, what God most desperately wants is for you to fall into His loving arms. He’s given you the favor, He’s provided all the blessings. The only thing left is for you to make God your greatest treasure. Make Him your answer, not the answers that you seek, not the favor that you desperately want. It’s God you truly seek and He is waiting for you…