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!

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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…

I wonder…

I wonder...

If I lived my entire life only to find out that Jesus wasn’t who He claimed to be, would I be thankful for my choice to follow Him? No question…

If you lived your entire life and found out Jesus actually WAS who He claimed to be, would you be thankful for your choice NOT to follow Him?