March 7

Learn to Love Your Story

HonestyOften times when we tell a story we are involved in, we tend to leave out the parts that shines a negative light upon us or at least take some of the edge off the parts about us. Even if we don’t have a problem telling the truth, it can be so easy to leave out details which have us looked upon negatively. It’s only human nature. Most of us have a big enough problem with our own self-image on our own, we don’t want to add to it with other people’s snap judgments. I think we do it because at the time of our retelling, the number one focus is ourselves. It’s kind of like self-preservation at least socially. We want people to see us favorably or to a certain extent from our view. If we leave in all the negative stuff about ourselves, they may not see things our way.

Most of the New Testament can be broken down like this: Ordinary flawed people who love God, trying to spread the nuggets He dropped in their heart. Have you ever given much thought to the fact that the disciples of Jesus looked like some of the most fair weathered Christians we have ever seen. They were constantly doubting, messing up, and just flat out missing the point. Moreover, these were men who got to spend countless hours with Jesus in the flesh. They had the most extreme access to the Savior. How many times have you ever thought how amazing it would be to just sit down and talk with Jesus for a while? What do you think you would ask Him? These men did that for the better part of three years. Despite this fact, their flaws are clearly on display throughout the Bible. Why would they do that? The answer is pretty clear. In their stories, they weren’t the most important thing. Jesus is. If they wanted to gloss over some of their character flaws, it would have been easy. After all, these were the same men who were strong enough to face persecution on a regular basis yet still pointed people to Jesus. How often are we willing to look past character flaws when someone’s intentions are good, yet the writers of the Bible didn’t seem to negate anything.

flawedI am a flawed person. I have made more mistakes than I even dare count. I have ran zealously after God and seen some pretty amazing things. I have also sat under a Juniper tree wishing it would all end. Quite often, those two events were not very far apart. I have jumped without looking. I have doubted. I have questioned. I have run the other way when I shouldn’t have. I have run headlong into a wall and I have even hurt those around me for reasons I often don’t understand myself. Yet, I love the Lord. I want to be used for His service. I want to be a productive member in the house of God. I want to see God use us as His hands and feet.

How differently would our church services be if we were honest for just 10 minutes? Not just passive honesty. I am talking about soul barring unadulterated honesty. I am sure it would be quite chaotic. Things will be brought out in the open we never dreamed of. Issues we have been sweeping under the rug for so long would be in plain view. There would be hurt feelings, heart-wrenching agony, but there would also be a chance for healing. It seems most people I have talked to who don’t go to church, decide to abstain because of the fakeness they see inside the walls of churches. A lot of these people aren’t coming to see “the show,” or even for curiosity. They are coming because they are hurting and are looking for something. Pain has a way of showing us what is really important. You probably wouldn’t worry about your cracked iPhone if you had a knife protruding from your leg. We are called to be “More than conquerors,” but if all we are doing is putting on a brave face, we aren’t really overcoming anything.

Perfection in ChristPaul states in 2nd Corinthians 12:9, 10, “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.” You see the writers of the New Testament had little problem pointing out their weaknesses because they were not the main focus. Jesus is. They knew if God was going to get the greatest amount of glory for what He had done in them, they needed to be transparent. Even with their flaws.

So often, we come to Christ and give Him our past, walk with Him in the present, and place our hope in His future promises, but we forget what He brought us through. If you read the Old Testament, every single time God did something for His people, they built an altar to remind them of what God did. What has God done for you? What has He brought you out of? It seems we have little trouble telling people where God is taking us, but we often times have trouble being transparent with what He has brought us through. Your story may not be pretty. You may have done some things you regret. I know I have. However if God has brought us through them; if God is going to received the glory, we need to be more like the writers of the New Testament. Transparent. Obviously, you wouldn’t just throw out information about yourself in situations where it is not warranted, but there is definitely times when some of the battles God has brought us through will be a great encouragement and maybe even a deterrent in someone else’s life.

There is an old hymn called “I love to tell the story.” It says, “I love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love. I love to tell the story, because I know tis true; it satisfies my longings as nothing else can do. I love to tell the story, twill be my theme in glory to tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.” Your story is only your story and to have its greatest effect, it needs to be told by you. You never know how your story will impact the kingdom of God if you don’t share it. Your mess may be the one thing that serves as a tipping point for someone to trust Jesus. Learn to love your story because it may be messy, and it may be hard, but it tells of Jesus and His love.

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January 28

Stuck Under the Passover

Passed over… Second choice… A bridge in somebody else’s happiness… The steppingstone on somebody else’s path of life. It’s never fun or uplifting to be passed over by somebody for anything whether its a promotion, a job title, or a relationship. Being second best to anybody for any reason is not something we ever set out to be. We don’t ever set out to be used or dispensable. We aren’t wired like that. It has happened to all of us at one point or another. People can be so shortsighted and clouded by their own wills. Oftentimes we don’t take a step back to see what was going to be the best for the situation. Hindsight is as they say 20/20. But what you do when you are passed over?

I’ve been passed over for more times than I care to admit. It can make it so easy to not even want to try anymore or even put yourself out there began. Your aspirations become to be just another face in the crowd but if we are honest with ourselves, that is not what we really want. We don’t want to be just somebody’s bridge to happiness. We want to be somebody’s happiness. We want to do something that makes us feel like we have purpose. What do we do when everything we strove for, everything we have ever wanted, everything we have tried to obtain, everything that we worked for is just gone one day. We could let life just suck the joy out of us. We could let other people director are happiness and that is not a place anyone wants to be in.

We often times put so much stock in what other people think. However, I’m coming to realize that not every time that we are passed over is because we are not worthy. There are other people in the equation as well. Sure there may be some things that we need to work on. There may be some key reasons why some things didn’t work out but we cannot always take on everything upon ourselves. We cannot tear ourselves down. It’s just not worth it. Moreover, it’s not fair to yourself. This is not always easy to do but sometimes we just need to cut ourselves off from the emotion ties of the mess that has us tied down to any situation and try not to take everything so personally. Maybe some of the people we are dealing with or are in a relationship with have their own issues that they need to work out on their own. It may be because of those very issues they cannot see what a great asset or person that you could possibly be because of their own shortsightedness. We all have a selfish need to fill for the now and not the future. Sometimes people just reach that low hanging fruit. They settle. Some people can’t see beyond the today to what could be but we shouldn’t take upon ourselves that we are not worthy or worthwhile. It’s not always a you issue. Indeed, take a step back and look at the whole situation. Improve on what you can improve on and move on. But we can’t take 100% of every relationship woes, or missed opportunity upon ourselves because there are always other people in the equation and they have to be factored in.

I have been doing a lot of thinking of the people God has used in the Bible and throughout history. Oftentimes they were people who would not have been anyone’s first choice by any stretch the imagination. The Bible says God will use the foolish to confound the wise. He will use the weak to shame the strong. It also says that God will never leave us or forsake us. It is so uplifting to know that no matter how I’m feeling on any given day, no matter what I’ve been through and no matter what other people think of me, God never passed me over. I may have placed myself in certain situations where He couldn’t use me the way He wanted to. I may have even cut myself off but God never passed me over. In fact, the opposite is true. God has given me so much and I didn’t deserve it. He has given me talent, purpose, drive, and direction at times when I was lost as. He has given me a word of encouragement just the right time. Even when I felt like the world was falling around my head and I couldn’t even tell which way was up, God always seemed to find a way to get to me.

So often we attach God to His people or rather we attach God to other people’s actions as if they were doing them with God’s full approval. There been so many people have been hurt this line of thinking. People are fallible. People are flawed. People have hang-ups. Most of all, people have their own junk they’re trying to work out. Nobody’s perfect, but that does not change who God is. So the next time you are passed over by something whether it is a relationship, job, opportunity, or maybe just something that you wanted for yourself, take the time you need to grieve that loss. You have earned that much. Take time to look at it to see what you can learn from it. No experience no matter how bad is worthless as long as we can take something from it that can help us build a better future or keep us from making the same mistakes again and again and again. Own up to where you went wrong. The only way that you can learn from any mistakes or mishaps is to take full responsibility of where you came up short but when it’s over let it go. How we react to things in the past definitely steers the direction we will go in the future. Don’t let it cripple you. We are worth so much more than we ever give ourselves credit for. There are so much in us we have yet to unearth. Most of us are only scratching the surface of what God has intended for us and we haven’t even begun to unlock all the treasures God’s place in our hearts.

So often we get too wrapped up in what’s going on around us and to us that we rarely stop to see what is in us. We allow things to stunt our growth or change our direction. In the end, we are the ones who suffer the most. Don’t let other people’s opinions shape who you are. Other people can’t see the whole picture when it comes to you or me. Most people only see what is right there on the surface or what we allow them to. Even if we are open and welcoming, most of us never allow people beyond our proverbial foyer. We may have it all decorated nice and pretty, but we rarely let others see what is in the rest of the house. If these people haven’t seen all that we have to offer, all we hold inside, then their opinions should not matter as much your own or especially God’s. Other people’s opinion should not be where we obtain our value. Because God knows what He made us for. Even if we’re not entirely sure what our purpose in this life is, deep down your heart has at least an inkling of what that is. There are yearnings and soft spots our heart longs for. We can ignore them for only so long. Start taking the steps to becoming the person you were always meant to be. The one you’ve always wanted to be. Don’t give up hope. There is always hope for a better tomorrow. Every day you wake up there is hope for you to change your future. Grab it. Don’t waste it. Don’t let other people’s opinions drag you down because you were meant for so much more. Let go and let God.

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December 9

When the Image of Perfection is Shattered

shatteredAs a profession Christian, I try to hold myself to a higher standard. I try to live my life in a way that honors God and displays His character. There are days when I can do this almost seamlessly. I can be helpful, courteous, loving, and will even go the extra mile to help someone in need. At times, I can wake up and almost feel the presence of God resting on me as I asked Him, “Lord, what would You have me do today.” It is truly a great feeling to be able to look in the mirror and see some of the virtues of Christ, even if it is a bit opaque. It is not always easy though.

picked apartSometimes I think we can forget no matter how long we’ve been following Jesus, we are still human. We still make mistakes. We are still imperfect beings striving after the perfect example which was laid before us long ago. It can be easy to scrutinize and pick apart every wrong are misguided step because after all, we should know better. Right? Let me first state I am not saying we shouldn’t hold those who have been following Jesus longer or who are in leadership to a higher standard. We should. What I’m saying is we shouldn’t be so quick to throw them out on their ear when they do make mistakes.

At times, it seems like we can be like a pious judge who tries to make an example out of a celebrity or well-known figure who graces their courts. If they were a lesser person, they would get by with a reasonable punishment which fits the crime. However because of a person’s elevated status, the judge throws the gavel at them and gives them the maximum penalty for their crime… Just to make an example out of them. Maybe sometimes it is warranted. After all, there are many courts that almost bend to such people though it certainly cannot be said to be the norm.

I find it rather amusing we can talk about the character of those in the Bible and use them as lessons on living a life striving after God, yet they were all flawed individuals. Every single one of them. Noah was drunk. Jacob was a deceiver. Sampson was prideful. David was a murder as well as an adulterer. Peter was a coward, and every single one of the disciples doubted God… Even when He was standing in front of them in the flesh. My point is this: God has chosen to use flawed beings from the very beginning. Some of the ones He used the most seemed to be the ones with the most apparent flaws. We are no different today. God doesn’t use us because of us. He uses us despite us.

shattered heartWe all have flaws. Some of them are just more apparent than others. We shouldn’t ignore them but we should not discredit others for them either. If Jesus can forgive each of us for beating him, whipping him, thrusting a crown of thorns on his head, and nailing him to a cruel cross (which is what each of our sins did to Him), then surely we can forgive others for being slightly less than perfect. Surely we can understand stumbling. Surely we can understand what it means to be human. So let us not throw out the broken shards of perfection. We never know what beautiful mosaic God may be putting together.

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December 8

Butterflies From Dumpsters

Life has a certain way of throwing us curve balls. Just when it seems like you are hitting a stride, or finding a groove, you hit a pot hole. There is nothing worse than going on with a certain measure of confidence only to crash and burn on the side of the road. Certain questions of why and how begin to swarm around your head. The shock of what has happened hasn’t even fully set in yet. You just sit there with an odd confounding gaze and wonder “What do I do now?” Maybe you have never been in this situation. To you I’d say: You are very lucky. It is not a very pleasant place to be. You put your aspirations into action. You plot out course and you give it all you have only to have your dreams dashed on the rocky shores.
I remember quite vividly a time in my life where I questioned everything I had ever done or strove for. I had given myself fully into a ministry and was getting great reviews on the work I was doing only to have the rug pulled out from underneath me by those above me. I was hurt, confused, even angry. It had been clear to so many people that I had filled a void in dire circumstances. I had done a tremendous job only to be cast aside when everything started to level back out. I retreated inward (a default trait I have to struggle with often). I had just about all but given up. I was angry with God and even stopped praying for a time. I wanted to run to God for comfort. However, I had made the terrible association of tying the works of God’s people to God’s will, which may not always be aligned depending on the hearts of those particular people.
I had run on auto pilot for weeks. Though I’m sure God had been calling out to me, I wasn’t listening. One day though He spoke loud and clear, at least to my heart. I had been having a fairly bad day at work. I was hot and I was irritated. To make matters worse, I had forgotten to take the trash out of my vehicle. So when I went to lunch, there was a foul smell in my vehicle. This only irritated me more. I drove to a dumpster not far from my work. The dumpsters were all overflowing. With the heat beating down from the bald sun, the smell was literally breath taking, but not in a good way. As I grabbed my bag of trash, I heaved it into the dumpster. What I saw next stopped me in my tracks. After I threw my trash into this brimming heap of filth and stench, a single butterfly came out from the trash. It struck me to my core. How something so beautiful would come out of something so nasty was beyond me. Further driving home the point was the fact it was a monarch butterfly.
Right then and there God spoke to my heart. Though there was mess all around, the Monarch could bring beauty. The King could display splendor. The Lord could make magnificence. Right there amidst the muck and mire I began to cry and I gave all of my hurt to God. It took me a while to completely get over my wounds, but I can say God did bring beauty from it. He brought about a different perspective and tenderness to the way I ministered. He brought a sense of encouragement from a dark place and He gave me the ability to offer hope to those who have been wounded by “friendly fire” in churches. This life can get messy. If we aren’t careful the enemy can try to bury us in a mountain of trash, but just give it to God. He can bring butterflies from dumpsters.

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December 8

In the Land of the Xtreme

Have you ever looked around church and thought to yourself, “there is something missing.” You are not exactly sure what it is but you know there is something missing. You go down the regular checklist. People you know?… Check… Music?… Check… Preacher?… Check… Did you bring your Bible?… Check. You can’t seem to put your finger on it so you do your best to tune into what is going on in front of you. This is happened to me on many occasions and to be honest it didn’t truly dawned on me until some time ago when I started to go to regular Wednesday night meetings.
Now let me just take a minute to point out that I am in my 30s. This may seem to be an unimportant fact but I assure you it played into my revelation. I got to church about 10 minutes before it started. There was already a good crowd starting to form. There was even some conversations that had started up between a few of the parishioners. I sat down and I got that feeling. There is something missing. I went through the aforementioned checklist and it was all there but something else was missing. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was the youngest one in there by at least 20 years and that is being gracious.
It is not like I have a problem with older people. In fact, I love to be around Saints of God. They can offer words of wisdom and encouragement not from a theoretical standpoint but from a “been there done that God will get you through” sense. I thought there may have been another class, but that was the only class other than youth or children’s classes offered. It truly bothered me. I even took my new found knowledge with me on Sunday morning and to my horror it was much of the same. 20 to 30 something Christian was almost nowhere to be found but where could they be? If you talk to some people you will get a variety of answers from God just doesn’t seem to be that important to them, they are in rebellion, or they just have some issues they are too ashamed to bring to the table, but surely you can’t lump every 20 to 30 something person into this category.
(Let me start off this section by stating that I am NOT against church, but this is just some of my perspective.) I happen to love going to church. I love the atmosphere of corporate worship. I love to see the body of Christ coming together to pray and to learn more about God. However, there has always been a nagging feeling that something else is missing. On some malcontent days when everything seems to be falling around your head, (you know those days when everything seems to go wrong while you are trying to get ready for church, you are about to leave and you hear those dreaded words from one of your younger children. OOPS!) I have even had the question form in my mind, “is this really it?” The answer to that question is a resounding NO! If we are looking to fulfill all the God has for us on Sunday morning, we will walk away feeling empty, maybe even a bit cheated and in truth, you have been. You may even walk away never to return.

As I stated earlier, I am in my 30s. Most the people I know and associate with or from generation X, Y, or are millennials. Many people have categorize these generations as lazy or indifferent. This is just not the case. I found some of the more passionate and creative people have come from these generations. They are the generations of the extremes. Xtreme sports, Xtreme gaming, Xtreme music, Xtreme everything. Everything it seems has to be extreme. Even weight loss and couponing has to be extreme or so it would seem.
What about church? Is church extreme? (Now I am not advocating that we should do something in the name of God simply to satisfy a feeling or high. That would be irresponsible and often times will have a negative effect on people’s perception of God.) I think a lot of people would categorize church as normal, comfortable, maybe even mundane (have you ever ask anyone how their Sunday was and they said well I went to church. Then you asked them how it was and they said it was church… Okay then). I don’t recall any of those adjectives showing up as descriptions or attributes of God anywhere in the Bible.
By now some of you may be thinking I’m trying to sensationalize church. That couldn’t be farther from my intention. Our God is a very passionate God. He doesn’t do anything in moderation. Just look at the salvation process. God gave up heaven. HEAVEN! Let that sink in. We cannot even fathom what He left behind to be born into a sinful broken world. His mercy and grace are LAVISHED upon us. Just look at John 3:16, James 1:5, Matthew 21:22, or Romans 8:32.
This may sound very different from what some of us have been taught or even believe. Most of us have heard “all things in moderation”, yet this is not found anywhere in the Bible though it is cited to come from it. There are many references to showing self-control in scripture but you surely cannot lump “all things” into that nor can you call it moderation. 1 Corinthians 10:23 “all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” That is not talking about moderation. It is talking about Holy Spirit led self-control.
So what is my point? I believe God is trying to birth in us a passionate spirit. It is His spirit. There is a reason why these younger generations are so “extreme”. It is God ordained! The problem is that it is simply misplaced. There is nothing extreme about sitting. There is nothing extreme about lectures (unless there are hungry tigers walking about the lecture hall or someone shooting at you why you try to listen. Though that may be extreme, it would be hard to retain the message, but I digress). We have generations of people who are hungry for the things of God. They hear about them from the pulpit, they read about it in their Bible, yet most of them don’t know how to activate that into action.
It is sad but true that most churches only do a handful of mission outreaches a year. Yes there are many individuals who do things on their own that we may never hear about, but what I am speaking about as a whole. The early church was a daily mission field. They help the needy not once a year, not once a quarter, not once a month or even once a week. They did it daily. Every day. It amazes me how we can go to a sporting event in the blistering hot or freezing cold, wait in incredibly long lines for hours or days to get something or do something, do crazy things to win a prize, yet that passion does not seem to infiltrate our relationship with God (I find myself falling into this trap more often than I would like to admit).
So church of the Living God, take your time to find rest in the Lord, sit in awe of His Holy presence, listen to His transformational Word, but let us be Xtreme! Xtreme with our love, Xtreme with our grace, Xtreme with our mercies, and Xtreme with our relationship with the Most High! Take those Xtreme words of our Xtreme God to an Xtreme world to cause an Xtreme change for His glory not ours.

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December 8

Why I Wait

There is not a simple person I have ever met who didn’t love to get good news. It can bring joy, cheer, and just over all good feelings. There is only one thing on this earth we may love even more and that is the prospect of good news. When you receive good news there is finality with it. It is good and you have received it. However with the prospect of good news, you get the added fuel of anticipation. It doesn’t take very long for our minds to race with the what ifs. We may even take it a step further and try to think of the mother of all greatest possibilities of the prospective good news. Even though we are told not to count our chickens before they are hatched, our minds jump to the grandeur.

We have all gotten them before. Promises or hopes of promises fulfilled. It seems it almost doesn’t matter how many times they fall through (albeit with some time between them), we will get excited about some glorious thing, possibility, or adventure we coud have. One that came to mind often for me was the prospect of going camping with my father. He had been in the army and had a wealth of survival tactics and strategies. He was in the mountain ranger division when we lived in Vermont. Though I had gone camping a couple of times when I was in Boys Scouts, those memories paled in comparison to the prospect of going camping and fishing with my dad. The problem was my day was always working and couldn’t ever seem to get time off to come through on that promise. However, it didn’t stop me from getting excited year after year when he began to talk about heading to the woods… Until one day… It didn’t. They became just vague unfulfilling words… Empty promises.

I think we all have stories similar to these. Promises broken. Hopes dashed. They can cause us to become jaded, even cynical. They can cause us to quit putting stock in people, but worse that that, they can cause us to quit putting stock in promises. Any promises. Even the ones from God. Have you been there? God speaks something into your heart and you are on fire with the passion to grab hold of everything He said. You may even pursue it with great fervor. But then days turn into weeks… Weeks into months… Months into years. Are you still holding firm? Do you still believe? Or are you starting to wane?

To be perfectly honest, I have received multiple promises from God. Some that have been confirmed time and time again. They are great amazing thing that are so far beyond me they could only come from God. They have given me fuel, hope, and passion to pursue with all that I am… But I have yet to hold any of them in my hands. It would be so easy to let past echoes of assurance become just like the vain words from my memories, but then I think of other people who have been in similar situations.

Joseph received dreams from God but he didn’t see them fulfilled until about thirteen years later. David was anointed to be king but it wasn’t for another fifteen years until a crown ever touched his head. Even then, it wasn’t what he was initially promised. That took several more years. It took Moses some forty years to grab hold of his destiny. Did they have to wait that long? I don’t think so. I am sure there may have been some pride issues coming form Joseph being the favorite son of his father and having such amazing dreams. Moses had an overzealousness which caused him to murder a man. David was simply at the mercy of someone who wouldn’t step aside even though he knew his time was up. All that being said, God used the situations they were put in whether by their own character flaws or at the hands of an other and turned them around to fulfill His promises.

So why do I wait?

Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that he should change His mind. Has He said, and will he not do it? Or has He spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

God doesn’t make idle promises. He does NOT lie. He doesn’t throw out carless words. If He said it, you can take it to the bank. It WILL happen. God’s word endures forever. Sometimes our promises are like a road trip to the other side of the country. It takes a little time to get there and often times you won’t see road signs speaking of your destination until you get a littler closer to it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or that you are on the wrong road. God has always been faithful to me to give me signs and assurances of my path and destination. Even if He doesn’t give the exact mileage until you get a lot closer, He does continually offer hope of the destination and arrival. Don’t give up. Don’t pull over. Don’t turn around. You are closer today than you were yesterday. Some things in life are worth the wait. Some things on earth are worth the travel time. Though they may not be in your hands now, it doesn’t mean the promises aren’t coming… God doesn’t lie… So I wait. God has plans for me… So I wait. God’s promises endure forever… So I wait. And you should too. Don’t give up now. Let Go and Let God.

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December 8

When is a Nail Not a Nail?

Sometimes in life, it can be hard to figure out where you fit in or what role you play. It seems like there is always a little give and take trying to figure out that perfect balance of doing what you should do, overstepping your bounds, or falling short of the mark. It can be quite a daunting task, but it becomes really difficult when there seems to be no guidelines or person helping along the way. It would be so easy to just give up and fade into the background, but even the thought of that makes something in you die just a little. Though you can’t put your finger on it you know from somewhere deep inside, you were meant for something more. What that exactly is, you may not have any idea or how to figure it out but rest assured you have a call on your life by God himself.
I must admit, I struggle with this very same thing from time to time. It tends to sneak up at the most inopportune times. It can really send me into a tailspin. Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing? Am I making any headway? Is anything I do make even the slightest of a difference? If I simply stopped talking would anyone even notice? Would anyone even care? You could see how this line of thinking can nosedive fairly quickly. I used to have a friend who would always say it was easier to stop a train before it leaves the station than when it’s barreling down the track. The enemy knows if he can stop you before you even get started, his job is so much easier. It is a whole lot easier to steal from, kill, or destroy a new recruit that it is a seasoned warrior.
Everyone has a place and purpose in the kingdom of God. Not everything we do may be far-reaching and grab the attention of the cosmos, but God notices everything we do. Not everyone can be a Billy Graham but not even Billy Graham came straight from heaven in the package we have all come to know him as. He had preachers, evangelist, teachers, friends, and wise people who poured into his life to make him the man he became to be. Everyone is a living stone that builds up the church. Every single one of us. Just like in Jenga, you may be able to keep your structure upright but the more pieces that are missing, the weaker it becomes. We need each other to build up each other and to be the church God call us to be.
What is a nail? As defined a nail is sliver of metal you used to hold two pieces of wood together, but if it is just sitting in a box, it is not really a nail. Sure the boxes may say that they have nails in them because that is what they have the capability of being. However if a nail holds two pieces of wood together and it is not doing just that, it is not a nail at all. It is simply a sliver of metal. We hold our greatest value when we are doing what it is we were called to do. Don’t get too discouraged before you find out what that is. God has a marvelous adventure made just for you. Ask Him what it is… And go claim it!

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December 8

Confessions of a Serial Suicider

To most people, I am rather engaging, passionate, and charismatic. They find I am easy to talk to and even find themselves opening up to me about things they don’t normally talk about. I am challenging but often very encouraging. I am helpful and easy to lean on when someone needs a shoulder. I am quick to lend a helping hand. What most people don’t see and may even find it hard to understand is I struggle with depression. It hovers like a dark cloud leeching your energy and drive. It sticks to you like filth you cannot wash off. Your vision for the future becomes hazy at best, but most often nonexistent. In this fog, every past failure and stray spiteful word washes over you like a tidal wave eroding your confidence and self-worth. Inside this haze, it can be very hard to see the positive. Even words of praise and encouragement seemed to hit a hollow spot in the heart never fully reaching their destination or desired feat. The heart becomes a black hole slowly stripping away the very essence of that person. There been days when simply getting out of bed was a success and any appearance of normalcy a major victory. At its height or rather at its debt, different scenarios of finding an end to life roll through the mind. Everything around you becomes a tool to formulating a conclusion. Every moment becomes an opportunity to terminate the pain.
I don’t write this for sympathy or even to get attention. To be honest, most people who suffer from depression find it easier to suffer in silence. People tend to have a negative connotation about depression. We tend to mark those people as weak, damaged, or simply trying to get attention. It can even be worse in areas of religion. When you can’t seem to pull out of your nose dive for whatever reason, well-meaning parishioners may inadvertently add to the stress and negative words that rush you in the dark fog. Letting you know you are supposed to have the joy of the Lord, although true and sometimes uplifting, can become just another accusing finger further pushing you into the depths. Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps may sound like good advice, but what do you do when those bootstraps break. Getting over yourself is such a great option yet the operator on the line never mentioned that option or I’m sure many of us would gladly push the button.
In my darkest hours, I found myself shouting and calling out to God. Reminding him of promises for my life I’ve yet to see. All sorts of bitterness and anger came forth from my lips, yet He never left me. He never accused me. That is not His job. It never has been. The enemy is the accuser of the brethren, those in Christ. The darkness is the enemy’s domain, not the light. Try to remember that the next time you are surrounded by a shroud darkness. God has a better plan for you and someone doesn’t want you to grasp it. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. There is a light beyond this darkness you are in. There is hope for a better tomorrow. You don’t have to suffer in silence. You are not alone. Underneath that dark veil, it can be all too easy to concentrate on the negative and all the things that are going wrong. Try to fix your eyes on something good. Look for the light. Don’t let go of what was true in the light when you are faced with the dark cloud. Jeremiah 29:11 says “for I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Those are not empty words. God is not a man who should lie. His promises are yea and amen. His word is good and I know this to be true. It may be dark right now but hold on. Joy comes in the morning. Let Go and Let God

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December 8

Yielding in Troubled Times

Sometimes God allows things in our life which cause a little discomfort. It’s not that He is mad at you or punishing you necessarily. Sometimes you can’t rule that out, so we need to pray and ask God to reveal anything that may be between us and Him. However when it can be ruled out, know God is doing something to teach us something or is working behind the scenes for something greater. It is important at times like these not to become angry or bitter. We need to try to stay teachable and allow God to show us what He wants to show us during those times.

There are so many things in our day to day lives that try to tear at us and try to trip us up. It wouldn’t take very long by watching the news or even looking on the internet to see some of the vilest things in the world. We can easily become complacent, weary, or even jaded. There is only one way to fight those feelings and that is making sure we are spending quality time with God regularly. It’s not like being in God’s presence makes those things non-existent. They are still there and will surely greet us at the bottom of our spiritual mountain, but being in God’s presence and being open and honest with Him will help us gain strength to endure them.

Pains and even fears when not debilitating are not only a great equalizer and motivator, but they also help us re-evaluate our priorities. Eating a healthy lunch is important but if there is someone shooting up the cafeteria, we probably wouldn’t go get in line to get a plate. Likewise, pain can cause us to prioritize in our immediate situation. It can also help us put things in the proper order with God. Sometimes we can get caught up in doing good things but not all good things are intended for us to have at all times. We need to make sure we are doing what God would have us do. Not everything that comes down the pike for us is meant for us to jump on.

Do you remember a time when you were going through something terrible… It’s hard. You want to quit. You want to give up and you start to doubt if you will ever make it to the other side of this storm. Then one day it’s over and you do your best to try to forget it. But as God would have it, you run into someone who needs to hear about how God brought you through a terrible time. It’s like a light goes off and you look to the heavens and say “Oh… Now I see.” It makes it all almost seem worth it because you get to bless someone’s life in a way you never thought possible. And it wouldn’t have been possible if you had not had to endure certain things. If that hasn’t happened, try to stay positive and teachable. Those things have a way of coming back around in the most blessed of ways.

There is no shame in falling. There is no shame in failing. We all do it from time to time. We just have to make sure when we do fall we do our best to fall forward and not backward… and get up when we do. Remember even when we fall, Jesus is right there with us extending a hand to help and a hand for grace for us to bet back up and go at it again. He may even have a grander plan for our troubles. Just trust Him.

Genesis 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

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December 8

Behind Enemy Lines

Have you ever gotten to that place when you ask yourself “How did I end up here?” It’s really a rhetorical question. Most of the time, we know how we ended up where we did. Though you may not have foreseen it ending up the way it did, the path is clearly seen when you look back. Hindsight is as they say 20/20. The real question you have to ask is where do you go from here? Maybe where you ended up is not your fault. You made bad decisions and compounded that bad decision with other bad decisions. At this point, it doesn’t really matter how you ended up where you are at. Pointing fingers and paying the blame game will not change your current location nor will it help you fashion a key to your current holding cell. What does matter is that you are stuck, trapped, or even held hostage by the walls of circumstances and decisions that have led you to the place you are at.

God says in His word He will never leave us nor forsake us. This is not a conditional promise. It is not contingent on us being perfect little angels making the best decisions humanly possible. If that were true, the Israelites would have never made it out of the wilderness, David would not have been a man after God’s own heart, and Jesus would have never called the disciples forth into service. We are not perfect people. We make mistakes. We make stupid rash decisions, but God will be there. Right there. Always. He will never leave you. That won’t negate the fact that we may have to “Sleep in the bed we made,” but that doesn’t mean God won’t hear our prayers as we lay down to sleep.

So whether you are MIA (Missing in Action), a POW (Prisoner of War), or simply in a jail of your own making, know this: You do NOT have to suffer alone. God is right there. He is waiting on you to call out to Him. He may not change the immediate location, but there is peace and love in the Fathers arms. Go to Him.

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