Life is rough. The Christian life may be even more difficult. There is this tension between our belief in a good God and all the rough things we experience.
For a person to spend their entire life as a faithful follower of Jesus, they need tenacity. It is defined as “determination” or “persistence.” One more picturesque explanation is that tenacity is to “grip something firmly.” To grab something, hold on tight, and never let it go.
Living for Jesus is like hopping on a bucking bull. A person will have to grab a hand full of Jesus, squeeze firmly, and hold on for dear life.
I often think that those who will make it to heaven are not the smartest, the most gifted, or even those whose life is full of blessing. It is for the tenacious.
My tendency is to wait to order something until I need it. Amazon has reinforced this habit. With my prime membership, I can order almost anything and have it in two days. Last week the Church secretary ordered something in the morning, and it arrived on the doorstep by that night.
Because I live in a culture where everything seems accessible in 48 hours or less, I offer Amazon Prayers.
“God, I need something, and I need it right away. Thanks, in the name of Jesus.”
If God is greater than Amazon, he should have the same customer service or better. I want it now, in this color and at the lowest price.
Unfortunately, that is not how God works. God is more like ordering something a hundred years ago. It will take a long time, and you are never exactly sure when it will arrive. God works more like a covered wagon than an Amazon delivery truck.
The good news is that when God finally delivers, the product will be handmade, not plastic junk. It will be of the highest quality, and your joy will be enduring. Things that come on short notice from Amazon are usually great for an immediate desire, but they are not the type of product God delivers that meets our deepest needs.
They exist in all the oceans, from the tropics to the poles. They come in all shapes and sizes. Their body contains countless tiny holes in which they intake water that becomes their food source. Large specimens can take in hundreds of gallons of water each day.
My teacher looked at the students and said, “You need to become a sponge.”
The immediate thought was of that old dry sponge by the sink. That one little piece of material can absorb a full glass of liquid. The implications are that we should take the empty parts of our minds and fill them with new ideas.
Once a living sponge is full of water, it takes in more water. That is how they survive, filtering untold gallons of water to find all those tiny little particles that serve as their food. They bring in everything but only digest the good parts for it to grow. The lesson is also clear: once you fill your mind, do not stop intaking new information, but filter out the good stuff so that you can continue to grow as a person, especially a believer.
My teacher was right. If you want to be a good student of anything, including faith, you need to become a sponge.
For every life decision, we can create a Pro and Con list. There are numerous reasons to move this way and often as many to move that way. This is true in every area of life, including your spiritual journey.
Should you attend this Church or not? What about that Sunday or that event? Should you do this activity at Church or not? Should you join this small group or not? Should you invite that couple over or not? Is it a good idea to step out on faith and do this?
The list could go on and on of choices you could make for your spiritual life and walk. There are multiple reasons to move toward growth and an equal number of excuses to move away. The question is not which Pro or Con list is longer. The question is, which list are you going to focus on?
If you want to live by faith, the con list does not matter because your ultimate focus is becoming more like Jesus. And nothing less is acceptable.
“I need a break to rest and time to refocus.”
“So many Christians are a disappointment.”
“I wish someone else would step up and help.”
“I am hoping and praying that good things will happen for them.”
“No one understands how lonely I am right now.”
“I regret that decision. I so wish I could do it all over again.”
“Why do I keep doing this to myself and the people I love?”
“I regret that I did that.”
“No one knows or understands me.”
As a Christian. As a Pastor. I feel that way too.
You are not alone in your feelings. We all need the grace of Jesus.
It was a gas station explicitly designed with semi-drivers in mind. First, the parking lot was huge, with an extra area in the back so they could park all night when needed. There were also big bathrooms with plenty of stalls for those required road breaks. Next to the bathrooms were showers where the drivers could get clean on long trips. Literally everything inside the store made it clear that this gas station was created for trucker drivers. Unsurprisingly, the place was packed with little room remaining the night I stopped.
When the Church says it exists to reach lost people for Jesus, I often wonder if that is true. It seems that if you wanted to reach people far from God, you would design everything to help them take their next step.
Unfortunately, most Churches only give lip service to the idea of reaching new people for Jesus. This is seen in how they design their building, the programs they provide, and how everything happens each Sunday. Everything is geared toward the already converted.
I believe the Church should be a light in each community where they exist. One way to shine that light is to design things in the Church so that people can see the light without having to squint.
When I started as a Christian, I dreamed of changing the world.
I wanted to lead a big organization, start a global movement, rally people to a cause and do something that would make the world take notice. I wanted to be the next Billy Graham, Mother Theresa, Albert Schweitzer, or Martin Luther King Jr. Better yet; I would like to be them all rolled into one.
Somewhere along the way, I realized I was none of those people. No one knew my name, and very few noticed my accomplishments. My life was going to be lived in obscurity no matter how hard I worked to make a difference.
For some people, that realization might be the opportunity to quit. I could give up my efforts to change the world and spend my days focused on myself. No one else cares about me, so why not devote my days to caring for myself?
Instead, I realized that while I might not be able to change THE world, I do have the opportunity to change A world. I could help someone, anyone, experience the love of Jesus. I could attempt to improve one person’s life through my efforts. I cannot help everyone, but I can help someone.
Changing the world is a grand dream few realize; changing a world is something all of us can do.
These letters first appeared in print in 1613. They are the abbreviation for Rest In Peace. It is often placed on a tombstone and used in reference to our hopes for the deceased. “After a lifetime of struggle, I hope they rest in peace.”
I do NOT want to rest in peace. I want to see Jesus.
I want to bow at the master’s feet. I want to sing my praises to him. I want to encounter the source of my forgiveness and express my deepest gratitude.
When this life is over, I do want to find rest, but I want that to be in the arms of Jesus.
Numerous outside influences impact our souls. These can range from a traumatic childhood, lies told by loved ones to health struggles.
On top of that, we have the self-inflicted wounds brought on by our own mistakes, sins, and addictions. We deal with guilt, shame, and the consequences of poor decisions.
Here is the hard truth, everyone is dealing with their issues in some manner. Unfortunately, we do not walk through difficulties of either kind and come out unscathed. These things have an impact on our souls.
Everyone is handling their life struggles. Some do it in a healthy way, and others in an unhealthy way. But know, even avoiding our problems is our way of handling them.
The ultimate question is not, “Are you going to deal with your issues?”; instead, it is “How are you dealing with your issues?”
I was sitting in a conference workshop when the leader said this line, “Disciples are handcrafted one at a time.”
He explained the difference between something mass-produced in a factory and something made by a local artisan. One is automated and quick, while the other is slow and methodical. One produces items that are fine for use, but the production value is usually low. The other is a high-quality product formed by the hands of a master.
His point was that when believers seek to make disciples in the image of Jesus, we cannot treat the Church like a factory that can crank out one after another. Instead, the Church is like a community of local craftsmen pouring their time and energy into one person at a time. Everyone is handled with care as a unique creation designed to serve the Lord’s needs.
In a world of mass production, disciples are still handcrafted one at a time.