Posts tagged ‘Despair’

A Return to Self

I think that I need to get back to blogging at least semi-regularly. Too much happens in my brain when I don’t do it like I should. I’ve been thinking here lately about the difference between my former self and my present self. When I preached my first sermon, the Pastor of the church that I was attending had just left. That left me to serve alongside two Associate Pastors. i think the problem with this was that I became arrogant. it was my home church, and I really felt like I could do no wrong. While preaching was still new to me, and I felt a deep awe that God would choose to use me as He did, I can also see clearly where pride began to work it’s way into me, because there was no one there to check me, and hold me in line for accountability purposes. When I felt God move us into my wife’s church, shortly after we got married, I was joined in ministry by several young men of the same age who were on fire for God. These guys mentored me in the ways of the Holy Spirit, and together, we felt like the Avengers- super-powered Saints in the pulpit with a license to speak what we felt the truth of the Gospel was, even though we had not experienced much of it ourselves. Pride.

Back in those days, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was headed for spiritual stardom. I saw a church in my future with thousands of members. I was going to be the next, young BIG thing in ministry. Sure to be an authoring, cd-releasing, fireball of a preacher and Pastor. That is where I was headed, and no one could convince me any differently. I even had nicknamed myself the “Rainbow Reverend”, because I wanted to have suits in every color of the rainbow, much like my then idol, T.D. Jakes. I was a TBN junkie back in those days, of course. Pride.

I was sure that I always had a word from the Lord, and I was unafraid to give it. Truth be told, most times God had really given me relevant words of wisdom and knowledge for people, but I can see so much arrogance in my life. I laugh at it now. I laugh at it now, because it is 10 years later and I am not the man that I thought I would be. I’m not doing what I thought I would be doing. In actuality, whereas 10 years ago I was a young, arrogant minister, now I look in the mirror and don’t know exactly what I see. Back then, i was sure of myself…even while I had no idea what areas of ministry God desired me to work in. Now, I’m as unsure of myself as I have ever been in ministry. I question everything. I question my calling. I question my purpose. I question if I’m right about anything that I do. I sometimes feel afraid to move when I know God is wanting me to move. I don’t take risks. Now, this is a constant over the course of my life as I have seen it. I was never taught that there were good risks. I was taught that risks weren’t worth it in general. Can you teach an old dog new tricks? The only thing I know for sure these days, most days, is that I love God more than ever, and just want to serve in His church however He allows me to.

What I know is that there needs to be a balance. I need to find elements of the young man, but temper him with the wisdom of experiences of the man who has battle scars to back up every word God allows me to speak, when the need arises. I know that I can’t be afraid. I know that I need to take risks. I know that I need to believe in myself again. God believes in me. I’m surrounded by people who believe in me, and there is something in me. I feel it there.

It is time for me to quit focusing on finding aspects of others to emulate, and instead find the parts of me that need to be cultivated and grown so that instead of being a carbon copy amalgamation of others, I can finally be comfortable being the individual me. I am convinced that this is where God is taking me- down a painful road of self discovery again. God is telling me that it is an insult for me to think so lowly of someone He thought so highly enough of to create and die for.

Pride. Arrogance. Brokenness. Uncertainty. Self-doubt. Identity Crises. Rebirth?

I understand that it is not popular for those in ministry to be this transparent, but I assure you that you can’t question me anymore that I already question myself. All I can be is who I am, and hope that others learn from me how not to repeat my mistakes and life experiences. Be better, and then some. I know I plan on being better. The best, ever.

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I’m a Survivor: Can You Handle the Heat?

We must learn how to handle the heat!

John 16:33- these things I have spoken to you, that you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.

The kingdom of God is not about avoiding tribulation. It’s about enduring tribulation.

2 Cor 4:8-9- we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; persecuted, but not abandoned; perplexed, but not in despair; struck down, but not destroyed.

To survive means to endure tribulation and overcome it. We have to realize that we will endure the heat at time, seasons where we are pushed on every side. I must stand firm! There comes a time when we must look at our trouble and declare that WE WILL SURVIVE!

No matter how faithful to God you are, life will still happen.

How will you handle the heat?

Willpower is very important. It comes down to our will in every circumstance. It can’t be taught. But willpower alone is not enough. There must be some God given skill to go long with it.

Daniel 2 and 3- Nebuchadnezzar had overtaken Israel. He had built the huge statue and had driven the decree that everyone should bow down and worship it when the horn sounded. He recruited the brightest minds in Israel to be his advisors. Daniel as one of them, and he, in turn brought on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Sidenote: Daniel knew these three before he was even promoted. He knew their character and that they treated him with honor and loyalty before he was promoted. Understand, Sometimes, my door is not my door, but it is connected to someone else’s door. So you’d better serve faithfully now, because the person you serve with today might be the one God uses to open your own door! Be careful how you treat people now, because you never know what they may do later. Treat people good now, because those same people may be good to you in the future. Even if they don’t, God will!

You can’t love the door God opened for you more than the God who opened the door! There will be times when God opens a door of tribulation so that you can be refined!

How do you handle the heat?

1. Develop confidence in God before you go through the fire. Dan 3:17- if that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, o king.

If you don’t have confidence in God before the crisis, the heat will reveal our true make up. You must have the confidence in knowing who God is! You may not be in. Crisis right now, but God is trying to build confidence in you before your crisis comes. Growth is proved in how we respond to crisis.

2. Cultivate commitment to your convictions that is greater than your commitment to your convenience. Dan 3:18- but if not, let it be known to you that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the golden image which you set up.

If we don’t make up in our hearts now that we have convictions that we are willing to die for, we will fall for anything. The world will try to mold us into their convictions, but we must know who we re in God, and what God wants us to do. Choose to be solid in your convictions, regardless of your convenience.

3. Remain calm in the middle of the crisis.

Sometimes you have to speak to your subconscious and say its ok. WE WILL SURVIVE.
Sometimes, Gods answer is not to get you out of the fire. Sometimes God is looking to make us free IN the fire!

Dan 3:27- then high officers….crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke!

The Test in “Yes”

I’ve been trying to write this blog since the end of last year. I don’t know if it will be long or short. It may just be an incoherent bundle of babbling, blithering, and bothersome chit chat. Or it might make sense to someone. I’m hoping that it is the latter.

I don’t know when it happened, or how it happened, but at some point I started to believe that when we told God yes, He responded immediately with all of the good things that He had to withhold while one was still saying no to His will for life. Even after reading the Bible for my whole life, and knowing the stories about some of the people that we admire, somehow my thinking was skewed into thinking that my yes equaled God’s response. And by respoinse, I mean all of the good things, no negative feelings, no hurts, etc. How did I become so misguided? I have no idea, because there is definitely a test that comes after every yes that we give to God. I’ve written here about my callings. God has called me to Pastor and to¬† be a teacher. I’ve also written here about the journey that we have been on over the last year and a half. But maybe, I can be more specific about the test in my own yes.

When I left my job in Human Resources to go back to school, things had become apparent that God no longer wanted me in that field. My jobs over the past 3 years had all followed a similar pattern, and when my hard head finally gave in, the the writing was all over the wall. I thought that because I had said yes to teaching, God would immediately provide a job for me. There is no way that God would allow my family to struggle, because I was following Him, right? Hahahaha! I was sooo misguided. Our first 6months were just dandy. We were so excited. We even purchased a new vehicle, one that was badly needed. By the end of that year, I didn’t have a teaching job, but had a pretty good part time job, and I was still hopeful. No hope dashed. The new year came, and along with it, struggles. Now, when I say struggles, I mean struggles of every kind. Crises of confidence, questioning of my “manhood”, because I was no longer able to support my family financially. I felt like a housewife, and while there is nothing wrong with a housewife or house husband, that was not my role. It’s the antithesis of who I am. Alongside the personal struggles, financial struggles appeared posthaste. Last year was the absolute worse year finances wise that we have ever had. Everything that we touched turned to ashes. And all of the while, I’m asking God what is going on. Instead of roses and sunshine, our lives had degraded to dead plants and scorched earth. The end of the year was no better. It was just a really hard year. There were times where I retreated inside of myself, times when I just couldn’t pray or read my Bible. My relationship with God suffered, and I’m just being real here. In some fashion, I blamed God, but I blamed myself even more for failing to take care of us after I told HIM that I would do His will. Well, last year personally was a microcosm of my life since I accepted God’s call to preach too. In that area, there was really no movement either. When you get to the point that you begin to question your usefulness to God, then you are in a seriously bad place. That was me.

The struggles have continued. Car repossession, down to one vehicle, every month is a struggle to know how we will pay for rent to keep a roof over our heads. Yes, it’s a test. But, isn’t that what we see in the Bible? It’s amazing to me how we can become jaded to the truth of the Gospel, because we only choose to focus on one or two aspects of God, not His entirety. It can happen easily if we do not guard our hearts.

And I can see it now. Even as I look back, I see God working in us. The last year had so many highlights. God blessed us with one of the most beautiful babies ever! He blessed us with a vehicle, so that we at least have one now. The kindness of people has continually amazed us, even while we face rejection from business after business. So when I get on here and blog about the goodness of God, please believe me that I am experiencing that goodness, even during these tests. God has spoken to us clearly, revealing vague plans for our futures, but enough to restore the hope that we do serve a purpose in His body.

I guess I write all of this to say that we read the Bible, and we know the scriptures. But how do we know when we really “know” the Scriptures? Is it when we can recite them robotically on cue in every circumstance? Or is it more when we know the scripture because we have LIVED the scripture? Is it when we can turn to specific verses in the Bible and then expound upon them with great and lavish language and theological expertise? Or is it when we can read a Scripture and feel the love of God behind it? Perhaps one of the great results of this testing in our lives is that there are times when I read my Bible, and I can say to myself ,”I have SEEN this for myself. I KNOW it’s true!” When I praise God through my heaviness and despair, I feel God putting a new garment on me. So I don’t have to rely on a theoretical and theological knowledge. I have personal knowledge that God provides at His whim. The hard times continue. The struggles continue. But God is right here with us. I see it clearly. I’m living His words when He says that He will never forsake us.

There is a test that comes along with telling God yes. For some of you reading this, the test hasn’t been extreme. for some of you, it’s been way worse than my own. The overriding factor here is that even in the midst of the test, God has not rejected you because you told Him yes. He is preparing you to be of optimal use to Him in the will that He has for your life. The test is a preparation before the release. So, wherever you find yourself, trust Him. Even when it’s hard to even say His name, trust Him. Even when your tears burn hotly against your cheek as shame and regret run wild in your head, trust Him. He IS God, and He IS good. That will never change.

Maybe you think I’m just a loser. If me being a loser causes God to prepare me even more, then I welcome the title. But I would rather think of myself as a work in progress. God has a plan for my life and yours too. I think I’d like to pray now

God,

We don’t always understand what you are doing. We don’t always understand why things get worse in our lives before they get better. All we can see with our limited human eyes is the suffering that we feel, and how much it hurts us just to live some days. But God, I pray right now that as we cry because of the pain, hold our hands. When we question you because our faith is almost gone, help our unbelief. Help us to know you apart from book knowledge, and become real to us. Become the most real aspect of our lives. God, the test hurts. It really, really hurts, but it is necessary. So God, test us until you deem us ready to walk in the purpose that we have told you “yes” to. We submit and surrender completely to you, and believe that you are here with us. We love You, Lord, and we worship Your majesty.

Amen.

Be encouraged, and be blessed.