Operating out of true brokenness…

So in starting up this blog, I was trying to figure out what my first post would be. Along the way, I feel like there have been so many things that God has shown me (the hard way mostly) that I didn’t know where to start, so I thought I would start with some of my most recent experiences.

The past couple of months have been a huge struggle for me personally, and it has impacted me in multiple areas. To provide some background, at the start of this year I made it a point to be more intentional in what I was doing, to become more focused and to really develop things for sustainability…I was in a refining process of learning patience and walking at the speed of God.

Coming out of the summer, I was really excited by what had happened:

– I ran my first Regional Youth Leadership Retreat

– We took our youth group to a Youth Conference in California

– I was able to feed my love of speaking and teaching at different events.

Along the way, I felt like God was preparing me for a new season. There was no timeframe, but just to be ready for what God has in store for me. So, in this time where God was trying to show me patience…

…I decided to actively look for what the new season was and make my own path.

Now, when I say “actively look” and “make my own path”, what I’m really saying is “I stopped waiting on God and started to make decisions based on what I felt was best, and look out!!!! Here I come!!!!”

Along the way, I started to notice things that I felt needed to be taken care of. I worked hard towards trying to fix them, but along the way that came across in an unhealthy manner. Along the way, there was frustration that started to develop. All of a sudden, I started to feel like there were things I had to take care of. There were some instances in which I decided to take some things on, which in turn resulted in me sacrificing my boundaries. I was in an unhealthy place, and making poor decisions because of it.

(I stop here to say that my decisions were not of a ‘moral failure’ or anything drastic like that, but questionable work decisions that I thought were sound at the time but realized later that they weren’t the best)

Along with this, health wise I was working myself into the ground, and this would show up in unhealthy ways as well. All around, I didn’t have much joy in doing anything and I started to feel bitterness and a hardening of my heart.

Needless to say, everything came to a head and in moments of accountability and truth-telling, I hit a place where I wasn’t feeling the best. The next day I was going to my Spiritual Direction cohort, so in the midst of our activities, God was having me confront my actions, feelings, and emotions and dealing with them. Prior to this, my wife had talked to me about how I “missed the mark” in what I was doing.

So while I’m working through all of this (physical, mental, Spiritual), I feel as close to “broken” as I have felt in a long time. While in this place of brokenness, I started to feel worthless. However, I started to notice that as I was in this place I started to hear God clearer than I have in a while. Also, I was given a couple different opportunities to minister to people in a way I haven’t in a while.

So why do I spill my guts out to you and tell you more than you probably wanted to hear?

– Do not mistake “brokenness” for “worthlessness” – Brokenness in Christ is about getting to a place where we realize that our efforts to create our perception of what God wants or what we should be are not always what God wants and it’s a place where the rebuilding can begin. Worthlessness is where Satan wants to take you when you are feeling broken so you take your eyes off of the work God wants to do in you.

– It is possible to outrun God’s plan – it’s no mistake that patience is covered several times in the Bible and is especially evident in the life of Jesus. He waited to hear from the Father before doing, and was not afraid to wait until the next “download”

– Understand that confronting things can be a step towards genuine healing. That’s why ignoring and diverting is easy to do from a temporal standpoint. It’s necessary in the journey to grow in Christ.

So where do I go from here? To be continued…

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Called to more…by being less…

One thing that constantly amazes me about God’s Word is that no matter how many times you read it, you still learn something new. I know that this is an overused adage, but it is so true, and I experienced that in a big way over the last couple of days.

Without going into too much detail, I have been on quite a journey over the past couple of months. Not only in my walk with God, but in understanding what it truly is that I am called to. So many times Christians worry over what we are supposed to do – what is our purpose? What specifically are we supposed to do in furthering the Kingdom and being the church as it was when Christ left in Acts chapter 2. While there are specific things that we are called to do, I found a sobering reality in Matthew, specifically in chapters 5 and 6.

Matthew 5 begins Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. During this sermon, Jesus is essentially laying out the troubleshooting guide for how to handle a wide variety of situations. Starting at v. 38, He talks about how to handle revenge. This is where we get the infamous “eye for an eye” reference, but it is this portion that really gets me:

v. 42: “Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” – let that marinate for a second. In the same section where Jesus calls us to turn the other cheek, He takes it to the next level and says that we need to give to those who ask. Jesus is giving us the charge to give to those who ask…there is no qualifier, we are just supposed to give.

In verse 43, the section talks about loving your enemies…not just tolerating them, but loving them. While that seems like a casual word, keep in mind that true love is sacrificing of yourself for someone else’s needs. I struggled with this the past couple of weeks. I encountered a situation with someone where I felt justified being upset, and this chapter reminds me that in all circumstances, I must love them. Once again, no qualifiers, just the concrete fact that you need to love your enemies. Talk about humbling.

After that reality check, I wanted to read chapter 6 to see what followed this incredibly humbling command. It had been a while since I read through Matthew, so I was hoping that there was some sort of intrinsic payoff. There has to be some sort of prize for doing this.

Here’s some of the highlights of Matthew 6:

v. 1: “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.”

v. 2: “When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do – blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity!”

v.6: “When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.”

v. 19: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.”

Through the first half of the chapter, Jesus takes it even further. Whatever we do needs to be private. Not only are we called to love our enemies and turn the other cheek, but you don’t make a show of what it is that we are called to do. Nothing in the Bible is accidental. There is a reason why Jesus said these in this order. After we forgive those who hurt us and love our enemies, now you give and pray and love, but don’t make a show of it. The bar is raised

These chapters spoke to me that this is what we are required to do: sacrifice. We need to BE the church, not force people to COME to church to experience Jesus. We need to show the love of Jesus, not just talk about how Jesus loves people.

We need to give until it hurts. We need to love until it hurts. We need to put other people’s needs above our own. There is no disclaimer on who deserves it or what they have to do. We are called to show the love of Christ, not beat people over the head with it. Like someone I respect once told me: “we may not know everyone, but we know who made them, and that’s all that matters.”

That is a challenge that my family and I are taking. Will we be perfect at it? No, but that is the beauty of it all: God doesn’t demand perfection, He just demands our best.

And what about when it gets tough? When it does get to the point of hurting? That’s when I will be reminded of the promises in verses 33:

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything  that you need.”