Life - The Struggle is Real and It's Supposed to Be

Photo by Nick Morrison

Photo by Nick Morrison

The title of today’s blog may sound shocking. I don’t know how I came to think that life should not be hard, but somewhere along the way I, like most Americans, have believed that lie.

Last week I sent out a survey to see how I can improve my blog. All the responses were satisfied or above. Thank you for that! I asked if other topics would be of interest and the ones I listed were well received, so I will start working on some of those. But I had three “other” suggestions that I will be addressing on my Friday posts. (Yes, if you are reading this from your Wednesday email, it was actually posted and uploaded to social media the Friday before.)

As a precursor to the three topics, I wanted to talk about life a little bit and how life is not something of ease and bliss. While we may experience moments or even seasons of ease and bliss, that is not life’s design.

Think with me back to the Garden of Eden BEFORE sin. Adam and Eve were sinless. They walked with God daily. But they had some God-given responsibilities. They tended the garden. I know, I know. How hard could that have been before thorns and thistles? Maybe it wasn’t “hard”, but my point is that God created mankind to work.

Work, That four letter word! I know in my way of thinking when I think life surely should be easy, I don’t want to “work”. And yet, I seem to be the most fulfilled when I have worked hard on something and accomplished it.

Moving on. Sin did happen and life’s struggles became much more that happy or disgruntled work. Now sin is in the mix. God made a way for our forgiveness of sin through His Son, Jesus Christ. But even in salvation, God did not promise to make life easy. On the contrary, He promised to be with us through all of life’s struggles.

On top of that, He even said becoming a believer would bring on more struggles! That’s right. As the world hated Jesus, so will it hate us. We as Americans don’t know a lot about that, but just ask our brothers and sisters around the world. They can tell you. And we may soon see more of that hatred of Jesus (and us) here as time goes on.

I was flabbergasted when I saw the Disney CEO say he would take his film making away from Georgia to the more “righteous” Hollywood (He used the word “righteous”!) because Georgia passed the heartbeat law banning abortion once a heartbeat is detected. All I could think of was the Bible’s prediction of the end of days when right will be considered wrong and wrong will be considered right. My, my. (Truth be told, I thought of a lot of things, but I’ll keep those thoughts to myself…I may need to repent over some.)

We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. 

1 Thessalonians 3:2-3 ESV

Look at Paul’s warning to believers. We are destined for trials. Let that sink in. Many American believers have never really seen trials over our faith in Jesus Christ. Maybe some of our family avoids us. Maybe we’ve been passed over for a promotion at work or perhaps some of us have even been fired for our faith. But most of us have only felt some discomfort and/or embarrassment. (I am aware that we have persecution in the US.)

In the coming weeks we’ll explore some specific struggles but take courage. While we are guaranteed trials in this life, we are also guaranteed that we are never alone in them! Jesus, our Saviour, is in us through the Holy Spirit so there is NOthing (nothing; no thing) we can’t get through!

Take courage!

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

1 John 4:4 ESV

This week as you wrestle with your struggles, take courage! Jesus Christ is BIGGER and MIGHTIER than anything you face. So point your face toward HIM!

psst… We win through Jesus! :)

How to Get into Spiritual Shape

Photo by Imani Clovis

Photo by Imani Clovis

I may be able to sit in this position for a few minutes, but the real problem would be standing after having sat like this. No, the above photo is not one of exercise, but it makes me think of someone who is physically fit.

Physical fitness it a hot topic today. We have many popular exercise and diet programs out there. But what about our spiritual shape? What are we doing to improve our spiritual shape? Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying ‘what are we doing to be the best we can be?’ Jesus died to make us new creations, not a better version of ourselves. We are to conform us into His likeness.

That’s a tall order and one we cannot do on our own. But God…can and will get us into spiritual shape, if we’ll surrender to Him daily. The thing is, we never get into such shape that we don’t have to keep working at it. (Nor do we ever achieve a physical fitness to the point that we don’t have to keep working on it.)

Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. I Timothy 4:7b-8

So how do we train ourselves for godliness? We do what we know to do:

  • Read the Bible daily - preferably in a methodical way

  • Pray - repent, praise, intercede

  • Practice - live out the things the Bible teaches

  • Repeat

This may sound simple and it is, but that doesn’t always make it easy. We often get so caught up in the busyness of life with work, family and the urgent that we somehow push God to the back burner. At least I know that I have done that more times than I want to admit. When I do that, I think about other relationships in my life. How would my marriage be if I just pushed my wonderful husband to the back burner? NOT GOOD, I’m sure!

How can we expect God to deliver us from a crisis or soothe us with His peace when we don’t even spend time with Him on a daily basis? And I don’t mean a five second prayer before we collapse into bed. I mean real, meaningful conversations. Digging into scripture to get to know Him more. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks like this, but I know when I am seeking Him with all my heart I see His merciful acts all around me.

Don’t misunderstand me, God cares for His children no matter what we do or don’t do. He is ALWAYS FAITHFUL even when we’re not. But my point is, how are we to stand firm in the faith when we have not been spending time with our Lord?

I don’t know what shape you are in today. But I do know that Jesus will meet you right where you are and He will transform you into His image as you surrender your life to Him. Surrendering your life is a moment by moment and day by day process.

Join me in doing what we know to do - getting to know our Lord in such a way that we trust He is who He says He is and trust that He can do what He says He can do. Perhaps we’ll meet at the feet of our Saviour this week as we come before Him!

It's Time to Do a New Thing

Photo by Austin Chan

Photo by Austin Chan

Behold, I am doing a new thing… Isaiah 43:19 ESV

i often find it very hard to do something new or to do something old in a new way. Do you? We all know change is inevitable, but we resist change until we’re forced to comply. Maybe I’m just talking about myself…

I take comfort in the fact that Jesus never changes. He is the same today, yesterday and forever. That comforts me because I know that no matter what He is the same. His love for me is the same. His forgiveness is the same. His restoration is the same.

Yet there have been times throughout scripture when God did a new thing. Just think about it for a minute:

  • God called Abram and started a nation with a covenant

  • God sent His Son, Jesus, as the new covenant

  • God created the world by His spoken word

  • God destroyed the earth with a flood

The truth of WHO God is and WHAT He is capable of NEVER change so His message never changes. Now with that settled, we know the gospel is salvation by Christ alone through His work alone.

But sometimes God does a new thing. Just like in the verse from Isaiah. God does not change, but He may do a new thing. Here are a few more examples:

  • God lived among His people in a cloud by day and fire by night

  • Then God dwelt in a tent

  • Then in a tabernacle

  • Now inside believers

He did not change, but He did a new thing.

That leads me to you. Is God calling you to do a new thing? You may feel a little uncertainty. Maybe some excitement and nervousness at the same time. You may have even had people confirm this new thing whether they knew they did or not.

Let the photo at the beginning of this post be for you. This is the sign you’ve been looking for… If you feel the Holy Spirit tugging you, pushing you or urging you to do a new thing, just do it.

The message of Christ will never change, but God gives us the privilege and responsibility of sharing His message. In so doing, He may very well be calling you, yes you, to do a new thing to reach a certain group of people for His glory.

If you’re being called to do a new thing - this is the sign you’ve been looking for.

In A World of Noise, Who Are You Listening To?

Photo by Alireza-Attari

Photo by Alireza-Attari

Do you hear it? There’s so much noise. In this world of technology, we are inundated with noise from every direction: television, radio, social media, YouTube, podcasts and so much more.

We are accessible all the time with the hand held devices that we just can’t live without. Our phones are glued to our hands or stuck in our pockets at all times so we can reach and be reached twenty-four seven.

So in the midst of all this noise, let me ask you, “Who are you listening to?”

Do you get worked up seeing the news and hearing of all the world trouble and devastation? Are you scared to be out on your own after hearing of crime being on the rise? Do you wring your hands over things that you can’t control?

Or do you try to live by the old adage, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Unfortunately, that’s not a switch most of us can just “turn” on. But we DO have Someone that we can and should be listening to in the midst of all this noise. This Someone brings peace in the chaos, calm in the storm and assurance amidst all doubting. This Someone is Jesus Christ.

He wasn’t a prophet or a good teacher. He was and He is the Son of The Living God. He is God Incarnate. God in the flesh. And He promises those who are His a peace that surpasses all understanding.

How can I possible know that? Well, I’m glad you asked. I know those things because I belong to Him. I was raised in Church. One evening during a revival service, the Holy Spirit called to me as loud and clear as anyone ever had. I realized then and there that I was a sinner and destined for hell. I fell on my face before the loving God and received His free gift of salvation.

Nope. Stars didn’t fall from heaven. Bells didn’t sound all around me. But I stood up a new creation. I have never been the same! Praise the Lord! The day, Jesus saved me from sin and to Himself. Every single day now I know I am not alone. Jesus is always with me. I have experienced more than once that peace that surpasses understanding.

While I have lived a very blessed life; one that may be considered without tragedy and sorrow, which is true in a sense - I have experienced some blows of life that are common to us all. Just so you have a picture of the peace that Jesus extends when we are His, here are a few of the losses and uncertainties that He has carried me through:

1.. The loss of both parents (one before I turned 30 and the other just into my 30’s)

2. The loss of 3 siblings (one in between my parents

3. The dreaded call from my physician - something looks like “c” and more tests are needed

4. Giving depositions for an upcoming trial

5. An ‘adopted’ child walking away from our family

6. Job struggles and financial struggles

These are all normal struggles in life. Sometimes they are devastating and people never really recover. But when you have Jesus and are listening to Him, He brings PEACE in the storm. There’s a Christian song that has a line that says “sometimes He calms the storm and sometimes He calms His child”.

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
— Mark 4:39 ESV

I love that line in the song because it so poetically reminds us that Jesus doesn’t promise us a life of “smooth sailing”, but He does promise to never leave us or forsake us. However, as in the verse above, sometimes He does calm the storm that rages around us.

So, again, in this world of noise that we live in, I ask, “Who are you listening to?” I hope it’s Jesus Christ. He has all the answers! He loves you. He wants to save you and give you a purpose for your life. He is peace.