real people, real pain

1

Category : bible, failure, faith, hope, trust

……….

Life is filled with problems.  Often unexpected ones.  And while I don’t mean to sound like a pessimist, there is no doubt that we all will be blindsided by at least one major catastrophe in our lives.  And many little problems too.

I think this economic recession is an example.  I never dreamed that stores like Circuit City would fold.  And when I drive around town I am shocked by the number of empty office buildings.  Each one of those office buildings is a dream that’s been shattered.

These shattered dreams, though, allow me to find comfort in the Bible.

I know that sounds shocking.  But stay with me for a minute – the Bible is filled with stories of people being murdered, sold into slavery, invaded, and generally run out of town.  There are entire books of the Bible devoted to stories of suffering and pain.  You can’t read for very long without noticing it.

Have you ever wondered why the stories don’t hold back?  Have you ever wondered why there are stories of people railing against God in their anger and despair?  Stories of people questioning why God isn’t showing up as their dreams are being torn apart.

It’s because the Bible is filled with real people and real pain.

And so as my dreams are crushed, I can find comfort in the pages of the Bible because I know I’m not alone.  I know that what I’m experiencing other people have as well.  I know that they were able to trust God no matter how hard it got and I can too.  After all these years the Bible remains as relevant to us, as it did to the original audience.

This is why the Psalm 73 really hits home.  Asaph (the writer) has been where I am.  He sees that while he struggles people who go along ignoring God seem to be rewarded.  He’s noticed that even when you do the right thing, you sometimes end up worse for it.  But he also realized that if he trusted God, in the end, he would be all right.  As close as Asaph was to the brink, he held on:

“But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked”

(Psalm 73: 2-3)

If God was faithful to him, then I am reminded that God will be faithful to me.  And so I hold on no matter how close to the brink I get.

prayer thursday: dreams

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Category : God, faith, prayer, prayer thursday

     

I am convinced that God answers prayers.  I’m also convinced that praying is the quickest way to build a relationship with him.  No matter how much you read a biography about someone, or no matter how many times you’ve heard someone describe a stranger, you never really know someone until you talk to them. 

So I’m going to start a new regular feature on R3: prayer thursday. 

On every “prayer thursday”, there will be something to pray about.  Some days it will be for others, some days it will be for ourselves, and other times it will be for whatever you feel like.  I’m also opening up comments so anyone can post their prayer.

Dreams

God – it’s all too easy to live a life where we don’t follow our dreams.  We all have unique skills that you want to use to change the world.  Help us to live out those dreams and not settle for something less.  Something that doesn’t feel so daunting.  Let us reach for the dreams you’ve given us.

comments are open

the joy of writing

Category : humor

   

God inspires our dreams.  But that doesn’t mean everything will work out without effort.  Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, and we need to be flexible. 

 

nonnegotiables

Category : God, taking action, trust

 

Focus.

That is not a word I often use to describe myself. By my nature I’m easily distracted. Not because I can’t pay attention when I want to – but because so many things fascinate me it’s hard to concentrate on just one thing.

As a kid I never had a hard time thinking of something I wanted to be when I grew up. There were so many exciting possibilities. Would I be an astronaut? How about a comic book artist? A writer? The next Indiana Jones?

As an adult it’s still hard for me to focus on just one goal. There are still so many things I want to do with my life that sometimes I feel paralyzed – not by fear, but by excitement. I am excited about all the amazing possibilities that lay before me.

In Wide Awake, Erwin McManus suggests that the most difficult decisions in life aren’t between good and evil – but between two equally good choices.

I think this is true.

After all, how do we make a decision between becoming an astronaut and a doctor? Or a football star instead of a baseball player? Or the most important question of all: hot dogs or hamburgers?

Life is filled with endlessly good choices competing for our attention. That’s why it’s fundamentally important to know what we won’t negotiate. We need to know what things we won’t surrender no matter what the situation. And dare I say, no matter the cost?

This applies just as much to our faith as it does to our lives.

It’s hard to know how to interpret rock bands (good), or long hair (meh), or the prosperity gospel (bad) if you don’t know what your nonnegotiables are. If we don’t know what defines God, then we get upset over something as simple as the music you play in church.

When everything has equal importance you can’t separate preferences from necessities. And so we attack people who have a different set of preferences – even when they agree with us on the necessities.

Of course there’s something deeper here too. We can’t live “wide awake” if we don’t know our core convictions. We can’t live out our dreams if we don’t know when to say “no” and when to say “yes.”

Ravi Zacharias tells a story about Henry Martyn

Martyn was not an attractive man.  (Or at least that’s what history records.)  Because of his embarrassment by the way he looked, he preferred to stay away from people.  He lived his life on the edges of relationships.  That is, until a young woman was able to see beyond his appearance,  and fell in love with him. 

Naturally he fell in love with her.

His other love was God.  So sitting in church one day, Martyn heard about India and the desperate need to bring God to the people of that country.  Suddenly Martyn knew what his dream was.  He knew that to live wide awake, he had to move to India. 

And so he went to the woman he loved and asked her to join him. 

She refused. 

Devestated Martyn began to question his calling to Africa.  Was this really the dream God had for him?  Was he even hearing it correctly?  How could he choose between India and the woman he loved?

As he wrestled with his choice he realized it wasn’t a choice between a woman and India – but between this special woman and God.

Henry Martyn knew what was nonnegotiable in his life.  He knew that nothing was more important than God.  As hard as it must have been, he left England and moved to India.  And died there at the age of 31. 

Martyn risked everything, and sacrificed so much, because he knew the things he couldn’t compromise.  His decision cost him the woman he loved, produced tremendous physical suffering, and in the end took his life.  But because he knew his priorities, he lived his life with both focus and purpose.  He lived wide awake.

So what are your nonnegotiables?  What will you never compromise?

what i’m reading: Wide Awake

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Category : God, book review, feeding my brain, hope

   

If you’ve been reading R3 for any length of time knows that I’m a huge fan of Erwin McManus.  So when I was approached by his publicist about reading an advance copy of his latest book, I was thrilled.  But I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive.  What if I didn’t like the book?  What if I had to say a bunch of bad things about it?  What if I had to come up with a third question that started with the phrase ‘what if’?!

That concern only grew as I had a hard time figuring out what to say about this book.  So much of it seemed familiar: the influence of The Barbarian Way, Chasing Daylight, and Soul Cravings is obvious.  But I’ve already read those books.  I already get that way of thinking.  I’m already on board. 

There’s no question Erwin’s writings have had a profound impact on my life.  The Barbarian Way helped bring me into a relationship with God.  While Chasing Daylight forced me to be bold, and was a  major reason this site was launched.   But when I read Wide Awake nothing immediately jumped out at me.

“Sure it was good.  But it wasn’t brilliant.” I told myself.  “What am I getting out of it?”

But that view changed when I was, of all places, at the gym.  I have no idea what caused the light bulb to go on.  Maybe it was sheer exhaustion.  Or maybe I just was looking for an excuse to stop exercising.  But in one moment everything crystallized.

Wide Awake isn’t so much about me and my dreams, but about other people and their dreams.

As I mentioned, I already get Erwin McManus.  And for the last few years I’ve been doing much of what he talks about in Wide Awake.  But what I hadn’t been doing is helping other people live out their dreams.  I had no framework for even recognizing that people were searching for their dreams.

Wide Awake changes that.

It gives me a way to relate and communicate with people about their dreams. 

At it’s core Wide Awake is about identifying the dreams God has for us, and then learning to live a life that makes those dreams a reality.  Considering most of us probably can’t even identify a dream we want to live, that’s no small task.

Since that moment at the gym, I see just how many people are sleep walking through their lives (myself included).  When I hear people talk about their unfulfilling jobs I no longer think in terms of job satisfaction, pay raises or a career change.  What I realize people are saying is that they long to live a different life.  They want to wake up, but they don’t know how.  And so they feel trapped.

When I hear that story of loneliness, I no longer have to say, “gee, I’m sorry to hear that,” because I have nothing else to offer.  Now I can offer them some hope.  I can talk about the potential in their lives, and the dreams that God has created them to live.

No matter how spiritual we are, it’s funny how we still take a consumerist attitude toward God.  I wanted Wide Awake to benefit me.  I wanted a blueprint of how to live the life of my dreams.  What I got was a road map of how to help other’s achieve their’s.

And you know what?

That’s letting me live out my dreams.