Oh how life has changed in 2020. We went from hearing & reading about a virus that was on the other side of the world in January & February to discovering this same virus in the US. We went from “normal” trips to the grocery store, shopping malls, attending church services to “limited” or no trips at all to any of these places. Amazon deliveries have increased. I went from providing behavioral therapy face to face to providing it over video. I went from attending church services & activities face to face regularly to doing everything online. A lot has changed.
There is one thing that hasn’t changed! God’s presence in the world remains the only thing that is consistent. Hebrews 13:8 says: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, & forever.” Jesus is the same but everything else is different. God is still the same. We can find comfort in this. God’s Truth & promises still stand. When everything about life “feels” different God is still the same. With Jesus as our foundation we can walk through it all. God is able to lead us through it all. We just have to take His hand & let Him. Will you take His hand with me.
I went out to look at my Kale this morning & realized there was progress in the growth of my kale. More green sprouts are making their way through the soil. Yet it’s not perfectly neat.
Progress with us as human beings is the same way. A dear friend of mine calls this “imperfect progress.” So you might be wondering, what exactly is “imperfect progress?” It means that as we grow spiritually & emotionally we don’t do it perfectly. We make progress & grow by learning how to be more like Jesus. Yet, sometimes we mess up but still the progress is not lost. It reminds of Philippians 1:6 which says, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you carried it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” This is the process of transformation. We may ask, what is the fruit?
To bring this concept to another context, progress in my job means I must have the supporting data as evidence for an individual’s progress. As a behavioral therapist I must use evidence based interventions & take data on how an individual responds.
Progress is an important part of growth in the church community & in the world of counseling. Gardening brings so many powerful insights.
This is the first year I decided to plant a garden. It’s on my porch because I rent and don’t have anywhere else to plant it, but this is also best for me because it is the first time I am planting a garden. As I thought about my garden a few days ago the thought came to mind that growing takes work. In order for my garden to grow I need to water it. In order to grow as human beings, we also need to do a type of watering. If we want to grow into emotionally and spiritually mature people, we must work at it. Growing up in Jesus takes work. We have to find time to spend with Jesus, time to soul search, time to confess, time to receive healing, and through all this we will grow. This growing is not an easy process. There are many emotions that come along with it. And sometimes we don’t do it perfectly but we don’t have to do it perfectly because Jesus took our place.
This growing process reminds me of Jesus‘s words in John 15. Let’s take a closer look at John 15:4-5: “Remain in me as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in the vine. I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me & I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” We can’t grow without inviting Jesus to come with us on the journey. We can’t minister to others without inviting Jesus on the journey. We can’t have healthy relationships without inviting Jesus on the journey. Fill in the blank, there is nothing you and I can do without Jesus. Let’s do the hard work & grow together.
Recently, I went to visit a friend’s new home. Prior to this visit we had many conversations about which was the best route to take. I wanted to take the direct route because it made sense. My friend & my map app kept telling me a different way to go. I wanted to go the direct route. Unfortunately the direct route was not the best, most efficient way to go. I had to resign myself to take the route that didn’t make sense.￼ Isn’t life like that sometimes? We want to go from point A to point B in a straight line because it makes sense. But God often takes us from point A to Point M to Point R to Point D to Point B. God’s ways don’t always make sense. God is after transformation & sometimes more transformation occurs in the detours. There are many verses in the Bible that speak to this idea but Proverbs 20:24 really speaks to me. It says: “A person’s steps are directed by the Lord, how can anyone understand their own way.”
Does your life consist of direct routes or detours? Whichever it is, God is in all of it.
Come aside & rest awhile. Now that’s Sabbath. Sabbath? What is the true Biblical meaning of that word? Instructions & a model for Sabbath taking is found early in the Bible & God is our model. Genesis 2:2-3 says this: “On the seventh day God had finished the work of creation so He rested from all of his work. And God blessed the 7th day & called it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all of His work of creation.” The word rest in these verses means to cease which to mean means stop. There is a rhythm of work & rest. But what work are we resting from? Are we resting only from our paid work or are we called to rest from our unpaid or volunteer work? The answer to those questions are different for everyone & can only be answered by connecting with God & following his leading. Sabbath is essential but how it is lived out is different for everyone. May God bless you as you seek His desire for you to rest & what that means.
Life is full of seasons. There are seasons of many kinds. Seasons of movement, seasons of waiting, seasons of transition, seasons of stillness.
Seasons in life might be similar to the seasons we experience in terms of weather. Winter. I’m not a fan of winter & sometimes it feels like it can go on forever. The seasons of “winter ” in life are those seasons of difficulty, challenges, trials. Sometimes they go on forever. Then spring comes & New life appears. New life might mean a change in perspective if the trials continue or new life might mean entering a period of relief or freedom from the challenge. Summer seasons are all about growth & fun. Then fall comes & so does change. The leaves change & our lives change.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says: “There is a time for everything, & a season for every activity under the heavens.” What season of life do you find yourself in? Do you see God in it? Will you rest in Him during your current season?
In His Service,
The title of this blog comes as I took a trip down memory lane this week. It was not intentional, it all started when I heard something in the news. I am not one that’s good at retelling a story with details but I had read that a lot of schools in Colorado were on lockdown. This came just days before the 20 year anniversary of the Columbine school shooting. Then it hit me, 20 years, how is that possible? The Columbine School shooting is one of a few defining historic moments in my life. I could tell you where I was when I received the news. There are historic defining moments & there are personal defining moments. Personal defining moments are the moments in our personal lives that have shaped us into the person we have become. These moments can be an event or a conversation. A place may also be considered a defining moment. There are many in my life. The day I was told I could not be a United Methodist Pastor. The ministry of Celebrate Recovery is another, both my involvement as a participant & a leader. When I think of people as defining moments I think of those who have been willing to invest their time in my life. I also think of those people who have been able to say the hard things at the right time. This takes compassion, discernment, & grace. Jesus also had defining moments in His life. Many of those moments we remember this weekend. The cross was a defining moment for Jesus. He gave up His life so that we could have life. The life that we have been given should be full of joy & abundance. Jesus says these words in John 10:10 – “The thief comes only to steal, kill, & destroy. I came that they may have an enjoy life, and have it in abundance; to the full until it overflows.” When we view our life with Jesus by our side, we find joy, peace, & abundant life even in the midst of challenging circumstances.
One of my favorite summer activities is to walk the beach at a dear relatives. This past summer as I walked the beach I was reminded of the poem “footprints in the sand.” This poem paints a clear picture of what it’s like to walk through trials.
We may feel alone at times, almost as though God has left us. Jesus May have felt the same way when He was sent to the cross & spoke these words from Psalm 22: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” We feel alone because we see one set of footprints & yet this is when God carries us as the poem states.
The purpose of these challenging times is so that we can comfort & encourage others. Paul shares these words in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Praise be to the God & Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so we can comfort others with the same comfort we received.” God walks with us & encourages us so we can learn to walk with & encourage others.
It seems that this time of year as often about preparation. I often hear people asked the question: are you ready for Christmas? When most people ask that question they are really asking if you have all your shopping done and are all decorated and ready to be with family. Unfortunately the last thing that gets remembered is that Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Christ. We should always be ready to celebrate the birth of Christ during this time of year and all year round. When we come to celebrate the birth of Christ we are also celebrating his life, death, and resurrection. Each of these events and parts of Jesus’ life cannot be looked at separately. The Christmas ornament pictured above says it all. Are you prepared to welcome Jesus into your Christmas celebrations? Are you prepared to live as one who follows him? We should be more concerned about including Jesus in our Christmas celebrations then about the gifts, decorations, and many other preparations. As we often here this time of year: Jesus is the reason for the season.
We are reminded of this in Luke 2:10-12: “But the angel said to them, “do not be afraid I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Savior, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” This news brought great joy to the people present at the event and it is my prayer that it brings great joy to us today and during this Christmas season.
Just the other day I was talking to a friend about the word healing and I was reminded of a key spiritual truth. That truth is that healing happens in the context of a relationship. What I mean is that, in order to truly be healed we must talk about our struggles with one another.
In James 5:16 says: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” In this verse, there are 2 requirements for healing: confession & prayer. Both of these happen in a relationship. Confession is simply sharing your struggle or sin with another person. Prayer is the act of inviting God into the process. God does the healing & He does it in the context of relationships.
Healing happens because we name the struggle and sin. There is power in saying out loud what we are struggling with to another person. It takes the struggle out of our head and into the open which is where the healing begins. Keeping the struggle in our head gives it more power and can stall the healing process.
It is my hope and prayer that we can invite God and others into our lives so that true healing can begin.