Practicing what I preach…

Every once in a while, things get really tough in life and I find myself struggling. Struggling to find joy, struggling to have hope, struggling to do the things that need to be done.

In a recent sermon, I called this going through a “season of discontent.” It happens. No one (not even Jesus) promised life would be easy. In fact, in the Gospel According to John, Jesus said to the disciples: “in this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33, in case you want to look it up!) He wasn’t despairing, he was being absolutely honest with the disciples about what they would face as they carried the good news to a broken world.

It has been a time of trouble recently. A season of discontent. For the world as we deal with ISIS, Syria, Ebola, and many other problems. For friends and people within my faith community as they deal with unexpected losses, health issues and uncertain futures. And for myself as I deal with the ongoing pressures and stresses of life in full time ministry.

If someone showed up at my office and talked about feeling this kind of a season of discontent, there are two things I would do. First, I would pray for them, right then and there – so they could hear me lifting them and all of their worries and concerns up before God. (I have friends who do this for me when I need it, and I can attest to how powerful it is to have someone else pray over you.)

The second thing I would do is that I would give them some scripture passages to read. I would make them promise to read the passages daily. The length and complexity of these passages would depend entirely on the individual and what I know of their comfort level with reading and interpreting scripture. But how ever long, short, simple or complex the passage, I can tell you the words would include some the promises God makes to us as His children.

I would give them words like this:

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭8-10‬ NLT

I would tell them that they are God’s masterpiece. That they are made new in Christ. That even in a dark and sucky season like this, God has made them to do good things that He planned long ago.

So tonite I am practicing what I preach. I am reading this passage for me. I am telling myself those things. And I am letting you read listen in, in case you need to hear them, too.

(Read that passage again. And then again tomorrow morning, and every day that you need a little encouragement. That you need to know you are God’s masterpiece. I plan to.)

Oh, and if you want a few more passages like that, check this out:

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The Jude Project: Defend…

Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.
‭Jude‬ ‭1‬:‭3‬ NLT

Jude begins his epistle by stating his reason for writing. Originally he wanted to write about salvation – sharing his insights and understanding of the gift God has given to all believers. But, he says, now he writes to urge the faithful to defend the faith that God has entrusted to them.

Some translations phrase this as “fight for” or “contend for” the faith. Now, I have to admit, this makes me a little nervous – because for some strains of the Christian faith, and for some individual Christians, this might be seen as a free reign to use any and all methods to uphold their understanding of the Christian faith. This is the mindset that lead to the Crusades and to other examples of Christians failing to be CHRISTIAN while they did what they believed needed to be done in order to safeguard the faith and/or to force the faith upon others.

It is a dangerous way of thinking. It ignores the call to peace, to the sanctity of human life, to the sacredness of our ability to choose our belief (or unbelief, for that matter).

The fact is the core of our faith – the person of Jesus Christ – doesn’t need our safeguarding. He’s the Lion of Judah and more than capable of defending himself. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t “defend,” “fight for,” or “contend for,” our faith. It does mean that we have to understand these terms differently.

I think we are called to defend our faith against the monotony of daily life – to find inspiration when everything seems pretty darned mundane. I think we are called to fight for our ability to love each other – especially when the ‘other’ seems utterly unloveable. I think we are called to contend for kindness and generosity when pettiness and selfishness are easier and more popular. I think we are called to be holy people in an unholy world.

These are hard battles to wage, and yet waging them is everything it means to live out our faith. Not in a way that wounds or alienates others, but in a way that points toward the light of salvation – the truth, the life and the way.

So may you – in humility, in peace, in kindness and love – defend, fight for and contend for your faith. May you live the life we are called to, as holy people in an unholy world.

The truth is like a lion you don't have to defend it let it loose it will defend itself