Thursday, July 17, 2014

Giving Up #losinghope

giving up.

no one wants to hear it. or say it. But how often do we give up, lose motivation, or quit trying and not even know it?

Everyday, people quit jobs, give up on relationships, lose motivation to do right, quit trying to succeed, etc.

Some people even give up on life. I'm not a theologian, psychiatrist, or even very educated in human ways or tactics.  All I have to offer is a compassionate heart when I see people give up. And honestly, I have a whole lot of anger and frustration that I must fight as well.

If you think about it, regardless of the circumstance, giving up is about losing hope.  Losing hope is a big deal. But how does it happen? Seems to me it's a slow fade, and we don't even see it coming.

Two passages come to mind:

Job 27:8 says "For what hope have the godless when they are cut off, when God takes away their life?"

Romans 5:2-7 "Through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

I really don't know why I started this blog, or even what I'm about to say, but I felt the urge to do so (which is probably rule #1 in what to not say in a blog). Patience please.

"Father speak."

Take a minute to reflect on what you've given up on recently.  Has it been your family or friends? A relationship with the Father or someone else? Has it been a small group? A job? A dream? Church family? Sports Team? Education?

Join me in reflecting on two things:
1.) If we have received such grace, and hope cannot disappoint, the fact is that we have walked away from God, and in the beautiful picture of the prodigal son, he's awaiting you to return to his presence with open arms.  He hasn't given up on you - so why give up on him?
2.) Think about the hopelessness of an unbelieving world.  Think about the godless who are cut off from the hope that you and I know by a state of unbelief, or not knowing the Father.  Think about the things you do, and things you don't do.  Are you living a life and investing your time, gifts, and talents in ways that can be leveraged for the Kingdom in order to lead new people into that hope? Or, out of selfishness, is our thought and concern not about those around us - in our lives, paths, or people groups who we have or continue to abandon?

God is telling me to "be a part of something greater than yourself."

He's offering me an incredible invitation with a grace-filled challenge. Fact is, he's offering it to us all.  What have you given up on recently that he is inviting and challenging you to return to.  What are you avoiding that would be an avenue for His grace-filled hope to pour into your heart?  Run, with open arms, back into his presence, back to where you came from, back to where you gave up.  Christ died. You live. Return to the wilderness. Start over. Try again. Fight the fight of faith, persevere, and never lose hope.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Meet Them Where They're At

Recently, I've felt God speaking this phrase to me - "meet them where they're at". I've been trying to figure out what it means. Is it affirmation of the mission we are currently on - going forth and creating community by planting gardens and seeking to grow food and give it away? Or is it a challenge - Him inviting and challenging me to something I've not yet realized, something greater than myself.

Life recently has been quite hectic - I've allowed it to an extent of busyness that has brought conviction. Today, I had planned to work on some garden stuff then take a break - to do what I wanted to do and escape reality for a bit - perhaps lay by the pool or hang out in the solitude of the country with friends. The rain curbed the majority of those plans - and I found myself lazily on the couch. I didn't want to go check the gardens but I knew I should.

When I approached the Rail Yard in downtown Opelika, a man flagged me down. This man apparently needed some help - I know not to judge a man by his appearance, but this man was well-spoken, clean cut, cordial, and had an infectious smile. I don't know whether what he told me was true, that's not for me to judge, but this man shook my hand with integrity, and humbly asked me if I had a job for him (apparently he is a mason and my truck looks like a contractor's truck). His hands were hard and calloused, those of a man who has labored.

I didn't have any cash on me but I explained to him I was on my way to check on our garden (two blocks away). I told him I'd like to show it to him, and asked if he could meet me there in twenty minutes. Normally, I wouldn't give money in this circumstance - I offer a ride or meal, but today something felt different. He agreed so I headed on a quick "errand" to the ATM to get what cash I could and headed to the garden and there he was. I had not told him I was going to help or where I was going, but felt if he showed up, it was a sign. I walked him in, shared with him the vision and what we were doing and especially why. We spoke about scripture and God's commandments and how I felt God had intersected our paths - not by circumstance or randomness but by his faithfulness. Standing there God brought me a "peace that transcends all understanding".

You see, today is a difficult day - twelve years ago this morning I lost my mother, and each year May 18th reminds me of that loss. Today God blessed me with the empowering truth that it's not about me. He challenged my pride and invited me to meet one of his children, outside of my comfort zone, where he was. It's not just my labor for my life - Christ has paid that ransom. But now, its his spirit inside of me - not by my works, but his work through me.

These gardens are teaching me it's about more than food, it's about relationships. I do not labor for the Lord expecting anything in return, he has poured out his blessings abundantly for me- however, on days like today, I see he does bless us when we listen and respond to him. Today that was in the form of peace - he used a stranger to connect the dots on what he's been saying to me, and to grant my heart peace.

Today, I met a man named Anthony, where he was, walking down the street. But, even more importantly, God met me, where I'm at - I realize that he doesn't just command us to do things - he invites us to imitate him. He meets us and our needs where we are and as his disciples we are called to do the same. So, as I have learned to ask myself I ask you, what is God speaking to you - and then, what are you going to do about it?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Patience: From A Deer Stand

As I sit completely camouflaged up, hanging off the side of a tree 16' high, waiting on a deer to walk out my patience is not very high at the moment.

These past few weeks I've really felt God speaking to me about patience. I've come to realize that in God's eyes patience has little to do with merely waiting around. Two simple truths: Patience is a process and God is a fan of the process.

You see, patience is more about the heart - that's why it's a virtue. In a period of waiting, whether career, calling, important decision, relationships, etc. we essentially look to the end and skip the journey there. Rather than waiting on the Lord to speak or make a situation turn out how we want, I'd say a better definition is this "the process in which we grow to fully trust and have faith that God's will in a given situation might differ from our own desired outcome." You see, I didn't even use the word waiting.

Scripture speaks to this as well - you know where it says patience produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope - you see the word waiting isn't there. It's not about the wait. I love the lyric "strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord". Yes, we are waiting on something but what is happening is that our faith and trust in the Lord is strengthening - it's a process.

In our journey, what is an end in our eyes is just the beginning in God's. I've been convicted to stop focusing on the outcome I want in these periods of waiting and instead seek His wisdom and truth, and determine whether I really am trusting and believing and that the desires of my heart are founded in faith and not pride.

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