Thursday, April 26, 2018

We have this hope in Christ that renews our mind from the destructive messages that make us feel we're beyond hope.

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. Philippians 1:20

Shame is like being the aging prizefighter who finds himself on the ropes receiving the punishing blows of his much younger opponent while listening to those messages, "I'm no good, I never should have considered getting back into the ring, why did I ever do this."

As our lives become shame-based, it is easy to believe that we're beyond hope. We see ourselves as unlovable and far beyond the love of Christ. Tragedy and trauma have a way of making us feel that God doesn't love us- and if he did, then my love would still be alive.

At their recent concert, I had a hard time keeping my eyes dry listening to this song.

Here I am
All my intentions
All my obsessions
I want to lay them all down 
In Your hands

God, I need you, I want you, but you don't need me. The messages we listen to in this life can send us all down a spiral staircase of despair, as though we're sitting in the abyss of hopelessness trying disparately to reach God.

Only Your love is vital 
Though I'm not entitled 
Still, You call me Your child 
God, You don't need me
I was reminded over again in God's precious Gospels how much God truly loved me. He loved me so much that he sent his son, Jesus to die for every one of my sin's He, alone, gives me the renewed purpose for living when tragedy takes someone away from us that we've loved. He, alone, gives us hope while we grieve.

But somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me
Somehow that frees me 
To take my hands off of my life 
And the way it should go
God, You don't need me
I often wondered why God didn't just start over with our planet, especially when mankind's sins started poisoning the atmosphere. But He didn't. He promised from the beginning of creation that he would make all things new. He spoke through major and minor prophets and His story became the greatest best seller in life- his guidebook on how to live this life!

But somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me
Somehow that frees me 
To open my hands up 
And give You control 
I give You control

Somehow, shame has a way of keeping us from yielding control while listening to those messages in our mind that tell us 'we're no good' While you believe you're a failure, God is gently prodding you trying to get your attention and reminding you He has a wonderful plan for your life!
I've had plans
Shattered and broken
Things I have hoped in
Fall through my hands 
You have plans

He wants to replace all of your old messages and give you the new message of hope. He wants you to know that you were worth dying for- that Jesus's death and resurrection were for you also.Through a simple prayer accepting Jesus into your heart will give you the hope you so disparately need.

To redeem and restore me 
You're behind and before me 
Oh, help me believe 
God, You don't need me

Your life doesn't need to end with the tragedy of losing someone close to you. You may not see him or her in this lifetime, but when you received Jesus into your life, God will whisper sweet messages into your soul that will give you the hope you need to go through the storms of this life.

But somehow You want me

Oh, how You love me
Somehow that frees me 
To take my hands off of my life 
And the way it should go, oh 
God You…

Jesus, thank you for coming into my life that spring day in 1974 in that little coffee house when I opened the door of my life. You replaced the old messages with new ones that gave me the hope I needed in this life! If you are missing someone who isn't here today due to a tragedy, I encourage you to consider a griefshare group near you. Griefshare will teach you how to travel through the pain of grief instead of around it. It will help you see that God will help you heal and give a new hope you need in this life.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Was there a purpose for this pain

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see Hebrews 11:1

I remember standing in Target center on April 13th with tears flowing down my face as I tried to sing this song. I remember asking God the same question that was in this song- was there a purpose for my pain?   It is often the one question that either sends mankind down a path of deeper understanding of God or a path leading to doubt and uncertainty and anger toward God.

As I walk this great unknown
Questions come and questions go
Was there purpose for the pain?
Did I cry these tears in vain?

Because we live in a fallen world, tragedy is everywhere. When it happens, one often feels they are adrift in a stormy sea wondering if they will ever survive. Fear often fills the heart of man. Fear plus anger plus rejection of God sends them down a cascading slope of despair and doubt that there really is a God.

I knew I didn't want to live in fear.  I knew I couldn't isolate myself from those around me. I knew I  had to trust my Lord and Savior that he knew what to do with my pain. and  trust  Him while finding solace in God's word.
I don't want to live in fear
I want to trust that You are near
Trust Your grace can be seen
In both triumph and tragedy

When really bad things happen in this life, it gives me peace to look back to the day I received Jesus Christ as my Savior. I had to cling to the moment I prayed to receive this Savior at a small Christian coffee house in Minnetonka, Minnesota. The day I yield control of my life to Jesus. The day Jesus came in and spoke words of encouragement to my soul. I had to hang on to all those miracle moments of my life of Jesus rescuing me.

I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You're with me and You won't let go

I've seen Jesus bless our family when our children were sick, and I've seen him give us the strength when death took the lives of my parents and the life of our youngest child. Yet, I was filled with the hope of Christ as I grieved- the hope that God is alive and that one day we would see not only our loved ones but our living Savior.
But sometimes my faith feels thin
Like the night will never end
Will You catch every tear
Or will You just leave me here?

Despite the deepest pain, my God never lets me go. He is there with me every scorching step of the way. He gives me peace when I had none. He reminds me of Hebrews 1 of many who clung to their faith despite tragedy.

But I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You're with me and You won't let go

My God is my hope no matter what comes my way in this life. He gives me the hope I need as I grieve. He assures me that I will see my loved ones again. He will never let you go no matter what happens to you in this life. 
Yes, I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You're with me and You won't let go
So, whatever happens, I will not be afraid
Cause You are closer than this breath that I take

The all quintessential question becomes- where is God when tragedy happens in your life. We must learn how to trust God not only when good things happen, but when those painful losses occur.  If you're struggling over the death of a loved one, I encourage you to consider attending a 13-week Grief share group near you. This group will teach you to go through the pain than around it. It will give you the tools to draw near to God.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Regardless of what you're struggling with in this life, Jesus loves you and will help you recover from your pain

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7

A friend's post regarding asking for prayer for his depression prompted me to write this post.

This past Friday evening I treated my wife to a happy birthday celebration by taking her, along with my son and his girlfriend to the Tenth Avenue North/Mercy Me concert at the Target Center. This concert comes on the heels of the 'I can only imagine' movie which was the story of a tumultuous upbringing by an emotionally and physically abusive father who was disappointed by the choices he made in life. In an article by Brad Schmitt for the Tennessean are these words: His dad switched from a razor strap to a wooden paddle halfway through the beating.

Bart Millard, only 8 or 9, was terrified. He’d been beaten before, often. But this time was different.
His father ambushed him and grabbed the boy with one arm, wailing away with the other with a growing rage his son hadn’t seen before.

“He beat me like a dog on a leash,” Millard said.
“When I made eye contact with him, I thought: He’s going to kill me.”
After that, the boy missed two days of school — it hurt too much for him to put on clothes.

Bart's mom could not stand his father's emotional rage and left Bart and his dad.Again, I turn to the Tennessean article for more about his dad.

Millard’s dad wasn’t always a monster. In fact, Arthur Wesley Millard Jr. was a beloved high school football hero, one of only two All-Americans from his rural Texas town of Greeneville, about 45 miles northeast of Dallas. Everyone called him “Bub,” and even though he was a big bear of a guy, he was more teddy than a grizzly. Until the accident.

While flagging cars for the Texas highway department, Arthur Millard got hit by a diesel truck, a collision that put him in a coma for eight weeks.When he regained consciousness, “Bub” was a different guy. His attitude and temperament darkened. Combative with orderlies, crude with nurses, Arthur Millard eventually was restrained.

Three years later, the couple’s second child, Bart, was born. The tension in the house grew, and Millard's parents divorced when the boy was only 3. In his youth, Bart started going to Church at the invite of friends. His life began to change on the inside, but on the outside, he continues to suffer the beatings of his father.

When I did a Wikipedia search on Bart Millard, it gave me none of this information. But, what would expect from a culture that still believes 'God's dead?'

After his dad's deadly cancer diagnosis, his dad began listening to Church services on the radio. The messages so penetrated his dad's soul that the former rage he had was supplanted by the true peace that only God provides. 

Bart Millard learned that he had to forgive his father before his Christian band could really get started.

What I learned from Bart's story is that every one of us struggles with dark periods of the soul and that the only way to recover from this human condition is through a loving relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

At one point in my grief journey, it occurred to me that every one of us is just one traumatic life event from succumbing to a mental health condition. 

I also discovered the importance of giving people in such a crisis permission to tell their story with someone willing to listen without offering opinions about what they think they should do.  Allowing people to share their stories and praying for them opens the door for Jesus to restore their soul.

For anyone who might be in the painful throes of grief and loss, I encourage you to consider getting involved in a Grief Share group near you. This 13-week group will teach you how to go through the pain instead of around it. If you go to this link you can find a group near you.

Finally, no matter what happens in your life, or whatever traumatic event that has occurred, our God is always there for you. He will help you win the fight you've been battling. Those words from Isaiah 145 give me great comfort:

"I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name forever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. ...