Craving the Slop

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Have you ever craved the slop? I know I have. My life story is full of it.

One of my favorite stories that Jesus told was about a family torn apart by greed and selfishness and later restored by love and grace. In most Bibles, it’s labeled as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It’s part of a series of stories that Jesus told relating to the idea of things that were lost but searched out and found by God. They are stories of discovery that bring hope to even the most wayward soul. They are also stories that most people can relate to. I definitely can.

In Luke 15, Jesus talks about a boy who decides to go out on his own. He’s done with his family and all he wants is to claim his cash inheritance and live a self-indulgent life. As with anyone who chooses this path, life was empty and unsatisfying. For many, that lifestyle usually runs people into the gutters of despair. The young man from Luke 15 hit rock bottom. In verse 16 it says that he was so desperate that he craved the slop that he was feeding to the pigs as a hired worker. He had wasted all his money and was employed in one of the lowliest possible professions. It was a filthy job feeding unclean animals. Not only that, but he couldn’t even afford to eat. He was so hungry that he wanted to devour the nasty food that the pigs ate. That’s desperation. I’ve been there.

I too have craved the slop. In my darkest year (2009) I was wallowing in the slop. For me, the slop was an addiction to pornography, caught in a cycle of alcoholism and self-loathing, divorced from an adulterous woman, and at an end to a hopeful career. Just like the young man in Jesus’ story, I was craving all the wrong things and it led me into a destructive lifestyle. The scene from Luke 15 takes me back to that year in my life. I too needed to come home. I too needed to right many wrongs. I too needed to crave the right things.

This world presents us with more slop than things that actually provide for our need. The slop is anything short of anything that draws us closer to the Lord. My slop was creating an image for myself, gaining approval, and enjoying the flesh. I had the same aim as the young man from the story in Luke 15. I wanted to set out on my own. I wanted to get mine. I wanted to live a self-centered life. That’s what leads us to the slop. That’s because the slop feeds self, not the soul. The fortunate ones are those who come to enlightenment and realize they need to go home. They realize that where their life has led them is nothing more than a pigsty. The unfortunate ones are those who are living in a pigsty and don’t even realize it.

Let me make it plain – anyone who runs from the Father will end up in the pigsty, craving unclean things, surrounded by unclean things. The father in this story is meant to depict our Father in Heaven. He will let us go. He will let us run from Him. He will let us choose the slop. But He will always be watching for us and wanting us to return home. He will always come running to those who choose Him. It doesn’t matter how dirty we are from wallowing in the mud. He will always come running to embrace the wayward child who turns to Him.

Just as 2009 was the darkest year of my life, it was also the year I returned home. It was the year I felt the Father run to me and embrace me. It was my year of enlightenment and deep repentance. I felt what it was like to be separated from the Father and to be held in His loving arms. If you have wandered from the Lord as I did, just know that He’s waiting and watching for you. All you have to do is take the first steps home and He’ll come running your way.

So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:20-24 NASB

The Flood of Salvation #3

One of the most hopeful themes of the flood story in the book of Genesis comes at the end. As the waters recede and dry ground appears, the earth washed clean from the stains of evil, new life begins to take shape. It’s the fresh start that the world needed. It’s the new beginnings story that everyone is drawn to.

People have a tendency to make mistakes, sometimes rather large ones, and in doing so we make a mess of things. We’ve all hurt others by our actions or words. We’ve all hurt ourselves by poor choices we’ve made at one time or another. Some of us have ruined careers or relationships, or both. Some of us have alienated children or have wandered deep into the path of addiction. Some of us have made choices in life that have led to battles with depression or anxiety. Whatever the person’s story is, God is the God of new beginnings. It applies to everyone’s world.

The flood brought salvation to Noah and his family, but also to the world that had been plagued by misuse and corruption. The flood was a clean slate. As the story goes from there, humanity makes a royal mess of things all over again. We’ve been spiraling into moral corruption ever since the flood. Which means, the slate will be wiped clean again, only this time it’ll be permanent.

In the book of revelation we can read about Jesus’ return. Throughout the book Christ’s return is proclaimed, prepared, and finally carried out. It’s a difficult read but very worth an in-depth study. The preparation for Christ’s return brings about a shockwave of catastrophic events meant to draw peoples hearts back to repentance. Instead, people get more bitter and push God away more than ever. These catastrophic evens serve to cleanse the Earth of the prevalent evil. That evil will finally be eliminated once Christ’s rule is established and Satan is destroyed forever.

It’s pretty obvious that the world we live in now is messed up and getting worse all the time. Truth has been distorted and evil runs rampant at every level of society, in every society. It was no different in Noah’s lifetime. God has always been in the process of reverting the world back to the form of its original creation. A form in which God and man can walk together in the cool of the day. A form in which all of creation lives in harmony and all sin is absent.

God is in the business of redemption and making things new. The flood story is an illustration of that. But as we’ve been looking at, it’s an illustration that points to a far greater event carried out by Yeshua the Messiah. Christ’s death on the cross and subsequent resurrection established the new life and new beginnings for anyone who pursues that in Him. The Spiritual cleansing has taken place and continues to because of Him. All of our bad choices can be erased. Our sins can be vanquished in the blink of an eye. Lives can be redirected. People’s hearts can be transformed. All because of Yeshua’s work on the cross. He rose to life so we too can be raised to a new life. As incredible as that is, it doesn’t end there. One day, there will be a physical cleansing of the Earth that Jesus will bring and it will be amazing!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Revelation‬ ‭21:1-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Tough Questions #2: Why would a loving God allow bad things to happen?

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“Pain removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.”

C.S. Lewis

 

Today we try to respond to yet another really hard question. I myself have had to wade through these waters during difficult moments of my own life. But I’ve come out the other side liberated, not from pain, but from the crushing blow of doubt. Few things in my life have contributed to my faith life the tragic experiences I’ve had to endure. That has helped my love for God extend to new heights.

…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…

1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)

Life is hard. There’s no way around it. Tragedy hits everyone. Some will experience more pain than others, but no one will escape it. That’s led many people to question the goodness of God…to wonder where He is in the sufferings of their life. I don’t ever want to take away from the pain inflicted on anyone. Everyone’s story is unique, but the answer to the question above is not and that answer can write the next chapter for anyone’s story.

Just like with my last post on why a loving God would allow people to go to hell, I want to keep the answer simple and biblical. Also, I will give you a three-fold response that you could share with anyone. From that, I hope a much deeper conversation would result.

  1. Humanity is broken. We all have a sinful nature from birth (Psalm 51:5). That’s because the very first humans, Adam and Eve, chose sin rather than obedience (Genesis 3). Every human since has suffered from the same ailment. And because of that nature, we often times choose sin over holiness. That choice results in pain inflicted on ourselves and others. No one’s sin ever just affects them. Our sin has domino effect that can disrupt and destroy lives. You add billions of people who suffer from the sin condition, that’s a lot of pain in the world. That’s a lot of greed, perversion, anger, violence, and pride. God provided the cure for our brokenness. He died for our sins and promised His Holy Spirit to anyone who calls on Him. The Holy Spirit is the only thing that can empower humanity to live beyond themselves, to live for eternity and not temporary, and to consider others better than themselves. But here again we see the factor of free will. Because God is so loving, He has allowed us to freely choose the course of our life, even if it’s not a good one.
  2. There are other forces at work in the world. God is sovereign. That’s indisputable. But there is a severe darkness that pervades the world and the hearts of a lot people. Satan is the dominate force behind that darkness. Not the little man in red with a pitchfork. The epitome of evil who tried to rebel and overthrow God. The one who has been leading people into lives of destruction. The one who’s soul mission is to destroy you and revel in that destruction. The one who has waged war on everyone’s soul. Ephesians chapter six says that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. So much of what we struggle with in life, we can’t even see the reality behind it. And I know, that is a hard concept to grasp.
  3. Our pain is never the end of our story. God is the master of bringing beauty out of our ashes (Romans 8:28). Just read through the life of Job in the Bible. He was a righteous man who Satan sought after to destroy. Job lost his kids, his home, and his health. The worst things in life happened to Job. But through it all, God met with Job and his faith and character went to an all new reality. And in the end, everything was restored to Job, more than he even had before. Job’s life is an ideal ‘beauty from ashes’ story. So is the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and then sent to prison on false claims. But neither of those things were the end of Joseph’s story. God raised him up to be second in command of the nation of Egypt and he went on to save the lives of thousands. Joseph would later proclaim to those responsible for pain in his life, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)

God is in the joy-giving, heart-healing, and life-giving business. Sometimes, that is done best in walking through our darkest days. Quite often pain and suffering can be the instrument that refines us into having more of a godly character and softens our rebellious hearts.  Instead of looking for a scapegoat for the hardships in the world, we ought better use our energies being a part of the solution and not adding to the problem. If everyone devoted themselves to the One who created them, the world would look vastly different. Until that day, when Jesus returns to set all things right, we can live each day to improve the lives of others. We can use lessons learned through our own trials to walk through the fire with others. And we can keep our eyes set on the day when the hurt will cease. That day is coming.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:4 (NIV)

Destiny in the Insignificant

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The story of Joseph in the bible is among the most compelling and encouraging. You have a man, who at a young age, is sold into slavery by his brothers, purely out of jealousy. So here is a man with less than favorable beginnings, who will one day become someone of great importance. It’s the ideal rags to riches story that inspires so many. Joseph’s life was the picture of God’s unfailing love and refusal to abandon us in even the most trying of times.

The story takes place between Genesis chapters 37 and 50. That means a quarter of the book of Genesis recounts his life. That’s the same book that covers well over a thousand years of human history, from creation to nearly 4000 years ago. The life of Joseph only accounted for 110 of those years. So this story must carry some incredible weight and importance for us today.

I want to pick up in Genesis 39, after Joseph has been sold into slavery and is currently serving in a royal Egyptian’s home. Long story short, the Egyptian’s wife tries to seduce Joseph, but because of his upstanding moral integrity, he refuses and she ends up framing him for a crime he never committed. Joseph is then thrown into prison where he quickly rises to a prominent position.

As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled. And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.

Genesis 39:19-23 (ESV)

What Joseph probably didn’t realize was that God was going to use his prison sentence to bring salvation to an entire people. Most people wouldn’t consider prison an opportunity. I certainly wouldn’t. But after learning about Joseph’s story, I can hopefully view my troubles in an entirely new light. Because this seemingly insignificant moment in Joseph’s life would unlock not only his destiny, but that of his family, nation, and the future of the world.

Throughout the next chapter of Genesis, Joseph is going to have a conversation with two men in the prison. A baker and cup-bearer, who were both imprisoned by the Pharaoh. The conversation is basically Joseph interpreting dreams that both men had. We don’t know the relationship that Joseph had with them, only that he was placed in charge of them by the captain of the guard. Relationship aside, the important thing to get is that the future of the world will unfold due to this one conversation between three men.

Later in the story, the two men get released from prison. The cup-bearer would be acquitted of his charges. Two years later, when Pharaoh is desperate to have his dreams interpreted, the cup-bearer tells him about Joseph, the man he had met in prison. This would lead to Joseph successfully interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams and being elevated to second in command in the most powerful empire in the world. From that position, Joseph would preserve the lives of thousands, including his own brothers who had sold him into slavery years earlier, from a worldwide famine. As the story came to an end, Joseph tells his brothers why things unfolded the way they did and how it is he was able to save his family and so many others.

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Genesis 50:20-21 (ESV)

This one conversation, in an Egyptian prison, altered human history. An insignificant event established the destiny of an empire, a nation of people, and for even us today. Jesus Christ was born into that nation of people and He was undoubtedly the most significant figure in world history. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus forever changed eternity for humankind. And it can all be traced back to that day in a prison nearly 2000 years before God arrived on earth in the person of Jesus.

Don’t ever allow moments in your life to seem insignificant. They may be the most significant thing to ever happen to you. No conversation, no relationship, no trial, and no opportunity is ever a waste of time. Any one of them may change things forever.

Be encouraged brothers and sisters, God is always at work in your life.

Who are you looking for?

As Mary came to the tomb of Jesus she saw that it was empty. Absolutely heart broken, she began to weep. Then she heard a searing question from someone she didn’t even know was there, “Who are you looking for?”

A lot of us are standing outside the tomb of the risen Jesus, looking for Him in the wrong place. Many of us are looking for the living among the dead. We are searching for a savior who lived nearly 2000 years ago instead of one who is every bit alive today. We’re mourning His absence as if He weren’t standing right next to us asking the very same question that He asked Mary, “Who are you looking for?”

Who are you looking for brothers and sisters? Is it the Jesus who died or the one who lives? Is your Jesus still buried in a tomb, powerless to change your life, your circumstances, and your future? Or is your Jesus risen in full glory and power as the one who laid the foundations of the world and created the very tomb that lays empty two millennia later? There is only one real Jesus, one real savior, and He lives in the believer, for the believer, and through the believer. Jesus could not be defeated by death, and he can bring that same victory in your life. Be encouraged friends. The one whom you seek is ALIVE!

The Little you that Could

0UTqVWN7-AlTsvZOEOne of my daughter’s favorite kid books is the Little Engine that Could. She loves trains like Thomas and all his friends from the show. But none compare to the Little Blue Engine from her book. She even calls this little blue toy engine Millie (from Thomas and Friends) the Little engine that could. Her eyes light up whenever we read it together or whenever she talks about it. Funny thing is, it was one of my favorite kids books growing up too. But now, it holds an even fonder place in my heart.

A couple weeks ago my daughter was doing something pretty new and difficult for her. She is wanting to be a ballerina and she has been accepted into a local ballet class. She’s had to practice a couple poses and moves that she had never done before her first class. Keep in mind, my daughter is only four years old so this is all brand new. One of the evenings, while I was helping her practice, she made a breakthrough. She had learned something new that she had been struggling to get for several days. She was ecstatic! She said, “dad I’m just like the Little Engine that could. I kept trying and trying and I got it!” I almost starting crying. But I kept it together and said, “that’s right my sweet girl. You just keep trying and you’ll achieve great things in life. I’m so proud of you.”

I read a story today about a girl, Katie Gallagher. She had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (high functioning Autism) when she was seven years old. That means she had a lot of struggles ahead of her in life. Her motor skills were not the best, relationships were difficult, and criticism was a near constant. As a child, her parents read her…you guessed it…The Little Engine that Could.

“I used to read Katie ‘The Little Engine that Could,’ and I would tell her she was that little engine,” said Gina Gallagher (Katie’s mom). “I told her, ‘You’re going to get to the same place everybody else is. It’s just a harder journey for you.'”

Today.com

While all of the doctors and ‘experts’ were saying she would never leave home, never finish high school, never drive a car, never go away to college, never get married, Katie’s parents were giving her hope. The now 22 year old Katie has been the Little Engine that Could. Despite her struggles, she drives a car, she is graduating from college, and she has held a part-time job at Macy’s for the past two years.

In the story ‘The Little Engine that Could’, there is an old rusty black engine who is known for saying, “I think I can’t, I think I can’t, I think I can’t.” I have known so many people who live their lives by the same motto. They’ve been told they couldn’t and they chose to believe it. Some have been told that their disadvantage will dictate their life, and they’ve believed it. Some have been crippled with fear because of something tragic that has taken place in their life. Others have been dependent on someone most of their life and now they don’t believe they can do it on their own. That is not living. That is not what God intended any of us to experience.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Psalm 139:14 (NIV)

God didn’t make any of us to live in fear and doubt. He didn’t make us to live in regret. We are made, fearfully and wonderfully made. My four year old daughter has this verse memorized. She believes that she is the Little ANNA that could. I hope she always knows that and knows the God who made her with purpose. Katie Gallagher was no mistake. My daughter is no mistake. You are no mistake. God made each of us out of His great love. We are all made to be that little ____ that could. Just plug your name in the phrase. Whatever you’re facing, you can overcome it in Christ. God’s image is on you. If you’re a believer, His Spirit is in you.  Live empowered. Refuse to believe the lies you’ve been told. Cast off your fears and run the race. Life is too short to cut yourself short. Remember who you are, and the God who made you.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

The Man in the Arena Speech by Teddy Roosevelt, Paris, France on 23 April, 1910

 

Forged in the Fires

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I’m a history teacher. You probably already know that. I also have a biblical worldview. So I can’t help but to see spiritual undertones wrapped up in historical events. A recent lesson in my US History class involved the Great Depression. We explored causes and effects of what would be considered the worst economic crisis in recent memory. The well accepted dates of the depression (at least for the US) was 1929 to 1939. It came on the heals of one of the most prosperous decades in US history; the Roaring Twenties. As we had been covering this topic over a couple of weeks, I had been considering other forces at work besides the economic ones.

Here’s what I mean. The 1920’s were regarded as a carefree era for many, full of parties, and absent of the dread of war and international conflict. Many Americans were making it big with the stock market and booming business. Some historians label the decade as America’s adolescent years.  When the economy slows, and the stock market comes crashing down in 1929, the adolescents comes to an abrupt end. Thus begins the depression.

I believe that God allows certain things to happen in our lives in order to makes us who we were created to be. The Bible is full of stories where God gives people over to their lifestyle choices, knowing the tragic effects it will have, in order to forge a new person. Just read through the book of Judges and you’ll see several generations that needed to be drawn back to God through the trials that they brought on themselves. Now, I’m not making the claim that all hardships faced in life are brought on by ourselves, but many are. I’m NOT saying that people deserve hard times. I’m saying we NEED them.

Many of those who’s lives were shaken by the cumulative effects of the economic depression had nothing to do with causing it. But the benefits could be gained by all. When we are in the process of going through hard times, it’s difficult to see the benefits to be gained. We can see our struggles. We can see pain. We can easily drown in doubt and despair. But that can’t be the end of our story. And for that to not be the end, we have to make a choice.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…

Romans 5:1-4 (ESV)

Those who fought in World War Two are often referred to as America’s greatest generation. That generation was forged out of – you guessed it – the Great Depression. Those men who fought on the front lines, and those women who worked as nurses and factory workers, grew up in the fires of the Great Depression. They knew what it was like to fight. In a time when unemployment spiked over 20 percent, a nation had to come together and had to persevere, or it would crumble. That generation took the lessons learned in fighting poverty, and applied it to fighting for freedom from Nazi and Japanese aggression. A people who grew up with nothing, knew how fragile it all was. A people who had to persevere are a people who value God’s goodness. A people who have suffered loss, know what humility is all about. A people who have had to struggle, know what it is to lean on God, and on God’s people. You can’t place a value on those lessons.

In another unit, I teach about how steel revolutionized America and Europe, paving the way for a major industrial boom. That became possible because William Kelley and Henry Bessemer developed a new process of making steel. In simple terms, you take the iron ore, melt it down with intense heat, and inject high pressure air into that molten metal. The combination of the heat, air, and pressure burn of the impurities. The end result is a much much stronger metal. Without purifying the ore like this, it would not be possible to build the expanded railroad system, skyscrapers, or the massive bridge networks that linked cities.

The trials of life are hard, no doubt about it. But trials are also helpful in making us more useful in life. Those who know what it is to struggled in life are the best equipped to help others who struggle. I’ve had a spouse commit adultery which led to a rough and hurtful divorce. I’ve lost my father, grandfather, and grandmother, all whom I was extremely close to. I’ve suffered physical challenges that caused me to give up something I love. I’ve held my children as they battled through illnesses. I’ve been broke. I’ve been turned against by those I care about. I’ve battled depression and addiction. I am no stranger to trials, and I’m guessing, neither are you. You have your own story of hurt, disappointment, betrayal, and loss. That is your fire. And it’s meant to make you stronger. Your fires give you a voice into the lives of those who are hurting. Your fires draw you closer to the God who made you. Your fires can make you burn brighter as the light of the world that you were created to be in Christ.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

2 Corinthians 4:6-11 (ESV)

I hope that you find encouragement in your time of need. Know that there is purpose in pain, and hope in your hurt. Don’t keep your story to yourself, whether your in the fires now, or you’ve come out on the other end. Your story is important. Feel free to share them here if you’d like. Your struggles are important. Don’t give up but take heart. God has not abandoned you, and never will.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters