Life of Struggle

Have you ever thought that life is a struggle no matter what stage you’re in? And it seems to be a struggle for the same thing. Think about it. No matter if you’re a toddler or teenager, 39 or 93, freedom is always something we strive for. Granted, that struggle looks different depending on our age and circumstances. However, freedom seems to be at the core of it all.

When we are small, we rely on our parents for everything. As we grow, we seek ways to be released from the constraints that come along with being a child. We want to make more of our own decisions. We want to try new things, oftentimes even if it goes against our parent’s guidance.

When we move into adulthood, we gain freedom in a much larger measure. What comes with that is a much larger degree of responsibility. Balancing those responsibilities with our new found freedoms can be a real challenge. New obstacles lay in the way. Jobs, bills, opportunities or the lack thereof, Our struggle is not so much to gain freedom, as when we were a child, but to secure it. This freedom also looks different. We don’t exactly have parents telling us what we can and can’t do, we have other obstacles doing that. We get busy making sure the electricity stays on, there’s a roof over our heads, there are clothes on our kid’s backs and food in their tummies. If we aren’t careful, we begin to see these as burdens and get bogged down.

Late in life (granted I am not there yet and this is purely from observation), it seems to be a battle to hold on to that freedom. Again, this freedom looks different and the struggle does too. We try to hold on to that freedom of mobility. Our diet becomes more constrained. Our activities slowly become more limited. Our bodies don’t heal like they used to. Freedom seems to slowly fade away.

The good news is that our lives don’t have to be this way. Not to say that there won’t be challenges. Because there certainly will be. We will be constrained. We won’t be able to do all that we plan or hope for. But, we will be free in the best possible way. And even in our limitations, we can find freedom. You see, all the freedoms I listed above are merely physical ones. But in the struggle for those freedoms, we end up imprisoned emotionally and mentally. Which, in the long run, will strip us of physical freedoms as well.

The path to freedom has already been laid out for us. We don’t need to pave the way for ourselves. Freedom can be experienced regardless of circumstances. Sure, we may not have all the money we would like. We may not be able to go on the trips we want to. But we can be free from the big things. Like worry, stress, fear, and sin. Those things cripple even the wealthy. It doesn’t matter how privileged someone is, or even if they are their own boss, you’re not free if you’re burdened with stress and sin. Humanity has a tendency to put the shackles on themselves. We put ourselves in cells of fear. In our struggle for freedom, we end up with far less.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10 NIV

Jesus came into this world to provide the most important form of freedom…from ourselves. We strive and we strive but it was never meant to be that way. The life we seek is the life Jesus wants to give us. The problem is we do some much to run after an opposite life. Our comfort becomes the priority. Our goals become paramount. The liberty to choose what is good for us is as age-old as the garden in which the enemy of our souls first lured Adam and Eve away from God’s plan. But freedom is not found in the struggle, but in the surrender. Instead of trying to dictate so much of our lives, we need to be lead by Him. Plus our souls are free in Christ. All else are fringe benefits.

The life of the Christian is one that seeks the freedom, not of oneself, but of others. The best way is ultimately through a relationship with Jesus. We can look less to our 401k and more to the homeless man on the street. We can put less thought into that new (you fill in the blank) and more time praying for those in desparate need. We can allow ourselves to get uncomfortable in order to bring comfort to others. Freedom is found, not in viewing ourselves as the center of the universe, but as a part of it meant to bring a piece of God’s kingdom closer to home for anyone we can. Bring on the constraints. We go forward to make Him known. Come what may, the Lord will be our guide and our provider. Therein lies freedom.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

2 Corinthians 3:17 CSB

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

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Feeling Strong Today?

What makes a person strong? What makes you feel strong? How do we even gauge strength? Is there only physical strength? How about emotional strength? Maybe even spiritual strength? I used to measure strength by bench-press numbers and will power. But as time goes on, I realize there are much more accurate ways of understanding the strength of a person.

The book of Nehemiah details the return of Jewish exiles to Israel. It is a story of a struggle. A temple is rebuilt and a wall has been reconstructed around Jerusalem. But there is a lot remaining before life can possibly resemble normal. In this midst of the rebuilding process, the scriptures are rediscovered. A man by the name of Ezra will stand before the people and read from it. As he comes to a conclusion he sends the people out with this message:

Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Nehemiah 8:10 ESV

There it is. The answer. Our strength can be found in the joy that comes from the LORD. He is our strength. Being His, makes us strong. Being reminded of His goodness and favor throughout our lives makes us strong. We gain strength by knowing we aren’t abandoned, that we’re unconditionally loved, that we’re accepted and belong to a bigger story. Our strength comes in the joy we have in being free and cherished…always.

Uncertain times can’t shake us. Illness won’t destroy us. Financial struggles can’t break us. Discrimination won’t define us. The culture won’t alter us. We are His. There is no greater joy found in this life. And in that joy, we are strong to face the world. Are you walking in the joy of His salvation? Are you feeling strong today?

Peace and joy in Christ brothers and sister!

Are we living the promise?

How are Christians meant to live? No, I don’t mean the outward expression of a believer’s life. I am talking about the source of life…the inward life…the how to sort of living. I’ve been contemplating a series of verses lately, and really trying to pray through them because I really want to understand them. Here they are:

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

1 John 4:9 NIV

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 NIV

When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:4 ESV

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

John 1:4 ESV

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10 ESV

At first, my reaction is that these are speaking of eternal life. The reward or grace bestowed on all who cling to Christ and His perfection. I believe that this is very much the purpose behind each of these verses, and the central message of the Gospel. However, on a deeper look, there appears to be much more. You see, the life that comes from Jesus, is not simply a futuristic life of unimaginable joy, but a life in the here and now. I don’t know about you, but my life, at times, feels a long shot from eternal glory. But isn’t the life Jesus promised meant to be experienced here and now?

Paul said, in Galatians, that Christ is alive in him and his life has ceased as he knew it before his encounter with Him. There was a real change in him that altered how he lived life. Later in Colossians, Paul referred to Jesus as “our life”. Wait a minute. Is that how my life looks? Is my life defined by who Jesus is. Is His identity my identity? I can say that, but does my life show that. While Paul was flawed and broken, I truly believe that people could see Jesus in him. Can I say the same? Can you?

Jesus himself said that the life found in him was abundant. In my honestly, my life does not feel abundant at times. But that is certainly my own fault. I am out of focus if my life experience isn’t one of abundance. And I don’t think Jesus was in any way saying that our lives would be full of wealth and health and safety. His life wasn’t full of any of that. At nearly 40, I have already outlived the life of Jesus here on Earth. But how do they compare? Isn’t that the point? Live a life like Jesus? How much of my life has been wasted? How much am I wasting now with worldly concerns and seeking comfort? Am I alive in Jesus…here…now?

John said that Jesus came so we could live through Him. But what does that look like? To live through Jesus. It’s one thing to accept His atonement. To receive His forgiveness. To rejoice in mercy and grace. To look forward to eternity. But it’s more than all of those things. It’s everything we say and do. It’s our minds being radically transformed. Its our eyes viewing everything differently. It’s letting Jesus take control of everything. Not because we’ve become automatons, but because it is the only way we can truly live. It is the only way others will see Jesus alive in us. My job is not my life. My hobbies are not my life. My goals are not my life. My successes and failures are not my life. My family is not even my life. Jesus is my life. And therefore all that I am and all that I do is meant to for Him, to be done through Him, and to be experienced because of Him.

I can tell you, meditating on this has made me feel a whirlwind of emotions. I can both see how I fall so miserably short, and how so grateful I am that He is who He is and my life is ever changing because of Him. All I know is that I want more. I want His life to be my life. I want to be able to repeat the words of John and Paul, not because I am simply memorizing Bible verses, but because it defines who I am. Don’t you want that? Do you have that? Pray for me dear reader. And my prayers go out for all of you, that you too will experience that full, glory-revealing, joy-unshakable, transforming, amazing life through Jesus.

Peace and life in Christ brothers and sisters!

Hope is a Necessity

World Challenge

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 (NKJV)

Hope is one of those words that when you say it, it rolls of your tongue and immediately brings a glimmer of light to your heart. Hope is something to cherish and be thankful for. It serves as a platform of strength in those moments that seem perilous or without end. It is something that every single person needs. We can’t do life without it. As the verse above says, hope is accompanied with joy and peace. But only when that hope is in something real and constant.

I’ve heard people say to have hope in hope. To hold on to the “idea” that there is a “possibility” that things can get better. This is mere optimism. I happen to be an optimistic person myself. I like to look on the Brightside and believe that things will be ok. But my optimism is based on Someone, not just an idea or a desire to have good feelings. Hope that is not founded on reality is delusion.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV)

The Someone I have hope in is an unwavering and eternally faithful God. In our darkest moments we can rest assured in the hope that is brought to us by Jesus. He has a proven track record. He’s never failed. He’s shown His love and devotion to humanity regardless of the fact that we don’t deserve any of it. I don’t have hope because I believe things will get better in life. I have hope because Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. I have hope because I’m never abandoned by the One who made me. I have hope because He’s been beyond faithful in my life even when I’ve waivered in my faith. My hope is founded on Him, not my circumstances, past, present, or future.

Hope is that light at the end of every tunnel whether we think we see it or not. If you’ve been grasping for just a glimpse of that light, yet feel lost in an endless dark tunnel, look no further than the cross. Look to the Son hanging for our transgressions, touch the scares of His nail-driven hands, and absorb the love that it represents. In times when life is the most difficult, stop and pray. Realize that Christ faced all the hardships that this world can dish out and He has overcome the world. And more importantly, He did it for you. So that you will always have a hope so solid that it can never be broken. Let us not waver but be forever hopeful in the promises God has given us. Let us seek Him out and be renewed in the strength of the Holy Spirit. Let us not give up on Him, for He never gives up on us.

Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD.

Psalm 31:24 (NKJV)

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters

The Difference of a Word

From an early age we seem to be drawn to wanting more, or wanting different. We say or think the phrase, “I wish _____”. As kids we wish for a new toy, for something different to eat, to be able to do whatever we want, or even to be someone different. We live a life pursuing an alternate reality. Given Eden, man wants to become God. Our hearts are desperate wanderers. Even in the best of circumstances, we still long for something more or different.

He never promised you the job, the education, the spouse, the marriage, the kids, the church, the city, or the circumstance of your dreams.

Garden City Publishing

I think a lot of us actually feel like God did promise us these things. I say that by how we are all so guilty of taking these things for granted. Myself included. Instead of finding overwhelming gratitude and contentment, we see what we perceive as missing in our lives. The ‘haves’ in life are drowned out by the ‘have nots’, and we’re left reeling for more. The pity party begins rather than the praise party which should be a constant in our lives.

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians‬ ‭4:11-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Paul was a man who gave his life for the mission of God. A mission that all of God’s children have. And life was by no means easy for him. Prior to speaking these words the man had been beaten, left for dead, ridiculed, shipwrecked, bitten by a serpent, mocked on trials, and yet, with the same breath, he said rejoice always. Not sometimes or in the highs of life. But always. Why? How could he say this? Because there is always something to rejoice about. There is a God Who loves us. A God Who made and designed us for a purpose. A God that has woven value into every single one of us. A God that has pursued us every moment of every day. Even when we didn’t know He was there. And even when we were running away. A God Who paid the ultimate price so that our sins wouldn’t be the final chapter of our story. A God Who has prepared a home for His children to be welcomed into a glorious eternity.

This is so much greater than anything we could wish for. Instead of saying “I wish” let’s start saying “I have”. Dreaming and hoping for things is not a bad thing. But if it wrecks our hearts or sours our souls, then we have lost sight of all that we have so graciously been given already. A heart that requires nothing else is a heart that has found peace. In the midst of Job’s darkest days, he never forgot to praise his maker. Wherever we find ourselves today, in abundance or in trials, let’s make our lives a worship song.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Live like we have life

“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John‬ ‭5:11-12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The gospel message is pretty clear: Jesus equals life. An eternal life and the life blood of God’s Spirit here and now. But how many of us are actually living like we believe that? How many of us are filled with unmovable hope? Does joy mark our existence or are we weighed down by the worries of this life? More than all of this, what are we doing to get the message out? If we believe Jesus is life, shouldn’t we do everything in our power to let others know that? But many of us keep to our own Christian circles and rarely look for chances to share the gospel with those outside. I guess until we fully realize the magnitude of the offer Jesus has given to us, we can’t fully understand what we are meant to share with the world. Lord please renew in us a full appreciation for your loving grace. Awaken our hearts again to the joy of your salvation.

Pray for me to be bold and I too will pray for you all. Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.