Mary’s Desire

By Leslie Colaw

Have you ever had a really hard time letting go of something?  Like face on the floor, gut wrenching, ugly cry kind of hard?  Maybe you lost someone you love, or someone you loved left you.  Maybe the future you once envisioned is seeming less and less likely.  Perhaps a lifelong dream got crushed, or physical challenges limit you from doing the things you love.  Maybe there is something in your life you know God wants you to let go, but you just can’t seem to muster the faith.

Letting go can be really hard.  We make plans or place our hope in things or people we think will always be there, and suddenly they’re not.  We’re left feeling empty and disoriented.  It can even feel like a bit of our identity has been lost.  Sometimes God moves us in a direction where we begin to sense it will mean letting go of something precious to us, or maybe something comfortable and familiar, and we cling to it, our tightly clenched fists raised to the heavens, pleading for another way, hoping to walk through a door that we already know has been shut.

If this is our posture, oh how much we risk missing out on!

We look to the story of Mary, mother of Jesus, one called to a task that required her to let go of the life she had planned.  “And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God’” (Luke 1:30).  Usually our idea of God’s favor means an easy life – wealth, prosperity, the love of the masses.  What we learn from Mary’s story, however, is God’s favor meant a great and noble calling, yes, but also loss of all that was familiar, public humiliation, and heartbreak.  As Simeon said to her in Luke 2:35, “a sword will pierce through your own soul.”

When the angel appeared to her, we would assume she had questions, wondering how people would respond when her belly started growing, Joseph in particular.  In those days an illegitimate pregnancy was major scandal, punishable by death.  But what was her response?  “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Let it be to me…

Mary’s response reveals her humility and desire.  She received her task with humility, fully submitting to and embracing God’s plan.   Her words also indicate an expression of desire, not the indication of doubt.  She desired God to do a great work, and trusted he would do it.  She goes on to say, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior..for he who is mighty has done great things for me” (Luke 1:46-49).  This does not carry a tone of doubt, fear, or hesitation.  She only looks back to remember the great things God has done and looks ahead with desire and anticipation for what he will continue to do.

She understood that what was being asked of her led to something good because she recognized the one asking as the Giver of all good things, the one who satisfies the desires of those who fear him.

Recently I was having a difficult time with letting go.  One day I was struggling with it in prayer and I asked God to speak a word to me.  After waiting a few moments, I heard him speak…

“Embrace.”

I knew instantly this was a word from him, and I knew what he was saying to me: “Instead of focusing on what you are letting go, embrace what is in front of you.”  Notice he didn’t say, “Let it go.”  He said “Embrace.”  He was urging me to stop looking behind and instead look to what was ahead.  To stop trying to hold on so I could fully embrace what was being held out to me, to move forward with desire…because he always leads us to something better.

When we understand this, when we really believe it, the letting go isn’t so hard…because we realize we are letting go of something in order to free our arms to embrace something more.

Sometimes we are so consumed with things not going according to our wishes that we lose sight of God’s promises.  Our wishes are very limiting.  If we try and dictate how our lives should go we eliminate the extraordinary possibilities that could be accomplished when we fully embrace the work of God.

This is when something really new, something beyond our expectations can happen.

That’s what Mary did. She fully embraced the calling God placed on her even though the future was uncertain.  She didn’t ask a bunch of questions, needing to know how it would all play out.  God’s favor on her life led her to some places she probably would have preferred not to go.  Who wants to see their beloved child die a public, gruesome death?  But her willingness played a part in the redemption of the whole world…and I’m sure God exceeded her expectations when she learned her son was brought back from the dead in order to free her once and for all from the bondage of sin and death.

Mary teaches us it’s not about us or our wishes.  It’s not about how we would prefer things to go.  “I am the servant of the Lord,” Mary said.  “Let it be to me according to your word.”  In other words, let it be to me according to HIS wishes, HIS design, HIS plan.  I willingly let go of what is familiar and safe, of what I believe will make me most happy and fulfilled.  Not out of duty but desire; not just because that’s what I should do, but because I really believe his plan is better!! I am optimistic because he is a God that always exceeds expectations, always delivers on his promises.

“Embrace.”

We can rest assured God will always enable us to accomplish his purposes, however daunting the task ahead may seem.  Mary asked the angel how it would be possible that she, a virgin, could conceive a child. The angel’s response to her tells us all how God will accomplish his purpose through us: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).

What a promise.  I would rather see God’s power work in me according to His promises than grant me my wishes.  As I trust Him with this, the more I will see Him exceed my expectations, and the more likely I will be to readily respond as Mary did: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord.  Let it be to me as you have said.”

Simplest marriage advice you’ll ever hear…

Like it? Visit and subscribe to our brand new youtube channel for more videos! Mike and I would love your support! https://www.youtube.com/user/68boomersooner

Lastly, we know you can’t support every ministry family. The next time you do support a ministry would you consider supporting us? We love doing this and would love your help to keep this going. Click on the link below to see how you can help. https://luke117.givingfuel.com/luke117

Kids Discipleship Resources

Discipling kids isn’t easy! Thanks to busy lives, constantly changing children, and the added challenge of children at very different stages of maturity if you’re like us, discipling them can feel nearly impossible. You are not alone in facing this complexity.  Here are three quick videos sharing our weekly routine for discipling our four kids (ages 2-Highschool) as well as the books and resources we are currently using.

Here’s the list of books we like mentioned in the final video and where to find them!  Ages are just a recommendation, give or take a year or two depending on the kid.

  • The Jesus Storybook Bible for ages 4-8:  This is a great devotional for kids, even adults can get something out of this!  The illustrations are wonderful and each story points to Jesus.
  • The Adventure Bible for ages 9-12:  A great first “real Bible” for kids.  Includes illustrations and extras to help kids understand the stories better.
  • The Action Bible for ages 9-12:  This is more of a comic book style.  Our son LOVED this Bible, and we love it too.  He asked some great questions and got a lot out of the stories.  Engaging for girls or boys!
  • ESV Student Study Bible for ages 12-18:  This is just one option, lots of design covers to choose from.  Great Bible for students, we like ESV version.
  • For any of the Bible reading plans and journals (we have these available with reading plans for ages 1st grade through adult) contact Leslie at lcolaw@encountertrinity.com.
Finally;

We know you can’t support every ministry family. The next time you do support a ministry would you consider supporting us? We love doing this and would love your help to keep this going. Click on the link below to see how you can help. https://luke117.givingfuel.com/luke117

The Power of Vulnerability

By Leslie Colaw

Think of the most vulnerable places in your heart.  The weak spots, the deepest wounds you carry.  Our instinct most often is to guard and conceal those places.  We don’t like feeling weak and vulnerable.  It’s uncomfortable.  It’s scary.  Revealing our weakness feels risky.  The reality is many of us have experienced pain as a result of our vulnerability.

A few months ago I was watching a Ted Talk called “The Power of Vulnerability” with Brené Brown.  Really interesting, I recommend watching.  Here’s the gist…Brené, a qualitative researcher, was working to uncover what it is that allows people to find a strong sense of belonging and connection.  In other words, what do people with fulfilling relationships have in common?  After six years of research and thousands of interviews, what her findings came down to was this – vulnerability.

People with real, authentic connection in their relationships fully embraced vulnerability.  They saw it as necessary

I like her definition of vulnerability – she says it is the willingness to be seen.  She shares openly about her reaction to this finding.  She didn’t like it.  She didn’t want to accept it.  She wanted to believe she could outsmart vulnerability.  Like many of us, she was uncomfortable with the idea that it is necessary, but she couldn’t deny what the research was saying.


A thought struck me as I was watching.  This was not a Christian research project, there is nothing to indicate that Brené herself is a Christian, but what stood out to me was the parallel between this concept of the power of vulnerability and the Biblical story.  When we think of the way Jesus came to us, as a tiny human baby, born in a barn to a very ordinary young couple, we realize how vulnerable he made himself.  Through the life of Jesus, God allowed himself to be seen.  This display of vulnerability is a necessary component in God’s story.

This is incredibly powerful.  Because Jesus made himself vulnerable it means he can sympathize with us.  

He understands weakness, knows what it is to wear human flesh.  Hebrews tells us he is able to sympathize with us because he suffered (Heb. 2:18) and was tempted in every way we are (Heb. 4:15).  Because of this, in him we find mercy and grace. We can approach him without trepidation because we know he looks on us with compassion.  He understands what we wrestle with!  In fact, he understands temptation like none other.  In the words of C.S. Lewis,  Jesus “was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means – the only complete realist.”  Never can we say to him, “You don’t understand!”

Bring to mind again those deep wounds you carry.  When you encounter someone with similar wounds, someone walking the same difficult road that you have walked, are you not stirred to compassion?  Is it not your desire to help and encourage them?  Jesus has this same heart for us.  Because he has walked the same road we walk, he is able to look on us with tender compassion and understanding.  He too has experienced pain as a result of being vulnerable.


Hebrews 5 talks about the role of a high priest, which in the Old Testament was one appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God.  A high priest was able to deal gently with the wayward because of his own weakness, and he was obligated to offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as for the people.  Jesus is the ultimate High Priest.  Only, in him, there is no sin, and he was under no obligation to offer a sacrifice. He MADE himself weak, he CHOSE to offer sacrifice on our behalf.  God appointed him, and he went willingly.  He did not exalt himself to be made high priest (Heb. 5:5), he humbled himself as the sacrificial lamb.  Not only did he offer the sacrifice for our sins as a high priest does, he BECAME the sacrifice.  He is the only High Priest who could do this because he is the only one who is perfect, and he was made perfect through suffering (Heb 2:10).

Because he is without sin, he is our source of salvation, and because of his suffering, he is also our source of mercy

We tend to picture him as one who looks down on us with disappointment.  We should rather think of him as one who looks eye to eye with us and says, “I get it.”  This is why we can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Heb 4:16). He is both our perfect Savior and sympathizing friend. 


As we learn from Brené’s research findings, vulnerability is the key to human connection.

The vulnerability of Christ is also the key to our connection with God

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers for us. In his period of human weakness, he interceded for us and was heard because of his obedience (Heb. 5:7).  He still continues to do this today and will ultimately do so on our behalf when we stand before God.  Because of his obedience and willingness to be vulnerable he serves as our connection, our bridge to God.  He is our connecting point.


What does this mean for us and how we live?  How does vulnerability become powerful in us?  We do not like our vulnerability, our weakness.  We mask it, we run from it, we plead with God to remove it.

We want his power to work in us without the weakness.  But that’s not how it works.  Apparently, not even for his own Son.

So we look to the example of the Son.  We must be willing to take on weakness, to embrace vulnerability, to see it as necessary.  In this way God’s power will be made perfect in us.  In this way we can sympathize with others in their weakness.  If we allow ourselves to be seen, we can experience real connection, with others and with God.  We can even be a source of connection between others and God, just as Christ is.

While transparency is essential, embracing vulnerability does not necessarily mean revealing all our flaws to everyone.  It is more about seeing our weakness from a new perspective.

It is willingly accepting weakness so that God’s power can be made visible through us.  So that HE can be seen.

We want God to use us in a powerful way, but we don’t want to have to operate out of a place of weakness.  But this is exactly what Jesus did.  He took on vulnerability, allowed himself to be made weak so that the power of God would be made manifest through him.


So let your weakness shine. Remove the mask, let the walls fall down, allow yourself to be seen.  May your life serve as a connecting point between others and God.  Embrace the power of vulnerability.

 

Confessions of a Contented Pastor’s Wife

pastors wife grannyBy Leslie Colaw

I don’t know if you’ve ever read any of those articles about how it’s hard to be a pastor’s wife. Usually the list of difficulties are things like the unrealistic expectations of others, not getting enough time with her husband, loneliness due to lack of real friendship, and not feeling appreciated for all the work she does, especially since a lot of it is behind the scenes.  Go ahead and Google “what it’s like to be a pastor’s wife” and you’ll see what I mean.

Okay, so here’s the confession…I actually really love being a pastor’s wife.  There, I said it.  I don’t really relate to those articles.  Like, at all really.  Often when I read them my reaction borders on annoyance.  I kind of wish people would stop writing those because they don’t reflect my feelings or experience.  I feel like they kind of make me look whiney.  Surely I’m not the only one who feels this way.  (Anyone….?)  However, I do recognize there must be PW’s (not to be confused with POW’s – hopefully you don’t feel your plight is similar) out there who do identify with these articles and I certainly don’t mean to minimize their experiences or feelings (solidarity sisters!), and I know each of us has a different experience depending on our context, but I thought I would write an article sharing my perspective because goodness, we are not all secretly miserable!

First, I’m not perfect, and I’m okay with that.  I don’t pretend to be perfect.  I don’t need to think I’m perfect.  I don’t need you to think I’m perfect.  If you need me to be perfect, sorry to disappoint. However, just like everyone else, I do sometimes worry too much about what people think.  Not because I’m a pastor’s wife, but because I’m human. Some days I skip my devotions. Sometimes I yell at my kids.  Sometimes I say things like, “Move, you moron!” when driving (don’t worry, the windows are closed so no one can hear me – well, except God and whatever children are in the car.  I didn’t say I was proud of this). Sometimes (very, VERY rarely) I’m cranky with my husband.  I care too much about how I look and don’t like that I’m getting close to 40 (or as I like to call it, thirty-ten).  I have wrestled with temptation, I have needed counseling, I know what it’s like to deal with messy, painful extended family issues.  Yep, I’m a regular person, and it doesn’t bother me at all for you to know that.  This is me. More important to me is to point you to the God who loves me in my messiness.  Who took an insecure young girl that struggled with depression and invited her into his great and worthy mission.  If my mess isn’t too messy for him, neither is yours.  That’s one reason I love being a pastor’s wife, so I can share that with people.

Second, I’m not lonely!  I have had many wonderful and dear friends in each of the four churches we have ministered in.  Specifically in our current church, I am blessed with several soul sisters, a few who know almost everything about me, including my hardest struggles.  We laugh at each other and bear each others’ burdens.  I’m not exactly sure why I have that and other PW’s don’t.  I recognize it as God’s blessing and provision, but I also think it’s because I’m willing to be vulnerable.  I can’t hold onto a false notion of perfection, a need to cast a model image. Like everyone else I need people around me who love me in my mess, but that requires me being willing to expose my mess, to allow myself to be seen.

That does come with a caution, however.  I don’t live at the same level of transparency with everyone.  There are certain things I only share with a select few who I know I can trust.  But that’s good advice for all of us, I think.

My husband is amazing.  Perhaps other PW’s aren’t married to a man as amazing as the one I’m married to.  Never have I felt like second priority or like I have to perform a certain way in order to make him look good.  He loves his wife and his kids so much, and we’re never in doubt of it.  He tells me I’m beautiful almost every day.  He values my input and can handle it if my opinion is different than his.  He loves to involve me, but doesn’t pressure me or put expectations on me.  We reserve Friday afternoon every week to have a lunch and coffee date together, and it is the rarest occasion that he has to cancel because of work.  He makes it priority.  He has always made me feel like we’re a team.  When it comes to life and ministry, we’re in it together.  Life with him has been an adventure.  He’s a go-getter and a visionary that never stops dreaming and I love that I get to come along for the ride.  (Oh, and he’s not bad-looking either.)  So a huge shout out to my husband for probably being the main reason I love being a pastor’s wife.  Or maybe it’s just that I love being YOUR wife.

I don’t feel unappreciated.  Honestly, this isn’t even something I ever really think about. The truth is I really don’t need to be thanked.  I truly love serving my church so much and find it rewarding and life-giving.  There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing with my life. But you know, I don’t think I say that as a pastor’s wife, but rather as a Christ follower who loves the mission of the church.  I am surrounded by staff and volunteers who give their all for the church.  We seriously have an incredible team.  There are volunteers who might even out-serve me at times!   I am just another of God’s servants doing what he’s called me to do.  Jesus laid down his life for the church, gave all of himself, and we as Christians are called to do the same.  Yes, there are those of us who do this vocationally, but the call is the same for all of us.

Yes, I get weary.  Yes, I get discouraged.  Yes, sometimes I feel like I’m in a battle and definitely appreciate all the prayers I can get!  And while I need and value the support and encouragement of my church family, ultimately I look to God to provide what I need, as we all should.  He empowers us by his grace to fulfill our calling, to live out his purposes, to love his people.  Yes, it can be really hard, but in my experience he always provides – every time.

That being said, I also recognize how fortunate I am!!  I am so incredibly thankful for such a wonderful church family.  Very few times has anyone said anything to me that made me feel I wasn’t measuring up (even if they did, again, I don’t need you to think I’m perfect!! See above).  Perhaps I don’t have the “typical” pastor’s wife struggles because I serve in such an amazing church!  I feel the love and support of my church family, and love them right back, with all my heart.

To my PW sisters out there who might be struggling…I pray that you will be encouraged, that your marriages will be strengthened.  I pray for the courage to allow yourselves to be seen and life-giving friendships that give you the space to do so.  (Side note: I’m always willing to lend a listening ear!  Feel free to message me.)  I pray for the freedom to live without the weight of the expectations of others so you can be yourself and serve in your own unique gifting.  Because after all, we are much more than pastor’s wives.  We are participants in God’s eternal mission, ambassadors of His great kingdom, endowed with the privilege of leadership in His most beloved possession – the Church.

The Hidden Work of God

focus-growth-leaves-127713The Hidden Work of God
by Leslie Colaw

The older I get the more I realize life isn’t simple, how sometimes there are just no easy answers to be found.  Even when the answer is clear, it doesn’t mean it’s easy, and sometimes the road ahead can seem really long.  I look around me and know I’m not alone…

There’s the husband whose wife is diagnosed with an incurable disease at an age much too young that makes her physically and mentally disabled, an invalid for life.  He faithfully takes care of her, year after long year.  It’s the parents who lose their child, left to deal with the laborious, wearisome road of grief.  It’s the person living with chronic illness, waiting for healing that doesn’t come, or the addict wishing he could be set free.  It’s every Christian who continually chooses to walk in self-denial, adamantly and unwaveringly pursuing God’s call.  For many of us in this life, there is no big fanfare, no celebratory climax when everything becomes clear, when all is made better or easier.

In the quiet, daily dedication of those who faithfully, humbly accept their unwelcome burden, there is a hidden work of God taking shape.  It’s a tedious evolution, produced slowly over time by a series of everyday events common to the human experience, seemingly inconsequential to us.  This work in us is hidden, often even from ourselves.  “A seed only flourishes by staying in the ground in which it is sown…this work happens even when we do not feel it” (Henri Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love).  He is the vine, we are the branches.  As we remain in Him, He promises to remain in us and bear much fruit (John 15:4).  As we patiently endure through our harsh realities, a gentle beauty is born, beauty that we cannot conjure on our own.  He produces a different, better kind of life that we cannot understand until we experience it, until we see it begin to take form in us as we trust him in our pain, as we submit to his higher calling of self-denial.  This is where we begin to understand what Jesus meant when he said, “If you choose self-sacrifice, giving up your lives for my glory, you will embark on a discovery of more and more of true life” (Luke 9:24 TPT).  In our experiences of loss, there is also the birth of something new.

It’s about the willingness to be led where we would rather not go, trusting his strength is made perfect in our weakness, about looking to Him to supply what we need when we reach the end of ourselves.  Just like he provided manna from heaven and water from a rock for his people as they wandered through the desert.  It won’t be everything, but it will be enough…and the Promised Land is ahead.

But aren’t we supposed to be joyful and live in victory?  John Bunyan in The Pilgrim’s Progress portrays the Christian journey as one fraught with danger, temptation, and much difficulty.  There are seasons of respite, glimpses of Paradise ahead, but this story reminds us that the way to glory is found through suffering.  We aren’t promised the fulfillment of every desire, a life of ease, every prayer answered.  Jesus said, “Narrow is the road that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14).  He also told us in this world we would have trouble, and yet we are still somehow surprised by it.  Many of us have had those moments when we shake our fist at the heavens, begging for an answer to our question of “Why?”, and we are met with silence.

So what is our response?  Even the apostle Paul suffered with a thorn in his flesh, and he pleaded with God to remove it, to which God replied, “My grace is sufficient for you.”   Paul’s response?  “I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest on me” (2 Cor. 12:9).  Sometimes we are healed, sometimes we do get the victory we seek…and sometimes we are left in our weakness, day by day learning to rely on Him to supply what we need.  If we pay attention, we will begin to see the quiet, hidden miraculous take shape.  We discover that in Christ, our weakness produces strength; what appears to be the basis for despair proves to be the basis for hope; what looks like defeat proves to be victory.

 And so we look to the joy set before us, knowing that “the tested genuineness of [our] faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7 ESV). When Jesus was on the cross, the victory was hidden.  His disciples were afraid, defeated.  His own mother watched, her heart shattered.  God’s work of redemption was hidden on that day.  It may at times appear the same to us today, but it is there, and it is glorious.

You are not in a discipleship group. You are just hanging out with friends.

No, you are not in a discipleship group. You are just hanging out with friends.

If you pressed me to to pin down a way to measure whether your Christian small group (d-group, huddle, outpost, home group, cell group or whatever your church calls it) is actually accomplishing discipleship, I would ask two questions.

Are you equally transparent with each other?

I don’t believe you are in a true discipleship group until confession is taking place. Is it expected and encouraged for people to be truly honest about personal struggles? Another way to ask the question would be this: Are you in a group where no part of your heart goes unshared? Until honesty becomes normal and expected you’re not there yet.

Are you being held accountable to love rightly?

Christian discipleship is first and foremost about forming what you love. It is not primarily an intellectual endeavor but a shaping of your heart. If you were to ask me a way to measure success in discipleship I would simply ask questions about how your affections have changed. You must be in a group that not only has true transparency but in mutual voluntary submission unilaterally holds each other accountable to love what Christ loved and how he loved. Personal accountability must exist.

Your group may be intellectually stimulating, filled with laughter, have delicious food in plenty, prayer and Bible reading, but without the aforementioned ingredients it’s still not a true discipleship group.

I fear that most Christian gatherings have really become small social clubs where honoring modern social norms has greater value than pursuing real holiness.

I believe we need a revival of real discipleship in our churches. Am I alone?

Bridging the Generational Divide

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Leading people from different generations can be really difficult.

Christianity Today talks about generational differences and the subsequent conflict as one of the primary reasons for division in the church, and this tension is increasing.

One of the main reasons for this is our rapidly changing culture. “In past centuries, because culture changed more slowly, when people entered the church, they entered into [a common] church culture. They sang common music and spoke a common language. -Christianity Today

Today, we are fragmented, and as a culture this fragmentation is rapidly changing. With this idea in mind, I was even more proud of our organization when a visitor shared that we at Trinity (www.encountertrinity.com) bridge the generational divide really well.

Though I am sure we don’t do it perfectly and we have our share of tension, I will pass along our little secret.

Culture.

We work to build a very specific generational culture in our church. Here is our “secret sauce.”

We constantly push the young to build a culture of honor toward those that have gone before them. We constantly push the old to build a culture of hope for the younger generations to grow toward.

A culture of honor.

It’s popular and almost encouraged by secular media to create a culture of blame. (I’m tipping my hat towards CNN right now…Fox News is next, calm down!) Specifically, the younger blaming their predecessors for the socioeconomic and spiritual difficulties in the world. In our organization we do have someone and something to blame and it’s not old people – it’s sin and Satan. We also teach that this world is fallen and corrupt. The older folks struggled themselves as they were also handed a fallen and broken world. We  at Trinity Church don’t create a culture of blame towards old folks, we build a culture of honor for their best effort and look to them to build a culture for us, which leads me to my next cultural value.

A culture of hope.

It’s equally popular among many older adults to create a culture of doom and misery. (Ahem, Fox News…) Here is the truth. The doomsayers are right! This world will fall, but it isn’t the millennials fault. I personally see a lot of potential in them! (See 4 Reasons I love Millennials for more.) The world was predestined to fall long before any of them ever walked the earth. The blame is sin and Satan. The good news, Jesus is coming again! A perfect kingdom and renewed culture will be created. Most people work really hard to hyper focus on what is broken now. We as an organization work to remind and lift their eyes to the glorious perfection that awaits those that embrace Christ. (See Modernity is Dead for more.)

Additionally, at a practical level it’s really hard to coach, encourage or speak into someone’s life when all you do is berate them. Lastly,

most young adults are looking for a party when what they need is a family.

If our churches will embrace a culture of honor and hope they just might find it.

So, how do we bridge the generational divide? With a culture of honor and hope. 

Resource:

*Christianity Today. Can Your Church Leadership Represent Every Generation? Last Accessed July 26, 2018 https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2009/summer/can-your-church-leadership-represent-every-generation.html

What if my kids or I have doubts about Christianity?

BlogPhotoDoubts

What if my kids or I have doubts about Christianity?

Do you have to FULLY believe in Jesus to be saved? 

“Pastor Mike…” He paused for a moment with tears welling up. “I grew up in the church and lately I am having a hard time believing that all this could be true. Don’t hear me wrong, I want to believe! I just can’t. It all seems too good to be true. I feel like I am slowly falling apart. Like a part of my identity is slipping away. What do I do? If I am wrong and there is a God I’m afraid I’ll go to hell. If I am right and there isn’t a God I feel like I have wasted so much of my life.”

This is a good set of questions. One I’m inclined to believe many people may struggle with. Let me address his question a statement at a time. But, before I do let me reword the big question because I think this is what this specific young man is actually asking. “Do you need to live in a constant state of super faith always believing and have no seasons of doubt to be saved?”

Now, let’s go back to his specific statements.

“I want to believe! I just can’t.”

I believe there is a difference between a rebellious heart that rejects God and a “doubting Thomas” that struggles. The Bible speaks a lot about a heart that has grown weary and feels distant or even void of God. From the prophets of old and King David in the Psalms to the New Testament, modern day doubters actually stand alongside some amazing people. Let’s take Thomas (John 20:24-29). His doubt in a resurrected Christ didn’t keep Christ from eventually meeting him. I truly believe a heart that is genuinely searching and not in arrogant rebellion against God will eventually see Him. That’s the point. Everyone will see Christ! (John 14:11-12) How you will respond depends on the condition of your heart. There is a difference between times and seasons of doubt and a heart that is in arrogant rebellion. Stay teachable and stay humble. Don’t stop pursuing. Faith will come in due season. Some of my favorite spiritual leaders, including C.S. Lewis, have been there. You may feel lost but God hasn’t lost you. Lastly, your belief or lack of it doesn’t make God more or less real. God isn’t like Santa Claus in some of the modern movies. He doesn’t lose power or fade if you don’t believe in Him. His reality stands fully independent of us.

“It all seems too good to be true.”

Yes, yes it is! The whole story of perfect redemption is so incredibly good it is beyond the “real”state of this fallen and decaying world. I think all passionate Christians are at some level dreamers and romantics. The eternal world we as Christians see in our dreams and visions spurred by the Bible is so gloriously good it’s beyond what any eye has seen or ear has heard (1 Cor 2:9-10). Here is the catch. If spirituality isn’t real what does it matter? If none of this is real there is no punishment at the end for people who live with spiritual hope. As far as I can tell, after years of counseling, believing you are merely a product of random chance with no real purpose and every good thing you will ever experience can only be found on this planet often leaves people, in the end, rather miserable. From my perspective faith in and of itself is worth exploring just for the profound life improvement it gives when rightly applied. If this short lived broken world is all that humans have we are to be pitied. We somehow evolved a deep metaphysical hunger with nothing to satisfy it. Yes, Christianity isn’t an easy life but it promises that this isn’t the truest life. Hope is so powerful. The potential eternal payoff of faith is worth it and so is the hope it gives in this very disheartening current world. Don’t stop humbly searching.

“I feel like I am slowly falling apart. Like a part of my identity is slipping away. What do I do?”

You feeling lost and you being lost are two different things. You knowing who you are and someone else knowing who you are are two different things. I would say this. If you truly do have a humble and teachable heart and you really do want to believe, your metaphysical amnesia is not who you really are and one day you will remember. Don’t stop searching and praying for the presence of God.

“I’m afraid I’ll go to Hell.”

Why? Are you rejecting God or struggling to see Him at this time in life? As best as I can tell seasons of doubt aren’t sin. It’s not about the doubt. It’s about what you do with your seasons of doubt. Keep searching and praying that God will reveal Himself.

“If I am right and there isn’t a God I feel like I have wasted so much of my life.”

Why? As mentioned above the risk of belief is negligible compared to the risk of unbelief. Additionally, the ways of Christ are so good! Selfless charitable love, the incredibly high value of all people and the importance of being agents of mercy, grace and generosity are wonderful things. Yes, all through history there have been religious hypocrites and Pharisees. I am not implying that you should be this. It’s all about Jesus. I think all people need Jesus the person as well as his ethics. This is all in addition to the beautiful purpose and hope that Christianity gives a heart when it is truly about a relationship with Jesus.

Final Thoughts:

  • I pray this brings peace to those who are in seasons of doubt. I actually understand quite well and you stand with many other great spiritual leaders.
  • This doesn’t tackle other faiths. This talks about faith itself. I believe Christianity and Christ stand uncontested, yet this is for another blog.
  • If anyone has any other questions feel free to email me at justthink@luke117.com. I can’t promise I’ll know the answer but I will do my best.

Modernity is dead.

The stories we tell ourselves shape us in big ways:

I am ugly. No one loves me. I have been mistreated. I deserve what was given to another.

There are countless little stories we tell ourselves. These little stories usually happen in our head after an unfortunate event has taken place. Your coworker is promoted and you aren’t. Than on the ride home after work you play back all the reasons why this happened. Usually all the versions we tell ourselves (or our “self speak”) are tainted just enough to make us the innocent victim and treated unfairly. We tell ourselves we are the victim of bad genetics, bad parents, or societal and social preferences that don’t lean in our favor. All the people around us are racist, ageist, misogynist, or only care about a degree. We are the victim. Even if these perceptions are true, a continual obsession over them can lead good hearts to very dark places. Learning to handle these appropriately is very important. However, there is an even darker place on this pity journey our hearts can step towards, one that can lead to full desperation, and this is what I want to focus on.

The story we are told we fit into is shaping us in even bigger ways:

This is the societal “story” that we adopt. It doesn’t pop into our minds nearly as often but it shapes us in profound ways. The modern meta story that secular culture teaches our children is that we have no purposeful origin and that we are all products of random chance. Culture says that we as humans are not here because we were intentionally made. We are told all that is real is in this material world. There is no after life or spirituality. When you die it’s all over. All the good that you can experience is a roll of the die in this short little life of yours. Even the wealthiest and most powerful still lose everything. Since we are taught that every joy can only be experienced here in this brief life many of us feel in deep want with no real way to find wholeness. So people do desperate things to at least be heard. Watch the news. You see “I hurt! Hear me!” in story after story. In this “modern” meta-narrative we find ourselves deeply depressed. If all we have is evolution it couldn’t have been more cruel. We have grown hungers for things that aren’t real. People want to live forever in a place of peace and relational harmony. We want to experience true justice. We desire a real purpose that actually matters. Almost all of us want a better story than the “real” one we have been peddled in school. So we find humans immersed in entertainment. Little distractions from reality. We love to be temporarily swoon by another meta narrative. We are moved deeply by powerful stories of deeper purpose and beautiful love. Than, we are rudely woken up again and again by the drum beat of modern education saying, “You are chance, random, and temporary. You are chance, random, and temporary. You are chance, random, and temporary…” When the drum beats so loud not even entertainment can drown it out we medicate to dull our senses.

I see modernity as it is… Modernity is not a rescue for humanity it is a rat trap. It looks and smells good. It promises freedom from “old” rules but chains us to something much more cruel… meaninglessness.

Here we find ourselves ironically close in desperation to our brothers and sisters in Ancient Rome. Many Roman leaders believed that rightly operated societies and systems would solve humanities ailments. Roman expansion conquered to make all civil. Yet, in the wake of social systems in the Roman Republic (which means “public good”) we find regular people desperate and lost. Even powerful leaders who thrived off of these systems found themselves without a real compass for their heart. Pilate’s famous line says it all in John 18:38. “What is truth?” Jesus than shows up on the scene with a new story. A truer story. A story we need trumpeted again today. You have purpose, you have origin and destination. Your greatest joys and most fulfilling purpose is still yet to come. What is material is not what is most real. Your hunger for what this world can’t offer is only evidence that you were made for another “world.” You feel lost because you are. You are not home. Deep inside we dream of an Eden we long for a Heaven. Every romantic story roars of our deeper and realer hungers. Christ says wake them up! Make them so awake that only a love so perfect and good as His can fulfill it. If you were to say that Christians are hopeless romantics lost in another story I would say a resounding “yes!” And it is a gloriously better story than the one Ancient Rome and Modernity has forced upon us. If it is wholeness, purpose and peace you are after than listen to Christ’s meta-narrative. In John 14:1-14 the hope of heaven hangs like the sweet aroma of freshly baked bread at grandmas house after a long ride in the car to visit her for the holidays. It is oh so good and gloriously better than the state you were in.

Real Christians have found something so immeasurably good. A better meta-narrative. If you are mistreated at work, of a people group that wrongly has misfortune set upon you, possess bad genetics, or grew up in a terrible home we believe your best story hasn’t even begun. As a Christian those awful things become weak and feeble at the foot of the cross. Your best days, our best days are still before us. I have hope and that hope is so incredibly powerful!

This is not the end.