Persevering Through Him and For Him

Persevering Through Him and For Him

As part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I am taking part in a daily blog post challenge through the BlogHer website. Today’s prompt:

Which one of the Beatitudes is most meaningful to you and why? 


In the spirit of full disclosure, this is not the prompt for November 7 for #NaBloPoMo16. Today’s prompt (What was your worst Thanksgiving food fail?) was a bit on the yawn side, so my wife Lee and I decided to go with our own prompt for our blog posts.

Lee and I started on our respective faith walks together back in 2009. One week after getting married, we began attending Relevant Church in Tampa. Relevant has been our home ever since, and I cannot properly express how much each of us have grown over the last seven years.

Walking in faith and with Christ has transformed our lives. It’s changed the way we give, the way we vacation, and it’s most definitely changed the way we plan for the future (Lee and I hope to transition to full-time mission work in the next three to four years). As someone whose been blogging since 2004, my faith has also changed the way I write.

So it was no surprise when Lee suggested we write about the Beatitudes. Writing in a non-secular arena has become second nature to both of us, and it allows us to explore our relationship with Christ from a different perspective. It’s one thing to share your faith story with someone verbally. After all, we all speak in rough draft. But when you’re writing, you have the ability to edit, research, ponder, and – when you’re really stuck – delete.

delete-button

I love writing about my faith, and I see it as a part of my current vocation. I view it as an opportunity to use the gift God has given me as a writer to bring glory to Him and to bring others closer to Christ. I can only pray that someone who is seeking His love and mercy may stumble across my blog and use it as a vehicle to grow closer to God.

But written ministry is not always about ‘Likes’ and positive feedback in the comments section. There is an inherent risk of not applying sound theology in my work. There is a risk of alienating someone because my understanding and belief in Scripture contradicts their personal worldview. From a broader perspective, there is always a risk in sharing Christ with others because there are so many questions people may have, so many arguments skeptics may make, and so many allusions cynics may cast. In layman’s terms, it ain’t always easy.

It’s not supposed to be easy.

We are called to press forward in faith. We are called not only to step, but to leap out of our comfort zones for the benefits of others. We’re called to go out on a limb for Christ because he suffered and died on a limb for us.

Dealing with people who for whatever reasons reject God and belief and religion can, at best, be awkward and clumsy. At worst, it can be downright painful. As an example, my wife and I struggled to answer this simple question early in our faith walk:

“You mean if I live a good life and am a good person, that’s not enough to get into Heaven?”

Lee and I knew what the right answer is (it’s no, by the way*), but we didn’t know how to properly communicate it. We weren’t well versed in Scripture (we still aren’t really; it’s a daily process), and we fumbled our way through a conversation that quickly evolved into an argument. It was uncomfortable and unpleasant, and at the end of it all we lost a friendship. Still, we knew in our hearts we wanted to/needed to stay true to His Word, and we used that experience as a foundation to work and be better prepared for the next tough question that was sure to come.

In the three and a half years since that moment, I like to think we’ve stayed true to that commitment. So when I read the Beatitudes and get to the eighth and final one – Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven – it strikes a chord in my heart. Part of evangelizing the Word God is giving the love and then taking the lumps others may give in return.

It’s not supposed to be easy, but it does get a little easier every time.

 

*I firmly believe it is only through faith in Jesus Christ that we are granted salvation. This is repeated throughout Scripture.
     John 3:16
     John 14:6
Acts 16:30-31
Romans 6:23
Romans 10:9-10
Ephesians 2:8-9


nablopomo

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

I don’t particularly enjoy working out alone. My wife and I have shared the experience of going to the gym together, and although we may do different exercises or use different machines, knowing we’re both there together makes the experience more fulfilling for me.

The same goes for my spiritual workouts.

At the end of last year, our dear friend Lindsey invited Lee and me to undertake a new challenge.

“Will you join me in reading the entire Bible in one year?”

“Ummm…..what?”

“The Bible. I am going to read it all in one year, and I want you to join me.”

<uneasy silence> “Ummmmm …… yes?”

It was very much a daunting task at the time it was presented to us. Yet another thing I needed to make time for in my day to day. It’s not like I wasn’t already falling behind on everything else, so sure, why not add something else to the To Do list (which in my case usually ends up being a Good Intentions list)?

But undertake it I did, with the help of the YouVersion Bible app. Every morning in the car I would start the readings for the day of the reading plan. The great thing about YouVersion is, depending on the translation, you can have the app read it to you. This is especially helpful because I find it easier to follow along as I hear someone else read, and I don’t have to stumble over the pronunciation of names and places (especially in the Old Testament). Also, I can take advantage of my commute time to take in His word.

So here we are three months removed from that awkward conversation with my friend and I’m 25% done with reading the Bible. Think about that. I’ve read a quarter of the Good Book, and I’ve done it a few chapters at a time. Not only has this plan made it manageable by spreading out the reading between Old and New Testaments, it has also opened my eyes to the amazing stories in the Bible.

I’ve been introduced to the talking donkeys, how the sons of Jacob plotted to avenge the rape of their sister, and passages that have made me blush. More importantly, I’ve made the time in my day to nourish my spirit and grow in my relationship with God. And I am finding that as situations and challenges present themselves in my life, I am able to lean on what I’ve read and learned in order to better deal with them. I’m able to reference a particular story in the Bible that provides me with a better perspective as to how I should act or not act. Like going to the gym, I am stronger now than when I started.

And I am so blessed to be doing this with my wife and friends. We turn to each other to discuss His word and better understand what we’ve read. We push and encourage each other to stay on plan and not fall behind, which is what fellowship is all about.

So if you’re feeling you can use some new perspective, insight, and encouragement in your life, I invite you to turn to a resource that’s been there for you from the beginning. Download the YouVersion app and check out The Bible in a Year plan. Or if you’re old school, open up your Bible and read a chapter a day. As the plan overview says, “The Bible is God’s love letter to each one of us. Why should you miss out on any of the things God wants to say to you?”

Daily Bread

How Much More Do I Need?

There’s an old joke:

A great flood strikes a small town and the water inundates all the houses. The people retreat to the rooftops to escape the waters that continue to rise.

A man stands on his roof, and a boat passes his way. “Get in,” they yell from boat.

The man, clutching his Bible firmly in his hands, responds, “I know the Lord will save me!”

About an hour later, the man is still on his roof and the water is now up to his knees. The contents of his house are completely under water. A second boat passes by. “Get in,” they yell.

The man remains steadfast in his faith. “I know the Lord will save me!”

About an hour later, the water has risen yet again. The man is on his toes and struggling to remain upright. The water level is now up to his neck. A helicopter looking for victims hovers over him. A rope ladder is dropped and a rescue worker shouts, “Grab the ladder!”

With all the resolve he has left, the man yells back, “My Lord will save me!”

Minutes later, the man is gone, succumbing to the rising flood. He finds himself in Heaven, in dismay and disbelief that he drowned, and face to face with God.

“My God. I worshipped you every Sunday, I tithed a generous amount every week, I read Your word in the good book every day, and in my moment of need you abandoned me. Why?”

The Lord looked upon him and said …….. “What are you talking about? I sent you two boats and a helicopter!”

The moral of the story is God is constantly reaching out to us. He wants us to succeed, and He wants to help direct us in the right way. We, however, need to be willing to listen. Faith in God means having a relationship with God, and as with all other relationships, it’s a two-way street.

About two years ago, I got an idea for a book. The subject of the book is sensitive and painful, but I believe if done correctly, it can go on to help others who may have suffered the same pains in their lives. Last November, I took the first step in making the book a reality. I sat across from a woman and had her tell me her story. It was difficult, uncomfortable, and the tears were plentiful, but we both managed to get through it.

Then the scope of the project set in. In order for this book to be meaningful, I would need to have at least nine or ten more of those types of interviews. I would have to have that same difficult and uncomfortable experience over and over again just to get the source material needed for the book. Then I would have to compile it, organize it, and write it, each keystroke making me relive the pain and suffering of everyone I would have interviewed for the effort.

The phrase, “Um ….. no thank you!” blared in my head. That is, until this past week.

In the last month, I’ve experienced baptism as an adult and have taken part in a Christian mens retreat (see my posts with W@HBC in the title). What I’ve come to realize following those experiences is that I’ve been standing on my roof, ignoring the boats and the helicopters and the hover-crafts and all the other vehicles God has been sending my way. In the last two months, I’ve had the woman whom I initially interviewed inquire about the progress of the book. I’ve had another person, a person with whom I’ve discussed the effort and asked if she’d be willing to share her story, ask me when we were going to get together for the project. I’ve had sermons from both my own Pastor, Paul Wirth, as well as Pastor Steven Furtick, to whom I listen via podcast, speak directly to me about this topic.

God has been throwing life preservers and flotation devices at me for a long time now. He’s been bombarding me with ways to save myself from drowning in a sea of fear, self-doubt, and complacency. He’s been telling me all along that I am capable of overcoming the challenges that are mostly in my head. But I have to do my part. I have to take action. I have to get in that boat. I have to grab onto that rope ladder. I have to pick up the phone and make those difficult calls and ask those awkward questions. I need to write this book because I believe it can positively affect the lives of others. I have to write this book because I know this is what God is calling me to do at this moment in my life.

The process will be hard, and I am sure to get discouraged along the way, but there is no doubt in my mind that regardless of the outcome of the project, my Father in Heaven won’t let me drown.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” -Romans 12:2

Rescue