God wants you to know you can stop trying so hard now. You don’t have to earn His love – you only need to rest in it! Watch Dave’s message on resting in God, SUNDAY FUNDAY, recorded live at Legacy Church of Naples, FL
Nothing changes until you’re ready to risk your security & move forward.
That’s all that separates the artists from the critics, the powerful from the pundits, the heroes from the zeros – the willingness to act, as opposed to the safety on the sidelines.
Until that crucial moment of commitment, the world just waits and hopes…
Recently, I had an appointment at my “worldwide ministry headquarters” (Starbucks).
I’d been talking over future ministry plans with an advisor. My friend had been encouraging, but also pointed out some major obstacles to my plans.
So whenever I’m faced with a disappointment, whenever I see the signposts saying “Dead End” and I need to turn around, I do the same thing you probably do.
As I asked God why, I did see one clear sign:
“What the heck is a Serenity Walk?” There was a little parking lot and a pathway wandering off into the woods.
“Great place to get mugged”, I thought.
However, at the moment I really could use some serenity. So I pulled over, got out of my car, and started lumbering down the path to “commune with nature”. I’m usually fine with nature, until it starts communing back. Some folks like roughing it, but not me.
You call it “camping” – I call it “homelessness”.
As I walk, I notice there’s really nothing here but woods. They pay a guy every week to run his double-wide riding mower through it to keep a path cleared. Other than that, a whole bunch of nothing. Maybe that’s a harsh review, but I suppose it takes a lot more than just trees and an abundance of mosquitoes for me to reach my serenity peek.
Did I mention I probably have malaria now? Thought I’d complain a bit more…
The same pathway that’s boring to some may seem serene to the guy going through a crisis. There are times you’re so stressed, you just want to get away from all the noise. That’s when a lonely walk through a boring patch of woods is a welcomed relief. However, I evidently have a low tolerance for “serene”.
You call it “serenity” – I call it “boredom”.
Right now, I’m not stressed. I’m frustrated with the pace of my progress. Not only in my life, but on this pathway too. Unfortunately, there are no markers to let you know how much farther you have to go. Backtracking now could take just as long as walking through. So you keep on marching through instead of turning back.
Now I’m sweaty and irritated. Parts of my body are sticking together. There are some nice placards along the route, with lots of wonderful information about the plant life found along the path and land mitigation. Just nothing I care anything about. They’re answering questions I’m not asking.
Wow, that’s exactly how God leads us. He never tells us how much longer we have to go before we reach the goal, just to keep on going. In fact, if He had told us how long/tough/crazy this journey would be, we might not have ever set out on it in the first place.
So He keeps us clueless, sometimes mercifully so. If He told us how desperately hard the journey would be, we’d fall into despair. Instead, He’s mum about the details. We ask, “How much further, Daddy?” He says, “Oh, just a ways more…” And then He laughs a little to Himself.
I remember all my complaints and questions to God. He’s just like the placards, completely avoiding my “big questions”. God ignores a lot of my questions the same way I ignore some of the dumb things my kids ask. It’s not that I don’t care, I simply know that some of the answers won’t help even if I give them.
“Why am I going through this?” “Why did this have to happen to me?” That’s what Job asked for 40+ chapters, only to get a big “none of your business” from God at the end!
Well, it doesn’t really matter “why” right now – what matters is that you get through it. So stop asking questions as if that’s going to make the path any shorter. No matter the answer, you’re going to have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. When this path is over, then you’ll know it. Then you can rest.
Sometimes we whine to God thinking He’ll say, “Sorry, what was I thinking? Abracadabra – you’re done!” We think God’s plan is going to change if we complain enough. It’s not as if He’s your mom at the grocery store, and you’ve managed to badger her into buying the Count Chocula cereal instead of the Wheaties. No, He’s tougher than mom, because He knows just how much you can take. So He pushes you to that exact point…plus a little bit more.
Well, there’s the end of the path ahead, and I’m wondering what was the point. God didn’t answer any of my questions here. Appears I took time out of my trip home for absolutely nothing.
Hmmm…”time out”. Is that what this was? God gave me a “time out”, taking me on a pointless walk in the woods. I whined, I complained, but He was silent, refusing to respond.
No response except for teaching me about “the path”. He walked me along a winding trail to nowhere, and taught me to just be quiet and keep moving forward. No epiphanies, no helpful signposts along the way – just sweaty trudging along a “serene” path, never telling me how long the journey would take.
OK, got it. I’m done complaining now. Let’s move forward.
I guess it wasn’t a pointless trip after all. If I ever get frustrated enough in the future, at least now I know a good place to bury the body.
Do you ever get frustrated with your progress in life?
Do you get frustrated with God’s pace for change?
Here’s a photo from guest “Subversive Sock” wearer, Jonathan Hargrove. Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto! Keep the faith, Jonathan!
I get a little perturbed with people who rationalize their safe, puny way of life by their faith. They give in to their own insecurities and quarantine themselves away from the real world. They take their “salt and light” and hide it under the bushel of a church building, never thinking God might want them seasoning and shining in a lost world.
We have Christian music, Christian sports for our kids, Christian movies, Christian singles websites, Christian coffee bars, Christian cruises. But if we could see ourselves with spiritual eyes, I wonder if we might see ourselves walking through life covered with BubbleWrap from head to toe!
You remember the story about Jesus walking on the water. Disciples in a boat in the middle of the sea, storm pops up, Jesus comes walking on the water to say hey. Peter takes a step of faith, takes a dive (literally), Jesus pulls him up out of the water. Everybody laughs while looking for some dry towels (well, I’d imagine that happened)…
But before all that, at the start of the story, here’s the part that bothers me most. “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side…” – Matthew 14:22
Did you catch that? Jesus INTENTIONALLY sent them out into a life-threatening
situation…WITHOUT HIM! Surely if Jesus really is God, then He knew a storm was coming. It’s not like He couldn’t have invented Doppler radar a couple of thousand years early! Instead, He sends them directly into a DANGEROUS situation – one they were completely ill-equipped to address in any way…well, except maybe for drowning. Yep, they could have pulled that off well. They could have drowned quite successfully.
The lessons here ring true with my life right now. God not only allows me to walk into trials that test my faith, He sometimes leads me straight into them! I don’t like that about God most of the time. I pray continually for Him to do exactly the opposite of this, to keep me OUT of situations that make my heart bound and fear pop in my head. I’ll admit I’m tempted at times to believe what the TV preachers with perfect hair and large teeth want to sell me, that God never wants me in painful trials, and is always going to airlift me out of them quickly.
Only problem is, He doesn’t normally work that way. Usually, exactly the opposite.
Why does He do that? For lots of great reasons – to grow our faith in God, to make us resilient to hardship, to teach us to be spiritually stubborn. But there’s one I see that’s even better than all those reasons. Here it is…
To give us something worth talking about.
You see, I’m sure Peter would never shut up about that story from that day on. Everybody’s sitting around the camp fire, eating fish, and Peter pops up with, “Hey, remember the time I walked on water?” Everybody groans. Then his brother Andrew says, “Yeah you did walk on water, didn’t you…for 7 whole seconds!”
Everybody laughs, but Peter’s eyes catch Jesus’. There’s a connection there that was formed in the waves of that storm. That was their moment together – an experience no one else could understand but the two of them. It was a life landmark for Peter, because his faith would never be the same after it. He learned to depend on Jesus in a way no one else ever had. For Peter, it was a game-changer in the faith department, because He was forced to put His faith (beliefs and trust in God) into action. And any faith that has never been through a storm is of no use on dry ground either.
Is God setting the stage for a dramatic flourish in your life? Do you feel the fear in the pit of your belly? Your face a little flush with anticipation? Can’t figure out how any of it’s gonna work out?
You’re in God’s perfect will, in the most dangerous place on earth, with more than you could ever handle. Congrats.
It’s morning now, storm’s over. Everything looks completely different, and I’m reminded once again of the transient nature of every challenge we face. “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning”. And as the old preacher says, “Morning comes whenever you wake up!”
Jesus is desperately trying to turn your boring life into an adventure. We keep hoping for daily programming from the Weather Channel instead. Predictable, safe, calculated, boring, repetitious.
Welcome to your perfect storm. Sorry, but Bubble Wrap only makes it harder to move. And move is exactly what you need to do.
Now take a deep breath…and take a big step out. of. the. boat.
Tonight, it feels like my heart is going to pound right through my chest. I’m laying in bed, trying to sleep, and it starts. Fears, worries, “what if’s”. You probably know the feeling too, right? Worst-case scenarios playing in my head like an “end of the world” movie on crack. There’s no way out, no hope, and the only light at the end of the tunnel looks to me like a head-on collision with a speeding locomotive.
Yeah, I know, a good Christian’s supposed to have faith. He’s supposed to believe God’s got his back. And especially if you’re a pastor, people think you’ve got the inside scoop. Like you’re a DisneyWorld employee who knows where all the secret doors are to that underground system. You know – the one that gets you to anywhere in the park hassle-free? Yep, that’s me! Boy, do I know my way around life! I can bypass all the long lines, traffic jams and jump to the front of the line on Space Mountain.
Hardly. I get no preferred status. And anyone coming to Christianity for a “jump-to-the-front-of-the-line Easy Pass” is in for a big surprise and a lifetime of frustration.
Sometimes I get fearful. Ok, terrified. Terrified of how things are ever going to work themselves out. Terrified of what might happen if I don’t get out of the current “mess du jour”. Terrified that if I get out of it, what the next mess might be coming around the bend. And morbid introspection, Monday morning quarterbacking and crystal ball gazing rarely ever happens in the daylight, when I think I can actually do something…anything to fix the problem. No, it comes at night…in the darkness…when all I can do is imagine the worst.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. There’s some of you Christians right now who are looking down on me. I should just “claim victory in faith” and cheer up, right? Because God never wants me to be in fearful situations, correct?
“The safest place in the world is in the center of God’s will”, they tell me.
“God will never give you anymore than you can handle”, I’m assured.
Sorry, but both of those are lies.
God has rarely led me into “safe places”, but often into down right dangerous ones. God led me to move my family to the inner-city of Chicago once to work with a great church there. Trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve had drunk people urinating on your front lawn and a burglar wrestled to the ground in front of your wife, with full tactical squad, guns drawn.
“Oh, but Pastor, God would spare you from any danger”. Try telling that to the Christians in Middle Eastern countries right now being persecuted for their faith. They’re in the center of God’s will, standing for their faith…and very often watching family members die horrible deaths.
If your God only leads you into safe places, then you’re serving a much-too-safe god.
As to the second statement, unfortunately it has been my experience God ALWAYS gives me more than I can handle. He intentionally puts me in circumstances beyond my control, way past my own abilities, and leaves me there way longer than I want. There are times I seriously feel I’m going to break, like tonight when I’m afraid my mind or my will either one will just snap from all the pressure.
Then there’s my wife’s stress. She’s in the midst of taking care of our three children, one of whom had gotten her own job and moved out, the other two are teenagers (prayers appreciated). Recently we added my son’s friend to our household, who was kicked out of his home. It’s pretty funny – we now have one African-America (my son’s friend), one Puerto Rican (my adopted son), and a white southern belle (my daughter)! Oh, and here’s a sudden news update…we are now guardians for a 7 month old baby girl! So all this, while my wife holds down a couple of part-time jobs and continues to be an incredible spouse, mom and homemaker.
There are other challenges too many to mention here. Suffice it to say, we are in over our in over our heads. We live way beyond our ability to see very far down the road. All of life seems to be swirling out of control around us. And yet I feel we are more in the center of God’s will for our lives than we have ever been before…
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” – Isaiah 26:3
When you’re kids are in trouble?
When you’ve got no money left?
When you’re trying to get out of the Costco parking lot alive?
I’ll start right now by believing him for those first two. Surviving the angry retired folk in Costco parking may take a miracle of Biblical proportions! Baby steps…
Dear Angry Non-Christian friend,
I’ve been meaning to write to you for quite a while now. I’ve heard your feelings about my beliefs quite clearly – from your Facebook posts, your arguments in person, and your comments on religious articles in the newspaper, some of which have occasionally been responses to my own editorial essays and blogs.
You communicate your feelings about “people of faith” pretty clearly. And I have resisted the urge to respond to them…until now. But at the risk of sounding harsh, for the sake of clarity I think the relentless nature of your attacks on believers in general warrants a little push back now.
So to make sure I’m reading you loud and clear, what follows is a collection of what I have learned you believe about “all Christians”, followed by what many Christians wish you understood. I apologize ahead of time, as I’m quite sure you will find much of it offensive. That is not my intention, but it is hard to answer…forgive me…rather ignorant attacks without making your attacker sound ignorant. Again, I apologize.
Here’s what I have learned about Christians from your comments…
“We’re all hypocrites”
You seem to take particular glee in pointing out how imperfect we people of faith are. You mention that we don’t live up to everything we say we believe. You see this as a flaw. But I see this as actually quite noble.
It is easy not to be a hypocrite if you don’t stand for anything lofty in the first place. If you aim at nothing, you’re very likely to hit it on a consistent basis. When your goal in life is to be a scoundrel, you’ll probably never be accused of being a hypocrite. Congrats.
Most Christians would be the first person to tell you they are not perfect. The fact they are shooting for a higher goal than a base, hedonistic existence does not make them hypocrites. It simply means they want to be better than what others settle for.
I realize this may make you feel bad about yourself, that we strive for something more even though we often fail to achieve it. Sorry, but I’d rather try to be like Jesus and fail than never try at all.
“We’re dumb as rocks”
Please forgive me ahead of time for how intellectually arrogant what I’m about to say will sound, because from many of your condescending rants I know just how distasteful condescension can be. But I have come to understand that even after years in college and graduate-level studies, I still must know nothing of science, history, literature, the Arts, etc.
I suppose you think Christians spent all our time at Bible camp and have never read the opinions of those critical of our faith. Funny thing, in preparation for my ministry, I was required to read many works by Freud, Bertrand Russell, Nietzsche, and many others. And as astounding as you might find this, most ministers I know had to do the same.
Many Christians know very well what the arguments are against faith. It is not that we are ignorant of them – it is simply that we don’t think they stand up that well. I distinctly remember picking up Russell’s “Why I Am Not A Christian” with great fear and trembling, on the challenge from an atheist professor that it would utterly wreck my faith. How stunned I was to find myself giggling with delight as I finished it, realizing how very weak his arguments were. To this day, I keep the book in my library as a kind of faith trophy!
Though I know you’d like to think we believe only out of ignorance, the truth is often right the opposite. Many of us came to Christ PRECISELY BY LOOKING AT THE FACTS, not by looking away from them. That scenario is almost a cliche now, because it has been repeated in the lives of so many doubters who eventually ended up believers (C.S. Lewis comes screamingly to mind).
But I understand there is comfort found in believing you are just too smart to be a Christian. How many times have I heard you say, “I wish I could believe your religious fairy tales, but I just can’t bring myself to it”? I would pose that it’s not your intellectual honesty keeping you at bay, it is your stomach for true adventure. Because risking this whole cosmic existence on the truth of God is the ride of a lifetime!
I have heard the stories of many people who have been hurt in churches. They are legion and legend. I have been on the receiving end of some pretty painful stuff myself, and even have had my own children attacked by supposed “believers” who used them to pay back a grudge against me.
So I do not deny that this exists. But does it not exist outside the church as well? Is not your work place and beauty salon just as gossipy and judgmental, if not more so? But that’s the problem. You are expecting the church to be perfect, even though it is populated by admittedly imperfect people reaching toward a uniquely perfect God. As soon as the first human shows up, church ceases to be perfect and somebody gets hurt. Since God has never been that choosy about whom He lets in, we seem to think an “open door policy” is good for church as well.
So yes, if you come to a place populated by lots of imperfect humans, someone will eventually tick you off, hurt your feelings, step on your toes, or not kiss your boo boo. Buck up, buttercup and rejoice in this: if they made it in, there’s a good chance there’s room for one more sinner like you and me, too!
You grouse that we are unwilling to change our cherished beliefs held for over 2000 years now to fit into your current social climate. You are shocked…yes, SHOCKED that we don’t see the wisdom in (INSERT LATEST CULTURAL FAD HERE), and that we refuse to get with it and sell out everything we believe in hopes of gaining your fleeting approval…which you wouldn’t give us anyway.
Most Christians are not trying to take away your rights, but are simply standing for what they believe. When you stand for your beliefs, we do not call you “hateful”. But before you will be happy, we not only have to tolerate your beliefs, we must cry “uncle” and proclaim your beliefs are just as right as our own or else we are intolerant. This is not tolerance – it is tyranny.
Ironically, Christianity is the “genesis” of most true tolerance we know today. Jesus broke with the custom of His day and spoke to women with respect as equals. Paul argued with Philemon to set free a runaway slave who had come to Christ. He also taught in Christ, there is no Jew nor Greek, male nor female…all are one!
Without the tolerance that Christianity first taught, I doubt some of you would be able to speak your minds in these political columns and blogs without endangering your lives. You’re welcomed.
What you miss is that the beliefs which are not being tolerated today are, most often, the Judeo-Christian ones. To hold onto these is somehow seen as bigoted, hateful, and intolerant.
What is truly shocking is you do not see the brazen irony in your being “intolerant to our tolerance” and calling yourself “tolerant”. Brilliant.
“We believe fairy tales”
After what probably amounts to ten to twenty minutes of Google and Wikipedia research, you are pleased to have found several arguments against the veracity of the Bible and Christianity in general. And of course we all know anything printed on the Internet is “Gospel Truth” (pardon the expression).
What you don’t realize is that most of these arguments take a verse of Scripture, jump to an erroneous conclusion about it’s original meaning or application, and then flash said conclusion in the face of believers with a brash “whaddaya think about them apples” bravado.
Do you really think no one else in the past 2000+ years has asked those questions before? And do you really think that no one else, out of all the great minds of Christendom, has come up with a sufficient answer? If Christianity were that easy to topple, don’t you think someone would have done it by now? Seriously, how much easier it would be for us all just to believe God thinks we’re perfect just as we are, and requires no adjustments in our actions and character? Human nature is dying to believe something that juicy.
But Christianity has held up quite nicely to the honest questions of believers and doubters alike for a couple of thousand years now, thank you very much. And when you quote verses out of context or completely misrepresent their meaning, or ignore other parts of Scripture which explain or qualify the passage further, you actually betray how little you understand about history, archaeology, or textual criticism at all.
Are there valid questions? Of course, there are. Are there reasonable answers? Yes, quite reasonable ones most of the time. Just because your western civ. professor told you the Bible was junk doesn’t necessarily make it so. I know, Christians are completely biased in their beliefs, unlike professors in liberal arts universities, right? Oh, please.
And while you love to make fun of the kosher laws against pork and shellfish in the Old Testament, you ignore the fact that thousands of years before Louis Pasteur the Jews knew how to stay healthy and live sanitary lifestyles. As unscientific as you say the Bible is, it somehow managed to see the danger of germs and disease without benefit of the first microscope! It somehow saw the earth was a ball hung in space thousands of years before the first telescope!
OK, my little rant has now come to an end. I apologize if my tone has seemed snarky at times, but just consider it a verbal “eye for an eye”. After years of Bill Maher and Jon Stewart making fun of us, maybe it’s finally time the Christians had a little good-natured fun of our own!
But I hope I haven’t caused you to question any of your own cherished beliefs against God. Far be it from me to cause anyone to doubt (“snort”, “muffled chuckle”)…
Have you ever been on the receiving end of these comments?
Which of these do you believe is actually a valid critique of Christianity?
The revolution continues, as the rebels wear their hearts on their feet. Little did anyone know today that while listening to an innocent Bible study, my socks were making a statement!
Here’s the view today from my International Outreach Office (the Starbucks on 5th Avenue South). I hang out here occasionally to sabotage…er, I mean…chat with people about God. And since I live in a vacation paradise, there are people here from all over the world. Hence the title. Yeah, I think Benny Hinn’s a little jealous, don’t you?
Seriously, I wish more pastors had an “office” outside the church like this. One of the big problems for Christians these days is we are often too insulated from the world. Jesus said we should be “salt and light” to the world, but it’s pretty hard to brighten up and spice up the world from inside your very own church “fortress of solitude”.
Sure, I need privacy and time alone just as much as the next guy…maybe even more. But that’s no excuse for being unapproachable. As Christians, we need to make ourselves conspicuously prone for those who don’t know Christ. We should be as vulnerable and available as possible.
People shouldn’t have to wade through a phalanx of church members and security personnel to talk to me. That’s not ministry, that’s “celebrity”. And I think pastors need to get out of show business and back to God’s business – loving people. But that’s just my opinion…
By the way, I never force a conversation on anyone. But God has set up some awesome “divine appointments” here, along with a few train wrecks. You never know the mental state of the folks you’ll meet, so I’m ready for anything. I try to be friendly, and I dress casually so I won’t intimidate anyone. At least I think I don’t intimidate anyone. Anyway, my teenage son told me I looked “fresh” when I left the house today. I believe means something good. It was twerk that means something not so good, right?
I enjoy having my office in a Starbucks right now: it feels alive and you never know what to expect. That’s the fun in this life…well, for me, at least – leaving myself open for God to work through me, however He may choose and often when I’m least expecting it!
If you asked God His favorite way to work in our lives, I believe He’d say very simply…, “SURPRISE“!
What are some ways you can make yourself available for others?
Do you think the church is too removed from the world, or too worldly?
Depression, suicide, and finding God’s power in your pain – watch this inspiring live message from Dave Gipson