The Last Words of a Dying Man

Is it ever going to end?

Have you ever found yourself asking this question? It usually comes to our minds when we are going through a rough time. Maybe you’ve just lost someone close to you, a job, a dog (not me. ever), or maybe you were just struggling in life.

Recently I found myself pondering this question. I felt like my life was on a treadmill, and that I wasn’t controlling the speed. There was so much going on I was just doing my best to catch up. The thought of getting ahead never crossed my mind. I felt like I had to do this. I alone.

I can’t catch up on my bills. I need a new place to live. I don’t know what I am supposed to be doing at work, or for work really. I want to quit and do something I’m good at. Something else. Something involving my degree. My thoughts were racing.

I had found myself wanting. But wanting what?

In my mind, my problems were bigger than I could handle. I felt like I had too much going on in life. Too much that I couldn’t control. Too much to handle alone. I wasn’t happy with where I was or what I was doing. I would find myself asking, “God, what are you wanting me to do? I feel like I’m called to stay, but shouldn’t I be doing so much more than this? Haven’t you given me these talents for a reason and not just to waste away? Why am I suffering in this tight spot?”

The sad thing is, it took a tragic story of death to humble me and realize I wasn’t doing so bad after all. But before you let the word death make you turn from this page, you may want to hear the story. You may have even heard it before.

Horatio Spafford was a very successful businessman who lived in Chicago in the 1800s. He had a beautiful wife, four daughters, and a four-year-old son. He was also heavily invested in real estate and the market was expanding. Life was going good for the Spaffords.
Then within a matter of two years, everything changed. In 1870, he lost his four-year-old son to scarlet fever. A few months following, the great Chicago fire destroyed a majority of the real estate. Two years later, after recovering from their losses, the family decided to take a vacation to Europe with friends. But because of work, Horatio stayed behind a few days and would meet his family there. After a few days, He received a cable from his wife stating, “Saved alone. What shall I do…” Horatio soon learned that their ship had a collision with another ship in the middle of the sea and all four of his daughters died in the wreck. The only thing he could do was set sail to console his wife.
As the ship set sail, he reflected on the past two years of his life, which were so incredibly terrible. After sailing a while, the captain alerted him that they were sailing over the site where his family’s ship had sank. It was in that moment that Horatio began to write down his reflections and his emotions. He then wrote was has become one of the most-loved hymns of all time.

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll:
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Horatio had faith like Job. In the midst of the open sea, after losing so much both financially and physically, he maintains his faith in God, knowing that Jesus is always there. Even in the midst of pain, loss, and hurt, he knew Jesus was with him.

Now here I am, babbling on about random tedious tasks, acting as if I am really struggling in life. When I read this, I looked across the table at a friend and felt like I had to read it to them. I had to share this with someone. I have no right to complain in life. If anyone has a right it was Horatio, and not even he did. I have no real reason to be unhappy, outside of sheer selfishness.

Wendell Smith used to always say, “How good does God need to be to you before you’re happy?” Ouch. Talk about a wake-up call. The answer is I’m an idiot. God is a good, perfect and loving God. I should get over it. I’m doing pretty well where I am. Luckily, scripture always has an answer for life’s questions.

So when you’re like me and find yourself asking God what the heck you’re supposed to be doing. Or why he has you where you are instead of doing something “greater” in your own eyes. Remember what He said through Jeremiah, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’”

So, to answer the original question, Jesus answered it when he died: It is (already) finished. We will always have rough times, losses, and pains. Jesus tells us in John 16:33, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows… But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

We are never alone. The Bible says, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me” (Psalms 23:4). In the last chapter, last verse of Matthew we find some of the last words of a dying man. Jesus makes a promise to us all. “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20).
Jesus will never leave us. He will never abandon us. He is always here.

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In Time

Now you may be thinking about Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, and a modern Robin Hood story like no other. And although I do reference the movie, this is more about the real superstars of the every day life, you and me. This is a story about time.

To a young person, time doesn’t seem to matter. Years seem like they are insignificant enough to just throw away a few of them. “I mean, what is life if we can’t enjoy it?” Right? Why should we live a long life if we don’t enjoy it? Some people say things like, “Well I just enjoy (insert bad habit). I’ll just do this, or that. Who cares if it takes years off of my life?” (#YOLO)

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I believe people say these things because we cannot actually visualize how many years we have left. And no one truly knows how many years they actually have anyway.  Think about if you lived in the movie In Time. The one with Justin Timberlake, where everyone’s life clock in always counting down on their arm. They can visually see how much time they have left, so every second is important to them.

In the movie, JT’s mother dies right before his eyes because he was just a few seconds too late. What if that was you? What if, instead of your mother, it was your calling? Could you imagine being so close to making it, so close to your calling, but being just a few seconds or selfish decisions too late?

In our older years, it is easier for us as humans to appreciate each and every second of every year. But when we are younger, we feel like we have so many more years left that we can throw away a few of them just to have a little fun. How much differently would you live your life if your life clock counting down on your wrist? What changes would you make to your everyday life? You would probably start finding better habits or ways of adding to that time.

My prayer for you is that no matter if you are a teenager, or the great-grandparent of one, you will utilize the time you have here on earth to live a greater life. To Access your calling. To further the kingdom. To add time to your life, and those around you. 

I pray that you read this in time, before your clock runs out. 

Mountain Tops

It has been a long time since I have written, but I am looking forward to more and more posts soon to come. This was part of my devotional this morning and I just had to expound upon it. Thanks for reading!

“Jesus …led them up on a high mountain to be alone with Him.” -Mark 9:2

There are times in our life where we all are led upon the mountain. Times when we get to see from God’s standpoint. Times when we feel like we could walk and talk with angels. We feel inspired and want to do great things.

And then, we come down.

You see we aren’t meant to stay on the mount. We are built for the valleys. We are built to dig through the trenches and make it through hard times. Our lives grow stronger and we gain wisdom and insight from these times in the valley. You see God doesn’t allow us to stay up on the mountain for long because the ultimate test of our spiritual life is to descend. If we only have the power to rise, and nothing else, something is wrong. We are not built for the mountains, those are times for inspiration. That is all.

You see the times of exaltation are amazing, and they do have a meaning in our life with God. But we have to be careful because our spiritual selfishness wants to make them the only time.

I have come to look forward to a life in the trenches. I know that hard times will always be ahead. This is not pessimism. This is life, and especially the life of a Christ follower. When we do everything we can to seek the Kingdom of God, the devil will do everything he can to stop us. Prepare for battle, that is my motto. You see when you are geared for war and ready to go through the valley, you will enjoy those brief times on the mountain instead of yearn for them when they pass. Live life so that you are prepared for the valley, and so you can celebrate the mountain.

The mount is not meant to teach us something, it is meant to make us something. These times are rare, and they are meant for something in God’s purpose.

ADJUST

When the world starts caving in on us, everyone needs someone to talk to. I have had this experience several times lately and have been so lucky to have great friends and parents to turn to for guidance. But when our students and children are in these situations, who is it they turn to? Usually the mom and dad, right? No? Then who is it that they go to when they need a listening ear? A best friend? Or maybe just anyone who will listen?

In Proverbs, Solomon encourages us to continually seek wisdom. And while parents may be full of wisdom, they aren’t always the first people our students choose to run to. Most of the time, unless we have established a good line of communication, they feel too awkward to try and talk to their parents.

So what do we do about this?

Well maybe, as the relationships with their parents begin to change and grow, we need to help our teenagers find someone else who can be that voice of wisdom in their lives. And in this, finding that new voice could mean that the students can offer their parents some peace of mind. Because while their parents may not be hearing everything, someone is, and that someone cares for this student and the choices they are making.

I first hand know how important this is. I was blessed to have great youth pastors when I was growing up that I have maintained a relationship with into my college years. And they still are there any time I need them, to help guide me. Also, I have an amazing friend who is always there to encourage me. Although they don’t have too much experience, they always try and find something from the Bible to help me through my tough times.

Bottom Line: When your parents are no longer the primary voice speaking into your life, you need someone else speaking into your life with wisdom.

ADAPT

It is that time of year again. Winter begins to turn into spring, and the leaves finally begin to come back. The cold weather starts creeping away and then suddenly, summer is upon us! But we must remember, seasons are a good thing. They remind us that everything changes and progresses. Everyone has their favorite seasons and certain ones they hate, but I am sure that everyone would agree that each season has it’s own beautiful characteristics.

And when it comes to families, sometimes we need that reminder too.

As our students and youth adjust to no longer being just a son or daughter, but also being a friend, a schoolmate, an athlete, a musician—or whatever else that might be beginning to define who they are—they sometimes just need the reminder that all this change is normal. That the tension this change brings is normal. That the change is good and it is a process of growing up. And while the changing way they relate to their parents may feel weird, it’s not only good—it’s necessary. The key is learning to live in the tension that changing from season to season requires.

 

Bottom Line: Growing away from our families feels uncomfortable, but it’s an essential part of growing up.

EVOLVE

When we were growing up, our family was everything to us. Our parents were our superheroes, our idols, and everything we looked forward to being. I remember when I was younger about writing about my hero, my dad, making sure I added something about my mom in the story as well. They were our safe place to run to. They were our calm in the storm. They were the people whose opinions we trusted most and whose advice we took to heart. But then over the years, and especially the teen years, the voices of our moms and dads become more like nails on a chalkboard than the sweet sound of comfort. We seemed to almost be in physical pain when they tried to talk to us about anything, even if it was just asking how our day was. I think most of us probably did experience some physical pain when we were asked “where are you going?” or “what are you doing tonight?”

So what happened? Where did that closeness, trust, and comfort go?

What happened was that our relationship evolved. And while that isn’t necessarily the most comfortable thing in the world for a teenager to go through, it also isn’t the worst thing either. So what do we do as our students become less and less willing to listen to the wisdom their families give? How do we handle the everyday conflicts that come up between children and their families? How do we open the eyes of not only the youth, but their parents as well? These are important questions worth finding answers to. Because, let’s face it, the relationship is changing whether we want it to or not. But as difficult as this may be to handle right now, that change can be for the good of everyone.

Over the next few weeks I will be bringing you more understanding of what I mean by this. We will see somewhat of a 3 part series as to how to help this awkward situation that everyone faces. And my hope is that readers of all ages will have some sort of a takeaway and be able to relate to anyone going through this. For the parents, be sure to pay attention because this may be an eye opener. And youth, or non-parents, be sure to read with an open mind and try and see both sides.

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HOPE

We have all seen it. Kids bored to death in a church service. Youth not paying attention at all to the word is being preached, but to their phones or each other instead. Younger children fighting in the middle of a supposedly “fun” message because they have no clue that something is actually going on.

Whose fault is it really though?

In most cases you blame the audience. There is usually a smaller percentage that actually is listening and is giving you their full attention, so you just think the others are being rude. In youth groups, you may think they are rebelling, since it is that time in their life. Go a little bit younger though and what’s the excuse? Is it honestly always the child’s fault?

It may be. There may be something behind the scenes that no one knows is going on. Their parents may not have raised them right, there may be trouble at the home, they may be getting bullied at school or just having a difficult time. So yes, it’s the child’s fault……. Right?

Wrong!

I mean yes, there may be underlying things going on that you don’t know of, but as a teacher, a minister, a youth group leader, a pastor, you have to be the one to reach out to that one. Not just stick to the books and what’s planned for that day, but to show God’s light and love.

But guess what? If there aren’t any behind-the-scenes things going on, it is still YOUR fault if they are not paying attention. You may have an awesome curriculum, something that’s highly interactive and full of games! But are you just reading it? Are you just going by the script and being dull? Raising your voice a little on certain words doesn’t mean you are being entertaining! Curriculums are for ideas, not play by plays. Just read them, know what the plan is, and wing it!

This site, this blog, is to provide HOPE, ways of Helping Other People Enter into the kingdom of heaven and to explode generations of believers that are excited about their beliefs and know their foundation. Lets shake this planet and ignite a fire in the hearts of people. Go meet someone new. Go help someone out. Go be a light to someone today!