Confessions of a Confused Christian

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Morning Joy: When Will Morning Come?

I determined long ago to name this blog Confessions of a Confused Christian. However, as I recently went back over many of the posts, I realized there was not a lot of confessing or confusion. Every post seemed to always resolve itself into total assurance. It seemed as though there was no real faith struggle that every i was always dotted and every t was always crossed. I admit that some of the reasoning is because I switched my primary means of communication from this blog over to Facebook. However, even there, I could see that most posts talk about how great my faith is and an outsider may think my faith does not waver.
So, here I am pondering this moment of how deep to go; how much to share. It is difficult to use written words as a form of communication because it is impossible to sense the tone and emotion behind the words. However, since the blog has the words confused and confess in it, I feel it is only appropriate to confess my confusion. Sometimes I really struggle in my faith. I struggle in my relationship with God. I often do not see relevance in the church. When I read the Bible, I am often confused. I read of a church in the first century that seemed so honest, so real yet I see much of the church today being so superficial. I see people in the New Testament fighting for what they stand for, and I see so many Christians today fighting about what they are against. We rally and protest and get loud and rarely love, I mean truly love. We are well known for what we are against, but rarely show what we are for. That confuses me. Am I supposed to stand in a line and picket the abortion clinic, or am I to present a cup of water to a hurt woman who just made the decision to abort the baby? Which would Jesus do? If I show love to her am I now saying I support abortion? Must I yell and spit so I can prove I am a Christian or was Jesus actually telling the truth when he said they will know we are Christians by our love?
The truth is I am often confused. I have been hurt. I have felt abandoned and betrayed. I have been hurt by the church. I have bought the lie that I had to be against all the things I am supposed to be against and somewhere along the way I have forgotten what I am supposed to be for. I have often tried to please church people and in the process have found myself drifting further and further away from who God has truly called me to be. I have been hurt by the church. I have been hurt to the point that it is often difficult to differentiate if it is people or God who is hurting me. Why must it be so difficult?
One of my favorite verses has been Psalm 30:5 which declares, “For his anger lasts only a moment,but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” What a comforting thought to know that joy comes in the morning. However, sometimes it seems that morning will never come. I often identify with the poet Emily Dickinson who penned these words: 
Will there really be a “Morning”?
Is there such a thing as “Day”?
Could I see it from the mountains
If I were as tall as they?
Has it feet like Water lilies?
Has it feathers like a Bird?
Is it brought from famous countries
Of which I have never heard?
Oh some Scholar! Oh some Sailor!
Oh some Wise Men from the skies!
Please to tell a little Pilgrim
Where the place called “Morning” lies!
Will morning joy ever come? Or will we just remain in tears of mourning? Will joy find it’s way into our lives, or are we destined to lie in constant wait? I confess that God confuses me and His word sometimes troubles more than it comforts. There are times in our lives when it hurts so much we just can’t see the joy coming. We feel the pain and experience the darkness which seeks to consume us. So we wait. We sit in the dark of night waiting for the morning joy to come. We long to feel anything other than the current hell we are experiencing. We look to God, even in the midst of what seems like His silence and we wait. We hope. We look toward that morning light which will bring the joy. However, in the meantime, we wait and search for the place where morning lies.

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Saturday, February 07, 2015

Power & Hope: Lessons Learned From the Africa Children's Choir

Last night, my family went to see the African Children’s Choir. This was about the third time we have seen this choir perform and each time has been amazing. Last night was no exception. The group of children made the entrance with shouts of jubilation as they danced on the stage. The enthusiasm and power they showed were quite impressive. We clapped and cheered and sang along as they performed their songs and dances.
One of the most touching moments for me personally took place a little over half way through the evening. The children came out one at a time saying their name and what they wanted to be when they were older. I loved hearing about their dreams of being pilots, police officers, teachers, bankers, and pastors. I thought about what life must have been like for them early on. Most came from a home with at least one parent deceased or not present for whatever reason. Many had no running water, no substantial source of income. They all came from poverty. These children had seen and experienced more heartache in their young lives than most people experience in a lifetime. They could easily have the mindset that they have no real future. We may look at people of similar circumstance and have little hope they will become anything significant. Yet, they had the dream and vision and hope of becoming the best they could. They refused to buy the lie that they were insignificant.  They refused to let their dreams die. They desire to beat the odds and become someone of great significance.
The true reality is they are already significant. They were created in the image of God. They were deemed worthy of the blood of Jesus as he died to give them hope and a future that far exceeds anything they could ever even dream. The stage presence of these children possessed such power that you believed they would become all those things they said they wanted to be. Yet that fails in comparison to the awesome power of our Lord working in the lives of people. His power is available to all. He is the source of all power and all hope. As the children sang He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, I could not help but recognize how true that really is. He holds it all together. The stars, the land, the sea are all held together by Him. Mankind finds hope in Him. He’s got the homeless in His hands. He’s got  the widow in His hands. He’s got the child walking 45 minutes for water to do laundry in His hands. He loves the fatherless. He loves the single mother struggling to love and care for her kids and pay the bills. He loves the dad who works long hours to provide the best way he knows how. God loves the athletic and the uncoordinated. He loves the educated and uneducated. God loves the prostitute and the nun. He loves the rich and the poor. He loves you and me. He’s got the whole world in His hands. Therefore we can dream. We can hope. We have a future. We have love and acceptance no matter what this world throws at us. We have God, therefore we have all we need.

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

God's Dream team

The closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics takes place tonight. I always enjoy watching the Olympic events. I like the stories and the athleticism that a part of the games. One of the stories this year was in the arena of basketball. Kobe Bryant made an implication that the current USA basketball team could beat the original dream team of 1992.  Sports radio and newspaper articles immediately debating. Could basketball players such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Lebron James beat guys like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, David Robinson, and Larry Bird? I heard arguments both ways, but most seemed to agree that the edge would belong to the 1992 team. 

In listening to people discuss the strengths and weaknesses of both groups, my mind began to wander and wonder. What if God were to assemble His dream team? What would that look like? There would be brave men and women who would obviously be chosen first, right? You would have to include a man like Abraham so faithful and trusting that he would pack up his family and leave even when he had no clue where God would lead him. You would probably include Noah who stayed faithful when all others turned away. he built a boat when he had never seen rain. You would probably include a guy like Moses who stood fearlessly before Pharaoh and demanded him to let God's people go. What about David who fought a giant and killed him? He would have to be included. What about Peter who stood fearlessly stating that he would obey God rather than man, whatever the cost may be? He would have to be on God's dream team. Who could possibly forget Paul who was beaten and left for dead because he preached the gospel, yet he still fulfilled his mission. He definitely needs to be on God's dream team.

All these men may make you and feel as though we have no place on God's dream team. I mean we may love God, but have we been tested like these men? Have you and I been beaten and left for dead? Have we built a boat when we never saw rain? Have we killed a giant because he disrespected God? Have we faced prison for being a Christian? It seems that God's roster must be full. Surely there is no room for us. I mean we fall short in so many ways. We doubt. We mistreat people sometimes. We give in to pressure. Is there any hope?

Fortunately God's team is also made up of guys like Abraham, who despite great faith also expressed fear and told his wife to lie and say she was his sister. It is made up of guys like Noah who after being delivered from destruction got off the ark and passed out drunk. It is made up of guys like Moses who doubted God's ability and decision making. It is made up guys like David who committed adultery and tried to cover it up by having the lady's husband murdered. It's made up of guys like Peter who gave into pressure and denied even knowing Jesus. It's made up of guys like Paul who was a murderer. So, perhaps there is room for you and I.

God calls us to become a part of His team - His dream team. He looks at our faults and finds goodness. He looks at our doubts and finds mustard seed sized faith. He looks at our darkness and offers light. He looks at our restlessness and offers peace and rest. "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." It's as though he is saying, I know you feel alone in this world. I know you feel there is no one to support you, no one who cares for you, no one who will pick you. I know sometimes you feel like the kid on the playground that nobody wants to have on their team, but God's says, "I want you on MY team. Come to me." Will you join God's team? Will you thank him for choosing you. He knows you are imperfect, that's why He chose you. Will you just relish in the fact that He wants you on His team?

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Our True Identity

So much time has passed since I last posted. In fact, I do not know that I have updated my blog since just after the new year. So much has changed in my life and I have been trying to process it all. Life is like a roller coaster ride. It is filled with ups and downs and sudden twists that take you completely by surprise. Sometimes all we can do is hold on tight and trust we will make it through the ride safely and with a better appreciation for the calm moments.
It feels as though the last 10 months or so have been a giant roller coaster with sudden turns and corkscrews and loops with no area of straight track. It feels as though I am holding on tight and trying not to fall out. What I am learning is to trust the ride operator. God is guiding and leading and I am slowly learning to trust Him, loosen my grip on the safety bar, and enjoy the ride. In all honesty, it has been an incredibly painful  and emotional lesson, but I am thankful for what I am gaining from the ride.
Back in October, our then one-year-old son, Joshua was admitted into the hospital. We were told by the hospital staff and doctors that he was near death. We brought him in just in time. Our life was rocked. Nothing else mattered to us except making sure our baby was okay. We cried; we prayed; we worried; we stood strong; we struggled, but still trusted in God. After about a week in the hospital , he was released and doing well. This was one roller ride we did not want to experience again. We learned valuable faith lessons, but no parent wants to see their child suffer like that.
Fast forward a few weeks. I sat in my office responding to emails and working on a children's Christmas musical for the church. An elder approached me and said I was needed in the conference room. I sat down and listened as the elders asked me to resign as children's minister. My heart sunk. I did not know how to respond. I was always told that I was a great teacher and the kids were learning so much, yet it was explained that because of my struggle to find teachers, I needed to resign my position. Every emotion imaginable overtook my spirit: anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, and even relief. It is hard to explain. I was quite bitter for a couple of months. I felt like such a failure. I was depressed.
I struggled to find any type of work at all. I applied at retail stores, restaurants, and even fast food places. With each rejection, I sank a little lower. I finally took a job cleaning a department store and probably wouldn't have even found that job if my brother-in-law hadn't recommended me. I wondered what was wrong with me. I wondered how I could have my ministry taken away from me. Nothing seemed to matter at that point. Rather, I didn't think I mattered at that point. I felt so low; so useless; so powerless. I sat in the worship service not knowing what to do. I had always had some role to fill - preach the sermon, teach the class, lead the communion, be up front, share a word of wisdom - now I just sat there. Yes, I understand that one does not need to be up front to participate in the worship and life of the church, but that was all I had ever known. Now, I felt...insignificant. All I had ever worked for was gone.
I was one the roller coaster of life and it was making me sick. I became disoriented from all the turn and sudden drops. I cried the ride operator (Jesus) for help. He didn't stop the ride, he didn't even slow it down -  but  he did teach me how to learn from the ride and even enjoy some of the moments. I learned a very valuable lesson. My identity is found in being God's child - nothing more, nothing less. My identity is not a title of minister, it is not a great sermon, or a good lesson. My identity is not found in being a good teacher. My identity is not wrapped up in my ability to organize. It is not found in being an introvert or an extrovert. My identity is found in Jesus. My identity is not others expectations of me. My identity is God's son. I had never realized I viewed my identity in being a minister and having a title, but when that was taken away, I had never felt so insignificant. I have now learned my true identity. I am God's and He is mine.
Do I miss doing full time ministry -yes, I miss parts of it. I miss teaching and preaching. But I will not trade the valuable lesson I have learned. It nearly cost me everything, but I have gained the only thing that mattered. I have gained an understanding of my true identity.
The roller coaster did not end there. You can read about Kellie's job change and see that God is still trying to teach us something. Sometimes, I just want to scream out, "Okay God I get it. You can stop now." But I am so thankful for this new-found identity. It was there all along, it just took a major wake up call to realize I was burying it somewhere and didn't even realize it.
My life looks much different today than it did a year ago. I am now a forklift operator at a local warehouse. It is so different from what I am used to and I struggle to find my place there sometimes. I used to preach about staying faithful during the darkest times of life and now I am experiencing what that means. I once talked about freedom in Christ and now I am truly experiencing it. I am God's child - nothing more, nothing less. Lord teach me to always find my identity in you.

I Will Lay Down My Life for You

John records a scene in chapter thirteen of his gospel about Jesus that is so heartbreaking. Jesus knows that his time to bear the cross is drawing near. In verses 37-38, we are told of an incident that brings tears to eyes of many. “Peter asked him, ‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life you.’ Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” Can you see the tears in Jesus’ eyes as he speaks those words? Can you hear the pain in his voice? He knows that Peter loves him. He knows that Peter is sincere, but he also knows that Peter will indeed deny him three times.
How many times do we deny Christ? How many times do we say with all sincerity, “I will lay down my life for you,” but when the hardship comes we deny him? With a compassion that can only be felt by our Lord, he weeps and cries over us. With tears in his eyes and with nails in his hands and feet, he says, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” He forgave Peter for denying him, just as he continually forgives us.

Today, make up your mind to celebrate that forgiveness. Rejoice with Peter in experiencing the grace and mercy of a God who loves us beyond all comprehension. Even now as you have so many thoughts on your mind and heart about all those times you denied your Jesus, you can take comfort in those words spoken on the cross and for eternity, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The incarnation

Here is part 2 of the Forklift Evangelist Christmas series. Check out the youtube channel for other videos.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Missing the Messiah: A devotional thought from the forklift evangelist

I started a series called Forklift Evangelist. Here is the first of the Christmas series. Let me know what you think.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

How is your heart?

Nearly a month has passed since that day. I had not been feeling well. I was constantly fatigued and kept having dizzy spells.

After a lot of prodding from my wife, I finally decided to go to the hospital. The doctor ran all kinds of tests. I had CT scans and ultrasounds, treadmill test, and an echo cardiogram. I wore a heart monitor for nearly a month. No major problems were found, but a lot of monitoring was done.

I began to think about our spiritual life. What if we had the ability to look into our spiritual hearts? What would we see? Would our heart be healthy? Would we see areas of concern that we needed to focus on? Would there be changes we would need to make?

I believe we do have such a spiritual heart monitor. The Bible is a guide, a monitor that can expose our heart’s true spiritual condition. It shows areas where we are in need of change.

How is your heart? Do you see the areas that need work? Do you need to incorporate a healthy diet of study of God’s word? Ask God to show you what changes you need to make.

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