Stop Loving Me So Much!

Philippians-3-8-web-nltThere are times in life where I feel like yelling at God, ‘STOP LOVING ME SO MUCH!’ To add to that thought, Paul’s words in Philippians 3:2-12 drive me insane! If I can be even more transparent, selfishly, I would rather live a comfortable life that is not affected by pain, turmoil, loss or defeat. Nobody enjoys trials. Nobody stands and says, ‘Bring it on LIFE!’ Nobody desires to be faced with one difficult circumstance after another!

I know this sounds extremely prideful, selfish, and some may say this mindset even goes against Scripture, but humanly speaking, I don’t want to suffer through day-to-day not knowing what may hit me next. In Philippians 3 we see some of Paul’s most astonishing words. He begins in verse 4 by letting everybody know that humanly speaking, he had the right to be boastful. In other words, he was better at life than most people during that time. He had accomplished more in his lifetime than most people put together.  (Thank you Richard Sherman for those words of wisdom.)

Paul goes on to describe everything he has accomplished – his historical background, vocational achievements, and family heritage. He had the perfect credentials of a Jewish man!

Then we pick up in verse 7 and see a completely different perspective of how Paul viewed his own success.

Philippians 3:7-12 – But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

Reading these words hurts… Honestly – it cuts right to the heart of our humanistic view of success, comfort, knowledge, and prosperity. After saying ‘I am better at life than you,’ Paul comes out and says, ‘none of it is worth anything.  In fact, I would rather suffer my way through life with Christ than to succeed based nf my own doing.

Paul takes it a step further and says, ‘I am willing to give everything up for the cause of Christ, including my own life.’ The concept of suffering until the point of death rattles my brain and rocks my world. It doesn’t make sense and honestly doesn’t put a smile on my face. I don’t want to suffer; I want to be comfortable!

And then I remember how incredibly powerful and gracious God’s love is for me, and also how incompetent I am when I fail to actively seek God’s face. As a prideful human, I must allow God to pick me, flip me upside down, and shake the craziness out of me! I must not wallow in my trials, but through God’s strength, overcome them. My purpose in life is to become more like Him – even to the point of willingly giving up everything for His sake! My prayer is to become content with being uncomfortable.

I don’t know why God puts up with me. I will never fully comprehend His love, grace, mercy, and faithfulness. I can only trust and believe in who He says He is. I have seen God at work in ways that doesn’t add up or make sense. I know His love for me is real, unconditional, and without limits! His desire is to see me become more like Him every day. The challenging part of this takes place in the midst of suffering. Even though God’s love for us can cover a multitude of sin and He is powerful enough to take us through anything, when we give our lives to Christ, we are guaranteed to face moments of difficulty. Often times, the more we experience His love, the tougher life becomes. Yet, this is often when we experience the most growth.  These are the moments we truly see how much Jesus cares for us individually and incredible His love is!

As you evaluate your own journey with Jesus, here are a few questions to seriously think through…

  • Are you living comfortably?
  • How are you seeking to know Christ and the power of His resurrection – sharing in His sufferings?
  • How are you being challenged spiritually?
  • Are you relying on the power of the Holy Spirit and the love of Christ to get you through every circumstance of life?

Peace in the Midst of Chaos

peace-in-the-chaosThis past week has been incredibly difficult, not only for our family, but also for several families close to us.  I have questioned God and argued with Him multiple  times over the past few days.  While I selfishly search for answers, I have missed that the Answer lies right in front of me – in the person of Jesus Christ!  He is our solution to anything life throws at us.  He is MY healer, redeemer, supplier, and protector!  He is peace in the midst of the storm, shelter in the midst of the rain, and comfort in the midst of the chaos!

It is so easy for us to become distracted from what God has for us, especially in the midst of difficult circumstances. We miss what He is teaching us and how He desires to use us in the midst of trials.  As humans, our instinct is to protect ourselves and find our identity in what we do.  I have been reminded over the past few days that I must find my identity solely in who Christ is and what He has done for me!  I am a child of God – loved by Him – shaped by Him – and identified through Him!

Whatever you are facing today, believe and trust that you can definitely find peace in the midst of chaos! There is nothing too difficult for God.  No trial, circumstance, or issue can overshadow His love, grace, and faithfulness!

Romans 8:28-39 says…

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those who God has chosen?  It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns?  No one.  Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

My prayer is that whatever live is throwing your way, you are able to take comfort in the promise of these verses!

Reblog: Youth Ministry Extinction Plan

Christ Centered Student Ministry Notes – Although I do not totally agree with this author, I love the theme and much of what he has to say!  As a father, I pray my kids see a great example of Christ in me!  As a youth pastor, without the partnership of parents, I am failing at my job, failing the family as a whole, and ultimately failing to live out God’s calling on my life!

Why We Need a Youth Ministry Extinction Planby Kent Evans

I love and respect the work youth pastors do. However, I hope to help make their role obsolete during my lifetime.

To all the youth pastors who wish they could write this post and not lose their job, you are welcome.

I love and respect the work youth pastors do. However, I hope to help make their role obsolete during my lifetime.

Then, these talented individuals can move onto easier ministry work like curing poverty or ridding the globe of suffering. Child’s play to a battle-tested youth pastor.

I’m a father of a youth-ministry-aged son, and here’s what I know: I and other fathers like me have a responsibility (a sacred opportunity, really) to shape our sons and daughters into godly men and women. We will be accountable for how well we held up our end of this deal.

Granted, our children will need to choose the right path later. We won’t be on the hook for every decision they make into adulthood. But, we must set them on as level a course as possible.

But, you know what too many of us do?

We turn this work over to the church.

We believe our job is to drop them off on time and let the youth pastor instill godly character. And most folks in youth ministry feel like they are swimming against a tsunami of slack parenting (there, I said it).

In two hours a week, we expect them to unwind the ill effects of the other 166.

In fact, some youth ministries essentially (but unintentionally) discourage parents from volunteering in the ministry. They don’t quite know what to do with a parent who wants to engage and walk alongside their child through this crucial life stage. They look at parents like a dog looks at a fork.

And I don’t blame them for it, I sympathize with them! We men have taken such a slack approach to fathering that we have forced them to play a role they were never meant to play: surrogate parent to our children.

I think I speak on behalf of a new generation of fathers who are taking their role seriously when I say this: We apologize for putting you in that position. We will do better in the future. Invite us to play key roles in your ministry, we will come alongside you and do our part.

I hope, in my lifetime, we witness the extinction of the youth pastor role. Not because these people aren’t doing heroic work. But because the rightful owners of this role stood up and filled it.

When I’m old and gray, I want to be taking my kids to the National Museum of Youth Ministry. I want to walk past wax statues of men and women who once played that role like the telephone switchboard operator or the ice-block delivery guy.

There will be a wing dedicated to the youth pastors at my home church—they are tireless kingdom workers.

“See boys, that there is what we used to call a ‘youth pastor’! These amazing men and women of God stood up and filled a huge gap during a crucial time in our history. Those brave souls accomplished their mission and performed mighty deeds for The Lord! They also ate a lot of pizza.”

“What happened to them, Gramps?”

“Fathers happened to them, son. Fathers happened.”