When You Get It All Together

Photo by Roberto Hund

Video of this devotional available HERE.

Have you ever wondered if God really loves you? I mean, there are enough struggles and challenges in life that no one could blame us. Why do things happen the way they do? Not only that, but when I look in the mirror and see my inner flaws – the things I know I should do better, but don’t – the faults, the shortcomings, and ways we even disappoint ourselves. All of it might make us wonder if an all-knowing and holy God could really love someone like me.

Dane Davis wrote, “Sometimes we doubt God’s love for us because of our own insecurities. At other times, we doubt his love because our sin seems too big to forgive. And honestly, at times we just have a hard time wrapping our minds around the notion that the creator of this huge universe would care about us….In many ways, you and I are both unlovable. So how could God love me? How could God love you?”

Maybe we think if we were extra good, or overcame some bad habits, or gave up some vice like abusing alcohol or nicotine or cursing or overeating that God would love us more. I’ve got two good things to share with you:

First, yes, following after Jesus Christ calls us to make some significant changes in our lives. We’ll spend all of our days becoming more and more like Him. None of us will do that perfectly – but we put in the effort. That’s discipleship. But… 

Second good thing is this: You don’t have to get it all together to get God to love you. In fact, you can’t get it all together without Him!

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

That means that YOU are loved, right now, where you are, like you are. To me, that means that God always holds the door open just for YOU … if you want to come in … He welcomes you. Today. If we can help you make some next steps in your life, please get in touch. 

Book Review: The Recovery-Minded Church

The Recovery-Minded Church: Loving and Ministering to People with AddictionThe Recovery-Minded Church: Loving and Ministering to People with Addiction by Jonathan Benz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jonathan Benz with Kristina Robb-Dover have given the church quite a gift in this book. I picked it up a few years ago and just recently re-engaged and I’m so glad I did. I highly recommend it for all church ministers and leaders. Not only is it poignant and compassionate in its presentation of the struggle of addiction, the book contains an intensive on practical information for outreach into the recovery community. Some of my dearest friends are in recovery. So many wonderful people are engaging the recovery community. Many of them are finding a relationship with Jesus Christ to be the energy they need to overcome. As a minister, I want our church (and myself) to be ready to love, accept, walk with, and enjoy relationships with those in recovery. This book tells us how to do that. I’m very grateful.

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Have You Ever Felt Lost?

Photo by Dziana Hasanbekava

Video of this post available HERE.

Being lost is more than an unsettling feeling, it can be terrifying. Sometimes we feel a little lost in life. The big plans we had didn’t turn out like we wanted. The person we trusted wasn’t worthy of our trust. The promotion you thought you needed didn’t happen and now you have some big decisions to make. There are any number of life circumstances that can create that feeling of being lost. Even when we’ve had lots of experiences in life, sometimes we just aren’t prepared for what’s coming next.  Sometimes we even feel spiritually lost – like God is far away and doesn’t seem to be present like He used to be. 

This is a human experience – believe me, you’re not alone! I could give you a pep talk with several things you could do to turn around that lost feeling and start feeling like a winner again in five easy steps. But you’d know it’s not that simple. Life is complicated and there aren’t any simple answers. 

I am sure the disciples felt like like was coming unglued when they heard Jesus talking about leaving them. He had to go to the cross. He had to die. They had given up everything to follow him. When everything you expected and counted on is gone – what do you do then? That’s when Thomas said, in effect, we don’t know what to do. When you don’t know what to do, listen to Jesus. 

I AM THE WAY. Finding our way through this life can be complex and a struggle. Keep  your eyes on Jesus and listen to Him. He will show you the way.

I AM THE TRUTH. We feel so lost because there are so many voices we can listen to. They seem wise, smart, even provocative. But what we really need is truth – and Jesus gives us that above all.

I AM THE LIFE. Real life is found only in Jesus. Have you ever doubted that? Wandered off on your own? Decided you could find your own way? Only to discover that none of that works out. 

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6

I hope if you’re feeling lost today, you’ll turn your attention to Jesus to reroute your path to His way, to hear the truth from the Son of God, to experience life found when we make our way to the Father. The disciples found out that this was so true – in ways they couldn’t anticipate! And I have found that to be true as well. So will you. 

Recovery

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio
“…And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son…” -Luke 15:20 NLT

When we think about recovery, we might be tempted to think about someone else. It’s easy to do when the struggle someone else has is not one with which you can identify. However, when we point our finger at someone else we often fail to look in the mirror. When we see ourselves as God sees us, we are looking at someone in recovery. 

Recovery is a word that is often used for specific groups that are working at overcoming specific addictions and troubles. Although that is an appropriate use of the word, we would do well to recognize that we are all in recovery from something.

Our own weaknesses, the aggression and abuse of others, the presence of sin, and the availability of substances that we can easily become dependent upon are all pixels in the picture of the need for recovery.

In Luke 15 there are three parables about the lost being found. Perhaps one of the most impactful stories on our heart is the story of the lost son. There are two lost sons in that parable. One actually went away and wasted everything he had. One stayed home and had no gratitude for the blessings in which he lived. The one we call ‘prodigal’ decided to come home. Charles Hodge used to have a popular sermon called, “Will God Run?”. The answer is yes! God ran to meet his son, “filled with love and compassion.” 

The reason that story touches our hearts so much is that we identify with that prodigal in so many ways. He thought that because of his own sin and failure the father would not receive him back as a son. He was so wrong. He recovered his place as a beloved son when he returned home. 

Each September the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (https://www.samhsa.gov/recovery-month) observes Recovery month. That seems to me to be a good time to recognize the place of recovery in the work of Jesus through the church. Their theme this year is: Every Person. Every Family. Every Community.  

Every person is in recovery from something. 

Every family has someone to love and help through recovery.

Every community has both strugglers and the helpers.

No community, home, person is immune from the effects of addiction, abuse and the need to overcome the shame associated with personal struggle.

“Recovery-minded churches are prodigal churches … they celebrate God’s mission of healing and restoration in this world, because that’s what the prodigal God is all about – and because that’s where the joy, laughter and life are. So recovery-minded churches are those busy hanging ‘Welcome Home’ signs and stringing up balloons, or manning the grill while picking out dance tunes. They’re the communities that wayward children know they can go to and be received with open arms, regardless of where they’ve been.”

– Jonathan Benz, The Recovery-Minded Church

Forsythe is a recovery-minded church. We welcome recovery groups in our building every day of the week. That includes Sunday. The day you’re here. You’ve come to be welcomed and loved by your Father. And this month we will be focused on recovery. 

Review: Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad OnesAtomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantastic. It will require a re-read and absorption of the material, but James Clear has presented a revelatory exposure of the underlying currents that are driving our daily lives. In addition, he has given us clear paths to redirect. Without hyper-promising and over-asserting, he unravels the truth about habits and our thinking about about them in a way that I found both entertaining and educational. Each chapter begins with a great story, which helps make the entire book well worth reading. Now if I could only go back in time and get my 20 year old self to read this book.

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