Monthly Archives: March 2014

My Friend, Paul

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Paul Miller(I wrote this after spending some time in prayer for my friend who is suffering.

I’m sharing it with you to ask you to pray with me for him.)

Strong, tender, sometimes stubborn like me

True, faithful, anointed is he

A guy you can trust

A man of his word

An ally

A champion

A friend when life’s blurred

Through shadows of darkness

And storms of great pain

He has stayed the course over

And over again

In moments of doubt

And despite days of despair

He worries of others

And seeks out their care

I weep for his burden

I ache for his loss

Were it possible somehow

I would carry his cross

Yet still in this season

Filled with questions and great tears

I thank God for Paul

And for all of these years

A man you can count on

Through the thick and the thin

My brother

My buddy

My hero

My friend

 

Two guys 3

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10 Responses to My Friend, Paul

  1. Brought tears to my eyes and a smile on my face. My heart is overflowing for the Miller family

Hold On or Give Up?

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Adolescent Girl with Head in HandsShe looked at me with hopelessness as deep as the ocean in her eyes. “I’m tired of holding on to a dream that seems more elusive with each passing day.” Then she literally screamed through her tears, “What’s the point of hoping my husband will change when he’s more abusive now than ever before?”

Have you ever held on to a dream for so long that it’s become a nightmare? What once filled you with hope and gave you strength now sucks the marrow right out of your bones. Your dreams, your prayers, and your promises from God seem to mock you now and leave you in a cesspool of despair.

Maybe it’s not been weeks or months, but years and decades of waiting. For a season, you prayed hard and believed in faith for great things, but your prayers are only whimpers now and you can smell the stench of bitterness growing in your soul.

“Will my son ever be free of drugs?”

“Will I ever get pregnant?”

“Will I ever find a spouse and the love of my life?”

If one more person tells you to “hold on”, you’re going to hurt somebody! If you hear “let go and let God” one more time, you’re going to go crazy!

You’re tired of the struggle and exhausted from sleepless nights filled with worry. Nothing in you wants to go through another day of wondering and waiting. You love God, but you’re not sure He’s paying any attention to your life, so you’ve withdrawn to the shadows of hopelessness for now.

Give up dark street

I’ve been there. Like you, I know the agony of waiting. Of course, my story is different from yours, and yours might be darker than mine. But I’ve lived a chunk of my life in the shadow of death too.

So here’s what I’m not going to do:

•    I’m not going to give you three steps to finding victory over your despair.

•    I’m not going to offer some advice about how to make all your dreams come true.

•    I’m certainly not going to be another voice that tells you to suck it up!

There are only two things I humbly propose you consider:

•    You are not alone in that valley of darkness (even though you feel like you are).

•    You only need to take the next step.

I look back now over the sea of decades in my life, and I realize that in some of my darkness moments, God was there. Honestly, I didn’t feel Him or even trust Him at times, but He was there nonetheless.

I understand telling someone they are not alone can be quite irritating when they think they are abandoned. There’s a part of us that wants to blame God for our predicament. So being told “He is with you” makes us even madder and even more frustrated.

“If God is with me, WHY the heck is this happening?!”

Give up dark alleyI have no simple or pat answers to offer, but I know He has never left me, and I know I have never truly been alone. Neither are you.

David sometimes felt alone and abandoned, but he wrote these words of truth in perhaps the best known Psalm on the planet, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me” Psalm 23:4 (NIV).

Today, get up and take one step forward. Choose to take one step in the right direction even when you feel desperate and afraid. (Tweet this!) You might take several steps backwards in the process, but press on because the alternative is worse.

“But I’m so tired . . . I don’t think I can face another day of anguish.“

I know.

Just face the next minute and the next hour . . . one step at a time.

Marathons are exhausting. (I’ve finished two of them, so I know.) When you hit the wall every fiber of your being screams at you to stop, to quit, and to give up. Do you want to know how to finish? You take the next step, and you put one foot in front of the other. Through the wind, the rain, the storm, and the pain, you choose to press on one moment at a time.

Give up Next Step Runner Foot

Trust me, the finish line is coming. One way or the other, in this life or the next, you’ll cross that line and hear those words, “Well done, son/daughter, you stayed the course, and I’m proud of you.”

Hold on or give up? The choice is yours, and you are loved no matter what, but you will never regret pressing on.

May I pray for you?

Father, sometimes in anguish we pray the prayer of Jesus, ‘Take this cup from me!” and we’re terrified. Sometimes we feel lost and stuck in the swamp of our struggles. Sometimes we wonder if You care or if You’re really there in the shadows of our misery. Help us. Hold us. Somehow, by Your grace, empower us to take the next step even when we are afraid, empty, and weak. We are desperate for You.

Give up Marathon Sunset

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)

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12 Responses to Hold On or Give Up?

  1. Kurt,

    Thanks for the encouragement. Thanks for not giving 3 easy steps! The darkness that we can find ourselves in is about our perception, not God’s presence. it’s good to be reminded of that while we’re taking our steps in the dark.

  2. Interesting and so true. I just wrote in my personal journal on March 24th the times in my life that I have felt abandoned, totally. I labeled one period “the murder of my soul”. BUT this: “The One who never leaves you is the same One who never changes.’ (Sarah Young, Jesus Calling). He will NEVER LET GO OF MY HAND. Reminding me of a childhood dream, walking down my neighborhood street, and Jesus holding my hand. He still is. Sometimes I just forget.

  3. The thing that got me thru the hardest time of my life was remembering that it was all about the “Audience of One”. I would literally tell myself to pull back the covers to put one leg out of the bed, then the next, to get up, to get dressed, to go to work, to cry out to God (I mean HE already knew what I was feeling so I wasn’t going to pretend or lie to HIM in my anguish or frustration) when I felt like there was no hope. In those moments I would know that no matter what my circumstances were I knew that God would have me. That HE would NEVER leave me, that no matter what I felt at the moment that HE had NOT abandoned me. Good words Kurt, it’s the one step at time, getting thru the moment, telling yourself to keep going and to keep knowing that even when it doesn’t feel like it HE is still there.

    • Love it, Pat, you’re right . . . it’s all about our audience of One! Thanks for your insights.

  4. The last four years have been very difficult for me, which incudes many bad choices, decisions and circumstances of life. However, I never let go of my Faith and contiunued to Pray. I constantly felt I needed God’s reassurance and presence to survive, but I now realize He was teaching me Faith is supported by Trust in Him. I need to Trust in my Faith with GOD!

  5. The Holy Spirit lead me to this today. After reading the 1st few lines… I thought that sounds just like me this morning! I have to admit that I had reached the point of giving up. After all, God would still love me and I could at least move on and get on with my life. You see, I’ve been praying… hoping and standing that my marriage would be reconciled after 11 years. Recently she contacted me out of the blue and asked for forgiveness and wants to come home. Promised she wanted to be my wife and do God’s will and keep the covenant We had made before Him. I had already forgiven her and wanted to reconcile for His Glory.

    She told me this morning that she had met someone and we “needed to talk…” My flesh gave in to letting her know that I was done “waiting in vain” and for her and to just sign the divorce papers.

    I regret that now after reading this. I will be praying that He uses this to strengthen us both and that the deception ends. In the end all I really want is to Glorify God and that others would see Him through me.

    Thanks for these words, and for your prayers.

    • Paul, heartbroken for you . . . praying right now for Jesus to bring His healing touch to both of you and your marriage. You are loved.

Do You Struggle to Forgive?

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Forgivness FreedomShe was in my face and spitting fire!

“Are you telling me I HAVE to forgive my ex-spouse? If so, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in church or anywhere else! You have NO idea what that %#@*^ has done to me!”

Actually, I did have a pretty good idea of the abuse she’d suffered. It was tragic and heartbreaking. Nonetheless, I told her what I have learned from firsthand experience, “We forgive because we’ve been forgiven, and we forgive so that we can live free.”

Learning to forgive (yourself or others) is perhaps the single most important key to longterm health and happiness.

Jesus knew it would be hard, but He offered no wiggle room on this issue.

Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”  Matthew 18:21-22

His point? Forgive and know that forgiveness has no limits.

forgiveness womanWhy do we find it hard to forgive others and ourselves?

1.    We don’t understand the depth and reality of God’s forgiveness for us.

In our gut we know sin requires judgment. Human beings have a God-given sense and awareness of the need for justice. That’s why we always root for the underdogs, especially when they’re in battle against evil. That’s why we demand punishment of law-breakers. In our heart, we know sin necessitates judgment.

So when God steps into our lives with His mercy, grace and forgiveness (and He only does so by our invitation by the way) something in us goes on tilt. Something in us worries that it’s just too easy and therefore too good to be true. It’s easier to pay penance than it is to fully accept God’s grace. And because we fail to understand or believe in His unmerited goodness, we all too often live as if we are still in debt and unforgiven.

But here’s what the Bible says, “If we confess our sins to him, God can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong” 1 John 1:9 (TLB).

C.S. Lewis once said, “I think that if God forgives us, we might as well forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting ourselves up as a higher tribunal than God.”

Tragically, if we don’t understand the depth and reality of God’s forgiveness for us, and we don’t forgive ourselves—that wound is going to bleed over into our relationships with others. We won’t live free or love freely.

forgiveness is freedom

2.    We listen too often to the voice of the “accuser.”

In Revelation 12, the Apostle John refers to Satan as the “accuser” and as one who accuses us before God night and day. He paints the picture of Satan attempting to point out our failures to God.

“Look at that one who calls himself a Christian! Look at his stupidity and sin!”

You don’t have to be a Christian very long to realize that the “voice” of our enemy often works against us and against our acceptance of God’s mercy.

•    Satan is the “voice of despair” that tries to rob us of our peace and joy.

•    He’s the one who tries to tell us that we’ll never change . . . that we’ll never get beyond the borders of our past . . . that the stain of our sin is too deep and too dark to ever really be completely washed away.

•    He’s the voice of doubt that tries to cause us to question the goodness of God.

forgiveness man beachThat’s why I love the scene in John 8 of the woman caught in the very act of adultery. Dragged before Jesus, she is condemned by her fellow citizens to die, and yet, as her accusers vanish one by one, it says in John 8:8-10: Jesus stood up again and said to her, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, sir,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

This vividly demonstrates that God is for us, not against us. We must learn to turn off the voice of the accuser and listen only to the voice of truth—the voice of our Father who is not mad at us, but mad about us!

Forgiveness Woman Caught

There are certainly other significant and tragic reasons why we find it hard to forgive, but these two must be dealt with if we are to live free:

•    You must know and embrace the depths of God’s forgiveness in your life for it is the key to softening your heart toward others.

•    You must learn how to recognize the lies that come against you from the pit of hell.

Yup . . . forgiveness is hard. Learning to walk in a lifestyle of forgiveness isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is the secret to your heart’s healing. (Click to Tweet)

By the way, my friend and bestselling author, Ted Dekker, recently released a book called Water Walker and the theme is forgiveness! Here’s the link for a free episode of this incredible book: http://www.theoutlawchronicles.com/download

Forgiveness Water Walker

May I pray for you?

“Father, teach us to forgive as we have been forgiven. Help us to learn to recognize Your voice above our own self-talk, the voices of others, and the voice of the enemy. Continually overwhelm us with the epicness of Your grace in our lives. Cause our lives to be marked by Your mercy in such a powerful way that others see You in us and are drawn to Your grace. Amen.”

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8 Responses to Do You Struggle to Forgive?

  1. Remembering…not only asked by Jesus to forgive “but to the contrary, blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing”. Oh-h-h-h so hard to say “bless him Lord”.
    I don’t know the result of that prayer was for him, but I do know that I inherited blessing after blessing after blessing.

  2. Forgiveness. I so agree with you Kurt. It was so important to Jesus that there was a consequence for NOT forgiving. Mark 11:25
    “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” We, who are in the lost and FOUND department, have a responsibility to do what Jesus says. Only by the empowering of the Holy Spirit, I believe, is the only way that we can do it. Allowing the Spirit to be inside of us do we begin to really live. IMHO. Love what you write, Kurt!!!

  3. Thank you for the prayer offered up for me(us). The words you chose covered exactly what I would have requested prayer for.

    • Don’t know what you’re going through . . . but praying for you right now, Laura. You are loved.

      • Thank you again. The points you made are good to be reminded of often. I just reread them again. {Sorry I gave you a wrong email account.} 🙂

May We All Be Irish (Guest post by James Emery White)

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St Pat HAPPY
It was a pagan world, outside the borders of the accepted disciplines and understandings of civilization.  But spiritual.  Deeply spiritual.  The supernatural was everywhere, in places and days, people and events, filling their lives with images, symbols and ritual.  The earth and all in it was sacred; gods and goddesses roamed the landscape; the world of magic was embraced; but there was no God who sat in Heaven, and no knowledge of a Christ who had come to earth.
 
Into this postmodern milieu, 1500 years before postmodernism was born, came Patrick, the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland (c. 5th century).  
 
Patrick did not come to his task by choice.  Kidnapped at the age of fifteen from his father’s villa in Britain, he was enslaved in Ireland and made to serve as a shepherd.  There he came into the fullness of Christian faith, and after six years of praying, finally made his escape.  But upon reaching his homeland, he had a dream where a man who seemed to come from Ireland handed him a letter titled “The Voice of the Irish,” and at the same time heard the voices of those who lived “beside the Wood of Foclut, which lies near the Western Sea” asking him to “come back and walk once more among us.”  Patrick writes that he was “pierced to my heart’s core.”
 
Patrick returned to Ireland.  Not as a slave, but as a missionary.
 
The legends surrounding Patrick are, well, legendary.  He reportedly drove the snakes out of Ireland into the sea.  Whether true or not, there are no snakes in Ireland to this day.  Another is that he used the shamrock to explain the Trinity.  There may be some truth to this; pointing back to Patrick, the shamrock is the national flower of Ireland.  He is to have confronted and overpowered the druids; fasted for forty days and nights on a holy mountain; and openly challenged a king by lighting a fire for an Easter celebration in open opposition to the edict that only one fire was to burn in the land, and that for the pagan feast of Bealtaine.
 
St Pat Snakes
What is most apparent is that Patrick looked for ways to connect the message of Christ to a pagan, but supernaturalized, world.  In doing so, he imaginatively put himself in the position of the Irish.  Looking for what they held in common, Patrick made it clear that he, too, embraced a world full of magic.  As Thomas Cahill noted, the difference between Patrick’s magic and the magic of the druids was that in Patrick’s world, “all beings and events come from the hand of a good God”.  When Patrick arrived, the Irish were still practicing human sacrifice; Patrick made it clear that through Christ’s supreme sacrifice, such offerings were no longer needed.  Patrick took an entire culture’s leanings toward the spiritual and led them to Christ.
 
During Patrick’s time, all who lived outside of the boundaries, or walls, of Rome were called “barbarians” (literally, “without the walls”), and were to be avoided at all costs.  The Irish were barbarians.  Cahill writes that Patrick was the first Christian missionary to a culture outside of Rome’s world; “The step he took was in its way as bold as Columbus’s.”  Patrick simply wrote, “I came in God’s strength…and had nothing to fear.”  As a result, Maire B. De Paor writes that Patrick “not only changed the course of Irish history but made Ireland the burning and shining light of barbarian Europe for the best part of the next thousand years.”
 
So on the day that “everyone is Irish,” let’s wish for it to be of the kind modeled by the saint whose name marks the day.
 
James Emery White
 St Pat Clover
 
Sources
 
The Confession of Saint Patrick, translated by John Skinne.  [There are only two surviving works that can be attributed to Patrick:  his Confessio (“Confession”) and Epistola (his “Letter to Coroticus”).]
 
Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization.
 
Maire B. De Paor, Patrick: The Pilgrim Apostle of Ireland.
 
James Emery White, Serious Times (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press).
 
 

Editor’s Note

 
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones, is now available for pre-order.  To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit www.churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world.  Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.


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