Category Archives: Spiritual Growth

General blogs about how to grow in your faith.

The Realities and Struggles of Being in a Relationship with Humans (and How to Survive Your Own Humanness!)

The Realities and Struggles of Being in a Relationship with Humans (and How to Survive Your Own Humanness!)

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What was God thinking?

From the very beginning He gave us a free will—the ability to choose right or wrong—and from the start until now, we humans have chosen poorly. Consistently. (But that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. More on that in a bit.)

The first human couple blew it, badly, and then their son murdered his brother. Not a proud parent moment, but failure was in his nature because of the fall.

Fast forward to Abraham, the great patriarch of faith for three religions (count ‘em, three, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity). He truly was an amazing man, but he had plenty of moments during which he was anything but great. There was that time he lied about his wife, Sarah, and forced her to tell Pharaoh she was his sister. There was that time he slept with his wife’s servant Hagar (not God’s idea or a good relational move). There was that time he gave Sarah permission to mistreat Hagar. And then there was that time he listened to Sarah and sent Hagar and Ishmael off into the desert to live alone. Abe was awesome, but he failed often.

Then there’s the prophet, priest, and king named David. Like Adam, David started well but failed miserably. Eventually, David had a change of heart and repented, but he was far from perfect, and he blew it on more than one occasion. Don’t even get me started about his son Solomon, the wisest guy ever, but he ended up in a mess too.

Have you read the book of Judges? God’s people (the Israelites) were a band of nomadic screw-ups. They wandered from God on a regular basis. Frankly, if the chosen ones were consistent at anything, it was failure.

How about Peter, the rock, who denied Christ? Or Paul, who wrote nearly half of the New Testament and his sidekick, Barnabas, with whom he had a nasty blow out that didn’t end well.

Believe me, I could go on all day.

News flash: You’re a human in relationship with humans, and all humans fail. All. We mean well and try hard, but sin is ever crouching at the door, and we open that door way too often.

So what can we do?

  • Don’t despair. God is merciful, patient, and kind. He gets that we are but dust.

Of course, sin matters. Certainly, we are to cooperate with God in the development of spiritual maturity. However, we must keep our eyes fixed on the only One who is perfect and not wallow in hopelessness when we blow it or someone close to us fails. Whether it’s personal sin or the sin of someone you love, don’t let depression consume you. Put your confidence in the Author of hope.

  • Don’t give up. The reason for your hope is simple: God is more committed to your ultimate success than you are, and He has the power to transform you.

He will never give up on you, or me, or the ones we love. I love that the Word says, “God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished (Phil. 1:6).” And Jude wrote that “God is able to keep you from falling away.”

Here’s the destructive pattern for most humans: We fail (or watch others fail). We get discouraged. We quit.

Not so with our Father. What He started, He will finish. God is able even when we humans are not. Our part is to stay the course and not to throw in the towel.

el sol se asoma entre las nubes

  • Don’t stop repenting. What matters most is that rather than run from God, we run to Him with contrite and humble hearts every time we sin. Remorse and regret without repentance only results in hopelessness. Repentance alone leads to life.

Unfortunately, it’s our nature to run from God and hide. How long will it take to figure out that the answer to your sin problem is not denial but confession and repentance?

God is not angry with you. He will never reject you no matter what you’ve done or how many times you’ve done it. You can, in fact, approach Him with confidence because that’s where you find His mercy and grace.

Here’s the pattern God expects: We fail. We confess. We repent. We grow. We fail again. We confess again. We repent again. We continue to grow.

Jesus on the cross blur background

Understanding what God wants and accepts changes the way you deal with your personal sin. It also changes the way you treat others when they fail. Rather than pretending that you’ve got it all figured out, you extend the grace you have received from God. Rather than treating others with self-righteous contempt, you show mercy as God has shown mercy to you.

Failure is only fatal when we succeed at failing.

By that I mean, when we neglect to handle our shortcomings and sin through confession and repentance.  Make God both your hero and the answer to your fallen nature.

You and everyone around you is broken at some level. Get over it and stop expecting perfection. Learn how to deal appropriately with the reality of the human condition, and I promise, you’ll experience far more joy.

“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven,

whose sins are put out of sight.”

Romans 4:7 (NLT)

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2 Responses to The Realities and Struggles of Being in a Relationship with Humans (and How to Survive Your Own Humanness!)

  1. Yes, human failure is unavoidable, but certainly not the last word when it comes to God’s book. He is growing us, little by little, perfecting us more and more when we trust and obey Him, repent of our sins and forgive others.
    Blessings, Kurt!

THE TALE OF THREE BROTHERS (A Parable About Our Hearts)

THE TALE OF THREE BROTHERS (A Parable About Our Hearts)

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3 Brothers Dreary VillageLong ago in a small and dreary village by the sea, there lived three brothers. The name of the village was Despair, and it bordered the Sea of Anguish.

The brothers lived in the same house and worked in the same shop. Many years before, they lost their parents. They shared an identical history of tragic misery, but these three men had three very different hearts.

The oldest brother was named Ice. As far back as anyone could remember, Ice was distant and aloof. His entire life was spent surrounded by people who lived with dreadful hardships, but Ice lived emotionally isolated and secluded even from his brothers. Ice was uncaring, cold and hard.

3 Brothers 3 Trees B & W

The middle brother lived without the harshness of his older brother, but apathy and indifference marked his life in the Village of Despair. Fittingly, his parents named him Sand. Like the tiny grains of rock he was named for, Sand had a very small heart.

Sand wasn’t lazy, just emotionally empty. His days were filled with nothingness. No dreams. No passion. No desires of any great value. Bland Sand lacked enthusiasm and energy for anything. Just getting by was enough for him. Boredom was his middle name.

3 Brothers Fog Trees

The youngest brother, however, lived a far different life. His name was Fire. Passion for life and eagerness for an adventure filled every aspect of his existence.

Often ridiculed by his older brothers, Fire believed that things could change. With all his heart, he held on to the belief that someday the Great One of Longing would cross the Sea of Anguish and visit his sad village of gloom and misery.

Somehow Fire saw beyond the darkness of his past and the dreariness of his present to the horizon of possibilities. In fact, Fire was full of hopeful anticipation.

The people of the village were men and women much more like Ice and Sand than Fire. They were men and women who had lived so long in the shadows they no longer even thought of the light. Some lived their lives in quiet desperation, others in the angry coldness of their dark souls.

Dark Village

There were rumors of a far better time in the village before the fog of despair descended. In moments of uncommon transparency, some elders spoke of days long gone when the laughter of children filled the village square. They described a place of compassion and care and beauty. And they whispered (through tears) the name of the Great One of Longing who once lived among them in all His splendor. “A far better time,” they said, “A far better place before a dragon of destruction came and brought with him this dreadful cloak of shame and darkness.”

The three brothers had often heard these legends of a benevolent Ancient One who had once sent His Son, the Great One of Longing, and of their battle with an evil dragon.

Ice dismissed them as the foolish tales of dreamers.

Sand paid no attention and saw no value in these boring stories of days gone by.

3 Brothers Dark Moon

Not Fire, he believed. He held dearly to the conviction that someday and somehow, the Great One of Longing would return to set them free from the depraved works of darkness in their Village of Despair.

Days turned into weeks, weeks into years, and years into decades, but Fire stayed faithful and true. He knew in his soul that life was more than just living in the shadows.

Every morning, for as long as he could remember, Fire would walk to the sea cliffs just outside his village. He would sit there, sometimes for only minutes, other times for hours, looking east across the Sea of Anguish.

3 Brothers LIght in the East

Every day, the picture before him was the same: dark clouds, wicked winds, and storms of such horrific violence that not even seasoned fishermen would venture far from shore. Aptly named, the Sea of Anguish claimed many lives in her cruel waters.

One day, however, far to the east, Fire saw a sight that caused him to leap to his feet. For the first time in his life, he saw a light of indescribable beauty piercing through the darkness. Small at first, it grew and grew as it moved like a ship through the raging tempest.

3 Brothers Sea of Anguish

Then in his heart, he heard the voice of the Great One of Longing say, “Child, prepare for my arrival. I am coming soon to take you and all who will come, to a place of majesty I have prepared for those whose hearts are true.”

With a burst of unquenchable love and indescribable joy, Fire gathered his things and ran like the wind to the village square.

In compassionate boldness, he stood in the center of the market and shouted, “The Great One of Longing is coming! He will soon be here! Even now He is crossing the Sea of Anguish to come to our rescue! Prepare yourselves! Humble your hearts! The Ancient One has sent His Son again to restore our lost hope and to heal our broken lives!”

Upon hearing the commotion in the square and recognizing the voice of his brother, Ice left his shop to stop whatever madness his brother was up to now.

“Brother, end this foolishness,” Ice screamed, “Accept the reality of our lot, curse the Ancient One and die in despair with the rest of us!”

Ice despised his brother Fire more than ever before. His cold heart cracked with angry contempt at even the mention of the “Great One.”

Sand, now present and slightly embarrassed by this public display of emotion, simply shrugged his shoulders and walked away. He would not listen any longer to his younger brother’s foolishness or to his extremist dreams of hope for a better life.

3 Brothers Fog of Despair

Fire earnestly pleaded with his brothers and the crowd that had gathered, “We don’t have to live here anymore. We don’t have to suffer under the clouds of guilt and shame. We can live free from our broken past! The Great One of Longing is coming to rescue us and to give us a new life!”

Sadly, only a few had eyes to see and ears to hear these unfamiliar words of hope and faith. Only a few heeded his call to come. Only a few believed.

Fire, distraught but undeterred, remembered at that moment words recorded in the Scroll of Wisdom long forsaken by his people, the very words of the Great One of Longing, “Behold, I stand at the door of your hearts. I knock. If you hear me call and invite me in, you will know life beyond your wildest imaginations. Are your hearts open to me? Are your ears awake? Will you listen to the Wind Words, to the Spirit blowing through your souls?”

3 Brothers Light thru TreesUnfortunately, however, though many are invited, few choose well.

You see, the tale of three brothers is a tale of three hearts, and we decide the hearts we will live with—hearts of ice, sand, or fire. What type of heart do you have?

The choice is yours, and the Great One of Longing still calls all who are willing to come.

Hearts Come to Me

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WHY YOUR PAST DOESN’T HAVE TO DISQUALIFY YOU

WHY YOUR PAST DOESN’T HAVE TO DISQUALIFY YOU

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Past 1 God Chooses Losers

I love a good story, especially one where God chooses to use losers and idiots (like you and me).

A few years ago, I had coffee with a middle-aged man in our church. Mark was gifted and full of potential. However, I noticed that he’d stayed in the shadows and refused to get involved. When I asked him why, he replied, “Oh, I wish I could serve, but I’m divorced.”

I was flabbergasted. “Who told you divorced means disqualified?”

He took the next twenty or so minutes to tell me his story. He and his first wife married young. Neither one of them was a Christ-follower. They both came from broken and dysfunctional homes deeply bound by sexual sins. During the course of their ten-year marriage, both of them had multiple affairs. The fact that their marriage had survived as long as it did surprised everybody who knew them. Eventually, they “fell out of love” (I hate that phrase) and went their separate ways.

A few years later, after another failed marriage and two DUIs, Mark hit bottom and ended up in AA. His sponsor was the first person to ever tell Mark about Jesus. Eventually, he became a devout follower of Christ, and within another year or so he married a godly woman who loved Jesus with all her heart.

He was Lutheran. She was active in the Church of Christ. Neither one of them felt comfortable in the other’s denomination, so they decided to start fresh at a new church in their neighborhood. After just a few months, they were told, “You are welcome to attend our church, but you can’t serve here since you are living in sin.”

With tears in his eyes, Mark said to me, “We had no idea that God saw our new marriage as a mistake, but we couldn’t divorce each other. If that means we can’t serve God, so be it.”

I went from being flabbergasted to being pissed! How could anyone tell this man he was disqualified because of sin that had happened before he was even a Christ-follower? I grabbed my Bible and went pastoral on him. With a passion that surprised him, I assured this brother that he did not need to live as a second-class Christian.

Past 2 No 2nd Class Christians

Maybe you’ve read this verse: “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”[2] Or perhaps you’re familiar with Paul’s words to Titus, “God saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.”[3]

I looked Mark in the eye and said, “Buddy, everything that happened BC (before Christ) is gone! New birth and new life mean a new start, and we are never disqualified by what we did before we surrendered our lives to Jesus! In fact, the blood of Jesus covers all our sin, including the ones we committed after becoming a Christian. If we’ve confessed it and repented of it, no past sin can rob us of our destiny or disqualify us from service in God’s kingdom!”

It was his turn to be dumbstruck. It was as if the heavens parted and he heard the voice of God saying, “You are my beloved son, and I am well pleased with you.”

Is divorce a sin? Often it is, but it’s not the unpardonable sin. Why do we so easily doubt the goodness of God? Why do we listen to the gloomy voices of the self-righteous or the dark voice of the accuser? Why are we so quick to disqualify ourselves because of failure?

Here’s a crazy idea: Let’s stop making excuses, walk in forgiveness, and not let our regrets become a reason to opt out of living an epic life in Christ.

There’s something I need you to embrace and remember: Our past shapes us, but it doesn’t have to control us. Our history influences our future, but it shouldn’t imprison us. In Christ, we are more than the sum of our past mistakes.

Bottom line—God is bigger than your past and greater than your sins.

Past 3 God is Bigger

 

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[1] A paraphrase of the biblical book of Jeremiah, chapter one.

[2] 2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT

[3] Titus 3:5, NLT

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11 Responses to WHY YOUR PAST DOESN’T HAVE TO DISQUALIFY YOU

  1. Really great word. Thank you.

    I truly wish I could get certain people in my life to actually believe this. It’s devastating to watch people live in the defeat of their past mistakes or things they’ve done.

    I have said the exact words you shared “your past does not have to define you.” It shapes you, but does not have to define you.

    I live by this because I am very aware of what Jesus did for me and who I am in Him. But to others, choosing to live in this freedom is seen as Christian rhetoric. And when trying to share this truth, it’s referred to as Christian-ese.

    I’ll just keep my faith. And keep praying.

  2. Kurt,
    Isn’t the church grafted into the vine? And hasn’t Israel been cut off of the vine? So if that standard that a divorced person cannot be used by God were true, then how can one explain the continued love and promise God has for His chosen people. “His first love”. One day Israel will be grafted back into the vine, only to be used mightily by God.
    Why is it that so many limit the reach of God’s forgiveness and grace to what seems to be a “reasonable expectation”. God hates sin, all of it, from rolling through a stop sign, to (place your worst sin here) and all sin makes us unusable by Him. But His love, grace and mercy for us is what makes us all equally justified in His eyes through the blood of his only son. God used David, and not only that called him a Man after His own heart. I’m sure your words to Mark reached out much further than one man.

    Saved by grace, not by gross.
    Cary

  3. A quote comes to mind, but I can’t remember where (Winston Churchill I think):”Those who choose to forget the past, are doomed to repeat it”. But, God does “forget the past” when He forgives us, and heals us; so remember, learn, and be healed. I was broken, but God put me back together, and is working to heal the scars. I am whole because of Him. I am so very glad you wrote this piece, Kurt, because so many people NEED to hear it. And HEED it!!! Love, Jim

THREE THINGS TO DO WHEN WAITING IS TOUGH

THREE THINGS TO DO WHEN WAITING IS TOUGH

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Most of us hate the word wait. It’s a four-letter word that stirs up all sorts of negative emotions. No kid likes to hear, “Wait your turn.” No adult likes to wait in long lines at the DMV. No husband enjoys waiting for his wife to do “just one more thing before we go”. No wife loves waiting for her husband to fix the kitchen faucet he promised to repair a month ago. And I’ve never met anyone who appreciates it when they feel God is saying, “Not yet. Wait.”

In our minds, waiting ranks right up there with a root canal. Necessary perhaps, but not at all fun.

Wait Hard when silent

The most difficult challenge for me, and maybe for you too, is waiting for God. We pray. We fast. We search the Scriptures for a promise. We vow to God to be better and to do better, believing somehow that we can twist His arm into action. We desperately look for something, anything to hang our hopes on. We cry out to Papa God for answers, and we curse the heavens when He seems silent.

A dear friend of mine has suffered with infertility for years. She’s tried everything, read every book she could get her hands on, talked to multiple doctors and attempted several expensive medical procedures. She and her husband have the medical bills to prove it. And yet nothing has changed. No pregnancy. No baby. No answers. And hope is waning.

A thirty-something woman I know is single and frustrated. She’s intelligent and gifted; she’s attractive and full of life. She’s tried online dating sites and a few blind dates that were set up by friends. She’s even met a couple of guys who her mom thought were perfect for her, yet they weren’t. (Seriously, Mom?) At this point, all she wants is to be a wife and a mom, but both of those dreams seem elusive. She sometimes cries herself to sleep at night wondering what’s wrong with her and why she can’t find the man of her dreams.

Waiting is hard. It hurts. We want to believe God has a plan. We pray for patience and perspective. But the passing of time is painful.

At the heart of this issue is more than just a struggle with patience. We find it hard to wait because sometimes we find it difficult to trust God.

pregare

We lie awake in the darkness wondering . . .

Has God forgotten me?

Have I brought this pain upon myself because I’m a failure?

Do I not deserve what I’m longing for, or am I being punished?

Does God have my best interest in mind?

Can He be counted on to make good on His promises?

Does God have any idea what I’m going through?

Is God even listening to me?

Regardless of the circumstances, we all face the same question: Will I trust God to create His masterpiece in and through me, or will I demand to be the master of my fate? In other words, will we trust Him or take matters into our own hands?

Wait Trust Trees

WHAT IT TAKES TO WAIT

Here are some extremely practical things I’ve learned along the way about waiting. Are these things easy? No. Are they worth it? Absolutely.

            First, you have to determine now what you will do during a delay. By that I mean, if you wait until you’ve waited to the point of frustration to decide how you will handle the delay, you’re going to be in trouble. It’s best to understand early in the process that God’s sense of timing is radically different from ours. Unlike us, God sees the end from the beginning. Unlike us, God is just as concerned about what happens along the way as He is the end result. In fact, sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. Why? Because during the delay our faith and character are forged.

            Second, to wait for Him means to actively engage in your present circumstances with joy. Rather than miss what’s happening right now because you’re so preoccupied with your future, God wants you to be fully present in the moment. Sadly, while waiting for God to do the one thing or the big thing I desperately desired, too often I missed a thousand “little” things that mattered to Him. Instead of resisting and resenting the process of waiting, choose to look for God every day and to find His purpose in the present.

Wait Present Sunset

            And finally, for you to wait with patience and faith, it’s always best to have someone in your corner encouraging you to hold on. My wife, Laura, consistently inspires me to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. By her example and her words, she frequently reminds me that God is good, He is faithful, and He always has a plan. She challenges me not to let the known and the seen world discount what God is doing in the unseen realm. Frankly, you will wait more successfully when you find a partner who will stand with you in the darkness and confusion and whisper into your soul, “It’s okay; we’re not alone . . . He is here.”

It seems that victory and failure often go together in our spiritual journey. Sometimes we wait for God and we grow. Sometimes we act impulsively and rashly and we still grow, but it just takes longer. And sometimes, we fail miserably, but even then God is patient and good and able to redeem any situation and any broken life that is surrendered to Him.

There’s that word again, surrender. For a Christ-follower, surrender and trust are interwoven. You can’t succeed at one without the other, especially when it comes to waiting.

Wait Surrender

 “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.”

Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)

 

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10 Responses to THREE THINGS TO DO WHEN WAITING IS TOUGH

  1. I agree, Kurt. Waiting is tough, especially when we WANT something. So, I have a verse that inspires me: 1 Peter 3:15 [Full Chapter]

    But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

    Jesus tells us to “not worry” and live for each day. And, this tells us to have faith, and have that faith always in the forefront of all that we do. Waiting requires patience, and the manifestation of our faith is knowing that the Holy Spirit is within us, and the ultimate reward is dying to this world to be in His, consciously. Life is a gift, and we should treasure and enjoy it ALWAYS!!! I love to read what comes from your heart!!!

    • Life is indeed a gift…and one where waiting is almost always good for us in some way. Thanks for your thoughts, Jim, and thanks for the kind words too. You are loved.

  2. I did used to hate that word, but one day I realized God was saying wait with expectation. That changed my thinking. He’s really got a plan and will come through. My hardest thing to wait for is that my whole family follow Jesus with passion. He is working on that harder and better than I could and I trust he will bring it about.

    Love you friend!

  3. Great article! We so often focus on the waiting from our side of things. I wonder if God ever gets tired of waiting for us…to worship him properly, serve him humbly, to make a deliberate decision of moving toward spiritual maturity? I’m afraid He may have spent more time waiting on me than I have waiting on him. And yet still, he loves me. Grace…it really is amazing!

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