Identity Check

Hello blog world.

It’s been well over a year since I’ve last wrote a blog. I’ve learned that I am horrible at taking the time to put my thoughts down in writing. It is definitely beneficial for me to do this, but doesn’t always feel productive.

Pastor- “If you lose your church, will you lose your Jesus?”

This is a thought that has been on my mind for the last couple days. It’s a question that really shakes me at the core. But it’s a very valuable question to ask.

You see, many times we “pastor types” can find our identity in our ministry, our activity, our service, our good Christian quotes, our book reading- over finding our place and identity in Jesus. We can think that life is good because ministry is good, but little do we know our hearts are as far as they have ever been from Jesus.

Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and our strength, our very help in time of trouble.”

This verse is one of those verses you read when you’ve just lost a loved one, when you are persecuted, and when you fell all alone. But I’ve never really thought about it as a verse for good times.

The Facts

But the truth is we are all in trouble at all times and in desperate need of refuge. We are sinners in desperate need of a Savior to save us from our sin.

We don’t realize that our strength is not our own, so we work harder to accomplish our goals to success. When the truth is nothing is ours in the first place. Our church is not ours, our wife is not ours, our children are not ours, our lives are not ours… We are but stewards of the things God has given us to share in his beautiful grace.

When we find our identity in our “whatever” we place that “whatever” in a higher place than Jesus. We create an idol to take His place.

This causes worry, fits of anger, sleeplessness, and mistrust of others. We worry because we feel as if we are going to lose what is “ours.” We have fits of anger because we feel out of control of “our” life. We have countless sleepless nights because we are trying to figure out how to get “our” “whatever” working like we want it. We mistrust others because we think they are out to get us and take what is “ours.”

Thank You Jesus

The beauty of the Gospel is that we have because Jesus has, we love because Jesus loves, we have a place because Jesus makes it.

So, whoever you are, what is standing in the place of Jesus? What is your idol? Is it the work of your hands? Is it what you have?

Give it up and run to the only refuge that will help you in this time of trouble; because, one day Jesus will return to take us to a place that we will never have to experience the repercussion of our sin again.

“You Cold Hearted Jerk!”

“I didn’t spend months getting this event ready, have tons of sleepless nights, and spend countless hours of prayer and prep for you to come and pick out the littlest mistake! You cold hearted jerk! Don’t you realize that I’ve done my best, that I’m good at what I do, and that you have NO idea what you are talking about- you don’t event know what all I’ve sacrificed to be here!”

This phrase has been at the forefront of my mind more than I’d like to admit. To be honest, way more than a pastor should be allowed…

I just hate it!

Criticism is not my friend. I just can’t handle it. My chest gets tight, my hearts starts racing, and my head starts getting all hot. Then my speech gets all mixed up and my words come out not really meaning what I’m trying to say.

I hate criticism!

To be transparent with you, I’ve spent much of my life finding ways to right people off for their critical remarks. “I don’t need them anyways…” is what I’d say. “They don’t know me!”

A shepherd in a wolf’s clothing…

But I’m starting to learn that not all criticism is from “the devil.” Much of it I think is actually God in disguise!

Today was a hard day for me… I focused a lot on my critics. I spent most of the day alone sulking in my own resentment and trying to find ways to raise my self-esteem.

Then I come home, open my email box to find a little lesson waiting for me.

http://theresurgence.com/2011/07/21/sometimes-criticism-is-love-in-disguise

(I suggest you follow the link before continuing)

I’ve spent quite a bit of the past years studying the life and teachings of Jesus. I’ve read a lot of books and listened to tons of really smart theologians, but I think I’ve missed a big character trait of Jesus…

When we hear stories of Jesus, we hear things like “He’s the good shepherd,” “the Sacrificial Lamb,” or “our present Savior.” Jesus is portrayed many times as a shepherd who tends to His sheep. A man who lays in green pastures, eating honey, and cuddling with some soft sheep.

But Jesus is more than the nice cuddly guy we hear so often. Jesus was a radical who spoke is mind. As I look back through the Gospels, I see things like Jesus calling the “holy-rollers” (Pharasees) out for their pride and fakeness, knocking over tables in the temple like a mad-man, and cursing at a fig tree.

It seems that Jesus was a pretty strong willed dude!

Then I look at the writings of the Apostle Paul (the dude that wrote most of the New Testament) and I think, “Man, this guy can be somewhat of a jerk.” Paul was the kind of guy that spoke his mind as well. When he had a problem, he named names, called out private sin, and straight up chewed some people out! Paul didn’t hold back!

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I struggle ALOT with the “tough guy” Jesus. I don’t like it when He calls me out or isn’t as soft as I’d like Him to be. I like the “Gandhi” Jesus who just talks about loving people and being a better person, but I have a real problem with the “Hulk Hogan” Jesus who picks my pride up and slams it on the floor!

The lesson in all the madness…

But wait, I have some reasoning behind all of this madness and it’s this: their aren’t’ two Jesus’- there’s only One! Jesus is both soft, tender, kind, gentle, and strong, loud, obvious, rough.

So, sometimes, criticism can come straight from the love of God. Even when you feel crushed by the seemingly over analyzed opinions of others, God is working to make you holy because He loves you. He wants you to be rid of the pride in your life.

What seems like constant demeaning dialogue is actually God’s tender, strong voice saying, “Son, I see that you’ve messed up. You know that you could have done this better, but I’ve got to do this. It pains Me to see you hurting, but I love you and you need this.”

So, I’m going to try to hold my anger better when criticism comes my way. It could be Jesus?

A Faith Crisis

Time to Start Blogging again…

It’s been a while since I last posted a blog. I have to admit that I’ve started several blogs but none have never made it past the “draft” phase.

God has been teaching me so much lately- too much to write down regularly. He has been molding me into a better husband, riding me of my pride, and defeating sin in my life. All of this is for one purpose- to make me more like His Son- Jesus.

When this recent journey started, I was convinced that God was going to me molding me into a better pastor- one who would proclaim truth more boldly, teach with more wisdom, and counsel with more care, but being a pastor is not my sole purpose in life. My sole purpose in life is to glorify God through my relationship with Him and my relationships with the people around me. I’m learning that being a good pastor means being a good Christian first.

I still have a burning passion deep in my bones that has yet to relent. But still, even through the dryness of this season, God has been extremely good to feel me with the peace that only He can give. My heart may be restless but I am learning what Paul must have meant to be content in every situation and in every situation living so that one more person to come to know Jesus as their Lord.

People are Different!

Through the journey of the past few months, I have sat under great Godly men. Men who love their wives well, hate sin with passion, repent regularly, and lead with Vision. I have sat with both the long sense converted and the new to the faith. I have ate lunch with those who who drink beer and those who smoke. I have had heated conversations about faith and religion, and I have been encouraged by the great faith of meek men.

God has been showing me that people are so different than I first imagined. Some I relate to, others I struggle to be around, but one thing is certain, God is all around and working in people’s hearts!

I wish I could say that God has given me some great vision to reach people or some grand plan for the advancement of the Kingdom, but I’d be lying if I did. The truth is, all of these new experience have caused me to question my very purpose in this world. All of these new experiences have made it extremely hard to see God as I once did.

It seems as if life is speeding up and new things are happening too fast to keep up!

But there is good news in this rant! 

I was reading the other day and a story jumped up off the page and smacked me in the face. The story had to do with prayer. In the story, the author was saying that there was this one time early in his faith that he really struggled in his prayer life. Some things had changed drastically in his life and he had come to a point that he no longer felt God’s presence in his life. He told of times where he would sit for hours waiting on God to meet in him prayer. He wrote of a very dry season in his spiritual journey that I really can relate to. But then he told of something a friend told him. He was confessing his struggle with praying to his friend, when his friend told him that he wasn’t praying in faith.

The author felt dumbfounded, he left to conversation enraged! Then it hit him, his friend was right! He wasn’t praying in faith that God was there and cared about his prayers. He realized that he had spent so much time focusing on his “feeling” of desertion, that he forgot that God had made some pretty big promises in Scripture regarding His people.

He realized that God hadn’t left him and that God wasn’t angry with him, but God was testing his faith. This is what caught my attention.

Come on Chris… Are you Blind?

I’ve been so focused on my past mistakes and failures, and have been spending way too much time feeling sorry for myself, that I have forgot that God has made the promise to never leave me. God has been testing my faith, to show me what I my dependency on Him.

I’ve come to figure that I have failed this test dramatically! I’ve been fighting with God and been so angry at Him for no good reason. I’ve felt alone and far from God, but He has been by my side the whole time.

Having faith in an invisible God is really hard, but faith is all about believing what you can’t see. God is here and His loving arms are all around us. My faith is not in my feelings, not in my surroundings, not in my actions, and not in my money, but it is in God. My faith is in a all powerful God who moves mountains, divides seas, raises the dead, and feeds thousands. God is my Rock and my Shelter!

I wish I would have realized this sooner!

The Journey of Life…

Hey WordPress family!

It’s been a while since I last blogged. Life has been crazy busy and God has been doing some incredible things.

I would like to give you all an update on the last four months.

The Sadness…

Well, to start, I resigned from a position that I loved and moved away from the students that brought me great joy. I loved working as a youth pastor at the church that I was serving. I couldn’t ask for a better bunch of students, parents, or congregation! It was a shocker to me to have God knock me on my butt and tell me “Chris, you’ve done all I want you to do here!”

So let’s just say that there were a few weeks of borderline depression- because I left the students I loved, the ministry I have spent so much time investing in, and the position of leadership that I was in. God had been doing a work in my heart for well over a year. He has been stretching me to be more than I could ever be on my own.

I still have to say that my heart is for student ministry and I have every intent to proceed in the future, but God has to finish the work that He has started.

The Journey…

After leaving the church, I have had several ups and downs. Several ministries that I had contact with had started asking me to come join them in their mission. As an attempt to figure out God’s leading, I checked out each of them. To my surprise, these opportunities turned into life lessons. At each door that I approached, God taught me a new lesson. Some of the lessons where about His soveriegnty, while others were about showing me my own sin. So, to say that the last four months has been a journey would be an understatement, and to say that this journey is over would be foolish.

The Purpose…

So, through God teaching me several lessons and giving me some awesome opportunities to meet some great men of the faith, I have been lead to a time of refreshment and revision. After turning down several positions and going in a completely unexpected direction, God has provided a surreal level of peace.

Up until about 3 weeks ago, my life has revolved around the fact that God had asked me to do ministry. My life’s purpose has been to reach a level of competence in a field that I felt God Himself had directed me into. Today, I sit unemployed and still with no idea of the future, but God is good. What I am learning is that even though ministry may be a great thing and the building of the Kingdom may be the call of the Church, neglecting my responsibilities are not.

The Explanation…

Let me explain: The responsibilities that I am talking about are twofold. 1) A calling to ministry should never supercede a calling to Christ. I’m learning that for us pastor types, guys who study ministry methods and theology all day, ministry can become somewhat of an idol. What I am saying is that we can come to love working for God more than loving God. I’m not sure that I could say that I’ve been loving ministry more than God, but I can definitely say that God has made me very aware of this idol in the past few weeks.

I have a desire to fulfill God’s call on my life and this desire is seeded deep in my soul. I believe that God has created me for this purpose and has equipped me to fulfill this calling, BUT that is not the sole purpose of my existence. What God wants just as much as me doing ministry is for me to enjoy Him! He wants a relationship with me, just as much as He wants a relationship with those who do not yet know Him.

Of course, I’ve believed this. Heck, I’ve been teaching this for the past 3 years of ministry! I guess, God decided it was time for me to go back to the basics again.

So on to the second thing: 2) I have a calling to my wife, way before I have a calling to the Church. I love Christ’s Church and my deepest desire is to see God’s people following God, but more than my heart of the church, I need to have a heart for my woman!

Now, if you’ve been around me for more than 5 minutes you’ve heard me talk a lot about my hott wife! I love my woman with all of my heart! She is the greatest thing I’ve ever gotten and way more than I ever deserved. My wife is the “cotton” to my “candy,” the “light” to my “day,” and the “sweet” to my “tea!” What I’m trying to get across is “I love her!”

But sometime affection of the heart can get sidetracked because of the burdens of ministry. My wife and I both feel that we have a great marriage and that I have been a great husband (these are her words). But from time to time, I’ve had more of an affection for my call, than my wife- which is not of God!

Even though God has called me to serve His people, He’s called me first to love, date, hold, talk late into the night, cook for, and clean for my woman. I’m called to be a Godly man before I’m called to be a “Man of God.”

The End…

So, for this season of our life- whether it’s short or long- I’m going to be sitting at the feet of Jesus and dating the hottest woman alive!

How to Lead Gospel Conversations

This will be an excerpt from a post I found on The Resurgence Blog. I hope you enjoy and this helps you out in leading people in Gospel centered conversations- whether in your local small group or with unbelievers.


Have you ever sat in a group discussion and found it incredibly difficult to get a good conversation going? I’ve found it can be very challenging to move conversations along, especially when you’re trying to go deep and get to the gospel. Here are a few principles that might help.

 

If you love, you will listen

In order to promote good gospel conversations in small group gatherings, it is important that everyone listens to one another’s story well. Don’t check out, criticize, or think about your own story. Listen to their story. In order to do this, everyone must ask questions of one another. If we love one another, we will learn to listen to one another’s stories over and over again.

 

Ask good questions

Our lives are continually changed through conflict, challenges, joys, relationships, and new experiences. Without asking good questions of one another, we can’t really share in deep community. Good questions help uncover the truth about how people are really doing and create the opportunity to share life and truth together. Ask questions and genuinely listen to one another’s stories.


Most people don’t naturally know how to ask good questions. Just after college, I decided to start asking people specific questions because I wanted to be others-focused, not self-focused.

Learning to ask good questions may start as a discipline, but it can flower into a beautiful expression of love.

Here are a few examples of questions you can ask in a group or community discussion:

  • When do you feel like that?
  • Can you elaborate on that?
  • How did that happen?
  • How does that make you feel?
  • Did you feel alone or supported?
  • Were you afraid or confident?
  • How did you respond?
  • How are you feeling now?
  • What concerns you the most about this?

 

Listening is just one part of leading gospel conversations. The next post will explain more.

 

The basic three part structure of this series is adapted from David Powlison’s counseling mantra:

1) Listen to Their Story

2) Empathize with Their Story

3) Redemptively Retell Their Story.

 

by Johnathan Dodson


New Blog Coming Soon!

I know it’s been a few weeks since my last blog, but there is a new blog in the works. I’ve been praying, reading, and studying very hard the past few weeks in preparation for this next blog. Thank you for your patience and support!

While you’re here check out some of my older posts!

https://guitarchrsbll.wordpress.com/2010/05/06/the-grace-effect_-grace-experienced/

https://guitarchrsbll.wordpress.com/2010/03/19/going-all-in_-week-1-living-life-for-a-cause/

https://guitarchrsbll.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/forgotten-god_-ive-god-jesus-why-do-i-need-the-holy-spirit/

Doubt

doubt |dout|: (noun)

a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction; (Example: some doubt has been cast upon the authenticity of this account | they had doubts that they would ever win).

I’ve had my doubts about things, and believe me, doubts can shake you up quite a bit. I have this friend who would say that he doubts almost everything about God’s existence; but I can’t say that I blame him, sometimes I can feel the same way. This friend has seen quite a bit of junk concerning the Church in his lifetime, which in turn has left him sort of apathetic when it comes to God.

Even though my friend may be more on the extreme side, I can empathize with the doubts that he expresses because I’ve felt them time and time again.

The definition that I gave earlier states that doubt is a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction about something. I can honestly say that I’ve had these feelings more than I’d like to admit. How ever I may feel in those moments of doubt, I believe those moments are actually strengthening my faith for the better.

Let me explain: I don’t believe that doubt is necessarily a bad thing. I mean, the only real thing that we can be certain about is the fact that everyone has doubts!

3 Reasons

I’ve come to notice that there are three major reasons for our doubting:

1) We’ve developed a certain idea or understanding of God that is biased and one-sided.

I believe that many so-called “Christians” out there lose their faith because of this very thing. Let me explain my thinking here: We can see faith through glasses that magnify the truth or we can see faith through a telescope that only focuses in on a single fixed point. I believe this first reason is like the telescope.

People who live this line of reasoning often think along the lines of “If God is good and the Devil is bad, then all good things come from God and all bad things come from the Devil.” This line of reasoning is very limited and counter Scriptural, if I might add!

People who live in this line of reasoning often give up on God the first time a bad event throws them down hard enough. They feel as if God has forsaken them or worse off, they can develop the idea that God is non-existent.

2) We can attach our faith to the faith of another person.

I believe this reason is why we lose so many teenagers from the Church come graduation.

This person derives their belief system based solely on the beliefs of others. Because their parents believe in God, they believe in God. Because their friends believe something, they believe it. Because their pastor said it, they believe it.

This line of reasoning can best be described as ignorance.

These people often experience doubt as they see others experiencing it. If a close relative or friend makes a decision that is out of character, their faith is shaken because their beliefs stem from the beliefs of another person.

I saw a friend in high school do this very thing. Through HS he seemed like the model Christian, but as soon as his parents divorced his faith became non-existent. Because his father was the source of his faith, and sadly the divorce, this guy’s belief system crumbled.

3) We can derive our beliefs solely on human reason.

This person is often very intellectual. They can wrap their minds around very complex ideas and are able to articulate faith in a very valid way; however, this person has never experienced their so-called faith. They have a belief system that has not come from personal experience but solely from hours of research.

I’m not saying that research is bad and experience is good; but I am saying that their should be a good coherence of the two for our belief to be authentic or accurate.

Doubt can be a good thing…

Let’s go back to my earlier statement about doubt not necessarily be a bad thing.

There have been very godly men in Scripture that have experienced doubts, and their doubts drove them to solid faith. (aka Job)

There have also been very un-godly men in Scripture who had doubts that lead them right into the path of Christ. (aka Nicodemus)

Doubts are feelings of uncertainty, which leave us feeling lost and confused; and when it comes to doubts about God, those feelings of lostness can be almost unbearable. I believe doubts are not to be feared, but embraced. Doubts can pave the way to belief.

Story Time

Let me explain this with a short story: I grew up in a church environment. Everyone around in my circle of relationships claimed Christianity as their belief system (on a side note 60-70% of Americans claim Christianity). Growing up in this environment, I developed a mixture of attached beliefs and biased beliefs (Reason 1 and 2 above). One day, I experienced an extremely tramatizing event. And the belief system of many around me did more harm than good. This event left my belief system in shambles.

Because of my broken faith, I became a very avid self mutilator. It finally came to the point that my mother feared that I would do some irreversible harm to myself (aka suicide), so she started taking me to a child psychologist. I don’t remember how long I met with the psychologist or even if she helped, but I do know that the belief system that had held my life together thus far was gone.

It was in this moment that my road to true faith was paved. I believe that through all of the doubts, I was forced to seek after God for myself and for real this time. To my surprise, God revealed Himself in an amazing way.

Conclusion

I don’t want to end this blog on a shallow note, and say that from then on I’ve never experienced a doubt. That would be stupid to say, but I can say that my doubts have been for my good. My experience may be unique in situation, but it’s not unique in process. I have met countless others, who have experienced a similar process of doubting that lead them straight into the arms of a Sovereign God. But sadly I must admit that there have been just as many, if not more, whose doubts have gotten the best of them. Some of them are still wondering in their world of doubts, and some have already passed on never knowing relationship that I have experienced.

So to conclude, I simply want to say: If you are experiencing doubt, give God another chance. Give Him the benefit of the doubt and seek Him with all that you have. If you end up not finding God, you can honestly say that you’ve sought after Him; but if you find Him, you will experience the most amazing relationship that you will ever know in this lifetime.