OK, I have to be honest here; I'm not sure whether it was the recent concert I attended or the unavoidable reality of another year, but whatever the reason, I've been gripped the past few days by this thought: we're halfway there.
Today my son turned nine, which means (based on legal status and cultural expectations) he is halfway to manhood. This thought is humbling to say the least. As I look back at the past nine years of his life, there are so many memories that leave my heart full of joy. But there are also many thoughts that leave me examining myself and my efforts to raise a man.
My son is my firstborn. He was the one who made fatherhood a realty for me and he was the first of my three kids to bless me with the great privilege of being a dad. I'm grateful for him in so many ways. I've learned so much about life and the Gospel since he was born. He's helped shape and sharpen my character and I thank God every day for blessing me with my son.
The funny thing is, his mom often tells us both that he is a tiny version of me. Not only does he share my physique, but he also shares many of my passions (though I think his love for the Patriots was more coached/coerced than natural) . When I look at my son, I often see myself, which usually leaves me feeling a combination of honor and horror. Honor, because like every man I desire to leave a legacy. I want my son to look up to me and see things worth replicating. But I'm also horrified, because while I'm humbled that he desires to be like me, my deepest desire as his father is for him to be a much better image bearer of Christ than I was in my early days as a man.
Looking back on my life and my choices, my son's birth marked a "rebirth" of sorts for me; a great awakening in my faith which led me to the reality that it was time for me to man-up. When I became a father, I was forced to recognize (with very little room for excuses) that I was now personally responsible for another human life. This was a much-needed call to action in my life. For years, including the first seven years of my marriage, I was living in a self-centered dream world where everything and everyone revolved around me. The choices I made were rooted in my own desires and if the desires and hopes of my wife were also achieved by my choices, then I was happy to chalk it up to collateral blessings.
In his grace, God helped me see the end-game of this kind of living and he opened my eyes to see the destructive and eternally insignificant payout of this kind of life. I owe a great deal of gratitude to my son, whose very life helped me calibrate my own.
HALF WAY THERE
But now, as my son enters his ninth year of life, I'm prompted yet again to examine my own life. How are my choices, as his dad, helping to equip and prepare him to be a man? What story am I telling my son with my own life? What is he learning about Jesus and what it means to be a servant of Christ, in the example I'm giving him on a daily basis? Is he seeing in me that Christ, above all other things, is my greatest treasure? If you asked him what excites his father most, would he say Tom Brady, Poptarts, or Jesus?
The reality that my son is at the halfway point of his "childhood" has been a helpful reminder that the time I have left to help him see the value of true biblical manhood, before he becomes a man himself, is quickly ticking away. This makes the importance of my intentional efforts all the more important.
What my son needs most from me, especially in a culture that demands independence and personal autonomy, is a man who is willing to invest into him and show him what it means to bear the image of Christ. A man willing to lay his own life down for the sake of his son, in order that he might leave the kind of legacy that will make a difference for eternity.
Yes, the clock is ticking. I'm halfway there. I only have nine more years until he's eighteen. What do I need to do today, to prepare my son for his calling as a man and equip him to live an eternally significant life?
Lord, I need your help!
by: Jason Allen
Jason is a pastor at RSBC. He loves seeing God's people coming together, in true community, to worship Jesus eagerly and intentionally with their every day lives. He and his wife Anna are raising their three kids and discovering new ways to grow and pursue Jesus together.
Intro: Paul’s first aim in this section of Philippians is to focus the church family on living as worthy citizens of the Gospel. He then adds that Christian citizens live life together. Finally he calls them to live together courageously. Read the verses below and locate these three sections.
READ Philippians 1:27-30
Live as CITIZENS for Jesus
Live as Citizens for Jesus TOGETHER
Live as COURAGEOUS Citizens for Jesus Together
Ice Breaker: Humans will do remarkable things to stay alive. Pastor Thomas shared a story about a mountain climber that cut off his own leg to escape a mountain crevice. What is the most amazing human survival story you’ve heard?
Based on the sermon on Philippians 1:18b-26, how would you define “living with holy ambition”?
Paul takes personal ownership of his core statement in v.21. He writes, “FOR TO ME to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” This phrase indicates that there are other passions or ambitions that people live for.
READ Philippians 1:18b-26.
Four Promises That Accompany Holy Ambition
Promise #1: v.18-19. Holy ambition has big HELP.
What are the two sources of help that Paul celebrates in v.19?
How is each of these genuinely, powerfully helpful for the person seeking to live with holy ambition?
How does a Christian lean into each of these God-given helps? Are you?
Promise #2: v.20. Holy ambition has big HOPE.
What is Paul’s “hope” in this verse?
Why is this perspective hope-giving and helpful for sustaining holy ambition during changing circumstances?
Promise #3: v.22-26. Holy ambition makes living FRUITFUL.
Are you ever tempted by thoughts of escapism (running away from your situation) or how death would be easier?
How can the word “necessary” in v.24 help us battle against getting stuck in escapism or wishing for death?
READ through the verses again. Summarize in your own words what Paul explains as fruitful living.
How does Paul explain that living isn’t just about staying physically alive, but has a grander meaning?
Promise #4: v.23. Holy ambition makes dying DELIGHTFUL.
What thoughts or feelings stir in you when you think about your death? Why?
What thoughts stir in Paul and why?
List 5 or more reasons that death is gain for believers.
Close with a) prayers of petition that you would live with holy ambition and b) prayers of praise that Jesus has secured eternity’s bliss for you.
A year ago the Lord unexpectedly placed caring for broken families on my heart. As a planner I had all kinds of new ideas forming in my mind about what I could do to serve others.
Thursdays were typically “my day” due to its clear schedule. I could stay home, go make-up free, wear lounge clothes, and sip coffee. My favorite day of the week. It was also the only day I had free to be able to add something to my plate. So I surrendered that day to becoming about Jesus instead of about me.
I began to pray that He would show me where I could serve. I looked into several different opportunities in our area, but nothing seemed to fit. Then one morning I got a message from a friend who wanted to come over to talk. I do not do well with unplanned visits, but I felt the Lord whisper that if I wanted to love hurting people I should be able to love my own friends first. My friend arrived and poured her heart out to me. Life was messy for her (marriage, parenting, finances, decision-making, etc.), and she needed someone to listen and care for her. And so that’s what I did – I listened. I didn’t know what to say. I am not quick with wise words. So I simply invited her to come to church on Sunday.
It dawned on me later that our initial visit was on a Thursday. She was the one who God had sent me to love and serve. He had answered my prayers. We began to meet every Thursday for the next few months.
I jumped in with all hope and excitement certain that the Lord was going to do quick miracles and make everything better. Little did I know that her coming into my life would change me and challenge me in ways I would have never imagined. God joined our lives together, but instead of miracles of healing I became educated in fulfilling the call of Romans 12:15b, “weep with those who weep,” and 1 Corinthians 12:26, “If one member suffers, all suffer together.”
God joined our lives together, but instead of miracles of healing I became educated in fulfilling the call of Romans 12:15b “weep with those who weep.”
One similarity between the Bible’s history and ours is this: God rarely unfolds events the way I would, and His timing is often much slower than I would like!
Whether it’s a friend, sibling, parent, co-worker, neighbor, spouse, or even your own child - we all have messy people in messy situations in our lives. Walking alongside and loving them can be tiring, painful, frustrating, and sleep depriving. Why can’t the Lord just make everything better?
Jesus In Messy Places
While reading through Matthew’s Gospel recently the Holy Spirit unveiled my eyes to how consistently Jesus was surrounded by messy people.
And they brought Him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and He healed them. – Matthew 4:24
That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. – Matthew 8:16
And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. – Matthew 9:10
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. – Matthew 9:35-36
And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. – Matthew 14:35-36b
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 19:13-15
Sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, lame, sick, blind, mute, demon-possessed, little children. Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it??
Not once did He turn them away. Not once did he complain. Not once did He throw His hands up in the air and proclaim, “This is too much work!”
Not once did he complain. Not once did He throw His hands up in the air and proclaim, “This is too much work!”
Jesus did withdraw to quiet places for prayer and communion with His Father, such as after hearing news of John the Baptist’s beheading: “Now when Jesus heard this, He withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by Himself” Matthew 14:13a.
Surely on this occasion He had a right to be alone to grieve and pray, right? I mean, give the guy a break. He deserves some time away to process what just happened. But look what happens in the second half of the same verse: “But when the crowds heard it, they followed Him on foot from the towns" Matthew 14:13b.
Don’t you just want to roll your eyes for Jesus? “Come on guys! Leave Him alone.” If it was you wouldn’t you have said to come back later? But what is our Redeemer’s reaction? “When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them and healed their sick” Matthew 14:14.
Putting aside His sadness, Jesus looked on the people and felt compassion for them. And when He had a good excuse to send them away - it’s dinner time! - Oh no, Jesus has a different plan: “Now when it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, ‘This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ But Jesus said, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat’” Matthew 14:15-16.
God in human flesh, with capacity for physical and emotional exhaustion, did not turn away an opportunity to love messy people. He brought and taught the steadfast love of God to our broken planet.
Loving In Messy Places
So how are things going with my friend?
Our Thursdays together lasted months, and now it’s been over a year. There have been good days – days of growth, signs of hope. But things are still very much messy. And it’s exhausting – for her and for me. I thought God was going to do miracles months ago and here we are still seeking, still waiting. Have there been times when I wanted to give up? Yes. Have there been times when I wonder what on earth God is doing? Definitely.
So where do we turn on the days when we feel like throwing in the towel? We look to Jesus who knows what it is to love no matter what. We remember how He loved while He walked on earth. And we trust His promise of strength to endure through the stormy days: “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.
We remember, most significantly, that we are messy ourselves, but Jesus does not walk away from us.
"For WE OURSELVES were once
slaves to various passions and pleasures,
passing our days in malice and envy,
hated by others
and hating one another.
when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
He saved us" Titus 3:3-5
And when we feel like throwing up our hands and saying – how will they ever be saved?? What does Jesus say to that? “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” Matthew 19:26.
So keep praying! Keep walking alongside the messy people in your life. Let their circumstances bring you to your knees before the Savior who has walked in your shoes. Be thankful that you get to love like Jesus. There will be days of weeping as you walk through the valleys – and one day, whether in this life or the next, the Lord will lead you beside still waters with them. And on that day there will be much rejoicing with all glory and praise going to our Father in heaven!
by: Gen Johnson
Gen eagerly worships Jesus within the RSBC body through gifts of leadership, hospitality, and faith. She is married to Dan and together they parent four great kids.
Ice Breaker: When is a time that a circumstance went sour for you, but in the end you realized it was for the better?
What factors cause people to lose their joy in life or ministry?
READ Philippians 1:12-18
What is present in or absent from these verses that communicates Paul’s never stopping joy?
Close by considering the difficult relationships you are encountering and praying to reflect Jesus within them.
You know what I’m talking about.
Those days where it seems like everything that could go wrong, does.
Being a mom of six children, I can tell you that my “those days” have been going on since December. Sickness has moved in without being invited. In a family of 8, sickness lasts a long time. Strep after strep after strep, high fevers, pneumonia, colds, ER visits, doctor visits. It’s not a good thing when the urgent care nurses greet you with, “Oh, you’re back?!”). Toss sickness in with the Holidays and school extras, and you have one exhausted, dried mama.
There is no time off for most parents. No coffee breaks. (Although I have been known to sneak chocolate every now and again…shhh). You are on duty every day. And every night. These past few months have been very wearing on me. I am pretty exhausted. I feel like a very dried up well.
These words from Charles Spurgeon have been a refreshment over these many weeks:
“The path of the Christian is not always bright with sunshine, he has his seasons of darkness and of storm. In certain periods clouds cover the believer’s sun, and he walks in darkness and sees no light. There are many who have rejoiced in the presence of God for a season; they have basked in the sunshine, they have walked along “green pastures” by the side of “still waters.” But suddenly they find their sky clouded. Instead of the promised land, they have to endure the wilderness. In a place of sweet waters, they find bitters streams to their taste and they say, “Surely, if I were a child of God, this would not happen”. Do not say that if you are walking in darkness. The best of God’s saints must drink bitter portions; the dearest of His children must bear the cross. No believer can always keep his heart in tune. Perhaps the Lord gave you in the beginning a smooth and unclouded path because you were weak and timid. He moderated the wind on account of your weakness, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children. We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten branches of self-reliance and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.”
"The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope." It’s in those days that we grow most fruitfully (see James 1:2-4 and Romans 5:3-5) if we have the God-centered building materials laid in our hearts. It is times of testing, exhaustion, “those days” that reveal what we believe about God and what our feet stand on.
It is times of testing, exhaustion, “those days” that reveal what we believe about God and what our feet stand on.
DECIDE BEFORE THE STORM
Friend, the storms of life are not the time to decide your theology. When we’re being tossed to and fro by the waves of life, this is when we depend on our beliefs about who God is and when we rest in our hope. Times of strain draw out our beliefs and cause us to hold strong to our faith in our Anchor. Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith is our Anchor to gaze upon so that we might not grow weary or faint hearted (Hebrews 12:1-3).
A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think of about God is the most important thing about us.”
Is He good?
Is He trustworthy?
Can you believe that this chaos you're in, isn’t chaos to Him?
Does He never change?
Is always in control, even when things are out of control?
If possible, these questions should not be decided in the storm. During trying circumstances we rest in and cling to the answers. (see Psalm 46:1-5).
LEAP IN THE LULL
You might be asking, “OK, Janice, I hear what you're saying. If not being in the storm is where I see and lean into what I believe about God, then when do I learn?” It’s in the lull. The lull between the storms. This is where you build your strong foundation on the Rock (Matthew 7:24-27).
In spaces of calm (which you may need to create with the help of others), you need to read the Word and learn about who God is (Proverbs 30:5). Meditate on the Scripture to get it into your mind, heart and soul (Psalm 119:15:16) Fix your eyes on Christ as you run the race. Tell yourself Truth (Psalm 119:10-11). Do this daily (Psalm 16:8).
Storms come in many degrees. They do not announce their coming and they often wear out their welcome quickly. During the multiple-vomit-cleanup sessions in my house, the endless doctor trips and the rigorous medical routine we endured this winter, I have had to lean into pre-rooted truth. I have had to remind myself of who God is:
Wherever you're at today, take a long look upwards. You are going to need that long look today, or that long look is going to bolster you for the next storm.
by: Janice Gold
Janice is the wife of one of RSBC's pastors, Thomas. She eagerly worships Jesus at RSBC through her gifts in music, leadership, and being a cheerleading partner alongside Thomas. She also fills the bellies and hearts of the seven others in the Gold home.
Have you ever had a bad day? What about a bad week or month or an entire season of life? Heck, you may be reading this post right now and saying to yourself, "I honestly can't recall the last time I could consider my life, good." I get it. Believe me, I get it!
Or maybe this isn't your story, but you may know someone who has this reality and your heart breaks for them, though you just don't know how you can offer them genuine love and support.
Here's the deal: outside of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram life is hard. And for some people, life seems absolutely unbearable. Whether it's their circumstances, afflictions, living arrangements, or even their exhaustion there are times in our lives where the hardships seem to outweigh the joy and the trials seem to cast an inescapable shadow over the triumphs. This, my friends, is the reality of life!
And yet, life is good. We've experienced it. We know it and even in our own darkest days, we are reminded that this is not as good as it gets as we remember our great Savior and the promises set before us in our future glory. The problem most people face isn't an inability to believe in something better, but rather an inability to figure out how to get beyond the sorrow or the pain of a current situation in order to live into the joy that God has given humanity in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
What people need in these moments is a friend—a true wingman—who is able help them see beyond their current circumstances. Someone who is willing to walk with them towards the intended source of joy, namely, Jesus Christ.
WE ARE NOT ALONE
I know, I know, you've heard this all before. In the midst of your trials, you’ve watched in comic-yet-tragic disbelief as your well-intentioned friends have given you the cliché response, "I'm here for you if you ever need me." And most of the time these assertions are made immediately following a moment of humble vulnerability where you just poured your heart out to them, saying (as bluntly as you could) just how lost and alone you feel and how much you need the love of an ally and a friend. And then, the awkward silence (insert cricket sounds here for fuller effect).
Bless their hearts, right? I mean let’s be real for a moment. Far too often the people we need the most are amateurs when it comes to understanding and knowing how to offer genuine support to us. We know this, of course, not simply because we've been on the receiving end of noble-yet-bungled efforts at offering help to a hurting friend, but also because we've failed others when they've come to us in their most vulnerable and helpless state. It doesn’t take too many of these occasions for us to realize just how imperfect we really are. And, if we’re willing to be honest, we must also admit that even at our very best moments we are but feeble echoes of Jesus.
But I digress. This blog post isn't primarily about calling out interpersonal shortcomings. On the contrary, this post is predominantly an appeal to look beyond these shortcomings towards something beautiful. Whether you are a person in desperate need of support or a person who desperately desires to offer genuine support to someone else, this blog post is for you.
One of the many remarkable things about the Bible is how practical so much of it actually is. Often times we overlook just how relevant most of the scriptures are to our every day lives. Yes, there have been some major changes to the world and cultures over the years, but as strange as it may seem, many of the nuances of relationships aren't that much different than they were two-thousand years ago. And for this, we can be grateful, because the Bible is a (very) practical guide to how we can love others well.
I've been working my way through Paul's letters to the churches, in my own quest to grow in my understanding and practice of true community. One thing that has captured my attention, while reading through these letters to the New Testament churches, is how intentional Paul was in expressing his love. Sometimes this was done as a way to encourage the saints, other times it was done to admonish the saints, and then sometimes it was done as a way to express his gratitude for the saints; thanking them for their relentless pursuit of the Gospel, manifested in their unwavering and steadfast love for him. All this to say, there is a lot that can be learned from Paul about how we can engage those who are hurting.
LET US CONSIDER
The author of Hebrews says, "let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works" (Hebrews 10:24-25). In both of these directives, the author is capturing what seems to be at the heart of genuine relationships; the pursuit of others. The ownership gets placed on everyone to consider how to stir each other up. Regardless what condition we find ourselves in, we are to look beyond ourselves or even our current "systems" and consider how to stir others up, in the Gospel, towards love and good works.
Using this verse as a springboard, let's take a look at one way Paul did this in his letter to the Thessalonians. One thing to keep in mind is that Paul's afflictions were real. His safety and security and even his life were at genuine risk, daily. So, while it may be natural (considering that Paul was an Apostle) for us to consider Paul to be the person seeking to love those who were hurting, in reality he was the one who was probably hurting the most.
Yet, even with the real threats that Paul faced, what seemed to trouble his soul the most was not his current circumstances or even the daily threat of bodily harm, but rather the spiritual condition of those whom he loved; the church in Thessalonica. His lens was already set beyond himself. He had very real burdens, but his biggest burden was still for the Gospel and the faith of those whom he loved.
Let's take a look at one specific passage together...
But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you-- for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, [as] if you are standing fast in the Lord. For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? | 1 Thes. 3:6-10
A BUILT-IN COMFORTER
Did you catch what happened in the verses we just read? It was beautiful! In the midst of their affliction and distress, Paul and his ministry partners were comforted by the assurance of the Thessalonians faith. Once Timothy brought Paul word of their faith and their pursuit of the Kingdom of God, his posture turned from concern to celebration. His circumstances never changed, nor did the very real threat of martyrdom, but the news of the Gospel at work in the hearts and lives of those whom he loved, was enough to comfort him and lead him into eager and glad worship.
Never underestimate the power and impact that your faith and transformation, in Jesus, can have on others; both inside and outside the Church. It's easy for us to assume that talking about ourselves (especially when things are going well) can have a negative impact a person who is struggling to find joy. But the beauty of sharing our faith, is that it really isn't about us at all. We've all had seasons of our lives where we've struggled, and yet, as Christians we are able to look beyond our immediate circumstances at the larger story that God is telling the world, in and through us. Our hope isn't in our happiness but rather it rests firmly in the promise that God will be our all-satisfying joy, even in the midst of our struggles.
So, whether you find yourself in the midst of a turbulent season of life or whether you are trying to come alongside someone else who finds themselves there, your faith is intended to be a built-in comforter for them. "Our one comfort, both in life and death, is that we are not our own. We've been bought with the blood of Jesus and we confess that we belong to him alone". God has set Christians apart for his holy purposes and is telling the world a story, through our lives. This is an unyielding truth that is not (in any way) dependent on our circumstances. We press into Jesus, trusting that regardless of the situations or circumstances that come our way, he is (notice the present tense) using them for our good and his glory. This is why Paul could say with absolute confidence (even in the midst of his imprisonment), "it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death." | Philippians 1:20
May we never forget that our faith was never intended to be private. As we choose to live and walk in a manner worthy of our calling, may we be mindful of the eternal difference that we can make in the lives of our friends; if we were willing to share with them the hope that we have in Christ.
FOUR PRACTICAL WAYS TO WALK THIS OUT
As an aid towards application, here are four ways to consider moving from theoretical to practical:
by: Jason Allen
Jason is a pastor at RSBC. He loves seeing God's people coming together, in true community, to worship Jesus eagerly and intentionally with their every day lives. He and his wife Anna are raising their three kids and discovering new ways to grow and pursue Jesus together.
Ice Breaker: Share an example of when someone acted in your best interest, but is wasn’t easy or comfortable for you to receive.
The verses from the sermon, Philippians 1:9-11, show Paul praying for and desiring what was best for his friends in Philippi. Imitating his prayer and desire is the focus of this study.
Incomplete/False Ways of Loving
The sermon included these four ways that we might think we are loving another, but these ways prove to be incomplete and/or false.
1. Incomplete Love: Caring for physical needs only.
2. Incomplete Love: Minimizing or ignoring another’s lifestyle.
3. False Love: Ignoring conflict with others and tolerating “false peace.”
4. False Love: Participating with or inviting others into sin.
What is Best for Them?
READ Philippians 1:8-11.
READ Colossians 1:9-11.
How do your lists from Paul’s prayers compare to what our culture thinks is best for one’s life? What priorities and aims does our culture pursue as most significant?
Why are Paul’s desires for those he loves superior to the cultures priorities?
Think specifically of two people that you are responsible for loving. Do you desire God’s version of “best” for them? How can you work in relationship to them to help them pursue God’s best?
Paul reminds the church that these virtues and grace come “through Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:11), and they should be done for the glory of God.
Parenting is wild. It is eye opening, heart-wrenching, tear-jerking stuff. “Your life will never be the same,” says the clerk at the grocery store. “You will never love something or someone more than your own,” states every parent or grandparent ever. “Oh, I can imagine…” I responded. I was sure these were clichés, but it turns out, God would reveal the truth in these statements with His Word, and His creation in a baby.
Would you listen to Rachel and I as we take a cliché within Christianity (that God is our good Father), and try to shed some light onto how God has rocked our world and changed our attitudes about it? We hate clichés, so if you stick with us and read what we have to say, it might bring you peace, and change how you worship because you might see God a little clearer than before.
A MOTHER’S PERSPECTIVE
“There’s nothing worse than seeing your child in pain.” As a woman, I had the naive, (mostly subconscious) assumption that my baby would rarely, if ever, be in pain. Because a Mama’s snuggles fix everything, right? Wrong. Within the first day of baby Tessa’s life I had a very rude awakening. Pokes and prods the hospital nurses threw Tessa’s way were a little more than uncomfortable for her…and me.
How much more does our heavenly Father care when we face trials of various kinds? To us, in our small, self-centered world, we can’t see the “polios” and other scary “viruses” God is protecting us from and steering us away from by allowing us to walk through pain.
Fast forward two months to her vaccinations. I remember thinking, “No biggie, I got all
these shots as a child. I don’t remember any shots being that traumatizing.” And these shots protect her. A minute of sharp pokes is far better than getting polio, right? But how could Tessa know that? She has no understanding of diseases. In her little newborn world, it was just excruciating pain for no reason at all. As I was thinking through all this, God just kept reminding me of His care for us through trials.
How much more does our heavenly Father care when we face trials of various kinds? To us, in our small, self-centered world, we can’t see the “polios” and other scary “viruses” God is protecting us from and steering us away from by allowing us to walk through pain. I started to really understand James 1:2-4, “Count it all JOY, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” I’m definitely not a doctor, but what if the trials we are walking through are for our good? What if they’re completing us and sanctifying us into who the Lord is calling us to be in Christ?
A FATHER’S PERSPECTIVE
I love kids and work with kids, but I had never changed a diaper in my life until Tessa was born. I didn’t know how to hold babies, and didn’t like holding babies. I either thought I would break them, or would feel guilty when they would cry in my arms. I would freak out when babies would get red-faced and be crying so hard that their voice sounded like it hurt.
Rachel always encouraged me that it would be different when it was my own, and that I would feel confident and comfortable. I was skeptical. I was anxious and scared that I wouldn’t be enough for little baby 'T'.
Then, truly, my entire outlook changing the moment she was born. It wasn’t my own doing, but the divine design of parenthood taking hold. The cliché statements and the copious amounts of advice from others, it went from white noise to something resembling music to my fledgling daddy ears. Not quite a song or a melody, but I could hear a rhythm, a beat, and a pattern. I was beginning to see what everyone was talking about, and understand why it was one of the greatest privileges in the world.
Fast forward a few days from Tessa’s birth, and Rachel and I are doing the parenting life: feeding, burping, changing, and napping with our baby, then we do it again repeatedly. Every time Tessa would wake up, she would go from sleeping to starving right away. Learning to eat outside of the womb is tough to learn, so when Tessa couldn’t figure it out, she would begin to get worked up. I remember around this time feeling a rush of emotions come about me: Fatherly love and compassion. I remember swooping her up and saying “I’ve got you. Your mom and I will never let you starve; we’ve got you. We see you, hear you, and will always be here to hold you.” I meant it. I felt it.
I remember swooping her up and saying “I’ve got you. Your mom and I will never let you starve; we’ve got you. We see you, hear you, and will always be here to hold you.” I meant it. I felt it.
Finding Rest in the Parable of Parenting
Now, Rachel and I don’t want to mislead you in any way. We are weak and fallible people due to the remnants of sin in us. We choose our own selfish ambitions and desires too often. Good intentions will, at times, result in misguided efforts. There will be times that I say “I have you,” and I will fail that promise. That’s not depressing, it’s the facts right?
The reason that Rachel and I have any clue and hope in what we are doing is that God has revealed Himself to us as our all-powerful Father. He tenderly and compassionately cares for us like a daddy. When we fuss, kick, and scream that our iPhone screen cracked, or the iPhone 7s would be way better than the crummy iPhone 6 we are rocking now, God is still all-powerful, and He still has a father’s heart.
Even in these embarrassing moments of selfishness and narcissism, God remains all-powerful and He is a father to those who trust in Jesus as their Savior. Rest assured. Daddy is caring for you. Maybe you don’t know how you are going to pay the rent bill, and you feel the rush of anxiety. That’s more serious than a cracked phone screen, but rest assured. Daddy never leaves.
Many of us also have moments of true despair when body-attacking disease is plaguing ourselves, a loved one, or your entire family. In the deepest sickness, and the deepest sadness, God remains all-powerful and He is a father to those who call on Jesus as their Savior. Rest assured. Daddy knows and is committed to your greatest good. This last scenario is far too real for the Larson’s (repeatedly facing cancer in our extended family), but we cling to these following truths from the Word of God:
Psalm 8:3-4, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”
Matthew 6:25-26, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"
Stop. Breathe. Pray.
Be still. He sees you, He’s got you, and He will never leave you.
He is all-powerful.
He is a Father.
by: Craig and Rachel Larson
Craig and Rachel were part of group that founded RSBC. They eagerly worship Jesus within the church family through youth leadership, musical gifts (Rachel), and being a member of our Leadership Team (Craig). Baby Tessa was born in Dec. 2016.
Are you ever prone to lay the responsibility for your wrong actions or attitudes at the feet of other (past or present) people in your life? This tendency continually hounds my heart.
The Birth of Blame
One of the immediate effects of Adam and Eve’s decision to rebel against their Creator (Genesis 3:6) was guilt before God and the accompanying sense of shame (3:10). Among their tactics to evade shame’s stalking was blame shifting. This response to the weight of personal sin seems to have taken root in humanity’s sin “DNA” in all subsequent generations. How have you utilized blame to distance yourself from your shameful actions and attitudes?
First we hear Adam blame his wife and also blame God as the reason for his destructive choice (3:12). Eve then turns and points at the deceitful serpent as her scapegoat (3:13). The blaming habit entrenched itself deeply, but, sadly, did not and does not lead to relief or healing because our sin stains remain. Blame shifting is not a solution for resolving our broken patterns or escaping their consequences. Have you found genuine freedom by blaming others for your struggles?
A Better Way Than Blame
The humbling and happy news is that the LORD God provided what their blame shifting could not. Their path to restoration and freedom would come through depending on Him, not through evading, blaming, or shirking responsibility. God acted to give the mercy (they didn’t immediately die as promised in Gen. 2:17), the grace (He covered their nakedness through the death of a substitute – 3:21), and the promise (of a sin-crushing Savior – 3:15) that would actually cleanse their guilt and restore their relationship with God and one another.
The same God who responded to Adam and Eve’s wrongdoing with mercy, grace, and Gospel promises is ready to be a better solution to our crooked reactions than blame will ever be.
Sometimes life circumstances and/or other people’s sinful actions cause genuine difficulties and faulty response mechanisms in our lives. I’ve known couples whose multiple miscarriages and the attached grief have resulted in fear of further pregnancy attempts. This is not a sinful response, and it calls for tender healing via Gospel-saturated community and teaching. However, if that grief and fear is allowed to morph into idolatry, sinful escapism, adultery, bitterness toward God, or a host of other sinful reactions then some would seek to justify their wrongdoing by blaming the painful circumstance.
Do you try to justify wrongdoing by blaming circumstances or other people’s foolishness?
Hear this humbling yet happy good news! The same God who responded to Adam and Eve’s wrongdoing with mercy, grace, and Gospel promises is ready to be a better solution to our crooked reactions than blame will ever be. We are invited to transformation of our attitudes and actions through Christ rather than spinning our tires endlessly in the muddy ditch of blame.
4 Ways Blame Tempts
Let us be careful about blaming a third party for our actions with a second party.
We might see a father blame his hard day at work for the reason he screamed at his kids. In the Bible, we see King David (2 Samuel 11) attempt to shift the blame of Bathsheba’s pregnancy (second party) onto Uriah (third party) by sending Uriah home with hopes that they would sleep together. Humbling yet happily God’s response of confronting and addressing King David’s adultery was a far better solution that resulted in true transformation.
Let us shrink away from blaming others for our malicious prejudices against them.
Those who differ in lifestyle, parenting choices, ethnic habits, and voting allegiances are made in the image of God and in need of grace just as much as us. In the Bible, we see Jonah (Jonah 1-4) blame the hated Ninevites for his racism and disobedience. Humbling yet happily God’s pursuing Jonah into repentance and obedience was a far better solution that resulted in salvation for Jonah and the city of Nineveh.
Let us guard our hearts against blaming God of wrongdoing when His providence permits difficulty to cross our paths.
Life’s greatest pains and griefs indeed present severe temptation to assert our wisdom over the Lord’s. In the Bible, we see Martha’s heartbroken attempt to blame Jesus’ travel schedule for her brother’s death (John 11). Humbling yet happily Jesus’ tenderness and compassion was a far better solution that brought about hope and healing.
Let us distance ourselves from attempts to blame others for our actions and attitudes that are in violation of Scripture.
It is not your husband’s fault that you can’t control your tongue, your mother’s fault that you remain unforgiving, or your childhood friend’s fault that you can’t stop looking at porn. Many factors do powerfully contribute to our current choices, but God wonderfully offers all that is necessary for us to “live new.” In the Bible, we see the Jewish religious leaders attempt to blame Jesus for their hate-filled actions that led to His crucifixion. Humbling yet happily Jesus’ bloody, sacrificial forgiveness of those responsible for His crucifixion (Luke 23:34) was the path that opened a far better resolution.
What matters for your freedom, today and ultimately, is that there is God of mercy, grace, and Gospel promises that can cleanse your guilt and shame in a true way.
Beloved friends, for you to find freedom it doesn’t matter whose fault it is that you act wrongly, react wrongly, or interact wrongly. (This does not diminish any other person’s sinful actions or need to repent!) What matters for your freedom, today and ultimately, is that there is God of mercy, grace, and Gospel promises that can cleanse your guilt and shame in a true way because He has carried your grief and sorrows and sins in His body on the cross. He has risen from the dead and pours His new-life-resurrection power into those (Romans 8:11, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20, 2 Peter 1:3) who surrender their lives to Him…humbly and happily. This is the better path than blame.
Blame can’t heal sin’s stain,
Jesus’ blood makes clean again.
Blame won’t remove guilt’s chain,
Those in Christ holy remain.
by: Thomas Gold
Thomas is a pastor at RSBC. He yearns to join others in fighting for freedom from internal and external evil and pain. He is married to Janice and happy to be raising their six children together.