Category Archives: Struggling

You’re Not Weird, You’re Rare: Embrace It and Value It

by Pastor Tim Thomas

I spent a large part of my life trying to be someone else, because I didn’t particularly like who I was. But I’ve come to realize that I was looking at myself through lenses that could only provide a distorted picture. Once God healed me from a deep-seated issue of rejection , I was able to more readily take in the truth that God had been speaking to me all along: that he loved me as I was, with all my seeming imperfections and weaknesses; that he made me as I am intentionally, and that it was meant not only for my good, but for the good of others; and that he wanted me to embrace who he created me to be, so that his purpose in this creation could be revealed in light rather than hidden in the shadows.
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I would say to anyone reading this, that if you don’t feel loved, special, and with purpose for your life, you either need healing at some deep places in your life; or truth spoken to you and then embraced to replace what you are now believing; or both.

For me, healing came through the ministry of some friends one evening as they prayed with me. It was a God-appointed time. What changed me was a vision that God gave me of him carrying me in his arms when I was a baby at an orphanage before I was adopted. He spoke to my heart something that I didn’t even know I needed to hear – that he never abandoned me, but was always with me, watching over me, caring for me. That picture set me free from believing I was rejected and deserving rejection. I was healed on the inside, and I started believing my worth. And once I was healed, I was more readily able to receive God’s love and the love of others.

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God Searches for the Last, the Lost, the Discarded, and the Rejected

Jesus had an awesome day of ministry preaching to a crowd so large that he had to get into a boat so everyone could hear him. But when evening came, despite being dog tired, he instructed his disciples to sail to the other side of the sea. After sailing all night through a violent storm, they land, and a man so totally out of his mind, naked, cut, and once chained — but now broken by super-human strength — came running at them.

forest_fire_pixabayIn a conflict with a legion of demons, Jesus commands them to leave the man they had possessed, and they go into a herd of two thousand pigs, which run down a hill and drown in the sea. The herdsman, scared and shocked, run to town to tell the people what happened. The people return with the herdsman, and instead of worshipping Jesus, grow afraid of him, and ask Jesus to leave.

As Jesus gets into the boat, the man who was formerly possessed by demons is now clothed and in his right mind, begs him to let him go with them. “Jesus did not let him, but said, ‘Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed” (Mark 5:19-20, NIV).

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When You’ve Been Faithful to Follow God…And Life Isn’t Turning Out Like You Expected

woman-72798_1280_pixabay_smallI’ve been hearing from a lot of my friends lately that they have been doing their best to follow God’s plans for their lives, in many cases making huge sacrifices or taking great risks. But now that they’ve sacrificed out of love and obedience, they look around at their current situation, and it’s not what they expected. Either the ministry didn’t bear the kind of fruit they were hoping for, or they are back from ministering, and find things missing from their lives, like income, jobs, homes, or relationships. And they wonder, “What went wrong?” Did they mess up, and so somehow missed God’s blessing? Or did God just let them down?

Perhaps our trouble is we are judging our lives by the standards of this world, or more likely, letting people in the Church judge us – people who have only learned to see with natural eyes and not from a heavenly perspective. Perhaps the Church has been too influenced by a culture of success borrowed from the world, and has lost its ability to really understand and see from the Bible that great sacrifice and loss are all part of the witness of Scripture – the witness of the great people of faith that went before us.

Maybe there is a third option. In order to get a clearer perspective on situations like these, I think it would be good to take a look at Jesus’ life, or the Apostle Paul’s life, or the lives of other saints, to see from their examples that they also made great sacrifices, and also ended up in difficult situations, maybe situations similar to what my friends are experiencing – maybe even worse.

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Jesus is Very Empathetic with Those Who Struggle with Same-Sex Attraction, Singleness, and Strong Temptations

With “hot” topics like homosexuality and gay marriage floating around these days, is there really anything new to be said, or anything to be gained by writing (or reading) another article on the topic? Perhaps I’m too idealistic or naive to think that I can add anything constructive, and yet I had some thoughts that might be useful to some who read this, helping people on both sides of the issue to see some aspects from a different perspective.

I have read a number of articles myself on this topic, and I find it annoying that authors hide their perspective so that you can’t tell what they really think — like what angle they take. I will go against the trend and say in the up front what my perspective is — but please read further, because I promise you that the nuances that follow might prove valuable to you. To clarify: I am not writing here about what any state or nation ought to do about laws. I am writing to those who care about or are interested in God’s perspective. And I love writing about God, because it seems so few really know his heart, and so many get confused by all the loud rhetoric — and I love telling people about his incredible love for them.

I do, however, believe that the Bible teaches that homosexual acts are sinful — not the worst of sins, not the least of sins, but sinful, like a lot of other things that people do — even good people, people who go to church and love their kids and most of the time try to do what is right.1 I don’t want to dwell on debating or proving that it is a sin, I instead want to focus on the issue of temptation. Those with same-sex attraction are likely tempted to sin in that way — but temptation itself is not sinful. If it were, then Jesus was sinful, because the Bible tells us that Jesus was “tempted in every way” (Hebrews 4:15, NIV). But in the same breath, the writer finishes his thought with the words “yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, NIV). Let us read the passage in its entirety:

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16, NIV).

Jesus was tempted IN EVERY WAY! If that is true, surely Jesus struggled with same-sex attraction, too, since that is clearly one way to be tempted. If Jesus only had the easy temptations, then he wouldn’t be that great a high priest, representing us before God. But he is a great high priest!  He was tempted in every way.

The passage goes on to say that Jesus practiced “reverent submission” (Hebrews 5:8) and that “he learned obedience from what he suffered” (verse 9). Jesus SUFFERED by enduring temptations but ultimately submitting to God’s will. SUFFERED! Jesus can identify with all of our struggles. Many temptations are not easy for us, and they weren’t easy for Jesus. Jesus can sympathize with us in all of our struggles, because he knows what it is like.

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Accepting God’s Invitation to Walk Closely with Him: The Only Hope for the Burned Out, Disappointed, and Disillusioned

Introduction

I believe that Jesus is calling out to people today, almost pleading with them to come into a very close relationship with Him. The way to Jesus is meant to be so simple that no one would be prevented from coming to Him, and no one would feel like it was too difficult to find that deep relationship. Unfortunately, many have decided that what Jesus said was too good to be true, and have tried to complicate it. Organized religion has sometimes misrepresented Jesus, making Him to be a God whose primary focus is on judgment and condemnation. Even people who genuinely love Jesus can make it difficult for themselves, by putting additional burdens of performance on themselves, or by unnecessarily choosing to continually carry a heavy load of guilt or shame. But the very words of Jesus speak against this. We can read His appeal to those far and near alike in Matthew 11:28-30.

28Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.” (NLT)

We need to take Jesus’ words seriously, when he says that he provides rest for us, and that his way is easy (or light). He says a lot more than that in these few simple verses, and it would help us if we unpack them a little bit.

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Success Is Over-Rated in the Life of Faith

Introduction

I don’t know about you, but I get discouraged sometimes attending Christian conferences, listening to televangelists on radio and TV and podcasts, and reading books. It seems like the message being sent is that the life of faith is one of success after success. If you happen to be like me, you have experienced defeats, discouragements, and setbacks. Compared to these preachers and teachers, I have often felt like a total failure.

But I don’t get down about these messages as much as I used to, because I remind myself that the Bible has something to say about this subject, and what it says is that life isn’t always a bowl of cherries. The truth is that the life of faith is not supposed to be one of victory after victory. How do I know this? Where does it say that?

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Dealing with Disappointment with God

disappointed-face-300x199Introduction

It seems that at some point in every believer’s life, something happens that causes us to be disappointed with God. Perhaps disappointment is too mild a word. Usually we get angry, hurt, frustrated, or disillusioned. Oftentimes, though not always, this disappointment is triggered by the death of a loved one. In what follows, I hope to share my experience in this area, and some insights that might help you out of these struggles if you are currently confronted by them.

My first and most serious disappointment with God came when I was 23 years old, after about 5 years as a committed believer. There was a man who I had come to know through a men’s prayer breakfast. I don’t know his age precisely, but I’d guess he was in his fifties, perhaps even late forties. I had come to admire him for his active faith, and looked up to him as a mentor. After I’d known him for a year or so, he was diagnosed with cancer. I don’t remember any more what kind of cancer (I think it was lung cancer), but in the early eighties a diagnosis of any kind of cancer was a very serious thing, because there were not that many successful treatments for any cancers, unlike today where there are high success rates with many kinds of cancer.

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