It’s O.K. to struggle with your faith

There has been a lot of doubt and skepticism from “high profile” Christians. Many have felt that there hasn’t been a place for this line of thinking in the Christian movement. While there are circles where this is not encouraged, there are also a ton of circles that are exploring.

I have seen a few rebuttals by bloggers and musicians that have some excellent points. Some have pointed out the holes in the arguments; others are urging us to follow God and not celebrity.

As much as these points are valid what needs not to get lost in the conversation and what I want to say to those who identify with the struggle of faith that has invaded so many Christian leaders is,

It is ok to struggle with God and your faith.

I believe it is un-Christian to not.

To not struggle in some capacity or another is to say that you have a full understanding of not just what the Scriptures say, but of God. If you believe in the God of the Scriptures, then both of those premises are absurd! Us understanding God is like a chair trying to understand it’s maker. The maker of the chair is so far beyond what the chair could ever comprehend.

Luckily we have Scripture and can experience God in beautiful and rich ways. To say that Scripture should be the thing that pulls us through and anchors us into the world of certainty is to claim that we have a perfect understanding of what the Scriptures say, which we don’t. Not even close. We rely on wisdom, experience, and tradition, and we do the best we can.

Often not recognizing this, we fix our faith to unhealthy paradigms.

When doubts and questions appear to unfurl our sails of faith, we become crippled. Instead of pushing forward to discovering brave oceans of new realities in God, we can either give up and lose hope or bunker down in safe coves.

I see neither of the later as viable options.

I believe it is good to doubt and question. When I look at the Scriptures, I can’t help but see a God who wants us to wrestle with the big issues, always realizing that there is more to learn.

There is a story at the beginning of Scripture that articulates this. There is a story about a man named Jacob. Jacob, like us all, has some serious baggage, much of which is self-inflicted.

As Jacob begins to travel to create a new life for himself and his family, he begins to wrestle with his ideas of what his life is and who God is. The book of Genesis records the Jacob has an encounter with an angel where they wrestled, and Jacob left with a limp and a new name. In the words of Switchfoot, however, “[he] wrestled an angel for more than a name.”

The Scriptures record,

“Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

Genesis 32:28

While the name change is important, we must not lose sight of how the ancient rabbis interpreted this verse. They believed that this set the premise for our approach to the Scriptures and a relationship with God. (more in this in Chapter 2 of my book Hidden faces).

There should never be a point when we stop wrestling with God, Scripture, or hard questions. It doesn’t mean a patchwork of ideas that we throw together as though we’re filling a pothole, but there are times when we need a fresh coat of pavement.

It is not that Scripture, tradition and experience don’t matter. That somehow our wrestling with the big and small questions undermine everything. It just means that sometimes we need a tweak and other times we need a new street.

For me, because I have experienced God, it demands me to push to understand this life deeper. There have been times when my tradition has let me down, majorly. There have been times when no matter how much I trusted and looked at Scripture, it left me frustrated, confused, disillusioned. I had an experience that I could not deny. I knew and still know that there has to be something beyond myself and that faith isn’t built upon the straw of others nor upon the weak foundation of my limited understanding of an ancient text.

My faith is built upon the fact that I have had experiences with something beyond myself. It now demands of me to wrestle.

Saying this, if my faith stopped at the experience and didn’t have the structure of tradition (tried and true practices, rituals, and paradigms) and the Scriptures (God’s word that tells of the Word, Jesus) then my faith becomes a kite flying in the wind with no string.

We must wrestle with all of these aspects of faith.

As a teenager, I had a lot of struggles with the church. Its brokenness has a continual effect on me. One of the many things that helped save my faith was a little book called Joshua by Joseph Girzone. It’s a story of Jesus showing up in the church today. It was then in my first year of college that Len Sweet’s book Postmodern Pilgrims opened my eyes to new ways of expressing our faith. Sweet helped me find the traditions that could keep me tethered.

During my mid-twenties, I was struggling with the abuse of experience in my movement. As I reflected on those I grew up with and the teens I was now pastoring, it was plain to see that in many cases, their whole faith was built upon experience alone. There were no roots! No tradition or Scripture – no wonder they fell away. It was a dedication to Scripture in this season that helped me sift through the healthy and not so healthy experiences — something I still have to do.

More recently, I had a crisis with the Scriptures. They weren’t working for me anymore. I was preaching and leading others, but the words fell flat for me. Luckily, as I stated previously, my experiences wouldn’t allow me to let go. What I needed was a new paradigm of understanding. I am thankful for POD casts like The Bible For Normal People and Reknew With Greg Boyd. I’m eternally grateful of Boyd’s book, Crucifixion of the Warrior God (I suggest the abridged Cross Vision) that has given me a new lens (hermeneutic) to reading the Scriptures that have allowed it to come alive in my heart again.

If I never began to wrestle I would have thrown it all away, of this I’m sure. If I never struggled through the hard questions, I would never have the faith I do now that is vibrant and life-altering.

I not only see the value in doubting and questioning; I see it’s vital. Just remember, it must never end with doubt and question. That’s just lazy. The doubts and question must propel us forward to seek new lands of truth that direct us to new understandings of God that are never complete but continually drive us forward to new areas of discovery.

How Donald Trump helped me become a better follower of Jesus

You may not believe it, but Donald Trump has made me a better follower of Jesus.

It is not because of his example. It’s not because of his integrity. Nor is it that he exemplifies leadership. That is not something I want to get into. I’m trying to be as apolitical as I can while still trying to make my point.

The reason he has made me a better Christian is that there are things that have been brought up during his Presidency. Things such as immigration, racism, and sexism.

Here’s the truth, I didn’t think in-depth about many of the dark things that have been stirred-up recently in peoples hearts.

I am a white middle-class male from Canada. This means I have seen and experienced the world in a particular way, a way that is not wrong. However, it is a way that is ignorant of the issues of others. Why? Because I’m a white, middle-class male from…Canada.

I need to be honest. I never thought about immigrants. I don’t mean this in a mean way. I didn’t think about issues of race. I’m not racist, thus I assumed neither were others. Unless I was confronted with it, I never thought about sexism. I presumed everyone thought the opposite sex was equal.

I guess I just figured that though they were issues at one time they weren’t now.

With every passing day of the last few years, I have been confronted with my ignorance. It has caused me to think deeply about the heart of Jesus.

The hatred some have propelled upon immigrants has caused me to think about how I would feel if I were desperate for a better life for my family. I think of Mary and Joseph, Jesus parents, who fled to Egypt to escape persecution (and it wasn’t because he was white…. because he wasn’t).

The racism thrust violently upon those who don’t look like me has caused me to open my eyes. I hadn’t seen it before. I naturally didn’t experience it. If my friends had, they hadn’t told me, and I hadn’t been aware of it while around them. How would I feel if I were maligned, targeted, and attacked? I would probably want to stand up for my freedom. I would probably be sick and tired of being disrespected.

The vulgar words people have directed toward the opposite sex have made think about my wife and daughter and mother. Would I want someone to speak in such ways to them?

It is easy to be ignorant of things you have never experienced. How could you not be? But if it flies in your face and you still choose to ignore the issues, then it is just as bad as being the one to disperse the hate.

God told the Israelites as they were about to enter the land he had promised them, the land where they were to exemplify what it means to live a God honouring life, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”

We love our neighbour because we are our neighbour. You are not better than them. Nor are you worse. We are equal. We are not to hold cold war grudges, or cast stereotypes upon others. We are to love. Jesus takes it even further when he declared for us to love our enemies and bless those who persecute you.

There is no place for xenophobia in God’s Kingdom.

There is no place for racism in God’s Kingdom.

There is no place for sexism in God’s Kingdom.

If right now, this is causing you to say, “Yes, they do need to treat me equal, they do need to treat me as a neighbour.” You’re missing the point.

You can’t control anyone, but yourself.

What is your role?

Who do you not treat as equal?

What issue have we ignored?

When we can begin to address these issues in our own heart, that is when we will start to see the world as God sees it. A world in which immigrants are welcomed and defended, a world in which we celebrate diversity but know we are all the same, a world where men and women see, work, and learn next to each other with full respect for one another.

Thank you, Donald Trump, you have made me aware of these vast issues that are still a very present reality. It has caused me to look at my self and the parts of the world I influence and decide to be a better follower of Jesus.

Jesus to me

This is a song I wrote while reflecting on who Jesus is to me.

Verse 1

                   A          D                   A

He is the strength when we are weak, 

                 F#m7       A/C#   D            Esus

He is the wholeness         that we seek, 

                     A      D    A            E

He is everything         that we need

      F#m7        D          Bm7         A

My rock, my fortress, Jesus-to me

Chorus

A              D     A               D                    A

Jesus to me         Is the freedom that I need

A                D    A              Bm7                   E

Jesus to me        fix this broken heart in me.

A              D     A               D                    A

Jesus to me         the only saviour that I need

                 D    A              Bm7                   E

Jesus to me        freedom that’s truly set me free.

      F#m7        D          Bm7         A

My rock, my fortress, Jesus-to me

Verse 1

                   A          D                   A

He is the calm when there’s a storm in me, 

                 F#m7  A/C#              D            Esus

He is redemption         when I need to be free, 

                              A      D                    A             E

He is the great peace         when my world is crumbling

      F#m7        D          Bm7         A

My healer, my freer, Jesus-to me

Chorus

A              D     A               D                    A

Jesus to me         Is the freedom that I need

A                D    A              Bm7                   E

Jesus to me        fix this broken heart in me.

               D     A               D                    A

Jesus to me         the only saviour that I need

A                D    A              Bm7                   E

Jesus to me        freedom that’s truly set me free.

      F#m7        D          Bm7         A

My healer, my freer, Jesus-to me

[GUEST BLOG] Affirmation girl

Written by Sarah Trombley

Affirmation girl.

That’s me–this is my love language without a doubt.

I need … I crave kind words, and that’s great, we all need an encouraging word, but there’s an ugly side of the affirmation game, and it’s called validation.

I don’t just need affirmation, I need validation. I need to know I am liked, valued and essential. It seems to me that I’m not the only one. Our culture’s obsession with social media reveals this desire. Don’t get me wrong, I love socials, but this drive for followers, likes, and influence all stem from our need to feel validated.

The problem is unless we are being validated and affirmed by Christ, it’s a trap!

You see these days just about everyone is searching for validation. Like me, they search for it in titles, people, and likes on Instagram. We even subconsciously value people based on their followers on socials.

It’s like one giant high school popularity contest.

At times I can feel small and insignificant.

I’m the stay at home mom,

who didn’t finish college

and often gets written off as a ditz.

I want to be respected, noticed, and heard, which isn’t bad, but sometimes I also find myself wanting to be envied.

As I’ve recognized this in myself and in the culture, I’ve learned the importance of checking my motivation. I need to evaluate whether I am trying to build up myself or build a kingdom for Christ. I need to check who affirms me, who validates me.

Kind words from family, friends, and strangers aren’t the problem. In fact, we could all use a few more words of affirmation, but my worth and value are determined by Christ. He respects me, notices me, and hears me. He loves me and is proud to call me His own, and that is enough!

For more on this and other identity issues check out my husband’s book.

Hidden Faces – The Playlist

Those who know me know I love music. Those who have read my book have probably noted the same. Throughout Hidden Faces: Discovering our True Identity in Christ I reference and quote many songs to convey my point. There are also numerous others songs that speak the message of identity, as well as the other issues we tackle.

That is why I created a playlist. You can stream it on your device of choice!

To sample the songs check out the files below. https://music.apple.com/ca/playlist/hidden-faces-discovering-our-true-identity-in-christ/pl.u-XkD00ZrUaLam4 

For a list of the chapters with the songs for them check out below. I’ve also included some music videos of select songs.

Preface

Side – Travis

Intro

Captain – Hillsong UNITED

Ch 1 – The First Step

Lord, save me from myself – Jon Foreman

come home running – Chris Tomlin

give me Jesus – Bethel Music & Matt Stitton

Ch 2 – Echoes of The Past

On the Road to beautiful – Charlie Hall

Ch 3 – Glory Days

13 – Allan Rayman

Hey There Delilah – The Plain White T’s

The Reason – Urban Rescue

Ch 4 – So Jealous 

Jealous – Nick Jonas

Ch 5 – Bitter Isn’t Better

Frail – Jars of Clay

As long as you love me – Back Street Boys

Ch 6 – No Need to Race

in the air – Phil Collins

Strength and Beauty – Citizens

Ch 7 –  The Call Becomes God

The calling – The Benjamin Gate

Ch 8 – Regret

Stand in your love – Bethel Music & Josh Baldwin

Broken – Lifehouse

Ch 9 – Anger Times

The Orphan – Newsboys

Lord, I need you – Matt Maher

Ch 10 – Spirit & Truth

look up child – Lauren Daigle

hookers & robbers – Charlie Hall

Elohim – Hillsong Worship

Conclusion

so will I – Hillsong UNITED

Have it all – Bethel Music & Brian Johnson

My life is in your hands – God’s Property

What’s Your Story

Thanks to Donald Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, I’ve been thinking a lot about story. What is the story of our life?

What’s the climax?

Who’s the narrator?

Where does the arc begin?

Who’s the protagonist?

Some of these may have answers. While for others, we may never. But let us not fool ourselves, we are all in a story. The choice we have is whether we choose to enter into it and make it the best we can or sit and wonder what our story could be like.

Too often we allow comfort to set in and we never take a chance. I think, how would Jesus’ disciple Peter’s narrative be different if he never stepped out of the boat to walk upon the water (Matt 14). What would the world look like if Dr. Martin Luther King never dreamed of equality and took a step? How many generations would be stuck in hopeless abject poverty if not for an immigrant braving oceans and deserts with all but hope?

The problem being, so often we need an upsetting moment to push us out of comfort into the story we were born to live. For Peter, it was the storm. For Dr. King, it was the brutality of racism and hate. The immigrant, it is loss, governments, and desperation.

Miller writes,

“Without an inciting incident that disrupts their comfort, they won’t enter into a story.”

Comfort is just that, comfortable. While comfort is vital from time to time, it can also be like a pot of cold water with a frog upon a stove (not that I have ever eaten or cooked frogs… yet). The water is cold, and the frog is content and comfortable, but slowly the heat is turned up until it’s dead in the water. However, if you put it in hot water, it knows it needs to escape. You might say it knows that the meal it’s being prepared for isn’t the type of story it wants to live.

While comfort can be great in a moment or even a season, it can be a dangerous trap that pauses the story of our life.

As I write in Hidden Faces: Discovering our True Identity in Christ,

“It’s easy to be crippled from starting the journey God has for us. It can feel daunting. It’s hard when it can mean leaving the secure job or disappointing a friend or family member. Too often we have to lose the job or the family member or have a health scare to take the step we should take. I know that was what happened to me. It was not until I lost a job that I took steps. It’s easy, especially when you have a young family, to play it safe instead of braving the oceans of discovery that lie before us.”

What is it that your story is waiting to write?

You may not even know. The problem being is that comfort is of no help. If we always escape the uncomfortable, we will never learn what it can teach us.

What if…

we decided to try something new?

we went on that trip we always longed?

we sacrificed and took control of our finances instead of the comfort of excess?

we risked our heart and entered that relationship?

Who knows what it is? Well, maybe you do or perhaps not yet. As long as we choose the “Kingdom of comfort where [you] are king[/queen]”, to quote Delirious, you will forever live in wonder.

There will never be an arc.

You will never reach the climax.

You will never know what it’s like to be the hero/heroine.

You will be a frog slowing cooking in your comfortable pot of slowly warming water and your juices.

Now, doesn’t that sound lovely…. not so much.

Jeremiah declared the words of God Judah and Jerusalem a truth that I believe also applies to us.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future… You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and I will bring you back from captivity.”

Jeremiah 29:11, 13-14

Let’s seek the discomfort of God and allow Him to release us from the captivity of comfort. Let’s step into the plan, destiny–braving the ocean and stepping out of the boat.

Where do you find comfort?

Grace ≥Forgiveness

One of the revolutions that Jesus taught us was the power of forgiveness. During a time of revenge and equal compensation, Jesus flips everything on its head and says, “Forgive.”

The problem is forgiveness is hard!

Yet it is freeing.

Sometimes freedom is hard. Sometimes freedom is a push. But when you taste freedom, you realize just how worth it, it is. As Cook and Baldwin point out in their fantastic book Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness, “Forgiveness is not compromise.” However, when is enough, enough?

One day Jesus has a little powwow with his disciples. They are talking about so many of life’s issues. Greatness, sin, hurt. It is here when Peter, whether it be that he takes exception or just requires a little clarity, asks an important question that we have probably all asked.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Matt 18:21-22

When confronted with how many times we are to forgive the repentant a person Jesus answer is, always. While Peter wants to quantify the number, Jesus states that true repentance’s response is continual true forgiveness. As Russell Brand points out,


“Forgiveness means letting go. It means being willing to accept that we are all mortals flawed and suffering, imperfectly made and trying our best.”

This doesn’t mean that there are no boundaries or consequence. It just means that both parties choose to live free of the infraction. Jesus articulates one of these critical boundaries as he explains what forgiveness is supposed to look like in our lives.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Mt 18:23–35

What becomes clear is that the reason we are to forgive is that we have been forgiven. No matter how many times we fall at the feet of Jesus confessing our wrongdoing, admitting that we can do nothing to make it right, Christ welcomes us. Again, Brand rightly points out,


“How can I expect forgiveness if I am unwilling to forgive?”

Though we live and fight the double standard that seems natural to us, Christ calls us to forgive just as we have been forgiven.

However, if we think forgiveness is all there is and you are waiting on the sidelines holding that grudge, waiting to forgive that person when they finally ask for it, you might have a rude awakening. While Jesus talks about the power of forgiveness, the reason that you can forgive is that we have done something first—we have extended grace.

So what is grace? To this, I look to people who are much smarter than me. Bell and Bell write,

“Grace doesn’t brush over our sins and failures and faults—it sees them clearly in all their Technicolor mess.”

Grace isn’t about ignoring what has happened. It sees it in its fullness. It considers the immense brokenness in what has happened. Brennan Manning points out,


“The gospel of grace announces, Forgiveness precedes repentance.”

Grace goes before. It is the first move. Grace says, whether you repent or not I’m going to be free and I’m going to free you. They may choose, and we often to do, to remain captive, but we refuse to and refuse to put them in the cell.

But why? Shouldn’t we want justice—for things that were wrong to be made right? Yes, we should. However, it is knowing that God is the perfect judge and choosing to say, in the words of Sting, “I could be you in another life, in another set of circumstances.” The apostle Paul explains grace to the church in Rome like this

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Rom 5:8

While we were still opposed to who God is—while we even walked our own direction—while we still admitted no wrongdoing, Christ gave his life for us. The day of the crucifixion, Jesus could have taken himself off the cross and said, “forget about helping all you ungrateful people.” Or while in the grave, as we waited for Saturday to end said, “well, they abandon me in a minute. They don’t really believe. Peace out.”

Though we didn’t deserve it, God showed us, love. He made the first move. This is the picture of a desperate Father running to his kid. Augustin writes,

“He did not delay, but ran crying out loud by his words, deeds, death, life, descent, and ascent—calling us to return to him.”

God knew we couldn’t do it on our own. That’s what the law was all about. God stoops his ideal to reach us. However, He knew we could never do it, that is why the law is proceeded with, “when you fail.” Though we had no power to pick ourselves up out of the muck of life, Christ can. If we back up from verse 8 to 6, we God’s love shining through. The Message puts verse 6 like this,


“Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway.”

Ro 5:6

If asking forgiveness is putting the power into someone else’s hands, then grace is God saying, I will put the power back in your hands. However, this isn’t power so you can lord over others. This is the power that allows you to step out of the prison cell Christ has opened for you.

This power Christ puts back in our hands is the power of humility. It’s the power to say, I can’t do it on my own, I need the eternal God. While forgiveness can create superiority, us waiting for someone else to look up and say I’m sorry. God gives grace. Grace lifts the other up and admits you are not superior, we are all the same. We all make bad choices, some more destructive than others, but we are always one decision away from finding ourselves in the same shoes. Grace is saying, but for God, I too would be lost to the eternal consequences of my misdeeds.

Grace is always greater than forgiveness

Your churches prognosis doesn’t have to be a diagnosis.

Just because you have been pronounced dead, it doesn’t mean that is the end.

Sure, death seems final. After all, the lungs and heart are no longer pumping, and the brain is no longer firing. Yet, I’ve heard of people coming back to life.

My father is in the military and has had the opportunity to meet some exciting fellows over the years. One time he invited his friend who was in the Australian special forces over for dinner. He began to tell us stories of grand adventures as if they were pulled straight out of a Robert Ludlum book. Amid these stories I presume to be true due to their wild nature––without revealing too many details (after all, if he told he would have to kill me…)–he stated that three times he awoke with a priest over him pronouncing his last rights.

Clearly, death is not the final note!

Just because someone else has pronounced you dead that doesn’t mean you are. You aren’t dead until you decide you are, not until you give in to death (which isn’t necessarily a bad–a natural life cycle has death at the end).

What I am alluding to isn’t the death of the physical body, although this may certainly apply. What I am thinking of is all the talk of the cycle of an organization or a church. Whether it is Les McKeown’s wheel of Predictable success or a someone like Paul Borden’s life cycle of a church, an organization can find themselves pegged on the wheel and deem themselves to have no hope. These are not to tell you to roll over and die. No! These tools are to help you diagnose symptoms. Whether in business or the church, these resources are meant as a prognosis, not a diagnosis. Yet, big and small churches alike confuse the two and accept a lesser fate then they should.

Congregations all across the world have been pronounced dead by communities, politicians, philosophers, and most shockingly, other church leaders. While it may be true that these congregations are operating in a “death Rattle” (to use Les McKeown’s phrase, until the congregation either gives up or in, there is always a chance that there can be life again.

In the vein of Jesus, many parables about plants (mustard seeds, scattering seeds, and vineyards). I would like to tell you about my orchid.

Two years ago on a Mother’s Day (or was it anniversary…or maybe it was Valentines), I bought my wife an orchid. I had heard on an episode of Stuff You Should Know that they were a pretty resilient flower, which is perfect for my wife. Let’s just say my wife is the place plants go to die. My wife tended the plant while it was in bloom, but as soon as the petals fell, she pronounced it dead. Yet, we couldn’t bring ourselves to throw it away. It didn’t have flowers or buds. Just the stem was sticking up from green leaves.

The green leaves should have been a sign to us that life was possible. We just figured that there was no hope that the leaves and the stems were merely signs of past life and not the present.

The plant stayed in this state for over a year.

Over a year of no flowers–no buds.

Our neighbour is one of those weird plant people. What I mean is her plants live… When she saw our plant, she just couldn’t help but perform her plant voodoo on it.

She explained how the orchid wasn’t dead. She did this water and drain thing and told us to only give it a little water once a week.

Now that is my kind of plant.

We watered once a week.

Just over two years after this plant had lost its last flower, it now sprung life. Currently, multiple buds are ready to bloom.

Just because things seem dead, it doesn’t mean they are. Sometimes we just need an expert to give us a little nudge on in the right direction, on how to foster life.

It is recorded that Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me?

Jn 15:1–4

What we first must do is yield to God and allow Him to prune our life. We also need him to prune the branches in our churches. Trimming the dead branches off, God brings the plant back to life. The sacred cows get thrown away, selfishness departs, and desire to see people encounter the risen Christ remains and grows.

We can also learn a little from our neighbours. Like my wife and I did about our orchid. Authors like Thom Rainer, Rich Birch, Daniel Im, or Nelson Searcy have great resources for you to begin to trim branches, see the prognosis, and foster life.

Just because you have been pronounced dead, it doesn’t mean it’s the end. There could be new life right around the corner, you just need the knowledge and tools to make life happen.

We must yield the gardener, God. We must be willing to hear the advice of those who have travelled this road before. We must see the prognosis is not always a diagnosis.

Where have you seen a prognosis be accepted aa a death sentence?

Prayer isn’t a strategy; it’s communication

The other day I was listening to a two church leaders talk about all the different strategies to help your church grow. The guest, while speaking of the different strategies they utilized and put resources together for, the guest referenced their resource for strategic prayer.

Prayer is a great strategy.

Saying this, I am unsure if we should be totting prayer as a strategy. What they were referencing are strategic prayers that will help grow your church.

Is prayer important? YES!

Does God want more people to attend your church? Probably (if it’s dysfunctional, God wants function then growth).

It just doesn’t sit right.

After all, prayer is a conversation between the Almighty God and the people whom he loves.

Prayer denotes intimacy. It isn’t the cloud downloading knowledge, it is fostering a relationship.

Imagine you’re happily married (maybe you don’t have to, perhaps it’s just the happily part… for another blog). Now pretend that you had strategic conversations with your spouse. This conversation would be to help your interests.

But you’re not to have your own interests. Marriage is a partnership.

We need to pray that the Holy Spirit prepares hearts. We need to pray for strength and diligence to tell of the Good News of Jesus’ incredible love. However, prayer isn’t a strategy to increase your platform or increase your metrics. Prayer isn’t a strategy; it’s communication with God.

What do you think? How have you seen prayer used?