The art of letting things slip through the cracks

I missed the deadline. I probably could have reached it. I most certainly had content that I could push out there that would have been mildly entertaining, slightly informative, and might be worthy of a share. However, I could not. Wednesday night, Thursday morning, and as the day progressively carried on and the deadline passed further and further into the distance, my mind and body couldn’t bring itself to type a single word.

Flashes of the Youtuber who lost a million followers when he didn’t post a video one week went through my mind. I was ignoring the advice of some of the most respected voices in the blogging world, voices like Michael Hyatt, who says you must post often and consistently. The gong of advice inside my head couldn’t compel me to persevere.

Why?

Well, I’m glad you (and I) asked.

I’m tired. 

Over the last four months, I feel as though I am going at an insane pace. My everyday life consists of my job as a pastor of a church plant, father, and husband. What this means is that I am studying and producing a sermon every week. We have a small church, so it also means, I lead all the music, I do the youth, and run the programs and admin. There is some help here and there, but it up to me to get it done. I have four young kids. They need to be read with, put to bed (which is an ordeal consisting of a plethora of prescription drugs that would make a pharmacist salivate), and have family and one on one time. It’s a worthy investment, but as any parent knows, it can leave you dried up and tired.

On top of that, I have a relationship with my wife to maintain. She is blogging, watching kids throughout the day, and teaching conversational English at night. After I put the kids to bed, while she works, it is our only time together (as we try and make our way through the Marvel chronology). 

Now we need to add up all the additional things that we add into our lives. I am trying to write my second book, I’m studying to be a personal trainer, I am working out three hours a day to be in shape, so I can be a personal trainer (four years of injuries have taken their toll), and blogging twice a week.

I’ve kept up the pace. Thursday, I just couldn’t. Something had to give. I just hope I don’t lose a million followers (as if I could).

I believe we all have deadlines, goals, and priorities we need to let slip. We have to ask ourselves what are the primary responsibilities that we have.

For me, husband, father, and pastor (in that order). We then have secondary responsibilities. Again for me, studying to be a physical trainer and exercising so I look like a physical trainer. Even though I love to do it, writing has to fall into a third category. Yes, I may not sell as many books, get as many hits, or raise my social media platform (which has been suffering a lot the last few weeks), but it is not worth sacrificing the former two categories to be prolific in the later.

What I have yet to mention the uncategorically most important, my spiritual life. I need time for prayer, study, scripture, worship, meditation, and sabbath. I cannot even come close to achieving anything on the priority list with even half an ounce of “average” unless I pour into myself. It’s like the picture a flight attendant might show us how we put our mask on first before we help anyone else. 

After all, isn’t this what Jesus did? Sure there weren’t social media or blogs (although I’m sure he would if they had). Even though Jesus didn’t have all the noise of modern society around him, Jesus still had to deal with pressure, family, friends, and yes, even his own spiritual life. We see him waking early and retreating, he goes to temple, he goes to pray with a few friends, and he even says no to people requesting his assistance. 

Jesus needed to set the priorities, so do you and I. We have to be willing to let some things slide. What is vital, though, is that we don’t let the most important things slide. We must not let our spouse or kids fall through the cracks of our busy lives. It might mean we disappoint a few people when a post doesn’t come or the deadline isn’t reached in time, however, as Jesus once said, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” We must not lose our soul, the essence of life, in the process.

Today, give yourself permission to let something, that’s not all that important, slip through the cracks.

3 ways you can know God’s will for your life

As a pastor, this is one of the biggest, hardest, and most common questions that I’m asked, “How can I know God’s will for my life?”

Pastors let’s be honest, it is one of the biggest, hardest, and most common questions we wrestle within our lives. We can sometimes frame it, “What is God’s will?” or “Where is God leading?” It all boils down to the same thing, we don’t know what we are doing.

I guess that’s why we call it, faith.

I believe that there are three ways we can know God’s will for our life. However, before we get into that, I need to point two things out.

1) As Christians, our primary goal has been spelled out in Matthew 28. We are to go telling of the Good News, making disciples, and teaching them to obey. That means it doesn’t matter what you do, whether a sanitization worker or the Pope if you are making disciples you are not outside of God’s will.

2) God isn’t trying to trip you up. He isn’t waiting for you to make a mistake so he can charge you with a demerit as though he is some corporal camp counsellor. God isn’t angry when you make the wrong decision. Hurt? Sad? Yes! Just as I am disappointed when my kids do the opposite of what I tell them. Are there consequences? Yes, but they don’t lose child status. As you try and discover God’s “will” for your life, remember to do your best and invite the Holy Spirit to help you.

Now that we have those two points prefaced here are three

1) You prayed, and it feels right to you.

You have prayed, and you feel at peace. You may not think it is the best idea (or maybe you do), you may not even feel that you’re qualified (which you may not be), but that never stopped God. Look throughout the Scriptures, and you will find a motley crew, both men and women, who God used to change the world in big and small ways which were not qualified and often God’s plan for them was anything but logical.

It’s not a question of whether it makes sense or that you’re qualified, or whatnot, it is a matter of inviting God into the process and allowing Him to give you the peace and strength you need.

2) Test in Community

Even the apostle Paul brought what God had called him to before others. We need trusted people in our life who we can share what we believe God is saying to us. These need to be people who have shown that they, in faith, have followed God’s will for their lives. They need to be people of wisdom. They need to be people who aren’t going to blab (loose lips sink ships), and you need more than one.

How do you know it’s not some crazy idea you concocted yourself? How do you know it wasn’t the leftover pizza you ate last night. Community is a resource in this area. As you seek God’s face together, you can ask the Holy Spirit to speak to each of you regarding the situation and compare notes.

These two steps are incomplete without the third, and vis versa.

3) Test with the Scriptures.

We have the blessing of ancient wisdom that God inspired. The book of 1 Timothy, Paul, tell us it is “God-breathed.” The church has wrestled with what that means exactly, but what we know is that the Bible is essential, it’s vital, and it presents incredible wisdom.

When it comes to testing where God is leading with Scripture, we need to ask ourselves, is this contradictory to what the Scriptures say?

The big mistake is when we use Scripture alone. When you read and apply Scriptures within the silo of you, you can make it say anything you want (i.e. the Crusades, local immigration enforcement). However, if you invite others into this process (remember step two), you have dramatically increased the intelligence in the room.

These three steps, never working alone but functioning as a unit, they are vital steps to help you make the best decisions when trying to live in the will of God.

Are there other steps? Let me know some of your principles in the comments below.

Is it 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.

Check out the resources used in this post