Pastor 📖 | Teacher 📚 | Writer | Severe Wx Enthusiast | Champion of the Underdog | Equipping youth & bivocational leaders to live as Christ.
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Since August 2021 (I.e. Juby’s birth month), reading the Bible has been, eh, rather hit and miss.
Take 550 days and probably 500 of them, I could have gone deeper but didn’t on account of feeling too stunned, silent or somewhat afraid of the idea God may not be near when I want Him to be.
Granted, this is a loaded sentiment and not the reason I’m writing this though the choice of intimacy is a category worth unpacking later on. For now, I want to take a SOAP Bible study approach to Job 23 where we find a defeated yet inquisitive protagonist doing what all of us should do when we’re going through hell or hard times in general…talking to/wrestling with God!
Reading this passage afresh and anew, I love how Job pairs his rawness with pure vulnerability. Starting in v. 2, Job calls his shot as a bitter vent only to disclose its motivation in the following lines:
“Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat!” (v. 3)
“I would know what he would answer me and understand what he would say to me.” (v. 5)
But then in v. 8, we see the insecurity, all too relatable but perfectly justifiable: “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him.”
Per my hesitation to press into divine, I find this transparency encouraging as in banner-like fashion, Job captures an all too familiar fear…
What if everything I’ve thought of you, hoped you would be isn’t there in times I need you the most? You are God! So by default, your nature cannot be conditional. You are unchanging (v. 13). You are just! So by virtue, you will cover me, help me…do something…right? Right !?!
Fast-forward down to v. 15-16 and we see another facet of Job’s skepticism:
“Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me.”
So clearly, Job isn’t just scared of the prospect of God’s abandonment but God Himself! To me, this gives insight not only to the weight of Job’s despair but also to how Satan might sow seeds of distrust within the weary heart. I can only imagine Job’s inner voice desperately fighting off the daggers: I mean…He’s God. He can choose to do whatever He wants including not being true to me. I’ve been loyal but He’s not obligated to reciprocate.
See the danger here in how we can make God out to be a liar when we’re overwhelmed and bombarded? Or even worse, to make Him into a relative, subjective orphan-generating God whose love actually has a reach?
Oh, that we all may find that inner Job in us who though weak, walks in the meek…and is not so easily discouraged by the absence of goodness in the moment but stays hungry through healthy inquisition…
You are all I have, Lord God…so I will cling to my all. True, I may groan and shudder…but I will do those things in Your direction knowing at the very least, the present void is no match for a sovereign God trying me so I will come out as gold (v. 13).
Feel what you may, labor are you will…He will complete what He has appointed for you as many such things are in His mind.
And that is a bottom line for tonight, my friends: Be free to be still but don’t be silent in your darkness. Who knows? God may actually give you words so that you can argue with Him! All for the grand purpose of drawing near to His heart and knowing without a shadow of a doubt, everything will be okay.
Five weeks in, it’s hard to believe we’re almost a quarter into the 21st century. Goodness, where does the time go?
Steadfastness perhaps? Fresh rhythms associated to the pursuit of happiness and meaning? A deep burn for growth, change, and momentum?
Whatever the case, no one is immune to these drives even if our gears are stuck in idle, or worse, broken entirely. I guess for me, I’m still trying to figure out what God has in store this year, not just for me and my family, but for the body at large.
Granted, I can speak to local developments as by now, you probably know Lys and I are expecting again. May the record forever show this new life is the quintessential divine surprise if at the least on account of shattered probability and intended outcome. Praise God He establishes our steps no matter how we chart our course, but dear Lord, please for the love of you, protect this life and keep our family safe in your arms.
As for recent revelations, they are trickling in. Some book fodder, others not so much. One idea for thought, and this may end up in our Juby Journey book to come, is the character arch of Martha as culminated in the death of Lazarus.
Now, I’m sure many of you have some recollection of Mary and Martha especially during their first encounter with Jesus (Luke 10:38-42), how Mary submitted herself like a rabbinic disciple, how Martha lost sight of her priorities as she elevated hospitality over host, etc.
And before I forget to say it, oh, how I can relate to Martha in this passage! Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I’m the kind of person who would want to eliminate distractions (and the potential variety) before the main event. Honestly, I get what Martha was doing. She just lost sight of what mattered…in the presence of Jesus. In the construct of contrast, Mary not only resonated with Christ’s desire for her to receive first, serve second but swiftly adapted to a reversal of cultural norm. Martha, still conditioned by peer expectations and her spiritual giftings, had a picture of the end game, as if she was working towards a postcard moment; however, Mary continually listened in profound posture. To her, Jesus was the distraction, the ultimate deep dish being served to her for such a time as this. By scene’s end, the opportunity for constructive criticism would take form.
Now, was the time for Martha to listen and receive her portion!
Fast-forward to John 11 and we see progression of Martha’s faith on display immediately after Lazarus passes away.
Starting in v. 20, we note Martha, not Mary, was the first to greet him. Though the rationale behind Mary’s stillness is debatable, what’s clear is Martha, in the midst of tremendous heartbreak, did not let her grief stop her from anticipating Jesus. In fact, in a way, you could say Martha pursued Jesus with trust dripping off the tongue.
“Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give to You.”
Again, for all you Juby fans, these two sentences…they are worth a separate ‘selah’ and I promise you this will be expounded upon. For now, I can’t help but appreciate Martha’s maturation as revealed through her response to conviction. Even in a life versus death situation, Martha knew it wasn’t about an outcome but who God was and what He could do. What Martha missed in the small, she nailed in the big, not to mention she set Jesus up for one of his most memorable lines in v. 25:
“I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in (adheres to, trusts in, relies on) Me [as Savior] will live even if he dies; and everyone who lives and believes in Me [as Savior] will never die.”
All in all, this was a home-run moment for Martha in the sense she believed in Christ’s identity and purpose even as she wrestled with raw motion. Per v. 27:
“Yes, Lord; I have believed and continue to believe that You are the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed), the Son of God, He who was [destined and promised] to come into the world [and it is for You that the world has waited].”
And finally, by v. 35, we come full circle. While Martha’s hope in the Son of God was confirmed, her emotion amidst transcending circumstances would help move the Son of Man to tears and even more notably, into a critical point of relatability. Just as you and me mourn, just as you and me process, so too can we identity to Jesus who knows what it’s like to be overcome by the very things He came to liberate us from. For in this world, we will be worried and bothered and anxious about many things but only one thing is necessary…and just like Mary and Martha in their respective victories, we can choose the good part which can never be taken away from us.
What might not be as known is whom we’ve had the privilege of serving in the time since: Local authors, The Speaker Lab, Gemstone Solutions…some of which were fantastic contractors in the beginning. However, since 2019, if I had to pick my favorite hustle, no question, writing shownotes for podcasting entrepreneurs such as Dan Cockerell and Jody Maberry, tops the list. No doubt about it.
For those who don’t know Dan, I’ll link his website below. While many ringing endorsements come to mind, for now, just know he’s one of the best leadership coaches I’ve ever heard and his credentials speak for themselves. Listening to him interact with keynote speakers, sharing testimonies of lessons learned at Disney…these are integrated into my weekly living and as a professional writer, I prize the opportunity to mature as a leader as I simultaneously construct summaries for listeners around the globe.
As for why I’m writing this, I believe this year is critical for many. For some of you, you’re going to be motivated and stirred to take on new projects in the months ahead. For others, you’re going to be summoned to new positions involving an uptick not only in responsibility but quality leadership, management, and supervision (Note: Before I forget to say it…congratulations, well done, and you got this!)
But what about the awkward contrasts in your current work environment? What about the past stops that featured ‘leaders’ who let you down on account of cavalier oversight, inconsistency, passive-aggressive communications, intentional intimidation, playing favorites, micromanaging, warped priorities, poor employee training and development, even character issues like withdrawing attention simply to manufacturate false conviction? Honestly, the list of poor leadership traits are as long as its converse.
My charge to you? Stop trying to fix and/or be discouraged about what you can’t control. After all, we all want to make sense of our emotions, what we feel, what we experience…and with our day jobs taking up the bulk of our conscience attention, it makes sense for decision-making to hinge on preserving whatever peace we can get out hands on. The problem is, outside of the exception, many are striving to preserve peace when instead they should be pursuing it among their colleagues and authorities.
Which begs the question: What does pursuing peace mean?
In short, pursuing peace is centered in Micah 6:8 – To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God (and by proxy, your fellow man). But there are many rich layers underneath we sometimes forget to employ such as assuming the best through problem-solving, integrating the other side of a conversation, initiating reconciliation, making gratitude evident, caring about what’s impacting the people we’re around, not the just the work they do, defining best practice and making it contagious, listening rooted in compassion, willingness to admit fault and accept correction…again, the list is lengthy and can’t fully be captured in a single post.
What can be stated is a corporate call: To endure with gladness even when you’re on the opposite end of what is good, healthy, and ideal. If there’s a roadmap to stepping up, you can bet there will be adversity and unforeseen obstacles along the way. Yet, as you deflect the dust off your sandals, be slow to deny the genuine sting of what you’re sensing. Rather, compile the pieces through quiet time, invite God into your assessment, pray, surrender, and press forward. Again, I’m not trying to oversimplify this pathway. I’m just trying to overemphasis how we need to do this every day to keep our heads above the crazy waters that inevitably come.
As always, if you want to talk about anything in particular, I’m here. Lys is here. We got you. Otherwise…
So today…I’m going to tackle a new subject after an impromptu discussion on it Wednesday night during LEGACYouth.
The subject? Divorce.
Duh, duh, duhhh…
Now, before you panic and exit [p]age left, let me offer a few disclaimers:
1) By no means do I consider myself a marriage counseling expert; I’m just a youth pastor who knows what a happy marriage tastes like and what the Word says about it.
2) By no means do I want to come across as insensitive to what some readers may be going through. So please understand it’s my earnest desire to broach this post with utmost humility.
‘Cause truth is: There’s much for me to learn on the matter; however, I hope the little I do know can be effective, insightful and…dare I say enlightening.
With that said, as many of us are aware: divorce is both a relevant and prevalent issue in society today. And as a pastor of students, a quarter of whom are struggling/have struggled with divorce in the family, it’s an especial concern. Yes, I know it can be “taboo” to talk about divorce outside of closed doors (trust me…I balked initially at writing this); then again, I’m not one to feel ashamed of affirming God’s purposes. After all, how can the truth speak if it’s not heard?
Moving on…if someone came up to you and asked why divorce is such an epidemic…what would you say?
Lost sense of meaning/identity?
I mean…if you were to start there, I’d certainly see why.
But I guess for me…I’d have to start with man’s dissatisfaction with what God has appointed him (i.e. everything we need for goodness/godliness, which for many of us, includes marriage at some point in our lives)…and his satisfaction in making conditional aspects of God’s nature we’re called to emulate.
To put it simply: I believe we, as a culture, have long lost sight of what covenant is. Even in the church, many have bought into the idea marriage is more about compatibility than companionship. Granted, there’s nothing wrong about compatibility. I just think if we’re quick to [ab]use a perceived lack of it as a means to separate ‘lifetime’ from ‘commitment’, then we’re flirting with unholy prioritization1.
Still, for those who’ve ever waked through marital turbulence, you know the tension is an entirely different animal in it than outside it. Thus, how we cope when the temptation to divorce knocks and how we encourage those holding onto their marriage for dear life are worthy discussions.
But before we dive in, we must first consider what God thinks…which leads me to my first truth:
1) God absolutely hates divorce.
Consider Malachi 2:16: “I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel.”
Pretty strong language, right? Then again, this makes perfect sense. After all, God is love and by nature contests his antithesis. Whatever the case, whenever we hear ‘God’ and ‘hate’ in the same sentence, it should arrest our attention, especially since fearing God means to love what God loves and hate what God hates.
2) God’s intends our vows to be unbreakable.
Consider Proverbs 20:25:“It is a trap for a man to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider his vows.”
After further review, I think it’s fair to say many of us don’t always weigh the weighty obligations of life before committing to them…and I submit part of the reason is our penchant to sub in our [largely subjective] conviction for God’s [absolute] conviction.
The crux here is: if we know the love/fallenness combo platter is a messy one, why then do we only consider the consecration of our vows after-the-fact when truth is: a) God has given us the commitment blueprint outline2 (i.e. consider your ways first and then hold true to them second) and b) God’s faithfulness and good intentions never waver.
Note: For some of you reading this, it’s not a matter of not considering your vows first before making them as much as it is you’ve grown numb to the magnitude of them. If that’s the case, then I encourage you: ask the Lord for fresh love for your spouse. Again, since God is love, the receiving is only contingent on your choice to accept it. Even the strongest couples in the world reach points when they must ask God for renewed devotion/passion for each other.
3) Apart from certain exceptions, divorce isn’t an option3.
“But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
“And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
Note how both passages raise up an exception clause (i.e. “marital unfaithfulness”) and subsequently the million-dollar question: Is it okay to divorce under the grounds of sexual immorality? Well, given such sin is an egregious breaking of marital covenant, I’d have to say ‘yes’; however, we must remember…
1) God is a God of grace who makes walking in repentance and restoration possible…
2) In God’s eyes, there’s no such thing as “irreconcilable differences”…
3) A one-time act of sexual immorality versus a pattern of sexual immorality are two [very] different things…
4) In the same way we’re called to be slow to anger, we must be [very] slow to divorce (hence the word “quickly” in Ecclesiastes 4:12). Regardless of the situation, divorce must be seen as a “no resort” before it’s treated as a “last resort”…
5) Achieving reconciliation is only possible if it’s pursued first; if the pursuit is one-sided, pray, seek counsel…and pray some more. Even if you feel alone, don’t ever underestimate the power of prayer…
6) Requesting help isn’t a sign of weakness…
7) As long as two people are married, they’re called to multiple a godly legacy. Sure, it may not be easy, but couples who fight the good fight together in sun and storm not only are more likely to stick together, but are more likely to inspire other couples to do the same.
But Cam, what about couples mired in verbal/physical/child abuse?
In these situations, I contend some form of separation is often a smart move if one side is unwilling to cooperate; however, if the abuser is willing to receive help, then it’s best both spouses walk in reconciliation hand-in-hand. ‘Cause again, the main objective is finding freedom from sin/strongholds together. Yes, be Spirit-led in setting boundaries and expectations; yes, do what’s best to preserve health and safety. Just remember to do these things a) trusting/relying on God every step of the way and b) resisting the urge to make self-preservation your default response to fear.
Anywho, I could say more, but given I’ve breached the 1,000 word barrier, I’m going to peace out and leave some questions for thought (see below). As always, feel free to comment or shoot a PM my way if any of this hits home.
‘Til then…have a blessed weekend and I’ll catch ya on the fry…
What’s been your experience with divorce?
Why do you think so many couples split?
How has your concept of covenant changed after reading this?
What truths do you abide by when it comes to being faithful in relationships (to friends, spouse, etc.)?What would you say is the best way to save a marriage? What are the absolute ‘musts’ when it comes to reconciliation?
1) Which in general hurts Christian community in many other ways…more on this in future posts…
2) Note: By ‘hold true’, I’m including prayer, verbal/behavioral expressions of commitment, setting goals, choosing joy, and integrating accountability into the mix. 3) i.e. There are no valid grounds for divorce.
Last summer, as the Juby journey entered its final semester, I recall a foreign feeling, one I couldn’t help but cling to in the months to come.
The day was Monday, July 18 and while much was going on behind the scenes, inside Juby’s pod, the road unfolding was becoming quite clear. Only days into a three-week paralytic reset, my sweet princess was the NICU equivalent of Sleeping Beauty, at peace in comatose slumber yet out cold indefinitely.
Peering over her bedside, my heart smitten but with anxiety on edge, the following word picture found me:
Like the woman with the bleeding problem (Luke 8:43-48), I was pining after Jesus knowing one touch from Him would be enough. But unlike her outcome, I could never reach Him thanks, in part, to the masses who needed Him just as much. Despite centurion-like faith, my acceleration could not keep up, my hope constantly ahead of weary head and soiled feet. And as dings became dongs on the monitors, so did my concerns become heartcries cemented in desperation.
Jesus, if you could just slow down a little, maybe then I can finally touch the edge of your robe and my daughter would be healed.
Jesus, I get it. Who am I? But oh, how you are! If you could please stop so I can see your face, so I can thread my fingers through your holy garment, not only would Juby be cured but our NICU neighbors would know you by way of wonder-working power unveiled by extravagant love.
Fast-forward three months and Juby is now a few months passed having graduating into ultimate rest. My heart is mending yet full of cracks occasionally flooded with tears. If I only could rewind the clock to summon more strength at this point, at this time, maybe she would have lived.
Yet, that’s when word picture became dream…one calm, October night not long after her Celebration of Life service. In this dream, I’m back on the trail. I can see Jesus’ backside but the distance is increasing. Tempted to think He could possibly not care, I cry out:
Jesus, was my faith not enough? Why didn’t you save her? Why didn’t you slow down so I could touch your robe?
And within an instant, Jesus is there, an about-face in front of my grill.
You were never meant to touch my robe. You were meant to follow me. And you did! Now, look behind you and see the many more who will follow because of what they’re seeing. Watch and see what I will do.
Suddenly, I wake up. It’s a brand-new day and I, for one, am clinched as never the same through this game-changing moment. After all, I rarely have dreams or visions, let alone divine winks laced with such profound poetic symmetry.
Which takes me to why I’m writing this…
I believe for this year, God is calling many of us to consider the many ways He saves. Often, we ‘black and white’ His purposes thinking redemption, restoration, healing, among other things, are only real if they happen in certain ways. But this is far from God’s design and intent!
Perhaps you can relate to the feeling of running after Jesus but feeling He’s out of reach or that you don’t have what it takes to maintain pace. If so, I want to encourage you through this dream it’s not about your faith metrics but whom your faith is anchored to. Like the disciples in the boat calling out to Jesus in the storm, His proximity ultimately became secondary to His identity. Will you hope God will do what you want Him to do…or delight in simply watching Him do what He will do?
Either way, I admit there’s a lot of application and pivot points on this subject. That is why I’m proud to announce in the months to come, I will be working on my first book (I already have an editor lined up; woohoo!) that discusses God’s sovereignty in the context of suffering and through Juby’s life, unpacks the struggle to keep faith when answers aren’t clear.
The pursuit will likely reduce the amount of posts I churn out in a given year. But for me, this is a call I can’t turn down. Accordingly, I forfeit my normal rhythms with gladness to accomplish a dream birthed from one supremely given.
All that said, thank you in advance for your support and patience. While I’m apprehensive about this entrance into unchartered territory, I fear not knowing there’s lives at stake. Just like God redeemed the one Lys and I lost, so will He redeem those who feel lost within their walks holding onto the end of their ropes.
For now, I pray you’re blessed with this premise. No question, it is the core from which I devote my writing time and focus until this project is done.
‘Til then, I love you all. Let’s do this.
P.S. A special shout-out to all our NICU/PICU supporters, especially those who partnered with us during last month’s blessing bag outreach! See 34:38 in the live stream below for a quick update…