Tag Archives: God

Five Reasons People Struggle to Find God

One of my roles is to help recovering addicts include God in their recovery process. No small task. To start the process I like to hear their stories…that is, how they saw God growing up, if at all; how they related to God through a religion, or nature, etc.Finding-God-banner-703x201

After a while, some clear themes emerge. It is VERY rare that someone in recovery tells me a good story about their spirituality. If they have found God it was usually after a long detour through some kind of bad religion. As a pastor (another role of mine) it’s been enlightening as to how LITTLE the church has helped people find God. Really sad. But there are other reasons that keep people from God. Let me list what I’ve learned.

Reasons Why People Struggle to Find God

  1. Meaningless church/religious experiences. As mentioned, it’s rare that people tell me how attending church helped them to know God. It’s usually something they had to endure for a season (usually through confirmation…a training process for kids in middle school) before they opt out. Parents want their kids to get the basics of faith but no more. The lesson kids get is that church is irrelevant and God is distant, so pay your dues and leave.
  2. Bad experiences with “believers.” This covers a gamut of experiences that turn people off from God. The basic response is: if this person is a true believer then I don’t want anything to do with what they are into. Here are a few examples of bad experiences:
    • hypocrisy
    • judgmental attitudes
    • abuse
    • historical craziness like the Crusades witch burning, or “Jones Town Massacre.”
  3. Small Mindedness. This could be included in the point above but is broad enough to be worthy of its own point. If you consider yourself an open minded free thinker, any kind of religion can pose a threat. Religion, by nature, channels your thinking into a set format. So religion is the enemy. “Believers” often think in such narrow, simplistic ways. Personally, this is something that I find embarrassing about fellow believers. They like to make things simple, i.e. black and white, pat answers. Don’t confuse me with science or the facts. To them, the beauty of faith is that it solves all complex problems with a few Bible verses. But what they love is the very thing that causes a revulsion in the free thinker. The free thinker sees faith as something that reduces you as a person.
  4. Tragedy. I’m surprised how many people either quit on God or never give God a chance because of a tragedy. There’s nothing like a death to kill faith. It’s interesting how they could handle the injustices in the world until injustice struck THEM. Until they got up close and personal with suffering, they were fine with God. (Surprisingly, the same experiences bring others to faith.)
  5. The invisibility of God. Maybe the number one struggle I hear is that it’s hard to believe in something/Someone you can’t see. People want to touch it and feel it to know it’s real.

I’m not going to attempt to answer these obstacles here, just note them. I’m curious what else you would add to this list. Please leave a comment below.

I will say that if you focus on the person of Jesus that you can bypass all five of these concerns (I’m not trying to be simplistic in saying this. I’m just saying that these five issues are often meaningless smokescreens that cloud the true issues of faith.) Whenever my doubt surfaces, whenever believers make me mad and make me want to give up on the idea of church, I always remind myself that Jesus was a historical documented person with multiple eye-witness accounts of his life, death and resurrection. My struggle isn’t with life’s problems or people that disappoint me, it’s with whether or not I accept the claims of Jesus.

What causes you to struggle with believing in God?

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God Comforts Devastated People

Do you ever wonder how God feels when you’ve totally screwed up your life?  I love the Bible because you don’t have to wonder.  Story after story tells you what God thinks: God comforts devastated people.

devastated

God comforts devastated people.

One story is about Jerusalem.  Jerusalem was destroyed, people were killed, and the rest of the people were taken to live in captivity in Babylon, modern-day Iraq.

As you can imagine, the people were devastated. They were sick that their rejection of God had caused them to self-destruct, but worse than that, they were convinced God had broken his covenant with them. They felt abandoned by God. 

Do You Feel Disregarded by God?

In fact, the Bible tells us one of their complaints. They say…

My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God. Isaiah 40:27

Israel was at fault.  They disobeyed God for generations and wondered if God would ever have anything to do with them again.

You might feel the same way… like you messed up and now you are on the outside looking in. You worry that God has washed his hands of you.

When people go through hard times, they wonder, Does God care?  

God Comforts Devastated People.

God answers that question. He speaks to his prophet, Isaiah, telling him what to tell his people:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. Isaiah 40:1,2

God tells Isaiah to comfort the people and speak tenderly to them. Those are good first words aren’t they? I’m glad God’s first words weren’t “Tell them to get their act together!” The word “comfort” literally means to “cause to breathe again”. The worst was over and now they could breathe again.  God hadn’t abandoned them.

Maybe that’s what you need to hear today. Maybe it’s time for you to breathe again. God doesn’t want to condemn you. He wants to speak tenderly to you and help you start over again.

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Don’t Let Guilt Go Sour On You

True guilt is a good thing. But if you aren’t careful, it can go sour on you. Let me explain by telling you about Steve. (Track back to read more from this series)

Steve has a drinking problem. He never thought it would happen to him. He got started in college with his buddies. He thought after college things would change but he found old habits die hard.  Steve realized he didn’t have the self-control he thought he had.

guilt

Don’t drink sour guilt.

Steve was a Christian who wanted to honor God. But things got out of control

and he didn’t know how to get back on track. Interestingly enough, Steve’s faith in God was a part of the problem. He felt so ashamed of his failure that he drank more to try to cover the guilt. It was a vicious cycle. The more he drank the guiltier he felt. The guiltier he felt the more he drank.

But after a while… Steve stopped feeling guilty. He just accepted that he was a drinker and resigned himself to a life without God. It wasn’t what he wanted, but it was a lot better than feeling guilty all the time.

Steve’s story describes a lot of people; just change the name and the problem and Steve might be someone you know or Steve might even be you. Instead of a drinking problem it might be a problem with food, pornography, gambling, shopping, anger, or a number of things.

Does Guilt Define Your Life?

Whatever the problem, the common denominator with Steve and all of us who struggle with these things is guilt.  Guilt defines our lives and pushes God away. Somehow I don’t think that’s what God had in mind for us. Do you?

What if Steve could live a life free from guilt? How do you think Steve’s life would change if he knew that he was completely forgiven and God accepted him unconditionally, warts and all?

More importantly, how would your life change if you knew that you were completely forgiven and accepted unconditionally? I’m not talking about being free from all guilt. Some guilt is good. Guilt helps us recognize that we’ve done something wrong and helps us to take ownership of our problems.

I’m talking about the guilt that lingers and often turns to shame. I’m talking about the feeling that hangs on you like a scarlet letter and makes you want to avoid anything remotely associated with God.

Don’t Drink Sour Guilt

True guilt has a short shelf life.  That is: once guilt serves its purpose in getting you to see your wrong and change, it starts to spoil.  It’s like milk that sours… it turns from being helpful to being hurtful. You’ve got to throw it out.

But many people keep drinking the sour milk of guilt thinking it’s the right thing to do… even the godly thing to do. They just assume that all guilt is from God and so they embrace it like it’s their penance for bad behavior. Big mistake.

If you’ve made the mistake of consuming old guilt, do the right thing: throw it out! If you’ve made the necessary changes then there’s no need for guilt. Let it go and enjoy the forgiveness of God.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Question: Have you been drinking sour guilt? Why is that? Leave your comment below.

Subscribe to this blog and I will send you a free copy of the e-book “Forgiven…once and for all”.

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Jesus Dealt With Your Past

Jesus Dealt With Your Past

Jesus Dealt With Your Past

This continues my series on how God’s forgiveness helps you deal with your past.

God understands that until you deal with your past you’ll never have a future.  The problem is, we can’t do anything about our past. There’s no going back. That’s why Jesus dealt with your past for you. The Bible tells us in the book of Hebrews that Jesus… 

… appeared once for all … to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Hebrews 9:26

To “do away” with your sin means that Jesus pulled the plug on the power of sin. It means that his death eliminated the effect of sin on your life.  So your past doesn’t have any power over you and your future carries the hope of a new life.

Now, you might still have to pay the consequences of your sin in this world. If you are in debt $100K you still need to pay that back. But God’s not holding your sin against you. He’s not trying to sabotage your life to get back at you. On the contrary, like the woman caught in adultery, He offers you a new life. And if you are in debt he’ll help you get out of debt.

Your Past Doesn’t Determine Your Future

You might say, “Remy, you don’t understand. It’s too late for me. I messed up so bad. I will never be who God wanted me to be.  I’m sure I’m the last person God wants to on his side.”

You are thinking too small. You think that God only has one plan for your life and you blew it. You are thinking that there is only Plan A and if you mess up Plan A that there’s no Plan B. Let me tell you… when you mess up, God has Plan B waiting. And when you mess up plan B, Plan C is next.

You might be living Plan Z right now and you think for sure that you’ve run out of options. You feel like you are pushing your luck with God, that God’s fed up with you and ready to wash his hands of you. But guess what?  God has whole other alphabets for you!

So don’t give up on yourself. God hasn’t.

Question: What makes you think your past has ruined your future? Leave your comment below and consider “sharing the knowledge” with others.

This post is adapted from the book “Forgiven…once and for all”.  Subscribe to this blog to receive a free copy of this e-book.

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The Residue of Shame

shame

Forgiveness hits the reset button in life

A few years back TIME magazine wrote an article about the reemergence of Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York.  He was known as a man who fought corruption with a vengeance only to be exposed as a regular user of a high dollar prostitution ring.

To make matters worse, to cover his addiction he would send money to shell corporations that funneled the money back to the prostitution ring.  TIME called it…

 …hypocrisy on a scale that was hard to fathom…as if Eliot Ness had been busted for peddling gin from his apartment.

When the news hit the paper his career was over.  Now he is trying to find his way back into politics but the writer of the story wasn’t so sure it could happen.  She said…

To learn that Spitzer was the world’s biggest hypocrite, that he’d thrown it all away to frequent prostitutes, was devastating, a lapse that could never be forgiven.

When she mentioned this to Spitzer this is how he responded…

‘How do you think I feel?’  He said, his eyes welling up. ‘I know exactly how you feel. At one point I stood for something that was important and useful. I was in a place in time where I had a purpose, where it mattered. And then I destroyed it.

The Residue of Shame

Thankfully his wife seemed to forgive him but not without some residue of shame in their relationship.  The article said …

His wife…appears to have forgiven him. ‘I don’t know if you can ever mend something like this, in the sense of repair the canvas so that you never see the tear in the fabric,’  he said. ‘ I’m incredibly lucky to be with a woman who is willing to deal with that tear in the fabric and keep moving forward.’ Eliot Spitzer’s Impossible Mission, by Sheelah Kolhatkar, March 15, 2010, TIME

Spitzer said there would always be a scar in the fabric of his marriage. The writer of the story said that the public would never be able to forgive him. And Spitzer himself said that he destroyed his purpose in life.

As I read this it made me wonder if Spitzer will be defined by his indiscretion for the rest of his life. Will his name be synonymous with hypocrisy and prostitution forever? Will he ever be able to move beyond his mistakes or the shame in his new destiny?

Do Indescretions Have to Define You?

I don’t bring this up to add to Spitzer’s shame but because I’m concerned for those of us who – like Spitzer – have a past that overshadows your present and your future. You have some big time mistakes or failures that haunt you and rob you of God’s best.  I don’t want these failures to define you. I don’t want you trapped in shame and feeling distant from God because that’s not your destiny as one of God’s children. God has something much better for you than that.

I want to talk over the next several posts about God’s forgiveness because I believe that receiving God’s forgiveness is like hitting the “reset” button on your life.

Question: Are there others that come to mind, like Spitzer, who have severely broken trust with the public to the point of never recovering?  Leave your comments below.

  • These posts are taken from my free e-book, Forgiven...once and for all. To receive your free copy subscribe to this blog.
  • Learn more about shame here: Healing the Hurts of Your Past
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Coming Back From a Crash and Burn

This is the final post in a series about how to recover from a crash and burn experience where your life imploded or exploded and came to a grinding halt. Track back to read the series. Consider sharing it with a friend.

Coming back from a Crash and Burn

Coming back from a Crash and Burn

The crash and burn series is based on the story in the Bible when the nation of Israel chose to walk away from God. Then the Babylonians took them into exile for 70 years.

You might see those years as wasted. But God doesn’t waste anything. Every moment was purposed to prepare his people for a comeback. Following are my last two lessons on exile.

Exile gives you hope for a better future.

People often think that exile is a time of despair rather than a time of hope. But that’s not true. Exile is when God speaks to you about your future. He speaks to you with words of hope. You just need to have ears to hear.

If you are in exile today because of some kind of crash and burn, God wants to encourage you about your future. This is what God spoke through Jeremiah to the exiles…

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.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 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 will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:11-14

I bolded the phrase “bring you back”…very important words if you are in exile. Exile isn’t forever. Remember, God isn’t trying to punish you. He’s preparing you for the next phase of your life.  You were on the sidelines. A time will come for you to reenter the game.

Exile gives you a new sense of identity and purpose.

God’s people had lost their identity. God called them to be a blessing but they forgot that. They became  self-serving. But exile gave them a chance to reclaim their identity and purpose in life. Exile does that. Exile was a time for them to reflect on what was important and restructure their lives around serving God and others first.

It was in exile that Jews had a new urgency to study the Word of God. It was in exile that the Jewish synagogue took shape. As Jews studied the Bible they came to realize that they were God’s chosen people, his treasured possession and they were called to be a blessing to the world.

It was in exile that the Jews decided they didn’t want to lose their way again. They wanted to make sure that if God ever gave them a second chance they’d be ready to fulfill their calling and not squander it. Exile prepared them for a comeback. And God did bring them back to their land to start over.

So, where are you in all of this? I hope my words help you to see the value of exile no matter how bad the crash and burn experience was.  Don’t run from it. Embrace it and let God do his work in you. Let the full work be done in you so you can be resurrected to a new life.

Prayer: Father, you know how important seasons of exile are.  Help us to see what you see. Help us to not run from our times of exile but turn and embrace them so we can experience the resurrection we need and reclaim our lives.

Please comment below. I’d love to hear back the insights you receive regarding your times of exile. We all learn so much more when we hear from many and not just one. I can only offer you insight from my limited perspective. With every additional voice our view increases our understanding. Thanks.

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A Crash And Burn Sends You to the Sideline

crash and burn

The sidelines is where we prepare to make our return.

This post continues my series on how to recover from a crash and burn. It is based on the story of the Israelites when they “crashed and burned” and were sent into exile to live in Babylon for 70 years. It’s ancient history, yes. But it’s relevant to anyone who fails miserably and ends up on the sidelines of life. Track back to read the earlier posts.

It might seem that when you crash and burn you are sent to the sidelines to sit out for the rest of the game. But the sideline is the place to regroup, heal up and get some good coaching so you can make a comeback. Here are two more advantages of exile (the sideline).

Exile puts you in a place to see God move.

When you’ve made a mess of your life there is a tendency to think that God won’t show up for you anymore. But that’s not true. God wants to do amazing things in your life and it starts in exile. If you read the book of Daniel in the Bible it’s about what happened in exile. God showed up in some miraculous ways in exile.  God didn’t wait until the Jews got back to Israel to work miracles. He didn’t wait until they were living the perfect life.

God does the same with us.  He’s not waiting for you to get your life back together before he moves in your life. He wants to move in your life today, even in exile, so you CAN get your life back together. I’ve seen this in the lives of divorced couples. They feel so defeated. But God shows up to bless them both. It’s amazing and so contrary to what they think will happen. They assume that after failing at marriage they have to suffer. But God’s not out to punish them. He’s out to transform them.

Exile gives you time to form new habits.

Exile is typically a long period of time, not just a few weeks. A few weeks isn’t an exile. That’s just a bad vacation!  Most of us want to get out of exile long before our time is up. So we need to readjust our thinking and prepare for the long haul. When Moses killed a man he spent 40 years in the wilderness before God used him to lead the Exodus. For the Jews, their time in exile was set for 70 years. This is what the God said:

When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.   Jeremiah 29:10

God wants to restore us but we have to endure the exile first. The seventy years needed to be “completed” before God brought them back. There is a set time for exile and you can’t rush it. I’ve been through my share of exiles…some for months, some for years… and Psalm 37 often guided me…

Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Psalm 37:3

I felt God used this verse to keep me grounded in TODAY and not jump into tomorrow. He wanted me to be faithful to the people in my life and not complain to God about why I wasn’t moving on to the next phase of my life.

My point here is, don’t spend your exile wishing your life away. Embrace it. Make the most of your time by working on the things that made you crash and burn in the first place. Exile is a time for building your character because character is only built in hard places…not easy ones.

Question: I’d love to hear from you about your sense of exile. What good things have you seen happen to help you recover?  Leave your comment below.

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