I have a history of a back and forth relationship with God, but I have a feeling I’m not alone. We have times when we walk closely with God, but we might fall away. And then we will come to a point where we are at the end of ourselves and we realize how much we need Jesus. There is a...
Pastor Chris gave us four nuggets to believe to help you finish your race: 1. Believe that whatever adversity comes your way, God has determined and prepared for you to be able to handle it!2. Believe that you are not the only person in your situation, others have been there before and they've...
Proverbs 3:4-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding..." You and I cannot understand the scope and scale of all that is around us, "But in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." Trusting Him will change your life and...
I first saw Karen standing on a stage. Looking at her, you would have never known that she was a heroine addict. You would never have known that she had been a prostitute. You see, she was the children's pastor in that church and there was a radiant beauty in her life that was astonishing...
I have a history of a back and forth relationship with God, but I have a feeling I’m not alone. We have times when we walk closely with God, but we might fall away. And then we will come to a point where we are at the end of ourselves and we realize how much we need Jesus. There is a drastic difference between a life lived in the darkness, and a life filled with the light. I want to show you this difference--the Jesus Difference--in my life.
In order to tell my story, I have to go all the way back to before I was even born. My mother and father were both raised in strong Christian families, and not just religious families, but they had parents who really loved Jesus and served in various ways, especially my father’s parents. My grandparents on my father’s side were extremely active in the Church. My grandmother was cherished by all, and led many people through hard times via her counseling. My grandfather has written many books and has been in leadership roles in churches for as much of his life as I’m aware of. Looking at my father, it’s obvious that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. He met my mom while at seminary, and for about two-thirds of my life he’s been a pastor, or at least involved in ministry in some way. So yes, I guess that means you can call me a PK (pastor’s kid). But honestly, what does that have to do with anything???
Maybe not so much anymore, but back when I was in high school there was a certain perception about what a PK should be, and what they shouldn’t. Let’s just say that I did not fit the mold; at least, inwardly I didn’t. On the outside, I was the perfect pastor’s kid. I spent a lot of time at church, I served and helped my dad out a lot when he was pastoring several churches that he had started himself. And, I behaved (for the most part). However, internally there was no real relationship with God, and in fact I tried to keep whatever was there hidden from the rest of the world. I was ashamed of my faith, if we could even really call it that. I’ve always believed in God, but he was never truly real to me.
Because I had no real faith, I was just a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. And sometime around 2007 I finally exploded…
In late 2006, I joined the Air Force. In truth, it was a good move for me, and honestly it was the only way that my wife Rachel and I could get married and not struggle financially. And where did we get sent? Only a few thousand miles away to Germany…
So, off we went to start our new life in a place where we knew no one, and where I had no real connection to the life I was previously living, except Rachel of course. I still had my morals, which were instilled in me by my parents, even if the faith part never really stuck. So, luckily, I at least had that, and in reality, it probably saved me from going down some even darker paths than I did. But, to be honest, I was already lost. My heart was not in the right place, and my thoughts were not thinking on Godly things. I did some things that I’m not proud of, and I hung out with people that only brought me down. I did not go to church, and in fact I didn’t really even want to. This lasted through three years in Germany, and got even worse our three years in Guam.
After the birth of our second child in Guam, which was not something we had planned, things got pretty grim. I almost made the worst mistake of my life, and made dozens of others that I really wish I hadn’t. I still wasn’t going to church. I was swearing as much as the worst sailor you’ve ever met (no offense to my Navy brothers and sisters). I was not being a good father, I was angry a lot, and I treated my wife poorly. However, again, my morals, as weak as they were by now, still kept me from tipping over the edge. I thank God to this day that he was watching over me, even before I was born. I know that the choices my parents made, and the way they raised me, was just so that I could survive through these trying times later in my life.
So, there I was living my life in the darkness, with no way that I really knew of (at the time) to get out. But then, everything changed…
Just as the dust of an explosion eventually settles, things in my life finally started to become just a little clearer. I was able to get back on my feet and begin to heal from the wounds, though it took time.
In 2013, I changed jobs in the Air Force, which took us to California for several years. For nearly 7 years I’d hardly stepped foot in a church, but when we arrived in California I felt the tug to look for a local church to attend. We tried one, which ended up not being the best fit for us, so I started looking for another. I don’t remember how I heard about Shoreline, I think it was through an online search, but when we tried it out we really liked it there. And for the first time in years I finally started to feel something. It started deep within my soul, and it was a very slow change, but God spoke to me in profound ways over the next year or so. At times, it kind of felt like going to the dentist - it was uncomfortable, but I needed to remove the dead and decaying parts of my life so that I could fully heal and recover. I don’t really remember a specific moment when everything changed, though perhaps Rachel could tell you if you asked her. It was not some big light that opened in the sky and unleashed Heaven’s full glory down on me, burning away all the bad parts of my life. It was just a slow process of change as my mind began to be reformed – old habits and interests slowly faded away, and new ones took their place.
You won’t ever hear me say that I’m wholly complete, but I can tell you that the difference between now and then is night and day. As Nathan "Nate" John Feuerstein, the artist known as “NF”, so wonderfully put it, “Christian is not the definition of a perfect me.” Christian only defines who I strive to be, and who I look to as an example.
So, what’s really different about me? Besides most of the bad stuff that’s gone (yes, I do still sin), I’m passionate about things that I used to not care abiyt. Take this blog post for one. The old me would never have considered sharing all my shame on the internet. The old me would never have freely volunteered to write something meaningful so that in some small way, others might find the courage or the strength to allow change in their own lives. Besides that, the way I think has changed a lot. I see people differently. I judge less, and love more. I treat people differently, and my anger is under control. Of course, I do still have some small outbursts when I have to drive in Maryland traffic, but anyways…
One of the other ways that I’ve changed is in my desire to serve others, which as you know if you’re a Severn Runner, is something that we’ve been talking about recently. I know that I still need to do more, but even that feeling of ‘I need to serve more’ is something I NEVER would have thought about a few years ago. I lived for myself, and that was apparent. Now, though I’m still a selfish human by nature, I consider others more often and have more of a desire to help them.
I know that there are many of you out there right now who are reading this and possibly needing to do some reflections on your own lives, even if it’s only mirrored through my own distant experiences from yours. We all have different lives and experiences, and that’s what makes us unique. God speaks to each of us in different ways. So, it’s my hope that at least through sharing my story you’ll take a moment to listen and see what he has to say about yours.
Is he calling to you? Is he asking you to come discover this Jesus Difference that we’ve been talking about? Or, perhaps he’s asking you to share your own story of the Jesus Difference in your life, so that maybe, just maybe, someone you can uniquely reach might find the courage to allow the change that they’ve been desperately searching for their whole life.
You never know just who your story can affect. You never know just who your story can reach. And you’ll never know unless you share it.
There are a million stories out there of people who’ve come to understand this Jesus Difference, and who will probably tell you that it has been the biggest and best difference in their lives to this day. There are millions of stories through the ages of lives that have been changed – lives once lived in darkness, that are now bathed in the light.
Will yours be one?
Pastor Chris gave us four nuggets to believe to help you finish your race:
1. Believe that whatever adversity comes your way, God has determined and prepared for you to be able to handle it!
2. Believe that you are not the only person in your situation, others have been there before and they've survived it!
3. Believe that with God's help and with the help of other Christ followers who are situated around you, you can defeat the enemy in the power of the Spirit!
3. Believe that the God who sent His son to die on the cross for your sins, is the same God who loves you right now through your struggle!
And when the naysayers come to remind you and call you out of your name, remember this - It's not what people call you, it's what you answer to!
Throw off all hindrances, God wants you to know that you are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who are cheering you on, so stop listening to the wrong voices and finish your race!
Proverbs 3:4-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding..." You and I cannot understand the scope and scale of all that is around us, "But in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." Trusting Him will change your life and your destiny! If you're following Him and you're struggling away from Jesus, I want to challenge you to struggle and walk toward Jesus because He will change your destiny. That's the miracle of God's love given in Jesus!
You see the goal of God is maturity - A faith that is not trapped in broken emotions locked in one moment of time. A faith that leans on the infinite glory of Jesus and Jesus Christ alone, that's God's goal for your life that you trust in Jesus alone! That the issue of your life is not your spouse, it is not your child, not your finances or your health or your past, it is not the fear of your future, the issue of your life is Jesus! Turning to Him, He becomes your foundation, He becomes your trust and though you struggle, you struggle forward in faith successfully - that is the heart of trusting!
When you make Jesus - and not your pain - the issue, something happens in the presence of the glory of God and the imagination of the restoration! Our pain begins to shrink down to the size of a marble and it is not our pain that is so big and overwhelming - it is our savior! The hope of Jesus will change your life! It will give you new perspective and give you hope. And you will be able to struggle through just as Jesus did on the cross, on to the resurrection and on to glory! -Dr. Drew Shofner
I first saw Karen standing on a stage. Looking at her, you would have never known that she was a heroine addict. You would never have known that she had been a prostitute. You see, she was the children's pastor in that church and there was a radiant beauty in her life that was astonishing. Karen had grown up in a family that was very real world, and in this family, she was not well loved. Karen was used by men that should have loved her, and broken in ways that some of you know all too well, and in her brokenness she looked for answers but saw no Jesus. None was present for her to see and she did what we all often do. We turn to our God substitutes; other men, other women and we look for answers where there really are none.
We look for filling where there is only emptiness. One abortion came and then another, and more brokenness and more regret. The pain that she thought could not increase, did. The only way that it would seem to go away was when she was drunk or high and even that was a law of diminishing returns. Heroine became as much of a friend as she knew and her story was, humanly speaking, hopeless. Statistically the people who recover from where she was is very small and the people who stay recovered is even smaller. But Jesus, Jesus came!
He came into her life through people who were changed by His love and she who had thought the church would be a place of rejection, stayed away from the church, but she saw Jesus in the lives of people changed and they loved her well and hope began to come alive in her life! It wasn't a magic wand and it wasn't struggle free. It wasn't like some Disney story that was without pain or fear. It was very real world, very real Jesus and very real hope, but there was very real change!
This woman who ten years earlier, I would not have recognized for the ravages of drugs in her life, stood before us that day beautiful in more than body. She was whole and literally just radiating the hope and love of Jesus! When she looked around, she didn't see a past so broken that there was no way anyone could humanly rise from that. What she did, was she looked up because faith helped her interpret life differently!
Other people look up and all they see is the emptiness of the night sky, but she looked up and she saw the same star of Bethlehem. She saw a light over the darkness of the world, and she looked up and she saw hope of Jesus, and that hope was more powerful than heroine, more powerful than her prostitution and more powerful than anything else in her life and it changed her; and being changed, she led change!
I want us, as the church of the living God, to be alive in hope for the rest of our lives! I'm not going to paint for you some easy story of what your life is going to be like. I don't really want to know what's ahead of me, because I might not like it. But here's the deal, the only way to not be alive in hope is to look back and be tied to a past that is insurmountable! To look around and to see nothing but more brokenness. To look ahead and to see through the magical future that you've created for yourself and to feel it's emptiness!
But when you look ahead and you see a Jesus who is there waiting and you look back and you see a Jesus whose blood has forgiven you from every chain that binds you and every sin that you don't want anybody to know about. When you look around and you don't just see circumstances that are impossible, but you see a Jesus to whom nothing was impossible. You look around and you see hope!
When you are alive in hope, you are changed by it! How do you know if you are alive in hope? How do you know if you've been changed? Well, here's the deal, with all the struggles and all the imperfections, with all of the process and all of the mess, when you are alive in hope, you are on mission, bringing change to other people without hope! Look up, see hope and be changed! -Dr. Drew Shofner