Posts Tagged ‘overcoming’

Change

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

71_1112005142510Sunday at the end of our service, I mentioned that when I first got into recovery many years  ago they explained that doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of the word “insanity”. That off the cuff comment has led to several discussions this week  with folks about various aspects of their lives. I’m the kind of person who probably spends too much time wondering why things do or do not happen.  I wonder about people. It seems like some folks never change, while others seem to flip flop with the shifting wind.

Many of us spend great quantities of time thinking about making tweaks in our lives that require change of more or less degrees. We can talk a good game, but we also know that most change is going to involve pain for us and often for others.  It is miles and miles from talk to action. Sadly, many of us don’t make it that far. Quite often, when we began the journey of change, we may have to pull some scabs off.  When you mess with a scab, you bleed a little and sometimes stuff oozes out, but a while down the road you feel much better.

Occasionally I will become a bit introspective, noticing areas of life that I need to do differently. Most often they are simple adjustments like rearranging my office; sometimes they have been foundational shifts in how I do life. In the last several years, my changes, both major and minor have served me well.  I expect that maybe you have some areas of your life that need some attention too.

Perhaps it is the area of anger, resentment, pride, rigidness,   or envy.  Maybe for you, it has to do with remorse or shame or guilt or fear that someone will find out and won’t love you anymore.  It could be anything, but I expect we all could do with a few changes. Perhaps you need to do what I did.  Say, “God I’ve had enough, I’m powerless over me”. I found that God isn’t powerless over me or any problem in my life. If we are willing to allow God to work his changes in our lives, then a while down the road, there will come a morning when you look into the mirror, you will see the man/woman you always wanted to be. Only through change does that miracle take place.

Something to Think About

Surrendered

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

SurrenderThe older I get the smarter I get. After church Sunday one of our long time members, Sunday volunteer and dear friend expressed a concern  about what I had written in my blog the previous week (“God Breathed” January 1, 2015  Johngouldener.com).

To make a long story short I had contrasted our first church plant with the second. In the first we experienced what I believe to be a series of God directed miracles. While the second church has obviously been blessed by God in many ways, it has not followed the “miraculous model” of the first. I had written, “During my Thanksgiving retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani, God revealed the real difference (between the two)…The first church was itself a miracle. It was raised up by God himself. God breathed always trumps man-breathed. Miracles only come to pass when we completely surrender our will to His”.

Anybody who knows my story realizes that for a lumber salesman, who had taken a twenty year break from church, to walk out of the lumber company one day and walk into a church of 1000 the next as the associate pastor without any seminary study, something miraculous was going on. For my wife and me to take that step, we had to completely trust God because it made absolutely no sense in the human.

Here is what I believe was the key and it may be the key to most all answered prayer. Three years later when we helped, along with others, in launching our first church plant, I believe that we were all surrendered completely to God’s will, as far as the new church was concerned. As best as we knew how, we followed his leading in planting that first church. Our only thought was how our church would be a doorway to Jesus Christ. As far as I can recall there was no thought of how it would benefit any of us whatsoever.

Twelve years later when our church split and some of us formed a new church, as I have reflected back,  I now realize I was not completely surrendered to him on the second go around. Over time God has shown me that this time my primary concern was not how to reach people for Christ, but for me it was primarily about how to continue my personal ministry, take care of “my” people and show up my former church.

So Sunday my friend asked me if I thought that Crossroad was not in God’s will. I believe that it is.  But God never blesses something that is bad. “Continuing my ministry” is a good thing and “taking care of people” is a good thing. God has greatly blessed those two facets of  CCC.  On the other hand, “showing up my former church” (by growing a really large church), while it may be a normal human reaction, it is a very ungodly thing. It is sin and God never blesses sin.

Something to think about


Questions

Monday, September 15th, 2014

question_head5The Foley,  Sotloff and Haines families’ hearts have been summarily ripped out by agents of Satan calling themselves “ISIS”. Obviously these barbarians have no consciences or limits to what they will do to inflict pain on those they describe as “Infidels”. After James Foley was executed I watched the heart wrenching interview that his parents gave outside their family home. They talked about what a great son Jim had been. They also gave God credit for giving them the strength to make it day by day. It was a remarkable interview and remarkable faith.

At times such as this we humans can doubt our most basic beliefs. It is normal to sometimes doubt God and to always have questions. Fortunately, the Bible clearly teaches that God understands our doubt and is full of stories that are meant to help us when doubt burrows its way deep into our souls.

Matthew 14:22-27 (NLT) …Jesus made his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake while he sent the people home.  Afterward he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.  Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came to them, walking on the water.  When the disciples saw him, they screamed in terror, thinking he was a ghost.  But Jesus spoke to them at once. “It’s all right,” he said. “I am here! Don’t be afraid.”

Yet, we are afraid. Several years ago when I was in the deepest chasm of  personal despair, I remember thinking “I’m not sure God is going to get me through this.” For a time I wasn’t sure. Yet, even as I thrashed about in the sinking quicksand of doubt, I choose to reach out to God because there was no other choice. That was when I learned first-hand that doubt and trust are not always mutually exclusive.

None of us doubt that the sun is going to come up tomorrow because we’ve seen it happen day after day.  Just like the never late sunrise God is faithful even when we are not. Doubt isn’t the big deal.  It’s what we do with the doubt that will determine if our faith is strengthened or weakened.

Something to think about

 

Getting it Right

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

dog-balancing-on-ball-150x150Yesterday, I spoke at a parole board hearing on behalf of a young man I have known for fifteen years.  As I listened to him answer the parole officer’s questions, I wondered how he had morphed  from that cute,  five year old  wearing a Smurf shirt, running around the lobby of our church, into a twenty year old  wearing a prison uniform pleading for a second chance. The answer is I do not know for sure how that happened. The truth is it really does not matter.

A while ago at the “Y” I saw something amazing.  There was a young guy, maybe twenty, who was balanced on top of a 10” ball as he did bicep curls. I have been going to the gym for over fifty years and have never seen anything like that. It was a masterpiece of art. Yesterday, as I went through security at the hearing, I had to stand on one foot and hold the bottom of the other up so the security officer could make sure I was not carrying in contraband.  It was all I could do to maintain my balance and now I was watching a kid standing on a ball while lifting weights. For a split second I thought maybe I could do that.

When I got to my car I caught the tail end of an interview with Coach Derek Mason who laid an egg in his opening game as Vanderbilt’s head football coach. The inmate, the “ball boy” and the Coach share a common bond. They have all failed. I intuitively know that the guy fell off that ball countless times before succeeding.  Each time he hopped up and repeated the process until he got it right.  The inmate will regain his freedom. Coach Mason will lead his team again Saturday. All of us will be given ample opportunities to get it right.  But nobody will ever get it right unless we do some things differently. Will you?

 Something to think about

He’s Back!

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Ten years ago, shortly after we had moved into our church offices at 1311 16th Avenue, South, someone gave me a bobble head Jesus. Despite the fact that He was a bit tacky, I fell in love with Him because, for me, He symbolized the truth that Jesus is not the unapproachable and distant Savior of my youth, but the accessible Lord of us all. Wherever we happen to be, He is more than willing to come to us on our turf.   I immediately displayed Him in a prominent location in our office reception area.  Soon folks who visited began to comment. On several occasions the comments led us into deeper discussions of the things of God.

A few years later Jesus was kidnapped. I have a prime suspect and made an inquiry through a third party, but Jesus did not come home. The more I thought about the kind of person it would take to steal Jesus, the more upset I became. I came to the conclusion that is was done for spite and frankly I had some thoughts that certainly were not in line with Jesus’ teachings about love and forgiveness. The years passed and the bobble head Jesus, for the most part, faded from my consciousness. That changed Christmas when I opened my favorite Christmas present. Jesus has come home! Oh, not the same bobble head, but a new and improved one. Actually, He is looking over my shoulder as I type and His message to me is the same as it has been for thousands of years, Don’t seek vengeance. Don’t bear a grudge; but love your neighbor as yourself, for I am Jehovah (Leviticus 19:18).

The homecoming of Jesus reminded me of the payoff for making a conscious decision several years ago, as best as I could, to live my life that way.  So I did not fall back to my self-defeating loathing of the kidnapper. On the contrary, the abduction and return of Jesus proved to me that the commandment is not only doable but the very foundation of a Christ-centered life. Love always trumps hate! It is not nearly as difficult as you may think. Don’t do it for them; do it for you and Jesus.

Something to think about

 

Loose Gravel

Monday, July 29th, 2013

We were riding our bicycles on a picture perfect morning through the rural countryside of Williamson County, Tennessee.  Our ride would take us past miles and miles of Lexington Four-Rail fencing, past Tim and Faith’s 700 acre farm, which can be had for a mere 20 million, past creeks and dales and majestic buffalo silently grazing in lush green pastures —- scenes that rival most any picture book.

While straining to make it to the top of a steep hill, as is my usual custom, I was fantasying about the thrill of reaching the crest and roaring down the backside at 40 mph with the wind in my face and the hard pedaling in my rear. I’ve found that thinking about the downhill reward always makes climbing a wee bit easier. When we got to the top our plans abruptly changed. Due to road work, loose gravel covered the road for the next mile or so.  There would be no downhill rush this day. Neither would we even ride down the back side.  We would have to walk it.  Riding a bicycle is unbridled fun; walking a bike down a steep, gravel covered road wearing bike shoes is not.

Fortunately, the weeping and gnashing of teeth were short lived and we soon found ourselves back on our bikes laughing and having a good time again. As I learned early on, bicycle riding pretty much mirrors life. Loose gravel—it happens in every life. It only screws up the ride if you let it.

Something to Think About

http://www.nashvillecrossroad.com/

 

Embrace It

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

As I talk to more and more people, it seems to me, that many of us have developed varying degrees of confusion over our self perception.  The self–portrait we paint  of our self is mostly based on how we think the important people in our life see us. They may not have actually seen us that way at all but we think they did.  For those of us who grew up in dysfunctional families, some of the baggage that we carry has put deep and wide wounds on the heart of our self image.

Maybe we were told we were not good enough, that we were stupid, that we were ugly or unlovable.  Maybe you were made to feel guilt and shame as a child. Perhaps you were taught that you had to be perfect in everything you did – nothing less was acceptable.  Today for reasons unknown to your conscious mind you feel one down from most everybody you know.

I venture to say that even if we grew up in the near perfect All – American family,  we still fall far short of seeing ourselves as God sees us. When we began to understand how God sees us and when we accept the fact that He loves us with an unconditional love and that Jesus Christ was nailed to a cross for each of us, that is the point when we start to sense the immense value He has placed on us.  Then we can begin the process to overcome the negative self-perception that many of us secretly carry around in our hearts.

In Psalm 8 King David was blown away when he realized the high value God had put on mankind and on him personally. “For you made us only a little lower than God, and you crowned us with glory and honor.”

Think through the implications of those words on your worth as a person. God wants every man, woman and child on the planet to have a healthy self perception anchored in His love, mercy and grace.  He longs for us to realize the high value He puts on us and for us to see ourselves thorough the filter of His love. Think of it this way.  If Jesus thought enough of you that He would take those three rusty nails for you, what does that say about your worth? Embrace his love!

 Something to think about

Never Be Afraid to Try

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

I suppose that all of recorded history back to the days of Abraham and Moses is replete with folks who were either afraid to try or tempted to give up too soon. Certainly I’ve missed out on opportunities because I was afraid that I couldn’t do something perfectly or that I would look silly or bring up the rear.  Like when I was in high school, I loved football but didn’t play because I thought I was too small. Later at the University of Tennessee, I dropped Speech 101 because I didn’t think I could master public speaking. A few years ago when I first started riding a bicycle, I pushed my bike to the top of the first really tough hill because I didn’t think I could pedal to the top. Those are just a few of mine off the top of my head.

A while back I took part in a spur of the moment 40 mile bicycle ride with a few friends but mostly with folks I didn’t know. It was a near perfect day along a new route and very enjoyable. More importantly I saw the most amazing person I’ve ever seen atop a bicycle. This young man was visiting the area from another state and had learned of our ride online. Without knowing anyone else or having any idea what the course would be like, he decided to ride with fifty or so strangers.  I’m positive that if I had been in his shoes I would not have demonstrated that degree of bravery. Once, as we were going down a steep hill on a rough road, I especially worried about him because it was all I could do to maintain control myself.

What made  this particular rider so amazing was that he had only one arm.  Maintaining your balance on a bicycle using only one hand is a challenge. Try it sometime. Wonder if that man has any idea what an inspiration he was to the rest of us?  Probably not.  I have no doubt that God sends people like the one armed man into our lives for a reason. I hope I never forget him. Perhaps you shouldn’t either.