Sunday, November 12, 2006

when life sucks

One of the things I wish I could have expanded on this weekend is the danger of simply accepting all of life's circumstances as "God’s will". This is a little tricky…and requires that we walk it out circumspectly. At the close I mentioned:

“Is God testing your character right now? Your destiny—your calling—will be dependent on how you allow Him to shape you. The philosopher Heraclitus wrote, “Character is destiny.” What prison are you in that’s shaping your character right now? Is it a prison of your own making…or is God working something into you now that will determine your destiny…because it’s forming your character?”

There are a couple of caveats here.

First, it would have been good to spend more time discussing “prison of your own making”. This leans into some of our core philosophy in recovery ministries at Vineyard Community Church—our Growth & Healing Community—as it relates to renewing our mind (Romans 12:2). For instance, because of abuse issues in our pasts or poor authoritarian models, we can easily have irrational thoughts and believe certain scripts—or lies—about ourselves and God. Knowing the truth about who we are in Christ is crucial as it relates to emotional wholeness and healthy self-esteem. When we create our own prisons—and those can also be from unforgiveness, boundary-less lifestyles, outright rebellion, or a host of aberrant behaviors—it is disingenuous to blame God for our circumstances. In the prodigal son parable, the son “comes to his senses” one day and sees the ridiculous consequences of his life-choices. The exit is different in a prison we have self-created.

Second, when circumstances go south, we can’t forget we are in the middle of a metaphysical combat zone. There is a real malevolent being who operates like a spiritual Mafioso. We need to understand when it’s time to fight and a time to stand our ground when "the day of evil comes", as Paul writes. In other words, beware of simply falling into Christian fatalism; Paul will have none of that in his description of spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6. You don’t have to take all of life’s slime lying down. Of course, discernment is key here. But there is a time to fight…and to fight the right thing.

Circumstances aren’t always what they seem.

And alas, there are only so many minutes in a weekend celebration.



  1. Hi Dave!

    I just wanted to say that I enjoyed your message this weekend and found it quite uplifting. I have just finished reading Leviticus for the first time and I must say it made me a little depressed. All those rules to follow, and then of course we all sin... So, then we have all of those other rules to follow to cover the sin. Even Aaron's son's were killed for a minor (to me and Aaron, and maybe even Moses it seems) mistake. Thank God for sending Jesus to forgive our sins! It's time for something more uplifing, so I'm on to the Gospel of Mark.

    When I read and hear the stories of people like Moses and Joeseph, it give me much hope. I've 47 and even Moses didn't get totally 'on board' until he was in his 40s! And of course Joeseph had many trials throughout his life. And there are many other stories like this...

    Thanks again for your message and all your work. It is appriciated!

    PS: I've kept praying for Keith Thomas and his family.. And for the Officials in the government to make a positive ruling on his situation.


  2. Dear Pastor Dave,

    I just wanted to tell you how very much I appreciated your sermon on Sunday.

    I just became a Shareholder two Saturdays ago and during the orientation, the thing that impacted me the most was that I realized that even though I have been a Christian my whole life and thought I loved God and tried to do a lot of different activities through VCC, my relationship with God was superficial. For about a week before that and up through this past Thursday, I had been so depressed and stressed out about feeling unloved. Often throughout my life, I’ve dealt with severe depression but it was starting to become overwhelming again. I thought that perhaps the reason for its intensity this time was because I was starting to get closer to becoming a leader at VCC and Satan was trying anything he could to get his gnarly hands around me. But finally at the Women’s November Buzz Meeting on Thursday, something in me broke and I started sobbing and couldn’t stop. Several of the women prayed over me and then after the event was over, they prayed for me again only this time something started to really move in me and I started praying for myself and then for the people praying for me.

    Afterwards, I went into the auditorium and continued to pray. I realized that throughout my life, I had constantly felt rejected, unwanted, neglected, abandoned. I had often wanted to be a nun and God had told me that’s not what He wanted and that had always been a crushing blow to me. It made me feel like not even God wanted me. But finally on Thursday night, I heard Him say, “Your perspective is all wrong. It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s that I love you so much that I want you to have a family of your own there on earth surrounded by people who love you and can spend time with you, people for you to love, a husband and children of your own.”

    Ever since that moment, everything has been different. I have been joyful, I’ve been completely turned off by things that distract me from communing with God and I have an intense passion for reading the Bible and any other religious book I can get my hands on. I keep wanting to share with others how much God loves us. Before Thursday, the idea of telling strangers about God wasn’t something I could see myself doing and now I don’t care what people think, all I can talk about is the love God has for us. And on Sunday, people were drawn towards me, including strangers – strangers just started opening up their whole lives to me and it gave me so many more opportunities to pray and to share God’s love.

    That seems like what your sermon was all about – about how we build our own prisons and can’t see God’s love. But what really got to me about your sermon is the amazing thing that happened to me yesterday morning. On Saturday, I went to a Jail Ministry meeting where I was given the opportunity to say that I wanted to learn to preach. And so on Sunday morning, I preached in the jail for 5 minutes about how much God loves us. I talked about how there are often lists of names in the Bible and often they have headcounts next to them – they never say “about 50” or “roughly 600.” They always count to the exact number and they list all of the people from each social class, including the servants. I talked about how it would have taken the scribes years to write each person’s name with their counts in the Book and about how much space God reserved for our names in His Book. He could have put anything in there and He choose to include us, each of us. We are all in His Book and recorded there for all eternity. Your sermon was a great confirmation of God’s presence in my life and I want to say thank you.
    But I also want to say thank you to all the people in my life and at VCC who listened to me even when I was sad and going through yet another pity party. I want to thank those of you who hugged me or smiled at me or let me apologize with grace or prayed over me. I am just so thankful for your love and your kindness and your warmth. This church has completely transformed me.

    I love this church and the people in it so much. Thank you Pastor Dave for your sermon and for your strength and humor. Thank you for your confirmation of faith. I am so blessed and humbled and grateful. I don’t think I can express how amazed I am at how much God loves us.

  3. Wow! What a great testimonial Liz C.

    I'm saying a little prayer for you that your roots will grow deep and strong in your faith.

    God Bless!


  4. Dave...totally unrelated to your post, but hey, it's the internet. Last weekend we went to see the new Santa movie. Martin Short was on the screen 30 seconds (as Jack Frost) when one of my boys blurted out "Hey, it'd Dave Workman!" Photo proof is on my blog....

    We miss you guys! :-)

  5. Liz,

    Thank you so much for your comments on "the scribes taking years to write each person’s name with their counts in the Book and about how much space God reserved for our names in His Book." I've been trying to read through the Bible (Genesis to Revelation) and have been somewhat stuck as I struggle through Chronicles. It just didn't capture my interest so I would reach for some mystery or thriller instead. You have given me a new perspective on the purpose of these genealogies so perhaps I can now finish them with a greater appreciation.