God, Our Local Church, and My Weakness

If you really want to know how skipping my time with the Lord affects me, just ask my wife. 

Advertisements

Two Mondays ago, I had a horrible day. I was overwhelmed with the responsibilities on my plate between full-time PhD work and working the max amount of hours that my UK visa will allow. Some weeks, the demands take a toll and I feel it more than others. We currently attend a new Vineyard church plant in Edinburgh and our group (there are two) meets in a home on Monday nights (we don’t yet have a building). It has truly been a blessing. How the Lord led us to this church is a story in itself (that for another time).

On this particular Monday, I was so stressed that I simply felt angry. Men and women most often process stress in different ways. Women tend to get depressed and men tend to get angry. This is not true across the board, but I do find that there is some merit to the notion. By the time the afternoon rolled around, I did not want to go to church. I didn’t even care about the fact that I didn’t want to go. This just wasn’t the day for it. Surely the Lord understands. Another important factor is that Tuesdays are our family grocery day. Here in Edinburgh, if you spend a certain amount online, the groceries can be delivered to your doorstep for no additional fee. Amazing, right?!

Since it was Monday and we buy so many fresh fruits and vegetables, our fridge was not exactly overflowing with food. Our meal plan for the week actually included the Monday night meal at the church, so by this time in the week, we did not have much to make a meal with. So, in a very human moment, I decided that my family and I would go to church simply because I didn’t want to go to the store and buy more groceries.

Then God proved faithful. It feels almost impossible at times to distinguish between human weakness and demonic attack. Where is the line? I definitely am no expert. However, hindsight is 20/20. The Lord met me in such a wonderful way that night that I could not help but think after everything was said and done that maybe it was the enemy trying to keep me away. First of all,  a young man shared a word that God had laid on his heart regarding a man in the room. It was for me. Wow, was it for me. Secondly, our pastor showed the video, Bill Hybels – Coffee with God, and it absolutely cut through to my heart. I really hope you will take ten minutes to watch the video. The video was all about having a predetermined time and place with the Lord. 26331-ThinkstockPhotos-122563300.1200w.tnDue to the load I had been feeling as of late, it had become all too easy to skip my time with the Lord for one, two, even three days at a time. If you really want to know how skipping my time with the Lord affects me, just ask my wife.

I went to church that night because of the meal that was provided. That is it. I didn’t expect anything from God. The church was in position to meet a basic need for my family that evening. So, we went. However, Daddy God is merciful, “for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalms 103:14). The older I get, the more convinced I am that people who care nothing for the church are going to miss out on so much of what God has for them (both to receive and give). I am to the point now that if a person doesn’t care much about the church, I view it as strong evidence in most cases that something is seriously flawed in that individual’s self-proclaimed relationship with Christ. 

We need each other. We need others to help us touch God when we feel all-too-human. And then we need to return the favor…on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. 

 

 

 

 

Groceries, Public Transport, & Minimum Wage in Southern France

I suppose one thing I’m proud of is that I found a conversation between two real humans much more interesting than a book.

OMG. Took the bus into Morningside to pick up some groceries.

There are simply too many people. Long lines. Rainy outside.

On the way here I tried to read a book. However, a man who lives in France was talking about how many rights workers have in Southern France and that teaching gigs at international schools are great. He also said that a person earning the minimum wage could buy a flat in Southern France. *Sigh* That is insane.

Not in Edinburgh.

Definitely NOT in the United States.

Anyway, this is a quite pointless blog. I’m bored. And wondering about Southern France…

I suppose one thing I’m proud of is that I found a conversation between two real humans much more interesting than a book. There is hope for this PhD student after all.

Cheers!

Book Update (Kindle and Paperback Available)

“I am convinced that one of the major ways that God’s grace manifests is in Him withholding information. If He told us all, our fickle, weak hearts would crumble under the weight.”

As promised, I wanted to let everyone know that the print edition of my new book “To a Land I Will Show You” is now available (click on the title). Of course, it is also available for Kindle as well. If you are currently reading it or about to begin, please don’t forget to leave feedback on Amazon. In addition, if you feel that this book can help someone, please share it on social media. Doing so is like giving a bag of gold to a self-publishing author!

IMG_1241This book is a different kind of book. It is my journal from the last three years. The entries are arranged chronologically. Reading the book will take you on a roller-coaster. Living this was a roller-coaster. It is our story of pursuing God’s dream, hanging on to that dream, and not throwing in the towel when the dream appeared dead in the water.

It is a story of debt, disappointment, friendship, family, trust, anger, confusion, prayer, desperation, broken hearts, depression, sickness, etc. If the Lord had told us what was ahead when we started, we might not had taken the journey. I am convinced that one of the major ways that God’s grace manifests is in Him withholding information. If He told all, our fickle, weak hearts would crumble under the weight. We are simply not that strong.

Just to give you a different perspective, I am including an excerpt from the forward written by my great friend Thomas Lambert. If I sell a million copies, I am going to buy him a $15 gift card to Starbucks. Yep, that is the kind of friend I am. He wrote:

“As with most stories of anyone following the call of God, this story has moments of triumph. Our faith grows from seeing the faithfulness of God displayed. Consider Sarah and Abraham’s joy at the birth of Isaac or the joy of Abraham’s children as they crossed the Jordan hundreds of years later. In these times, we are compelled to worship God for his wisdom and the power to work for the good of those who love Him. In BJ’s story, however, those moments are far outnumbered by moments of disappointment, heartbreak, and doubt. Like Abraham, it seems that sometimes the reasons to doubt far outweigh the reasons to believe what you have been promised. Thankfully, the bitterness of the trials makes the triumph that much sweeter.”

In addition, you will find below a couple of reviews that were posted on Amazon. Irina Martin wrote:

“This book is an undeniable confirmation that God still speaks to His children and calls them to accomplish specific tasks. If you desire to walk by faith, the book will prepare you for the journey. It will give you a good idea of the daring trust it takes to carry out God’s purposes. You will learn how to keep a humble and loyal heart amidst heart-wretching disappointment, and what attitudes to avoid in order to pass relentless tests of faith with flying colors. You will see the growth that occurs in the process, grace for each step, but most importantly God’s good heart behind all happenings.”

Kat Dufrene wrote:

“A heart-wrenching, raw, very real read of a journey of obedience to the voice of God. Whether or not you believe that God still speaks, you cannot deny the genuine expression of humanity in the process of discovering one’s own purpose in each journal entry of this book. You will find yourself yearning, crying, dreaming, and rejoicing with B.J. as you follow along in the chronicle of his and his family’s path from what they had always known to an adventure that taught them more than they had anticipated. It is difficult not to hope alongside him and desire for God’s voice and direction to break through each successive page. No matter where you are in your life (and in your walk with Christ) you will connect with AT LEAST one entry in this book. I definitely did. I dare you to find out for yourself.”

Paul wrote, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). My prayer is that the Lord would speak to each and every person who reads this book.

Our Lives Are Not Boring!

On a bathroom floor across the Atlantic, Allison’s labor progressed at such a rapid rate that neither the midwives nor paramedics could make it in time.

Our beautiful Rhema Skye is here! Mom and baby are doing great.

IMG_0728

In the days to come, Allison and I are going to write out our birth story. Wow. On a bathroom floor across the Atlantic, Allison’s labor progressed at such a rapid rate that neither the midwives nor paramedics could make it in time. It was her, me, and our three-year old. Of course, he was eating a bagel in the other room and his main concern was that I had not put honey (in addition to butter…our morning routine) on his bagel (in my defense, I was a little busy!!!).  This was definitely one of the lighthearted moments of the morning. I cannot wait to tell you the story. My wife is a hero. You wouldn’t believe the things she did. I am in awe. More details to come!

On a LESSER note, I have not posted anything yet on my blog regarding my new book: To a Land I Will Show YouIt is a collection of honest and raw journal entries arranged chronologically that tell the story of our pursuit of a dream that God placed in our hearts and the roller-coaster journey of confusion, faith, disappointment, friendship, debt, hope, and anger that ensued.

April 17 2017
(image from book) Last April, we moved out of our home in Spokane, WA and into the Lambert’s (once again lol!!!)

The digital version is available now (click on the title in the previous paragraph) and the print edition will be available on Amazon by the end of the week. I am really excited about this book because I believe it has the potential to impact hearts, inspire faith, give hope, and convey the message that obstacles, resistance, and heart-wrenching disappointment does not necessarily translate to “this must not be God’s will.” God is so faithful.

For now, I am really, really ready for “boring.” After my dad’s serious heart attack a few weeks ago and our terrifying experience Sunday morning, I am hoping for some long, slow, boring days. We shall see. I get a week off from work and do not have to return to my PhD studies for another few weeks.

Over the course of the next few days, I will post the birth story and also mention when the print edition of the book is ready.

2018: A New Year

New Year’s Day represents something powerful in the Western psyche. We love the idea of a fresh start, a second chance, hope, and the idea that this year might be different than the last.

newyear2018_24-dea0cc09d9b756a44574e87b010b6115To be honest, I am beginning this year simply grateful. On December 29th, my absolutely amazing dad had a serious heart attack. Though I will spare you the details, I sat for an hour or so waiting for a text/call from my mom (dad had been care-flighted and mom was driving that way) that might mean I never get to see his face, hear his voice, or say “I love you” again. I will never forget those 60 minutes. Due to God’s providence and an amazing collection of factors, not only is my dad alive, but even better, his heart sustained NO permanent damage. I would share more, but it is too personal and I am still processing through some difficult emotions. This year could have been so different. I am thankful. I am so thankful. I love my dad who has always been such a tender, strong, Biblically-grounded, inspiring, persevering, visionary, encouraging, hard-working, responsible, present, and trustworthy man. Yep, that about sums it up.

We we are weeks away from our little girl being born. We will then have one son and one daughter! I have no idea how I will juggle family, work, and a full-time doctorate, but there is no point trying to figure that out. Not possible. One must be thrust into a situation before they can know how to arrange the beautiful parts. For now, I am working hard to get ahead on my Ph.D. work (if there is such a thing as getting ahead). Worrying about the future is not fruitful (though I can be quite good at it). Jesus said, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27)

New Year’s Day has come and gone. It goes without saying that there is nothing particularly magical about a specific day. That being said, New Year’s Day represents something powerful in the Western psyche. We love the idea of a fresh start, a second chance, hope, and the idea that this year might be different than the last. For some reason, it is at the beginning of the year when we Westerners are willing to let our hearts dream a little, consider an alternative future, and relinquish at least some of our skepticism.

For this reason, this is usually the time when we all make insanely impractical resolutions. Setting goals, especially if you have someone holding you accountable, can be really helpful. It may be time to lose weight, implement a discipline in your life, enroll in school, ask for the raise, exercise, or plug into your local church in a meaningful way (instead of being a useless bump on a log). In a word, it is a time when we pledge to be more intentional in one or more areas of our lives. Sadly, most people are not very intentional.

Making resolutions is not an intrinsically bad practice, but it may not always be useful either. I think Christians should go about this cultural practice a little differently. What if the majority of your resolutions were birthed out of prayer? In other words, your resolutions are something that the Holy Spirit is already committed to realizing in your life. Granted, I don’t think every resolution has to be of this nature, but I am absolutely convinced that hearing God about the upcoming year is the best recipe for Kingdom success (not just success), personal growth in Christ, influencing neighbors and co-workers for Christ, seeing a relationship restored (God may tell you to take the first step), stepping into the freedom of Christ, forgiving someone, or taking the risk you have been scared to take.

So make the little resolutions and strive to improve. That is great. But take time as an individual and a family to pray, seek God’s face, hear his voice, and make resolutions that not only have eternal value, but are backed by God’s word and his specific vision for your life.

Happy New Year! Let’s begin the year as we ought to begin each day: seeking God. Only his will and desires truly matter.

Ezra and What I Am Learning About Compassion

In the midst of trying to do a much better job, I have really started paying attention to how Ezra responds to her.

eye_Markell_xc_And-A-Little-Child-Shall Lead-Them-1_smallThis morning I woke up early to do some online work before heading to New College to study. I have had a little cough for the past couple of days. Ezra has had one for the last 3-4 days. Due to this cough, he has had trouble sleeping. Thus, he was awake around 6 am this morning and had trouble going back to sleep. Around 7 am, I was working in my home office and started to cough a bit. All of the sudden, I hear him say all of the way from the bedroom, “Daddy, are you okay?” At first, I ignored his question because he was in the room with Allison and I was afraid that if I responded it would keep him from going back to sleep. However, he asked again. He then asked a third time. At that point, I knew that he wanted to know that I was okay before he could go back to sleep. I rose from my chair, poked my head in the bedroom and said, “Yes buddy, I am okay. I just have a little cough like you.”

One thing I have noticed about Ezra is that in the midst of all of the typical three-year-old craziness, he has a very tender heart and really cares about people. It is our job as parents to protect and nurture this. In one of our recent talks, Allison was talking to me about the fact that I do not always respond to her with the same grace and compassion with which she responds to me. Regrettably, she was right. I didn’t even try to argue. In the midst of trying to do a much better job, I have really started paying attention to how Ezra responds to her. He responds to her in a wonderful, tender, caring manner when she is hurt or if something is wrong. I have caught myself lately saying to myself, “I need to check on her like Ezra just did.”

I am reminded of the following verse:

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)

Granted, I am taking this out of its eschatological context, but there is still a useful application here. I can honestly say that at times, Ezra is leading me. There is nothing like a child to reveal your true heart.

In my opinion, this is a timely reflection. Over the next 7-8 days, Christians all over the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. He entered the world as an infant. Even at the age of 12, he was found in the temple teaching, helping…in a word, leading.

We can learn a lot from children. They are one of several channels that the Holy Spirit can use to open our eyes, knock on the door of our heart, convict of sin, and extend an invitation of transformation.

May we have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5) and truly imitate our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:1).

 

Excerpt from My Upcoming Book

Sometimes, like Abraham, you have to leave Ur before you can see Canaan.

I am almost finished with the book I promised months ago. It will be available on Amazon in January. It is a book about dreaming, failing, persevering, friendship, and seeing the unthinkable. The book consists  of my journal entries over the past three years. It chronicles my journey (and my family’s) from pastoring, becoming extremely unsettled, walking way from jobs with nothing on the horizon, moving to Washington, and then ending up where we are now. It is very raw and honest and quite often feels like a roller coaster. Depression, fear, anger, and other emotions marked the path.

12-770x468

My heart is to encourage people to follow Christ into the unknown places that he is calling. Sometimes, like Abraham, you have to leave Ur before you can see Canaan. Frequently, God only gives you bits and pieces. He wants trust. He is jealous over your trust. He hides information so that in the end, you must look into his eyes and take the leap because his “yes” trumps the pending uncertainty.

The following excerpt is from September 1st, 2015. After pastoring for over 10 years, this was my first full day after stepping away. Yet, no door had opened.

“…this means that there is now nothing for the Fall. Now what? We have believed that it was Fall all along. I gave up both jobs. I am so far behind in academics because of the years that you had me pastor. And now, you are going to drag your feet and toss aside a semester of my life? I was hoping with all of my heart that you were going to show me great favor and even accelerate this part of my calling. I “feel” so far behind academically, yet you are not allowing me to move forward. Nothing? No job, no income, and no philosophy? Nothing? And if you don’t open a door, how am I to see your face and be confident that you will speak when the reason we are where we are at is that we thought you did speak. It so looks as if we were wrong. Why are you going to waste me?”

I will keep you updated.