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I feel that way. And I’m a pastor!

Do you ever feel like Christianity is too hard, too complicated, and too overwhelming? You want to be nice, not lose your temper, quit smoking, get yourself cleaned up, and be able to pronounce Bible names, but most of the time it just seems impossible.

Maybe that’s because you think Christianity is only for those who are better than you or who seem to have it all together. Well, guess what? Nobody has it all together. Except Jesus.

Over the years, I’ve come across a lot of Christians who feel like they don’t fit in, because they’re intimidated about their own lack of Bible knowledge, or because they can’t seem to shake a bad habit or habitual sin. Believe it or not, sometimes I feel that way. And I’m a pastor.

But then I remind myself that Jesus is for the rest of us, not just the best of us. As one author says, “Christianity didn’t begin in the ivory tower. It began on the cul-de-sac” (Johnnie Moore, Dirty God, 44). One of the most remarkable aspects of Jesus’ ministry was that he recruited everyday people to change history—laborers, a tax collector, and even a member of a radical political party (Simon the Zealot).

What makes the gospel such “good news” is that Jesus doesn’t just welcome those who are “holier than thou,” Bible experts, and “goody two shoes.” Jesus welcomes the addict, the porn star, the greedy, the proud, the anxiety-prone, the depressed, the sullen, and the sanctimonious. He did so when He walked the earth, and He still does today. None of us is beyond the reach of God.

One of the prevailing challenges within the church is the sense of spiritual inadequacy. Moore writes that “it’s one of the greatest barriers standing between our faith and those who are curious about it” (ibid., 46).

So many people feel that a committed faith is beyond them because they’re not holy enough or good enough or smart enough to deserve God’s affections. In the midst of these frustrations, Jesus comes along and says, “You’re welcome to walk with Me. Just trust Me and follow Me, and I will show you the way.”

Max Lucado used to say, “Jesus calls us just as we are, but He doesn’t let us stay that way.” That’s why He came—to welcome us and to change us. We needed saving from our sin and also from ourselves. His message is one of becoming, not of maintaining. We become a new person in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17); we don’t maintain the old person we’ve been with our habits, hang-ups, and hurts.

We’re drawn to Jesus’ beauty and grace, not a system of rules and regulations. This is love and truth joined as two sides of one coin. The coin is the way of Jesus, each side represents His character and call. He calls all of us who are weary and heavy laden, for He will give us rest (Matthew 11:28). But He also calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23). You can’t have one without the other. In fact, the call to relationship and rest is what draws us to the call of self-denial and dedication. If we fail in the first, we will burn out on the second or become modern-day Pharisees.

And what’s the takeaway? Jesus calls us regular people. Rest in His grace, so that you can live byHis grace, and the Jesus Movement carries on.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

In Too Deep

Many modern skeptics consider the book of Jonah to be a little far-fetched. They find it impossible that a man could survive inside a great fish for three days. However you feel about the story, it’s important to not miss the biblical truth that speaks loudly into our lives and demonstrates God’s patience, loving kindness, and his willingness to give those who disobey him a second chance, even if it means commanding a great fish to accomplish the goal.

We all know the story. Jonah was given an assignment from God to go to Nineveh and warn the people to repent against their wickedness. Jonah hopped on a boat going in the opposite direction. A great storm came. Now put yourself in Jonah’s shoes for a minute. He was running from God. He’s been identified as the one on the ship causing the storm. He’s in despair. He’s given up. He doesn’t care anymore and tells the sailors to throw him overboard.

Let me ask you, have you ever been alone in a dark time in your life where you came face to face with who you are becoming, or with what your life has become? I’ve been there. Perhaps you are there right now.

Sometimes when you realize you need help, its’ the very best place you can be—because then you stop trying to make it on your own and you can cry out to the God who rescues.

In the story of Jonah, God sent a very unconventional lifeline, “And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17). Talk about God forcing someone to slow down, stop running and deal with his issues.

Listen, if you feel like you’re drowning right now, God has not abandoned you. He’s not forgotten you. He hasn’t written you off. He has not left you to drown. He pursues you. And whatever your deep-sea experience is, He is in the water with you. He is at work in the dark.

This is Jonah’s rescue story—“God called me. I ran. I was in way too deep. I had no way out. And God came to my rescue.” The story exemplifies the miraculous power and supremacy of God over his entire creation. His command of the waters, the whale, and more importantly (despite our human weakness), His willingness to give us another chance. That’s Jonah’s rescue story. So, what’s yours? Or are you still in too deep? If so, pray as simply as, “Father, help me.”

If you need additional resources, please go to https://www.east91st.org/resources/prayer-and-care/. You are not alone.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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