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References on Recent Conferences:
I had been thinking this was something
our class needed to do. I appreciate the affirmation. You're right. We need to
act in love, not
Josh is very real to life and practical.
Thank you for a great session. You have been thought
provoking and scriptures you shared are very convicting. I know I need to look
Thank you for time well spent. Your ability to make truth clear and drive to the heart the responsibility of showing nothing but truth is most valuable. It's helpful to understand what is behind the 2020 program. It's exciting and your effort is appreciated. And I will add you to my prayer list.
The timing and the material was perfect as we prepare to reach out to our community and at the same time grow our church. Thanks Josh.
Great feedback with why some lessons worked and others didn't.
Josh has taken ideas I have seen work before but was not always able to recreate because I didn't know how to organize it. This is a plan that has been proven to work, and I am excited about putting it to work myself.
Making concepts real and personal, make ordinary
people aware it is more than a plan, it is practical and works...and God ordains
Rejuvenating! Invigorating! The time passed so quick. How time flies when you are having fun! Thanks.
encouragement to me for such a time as this in my life.
This may have been the best seminar I have attended. I really have been
motivated to give this a very close look and then do this.
Great presentation; thought-provoking material; very
I think you have hit the nail on the head. People are lonely and they are looking for love - in a million different ways. We, as Christians, have an endless wellspring of love to give - but we're just too lazy. I feel like you are motivating people to use the one gift as Christians we all share - God's love. Keep up the good work! - Angela Cox
Something surprising has happened to me in recent days. Something I did not expect at all. It didn't happen in a day, or a week, or a month. I am not sure when it happened. It was gradual, like a really slow sunrise.
Many of you know I went through a divorce two and a half years ago. Not that I wanted to get divorced. I didn't. I did all that I could to avoid that eventuality. I try to teach my kids that sometimes we don't get our way in life. This time, I had to take my own medicine.
Also, I am not saying that it was not to a large degree my fault. I was a pretty buffoonish, unromantic, driven, emotionally unavailable husband for a long time. It took me a lot of counseling and reading and prayer to get it. I eventually did get it, but by the time I did, I had pretty much killed the love that she had for me.
For years we had trouble and for years I dreaded the possibility of divorce and living life by myself. Two and a half years ago, I woke up in the middle of my worst nightmare.
It has driven me at times to be absolutely suicidal. If you knew me you would know me to be a pretty upbeat, positive, happy soul. Most of the time I am chipper. Most of the time I have a smile on my face. But my divorce has driven me to place of depression I didn’t know existed. I could elaborate on this point, but I am afraid I might just creep you out. Trust me, it was really bad.
Divorce represented several things to me. It represented shame. I grew up in a strong Christian home. I am the only one who is divorced. My kind of people don’t get divorced. Those kind of people, they get divorced. Divorce was always included in a list of shameful activities that someone did who was far from God. “They dropped out of church and started drinking and. . .got divorced.” I am still really embarrassed to admit that I am divorced.
Divorce represented failure. After I realized we had problems, I began working really hard at my marriage. I read books, went to counseling, prayed, talked and thought about it constantly. I really wanted to not just stay married by have a great marriage. I wanted my marriage to be a testimony of how a crumby marriage could get better. I really tried hard to be a good husband and I have an enormous sense of failure around my divorce.
Divorce represents loneliness. This last Christmas eve I spent alone. Through the grace of a Christian friend, I spent the early part of the evening with them, but then I went home to an empty house. And don’t feel too sorry for me. The kids spent Christmas day without their mother and she did without them. It is true of lots of people. I will bet that you have singles in your church, young and old that spend Christmas alone. I was talking to one of the guys in my single’s group about what he did for Christmas and he kind of hem-hawed around and put me off and finally I realized he didn’t do anything for Christmas and was embarrassed to admit it.
Divorce represents rejection. As divorce goes, ours is better than most. We have a cordial relationship and I get to see the kids every day that I am in town. Because of this, it is sometimes easy to get caught up in the normalcy of it all. One time Dawson had a game in El Paso, about an hour away. We were both planning to go so I said, “You want to just go together?” She didn’t. She didn’t have any real good reason and I started to press her, then it hit me. She basically just doesn’t like being around me.
Divorce represents sadness. Unspeakable, undescribable, soul-wrenching sadness. Crying, wailing like a baby, unable to get out of bed. Like in a vice of emotional pain. Nothing hurts on the outside, but on the inside your soul is on fire. The darkness, the darkness.
But, gradually, the sun has been rising. Gradually there are more and more days when I wake up and say, “This is not so bad” and even, “I like this life.”
The most blessed thing about this life is the hours of solitude reading the Bible and other books, praying, thinking, and listening to music. I feel I have developed a closeness to God in these times alone that I never really experienced before.
I have found it to really be true: “An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs–how he can please the Lord.” 1 Cor. 7:32 (NIV)
The most surprising thing is how the divorce itself has given me insight into God. I never really thought this before. The Bible says that God hates divorce (Malachi 2.16). Ever wonder why?
One reason is that divorce is awful. It is all about shame and failure and rejection and loneliness and sadness of it all. He knows about it because he has been there. We serve a divorced God. “I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries.” Jeremiah 3:8 (NIV)
How do you picture God? Do you picture him as a judge banging his gavel on the desk in front of him? Do you picture him as a scientist and you are his laboratory experiment? Do you picture him as a busy executive or a free-wheeling millionaire that really does not have much time to think of you? Do you picture him as an absent minded professor that can’t ever remember your name?
God is pictured in the Bible as a jilted lover who longs to be in relationship with His bride. He longs to be reconciled to you and to the people that you serve through your micro-church, the small group or the Sunday School class.
Reconciliation has always been somewhat of a sterile, religious term to me. I knew that we reconciled a bank book but was never quite sure how that related to being reconciled with God. Reconciliation has taken on a whole new meaning to me.
I remember consciously thinking about the idea that I would give anything to be reconciled to her. I love my job, but I would gladly give it up to get her back. I love traveling and speaking and writing and producing videos, but I would gladly give it all up to be reconciled. I am one who enjoys my trinkets and toys and gadgets and gizmos but I would gladly give them all up to be reconciled with her.
I got to thinking, what is the most valuable thing in my life? Would I give it up? I thought about my kids. Would I give up the life of one of my kids to be reconciled with her? I think I would. I think I would give up the life of one of my kids to be reconciled to her.
(Note that this was how I felt at one time, not an ongoing feeling or a stable intention; I don't think I would have done anything with this feeling if it were somehow possible.)
I think the day I thought these thoughts for the first time, I came very close to understanding the heart of God. He didn’t just think about giving up the life of His Son to be reconciled, He actually did it. It was not just a passing thing, but an ongoing feeling and a stable intention, and he actually did it. He counted a relationship with you and me so valuable that he was willing to let His son die so that we could be reconciled.
(Would you pause and pray a prayer of gratitude to God for his unspeakable love for you?)
Evangelism has taken on a whole different meaning to me. I have thought at times I wish there were someone who would get up close to her and develop a relationship of trust and somehow persuade her to come back to me. Once again, I think I have come close to understanding the heart of God
Our heavenly father looks down from the porch of heaven looking for someone who will get up next to those who are far from Him and develop a relationship of trust and persuade them to come back to Him. He has done the hard part of reconciliation on the cross. He asks us to do the rest. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:18
Would you join me in dedicating the rest of your life to seeking the get up next to people and developing a relationship of trust and persuading them that the best thing they can do with their lives is to be reconciled to God? I still believe the best way to do this is through the micro-church called a small group or Sunday School class. I still believe in doing evangelism through half-way decent teaching and through inviting every member to every fellowship every month. But, I have a deeper passion for doing this than at any other time in my life.
It is odd how sometimes the hardest things in life yield the deepest insight. I suspect it is true of many of you. My pastor is fond of saying he has never had someone come home from Disneyland and say, “I learned such deep spiritual truths there.” No, it is in the valley that we learn.