Over the past few years, Trinity has celebrated the Advent season through the creation of an Advent Devotional booklet sharing stories and reflections on hope, joy, peace, and love. Today’s blog post features a story of hope shared in 2017 by Josh Flint.
Most Sundays, you can find Josh up in front, playing his guitar and singing with our worship team. You might also find him with his wife Christi, chasing their little ones in the foyer, loving on them and showing them the love God has for all of us.
Last year, Josh shared this testimony of God’s faithfulness in our Trinity Advent Devotional. It is our hope that sharing it again will touch you as it has touched many lives already.
As we read Josh’s testimony, reflect on God’s promises in His word. No matter our circumstances, we have HOPE because He is doing something new!
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:18-19
God is doing a new thing in Josh’s life for all to see.
Thank you, Josh, for your faithful sharing of your testimony so that others can see God’s redemptive love at work!
In the year 2017, every facet of my life was tested and brought under a microscope. The journey involved my family, my health, my marriage, and my spirituality. Next to my wife, my mom was hands down my best friend. On May 11, these words were emailed to me by my dad and changed me forever….” your mother is in st Elizabeth hospital on a breathing tube on heart ward room 2s26.”
I didn’t know it at that time, but Mom was never going to walk out of that room. She died on May 18th, and I can honestly say that I was crushed. I was beyond lost. There were no words to describe how I felt.
Before this situation, I would drink, at times very heavily. I knew I had a problem but just couldn’t find the strength to stop. When Mom passed, I dove into a bottle and I almost couldn’t find my way out. A week after Mom’s passing, I hit a precipice and things had to change. Thank God I had enough wits to text Johnnie. He and Joe showed up and I know that this was the lowest that they had ever seen me. It was apparent that I had indeed come to a crossroads and something needed to change or I was going to be heading to a hospital or my grave. With some mentoring from some awesome friends, I found the help of a Christian counselor who said something that hit me like a freight train….”Josh you are an alcoholic.” I honestly argued with him until I just couldn’t any more. After many reservations, I found my way to AA and to my sponsor. From there my spiritual education began.
Praise be to Jesus, after almost 6 months now at the writing of this, the Lord has erased my desire to drink. The thought or smell of it makes my stomach turn. I have spent many hours reading the Bible, talking to Jesus and getting my life back. I have mended almost every fence that I have torn down. For the most part, everyone that was affected by my past life has forgiven me.
Maybe I should, but I do not regret any of this. If it wasn’t for these circumstances, I would not have found my true value to Jesus. I can tell you that the value that we place on ourselves doesn’t even come close to the value that Jesus has placed on us. To him, we are priceless.
My name is Joshua and I am an alcoholic! My hope for the future is strong in the Lord and I know that no matter what, I’ve got this because he’s got this. For me this isn’t just a saying, this is something I feel in my bones and in my heart. That old man does not exist anymore. All those things do not matter anymore because I am a new man.
“Hello Darkness, my old friend…”
For many Christians, the Advent season is about anticipation and hope and joy that is found in Christ Jesus. It is a time where Christians will reflect on what Christ has done, and His promises of the future. Unfortunately, for some Christians, and many non-Christians in the secular Western world, it can be a time of despair, depression, disillusionment, and hopelessness. It is not necessarily, what we want to hear; we would rather focus on the pleasantries of our faith, as well as memories we will make with our loved ones. However, this is not the case for many; it is real life that they go through pain and agony.
The cause of their anguish could be quite varying. It could be feelings of loneliness during the holidays, or grief from loved ones who have departed; it could be simply as much as the frustration of the commercialization of Christmas. Regardless, many people do not look to the holidays as a blessing, but rather a curse. This pain, anguish, guilt, sadness, or despair is not for us to fix, that is for Christ alone. Yet, as followers of Christ, we do have a role and a duty to support these hurting people. It is for us to keep our eyes and ears open to their sometimes-silent cries, and be to them here in the flesh what Christ is for us in our hearts and souls. Showing them the compassion and love that Christ shows us is not simply the right thing to do, but it is an expectation.
Sound of Silence
Admittedly, I do not know many of the personal details of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. Thinking about the opening line of the Sound of Silence, it seems so fitting for what so many face during this season. I found that Simon (the songs lyricist and composer) comes from a Jewish background but does not consider himself religious at all. However, in a Christianity Today article in 2012 he stated, “For somebody who’s not a religious person, God comes up a lot in my songs.” About the song more specifically, Art Garfunkel said of the song’s meaning, “the inability of people to communicate with each other, not particularly internationally but especially emotionally, so what you see around you are people unable to love each other.”
When looking at how these two secular songwriters have reached into the soul of people and see not only our brokenness, but also our means to fix it, it is evident that God will use any method to reach us, and He will reach us where we are. That is the example we must follow when acting as His hands and feet, and bringing light and love to the world.
Bringing Light to the World
These ideas of reaching people and finding ways to communicate and love are biblical principles, not just some song by two guys written in the 1960s. In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul wrote, “Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience’ sake; For the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains. If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience’ sake” (1 Cor 10:24-27 NASB).
These statements were a continuation of points made in the previous chapter where Paul exposed himself for the sake of the Gospel, he explained, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it” (1 Cor 9:19-23 NASB). Clearly, Paul is showing that we need to become what others need in their time of need, and it is done for their sake and the glory of God.
For the Glory of God
Following this advice, so that we aid the hurting, we are also following biblical commands. James informs us, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (1:22 NASB). It is not just enough to think and have sympathy for others while they struggle at any time, let alone during the emotional holiday season. We must go deeper and act with empathy and love and be physically, emotionally, and spiritually present to those who need us. Caring for others can be challenging, but it is also rewarding now in this life and glorifying God in eternity. The question remains of, how do we show the love of Christ, and to be there for those who need Him, even if they do not know they do? Fortunately, Scripture provides more advice and direction than we may need. Simply look at these few verses:
- “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled” (Heb 12:14-15 NASB).
- “Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting” (Jude 1:21-22 NASB).
- “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col 4:5-6 NASB).
- “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 2:24-25 NASB).
We have all faced our own darkness, and memories of those times can flood our thoughts and hearts if we let them, and sometimes when we fight against them. While we move through this glorious Advent season reflecting on and praising Jesus for what He has done, is doing, and will do, we can also praise Him by being mindful of those who need Him to bring them peace. Keep your eyes, ears, and hearts open to those hurting. Look for the small subtle signs and be kind and loving to those who need it more during this time of year. Help them to find the light and love and peace and joy that is Christ, and to say Goodbye to Darkness.
“Theologian, dad, husband, writer, cardinals fan, and disciple of Christ.”
I think as a Christ follower I often times feel overwhelmed by the logistics, rules, regulations, and expectations laid before us. However, lately I have had the feeling that we are over complicating the process.
God has just one rule and calling for his children: to show love.
Jesus says in John 13:34-35: “A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
That’s it. That’s all we have to do. That’s all he asks of us. That’s all he wants to see ALL the time and to EVERYBODY.
Loving one another is easy enough, right? Well, if you really consider your day to day interactions, I doubt most of us can say we demonstrate love all of the time. If you’re like me, the people God calls us to love can be very irritating. Not only that, but the body of Christ is made up of imperfect people. How do imperfect people demonstrate perfect love?
How do we love others as Christ has loved us?
Lucky for us, Christ was not only an amazing teacher but a perfect guideline and example for us to follow.
Jesus, The Example
Jesus truly loved everybody. He loved the untouchables (Mark 1:40-45), he loved the hated (Mark 2:16-17), he loved the lost (Luke 7:36-50). He even loved those he disagreed with (religiously, politically, morally, etc) no matter how angry they made him or how much they persecuted him (Luke 23:24).
He showed each individual the same respect regardless of their status or past sins. He even loved those he KNEW would betray him. That is truly incredible.
He Loves Me?
Reading these truths are difficult to comprehend, but then I look at my own life. I know God loves me. Even though I know I have made him angry. Regardless of what my sins have been and are going to be. He loves me even though my vision of my life isn’t always the desires He has for my life. He loves me even though I don’t always show love.
Lately, I have been very convicted on how to demonstrate love. After praying about it, I have noticed small little opportunities to show love.
Through this process I have come to these questions:
- What would it look like if, instead of trying to run into the restaurant to make sure you get your table before somebody else, you run to grab the door for them?
- What would it look like if, at a four way stop, you wave on others before you go?
- What would it look like if you told the person you disagree with the most (i.e. politically, religiously, etc) that you hope they have a good day? What if you told them that,no matter what, you respect them?
- What would happen if, when there was the last of something in your house, if you offered it to your loved ones?
These few little practical thoughts have helped me not only feel closer to Christ, but have helped my day to day frustrations seem a lot less important. The more I put others first and show love to loved ones and strangers alike, the happier I seem to be.
And in a world that seems far too dim far too often, what better way to offer a little light?
Todd Clark Jr. is a long time attender at Trinity Wesleyan Church and a recent graduate from Indiana University Kokomo.
Do you want to know what I’m really good at?
Making things difficult.
Don’t believe me?
As a kid, I couldn’t figure out how to use the brake to stop my bike. So I just jumped off. Every time.
As a teenager, it seemed simpler for me to learn how to wash, dry, and fold my own clothes than to follow the family’s schedule for laundry.
As a teacher, I’ve rewritten lesson plans for eighteen years rather than repeating those already developed.
As a graduate student, I once halted progress on a lengthy research report two days before it was due. Why? The results of the study didn’t sit well with me. So I reconfigured the entire research project, scrapped the original, and rewrote the twenty page report.
I routinely over commit. I volunteer for tasks I don’t know how to do. I agree to projects I’m unqualified to complete. And whatever the challenge — I will be sure to complete it in no less than the greatest number of steps imaginable.
It occurs to me that I could offer a unique service to the world: anti-hacks. Rather than quick tips and tricks for making life simpler, anti-hacks make life infinitely more clumsy and complex.
It’s not as miserable as it sounds. After all, I’ve been me for my whole life, so I’m pretty used to it.
When it comes to life’s little things, I basically look at myself as an amusing experiment in progress. (I mean, obviously it’s pretty entertaining to watch a person refold a fitted sheet three times until it’s satisfactorily flat and compact.)
I usually get a real kick out of watching myself trip myself up.
That is, until I don’t.
Eventually I reach a point when I bump up against a deadline, or someone else’s expectations, or the necessity of completing a task.
It’s fine to play around and overthink the little things. But in the things that really matter to me — like investing in my family, impacting my students, and connecting with others through my creative writing — I’ve watched this weed of overthinking strangle my intentions, grip my efforts in a choke-hold, and prematurely spoil the fruit I might have born.
In these matters, overthinking delivers true devastation, keeping me from doing what feels destined to be my most important work.
MADE FOR MONDAYS
In his recent sermon series “Made for Mondays,” Pastor Johnnie Blair reminded us that God created each of us with a very specific purpose in mind. Even on your worst Monday, the truth remains that there are tasks only you can complete, projects only you can develop, and people only you can uniquely impact.
For me, that work is communicating.
I’m a teacher, so I spend my days talking with young people and doing my best to encourage their growth.
I’m a writer, so I spend my nights reading and writing and exploring ideas — looking for ways to encourage others and prod them on toward pursuing Jesus.
But when the overthinking gets bad, the tangles in my head keep me from saying the things I need to say — out loud or in writing.
I can’t plant seeds if I’m too busy inventing new ways to rearrange them.
I can’t bear fruit if I’m too focused on creating a detailed mental map of what it all means.
It’s usually at this point my thoughts start throwing shadows on the walls of my mind, casting bloated and expansive layers of meaning begging to be explored, teased out, and shared. And an hour later I’ll look back over my shoulder to realize I haven’t written a blog post — I’ve constructed the outline of a book proposal.
SO HERE’S THE CLIFF NOTES VERSION
We can’t bear good fruit if we let lies or distractions kill it on the vine.
We can’t bear that fruit without God’s help anyway, but we sure can kill it quick if we let the wrong thoughts camp out for awhile in our minds.
Yep. There’s a whole book in that idea somewhere. Maybe someday I’ll get it out.
But for right now, what this means for me is this:
I need to focus on God.
And I need to stay on task and do good work.
What does it mean for you? What things are distracting you from your life’s most important work? What lies are you believing that keep you from doing what God has placed in your heart to do?
Reflect on the words of John 15:5 and bury them deep in your heart.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit . . .”
Remember this important truth — God created you with a purpose in mind.
Stay on task.
Do good work.
And hold on tight to the Vine.
“I’m a wife, mommy, teacher, writer, reader, and child of God.”
When I was little, before Facebook and cell phones, when things seemed to be slower and mean more, my grandpa would take me cat-fishing almost every weekend. We would go out in the early evening before dark, anchor the pontoon, and get our chairs and poles ready. After we had put our poles out, my grandpa would tell me stories — of his childhood, service in the military, and life with my grandma. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was doing more than telling me stories– he was passing down life lessons, giving me wisdom, and forming who I would become as a man.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 instructs “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”
My grandpa always pointed back to where God was in the story, how God had blessed him or spared him from something. At the time I was more concerned with his story than his message, but it left something on my heart and mind I can still feel today. There was no technology, no gadgets, just a fishing pole and lantern. But in those nights my grandpa wove a tale that has impacted a lot of aspects of my life. He was never one to be overbearing about his faith, but he also didn’t hide who he was or what he believed. At home or in public, he had a word for God and a heart to share his faith.
So often we have our phones, tablets, or TV’s front and center in our lives. Netflix has talked to our kids more than we have. YouTube is now more of a companion than actual friends are. And we are risking life and limb to post that perfect selfie on any number of social media sites. Recently with a group of friends, I started — like my grandfather — telling stories of when I was younger and when my wife and I got together. My daughter, who normally watches YouTube like it’s life, soaked all those stories in and started recounting them to her friends and family. It struck me how the simple act of sharing a story with her impacted her so deeply she had to tell others.
I wonder what it would look like in our lives if we took more time to tell stories, to relive memories, and to show our kids what life was like before them. What if, instead of Facebook, you just gave them face-to-face talks? Could you start substituting Youtube for just you? Don’t take more selfies with your kids; rather, give more of yourself to them.
At Trinity we are all about connecting people with Jesus. That includes connecting families to Jesus and each other. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about friends, family, spouses or self — the first step to anything healthy is having God in the center.
So let’s all take a step back, unplug and unwind for a little while. Reconnect with family and friends; not over social media — but over burgers on the grill or campfires in the backyard. Show your kids that friends and family are best in person, or show your spouse you really care– not by liking their status on Facebook, but by loving the status of their heart. Enjoy a cool breeze, laughter and lightning bugs, and maybe even some pontoon wisdom.
“Avid fisher…Father…Husband…Musician…Actor…Follower of Jesus!”