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Posts Tagged ‘divorce’

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  – Galatians 6:1-2

I’ve been through church crisis one too many times. The longtime head pastor of my church that I grew up in passed away due to cancer. Our popular youth pastor was fired abruptly because the new pastor that came in wanted a whole new staff in place. My good friend became an intern for our church (after just becoming a believer) and had an affair with one of the staff members. He took his life soon after. The accountant at my last church embezzled almost half a million dollars. My current pastor had to resign due to extramarital affairs. Yes… the church experiences death, scandals and affairs just like the real world. I must note that in most of these situations, the church handled them very poorly (something I’ve experienced personally as well).

But how are we doing as Christians in handling these situations? Do we deal with those caught in sin in a loving way? Do we restore them gently back to Christ with the truth of the gospel? Do we act Godly when the media tears into us or do we get defensive and attack back? All I know is Satan loves to attack the church when things are going well. All the situations I described above happened when the particular church I was at was at their peak and experiencing tremendous growth. We forget that when we became Christians that Christ warned us that we would face persecution. One of the things I know is that Christians today do not handle persecution well. Look at the Chick-fil-a and Duck Dynasty situations and see how defensive Christians get when our views are spoken against. I’ve been embarrassed how Christians have reacted in the media about gay marriage and other topics that go against our beliefs. Do we not trust that God will ultimately prevail?

Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.  –  Acts 11:19-21

God works during times of despair. He redeems and restores and takes these situations and uses them for his glory. The church isn’t perfect and it isn’t about one man or a building. It’s a living organic body of messy believers that come to together to grow and worship our Lord. We treat Pastors like rock stars and put them on a pedestal so high they could never meet the expectations we put on them. Pastors are just messy people being used by God. But God isn’t going to let his church fall. He is still faithful even when we are unfaithful.

What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.”  –  Romans 3:3-4

I have been impressed with my current church and how they have handled our current crisis. They are doing it in a loving biblical way. My last two churches were clueless in dealing with people caught in sin and usually let them leave without any restoration. When I heard the news in church, the first thing I did was look at myself. I took this as a warning sign that I myself am a step away from falling into temptation and sin. I am thankful for my community and that I can come to them about anything that I may be struggling with. I am thankful for my church and that God called me to be here during this crisis so I can see firsthand his redeeming power at work. I remember when my last church was going through its scandal, I was quoted in the paper at that time by saying “God is bigger than this”. My viewpoint is still the same – God has got this and He will prevail.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world – John 16:33

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I spent my whole night with God tonight in front of this candle. I’m at a place in my life where God and I just talk all the time. I had a very interesting week this week. I shared my story with someone I deeply care about Saturday night and it got me processing a lot about where I am at in my walk. God’s really pulling me out into the community to share the gospel and my testimony to others. The brokenness of this jacked up world is really weighing on my heart. I really care and love people  and I find myself hurting for them. It kills me to see people make the choice of turning from God when Satan throws his punches our way.

Church for me exists in the world. Sundays are great for fellowship and teaching, but I’m growing in my walk meeting with people out in the surrounding community. Tonight I spent hours in the smoky atmosphere of Coffee Rush with a brother that just went through divorce. It’s a shitty thing for anyone to have to ever go through and I feel for this guy cuz he has little kids. But what an encouraging night that came from hanging out with him. God used me to impact his life in our short time together and he in turn was a blessing to me. I knew of him when he was married and was always encouraged when I saw his family. But then last summer I saw him at a small group alone with a look in his face that was all too familiar. I knew right then and there his marriage was over and I felt for him. But hearing him speak of his desire to cling to Christ through this tough time made me knew that God was going to take care of him. Tonight we had the opportunity to meet for the first time.

What an amazing turnaround God has done in his life! God is really working in this guy. I’m not saying that life is easy for him – he’s lonely, he’s struggling with lust and finances. Yet he has peace because he knows God is going to pull him through this. That’s God!!!! He doesn’t let go. We can have peace and hope because he is our anchor when life sucks. He is ever faithful and true and we can cling to hope when disaster comes. I love this verse from Hebrews..

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  – Hebrews 6:19

I’ve gone through more pain and trials since coming to Christ than when I lived life without him. Coming to Christ doesn’t guarantee things will get easy. But when we surrender our lives to him, He gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us and we can have peace in that. He is the anchor to our souls and we can navigate through the crap when we cling to the cross. I have experienced the type of trials that can destroy a man. But at the same time I can honestly say that I am where I am today because of Jesus Christ. His grace and love for me are the only things that got me where I am today. I don’t fear man or this world because God continues to show me that he will bring me through whatever I go through and give me exactly what I need. What an amazing God we have!

Tonight I saw my new friend and the power of what God can do when we turn to Him. This guy turned to the cross of Christ – the place where God loves us and where Jesus shows us that he understands what we are going through. And now his testimony will be used to change the lives of others who are experiencing trouble. This guy prayed for me and told me how much meeting me impacted his life in a short few hours. I laugh because I feel the same way about him. He was a light to me tonight and a reminder of who God is when life beats us down. I love how the body of Christ is used to encourage each other.

Tonight I realized where God wants me after spending some time with Him. I know a big part of that is being out in the secular world and serving these men that are struggling and going through painful situations. I get pain and I don’t fear it. Jesus is my rock and I’m secure in that and pain has always brought me closer to him. People call me modern-day Job or whatever, but they also know that Christ is my foundation and the trials of life just make me cling to Christ. I want to share that and proclaim that to others. God may allow freedom in this world, but He doesn’t lose control. He knows what we go through and he offers himself as a source of hope to overcome it.

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Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Tim Keller, Matt Chandler… I love listening to these guys preach because they speak truth directly from scripture. They don’t sugarcoat anything, especially when it comes to marriage. I wish I could post everything I learned from this conference about what Mark Driscoll preached about marriage at Mission Community Church. He has an amazing marriage with his wife Grace to back it up because they followed the biblical model of marriage and stuck it through the tough times. He was pretty straight up about this – you need Jesus first and foremost. If you don’t know Jesus, your marriage is doomed. You will adopt a secular view of marriage and make it about yourself and give up during the tough times. Mark was to the point about this and several people ended up coming forward to receive Christ because they truly believed they need him to save their marriages. It was an awesome and powerful moment. After the wedding day, marriage becomes a war. Satan loves to prey upon marriage and if you don’t know Jesus, you will find yourself without hope. Your spouse is not your enemy, Satan is. So no matter what, be there for your spouse, pray for him/her and don’t give up. The most important day of your marriage should be the last day, not the first. These were some of the hard-core stuff Mark preached that hit me to the core.

I could touch on a lot of things that were meaningful and that will help me grow and husband – being best friends with your spouse, daily repentance to each other of your sins (Ephesians 4:25-30 model), forgiveness, selfishness, etc. But the one topic that I take to heart and what I have been working on the most is being a humble servant to my wife (Philippians 2:3-8). As hard as I try, I fail this many times over. This comes from how I view my spouse and my idolatry and tendency to control because of my past. I sometimes see my spouse’s issues as too hard to deal with and I start to not see her as God’s child. Then I try to rescue and control her because of the difficulties – a redemption role which belongs to Christ and not me. This leads to frustration and eventually anger because I don’t see results. So what God has been convicting me of is that I need to serve my wife humbly despite any issues she might have and the hardships we endure. I know God has entrusted me with his daughter and for that I feel honored – especially how fragile she is. My committment I have made and what I have promised myself to live up to is to consider her better than me, to encourage her in her walk and help guide her (not control her), to correct her lovingly and humbly when needed and to love her with all my heart all the days of my life. I want my wife to feel safe with me and to trust me more than anyone (but Jesus) and to always know how much I cherish her. I’m totally up for all the work that needs to go into making this happen – I love her that much. And this is something else I’ve had to ask myself – do I allow myself to be served by my wife? I’m not sure if I do or don’t. But when I read about the life of Jesus, he came to serve humbly and he also let others serve him. So I will continue to pray and allow God to continue to work in me and in my role as a husband. I will never give up the fight against Satan for my marriage or for my wife’s soul.

On my mirror in my bathroom I hung a piece a paper a couple of months back as a reminder that reads – How can I SERVE my wife DAILY?

This also really encouraged me – a couple gave their testimony on stage at the end. After 15 years of marriage, he had a heavy porn addiction. After years of loneliness, she developed an emotional affair with a co-worker. Divorce was around the corner for them.  He discovered her phone days before she was to meet her co-worker in Vegas for a weekend. Their secrets were out in the open and they confessed them to each other. They got help and one year later, they renewed their vows and avoided divorce. And now they both say that they have never been happier in their marriage ever after 15 years. And it was all because they knew they needed Jesus and that they fought for their marriage, stop listening to other people and got help. That was their message to the crowd – don’t give up! Man – I cried like a baby seeing the power of Christ work in this couple. It was an amazing two days and I am thankful for God providing this time for me to grow in my own walk as a husband.

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What’s on my heart

I don’t know if I can hear another story about a family or couple struggling right now. A couple near and dear to my heart have separated. I’ve heard way too many stories like this this week. My prayer this week is for all the families of Cornerstone and in the world today that are going through difficult times. Trust God and make him the center of your family. It is the only hope through these trials.

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Wow.. I have lots on my mind. Very typical after Sunday. So I thought I’d tried and sort my scattered thought with this blog. Spent the whole week hanging with the kids. My youngest turned eight and I had a swim party for him today. It got over just in time for the rainstorm. I’m pretty fried form being outside so much this weekend.

I came across a blog I wrote awhile back on God moving events. I had gone to College Briefing, then Belize and Passion Atlanta all within a few months in ’06. I was on a pretty big spiritual high at the point of my life. Those events brought me closer to God. Then I signed up for three mission trips in ’07. All three of those fell through. I was disappointed and fell into a spiritual rut. In my blog, I wrote how I need to not rely on these trips to bring me closer to God. I wanted to get excited for God by just opening up my Bible. Well, today is not the case. I get pretty jazzed up from opening up the Word quite a bit now. But I also need those God moving trips as well. There is something about that alone time with God away from everyday life and also being around a community of believers. It really draws me closer to him and is a big part of my growth. Passion L.A., Tijuana and camp have all been huge for me this year.

Speaking of camp, one of the kids that was in my cabin came running up to me at Target. He was really excited to see me. I got to meet his parents. I really miss those guys from my cabin. I told him that I was leading a small group for 5th/6th grade starting in a month. He was really happy about that. That kid is amazing. He knows more about Revelations than I do.

Just want to write real quick about my friend Nathan. Amazing guy that was in my men’s group a year ago. Friday, his brother Tyrone was found dead from an apparent overdose. I can’t imagine how hard being in that situation has to be. At the same time, I just don’t get it. Life is too short and too precious. My heart goes out to Nathan and his family. He’s such an amazing guy. Even though his life has been super rough, he’s always kept close to God.

Dangit.. I’m frustrated. So a few months back I decided to try and open up a bit and let some new friends into my life. I’ve had this shell around me for some time and I’ve been praying about letting new people in. I’ve had some trust issues with people because I’ve been burned too many times… especially from those close to me. Yet I still continually get let down. Really don’t know how to handle this. I do have some close people in my life I trust, but I’m having a hard time letting others in. I feel myself climbing back into my shell and just staying away from people until I figure this out. Its hard because I love meeting and getting to know people. I just need to trust God about the people he brings into my life. Need to pray, pray, pray…

Had a great time taking a team of people down to Liberty House for Second Saturday yesterday. I really need to sit down and blog about how that ministry has changed my life these past couple of years. There were a few people from the Singles and others class that really wanted to help the organization and set up a thing with the Golden Spoon where they donated 75% of their profits to help fund some camps for kids. I was so excited to hear about that. Then Steve Lappen (the director and an amazing guy with a big heart for those kids) was invited to speak at church today. I’m so excited to see Cornerstone finally get involved with this ministry and helping these intercity kids stay off the streets.

Met the new singles Pastor, James Patterson today as well. Great guy and I’m very excited to see him here. God has good things in store for him here.

Some really cool stuff going on in my divorce group. I’m really bummed that I will be stepping away from it for awhile to counsel kids. But it will be good for me. Speaking of divorce, I was stopped by a girl tonight that said she was going through it . Someone had given her my name. I really felt for her because she is at the early stages of it. Really nice girl.. enjoyed my conversation with her. Divorce sucks. Yet God can do amazing things with people if you stay focused on him and trust him.

I’ve got such a super busy week this week. Going to spend the rest of my night preparing for it so I don’t get too caught up with it. Also want to make sure I make some alone time with God. Got some deep thinking to do. Then I head off to San Diego the following week for a little fun in the sun. God is good.

Love you guys (or whoever likes to read about my up and down life), TT

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Our church started a series on communication between men and females. Its more geared toward married couples, but still informative for those that are not. My lifegroup is also doing a similar series. We have had some very good conversations arise out of that group. Except our conversation is more based ..experience because we are all divorced. There are many ’if I had known’ and ’maybe next time’ comments.

As Pastor Linn spoke on stage and described the differences of how men and women communicate and listen to each other, it was like deja vu to me. I started to think of some of the fights and miscommunications within my own marriage. I honestly don’t think much of my marriage or my ex-wife anymore. Its pretty much in my past. So spending time thinking about those events kinda freaked me out. We were never good at arguing. We weren’t that nice to each other when we did. Those are situations I don’t ever want to be a part of again.

But the thing that scared me the most was the question.. can I do marriage again? Do I want to do marriage again? I have learned so much about myself and just relationships in general after going through divorce. I know what I can bring to a relationship. But it’s not always that easy or simple. It takes two people to be on the same page. Communication is huge. How we talk to each other is important.  I don’t really date and I love single life. I’ve only had feelings for one person since my divorce. So I really haven’t had the opportunity to experience or apply what I have learned.

Yet… I want so bad for things to be different next time…

I had dinner with three other divorced guys after the sermon. We spent a couple of hours discussing women and how they operate. But most importantly we spent time discussing how we can be better husbands next time. It was such an amazing conversation with fellow brothers in Christ. I’m glad I have guys like this in my life for me to lean on and learn from.

I’m a person that will give his all to his mate. I will work my butt off for that person. I at times will give tough love when needed, yet I’m pretty caring and compassionate (and a little romantic). But I also know I’m not perfect. I know I have a lot to learn. I know I can be better. I am blessed to have people and resources to help me out on this learning path. But it does take equal effort from both parties.

But most important is God. Without a God-centered relationship, its doomed from the get-go. It’s why my marriage failed. It’s why many marriages are failing. And sadly, it’s why my divorce group is so big. Problems, hard-times and disagreements need to be taken to Christ. Prayer is so vital to marriage and relationships. It needs to occur daily and often. God HAS to be the focus.

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I wrote a pretty long blog yesterday about my divorce group and then accidentally deleted it. So here is the short version…

I was challenged a year ago to start a group for divorce people. I laughed it off. But then God weighed it on me. So I started one with the help two other ladies. Today it has grown to 26 people. Sad that there is such a need for a divorce group, yet awesome because these people come to grow and fellowship with others. It has been a huge part of my healing process.

In the past couple of months my heart wasn’t in it. I wasn’t sure if God wanted me to be a part of it anymore. A couple of people were complaining about the material. The social events outside of group always had to involve alcohol. We had a new guy show up just to pick up women. It just wasn’t there for me anymore.

I prayed about it and wrote a long email this week voicing my concerns. A few people responded with praise. One person was angry with me. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was driving to group. The awesome thing is that we ended all having a heart to heart talk. Not just about the email, but just about the everyday struggles of having gone through divorce. There was sharing, tears, and a huge amount of support being shown. It was an awesome night.

For the first time I felt this group got it. The biggest topic was how we can take this horrible situation called divorce and become more Christlike. I felt everyone wanted to stop worrying about who their next potential mate was going to be and just concentrate on living a life for Christ. The awesome thing about this mix guy/girl group was the amount of trust there was shown in discussing some of the intimate topics.

I woke up the next day with a very full email inbox. My phone rang all day. Everyone was on a spiritual high. The lady that was angry with me called me and we had an amazing heart to heart talk. I feel so blessed to be a part of this amazing group of people. They encourage me so much.

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My friend Victor

Divorce is so hard to go through. When people file for divorce, most of them think it is an easy way out. They think freedom. They think the grass is greener on the other side. But it’s not…
Divorce changed my life. I lost the love of my life. I saw my kids goes through a lot of pain. It hurt. But I found a new love. Divorce brought me to Jesus.
And now I have seen it bring my friend to Jesus. His story reaffirms me how great God is. It tells me there is a God and he can do amazing things with people.
July of last year. I am working part-time in the church cafe. It was pretty dead in the summer. I was the only one at church one afternoon. No staff, no customers, nobody.
A gentlemen comes walking through the door. He had a blank stare on his face. He walked up to me and very softly spoke to me and ask if there was a pastor or counselor available to speak to. I told him that there was no one at the church except me. He thanked me and walked away. He looked discouraged. I began to think to myself  Travis…don’t let him walk away. I then yelled out “Hey man… I’m no counselor, but I can talk if you need someone to chat with”. He stopped and turned around and came back. His facial expression looked too familiar to me. He then quietly said to me … “my wife left me. I just got divorce papers.” My heart then went out to him. The pain of when I was shocked with papers came back. I excused myself from him for a second and cried. Then I prayed and asked for strength and wisdom. I came back and we talked. I asked him if he came to this church. He was from Singapore and moved here to marry his wife a couple of years ago. He had no friends or family here. He had never been to church. Yet he was driving around and felt something telling him to pull into our church. He basically told me that he didn’t know what else to do.
Tom Stone, one of our counselor, stopped in to pick something up. I immediately grabbed him and told him about Victor. He then sat with him and talked with him. Tom then went into the bookstore and grabbed a Bible. That day Victor gave his life to Christ. It was an amazing God moment.
Victor would come in 2-3 times a week to come and chat with me.Our stories were all too familiar. Every situation he was going through, I went through in my divorce. His wife’s behavior patterns matched my ex’s. I related to almost everything he was going through. I had just started a group for divorce people. He joined my group. He also joined DivorceCare, a support group for people just going through divorce. A program that helped me. He didn’t understand, but he was making all the crucial right steps in dealing with this.
A few months later, I ran into Victor at a BBQ. He chatted some about life. He was going through some tough times still. I told him about spiritual warfare and how Satan is going to do anything to discourage his new-found faith. He then told me about the first day running into me at the cafe. He told me that stopping at the church was his last stop. That he had given up on hope. He said if that hadn’t worked out, he wasn’t sure what he would have done. My heart stopped. Yet I knew God intervened in his life and he answered that call. God had a bigger plan in his life.
Victor would come and go in my group. I would see him from time to time. He then came to me around Christmas time and said his wife wanted him back. He was putting his hope that she would come around. I told him to be careful and to make sure that they got counsel before he moved forward (believe me I fell for this and got burned). Well, after a few weeks, she did the same. Victor was in pain all over again. I really felt for him. Yet everyone in the divorce group really reached out to him and helped him pull through that. The amount of love and care that was demonstrated was amazing. It is a truly amazing group of people.
Victor then had spinal cord surgery around that time. He was laid out for some time. Yet he was still going through his divorce process. It was a tough time for him. He really struggled with his faith during this time. His wife was still ruthless to him during his hospital stay. He felt like giving in and letting her have everything. He was physically and emotionally exhausted. We all tried to encourage him and keep his spirits high. Victor hung in there despite his physical and emotional pain.
Victor called me this past Wednesday night. He couldn’t sleep (he was sleeping on someone’s couch because he let his wife have the house). His trial was the next day. He just had radiation treatment as well. I gave Victor the only advice I knew.. Portray yourself as a man of honor and as a man of Christ in that courtroom. Do not respond or react to anything negative she says, but stand up for your rights and for your rights to your son. Know that God is control. As a group that night, we all took turns praying for him. Encouraging emails to him went out on our email list.
Victor called me after the trial. He was upset. He was driving around and was crying. He was thinking about the happier times of his marriage and how all of that was lost.  I told him it was ok. I cried after my divorce as well. No one wins in divorce. Its ugly and its difficult. Its amazing the power of the tongue and how hurtful words can damage someone. Yet Victor was ready to close that chapter of his life.
Victor’s wife said hurtful things to him in court. She wanted everything. Yet Victor stood strong that day.  His wife broke down and lost her composure. Victor almost gave in because he saw her cry, but he remembered the awful things she did to him. He didn’t retaliate. He told her:

"I am sad and heart-broken to hear that you think of me in
this light. I want you to know the day I left you and Ethan to
go back to Singapore was the saddest day in my life. Since then
all our efforts and dreams had been to get back together again
as a family. You and I both know we got married because we were
in love. I didn't do this for the green card or money. I hope
you can see that."

She broke down. The judge leaned in his favor. Yet Victor knew that no one ultimately won. Only Christ. Christ was there in that courtroom. Victor is now a child of God. And he demonstrated himself as a man of God in court that day. I truly believe that Victor will understand all of this someday. He will understand someday why he went through this. I am so proud of him. I am blessed to call him my friend. He shows me that God can work in anyone.
Victor sent out an email the next day to our divorce group. He called us his new family. We are the body of Christ and we are called to lift each other up during tough times. This story is an amazing demonstration of how Christ loves us and picks us up when we are down.

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I got an unexpected phone call this week. The person that called me was a member of my church and had heard I was going through divorce. He basically told me that he understood what I was going through and wanted to help. Later that week I found myself in his home listening to his story. He told me about DivorceCare and how it helped him. DivorceCare is a friendly, caring group of people who will walk alongside you through one of life’s most difficult experiences. It’s a 13 week support group (consisting of a video series and workbook) that helps people during various stages of divorce or separation. The church next door to mine was hosting a group (Chandler Christian Church). So my friend came with me to my first week there and introduced me to some of the leaders. I was grateful to meet others that were going through the same thing I was. This was especially helpful because the holidays were here and I didn’t want to be alone. I was amazed on how each session touched on the many emotions I was experiencing. I highly recommend DivorceCare if you are going through something like this.

Don’t go through separation or divorce alone

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hope

I’ve been reading a book by Dr. Gary Chapman (author of The Five Love Languages) called Hope for the Separated. He has been helping marriages for many years and has written many of the resources out there on relationships. I’ve never been a big reader, but lately I have been flying through books because of the difficult time I’m going though. This book doesn’t just talk about the hope of reconciliation, but also how to approach this period with a biblical mindset. It has helped me make better decisions during this tough time and how to be a better father to my kids while we work through our issues.

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