The Incredible Juggling Act

It seems like when I speed up to get caught up with the things I have going on in life, the faster they seem to come at me.  Sometimes my life reminds me of the famous I Love Lucy episode where she is working on the assembly line at the chocolate factory, and as she starts to get the hang of it, the conveyor belt is turned up and she can’t keep up despite her best efforts.  That feels like my life. Being a husband, father, friend, coach, teacher, mentor, son, brother, and follower of Christ can be an overwhelming and daunting task. Yet I also feel like lately God has been helping me come to the realization that it isn’t my job to keep juggling everything.

Here’s what I mean. In all the juggling I do in my life, I feel like I am often guilty of trying to be a simulated savior for the people I try to serve rather than pointing them to the only one who can be everything they need. And as I’ve thought about this, I’ve noticed two major lessons I believe God has been teaching me:

1. Life will never slow down enough for me to juggle everything. 

I am 33 years old, married to a wonderful woman, we have 3 amazing children, and I am a high school teacher and coach. People always say that this phase of life will be the busiest time of my life.

But I remember thinking when I was just out of college that life would finally slow down.  I thought, “We have small children, and this will be a time when we can simplify things, take care of the kids, and just smell the roses and take it all in.”

Of course, in reality, we have baseball and football practice, ballet recitals, football meetings to break down our next opponent, small group, music practice, visits to my parents an hour and a half away, dinners with friends, and on top of that conversations that often go something like, “Did you get the milk? No I thought you got the milk. I told you I had Parent Teacher Conference, by the way, the chicken is burning.” Whew. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

The point is I’m realizing the reality that life is never going to slow down enough for us to have time to do everything we think we need to do. In juggling the different things of life, you’re going to have to drop some pins at some point.

Which brings me to the second lesson I’m learning:

2. It isn’t my job to juggle everything for everyone, and that is a good thing.

The idea that I will drop some of the pins I’m trying to juggle in my life isn’t a popular one in our culture. The prevailing American culture is represented by a value system that stresses achievement and success, rugged individualism and uniqueness, material comforts and wealth, and controlling your own destiny. In other words, we should be people who are capable of keeping up the juggling act and even adding another pin or two into the mix.

But I feel like lately God has been showing me I must remember that a life lived for Jesus Christ is in stark contrast to the values of the prevailing culture.

Achievement, success, and self-worth in the life of a disciple of Christ might look like failure in the eyes of the world. Yet the Gospel shows us when we turn and trust in Jesus that we are uniquely children of the King with all the comforts, wealth, and acceptance that comes with being heirs to the creator of it all. He is the King who can handle all the things I feel like I need to juggle in my life, and He has accepted me.

In reality, I don’t know how to juggle, and I doubt I’ll ever really learn. So when I think of the many pins I’m having to juggle in my life, I’m learning to take great comfort in my growing understanding of the Gospel. In other words, having Jesus, who honestly controls my destiny and the destiny of my family, my students, and the athletes I coach is a real load off my back.  I fail every day. I drop many of the pins I’m desperately trying to keep juggling. And that used to paralyze me from wanting to try again in fear that God would shake his head in disapproval and reject me. I would rather not play a game that I had no chance of winning than to keep falling flat on my face.

But I’m growing in my understanding that in the Gospel Jesus did not save me from my fumbling and failing; he saved me from the penalty of sin. God was well aware of my shortcomings before salvation, and he knew I would never live the life he wanted me to live by doing it myself. So he allows me to fail, and yet he still accepts me and allows me to try again.

Like a true father, he lets us learn through doing, and he blesses us in our attempts because he loves us. If my kids tried to make me a gourmet meal on Father’s Day because they love me, I would eat every bite regardless of the taste because my children are precious to me. And I am a sinner. How much more does God, the true Father, love us?

When I turn to the Gospel I see that I don’t have to keep trying to juggle everything in my life, and that’s a good thing. God is in control, he has accepted me, and he is capable of handling all the things that life throws at me.

Conclusion

So, I still am not very good at juggling, and sometimes I want to let all the pins hit the ground.  I guess the trick to it isn’t keeping our eyes on all the spinning pins in the air, although that may be what comes natural. Instead, let’s look into the eyes of our Father who is smiling at us as we try again and again.

Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

If you find yourself overwhelmed today, ask God to reveal which pins you should keep tossing, and which ones to let hit the ground. While we may need to put a few pins down from time to time, let us keep on doing good knowing our true Father loves us and is there for us even when we don’t know how to juggle everything.

“In all the juggling I do in my life, I feel like I am often guilty of trying to be a simulated savior for the people I try to serve rather than pointing them to the only one who can be everything they need.”

He Gives and Takes Away

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
Job 1:21

I have learned so much from watching my wife follow Christ as a spouse and mother. Karoline and I have been married almost 3 years, and it has been a tremendous journey. We have had ups and downs, but through everything she continues to encourage me and push me closer to Jesus Christ.

One of the most difficult nights of our life happened a little over a year after we had our first child. Porter was getting big, and we had recently found out that Karoline was expecting another child. We were so excited and couldn’t wait to see what God had in store for us.

About 3 months into her pregnancy, Karoline began having some minor cramping. In her last pregnancy, this had happened a little bit, and it turned out to be nothing, but we decided to call the doctor anyway. The doctor reassured us that cramps happened sometimes, and we shouldn’t worry unless they got more intense. Later that night, we were eating at our friends’ house when Karoline began cramping again. As the night continued, the cramping got worse, so we decided to head to the hospital.

The hospital wasn’t far from our house. I got Karoline seated in the waiting room, and I began trying to get her checked in. By the time I got back to her, she was in a lot of pain. I returned to the main desk to ask them how long we would be waiting, and she told me that there were 50 people in front of us and it would be about 2 hours. So we decided to drive into the city to go to another hospital.

As we were driving there, Karoline was in a huge amount of pain, and she had her head rested on my shoulder. In between her tears I could hear her faintly repeating, “He gives and He takes away.” This didn’t hit me until later that night.

When we got to the hospital they immediately took Karoline back to a room. The next few hours seemed like a lifetime. They ran tests, took blood, performed ultrasounds, and ran more tests. After about 3 hours, the doctor came in to tell us what was going on. I remember she said, “The tests we have run and the ultrasound showed us that the fetus has no heartbeat.” She continued saying, “This isn’t because of something you did. It just happens sometimes.” Then she told us she was very sorry, and left us alone. We sat together crying for a little while before they released us to go home.

The doctor had given Karoline some pain medicine, so when we got home she immediately went to sleep. I couldn’t sleep. As I sat there in my kitchen the words she had said in the car kept running through my head – “He gives and He takes away. He gives and takes away.”

These words come from Job 1:21. Job had just lost everything. Not just his house, not just his family, not just his friends, or possessions, but everything. After he received this news he fell to the ground in mourning and said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

As I’ve reflected on the pain of that night, there were three things the Lord taught me and is continuing to teach me:

 1. The Lord gives.

Everything belongs to him. Everything (Psalm 24:1).

The Earth and everything in it are his. Every dollar, car, house, and person belong completely to God. We are his creation (Genesis 1:1-27). Since all of this and more is his, then our houses, cars, checks, and even children are all a gift from him. For some people this may be bad news, but when you understand that our fulfilment, acceptance, and joy comes from Jesus Christ, then this is great news! Jesus suffered and died on a cross to bear OUR SIN so now we can have true life in him.

Even though everything belongs to him, even though he owes us nothing, even though we have done nothing to deserve life, He offers it to us. He gives it to us. Freely. I don’t have to find my acceptance, social status, joy, and peace in money, because none of it is mine; it’s God’s.

 2. The Lord is in control.

If everything is his, then he is in control. God calls the shots. Look at the story of Job. Satan came and asked God if he could take things from Job. God was completely in control (Job 1:8-12). After Job questions God, God responds and says, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?” (Job 38:4-5). God is saying to Job, “You have no reason to doubt me. I created everything, and I am sovereign over everything.” Most of us like to feel in control, and that is why things like cancer are so scary. We don’t have control. But God does.

The Gospel tells us that our Sovereign God, because of his great love for us, sent his only son to be butchered on a cross. He is in control of everything, yet he still allowed his son to be slain on our behalf. So now I can say, “I don’t need to be in control, because I know God, who loves me, is.”

This brings me to the 3rd thing God taught me.

 3. The Lord takes away.

God used my wife on that hard night to teach me an amazing lesson. The Lord takes away. Not because he is punishing us, or because we haven’t done enough good, but because he is sovereign, because his ways are higher than my ways and his thoughts are higher than my thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). Romans 8:28 tells me that God is working everything out for my good even as he is conforming me into the image of Jesus.

I think that most of the time my understanding of what is good is not the same as the Lord’s. I think a lot of people hear this verse and think, “Oh, so God is going to give me money or stuff to make me comfortable.” But I don’t think that is what this verse means. True life is offered in Christ. True life was offered when Christ bore my sins on the cross. This is truly good. Christ is truly good. So now this verse makes more sense. God is working everything for my good, because he is conforming me into the image of Christ. He is making me new!

This is not always an easy process. Just like a vine I must be pruned so that new and better fruit may grow. Even in hard times, even when there is no light, even when God chooses to take away, I can trust that my God is in control, and that he is working for my good. This is a weight off of my shoulders. I don’t have to worry about tomorrow, because I know that the creator of the universe is running the show.

 Conclusion

It’s been nearly 9 months since that terrible night, and I can say, “I trust God better today than I did the day of the miscarriage.” Not because I am better, not because I am awesome, but because God is working in me. I am a better husband, father, and friend, because of what the Lord has done in my life. Even when I don’t understand, I know he is working.

In 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, Paul says, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” Paul is literally making Light of my hard times here. He says that the weight of the Glory that is coming makes our hard times seem light and momentary. When I look to things that are seen (My own abilities) then I am devastated by loss. But when I look to the Unseen (God’s abilities) then I can confidently say, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Micah serves as the Director of Family and Worship Arts Ministries at Berean Bible Church. 

“It’s been nearly 9 months since that terrible night, and I can say I trust God better today than I did the day of our miscarriage. Not because I am better, not because I am awesome, but because God is working in me.”

Understanding Biblical Discipleship

I recently completed a required seminary course entitled “Discipleship Strategies.” My assumption was I would take the course and walk away with an academic understanding of the ways and means to make disciples. To my surprise I came away with so much more.

What is a disciple and what is “discipleship”? I’ve asked myself that question for a long time. And it seems like the answers you get when you ask that question are as varied as the people who ask it. There were several principles I learned as I took the class, and as we try to define discipleship, I’m learning that the following three principles on discipleship are critical:

1. Discipleship is far more relational than most people realize.

 If you ask people to define discipleship, you often get a lot of different types of answers. For some, discipleship is about studying the Bible more, or being more obedient, or growing spiritually, or learning to serve more sacrificially. But while each of these things are important, what’s interesting is that in the Bible, the common thread that ties them all together is that discipleship is about deep relationships.

This thread of deep relationships in discipleship shouldn’t be a surprise to the Christian since the initiator and object of the discipleship process is the Triune God we worship; three persons in one, who have been in relationship with one another since eternity past.  But the Bible is also full of other examples of how discipleship is far more relational than most realize.

For example, the call of Abram in Genesis 12 helps show how discipleship is first and foremost relational. God speaks to Abram and tells him to leave all that is familiar to him and go to a place He will show him. But God also promises Abram that He will enter into a deep and personal relationship with him. God will provide, protect, and in a real sense “disciple” him every step of the way.  Abram responds positively to the call, and God fulfills His promise. God disciples Abram his entire life through the context of a deep relationship with him.

Or take Exodus 3 which shows us discipleship doesn’t just happen in a classroom. Through deep relationships, discipleship goes into the everyday moments of our lives. In the opening verse of chapter 3, Moses is keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro. At first glance you might say, “So what, that’s what they did in those days.” While this is true, I doubt that Moses’ education in the house of Pharaoh included Tending the Flock 101.  The only way Moses would ever know how to take care of the flock is if he acquired these skills from Jethro. Their relationship with one another ran deep. Jethro wasn’t just a father-in-law to Moses, but later, he becomes a confidant, a counselor, and a friend to Moses when he provided heartfelt and wise counsel to him during the Israelite’s wondering in the wilderness. Discipleship in Moses’ life happened in the context of deep relationships.

The list of stories goes on and on. Moses invests 40 years into Joshua, Jesus spends most of his time with His 12 disciples, Paul invests his life into men like Timothy and Titus. Story after story of discipleship throughout the Bible shows us that the quintessential element for discipleship to take place is deep relationships.

 2. Discipleship is about being a learner as much as it is about being a follower.

 Many people with church experience have been taught that the word “disciple” just means “a follower.” But that’s only part of the picture of a disciple.

In the New Testament, the Greek word for disciple means “one who learns,” and it is used 260 times in the Gospels and the Book of Acts. The word was used to depict a student, pupil, or follower of a particular teacher or school of thought. Today, it would be like saying Sean Payton is a disciple of Bill Parcells. In other words, Payton learned the art of coaching by following Parcells. As a result, Payton’s approach towards coaching is really just an extension of the Parcell’s “school of thought” on how to run a football team. When it comes to being a disciple, the idea of learning is every bit as important as the idea of following.

This approach is seen throughout Jesus’ life. His method of discipleship wasn’t just to look for followers, but to utilize men with a teachable spirit. In fact, the Bible records that there were many who were considered followers. But from this larger group, Jesus narrows his focus and selects twelve to become His primary “learners” or disciples. In this small group context, these men didn’t just follow Jesus around. They became HIs apprentices. He invested deeply in them, his life became a comprehensive lesson on what it meant to be a disciple, and they never stopped learning.

Have you stopped learning? To be a disciple is to be a learner.

3. Discipleship is a lifestyle, not a program in the church.

Finally, for many people, discipleship is simply another program or department in the church. But when we look at how Jesus dealt with His twelve disciples, we see a model of discipleship that is intentional, intense, and intimate. Jesus didn’t just call His twelve to participate in a new church program. He called His disciples into a whole new way of life.

No matter where you look in the Bible, those who are following Christ have found in that the Gospel goes into every area of their lives. So to be a disciple is to live a completely new life in Christ. Our approach towards discipleship in the church must seek to model this deep view of discipleship.

The best modern context where this kind of discipleship can take place is in small group community. When properly done, small groups can be powerful vehicles for individual spiritual growth and depth of community. The difficulty is that small groups require their members to be open and trusting of one another. They require commitment to accountability and non-judgment by the members. They require a significant commitment of time and energy and resources. In other words, they require a commitment to discipleship as a lifestyle, not simply another program in our church.

But this commitment is worth it. The disciples tapped into a powerful faith that was shaping every aspect of their lives, and I believe we can know that same power today. When we reject the shallow notion that discipleship is simply another program, and instead commit ourselves to a lifestyle of discipleship, I believe we will see God move powerfully in our midst.

Conclusion

Why does any of this matter? The concept of discipleship is a core component of the mission of Berean Bible Church. Our mission statement says, “We exist to glorify God by making disciples who help restore the City through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” We need to continually be willing to ask and answer the question, “How can we, in this time and place, make disciples that glorify God?” I believe the answer is found in a clear understanding and consistent application of the biblical view of disciples and discipleship. Specifically, as I’m growing in my understanding of discipleship, I’m seeing that discipleship is much more relational than most people realize, it’s about becoming a life-long learner even as we follow Jesus, and in the end, it’s a lifestyle to be pursued rather than a program to attend.

You should join us in this pursuit to make disciples who glorify God! If you are interested in joining a small group at Berean, contact us at office@bereannola.com.

Steve Arabie serves in many capacities at Berean Bible Church including the Men’s Discipleship Intensive and as the Frontlines Team Coordinator. After a career in business, he is currently pursuing his Master’s degree at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Many people with church experience have been taught that the word disciple just means a follower. But that’s only part of the picture…”

Telling Your Story

It seems like one of the biggest hindrances to our mission as a church is believing that God isn’t really working. People’s lives aren’t really being transformed. The Gospel isn’t really taking new ground in anyone’s lives. The Holy Spirit might be moving, but He isn’t really moving in us. And what ends up happening when these ideas and these experiences are allowed to fester is many people in the church begin to believe that there really isn’t anything exciting happening among us.

I believe one of the best ways to counter this hindrance, and guard ourselves against complacency and boredom in our faith, is for each of us to be sharing story after story of how God is working in our lives.

The idea that we all have stories to tell about the power of God moving in our lives comes from the very nature of the Gospel. The Gospel isn’t just the good news of our gracious acceptance before God because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross. The Gospel goes much deeper. The Gospel is also the good news that because of that gracious acceptance, our entire story changes! Our entire lives used to be marked by sin and rebellion – alienation from God and isolation from others. The Bible is clear that our entire identity was wrapped up in sin and that we were utterly enslaved to it as our master. But because of Christ, we have been set free from our sin and simultaneously given an entire new life as children in the very family of God. Everything for us changes! We need to hear over and over and over again the stories of how God is helping each of us come to a greater realization of the Gospel in our lives.

In short, we need to become storytellers.

Every Christian is a story teller because the essence of our faith isn’t a moral code on how to live, but a story of good news – a Gospel – that has happened and is happening to us.

What is your story? If you’re part of Berean, then you are on mission with us. You are a missionary, and so what is God doing in your life today? When was the last time you told someone a story about how God is moving in your life?

There are many reasons why people don’t share their story. Let’s take a look at three common problems people have with telling their stories:

1. “I don’t have a good story to tell.”

I’ve heard countless people tell me they don’t tell others their story because they don’t think it’s all that great. And usually what follows in these convos is someone will put their arm around you and say, “Oh stop that! You have a good story. You’re special, and you have a good story, and God loves you.” I think that’s true, but for most people, I actually think there’s a much bigger problem we need to resolve than just simply believing God made you special, and so your story is special too.

One reason, and maybe the biggest reason, that many people don’t believe they have a powerful story is because they don’t have a deep understanding of what sin really is. Think about it this way. The Gospel is clear that sin ran so deep and God’s holiness ran so high that the only hope we had was for God to send His only Son and butcher him on the cross for us. That means that the problem of sin is far greater than you and I can possible fathom. And that also means that the change that happened the moment you were saved by the Gospel is far more powerful than you ever realized. Have you honestly ever considered that?

Look, you don’t have a good story to tell if nothing big has honestly every happened to you. Good stories involve drama. They involve tension. They involve suspense. If what Jesus accomplished for you was something shallow, then yes, you wouldn’t have a good story to tell.

But when you see just how deep your sin ran, and just how much Jesus did for you, you’ll begin to see that your story isn’t just good, it’s epic!

When you consider the Gospel, whether your story is, “God intercepted my life right when I had the gun pointed at my head” or your story is “I always grew up in the church, but God intercepted my life anyway!”, you’ll begin to see that your story is powerful precisely because the Gospel had to be powerful enough to deal with the weight of sin.

Everyone who has trusted in Christ has epic stories to share of how God has intercepted their lives and continues to transform them.

2. “I don’t know how to tell my story.”

There are plenty of people who would love to tell their story, but they don’t know how to tell it. But just because you don’t know how to tell your story doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t begin to learn.

It seems like in the church we spend significant time teaching people to memorize Scriptures, or what Greek and Hebrew words mean, or other random Bible trivia and theological arguments, but we invest very little time equipping people to be story tellers. In the 4 years I spent at seminary, of the 40 plus classes we were required to take, exactly 2 classes were required on learning how to communicate what we learning to others. Translation – we do not spend enough time equipping people to be story tellers.

And yet the writers of the New Testament were constantly sharing their story with others as a way of introducing people to the Gospel.

Take Paul for example. Paul almost always uses his story to tell people about the Gospel (cf. 1Timothy 1:12-17). He could have just told people the facts about the Gospel, but he instead chooses time and time again to use his own personal story as a way to package the message of the Gospel to others. That’s why Paul says to his protégé, Timothy, that he should be ready anytime, day and night, come rain or shine, to share his story with anyone who would listen to him (cf. 2Timothy 4:2).

If you feel like you don’t know how to share your story, it’s time to start learning!

When was the last time you sat down and honestly thought through how you would share your story with others? When was the last time you wrote out a story of how you came to know Jesus, or how God is working specifically in your life right now? If you are a Christian, you are a storyteller.

If you want some help getting started, take some time this week and check out this document that walks you through how you can write out your personal story of your conversion:

Writing Your Personal Testimony

3. “I don’t know who to share my story with”

If you’ve ever tried to go to the New Testament and come up with a pattern of who the early church shared the Gospel with, you will learn very quickly that there is no specific pattern to it. In short, they shared the story of what God was doing with anyone they crossed paths with from any walk of life. It didn’t matter if the people wanted to hear or not. They shared their story constantly.

Let me just say this. Because there were no conditions tied to the Gospel – God freely offers it to all without condition – there are no limits to who we should be sharing our stories with. Non-Christians need to hear your story so that they see concrete evidence that the claims of Christianity are true. Christians need to hear your story so that they are encouraged and inspired and reminded that God is still alive even when the world is saying he has died.

Here are several people who need to hear your story today:

  • Your wife or husband
  • Your kids
  • Your family
  • Your small group
  • Your friends
  • Your boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Our church
  • Your neighbors
  • Your co-workers
  • That random guy in the Quarter who likes to do magic tricks while spray painting pics of whales jumping through moons over waterfalls flowing into Jackson Square at night
  • And anyone else you can think of

Conclusion

Share your story! We need to hear it. Your story is epic, you have been given power by the God of the story to be able to tell your story of His grace in your life, and there are countless people who need to hear it!

One great way to start is to tell your story at Berean. If you are interested in sharing your story with us of how God is working in your life, click the button above or send your story to me at billm@bereannola.com.

“Every Christian is a story teller because the essence of our faith isn’t a moral code on how to live, but a story of good news – a Gospel – that has happened and is happening to us.”

Share your story with us

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