THIS IS MY STORY

9 Apr

All of my plans, strength, and will had failed me time and again, No matter how hard I’d try, I couldn’t break the chains of sin.

I had run my own races and fought my own fights; Used everything I could summon, used all of my might.

The line between the end of myself and the beginning of hell, no one could see. I needed to be saved from everything, but mainly from me.

Full of pride and arrogance, I thought I could do it all. Coming down from your own pedestal is a pretty rough fall.

I found a place called rock bottom, through no one’s fault but my own. That’s when I heard a still, small voice saying, “You are not alone”

Broken, battered, and scarred by the choices I’d made, The voice came again, “Your debts been paid”

I had run out of options, was at the end of my rope; That’s where I was given the gift of desperation…and from that came hope.

From the pits of hell to the foot of the Cross, He showed me the way after having been so lost.

I had nothing to offer, but nowhere else to turn; The voice again, “My love you cannot earn”

But I’ve messed up so much and have so many demons to face; Even clearer now, “Sufficient is My Grace”

But Lord, I’m so broken and tired; don’t you want only the best? “Come to Me, My child, and I will give you rest”

It wasn’t about what I could do or how good I could be; It was ALL about Jesus and what He had already done for me.

He set aside the Glory of Heaven to live the life we could not live; Knowing that for us, His life He would give.

The worst feeling I’ve ever known is that of being utterly alone; But Christ felt that on the Cross where my sins He did atone.

By His wounds, the chains are gone and I’ve been set free; I’ve started to become the man God intended me to be.

The pieces are being put back together; His work is being made complete; I’m doing what I can to be His hands…His feet.

He has mended what was broken and given me a story; My life belongs to my Savior…To God Be The Glory!

Jimmy Braddock     April 7, 2014

Just Kinda Ramblin’

13 Mar

Not even sure where to start; It has been quite some time since I’ve written anything (I’ve failed miserably at posting regularly) Guess it’s just best to start spilling what’s on my heart. I tend to struggle with pulling the thousands of random thoughts I have on multiple topics together to form a semi intelligent statement. Even that just rambled…J I’ve got a lot of stuff weighing on me. Am I being the follower that Jesus wants me to be or am I just a fan of his work when it makes my life a little easier? Am I being the husband and father that God intended me to be and that Julie, Keli, and Karis deserve? Am I placing the needs of others ahead of my own?  Or, better put; do I “Count others more significant than myself” (Philippians 2:3)? These are the planks in my eye that I (along with a lot of others) have the incredible ability to look past while focusing, with laser like precision, on the specks in the eyes of those around me. I’m working on these things and pray that The Lord will continue to draw me closer to Himself. As He does, I can hopefully say that I am better today than I was yesterday. But, here’s the rub-life happens! I get tired, frustrated, aggravated, mad, overloaded, and others get tired, frustrated, aggravated, mad, and overloaded too! My expectations of everybody else aren’t met, I’m definitely not living up to others expectations of me, and there’s no other way to describe it but…messy. And to tell the truth, I’m a little bit afraid of messy because that’s what I was delivered from! And, I don’t want to go back there! There is a pretty big difference though; messy today is accepting one day at a time trusting that Jesus will walk through every bit of the mess with me and messy then was that place where I had come to the end of myself and all of my best thinking. There was no way to discern the line where I stopped and the hell that I created with bad choice after bad choice began. It was at that point that I received the most precious gift ever…the gift of brokenness and desperation. I had exhausted all of my resources and the only place I could turn was to The One who was all I ever needed.  

Fast forward some 13 years and I find myself praying for boldness and confidence when it comes to sharing the Gospel, for opportunities to serve others, I pray that the Light of Jesus would shine through me, I pray that I would be a leader of men striving for biblical manhood, I pray that I would daily move closer to my Lord and Savior and those things I talked about earlier as weighing on me, start to get better because it is Jesus in me and not me working. In my pursuit of relationship with Jesus and trying to live out what it looks like to be “a man after Gods own heart” (Biblical Manhood), I have become a better follower, husband, and father. Certainly not perfect, but a whole lot better than I once was. And as those things are happening as a result of my relationship, my prayers have changed as well and they are being answered daily. Most of the time faster than I can handle but He has provided the resources and way of escape in every situation.

Here’s where I hope to tie this randomness together and make some senseJ During that time 13 years ago when I was at the lowest point I could possibly imagine, my quest for Biblical Manhood began. Servant leadership with boldness and confidence was born in that place of desperation and hopelessness! I could no longer fix anything in my life and I had to rely on the healing, transforming power of a Loving Savior. My strength and power was depleted but His power was made perfect in my weakness and His Grace was/is sufficient for ALL things. See, for me at least, brokenness bred humility; humility led to reliance on Him; reliance on Him leads to being the man he wants me to be; and that has led to boldness and confidence. Not to be confused with pride and arrogance because those things are born of self-reliance. Humility comes from knowing that I can do nothing without Him and that boldness and confidence comes from knowing that I can do ALL things through Him. And He can change the world through me! I don’t know where all this is leading but I do know that it is an incredible journey that I don’t want to miss! He has taken my brokenness and turned it into a trophy of His Grace. He has given me a story of Redemption and Restoration and He doesn’t intend for me to keep that to myself! He has given me a voice and a platform because there is much to be done. The harvest is truly plentiful and the laborers are woefully few.  Again, I’m not sure where all this is going but I know that for me to do nothing is no longer an option (on several battlefields)! And, I promise to try to do a better job of keeping you updated…so stay tuned!

I’m Tired Of Playing Church!

30 Sep

I told several close friends, including my pastor, this weekend that “I am tired of playing church”. I recognize that, at first glance, this may come across as an indictment of our church and/or The Church. It is neither! It is about me expressing my thoughts and feelings after much introspection and prayer. It is a challenge to me and calling me out along with anyone else who may feel the same way. It is also a plea to anyone who may be caught in the world of consumerism Christianity and are seeking their own comfort. Maybe, a better way to say what I’m feeling is that I am tired of it being okay to play church.

Let me say again that this is not a bashing of the church where I am privileged to serve as an elder. We are a Bible believing, Bible teaching community of folks who love Jesus and love people. And, as long as Jesus Christ sits on the throne as the head of The Church, His mission and ministry will continue here on earth. The problem is that too many people occupy a seat on Sunday morning (in our church AND every other church in the country) and they have no idea what it means to be a part of The Church-The Bride of Christ. They have no desire to serve others, to disciple others, or even a real desire to follow Christ as we are really called to.

We live in a culture that says it’s all about me; It’s all about what I can get, what I want, what I think I need, what can you do for me or what have you done for me lately, etc. It comes down to how can we manipulate everything around us for our benefit and comfort. Me, me, me! I, I, I! Self, self, self! Our lifestyles outside of the church on Sunday morning look no different than the rest of the world. People who say they love Jesus have bought into the lie that they do not have to die to self, daily.

 “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” ― Brennan Manning

If we profess to love Jesus and claim to follow him, we should look completely different than the culture and the culture should look at us and know that we are different. We should be as counter-cultural as Jesus was, and is still. We should be the ones shouting “Here I am Lord, Send me!”, we should be the first in line to help the “least of these”, we should always “count others as more significant than ourselves”. We should abandon the thought that our life is our own, and embrace the fact that we belong to a Gracious Savior who desires intimacy with us and wants to use us to share with the world the Good News of the Gospel.

Acts 20:24

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

John 7:38

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

Nowhere in scripture are we told to seek our own comfort, to get as much as we can, or to serve ourselves first. But, we have become a culture of, as Kyle Idleman says, “fans instead of followers”.  We like Jesus for what we can get, but the second it becomes a little uncomfortable, we don’t like Him so much. We have made church, serving, and devotions something to check off of a to-do list so God (and others) will see how good we are. We have turned prayer into a way to manipulate God into serving us and giving us what we want and think we need. We even have a few scriptures memorized so that we can throw them out at the right time to show the world how spiritual we are. We have said mission, discipleship, and just caring for others is not our job. We have been playing church for too long and it has got to STOP!! The Gospel we say we believe and the gospel we share are two very different things.

Galatians 1:6-7

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

It is sad that people outside the church look more like Christ followers than the people in the church. It is sad that non-believers and new believers do more for others and their community than a large percentage of people sitting in church on Sunday morning, giving the preacher an “Amen” so that everyone around will hear. If you are showing up at church or helping out with a service project just so you can get your ticket punched, please stop! If you are living a different gospel than the one, true Gospel, please, at the very least, tell people that it’s your version of the gospel.

 If, on the other hand, you do these things because you are so in love with Jesus they are the natural outpouring of your heart, then let’s stop playing church and start BEING The Church! If you have been transformed by the love and grace of Jesus, then let’s stand together to show and share that same love to a broken world! If you are more concerned with making Him known than you are with your own comfort, then please join me and say “Enough is enough”! Together, let’s tell the “fans” that it is no longer okay to play church and show them what it looks like to BE THE CHURCH!

Trials: Unwanted Obstacles or Necessary Opportunities?

25 Sep

I had the privilege of sharing the message this past Sunday morning with my family at The River Church. As I was preparing the message in the weeks leading up to Sunday, I realized that I was preaching a message that was directed at myself as much as (if not more so) anybody in the room. And, it has become even more painfully obvious in the days following. I talked about trials and struggles and how we should rejoice because God can and will use our trials for a purpose…His Purpose.  I spoke with great enthusiasm about rejoicing in the midst of the storm. It was with great conviction that I shared a Paul Tripp quote, “Sometimes God will take you where you have not chosen to go, in order to produce in you something that you could never achieve on your own”. And, it was with great confidence that I shared 1 Peter 1:6, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” The things that we are experiencing now are fleeting and temporary; they will not last, and for something to be necessary, there must be a desired outcome or result. This passage alone is so pregnant that we could talk for days about it, but I need to move on to something else. I need to be brutally honest and transparent-It’s necessary!

I still struggle with periods/seasons of depression and anxiety. These times are not as bad or as frequent as they once were, but they still come nonetheless. Anyone who has experienced it, knows where I am coming from and if you haven’t, you don’t! Sorry, but that’s the reality. I can feel the black cloud moving in and it consumes me. Well, it rolled in on me Sunday afternoon and the enemy (who prowls around like a lion seeking someone to devour) has been working overtime. I have come to know that in these times, God is not absent, He hasn’t moved, and He wants to draw me even closer to Himself. He wants to use these times to ultimately bring himself Glory by changing my heart and helping me to realize and accept my utter dependence on His Grace and Mercy. These times are not obstacles to faith, they are actually opportunities to grow in faith.

I frequently listen to Mark Driscoll and heard something yesterday that messed me up. He talked about Paul not becoming “bitter” when he was broken, beaten, poor, hungry, and in prison because he saw it as “an opportunity to make much of Jesus and help the well being of His church” Jesus experienced incredible suffering and He endured it and overcame it because of a purpose! If you were to ask the saints who have experienced trials and suffering, my guess is that, while they would not have chosen that particular path, they would not trade it for anything because of the purpose it served. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the trials, struggles, tribulations, suffering, hardships, etc. are evidently NECESSARY to produce a desired outcome. An outcome that we could not achieve on our own.

A few definitions I found for “necessary” are; “Unable to be changed or avoided”, “Absolutely essential”, and “Needed to achieve a certain result or effect”. So, if trials are necessary (scripture says they are), then my new definition of trials (depression and anxiety right now) is as follows: Trials are unavoidable, unchangeable circumstances and events that are absolutely essential to achieve intimacy with God. They are the arena where I have the opportunity to make much of Jesus and be drawn closer to Him. My prayer is that I would stay focused on Him in the midst of the storm knowing that there is a purpose; that I would maintain the enthusiasm, confidence, and conviction that I have when things are good; and that no matter what the circumstances, I would make much of Jesus!

I’M A BIG FLIPPIN’ MESS

10 Jun

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything and that’s because I really haven’t felt like anything I had to share was good enough, important enough, eloquent enough, profound enough or anything enough to warrant our precious collective time and attention. I get that way a lot and, I guess, that’s the way I feel about my life in general. Stay with me! This isn’t about my lack of self esteem or inferiority complex-Those things have been addressed…Okay, still being addressed! This is about travelling through life, with all it’s peaks and valleys, and being comfortable with my screwed-uppedness (yep, my word)

I had been dealing with several situations that were just difficult and messy. I was struggling with my ability to be an effective leader, if I was qualified to give advice, and if I was capable of dealing with anything much more complicated than a spirited game of Go-Fish. Enter the Creator of the Universe who decided to take a little time out of His somewhat busy schedule to send me, one of His problem children, a little nudge. A friend shared a Facebook status about a page called Messy Spirituality (https://www.facebook.com/MessySpirituality) and it said the 100th “Like” would receive a free book and a $5 Panera card. I had to…I Love Panera. I liked the page, thought I was the 100th, and then forgot about it. I scanned the page briefly but honestly dismissed it with a thought to return later. A few days later, a small package arrived and I hadn’t thought anymore about the giveaway. It was my Panera card and a copy of Messy Spirituality by Michael Yaconelli. By now, we had started a diet and there was no way Julie was gonna let me have chocolate croissants from Panera. So, Keli got the gift card and I started reading the book. After I read the back cover, I realized this was all just a little plot by my crafty Father to get this book in my hands. I haven’t finished the book yet and this is not a review. I will, however, recommend it to anyone who has ever thought to themselves (or screamed at the top of their lungs) “I’m a big flippin’ mess”

I have known since I was a little kid that Jesus loved me! How did I know? For the bible told me so and that’s the way the song went. I went through a long period thinking God didn’t want anything to do with me. Then, that Jesus may love me, but He probably didn’t like me much. I’m finally starting to accept that Jesus loves me and there ain’t nothing I can do about it. He loves me in spite of, and including, my screwed-uppedness. Actually, I think it endears me to Him.

I want so desperately to be the perfect picture of faith, spirituality and obedience! But, I fall short of my expectations-not His. I get mad at myself when I question God, when I complain, when I’m short with my wife or kids, and the list goes on. Basically, I’m upset when I screw up because I know that God deserves so much better from me. He knows how messed up I am and he expects that I’m going to screw up-frequently. I feel like I am in this perpetual cycle of brokenness and regeneration while He continues to draw me ever closer to Himself. Jesus has absolutely wrecked my life and completely shattered any ideas of who I think I am or I’m supposed to be. I am grateful beyond words for that beautiful collision of my mess and His Grace. As long as I’m confined to this body on this earth, I will never come anywhere close to that perfect picture. Guess what? I hear that still, small voice telling me that as long as I keep moving closer to Him, That’s okay! If He’s okay with my mess, I’ve got to be okay with it. It’s okay to not have all the answers. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay that I don’t meet my expectations (or anyone elses) as long as I meet His. It’s okay to be a mess!!!

I have said all of this to tell you that my God is right on time. He knows what I need and when I need it. No matter how big a screw up I am, He loves me! No matter how inadequate I feel, He says I’m capable! No matter how inferior I think I am, He says I am good enough, I am adored, and I am a kid of the King!  I may be a screw-up, but I know that I am His screw-up

I’m a big flippin’ mess, but it’s a glorious mess and it’s okay!

Aside

Painful Reminder!?

15 Dec

I have shared others prayers and posts regarding the tragedy yesterday in Newtown, but I have not shared my own thoughts yet. Mainly because I, like so many others, don’t know what to say. I don’t understand; My heart is broken; I have nothing but questions and am searching for answers like everybody else. I will continue to pray for peace and comfort for everyone involved. I know that there are things on this earth that we will never be able to fully comprehend. So, I pray that as the stories continue to come we will see God glorified and we will see people everywhere turn to Him for answers, guidance, comfort, and peace. 

I didn’t sleep much last night! Of course, I kept thinking about the families and how their lives have been forever changed. But, I was forced to look at my life and how this tragedy (and others similar) impacts me. To be completely honest; I was disappointed in myself! I was (and still am) disappointed by the fact that it takes something of this magnitude to remind me (painfully) how complacent I have become. I should not have to read someones facebook post to remind me to tell my daughters that I love them. It should not take the loss of life to remind me how precious every breath I take is. I get so wrapped up in myself It seems that I have forgotten the instruction found in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” I have been given incredibly precious gifts in an amazing wife and two beautiful daughters. And, I have been entrusted by God to love, nurture, care for, and protect them-His children. Julie, Keli, and Karis should never not know how much they are loved! I pray that I would not take a single breath for granted and my actions, words, and thoughts would be  statements of true gratitude!

Lord, I beg your forgiveness and pray that you would change me!

NO!

24 Nov

There, I said it! I’ve been told that I lack the ability to say that word. Ironically, my mom is probably the worst about telling me that! Where does she think I got it from?! I say this somewhat jokingly, but she epitomizes someone having a “Servants Heart” and gives more of herself than anyone I know. I certainly don’t claim to have the heart she has and I don’t give nearly the way she does! But, I do struggle with saying “No”. Part of that comes from wanting to be a part of every good thing that is going on around me; part from my sincere desire to help anyone I can; and, maybe, I may be over compensating for spending a lot of years “Taking”. Whatever the reason, I run the risk of being overloaded and burned out! Sometimes, our greatest assets can also be our biggest liabilities. When I take on everything and everybody elses problems, I neglect my primary responsibilities; My God and my family!

Our weekend away has been anxiously awaited for some time now! The main reason is so that we, as a family, could get away from everything else for a little while. The last year has been a roller coaster of emotions and non stop “going”!  On a personal level, I desperately needed this time to refresh and recalibrate. I need to assure that my priorities are not being compromised by my inability to not be involved in everything. My God and my family come first…there is no room for compromise! I realize it is easy to talk about slowing down and refocusing priorities when this is my view as I write this!

However, I have seen this coming for sometime and I have known that I need to make some changes. My prayer is that as I attempt to redirect my efforts and attention, others may realize their own need to do the same. I am asking you to help keep me accountable while we change and grow together.
God has given me this little retreat and as I was reading this morning (Margins by Richard A. Swenson M.D.), He gave me a few reminders:
-”Our weary, withered state is NOT God’s plan”
-”God did not create hurry”
-”Chronic overloading is not God’s Will”

I have this inherent desire to be a part of EVERY “good” project or idea that comes along. Even crazier, is that I think I CAN! The consequence is that I have grown weary, withered, hurried, and overloaded. Combine this with the major things that we’ve had going on in our lives and something has to give before it’s too late. I have stopped asking God to change my circumstances because I have learned that He wants to use them to change me.   So, I am asking Him to change me! That is the point, right!? I am, after all, powerless over everything and everyone else.

A friend/mentor told me several years ago that “The enemy of the best isn’t the worst, It’s the good”. I know that God has Great plans for me! I don’t want to be so caught up in chasing the “good” that I am missing the “great”  I will continue to help wherever I can, especially when it comes to “the least of these” But, I realize that I don’t have to be a part of everything that everybody is doing. My God and my family deserve the best of me and not my leftovers.

I am taking the first few steps toward recovery! I have admitted that there’s a problem, I know that only God can make this right, and now I submit to His will.  I pray for Gods Will to be revealed in all other parts of my life, the ability to say “No” (Sometimes:-) and slow down to rest in Him, and that He would guide my steps and thoughts as I make choices so as to be of maximum service to Him, my family, and those around me!

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” Proverbs 16:9

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21

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