Archive | January 2012

Are You on a Starvation Diet?

It probably won’t shock anyone when I confess that I’m not very good at dieting. But, it’s not for the reason that you might think. I’m generally not an “over-eater” as that might be defined. In fact, I have the opposite problem. Most days I don’t eat enough. That, I have learned, can be as detrimental to the effort to lose weight as over eating might be. I don’t understand all the science of it, but essentially I have fooled my body into thinking that I am starving, and that leads the body to begin storing fat and slowing down the process of metabolizing the food I consume. Who knew?

The remedy for this is to eat properly. It’s really taking a lot of discipline for me to do that. Getting up and actually eating breakfast everyday is not “normal” for me, but I recognize that it is necessary.

Here’s my question for you: “Are you getting the RIGHT spiritual nutrition?” Much like I was inadvertently starving my body, if we aren’t regularly and vitally connected with God through reading and studying His Word, the Bible, we can starve our spirit. If we aren’t feeding our spirit we won’t have the strength and stamina we need when the trials and battles of life come.

Consider this passage from Psalm 119:

97 How I love Your teaching! It is my meditation all day long.  98 Your command makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is always with me.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers because Your decrees are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the elders because I obey Your precepts. 101 I have kept my feet from every evil path to follow Your word.
102 I have not turned from Your judgments, for You Yourself have instructed me. 103 How sweet Your word is to my taste— sweeter than honey to my mouth. 104 I gain understanding from Your precepts; therefore I hate every false way.   [HCSB]

So, I invite you to eat regularly at the table of God’s Word. Get engaged and study His Word. We would love to have you join us Wednesday night as Andie is teaching an excellent Bible Study on living the adventure of Faith in God. We meet at 7:00 in our apartment.  If you need more info. drop me a line or give me a call. 

Is that the dinner bell I hear?

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Facing Losses in Life–It’s in the Preparation

I’ve been thinking a bit about ol’ Job.  One moment everything was going well and, like the beer commercials I’ve seen in years past, he might have thought “it doesn’t get any better than this.”  Then, without any warning or explanation, he loses everything.  Family…assets…eventually even his own health and comfort.  All gone in a flash.

After the storm of such tragic loss and sorrow we find Job sitting on a pile of ashes scratching at the sores of his flesh with a broken piece of pottery. (Job 2.8)  Even his wife pushes Job to lash out at God and simply die.  If every there was a person who knew what it was to suffer loss it was this man.  If ever there was a man who know how to endure loss it was Job.  One of those verses that could be the testimony of Job’s life during this experience is this: Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said.  (2.10b)

Job wasn’t “cut from a different cloth” than I am.  He felt pain…hurt…sorrow…and grief as I do.  I have certainly never experienced the sort of losses over the course of my whole life that this man did in mere hours.  However, the contrast is stark.  Job sat in that pile of ashes, covered with sores, having lost everything, and listening to his beloved wife tell him that he would be better off without God and dead.  In all of this Job didn’t sin.  He didn’t lash out at God.  Yes, in the next chapter we’ll hear some of Job’s sorrow spill out as he questions why he was born and regrets that he’s walking in the shadow of suffering.  But, he doesn’t lash out at God…and more importantly he doesn’t give up on God.  Hear these words he spoke a little later:

Job 19:25 “And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.” (NASB)

How humbling it is for me, because—sadly—it really takes so little at times for me to get discouraged, despondent, and depressed.  How swiftly at times I find my faith failing and I begin flailing about like a child in deep water crying out for rescue.  I enter into “Crisis Mode” with so little stimulus.  I wait with dread for the proverbial “next shoe” to drop.

  • Loss of a job – CRISIS
  • Bounce a Check – CRISIS
  • Car Breaks Down – CRISIS
  • Milk spoils – CRISIS

 

Now, honestly, at times I can weather things in my life like a champ, walking with God and trusting in Him completely.  Then there are times that the smallest thing will drive me to panic.  Since I don’t believe that God is any less powerful or present then He ever has been, the change has to be somewhere in me.  I think I have found what makes the difference in my reactions and experiences.  It’s about the preparation time before the storm hits.

  • I need to spend time in prayer
  • I need to spend time in the Bible
  • I need to spend time in worship
  • I need to spend time in meditation
  • I need to spend time in fellowship

I NEED TO SPEND TIME WITH GOD.

See, what I have discovered is that preceding those times of uncontrolled panic in my life I have usually been neglecting my spiritual needs.  When I do not feed the spiritual aspect of my life the “non-spiritual” part of me can exert greater control on my feelings and actions.  This is not a cure-all for loss—they will still come into my life.  But I can be better prepared to deal with them if I don’t neglect this crucial part of who I am as God’s child.

If you need a clear picture of this, consider this very moving picture of Jesus in the garden.  It’s been captured in so many way by artists through the centuries.  The reason it is so captivating, I believe, is that it shows us the need that our Lord felt before the “crisis of the cross” to be prepared by spending time in prayer with the Father. 

If Jesus needed this time of preparation how could I ever think that I could do it myself?

I know that I will experience loss in my life.  I don’t like it, but it’s a reality of living here.  One day the Lord will welcome me home and there will be no more loss.  In the mean time I hope in Him, and that He will provide me with what I need to face and endure the losses of life.

Praying this helps you as you face difficulty and loss as well.  Look to Him.

Looking Some More at Loss–The Ones We Don’t Forget

 

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It Happens

Loss, as stated before, happens in all of our lives.  A few years ago someone said that because I was encountering losses in my life I must not be spiritual enough or doing what God wanted.  I have to admit that blow really hurt.  It came at a very vulnerable place in my life when I had been going through a number of losses, and for weeks I struggled over that.  Could these painful and significant losses be a sign that I was not who or where God intended?  My faith was really rocked and I was on the verge of giving up. 

A deeper look at the Bible though, and the experiences of loss among the saints of old restored my faith and enabled me to have a different perspective on loss.  Most of the followers of Christ encountered loss.  The Old Testament heroes encountered loss.  Sometimes it was because of choices and actions they made.  Other times these losses occurred because of the course of the world we live in.  I realized that, even though the losses were hard and painful they were in fact a part of life.  I could let them rob me of joy, or I could seek to learn and grow through them.  I pray for the strength to choose the later.

Some Losses We Can’t Forget

The Loss of Death

As I have been looking and evaluating specific losses in my life I have experienced both a sense of nostalgia and at times a sting of pain.  It’s interesting the losses that I can remember so vividly from early on.  For example, death is a significant loss, and it has touched my life in a variety of ways.  I very vividly remember one of those childhood encounters with death as I watched my puppy, Pokey, hit and killed by one of our neighbors.  We had already had relatives die, and I know we had other pets that had gone to the great bone yard in the sky, but this death really impacted me.  It effected me so much so that now, some thirty years plus later, I can still recall it clearly. 

Death of loved ones brings loss.  It’s a hard thing to endure, but I have come to discover that these feelings and this loss are proof of our ability to love and be loved.  They are evidence of our connections with others, people and pets alike.  When you feel this loss through the death of a loved one, grieve, mourn, hurt, and don’t be afraid of these feelings, for they are the proof of love and the proof of life.

The Loss of Innocence

I would not have considered myself naïve or unaware of situations in the world around me, but I remember, again like it was yesterday, the moment that the darkness of lust and sin and adultery really slapped me in the face.  I was working with a small company of people that I had come to really like.  We spent a lot of time together and for a while we were pretty successful.  I was selling sweepers throughout Vermont and the surrounding states, and was doing fairly well with it.  Then one night I came back to the office to find the husband of one of our friends entangled with the secretary.  It crushed me.  Within in moments I discovered the owner of the company was having a fling with the wife of one of the other salesmen.  I left that night bewildered.  For these people it all seemed so nonchalant, but at home there were spouses who were totally unaware and I knew would be left devastated by this. 

I left the company that night and sought a new line of work.  But the greatest loss was not the job or the friends, the greatest loss was the sense that something inside of me, a sort of idealism I guess, was gone.  I knew that things like this happened, and not just on the soaps or in the movies, but it had never been as real to me as it was then.  In the wake of this loss of innocence I found cynicism and skepticism and a feeling of distrust that threatened to consume me. 

Forgetting is not Necessarily Healing

Forgetting is not healing.  People have told me that until I don’t remember pain of the past I won’t be healed.  I don’t believe that is accurate.  I do believe that if I am “consumed” by the pain of the past it is a sign that I’m not healthy, but not simply the remembering of the pain.  It’s part of who we are, and it’s among the things that help us grow and develop, even into the people God intends for us to be.  So, remember with respect and reverence the losses of our life, and seek God in the midst of those losses.  Perhaps we might even be able to bring some of the comfort of God we experience into the lives of those around us who need it.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

More to come.

Big D

Ballast for the Soul in the Coming Year–2012

Introduction

In the year 1620, how could 120 pilgrims safely sail to the New World? The answer lay in the belly of the Mayflower. In its hold there was a room full of oak barrels that had been filled with drinking water, then refilled with sea water.

The weight of these barrels provided the ballast that was essential for stability in the stormy waters of the Atlantic Ocean. There is ballast available for you to help you through the rough seas of the coming year, but it is by your choice that you will utilize it or neglect it. You can be certain that storms will come, the question is will you make the preparations now to be ready to face them when they do come across your horizon?

EARLY WARNING SYSTEM ACTIVATED!

· What storms can you see approaching on the horizon of your life?

· How will you prepare for the storms you see and the ones you can’t see?

Jeremiah 6:16

So now the Lord says, “STOP right where you are! LOOK for the old, godly way, and WALK in it. TRAVEL its path, and you will find REST for your souls. But you REPLY, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’

THE REQUIREMENTS

· Stop – before going too far

o We often see, but keep going

o RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE!!

· Look – a path is already cut

o Lit. “Ask, Enquire” (Job 8.8; Dt. 32.7)

§ Father, Elders, Previous Generation

o The Path is Old – Established

§ We might walk a little different, but the path we travel remains the same.

o The Path is Godly – Holy

· Walk – move ahead on it

o We need to make a response

· Travel – Journey

o Implies a Length of time

o Implies a Distance of Travel

THE REWARD

· Rest – Rest area ahead

o A Place/Time of Rest is Coming

THEIR RESPONSE

· Rebellion

· Rejection

THEIR RESULT

· Ruin (see Jeremiah 18.15-16)

Jeremiah 18:15-16
15 Yet My people have forgotten Me. They burn incense to false [idols] that make them stumble in their ways— in the ancient roads— to walk on [new] paths, not the highway.
16 They have made their land a horror, a perpetual object of scorn; everyone who passes by it will be horrified and shake his head.

It’s Your Choice for 2012…Ballast or Bust

Living with Loss

There’s no escaping the irony.  I start this series of BLOG postings on the subject of loss…I have a great conversation with a new believer last night about losses in life…and this morning my car leaves us stranded along side the road.  (sigh)

Couldn’t you just picture me pulling my hair out.  Believe me I wanted to…but… (For those reading this who don’t know me I am bald-so this is where you would chuckle at that thought.)  I’m not immune to discouragement, and honestly felt and feel a little discouraged and worried about what is broken and how we will pay for this.  However, let me tell you where my primary focus has been. 

On the Bright Side

I know, sometimes you just want to deck the people who always seem to be “looking on the bright side.”  However, I can see so much of the “bright side” this morning that it is inescapable how even in the midst of this trial and trouble God is taking care of us.  I don’t know a lot of things (what exactly is wrong, how we’ll afford the repair, what we’ll do for transportation, etc) but what I do know is that what we are experiencing right not could have been so much harder.  Here is some of the bright side.

First, let me tell you what happened.  We had stopped for a cup of coffee because we woke up later than we had planned and didn’t take the time to make a pot at home.  As we pulled back out onto the highway from the convenience store we heard a couple of loud pops under the hood, and then there was absolutely no steering!  I had no control over the direction the car was going.  in that context these are the “bright side” things I consider:

  • We were only going a few miles per hour and not at highway speed.
  • We were within a mile from home and not in some deserted place or somewhere between Danielle’s place in New York and home
  • The timing of the steering breaking was such that the car simply drifted slightly to the right and we were able to safely pull off the road.
  • There were no other cars immediately around us that could have been affected
  • I was with Andie and she wasn’t on her own
  • Pat was available and able to give Andie a ride home while I waited on the tow.
  • A few years ago I signed up with AAA and the tow was free as a result.

Listen, I know that it is really hard to “look on the bright side” when you are going through the trial.  I know that I’m going to have plenty of moments where I wonder, question, doubt, and fret over this.  But, I’m glad that God gives us the possibility and choice—it is a choice—to decide to focus on the “bright side” when we face things like this. 

Here was my moment of real testing and choosing this morning.  After Pat had picked up Andie and I was left there alone to wait for the tow truck I got a special invitation to my very own PITY PARTY.  At that moment I started to slide down the slippery hill of discouragement and despondency.  However, a verse from my Bible memory shot up and landed in the center of my thoughts.  Psalm 43:5 says this:

Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.

At that moment I had to choose whether I would be sucked in to the “dark side” or I would focus on the “bright side.”  So I chose the bright side and I’m glad.  Perhaps pausing for just a moment and looking for the “bright side” in some of the struggles you might face could make a real difference for you as well.

Blessings even in the Struggles!

Pastor Dave “Big D” Bentley

The Laity is not the Land of the Loss

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Life-Storms are not Something I am Immune To

People expect and anticipate that as a pastor I have a pretty “blessed” life and that few problems befall me.  While I would concur that I feel greatly blessed, the difficult truth is that I face loss and pain just like everyone else.  Unlike many other pastors, ministers, clergy, whatever title or category you want to use to label us, I feel that by sharing my struggles, pains, and losses I can accomplish a few things.

First, I want people to know that I am no some “super-spiritual” person who lives untouched by tragedy and pain.  I don’t live in a temple on a mountain but among the very people I’m seeking to share the grace and love of God with.  I work among you, and I struggle along side of you.

Second, I want to admit that I don’t do every thing “right.”  I make mistakes.  I do things that are wrong.  I make choices that are clearly not good choices, and I pay the consequences for choices, actions, and mistakes like anyone else.

Third, I hope that people can see that through my sorrows and suffering I can demonstrate how the presence and power of God can help us make it through—note I said through, not around – difficult circumstances in life.  It’s not about avoiding hardship, but about acquiring the ability to get through it.

So, with these goals in mind, over the next couple of postings I’m going to share with you some of the ways that I, Pastor Dave, have blown it in my life.  Some will stretch back over the years, and some will be recent.  My prayer is that God will reveal himself, even in some of the struggles that I’m still facing, and you will be encouraged to know that you are not alone in the struggles you face.  Our circumstances may not be exactly the same, but the experiences will probably be a little more similar than you expect.

With you on the Journey,

Dave “Big D” Bentley