On the other side of your fears

Mk 4:35-41

We are at the beginning of a new year. We have no idea what this year holds for any of us. But we do know Who holds our year in His hand.

We all have dreams and desires for our year and future. But God has plans. Often his plans don’t match our dreams. Sometimes His plans surprise us, sometimes take us through terrifying experiences, sometimes put smiles and joy in our hearts. Regardless, I’ve found that almost 100% of times God’s plans are taking us toward our fears just to show us something on the other side of our fears.

The passage that God used recently in my life to teach me about my own fears and my own journey is Mk 4:35-41.

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”

And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.

And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.

But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Unusual command at an unusual time

First, we notice that there is an unusual command Jesus gives at an unusual time.

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”

And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.

What is so unusual about that command?

  1. He gives this command at evening, an unusual time. Jesus after a busy day, working with thousands of people in the crowd, healing, teaching he is not giving his disciples a bed, but a boat. Bad timing. You don’t stress your followers even more after they’ve worked all day hard. They needed rest, they needed regrouping, they needed regaining their strength. Yet, when they are the most tired, they will find themselves even more stressed out and in more difficulties. I have found that true in my own life: many times God’s command came when I was not ready for it, I was already exhausted, already too buys and tired. God’s demand never comes at our timing and at our capacity.
  2. He gives a command to get away from something we all would want to run to. Jesus is leaving the crowd. Every single minister, preacher I know – including myself – wants more crowd, more influence, more impact, more opportunities, more fame, more name. And Jesus walks away from the crowd. Walks away from the needs of the crowd. Walks away from the more. He walks away and takes his disciples away from the broad impact, because he wants to do something on the depth of impact. The depth of what he is going to teach them is way more important than the broad impact they could have.

Let me reflect back here for a moment on my own journey now. When we have announced in Hungary that we are turning over the leadership of Cru to another leader and we move from Hungary for this period of time to America, people were shocked. There were pastors who called me and said angry things. People said that you have great success, some that very few had, you are respected, known, you have great influence – why are you waisting your life going to America where nobody knows you? Why are you leaving 50 years of all you’ve built, all the name and fame, all the needs? You had been so effective, so useful, so needed, so great, so, so, so.

But, this is exactly the temptation Jesus had. His second temptation was when the Devil took him up to the temple’s parapet and told him to jump. Do something spectacular. Every leader’s, every pastor’s, every minister’s temptation is to be spectacular. We all want to prove ourselves. And when you have proven yourselves many times, there is even more temptation: be even more spectacular. Jesus walked away from being spectacular. He didn’t want to win people’s applause.

Jesus clearly told us, that we need to get into the boat to go to the other side, to walk away from being spectacular. There is something on the journey he wants to teach, to show us and to form us through that. There is something on the other side he wants to do.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pastor-martyr who had been killed by the Nazis said this:

“The disciple simply burns his boat and goes ahead. He is called out and has to forsake his old life in order that he may “exist” in the strictest sense of the word. The old life is left behind and completely surrendered. The disciple is dragged out of his relative security into the absolute insecurity, from a life which is observable and calculable into a life where everything is unobservable and fortuitous, out of the realm of finite into the realm of infinite possibilities… No other significance is possible, since Jesus is the only significance. Beside Jesus nothing has any significance. He alone matters.“

Unexpected result of faithful obedience

As we continue in the text we see an unexpected result of faithful obedience.

And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.

The disciples did nothing wrong, they just followed Jesus’s command. Their obedience were life-threatening for them. Their obedience took them to situations they didn’t want to be. When they got into the boat out of obedience they had no clue, no idea what is going to happen. They just followed Jesus. They had only positive expectations. So far, they saw him doing unbelievable things: healing people, feeding people, teaching people. Great success, great results, great impact. Then suddenly, they have to walk away from that. Of course they are ready to obey.

And out of the blue, a storm hits. And they find themselves loosing everything: every control, every stability, every security. Their known realities turn into a nightmare.

Have you ever experienced that you did everything right, you followed faithfully the command of God and suddenly all your life is turning into a nightmare? You walk in obedience and suddenly a storm hits and turns everything upside-down.

I’ve experienced that more then I wanted. The unexpected reality is that when we obey to Jesus, many times, first, things get worse, not better. Think about Moses, who after debating with God finally gives in and obeys. He enters into the presence of the Pharaoh and suddenly everything gets worse. The people didn’t get released, but their life got more difficult. Moses is upset and he says this to God: “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”

“I’ve obeyed and you betrayed me. I’ve obeyed and you’ve left me alone. I’ve obeyed and my friends, relatives are upset with me. I’ve obeyed and I can’t find a mate. I’ve obeyed and I have less money. I’ve obeyed and my life became harder and harder.”

They didn’t expect a storm from Jesus. They only expected healing, feeding, teaching, understanding, grace, forgiveness, love, kindness, gifts. But storm? Problems? Pain? Difficulties? Struggles? Losses? Fears? Exposures to our own ugliness? Who wants that?

If we are in a boat with Jesus, storms will hit for sure.

Hurtful realities: fear, loneliness, shame

With the storms comes hurtful realities.

But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

And when you think things can’t get worse, they got worse. The disciples are desperate. Their obedience to follow Jesus led them to a place where they questioning Jesus: “don’t you care that we are perishing? Don’t you care that we are dying? We followed you Jesus, obeyed to you Jesus, did all what you’ve asked us to do and yet you don’t even care!

Obedience leads to the crises of faith.

Henry Blackaby writes this: God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crises of belief that requires faith and action.

Have you ever felt the way the disciples felt here? You obey and suddenly you find yourself very alone in a storm. Even Jesus doesn’t care. Did you ever feel that? I did. Even recently. In my past 2-3 years I felt that many times. “I’m just obeying you, I’m just trying to follow you, I’m just taking a leap of faith, I’m just serving others, I’m just risking everything I have. And you don’t even care. You don’t even care Jesus that I’m loosing everything. You don’t even care what will happen with our kids. You don’t even care what will happen with our parents.”

Obedience forces you to face your inner reality: the disciples’ disbelief and fear were exposed. They couldn’t hide it anymore. They couldn’t play the “spectacular” role anymore. They were exposed to their own brokenness, to their own limits, to their own fears, to their own disbeliefs, to their own weaknesses.

True obedience leads to humbleness. You will be humbled. You will be exposed. You will be vulnerable. You will be naked. You won’t be able to pose in the spectacular role anymore. And nobody likes that. Everybody wants to feel secure, feel strong, feel covered. Vulnerability, weakness is something we run from.

Jesus left the crowd and all that the crowd offers so he could expose the disciples. He wanted to work on their own reality. He was more interested in who they are then what they can do for him. Jesus is more interested in who you become than what you will do for him. Jesus can’t shape you until he exposes you to your own realities, sins, problems, fears and forces you own your knees.

The healing reality.

The final scene in this story brings healing.

And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

The disciples had a journey from fear to fear. They were afraid of dying, loosing everything. They were afraid of loosing total control. Now, they’ve traded that fear to another kind of fear: to the fear of Jesus. They’ve realized that there is someone greater here to fear then their object of their own fears. They taught that their greatest fear is loosing control, loosing everything, loosing life. Now they’ve realized that there is Someone Greater then the object of their own fears.

What is the object of your fear? Cancer? Money? Loneliness? There is only One you should fear: God. God is bigger then money, bigger then loneliness, bigger then health, bigger then death. Be always more afraid of disobeying Him then you fear of what could happen if you obey. It’s never a good reason to turn your back to obedience because it’s too hard, it’s too risky, it’s too fearful, it’s too costly. One day, we all have a little private conversation with Jesus and he will ask us: how were you obedient to me? And you can’t tell to him that “I was afraid to have that difficult conversation I should have had” or “I was afraid to break up that relationship” or “I was afraid to make that change”. You don’t want to hear from him that “You were more afraid of loosing money, loosing friends, loosing fame and impact, than you were afraid of me? You were more interested to please others, then me?”

And here comes the healing reality of true obedience: you’ll start seeing Jesus in such a way you’ve never saw him before. The disciples wondered: who is this that even the wind and the sea obeys to him? The most rewarding and healing reality of obedience is that moment when you bow down in fearful worship and say: “Who Are You Jesus? I’ve never dreamed that you can do that! I’ve never ever dreamed that you have such power?” You stand there naked, humbled in awe of Jesus! That’s the whole purpose of our journey: He wants to show himself to us in ways we have never seen him before. So we would bow down in worship and would say: you can even do that?

If you truly obey, you’ll see Jesus in a way you have never saw him before. But if you are not willing to get into the boat with him and go through the storms, you don’t have any chance to see him for who he really is.

My own journey in the boat

Let me close with a personal note. Every time I’ve obeyed, there was a storm. And I saw Jesus in ways I’ve never dreamed of.

When the doctors told us that we have to abort our first baby because as they’ve said she will be born with serious mental handicap, then we’ve obeyed to Jesus and said no to abortion. That baby is now graduating from a very highly ranked university. We obeyed when professionals installed fears in us and now we stand in awe worshiping Jesus!

When we’ve started Youth at the Threshold of Life and everybody around us said that it’s crazy and we shouldn’t do it, and installed fear that we are not qualified to train educators, we decided to obey. And now we stand in awe to see that God used this program to spread the gospel to millions of people.

When I took over the leadership of a ministry with significant financial debt and staff were leaving, almost everybody around us installed fear and said that this is crazy, you shouldn’t do that. But God said, do it. And almost 13 years later we saw new leadership raised up, no debt and the number of staff grew significantly. We stand in awe of how God did that.

Jesus has one very important question for you. The same question he had for Peter. Jesus is about to leave this Earth, he died and resurrected from the death. He has a huge plan for the world. Everybody should know that he is the Savior. But he is not talking about those grandiose things. He decides to have a final, personal conversation with Peter and asks him 3 simple questions: “Do you love me?” Everything, your future and the future of the church will stand on you answer: “Do you love me?” Do you love me more then these? Do you love me more then you fear your fears?

“If you do, then be ready for something Peter. When you were young, you made decisions for yourself. But if you follow me, you will become like an old person: you won’t make decisions for yourself. I’ll make decisions for you. I’ll take you to place you don’t want to go. I’ll take you through experiences you don’t want to experience. I’ll stretch you in ways you don’t want to be stretched.

“So, do you love me? Do you really love me?”

Are you ready to love him through the storms of this year?

Restless? Tired? Anxious? Me too.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Mt 11:28-30.

The traumas of our past, the business of our present and the hopelessness of the future blends our soul with the poison of the restlessness and anxious tiredness. It’s a deadly poison that gets into our guts and slowly kills us. Too many times I drink that poison. But I’m not alone in that “pub” where that drink is so masterfully tailor-made and served for us. Most people around me drinks that and some even serve that. It’s enough to open Facebook or the news to be faced with constant angst, anxiety and restlessness.

It is very demanding on the soul to live in constant anxiety. It influences everything: our body, our relationships, our thinking, our emotions, our decisions, our communication.

Jesus offers rest for our soul without offering a change in our circumstances. Rest must be available then without changes in the circumstances.

We are invited to find rest. Jesus offers 3 things for our restless souls to find rest:

1. A safe place. 

We go home from work to find rest. The home is the place where we all should find rest. It’s only true though if the home is safe. Home is safe when relationships in the home are safe. Feeling safe and secure is the precondition of rest. You can’t rest when you are not secure. A safe place is where we find a safe relationship. We are restless because we don’t find our true home. We don’t find our true home because we don’t find a safe relationship. That’s what Jesus offers first: “come to me“. Jesus invites us to our true home, to our safe place where we have a safe relationship with him. In that relationship we are known, accepted, protected, enjoyed and provided for – all a true home provides for true rest to happen.

2. The right burdens

Rest will not come from not having anything to do, instead having the right things to do. Rest doesn’t equal being lazy. Jesus says: “take my yoke“. Jesus doesn’t promise to be “burden-less“, but he puts burdens on us that is good for us, made for us and strengthen us. His burden is light because it is HIS burden.

  • Are you carrying burdens you should not; burdens Jesus has not given you to carry? What will you tell him why did you do that? Do you think you are more compassionate and loving then Jesus is when you take on burdens you see but are not for you to take on?
  • What are the burdens He has for you?

The burden given by him is also resourced by him. That resource is not available for the burdens you chose without him giving it to you. 1Pt 5:7 commands us to cast our burdens, anxieties on him, because he cares for us. So many times I carry burdens I shouldn’t; burdens He has not entrusted me with. The burden of the political future, the burden of other people’s life, the burden of my staff, the burden of the future, the burden of the ministry, the burden of providing, etc.. Doing that we forget whose ministry it is and who has the power to control everything.

Don’t take burdens you see but God has not given you to carry because you are not gonna be able to carry the ones He assigned you to carry.

Create a list of all the burdens that make you weary and tired.

  • What burdens on that list is given by Jesus for you to carry?
  • What are the ones you shouldn’t carry? With a smile and a joyful heart you should say no to these. Yes, it will hurt other’s feelings and expectations, but will give them an opportunity to go to Jesus with their burden and find rest.

3. A teachable, molding heart.

Finding rest for the soul is also a learning process. “Learn from me” – warns Jesus. Learning happens when students are teachable. It’s important what we learn and from whom we learn. To find rest for our soul we have to learn certain characteristic through following a model. Continuously learning humbleness and gentleness from Jesus will relax our restless soul. An arrogant and prideful person is a controlling person. A controlling person can never find rest because such person pursue security and identity through exercising control. Such control gives him stability. What he so eagerly tries to achieve through control can only be found through giving up control. The harder he tries the further he falls. Jesus offers that security and identity, so we don’t have to prove anything, we can be humble and gentle. Humble and gentle people are the most secure people. They don’t need arrogant control to prove anything. They are trusting in the One who controls everything.
We are secured, safe, protected, loved, known, accepted, enjoyed and provided for by the King!

Find rest my soul in Him!

 Our story was written before we started to play it.

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.”
Is 46:3-4

God planned our life and wrote our story way before we were borne.

It means that He had no intention to involve us in the planning & decision making process about our life-story. He has decided what our life is gonna be about without consulting with us. He never felt the need that we should be involved in planning what He want’s to reveal through our life. He is the Owner and the Author.

He wrote our story and invites us to play our part. His intention with our story is to reveal His character and power. The intention of our story is not to make it easy for the lead character, but to reveal the Author.

We can sabotage playing our role, but then we will miss out the purpose of our story: to meet, to know and to reveal the Author. Or  we can make the story, our life and the Author memorable with the way we play our story.

Sometimes in our story there are scenes we don’t want to play; there are places we don’t want to go to; there are situations we don’t want to go through and there are people we would like to avoid. 

There were many scenes in my lifestory I never wanted to go through. There were actually more of that then the scenes I really enjoyed. There were more pains, more brokenness, more sickness, more disappointment, more challenges, more neediness, more loneliness, more fear, more isolation, more disadvantages then I wanted to experience. Way more. There were and are places I never intended to be and never wanted to go to. But looking back I see God through all of those. Each time my stubborn, fearful, hurting heart understood a bit more of Him. Through these scenes in my story I’ve discovered that I’m no different then the disciples were. After they saw Jesus feeding the 5000 they immediately asked: “how will we have bread?” Jesus rebukes them: “why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?” Mk 8:17. Yes, the story reveals our faults, our sins, our weaknesses, too. It’s not the best feeling to be in your scenes uncovered. 

Yet through the storms of our life His plans and character shines.

Our status, our health, our physical shape, our financial state, our position, our placement, our family situation all changes. But behind all of those changes there is a God who planned everything for us, who loves, cares, carries, leads, protects, provides, corrects and saves. He planned everything way in advance and He will carry it through.

As we are changing from infant to old, God’s faithfulness, leadership, protection, provision, care, rescue will remain the same.

A Pressing Question

We all experience pressures. These pressures repeat loud, disturbing, unavoidable, questions in our mind creating deep anxiety. When Jesus repeats those question, then we know, we truly are having a problem to face.

“Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” (John 6:5b) – surprised Jesus his disciple, Philip with this question. A question that brought the brutal reality of hunger to an unavoidable proximity.

The familiar “bread-question” we all deal with daily! Where to get it from? This question creates daily anxiety in us. How will we provide for our children? How will we pay our bills? “Jesus, if you are asking the same question from me, then we are truly in deep water!”

Of course, Jesus was not asking this question, because he didn’t know the answer, but he had other purposes by facing Philip with the brutal reality.

By emphasizing the surrounding reality through his question, Jesus:

  • offered an opportunity to Philip to discover his will;
  • wanted to reveal his glory;
  • wanted to involve Philip in his miracle;
  • wanted Philip’s faith to grow;
  • and wanted to meet the people’s needs.

The pressing questions of life coming from the mouth of Jesus are opportunities to discover his will, to reveal his glory, to involve us in his miracles, to grow our faith and to meet our needs.

What is your brutal reality that comes with pressing, unavoidable questions to you?

Do you see them as opportunities in Jesus’ hands for you to discover His will, to see His glory, to experience His miracles, to grow in your faith and to see your needs fulfilled?

I have a lot of those pressing questions! Plenty of opportunities to meet with Him!


The value determines the price

30 years ago I was a part of a group of young, enthusiastic believers. We hoped and prayed to change the World. Instead, most of the members of that group had been changed by the World. Why?

In Luke 9:57-62 Jesus had three encounters with three potential followers. All wanted or had been invited to discipleship. All failed.

The three encounters with Jesus in the passage above reveals some stunning truths, that can be summarized in one sentence: there is always a price to pay which most people don’t want to pay.

There is always a price to pay in Jesus’ following:

  • There is always uncertainty you need to face with – “nowhere to lay his head”.
  • There is always loneliness you need to be embrace –  being outcast.
  • There is always something you need to leave behind – “leave the dead…”, leave a parent, leave a position, leave a well-known environment, leave a carrier, leave a fame, leave security, etc..
  • There is always a tradition that you might need to be break.
  • There is always a hard decision you need to make that will not be understood and welcomed even by those you love.
  • There is always an expectation that you will not be able to fulfill and with that you’ll hurt those closest to you.
  • There is always a priority you will need to rearrange – nothing (family, money, business, tradition, comfort) can be “first” above him. Many whom you love will feel “secondary” in your life. And that hurts.
  • There is always a deep personal, emotional pain, hurt you will experience – (“can’t say goodbye to a family”).
  • There is always a hard work in which you will need to be involved in. Following Him is working on God’s Harvest field, where you need to “plow”, “sow” and “reap” – all hard work. Plowing is necessary to have a harvest. In His Field we need to put our hands on the plow. Without it there is no sowing and harvest. Plowing is making the soil ready to receive the seed.
  • There is always a focused, determined, single-mindedness that is required of you  – you can’t look back if you want to plow well. Nobody who looks back can plow straight. If you don’t “plow” straight, that ruins the field and you are not fit, not qualified for Kingdom work! Focused, single-minded following leads to straight plowing. If there is anything else (fame, security, recognition, etc.) in your focus than Jesus, you are not qualified to work for Him! If you look back and base your future on what you have achieved so far, your plowing is gonna be crooked. We can’t look back for what we leave behind if we want to work in His Harvest. We can’t let what’s behind determined our future direction.  Singleminded focus is too much of a price for many to pay.

I saw too many giving up on following Jesus, because they found the price too big. They didn’t see what an infinite treasure they could gain with the little price they had to pay in His following. The price you are willing to pay is determined by the treasure you want to gain. If you found the infinite treasure in Christ that is yours for free, you will gladly pay the ridiculously cheap price to experience more of it. 

What is the emotional pain you need to go through, the expectation you need to fail, the loneliness you need to embrace, the decision you need to make, the things you need to leave behind, that would be too big of a price for you to pay in His following?

What would be a price you would not be willing to pay?

A Broken Record

“ALL growth is Spiritual Growth.”
– Dr. Henry Cloud

I’m reading the book of Hosea. I’m amazed how God sometimes with alluring kindness, sometimes with harsh anger tries to draw his people back to him. The whole scene is like a Broken Record: the same thing is repeated over and over again and the people of Israel is stuck, they don’t grow nor develop. They got stuck and can’t move forward. But listening to a broken record is extremely irritating.

We all experience shorter or longer times when our life sounds like a “Broken Record”. There are things that can get us stuck and we can’t move forward. Some got stuck in an offense they can’t forget, others got stuck in depression, or in a dependent relationship or habit; many got stuck in fears, or in a false image of themselves, of others, of situations or of God. These “halts” are extremely tiring, can be irritating to others around us, can stop our growth and can isolate us from people.

God teaches us two things through Hosea that could cause our life to sound like a “broken record” hindering our growth:

1. Wrong view of God – we don’t see Who He really is.

“I would redeem them, but they speak lies against me. They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail…gash…rebel… they devise evil against me.” (7:13-14)

God is able and willing to redeem us from destructive habits and relationships, from self-pity, from fears, from hopelessness, from hurting relationships, from the inability of making decisions or commitments, from selfishness, from the inability of trusting others, from self-defense mechanisms, from uncontrolled anger, from compulsion of being recognized, from our pains, etc. etc.

But He CAN NOT redeem us, WHEN:

a. We just wail, gash and rebel instead of crying to him from the heart. We usually either deny our problems or we complain about them. Nor denial, nor complaining (which is self-pity) solves our problems, but they toss us deeper into our problems. Our problems can only be solved when we take them to the feet of the One who has enough power and mercy to solve them.

b. We accuse God speaking or thinking lies about Him.

c. We devise evil about him. When we think God is angry at us. When we think he wants something bad for us. When we think we can’t trust completely in His goodness and in His perfect, loving plan for us.

“One of the biggest obstacles to growth is our view of God. People must discover that God is for them and not against them. – Dr. Henry Cloud

2. Wrong view of ourselves – we don’t see our selves as God views us.

“When I would heal Israel, the iniquity… is revealed… but they do not consider.” (7:1.2.)

The other great obstacle of growth or healing is that we don’t view ourselves as God views us.

First, our growth can become stuck when we don’t see  and own our sins or responsibilities in our problems and we are continually shifting blames and accusing others, our circumstances or God. In order to grow we need Grace and Truth – Christ was full with both (John 1:14). Grace can only embrace and cover what Truth has revealed. We can only experience God’s grace to the level we are willing to face the brutal reality about ourselves. Where we deny our responsibilities or shifting it, there God’s grace can’t heal us. The Spirit came to convict us about our sin (Jn 16:8), so we could experience Grace. The Devil is trying to keep it hidden and denied so Grace couldn’t touch it and heal it.

Second, our growth can become stuck when we want to become someone else God created us to be or we want to have other kind of things (circumstances, abilities, relationships, gifts) God gave us. We all had been created for the image of God. If we don’t like the “image” than we have an issue with the “Original” that the “image” was made of. If we have issues with the “image of God” we carry and represent than we will have problems with other “images of God” who had been created to reflect the “Original” as well. We must love the “Original” in order to be able to love the “images of the Original”.

If we don’t want our life to be a “broken record” which plays the same tiring and irritating tone over and over again, but we want the heavenly music composed by God played in and through us than we need to view God as who He really is and we need to view ourselves as who we really are.

Why Easter is so emotional to us?

Our daughter, Rahel (17) had a school-assignment to write something about abortion and present that before her whole class. She has decided to use that opportunity to share something very personal. This is the story she was reading:

“In the hospital in front of the ultrasound examining room they are calling the number for the second time: 2574. That’s hers. Why are they calling her back? She steps into the room. They do a test one more time. The lady behind the monitor frowns.

Come back in 30 minutes, the chief doctor will be back, wants to see this and talk to you– says the lady.

–There is a large cyst in the brain of the fetus–says the chief doctor after doing the ultrasound test the third time. –We don’t know for sure what that means–he continues–but it’s your own interest to give birth to a healthy child.

After hearing this harsh verdict, she felt like she was in a fog as she was going down the stairs leaving the hospital. She had no strength to get on to the public transportation, because staring the indifferent expressions on people’s face would have increased her pain. She got into a cab and her tears started flowing. The driver was surprised, but understood they can’t have a discussion now. There were great silence in the cab as they approached her home. She called her husband immediately after arriving to their small appartment. Her husband ran from his office. They were puzzled and didn’t know what to do with this information. They had four days before they needed to show up at a special hospital for further, detailed tests. The next day was Good Friday, than Easter – their favorite holiday. She made their favorite food, but her tears were falling into the pastry. The baby in her womb kicked her even harder. Does she tries to comfort her or telling something to her? This baby will be born, no matter what. After Easter they went to the hospital. More bad news were waiting for them.

–Probably, this baby will have down-syndrome or will have other kind of serious handicap–sounded the diagnosis of another specialist.

She is in the 20th weeks of her pregnancy. The doctor offered abortion, but the couple didn’t want to hear about it. The doctor was upset and started yelling: –You’ll give birth to a handicap child and she will be a burden on the society! But the couple was unshakable. Hundreds of their friends started praying. But further difficult news were waiting for them. Every second week they had to go to further ultrasound tests. They’ve discovered a dilation, basically there is a hole in the baby’s brain. The doctor said, 1/3 of the baby’s brain is not there. Now they had to sign a document that they are not willing to abort the baby. The last month of the pregnancy arrived. They acted like every other couple did who were expecting their first baby. They bought a baby-bed, a stroller and baby clothes. They went to work, were eating and tried to sleep. At the end of the 41st week the doctor induced the labor. The attempt was unsuccessful. Finally they decided to have a C-section. Soon she heard from afar the doctor’s voice: ‘Pulling out!’ In one minute their whole life will be different. Five months of anxious time compressed into one minute: what kind of handicap will the baby have? The doctor shouts: ‘A healthy girl!’ *1

‘I’m this healthy girl’–continued Rahel the story.

Rahel’s classmates listened silently and many of them were in tears – along with her teacher – as she shared her own story!  It became obvious to her classmates that if her parents would have aborted her, she wouldn’t be their classmate and friend now.

After the presentation was over, she wrote a text message to us: “Thank you that you wanted me!!! God’s wonderful gift is that I have such parents like you!” We are just amazed what God had been doing in the past 18 years since that sorrowful Easter!

Easter is the most beautiful holiday for us, but it’s the most emotional, too. 18 years ago we got a very difficult news. 18 years later God used that difficult news to touch many teenagers!  These students know Rahel well. They know her heart, her faith and her academic performance. Rahel’s story brought the horror of abortion to a very personal level to her classmates.

We are preparing for Easter. But death needs to happen before resurrection! Facing the truth of pain and suffering puts grace and redemption into context and gives meaning to them. The painful death of our Savior makes the life of resurrection incomparably valuable! 

Easter is about resurrection – but only for those who has died for themselves!

*1 – The original version of the story was written by my wife, Edina Gresz and was published in the Nők Lapja (Women’s Magazin).

Pain and Presence

“Kill me Daddy, shoot me, please!” – that’s not something you want to hear your son repeadetly say as you are watching him agonizing in pain in every one of his molecule for two long days after a painful surgery. We’ve spent many days with all three of our kids in all kinds of hospitals under all kinds of circumstances, but this surgery of our 14-year-old son, Renato wrote a new chapter in the Medical Saga of our family. The chapter’s title is: Pain. As we were sitting next to his bed  for long hours and days, our mind started wondering what good can come out of such pain and how could we ease his pain.

As the third day after the surgery came we hoped the pain will ease. That was true until the therapist came and forced him to move his arms and to sit up. That triggered more pain with the first tears in his eye. We saw that the road to health leads through the field of pain. There is no healing without pain. If you want to get well, you need to cause pain and need to force yourself to do things that are painful, hurtful, difficult for you – it’s true physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually, too.

Through pain God is telling us that we are not healthy, that something is wrong. Sometimes God brings pain into our life because through that He could put us on the road to healing. (Not every pain leads to healing, but it tells us that something goes wrong and we need to pay attention to it.) Many times our soul, our relationships, our emotions are screaming at us in pain, telling us that we are not healthy and unfortunately too many times we chock those screaming voices of our painful soul with substitutes. We take “painkillers” to kill the pain of our soul, of our hurting relationships, of our wounded emotions. We take the “pill of power”, we take “pill of recognition”, we take the “pill of sex”, we take the “pill of shopping”, we take the “pill of money” or “pill of entertainment” to kill the pain of our empty life. But without facing what cause those pains and working ourselves through them, we will never be healthy.

We all experience all kinds of pain in life. Change is pain. Uncertainty is pain. Ambiguity is pain. Disappointment is pain. Failure is pain. Every time we loose control we experience pain. The pain of loosing control is pointing us to the health of living under the control of God because that’s what real health is. That’s why in Heaven there will be no pain because we all will be well. There will be nothing to get healed there, so pain will loose it’s purpose to pointing us toward health and telling us that something is wrong.

How many times I wished in the past few days that I would be in my son’s place. I would much rather take the pain he had then see him going through this pain. But God doesn’t bring anything into our life and into our loved one’s life that is not necessary for growth. God allows pain (physical, spiritual, emotional, relational, etc.) in our children’s life because it is necessary for their growth. To force pain on some you love in order for him/her to get well is a real sign of your real love for that person. Letting them stay painless and saving them from pain (i.e. disappointment, failures, etc.) is taking away their future health. Therefore pain and causing healing pain on your loved ones can be good.

We can’t cope with pain, so we look for ways to ease it. I saw how the doctors did everything trying to ease the pain of our son. I wished so much to find a way to help him in his pain. Than he wishpered: “Daddy, hold my hand!”   The only way – outside of prayer – how I can ease my son’s pain is to be there with him and holding his hand. We need presence in the road of pain. The presence of someone we love! A “purposeless” presence when you don’t want to fix something, to achieve something, to change something or to accomplish a project. A presence when you know you can’t do anything other than just to be there. You are just there with the sufferer, because that’s how he/she can share the pain with you – through your presence. And we want to share the pain, because we were not created for it. Pain was not in the original plan of God. A presence of another person shares our pain and makes it easier for us to bare it! Isn’t that’s what partially the purpose of the Church is: to be present in the wounded, painful, sick world and through this presence make life less painful? Isn’t that’s part of why we all need to be members of a local Body of Christ, because through our presence in the local church we say to each other: “I’m here with you to share the pain you experience“? Just to be present, just to be there communicates the bonding that we were created for with each other and with God. Your presence gives a sense of belonging to others and that belonging gives relief to the pain of their soul. If you don’t feel how just your presence in the church is crucial to ease the pain in the pain in others and in you, than your soul is numb because very likely you spiritually paralyzed.

Jesus is not only promising his power, his forgiveness or his guidance, but He is promising his PRESENCE“I’m with you always!” Without His presence we can’t cope with the pain of life! He knows how this “presence” is important, because nobody was present to share his pain! Even the Father had leave His Only Son alone in His suffering! He was left alone in His horrible pain! What a love for us who were His enemies! How thankful I’m for such love!

How thankful I’m that I can be present to hold the hand of my suffering son!


“Contentment” – a word we will need to live out in 2013

“But godliness with contentment is great gain…“- 1Tim 6:6

Contentment is being satisfied with circumstances and position in life; it means that we are satisfied with what we get from life. We don’t need more (finances, recognition, relationships, success, health, etc.) to live a full life. Our contentment doesn’t depend on circumstances, or on other people’s appreciation, or on having our customs and routine in life in place, or on any financial well-being, or on our health. This kind of contentment is really a great gain, a tremendous profit in life. The source of this kind of contentment is God himself who is unchanging, so this kind satisfaction can be stable and independent from circumstances. Circumstances, situations, positions, relationships, health, finances and people are changing. If our contentment depends on those things than we will be continually dissatisfied; and we will become addicted idol-worshipers: we will always need something other than God to satisfy our “thirst” and to make us content. If our contentment depends on the One who is unchanging than our contentment will be free from the circumstances, from our position in life, from our relationship with others, etc. That’s why we can be satifsfied when we don’t get what we wish to get from life. We can be content when we don’t get the relationships we wanted, the finances we desired for, the health we wished to have, the success we have worked for. That’s why we can be content when our plans and days and well inteded routines are fragmanted by crises and unexpected interruptions. That’s why we can be satisfied when we feel the pain of being disappointed in people. That’s why we can be satisfied in God even when our well-inteded and needed quite times with him are interrupted by the needs of our children. God allows situations like that so we would learn to depend only on Him and not on anything we do or want from life. God’s resources are the same and available to us even when we loose control over our own life, time, health, etc. And when things are not as we planned then we don’t have any reason to be unpatient or upset or to be dissatisfied. When we expect satisfaction from something or someone else other than God then we will become upset, angry, disappointed and disillusioned when our expectations from life are not met. Contentment is not something that we need to achive, it’s something we can already have.
2013 will be full with unexpected changes, with unwanted crises and most likely with undesired disappointments in people and in life. We need to remember: God is ENOUGH to make us fully content.

The addictive idol worshiper in us

Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of The Lord…” –  2 Chronicles 16:2

Asa had been a very good king, whose heart was sincere. (2Chr 14:2). He was obedient to God all the time and made very difficult decisions and acted bravely even against his own grandmother. But there was one time when he made a bad decision which revealed a bigger problem. This problem started him to go downward. After this one problem he turned against God’s prophet.

King Asa took away from what should be God’s and used it for the purpose of protecting himself. He used something he shouldn’t have used for protecting himself. He turned to the things to provide protection instead of turning to God for protection.

He committed two sins with this:

1. He took what he shouldn’t and used it for something he shouldn’t. He was a giver before (he gave to the house of God, he contributed to God’s kingdom), but now he became a taker. And the sole motivation for taking was fear, insecurity and self protection. He was seeking ways to secure himself, because security and safety became very important to him after so many peaceful years.

2. He didn’t turn to the One who could protect him and give him security, but turned to something that can’t give real protection. He was hoping gold and silver (or the partnership he was buying with that gold and silver) was giving him security against the enemy. He turned to treasures in the house of God to gain security instead of turning to God himself for security. Asa relied on the partnership he bought on the silver he took form God’s house.

The sin of Asa deceits us and the realization of it usually comes with great damage.

The reality of Asa’s sin is when we turn to something to gain security other than God. This is when we turn to get security from the “treasures of the house of God” instead of God himself. The “treasures in the house of God” can be ministry, fellowship, worship, even QT or any religious activity. When we use those as means to gain our security and to get our identity from them, than we take away from God’s house. The sin of Asa is when we gain our security and identity from the recognition in a ministry or in a fellowship instead of gaining it from God who loves and accepts us as we are. Lots of Christians are using ministry, fellowship, QT or any other religious activities (as silver or gold from God’s house) to gain other people’s friendship, partnership, recognition, protection, etc. That is what Asa did: bought security on the treasures of the house of God instead of turning to God himself for security. We need to find security in God, not in what is in God’s house. Those were meant to serve a different purpose other than giving us security. Ministry, fellowship or any other religious activity are not meant to give us security and identity.

Sadly, too many Christians are turning to ministry or fellowship to gain their security, self image, identity, protection or to get recognition through it. They use those things to get something. When those “treasures” are taken away from them they are deeply wounded because they loose part of their identity and security. These borthers and sisters did nothing but took away from the “silver and gold” in the house of God and used them for something it was not meant to be used for. For lot of people ministry is a “high place” where they offer sacrifices for the idol of ministry, or for the idol of fellowship, or for the idol of anything that they value or they hope their security coming from. When ministry, fellowship or any Christian activity is used or elevated to substitute God than it’s nothing, but idol-worship. That’s how ministry can become an idol-worship.

We all addicted to security. We were made to have security. This security can only be found in the relationship with God we were created for. Any attempt to substitute our security in God with anything makes us nothing, but addicted idol-worshipers.