Difficult Days…

When your day becomes unexpectedly challenging

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Ever have an overwhelming day? Or week? Or month? Or maybe you’re still in the middle of a difficult day right now.  No matter what you’ve gone through, what you’re going through right now, or what you will go through, God will use the difficult days to make you into the person you need to be.

Difficult Days

Our household is in the middle of some “difficult days,” so this week’s post will be short and sweet.  My week started with the unwanted stomach flu, which has now turned into our three year old and four month old getting sick as well.  Just when one germ infested area is cleaned up, another shows it’s face!  Everyone is in different stages of sickness, except my wife — who is a trooper.  The house would completely fall apart if she got sick as well!

Much of my pastoral work can’t be delegated and is often timely (ie. Sermon prep for Sunday), so the push is on for me, and Deidre is in the highest motherly-DEFCON mode! Needless to say this week has been challenging to get through.

One of my mentors quite regularly mentioned James 1:2-4 when facing difficult days:

2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4, ESV)

So we need to celebrate the fact that God desires to mold us into who he wants us to be — “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” That’s a difficult idea to digest in the moment (it doesn’t really help my frustration), but quite rewarding when looking back.

That said, I find we tend to compare our difficult days with the difficult days of others and disregard our personal struggles when others are going through “worse” days. Because we’re all on different journeys and have experienced different things, it’s impossible to compare stress and trials (even if situations are similar).

In our #journey we’ll encounter many #trials, but those trials will make us #stronger! #James1 Click To Tweet

Likewise, if you’ve already experienced what someone else is only now experiencing, that means you’ve already grown through it — it should be easier!  But that doesn’t negate the overwhelming day others are having for the first time.

James was encouraging early Christians who were spread out everywhere and who were facing “trials of various kinds.”  That means, everyone was facing something, but everyone wasn’t facing the same thing.  No doubt many were facing life and death situations, and yet others were challenged with the anxiety.

We might relate to James 1 in different ways, but the truth of the text never fails. In every part of our journey, we’ll encounter many trials, but those trials will make us stronger!

No matter what you’re facing right now, these difficult days will help you to become “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  And if you have to encounter a similar situation again, the strength gained today, will help bring you through.

Your turn…

What has helped you get through difficult days?


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What’s The Biggest Threat to Christianity?

Godlessness in the Church

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Is Christianity under attack?

What’s The Biggest Threat on Christianity

It depends who you speak with.  I hear some Christians who are determined to think North American Christianity is not only under attack, but under persecution. While others see no attack at all.  I think the only fact we can all agree on is that the influence of the Church has changed in our culture.

I live in Canada and, I can say with certainty, Christianity no longer has a strong voice in our culture.  I grew up in a culture where Christian leaders and denominations had significant voices in politics, schools, and the community at large.  While that has changed over a number of years, we’ve seen a significant change in the recent times.

Does that mean there’s a threat on Christianity?  If Christianity ceases to be a major voice in our society, does that mean Christianity is under attack?  Are religions like Islam a threat to the Christian Church as immigration continues to fuel population growth?

I find it difficult to believe that what someone else chooses to believe, or not believe, has an impact on what I believe.  Yes, its possible government policy can make it difficult, or even illegal, to believe something, but it doesn’t change what I believe.  In fact, Christianity is growing rapidly in areas where it’s difficult to be a Christian.

Instead of focusing on the faithlessness around us, we should focus on remaining faithful to the gospel. Click To TweetInstead of focusing on the faithlessness around us, we should focus on remaining faithful to the gospel.

Paul warned Timothy of “godlessness”…

In the “last days” (today, until Jesus returns), there will be an increase in people moving away from God and towards themselves:

“…people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (2 Timothy 3:2-5, ESV)

We might be quick to point fingers at those around us when we read this text, but Paul was clearly talking about godlessness WITHIN the Church.  People who have “the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” In other words, Christians who “look the part,” but have focused their attention away from the true gospel.

We’re called to make disciples and be Jesus’ witnesses to the world around us (Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8).  That’s the mission, and any true threat to Christianity is what can actually derail that mission.

As a Christian, I see selfishness and pleasure becoming a norm in the Church (I’ll be honest — even in our family).  We protect our time and money to the point where we encourage personal pleasure over sacrifice for the Kingdom.  Our Church services have often become entertainment to ourselves before entertainment to God, and our weekly schedules revolve around our wants and not God’s call.

We only have to ask a few questions to find the reality in those statements:

  • If our worship times were filled with songs we didn’t know, would we choose to quietly bask in God’s presence, or complain?
  • If a ministry opportunity presented itself, would we schedule our recreation plans around the ministry, or schedule our ministry around the recreation?

You can only change yourself, not others…

It’s easy to point our finger to someone else, or another religion.  The fact is, however, it’s impossible to change someone else.  The only thing we can control, is how faithful we are to the gospel mission.

We have to ask ourselves: “Am I living for myself, or selflessly putting God at the center of all I do?”  (Whos More important?”)  That’s a question we have to personally ask ourselves.

I find we’re quick to point to different beliefs, ideologies and government policies, and say how they will push God away and hurt our faith.  When in reality, all are free to believe and belong to any religion they wish.  It’s called freewill, let alone human rights.  What someone else pursues doesn’t really impact my faith at all.

The biggest threat on Christianity is godlessness among Christians. Click To TweetThe biggest threat on Christianity is godlessness among Christians. And the crazy part — many of us don’t understand that. We’re too busying identifying the “sinful problems” around us that we’re missing the godlessness creeping into the Church.  If we spent the same effort identifying and disciplining ourselves away from potential godlessness, and pursued authentic holiness (a closer relationship with Jesus), any threat against Christianity would be minimal.

Our world is looking for authentic Christianity.  I think what they see most of the time is the “appearance of godliness,” but the power of the gospel is absent.  We’re too caught-up in our pleasures, rights, and personal desires, that we miss out on being a disciple of Jesus.

Paul gave Timothy three safeguards:

The good news is that we have safeguards that can help us stay the course.  Paul gave Timothy three in particular:1

  1. Follow Paul’s example (3:10-13)

Paul led the way before Timothy and he encouraged him to follow in his footsteps.  As Paul wrote in another letter: “follow me, as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).  This is true for us today on many levels.  Not only can we follow Paul’s example in scripture, but we can also follow the faithful Christians and leaders who have recently navigated the faith.

  1. Remember Your Training (3:14-15)

Sometimes we think Sunday School is for children, but basic orthodox teaching can guard us against most godlessness that may creep into the Church.  If we can remember the good teaching, discard the bad, and continue to learn in our faith journey, it will serve us well!

  1. Study Scripture (3:16-17)

Well studied scripture will never fail us!  Yes, we can all take a verse out-of-context and end up believing a multitude of things.  But if we faithfully read and study scripture, we will faithfully remain true to the power of the gospel.

Your turn…

What do you see as the biggest threat against Christianity?  How do you safeguard against them?


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The Problem with Tithing

3 Problems with tithing and how to overcome them

Reading Time: 6 minutes

No one wants to talk about their money. For some reason, we’ve bought into the lie that our money is personal and God only speaks to us personally about our wealth. It’s funny how the Bible doesn’t share that view.  There are over 2000 verses in the Bible that talk about our money, and Jesus either talked about money or used our wealth as an example in about 40% of His parables. Why? Because our wealth is a big part of our lives, and how we view our money will have a big impact on how we view the Kingdom.

The Problem With Tithing

We recently worked through a series with Bethel called “Money Matters.”  In the chaotic world we live in, we have to figure out how we can spend less, to give more, and to save more!  The Kingdom is too valuable to allow the power of money to overcome us.  Giving more and saving enough for the future will help us to be effective as possible for the Kingdom.

I understand the tension we face — I naturally enjoy having control over my finances.  This obviously causes problems when it comes to giving.  One thing I can honestly say though, is that God has graciously led me through the journey of letting go.

When I first starting to give to the local church, I had a separate “tithing account.”  Yes, that’s where I would put aside my giving each week and then, when I knew I didn’t “need” it at the end of the month, I gave it to the church.  The problem was — I always “needed” it.  Let me come back to that story later.

Tithing today…

There’s been much debate over whether or not tithing is something Christians have to do today. It was certainly practiced under Old Testament law (Malachi 3), and sacrificial giving was certainly promoted under New Testament grace.  It’s also certain that giving has nothing to do with attaining salvation, but yet an inseparable activity of someone who has experienced salvation.  Tithing becomes one of our responses to God’s grace — its one of the ways we show how much we love Jesus.

Perhaps, we can say: tithing is a voluntary act of discipline that’s driven by our value of grace and salvation. We don’t give 10% of our income to gain salvation, favor, or status; rather, tithing is a call to believers who value the expansion and funding of the Kingdom.#Tithing is a voluntary act of #discipline that’s driven by our value of grace and #salvation. Click To Tweet

But here’s the issue — even if we do practice tithing, it can be problematic if we don’t allow ourselves to be truly transformed first.  There are some pitfalls of tithing that can really hinder us.  Let me share three of them with you, and how we can overcome them.

1. Tithing avoids “sacrificial giving.”

Tithing can imply that 10% is enough and less than 10% isn’t good enough. The point of giving isn’t found in a percent, but in the sacrifice.  The early Church sold their possessions to give the poor (Acts 2:45).  They willingly and cheerfully gave something up to help the Kingdom.  That means, for some, 10% is only a start, and, for others, 8% could mean significant sacrifice.

2.Tithing makes us think “legalistically.”

Sometimes we have the tendency to think, “I pay my 10%, so I deserve… or I want…” You can fill in the blank. The problem, however, is that our giving doesn’t increase our “rights”. It’s our responsibility to selflessly give to the Kingdom and we can’t allow a number to increase or decrease our voice or impact.  The early Church collected and handed their money to the Church Leaders for disbursement.  Paul clearly stated that money collected was not a way to receive reward or power, rather an investment into the Kingdom (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

3. Tithing doesn’t help us “surrender” our money.

#Giving is..realizing that God owns everything..& He expects us to be good stewards.. Click To TweetThe story of giving is all about realizing that God owns everything we have and He expects us to be good stewards of those resources.  If we’re not careful, we can view “tithing,” as another expense in the budget and not a complete surrender of our money.  Just because we give 10%, doesn’t mean the other 90% is ours for the taking.  That mentality will easily give way to our world of consumerism — a world Jesus is not calling us to pursue (Luke 18:18f).

So how do we overcome these problems?  We need to view our generosity as an act of daily discipleship, and start thinking of tithing this way:

Think: How much more can I give?

Even though we’re living in grace and tithing is now a voluntary act, our underlying question can’t be: “How can I get away with giving less?”  If we ask that, we’ve missed the point all together.  We have to ask: “How much more can I give?”  The final answer to that question may not monetarily change much, but the mentality behind the question changes everything.  Our desire should be to give as much as we can!

Think: How can I support God’s activity?

#Giving is a selfless act out of our grateful response for what God has already done for us! #disciple Click To TweetWe give to enable God’s activity in God’s Kingdom.  Giving is a selfless act out of our grateful response for what God has already done for us (2 Corinthians 9:12f).  As a result, we have to think selflessly and not selfishly as we give.  Even though church politics and hidden agendas often exist, there’s no room for them in the Kingdom!  We must support God’s activity, not our own.

Think: How does God want me to structure my budget?

Just because our culture wants us to think we own our money because we earn our money, it’s not a biblical way of understanding our financial blessings.  God owns everything and is responsible for enabling us to work in the first place.  We are simply his faithful stewards, who ask: “God, how should we use these resources effectively?”

Final thought…

Back to my story…Along my gracious journey with God, I slowly learned that my giving was my grateful response to what God has given me (the gift of grace), and not what I give to God. My journey went from struggling with tithing (why I had to give 10%) to wanting to give as much as I could!

Our giving shouldn’t be out of any compulsion, rather freely given out of a cheerful heart (2 Corinthians 9:7).  But that doesn’t mean we avoid the discipline of tithing.  We have no reason to believe that Jesus didn’t practice tithing himself.  It does, however, mean we avoid the potential pitfalls.

Your turn…

How have you viewed tithing/giving?  Has it helped or hindered your view of generosity?


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Faith and Doubt [Guest Post]

Kathy Stock Shares Her Journey of Faith

Reading Time: 7 minutes

I’d like to thank Andrew for inviting me to participate on his blog. Andrew is a great writer and a passionate leader. I’ve read his interesting thoughts and teachings and have personally benefited from the discussions I’ve seen afterward between people on different sides of many different issues.

Faith and Doubt - Kathy Stock

I am a lover of conversation. As a flaming extrovert, I thrive off of the company of others. Drop me in a room full of strangers and I’ll leave with a long list of new friends.

This temperament of mine has served me well, especially as a musician and public speaker but it has its downside. I share a bit too easily, I care a bit too recklessly and I am dramatically affected by the thoughts and feelings of others.

Wearing my hungry heart on the outside of my sleeve has served me both well and negatively in ministry. I’ve been a Christian my whole life. I am told I came to know Jesus at the ripe ol’ age of two when I knelt beside my mother and wanted to do what my five-year-old sister did at church that day. So, at five and two, we surrendered our sin-laden lives to the Lord, knowing full well the gravity of that decision and went forth, sinning no more.

Just kidding.

We had no idea what we were doing!

Yet, I remained ingrained in Christ, and He in me, from then until now…sometimes fervently on fire for the gospel, sometimes gripping tightly with white knuckles while doubt all but swallows me whole.

Faith is a rough and beautiful sea of bluish, grayish waves that toss and stir and ebb and flow. Click To TweetWhat I have learned is that faith isn’t a black and white issue. Faith is a rough and beautiful sea of bluish, grayish waves that toss and stir and ebb and flow. It’s complicated and beautiful and terrifying and filled with unknowns.

I’ve done a lot of living for a thirty-three year old woman. I was married at twenty, a mother at twenty-two and again at twenty-six. I’m a published author. I have lived in two countries, three states, two provinces, and have changed addresses thirteen times in the last thirteen years.

I’m a musician who performs (unapologetically) secular music during the week and joyfully leads worship in a congregation I love on Sunday mornings (Spruce Hills).

I had cancer while my children were two and six years old and have been in remission for three and a half years.

I recently went back to school, where I sit in classrooms surrounded by other students who are closer to my son’s age than my own.

What has stayed consistent (outside of the love of my family) is my belief in Jesus. Click To TweetLife has been more interesting than I can properly articulate in one blog post and I have had some high highs and some low lows along the way but what has stayed consistent (outside of the love of my family) is my belief in Jesus.

Ironically, (and perhaps I’m over sharing here, in true Kathy form) I am writing this during an intense season of doubt.

Some do not believe that faith and doubt can co-exist but I am living, breathing evidence that they indeed can. I embody both. The disciples embodied both. John the Baptist embodied both, and he saw the sky open up and watched a dove appear out of nowhere, landing on Jesus and then heard God audibly say, “This is MY SON” and he STILL questioned who Jesus was from the darkness of his prison cell. If John the Baptist can doubt, and still be labeled by Jesus as one of the greatest human beings ever, certainly we can too (Luke 3:21-22; 7:18f).

This truth has brought an enormous amount of comfort to me as I navigate life, especially in my thirties. For the majority of my twenties, I lived in the Southern USA or the ‘Bible belt’ as it is sometimes referred.

I was so entrenched in church and church culture that I didn’t have one friend that wasn’t a Christian. I worked at church, sang at church, socialized at church…and the energy that I should have spent going out into the world and being Jesus to people was instead spent arguing about theology with other Christians.

My faith was very, very strong during that season but I wasn’t fulfilling the great commission. I wasn’t being Jesus.

When I was twenty-eight, my little family of four immigrated back to Newfoundland with nothing but the clothes on our backs and six suitcases in our hands. We settled swiftly and I quickly realized that I wasn’t in the ‘Bible belt’ anymore…and I was quite honestly relieved… so I set out to meet as many different people in as many different places as I could.

I began playing music at events and restaurants, eventually landing a permanent gig at a piano bar in downtown St. John’s (The Fifth Ticket).

After I finished chemotherapy and began my remission from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I set out to meet as many young adult cancer survivors as I could, and pour into their lives in a way I so desperately needed when I was sick. No hidden agenda, no bait and switch to evangelize…just living out love in the way that Jesus has asked us to and seeing what happens. Faith, usually, naturally comes up in conversation.

Through all of this, I have met so many different kinds of friends. People from varying spiritual, religious, socio-economic backgrounds, same sex couples, single parents, transgendered men and women…I’ve met ex-cons and CEOS, reconnected with people I knew from high school and been blown away by how we have all developed and evolved throughout the years.

There isn’t anyone you couldn’t have empathy for if you took the time to learn their story. Click To TweetAnd through all of these encounters I have learned one very valuable lesson: There isn’t anyone you couldn’t have empathy for if you took the time to learn their story.

Breaking through the Christian bubble that I had created for myself has opened my heart and mind up to a world of doubt and questions that challenge me on a daily basis.

They challenge how I raise my children and the words I speak behind the microphone on Sunday mornings…but it has also allowed me the powerful opportunity to be Christ to people who haven’t experienced Him in a real way. Not by preaching at or fighting with or segregating myself from them, but by doing life shoulder to shoulder with them and seeing what God does through relationship.

I’m finding the older I get, the less I can claim to know for sure but the more O.K. I am with not knowing.  As exhausting as it is, doubt is worth wrestling with.

There are many days when I wonder whether any of this is legitimate at all, but I rest in the words of John 6:68, when Jesus asked Peter if he was going to leave and Peter responded, “Lord, to what person could we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

When doubt creeps in...I choose Jesus with my head and my heart eventually follows. Click To TweetWhen doubt creeps in, or bursts the door down, I choose Jesus with my head and my heart eventually follows. When I am challenged by the non-sense that is grace, the arrogance that is self-sufficiency, the ridiculousness that is child-like faith, I cling with both hands to Jesus!

I recently heard someone say that the opposite of faith isn’t doubt.  The opposite of faith is certainty…because what do the certain need with faith? The Bible says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for,” and my hope is in Jesus (Hebrews 11:1).

There is no one else for me. None but Jesus.

My New View on Alcohol

Understanding the Tension of Modern Biblical Decision Making

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The consumption of alcohol continues to be a controversial topic. I shared my personal thought process a while back (3 Reasons Why I Don’t Drink Alcohol). After a discussion with my wife about the topic and potential interpretations, I’ve come to realize it sounded more narrow-minded than I ever intended. I was hoping it would help readers come to their own conclusion.

My New View on Alcohol

So, since this blog is about our spiritual journey, let me apologize for my lack of clarity and let me share with you my new view on drinking alcohol.

Lessons learned…

No matter what your view may be, this topic is personal enough that not all will agree. Sometimes we can argue facts, but the reality is, much of this conversation is based on personal experience.

For example, a family impacted by an alcoholic family member, will almost certainly view this subject differently than a family who has created a culture of responsible consumption. And, if we were honest, there’s about thousand different situations in-between.  We have to respect each and every one of these situations.

I also wanted to give Christians (especially believers who abstain from alcohol) the ability to see an example of “thinking it through.” Growing up, I really wasn’t given the opportunity or space to ask questions to define my own answer to whether or not I would consume alcohol. Did my original post successfully help people think? Probably not the way I would have liked.

My 3 Reasons Why I Don’t Drink Alcohol were never meant to be prescriptive to every Christian, nor do I judge any Christian who responsibly consumes alcohol. I have many Christian family members and friends who choose to consume – and do so in front of me. I certainly have no problem with that.

In fact, the reasons I give for not drinking, can easily become the reasons why a Christian could drink responsibly.  It’s a healthy tension that each believer must weigh out as they make their decision.

So in light of that new understanding, I’ll give you three tensions a Christian must weigh out. Remember these are personal tensions – one that each believer must work through.

1. “No alcohol” versus “conservative alcohol.”

We don’t know for sure, but it’s safe to say that Jesus and his disciples consumed wine.  It was part of their culture and it was never mentioned as being an issue.

Like I mention in my previous post, the only time the Greek word for “new wine” (gleukos, meaning “sweet unfermented wine”) is used, is in Acts 2.  When the disciples were filled with the spirit, several witnesses were making fun of them as if they could get drunk off of weak wine.1  Why? Because they weren’t known to be drunk.  Their view of alcohol was clearly on the conservative side.

THINK: How conservative do I need to be to gain the kind of reputation the disciples had?

2. “Sin” versus “Boundary.”

The only sin we see in scripture is drunkenness (Galatians 5:19-25).  Unfortunately, drinking too much alcohol leads to drunkenness.  So the natural tension becomes one of sin versus boundary.  Because of his stomach and sickness, Paul told Timothy to have a little wine (1 Timothy 5:23).  Obviously, the journey wasn’t towards sin but towards a healthy boundary.

THINK: What boundaries do I have to put in place in order to stay away from drunkenness?

3. “Culture” versus “Witness.”

There’s a vast discussion here alone.  The tensions of particular situations, local cultures, and ethnic traditions, all impact how we understand alcohol.  That, paired with our potential witness to others, could dramatically impact our view.

Paul said, “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful” (1 Corinthians 10:23).  Likewise, “Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25).  No matter the situation, we need to be willing to put our own desires aside for the sake of the Kingdom and live in that tension.

THINK: How does my culture and witness impact my view of alcohol?

Your turn…

How do you reflect on these tensions regarding alcohol consumption?


If you liked this post, please take a moment to share on your social networks so others have a chance to read it as well!

I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

References   [ + ]