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August, 2014 - Issue #118
Courtesy of Shutterstock
Courtesy of Shutterstock
When the Going gets Tough
by Jeff Cole
"It's all there in the fine print," said the representative of the company that shall here remain unnamed. My blood pressure spiked as I realized I had fallen prey to the company's clever marketing scheme. I had signed up for what I thought was a great deal, only to find out that subsection 28 of point D in paragraph 42 (Or something like that!) of the contract that no one reads packed in some hidden fees.

Been there?

No one likes surprises like these in business. Have you ever felt this way about your faith? What was it like when you realized that doing the right thing would be a lot harder than you thought?

Jesus wanted to make sure his followers knew what they were getting themselves into. He told them point blank, "In this world you will have trouble..." (John 16:33). No fine-print scheme here. This is going to be tough!

So how do we stay on track when the right thing seems like the hardest thing? You've felt the tension. Maybe you could get ahead at work if you would just look the other way on something that isn't exactly above board. Or maybe you think you'll only be able to stay with the person you're dating if you compromise your personal standards.

Here are a few words of advice when the going gets tough. First, we must recognize the lie. Every time we face temptation, we're somehow being fed the lie that we can better meet our needs through our own efforts than by trusting God. Not true!

Second, we can't do it alone. I need the strength and wisdom of my church family to help me see clearly when I'm tempted to give in.

Finally, remember that difficulty is normal. Jesus told us we would face it. Like any workout, the toughness of the exercise actually demonstrates the need for the exercise. (I thought of that point during my latest embarrassing attempt at jogging.).

Ready for your next exercise? Read about how Jesus faced temptation in Matthew 4:1-11.

Jeff Cole is the next steps pastor at Real Life Church. Log on for service times and locations. www.reallifechurch.org

Connection Keeps Us with God
by Debbie Sperry
Our natural inclination when things get stressed and strained is to wonder why such things are happening. When we lose our job, or struggle financially, or fight with our spouse, or lose a loved one or suffer chronic pain, or all of those things seem to collide at once, we wonder, "What did I do?" or "Why am I being punished?" And in response, people will say, "It must be God's will" or "There's a reason for everything."

And while we might know in our hearts that God doesn't will awful things, it can be easy to follow the thought of those platitudes and wonder why God is doing such things to us. When that happens we often draw away from our community and our God.

"Unfortunately, what feels natural or easy isn't always what's BEST FOR US."
Unfortunately, what feels natural or easy isn't always what's best for us. After all, anger, pride, selfishness, laziness and indulgence all come pretty easily for most of us and yet we know they aren't good for us. We need something, or someone, to pull us away from depression and isolation, from sin and self-doubt. We need someone to encourage us and lift us up when we can barely find the energy to get out of bed in the morning. We need someone to refute the platitudes and offer God's truth. In preaching, in music, in fellowship, and particularly in getting outside of ourselves through mission and service, we find the truth of God's grace, love, mercy and plan for our lives. And we connect with others who need to be reminded of those same things. We engage others who can journey with us and remind us that we are not alone or forgotten.

Tough times and awful situations challenge all of us and none of us have unwavering faith through it all, so we have to keep returning to God and our faith community, seeking help and strength to persevere.

Debbie Sperry is the lead pastor at Valencia United Methodist Church. 255-1301 #VUMChereforgood www.umcv.org
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