No Pain, No Gain (Like You Haven’t Heard That Before)

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that one of the connecting points for many lasting friendships in the world is the endurance of pain, together. There I was sharing a margarita with a friend I hadn’t seen in several months and the conversation drifted to the tougher moments in life and how he could relate to x-y-z and I could relate to a-b-c. Perhaps that’s too simplistic a view, but being the sinful humans we are, we’ve all been hurt and we all have hurt, others. It’s our nature to be selfish, inflict pain, and to find ourselves in the crucible of sanctification, given the choice of asking for forgiveness and saying “F*** them, they’re not worth it.” We’ve all been guilty of choosing the latter at some point in life, but it’s never led anywhere fruitful. Bitterness and hatred is only serving yourself the poisoned wine, rather than giving it to your enemy. You’d be better off attempting to kill them with kindness, wouldn’t you?

Anyways – back to my point – in a world of filtered photos, edited texts, and Facebook posts that are a highlight reel of life…we need that one person to share that one painful story of rejection, anger, pain, hatred, betrayal, longing, addiction, abuse, etc. – and that’s all it takes – and then there’s an iconic moment in every redeeming friendship – a “me too – I’ve been there as well.”

I talked with a coworker about depression this week. Opening up about my need for counseling, I found myself given the opportunity to minister to his soul and providing him with helpful options that I’ve utilized for my own personal growth and journey towards freedom from the hatred and loathing of self.

All it took was an opening up, and a “hey, me too man.”

So I guess all of that is to say, you can filter your pictures and keep your Facebook as clean and crisp as you want, but my life is about to get as real as it gets.

I’ve spent enough of my time worrying about reputation, status, money, and what other people think about me, but as long as God says “well done, my good and faithful servant” and my wife is excited to see and kiss me when I get home, then I’ve lived life well. The rest doesn’t matter and it always works out in the end.

It’s amazing how much time we spend chasing peace and perfection, and some of the most peaceful, perfect, love-filled moments are those that are spent being honest and broken, and allowing love and grace to cover over them.

Tim Keller writes of a czar who adopted a son. The adopted son had squandered his wealth and was contemplating suicide due to his recklessness… (sounds like the Prodigal Son in a way)

“Because he couldn’t cover his gambling debts, he began to embezzle from his regiments funds. One night he was sitting in the tent looking at the books and he realized that his embezzlement was about to be discovered. He could hide it no longer from the accountants. He sat drinking heavily and prepared to kill himself. He had the revolver by his side and he took a few more drinks to strengthen his resolve for the suicide. But the drink was too potent and he passed out on the table.

That night the czar was doing what he often did. Disguised as a simple soldier, he was walking through the camp and the ranks, trying to assess the morale of his army, hearing what he could hear. He walked into his foster son’s tent and saw him slumped over the book. He read the book and realized what he had done and what he was about to do.

When the young man awoke hours later, to his surprise the revolver was gone. Then he saw a letter by his hand. To his shock, it was a promissory note, “I, the czar, will pay the full amount from my own personal funds to make up the difference found in this book.” And it was sealed with the czar’s personal seal. The czar had seen the young man’s sin clearly, the full dimensions of what he had done. But he had covered and paid for the sin personally.”

The crazy part is that Jesus does this for you and me, daily. We constantly squander the wealth and the gifts that He’s provided us with. We hurt our wonderful parents with our insensitivity to their wisdom, we hurt our spouse with our stubbornness to their pleas for wiser behavior and moral conduct, we disappoint our elders as they prod us toward holiness, and we discourage our brothers with our apathy – yet Jesus PAID our debt. He said, “I see what you’ve done and I know it fully. The price has been paid. Now come back home.”

I think my life’s calling is to call other’s home. I see what you’ve done – I’ve done some stupid shit too. Now let me pay the price for you, so that you can come back home. You don’t belong in the underworld anymore. Let me provide you with some clean linens and prepare a guest-room for you. You’re an esteemed guest, a high ranking official, and adopted heir to the King – grace and peace and love covers over you.

So friends, come home. Stop running. Stop hiding. Stop chasing success. Stop searching for happiness at the bottom of the bottle or at the sound of any empty pill bottle. Stop clicking through videos and images of women that don’t belong to you (I shouldn’t even look at my wife that way). Stop shopping until you drop. Stop buying friendships with your money. Stop connecting with others through your self-loathing.

Just stop.

You were worth it. You are worth it.

So worth it that he paid your debt in full and covered you in the finest clothes. “What we should say to each other on our wedding day is, ‘As great as you look today, someday you will stand with me before God in such beauty that it will make these clothes look like rags.” (Tim Keller, “The Meaning Of Marriage”)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Thought outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our slight momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

no pain no gain

Dear Friend

Dear Friend,

I love writing letters. They’re my absolute favorite form of writing – the easiest method for me to portray my heart for another. So I’m going to write you a letter, today.

Marriage is awesomely hard and beautiful. I highly recommend it. To avoid marriage for the sake of maintaining the “juvenile liberties” I mentioned in my “I Decided” blog the day before our wedding is, well, juvenile. If you’re ready to man/woman up, then buckle up and commit yourself. “But don’t expect it to be easy.” I heard it a million times in pre-marital counseling, bars and coffee-shops, at work, and just about anywhere else I would find myself out. “Marriage is going to be way harder than you think.”

“Thanks…” I’d think to myself, wishing for one time in my life that someone would hand me an empty hearted, positive platitude of “it’ll be perfect.”

I’m learning that ‘perfect’ is fake and that Allie and I are beautifully broken, but wholly redeemed, renewed, and renovated by Jesus. Now THAT sounds like one of those platitudes. An empty Christian cliche when speaking of relationships. But I’m absolutely serious. It’s when her and I are both edgy, spent, and ready to fight or retreat from one another that Jesus makes every bit of difference. We look at each other, apologize for the hurtful thing we said or did, ask for forgiveness, and then take it to Jesus. Or maybe we don’t even know what exactly is wrong at the moment, but we pray about it and the Holy Spirit starts to counsel us. “Hey Justin…remember when you made that judgmental remark about her makeup…that’s why she’s sad.”

You’ll never find a better mirror for your selfishness than living in communion with another. You’ll also never have a better chance to be more giving, selfless, and kind. My wife is awesome – I’d say she’s on the giving, selfless, and kind side of the spectrum about 90% of the time, and that’s not exaggerating. I admire her for her servant-heartedness and her tender and gentle care for my heart and soul when I’ve often done little to deserve such pure, innocent, genuine, earnest love. It’s beautiful and screams of Jesus work in her heart and life. Her life proclaims His name; her actions and hard work, her evangelism.

And that’s worth it all – ya know? That’s why I recommend getting married if you’re willing to give up your individual “freedom” – because it’s within the “confines” of marriage that I’m gradually learning so much about true freedom. To lay there naked and feel loved, attractive, and securely know that she’s not going anywhere is Cloud 9 awesome. To pull back the veil and let her further into my heart, while also initially scary and difficult, is always so rewarding as she always finds a way to love and accept me exactly where I’m at. And then, by the natural Law Of Reciprocity within relationships, I get to know more of her.

Do we cry? Heck yes! Do we disagree? For sure, especially when one of us is in our selfish-mode and not thinking about what’s best for the collective.

But friends, when we are in community with Jesus and with each other and everything is firing on all cylinders and we are more concerned about the wellbeing of the other than of ourselves, that’s when the fireworks start. That’s intimacy like you’ve never experienced before. Far better, hotter, more pure and beautiful than anything you’ve ever found within the sphere of dating and “friends.” I’m so, so glad that I Decided to marry her.

Marriage gives you a lot. It gives you love, someone that always has your back, a partner-in-crime/partner-on-mission; in my case, it gives me amazing, home-cooked dinners and pre-cooked breakfast burritos and a newfound ability to make homemade lattes because my wife is a beautiful (part-time/seasonal) barista (was always a ‘fantasy’ of mine – to marry a barista – and I did…God is too good to be true sometimes). What fun we have!

Marriage also takes a lot. One of those being your time. Part of the purpose of writing this “Dear Friend” letter is to share my gratefulness for marriage and to be a cheerleader for others to dive into the growth-vehicle that is commitment. The other aspect is to apologize for my inability to be as fully-vested in friendships as I was prior to saying, “I do.” As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I can’t always reply to text-messages within 5 seconds like I used to. And I can’t make as many phone-calls as I used to friends that live in different places. That’s because, working in sales, I’m tied to my phone for the 9-10 hours a day I’m at work anyways. So I’m pretty tired of it by the time I get home. Also, because Allie deserves as much of my heart and attention-span as I can offer. And, having moved into a place with Allie only 10-15 minutes away from work makes it difficult to call a friend I haven’t connected with in a while and then shoo them away 10 minutes later when I’ve reached home and my pretty wife is waiting inside to kiss me. I love you guys and all, but man-to-man, those kisses take a higher priority a majority of the time. ;P

So friends, if you’re married, kiss your spouse and tell them why you love them. Think back to why you married each other and renew your commitment to increased intimacy. Love them because they need it. You’re not always going to want to, but it’s then that Christ shines through you – when you choose to love them anyways.

And if you’re not married, get honest with yourself. What is it that you’re afraid of? The lie I always told myself is that I wasn’t ready. Well duh, no one is ever “ready.” If I had waited until I was “ready” and perfectly pruned and refined, Allie would still be waiting at the altar. Perhaps it’s because your heart is tied up in the lie that you’ve got more freedom outside of commitment. I promise you that I’m learning every day how untrue that lie was and how much freer and safer and more content and loved I feel within the covenant of marriage. Get honest with a brother in Christ and share your heart with them, pull the weeds of your insecurities and your sin problems, and then pursue a woman worth loving and committing yourself to. And then get in the fight for bringing His Kingdom to Earth together.

My letters get long sometimes. Thanks for reading (and for loving me) anyways.

Your Friend,
Justin Meyer

dear friend letter

Better Together

Perfectly imperfect but I’m worth it.

Struggling a lot with self-respect,

Go to great lengths and to my pride – protect.

Come at me with your suggestions,

Accusations of past aggressions.

The broken parts of me – obsessed with.

Amazing how my mind is messed with.

 

You’d think their words would roll right off of me,

But somehow they lay heavy, on top of me.

Can’t breathe. Can’t dream. Can’t win.

Defeated, distraught; now count to ten.

Asleep like a sedative,

These wrestlings, repetitive.

 

Engaged, but enraged.

Not with the Bride but with the Groom.

In my heart I haven’t left enough room.

All about me and not about Him.

Recognizing the need for humility,

Mentors and accountability.

Seeking that stability,

Prayerful over my ability.

 

Hopeful that this frustration,

Continues to lead toward maturation.

 

King of Kings clashing with the Prince of Death,

Spiritual warfare that takes my breath.

Feel my heart pounding inside my chest,

No sleep for the weary and little rest.

 

And yet those green eyes meet my blues,

All she has to say is, “I choose you.”

“I love you and you’re worth it,

Nail it on the cross, you’re not worthless.

Handsome and strong,

You write your own song.

Passionate melodies and fierce beats,

Not another man for me on the streets.

You’re mine. I’m yours. And we’re His.”

 

I’m grateful for all of this,

Answering that call of His.

 

She melts my gruffness,

Increases my toughness.

 

Propels me and compels me,

To face my fears and never flee.

And chase the fear of failure back to Hell,

Cling close to God and each other and we’ll do well.

 

So yes – I’m scared and yes, I’m beat.

But with her by my side, we will defeat.

 

Overcome and prayerfully conquer,

Anything that’s kept us at arms-length from the altar.

Two separate hearts, but better together,

Our love, a true treasure.

 

Indebted to the debtor,

But not in debt.

Rich in love and beauty,

I’ve wept;

So many joyful tears,

Over this last year.

 

This girl is too good for me,

But she’s not.

She’s just what I need,

Amazingly crafted and attractive.

 

God’s gift from Himself to each other,

I love her.

better-together

The Mirage

Sin is the ultimate mirage – the promise of the fresh, flowing waters of freedom and the pristine beaches of wonder. And perhaps it is – for a moment. But then we realize there’s no fresh water in sight, and that even the deepest of salty seas cannot quench our thirst. The rays of sun that glimmered so bright and mesmerizing moments before, now become white-hot to our skin that lacks protection, as we’ve purposefully walked away from the shadow of His Wings.

mirage

As a young-adult, it is easy to desire the “freedom” of the outside world – my parents are extremely loving and have provided a quality life for me, but their “restrictions” (safe rules/guidelines/suggestions) irk me, as I desire a greater deal of autonomy. However, while I’m still at home, I believe I’m beginning to wise-up just slightly, and realizing that many of their exhortations come with good and wise intentions. For example, budgeting and setting money aside, rather than blowing a paycheck on the weekends, or that fast-food-for-breakfast habit that needs to be kicked in the butt.

Sometimes, that’s what we need – isn’t it? A good kick in the butt can go a long way.

Earlier this afternoon, I was walking around the city with a friend of mine and he began to speak some truth into my life, that I didn’t exactly WANT to hear, but NEEDED to hear. “Ya know, Justin, all of these goals that you have (losing-weight, financial independence, marriage someday, writing) are entirely within your control. You can keep telling yourself that things will happen sometime in the future, and that you can buckle down later, but really, that’s just a form of self-procrastination.” Of course, I did what most guys do when their pride takes a bullet, and remained quiet on the way back to where my truck was parked. However, his words lingered in the air, in my heart, and rung true within the fabric of my soul.

Apathy is another form of sin. An “I don’t care” mentality is childish. As a teenager, I had an “I don’t care” mentality toward fashion. In reality it was a self-defense mechanism as I had to wear a back-brace for Scoliosis and couldn’t wear the well-fitting, stylish clothing that my peers could. Then, of course, there was the matter of quitting athletics to enter the working world, and gaining the wonderfully plentiful extra weight an American young-adult has no trouble putting on, if an “I don’t care” mentality exists even the slightest bit in their diet and exercise routine. There’s a reason the LORD says what He does in Revelation 3:15-17,

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

A lukewarm heart, mind, and soul is unhealthy, and the God we serve despises it. He has the same reaction to our apathy, that we may have when taking a drink of warm soda – he spits it out. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to not be spit out. Amen?

Procrastination has the false promise of beginning tomorrow. If we buy into this lie, then our success will always be on the way “tomorrow”, and tomorrow will never come. Instead, we will reap what we sow – laziness will reap the reward of hunger for our “unattainable” dreams/goals/visions.

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8)

Rather, I’d like to pursue the LORD and work towards the dreams and desires He has placed on my heart, and soak in, believe in, and live out, the words of Life written in blood throughout the Bible.

I mentioned earlier that I didn’t know much about fashion. Well, that’s starting to change, and I’m becoming a man that cares (it turns out that athletic shorts and t-shirts are primarily for – well – being athletic). My words of advice on being fashionable? Dress for success, but don’t let your success depend upon your ability to keep up with fashion. Working diligently is always “in”.

Friends, stay away from the mirage of sin – I’ve mentioned primarily the sins of procrastination, apathy, and a lukewarm heart, but this also applies to sinful indulgences of lust, greed, drunkenness, disbelief, and much more. If the Spirit of the LORD rests upon your soul and you are born anew in Jesus, then should the fruits of the spirit not be present in your life?

Lust promises the satisfaction of being wanted, but leaves one lonely and thirsty for further “intimacy” – which, by the way, is entirely counterfeit – there is no real intimacy in sensual greed. Alcohol CAN (I agree that it is not ALWAYS used this way), when abused, be falsely utilized as an aide for numbing pain and drowning out sorrows, or perhaps even as a catalyst for confidence, where an underlying self-doubt remains the underlying issue – all the while, it provides a vain form of makeup for the real blemishes, which need real attention. Lacking confidence (something I sincerely understand the struggle in), is essentially doubting the LORD’s goodness and ability to redeem, your life. Hence, why all of sin is such a mirage – the promise of something great, with the reward of brokenness and continued thirst.

Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7: 37b-38) There is Living Water capable of quenching your thirst. Do all that is within your power to avoid The Mirage and head for the true waters of our LORD and Savior.

“Passion conveys the gritty determination to finish the task at hand. That’s why the final days of Jesus’ life are known as Passion Week. Passion is about doing whatever it takes to get what’s most important to you. And what we wanted most was for Jesus’ name to be echoed throughout the land.” (Louie Giglio, “Passion”)

The mirage is out there, but so is real life and real victory. There is indeed an opponent of our pursuit of LIFE, but there is also the very Giver of Life waging war for the redemption of our souls. Find your courage in Him. Live with passion.

Numbness

What is this numbness that pummels us?
The darkness so voluptuous, it’s crumpled us.
We’ve pressed it into the closet,
But know it’s there, if we’re honest.

All covered-up like them Covergirls,
Blemishes hidden with some other pearls.
Glossy and bright, but still rocks.
It’ll return to dust, check your clocks.

Do you see the foolery?
Sin has made a tool of me.

So now I need more,
Then I want less.
What a chore,
I’m restless.
Heart torn,
What a mess.

Life or death, death of life?
Strife or breath, how to decide?

We can play dress-up,
Make-believe and pretend,
Or admit we’re messed-up,
Find relief and mend.

Christ, come quick,
We’re sick.
Praying for recovery,
Praise His grace, it covers thee.

Eyes On Christ

“Our precious Christ can never be made too much of.” (Charles Spurgeon)

Too often I think too little of God. I think to myself, “Well, sure, He is the LORD, He died and rose again. I confess Him with my lips and believe in Him in my heart…But…Can He really come through for me in this situation?” Can He truly, fully redeem my sinful nature? Is it possible to actually attain holiness? Will my mind actually be renewed? And then, I find myself once again deeply considering everything that I lack, whether it be financial resources, abundant character, social stature, Ryan Gosling’s looks, and other silly things. I say, “silly things”, because they are just that, silly. Why do I concern myself with such futile things? They are such distractions from what we should truly be meditating on.

The God of the universe loves me. Give that a minute to sink in. Let me write it again this way…The God of the universe loves [you]. (Incomprehensible, right?)

But why? How could God possibly love you, or me, for that matter? Do we deserve it? Have I earned my salvation, or His love, by attending church, being heavily involved in leadership, writing for the glory of God, teaching the Word of God in a house-church context, and being invested in discipleship relationships? Absolutely not!

My attempts of righteousness could never earn the love of God, nor could they buy me a ticket on Toby Mac’s fabled “J-Train” to Heaven in the final-days. So what good are these actions? Well, they are good in the sense that they are an expression of my love and gratitude for a God who is in the business of Redemption. They are good because they help me pursue my Father, as He has certainly never stopped pursuing my heart, despite my constant forgetfulness of all the good he has already done, is doing, and intends to do, for my benefit, and for the benefit of His Kingdom. In fact, despite my love-affair with sin, He still loves me. Devoted to me (and you), His Bride, He will not take lightly His vows to pursue and make a place for us in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Back to my original question, Why does God love you and I?

Because He is Good. So good. In the context of our earn-it-all culture, I’m not sure it is even possible for us to fully comprehend an unconditional love that breeches all of our set-in-stone expectations for relationships. The way you roll your eyes at Him in prayer, the way you speak poorly of Him and perhaps even deny Him throughout the day among your peers and coworkers, the last time you willfully chose to sin over fleeing to His arms, and all other acts of infidelity and treason against a Sovereign God, paid for on the Cross by His beloved Son, that we may have Life, and that we may be fully loved.

Once again, God is so Good.

Have we lost sight of this simple revelation?

The revelation that God loves us. Truly, He LOVES US! David Crowder Band’s, “How He Loves Us” is a brilliant praise-song on just how much He loves us. “If His love is an ocean, then we’re all sinking.” Consider the vastness of the ocean of His grace. The rains of His mercy are like a torrential downpour, relentlessly washing away our dirt, refreshing our hearts, and the end-result is the bearing of much fruit, raised up by the Life of the Son!

Friends, please join me in taking our eyes off of ourselves. Please walk with me on the narrow-road of praising the LORD in ALL circumstances and holding onto the joy of the Spirit in ANY situation. An exhortation that I have always given the men that I minister to is a simple three-word-phrase, “Eyes On Christ”. If we truly return our eyes to Savior Jesus, the way in which we view the world around us and our own lives will change drastically. We will find ourselves genuinely loving others, enjoying the labor of diligence, and rejoicing in the fruit of planting the seeds of Gospel-centered living in the lives of others. Suddenly, all of the worries about yourself, will have faded away, and been replaced by praise, by gratefulness for all the LORD has already done and will continue to do.

He has not forsaken you. He will not forsake you. He cannot forsake you. It is not in His nature to abandon one of His children. I will leave you with this Facebook post that I shared with my friends on April 9th to consider:

“People often say, ‘I feel distant from God’, well, I promise you He hasn’t gone anywhere.” (Ben Stout) It’s in His nature to relentlessly pursue your heart. He has not given up on you. He has not left you. The question then becomes, Why do you run?

Eyes On Christ,

Justin Meyer

Redeemed

Ashes to ashes

Dust to dust

Soul that thrashes

Heart that rusts

Sin drips in

Rips me apart

Will darkness win?

Will Christ depart?

Shall I break,

Evil will applaud.

All my mistakes

Reveal my façade.

 

Small compromises

Satan’s Enterprises

Business of lying

Knows I’m dying

Doesn’t care I’m buying’

Into fake “styling”

Cooked up and fryin’

My heart, deprivin’

Death now driving.

 

Oh, and I let it!

Chips out and betted

Casino of sensuality embedded

Forgot truth, barely read it.

 

Scripture gone, no cornerstone

Spirit aloft, dryer bones.

 

Unquenched thirst

Chronic hurt

Doctor examined

But abandoned…

At least I thought…

Once again, distraught.

 

O the drama of hearts:

Alive, dead, apart,

Shaken, buried, alarmed,

Still, rattled, charmed.

 

Romantic involvement,

Relational evolvement.

 

Pursuer, now pursued

By the true Groom.

Tried to seek and peruse

Other affections never bloom.

Mighty hands hold

My heart unfolds.

He’s real Love, I’m told.

 

Heart beats quicker

Feelings are thicker.

 

Shame comes

Pride runs

Broken crumbs

Tear drums

 

Washed cheeks,

I’m weak.

 

Love affair,

My fare.

 

Imagine my surprise

And evil’s demise

When grace shined

And Christ dined

With His Bride, unfaithful

But He remained faithful.

 

Affectionate eyes,

Gentle hands,

Removed lies,

Helped me stand.

 

Renewed, not abandoned.

Deep love; enchanted.

 

Restlessness now resting,

Surrender; stopped wrestling.

 

Refreshing waters flow

Spirit breathes, I grow.

 

Planted in His streams,

Grateful He redeems.