"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children." Deuteronomy 6:4-7 

Can't Go Back

  • By Zach Hoffman
  • 08 May, 2017

Why you cannot go back to church the same way you always have

The alarm goes off like it does every Sunday morning. The bed calls for you to fall back into it and slumber. However, years of habit and routine have taught you to ignore its call. It seems like a normal Sunday, but this time it’s different.  

There is something else holding you back from getting out of bed. You remember, again , that you are not going to the place you normally go. You are going to try that other church that your friends have invited you too. They heard your story and invited you out of sympathy. They said you would be welcomed there. Maybe you will be, but it feels weird- like a small betrayal.  Still, you’re a believer, and believers have to worship…somewhere.

You did not decide randomly to attend a new church. You were not thinking about this a week ago. Seven days earlier, you walked into the congregation you have always belonged too. It was the one that became your home. Then you hit your breaking point. Someone said something deeply hurtful. They blamed you and judged you. Made you feel worthless. Your children were mistreated. You were cast out. Years of being treated poorly and enduring insults have finally come to a head. You are going to a new church, because you cannot go back home.

“Lord, I can’t go back there. What am I supposed to do?”

If you go back then everywhere you turn you will see the person or persons who hurt you. The anger and rage, and then the tears will come bubbling to the surface. You don’t want a million questions about what happened last week. You are tired of thinking about it anymore, and talking about it is not going to help. People will try their best to make it ok. They will try to understand. Or are they just afraid the numbers will take a hit if you go? No. Going back is impossible. The hurt is too much right now. It will suffocate your worship.  

I’m writing this as a pastor. You might expect an appeal to come back to your old congregation just like you always have. Sadly, that’s not what I’m going to do. It would be unrealistic.

Instead, let me tell you that I know. I may have never felt your particular pain, but I know how mine feels and so does every other pastor. Every time we turn around on Sunday morning we see the faces that have hurt us. The ones who betrayed us. Those who gossip behind our backs, but they think we do not know. The person who we overheard condemning our parenting skills and the one who might only be coming to watch us go down in flames.

I remember the first morning as a pastor that I did not want to go back to church. I never thought I would feel that way, but I could not deny it went it happened. I was hurt. My family was hurting. I barely kept it together that entire Sunday morning. My heart pounded inside my chest for three straight hours, and I was the first one out the door after the last service.

I too have prayed: “Lord, I can’t go back there. What am I supposed to do?”

Do not go back to church the same way you always have. Go back wounded.

There was one who was cut down, doubted, cast aside, and betrayed. The deepest hurt came from those who called him Lord. They abandoned him and ran away. He was nailed to a tree and left for dead. On the cross, Jesus received wounds that he would carry for all eternity, because the church is even capable of scarring the Lord of Heaven and Earth.

Jesus knew the full meaning of these words: “You have taken from me friend and neighbor— darkness is my closest friend.” Psalm 88:17

He was not raised from the dead to create a new fellowship for himself. He went back to the very disciples who betrayed and abandoned him and revealed his wounds saying: “Peace be with you!”

Given the choice between breaking fellowship or seeking revenge Jesus chose to reveal his wounds and speak peace.

Parents, I beg you not for my sake or for the sake of numbers, but for the sake of Christ: Come back wounded. Whether it is your hurt or your child’s they will see the power of the resurrection.  Yes, they will see your weakness as you wrestle with the hurt. They will also see the faith that bears witness that Jesus is alive. He rose though he was wounded. He forgave though he was murdered. How will he not renew and heal the parts of his body of believers that have broken apart?

You cannot go to church the same way you went before, but you can go. You can go wounded and in hope that there is no wound, no matter how deep, that Christ cannot speak peace over.

Impressed

By Zach Hoffman 11 Oct, 2017

A couple weeks ago, both of our daughters had trouble going to sleep. Tracie and I were watching Monday Night Football when they both came out and complained: “We can’t sleep.” (Insomnia is apparently contagious.) We had already sent them back to bed a few times that evening so we decided to have them lay down in the living room while we watched football.

They were both awake as the game was just beginning. Sometime before or after the national anthem there was a moment of silence for the victims of the massacre in Las Vegas. Tracie and I both looked at each and waited for the inevitable question to be asked. There was a tense silence for a few minutes.

And … nothing happened. Whew!

Neither of us were ready at that moment to answer questions about the nature of life and death from a pair of frightened and confused children.
By Zach Hoffman 10 Oct, 2017
Last month we had a 7-day challenge to read through a series of devotions titled: "Parenting Under Pressure". Now we're really going to stretch you! I hope you're ready. We're going to do...wait for it... an 8 day reading challenge! 

Below is a link to begin a reading plan that will take you through the book of Romans at two chapters a day. You can download the YouVersion app (it's free and all you need is a password) or you can simply book mark your bible and read two chapters a day!   

To download YouVersion:  https://www.youversion.com/apps
To begin the Romans reading plan:  https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/90-romans


By Zach Hoffman 12 Sep, 2017

Last night was a bit scary. We felt our house shake a couple times as the wind ripped through North Georgia! Things seemed to have calmed down, but there are many places without power. This means that many places are closed- especially school!

Today I am working from home. I don’t mean to brag, but we are fortunate to have both power and WiFi. Maybe you are at home today too, and if you are, this is a great opportunity to spend time with the kids! Below I want to offer some thoughts on how to take advantage of this break from the routine, and spend some time with family in prayer and devotion. Perhaps, God gives us these interruptions so that we can do just that.

1)    Read God’s Covenant with Noah in Genesis 9:1-17 (You can look over Genesis 6-8 for background) and Jesus Walking on Water in Mark 6:45-52 together. Depending upon your children’s age you can read these stories from either a children’s bible or a normal bible. This is a great time to talk about how even in the midst of a terrifying storm like the one we just had; God does not forget his promises or his people.

2)    Spend some time in prayer giving thanks for the many who were kept safe. Also, pray for anything else that might be going on in school or other activities.

3)    Have your children draw their favorite bible story or act out everyone’s favorite story together as a family.

4)    Rest. No explanation needed here.

5)    Play! Break out the play-do, Legos, board games, cards, watercolor, etc. 

What ideas do you have for an unexpected day with your kids? Comment below!

God’s blessings on this wonderful-unusual day. I pray that you and your family grow together in faith and love for Christ today and every day.

P. S. It is not too late to join Tracie and I in our 7-Day devotional challenge! Today is day three. Check it out here!

https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/4157-parenting-under-pressure  
By Zach Hoffman 05 Sep, 2017
Photo by Aaron Burden  on Unsplash
By Zach Hoffman 01 Sep, 2017

You have probably seen something like this happen before. One child, the one who should know better, decides to blow air through her straw into her glass of milk. Bubbles are magically made. The younger child sees this and starts to do the same. If there are more children in the room, they all start this new and incredible activity. The raw power of creating bubbles cannot be denied. There is a brief moment where you wonder if this is what it sounds like inside of fish tanks.

Sure, you can put a stop to it, but you cannot un-teach it. They know it is fun now. The experience has captured them, and it will not let go. For the next few nights, at least, you will have to be on your guard. If you turn your back, you will hear milk bubbling.

Sure the offender who first created the bubbles is guilty of immaturity, guilty of breaking dinner table etiquette, and guilty of not drinking her milk (I am sure this is forbidden in the Bible somewhere.); but she is also guilty of leadership.

One message we try to share in our house is that our children are leaders.
By Zach Hoffman 13 Jul, 2017

It might be one of the hardest moments that you will have to witness as a parent.

Of course, it had been coming for some time now. Your child was always different from the other kids. It almost sounds cliché to say it, but your child was always different . Maybe not special or gifted to any greater or lesser degree than any of the other children...

She had a sense of humor like all the rest…

He could demonstrate confidence when needed…

Sometimes she would be the one on the playground leading a pack of other kids…

Still, your child was always just… more vulnerable than the others.

Now his head is down, and he won’t lift it up to look at you. He is not speaking. Normally he finds it difficult to be silent. You’ve never seen that reaction before.

Now, you are holding her in your arms after a miserable day. Her tears soak your shirt, and you hold her tight.

You long for the early days when a mere hug and a good cry could set almost anything right. They tell you how no one would pick them for the team. No one would sit with them at lunch. Yesterday’s friends acted like complete strangers today to your child.

What do you do now? Assure them that their best friend who has been sick for the last week should be back in school soon? Tell them next year summer camp will be better? Give them some pointers to improve their social skills?

First, know there is hope. I used to do youth ministry, and now, I serve as the sole pastor of Good Shepherd. I have seen a lot of youth who have gone through heartbreaking periods of loneliness. Perhaps, they had friends that turned against them. Maybe it was a crisis point in a years’ long struggle to find their place. Often times, this clarifies what friendship is, and what they should seek in friends; as well as what friends are seeking in them. In the more painful moments, they simply need you not solutions.  

Remember who you are in these times. You are called to do the holy work of parenting.  


By Zach Hoffman 25 May, 2017

Young Biff: What's wrong, McFly? Chicken?
Marty McFly: What did you just call me?
Young Biff: Chicken!
Marty McFly: Nobody! Calls me... chicken.

Back to the Future Part II

 

If anyone deserved a fat helping of justice it was Biff Tannen. The iconic bully of the Back to the Future movies always knew how to push Marty McFly. In fact, he successfully tormented Marty in two separate time periods! Nobody wept for Biff any time (any time period ?) he got what he had coming to him… and yet, what would life be without Biff? What would Back to the Future be like without this menace?

He is someone we love to hate. Maybe you have imagined what you would do if you were in Marty’s shoes. A swift kick? A cutting insult? An elaborate and humiliating act of vengeance?  

By Zach Hoffman 08 May, 2017

The alarm goes off like it does every Sunday morning. The bed calls for you to fall back into it and slumber. However, years of habit and routine have taught you to ignore its call. It seems like a normal Sunday, but this time it’s different.  

There is something else holding you back from getting out of bed. You remember, again , that you are not going to the place you normally go. You are going to try that other church that your friends have invited you too. They heard your story and invited you out of sympathy. They said you would be welcomed there. Maybe you will be, but it feels weird- like a small betrayal.  Still, you’re a believer, and believers have to worship…somewhere.

You did not decide randomly to attend a new church. You were not thinking about this a week ago. Seven days earlier, you walked into the congregation you have always belonged too. It was the one that became your home. Then you hit your breaking point. Someone said something deeply hurtful. They blamed you and judged you. Made you feel worthless. Your children were mistreated. You were cast out. Years of being treated poorly and enduring insults have finally come to a head. You are going to a new church, because you cannot go back home.

“Lord, I can’t go back there. What am I supposed to do?”

If you go back then everywhere you turn you will see the person or persons who hurt you. The anger and rage, and then the tears will come bubbling to the surface. You don’t want a million questions about what happened last week. You are tired of thinking about it anymore, and talking about it is not going to help. People will try their best to make it ok. They will try to understand. Or are they just afraid the numbers will take a hit if you go? No. Going back is impossible. The hurt is too much right now. It will suffocate your worship.  

I’m writing this as a pastor. You might expect an appeal to come back to your old congregation just like you always have. Sadly, that’s not what I’m going to do. It would be unrealistic.

Instead, let me tell you that I know. I may have never felt your particular pain, but I know how mine feels and so does every other pastor. Every time we turn around on Sunday morning we see the faces that have hurt us. The ones who betrayed us. Those who gossip behind our backs, but they think we do not know. The person who we overheard condemning our parenting skills and the one who might only be coming to watch us go down in flames.

I remember the first morning as a pastor that I did not want to go back to church. I never thought I would feel that way, but I could not deny it went it happened. I was hurt. My family was hurting. I barely kept it together that entire Sunday morning. My heart pounded inside my chest for three straight hours, and I was the first one out the door after the last service.

I too have prayed: “Lord, I can’t go back there. What am I supposed to do?”

Do not go back to church the same way you always have. Go back wounded.

There was one who was cut down, doubted, cast aside, and betrayed. The deepest hurt came from those who called him Lord. They abandoned him and ran away. He was nailed to a tree and left for dead. On the cross, Jesus received wounds that he would carry for all eternity, because the church is even capable of scarring the Lord of Heaven and Earth.

Jesus knew the full meaning of these words: “You have taken from me friend and neighbor— darkness is my closest friend.” Psalm 88:17

He was not raised from the dead to create a new fellowship for himself. He went back to the very disciples who betrayed and abandoned him and revealed his wounds saying: “Peace be with you!”

Given the choice between breaking fellowship or seeking revenge Jesus chose to reveal his wounds and speak peace.

Parents, I beg you not for my sake or for the sake of numbers, but for the sake of Christ: Come back wounded. Whether it is your hurt or your child’s they will see the power of the resurrection.  Yes, they will see your weakness as you wrestle with the hurt. They will also see the faith that bears witness that Jesus is alive. He rose though he was wounded. He forgave though he was murdered. How will he not renew and heal the parts of his body of believers that have broken apart?

You cannot go to church the same way you went before, but you can go. You can go wounded and in hope that there is no wound, no matter how deep, that Christ cannot speak peace over.

By Zach Hoffman 24 Apr, 2017

“Jesus said to her, do not cling to me, for you have to go to work tomorrow.”

Mary immediately let go of Jesus, and the joy of Easter left her. Her mind became filled with plans for dinner later that day. Getting the kids in bed, because they had school in the morning. She wondered: Should I make their lunches tonight, or should I make them in the morning?

“Go and tell my disciples to continue their routines. I have risen. So it’s cool now.”

_______________________

Do you ever have a holiday come and go when you never really had a chance to get excited for it? All of a sudden, everything is “back to normal” when you feel like you never really left normal.

It’s hard for me to get in the mood for Christmas or Easter because of all the planning that goes into it. I know it might be that way for you as well. For me there are all the pastoral duties that come with these high feast days in the church year, but the bulk of the work is getting the list done on the family side. By the time the big holidays come and go, I am... actually, my wife is worn out.

Maybe we ought to make a decision for ourselves and our families. Maybe we can decide to not let stress, busyness, or holiday numbness continue to have the victory. After all, the victory does not come and go based on how we feel. It is ours forever because of what God has done for us in Christ. Remember that popular verse from Romans 8?   “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Truth is not always felt, but it is always real.

Take a Moment

Take a moment for a little bit of discipleship today. You are in the middle of your week. So it means that your children are in the middle of theirs. They won’t see you coming. Tell them Christ has risen, and stare at them until they say: “He has risen indeed! Alleluia” Ask them what they thought about Easter, and what they will remember most. Start something new like planting a flower or taking routine walks with your kids. Point out every new thing you see and share how these are all reminders of the new life we have in Christ and the new heavens and the new earth he has in store for us.

Christ has risen! (Type the appropriate Lutheran response in the comments below.)

By Zach Hoffman 06 Apr, 2017

4 Hear, O Israel: The   Lord   our God, the   Lord   is one.   5 Love   the   Lord   your God with all your heart   and with all your soul and with all your strength.   6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.   7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.   8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.   9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.  

-Deuteronomy 6:4-9

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