Be Present

“So I tend to think of life in terms of movie clips or tweetable moments. Somehow I’ve convinced myself they last longer that way. My wife proved me wrong when she referred to my phone as my black wife. I thought it was funny, we both giggled, now single men, take notes. Now I’m no expert, but I don’t think she was kidding. She talked about some other stuff, which I really don’t remember. I was too busy in my head, composing a tweet where I would quote her with some sort of clever hashtag about marriage and about how much I love her, to be paying attention to her at that moment. I think what snapped me back in was the silence which indicated I was supposed to have some sort of response to whatever she was talking about.”

If that doesn’t describe the reality of the world around us, I’m not sure what else could. The above comes from an artist by the name of Propaganda. If you care to listen to that entire track, feel free to do so here before you go any further: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5y2GKk6sOI

Before we go any further, I don’t want you to hear what Propaganda is saying there and feel as if he’s coming down on you. I don’t want you to read this short entry from me and feel as if I’m pointing down at you and saying you suck, fix yourself. Instead, Prop and I are both in the trenches with you, battling the addiction we all seem to have in regards to our little handheld commitments. We are here to help make known the war that is being waged on us, and encourage one another in truth, in how to fight back and defeat this beast of an enemy.

I say all of that to say this: phones and social media are not sinful. They can’t be. They do not have souls and Jesus did not die on the cross for a stinkin’ piece of plastic and metal, nor did he die on the cross for double taps, likes, and retweets. So then why am I still typing?

I’m continuing to type, because I realize the problem begins with us. Much like many other things in life, we tend to overuse and abuse technology and social media. There are SO MANY amazing things that we have access to through the use of such things, however we all too often use these tools in harmful ways. Unfortunately, we primarily only recognize the obvious and explicit negative affects when someone bashes someone else, puts all of their dirty laundry out there for everyone to see, and post other ridiculous things that we are all probably guilty of doing at some point or another. While there could be much written about those things, I want to take a look at what I believe to be, a much more dangerous effect of our marriage to social media.

Whether or not you’re a believer in Christ or not, I feel confident in saying that most people hear the term “idol,” and picture a little golden statue or something of the sort. We picture someone worshipping this little wooden figure and that’s about as far deep as our understanding of an idol goes. However, as Tim Keller puts it: “An idol is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” Unfortunately, idols sneak up and devour us much easier than we understand or would like to admit. How do I know this? I’m the chief example of this happening my own life, over and over again; especially when it comes to social media.

To keep this from being long winded, I want to share what I’ve learned firsthand, in the hopes that you don’t go blindly into this war, like I so often have.

If nothing else, social media is a time and relationship killer. The more time we spend looking at the lives of others through a device, reality is, the more we are contributing to the downfall of the relationships and work in our own lives. We’ve all been sitting at a table with people who actually care about us, while giving more attention to people in our phones who probably could care less about us. Even more true, we’re all guilty of posting a picture of those around us, while the checking every few seconds to see how many people saw our “picture perfect” scene of life we are living that day. At this point, we aren’t spending that quality time with those around us; we are wasting time waiting for the approval and praise of others. Plain and simple, we’ve got to stop ruining the relationships right in front of us, for the grass that appears greener on the other side.

But, let’s move on.

Social media is simply what it’s titled. It is a main means of mass communication where we enjoy sharing the details of our lives with those who are connected to us. However, that definition in itself is flawed if we are honest with ourselves.

All too often, social media takes the form of a highlight reel. If you’re a sports fan, you’ve seen this. Highlight reels are jam packed with the best plays from any given day in sports. We don’t normally see footage of a player striking out 3 times before finally hitting the game winner on his 4th at bat. They only show the final game winner, because that’s what matters, right? Why is that? We don’t seem to be too concerned with the ugly, as long as things seem pretty on the outside. We should not be surprised of this. No one wants to put the difficult aspects of day to day life on there. While our struggles influence us tremendously, we don’t want anyone else to realize we don’t have it all together. We’re afraid of the discomfort we might feel when we actually admit that we struggle with our pride, patience, jealousy, and anything else we could name.

On a much more serious note, the highlight reel that is social media, hides the reality of desperation and struggle that we all face in different chapters and crevices in our lives. We see these cleaned up, cropped, and filtered pictures of ourselves, those in our lives, and whatever activity we may be taking part in. Not only do we post these, but we expect there to be likes and comments and double taps and retweets and any and every form of praise and flattery we can receive. This instant gratification feels amazing the first few times we get a few people showing us some “love,” and then we hunger for more likes and more attention. We have this craving, that cannot be filled with more attention and flattery from others. This craving we all have, is to be known and loved and completely fulfilled. That true fulfillment can only come through a right relationship with God. No matter what we try to fill that hole in our hearts with, if it isn’t Jesus, we will spend every breath of our lives feeling unfulfilled and empty.

Ultimately, our worth isn’t in how many likes or retweets we pull. You aren’t a better person, parent, athlete, singer, designer, or (fill in your role here) if you get tons of “love” and recognition on social media! Thankfully, we aren’t worse either when we don’t see those same results! Our worth is in the person and being of Jesus Christ and his life, death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven. Why? Because apart from Christ, we are worthless. Apart from a loving relationship with our Father, the Creator who hung each star so precisely in the sky, we have no worth. We would live and we would die, with no true purpose because it would all fade away after our blimp of time here on this planet. Praise be to God that He sees us as screwed up as we are, and He still calls us to Him. He loves us, pursues us, and wants us. No matter how jacked up we make things, He continues to want us. Praise be to God, that because of Him, we have worth and we have access to a restored loving relationship with Him.

I want to end this, in the similar way I began: With another quote from this same piece from Prop. I appreciate you hanging with me this long, and I pray this is a conversation we can have and share with one another, as we fight this beast together.

“That’s why I’m telling you this, son. You can’t rush her, or slow her down! You better keep her on your side. She will slip through your fingers like sand. Her name is time! She told me a secret: She said multitasking is a myth. You ain’t doing anything good, just everything awful. And she begged me to stop stretching her thin and stuffing her full, and stop being so concerned ith the old her, and future her, and love her, now. Her presence, is God’s present, and you should be that: PRESENT.

Well I guess I can say, I’ve been through a divorce now. Me and my phone are no longer married.

I think I’m ready to be here, now.”

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“I Don’t See Color”

If you’re breathing this very second, I’d be willing to bet that you have noticed that race and ethnicity are at the forefront of America’s mind. With the use of social media, more and more people are coming to the table with their own opinions of race, and sharing it for all to see.

As a result, we often see words from “friends” that are usually pointed and sharpened as weapons anytime that we feel our stance on the issue of race in America, is threatened. Instead of befriending people who aren’t like us, we would rather join forces with the people who believe what we believe, and strike down all of the rest in our path. Our words carry much more weight than we often think, and we often destroy instead of building up.

However, we have also seen at times (unfortunately nowhere near enough), where the use of social media can be a positive environment. People have the opportunity to see that there are others who genuinely love them, support them, and are willing to learn more about them and their different life experiences.

As I have continued to learn more about racial injustice and racial tension in America, I’ve intentionally had conversations with people from completely different backgrounds. I’ve also heard countless similarities and differences in viewpoints on how we should view race. One of the most common things I’ve heard people say is that they don’t “see color.” Along those same lines, I’ve been told that “It’s hateful for us to see color and instead, we should just see people.”

While I think the majority of the people who believe this to be a good rule of thumb have good intentions, I believe they are actually causing more harm than good.

Hear me out.

There is absolutely nothing sinful about seeing color, in anything! Whether it’s a person, an animal, a vehicle, or whatever you can name, a certain color or shade cannot be sinful. Jesus did not come to earth to die for the colors and hues of: white, black, green, blue, etc. This sounds silly and extremely elementary, but I think we need to realize just how ridiculous it is when we say that we don’t see color.

Ride with me for a minute. Imagine that you travel back to the 1500s and you walk into the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo (the guy who spent 4 years painting it) himself. If you know anything about this painting, it’s extremely colorful, intricate, and quite frankly, the most well known painting in the world. As you view Michelangelo’s masterpiece, you make the remark that you don’t see any of its color. In fact, all you see are the markings and paint strokes. Not only are you lying to yourself and the artist, but your words are offensive to the painting’s creator. He spent loads of energy and talent on such a beautiful painting, only for you to say that you aren’t willing to acknowledge its true beauty and full mastery.

Now let’s bring it back to today. When we tell our brothers and sisters of other colors that we don’t see color, there’s a good chance we offend them and are also attempting to rob the individual beauty of God’s creation.

All of us have unique characteristics that are beautiful and bring glory to the God who created us in His image. As Genesis 1:27 tells us, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” If you’re alive this second, you were created in the image of God. Literally. He did not make a mistake when He made you. You have the characteristics you do, no matter what they may be, to bring Him glory.

Let’s stop saying that we don’t see color, as if color is some X-rated characteristic that causes us to sin. Let’s see color, appreciate it, and praise God for it!

Mental Gas Stations

You ever drive up to a gas station only to find that you can’t get to the pump you want, because some cat in front of you didn’t pull through to the next pump? If you’re anything like me, something as simple as that can set you off, quick! I’m not someone who gets angry often, but if you catch me on the right day and you don’t pull through to the next pump and I have to put my car in reverse just to get to a pump, my sin nature is gonna start firing that anger up.

This happened to me tonight and only because I had just eaten a GREAT meal, I decided to give some grace to the fool who didn’t pull through. My stomach was happy, so I was too.

But then the game flipped on me and as God likes to do, He smacked me in the face. I went to another pump and pulled in behind another car. I parked my car, got out, and started to pump my gas. Just a few seconds after I started pumping my gas, the car in front of me moved. No problem right?

It was at that moment that God punched me square in the throat. To anyone who was driving into the gas station at that moment, it appeared as if I was the “idiot” who didn’t pull through his space. Since someone who was just now driving into the gas station only sees me parked at my pump without a car in front of me, they wouldn’t know that I hadn’t pulled through because at one point, there was a car in front of me.

You may think its a stretch, but here’s what I took from that ridiculous story.

In life, we never know the exact ride through life that someone else goes through. Even when we are extremely close to certain people, we never know every thought they may have, every experience they’ve gone through, emotion they’ve felt, and so on.

But somewhere, we have this standard in our minds that we are what “normal” is. Or even, that we are what everyone else should live up to. Or better yet, that others must fit inside of some mold of a person that we have created in our minds.

I don’t know where we got this idea from, but it’s scary how natural it is for us to think in this way.

We mentally drive into new gas stations and get upset and angry with the morons who don’t pull through to the next space. We see people around that we may not be familiar with, yet we are so quick to judge them based on their looks, what they’re known for, or for any other reason that we find to be acceptable in our eyes. We don’t take the time to see life through their eyes.

We don’t even take a breath to think about if someone was in the space in front of them!

If you’re reading this right now, you’re at a point in your life where you know without a doubt that the interactions you’ve had with other people has shaped you in one way or another. We’ve been hurt, cheated, bashed, and completely shattered by the words or actions of others. As a result, we’re left hurt and vulnerable. Yet we still look at other people on a daily basis and don’t give others the time to share their story with us.

We look at the space in front of them and get angry with them for not “pulling through,” when in reality, we should care enough to give them a chance to share their side of the story.

We should look at the space in front of them and know that chances are, something or someone kept them from moving forward. We should care enough about someone other than ourselves that we genuinely seek out real relationships with people who aren’t like us, so we can learn about what life is like for people who face different struggles and circumstances.

There’s more I could write on this, but I’m going to stop for now. Before I write more, I need to start applying this more in my own life.

Much love.

Heartbreak and Hope

Ever since I was a little boy, my biggest dream has been to meet my future wife, fall in love, get married young, and have a family of our own.  I’ve never wanted to date around for “fun” or anything like that. I’ve literally just always wanted the girl that God has planned for me to marry, and no others. Any other dreams I’ve ever had are either no longer intact, or have changed quite drastically as I’ve gotten older. But my desire to get married remains, and it only strengthens as I grow older and more knowledgeable of the beautiful picture it paints of our relationship with God!

With that said, I have completely failed my future wife. I mean I have REALLY failed her.

One of the things about dreams and many other areas of importance that we have in our lives, is that they can easily become idols. Yes, idolatry expands much further outside of worshipping little statues. Tim Keller defines an idol as this: “It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give… An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, ‘If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.'”

Contrary to popular belief, idols can be awesome things that God has given us like a spouse, children, relationships, good jobs, etc. When we give something or someone else the time and praise that God deserves and craves from us, His children, we have made that person or thing an idol.

For me, I learned a couple of years ago that I had made my desire for marriage a major idol in my life. If you know me personally, or follow me on any social media account, it’s pretty obvious that I’m a father of a beautiful little girl. You may also notice that I’m 21 years old and I’ve never been married. So if you still haven’t made the realization, I’ll say the words for you: I had sex outside of marriage, therefore resulting in a child.

I was so focused on chasing the dream of marriage, that at the time, I believed I was already with the girl I was supposed to marry. I let my idolatry of marriage, blind the eyes of my heart. I used this false belief as an excuse to give into sexual temptation.

The past two years have been the absolutely most heart wrenching years of my life. Without going into a myriad of details, I spent this time doing everything I could to be a part of my daughter’s life. I cannot tell you how terrifying it is to wonder every single day, if you’ll even be allowed to be a daddy to your own baby girl. Thankfully, after a custody battle, I’m able to spend much more time with my daughter and I am grateful for every second I have with her!

The love I have for my daughter is something that my explanations cannot do justice to. I literally do anything and everything I can to love and protect her with all that I am. Even as shattered as my heart found itself over the last couple of years, having a sweet relationship with my daughter has made every tear and ounce of pain worth it.

Along with having an awesome relationship with my daughter now, there has been another HUGE positive to bring away from two years of heartbreak. God pulled me out of sexual sin and idolatry, and reconciled me to Himself.

Today, premarital sex is celebrated more than most things. Things are so backwards. Guys are praised for sleeping with and “doing stuff” with as many girls as they can. This picture of what sex is supposed to be is so jacked up and backwards.

So what does all of this have to do with me?

I tell you about this struggle, because I don’t think you understand where I came from. In fact, I know you don’t.

I could never thank God enough for the parents and role models He placed in my life. My parents have been integral in my faith from the beginning. They have raised me to love Christ and I often don’t express my thankfulness for them enough. I grew up in a solid church, and I honestly believe I was in a setting that most people unfortunately never get to experience.

I grew up with parents who cared so much about me and constantly pointed me to Christ. I grew up in a solid church and I knew what it meant to accept Christ, at a young age. I became a true believer before I was in middle school. I was the guy who everyone knew was a Christian. I didn’t go to parties, I didn’t do drugs, and I didn’t have sex.

In high school, I was so proud of the fact that I was a virgin! While most guys were parading around talking about this girl and that, that they had slept with, I was hanging onto the fact that I knew without a doubt that I planned to remain pure for my wife. I literally remember one time when as a 9th grade boy, I was talking to a girl who was an upperclassmen that I had been seeing. One day she straight up told me that she wouldn’t officially be my girlfriend unless I had sex with her. Seriously. I’m so incredibly thankful that my immediate response was to get away from her as quickly as possible.

At this point in my life, I remember that I wouldn’t even date a girl who had already sex before. I figured, that since I had saved myself, I only wanted to be with someone else who had done the same. In fact, I’m pretty sure there’s still a note on Facebook that I wrote about relationships when I was in ninth grade. It’s just more proof to the fact that I felt so safe in my decision to remain pure until marriage. I wanted that for my wife. I wanted that more than anything.

I don’t tell you that story and those details of my life to boost an image of me in your mind. I do want you to see that I honestly had a “good” head on my shoulders and I had held fast to what I had been taught by my parents and the church.

If someone who was brought up in the church understanding the gospel of Christ, and honestly lived life like they thought they were supposed to could slip up, couldn’t you?  Haven’t you?

We get so caught up in life and certain circumstances that we completely miss the big picture. We completely screw up. Royally.

All this time I had planned to do things well for my wife. While that sounds great, and it is in a way, do you see what’s wrong here? While it’s wonderful that I wanted to save all of myself for my wife, I was only focused on her. I primarily saved myself for her, and not out of honor or love for God. Idolatry rears her head once more. Even though I had some pretty good intentions, I screwed up when I thought I had a handle on the sin. I didn’t think I would ever have sex outside of marriage. I pushed that thought so far from myself, that it eventually snuck up on me and devoured me whole.

I’m going to be honest with you about some things I still struggle with.

When I first found out I was going to be a dad, my mind and heart were flooded with many emotions. One of the things I was terrified of was how people were going to view me. Until this point, I really didn’t think I lived for the approval of others. Once all of those thoughts hit me, I realized that too had snuck up on me. One of my favorite quotes to this day comes from Lecrae: “If you live for their acceptance, you’ll die from their rejection.” I often remind myself of this, even to this day.

I was terrified of what would happen in the influence I would have on others. At this point in my life, I had so many people who looked up to me. In working with so many kids at the YMCA, to all of the kids who looked up to me as a basketball player, to all of the kids at church who looked up to me, to my own nephews, I was sure my image as a role model was ruined.

In that same way, I’ve been so worried about this whole “wife” thing. I’ve really been afraid of how girls who truly love and serve Christ, view a guy who already has a child. I always question myself as to if I will ever find a God-honoring woman, who is willing to look beyond the fact that I gave up my purity. I remember when I hadn’t had sex, I honestly wasn’t willing to give grace in that way. This is most definitely a fear that crosses my mind daily.

As I continue to seek out  the woman that God has for me to marry, I still struggle. I struggle with many fears that my sin created. But through it all God has grown me. He has shaped my heart to be more like His. God gives me grace, so I give grace.  I’ve been loved, so I love. I’ve been forgiven, so I forgive.

As I look to fears I mentioned previously, I’m learning to trust God with them. As much as I desire to marry a Godly woman, I’m learning to trust that God will fill her heart with grace for me. She will see that God has made me pure once more, and that He’s even helped me to be a better husband and father through my experience with my struggles and triumphs. As I strive to continue being a role model for my daughter, as well as others who look up to me, I have the opportunity to be vulnerable. I can share from a real place of hurt, with the hopes and prayers of guiding them away from it. I’ve been through the fire, but it didn’t kill me… God used it to refine me.

You better believe I still fall. I still fall hard. I still screw up. But praise be to God that even with all of the ugliness that my sin creates, God still loves me. Before I was even born, God knew exactly how I was going to break His heart with my sin. He knew every sinful thought and deed I would commit, yet Christ still sought me out. He still offered up his grace, and He still died an excruciating death for me. He saw a bride who was going to cheat on him, time and time again, yet He still chose to be murdered so that I could be forgiven of it all. Not only did Jesus die, but he rose! Every single ounce of my sin that weighed him down on the cross, he left it in the grave, rose from it and defeated death!

He offers this to us all. We are such a shattered people who don’t even deserve the breath in our lungs. But the perfect and loving God who created us, allows us to be forgiven of all of our wrongs. His love pierces our sin and destroys it. I’m literally left speechless when I really think about what God has offered us all.

In conclusion, I pray that this helps you to see that you aren’t the only one who is stumbling through life. I pray you realize that even though we all screw up and fall short, God still offers us a chance to be in relationship with Him. We are a bride who has cheated on her husband over and over again, yet He still loves her and calls her to be back with Himself. We certainly don’t deserve it. But I pray that we understand that, and know that because of God’s one of a kind love for His bride, He is calling us back with His arms open wide.

Ferguson Aftermath

A couple of weeks back I was given the opportunity to speak at Connect Church on the risky topic of “Ferguson,” and how the church should strive to respond when events like these happen. I’ve had people ask me about sharing that same devotion online, so you’ll find it below! This is directly from my “cheat sheet” I used while presenting, but much of the content is directly from other articles I pulled from pastors and leaders. You will also find my response to some of those articles. At the end of my devotion, I also shared a song with my church and it is located at the bottom of this blog post. If you would like to further dialogue on these topics, please contact me through social media and I’d love to chop it up!


Connect Church – Sunday, January 11th 

One of the things that I like to do when I get a chance to speak for devotion, is to touch on topics that aren’t comfortable for us to deal with. So today is no different. While I hit on topics that you probably don’t want to deal with right now, I ask that you at least hear me out and give it a chance.

With that said, there are certain names and events that when heard, immediately invoke memories and emotions that we have built up. We often react to what we have felt or experienced in our past.  If you don’t believe me, then let’s try it:

Ferguson.                             Mike Brown.                             Darren Wilson.

Any emotions, arguments you had about the issue, your stance, personal relationships, and other aspects immediately flood your brain. It’s normal. Our viewpoints are shaped by what we grow up with and experience. I’ll repeat that. Our viewpoints are shaped by what we grow up with and experience. Even so, we are all so quick to argue with someone who disagrees with us in any part of life. This has been extremely evident as of late, when events like “Ferguson” happen.

My point in talking about this today is just so we, as Connect Church and members of the body of Christ, can respond to situations like this in a manner that truly glorifies God and points people to Him, while also allowing them to feel our sincere love for them. I only have a few minutes to hit on this, but if you want to dialogue about it some other time with me, I’d love to and I’ve got TONS of awesome links and articles to get to you, that help unpack everything.

The following is a quote from one of my favorite rappers, Andy Mineo, and I think it’s spot on. He says that “We don’t understand other people because we don’t take the time to listen to them. We don’t listen because we lack the humility to do so.”

So how can we, the body of Christ, be humble and strive to serve others in circumstances like these?

To love someone is to try to understand their pain from their perspective.

J.D. Greear: There is no question that the black and white communities view this situation through different lenses. I would encourage fellow white Americans, particularly those of you in The Summit Church, to try to understand why a situation like this provokes such a reaction in the black community. Before we get to disputing the facts, think about it from the perspective of the black community. Think of Michael Brown as if he was your own son. If my son Adon had lost his life through what turned out to be excessive, unnecessary force in an encounter with the police, I know my heartbreak would be compounded with a nearly uncontrollable yearning for justice. And if I learned that such force had been used solely because of his color, I would be furious. And if, no matter how many times things like this had happened in the past, I felt like the justice system had turned its head and didn’t acknowledge the wrong, I would feel nigh unto rage. Would any parent feel differently?

At the same time, Darren Wilson is also a man made in the image of God, and could be any one of the many policemen in our congregation who daily put themselves in harm’s way for my family’s safety. And so, I ask myself, “What if Darren Wilson was, in fact, not racially motivated in his response, and his teenage son sat before me wanting to know why everyone was calling him a murderer for doing what he needed to do to protect his life.” I would want to see justice preserved for him and his family as well, with all the rights and privileges granted by the due processes of the law. I would not want to see him slandered, either outright or by implication. If he is guilty, I would want to see him prosecuted. If he is not, I would want to see him protected. Would not any of us want the same for our fathers?

This event (Ferguson) exposes the superficiality of “racial harmony” in our culture and shows that we need a more powerful solution. So what should we do?

ACKNOWLEDGE: that people are hurting, that our country is broken, that our judicial system has often disproportionately failed African Americans, and that racism is still pervasive in our society. Have you simply asked the black families that you know, how are they dealing with these events?

LISTEN: patiently, intently, seeking to understand (not to offer an explanation or counter-argument). Have you considered the value of being a listener to gain new perspective?

REFRAIN: from rushing to judgment and from making premature, ignorant comments. As Pastor J.D. reminds us, the Bible commands us to be “swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.” That principle undergirds our justice system, and it’s our greatest earthly hope in cases like these. It is important that we don’t place ourselves in the place of judge and jury, relying on every detail of this case in order to draw our own verdicts. The details of the case often blind us or paralyze our function as salt and light in our community. We must refrain from the discord of divisiveness that paints this as “us vs. them” matter; and rather, see this through the lens of the gospel as a by-product of living in a fallen world. While we should continue to fight to ensure that our judicial system is indeed just, we must remember that we have a Father that will judge every crime perfectly. There will always be things that we must leave to the wrath of God.  This is why we can bless those that persecute us.  This is why we will not let anger possess us and drive (or deter) our mission.

PRAY: for the grieving family, the accused officer, for the hurt, for the angry, for the oppressed, for our country and it’s brokenness, for our judicial system, for justice to prevail, and for healing for our country. Have you offered up a gospel-centered prayer (for everyone impacted by the Ferguson tragedy)?

As a predominantly white church, I really feel that racial issues like these need to be acknowledged and worked through. It’s easier to sweep it under the rug, but that doesn’t glorify God. We need to make an intentional effort to learn more about our brothers and sisters who aren’t white. I hope there’s a day where we come into Connect Church and it’s not just a bunch of white people. The body of Christ needs to be diverse and intertwined! Our community also needs that!

I want to end my time this morning with the following statement and lyric video from one of my other favorite rappers, Derek Minor. He says:

“The only way our nation will heal is if people begin to empathize with one another. We don’t have to agree, but we can hear each other out. We don’t have to understand each other’s hurt, but we can be there to console one another. The Bible tells us to encourage and build one another up. Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet He did not sin.”

He felt our pain.

Jesus saw people who were rioters, self-righteous, and of all different backgrounds. He could have easily said, “They need to get what they deserve.” but instead He died the death ALL of us should have died.

I propose that we die to our pride. Let’s die to our desire to win arguments and seek to heal one another. Let’s empathize with one another. Let’s build REAL relationships with people that don’t look like us.

Let’s not be strangers anymore.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUS6IKi0njM

 

Soapy Water

There is nothing in the world that comes close to being a father. If you aren’t a parent yet, there’s no way you can understand the love a father has for their child. Your own parents and others may tell you how incredible the love is, but until you have your own child, you just cannot fully understand that type of love.

The past two years of my life have been without a doubt, the most painful, challenging, and important of my life. Through it all, I am extremely grateful to be able to say that I am a daddy to the sweetest little 16 month old girl. I do anything and everything in my power to protect her and show her just how much I love her.

Ever since I became a father, crying or at least tearing up, has become a fairly frequent occurrence. For all of the other dads out there, especially those of little girls, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Literally anything that remotely reminds me of my little girl can break me down in a heartbeat. It absolutely rips my heart to shreds to think about the reality of the broken world we live in. It wrecks me to think about all of the sin that is sure to break my baby girl’s heart, as she grows up and experiences life. While I could speak on this for hours and hours on end, I’ll choose not to and instead share a quick bath time story with you.

I was giving Ava a bath tonight and just like every time I give her a bath, we turn up. She’s cracking up at me blowing bubbles at her, we’re splashing each other, and altogether just having a fun, sweet time. It comes time for me to halt play for a few minutes, just so I can actually wash her and get her cleaned up. So I begin to spread the soap through her hair and when it comes time for me to rinse the soap out of her hair, the game changes.

I did everything I possibly could to get Ava to put her chin up in the air so the water and soap wouldn’t get in her eyes. I’m sure every parent has felt this same struggle before, at some point in their child’s life. Ava just wouldn’t have it. She still wanted to play, not knowing that if that soapy water got in her eyes, it wouldn’t be comfortable. Even if it was tear-free Johnson’s baby shampoo, it still wouldn’t feel good.

Ava continued to dance around and dodge every single swoop I made with the water cup. I finally felt like I had a chance to rinse the soap out of her hair without getting it in her eyes, so I went for it. Once I started pouring the water, home-girl decided to tilt her head forward, and just about every drop of the soapy water in her hair was running down her face, getting into her eyes. Once again, major shout-out to Johnson’s baby shampoo for being tear-free and not stinging my little girl’s eyes. Even though there was no immediate pain in her eyes, Ava threw her hands up to her eyes and began scrubbing at them trying to get the water out. In trying to clean up the mess, she took her already wet hands and only made it worse.

As silly as it sounds, just knowing that my little girl is feeling any type of discomfort kills me. I grabbed a washrag and blotted Ava’s face, removing as much water from her face and eyes as I could. She quit digging at her eyes, gave me a little grin, and then went back to playing. The cycle repeated itself and she continued to get water in her eyes, and of course, I continued to dry her eyes for her.

In that moment, it hit me that this scenario is a lot like the interactions between believers and God. We want to have fun in life and do things our way, and for some reason, we’re convinced that if we follow what God says, that we will be robbed of joy. So instead of listening and following what God lays out for us to do, we play in the water and throw our head every which way when he tries to get the soap (sin) out of our hair (lives). We wrestle so much with a Father who has our absolute best interest in mind. We enjoy our relationship with Him in the fun and easy times, but when He wants to help shape our hearts and clean us up, we often fight back because we just aren’t ready yet.

In reality, God wants the fullest and most joyous lives for His children. This doesn’t mean that we won’t have a difficult life, because the Bible makes it clear that for those who follow Christ, life will be tough. Even through the extreme difficulties we as believers are guaranteed to face in this life, we can find complete joy in Christ.

Now don’t get it twisted. The reason God doesn’t want us to take part in sin, is not because He wants us to miss all the “fun” that everyone else gets to enjoy. That couldn’t be further from the truth! God has given us His word and laws, to protect us and give us the most joy. He knows that the sin that seems so fun, is toxic. It satisfies us in the moment, robs our souls, and leaves us feeling drained and lonely.

God is love. There is no love that is greater than God’s love for His children. He is the ultimate Daddy! He wants to see His children live a life that glorifies Him in the fullest and enjoys his blessings in the correct context. I pray that we would all intentionally make an effort day in and day out, to remember the love He has for us.

As believers, we will continuously fall short. We will be the cause of our own pain more often than not. But we can place all of our hope in the finished work of Christ on the cross, and know that just as Paul writes in Philippians 1, that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Let’s praise Him for that!

The Invisible Mission Field

Why is it that when a group of people decide to take part in a mission trip, they go to a different part of the state, country, or world?

It’s no secret that when we read Matthew 28:19 [Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit] places like Africa, Haiti, the Philippines, India, and China suddenly pop into our minds. After all, Jesus did say to make disciples of “all nations.” However, I think all too many of us are missing out on such a huge component of what Christ is calling us to.

While I find such encouragement upon hearing of people going to serve and share the gospel overseas, I want to bring attention to the mission field that we wake up in, every single day.

Now, hear me out: If you are truly called to serve and spread the message of Christ overseas or in another part of the country, don’t hesitate. Go to where God is calling you to serve, obey, and give it everything you’ve got. Please do not think this post is meant to discourage you from following God’s calling to serve in the venue He’s calling you to.

With that said, whether or not God is calling you to serve elsewhere, we ALL continue to have a mission field at our fingertips that remains fairly unreached. Yes, I’m speaking about the community we actually live in. The people we are around on a daily basis, the people we come into contact with on our campus or our workplace, the people who live across the street, all make up the mission field we’re called to make disciples in.

Once again, I think it is AWESOME and CRUCIAL to love and serve people no matter where we are. However, from my own experiences, I’ve personally felt like going elsewhere to do so is somewhat of a cop-out. It’s always been easier for me to step out and share the love and message of Christ with people who I’m not around on a daily basis. To me, it was easier to live unashamed of the perfect Savior I follow when I was around people who didn’t know much about me or the sins I struggled with. It was easier to really give my time and talents to others during a weeklong trip because I only had to “get my hands dirty” for a week. I had the mindset that I needed to appear like I had my life fully squared away in order to help someone else. It was easier to put up a front like that when I was outside of my hometown.

Coming home from such trips, I remember being on that “spiritual high” and having  honest intentions to change my hometown. But reality would always hit… I would no longer constantly be with a group of other believers. Instead, I would be back in the classroom with many of my peers who don’t have a relationship with Christ. I would no longer be singing praise and worship every night alongside brothers and sisters in the faith. I would no longer be meeting with other believers daily to go through scripture together.

In all honesty, with all of the responsibilities that we have on a daily basis between work, school, kids, and everything else going on, it’s nearly impossible to meet every single day with other believers like we would at a church camp or mission trip. The spiritual high dwindles after a week or two, and we’re thrown back into our “normal” lives. With that said, our busy schedules are no excuse for us as believers to not be on constant mission.

So what is the point of this post? Am I trying to nitpick and just write for the sake of creating another post? Not a chance.

I want to bring awareness to the broken world that surrounds us. The door that we step out of when we’re heading to work or school in the morning, is our entrance to the mission field. For many Christians, our mission field may even lie within the confines of our homes as we may have family members who do not have a relationship with Christ.

In contrary to what I used to believe, there is no reason for us to only help people who do not know our struggles. In fact, I believe God is most glorified when we can point other people to the brokenness in our lives, while also pointing to the perfection in Christ that we take part in due to Christ’s sacrifice and the grace of God.

As Christians, we will always be crooked sticks God uses to make straight lines. We’re going to screw up. We’re going to struggle. We’re all jacked up. Instead of putting on a front that says “I’m better than you,” we should be vocal in showing others just how jacked up we are, while pointing them to the only perfection we can claim: the perfection of Christ.

While it may cause us to be uncomfortable and vulnerable, there are people in our current community who need to know that they aren’t the only people struggling through life. They need our honesty, sincerity, and they need to know their Creator loves them and has grace for them to move forward. If we feel discomfort after really digging into the trenches of our community and genuinely doing life with the people in it, praise God! Our temporary discomfort is absolutely worth another person finding eternal joy!

Let this post be a reminder to us all that we’re called to fulfill the Great Commission no matter where we are: To those across the world and across the street.