This past year has been one of the busiest and chaotic years to date. As you might know, my monthly posting schedule has been completely thrown out during December. Working a theme park is fun, but working during the holidays and as a new ride opens, it started to become more like hell for a few weeks. Kind of a fitting way to end a chaotic year with a bit more chaos on top. I’ve learned to adapt very quick over this year. It began with me not having my main youth pastor job, and my dearest Danielle and I searching for what was next. With an open door and a need to push ourselves out of our comfort zone, we made the move down to Orlando for Danielle’s Disney College Program. While job searching, I found myself processing a lot of hurts, my pastoring position wasn’t just a job; I had invested in the lives of a ton of students, so when I was let go, I didn’t really know what to do.
I didn’t belong, and I felt like I was letting those students down or abandoning them.
It felt like my purpose was pulled away, I had gotten wrapped up in a place and lost sight that no matter where God had me, I had purpose.
I wanted to write about rejection. Last week I wrote about how we don’t have to have it all figured out, and this week is the part two that goes along with that idea. Not a direct sequel, but still related. Think of last week being Alien and this week being Aliens, both related but you don’t need to see both to understand. Okay, weird tangent; I wanted to write about rejection. You see, there have been a lot of no’s in my life. I use the word wanted, because I wasn’t in a good mental state thinking about it. I had just gotten another rejection from another job. My story has had many times of rejection. From high school being rejected by teachers who thought I was dumb. There was a day in my senior year where I received three letters from three different colleges telling me I didn’t get in. I remember being alone in my room and screaming at the top of my lungs, why? In college, I had an internship where I wasn’t able to do what I thought was best. At my church job, I wasn’t given a chance compared to others. I have been rejected, but the truth is, I cannot live in the belief that I am rejected.
I wanted to write about rejection, but then my wife reminded me of what I truly am.
October is my favorite. It’s a season for jackets, pumpkins, and spooky movies. Some people have negatively questioned my love of spooky things, but these spooky things have helped me cope with a lot of fear I had as a kid. We often give fear too much power, and Christians are especially guilty of this. In an attempt to turn away from sin, we decided to fear the “other,” choosing to stick to ourselves in our comfort zones; we have begun to fear the people that need to hear our message the most. We see people that are different, and we fear them, we fear that their influence will be “bad” for us, so we just avoid them all together. This is a mindset we have to fight because we are called to “fear not.” Joshua in the bible faced bigger things than many of us will, and God told him over and over to have no fear, to trust God and he would give him victory over his fear. This month is coming to an end, and I have been talking about how the enemy uses fear to try and bring us down. I like to fight back fear, because to fight means that we are active, and we must actively combat fear.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
During this season of prayer and fasting, our church holds a morning prayer time throughout the week. One morning as we began worship, I saw a man take his seat. The thing I noticed about the man, was that he was shadow boxing as he got to his seat. It’s a small thing, something that can be easily disregarded, but that picture stuck with me. So, I prayed into that picture, asked God what he was trying to say to me. Then it clicked. Prayer is often looked at like a small part of our walk with Christ, that it’s an asking of God to get the things we want. This is so wrong, prayer is not small, prayer is not to be overlooked, prayer is communication with the creator of the universe.
“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the sky. Those who lead many others to do what is right will be like the stars for ever and ever.”
We are influenced all the time. I’m not sure the actual data, but we see a ton of advertisements all day. We follow people we look up to on social media. We watch our friends for the latest “in” thing, whether it’s advice on the movie to see this weekend or the latest productivity app. The things we consume all send us messages, positive and negative. The point I’m making is that there are influences all around us, but which ones are taking root? That’s the thing with our sin, it all often comes back to a passing thought we let take root in our heart. This idea has been sticking out to me recently. It’s made me think about my life and caused me to ask two important questions that I think we all need to ask ourselves. Who is influencing me and who am I influencing? Today I want to unpack those two questions and tell you what God has been speaking to me as a way to be wise when I look at those questions.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Anger is my go-to reaction. I struggled with self-control for most of my childhood. It felt like there was always this deep ball of rage inside of me that was ready to explode at the drop of a hat. I relate very much to that of the Marvel hero, The Incredible Hulk, mild mannered Bruce Banner, but as soon as something makes him angry, he turns into a green rage monster. Yeah, that was basically how I felt (and sometimes still feel). Big or little, it didn’t matter what it was, I got angry at people. Now, I wasn’t getting into fist fights with people, mainly just not-so-great words yelled. I would hold these grudges against people, I never wanted to let go, I never wanted to forgive. Maybe it was spite, the thought that they would see my grudge and stop what they had done horribly wrong. I directed this rage at my family which would hurt our relationships, I directed the anger at my bullies in hopes that I could one day get back at them, and I directed bitterness towards anyone else who wanted to get close. What I learned in my un-forgiveness was that I had chained myself and created a prison for myself.
I’ve recently been reading through Hebrews. This is an interesting and powerful book to look at, especially where my life is at currently. There’s a ton of unknowns and struggles that I have to face, it can be hard to trust God in the midst of a storm. In Christian culture, it can feel wrong to question what’s going on in our lives, we have this idea that we can never wrestle with our circumstances. That we can’t cry out to God asking him where he is or why he isn’t acting in this situation. Like it’s some sin to struggle. I’ve heard of some Christians looking down on others because they aren’t having enough faith in this situation. Enough faith? We’re supposed to support one another, not look down because we think we’re better than other believers. Jesus wouldn’t want us to pride ourselves on putting our fellow believers down when they were struggling, he would want us to support and love. Why is this even a thought that we have in the first place though? I’ve been feeling down on myself based on this misconception, am I not a “good” Christian because I ask God why he’s doing what he’s doing? The truth is, this is a lie. Hebrews chapter 11 justifies this because it shows people who lived by faith. They were recorded for their great faith, but every single one of them wrestled with God.
“One person could be overpowered. But two people can stand up for themselves. And a rope made out of three cords isn’t easily broken.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of unity and community. As people, we are intrinsically tied to others. We have a craving for human interaction and seek it out in different avenues. Even for introverts like myself, it’s great to have alone time, but having coffee with a friend is so life giving. We need each other, we crave being connected to others around us, but something is wrong. We begin to fight two struggles, we lack community and unity. We push people away because we’re afraid of them hurting us or us hurting them. We live in a world where people are divided based on perpetrated stereotypes of race. We believe we are better than others or think others are better than us. We are in a fight. We are in a fight for our connection to others, and we fight it because we have an enemy that doesn’t want us to live in freedom.
“When you go to war against your enemies, you might see that they have horses and chariots. They might even have an army stronger than yours. But don’t be afraid of them. The Lord your God will be with you. After all, he brought you up out of Egypt.”
Life can seem overwhelming most of the time. Stress increases the pressure in our schedule, the battles we face each day with addictions and past sin can haunt us, our struggles with our mental health can overwhelm our thoughts, and the doubts that come from our thoughts and words spoken over us create an unrelenting fight. This is the strategy of Satan, to get into our heads, into our minds and make us see a losing battle. Each day we are fighting in a war, one that in our own power, we are hopeless in winning. Our human nature is fallen and our enemy is very real, he wants to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). This lack of hope causes us to become overrun in the trenches, we lie in wait, hoping we can get the upper hand. The truth is, when we step into the truth that our savior is stronger than all things and he saved each of us, only then can we live in victory.
Welcome to the new year! It’s been a week, so hopefully you’ve had a chance to take a step back and think about somethings you want this year to look like. If you read my post last week, you saw that I have a lot of things coming up this year, and I believe you have some big things too. Work might get increasingly busy, relationships might be stressful, our physical health may be struggling, and some of us may experience unforeseen struggles. It’s exciting for the newness of life, but at the same time, these changes can be scary and we will have conflict that will happen in our lives. Sorry for the bummer, but it’s the reality of life. Many people have the idea that following Christ means that all our struggles go away and we’ll never have to face problems, but that isn’t the case. Jesus even tells us that, “in this world we will have trouble.” That’s always the most encouraging thing to hear when it feels like you’re walking through hell. We lose hope during moments in our lives, and this always gives us a choice. In these moments, we can let these struggles consume us, turning away from God or letting our temptations rule us, or we can have faith. Today I want to talk about faith and more importantly, how we can have faith in our creator in the middle of our struggles.