“I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give you a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:6-7
I’ve recently started enjoying making fires. Let me explain that when I say this, I’m meaning fires in fireplaces, I have always respected Mr. Smokey Bear. Being able to create a fire in a fireplace, starting small and then building up into a fire that can warm a space is calming for me. What I’ve been able to see is that there is a key element in burning, you can’t suffocate the fire and you need to fan the flames. Fanning the flames allows for oxygen to enter into the mix, and fire can only burn if oxygen is present. I have been reading through Paul’s letters and I have begun to love the way Paul encourages Timothy. Timothy is a part of the next generation of leaders and Paul is pouring into his life, encouraging him to remain faithful even when life seems tough.
“Now we see only a dim likeness of things. It is as if we were seeing them in a foggy mirror. But someday we will see clearly. We will see face to face. What I know now is not complete. But someday I will know completely, just as God knows me completely.”
1 Corinthians 13:12
Two things keep sticking in my mind over the past year; reflection and growth. The start of the year, dear Danielle and I chose the word, “lover,” to be the word we would focus on and attribute to our mindset. Little did we know that this would be tested as everything changed in a crazy way. I am so thankful that we chose this mindset, because this year dealt with a lot, and there was a lack of love all around. I was ready for a year of busyness and wanted to focus on how to love better, but what happened was a year of resetting rhythms. I am thankful for that reset, I’m thankful for the time or reflection over the past and a growth towards what may be next.
“But here is how God has shown his love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
-Romans 5:8 (NIRV)
Three years ago, I wrote a post called, “Made Worthy.” It was during a time that God started putting the idea over my heart that we are all made by him, and that meant we were worthy of love. That was during a season where I felt clarity, and to be honest, I can’t remember what specific time I was referring to. The thing that makes me laugh about that, is that I was certain I had a plan, but the reality was, my clarity was coming from understanding my worth. This has been a battle I face on a daily basis; my worth has been a stronghold that Satan has set up in my mind. Yeah, that sounds like a plot to some medieval story, and it sort of is. I have battled this idea that I am not worthy of love or the time of others. I know this isn’t true, yet at the same time, I let this fear creep in a control my actions. It normally manifests in a need for the approval of others, and it used to be so hard to not switch up my personality.
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.