Well, we are now officially in the full swing of the new year! I hope all of your resolutions have stuck around, but more importantly, I hope you have set some great goals for this new year. It seems like there are always people who decide to get all “bah-humbug” about setting goals during the new year, but the truth is, the new year can be a great reset for all of us. Sure, we can set goals in June and not only January, but the new year truly highlights an opportunity to reflect. That’s why this year, my wife and I chose to focus on the word, dreamer, to always make sure we are dreaming bigger and dreaming about what God has. Our goals are to be active dreamers, not just head in the clouds, but doing something to accomplish these dreams. I have had to shift my mindset, and say, “God, you’ve got the plan, just lead me there.” I’m normally the planner, the past four-ish years, I had in my mind exactly what I was going to do. My job was going to head into full-time, Danielle and I would start working together and have enough experience to plant a church in a few years. I had it all worked out, but then God said, not here you won’t. In that moment I struggled, I’m not perfect, I grieved my job loss and my plans, but in the end, God was teaching me how to let it go and listen to his voice over my own.
What a wild season it has been so far. I’ve started doing these journey updates, a kind of informal blog about what has been happening in my life with a mixture of what God has been speaking during my changing seasons. My current season has been wild. I got engaged, and that has been just a powerful blessing. We are not only engaged, but we wanted a quick engagement, and we are getting married in September! We are so excited, and things are coming together. Sometimes it can be hard to enjoy this season fully because we are so busy. Not so much with wedding planning, but with life. Life has a way of going all wild and crazy, it becomes difficult to keep my head above it all. This season has been filled with a lot of stressors. Many things keep flying at me and it’s hard to block all of it. I feel like Batman running through a gauntlet of rogues, just trying to make it through to be the hero a city desperately needs. Stress has become a norm in my life, and I’m not a huge fan of that. Sure, one could say that it “builds character” or “just hold on,” but it doesn’t lessen the frustration. I’ve been struggling with it a lot, but this season has also taught me to have trust. A deep, meaningful trust in my savior.
It’s pretty difficult to be authentic these days. Notice how I’m saying that it’s hard for each of us, not just putting that on the people around us. We are in a time where everything looks wonderful on social media. The celebrities we follow, the friends in our lives, and the churches we go to; all are in danger of authenticity. An image of perfection and we try are hardest to measure up. This isn’t me dogging on celebrities who do cool things, or your friends who love taking hipster pics, or your church with a solid branding strategy; I’m simply pointing out the thing that we as Christ followers need to make sure we don’t lose. The point of the Christian walk is that we have been saved by a loving God, so that we can have an authentic relationship with him, an authentic faith. We can’t let our relationship with Jesus become a Sunday morning walk, it has to be an authentic daily journey with Christ.
In May of 2014, I started this blog. I recently looked back at my first official post talking about what this blog was going to be all about. It’s pretty simple, lots of spelling and grammatical errors, but it was the start of something I would continue to do every week. From that point, a lot of crazy life events happened. Sometimes I wish I could go back and let that kid know about the battles that would be fought and the heartache that would come. I love being able to look back at the past. I never want to linger too much, but it always amazes me at how God has continued to move in my life in all things. I wrote a post in 2015, right at the start of the roller coaster God was going to bring me on. I had faced bullies, church hurt, and feeling un-wanted; but I could not have seen the next chapter in my life. In that same year I would lose two friends, have a family member suffer from addiction, and feel an overwhelming sense of fear about my next steps in life. I started that crazy season with a post about a verse that stuck out to me. I look back not and see just how God moved in the midst of all things.
Some of my favorite descriptions of words, phrases, and grammar come from Lemony Snicket. I gushed about his books a couple weeks ago, so check it out if you haven’t. One of the descriptions he talks of is the saying, “in the belly of the beast.” It speaks of a figurative feeling one gets when in the middle of an unfortunate circumstance, but in scripture, there is a literal event where one particular individual is in, “the belly of the beast.” Jonah was a man who God called for a great mission, but he trusted his own power and not God’s. Because of this, he believed he could not accomplish it, so he ran. Isn’t that a perfect picture of what we do in our own lives? I’m a victim of it, we have a situation we think we can’t overcome, so we run, we retreat from the promise on the other side of facing great peril. The truth is, we rely too much on our own strength when we should be trusting God. We have a God who created the universe and loves us. You’re right thinking you can’t get through it, but God can. No matter what you’re facing, God can. The calling that looks too big? God can. The mountain in your life? God can. When it feels like the world is against you and there is no hope? God can. We can learn much from Jonah, we can learn how to act in the belly of the beast.
“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.
This past month God has been continually teaching me to trust him. Starting a new job, trying to evaluate my purpose in the future, and making sure I’m just generally on the right track is becoming a beast in my life. During the 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting at my church God keeps telling me to look at him and trust in his great love. Over and over again, everything I read in my bible points back to the love God has. None of us are perfect and we make terrible mistakes, but God still chose to save us. God sent his son for you and me, paying the price so that we could have a chance. That’s a crazy kind of love, and that kind of love shows me that I can trust God. No matter how much I can’t see or how much I don’t know, God simply calls me his son, and he wants me to have childlike faith. We all need to press into a childlike faith.
For many of us, this current season has been one of change and filled with new things. The end of that holiday season brings back the reality of life. We have to jump back in the swing of things with work, school, relationships, and everything that comes with real life; these moments can seem like a growing beast that you have to get a handle on. For my life right now, big things are happening. Good things, nothing terrible, just big. I’m working part time at my church and stepping into more responsibility as well as being part time in an after school program. I love it. I feel like I’m hitting my stride, but with any exciting and new thing, the enemy can sneak in and try to lessen it. It happens so fast, and often in seasons that are busy, the enemy will try to sneak in. Maybe you’re in a busy season, or stepping into something new, in these moments you have to remember to keep moving. We have to keep fighting for what God has claimed over your life, we need to have faith in motion.
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.