I was thinking back to about a year ago when I was listening to Reggie Joiner speak at Orange Conference. He made a statement that stuck with me, and popped into my head the other day. He said this, “On his way to save everyone, Jesus stopped to save someone.” I love that. In the context of what he was talking about was the story of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a man that no one liked, and he wasn’t really likable. Despite what he had done, he wanted to listen to the teachings of Jesus, and Jesus called him to be greater. God sent his son to save everyone and he started by saving someone.
I’ve been talking about love a lot recently. Most of my posts have centered around the idea of how to love others and how to love ourselves the way Jesus loves. The idea for me was sparked during a conference I went to over the spring of last year, the Orange Conference, its’ main theme being “it’s personal.” One of the speakers was Bob Goff, and of course, if you know anything about him, he’s all about loving people. This spark made me look at the way I live. How do I love others like Jesus? What does that look like? What steps can I take towards loving in his radical ways? The answer seems to be right in front of me, in front of all of us. We want to be better people. We want to make positive changes and influence in the lives of the people we come across. So, what do we do?
We do what Jesus did, we call out the greatness in others.
I love jumping into the pool. There are different kinds of people, those who gradually ease their way in, those who test the water before deciding to go in or not, and then there’s me, diving in like a hooligan. My thought process is, if it’s cold, might as well get used to it quick and have fun while doing it than nothing. I hate long buildups. Danielle and I recently went on a roller coaster, it spun you all around, was really tall, and very very fast. My dearest Danielle loves adrenaline, and I enjoy roller coasters, the thing is, the waiting kills me. The lines always crawl and, in my head, I build it up to be worse than I know it is. What if I die? No one has ever died before, but what if I’m the sucker who kicks the bucket this time? What if my glasses fly off? I know physics literally says that they will stay on my head because of the force, but what if I defy physics? I have the best time when I just jump into it, and not allow room to worry.
My favorite quote from the great theologian and philosopher, Lemony Snicket, is, “Do the scary thing first, and get scared later.”
I think we need to live like this in all things, especially as we step into our calling.
This past week, dear Danielle and I drove down to Atlanta, Georgia. For Christmas, we had been gifted tickets by my parents. The Orange Conference is an incredible event. Over eight thousand people were in attendance, all with the heartbeat for reaching the next generation. There is something so refreshing being around people that think the same way as you, knowing that the future belongs to the youth and that we have a call to raise them up to be leaders. The speakers were incredible, hearing from those in ministry, secular world, and from a vast array of professions; all pouring out powerful information. There was a ton of information, all great, but a lot of it. Everything we learned and heard boiled down to one central idea.
One of my favorite classes I took in college was an art appreciation course. When completing your degree, you have to take a certain number of fine arts courses at UNCG, so I took this class and ended up loving it. There was a bit of history, but the main focus of the class was seeing what makes art, art. That’s a super overarching topic, and one that I won’t focus on today. What I want to talk about is a piece that I discovered while researching a project. Modern artist, Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen took mirror shards and covered a series of mannequins with the pieces. Then, she shone light on the mannequins, creating a light affect similar to a disco ball. I just remember thinking how cool that was, and recently, remembered this again and feeling the Holy Spirit nudge me. My life has been wild the past few months, with incredible moments but with it the fear of the unknown creeping in. In conversations with friends of mine, this feeling is not something I share alone. I think even you may be walking through some very real unknowns, feeling like you aren’t sure what’s next. These fears are tools from the enemy that then cause us to doubt ourselves. We begin to feel like failures, worry about past mistakes, and compare ourselves to those who seem perfect around us. We end up feeling broken. Shattered people who feel like they can’t be anything in a sea of people. The Holy Spirit nudges me sometimes in my moments where I feel week, reminding me of promises and truth in scripture. The thing he reminded me of right now, was of those sculptures, a broken masterpiece.
I saw a really cool shirt at Target. My wife and I love to walk around Target, it’s a pretty simple date night (You just have to make a pact not to buy anything before walking in), and now that we have a nephew, we like to check out the kids’ section. Kids today have awesome style options to choose from, but in the girl area there was a shirt that simply said, “Kindness is cool.” What an awesome shirt! It’s kinda crazy to see shirts like that when we live in a culture in America that isn’t very kind. We get angry, often at things that aren’t that big of a deal, and we turn on each other. Normal people who go completely crazy, kind of like the stories that will inevitably come out of this coming Black Friday, or from being a secret werewolf. Okay, yes, that last comment makes no sense, but if you’ve ever played the card game, “One Night Werewolf,” you know just how not kind people can become. The game is played in complicated rules, but it boils down to two werewolves have to convince everyone else they aren’t and get some poor innocent players killed. I love this game, because immediately everyone tries to prove they aren’t the bad guy and throw everyone else under the bus. I highly recommend it for your next game night. What I’m trying to say in all of this, is we have gone far away from being kind, because we are all trying to appear better, and that often means putting someone else down to do it. We gotta change that; it’s what Jesus called us to.
It’s that time of year again! Spooky season, which means it’s one of my favorite times on my blog. I love looking at old b-horror movies because God uses them to teach me things about life and fear. You see, people give this season too much power than it needs when it comes to Halloween, I like to take that power away and help you learn what scripture says about fear and spiritual warfare. One of my favorite tropes in old horror movies is the moment where our protagonist isn’t sure how they are going to handle this threat. Zombies, vampires, ghouls, goblins, and creatures of the night; the odds can be very stacked against our hero. Sometimes in life we can be in the same spot. Satan keeps attacking, keeps throwing fears your way. “you aren’t good enough.” “You’ll never make it.” “Just give up” You’ll never be remembered.” Real fears that creep in. The truth is, these can really weigh us down, and if we aren’t careful, the bloodsucking fiends will win, but we have a God who gives us a chance; and that chance is all we need.
After the past month, God has really been moving. Much has happened. It was a season of prayer and fasting at my church, wedding planning is continually underway, my jobs were busy and productive; a lot happened. In seasons of busyness, it can be easy for me to lose track of what’s important. I tend to focus on getting the details accomplished only to miss the things God has for me in the midst of the tasks. With the season of fasting, I cut out any non-worship music, and that helped me in more ways than make sense. I always listen to music. It helps me focus and I love new creative endeavors that artists take, but sometimes, it can become a distraction. Many times, I don’t enjoy the quiet moments, but over the fast, I realized that we have to quiet the noise around us, in order to let God, have a chance to speak.
I want to share something that has made a huge impact on my life today. This has been something that empowers me and gives me a strong community. Today I want to talk about small groups. Often times we can feel disconnected or alone, and this is a dangerous place to be. Satan loves to prey on the lonely people. I know this because for a long time, I felt lonely. In middle and high school, I didn’t fit in and hadn’t found my tribe. Spiritual attack was more difficult and temptation grew stronger. Then I entered into a small group, a group of brothers my age that loved me and held me accountable for what I was choosing to do. I entered into a circle. See for a long time, the church has just been about rows; listen to the pastor and try to remember what he said two weeks from the message that spoke to your heart. We’re human, we don’t always remember messages, but when we enter a circle, we enter a dialogue. We become an active participant to God’s greater plan for our lives.
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.