Losing Control

I’m thankful that I have an “essential” job right now. I know there are a lot of people tonight that don’t. Maybe you are in that group. And you sit there wondering what you are going to do. How are you going to pay your bills. How will you answer the questions your kids have.

How do you maintain a sense of calm and collection in the midst of seeming chaos.

How do you keep control.

See, I think most people (myself included in this struggle) grasp onto control. Voluntarily letting go is hard enough. Having it forced from you, whether by a person or circumstance, I think is even harder. And the feelings when it happens, I think are often more intense.

I have friends, and family who have had work hours cut back. Some have been put on rotating schedules, splitting the workload with others so that everyone can still get something. I have friends who have been laid off. There is a sense of lost control. And while these times are difficult and discouraging, I think it’s moments like these that highlight a truth we often want to deny.

We were never in control to begin with.

The harsh reality is that you and I don’t really control anything. It’s an illusion we parade in, finding comfort when things “go our way”. And yes, that truth can make the current situation sting a little more. For many, it means setbacks of dreams and goals. It easily leads to depression, something I and many I know have to constantly battle and be watchful of.

But in the midst of the chaos, in the moments when it feels like the rug is being pulled out from under me, I can still find peace. I don’t have to dwell in the illusion of loosing control, letting fear and despair take hold in my life. Is that easy to come to terms with? No, but it’s possible.

I often think of David in his younger years when I think of fear, depression, a sense of lacking peace. He was no stranger to it. Anointed as a young boy as the future King of Israel, he spent most of his young life being in the crosshairs of King Saul. He was hunted, constantly under threat of death from the king he was to replace on the throne. And not because he wanted to be king; God ordained it.

There were many nights I’m sure David struggled to sleep, always looking over his shoulder for someone to cross him. I can imagine the roller coaster of emotion he experienced and wrestled with when he was in Saul’s court and on the run. I would imagine it was many of the same emotions many of us find churning in ourselves now.

We get a glimpse into David’s heart and mind through many of the Psalms. One he wrote in reflection of being captured by an enemy while fleeing Saul, lamenting the constant pursuit by his enemy’s. And yet he does not fail to properly correct his perspective in the midst of hardship.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 56:3-4

Even in the face of death at the hands of his enemies, David was able to shift his focus to a reality he came to understand well: God is in control.

That didn’t mean he was just a pawn in the world, but a steward of what God entrusted him with. That’s important to understand. The fact that we are really not in control of anything does not mean we don’t have purpose, that we are just chess pieces on a board.

David understood that he was a steward, and that regardless of what his current situation was, he was called to trust God through it all. He was in control, He had a purpose for him, and He was faithful to provide.

For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.

Psalm 56:13

King David had seen time and time again, God provide in the darkest of times. David understood suffering, fear, depression; he knew the familiar feelings that come with chaos. But he never lost sight of this truth, God is in control. It might not always make sense; you might have more questions than answers in the moment.

Maybe that’s where you are right now. Maybe, you feel lost and like you have lost all control surrounding your life. Find encouragement in the truth that it was never yours to begin with, that it rests in the hands of One who is more capable than we ever could be. One who is more faithful than we could ever be.

God is in control.

Maybe you need to take a step like David did. When he was faced with what seemed like the end of his rope, he turned to God. He trusted God to be faithful and provide.

Have you? Will you?

I know it’s not easy. When the bank account just gets lower and lower, and there are still bills to be paid. When your kids start asking questions and you can’t find the answers. When you feel distance between you and your spouse as depression and despair begin to settle in.

Let David’s words be yours. Let your heart rest in the truth of God’s sovereignty in the midst of chaos.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.

Psalm 56:3-4

Uncertain Times

We are living in a time ravaged by fear for many. We are seeing countries around the world being brought to an almost standstill. The future seems uncertain, and everyone has their own thoughts and opinions regarding what has and should be done.

Social media has been flooded with everything from news articles with facts and opinions to memes joking about buying to much toilet paper. For many, the thought persists that what has taken place within our country is no less than an overreaction. But for others, there is real fear. The concern they feel for themselves and their loved ones, it’s just as real and valid as the opposing opinions.

Watching my middle schooler grieve the premature end of the school year hurts. They feel the loss of social interaction with their friends, the seemingly unending solitude of the forced social isolation they must endure.

Those feelings are real.

The elderly in our families and community who understand the elevated risk they face with this illness, while also facing isolation from friends and family. What for many is already a lonely stage of life, has now indefinitely been exacerbated. No more visits from children and grandkids. No more social activities to attend.

It’s in these times, these situations, that often times our fears and concerns can overwhelm us. While we acknowledge the realness of these feelings, it’s critical we fight allowing them to over take us. But as we have seen, and continue too, many already have been overcome. Many feel a sense of hopelessness in these uncertain times.

So how should we respond?

What should the approach of those who are not overwhelmed by fear be?

It’s interesting how even in the midst of a modern crisis, Scripture provides us with timeless guidance. Listen to Paul’s words in Romans 14:13.

“Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”

Romans 14:13

Now Paul wasn’t dealing with a viral outbreak. He wasn’t even dealing with a community ripe with fear over an uncertain future. He was however, dealing with people who had very different outlooks and opinions regarding an issue of great cultural and religious importance.

On one hand where those who believed passionately that eating certain foods was wrong, while others believed there was nothing wrong with it. You could say they even felt the opposing party of view was overreacting. Huh, now that sounds familiar.

Paul’s point in all of it was simple. Your opinion doesn’t really matter. What does matter, is putting the needs of your brother and sister first. Specifically, those struggling, don’t be a hindrance to their growth.

Maybe you don’t think this virus outbreak is a big deal. That’s ok, you have that right to think that way. But what affect does downplaying the fears and concerns of others have? Are you considering the needs of those around you who are feeling and struggling with fear?

I love Paul’s other words in Philippians 4:8-9, I think they are so immensely practical for us right now.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me-practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Philippians 4:8-9

Paul’s focus was on Jesus. No matter what he faced, how hard life got, his eyes did not waver from Jesus in the picture. Remember, this was a guy often writing letters of encouragement to others while imprisoned because of his faith. He did not allow his circumstances to shape and dictate his view on life, or how he treated others.

Despite where he found himself, he encouraged and spoke life into those who were struggling to cope with the issues they faced.

What is your response in these times?

Have you been overran with fear and concern of the unknown future? Are you looking forward in fear, facing uncertainty in finances, work, what you will do with your kids in the midst of this crisis? I encourage you to pray on Paul’s words he wrote to the Philippine church. Break the cycle of living in fear, and put your eyes on Jesus. Trust that He will give you the strength and endurance to persevere through the hardships. Find hope, that He has put people in your path to walk this journey with you.

Do you find yourself less concerned about the crisis we face than others? Is fear of the uncertain future something you find you just don’t struggle with? Count yourself blessed! But don’t allow your peace and confidence be a stumbling block to those who are not at peace or confident. This is not a time to downplay the fears and concerns of others. You may think certain reactions are blown out of proportion, or that people just need to get over their fears. Remember, their feelings are real. The fear and uncertainty they feel is real. What are you doing to build that person up? To lead the way in restoring hope in dark times? Stop passing judgment, and instead focus on spreading hope through words and actions of encouragement.

This is a time for the Church to shine. Christ made it clear, that we are to be the purifying element in a sick world, by and through Him. Be the salt of the earth, speak life into pain, be a beacon of light in dark times.

People Don’t Change…

When we fail to change, we allow decay to set in through destructive behavior and thinking. Jesus offers a solution that brings restoration and bears healthy fruit in our life.

Or do they?

I think for most of us, regardless of what we say, we subconsciously wrestle with this thought. People don’t change. In all honesty it’s really easy to arrive at that conclusion.

Think about it. How often has someone hurt you? Not just once, but over and over again. Maybe even by the exact same action as the time before. It’s easy to conclude that they will always be the way they are, they will never change.

Convincing ourselves of this makes breaking relationship a little easier. It’s easier to break off a relationship of any kind when you can “justify” that the person will always be “that way”.

I’ve been the “victim” and the accuser. I know of a person right now making the same selfish choices they were making 10 years ago, only now it has impacted other lives significantly. I’ve had to combat, even over the last 24 hours, this idea that they will never change. I remember in the midst of my divorce being told I would never change, that the destructive relational habits I had developed would be my practice forever.

People don’t change.

When you stop for a moment and think about it, this mindset really is destructive in itself. The idea that people will always be the way they are, nothing good will ever come of them, it’s depressing. It tears down and fails to identify and understand an eternally important truth.

But God.

To rest in the framework that people can’t change neglects the truth of the gospel, of Jesus’ mission and sacrifice; it disregards the work of the Holy Spirit. When we think, or dare say that someone is incapable of change we completely disregard the work that can be done by and through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.

It’s that serious.

And yet, we find it so easy to convince ourselves of it.

The truth is people can change, but it’s a choice. The option is there, the opportunity is always present; the question isn’t if they can change, but will they?

Being told I would never change became one of the biggest motivators for me to evaluate my priorities, my actions, the choices I was making. While I don’t agree with telling people they will never change, being confronted with that harsh criticism gave me the motivation I needed at that moment to take action.

See, I knew in my heart that what I was told wasn’t true. I knew change was possible. Growth was attainable. And while I understood I couldn’t do it on my own, I knew it began with a choice I had to make.

Surrender.

Up to that point my focus had really been on me. When I was really honest with myself, I did what I did for me. If it happened to benefit others, great. My mindset, the priorities in my life had to be rearranged or change would not happen.

I love how Paul tackles this in his letter to the church in Rome. In chapter 12 he begins by stressing to his readers the significance and importance of living for Jesus. In the first verse he uses the Greek word παρακαλέω (parakalĕō), literally meaning to implore, beseech, or appeal. Paul is pleading with his fellow believers to live holy lives in pursuit of Jesus.

But Paul also understood it begins with change. That’s why he follows in verse two with this….

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

Paul believed change was possible, because Jesus made it possible. But it is a process we must engage in actively. Growth is painful, change takes time, and we have to be willing to surrender our selfish desires to begin the process.

Where are you? Are you stuck in destructive patterns? Do you continue to make destructive choices and feel like you can’t change? Are you convinced people will always be the way they are? Jesus has a different story. And the really cool thing is, He wants you and me to be a part of it. He wants us to change, to be transformed by His power.

What’s holding you back?

We kicked off a new series at The Anchor Church a few weeks ago. The series name is The Main Thing, and we have been diving into who The Main Thing should be in our life, and what that looks like.

This post is number three of a four part series that will mimic the four weeks of the series. Click the video below to watch week three from myself.

We kicked off a new series at The Anchor Church a few weeks ago. The series name is The Main Thing, and we have been diving into who The Main Thing should be in our life, and what that looks like.

This post is number two of a four part series that will mimic the four weeks of the series. Click the video below to watch week two from Pastor Alex.

We kicked off a new series at The Anchor Church a few weeks ago. The series name is The Main Thing, and we have been diving into who The Main Thing should be in our life, and what that looks like.

This post is one of a four part series that will mimic the four weeks of the series. Click the video below to watch week one from Pastor Alex.

I’ll be honest, I’m a young parent. Young in the sense of my actual parenting experience spans just over 4 years. And I openly admit I don’t know a lot, I’m still learning. While I’ve worked with kids and families a lot in the past, parenting your own kids is different. I can’t just say “good luck” and go home to my kid-free life!

Now I have an 11 year old daughter, a 4 year old son, and a 6 month old baby girl. If you’re doing the math, I know it doesn’t add up. I chose to bring an 8 year old little girl into my life almost 4 years ago when my wife and I began dating. By that point I had my son, but he was just a little guy.

What I’m learning is that the little ones are easy. Correction and discipline are typically a walk in the park. The slightest correction with my son often brings his tender heart to a melting point. He has such a genuine concept of right and wrong, and a desire to obey that when he doesn’t it breaks him in two. My baby girl, well we are still at the eat, play, poop, sleep stage I think.

My pre-teen, spicy, independent soon-to-be 12 year old middle school girl? She tests me! Finally having an every-day dad in her life I know hasn’t been an easy adjustment. For years, because of choices her dad made, it was just her and mom. So naturally me coming into the picture rocked her boat. And yes, even almost 4 years later we are still working at it.

Having a daughter is a blessing, don’t get me wrong. But man, there are days I so badly want to go back to her being the sweet little 8 year old who didn’t have as much sass and attitude! There are moments, like earlier tonight, where her choice in action, attitude, and words put my patience to a whole new test. These are moments my anger easily flares, and my wife graciously de-escalates me before I go tear into my little girl.

And that’s being real. The truth is when I feel disrespected and dishonored by her intentional choices, I get angry. I get really angry, because I know she hasn’t been raised in a way that encourages deceit, a poor work ethic, and a lack of care for consequences. And my natural inclination is to swing the hammer down to make a point.

But I also know that while doing so might be a great emotional release for myself, it does nothing constructive for her.

When I respond harshly out of my emotions, it drives a wedge between us that is not easily removed. But when I respond with correction out of love, the outcome will be different. I’m not advocating nor do I fail to enforce consequences for her poor choices. But the approach in which it is done must be correct.

There are a lot of aspects in which being her present every-day dad brings me joy. Her inquisitive nature, her story telling, and artistic creative abilities are just a few. But there is nothing I find enjoyable about discipline with her.

Despite the hardship I feel, the lack of joy it brings me to enforce consequences when she makes mistakes, I know it’s worth it. I know that every time her mom and I hold her accountable for her choices, it’s for her best interest. I find comfort in the principle (understand it’s not a promise, or a guarantee) we find in Proverbs:

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

– Proverbs 22:6

Regardless of the circumstances, the pain I feel in the midst of carrying g out discipline, the agony of saying “no” to her request to do something deep down I want her to be able to do, I find comfort that right correction can bear fruit. But even if you don’t believe that, even if you think your discipline isn’t making a positive impact, as parents we are still called to train our children. And that includes discipline.

Notice the effect is dependent on the cause, but the cause is not dependent on the effect. In other words, regardless of the outcome, as parents we are still expected to raise our children correctly. Remember it’s a principle, not a promise that they will turn out “right”. As a follower of Jesus, that means teaching them how to follow Jesus themselves in word and deed. Right now for me, that often means helping my little girl see and understand the discrepancies in her logic, which in turn impacts her words and actions.

I never thought parenting would be easy. I knew there would be challenges, pain, frustration. I believed being a dad would be filled with joy. It never occurred to me though, how moments in the midst of raising someone you love so much can be so heart breaking in the moment. As with most things, parenting has its un-enjoyable moments too. But keeping the right perspective on why we discipline, why we correct poor choices and behavior is essential to finding the joy in the overall process.

After all, it’s really about raising someone who ends up loving Jesus more than anything else. That takes time, it takes growth. And growth often times comes through discipline and correction.

Beyond Grace and Peace

Have you ever taken a moment and read Paul’s greetings and closings of his letters? He made a point to draw attention to grace and peace. He loved his people. The people that God entrusted him to shepherd. Paul poured into them regardless of his own situations. Through pain, imprisonments, trials and persecution, he continued to minister to them.

Paul loved his flock.

While this is evident throughout his letters, there is a passage in particular that strikes me. His obvious passion and love for his flock shines through here, as he details his desires for them.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 1:9-11

Paul did not just leave it at grace and peace. He didn’t just leave it at giving good instruction to his flock with regard to living a life in pursuit of Jesus.

Paul prayed specifically, for them.

He understood the hardships and dangers that they would face as they grew in their faith. He knew first hand what following Jesus, fully devoted with your life, could lead to. He knew that the road ahead for the sheep entrusted to him would be difficult and dangerous.

Do we pray like this? Do we petition God that the believers in our life would grow in their love for Jesus and others? Do we pray that they would have knowledge and discernment, an understanding of not just what is bad but what is best? Is our desire for them to be pure and blameless before God?

Do we exhibit a love for others in this way as Paul did for his people?

Praying for other people can be hard. Especially when they mess up and continually make mistakes. Or they are not growing at a pace we think is appropriate. Our prayers can easily turn to complaints before God. Paul had his moments of frustration with the churches he planted. He was constantly addressing conflicts and false teaching, often let in by the ones he entrusted the church with when he left.

But these issues did not stop him from praying specifically for them. He didn’t restrain his love and concern for them because of their mistakes; something He came to understand the importance of first hand in his own life. He desired above himself that they would become fully, more deeply devoted followers of Jesus. Do we do that?

Do we take time to pray for others in a way that exhibits true love? Or do we fall victim to contentment in “Lord you know what they need” and leave it there? Do we actively petition God to grow them in love, knowledge, and discernment, that their faith would be more evident by the fruit they bear.

That’s challenging for me, even as a Pastor. What would our community look like if we prayed like Paul did? What would our church be like if we approached God in petition for the growth of His people?

I’d venture to think we would have a new sense of depth in our faith and commitment to Jesus. I’d venture to expect a growth in the size of our community.

I’d expect more people to follow Paul’s example of praying for their brothers and sisters in Christ, that they too would grow in love, knowledge and discernment.

What if we didn’t just play the what if game, and actually started praying with intentionality?

That’s when we will see the power of God unleashed, the Holy Spirit move, and Jesus rescue souls.

I think Paul understood this. Do we?

Playing House

As I was at work Saturday night, thinking about my message for the morning I realized something.

While this series is about getting back to the basics of being a follower of Christ, my message is centered on rightfully placing Jesus as the first priority in our life.

Not tomorrow, but now.

The problem we often have is being really really good at finding other things to put before Him. And to make it worse, we are really good at finding excuses to justify and convince us what we are doing is ok.

And boom, that’s when it hit me.

See, we often approach our relationship with Jesus like culture teaches us (wrongly) to approach relationships.

We think it’s ok to play house.

We invite Jesus into our place, we LOVE all the benefits we get from having Him with us, the feelings and security. But we keep a level of autonomy, separation. It’s convenient after all. Let’s be together, I’ll exploit the benefits of a relationship, but I’m only going to let you into the business I want you in.

There is a level of commitment we are unwilling to make.

We want to play house, instead of build a home.

Jesus wants more. He expects more.

He demands more.

And why shouldn’t He? He did after all take my place on a cross. He was humiliated, beaten to a pulp, paraded through the streets, all to hang on a cross and die a criminals death.

He did that for me, because He loves me.

I married my wife not just because I love her, but she loves me just as much. And love is beautifully expressed through commitment.

Jesus longs to be an intricate part of our lives, as we grow and pursue Him more. That begins with a commitment to Him. It deeps and widens by rightly placing Him first in our life.

Not tomorrow; today.

RESPONSE in crisis

What is your take on this current crisis? Watching the constant barrage of opinions fly, my heart has been meditating on this. What am I doing to be a light in the darkness? What effect are my words and actions having? Are they inspiring hope, bringing peace and comfort to those overcome with fear? Am I being salt, a purifying agent in the midst of hurt and pain?
What about you?

Join us tomorrow night @ 7pm on Facebook for a time of conversation!! Follow the link here for more info!

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

Psalm 51:1-2

When was the last time you laid it all out to God? Like, really let it all hang out. No hesitation, no concern for what He might think of you or the mess.

When we the last time you just got real with God?

David’s Psalm 51 is maybe my favorite psalm because that’s exactly what he does. He gives us an inside view into his confessional life with God. It wasn’t pretty, and it sure wasn’t censored. He didn’t hold back the brokenness he felt, the deep desire for something greater in his life.

And you know what prompted him to write this Psalm?

Being called to the floor by the Prophet Nathan for his adultery with Bathsheba, his murder of her husband, and his neglect of kingly duty. I mean, you have to understand the significance of the situation. The King of God’s chooses people, anointed by God, is confronted by God’s Prophet who guided by the Spirit leads David into admission and confession for his sin.

To approach a King was a dangerous venture in and of itself. Add to it bringing hefty charges against him as Nathan did, that could easily be the end of your life. But both parties here understood who was really in control, they understood their place before a Holy God. (Check out 2 Samuel 11-12 for the whole story).

David knew his sin had found him. And he knew Nathan was right in his actions. More importantly, he understood the need for cleansing, to be purified of his sin and restored into a right relationship with God.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Psalm 51:7-12

David uses familiar imagery for himself and his time. Hyssop was often used for medicinal purposes, but it was also used to sprinkle in Jewish rites of practice. In Exodus 12:22 hyssop is used to spread the blood on the doorposts in preparation for the first Passover. The correction of discipline can be painful, like breaking bones. It can leave a mark, much like David’s adulterous behavior had. But when they heal, there is rejoicing as function and ability is restored.

David comes to understand healing in a deeper, more significant way through this experience. He understands that while his confession and submission is essential, the true work of cleansing is done by God. It is God who makes his heart clean; it is God who renews his spirit.

It is God who brings restoration and salvation.

In a time when sin was reconciled by ceremonial sacrificial offerings, David understood that his need for restoration could not be met by the blood or burning of an animal on the alter.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Psalm 51:16-17

The animal sacrifices were symbolic of the perfect sacrificial lamb that would be given up as Jesus Christ. And while David probably did not fully know that, he did understand what God was truly interested in. Genuine confession and repentance, a heart and spirit broken by an understanding of the pain our sin brings to God. Understanding our brokenness as sinners, in desperate need of redemption.

See, what I admire most about David is that despite his massive mistakes, that even as King he understood his need to repent. He recognized his brokenness and unworthiness before a Holy God, and his need to be restored before Him.

He wasn’t hesitant when confronted with his sin, to fall face first before God and seek His forgiveness, His mercy and grace. He knew that the only way to have restoration was to lean into God, to trust Him entirely, and rely on His process.

Do you do that? I’ll admit, it’s hard for me sometimes. There are moments that I’m really good at letting down my walls and getting real life itch God. But there are other times that I keep my defenses up, acting like God can’t handle my mess. Not only do I rob myself of the blessing of His love, grace, and restoration, but I rob Him of the joy to bless me with those things. I in essence say “no God, I don’t need that from you” when I know I do.

What would our life be like if we engaged God like David did in Psalm 51? Think about it. How would your prayer life be different? How would your interactions with friends, family, co-workers be if we would let down our defenses with God? What would our life be like if we surrendered ourself to Him, and allowed Him to intervene in the storms we find ourselves in?

Maybe it’s just me reading into it, but I think David found peace. I think he found a renewed purpose to live, and serve in the place God put him.

What’s that worth to you?

We kicked off a new series at The Anchor Church a few weeks ago. The series name is The Main Thing, and we have been diving into who The Main Thing should be in our life, and what that looks like.

This post is number four of a four part series that will mimic the four weeks of the series. Click the video below to watch week four from myself.