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.

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.

Called to Great Things

Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

Exodus 3:10-11

Have you ever been faced with a task that seems so dauntingly huge, you can’t see past the obstacles? Maybe you believe there really is light at the end of the tunnel, but you have no idea how to get there. Let alone, be the one to lead the charge.

I can imagine that is how Moses felt. He so quickly goes from having a monumental humbling moment before God, to questioning His plan of using him.

You can almost feel the doubt within Moses when He replies to God “Who am I…?”

Why would the God of the universe want to use Moses to accomplish something so great? Moses goes on to unload a laundry list of reasons God is picking the wrong guy. One by one he lists his inadequacies as if he thinks God will just say, “Moses, you are absolutely right! What was I thinking asking you??”

But God provides a solution for ever excuse Moses formulates to justify why he isn’t the right guy. Moses struggles with accepting the task placed before him. And honestly, I can’t blame him. I’m sure you and I would be slightly intimidated by the idea of leading one of the largest exodus’s in history, out of the most powerful kingdom of the time. Not to mention, one that you had personally been raised as royalty in.

Big things.

God calls us as His children to big things. Big things, that we may not fully understand, we may not be able to see the end result.

But it all starts with obedience.

In the end, Moses obeyed God’s call on his life. But not before a lot of arguing and second-guessing. And I can’t help but think how common that is in our lives, how personal it hits me. It’s not unusual for most of us to have insecurities creep up when we are faced with doing something great.

Like Moses we will scrape the bottom of the barrel looking for any excuse to persuade us it’s just indigestion, and not God. But what if we didn’t?

What if we truly trusted God knows best? That when He calls us to something big or small, we just obey because we know He has made the right choice?

What if, we just said “Yes Lord”.

Sure, God probably won’t call us to lead a mass exodus of people out of a land ruled by a slave-driving Pharaoh. But what is it He has placed before you today? Maybe it’s stepping up as a leader among your peers at work, or school. Maybe it’s the conviction to stop playing House and make a lasting commitment to the person you share a bed with. Maybe it’s being the father, mother, husband or wife you ought to be despite the hardships and frustrations you face. Maybe, it’s just being obedient in the little things.

Moses had his downfalls. He made mistakes, let his emotions get the best of him. He wasn’t perfect. But God called him anyways. God equipped him and guided him to accomplish the task placed before him. But Moses also remained in close communion with God, leaning on Him and trusting He would provide. Despite how it looked at times, he remained obedient.

What is God calling you to? What is it that you need to be obedient in?

Let me know, because I’d love to pray for you as you journey in faith with Jesus.

Walk on Holy Ground

This particular post is one that has taken time. Time in reflection, prayer, writing, and more reflection, prayer, and writing. Over the course of several weeks, this post has come into existence through reflection and study of what I believe could be argued, one of the most pivotal moments in Biblical history: Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush.

Enjoy.

And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

Exodus 3:2-5

The story of Moses is one that has been told and retold. Plays, movies, songs, and the general reading of the account; in some fashion most people have heard the story to some degree.

Moses was such a pivotal player in God’s redemption of Israel from Egypt. Throughout time in the Hebrew culture and Jewish faith, he is revered and honored. The author of the first five books of the Bible, he led one of the greatest exodus’s of a people in history through a miraculous journey that lasted 40 years.

But like most people God tasks with great things, Moses wasn’t looking for an opportunity to be a leader. Remember, years before he rejected the opportunity to be part of the ruling class in Egypt. Moses has a past of murder and embarrassment, guilt that literally drove him into the desert.

Some time later we find him as a shepherd of his father-in-law’s sheep. Living a nomadic life far away from the palace and royalty he grew up surrounded by.

Then one day he experiences something so strange he can’t ignore it. A bush consumed with fire, but not by it. An angel of the LORD standing at it. A sight Moses had to examine more closely.

What began with curiosity quickly led to humility.

When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”

Exodus 3:4

Moses clearly understood who beckoned him to this place. And now He called him by name. This was no longer an exploratory adventure for Moses of what surely seemed to be an anomaly from afar. This was a divine interaction with the Creator of the universe. And the expectation of being in such a presence is not surprising.

Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

Exodus 3:5

God called Moses to enter into a holy place. To leave the ordinary, and allow himself to be consumed with the presence of God. Moses had a life changing mission tasked to him, used by God to change the world forever.

And it started with removing his sandals and entering holy ground.

We are called to do the same. As followers of Jesus we are called, invited to commune with God on holy ground. To let go of doing things our way, lean on Him and trust that He has the solution. Trust He will provide. It begins with leaving the ordinary behind, and allowing ourselves to be completely consumed by God. It takes stepping on holy ground.

This goes beyond a flippant encounter with God. It requires us to face questions. Do we grasp the weight of what it means to freely enter the presence of God? Do we possess a sense of humility and reverence when we present our requests to the Creator of everything? Do we understand the significance of God’s holiness we so often approach with arrogance?

It’s time.

Let go, humbly present yourself before the LORD God.

Be consumed by His presence, and walk with Him on holy ground.