Trouble In Paradise

In October I was blessed to be able to travel to Greece. In the weeks leading up to the trip each time I told someone my destination their reaction was always the same, “oooh how nice!!” And my response was typically a half-smile accompanied by the word “well.”

You see I didn’t go to sit on a beach and work on my sunburn. I went to talk to people. I went to share hope in a hopeless place. I went to share about Jesus and His love.

The island I spent most of the time on was the Island of Lesvos situated just 4 miles from the coast of Turkey. Lesvos is home to an infamous refugee camp named Moria, a camp built for 2,500 people. When I went in October there were more than 13,000 people living in Moria and the surrounding hilly olive grove. As of my writing this my sources in the camp tell me that the number of individual souls, people with real stories, real names, real dreams, is now at an unfathomable 20,000.

One thing, of many, that stuck with me was the incredible contrast that I saw there on the island. If you were to look around and only see 95% of the island you would see an absolute paradise. The sea was clear and beautiful. The olives were plump and picturesque. The sky was clear, and the weather was neither too hot nor too cold. It was beautiful.

And then there was the camp.

The sights, the sounds, the smells. The fear, the pain, the hopelessness.

It serves as a picture of our world. There are great and wonderful beauties, and yet in the same world, there are great and terrible evils.

I am finding that writing this post is a lot harder than I had anticipated. The memories of my time in the camp, the people that I met, and the conversations that I had are all flooding back, and it is truly overwhelming. I will, in time, share more of those stories.

But for now, I have a simple message. Jesus loves.

Jesus loves the half-naked child that I saw playing with a rusty nail and splintered wood next to excrement.

Jesus loves the mother of 5 little ones who stands in line every day for hours upon hours in order to feed her family.

Jesus loves the father who told me his arms were sore from holding his sleeping children above his chest all night so that they didn’t get wet in their flooded tent.

Jesus loves the orphan kid who tried to steal water.

Jesus loves the two grandmothers who got in a fistfight over a piece of cardboard they intended to sleep on.

Jesus loves the 12-year-old who told me he can’t remember life before they left home.

Jesus loves the girl who put his trust in Him and was secretly baptized.

Jesus loves the wealthy person reading this on their phone, tablet, or computer.

Jesus loves the sinner saved by grace who is writing.

There is good news in the midst of all of this. God has a habit of using terrible circumstances for His glory and our good.

Pray that the Good News of the Gospel would shine bright in this darkness. And be willing to be used by God in whatever way He would choose.

Matthew 25:31-46

Why I Stopped Blogging And Why I’m Now Back

A lot has happened since my last post back in April of 2019. There were a few reasons why I took a step back from posting my thoughts online for almost a year.

But, I did not stop writing.

I oftentimes would find myself writing multiple pages of material just to exit the page without saving. I can’t tell you how good it felt to write down my thoughts knowing that only God would know and remember them.

So why did I stop posting? Well, I want to be clear, there was no scandal that rocked my world. No moral failure. No deep tragedy that I was dealing with. In fact, quite the opposite.

In May, my son was born. Just typing that sentence out brings water to my eyes.

God is so good.

I cannot express just how good God is and how worthy He is of any and all praise that we can offer. If you know me or have been following my writings for any time you are aware that my wife and I were in the process of adoption for what seemed, to us, forever. If you want to read a few posts on that topic check these out…

But God, in His infinite wisdom, used that time to teach us lessons and to grow us in ways we never would have fathomed. I am incredibly excited to share with you all a few of those lessons and thoughts in the future.

As life-altering as the birth of my son was, it wasn’t the main reason why I stopped posting. Yes, he did play a role, and these last 8 months have been spent trying to figure out how to be the kind of dad that God has called me to be. But it would be unfair to “blame” my absence from the blogging world on the little dude.

The main reason why I stopped blogging for a while was I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just simply adding to the noise. You see, in today’s world, we are inundated with information, stories, and opinions. It seems like everyone can claim to be an expert about anything, and if they have an internet connection, they can tell the world. Facts go unchecked and mere opinions rule the day.

I didn’t want that to be me.

The whole reason I started this blog in the first place was to help remind us that we can take everyday topics and events and look at them from a biblical perspective. (What’s In A Name) It is from the Christ-centered worldview that we should interpret both the mundane as well as the spectacular things that take place each and every day.

And so I stopped.

I stopped because I was slowly approaching an area that I did not want to walk into. I was slowly walking towards caring about approval from people rather than from God. I was beginning to care more about how many people read my content more than the content itself.

I was beginning to become noise. If not to others, then at least to myself.

I needed to refocus. I needed to ask God to change me. I needed to be sure that I was writing with the right motivations. And I needed to make sure that I wasn’t simply adding to the noise with my own opinions.

But, as I said, I’m back. I am sharing my writing again because after months of evaluation, prayer, and reflection I know that God has put things on my heart to share. My commitment is to make His Name great and to talk about His Word, His heart, and His thoughts.

I look forward to posting about trusting Jesus and the power of prayer. I am excited to have “Sidebars” about traveling, cross-cultural experiences, mission trips, milestones, baby vomit, coffee, and the lifechanging experience of wearing socks with sandals.

Stay tuned.

Pain: An Excuse To Sin?

Recently I was asked a question that I suspect many people have wondered about at one time or another in one way or another.

Is my pain an excuse for me to sin?

What about if life is extra-hard?

What if I have been “dealt a really bad hand” in life?

God understands right?

Let me begin by saying that if you are experiencing some sort of pain or turmoil right now as you read this, I am right now praying for you.

I don’t know who you are other than the fact that you probably have experienced some sort of frustrating pain. So, I pray that in the midst of whatever circumstance you are going through that you would keep your eyes on Jesus. I also pray that God would draw you closer to Himself during this time.

Concerning pain, there are several different types; physical, mental, emotional, even spiritual. The Bible is clear that God cares about us humans in every aspect of who we are. Jesus, when He was on earth, healed the sick and healed people who were out of their minds (taking care of physical and mental pain.) Psalm 34:18 says that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted (addressing emotional pain.) And certainly, Jesus came to address our greatest need which is spiritual when He died on the cross. In doing so He made it possible for us to be free from the pain and ensnarement of sin.

It seems that human beings ever since The Fall have experienced pain of one sort or another in a variety of degrees.

Pain is so much a part of our existence on this earth that God has to go out of His way to declare in Revelation 21 that in the New Heaven and the New Earth there shall be no more pain of any kind! “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Additionally, Romans 8:18 gives a promise to those who have trusted in Jesus. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Wow! God has some really incredible and pain-free things in store for those who have faith in Jesus!

If you are going through some sort of pain at this moment I would encourage you to read the whole chapter of John 9, it really is an awesome and easy read! At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus and His disciples run across a man who had been born blind. When they see the man the disciples ask Jesus who had sinned, the man or his parents? Jesus’ response? Neither. The disciples couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that this poor man had been dealt such a “bad hand.” They were looking for a reason for his pain. Maybe his parent’s sin had caused him to be blind. Perhaps his own?

Instead, Jesus goes around all their expectations and says that the man was born in blindness so that God could be glorified! Jesus goes on to miraculously heal the man. At the end of the chapter, the man can now see both physically and spiritually!

So, to answer the initial question, no.

Pain is never an excuse to sin.

God wants us to have faith in Him no matter what our current situation.

He calls us to follow and obey Him no matter what the circumstance.

We may not always understand His reasons or ways, but we still ought to honor Him with our actions. Because He is good no matter what.

Rooted

Over the last few years, our church has had year specific themes that we, as a congregation focus on throughout the year. These themes have served to focus/refocus us, unify us, and motivate us to move forward in our personal and corporate relationships with God.

We are surrounded by a culture that is constantly shifting. Right is called wrong, the truth is despised, and people are pressured into comprising their values. This is the cultural reality that we find ourselves ministering in the midst of. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that we, the Church of Jesus Christ, stand firmly grounded in the truth of God’s Word.

We must remain Rooted.

  • Rooted in the Word.
  • Rooted in faith.
  • Rooted in love.
  • Rooted in hope.
  • Rooted in the Gospel.

My church’s theme this year is one that can be developed throughout the entire year in a wide variety of ways. In fact, in many ways, the theme of Rooted is simply a cumulation of what we, as a church, have been working towards over the last few years.

We desire to Know God—Read and Pray (2016)

We desire to Grow in our relationships with Him – Walk Worthy (2017)

We desire to Go and spread the good news – Beyond the Walls (2018)

We desire to Remain knowing, growing, and going – Rooted

The idea of remaining Rooted can easily and consistently be applied to both the individual as well as the church as a whole throughout the year.

We as individuals are challenged and encouraged to stay Rooted in holding onto our faith and digging into the Word. The church, as a whole, is challenged and encouraged to remain Rooted as the Bride of Christ even as the culture around us quickly shifts.

We can, thankfully, produce a message of stability and consistency no matter what sort of uncertainty lies ahead, we can show that our foundations are unshakable.

Today, next week, and for the rest of the year, my prayer for you is that you remain firmly rooted.

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”      -Colossians 2:6-7