When You Just “Can’t Even”

Okay, I know the title of this sounds like something a teenage girl would text to a friend after finding out that there is homework due the next day, but hang with me for a moment.

From all that I have been able to deduce the phrase “can’t even” can be equated to saying, “I’m emotionally dumbfounded.” In fact, according to the internet, the phrase is used when a person has so many emotional responses to a situation that they just can’t even comprehend what is going on.

I don’t know about you, but I can think of many different situations where I have been left emotionally dumbfounded. Life is full of circumstances that are hard and confusing and, if we allow them to, they weigh on us so much until we can’t even stand it anymore. Often times we allow our anxieties and stresses to rule over us.

So, what do we do when we just simply can’t even?

We need to trust that when we can’t God can.

Jesus literally gives us the answer here in Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Additionally, 1 Peter 5:7, reminds us that we ought to be, “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Why should we go to Him when we are burdened? Because He can give us rest. Why should we cast our cares and anxieties on Him? Because He cares for us. Why should we lay our burdens down? Because He can carry them with ease.

Another thing that we need to realize and remember is that emotions can be tricky things. Emotions are good things that help us connect to events and to one another. I feel as though I can’t overstate this, emotions are not bad, it is ok for you to feel how you feel. However, with that being said, we need to understand that emotions can be very misleading. So, when we are in the midst of a highly emotionally charged situation it is good to take a step back and refocus on the truth that we know. Emotions can change from day to day or even hour to hour, but the truth always remains.

God is true, and His Word is truth. Next time you feel like you just can’t even take a moment to step back and run to the Bible for help, support, and direction. I use the word “run” because I want to convey the urgency in which we should be going to read our Bibles. 1 Peter tells us that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. All the answers and wisdom we need can be found in His love letter to us. His Word is literally a lamp unto our feet and a light to our path. (Psalm 119:105)

In addition to running to God’s Word, we should remember that we can talk to God faster than we can text a friend or update our status. Prayer is so much more than a list of rote phrases that you repeat for different occasions. Neither is prayer a performance where you try to wow others by your “talking to God skills.” No, prayer is much deeper and much simpler than that. Prayer is communication with God. That statement is so very simple and yet incredibly complex. The God of the universe who holds galaxies in His hands and breathes life into being- is the same God who cares enough about you to listen to your smallest and silliest requests. To Him, your request and burdens matter because you matter.

I thank God for Philippians 4:6-7 for summing everything up so perfectly. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We are promised that when we take our burdens to God, the peace of God (which by the way, surpasses any and all of our understanding) will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. That is incredible! When we are emotionally dumbfounded, when we are at the end of our rope, when we just can’t even, God can and will give us peace.

So, next time that you feel overwhelmed just remember; when you can’t even move forward, find the answer, deal, cope, reason, feel, or understand…God can.

Find your rest in Him.

Own Worst Enemy

I somewhat recently went to the theater and enjoyed a new movie that didn’t include Jedi in the title (although that one was great too.) As I walked out of the movie theater two things happened. First, I picked a few rogue pieces of popcorn out of my jacket, and second, I began reflecting on what I had just watched. Perhaps my favorite part of the movie was how conflict developed in the story. I walked out of the theater realizing that the story’s biggest antagonist was also the biggest protagonist. For those of us who have forgotten our 6th-grade literature class, this basically means that our hero’s biggest enemy was himself.

The concept of a man vs. self conflict is certainly not a new one, but it did get me thinking about my own Josh vs. Self-narrative. Here we are on the second day of a brand new year. Many of us have set goals for ourselves in the new year. A few years back my new year’s goal was to get six pack abs, I would have accomplished that goal easily if it weren’t for my love of donuts, but I digress.

Many of us have either resolved ourselves to do something more or resolved to do something less. These goals, or resolutions, are often good and very well-meaning, unfortunately, many people find themselves at the beginning of February frustrated and ready to give up. So how do we make sure that our goals for the new year don’t go unrealized? Well, I think we need to first understand that often times our own worst enemy is ourselves.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I know that the Bible depicts the Devil is the enemy of our souls. He is a liar who seeks to discourage, kill, accuse,  and make us as ineffective in this life as possible. However, I do think that sometimes we give him a bit too much credit. Saying, “I didn’t read my Bible today because the Devil stopped me,” is as silly of a statement as, “I didn’t go to the gym today because it was cold outside.” No, we choose not to go to the gym for the same reason we choose not to read our bibles, we are lazy and don’t feel like it.

Is the Devil happy that you didn’t read your bible? Sure, of course. But he cannot make you do anything that didn’t already chose to do.

We are our own worst enemy. But God is our biggest ally…and all He does is win.

Where does this come from? Why are we this way? And what can we do about it? Thankfully the Bible answers these questions.

Romans 5:12 says, “sin came into the world through one man, [Adam] and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” We are sinners by nature and by choice and so, therefore, our default setting is to love the things that hurt us the most.

The letter of James tells us in chapter 1, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”  Did you catch that? The temptations we face are our own sinful desires luring and enticing us. Even Paul struggled with this in Romans 7 and we are just like him, we do what we should despise. We love what we ought to hate.

Thankfully, as always, there is hope. Psalm 73:26, “My flesh and heart may fail, but God is my strength.” You may be your own worst enemy, but your biggest ally is far greater and far stronger.

And 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come.” If you are in Christ Jesus the old is gone and the new has come. Don’t listen to your own lies, God has made you new.

The start of a new year is a wonderful time to start fresh, be disciplined, and set a precedent for how we will live for the next 12 months. In order to do these things, we need to get out of our own way and allow God to transform us by His Holy Spirit.

Let’s allow God to work in us so that when we look in the mirror we don’t see our own worst enemy, but instead we see a person who is continually being transformed into the image of the Son. When people look at us, they should see a reflection of Jesus.

The goals that we set for the year will only be accomplished if we choose to rely on God rather than ourselves. A great place to start learning how to rely on God is by digging into the Bible. I would highly recommend finding a Bible reading plan for 2018! If you need help finding one or even just need a friendly reminder to stay on track I would love to help, just shoot me a message.

Happy New Year.

Adoption: Doctrine & Practice

“Adoption, the practice of including someone into a family who originally did not belong, has always been God’s way of doing things. “

It’s the day after Christmas, did you get that special gift on your list? I did. I got to spend time with friends and family and eat loads of cookies…that’s Christmas done right! I remember as a kid December 26th was the time that I stockpiled all my gifts and took inventory of all the cool new gadgets I had been given. Nowadays, I use the time to reflect and be grateful for all the blessings that I have. Today I reflect, once again, on the greatest gift I have ever received, a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Thinking through my relationship with Jesus is always a mind-boggling experience. According to Ephesians 2, I was, along with the rest of mankind, “dead in trespasses and sins in which I once walked.” I was dead, lost, and hopeless without Jesus. However, the chapter thankfully does not stop there.

Verse 4 says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace, you have been saved.”

There isn’t any news better than that! But this always makes me pause and ask the question, why? Why did God love me so much? Why did He choose to make me alive? Why am I so valuable to Him?

John 1:12-13 clears it up a bit. “But to all who did receive him[Jesus], who believed in his [Jesus’] name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” God loves me so much because I am His kid.

The doctrine of adoption can be found flowing throughout the Bible. Romans 8 says that those who in Christ are adopted as sons and daughters and are, in fact, co-heirs with Jesus Himself. God took the dead and made them alive, He took strangers and aliens and made them sons and daughters.

If you believe in Jesus Christ you have been adopted into the family of God. God’s family brings light and life, hope and peace, joy and rest, purpose and a place to belong. God loves His children and nothing has, can, or will be able to separate God kids from His love for them.

Throughout the Bible God’s children have been encouraged and instructed to care for those who can’t care for themselves. Taking care of strangers, widows, and orphans has always been a priority to God. Thankfully, history helps to prove that God’s children have taken God’s priority seriously. The first orphanages were started by believers, and despite a few missteps, Christians have always been known for taking care of others.

Adoption, the practice of including someone into a family who originally did not belong, has always been God’s way of doing things. Every day I thank God that, although I once was a spiritual orphan, He made me His own.

Alright, that was the “doctrine” part, so now here is the personal “practice” part.

Ever since our love story began in 2010, Ashley and I have shared the same mutual love for, and desire to adopt. We both always saw adoption as such a clear and wonderful picture of the Gospel by which we both were saved. In addition to that, Ashley’s own incredible story of her adoption (filled with God’s sovereignty and grace) set us on a path to “one day adopt a kid of our own.”

We are both convinced that this is God’s right time for us to go through the adoption process. For the last year we have been quietly researching the adoption, finding the right agency, applying to adopt, going to training session after training session, completing our home study, getting our “profile” together, and now here we are…waiting.

This entire process has been wrapped in prayer. It has been the farthest thing from easy. The process of adopting a child is very involved, and emotional, and expensive, and tiring, and frustrating, and…and…worth it.

Unfortunately, I am not writing this blog post to announce that we are bringing home a baby tomorrow. Rather, I am writing to ask you to pray. Pray for Baby Nelson. We have not met him or her yet, but we already are in love.

Pray that Ashley and I will be able to be the very best parents possible to him or her. We haven’t even been matched yet, but I still ask that you pray for the birth parents, whoever they may be, that God would protect them and direct their paths.

And most of all, pray that Baby Nelson will one day understand that God loves them so incredibly much that He sent Jesus to save them from their sins so that they could be adopted by Him.

In addition to prayer, you can also help us out by saving any shoes that you would normally either throw out or donate. We found an adoption grant program that actually will take collected shoes and give them to people in developing nations in order for them to sell and thus stimulate the economy. In return, we would receive grant money to help fund our adoption. If you have any further questions please feel free to shoot us an email at joshandashley2124@gmail.com.

Thank you so much for your prayers. We know that God is a great and big God who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we think and ask. (Ephesians 3:20-21) We continue to trust Him and thank Him for all that He has done for us.

 

Signed,

An adopted Child of the King

Even on the Cloudy Days

Many people like sunshine, I prefer cloudy days. Most people enjoy warm weather, I don’t. For me, this time of year produces the best kind of weather, cold.

However, I know that while the cloudy skies bring smiles to my face they usually have the opposite effect on people around me. For many, C.S. Lewis painted a perfect picture in his book The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe. In Narnia, winter accompanied the oppression and evil of the White Witch. It wasn’t until Aslan’s victory that spring finally came. Many people are already looking forward to spring, and winter doesn’t even officially start for a few days. I understand you, but instead of bemoaning the next few months lets allow truth, not just the weather, to impact our attitudes.

Some people struggle with what is known officially as “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” otherwise known as seasonal depression. This, unfortunately, according to Mental Health America, impacts about 5% of the population. Additionally, 4 out of every 5 people impacted are women. While I don’t think that we should be quick to diagnose ourselves, we should understand that this can be, and is, a difficult time of year for many people for a myriad of reasons. We haven’t even mentioned the stress and pressure that sadly surrounds the “happy holiday season.”

For many, the cloudy days seem to reflect their current views. With that being said, no matter what our current outlook or mood, we still need to focus our minds on truth.

Today, like all other days is the day that the Lord has made, and we ought to rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24) That needs to be true in our lives every single day whether our emotions agree or not. We need to rejoice and be glad in each day that God gives us no matter what is going on around us.

Each day that God gives us is a gift. Let me repeat that, each day that God gives us is a gift, no matter what circumstances surround us. So with the clouds of winter quickly approaching us let’s focus for a few minutes on some timely truths.

God is right there with us in the midst of our feelings.

 Psalm 38:9- “O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.”

Psalm 18:28- “the Lord my God lightens my darkness.”

Romans 8:35-39- “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…No…For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God comforts us in the midst of our feelings.

Psalm 46:1- “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

John 14:27- “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”

2 Corinth. 1:3-4- “…God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions…

God helps us see past our feelings.

Romans 8:18- “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

2 Corinth. 1:3-4- “…God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Take time this winter to rejoice in the God who made you and who gave you this season.

Take time this winter to reflect on God’s Word and to lean on Him in the midst of hard times.

Take time this winter to encourage one another and provide comfort.

Most of all, let’s allow the brightness of the Son to shine through our lives so that all may see…even on the cloudy days.