Not So Smooth Seas

The sway of the ship was slowly but steadily growing. Passenger’s faces were painted with a mixture of discomfort and concern. The storm was approaching.

My companions groaned and quickly prayed for smooth sailing and calm stomachs. Me? Well, I was up out of my seat powerwalking to the deck. I wanted to feel the power of the sea.

Open water, especially when it is windy and wild, has always been an odd mix of calming and exhilarating for me. Hearing the waves crash violently against the rocks can both soothe and motivate me.

Standing there on the deck in the middle of the Aegean Sea surrounded by white-capped waves helped me to process the horrors I had just seen in a refugee camp. But it also motivated me and encouraged me to press on and to make a difference in my own corner of the world.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”

James, the brother of Jesus once wrote, “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

Both of these quotes are appropriate for our current troubled times. Many of us may be feeling the stresses of life crash around us. Both on a macro and micro level we all are being impacted by this pandemic and all the implications following lockdown.

But how we act and react is crucial.

We must realize that in the midst of any circumstance God remains good. Our faith is not dependent on our circumstances. We cannot be tossed back and forth by the situations that we face on a day to day basis.

Our circumstances change, but the object of our faith does not.

And so, when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, we can endure the storms that come. In fact, we can joyfully embrace the trials that we face because we know, as the Bible tells us, that these trials will deepen our faith and ultimately produce steadfastness in us.

We can also realize that when, not if, but when God sees us through these rocky waters, we will be better prepared for the next set of waves when they come. Troubled times come and go. This set of unfortunate circumstances is not the first that we have faced, and it will not be the last. In fact, Jesus tells us that, “in this world, you will have troubles…” But, thankfully, He doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t just leave us with the bad news that we will face trials and troubles, no, He gives us hope. He continues on and says, “but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Understand that in this time God is looking to develop you into the man or woman that He created you to be. As He molds you, don’t forget to be joyful in the midst of every circumstance. And ultimately, rest in the fact that Jesus has already overcome this world.

After the storm died down a bit, I snapped the picture shown above. It is a nice reminder that even when the wind and the waves rage, the sun is still shining.

Even when the wind and the waves of our lives rage, the Son is still shining. Trust in Him today.

Answers?

Why Is This Happening?

I don’t know.

Those three words are really scary words to admit out loud. When we say those words, we are admitting that there are things that we do not understand. By saying that phrase we are accepting that there are questions that we do not have the answers to. We confess that we are not in control. We show weakness. We are humbled. We defer to someone wiser than we are.

And that is OK.

Christians, do not be afraid to say those frightening words. Yes, when we say those words we may look like fools. Yes, when we say those words, we may look small and insignificant. Yes, when we say those words, we will probably be scoffed at by those who seek to poke holes in our worldview. Yes, when we say those words, we will surely bring no glory to ourselves.

And that is why we need to say them.

Because when we admit that we are low, we raise Him up. When we confess that we do not have all the answers, we point to the One who does. When we look small and insignificant, we magnify our Lord. When we show weakness, we elevate His strength. When we look foolish, we show God to be wise. When we are scoffed at, we share in His suffering. When we take no glory for ourselves, we give it all to Him.

So why is all this chaos and crisis surrounding us? Why are people dying? Why are our lives being disrupted?

I don’t know.

But I do know who does.

He reminds me that His ways are not my ways and that His thoughts are not my thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9) He reminds me that when we are searching for a way or seeking truth, that He is that Way and He is that Truth. (John 14:6) He tells us that He holds everything together (Colossians 1:7) He commands us to trust in Him and to not fear because nature itself obeys Him. (Matthew 8:23-27) He even loudly proclaims His victory over death itself. (John 11:25)

I don’t know, but Jesus does.

As much as we may not know all the answers, we do have an opportunity to get to know the one who does know everything.

If you don’t know Him, open up a Bible or download a Bible app and start reading the book of John. If you don’t know Him, I pray that you would get to know Him and understand just how much He loves you.

If you do know Him then there are two things that you need to do.

Get to know Him more. And make Him known.

Stocks & Socks

2019 was a big year for me.

My son was born! I got to scratch off 6 more countries from our countries visited map. We remodeled our kitchen. A Chick-Fi-A opened just a 5-minute drive from my house. I got a driveway basketball hoop for my birthday. I ate bear meat. And I bought my first pair of Birkenstocks.

If you don’t know what Birkenstocks are, go on Amazon right now and buy a pair, your feet will thank you. If you do know what they are, why don’t you have a pair already? (No, they are not a paid sponsor of this blog.) I bought the waterproof kind and so, they provide the comfort and support of the standard kind but with the benefit of being waterproof as well as incredibly light.

But enough about the shoes, this isn’t a commercial. What I wanted to talk about today is how I choose to wear this fantastic footwear. I’ll admit the embarrassing truth…

My name is Josh and I like to wear socks with my sandals.

I have found myself walking out of the house even when there is snow on the ground in this “Socks ‘n Stocks” combo many times. Why? It’s incredibly simple, it’s crazy comfy. The socks keep my feet warm and cozy while the “Stocks” allow me freedom and comfort.I don’t have to give in to the rigidity and stuffiness of shoes, but I also can keep my feet warm. It’s the best of both worlds!

Unfortunately, while this kind of compromise and dual living is OK for footwear, it is no way to live our lives.

Far too many people who claim to be Christians are trying to live dual lives. The temptation to try to “follow Jesus” while chasing after our own desires is very great. Far too many have fallen into that trap.

You can’t live for Jesus on Sunday and live for yourself the remaining 6 days a week. It doesn’t work like that. It looks funny and it’s uncomfortable.

Jesus told us that it is impossible to serve two masters. We cannot love both God and money. We cannot follow both Jesus and the ways of the culture. We cannot serve both God and ourselves.

I don’t have to choose between sock and sandals, I can have both. But I must choose between Jesus and myself, I cannot have both.

Jesus told us that in order to follow Him we must be willing to die to ourselves. That means dying to our own plans, sinful desires, and selfish expectations.

Don’t live a dual life. If you say that you follow Jesus, then follow Him in every aspect of your life. Follow Him when you make your budget. Follow Him when you use technology. Follow Him when you talk to your coworkers. Follow Him when you sit in traffic. Follow Him when you plan for your future. Follow Him when you are alone, and no one is watching.

Serving Jesus and serving yourself is a combo that just simply will never work….unlike my sock and sandals. 

Special Announcement

Ego.

It was one of the reasons why I took a few months off from blogging. (Why I Stopped Blogging And Why I’m Now Back)

Well, let me explain. Maybe it wasn’t exactly ego, but maybe more so a desire to not gain an ego. I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t just simply adding to the noise. And I desperately wanted to be sure that I wasn’t doing what I was doing in order to gain more followers or build a brand.  

I don’t want to be the star of my own show.

First of all, it’s not my show. I chose to die to myself in order to allow Christ to live through me. (Galatians 2:20) I have decided to pick up my cross and follow my Savior.

Secondly, I am not the star. If anyone would see my actions, hear my words, or know my character the goal is that they would see Jesus. Not because I am some “Holy-Roller” but because God has and is doing incredible work in and through me.

I want to look more and more like Jesus every single day.

And that is why I have decided to start a podcast. Not to build a brand. Not to gain fame. Not to make money. But instead…to build up His Church. To make His name great. And to use the gifts that God has given me.

I have toyed with the idea of starting a podcast for a long time now and one thing that kept holding me back was that I didn’t want to be perceived as narcissistic or self-important. Thankfully, my time away from blogging helped to show/remind me that it’s not about me. None of this was ever about me. It’s about my Savior.

And so, if my Savior has put things on my heart then it would be wrong of me not to share that with others.

Don’t worry, the Sidebar Blog is not going anywhere. I will continue to post every Tuesday. But in addition to the blog, I have started The Sidebar Talks podcast, available wherever you listen to your podcasts. Listen to my first episode HERE.

In the future, there may be some cross-over between the blog and the podcast, but for the most part, both will be separate entities.

Thanks for reading, and I hope that you will listen as well! Feel free to join the conversation and leave comments!

Let’s keep making His name great together!