The Time Is NOW

Things are getting pretty crazy out there. It seems as though every few hours there are reports of new cases of the virus. Various governments continue to announce new restrictions in order to “flatten the curve.” Social media is filled with opinions and hot takes. And the U.S. Surgeon General recently told us, “this week is going to get bad.”

People are scared. People are worried. People are frustrated.

That is why the time for selfishness is over. The time for hoarding goods is over. The time for “I told you so” is over. The time for “this is so annoying” is over. The time for preference is over.

It’s time to talk about Jesus.

Talk about Jesus to anyone and everyone you know. Talk about Jesus to your church friends. Talk about Jesus to your family. Talk about Jesus to your non-believing friends.

Please. Just. Talk. About. Jesus.

For those who need hope…Hope can only be found in Jesus.

For those who need peace…Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

For those who need joy…Jesus is our Joy.

For those who need answers…Jesus is Truth.

For those who need life, now and forever…Jesus is Life.

Do not waste this time. God has you alive and breathing right now for a reason. Who will you impact? Who will you share this good news with? Who will you be a good neighbor to?

I don’t mean to make this post sound so direct, but our current situation calls for it. I wanted to end with a quote by Martin Luther that I have seen floating around lately. It is timely, but also a good reminder that we, the church, have been in this sort of situation before.

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, He will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

May the church rise up in this time, and may we be found faithful.

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!

Swimming Against the Current

Water is so versatile. It can sit, as still and clear as glass in a sleepy pond. It can rush, violently and chaotically over a waterfall. An ocean will overwhelm you with its vastness, and a stream will calm with its trickle. It can also flow steadily and relentlessly in a river.

I once heard someone compare the spiritual life to a river. We are in the middle, they said, and our goal is to get upstream towards a deeper relationship with God.

We are left with three options. The first is to actively swim with the current. This option is obviously easy, but we very quickly will find ourselves farther from God. The next option is much, much more difficult, we swim upstream, against the current. If we choose this option, we will inevitably be hit by debris that is being swept along by the current, our strength will fade, and we may feel as though we are not making much progress.

When we compare the two options it is clear that one looks much more attractive than the other. Now, let me be clear, I am talking about maintaining a relationship with God, not earning salvation.

The Bible is very clear salvation is a free gift of God, not something that any amount of good works can earn us. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

So, while we cannot earn our salvation, it is clear that the depth of our relationship with God is impacted by the choices that we make. We are either being conformed to the world around us or we are being transformed by the renewing of our mind in Christ Jesus. (Romans 12:2)

Our choices either bring us closer to God or drive us further from him.

So far, I only talked about two options, but there is a third. The third option is sneaky and dangerous, and it often takes us farther than we ever intended.

We drift. We just simply do nothing.

This option is by far the easiest because it requires the least amount of effort on our part. We aren’t actively running towards God, but we haven’t decided to sprint the other way either. The problem is, we are still moving.

The current is sweeping us away, sometimes quickly, sometimes so slowly we do not even realize we have moved.

My fear is that far too many people are content to just drift.

Drifting in the current may seem like an innocent enough option, but there is no such thing as inaction when it comes to the spiritual life. We will always either increase in the depth and quality of our relationship with God, or we will decrease. We are either moving closer to God or further away. There is no in-between.

Will you join me in my commitment to swimming against the current? Let’s unashamedly live for Jesus. Let’s happily live different from the current of the culture around us.

Let’s be messengers of truth and neighbors of love.

Let’s swim against the current and not just simply allow it to drag us along.