No one talks about the son who stayed at home

I sat and talked with a friend the other day. We were talking about life, faith, and stories. As I shared about another friend of mine who has majorly turned his life around, he said “Joel, I’ve grown up my whole life in church, I’ve never partied, I never even touched alcohol until I was 21, I never did drugs, I’m not married, so I’ve never had sex, I’ve never majorly screwed up. I’ve always done exactly what the church has taught me to do. And I feel like that’s not good enough. Like I don’t have a story to tell.”

He paused for a moment and drew a breath as his eyes moistened. Then, with his voice quivering, continued,

“I hear people talk about all these people who are turning their life around, who used to be really bad, and everyone celebrates them. But here I am, and no one even mentions how well I’ve done at keeping all the things that Jesus commands and the church tells us. I feel like I’m not good enough, that I don’t have a story to tell, that I have nothing to say that is worth listening to.” Continue reading

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When you give hope to others, you find hope for yourself.

closeup-tear

This was written over the course of the past few days. I would just jot down my disjointed thoughts, and then I tried to piece them together in a way that would make sense, without losing the overall feel of what I was trying to say, and I didn’t really expand or elaborate on any of my thoughts, so please keep that in mind as you read. If you would like me to elaborate, leaves comment with what you’d like me to elaborate on, and I will.

The phone rings. I take a deep breath, and pick up the phone and smile as I say “Hello, this is Joel. How can I serve you today?”

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Working is the hardest thing. I find myself at the front desk a lot these days. A place I need to be cheery, a place I need to smile, answer questions, and give hope. Hope I don’t feel. But behind the perfectly plastered smile on my face, my mind swirls with questions. Why? How? Somehow reaching out for understanding that doesn’t seem to come.

Then I read what others say. What the news says. The picture they paint. And I don’t see it. Instead I see someone broken, hurting, and in need of redemption. I don’t feel what society tells me to feel. Instead of anger, hate, rage, disgust, I feel sad, heartbroken, like someone died. And in a way, someone has.

In a way, a lot of people have.

So many people will never be the same. So many lives have had something ripped away from them. Peace, security, trust.

Trust.

And when trust is betrayed, we get angry. But when people are hurt, anger will never heal. Healing will only come when we replace anger with love. Redemption can only come from love. So many people are hurting right now. Spreading anger isn’t going to bring a single one of those people healing. We need to instead let our words be of love and support for everyone. And this love needs to come double from those of us who call ourselves the church. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ~ John 13:34-35

Maybe, if we can inject love into the situation, we can see healing come to each of people involved in and surrounding the situation. Maybe we can stop the cycle. Maybe, just maybe, we can actually change people.

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As my mind still swirls, as I find it hard to focus, I find myself asking questions. The worst kind of questions: questions that really have no answer. Questions that can’t be explained. And then the phone starts to ring. Someone comes in needing hope. And so I take all those swirling, twirling, questions and push them down, plaster a smile on my face that I don’t really feel, and answer the phone. And I give hope. Because when you give hope to others, you find hope for yourself.

Differences Make Us Strong

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his[b] faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Romans 12:4-8, NIV

Tonight at our guys bible study, we read through Romans 12. I had a note saved in my phone saying “We are all created different, and that is ok, even good”.

It got me thinking, as I look at my group of friends, I realized while we all have 2 really big things in common, a heart after God, and a love for adventure, after that, the similarities end, until you get to the really minor stuff.

For example, I’m a nerd, I love computers, filming, photography, websites, graphic design, etc. I have no interest in sports, boxing, or almost anything athletic (except ultimate frisbee, I am a beast at ultimate frisbee), I’m a creative, but I’m not good a coming up with new ideas, only refining ones already in existence, am a HUGE introvert, and I don’t like beer.

Then you have Cameron, my best friend. Continue reading

Life to the Full

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~ John 10:10, NIV

How often do we hear this scripture quoted in church? And we focus so much on that first part. “The thief (read Satan, or Devil) comes only to steal kill and destroy”. We stop there. We talk about how we have to fight the devil, resist him so he will flee from us. But life is so much more than just resisting the devil. Continue reading

Faith

In our world, especially the Christian world, we throw around this term “faith” a lot. You see it everywhere. Phrases like “just have faith”, “put your faith in Jesus”, or “it’s a matter of faith”…

But what is faith? Continue reading

Writing A Better Story

I have had a few people who couldn’t be there when I spoke at Amplify Youth Ministry a few weeks ago ask me for my notes, so today, I figured I would share them with you all who wanted them. I hope you enjoy 🙂

Continue reading

Discipleship, Glory, and Family

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
John 19:26-27

“Here is your son, here is your mother.”  What just transpired here?  Jesus is dying and He commands that they should take care of each other.  Why did he take the time for this?  John son of Zebedee was Jesus’ cousin, so by the natural family patterns, it wouldn’t have been odd if he was the one to take care of Mary when Jesus was gone.  So why did He take the time to tell him, if that is the way it was supposed to be anyway?  There are many reasons: He wanted to make sure his mother was cared for, maybe to hold them accountable because everyone else was standing around and could see, and would now know that they need to take care of each other, but I think the biggest reason was to finish setting up that community He had started to build, that community of discipleship.  See, as a disciple of something, in this case Christ, you are to bring glory to what you follow.  So we as Disciples of Christ are to bring glory to Christ.  Jesus’ mother did this early on in John 2 when she brings to Jesus’ attention the lack of wine.  She says, “They are out of wine.”  She doesn’t ask him to do something, but yet, her request is implicit.  And Jesus answers, “It is not yet my time”.  But she, perhaps without realizing it because she probably did not understand what He was talking about when he was talking about it not being his time, she tells them to do whatever Jesus’ commanded.  In that way, she brought Jesus glory.  Another job of a disciple is to be close to the master, John being one of the closest.  At the last supper, John had the most prestigious seat, with his head by Jesus, that would be the position that put John leaning against Jesus, which more literally means “to be at his bosom.”  He was close to Jesus.  So what we see here is that Jesus forms that community of true disciples, by having the two who are probably the truest examples of what a disciple is, he starts building a generation of disciples, and this is the community that will support each other until the holy spirit comes.  This community becomes a family, and that is how we are to live our lives, as true disciples: bringing glory to Christ, and being close to him, and as true disciples, we are to live as a family.  “Here is your mother, here is your son.”

What’s Your View?

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”

 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

(Luke 23:32 – 43)

Here we see that in his worst moment, Jesus is choosing to forgive those who are trying to put an end to him, permanently.  I used to wonder, “How could Jesus forgive them?  I could never do that.”  Then it hit me.  You see, Jesus may have been human, but he didn’t see things as we did.  His eyes were different.  Yes, they were like ours physically, but what he saw was different.  When he looked at a man, he did not see the man as we see him, but he saw the man as God sees him, in all his goodness, he did not see situations as we do, he sees them as God does. Continue reading

Garnering Wisdom

“Sell everything and buy Wisdom! Forage for Understanding!” ~ Proverbs 4:5 (The Message)

Have you ever really thought about wisdom? It’s not something you can learn, it’s something you earn. You can’t buy it, it’s something that’s given by God.

Recently, I have begun to ask for wisdom. And he has been answering. Honestly, it’s scary. Because God doesn’t just hand you something, instead when you ask for something like wisdom or patience, He gives you opportunities to practice and develop it. Which means that I’m being thrusted into places where I have to use wisdom….

I never thought that getting what I asked for would be so scary…. Continue reading

Such A Time As This

He’s calling
Wake up child, It’s your turn to shine
You were born for such a time as this.
~ “The Anthem” by Jake Hamilton

Yesterday morning I took a friend to work, and as we were talking on the drive in, he said to me “Joel, I feel like this year is going to be a defining year for me.”

I have been feeling the same way as I have been thinking about this year. I feel like this is going to be a year where God defines and grows so many things in me. It’s awesome, it’s scary. Continue reading