A Precious Commodity

Time is a precious thing. It is constant. The clock never stops, unless the batteries die… but TIME still never stands still. With each passing second I am getting older and getting closer to the end. I’m not trying to sound grim, I’m just making a point. One day time will run out for us all.

Last night I woke up around 2:30am. The waking was not out of the norm per se, but not being able to fall back  asleep quickly was the anomaly. My mind was racing and I couldn’t stop it. Usually during these moments I take time to pray. I pray over my family, pray over our church, pray over my work, and so on. As I was praying I just began confessing to God how I have been such a time waster. I have wasted countless hours on pointless things. I believe God was revealing to me how I can better use my time left on the earth. It was not some conspicuous, awe-inspiring revelation. It was simple. It was to the point. Social Media needs to be put in it’s place.

When I was in high school we didn’t have social media. Sure there were Xanga accounts and Myspace had somewhat creeped in, but it hadn’t taken over society as it has now. Think about it, what is the first app you open on your phone in the morning? When you want to kill a little time while you’re waiting what do you do? You look at Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or snapchat. You double-tap pictures of people you may or may not know. You tap on click-bait that has all but taken over Facebook. You feel bad about yourself because so and so went on a cool trip but you can’t afford such an extravagant vacation. What a strange little bubble to live in, right? We constantly judge our real lives against the facade of our Instagram/Facebook “friends.” I can think of numerous times that I said something along the lines of, “Well, at least I’m not as bad a parent as so and so. Did you see that photo?” How ignorant of me. This platform has created such a judgmental and honestly creepy society. I remember when I actually had to ask a person about themselves, now I can just read about it. No wonder actual in-person conversations are so hard to come by these days. We are forgetting how to have them.

I’m not saying if you have a social media account you’re an egotistical, vain individual. I have the accounts but I need to have dominion over them. So, my resolution/decision? I’m taking all social media off of my iPhone. My conviction (read that again before you email me…this is MY conviction) is that having these apps on my phone makes it too easy for me to waste precious time. I have enough on my plate to keep me busy: I am a husband, a father, a pastor, and a friend. I have school classes to complete, a house to keep in order, and a family to shepherd. I cannot rob my marriage or my son of the time and effort they need from me so I can look at a screen. I think social media has become an escape for many of us. We escape our reality for seconds of someone else’s life. I’m called by God to steward MY life and not to compare myself to anyone but Jesus. If social media causes me to stumble in that area, then it’s a trap for me. I am choosing to expose it. I don’t know what that looks like down the road just yet, but for now I know that deleting these accounts off my phone will aid my recovery from them.

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Unabashed

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A few weeks ago we brought my 2 year old into the adult worship service with us. He absolutely loves music and he always bounces in my arms to the beat of the songs. On this particular morning he decided to sing, LOUDLY! He sang so loud that at times it hurt my ears. At first this bothered me because I was a little embarrassed by it. Yeah, I’m such a great dad! I’m embarrassed by my two-year-old. Immediately after the blood rushed to my face and as my discomfort was at its apex it hit me: this is the most wonderful sound in the world right now. My little boy didn’t care who was around him. He didn’t care who was listening or watching. He couldn’t care less what others thought of him in that moment. He was proud and excited to sing loudly. Talk about conviction! When is the last time I just belted out my praises to God without a care in the world? God loves to hear me sing regardless of what it sounds like to others around me. When was the last time I was so enthralled in worship of Jesus that all that was around me was dim in comparison to my time with the Savior? It’s been a while.
Most adults have the same problem I do. We don’t like to be heard while singing in church. We just want to blend into the crowd. Honestly, this goes beyond singing in church. This bleeds into our every day lives. I’m honestly a bit jealous of how my son views the world right now. He dances and jukes whenever he hears music. It could be any type of music as long as the beat strikes him in a compelling fashion. If he hears a guitar lick he likes, he plays air guitar and gets this serious look on his face like he’s the one performing it. It is the most innocent, fun, and satisfying sight to see, especially as his daddy. So, your heavenly Father loves to see and hear you sing and dance for him. Granted, you don’t have to subject everyone to your cool dance moves, but I think you get the picture. This week my goal is to live every day caring a little less what those around me think.

Through New Eyes

What a great time of year! I love Christmas time and all that the season brings – the fragrance of the Christmas tree, Christmas music, and Christmas movies. Having a little boy has changed how the season feels. It brings back memories of Christmas when I was younger. To see your child experience something new brings forth a new perspective for the parents as well. My son was so excited to get a Christmas tree. Now that he’s talking he asked to get a Christmas tree for two weeks before we finally got around to it. Now we watch Christmas shows and movies all day. Its like a switch was flipped and I love it!

My favorite part of Nate learning about Christmas is that it facilitates a discussion about Jesus. He’s only two, but we talk about Jesus a lot. Christmas gives us more fuel for that fire. Not only is he learning about Jesus (even if its bits and pieces), but I am learning new intricacies to my own faith. Again, perspective is everything. Having a son and being a father has changed the way I view the gospel. Nate is my one and only son. That in itself lends to a new lens in which to view God’s love for us in sending Jesus.

As I was driving the other day I thought about Jesus coming as a baby. Why didn’t he just show up on the scene as a man and just take care of this sin business real quick? If he had, scriptures like Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15 would not exist. I am thankful that he did come as a child. I’m thankful for Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” We have hope, but only in Jesus. I hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas and are able to enjoy Christ and the peace he brings us!

The Most Wonderfully Stressed Time Of The Year

One year ago today, I was beyond stressed. Christmas Eve services were upon me and so much had to be completed in such a short window of time. Being both the worship leader AND the creative arts pastor is extremely challenging. Not only did I need to think about the flow of songs, arrangements, click tracks, and leading worship, but I also had to be sure the whole service made sense at the end of the day. I will say, the one thing that is great about doing two jobs at once is that the disagreements with myself were few and far between!

Now that I am no longer part of the creative process on a Sunday morning, the stress level has reduced exponentially. Granted, I stress over different things during certain seasons but its not the unhealthy stress that I was experiencing. There is a difference between feeling stressed because of the season you’re in and being stressed 365 days of the year. If you’re experiencing the latter, let’s talk.

The encouragement I would give to those who are gearing up to lead Christmas services is this: relax. Take a deep breath and remember who is in control. Its not you. Of course this is something I have to remember every day, but its a truth we all have to embrace. I don’t want to use the same old cliche we always use, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” but it is the reality of Christmas. I hope we all can point to Jesus this week and the fact that He is the One we should be promoting. Whether you’re a worship leader, a staff member at a church, or an attender, let’s celebrate Jesus this week! Merry Christmas! 

 

 

Where Is My 90’s America?

 

The 90’s were great! I was born in the late 80’s so I only truly remember the 90’s and on. Back then pop music, grunge rock, torn jeans, and MTV were all cool. Oh, and don’t forget about the greatest show of all time – Saved By The Bell! Zack Morris was my role model.2b2e0ac0-14c3-42f3-b87a-8b3e6d314bb6_560_420

We live in a crazy world. I know that is cliché but it is true nonetheless. I wonder if I would have been thinking this same thing if I was 29 in 1996 (that is, before the Atlanta Olympic bombing). I was only ten when this happened, and honestly I didn’t even know it happened until I was much older. It could have been the simple fact that I didn’t watch the news, and there was no such thing as social media. You either had to read the newspaper or actually watch the evening news. Being a ten year old I did neither. Oh how things have changed…

We are bombarded daily with just how terrible our society is. If you scroll through a Facebook newsfeed for more than 2 minutes, you will see plenty of randomness that will either anger, frustrate, or inspire you. I have come to the realization that this is such a waste of time. Social media serves the egotistical, self-aggrandizing world with likes and shares like nothing else ever in history. When I was growing up, we had to actually have conversations with people to let them know what was happening in our lives. Heck, we had to get pictures developed…my son will never know the struggle. Remember taking pictures with those awesome (terrible) disposable cameras? I can remember the bonus picture that you would sometimes get after you clicked past the “24” on the spindle. Those were the days!

Granted, I understand that growing up and becoming an adult comes with new lenses. You see the world very differently than when the world only consisted of your school and your neighborhood. I shudder at the reality that my son will grow up in an extremely different world than I did. I know I shouldn’t be fearful, but when I am completely honest that’s exactly the emotion I feel – fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the chaos that is America in the recent months. I pray daily that my wife and I can raise a son that honors God and loves Jesus. Daily I am reminded how tough that is going to be for him.

I grew up in the Bible Belt and thinking back to my elementary and middle school days, almost everyone I knew attended church every now and then. They may have been the Christmas or Easter only crowd, but I cannot recall times when I was embarrassed or ashamed by any means to say I was going church on Wednesday nights, let alone any other time. It was just part of life and people were ok with it. There was never a conversation that I can remember that had anything to do with Christians being bigots, judgmental, or anything particularly negative. Fast forward to 2016 – wow! Being a Christian is very different. We still do not know the struggle of the early church and to compare would be minimizing what the early Christians went through. But, when we consider the things that have changed in our culture over the last decade — from the definition of marriage, marijuana being legalized, cops being murdered, african-americans being murdered by cops, ISIS, and the list could go on. What will this world look like in another 10 years? When my son turns 18 and has the opportunity and privilege to vote for the next president, what kind of platform will he or she be running on? Where will America be?

You see, these are the types of questions that can ignite a sense of fear within me. Sometimes I let it get the best of me. I’m just being honest, for Christ followers it’s not always butterflies and lollipops. Just because Jesus saved me doesn’t mean I don’t battle against the flesh any longer. The fight gets nastier every waking moment. So here is what I have to choose to do daily:

  • Die to self. Surrender to the Holy Spirit.
  • Honor my wife above myself.
  • Choose to read my Bible instead of the latest news article or twitter/facebook feed.
  • Choose to spend time in prayer instead of complaining about my “first world problems.”

This is not an exhaustive list, but you get the picture. And trust me, this is not easy! I have to have this conversation with myself and God DAILY! Can you imagine what the Apostle Paul would say about the age we live in? After all that he went through for the sake of the Gospel, even to his death? I am thankful for God’s word. I am thankful that no matter who our next president is God is never surprised or out of control. Join me in not getting caught up in the fear of the “what’s next?” Psalm 90:2 says, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” There we can find hope. In that truth we can stand secure on a rock that will never move and a Kingdom that will never be shaken (Hebrews 12). 

God’s Timing & Provision

On Wednesday, May 18th, Courtney and I stepped out in faith and I resigned a position I had held for just under 2 years. We knew that God was moving us somewhere new, but we did not know where that would be. It was a scary thought, but it was also an invigorating one. As my father in law said, “It’s better to be unemployed and in the center of God’s will than anywhere else.” We wanted to let God write the script and we were ready to go wherever He called us next. I am beyond excited to say that today was my first day in a brand new position at West Ridge Church in Dallas, GA. God’s timing and His provision was nothing short of mind-blowing. So, as a testament of God’s work in our lives I wanted to share how this all came about. 

On Thursday afternoon, May 19th, I got a phone call from a friend telling me about a Married Groups Director position they had open. When he asked me if I would be interested, my first response was to laugh (as was my wife’s when I told her) and tell him that I didn’t even know if I would be qualified for that since I had absolutley no groups experience.

This reminds me of when God told Abraham and Sarah they were going to have a son in their old age: their response was laughter. (Genesis 17:17 & 18:12) They did not see how something that had proven to be physically impossible could be accomplished, but God fulfilled his promise in spite of their laughter and doubt. 

In my 10 years of ministry, I have always relied heavily on my abilities (playing guitar and singing) but this position is one that will stretch me and grow me. It will cause me to rely more fully on God to help me and sustain me, rather than relying on myself. I feel like I am in a really great place: I must lean on the Holy Spirit, and the great pastors and leaders He has placed around me. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. It is humbling and thrilling. 

This position is extremely different than anything I have done before and Courtney and I are excited about that! God’s timing could not have been more perfect. We have prayed daily that God would open the one right door for our family and He did just that! All credit goes to Jesus for providing this new role for us. We are so blessed to be a part of West Ridge Church.

I cannot thank those who have prayed for us enough! The countless texts, calls, and messages were always comforting and came just when we needed them the most. (Like when I had times of thinking, “what are we doing?”) Prayer really does work. I can say with 100% honesty and full belief that God answers prayer. He is always working and He is ALWAYS faithful. God is sovereign. We didn’t know where we were headed, but God knew and He was going before us! We wanted to seek God and His will alone because in the end that is all that will ever matter.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 

Every Day Is Father’s Day

There have been times I’ve heard the phrases, “you’re on dad duty,” or, “are you babysitting while your wife is working?” Though these comments I’m sure are not ill-intended they still rub me wrong. When I am alone with my son, I’m just simply being a father. It is dangerous to think otherwise because being a father is a God-given gift and something we must steward very wisely. 

Over the past two weeks I have been at home with my son while my wife has been working. It has been a total role-reversal and extremly eyeopening. I have been exhausted at the end of every day from trying to keep up with my almost two year old. He never runs low on energy and is always ready to jump, play guitar, play drums, run, go outside, and the list could go on. All this is in the job description as a dad, but there is so much more I am called to. So many questions inundate my mind as I am spending time with my little boy – 

Who will this little guy grow up to be? How can I best teach him about Jesus and God’s love for him? How can I teach him boundaries but not overprotect him? 

You see, the last thing I want to do is raise a son that wants nothing to do with Jesus and Church. I don’t want to raise a son that is scared of everything and lacks the gumption to take on life’s hard trials. Every day as a father I get the unique and humbling opportunity to teach my son little lessons that will help shape who he will become. I pray every day that the Holy Spirit would continuously teach me and guide me through His word how to be a better husband and father.

So, no I’m not just babysitting my son or just watching him. I’m afforded an amazing, prodigious opportunity to help raise my son and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The last two weeks have caused me to be even more appreciative and thankful for what my wife has done for 90% of Nate’s life. She has been with him all day everyday for 22 months now. I tell her almost everyday, “I don’t know how you do it.” God has given me such an amazing woman who is an incredible mother to this little guy. I am one lucky dude.