What now, GOD?? How did I get here? What do I do next? What now?
Too often in life we find ourselves in these “what now” moments. In 2020, it was COVID-19. In my life it was a job loss. In your life it might be a diagnosis. Whatever the case, “what now” is sure to come and how we handle these moments could determine the direction of our lives.
Generations become defined by the events that happen within their years. World War 2 defined the 1940’s and gave us the greatest generation. Vietnam and the Beatles defined the 1960’s and 70’s and gave the world the baby boomer generation. In the 2000’s, events like 9/11 and the financial crisis defined how millennials invest and interact with the world. Every generation has its defining moment and I believe that right now we are in another defining moment that doesn’t just touch a single generation, but touches every generation separately and uniquely. Whether you are a parent wanting to provide for your children or an older American trying to protect your health, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, work, and play. As Christians, moments like this should bring excitement, not in the pain and suffering of others, but in the fact that we have the Light this dark world needs. In Acts 2, the ancient world was experiencing a defining moment as well: Jesus had been crucified by the Romans and then resurrected from the dead and a new religious movement called, “The Way” was experiencing exponential growth. A man by the name of Saul, who was a leader in the ruling religious party was threatening, arresting, beating, and even killing converts of this new movement. All eyes in Israel were on Rome, the Jewish leadership, and this new movement that was upending the current religious structure. How did those early Christians respond to their moment in time? What was their perspective in the face of fear and death? Their response gives us a great example as a generation and people who are living in their own defining moment.
1. We must step forward
“Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd…” Acts 2:14 NLT
Stepping forward in faith doesn’t mean we are careless with our actions and run out into the middle of the panic, but it means when GOD gives you an opportunity to share your faith, you seize that moment. Maybe it’s sharing scriptures of peace on your social media feed or offering to pray with a neighbor or friend who is really scared. GOD will give us all unique opportunities to step forward within our circle of family and friends in the community where we live and it’s in these moments where His light gets to shine through our actions.
2. Be prepared to share your faith
Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” Acts 2:37-39 NLT
The one good thing that comes from any crisis is that people look for something stable in the midst of chaos. Oftentimes, the church is the place where most people run. Even with the doors of our physical churches being closed, we have an opportunity as believers to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with family, friends, and even strangers at the grocery store. Hope is what this world is looking for and that hope is found in Jesus Christ.
3. Be open to generosity
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
How much toilet paper do you have? Did you notice the empty produce shelves at your local grocery store? This is not a time to hoard up groceries and paper products…no this is our moment to be a blessing to our neighbors and those closest to us. How can we do this when social distancing is the rule? Don’t take more than you need at the grocery store. If you have more than enough, post on Facebook and ask if anyone needs more. We can still share even among a world that is hoarding in panic. In Philippians 4:19, Paul assures us that, “GOD who takes care of me [Paul] will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”
Generations are defined by the moments that intersect the years they find themselves on Earth. Who would have thought during our lifetime we would have seen a pandemic? I believe that you were born to be here for this very moment in time. Living on the inside of you is the Light that shines brighter than any darkness. We have the peace that passes all understanding because the Prince of Peace lives in our hearts. I am reminded of the lyrics from one of my favorite Sunday school songs, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.” Jesus is the light this dark and panicked world needs. We are the hands and feet of Jesus. THIS IS OUR MOMENT.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
In 2009 I was a wide-eyed, holding the world by the tail, 23 year old graduate from the University of South Florida. With a BA in Business Administration, I felt like I had my whole life ahead of me. What I didn’t know was what actually laid before me: falling in love, marriage, having children, building a thriving business, adopting two puppies, traveling the country, losing family, moving 5 times, and settling in to life as a husband and dad are just the first 10 years since walking across that stage back in 2009 with diploma in hand. 2019 was its own unique year: gaining our second child, moving again, starting a new job, and learning what it truly means to trust GOD in every situation. As the years have passed from 2009 and my responsibility as an adult has grown, I’ve learned that this life can become quite heavy. The weight of being a husband, raising a Godly family, earning money, and navigating the ups and downs of each day felt like they were placed on my shoulders every morning when my feet hit the floor. Many mornings I would stand in the shower and just let the water run over my head hoping that the heat would somehow alleviate the tension that resided between my shoulders. Each year would add more responsibility and with that more weight. I felt like Atlas in greek mythology who was banished by the gods to hold up the world for all of eternity. If this was life, I felt crushed. I remember a distinct moment driving in my car thinking about work, family, and other responsibilities and my chest began to tighten. Not like anything I had ever experienced before, it felt as if an elephant was sitting on my sternum. After a few minutes the pain subsided, but that feeling never left me. I knew what the problem was. It wasn't my health. I had just been to the doctor and everything had checked out fine. This was deeper than physical health. The weight that I had been carrying was slowly crushing my soul. A change needed to be made. But how?
As I write this, the final days of 2019 are fading away and 2020 is fast approaching. My wife and I have been praying about this next year and decade and what direction GOD would take us with Anchor Movement. The more we prayed and talked the more we kept coming back to the theme: “This isn’t my weight to carry.” Valerie and I would find ourselves discussing something, whether it’s the kids or work or bills and we would both just eventually say, “This isn’t our weight to carry.” What was that weight? Everything that was causing me pain, stress, and anxiety in the years before. Jesus knew what it was like to face situations of great stress, fatigue, and anxiety. In the garden of Gethsemane before He was crucified His blood vessels ruptured and He sweat drops of blood because of the mental anguish He was experiencing. Hebrews 4:14-16 in the message version puts it like this:
“Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” Hebrews 4:14-16 MSG
Jesus literally carried the weight of the world on His shoulders. When He went to the cross, he not only carried all the sins of the world, but He carried the curse of death, hell, and the grave. If He did this for me, why am I worrying about how much money is in my bank account or whether or not certain people like me? Jesus gave this invitation in Matthew 11:28:
“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NLT
I like that phrase, “Let me teach you.” Teach me what: how to rest. If I am resting in Jesus than I’m not carrying any of my weights. You can’t lay in bed and do pushups at the same time. It just doesn’t work. In the same way, you can’t rest in Jesus AND carry the weight of your entire life. Too many Christians today, myself included, try to carry all our responsibilities and miss this amazing promise from Jesus. I even sometimes try and justify my stress or anxiety by saying things like, “I’m just working for the Lord” or “ If I don’t do it, nobody will.” But that is not what Jesus is saying in the verse above—He is offering me rest if only I will come to Him.
I love the visualization of this verse and Jesus using a yoke to compare and contrast His burden versus our burden. A yoke is a large wooden harness used to connect two animals for plowing fields. We don’t see this much anymore because we have tractors and advanced technology, but in ancient Israel, yokes were a necessity to be an efficient farmer. GOD showed me something in this verse that I had never seen when I was studying to write this blog. Jesus said come to me and I will give you rest. Have you ever seen an animal take anything off of them? If a horse has a saddle on their back, the only way that saddle is coming off is when the farmer takes it off. As Christians we believe that we need to come to Jesus and give Him our burdens and stress and anxiety, but that is not the picture GOD showed me. Jesus is the one who takes the burdens off of our backs and He puts His burden, which is light and easy, in replacement of all the weights we are carrying. All we have to do is come to Jesus and He does the work. My prayer for you in 2020 and for the years and decades that follow is that you will come to Jesus and let Him carry your weight. Stop trying to navigate or bear the weight you were never meant to carry. Come to Jesus. Let Him carry your weight. Learn to start saying what Valerie and I say when we begin to stress about certain situations, “This isn’t my weight to carry.”
For the next several weeks and maybe even months, Valerie and I want to blog and podcast a series we are calling, “New Year, Transformed You.” Our theme verse is Romans 12:2 which says:
“Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.” Romans 12:2 TPT
We are praying that through this series, we all will discover the power in transformation—not just outwardly, but inwardly as well. Jesus has promised us a life in abundance and not just any life—His life. It’s time for Christians to stop living in defeat, dysfunction, and destitution and start living the life Jesus died on the cross so we could have. Some of the topics we will cover will be stress, comparison, finances, serving, giving, and anything else the Holy Spirit gives us. Together we can see the goodness of GOD in our homes, communities, and cities, but it starts with us. Stay tuned!
When we moved, we had a new address to memorize. Being close to the holidays, I’m making more purchases and I find myself at times typing in our previous address at checkout. Then I’m like, “Duh, we moved! That’s not our home any more. I have a new residence”. I liked our old house, it was safe and secure, but something was missing. We had fun in our old home and enjoyed some things about the area we lived in, but when we took the step of Faith and left our comfort, security and what we were used to-we stepped into something better we didn’t know we were missing. We finally felt “home”.
It’s a similar feeling to our walk with Christ. When we decide to follow Him, we are no longer citizens of this Earth, we are citizens of Heaven. It can feel a little uncomfortable at first making changes from the old to the new. Sometimes change entails leaving behind things we thought gave us purpose or activities we found fulfilling- for something different.
In fact 2 Corinthians 5:15 NLT says, “He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.”
And verse 17 says:
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
Transformation, like moving from one home to another, doesn’t usually happen over night and most times it’s not easy. Truly living life with an eternal perspective can take some time. Consequently, it can feel as if living this way has totally complicated life. Below vs 13 says that, “if it seems that we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God.” Even in the Bible, people were feeling torn between living a “normal” life vs the “crazy” life passionate for God. But hey, just what if there really is more to life than just what we see now?! What if being that “crazy Bible person” is actually a door to living a life full of passion and purpose?
“If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life."
2 Corinthians 5:13-14 NLT
Sometimes it is hard to lay down your old life and carry on with the “new” one. Being accepted by those around you can be the hardest part of running the race, but when you start to reap the benefits of a life sold out for Him you won’t look back. Satan doesn’t know your future, only your past, so oftentimes he’ll remind you of past shame and guilt. Maybe your family or friends liked the “old you” better and you’re feeling like a failure to those you hoped would be your biggest support in your life change. Living like a resident of Heaven vs Earth isn’t necessarily the easy path, but the rewards of living that way far outweighs not.
For me, living with eternal perspective has brought me more joy. It’s easy to be weighed down with the cares of this world and lose sight of what our purpose in life is, especially when times get tough.
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NLT
We aren’t promised perfect or easy as Christ-followers, but when the One who took on all of our sin and imperfections, overcame death and defeated the grave- is on your side- living a life sold out to Him is life giving . Living for eternity shouldn’t cause “FOMO” , because when you are living for Him, you actually open doors to not just a fulfilling life on Earth but eternal life as well. Once you accept Jesus as your Savior (see the link to learn more), your old life is gone. Your sins are cast as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12), your spirit is being renewed (2 Corinthians 4:16), and your future is bright (Jeremiah 29:11).