I’m a Mess

I’m a mess. There, I said it, the secret is out. It’s hard to imagine but it took a car wreck + near death experience + losing my wife and a child to move me to a place where I was even open to really admit that. I don’t mean admit it in passing or even about thinking I may have a problem but not really doing much about it, I mean admitting it to the very core of who I am: I am a mess. 

Over the past several years I have been meeting with a Christian grief councilor named Ric. Slowly over the past few years, painful session after painful session, I have seen layers of pain, shame, guilt, fear, and struggle exposed that I always knew were there but did my best to hide. Have you ever heard the old adage: “putting lipstick on a pig”? I dressed it up, sprayed it down with some nice smelling cologne, and did my best to hide it, but the mess was (and is) still there.

This month marks 9 years since I surrendered my life to Jesus in one of the most desperate, hopeless moments of my life. Since what seems like a lifetime ago, I have been slowly walking towards this moment. Towards a confrontation with the giants that have held me in bondage my entire life. As a evangelist and an under-shepherd in my local church and here in the My Emanuel ministry, I’m supposed to have it “all together”, here is another secret: I don’t. Worse, leaders around me have in one way or another encouraged me to keep my struggles silent, hidden, out of sight as if the honest truth somehow damages my testimony or what God is doing in and through me.

One thing that Ric has challenged me to do over and over again is to read books that help speak into my life in different ways. Recently Ric recommended a book that has spoken into my life in a very real, raw way and the honesty of the author Carlos Whittaker has been refreshing. The book, Kill the Spider, is a powerful lesson on getting to the heart of what is causing pain and destruction in your life. The biggest lesson this book has taught me so far is: I am a mess.

It’s taken four paragraphs to get here, but I want to ask you a question: is your life a mess? Have you done such a great job hiding the pain and destruction that everyone believes you? They think you have it all together but really you are falling apart inside… do you know what I mean? If not, take whatever God gives you from this blog post and have a blessed day. If you are though, I wonder… how far does the rabbit hole go?

We can lie to our spouse and our children. We can lie to our family and friends. We can lie to our therapist and our pastor. We can create that perfect facade, say all the right words, look the part, smell the part, smile and nod, and yet there is a war raging inside us that will eventually leave us bruised, battered, and broken. Surely I’m only talking to those who haven’t surrendered their life to Jesus… no, I’m talking to the faithful, devoted, passionate men and women of faith who want to follow Jesus with their whole heart, only they can’t because a big part of them is caught up in the pain.

I haven’t figured it all out yet and I become more confident each day that I won’t until I’m standing in the presence of Jesus. But while I wait for His return or for Him to call me home, I want to be whole again. I want to uncover the broken, messy, ugly parts of my life fully before Him and ask Him to do what only He can.

One Scripture that has constantly reassured me that although I’m not who I want to be, I am becoming who God is making me is Philippians 1:6: I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Did you see it?? Read Philippians 1:6 again… God began the good work… He will continue the good work until it is finally finished! God did what I was powerless to do when He saved me through the person of Jesus. Although there is a way more theologically sound way to explain this, God became man, the Creator stepped into His creation in the person of Jesus and Jesus (fully human and fully God) did what I was powerless to do (keep God’s Law, never sin). Then, this perfect Jesus who never sinned, died for me, in my place, for my sin, so that through His sacrifice my sins would be paid for. It is when I confess Jesus as Lord and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead that I am saved! (Romans 10:9). So to summarize my understanding of Scripture, God did what I was powerless to do, saved me, and now He is still doing what I am powerless to do, changing me.

With all my heart I want to encourage you not to give up. I know the pain that repeated failure can bring. I know the hopelessness, the despair, and even the depression that we experience when we just can’t seem to get it right. But in Christ, we are truly free (John 8:36). Never forget that Jesus came to give us abundant life (John 10:10) so that in Him we could live victorious lives full of supernatural joy as we experience His grace and mercy.

One thing that my time with Ric, all the books I have read, and the time I’ve spent praying and studying God’s Word have lead me to believe is this: we can’t truly experience God’s freedom until we face what He is setting us free from. At one point in Scripture Paul says that although he hasn’t arrived yet, he forgets the past and looks forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:12-14). Often I think we use this verse to justify running from the past, hiding from it, trying to escape it, ignore it, or pretend it didn’t happen. I don’t think this is what Paul meant. The problem is obvious… no matter how fast or far you run, when you get where you are going… there you are.

What is it from your past that you need to face? What hurt is it that you tried to run from that God now wants to heal? What horror is hiding in the closet that now impacts your relationship with your spouse, your children, and those you love the most? It’s time to step into the freedom and abundant life Jesus came to give you. Face that giant, or in the words of Carlos Whittaker: it’s time to kill the spider.

I’ll leave you here because I could go on all day. You don’t have to live in this dark place of fear. It doesn’t matter if you are a pastor, Sunday school teacher, small group leader, worship team member, mom, dad, husband, wife, or whatever, don’t be afraid to face your fear. Seek out Godly men and women you can speak to and receive Biblical counseling from. In the dark, Satan has power. When we bring our deepest fears and hurts into the light, we will find greater healing than we ever knew possible. Never forget the call for each of us in Galatians 6:2: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, anxiety, hopelessness, or despair, encourage them to seek out Biblical guidance from a qualified, trained professional. You can get immediate support by contacting the Samaritan’s Purse Crisis Center at (877) 870-4673 (text or call). Visit https://samaritanshope.org/our-services/247-crisis-services/ for more details.

Word Warfare

The events of the past 24 hours have brought a childhood struggle back to the front of my mind. Some (if not most) of you who read this message have experienced the pain of insults, bullying, and unkind words. When I was young one thing I was taught to try to help deal with the pain of insults was: “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. Although well intentioned, the statement is incredibly flawed and really an outright lie.

This message is perhaps the first of a few that will focus on the power of words. The Scripture teaches us: The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. (Proverbs 18:21 NIV). The Scripture does such a great job talking about the power of words, why then have we failed so miserably in the church to understand the true power of words? As suicide rates among children has skyrocketed, bullying has become a constant topic among educators and parents alike. So often the most cruel bullying has nothing to do with physical harm but with the power of words.

As I’ve struggled with my own children and the bullying they experience in the world, the echoes of the pain from my own childhood call out to me. Words can do more to change our own perception about who we are than almost anything else. As my child sat and cried begging me not to go back to school, I could feel his pain and heartache. To be honest, the emotions I feel even thinking about his hurt scream into the depths of my heart. He is screaming out like I once did, like maybe you or someone you love right now are: help.

Last night as I tried to comfort my son, I realized how distracted I have been lately. It seemed as if his pain and hurt finally broke him inside and once the walls of his emotions cracked, everything came flooding down. How did I miss this? What have I been doing? How is it that such deep desperation in his eyes has fell on my deaf ears? I relentlessly pray for my children, how has he found himself here? How did I fail to protect him?

From his mouth a mixture of deep hurts, emotions, and chemical responses he doesn’t full understand came bursting forth. For a moment I was transported back decades and I was him. The pain and loneliness of childhood had driven me to despair. As the Lord helped me patiently listen to my son, I realized what each of you should right now: only God can truly protect those we love the most. Yet, and this is a big but, each of us should make time for those we love most to hear them.

Last night as my son confessed his hurt he also shared the thought that I didn’t care. Of course, that lie is straight from the pit of hell. I could not care more about the pains and hurts he faces. Paul tells us that as followers of Jesus we should: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 NIV) The “burdens” Paul is talking about here isn’t the struggles of every day life. These burdens are the spiritual mountains that would crush us otherwise. Is it really possible to bare those burdens (even for those we love most) if we aren’t aware of them? 

Today if you’ve made it this far, my hope for each one of us is two fold. First, if you are hurting and have been struggling in a place where you’ve been destroyed by word warfare, please get don’t give up. Please seek out professional assistance to help you with the grief or pain your struggling in. If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or ending your life, please call or text the Samaritan’s Purse helpline at (877) 870-4673. You can also visit their website at https://samaritanshope.org/our-services/247-crisis-services/

Second, don’t assume those you love the most aren’t suffering the same fight my child is. Take the time to sit down and talk to them about what they are facing. Give them a safe place to confide in you. Don’t judge the hurt, dismiss it, or explain it away. Face the fire with them. The Law of Christ that Paul speaks about in Galatians 6:2 is the command by Jesus for every one of His followers: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV)

The God of Impossible

I can’t. I’ve tried a million times and I just can’t. I’ll never get it right. I’ve prayed, I’ve struggled, I’ve done everything I know how to do and here I am again. No matter what, I’ll just always be this way. I guess this is just me… 

As I begin writing this, it’s interesting that all those “I can’t” statements that flood my mind are from a deeper, darker, more sinister source than I really want to admit. Every “I can’t” is born from the lies of the one Scripture says only comes to “kill, steal, and destroy” (John 10:10). Although most of the time every doubt and fear seems to develop naturally with-in me, the truth is most of these lies have been spoken and repeated throughout my life by the forces of darkness, these thoughts are not from God.

Imagine for a moment if I could see through the powerful delusion that tells me these lies are truth. If I could see the enemy saying: “you can’t”. “You’ve tried a million times, you just can’t”. “You’ll never get this right”. “You’ve prayed, you’ve struggled, you’ve done everything you can and you still failed”. “No matter what, you’ll always be this way”. “This is who you are now…”

The Word of God is clear about the “impossible” moments in our lives. In fact, Jesus is the God of impossible. Time after time Jesus does the unthinkable and we are left in awe of the power of the God of the universe. What mountains are you facing in your life? What addictions have you tried to lay down but you just can’t seem to break free from? What strongholds of pain and despair are firmly planted in the middle of your life that seem like you can’t tear down? Even now, my prayer is the Holy Spirit is revealing that place in your heart.

In the Scripture we see a historical recounting of a conversation between Jesus and a desperate dad. This dad had a son whom he loved but who was mercilessly being tormented by a demon. This dad watched over and over as this spiritual darkness tried to destroy his son. He had tried everything he could, he even asked the disciples of Jesus to drive this demon out of his son. Everything and everyone had failed. Here in his deepest desperation after everything and everyone has failed him, this broken dad comes before Jesus and pleads for His help.

In a moment the dad begs Jesus: “if you can do anything… please help my son”. The reply of Jesus should be burned forever on our hearts: “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” (Mark 9:23 NLT). When it comes to the God of the impossible, there is no “if” He can. It isn’t “if” you can be free from the endless cycle of abuse, despair, and destruction, in Christ every promise of God is yes and amen! You can be free, truly free (John 8:36). Alone we fail to keep every promise to do better, in our own power the impossible remains impossible. Through faith in Christ, nothing is impossible.

So here is the question… what do we do with the impossible moments of our life? Just as the dad did for his son, we “come”. Jesus is calling out to you today to come to Him. In order to truly be free you must face the truth: you aren’t free. You are a slave to your sin and shame and without Jesus, we have no hope. Because of Jesus, we can be forgiven, free, restored, and redeemed. Today the God of impossibility is calling to you: “come everyone one of you who are weary and burdened, I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). 

To those who are looking to learn more about Jesus or how to “come”, please visit myemanuel.com/i-am-ready/. To those who have surrendered to Christ but are looking to start over, please visit myemanuel.com/recommit/