Tag Archives: Corinthians

Perfect in Weakness

If we live long enough we will experience something that completely wrecks our plans. We experience something that causes us to turn to God and ask, “Why?” Why did this happen? Why do we have to experience loss? Why can my will not align with Your will? In these moments we feel like we have nothing to give.  We feel like there is no wind in our sails.

We live in a world and society that is low on hope.  Everywhere we turn, we see things that communicate to us that we don’t measure up.  We don’t look like the people on television, we don’t feel like the happy ending of our favorite movie, and our lives don’t seem to be nearly as fun and adventurous as the people that we follow on Instagram.

We live in a world that scoffs at vulnerability and tells us that we must always project strength.  But if we live long enough, we learn that there are days where we cannot even fake it.  There are days where everything with us feels so wrong that we can’t possibly give people the impression that things are good.  What do we do then?

“Give your burdens to the Lord and He will take care of you.”         -Psalm 55:22

Sound simple? It’s not.

Time and time again, we ask God to take away our pain, sadness, and temptation, yet we still feel it.  We try to give our burdens to God, but everyday we feel more and more burdened.  It takes far longer to pass off our anxieties to God than it does to take on more anxiety.

But there is hope.  Whatever we are going through, we are not alone. Even when we feel distant from God, He is still there working for us.  Even when everything in our life feels out of control or messed up, God is there.  God is our provider.  We will ultimately be taken care of by the Almighty God.  And there are some pains, doubts, and fears that may never leave us, but God will still work in us. Paul speaks of something like this in his life:

He says this, “In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Cor 12)”

God’s power is made perfect in our shortcomings, failures, and pain.  Often we may feel like we can only give a little, but God can do so much with our little. With little food, Jesus fed 5000 hungry people.  With little faith, God can move mountains.  We are fully known and fully loved by a good Father, who created us, and will do so much with what little we can offer.

Even in our deepest and realest pain, God is beckoning us deeper into a relationship with Him.  He wants to show His almighty power in us.

Let us share our weaknesses.  Let us be vulnerable and open with each other, so that God, in His unending grace, can take our brokenness and messiness and write a beautiful  story of love and redemption with our lives.

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Identity Crisis

Looking back over my 22 years on earth, I see a lot of different things that I have done.  I also see the different people that I have been along the way.  Maybe that doesn’t make sense to you.  Let me explain…

Throughout my life, if you asked me to describe myself, my answers would be different based on what I was into in that moment, or who I was trying to be.  I remember in elementary school, I thought I was THE smartest kid in the whole school.  So, in order to prove my intellectual superiority, I entered into the 3rd grade spelling bee.  I studied a little, my mom quizzed me and whatnot, so I felt very confident going in.  Obviously, I was a little nervous, there was going to be a lot of people there.

*I take the stage behind the podium for the first word.*

“Michael, your word is museum.”

“Ok… m-u-s-u-e-m.”

“That’s incorrect.  The correct spelling is m-u-s-e-u-m.”

*I start crying as I walk to my mom.*

Well, that was disappointing.  Later one of my teachers said, I bet you’ll never forget how to spell that word, will you?  She was right, I didn’t.  Why do teachers have to be right all of the time?  They’re like moms, moms are always right.

So I was determined to take my rightful place among the top spellers in the land.  I entered into the 4th grade spelling bee.  I studied exponentially more.  My mom quizzed me a whole bunch.  I was ready.  I felt like Rocky Balboa before his fight with Ivan Drago (Rocky IV).  I glided through the first several rounds with ease.  This was my year, I just new it.  And it was down to me and my arch nemesis, Bianca.  This wasn’t the first time we had squared off, she was also impressive when it came to multiplication tables.

*I step to the podium*

“Michael, your word is collage.”

“uhh… (palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy) c-o-l-a-u-g-e.”

“That is incorrect.  The correct spelling is c-o-l-l-a-g-e.”

*I step back.  Bianca steps to the podium.*

“Bianca, if you spell this correctly, you will win the spelling bee.  Your word is banana

“b-a-n-a-n-a”

*My heart burns with rage.*

I know what you’re thinking, totally unfair, right?  SHE SHOULD HAVE HAD TO SPELL COLLAGE!!!  I had been snubbed, yet again, by my imperfections and a broken system.  This was unjust to say the least.  To make it worse, my little brother Joel won the 2nd grade spelling bee in a landslide, then the 3rd grade, then the 4th.

If I actually look deeper at why I was so upset, I realize that these were not simple losses of spelling bees, they were losses of my identity.

Throughout middle school and high school, I tried to find my identity in other things.  I tried to find my identity in football.  The thing about that was, I was no good at football.  And in high school, I was injured most of the time.  I also tried to find my identity in being the funny guy.  You know this type of person, they have to be the funniest person in the room at all times.  But someone always got more laughs than me.

In college, I tried to find my identity in being all Christian author-y.  I read Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz and wanted to be just like him.  I started a blog – this blog – to show my skills as a writer.  I read Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution, and I wanted to be just like him.  I started wearing bandanas to show how pacifistic I was.  I thought that being a pacifist was the coolest.

See, I was so busy trying to be all of these different things, that somewhere along the way, I forgot to be me.

One of my favorite quotes from the recent Olympic season is from Simone Biles (I know, you were expecting America’s new hero and role model, Ryan Lochte. /s).  In an interview, Simone Biles, darling of the U.S.A., made the statement, “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, I’m the first Simone Biles.”  It would be easy for her to feel some need to get as many medals as Phelps or Bolt, or to accept that she is another exceptional Olympic athlete who should be mentioned in the same sentence as those two icons.  Biles is a terrific athlete, and there has never been another like her.  Despite all of that, she is focused on being the best Simone Biles that she can be.

That is the point isn’t it!?  God has made us all unique and different!

We do ourselves and the Kingdom of God a disservice when we place our identity in anything other than being children of God existing for the redemption of the world.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its parts form one body, so it is with Christ.    1 Corinthians 12:12

We are all differently gifted and blessed by God to serve in ways that only we can!  We are members of the body of Christ, created for a specific purpose, and together, God will do powerful things.

 

Peace and Blessings,

-Michael

Baby Dedications, the Body, and Car Mechanics

This past Sunday, we celebrated a new baby that has been born into our church.  So, aesthetically how this works is the biological family of the baby + really anyone who sees it necessary and the elders of our church will come up to the front of the auditorium during the worship service.  One of our elders will introduce this baby and charge the church with doing all things necessary in order to bring this child up in the way of the Lord through Christian community, to which the church replies together, “We will.”  For a long time, I have thought about this occasional moment in our church’s service as something that drags it on longer and cuts into our class time following worship.  For a while in fact, I would not reply, “We will,” along with the rest of the congregation, not because I wanted to introduce that kid to “drugs, sex, and rock & roll,” as some might say, but rather because that’s a long-term commitment.  That baby is a baby.  It’s not going away anytime soon.  Being twenty years old, that is a life-long commitment.  Life-long… Shoot, If I wanted to be responsible for the life and upbringing of a child, I would just have a kid… Not really HAVE a kid.  Because, after all, there are a few things that need to happen first, or at least one thing anatomically… but you get the point, right?  I’m not locking myself in to a bunch of babies for life, I got enough to worry about on my own.  

Anyways, my thoughts on the matter have changed.

It hit me on Sunday that nearly 21 years ago, I was the baby being blessed from that pulpit. Then I realized the power in that.  For my entire life, I have been blessed by many of the people that were in that building on Sunday, and many others who have sat through those dedications in the past.  I look around at people who are like my caring aunts, goofy uncles, loving grandmothers, respectable grandfathers, cool older cousins, and not as cool older cousins.  The point is that those people who made that commitment 21 years ago have time and time again come through on what they said.  They made a commitment and are still in the process of seeing it through.  Oddly enough, the guy who had the most recent baby was my first ever camp counselor ten years ago.  So, you know what I did when the elder charged us with bringing this kid up in the church? I said, “We will.”

The church is not something that is linear.  It is like a cycle that is constantly overlapping.  Potentially, there will be a lot of babies born into the church before I’m gone.  But at the same time, as those people who have played key roles in my upbringing are aging, I now have a responsibility to them.  For example, one of my two grandmothers passed away in February.  For the past few years, I had watched as my parents took great care of her daily.  Two incredibly busy people, but they still worked tirelessly to give her the best quality of life possible.  Now, my family is in that process with my remaining grandmother.  I am so blessed to be around two great examples of faith and the overlapping cycle of the Christian life.  So, while I am still young and am being encouraged by the church, I have a lot to offer to its other members.  Both young, old, and middle, the church is a body.

“12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”

1 Corinthians 12:12-27 NLT

I know how cliche and overused this piece of text can be, but in all things that are cliche, there’s a reason for that.  Things are cliche because they are so useful and practical.  Let’s say that I am a thumb (I once had a friend describe me as a thumb. I didn’t know how to take it).  If I was a stubborn thumb and decided that I was only going to watch out for myself and do thumb things, A. I would not be able to accomplish anything, B. The rest of the body would be seriously inconvenienced.  So often we get caught up in ourselves.  Not normally in some evil way, but often we get so concerned about being stretched too far, or not being able to come through with something we say we will do.  Why was I originally super weirded out by pledging along with the church to bring children up in the way of the Lord? Not because I knew I would be a bad influence, but because I may not be around forever.  I may be somewhere else, and someday not know that kid from Adam.  But the pledge was not “I will do everything in my power to look out for this kid,” but instead “We will.”  On Sunday, I made that pledge on behalf of the congregation.  Am I currently a part of that congregation? Yes I am, but wherever I am, that church will still be looking after that child.  New people will come and go, but God’s plan for His church is forever.  God’s church is like a car, it has a ton of parts.  Sometimes these parts need fixed, sometimes these parts need replaced, and sometimes parts get added that have never been in the car before, but with the steady hands of a great mechanic, that car will run like new.  As long as we are holding to God’s steady hand, the church is going to keep trucking along.

We need each other.  Every individual person has something to offer. I have something to offer, and if you’re reading this, you have something to offer as well.

Much love.

-MC

in the midst of… brokenness

I will be the very first to admit that I am way less than perfect, and anyone who knows me well is aware of that fact.  This is something that I often have struggled with inside of my calling to ministry, specifically youth ministry.  

How can I possibly show teens how to live a life fully devoted to Christ when I struggle to do so myself?

This is a question that has haunted me in the past. Well for a while, at least. Then I watched a little. Then I listened a little. I got to be around people in ministry.  I watched them deal with their imperfections. This was eye-opening for me. For the longest time, I struggled with telling people what field I was studying in, and what type of life I was preparing for. Was this because I was ashamed of my faith? Was I ashamed of Jesus? No. I was ashamed of myself. Being completely aware of my own brokenness and sin, I could not dare to let people know what I felt called to do or who I felt called to be.  Then I found a piece of Scripture from 2 Corinthians that comforted me.

To keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  -II Corinthians 12:7-10

Even Paul, the great missionary of the Gospel, was in need of grace. God has used some really screwed up people to bring about his glory throughout history.  King David, “a man after God’s own heart,” was an adulterer who then covered up his adultery by conspiring to have a man killed.  Rahab was a prostitute, but God used her to help his people.  Paul himself was a killer of Christians, and his letters to churches are now known by many as the “inspired word of God.”

One thing that these people have in common (other than the fact that God used them for great things) was that they did not dwell on their own brokenness, but instead chose to live into a better story. We live in a world filled with stories. Some of these stories are of God, but many are not.  Whatever we do, whether good or bad, will be part of our story, but what do the bigger pictures of our lives look like? Overall, are we choosing to serve God with a few hiccups along the way? Or are we rolling around in the muck of our lives? These are the questions we have to answer for ourselves. Personally, every second of every day, I have a choice to make.  I can spend my time focusing on my brokenness, or I can choose to live unashamed.  Unashamed of myself and fully turning my brokenness over to God, only then is there full life.

While writing this, I thought of a song I grew up singing at Church Camp. Here are some of the lyrics:

I’m trading my sorrows,

I’m trading my shame,

I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord.

Brokenness is something that exists in everyone’s life, but it is not something that we have to hold on to.

in the midst of brokenness, let us hand it over to Jesus. Again, and again, and again…