2 Corinthians 12;9

It’s not a typo. The semicolon is supposed to be there but we’ll talk a little bit more about that later.

Two years ago, I made a series of bad decisions. Some of the worst decisions I’ve ever made all in one night. Those bad decisions were the product of a time in my life when I was experiencing deep depression. The last bad decision I made that night was to harm myself on my left forearm. It’s not in my nature but depression can make you do things that you never thought possible of yourself. I was ashamed. I had allowed my brokenness, my weakness to control me. I sank further into depression. I drank more.

It was about 3 months later that I read 2 Corinthians 12:9 in my personal devotion time. I’d read it before, it was familiar, but it was different this time. I can be a prideful person and with that pride comes difficulty in recognizing and admitting faults, or weaknesses. It was easy to read the words and think, “I’m good.”

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

“(Christ’s) grace is sufficient for (me)” “Power is perfected in weakness”

This time as I sat there depressed and broken reading this passage of scripture, the words sank in and I wept. How could Christ’s grace be sufficient for what I did? How could power come out of such a great weakness, nonetheless be perfected by it? It couldn’t in my mind yet there it was in black and white. Paul didn’t mince words, he wasn’t talking in coded circles, he was explicit.

It took me some time to accept it. It took me longer to even think about boasting. I wrote about it several months later for the first time. It was hard. It hurt some people, it helped some people. After that, the whole thing became taboo to me. I didn’t talk about it and I didn’t want new acquaintances and friends to know about it. It was as if it had never happened.

I’m not regularly depressed but I’m going to admit, I do get depressed sometimes. Every so often, I become overwhelmingly and inexplicably sad. But I’m a lot better now; in some ways I’m better than I’ve ever been before.

The turning point was what 2 Corinthians 12 did for my faith. Everyone always seems to have it all together in church, good on them if they actually do, but having it all together is not grace; that isn’t Christ’s power working in us. Christ’s power is never better displayed than in our weakness. It’s right there in verse 9. Why do we hide it? Why do we, in essence, flee the perfect, redemptive love and grace of our Creator and Savior? For me, it was pride. I couldn’t admit problems because that’s not who I was. I had it all together.

I don’t have it all together and that is okay. I want to boast about my Savior’s power to the world. I want to scream it even though I have found that screaming, “JESUS LOVES YOU” at people is one of the worst and most ineffective forms of evangelism. BUT HE DOES LOVE YOU AND I STILL WANT TO SCREAM IT.

I’m not going to scream it. I’m going to find ways to display Christ’s power through my weakness. One way I’m going to do it is through my newest tattoo. Project Semicolon was founded to be a way to spread hope and love for those who are or have struggled with depression, self-harm, suicide, mental illness, and addiction. You can read more about it by clicking above but the basis is to get a semicolon tattoo as a statement that my life isn’t over yet, the same way a semicolon works in a sentence.

I wanted a way to display this idea while honoring Christ and the work He has done in my life. I decided this was the best way to do so:

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Christ’s power is made perfect in my weaknesses. I will boast about my weaknesses so that His power may reside in me and give me the ability to show that power with others.

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Midweek Music 10.28.15

“Breathe” | The Brilliance

I sigh a lot. I find it is the quickest and easiest way to deal with stress. Not that I lead an overly stressful life but while working in ministry brings its many rewards, it certainly brings its fair share of stress and frustration.

Sometimes I’ll be working around other people, none of us talking, just working. I’ll be working on worship planning or scheduling or designing or formatting or any of the other things that serve me a large dose of fulfillment with a side of frustration and I’ll take a deep, audible breath in, hold if for just a second or two and then audibly exhale out my stress. Sometimes in those moments where I am holding the breath, without actually uttering a word, I’ll think to myself, “Lord, restore me”.

I heard this song for the first time earlier this year. This song is the perfect representation of those little 5 second “sigh-moments” I have throughout the day. In those 5 seconds, I take all the built up stress and frustration, I inhale as much as I can, I dwell on God and His renewal, and exhale my problems. It’s my 5 second interaction with God asking Him to breathe life on me again.

I’ve gotten to where those moments don’t just happen, I need them. I depend on them. I would probably, in complete honesty, quit ministry without them. And it’s good that I have this dependency on those moments because in those moments, I abandon myself and re-learn just how in need of God’s renewal I am. I need God’s breath, God’s love, God’s life, God’s spirit to take over where I am unable. If I sigh around you, it’s okay. I’m not sad or upset, I’m just having a moment and lesson that I think all of us need every now and again.

Oh, Spirit of God
Here with us now, giving us life again
Breathe, breathe on us now
Fill us with Your love
Send us with Your power
Spirit of God


I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Midweek Music 10.21.15

“You’re Beautiful” | Shane and Shane

When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
You’re beautiful


 

I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Midweek Music 09.03.15

“Come to the River” | Ronnie Freeman

It has been some kind of week. One of those weeks where every aspect of your life is invaded by stress and you feel like there is no escape. That kind of week.

I heard this song for the first time about 11 years ago. Ronnie was the worship leader for a time at the church in which I grew up. He left when I was still young to pursue a solo career and after a few years of success, he returned to the church for a homecoming concert at which he performed this song. It became one of those songs that I just fall into. I can listen to it over and over and it never grows old and always encourages me.

I’m doing this song on Sunday for communion, something I planned weeks ago.  I didn’t know when I planned it into worship that I would be having the week I’m having, I just felt led to put it on this Sunday. Being able to practice this song and listen to it over the last week has been a great source of comfort and rest for me. It’s in those moments where something falls into place, something I felt led by God to do in the first place, that bring me the greatest comfort. The idea that maybe, just maybe, God knew I was going to need this song this week. That maybe someone in the congregation needs to hear this song, this week. That maybe someone reading this right now needs to hear this song, this week. Rest in God and be comforted by His incredible peace.


I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

Unwanted? Perfect.

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“Unwanted”…that’s the word that stands out to me from this screenshot. That is the word that breaks me and makes me want to cry out. The unadulterated selfishness is daunting.

“Your life, your essence, your very existence…the mere thought of you is not worth me sacrificing my dreams because you are unwanted.” That’s what this comment is saying about a child…a human being.

I want answers for substandard education. I want improvements made to a broken healthcare system. I want opportunities for people to break out of their socioeconomic bindings. I want to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, shelter the homeless…but when did any of these become more important than someone’s most basic right to simply have a life in the first place?

“My college dreams are worth more than your life.” How can you put a measurable value on life? I can put a monetary value on a college education, healthcare, food, clothing, and shelter among other superficial things. But how is it even feasible for someone to place a monetary value on the life of a human being? I couldn’t even begin to care if any aborted baby ever cured aids or cancer. Why is that even an argument? The value of your life will never be determined by the remarkable things society thinks you have or have not done. There is value to be had in having a life.

“Perfect”. Not only is this total devaluation of life condoned, it’s celebrated. That’s not daunting, it’s disturbing. How can anyone think that there is anything perfect about an argument that would place going to college on a higher level than the life of a child.

I’m broken by this. It saddens me to new depths to see this screenshot circulating on social media. In the time it took me to write this short post, babies were aborted. Lives were ended…and there is nothing “perfect” about that.

Midweek Music 08.12.15

“Christ is Enough” | Hillsong Worship

We all “need” something from time to time. A new car, new clothes, certain foods, different job, more money, better social status, etc… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been guilty of “needing” something that, in actuality, I didn’t.

We play a game with God. “Give me (insert item) and I’ll do better about (insert spiritual attribute)”. We treat our relationship with Christ like a points-based reward system. I’m just curious when Christ stopped being good enough. When did his unjustified love and grace towards us stop being more than what we deserve.

It’s hard to live the words of this song. It’s hard living in a material world and not being a material girl (or guy) to reference a song with a different mindset. It’s hard but it’s worth it. Letting Christ be more than enough, let alone enough, is so worth it. Commit yourself to Christ, be encouraged by his unmitigated grace, and follow the direction toward which he is leading you. Let Christ be enough.


I’ve created a playlist on Spotify featuring all the songs from Midweek Music, feel free to follow it along with the posts.

The Opulence of Not Giving

I have an acquaintance that started a charitable organization a few years ago. It’s not unlike him to do so as he is a really nice guy, eccentric at times, but nice. I won’t give names or specific details because my goal is not to publicly embarrass this guy. Let’s just say his charitable organization is moderately successful through his and his father’s connections, a pretty concerted social media effort, and the fact that his charity has the potential to do a lot of wonderful things for some human beings that are in desperate need.

I’ve never given any money to his charity.

Why? It’s not because I’m a stingy miser. I do donate to charities. But I don’t donate to his. It’s because of his lifestyle. Maybe I’m overreacting, maybe I care more than I should but this guy lives a ridiculously lavish lifestyle. He takes marvelously expensive trips multiple times a year spending (seemingly) more money than I make in that same year. I’m suspicious that some of his clothes cost more than the entirety of what comprises my closet. I’m fairly certain that some of the parties he throws costs roughly the same amount as that of the value of my car (which isn’t all that much so maybe a bad example).

Not only does he live this lavish life, he flaunts it.

Not a day goes by where I login to one of a variety of social media accounts that I don’t see any number of pictures/statuses/tweets/snaps about his latest expensive venture. I won’t deny it makes me jealous sometimes as I sit at my desk in my office and look at pictures of him in cities all around the world. I am human after all. But my fleeting jealousy is not what fuels this post.

Here’s the thing, I don’t completely fault this guy for spending his families money they way he sees fit. If that is the lifestyle he wants to lead, that is totally his choice. I vacation, I go shopping and eat out. I’m in no place to criticize those things. My problem lies in this fact: this same guy who is leading and flaunting this lavish lifestyle is the same one asking me to donate to his charity.

The charity’s most recent campaign was trying to raise $2000. It exceeded it’s goal, which is fantastic. As the campaign went on, I watched it’s CEO take a vacation to Europe. I couldn’t help but question how much the money spent on that vacation might have helped his organization’s beneficiaries. The plane ticket alone might very well have covered the entire campaign. As he flew to Europe, person after person dedicated $10, $15, $25 to helping others.

He is not alone.

In 2013, American households gave $241 billion to charitable organizations. I’m amazed at that kind of generosity. It’s heartwarming to see that kind of giving. There’s a catch though. In that same year, American households spent $621 billion directly on leisure travel. Individuals spent 158% as much on traveling for fun as we did on feeding the hungry, clothing the homeless, disease prevention, and educating the uneducated.

This isn’t intended to guilt you into canceling your vacation. I sure as heck am not canceling mine next month and I won’t feel one ounce of guilt as I play with my nephews on the beach. But I know that I also have a responsibility to live within a certain means so that I can help others. Maybe I even need to reassess what I spend on a regular basis.

Someone once told me, in regards to this argument I am making, “Trey, there is always more that can be done. You’ll never be satisfied.” And they were right, there is always more than can be done and I won’t ever be satisfied. I hope you won’t be either.

Not Alone

This morning, I panicked. It hit me that I move in a month and I freaked out. I’m leaving behind the past 4 years of my life. I’m leaving security, I’m leaving friends, I’m leaving a ministry, I’m leaving people who have become like family. What if I am making a huge mistake? What if I am just running away from something truly wonderful? What if I never find what I’m looking for? What if I never find someone else? What if I never get over my ex-wife? What if…?

The thoughts swirled through my mind all morning. I fixated on them. I retreated to my escape and ran for as long as my legs could stand it. It was hot, muggy and there was no breeze. It didn’t work. I returned home and began getting ready for work. I turned on music while I got ready and sang along. It didn’t work. No matter what I did, I couldn’t shake it.

I got to my office and immersed myself in work. I longed for anything to distract me…to take my mind off all the panic and the surging pressure I was feeling on the inside of my body. I started going over details for my last tour with LPYC. It broke me. I lost it. I stopped everything I was doing and simply thought to myself “I can’t take this”. I said it aloud. “I can’t do this”. It was silent in my office for a brief moment. It was then that I heard a voice in my head say, “I know…but you don’t have to take this because I can. And remember that you’re not doing this alone.”

It’s that simple. This is undoubtedly the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I’m leaving my life behind. I’m leaving what I thought was a great marriage. I’m leaving the job I thought I would have for a long time. I’m leaving what has become home. I’m leaving a planned future. I’m leaving what I thought was certainty.

What I am not leaving is God. And He isn’t leaving me. I can’t take this. I can’t do this…but this morning as I panicked, as I cried, and as I looked for every possible distraction rather than confront my emotion, I got a much needed reminder that I’m not doing this alone. And while I can’t handle this, God can. In fact, I Peter 5:7-10 directs us to not even attempt to handle our own worries and anxieties but to cast them on God.

It’s easy to get caught up in “what if’s” and it’s even easier to let the worry and bitterness from those questions control our minds. In a recent sermon series, Johnathan Pokluda said something that stuck with me, something I very much needed to hear. He said “Worrying is fear that God will get it wrong and bitterness is believing that He did.” All my thoughts this morning were based on fears that I was making a mistake. Even as I believe that I am following God’s direction for my life, I fear the uncertainty my future now holds and fear can be powerful. I won’t let the fear control me though. Don’t let it control you either. Trust in God and know that whatever comes your way, you’re not doing it alone.

Doubt

Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.

C.S. Lewis

I have always felt strong in my faith. I’ve had seasons where I maybe wasn’t as close to God as I should have been but I’ve never struggled with believing that He truly loved me. A few months ago, when I started to have serious doubts about God’s care and concern for me, I didn’t know what to do. So, I began to lash out at Him. I began to wonder how He could allow something so very devastating to happen to me. I’ve lived my life for Him. I’ve devoted my life and career to service in His ministry and this was His way of rewarding me. I was angry with God.

Here’s the first problem with that: never once has God said that life was or would be fair. Often times, people like to point to Jeremiah 29:11 and say that life should be a bed of roses. Read the entire 29th chapter of Jeremiah and you find out that the hope and future God is promising in verse 11 is amidst slavery, trials, and turbulence. God promises hope but He doesn’t promise an easy life or a fair life. He promises a future but it may not be the future you had in mind.

Here’s the second problem: I was blaming God for someone else’s choices that go against His will. God didn’t cause my wife to leave me. He allowed it to happen through the direction of His own sovereignty and her free will, but He didn’t cause it. So why should I blame Him? Why should I doubt His will and His plan for my life because of someone else’s choices?

Tony Evans has said “Sometimes, God lets you hit rock bottom so that you will discover that He is the rock at the bottom”. That very much describes my state during all this doubt. I had to crash because it truly was the only way I was going to turn to God. During that crash, I turned to a variety of sources for answers and happiness or simply an opportunity to numb the pain. None of them could compare to the answers, the joy, and the deliverance from pain that comes with Christ.

The doubt, anger, and confusion I was experiencing was completely normal during a time of grief but it’s important that we not give in to those doubts. It’s important that we keep our faith even in the most uncertain times.