@robertkwendt || lead pastor
What started this past week is a personal favorite of mine. It's #MARCHMADNESS. The time when 68 college basketball teams face off against one another in a single-elimination tournament. In the end, there is one champion. Only one team who can call themselves national champions.
What I love most is not the championship game, but the road to get there. The upsets that seem to happen year after year.
However, this past weekend was historic. It was the first time in the history of the tournament that a 16 seed (last seed) defeated a 1 seed (top team). In fact, it was not only a blowout, but an utter upset.
The defeat was unexpected yet powerful. It was a huge change in the tournament.
The Bible is also full of upset stories. Stories like David and Goliath (read 1 Samuel 17-19). Here David, a shepherd boy, defeats Goliath, a giant, with a simple smooth rock and a sling shot. The odds were stacked against him; yet with God on his side, he is victorious.
While we can learn about our powerful, abundant, and victorious God through this story, we are also faced with a lesson on change.
a moment can change everything
The story of David and Goliath goes on to show us that in a moment, in the blink of an eye, everything can change. When David returns from his victory, the women go out to celebrate with tamborines, music, and dancing. They celebrate the victory by shouting,
"Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!" (1 Samuel 18:7-9).
Out of this, Saul, the king, begins to become jealous of David and seeks to kill him. This began a years' long chase.
David had simply sought to help do his part for his nation. He brought victory in upset fashion. He brought a positive change. YET, he had to run for his life. He had to live a life in fear. He had to face hurt, even amidst a positive change.
Even through good events, change changes our circumstances. || tweet this ||
I want you to simply hear the cry of David as he faced his hurt and pain.
"Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in distress.
Tears blur my eyes.
My body and soul are withering away.
I am dying from grief;
my years are shortened by sadness.
Sin has drained my strength;
I am wasting away from within.
I am scorned by all my enemies
and despised by my neighbors--
even my friends are afraid to come near me.
When they see me on the street,
they run the other way.
I am ignored as if I were dead,
as if I were a broken pot.
I have heard the many rumors about me,
and I am surrounded by terror.
My enemies conspire against me,
plotting to take my life."
(Psalm 31:9-13 NLT)
David gets real with God. He admits his pain and cries out to God with it.
As followers of Jesus, we have to be real with God too. It is okay to hurt. It is okay to admit pain. It is okay to be real with God! In fact, through being authentic in our conversations with God, we show we have relationship with Him.
Authentic relationship with God requires being transparent with Him about how we feel. || tweet this ||
Here are a few ways to seek God, have authentic relationship with God—while still going through the hurt that comes with change...
#1—change your focus
When facing the hurt that comes with change, it can be easy to have a "woe is me" attitude. It can seem as if the world is against us and that everyone (including God) is out to get us. We feel like it is us against the world.
There was a time when I was in the middle of a major change in my life. My wife and I had just welcomed our son into the world, but at the same time, we had just left the church I was serving at. During this time, we had a newborn child but zero income coming in. I began to freak out. I started to apply for and look for any job imaginable. While we knew God was leading us to another church—even sensing that Fellowship was where He was guiding us—I couldn't simply suffer through the "hurt." I had to take control.
However, no one wanted to hire me.
Home Depot? No. Costco? No. Starbucks? No.
Everywhere I turned, it seemed like I was hitting a dead end. I began to get so frustrated with God. I felt like the world was against me.
Look at the words that David uses following his cry to God:
But I am trusting you, O Lord,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.
(Psalm 31:14-16 NLT)
Instead of saying, "Woe is me," we should be saying, "Woah there's God!"
Reflecting back on my time of hurt amidst change, I realized all that God was giving me. He was giving me time to learn how to be a dad. He was allowing my wife and I to get to do the parenting thing together. He was giving me precious time with my son that I will never ever get back. While I wanted to control things to escape the hurt, God wanted me to find enjoyment in the moment he was giving me. It was a gift.
Instead of saying, "Woe is me," we should be saying, "Woah there's God!" || tweet this ||
#2—anticipate the hurt
John tells us these words of Jesus: "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." Jesus never promises for things to be painless. In fact, he assures us that we will face many trials and sorrows in this world. Life is not easy. Jesus is not a 'get out of the world's pain easy' card. However, Jesus does promise us freedom and hope.
Our joy comes in the anticipation of the promises of God. That through faith in Jesus Christ, we can inherit the gift of eternal life. We can spend an eternity with God where there will be no more pain and suffering.
The pain we experience now is temporary. While it is hard to navigate, it's to be expected. And in order to work through it, we must anticipate the hurt that comes with change.
Jesus promises both hurt and hope. || tweet this ||
@robertkwendt || lead pastor
Heart pumping. Stomach churning. Palms sweating. Head spinning. Body screaming 'STOP!'
Have you felt it? Have you experienced it? Have you battled it?
Here's the thing...anxiety is often caused by the changes taking place all around us and our reaction to them.
There are times in our lives where the daily tasks, responsibilities, and continual changes are simply overwhelming. Today, people are constantly overburdened, busy, and anxious. Our lives have become unmanageable. Meanwhile, stability seems to be all we crave, yet it's so far from what we experience.
Change is a continual topic of conversation. Our neighborhoods change. Our workplaces change. Our technology keeps changing. (Who woke up this morning and said good morning to Alexa or Siri?) It's overwhelming to say the very least.
Change is not new (see last week's post). And even the anxiety that comes with it isn't a modern phenomenon. So what is anxiety?
Anxiety is "a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome."
When we combat change, we often have to battle through the anxiety that comes with the battle. If we are really honest with ourselves, the inception of anxiety comes out of our lack of control—especially about changes which are so uncertain.
But...what if we gave up control and found rest, peace, and patience in the presence of Jesus? What if resting in him was our first response to the changes happening all around us?
When things are uncertain, we become anxious. We become anxious, because we do not have control. || tweet this ||
There is a story toward the beginning of the Bible about a man named Joshua. He was given great responsibility and had to follow in the footsteps of one of the greatest men to ever live. (Yes, a murderer was redeemed to be known as one of the greatest men.) The man he had to follow was Moses.
After the death of Moses, the Lord's servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' assistant. He said, "Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the Land I am giving them.
Imagine this. He was handed over the responsibility of leading an estimated 600,000 men—plus the women, children, animals, and their possessions—from the desert they had been journeying through to the land they had been promised. To make this happen, he had to get all of the people and their convoy of stuff across a river. If that wasn't overwhelming enough, he had to deal with all their complaining, moaning, and groaning. All while filling the shoes of the man who God spoke the Ten Commandments to. Not to mention—Moses was such a critical person in God's story that he was later revealed alongside Elijah during the Transfiguration of Jesus (see Mark 9:2-13).
Talk about a major change in responsibilities.
It's no wonder that God said over and over to Joshua words such as "Be strong and very courageous." "Do not be afraid." "I will be with you."
God was there to calm Joshua as he had to adjust to a new way of life. He had to work through some major changes.
Joshua could have fought with God. He could have argued that he didn't want to make the change. After all, Moses did (see Exodus 4). He could have fought against the changes taking place. He didn't. He took over responsibility. He embraced the change. He knew God was with him and would continue to be with him.
He simply trusted in God.
In our worry and anxiety, God is saying, "Be strong and courageous. I am with you." || tweet this ||
with change, give up control
What would the world look like if each person was completely surrendered to others? How would things be different if instead of looking to hold on to what we enjoy, we sought after the interests of others?
There is a story about a rich young ruler who comes to talk with Jesus (see Mark 10:17-31). He asks a question of Jesus. "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" The man explains that he has kept the commandments (do not kill, steal, covet, etc.) since he was a young boy. He feels he has done enough on his end of the bargain. But Jesus, with love as his intention, explains that he still hasn't handed over complete control to God—he hasn't released his own personal possessions to help those around him. When the man heard Jesus' response, the Bible tells us, "At this, the man's face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions."
When change comes our way, the question becomes...What are we still holding on to?
Often our reaction to change comes out of a place of how we personally feel. We grasp control. We want things to go our way. BUT it's not about us: it's about God's kingdom. It's about an eternal, bigger plan.
Alexander Whyte, a Scottish pastor/professor from the 19th century, recognized that we all tend to hang heavy weights on the thinnest wires (in other words, we give a lot of importance to the things that don't really matter that much). He explains that our happiness is often placed on fragile things, such as health, relationships, children, jobs, home, or possessions. While these are great blessings from the Lord, they do not lead to lasting hope. They are heavy weights (things to strive for) on the thinnest of wires (not ultimately fulfilling).
I love how the disciples are there witnessing the conversation Jesus is having with the rich man. They are led to ask the simple question, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus' response? "With man it is impossible, but NOT WITH GOD. For all things are POSSIBLE WITH GOD" (Mark 10:26-27).
Here's the thing...God took care of our salvation. He came up with a perfect plan! A plan that gave us free will, yet revealed the ultimate amount of love possible. He made a way not based on what we do, but what He did for us.
We didn't tell God how to do it.
We didn't come up with the plan for salvation.
In fact, we had zero part in it.
We talk about this. We even believe this. YET, we live our lives as if God needs us to continually do things for Him. We act as if He needs us to tell Him what to do. When we do this, we live life trying to maintain control.
But what would our lives look like if we lived completely surrendered? What if we gave up control?
If God took care of our salvation, we can trust Him to take care of our lives. || tweet this ||
it's like a son and fruit snacks
There is a story of a son who has an absolute fit when his dad will not give him more fruit snacks. He had just finished a bag as a snack. It was really good and he wanted more, but his dad will not give it to him. He wanted to change things up. In his frustration to the dad's response, the child begins to pound his fists, kick the floor, and scream at the top of his lungs, "I WANT MORE FRUIT SNACKS!" He begins to become anxious. On the inside, tension is building. It seems like his dad doesn't hear him, so he continues to scream louder and louder, hoping just to get those fruit snacks!
Meanwhile, the dad continues to hear the child whine and complain. After all, he is standing right there. Yet the dad knows what is coming—he is making his son a feast of a meal. He is preparing all of his son's favorite things. A grilled cheese sandwich. Hot dogs. French fries. And even a healthy side of oranges. If he gives him the fruit snacks he wants, then his stomach will be bothered—he will not be able to fully enjoy the feast being prepared. He will not be able to savor the better food ahead.
At times, if we are gut honest, we are often like the kid demanding fruit snacks. We want things now. We want what seems best in the moment. We want what we enjoyed before.
We resist any sort of change because we want to keep indulging in what we have come to enjoy. We ask God for what we want, praying, "My will be done."
But that isn't how God taught us to pray...instead we are to pray, "Thy will be done."
Like the dad, we have a God who not only wants to love and serve us now, but He wants us to be with Him forever! He has an eternal plan amidst the immediate changes we face right now. He is listening to our cries, but He also wants us to enjoy the very best. He is preparing something even better for us in the time to come.
While changes hurt, while they bring about feelings of anxiety, while they make us get nervous inside, we have a God going through each and every change with us. As he spoke to Joshua, He speaks to us saying, "Do not be afraid." "Be strong and courageous." "I am with you."
Change challenges us to think differently. It challenges us to give up control and to rest in God's presence and plan.
Change hurts. BUT God is with us through it. || tweet this ||
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
@robertkwendt || lead pastor
Just this past week, people were driving with their windows down, sunglasses on, and springtime music blasting. There was a joy in the air as people all across Macomb County and metro Detroit celebrated what seemed to be the coming of nicer weather.
Then Thursday came. Eight inches of snow and cold, windy weather. What happened to the beautiful weather from just hours before?
Changes in weather serve as a reminder that there are continual changes in our lives too. Change comes in the form of exciting new opportunities—getting accepted into a program, a new job, a promotion, new neighbors, new friends, a new addition to the family, and so on. Change also comes through those hard-to-handle circumstances—a loss of someone close to us, a poor diagnosis, depression, family struggles, and even more than can be contained in a single list.
Changes may catch us off guard, but they don't surprise God. || tweet this ||
The writer of Ecclessiastes understood that change happens, nearly 1000 years before Jesus. He reminds us in Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 that change not only happens, but we are to expect it.
What then are we to do? How should we approach the topic of change?
"For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1 NLT || tweet this ||
#1 embrace the eternal perspective.
The writer of Ecclesiastes says, "Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart; but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end" (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT). God has planted ETERNITY into the human heart.
We all have a birthday. We all have a beginning. However, when we have Jesus in our life—when we believe in him as our Savior and Lord—we no longer have an expiration date: we become eternal.
Jesus said it himself, "I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life" (John 6:47).
The reality is, change often brings these feelings out feelings of anxiety because we are living in the moment. When we look through the lens of eternity, however, the struggles, worries, and pains of today begin to look so small. When we step back and take in this eternal vantage point, we can begin to see how God is using that change in a bigger way in your life—a way that brings glory to Him.
Change becomes easier to go through when we look at it from an eternal perspective. || tweet this ||
#2 embrace the blessings.
When change happens, we often will respond in one of two ways. We either complain to others, or we boast about it. I have caught myself in both of these situations. When I complain, it feels really good in the moment to share with someone else. However, as I begin to reflect later on, I often feel dirty and regretful. Yet when I share with excitement, even about something I'm not totally sold on yet, I don't walk way with any regrets.
Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 is all about enjoyment in the things which God has blessed us. We are to walk away encouraged because He continually gives us tastes of heaven here on earth. Change is hard, but with the change come blessings—even when in the moment they may not seem like blessings.
I often see the most amount of bickering over change in churches. Everyone comes with different perspectives, backgrounds, and views of 'how church should be.' Yet, it's impossible for everyone to have things just as they would like (even for those in leadership). So where do you look to find the beauty and the blessings? It's in the fact that every person comes together to worships God with one voice. We gather with different stories and backgrounds, yet we share the same God.
At the very most, there will only ever be one person in a church who likes every single thing in the church. And even that person would be difficult to find. || tweet this ||
#3 embrace god.
While change is 100% guaranteed to happen in each of our lives, there is one steady constant that never changes. Jesus. As Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."
The writer of Ecclesiastes makes it known that God's purpose and plan is to be glorified. We are to praise and honor Him (Ecclesiastes 3:14). While going through change, our aim should be to find every way possible to bring honor and glory to God, even if the change is tough.
We recently had a funeral service at Fellowship for a young man who drowned while rescuing a young toddler out of the river. I expected to witness a service where family and friends would be in utter shock and sadness. While grief was definitely present (and still is), I witnessed something absolutely incredible. People shouting "Hallelujah!" A mother praising God. A family rejoicing in the blessing of a young life heroically saved, despite the cost being the sacrifice of another. They praised God for the eternal promise that He gives for all who believe.
Change happens. But we have a God who has an eternal plan. When we think from the perspective of eternity, it makes these changes not so hard to handle.
God wants to be glorified in our mess.