Jesus over Everything

Do you ever feel like you have way too much going on? If you are in school, you are trying to balance every assignment, while managing to still have a social life and hopefully find some time to sleep. If you have recently been married, you are trying to balance making time for each other and still being the independent person you  have always been. If you have infants at home, you are trying to balance taking care of this new baby, while also finding time to care for yourself. If you have older kids you are trying to balance your schedule with theirs. And if you have elderly parents, you are trying to balance your family’s needs with theirs.

These are just some of the many things we try to balance in our lives. Between paying bills, staying in touch with friends, having to repair things at home, unexpected car troubles (the list goes on and on), it is easy to feel overwhelmed. We can try with all of our might to balance all of these things in our life, but if we are honest with each other, we all eventually reach a point where we feel like we can’t maintain that balance and something has to drop.

That happened to me this week…

For the most part, my wife and I do a good job of balancing our finances. So earlier this month, when we had some unexpected car troubles, we looked at our budget , made some adjustments and decided to go ahead and do the work on our vehicle. The problem was that I did not follow through with our plan and late last week I started to worry about our finances. In that moment, my brain went down a rabbit hole: I started thinking that I shouldn’t have bought that shirt, or we shouldn’t have gone out to dinner that one night, or we shouldn’t have repaired the car. I started losing balance in my life and in that misbalance I started causing chaos in my life. (Surely I am not the only that panics when I start losing balance in my life.)

And the problem was that my loss of balance, led me to hurt other people. For starters, I know my wife was upset (and probably caught off guard) with my sudden worry. And just like my mind went down a rabbit hole, I caused hers to do the same. When our dog chewed up my phone case, I felt like it was the end of the world because in my mind, I couldn’t afford to buy a new one (even though I didn’t need a new one). I also became distracted at work because I kept trying to figure out how to find balance again. Even sleeping became difficult because instead of letting my brain relax, I was trying to bring balance to my life once again.

As I was driving to the church yesterday, I felt defeated because I could not regain balance. In that moment I started praying and I said these words: God help me get over my fear and help me put my trust in you. This past week has reminded me of a powerful truth though. I will never be able to balance my own life. And the fear and worry that I experience are simply fear and worry of having to admit that I cannot bring balance to my own life. As Christians, we believe and accept that we can only find balance in Jesus, and nothing else. And I don’t know about you, but for me, that is a hard pill to swallow.

In Luke 10, we are told that Jesus was traveling and when we got to this certain village, Martha welcome him into her home. I can imagine that this visit was unexpected. They didn’t know ahead of time that Jesus would be coming to their home. Jesus simply showed up and they welcomed him. This is how we lose balance in our lives: stuff happens unexpectedly. Think back on it, every time we feel like we are losing balance, it happens after an unexpected event. And that is the place that Mary and Martha find themselves in. Jesus has shown up at their house and they were not ready for it. The unbalance comes in the fact that they now have to make the house look presentable for their company. Maybe that day was not “cleaning day” so the house looked like a mess. Maybe that day they weren’t planning on doing the dishes and the kitchen looked like disgusting. Maybe they hadn’t dusted in a while or maybe they were running low on water or maybe they were not ready to provide hospitality. This unexpected visit created chaos because they now have to rearrange their life in order to look like they “have it all together.”

So they both start working on finding that balance once more. Martha got to work right away creating balance in her life by working on the many tasks that need to be taken care of due to this unexpected visit. Mary also goes to work in creating balance in her life by sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to what he is saying.  They each respond differently to their need for balance in light of an unexpected event.

“I believe that all of us balance life in one of three ways.”

You see, I believe that all of us balance life in one of three ways. The first way is that some of us place Everything over Jesus. This means that taking care of everything else is more important than making time for Jesus. We have this belief that if we can take care of everything else first, we can then dedicate all of our leftover time to Jesus. But it never works that way. We always have more and more things to balance in our life and we end up always putting everything over Jesus.

I believe that this is where Martha found herself. She knew that her unexpected guest was Jesus but if she could just take care of everything else first, she would eventually make time for him. But here is the reality of living in this mindset: when we place Everything Over Jesus, we always end up feeling empty and like we need to do (or have) more. The reality is that even if our intent is to take care of everything so that we can eventually make room for Jesus, we will never be able to make room for him without intentionally choosing to place Jesus first.

Which leads to the second part of the diagram: Jesus&Everything. Unlike Martha, some of us try to balance Jesus alongside everything else. We try to balance Jesus into our lives along with everything else. And in doing so, we become legalistic about our relationship with Jesus. We begin to say stuff like “I can only give one hour a week on Sunday mornings because I have so much other stuff going on.” When we do this, we end up feeling overwhelmed and are constantly worried that we are going to disappoint someone.

Going back to the story, this would be like Martha trying to finish her tasks while also talking to Jesus. Trying to accomplish two things at once means that both things get less of our attention and sometimes they are not accomplished correctly because of that distraction.

Then there is the third part of the diagram: Jesus Over Everything. You see, when we realize that we do not have the bandwidth to keep our life balanced, we turn our lives over to Jesus and make him our one and only priority. This is what Mary does. She knows the things that have to be done, she knows that the house might look like a mess, but if she is ever going to have balance, she has to turn her attention to Jesus first. She has to make room to notice Jesus’ presence in her life. If she is going to experience balance, she has to place Jesus over everything else in her life. This means that the mess can wait, because she has to spend time with Jesus first.

You see, life is messy and overwhelming and impossible to balance. But when we place Jesus over everything else, we are able to approach everything else with a different perspective. What Mary realized by placing Jesus over everything was that her worth and value are not dependent on her ability to do the tasks. I truly believe that no one would doubt her ability to accomplish those tasks. She understood that by placing Jesus first, she would find her worth in Jesus and not in those tasks.

That is the lesson I had to learn this week with our finances, and the lesson I hope you find as you search for balance in your life. Everything you are trying to balance will never give you life, or peace, or joy or hope, or fulfillment or true value like placing Jesus first will. In Jesus you will come to find that you are more than the things you accomplish or own. And if that doesn’t bring you balance, I don’t know what will.

So take time today to make Jesus first. Before you start worrying about your meetings, spend some time in prayer offering to God all of your worries. Before answering any emails, open your bible and read through it. You will find that over and over again, people find balance in their life by placing Jesus over everything else. Before you start listening to all the things that need to be finished at work or home, listen to some of your favorite Christian songs. Place Jesus first today, and I promise that you will begin to experience true, authentic balance in your life.

Together on the journey,

Pastor Fernie

(Re)shaped Image

Two nights ago, after a very long day, my wife and I sat down to watch some tv and decompress before going to sleep. We had started watching Queer Eye on Netflix last week, so we decided to watch an episode before calling it a night.

If you have not seen this show, you should. Queer Eye is a Netflix show in which a group of five guys called the Fab 5 do a complete makeover for someone. Each of the five plays a vital role on the show. One guy, Tan, is in charge of the wardrobe makeover. It is heartbreaking to hear over and over again how people use clothing to hide emotional scars. Some of the people simply lose touch with caring about their wardrobe because of a major loss in their life. But others have been body shamed so often that they use certain clothing to hide the very things they have been made fun of. As someone who has struggled with weight his whole life, I can relate to this. 

Then there is Antoni who helps with food. He normally takes time learning the eating habits of the person and then helps give them healthier, affordable alternatives. Over and over again I relate to this part of the story. For me, ramen did not end right after college because healthy options are not cheap. And through some difficult times, food became a source of comfort. As someone who has struggled with allowing food to control him, I can relate to this.

There is also Karamo. He is my favorite. His main job is to help with “culture.” Basically, he helps people find new hobbies but he also helps them connect with their true selves once again. Two nights ago, we watched an episode that wrecked me.

Without ruining the episode, there was a guy who was struggling with his self-confidence. He was constantly make derogatory comments about himself while using laughter and humor to brush them off. At one point in the episode, Karamo sits this guy in front of a mirror and begins to play back the audio recording of all of the derogatory comments he had made about himself. As I was sitting there watching, I could not stop crying. Everything he was saying about himself, I had said about myself.

“You are not smart enough.”

“You are not good looking enough.”

“You are not talented enough.”

“You don’t work hard enough.”

“You are not enough”

I wish I could say I have never said those things about myself, but I have. And as I sat there watching this guy tear himself down, I began to see what I was doing to myself every time I did the same.  

As the tears ran down my face, I was reminded of the water running down my face the day of my baptism. Even though I was a baby, they day I was baptized, I was reminded that I am claimed by God and that nothing can ever separate me from that truth. The day of my baptism, I was reminded that I am enough. And more importantly, that I don’t have to do any works or meet any checklist in order for God to love me. I am already more than enough. YOU ARE ALREADY MORE THAN ENOUGH! God is longing to have a deep, real relationship with you in which you come to see that you are more than enough. God wants to help you find your true identity, because it is already enough.

When you do, you begin to see yourself becoming transformed into the person God created you to be: a Kingdom builder full of grace and full of love bringing about heaven here on earth.

To be honest with you, this is something that I at times still struggle with. But the deeper I dive into my relationship with Jesus, the more I come to see that my identity is found in God and not in my abilities. I may struggle with fear at times, but In God I stand up to that fear more and more every day. I may struggle with self-confidence at times, but in God my self-confidence grows more and more every day. I have struggled with depression and anxiety in the past. But in God, I am able to overcome and conquer that depression and anxiety. I may not be perfect, but in God I am moving toward a better, healthier version of myself because while I know that I am enough, God wants me to become a more wholesome version of myself.  And I want you to experience that for yourself!

Matthew 3:17 says this after Jesus is Baptized: A voice came from heaven and said. ‘This is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’”

I want you to do something today. I want you take that verse and use it as a reminder from God. Write this sentence down in your bible, on a sticky note, or your even calendar: “This is my son/daughter, (Name), with whom I am well pleased” (Example: This is my son Fernie, with whom I am well pleased).

As your day goes by, remember that God loves you more than you will every fully understand. Remember that you are enough. Remember that there is no need to tear yourself down because when God looks at you he wants to remind you of God’s unending love for you.

And as you come to acknowledge this deep truth, I want to invite you to go deeper. If you are already connected to a church community, then go deeper in your faith. Read your bible more, pray more often, gather in worship more regularly. And whenever possible, remember your baptism and the great truth that was claimed for you that day.  
If you have never been baptized, I want to invite you to reach out to me. Let’s talk! God has a life and purpose for you that goes beyond your wildest imagination! And I promise you that in God, you will come to see that there is no need to tear yourself down because who you see in the mirror is nothing compared to the amazing person that God sees in you.

I hope you have a blessed week and know that I lifting each of you up in prayer.

Together on the journey,
Pastor Fernie

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Getting started…

As we begin our Mid City Church
launch season, there is one question I get asked over and over again. Where is your building? After smiling through that question, I explain to people that the way we used to launch churches no longer works.

You see, we used to find a building, pick a date, send out a bunch of invitations, posters and advertisements and wait for people to show up. And on that launch date, we would open our doors and tons of people would show up.

But the sad reality is that people no longer show up for church like they used to. Society no longer shows up at church because it is what you do on Sunday morning. This means that we have to do things differently if the Church is going to remain relevant in this century.

So instead of finding a building and choosing a date, we are working to build a launch team. We are growing our circle of friends so that when it is time to launch, we are not just inviting strangers, but actually inviting people we know. And by doing so, the probability of people showing up and sticking around increases drastically.

As I was sharing this with a friend last week, she looked at me and told me “That is an interesting idea you have there, I hope it works for you.” I simply smiled, and said thank you.

That conversation really stayed with me though. I could not understand why it is so difficult for people to understand that the church needs to make itself relevant in society again. The idea of growing the launch team, growing our group of friends, seems like such a foreign concept to us as Christians. Yet it is so central to the Gospel.

When Jesus began his ministry, he didn’t begin by picking a building for them to meet in. He began by making friends. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus first invites Peter and Andrew to join them in his mission of fishing for people. Then they go out and meet James and his brother John. They are invited to be a part of his launch team. Later in the gospel, he meets a tax collector named Matthew. Jesus goes to Matthew’s house and eventually calls him to be a part of this launch team as well. Jesus also meets another tax collector named Levi and he invites Levi to join his launch team. And then the really cool part is that they start inviting others
to be a part of this! In the Gospel of John, Jesus invites Philip to be a part
of the launch team and Philip invites Nathanael. This begins to spread!

You see, Jesus’ ministry does not begin with him healing people. It does not begin with him having a building and a date. It begins with him going out and growing his launch team (his group of friends). So I want to invite you to be a part of our launch team!

Never underestimate the power of making new friends for the mission. We are here today, calling ourselves Christians, because Jesus began his ministry by gathering with a group of friends. They were so wrapped up by the mission that this small group of 12 changed the world. Those twelve, went out and brought people into a relationship with God. And you get to be a part of that same mission!

So here is how you can help:

First of all, be in prayer for what God is doing in Mid City and how we will get to be a part of it! Second, next week, we will send out a full schedule for the rest of the year. We want to invite you not only to attend those events, but to also bring a friend. That is the most important part, BRING A FRIEND! And third, keep telling people about Mid City Church and help them get connected to our launch team!

Together on the journey,

Pastor Fernie

P.S. If you want to invite someone to get these emails, they can text the word “LOOP” to 225-307-0662. They will be invited to give us their information and will be automatically added to these weekly emails.

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