Hate is a damaging thing. If I am honest I have been filled with hate for much of my life and that is fueled directly from my pride. Hate like a lot of things, promises things it can never live up to. Hate makes you think you can get ahead and push people down as you go. Hate whispers it is you against the world.
Recently I started working part time with an after school program. Last week we were picking up the kids and one of them informed us he couldn't come if one of the neighborhood kids was going to be there. I thought he was bluffing so I drove him home to see what his mom had to say. I pulled up to the house, he exited, and then his mother appeared out of the doorway. From the porch she shouted, "I don't like that kid (referring to the kid sitting right behind me in the van) and I don't want mine around him!" This honestly broke my heart and shook up the rest of my day. How could this mindset fix anything?
Hate is the thing that separates us from things that are different. It builds walls, burns bridges, and promises and edge against our opponents. I would even say hate is masked by sarcasm. It doesn't take much searching to see hate in our world. It seems very cliche to say but the news of today is exhausting. I can't read it too often and it weighs me down. We are just so used to reading stories of awful things happening.
Hate stunts our growth.
I think the reason hate is so easy to fall into is because we don't understand love. Hate is easy to go to. It is easy to tell people off. Cutting someone off in our car doesn't take much thought. But love, that is another story. Love takes time, thought, effort, and work!! Love sometimes takes us sitting in peoples mess with them and loving them where they are.
1 John 3:16 tells me, "We know what real love is because Jesus gave his life for us." The verse goes on, but can we just chew on this for a bit?
It says that we KNOW what real love is. Jesus who is God came down to this speck of a planet floating in the endless space of.. space. God chose to lower himself to our level and sacrifice His life for ours.. This type of love is unheard of. We are so used to seeing hate take life away, but love always gives life. The people we encounter daily need this dose of love to inspire them and to comfort them!
"Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good." Romans 12:9
Hate takes life, so if we read the verse above that means we must take life from the things that are evil. Don't indulge in gossip, pride, or the hatred that rots away our joy. We must cling to what is good, which is Jesus Christ!!
I live in the North Austin area and currently over 300 churches are going through an Art Of Neighboring series. It is extremely challenging and convicting to me. If you only follow me on social media it probably seems like I know a good amount of people, but in reality I don't know a single one of my neighbors. Not one. You see this series is challenging us to take the commandment to love our neighbors literally. It is really breaking down my walls and opening my garage door.
In the book that we are reading through with this study the authors are stating that love takes time. You see Jesus had an agenda and He did a lot of stuff, but a lot of His ministry was Him loving people right where they were. He was never hurried. People could interrupt Him and Jesus would look them in the eyes and love them. This is crazy for me because I am always looking to what is next and probably skipping right past so many people.. You see love and hurry never work together! Love takes time and with it we need to be open to being interrupted. Too often I am reading or choosing the perfect instagram filter instead of looking someone in the eyes and telling them, "I love you" with my time.
Earlier I stated that love takes work. I don't think I ever knew what love really was until this last year. My whole life things have been handed to me and I haven't had to fight for honestly a single thing. But I have been slapped in the face and have been just reading and soaking in what Jesus has done. I have always heard the stories of Him, but after just really reading and looking at this amazing individual you can't help but see love in Him. I encourage you to just read through the Gospel. It is so weighty. Love takes an extensive amount of time and energy. But it will always be worth it. To be loved is to truly be free.
Jesus died for us when we were fully happy in our filth. I was beaten down and exposed, but He sees me! Jesus is the only way that I know what love is. Love is sacrificial and hard. But if we really saw people where they were the world would be significantly different.
My prayer is that we can be interruptible. We can love and people would feel safe around us. Love doesn't just sit around. It acts and completely changes things!
Whenever I see a sunrise I start to cry. (Judge me all you want) I am not exactly sure why, but a sunrise to me is a new hope. With the new day we have choices to make and directions to go. A sunrise to me is God's way of welcoming me into His arms for the day. It is beautiful.
Have you ever seen the Olympics or the X-games? Ever gone to a concert? Have you ever seen an amazing painting? Whenever I watch sports I am always blown away! I have this weird thought process, but when I see adults I see them as children. Now some may be childish, but that is not what I am saying. I literally try to think back to when they were little nuggets running around. What moments shaped them and brought them to where they are??
So when I watch the olympics I think about how there was a time when that swimmer couldn't swim.. Or at the concert, there was a time when that guitar player first held that instrument. The artist had to take a first stroke with his brush. To me this is a beautiful mindset. It shows that every person holds amazing possibilities.
But in the same way have you ever seen a homeless person? Ever heard stories of an affair ripping a family apart? I know in my life I stumbled down the life of pornography at a young age.. These areas took a first step also.
You know how when parents freak about their baby taking their very first step?! This baby has progressed and grown and is finally able to take steps! This is a crucial moment and is huge for the parents. They cheer on their baby, they take pictures or record it, the whole event is documented and everything. I think that is how God is with us. When we finally decide to take one step towards Him, he rejoices! But he doesn't stop. Every single step we take towards the Lord gives us more strength and He rejoices with us and cheers us on.
Jesus is our only hope. He isn't shocked or surprised by where we have been. He offers us a new hope like a sunrise ascending in the East. Whether we have been wrecked by divorce or become dependent on drugs. Maybe you don't think you need Jesus, your life is pretty good and you just play it safe. Well let me ask you, what do you want in life? Money, security, purpose? Are you there? Will you ever have enough of these things?
My prayer is that today we will know that Jesus is our sunrise. He is offering a new opportunity and He is cheering us on to step towards Him. Open up your heart and walk.
My whole life I depended on myself to get me places. I played basketball and I was hoping that would get me to a sweet college and take me places, it didn't. My life was aimed in this direction to continue my work on the court and when that didn't work out it took away my identity and definitely shot down my pride. In 2012 I graduated high school and I had NO clue where I was going. Literally, I was scraping the bottom of the bucket for some sign of hope. So I decided to do some mission work hoping to buy some time and maybe God would give me a revelation. I was choosing to do missions for all the wrong reasons and it totally backfired on me. It didn't work out and I went home with my tail between my legs.
I was empty. Still being eaten alive by my addiction to pornography and lust, and I had no idea where to go. But one day my mom came home from church and just said, "Tyler Murphy wants to meet up with you and have lunch." Tyler Murphy is a worship leader who was going through a career change at the time. I used to go to his shows and I would blankly stare at him and just watch the drummer, Chris Chalman, because he is really good! But other than that I did not know Tyler on a personal level and I had no clue why he wanted to meet with me...
So probably a week or so later I met with Tyler at Taco Bell and we talked for hours.. Seriously, hours! It was amazing and finally gave me the hope I needed. Tyler was starting his new ministry and was just asking if I was interested in traveling with him and loving on students.. I completely leaped at this idea, because I always enjoyed youth ministry and it seemed so fresh and adventurous. This meeting took place in October 2012 and our first trip together was March 2013 to Joplin, Missouri. It was quite the wait, but it was worth it!!
Tyler is by no means perfect, but I have never met someone who has such a heart for Jesus and for others to experience Him. The way that Tyler came to me reminds me of when Jesus called his disciples.
"One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers - Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew- throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, "Come follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!" And they left their nets at once and followed him." Matthew 4:18-20
Now Tyler may have been trying to be over spiritual, maybe he read this and saw that Jesus called an Andrew to be one of the first disciples, so he thought he needed one as well. But, I doubt that.
In my bible above this passage I have this written, "He (Jesus) was probably smiling. Nobody just leaves unless you sense more." Think about the weight of this moment for Peter and Andrew. This man walks up and offers them an adventure and they leap at it. It brings tears to my eyes just knowing the end of this story!
Now I was not a fisherman, and I honestly had less than that. I was lost and alone. All my friends at the time were doing college and chasing dreams. My dream of basketball had just been deflated.. But for some odd reason Tyler asked me to join him.
Just as Peter and Andrew were willing for something more, I needed that. So after a few trips with Tyler he needed a bass player, and for some reason he asked me to play.. He taught me bass and the rest is history. At times I still feel like that 18 year old guy who was lost and alone, but I know that isn't true.
Tyler's ministry has changed my life. This isn't on Tyler, it is on Jesus. Jesus has done it all, but Tyler is a willing to listen and follow. Tyler has come beside me in my life and walked me through my struggles. Tyler is more than just a guy on a stage to me and to many others. To me, he is a brother. One day I will be able to tell my kids about these experiences. Tyler came to me, I answered and followed, and now we can partner together and hopefully point others to Jesus through our lives.
I know this type of story is not typical and not normal. But I am so thankful that I serve a God who takes the lost and broken and gives them a reason to dance. He takes the lonely and gives them brothers. He takes the lustful and prideful basketball player and turns him into a bass player. How beautiful is that?!
I didn't ask for this path. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
A couple days back my mom got a package in the mail. When I asked what it was she explained that it was some kind of new item that my cousin was selling.. You know those companies where they use everyday people to sell their products? (Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Advocate, etc.) Those products truly boggle my mind, maybe because I don't believe in them. Don't get me wrong they all have their benefits and they work for the people who use them, I am just skeptical. As these thoughts quickly swirled through my head it hit me! These products work for the companies and the customers because they believe..
The thought raced through my head, "How would our lives change if we believed in Jesus the way that these people believe in their products?"
Throughout my life I have known people who have heard the business plan of these companies and have gone after the rewards. You know these people too! Their Facebook is full of these challenges and ideas that WILL change your life forever! "Don't have time for the gym?? No worries we will shed 57 pounds in two weeks!" So we open up our checkbooks and go after these promises.
Whether these products work is not the point. The message I am going after is how faith can change mindsets and turn your life in another direction.
The truth is we NEED Jesus.
So as Christians are we living life to where people know that we love Jesus? Probably not.
I am not saying we should completely annoy people with our lives, but the Gospel is not an accepted worldview. People will be bothered by us if we are living a life like Jesus!
My message to the Christians reading this:
"You are the light of the world - like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father." Matthew 5: 14-16
A couple of thoughts:
My prayer is that we would burn through that basket and radiate the love of Jesus for all to see. What does your life message say to others? Do they know you're a Christ follower? I pray that the world would be radically changed by our decisions to love those around us. The truth is, Jesus is the only option that can change our lives forever!
I went hiking yesterday, it was truly a great time! I was joined by my buddies, Aaron and Charlie. The trail honestly blew by pretty quick because we were talking and cracking jokes the whole way out! The trail wraps right along Lake Georgetown and it ends with a pretty cool natural spring! When you get to the spring you are met with a towering tree. This tree is big and you can tell it just soaks up that water. As soon as I saw it I just thought, Psalm 1!
"Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.
But not the wicked! They are like worthless chaff scattered by the wind. They will be condemned at the time of judgement. Sinners will have no place among the godly. For the LORD watches over the path of the godly, but the path of the wicked leads to destruction."
I would say every person is searching for happiness. It is easy to do. I listened to a podcast yesterday where the speaker said that 1/3 of people would say that they are happy with their life... On top of that 1/4 of women use antidepressant medication. This is the world we live in. People aren't happy.
That brings us back to Psalm 1, "Oh the JOYS of those..". So, who are "those people" and how do I get that joy?
Follow, Stand, or Join.
As I read verse one it has those three phrases to describe the actions of the wicked. So there are two paths in this story. The path of the godly. Then the path that follows the advice of the wicked, stands with sinners, and joins in with mockers.
To me I think these phrases lead into one another. At first he takes some advice that he probably doesn't think is wicked. Then he just stands around with sinners. But, then he joins in with mocking. It is a slippery slope, indeed. In this story that path ends with destruction..
The Prospering Tree.
The passage says that the godly delights in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. The word meditating here just means he considers it and juggles it around in his head, maybe even muttering it to himself. The law here is Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. When is the last time you muttered to yourself words from Numbers? He delights in the law, it isn't forced, he truly loves God's word.
Verse 3 states that the godly are like trees along a riverbank, bearing fruit each season, their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all that they do. So check this out, what does a tree produce fruit for? A tree never indulges in the fruit it produces. When the faithful prospers it is not for himself, the prospering isn't even material, but he succeeds in bringing benefit to others! Boom!
All this tree talk fits right in with Jeremiah 17: 5-8.
"Thus says the LORD: 'Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.'"
I think we can both agree to which we would rather be. I would much rather be a tree that overflows with fruit than a withered shrub that sucks up salt.. God isn't placing people in that desert. Both of these options take decisions.. It says, " Cursed is the man who TRUSTS..". (emphasis mine) What is your trust in? For so long I trusted myself, and that only led to broken relationships and empty promises on my end. I am such a prideful man that needed acceptance. I didn't know I was planting myself in a barren wasteland. It took me realizing that I will always fail to come back and trust Jesus to be my spring that feeds my life. His water may enter my broken vessel and bear fruit that blesses people and I pray that they will see the water which I am fed by!
Back to Psalm 1, it says the wicked are like chaff that is taken by the wind.. Chaff is the weightless husks and straw within the wheat. It has no weight to it and is swayed by everything. We have two paths. One is the wicked it leads to destruction. It is full of anxiety over money. It is fear of tomorrow and the troubles to come. There is no rest. We can choose to follow our hearts desires, but it will never fulfill.
Or we can choose the deeply rooted path. I believe God has planted us with the ability to grow by the river. If you are long down the wicked path God can come into your life and replant you by the ever-flowing stream! Lets be honest. Roots take time. Let God replant you by His river and you will bear fruit in order to love others and love God.
My name is Andrew Berry! I am just living my life chasing after Jesus and trying to point others to Him.