I am Barabbas

Every Monday, our youth group meets at our local Panera Bread for about an hour and a half to hang out, and to study scripture. Being that Easter was upcoming, I wanted to go through the trial of Jesus. As we were reading, it was like God sent a thought through my head about Jesus and Barabbas. 

Remember Barabbas?

Not much is said about the release of Barabbas outside of the Gospels. One in particular is Mark 15:6-13.

Barabbas was a criminal. He was imprisoned for a reason (and it was likely not the same reason why the apostle Paul would later be imprisoned). He was an enemy of the state. A bandit. A revolutionary. For all we know, Barabbas deserved to be imprisoned. 

Did he deserve the warden’s pardon? Chances are likely that the answer is no. 

Jesus’ trial, at least in the scriptures, didn’t last incredibly long. The crowd gathered in a mob and demanded that Pontius Pilate sentence Jesus to death by crucifixion for his crimes. 

“What crime has this man committed?” Pilate found no fault in Jesus. There was no one recorded to have given a character witness for Jesus to Pilate, but they didn’t need to. Pilate (in my opinion) was convinced that Jesus was innocent, and that the crowd of mostly Jews (Jesus’ own people), was being quite unreasonable with their request. 

So Pilate decided to allow guards to beat Jesus, hoping that would appease the crowd. After all, flesh wounds will heal. After being beaten to within an inch of his life, Jesus was again brought to the crowd. 

“I find no fault with this man,” Pilate exclaimed. But the crowd did. 

For some reason that is completely beyond me, during Passover the state would release a prisoner at the request of Jewish leaders (research). I assume this was usually where leaders would call on the state to release a family member or a friend or someone imprisoned for a lighthearted crime, such as jay-walking, or ripping the tag from their mattress. 

Regardless of the reason for the custom, the Jewish leaders decided this was their opportunity to finally get Jesus. They wanted Pilate to release a prisoner as usual, but Jesus would remain on “death row”. 

Barabbas was their choice. I wonder what went through Jesus’ mind as this was happening. Did his eyes meet those of Barabbas? 

Nonetheless, Barabbas was released from his chains. His record didn’t matter anymore. He was no longer guilty. His time was served. He was now able to roam about freely, living however he pleased. And the Jews were happy because they would finally see the end of Jesus, who had tormented them with his radical preaching over the previous three years. 

Pilate could do nothing but wash his hands of the death of Jesus, and the crowd gladly accepted the responsibility. 

(Side note: I firmly believe after reading every account of this story, that Pilate did in fact believe that Jesus was the long-awaited messiah. And even though he sentenced him to death, that has to account for something, right?)

So Jesus was sentenced to death in place of Barabbas. 

Nailed to a cross, Jesus died a criminal’s death. A death that Barabbas likely deserved. Fast forward three days. Jesus is resurrected. He defeats death, the grave, and his purpose was totally fulfilled. 

But let’s talk about this ‘Jesus for Barabbas’ switch a bit more. 

Isn’t it totally poetic that Jesus could’ve been set free, but instead, he was forced to take the chains and the death penalty of another prisoner? Jesus didn’t argue. He didn’t plead his case. He willingly accepted his fate. 

The crowd had no idea what they had done. But what they witnessed was a physical glimpse into God’s plan for salvation, one that would be fulfilled in just a few hours. They physically witnessed God’s grace being acted out because of their actions. 

Before he took the price for our sins on his shoulders, he took the price for Barabbas’ sins on his shoulders. 

For all we know, Barabbas and the crowd went on to feel totally satisfied with what happened during that Passover. Maybe some of them were in the crowd to hear Peter’s amazing sermon once the Holy Spirit came down. I can only assume this was the case. 

Maybe Barabbas was one of them, listening to the words of Peter cutting like a knife through his soul. Maybe he came to believe in this same Jesus who never once tried to get out of his death sentence, but instead accepted his own and that of all of human history. 

There’s no way for me to know right now. But I do know that at one point in my life, I was Barabbas. Some days I’m reminded of that time in my life. Other days the enemy tries to throw me right back into that prison cell. But I know that a man named Jesus took on my death penalty, and he never once looked back. He set me free.

Catch Your Dream (and Shackle it to Your Heart)

In my previous post about the great Netflix, I mentioned how Kate and I were currently watching Parks and Recreation. 

Can we be honest? There’s no way that any city’s parks and recreation department will be treated seriously for the foreseeable future. Unless they have someone like Ron Swanson. 

In season four, the show’s main character, Leslie Knope, runs for Pawnee City Council. One of her friends and supporters, Andy Dwyer, wrote her official campaign song, titled “Catch Your Dream (and Shackle it to Your Heart)”.

It was a pretty catchy song. Don’t believe me? Here’s the chorus:


Catch your dream and shackle it to your heart
Carch your dream, don’t let it spread its wings and fly away
Catch your dream, don’t ever let the quittin’ start 
You gotta catch your dream and shackle it to your heart


Here’s the song!

When I heard this song, my mind went back a few years. Time to get serious. 

When I was a teenager, I had big dreams of being famous. I didn’t want to be super mega famous. I just wanted to be known because of my music. So I guess you could say that my dream was the same as countless other musically talented teenage boys. 

I did a lot with my music. I sat on a stage many times and shared my music with the most diverse crowds. I even had a song in rotation at a local radio station. 

first show in august 2006

At 18, I recorded my first legitimate album and released it on iTunes and various other online music stores. My music was legitimately available in many countries. 



studio selfie june 2009

You couldn’t tell me not to be excited. 

That’s when I started to think too much about it. I would check my sales often, sometimes multiple times a day. I played whatever shows I could get onto. Being what many people call a “singer-songwriter” (which is basically just a fancy term for one person with an instrument), I didn’t have many opportunities. 

My 18 year old self believed that success was based on sales, and whether or not I had hundreds or thousands of plays on MySpace. My sales amounted to a total of $18.70. I sold 2 full albums and 16 individual songs. At the time, and for many years, I saw that as a failure. 

That same year, I answered the calling to youth ministry. So I knew right away that I wasn’t destined to be known by my music. It just wasn’t meant to be. 

I can still see myself from 14-18 sitting with a guitar and a spiral notebook, recording my newest song with a tape recorder. I had a passion and a love for spilling my guts with music. God even used that same passion to catapult me into full-time ministry. 

In 2011 I totally gave up on my dream. I put down the spiral notebooks. I out away the guitar. I stopped writing for a long time. The way that I saw it was that I had a dream, I chased it, and I fell flat on my face. 

But I tried. 

A few weeks ago, for reasons I don’t know, I picked up my guitar and ran into my 18 year old self. I ran into the kid who spent all of his money on a new guitar and studio time so that he could fulfill his dream. This same kid who feverishly wrote, threw away, and re-wrote so many songs just to narrow it down to seven in a few short weeks before he had to take it to the studio. That kid. The kid with a dream. 

I can’t explain it. But when I pick up my guitar, it’s like all these years of not writing music have disappeared, and I’ve picked up where I left off. But every time I pick up my guitar, I’m reminded of my 18 year old self’s skewed view of success. 

Today, I choose to look at all the positives instead of the negatives. Every time I pick up my guitar, I have to remind myself that it’s totally ok if I never make it. It’s got to be totally ok to me if I’m never recognized. I just have to tell myself that fame isn’t my dream. 


Writing is my dream. 

Here are a few of my songs

Netflix

It’s been roughly a year since the greatest television show in the history of entertainment (Psych) went off the air. 

No, I’m still not ok. 

Thanks to modern technology, my wife and I can watch multiple episodes of the same television show in one sitting. Let’s give it up for Netflix, ladies and gentlemen!

Soon after we got married, Kate and I started watching copious amounts of tv thanks to Netflix. 

It all started with Scrubs. Yes, Scrubs. You know, the goofy buddy comedy based on the everyday experiences of a group of bright-eyed interns working their way up in the Sacred Heart Hospital? Remember Turk and JD? We loved them. We spent several hours laughing along with the jokes. Until the final season. 

Which doesn’t count. 

And then there was Dawson’s Creek. 

Yes. Dawson’s Creek. 

For the record, I was against our watching of this late 90’s teen drama. Nonetheless, I was quickly sucked in to the world of Dawson Leery, Joey Potter, Jen Lindley, and my favorite, Pacey Witter. Much more of a serious show than I usually care for. It was definitely no Scrubs, but it was very enjoyable (after the dreadful first season). Although Kate had previously given away the ending, it was still heart-wrenching. Spoiler alert, someone dies. 

Kate was insistent that we didn’t start another show after Dawson’s Creek ran dry. But we did. And we were even more hooked. 

Parenthood. 

Let’s just say wow. How we went this long without even seeing a glimpse of the show is beyond me. Again, not a comedy, but very well put together. We quickly fell in love with the Braverman family. We were so hooked on Parenthood that we watched the entire series in just two and a half months, just in time for the series finale in January. Spoiler alert, someone dies. What’s with all these people dying? At least Psych ended with a

Just kidding. Did you think I’d give away the ending to the greatest television show in the history of entertainment? Nonsense. 

And now, ladies and gentlemen, Kate and I are hooked like a fish on Parks and Recreation. Leslie, Ron, and the rest of the Pawnee parks department have become a part of our family. Yes, even Jerry (Gary). 

This is basically our together hobby right now. Since Kate is always back and forth between school and work, we love to just sit around, relax, and watch tv. I am quite the advocate for cable, but since we don’t have it, Netflix works just fine. 

Being that Parks and Rec has officially aired their series finale, we’ll soon be in the market for another series to get hooked on. Any suggestions?

Please suggest something funny! 

And no teen dramas!

Snow Day

The news broke the story. There was a potential of winter weather across our region. Let me preface the remainder of this story by saying that there’s not a lot of things that I love more in life than a good snow day. All the fuss over just the possibility of snow reminds me of the great snow days of my childhood.

Anytime they’d call for snow, we South Carolinians would run to the grocery store and stock up on milk and bread. (Later in my teenage years, while working in the grocery store, I created a fun rap about this “milk and bread phenomenon”). Why milk and bread? I still don’t understand that pair.

Snow Day 2000. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in school that day, a snot nosed third grader, fresh with a bowl cut. (More on my third grade life later.) I remember being near the front office of the school and seeing the skies outside getting darker and darker. Surely this wasn’t the apocalypse was it?

Soon, word spread across the halls that we were going to have an early dismissal. NOTHING IS MORE EXCITING THAN EARLY DISMISSAL! Sure, canceling school is awesome, but being at school and being told you were going home early is like a new bike on Christmas morning!

What happened next was nothing less than mass hysteria in my third grade eyes. When my mom picked me up I remember thinking about how dark the skies were. Soon after we got home, the sky fell open and sugar fell from the sky! Ok it was snow. It snowed for hours! It was obvious there would be no school so all I did was look out the window and the screen door. Snow is nothing less than pure excitement!

Overnight ice began to form over the snow and then more snow came! It was pretty dangerous but all I knew was that there was snow and a lot of it! I even made a snow fort!!!

Ever since that experience, any word of snow brought within me a childlike excitement only rivaled by the excitement of eating a pack of Reese’s peanut butter cups. I would always stand by the screen door at night and stare at the porch light waiting until I saw snow flurries. Ah, snow flurries.

Snow just brings me back to childhood where everything was simple. We didn’t understand adulthood and we certainly didn’t understand the dangers of snow. We saw it with different eyes. I remember even earlier than third grade, sliding down the hill in an old inner tube. My mom and dad both loved snow and it was probably as fun to them as it was to us kids (unless the power went out!)

I think the reason why snow excites me so much now is because it causes us (at least in the south) to stop what we’re doing and wait for it to melt away. It causes us get away from the busyness of life for a period of time. Maybe I see it as God’s way of telling us we’re getting too consumed with the busyness of life.

But that’s just me.

So if it snows this week, I’ll be as excited as I was in third grade. Why? Because I love snow. Also, if we get snowed in, my wife already went grocery shopping!

Valentine’s Day

(In case you didn’t know, that’s my wife!)

If there’s ever a day that’s almost as stressful in the life of a man than his wedding day, it has to be Valentine’s Day. Unless you count the day that his child is born. Seeing as I have no experience with bearing children, I’ll just stick to Valentine’s Day.

Not to be confused with D-Day, V-Day is typically the most stressful day of the year in the life of men and women in relationships. The women are probably thinking so much about what their guy will get them, whether or not he will surprise them with a bouquet of roses delivered to them while they’re working, or what they’ll wear on their date. Guys on the other hand, we like to keep it simple.

And by simple I mean we like to wait until the very last second to get her something for V-Day. Very few guys plan their V-Day gifts months in advance. Unless they’re planning to propose. Guys, don’t propose on V-Day. Unless that’s what your girl wants. Otherwise, don’t be that guy.

I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t plan months in advance for V-Day this year. Why? I’ll be that guy and say, “Because Valentine’s Day is everyday when you’re newly married!”

(I’ve been married for nine months now…am I still considered a newlywed?)

I don’t forget about V-Day by any means. It was certainly special to spend our 6th Valentine’s Day together, first in which we were a married couple. But realistically, I’ve always been a “hopeless romantic”, and I’ll say that every day with my wife is very special. V-Day is just another day to point out how awesome my wife is.

So I’ve taken the road less traveled, and I’ve decided not to stress out over V-Day like I did when my wife and I were dating. Compared to my wedding day and the days leading up to it, V-Day is a breeze.

But that doesn’t mean that V-Day is unimportant. Any man in a relationship knows that V-Day will always be important…or else.

Today is important to me because as my wife and I were talking on our V-Day date last night, I realize how blessed I am to be able to spend my life with someone as real and awesome as my wife. Today is our 6th V-Day together. For a 23 year old male, that’s pretty neat. I know other guys and girls my age aren’t settled down yet and are still dating. But that’s just not me. I’ve got my girl. I’m good!

So, wife, if you’re reading this, I want you to know that every day with you is Valentine’s Day…with less red decor.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my beautiful bride!

Inside and In Between

This is a post from December 4, 2012

I’ve mentioned before how my first love was music. I picked up an old electric guitar that a friend gave me at the age of 13. I didn’t know how to tune a guitar, so you can imagine the guitar didn’t sound too good. With a little direction from a friend, I began to play. In all honesty, it just came naturally to me. It was like God made my hands for playing a guitar. It wasn’t too long after that I figured out that I could sing. So, I did what any teenage boy would do: I put them together and used it. I started writing songs left and right. Everything around me became motivation and inspiration for a new song. Whether it was a trip to a Mexican restaurant with friends, or a broken heart, I was always writing about it. I’ve been writing music for eight years and it has never gotten old. 


When God called me into the ministry, it was first in music ministry. My first ministry assignment was as a Worship Leader and I spent close to two years in that position. To make this really short: music is and will always be important to me.

I’ve listened to countless bands, albums, and songs over the years. I’ve listened to music that made me angry, sad, and happy. Also, I’ve listened to music that seemed like it brought the presence of God with each melody.


In the last four years, my musical preferences have changed dramatically. Favorite bands are no longer listened to. But there’s always that one band that I can’t stop listening to. With that one band, there’s always that one song of theirs that is played more than all. 


The band I’m discussing today is Tenth Avenue North. If you’re reading this today you have more than likely heard of Tenth Avenue North. In the last four years they have risen to the top of Christian music. Though it’s not through their own efforts; God has used their music in mighty ways. 


That “one song” of theirs that can’t leave my mind is called Times, off of their label debut album, Over and Underneath. 


I’ve experienced more than enough “spiritual droughts” since I’ve been in the ministry, and this particular song has always helped me feel right in the presence of God (I’ll link to the song at the bottom).


I encourage you today to take a listen to this song. Study the lyrics and really focus on the words. 


What always gets me about this song is the realness of the words “I hear you say “My love is over, its underneath, its inside, its in between.”” The truth is that God’s love isn’t something you have to earn. God IS love.


Imagine the person who loves you the most. Now I want you to think of this: God loves you more than that person does. Of course, that’s no knock on that person’s love for you. It is a real depiction of how great God’s love is for you!


After you listen to the song and read the lyrics, I encourage you to take time to really focus on God and let it all out. This world can break us. But only God can reshape us.


Tenth Avenue North – Times

A New Day

This is a post from August 21, 2012

it’s been nine months since my last post. funny how life moves so fast in nine months. i got engaged. i got a new job. i moved away to a strange city that was previously unknown to me. and yet, i still don’t answer calls from unknown numbers.

i’m starting to really enjoy full time ministry. i love the students that i get to minister to on a weekly basis. i love the people i get to work with. i love my church. 

but just like with anything that’s new, there will always be bumps and bruises. no exception here. the hardest part of transitioning from a small town to a relatively big city, is being away from family and friends. 

not to mention, i now have the responsibility of buying groceries. i miss my mom a lot. i’ve been a momma’s boy for my entire life. i miss my dog, too. every day i’d come home and he’d be there to greet me with excitement. i miss my family. 

when you have a handful of great friends, it’s better than having a ton of acquaintances that you call friends. but in my case, it’s better to have one great friend, than a handful of half-friends. or at least, that’s how it happened when i graduated from high school. my friend david and i have been best friends for almost 8 years now. the last 4 years we’ve been as close as brothers. i miss him, too.

and then there’s my fiancee. as much as i wish she were here now, i’m glad that she’s about to begin her junior year of college. that means that our wedding date is getting closer and closer each day. the funny and ironic part about all of this, is that katie went to college for two years in a town that was an hour and a half north of our hometown, and then she decided to attend school in our hometown for her final two years. and then God sent me about an hour and a half – yep you guessed it – north of our hometown. my heart longs to be with her every single day. why? because i’ve found [the one] that my heart loves. [song of solomon 3:4]

don’t you love new beginnings? in this case, yes. i love this new chapter of my life. i hate being away from my family and friends, but God has put me in a career that allows me to see them often. 

i’ve come to realize how important it is to share my experiences with others. whether it be my students, family, friends or anyone else that wants to read. 

the future looks exciting. i’m excited about marriage. i’m excited about the upcoming year in this youth ministry. i’m excited about another season of gamecocks football starting august 30th.  i’m excited about what God has in store for me.


remember: every day is a new day. you don’t have to keep waiting for a new start in your life. want a new beginning? just ask Jesus to refresh your spirit, clean your heart, give rest to your mind and your soul, and to make you new. 

The Glory of God

This is a post from Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Have you ever wondered about the “glory of God”? We find many times throughout scripture that God’s glory is shown all throughout creation. Years ago, the Canadian Christian group, Starfield, released a song called, “Filled With Your Glory.” “From the depths of the sea to the mountain’s summit, your power, Lord, it knows no bounds. A higher love cannot be found. So let the universe proclaim your great power and your great name.”


The earth is FILLED with beauty. You can go outside and see God’s beautiful creation in even something as simple as grass.


It doesn’t take long to realize how awesome creation is when you realize that God created it. Just take a look at the human body, for example. It takes much more than the eye can see to keep the human body running. There are millions upon millions of tiny cells that make up what our body is. Sure, a lot of times our bodies mess up and we get sick. But hey, we don’t live in a perfect world do we? But the human body is something that no man can recreate in their wildest dreams. 


Let’s take it a step further. Think about the earth as a planet. Do you think that it just happened to show up by chance? Do you think that the earth somehow drifted into it’s place just by some odd phenomena? Even NASA has this to say, “If Earth were a little closer to the sun it might be like hot choking Venus; a little farther, like cold arid Mars. Somehow, though, we ended up in just the right place with just the right ingredients for life to flourish.” “Somehow,” says NASA. Somehow. 


Science has a lot of things to say about how everything in the universe got here. But they don’t know how it got to where it is in such perfect position for life to exist in abundance. It doesn’t take long to come to the realization that there is NO way that all of this just happened by chance. It didn’t happen by coincidence. 


It is no coincidence that we are here.


In the book of Genesis, which means “origin”, the story of creation is explained. Genesis 1:1 says that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” For Christians, the doubt should end there. But I can understand why people want to dive deeper into the matter. We were made to be curious. We are curious about how things work, so it is no question that we would want to know just exactly how things are the way they are. 


When we begin to dive deeper into how things on earth work, such as volcanoes, we can clearly see the glory of God. Romans 1:21 says, “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Creation reveals God’s glory. 


Again, the earth is filled with beautiful things. It shows the glory of the one who created it. Because the earth is filled with beauty, we can find many places to go and enjoy. Think about the summer time. We all love to go and visit the beach. There’s just something about standing on the shoreline and looking out into the world. There’s nothing else to see but water for miles and miles. It is absolutely breathtaking. Take the mountains, for example. They stretch high into the sky, and when covered in snow, are a perfect work of art. Picasso couldn’t paint a better picture.


But God didn’t make the earth to be a vacation spot for his children, so that when they’re done he’ll bring them back and say, “Did you have fun?” No. He created the earth to be a mission field for his children. He wants us to share His love with the rest of creation. He wants us to show the world his glory by what has been made. Of course, he wants us to enjoy the earth; he made it beautiful! But he doesn’t want us to get caught up in the things that are here so much that we forget that we were put here with a mission: carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations.


To watch a beautiful YouTube video of “Filled With Your Glory”, go to YouTube at this link!


To learn more about Starfield just click over there!