Monday, June 10, 2013

Just One Step Despite The Struggle

"Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it."
Proverbs 13:11
This is such an odd verse to start out with considering what I am about to talk about; never the less, this is where I must begin. I was reading my devotion this morning on the subject of hope which took me to Proverbs 13 where verse 11 happen to catch my eye. The breakdown of this verse is very simple, that which is easily obtained is most often easily let go of, while that which we are forced to work hard for we tend to treat more responsibly. As a child I wanted everything I saw and would get mad when I could not have it. Money meant nothing to a five year old boy with no job. Turning sixteen however and wanting a car required me to go and find a job. After working my tail off for minimum wage and gaining a deeper comprehension of a hard day’s work, what I bought required a much bigger thought process than, "I want that!"
Now I am standing in a different situation, but the principle behind this proverb seems to be able to be applied here also. If you do not know me, I have spent the last 3 years fighting cancer. I am currently in remission, but I have to deal with the aftermath of having had a bone marrow transplant. This has caused a lot of my plans and dreams to change or shatter all together as I have spoken of in previous post. It can be very difficult at times to know how great of a God I serve, a God I know is all powerful and with no effort could restore my body. The question of "why am I still going through this?" consistently crosses my mind. Often times it teems with bitterness and resentment! I mean seriously, what the crap God! But then I look at the flip side of having had to walk this journey out little by little, step by step. I see the good that has come from being forced to remain in this circumstance. Sure I want and would love to be able to wake up tomorrow with all this behind me, but I am (though with great struggle) also joyful to be able to wake up tomorrow and take one more step on this path as little by little my victory is slowing drawing near. A victory that being forced so hard to fight for, I cannot imagine I would ever so easily let go of.
When you are in the midst of your own struggle, to read this seems stupid and dumb. It makes you want to say, "That’s great for you, but you don't know me and what I'm going through." You are right I do not! But here is what I do know. I know what it is like to walk in to my room and sit on my bed and cry until there is nothing left. I know what it feels like to look at tomorrow with no hope of anything better waiting there for me. I know what it is like to want to quit and give up. I know what it is like to sink so desperately low that everything just feels numb and dead inside. I know what it is like to hurt so deeply physically and emotionally that death looks like relief and salvation. I know what it is like to hear someone say "God has a plan for all this" and just want to scream, yell and hit them in the face. I know the anger and the bitterness that has filled my heart as other people's dreams come to life and prosper around me. We are not all walking through the same things, but many of us are feeling the same consequences of the struggle we are in.
I battle these feelings to this day, more than I care to admit, but I press on one step at a time. I do not know how long I will struggle down this road and if it ends in healing or in death. I can worry about whether I will ever make it through all this until I end up making myself sick (and many times I have done just that) but this serves no good purpose! Whether I must walk ten more feet or a thousand more miles, I must first take this next step. That is what is so amazing about having faith in God. Faith does not require me to gather up the strength to finish this journey; faith only requires that I find that little bit of strength to take one step, just one single step. Psalms 37:23 says the steps of a righteous man are ordered by God. Each step you take in overcoming your current circumstance is a step God is ordering, a step God is blessing, a step God is using to get you closer. Isaiah 43:2 shows that God is not always going to teleport us to the other side of the journey; but that if we trust Him, He will protect us as we walk through our struggles. Even though each step we take is hard, nothing changes the simple fact that the second step down this road can never be reached until the first one is taken.

It is a crazy way of thinking, focusing on just one step or one moment at a time when circumstances can be so huge. I am by no means an artsy person, but I can appreciate the talent and skill of being able to take a piece of stone or a few colors and create such beautiful masterpieces that are showcased all over the world. Works of art that are so inspiring and beautiful that people travel thousands of miles and pay money and wait in lines just to be able to look at Michelangelo's David or Di Vinci's Mona Lisa or Van Gogh's Starry Night or Alexandros' Venus de Milo. Despite the intricate and delicate process in creating these masterpieces, they all started the same way: just a single brush stroke or chisel and then another and another. Stroke after stroke, chisel after chisel, beauty began to emerge until finally the artist stepped back and saw that the work was complete. Little by little wealth is built, little by little beauty is created, and little by little life changes and struggles do end!
I told you earlier I got so mad at someone when they would tell me, "God has a plan for all this." Well now let me give you that same opportunity to hate me and want to hit me in the face. I have seen the good has been brought out in other people as I have walked this  struggle out. The only reason I can stand here now is because of the people that surrounded me, prayed over me, encouraged me and reminded me I still have purpose and meaning despite everything cancer has taken. How insane that without even trying to do anything other than survive, I was helping to strengthen and grow the very people who are helping encourage and strengthen me. I was in no way trying to do anything for them. I looked at my life in those dark moments as being insignificant and pointless; and yet all the while, God was using what I thought to be a mundane meaningless life to help encourage people to hang on and take one more step through their own struggles.
See, it is not that we win the war, it is that we fight the battle! It does not even matter at the end of the day if I have stumbled again as long as I get back up! That is what changes the world, that is what pulls others up out of darkness. Do not fool yourself into believing people do not see or know your struggle, hurting people recognize hurting people. And when they see you hurt and fall, it shows them they are not alone in the struggle! And when they see you get up despite the pain and take one more step, it shows them that it is not impossible! And when they see you get back up again and again and again, it reminds them that what they are fighting to overcome is worth it! And when you look up and reach back out to God, it shows them they have not fallen beyond the reach of grace and redemption. Your struggle not only grows your faith but it gives hope to others to go on! You are not alone! Jesus himself asked God for another way before being arrested and beaten and crucified. The road ahead of him in the garden was going to be long and painful, but Jesus knew that with each step His Father was creating something so beautiful that 2000 years later, it is still changing the world!
Remember, just because we aren't all dealing with the same problems, we still share a lot of the same feelings they create. I do not need financial advice from someone who has won the lottery; I need it from someone who has built a life upon principals and experience. It is the same thing with dealing with my heartbreak and sorrow. When someone can see you have went or are going through all the hurt and trails and tribulations they are going through, your testimony carries so much more depth and power. Socrates advised mankind to "Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writing so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for." Life is happening all around us; sometimes it is good and beautiful and sometimes it sucks with every breath we take! But life is also moving forward little by little, step by step in your life and the lives of people all around you. So today begin to change your outlook. Do not become overwhelmed by how far you may think this road is, but seek and trust God to give you that little bit of strength so that you may once again take just one more step. Little by little this battle will end and a lasting victory will be obtained!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

She Has A Beautiful Smile And I Cannot Worship

"The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed."
John 3:19-20

      I met this girl, not just any girl mind you, the worst kind of girl! The kind of girl with voice that mesmerizes you, eyes that see right through you, and a smile, oh my goodness, a smile that makes you forget how to breathe. She is independent and fierce and loves God. She sounds pretty amazing right? Well she is and that is what makes her the worst kind of girl to be around, because being around her makes you see the worst things about yourself. Realizing this made me realize why it is so hard for me to enter in to worship sometimes.

"The light has come into the world..."
     The Bible says that a light has come into the world. "In the beginning was the Word... He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him... In him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John 1:1-4). The Apostle Paul tells us that each and every person has sinned and because of that we are separated from God (Rom 3:23). But there is hope for us, see God's love for us has nothing to do with who we are or how we act. At our worst, while we were still living in rebellion towards God, Jesus paid for our sins with His own life (Rom 5:8)! John the Baptist knew this and that is why upon seeing Jesus, he declared, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29)! Even though the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus (Rom 6:23). Life is only found in Jesus and that life is the light of man, Jesus is the light that has come into the world.
"For everyone who does wicked...does not come into the light, lest his works should be exposed."
      While hanging out with some friends several years ago, we got the bright idea to toilet paper someone's house. We decided to sneak out in the middle of the night so that the darkness would keep anyone from seeing what we were doing. Instead of walking down the lighted streets, we went through the woods to get to the house. About halfway through a twenty-four pack of toilet paper, I set off the motion sensor flood lights. As soon as the lights came on and exposed what we were doing, we all dropped everything and ran away. The irony was that while the darkness hid us, it also blinded us and I ended up running full speed into a barbed wire fence.
Worship Begins
      So here I am standing next to this girl and I start to realize some things. I knew this girl was gorgeous and had an awesome personality, but I am hearing the way she is worshipping with this underlying passion and... wow. I start to get kinda excited that I am standing next to her, but then I realize something else...this girl is freakin amazing and well, I'm not. In the presence of such a wonderful girl, through no fault of her own, I begin to see the worst things about me. All of the sudden I am not excited to be next to her, I am scared! Scared that she will notice me, scared that she will see me and realize what a dork I am. I start to sweat and become too scared to even sing because of how horrible I think I sound.
Then God Steps In
     The pastor interrupts worship and looks out over the crowd. He begins to challenge the congregation to dig deeper in their worship, to dig deeper because it is our worship that ushers in God's very presence. I feel awkward hearing his challenge, but why? Then, I hear her sing and suddenly I am overwhelmed. See my excitement at standing next to such an lovely young lady had turned into me feeling insecure and inadequate being next to her. I realized it was the same thing in worship. To dig deeper means to get closer, to draw nearer to God. I try to do the right thing, and most of the time I feel like I do and I have; but standing in the presence of God, all these wrongs that I have been blind to are suddenly exposed. Because my reaction to them tends to be one of guilt and self condemnation and find that I sometimes resist engaging in worship and thereby resist getting closer to God.
Reality Check
      Why do I feel such shame in His presence? I think it is because I know who I use to be, I know the life the Jesus died to save me from. When I mess up, I feel like I am dishonoring that sacrifice. This is what causes me to place unrealistic expectations upon myself. The Apostle Paul, while speaking on how sin entered the world and how the law brings the knowledge of sin, said, "...where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Rom 5:20). In other words, my awareness of my sin can not out grow  the grace God has given to me. Does this then mean I can continue to sin? Paul immediately addressed this saying, "Let not sin reign in your mortal body to make you obey its passion" (Rom 6:12). In Christ we strive to be holy, but if we do fall down we get back up! Temptation happens, sin will come! The Word of God says that even though a righteous man falls down seven times, he gets back up (Prov 24:16). Our fault then, is not in our falling, it is in giving sin the power to keep us from getting back up!
     Paul tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rom 8:1)! I do not have to beat myself up when I do make a mistake because the old me, the one who would have not cared, is gone and I am a new creation (2 Cor 5:17)! Sure, I still fall! The difference though is now I get back up and I press on, striving to become better as I keep running to finish this race! This was why Christ died, to set us free from guilt and condemnation and insecurities and inadequacies that the law held us under. We are not perfect, but we can know the one who is! The light of His presence may expose the worst in us, but it is in the light of such greatness that we learn how to become better people. To quote Jack Nicholson in as As Good As It Gets, "You make me want to be a better man!"

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Is God Really All We Need?

Yes, I realize that this is some what of a semantic argument. Get over it and read it anyways!

     Often, when going through struggles we hear people tells us, "Just trust in God, He is all you need!" Really? I mean seriously?!? My life is falling apart and this crap is what you tell me! I fear that people actually believe this is good advise. I fear it because far to many times I have witnessed people take this advise only to crash and burn. I hate to pop bubbles, but this is simply not a good motto to live your life by!
     Christianity is based on the reality that man cannot do it on his own; man is unable to live a life void of sin. Sin, that which scars all of humanity, has but one consequence and that is death (Romans 6:23 Ephesians 2:1). So God sent his only son Jesus who stepped out of Heaven and became a man to do what we could not, live a blameless life without sin (John 3:16). Jesus shows his love for us by taking upon himself the sins of the world, by becoming the atoning sacrifice for our sins through death, and by freeing us from the bondage of sin through his resurrection (Romans 5:8 2 Corinthians 5:21 Ephesians 2:4-6). So yes, it goes without saying that as a Christian Jesus is all we need for salvation because salvation only comes through him (John 14:6 Romans 10:9).
     But what about life? What about the day to day struggles of this world? What about the unexpected hardships that knock us down? I am sure it does not come as a shock to anyone that life is hard and full of surprises, both good and bad. Jesus himself acknowledged this and said that we can take comfort during these times because He has overcome the world (John 16:33).  In addition to this, the bible tells us that no matter what happens God will never abandon us and so we should be content in our life (Heb 13:5). Now do not misunderstand me, for there to be any hope for us getting through this life we have to trust God, but trusting God means that we trust all of what He says.
     I do not know whether it is pride, insecurity, a desire not to be a burden, shame or countless other things the result in this motto becoming twisted into meaning that we need God and nothing else. When this happens, this motto becomes the justification for us to start shutting out everyone and everything else and keeping our struggles and hardships to ourselves. We turn to fasting and reading our bibles and praying to God for help, yet often we still seem to find ourselves becoming exhausted and worn out all the while wondering why God is ignoring us. We become discouraged because even though we are doing what we think we are suppose to, we still find ourselves sinking! There is merit and power in fasting and scripture and praying to God, but guys God is not all we need! I can hear you all thinking it, "Heresy! Heresy, I say!" Well calm down and give me a chance to explain.
     God did not just give us himself, He gave us each other! WE are the body of Christ: each of us is a different and unique part, but each of us is still dependent upon the other parts in order to succeed (1 Corinthians 12: 12-27). From beginning to end the bible speaks of our need of other believers. Adam who walked with God had a need for companionship and thus God created Eve. The trend continues on throughout the bible from Moses who had Arron and Hur to Joshua who had Caleb or to David with his "Mighty Men" and Jesus with his inner circle of disciples. God speaks to our need for one another in Proverbs telling us that friends sharpen us through love, support, council and sometimes even harsh rebukes . Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 God tells us that friendships not only bless us, but that together we become stronger. Jesus tells us the second greatest command is to love each and that this love should be the very thing that marks us as believers (John 13:34-35). Galatians 6:2 tells us we are to help bear the burdens of life for one another. To make it through this life, we need each other.
     If our only hope is in God through Jesus, how can God not be all that we need? The answer is because God, being the author and perfecter of our lives, has created us with an inherent need for one another. The bible not only reinforces this need, but it instructs us how to meet it in each other. In all his infinite wisdom, God uses this need to allow us to see and feel a tangible glimpse of His unending love for us. This is why the very idea that it is weak to need or accept help spits in the very nature of God. It was never God's plan for us to be in this world alone, to walk in our faith alone, or to go through the difficulties and hardships of this world alone.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Harsh Reality of How Much You Are Needed!

     Looking back on these past few weeks, I have really been struggling. It has been almost two years since I first got diagnosed with Leukemia and it has been a year since I received my bone marrow transplant.  During all this time, all of my dreams had to be put on hold and some had to be given up.  I love my life and I am thankful to be alive, but I will not lie and say that there are not days when I am overwhelmed by it all and struggle to keep going.
     Before I got sick, part of what I was known for was my hair and my strength. I can remember being in Guatemala and carrying walls up the side of this mountain by myself while it took two and three other people to carry the same thing. If people needed help moving they would call me to help carry the heavy stuff. My strength had become part of what defined me. Then there was my hair, my long dark curly hair. I loved my hair, I loved my "jew fro" and so did other people and so it to became part of what defined me. When I think back over the way that Leukemia has changed me, I cannot help but to think of Samson, Samson who was also known for his strength and long hair. And just like Jezebel, Leukemia came and took my hair and my strength. As stupid as it may sound to some, it still hurts to I realize that I can't do things like I did before and that I do not look like I did before.
     But it isn't just the superficial things that I struggle with; I had dreams, dreams of being a missionary, dreams of traveling into the jungles of South America and Africa. Now I struggle to see that happening, me who gets a minor cold and ends up in the hospital for a week, how could I ever go walking around in the jungle? And it isn't just those dreams of what I would do with my life, but of who I would be. I dreamed of being a father since I was a kid. To have a doctor tell you that if you want to live you will have to go through chemo and radiation treatments that will prevent that from ever happening. To think it is ok because there is always adoption only to watch as literally millions of dollars of medical bills constantly are coming in. It is hard to have spent most of your life wanting something so desperately, only to get stuck in a hospital room for weeks at a time with nothing to do but watch those dreams slip away.
     No I cannot and will not pretend like just because I am alive, just because I am surviving that everyday is full of joy and thanksgiving. That is hard to admit having met some wonderful people and families that went through the same thing but did not make it. I know that I should be on my knees night and day thanking God for all that He has brought me through, but some days I find it hard to do anything but sit at home and weep. I know that this is hard for some of you to read because I know that you love me and care about me, but this has to be said because their is a truth behind it all that people need to know. No matter what struggles you face day to day, there will be days when you feel sad and depressed and you feel like just giving up and quitting. Those days happen, those moments will come and we have to be aware of that sad reality.
     The importance to what I am saying, is not for the person that might be having one of those days right now. The importance in what I am saying is for you who are watching people going through one of those days. People always want to tell me how proud they are of me for staying positive and not giving up through this battle, but the grim reality of it all is that if I had faced this on my own I would have given up and died a long time ago. I am not here because of my own perseverance, I am here because of all the people who have rallied around me and encouraged me through all these ups and downs. The people who prayed night and day for me, who fasted days and weeks at a time for me, who sat in my hospital room keeping me company, who sent emails and text and letters of encouragement, who sacrificed their time to take me back and forth to the doctors, who never for one moment let me forget who I was or feel unloved. Those are the heroes of my story.
     We are so quick to think we are powerless, that we are not able to do anything. I hear so many people try to convince themselves that they are worthless, but that just is not true. I have a mother and a father that are so grateful that because of your help they still have a son. I have two sisters that could not hug you enough for helping to make sure that their little brother is still alive. I have countless friends and family that will read this and cry tears of joy because of all that you have done for me. Every person has worth and value because every person has the ability to extend a hand to help someone up, to open up their arms and give someone a hug, to offer a shoulder for someone to lean on. If ever you doubt your worth, look into the eyes of those around you and know just how much power is in the smallest of gestures or the softest or words. This world cannot and will not survive without you!

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT)

9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Monday, March 12, 2012

What does it mean to follow Christ?

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
(Mark 8:34-38 ESV)

These words echo in my mind constantly, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Jesus straight up says what we must do, yet I often wonder if I am really living it out. I mean, what does it mean to deny myself? How does one take up their cross? As with all things I guess we just have to pick a place and start digging in to the Word and pray that God will reveal to us the answers we seek.
Let’s separate this verse and take it apart step by step starting with “let him deny himself” Deny means to restrain (oneself) from gratification of desires according to Webster’s.   So to deny myself means I have to put not just the things I desire aside, but also the gratification of seeing those desires fulfilled.  I then suspend the longing of going after AND the joy of getting what I want in order to follow Jesus.  That is by no means an easy task for someone to commit to. There are things in this world I want to do and pursue. I want to see the Northern Lights in the midst of the Alaskan Wilderness, I want to dive the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, and walk the back roads of Scotland. I want to go to college and get my Degree in Missions, I want to be a Missionary to Africa, I want to get my Doctorate in Apologetics and retire to pastor a local church near a University I can teach at. But to see every desire and goal fulfiled and have missed following Jesus would make it all mean nothing. There is a sacrifice involved in obedience, and Jesus wants everyone to be clear that follow Him means denying you!
Next comes the phrase “take up his cross.” First,  I think we need to define what the cross is. The cross was first used in Israel during the Hellenistic times. It was here upon the cross that the Greeks hung the Jews that would not conform to the “Greek way of life.”(Myers) Thus the cross becomes a symbol of a person’s refusal to depart from their values and beliefs.  When hung on a cross, one first was flogged and then forced to carry their own cross to the place of execution. When Jesus says you must take up your cross, he is making two things clear. First, that following him will be evident to everyone around you. When I person is walking down a street with a big ole cross on his back, people notice. Second, He is letting you know that there is a price, a burden that is to come when you follow Him. John 3:19-21 tells us that Christ is the light that exposes darkness and evil men hate the light because it shows who they really are. If you then follow after Christ you become a reflection of that light that exposes the sin of man. When faced with truth we are forced to either accept it or reject it. Thus is the price of following Christ often becomes the rejection of the world.
                So to follow Christ I must lay down my desires, my life becomes public, and many will reject me. Where do I sign up? The cost seems high, but that is only because it is. The last verse of our orginal passage is filled with both a harsh reality and a joyous celebration. Jesus puts it as simple and clear as he possible can. He says deny me before man and I will deny you before my father. If Christ is our hope of salvation, then to be denied by Christ would mean to be denied of our salvation. Wow, that is kind of a big deal! The reality of it is you aren’t going to sneak in to Heaven, you aren't going to tip toe around the hard decisions. A choice will always have to be made, but the joy in that statement is the other side. Deny Christ and Christ will deny you, but live for Christ unashamedly and enter in to the “Glory of the His Father and the holy Angels.

Monday, October 24, 2011

He Works All Things to Our Good!

Romans 8:28
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

So here I am, I have been saved through my declaration of faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 10:9); I have been justified by the blood of Christ (Rom 5:9); and therefore I have been chosen by God and called out of darkness(1 Peter 2:9). Because of this, when I read Romans 8:28 I think, "Ok, life is hard and it even kinda sucks right now, but God has good for me somewhere in the midst of all this." When my wife was sick and no one could tell us what was wrong with her, God had good in this for me. When my wife walked out on me, God still has good in this for me. When I got diagnosed with cancer, God...He has good in this for me. When I am left in financial ruin from hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills, God...He has to have something good in this for me. When I am left isolated and cut off from the world trapped in a hospital room, God...He does have something good in this for me...right? When my dream of having kids is stripped from me through radiation and chemo...God where is there anything good in this?" It was all so easy at first to believe, but as thing got worse it all made less and less sense this...this "good" that God is supposedly working for me.

I have spent the last few weeks hurting and discouraged, wrestling with the purpose and the meaning of everything that has happened over the past few years. Constantly asking God why? I have become so sick of hearing, "God works all things to the good of those who love him." What does that even mean? What are you saying because my life goes from bad to worse I don't love God? Of course I do, that is why I am here! That is why I keep fighting, because of the hope that there might be good at the end of all this. But it all seems to have gotten so frustrating and so confusing. Nothing seems to make sense any more. I break down and cry most every night just wanting something to change. Just wanting to know that God hasn't forsaken me in all this.

In my life, I have found that most of the time, I am my own biggest obstacle in getting to the truth. See I keep waiting for God to do something good for me; it is like I am looking for some reward for having endured through these past few years. And then like a mack truck it hits me. I have been defining "good" by my terms and not by God's. So how does God define "good"? I began reading the New Testament to see what Jesus constantly describe as being good. I looked through the Gospels and I was amazed at how many times Jesus talks about how "good" trees bear "good" fruit. If good is bearing fruit, then would not part of what God is "working for my good" be that I bear fruit. But how can I bear good fruit with a testimony of such pain and hardship? What do I say, "Hey you should become a christian so the world can take a giant crap on you!"

I mean if we are going to be realistic, my life isn't a good selling point for the christian life. Sure look at Joseph and everything he went through: he was abused by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely charged with rape, and forgotten for years in the prison system but in the end, he became 2nd in command over the entire Egyptian Empire. Or Job, a man God had blessed with a large family and much wealth, he watched as his family, friends and servants die all around him, he lost everthing, he was physically afflicted with sickness but in the end, the Lord blesses the latter half of Job's life even more that before. There hardships lead to a blessed life, while mine has me in the hospital yet again, watching as my life continuing to spiral downwards. In truth, I guess what I have been waiting for is that turning point where things finally go from radically bad to radically good.

And there it is. I said I was often my own obstacle to getting to the the truth. Well the truth is that I have been looking so hard for something good to happen to me, that I missed all the good happening around me. I missed my C24 students using my story to witness and comfort their friends; I missed them growing as they dug in to pray for my recovery and healing. I missed people that I haven't even met finding joy and hope in my story. I missed a 12 year old boy who ask his mother what fasting was and after she told him that it is a practice often done to ask God to meet a specific need, that young man spent then next week fasting lunch for me. You see I got so wrapped up in my self and in "my good" that I forgot it that it was never about me. Joseph got it and after everything he went through, when he met his brothers who had so brutally betrayed him for the first time in years, the brothers thought it was the end, that he would exact his revenge on them. But Joseph upon seeing them says, “Don’t be afraid...You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Gen 50:20)

Without any help from me, my testimony has been producing "good" fruit and now I see that what the world and sin intended to harm me, that God has been working it all to good. In the mist of my affliction and despair, I remember Gods love and compassion for me and therefore I have hope (Lam 3:21-22). God has not ended my life, but has carried me through troubled waters and the good is not fame, fortune or power, but a testimony of His love, a testimony of faith, a testimony of hope, a testimony of endurance. Maybe tomorrow will be better, maybe tomorrow will be worse; either way, I know that tomorrow will bring new opportunities to tell of how I did not die, but I lived and because of that I will proclaim all that the Lord has done and is doing in me. For truly in the darkest of times, God is working all things to my good!

Monday, November 22, 2010

God, I think it is time for me to be the pilot.

All of my life, I have heard that stupid saying, "Make God your pilot, not your co-pilot." Sadly I believed it for quite sometime too. A few days ago though, my world was rocked by a surprisingly simple and yet scary revelation. I was listening to a young man preach and he told a parable that I am going to do my best to remember and share with you.

Imagine you are going a trip to some place that you have never been before. You are completely turned around and lost in the middle of nowhere. Then you see an old man running a little roadside stand. You pull over and ask him how to find your destination. The old man proceeds to tell you to continue down the road a ways until you see a big oak tree. Take a left there and go down the road a couple of miles until you see an old stump with a bunch of bushes growing around it and take a left. This man might as well be speaking Swahili because you don’t understand his directions at all. See, he is a local, so to him this all makes sense, but you don't even know the difference between an oak tree and redwood. But now let’s say that the old man gets in the passenger seat and guides you right there. You know that he knows what he is talking about, and he is going to get you to where you need to be. The young pastor then tells the group of students, who are debating over some pretty big life decisions, that they need to let God get into the passenger seat and guide them to where they need to be.

My first thought is of course, "Is he seriously advocating God being their co-pilot?" And then the flood gates opened and I was washed away by what God had been waiting to poor into me. We have a generation that has been told so often to "let God have control" or "let God be your pilot" or even better "just wait for the Lord to move you." Now looking back, I see the consequence of such advice. It all sounds good and right on the surface, after all Jesus told his disciples to follow him, and you can't follow if you are trying to lead...right? But there is a problem that this line of thinking creates. Now there is a generation of people who are so scared to mess up that they have forgotten how to make a decision for themselves.

Nowhere in scripture has God commanded me to be his puppet, in fact it is the exact opposite. God has given me the freedom to make my own choices and sometimes my own mistakes. Because just as Jesus called his disciples, he sent them out in Luke 10. Jesus didn't tell them where to go, he just said go. What I love here is that Jesus tells them that if they enter a house and they don't have peace, leave; Jesus then says if they enter a town and they reject them, leave! We have to have faith that God is in control. We must have faith that if we step out seeking his will, we will find it. God has a will for your life without question and God undoubtedly wants you to reach your full potential, but that is just it...He wants you to do it. The moment I questioned what this pastor was preaching, God began to speak. "Do you really think I created you just so I could live your life for you? Do you think I watched my son be scorned and beaten and crucified just so I could make you my puppet? I don't desire to live for you, I desire for you to live for me!"

I can wait all day long for God to move me, but God has already spoken over my life through His Holy Word and in my very spirit. I am not perfect and of course I make mistakes, but my heart beats for my God alone and because of that he makes known my every mistake. God will not keep silent and watch his children fail! All throughout scripture we see God disciplining His children, and we are told to not despise the Lord's discipline because he loves us (Proverbs 3:11). Guys, God will let you know when you are taking a bad step; you will feel it in your spirit and see the effects of it in your life. There are just two questions to ask yourself: Do you know His voice well enough to hear Him and Do you walk in His presence enough to know when you are out of his will?

With all that said, there have been times when God has told me to wait upon Him. But there is a difference in waiting and walking. Has God asked you to wait or are you simply scared of taking the next step? There are so many decisions that I wish God would make for me, but sometimes he wants me to make them because in them I can see where I am or where I am not.