Feeling The Heat

You ever gone to the ocean and think to yourself, you know the waves don’t look to bad, I’ll go in for a minute or two. So, you walk out about waist deep or so, when out of nowhere a wave comes and knocks you. And just as soon as you stand back up, guess what, here comes another one, right on top of you. Now you aren’t sure when you are going to be able to stand up. You’re struggling for air and you’re being sucked right under, and the one thing that seems to cross your mind is, when is this going to end?

You know life can make you feel this very way as well. You’ve had health issue after health issue and you think I’m finally start to be okay, then you go to the doctors for what seems like a routine checkup, and they tell you some not so routine news. Now they must do some not so routine testing.

There was a time in my life where I thought the same thing, it was just one thing after the other. Trial after trial with no end in sight. One glorious day I asked Jesus Christ into my life, and to be my Lord and Savior. What a truly tremendous decision that I made and one that I have never regretted and I am not ashamed to proclaim to others.

But I had a problem.  You see I misjudged the waves. I thought that now I’m a Christian, life would be easier, life would be smooth sailing. I realizing it wasn’t and it hasn’t been. Although there have been some wonderful moments of victory that the Lord has allowed me to have. I have lost friends and loved ones, there have pain and suffering. Granted some of that has been self-inflicted due to my rather poor decision making. I have often asked myself, “God, when are you going to give me a chance to breathe? Is there an end in sight?”

It is in Isaiah 48:10 I find my comfort and encouragement. “Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” You see there is a point in the trial that you are facing. There is a purpose that you are going through what you are going through right now.

A furnace is a place is prepared for gold. A furnace makes gold purer than it was before. The trials, or furnace we can say, is divinely appointed by God and are meant to make us purer and more holy.   Job 23:10 – “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” The furnace is not meant to hurt us, but provides grace. God knows just how much heat we can take in the furnace. Isaiah 43:2 – “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” And lastly, when we come out of the furnace there is a benefit. Romans 5:3 -4,  “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope.”

I don’t know how long it seems that you have been walking through a valley or a fire so to say, but what I can tell you is that there is an end. That you will make it the other side to that shore. And there can come peace unlike any other in the midst of your storm. And yes it is difficult to be joyful and thankful during those times that we are in a furnace and in a trial or a storm. But it’s not in vain friends! That is the time to snuggle close to the Lord and let him walk you through and know that you are not alone, you will make it, and you will be better for it.

 

II Corinthians 12:9-10,  “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

 

 

Learning To Stand

For the Christians we if aren’t in trouble, we are preparing for trouble, getting out of trouble, or are in trouble. At least that the it seems a lot of the time for most of us.

But how do we overcome these things? How do we overcome mess ups and  mistakes?

Because lets face it, mistakes make us all want to quit. They make us doubt everything that we ever have known or even been taught. You get to thinking you know what, I’m not good enough for this. I actually am not ‘called’ to do this or maybe I thought i was but now that I think about it, you know I’m not the one to keep this torch going.

The fact of the matter is, are anyone of us cut out to be the Pastor? Or sing in the choir? Or play piano? Or preach? Or even do much of anything for God. We all fall short of the glory of God according the Romans. But here’s the comforting news. Every Christian will mess up. Now some mess ups maybe ‘bigger’ than others but guess what, because we are all born with a sin nature we are all going to mess up and fall short of the glory of God. Just because I am a Christian doesn’t make me any better than anyone else.

But I mess up and have and guess what, I still will. And when Christians we mess up we can’t take it back. And maybe the world judges us more than the average Joe and that gets under our skin, but hey, that is what we signed up for.

The good news is that, no matter how bad we mess up. No matter how ‘big’ or ‘small’ we mess up, there is a way that we can repair our relationship with God. 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Even though we are forgiven sometimes we can’t help but remember what we have done in the past. It hangs over  us like a dark storm cloud that never seems to go away. And maybe the hardest thing that we face is not so much looking at someone else in the eye and asking for forgiveness, but looking in the mirror and telling ourselves that yes, YOU. You are forgiven because Christ has forgiven us of ALL our sins. IF we CONFESS.

There is  no such thing as the Christian that never stumbles or messes up. But the real Christians are the ones that are gonna stand back up and make themselves better after they fall.

Philippians 3:13-14,  “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

We can dwell at the past all we want and think man I am the one that caused this, and yes it is easier said than done but at some point you and I have to pick the pieces of our broken selves and move on. We cannot change the past but what we can do is make a brighter future. YOU are forgiven, now look yourself in the mirror and realize that you are, and that the dark cloud that seems to never go away can finally be gone and you can wake up to a brand new sunny day.

Broken Pieces

Let me ask you a question – What are the  broken pieces in your life that God has chosen to work through?

As I think about this question I can’t help but chuckle a little bit. As I just sit back and reflect on this question I feel as though my whole life is broken piece after broken piece and I am just one big broken mess of a human being. Then the light bulb in my mind goes on. That’s exactly what I am, broken. Broken sinner, saved by grace. Washed in blood of Jesus Christ. Redeemed. Child of the King. Eternal home being prepared for me. Heaven bound. What a joy and an absolute privilege to be considered as such.

But when I look back at my life and the short amount of years that I have been on this earth I realize there are so many broken areas that God worked through. Whether it was through the many years of addiction I went through. Or my time spent at Crossroads Rescue Mission. Or the many times I relapsed or woke up in a hospital. Or when I started at Bible college and the struggles that I faced there. There is one thing that remains and always will remain the same, God worked through all of that. Whether it be ‘big’ things or ‘little’ things. God in his love chose to just hold the broken pieces of me and through all the dust and rubble, his grace and mercy shined through. And in the end everything worked out for good, just as it says in Romans 8:28.

Now my problem and the issue that many of us face, is this, we often don’t see or perhaps want to see what good can come out of what seems like a devastating circumstance. Those famous questions arise; Why me? Why me? Why do bad things happen to good people? That comment, ‘I really don’t need this right now’ was something I find myself personally muttering under my breath rather frequently.

What I realize is this, I did need every one of those trials and struggles that I have gone through and that I may face down the road. I needed every situation that I was in where all hope seemed lost and the outcome seemed horrific, I needed that. If everything in my life was perfect and I was perfect (which I am far from, just call and ask my parents sometime) then how could I ever help anyone else. Or if everyone else around me was perfect and everything was perfect in their lives how could they help me? Because of the many things that  I have gone through in my short time here on earth, I am the person that I am today. There are definitely things that I regret but I wouldn’t want to change how my life has played out for anything. It’s all apart of God’s plan, which is far greater and better than anything that I could ever try and map out.

Friends, you and I cannot go back and re write our past, so as 2017 unfolds, stop trying to. We can’t change the past, although if we could it would probably be nice for some of us. But what we can do is paint a better and brighter futures for ourselves. No matter what trials you are going to face, there is good behind it and take every opportunity to grow and learn.

Thank You

 

That time of year again. Sports are on all in full swing, except for baseball (the Cubs though, who would have thought). Flannels are back along with the millions of selfies that everyone posts with their pumpkin spiced lattes or some other caffeinated drink. And then probably the most awesome day of the year arrives, Thanksgiving. Turkey, ham, gravy, taters, family, football, and left overs for about a month, what’s there not to love about it.

Then yet again there is all the social media posts, seems as though it never fails during holidays. Hey why not, I know I’ve posted typical holiday things from time to time. But along with all of the ‘I’m thankful’ posts, have you ever really stopped and thought what are we truly thankful for? Or are we even thankful at any other given time during the year besides November.

I find myself thankful when it’s convenient.Like when I have an 8 O’clock class and I wake up at 7:53 and still make it on time. Or perhaps other times like when I walk into class and have no idea we are having a test and manage to squeak out a passing grade.

But what happens after Thanksgiving has come and gone. Do we just forget all the things that we are thankful and just go ‘back to the grind’.

This year I find myself more thankful for the family that God provided for me than ever before. You may think, wow you’re never thankful for your family that’s shallow. But that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is this year, I have realized that there are so many of my friends out there where Thanksgiving is the last thing they want to take part of. Their home life is not one they want to discuss, there are no happy smiling selfie pictures or pictures of Turkeys and backyard football games. My heart breaks for them. How tragic that for whatever that is that home life that they know. I need to do a better job reaching to my friends that find themselves in these situations. I need to have more meals with them, invite them over more often. Maybe have them over for Thanksgiving or Christmas, instead of just saying I’m sorry that you’re going through this I’ll pray for you.

2 years ago I spent Thanksgiving at Crossroads Rescue Mission and about a year after that I spent it in a Hospital bed wondering what my life had become. But I thank God this year I was able to gathered around the table with loved ones and enjoy their company.

My challenge to you, whomever you may reading this, is let’s not just be thankful in November. But all the time. There may have been a time this Thanksgiving where everyone shared what they were thankful for. Take time everyday to do that. Take the time to reach out to someone and let them know that you are thankful for them. Let’s move past the happy Thanksgiving texts and snapchats. Let’s be thankful daily! We have much to be thankful for no matter what situations we may find ourselves in.

 

 

Comforting the Uncomfortable

You ever feel like everything is just crashing on you at once, ‘the weight of the world is on your shoulders.’ Now take that feeling, those emotions, the thought process and place yourself in that time or maybe you’re in it right now. You ever think to yourself, you know I have so much joy right going through this, this is tremendous! Probably not, in fact I have never met anyone that has done that. Let’s be honest I have never done that.I have gone through seasons of it where thoughts crept in and my mind went to places where I thought, what in the world where am I right now.

Lately a few familiar verses jumped out at me. Because I tend to tell people going through hard times, the typical Christian answer: meditate on scripture. But then that makes me wonder, what scriptures exactly? Isaiah 9:6 describes Jesus as being the Prince of Peace. 2 Corinthians 1:3 says “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.” So if you know Christ then you can have peace through Him. The ultimate provider of peace is Christ. For me I have been blessed with some great friends that I can call and talk to and vent my thoughts. Now sometimes they may already know what I am going through yet they listen anyways. My Heavenly Father is the same way, except sometimes my friends aren’t always available to talk, but God always has time. He is never too busy and He never scratches His head and thinks ‘well I just don’t know what to tell you here.’ And thank God for that!

Now if you watch the news you’ll quickly realize there is a lot going on in the world that just simply isn’t good at all. People have cancer, financial trouble, crime rates are going up and the list goes on. Maybe you find yourself in one of these situations. You think that everything you have is slowly being taken right from you. Yet 2 Corinthians 6:10 says “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” If you are saved, if you have accepted Christ; you have something that the world cannot buy and no one can ever take away from. You in fact are a very rich person . Salvation is something we get excited about. I love seeing a post about someone accepting the Lord or getting a phone call or text stating such news. Maybe if we revisit the time we got saved, the time that person we spent so many hours and days praying for got saved, our joy may return. Why, how? Because through Christ, His shedding of His blood that we can have eternal life. It’s through Christ that a peace within our minds and lives can be attained in the midst of a dark time.

Now I’m going somewhere with all this so stay with me. I’m not much a writer so I apologize if this seems like random scatter brained thoughts.

As Christians we should understand that the road, the life we chose to walk down was never going to be easy. It never said anywhere that following after Jesus was a walk in the park and all would be lovely 24-7. John 16:33, “…that in me ye might have peace, in the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” As I mentioned before as we continue living in this world we are going to go through hard times (tribulations as John puts it). But Jesus rose, He overcame death and the world. So if we know Him, then we can have peace through Him. He is the Prince of Peace, and because He overcame, through Him we can as well. It’s not that we have to cope, we can overcome – Philippians 4:13

Now you may wonder like I often have when going through a trial, why me. What I have learned is the question isn’t so much why me but, why not me?  2 Corinthians 1:4 “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” See if life was perfect how could any of us help one another? Now I more than likely won’t be jumping for joy when hard times come, but God allows me to go through things which may not make any sense to me at that particular given moment. But later when I am able to get through the trial; a friend, family member, whoever may go through a similar situation and suddenly the comfort that I experienced through the peace which only God and the scriptures provide, I can now be the vessel that is used in helping someone else to have the same comfort.

A few definitions of peace from Noah’s 1828 Dictionary are : (1) freedom from agitation or disturbance by the passions, as from fear, terror, anger, anxiety or the like; quietness of mind; tranquillity; calmness; quiet of conscience.   (2) Heavenly rest; the happiness of Heaven.

I think the above definitions hit the nail right on the head in describing the peace that is brought on only by knowing Christ and through the Scriptures. Lord help me not to just tell someone ‘read your Bible’ but to know where specifically to point someone.

“The Lord gets His best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction.” – Charles Spurgeon

Where Do You Go On Sunday?

Most conversations of today are about politics, do we vote Trump? Hilary? Do we even vote or put a third party down. We talk about the 2nd amendment and who’s walking in and out of the bathrooms of Target.. Or if you are like me you still love America, so of course with the Olympics here I find myself watching many sports that I otherwise would probably not watch. But hey it’s great seeing my country bringing home so many Gold medals this year.

But lately there has been something on my mind that doesn’t fall under any of these categories. As a Christian Sunday is my favorite day of the week, because church is on Sunday. For some Sunday is great because of NASCAR, NFL football or other sporting events. And believe me I love sports.

Here is what is troubling for me and should be alarming to my fellow Christians. Go to church Sunday morning, took a good look around. Now return Sunday evening, again, take a look around. You will probably notice a different crowd and perhaps fewer people in the congregation. So why is it that Sunday morning there may be a larger crowd than Sunday evening? Do we really think that just one hour on Sunday morning is enough?

I fear that many Christians have become or are becoming just a Sunday morning only crowd. Now I will say that things do come up sickness, being called into work, etc. But we should have desire in our hearts to gather together. In Hebrews  10:25 we are instructed not to forsake the assembling of ourselves. That word forsake means to leave or desert. God has never left us and will not forsake us so why should we forsake the gathering our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Now I love church I love listening to a choir, I love hearing someone sing a special or a young person play an instrument. I need preaching on Sunday morning and Sunday evening. Yes I can learn on my own but I need to be under someone that has more knowledge and understanding than I do. I also need to hear from God and be convicted, encouraged and shown new things through the preaching of the Word of God. But why has Sunday evening lost its importance? Why is Sunday evening when we plan to go out, or get together with others or do anything but attend church. I love what  one preacher said, he stated one evening “I don’t schedule church around my schedule. I schedule my schedule around church.” That ought to be our mindset and attitude. I am baffled at churches that don’t have Sunday evening church or just cancel it. I love what my Pastor has often said,  “If it’s just me and my wife here we’re still going to have church.”

I love summertime because there is so much happening at the church. VBS, Jr. High camp, College & Career activities it’s wonderful to see the youth and the leaders getting fired about these things. But if we and (myself most definitely included) need to emphasize the importance of being in church not only Sunday morning, but that Sunday evening is just as important as well as mid service or prayer meeting. Because if we ourselves aren’t in church, then why would the next generation be in church or see the importance.  Before I got saved, I did everything that I could to avoid church and I missed out on many great blessings. That I am a child of God I don’t want to miss out on hearing of someone getting saved, or a powerful testimony, or an encouraging song, or hearing from the Word of God and getting my heart stirred up. Many are praying for revival in America, but my prayer is that we see revival in our hearts first and in our churches.