A fight worth having

Fighting in prayer.

I know this may seem like a foreign concept to some who read this. But I am utterly convinced that prayer is something powerful. Don’t believe me? Read any post on social media about death, tragedy, difficult times…it could be written by anyone, but I guarantee you that the comments will be full of posts of prayers. What I have found is that we, as a Church, don’t fight hard enough in prayer. We will seek God when it gets tough. We will say a quick prayer for a big exam or job interview. We might say a generic prayer before a meal. But do we really know how to fight in prayer?

I am an advocate for prayer. Not just the quickie prayer. But deep focused prayer. Now before you create your own image of how I pray, I am not a 5am, get up early, kneel for 2 hours a day person. Not me. I am a pace around the room, cry, scream, yell, kneel, weep before God prayer person. I am advocate for prayer because I have seen God move and do amazing things by my prayers. God doesn’t need us to pray. He wants us to pray. He wants us to seek him. But sometimes we need to pray. Actually, more than sometimes. As often as we can muster. What I have learned is sometimes we can’t afford to just say the quickie prayer because we had a bad day. Sometimes, we need to have the uncomfortable, painful, messy, moments in prayer in the solitude of our room, or car, or wherever you can find time in prayer alone. Sometimes we need to make ourselves pray, not so we can check a mark on our to-do list as a Christian, but to realize that sometimes we need to seek out God, humble ourselves, but to also fight.

Ephesians 6:12 states “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

This is where it gets tricky, especially if you are not a person of faith or religion. This is where it gets awkward if you are a Christian but you don’t know this. Crap happens in our world. Bad things happen. Sin exists. Whether things happen by choice and consequence, or just because, we need to pray. Evil exists because the devil exists. I believe in Satan. And I believe he wants nothing more for you than being exactly who God doesn’t want you to be. He wants you to feel defeated by your own wrongdoing. He wants you to feel destroyed by the bad things of this world. He wants you to feel unworthy because of your sin or mistakes. He wants you to think that God could never forgive or love you. That is the spiritual realm I speak of when I talk of prayer. When we pray, we show the devil that he doesn’t get to decide the things in your life. You get to by seeking God and allowing him to lead your life. When we pray, we are saying “God I need you, I am desperate for you, I am angry and need your help…” and so much more. When we pray we are telling God our problems, our needs, our hurts, our fears, but also of our faith and our hope and our belief that he is going to do what he promised. What I have learned, and then been reminded of recently, is that sometimes, we need to make the time to pray. Make the time to pray for your needs and ask God to provide. Pray until God does something. Pray until you can’t pray anymore. I’m not talking like 30 minutes and you’re done. Do it everyday. Seek him and his will. Seek his direction and clarity. He will not let you down.

Make the time to grieve your sin. GRIEVE YOUR SIN. And then fight against your sin. If we can’t or won’t grieve our sin, then we don’t know Jesus truly and that’s even more of a reason to grieve. This is painful, humbling, heartbreaking. I know this all too well. I had to grieve my sin years ago when I finally admitted to having a porn addiction and problem with lust. I had to grieve that what I was doing was far from honoring God and far from being holy. I have had to do that again since then for other things. I have had to grieve the fact that my behaviors were grieving God. If we can’t be broken for our sin and the things that we do that grieves God, than we do not know him at all. Start with knowing him and surrendering your life to him. And then pray and fight even for God to work in and through you.

Take the time to fight for others in prayer. Don’t just hope someone changes. Don’t just be sad that someone is living in a way that doesn’t honor God. Don’t be unmoved by people, especially those that claim Christ, to continue to live in their sin and not be broken. Be broken for them. Pray for them by name. Pray for them to know God more. Pray for them to encounter Jesus and the forgiveness he offers. I have a list that has names on it that I pray for daily. I have people in my life that I specifically and intentionally pray for because I know God has more for them than they could imagine. Be inconvenienced to pray for others.

Whoever you are and whatever you face, you might need to take the time, or make the time, to really seek God in prayer. But be willing to fight, because the devil doesn’t want you to realize he is a liar and deceiver. He doesn’t want you to know that God can redeem you from your sin. He doesn’t want you to know that God is good. God isn’t intimated by any emotion you could possibly express to him. He isn’t intimated by language, words, worries, fears, or circumstances. He is intimated by your humanity. Just seek him. Weep before him. Grieve your sin. Be broken. Be angry. But be open for him to speak and move boldly in your life.

Purposed spouse

There seems to be a trend in my life, that regardless of my relationship status, I am a person consulted regarding marriage and relationships. What I also know is that God has given me such an undeniable passion for marriage- not just for my own one day but for marriages at large. I firmly believe marriage is one of the most beautiful journeys we can ever embark on yet it is one that is absolutely among the hardest. Marriage is serious. Marriage is sacred. Unfortunately our culture has done a stellar job of equipping people for lives that are about happiness and not holiness, self-serving and not self-sacrificing. I believe God created the idea of family by first thinking of a marriage. He created us for community and connection with others. He created us for intimacy with our spouse. He created us on purpose to live our life with purpose, not just make it through life and die at the end of it. When it comes to thinking about living out a life that he has called us to, for the majority of us, it will include marriage. I absolutely hope my life does one day include marriage, hopefully not too far away. I’d like to get married and truly hope that is something God has for me. I know some people who read this may not be a Christian and may not agree with me on everything, but know this, I believe marriage is incredibly signifiant. I want to do my best, that if I ever am a wife, to remember that God has given me that honor. I hope that the things I say in this are things that anyone can do in their marriage, I just think God makes everything far greater. That includes marriage.

What really is the point and purpose of a spouse? We talk of marriage and even in the church I think sometimes we are confused. I wanted to share my thoughts, even though I’m single and have no clue who my hopeful husband might be one day. I think I have a good idea of what God desires for us in a marriage and from us for our spouse.

Before any other thoughts, understand that your spouse cannot be your god (check out another post of mine: Happily never after). Plain and simple, if you put your spouse, your job, your kids, your health, anything over your love for God, you have terribly missed the point. Love God more than you could ever love your spouse. I promise you, even if you are in a dating relationship, that if God is not your number one and he does not have your love first above your significant other, you have an idol in your life. You may have a good relationship, but not a godly one. Let me be clear on this: going to church, being a good person, reading your Bible, not “sinning”….those things don’t make you godly. It makes you religious. Loving God is about knowing that he is your God and you believe that Jesus died for you for your sin. Loving God means you want to do your very best to honor him with your life- your every breath, all that you are, everything you do. Love God truly above anything else in your life.

I understand for some people reading this, it brings some pain. I absolutely believe some things in life are unforeseeable, terrible, painful, and unplanned. I think that is where God’s grace comes in, even including divorce and remarriage. God is restorative, redeeming, and his grace is perfect. I am sorry if you have gone through such pain. Again, I believe God is a redeeming God and he can still work in you. But I do want to hope for marriage to be something that is before God a covenant- lifelong commitment to try to love your spouse as much as Christ has loved you. A spouse is not just someone you marry. This person is someone you commit to love. Not just when you feel like it. Not just when its easy. Not just when you are “happy”. Not just when its convenient. Your spouse should be the most important relationship in your life second only to God. If they are not the most important person, then you need to reevaluate some relationships in your life. Your children, your friends, your parents cannot usurp the relationship of your spouse. Ever. I’m not kidding. Your spouse may be wrong on something and that’s okay. Talk through it. Fight through it if you have to. But your spouse is your partner in life and you need to have your partner’s back. They need to know you will be there and present for them, with them, and on their side. Part of living out godly lives means you learn to love each other as God has called you to love them. You learn to love them how they need to be loved. You learn to love them despite things you may not like. You learn to see them through a lens of grace and eyes of Christ. Why? Because marriage is something that reflects your relationship with God. When two people come together and are good people, they might have a good relationship, but not a godly one. When a man and woman come together and vow to have a gospel-centered marriage, their marriage will not only be a good marriage, it will be a godly marriage, one that can overcome the tests that will inevitably come. It can overcome any struggle, any battle, any difficulty, not because it is perfect, but because Perfect Love lives in them at their core.

Two years ago I wrote a blog, strangely my most read one thus far, that were honest words from a single. I wanted to end this post by sharing more honest words with you (and summarizing as well), whoever you are, whether you are married or hoping to be one day. Marriage is an amazing opportunity for us to love God by living love out toward another person.

Here’s what I think:

-love God more than you love your spouse
-daily pursue God by reading the Bible, praying, journaling…something!
-don’t neglect time for yourself and God
-pray with your spouse
-pray for your spouse
-talk about God things with your spouse
-be Christ-centered
-be committed in church
-God is redeeming and loving…nothing is too broken for him
-your sexual past doesn’t define you, but it will affect your relationships
-if porn is in your life, do WHATEVER it takes it to remove it
-porn will eventually destroy yourself and your marriage, don’t let it get that far
-flirtations with someone not your spouse may not seem like a big deal now, but if you aren’t careful, you’ll end up going down a dark road
-respect your spouse enough to place up boundaries with other people in your life, especially those of the opposite sex, former relationships, and people who you just might need space from because its better that way
-respect your spouse’s concerns and worries
-be patient with your spouse’s insecurities, fears, worries
-work on your own insecurities, fear and worries by seeking God and wise counsel
-be your spouse’s biggest fan and greatest advocate
-be a solid support for them
-listen, don’t just talk
-do things they want to do, even if you don’t
-do things for them, just because
-never make them feel uncomfortable, that includes sexual behaviors
-fight for your spouse, always
-fight with your spouse, not because you want to fight, but fight instead of giving up because they are worth it
-make necessary sacrifices to better love them
-take time out of your schedule for your spouse
-never stop dating them
-remember, everyday the vows you said before them and God

Marriage isn’t always easy. It isn’t always glamorous. But a spouse is someone who God has brought alongside you. Don’t waste the moments you have. Learn everyday to love them more and see them through God’s eyes. Marriages are our way of loving someone for the rest of our life as just a glimpse of God’s love for us. If you are single, pray that you can live in such a way, starting now, that you honor God with all that you do, including your single life. Pursue purity and sexual integrity in your behaviors. I know its a challenge but pursue it as best as you can. If you are dating, it does not get easier the closer you get to marriage. Pray for them to love God more. Pray for God to move in your relationship, and even painfully, if your relationship is not something God desires, that he make it clear and you walk in obedience. Seek God and wise counsel if you are struggling with things from your past, mistakes, sin, and anything else that might affect your future marriage. And if you are married, know that you have an incredible opportunity to show the world God through your marriage. Start now.

Whoever you are, whatever your past, God isn’t done with you yet.

A hug…

I had this incredibly sweet moment today. Honestly, this moment was the highlight of my day and something that brought more joy, more peace, and more resolve than I could have imagined. As I was leaving church today, a sweet family was talking in the doorway and I joined into the conversation. Their youngest daughter, I think she is around 4, is a gem and total firecracker and someone I see as world-changer all in one tiny human-absolutely one of the cutest kids ever. As we were all chatting in the doorway, she heard me say something then proceeded to ask if I was sick. I asked her why she thought I was sick and she stated firmly that my voice was scratchy. I politely told her I was good but sometimes my voice gets like that. I then continued chatting with her mom, only to find seconds later, this adorable girl just wrap her arms around me. And then hug me and hug me more. She held on for probably a good two minutes. For whatever reason she wanted to hug me. She has never once hugged me at church before. Actually she’d grab my hand or say something silly. But never a hug. And this time she hugged me unprompted and held on tight.

It was just a hug. Then I realized it was more than that.

When this sweet girl hugged me, I realized something: this little girl in that moment was more perceptive than most adults. Her mom is someone I went to recently regarding some personal issues and grief I was facing and she knew that even today, though I’m much better and have peace, I still hurt a little. It was like that little girl’s hug was God’s reminder, again, that he is listening and I’m not alone. This adorable little fireball had this precious child-like faith and love that embodied God’s heart. Throughout the day I kept thinking about that hug. And it made me think even more…how much God loves us to speak to us in even the simplest of ways. He meets us where we are at and wraps his love and grace around us. That moment…those two minutes of her just hugging me unprompted was like God himself was hugging me and reassuring me that its okay. It was God’s reminder to not discount the small, seemingly insignificant moments. Sometimes, those are the moments where God’s voice is loudest. Sometimes those are the moments where change truly begins. God’s love meets us, sometimes in a whisper and subtlety. Sometimes, however, God meets us with huge slap in the face to get our attention. I have had both recently. The grief I spoke of in my recent blog, in the midst of pain, was one that, though I didn’t want to realize it at the very beginning, a sort of slap in the face from God, one that stung and hurt but got my attention. This hug, however, was like a gentle sweet whisper from God.

Friend, wherever you are today with whatever you are struggling with, know God is with you. You are not alone. He hears your cries, knows your worries and fears, doesn’t need a promoting from you for you to know that he loves you deeply. Whatever you are facing, God is at your side if you let him lead you through it. Have the child-like wonder and pure faith like the girl at church. At the same time, don’t miss God in the moments, whether subtle or bold. He is wanting to speak to you and move in your life. You are not forgotten. You are not too messed up. You are not too bad or too dirty for him. His love is pure.
And its for you.

In the midst of pain

In a single moment, the life we live and the plans we make can fail, crumble…shatter.

I’ll be honest with you, this week was a long moment of such shattering. Everything I planned regarding something fell to pieces and I felt fragile to the point of the pieces of me going everywhere. I’ll be honest again- I didn’t handle myself in a way I would have expected or a way that I was pleased with. But we each have that moment, something that shatters a dream, a goal, a plan and we can’t do anything about it. We can try to pick up the pieces as they fall and break on the ground. We won’t be able to. We can be angry, but anger can’t change circumstances. We can only grieve initially.

We can grieve the loss of relationships, the loss of a loved one, the failure we had made, the loss of a job, the diagnosis, the misfortune. Let me tell you this, dear friend or stranger who reads this, when you go through difficulty and something like what I speak of, grieve. Don’t bottle it up. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen. Be angry. Be upset. Be discontent. Grieve! GRIEVE. Go through that time of processing the loss or the pain. Allow yourself to mourn. Cry. Weep. Fast. Sleep. Exercise. Whatever. Just don’t turn to something to grieve like alcohol, sex, drugs, or other addictive or unhealthy behaviors. Truly grieve. Then get up. Fight through the tears if you have to. Its okay to not be okay, but know that grieving cannot last forever.

I can tell you from experiences in my life, one of which was recent, that if you don’t grieve, you won’t heal. If you grieve, it will be painful. We don’t like pain. We don’t like coming to terms with things that have happened. Grieving is painful but it is necessary to survive and move forward. Very recently I had to grieve something, something that was a plan and a hope for the rest of my life. I had to grieve the loss of something that I didn’t understand. In my grief, I wept and cried for days. I couldn’t eat much. I barely slept. What’s amazing about grief though, is that when you grieve you can choose to be alone and just suffer, or you can seek out community and God. On my sleepless days and nights, I read the word…A LOT. I read Bible app devotionals. I prayed and I journaled seeking God’s wisdom, clarity and peace. Oh how good peace feels when you finally allow God to move and move boldly in your life.

That’s where I am at today. I grieved, I wept, I cried, I lacked understanding, and I even lacked peace for a time. But in time, with our struggles, God meets us where we are at with whatever we face. It might be subtle. Or he might show up boldly saying “I AM”. I am a firm believer that God has a purpose and uses moments like these to shape our story. We can choose to let things dictate and define us and even destroy us. Or we can, sometimes even painfully, allow God’s refining and redeeming love to transform us through our grief. He can use whatever shattering things have happened to create in you something new and beautiful. Its hard to see at the time when we are still fragile or broken, hurting, and lost, but God absolutely loves us and is wanting us to let him take the lead. Still grieve. Still process. Still be upset. God is not afraid of our emotions or turned away by our humanity. He meets us where we are and beckons to love him through the pain. In the midst of our pain, he meets us with with peace. We don’t necessarily have closure, the answers we seek, the person we love back, the job we want, or the future we dreamt. But let me tell you this: every time I have gone through something, the only constant has been his love for me. The only thing that I have found is peace when I trust him to write my story, one far better that I could even dream. Whatever you face today, its okay to grieve but allow God’s peace to work alongside your grief and I promise you, you won’t regret it.

Living differently.

We live in a world today where so much happens to influence who we are that in turn we are no longer living as the individuals God created, but a society that is deeply confused. Christians, we are confused just like the world. We stand for Christ in name but our behaviors say differently. Our words speak differently. Our lives tell a different story. I say this in love but also conviction because I am completely guilty of the same.

I so badly want to live my life as a voice for the Gospel as someone who has been changed by Jesus Christ. Yet I find myself in a constant struggle against self. I absolutely, fundamentally believe in God. I believe in Creation and I know that we have sin. I believe that to make up for the sin in our lives, a consequence followed, to which Christ paid. I believe it is through Jesus Christ alone that I find peace and redemption and restoration. I believe that God’s way is best. I believe that God wants more for us than we could ever know and that He writes bigger stories for us than ones we could write for ourselves. But I also believe I am complete idiot sometimes. I believe I am a failure other times. I believe that I make some deeply wounding mistakes and damaging choices.
You see, if we say we believe in God and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then shouldn’t we live in such a way that honors him? Shouldn’t we want to live in a way that gives thanks to the one who paid for our sin rather than continuing to live in it? This is the human holiness struggle.

What is holiness? When Jesus died for us, he also rose again. Its why we celebrate Easter. The Bible may seem like a disconnected book of stories but instead it is actually a book of a collective of stories that reveal God’s heart and design for us through Jesus and the Israelite people. God loved us so much that he wanted to show us his love, rather than make us love, so that we might have a choice to choose to love him or not. Holiness is our way of, through our life, attempting to live like Christ did. Holiness is our way of trying to live in such a way that God is honored. It is our way of being set apart from the world and those who haven’t met Christ yet. You see I firmly believe that when we have encountered Christ we cannot be the same as when we first met him. He changes us. He changes hearts. He redeems us. Frees. Breaks up. Renews us. We cannot be the same if we have met Jesus. Holiness is the difference.

We might make mistakes. No, we will make mistakes. We will live selfishly at times, falling to whatever cravings we might have. We will be arrogant. We will be sexually tempted. We will mess up. Plain and simple. My mess up might look differently than yours but we both mess up, sometimes in little things, sometimes in way bigger things that bring painful consequences. But the writers of the Bible knew this struggle. They knew that when they wrote things in the books that we had a God who loved us deeply and a way to make it through. Jesus is the way. The only way.

17800045_10100237269048888_3941513991857721257_n

It may seem like I sidetracked from my original sentences about us basically being just as confused as the world. So many of us Christians, especially today, want so badly to not offend people while simultaneously leading people to Christ, the Savior of our lives who changed us forever. We want people to know him personally like we do, but we don’t want to be legalistic. I am totally guilty of being legalistic- just ask friends of mine, especially from college. Legalistic faith isn’t good because it leaves no room for error and paints a picture of everything in life as black and white. Its just about rules. At the same time, it shouldn’t be thrown out. You see somewhere along the way, a lot of us Christians have wanted so badly to lead people to Jesus by being relevant and cool and engaging that we have actually forgotten that we are also called to be holy. We dislike correction from other believers or being told to change something in our lives. Jesus commanded his followers to make disciples along the path of their lives. To live in such a way that people would see Jesus in them. To make the Gospel known to the world because it is his love that can change us all.

We need to continue to tell the world about Jesus and how amazing he truly is but in the process we can’t look and act like the world.

That has been my problem more than once. I have known that I loved God since February 17, 2001. I have known that God changed my life, that Jesus freed me, and that God had more for me than I could imagine. But I also know that sin is fun and enjoyable and satisfying…for a time. Things that satisfy my flesh, my desires, my emotions, my…MY…my. I have the wrong perspective. If I live my life with my as the focus, then I am terribly misguided. My life is only mine because of Him and my life needs to be a reflection of what he has done. The Bible is very very clear on certain things…on those black and white issues, live as best as you can to abide by those things. This is where legalism isn’t necessarily bad. Some things are black and white. Don’t be a hypocrite. If you say you love God, live according to his Word. On the areas not so specifically mentioned, take it with grace and study to see what God’s Word might say as much as possible and pray to find your peace with the rest. But please do not, DO NOT, cherry-pick the Bible for what you want to be true and ignore the rest. Study and learn the Word. Then do what it says. If in doubt, ask yourself, “does this please God?” Life is hard and there will be plenty of times where we will each make mistakes and fail to sin and selfishness. Don’t just give up because you fail. But keep getting yourself back to God’s Word, in prayer, and live as best as you can every day to reflect God’s love, God’s truth, and live differently in a world that hasn’t met Jesus yet. Strive to be holy. Because maybe, just maybe, through you someone might encounter Jesus.

The story behind…

I am such a sucker for a good story. By good, I don’t necessarily mean “happy”, I just mean a story worth hearing. I am particularly a fan of someone’s personal story whether that be their life story, their faith story, a war story, love story, whatever. I am such a sucker. I think everyone has a story to be told. That being said, if you have ever read any of my other posts, at some point you have probably learned my story, or at least parts. Today I made the decision to create a sort of memorial to my story so I won’t ever forget what my story has entailed. The Israelites had a beautiful thing they did to remember what God had done. They would create a memorial out of rocks and stones to always see and remember God’s providence, healing, freedom, and love. They also, later on, would put the scriptures on their doorpost to always remember the Word of God was true and essential to their lives. I wanted to do the same.

I got my first, and probably only, tattoo. I know what some of you might be thinking: “why mark your body permanently?” I get it, I really do, but bear with me for just a moment.

You see 8 years ago I went on a study abroad trip to Israel that began a new journey for me in my faith. Just before leaving on that trip I had gone through a bad breakup (I know right, typical college student). I had also gone through a season of finding out what I truly believed in God and my calling. When I left for Israel, I was so ready for God to just do something.  Anything. I was desperate. I knew I loved God and I knew what he had done in my life. God had brought me out of a dark place just a few years before where I was struggling with my self-esteem and had been addicted to porn (yes, girls can be addicted to porn. yes, I firmly believe porn is utterly destructive). But God freed me from that addiction, not overnight but through discipline, accountability and vulnerability. God was using my story of freedom to help show others that redemption is actually possible- that we don’t have to just stay defeated by what life brings us or what mistakes we have made. So that brings to Israel. I felt defeated again. I felt broken. I felt lost.

My trip to Israel was amazing and actually life-changing. I had a heart that was just ready for something to happen. I was living there for the semester with some amazing friends from college while making new ones. I was able to travel to sites all over the country. Some of the places we went to were historic because of the Holocaust or another war. Some of the places were historic because of the Crusades. Some of the places were enchanting simply because of their beauty and mystery. And yet my favorite places were where Jesus had walked, where stories from the Bible came alive, where my faith was made tangible before me. I stood in the valley where David gathered his stones to defeat Goliath. I was baptized in the Jordan River, the same as Jesus. I went out onto the Galilee and saw the same water that Jesus walked and Peter fished. I hiked above En Gedi, the place where David hid to find peace from Saul. I walked through the Garden of Gethsemane, the same place Jesus prayed regularly but also the place of his betrayal. But of all the places we went to, there is still one place that brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it…the Jesus Steps.

By the time we visited the Jesus Steps, I already felt more renewed, alive, ready for more of God than ever before. But those steps brought me to my knees in humility once again. Those steps were along the path people would have walked up from the Garden of Gethsemane. They are called the Jesus Steps now because historians and archaeologists believe that Jesus was brought this path before being held for execution. The whole area was full of old ruins of the Temple jail with a church built at the top of the hill. I was so overcome with knowing that this place was were Jesus was more than likely dragged up the stairs and taken to captivity overnight. He was held in a dark cistern because the guards didn’t want him to get away or be rescued. He endured being beaten, humiliated, cold, damp, and eventually crucified.  That darkness he endured was for me. I sat at the base of the Jesus Steps, crouching in a part of the old ruins, just weeping. I wept because Jesus did all of that for me. Weeping because his love for me is so great. Weeping because Jesus loved me with ALL that he was and I was desperate to do the same. I wanted that same kind of love to be part of me.

So you might have forgotten while reading this that I am writing about the story behind my new tattoo. I got the tattoo as a reminder of what God did, both with my story of freedom from porn addiction, but also knowing that I am redeemed and made new. That he made me part of the story that was first for the Jew.  I wanted to remember the moment in the ruins when God met me again. I needed to remember that if Jesus could love me with all that he was, even to death, why couldn’t I at least try to love him with all that I was? I wanted to be reminded daily that even when I fail and when I’m weak, Jesus is there and I’m forgiven. I wanted to remember that it is Jesus who is my redeemer and my source and without him being the lead in my life I am nothing but lost. I had been lost before; I didn’t need to go back. My tattoo is my memorial of faith and testimony to the great things God has done in my life. Its a story on my arm that will bear witness to my attempt to love God with all my being, to tell people of his love, and to know that he writes my story.

 

 

17799935_10100236242820458_2185131150746932264_n

Conviction.

As much as I hate it, I do honestly love when I get really convicted of something in my life. Now  try to understand me when I say this. I don’t like the actual conviction. But I do like the change that comes with conviction. You may be reading this and not understand what I am saying so let me simplify it. We- you, me and every other person on this earth- try to live our lives as we see fit. We might try to be good. We might do our best. We might not love God. We may deeply love God. But there comes a point in all of our lives where God convicts us of sin, where we feel that “gut feeling” or uncomfortable knowing within that something isn’t right. It might be shame. Guilt. It might just be outright knowing that you are doing something wrong. The reason God convicts us isn’t to ruin us or make us miserable. It isn’t to point out the wrong just for fun. God deeply and tremendously loves us and it grieves him when we are living in ways that hurt us, even when we may not realize that we are indeed hurting ourselves. It grieves him when we live selfishly, foolishly, recklessly, painfully, vengefully, lustfully…the list could go on for a long time. So God graciously convicts us so to lead us in the right direction.

I have had such moments in my life. Moments, that when faced with conviction, I must decide to continue to do as I do, or make the changes in my life that I feel (or rather am being convicted of) need change. To clarify, conviction isn’t always bad. Often we think of conviction as something bad, but sometimes it might be the deep conviction and knowing of what we know God wants from us or for us which may require obedience. But for the sake of this blog, I simply speak of the conviction that humbles. The painful, uncomfortable feeling or knowing that something I am doing (behavior) is grieving God’s heart. The reason conviction will actually work is because I love God and simply knowing my behavior breaks his heart, breaks mine as well. Tonight I had one of these moments where I want to change some things in my life not because they are wrong, but because of my love for God and my desire to ultimately live to honor him.

 

Below is a link to a video podcast from my church and a snippet of the message. Please take the time to watch this sermon.

 

Here is the sermon: The Book of John: Clear Expectations

“The task Jesus has given, the expectation of christ looks like he is calling us to be perfect. it looks like he is calling us to not mess up to not screw up to not have mistakes…especially if you read this like a normal religious person like its a call to obedience. but here is what i think…

Jesus is not demanding or calling us here to obedience. He is not saying you must obey me to prove your love. he is calling us to a deeper love for him and the result of that will be obedience. Jesus is not calling you to a new law. Jesus is not calling you to more rules. He is calling you to an invitation to a romance with him that when you fall in love with him and devote yourself to him, the natural response of devotion to Christ is that we easily obey what he expects of us. But all the legalists and the religious people have gone ‘wait I thought this was on my own effort? I thought I had to work this hard, and pray this much and give this much and serve this much to prove my love for God.’ But Jesus isn’t calling you to do more. He is calling you to be more. To come along with him. He is asking you to love him more.

I want to grow in my depth of love for Jesus. If you have an issue with unrepentant sin, your issue is actually an issue of love. If you refuse to surrender your temptations…your issue is not just your flesh, its your heart towards God. Sinning against the Lord should grieve us because we love him so much.”

 

Crazy faith. 

Guys…I wanted to say something to all of you that I hope is encouraging, challenging or whatever else.  Honestly, I’m posting this because I have no reason to brag. This year, 2016, has absolutely stunned me. Shocked me. Surprised me. Let me tell you about it. 

For those of you who don’t know me, which is most of you, this year started for me as a still new resident to TN, barista in search of a new job, former pastor lost looking for ministry, financially desperate, and at a complete loss for words as to what to do about anything. I started this year, along with my church, in a 21 day fast. My prayer focus in that fast was for financial provision, a new job and life direction. One of my biggest prayers was for God to make it happen so I couldn’t get the credit. And thats what he did. I sit here, still stunned. Still amazed. Still wondering if I’ll wake up from a dream. Sparing you a chunk of the details, in March I signed up for a class with my town simply to learn more about it and the police/citizen community. During that process I felt such an impression on my heart, one I couldn’t explain, to apply to the police department. I didn’t think it would happen. I wasn’t the ideal candidate. After a 4 month process of being investigated, doing various tests, all the while still being broke working at Starbucks, I got an interview with the Chief. My interview with the Chief fell a week after the executions of the officers in Dallas (5) and Baton Rouge (3). Those attacks solidified my decision to continue forward. I can’t exactly explain why. It just felt like I had to do it. Right before my interview with the Chief, I prayed for God to make it clear and open a door which only he could open. Well…I got hired on the spot in my interview with the Chief which almost never happens to anyone. In September I started training which ended last Thursday when I graduated. During the academy I served as the Chaplain for my class, praying with them and for them. God opened doors I couldn’t imagine. God challenged me in ways I didn’t know he could. He still is. 

So here I am, a few days before the end of the year humbled and stunned by God’s goodness, favor, and absolute leading in my life. God made this all happen for me. It started with a fast, and this Sunday I begin a new one to start 2017. 

I wanted to share all of this is because I wanted to encourage you all to continue trusting in God and his steadfast love. I truly know how it feels to be desperate and lost and feeling without hope. I know what it feels like to be wandering without direction. But I have seen God’s favor after YEARS of feeling lost, alone, and desperate. He is faithful. He is steadfast. If you find yourself tonight or whenever feeling anything but God’s love for you, know he is with you. You might need to continue to persevere and endure where you are and what you are doing. You might need to step out in faith. You might need to make some radical decisions. Heck, you might find yourself thinking you’re crazy (like I did) because the thing God is calling you to seems crazy. Be obedient. He has your back. He is doing something, even if you can’t see it right now.

1 second

Its amazing how quick life can change. How one moment can literally change the direction intended.

I’ve been pretty silent on social media altogether lately for the sake of my new job. I have chosen the route of speaking less and sharing less as to not put myself in a place that could even slightly or possibly compromise my job. The last several months have been some of the most refreshing and equally challenging months of my life. I have had to trust in faith more than ever before. So that’s where I’ll begin instead of with the moment that could have changed it all this week.

Back in March, I began the quiet process of hopefully becoming a cop. After the long process of deep background investigation, interviews, a PT test, a physical exam, a psych eval, and more, I was given an offer of employment. The biggest thing about it was that, for one of the first times in my life, I knew God was leading my steps. He was making it happen and I didn’t need to force things to happen or make my way. He was opening the door. Like I said, this season of my life has been one that my faith has grown so much because I have seen what God can do for me. I know God has plans for my life, and this has been a curveball for sure, but one I haven’t even come close to regretting.

The past six weeks I have been in training, most of which at the academy. I had no idea what to expect getting into this profession and how to prepare myself. But I knew that I wanted this, to do well, to push through and to be the best I could be. Above all I wanted to honor God in this job and the training to get me there. He had made a way for me to get this far so I wanted to trust him with the process, including the training and academics. Honestly, all of the training so far has brought a mix of emotion- exciting and exhausting, challenging and shaping- and in the midst of all of it, I have had a peace that I believe can only come from God. Whatever happens, He’s got my six.

This week, everything could have changed. This story for me could have looked very different. During this week, the cadets all had a qualification needed to pass in order to continue. For me, I was one second away from potentially not passing (largely because I had a 10 second penalty for a stupid mistake). One second. Its amazing how one second later and I could have packed all my things and needed to figure out the next step for me outside the academy. I have had humbling moments before in my life but this one takes me toward the top. This one is among those moments I won’t forget because it was an almost game-changer for me. I won’t forget it because I had to see other peers and friends of mine leave the academy for good. I won’t forget it because this one moment reminds that God still has chosen to help me to stay there. He isn’t done with me there yet. He still has me in this place that I am convinced he called me to.

Until God sees me to completion or moves me onto something else, I want to be faithful and disciplined with where he has placed me. That was the reminder I kept telling myself all week prior to my qualification. It gave me a weird peace. Of course I will still a little nervous, but I had peace still. This whole adventure and journey so far has brought me to a place of faith I have never been. Its brought me to a place of trust in God-that if the God who created everything, who has chosen to love me, who has chosen to direct my life and to lead me is with me all the time, why not trust him with everything? He knows what he is doing and I don’t need to worry. That moment, hearing my score, and seeing how close I was to a different direction, will remain a moment that I am humbled and thankful.

Whatever may be going on in your life, whatever struggle, difficulty, uncertainty that you face, I just want to challenge you with one thing: trust God. You may be a person of faith or you may not be. But I know I have seen God work in ways I can’t fathom. I know that without him, my life would look very different and I wouldn’t be where I am now. God loves you and cares for you more than you know. You matter to him. You are loved by him. And he is not done with you. Step out in trust and faith.

Before we throw stones

It seems like America is unsure of what it cares about. It seems we are at a loss and wandering around trying to figure this all out. Recently we were split on our opinion on the gorilla zoo incident. For a moment we were all enraged, either at the zoo or the parents. Just this week another incident happened where a child was taken by an alligator into the lake the child was playing now. Again, a debate of what the parents should have done differently yet weirdly enough there was no outcry for the 4 gators killed in the attempt to find the one that took the child. I guess animals don’t matter as much if they’re not in a zoo…not really part of my discussion here but still something to think about.  My point is that we as a nation are constantly finding things to argue and disagree about yet painfully ignore bigger and more threatening issues. By no means do I want to belittle the incidents of these two children or the lives of the animals. By no means do I want to dismiss other things. What I do want for us to realize is that our nation is walking on some dangerous  grounds when we see incidents like this and decide to sling judgment, hate, even just an opinion that happens to be the loudest voice. What we have created is a culture that wants to please everyone, offend no one and pretend to think that that’s actually a viable option. All of this got me thinking even more with a recent event in the news. I was already aware of some of the situation and case. But suddenly everyone figured out because, of course, it went viral on the Internet and specifically on social media like Facebook.

It seems, enraged again, we as a nationa got caught in what looked like a unified anger at “the system”.  A rapist was given only 6 months of a sentence that usually gets a decade or more.  But before we continue, lets first discuss the facts. Let’s get on the same page then see where we are at.

A rapist, named Brock Turner, was caught in the act of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. He was caught by 2 grads students and then physically held until the authorities arrived. Even with the victims statement and the statement of the two witnesses, along with the conviction decided by a jury, he was given 3 felonies that would send him to 10-14 years in prison, the judge chose to listen to the father of the rapist. He described his son as a good boy, great athlete and shouldn’t be punished for “20 minutes of action”. The judge chose the lesser sentence…in fact among the smallest sentence ever for a rapist convicted of 3 felonies. When the court cases as revealed, the nation seemed to go nuts online. Everyone was posting articles and statements and videos of the case. Mug shots and statements of death and hatred were slung. I had so many friends posting hat he should be given the death penalty, that he’ll become someone’s sex toy in prison and learn what it feels like to be brutally assaulted and sodomized. I had so many friends say so many things.
But there’s more.
We can probably almost all agree hat Brock Turner and other rapists deserve prison time and proper justice. We would probably all agree that the crime was heinous. We would probably all say rape is bad. Let’s check ourselves, though,and see if we truly can say we live in opposition to the rape culture we are seemingly surrounded by, the very rape culture that gave this judge the ability to give such a light sentence.

We have become so quick in our culture to sling stones of judgment and hate and criticism yet are we really in a place to do so? I mean….are we really?

When the incident of both the gorilla/ zoo  and the gator/kid took place, everyone was suddenly the world’s best parents and said that they could never possibly make such a mistake. Of course I have opinions and would hope I could never have such a thing happen to my child. But last I checked I’m neither a parent nor perfect. Those parents will never forget what happened. So stop beating them up and love your kids as best as you can.

When the Brock Turner case became public, everyone suddenly was an attorney, counselor, executioner or tough guy. What bothered me about this case specifically was that everyone agrees rape is wrong but not everyone is living in a way to terminate the rape culture. If we truly cared about it at our core we wouldn’t allow for the other elements of the rape culture to continue. Need some examples?

  • Movies or shows that glamorize rape
  • Jokes about rape
  • Objectification of men and women through things like the adult industry, sexualized ads, etc.
  • Victim blaming
  • Slut shaming
  • Saying “boys will be boys”

You see, unless your life reflects the true desire and behaviors that align with wanting the end of the rape culture, then you are in no place to throw stones to Brock Turner, his parents, or the judge. I don’t say this to at all state that this case or others aren’t important. In fact, I believe that they are so important that we need to have more conversations about this. I can tell you one thing: I am absolutely fed up with the hypocrisy in our country, and even the Church, when it comes to the rape culture. If we really cared about stopping rape, stopping assault, ending the attitude, removing excuses, then we need to truly make some changes. When we glamorize rape in TV shows or movies, when we have advertisements and commercials that objectify and even subtly show domineering behavior, assault, or abuse, when we have campus rapes that aren’t being reported because schools “deal with them from within”, when we have fraternities where guys treat sex like an amusement park but sororities that do the same are deemed sluts, when we have such a large sex industry which is heavily connected to trafficking, when the Church talks about sex only as negatives avoiding the beauty of God’s design, and when we have magazines and media that create a pop culture that continually treats sex like pure recreation or experimentation, can we really say we are surprised and truly angry when a rapist is only given a six month sentence?

My point is not that complex. Opinions matter. Your voice matters. But more than anything Truth matters. And sometimes what really needs to happen is conviction and humility need to knock us on our knees and show us where we are wrong instead of casting stones at other’s mistakes or insufficiencies.

Thankfully, each day, I try to take on the challenges, mistakes, failures, good, bad and everything in between with the perspective of Jesus working in me showing me his love and life and redemption before me.