Tuesday, November 1, 2016

He's Called Me By Name

These last ten months have been better than I could have ever thought of or imagined them to be. God knows what He is doing with my life. I thought I knew what I was doing, but God humbled me. He showed me who I really was: a prideful, selfish fool. However, He began a good work in me. When I signed up for Ignite, I had no idea I would be learning the things I am learning. I just saw the Jesus who Pastor Michael Rozell and Jordan Cole knew, and I wanted that. All my childhood I wondered if there was really an eternal God who loved me and had a plan for my life better than what I could come up with, and I found out that there is! As I have submitted to God being the Potter and me being the clay, He’s taken me through a process. It hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows, but the result of God’s work in one’s life is beautiful and I have gotten to experience that. God has broken through my stubbornness, allowed me to break and sit in the living water, His Word. Out of that brokenness, He’s been restoring me and giving me life unlike I ever knew. There is a God and He has called me by name.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Come, Follow Me

Luke 18:22
So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

     This man who Jesus is speaking to is described in Luke 18 as a rich, young ruler. The man had kept all of God’s commandments since his youth. He was a good person yet Jesus said, “You still lack one thing.” Then Jesus tells him, “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” The man’s response was sorrow because he was very rich. His heart was attached to his present wealth and security even though Jesus promised him eternal treasure if he would sell all he had and followed Him. He didn’t want to give up his life to follow Jesus. He had made it in the world and didn’t want to give up that security for a life of uncertainty and surrendering of rights to God. What he didn’t see was that his good life was an illusion that would disappear the moment he passed on from this short life and that he would have treasure in heaven if he was obedient. Jesus went on to say, after observing the rich man’s response, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.” Not only would he be gaining treasure in heaven, but he would also be gaining the better life in the present time.

As I am reading and thinking about what Jesus said about the rich young ruler, I am challenged as a Christian. I have decided to follow Jesus, but there are still things I haven’t let go of. The life I have to return to after I go back home is something that could keep me from taking this step that Jesus told the rich young man to do to inherit eternal life. My identity and earthly treasures that were so closely associated with my lifestyle before I set out on this trip to follow Jesus are still back home, tempting me to go back to the pursuit of worldly success. I’ve given a portion of my life to Christ, but there is still a part of my life I haven’t fully surrendered to the Lord. There’s an open door for me when I get back home to get a higher education and begin a career that will set me up to accomplish my childhood dreams of becoming a rich business man. The path I was on before I took this year to seek the Lord is still put on pause, and I don’t want it to hold me back from giving all to follow Jesus. I sure don’t want to miss out on what God wants to give me. He’s already given me eternal life, and He’s worthy of my whole being. The plans he has for me in this life are far greater than anything I could think of or imagine. With those promises, I’d be a fool to spend my life chasing my own dreams. He may even give me the desires I had for my life, but I want to follow Him. Saying no to living a really good life is a joyous thing when I consider that God wants to give me an even better life, even if it means suffering for His name’s sake, surrendering all that I have, and giving to the poor to follow Him. I’ve had this sense that God created me to do something great, but the motive behind it is no longer for my own glory but for God’s glory. I want to follow Jesus. Without Him I am a miserable kid with a bunch of toys and a selfish plan for my own life that won’t produce any eternal fruit. I want to follow Jesus. This life is a loss without Him.

Application: Ask the Lord for a pivotal change in my life that would set my course on following Jesus, separate me from anything of my old life, and store up for me treasure in heaven.

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 

Honoring the LORD First

Matthew 23:9
“And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.”

     We are commanded to honor our father and mother, yet Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:27, “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of me…” The greatest commandment gives the most clarity on this son to parent relationship in Matthew 22:37-40, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” What I believe God is saying is obey me first and foremost. He is the ultimate authority I am to obey. I am to honor my parents but God’s guidance is to be the judge of my decisions.

     The decisions I’ve had to make so far in my life have largely been influenced by my parents’ guidance. Doing sports, traveling, going to college, getting jobs, and future plans have been or are issues that I’ve had to bring before my parents, as well as many others. Perhaps the decision of the most tension and debate between my parents and I has been of going to university. After finishing my Associates Degree from community college while finishing high school, I was given the opportunity to go to the Potter’s Field Ministries Ignite Program. I knew God wanted me to go but it became a trial I had to walk through between my parents will and God’s will for my future. I did want to go to honor my parents by going to university but I knew I needed to obey God’s will, which was to spend a year away from home, seeking the Lord before I made any more moves that affected my future. Seven months into this program, I knew I made the right decision by obeying my heavenly Father. Obeying my heavenly Father’s guidance has opened so many opportunities and given me so many amazing experiences. I have learned and continued to learn a lot about God and trusting Him in this time that I could have only got by saying yes to His counsel.

     This does not rule out honoring my parents because it’s a commandment still. I do need more wisdom on my future and honoring my parents and that’s why this verse popped out to me when I read it. I do have a dad but he’s not my heavenly Father. I love my dad very much and want to show him respect the way God would have me. My dad really wants me to go to university, at least for my Bachelor’s in Business Degree. I want to go but I haven’t gotten clear counsel from the Lord about it. The opportunity is not very clear right now, but I can trust in God that He will give me counsel and wisdom on where to make the next move when the time is right.

Application: Pray and seek the Lord for wisdom and counsel from God on how to make decisions about life, particularly about going to university and what lies ahead of this season. Also, I will seek the Lord for how I can be obedient to Him and honor Him in the season I am in now so I don’t miss out on His presence now and how He would speak to me today, even concerning my future. Also, I will pray for a stronger trust in Him and letting Him be my Father, teaching me the way He would chose and guiding me in His ways.

Unless the Lord Builds the House

Psalm 127:1
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

I’ve heard it said once, “Your greatest fear shouldn’t be that you won’t succeed; your greatest fear should be that you succeed at something that didn’t matter.” I’d like to think that if I knew life was in vain I would spend it to the fullest in vanity than complacently not do anything. Whoever wrote that quote must have understood that there was something to live for, and you don’t want to miss out on it. If all I had was this life, I wouldn’t want to miss out on its temporary pleasures, but there is meaning and purpose in life and many miss out on it.

Life does matter to God. He doesn’t want us to live in vain. He will let us live our lives’ how we want if we reject Him, but He has a plan for our lives if we would say yes to Him. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” In God’s word there are promises of this better life. It’s as if God is waiting for us to find Him so He can give it to us. Without God we are bound to live in vanity. Our flesh does not naturally seek out God’s way; we seek out our own ways that lead to death. By God’s grace, we can live that life that the Lord desires us to live. We don’t have to labor in vain if we find His purpose for our lives. By failing to find that purpose, we will get to the end of our lives and wish that we would have searched for it. Matthew 7:24-25 says, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He sets us on the Rock. Then He begins to reveal His way and invites us to walk in it as Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God already has a plan and a purpose that He prepared before we even knew that it existed. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts,” as Isaiah 55:9 says. God knows something about us that we often reject. He knows that our ways and our thoughts are chaff compared to His. If only we believed that He won’t fail us and that He has a life in store for us that was designed by Him, the Creator Himself, we would begin to live a life of true meaning and purpose. It’s not like our ways that are flawed and end up getting us into trouble; He will be there to teach us and guide us in every trial along the way, delivering us from evil and guiding us in the ways of everlasting, until that work that is our lives, is completed.

Since I began this journey of seeking for the Lord’s plan and purpose for my life, God has taught me many lessons. The flaws that I have as a son of the world, my heavenly Father has been making straight. Just in this year, God has really straightened my paths as I’ve been acknowledging and trusting more in Him. The flaws in my personality, which I never expected God to change, have been bending into the personality that the Lord wants for me. There was so much greed, jealously, anger, bitterness, and other sin that the Lord has been at work on in my life, and is yet continuing to work on. As far as the plan for my future stands, God knows it and will lead me to fulfill it. I will trust Him with my future and give Him my worries, as I have spent too much anxious time in thought of it already. 

I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!

Psalm 120:7
I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!

I’ve heard people say, “There is power in the tongue.” Words have a way of wounding others to the core. How often have I said something that had offended someone deeply? Too many times to count. It is often the case that I said something I never intended to mean. People don’t seem to know what I mean but rather take it as a threat. It would have been better had I kept my mouth shut than spoken what had the potential to offend another. By the grace of God I’ve been forgiven of my sins.

As the verse, Psalm 120:7, says so well,

“I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!”

Sometimes I say something I don’t mean, but what I do mean I don’t say. Something my Mom used to tell me as a kid was, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” She knew I meant well but I miscommunicated. It was always my words getting me into trouble. So many arguments and fights began because I said something passively offensive with no intention of causing what followed those comments. I realized that if I’m ever going to conquer the power the power of my tongue, I need to know how to communicate correctly.

Conquering these sins in my life calls for me to be depended on God. In Matthew 26:40-41 it is written about Jesus,

“And He came to His disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

In a similar way I need to be in the spirit if I am going to have victory over the temptation to speak words that aggravate others. Psalm 120:1-2 says,

“In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.”

The Lord is faithful. He will answer those who are in distress. As I’ve been calling to the Lord, He’s been faithful to give me a spirit that is willing. I’ve heard it said that you cannot fix a problem with the same mind that created it. My flesh cannot fix a problem with the same flesh that created it. Instead, as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 26:41, I need a spirit that is willing, and that spirit only comes from the Lord. The Holy Spirit has the power to deliver me and tame my tongue. He has the power to change me and make my words build up rather than tear down others.

Application: Seek the Lord and ask Him to continue giving me power over my tongue. I will ask the Lord for a spirit of love and peace when I speak and that I would build up others with my words.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Wisdom for All Things, Even Eating

Proverbs 25:16
"If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it."

I have found that the Bible contains in it wisdom for life: spiritual life as well as physical life. The book of Proverbs has been speaking to me in ways that I never expected, and today I came across this one at the top of the page. Further on in chapter 25 in verse 27 I read another warning about the same thing, “It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.” As I have been assessing my life by reading through the book of Proverbs, I have come to observe that in my own life I make the same mistake over and over again. Gluttony is a sin that Proverbs 23:21 says “will come to poverty.” Recently I was craving something sweet because I hadn’t dessert in a long time. I was becoming unhappy with the wonderful, healthy meals I have been receiving three times a day of which I did not have to make or clean up. This unhappiness was the same problem Israel was having when God was feeding them manna in the desert but they were craving meat.

The other day I had the opportunity to eat cake. I did not hold myself back at all. Of course, I had my fill and felt sick afterwards. I learned my lesson. When the Bible makes a warning and I choose not to observe it, there is no question that I will reap the consequences. This goes for simple things such as eating too much of a sweet thing as well as the eternal consequences of rejecting Jesus Christ. I learned that there are consequences for eating more than enough, but it warned me of much greater consequences too.

Application: Pray and seek the Lord for discipline when it comes to eating that He would remind me that I reap the consequences of my own actions next time I get a chance to eat a dessert, and also that He would keep me from going down those roads that lead to destruction in any form and instead lead me in the ways of wisdom.

Having a Good Name

Proverbs 22:1
“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold.”

What does it mean to have a good name? It is having a good reputation, being someone who is known for conducting himself well, who isn’t deceptive, who is well liked, who has integrity, and good character. It also means they walk in the light and are open with others. A man who has a good name is a man who people trust. God’s word says that a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches. Many people are willing to compromise if it means hanging on to or gaining more wealth. When it comes to a point where character is on the line in order to gain wealth, a good name can be acquired or lost.

Keeping a good name must be more important than getting ahead financially if a man is to have a good reputation. Even if no one sees me compromise, God still sees me and is the One who watches over my life. It is often what is done in secret that comes out in public somewhere down the line. The man who fears the Lord will not go down that slippery slope that always begins with a small compromise. When the love of money ensnares a man, there is telling of the extent to which he will go to hang onto that money of which he so cherishes. I no doubt have been in places where I had the choice to justify my convictions to increase my money. The presence of the Lord is too precious of a thing to risk than achieving my financial goals, but I must remain vigilant and zealous for the fear of the Lord because I can very easily fall into the bondage of the illusion of money. Let alone my reputation, God is jealous for me and wants my heart. He doesn’t want riches to have power over my heart. The Lord will give a good name to the one who choses Him rather than riches.

The fruit of having a good reputation is favor. Doors open up to good character. How often in life do I get judged on my past reputation? Thankfully I am still young and have not had my character on the line. Neither have I developed a solid reputation that people expect of me yet. Now more than ever is the best time to take my character more seriously. I never want to find myself in a position so far away from God that I make a compromise and my whole integrity gets shattered. I know I am only one mistake away from losing a good name. Putting up boundaries for myself could keep me far from crossing that line of no return.

Application: I have recognized a need for boundaries in my life. One line I have been close to crossing is in my speech. When I get wound up in a situation and lose thought of others, it’s easy to make a comment that I wish I could take back. After making the comment I don’t take ownership of it. I have let a habit of complaining and antagonistic speech enter my heart and am recognizing a need to repent of it and ask the Lord to begin working in that area of my life. It has the potential to give me a rotten reputation that the Lord hates and I certainly don’t want to be known for. How can I put this into application? Pray and ask the Lord that He would forgive me and begin to work and give me revelation in this area of my life. Also, I will seek counsel from wise teachers.