Victorious Joy, Victorious Hope

Jesus was dead. The man that the disciples had followed, trusted, was dead. Their hope was shattered, they were scattered. 

“After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to view the tomb. Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, because an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and approached the tomb. He rolled back the stone and was sitting on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his robe was as white as snow. The guards were so shaken from fear of him that they became like dead men.

But the angel told the women, “Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here! For He has been resurrected, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead. In fact, He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there.’ Listen, I have told you.”

So, departing quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, they ran to tell His disciples the news. Just then Jesus met them and said, “Good morning!” They came up, took hold of His feet, and worshiped Him. Then Jesus told them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see Me there.”(Matthew 28:1-10)

As followers of Christ, we hang on these three words “He is Risen.” Its what our entire faith is built off of, that our God that took away our sins is not dead but alive and here and in relationship with us. Its what gives us joy and hope. 
Jesus’s death was not the end but the beginning. Satan thought he had won and killed Jesus. Jesus rose again, defeating death, defeating Satan and his demons. Opening Himself up to us for us to have relationship with Him. 
Easter is not a time of eggs and candy and the Easter Bunny, its a time of victory.  A victory that is daily, a victory that is not only for Easter. I realized my joy today was more than usual. I wanted to tell everyone of Jesus’s resurrection as they came through my line at work. It was overflowing, uncontrollable joy. Joy like those women had when they made it down to the tomb, saw it empty and heard that Jesus was risen. He was alive. Everyday though should be like that though. I should wake up everyday with that same thought of victory, victorious joy and hope. I want to go to work, school, everywhere with that excitement. Running everywhere to tell people the good news that Jesus is not dead but ALIVE!!
Have a blessed Easter ya’ll,
Joseph.  

Freed by His Death

Today or now yesterday is known as Good Friday. Many think of this day as the day that Jesus suffered but I see this day in a different light. A day of freedom, a day that Jesus opened Himself up to us by tearing the curtain.

“Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split.” (Matthew 27:50-51)

For many years the chief priests and religious leaders of the day were the only ones allowed to come in the Holy of Holies. They had to be the voice of the people, asking for the forgiveness of the people. There were so many rules that had to be followed, so many things to do to be considered holy. The day that Jesus died though this curtain that had separated the ordinary man from experiencing the presence of the living God was torn in half. According to http://the-tabernacle-place.com: (The Jerusalem temple, a replica of the wilderness tabernacle, had a curtain that was about 60 feet in height, 30 feet in width and four inches thick.) 

I feel like this is a very important part in this story. Jesus tore the curtain in half, from top to bottom. This signified our freedom now to come to God in all our mess and sin and be healed and forgiven. This act of tearing the curtain was Jesus opening His love to all, His knowledge, and His power. Like Jesus said in the Garden, He could have called down a legion of angels to deliver Him, but this had to be done. His power is not only shown through tearing the curtain but also through what took place after that. 

“The tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.  And they came out of the tombs after His resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.” (Matthew 27:52-53)

Jesus tore the curtain for us, so that we could live in His joy and love. Even though we didn’t deserve it, Christ died for us and tore the curtain to show that we no longer had to rely on the religious leaders to have a relationship with God. By Christ’s death, He opened up the Holy of Holies to us. The sinful, the regular, average people. He wants you to know that freedom, just like he tore the temple curtain from top to bottom. There is nothing standing between you and God anymore. Ask for the forgiveness of your sins and give Christ your burdens that he already took from you on the cross. Step into His Holy of Holies, unashamed of your past because you have been freed by His love. His death is not the end of the story. HE IS RISEN!! He is sitting on the right hand of God right now. You are free!
Step into Christ’s freedom tonight.
Have a blessed night,
Joseph. 

The Silent Lamb

Jesus road through the streets. People were shouting “Hosanna, Hosanna” to the King. Jesus knew though that these praises would not last. He knew these people would abandon Him, even His closest followers who had been with Him for years would desert Him. One of the followers would even hand Him over to the Pharisees for a cash prize. He would be tried for a crime He was innocent of, He would not speak up. This had to be done. There was no other way. He would be traded for a murderous criminal, but He would not speak up, He would not defend Himself. He would be beaten and then His hands nailed to a cross. He would have a crown of thorns placed upon His head. He would be paraded in front of everyone, mocked, spit upon. He was the God of the Universe, He could stop this at nonsense at any minute, but He didn’t. He would be so weak that someone would have to help carry His cross. The weakness, the absolute utter humility He would show. He was the God of the Universe. He could call down an army of angels to stop this madness or with a word kill all these people but He didn’t. They placed the cross into the ground. He would look down and see the soldiers drawing lots over His clothes. Above Him was the sign “The King of the Jews.” Mockery, complete mockery. It must be done though. He would be placed in between two criminals. The people down below would say to Him, “if you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” He wouldn’t budge though. His father’s eyes would turn away from Him as He took the entire sins of the world. Completely alone, no one to turn to. He would bear all the sins of the world on His shoulders. He would get thirsty and be offered vinegar. He was a King, the King of King, the Lord of Lords. He didn’t move, He didn’t speak, He hung there, feeling the pain that an ordinary man feels, feeling the loneliness that every man experiences. He was God in man form. He would cry out to those who mocked Him and spit upon Him, “It is finished.” He would ask His Father for forgiveness for those who mocked Him and cursed Him. He would die for the sins of the world, bearing every past, present, and future sin on His shoulders. He would be the greatest sacrifice of all time, freeing people from the shackles of sin and death. He would pave a road to joy and freedom. His death was hard, His death was for you and for me. 
As you go throughout this week remember the pain that Jesus experienced on our behalf. Remember how He sacrificed everything to come to earth, leaving Heaven and all its glories to be our Silent lamb.
Have a blessed Easter week ya’ll,
Joseph. 

What is a Father?

When you think about the word “Father” what do you think about? A protector? An enforcer? A punisher? There are many definitions of the word “Father.” We can sometimes associate God with our earthly fathers. I know I did, for a long time. 
I used to think God was someone who was angry when I messed up and would punish me. He had all these rules in this book that we were supposed to follow but if we didn’t I thought He would punish me and be angry. So for many years I stayed far, far away. Over the last few years I’ve seen what God really is like, through the actions of my earthly father. 
My senior year of high school I was struggling. I was completely overwhelmed by an addiction that I had been dealing with since I was 13 years old. I didn’t feel like I could tell anyone for so many years, I was ashamed. One Wednesday night though, I heard the message about the truth will set you free. Since I wasn’t a Christian I took this literally at the time, that being honest would set me free. So I came home and told my Dad. I expected him to be angry and not understand. His response confused me. He grabbed me and began to hug me. We both began to cry and then he said, “We’ll get through this.” Just like my dad our Heavenly Father does not get angry when we mess up. He pulls us close and loves us and encourages us through whatever we are going through. 
About two years into this process of getting me professional help for this addiction, I was still struggling. It seemed like it would never end. “I’m not going to let the devil take my son” he proclaimed one day in the midst of the struggle. My dad was never going to give up on me, even when it seemed everyone else had. Our Heavenly Father never gives up on us. He is with us at all times, gently encouraging and helping us out of this darkness. 
This weekend I got a chance to go with my Dad to Orlando, Fla for a Atlanta Braves spring training game. It was the first chance we had gotten to do something, just the two of us, in many, many years. It was great though. We left early in the morning and talked all the way up there. We talked about past, present, future. Two men talking, sharing, encouraging one another. We made it to the game and dad found a way to get us into the outfield to catch some home run balls. I felt like a little kid again, enjoying the game I loved so much. The weather was perfect and my dad was there. I got my home run ball by myself but then dad wanted to get my brother a ball as well, since he couldn’t come with us that weekend. Our Heavenly Father has no favorites. He is a Father with many sons and daughters and He loves each one of us equally. Well a home run ball came flying over the fence and hit the ground and dad dove on the ground, battling ten people for the ball for my brother. It was hilarious but it made me remember how he fought for me. God fights for us when we have nothing left in the tank. When we are surrounded by the enemy, the Lord comes in and helps us in our distress. 
I know our earthly fathers will not ever measure up to Father God but they don’t have to. They are never going to be perfect and they have messed up more times than can be counted. Our earthly fathers have hurt us and disappointed us. God though has appointed them to be our dads, for them to love us and they do. They love us so much. They protect and encourage and push on to greater things in lots of different ways. Their is one Father who will never leave us, forsake us, hurt us, or disappoint us, our Father God. 
Thank God for your earthly father because God gave him you and you him. Even if you have never had a father or your father left you, know that you have a Father. A Father who is cheering you on from the sidelines but also walking you through each play. He is constantly picking you up off the ground, bandaging your wounds and sending you back out there. He is your greatest fan. He loves you more than anything. He created you and gave you to an earthly father to teach you about His love. 
This past weekend made me realize how much my dad is a superman and how much he loves me and battles for me everyday. Likewise, Father God is battling for me not only each day, but every second, guiding me through all the adversity in the world and bringing me out on top. 
Have a blessed day.
Know you have a Father who loves you and fights for you,
Joseph.

Giving Me Words

Before I became a follower of Christ I struggled over my words. They just never flowed or made much sense. I usually stumbled over them and struggled to get points across. Last year though, a few weeks after surrendering to Christ Jesus, my Lord and Savior, I prayed a prayer. I stood in front of a group of people, my Bible study group. Every week a different person would get up and share in front of the whole group what they had been getting each week from their reading. So I got up, trembling almost and began to pray. That week I had read about Moses telling the Lord that he couldn’t speak, and to get Aaron to speak. So I started my prayer, “God give me the words that you gave Moses to speak.” So I stood up and the Lord filled me with His words. “Before last week, I didn’t believe in a living word” I began. Throughout that speech everything was clear, confidence filled me, forgiveness soaked through my words.

That prayer I thought was just for that night, but it wasn’t. That prayer has become my life. In moments when I needed words, I was given them. Words that I knew hadn’t come from my mouth. Words so woven together and smooth that they got my point across. Today was one of those days that God’s words and confidence filled me and it was amazing and great.

Today I was supposed to do a presentation for my ethics class, group style. We had been assigned it over spring break and we hadn’t got together as a group to plan it out. We’re not lazy, no other group did either. I got up to the front of the room in front of twenty glaring eyes. My heart began pounding, faster and faster. Then I prayed to calm my spirit and give me the confidence to do this presentation. It happened. The confidence came and it went great. I even involved the group and we all had equal parts. I became the facilitator and even got the ethics professor involved. By the end there was clapping and affirmation. The Lord made that presentation flow like a river.

I know that whenever I feel overwhelmed and not sure what to say, the Lord will continue to give me the words to say. Words that are His and not mine. I know I can count on it and I always will.

Have a blessed day ya’ll,
Joseph.

Sitting Down to Pancakes

This morning I woke up after spending the night at a friends house. I was tired and ready to go home. So I headed downstairs but my friends Mom stood in the way. “I made you pancakes” she said. So I stayed and we talked for about an hour about what the Lord was doing in her sons life. Her son just surrendered his life to Christ a couple of months ago. He has changed so much already, growing in the peace and joy of the Lord. He has been reading God’s word everyday and been a great encouragement to me, even in just his limited time of knowing Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we are just so busy. We have plans as soon as we wake up and we hit the ground running. Sometimes though, like today, God wants us to slow down so we can share in a blessing. This lady truly blessed me by serving me pancakes. It was such a simple gesture and a simple dish, but it made an impact on the rest of my day. Sharing in pancakes was a way for me and my friends mom to share in the victory that has been Jonathan’s life over the last little while. The victory that was Jesus pulling Jonathan from the ashes and taking the burden off of Jonathan’s life. All the struggles, failures and past, Jesus lifted those off Jonathan’s shoulders and placed them on His. It shows. Jonathan is a new creation. Today was a great way to share in a victory, a victory of a family, that has been a long time coming.

Slow down this week and share in the victories and blessings God wants to give you and show you.

Have a blessed night,
Joseph. 

Submitting to the Captain

The hardest thing that I have learned recently is really that I have no control. I can try my hardest but truly my life is in God’s hands. Recently I made this jump, a jump trusting God with the next step in my life. It truly has become a leap of faith. After I made this leap, everything, I mean everything feels like it is falling apart. Our finances in the toilet, my parents relationship is a mess and the peace in our household, gone. You know what though? I’ve had the greatest peace though the last few weeks because I know what is holding everything together and I don’t have to worry. God is the glue holding me and everything around me together, even as it looks like its falling apart. His hand is in the middle of our messes, failures and troubles. 

Up until recently I have not realized what it means to be powerless, to see everything crumbling around you and literally not know what to do.I was on my way somewhere today and I broke down crying because I was utterly overwhelmed by the things that had come up recently. I pleaded with God for my parents and for our finances. I knew only the power of Christ could change these situations. I realized that when these things happen I try to take control. I want to be able to do something to change things but I have realized I am powerless. God is teaching me to throw my hands up. To admit that I have tried everything but that only His power and His love can fix these situations. That nothing I do or try on my own will fix these situations completely. Its something I really haven’t done since surrendering to Christ back on January 6th, 2012. This does not mean that I am just giving up though. I am doing my part: praying, coming before the Lord daily for healing for these situations. I know His power is great and I know these situations will be healed by His power. 


“A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
(Mark 4:37-41)

Sometimes I feel like I’m on this boat, like the disciples and I’m being hit constantly by waves and tests and I forget. I forget that the One who calms the storms and silences the winds, is with me. He knows exactly what is going on and He is there with me on this boat. As I cry out in my distress, He hears me. That’s where I’ve gained peace the last few weeks. Even though I’ve been in the midst of the storm, I know the captain of this ship. His name is Jesus Christ and He is in complete control of this ship and this storm. 

Have a blessed night,
Joseph. 

Opening My Eyes, Seeing the Needs

Whether you realize it or not, there are people struggling all over the world today. People starving, people dying from diseases, people lost and lonely, people abused. As followers of Christ we have a responsibility to reach out to those people and help them with the love and power of Jesus Christ. To have compassion on them, like Jesus had compassion on us.
Sometimes I am blind to these things as well. I drive past homeless people downtown, I hear about the atrocities around this world. But do I stop? Do I pray for these people? Honestly the answer is no. Last Monday though I had a chance to go down to a Community Center for a homework assignment. God though really used this homework assignment to show me the real need we have in our community. This is just an excerpt from my homework assignment.
Before I visited, I envisioned the time being good and enjoyable. I had been down to this community center one other time, last year around Christmas with a group of people and it was great. I expected to see a lot of teaching going on during my visit, whether it was through a game or a conversation. I knew these kids were being taken care of and loved on, when their parents couldn’t necessarily do that. So on a Monday afternoon I walked through the door and it was pretty quiet. I was expecting excitement and kids running and screaming but there was none of that going on. I got a chance to sit down with the head person, Mrs. Williams and find out more about the center. Apparently, Mondays are one of their slower days and on Mondays the kids get professional tutoring. I went to the gym and one boy was shooting some baskets. He was a seven year old named Bubba. I and he played for a little while. He was laughing constantly and thoroughly enjoying himself. Soon a few more boys his age joined and we were all playing basketball. I looked down on the other side of the gym and saw a boy playing by himself, so I went down to that end of the gym and began to play basketball with him. T.J. was throwing the basketball with both hands under the ball with a swinging motion, called a “granny shot.” Most other venues I would have been embarrassed to look so silly why playing basketball but this time I didn’t care. I was making this kid’s day and I and T.J. were having a blast. Soon though another kid, Carter, came and wanted to throw the football. So I left T.J. and began to throw the football with Carter but then T.J. came back and wanted to kick a kickball back and forth. So I would throw the football with Carter and then turn around and kick the ball to T.J. to make both kids happy. I left exhausted though but happy that I could make a kid’s day. When I got home I reflected on what had just occurred for the past few hours. I was surprised to see this much need in my own community. These kids were just begging to be loved. They were asking for acceptance. They just wanted someone to care about them and take the time to kick a ball back and forth with them. They just wanted someone to play basketball with. These kids were not bad kids; they were just thrown into these bad home situations. They didn’t deserve to be in these situations. It also made me realize that more volunteers are definitely needed, not just at the Shaw Center, but at tons of other centers around this community. Mrs. Williams had said there were only four full time staff and only twelve “solid” volunteers. So I am taking this to my bible study group to share with them the need and the responsibility that we have in pouring into these kids lives each week. The more volunteers the more that each kid or teen is loved. Everyone has a role in this, our role is to serve. 

Jesus came and hung out with the sick and the needy, the sinners and the tax collectors, the lowliest of the lowly. Isn’t it about time that we sucked up our pride and went into our communities with the living, breathing word of Jesus Christ? God has definitely opened up my eyes to this need in my community. Now I pray that all of you reading this will search your hearts and think of the ways you can provide love to the needy in your communities, whether it be financially or just your time. Maybe some of you will even adopt. I believe it is the Father’s will, that all of the children of the world feel loved. 

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Then He called a child to Him and had him stand among them. “I assure you,” He said, “unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one child like this in My name welcomes Me.” (Matthew 18:1-5)

We are children of God, we are beloved. It is time to show the world how beloved they are by God the Father as well. It is time to open up our eyes and see the needs, the hurts, the pains, that we try so hard to block out. God has called each and every one of us to share His gospel, His good news with the world. Just like Nehemiah said in Nehemiah 4, to fight for your countrymen and your wives and your children, as the Lord your God is fighting for you. I would be in a grave right now if others would not have fought for me, so I know this makes a difference. I know the love of Christ is the most fulfilling, most hopeful thing to bring any person in this world and it will truly change their lives.


We as children of God have been set free. Now it is our job to go share that same freedom with those in chains. We are to show them the forgiving love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and all the hope and purpose that He brings. So get up, go out, in the strength of Jesus Christ, shows others His freedom and His 
love.


Have a blessed day,

Joseph

New Spin on Old Things

Some times some of the greatest lessons I have learned come from old things, past things. Things that I wrote down years ago, give me insight into a new lesson that the Lord wants to teach me. 
Today I ran across some old things that I wrote and wow was it encouraging. Some of the things I wrote back then, I understand a lot better now. 
Warning: these are a few blogs rolled into one, so it may take a lot longer to read. 

Hearing the Voice of God-written-September 2012
Recently I have been hearing from the Lord a lot. Everyday I’ve been experiencing His voice and it’s been amazing. Whether it had been a bad night or an awesome night, in the morning the Lord has been speaking to me through his word, through books, through nature. I’ve just been hearing from the Lord more clearly. But two weeks ago on September 3rd, the Lord spoke in a way I didn’t expect Him to speak. I had gone to bed early because I was very tired but as soon as I hit the bed and closed my eyes, my dreams were flooded with past memories of Charleston Southern. I tried to shake myself from this horrible dream, but I couldn’t. Then the past memories faded away, and then new pictures of me being back at Charleston Southern were placed into my head. Being back with old friends whose relationships I had broken in my depression and running away from God. In the dream I was smiling around these people and I felt no condemnation like I had before. I awoke from this dream and felt the Lord really speaking to me. So like I did the night before Nicaragua I opened up this book called Sun Stand Still. This book is about seeing God do impossible things. I hadn’t read this book in two months. So I opened up the book to where I had left off, page 133. The title on that page was called “the beginning of a miracle.” The first line really hit me. “Maybe you have spent the last several months-or even years-face down on the ground, feeling defeated by foolish mistakes. If so, I have a feeling God would say the thing to you that He said to Joshua: “What are you doing on your face? Stand up! Repent! And move on to your next victory.” I believe that night God showed me my next victory. He told me that in one year I would be back at Charleston Southern. The place that I had suffered many defeats my freshman year, God told me I’d be back next August. That He had more restoration to do there and that I didn’t need to apply to any other college in the spring because next year I’d be back at CSU. That even if I didn’t have my 3.0 at the end of the year that I’d still make it there. And that night I started understanding why a lot of the things that had happened for the last three years happened. All the reading recently about perseverance and endurance and restoring my friendship with my ex girlfriend at Charleston Southern, and running into another friend from Charleston Southern down at City Church, and reuniting with one of my old college professors from Charleston Southern all made sense. I could see all the signs pointing towards going back but I didn’t want to, because I didn’t want to get hurt again, or people to judge me for my past actions there. But on September 3rd, God spoke and changed all my fears about going back. God has been preparing me for the past 8 months and is continuing to prepare me to go back and face the evil memories of my past. To go back to a place where I thought defeat would always be defeat. But God is turning my mistakes into a miracle; a miracle of God’s grace and mercy and redemption. I’m going back to give people hope and purpose in Jesus Christ. My God is taking me back to Charleston Southern and next August as I walk onto the campus, tears filling my eyes, I can look at any person there and say, “Now tell me my God isn’t bigger than any problem, any hurt, any brokenness.” He is and He has even greater things yet to come.
I guess some of you are wondering why I put this out when it hasn’t happened yet. Well in my mind it already has. I believe God is so powerful that even the impossible things in life are possible. I mean that is my whole testimony. And I ran across some things in my reading the other day that I’d like to share with you that is God continuing to show me the way.
“I will go before you and level the uneven places; I will shatter the bronze doors and cut the iron bars in two. I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches from secret places, so that you may know that I, “Yahweh, the God of Israel call you by your name.” (Isaiah 45:2-3)
“And to the cities of Judah, They will be rebuilt, and I will restore her ruins.”(Isaiah 44:26)
“Let me not recognize my physical limitations as a potential handicap, but increase my faith so that I may simply assume that when a work is to be done, strength will be provided by Thee, that I may no longer pamper the flesh, making provision for its weakness.” (Progress of another Pilgrim)
“I have raised him up in righteousness, and will level all roads for him; he will rebuild My city, and set My exiles free, not for a price or bribe,” says the Lord of Hosts.” (Isaiah 45:13)
I wrote six months ago this and a lot has changed since then. I realized that the visions of Charleston Southern were so that I would have peace even in the midst of fear; to press onward even though it didn’t make sense. That faith though is what I gained from those visions, the faith of a mustard seed, that even when things look impossible, God is in control. A couple months after I shared this post on my old blog, I realized that I was not supposed to go back to CSU. All those verses still apply though. I am continued to be restored and the walls are continuing to be put back up, stronger and sturdier ones. I will be really close to my 3.0 by the end of this year. This second semester, even though it’s been harder, I’ve had peace from the get go. You know sometimes you don’t know why are in a place when you’d rather be somewhere else. You can see the promise right in front of you and you’re ready to go, but God says, “Not yet.” Well today looking back I’m understanding its more about the process than actually getting to where you are going. 

Restoration-September 2012
I came into church today half sick and coming off a pretty hard, taxing week. I had worked late the last two nights and my body was very tired. We sang a few songs and then there was a message. The message today was on Psalm 126:1-6 about how God had restored the Israelites. Psalm 126:1-2 really stuck out to me. “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Our mouths were filled with laughter then, and our tongues with shouts of joy.”I read this verse again and again in disbelief because this is what the last 8 months has been like. It’s been like a dream, a great dream that I thought I would one day wake up from. My mouth has been filled with joy and laughter that has been almost controllable. Todd talked about some things that people get restoration from: addictions, broken relationships and spiritual dry ness. I’ve been healed from all three of those, and more. As Todd finished up, he asked those who were dealing with any of those areas to stand up, and get God’s restoration. It was so cool for me to experience a church wide restoration. To see people standing up left and right, and calling out to God for restoration in their hurts and in their failures and believing God had restoration in their future and in that moment. And then probably the coolest thing for me was getting up and praying for others; to get to be apart of God’s restoration in a new way. This time it was not me getting the restoration, it was me along for the ride as I saw others restored. People were given new lives I sensed from the Lord. As church was ending a thought popped in my head: “God’s restoration is perfect, and it’s for everyone.”  As I left church I was filled with joy over the redeeming presence of the Lord. How true it was that God wanted to redeem every person’s life. That He loves us all so much. And the awesome thing about restoration is that after we are restored, He doesn’t leave us all by our lonesome. No, for the rest of our life, after Jesus has restored our life, He walks through life with us. I read Isaiah 42:6-7. “I, Yahweh, have called You for a righteous purpose, and I will hold You by Your hand. I will keep You and appoint You to be a covenant for the people and a light to those nations, in order to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those sitting in the darkness from the prison house.” These verses are actually talking about Jesus. But parts of these verses I believe are about us. He has called each one of us for a righteous purpose, and the most important part is that he holds us by our hand. That just like a father leading a child through a busy mall or store or street, God is leading us by the hand, securely through the roads of life. He has got our tiny fingers in His huge hands, not crushing them but leading us gently through our life. Isaiah 42:1-4 says, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged til he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.” In my mom’s study bible there is a commentary written about the verse that says, “When you feel broken and bruised or burned out in your spiritual life, God won’t step on you or toss you aside as useless, but will gently pick you up. And we can count on that promise. God will always be with us until the end of time, leading us by the hand as we make our way to Heaven, in our perfectly restored bodies. 
Deeper than deep-November 2012
Today I woke up and my reading for the day was Mark Chapter 15, the chapter in which Jesus was crucified. But the last part of this chapter really got to me.

16 Then the soldiers led Him away into the courtyard (that is, headquarters) and called the whole company together. 17 They dressed Him in a purple robe, twisted together a crown of thorns, and put it on Him. 18 And they began to salute Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 They kept hitting Him on the head with a reed and spitting on Him. Getting down on their knees, they were paying Him homage. 20 When they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of the purple robe, put His clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him. 21 They forced a man coming in from the country, who was passing by, to carry Jesus’ cross. He was Simon, a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22 And they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means Skull Place). 23 They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh, but He did not take it. 24 Then they crucified Him and divided His clothes, casting lots for them to decide what each would get. 25 Now it was nine in the morning[c] when they crucified Him. 26 The inscription of the charge written against Him was:
THE KING OF THE JEWS.

27 They crucified two criminals[d] with Him, one on His right and one on His left. [28 So the Scripture was fulfilled that says: And He was counted among outlaws.][e][f] 29 Those who passed by were yelling insults at[g] Him, shaking their heads, and saying, “Ha! The One who would demolish the sanctuary and build it in three days, 30 save Yourself by coming down from the cross!” 31 In the same way, the chief priests with the scribes were mocking Him to one another and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself! 32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, so that we may see and believe.” Even those who were crucified with Him were taunting Him. 33 When it was noon,[h] darkness came over the whole land[i] until three in the afternoon.[j] 34 And at three[k] Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lemá[l] sabachtháni?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”[m] 35 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “Look, He’s calling for Elijah!” 36 Someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, fixed it on a reed, offered Him a drink, and said, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to take Him down!”37 But Jesus let out a loud cry and breathed His last. 38 Then the curtain of the sanctuary[n] was split in two from top to bottom. 39 When the centurion, who was standing opposite Him, saw the way He[o] breathed His last, he said, “This man really was God’s Son!”[p] (Mark 15:16-37, Holman Christian Standard Bible, Biblegateway.com).

Today as I was reading this the Holy Spirit gave me insight into a little bit of Jesus’s pain and suffering he felt that day. And as the Holy Spirit does often he gives me His emotions. In my mind I was there with Jesus watching from a distance as I saw them dress Him in a purple robe and hit him and spit on Him, and shout insults at Him. I watched as they nailed the nails into His hands and put the sign above Him that said, “King of the Jews.” He was mocked by soldiers; He was mocked by the chief priests. He could have stopped it, but He didn’t. He could have sent down angels or said the words and everyone there could have dropped dead in front of Him. But He didn’t. He stayed up there; He took every insult and every crushing blow, so that His death and suffering could cover our sins. God even turned His back on His son because He could not even look at Him, with all of our sin covering Him. Jesus knows what total rejection is. He received it from His Father while He was on the cross dying for you and for me. He knows what its like not to fit in; the Pharisees hated Him and called Him and blasphemer. Then those same people mocked Him as He was on the cross, saying why can’t he save Himself, He saved others. Jesus knew how important this was though, that day He would set us free from our sins and satan’s grip forever. We would no longer be slaves, but friends and servants of Christ. And at the moment Jesus died, the curtains were split in two, making it possible for all to enter the Holy of Holies and have a personal relationship with God that day because of Jesus’s sacrifice. Today I was given just a glimpse of how deep the Father’s love is. It goes farther than pain or hurt. It is deeper than the deepest oceans, wider than the widest skies, greater than a parent’s love for their child. Remember today how much He has done for us. It is the greatest gift that we have ever received. We don’t deserve it; we did nothing to earn it. He just gave it to us because of His love. His love that is everlasting and infinite. You can know that love today. You can experience His forgiveness of your sins. You can be made right with God and He can be Lord of your life if you only ask Him too. There is nothing you can do to earn His love; we can never do enough good works to be right with God. God calls our good works “filthy rags” to Him. The only thing that can save us is Jesus Christ and you can have that personal relationship with Him today and He can set you free from anything you are dealing with. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins and that you want to have a personal relationship with Him. He will show you the power of prayer and the power of His word. He will pull you from the deepest sins and set you on top of His Mountain and then you also will proclaim His good news because you will know what He has done for you. I will leave you just with this one song that sums up how much Jesus really did for you on the cross.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
(REPEAT)

Lyrics by Stuart Townsend



Walking on Water, Holding a Mustard Seed

Well I’ve jumped. I’ve trusted that God will catch me but now what? So many things have been just popping up trying to steal this peace I’ve received about school and next steps. This morning though I truly realized what it means to walk on water while holding a mustard seed.

The disciples had just seen Jesus feed five thousand men, not including women in children, with just five loaves and two fishes, but now Jesus had retired to a quiet place to spend some time praying. About three in the morning He looks down and sees their boat being torn apart by the wind and the waves. He comes to them on the water and they are terrified and think that He is a ghost. Peter though takes a leap of faith.

“Lord, if it’s You,” Peter answered Him, “command me to come to You on the water.”
“Come!” He said.
And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strength of the wind,he was afraid. And beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  Then those in the boat worshiped Him and said, “Truly You are the Son of God!”(Matthew 14:28-32)

So Peter decides to get out of the boat and come walking to Jesus on the water, going against all rationality. He keeps his eyes on Jesus and is walking on the water! Soon though he realizes that he’s out in the middle of the sea in a raging storm, and he doubts. That’s when he begins to sink. He cries out for Jesus to save him as he is sinking. Jesus reaches out and grabs him and questions him about his doubting. They both get back into the boat and the storm stops, immediately. 
How many times have you walked on the water with Jesus? Well, not literally but with your faith. How many times have you stepped outside the boat and trusted? Its hard to even get out of the boat, not to mention, having the faith to not doubt a promise or a calling. 
Ever since God has called me into ministry, their has been tons of doubts. People have questioned it, I have even questioned it. When I keep my eyes on Jesus and truly have faith He can and will do something, I truly am walking on the water. When I take my eyes off of Him, I look around me and I doubt. I see all the things warring against me and I tell God I can’t do it. Then I begin to sink and Jesus grabs me by my hand and reminds me who He is. He reminds me that He is the one who can feed five thousand men with just five loaves and two fish. The one who can raise the dead and heal the sick. The one who calls us out of our boat like Peter, to come walk on the water, defy the possible, the rational in life. 
How do we do that though? How do we get out of the boat and walk on the water? I believe its by having the faith, as small as a mustard seed. Wait, what? Yeah, all you have to do is have faith as tiny as a mustard seed. 
“For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

Just a second ago, my Mom pulled out a paper cross from her Bible. In the middle of that cross was a mustard seed. Pretty awesome! It got me thinking. We have to have our faith the size of a mustard seed centered in the cross. That is the only way God can grow us and mature us. A mustard seed without God is just a mustard seed. 
Do you see how small that dot in the middle of the cross is?? That is a mustard seed! If you have faith that small that Jesus can do something, He will do it! Your faith like a mustard seed may start out small, but God will expand it, grow it, and mature it.

So today I come to the cross of Jesus Christ, holding out my mustard seed, this promise and calling He has placed on me. I am asking Him to grow this seed and mature this seed. Even though everything is against me, the most important person, God, is with me. Today I hold my mustard seed out as to my symbolize stepping out and trusting God completely. I know I am still growing, and maturing and that one day, this seed that was so small, will grow to something so big, that I will know it wasn’t me that grew it. 
Have the faith today in Jesus that He can move mountains in your life.
Have a blessed day,
Joseph.