A Prayer Journey

Growing up in a christian household and community, we prayed all the time. We prayed short prayers, long prayers, had prayer requests, had prayer breakfast’s and prayed around the flag pole at my school around the first of the school year every year. Pray, pray, pray, seemed to be all we did. I was a good prayee too. I would use lots of names of God, showing off my biblical intellect, since I was the youth pastor’s son and I was expected to pray well. I was seen as very “religious” in many people’s eyes. I had prayed hundred of times but I had never truly prayed once.

When I entered my later teen years, I saw prayer as pointless and useless. I remember to this day looking at all the people around me praying and thinking to myself, “What a joke” and “God can’t hear them, if there even is a God.” I saw it all as a joke. When tears came rolling down my mother’s eyes I scoffed at her for her belief that prayer could save me because I was too far gone. Even when I went to get healing prayer I chuckled to myself, “You’re wasting your time.”

Fast forward to 2011. I had just lost all of my scholarships at college and was sent home. My girlfriend had just broken up with me and I was back home living with my God-fearing parents. I was frustrated, angry that my freedom that I had abused greatly, had been stripped from me. On top of that, my parents had signed me up for a year long Bible study even though I was an agnostic. So I went unwillingly and guess what: more praying. I saw a difference though in the way that these people prayed. They gathered around the person and laid their hands on them. I stood back and watched skeptically as they asked the Holy Spirit to come and move and do a work. They asked for the Holy Spirit to bring healing and restoration. They had passion and boldness coming from their mouths. They praised God and thanked Him for His goodness. Still somewhat I stood back scoffing the foolishness of these individuals but I sort of admired their tenacity and faith.

Turning the clock forward to 2012, things began to come to a halt. I was asked to leave my house and almost fired from my job. I walked over to the corner of the restaurant and began to ask God, whoever He was, to take me from this earth. I had ruined everything in my life and severed every relationship with the ones I loved. In that moment, God spoke through the voice of my fast approaching atheist manager, in a way that would take away all my skepticism and change my life forever. All my prayers that my Mom and Dad and others had been praying for years, finally God brought forth a miracle.

A few days later, after God speaking through the voice of an atheist, made Himself known to me, I sat in my bed. Not knowing how to pray or ask for forgiveness for my skepticism, my blatant refusal of His love that was constantly offered to me, I offered up surrender from the bottom of my heart. For the first time in my life, from the bottom of the grave I had dug myself, I talked to God. I went something like this:

“God, I have tried to live life on my own. I have chased the earthly pleasures and the plans that I have made. I have followed satan but he has only brought my life destruction and death. I know I still don’t know who You are but I know You spoke through an atheist the other night. So from down on my knees, I cry out and surrender my life to You and trust You completely as my Lord and Savior. I can’t do this anymore, please save me. Amen.”

That was the first time I had every truly prayed to God, completely pouring myself out on my knees on my bed. I received forgiveness that day and purpose. As I shared with others I learned that many had been praying for me, battling for my soul, at times not knowing how to pray anymore but Jesus was praying for them and for me. My prayers now became like:

“God, I thank you for the sun peering through my window. Thank You for always being there for me, even when I couldn’t see to see that You were there. I thank You for the countless people that battled for me and the faith they had that You would do it. Help me to live this day, totally devoted to You. Amen.”

That day I surrendered my life to Jesus, I received a purpose, to share His gospel, to be a minister of His love. So I did. God would press upon me at times to pray for people and not just casually but boldly having the faith and trust that He would do a mighty work.

So I prayed. I prayed for people that came through my line at work with sicknesses or injuries, by name I would pray for them. I prayed when a lot of our workers got laid off, for God to bring an abundance of customers into our store, for us to be so busy that would have to give these workers their jobs back. I prayed for restoration in relationships, families, past defeats and by the Powerful Hand of Jesus Christ, He moved. He healed, He restored me, from soreness in my knees and back since I was thirteen years old. He healed this lady who came through my line with pancreatic cancer. He even answered the prayers about the workers. The store got so busy that the workers not only got their jobs back but also more workers had to be hired on top of that! Amazing! Pretty crazy what God can do with the faith of a mustard seed and prayer. He can move mountains. I was agnostic, persecuting and scoffing at Christians. Now by the Power of Christ, I am a minister of His love and grace and a prayer warrior in His Army.

As I was praying for others, I was also praying and seeking continually what I had heard from God on January 6th, 2012. I prayed that God would affirm me in this calling and show me exactly how to get there. I began praying and kept praying until I got my answer and God affirmed in me that I would be an apostle, through the words of a Nicaraguan pastor last July. These were the prophetic and encouraging words I received:

“Joseph,brother, son. One of ours. Thank you that we can see you in him. Fill him always with love and Holy Spirit. Ready lips to tell Gospel. Lord says, “I love you special son. Whatever happened to you, we love you. Go to the Lord, He will heal you and hold you and make you clean. Now you are free in the name of Jesus. Receive triple of what Oswaldo has. You are going to be an apostle, prophesying wherever you go, evangelizing, shepherding, and preaching. You will remember this day when in God’s time you become an apostle.”

As I received these words I was completely overwhelmed. As the pastor finished praying, I slid to the ground on my belly, lay my head on the ground and opened my hands to Heaven. I began to praise God for His faithfulness and this final affirmation and confirmation in this calling. I did not deserve any of this but God wanted me to be on the front lines, battling for others, and sharing His love for all to hear and see. I had started praying in January and it was now July for this answer. As I got back from Nicaragua I began to pray about how I was to get there and God made it very clear that I was supposed to go back to college. I as was very skeptical about this and wondered if I had heard right because school had been a complete disaster for the first two years of college. I was wondering how I’d get my gpa from a 2.1 to 3.0 or close to a 3.0 in just one year. It seemed impossible but I trusted God’s plan and His promise for my life.

I struggled fall semester, over-studying, worrying if I was doing enough. Once again I doubted. My wise father though, gave me some great Godly advice. “This may be hard now but you will look back one day and see how God brought you through it. Maybe one day, you’ll be in a job and you’ll think you can’t do it and that its overwhelming and then you’ll look back at this semester and this year and see God’s faithfulness. Trust Him.” So I did. I prayed that no matter how hard it got that I would never doubt. As I was praying, I was actively doing things to help my grades. By the end of the semester after much waiting, praying, trusting, I ended up with 2 B’s and a C in three very hard classes that I could easily have failed one of them and made two C’s instead. During the semester and year, I was also praying for where I was supposed to transfer in the fall. From August to December I prayed for guidance. Everyday I prayed and little by little by little, God began to show me the answer.

In early January I began to make my visits up to my two final choices that had been narrowed down from a list of 50 Christian colleges. We visited Columbia International in Columbia, SC. After the visit, we stopped and prayed for God’s guidance at a spot on campus. Then we traveled a few hours up the road to Travelers Rest, SC, so that we could go visit North Greenville University in the morning. But in the middle of the night I came under spiritual, physical attack. It lasted for four hours into the early morning. By the time I woke up with my head propped against the wall, sitting on the floor of our hotel room, my entire system was empty and I felt the weakest that I had ever felt. I pushed myself off of the hotel floor and moved across the hall to another hotel room. I had to call out of work back in Charleston, and we had to stay an extra day because I couldn’t move. I just lay in the hotel bed for the next 24 hours and as the night bore on I got sicker and sicker. My temperature jumped to 101 and it didn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. But by the next morning I woke up stronger, refreshed and attack was over. I now knew that satan didn’t want me to visit North Greenville and that he had tried to stop me. I woke up and told Mom and Dad, “Let’s go to NGU!” So we traveled the few minutes up the road to NGU.

It was a cold, rainy day as I stepped out of the car but as I did I felt the Lord’s presence so thick in this place and I heard the Lord say this was the place. As we walked around I knew this was it. The campus was beautiful as it was surrounded by mountains. As I got back into the car, I began to pray:

“God, I know this is the place you would have for me to go next fall. I pray that you not only take care of everything: grades, and finances but that you help me trust completely what you’re doing. Amen.”

My second semester of college for the year was about to start. This would be my first full time semester in two years. I did not doubt this time around. He had grown my faith and trust in Him a lot after last semester. I gave this semester to God before it started. I had peace the entire semester. I worked hard and trusted God for the results. I did not spend countless hours worrying if I had studied enough, like I did last semester. Trusting God with school gave me such great peace and I was able to gain a comfortableness with school that I had never had before. I was able to be involved in the classes, not afraid to speak up because of my past intelligence questions. I did my best, trusted God, and shared in class from my heart. Even the first day introductions, Jesus gave me the courage to speak of what God was doing in my life and where He was taking me. After a lot of hard work, prayer and trust, I finished my spring semester just last Thursday with one A and three B’s, two of the three B’s being within three or four points of being A’s. It was my best overall semester in college so far.

My gpa has skyrocketed and the promise that God has promised is gaining speed and form. I can see the promise now, I can see what the next step is in going to North Greenville University. Through much prayer and time with the Lord He had provided a house for next year, roommates that love the Lord and are actively seeking Him, a class schedule that fits my schedule both academically and socially. He has provided a wonderful community up there, a community where I can learn and grow and be encouraged but also a place to teach and disciple others through what I am learning myself. After praying much throughout this year for preparation and strengthening for next year, I believe wholeheartedly that the Godly woman that I’ve been looking for my whole life, will be there and we’ll both be spiritually, physically, and emotionally, ready for each other and the blessing of a relationship within marriage and dating. In just a few more months I will be leaving Charleston and setting out on the next step in this crazy Journey that we call life.

So much has happened in my life because of prayer. My entire definition and use of prayer has changed. I now go before the Lord daily, asking Him what is next and I am to be doing now but also thanking Him for how far He has brought me and for His faithfulness and blessings in my life.

I hope my story and journey through what prayer is and how important prayer is, will be encouraging in your own lives. Prayer is such an important and exciting part of our walk with God. Utilize it today. It will bring you great peace, great joy and a stronger relationship with Jesus Christ.

Blessings,
Joseph.

Old Faces, New Places

Its hard. Its hard to run into people from your past. That knew what you were like and what you did back then. Its hard to know even if its an attack from the devil, a condemnation or an opportunity to share with them your new life. This week, that has been the case for me.

I haven’t set out purposely over the last year and a half to go back to my past and tell those people what has happened.  Little by little though, in random, odd places, some of these people have reappeared, God bringing them forth, for me to share with them my new life. In my church for sporadic times, at movie theaters, at restaurants, at work, at weddings,parking lots, different states, park benches, through letters, the list goes on and on. My first thought: Run, get out. Its uncomfortable to run into old faces in new places. Even though its a new season, its still hard. Its like looking in a mirror and seeing all the bad that you have done and those people represent the bad, the old, the hurt, the confusion. God things have come out of these encounters, not just good but (God) things. Things that can only happen through the power and grace of Christ. An opportunity to disciple a friend and lead him eventually to Christ, relationships restored, forgiveness shared at a wedding, twenty or so people gathering around and hearing of God’s goodness. God’s grace truly has been poured onto me in these instances.

This week I ran into two girls from my past, one was my waitress at a restaurant and another I passed by at work. It was hard. Every bone in my body, screamed in fear. I had cut off all my communication to my past and hadn’t talked to any of these people in two years almost. How would I explain to these girls that I had gone through a transformation that was well, “unexplainable..” How would I tell them that this religion that I had absolutely refused from my parents, was not a religion at all but a relationship with the God of the universe and that I now had it?? And how could I possibly explain that after years of refusing this relationship and years of anger towards God, that God Himself had now called me into the spreading of his love?? Crazy, Crazy, Crazy!

I don’t know what would have happened if I had shared. I don’t even know still if it was an attack but I know I don’t have to have fear in those encounters because God has conquered my past and my sin and given me a new life. The next time I have an encounter with my past I will proclaim, “This is who I was but it is not who I am now!”

Thanks for reading ya’ll. Today is my 50th blog post!
Have a blessed day,
Joseph.

Praying Bold Prayers in the Face of Crisis

Chaos. Confusion. These are things that happen during a crisis. Today our nation was subjected to a crisis, as two bombs went off during the end of the Boston Marathon. Tonight our nation is ravaged with fear and crisis, but in the name of Jesus Christ, tonight I challenge followers of Christ, to pray bold prayers and have no fear.

What does the Bible say about disasters and crisis’s?

“Don’t fear sudden danger
or the ruin of the wicked when it comes.” (Proverbs 3:25)

“Be gracious to me, God, be gracious to me,
for I take refuge in You.
I will seek refuge in the shadow of Your wings
until danger passes.” (Psalm 57:1)

“In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:4)

“For we know that if our temporary, earthly dwelling is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands.” (2 Corinthians 5:1)

“At that time, when you call, the Lord will answer;
when you cry out, He will say, ‘Here I am.” (Isaiah 58:9)

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
and He answered me.” (Psalm 120:1)

“For He has delivered me from every trouble,
and my eye has looked down on my enemies.” (Psalm 54:7)

“If I walk into the thick of danger,
You will preserve my life
from the anger of my enemies.
You will extend Your hand;
Your right hand will save me.” (Psalm 138:7)

“Because of Your name, Yahweh,
let me live.
In Your righteousness deliver me from trouble,
and in Your faithful love destroy my enemies.
Wipe out all those who attack me,
for I am Your servant.” (Psalm 143:11-12)


“The Lord will protect you from all harm;
He will protect your life.
The Lord will protect your coming and going
both now and forever.” (Psalm 121:7-8)


Tonight we must come together as a nation and pray. Pray in the midst of this chaos and confusion. Praying for clarity and peace in this time. Praying for the families who’s lives have been shaken by this crisis. Pray for healing for these people that have been injured. Pray that families will have God’s peace throughout this process. 

As God’s warriors, it is time. In the face of crisis we have to step up and show this peace that passes all understanding. We have to be completely understanding and empathetic. In the words of Joshua, “Be strong and courageous.” Lean on Jesus Christ not only tonight, and not only in crisis’s but every night. 

Have a blessed, prayerful night,
Joseph. 

Coloring in the Lines

Words written fade, promises are forgotten, victories are just dusty trophies on shelves. What do we do when this happens to us? We darken in the words, we dust off the trophies and we remember. The other day I did just that. 

I’ve had a verse written on a slip of paper. It was Philippians 3:13-14.
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”

I had written it after my one year anniversary with Christ, January 6th, 2013. This was a new verse though. Much of 2012 was spent trying to scrape the past off of me and this verse was really good for me, in saying that I need not focus on my past but focus on the promise that Jesus had laid out in my future. 
Time passed though and I forgot. Forgot how much Jesus had brought me through: the pain, the loneliness, the numbness and how he had given me joy and peace and hope. It had become just another verse to me over the last few months, not taking much meaning. The black ink faded from the slip of paper and you could barely read it any more. 
As I sat in my car the other day waiting for class, I saw the faded ink. I began to think to myself, its time to darken back in the promise. So I picked up a pen and carefully began to darken in the lines to the verse, the words appearing again, lively, new, profound. It was like I was seeing those words for the first time. I continued carefully darkening in the lines. I got to the end and there it was: the continual promise. That simple action made something new that had been so old, a slip of paper with a verse written on it, become a living promise, a promise that will carry me through my entire life. 
Today, my challenge to you, dust off your past victories and rejoice. Remember where you have been brought, from death to life, from weakness to power in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Color back in those lines to old words and old phrases that have carried you through many days of victory. Like Nehemiah said, “Remember your awe-inspiring God and fight for your countrymen, your wives.”
Today is a day of remembrance of past victories but also pushing forward into new victories and God’s promises he has for your life!
Have a blessed day,
Joseph. 

Brotherly Love

Today I got a a chance to go back up to see my “little brother” Kyle at a home for boys. If you haven’t

checked it out, my blog titled “Indescribable Blessings” will tell you the introduction to this story. Anyways,

me and this kid formed a bond a few months ago and he has become like a “little brother” to me. I’ve written

him a few letters but hadn’t got any response back. I was hoping that my fears were wrong, that he wasn’t

just using me or telling me a sob story. I went back up today with a group of men to give him the long board

skateboard I had promised him three months ago.

Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)
We arrived at the place a little after 12:40 pm and went inside to eat lunch with the kids. Kyle approached me beaming, saying he had missed me and that we had lots of catching up to do. He didn’t mention the board until I told him I had gotten it. He loved the board and was really good at riding it. All around the place the kids were oo-ing and ahh-ing at the board. He just replied, “My brother gave it to me.” He was so proud for me to be his brother. The day was great and I really enjoyed getting closer to my new little brother. 
As I sit here, I reminisce about the time I have lost with my actual little brother, Josiah. For years, there was no pride in me being his brother, but plenty of embarrassment and humiliation because of the lifestyle I was living. I never told him I was proud of him and I actually envied him because he had a lot of things going for him that I didn’t. Last year when I became a follower of Christ, I apologized for not being there for him. His response, “At least you are here now.” All the pain and suffering and picking I did, He loved me through it all. Meeting this little kid an hour and half away from where I live currently is helping me to learn what it means to be an older brother for the first time. To love him with brotherly love, love that is tough and willing to tell him when he’s messing up. But love that shows my pride in him being my brother and sticking up for him when he needs me to step into the fight with him.  I was waiting until the end of the summer to write my brother a letter to tell him all these things, that I was proud of him and such but today made me realize that there is no better time than the present to tell him. No better time to tell him how much I love him and how proud I am of him and all that he has accomplished.  

Have a blessed night ya’ll.
Sorry for such a long break in between posts,
Joseph.