Trusting Our Guide

Have you ever been on a tour and wondered if the person guiding the group knew what they were doing? I have. Do you ever think of God like that? You think to yourself, “God shouldn’t we go this direction and not through that muddy swamp.” Or “God why did this happen, I thought you were in control.”

Many things can make us question our Guide and His perfect will for our lives. When disaster strikes, when finances fail, when brokenness occurs, we question our Guide. He though is unlike any guide you’ve known before. He does not waver or make mistakes. He does not send us down any paths that are not beneficial to us. He grows us through each winding turn, through each heartache and disaster he prunes us and makes us stronger in Him.

Jeremiah 29:11-For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” 

God knows the plan He has for us and the things that will get us there. He knows that sometimes to change our hearts or to get us to a new place, we have to wade through a swamp of brokeness, until He brings us out the other side into forgiveness and growing. He allows us to go through these swamps and trials to make us battle tested, so that when we see others, drowning in quick sand, we can reach out and grab them with the power of the Lord.

The best thing is that our Guide walks through this life with us. He walks through every swamp, every rough patch with us. He doesn’t stand over on the side giving us instructions, He dives into the swamps with us, pulls us through the mud and wipes us off and cleans and heals us continually. He loves us with an everlasting love. He is not a distant God, He is here with us. Battling for us, healing us day by day. Even in our greatest doubts and fears, He is the same, constant. He never changes His mind, nor His plans. His promises are true and trustworthy.

Tonight I am encouraged to trust my guide, even though I don’t recognize the path He is taking me. I am following Him closely, praying, reading, searching. I can see the promise on the horizon and I am following my guide completely as He leads me to this next place. 

Encouragement from Brothers and Sisters

Well the last few weeks have been incredibly hard. They have made me doubt and made me fear the unknown. Through the encouragement of believers though, I have hung in, stood up and fought back against these doubts.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been dealing with a financial situation. A situation that has brought me to my knees, a financial situation that is annoying and standing in the way of a promise. It has been incredibly frustrating, wondering if I had even heard the Lord right with regarding these next steps.

It is times like these when the body of Christ is so important. They pull us out of our own doubts and fears and share with us words of advice, encouragement, victory. They remind us of the past victories, the things that happened before all this mess. They bring to mind what we used to say. They are the voice of God in our lives when all goes haywire. They are truly people who will pray with us, weep, mourn, rejoice, battle.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

Over the last few years, the body of Christ has been there for me. They have wept and seen me in my darkest hours. They have prayed and battled for me. Then they rejoiced and celebrated when I was rescued from death and given new life. They have walked side by side with me, as the Lord has, encouraging, building me up, teaching me. They were there in Nicaragua when I received this promise from God about coming into His ministry. They have seen my miraculous journey and they have been there for every part. I would not be here right now, but by the power of Christ and the encouragement of fellow brothers and sisters. Also these believers on google plus have been a great encouragement as well.

I need this constant encouragement. I am weak but in Christ I am strong. I need the constant reminder daily of what Christ has done and the promise that He is bringing me into. I would appreciate any encouraging words if anyone has anything for me. Please keep me in your prayers as I battle for this promise.

I believe in this promise Lord, help my unbelief.

Blessings,
Joseph.

Giants in our Land

Have you ever been right on the cusp of a promise but as you look down into the land, there are GIANTS? Yesterday felt that way for me and my parents. Promises that we had been promised, situations that we had gained incredible peace in became blurry, doubts set in. Huge obstacles stood in our way, finances that we couldn’t pay, problems that arose. We felt defeated. Moses and the Israelite’s experienced the same thing.

The Lord had promised this land flowing with milk and honey to the Israelite’s for generations. Now they were right on the cusp of taking hold of it.  So, Moses sent some men into the land to scout it out, to bring back even the freshest fruit from the land. So they went, knowing of the Lord’s promise, and scouted it out. They tasted the goodness and the freshness of the fruits and reported back to Moses.

“They reported to Moses: We went into the land where you sent us. Indeed it is flowing with milk and honey, and here is some of its fruit.” (Numbers 13:27)

Everything seems great. The Israelite’s are excited, ready to take hold of the land, promised to them by God. Here comes the dreaded but.

“However, the people living in the land are strong and cities are large and fortified. We also saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites are living in the land of the Negev. the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the Jordan.” (Numbers 13:28-29).

Oh the dreaded but. So many things in our society come with a but. Would you like to eat this pizza but you will gain 10 pounds. Would you like to open a credit card with us and save five percent today but in the long run you will be spending way more than you are saving. Same thing with the Israelite’s, their buts and fears were derailing their quest for the promise. Good thing we have a voice of reason in this story.

“Then Caleb quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, We must go up and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!” (Numbers 13:30).

Caleb was one of the scouts sent out to scout out the land. He saw the same Giants and fears that the others saw, but unlike the other scouts, he did not forget about God. They were looking at the Giants in fear but Caleb saw that the Lord was bigger than their fears. That even though they had enemies surrounding them and their land, he knew that it was just that, their land, the land that God had promised them. He knew that God didn’t go back on His promises but the people would just not listen and their fears and the Giants overwhelmed them.

“But the men who had gone up with him responded, We can’t go up against the people because they are stronger than we are!” (Numbers 13:31)

Another mistake on the scouts part. They were sizing up the problem in their power and looking at it from the resources they had. Of course they couldn’t defeat these people on their own. They were not looking at it from God’s prospective and from His resources but their own. Caleb and Joshua though came back again and once again tried to reason with the people and give an accurate report.

“Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who scouted out the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite community: “The land that we passed through and explored is an extremely good land. If the Lord is pleased with us. He will bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and give it to us. Only don’t rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land, for we will devour them. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Don’t be afraid of them!” (Numbers 14:6-9).

Caleb and Joshua truly knew their God and the power that He possessed. They knew that God had told them to take hold of this land, the promise that He had promised to them, many years ago. They knew that these giants and troubles that awaited them, God had already defeated these things. That He was so much more powerful than these enemies and that He had already given this land to the Israelite’s. This land was a land of blessing and goodness, greater than the Israelite’s had ever experienced before.

Today after sitting and praying before the Lord, I am convinced like Caleb and Joshua, to remember the promise. Even though the finances are not their right now and the details are confusing, I trust the Lord. I trust the Lord that even though there are Giants that are huge standing in my way, I trust in the promise of the Lord. That what He has promised will come true. I do not want to be like the Israelite’s who missed the greatest promise and blessing because of their own fears. I do not want to wander in the wilderness for forty years and miss completely what God has planned for me.

Maybe you are feeling the same way today. You look at your life and you see many Giants, huge giants. Giants that seem impossible to defeat. Giants of depressions or addictions or Giants that are surrounding the promises that God has promised you. You have tasted the fruit of the promise and you know the Lord is ready to bless you but you are fearful, concerned. You think, How can I walk down a road with no lights, where I can’t see my steps? How can I move into this promise with Giants standing in my way? The answer is the Lord. If the Lord is with you and you trust Him, He will remove those Giants from your land. He will conquer those things that you can’t possibly conquer.

So today, even though I see the Giants and they are big and they are terrifying, I trust the Lord and His promise that He has shown me is my next step. I charge into my land, into the promise that the Lord has shown me, unafraid, fearless, letting Him lead the way, as I experience this new land flowing with milk and honey!

Take hold of your land today with the Lord!
Charge!
Blessings,
Joseph. 

Lord God, What is Your will for my life?

This morning, I received my financial aid letter from North Greenville. I was excited but also a little worried. Before I opened the letter, I prayed for me to trust God no matter what the results, no matter how much money I received. I opened the letter and the results were very underwhelming. I had barely received any money and the amount I would have to pay was a lot. It was really hard. I mean, really really hard. 
Before I knew Christ, when things went wrong, I would get angry and lash out. Now when I am confused or troubled I go to the Lord in prayer. I went to my room and began to pray and seek the Lord and began to read scripture on trusting. 
Dear Jesus,
I don’t know what you are doing here but I trust You. I trust You completely because I know that You are in control of my life and you have plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me a hope and a future. This is the biggest test yet. I have trusted You all the way up til now, help me to keep trusting, even though its hard to understand. If this is a spiritual attack and an attempt to make me doubt Your goodness, protect me. If this is a test help me to trust you through it and come out stronger than before. If this is You telling me to go another direction, help me to lay down my desires to pursue your perfect plan for me. I love North Greenville and the people there but if You have different plans for me, I lay these plans down. I surrender over and over my life to You Jesus, knowing that You know what is best. Looking at this from a test perspective, it looks like too much for me to handle, but You are the only true One that knows what I can handle and what I can not. Jesus, You have made me a warrior and if this process, like most processes in my life, is going to be harder than I thought, prepare me for the long days I will have to wait. Prepare me for the time to be devoted to this process and all the thoughts of doubts that will be thrown at me time and time again. Jesus, I believe You have prepared me for this moment. I thought that getting the strongest mentally, physically, and spiritually was for the fall, but perhaps not. Perhaps You are using the training and the verses written on the core of my heart to battle now, to trust completely and walk even though I can’t see what is on the other side. Jesus thank you for what you have done and what you are doing, even if this does not include North Greenville. 
Amen. 

What is your smell?

In our society, hygiene and how we smell is an important thing. We all have different smells and different smells we like. Today I want to talk to you about a different type of smell, a spiritual smell.

“But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16).

Have you ever thought of your life as having a smell? A smell that either wreaks of death or has the aroma of Christ? Well, that’s the truth. The apostle Paul speaks about the aroma, that we are the aroma, smell of Christ, as believers. What does Christ smell like? Hope, peace, purpose, joy, love, patience, forgiveness. We are the smell of saving life to those who are perishing, because Christ is the overpowering presence in us. Others see us passing by and they see Jesus, they smell Jesus. Jesus is life to those who are dying and peace to those who are alive. This smell of life is not our own, we did not earn it, or deserve it. This smell is Christ’s grace and mercy lived out in our lives.

We used to smell like death and sin until Jesus took on that smell for us.

“He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). 

Just like there are good smells in the world, there are bad ones as well. We used to smell aweful, wreaking of death and sin, hopelessness and depression. We could not enter God’s presence because of our smell. That’s why Jesus came. He came to be our stink and take all of our sin on Him on the cross, so that we could stand before God, blameless, clean, smelling good.

So today my challenge to you is to live like you have the smell of Jesus. Go into the dirty places of this world and let the fragrance of Christ pour into these people’s lives. Remember your life, your smell, is not your own, you’ve been bought with a price, Christ’s death on the cross.

Spread the aroma of life and hope today of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Blessings,
Joseph. 

Wrapping His Robe Around Us

Over the last week or so, I’ve been diving into past journals. Seeing the victory and lessons that I have learned in the last year. Today I opened up to a journal entry I wrote back on October 31st, 2012.

As I woke up this morning I was frustrated. Frustrated that nine months of victory had come to an end. Freedom that I had gained was once again taken from me. I felt like I was so close to being ready to be on my own, to being able to go off to school.

In Mark 5, there was a woman that was suffering from bleeding but she had faith that Jesus could heal her. “If I can just touch His robes, I will be made well.” (Mark 5:28). She had the faith that just by touching His robes she would be healed. What faith she had! So she waded through the crowd and touched His robe and instantly is healed.

“Instantly her flow of blood ceased, and she sensed in her body that she was cured of her affliction. At once Jesus realized in Himself that power had gone out from Him. He turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched my robes?” His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing against You, and You say, “Who touched Me?” So He was looking around to see who had done this. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came with fear and trembling, fell down before Him, and told Him the whole truth. “Daughter,” He said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be free from your afflictions.”(Mark 5:29-34). 

As I was long boarding today, I came to the realization or actually had the thought, “What if I had the faith completely that Jesus would heal me, just like that woman did? What if instead of just holding on to a piece of Jesus’s robe, what if I asked Him to wrap His robe around me? What if I asked for healing everyday?What if I asked God everyday for continued healing spiritually, mentally, physically? I think I’d receive it and I have come to the realization that is where healing comes from, from sitting at the feet of Jesus. The closer we get to Jesus, the more we listen, the more we expect Him to do, the more we are healed from our disease that is our sin. The closer to we get to Jesus, the more we see His love, grace, mercy, power, and forgiveness.

Even as followers of Christ we are a sick people, in need of the corrective antidote everyday. What if I believed that just by touching Jesus’s robe that I’d be healed? That just by being around Jesus everyday and hearing His voice that I would continued to be healed.

Worldly freedom, individual freedom is bondage. The only real freedom comes from being a slave to Christ. Slave has such a negative connotation. What comes to mind is: weakness, submission, inferiority. But as a slave to Christ those things are not the case. We are not weak, because He makes us strong. We are superior, we are coheirs of Christ. He has given us the right to be sons and daughters of God Almighty.

Many of us today are dealing with past hurts, past defeats, addictions. As I learned though so many months ago, that healing is a process. It is a daily recognition of who God is and who we are. Jesus wants to wrap His robe around us and heal us. Will you give Him the opportunity today? Will you become vulnerable and reach out into the crowd and take hold of Jesus’s robe and believe He will heal you? Jesus is the ultimate healer and He wants to heal you today!

Have a blessed day,
Joseph.

From Good to Best

Its such a hard thing to leave a good thing, a thing that has been working so well. When we left Savannah, Georgia, four years ago, everyone was scratching their heads, including well, us. But as my Mom always says, “When you know that you know that you know God has told you to do something or go somewhere, you can trust Him completely and go.” Moving to Charleston, seemed crazy, ridiculous, foolish but God did a work in it. Though no one understood or could see it, God was moving us from a good thing to the best thing. Behind the scenes God was working in mysterious ways that allowed me to finally open my eyes to see His great love.  

God though wants to take us from a good thing to the best thing. He wants to take us from a comfortable place to a place sometimes where we are out of our comfort zone but a place where the blessing is greater. That is something that I am experiencing at the moment.

The last year and a half in Charleston has been great. There has been a lot of restoration, redemption, freedom. I have a lot of community of here, brothers, sisters, family. I have been involved at this church here too, serving on the communion team, sharing in life groups. I have a job and good pay. I have accountability and protection. In December though, I felt the Lord calling me from this familiar place and moving me to a new, foreign place.

In December when I visited North Greenville University I felt like this was the new place that I was to continue my journey at. I was scared, worried, doubting a lot and questioning. Why would God take me from such a place of blessing and new birth, to a place that is foreign? A place where I hardly know anyone. I believe that it is truly to move on to this next best place God has in store for me.

So in August I leave this place of total accountability, sisters, brothers, family to go to the next place of blessing. As the Lord has showed me over the last year and a half and looking back over my lifetime, He will be with me. God has already taken care of a lot of things up there. I’ll be taking off my training wheels and the comfort of familiar things and traveling to a new place, a place of new blessing. Sort of like Abraham, I am leaving my home and moving to a land flowing with milk and honey, the next best place along my journey.

Maybe you’re struggling with this same decision. You may be asking yourself if you are ready for such a task or journey. I was surely doubting that in my myself a few months ago. I learned though that God doesn’t wait for us to be ready. We just have to jump and know that He will catch us. We can have assurance that this next best place for us is truly the next step in our journey with the Lord. This is something that is going to build our trust in God, it surely has for me. So if your struggling today with that decision, know that this is hard. It is hard to leave all you’ve known, or a place of familiarity. Just like Abraham though, we must pack our things and get ready for this next step. It will not be easy, the whole process and waiting and praying, but you have someone who you can trust wholeheartedly in your decision, Jesus Christ. It may seem folly to the world, what you are doing, even to some of your friends or family like it was for us leaving Savannah, but in the end God knows better than we do what He is truly doing and going to accomplish through us and our obedience to these next steps.

Blessings,
Joseph. 

The Ultimate Shepherd

Its so hard when you see family or friends just struggling and dying in this world. There are so many hard things that we go through in this life. Today though I was reminded of Jesus’s excellent shepherding skills.

One of my friends had been really really struggling this past year. He had been a real encouragement in the year long Bible study in 2011-2012 and played a huge part in showing me the love of Jesus Christ. He is one of my older brothers in Christ. After Year Team though he sort of disappeared. We were all praying, calling, writing him trying to get him to come back. He had succumb to fear and comparing himself to others around him.

Just this Sunday though, as the service was ending and everything was being broken down and put up at church, I looked to the stage, and their he was. He had apparently helped with the sound and the power point for the worship service.

I was overwhelmed with joy, so happy to see my brother back. Just a few weeks ago, he took a big step and married his girlfriend and showed that even though this was scary, that He trusted God in it and knew this was the woman he was to marry.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate shepherd. Just like a quarterback on a football team, He is in complete control. He knows where His sheep are at all times. He knows when one is wandering off from the flock and He knows them all by name. He knows the gifts and talents each sheep has and what roles they play. We are those sheep. He gave up His life to save us, to give us an eternal relationship with Him but also a relationship here on earth. As we make a wrong step and fall, He gently picks us up. He is a loving shepherd, who has our interests in heart.

“I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep. But I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again.  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.”(John 10:14-18)

Just like my friend that wandered off, there are so many people in this world, sheep that have wandered from the fold. They are lost and lonely, burnt out, struggling, attacked by the wolves of this world. Jesus came to save us from these struggles. Even though there is struggle, Jesus is in control. Even though there is pain and grief and suffering, Jesus is love and more than sufficient. As Christ’s sheep, we will suffer, but take hope in this. 
“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)

Jesus, the ultimate shepherd, has overcome this world. He has pulled us from the clutches of death and given us an eternal pasture to settle in. 
Blessings,
Joseph.