Still Under Construction

Some days are super frustrating. Some days I feel like I’m losing focus and back sliding. Yesterday was one of those days. But with a little simple reminder, I was reminded that I’m still under construction.

Yesterday some men came and dug up our street. Our neighbors had had some sewage problems, so these workers came to fix it. Where I have lived in Mount Pleasant, Sc, there has been a lot of construction going on over the past four and a half years. Mount Pleasant is an up and coming city in a wealthy part of Charleston and it seems there are new places popping up yearly.

What is construction for though? To make better? Newer? Cleaner? Sometimes construction is used to fix problems like a congested traffic area, by adding another lane. Sometimes construction is just to make something newer looking. But you can bet that construction is part of a bigger picture and growth process.

Its kind of crazy to think about but I have been living in this city during the time of its greatest growth. I’ve seen this city transform in the past four and a half years from an up and coming town to a booming city with lots of restaurants and things to do. I also in the past year and a half have done a lot of growing into my new persona of Christ follower.

The first year of being a Christian was about learning who God really was and Him taking several things completely out of my life. The next year was about learning to trust Him with everything: school, relationships and waiting on His timing in my life. Just over the past few months I am learning to listen more and talk less, let the Holy Spirit lead me and learning that my body is His temple and how to love it.

I believe that each day God is newly constructing us, making us more into the image of Christ. There is chiseling going on and parts being pruned and parts being cut off that are negative and a distraction to our walk with Christ. I guess what I learned yesterday is that the construction process is ongoing, never ending until I meet with Christ in Heaven. I am constantly having to surrender to Him, a midst the forces and darkness that are trying to pull me away. I am learning that even days when I fall and fall terribly, those are learning processes and molding processes, tests.

“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith—more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:3-9)

I’m glad God gives me these simple but profound thoughts and analogies. A broken sidewalk is not an image of brokenness but of growth and renewal. Sometimes God has to dig up our hearts and dig up our lives to build us brand new. That’s why Jesus says you have to lose your soul to find it. You have to give up this world and give up your life to truly have life. Its crazy sounding but true. We have to be dug up to grow, we have to be melted down to shine. He is preparing us for an unimaginable inheritance with Him one day.

He is growing me right now in this moment and in my past mistakes and in my future victories. I am continually being molded into the image of Christ, daily. I may feel broken at times or like I’m losing progress but Christ is fixing me, growing me and moving me to new areas of adventure and continual construction.

Let Him continue to refine you today.
Blessings,
Joseph.

You and I Are Special

Last night I went and saw Monsters University. I know, laugh all you want, but I’m still a little kid at heart. I thought it was great. In the beginning part of the movie, Mike (can’t spell or say his name) and his classmates made a trip to Monsters Inc. the place that ran their entire world. Mike was shorter than most of his classmates and usually got picked last for everything. Mike was fascinated, as the “scarers” came walking past them. He was trying to see what was going on but because he was so small he couldn’t. As he asked nicely to see what was going on, the other classmates bullied him, saying that “he didn’t belong.” Mike decided to show them and ended up going past the yellow line and into the room to witness one of the scarers at their craft. The “scarer” not knowing that Mike was in there with him, did his thing. As the scarer collected the scream and exited the door, he turned around and saw Mike behind him. At first everybody was worried as Mike came from the room but then the “scarer” said, “Well done, kid.” Jesus is that top scarer in our lives.

How many times do you and me go through this world of super models and talented people and feel lost? I know I do sometimes. I feel like I’m not adequate or strong enough or good enough. And then one day, a man came and told me otherwise. He told me that I was “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). He told me that he had “plans to prosper me and not to harm me” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Jesus wants you to know today that you are special. Even if you can’t hold down a job, even if you are addicted or overcome by sin, Jesus wants you to know that he loves you unconditionally. That means that he loves you even though you may never be the strongest, or best looking, or smartest, He loves you regardless of anything.

If you look around in the Bible, a lot of the people that God used were weak, struggling. He told fisherman and tax collectors to drop what they were doing and follow Him. He rescued prostitutes from shame and condemnation, He called lame people to walk. He died on the cross for the sins of all. If you are homeless today, you are loved. If you are addicted and cast out by family and friends, you belong. If you are confused, turned upside down, hopeless, He has a plan and a purpose for you. If you are in bondage or in slavery, you are free, in the name of Jesus Christ. Even if you don’t even believe God exists, He still loves you.

1 Corinthians 1:27

Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. (www.biblegateway.com)
 
Don’t ever think that God can’t love you because of your body, or your personality, or anything else. That is a big lie that satan is stirring up. satan makes you believe that you are worthless, when Christ calls us “worthy.” We are sons and daughters of the King! Just an encouragement to all those people out there being persecuted for loving Christ in this country and in others.  
 
“It is a clear evidence of God’s righteous<sup class="crossreference" value="(H)”> judgment<sup class="crossreference" value="(I)”> that you will be counted worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you also are suffering,<sup class="crossreference" value="(J)”>  since it is righteous for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you and to reward with rest you who are afflicted, along with us.” (2 Thess.1:5-7)
 
So hold on all you out there that are struggling. One day you will have eternal rest in Christ.
 
Live today as sons and daughters of the King of Kings,
Joseph.

A Day at the Beach

Feet in the water, camera in hand, I waited. Looking around I saw tons of people all there for one reason, Baptism Sunday. Applause and shouts rang out along the beach. I looked up ahead. There was my friend, Jonathan. I stood beside my friend Michael, a smile creeping onto his face. We had all waited a long time for this moment. 
Jonathan had surrendered his life to Jesus Christ this past January. Earlier that morning I woke up and began to think. Just like me, Jonathan had been poured into by so many people. He had been prayed over and prayed for, for years. Talking with a friend just the other day he proclaimed, “This is incredible.”
So off Jonathan went into the water, with Father God and his earthly father, by his side.
Waves smashing into the side of him, he walked, going farther and farther out, his body sinking farther and farther beneath the surf. Finally he made it to the spot he was to be baptized. 
Supported by the hands of the pastor and the hands of Father God and his earthly father, Jonathan openly professed his faith in Jesus Christ, in front of 70 or so people. People that had prayed for him, people that had fought for him, they were all there. This was not just a victory for Jonathan but for all of us.
In my head I could hear the pastor’s words, “I Baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” They leaned him back. The anticipation building. Then down he went. 
Christ had paid for the sins of this beloved son. This was a symbolization of what had already happened in Jonathan’s heart. Here comes my favorite picture. Bursting forth, hair down, Jonathan appeared, raised in newness of life by the blood of his Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. 
Smiles all around. “Yeah Jonathan!” We shouted. Everybody was pumped. You can see the great joy on the pastor and Jonathan’s Dad’s face. The war had been won in Jonathan’s life. Many years of pain and anguish, depression and worry, but God had his hand on Jonathan the whole entire time.
This next picture is a great image of how God’s grace and forgiveness is restorative. Another prodigal son brought home.
Jonathan’s war has been won but his battle is just beginning. I am blessed to fight alongside my brother, in any way that he may need. We will battle back to back, charging forth into this world, proclaiming the goodness and redemption we have been given. 
I will remember this day for a long time. This great day of victory and new beginnings at the Isle of Palms Beach in Charleston.
Blessings ya’ll,
Joseph. 

The Art of Listening

The other night I had a non Christian friend come over to my house. It was a really fun time. We threw the football around and watched game six of the NBA Finals. As the game made it to halftime, there was an opening to talk. I began to ask him about his year and other things. He had recently come to our college guys Bible study the past Sunday. It has been hard for him in the last years, with his Dad passing away. I just try to share love with him every time we get to hang out. Let him know that God loves him. 
We had a really good talk the other night. As our conversation continued, I did something I usually don’t do. I let him do most of the talking. I knew I couldn’t convince this guy to be a Christian. And from listening I came across some pretty profound things. First this guy saw that Christians had a lot of hate towards non-Christians. Even when he talked about others witnessing to him he described it as a “political debate.” 
It truly opened my eyes up. As Christians we need to listen first. I know I struggle with this, just shutting up sometimes and truly listening to people. What would we learn if we just were quiet sometimes, instead of trying to throw our relationship with Christ on others? What would change if we instead of judging and hating, loved those people? I believe that Christ would have great influence. People would see that we truly care enough about them to listen and not just talk. We need to remember that Christ came to “heal and save the lost.” He had dinner with tax collectors, thief’s. He didn’t condemn the woman at the well or the prostitute that was to be stoned. As Jesus said, “Whoever is sinless, throw the first stone.” 
Do we remember that we were that sinner, still are, that Jesus didn’t condemn but loved? How can we hate others? How can we judge others? 
My challenge to ya’ll and to myself today, listen to those that are broken and dying in this world. Listen to their stories, love them with the love of Christ.
Blessings,

Joseph. 

Trampoline of Grace

Last summer I took a trip to Nicaragua. It was filled with joy, new adventure, victories and healing. When I came back though I struggled. I fell on my face again and again, struggling with past memories and sins. Through a cd and a cool image, God truly gave me a reminder, that no matter how many times I fall face down, there is grace, His grace.

I was on my way downtown to set up my fall classes. I was tired and frustrated. So I popped in the cd that my Christian counselor had given me before I went on the trip. I had listened to it, somewhat half asleep on the plane ride over to Nicaragua. So I popped it in and headed downtown. The name of the sermon was called, “Bouncing Back.”

The pastor began to reminisce on the cd about a past mission trip he had gone on. It had been a very frustrating time when he was expecting great victories. One night after being back from the mission trip, he began to have a vision. In the vision he was watching a movie on the television. He was also though in the movie as one of the characters. In the movie, him and a darkly dressed figure were on top of a cliff, fighting. The darkly dressed figure was ramming himself into the man, pushing him closer and closer to the edge of the cliff. The man fought valiantly to get away from the edge but eventually with one last thrust, the dark figure threw the man off the cliff. In the vision, the pastor saw himself falling and thought, “He’s dead.” The pastor falling through the air, thought to himself, “I’m dead.” He hit the ground but instead of being shoved into the ground, he experienced something catching him, as he shot back into the air, landing back on the cliff, now looking down at the dark figure. The dark figure was completely confused. The man rushed down violently and knocked out the dark figure. Wondering how he was still alive he looked over the edge of the cliff. What he saw amazed him. As He looked out over the cliff, stretching as far as his eye could see, was a trampoline with the word, Grace.

I almost laughed/burst into tears when I heard that. God was showing me through this crazy analogy that His love stretched farther than I could see. His grace would pick me up day after day, bouncing me back up, one day at a time.

Blessings,
Joseph.

Holding my hands as I Hold His Cup

All of us have a place in the church, the body of Christ. For a long time I found it very hard to find my place. I was a new Christian and I wanted to be involved. I tried many areas but not many fit. Then I heard about the communion team. I didn’t think that was the area for me at first. Besides weren’t the people that served communion ushers in the church, holy people? That’s what I thought originally but now I know differently.

This past fall I started serving communion. That first Sunday I was so worried of what others would think of me serving communion, those that knew my past. As I walked to the front I was shaking. I was handed the cup serving the grape juice. I started my walk back towards the back. I felt the cold, cool surface of the cup grasped in my trembling hands. Just then I felt hands underneath my hands. It was Jesus’s hands. As I tried to hold back tears, Jesus began to speak to me. He said, “This is where I want you son. I want you to look into people’s eyes and give them the hope that you have received yourself. You will not go through this alone, I will be there holding your hands as you hold My cup.”

I was a very prideful person at the time, still can be at times. I thought I would have a lot of pride in myself but as soon as the words “this is Christ’s blood” all the pride left. I knew that this was an honor to be up there, holding His Cup. Not by anything I did, but because of His grace, I was holding His cup.

Now a year later, on most Sundays, I am down at City Church in Downtown Charleston, Sc. It has been truly a blessing to be able to serve the Lord’s supper to share His love that partake in it. Just looking into people’s eyes and sharing with them the words of victory and hope, not my words, but Jesus Christ’s.

Blessings ya’ll,

Joseph.

Learning to Love This Body, His Temple

Growing up I was small. I was 70 pounds in seventh grade, not hitting a hundred pounds til high school. I was picked on and made fun of because of my size. I was also born with a small indention in my chest, that still to this day makes me self conscious about my body. I hated my body for so many years, trying to change it and fix what I thought God had messed up. Today I am 6’3 but only 135 pounds, making me look even skinnier because of my height. Even after I surrendered my life to Christ, I still had trouble being comfortable in my body. It wasn’t until Wednesday night that these words rang into my heart and showed me that I was only content in my body and that I did not still truly love this body Christ had given me.

“Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Just think over this verse for a second, especially the phrase, “your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit.” Do you realize what that means? I thought I did until Wednesday night and then it hit me, hard. It hit me so hard that I wept for 20 minutes almost uncontrollably.

What this verse means is that God chose for us to have the body that we have and then He chose to make our body’s His sanctuary. Think about that for a second. Christ chose our bodies and then chose to come reside inside our bodies. He gave us “this” body for a reason and a purpose. Think about that. God did not make a mistake when He gave us our bodies. He created these bodies. He placed every hair on our head, he gave us a certain weight, a certain personality. We are created in the image of God.

So for the last week I have been trying to do just that. I didn’t really know where to start after hating this body for so many years. As I was reading a book last night called Soul Virgins, God spoke to me very clear and began to show me how to love my body.

Love the Skin You’re In 

“Self Esteem ultimately comes from accepting God’s decree that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), independent of another’s opinions about your looks, personality, strengths, and weaknesses. You are special and can excited about being you. This includes your sexuality, gender, and body image. God has given you a unique song and a special name in which you can take comfort and find joy (Revelation 2:17). Learn the art of self-affirmation. Create a list of a dozen things you thank God for in the person He created you to be. As you become comfortable in your own skin, forget about yourself and reach out to enjoy friendships in deeper and more meaningful ways. Becoming a soul-sexy man or woman is extremely difficult when you aren’t first comfortable in your own skin.” (Soul Virgins)

I am so excited because in just the last week of loving my body I can already see new dimensions of my relationship with Jesus Christ forming. I am becoming more confident and comfortable in this sanctuary that the Lord lives in. He bought “this” body with a price. He died for “this” body.

Are you struggling today with how you were created? Are you thinking that God made a mistake? Take it to the Lord today. He will show you how much He loves you and the body that He has given you. He bought you with a price, the blood of Jesus Christ.

I am learning to say among the mocking and teasing voices, wanting me to feel shame of how I look, “that I am a beloved child of God.” He has created and given me this body. He has even chose to come live within this body. Thank God for your body today, it is His sanctuary, the place where He resides. God is undoing twenty one years of hatred and truly giving me a love for His temple.

Blessings,
Joseph.

Confession and Repentance

It is so hard for me to reach out to others when I am face down in the mud in sin. The sin is all I can see. I am ashamed of what I am doing, depressed because I know I am trading in God’s love and promise for a lie. I have learned the best thing to do when you are in sin is to confess it. It is also the hardest thing.

The last four days I have been face down in the mud of my past. It has caked my body and my soul. My eyes grew dim as I felt the darkness pulling my soul back in. The water seemed to be rising, closer and closer to my neck. The hardest thing about this was probably that for the last month, this addiction, this temptation seemed to subside so much. It subsided so much that I let my guard down, when sin was just outside the door, crouching.

Sin lulled me to sleep, compromising and comprimising til I was in the thick of the darkness, wondering how I got there. I felt like a complete fool saying just a week ago that the battles were over and that I was hanging up my armor. Last night though, I knew it was time. It was getting out of control and something needed to be done. The water was rising and rising, steadily. I needed to confess my darkness.

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (NIV)

Why do we confess our sins? Is it so that we will feel shame and condemnation? Is it to let others judge us? I believe its about being vulnerable with brothers and sisters in Christ. Letting them love us and pray for us in the power of Jesus Christ. We can’t see in the situation because the darkness has blinded our eyes. By letting another person in, we allow light to be shown on the situation, the light of Jesus Christ.

John 1:5

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (NIV)
 
So I did it. I confessed my sins to my parents. “Mom and Dad I messed up.” They came and stood alongside me. Broken, beat down, I reached out and confessed. Through that confession, the darkness lost its power and its strength. The light of Jesus Christ shown into the situation and gave me insight. Insight that I couldn’t see in the darkness.
 
So as I confessed to my parents, I confess to this community of believers who follow my blog. I apologize for my stumbling but with the help and love of Jesus Christ, I woke up this morning, not feeling the heavy hand of darkness and sin on my life. I am walking more in repentance today and the grace and forgiveness of My Father God.
 
Blessings,
Joseph.

 

Taking a Chance on Us, The Barren Rose

Today is my one year and five month anniversary of surrendering my life to Jesus Christ. Today I want to share with you all about how Jesus took a chance on me and you, when we had nothing to offer him.

It seems like a while ago but the summer of 2009 I went on a job hunt. I applied at several different places, 19 to be exact. I was frustrated and tired after two weeks went by with no call backs or job offers. It was towards the end of another fruitless day when I tried one last place.

I walked into this seafood restaurant called Gilligans. I was only thinking that I would fill out an application and then leave but much more than that happened. I handed my finished application to the manager. He looked it over for a few minutes and then asked me to follow him into the bar area. I did and we sat down at a table and began to do an interview. This was my first interview and I was nervous. The manager was intimidating and his raspy voice did not help the situation. I stumbled over my words as he asked me questions to why I wanted to be there, answering, “I thought it would be an easy job” quickly having to backtrack. Showing no confidence at all, no ambition, no anything. My manager though took a chance on me, a big chance.

So I started my first job ever a few days later. I went through training, learning how to use the computers and how to do sidework. Several times within my first week, my manager had to get in my face and tell me to work harder. I was not a good worker, I was super lazy.

For the first 6 months I was terrible. I messed up orders, I dropped plates, cups. I had no common sense and usually the sidework I finished had to be redone by other servers. I couldn’t multitask and had no confidence in my own ability. Everyone in the restaurant, workers, others managers, called for my firing but this manager stood by my side. He stood up for me, even when I was terrible and when I messed up orders and angered people and wasn’t doing anything good for the restaurant. He was criticized for keeping me there but he stood by my side.

After a year of being there I finally got my feet under me and excelled. I became one of the best waiters there, averaging close to 130 on summer nights. My managers chance had paid off. Looking back at that story, four years later, I realize how much Jesus took a chance on me too.

January 6th, 2012, I kneeled on my bed, asking the God of the Universe to save my life, redeem me. I was addicted, depressed, lonely, but I cried out from the bottom of my heart for salvation and His Lordship in my life. I had nothing to offer but Jesus Christ reached out and saved me. He knew it would be a long road ahead and that I would fall down so many times before I would stand again, but He reached out His hand and took hold of me.

God sees our potential even when we can’t. He knows that what we are now, that He can change us, completely from the inside out. I stayed away from God for so many years because I thought I had to have something to offer.

Last February my brother told me the sermon about this rose that was passed around a room. By the time it got back to the original person, the rose was bare. My brother said the guy said, “Who wants this rose?” In my heart I felt condemnation, worthlessness. “No one wants that rose,” I said to myself. My brother though then said that the guy said, “Jesus wants that rose.”

I don’t know about you but I wake up some days feeling worthless. I feel like sometime that all my worth has been stripped away by this world. The good thing is my worth is not in how many petals or even if I have petals. Jesus loved me when I was barren, beaten, broken down. He reached out to me continuosly even as I pushed Him away constantly.

Today I am reminded that I am loved, worthy, cared for, even when I had no petals.

Walk in God’s true, everlasting love today.
Blessings,
Joseph.

Spider on the Wall

Last night I woke up for no reason at all around 1 am. When I turned on the light I was terrified to see a huge spider on the wall. My heart pounded and my pulses quickened, I hate spiders. I quickly looked for something to knock the spider off the wall. Quietly because my family was fast asleep I reached over with a shoe but instead of smashing it against the wall, I flung it to a place across the room. The whole rest of the night I spent half asleep because the spider was loose and I was expecting it to come back. Through this though, I was taught a lesson, about how fears affect us.

Fear. It is a very controlling thing. It can make your heart pound and your palms sweat. It can keep you out of situations and make us freeze when confronted with this fear. We all have fears and things that make us sweat uncontrollably. Do you feel this way about sin? Do you fear messing up? Do you fear disappointing God the Father? I am here today to show you what the Bible says about fear.

“He will not fear bad news;
his heart is confident, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is assured; he will not fear.
In the end he will look in triumph on his foes.” (Psalm 112:7-8)

“For I, Yahweh your God,
  hold your right hand
and say to you: Do not fear,

I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13)

“Now this is what the Lord says—
the One who created you, Jacob,
and the One who formed you, Israel—
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by your name; you are Mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)

“But I will rescue you on that day”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“and you will not be handed over to the men you fear.” (Jeremiah 39:17)

And I say to you, My friends, don’t fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more.” (Luke 12:4)

“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15)

“For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.”
(2 Timothy 1:7) 


“There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love.” (1 John 4:18)

One thing that really stuck out to me from those random verses I picked: God has not given us a spirit of fear. He has given us His Son, His Spirit of power to battle our fears.

I hope that you all will continue to meditate on these verses and others, growing more and more into this spirit of courage that Jesus has given us.

Have a blessed day. Walk in the fact that He has not given us a spirit of fear.

-Joseph