Healing Rain

Today me and the co-leader of our Sunday Bible Study went to throw the Frisbee around. In the middle of our throwing and talking, we began to confess to each other ways in which we had messed up in the last week. Just as we did, it began to rain, hard, heavy rain. It was great, worshipful, as the heavy drops splattered us. It reminded me of another story of healing rain, that I had come across again recently.

During the days of the prophet Elijah, wickedness was plentiful. After many generations of wicked kings there came a king that would be the worst of them all, Ahab. He married Jezebel, also wicked, and proceeded to worship a false god, Baal. God, intolerant of their wickedness, sent a drought on the land. It would not rain for many years. In the third year, God appeared to Elijah, saying that it was time to end the drought and that he was to go see King Ahab. This was their conversation:

“When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is that you, you destroyer of Israel?”
He replied, “I have not destroyed Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have abandoned the Lord’s commands and followed the Baals. Now summon all Israel to meet me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel’s table.” (1 Kings 18:17-19)

So Elijah proceeded to call out King Ahab and then called a meeting. At the meeting, Elijah didn’t play games, he got down to business, calling out the people for their indecisiveness of who to follow.

“Then Elijah approached all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If Yahweh is God, follow Him. But if Baal, follow him.” But the people didn’t answer him a word.” (1 Kings 18:21)

Elijah then offered a challenge.

“Then Elijah said to the people, “I am the only remaining prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Let two bulls be given to us. They are to choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and place it on the wood but not light the fire. I will prepare the other bull and place it on the wood but not light the fire. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of Yahweh. The God who answers with fire, He is God.”All the people answered, “That sounds good.” (1 Kings 18:22-24)

So the challenge was set: whoever’s god lights the offering on fire from the sky, is God. So up first Baal’s prophets. They yelled and cut themselves for hours but nothing happened. Elijah even mocked them saying that maybe their god was asleep or away on a trip. Now it was Elijah’s and God’s turn. He built the altar, even had people pour water onto the offering, making it humanly possibly for the offering to light on fire. There was so much water poured that it pooled up around the offering.

This was Elijah’s prayer:

“Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that at Your word I have done all these things. Answer me, Lord! Answer me so that this people will know that You, Yahweh, are God and that You have turned their hearts back.” (1 Kings 18:36-37)

There was no dancing, cutting, long drawn out process. Just a simple prayer and faith.

God’s Answer:

“Then Yahweh’s fire fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. (1 Kings 18:38).

Not only did God answer, He exceeded. He consumed everything, even licking up the water in the trench. God had shown up in a big way.

The people’s response:

When all the people saw it, they fell face down and said, “Yahweh, He is God! Yahweh, He is God!” (1 Kings 18:39)

Repentance. True repentance. Even though the people had forgotten who God was, they remembered now in a big way.

God’s response to sin, blatant sin, through Elijah:

“Then Elijah ordered them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let even one of them escape.” So they seized them, and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon and slaughtered them there.” (1 Kings 18:40)

God is not okay with sin, much to the Baal’s prophets dismay. Elijah and the Israelite people chased the Baal prophets down and killed them.

At the end of the slaughter, God brought His forgiveness and brought the rain:

“In a little while, the sky grew dark with clouds and wind, and there was a downpour.” (1 Kings 18:45)

God kept His promise. Even after all the Israelite people had walked in sin and wickedness, God brought them back in a big way.

Just a cool verse:

“So Ahab got in his chariot and went to Jezreel. The power of the Lord was on Elijah, and he tucked his mantle under his belt and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.” (1 Kings 18:46)

So basically with the power of the Lord, Elijah outran Ahab on foot, when Ahab was in a chariot! Haha crazy.

Just like the Israelite people, we often walk away from God. We follow the next coolest thing, distractions, sins. God though wants to remind us of His power and His love for us. We have to repent and ask for God’s forgiveness so that He can bring His healing rain on our lives, restoring us from the drought that sin has caused in our lives.

Remember the healing rain of God.
Blessings,
Joseph. 

Horses and Chariots of Fire

Fists to the face, arms thrust into my back, I’ve been under attack. Falling so many times, strength failing, exhaustion setting in. My friends and family have also been under attack. Satan has been trying his best to disrupt everything. Trying His best to throw me down and knock me out. Today though, as I’m under attack I remember to look up to the hills and see The Lord’s army that surrounds me and fights with me and for me. 

“When the servant of the man of God got up early and went out, he discovered an army with horses and chariots surrounding the city. So he asked Elisha, “Oh, my master, what are we to do?”
Elisha said, “Don’t be afraid, for those who are with us outnumber those who are with them.”
Then Elisha prayed, “Lord, please open his eyes and let him see.” So the Lord opened the servant’s eyes. He looked and saw that the mountain was covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:15-17)

Do you know today that God is the God of angel armies? That He surrounds us and walks with us into our battles? Even as it feels like our heads are being pushed into the dirt, God is fighting for us. He is more powerful than anything we will face. He has entire army at His disposal, an angel army.
Dear Jesus,
Thank you for the army that You have provided me with. Thank you for the tools You have given me to fight against the flesh and dark powers that surrounds me. I know that even though it feels like I’m losing battles, You’ve won the war and one day Satan will be thrown into the fiery pits for good. You are so faithful and hear my cries. Open my eyes to the army that surrounds me and that is fighting for me. Thank you for picking me up constantly in the battle. You don’t let me wallow in sin or defeat God, but you remind me of the victory that You have won and that You are continuing to win in this world. 
Let Jesus take over Your battle today.
Blessings,
Joseph. 


Victory Letters

The apostle Paul was a great writer and a great man of encouragement. He wrote tons and tons of letters to churches encouraging them to continue to follow the path the Lord had laid out for them. He wrote letters from his jail cell for crying out loud! I, like Paul am writing some encouraging letters to people this summer. 

As I finished my spring semester this year I had made it, a 2.8. I was so surprised and overcome with joy that a 2.1 had become a 2.8 in just 8 months. As a symbol of winning a championship in my life, that mentally and spiritually I had won, I cut down my basketball goal net. I had seen this played out many times in the NCAA basketball tournament, when a champion was crowned. I was planning on just keeping the net for myself but over the summer the Lord began to teach me a great lesson. He began to show me that this was not just my victory but others as well.
So how do you share a huge victory in your life? Do you have a party, do you send out an email? I didn’t really know how or what to do with sharing the victory. There was so many people, how could I thank them all? Then God gave me a great revelation. He told me to write letters about 30-40 of them, to people, not just here in Charleston, but people from Savannah and others that had influenced me along the way, over my entire life time. It was a big task, as I took one day to pray for who God would have me write letters to. I am almost done with them but it has taken me almost the entire summer. 
Also so that people could have something tangible and feel a part of the victory, I am attaching a piece of basketball net with each letter. We are all a part of a team, the body of Christ. We need to share our victories with one another, professing and testifying to the goodness and faithfulness of Christ. I believe that by sharing victory and encouragement with others, it helps those that are struggling, to remember a past time where the Lord’s presence was just so real. It really brings encouragement and can make a huge difference. I mean you really never know what God will use for His glory and furthering of His kingdom. 
I encourage you all to share your victories with others in your life. It will truly bless others, even if you never see or hear about it. As iron sharpens iron, lets encourage one another today by sharing the blessings and victories of our own life with our fellow brothers and sisters and the world. 
Blessings,
Joseph. 

Tiny Hands

Well here we go. I am one month away from leaving for North Greenville. Its exciting but terrifying. Yesterday though in church I finally regained peace through the words of God through a song.

How many of you have dreams? How many of you have fears? We all have them. We want to accomplish those dreams but fears sometimes hold us back. Fears of not meeting expectations, or failing people, or messing up again and again.

I know the closer I’ve gotten to leaving for North Greenville, all the past thoughts and fears from past years and past mistakes seem to haunt me. I don’t want to mess up North Greenville like I messed up Charleston Southern. I don’t want to be a fraud but a teacher and an encouragement to others. I don’t want to fail to meet expectations and flunk out of another school.

I mean why should I be worried. God has prepared me for this upcoming year over the past year and a half. I have been disciplined in every area of my life. Why am I falling apart right before I leave for such an amazing place of community and fellowship and learning? Its because I am trying to hold all of these things in my hands, my tiny hands.

When I heard the song “Sovereign” by Christ Tomlin yesterday in church, it reminded me that North Greenville and my future, its all in God’s hands. Its not in my hands. Yes I have a part in this promise and future but God ultimately has the last say. All my worries and dreams and past mistakes, God holds them all in His hands. In His hands all my worries and fears and mistakes look small, in His Powerful Hands.

So today I choose to remember Whose hands I’m in, Jesus Christ’s. I can’t be taken from His hands, His grip is tight. One month left and I’m ready to start preparing, with worry and fears cast to the side.

Blessings,
Joseph.   

Looking Back at 21

God has continued growing me this past year. I’ve faced lots of challenges and doubts but I’ve continued walking down this path He has laid out for me. I can’t believe its already been a year and I am now 22, haha, feeling old. My hope for this post to show you what God has been doing in my life over the past year, in little snippets.

Nicaragua Affirmation and Continual Healing-July 2012

Last summer after I turned 21, I headed to Nicaragua and learned lots of lessons there. God used this trip to break me of a lot of my pride. He showed me that even though He had given me a cool testimony, there was no superior testimony, that He had given each one of us believers a unique story of grace and redemption in Him. Toward the end of the week, I was affirmed in what God had told me the day that I had accepted Him, January 6th, 2012. I was prayed over by a pastor in Nicaragua who told me God wanted to heal me more and more and that I was going to be an apostle in the Lord’s timing.

Re-entrance into the Real World-August 2012
I came out of Nicaragua so excited for the future and the plans that God had laid out before me. When I came back to America though I struggled and fell often but through hearing a sermon on CD about a “trampoline of grace” I learned to get back up, time and time again. 
Back to School, Waiting and Doubting My Ability-September 2012-November 2012
I felt like I was supposed to go back to school but the only school I could afford to go to was a technical school. So I swallowed my pride and went to this technical school. I also began the waiting and prayer process of finding a Christian university to go to in the fall. Hours and hours of prayer and a list of fifty colleges to sort through. Also this was first year back to school in a year. I was so worried that I couldn’t do it. I came in with that attitude and overworked and over studied and failed miserably for the first part of the semester. 
New Community, Serving Communion, Trusting God Completely-November 2012- December 2012
As I continued doubting and failing, my pastor and few trusted brothers and sisters, suggested for me to get involved in community and in the church. So I found a bible study on Tuesdays night with guys my age who went to the College of Charleston. These guys quickly became my best friends and an immense encouragement. I also began serving communion at my church downtown and it has been such an amazing experience. I finally gave school completely to God and the results came. I just did my best and left the results to God and I scraped out two b’s and a c in three very hard english, math and biology classes. 
Answered Prayers, Celebrating a Year with Christ, Baptism-End of December 2012-January 2013
Finally, after months and months of praying and seeking and asking, at the end of December 2012, God showed me that I would be going to North Greenville University in the fall. On January 5th-6th, I celebrated my one year of surrendering my life to Jesus Christ with 30 family members and friends. I got up and shared my testimony to this group on January 5, 2013, sharing the victory with these people who had walked through the mud and prayed for me non stop for years and years, pleading with God to have mercy on me. It was a great time of song and prayer and victory sharing. On January 6th, 2013, I stood before a congregation on my one year anniversary of knowing Christ Jesus and professed my love to Jesus Christ and His Lordship in my life. I was baptized and I came up from the water, thrusting my arms into the air, proclaiming the glory of God. 
The Deleted Blog, Visiting North Greenville-January 2013-February 2013
Well, I would love to say that after all these promises and victories took away all my past struggles but they didn’t. God was continuing to work on me and I struggled mightily, more than I had in a year. The blog I had, “Hope and Purpose” had become a great distraction and source of pride, so I deleted it. It was a new start and it brought about this blog, “Walking and Trusting in Jesus” signifying new growth I was experiencing. Walking more into the redemption of my heart and moving farther and farther away from my past. I also visited North Greenville University for the first time, with students actually on campus. The more we went round and round the campus, I was encouraged more and more. Students out reading their Bible, and talking and encouraging one another. This was a place of Godly community, I could tell.
New Creation, Men’s Retreat, Discipleship-February 2013
Well a friend who I had been reaching out to for a year, finally surrendered his life to Christ. He became my greatest encouragement. I also had an opportunity to go on a Men’s Retreat with St. Andrews and learn more about discipleship. The weekend was crazy as I had an opportunity to reach out a 13 year old boy and God provided funds for me to get him a long board and I’ve been writing him letters since I left. I came back and began to disciple my friend, teaching him more and more about God. I started to realize though that I was I putting all these things on him and that Christianity wasn’t about legalism and rules and things that you do. My friend grew so much and began to find his own ways of growing close to the Lord with just a little guidance and help from me when he asked. 
Growing Comfortable with School, Being Stretched-January 2013-May 2013
I went back to school this semester, halfway back to my 3.0. I had all the confidence in the world after last semester and I went in strong and finished strong, finishing with two A’s and two B’s, bringing my gpa to a 2.8, Amazing! It was a difficult semester as my beliefs were tested and questioned constantly by students and professors. I was there to learn though, and have a witness through my peace. Several students asked me throughout the semester if I was a Christian and I was able to share with them about the love of Jesus Christ.    I began to speak out more and more in class, not afraid to ask questions, becoming comfortable as a person. 
The Break and The Award Letter-May 2013
Well I had a month break off from school. It wasn’t really productive. I completely got out of my schedule and went to bed late and I was tired a lot. At the same time, I was expecting to be completely done with the  North Greenville process but this was not the case. The financial aid we had counted on was not very much. I was so confused and angry, I was overwhelmed. I went and sat on the floor of my room after I received the award letter and cried out to God. In my complete overwhelmed-ness God showed up and continued to affirm me in the promise. 
Summer School, Promises Delivered-May 2013-June 2013
With all this uncertainty going on, it was hard to focus on school. At the same time as our financial problems, God was showing Mom and Dad to do something crazy that didn’t make any sense to no one. He showed them to buy a lake house to bless others and find rest ourselves. We all struggled with the decision. We prayed a lot about North Greenville, the lake house and our future. After many hours and weeks or prayers, phone calls, emails, the money came in for North Greenville and we closed on the lake house.
A Week of Peace and Rest at the Lake-June 28th, 2013-July 4th, 2013
This week was just what the doctor ordered, a week of peace and rest. It has been great having no school or work for the first time in over 3 years. Just sitting and knowing God is a God who keeps His promises and His plans and purposes are the best. I’ve had to do a lot of trusting, waiting and praying, but it is all worth it now, because we are receiving the promises of God in full fold. 
Just bring all this stuff back up, on my 22nd birthday, and looking back at all, God has done in I and my family’s life is breathtaking. It truly shows how God is a God of redemption and power, love and grace. He surely does have a purpose in every one of our lives, a great, magnificent purpose, that we can’t even wrap our minds around. I know I will remember this year for a long time to come and I hope to build off this year, as I move into tackling year number 22.
Blessings ya’ll and have a blessed July 4th!
Joseph. 


Receiving

This whole year has been pretty difficult. A lot of waiting and trusting but not a whole lot of receiving. Constantly I have had to remind myself of the promise I have been promised. And finally its here. Finally after much praying and waiting and trusting, our family is reaping the promises of God. And it is far better than I could ever have imagined.

It is amazing what will happen when we trust God, completely. Not just a little bit, but completely. When we trust God completely we take the reigns out of our hands completely and hand them to God. This can be quite scary because as humans we want control. When we lose control, we try to gain it back, at any cost. But when we just truly give up control, with no thoughts of gaining them back, then God works and the promise we have been promised is received.

This happened when we felt God wanted us to have a place of rest and peace, a lake house. Now to the outside world, this seemed pretty absurd, even to some followers of Christ. Even to us we weren’t sure but we waded into the process and pretty quickly we found a nice house in Lake Murray, Sc. We put an offer out there and we got the price we wanted. But after that was when it got really interesting. Many problems arose with the house and it was nail biting time. Week after week went by as we wondered if our promise was going to fall through literally. We trusted as a family, God’s plan for us. Last weekend after weeks of prayers and phone calls and emails, we finally closed on the house and moved in.

This week I was completely off from school and work and we made our way up here. It has been such a restful time that we all needed, being up here. We have all grown closer to God by being up here and swimming in His waters and seeing His creation up close and personal.

I received an email from a friend today that said, “we are blessed to be a blessing.” I think that is such a profoundly awesome statement and I believe God wants to use this lake house for His glory. We all have come to the realization that this is not our lake house but God’s. He has gifted it to us and we will not be stingy with it but that we will share our blessings with others.

It was hard waiting but well worth the wait. The lake is amazing and I am looking forward to sharing this blessing and gift with others for years to come.

Blessings,
Joseph. 

Leaving Heaven to Save Us

Today I was reading Ephesians 4. In it I was struck by a couple of verses. It struck me that even Jesus’s journey from Heaven to earth was a sacrifice and not just the sacrifice of His enduring pain and death on the cross.

“But what does “He ascended” mean except that He descended to the lower parts of the earth? The One who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.” (Ephesians 4:9-10).

It is truly incredible that Jesus, the King of King and the Lord of Lords left His throne in a perfect heaven, with no sin, ailments, disasters to come to a earth filled with sin, filled with rebellion and hatred and divisions. To come from a place where He was loved and honored to go to a place where He would be hated and killed, mocked and spit upon. What kind of King would do that? Jesus, the One true King. The King who died for you and for me on a cross, so that we could be in right standing with Him.

Today as you go throughout your day, remember to thank God for His sacrifice of leaving Heaven and all its glory to come to a world that hated Him, so that He could spread His incomprehensible love with us, the ones shouting, “crucify him.”

Blessings,
Joseph.