Leaving My Comfort Zone: Another Lesson in Trust and Faith

Like most of us, I like my comfort zone. All my strengths are there with not too many weaknesses. I know what I’m getting into. There are little doubts, confusion, anxiety. But outside my comfort zone is the land of unknowns, doubts, skepticism, anxiety. I don’t like this place, but it seems to be a place that I go often when I’m following the Lord. This summer is another instance where I’m being pulled outside my comfort zone; another instance where I’m being stretched even farther in my faith and my trust in Jesus Christ. 

Faith. Trust. Two things that are vital to our walk with Jesus Christ. And it is a walk. A lot of times we don’t know where we are going or why we are going there, but we are asked to go, trust. Examples of this in my life: Leaving Gilligans to work at Target, going to Nicaragua, going back to school, leaving to go to North Greenville University. These are examples of being pulled out of my comfort zone and the Lord being sovereign over my life, which He constantly is. 
Being pulled out of your comfort zone is scary. Walking with the Lord is a challenge. It is a challenge because we no longer have the reigns in our hands. We are surrendering our authority, our control, to someone we can’t even see and we are trusting that He (The Lord) knows what’s best for our lives. But we can rest assured that He does. 
A verse that really has given me comfort over the last few years is Proverbs 3:5-6 which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”

This is an encouraging verse because it takes all the pressure off of me. It gets rid of the pressure of having to direct my own life and figure out all my needs, let alone how to love and meet the needs of others around me. This burden being lifted allows me to trust. Trust so fully that I give my life in surrender because I know that “while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me.” (Romans 5:8). 
I know that whatever comes my way, nothing can take me from His hands. Nothing can separate us from the power of God. Not angels. Not demons. Not principalities. Not Death. Not life. Not things present or things to come. Not height, or depth, or any other created thing. Nothing can separate me from the love of Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:38-39).
So when I’m asked to leave my comfort zone, which I often am, I go. I go not necessarily without fears, doubts, anxiety, but I go. And I am able to go because one, I’m not directing these paths, He is. Two, Jesus has proved Himself worthy of not only complete trust in Him, but glory and honor as well. Three, I go because nothing can stop what God has planned in our lives. He is sovereign and protective of us. 
Many times obstacles lay in our wake as we step out to new places and our comfort zone is stretched. Many times this is our emotions such as fear, laziness, apathy, worries, and anxiety, just to name a few. But what does God’s Word say about these? “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). 

Worried about stepping out? Pray to God about it. God knows what you are feeling. Jesus sweat blood before He died on the cross. He crossed a threshold of stepping out of His comfort zone. 
What happens because of prayer? The peace of God guards our hearts! Guards our hearts from any doubts, anxieties, and other emotional states we may be in. Prayer allows us to have peace even in difficult situations!
For me, this camp thing scares me to death. But if I focus on the fears that I have, then I will miss out on God’s power wanting to break through those fears and work. If I focus on my inadequacies and doubts, then I will miss out on God’s healing hand wanting to work through me. But I can trust and have faith that God has me here for a reason. I don’t know what that reason is, but I trust in His sovereignty, that He is working everything out for the “good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.” (Romans 8:28). 

So my message to you and me today is to step boldly out of your comfort zone. Whether that be a new job, a new relationship or marriage, a different path, trust in the Lord’s sovereignty and goodness. Trust and have faith that He has you here for a reason, one that would blow your mind if you could look down the road and see the huge implications and results of your respective ministries or decisions. Know that the Lord is good, loving, trustworthy. 
Well, this will probably be the last blog post for me this summer. I will put up a new post after the summer, to give you the run down on camp and what the Lord taught me. Please keep me in your prayers. Ask the Lord to give me endurance and contentment this summer. Ask the Lord to allow me to be a servant in ways I can’t even imagine. I know this summer is going to be full of new adventures, loving on kids, and more lessons in trusting and walking with Him. 
Have a blessed summer,
Joseph. 

How Do We Stay on the Narrow Path? (Part Three)

This is the final part of the three part series on “How Do We Stay on the Narrow Path.” We finish up with verse 27 of proverbs 4.

“Don’t turn to the right or to the left;
keep your feet away from evil” (Proverbs 4:27). 

Already we have looked at fixing our gaze directly ahead on the path (contentment) and carefully considering the path for your feet (discernment and wisdom). Lastly, we will talk about not wavering and resisting evil.

“Don’t turn to the right or to the left” (Proverbs 4:27a). 

God calls for unwavering attention to His word and His commands. He called for that from His chosen people the Israelites, but they often wavered. They were building golden calves while Moses was meeting with the Lord on Mount Sinai, receiving the Ten Commandments. They missed out on the promised land that was promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob because of their fear of the giants in the land. Wavering from the Lord’s commands has been going on since the beginning of time. (See the story of Adam and Eve).

So, how do we not waiver from the path?

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). 

Not wavering from the path starts with not wavering on God’s word. We must be committed to storing God’s Word in our hearts. We must be committed to making God’s Word the most important thing in our lives.

Next we must keep our feet away from evil. We must be determined to stay away from evil, at all costs.

“Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). 

As believers we must “cling” to what is good and “hate” what is evil. We must be determined to stay away from evil. We must be determined to stay on this path.

But one thing that we all must remember is that we can’t not waver on our own. This is not excuse to try harder, but to surrender. We must surrender before we can be content, and gain discernment and wisdom. If we just try harder we are only becoming a slave of our own morality and own power. If we surrender, we gain freedom.

stevelummer.com

Blessings,
Joseph.

Ministry: The Product of God’s Mercy

Coming into this year, I had many thoughts on ministry. I thought that ministry was earned with degrees and that there was a formula to doing ministry. I thought that ministry was brought about by knowledge. It wasn’t really until today that I realized that ministry is not brought about or earned by us, but it is given to us by God, through His mercy.

As I have been getting ready to be a camp counselor this summer, I have been realizing that I am so not cut out for this job. All these questions and doubts have been going through my mind. How can I take care of 7-10 kids for 2 weeks? How can I be the leader that God has called me to be when I have not truly prepared myself that much for this and where I have struggled most of the semester? How can I take kids on camping trips when I don’t know how to pitch tents or make fires? I feel so inadequate in so many areas that last night I was almost ready to throw in the towel and quit before I even made it to camp. I’m glad that this morning I woke up with a less defeated attitude.

I was reading my pre-camp devotions this morning that my camp leaders had sent me. I was just praying and asking the Lord for some encouragement for camp and the upcoming summer of unknowns. And He delivered.

“Therefore, since we have this ministry because we were shown mercy, we do not give up” (2 Corinthians 4:1).

After reading this verse, I was given peace about this summer. I may not know how to start fires or pitch a tent, but I know the Lord has given me this ministry opportunity. I know that even though I feel unprepared and worried about all the unknowns, I know the Lord will equip me to do His work. The only qualification to do ministry is that you’ve been shown mercy by God. And that you’ve accepted His mercy and now to do ministry, all you have to do is show genuinely the mercy you have been shown.

But why should we not give up on this task?

Now we have this treasure in clay jars so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). 

We should never give up because the power of Christ lives in us. In chapter five of 2 Corinthians, verse 14 says that Christ love compels us. This power that lives inside of us, is the power of love of Jesus Christ.

We are the clay jars. We are so inadequate and feeble, so easily broken. Why did God choose to put His Holy Spirit inside of us? Because of His mercy. Because He knew that it wasn’t about us, the clay jars. No, it was about His power and His love redeeming us from the inside out. And through that redeeming, the world would see His power living in us.

Paul goes on to say in 2 Corinthians 4:16-“Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.”

What does this even look like? How can our outer person be stripped away, but our inner person be redeemed?

“We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

You see in this life we will face persecution. Jesus said that they would hate us because they hated him. And this can bring a whole lot of tension and pressure on our exterior. Our mind may be tired and our bodies may be beat down, but the Lord is renewing our spirits daily, so that whatever happens to our bodies, our minds, our hearts, we can stand firm knowing that the Lord has given us this ministry by His mercy. And that ministry is just showing the world that even though we are clay jars, inadequate, self seeking, breakable pieces, God’s mercy allows us to love and to have joy and peace and to be in a relationship with Him.

As I head off to camp this summer, I am faced with all kinds of uncertainties. I am faced with all kinds of fears. But I will not give up. God’s mercy propels this little clay jar to this finish line and allows me to be a part of His ministry. I ask for ya’lls prayers as I take on something new, with new people, in new areas, in another step in my relationship with Christ.

Blessings,
Joseph.