Standing Still

We live in a culture that is very transient. Things are constantly moving and changing. Just look at the recent NBA free agency and you’ll see players moving from one team to another very rapidly. We as humans like change when we can be in control of the change. We like the idea of the “greener” pasture. We hate feeling stuck or life growing dull or stale. So whenever we feel stuck, stale, we move. We change our surroundings. We add a hobby, etc. Jesus though calls us at times as Christians to a counter cultural stance. To Stand Still. To stand still where we are and know that we can trust God that He is working and moving us forward even in our stillness and dullness.

I am in this season of standing still, and it’s been tough. It’s been tough because it’s not where I thought I would be at this point in my life. A few years back, I was in vocational ministry, leading a youth group, and even was given an opportunity to take a full time youth ministry position with great pay and benefits. Now three years later, I’m still single, I’m no longer in vocational ministry, and I work in a call center doing college admissions. To put it bluntly, this is not where I thought I would be.

Even though this is not where I thought I would be at in this season, this time has been important. This time has allowed me to rest, to reflect, to grow, and to uncover deep seeded roots to struggles I have had in my life for a long time. In this time, I’ve been able to form a deeper relationship with my brother,  get plugged into good godly places of community and support, form incredible friendships, and begin to let go of many things that have weighed me down for so long. I have been given such clarity in this season.

As I woke up this morning, the Lord brought this phrase to my mind. “Stand Still.” Now, you may view standing still as pretty passive, but it is actually a very active step. Standing still takes faith. It takes faith to stand still in the dullness, in the loneliness, in the mundane, in the routine, and believe that even in the standing still that God is working in and around your life to move you forward.

I’m reminded of the example of Moses, who stood still, seemingly trapped between the quickly approaching Egyptians, and the Red Sea, with the recently released Israelite’s complaining and cowering behind him. He responded in Exodus 14:13-14: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Standing still at this moment defied logic. Death awaited them on either side, but Moses trusted God and stood still believing that God would make a way to save His people. And He did. He parted the Red Sea, as the Israelite’s passed over on dry ground, while the Egyptian Army was swallowed up by the Sea as it closed behind them. God provided.

I’m reminded of the faith of Steven, who while being stoned, lifted his eyes to heaven and endured til the end. Daniel, who was thrust into the lion’s den, for being faithful to his God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who were thrown into a blazing hot furnace for refusing to worship false gods. Paul, who after the earthquake that shook his chains free, stayed put and didn’t leave the prison. Esther, who went before the king unwarranted, to petition of behalf of her people. Abraham, who was asked to wait on the birth of his son, and the fulfillment of the promise God had made to him. And Ultimately, Jesus, who hung on a cross, innocent, standing still, was beaten, mocked, spit upon, and died, to pay the price for our sins, that we might be free from our sins and be able to enter into a relationship with the Father.

These are our examples of followers of Christ who stood still even in the midst of trying times. They stood still because they trusted God to show up, and He did. Constantly.

Just like these Bible characters, there will be times as Christians when we will be asked to stand still. We will be asked to stay in a job that greatly under utilizes our talents, to stand still in our singleness, to stand still in our disappointments, our losses, our hurts, and our confusions. It will be in this time that we will be asked by God “Do you trust me enough to just stand still and wait on me to show up?” It is here, in this place, where we are solely dependent on God, where we learn both to endure, to rest, and to trust that God fights for us, even as we have nothing in us that is able to fight.It is in this time of standing still where the Lord shores us up, teaches us who He is, and shows us what is really important. We go deeper with Him.

While standing still may carry with it the connotation of passivity, we still have purpose. We have purpose to be faithful where we are at. In our homes. In our jobs. God has placed us where we are at for a reason in this season. We have purpose to use our gifts, and our talents that God has given us for His good, and to further His Kingdom wherever we are.

We will also need others in this time of standing still. Others that will come alongside us and stand with us, holding our arms up, as we grow tired. Reminding us. Giving us perspective. Encouraging us with the words of God. Reminding us of the example of Christ as our suffering Servant, and the saints who have the run the race faithfully before us. Pushing us forward.

Standing still isn’t forever. It’s a season, and a difficult one at that. We can take advantage of it though while we’re here, learning to trust God fully, to lean on Him, to cry out to Him, and to trust Him that He will fight for us. We can be faithful to serve God where we are, asking Him to grow us in being content. He will teach us to stand still if we will ask Him.

I don’t know where you are today. Maybe you’re in a frustrating season of life, where confusion and chaos reign, and you just feel stuck. Be encouraged. Know that God fights for you, if you would only be still. If you would be still, if I would be still, God would show up, and we would be filled.

 

be-still-and-know-that-I-am-God

Picture taken from: https://www.gotquestions.org/be-still-and-know-that-I-am-God.html

Blessings.

The Longing Soul

We all have longings. Longings that are deep in our hearts. Longings that motivate us and push us forward. Longings such as dreams. Dreams of being married, or starting a family, or entering a new career. Longings such as desires. Desires to be loved, accepted, belong. When our longings are there, but are not met, we become disappointed, frustrated, even angry. It can be very painful.  We begin to shake our fists at heaven and cry out to God “Why have you given me these longings, these good desires, yet you have not fulfilled them?” The hope that we have in these frustrating longings is that God knows and sees us here, and He promises to fill us, if not with our specific longings, with Himself. This is our hope and encouragement. That Jesus will fill our longing hearts with Himself. And that is truly what we need Him to do.

I will be 28 years old next month, and I’m still single. This is not where I thought I would be at this point in my life. I have a God given desire that rages within me to share my life with a godly woman, to do ministry together, to raise a family together, and just to be partners with Christ in His work. Up until this point, it has not happened.

It has been a really frustrating thing to have a desire, a good God given desire within me, to be married, to have a family, to partner with someone in the gospel like this, and yet for it still not to happen. Every time a woman I have clicked with has only viewed us as friends it has been like a knife to the heart. It hurts. Every “no” feels like the “no” will be my destiny and that I will be single forever. I have been frustrated with this, and with God in this time. I’m super impatient.

This morning I slept in, and when I got up, I got into the word. Psalm 107 was where I was today.

For he satisfies the longing soul,
    and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (Psalm 107:9).

In this verse, God really met me where I was. He encouraged me that the longings in my heart for marriage and a family are good. They are. They are God given.

In this season though, God has withheld these things from me, due to His love and His wisdom. Though He withholds the desires of my heart in this season, He promises to do this: To satisfy my longing soul. How? By giving me Himself. By showing me over and over and over again how much He desires to know me, and desires for me to know Him well. He promises to fill my hungry soul with good things.

He promises to give me everything that I need both in this season of loneliness, frustration, and heartache. If I will just cry out to Him. If I will recognize that my longing is good and right, but that only will I find true satisfaction and fulfillment to my longing through Christ.

I don’t know where you are today. If you’re reading this, maybe you’re in a frustrating season, where it feels that good God given desires are being withheld from you. That is frustrating. It is frustrating when we long so deeply for the good things that God has given us desires for. Be encouraged though. Whether you are waiting on a spouse, a friend, a new job, an easier season, just know that the longings you have, God will fill. Maybe not in this season with the good things, but with Himself. He is all we need.

May we cry out to God in our longings, in our heartaches, in our distress, for He hears us. He promises to fill the longings that we have, the disappointments that we’ve faced, the storms we’ve walked through, with Himself. What an encouraging thing. For when we are filled by Jesus, we are actually filled fully, and not just halfway.

Image result for Psalm 107:9

Picture taken from: https://www.heartlight.org/gallery/3315.html

Blessings.

 

 

You Just Haven’t Seen it Yet

Success and growth are not instant things unfortunately. I wish. They take time. They take hours and hours of commitment. To change. It’s so tough. It’s tough to change what we have been doing our whole lives. It’s like switching our brains to think differently. We have created patterns and thought processes that are like habits to us. Even though the climb to the top is tough, and we will fall, many, many times before we even start to make progress, hold out hope. You may not see the progress of the climb you are making, but as Danny Gokey writes “Maybe you just haven’t seen it yet.”

Almost three years ago, I started a journey. A very difficult one. I left the ministry and I moved home to try and make sense of my life and the struggles that had resurfaced. I needed change to happen in my heart and in my life.

Change was not easy. It was not something I wanted to tackle at first. At first, I ran. I ran because I was angry. I ran because I thought God didn’t love me anymore. I ran because I had disappointed and let down people, and then eventually I just stopped running and sat down.

I sat down with all my fears, my shattered dreams, my anger, my obsessive thoughts, and I just was there, surrounded by it all. That’s where I found Jesus again, or better yet where he found me.

Jesus just sat with me. For awhile, just quietly. Just sitting together.

Then me and Him began to speak again. I began to ask Him why did He call me to something I could never do. Why did He give me gifts and talents I’ll never be able to fully use.

I told Him my fears. I told Him my hurts. I told Him how lost I felt. And He was just there.

He listened. He comforted. He spoke into my hurts. He showed me He wasn’t leaving, and that He loved me regardless of what I could bring to the table or not. He reminded me that I was His.

I hemmed and hawed and doubted. I was double minded. I wrestled with this. I wrestled with God and with His unconditional love for me, even in the midst of my own wrestling and sin.

Then eventually as we are sitting there He asked if I wanted to walk again. I said I don’t know. I don’t know if I even can walk again spiritually. I think I want to walk again, but I don’t even know how to anymore. I don’t know how to follow you or obey you anymore. I’m terrible at being a faithful Christian.

Just take one step. That was all he said. Decide to walk again. And if you fall, that’s okay because I’m here with you through it all.

I hemmed and hawed at this. For awhile, I just sat there, frozen, paralyzed, unwilling to move. I didn’t know how to move. To walk. I just couldn’t, or so I thought. Eventually, I got up.

Wounded and limping and hurt and disappointed, Jesus pulled me to my feet, and I began to walk. I would walk a few steps and then fall, and then I would get back up, and then I would fall, and then I would start crawling. At times, I would even crawl backwards, back to the place where I had been.

I would go through times where I would ask for help, and then run from that same help that I had asked for. I would ask for accountability, and encouragement, and then ignore that same encouragement.God never left me though. He never did.

It took a myriad of things, even repeated things, repeated truths, repeated wake up calls but FINALLY, in the last week or so, God has really started to shift the tide in my life. Even though my consistency with my behavior hasn’t changed, my thoughts are starting to. I’m starting to once again remember who I am in Christ, and what He has for me in life.

It has been a long, excruciating, tiring process. There have been days where I have had trouble getting out of bed. Days where I’ve missed work. Days where I’ve isolated and ran and hid. God was with me though through it all.

Every time I wanted to give up, He encouraged me. The break through that I needed and desired was just around the corner. I just couldn’t see it yet. I’m glad I kept going though. I’m glad God kept me and loved me and put others in my life to do the same in this season of life.

I don’t know where you are today. Maybe you are still sitting in the desert in the dust. Maybe you are filled with anger and doubts. Maybe you are running from God, from others. My encouragement to you today is to keep going. Keep pushing. Keep fighting. Keep hoping. Keep getting up in the pain. Keep seeking.

God is not a God who leaves his children on this cosmic hide and go seek game. His promise is this “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). 

I’ll leave you with the encouraging words from Danny Gokey’s song Haven’t Seen it Yet: 

He is moving with a love so deep
Hallelujah for the victory
Good things are coming even when we can’t see
We can’t see it yet, but we believe that
He is moving with a love so deep
Hallelujah for the victory
Good things are coming even when we can’t see
We can’t see it yet, but we believe that

It’s like the brightest sunrise
Waiting on the other side of the darkest night
Don’t ever lose hope, hold on and believe (don’t ever lose hope)
Maybe you just haven’t seen it, just haven’t seen it yet
You’re closer than you think you are (yes, you are)
Only moments from the break of dawn (Oh)
All His promises are just up ahead
Maybe you just haven’t seen it, just haven’t seen it yet (oh)
Maybe you just haven’t seen it, just haven’t seen it yet (oh)
(You gotta hold on, hold on)
Maybe you just haven’t seen it, just haven’t seen it yet (oh)  (Lyrics taken from Songwriters: Colby Wedgeworth / Ethan Hulse / Danny Gokey Haven’t Seen It Yet lyrics © Essential Music Publishing)

Hold onto the hope that Jesus is with you even in the darkest of places, and that even today, you are closer than you think you are to breakthrough and true life. Hold on.

Image result for looking out over the horizon

Picture taken from: https://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/2017/11/17/7-questions-to-help-connect-us-to-our-truth-and-integrity

Blessings.

Where can I go from Your Presence?

We live in an image management society. We want people to know us, but we also want to control what people know about us. We’re one way at work, but another way at home. We’re one way at church, but then we have our secret habits in our social lives. We a lot of times are split and torn between who we are, and how we present ourselves to others. We know what parts of our lives to share and to hide. We do this though with God too. We think He doesn’t know what we are doing in secret, but the fact is that He does. As the Psalmist David puts it “Where can I go from Your presence?” The answer? Nowhere.

In my life, I like to present myself as someone who has it together. No, I’m not perfect, but I usually don’t let people into the darkest places of my soul, other than my therapist and mentor.

I want people to view me in a certain way. So when I’m healthy, I’m around. I’m talking. I’m joyous. I’m cracking jokes.

When I’m not okay though, I just disappear. I don’t want people to see me at my worst. I’m supposed to be someone who is a leader and someone who encourages. Those times when I feel like I can’t be those things, I disappear. Because I want to have something to offer. I want to be someone that people can lean on and turn to and be encouraged by, and I know that when I’m struggling in sin or cravings that I can’t be that person.

So I disappear. I stop going to small groups. Support groups. Church. I run to the unhealthy things, even though it brings me great fear and anguish, instead of running to the light because I don’t want people to see me in my messiness.

The dis reality that I live in even extends to my relationship with God. I act like He doesn’t know. That as long as I don’t acknowledge what is going on then I can just keep doing it, even though I feel extremely guilty.

God though constantly reminds me though of this: Because you are mine, I’m not going to let you go. I’m going to blow up whatever bridges or openings you have to your cravings, and even when you head down certain roads, I’m going to make it extremely difficult for you to get to where you think you want to go. The truth of life is that I have great plans for you, even as you try to derail what I have planned with your own reckless abandon. You are mine and I got you. Stop fighting against me. 

It’s kind of frustrating, especially to my sinful flesh, that God won’t let me go. Like in those moments, when all I crave is sin and death, and God just stops me, it drives me insane. It’s also super encouraging though to my true self. To Joseph. That even when I’m at my worst, and even when I’m not at all seeking God or His truth, there is nothing that I can do to ruin His plans for my life, nor anything that I can do that will take me from His hands.

At times, I want to. I want to ruin my life and his plans because of my own short sighted-ness. Not that I really want to deliberately ruin my life, but in those moments of intense cravings, I desire the ungodly things over the Godly. The impure over the pure. I see the thing, the action, the desire as more beautiful than Jesus and who I am in Him in those moments.

Thank goodness that He doesn’t let go of me in those moments. He doesn’t let me ruin the good things in my life. I mean, yeah, there are consequences to my actions, but only what happens, is what He allows. Nothing happens outside of His presence, knowledge, or control.

David writes about this reality of God’s all knowing Presence in Psalm 139.

139 Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.

 

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

 

13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

So according to David, God:

  • Has searched Him and known Him
  • Knows when he sits down and when he stands up
  • Discerns his thoughts from afar
  • Searches out his path and his lying down
  • Is Acquainted with all his ways
  • Knows David’s words before he even utters them
  • Is with David, before and behind, and His hand is on Him
  • Is with David wherever He goes (Heaven, Sheol, the sky, the depths of the ocean)
  • Is with David in the darkness and in the light
  • Formed David’s inward parts
  • Knitted him together in his mother’s womb
  • Knew David’s frame as he was made in secret
  • Saw David’s unformed substance
  • Wrote every one of David’s days in his book.

This is the deepest place of knowing. Knowing so deep that it goes beyond even our understanding, and our only response should mirror David’s “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”

David was so blown away by this reality of God’s knowing Him that He couldn’t even wrap His mind around it. It was way too much for Him to even comprehend. Instead of trying to figure it out, He just worshiped.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
    I awake, and I am still with you.

19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
    O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent;
    your enemies take your name in vain.[b]
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
    And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred;
    I count them my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts![c]
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting![d]

David acknowledges God’s greatness and otherness, and then asks him for help. Help him to deal with his enemies, and help him to know the intentions of his heart. Help him see if there is any grievous way in him, and lead him in the way everlasting.

In summation, God knows you and me, and nothing we do is hidden from Him. Whether we are in the mountaintops in life, He is there. Whether we are in the valleys, He is there. Whether in the confusion and the chaos, the ripping and the tearing, He is there. He is with us.

That is such an encouraging thing to me. To know that even when I can’t or won’t let others into my mess, that God is not fooled or unaware. He knows me, fully. When I lie down, and when I stand up. When I’m healthy, and when I’m obsessed. When I’m tired, and when I’m rested. When I’m frustrated, and when I’m joyful. When I’m down, and when I’m up. When I’m hopeful and when I’m hopeless. When I’m hiding, and when I’m open. He knows it all.

I don’t know where you are at today. You may be in a valley, or on a mountain top, or sitting down in a crook in the side of the mountain. Know that God knows and is with you there. All you have to do is acknowledge Him, worship Him, and ask Him for what you need.

Image result for where can i go from your presence

Picture taken from: https://pastorfrankbailey.net/category/psalms/psalm-139/

Blessings.

Awe and Wonder

We live in a culture and world that is desensitized to majesty. True majesty. We worship things that are a lot of times not worthy of our worship. Careers. People. Sports. Money. In turn, we miss out on the reality of worshiping and adoring God. He is the one who is most majestic. If we ever hope to be the people that God wants us to be, we must return to those who awe and wonder at the glorious and infinite nature of our Creator God.

When I was saved seven years ago, I was in a really dark place, so dark that I didn’t know if I’d ever come out. I needed somebody to come get me. Someone did. Jesus. He pursued me, and rescued me from the darkness that encircled my life. In turn, I worshiped. I adored. I surrendered.

When I surrendered, it was just me and God, January 6th. Me and God on a half made bed in an empty room. I didn’t know how to tell anyone what had happened, or even if they would believe me if I did. I had been the boy who had claimed Christianity and been baptized too many times. This time was actually real though.

In the silence, in the stillness of my bed room, I would meet with God every morning. I would open His Word and be amazed by what I was reading. I had been in church most of my life, but this was the first time I was really coming face to face with the Almighty God.

He was speaking to me. Everyday. Breaking misconceptions and lies that I had had been told and believed about Him.

I had life. For the first time really ever. I mean I was physically alive and breathing, but for the longest time, I had been seeing in black and white spiritually. Now the world was in color. It was alive. There was hope and excitement and joy and I was just on this journey with God.

I remember going to church on Sundays, and every time on my way there it was like walking past my past. Seeing the darkness of my past, but then heading towards the light. I would head into church and just worship.

After being numbed to life for so long, I finally felt everything. I would be on my face in the back of the church service just weeping and thanking God for saving a wretch like me. I felt totally unworthy.

I remember going to work, and instead of going there for myself, I went there for others, and I expected God to work. I went in there expecting him to do great things, and He did.

I remember He showed up wherever I went in just crazy ways. Providing things that I didn’t have to give. Words that weren’t mine, and understandings that were far beyond my years.

I remember just wanting constantly to worship. Like wherever I was, whether it be in a car, or a conversation, I just remember wanting to worship. I would go out into nature with my camera, iPod, and sometimes Bible and just take pictures and just reflect on who God was.

I would just go catch sunrises and sunsets because these things became so real to me. They were a real depiction of the Glorious Nature of my Father God. I remember just going even earlier than the sun was up, and just sitting with God in the darkness, and just praying and listening to music.

Now I say all this, not to be arrogant or boastful, but to remember the time when I had awe and wonder in God. I struggle with that now. I struggle to be awed by God because I’m used to God. He’s no longer this new being that I’m just now getting to know.

I struggle to wonder now because I am desensitized to the glory and majesty of Christ. I’m busy now. I’m distracted now. I’ve put my confidence in other things now.

I say this all with regret because I truly miss what I had with Jesus. I have found that whatever I hope in outside of Jesus falls short. That nothing fills me with the awe and wonder that He once did.

I want to get back. Back to my first love. Back to the place where I awed and wondered in Christ. Where every day I would wake up, and it would be a new day, a new day to worship Christ, and make Him known. I want to get back to the place where I not only knew that I needed Jesus, but also wanted to be around Him, and it was a joy, and a pleasure to speak with Him, to hear from Him, to sit with Him.

I want to get back to hanging on every word of His, and obeying it immediately, and without question. I want to return to worshiping Him for He is worthy of all our worship. I want to be awed by a sunrise, and blown away by a sunset. I want to expect God to show up wherever I am once more. I want to dare to dream that what God has planned for me is far greater than what I have for myself.

This is what I desire. That God would break down the hardness and desensitization of my heart, and that once more I would see everything outside of Him as less than. That I would strive to once more be the one who communes with God, and the one who loves God wholeheartedly, not complacent, or indifferent to His callings.

I want to once have awe and wonder in the One who has given me all things in Christ. He alone is worthy of the title of Majesty.

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Picture taken from: https://marcusjborg.org/awe-and-wonder-here-and-now-issue-10-seeing-jesus-through-a-21st-century-lens/

Blessings.

In The Middle of Our End Game

We can never truly appreciate the end without the middle. The place where life just seems to stand still. Where we wonder how to move forward, but the loss, the pain, the frustrations, are still so recent and new. We sit there, head in our hands, asking why. Why did this happen to me? Why did I have to be the one who went through this? Why did I have to be the one who lost my job? My house? My loved one? We sit there, wanting to move forward, but honestly we are lost on the how to. We must appreciate this middle place though. The place where the world seems to be on hold. The place where our dreams seem to distant and unachievable. It is here in the middle place, in the place of suffering, that sometimes we must sit. For in sitting in the suffering, in enduring the pain, once we do come out of this season, break our addictions, learn to cope in healthy ways, we will truly be able to appreciate the ending to our story. The consummation of the promises that Jesus offers for us. Our End Game.

Last night me, my brother, and his friend went and saw the new Marvel’s Avengers End Game. In short, it was INCREDIBLE. One of the best movies I have ever seen.

If you aren’t familiar with the series, let me give you a little bit of a recap. In the last Marvel Avengers movie Infinity War, the Avengers had failed to stop Thanos (the villain) from wiping out half the planet with one snap of his fingers after he had collected all the infinity stones.

Endgame begins in this post apocalyptic world following this event. With half the planet now gone, things are very different. Streets are empty. People are scattered. Destruction is rampant. The world has been turned upside down.

There is a scene in the movie that really encapsulates this time of loss. Captain America and about six other people are meeting together in sort of a support group. They are going around and sharing about what it has been like since their losses. You can feel the tension. The hurt. The feeling of what are we supposed to do now. What is the point anymore? This was the collective question reverberating throughout the sparsely filled room.

I think at some point or another, we all find ourselves here. In this place of loss. Confusion. Numbness. Where we know we have to move forward but we are unable to for one reason or the other. We all cope with this place in different ways.

In the movie, we find each character dealing with their loss in one way or another. Some have moved on and almost forgotten the life that was, such as Iron Man, who has a wife and daughter now, and has moved out into the countryside. Captain America has continued to try to be strong for others but deep down, he is lost. Black Widow tries to distract herself with work, but at the end of the scene, she breaks down crying. Hawk-eye becomes an international assassin who wreaks havoc. We have Thor, who is overcome with guilt of having the powers of a god, but still being unable to save the planet from the ultimate destruction. He blames himself. So he numbs himself by drinking excessively.

I’m not gonna lie, this part of the movie was pretty slow. I kept thinking can we just get on with the good stuff? I’m tired of being here in the middle.

As the movie progresses, we see a character, Ant Man, who had been seemingly lost in the quantum realm, only to return miraculously. He offers our downtrodden heroes some hope. That this fate that they find themselves in is not the end. The team, under the guise of Iron Man, and the Hulk, construct a device that allows the team to go back in time to retrieve the infinity stones, and bring back their friends.

Along the way, their efforts are met with resistance. Resistance first from each other, then by the evil forces and time. They experience more loss. Pain. Injuries. Even up until the last scene, they are fighting Thanos with all they have, trying to pull the infinity stone ridden glove from his hand. Trying to stop him from still winning.

Finally, just when you think the Avengers have once again lost, Iron Man ends up with the infinity stones. He snaps his fingers and the enemies disappear.

As I left, I was spent, not only from sitting in the theater for over three hours, but also because that movie took me on a roller coaster ride of emotion. You got to truly experience and feel the pain of loss that the characters felt, but then the overwhelming joy when all was restored.

God began to speak to me in a really simple way as I left the theater. The thought He gave me was this: You can’t truly appreciate the end without experiencing the agony of the middle.

Even though the beginning of the movie was slow, and didn’t seem like it would end, it was setting the stage for the glorious revival of those who had been lost. Without seeing and feeling the agony of those left behind, we would not have been able to truly appreciate all that came with the return of those who had been lost.

Thus it is with our lives. The middle of our stories seem long, boring, tedious, and unnecessary. They are filled with pain. Questions. Doubts. Confusions. We don’t see where we are going in the middle of our stories. God does though. He sees our End Game. He knows that even here in this middle place, that there is a lot to learn, and to be appreciative of. It is here in the hard times that we learn who we are and whose we are.

So today, if you are in a middle place, be thankful for where you are. I know it’s tough. I’m here too. It’s good to be here though. God is growing us here in the place where our dreams seem to be on hold, and life seems to be at a standstill. He is doing a work in each and every one of us, and this work one day will be consummated through Christ.

It will be on that day, that we will see how worth it it was to experience the pain that we’ve experienced, the loss that we’ve felt, and the hardships that we’ve faced. In the middle places, we will be able to look back and see God’s guiding hand pushing us forward, cleaning us up, and making us stronger. Our End Game is coming. Take joy in the middle places. For the pain of the middle makes the joy of the end so much more glorious and sweeter.

Image result for End Game
Picture taken from: https://variety.com/2019/film/reviews/avengers-endgame-review-marvel-cinematic-universe-1203196048/

Blessings.






Be Where You Are

Friend, the greatest advice I can give to you, is to be where you are. To be fully where you are. Right here. Right now. Maybe you don’t want to be right here and right now where you are at, but it’s no mistake that you are here. You are here because God has you here. Whether it be in the valleys, or the mountain tops, or even the in between nooks in the mountain slope, this place where you are has purpose. It has purpose because God is very intentional in all of his planning for His children. It’s purposeful for God wastes nothing in our lives. The place where you are at, you maybe thought you’d never be here. You may have thought that by this time in your life that you’d be farther down the road, kicked that bad habit, conquered that demon, gotten that promotion. It doesn’t mean your a failure because you haven’t yet, it just means it’s not God’s time yet. There is more for you to learn here, where you are. There is more to learn about yourself and Him where you are. There are people where you are. People that need Jesus. People that you may have no clue how to even relate to, but God brought you here, to be an encouragement, to show compassion, to spread the gospel to those who are living in the darkness. You may want to minister to another group of people, but God has you here. He has you here for a time such as this. He has equipped you to be here. Wherever it is that you are. He has provided what you need here. So be here. Where you are. He has placed people to encourage you where you are. Maybe there are only one or two of them, but they are still there. Encouraging. Cheering on. Helping you to be where you are at with God. The most important thing is that God is here with you, where you are. He has not left you alone to your struggles, to your disappointments, to your frustrations. He sees them, and He knows them, but He has you here for your good. So be here. Be content here. Wherever you are, have joy. Be patient. Look for opportunities. You may not like everything about where you are, but you can still be thankful that God has you where you are. So be. Be where you are. For where you are is where you are supposed to be. Let God move in and through you, where you are. Meet with God where you are. In the doubts. The confusions. The chaos. Talk with him. Talk with others. And don’t whine. As a wise man once said to me, “Great things never come easy.”

Shout-out to my Gamecocks and Shi Smith! Took this picture at the Carolina Spring Game.

Blessings.

Hoping In What Is Not Seen

Hope. What is hope? It’s a belief that good will come. That rescue will occur. That things will get better. Hope keeps us going. Without hope, we have nothing. We have nothing to hold onto. Cling to. Live for. If we have no hope that one day things will get better, that things will change, what’s the point? What’s the point of the Christian life if we have no hope? Hope in Jesus is what keeps us going. We are hoping in the unseen. And this hope keeps us afloat.

Life is a struggle. Some days (most days) I find it hard to get out of bed. I’m exhausted. I’m weary. My anxieties race through my mind as soon as my feet hit the floor. It’s a battle.

Even in the midst of my sins though, in the midst of my weariness, and exhaustion, and pain, I have hope. I have hope that one day things will get better.

Some days this is very evident. Others it’s just a blip on the radar, but that hope continues. It continues because my hope is not in myself because I know that I am weak and unable. My hope is not in my future, in my job, in my skills, or my abilities, even though constantly I am tempted to put my hope in external limited things.

No, when it comes down to it, my hope is in Jesus. The one I can’t see. The one I pray prayers to and wonder if He is listening. My hope is in the one I worship, but fail to obey consistently. My hope is in Jesus.

I hope imperfectly but I still have hope. I have hope that one day, if I continue to hold onto Jesus, that things will get better. I have hope that even when I struggle to hold onto Him, that He has a got a hold of me. I have hope that all of the things in my life that Jesus is using for good. Even as I write that sentence right there, I have doubts in my flesh and my mind. It’s true though. All the things that are occurring right now in yours and my life, they are for our good. Even our own mess-ups and failures, God is using those to remind us how good we are on our own, which is not very good.

Paul writes in Romans 8:18-25:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 2But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

I don’t know about you but this verse is difficult for me. I don’t know how Paul can say that the sufferings of this time are not worth comparing to what is coming. Because I feel them daily. I feel and experience these sufferings daily. I see my own sinfulness and my own hypocrisy and it literally cuts to my core. How Paul? How can you say that what we face now is not even worth comparing to what is coming? How??

Because he had hope in the fullness of the story of the gospel. That even though us and this world have been subjected to sin, and we groan all together inwardly, we have hope. We have hope because Jesus came to earth, and lived the sinless life, and died a perfect death, to atone for yours and my sins, both now and forever. Therefore, we have been given access once more to a relationship with God our Father, and we have been adopted.

Yes, we still live in this sinful world, and have sinful bodies, but God is renewing us. We have the first fruits. We have been given a taste of what is to come, and it is magnificent.

THIS. THIS is the hope in which we were saved. That one day all creation, us included, will be fully set free from these sinful bodies that nag and pull us towards sin now. We will be fully adopted as sons and daughters of Christ. This is what we wait for. This is what we hope in.

The struggle will not define us forever. This earth is just the beginning. Eternal life. Whole life awaits us.

So what do we do in the already, but not yet time period that we find ourselves in?

We wait for it with patience. We sit on the edge of our seats, eagerly longing for the day in which all will be made right. We live our lives now in the hope that the struggle that we find ourselves waking up with today, will not be the struggle that defines us forever. That and all struggles are coming to an end.

It’s hard to believe but they are. So as you look at yourself today, think about the hope that can’t see, but that you have. The hope that Jesus is changing and renewing your heart and mind constantly. And that this earth is only the beginning of your story.

Yours and my stories are so much bigger than our weariness. Our guilt. Our shames. Our failures. Our losses. Our disappointments. Our stories, if we know Christ, are those of hope. That one day, all things will be made new. Including us.

I will continue to hope. Hope in what I do not see, yet believe. Hope in the good, and the restoration that is coming. Hope in Jesus who has saved me. Even if I have to crawl towards hope, on my bloodied hands and knees every day, I will keep eagerly awaiting the day when I will cry no more tears. When I feel no more pain. When my body will not ache or be weary. When I will no longer have rampant unwanted thoughts or anxieties running through my mind. I eagerly await the day when I will collapse exhausted before the throne of Christ, giving all I had on the earth, and entering into the fullness of Jesus’s presence forever, as an adopted son of God.

Photo taken from: https://chrisguillebeau.com/tag/backpacking/

Blessings.

Consider Him

Life is difficult. Life is tiring. Life can become weary at times. Doing good, day after day. Being responsible day after day. You just get tired of it. You get tired of the fight. You get tired of holding on. You just want to give into all that is around you. In these times though that we have nothing, when we are at our lowest, when we are scraping the bottom, when we feel alone, abandoned, disappointed and hurt, there is hope. We must consider Jesus. This is the hope of Good Friday. That Jesus endured the suffering of men, and the wrath of God for our sins, so that we might live and be forgiven. So that we might endure to the end.

Easter always seems to be a difficult time for me spiritually. No matter what year, it always seems like I battle the most against my flesh around this time. This year hasn’t been much different.

It’s been a difficult week. I’ve been tired. Sick. Just feeling bombarded with anything and everything. I have felt weary. Weary of doing good. Weary of being good. Weary of living for Christ, and battling my flesh. Just weary all around.

In the middle of my weariness yesterday, I opened up my email, and I had a daily devotional from Desiring God. It hit me right where I was.

The devotion read:

Perhaps, as this Good Friday comes again, you have more reason than ever to be weary. Sin feels more tempting than ever, recent hardships leave you gasping for air, a loved one is beholding the scarred hands of the Savior this year face-to-face. Such is a time to “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:3). How do we not grow weary? We consider his suffering

In his latest article, Marshall Segal invites us to do just that Consider him whom “murderers stalked before he could walk.” Consider him whose “shoulders bore sin he never knew.” And consider him who, “with pierced hands and collapsing lungs, gripped Psalm 22.” Consider him, that you might not grow weary or fainthearted.

And as we consider how Jesus endured the greatest suffering anyone will ever know, consider also how he prayed. We will not persevere in our trials without prayer. Jesus knew this, and prayed loud prayers in the garden, several prayers in the garden, the greatest prayer in the garden as angels attended to him and his Father answered him.

Greg Morse
Staff writer

Reading this was such a good reminder that I wasn’t alone here in the weariness. That Jesus had faced the ultimate weariness. The ultimate abandonedness. The ultimate humiliation. The ultimate pain. The ultimate sacrifice.

He didn’t want to go through with this so much, that he sweat drops of blood. In his faithfulness though, in His love for us, He endured. Not His will, but His Father’s would be done. He was faithful. To the end. So that we might live.

It’s because of his perfect life, and perfect sacrifice, and faithful endurance, and atoning for our sins, that we can endure as well.

Considering Him who endured all for us helps me to put perspective on my life, and on my struggles. Yes, I struggle, but as Hebrews 12:4 says “you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

He was just as human as I am. He was just as tired. Just as weary. Just as tempted. Just as bombarded. Just as abandoned. Yet, he was sinless. He was perfect. He endured.

This Good Friday, I urge you to Consider Him. Consider the crown of thorns that lodged into his scalp, the mocking he faced, the people who spit upon him, and gambled over his clothes, the soldier’s spear that pierced his side, the loss he endured, the nails that pierced his hands, the disciples who denied him and ran. Consider that He endured all this, for us. For you. For me. To cleanse us. To heal us. To make us whole.

He was innocent. He did no wrong, but like a sheep lead to the slaughter, He took it all. He took all the injustice, the hate, the sins, of the entire world, the wrath of God, and He bore those on the cross in a public mocking spectacle. Consider Him who loved you so much that He put Himself in the way of God’s wrath to save you from it. Consider Him.

Wherever we are at this Easter, may we consider Jesus. Whether in our joy, or our weariness. Our hope, or disappointments. Our strength, and weakness. May we look to the cross to be reminded of the one who endured all things so that we may live and endure as well.

May we not grow weary or fainthearted in our own lives, but may the example and sacrifice of Jesus push us forward to continue to live Christ centered lives. May we love well, serve others, die to ourselves, and may Christ’s Kingdom come on earth as it is heaven. May we consider Him daily, that daily we may not lose heart.

Picture taken from: http://www.thetruthofjudgmentday.com/the-power-of-the-cross/

Blessings.

Dependent on Jesus

Dependency. The notion in our culture portrays weakness. Like a parent that puts a child as their “dependent” on their tax form. Or the elderly man or woman who is put in a nursing home, or has a caretaker. We cherish our independence as people. We want to live our lives as we see fit. Make the choices we want to make. We don’t want anyone to tell us what to do. We are prideful people that rarely submit. We scoff at the idea that strong or put together people need anyone or anything. The reality is though that we do. We need Jesus. Even those of us that have it all together.

I remember before Jesus saved my life seven years ago, I was a mess. I was depressed. Angry. Obsessed. Numbed out. Selfish. Not well spoken. Unfocused. And on and on I could go. I was in one word, weak.

I remember doing a public speaking presentation in front of my freshmen class in college. I was supposed to get up and do a presentation on how to play tennis. As I stood behind the podium, I remember my knees shook, my lips quivered, my eyes teared up, and my words stumbled. I hated public speaking.

Things changed on January 6th, 2012 when Jesus showed up and changed my life. He showed me who I truly was. He restored me. He brought me hope and peace and life. He broke down the walls that were around my heart. He healed me.

Along with that healing, he gave me opportunities. Opportunities to share with those around me what Jesus had done in my life. Lots and lots of opportunities with many people.

Over the last seven years, Jesus has taken me from a person that was nervous, shy, not good with people, not well spoken, not confident, to someone who is completely different.

I now have an undergraduate in Christian Studies from North Greenville University. I have completed six graduate level classes with a 3.7 GPA from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville Kentucky. I have led small groups. I have taught many lessons. I have preached sermons in front of hundreds of people. I have discipled many people. I have led people to Christ. I was a youth pastor. I was a youth ministry intern at one of the biggest churches in my area. I’ve been on countless mission trips. I have had great success in my jobs, been promoted, and been the best at most of what I have attempted. I have accomplished a lot. I have an impressive resume so to speak. I now talk to hundreds of people daily as an admissions counselor for a major university. I have come a long way.

And that’s been my problem.

Uneducated, unhappy, unproven baby Christian Joseph understood his need for Jesus. Really though up until recently I had forgotten that all I am now, all I have accomplished, the man that I have become, was all due to Jesus.

I didn’t pull myself up by my boot straps to get to where I am. I clung to Jesus. I depended on Him. Once I got educated, well spoken, good with people, I didn’t depend on Jesus anymore like I once did. I didn’t cling to Scriptures, or worship Him like He deserved, because I was “good” now. I didn’t need Jesus anymore because He had fixed my problems, He had restored me, and now ministry was my god, my skills brought about arrogance, and I didn’t even recognize the sins that were standing at my door ready to devour me.

The last couple years have been extremely humbling. I have fallen from great heights. I am no longer in vocational ministry. I am no longer teaching and speaking to hundreds of people each week about Jesus. It’s been frustrating, angering, and it has brought up so much from my past. It has brought up many insecurities, fears, and I have felt the losses heavily.

This season has been exactly what I’ve needed though. To be reminded that I didn’t get here on my own, that I was brought here by Jesus. To realize that even now, even as I’ve been equipped, and trained, and skilled, that I am still in great need of Jesus. I am dependent on Him. I am desperate for Him. To change me. To lead me. To guide me. Because I’ve seen what life can be when I’m left up to my own devices and my own plans.

These last two years have taught me and are teaching me that without Jesus, we are all weak. He is the one that makes us strong. He is the one who gives us joy. He is the one who skills us and gifts us. I am nothing without Him. And I am realizing this more and more and more each and every day.

I love how the Apostle Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 11:30.

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”

This verse comes right after Paul calls out those who would prop themselves up on their accolades and good works. He bluntly states that He has more accomplishments and has suffered more for the Gospel than they have or probably ever will.

These accomplishments though are not what he boasts in. Even though, Paul had accomplished a lot and led many and discipled many, he did not boast in this. He boasted in Christ because he knew that outside of Christ, none of these things were possible.

So I today boast not in my education, my well spokenness, my confidence, my people skills, my teaching ability, my resume, my accomplishments, or my stories. I recognize that outside of Christ, I have none of these things, and so my joy, and my life, they don’t come from what I can or can’t do. They come from being known and loved by Jesus. It comes from knowing that everyday, even as this skilled and well known person that I am, that I still desperately need Jesus, and will always need Him.

Today, whether you are weak, or whether you are strong and put together, I pray that like myself you will see that you are in desperate need of Jesus. That He is the only one who can hold you and love you and keep you together. He is the only one you can depend on in this life and the next.

Let us all today recognize with joy our need for Jesus and may we cling to Him more and more each and every day as He completes the work in our lives that He has begun.

Blessings.