Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Adversary

Hi everyone! I come to you tonight via blogger to share vital information about this war we are in. We, as followers of Christ, are in a war. This is not a physical war for the most part, although sometimes it can be; no-no, this is spiritual. When Satan was kicked out of the Kingdom he took with him some friend-angels who also decided to revolt against God. When Satan fell he was condemned to death (spiritual: separation from God)and an eternity in hell. I am convinced, dear friends, that Satan is hell-bent (pardon the pun) on bringing us all down with him.

The Bible describes our enemy in various ways. In the book of Job whenever Satan approaches God he is called by his name, Satan, but the original Hebrew calls him The Adversary. Peter describes him in 1 Peter as a prowling lion looking for anyone to devour. Our Father says of him that he crouches at our door and that his desire is to have us. (Genesis 4)Our enemy is cunning, he is tireless-he never rests. Just as our loving Father, Satan never sleeps nor slumbers and his task is to destroy us-to steal, kill and destroy (John 10).

This Wednesday (Dec. 21st) I was given an amazing opportunity by my Father to speak the Good News of Jesus Christ of Nazareth to a group of middle school and high school kids. I was eager when I got the text about a month earlier inviting me to do this, and I began to pray and think about what I would say that night, but I never thought to pray for protection for myself.

In the two weeks leading up to the sermon I experienced some major spiritual attacks and they came in many forms. The foremost of these attacks were in feelings of laziness and grogginess. I have never experienced such exhaustion as I did the weeks leading up to my sermon. It seemed the more I prayed for strength and that the Gospel would be received, the more I became lazy. I had no desire to think about the sermon, to pray, to spend time with the Lord. I didn't want to study for finals at school nor did I care to spend quality time with anyone that mattered to me. All I wanted to do was put on my pj's and sit in front of the TV all day and night.

Now, I have definitely experienced some of these days prior to this and I have always written it off as human nature. It's normal to feel lazy, right? Well, Biblically speaking- no, it's not. In Proverbs chapter 6 the Spirit prompted our author to write these words:

9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
11 and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.

The Spirit uses words like sluggard to describe a lazy person. He describes this person as being poor, grasping for resources and exhausted. This person sleeps all the time and gets nothing done. Folks, I can say with confidence that being lazy is not acceptable-although human it may be. Yes, at the fall we became natural born sinners, so it is in our nature to be lazy-but that's no reason not to fight it. I digress...

This was the first form of attack I experienced-laziness. After this came cranky attitudes (Jess can attest to this) a frustrated spirit, sleepless nights and a discouraged heart. I didn't realize it as attack until I spent more diligent time in the Word. My Father announced to me that I was being taken hold of by the enemy and blaming it on myself. I was cursing myself and my own attitude because I should be doing so much better. Thanks be to God for reminding me that we are in a war and that the Adversary wants to steal my heart.

This is how our enemy works. He uses our own weakness- a proneness to laziness or to overindulgence of rest, a broken heart from previous wounds- to make us feel and believe that we are worthless and that we should just quit on life. Thankfully my Savior Jesus gave me encouraging words as I continued to pray against attack and spend time in His Word.

The night of the sermon time flew by. I prayed all day before and the afternoon leading up to the talk and when I gave the talk I lost track of time. The Spirit took hold of me (as I gave Him permission to do) and spoke to those students. At the end of the message I gave an altar call and three kids rededicated their lives to Christ that night! AMEN!

After all was said and done I spoke with my mother and girlfriend who told me their thoughts on my sermon. "It was wonderful!" they said. "You are so talented! I'm so proud of you!" Then came my question, "Honestly, how did I do?" I should know myself better than this. I was exhausted from weeks of praying and praying for the night and for the students. I was spiritually drained from speaking the Word against the onslaught of my fiery enemy and I knew that I wasn't going to be able to handle any criticism in that moment. Later, yes, but not then. Like a fool I asked my family and friends to be honest and they were. "You spoke really fast" they said. "The message wasn't fit for this audience" they replied. "Maybe you should have given this sermon on a different night".

All of this is good feedback and for those reading, please understand that these people love me and I respect their opinions and thoughts more than ever. In that moment, however, I was weak and too tired to think. The enemy, the Adversary, took that opportunity to tell me of my lack of worth. He used my weakness to tell me that what my friends were really saying was that I gave a terrible sermon, that no one heard the Good Word, and that I shouldn't have even come.

Satan has a way of twisting people around in my heart and making them against me. He sets my heart toward sadness and depression for his own gain because he loves to see me suffer; and I was too weak to fight it. I was too stubborn to listen to my Father say "Jacob, you're tired, don't ask that question" (Which, by the way, I heard Him say) The enemy went crazy all over me. He tore me to shreds and by the end of the night I really hated myself. I would hear no encouraging words from my love, Jess, my mother or even my Father. I was frustrated and exhausted and I just wanted to sleep and cry.

Our enemy is a snake. He is seedy and desires to hurt us in our weakest moments. He took my weakness in that moment and turned me against everyone that I love, so much so that I became angry with them all. Fortunately for all of us this is not how the story ends. My girlfriend Jess is a sweetheart and would not let me beat myself up. She told me the truth over and over again, making sure that I knew how well I did and that the kids heard my message. My mom told me that I am a powerful speaker and that my voice is strong and commands attention. Most importantly my Father said to me that I am dearly loved and that I did His work. The enemy did not win.

Even today I am healing from this fresh stab wound from the Adversary. Today I had to speak truth into my own soul so that I would rest in the hope of my Savior. God is so good, He gave me one last moment of encouragement. Just moments ago, as I was writing this blog, my love called me with some amazing news. She had met up with a friend and had the opportunity to share Jesus with him. She told me that during the conversation she used an illustration that I had used the previous night for the sermon and that her friend was blown away by it; she said that he really responded to the illustration.

Yes, maybe my sermon was a little mature for such a young audience and maybe a lot of them didn't get it. But truth be told, Jesus says this: " not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your father who speaks in you." (Matthew 10:19-20)

Our enemy is crafty, ruthless and wants our hearts. Our Savior is loving, kind, powerful and He WILL have us. Jesus offers us a wild opportunity to fight with Him in the battle for our souls. He warns us of our enemy so that we may have ammunition against him. This last week I experienced attack like I've never known, but my Father-my Glorious, my Glorious- got me through because we fought together. Sometimes we are too weak to fight for ourselves as I was last night, but He carried me through. He covered me with His shield of faith so that the flaming arrows of the enemy could not pierce me too deep. He protected my mouth so that I did not damage relationships with those I love. He carried me through this rough patch so that my faith in Him, in my blessed Father, would increase.

Please, when you are attacked fight. FIGHT the good fight! Our enemy will never rest because he hates us with all of his being, but we can win this fight against him with God on our side. Please spend time with Jesus every day. If you're not in the habit of daily time in the Word go for 3-4 times a week- 10 minutes. Jesus wants to be with you, He wants you to know Him as well as He knows you. He wants to fight with you, but you cannot fight a war without training and I can tell you both from experience and from the complete truth of the Scriptures that we train by spending time with Him in His Word. It's easy people, and our enemy makes it hard. Satan tells us that we really should get some extra sleep in the morning. Our Adversary tells us that watching Tebow score is much more valuable than our time with God. He puts things in our way so that we miss out on opportunities with our true love. Don't listen to him. Balance your life, but put Christ first, and everything else will be given you.

I love you and I long to see you fight well and win with our Father. Remain in Christ, and all will be yours.

In Him

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fullness in Christ

Wow it's been a while since I've posted. I think the last one was in June...? I'm not sure. I know it was that poem by Ayinde, but that's it. haha. I'm not sure who's out there reading this mess, but I find it rewarding to blog simply because it's a space to empty my mind.

A lot's gone on in my life since my last post, and to be completely honest in order for me to tell you everything it would take a looooooong time and a lot of typing; something I'm not up to at 3am. Why am I up this late anyways...

Regardless, something has been pressing lately. As you may recall, two summers ago I interned at a church I grew up in to do some preaching and a lot of learning. Well, almost a month ago one of my dear pastors sent me a text inviting me to preach the Gospel (the good news of Jesus) to the youth there this Wednesday! (Dec. 21) Boy howdy am I excited to do this! I definitely have a passion for speaking the Word of Truth to people, and I'm so thankful that God has granted me an opportunity to share His word with His children!

Since I'm up anyways, and this is on my mind, I figured I'd lay down a piece of what the sermon will be. Basically I want to center around Colossians 2:9-10 which, in the NKJV says "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him who is the head of all principality and power." What does this mean? That in Christ we have been given fullness-fullness of joy, fullness of life, fullness of hope. We are full. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians that we are new creatures (5:17) and he tells us this gem in Colossians.

Folks, this news, when properly considered, is ground breaking. I remember my high school years, and even my last year. haha. Things in this world certainly haven't changed. the world, including myself, fights for fullness. We fight to be accepted, to be loved, to live inspired lives-to be quoted by someone, anyone! We desire to be full. We are constantly seeking the next thing that we think will give us life. For many of us it's relationships. I know that was my filler. I was in a relationship from my sophomore year of high school to my sophomore year of college. Four years. Not that I regret any of it, but I know that I was trying to find who I was during those years, and a lot of what I found was buried deep within that relationship.

I wanted to know that I could do it. I wanted to know that in a relationship I could be the "man". I had to know that I could satisfy the needs of a woman, all the way from physical needs to emotional needs. Pardon me for the depth of information, but honesty is key here. In that relationship I learned a lot of things, but something I never grasped was that my life could never be complete EVEN IF I learned to satisfy ALL the needs of a woman! I am not designed to be complete from that type of relationship. Sure it may feel nice, it may be comforting and bring some peace-but fullness? No way Jose.

Women, I know it is not much different for you. You see, men desire to know that we CAN do things. We can satisfy our wives or girlfriends, we can do our jobs well, we can provide for those we love. We can buy Christmas gifts. This is something extremely deeply rooted in the heart of man-to know that we have what it takes. Women you aren't like this, are you? According to a woman I hold dear to my heart (my lovely girlfriend Jessica) women long to be desired; to know that you are worth pursuing. Woman ache to be loved deeply and in the heart. You long to know that you matter to someone, that you're beautiful, that your hard work and effort is not forgotten in a haze of extracurricular activities. On the surface these heart desires seem to differ-and they definitely do on the surface-but deep down they are both rooted in the same issue. Fullness.

Men seek fullness in relationships and ability just as women seek fullness in relationships and beauty. But Christ wants us to know that we ARE full in Him. When He died on that cross and rose three days later he not only gave us eternal life and the Holy Spirit to connect us with God forever. He gave us fullness. He gave us a sense of peace, of belonging. He showed us that we don't have to look for things anymore to fill us, that we have it in Him. Christ's image of us is not based upon what we do, how many relationships we have or how beautiful we are, because for Him we are beautiful, we do count, we have the ability. He has made us whole again. What was broken and lost in the fall has now been found in Christ and through His precious blood shed on the cross we can be full once again. We can now return to the foot of the cross missing nothing because we have been given fullness and completeness in Christ alone.

Folks, if nothing else is heard, please hear this: You are enough. Men you can do all the things that God puts before you to do because you have the abilities through Christ. You are whole. Women you are beautiful and worthy to be loved. Precious children, do not look for life in that which will only break and leave you empty, but look for life in the spring of Living Water, where you will never become dry, for He never dries up. With Him you will never dry up, you will never be found wanting, you will never lack because in Christ YOU ARE FULL!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Have you?

Look at where you are standing.

This is the place where seen and unseen are ordained to reconcile.
This dirt is sacred.

Right here, God spelled love in the dust with His fingertip,
remove your sandals in the presence of His signature
Look at where you are standing.

Preceded by the silence between testaments,
interrupted by fists slamming against cold altars,


And what words cannot express
when the architect of existence crawls about on infant legs
look at where you are standing.

This is the place where logic and paradox embrace.
Where Lord and suffering merge;
Right here, He determined to be broken.

Grace costs so much to be given so freely
and yet somehow we are considered worth the expense,
look at where you are standing.

Right here at the place
where he determined
to be broken.

~Ayinde Russell

Think about it. =)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Awesome God

Ah readers, what to say? It's been what, almost two months since my last post and God has been rockin my world! This summer has been an adventure my friends, and to try and put it all into words would be in vain. All I can say is this: Get away, Find some space, and meet your Lord! It's amazing!

So I'm doing this "internship" with Colorado Community Church to get my feet a little wet in the youth ministry field. I put it in quotes, because it's not really an internship. Right now, it's Wednesdays from 1pm-9pm, and Saturday/Sunday youth services if I'm available. It's really low key, but boy howdy have I been learning! We're reading this book called "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan. If you've never read it, DO. It's completely changed the way I view God and approach Him, it's re-vamped my love for Him and my understanding of His love for me. It's also helped me to look at how I spend myself during my vapor of an existence on earth.

Read Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 and you will find an impressive depiction of the One True God sitting on His throne! In Chan's book, he encourages you to read through these chapters and imagine approaching this throne. So imagine: You enter a room and the first thing you hear is the most glorious sound you've ever heard! Angels, often referred to as Seraphim in the Bible, are flying around, singing "Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty!!!" Look down, and you see a floor that looks like a sea of glass, almost crystal clear and perfect. You look up and you see fire, smoke, lightning. Every once in a while, thunder breaks out, drowning out the voices and joining in the unfathomable splendor in this room. Looking further up you gaze upon a man in a white robe, which flows through the whole chamber. His skin is like jewels, shining and shimmering, and He is booming in stature. This, my friends, is the throne room of God!

What would you do as you enter this room? What do you say? The song, "I can only imagine" pops into my head, because honestly, I HAVE NO CLUE!! When faced with majesty in full I can do nothing but fall down and say "thank you!". This is the Lord of all creation, and every time we say "Dear Lord" we are approaching this very same God! Have you thought about that? Seriously? Take a minute, close your eyes and picture yourself in this room, on this crystal floor, among the angels singing and gazing into the face of mercy! When I first read this description of God I had to get on my own knees and fall face forward and worship. It was all my soul could think to do!

But it doesn't end there my friends. This amazing, powerful, unfathomable God thinks that we're the bees knees!!! This God has reached out and touched our very lips with His own hand and told us to not fear! This God died for us! Wow! When I think about what Jesus actually did, the price He paid, the time He suffered, I feel so fuzzy (as lame as that sounds). Again, take a moment and think about what Jesus did. Francis told a story of a beautiful image of the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22) Imagine if you will, Jesus; scared out of His mind, on hands and knees, sweating blood, with a tear soaked face. This terrified Man is crying out to His Father, begging for release from the burden of death on a cross, if it is in His will. He begs and pleads! "Daddy! Please if you can!! Please release me! Please!!" God, the Father, looks into His only Son's eyes, and lovingly declines, knowing that the salvation of YOU is worth it! This Father looked into the eyes of distress, sorrow, pleading, fear and anguish and said "Jacob is more important!" or "Jess is more important!" Or "Josh is more important!" WE ARE WORTH IT!! If we were worth it for the Son of Man to die the way He did, what do we fear of our own worth?? He has redeemed us friends! The God who sits on the same throne described before calls us worthy!

So the question I have been asking myself is this: Do I get it? Do I understand who this God is? Am I truly serving a God who can move mountains, save lives, and love us with an everlasting love? Or am I serving a mediocre God who hopefully helps me pass my classes? Our God is amazing, unsearchable and indescribable! He promises so many unbelievable things, and do I believe them to be true? He says that we can drink poison and not be harmed. (Mark 16:17-18) Can you believe that? Or is the first thing that crosses your mind, "no way, I'd die. The bottle and my doctor and my mom and my friends say so." What about Jesus? He says we can do it! He says we can move mountains! He says that we will rise from the dead! He says that we will heal those who are sick! We can do all of these things in His mighty name! Do we act on His promise? Or do we believe that God isn't really this powerful God to whom the angels sing every second of every day!?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Love Everlasting

Howdy Y'all! It's been a while, I know, and for that I apologize. There's something about having nothing to do that makes you so lazy. Emptiness of schedule breeds laziness, and that has always proven to be true. I can't tell you how many amazing things the Lord has done for me in the last few weeks! I can't believe my last post was on the 19th! Wow! That was a while ago! Also, before I get cookin, I'm listening to a song by David Crowder Band called "You Are My Joy". If you haven't heard it, you should check it out. It's pretty much good stuff. :)

Summer tends to be the season of weddings, doesn't it? I've only been to one, but today I went to a reception for one, and I have friends who had already gone to three before I even had visited my first! Wowee! folks, that's five weddings within a month or two of each other. Wow. Weddings can be a very emotional time, good and bad. For those getting married, indescribable bliss. I can't even imagine the feeling of joy and excitement to be married. I went to my good friend Kyle's wedding last night, and as he watched his wife-to-be walk down the aisle it seemed as if it took all his strength to not weep for joy. He was experiencing an indescribable bliss. For others, the wedding season is just a reminder of loneliness or loss of love. I also cannot imagine the deep feeling of sorrow felt here, and I pray for restoration for those who experience it.

But now I do not come to discuss the varied emotions of wedding day. Tonight I write to you to share with you a profound truth that is often overlooked by men and women, married or single. As I have heard stories of wives walking down aisles and men dancing with their bride, I am reminded of God's purpose in marriage. I am reminded of the beautiful purpose we have for each other, man and women. Disclaimer: I am still maritally single, so if you wish to not listen to my words, please unplug your computer and walk away. If you wish to read on, read on!

Genesis 3 is a popular chapter of the Bible. It seems ironic that the chapter outlining the fall of mankind is studied quite so often, but so much can be learned from those words. In regards to the wife's relationship to man in the curse, God says "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." (Genesis 3:16) Friends, I do not believe that this was the original plan, and I have a few reasons to support this. First, this was part of the curse brought on by the eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God provided the punishment for his beloved breaking the rules, and this followed under that punishment. I would venture to say that it was not God's original plan to have man rule over woman, but for them to live in total unity and support. I believe that man was created, and woman was created to help him, but their individual strengths complemented the others' weaknesses and vice versa.

In questioning and pondering what the purpose of man and woman is, I discovered a foundational truth, and this is the main point I bring to the table. Man needs woman, and woman needs man. Proverbs 31:10-31 describes a virtuous wife. This woman is described as strong, honest, protective, providing, reverent of the Lord, and many other qualities. The first on this list, however, is "the heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life." (vv11-12) This virtuous woman has a husband. She makes him feel safe, she watches over him, and she treats him right. She cares for him in all her own individuality. The rest of this particular proverb does not go on to describe the woman being under the man, but her own individual qualities. This shows me that the woman, in all her individual splendor, works perfectly with the man to be a perfect woman.

Back to Genesis for a minute, we see in Genesis 2:18 that God says "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." Man was not created to be alone. Man cannot do what God has deemed him to do without the help of a woman at his side. God made him that way! Look at Titus 1:6-9. Paul once again outlines guidelines for living, but here are regulations for leadership over the church. What is the first thing? "If a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination..." We need our wives, and to be good husbands, in order to be good leaders! God made US that way!

Ephesians 5:22-28 is a popular section of Scripture to look over as men and women. Paul outlines the married life of believers as such: Women are to submit to their husbands as they submit to the Lord, and men are to treat their wives as Christ Himself treated the Church. Men are to sacrifice for, purify and nurture, spiritually and physically, their wives. Men, we are not here to be the dominators of our relationships. We are not here to be in full and total control, giving no say to our loves. Our wife completes us, our wife is our better half and she deserves to be treated as the Church was treated by Christ.

As I read through the Scriptures I do not find examples of Christ taking dominion over the church. Instead, He treated her like his prized jewel, His sacred treasure and His dearest love. The church needed Christ in order to survive, and Christ needed the church to further His ministry after His resurrection. They needed each other, and so do we, man and woman. Genesis explains it all in 2:24 "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."

As married man and woman, we are one flesh. We are inseparable, always to be a part of each other, always supporting and loving unconditionally. We are always one. As single men and women, we are beautiful in our individuality, and we can take that with us to our wedding day. We do not have to forsake what God has made us to be in order to please that other person. We are God's creation, made in His image, made to fit perfectly to one another. Until that day when we say "I do" Let us further ourselves toward purity and blamelessness, reaching to refine our impurities, totally relying on Christ to be our strength, and let us not forget that truth after our vows have been taken before the Lord. We need each other, man and woman, and the pair need Christ to be complete.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Testimony Time

Well, not much has happened in the last few days. Yesterday I didn't go on my bike ride due to some unseemly weather and a dash of laziness, so I knocked out three sets of push-ups in my front room and remained in my pj's for the rest of the day. Well, that's not entirely true, last night was the opening night of the summer Bible study I'm leading with some friends from school, but that was uneventful. Well, now that I opened that book, I guess I have to read from it.

I facilitate a small group bible study at UNC through the Navigators, and I absolutely love it! Leading the study has helped me grow, and learn how to teach the Word, and it's been a blast. Over the past two years I have learned that summer time can be the worst when it comes to spiritual backsliding, so I was determined to not let that happen. It just so happened that I had a few friends also living in my general area, and we decided to start up a small group! So last night we met for the first time and read over Colossians (the book we're studying) and prayed about it. The rest of the time was spent catching up and having a good time.

Side note, for all you b-study leaders/facilitators out there, thank you! It takes lots of effort and planning to put on a successful study, and it takes the help of a good mentor ALWAYS, so I appreciate you! You are helping others to grow in the knowledge of God and that is such a beautiful work that we need more of. Thank you.

Well, since there's not much to write about for now, I'll share my testimony with you. Just in case there's anyone reading who doesn't know what a testimony is, it's a story of someone's journey. Testimonies do not have to be religious, but when you hear the word "testimony" you typically think of a believer telling some awesome redemption story, am I right? Also, if you plan on writing or preparing your testimony, I strongly encourage it! For a believer this is our story, our reason for loving Jesus. A testimony can change a heart, or simply soften one. Well, here's my testimony, from the top!

My freshman year of college was an experience, to say the least. I drifted from my childhood roots as a Christian and experienced some of the, shall I say, darker things in life. As a young boy I was forced to go to church, always with good intentions, by my parents. Church for me was nothing more than a quick sermon and a trip to McD's for a double cheeseburger, no pickles and a coke! My religion was Christian, but I never really lived by it.

In my teens I was an avid member of the youth group, volunteering every week and even playing music with the band occasionally. I was being mentored by a pastor and was growing in my faith. Well, as the universe would have it, my mentor felt a call on his life to leave our campus and go to another church who was in search of a trustworthy youth pastor. Apparently they had been between pastors for some time, and the kids were getting discouraged. So he left to pursue God's call, and left me without a mentor.

The lead youth pastor had some different views on youth ministry, cutting out all musical worship from the services. Now as you have read before, I am a music man. I love it. So having a church service with no music was killer. So I gradually stopped going to the youth group, having lost a connection, and never pursued something more. My first year of college approached, and I couldn't have been more excited! I had not entire fallen away from my faith, always believing in Jesus and God, but never having a true relationship with Him. My girlfriend and I had promised each other that we would get into bible studies asap and grow in our faith, and she was stoked about it. I was going through the motions at this point, and it didn't mean much.

Even though I was not extremely excited to start church looking, my girlfriend and I sought out church after church, youth group after youth group, and came up with nothing. The enemy had a huge hold on my life, and was holding me back from enjoying anything the Lord had to show me. Now this was my fault too, because I went into the buildings with a mentality of "this is gonna suck", and that didn't help at all. I never stuck with a group and neither did my girlfriend, and my life began to spiral downwards. I never got into drinking or drugs like a lot of cliche college students. For me the struggle was purity, and self hatred.

Every day for me was a battle. I woke up every morning hating myself for my body, my face, my grades, my attitude, my actions toward my girlfriend, and anything else I could think of. You see, I knew in my heart that impurity would kill me in the end, and I hated it; but I was too weak to fight it, and part of me didn't even want to. My girlfriend and I continued to explore each other physically, avoiding sex, but not much else, and there was no outward concern. My friends, my life got to the point where I would be screaming and fighting with her one moment and the next I would be lying prostrate on the ground sobbing and asking for forgiveness. My life was in shambles, and I believe it was all because of a lack of a Lord in my life.

I remember one Thursday night my girlfriend told me that she wanted to check out the Navigators group on campus. We had already visited them and I had found some reason to not like them, so I was reluctant to go. But she poked and prodded and basically dragged me there. Something happened that night, something powerful and unexplainable, but my life was changed. I can't remember who was speaking, what they were speaking about, or who I was sitting next to, but the Lord opened my eyes to Him that night. I felt this unshakable sense of togetherness and love in that place. I felt accepted and even desired; it was strange. In my heart, I knew it was right. I knew that God was what I was missing.

After that night I joined a bible study and began my new journey toward Christ. Since then my life has been up and down. A common misconception with a believer of Christ is that we don't experience any sort of pain or hardship. LIES! I can tell you right now, my life has not been any cake walk, and I'm only 21! I know that my 40+ readers out there are laughing to themselves at the thought of a 21 year-old even thinking their life has been hard! What life? I'm too young to know! But the point remains that Christians are not exempt from the hardships of life.

But what is true of us, and I know I can speak for all of us, is that we are set free. Set free from sin. My life, at least my freshman semester of college, was consumed in lust, greed, self hatred, laziness and all sorts of unhealthy habits. These things controlled my life, and they ran me into the ground. The truth is, since my life has been rededicated to Christ I still experience these things, I'm still human. But the beauty is that Christ has set me free from my sin! Romans 6:23 says "for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord." Sin had taken over my life and was steering me down a wide open path toward destruction, but Jesus took my sin, destroyed it and carried me home to Him!

After my re dedication to Christ, one verse has helped me life freely. Romans 8:28 says "for we know that all things work for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose." Whenever I come across a situation such as my brother facing major jail time, or losing a job, or a girlfriend or a best friend, I ask why. Every time. I know I'm not alone. I know that's the first question on everyone's mind! Why? Why does this happen? What good comes of this? What the heck am I learning? Well here's my answer: It's all gonna work for good, and the good is YOU becoming like Jesus! (Romans 8:29)

Last year I did really poorly in school and lost my job as an RA. For the longest time I couldn't figure out why it happened. I thought that I had stepped in the way of God's plan and messed it all up. I didn't think there could possibly be an all for that one. Well, I moved into an apartment, learned how to budget, focused on school and got my job back! Was that an all? I think so!

My point is, for every situation, and every testimony you will find an all=all. The Lord works all for the good of His people, so trust in him. If there is any golden point to my testimony it's this: God is good, all the time. He never leaves us, He always has a plan, and it's always for good.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Trust in patience

Alrightey folks, here it is! The grand opening! My last entry was the title, and here starts the substance! Like I said, this blog is really just a journal of my days, so if you get bored, please stop reading. I don't want any bored followers! :)

Well today was a new day! It is Monday, the day that many dread. Mondays typically mean the start of work for the week, or school, or a new insane workout regime they just came up with. For me, it was the first Monday of summer, and the first Monday of rest. However, I do have plans for getting in shape this summer, so I didn't want to lay around all day (which I pretty much did anyways). I have a car, and I love my car, but driving around doesn't get much in shape except for my butt. So I've decided this summer that I'm gonna ride my bike everywhere unless I have to drive. Also, I love to frolf (frisbee golf), and I was unsure if there were any frolf courses in the Aurora area. So last night I googled "frolf in Aurora" and found a frolf course at Expo park! Woo Hoo! So I looked up the directions and it was 10 miles away! Wowee!!

I was thinking to myself, okay Jacob, summer just started, you're not ready for a ten mile bike ride. So I closed down google, and watched TV. Reminder: it was still Sunday, so it's okay for me to be lazy still. :)

As I mentioned, my brother is in a little trouble with the Law, and he is supposed to keep his head low. Well, I went downstairs to get something out of my room, and what did I find? My little brother doing something ILLEGAL! This is the kid that just got out of prison no more than 36 hours ago, and is doing illegal activities! I'm not gonna go into details, but boy howdy was I pissed. I already have this feeling that my brother has no care or consideration for anyone in my family who has cried and cared for him since the whole law mess started. So, I left. I was angry and needed to get out of the house. I grabbed my skateboard (which I barely use) and set off down the road. Fighting back tears, I began to scream at God.

"Why are you doing this? What is the big point here? I don't understand what this is working for good!!" I trust the Lord with all my heart, and that is why I was so upset. I felt that He was just allowing all of this junk to happen, and I couldn't figure out why! I asked Him if all truly does mean all, (Romans 8:28), then why is my brother hurting my family so much? What is the good that is to come??

I must have been outside for a solid hour screaming and fighting with God, and it felt good. Side note, can I just say how great it is that we have a God who is so open to our words? He sat there and listened to me wail about little things patiently, so that I could get it off my chest. I'm reminded of Job, how he was so angry with God, never lost faith, but was angry. He shouted and cried and was furious, and the Lord listened to his every cry until he was finished. Wow! That's cool! After my ranting and raving I was reminded of a man named Jacob from the Bible who literally wrestled with God, and I laughed out loud. I was living my name. haha!

Warp back to Monday. It's 9am, and I'm laying in bed trying to decide if I'm gonna go on that bike ride. I do my quiet time bible studies in the morning, and it was beautiful outside, so I figured I'd knock out two birds with one stone. I jumped in my shorts, threw my bandanna and glasses on, filled my water bottle, grabbed my bible and notebook and took off. There is this bike trail next to my house that runs almost 20 miles north if you take it all the way. I was not planning on doing this, but there are many parks scattered across the trail, and I planned to stop at one to do my QT and rest a bit.

3 miles later I pulled over into Horseshoe park, opened my Bible and began to read. In my conversation with God last night, I was considering turning my brother in. Horrible, right? How could anyone think to turn his own brother in? Well, here's why: He is rude, pretentious, uncaring for others, selfish, self centered, and shallow. He puts aside all of the time, money and effort my parents have put into keeping him out of prison just so that he can have his fun. So to be honest, I had good reason to turn him in. The Bible tells us that if someone sins against us, we should talk to him, and if he does not listen to you, talk to him with another person, and if he does not listen to you both, take him to the church. If he does not listen to the church, treat him as a tax collector and a heathen.(Matthew 18:15-17) Naturally, in my anger that is the first verse that came to mind last night, and I intended to spend my quiet time asking God what I was supposed to do as a follower of Christ.

I sat down and was reminded of a chapter in Romans that talks about obeying the law. Romans 13 discusses the importance of following the law because God has ordained every law to be set up as it is. He has placed every mayor, governor and president in his place, so to disobey them is to disobey God. I turned my Bible to Romans 13, and glazed over it. But instead of stopping at the end of Romans 13, I read on into Romans 14. Romans 14 is a whole different battle, and it really struck me this morning. I pulled out some key verses, and I would like to write them down to remember them. **I'm reading a New King James Version, so if it doesn't match up with your Bible, check your version and look it up online or something.** :)

Romans 14:10 "But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ."

14:12 "So then each of us shall give account of himself to God."

14:14 "I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean."

14:15b-17 "Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."

14:19 "Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and things by which one may edify another."

14:21 "It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak."

You know what I learned today? I learned that what my brother does is messed up, but it's messed up because I see it like that. Now, as a philosophy major, this is all I study: Perception. So if I perceive that him doing illegal things as wrong, they are indeed wrong. But I don't like that. To me, that smells like moral relativism. So what do I do in this situation? I realized that my brother is not doing things that edify, and that is wrong, but am I judging him? yes, I was at the moment. Am I the one making the final call on his life? No. Absolutely not. Jesus is Lord, not myself. So here is my conclusion: My brother will stand before God, just as I will. It is my job to encourage him to do the right thing and edify him. It is my job to lift him up and to trust that God Almighty is doing His job.

My quiet time today gave me such peace; knowing that God is in control is hard. I can't even tell you how many times I've learned this lesson. haha! Jesus is Lord, and He is doing His good work! Everything is innately good to Him, and I can't change that. He loves my brother just as much as He loves me. He will judge my brother just as He will judge me, so I can be peaceful knowing that I don't have to carry that burden.

The issue still remains of my parents. No matter how you spin it, they are hurting from my brother's actions, and I still don't think he gives two hoots. But I could be wrong. All I can do is pray that he will see the Lord in his time of deep need, and all I can do is pray that the Lord will guide him in the right path. It is my job to pursue peace, and to do the things that lift up my brother and brothers.

So am I healed of my angry passion? Probably not. It will probably rise again, as it always does. But God is faithful, and will continue to patiently teach me this lesson: that He is in charge, not me. I'll still be angry with my brother for being a dolt, but there's not much I can do about that. It's in God's great and powerful hands now. :) That is freedom, my friends. I no longer have to be burdened with the little things, because He is in control.