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.

Summer dayz 1

Well, summer is officially here! It's may 17th, 010, and the sun is finally shining. Thank good God! You know, it weirded me out so much that it was snowing in early May. SNOWING. IN MAY! Unbelievable, but that's Colorado for ya. Yay. haha.

BUT I digress. The snow has melted, and the sun is up at 6:30am, so summer is here to stay I guess. This summer is going to be so different for me comparatively to the previous summers. For the last two years I have worked at Lowe's hardware as a Customer Service Associate in Outside Lawn and Garden. Man oh man did I love that job. I got to be outside all day, moving brick, trees, flowers, GIANT bags of mulch and seed. I swear I lost weight every summer and got a wicked tan, but alas, the Lord had other plans for me this summer.

For those of you who don't know me very well, and since I'm making a blog comeback, I'll give you a quick background of who I am. My name is Jacob, hi! I'm 21 years old and I go to UNC Greeley! Despite what everyone else says, I love it there! The smell goes away after a while, but the community sticks to your heart. I have met some wonderful peeps up there. I was formerly a Music Education major, vocal emphasis, but found my passion to be elsewhere. I love love LOVE music, but I just couldn't see myself using it as a career after 2 years of intense vocal training and theory.

So, I prayed and prayed about what the Lord would have me do, and I felt a passion for being a pastor and working with men and women who are searching for Him. So I declared philosophy, and here I am; one semester in to the philosophy program at UNC and loving it!

Also something I didn't mention that I think is VERY important considering who I am. I am a Christian man, a lover of Christ, the Lord and Savior of the world. I really don't have lots of time to tell you my whole testimony right this minute, so I'll save that for another post, but if you have questions, please hit me up! Jesus is Lord of my life, and I will follow Him all of my days, which is why I mentioned the prayer earlier. Just thought I should clear that up. Any questions? Ask em!

Okay, so that's my quick three paragraph background, and now I don't feel bad for leaving out out! :P Back to summer! So as this summer quickly approached I prayed diligently about what my summer would entail. Would I work at Lowe's again? Would I stay in Greeley? Can I be honest? I really didn't want to go home this summer. I really wanted to be a summer RA in the dorms and work with the families that would be coming in to town for conferences. So I applied; rejected. Ouch. Apparently they only hired a few people, so no hard feelings. So I continued to pray, and started to realize that God might want me to hang around at home.

More background: my family is going through serious crisis right now. To make another long story short, my brother is going through law trouble, my mom is going through financial and emotional trouble, and my dad is going through financial, emotional and marital trouble. yay more background. Again, Questions? Ask em!

So with all this in mind, I figured that God knew what He was asking me to do when He asked me to stay home. So I applied at Lowe's again, rejected two days later. I know! Rejected? From the company I had worked with for 2 years? Really? Guh! Well, God must have had some different plans, and I was starting to become discouraged.

I prayed for patience with Him as He revealed to me my summer, and that I would have an open heart to anything that came my way. Well in my prayers I started to feel that I was supposed to serve this summer. I was not supposed to think so much about money and just give my time to serving. So I emailed my old youth group leader at my church and asked if I could serve. She replied immediately with a resounding "Yes!"

So here I am, one week into summer, and waiting for my Church gig to start up. So your question might be, why am I writing? Well, I want to journal about my summer days and how the Lord has worked in my heart in the next three months. I can't stand writing, unless it's for a Quiet time, so I decided blogging would be my best bet! So, I'll spare you my first real entry, and leave you here! Quick background, quick situation, lots of love!