Archive for the ‘Encouraging’ Category

Jesus Is Better

Posted: May 8, 2012 in Encouraging, Life Change, My Faith

Growing up in a home with a Godly heritage and lifestyle can sometimes be taken for granted. I never had to worry how much my parents loved each other or if they would always be together. It was just there. We went to church together, prayed together, read the Bible together, and did everything together with full joy. The older you get, you start seeing how rare that really was and is. It seems like every year the statistics show more and more broken homes and hurtful situations.

This isn’t a post about how much better I’ve had it than probably most people have in regards to strong Christian influence in my life, it’s a post about why. Why was is so evident? Why was it so consistent and stable in my life and not in so many others who also grew up in “Christian” homes? If there was one simple phrase that make up the theme of my parents life it would have to be “to make much of Jesus.” Jesus is everything to them. Which is where my stability and influence came from.

It seems so frequent now to see many people that have grown up in church, lived a Christian life, do all the right things they were supposed to be doing in their faith, yet decide to throw in the towel or maybe worse, just go through the Christian motions. The sad thing is, they are missing out on the greatest joy they could ever experience, and it’s far greater than even just living in a stable Christian home. I think what has bothered me lately is the fact that too many people love and follow the IDEA of Jesus, and not really Jesus. Let me explain.

In Mark 1, starting in verse 16, we see Marks story of Jesus calling the first disciples. I think we can get so much from this passage:

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. (Mark 1:16-20 ESV)

This is such a unique passage to ask why would anyone drop what they are doing and follow someone they didn’t even know? Not only that, they decided they would leave everything behind. Without going into full detail of what they were giving up, it’s just important to note that they literally were walking away from everything in their life they knew as comfortable, to follow a person they’ve never met, who didn’t promise them anything better than what they already had. The only phrase of value that Jesus offered was that He would make them become fishers of men. At that time, they didn’t even know who or what He was referring to. All they knew was that following Him was far more valuable than just living a routine life of going through the motions each and everyday. So they gave it up, and in the end, we know it was worth it.

Unfortunately today, so many people will only “follow” Jesus if He can promise them something in return. Whether that’s wealth, good health, a good job, a good church, a great family, or whatever else that might be. People are in love and want to follow the idea of Jesus and not Jesus. They like the idea that somehow Jesus is a divine waiter out to serve and get their every desire. So they go to church, sing in the choir, give their offering, and whatever else they need to do to feel they are living the Christian life, all the while, filling the void with all the trinkets of this world and trying to attach Jesus’ name to it. Without once taking a step of faith and even slightly consider that maybe Jesus has a bigger plan and purpose for their life, but it would take sacrifice, maybe even giving up everything.

I’m so thankful for the Christian home I grew up in, but it wasn’t always easy, and it definitely wasn’t comfortable all the time. My parents taught me at an early age that Jesus is far better than the Christian life, and that living and following Him won’t always be easy, but is definitely worth it. That’s a lesson that isn’t learned once and you got it. It’s something that is processed and fought for our entire lives. Even through the struggles, disappointments, failures, and heartaches; Life with Jesus is better.

In Him

Posted: March 6, 2012 in Encouraging, Life Change, My Faith

It’s funny watching kids as they grow up. I am around my sisters’ kids pretty regularly and it’s easy for them not to have a care in the world. They never worry about having a roof over their head, or if they are going to have food to eat. It’s just there. Since it’s there, it’s easy to start expecting more. More snacks, more treats, more iPad time, more of what they want. I was watching one of my younger nieces the other day as we were eating. Her focus quickly moved from the current meal to dessert. Then my sister gave the same speech she has given hundreds of times, and the same speech we all have heard a hundred times. The “eat a few more bites of your veggies before you get dessert speech.” That was followed by a lot of debating, negotiating, and reminding for the next 15 minutes. As I watched that scene play out, like I have seen many times before, I kept looking and asking what is the big deal? It’s just a couple bites of veggies that is keeping you from what you really want. But my niece couldn’t grasp that, just like I couldn’t grasp it at her age either. She couldn’t see that her parents weren’t trying to make her life miserable, they were trying to help keep her body and nutrition in balance the way it’s supposed to be.

I was thinking about this the other day when I felt the Lord speak to my heart and say, “Now you know how I feel!  You ask me for things, you often get caught up in the moment…but your problem is that most of the time you just don’t understand WHO I AM and WHAT I AM DOING!”

I am so glad that we serve an Ephesians 3:20 God.  The Bible says in I Corinthians 2:9 that we literally have NO IDEA how much He has planned for us.

Just like my niece has no idea what her parents are capable of…we have no idea how HUGE God is and what HE can do.  BECAUSE…I believe many times we are caught up in what we want rather than who He is!

One of the things I am trying to do right now is become less aware of my perceived needs…and instead focus on continually discovering WHO HE IS.  Because, in doing so I believe I will stop asking Him for “treats” and “snacks” and be able to finally discover the feast that He has set before me!

HE IS THE MOST HIGH GOD!  NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIM!

Even as we grow older in our Christian faith, we get so focused on God’s will, which is many times just trying to do our will and attaching God’s name to it. Instead of focusing on our will, or even God’s will, we need to focus on GOD’S PERSON. It is only IN HIM that we can find full satisfaction. Then it won’t be as often that we are “debating, negotiating, or being reminded” of how dumb and how little we really know.

But God…

Posted: December 14, 2011 in Encouraging, My Faith, Uncategorized
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In my Bible study lately I have seen the phrase “But God” come up pretty often. Probably the most recognizable verse is Romans 5:8. It intrigued me enough to do a study of everywhere in the Scripture that has that phrase. What I found was how encouraging each one of these verses were. So below I want to share with you just a small portion of each verse that has that phrase in it so you can also be encouraged. I purposely didn’t put the entire verse in here because I want you to see how powerful those two words can be:

Gen 20:3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night…
Gen 31:7 …but God suffered him not to hurt me.
Gen 48:21 …but God will be with you…
Gen 50:20 …but God meant it for good…
Exo 13:18 But God led the people about…
Exo 21:13 …but God deliver him into his hand…
Judges 15:19 But God split open a hollow place…
1 Sam 23:14 …but God delivered him not into his hand.
1 Chr 28:3 But God said unto me…
Psa 49:15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave…
Psa 68:21 But God shall wound the head of his enemies…
Psa 73:26 …but God is the strength of my heart…
Psa 75:7 But God is the judge…
Pro 21:12 …but God overthroweth the wicked for their wickedness.
Isa 17:13 …but God shall rebuke them…
Jonah 4:7 But God prepared a worm…
Mark 2:7 …Who can forgive sins but God only?
Luke 5:21 …Who can forgive sins, but God alone?
Luke 12:20 But God said unto him…
Luke 16:15 …but God knows your hearts…
Acts 7:9 …but God was with him
Acts 10:28 …but God has shown me…
Acts 13:30 But God raised him from the dead
Rom 5:8 But God demonstrates his love toward us…
Rom 6:17 But God be thanked…
1 Cor 1:27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise…
1 Cor 2:10 But God has revealed them unto us by his Spirit…
1 Cor 3:6 …but God gave the increase.
1 Cor 3:7 …but God gives the increase.
1 Cor 6:13 …but God shall destroy both it and them…
1 Cor 7:15 …but God has called us to peace.
1 Cor 10:13 …but God is faithful…
1 Cor 12:24 …but God has tempered the body together…
1 Cor 15:38 But God gives it a body as it has pleased him…
Gal 3:18 …but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
Gal 3:20 …but God is one.
Gal 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…
Phi 2:27 …but God had mercy on him…

No matter what situation we are facing, or how bad it looks, God is still in control of every aspect of our life. Hopefully this phrase will encourage you as much as it has encouraged me.

The Cross is Proof

Posted: November 1, 2010 in Encouraging, Life Change

I saw this title on some Twitter hashtags recently and it got me thinking about what the Cross proves…

He made Him who knew no sin to BE sin , on OUR behalf… the Cross is proof.
God is JUST and JUSTIFIES… the Cross is proof.
God can take the WORST situation and accomplish through it the very BEST outcome…the Cross is proof.
Gods will is greater than you and I could EVER comprehend…the Cross is proof.
God allows freedom but ALWAYS maintains control…the Cross is proof.
WE are worth dying for…the Cross is proof.
God won’t relent until He’s had it ALL… the Cross is proof.
HE is enough…the Cross is proof.
Sin CAN’T keep us in bondage… the Cross is proof.
His mercies are new everyday… the Cross is proof.
Jesus LOVES me, THIS I KNOW… the Cross is proof.

I Heart My Life

Posted: September 24, 2010 in About Me, Encouraging, My Faith

I was driving into work the other morning and was behind a guy at a red-light that had a bumper sticker that said I heart my wife. Just as I was thinking “Awww how sweet,” I pulled up next to them. Where they were acting out an episode of Jerry Springer or Maury or whatever other trashy show of their choice might be, and in some sort of heated exchange over who knows what. It was at that moment that I wondered if he hearted his wife like he so boldly proclaims he does. With that $2 bumper sticker his wife bought him in the airport flying to their honeymoon in Fij… I mean Las Vegas.

I don’t have a wife to heart, although if my sisters have what they want, that could end up changing, but I can say that I definitely heart my life. I just want to share three things God has shown me recently as to reasons why:

1. Because I have a God who loves me for me, even though He truly KNOWS me.

It blows me away every time I can look in the mirror and realize I am forgiven. Even through the deepest and darkest moments of my life, God loves me the same. I can’t get over that and hope I never do. To sit in awe and think that all of my sins were future sins when Christ died on the cross, always causes me to run to Him when I stumble, not run and try to hide those things. Isaiah 43:1-2

2. Because I have a family that EXEMPLIFIES what it looks like to stay FAITHFUL to God, even through the hardest of times.

Most of you that read my blog know that the last several years have brought many ups and downs for our family.  My dad has been in an ongoing battle with cancer for a long time now and literally has good days and bad. But through it all, I see his faith being strengthened constantly and his love and walk with God is deeper than it’s ever been and my family is resounding his faith. They are a picture of the true gospel to me. That following Jesus is not going to make you wealthy, it does not guarantee you will be healthy, the message of Scripture and the gospel is not that following Him everything goes right, but that He is ENOUGH no matter what happens. Colossians 1:17

3. Because I have friends that SHARPENS me when I need it, and LAUGHS with me even when I’m not funny.

This is a hard one for me because I have definitely done my fair share of letting people down. It is too easy sometimes to let your own pride, irresponsibility, and sin get in the way of the people you genuinely care about. I’m just blessed that even through it all, God is faithful to put people in our life that helps stir our affections towards Him, and keep encouraged to stay the course. It would be a hard life if those friends weren’t around. Proverbs 27:17

I’ll post more on this topic later on…

This is an amazing story I saw today. When you have the peace that passes all understanding you can in a small way see what Zac is saying. I see the attitude Zac portrays everyday in my dad and it never ceases to amaze me. He has been battling cancer for several years. It would be so hard to go through so much pain and suffering and still be able to say “to God be the glory.” I guess when you don’t fully understand who God is, you don’t fully comprehend what He does. His whole purpose is to restore His glory in us. So many people get mad at God for many things without first realizing that God is doing a greater work in them than they could possibly imagine. Recently I learned my cousin Krista was recently diagnosed with cancer as well, and she is my age. It could be me, it could be any of us. At this rate, it probably will be all of us. So as I stay on my knees in prayer for those who battle cancer everyday, I hope that for me and those I love and some I may never know, I can hold onto Romans 8.  That this present suffering is not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us. I hope you enjoy Zac’s story like I did.

Community

Posted: January 20, 2010 in Encouraging, Life Change, My Faith

Last weekend we had Disciple Now at church. It is a great time in which the student ministry breaks up into different groups and stay in different homes in the church to take part in a weekend long Bible study. It is always a highlight for the students each year and they talk about it for a month leading up to it, and for a couple months after it takes place. I was a part of this ministry last year, which was amazing, and this year was even better for a couple reasons.

1. It was a great topic on our identity in Christ. It was amazing to hear some personal stories from these students about what they think and how they see themselves, then to see them learn from God’s Word and how it can be better. Talking to some of them, you can see God did a great work in them last weekend.

2. This is the big one I want to camp out on for a minute. This year Benji did some major planning and organizing for this event in regards to it being church wide. He had a vision to not just let this be a spiritual refreshment for the student ministry, but also the adults as well. From the grade school kids through the college ministry, there were well over 100 students taking part in the weekend. With that many involved, it was amazing to see so many adults step up to volunteer their weekends, and invest in the lives of these students.

When I look at the church as a whole today, it seems all too often we lose sense of true community. Somewhere along the way, we started to departmentalize our churches to where there are separate ministries. We have a Senior ministry, College ministry, Young adult ministry, student ministry, kid’s ministry, young couple’s ministry. It seems every time you turn around there is a new and exciting ministry starting up. I’m not saying these are all bad as a whole, because I know that people are at different phases of their life and so they need to be taught differently. What I do see as a problem is losing sight of the purpose of the church body. To be together and have all things in common – Acts 2:44. I don’t think we need to all be in the same Sunday school or bible study class each week, but I do see the importance of getting involved in the whole realm of church so you aren’t just coming to your little section and going home without ever knowing what God is truly doing in the whole body, not just your part. That’s what I enjoyed most about last weekend. To see the church as a whole get involved together to spread the gospel and show love in a way many never have before. That’s what community is all about.

What if…

Posted: September 3, 2009 in Encouraging, Life Change

Every once in a while I have a “what if” moment and so I thought I would share some of those…

  • WHAT IF we really believed Jesus when He says I am with you?
  • WHAT IF we were persistent in our prayers to God, and actually trusted it would happen?
  • WHAT IF we REALLY believed that Acts 2:41-47 wasn’t just a one time cool story, but could be a possibility today?
  • WHAT IF we really believed that life with Jesus is better EVERYDAY, not just on Sundays?
  • WHAT IF we really believed the church existed not just to “meet my needs,” but to CHANGE the world!
  • WHAT IF we really believe that a teenager could change the world? (I Timothy 4:12)
  • WHAT IF we really believed God wants to use the church to build His kingdom?
  • WHAT IF we were willing to lay aside our personal wants or unwants for the sake of spreading the gospel?
  • WHAT IF we cared and counseled our hurting church members, instead of crucify them?
  • WHAT IF we sought to embrace God’s plan for our lives and church, instead of trying to convince Him to embrace ours?

What if…

I really don’t have much to say. I’ve just wanted to write a blog with that title for a while. Actually, the more I started thinking about what stirs my affections for God, the more things I thought about. So, I decided to blog them. I’m gonna start with some of the ones from this weekend I mentioned, just to give the people that weren’t there a little review…

Early Mornings – Even though I am not a morning person, it is the greatest time to spend in the Word before my thoughts ruin my day.
Smell of Coffee – Nothing like the smell of strong coffee. It reminds me of spending time with my dad each morning doing devotions before I went to school.
Black Gospel Choirs – Not that there is anything wrong with white gospel choirs, but really, can you beat the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir?
Graveyards – Every time I am in a graveyard it helps me consider if I am living my life on purpose or not.
Good Food with Good Friends – It is just a sweet time of laughter and encouragement that helps me realize there is a day coming when we can do that forever.
Haribo Gummy Bears – Hard to explain this one, but the best times I have ever spent in the Word have often come while snacking on these. Not just any type though, they have to be Haribo!
Grilling Out In The Spring – There is something about hanging out on the back deck with a rib-eye on on the flame that just makes me want to Praise the Lord! Can I get an Amen?
Driving Long Distances Alone – It seems God has spoken to me the most when I am in the car driving down the interstate. I can remember several times when He made things clear in my life during these trips.
Playing Golf – I know this is like on the line for affections for God or just a hobby, but for me, there are times it is both. Being in the fresh air and away from the normal is what I love (unless I am having a bad round). HAHA JK… but really.
Holidays With The Family – Pretty self explanatory but I thank God everyday for being a part of a Christian family.
A Good Sermon – Something that just hits home. It can be tough, but still stirs.
Uninterrupted Prayer – It seems like it is so easy to get distracted when trying to pray. Most of the time it is my own selfish thoughts.
An Encouraging Note – It’s nice to get a card or note every now and then. Makes me thank God for the friends He has blessed me with.

Anyway, those are just a few more. I might add some more at another time, but I definitely love these things like a fat kid loves cake…

I was reading in 2 Timothy this morning and what Paul was saying to a young Timothy just resonated to me and caught my attention. He said to him in verse 8, to “…share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works, but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…”

It is amazing to see passion here in these couple verses. Timothy had passion and eagerness to serve God. It’s a great attribute to have. I think one of the top questions people have today is what is my purpose God? What would you want me to do? This is the attitude of Timothy, willing and ready to do whatever is required of him. Paul wants him to get one thing clear, when God calls you, it’s not an ordinary call, it’s a holy call. It’s a separated life. It’s so easy to get caught up in the passion and vision and love part of it, that you forget the most important thing, holiness. Paul was saying to Timothy, no matter what your calling is, or where God wants to take you, you can’t get there without holiness, being set apart. Trust me, I know what holiness is first hand. I’ve seen what holiness can do in lives around me and what the lack of holiness can do in my own life. He goes on to say, that nothing God does is about us. It has nothing to do with our works, but His own purpose and grace, which only comes through Christ.

Wow, I’m so glad it’s not about me. I’m so glad that Romans 8 is in the Bible. God’s love is the most amazing yet humiliating thing there is. Amazing, because it’s unconditional. Humiliating, because I don’t deserve it. But oh how grateful I am to the one who gave it all for me.

Your mercy found me,
Upon the broken road,
And lifted me beyond my failing,
Into Your glory,
My sin and shame dissolved,
And now forever Yours I’ll stand.

In love never to end,
To call You more than Lord,
Glorious friend.

So I throw my life upon all You are,
‘Cause I know You gave it all for me,
And when all else fades,
My soul will dance with You,
Where the love lasts forever.
Hillsong United