Thursday, August 7, 2014

Kissing Coal

You know those moments when you read a part of the Bible you've read countless times before, but something clicks and it all makes sense like it never has in the past? I had one of those moments today.

I'm reading through Isaiah, and I got to the part where Isaiah is given a commission by God. I've heard the story before. God sends Isaiah to go to His people to tell them that they have been disobedient to the Lord, and that they will be destroyed. Some people listen and change their ways, but the nation, as a whole, does not.

I've always been stuck on the story of Isaiah warning a nation of what's to come, and completely missed some incredible imagery written to sanctify the reader.

Of course, we read the elaborate description of the seraphs (flying creatures with with six wings: two covering their face, two covering their feet, and two used for flying) who constantly cried out "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory." And, at the sound of their voices, the doorposts and the thresholds shook. I've always been baffled by these creatures. But, as I kept reading, I discovered even more beautifully scripted imagery.

In verse 5, Isaiah cries out, "Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." Then a seraph took a coal from the alter and flew to Isaiah. He then touched the coal to Isaiah's lips and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."

What a beautiful picture of how God purifies us. The live burning coal symbolized fire's ability to refine and purify. Isaiah realized how unclean he was before the Lord, and submitted himself entirely to God's service. He was then told his sins were forgiven.

This picture is so encouraging for me. As an unclean, lust-filled, world-seeking man, I sometimes feel worthless to be given a task by the Lord. But when I confess the sins I daily fall into, He is constant in purifying me.

Purification can be painful. Before we accept God's call to speak for Him, we must be cleansed. We must be purified to truly represent our pure and holy Father.

Here's to a glance at a day in my life,

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Messy Redemption

Two years ago, this very day, I moved to Fayetteville. I've learned so much the past 2 years.

I learned how to be patient. I learned what a true friend looks like. I learned how to be an uncle. I learned true heartbreak. I learned how to move on. I learned about my insecurities. I learned how to be vulnerable. I learned about the Holy Spirit. I learned what it looks like to be discipled. I learned about my true identity. I learned that I am not defined by my past. I learned I am not defined by other people. I learned that I love long boarding. I learned that I love college students. I learned that I love telling people's stories.

The list could go on. For days really. I came to Fayetteville a broken, ready to be molded human. God was so sweet to instantly provide the Christian community I so desperately needed. Through my community and my mentor, I was able to spiritually grow at an exponential rate. And through graduate school, my knowledge also grew. I soon found that I am extremely passionate about telling stories.

I'm officially done with graduate level classes, and now completing my thesis (defending in November) arguing the effectiveness of social media in the church. And, by the grace of God, was just hired by New Heights Church as the Digital Media Director. I oversee all social media, and get to produce videos for the many ministries in the church. I get to tell people's stories.

I say all of this not to boast, but to express my gratitude to Jesus. Before moving to Fayetteville, I pretended to have it all together. I was kidding everyone. Even myself. I was blind to the sin in my life and the desperate need for change. It was only when I fell face-first before the Lord in complete surrender that I was able to be stripped of all pride and selfishness. I was able to be molded once again.

I've still got a long way to go, but I'm learning daily how to surrender to Him, how to be vulnerable, and how to be intentional with the people around me.

God uses the messiest of people to do His work. I'm proof of that. Don't think you are worthless because of your past. Give your past to Jesus, and allow Him to work through it. You won't regret it.

Here's to a glance at a day in my life,

Friday, January 24, 2014

Direction, Desolation, and Dessert

I can finally say that I am in my last semester of school ever. I hope... I graduate in August, and it is pretty bittersweet. For the past 19 years I've only known a life of school, studying, writing, and hangouts. Thinking of what is to come after Part 1 of my life concludes is slightly terrifying.

I've been blessed this past year to work with New Heights Church as their college and communications intern. God has unleashed an abundance of passions that I never knew I possessed. I love college students. I am filled with joy when I watch them worship and serve. I love social media. I am so stoked to know that God has given the church an incredible tool to share the Gospel and to help it reach the ends of the earth. I'm passionate about communication. I want to help communicate the Gospel and God's love to everyone in the most effective way.

With that being said, I believe God has given me some direction. I want to work with college students. I want to invest in their lives, and disciple the guys God divinely puts in my path. I also want to start my own social media consulting firm for churches and christian organizations. I want to let other believers know how they can use social media to further the Gospel and to encourage other believers.

God has revealed a lot to me lately, which only means Satan has tried his hardest to attack. He has been feeding me lies recently that I am insignificant and alone. He has placed night terrors in my head while I sleep where I am tortured and left for days because no one notices that I am gone. He has skewed my view of success and what is important in life. He constantly tries to bring up my past mistakes and tell me that I'm just not good enough. But my God is not absent in any of this, and He is in control of my life. I know I am dearly loved. I know I have no reason to fear.

Hebrews 13:5-6 says "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?"

In these moments of desolation that make me feel depressed and separated from people, I am not alone. God is fighting beside me, and sometimes, I'm very sure, He is fighting for me when I am too weak to continue on myself.

Sitting here in Mama Carmen's coffee shop eating my blueberry scone makes me think of how God uses the the funniest things to bless us. Whether it's a best friend who is distant in age but is as close as a brother, a friend's adoption who is finally secured, or random hangouts with my brother and his family of four. Sometimes we have some pretty disgusting dinners, but the dessert is always worth waiting for. In the midst of my trials and spiritually dry seasons, God always serves me the most appetizing desserts.

Here's to a glance at a day in my life,

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Running From Resolution

In Numbers, we get to read the story of a man named Balaam. Balaam is an interesting character used by God. He didn't believe in the Lord as the only true God. In fact, he was a sorcerer. He was often called upon by others, especially political leaders, to put curses on other nations.

We see him summoned by Balak, king of Moab, for a specific purpose. He is to curse the Israelites. Balaam asks for God's advice, and He eventually tells Balaam to go with the messengers to see Balak. How crazy that a sorcerer, someone who participates in magical practices, would call on the God of Israel, and even listen to Him. God ends up speaking to him again, but this time trough a donkey.

All of this story is extremely interesting to me, but it's not what I'm here to write about. It's crazy that a sorcerer would follow God's command in the midst of his dark practice, and that God would speak through a donkey, but what stands out the most is what happens when Balaam finally meets Balak.

"When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the Moabite town on the Arnon border, at the edge of his territory. Balak said to Balaam, "Did I no send you an urgent summons? Why didn't you come to me? Am I really no able to reward you?" "Well, I have come to you now," Balaam replied. "But can I say just anything? I must speak only what God puts in my mouth." Then Balaam went with Balak to Kiriath Huzoth. Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep, and gave some to Balaam and the princes who were with him. The next morning Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal, and form there he saw part of the people." Numbers 23:36-41

So after this, Balaam speaks his fist oracle, or prophecy. But Balak wasn't pleased with what the Lord said through Balaam. Balak was wanting him to speak curses over Israel. So Balak decided to take him to another place where he could see the people, the field of Zophim on the top of Pisgah. So Balaam prophesied again, but Balak was still not pleased with what he heard. Balak then took him to the top of Peor, overlooking the wasteland. Balaam spoke his third prophecy, but just as before, Balak wasn't pleased.

"Then Balak's anger burned against Balaam. He struck his hands together and said to him, "I summoned you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them these three times. Now leave at once and go home! I said I would reward you handsomely, but the Lord has kept you from being rewarded." Numbers 24:10-11

Super interesting story.

Balak took Balaam to several different places to try to entice him to curse the Israelites. He thought that changing the scenery would help change Balaam's mind. He found out however, that changing locations, won't change the Lord's will.

We have to learn how to face the sources of our problems. Running away, or moving to a different location to escape problems will only make solving those problems harder. Most of the time, a change in scenery isn't what needs to be fixed.

We need to change our heart.

Here's to a glance at a day in my life,

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Burning Blessings

While I sit at Arsagas on Dickson sipping on a double shot cappuccino, surrounded by the exposed brick walls, the trendy music blaring from the speaker, and the group of college students studying for tomorrow's test, I can only think of how blessed and encouraged I am by this city and the people that inhabit it.

For instance, my roommate Anthony, who is currently sitting across from me, is deep in the Word and is constantly giving me an update about Abraham and Sarah and how God purposely named Isaac.

Or tonight, how I will go home and share a room with Jacob. A man of God who not only inspires and challenges me physically, but a one who challenges me spiritually and morally in every aspect of his life.

Or my group of friends who was randomly placed in my life last semester. Connor, Matthew, Bryant, Julie, Annie, Lauren, Erin, Avery, Elle, and many others, who inspire me daily to have have a burning passion for people and for Jesus.

Or the Napier family and their abundance of love toward me. They have become my second family, and God is clearly using them to bless my life every single day. There is a certain kind of love that a mother gives, and after losing mine, God sent Mrs. Napier to me to bless me in that area.

And one of the biggest blessings about living in NWA is living super close to my brother and his wife. Gregory and Mary Kate are the perfect example of love to me. They vibrantly shine Jesus' love and joy in everything they do. Before making any decision, they consult Him first. They are so mature, in every aspect, for their age. I've learned so much about relationships just from spending time with them.

I say all this to express a very serious lesson that I have learned.

God moved me back to Arkansas from NYC because I wasn't ready to live by myself indulged in a city full of sin and darkness. When I got here, he placed all of the blessings I previously stated in my life. I began to instantly grow as a believer. More than ever before. My heart began to burn with a furious passion, and I had so much joy. I was so encouraged everyday by my friends, and would even sit with them at any given moment and talk about how I saw God in my life that day. Don't get me wrong, these are all great great things. But I had soon let my single torch of fiery passion become engulfed in a bonfire of other people's passions. I was riding on other people's passion.

My own flame had blown out, and I began finding warmth in other people's flames. My burning desire for Jesus was dictated on how much time I spent with these incredible people.

Then, a new semester began and everyone's schedules became skewed. I no longer was able to spend time with those people. I began to find that I was just dry bones. I found that my once beautifully lit flame had been quenched. It was then that I was humbled before Jesus and He lit my torch once again. He sent me those people as blessings, but I allowed Satan to take control and turn the entire situation into fiery chamber of sin without even knowing it.

Fellowship and encouraging friends is a beautiful blessing from Jesus. But be careful not let Satan take control of your torch. He wants to do nothing but separate us from our Beloved.

2 Timothy 1:6 says, "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands."

My mom use to tell my brother and I every morning to "Let you light shine." How could I have ever forgotten to let "my" light shine, and not somebody else's.

Here's to a glance at a day in my life,

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Waiting to be Wanted

Think of a small parentless boy sitting in an orphanage. A young teenage girl sitting alone at her high school dance. The new guy watching a group of people laughing and enjoying themselves. What do all of these people have in common? They are waiting to be wanted.

I'm currently reading The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer, and I'm loving every minute of it. If you have never read this book before, I encourage you to do so. Tozer's prophetic words were written in the 1940's, but are completely aplicable still today. I will warn you about buying the $2 version off Amazon however. There are, for some reason, typos and gramatical errors in every paragraph. It may not bother most people, but for the average journalist, it's a nightmare.

I've just  read through and dissected the first chapter, and am already overwhelmed by the heavy presence of God. Tozer poetically writes truth that everyone will understand. Here are some of the points I took from the first chapter.

Religious conversation has been made mechanical and spiritless. Christ can now be "received" without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. People are "saved," but they are not hungry or thirsty for more of God. How sad is this reality? People talk to God as if he is automative voice on the telephone. People are being "saved" left and right, but they aren't being discipled. They just become another number for the "saved" records. These new believers aren't being taught how to be disciplined, or how to stir up the Holy Spirit within them to produce fruit.

Sometimes I forget that God is a person. A real person. A God with a personality. In His nature He thinks, wills, enjoys, feels, loves, desires, and suffers as any other person does. Being made in His image, we have the capacity to know Him. Whhhhaaaattttt? He is the Almighty God, Creator of the Universe, with a personality like me. And, we are able to know Him. And not only just know who He is, what He has done, and what He will do, but we are able to have a passionate, loving relationship with Him. We are able to be yoked to Christ.

Tozer quotes a poem by some guy named St. Bernard. Naturally I think of the dog. It says:
"We taste Thee, O Thou Living Bread,
And long to feast upon Thee still:
We drink of Thee, the Fountainhead,
And thirst our souls from The to fill."

I want to taste, touch with my heart, and see with my eyes the wonder that is God. Tozer says, "The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth." There has to be even the smallest desire present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. Just like the people I mentioned at the beginning, God waits to be wanted.

Here's to glance at a day in my life,

Thursday, January 24, 2013

What's Life Without a Little Chocolate?

"We must pay more careful attention therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will."
Hebrews 2:1-4

Sometimes I catch myself believing other people's teachings and other people's philosophies before I seek God's Word. The author of Hebrews called his readers to pay attention to the truth they had heard so that they wouldn't drift into false teachings.

Growing up in my comfortable Southern Baptist Church was a great beginning to my Christian faith. I learned how to spend time with God, how to worship, how to lead worship, and how to lead younger guys. Moving to college was such a growing experience for me as I moved out of my small town bubble. The four years I spent at Arkansas Tech University were so important in my Christian life. I had strong faith and a background belief that I held strong to, and Satan was not going to sit back and let Jesus thrive in my life. They began to compete for my heart, and I didn't even realize it. I wasn't paying attention to the lies Satan began whispering into my ears. I just thought I was doing the right thing and being a normal college student.

It wasn't until I moved to Fayetteville that the mud was washed from my eyes and the horrific sin of the past four years was revealed. I had encountered Jesus in a whole new way. I truly believe that my salvation occurred when I was 12, but going through everything that I encountered in Russellville led up to an incredible slap in the face from Jesus Himself.  I began seeking Jesus like never before. I learned and researched in depth who the Holy Spirit is and what He does and what He is capable of. My attitude and desires completely changed. My heart completely changed.

Tonight I have the amazing opportunity to preach at Camp War Eagle's 365 program. I will be speaking to a group of high school kids about Luke 12:8-12. While preparing for the talk, one of the Ozone leaders gave me a visual to use to help the kids understand the Holy Spirit's purpose. I wrote it down and didn't think much about it until this week. I realized that this described me perfectly the past four years.

The visual goes like this: You have glass of milk. Then you pour chocolate syrup in it. The milk represents a person, and the syrup in the milk represents the Holy Spirit. If you just squirt the chocolate into the milk and leave it there, it doesn't change anything. You have to stir it. And once you do stir it a few times, you can't just be done with it. The chocolate syrup will separate from the milk and sit at the bottom of the cup if it left alone for a few days. You have to constantly stir the milk. Likewise, you have to constantly stir up the Holy Spirit and allow Him to work through you. When you do this, you will produce the fruits of the Spirit. And just like you can visually see a difference in the milk, people will visually see a difference in you because of the Spirit's fruits.

I say all this because, the glass of milk with the chocolate syrup on the botton was me. There were occasional moments in my life where my cup was stirred and the sweet taste from within was distributed, but I would often times, without knowing it, neglect the Holy Spirit and His sweetness would disappear and the faint bitterness of the milk would return.

Make sure you're asking the Holy Spirit for guidance and allowing to overflow from your heart.

Here's to a glance at a day in my life,