Start Loving Others

The most common thread in the advice I’ve received on writing is to start. Don’t get so caught up in mapping out your thought-process and attempting to steer things the direction you want to go. Just do it.

I think there’s a lot of truth there and I’ve seen it play out in many areas of my life. Love someone? Just tell them and then prove it by showing them they’re the most important person in your world. Ready to lose weight? Then put down the bread and get out of bed, sleepyhead (had to throw a cheesy rhyme in there somewhere).

Meeting with a childhood friend of mine was encouraging this morning. There are some friendships that you have in life that just never die. Perhaps they fall asleep for a long hibernation but once back together your hearts can pick up right where you left off and this guy is that kind of friend. Some people have the gift of making whoever they’re with in the moment feel like the most important person in the world; I think it’s because he’s allowed his heart to become like Christ and he genuinely loves everyone.

That’s something to aspire to – isn’t it? Loving everyone. That’s so, so hard. Think of the difficult coworker that just rubs you the wrong way – you really do not even want to try to establish a relationship with this individual but perhaps that’s sheer laziness on your part. After all, everyone’s deepest desire to be known – to be connected. All their pushing and shoving and stiff-arming is likely fueled by a distrust of others because of others that have hurt them. What difference a little genuine love could make in their life.

I think of the times I was hurting inside the most. In these life-chapters I had frequently bullied friends and family into a corner and told (not asked) them to stay out of my life. Isolation is the companion of the fool that goes his own way, because community requires accountability. It was in these isolated, depressed, anger filled moments that some of my best friends in life took the time to draw me out – to get me to share my feelings and make myself vulnerable again. Only then, in the light, could I be healed.

So today, I challenge you and I challenge me, to start loving others. It’ll likely be one of the more emotionally taxing things you do today but it will also probably be the most rewarding. And who knows – it could build a relationship between you and the other that could pay off dividends in the future. Because chances are, you aren’t the easiest person to love either.

start loving others

Am I Enough?

It’s a frequently asked question – “Am I enough?” Men and women alike wrestle with it, as they have that ultimate stare-down with the person looking them square-on in the mirror every morning. Our answer to that question typically sets the tone for our days – we are either upbeat and optimistic, or downcast and waywardly due to deciding that we are indeed, “enough” or not, respectively.

We ask ourselves that question when considering who we might date, marry, or simply be friends with – we wonder if we will measure up – if we will truly be enough for them and if they will truly be enough for us. Time and time again, we end up being reminded just how much we are not enough for that other person, as they move onto the next watering hole – the next sensual or emotional high.  The next rush of adrenaline.

It hurts, doesn’t it? That sick-feeling you get in your gut, as you realize that something else, or someone, was better than you.

I wonder if that’s how God feels.

You see – my point, today, is not to become all introspective and lead us down the road of examining how we view ourselves (although I’m certain that would be a great topic for another day). My point is, I believe God asks this question, too.

It’s amazing to consider that we were made in the image of our Creator. He hand-crafted each one of us and said that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” – no room for mistakes here – we are all gifts, given by the Gift-Giver, Himself. Seriously, though, isn’t it cool to consider that God found us worth making in HIS IMAGE? I mean, He could have easily decided to give us animal-like qualities, but instead, He gave us hearts, souls, and intellect, as well as free-will. Absolutely incredible.

“Am I Enough? – I believe our LORD asks His people. “Justin, am I TRULY enough for you?”

Pike Peak

As I drove home from the gym this evening, I felt this question being asked of me. It was humbling, as I discovered that we answer that question every second of every day, in the ways that we think, respond, and act.

Is it more praiseworthy and powerful for me to get on my soapbox and preach that “He is Enough”, or would it perhaps be more powerful for me to worship Him in my thoughts, reactions, and deeds?

I love words. They’re so powerful and they have an exponentially greater amount of influence upon my heart (as an avid reader/writer) than they likely do on the average person. However, is it not always the life that backs up the words that leaves the legacy? Martin Luther King Jr. would have been just another pastor, if he had not lived out what he taught, and fought peacefully for the well-being of his church. Instead, since he was a man of courage, peace, gentleness, and fierce boldness with the truth, His words carry infinitely more power. And I wish for my words to carry that degree of power someday, but that starts now, with years upon years of diligent faithfulness.

The Groom (Jesus) is asking The Bride (The Church – you and me) if He is enough.

“Am I Enough?” – Christ asks us this Friday as we remember His being nailed to the Cross for us. “Am I Enough?” – God asks His children, as we remember Him raising Jesus from the dead, conquering death! “God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:24) “Am I Enough?” – The Holy Spirit wonders, as He pours His gifts out upon the Church, baptizing them in Spirit and in Truth (Acts 2:1-4).

Dear Reader, is He Enough?

“But even though the enemy might want to bury you, Jesus is in the habit of interrupting funerals.” (Louie Giglio)

The funeral procession of your life may very well already be underway. You could currently be surrendered to a plethora or deadly addictions, and we are promised that sin does, indeed, lead to death. BUT, “Jesus is in the habit of interrupting funerals.” I don’t care what it is, or where you are, or how far you’ve run. You come to Jesus. Death lost its sting roughly 2014 years ago. Sin only has power over you, if you let it, and if you refuse to surrender to the Living God.

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:2-3) I’ve tasted and seen – the Lord is so, so GOOD.

Much like we’d wish to be someone’s anchor someday, and for someone to be ours (in the context of marriage), I believe the LORD has a great and jealous desire for His Church to anchor themselves to Him. Yet we run wild. To this “lover” and to that.

“Aren’t you tired?” – one of my favorite quotes from The Help fits perfectly here. Aren’t you tired, friends? Is it not exhausting to run from one well to the next, to the next – only to find them dry, and filled with sand.

If only we took a moment to look up to the Heavens, and to answer God’s question – “Am I Enough?”

Find Him to be enough for you, and you will thirst no more.

The rains of Heaven will never cease to quench your thirst, or enthrall you with amazement. He Is Enough.

 

 

Redeemed

Ashes to ashes

Dust to dust

Soul that thrashes

Heart that rusts

Sin drips in

Rips me apart

Will darkness win?

Will Christ depart?

Shall I break,

Evil will applaud.

All my mistakes

Reveal my façade.

 

Small compromises

Satan’s Enterprises

Business of lying

Knows I’m dying

Doesn’t care I’m buying’

Into fake “styling”

Cooked up and fryin’

My heart, deprivin’

Death now driving.

 

Oh, and I let it!

Chips out and betted

Casino of sensuality embedded

Forgot truth, barely read it.

 

Scripture gone, no cornerstone

Spirit aloft, dryer bones.

 

Unquenched thirst

Chronic hurt

Doctor examined

But abandoned…

At least I thought…

Once again, distraught.

 

O the drama of hearts:

Alive, dead, apart,

Shaken, buried, alarmed,

Still, rattled, charmed.

 

Romantic involvement,

Relational evolvement.

 

Pursuer, now pursued

By the true Groom.

Tried to seek and peruse

Other affections never bloom.

Mighty hands hold

My heart unfolds.

He’s real Love, I’m told.

 

Heart beats quicker

Feelings are thicker.

 

Shame comes

Pride runs

Broken crumbs

Tear drums

 

Washed cheeks,

I’m weak.

 

Love affair,

My fare.

 

Imagine my surprise

And evil’s demise

When grace shined

And Christ dined

With His Bride, unfaithful

But He remained faithful.

 

Affectionate eyes,

Gentle hands,

Removed lies,

Helped me stand.

 

Renewed, not abandoned.

Deep love; enchanted.

 

Restlessness now resting,

Surrender; stopped wrestling.

 

Refreshing waters flow

Spirit breathes, I grow.

 

Planted in His streams,

Grateful He redeems.

LEGACY: Living Toward A Better Death

Death is real. It’s not something we typically enjoy talking about, but much to our dismay, it does not appear to be leaving humanity alone anytime soon. So, as much as we would all like to avoid such a topic, it is appropriate to consider its’ implications to some degree or another.

Carol Walker, co-pastor of REACH Manhattan, challenged the body of believers at Ichthus to “live toward a better death…”, which I now have written in the back of my study-journal as a constant reminder to live in such a way. What does he mean, though? To “live toward a better death”? Well, I’m certainly not Mr. Walker, so consider the following to be a summation of my thoughts over the last 24-hours as I’ve chewed on this challenge given by him…

One’s legacy is essentially what they, themselves, leave behind for others. What assets, ideologies, practices, and the like will one have passed on to their peers, and those they potentially mentored throughout the course of life? These various items combine together to form an individual’s legacy. And, while it is typical of American pastors to give extremely beautiful eulogies in which they highlight all good aspects of a man’s life, the bad will not be easily forgotten, even if hidden beneath sugar-coated summations of one’s life. Therefore, who are we really? What have we sought to teach our families, peers, and strangers through our words and actions?

Consider the following question then…What do you want your legacy to be?

Now, if you were to die tonight, would that legacy you just dreamed of be true of you? Mine wouldn’t. It is something that I should choose to live more towards every day now. The legacy I wish to leave behind is one of selfless and sacrificial love for others, considering the least of these to be far more important than myself; to live and serve as Christ did for His Church.

A Christ-like legacy is the only one I personally deem worth living for. The only way to even come close to such a legacy is to authentically love God more than anything else. What is it that you pursue in life? To what extent do you expend yourself and your resources to obtain/sustain it? You have discovered what you love and just how much you love it. Is what you love most your LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ and His Father, God? I’m praying that is the case, or soon becomes the reality of your heart’s condition.

As I have studied the Gospels over the course of my nearly 23 years of life, I’ve come to notice that one of the greatest elements of Christ’s legacy, and those who live life in such a way, is unconditional love.

Unconditional love overcomes the human-condition to only give of ourselves into something that benefits; sometimes even loving in situations where there is no love in return. Consider the example set by Christ, as he pleaded for the forgiveness of those that put him to death on the rugged cross; no persons’ faults can tame such a violently courageous love. To exhibit such love to another, one must empty oneself of self entirely and now, selfless, give all that they are/have to others. Sounds taxing, right? While it may be in some situations, there is truly no greater source of joy in the end. Why? Because when unconditional love is brilliantly displayed, then witnessed by another, it rocks their foundations, as it shatters their preconceived expectations! No one expects to be unconditionally loved–the reality is quite the opposite, with a majority of young men and women openly admitting that they expect to be let down by those they love on a frequent basis. So, when you have chosen to die to yourself and love others unconditionally (whether they ‘deserve’ it or not, because let’s be honest, you and I do not ‘deserve’ unconditional love either…), you have become a beautiful display of Christ’s love to them, and the opportunity for crazy, culture-defying relationships to form is present.

Have you ever had the pleasure of witnessing the love that brothers in Christ may have amongst each other? If you have ever had the opportunity to witness me among my brothers in Christ within the house-church of Rev79, then you have witnessed this deep, culture-defying love, that places each other above ourselves. It is ridiculously beautiful, and it often makes others uncomfortable, because they do not have a clue how to react to grown men hugging and encouraging each other so much; their cultural expectation for us to be violent, narcissistic, and self-focused, only loving one another when it is convenient, is blown to pieces.

I love it.

Why?

It brings people to a point of questioning why one would be capable of this culture-defying, unconditional love… Any guesses at what the answer is? A life died to, that has embraced God’s grace, and decided to live selflessly, unconditionally loving others to the end of their days.

Consider their brains blown…

Even better…

They want in.

Yes, they want in. Who would choose to not be loved in such a way? What better thing is worth living for than a God that has come after us relentlessly with a love and grace that defies all human-logic? I wouldn’t. Would you?

In summation, I challenge every man and woman to consider their legacy; what will it be, how will you live it out, what are you willing to sacrifice to make it become a reality? If you consider yourself a disciple of Christ, then I strongly encourage you to join me in pursuing a legacy of unconditional love and to ‘live toward a better death’. If you do not yet consider yourself to be among the fellowship of Christian brothers and sisters, then I challenge you to witness the love that authentic believers have for one another and total strangers, and then explore how they could possibly love to such a degree if God were not their real King and source of strength and grace? They couldn’t.

Where Art Thou?

O Father, where art thou?

Before you, humbled, I bow.

No merit, nor worth, only shame,

Standing before you, I came.

 

But you see, I’m here, I’m waiting,

Similar to my wait for dating;

You seem far off, unreachable

Perhaps it’s me, have I not been teachable?

Shall I sulk and wait, distracted?

Shall my heart remain not impacted?

Will I ever feel that zealous passion,

Being again reminded of such compassion?

 

Darkness seems closer than ever,

Evil’s prince deceives me; clever.

Has my heart been hardened?

Shall I not be pardoned?

Sickness looms and exhausts,

Not sure if I’m able, I’m at a loss.

 

Have I lost my usefulness?

Are you no longer in need of my youthfulness?

A joyful man, I once was, now depressed.

Cannot hold in feelings of sorrow I’ve repressed.

 

Where is this Spirit, the one whom shall save?

Where has he gone, shall I prepare for the grave?

 

Society cannot handle truthfulness from the heart,

Should I share this, they’d quickly depart.

It’s easy to support someone joyous and bright,

But this now, it does not bring delight.

 

A brilliant mind, I’ve been told I have,

Yet, it would seem, I always give half.

Potential wasted, nothing here to be proud of,

Haven’t heard those words in a while, “proud of.”

 

O LORD, Father God, come quick,

My body reflects my heart, I’m sick.

Sin remains, lifestyle unchanged,

So many things need rearranged.

I need Your courage, I feel estranged.

 

O God, like David, I’m in a valley,

I’m ready for more ups than downs, have you checked the tally?

The last month, far more frown than smiles,

Feels like my heart’s been wandering for miles.

 

I’d keep runnin’, but I’m tired.

I desire You, it’s how I’m wired.

Your Spirit’s real, I know it is.

I’ve seen it before, I’ll tell my kids.

So won’t you now, raise me up?

Half-empty or not, fill my cup?

 

An emotional man, I’m designed to be,

Tears will come quite naturally,

Sorrowful tears are wearing me out,

Change them to joyful, a praise I’ll shout!

 

But You’re my God, humble your child,

You’re seasoning my life, even though I’d prefer it to be mild.

Shimmering splendor, perhaps you’d prefer me spicy,

But Lord, my God, at least entice me.

Consume me once again with your fragrant splendor,

Empower me to worship unhindered.

 

You called my name, so here I am,

What shall you require, I AM?

Grace: The Real Deal

Christmas is rapidly approaching! Now, I’ll be honest, I’m one of those scrooges that prefers people would save all of their jolly music for AFTER Thanksgiving and the other fall holidays have been granted their adequate time of appreciation and festivity, however Christmas is certainly my favorite time of year! There is so much…joy. What a beautiful thing joy is. First off, we get to celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth! The Savior has come! Then, we return from our family church-services and witness the bright-eyed delight that is associated with children (and young adults of course, if you count me) ripping open the gifts their parents give them…I mean…Santa (whoops!). What is it that makes gifts so special? Well, for one, we’re unwrapping something that we’ve wanted! Perhaps the latest gadget from Apple, or if you’re me, then you’ll likely be receiving Starbucks gift-cards and book gift-cards, because I’m a nerd and love reading, and because coffee goes great with reading, right? (Yeah, yeah, okay, I’m addicted…haha) Secondly, the reason that we’re so excited is that we literally had to do NOTHING in order to receive the gift. It was simply GIVEN to us.

Christmas gifts are certainly undeserved blessings. However, today I find myself reflective of a far more gracious gift. The “real deal” of grace, so to speak. Jesus Christ of Nazareth was willing to bleed upon a splintery, wooden, cross so that we may be washed clean by His blood and clothed in HIS righteousness. We, undeserving sinners, the ones that had Him nailed to the cross in the first place, are given HIS righteousness.

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel…” (Colossians 1:21-23)

Do you realize the gravity of this passage? The grace that Christ offered us at Calvary is the greatest, most loving, most powerful, thing that has ever been done! God, coming down and taking the form of man, walking the earth, living without sin, suffering a brutal and sacrificial death, then, by His own raw power, rising from the grave three days later! All of this done to simply redeem His children. And yet, we like to think that we’re not loved…Well, we need to take those thoughts captive and send them straight back to hell where they came from, because you, [insert your name here], are ridiculously loved!

In conclusion, God’s unadulterated grace is the real deal. You and I have literally done and will never do ANYTHING that warrants such a gift! The sooner we come to this humbling realization, the sooner God will be able to work in our lives. Want to see the LORD truly work? Get on your knees, humble yourselves, confess your lack of faith, and admit your desperate need for His saving grace! You’ll be absolutely awestruck at what God is capable of doing with a humbled heart that is ready to LISTEN. Then, led by the Spirit and the clothed in the Son’s righteousness, we can carry out, with confidence, the work that the Father has set before us. Then, and only then, will we begin to see what God is truly capable of within His Church.

Here’s what I sent out as a text to the house-church that I’m a part of:

“Here’s what [God says] to us: Confess. Repent. Live Renewed. His Words bring LIFE. If life is found in His Word, then living obediently, under His Lordship, should and will bring about life to the fullest, where we can bear much fruit! Rejoice, for God knows the plans that He has for us!”

Confess. Repent. Live Renewed.

I share this with you, because I believe this same message is to be spoken over each of you that read this. Quite simply, if we will humble ourselves before the LORD, ask for His redeeming love, and admit that we cannot go on without Him; all of this stemming from an authentic heart, of course; God will surely begin to work wonders before us. I’ll let 1 Peter 2:23-25 do the rest of the talking…be blessed, dear reader. I’m praying for you. 

“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

Awake!

“Do not fear, O children of God. Do not worry, children of Jerusalem. Men and Women of the United States; brothers and sisters of Manhattan, KS, the Kingdom is coming! Rise up, shout, praise, sing, and dance! Victory is coming! King Jesus has won. Away from us, evil one. Your dwelling place is not here! This city has been claimed by the Holy One. In The Light, there is no darkness at all.” (Journal Entry, 8/25/2012)

We have been living far too long as if our lives will amount to nothing. Perhaps I should not speak on behalf of all of you, so allow me to restate that…I, Justin, have been living far too long as is my life will amount to nothing. “Absolute nonsense!” says the LORD. As Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the one who loved me and gave himself for me.” This is my declaration of faith; my ‘salvation-verse’, so to speak. If Christ of Nazareth and His Spirit is truly to dwell within me, then how could my life amount to nothing?!?! That is to say that Christ, Himself, shall amount to nothing…What a radically idiotic statement.

As you may see from my journal entry above, dating back to the beginning of the academic year here at Kansas State, my heart has been heavily burdened with awaiting upon the LORD for the redemption of my city, Manhattan, KS. LORD-willing and dependent upon hard work, diligence, and an incredible amount of GRACE from the Holy Spirit, I will graduate from this great academic institution in a matter of months. To what degree will my class have impacted the 23,000+ hearts/souls on the campus? To what magnitude will they have experienced the deep, compassionate, life-changing love of Jehovah Jireh, LORD of Lords, KING of Kings, Adonai, King Jesus?

I believe the answer to many of the aforementioned, rhetorical-questions lies within another simple, yet difficult, question: How SURRENDERED are each of us (you AND me) to the LORD? Essentially, to what extent have we laid aside our personal ambitions to satisfy our flesh, that we may live by the Spirit, for the Spirit? C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Hell is a place where you always have to do whatever you want to do.” We must come to a greater realization of our depravity and inability to do anything good by satisfying our own sinful desires in order to give up our constant pursuit of counterfeit-affections. A deepening understanding of our sinful hearts leads to a greater dependency upon the LORD and an undeterred gratitude for the beauty of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection!

Now, how can I expect you (the reader) to deeply consider this, without placing my heart on the table, that you may see my own need for total surrender to the LORD. If anyone desires for others to take a step in the right direction, then they should have already taken two steps that way. It is in this spirit that I’d like to share another journal entry…

“LORD, I have neglected Your love and chosen counterfeit forms of love/affection that have robbed me of my ability to fully love, dwell in, and serve You wholeheartedly. Please wash over me in your grace, mercy, and love…Above women, I will serve You. Above money, I will seek You. Above status, I will love You.” (My Journal, August 2012)

“And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.” (1 John 2:28) PERSEVERE.

Trials will come. More likely, trials are already occurring. There will be many efforts made to deter the body of Believers from pursuing the LORD wholeheartedly and keeping them from bringing others into the Kingdom of God. The #1 way for the enemy to oppose The Church is division. We must realize this and make every effort to counter attempts to break us apart. Above all things, it is necessary that we walk in total surrender to the LORD, allowing His Love to wash over any and everything we do. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

If you read, remember, comprehend, or enact ANYTHING from the things I’ve written, allow it to be the next couple sentences….WE MUST WAKE UP! There is constant spiritual warfare taking place all around us. The course of real lives, hearts, and souls are on the line as we interact with and serve alongside people daily. One hurtful word or a single harsh action could be all that it takes for a seed of doubt or bitterness to form inside the heart of any individual (myself included). Members of the Body of Christ, we are called to holiness. The word “holy”, means to be set apart. In the case of pursuing the holiness of God, we are to be set apart for the service of the LORD in every circumstance, seeking to live above reproach by the strength of the Him who sends us.

It’s insane to consider the concept that the Creator of the Universe has enlisted me in His plan for the redemption of the LORD…A friend of mine, Rachael, stated it well earlier this week, “Think about this: God despises sin AND He knows everything…..so how is it I am still alive!? Because of love. Uhmazing.” If there is even a hint of humility within your hearts, this statement should resonate within each of your hearts. Praise Him for the grace and love provided to cover over our many sins and short-comings. Through His provision, it is indeed possible to live a lifestyle that is above reproach.

May the LORD use these words of exhortation to awaken hearts and breathe life into our hearts and souls as we endure the race that is set before us.

The Runner

The sun is booming; June heat in Kansas, along with the humidity, southern winds, and various other factors are sure to enact the sweat glands of even the fittest individual. Heavy-breathing is followed by heavy footsteps as your feet pound against the pavement. Looking around, the greenery is beginning to become not so green anymore, as grass is charred by the intensity of the summer sun, turning it into a yellowish-brown wasteland. As you attempt to breathe, the air is thick, as if swimming through an ocean. However, you are not swimming, but are running. Running fast. Overcome every obstacle through the blood of The Lamb!

Approaching an incline in the road, you do as every other person would and pick up the pace to maintain enough momentum to force your heavy body up the grade. A quarter of the way up the hill, you begin to think, “What am I doing? I could walk…maybe even stop and collapse.” However, the little engine that could comes to life in your mind as you begin to think “I think I can”, “I think I can”, you are now halfway up the monstrous hill. But wait…fatigue is setting in, muscles are cramping, your breaths are becoming shorter. How can one push themselves over the top? How could you possibly summit the hill and come coasting to a comfortable pace down the other side?

I was thinking about life today. Weird, right? I’m 22 years old and “thinking about life” as if I am some sort of old Yoda, ready to assess the current state of the world and breath life into it via truth that has only been gained by the grace of God through the Holy Spirit. God’s Word alludes to the Christian journey as a race that has been marked out for us and we are to run the race with all endurance and perseverance, keeping our minds on the good and noble things of this world as we continually return to the Father for strength, nourishment, counsel, and the ability to overcome any and every obstacle that is used to test our character. Think of the story of Job…a man who was found by God to be one of the most righteous in the land…Satan requests to wreak havoc upon his life, saying that in the end, Job will turn away from God due to his circumstances. We are amazed to see that Job’s character is certainly challenged (perhaps even to the breaking point as his friends come to comfort, challenge, and counsel him), yet he curses the day of his birth and himself rather than cursing God. In the end, he is faithful to God. Would I be that faithful? Would you?

One of the realities of this life is that we will all be put to the test. In fact, it is when we are becoming effective witnesses for the LORD (as was the cause with Job) that Satan will increasingly desire to bring destruction to our lives in such a way that would disable us from running the race and finishing strong. The thing about marathon runners is that there are many who would like to complete the journey…but few that are able to persevere long enough to cross the finish line. My friend, Carlos, recently set out to run a marathon and he did it! He ran across the finish-line and completed the race that was set before him! He said it was such an exciting feeling. You should have seen how the joyous expressions on his face as he attempted to recreate the story before us. How much more exciting would it be to complete the race of life and to have finished it well?!?! Having given every ounce of strength that we had to the LORD, pouring ourselves out like drink-offerings as Paul did; serving others, lifting them up, calling ourselves and others to repentance in the name of Jesus and encouraging them to run the race towards His throne alongside us, we can finish well!

Whether it is a job-search, financial security, education, relationships, health/sickness, etc. we all have our hills to climb. Perhaps you are currently coasting at a comfortable pace and life hasn’t thrown any at you in a while, well, I assure you that there they are to come. Let us prepare our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies for the hills that lie ahead; seeking the LORD daily in prayerful devotion of our entire lives to Him that we may never stray from the path and always have the strength to continue upward, even when the hill/obstacle seems nearly impossible. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Amen? Amen!!!!

Running for Him,
Justin

P.S. In other news, I am currently trying to jog on a fairly regular basis and I am definitely out-of-shape. Feel free to pray for and encourage my journey toward a more disciplined and healthy self so that I may be better equipped to serve the LORD and others with the remainder of my life!

The Next Chapter

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,  a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

Many things are separated by chapters. The use of chapters in books informs the reader that a new idea, story-line, etc. is being introduced and that one has reached its’ conclusion. Sometimes the authors will leave us sitting on a cliff-hanger, not entirely sure of what is to come next, sometimes they don’t. Regardless, it is time to turn the page and continue the journey that is found within. It turns out that life has chapters as well. A chapter for childhood; being raised up under the direction and strict discipline of our parents who teach us right from wrong, a chapter for teenage rebellion, a chapter for young-adults/college-students; learning a lot from your own mistakes, the grace shown by others, the hardships life has to potentially offer up at some point, and so on. Around this time last year, I was writing a post titled “Time Flies and Season’s Change” and how true that is! It is safe to say that I am not the same man that I was and it is fairly safe to say that you are not the exact same person that you were a year ago either…time changes things…it changes us…and as we change, a new chapter begins.

I graduated with the Class of 2008 from Olathe Northwest High School! Many of my peers graduated the same year and have recently completed their undergraduate studies at Kansas State University and other universities across the United States! Congratulations to those of you that were disciplined, demonstrated perseverance, and enough intelligence to graduate in the ever elusive four-year time period. To those of you that have another year or so to go…I’m right there with you!

Regardless of graduation status, many of us are turning the page and beginning to write the next chapter of our lives. Some are getting engaged, others starting relationships, some dedicating themselves to singleness for a period of time to seek out the LORD, some are ready and seeking, and some are ALREADY MARRIED.

Friends, graduates, brothers, sisters, married, unmarried, etc. I write to you today with a single appeal to our generation as we step into the next chapter of life; whether it be landing a corporate job, marrying the spouse of your dreams, devoting your life to full-time ministry, etc. I desire for all of you to keep this in mind as you take those steps…

Grace is absolutely essential to the advancement of the Kingdom of God and to the acceptance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, grace is a rarity. We live in a judgmental society; passing judgement on one another for wrongdoings. In fact, calling someone judgmental is announcing judgement. Therefore, currently, as I write this, I am being judgmental. I NEED GRACE. Without your grace, I will be accused of bigotry and slander. With grace, this can be viewed as a message to encourage, challenge, and strengthen the Body.

Forgiveness is difficult. But God is love. And “[Love] is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:5) My friend Bryce recently wrote on his Facebook page, “Stars shine in a dark night as a reflection of the sun. Without the sun the stars can’t shine. Christians shine in a dark world as a reflection of Christ, [The Son]. We can’t shine without Christ.” We are indeed a reflection of our Savior…or…more accurately, we SHOULD be a reflection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. If this is the case, and it is, then we will learn to genuinely love others. We will grow in our ability to extend authentic, no-strings-attached, grace to one another and to others outside the community of Christ.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Paul, often viewed as one of the ‘superheros’ of The Church, was weak and sinful at the core, but he had given his life to God, submitted to him as His disciple, and rested in his position as one of God’s beloved children. If God’s grace was sufficient for him, then is sufficient for us as well.

LOVING OTHERS, without regard for their wrongdoings, and EXTENDING GRACE, even to those who have hurt you is NOT easy. I struggle with putting this into practice in my own life, but I am taking steps toward it and would love it if you joined me in this journey.

Let’s conclude the chapter of our lives where judgement, condemnation, and superficiality play starring roles…Pray with me that, as we turn the page in life to the next chapter, God would begin to write in ink the story of unconditional love, authentic grace, and overpowering redemption in each of our lives and in the lives of those we impact.

Humbled By Grace,

Justin Meyer

The Solution

Twinkling lights, evening air

Flower petals landing in hair.

Laughter ensues, conversations grow

The love of others seemingly glows.

Radiant beauty, life created

There is so much God has demonstrated.

 

The coffee is strong and honey, sweet

There are so many hearts to meet

Right where they are, on the streets, broken

Behind smile facades, tears are chokin’

Life seems distant, Life seems far

That’s why you spend endless nights in the bar.

 

No matter how much ‘liquid courage’

Instead you end up distraught, discouraged

 

Friends assure you these times will pass

Yet pain, once again, over hope, shall surpass.

 

What is your hope in?

Where are you copin’?

 

How can someone so dead inside come to bear life?

Where can one run from their painful strife?

 

So many things promise alleviation

Yet somehow are simply deviations

From the root issue which must be mentioned

If you want your heart freed from Satan’s detention.

 

So why sit here and keep pretending

That your way will start trending.

Maybe if you tweet and update

Your problems will somehow resituate.

 

That doesn’t seem to do the trick

Let me offer something real quick…

 

What if you stopped trying

And started denying

Your ability to stop crying?…

 

What if you were to fully surrender;

Wave your white flag and did not hinder

The power of Christ from overcoming

All the sinful things you’ve been becoming?

 

What if for once, God was God

And you were not?

 

Perhaps the strongest action you can take

Is admitting your weakness and past mistakes…

 

Give it a chance; at least one day

Fall to your knees, cry out, and pray.

I know your hearts empty and skies are grey

But God’s compassion is real and won’t delay.

 

Time is of the essence and this poem must end

In the meantime I’ll pray for your hearts to mend.

Father, send out Your Holy Spirit and angels in Power;

Take back this dark nation and let Your mercy shower

Upon those whom revere the Word of Your Son

And to Your arms, like young children, do run.