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?

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.

A “Fearless” Conclusion

Today, I finished reading Max Lucado’s book, “Fearless”. First of all, I highly recommend his book to absolutely anyone. It has surely opened my eyes to the incredible amount of fear in our world and renewed my mind according to God’s will, regarding what it is that I should fear, and what it is that I should not. If you are interested at all in what I pondered this afternoon, as I began to draw a few conclusions from what I had read and what I felt God was attempting to teach me, then I encourage you to take a few minutes to read the following journal entry that I ended up writing as a result…

Fear has a way of setting the world on fire; men and women hungrily eat up tidbits of dreadful news through every avenue of media they can. I’ve witnessed this with motherly figures in my life. Women that have positions in which they have nurtured and matured me throughout the years and whom I certainly love. They watch hours of Oprah, Dr. Phil, Dateline, 20/20, and other shows that will remind them of the dangers of the world. It’s like a sick addiction where scary news must be read, shared with others, and fret over, while good news is quickly forgotten.

Forgetting seems to be a common issue that Christians deal with. God constantly reminds us to remember throughout the course of Scripture. Ministry leaders must remind us frequently that God is still there and He still cares. Christians, we have to remember. If we forget who our God is, then who will tell this broken and depraved world that there is indeed someone who can save them!?!?! God is here! Our Savior has come and will surely be coming back.

The old idiom, “you are what you eat,” can be taken quite literally. We will become whatever it is that we fill ourselves up with. If you feed on the fear that media wants to feed you, then you will be fearful. If you read magazines that tell you to worry about the shape and size of your body, then you will care far too much about your looks and potentially become critical of others. If you sip from the sex-crazed goblet of romance novels, pornography, and sensuality in general, then you will indeed become a sexually immoral being.

What if we began to fill ourselves up with the words of God? He says to us, “Be strong and courageous”, “do not fear”, and reminds us that we have “not yet resisted sin to the point of shedding blood”. If you want the world to change, then change it; one broken heart at a time…starting with yours. Yes, even your heart needs healing and indeed our minds need to be renewed. If you fill yourselves up with God’s Word and His Spirit, then you will surely become more and more Christ-like each day and the people in your life NEED Jesus’ love. Let’s face it, you and I are not capable of loving others to the degree that they need to be loved, especially if we are not filling our cups to overflowing with His gracious, perfect, and merciful love on a daily basis.

Ready for the bottom line? God is God. If one truly reveres (respectfully fears) God, then all other fears cease and courage is born. Max Lucado stated, “Courage is fear that has said its’ prayers.” How incredibly true! “When God is fully revealed to us and we ‘get it’, then we experience the conversion of our fear…’Fear of the Lord’ is the deeply sane recognition that we are not God.” At the bottom of the same page, Lucado writes, “A big God translates into big courage. A small view of God generates no courage.”

Imagine a country filled with men that actually feared God…Imagine what they would be capable of under the direction of the Holy Spirit…Imagine how much your life would differ if you concluded to live a life that is free from the fears of this world, but maintained a healthy dose of the sobering fear of the LORD. Imagine…how friendships would be deepened, marriages restored, families brought together, nations united. The imagination is a powerful tool and a beautiful gift that God has given us. Anyone tired of simply imagining? Who is ready to make their wildest, Christ-centered dreams a reality?

It would appear that Max Lucado shares my love for coffee, as at the end of his chapter, “Caffeinated Life”, he writes, “Eternal glory. I’d like a large cup, please. ‘One venti-sized serving of endless joy in the presence of God. Go heavy on the wonder, and cut all the heartache.’ Go ahead and request it. The Barista is still brewing. For all you know, it could be the next cup you drink.” Christians, it is time to walk away from the paralysis of fear. It is time to truly live. “Real courage embraces the twin realities of current difficulty and ultimate triumph. Yes, life stinks. But it won’t forever. As one of my friends likes to say, “Everything will work out in the end. If it’s not working out, it’s not the end.” (Max Lucado) Lay down your pride, O Christian, fall on your face before the LORD, admit that you are not adequate for the task as your forefathers have (even Jesus relied on prayer, do you think yourselves to be more capable than He?), ask Him for His blessing, and when He touches you, lifts you up, and instructs you to live according to His purpose, free from fear…then do just that. Live obediently.

Continuing the Fight,

Justin

Unveiled

Is it truly living if only half

Of who you are sees the light?

The other half sits in darkness on behalf

Of the hideousness associated with it, what a fright!

 

If people knew you struggled with this

And have a history with that.

How could you possibly be His?

You are repulsive like fat.

 

Blemishes and scars appear

People run and people hide

Cannot stand what they see in the mirror

As they struggle with too much pride.

 

It’s not true, it couldn’t possibly be

That these imperfections and things unseen

Could possibly belong to one like me.

 

Unable to comprehend the notion

That He would love you unconditionally

Leads to empty hearts and lack of emotion

As your lives continue dysfunctional.

 

Imprisoned by fear of being found out

You hide behind walls of busyness

While the Evil One pounds out

Every ounce of strength you have in business.

 

Around “churchy-folk” you’re righteous,

Outside that circle you’re restless

Uncertain whether or not Christ is

Worth all the effort and investments…

 

Folks, it’s time to wipe off the makeup,

Let things unknown come to light,

Remove yourselves from darkness, wake up!

Haven’t your teachers taught you left from right?

 

The Lover is concerned with your heart,

Do not concern yourselves with outer things,

They will only distract and tear your apart,

From the One who gives flight to your wings.

 

Child, are you not tired of running and hiding?

Run to the Father and allow yourself to seek refuge,

No need to remain independent and continue backsliding,

I hear His Love for you and me is rather HUGE!

 

Here’s the deal, the time has come

For you and I, alike and different

To remove our veils and give Him all, not some.

 

Father is not interested in half of your cup,

He already drank it all.

Lay down your pride and lift up

Your faults to the One who delivers us from the fall!

 

Daily you’ll need Him, as do I

Discontinue pretending it is possible alone

Don’t even begin to try

The task is an absolutely colossal one.

 

It is time; we’ve reached the conclusion,

Remove religious makeup, tear away veils,

Authentic hearts and Jesus Christ is the solution,

He is the one to bring momentum to your sails!

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!

Renewed Life

O God, why must I be so hateful?

Destroyed by grief; debatin’ salvation

My heart is sinful and contrite

Wouldn’t recognize it in the darkness of night

My Light has been snuffed

Music no longer buffed.

Ya see, I’m chasin’ affection

But when it’s given, I’m deflectin’

Weazy (and many others) loves and encourages

But Satan’s here and discourages.

Have you ever been “the righteous one”

People believin’ you shine like The Son

But stunned and confused when ya run

From freedom freely given under the guise of fun?

Holy Spirit, reign in my heart, enlighten me

I thirst for when Father shall delight in me.

Shall I squander my inheritance,

And forget my heart’s heritage?

That You made it, You made me,

So why doesn’t Your love fully persuade me?

You see, I sit here brewin’

Not fully trustin’ the pot You’re stewin’.

O but God there’s no turnin’ back!

Andy Mineo is right; sin is whack!

Father, I give You permission

Whip my soul into submission

Illegitimate children are not disciplined

But I’m your son and should’ve listened!

Holy Spirit, renew this depraved mind

Capture lies, open my eyes, I’m blind!

Without You, I’m dead! With You, I’m ALIVE!!!

Give us our daily bread that our hearts may thrive!

Let’s return the old me to the grave,

You can free me from being depraved.

Shackles removed…party begins, a heavenly rave

To Your mission, righteousness, and glory, I’ll gladly be a slave!

My soul was dead and buried but then comes resurrection!

Let joy overflow as You give our hearts direction!

No longer subject to The Accuser’s painful strife,

I thank You so much Father, for renewed life.

Selfless

How many hours in a day do we spend thinking about, or working on, our plans? We have to-do lists, calendars, planners, Facebook events, etc that we must constantly remind ourselves of in order to keep up with the whirlwind lives of our peers. It’s a competitive world out there. Information Technology (IT) companies spend a lot of money on figuring out ways to increase download speed, the quickness of receiving data on cell phones, etc. In fact, a recent commercial by one of the major cell phone companies talks about how things were “so 27 seconds ago” (they had already received the info. before their friends).

At the white-knuckle pace our lives move; it’s a wonder we have a chance to interact with anyone in the first place. No wonder so many Americans and “first world” countries have increasing amounts of people suffering from depression and other emotional/mental disorders. We all have a desire for human interaction, human contact, a desire for someone to care about us, to notice that perhaps we’re not having the sunniest of days. Or, maybe we simply want them to notice the new haircut or pair of shoes we’ve recently acquired. The sad truth is that often, each of us finds ourselves in the backdrop of everyone else’s lives. To use a movie reference, we’ve all become extras, instead of playing supporting roles or co-stars. Essentially, we have no real impact on the film, or the lives of our peers.

We must ask ourselves the question: Is this how life was meant to be? Is it better for us to continually compete and step on each other’s toes or is it perhaps better for us to live lives that are counter-cultural, and in humility, serve those around us?

Think about the last time someone served you; did something out of the ordinary and went out of their way to make your day better…It made an impact, didn’t it? You still remember! The sad thing is that you may not be able to remember because we’re all sadly so incredibly selfish.

So, I have this amazing friend Jake. Words truthfully could not do justice to the relationship that has been cultivated between the two of us over the past couple years as brothers in Christ and as very close friends. Anyways, recently he’s been sharing stories with me about a young teenager that attended Camp War Eagle (a summer camp for underprivileged kids) where he was on staff a summer or two ago. Jed, the teenage camper is giving his life away for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A few months ago he was texting Jake about how he realized his computer had become his idol and he was going to destroy it. So, he and his youth pastor literally destroyed his computer; that he had saved up for and paid for on his own. But he didn’t want anything hindering him from following the LORD wholeheartedly! The story doesn’t end there though, recently this young disciple of Jesus has decided that he wants to give his life to missions and would like to do missionary work in Haiti, the inner city of Chicago, and wherever else the LORD ends up leading him. In fact, he’s so serious about it, that he’s already began fundraising, not only for himself, but for some friends to go with him to Haiti in order to serve the LORD.

As Jake told me these stories, I was incredibly challenged. How easy it is for one to talk about how great it would be to serve God wholeheartedly and yet how few and far between are those individuals who put that faith into action. Jed has his heart set on leaving the legacy of Christ behind. He’s not focused on accumulating wealth, finding a wife as soon as possible, or playing it safe here in America for the rest of his life. No, he wants to literally give up his comfort and pleasures so that he can give his life for the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that perhaps a few may be saved! That, my friends, is incredibly selfless.

So here’s the challenging thing to think about…what would the world look like if we had the same faith and obedience that Jed has? I’m truly inspired by this young man’s sacrifice and wholehearted devotion to following his Heavenly Father with every fiber of his being. It is truly phenomenal. I’m drawn to this passage when praying over this topic:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”(Matthew 6:19-21)

If you are surely in love with Christ, then are you finding your treasure in His Kingdom? Or, are you attempting to rule a kingdom of your own. If the latter is your choice, then I must warn you that moth and rust will destroy your wealth and that once your heart is no longer beating and your lungs no longer breathing, then your life will suddenly have ZERO value. Your net worth will be $0.00 after it is all divided amongst your living descendants.

HOWEVER, if you were to live a life that was selfless; gave up everything and followed Jesus Christ with every bit of strength the Holy Spirit blesses you with…I would argue that your life will certainly hold much value. So much value in fact that it could not be measured in terms of money or points, but rather it would priceless; as you’d saved souls and brought them into the Kingdom of Heaven saving them from the fiery furnace of Hell! What could possibly be more worthwhile on this earth than doing that?