Do Not Neglect Your Gift

I mentioned in my prior post regarding the surprise it was that marriage was both complex and beautiful and unexpectedly divine, by God’s design, that I would be sharing what I’m learning from reading the Bible in upcoming posts. So here goes nothing – it’s been a while, so excuse me if I’m rusty or fail to reveal Scripture in the proper context.

Let’s jump right in. 1 Timothy 1:11-15 drops a gender-roles in the church bomb that leaves everyone that reads it uncomfortable. One author wrote that verse 12 singlehandedly puts an end to many conversations between men and women in the church, attempting to comprehend their roles and God’s design for a collective church body. The good news for you is that I know for a fact I’ve inadequately studied it to have formed a solid opinion but my INITIAL OBSERVATIONS are that it was culturally relevant at the time and/or potentially meant for the correction of one heretical woman, not women plural. Also, I know that in my own personal journey with the Lord, God has used women’s perspectives to help alter the course of my life. Allie’s gentleness being a prime example, while experiencing the blessing that the spiritual gifts of encouragement and prophecy that came from others also seems to fit. I believe there is something to be gained from both perspectives – were we not both created in God’s image, fearfully and wonderfully made?

Deciding that since it’s been a while since I’ve been consistently studying the Bible I didn’t want to weigh myself down with trying to incessantly study the crap out of the previous passage or others for now. So that’s my brief synopsis on Chapter 1.

The real passage of Scripture that rocked me this morning and inspired me to write before I head upstairs to shower and get ready to work (got up early and worked out this morning AND got time to read the Bible and write – who am I? Gotta do this more often!) was 1 Timothy 4:12-16.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

“Do not neglect your gift.” It felt as if God was speaking to my heart. How often have I felt the prompt to speak or to write or to encourage and due to lack of trust in God I’ve done nothing? How accustomed I’ve become to ignoring the voice of God that when he’s speaking words in my ear for another they fall in crack in the sidewalk rather than on the fertile soil of that man’s heart. How long has pride delayed growth?

The next verse speaks of giving ourselves wholly to our people, so that everyone may see our progress. This makes me think of the isolation state we place ourselves in when we know we’re not where we are supposed to be in life. So we hide and pretend that everything is okay and when friends call and come knocking, it’s easier to pretend we’re not home or we are too busy than to confront the current reality of our hearts. But if we were to simply stay in community and be willing to share even our burdens and flaws – putting it all into the light – how much more powerful would God’s grace become in our lives?

So this Wednesday, friends, I encourage you – Do Not Neglect Your Gift.

Give God, your spouse, and the Church all that you have, so that they may see your progress and so that you all may be saved.

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Taking Every Thought Captive

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.”

2 Corinthians 10:4-6 is the battlecry I didn’t know my heart needed. I spent the majority of my morning wrestling with my thought-life, as I have for the past few days. Having difficulty sleeping due to anxiety revolving around thinking or perhaps even lack thereof. Over dinner the other evening, I shared with Allie that I felt the world went by too quickly sometimes and I wished there were more time to think and ponder. Interesting for a man to wish for that who is often consumed by destructive thinking, but I meant in the hustle and bustle of the monotonous, everyday it’s easy to forget to dream or to listen to God’s voice and leading.

I found myself restless this morning, wrestling with temptations to be lustful or bitter or to covet the riches of others. A lack of contentment led to a feeling of anxiety and a general wrestling that led to a need distract and accomplish – a need to avoid listening to my heart and to God and to bury myself into something – so cleaning the bathroom and doing laundry it was. Contrary to the norm of remaining in those life-stealing thoughts and/or numbing myself by seeking the entertainment of Netflix, etc. I found myself listening to a sermon on “Do Not Be Anxious” taught out of Philippians. It’s a frequently utilized passage that I’ve read, studied, preached to myself and to others, numerous times. But God has a way of teaching us something new with the same verses sometimes. And this time, I felt a call to action.

A sort of “enough is enough.” Allie’s shared with me that a tactic her parents used when she was having a pity party as a child was to tell her that it was a “Party of 1.” Meaning they weren’t going to entertain her ideas and stay there with her, but she was welcome to join their party of forward thinking, whenever she was done wallowing. I’ve since seen it used as a gentle anecdote to bring me out of my own pity parties of one. And so enough was enough – there was nothing healthy coming of staying in those dark, deceptive, depressing, deviant, distractions from the truth, known as my own negative thinking.

I’d equate pessimism as a habitual thought-cycle, a sort of systematic mind-numbing addiction. An unsatisfactory result occurs and your neural pathways have trained themselves to assume failure, which to no one’s surprise leads to further failure because you didn’t take the time out of your day to plan and to believe in yourself long enough to make a change. And so you did the same thing, “expecting” a different result – the very definition of insanity.

And so I laid on the bed, exhausted from going on a cleaning rampage to calm myself and had a heart-to-heart with God. “Lord, help me take every thought captive for your glory. If it’s not from you, help me to submit it to your will and to send it away from me. Heal and renew my mind. By taking my thoughts captive, I ask that you’d set my heart free so I’d be alive enough to be me.”

Scholars on addiction and thought-process have come to see that in order to retrain one’s impulses, whether they be thoughts or actions, it is necessary to identify triggers and to plan new responses. So instead of getting anxious and throwing back a few beers like you did in college, maybe you’ve now matured and have started going to the gym instead. For me, I think that whenever I’m faced with anxiety, anger, depression, or any kind of unwholesome thinking, I’m going to have to train myself to pray. But not only to pray – but to believe in the power of prayer and in its effectiveness. Then to make a move, take a step in a direction, sure of my footing because I’ve submitted my will to the Lord and pressing forward rather than remaining in the same place.

So long, stagnancy. Goodbye, evil. Farewell, apathy.

Enter Jesus. Together, we’re Taking Every Thought Captive.

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The Heights & Depths

I’ve fallen in love with raw humanity. The heights and the depths – I want it all. It’s not all about the mountain-tops, but sometimes about “the walking in between” as Ben Rector sings about in his recent album. I think that, in order to know and to love someone, you must understand that you will have to know them at their very worst, just as you may see a glimpse into their very best – their pain will be yours, just as much as their joy. And I think there is beauty to that.

Let’s think about it for a moment. No one is always happy, polished, and attractive. Yet, we nearly obsessively (or perhaps I’m speaking for myself, but hear me out) ensure that we remain polished around others. “How are you doing?” is followed by “Great! How are you?” even on a day when you may truly be breaking inside. So instead of facing the scars, we apply another coat of makeup. Sarcasm and supposed witty humor become our defense-mechanisms – we don’t want people to see what’s really inside, so we’re funny, not real.

I think it’s time to face the pain (yours and my own, together).

Every writer has his own beliefs and views, but as I’ve read memoirs (particularly Sheldon Vanauken’s “A Severe Mercy” and Brennan Manning’s “All Is Grace”) I’ve discovered one common theme among some of the greats – they are unashamedly transparent, raw, and honest about their brokenness. They believe what Paul said when preaching that they must become lesser, so that Christ can be made greater within them. Therefore, they lay pride aside, and lay bare their vices and broken relationships – that their readers may see that DESPITE their inability to be perfect, God still made them new, again and again, and used them for His glory.

During an episode of Scandal, one of the characters is facing a scandal (shocker) of their own. In the end, they become relieved that their “dirt” has surfaced. Once it has been brought into the light, it can be dealt with and “handled”. Despite the show’s occasionally risque nature, this is a potently biblical concept. Darkness loses its’ power when brought into the Light. When you flip the light-switch on in a dark-closet, the unknown becomes known, and our true colors show forth. Even more shockingly, with our polished facade now tarnished, we become more easy to relate to, less prideful/arrogant, and more likely to recognize humanity’s collective need for the gospel of grace.

A need within the church is the real life-on-life, connectivity, that goes much deeper than the surface. I can dress well and talk church-talk with the best of them. However, some days, underneath the sharp mind and quick witted extroversion, lies a boyish nature, wild imagination, and glaring insecurities that can drive me into isolation. There are days when I cannot stand to look in the mirror, so my head hangs low, ashamed of what it sees. Certain days, I attempt to convince myself that big-picture dreams are out-of-reach, because I do not measure up. Other days, I avoid social gatherings, simply because of my weight, or the fact that I sweat easily compared to others. One could easily chalk this up to spiritual-warfare and suggest that I pray and focus on God more. While those are all good things, I do not think it is always a matter of doing more. I think it may simply be a matter of bringing to light areas of struggle and allowing those “scandals” (areas lacking Christ-like nature and belief in God’s grace/power to overcome) to be “handled” (wrestled through) with the Church and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

It is difficult to shift one’s mindset from maintaining a polished appearance to being transparent and vulnerable with those around them. For me to admit that I am weak some days (or most days – depends on the season) and need others to lift me up, means that I am admitting to my inability to be self-sufficient, a great American travesty. But the ideology of pulling oneself up by their bootstraps is slowly dying, as more and more so, we realize our distinct need for community – brothers and sisters in arms, to make war against that which attempts to steal, kill, and destroy any element of what is good within us.

Reading Sheldon Vanauken’s memoir, “A Severe Mercy”, I’ve discovered that he had a deep friendship with CS Lewis. As he writes of their conversations and meetings and shares some of the letters and other correspondence, you begin to see the Christ-like character that both of these men possess. Sheldon describes CS Lewis as a man that would get right to the point, always leading Sheldon to the real issues at hand – the heart. 

Our weaknesses and insecurities may present themselves in physical embodiment through aesthetic flaws, substance-abuse, indulgent vices, and repressive thinking, but they all lead to the same thing – the brokenness of our hearts – the need for something bigger, greater, and more powerful than ourselves to overcome sin and to call out the righteousness that can be planted within us by the Spirit. (Paul would be proud. That’s a New Testament-like run-on sentence if I’ve ever written one. But read it again – I believe there’s truth within.)

I’m a doer and fixer. After all, I am a guy. We’re problem-solvers. We see problems, diagnose the situation, and attempt to implement a plan to fix that problem. So often, it’s easy to go the route of behavior modification, as opposed to wrestling through what the real underlying issues may be. Here’s an example. I want to lose weight, right? Who doesn’t? So I eat less (most days), exercise more, and alter my diet. That should fix the problem, right? Not really. The underlying issue still exists. Underneath a stronger, more endurance-trained (unfortunately not slimmer) me, there is still the mindset that I am not desirable. That’s the root issue. I want to be desirable. Then the question becomes, is God big enough for that? Is His Love enough for me? Will it satisfy?

So that is where we’re heading, friends. Deeper. The heights and the depths. There’s no turning back now. It’s high time the church were challenged to dig deep and pray hard. A life that lacks passion isn’t a life worth living. A passionate man/woman knows pain, as much as they do joy. But their joy is greater, because they’ve wrestled through the depths of darkness, and found their reasons to hope in the Light.

As we go deeper, we will be lifted higher. The humble man is lifted up by the LORD. One who prays has his prayers heard by the Son, who takes those requests and petitions them before the Father. As we face the deepest of depths, the Spirit will lift us up to the highest of heights. Let’s summit this mountainous life, together.

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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.

Declaration

I’ve been going through some interesting times spiritually. Knowing what sins you need to overcome and then refusing to deal with them has got to be one of the definitions of Christian insanity. How many of us go through such a phase? The Holy Spirit reveals within us things which are not honorable to God and then we seemingly say, “Thank you Holy Spirit, I’ll change that whenever I get the chance, or when it becomes convenient for me.” Then, quicker than the realization that what we have been doing is wrong, the thought leaves us. We walk right back through the seductive, seemingly attractive doors to sin. Once through that door, we’ve suddenly forgot our roots which are deeply found in Christ as our brother and God as our Father. Suddenly, God no longer matters and meeting our next sinful desire consumes us. Sweet for a second, then bitter, turning into a potent poison which corrupts the entire body; that is what sin is. So, we chase after it, giving everything to obtain it…but sin can’t love us, sin cannot fill one up with joy, love, compassion, grace, mercy, and strength. It is capable of no such thing. We become enslaved to sin. It imprisons us in our own chamber of depression, loneliness, and discontentment. Shackled by the bonds of our addiction to that which allured us through darkness’ door, we lose hope.

Living a life of sin is not freedom. What once offered us a pleasurable outlet for our unmet wants and desires is now simply a way of life. Convincing others that we are alright, because of our acquired status, or supposedly “earned” righteousness, we cloak the ugly truth about our hearts with the honey-dipped lies of a smooth tongue…

What a dark way to view the world? Surely, no man can withstand such darkness and remain living joyfully. This is the reality of the world that we live in. I would go so far as to dare any man to prove otherwise…

What is the one thing you have chosen over God? An angry heart, filled with hatred? Lustful eyes which desires can never be met? Perhaps, for you, it is pride; you cannot stand the idea of humility or servitude, so you fight all you can for a high position. There are countless counterfeit affections that we can give our lives to. I know that many times I have chosen something over God. O how much I regret having allowed myself to be deceived by the Evil One. Truly, I say to you that I hate Satan! There is no one on the face of this universe that desires my destruction and the destruction of those I love more than he.

A quote that has constantly stuck with me comes from a John Piper sermon. Piper declares, “The only possible attitude toward out of control desire for sin is a declaration of all out war.” Powerful words for a meek pastor and author from a small church in Minnesota, but he’s totally right. Christians, your desires WILL get you into trouble. Deciding to foolishly chase after them rather than after God, Himself, could very likely lead to death. Not simply your physical life slowly being taken from you, but rather your spiritual relationship with Christ being snuffed out, because you cannot have two masters. God will not be mocked and you will reap what you sow. Galatians 4:24 states, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Paul is writing to the church, declaring that those who walk by the Spirit cannot gratify their evil desires anymore. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we are walking a dangerous and deadly line whenever we choose to not heed such life-giving wisdom.

Remember Joseph from the Old Testament? He was tempted by the seductive house-wife of his master, Potiphar, and Joseph RAN. O Christians, run from sin! Do not dilly-dally any longer in the brook which will surely not give you life! Run! Run back to Father God’s arms…NOW. Not tomorrow, not an hour from now, not when you are ‘ready to settle down’, you must do this right now!!!

Christian, if you are truly a follower of Christ, then this decision will not be as difficult as you and I would like to make it out to be. You see, we gave up our life so that we may be granted fellowship with God and have the rights as sons and heirs of His Kingdom. You may one day graduate from being under the authority of your earthly parents, but you will never graduate from being under the authority of God. Does that statement make your blood boil? Do you believe that you are being wronged? It frustrated me. I have spent a great deal of thought, time, and energy contemplating the various ways to still be a child of God, without fully submitting to his authority, and it does NOT work. How can the Father give you good gifts and entrust you with the things that you want and need, if He is not fully certain that you are indeed His son. Let us assume for a moment that I am the adopted child of a very wealthy man. He has promised to give me my inheritance as He sees me grow and mature. Then, feeling entitled and frustrated with how I must submit to authority, I run away from home and squander everything. Do you think that a wise father in this situation should turn around and reward my foolishness by writing a check for the remainder of his estate? Absolutely not! However, in the story of the prodigal son, Jesus tells his disciples that we can indeed return back to the Father and He will graciously anoint us as His worthy children once again. It requires a great deal of humility and courage to return Home to what you ran away from though…We must also count the costs…Is following Jesus and walking back Home to the Father truly worth dying to ourselves?

I plead with you…surely Christ is worth absolutely everything. There is nothing in this world that can offer you more than He can. Truly, better is one day in His courts than thousands elsewhere. Better than thousands upon thousands…

Readers, I have counted the costs and have decided that He is certainly worth it all. I will live my life solely for Him and for those He entrusts me with, counting all I have as a loss if it were not for my King’s glory. I will become a slave to righteousness and will fight sin to the death. I won’t do it alone though…I will petition the LORD in prayer, need constant reminding and strengthening from brothers and sisters in Christ, and I will always need Jesus and the precious grace that He has offered.

Written in ink, I have stated my pledge to The Father. Will you choose to write yours? Few will inherit the Kingdom of God. According to a Gallup poll, 92% of Americans state that they “believe in God.” How deceived have we become?!?!? Will you and I be a part of the few men and women that decidedly endured the race and finished well? Will we give up the rest of our lives to hear our Father say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”? It is now in your hands. Take responsibility for your many sins and seek God’s help! He is not interested in changing your situation but wants to change (renew) your heart. Humble yourselves and allow Him to work! The strongest, bravest, most courageous, stance that we can take is one of desperation, on our faces, pleading with God for our redemption. If we do this, out of a pure heart, how could The Redeemer not bring redemption?

Praying for the awakening of your souls,

Justin Meyer

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

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!