Thursday, November 24, 2011

He is with us always, even to the end of the age

Sorry for the lack of posts - been a little busy the past few weeks and even months. It has, for the most part, been a good time though.

Work is stressful, but there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully it is not an oncoming train :)

My martial arts class, Tang Soo Doo, is still going well. I just got my new belt, green belt, which means that I am, assuming I pass all of my classes between now and then, one-third of the way to black belt. I am out of the beginner belts and on to the intermediate level and there is already a big difference. I'm still enjoying it though and looking forward to the challenge.

Our bible study has been going well and I can definitely see God's hand over it. We have about 10 guys meeting regularly. We are definitely getting closer to eachother and bonding and it's great to know that our brothers in Christ have our back in prayer. It's also good to see some of them stepping up and teaching as it alleviates some of the burden put on us. I'm looking forward to seeing how God will use us to further his name in the coming months.

Other than that, not much going on. I turned 27 yesterday, and no, I don't feel any older or different. My friends took me to Dreamland BBQ and to a UAB basketball game. It was a great time. I don't get to spend as much time with them as I used to, which does leave me a little sad. A lot of them have moved away, or have their own changes they are going through such as marriage. I don't begrudge them any - they are my friends and I am happy for them - but it does leave me sad to see the end of an era coming faster and faster. But maybe God is using that to bring new people into my life, which is itself a very exciting thought.

As I start wrapping this post up, I guess I should bring it back around to the title and explain why I chose it. At church, we have been intentional with what our goal is when we close our service - to spread his name to the end of the Earth. We end with reciting the verse which says the Great Commission. I find it interesting that God gives us a command to go out and then tags that line on the end as a way to reassure us that he will always be with us. Even with all of the changes going on in my life, be it family, friends, job, whatever - I have a God who loves me and has promised to be with me always. He never changes. How we respond to him might, but he is constant. And that is very reassuring. He will be with us whatever comes our way. On this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful that even if everything radically changes between this Thanksgiving and the next, or even between today and tomorrow, that I can rest secure in the arms of my loving Father.

Love in Christ,

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The beauty of who He is...

So I'm sitting here listening to Marc Broussard's "The beauty of who you are" and with lots of different thoughts running through my head. I try to keep God first and foremost in my thoughts and actions, but that's not always easy - as I'm sure you all know. I'll get into the hows and why below.

Our bible study that we started has been going really well. We dove into Galatians at first - going over how we no longer need the Law to try and work out our salvation, which is lucky for us because we cannot measure up to the Law's demand. Thankfully we have a Savior who has given us a way out of this and we don't need to try and follow both - Christ is everything we need. The Gospel does not need any addition on our part. We've dived into James now, and have started going through how trials are a way we can either grow closer to God and use them as a way to show his glory to those around us, or use it as an excuse to pull away from and fall into sin. Considering I led the study of James 1, you'd think I would really know this stuff, but of course it takes longer to sink into my thick head. I was driving to church tonight when it hit me.

James 1:2-3 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." - It hit me that all of the things I had been saying were really applicable with the things going on in my life right now. Whether it's family problems, work stress, uncertainty about the Lord's desires for my future and my willingness to obey - whatever the issues going on with my life, Christ is my joy and the center of my heart's desires. If I look to him, I can get through everything that Satan throws my way (which seems to be more and more nowadays). God is using these times to draw me closer to him, and for me to show his love to others. As I was driving, that hit me and put a really big smile on my face - I knew that no matter the outcome, me and my God were going to be closer due to all of the things I am struggling with now, which is an awesome statement to make.

So as this song finishes playing, it reminds me that as I learn more and more about Him - as I grow closer to Him - I will never really even get close to all that there is to know about Him. His beauty is astounding. His power is undeniable. His love is matchless. His righteousness is unquestionable. And that's the beauty of who He is...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Rundown

So... long time no post. I'll give a quick run down of my life lately...

- Been a bit busy since I got back from Peru. Been working 12+ hrs/day. I think there's an end in sight for it though. Definitely looking forward to being done. Guess it could be worse though - at least I have weekends off.

- Started a bible study with some of the guys. We've been doing it for 3 weeks or so meeting at O'Henry's Coffee shop. Right now, we're keeping it small until we know for sure who's leading (we're taking turns right now) and what format for sure and all that fun mess. But it'll be good. I really think God will use it, and us, for his glory.

- Friends coming back from mission trips all over. Karina, Stephen, Clara, Wesley - it'll be good to see everyone back and get to hang out with everyone again.

- Karate test coming up soon. Will be going for Orange Senior belt, which is the last of the beginner belts. After that, it'll be Green, which means I'll be a intermediate level, and 2 years away from black belt, assuming I passed everything between then. Kinda scary, cool, excited, and nervous at the same time typing that. And just as an FYI, it goes White, Orange, Green, Brown, Red, Blue, and then Black. There are two degrees (hence the Orange Senior that I'll be testing for) of every belt before Black.

Anyways, hope everyone had a good weekend. Mine was good, just too short. Went to Oak Mountain with Brook Hills and met a lot of new people and played a lot of games and had a lot of fun. Me and Justin went to go see Captain America after that - I enjoyed that movie a lot! Have a good week everyone. And as always, please let me know if I can pray for anything for you.

Love in Christ,

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Peru Trip

So I guess I should go ahead and write about my trip to Peru. Been
putting it off, as I wasn’t really even sure where to start, but we’ll
see how it goes…

… But before I begin, I want to say the following, just in case I
forget to below while I ramble. The women on this trip, be they
Peruvian or American, were all amazing. The pastor’s wives cooked
lunch for us every day, and it was always great food and we looked
forward to seeing what they would cook for us next. They also gave us
fruit as snacks and chicken sandwiches at night once we were done with
the kids and the lessons. They had wonderful hearts, and we were truly
thankful for them. As for the women who went with us – they were all
great. From Lilah, who had her passport stolen and never let it get to
her, despite missing two days because of it, to Ashley and Kate, who
were always playing with the kids and seemed to never NOT have one
hanging onto them, all of them had such great hearts for the Peruvian
people. They were all a blessing to be around and I miss spending time
with them.

So on to the trip! This was my second time flying – and my second
mission trip to Peru. Funny how that works out, huh? Gotta say, Delta
had the nicer airline over American Airlines, but American definitely
had the better pilots, lol. We had a long wait between flights, but it
was good to get to know everyone a little better during the layover.
We made it to Peru late Sat night. We saw Jackie and Lucho in the
airport. They were there picking up another group for a separate
mission trip. It was great to see them, even if it was only for a few
minutes. We made it to the hotel late that night and grabbed as much
sleep as we could. Ryan, Basilio, and I were all in the same room, but
thankfully we all had our own beds. Hot water and consistent water
pressure were another matter…

Sunday morning we got up, not having had much sleep, and went to
church (church #1). The girls went upstairs with the kids, and I
preached while Jim, the local missionary from the IMB, translated for
me. I think it went well. Afterwards, we went out to eat at a
surprisingly nice restaurant. We came back to the hotel and crashed,
trying to catch up on sleep, and Jim gave us a short presentation
later that night about the history of Peru and some of the local
customs and such.

Monday morning we started working with the church (church #2) that had
just been started in one of the shanty towns. They were using their
living room and had moved everything else into their bedroom so that
the living room could be used for the church. They also had the
backing of some of the local churches, which is a rare thing in their
area as they almost never cooperate amongst themselves. It was great
to know that they were coming together to spread the Gospel in this
area, and have plans to keep doing so in other areas as well. So we
met at church #2 and did prayer walks through the neighborhood. We
stopped and passed out fliers and talked with people (through
interpreters) and invited them to come to the church. We went back to
church #1 after we finished with this, ate lunch, and prepared for
that afternoon. We made it back to church #2 and waited. We had a few
kids at first, but more and more kept trickling in. It was a lot of
fun playing with them and seeing the smiles on their faces, even if we
couldn’t understand what they were saying. Ryan preached the first
night on the Gospel and biblical manhood – it was his first time
preaching and he did a good job, esp. considering the circumstances.
It was dark, and to read his notes, someone stood behind him with a
flashlight. The kids were causing total chaos. But the adults there
paid attention the entire time and definitely heard the Gospel.

Tuesday morning we were greeting by Basilio cooking eggs for us. I
need to learn from him – he cooks some mighty fine eggs. We went out
and to church #2 and did more prayer walking that morning. We focused
more on actually praying for the people of that village that day and
let the Pastors talk to anyone we met. It let me focus on the point of
the trip and to really pray for these people and let my heart break
for them instead of just going through the motions. We came back to
church #1 for lunch afterwards. We got back to church #2 in the
afternoon, played with the kids – the # kept growing throughout the
week it seemed – and Josh preached that night on the Gospel and
biblical womanhood.

Wed was a little different, for me at least. Apparently we had gone a
little long the two previous nights, so the pastors asked us to cut
our sermon time down to about 10 minutes - 20 with translation.
Usually, people ask you to go into more detail, and expound upon
certain points. And here I felt like he was asking me to gut my sermon.
I spent a good part of the morning and the afternoon going back over
and over my sermon, seeing what I could cut out and what I needed to
keep, asking God to show me what the core of the message was that he
wanted me to speak. Definitely had to rely on him for that. Plus it
was a good reminder that people don't need the most eloquent of
sermons. God's word has been promised to not return void. I didn't
have to worry about cutting stuff out - God will use what is spoken
for his glory.

Thursday was our last day with the churches. Everyone was sad we had
to leave them. We gave them some parting gifts, which admittedly was
not much, but they were thankful of at least the thought behind it.
Everyone took pictures with the kids. One child's grandmother came and
gave us bracelets with our initials on it - she usually sold these to
pay for her child's education, but wanted us to have one. It was very
sweet, and as much as we wanted to refuse, it would have been rude.
The people of Peru, at least the ones we dealt with, all seem to have
a servant's heart, and give cheerfully. Something we seem to lack in
America. OH! I almost forgot. Earlier in the week, one girl's camera
got stolen, and one of our interpreters found it. She was so happy she
said she could marry him. Well, it grew from there, as running jokes
tend to do, and the local pastors heard about it. So they got a kick
out of it by gathering everyone in the room that day and performing a
fake ceremony for the two of them. It was pretty funny, and they were
both good sports about it.

Friday was out cultural/sightseeing day. We went to Lima and walked
around the capital building like last year. But we also went to a few
of the big Cathedrals that were located in Lima as well as going into
some of the catacombs underneath them. We also went to the Indian
market later, and several people bought gifts for friends and loved
ones. We got on the flight at Midnight, and made our way back to the
states. I wasn't able to sleep but an hour or so on the plane, so by
the time I got home, I was pretty tired.

Anyways, thanks everyone for the prayers for our trip. They were
needed more than you could ever know. I'm sure there are plenty of
stories I left off of this. Just know that it was a good trip, and
that God's name was proclaimed. I'm looking forward to seeing what God
has in store for next year.

Love in Christ,

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Parenting with a Gospel Purpose

So this was my second sermon in Peru. It was a little different as they asked us to cut our sermons in half as we were outside freezing, and the sermon time was doubled due to translation. It was weird having to do that - I'm used to going in more detail and expounding upon things, not gutting my sermon. Definitely had to rely on God to let me know what I could cut and still keep the message intact that he wanted me to speak. Anyways, here it is..

Hello everyone. I hope you are having a great week so far. I wanted to talk to you tonight about the Gospel and parenting.Children are a precious gift from God. In Psalm 127: 3-5, it says “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” With the help of the Holy Spirit, I will attempt to explain what Scripture says about the gospel and parenting.

Turn to Deuteronomy 6:6-7. “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."

Parenting involves Caring. That means to spend time with them, and not ignore them. Children want quality time and quantity of time. Children know they are loved when Parents want to spend time with them and do not see it as an obligation.

Parenting involves Communication. From this verse, we also see that children are supposed to see and hear the Gospel everywhere they go with us. Children watch every move we make and will copy everything we do. This is why we need to explain to them why we do things the things we do. And if we mess up, we need to tell them why it is wrong so that they do not do the same thing.

Parenting involves Correction. The Bible says in Proverbs 13:24, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” There is a difference between abuse and loving correction and guidance. We give children rules and correct them because we love them and do not want to see them hurt.

So what and how do we need to teach our children? In Ephesians 6:4, it says “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Carefulness in how we teach. So we are not to discourage our children from seeking God. Christ is the center of biblical parenting, and how we teach them should always point to Him.

Consistency in what we teach. We must live what we teach, and not neglect teaching it to children. If we do not teach children the God of this Bible that we say we believe in, we will have failed them and God in our responsibility. Children listen to their parents, even when it may seem like they do not. It's alright to be scared of this task. But one thing which should give us hope is this: Our God never changes, only we do. If we rely on Him, he will help us to become biblical parents.

Completeness in what we teach. They need to be taught about all of his attributes – his love and his wrath, his mercy and his grace, his patience and his faithfulness, his goodness and holiness, his power and his knowledge, his control over everything. They need to know he is not an old man, sitting and begging for us to come to him. He is the almighty creator of this universe, and he does not need us for anything. And yet, he still chooses to call us to him.

Christ in what we teach.
We also need to make sure they understand that Christ, our savior, died on the cross, and rose from the grave three days later. Nothing we could do could ever earn our salvation. He alone is deserving of all our worship. They need to understand the mercy he has shown us, and the glory he deserves, and how thankful we should be.

The Church in what we teach. Children need to be taught about the family of Christians, and what living life with that family implies.It means that every person who becomes a Christian is now our brother and sister through Christ. We need to love each and every one of them while we are on Earth like Christ has loved us.

The Gospel in what we teach. Most importantly, the ultimate goal in parenting is to disciple our children. God has given us the responsibility and opportunity to pour more time into our children than any other disciple we could have. And parenting allows us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to teach them about God and hopefully to train our children to be disciple-makers.

Parenting is a direct representation of the Gospel. When the world sees the way you love your child, they should see a picture of God’s love for his children. Our love for our children should also reflect the unconditional love that God showed us. It doesn’t matter what they've done – we should still show Christ’s love to them.

And while this is a great picture of the Gospel, I would caution against neglecting your spouse for your children. Our responsibility to our children should never replace our responsibility for our spouse because our love for our spouse is such an excellent way to show our children the Gospel. And if we have shown the Gospel properly in our own marriages, our children will want that same kind of love in their marriages. It is another way that the Gospel shines through both our marriage and our parenting.

Hopefully we have seen a little more of what this Gospel has for children, and our purpose in it. Can it be an inconvenience? Sure. But children are a blessing, not an obligation. There will be times when we get frustrated, but we need to remember that parents are the ones who have the best chance to teach children about Christ. Remember the impact you have on your child’s life, and the call God has placed on all parents. Let’s pray.


Here is the first of the sermons I preached in Peru. Hope you enjoy!

I hope that everyone is having a great week (end) so far. It has been
a blessing, and I am looking forward to seeing what God has in store
for all of us this week. I wanted to talk tonight about a particular
passage of scripture that God has made close to my heart.

Psalm 42:1-2 says “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul
pants for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?” Tonight, I want to break down how
this is applicable for all of us – Christians and non-Christians

We’ll start with our lives before we met Christ. Our lives seemed
alright. We did not realize the need we had. Our vision was cloudy and
our hearts did the best they could to fill their desire. Jeremiah 2:13
says “My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the
spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken
cisterns that cannot hold water.” This was how the Lord described his
own people – people who had forsaken him and went to desires that
could not fulfill them. Does that describe your life before God?
Trying to fill the void that left your soul parched and aching? Did
you distance yourself, or even reject, the God that could quench your
thirst? That can be a dangerous and frightening concept if we grasp
it. In Jeremiah 6:10 it says “Their ears are closed so they cannot
hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them. They find no pleasure
in it.” We didn’t want what God was offering to us. We chose to fill
those needs elsewhere, and only ended up more parched than before. We
did not know how bad of shape we were in, and turned away the one
person which could help us. Thankfully, God, as 2 Corinthians 4:6
says, “made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the
knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” Our sinful
nature would not want us to turn towards God and satisfy the longing
of our souls. But God, in his mercy, chose us. We are dependent on God
to open our eyes to our need, and thankfully he does just that. When
we realize this we can sate our thirst with the water Jesus speaks of
in John 4:14 - The water of eternal life.

So we see how our soul is literally dying of thirst, without our
knowledge, unless God opens our eyes to our need. So what does that
mean for the follower of Christ? Our souls still ache to be filled by
the water. Psalm 84:2 says “My souls yearns, even faints, for the
courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”
So we see here, and in Psalm 42 that we read earlier, that our souls
cries out and aches for God. But why?

We see countless times throughout the Bible that God will help our
souls when they call out to him. In Psalm 23:3, it says that ‘he
refreshes my soul’. In Psalm 55:22, it says ‘Cast your burden upon the
Lord and he will sustain you.’ In Isaiah 41:10, I says “Fear not, for
I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen
you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
In 2 Timothy 4:17, it says “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me
strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and
al the Gentiles might hear it.” Our God loves when we call to him and
rely on Him instead of trying on our own. Is it really that shocking
to us then that our souls call out for more of Him? Strengthens us,
refreshes us, upholds us, calms our fears, sustains us – these are
powerful promises.

And I’ll give you my example. I am not the best public speaker. It’s
shocking, I know. I get nervous in front of crowds. My flesh fails me.
But God uses that opportunity for his glory. He uses the fact that I
have to rely on Him to speak to further his Kingdom and make his glory
known. Because anyone who knows me knows that it’s not me up here
speaking. It is him. My flesh would have me sit back down in fear,
afraid of embarrassing myself, or saying something that is biblically
incorrect. But God gets all the glory when I stand up and his word is
proclaimed – because I cannot do it in my own strength. As Matthew
26:41 says, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

The Gospel is proclaimed when we try and satisfy our souls with Christ
because no matter how much of Him we put in our lives, we will
continue to want more. As we draw closer to him, we want more of him.
And when we get to Heaven, will our souls finally grow satisfied and
our thirst finally be quenched? Pastor John Piper had this to say
about our desire only increasing once we get to Heaven and are able to
spend eternity with our Lord and Savior: “It will take an infinite
number of ages for God to be done glorifying the wealth of his grace
to us - which is to say he will never be done. And our joy will
increase forever and ever. Boredom is absolutely excluded in the
presence of an infinitely glorious God.” So the desire of our souls,
God, will never grow old and never cease to satisfy? AMEN! We can
only hope and pray that this is true. It is my prayer that our souls
never cease thirsting for Jesus Christ!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pride & Humility - Guess Which One I'm Guilty Of...

Sorry it’s been awhile since my last blog. Things have been kinda busy around here. Our mission trip to Peru is just around the corner… prayer is definitely needed and appreciated.

I wanted to talk a moment about something God has shown me while preparing for Peru: pride. God has shown me several times over the past year where it has crept into my life. It is something that can creep into every person’s life. It is almost always very subtle in how it does it.

I’ll give you an example that God recently showed me. I know in my heart that God does not owe me anything. I was, and still am, a wretched sinner. I deserve death and eternity in hell. The only thing that is different about me now than from how I was then is the fact that I have Jesus’s redeeming blood covering my sins. And yet, I sometimes feel that I have earned favor in God’s sight. I feel he should reward me for my actions and I think that because I’ve tried to live a ‘Christian’ lifestyle – that because I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I’m waiting till marriage to have sex, that I go on mission trips, that I go to church on Sundays, and that I read my Bible and other Christian books – that somehow, because all of that, that God owes me something or that I am special in his eyes because of these acts. And that is simply not true. Don’t get me wrong, those are all good things. There is nothing wrong with doing them – we are called to life a life like Christ and as we grow closer to him, we should desire to do so.

But doing all of that will not earn one bit of favor in God’s eyes and we should not expect it to do so. Nothing we can do in our lifetime will ever atone for one sin in our life. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” – Isaiah 64:6. As it said in that verse – our righteous acts are nothing to God. And I am calling myself out on this – do not act like God owes us anything because we live a ‘moral’ lifestyle. It is the pride in my life that creeps in and says that I am a good person and that because I’m a good person, that God will reward me. Pride says that I have done something of note and have proven my worth to God. Pride says reward me for my righteous lifestyle. But the truth is this - the only thing God should reward me with is Hell. Nothing I have done or will ever do is enough to justify me in his sight. Luckily, he sent his son to die as a replacement for the death I deserve, and in doing so, he has given me his grace. Grace, by its definition, is freely given. If it can be earned or bought, it is not grace. There is nothing I can do to earn one ounce of grace, and yet God still chose to forgive me.

We should fall on our faces when we think of how grace works and how it covers every sin. It is amazing that it covers even those sins which we are not aware of consciously or don’t want to admit. His transforming grace is all that cover our sins, and all of our righteous acts cannot buy our way into his good will. I say this all to help enlighten others, and so that everyone will help hold me accountable. As I said before, pride has a way of creeping in, and I hope that by posting this, others will help me from becoming prideful. I'll end with this quote from Galatians 6:14 "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Have a great week everyone.

Love in Christ,


Sunday, April 10, 2011


So, keeping with the theme of letting you know more about me and my Savior, I'm going to write out my testimony. I need practice doing it anyways - Brook Hills likes us to write it out/share it when we join, and we have to be comfortable sharing it on mission trips, such as the Peru trip I'm going on in June, so... here we go!

I was raised in a Christian home with loving parents. God blessed me with this and I am extremely thankful. I was born on my parents first anniversary. My parents were together for almost 20 years - 2 days shy of it. I'll get into that later. I don't drink, I don't smoke, I haven't had sex. My struggles that I will share about here are more of a personal nature, affecting more myself than others, but they are still the things that God and I have to work out. My struggles are not the 'impressive' ones that others mention as amazing, that people are so shocked to see God move and pull them out of those sins. But my struggles are the ones people face all the time, the ones that consume you in a different way. And to be blunt - with God, any sin is one sin too many - be it pride, lust, or murder. Any sin makes us not worthy of Heaven. But that is why we need his son Jesus.

So as I said, I was raised in a Christian home and we went to church every week, or almost every week. I walked the aisle and got baptized when I was 8, but I didn't really have a relationship with Christ until I was in my teens. When I had walked the aisle at that young of an age, I didn't understand what I was really doing or saying, and just thought it was the 'right thing to do'. Luckily God opened my eyes later to the sin in my life and my need for him.

My group was always the good Christian group. I was the leader of our group- both planning and emotionally. I was the counselor, and everyone came to me when they had a problem. I didn't mind it. I was good at it. God has blessed me with the ability to be an encourager and someone that people can open up to very easily. I was also one of the main leaders of our youth group. I was the only person in my grade who came to my church. I was part of the leadership team, youth choir, etc. Church was my life, my identity.

Well, someone told me one time that they looked up to me so much- that nothing ever bothered me, that no matter what, I always smiled, always kept God first and let nothing else bother me. He said "Chip, you are the rock of our youth group". I was kinda floored. They didn't know all the little stuff I battled, but I vowed to myself not to show weakness and let those who looked up to me down. So I bottled things up, and never let anyone see the things that hammered away upon me. There wasn't anyone, in my eyes, I could really talk to anyways. So as the time stretched on, my pain inside grew. One day, I finally exploded, and did the thing I promised myself I would never do - hurt my friends. It took me a long time to forgive myself for that, and to deal with everything that I had bottled up inside of me for so long. I had tried to take not only my pain upon myself, but all of my friends' pain and problems. I wanted to take it away from them- if I could take their pain and put it on my shoulders I would have done it so that they would not hurt. I failed to realize though that there was someone who had already done that- Jesus. It hit me at a retreat we went on. It was almost as if I was trying to take God's place in their lives. I wasn't consciously doing it. But this scared me away from being a leader after that- I was putting myself ahead of God- my glory, trying to make myself feel loved and to make myself feel better by getting praise/feeling needed from others. So I took a step back and was not as active as a leader anymore.

So time went on, and I started college. I drove back and forth to UAB, staying at home as most of my friends were a year or two younger, and my mom was batting cancer, so I wanted to stay around and help. At the church, we got a new youth minister. For the most part, things were alright. Nothing I couldn't handle. Then my world got rocked. In the span of a month, I lost my job, my church, and my mother. I was laid off from work cause they weren't doing too well, and I wasn't needed. My church did not have a college and career group, but the new youth minister put into effect a new rule that once you were out of high school, you weren't apart of the youth group anymore. To me- the youth group had always been my life. It hurt a lot to be taken away from the thing I loved and to which I had given so much of my time. And then to top it all off, 2 days before my birthday, I lost my mother to cancer. I had finished taking a test and called Dad to tell him I was on my way home- he just told me to get to the hospital- fast. I had seen my mother that morning. She didn't look great, but she didn't look like she was going to die either. But later on that afternoon, after battling, she went to Heaven. Dad and I held her hands as she died. Not gonna lie - It hurt. A lot. I got out most of my pain and grief in the first 2 days or so, and then didn't cry after that for a long time. I had to stay strong for my family. I didn't show the pain I felt because they needed me. So time went on again, and I didn't understand why everything happened, but I accepted it. Later on that year, on my last trip with the church I had grown up in, a boy's father died. He could not talk with anyone else. No one else understood what he was going through. He and I stayed up all night almost every night talking about different things. He knew I could relate with him. I helped him get through the worst of it. And while I would not trade my mother's life for his comfort, I know that God used it to help him in that situation, and for me to be able to minister to others in the future as well- for his glory.

So after that span of a month, I don't want to say I hated God or was angry at him- I wasn't. I just kinda grew cold. I didn't have my spark, my fire anymore. I still told others to do the 'Christian' thing. I would advise them, counsel them, etc. I knew what they needed to do, even if I didn't always believe it myself. I'm not quite sure how to put it. It was as if I knew the right thing to do, but didn't believe it mattered if you did it or not. I mean, I had done my best to earn favor for God and look what it had earned me... But I still had my facade to keep up, so I struggled on. And it went on like that for about a year and a half. I started going to several different groups - UCF, Church of the Highlands, and most importantly, the Basement. Through these groups, God showed me awesome, dedicated people who genuinely loved Him. This was totally new to me- it was unlike the church I had been attending. These people were genuine in their desire to only love and serve Him. It lit a fire under me again- I wanted to be like those people- to love God and to desire God more and more. I became a regular at the college group of Highlands, and the Basement- I was one of the original crew- when it was actually held in the basement of a guy's house, no females were allowed, and there were only 40 people. Now that ministry has blossomed to where they have at thousands of people every time it meets. I don't go there now, but I am glad I was able to be apart of such a group. It helped me gain my fire for a long time.

So yeah, the story from there takes another turn, lol. Things had been going well and I met an amazing Christian woman. We fell in love and thought we were going to get married. Well, somewhere along the way, I lost my focus on God. I got busy with school, was unable to go to the services I loved and enjoyed, and my focus shifted to her. Satan attacked me in all kinds of ways. I started looking for joy and love in her instead of in God. I didn't realize that then. I can only say that now looking back upon it all. I was so desperate for love that I let my pursuit of it ruin our relationship. I honestly loved her much more than I did God. I had no problem saying that either. I wasn't trying to deny it or hide it. We ended up going on a church retreat together and on it, we broke up. It devastated me. I had started making plans to get married, and I had what, at the time, I thought was God's plan for me ripped away. I didn't know what to think. I know now that it is better that it happened this way, that God has different things in store for both myself and for her, but I did not understand at all why all of it was happening at the time. Satan kept pounding upon my self esteem, but God flipped a light switch for me. He has made me realize so many things since we broke up. I no longer have the self esteem issues I did then because God has made me realize exactly how much he loves me. Growing up in church, I have heard countless times that God loves us and he sent his son to die for us. Heck- by that time, I had been a Christian for almost 10 years and a leader for most of that. But it took her breaking up with me for me to realize that it doesn't matter what she, my friends, my family, or anyone else, thought of me- the Creator of the universe sent his son to die for us- what kind of love is that? I didn't need anyone else. I had what I needed.

That has been some time ago now. I went to several different churches since then and God has been teaching me different lessons and drawing me closer to him. I still struggle with my desire for God sometimes, letting Satan distract me. I still battle some of the demons from the above struggles, but when I do, God reminds me of the lessons I've learned and that he will be here for me. I still struggle with feeling entitled, like God owes me for being a 'good Christian'. And this cannot be further from the truth - there is nothing I can do to earn favor from God. I do not believe in works-based salvation. But this is something that, due to my background with the church, I struggle with sometimes. You'd think, growing up in church, that I wouldn't have this problem, but it's something that God is working on with me.

It's been an interesting journey so far, and it's neat to look back at how God has grown me as a person and as a leader. I know he still has that calling in my life - even if I want to deny it sometimes. I now attend Brook Hills and I have grown tremendously since I've been going there. I went on my first mission trip last year, and am going on another one this coming summer. I plan on getting baptized soon - I never got baptized once I was actually saved. It is something I aim to correct here shortly.

So for those who took the time to read all of this, I hope you received something from it and that you don't repeat my mistakes. If you ever need to talk, please let me know. I'll be glad to lend an ear and share what I have learned. Have a great week everyone. Talk to ya later...

Love in Christ,

Thursday, April 7, 2011

An Open Book

So I'm working on another blog, but I'm still feeling my way through it and not sure when it will be done. In the mean time, I'm going to take a break and let you know a little about me.

  • If you're reading this, then you know that first off, I am a Christ follower. God sent his son to die on the cross and rise again so that I and anyone that puts their faith in him and repents of their sin can be redeemed before Him and spend eternity with our Lord and Savior, even though we do not deserve it and can never earn it. I am eternally grateful for this.
  • I love hanging out with my friends as I have been graced with some of the most awesome, hilarious, and encouraging people in this world to hang out with. I don't know what I'd do without them.
  • I recently began taking classes to become a black belt, which is something I have always wanted to do/had a goal to do. The style I am doing it in is not karate, but a Korean form called Tang Soo Doo. I have at least 2 and a half years remaining to become a black belt, but it's been fun so far, and I like a challenge - even if it does leave me more sore than I'd like to admit sometimes... lol.
  • I'm a movie buff, even if I may have somehow missed most of the 80's movies - which I am now trying to correct since my friends and coworkers keep pointing out more and more movies that I need to watch from that time period, lol.
  • In some sense, even though I am definitely a technological person and would miss the comforts that I am used to now, I think I was born in the wrong decade. My sense of honor and chivalry seems a little misplaced, and very much not appreciated in today's society.
  • I have a house - just looking for the person that God has in this world for me so that she can help make it a home. It'll all work out in His timing. I'm just an impatient person :)
So anyways, that's me in a nutshell. I'm an open book, but if you have questions, feel free to ask and I'll be truthful with ya, no matter the question.

Love in Christ,

PS -> ROLL TIDE! (Come on now, you didn't seriously think I was gonna leave that out, did ya?)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Introductions are in Order!

Aloha everyone. Thank you for coming to read my blog. Hopefully you’ll find it entertaining and enlightening. I’ve been told from time to time I am a good writer. I’ll leave that for you to decide. I’m sure it varies from post to post, or depending upon the mood I’m in and the style I choose to write in at the time. Anyways… I used to blog more often, but fell out of the habit, and this is my attempt at getting back in. We shall see where it goes I guess, but whatever the result, I believe it shall be an endeavor worth taking.

So being as the title of this site is ‘Transforming Grace’, I feel I should make my first post about the title. BTW, props to you if you catch the reference in the title. Inside joke for those who know me. For those who don’t, you’ll be let it in due time if you prove yourself worthy :)

So what is Transforming Grace? I’ll break it down for us all and then put it back together at the end.

So why use the term ‘Transforming’? What does this mean? Transform means to change in condition, nature, or character. In the back of my mind, I can hear people already asking ‘Why use that word? Isn’t that the same thing as modifying or altering?’ I use this term because of the magnitude of the statement. If one were to only be affected by a small amount, it would be referred to as an alteration. It would be different, but it is generally only affecting the appearance of whatever it is that we are talking about. The same goes for the word ‘modify’. It means to change somewhat the form or qualities. This, to me, does not have the gravity that I want to convey. A transformation - That mean to change something that is fundamental about you. It is not a small change. It is a powerful statement to say one has been transformed because something that was a core part of what defines you has been changed. What once defined you is now no longer a part of you. Something else has come in its place and has taken over as the defining characteristic.

So now that I’ve gone over why the term ‘Transforming’ is so powerful and what it means. So what about the second word, ‘Grace’? Grace can be defined a couple of different ways, so I want to make sure we are all on the same page. I do not mean favor or good will. I do not mean the word which helps describe the beauty of motion. And I certainly don’t mean the TV show Will & Grace (yes, I know, corny joke, but hey – sometimes you gotta throw yourself on the grenade to get a chuckle). When I refer to grace, I refer to the definition where it means mercy, clemency, or pardon. I’ll speak of those words, and their significance below.

Now that the primary words have a meaning and a background to them, how do we put them together? Just what is ‘Transforming Grace’? If you believe in a perfect, Holy, righteous God, which I do, then you believe that he cannot tolerate sin. He cannot be in the presence of it. I was, and still am, a sinner. We are all sinners. It is one of our defining characteristics, whether we like to admit it or not. We are born into sin, and there is nothing we can do to change that. We will all sin, and therefore, we will all deserve to be sent to Hell. As sinners, we cannot be in God’s presence. His holiness demands that our sin not be allowed in his presence. Leaves us in a bind, does it not?

God did give us a way out - Transforming Grace. It means that a part of us has been fundamentally changed by an act of mercy. So since I admit I’m still a sinner and that nothing I can do on my own could change that, what does that mean? What part of me was fundamentally changed so that I could be in God’s presence? God, in act of mercy, sent his son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins and rise again. In doing so, he took our sin upon himself. He took our punishment. He gave us a pardon. We just have to accept that act of mercy. Accept the pardon that is freely given. If we do, when God looks at us, he will not see our sin. Although he should see a wretched sinner and condemn us, he doesn’t. He sees something fundamentally different - his perfect son. His grace, when accepted, fundamentally changes who we are and how God sees us. The sin which once defined us has now been replaced by Jesus, the one who was without sin.

I hope that this blog gives you an insight into who I am, who God is, and what, for the most part, this blog will be about. I’m sure I’ll ramble from time to time about my own life, but I hope that I always point back to my Lord and Savior, Jesus. After all, I am radically changed by Transforming Grace, and I want that to be the fundamental attribute by which I am known. Till next time…

Love in Christ,