Suffocation of the Fire That Burns Inside

5 years ago I was a lost soul. I had no hope. I had no ambition. I was inward. I was severely depressed. I felt that I could never contribute to society because I was useless. I felt like I didn’t fit in, or even blend in.  I stayed inside and kept my mouth shut. I was hurt and broken.

I remember praying to a God I didn’t believe in at the time and I cried out, “God if you really do exist, why did you create me? Why am I here? If you really do exist please save me” God was listening that day because a few months later, I found Jesus and a church home I wasn’t even looking for.  God sent me on a whirlwind of a ride discovering who He was while I was discovering who I was throughout the first few months.

But after a little over a month, someone approached me and asked me to join a ministry team. They said and I quote, “We could use your smiling face on the VIP team” I replied, “Are you sure you want me to greet people? I’ve been told have a good smile, but…” they replied, “Yes of course we do!”.

I took that uncomfortable opportunity for me, of standing and talking to people and I signed up to be on the VIP team anyway. Regardless of how I felt, I knew this is what God wanted me to do.  The first few months were rough.

I only showed up on a Sunday when it was my week to serve. But then it got worst and I stopped showing up when it was my weeks and I blamed on the fact, “I forgot my password”  to the program we use so I didn’t know it was my week. Either way, I faced a battle of putting my wants, desires, and ways first before I even consulted or even considers Gods wants and desires.

One night I remember being in my room and just on my knees praying whole heartily because I felt lost again. I was crying, I was reading scripture, I was praying that same prayer but this time I knew God. This time I knew who I was praying to and through. I wouldn’t say it was overnight but God became my priority again shortly after. I started showing up the church every Sunday and not just for church, I showed up early to serve even when it wasn’t my week to serve.  Serving became my passion.

However, passion withers if it’s not properly kept. It’s like a fire that slowly fades away. But do you know what reignite the fire? For me it’s not God’s word, it’s not doing a bible study, where they may help keep the fire going, what really reignites the fire is moving the embers around. Taking in my testimony and sharing it with others. It’s lifting my hand out to others and letting them know they are not alone. That God loves them and care for them. It’s walking beside teenagers and helping them grow and seeing excitement in their eyes when they start understanding and believing in the Word. It’s loving others the way God does.

But it can quickly die if I put myself first. If I put my wants and desires in front of Gods, even without realizing it I can suffocate the passion that burns inside of me that God placed in there.

 

Communication at our Finger Tips

Lately,  I’ve been convicted on this self centered world. This social media filled world that is so focus on ourselves that we forget who God called us to.

We’re not perfect by an stretch of imagination, but I see more videos on food then I do any post about Jesus or what God is doing, praises, bible verses, or quotes from pastors. If social media is a inward look to who we are at the core since we don’t have to keep face, I’m scared. We see food, self indulgence, or something fluffy tends to occupy peoples mind more then Jesus. And this idea of Jesus occurs only on Sundays. 

Maybe you don’t want to be considered a Jesus freak. Or maybe you say your religion has no basis on Facebook. But this is where I’m going to tell you, you’re doing it all wrong.

We have this communication at our finger tips. People scroll and scroll to see what someone posted. What video is shared, what picture is shared or what someone is debating. If we as Christians allow people to see our lives on social media without one ounce of Jesus, are we really Christ followers? We are to be witnesses. We are to live a life that represents Jesus. Yet we fill it up with nonsense.

We fill it up to glorify ourselves. We fill it up to boast about ourselves. We fill it up with things that make us “happy” yet that happiness ends in a minute and a half. We fill it up with food we will never make. We fill it up with lies we want people to believe. We fill it up with self doubt so that we get that “encouragement” we long for. We use social media to glorify our strengths and minimize our weaknesses. We use social media to rant. We use social media to debate. I could keep going. But I will stop there.

But what if we use it to glorify God. What if use it for Jesus first. What if we before we post about ourselves, see if this showcases who Jesus called us to be. Let’s use the biggest form of communication to glorify God, not ourselves.

Alignment 

We’re all running our own race of life. We all put one foot in front of the other, what are you aiming towards? Is it the next promotion? Your next move? What does God say about it? 
We all can aspire to do great things, but how many of them are God divine, driven, and his will?

I’m not expert at this, trust me I’m still learning, but God puts a calling on every one of our lives. When I was in college I aspired to be a professor, I took over the chemistry group at college and started tutoring. Where there were people in the group; I was the one who decided I was going to help the freshmen get through this difficult  class called chemistry. I wanted to approach it and allow them to learn it from a different perspective and maybe teach them a few tricks I caught on to. Before every test I would have about 20-30 freshmen/sophomores in a classroom that I got to help. That’s 20-30 kids that got to see me stand confindently and be able to spill out my knowledge to them. It was awesome.  But quickly that fire I had in me went out. After that year I quit chemistry all together, so the aspiration quickly died with it.

Why is this revelant? It’s revelant because we all aspire to be something or  do something. Mine in that moment was to be a college professor, but after long hours to finish my degree I burnt out. It wasn’t a calling God placed on my life. The experience in the moment taught me a lot but the aspiration and purpose I thought I had was fickle because it was my own and not God’s. God didn’t have that path set out for me, where it hurt when I realized it, ultimately I wouldn’t change a thing. 

I’m still trying to figure out my purpose and calling. But everyday it gets a little more clearer, ever day God places opportunities in front of me for me to either follow him or follow my own flesh. The more I say yes to God, the more opportunities he places in front of me. The more my heart aligns with his the more confindently I walk with him. 

God has a purpose and a calling on your life. You just have to follow him. You have to lay down your life because he gave up his life for you. If we surrender our life to be authentic Christ followers imagine the difference our lives would be, image the difference our nation and world would be. But so many of us puts an I before God in everything .

God doesn’t call us to put ourselves first. God doesn’t call us to live in sin. God calls us out of sin and out of the darkness. God calls to walk boldly, and confindently with Him. He is our Father, our King, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end and without him we are nothing. I Am sent us to live out his name and glory and to be able to spread the goodnews of His son, who defeated death itself for us to be here today. Let’s not take for granted all the pain and suffering Jesus went through just so we can have a fun time in life. Let’s do His will and our purpose and calling will align with His and we all can accomplish great things, because we have an almighty God on our side.

Nailing the Nail in Deeper

It’s Easter time so it’s time for bunnies, eggs, and candy, but most importantly it’s time for Jesus.
It’s time to celebrate his resurrection from the dead. It’s time to celebrate the victory of all victories, the victory of death itself. But he had to die first. 

He had endure torture, he didn’t deserve. He had to endure pain like no other pain. Those nails had to pierce through his flesh and bones. 

So many of us stop Christianity there. We stop and we want the resurrection but we don’t want to face the killing of Jesus head on. We don’t want to face what Jesus actually died for.

He died for our transgressions. He died for our sins. He died so we wouldn’t have to. He died for you and he died for me. But the problem is every time we walk that path of flesh and we give into that sin we are nailing the nail in deeper. 

Every time we put a little pride behind our speech, every time we are a little bitter to that co worker, we are nailing the nail in deeper, crushing him, killing him little by little. 

Some of you maybe thinking “But that’s what grace is for”. Yes, but it neglects that fact that you hang Jesus every time you sin. It neglects the fact that God doesn’t call us to live in sin. He doesn’t say “it’s okay to sin now”. He calls us out of sin. He calls us to glorify him, we can’t do that if we are sitting there trying to pull Jesus off the cross before he even died because all we want is the end result of forgiveness.

Jesus bleed out to heal us. He can’t heal us if we don’t give him all of us because if there is still a part of you in this world, then there is still a chance for infection, for the enemy and sin to engulf  over your life. Which means every day is a battle. Which means that some days you will nail the nails in deeper, but you cannot sit there and keep nailing it in, you need to take a step back and examine yourself to see what part of your flesh you have to give over to Jesus.

Forgiveness 

The other day an unexpected thing happened. One of my closest friends through high school and college contacted me. 

I had put her in a category of “not worth trying” and “I’ve been hurt far too many times”, but this time after two years of hardly any communication seemed different. There was urgency behind it. There was purpose.

She knew me when I didn’t know Christ. Shortly after she invited me to church and I began to get involved and walk with the Lord, our friendship diminished. God set our paths apart from each other, regardless of how much hurt in the moment, God had a plan. 

His plan was for us to meet again at a coffee shop years later. We sat together like old times laughing with each other. But this time we had a meeting with a purpose. The topic, forgiveness. As the memories began rushing back, as things were mentioned, the hurt never did and for that I am thankful. But the moment, “I’m sorry” peirced the lips of an old friend, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. A weight I didn’t know I was carrying. The beauty is it didn’t matter what she said , it didn’t matter if she mentioned every little detail because I knew she had a genuine heart. I got a chance to let her know that not only that I forgave her but I got to ask forgiveness as well. It was an amazing moment, a freeing moment.

We all go around life carrying burdens, stresses, regrets, resentments, and just plan unforgiveness. But God doesn’t call us to hold on to them. He calls us to give them over to Him. When we don’t let him handle them it can bury us. It can have us turn towards to our old ways, our addictions, something that just makes us feel better in the moment.

Our friendship was pruned, so we could build it back up in Christ. I am excited to see if God decides to have it blossom again. If not, I am thankful for it leading to me Christ. I am thankful for a friend who never gave up on me. 

Forgiveness is freedom.

Take off the Blinders

I don’t know if you are like me, but I grew up in a shell protected from the outside. Alcohol was not present in my home neither were cigarettes or any type of drugs other than what the doctor prescribed us.  Alcohol and cigarettes were only things part of my family partook in and I didn’t really know what actually drugs were till I was in my teens in health class. I was sheltered.

I was taught not to mind what others are doing and focus on where I was heading. Where this a great mindset when you are pressing towards a goal in the world, but not when you are living for Christ and being who God calls us all to be. You have to take the blinders off.

Let me explain, we can’t truly love our neighbors if we can’t see them. If we have the blinders on, we are only going to neighbors for our own benefit, sadly enough but it’s true. We can’t see where they are hurting, we can’t see how we can help them because we are focused on our next step and our next move. So many of us live this way in life and its scary.

They are focused on their next promotion, their next growth step or their next big move that they cannot see the people God placed before them. They cannot see the hurting people right outside their doorstep. Even if they take 10 mins away from their busy schedule to notice someone, they are inwardly thinking about themselves and how they have to go somewhere or have to accomplish something and are not focused on the conversation at hand. We are all guilty of this on some level but it doesn’t discount how unbiblical it actually is.  My pastor recently stated in a sermon, “love is rooted in sacrifice.”  I didn’t think much of it then but it’s so true. If we are not willing to sacrifice something as simple enough as time are we really truly loving our neighbor? our friends? our family? even God?

God doesn’t tell us we have give up our physical bodies to be sacrificed like Jesus, but he does tell us that we are to give up ourselves to live for him. He does tell us we have to put ourselves aside to live for Him and to allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us. Our flesh will always want it to be about us because naturally, we are selfish not self-less. So there will be times where we go apart from God and not see the people around us. Not see how the city, state, country we are in is so broken. We don’t see all the hurting people on the street, that just want their next hit because that just want a glimpse of that high they once had.

God put us all where are for a reason. Take the blinders off, look around you, sacrifice time for them and think of yourself less because we maybe the only flicker of light that those people might be able to see. So we have to be it.

If you’re not yourself, who else are going to be?

 #takeofthemask #beyou 

God chose you! He knitted you together, he knows everything about you. He knows what you say behind closed doors, he even knows those thoughts you have towards that driver who cut you off or that person who just gets under your skin. He knows your weaknesses and he knows your strengths. When you feel like you’re in a dark place, even there God is still with you.  Even if your fleshly self wants to hide, even if you think God won’t want you if he knew the real you, guess what, he already knows and he already loves.

God knows every flaw. You wouldn’t be you without them. There are so many imperfect people in the Bible that God used to do extraordinary things. Jacob, Moses, David, any of the disciples…you get the point.

God chose these people who had flaws. They weren’t perfect, they weren’t  sinless but God chose them. If he can chose someone who commits an adulterous act with a married woman and then have his husband killed to merely hide it, do you think he could not chose you?

And if he chose YOU then why are you hiding behind a mask? So what if you mess up, so what if mistakes are done, so what if fumble your words or sing off pitch. So what if you fall after the leap? God’s grace covers all of that. You will never know what God has for you if you don’t take the mask off and be the you God created you to be.

Servanthood 

Prior to being a Christ follower this idea of servant hood seemed more like being a slave. Think about it, you don’t think about yourself, you think about others and put their needs before your own, a slave. It wasn’t until recently I found out the word Jesus uses actually translates closer to slave rather then servant. 
To the outside world of Christianity serving is more like being a slave, you can tell your friends to give up serving on Sunday morning for just one day and spend time with you, but your friend might deny you. It happened to me, I was heartbroken. I thought, “wow, that seems more like slavery if you cannot get out of it”. 

But it wasn’t. I quickly found out serving was so much more. This is what I believe truly serving Jesus is; a means of loving on others, even if they don’t think they need it, or want it. It means we get to share the Gospel in actions and wear it in our sleeve. It is the reminder to Christ followers he is ever so present. It is also us being the Light to those who don’t follow him.  

If you are a Christ follower right now, serve. If you are serving, serve more. You can serve Jesus everyday not just on a Sunday morning. You can serve Jesus literally anywhere because he is everywhere. 

If you are not a Christ follower and you think this whole serving thing is more likely slavery, look at it from a new perspective.  If you have this almighty God who loves and cares for you then why wouldn’t you serve him? And if this Messiah came and was tortured and hung on a cross for the sins those people commit everyday, then how can they not feel called to live out show off His love for them?

Be a servant where you are. There is always something or someone who needs the love of Jesus shown to them.

Potential that Leads to a Gift: My Story

 

My senior year in high school, I decided to take a class to fill my schedule, I heard rumors it was fun and after all, you were on a computer all class, so how could I not take it?

So I enrolled in our school’s graphic design class. My teacher’s  philosophy was that you have to learn the basics before moving towards the bigger and better. So we started out in Microsoft Word, yes Word. Where an empty page was our playground to do our assignment. The trick was we could only use the shapes in Word to create the assignment, nothing more.  Then we moved on to Paint which is very similar to Microsoft Word in its abilities and finally to Adobe Photoshop. I had dabbled in Photoshop at 13, but this time I got to create assignments, have fun, and mess with some cool effects. A recruiter came to my class that year from the Art Insitute. She asked if any of us would consider a career in Graphic Design. I thought about it and nervously I raised my hand. Shortly thereafter, the lady came over to me and she said “I figured you would, I talked to the teacher before class and  I have seen your portfolio. The Art Insitute will love it and will love you. You have great potential. Please consider us, I or some else from the Art Insitute will be in touch.”

I went home ready to share the good news. Instead, I got, “you’re not good enough”, “this isn’t for you”, “you’re smarter than this”.  So I was heartbroken. The opportunity was never spoken about again. It was the one area in my life where I felt I pulled to, but I didn’t have enough willpower nor confidence in myself so I decided to believe them, that this wasn’t for me.

 

Fast forward to a year ago. I followed God and quit my job with nothing lined up. But in that landed a job that was the spark to start graphic designing again. It was in that I landed where I am now. I have created a multitude of things for a few different churches from banners, postcards, business cards, flyers, I could go on, but the most amazing part is I get to use this gift that is being cultivated to impact the Kingdom in a unique way, in the way God has designed me to.

God has designed each of us uniquely so that we can use our gifts for the Kingdom in our own unique way.

Don’t be your own worst enemy

Don’t be your own worst enemy. I’m sure you are questioning that last part. Let me tell you what I am talking about.

Over the past few months, I haven’t felt motivated to dig deep. I haven’t felt motivated to grow. I haven’t really felt connected to God, at times I felt abandoned and alone. I tried to do my personal Bible readings,  but it was a complete struggle. I stopped listening to sermons online, I stopped listening to Podcasts, to me I just didn’t “feel” like it. However, those moments began to add up and soon I “forgot” about them.

Then my personal Bible readings, I noticed only happening Sunday mornings. As much as I longed for the Word, I noticed the Word began to feel like only words as if it was just a book.  I felt numb and pulling away from my walk.

I didn’t know what was going on. I felt like I was slipping down in a spiral and that I couldn’t stop myself. But I began to journal and I figured out what I was longing for, love. Just to feel loved, because over the past few months I felt empty and alone. I didn’t go out and search for it like I did in the past, but the temptation starred at me in the face.  Instead, I isolated myself. I became my own worst enemy.

Here are the problems with isolation; temptation, thoughts, and forgetting who God says we are. Temptation stares at you in the face and the flesh is quicker to win when you remain isolated. Those negative thoughts speak louder. Who God says you are gets put away and you begin to believe the thoughts that you are worthless, unloveable, no good…etc. I could go on, but those words reply over and over in your head and you begin to believe them.

But we are sons and daughters of God. We are His children. He loves us. He never has stopped loving us. Just because you slip into isolation and you slip into darkness. Doesn’t mean God has forgotten about you. It doesn’t mean that God has given up on you. It doesn’t mean all of a sudden you are unqualified to be His Child. What it means is that it is time to stop thinking about your OWN wants, your OWN desires, just stop thinking about YOU.  And start focusing on who GOD wants us to love, OTHERS.

So when I say don’t become your own worst enemy, what I am saying is selfishness will only lead to isolation and separation from God, but LOVE, love will lead to God because “if we love God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12b)

So wipe the tears away, get off your bed, and start walking towards who God called you to be.