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“You’re a bad kid. I’m sick and tired of you.” These were the words of my father as he physically beat me.

“I don’t want to be with you anymore. You mean nothing to me. You’re not worth it” These were the words I heard from my ex-wife while in divorce proceedings.

“You will never do ministry again. You’re not cut out for this. I don’t ever want to see you here ever again”. These were the last words from a pastor who dismissed me from ministry.

These were words spoken to me from people who I dearly loved at one point in my life. These words not only hurt, but they shaped and molded my life. My lack of self-worth when meeting new people. My lack of confidence when going out for sports or starting a new job. My desire for admiration and attention from women. Or the pain of rejection I go through when a girl I ask out says no. My coping mechanism before I was a Christian was that I would become numb to people’s words. I got very good at tuning out undesirable people. It’s crazy how powerful our small little tongues can be. I’ll be honest, I feel I was more affected by the damaging words that I heard than any physical abuse I endured. Words are powerful and can damage. Proverbs 18:21 says the tongue contains the power of both life and death. If you are reading this, I know I’m not the only one who has been affected by someone’s hurtful words. And sadly, I know I’m not the only who lives in regret of the words I have said that have caused hurt to others.

For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks’ – Matthew 12:34

Jesus described our speech as words that reflect what is going on in our hearts. Jesus mentions this to us because we are his ambassadors to the world and our words are supposed to reflect him. When we are sinned against, we are to respond with self-sacrificing, redemptive love. But in order to love and serve others, we have to die to our old selves. Just think of how powerful a tool of change we can be in someone else’s life if we forgive them? Especially knowing that our sanctification process is a result of God’s grace and forgiveness for us. We should look at our problems with one another as opportunities to allow God to draw each of us into deeper fellowship with him. If we continue to live in broken, unreconciled relationships with one another, then God can’t use us to reconcile those relationships to him.

I am enjoying this series called I Declare War that we are doing in CSYP. The author gives some tips on how to win the battle of our words:

  1. You can alter how you feel through changing the way you speak – This was life-changing for me when I started thinking and speaking positively about people instead of engaging in gossip.
  2. You don’t have to say everything you feel like saying – this is a hard one for me because I like to process through communication with others and sometimes my thoughts or emotions can come out without thinking. But because we are image bearers of God, he gives us the choice of using words of encouragement or words of destruction.
  3. The words you speak over people can change the course of their lives.

Wow – how powerful is that last statement! Even though I remember many of the hurt words that have been told to me, I clearly remember the encouraging ones too. I remember going to a new church after leaving ministry and talking to the church counselor about my situation. His words were “I’m glad you are here and know we want you here”. He trained me to be a chaplain for the church where I got to speak encouraging words to others that were hurting. My Dad and I reconciled and he called me every night after my divorce to make sure I was ok. His encouraging words got me through a difficult period of my life. And the encouraging words of the community God has surrounded me with continue to get me through my everyday life.

One of my favorite books is War of Words by Paul David Tripp. He talks about committing your life to a life of repentance in order to change your words. It starts with examining your heart first (Psalms 139:23-24). Ask God to show the heart behind your words and to reveal where you may have spoken out of fear, frustration or anger. Seek his forgiveness and confess any sin you have committed to him (and others). And know that we are his ambassadors to the world and that our words were meant to be an agent of change in other people’s lives. I hope as we continue on with this series that we all DECLARE WAR on our words and speak life into the people that we encounter.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  – Ephesians 4:29

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The War Within Us

Anytime I go away for a few days and spend some time with God, Satan is waiting around the corner ready to derail my spiritual high with trials and temptations. After the All In Retreat, I was hit with all sorts of trials over a course of a week. I like to say I deal with anxiety and stress pretty well. But I know the war Satan wages in me is in my thoughts. I’m such a deep thinker that it can really take my focus off of God and my mind will go all over the place and look for quick fixes to ease those thoughts.

After spending a long night in prayer at a Hillsong worship event, I decided to fast for a few days to really focus on God and ask for peace and wisdom. I knew taking myself out of community would be difficult for me. I like to process my thoughts through communication with others. But I was thankful to see that our Young Professionals group was doing a three-day devotion on spiritual warfare during my fast. It gave me the opportunity to read comments of the warfare my community has been going through and relate them to my life.

Here are some key thoughts:

We are in a war. So many people today ignore conflict and unpleasant situations. Satan is real and he doesn’t go away. We live in a broken world. It doesn’t mean we walk around worried and stressed about what Satan is going to do next. It means we need to be prepared and ready for warfare. 2 Corinthians 2:11 tells us not to be ignorant of Satan’s ways of scheming. But be prepared by knowing your enemy and knowing who you are in Christ.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds

– 2 Corinthians 10:4

We cannot face Satan toe-to-toe on our own. But we can face him with the authority of the name of Christ. This devotion talked about how we need to meditate and pray in the name of Jesus as we face opposition. I took out some time to fast because I needed to be filled with the Spirit before I face my upcoming trials. We need that constant reminder that it is Christ who already died and overcame the world (John 16:33) that goes before us each and every day. So when we feel frustrated, we can rest in the Spirit of grace that is already inside of us and know that God is fighting our battles for us.

Currently in Young Professionals we are doing a series called I Declare WarWe all have our battles within and we all react differently to them. It is time we stop being our own worst enemy and declare war on the devil’s tactics so we can be that person God intends us to be.

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Beautiful Things

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As Easter approaches, I spent my day reflecting on today’s date – March 31. It was Easter day five years ago today. That morning was both an amazing and difficult day for me. It was the morning I got baptized and also the morning my Grandmother passed away.

My Grandmother Orahlie was a strong woman of faith. Many of you have heard Pastor Linn Winters tell the story on stage of how she was the single largest financial supporter of Cornerstone Church in its early days before it had a building. She was a traditionalist and wasn’t a huge fan of the current worship style with guitars and drums. But she also believed that the younger generation was the future of the church. She would say that if this new style of church gets them through the doors to hear the gospel, then she would support it. My fondest memories was of her sitting in her chair listening to gospel music. When I was asked to step down from ministry before her death, I was so ashamed to tell her that I avoided calling her for months. When I finally told her, she wasn’t phased by my failure and just told me to draw close to Jesus and that he would heal me of my brokenness. She also told me that she had been praying for me by name everyday of my life since I was born. That just blew my mind to know that someone had been actively praying for me my whole entire life. I am thankful I was able to give a part of her eulogy and read from her own personal Bible the day of her funeral. We were really close and a big part of who I am today is because of her strong faith and influence on me. I miss her.

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A couple of months before, I had decided to get baptized on Easter morning. If you know me, you know a good portion of my life has been nothing but hard times and brokenness. After the trauma of going through divorce, I finally surrendered my life to God after many years of rebellion. God took my broken life and made something new and beautiful out of it. And it was time for me to declare that publicly to the world by baptism. I had asked my Uncle Joel (my Grandmother’s son) to baptize me. He is only a year older than me and has been like a brother to me growing up. He has always had a strong faith in God and has been a rock in my life. Even though we had just lost my Grandma earlier that morning, he was still willing to baptize me.

I’ll never forget the moment I stepped out onto that stage in front of my all my friends and family. David Gungor of The Brilliance (brother of Christian artist Michael Gungor) had just switched worship songs in his set as I was approaching the baptism pool. The new song he started was the song “Beautiful Things”. As I was walking and listening to the lyrics, I remember I started to weep over the words.

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

It was an amazing reminder of how far I had come since making such a mess of my life. It was a reminder that God was healing me and putting me back together. And now I get to declare that publicly to the world on the day Christ rose from the dead. He loves us and makes us new and beautiful. I remember my Uncle Joel and I looking up after I came out of the water and knowing Grandma Orahlie was smiling down upon us. God is so good and I am thankful he put such an amazing woman of influence into my life to encourage my faith.

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Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” – Mark 8:34

I have been studying the life of Jesus and heard a message tonight taught from this verse. To be made new again, we must do these three things that Jesus teaches us in the book of Mark. Deny yourself (denying our fleshly desires), take up your cross (know that following Christ will involve suffering) and follow Jesus (not the ways of the world). In the original Greek, these steps are stated in the present, continuous tense. This strikes right at our heart’s desire to run our own lives. Jesus paid the price for our lives and has Lordship over us. As hard as this is, know that God uses our suffering and pain to draw us near to him. These lyrics are an expression of hope that God will make beautiful things out of the dust in our lives and that he will use us to build his Kingdom when we surrender to him.

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Makoto Fujimura shares how he came to understand the beauty he creates through art by understanding and accepting the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

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I got an unexpected phone call this week. The person that called me was a member of my church and had heard I was going through divorce. He basically told me that he understood what I was going through and wanted to help. Later that week I found myself in his home listening to his story. He told me about DivorceCare and how it helped him. DivorceCare is a friendly, caring group of people who will walk alongside you through one of life’s most difficult experiences. It’s a 13 week support group (consisting of a video series and workbook) that helps people during various stages of divorce or separation. The church next door to mine was hosting a group (Chandler Christian Church). So my friend came with me to my first week there and introduced me to some of the leaders. I was grateful to meet others that were going through the same thing I was. This was especially helpful because the holidays were here and I didn’t want to be alone. I was amazed on how each session touched on the many emotions I was experiencing. I highly recommend DivorceCare if you are going through something like this.

Don’t go through separation or divorce alone

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