Augustine’s Conversion

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What did you learn about Augustine’s conversion?

Augustine played a huge role in the advancement of Christianity and was commonly referred to as the “Architect of the Middle Ages.” As Everett Ferguson points out, “Augustine has continued to be a major influence in theology for both Catholics [in their view of sacraments] and Protestants [in their views regarding grace and salvation.]”

Due to his extensive writings and the biography written by his disciple Possidius, we know more about Augustine’s life and the development of his understanding and teaching of scripture than any other person in the ancient world. Upon examination of all the resources available pertaining to Augustine’s life and conversion, the overwhelming requirement to overcome one’s need for significance and appetites of the flesh are the resounding themes. It was true for Augustine and it remains true today. God is continually trying to speak to everyone and while Augustine’s conversion experience seems miraculous, it is no more of a miracle than simply obeying God’s command to read His Word and then by our actions, if we truly love Him, we will obey what it commands. In Augustine’s City of God, he portrays there being two cities: one just and one wicked and as Fergusson illustrates, “Through their love, human beings adhere to either the one or the other: to God or to self… [Ultimately,] God’s judgment consists in giving people what they love most, [everlasting] life with Him or [eternal] separation for Him.”

In Augustine’s conversion, he came to understand the mercy and grace of God. As a result, he wanted his life to be a living sacrifice that was pleasing to the Lord. He allowed God to transform his life through the renewing of his mind, which came from a deeper understanding of God’s word. Augustine recognized the work of the Holy Spirit and allowed the Spirit to work not only in him, but also through him. He recognized the errors of his ways and then sought to help people avoid making the same mistakes while also helping those currently struggling with the same issues. He took on the humility of Christ in his walk and continually rejoiced in the salvation of his soul and in the God he served. His method of showing teachers must continually be learning and that mentors must always be disciples is the model the church should still strive for because as Christians, we must always be learning and growing in our faith.

Who witnessed to him?

Augustine was born in Tagaste, North Africa to a Christian mother, now named Saint Monica. His father, Patricius was a pagan, but would convert to Christianity and be baptized before his death. While his parents were split on religious views, they both wanted their son to receive the best education and as a result, he would become one of the most renowned professors of rhetoric due to his gifting in communication. Despite this gift, he was unsatisfied by his current teaching in Africa and would ultimately become engrossed by the radical dualistic teaching of Manichaeism because it presented itself as the Christianity for intellectuals. Over time, Augustine began to have doubts and when Faustus was unable to answer his questions, Augustine turned his attention to magic and astrology. Soon after this, Augustine and his mother moved to Rome where his skepticism led him to Neoplatonism where he learned from Plotinus that all beings are good and that there are spiritual realities.

In 384, Augustine became the professor of rhetoric in Milan and during his time there, he went to hear a famous public speaker named bishop Ambrose. It was under Ambrose that Augustine first heard a much more intellectually respectable interpretation of the Bible. Shortly after this, the presbyter Simplicianus would take on Augustine as a personal project and during this time Augustine began to wrestle more with action versus belief. While it was apparent Augustine had undergone an intellectual conversion, his spiritual and moral conversion were not yet complete.

What other factors led to his coming to faith in Christ?

Above all else, it was Augustine’s understanding of philosophy that would lead him not only to faith, but would also make his contributions to academia and literature timeless. His official conversion experience took place in 386 after he heard a little girl singing, “Pick up and read.” When he walked over to where the voice was coming from, he found a book on the letters of Paul, which read, “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” Augustine believed this encounter to be divine and that the Lord was speaking directly to him because of his own personal struggle with sexual self-control. After contemplating this encounter with God and its significance in his life, he enrolled for baptism, which he received from Ambrose on Easter Sunday the following year. Fergusson illustrates how, “He had found his way back to the faith of his childhood and turned his back on his oratorical career.”

Augustine also recognized the burdens and baggage of this world were weighing him down; on his own, he was powerless to do anything, but when he surrendered them to Christ, he was set free. His conviction to the truth of God was the lamp unto his path and the redemptive work God did in his life led him in his service to the church. His devotion and dedication to God is much Paul’s model, as he encouraged believers to follow him as he followed Christ.

Bibliography

Ferguson, Everett. Church History: Volume One From Christ to the Pre-Reformation 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

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The primary response to a holy and righteous God is unwavering love. The deeper ones love for God is, the closer they will walk with Him and the more glory they will bring to His name. The object of one’s deepest love is what is most important in their life whether it be their time, talents, or treasures. As Matthew 6:19-34 states, our heart will always provide for what it values most and as Kenneth Boa points out, “If we value God first, our capacity to love Him and others will expand, [but] if we value the world first, we will miss out on not only the joys of knowing God but also the joys of this life.” 1 John 2:15-17 warns us of the dangers of loving the world and the things in it and makes it abundantly clear if anyone’s’ love is for the world; the love of the Father is not in them. Our relationship with God should be our first love as Boa continues to highlight, “Because the infinite and personal God loves us, He wants us to grow in an intimate relationship with Him; this is the purpose for which we were created – to know, love, enjoy, and honor the triune Lord of all creation.”

God’s love for us is the only reason we have faith and hope and it is only through His love for us that we are able to love Him in return. Boa demonstrates how, “We bear the image of God, but we are ensnared in trespasses and sins. We are capable of harnessing the forces of nature but are unable to rule our tongue; we are the most wonderful and creative beings on this planet but the most violent, cruel, and contemptible of earth’s inhabitants.” When love is the wellspring of our life and our motivator, we are capable of changing the world through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, but when love of one’s self is the driving force; only evil will ensue. The love of God is amazing in its endless attributes; it is: causeless, measureless, and ceaseless. Nothing we can do will earn more of God’s love or lose any of it and as Romans 8:35-39 assures us as believers; nothing can separate us from God’s unending love.

In the Old Testament’s Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) and the New Testament’s Great Commandment (Mark 12:30 and Matthew 22:35-40) we see the importance of loving God completely with our entire being. Any action, attribute, or emotion, which brings glory to His name, can be traced back to our love of God. Our fear, faith, obedience, worship, delight, reverence, service, and even our submission to Him all are birthed out of our love for God. God’s word calls believers to love the Lord with all their heart, will all their soul, with their entire mind, and with all their strength. It is through loving the Lord that believers truly come to know Him and the more we know and love the Lord, the more willing and trusting we are to carry out our purpose in bring glory to His name. Love is at the very core of the nature of God as Boa illuminates, “Christianity is not a religion but a relationship that is born out of the Trinitarian love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” To truly know God is to love Him with everything we are and in everything we do. We are able to love because He first loved us and as John 15:10 explains, if we really love the Lord, we will obey His commands.

Boa summarizes the importance of love saying, “Our great task in the spiritual life is to will to do His will, to love the things He loves, and to choose the things He sets before us as good.” Loving God not only allows us to love ourselves; it allows us to love the people in our lives. It is by our love for others that the world will know we are His disciples and it is only through our loving relationships that they will be open to the supernatural transformation that God wants to do in their life.  

Bibliography

Boa, Kenneth. Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001.

DiscipleShift: What should a disciple look like?

Discipleshift-Stuff
The question everyone should ask is are they following Jesus, or are they asking Jesus to follow them; the answer to this question will define if they are simply a convert or truly a follower of Jesus. Jim Putnam shows how, “Conversion is [merely] the first step in the discipleship process.” Putnam then contrasts the two states by claiming, “Conversion is the beginning of a journey, whereas discipleship is ongoing.” This essentially means at the point of conversion, a mental decision is made to follow Jesus, but in addition to that decision there is also a spiritual response to the Holy Spirit and an acknowledgment of our God-given purpose. Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey illustrate, “A disciple is someone who seriously considers the cost before following Christ… [And] is totally committed to Christ, [meaning] our love for Christ is so great, so consuming that, in comparison, it feels like hatred (disdain) for others” (Luke 14:26).

To live we must die; to save our life, we must be willing to give it up: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Jesus was and is the model for us to follow as we are now called to fulfill the Great Commission by way of the Great Commandment. Dr. Rod Dempsey gives a great definition of a disciple as, “Someone who knows Christ, grows in Christ, and goes forth in Christ,” meaning they have surrendered completely to God and to the calling God has placed on their life. Anyone who claims to be a disciple, but does not show God in his or her words and actions is not one.

Putnam offers three characteristics of following Jesus as: “1. Accepting Jesus as Lord, leader, and master of our lives, 2. Being changed by the power of the Holy Spirit and transformed by the renewing of our minds, and 3. Action, which leads to a change in what we do with our hands after we have made the decision to follow Him in our heads.” Essentially being a disciple means: Following Christ (head), being changed by Christ (heart), and being committed to the mission of Christ (hands).” As a disciple of Christ, we are on a mission to love others to Christ by sharing our life experiences and what God has done in our life with them (John 13:35). This is why it is so important that we reflect the image of Christ in our words and our actions. As a disciple we are to abandon the things of this world because they are only temporary and will pass away, but everyone’s soul is everlasting and it is up to disciples through the power of the Holy Spirit to ensure others spend eternity in heaven and not hell.

Earley and Dempsey take a similar approach in defining a disciple by extracting the principles, which should be evident. A disciple must be, “1. Sacrificial: submitting to Christ no matter the cost (Luke 14:28), 2. Relational: loving God, loving neighbors, and loving other disciples, and 3. Transformational: understanding spiritual growth is directed toward becoming like Christ in word, thought, attitude, and action.” The more a disciple emulates Christ’s nature and character, the more they will live their life according to His values. Earley and Dempsey close with an important fact: “You cannot be a follower of the person of Christ without being a follower of the mission of Christ.” You also cannot serve Christ without totally surrendering to Him by carrying your own cross and surrendering your will to God.
Great Commission of Disciples This writer’s personal definition of being a disciple begins first with 1. Accepting Christ into one’s life (John 3:16), 2. Recognizing Jesus as Lord, master, and Savior forsaking all else (I Corinthians 8:6), 3. Submitting to His will, word, and purpose by changing one’s ways and transforming their minds by loving others (John 8:31-32 and I Corinthians 5:17), and lastly 4. Reproducing other disciples by showing them the way of the Lord so they too can lead others to Christ (Matthew 28:19-20). Relationships and bearing fruit is paramount in being a true disciple (John 15:5-8). Ultimately, true disciples of Christ must die to themselves daily and live to bring as much glory to God as possible while thanking Him for all the blessings and giftings He has provided.

Bibliography
Putnam, Jim, et al. Discipleshift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 2013.
Earley, Dave and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is… How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group. 2013.

Who or What Could Save Me?

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There have been times in my life where it has felt like my relationship with God was like two ships passing in the dark with a sea of void between us. These times were very discouraging and very painful to walk through because my sinful life condemned me, my shame overshadowed me, my past haunted me, my circumstances frustrated me and my mistakes made me feel worthless. I found myself asking who or what could possibly save me?

In order to make it through life and everything which happens along the way, we must know the answer to this question! The moment we become a follower of Christ, our debt is paid in full; nothing can separate us from His great love and our worth and our value is found in Him alone. On our own, we will never make it, but with God as our ultimate source of strength, we will never grow faint or weary. I know this firsthand because when I would try to do things my own way, I opened the door wide open for attack. The enemy would whisper any number of malicious and contemptuous lies in my ear to which I had no defense, but when God was the center of my life I could honestly say because the Spirit of the Lord lived inside of me, I felt freedom. Instead of having to answer who or what could save me I could declare who or what could possibly separate me from His great love?Romans 8_38

Despite our past or what we are currently walking through, God can use anything and He never wastes any painful experience as long as we give it all to Him. With God as the focal point in our life we can walk through fiery trials and emerge without even smelling like smoke. We will not only survive oppression, but we will thrive in the midst of it. It sounds crazy, but the more messed up our life is and the more junk God has saved us from, the more God can use us and the more we can begin to understand what it truly means to be redeemed by grace because of His mercy.

Lion of JudahHowever, when God isn’t our number one priority in life, we are vulnerable to attack and one of the most important things I’ve learned is the devil is a very patient predator who is waiting for the exact moment in which we will experience the greatest harm so he can completely destroy and devour us. He is waiting for the kill shot, but what he fails to realize is the greater our fall, the greater our potential testimony will be when we humble ourselves enough to receive God’s unending grace. With this information, we should look for areas in our life in which we are vulnerable to attack and surrender them to God because it is much easier to avert a disaster than to clean one up.the-devil-as-a-roaring-lion The instant we think we are above any pitfall, we open ourselves open up to it, so we must continually look to God in all things and trust that His ways are higher than our own, especially when we can’t see a way. Don’t get discouraged when life happens; just trust that God will work all things for your good when you love Him and are called according to His purpose.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NASB)

He Gave His All

God is the ultimate giver! On the cross, He held nothing back!
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“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV)

Suffering is never fun, whether it’s physical or emotional. For me, lately it has been a little of both since recovering from my recent back surgery. Last night my mind started to think back to the first night after my surgery and a point where the nurses needed to move me up in the bed. I can still remember them grasping the sheets and pulling my broken body up and the pain that soon ensued began to course through areas of my body I didn’t even know were possible.

This season of recovery has shown me things I never could’ve conceptualized before about agony and it has provided me with a mere glimpse of what Christ must have experienced on the cross. Here I was just being repositioned in bed after a corrective surgery and Christ was pushing up on nails pierced through His feet just to breathe. He took the weight of the world squarely on His shoulders and He who knew no sin became sin for all of us!nails pierced

Each day, I have to remind myself to seek God before I do anything else. If I don’t, it starts to feel like things are spinning out of control and before I know it, the world can feel like it is crashing in around me and the sky is falling. This is not the way God intends us to live our lives, but when we don’t continually seek Him, all we can do is try to balance multiple spinning plates.SpinningPlates

However, when we give our needs, our wants, our desires, and even our failures to Him, He is the ultimate author and perfecter of our faith and He will come alongside of us to give us exactly what He knows we need in that very instant.

This is where a lot of us miss the train or get off too soon: God is the only One Who knows what is best for us!
don't miss the train

Our minds are not capable of seeing neither every consequence that may play out nor the things that may be even better than what we could conceptualize or even fathom.

What we must do is simply spend time alone with God and allow Him to see what’s inside of us. He already knows everything about us, but He desires us to openly communicate with Him.

Talk to God

All that matters is we are honest with Him and when God begins to speak into our lives, He will transform and renew our mind and He will put a new song in our heart. He will give us exactly what we need, exactly when we need it; that is a promise from the King of kings, who swears by His own name because there is no name higher!

Even though at times it can feel like you are out of control, that’s ok because the only one who you really want to be in control is God. When the world seems to be crushing you and there seems to be no way out; that’s ok because God has already overcome the world. Our understanding will always fail us, but our trust and relationship with God will give us peace and will always remind us God can always make a way!God will get you through it

Crushed but Not Destroyed

“The greatest evil is physical pain.” Saint Augustine

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

The first night home from the hospital was brutal; most of it was spent in tears mixed with screams and groans. My spine literally felt like the main attraction at a monster truck rally. At points it would feel like two trucks were playing tug-of-war with my vertebrae while someone was heating my lumbar section with a plasma torch. monster truch tug of war
The grand finally came when “Grave Digger” came off a jump landing directly on my spine. At that point, I wish I lost consciousness, but instead, I was awoken screaming in agony.

I am trusting God to get me through this day, even though my pain continually gets worse each passing moment! Spinal Scar
My goal is to keep praise and thanksgiving on my mind and lips. Even in my anxiousness and nervousness, I am choosing to rest in His presence. I am praising Him for the healing taking place in my body and I believe my pain is just part of that plan.

I am going to let God literally guide each step I take today, which shouldn’t be too hard since I am using a walker! Me with walker
I will trust and depend upon the Lord for everything I need and when I find myself feeling self-pity or worrying something is wrong, I will lean upon the Lord even more.

If we are constantly praising the Lord, there is no time left to doubt or worry His plan doesn’t include giving us a bright hope and future filled with blessings!

My prayer is God would strengthen me both physically and spiritually so that when I am on the other side looking back, I can say God supplied all my needs and that only He deserves all the honor, praise and glory!
hands held high

Wrong Turn

Before I knew it, I was in a place I didn’t recognize, but I suddenly knew I wasn’t supposed to be there and had to escape at all costs.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

As soon as I became a follower of Christ, this promise applied to me. It didn’t matter where I went or what I did; God was always with me. I wish I knew then what I know now because being a rebel without a clue or cause led me down some very painful roads.

    There are basically two paths in life:

The straight and narrow, narrow roadwhich brings glory and honor to the Father and the path of destruction, a wrong turn spiraling downwarddownward-spiral to a place attempting to separate us from the eternal love of God.

    Every choice we make in life is a fork in the road:

fork in the road

The good choices keep us on the righteous path, but the bad ones cause us to shift lanes until we take an exit leading to pain and torment. Our human nature and our moral reasoning are constantly at war with our character and integrity, while trying to meet the demands of reality. The deception comes when one small decision leads to another bad one and another until we arrive in a place we can’t get out of quick enough.

The amazing thing about our heavenly Father is all we have to do is call out His name and He will save us. Not only is He always with us, but He is also for us and each new day, He pours out enough strength, mercy and grace to walk through any adversity we might face. GodreachingwithnailedscarredhandIf you are lost, God is waiting for you to call out His name and He will save you. If you are on the righteous path, praise God, but always be on the lookout for those who are headed the wrong way and always remember where God has brought you from and the price He paid to do so.

Sometimes, it takes a wrong turn to put us back on course with God’s best for our life; what we must recognize is God’s grace is bigger than any of our faults or past failures and He has a plan and purpose for our lives! The more messed up we are, the more God can use us to reach the lost and hurting people who are stuck where we used to be.

My Daughter, My Miracle

1 year birthday
A year ago today was one of the happiest days of my life as I witnessed the birth of my daughter. At the time, I had no clue how much my life was going to change. Becoming a father has already provided some of the highest and lowest times of my life, but if given the chance to do it all over again, I would gladly choose to do so!
I can still remember each moment, as if it was happening right before my eyes. I can still sense the mood in the room changing as my little girl was rushed to the NICU. As days turned into weeks and weeks into months, watching people arrive at the hospital, give birth and then go home with their newborns was very hard to watch and when we had to leave the hospital without our little angel, it was even harder. No parent should ever have to leave the hospital without their child. There was such a feeling of distance between us; add to that our fear, anxiousness, nervousness and you had an emotional hot mess. It was so hard to be thankful when all I was doing was worrying. People would ask how we were doing and we would say fine, but all that really meant was we were freaked out, insecure, neurotic and emotional. It was only when I began to rely on God solely that I began to rise above my circumstances despite them. I would claim Philippians 4:19, “My God will supply all my needs” because being anxious accomplishes nothing; instead we are to be in prayer about everything.
When we bring our needs before the Lord, the God of comfort and the God who provides, He will give us peace that transcends all understanding and He will make a way where there is no way. Living with extreme pain this last year, due to a vehicle accident that broke my back, I have been a prisoner of pain. Finally though, God has brought the surgeon into my path that will bring God the glory in healing me. I will finally be able to hold my little girl again without pain coursing through my body. Walking through these seasons full of bittersweet blessings, sometimes my human nature caused me to try and think my way out of my problems, instead of relying on God solely, as I did one year ago when He healed my sweet daughter. God is with us always, but when we constantly dwell on our problems; our peace can elude us as we replay our circumstances over and over again in our minds. I can still remember as new parents, wanting to hold and nurture Sydney; instead we were subjecting her to spinal taps and other painful tests. Having her in the NICU was not part of the dream I had envisioned, but I still trusted God. There were days we had no tears left to cry, but as long as I stayed focused on God who is mighty to save, I kept it together, but when I didn’t, my sadness turned into panic, anxiety, and fear.
The longer we were in the NICU, the more I picked up on subtle things I had not previously noticed. Obviously, one of the first things we could tell was the sex of other people’s babies based on if the parent’s bracelets were pink or blue. Also, if they had multiple ID bracelets, it meant they had twins or triplets. As each day passed, my bracelet became so worn you could barely read Sydney’s name or birthday. One of the saddest things I saw during our time there was a mother who had two bracelets one day and the next day I saw her, she only had one. I later found out that one of her babies had passed away during the night. No matter how worn my bracelet got or how beat down I felt, I remember never wanting to take my bracelet off.
I can remember how weak I would feel going back and forth to the hospital and it reminded me of the story in Matthew 14:30 when Peter got out of the boat to walk on water. As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he was able to walk on water, but as soon as he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to look around, he began to sink. The same is true with the problems we face; if we stay focused on God, He will sustain us, but when we look to our own ways, we are sure to sink. Joel Osteen wrote, “In the natural realm we exchange money for the things we want and need, but in the spiritual realm, faith is what we exchange.” You see, our faith pleases God and it opens doors that no man can, especially when we are walking through the storm of the century. When we obey the word of God and believe His promises are true, we strengthen our faith and as it grows, God is able to do things in and through us we never could imagine. Looking back over this last year, one thing is abundantly clear: God loves us and He wants the best for us, even if that means we have to walk through painful seasons. As long as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and trust His plan, it doesn’t matter what the world tries to throw at us. I encourage you to stop looking to the world for answers and start looking to the Great I Am, the One who made the heavens and the earth. In Him you will find peace and you will know rest as He comforts you in His outstretched arms. He will never give us more than we can handle and He will give us just enough strength, mercy and grace to make it through each new day.

Get in the Race

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Moses never stepped foot in the promise land… To come so far, but not be able to cross into the promise land must have crushed him. He led the Israelites for 40 years through the desert watching God do amazing things in and through him, but when he gazed upon the finish line, he could go no further. By today’s standards, this would have been the most insane ultra-marathon to attempt! He would gaze upon God’s promise, but never step foot into it.
I enjoy endurance events and there is one term no competitor ever likes to see next to their name: “DNF” which means Did Not Finish. By most accounts, this term is associated with failing, but in some cases, I totally disagree. You see, to have this term next to your name means you at least had the courage to get in the race. There are many reasons why some are not able to finish, but the point is that they tried to accomplish their goal. In all of us, God has birthed some sort of passion or dream and it is up to us to allow God to speak into our life so we can move toward accomplishing it. In Thomas Edison’s quest to make an incandescent electric light, he was a very empirical man who remained positive as he literally tested thousands of different substances as suitable filaments. In each unsuccessful attempt, he would simply state, “I have found one more way not to make a light bulb.”
You can run, swim, or ride as fast as you want, but if you aren’t going in the right direction it doesn’t matter how fast or far you are going. Listening to God is the only way we know for sure if we are going in the right direction. For me the only thing better than crossing the finish line is seeing it. There is something so empowering about seeing the goal you set out to conquer within your sights. God promises us so many wonderful things at the finish line and if we could just keep those mental images ingrained in our minds instead of past failures or fear of future ones, I believe our drive to keep fighting would be significantly improved. If there is no goal, no dream, or no vision, then having a purpose in life is nonexistent.
Martin Luther King Jr., steps away from accomplishing his dream, spook of seeing the promise land the night before he was shot. Even though he would not live to see what he fought so hard to achieve, it did not make his dream coming true any less real. Moses, in the same way accomplished a monumental task leading the Israelites out of captivity. What is God calling you to do? Have you just prayed and then remained silent? It is in these times that the still small voice of God stirs in us. Then it is up to us to allow that seed to take root and begin moving us toward our God-given destiny. In a world full of constant distractions and endless noise, we must be diligent in spending time alone with God. When you do, get ready to see God do some amazing things in your life because He is waiting for us to slow down enough and just listen to Him.

Life’s Journey

Life's_Journey
For some, 2012 was a great year, while for others it was a year full of pain and heartache. While most years we live, we can barely remember, others stand out as either being amazing or horrific. This is the sad reality we face because we live in a fallen and broken world, so we must make the best use of the time we have because we don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. The things of this world are temporary, here one second and gone the next. The life we live is part of an amazing story, so we must never let go of our faith, hope and dreams. Looking back over our lives, we will regret the things we didn’t do more than the things we did do. Life is a journey and it is also an endurance race, one in which we are called to finish well.
My journey has taken me many places and allowed me to do some amazing things, but this last year has left me with some very deep scars that will take time to heal. It is impossible to weigh the good times against the bad times to determine how to rate the year, but that is what I find myself doing. Two of my greatest dreams were realized by becoming a father and pastor in the same year, but even these blessings were bittersweet. Reading I Samuel 9 when Saul set out looking for lost donkeys he came across Samuel a prophet of God who just one day earlier heard from God that Saul would be the leader of Israel. I began to examine my journey wondering when in my quest I would come across my Samuel and have my breakthrough so I could reach my full potential.
Before being hit by a speeding truck while riding my road bike, I was an endurance athlete both running and cycling, so I know firsthand that the last part of any race is the toughest- both physically and mentally. Unable to compete anymore, I still view life this way, so I know I have to be getting close to the finish line because every step I take is harder than the previous one. They call this “hitting the wall” and it is literally like you can’t go any further because there is a wall in front of you and only your training and mental toughness will carry you around/over it and across the finish line. The last marathon I ran I can remember reading the back of someone’s shirt that read, “If found lying on the ground, please drag across finish line.” I found that very amusing and as I passed this person, they read the back of my shirt which read, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I can remember them yelling, “thank you; I needed that encouragement.” Our daily life is a race and some of us are lost and need help to get back on course while others need help finding the path to salvation. To make a difference, we ourselves must be different!
Regardless if 2012 was your worst year, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” Isaiah 43:18. Letting go of the past can be one of the hardest things to do. We cling to our past mistakes and let them define who we are, but in Christ we are a new creation. God chooses not to remember our past mistakes, so why should we? He will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. A New Year is upon us and I pray it is one full of blessings!