Friday, December 12, 2008

If you were the last seed

Yesterday I started back with some quality times with God, in His presence, in His word. I began by reading John 12 to look ahead at what Overflow will cover next semester. As I was reading, this verse jumped out that I had never noticed before

"I tell you the truth, unless a kernal of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world, will keep it for eternal life." John 12:24-25

Jesus isn't talking about crops here, or presenting what seems on the surface to be a hard truth.

Read verse 25, then read 24 again.

Go ahead and read. I want you to hopefully draw the same conclusion, before i tell you what i think.

If we love who we are now, the things we have, then we're only looking an inch in front of our nose. Who we are now is still only a work in progress (though when Christ looks at us, He sees the finished product like any artist would). We cannot settle for this life. We must let go of what we want in this life, letting them take a back seat, until we seek God's kingdom (what is to come) first.

Think of it this way, if the kernal stays a kernal, he is just one. If he gives of himself, and looks to the future (what is to come) he becomes many seeds for what lies ahead.

How are you helping those following just a few pages behind? Are you taking what has been invested in you, and in turn investing it into someone else?

If I were the last seed of watermelon, I would hope I would ensure that generations to come could taste of my fruit. Shouldn't others be blessed by the love God has shown us?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Finally have my bearing...and peace

I've been really distracted lately. Distracted to the point that, it was hard for me to focus on much of anything else. Some of you I told why, others I was probably too distracted to tell you.

Been distracted, stressed, and just plain restless trying to figure out some of the mission trip opportunities God had layed in front of me.

After many prayers, some wrestling with my spirit, I feel that this upcoming trip to Tunisia is not the right time for me. This feeling isn't just from my parents not being ready for me to take such a step, but also I see where God can use me in other areas meanwhile.

I came to this understanding last night. I prayed non stop through the previous few days. The reason for so much indecision was because I do feel that God has layed the Muslim people on my heart and Tunisia. However, as Anna Booth put into words a truth I began to understand last night "A servant must be content to serve wherever he/she is called."

Instead of Tunisia, I will be going on the inner city mission trip over spring break to Philadelphia. I also am looking strongly at returning to Dearborn in May, along with Glen Titus and Jessica Martin from NC.

Now that that is settled, I can refocus on continuing to pursue God's love, and to show it.

Father, thank you, thank you, thank you for peace that is in fact beyond all understanding. You are indeed the beautiful one I love!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Sheep and the Goats

"When the Son of man comes in His flory, and all the angels with him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people, one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats..." Matthew 25:31-32

When Jesus comes, He's going to separate people into two categories based on one condition. Know what that is? Its not confession alone, its not by prayer for forgiveness, its not by baptism, but by how you treated "the least of these." Yes we are reconciled (restored) to God through faith, confession and baptism, but those are lived out every day by following Jesus.

We follow Him best by giving ourselves to the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the sick, the blind, the deaf, the wounded, the lost. All of us can say we have fit into one of those categories at one point in our lives whether phycially or even more importantly spiritually.

Are we doing all that we can to give ourselves to them? If not we end up as goats. You can read further in Matthew to see your fate.

Look at the Israelites in the Old Testament. By the arrival of Jesus, they were cut off from God. We read in Romans especially chapters 9-11 how Israel did not believe and thus God's attention turned to the Gentiles. The Israelites not only didn't believe, but also read all of the Old Testament, and show me a consistent pattern if you even find one where the Israelites cared that other nations didn't believe in the one true God. Show me where they said "Oh look, the Amorites don't believe in God. We should take God to them."

Because of their self interest, God turned elsewhere. He leaves the door open for them, but now He is expressly inviting the Gentiles. Check out my next post for more thoughts on that idea of the Gentiles over the Jews, and a deeper look at Romans 9-11.

Are we serving the least of these? Are we living and doing?

We can all pray for God to create in us a more compassionate heart. I have been, and since He's shown me plenty of opportunities of how to show love to people.

Will we be a sheep?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Willing to go...

My heart says of you "Seek His face!" Your face, Lord, will I seek. Psalm 27:8

This is the first blog post I've done in a while. I took some time off to focus more on doing and living instead of just talking. I had let this become something that came between me and God and to some extent i was no longer truly sharing for the benefit of others and found myself searching for things of interest for people to read as in something funny. And so I return to the reasons I started this blog.

To share my life with you that you might be encouraged.

Over the past year God has opened my eyes to begin to see Him work in ways I would never have imagined. From hearing stories from friends travelling from Ghana to Bulgaria to now even Tibet, and taking part in my first mission trip, God has been speaking to me. Michigan unveiled my eyes to see so much more of what God can do through willing hearts. Acts 29 continues to amaze me at the ways they are impacting Hamtramck, just outside Detroit.

Through those experiences I feel that God is creating in me a heart that is open to His call anywhere. When I first decided to change majors in the summer after my freshman year, I knew in my heart that I wanted to give myself to God, and to ministry. What defines ministry has changed for me over the past year. No longer do I look at it in the confines of being a preacher, or a pastor, but ministry can be so many more things.

The one thing I never thought i would be I am becoming. I feel God is leading me to missions work. Even overseas.

At present, I feel led to Tunisia, a country that is spiritually dry. 99% Muslim. There i would be taking part in a prayer journey through the country. The logistics I am trusting in God for. The $2500 I am at present not concerned about. As with Michigan, God can provide everything I need when I need it.

What concerns me and has been the subject of many prayers is my family understanding.

My parents do not have as much faith in God as I do. Nor do they understand that even though there is a need here, God is guiding me to think globally. My love for God comes into conflict with my love for my parents. Jesus said that He would divide families. While I know this inevitably happens, I can't accept that in choosing this life, I will have to go against my parents wishes.

All I can do is call on God, as I did for Michigan. Because I cannot do this without Him.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

After a long sabatical of sorts

Last night i discovered something. Watching Charlie Brown with a tummy full of ribs and chili is a quick way to get sleepy. As such I went to bed at 9:30 pm last night. Usually I'm just sitting down (if not out with people at this time) about to study and knock out school work.

Sometimes we just need to stop and rest.

After 10 hours of good sleep, I woke up this morning at 7:30, put on some sweats and headed out into the cold, and drove over to the rec center. There I warmed up on a bike for 10 minutes, catching ESPN highlights from the opening of the NBA season last night on a nearby tv. Then i proceeded over to the track.

After some light stretching, i walked onto the track and stared ahead. Nervousness crept up and down my legs and spine. Anticipating.

You see, its been since the beginning of May since I last run. Tearing your ACL will leave you out of commission for a while physical activity wise. During that time, God changed my heart in so many ways...

1)He gave me a heart of patience as I wondered why me, why now.
2) He reminded me of His love, by sending friends and family to check on me after surgery.
3) He taught me above else, that praying is still the most important thing i can do.
4) He showed me that pain is only temporary, that for some things in life I must push through pain to reach higher.
5) He showed me there is allways a way, even when I didn't think i could carry food and walk with crutches
6) He showed me that i need to rest in His presence, instead of flat out speeding through this life. To slow down a bit.
7) And so much more, but more than anything, He showed me how to deny myself, to let go of my selfish desires. To have more of Him and less of me. That i don't need to brag about my basketball prowness, or that sports are even about winning. God gave us sports to build fellowship, trust with one another, not to one up each other.

He even showed me how to truly listen to others.

And so here I stood. Anxious to take off jogging. Worried that my leg may not be healed enough. I wasn't even sure if I remembered how to run. Seriously, I couldn't remember the sensation in my legs of what it felt like.

So I relearned how to run.

Still favoring my right leg out of habit, I started off plodding my feet one after another, pushing off with my toes, landing on my heels in quick succession. I wasn't gliding along as I used to, but i was running again.

No pain came from my knee. Glee perhaps but no pain. My stamina was strong, wasn't breathing hard at all.

Now I know that I can run. Again.

And I have returned from a sabatical of sorts, with a new heart, a humbleness to admit I am nothing without Him.

Abba, that was a storm, the likes of which I havn't been in since senior year of High School. Thank you for bearing with me during my whining, my desperation, the pain. Thank you for getting my attention when I thought i knew it all. More importantly thank you for dying on the cross. I can't imagine the pain you took for me. My body, my new ACL i give back to you. Use it as you desire.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Slaves to sin...but slaves to righteousness?

In our 2:42 we've been going through the book of romans, studying God's plan of reconcilation from the law of the Old Testament to the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.

Romans 6:15-18:
"What they? Shall we sin becuase we are not under the law but under grace? By no means (aka Hell No!) Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey-whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obediance which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin, and have become slaves from righteousness"

Many of us are aware that we were once slaves to sin. Unable to break its hold on us. Sin kept us separated from God, unable to come into His presence, to hear and know His voice, to see His glory, to know His mind and heart.

We know that Christ made us free from all that. Free from the bondage of sin so that its hold on us is broken. Now we can overcome sin and triump by the blood that was slain.

But instead of being slaves to sin, we are now slaves to God.

Slavery again? That can't be we say. We right back where we started, bound to something.

Think about it though. As one guy in our 2:42 group said, we are slaves to our bodies. We have to eat, breathe, drink water, and other functions of our body. Try going without them and see how long you live.

I am indeed a slave to Christ, because He bought me at the price of His life. And though I be bound to Him for life...

"I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know His master's business, instead I have called you friends" John 15:15

"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry Abba, Father (Daddy)". Romans 8:15

Who knew slavery could be so good!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

One body

Earlier today I started listening to Casting Crowns first cd album again. I rediscovered some really good songs but this verse from the same song really got me thinking...

But if we are the Body

Why aren't His arms reaching

Why aren't His hands healing

Why aren't His words teaching

And if we are the Body Why aren't His feet going

Why is His love not showing them
there is a way

There is a way
Most parts of the body if not all all have a purpose. They say now even ear wax has a purpose in the ear, and I believe if I recall corectly doctors said it should be left alone. I'll believe that one when i see proof.

Think about though seriously. Even toes while small help maintain balance. Within the church (any group of believers) we become the body of Christ. Why are we not reaching out then? Why aren't we doing?

I don't know about you but I'd rather be an arm or part of an arm instead of an appendix whose purpose has yet to be figured out by scientists. I'd rather be valuable instead of dead weight.

What are we doing within the body of Christ?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Just a Squirrel at a Masquerade Ball

I pulled up and parked my jeep, and got out. Looking over, I wondered if i was at the right place, and at the right time. After looking around while I began to walk over, i spotted a light outside, and decided to head for it. The light led to a doorway, and into the santuary, that except for some candles on the walls, the hall remained dark.

As I began to slowly make my way through, my keys jingled rather loudly while hooked to my belt. Feeling like i was shouting in the midst of this quiet gathering, i held the keys firm while i found a seat toward the back where i would be less conspicuous. As I sat down, i realized that the acoustics in the hall magnified even the slighted noise into a resounding echo.

I was at best a squirrel at a masquearade ball.

Visting St. Pauls 9:00 pm service this Sunday was a new experience. My first at an episcopal church. Taking in the scene, i remarked at the reverance the episcopaleans pay to God. Then the chorus proceeded in, taking their place at the back of the hall, and began to lift up in solemn song, praises to God.

Directly they presented Luke 20:9-19 in song/chant. I almost instantly recognized the parable. But toward the end, this thought jumped out and grabbed my attention.

"and He will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel He will be a stone that causes men to stumble, and a rock that makes them fall." Isaiah 8:14
The prophecy referrs to Jesus. Cleary some of His teachings such as being the bread of life and that we must eat of his flesh, among many others has tripped up people of all nations over the centuries. If people stumble because of Jesus, what is my relation as one who sees that He is the cornerstone? What I can I do as one who has not stumbled to the point of being crushed?
Hopefully I'll have an answer in my next blog...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Simply Worship

I just finished listening to a message by Louie Giglio titled "Simply Worship". For those of you who don't know, Louie is a song writer. He writes praise songs such as "Holy is the Lord", and many others for Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, David Crowder Band, and began the Passion Conferences and tours.

In the message, Louie talked about worship, the many different styles from the hymns of old to contemporary praise. Then he explained what true worship looks like. I can't begin to cover everything his message covered, but if you get the chance to check it out you should. Here's what stuck out to me.

When we go to sunday morning worship, passion, overflow, etc we like to walk in and think, I hope the worship is good this morning or evening. Man it'd be awsome if they did some third day or hillsong. We walk in and begin to look for what God is going to do for us. Is this worship? Hearing a meaningful song? Being able to sing along or clap our hands to something upbeat?

In Isaiah 58, God speaks to the prophet Isaiah. Once again Israel is seeking the Lord, and are wondering why God is not listening to their prayers and their fasts. Among God's answers to them, He says in verse 3 "Yet on the day of fasting you do as you please" and that God did not intend for fasting to last for one day, which many of the Israelites considered sacrifice enough.

Then down in verse 7, God lays out what fasting, and what i believe worship is.

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter when you see the naked to clothe him, and not to turn away for your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly appear, then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say Here am I.
Last wednesday I had a meaningful day of worship. I spent an hour alongside fellow beleivers praying at the cupola asking for God to work on our campus. Then I took a friend over to wal-mart. Then came back met with a guy I'm leading 2:42 Bible Study with to lay out our next few weeks of meeting. Then I headed to overflow, then aftwerwards to baptize a friend who had made the decision, and then we went out to IHOP for his first meal born again, and spent an hour there just talking about the Word.
I didn't say all of that to boast. But i remember feeling at the end of the day, "How great was today? God really blessed me today." The reason i see now, is because i poured myself out to God that afternoon and evening. I gave myself solely to Him, and to His agenda, and what ever i wanted to do, I set on the back burner.
Paul said the same to Timothy is one of his farwell letters:
For I am being poured out like a drink offereing, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:6-7
Worship is devoting our lives to God. Allowing ourselves to be completely spent for the one who was pierced, crushed, wounded, and ultimately put to death. Jesus spent three years before that moment, fasting, praying all hours of the day, healing the sick, one after another after another, teaching his disciples time and time again. Never once did Jesus decide to take a vacation on the beaches along the mediterranean, or to sleep in a king's palace.
That is the life of worship. A life that God smiles down upon. A cry that He will always answer.
I spent the last 27 hour fasting. No food just water, a little apple juice, and some smoothie. Did good up til this point. For now I'm going to declare this fast a good first step into the discipline, and declare it over. The reason for my fast, I'm going to continue to pray over. But I'm going to pour myself out to God through service and ministry while I seek direction on a mission trip oppourtunity I'm considering. I'm going to try the model in Isaiah 58 and truly fast, and our myself out for others.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Might I have been on to something?

Back in Philosophy 1110, our professor challenged us with the question of why does evil exist and how does that fit with a God who is believed to be all powerful, all knowing, and all good?

I found myself remembring the discussion while i was studying for my intercultural communication class. What reminded me is that within our western point of view we have a dualistic view of things, we see good, we see evil, but the two are separate, in our own way of thinking.

In Africa, they view such thinking in terms of oneness, inseparable. If there's death then there must have been life for something to die. They see death and life, tied together, such as the day and the night, a cycle, in which one defines the other.

Back in philosophy i proposed the question, "Could it be that we have to have evil to know what good is? To be able to recognize God's love in the contrast of the present evils?"

Light has shadow, darkness. Without the blackness of space how would the stars stand out? Without the work of the devil that God allows, how would we see and define His goodness? His love?

Just some deep thoughts I've begun to ponder

Monday, September 8, 2008

Coming Clean

Ah dishes. Nothing like slipping on a well worn pair of gloves and picking up a scrubbie and going to work on cleaning stuck on food from dishes used a few days ago. Yes you may do your dishes daily, but i prefer the philosophy of "absence makes the heart grow fonder" so that when i do get to my dishes its an affair. I can crank up some worship and meditate by using my hands.

I usually start with silverware, get the small stuff out the way, get past the formalities of how are you, I'm doing good. Then i jump to the bowls, plates, and cups then I tackle the cooking pots which can on occaison have the hardest stuff stuck on. I proceed to the trashcan with these where i scrape out what will give way.

Here's where I had an epiphany as a scraped and prodded at a rather stubborn piece of noodle, nearly bending the spoon i was using. How does Jesus feel, when I allow sin to cake on in my life inside of me, and I simply let it go? It has to dissapoint Him. He can't well use me to cook up something becuase I'm dirty inside, and doesn't exactly want to show me off to showcase His cleansing power. So as i did this pot, He prob sets me in some water to soften the mess up so it will come off under water.

I admit i have some stuff I havn't really revealed to others. Things I'm not proud of. Today though in switching roles in tackling caked on stuff, i recognized the need to get rid of some sin that i had allowed caked on to remain in my life.

I've been addicted to pokemon video games since the tender age of 11. Anyone who has ever played these, know how addicting and time consuming they can be. I've prob logged over 600 hours of my life playing one or another over the years, close to if not more than a whole month. My most recent bout came over the summer, being rather immobile at times because of the knee which really is no excuse. I know this is really lame but I'm letting it out now, becuase as scripture says: For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Luke 8:17

'I've had it' I decided as i stormed from the kitchen leaving the pot in the sink to soak. 'I'm not leaving the temptation there any longer. I'm getting rid of this distraction once and for all so that God is my only idol.' I proceeded to my bedroom, retrieved the game from my bookshelf where it had lain since the week college started, then headed outside. I descended the steps then walked down to the river behind my apartment, and there threw the cursed thing into the tar river. I watched it float for a moment, then sink below the murky water, a gamers exploits forever lost. How fitting i thought: 'I should have left this behind in the water years ago when I was baptized. Well at least now its where its belongs.'

I returned singing, with a slight swagger in my steps, proceeded upstairs and returned to the pots and finished my affair for the afternoon, one step closer to being Holy.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Opening Lines

Hey, I'm Josh. I'm a believer in Jesus Christ, who was, is and is to come. I'm a disciple desiring to be radically different like Jesus, and live everything that I believe in. I'm far from perfect but I do have a heart for those in need, wherever they may be.

First time ever doing a blog officially. If you're reading, then you more than likely think my thoughts may be of interest. I pray that they do impact someone, and that through comments which is where you will come in, i might gain new insight into what ever is posted on this blog.

For now I leave you with this verse:
We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. I Thessalonians 2:8