Christ’s Love on Display

I am so thankful that the Lord has brought me here to GFA. I actually have lost count of the number of things I’ve learned while being here. Between the books, the classroom, work at the ministry, the community, prayer and even home life, the Lord has taught me a lot. He continues to teach me everyday. I have noticed it is hard for me to accept or even realize is how treasured we are in Christ. God calls us precious; He compares us to jewels and prized possessions. And then there are moments with people who just stop and say, we love you. They genuinely mean it. That is Christ displayed in the Body. There is no reason we should be able to love each other so freely but we do so because of Christ.

It seems every time I am going through some tough growing pains, the Lord uses His Body to openly to display His love. It overwhelms me. I am a weepy person, and the reality is that God’s love just pours out on us like a warm blanket or an amazingly comfortable bath. You’re just covered in the warmth of His love. One of the mentors here once said to me, “Those pieces of your heart that the devil took, that were caused by your past; the Lord will and is restoring them. Don’t ever doubt that.” God loves us SO much. I cannot emphasize this enough. There is no one on the entire earth that cares about us the way God does.

Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Did you know that a yoke was traditionally meant for two animals to pull? That means Christ is on the other side of that yoke pulling it with us. This is the reason why His burden is light, because He is pulling it with us. He’s pulling it and God’s grace and strength is more than sufficient. He puts His strength in us and it seems that we are able to pull it. But in the end, it is still Christ doing all the work.

Praise the Lord!

 

To learn more about School of Discipleship, check out our website.

Fatherlessness and Manhood

Fatherlessness and Manhood

A Wounded Heart’s Reflections on Growing Up

As I was reading a blog recently, I was taken aback by one of the opening statements:

“Most of us had absent fathers.”

Piercing. Piercing, because I am a part of that “most.” I was raised by a very strong and capable woman, was loved and provided for and never wanted for any physical needs, so why, I wonder, do I feel a such a deep void in my life today that stretches back to my childhood?

The answer is simple, but complicated: it’s because dad wasn’t there. Dad, like many men today, was a victim of his own poor upbringing, and through substance abuse, checked out early – way too early. He checked out so early that he never got to see either one of his boys walk an aisle past preschool graduation. He wasn’t there when I had my heart broken for the very first time, when I won my first wrestling match or when I got my driver’s license. He wasn’t there to congratulate me for doing well in school, for making good choices or for getting my first job.

Worst of all, he wasn’t there to show me how to be a man. I never learned what a loving husband looks like, or how a man is supposed to lead his family. So here I am, 18 years after his death wondering,

“What in the world am I supposed to do now?”

Not that I’m married yet, I’m not, but I suspect it’s not far down the road.

Taking nothing away from my mother, who was and continues to be amazing, there are just some things moms aren’t designed to do, and being a dad is one of them. Thankfully, mom was there every time dad wasn’t. My gratitude to God is continually increasing for that.

Dad’s gone. I’ve accepted that. What I’m now trying to accept now is that although I think I’m fatherless, I’m not. I’ve had a Father all along, just one that I can’t see with my physical eyes.

One of my goals coming into my second year of the School of Discipleship was to learn what it means to be a biblical man. I’m in awe of the faithfulness of God not only to put that desire in me, but to father me by teaching me what He has about manhood, and in the process, restoring to me what I’ve missed out on all these years. He’s brought men into my life that are committed to loving and investing in me. God is a God of restoration.

On this short journey, I’ve seen many things that have depressed and elated me. I’ve seen the standard for manhood: Jesus Christ, the perfect man who was tender, yet intrepid. In His zeal for God, he stood against corruption by clearing out swindlers who were defiling God’s house, yet had compassion on all who needed Him. He touched lepers and welcomed children, but didn’t shrink back from the agonizing pain of torture, and selflessly laid His life down for a creation that scorned Him.

That’s a big God.

What are the positives that I’ve seen on this journey? I’ve seen men embrace their role to serve and represent Jesus in their weaknesses and shortcomings, trusting in God to give them the courage they need to do their God-given duties. I’ve seen God respond to that trust by making otherwise incapable men capable of doing great things and commanding great respect from people in the process.

I’ve seen men who love their wives and kids, and demonstrate patience and gentleness with them, which is nothing short of a testimony to God’s power and faithfulness.

On the other hand…

I’ve seen men afraid to embrace their faults and failures and run away from the valorous calling that God gives to all men – to lead, take dominion, and demonstrate God’s strength and love to a hurting world.

I see men in their twenties behaving the way they did in their early teens because there was no man before them to demonstrate godliness.

I’ve seen young men hurt by dads who were there, but weren’t really there. Passivity is the easy thing to do in the home, and sadly, most men that are given responsibility over families have taken that route. I’ve seen men domineered and controlled by their wife or kids because they don’t feel like they’re capable of leading well.

I’ve seen young men find their value in things that aren’t Jesus. They look to young women for affirmation, potentially causing damage to them and the women by not guarding their hearts. They look to friends, to self, but not to Jesus. Insecurity and self-focus abounds as a result, which perpetuates the behavior of looking for value outside of Jesus.

Perhaps the worst part of all of this is when men, both young and old, out of emptiness, longing, and desperation, prey on women or scour the internet to feed their sinful passions. This is the deepest distortion of masculinity known to man – taking what is sacred, and perverting it because of selfish desires. Men, who should be protectors, become the ones who take captives.

May I please humbly say that I am aware of these things because I in some measure represent or am prone to all of them?

Despite fatherlessness devastating a generation, I think God is doing something in the hearts of men today. I believe God is restoring true masculinity to the church by starting with individual men and teaching them to live and to lead their families according to His Word. I believe God is moving in the hearts of men in this generation to give them something to fight for: God’s glory. He’s letting us know that we’re not fatherless. We’re not orphans. We’re sons, because God has adopted us and is recreating us in His image. Our value and worth are in Him, simply because He values us enough to give everything to purchase us (Matthew 13:44-46).

Men, we may be weak, insecure, and afraid, but we are strong, because God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. Our shortcomings aren’t barriers which keep us from Jesus, but are bridges to Him. We were made to fight. We can’t waste our lives on things that don’t matter. We can’t spend ourselves on the metaphors of sports and video games as substitutes for what’s real: struggle, battle, adventure, hard work, and most of all, victory.

Sure, we men try too hard to be strong and pretend like we’ve got it together because most of us are insecure. Am I doing that right now as I write this blog post? Probably, but I’m slowly learning that my strength IS my weakness, because, God’s power is made perfect in my weakness, and even in my failure, He is to be glorified and praised for the mercy and love He shows us, in spite of what we’re not or fail to be.

Please, pray for me, and for all men. Please pray that God would give us grace to humble ourselves and be okay with the fact that in God’s economy, manpower accomplishes nothing. Please pray that God will allow men to see that Jesus is better than anything this world has to offer. Pray that God will allow us to see that His grace is sufficient for us, and that it’s okay to be weak, so long as we never use it as an excuse to justify sin.

By God’s grace, let us be a generation of men who can give to others what wasn’t given to us.

Lord, only You can make a man. I’m just a little boy, but I want to be a man. Would you please do this for your sake, Father, please? Help us to love you and to know that you are better. Our hearts wander and are so easily enraptured by everything except You. Show us how you love us, and show us how to be like You, and to love people like You do. Make men out of this generation of boys who don’t know how to live selflessly and sacrificially. Make us brave in the face of uncertainties and chaos. Teach us how to make order, and teach us to trust you to find the courage we need to move forward, despite not knowing what to expect. We don’t know what we’re doing, Abba. Show us what Jesus did for us, please Lord. For your name’s sake, and for your glory’s sake, Father, please, do this. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

My Surrender

My Surrender

Here is a poem I wrote based off my experience in the second year of School of Discipleship. The Lord taught me how I needed to surrender everything and trust Him!

My Surrender

The time has come to look ahead,
To hit the mark, my path to tread.

The past is gone, the past is dead,
I’ll look to Christ, my daily bread.

I’m not my own, I am His slave;
He came to earth, my soul to save!

In Christ alone, this is my call,
He is my strength, my all in all!

In times of sorrow I can see,
My God and Father leading me.

And when I stumble, when I fear,
my precious Savior draws me near.

I’m not my own, and this my plea:
That I could give my all to Thee!

In Christ alone, this is my call,
He is my strength, my all in all!

 

Learning to Fix My Sight

I find that a lot of my problems arise from me worrying. I tend to focus my sight on my circumstances, problems, and even myself a lot more than I do on Christ. These instances were never fruitful and always left me depressed or distraught. I don’t know why we (I’m speaking mostly for myself) allow these things to take our sight off of Christ. If we were to account for all of the innumerable moments God displayed His faithfulness in our lives, fear and worry would be nonexistent when difficult trials came our way.

This has been, and continues to be, a lesson the Lord so faithfully teaches me. Fix my Sight. Do I believe and trust in Him even when all seems to be lost? Do I have enough faith to believe that He is sovereign over everything? Apparently not. But I’m grateful the Lord has brought this to my attention. It allows to me to acknowledge my weaknesses and shortcomings and humbly come before Him asking for His grace and strength. His strength is made perfect in my weakness, and this encourages me to continue to fix my eyes and heart on Him evermore. He is faithful, and He answers prayers.

Fixing your sight is the first step to being grateful and steadfast. It acknowledges the one who is sovereign over all things, and it dissipates the cloud of fear that so often blinds us. When we abide in him and walk in his light, darkness has no place. When we fix our sight on all that he is, when we gaze upon the beauty of His majesty, and when set our hearts on Him, there is an overwhelming sense of joy and peace that surpasses all understanding. I thank God that He has taught me this lesson through the awesome leaders and staff here at School of Discipleship. Brian, one of the teachers here, put it in a way that resonated with me. I pray this is as encouraging and uplifting to you as it is to me.

“We can get to a point in our lives where we see a fork in the road and start to worry about which way we are supposed to go. We don’t realize that if we are walking with Jesus step by step, there is no reason to worry. He is either going to go one way or another, and we just have to follow Him faithfully.”

Fix your sight on the Lord!

 

The Faithful vs. the Faithless

“… if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

“The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.” Psalm 138:8

“… just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love…” Ephesians 1:4

“Now to Him who is able to keep youfrom stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy…” Jude 24

How many more promises need to be made by a God who is incapable of lying before I will believe Him? My Friend has promised that He will always be with me, yet somehow, I would rather try to do things on my own. The work I’ve been called to do is not mine, but His. He will perfect everything that concerns me. He will do it because He is faithful.

So, what role do I play in this?

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,  keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Jude 20-21

“For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” Hebrews 12:3

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Hebrews 3:15

“Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.  And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.” – 1 John 2:24-25

Abba, convince us of Your goodness, please. Convince us that You are for us, that You love us, and that no matter what we do, Your heart towards us never changes. Convince us that Your grace is true, and that all You require of us is to be weak, and willing to receive You in our weakness. Convince us, Papa, that when we are weak, You are strong. It’s what You’ve promised.

Teach us to believe You, and teach us to receive Your love. Teach us that you are trustworthy.

Thank You for allowing us to come before You in complete confidence. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Hope, our Redemption, our Sanctification, our Righteousness, our LIFE.

Faithful Father, teach us how to love you. Through Jesus I ask this, amen.

I Love Mockingbirds!

I Love Mockingbirds. They are just happy all of the time, and it seems like to me that they are free to sing whatever they want; they can chirp, squeak, trill, peep…you get the picture. Any way I love them, and yesterday I was sitting at my desk thinking to myself, “I haven’t seen a mockingbird in forever!” (they usually are all over down here in Texas). I really wanted to see, and hear a mockingbird (did I mention they are AWESOME!).

But I wrote it off because one, it’s not spring, and two, it was cold and if I were a bird I would want to be where it is warm right now. So that was me, depressed and sitting at my desk because there were no mockingbirds in Texas.

This morning I awoke from my very restful sleep, I sleepily got dressed and went outside for my morning prayer/walking time, but as I closed the door of my apartment guess what I heard! A MOCKINGBIRD! Needless to say I thought it was cool, but not much more than that until I started praying.

“That bird is for you” said a still small voice, “What!? No way! Are you serious God? You care enough about me to put a single mockingbird on the roof of an apartment complex, in the middle of Carrollton, in the state of Texas, in the center of America, in the country of the United States, on a tiny planet called earth, in a tiny solar system (comparatively), in a huge galaxy, in the unending expanse of space? It’s not possible!”

Or is it? In John 17:23 says “…Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (Emphasis mine). Friends God loves us as much as he loves Jesus Christ! It blows my mind the vastness of His affection for us. Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I didn’t even pray for that Mockingbird, but God still put it there for me, and the reality probably is that He does stuff like that for us all the time!

I will stop saying things now and let scripture speak for itself:

Matthew 6:25-34 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air (Strangely appropriate); they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

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