Saturday, July 5, 2014

Overcoming Doubts: Part 1

   I am like the biggest doubter on the planet! If I was alive during Jesus's time, I would have definitely been the "doubting Thomas" of the group. Doubts are my "thorn in the flesh" so to speak. Although I know God wants me to have faith, He actually uses my doubts to keep me from becoming conceited. It's almost like I walk with a limp, and because of this, I'm forced to lean upon the shoulder of God every day as I learn to trust in His grace. If I had it all together, there would be no need for Jesus. God has used my doubts for His glory and I believe He wants me to use what I've learned about faith to comfort, teach, and encourage others. I want to share with you some of the doubts I've struggled with and the truths that God has revealed to me through His Word and His Spirit. I'll be starting a three-part series regarding different doubts that I've had and how the Lord has helped me to overcome them. I pray you get something out of it and that God will use everything to draw you closer to Him.

                                   "Is God real?"


   Man, this has by far been the toughest most consistent doubt I've had since I've truly started seeking God. I think that everyone at one time or another questions the existence of God. It's actually good to ask if God's real because it can ultimately lead us into a relationship with Him. However, it can also keep us from coming to Christ because as Hebrews 11:6 says, we can't come to the Lord without first believing that He exists. I can testify to the existence of God because He has completely transformed my life. It used to be all about me all the time, but God came near and He showed me that He's the only thing worth living for. In the past, I have clearly heard God's voice on several occasions and I continue to hear His whispers everyday through His Spirt and His Word. There are literally countless testimonies of people who have been changed by God and God alone. I believe that perhaps the greatest defense for the existence of God is the changed lives of the people who follow Him.

 "A man with an argument is no match for a man with an experience." -dc Talk

  Consider the very first disciples of Jesus. Ten of the eleven were martyred. Think logically with me for a second. Would these men give up everything and subject themselves to extreme torture and cruelty for something that might have been true? Would they lay down their lives for someone who claimed He would rise from the dead, but didn't? Would they really leave everything behind for a God who didn't even exist? I don't think so. These men touched Jesus. They knew Jesus and saw Him face to face. Thomas touched the wounds on His wrists and His side. 500 people claimed they saw Jesus alive after He was crucified. And still today, millions of people claim to see Jesus at work in their lives, and the way they live their lives is the ultimate proof that God exists. Despite all the evidence, a lot of people say that it's just too crazy to be true! Jesus...God's Son? One with God? Crucified, but yet alive? And how can people say that God actually lives inside His followers? That's just impossible! And what kind of God would come to this screwed-up world to sacrifice Himself for sinners that deserve death? I'll be honest, sometimes the gospel is hard to believe. But the thing is, the Bible actually says that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18)! The bottom line is, God is beyond our understanding. We can't choose not to believe in God based on the fact that we are unable to understand Him. This is because the Bible says that God is far greater than anything we could even imagine! In Ephesians 3, Paul talks about the love of God that "surpasses all knowledge." Simply put, we can't understand God's love. But the thing is, we can't let our inability to understand affect our ability to believe. Check out this section from 1 Corinthians 1 that compares and contrasts the wisdom of man with the wisdom of God:

"18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength." 

- 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

  Wow, what a passage! Paul states that although the gospel is considered foolishness by those who are perishing, the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom. You can't choose not to believe in God based on the fact that He "doesn't make sense," because the Bible tells us plainly that God doesn't make sense to us. So the argument that God isn't real because His ways aren't logical should be thrown in the garbage. One thing God has taught me through my doubts is that there's no argument against Him that can stand. 

  "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD."

 -Isaiah 55:8

   The thing that drives me crazy is that atheists and evolutionists can't seem to see that it takes faith to believe in their theories. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as believing in something you can't see. Has anyone ever actually seen a human evolve from a monkey? Were we around before time began? No, we weren't. You can believe in evolution if you want, but don't say that it doesn't require faith. The fact is, we can't prove that God is eternal and that He was here before the beginning of time because we weren't there! But we can have faith, we can trust, and we can reasonably believe in God because He's given us His Word and He has confirmed Himself to those who invite Him into their hearts. 

 "By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." -Hebrews 11:3

  Let's go back to the countless testimonies of Christians who, throughout history, have claimed to have been changed by God. Shall we zoom into the life of the apostle Paul? He was Saul before Paul you know. I think we like to shape Paul into the image of this unstoppable, "super Christian," but before God confronted him, Paul was "a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man" (1 Timothy 1:13). He hated Christians and did everything in his power to wipe them off the face of the earth. In fact, he was on his way to go kill some more Christians when all of a sudden, a brilliant light appeared and a voice said, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" Paul went blind and just like that, he was sent on his way to Damascus where he received his sight and began to get acquainted with the apostles. Acts 9:20 says that "at once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." What a testimony! One second, Paul is on a mission to kill the Christian faith and the next, he's preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. How can the transformation in Paul's life be explained without the existence of God? If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, then there's no way that a man who formally believed that Christianity was a big superstition could suddenly just started preaching the exact opposite of what he previously held as true. It's just not reasonable. Obviously, something happened to Paul. Something that was so dramatically life-altering that it even caused Paul to change his name! A personal encounter with Jesus might seem like foolishness to those who have never had one. But for those of us who have experienced the power, presence, and incredible love of Jesus in our lives, there's no denying His existence. We, as Christians, are the proof of God's existence and love! We have the God of the universe living inside us. Let's join together as the body of Christ and allow God to live through us in such a way that the world will see God's life within us.

  "What if you have what somebody needs to find Jesus?" -Carl Lentz

  What if there's something in your story, in your testimony, that can actually play a part in someone's salvation? God can't use a story that you're unwilling to tell. Part of the reason God comforts us in our troubles is so we can share with others how God has brought us through different things (2 Corinthians 1:4). We have to remember that God loves the whole world! He shows no favortism. And He wants to use our testimonies to reveal Himself to those around us. We just have to be willing to take that leap of faith, to line ourselves up with God's will, and to share our story with the people God has surrounded us with. Don't think that, for whatever reason, God can't use your testimony to touch people. He's worked in your life for a reason, and He wants to use you to comfort and encourage those around you. Like I said before, our testimonies are the ultimate proof of God's existence. But if we aren't willing to tell our stories, then what are they really worth?

  "All of you set free by God, tell the world! Tell how he freed you from oppression." 

 -Psalm 107:2 (MSG) 

   Simply put, a lot of people don't believe in Christianity. They don't believe in God and they don't believe that Jesus was the Son of God. But this shouldn't affect us or cause us to change our faith and our stance on what we know to be true. Jesus said that the road to heaven is a narrow one, and He's been showing me how hard it truly is to be a Christian in this world. I think we have a natural tendency to go with the crowd. Everyone wants to be like everyone else, and I think that many people spend their entire lives trying to fit in. But when we put our faith in Christ, we're choosing to walk against the flow of society. We're no longer a part of the worldly culture, and we become one with Christ as we learn to walk according to His commandments by His grace. The world says love your friends and hate your enemies, but Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to bless those who persecute us, and to pray for those who mistreat us (Luke 6:27-28). This is impossible without the love of God in our hearts. Also, a popular belief in the world is that life is all about us and that death 
is the ultimate loss. Philippians 1:21 completely contradicts this statement as Paul says, "For to me, to live is Christ (not me) and to die is gain (not loss)." In addition to all of this, the world and everything in it is completely temporary. Even life is temporary. And we are constantly searching for joy, acceptance, purpose, and satisfaction in the temporary things of this world. The truth is, life can never be what it was always meant to be without God because we were "made by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16)." That's why it breaks my heart when people reject God because they're rejecting the only One who can give them everything they were created to desire! Jesus is the only thing that's eternal and He needs to be the Rock upon which we stand. Perhaps this is yet another defense for the existence of God. As C.S Lewis says, "If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." So don't let what other people say influence what you know to be true! Read the Bible and explore Christianity for yourself before you decide if Jesus is the truth. Don't just accept what others are saying without looking at what Scripture says. If you are truly sincere in your search for truth and you seek God with all your heart, He will reveal Himself to you (Jeremiah 29:13). Christian, don't give up! Trust God and keep the faith despite what everyone around you is saying. Jesus said that "in this world we will have trouble." But He tells us to take heart, because He has overcome the world (John 16:33)! "Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17)." God is faithful and although at times you may feel like the only one who wants to please God, that's not the truth. There are countless Christians around the world who are standing with you. And even if you really were the only one on earth who loved God, God would still be with you. "If God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?" He promises to be with us until the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20). When you grow weak in your faith, lean into His grace and draw strength from His Word. Don't give up!

  "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." -Matthew 7:13-14

  I'll leave you with this amazing video that explains how reasonable the existence of God truly is:

  I really hope that this post encouraged you in your walk! Love you guys!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

God is Enough

  Perfect. So perfect. Everything is good. Life…is pure. It’s amazing…it’s perfect. How it was always designed to be. They, the first “us,” had everything…everything! They lacked nothing. They shared in beautiful fellowship with their Creator. They had all the food, all the water, all the animals, all the beauty they could ever want. They had God! God who is a necessity to every soul. God who also makes Himself an option to every soul. A necessity and an option…God! He gave them everything they were created to need, want, and desire. But…the serpent. The craftiest of all the animals. “Did God really say?” “You will not certainly die!” With the reaching of the hand and the eating of the fruit, Eve said, “No God! You are not enough. This is not enough. There has got to be something more…something other. No! I want more. This can’t be all there is. You can’t be all there is. No God! I don’t want what you give. I want something else.” Heartbreaking! So…so illogical! So stupid! “No God, I don’t want you and what you give, even though I was handcrafted for you and what you give.” How can this be? Satan, who’s still at work today, tells us, somehow convinces us, that there is something out there that’s better than God. He tells us God isn’t enough. So we search. We dive headfirst into the “tree” of the world and devour every fruit that promises to give us satisfaction, purpose, and meaning. And, sooner or later, we discover that it’s still not enough. It’s almost like we’re afraid to trust that God is all we need. Everyone needs God, but not everyone wants God. Everyone soul needs God, but not every soul chooses God. God is a necessity to our souls, but He’s also an option. We have to choose Him. He won’t force Himself on us, because He is Love. I want to be a soul that says “yes” to God and what He gives! I want to be fully satisfied in my Creator! I want my Designer to be the focus, the center, the goal of my life. I was created for Him, and I will choose to sing “God is enough” all the days of my life!

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Wave

  Back and forth, back and forth. Up and down, in and out. There I go! I’m rising high…above it all. Thriving. Rejoicing. Living. I am the crest, the highest part of a wave. I am trusting, relying, abiding, and believing. I’m filled with a faith that can move mountains, and I feel as if nothing can move me. I’m secure, at peace. Suddenly, I break. I crash. I pound toward the shore. I’m falling, struggling. I’m doubting. I’m scared. I’m not trusting, not believing. I’m sinking. I hit the sand hard. For a split second, I’m still. I’m at peace again. I’m filled with joy! But then, I get swept back out into the sea. Not trusting. Not believing. I’ve hit the trough, the lowest part of a wave. I’m drowning. I’m doubting. I’ve taken my eyes off Jesus. I can’t see truth, can’t trust truth. I feel alone, abandoned. Suddenly, I begin to rise again! I’m on top of the world! I’m believing that God is who He says He is, and that He will accomplished all that He’s promised to do! I have faith once again! But the wave soon collapses and with it, so does my faith. I break. I crash. I pound toward the shore. I’m still. I’m swept away. I’m drowning, doubting. Then, I rise. Back and forth, back and forth. Oh, when will it end! I hear the Spirit’s soft whisper. It will end when I stop living by sight, and start living by faith. I know that I don’t know it all. I know now that I don’t have to know it all. I don’t have to see the big picture. I just have to trust the One who does. The One who holds the whole Earth in His hands! The One who made me, and loves me. The One who died in my place. Jesus. I trust Him. And by faith, I rise! I can’t see it all. But by faith, I trust the One who does.

  “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” –James 1:6-8

Saturday, February 8, 2014

You Are Not a Mistake

  You are a product of God! You were handcrafted by the Creator of the universe. You are a masterpiece in the eyes of your Designer! You were made in the image of God. He created the very idea of you. He created you so intimately that you can never really find yourself apart from Him. He knows you better than you know yourself! He knows the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7). He made you and He loves you. He has an incredible plan for your life! No matter what anyone says, you are not a mistake!

  "Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." -Psalm 139:16

  You are not an accident! The Lord purposely placed you on this planet. Your birth was a God-planned event. Before God formed you in the womb, he knew you (Jeremiah 1:5). You were created to know and glorify your Creator! What a purpose! And what an identity...made in the image of God. How thrilling! You are worth so much to God! As Ann Voskamp says, if He gave His Son to save you, won't He give anything? You, yes you, are worth the blood of Jesus! To God, you are worth the death of His only Son. His opinion of you is the only one worth believing. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2) and He never changes (Hebrews 13:8). Trust Him and believe His truth over the lies of the world.

  I really hope this post encouraged you today! It was just something short to remind you of your incredible purpose and worth and God's unending love!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Whatever You Think, You Are Not Hopeless. Here's Why:

By Langston 

So a while back, I was opening my Bible. In my thoughts, I asked God to show me what He wanted me to read. The response was very faint, but I felt it was Isaiah 8 and 9. So, I read through Isaiah 8 which was pretty good. Then I got to verse 9, which is what dramatically changed my perspective of the Christian life.

For You have shattered their oppressive yoke
and the rod on their shoulders,
the staff of their oppressor,
just as You did on the day of Midian. -Isaiah 9:4
Okay ... so what? God removed the burden of some random people. What's so great about that? Well, let's take a look about at exactly who this chapter is talking about. But, before I give my interpretation, make sure you plan to read this whole chapter for yourself in order double-check what I'm saying, and also to let God talk to you personally as you read it. Don't just rely on my words. Rely on His. Check out all of Isaiah 9 here!

Now back to my interpretation. From what God showed me, the passage here is talking about Jesus. Isaiah was prophesying about the coming of Christ--how God's people will be redeemed and brought back to life when Jesus came and redeemed His people. Every verse in this passage applies to God's people, today.

Romans 8:15-16 NLT says: So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. Therefore, we are God's people too! Even more, we're His children. Not only are we co-heirs with Jesus (Romans 8:17), His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:10), and His friends (John 15:15), but we're also God's children! We hear this all the time, but do you ever sit for a moment and let that sink in? I mean the God who created all this--
--and this--
--and this--

calls you His child! He calls you His child in the 
same way the dad helping his daughter learn to ride a bike calls her his daughter, or a mother asleep with her baby boy in her arms calls him her son. The same image and feelings that invade those parents when they think of their children is how God Almighty feels when He thinks of you!
If you're still not really getting this, you need to watch this video: The Awe Factor of God. I have it included in the space to the right if you're reading via website; if you're reading via email just click on the video's name. To truly understand and revel in God's love for you, you have to realize where you are and where He is. He is so much bigger than us in every way - all creation screams it. Yet He still loves us! The Awe Factor of God paints in motion what I'm trying to say through written word.

Alright, so Isaiah 9 is talking about Jesus, God loves us, and we're His children. So what? Read the verse again.

For You have shattered their oppressive yoke
and the rod on their shoulders,
the staff of their oppressor,
just as You did on the day of Midian. -Isaiah 4:9
As I said before, this verse prophesying about people--God's people--living in the time of the Messiah and beyond. We are His children, and we are living in the time of Jesus (the last days, as the apostles and prophets called it) so this verse is speaking directly to us!
"For You have shattered their oppressive yoke ... "
One of the definitions for "yoke" is: an agency of oppression, subjection, servitude, etc.
So the phrase "oppressive yoke" relates to anything that is or has been a burden to you in your spiritual life. For example, some "oppressive yokes" for me have been fear, guilt, anxiousness, lust, self-consciousness, doubt, pride and timidity.
"... and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor ..."
Not only did God shatter the yoke itself--fear, lust, anxiety, etc.--but the burden we carry because of them and the attacks of the enemy to bring us back down. We have the total upper hand! We are set free!

And finally, the last and possibly my favorite part of the verse:
"... just as You did on the day of Midian."

Say whaatt? Midian? What happened on the day of Midian? What was the day of Midian, anyway?

To find the answer of this, we have to go back a few centuries to the book of Judges. In chapter 6, we get taste of what's going on here. There we find the ancient nation of Israel, before they were a nation: back when they were a loose cluster of tribes - and constantly bullied by their more powerful neighbors. One of these powerful, oppressive neighbors were the Midianites. They oppressed the Israelites until they cried out to God, and he sent Gideon (not exactly People's Choice for best warrior) out to deliver Israel from the Midianites' grasp. You can read all this for yourself in Judges 8, but the verse I want to highlight is Judges 8:28:
So Midian was subdued before the Israelites, and they were no longer a threat. The land was peaceful 40 years during the days of Gideon.  -Judges 8:28 (my emphasis)
This is what Isaiah references to when he writes "just as in the day of Midian" or "just as in the day of Midian's defeat" in Isaiah 9:4. When God dealt with Midian, He dealt with them for good - they were no longer a threat. In the same way, God has dealt with the everything that oppresses us - spiritually, mentally and even physically. We may feel hopeless, doubtful, or abandoned, etc, but we aren't. We still may feel as if we're trapped in a never-ending cycle, but we're not. We may feel dirty, unworthy, weak and a waste of time, but aren't. We never have been since the day we believed Jesus came and died for our sins and mistakes and were baptized in His name. We will continue to make mistakes and feel imperfect, and that's fine - because we're human. Jesus didn't die so we could try to be perfect. He died, in part, so we could have rest from the pressures of trying to be something we're not. He died, not to simply abolish those things from our lives, but to give us the grace, the strength, the knowledge and the love to overcome them: to rise above our troubles, transcend our doubts and worries, to leave aside the weights holding us down and "run out the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1)."

You are not a slave, so refuse to live like one. Jesus set you free. Paul gave a strong command to the church in Galatia when he wrote:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. -Galatians 5:1 NIV (all the crazy emphasis mine)
In the immediate context, Paul was telling his readers not to return to living under the Law after committing their lives to Jesus (another post for another time), but I think this also extends to not letting your feelings, circumstances, negative thoughts, anxieties, insecurities, "limiting" factors in your personality (which, in your personality, are actually all good traits; you're just looking at them wrong), desires, disabilities, flesh or anything else that prevents you from being who God made you to be, run your life either.

You are set free. You have hope. You have a calling. And you have a Father in Heaven who loves you; a Friend who died for you and rose again to give you freedom; a Spirit who burns with passionate desire to reveal to you the depth and the height and the width of God's love - for you! Never forget these things. You are more than you see in yourself now. You are everything God's created you to be.
And the real you - not your physical self, with its blemishes, but your soul: the traits, ideas, characteristics and true desires that make you who you are - is perfect.

But how do we remember all these things? How do we keep them all in mind? How do we keep back from falling into the hopeless cycle of literal slavery?

How can we live like this?

Like many things with God, its actual pretty simple:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. - Hebrews 12:1-3 NLT
Keep your eyes on Jesus, and that will empower you to not only get through, but rise above all you that you deal with.

Have an awesome day and God bless!! :)

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him, so that you may overflow with hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit. - Romans 15:13