The Pit & The Palace

This past July, the Mets called up a player from the minors named Amed Rosario. Although he was just called up two months ago, Amed has been ready for the majors for the past year, yet he was still in the minor leagues. Now not once did Rosario complain about the Mets not calling him up. But he waited. Despite seeing other players being called up, despite seeing availability on the Mets’ depth chart, he stood the course until, finally, he was called up to the majors and his dream finally became true. His long stint in the minors made his major league debut that much more sweeter. He understood that his current circumstances was only preparation for what was to come.
I think often our circumstances can cause us to be afraid to dream. We see great things happening with other people between great jobs, promotions or engagements and wonder what we did wrong to be in the positions that we are in. We can look at where or who we are now and think we can never get to that place that we have only dreamed of. But can I tell you today that where you are now is preparing you to where God wants to take you? Because where you are today doesn’t define where God wants to take you tomorrow.

Continue reading on Beauty Risen From Ashes.

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Fear, Less

About a month ago, my family and I went on a vacation for the first time in a few years to our favorite (and only) vacation spot, Orlando, Florida. We stick to it because we know we are guaranteed a great time as well as a great workout as we walk miles between all the parks that we go to. One of the days, we drove out to my uncles’ condo out in Fort Pierce and hit the beach. Now coming from NYC, it’s not often I get to go to a beach without getting my feet cut by Corona bottle caps or where there’s actual blue water. As we are heading over, my uncle gave us a very important heads up: “If you see something gray and it’s moving slow, it’s a manatee. If it’s moving fast, it’s a shark.” Now I can’t swim but hearing this just about confirmed that I was not going in deeper than where the water reached my ankles. So I went in there and as I was hanging out by the surface, I saw other people swimming in the area that I was afraid to go in. I wanted to go in so badly but my fear was preventing me from going deeper.  Then I started to ask myself, what exactly are you afraid of? That was when I realized, I was never going to get to where I wanted to get to if I kept letting fear get the best of me. It was time to fear, less.
There’s a reason for the comma in between “fear” and “less.” The definition of fearless is to be “without fear.” Now in reality, there will never be a point in life where you will be without fear. Fear doesn’t go away, it adapts and evolves. There will always be something you’re afraid of. Once you get over one fear, another one grows. It adapts to your circumstances. But there is a choice you can make. A choice to have courage. Now being courageous doesn’t mean that fear is nonexistent. Being courageous is deciding to move despite the fear that still exists. And you only overcome fear when you decide to move even though you’re afraid, which brings me to one of my favorite stories in the Bible.

“And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” – Matthew 14: 28-32 ESV

When we read this story, the first thing we pay attention to is what Peter did wrong in this situation. We often focus on the fact that Peter started to sink while he was walking on the water because of a lack of faith. But I want to focus on what Peter did right. Peter sees Jesus coming toward them, not on a boat, but actually walking on the water. Now this wasn’t just a calm night at sea. The Bible states that the boat they were on was “beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.” (14:24) This is already a good enough excuse to be afraid. The last thing you’d expect to see is someone just taking an evening stroll on top of the rough waters.  When they saw Jesus doing just that, they were terrified. But look what Peter does. He recognizes Jesus and despite the rough waves, winds and the high probability of drowning, he gets out of the boat and walks on water. Did he start to sink? Yes. But he took one step more than many of us would have taken: he got out of the boat despite the circumstances around him. He decided to move, despite the fear that existed in his heart. He did not let fear stop him from going further.

Fear keeps us at the shore. It keeps us inside the boat. And if we let fear get it’s way, we will stay at the shore only thinking of what it would be like to go deeper. Thinking of what it would feel like to walk on water. We’ll be stuck with a desire but no action towards fulfilling that desire. But if you decide to move despite the fear that exists within your heart, you are reminding fear that it has no power over you. I say reminding because it was a promise that God already made to us.

“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

– 2 Timothy 1:7

God has already given you the power to overcome fear. We just have to use it. The way we use it is by making the intentional decision to have courage. Deciding to move to the place we are afraid to go. Deciding to move despite the circumstances that are against us. Deciding to move despite the unfamiliarity or discomfort you may feel. Once we decide to move, only then will we overcome fear. And as you conquer one fear, another one WILL develop. But you will overcome that one too. The more over you decide to have courage the less of a hold fear will have on you. We just need to move first.

With this in mind, I started taking steps away from the shore and deeper into the ocean. And no longer did I stay at the shore wondering what it would feel like to go deeper but I got to experience what it felt like for myself. After overcoming this fear, I decided to take on another one, roller coasters. I got on line to ride the tallest coaster at Universal Studios, despite the extreme fear that existed within my heart and loved every second of it! Whatever fear you have today, don’t let that stop you from moving forward.  Have courage and move despite fear. Get out of the boat and start walking on water.

 

Fear, Less.

 

No Holds Barred

Recently, I was recommended to listen to the album Beyond Control by Kings Kaleidoscope. While the album is very different from what I’m used to, what stood out to me was the transparency of the artists. These are not just songs written to be played on Christian radios and churches. They’re songs written straight from the hearts of the artist. The lyrics display their triumphs and struggles they’re dealing with as Christian men. This song is displayed so well in their song Prayer. While the lyrics are a bit controversial, I truly admire the transparency and how the artist displays how he feels in his heart with no holds barred. It really inspired me and caused me to ask myself, am I open to others with how I really feel or what I’m going through? 

Truth is, a lot of times, I fail to be really be tranparent with others about how I feel or what I’m going through. I’ll often give the answer that I’m supposed to give or the answer people expect to hear from me. While doing this may protect my reputation and how people think of me, I sell myself short of the freedom that comes with truly expressing yourself. It’s like being locked in a cage for a long period of time and when someone finally gives you the keys to your long awaited freedom, you reject it. Its what I sell myself short of and I’m sure I’m not the only one. So when we choose to stay silent when given a chance to speak, what do we really sell our selves short of?

1. Your Freedom

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, that you may be healed…” – James 5:16 

Transparency and confession brings freedom as it is the start of the healing process. Holding back our struggles and not confessing how we feel or what we’ve been going through only keeps you in bondage and enslaved to your struggles. Transparency jump starts the healing process. The more you express yourself, the less you will feel alone. Which leads me to the next point…

2. Bringing Others to their Freedom

 “…The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” – James 5:16

I love people and I am always humbled and honored when presented with the opportunity to make an impact on another person’s life. By being transparent, you have a chance to make an impact on someone’s life, through your weakness. I guarantee you, you are not the only one struggling or going through what you are going through and you are not the only one who feels who you feel. Someone else either has or still is going through it. Your transparency may trigger them to be transparent as well and will help them to understand that they’re not alone in their struggles. You and that other person can go through the healing process together and help and pray each other through. As the verse above states, prayer has “great POWER.” Your transparency has the power not only to lead yourself, but others to their freedom. 

 Transparency will kill the loneliness that you feel. It will kill off the lie that you’re in this alone. You’re not. There are people out there who have gone through or are still going through the same thing. I experienced this during this past winter. I met with a group of men in a small group where we discussed some struggles that we deal with as men. While I will not disclose what was said in the group, I will express that I admitted some struggles that I was pretty ashamed of. While I thought admitting this would change their perception of me, I was hit with something I did not expect. Instead of hearing advice on how to deal with this struggle, I saw a bunch of men nod in agreement that they struggle with the same thing. I express to you enough how comforting it was to know that I wasn’t alone in my struggle. There was other men, young and old, who were fighting the same battle I was and we all knew that the first step we would have to take to get to our freedom was by being transparent about what we were going through. 

For those reading, I don’t know what you’re going through and what you may be holding back, but I can tell you from my own experience, there is no greater feeling than being able to have someone or multiple people that you can truly express how you feel and what you are going through. Transparency can help bring you to your freedom and by you being, you may be able to bring someone else to their freedom as well. Don’t stay in a cage while the keys are in your hands. Your freedom is waiting.

Here’s a shameless plug. My church, The Lighthouse Church in Brooklyn, are accepting sign ups for our fall community groups. Community groups provide the chance to connect with people that love Christ and develop relationships that honor Him. If you’re interested in becoming a part of a group, sign up here:

http://www.lighthousechurchnyc.org/get-involved/community-groups

Eyes Up

It was a cloudy, cool Saturday afternoon. I walked down the steps of Westchester County Center after walking across the stage of graduation to receive my Bachelor’s Degree. I searched for my family through a sea of black and gold only to see them waiting for me at the bottom with smiles across their faces. Part of the reason why I worked so hard these past four years was to make them proud and I was so happy I was able to do it for them. We took a ton of photos together and decided on a place to eat after. As they all walked ahead, I stood behind and looked back. I looked back and saw everyone else taking photos as my family and I were. But as  I looked back, I was reminded of everything I went through leading up to this point. The entire four years was rough but this last year by far was the toughest I had to face. I thought of the heartbreak, the lack of motivation and focus I had to fight through to get here. My fall semester of my senior year, I maxed out and took 18 credits so that I would be able to graduate on time. After losing track of a class and the assignments that were given, I ended up failing a class at a time where I needed to pass everything.  The only way I was going to be able to graduate this coming May, was if I overloaded and took 20 credits the next semester, which I ended up doing. On top of that, I had plans to go on a trip to Israel last December that would’ve not only helped reduce the number of credits I needed to take during my last semester, but would give me the opportunity to visit the Holy Land that I read about daily in my Bible.  But those plans were ruined when my tuition rose to the point where my family and I struggled to pay it and all the money we had raised for Israel had to go towards tuition. My graduation was in doubt. I became overwhelmed to the point where I got on my knees and asked God, why? Why was this all happening at a time where I desperately needed things to go right. Then I was reminded of this verse:

“As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.” – 2 Chronicles 26:5 NIV

This verse was already familiar to me. It was a verse I had memorized since the very first day I came across it. But it had become so crucial during this season. The verse comes from the story of Uzziah. Uzziah was a man who became king at sixteen years old and ended up having a fifty-two year reign. The Bible says that he “did what was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 26:4 NKJV) and says as long as he sought God, He would give him success and make him prosper. Of course later on, Uzziah becomes prideful and loses everything for it but when he did seek God and did what was right in His sight, God indeed gave him success. He gave Uzziah fame, fortune and an a great amount of strength just as long as Uzziah continued to seek him.
Reading this verse reminded me, that as long as I sought God, He would lead me to success. But what this verse doesn’t do is that it doesn’t guarantee that the road to success would be easy. There would need to be some battles fought to get there. Uzziah was only sixteen years old when he became king. I cannot imagine the things the battles he must have gone through in order to finally to receive prosperity promised from God. For me, the battles became so overwhelming that there were times I doubted if God was going to come through for me or not. I questioned why He had me in such a predicament at such a crucial time. But then I remembered his promise that as long as I sought Him, He would lead me to success. Success not defined by my terms but by His terms. As difficult as it was, I continued to seek God through the battles and fights I faced, and He gave me the energy and endurance to push through and on May 7th, 2016 I finally graduated even when the odds were not in my favor. Despite all the battles I had to face, I believe I got to this achievement because I sought God through it all.
For those reading this, I don’t know what you may going through. I don’t know what battles you might be facing. But what I do know is that God guarantees success to those who seek Him. His success may not be exactly what we consider success but I promise you that it is so much greater. Continue to seek Him despite how bad the battles look and He will equip you with everything that you need to push through and ultimately lead you to success. During my final semester, I had a conversation with a professor and she told me this:
“Circumstances chance. People change. Life changes. But Jesus and His Word never change. Fix your eyes on Him and you will stand strong through it all.”
The battles you might be facing today might be rough and if you haven’t faced any yet, I guarantee you that some will come your way. But remember that as long as you seek after God, He will get you what you need to stand strong through the battles you face and ultimately, will bring you to success. Success not defined by our terms, but a greater success that is defined by His terms. Keep your eye up and on Him and He will lead you to where you need to be.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

My favorite time of the year has to be the holiday season. We get three holidays in a little over month! It can’t get better than that! But best holiday out of the three, at least in my opinion, has to be Christmas. I just love seeing all the decorations, lights, as well as catching the “25 Days of Christmas” special on ABC Family! I especially love Christmas music! I can listen to it all day. Once it hits December 1st, my radio is always tuned to 106.7 FM as they play Christmas music all day, everyday until Christmas. And of course I could never forget why we even celebrate Christmas. I am forever grateful for God’s ultimate gift of Jesus to our world. For without him, we’d be nothing and would have nothing to celebrate. Christmas is also a time where we can reflect on our lives. It is a time where we reflect and evaluate our lives, asking ourselves “Am I where I want to be right now?” It’s a time where we reflect on our past, look to the future and evaluate our present. Its when we look at our Past, Future, and Present. Sound familiar? I thought so!

Ghost of Christmas Past

Christmas is a time where can reflect on our past. And for some of us, if not most of us, our past can be haunting. It can be difficult to ignore or even forget. It’s the elephant in the room. It is like a ghost that no one else knows it’s there but you. Although the past is behind us, we should not doubt it’s power. For the past has the power to destroy your future. This can only happen if we allow it.

One example of this comes way back, only weeks before the first Christmas. It comes from a man named Zechariah.

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.” – Luke 1:5-7

According to Scripture, both Zechariah and Elizabeth were both “righteous in the sight of God.” They followed all the commandments and for the most part, did not do anything wrong. But as obedient and faithful as they were, they were not able to receive the one thing they truly desired: a child. But then this happened:

“Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” – Luke 1:11-17

An angel appears to Zechariah and tells him that despite their very old age and their countless attempts at having a child, they were finally going to have a child. Zechariah responds just like the way any one of us would:

“Zechariah asked the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” – Luke 1:18

The key phrase here is “How can I be sure of this?” In that question lies doubt. And that doubt formed from the past. Zechariah and Elizabeth have had so many past failed attempts. At their old age, who knows how many times they could have failed. The older they got, the more they lost their hope. So when they got the news from the angel that they were going to have a child, the past of their failed attempts came to haunt them and they couldn’t help but question the angel. Their past made them question God’s will for their lives.

This Christmas, I know there are a countless number of broken hearts out there. Hearts broken because of past failures, past hurts, past hardships and past sin. Christmas is a just a time where they are just reminded of it. It’s a time where they are forced to reflect on a past we try so hard to forget but it always seems to haunt us, especially around Christmas. Although the past is behind us, it has the power to break our future. More specifically, it can affect God’s plan for our lives.

Our haunting past can cause us to doubt God’s plan for our future. It happened to Zechariah. His past failed attempts of having a child caused him to doubt what God had in store for him. We can look at our past and lose our hope. We think to ourselves, if God never blessed us then, why would he bless us now? But God has a timing for everything. He may not had given what we wanted in the past but that doesn’t mean he will not bless you in the future. If it’s a part of his will of course. God’s timing is perfect because he is perfect and he knows you better than you know yourself.  He will bless you when he feels if necessary. So don’t lose hope. The best thing we can do is praise him in the process.

“Trust in the Lordwith all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding”

Proverbs 3:5 

Another aspect of a haunting past can be our past hurts and hardships. There have many times we have been hurt, let down or even heartbroken. Every time we are reminded of it, it breaks us even more and causes to lose sight of what really matters. We do not know why heartbreak happens and I’m sure all of us would like to go without it, but we have to remember that no matter what happens, God is always in control. He has a reason for everything. It may have taken heartbreak to get us out of wrong relationships. It may have taken hurt to build up your character. God knows all things. And that brokenness you are feeling, will all go away once you give it all to God. He is the only one capable enough to hold your heart.

“Cast your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken. ” – Psalm 55:22

A haunting past can not consist of past hurts, failures and hardships, but it can also consist of reminders of past sin. I myself can attest to this. When I think of my past sin, I can’t help but think of myself as unworthy. I can’t help but look at God’s blessings on my life and ask him, why? What did I ever do to even deserve an ounce of what you’ve given me? But it’s then, when he reminds me of grace. He reminds me that although I failed him, he still loves me, he still has a plan for me and my failures has never affected the calling he has for my life. Past sin can cause us to doubt God’s will for our lives. We think of ourselves as unworthy and think God will never come through for us after what we’ve done. But he can! I know because he did it to me! And if he did it for me, surely he can do it for you! There’s no grading system for sin. It’s all the same! And God’s grace washes every bit of it. So the next time your past sin tries to haunt you, remind yourselves that God already took care of it. Because with sincere repentance comes instant forgiveness. As long as you are sincere about forgiveness, God will give you forgiveness.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16

Our past has the power to hold us back from the future. It has the power to cause us to doubt God’s will and plan for our lives. Although our past may be a dark place, it is now a part of your testimony. It has no hold on you unless you let it. You have the power to overcome the haunting of the past. When you see it creeping up on you, remind yourself God’s will goes beyond it. This Christmas, as you are bound to reflect on the past, don’t be ashamed of it but look at it as how much God has brought you through. This Christmas, break the Ghost of Christmas Past and embrace God’s grace and where he will take you too.

 

Relaunch

re·launch

[v. ree-lawnch, –lahnchn. ree-lawnch, -lahnch]

              1.  to launch again; start or get going.
 
 
 
Why start a blog post with the definition of relaunch? Because it is an appropriate word to describe my life at this moment. The year of 2013 has been the hardest years that I can remember. I am exhausted and feel like I have never been farther from God. My spiritual fuel meter has been running on E. Yet God has still kept me. Yet he still has blessed me. Yet he still continues to open doors for me. But ask me have how I have shown gratitude for this? By simply taking the blessings and not giving God any glory.
This is by far one of the hardest posts I have ever had to write. I had thoughts on retiring Footprints In Concrete for good. How can I ever speak, preach or teach anyone on anything when I don’t even have my life together? How could I ever tell someone to persistently pray when I can go a week without even saying a five minute prayer to God? How could I tell others not to be afraid of offending people when I hide the very truth that my life is based of off? It’s simple. I myself couldn’t, but God could. Because God doesn’t choose the ones equipped. He equips those he chooses.
And he equips them with the best weapon of them all:Grace.
The problem I have is that I focus too much on the things I do not do for God instead of just loving him. I focused too much on what I came up short of instead of living on grace. Instead of sinking in an ocean of grace, I started to sink in an ocean of my failures. I started to accept my blessings as if they were just coincidences because I thought of myself as unworthy of God’s bleassings. It was not until God made me realize through various messages and poeple, that I am destined to fail but my failures is what will lead me to my greatness. And that is what grace is all about. When you experience falilures to launch, grace is what helps you relaunch.
I have decided that it was time to relaunch. Time to launch again. Time to get going. Not only for this blog, but for my life. I realize now that I will experience many failures down the road but grace will always give me the ability to start over. It is never to late for Jesus to come and save the day with his grace. You are never too far into sin to escape it through grace. Instead sinking an ocean of failure, I will choose to sink in an ocean of grace. Today is the day for a relaunch!

Hope

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32 NIV)

Imagine yourself in a courtroom. You are on trial because you have broken almost every law in the book. Your predicted sentence is the death penalty. The jury is shouting at the judge for your death. The judge is about to officially declare your sentence. She quiets the jury down and as she is about to slam the mallet to declare your sentence, she tells the guards, “Bring him in.” Walking through the court doors is her innocent two year old son. As tears fall down her face, she tells you “I see a hope and a future for you and I wouldn’t want to see you die when you have so much ahead of you.” Sobbing, the judge slams the mallet and declares that her innocent two year son will take the penalty for the crimes that you committed and orders him sentenced to death.

As gruesome and confusing as this story may sound, it is a true story. Not with a judge or a two year old boy but with an awe powerful, omnipotent God and his one of only perfect son. What makes this story even better is that in three days, Christ rose from the dead. He is Alive.

We have heard this story a countless number of times. In matter of fact, we have a national holiday just to commemorate it(the government will never admit to this). As many times as we’ve heard this, a lot of us do not take it as serious as it should be. A lot of us look at it as if its another fairy tale story to help us feel good. I know I have. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

You will never be able to get what Jesus did for you, unless you can actually understand why he did it and the severity of what he did. Sacrificing a son is not easy. Just think about this. Would you ever sacrifice your innocent son or daughter so a bunch of criminals can be released from their charges? Honestly speaking, I know I wouldn’t. But God did. And he did it willingly. Why? Because he loved us that much.

The Bible says that “the penalty for sin is death.” What is sin? A bad act. What is considered sin? Anything from along the lines of stealing a pencil to checking out that girl to murder. It is impossible not to sin, therefore it was impossible to avoid death. (KeyWord: Was) But Jesus changed all that. God willingly did not spare his son but allowed Jesus take up a cross and suffer one of the most brutal forms of torture known to man. Why? So you wouldn’t have to go through that. He went through that in order for you to have a chance to avoid eternal damnation. He did that because he saw a hope and a future in you. He didn’t have to. He was innocent and had no sin. We should’ve been the ones to carry that heavy cross and have steel nails pierced through us. What Jesus did wasn’t justice for he was innocent. But he threw justice out the window for one moment and sacrificed himself because he thought that we wrote something worth dying for. Because of Jesus, the cross is no longer a sign of torture. It is now a sign of hope. That my friends, is real love.

Lessons From An Ant

During my first year in college, I realized I had a problem that I never knew about, but had existed for a long time. I’m sure almost every student can stand with me in this one. The problem that I discovered in me was that was and currently am a HUGE procrastinator. All through high school, I would wait till the day before an assignment was due to take time and actually do it. I got by doing that in high school but I’m paying for it in college. In matter of fact, I actually failed a class because of it during my first semester. Just like Paul called himself the “chief” of all sinners, I can call myself the chief of procrastination. I thought procrastination was harmless, until I came across this…

“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:6-11 NIV)

When I came across this verse, I felt so convicted and felt as if I’ve failed God in this area of my life. God was merciful enough to open a door for me to even attend school yet I save everything for the last minute and just “wing” assignments. I realized that I wasn’t treasuring what I was blessed enough to receive and be entrusted with. But can procrastination in our education become the start of a severe conflict in our lives? Can there be times when we actually procrastinate God? I love the illustration that Proverbs 6 in using an ant. Whenever I drop a piece of food outdoors, within minutes I see a ton of ant working together to bring that piece of food to their home. Instead of waiting till days before the winter season, they cut to the chase and gather their provisions for have at beforehand.

It we can kill the problem of procrastination now, imagine how much better our future could be. Not only will it help our education but it can help our lives as a whole. If we just do what’s asked of us now, instead of waiting till the deadline, we can kill the deadly habit of procrastination now. Proverbs 6 says that just with a little procrastination poverty will come like a “thief” and scarcity like an “armed man.”

Not procrastinating on killing procrastination (see what I did there) will not only help our lives but our relationship with God. If we accomplish what God asks of us now, it would be harder for sin as a whole to enter our lives because we are completing the will of God exactly when he asks us to. Whether its through prayer, reading our word or just spending time with God. If we put God first and not procrastinate what he asks us to do, imagine how much stronger we would be in our faith and our love for God. Don’t procrastinate on killing procrastination. Kill it today because it has the potential to ruin your tomorrow.

Eyes on the Prize

There’s a lot of excitement in the sports world this week with the Superbowl coming up this Sunday (Feb. 3). It should be an interesting game. Football is by far one of the most exciting sports to watch. When I watch a game of football, one of the things that I pay attention to is how hard some of these players are getting hit. I can’t help but flinch when I hear the impact of some of these hits and tackles. I think I would’ve died if I had been hit even half as hard as some of these NFL players get hit. But these hits don’t phase these guys because of all the training they put themselves through. These guys spend all year working out to stay fit and condition themselves for the upcoming season. They even practice getting hit hard so when game time comes, those hits won’t phase them. What motivates them to train this hard? It’s the dream that one day they will raise that Lombardi trophy and have that big championship ring on their finger.

One of the toughest things we can ever face are times of trials. Especially for us Christians. If I can be honest with all of you, whenever times of trial occur in my life, I can sometimes catch myself questioning my faith. When I first accepted Christ into my life, I thought from then on, everything was going to be all good and dandy. I thought that as long as I walked in the will of the father, I would never be put through times of trial or suffering. This is the mindset of many believers and new believers alike. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the Bible even tells us that there WILL be troubles:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)

One person who was very well experienced with times of trial and suffering was Paul The Apostle. Paul went through from being arrested and thrown into prison to being shipwrecked a total of three times. If any of us would have gone through half the things Paul went through, we have found every reason to just give up. But Paul doesn’t do that. Why? Because he prepared himself for it and he had a motivation.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV)

Paul knew that suffering was going to occur so he trained himself to be able to withstand it. Not saying that we should literally punch ourselves but that we should prepare ourselves. Prepare ourselves through prayer and reading the Word so when these times of trials and suffering decide to hit us hard, our faith won’t be phased by them. We need to put ourselves through “strict training” so when game time comes, we are ready.

Paul also withstood through the times of suffering because he was motivated to. You see we are not running this race we call life for a trophy or a ring. We are running this race to one day be with the Father in heaven for eternity. The reason we fight this fight is to get to the place where for the rest of eternity, we won’t have to deal with pain, sickness, heartache, etc. That’s our prize that should motivate us to keep on fighting even when we get hit hard by times of trials. When we keep our eyes on the prize, times of trial will not phase you. Suffering will become the least of or worries because we know that this season of trial is just temporary in exchange for a life in heaven that’s eternal. That’s a prize that requires strict training but will be worth it when you’re standing in front of Jesus and he will say “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I’ll go through any kinds of suffering just to hear those words from Jesus himself.

The Force Unleashed

One of my favorite songs to worship to is “Like An Avalanche” by Hillsong United. The song just helps usher in the presence of God so well. We recently worshipped to this song at a Friday night youth  service at my church known as Generation Lit Up. Lit Up is full of passionate teens who decide to give up their Friday nights to be in the presence of God and learn more about him. As I was worshiping and singing this song, I started to really pay attention the lyrics of the song. As much as I heard the song, I had no clue why it was named “Like An Avalanche.” In my mind I started to dissect the first chorus:

“And I find myself on my knees again
Caught up in grace like an avalanche

 

Nothing compares to this love love love
Burning in my heart”

It was then when I realized what the lyrics actually meant and I immediately began to cry. Comparing grace to an avalanche sounds a little weird at first. Why is it that grace is being compared to an avalanche? The New American Oxford Dictionary states that an avalanche is “a sudden arrival or occurrence of something in overwhelming quantities. If you think of the physical stature of an avalanche, it’s when a slope of a mountain becomes so unstable that it begins to collapse taking everything in it’s path. Its one of the most destructive forces known to man.

The force of an avalanche is so strong that it destroys everything in its path. That’s exactly like God’s grace. The force of God’s grace is so strong that it will destroy everything in its path. When you become caught in the avalanche of grace, the force is so strong that it will destroy every trouble, every hurt, every insecurity, every sin, every sorrow, etc. Grace destroys that and wipes it away as if it was never there. When I realized this I began to cry because its not something we deserve but it was given to us anyway. God’s love is that strong for us that he would give us an undeserving grace even though we let him down every single day. You can’t get more gracious than that.

Take a look at the some of the people in the Bible. Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, denied Jesus three times when he was asked if he knew him or not. God’s grace was sufficient for him and the force of grace was so strong that it wiped out Peter’s transgressions and he ended up preaching to crowds where thousands would be saved. Saul was a man who persecuted Christians. God’s grace was sufficient for him as well and the force of grace was so strong that Saul, who was renamed to Paul, began to preach the very message he tried to kill off. That is how powerful the force of  God’s grace is that it can change lives so dramatically. But in order for them to be transformed so dramatically, there was a point where they had to accept the force of grace.

Some of us have chose not to accept the force of grace. Some of us believe that our sin is too big for grace to cover. But when we finally accept the powerful avalanche of grace to fall on our lives, you will begin to see all those sins, troubles, pain, and sorrows that you thought were too big for grace to be destroyed in the avalanche of grace as if they were never there. Once you begin to let the force of grace become unleashed upon your life, you will no longer deal with the burden of sin, you will see chains unleashed, bondages broken. Sin is no match to grace. All that can be yours if you just allow the force of grace to be unleashed upon your life. Will you accept it today?