This blog is quite a deviation from the norm, I’ll admit. It’s a piece that evolved from discussion in my English class last semester, and while it doesn’t apply very heavily to issues of the church, I feel that it’s quite applicable to those of the world (specifically, the literary one). If you have no interest in art or literature, you probably won’t be very interested in this post, and that’s okay.

Writers of the universe: hear me out!

Talk to Me!

The Need for Dialogue Amongst Writers

“There is at this moment for you an utterance brave and grand as that of the colossal chisel of Phidias, or trowel of the Egyptians, or the pen of Moses, or Dante, but different from all these. Not possibly will the soul all rich, all eloquent, with thousand-cloven tongue, deign to repeat itself; but if you can hear what these patriarchs say, surely you can reply to them in the same pitch of voice; for the ear and the tongue are two organs of one nature”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Conversation.

It is a lost art, both in our society and in our literature.

Centuries ago, literary giants were eager to converse and interact with their peers, oftentimes imitating their voice or duplicating their stories.

English poetry and drama (and those genres as a whole, for that matter) were largely built on a foundation formed by William Shakespeare himself. John Milton’s brand of epic would have been impossible without Homer and Virgil’s influence. Nearly all of medieval and romantic literature—works by Chausser, Dante, Keats and Shelley—can trace their roots back to classic mythological tales.

Today’s literary scene, on the other hand, paints an entirely different picture. With Romanticism came the concept of plagiarism. With Transcendentalism came the birth of self-reliance and individuality. With Modernism came a more vigorous resurgence of those same ideals.

Suddenly, writers became less interested in what their patriarchs had to say and more concerned with producing their own unique philosophies.

It wasn’t all bad, either. Individualism and non-conformity harvested numerous giants of their own, creating systems of doctrine and ideology that transformed the way we see art as a whole.

Yet, while so much was improved with the adoption of these notions, so much more was forsaken.

We gained confidence, independence and originality. We lost synergy, unity and respect.

We lost the art of conversation, the ramifications of which extend far beyond the pages of the written world, saturating our culture with attitudes of pretention and entitlement.

While I understand the importance of individualism to an extent, I can’t help but feel that we have aggressively over-idolized its influence.

We all have a distinct voice to offer the world—a song no one else can sing. But there is something to be said about the voices of the past and all they have to offer us.

They bring hope in times of trouble. They bring reason in the midst of uncertainty. They bring culture, travel and history we wouldn’t otherwise experience.

They gift us with an overlooked, indispensable and invaluable commodity: perspective.

We should never aim to mimic or imitate these artists in such a way that our own voice is stifled, but to refuse to speak at all is a crime of the exact same caliber.

Their works—their stories—should never be an end to our travels, but a means to begin our own journey. And we are never fully equipped for such a journey if we have refused to experience those of our patriarchs… If we have refused to converse.

We need a revival of conversation amongst artists, amongst writers. Anything less is a disservice to our trade and a sacrifice that I, for one, am unwilling to make.

Writers of the world, we have lost the art of conversation.

We have an obligation to re-discover it.

Okay, so here’s the deal: I’ve seen a lot of posts the past few weeks about Monster Energy Drinks and their supposed Satanic connections. While I recognize that these theories aren’t new at all (they started around 5 or 6 years ago), I feel like I should add my own two cents to the debate, for what they’re worth.

First, some background: I am a Christian. I am also a passionate writer. What that means, besides my faith in God, is that I value research… I recognize the need for reliable sources. So whenever I see crazy videos or articles floating around social media, they usually drive me to the point of insanity, and the logical side of my brain forces me to really dig into their background (i.e. who created them and what facts serve as the backbone of their premise). Sometimes, I’m surprised. Sometimes, I’m not. This is one of those times I was not.

I went into this whole Monster Energy Drink situation pretty skeptically, and, I’ll be honest from the get go: I came out of it that way, too. Here are the points I want to make:

  1. The main premise of this argument is that the “M” in the Monster logo represents “666” in Hebrew, or 3 Vav. However, it must be noted that vav is also a Hebrew letter (o, v or u), and it could just as easily be said that the strokes represent 3 Zayin , 3 Nun or 3 Khaf… And let’s just be honest: the argument doesn’t have a leg to stand on when you look at the M as really signifying “VVV”, “OOO”, “UUU”, “ZZZ”, “NNN” or “KhKhKh”.
  2. Hebrew letters, like any other language, have variations. If you sat down and wrote the alphabet, for example, and compared your handwriting with the person’s next to you, chances are, there will be massive differences. Your a’s will look different. The way you dot your i’s will be different. Even the way you write your e’s will be different. Now, if you compared your handwriting to that of someone who lived in the 1800s, the differences would be even MORE drastic. So, to sum it up, each one of those Hebrew letters has about 5 common variants, depending on printing style and time period (and, in case you were wondering, most don’ t look very much like the Monster logo at all). Don’t even get me started on the different variations between print and cursive…
  3. The Bible doesn’t even talk about the number of the beast until the book of Revelation. In that case, it’s written in Koine Greek, which means it would look drastically different.
  4. The “O” in Monster does not look like a cross. It’s barely even a right angle. It looks like a reptile eye, and I’m pretty sure that’s the intent.

Now, before everyone starts burning me at the stake, let me say this: I don’t drink Monster, and I never will. I watched a perfectly healthy young girl almost die due to a casual case of energy drink consumption, and I made a vow from that day forward that I would never touch nor promote a single one of them.

Do I think it’s terrible that Monster has profanity sprawled across their packaging? Absolutely. Do I think their drinks are harmful? Without a doubt.

But do I think their logo is a subtle, underhanded tribute to Satan? Definitely not. I think it’s a drink called Monster with a claw-mark logo fitting for the product it’s trying to market.

So what is my point in all of this? I’ll tell you.

I have no problem with exposing products and situations that are harmful to those living a Christian lifestyle. I think we should. But, sometimes, we take it a little bit too far. There is a difference between people reminding us how important it is to watch for signs in our day and age—both of satanic forces and the glorious return of the Lord—and people who look so deeply into damning something (oftentimes for popularity or profit) that they begin manipulating facts until they fit their mistaken theory.

I wasn’t able to find the specific company in the Youtube video that’s been going around, but if you pay attention, you will find various products on display—a clear sign that this is being done for profit. No doubt, they’ve made quite a bit of money from Youtube as well. If God had given me such a mind-blowing revelation, I would be preaching it… but I certainly wouldn’t be selling it.

As Christians, we should boycott Monster—not because they’re the anti-christ and not because they have hidden satanic messages or agendas, but because they’re hurting our kids. These things are stuffed into cans with four serving sizes and chugged by middle-schoolers like they’re Capri Suns. And, in return, we’re seeing our kids face unprecedented health issues: morbid obesity, caffeine toxicity, tachycardia, heart attacks, seizures and paranoia, just to name a few. And if that’s not enough for you, 11 deaths have been linked to their consumption, and that’s just one brand.

 

The Bible says our bodies are the temple of the most high God. We ought to care for them as such. Knowingly pumping these harmful chemicals into them is a tragedy. This, my friends, is why I will never again drink a Monster… And it’s why you shouldn’t either.

I read something in the New York Times recently.

It was a study published in “Science,” examining our culture’s reliance upon technology and entertainment—more specifically, the level of unease we experience when we don’t have those luxuries at our disposal.

For the most part, the results were predictable… after all, it only takes a brisk walk around the neighborhood or a glance around campus to see that we are a generation smitten with the distractions of technology. The surprising factor was, at least to me, exactly how uncomfortable we truly are without them.

The scientists’ conclusion has haunted me ever since I read it:

“In 11 studies, we found that participants typically did not enjoy spending 6 to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do but think, that they enjoyed doing mundane external activities much more, and that many preferred to administer electric shocks to themselves instead of being left alone with their thoughts. Most people seem to prefer to be doing something rather than nothing, even if that something is negative.”

Read that again. 6 to 15 minutes. A preference for self-inflicted electrical shocks. Over what? Thinking.

Our society—our culture, our generation—has developed a fear of thinking. That should both sadden and frighten us.

Somewhere along the line, something or someone convinced us that we aren’t good enough or smart enough to rightly discern truth and formulate our own opinions. And instead of fighting those lies by taking the time to educate ourselves, we’ve just accepted them.

Pardon my French, but that sucks.

I shudder to think about the consequences of a people with no regard for thought—of a people who will believe anything, accept anything, rally in support of (or against) anything that comes their way, not because of passion or even logic, but because someone else said so.

I cringe at the thought of American citizens supporting the Democratic Party because it’s the most trendy and socially acceptable thing to do, or idolizing it’s counterpart simply because Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa can’t seem to empathize with the charismatic liberals they believe are out to destroy moral and family values.

And, most importantly, it horrifies me to realize that there are probably millions of Christians, sitting in church pews, dressing and acting the part, accepting every word that’s spoken in their direction and calling it Truth just because it’s coming from behind the pulpit.

My heart is heavy knowing that, in more ways than one, we have abandoned the art of thinking for the sake of tradition.

In the literary world, there is an Emersonian concept known as “Man Thinking.” To put it simply, it’s the idea that the world is in desperate need of fresh, new perspective—of people who are willing to think for themselves despite the consequences. Emerson says, “Thinking is the function. Living is the functionary. The stream retreats to its source. A great soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think”.

The greatest need in our world today is a movement towards bold, strong thinking.

We need a Copernicus—someone willing to flip the script even though it’s been read a certain way for centuries.

We need a Christopher Colombus, a Lewis or Clark—someone who sees beyond what’s right in front of them.

We need a Steve Jobs—a creative mind to declare, “Hey… We can do better. We must do better.”

We need a Jesus: a man who says, “it doesn’t matter if it’s been done this way for as long as you can remember. Things are changing.”

Please understand that I respect authority. I am grateful for the leaders in my life and I believe they are there for a reason, so this post is not a declaration of anarchy, I promise.

But sometimes, I feel we believe that respecting and honoring leadership means blindly following it, which is not the case (Jesus warned about the blind leading the blind, if you’ll recall).

Our culture tends to shy away from questions. We label disagreement as rebellious or disrespectful. But the truth is that questions are healthy—and, dare I say it, good. You should ask questions… anyone who says otherwise is simply misinformed.

Thank goodness someone was brave enough to question geocentric theory. Thank God someone challenged religious tradition. Take a look at a globe or the new iPhone 6 and be thankful someone once refused to settle or embrace complacency.

Copernicus and Jesus didn’t have disrespectful views—they valued the work of those who came before them. But because they challenged the thinking and traditions of their time, they were labeled as blasphemous heretics and persecuted as such. One of them was even crucified for His radical thinking. But ya know what? They both changed the world.

In fact, thinkers are the only people who ever have.

So what if we decided to hang up our cell phones, turn off our computers and television sets and silence the distractions in our lives?

How much better would the world be if we realized the power and potential of genuine individuality?

What would happen if we refused to settle for second-hand truth and revelation…

…if we remembered the art

of thinking?


“Meek young men grow up in libraries believing it their duty to accept the views which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries when they wrote these books.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

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About three years ago, I finally accepted my call to the ministry and preached my first sermon. It was probably the most difficult and gut-wrenching decision of my life. I started feeling the tug of ministry in my heart many years earlier, but I ran from it with every ounce of strength I possessed.

You see, I was–and always had been–an introvert. I hated speaking in public. While I could express myself powerfully through writing, I found time and time again that my dreams at becoming the next great orator were often crushed by mental flatlines and debilitating bouts of stuttering. I had a twelfth grade reading level by the time I was eight, but reading out loud in class gave the impression I was practically illiterate. And the first time I ever spoke at church, I loudly cleared my throat and coughed in the microphone, stopping almost every heart in the congregation I’m sure (a moment never forgotten by my friends)..

In countless ways, not much has changed. Yes, I’m a preacher, but I still get so nervous before getting up behind the pulpit that I can’t eat or sleep, sometimes for days. And small talk still terrifies me so much that a few weeks ago, I literally hid in a corner at Barnes and Noble to avoid talking to someone (which created a situation a thousand times more embarrassing, but I’ll spare you the details).

I’ve been doing this for a while, sure, but I’m still as socially awkward as I’ve ever been.

There is a common misconception in today’s church culture that all involved in “pulpit ministry” (or public ministry, if you please) are completely comfortable with it, and that is simply not the case. The truth of the matter is that there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of people out there just like me–severely introverted, but called into the spotlight. However, due to the misconception mentioned above, when it comes to resources to avoid the fear and common mistakes we face in pulpit ministry, there really are none to be found.

I believe with all of my heart that introverts are some of the wisest and most insightful people on the planet–perhaps the greatest qualities any prospective preacher, teacher or pastor could possess. But I also believe that without the proper tools and training, certain mistakes in delivery can destroy the seeds of ministry before they have even been planted.

I have learned, through practice, error and observation, what works and what doesn’t–what makes a sermon successful and what makes a preacher go home and beat themselves up for weeks. The following list is a guide to all my peers–not the social butterflies, but the reclusive caterpillars safely hidden within the comforts of their own cocoons. May it give you the strength and courage to break into the light of your calling, no matter how impossible or incomprehensible the task may seem.

1. Become a great writer first.

Great writers make great speakers, period. This is because writers know how to structure an argument in a way that is both effective and impactful. At the end of the day, a sermon is just that: an argument–a persuasive essay in verbal form. So do yourself a favor and study the art of composition. It will help you formulate a a fluid sermon that flows and allows your audience to stay with the program (and keeps their attention). No one likes listening to a jumbled mess of misplaced aphorisms.

2. Know your audience.

While we’re on the subject of your audience, you should probably know a little about them. It would likely be considered insensitive, for example, to speak on riches to the homeless, or downright ridiculous to preach to the elderly on respecting the elders. While it is unrealistic to expect familiarity of every need or deep, dark secret in the lives of the people to whom you are speaking, it is very possible to get a general sense of who they are and what they’re facing. If you’re able, take a second to mingle amongst the congregation. I know, it may be a terrifying prospect, but it will help tremendously and give you a personal connection to the people you’re trying to reach. And when all else fails, simply observe. It’s incredible how much you can learn simply by paying attention to expression and body language.

3. Take good notes.

It’s easy for young preachers to look to those more seasoned and try to mimic their style. With that being said, there are plenty of great orators out there who preach with little to no notes, but I can assure you that none of them started out that way. Listen: the most awkward thing in the world is sitting through a sermon that has not been properly prepared–watching a preacher flip through the pages of his Bible searching for the Scripture he needs or pausing for long periods of time trying to gather his thoughts. There are no two ways around it: these things hinder the flow of a church service and almost always lose the interest and respect of the audience. The Bible says to “study to show thyself approved unto God,” which tells me that God both believes in and honors preparation. If you prepare well enough, you may not truly need your notes, and there may even be a point in your sermon when you feel the need to improvise, but those moments are few and far between, and notes are always still a great tool to have when you need to find your way back to the subject at hand. When all is said and done, people like good oratory. And there’s no arguing the fact that something thought out and then written down usually sounds better than something spoken on the spot

4. Practice. And then practice some more.

As the old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And I’m sorry friend, but your preaching is far more likely to start off sounding like a speech by King George the sixth than Shakespeare’s Henry the Fifth. Don’t be afraid to talk to yourself. It may sound crazy, but rehearsing your sermon, especially in the beginning of your ministry, will highlight all of its flaws and hiccups and show you exactly what you need to change. Also, if your pastor has given you a time limit, practicing will give you a good idea whether your sermon meets the Goldilocks standard: not too long, not too short, but just right. And the greatest benefit of your one-man rehearsal sessions: it will ensure that you are familiar with the material–the information, the timing and the proper vocal inflection–thus ensuring your audience’s level of comfort when the time is right.

5. Check your sources.

The last thing you want to do is lose credibility with your audience. The easiest way to do this is by spouting off endless amounts of false information. If you haven’t taken the time to make sure that your research is clear, precise, accurate and from a reliable source, don’t repeat it. Chances are, most people in the congregation will not notice your error, but you never know when you’re going to have an archeology buff or language expert in the crowd–so don’t even think about referencing the Dead Sea Scrolls or critiquing Biblical translations unless you’re sure you know what exactly you’re talking about. Public ministry means being subject to public scrutiny, so be certain that you’re as pure and blameless as possible.

6. Don’t be someone you’re not.

Be yourself and work to your strengths. If you don’t enjoy cracking jokes on a day-to-day basis, don’t force one into your sermon. If you don’t love words, reading, history and language, don’t pretend to be an expert of Hebrew, Greek or Jewish culture during the first century. No one likes a fake, especially behind the pulpit. (Now, if you speak like that one teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, then yes, try and liven it up a little bit. Be sure, though, that you don’t lose yourself in the process. Just as writers have a unique voice and style, so do speakers. Don’t be afraid to let yours shine).

7. Body language. Use it.

While the idea of making eye contact with another human being is a horrifying idea, you just need to do it. I’m sorry. And while you’re making eye contact, be sure to move around a little bit. If you stand in one spot with your hands digging into your thighs, you’re going to make your audience feel like they’re trapped in military school (and you may start bleeding, which would just be weird). Body language is something that usually doesn’t come easily to introverts, but it’s an absolute must. In all actuality, it goes hand in hand with practice. The more comfortable you are with your material, the more comfortable you will be in your execution. So rehearse, use your hands, walk around and breathe.

8. Fake it until you make it.

If you consider yourself an introvert, you most likely will never feel completely comfortable when public speaking. There will almost always be nervousness and a certain level of uneasiness when it comes time to deliver what you’ve practiced (sorry to break it to you). It seems a little backwards to encourage you to pretend in light of my previous tips, but the simple truth is this: if your audience can see the lack of confidence in your delivery, they will lack confidence in both you as a leader and whatever it is you’re trying to say. Find a way to deal with the fear in a way that isn’t distracting–keep a paperclip in your pocket and play with it, or force your best friend to sit in the front pew (but don’t picture everyone in their underwear. That’s just gross). The bottom line here: no matter how nervous you may be, you can’t let it show. It’s overwhelming, I know. But like everything else, it comes with practice.

And, finally:

9. Learn from your blunders, but don’t let them define you.

You have to accept the fact that every once in a while, you’re going to say or do stupid things. I assure you that every preacher and teacher on earth has a list of embarrassing moments they could spout off on the spot if you asked them. Whether it’s coughing in the microphone, falling, stuttering, mispronouncing simple words or watching your pants drop to your ankles, something is going to happen, and people won’t ever let you forget it. Don’t be too proud to laugh at those moments. And there will be some times–whether due to a lack of preparation, poor execution, bad timing or simply the mood of the crowd–that a sermon will not go as well as you imagined. Don’t be too proud to learn from those moments.

So, there you have it. Do with it what you will. And if everything seems to be falling apart and all else fails, buy a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and remember this: you’re not alone.

rooster

I hate roosters.

No, seriously. I hate them.

You may be wondering how it’s possible for someone like myself (city born and bred) to know a thing about such a farm animal. Well, let me tell ya…

I used to live with a friend in downtown Flint. There we were, in the murder capitol of the U.S.A., five minutes away from the University of Michigan campus, surrounded by ancient buildings, clubs, stores and expressways… Yet, somehow, we managed to find ourselves in the one neighborhood in the entire city with a rooster. And this wasn’t just any rooster.

He did, indeed, crow at the respectable time every morning. But that wasn’t it. I’m not sure if he was blind, disabled or just blissfully unaware, but that stupid rooster crowed in the afternoon, evening, and even the middle of the night—whenever he felt good and ready to do so, I guess.

For months, I dreamed. I dreamed of picking up a Red Ryder BB gun and shooting that thing Ralphie-style straight in the eyeball. I’m not even gonna lie to you: I prayed… every night. I prayed that it would fall off the roof with malfunctioning wings. I prayed that they’d sell it or give it away. Shoot, I even prayed that they’d eat the stupid thing—anything to put me out of my misery. But every day, it crowed. Every day, its voice sounded in my ear. With every sunrise—every dawn—came the dreadful screech of the rooster.

Quite a while ago, Hannah asked me what has turned out to be probably one of the greatest questions I’ve ever heard: What did Peter think about roosters?

You see, everybody loves Peter: the passionate, impulsive disciple who was willing to speak out, step out and even act out whenever an opportunity presented itself. When so many others walked away, it was Peter who made the decision to stand by Jesus regardless of the majority, bluntly stating, “to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). When soldiers came to arrest Jesus, it was Peter who drew his sword and cut off the right ear of the high priest’s servant. It was Peter who cried out to Jesus, “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended” (Matthew 26:33).

It’s easy for us to talk about Judas and his betrayal. This was, after all, a man who had walked, talked and been discipled by Jesus Himself, only to betray Him for a few pieces of silver… But what about Peter? He, too, had walked and talked with Jesus. And while it was Peter who stood by him when everyone else walked away—while it was Peter who walked out onto the water and literally fought for His Lord and Savior—it was also Peter who denied Him:

“Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.”-Matthew 26:69-75

He saw the multitudes fed, the demons cast out, the lepers cleansed and the sick made whole. He experienced the miracles, signs and wonders. He witnessed the power. He had a calling, an anointing and a promise. He knew exactly who Jesus was; yet, when the Lord needed him most, Peter denied him.

I can’t imagine the state of absolute guilt and depression Peter must have experienced between the time of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. I can’t even fathom how he must have felt, crushed beneath the weight of such a devastating mistake.

Of course, in hindsight, we know that the Lord forgave Peter. As a matter of fact, when Jesus was resurrected, the angel gave specific instructions to the women who had come seeking His body: “Go your way, tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee” (Mark 16:7).

Hear that: Tell His disciples and Peter… They put emphasis on him! In other words, they were saying, “Go ahead and tell everybody, but make sure you tell Peter. Yeah, he made a mistake, but he isn’t an outcast. He hasn’t been forgotten. He is still the rock that’ll build the church. He still has a purpose. He still has a ministry. God isn’t finished with him yet!”

God had forgiven him and given him a wonderful testimony of mercy and grace. But do you want to know what I find interesting?

God never silenced the roosters.

Peter was forgiven, sure, but he was never immune. I imagine Peter was awakened many nights by the screeching of the rooster. Every morning, it called out to him, reminding him of the time he denied the almighty God—reminding him of the biggest mistake of his life.

Some of us, like Peter, are imperfect. We’ve taken the bumpy road, denied God, fell flat on our faces. For some, the fall has been slight. For others, it has been borderline catastrophic.

No matter the force behind it, we’re all guilty of mistakes. And, like Peter, we find out every day that although the past may be forgiven, we oftentimes cannot escape it.

Every day, Peter dealt with the guilt and shame brought on by the cries of the rooster—his past. And just like him, nearly every day, we deal with the guilt and shame—the sometimes humiliating ramifications—of our past decisions.

I’m not sure what the rooster is in your life. For me, it changes every day. Some days, it’s the alcohol on the shelf in the grocery store. Other days, it’s the thoughtless comment—the joke gone too far that ends in someone else’s hurt.

Again, I’m not sure what your rooster is… But I wanted to let you know today that no matter what form it possesses, you must silence it.

If Peter had allowed the crow of the rooster every morning to debilitate him in a state of misery and self-pity, he never would have operated in the calling God had placed on his life. He never would have healed the lame man or broken the antiquated religion that hindered the gospel in Acts chapter 10… And he certainly wouldn’t have preached 3,000 souls into the kingdom.

Peter had to learn to silence the roosters in his life, and you must do the same.

Let go of your stumbles, mistakes, failures and shortcomings. They have all been forgiven, and choosing to dwell on them will hinder every work God wants to do in your life.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”-Romans 8:1

Let go of the condemnation. Let go of the guilt. Let go of the shame. Let go of the rooster in your life.

Let go of the past.

You’re a new creature in Christ, and He’s going to do a new thing through you if you’ll let Him.

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“And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”

Matthew 21:22

 

I have a confession: I suffer from a belief crisis.

It’s not what you may think, though. I guess you could say it’s a bit more complicated.

It’s not that I don’t believe that God can do all things. I do. I believe He is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. I believe with everything in me that He has all authority and all power.

It’s not that I don’t believe that my situation is small in God’s eyes. I do. I believe my problems here on this earth are microscopic when held in His hands. I believe that all it takes for some things to start changing is for Him to simply look in my direction—to speak one simple word.

I suffer from a belief crisis, sure, but it’s not because I lack faith in my God. I know that He can, I know that He could, and I know that He wants to. My belief crisis stems from a different source: a lack of faith in myself—the thought that while He can, I’m never quite sure that He should.

I’ve read or heard the above scripture probably hundreds of times over the years, but for some reason it spoke to me a little bit more as I read it today.

It’s interesting to me that we read that word believing and automatically assume it refers to a belief in God. While that’s certainly a valid assumption, I think we miss out on a lot if we don’t consider it from different perspectives. After all, if I didn’t believe in God and His abilities, why would I be reading the Bible, anyways?

Maybe it’s just me, but receiving something I felt I didn’t deserve has always been a difficult thing to swallow in my life.

I hate accepting gifts. I’m allergic to accepting compliments. I’m terrified of accepting help.

I joke a lot, which oftentimes leads people to believe I’m unaffected by things. But the truth is that many times I’m wearing a mask of confidence, putting on a show to ensure that my insecurities and imperfections do not peek through the cracks of the wall I’ve built up in my heart over the years.

I don’t really feel like I have a pride issue, but I’ve come to realize that, sometimes, that’s what my wall becomes.

Accepting help, in my mind, means allowing someone to tear down my wall and letting them see the mess behind the façade. It means stepping out into the unknown. It means humbling myself when I’m the most vulnerable, and some days I wonder if I’ll ever be free from the struggle.

As difficult as it may be, though, there are two things I’m convinced of: 1. I’m not alone. 2. Pushing through my fears and allowing God to work in those moments always leads to my greatest blessings.

About two months ago, I cried out to God in prayer in a way I hadn’t in a very long time. The very next day, He opened a door for me. I never doubted His ability to open the door. The hard part was simply walking through it.

For someone who is terrified of accepting help or being a burden, it was hard to do. I had to humble myself and step out of my comfort zone. But months later, I can look back and say that the peace, joy and growth I received from that one step has outweighed the initial discomfort. I can look back and say God has blessed me more than I ever imagined when I uttered that prayer.

Is it possible, then, that receiving something from God requires more than belief in Him alone? I believed God for an answer to my prayer; but if I had allowed a lack of belief in myself—the idea that I was undeserving—to prevent me from moving forward, I would never have received the blessing God was handing me.

I want to encourage someone today to believe… Not just in your pastor, your church, your friends, your family, or even God, but in yourself.

Maybe you feel undeserving. Maybe you are undeserving. But we all are. You can’t receive something you don’t believe you deserve.

We need to remember that our past doesn’t dictate our future, and we shouldn’t let it dictate the measure of our blessings. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. The Apostle Paul said “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”-Romans 8:38-39. Nothing can separate you.

You are a child of the King, and that means something:

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”-Romans 8:14

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”-Romans 8:17

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;”-1 Peter 2:9

You are royalty. You are an heir of God, and “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”-Romans 8:32

God wants to pour out blessings on your life. If you’re in a dry place, thirsty and unsure as to why you haven’t received them, consider the possibility that maybe you haven’t correctly positioned yourself to do so. At the end of the day, perhaps it’s not Him witholding His hand… Maybe it’s you.

After all, “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”-Luke 12:32.

Let Him.

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I’ve been thinking about what to write for my next blog for a while now. I’ve gone back and forth in my mind about potential topics to discuss and even began writing about a few of them, but something just didn’t feel right. I felt stuck—like I was missing something. Anyways, a few days ago I was blessed enough to hear an incredible word from my best friend and it has encouraged me ever since. I knew the first time she told me about it that it was exactly what I was missing, and I’ve been waiting for the chance to share it with you all. It blessed and strengthened me in an amazing way, and I believe wholeheartedly that it will do the same for you. And so, without further ado, I introduce a first for my blog: a post written by someone other than myself. If you open your heart and mind to these words, I believe they have the power to change your life. (Credit to Hannah Lievens—THANK YOU!!!)

 

Remember the story of Gideon? If not, go read it real quick (Judges 7). It’s the bomb: That amazing battle with simple pitchers, how God defeated the enemy for them, and the huge victory and all.  It’s super cool, so I decided to go back and read it (since it’s one of my favorites). I wanted to know what happened before the battle. Before there even was an enemy.

Gideon is sitting under a tree, and an angel appears to tell him that he is going to save Israel from the Midianites. The first thing Gideon replies is that God is not with them—that he is too small—and, lastly, that he wants proof the angel is really from God. The angel does a miracle to show him, and then Gideon is reassured.

Here is my question: Why wasn’t the fact that there was literally an angel sitting next to him proof enough that God was with him, that he wasn’t just an average guy, and that it really was from the Lord? The angel was patient and everything, but it seems like that’s always the beginning stage of a great testimony:

Doubt.

Doubt in our own abilities. Doubt in the reality of our calling. Doubt in the messenger.

Ever had an awkward greeting? Seems random, but there’s a point to it, trust me. It’s that moment when a good friend of yours (maybe you haven’t seen him in a while) is about to say hello to you. You think he’ll shake your hand, but it might be a hug, and you’re not sure. So, you go through these weird few seconds of trying to figure out what he’s going to do. You decide to go for the hug, and crush his hand in between you. Fail. Now you’re both nervously giggling and trying to move on, but you can’t because you just destroyed his poor fingers. Ah well.

That’s how I would describe doubt to someone. No one wants to go through it. The handshake-hug-hustle: it’s awkward (I’d just rather hug you. I don’t care if you’re holding your hand out). You wish you could’ve reacted better, and it doesn’t feel right, but it happens. It happens to me way more than it should.

When I was around fourteen years old, God showed me that I’d eventually lead a choir. Not as heroic as fighting a whole army, but I’ll take it. I never doubted that vision until I actually had to stand in front of all those body-filled robes and direct them. I’ve done lots of stuff on the platform, but never that. I was nervous. I doubted my ability, I thought I was too small to lead these singers, and I wondered if that vision was brought from my own imaginings. Just like Gideon.

We doubt all the time. It’s an easy reaction, but there’s no need for it. God is with us, He has a plan, and He will equip us for the battle. And you’re not too small. Ever. You might feel smaller than your calling or what you’re about to fight (and it’s okay to ask God to clearly verify this crazy scheme just to make sure), but you can handle it.
If God set it up, He’ll see you through.

There are two more things I found interesting about Gideon’s story:

  1. Gideon got people together to fight. God picked out the best players like a dodge ball all-star team, and only three hundred were left. Everyone focuses on the small number, right? But what about Gideon? He alone had to tell the thousands of others that this wasn’t their battle and that they had to just go home. Think about it. He probably took a lot of criticism and complaints from all of them. Bet they didn’t go quietly.
  2.  I love how God knows us. He knew from the beginning that Gideon had a problem with doubt (don’t we all?). And right before the battle, He planned it out so that Gideon would overhear a vision interpretation that the battle would be successful, just to reassure him again of his calling. Super cool.

So, if you’re feeling like Gideon today—unsure and unconvinced—I want to encourage you to embrace that vision. Have confidence in what God has planned for you. He’ll make sure you’re ready, even if you feel like you’re not.