Friday, October 21, 2011

Only the Good Die Young or the Only Good Died Young?

     So I have this problem; every time I lay down at night my mind races and I can't fall asleep. It likes to dive into deep thinking and wants to look for things that sometimes aren't there.Sometimes it's a pain getting to sleep but I don't mind, it's often where I have my best thoughts.  It's been doing this for as long as I can remember. I can remember even as a kid thinking of paradoxes and parables, dissecting and constructing thoughts. One night as a kid the phrase "only the good die young" kept me up. If only the good die young, then how young is young? For that matter, how old is old? What's good? How could I still die old but be considered good? You get the idea. Well, I heard this phrase in songs and in movies, so in my childish thinking they're had to be some sort of truth to it, I thought. It's only now that I'm older that I think there is truth there, it's just jumbled up. Rather than "only the good die young," it should be "the only good died young."

     Now you may be wondering what I mean by "the only good." You may be saying to yourself "well, I'm a good person," or "my grandparents are good people," or something of the like. To really understand what I mean by this we must turn to the Word of God.In Romans 3:10-12 it states,"as it is written: 'None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.'” Even more so than not being righteous, we are cursed. For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them” (Galatians 3:10).

     So are we just hopeless, cursed to die? No, thankfully there is hope, the hope of glory that is Christ Jesus  (Colossians 1:27). Christ being God in the flesh through whom all things were made (John 1:1-3) Christ being divine and holy yet tempted in every way as man lived a sinless life (Hebrews 4:15) Being sinless, He bore our sins for us redeeming our curse by dying on the cross and becoming a curse for us (1 Peter 2:24Galatians 3:13). For our sake He made Him who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

     Out of His mercy, love, and grace God provided us a way to be justified and redeemed. In Christ, He now sees us as righteous. More than that we receive the adoption of sons and daughters of God and are co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:14-17) We are the children of God! Now that's something to get excited about!

     Though we are not good in and of ourselves, we can be considered good through Christ, "the only good who died young" not as an old man but in His thirties, more than dying was raised and is now interceding for us at the right hand of God (Romans 8:34) Out of His love He did these things (John 3:16) and who shall keep us a way from His love? For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

Sunday, September 4, 2011


I'm not sure where to exactly to start this so I guess I'll start in the beginning, my beginning. I was born December 12, 1988 and on March 19, 1989 I was dedicated to God. I was raised going to church, my mother was a Sunday School teacher. That went on til the summer of 2001 before going into the 7th grade. My father had a severe stroke that left him mostly disabled. He was the provider of our family, at one time he was doing three things to make ends meet but we really worked as a family. His primary job was being a beekeeper and he would often cut wood to sell for firewood. Both of which we all helped with, and by all I mean my dad, mom, oldest sister Jennifer, older brother Michael, and me. My mother was a housewife but like I said helped with the family business. Not long before his stroke, my dad started delivering mail, too, taking the mail from Memphis to smaller post offices and then vice-versa. Until the point of his stroke, we were pretty well off, able to afford everything we needed without worrying to much. We were comfortable and full. After the stroke my father couldn't work, we had to stretch to get by. My mom stayed at home to take care of my dad. Even on Sundays, so we stopped going to church. It didn't really effect me, I wasn't saved then and frankly I liked sleeping in.

The next year, I came to a point where I realized I was in need of a savior. I was laying in bed watching a Christian program with the big muscle guys ripping phone books and what-not, then a guy came out carrying a cross and he began talking about Jesus. I asked God  for salvation. I felt the Holy Spirit fill me and the greatest feeling of joy and peace I have ever felt. I wasn't going to church, so I didn't know what to do next. I was in the Last Club, which was the Christian Club at our jr. high, but I was only there because there were a lot of girls in it. Anyways, I didn't change. I couldn't allow God to work on me because I didn't know the difference.

I kept living the same, until I saw a Christian band in 2006 my junior year of high school. I rededicated my life right then. I was dating a girl, Sam, at the time who went to church so I started going with her. I began to learn more about what the Christian life was like and what I was supposed to look like. Which is good and bad in itself. I learned about God, but ultimately I just learned how to "play church." I knew I wasn't supposed to drink (not like I was a big party-er or anything), so I didn't drink. I wasn't supposed to cuss, so I didn't cuss.

That summer, my dad had kidney failure and went back to the hospital. He was fine for awhile, he just had to go through dialysis a few times a week. Sometime after the stroke he had gone back to doing the mail route with my mom's help, we lost the beekeeping business. So he went back to working and went to dialysis. Things weren't necessarily all good with us, but it was far from bad.

Sam went off to college, and I started my senior year of high school. After we broke up, I started going to church at Wilson First Baptist with some friends, some old, some new. Notably, Beau, my oldest friend from Kindergarten, and Ferdinand, my newest friend from the Philippines. It was on a church trip with them, to a Judgment House, that I decided I wanted to join the church and get baptized. From here on out, I really began to grow as a Christian. I was outspoken in our congregation, often yelling out things of encouragement or something funny while the pastor read the news or gave the sermon. I'd consider myself a leader there. There were only five seniors, we kinda all were.

In 2007, my last term of my senior year, my father passed away on February 27. We found out that he had had a heart attack during dialysis but the doctors hadn't caught it. He started getting really sick and went back to the hospital where he was put in ICU. We all stayed there in the waiting room. He began to get better and there was talk of taking him out of ICU and into his own room. So I went back to school the next day. We all thought he was going to get better, but he had another stroke which killed him. It was the most devastating time of my life. I had "senioritis" already, but after that I really did care about anything anymore. But everyone was there for me and my family. I never would have made it through without the help of my church family and my school family. Especially Ferdinand, he's one of the main people that helped me walk with my class.

That summer I went to Fuge with WFBC. It was intense, full of devotion and worship. Than college started in the fall at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. I began to get plugged into the Baptist Collegiate Ministry, or BCM, there. I was heavily active, maybe too much so, in the "Christian events" that were thrown at me with different churches and collegiate ministries. All the while depression was there, I never really realized it, maybe I didn't want to. I kept busy, so I didn't focus on it. That helped for awhile but I still slept way too much and lashed out on people for the dumbest reasons. My grades weren't good, so I decided to take a break after only a year of classes. But I met a lot of good friends while I was there, some of my best friends to this day.

One of those friends was Ryan. We got an apartment together because he was breaking from school, too. So I started working and what not, just living it up. He changed, I changed. I never fully quit drinking the whole time I was playing church, the last time I drank before living there was around when my dad died. It's not something I did much anyway, so I didn't think it was a problem. Until that summer in 2008 when a dear friend died at the age of 16. She was one of the most Godly people I had ever met, someone I loved and cared for, someone who saw my heart like no one else.

I was broken down farther. Depression kicked in full force, random break downs and the like, Instead of turning to God, I turned to all kinds of substances. I started drinking heavily and smoking weed. Plus, like any sin, I enjoyed it. It was fun. It brought me life, or so I thought.

Ryan and I started butting heads so I moved out, still doing what I was doing. I really started partying hardcore. I moved in with my brother and some of his friends in the fall of 2009, they were all about partying. In December I started attending Remix at First Baptist mainly because of the free food (sorry JR) but I also have friends there.

February 2010, I went with them to a weekend retreat out in the woods where I heard God truly speak to me for the first time. During one of the worship services, people started crying out, thanking God for everything He had given them. They started saying family and I had to get out of there. So I went outside where I really wrestled with God. Here I was out in the wilderness, asking God "why?" Why had everything happened the way it did? "You are God," I said, "you can take away this pain I'm feeling. Why can't I just get over this." That's when God gave me an illustration, the first of many.

Sometimes, life leads us into the forest. The forest can be a beautiful place and is serene as light falls through trees and scatters on the ground. But sometimes, that forest leads us into a thicket of thorns and you can't go anywhere else but through it. Those thorns will grab, hold, and tear into you. You get caught up when you can still see the beauty around you, ahead of you, and behind you. You focus on the thorns, trying to get out of them, and not letting them overpower you, when all you have to do is allow God to guide you through.

It's funny because after I came in to my little group, we had a sheet a paper with a few quotes and questions on it. One of those quotes was from Robert Frost that said.  

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Funny, how God works.

I'd like to say that this was all it took, but it wasn't. I continued going to church there, but still I tried to play church. Rather than seeking His Kingdom first, I tried to first be the perfect Christian before seeking Him. We can't fix ourselves, He's the one that does that.

So I was "good," for a little while playing church, I quit smoking, drinking, and partying for a little while, but I started right back up in the summer. And didn't stop until I sought God out first.

The new semester was starting and Ferdinand was coming to Jonesboro, he had been going to Blytheville where he recieved his Associate's at ANC. He was going to Central, I guess because his older brother Fred went there. I started going with them. I knew some folks there, I had gone there a little bit before.

Around this time, I had a dream. In this dream, I walking home when there were seven tornadoes that threw me in all different directions before slamming me to the ground causing me to be immobile. I awoke with a since of urgency, I came to realize that I was getting blown around by al the things of the world. I was an angry, lustful, covetous person who wasn't honoring his parents or God with his life.

During the next service, I broke down. I realize I had not been living right. I made the decision to change, I couldn't keep living the way I was living. I truly began seeking God and I've been forever changed. I began to get plugged into church and a Journey group there. I've been forever changed because of it. I've sought out God and He's done things I never would have imagined. However, I'm thankful for everything I went through. Even when I was chasing a life full of sin God decided to use that. Before I went down the party life-style, I really looked down on those sorts of people. Out of those experiences, my eyes were opened. God loves and cares for all people no matter what. We are not to judge but to encourage. You'll never know who God will call next.

These past few months, He has blessed me with a lot. He's given me Godly friends that are always there for me no matter what. He's done away with my depressive thoughts. I know longer have the need or want to live like I did. I haven't touched alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and greatest of all pornography in months. That was my secret sin, nobody knew about, I couldn't tell anyone about it. I was too ashamed. Since I was 8 years old in the third grade I had been addicted. I could never shake it, til now.

My greatest blessing came in my Spiritual Gift and calling. Through everything I've been through, I've been able to help others and have been able to be a friend and a counselor. It's been affirmed by those around me that I have a gift of exhortation. God willing, my next step is getting back into college so I may become a counselor where I may help others.

Forgive me for the length, I doubt very many people will read it for that reason. That's fine by me, but if you did I greatly appreciate it. My only hope is that someone may find a blessing through it, not for my glory but for God on high. Just remember if God can save and use a wretch like me He can do the same with you. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:15-17, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

God loves you and He'd love to hear from you.

 So would I. If  you ever need anything, whoever you are, I'm here for you.

Much love,

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Risen Life

     The title of this post is a play off of the show "The Buried Life." In the show four friends trying to complete a list of "100 things to do before you die," or a bucket list as they are called. This idea became popular after the movie "The Bucket List" where "two terminally ill men (Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson) escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die (Thanks IMDB). Some of my friends were doing them and I won't lie a made one out myself.

     It can be a really cool thing, keeping up with everything you've wanted to do. There's lots of honorable things like getting a college degree, starting a family, setting a lobster from a restaurant free (those were some of mine), but the more I look to Christ the less these things matter. A lot of the things on their were selfish things that really only matter here on this earth, things that won't matter in Heaven. There mainly distractions in life that could hinder our focus on God. We say self I'm going to do this, this, this, and maybe this if there's time.

     I'm not criticizing anyone that has a bucket list, actually I still have one. It's been revised to include two things: love God and love others (Matt. 22:37-40). We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). I wish for my main focus to be God and because He loves I wish to love others through my life. I want my life to be in sync with what God wills in my life. I'm taking my thought off of things of this world and placing them where God is.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." - Colossians 3:1
     We are living a risen life. Dead to sin but alive to God through Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).

     Is there anything you need to bury?

Monday, January 31, 2011

My Father's Altar: A Struggle of Two Religions

      For the most part, I'm torn between two religions. You see I'm a Christian but my father was a simple man of the Southern Man religion. What is the Southern Man religion, you ask?

     Southern Men, or the Good Ol' Boys, aren't known too much by name but is predominant in the American South. The majority of members are white males with a small portion being white females. It's a religion and philosophy incorporating a variety of beliefs, traditions, and practices, largely based on Christianity and the hymns of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Williams, Jr., and Charlie Daniels.

     Good Ol' Boys by mass believe in the Christian God and Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, yet many beliefs are unlike Christianity as a whole and are more "works" based. One such belief is that one should strive to do everything on their own right and by their own means as one hymn by Charlie Daniels says, "I ain't askin' nobody for nothin', if I can't get it on my own." Whereas Jesus said in Matthew 7:7-8, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." Again, Paul writes in Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

     Another common belief is that if one encounters a quarrel one must not turn and walk away especially in physical abruptness. Differing again Jesus says in Matthew 5:39, "I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also."

      Now, don't get me wrong, there's some good beliefs in there, too, most of which come from the Christian background. They're taught to love their families (their mothers the most) and to be diligent in the work they do. They're not bad people, nor am I saying they're good as no man is good and falls short of the glory of God (Romans 3). Their view is however slightly skewed.

     I could go on with this but by now I'm sure you know what I mean and it's highly probable that you know someone that is a Good Ol' Boy. Being my father's son, I was born and raised with this mindset. Even worshiping my father and his ways, wanting to be more like him. After his passing, people would comment on how every time they see me I look more and more like him or how I act are ways that he would act. This greatly effected me since my father was the hard-working family man that I wanted to be more like and here people were noticing.  

     I was heartbroken from the loss of my father and needed comfort. Here's where I began to be torn. I went to church and all but I didn't allow myself to turn to God. I knew of my father's past, his wilder days. It was there that I began to seek comfort. It was there that I stayed for years but comfort was not to be found. There were pleasures, surely, but they didn't last. 

     I was in the darkest place I had never known. If life is a forest, I was in caught in the thickets held by the thorns. The pain was so heavy that I forgot of the light around me. There was hope but I did not seek it. Not yet anyway. 

     I awoke in a bathtub. Drenched with no memory of the night before or how I got there. How did I wind up there? Not just in that tub, but at that point of my life. I believe I should have died that night, but I was given a second chance. A chance to be used. A chance to find comfort and to share it with others. 

     "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort."

  I realized my own flaws and mistakes. I began to delve into the Good Book to know what it really says. It was there that I saw the image of Christ, the person I long to be more like and the God I long to know more of. 

     I love my father, and in some ways wish to be more like him. I treasure many of his belongings, things that have no monetary value. But I've held on to one "thing" for far too long. His altar is still there, and like Gideon I have to tear it down (Judges 6).

      This is my greatest struggle.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More to Give

Love. Compassion. Forgiveness. Insight. Humor. Hugs. High Fives. Hand Hugs. Love. Encouragement. Loyalty. Devotion. Admiration. Love. Kind Words. Music. Dances. Friendship. Focus. Time. Love.

Even when you think you have nothing to offer, there's already more to give.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Salty Popcorn


     I had a boss who like a lot of bosses loved to talk. Everyday he'd come in with a story or a joke, and I'd listen politely and nod along. One such story was about when he was still a guardsmen. My mind was so fixated on one part of the story that I soon forgot most of the details of the story, but bear with me.

     When my boss was still a guardsmen he was stationed somewhere I can't particularly remember doing something I don't particularly know. On this base at one of the hangouts they would give away free popcorn. It was the same as the beer nuts effect. They would give away free popcorn so they could sell more drinks. What he said concerning the popcorn made me lose focus, "the popcorn was so salty, you'd get thirsty just looking at it."

      "So salty, you'd get thirsty just looking at it."

     In Jesus' sermon on the mount, He says that we are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13).There's a lot of things that Christ could have meant with this since salt was so versatile in the ancient world. Biblically, it could relate to salt being a purifying agent or as a sign of God's covenant as in Numbers 18:19. It could even relate to Rabbinic literature as a metaphor for wisdom. That's something we'll have to ask the Son Himself when we see Him. Whatever He meant, we are the salt of the earth.

     Have we preserved our saltiness or have we been diluted?

     For Christ gives Living Water. He gives to all that ask for it a well-spring of eternal life (John 4:14). God is the Spring of Living Water (Jeremiah 17:13) and the Water is the Spirit of God and eternal life.

     Do people see us and get thirsty for His water? Are we so salty that they want a drink?

     If not than maybe we should dump a little salt on ourselves. Not literally of course, I don't want you to carry around a salt shaker and thump some out every now and again. We lead others to Christ by being more Christ-like, reading the Word, and praying.

        Everybody is thirsty as it is. But so many times people would rather try to fulfill that thirst with other things be it a job, a man/woman, an addiction. We are all thirsty for God, we're made thirsty. But those other things are like soft drinks and only leave you more parched compared to the Living Water that Christ provides. Only Christ can fulfill us so we may not thirst again.

     "Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life" (Rev 22:17).

     The well springs are full, won't you take a drink?



Monday, January 17, 2011

All You Need Is Love

     Until a few months ago, I was heavily into 60’s culture and the hippie subculture. Along with that came a love for a music group you may have heard of called the Beatles. The Beatles were recently voted as “the most influential band of the last half century” in a poll by Zippo. In all of their works, I see that they succeeded in getting one thing right at least; all you need is love.    
     Now, I’m pretty sure John Lennon didn’t have my approach in mind when writing this song but who knows. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:7-8 that all love comes from God and that God is love. All love, true and authentic, stems from God. So it’s true what they say, all you need is love because God is all you need.
     “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
     “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
     God loves us so much that He gave His only Son to die for us, to take our punishment to the cross. He did this so that we may live, to live a life abundantly here, right now, and to live eternal after death.
     There is nothing but our own selves keeping us from that love. “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).
     All you need is love, love, love is all you need. You just have to let in it.