Tree Rooted by Living Waters

The day-to-day stress of life can sometimes be enough to crush boulders. Between finances, politics, loved ones, planning for the future, and reflecting on the past, the pressure of daily life is sickening. I know that I’ve had moments where sometimes I threw in the towel and said I’d try again tomorrow. Somewhere in the world, a college student is re-watching the Office with three papers due in the morning.

Continue reading “Tree Rooted by Living Waters”

Waiting on Fruit to Grow

When I first TRULY started to give my life over to Christ. I felt like nothing was happening. I would feel great in church on Sunday but Sunday night, I would be tempted again. Monday morning, I would be depressed again. Tuesday morning, anxiety came back from a weekend away. By the following Saturday, I would be begging for the spirit of the Lord and revival on Sunday.

Everything seemed so difficult. The more I crept closer to the Lord, read my Bible, and tried to live life right, the more I felt like I was getting nowhere. Faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26), but we were saved ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ (Zechariah 4:6). I didn’t get it. I was working to get closer to the Lord but I still felt the void, empty, dry, and dark.

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

James 1:2-4 (KJV)

We can use God as a drug sometimes. The same mentality we used before we came to Christ, we often use afterward. Before, when you had a rough day, you’d go to the bar, call up a “friend”, or head to your favorite restaurant. Now, you look for that void to be filled by something else. I just need another shot of God and everything will be okay. Sunday comes, you feel refilled, but then it fades away. God told me I was still doing it wrong.

We have to realize that we can’t expect use earthly mindsets to interact with a spiritual God. God doesn’t want us to only use Him like “break in case of emergency” with a Bible in a case. He wants us to interact with Him all the time. Good and bad. Happy and sad. My happiness faded away because it was dependent on what happened in my life. I had to let patience finish her work.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 12:12 (NIV)

Something new happened when I stopped working trying to make things fit and let patience finish her work. Especially since a major theme in this year has been Working the Land, I’ve been reflecting on being the farmer, tree, and the land. What lessons can I get out of all three?

I figured out that I am the farmer when I need to pair work with my faith or hope (1 Corinthians 9:10-11). These are moments where God gives us a dream or vision, and we have to do something with it. We are the land when we are newly interacting with the gospel and deciding to give our lives to the Lord (Matthew 13:3-8; 18-23 ). Then we are the tree after we have decided to trust in God and received the gift of eternal life from Jesus Christ (Jeremiah 17:7-8). We shift between these roles continuously and finally everything clicked.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.

Psalms 1:2-3 (NKJV)

The Bible talks about the Holy Spirit being the “Living Waters” (John 4:1-26) that Jesus would give after He was glorified. We are the tree bringing forth fruit in its season. A tree does not decide to drink water or sunshine occasionally or at a certain time of day, it’s constantly absorbing what it needs to survive. We aren’t supposed to only use God sometimes. He is supposed to become a constant part of our life.

I stopped trying to force it and make everything fall into place. I accepted my powerlessness in the world and somehow that gave me strength. I could plan, pray, and work towards something, and if it didn’t work, I accept that it is God’s will and something better is on the way. School, work, relationships, family, and more just started to line up. I just focused on co-existing with God and if it didn’t align, I didn’t partake. Everything got easier. Even prayer time had less pressure on me. All of a sudden, I was at peace. I was joyful. I didn’t mind waiting. Everything became easy.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering [patience], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)

What I didn’t realize is that the relief I wanted was the fruit of the Spirit that God promised. The thing about fruit is, it takes time to grow. Faith is like a mustard seed, starts off small but grows into a mighty tree. Joy, love, peace, kindness, etc., all started off small but the more time I spent in the Word, with my Father, and connecting with the Holy Spirit, the more I stopped calculating the pace of change. My fruit was growing right below my nose.

The more I focused on God’s love and the Father’s will in my life, the more my trust grew. The more my trust grew, the more I stopped worrying and stressing. I did my best everyday and things worked themselves out. My depression went away when I stopped blaming myself for the past. My anxiety vanished when I stopped worrying about the outcomes and started trusting God’s will in my life. Self-control became simple when I stopped putting so much weight on the decision and got comfortable with waiting. Waiting isn’t bad, its just another opportunity to see what surprises God can come up with next. All I had to do is let time do what it needed.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Galatians 6:9 (NKJV)

The lesson I learned is that fruit takes time to grow and it is always growing. We don’t have to work for the seeds we are earning. Receive and they just grow.

Turn Your Brightness Up!

#BeMagnificent🔆

The Narrow Path

Sometimes you have to do something you’ve never done to get an outcome you’ve never had. What’s not working? What have you been doing? How badly you want things to change? If what you’ve been doing hasn’t improved anything, what does it say about you if you keep continuing down the same road? How badly do you want that future you dream about? Are you willing to change it all?

Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.

Matthew 12:33 (niv)

For years, I was dead on my feet. I was hollow inside because nothing seemed substantial or real. I was so afraid that one day, at any moment, a strong gust of wind would blow me away and no one would know the difference. I held on tight to people that paid me any attention. I dug deep into performance as my only redeemable quality. I clung to the fleeting moments of celebration or congratulatory fodder because that kept my fire burning. I was a dimly glowing ember in the midst of the storm called life. I couldn’t cling on to nothing forever.

I searched for people that valued me. I chased women. I comforted “friends” to make them feel good. I avoided moments of discomfort with hard truths. I numbed my pain with alcohol or whatever other things I could conjure up to make me forget about the void instead of taking a look in the mirror and facing it. I, like many of the people around me, was miserable. Every day was monotonous and listless. The love I sought never filled the whole in my chests. No matter what I tried to fill it with, nothing would change. I tried to feel real, tangible, and permanent did nothing. I continued being terrified of the wind.

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Matthew 7:13-14 (NKJV)

My turning point was looking towards God. For the first time, in as long as I could remember, I felt like I didn’t have to do everything on my own. I either trusted God to make it happen or I didn’t, but I got comfortable accepting the things that were out of my control. What seemed to be even more soothing was shifting God from this All-Powerful Being making rules in the sky, to a Father knowing more than I do, and trusting Him more than myself that He knows what’s best for me. The more I trusted, the more the Father showed me that it was alright trusting Him. The wounds on my heart healed. My desire to prove my existence ceased. The weight lifted.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30 (niv)

As I was shifting from just looking at my Lord to communicating with my Father. He initially started off by giving me relief. I received relief from the anxiety, depression, fear, chaotic thinking, and oppression. Then, patience, clarity, joy, peace, and love started to color how I looked at myself and then the world. I became hungry for more of God because if this is just the beginning, what more could He have in store for me?

But in this hunger came a cost. Every time I would go back to my old ways, I would feel the weigh of my old issues. I would get depressed after nights out drinking. I would feel anxious about interactions with women. I would be fearful for my livelihood looking at the success of others. My mind would run rampant as I shifted between all of these. God was giving me a choice. I could stay where I am and wallow in the emptiness I felt. Or continue to chase this zest and let him teach me about life.

By wisdom a house is built,
    and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
    with rare and beautiful treasures

Proverbs 24:3-4 (NIV)

My pastor said that he doesn’t believe in the saying about bringing a horse to water and not being able to make him drink. He said that it all depends on how thirsty you are. If you refuse to drink or eat, it’s because you still have or believe you still have choices.

I didn’t know how thirsty I was. This was the first time I had water in a long time and I didn’t want to go back to before. I was standing at a fork in the road. I had two choices. Go deeper and seek out the life that God wants me to have. Or, continue doing it my own way, by my own power, and reap the consequences.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live

Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV)

I talked about how Joseph chose to stick close to God and avoided committing the same sins his ancestors committed in Sins of the Father but that leaves us focusing on the negatives of the pasts instead of the Blessings of the Future. The breaking the cycles of the past has relatively little to do with them or you, it has to do with the Father and making a choice. A choice to change and wait for the benefits of the future.

I have so many thoughts about what Jesus meant about the narrow gate but for now I’m going to cut this short before it goes on too long. Next week is going to be a hard share for me but I want to be vulnerable with you all. Next post is about my battle with Lust. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Turn Your Brightness Up!

#BeMagnificent🔆

Out of the Mud, Into the Light

There is something about the Blood of Jesus Christ. The power that it involves and how we interact with that knowledge that changes our entire world.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

Luke 19:10 (NIV)

It’s been about three years since I went to Los Angeles searching for purpose and reason after the death of my grandmother. I was welcomed by family that never met me before that enveloped me with an unconditional love that could only come from Father God. It extended beyond them knowing me, beyond family, beyond a shared history, all the way into gifting me love that I felt empty without.

My family’s love left me thirsty for more. I spent the next year reading my Bible from Genesis to Revelations, looking for some sort of grounding principle in the world. I desperately desired a meaning, history, or identity. I felt disconnected from the lives everyone lived in and was just clinging on so that I wouldn’t fade away into the night.

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
   and never fails to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 (niv)

I didn’t hate myself, but I didn’t believe I deserved anything either. I shrunk myself in regards to the wishes and desires of others around me. I let my feelings and emotions, that swayed in a moments notice, control my being. I internalized the voices of doubt, loathing, and regret until they drowned me in my own sorrow. I was wading in toxic sludge, hopeless, just waiting for it all to give out.

While in this dark place, a tiny voice resonated with my soul. It attracted my mind with a search for answers of things misconstrued and lost in time. It resonated with the hope in my heart for something better, not just for me but, for the world. It healed my soul, helping me remove all of the weights left from the pain I held on to for so long. It reinvigorated my spirit, revitalizing my dreams, and bringing hope where there was none. It gave me faith, something to trust in when I couldn’t even trust myself. Finally, it brought love where the was none.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 (niv)

That great light in the distance gave me hope for something better. It recharged my battery, causing my to go from treading water to furiously dragging and pulling my lifeless body to shore. I could not let that light go out. I had no choice but to keep getting closer, inch by inch and step by step. It was so lonely and dark here, but there appeared to be light, life, and warmth elsewhere.

I became hungry for more. The warmth of the love I felt of a Father constantly chasing His children named Israel made me desire it for myself. I envied Moses talking to God like a friend. I wanted the Lord to know I had a heart after God too, like David. I wanted Jesus to not weep for me but smile. I could not stay in the pool of desperation any longer. The waves occasionally would push me further back and wash over my head but in my eyes, the light only beckoned me more.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

The moment I reached the shores, I cried. I cried and cried. I felt so helpless, so hopeless, for such a long time. I was lost, alone, and dead inside. So, when I joined a church and someone handed me a towel, I barely knew what to do. They held me in the ever-flowing streams of life as I peeled away dirt, muck, and grime that felt like it seeped into my very soul. I felt stained. I felt like I would never get clean, but my Father came in, hugged me, and told His servants to bring me new clothes. He was the light the entire time and I just wanted to bask in His glow. But, He told me there is more to do.

“There are others, lost, drowning in the same sorrow as you. Believing that there is no other alternative than living life listless, dead inside. But, that’s not true. You made it out. You made it to the other side and all I want you to do is keep a lookout. Shine your light as bright as you can to everyone that can see. Call and beckon them to come this way. If they come, usher them into safety, and I will take care of them from there.”

So, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll Shine On.

Let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heaven.

Matthew 5:16 (KJV)

I just wanted to write something slightly different in reflection of the change my life has seen over the last three years. I am the same same but different. I’ve been cleaned up, invigorated, and revitalized. For those reasons alone, I must continue to share my life. Keep me in your prayers as I keep you in mine. Any comments, questions, or thoughts, leave them below.

Turn Your Brightness Up!

#BeMagnificent🔆

Sins of the Father

Growing up in my church, I heard a lot about Generational Curses. It was common to hear friends talking about “alcoholism runs in my family” when you choose to drink. Yet, the more we talked about those curses, the more I started to see their manifestations in my family’s life. The brokenness of their spirits gave me pause, not often knowing what to do.

I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations
    I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty.
    I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;
the entire family is affected—
    even children in the third and fourth generations.

Exodus 34:7 (NLT)

Abraham bore Ishmael first then Issac. Ishmael was illegitimate and Issac became the blessed child.

Issac had Esau then Jacob. Jacob tricked the blessings and birthright away from Esau and become Israel.

Jacob (Israel) had twelve children and eventually Joseph, one of the youngest, became the one that would honor his family after being despised by his older siblings.

Judah, one of the twelve kings of Israel, had three boys. The first borns, Er and Onan, were wicked in God’s eyes and died. Judah ends up having twins, Perez and Zerah, with the widow, Tamar. Zerah was thought to be the first born by sticking his hand out first, but Perez ends up being born first.

Spoiler Alert: Perez is a great ancestor of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 1:3)

[Unrelated note: Note that Jesus says the first will be last and the last will be first. (Matthew 20:16) Cool little connection I just noticed.]

This is four generations of familial dysfunction and the failure of birthright to be passed down properly. Abraham, Issac, Israel, and Judah were all liars and tricksters that received their just desserts in due time yet great patriarchs of Christianity. Sarah, Rachel, and Tamar had trouble baring children, with Tamar literally having her husbands die before pregnancy. Sarah and Rebekah were all used to say they were their husband’s sister instead of the truth and so much more. There’s so much dysfunction that it’s amazing but God still used them.

But when did all the troubles stop? When Joseph lived a righteous life.

If, however, he begets a son
Who sees all the sins which his father has done,
And considers but does not do likewise…

But has executed My judgments
And walked in My statutes—
He shall not die for the iniquity of his father;
He shall surely live!

Ezekiel 18:14, 17 (NKJV)

Let’s look at two of the sins that the patriarchs of Israel struggled with: sexual immorality and impatience.

Sexual Immorality (Genesis 39):

It’s clear that Joseph was “handsome in form and appearance”. He was given complete control over Potiphar’s home and access to whatever he desired except his wife. Potiphar’s wife makes a pass at Joseph. After numerous attempts and Joseph literally fleeing from her, he still gets sent to prisoner. Yet, the Lord was still with Joseph.

Impatience (Genesis 40-41):

Joseph was sent to prison but received favor from the prison keeper. It isn’t fully detailed how long he was in prison for, but it is safe to assume for a long time for something he didn’t do. Joseph helps interpret two of the Pharaoh’s Officers’ dreams but is betrayed by the butler and forgotten for two years. At the end of two years, Joseph interprets the Pharaoh’s dream and is elevated to Governor over all of Egypt.

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In as much as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.”

Genesis 41:30-40 (NKJV)

Joseph then has a heartwarming but probably exhausting play with his brothers after they come to Egypt for food. Joseph eventually reveals himself to his entire family and brings them all to Egypt. Jacob rejoices with the new knowledge of his once thought dead son, is alive and well. On his deathbed, Israel blesses Joseph’s two children, Ephraim and Manasseh, in reverse order, once again, putting the first last. (Ephraim turns out to be the ancestor of Joshua and King Jeroboam)

Joseph lived to see three generations of his family before his passing and many years of peace. He was blessed by the Lord to be an establisher of the nation of Israel and didn’t experience the same strife that his forefathers lived. Joseph broke his family’s curses by standing rightfully on God. He never took the credit for the Lord, and never forgot his blessings. Joseph is proof that you can establish a new family legacy and not be bound to the past.

How do you break generations of dysfunction and sin? Sins of the father visit but do not have to have a home with the son. Make a decision today to live without it.

This is a lot easier said than done. I’ll talk more about the choice to head in a new direction next time.

Turn Your Brightness Up!

#BeMagnificent🔆

Foundations & Futures

In this year of Working the Land, a reoccurring theme, for me, has been foundations and futures. The more I focus on creating a great future, the more I realize that I need a sound foundation. I can talk about making an amazing apple pie, with fresh cut apples, pure brown sugar, and the finest flour, but it’s all pointless if you don’t buy the ingredients. It’s even more pointless if you’ve never been taught how to cook.

This leaves me in a peculiar place. I reflect on what skills and knowledge I’ve been given, and weigh out if it aligns me with the future I want. If things are missing, I have to go figure them out.

By wisdom a house is built,
    and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
    with rare and beautiful treasures

Proverbs 24:3-4 (NIV)

Shortly after Digging Deep, I realized that these concepts don’t just apply to the physical matters of the world. Debt education, home ownership, lifestyle behaviors, and health are only the beginning. The house referenced isn’t just a physical place. This house is the family, community, and generations of people tied to your legacy that are all affected by the things you do.

People buy houses based off of property values from not just the individual house, but the entire neighborhood. School’s rankings are determined by an average of student’s performance, not just a specific child. Insurance rates, gas prices, fashion projections, and more are all based off of multiple groups of people and history, not just an individual.

I realized I’ve been dealing with some of the same spiritual issues that have kept my mom’s and dad’s families in bondage for generations. Lust, performance, envy, greed, addiction, anxiety, depression, and more have shaped their lives with fear and shame so deeply, so profoundly, that these curses had a favorite chair in my living room.

I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations
    I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty.
    I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;
the entire family is affected—
    even children in the third and fourth generations.

Exodus 34:7 (NLT)

The tough part of Exodus 34:7 is that it admits we will be haunted by the sins of those before us. Romans 5 talks intensively about how because of Adam, sin entered the world and affects us today. However, God’s “unfailing love to a thousand generations” also gives great hope.

That unfailing love is Jesus Christ.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16 (KJV)

The law was just a prelude because our sacrifices weren’t enough to break the curse of sin. Thankfully, Jesus Christ’s death was more than enough. Christ came so that we may have life and that more abundantly. He created a pathway for us to have freedom. Him being “the way” is not by chance.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

John 14:6 (NKJV)

Jesus conquering sin and living in us through the Holy Spirit reestablishes our connection to the Father and gives us the ability to break all curses that wage war against us. This is not limited to the sin in my life. I have the ability to take authority over all and any connected to me. I have the power to liberate all of those that cross my because of my faith in Christ Jesus. Even my shadow heals the sick.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

John 4:12

That poses an unique question for us. What type of legacy do you want to leave? We must admit that the spiritual weights and battles we have participated in affect the physical obstacles we face. My misunderstandings of love directly influenced my self-esteem, which came out in the relationships I sought, jobs I took, and how I spent my free time. All those things affected my finances, housing, and health simply because I didn’t know that my Father God loves me unconditionally.

This has helped me understand some of the enemy’s tricks. If you won’t give your attention, he will steal it. If he can’t kill your dream, he will delay it. If he can’t destroy your soul, he would rather you be frozen in place so that you can’t do anything else. The importance of Jesus Christ being in our lives is Him giving us freedom from being chained to the lies of the enemy, and living in the truth of what we were created to do. Jesus came to give us life.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

John 10:10 (NKJV)

How important is legacy to you? What do you choose to leave behind as an inheritance? How will the decisions you make today shape the futures of tomorrow?

I’m going to be writing a series of posts connected to the Future and the Foundations we choose to set. Feel free to post in the comments below.

Turn Your Brightness Up!

#BeMagnificent🔆