13 November 2013

Letting Go (Part 1 - Valley of Guilt or Mountain of Shame?)

The awareness of having done something wrong.

A painful feeling about how we appear to others and ourselves.

My initial thought was that both shame and guilt were each, individual means that have the ability to separate us from God, but as I thought about it more and more, I was able to understand that guilt, unlike shame, doesn't separate us from God, but actually brings us closer to Him by allowing us to comprehend His great love for us, in that He would desire to convict us of our sin(s) through the Holy Spirit. Thus, when we experience guilt in our lives in which God is communicating with us, this is in fact DESIRABLE because it guides us in the direction of His choice, bringing us closer to Him (cf Hebrews 12:5-11 & Proverbs 3:11-12)! On the contrary, shame, an indirect form of pride, is UNDESIRABLE because it forces us in a direction that favors the influences around us, causing us to feel unworthy and, in turn, separates us from God to be led astray from His purpose. Now, YES, we are in fact unworthy to even sit at the feet of Jesus Christ, but this doesn't give us an excuse to feel ashamed of the Gospel and what it represents; rather, because of the love of God which was demonstrated to the ultimate extreme at the cross and is demonstrated through the our feelings of guilt, our perception of unworthiness is replaced with a burning heart that so desperately seeks Him, day in and day out! The amazing part is, God's love and His desire to convict sin from our lives is, get ready, FOR EVERYONE INCLUDING YOU (cf Psalm 103:1-5)!

Take a look at one of the largest misconceptions in society today - negative self-perceptions about one's body image. Now, maybe you've caught yourself questioning or even hating your physical appearance, but God would have never intended for us to question or hate what He has so graciously given to us! Instead, because we perceive the thinking around us to be worthy to our lives, we in turn CONSCIOUSLY perceive a feeling of unworthiness, as opposed to guilt, ultimately leading us astray from the purpose God has intended for us! What's the solution to shame then?! Simple - neglect the self-centered, worldly thoughts and people that seem so "relevant" and "essential" to your life and instead, situate yourself with those, whose heart is so desperately seeking God every waking second of their life! Be a child of God, that desires to know Him more and more everyday, instead of the child of this world whom chooses to forget or neglect what salvation and the cross truly represents! The question I want to leave you with in this message is, are you convincing yourself that guilt is separating you from God or is being ashamed of the Gospel preventing you from deepening your relationship with Him?

28 October 2013

Breaking the Barrier with Ole Miss' LHP Scott Ashford

Describe Your Relationship with Christ.

My testimony...i guess begin at the start. I went to catholic middle school and high school and had religion classes every year. It was nothing more than a religion class to me though, it never truly hit home. Then when I got to my first Junior College there was a strong support and community and I began to read the bible and find verses that really applied to my life. There was this new found sense of something greater out there, this new burning desire in my life. I began to go to church regularly, which I had never done. I wanted to become a man of God and truly be able to live up to that title. It was my second year in Junior College I was truly tested. I was cut from the team, and that is when my world began to fall apart. I did not know what I was going to do or if I would ever play baseball again. It was right after I got cut I found my favorite bible verse, Ezra 10:4- Rise up for this matter is in your hands, so be of good courage and do it, for we will support you. I then saw that God would always be with me and that he had reasoning for everything. I kept faith that he had perfect timing and there was a reason for everything. In that same year I went to play for another Junior College in Mississippi. I then found the organization I Am Second, and truly began to buy into their philosophy of  God's plan, not mine. So I prayed that I would live his plan and focus on becoming not just a better baseball player, but also a better Christian. Then something truly amazing happened, I began to be recruited by some 4 year colleges. This I would have never thought to happen just months earlier when I was being cut. I just prayed to God to please let me find the school where I can continue to grow in faith and become a better person.  I then committed to the University of Mississippi to play baseball that spring. Upon getting here it was one of the best things I could do for my faith life. So many of the guys on the team are so in touch with their faith and are always willing to help me spiritually. One of our relief pitchers brought the great point to me that we are here to compete our hearts out for God, and to get on the stage not for personal glory but to give all of the glory to God. God loves us no matter what we do, I feel the least I can do is give my everything every time I step out on the field and use the talent that he has blessed me with, and give him all the praise and make his word known so that hopefully I can turn people's eyes to him and his glory. 

How Important Has God Been to Your Success As An Athlete?

- God has been a huge part of my success as an athlete. I know they were many times when there were few people who believed in me and what I was capable of, but I knew he had a plan for my life that was greater then I could ever fathom, whether it be with baseball or not. In reading the bible I have read that God encourages us to cast our worries and anxieties on him because he will take them away. I have faith that every day whether I fail or succeed it is in God's will and plan for my life. I strive everyday to get better for him so that I can make sure to make the most of the talent and ability he blessed me with. 

Do You Have Any Favorite Bible Verses?

Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know well the plans I have in mind for you says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe. Plans to give you a future full of hope. "

Ezra 10:4
"Rise up for this matter is in your hands, so be of good courage and do it, for we will support you. "

Romans 5:3-5 
"And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."

Colossians 3:23 
"Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord & not for men." 

Matthew 16:26 
"And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?"

What Are Your Thoughts on God Using Ordinary People?

- I feel that God uses ordinary people each and every day to impact earth to show that it can be done by all. He chose ordinary people so that people can see that they can turn their life around because they are seeing someone else do it, and this person isn't some highly powerful person. I believe he also chooses ordinary people to show that it matters nothing of worldly possessions but of how you are as a Christian and how you serve others. Ordinary people are one of God's strongest tools to communicate his message throughout the world daily.

What Are Your Ambitions For the Future?

- My ambitions for the future are to play baseball as long as I can. I hope to be able to use this as a way to spread God's word for a long time. I also plan on becoming a physical therapist and my dream job is to become one of the physical therapist at St. Jude's Children Hospital in Memphis, TN.

23 October 2013

Do I _______? (Part 3 - Jealousy In the Church)

“There they are again, they’re always the first ones at church.  Why does he always have his hands raised?  He can not be happy 24/7, what’s his deal?”

            Growing up in the Church, I can truly say that the Church was there for me when I was at my best, at my worst and when I just didn't want them to be there.  As a teenager, still very young and naive in the faith, I often compared myself to members of the church and thought that all of the older people in the Church were wiser and better…almost perfect.  This since of inadequacy in the Church fogged my opinion for a very long time.  I would see people show up and be able to sing and play on stage, speak or lead the congregation, do communion and ushering and all other facets of service in the Church.  I held the belief that if I had to serve or do something to justify the sins that I had committed, but because of the sins I had committed I felt as though I was not worthy to serve as a leader.  This is when my theology really hit a brick wall and I had to realization that salvation is through FAITH ALONE, and there are no works I can do to justify myself.  This is also when I came to the realization that different members of the Church had different jobs to do, and that is what made the Church successful and diverse.  As Paul writes to the Church in Rome:  
“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

When it comes to our jobs in the Church and what we do, it is different for us all.  There is a reason that the Pastor can speak, there is a reason the worship leader can sing, but at the end of the day we all need the salvation of Christ.  Earlier in Paul’s letter to Rome he writes:
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”

            Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand that I am the same as the leaders in the Church, but as opportunities have opened for me, and I’ve had conversations with those leaders. I’ve realized that we are all the same.  Jealousy does nothing for me and does nothing for the Church.  It doesn't make me feel better and it doesn't further the Kingdom of God!