Why do Christians go through Trials and Tribulations?

 We all know that the Bible is a great place to turn for hope and inspiration. One thing that may be a hard pill to swallow is that the Bible is also full of affliction, tribulations, and persecution. Not only did these things happen to the people in the Bible, but God's word actually promises us that we will also be subject to the sames thing. 

It would be forgivable for a new Christian to think that deciding to follow God will result in a lot of blessings, and they would not be wrong. However, it's also important to understand that following Christ does not mean that everything will be kittens and rainbows. When someone is trying to do the right thing and lead a Christ centered life, it is very easy to begin questioning things whenever our lives suddenly take a turn for the worst. However, taking a step back to understand why we are going through the things we are going through can give us the hope we need to persevere. In this post I am going to offer up some words of encouragement for those of you that might be experiencing your own personal trials.

Firstly, it's very important to understand that some of the difficult times we go through are a direct result or consequence of a poor decision we have made in our lives. For example, when I was in my alcohol addiction, there were several consequences that were a direct result of my decision, and therefore I had nobody to blame but myself. For instance, health problems, broken relationships, poor performance in my career, and the subsequent financial difficulties were all a direct result of my alcoholism. In similar fashion, some of the trials we go through could simply be chastisement from the Lord. 

Let's take Jonah as an example of this. His trial (being stuck in the belly of a great fish or whale) was a direct result of blatantly disobeying a commission from the Lord to go to Ninevah. Therefore he brought this trial upon himself, and he ended up doing what God had asked anyway! This is a great example of how God will see His providential will done regardless of our voluntary contribution. 

Job is an old testament example of a faithful follower of Christ of being put through trials and tribulations for no other reason than to Glorify God. Job showed great perseverance in the face of these trials and continued to praise and worship God throughout the whole ordeal. 

However, the purpose of this post is not to dig in to these stories. The purpose of this is to understand why we go through things in our lives and how we should respond when we do. So let's get started.

Paul gives us a lot of insight into suffering in his letter to the Corinthians. It could be argued that he brought some of his sufferings on himself because of the life he lived as Saul when he was persecuting believers. Regardless, he gives us a recounting of some of the things he endured in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33

23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. 33 But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.

There is no doubt that Paul had his fair share of tribulations and affliction. However, we have much to learn about his attitude towards these afflictions.

Sometimes God uses these trials and tribulations to make us grown closer to him. God wants us to seek him and cry out for help when we are going through things, and he promises us comfort us. Maybe we are drifting off our path and we need to be redirected in order to focus our attention on him. I know that when I am going through a particularly difficult time it prompts me to step back and evaluate if the things I am going through are there to teach me a lesson. 

God uses suffering to expose the sin in our lives. When we suddenly bear an affliction, our pride, impatience, and unbelief will show its ugly head. Pain has a way of making us vulnerable and open our hearts, laying everything out there. When I’ve faced suffering, I’ve responded with anger. Sometimes it reveals my lack of faith in God’s promises. I begin questioning God: How could you let this happen? 

If we’re prone to love something in this world whether it's a house, spouse, children, job—more than God, he may sometimes remove the idol. And it will hurt. In doing so, though, we're forced to refocus on him alone.

However, whatever the reason may be, 2 Cor 1:4 promises that God will be be there to comfort us in our affliction.

[He] comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

It doesn't stop there. If we read that verse carefully it tells us that He comforts us for a reason, and we are expected to respond to that comfort. This means that we can not only be comforted, but we can use the lessons we learned in order to comfort others that may be going through something similar. No matter what we may think, we are not unique in our trials. That's something I learned while at John 3:16. It only houses about 230 men currently, but amazingly, it seems that no matter what someone has gone through, there always seems to be someone there that has gone through something similar. This results in being able to either be encouraged by someone that has survived what you are going through, or it enables you to use your affliction to glorify God by helping another believer. You may be able to share your testimony with them in order to give them hope.

I have said before that if I knew everything I went through during my addiction only serves no other function other than to keep my children from repeating my mistakes, I would go through it 100 more times. I can also take comfort in the fact that if, for some reason, my children do make some of the same mistakes I have made, I am now uniquely equipped to understand and help them overcome their problems as I have. 

James 1:2-4 tells us to not only persevere during trials, but also to take it a step further!

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 

That's kind of a tall order isn't it? Why would James tell us to find joy in suffering?

Suffering can feel senseless, especially if you don’t know why it is happening to you. However there is no need to suffer without cause. By choosing the right mindset, you can rise above your suffering and focus on the joy that’s possible for you in Christ Jesus.

Seeking joy in suffering gives a purpose for the suffering. However, letting suffering simply sweep over you in waves can be disheartening. But if you are looking for signs of joy even while you suffer, the purpose of the suffering is affirmed, and you can have some hope. 

Another reason to seek joy in suffering is to be like more like Jesus. Jesus also endured a lot of suffering when he humbled himself to become human. He endured that suffering so we could be with him. Our suffering matters to God, and it helps us become more like Jesus as we endure.

You may not be able to see this now, but God may use your current time of suffering to encourage other people in the future as we discussed above in 2 Corinthians 1:4.

For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. – 1 Peter 2:19

This scripture tells us that God commends those who suffer for doing what is right, even when the cause of suffering is unfair. This is a sign of hope and perseverance that you can display when you trust God to bring good things out of your hard time. 

So, what should your focus be when you are suffering? The following passage tells us to focus on Jesus. As you study Jesus’ example, you can run your race with greater perseverance. He looked forward to the joy that lay beyond his suffering, and you can look forward to the joy that awaits you with Christ once your suffering is over.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1b-2

So in summary, whether you are undergoing trials brought on by yourself due to poor decision making, or if God is trying to teach you something, you can find hope in scripture. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the Bible is full of suffering as well, but ultimately even suffering points to The Cross, and we find hope and redemption at the foot of the cross. Just remember to keep things in perspective and continue to run the good race, because the prize is much greater than any amount of suffering we endure in this very short time in this world!

I love you guys, and I hope you enjoyed reading this. Be sure to comment and participate!  

An update/A quick word on the Will of God.

 It's been a long while since I have updated my blog, so I am long overdo. A lot has happened over the last couple years, so I am going to catch my readers up. This post will lay out some of my recent testimony and also some hard lessons I have learned about the will of God. 

As my readers likely know, I recently returned to John 3:16 ministries after about a year and half of graduating. I was able to gain a new understanding of the depths of God's grace after trying to live a Christ centered life as a recovering alcoholic. 

I was doing "good" for a while, but like so many other people, the pressures of the world began to pile up. I felt like I wasn't making enough money to survive, so even though I had a job around other Christian men that could hold me accountable, I began looking for a higher paying job. I quickly put my relationship with Jesus on the back burner in order to pursue a new career. Things didn't immediately fall to pieces, however I did have a couple of slip ups. I was able to pull myself out of them and get back on track. I was able to get a great job, and before long I had my own place again. All the while, I was being very selfish with my time. I was attending church occasionally, and rarely going to CR meetings. 

As you all may know, my addiction really grew hair shortly after divorcing Lesle, and I had prayed for reconciliation with her throughout my time at the ministry as well once I had graduated. I hadn't spoken to her hardly at all since the divorce, but one day in April of 2021 she reached out to me and we got together and started talking. We spoke a lot over the course of the weekend and found out very quickly that we were in a place in our lives where we thought it would be a good idea to get remarried since we were both sober now. She spent a week in the hospital the week after we got back together because she had a kidney infection that had gotten out of control, and she had become septic. The hospital stay went well, and while she was there, I was up there with her every day. We had a lot of time to speak and decided to get re-married on our original wedding date. We were very excited to be starting this new chapter of our lives, and I thought for sure this was finally an answered prayer for me. She was released from the hospital that following Monday, and she was back at my apt. She was still weak, but she was getting better every day. That Thursday night, we were hanging around the house and watching TV, and she suddenly had a seizure. I won't go into all the details, but I will say that she stopped breathing and between me and the paramedics, she was without oxygen for over 10 minutes. She was on a ventilator after that, and then passed away on 5-5-21 just a couple weeks after we reconciled. 

I was completely devastated, and my faith was completely shaken. Instead of leaning on God, I turned from Him in anger, and what little bit of a relationship I had with Him was destroyed. I began suffering from PTSD from the ordeal in my apt, and I still wanted to avoid alcohol or anxiety meds, so I decided to get a medical marijuana card. That worked for a short time, but as I began spending more and more money at the dispensary, I began to think that it would be cheaper to just drink moderately to help myself sleep. Needless to say, shortly after that, my life was in ruins again. I began thinking that I needed to go back to John 3:16 and repair my relationship with God, but I thought that as long as I had my job, car, and apt, I still had time to get myself straight. Within a couple of months, I had lost all three and God had me backed into a corner again. I didn't understand this at the time, but this was the providential will of God at work in my life.

I finally got back to John 3:16 thanks to Coach Steve Garmrath, and began repairing my relationship with Christ again. I wanted to understand why Lesle was taken from me in the way that she was, and I began studying what The Word had to say about living in the Will of God. I focused very hard on this, and quickly came to the understanding that I may never have an answer to that question.

I know that I should have stayed on as an Instructor at John 3:16 the first time I went through, but I wanted to do what I wanted to do, and decided to leave, and here I was 2 1/2 years later right back where God wanted to use me. After a few months at the ministry, Bryan allowed me to stay on as an instructor, and I began a new chapter in my walk with Christ. That was taking the things that I went through in my life along with the things that God's word had taught me, and use those to show other men how to follow Christ. It was an incredibly fulfilling calling, and I had a great year at John 3:16.

After some health problems and some prayer I decided it was time to leave the ministry. However, I had decided that the last thing I want to do again is to live outside the will of God. I sought wise counsel and came to the conclusion that I have the ability to overcomplicate it to the point of being petrified to make a move for fear of stepping out of His will. 

I was able to come to the understanding that all I have to do is to live for Him and He will use me wherever I am at. I know that I am called to help other men find Christ. We are ALL called to make disciples, and that can be done anywhere you go. The thing is you have to put yourself around other men, and keep Jesus as the centerpiece to your life.

I am now living in a transition home, and I don't know yet how God is going to use me here, but I am confident that if I continue to seek Him and His kingdom, the rest will be revealed as I go along.

There are 3 types of the Will of God. 

Providential Will of God - These are the things that are going to happen regardless if you wish to take seek them or not.

Moral Will of God - Basic do's and don'ts that he lays out in The Bible

Personal Will of God - God's will for the personal aspects of your life.

The thing I have to remember is that the Will of God for my life is not laid out for me to see from beginning to end, because if I knew the details, I would find a way to put myself in the way and mess it up. For instance, God's word promises us tribulation even if we follow Him faithfully. If we were able to see those trials ahead of time, we would do everything we could to avoid them. All we have to do is the next right thing, and in the process of leading a Christ centered life, His will for us will be revealed as we need it. Instead of trying to figure out our life and future, we only need to live for Him today. Some days we might need to take that hour by hour, but we must keep our eyes on the cross daily and remember that we were given this day only to seek Him. Tomorrow is never promised to us.

I don't know the Personal Will of God for my life, and frankly, I don't need to know what it is for now. I am just so happy that I was given the opportunity to serve Him at John 3:16, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to live for Him today. I will be posting here at least once a week moving forward, and I will be sharing what I learned through my personal studies.

I just wanted to take a few moments to update everyone on what's been going on in my life.

I encourage my readers to participate and comment!

Progress, Not Perfection

     "Progress, not Perfection" I hear this all the time. For someone that struggles with addiction, it's an important mantra to remember. While living in the ministry, it was so easy to keep things in line. It was a shield from the woes of the outside world. I remember being told on more than one occasion, in one way or another, that "The world is still the same". It's one of those things that you hear so much that you just kind of roll your eyes and move on. I wish I would have taken that to heart. It's so easy to feel bulletproof when you're shielded from the world.

     I danced around the idea of sharing this story publicly, mainly out of embarrassment. After some prayer and thought, I decided that the chance of using this story to help others is more important than my pride (which I still struggle with). With that being said, I am going to share with you what happened.

     At the end of December, I received a call from a recruiter, who offered me a potential position as an IT Helpdesk Analyst. I was perfectly happy where I was, but I didn't figure it would hurt to talk to them. Within a week, I had a job offer in my inbox, and the pay was a 50% increase from what I am currently making. I immediately jumped on it for the money. The process happened so fast. They sent the offer on a Friday, and they wanted a decision by the following Monday. At this point, God was sending me signs that this isn't where he wanted me, but my worldly self got in the way. I checked the benefits package, and the health insurance was $160 per week, which almost ate my extra pay. That was a sign that I wrote off and thought "well, I will just get a private plan". This whole time, my decision did not feel right. Verse after verse in the bible, it says that God speaks in a "Still, Small Voice." The problem is that the world is noisy, and if you don't keep that close connection with God, the world will drown out the voice of God. I had lost my strong connection with Christ, because I haven't been putting into practice what I learned. I have been a fairweather Christian. Going to church on most Sundays, if I felt good or wasn't tired. I wasn't serving the church. I hadn't found a church home, and was instead hopping between 2 or 3 different churches, but I digress. Let's get back to the story.

     I took the job against my better judgement, again, blinded by the money. James 1:14 says "but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed." I was to fly out from Memphis on 1/13 and I was getting an all expense paid trip to Portland for a week of training at corporate headquarters. My plane was late leaving the tarmac at Memphis, which put me late landing in Houston, resulting in me missing my flight. I reached out to my contact and they booked me a new flight. However, I was going to have a 2 hour layover in Houston. I decided to use the opportunity to take care of some business. About 30 yards from my terminal was a computer bar. I decided to go over and sit away from the bar itself in one of the outlying tables with a plug. I plugged up my computer and ordered a coke. A few minutes later a gentleman sat down next to me started asking me about my laptop because he liked it. He was drinking a martini. The waitress came over and asked him if he wanted another, and he did. She then asked me if I needed anything, and immediately my mouth opened and I ordered a Double Sailor Jerry's. I've been doing so good, I can treat myself to one drink (so I thought). That one drink wasn't enough. Once I began to feel the effects, my inhibitions fell away, and I ordered another double. Then I ordered another.

     I got up and thought, OK, I have about 9 hours of flights left, so that was it. I spent the remainder of time in the terminal, and caught my flight out to Denver. By the time I landed in Denver, I began to feel like crap because I was sobering up. I was feeling ill, dizzy, guilty, shameful. Now, something that I didn't know about airports is that there are bars every 50 feet! So, I passed a bar, sat down, and drank until my flight left. Once on the flight, nerves kicked. I was about 2 hours away from landing in an airport where I would be picked up by an employer. I ordered vodkas on the plane all the way to Portland. Once I was sitting in the terminal in Portland, the fogginess lifted. I can only speculate it was God clearing the cobwebs enough to give me a moment of clarity. I can't take this job. I can't be this far from accountability for a week. I knew if I stayed, I would stay drunk, and if I managed not to get caught by the employers, I would just keep going when I got home. I sat in the lobby and made some phone calls. I asked for my old job back, and was accepted, and I texted them and told them I was going back home. It was one of the most awkward conversations I've ever had.

     At this point, I was feeling embarrassed and ashamed. I drank ALL the way back home. I was terrified that I was off the deep end again. I had to explain to everyone at work why I decided to come back without admitting the truth. It was such a familiar and terrible feeling to have to cover up again. It is just so much easier to be honest. If you have ever talked to me, I can be socially awkward, so I decided to write this as a form of therapy/confession and hope that it helps someone else from making the same mistakes.

     The point is that the world is out here. 1 Peter 5:8 says "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour".  This Verse should be engraved into ANYONE'S head that struggles with addiction, because I am telling you, it's true.

     The point is, the Ministry didn't teach me to be perfect. It taught me what to do to overcome my imperfections. Like anything else, it sounds simple, but it's far from it. Shame and Guilt are very powerful tools that Satan uses to keep us down. They work very well on me, and I struggled with my mistakes for weeks. Then I remembered my kids. I can't let them see me be defeated by a stumble. They need to understand that NOBODY is perfect. People make mistakes, but it's what they do with the lessons taught by that mistake that matters.

     I met with a Pastor at a local church over coffee last night and we spoke about this, and that is part of inspired me to write this post. I have made a commitment to him to begin serving at his church and attending service every week, as well as some groups. He told me to expect some tough love if he sees something that needs to handled in my life and I am dancing around it. I'm hard headed and I need that.

     I still have some mending to do, but this post is the first step in a long journey to fully recover from my stumble. I want my readers to know that I am doing well, and I even though I stumbled, I am not drinking. If anyone of my friends or readers is currently struggling with a relapse, please reach out to me and I will be happy to help.

I am so thankful to my boss for taking me back into a place where I have accountability and work with people that truly me and make me want to do good. I have no plans to move jobs again any time soon!

I will close with this verse.

1 Corinthians 10:13 -  No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.

Living Boldly

     What does it mean to be bold in Christ? Why is it important to be bold? How can you practice boldness in your life? These are questions that I plan on answering in this entry.

     Being bold simply means speaking out against things that wrong no matter what persecution you might face as a result of it. If you are being bold for Christ and doing the next right thing, you can rest assured that He has your back. It's important to note that you can't be bold FOR Christ unless you have confidence IN Christ.

     This means you can't hope for boldness if you aren't reading and understanding God's word. Confidence in His word is equivalent to ammunition in your belt when you need it to make a stand.

     I had an issue with boldness in Christ especially growing up, because I didn't think it was "cool" in front of my friends. I was afraid of being persecuted, or made fun of by my friends. This led to me ignoring things that I knew were wrong. Up to and including me taking my first drink. If I would have had boldness to stand up for what I knew was wrong, things could have been completely different for me.

     Boldness comes natural for some people, and for others it develops over time. Other people have to work on it slowly. I learned this well during my time at John 3:16. There are some people that right out of the gate are bold for Christ. They never miss a chance to stand up and praise Jesus. I think these people tend to be natural extroverts. Anybody that knows me would probably be surprised to learn that I tend to be an introvert until I get to know someone. I just have a need to feel confident about a matter before I can be vocal about it.

     Not only does it pay off to be bold in front of others. It is also helpful to be bold in your prayer life. In prayer, boldness comes in the form of perseverance. I used to think it wasn't OK to continue to pray for the same thing over and over again. I guess I was afraid that it showed a lack of faith in Christ. Hebrews 4:16 says  "So let us keep on coming boldly to the throne of grace, so that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." In addition to this, we all know that 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to "Pray without Ceasing"
     The root of boldness is to know who you are in Christ and what rights you have in the relationship with Him. One of the rights that Jesus won for you at the cross is the freedom to freely enter God's presence without blame, uncertainty, or fear of not being heard. 

     Ephesians 3:12 says, “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.” That means Jesus paved the way between us and the throne room of God. Fellowship with Him is part of our covenant rights, so acting unworthy is disrespecting the price Jesus paid to get you there.

      For example, take your house. You're going proudly into your house— knowing it's yours. You're not hesitating. You don't ask if it's yours. You're definitely not going to the back door shaking and thinking, "Oh God, this is a lovely, fine house. Help me, help me now. God, help me, sir, to go into this house with confidence.

     Of course, the devil will work overtime to convince you that you aren't worthy of boldly entering in. He doesn't want you in there, and he certainly doesn't want you making bold requests. But don't let the devil trick you out of coming boldly to the throne — it's where you belong.

     When the bible calls us to be missionaries, it doesn't mean going to Africa. The man standing in line in front of you at Starbucks is just as important as the people in remote countries. Yes, these types of situations could lead to persecution, but if we aren't being persecuted for our beliefs, what are we doing? Just remind yourself about Paul, and what we went through. He was proclaiming Christ with boldness even while chained up and bleeding. The worst you have to worry about is some funny looks.

     When in doubt, don't forget to simply pray for boldness. Here are 10 verses about boldness and courage that will help you along your way.

    Psalm 27:1
    Ezekiel 3:7-11
    Joshua 1:9
    2 Timothy 1:6-7
    Ephesians 3:11-13
    Ephesians 3:16
    Ephesians 6:18-20
    Hebrews 13:5-6
    Philippians 1:14
    Philippians 4:13

I challenge everyone here to just set a goal for yourself to talk to at least 1 stranger about Christ each day. You might surprise yourself out how quickly you will find that boldness. It gets a little easier each time.

Not my will, but yours.

     Probably one of the most important things that every Christian needs to be aware of, is whether or not they are living in Christ's will, or their own. Jeremiah 29:11 promises all of us a hope and future, but it never says that future will be exactly as we wanted or planned it.

     Living in God's will is still a relatively young concept to me, because frankly, until about 7 months ago, I never even considered God's will in my daily life. I was too focused on what I could do to reach my personal goals in life, which, to be honest, was just drinking myself to an early grave.

    The tricky part of living in God's will is knowing what that will is. How do you distinguish between your will, and God's will. The first step in staying in God's will, is listening for him to speak to you. That's not to say that you will hear a physical voice from God. The voice of God can manifest in so many ways.

A still, small voice - Some people have compared this to their "conscience" This can be a tricky one, because my own flesh can also speak to me in this way. That's why it's important to look for confirmation in other things.

His Word - God can also speak to us through his word. I have a good example of this. I have always been at odds with Gracie's stepdad, mostly because of my own doings, and I was in my head about it one evening after Gracie told me something he had said about me and decided to look up some scriptures about anger. My concordance took me Ephesians. I read 4:26 (Be angry, and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your wrath), and closed my bible to go to sleep, and something pulled at me to keep reading (this is a great example of that still small voice). I opened to Ephesians and continued reading, and I came across Ephesians 6:4, and I knew this was the verse that God wanted me to see immediately. Ephesians 6:4 - And you, Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. This was a good example of the still small voice (asking me to keep reading) followed by confirmation by his word.

Dreams - God uses dreams all through the bible. Joel 2:28 says And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.

Through Others - This is one of the most important ways that God speaks to you. This is also why it's important to listen with all your attention. He doesn't just speak through people that you like either. He can speak through the most unlikely of people. That's why if someone I don't like, or don't know walks up to speak to me, I am attentive and listen for messages from God.

Circumstances - Most often, for me, God speaks to me through circumstances in my life. This is because I'm very hard headed, and sometimes I need things drawn out in crayon before I understand them. I often pray for clarity, or some type of confirmation. I love it when God speaks through circumstances because it's a tangible answer to a prayer, and it often makes my decisions much easier.

     When in doubt, simply ask Him in prayer, as I do, to make his will clear. Some of us need an extra push. It's so important for us to understand that just because we go to church each Sunday, and tithe, and give to the needy, does not mean we are in God's will. I feel like a lot of Christians in this world live in a false sense of security about those things. God will is not going to be easy all the time. In fact the Bible promises us that we are going to go through some things. This is because He wants us to come to Him in these times.

     So how can we determine if we are in God's will?

We obey His Word - John 14:23-24 says "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me."

We Bear Fruit - "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." John 15:4-5

Things will just work out - Have you ever met one of those Christians that seem to have everything fall in place for them? It's like they can do no wrong. That's most likely because they are in the word of God. It promises us that we will be protected and provided for when we live for God. Psalm 91 speaks on this.

"Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot."

     I knew I was in God's will when I was living at John 3:16 Ministries, simple because while I was there, he continued to work things in my life to help me prosper. Once I moved out of there into transition house, I knew I was in His will, because things just fell right into place for me. In fact it was overwhelming just how obvious it was that God was moving in my life.

     So, if the world seems to be against you, and it's getting you down, I would strongly suggest prayer, and evaluation of your life, and make adjustments if you need to. God uses closed doors and missed opportunities to guide our steps.

     Also don't forget that God has created you for singular purpose for this world. He wants you to fulfill that purpose. 1 Peter 4:10 says "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." His plan for you will always be directly related to the gifts that He has given you. The great news is that you will automatically be good at whatever it is that He has called you to do.

     I really hope these help you to determine when you are living God's will. These certainly aren't the only ways to know what God's will is for your life. God speaks to us all differently, so if you are in doubt, seek his will earnestly through prayer, and seek wise counsel. He will make his will clear.

As always, thanks for reading! 

Don't Worry, Be Happy.

     I don't think Bobby McFerrin had scripture in mind when he wrote that song, or maybe he did. Regardless, the message is the same. God doesn't want us to worry about our tomorrows. In fact 1 Peter 5:7 says "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares for you." (NLT).

     I was speaking to a dear friend of mine on this very thing earlier today. When I was just learning to pray, I remember hating to hear people to tell me to give it God. I was so used to "handling" things myself that I didn't understand that I wasn't supposed to handle anything. You would think after years of failure I would have realized that I am not controlling anything. Faith was a foreign concept to me, so accepting that fact was quite a stumbling block for me early in my walk with Christ.

     I think as humans, it's a natural instinct to want to hold on to some things. I know for me as well as my friend, it's easy enough to pray and hand it over to God in the short term. Then at night when things are quiet, the things that are worrying me tend to creep their way back into my mind, and before I know it, the fleeting worry has grown into a sleepless night. Matthew 6:27 says "Can any one of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life." (NIV) No telling how hours I have shaved off my life due to sleepless nights.

     One thing I had to learn while I lived at John 3:16 was how to let go. Not so much because I wanted to, or was even capable of doing. More so, because I had no choice. In that, however, I learned that even when things are absolutely out of my control, God is still working in my best interest. For we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good. (Romans 8:28 ESV)

     The thing we have to remember (and by we, I mean me) is that if I did try to control these things that worry me, I would make a complete train wreck of life. My past is proof positive of that fact.

     The thing about handing your worries over to God that makes it difficult is that he fixes things in His timing, and frankly, sometimes He is so slow compared to our worldly standards of timing. It's so important to remain patient and continue to pray. One of the most difficult aspects of prayer is persevering even when it seems that God is not answering. I used to think that praying for something every night meant not having faith that God would answer my prayers. However, Jesus knows the weakness in our flesh, and He knows that we are prone to losing heart. In Luke 18, Jesus told his disciples a parable to remind them to continue to pray, and not give up. (Parable of the Unjust Judge)

     The important thing is to continue to pray, and continue to keep faith. When you pick up a worry, rebuke it, and lay it back at His feet. Continuously remind yourself that whatever it is that you are going through will pass. Everyone has seasons of turbulence in their lives. Whether it's health, financial, or marriage problems. These things don't discriminate, and neither does God.  The bible promises us that after we have gone through these tough times in our lives, God himself will restore and perfect us (1 Peter 5:10)

     I will end this post with Romans 8:18 - I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (NIV)

Until next time, Thanks for reading, and don't forget to subscribe to and follow the blog (on the right hand side of the page) to stay up to date!


John 3:16 Ministry offers The Cure.

     I remember seeing that around for years. John 3:16 has been a household name in Northeast AR for many years. I had heard about them through their serving in our local community, selling tickets to various events, and catering. However, I never really took the time to get to know much about the ministry. Their name became increasingly prevalent to me as my alcohol addiction continued to snuff out my productive life. My mother had been asking me to go for years. What little bit of research I did, I just knew that I would have to move there for an extended period of time, and that, frankly, wasn't an option I was even willing to consider. That's a really hypocritical way of thinking because my alcohol addiction took far more of my life than I would have ever been willing to give voluntarily. Even when I was present in my life, I wasn't really there like I should have been. I spent so many years living in a haze, that I was further away from my family than if I had been living in Fiji.
     I'm going to take a few moments to explain about the ministry, and what they are all about. Because, if I had a post explaining to me exactly how much there was to be gained by following Christ and living there, I would have gone years ago.
    First of all, let me explain what John 3:16 is. At it's very base level it is a spiritual refuge (or bootcamp) for men with addictions. They will tell you from jump that it is not a rehab. That couldn't be more true. First and foremost, it is completely free. "Jesus Paid the Price" as it says in their pamphlet. They take men in when nobody else will. The further down in the pit of addiction that a man is, the more they want them. They take men from prisons, dumpsters, and overpasses! When they interview you for residency, they ask for 3 things. You must be broken, willing, and thankful. If you are those three things, then Christ can start to work on you through the ministry.
     Bryan Tuggle is the Director there, but unlike directors at secular rehabs, he knows what it means to be ravaged by addiction. He, himself got his start at a faith based rehab, and over the years has developed a very special gift of discernment with men like us. He can sniff out lies and excuses from a mile away, and it will become evident quickly when you speak with him. It's not just Bryan either. He has a handful of "instructors" there which are all also residents, and graduates of the ministry. The staff there all have gifts of discernment because they are just like us. That is why it's so important to be honest when interviewing with them.
     Any man who is broken and in need of help can find it by simply showing up to the Sunday service at 9:45 AM on Sunday. You will sit through our worship service, then begin your interview process. You are not likely to get in on your first interview. This isn't because they don't want you there. It's quite the opposite. The man who shows a willingness to continue to come interview shows the drive to really want help. There are a few things you will be expected to have taken care of before you move in. Legal issues will need to be, at the very least, suspended or postponed. You can't live there and continue to take anti-depressants or benzos. You will need to have a few months worth of any other prescriptions you need as well. You will need to show up to your interviews each week ready to move in.
     Once you are taken in as a resident, it will become immediately evident that you are not in a rehab, because you get to keep your shoelaces, carry a pocket knife, and nobody rummages through all your stuff. They begin their relationship with you by giving you trust. They drop you off at one of the resident houses and that's when you realize that you won't be sharing a room. You have your own room with a bed, chair, refrigerator, and television. You will be introduced to your housemates on that first night during a house meeting, and they will make sure you have everything you need if you forgot something.
     The next day, your regular schedule starts. A typical day at the ministry looks like this.
6:00 AM - Breakfast. Usually Biscuits, gravy, eggs, and sausage. Followed by a morning bible study.
Then we get work assignments, and spend a day working. You eat a good lunch, followed by another noon bible study. Then we get dinner, and later in the evening, we have resident bible studies at a prayer house.
     When you aren't working or doing bible studies you can be taking advantage of a pond with great fishing. A recreation center with gym, pool tables, etc. You can even sit the sauna. Yep, a sauna.
     Now you are expected to work while you are a resident there. That's how the ministry is able house 170 men. However, the work they have us doing is nothing out of the ordinary. They have a mechanic shop, body shop, print shop, maintenance crew, landscaping, mowing, carpentry (they build their own housing), and various other crews that work off camp. None of the jobs are back breaking, and the hours aren't crazy.
     After your first week, you will start class. You will have class 2 days a week for the first 3 months, and they really dig into the bible. Even if you don't know the bible, they will move at a pace that is good for everyone.
     Every resident there is on blackout for the first 30 days, but after that, the family can come visit every Sunday. They sit through service, potluck, and a 2 hour visit at the house. This is really where the magic happens. The healing that happens at the ministry can be seen on a weekly basis. Jesus restores families every day. When I graduated I had 2 ex wives in attendance with my children, and they all went with me to eat afterwards. If you would have told me I would have two ex wives eating dinner together with me, I would have laughed at you. The healing takes place not only with the family, but with your entire life. God moves in men's life the moment they surrender and begin living in his will. I have seen pardons, life sentences in prison changed to probation, marriages restored, health restored, and many other things
     Every instructor there only wants one thing for the residents. Do good. That's it. Jesus really moves in that place, and if you spend just one day there visiting, he will move in you. You can't miss it.
     I spent 7 months there, and my family was so happy that I was there. I grew closer to my family living there than I was when I wasn't there. So using that as an excuse not to go there for help simply won't fly. You owe it to yourself and your family.
     Any man who would like to know more about the ministry can comment here or email me and I will be happy to answer any questions you might have. If you are reading this and considering going there, then I can tell you already that you need to go. At the very least, go visit.
Here is their website.
Their phone number is 870-799-2525
The address of the Ministry is: 75 Holmes Rd, Charlotte, AR 72522
     In closing I just want to say this. There is a better life out there. Jesus wants you. He loves you, and he just wants you to surrender to his will, and let him take control. I owe a great debt to this ministry. I have life again. My children have a father, my parents have a son. I have real friends, and an extended family. More than that I have a home away from home. John 3:16 Ministries is where I found Jesus and a new life. A life that I owe to them and to Jesus.
Jesus loves you!