Sunday, August 12, 2012

Counseling the Counselor

      Back in late June, I took an unexpected trip to King's Domain, in Oregonia, OH. It is a wonderful, Spirit filled place aimed at delivering the Gospel of Jesus Christ to inner city kids, primarily from Cincinnati. The is carried out through week long summer camps, where trained counselors, who, in their own lives are following the Lord, provide love and encouragement to the children that come out as campers. While leading various activities such as swimming, "crud wars," a camp-out, themed dinner parties, and other outdoor activities, the counselors and staff model and teach Christ. It's really a beautiful place and if you would love to find out more, click here. It just so happens that my beautiful girl friend, Chelsea, is on full time staff at King's Domain (KD). She texted me on a Sunday, as I was returning from Florida, asking in great need if I could come up to camp as soon as possible to serve as a co-counselor. They were about to received more boys then they originally thought, and needed extra counselors. I sat and stared at my phone for a good while realizing that my only argument against going was that I was looking forward to a week of having no obligations at home. Purely selfish motives. So I said yes,  and explained that I could be up by mid-afternoon on Monday because I needed to go to my apartment and repack clothing. 
        Normally, when someone comes out to counsel at KD, (I am speaking only from what Chels had told me), they undergo a lot of training. For instance, the college students who come out on "project," as they refer to the summer spent out there, spend the first week or so before camp, going through training. This training consists of opportunities to grow spiritually, teachings on the purpose and ministry of the camp, and training in how to be an effective, godly counselor. Driving up, Chels called me and did a brief overview of what I needed to be aware of. Normally, this is not how I like to approach things. I prefer to have, what I believe to be "adequate training," before I embark on an adventure. However, this was not going to be the case as I made the 4 and 1/2 hour journey west to the camp. Once I arrived, I would have enough time to eat lunch and then begin the afternoon activities with my cabin.
         I prayed during my car ride that the Lord would take the control. I asked the Lord to use me, as He needed, to bring to the campers a deeper awareness and understanding of who He is. Despite my sin, I praised God that He would be using me as a tool for His good purpose. Regardless of what I felt I needed to know leading up to my arrival at the camp, in terms of preparation, I knew that the Lord was sovereign and would lead. However, I was not prepared for what the Lord was going to reveal to me about myself, while revealing Himself to the campers through me and the other counselors. 
        A few things quickly became apparent within the first day of my stay at the camp and became a major focus of my prayers:

  1. I could not understand why there was excitement for me. 
  2. I did not understand why the counselors and staff trusted me with a cabin. 
  3. Everything I did, I wanted to double check with someone to make sure I was doing it correctly. I was scared of doing something wrong.
         It all represented a deep sin in my life that God, at the time, was choosing to reveal to me and remove from my life. It showed that the approval of man was still an idol in my life and that the very low self-esteem, I knew I always carried with me, was prohibiting me spiritually. 

        Here is how the sin manifested itself in my life:
  1. Why would anyone be excited for me? I knew Chelsea had talked me up a little bit to those who worked with her, but in my mind she was just being kind and excited for me to be out there. I believed that there was nothing exciting about me. I still saw the wretched being that I was/am without Christ. In no way was I seeing or trusting the work of Christ and who I had become by believing in Him and receiving salvation. When people expressed heartfelt joy and excitement when they saw me, I believed lies that it was only through kindness that they provided such endearment. I was convinced it was only a mask and a front. 
  2. I did not trust myself to be an effective counselor to the campers. Therefore, I did not see how or why the staff could feel confident in placing me in a cabin. I believed that there was nothing good about me that could be an example to the kids. Even as other counselors brought encouragement to me, I often received it with a grain of salt, convinced that there really was nothing worthwhile about me. During the weekend, when there were no campers, a staff member had me talk to a fellow counselor about being in a godly relationship. Afterwards, in my own privacy, I wrestled with understanding why I would be chosen to give advice. Why again were others confident in my abilities when I seemingly knew I had none?
  3. I was immobilized by fear. I saw the way the other counselors and staff members interacted with the kids. I became envious of it, curious as to why I was lacking in that skill area. Regardless of the experience I have had as a teacher, I believed that everything I did was of poor quality. I was hesitant to take the lead in front of others, believing that I would be frowned upon because of a lack of skill. I questioned everything I did, while I witnessed others walk and lead in pure confidence. 
        Now, I may have made the whole week seem a little more dramatic that necessary, but I hope it gives a glimpse into the inner struggle I faced. What I typed represents the negative thoughts, the lies, the deception that plagued my mind, and has plagued my mind for a good while. The difference between the pre-camp negativity, and the negativity experienced during camp was that God finally revealed to me how strong this negativity was in my life and that it was a sin prohibiting from further freedom in the Lord. Further more, He was began to teach me how He wanted to overcome this sin in my life. 
         Over the course of the weeks following camp and continuing now, I have been studying the scriptures to see who I am in Christ; who I have become as a result of Christ's death. The Lord is renewing my mind replacing the negative self-destructive thoughts with holy thoughts; with confident thoughts of who God has made me to be. It began with Psalm 139; if you read the post that precedes this one. What I am seeing and believing now, is what Chelsea, and so many others around me recognize -- CHRIST. They see Christ in me. They see the new self, whereas I was totally focused upon the old self. Their confidence in my abilities was their confidence in God's redeeming love. They trust God to work through me knowing that I am desiring to serve the Lord faithfully. 
         Until this summer, I unknowingly walked primarily in fear. Fear that crippled and controlled me. It dictated my life in many ways because my actions served to please man and it prevented me from acting for fear of disapproval and rejection. However, glory to the Lord, for He is now teaching me to walk in confidence in Him. To be able to lead with confidence knowing God is my authority. To truly believe that I am who the Bible says I have become as a result of Christ's death and resurrection and my belief of that! Praise be to God for I am "fearfully and wonderfully made!" - Psalm 139: 14.  

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ise Oluwa

Here is a recording of about 30 adults singing "Ise Oluwa," a Nigerian song. The words are Ise Oluwa Kole baje oh. The translation is "What the Creator has made can never be destroyed." The teacher who taught it, did not mention much about the piece and tried to compare the Creator and not being destroyed to energy, and how it just changes to something different. However, I see differently. The song itself, as you'll hear, starts in unison and then splits to three-part harmony. Not the best quality but the beauty of the song is still there. With the video, I have added a few photos taken of our Creator's creation. It will never be destroyed just like our souls, for those who are in Christ Jesus. 

video



(Rochester, NY skyline)





(Lake Ontario, NY)




(Sunset on Lake Michigan)





(Early morning, King's Domain, OH)





(Lake Ontario, NY)






Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Psalm 139: 13-18

"For you formed my inward parts..."

             Father, as I was being formed in my mother's womb, only you saw my creation. You were the potter, and I was the clay being molded by your divine will. 


"My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret."

             Lord, even amongst all the chaos of this world, you took the time to form together my body, which, would one day be returned in service to you! Abba, you knew the length of my arms and feet before they had a shape. You knew the number of hairs on my head! All of this you determined and saw before my heart began beating. 

"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made!" 
(Fearfully set apart) 

             Before the world began you recognized my as a child! Father, you knew my life would be set apart! I would wander away from you, only to return, like the prodigal child, to you, my Heavenly Father. I pray that you will teach me to understand the depth and the meaning behind being "fearfully set apart." Each and every day teach me, and reveal to me the magnitude of being a son of yours! 
              Only you saw my "unformed substance" as it was hidden in "the depths of the Earth." Only you saw the days that were laid out for me. 

"In your book were written, everyone of them, the days that were formed for me."

  • You saw my birth
  • You saw the days that I would travel as a lost sheep. Building my existence on things that would only corrupt and tear me apart from the inside. 
  • You saw the nights I would cry in desperation to you, tormented by the unrecognized sin in my life. 
  • You saw the day my mother would pass away. 
  • You then saw how her death would lead me to an acknowledgement of your existence and how you are greater and can never be taken away! 
  • You saw the day I would meet the spiritual mentor that I had unknowingly searching for, which would lead to a renewed and desire to serve and follow you.  
  • You saw everything. 
  • You see everything. 
  • You see what is ahead of me. 
  • You see the day I will join my brothers and sisters in the promised land! 
                 Abba, with each breath I take, may I never forget of the intimate relationship I have with you through Jesus Christ. May I never forget the intricate time you took forming me and shaping out my days! May this knowledge and truth  fill me and fight off the lies the enemy tries to throw at me attacking my identity. When I am faced with a lie, may you remind me that You, the most supreme being, created me! I am just a fragment of your beautifully painted canvas, but you know about me! You know everything about me! I pray Lord, that I will not remember this out of selfish ambition, but out of complete and utter joy for you; out of a recognition of your omnipotence! 

"How precious to me are your thoughts O God! if I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake and I am still with you!"

                   To think of your great mind O Father, is to settle with knowledge that is unfathomable! You, who causes the sun and moon to rise, who separated the Heavens, the earth, and the sea,  who provides for the robins in the air, and the lilies in the fields, takes the time to form each precious body and breath life into them! 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Awakened Sinner

O my forgetful soul, 

Awake from they wandering dream;
turn from chasing vanities,
look inward, forward, upward
view thyself,
reflect upon thyself,
Who and what thou art, why here,
what thou must soon be. 
Thou art a creature of God, 
formed and furnished by him, 
lodged in a body like a shepherd in his tent;
Dost thou not desire to know God's ways?

O God, 

Thou injured, neglected, provoked Benefactor
when I think upon thy greatness and they goodness
I am ashamed at my insensibility, 
I blush to lift up my face, 
for I have foolishly erred. 
Shall i go on neglecting thee, 
when everyone of thy rational creatures 
should love thee, 
and take every care to please thee?
I confess that thou hast not been in all my thoughts, 
that the knowledge of thyself as the end of
my being has been strangely overlooked, 
that I have never seriously considered
my hear-need. 
But although my mind is perplexed and divided, 
my nature perverse, 
yet my secret dispositions still desire thee. 
Let me not delay to come to thee;
Break the fatal enchantment that binds
my evil affections,
and bring me to a happy mind that rests in thee, 
for thou hast made me and canst not forget me. 
Let thy Spirit teach me the vital lessons of Christ, 
for I am slow to learn;
And hear thou my broken cries. 

--Puritan Prayer for "The Valley of Vision"

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Rise and shine

         So it is currently 5:45 and I am somewhere in SC heading to Orlando FL. I am traveling to do some mission work with my old youth group from when I was in public school. Our youth director, who happens to be a dear friend that I grew up with, is the one driving because if you know me, you know that I do not function well at night!
        Anyway so in between naps, conversations, sing-a-longs, and a few quick pit stops, the Devil has found time to slip in a few attacks knowing that my eyes are rarely, and I mean rarely, open during the wee hours of the morning. It has been a pretty consistent battle in just dealing with emotional junk. It started with anger and bitterness as a result of selfishness and then worked its way into the form of lust. It's frustrating to no end when the enemy takes a simple friendship and tries to tarnish it by twisting thoughts on at least one end.
        So after my 4:30-5:00 AM nap, I woke up very burdened with lust. My heart and mind felt trapped. I began to worry about how this could affect my ministry during my next encounter with this person. However, it was at that moment that I partook in one of the joys of being wide awake at the crack of dawn; I got to see the sunrise. I witnessed a line of clouds taking the form of a curtain as the sky became illuminated with golds and blues. Cirrus clouds had a pinkish glow to them and the sky was therefore painted the way God had intended it to look on this day.
It was at that moment that I thought of Matthew 6: 25-34:


""Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,
yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'
For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."


              I shared this sat of verses with a very dear friend who is dealing with her own troubles and needed the reminder just like I do now. Even though the verses speak about anxiety in regards to provision, I can see application for myself. Jesus challengers the listeners to think about the birds of the air and lilies of the field. Neither worry about being clothed or storing up food. Yet our Father in Heaven provides for them each day. If He provides for the birds and the grass how much more will he provide for His children?!? That is what I was reminded of this morning. I saw this promise in the sunrise! We serve a faithful God; one who promises not to allow us to be tempted beyond our control. He will provide an escape. He will provide freedom from the lust I faced this morning or from whatever any of us will face. The freedom comes in the form of His son, Jesus Christ, who died to free me from the very sin I encountered at 5:00 AM! Glory be to the one who saves our souls! Who preserves our spirits for the day we are delivered into His kingdom!!




The sunrise looked similar to this, although this picture does 0 justice!

Friday, April 6, 2012

In Christ Alone

"He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power." 
-- Hebrews 1:3

I give my thanks to a dear friend who spontaneously but this verse on the door to my apartment. This verse has captivated my recently. It has caused me to be in awe of the power, beauty, character etc. of Jesus. 

"In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. and being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek."
--Hebrews 5: 7-10

So beautiful, so humbling, so powerful, that here is my Savior, fully human, bearing the punishment of man that should be placed upon me! 

Yet, somehow, I have recently allowed myself to listen to lies that my hope needs to be in how gifted I am with music, or how many people come up to talk to me after church, or how often I am called and invited over. Somehow, I lost my identity in Christ. My identity became fueled by the approval of others. Now I know that very indirectly do I connect the scripture from above with what I write here, but in my walk I needed to be captivated by Jesus again. That's really all I have to say at this point. However, I will share this song with you that a very awesome couple shared with me a while ago. 


"In Christ Alone"
by Keith and Kristyn Getty

Ezekiel

       I have spent the past few weeks reading Ezekiel. Up to the chapter that I am at now, it has been filled with prophecies foretelling God's judgement on Jerusalem and surrounding nations. There are headings for various sections of the chapters that speak of the condemnation; such as "Jerusalem will be destroyed" (chp 5), "Judgement against idolatry" (chp 6), "False prophets condemned" (chp 13) etc.  Chapter 34 starts, as the commentary describes it, the final division of the book, where instead of condemnation, Ezekiel's prophecies speak of the restoration of Israel that will come through God! How beautiful it is that the restoration begins with God searching for his sheep and seeking them out. He (God) will then place His shepherd (Jesus) over them! How wonderful! I leave you with Ezekiel 34: 11-31 (ESV). I pray that you will see Jesus, and how great out Shepherd will be to us! 


          "For thus says the Lord God; Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places there they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will brig them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the far and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. 
            "As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must read down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddled with your feet? 
               "Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer by a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. And I will set up over them on shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken. 
                "I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. They shall no more be a prey to the nations, no more shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. And I will provide for them renowned plantations so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord god. And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord God."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Confession

"Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins."
-- James 5: 13 - 20


              There was a period of time that I truly wrestled with God over whether I needed to confess a certain sin to other believers in my life. A sin that I had confessed to God and knew that I had received forgiveness for, but still remained a consistent struggle in my life. What would be the advantage of me sharing that sin? It would only show people how sinful I am (there's some good old pride for ya)! What are people going to think if I confess it to them? They are going to want nothing to do with me (still more pride)! Meanwhile, at home, at Kroger's, and various other places, the sin was almost mocking me with how often it would appear and plague me! 
              Finally, after months of praying and seeking God's wisdom on the matter, the moment came for me to open up. A friend shared the set of verses from James. I read it realizing how foolish I was in not seeking the prayer, the aid, the strength from loved ones in fighting this sin. Yes, the Lord has already won the victory for me, but others needed to know to hold me accountable. Others needed to know so that they could pray for me. Others needed to join me in this fight. Ultimately though, God needed to receive the glory for how He was and is cleansing and giving me a new heart. 
              So over the course of a few months I entered this period of confession, where, to brothers in various numbers, I became transparent confessing my past, the struggles I face, and how others could pray for me. I confessed the sins and how from it other sins arose in the form of lies and deception, but glory be to God that He still chose to use me despite it! After each confession we prayed and I instantaneously felt deeper strength in the Lord. As the stronghold from the enemy was weakened, the "rock" that I was standing on became wider and sturdier. The Lord revealed to me how much progress He had made in cleansing me; how I was a son of His, never to return to the sin that used to corrupt and deteriorate me. 
              The period has essentially ended with my girl friend and I confessing our brokenness to one another. We felt that it was important for our relationship if we were transparent with one another. After the confessing, Christ looked so much more beautiful and our relationship was strengthened as Christ serves as the basis of it. We will grow stronger together, and be able to glorify our Lord more, as we become more saturated in His truth and spirit! 
              The verses from James really came to life during this time. There is strength in confessing our sins not only to God, but to others in the faith who will earnestly join us in the battle. It is safe to say that what remains of the sin that haunted me is just dust. Even though there are still memories and other aspects of the sin remaining, I know that it does not affect me in the way it used to. My eyes are fixed upon the cross where even before I was born, Jesus, my savior, died for this sin. There is no longer a stronghold. The enemy has been shamed and defeated!