Posted in Hope, Jesus

God Has a Plan

I know, it’s cheesy and probably everyone and their mom has heard this at least once, but do we really take the time to understand and accept it? How often do we find ourselves stressing or worrying about something? Even something that is several days or weeks away. You say, “Of course I believe God has a plan,” but if that was really the case, then why are you stressing or worrying about it In the first place? Why do we consistently worry about things that haven’t happened yet? We aren’t even garunteed tomorrow and we’re worrying about that thing we have to do next weekend? I have found that the things I worry about the most are the things that’s typically turn out to be the best. So when I say that God has a plan, He really has a plan. I always end up feeling a little embarrassed by the fact that I stressed over that event so much when it turned out to be great. It makes me realize that I should have trusted God from the beginning. Worrying about something doesn’t change anything about it, it just causes you to be stressed when you shouldn’t be. My girlfriend is the kind of person who can find literally the smallest stuff to worry about. I always have to tell her that there is no point in worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet. That probably doesn’t make any sense at first, but think about it like this: you really don’t know if anything good or bad will happen, and you don’t even know if it will happen, and you know God has a plan. What’s the point in worrying? God can make even the worst situations work out for the best. Don’t let your worry make you forget this. Oh, one more thing. 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” (Genesis 1:1). You say, “Duh Justin, I’ve heard that verse 100 times.” But have you ever really truly considered what that means? God created this earth and everything and everyone in it. He literally has control over every aspect of this planet, bc He’s the one who created it. So on top of every miracle He ever did in the Bible, we have the hope that in the end, He owns everything, therefore He has control over it. He won’t let anything happen to us that isn’t in His will as long as we follow it. Nothing can conquer the power of God, so why do you act like even the little stuff can? 

Stay strong. Stay faithful. 

-Justin

Posted in Jesus

Suffering with Jesus

Last week I attended Passion 2017, and there were definitely some big things I learned. Probably the most important one, however, was how necessary suffering is. I know, you don’t want to hear that. It’s something I’ve avoided for so long. I hate suffering, so the thought of it being necessary sucks. But don’t leave yet, hear me out first. Jesus Christ suffered more than anyone ever has or ever will. Think about that really bad feeling you get when you do something wrong, and multiply that by 7 billion. That’s just how much He suffered for the people that exist today, there are so many that were born before us and will be born after us. So if Jesus had to go through all of that, why are we so hesitant to suffer even a little bit for Him? Why are we so selfish when it comes to living for Christ?  The thing we have to realize is that suffering is not bad for us. In fact, suffering is a good thing. God puts the people who He had has the biggest plans for through the most. I’ve said that long before Passion, but that was something I said mostly just to cope with what I’ve already been through. It never occurred to me to actually embrace suffering in an almost masochistic fashion. But then Katherine and Jay Wolfe opened up my eyes to what it truly means to suffer. I won’t go into their story, but they have been through a lot more than I could ever imagine, and they acted as if suffering was the greatest thing that could ever happen to them. If I had faith like that, how different my life would look. Suffering is a blessing. We aren’t to find joy in our suffering (James 1) to make it easier, we are to find joy in the suffering itself, because God gives suffering to those He loves. Think about every important person in the Bible and find me one that didn’t have to suffer at some point to make their story so important. Suffering is something that we as Christians, and even us millennials, need to learn how to embrace. Because without suffering, we can never grow. And without suffering, we will never truly live. 

– Justin

Posted in Hope

Living with a Mental Illness 

Living with a mental illness is something I deal with on the daily. It’s something that is unpredictable and inconvenient. It won’t fit itself to your schedule or your needs. It won’t take your feelings into consideration. It is violent. It is unrelenting. And it sucks. Everyday is just another battle to stay sane. Everyday you continue to do the things that only make sense to you. Everyday you have to deal with the abuse you are suffering from your own mind. Everyday. Everyday. It’s not a battle. It’s a life-long war. You’ve heard the stories of the people who have gotten help; the people who have seen such a dramatic difference in their lives that they became different people. They beat it. You, however, you have to live with it. You have to live with yourself. You push people away and make excuses. No one could ever understand. Living with a mental illness is like living in Hell, except the devil is your own mind. It sucks. You’ve probably thought about giving up. Maybe you have given up. Maybe you don’t see the point in trying anymore. Maybe you don’t see the point to life. 

The thing you have to remember about living with a mental illness is that it makes you strong. Everyday you fight it you are victorious. Even if that victory for you just meant getting out of bed. It’s a victory, and should be treated as such. Every day you simply stay alive is a victory. You are strong. You can accomplish so much more than you will ever know. Your mental illness doesn’t define you as a person. You don’t have to let it control you. It always gets better. No matter how bad it is, it always gets better. The longer you fight, the stronger you will be. Then one day, it won’t have a hold on you anymore, and you’ll be able to take on the world. Your mental Illness does not make you any less you. Live your life. Run wild. Live free. Love strong. Be you. And be the best version of you. You’re always gonna have good days and bad days, but you’re gonna keep your head up and you aren’t gonna give up. And no matter what happens, just remember that you are never alone. Ever. You can do it. Get out of bed, and take over the world today. This world needs you in it. Trust me; everyone is here for a reason. Go find yours. 

Posted in Jesus

An Abusive Relationship with God?

I know, it’s a crazy concept, but hear me out. I could give you a list of 20 ways to know if you are guilty of this, but we all are so I won’t. Look, here’s the deal, whether or not you are in a relationship, you probably know what an abusive relationship looks like. If you’re partner does not let you have a say in anything, is embarrassed of you in public, likes to take advantage of you, blatantly and intentionally does things to hurt you, or likes to make you feel inferior to them, then you may be in an abusive relationship. Many people have experienced this, and even more have no idea this is taking place. It’s a sad situation for sure, but what’s  even sadder is that these people typically don’t leave their abuser, because they are still in love with them. Is this starting to sound familiar? 

How many times in just a week do you do at least one of these things to God? If we’re being honest, we all do pretty much all of these things on a daily basis, and most of the time we do so without fully realizing it. It’s sad but true. And if you don’t see where I am coming from, let me put it into perspective: how many times a day do you sin? Because every time you sin, you are blatantly and intentionally hurting God. How many times in a week are you ashamed of your faith, or afraid to get made fun of for it? Because at those times you are embarrassed of God. How many times in life have you gone against what God has clearly told you to do your own thing? You were telling God that He doesn’t get a say in your life. How often do you tell God that you don’t need His help, and that you can do it yourself? That’s you trying to make God seem inferior. Is this starting to make sense? No matter who you are, you’ve done these things. 

Don’t be fooled though, God isn’t finished in power or made lower by any of these things. You can’t control him like an abuser does to their partner. He can’t be brought down by how you treat Him, and it will not change anything about Him. But it does hurt Him. He hurts when His children. Turn away from Him to sin and pursue their own desires. It doesnt hurt Him because He trusts us, it hurts Him because he cares. He only wants the best for us, and He knows that’s Him. Yet, we all pursue what we want, and continue to treat God like He doesn’t deserve a special place in our life. Can you imagine a relationship in which a boy literally allowed his son to die just to save her life? Where he gave her everything, and was everything she had ever wanted and more, and yet she abused him relentlessly? People would be shocked, and they would immediately label her as awful. For some reason, however, when we are that girl, and God is that boy, we’re suddenly not the bad guys anymore. Funny how that works isn’t it? We all need to get more serious about how we treat our relationship with God. He gave it all for us, we should at least be able to give Him 10 minutes of our days. God’s immense love for us will surpass anything that this world has to offer, so stop choosing the world over God. To conclude, the standards that you hold God to should be higher than the standards you hold anyone else to. Honestly though, abuse is wrong no matter who it is. 

Posted in Uncategorized

Why.

To the old black woman at the polls who voted for Hillary but had to get my mom’s help because she couldn’t see the ballot, I’m sorry. To one of my childhood best friends, whose family didn’t even speak English, I’m sorry. To the kids at school who are trying their absolute hardest, but are only getting by because of the welfare their parents are given, who probably won’t succeed in life now, I’m sorry. To everyone who has ever been treated unfairly or unjustly, for no reason and no one helped, I’m sorry. This election was about more than policies or political views; this election was about humanity. It was about our basic right to live. I seriously feel like someone close to me died, and the more I think about all of the people who are going to get hurt because of this, the bigger the pit in my stomach gets. We just gave a man who supports racism, sexism, homophobia, and inequality the most influential position in America. So before you tell me that you don’t believe in that stuff but you voted for Trump, go say it to that little boy who is about to lose her family, or that girl who could have been something great, but has been assaulted, and nobody is going to do a thing about it. Now, every time someone verbally assaults a woman, no one can say that’s wrong. Why? Because even our president does it. It just blows my mind that we just jumped back 60 years, and that we just undid every advance we have made so far in equality and civil rights. But it’s not over yet. We’ve done it before, we can do it again. We may be fighting nonstop for the next 4 years, but at least we will be fighting. Let’s stand up for the people who need a hero, and let’s help the people who need help. No one can take away your right to do good and love others. Yes, I’m still completely distraught, but I do believe in hope, and the future. And we can overcome this. Be sad, but don’t give up. Ever. I love you guys. Stay safe. 

Posted in Uncategorized

Equality: The Most Basic Human Right

I was asked today why I am so obsessed with equality. While it’s true that I haven’t always been this way, the past year, and more importantly the past few months, have dramatically opened my eyes to the injustices and oppression in this world. I remember I got involved with black lives matter bc it was just common sense to me at the time. This was long before black lives matter was even a movement. It was just a hash tag. I didn’t even fully believe in equality at that time, and it only took common sense for me to jump on board. 

It’s common sense that our country is supposed to stand for the phrase “All men are created equal”. So what happened to that exactly? Nowadays, so-called patriotism is defined as basically hating anyone who isn’t straight and white. It’s defined as a country where we have one belief system (in true Christianity, however, this isn’t even possible), one dominent race, and lifestyles that are dictated by the opinions of the vast majority. This is supposedly what democracy is supposed to look like according to hardcore Conservatives. I guess if you’re into that kind of thing, that’s cool, but most of us aren’t. We live in a generation of free-thinkers. We don’t want to be bound by anything that doesn’t let us be ourselves. And truth be told, nothing should stop you from being yourself. We all have the basic human right of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, so why is it that so many people want to limit those rights if they somehow offend them? The basis of our country, The Constitution, is honestly based on the idea of equality. How some people believe that Conservatism accomplishes this is a mystery to me. 

But this doesn’t just end at the law. Most of these people who are part of the problem say that they are doing so because they are “Christians”. Being a Christian myself, and actually having read the Bible, I can promise you that no part of it tells us to persecute others. In fact, the majority of the teachings of Jesus say the exact opposite. They say to “love your neighbors as yourself”, and to not judge others. So please explain to me how racism, homophobia, gender inequality, and Islamophobia align with that. Please, because I don’t see it.

People can’t help how they are born and they shouldn’t have to. No one should feel sorry for who they are as a person or for the choices in life that make them happy. No one. It’s why we have equality. They have done nothing but live, and it is not fair to them that you don’t like that. Like, how can you be offended by someone simply being alive??

We need peace. Love. Equality. 

We need hope. 

Don’t be part of the problem. Please.

Posted in Brokenness

Help Me. 

Why am I still stuck here?

Why has nothing changed?

Why am I still like this?

Just when I think I can make it out alive, I’m sucked right back into my own little vortex.

I feel so hopeless.

I feel so lost.

I’ll probably get better for a few days and then I’ll be here again. 

And the scariest part of all…

…is trying to imagine a future like this. 

I don’t know why God keeps helping me.

I don’t know how He hasn’t given up on me yet.

But that’s just who He is. 

He continues to give more grace.

And I think that’s what hurts the most.

Posted in Uncategorized

Why I Support #blacklivesmatter

Let’s talk about #blacklivesmatter

Okay so today at school a club I’m in called No Place for Hate decided to silently protest police brutality by wearing victims’ names and sitting in our school courtyard. We were stopped by one of our assisstant principals before we even started, and all 30 of us ended up in the head principal’s office. Long story short, we spent two hours in there talking about equality and being told why we couldn’t do what we were about to do. Do I believe it was entirely our principal’s fault? No. I do, however, believe that we live in a nation with a screwed up system that needs to be fixed. Now, before people start arguing, I want to make a point.

60 years ago civil rights were a big issue. It’s not even a question to us now that racism was rampant and that change needed to come. The funny thing, however, is that people who were alive back then don’t typically remember it like how our history books teach it. Not all white people members of the KKK, and not all black people were part of the Black Panthers. There are bad people on both sides of every issue. No one is saying all police officers are bad. If this was an isolated incident then that would be one thing, but it’s not and it continues to happen, and there is no justice for the victims of this. Something you have to remember when talking about all of this is that black people were definitely discriminated against and there was serious injustice in our society. Looking back on it, we know that those laws were stupid, and every white person who ever attacked a black person seemed ignorant. The funny thing is, they didn’t see it like that back then. Back then, that was just the laws, and no one batted an eye when a white person attacked a black person. The only people who seemed to notice where the people who led the civil rights movement that eventually led to reforms in the law. So for anyone who thinks that we can’t make a difference, just take a moment to reread the second half of that sentence. Now, 60 years later we look back on that and we think it’s insane that the laws were like that. What are people going to think in another 60 years when they look back and see all these cops who walked free and all this racism running rampant? We have a chance right here and now, with our generation to make a difference. We can start a new movement. 

Finally, to conclude, I want to talk about why I support #blacklivesmatter over any other equality movement. It’s a quote you’ve probably heard before. Look at it like this: a house is on fire in a subdivision. The fire department isn’t going to show up and put water on all the houses because all houses matter. No, they’re going to put water on the house that’s burning beccause that’s the house that needs the water the most. It’s not about saying black lives matter more than anyone else, that’s just ignorant. Let me end with this: if you were being treated unfairly, wouldn’t you want someone to stand up for you?

No justice, no peace

Posted in Jesus

I Still Don’t Know How to Like Myself

I still don’t know how to like myself.

It’s been months since I hated myself. My life is great. I have purpose. I have direction. I have everything I’ve ever wanted. And people like me. I have great friends who actually care about me. I have a girlfriend who loves me. I’ve finally found something I’m good at, and that other people love me for. Something that benefits other people. I’m so happy, and I’m so passionate. Life is amazing. But I still dont know how to like myself. 

It seems like no matter what I still feel like everyone is just pretending to like me. I still take things too far most of the time and then when I realize how stupid I’m acting I just kinda shut down. I don’t know. I just don’t know how to like myself. I like who I’ve become, and I like how far I’ve come. I would honestly be friends with myself. But I still don’t like myself. Sometimes I find it really hard not to use that H word again. And it’s always there. 

But that’s not the end.

When I feel like this I like to think back to Psalm 139: 13-14. Wanna know wwhat it says? “For you formed my inward parts, you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Wow. So the God of the universe, the root of all things good, knit me together Himself. He didn’t just throw me in there and say, “Good Luck!” No, he knitted me together. Idk if you’ve ever seen anyone knit something, but that takes time, care, and patience. He knew what He was doing from the very beginning when He made me. That’s so incredible. But it gets better: I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Being fearfully and wonderfully made means that I was made to fear God, but I was also made with wonder. Just imagine for a second the thought He had to put into each and every one of us to accomplish that goal. It’s incredible really. He is good, and He doesn’t make mistakes. Whenever you don’t like yourself, just remember the time and effort He put into making you. I know it helps me. You matter, friend. You’re worth it. 

Posted in Brokenness, Hope, Jesus

Hymn for the Broken

I don’t remember exactly when I lost myself. I just remember going back to school junior year and things being different. I don’t remember exactly when I stopped telling people I loved Jesus. I just remember it getting easier to cuss in front of other people. I don’t remember when my favorite bands weren’t enough anymore. I just remember listening to music with explicit stickers on it because it was the only music I enjoyed. I don’t remember when I began to self-destruct. I just remember hating myself more than I have ever hated anything on this planet. I don’t remember when I turned my back on the people I care about. I just remember all the attention I gave to people who didn’t deserve it. I remember all of the times I got caught and that awful feeling that came with it. I remember pleading with a God I felt so far from. I remember nights on Jon’s porch, watching my life go up in cigarette smoke. I remember not being able to think, because as soon as I did I would start to feel like I was drowning again. I remember when the nightmares weren’t as bad, because they provided brief escapes from reality. I remember hurting myself. I remember hurting everyone else just as much. I remember hopelessness.

I remember my breaking point.

I remember when I stopped running from God.

And even now, months later when I’m on my way to a life of ministry with a love for God and the people He has placed in my life like never before, I still feel it. I still remember. I feel like an outsider to these people. Like, how can I be this leader when I’m still not over everything I’ve done. But that’s where Jesus comes in. 

Romans 3:23-24 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Do you get what that means?? It means that 1. Everyone has sinned so you are not alone, and 2. You are justified by His grace!! It does not matter who you are or what you have done, you have been given the gift of grace! You can never do enough to make God stop loving you. Ever. He’s just that cool. And when He forgives you, everything just kinda has a way of working itself out. I have been saved by grace, therefore my former self no longer matters. My former self is irrelevant. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? I don’t know how you got here or why you are here, but if you find yourself somewhere in here, just remember it’s not over yet. Jesus saves. And no matter how awful you think you are, you can never do too much to be forgiven. Remember that in your struggles friend. And don’t hate yourself for the things you do, please. You were made too perfectly by God to hate yourself. You were made in His image. And finally, don’t be afraid to reach out. I promise you will eventually find at least one person who cares. God will give you that person. And trust me you need them. Don’t feel selfish for not being okay. Everything will be okay, friend. Jesus loves you.