That’s when God wants to hear you sing

SupermanCrusader

It’s been two months since my last blog post. At the time, I wrote about my amazing Dad (a.k.a. Superman). This post is also about Superman, but it is one I never wanted to write. It’s a post that, honestly, I wish I never had to consider. Allow me to provide some context.

Two weeks ago, I planned for a weekend of fun with Dad to celebrate his 53rd birthday. We were going to spend some time at home watching college football together and with BigDaddy and Nana. Baylor playing Texas Tech, UMHB playing ETBU, and of course, the Red River Rivalry between the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners. On Sunday, I was going to take him to the church I work at as a part-time custodian, Seventh and James Baptist Church in Waco, TX. Then as a birthday present, we were going to have some food at On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina. It was going to be a blast.

I got home Thursday evening, the eve of his birthday on October 11, and we were already talking about the food we were going to eat on Sunday. I couldn’t wait. Friday, his birthday, I took him to Scott & White for his CT scan. By the time we got home, he became quite sick with nausea and a headache, so we decided to take him to the hospital at Scott & White Round Rock. I was hoping that maybe it was just a reaction to all that nasty stuff they make you drink before the scans.

After a night spent in the hospital, he had an MRI. Then, from his hospital room, we watched the Texas game, both becoming irritated at their losing to the Sooners. Not long after, a doctor revealed to us what the MRI found. There is a spot in his brain, and if treated with radiation, could lead to significant brain damage. Then she mentioned the word that pierced my heart. Hospice. She asked if we wanted to consider end of life care. I was at a loss for words. My jaw dropped, my heart raced, and I felt a nauseating sensation in the pit of my stomach.

Hospice? I couldn’t wrap my mind around this. So many thoughts flooded my mind. I want him to see me preach my first sermon. I want him to see me graduate from seminary, to see me become an ordained minister, get my first ministry position, watch me fall in love, and get married. I had even asked if he would officiate the ceremony when the time came. I want him to spoil his future grandkids. And I know that these are all things he wanted to experience with me as well. The thought that he might not get to experience these events with me filled me with grief, sadness, and anxiety. But more than anything, I just don’t want to say goodbye to my Dad, my Superman, my best friend.

At this point, as I am typing this, I am weeping. I still can’t face the reality that all of this is happening. If a complete stranger asks me, “How are you doing?” my answer is “good.” If you know me well enough, I’ve reached the point, where I’m blunt about it. I’m not good. I’m not fine. I am in pain. And yet, I find peace in a Heavenly Father who walks with us in all of our struggles and pain.

Fortunately for me, I am surrounded by wonderful and kind people at Truett and Seventh & James. I have received encouragement and prayers from friends in Texas, Oklahoma, and Iowa. Former high school teachers have uplifted my spirits. My church families at Lawler Baptist, FBC Florence, and FBC Belton are praying with my family and me. Pastors have helped bring me peace and comfort during this time. To help me get my mind off things, my former government teacher from high school spent late into the evening one night, conversing with me about other things. I felt we could talk for hours. We would have probably talked longer if I didn’t have homework and an 8AM class the next day. Others cried with me. One of my former teachers simply reminded me that God loves me and that she loves me. Dr. Todd Still, the dean of the seminary, gave me a hug and assured me he would be praying for my family. My new friends at Truett have shown me their kindness each day. Professors in have encouraged me more than I could ever thank them. I am thankful for all of these people. Also for close friends in Cody Earp, Greggory and Amberlee Miller, Katie Stringer, and Michael Baker. Also for so many others not mentioned here. I don’t know how I could handle this without these wonderful people in my life.

Going back to Dad’s hospital stay, I remember him thanking Jesus and telling our Lord and Savior how much he loves Him. I have never kept it a secret that the one human being who has given me this steadfast love for and faith in God more than anyone else has been my Dad. We have faced so many challenges, even before his first cancer diagnosis in 2013. In the midst of these trials, and still today, Dad gives me hope. He reminds me to trust in the goodness and sovereignty of our Heavenly Father. Yes. We declare. With all our hearts. God is still good. Even when everything seems so overwhelming, God is still good.

I believe in miracles. So, I am constantly praying for one. I’m praying for a miraculous healing for Dad so he can be here for many years to come. But even if that miracle doesn’t happen the way we want it, I still have hope in Christ. It hasn’t been easy. There has been lamenting. I have also said words I so desperately wanted to take back. I’m not perfect. I don’t claim to be. But I still have hope in Christ Jesus. Dad has instilled in me that hope. Speaking of miracles, I believe meeting Christ in Heaven, no longer suffering on Earth, is a miracle too. I just hope for one that allows me to spend so much more time with my Superman here on Earth. Call me selfish if you want, but I want him to be at my wedding. Recently, he reminded me that he will certainly be there in one form or another.

Last week, Dad reminded me of his favorite verse in scripture: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV). Why am I still hopeful, given all of our challenges, especially this one? The answer is faith. My faith is in Christ Jesus. I am confident that Christ is with me. I trust in His amazing grace and sovereignty.

Every night, no matter how busy I get, and right now we’re in the middle of midterms, so I’m talking busy, I take time to video chat Dad. This is something I look forward to daily, and that is ending my day seeing his smile and us telling each other about our day and how much we love each other. Sometimes, there are WiFi issues, so occasionally, we must settle with a simple phone call, but the point is that I end each day spending time with Dad even when I’m at Baylor.

I’ve been singing numerous songs lately. This includes hymns such as “In the Garden,” “It is Well,” “Amazing Grace,” and my all-time favorite, “Because He Lives.” I’ve also listened to some newer songs on repeat. “Holy Ground” by Passion, “All My Hope” by David Crowder and Tauren Wells, “Way Maker” by Leeland, and “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons & Daughters.

I love music. It’s uplifting. It reminds me of the faith I have in Christ, the same faith Dad has shown me my entire life. Growing up, a wonderful couple of evangelists, Paul and Vanessa Cherry, would lead revival at Lawler Baptist each year. A song they sang by Greater Vision that I have listened to and have sung to myself for years is “God Wants to Hear You Sing.” The chorus goes like this:

God wants to hear you sing
When the waves are crashing round you
When the firey darts surround you
When despair is all you see
God wants to hear your voice
When the wisest man has spoken
And says your circumstance is as hopeless as can be
That’s when God wants to hear you sing

Now I find myself singing even more often. In crowds at worship events and sometimes with a hymnal in my apartment. In the midst of everything around me, with the weight and burdens I’m carrying, when everything seems so overwhelming, I am singing. I am using these songs to cry out to God. I am using them as a source of encouragement. I am using them to remind me of God’s goodness. I am using them in prayer and in my lament. God has granted me with so many wonderful songs of his love, grace, and the blessed assurance that He is there.

To my Superman, I love you. Thank you for this level of faith I have in our good, good, Heavenly Father. You have been and continue to be the strongest person I know. I love you beyond description. Though this challenge is great, God is greater. When sadness overwhelms us, I will continue singing, “That’s when God wants to hear you sing!”


Griffin, Rodney. “God Wants to Hear You Sing.” Google Play Lyrics. Web. 25 Oct. 2019.


God Wants to Hear You Sing by Greater Vision

All My Hope by David Crowder and Tauren Wells

God Moves Strong!

2018BlogPhoto1

In just three days, I will begin studying at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary. If you were to ask me to name one person, here on earth, who has made the most impact in my life and my desire to pursue ministry, you would get a quick answer. My Dad.

Throughout my 25 years of existence on earth so far, Dad has been my source of strength, compassion, and wisdom. I simply could not fathom how my life would have been without this Godly man to serve me as my father. Even before I was born, he chose the name of Joshua for me. The Hebrew origin of the name means, “The Lord (YAHWEH) is my salvation.” Dad chose this name for me to serve as a reminder that the Lord is always with us.

Growing up, Dad taught me how to pray. I still remember keeping a prayer journal and we would use it to pray for those on our prayer list each night. When I was young, he helped me fall in love with God’s Word by reading me the stories of the Bible. When I had questions, it seemed to me that he had all the answers. One of my other favorite things I would do with Dad was a little guessing game we used to play. One of us would hum (I couldn’t whistle and am still unable to do so) the melodies of our favorite hymns while the other would have to guess which hymn was being hummed.

These are just some of the many memories I have of Dad guiding me along my spiritual journey. He has and continues to be the Godliest man I know. In some of the darkest valleys, he has reminded me to always trust in God’s plan for our lives. In moments of great joy, we have given God the glory for those good things.

When he went back to college while I was in elementary school, he chose the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. Occasionally, he took me with him to the campus, allowed me to sit in on a couple classes of his, and over time I too fell in love with what would become an alma mater to us both.

For several decades now, Dad’s passion has been working with kids who have special needs. Part of this stems from taking care of some of the kids my grandparents cared for in foster care and later through adoption into our amazing family. As he worked on his education degree while at UMHB, Dad also worked with many kids in the public-school system who have had various special needs. I have seen the love he has for ministering to kids in this way firsthand. That, in addition to the many stories of how great of an impact these students have had on him, have given me a passion for loving and serving others. His humor (sometimes filled with sarcasm and practical jokes), compassion, and hard work ethic have helped shape me into who I am today. His love for others has inspired me to love others, which has now led me to begin the exciting journey that is a seminary education.

Going into my sophomore year at UMHB, I was thrilled about new classes, new opportunities, and the new friends I would make while being involved in student-led ministries. Roughly a month before the start of the 2013-2014 academic year, I received news that no one wants to hear. “Your dad has cancer.” I was in shock and absolute disbelief. I could not understand how the strongest man I knew had cancer. It was beyond my comprehension that the same person who cared for me my entire life— waited on me when I was hospitalized both as a 4th grader and as a senior in high school, took me to all of my doctor’s appointments, and prayed with me when I couldn’t understand what was wrong with my health— had cancer.

Yet even after his first surgery that summer, he pointed to the heavens repeatedly and said, “Thank you, Jesus.” In the years that followed, he continued to praise a living, amazing, good, good, Heavenly Father who watches over us. In his moments of most difficult pain, he would listen to Kari Jobe and the Gaither Vocal Band on repeat, still praising God with his every breath.

After he defeated cancer the first time and finished chemo, I said, “Hey Dad. Wear your Superman shirt and let’s take a picture.” Since then, I have often called him my Superman, and plenty of people will ask me on occasion, “How’s Superman doing?” One of my closest friendships at UMHB started when a young woman came up to my Dad during Spring Revival (we only knew each other through Facebook at that point) and said, “Is this your Superman?” After I said yes, she shook Dad’s hand, and said, “Sir, I love you so much. You are such an inspiration.” When my Dad beat cancer the first time, we praised God together.

SuperDadandMe

Then I reached Junior year at UMHB and Dad developed a brief infection from chemo that made him feel far worse than the chemotherapy ever did. I couldn’t wrap my brain around how much pain he went through. As I was also struggling with Crohn’s Disease, not understanding why I was feeling extra sick one day, Dad texted me something that I will never forget to this day, something that had me in tears. His text read, verbatim:

It came to me in my weakness that God moves strong. He is shaping me into something awesome for His glory alone. Show me this text in a month and we’ll praise Him together. Love you boy.

God moves strong. God Moves Strong. GOD MOVES STRONG.

Those three words echoed in the back of my mind for some time. Any time I feel discouraged about any circumstance, I remember those words: God Moves Strong.

It reminded me of what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

What Paul reminds me here, and what Dad reminded me in that text, and still reminds me today, is that while I may not understand why difficult circumstances happen, God can use those weaknesses, those pains, those sufferings, for His glory. While at any point, we may be weak physically, emotionally, spiritually, or in any other way, God can use us and our weaknesses to show how awesome and mighty He is. It’s this simple truth that has given me so much joy, even in the midst of so many hardships. It is why my favorite hymn is a song written by Bill and Gloria Gaither, two of my favorite hymn-writers, titled, Because He Lives. Dad told me recently that he would sing this over me even before I was born. So, naturally, this song is even more meaningful to me.

Because he lives
I can face tomorrow
Because he lives
All fear is gone
Because I know he holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because he lives

It is only because of the precious blood of Jesus Christ that I can face anything. Bill and Gloria Gaither remind me of this in their song. Paul reminds me of this in scripture. Dad reminds me of this constantly each day. Even in our weaknesses, our pain, and our hurt, we can have hope in Christ Jesus. Life is worth the living because He lives. God can use every part of us for His glory, and to me that is worth celebrating every single day.

In every dark moment I have faced in life, Dad reminded me that God is always with us. In every happy occasion, Dad has taught me that we serve a magnificent God, and when we follow Him obediently, He celebrates with us in those good moments in life. In a few days, I will begin the exciting journey that is seminary. I have so many people to thank for helping me get this far in my spiritual journey. Dad is at the top of this list.

My Superman is still fighting this fight with the good news recently that most spots are either stable or shrinking. He has faced more battles than I can count, and yet he still reminds me of those three simple words he texted to me 5 years ago, words I proclaim every day.

God Moves Strong!


Gaither, William J. and Gloria Gaither, 1971. “Because He Lives.” Google Play Lyrics. Web. 21 Aug. 2019.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 21 Aug. 2019.


Because He Lives by Bill Gaither, Ben Speer, and Guy Penrod

Because He Lives by the David Crowder Band

A Living Hope

As I reflect on the past year, my mind keeps going back to a simple truth, and that is “God is always with us.” For me, the past 12 months has been quite a roller coaster of emotions, trials, hardship, good things, exciting changes, and miracles that remind me the power of our Living God.

Just 12 short months ago, I left the halls of Georgetown High School not knowing what my future would hold, yet trusting in the plans God had for my life. Several weeks later, I received a call from Academy Middle School asking if I would teach Social Studies to 6th and 7th graders. Georgetown was a blessing in my life, but God was directing me to somewhere new. I would transition from an Eagle, whose fight never dies, to a stingin’ Bumblebee. I decorated my new classroom with maps, flags, and posters of people such as MLK, Malala Yousafzai, Nelson Mandela, and Maya Angelou to remind kids (and myself) that everyone can make a positive impact on others.

Then came the start of a new school year. I greeted each of my close to 150 students as they walked into my classroom for the first time, not yet knowing what kind of impact they would have on me, but hoping that I could make at least the slightest positive impact on them. Like any teacher, I learned what activities worked and led to fun learning and what… well… didn’t. Overall, I hoped that students would learn to explore the world around them, ask questions, and embrace and respect the awesome differences of people on this planet.

Being in a Social Studies classroom, we learned of both past and current events, and sometimes this led to tough discussions as to why people have to be so cruel to others. Our collective world history has been rife with challenges and violence of individuals and groups of people with hatred and discrimination towards others. For centuries, people were taken from their homes, traded as cargo, and forced to live lives as slaves. A madman and his brown shirts sought to wipe away an entire group of people because of their Jewish faith. Marchers were beaten and killed in the American Deep South and in South Africa because they believed that everyone should be granted basic human rights including the right to simply cast their vote. Slavery still exists, Authoritarian regimes, such as China’s, are still persecuting Christians, Muslims, and others, and hateful people still attack people of faith in Pittsburgh, Christchurch, and Sri Lanka. Yes, bad things happened and still happen, but as I was reminded from the kind hearts of 6th graders, there are so many people who show love and kindness to others. If anything, I hope that the positive stories that we did share reminded them to be lights in their communities.

During our time together, we learned that in the midst of slave trading, John Newton left his work as a slave trader, repented of his wrongdoing, became a monk, wrote the words to Amazing Grace, and tirelessly campaigned to end the slave trade. Martin Luther King, Jr. used his eloquent speaking skills to rally people around the idea that people should not be judged based on the color of their skin, Malala Yousafzai proved that girls deserve an education, Irena Sendler risked her life and was tortured for daring to rescue countless kids from the Nazis, and Nelson Mandela inspired the world to join his cause in ending the Apartheid. I constantly wanted to remind kids that they too can be lights in their communities. “Who’s someone who inspires you,” I once asked. One kid replied, “J.J. Watt. He does kind things for people. I can too.”

Of course, we also learned of the varied culture in this world. Rock-a-billy, Motown, Country, Jazz, and Hip-Hop music that shaped America’s musical landscape, bizarre foods in other parts of the world, dances, holidays, sports, and the various religious traditions of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, and many others. I hope that I made Social Studies fun for students and helped them understand that while all of us are different and unique, we are also human beings who can show kindness to one another.

Before teaching about our state, our country, and our world to my students, I always prayed for a good day in which I could encourage at least one student if not more. And then there were moments where they encouraged me. There were countless times when students would stick around after class for a few more seconds to tell me something exciting happening in their lives. I learned that a student got a yorkie that she was constantly excited about. A few others wouldn’t leave my classroom until I shared at least one pun with them. Sometimes, they and others would have jokes of their own. “Did you hear about the kidnapping,” one student asked. “No.” I said. There was a slight pause before he smiled and said, “He’s okay now. He woke up.”

A few gave me drawings, plenty of different presents, and one gave me a thoughtful letter at the end of the year to thank me for teaching her things she had never learned before about history. I am thankful for my interactions with these students.

Of course, there were challenging circumstances outside of school as well. Dad’s cancer came back in several locations, including his brain, and with that, radiation and chemotherapy. Yet through all of that, Dad has been the one who has most encouraged me and has reminded me that God is there. God is with us. God will bring us through any circumstance. God is faithful. He cares for and loves us. Trust in Him always. God is good all the time.

My students saw me trying not to get emotional one day. They asked about me. I had just spoken to Dad on the phone before that class period. I told them my good thing of my Dad’s cancer shrinking. They cheered and celebrated with me. With the recent news that the spots in his brain have shrunk to almost nothing, my coworkers have also celebrated with me.

It’s difficult to understand why certain things happen, whether it’s evil in this world or a loved one battling a dreadful disease. Yet even in the midst of all of the pain and hurt in this world, I still have hope. My students have given me hope. Dad gives me hope. And the unfailing, majestic, powerful, good, good, Heavenly Father gives me hope.

We will face trials, hardship, and setbacks, but a song sung by Bethel Music I have been listening to lately reminds me that in Christ there is hope to be found.

Who could imagine so great a mercy?
What heart could fathom such boundless grace?
The God of ages stepped down from glory
To wear my sin and bear my shame
The cross has spoken, I am forgiven
The King of kings calls me His own
Beautiful Savior, I’m Yours forever
Jesus Christ, my living hope

Then came the morning that sealed the promise
Your buried body began to breathe
Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion
Declared the grave has no claim on me
Jesus, Yours is the victory, whoa!

Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me
You have broken every chain
There’s salvation in Your name
Jesus Christ, my living hope!

What a beautiful reminder that we serve such a powerful God. The same God that created the universe, the giant galaxies, and the subatomic particles, is the same God who created us. We can have hope in God. Death could not defeat Him. Death cannot defeat us. In Christ, I have hope.

I am now leaving Academy a better person than when I arrived at this wonderful school. As I embark on an exciting new journey of ministry as I study at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary, I will always be thankful for the memories made as a Bumblebee and the continued hope I have thanks to not only God and my family, but also because of these students. I am blessed beyond measure!


Some verses for encouragement:

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

~ Isaiah 43:2

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. ~ 1 Peter 1:3-9


Bethel Music. Living Hope. By Phil Wickham and Brian Mark Johnson. Google Play Lyrics. Web. 06 Jun. 2019.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 06 Jun. 2019


Living Hope by Bethel Music

Living Hope by Phil Wickham

I’m going to seminary!

As I am typing this, I hear the sounds of crickets chirping and birds singing their sweet sonnets, and I see the sun setting in the distant trees. Something about sitting outside reminds me of the wonder of God and the beauty of His creation. I realize that I am immeasurably blessed by this magnificent creator.

If you were to ask me what gives you joy in life, I wouldn’t be able to narrow it down to just one thing. When I am teaching, the smile of a student, the laughter of another when he has a joke to tell, the delight another has when giving me a work of art she drew just for me gives me so much joy. In the past two years, I have gained joy in engaging wonderful students as they have also taught me a thing or two about the joys of life.

I have also been blessed with amazing church families over the years. These church families have mentored me, prayed with me in my darkest moments, sent me cards when my young self struggled with depression, sang with me in rejoicing in the goodness of God, placed their hands over me when I first announced my desire to pursue ministry, and when I chose to place my trust in Christ Jesus and follow Him for the rest of my life, it was a fellow church member who first mentored a young christian. My church families have meant so much to me, and I will always be grateful.

My friends have also given me immense joy. Each of them have meant so much to me over the years. We have lived life together. With trips to the movies, football games, church camp, the State Fair, dances, escape rooms, Bible studies, and lip singing in the parking lot of the UMHB Baptist Student Ministries, and so much more, the Lord has blessed me with countless memories with friends. Seeing two of them get married from the perspective of getting to be the best man last year was a great highlight of my journey with these friendships. I am absolutely blessed beyond measure.

Of course, it goes without saying, but my family has given me so much joy. Visits from relatives who live in San Antonio, Goshen, IN, and elsewhere always brings a smile to my face. My grandparents have guided me in both the mountains and valleys of life, and their love for others has rubbed off on me and I am so thankful for that. Their adopted kids have blessed me beyond measure, and my Dad, who has faced some of the toughest battles, reminds me daily what a true servant of Christ Jesus looks like. He will always be my Superman.

In all of these categories of those who give me joy, one thing is constant, and that is God. Lord Jesus has given me joy at home, at church, as a student at Florence ISD, a student at Mary Hardin-Baylor, a teacher at both Georgetown High and Academy Middle schools, and in every encounter with those who meet me along life’s journey.

In every one of these encounters, in everything I do, I place my hope in Christ, and my ultimate desire is to please and serve Him. So I’m sure it does not come to a surprise to some, especially those closest to me, that I am excited to share the news that I will be attending Truett Seminary at Baylor University in my pursuit of honoring God through full-time ministry. I have loved serving in various capacities in church. I have gained immense joy in doing ministry at UMHB. And the most rewarding aspect of teaching these past two years have been the personal connections with my students, and the smiles their faces bring when they realize how much teachers care for them. God placed me at various points throughout my life, including Georgetown and Academy, so that I might show His love to others, and young people certainly need to encounter the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In case you are wondering where I see myself in ministry, the honest answer is that I’m not entirely sure. I love engaging youth, college students, and young adults with the Gospel. Maybe someday, I will work on a college campus or maybe even pastor a church. I’m not entirely sure just yet. I just know that I want to serve Christ in whatever I do. One of my favorite verses is 1 Thessalonians 2:8. It says this: “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” I love sharing life with others, and in so doing, sharing with others the love of Christ.

I am excited for new adventures yet to come, and thankful for experiences which have shaped me into who I am today. If you want to pray for me, I welcome it. Pray that whatever I do, I only do it for the honor and glory of Jesus Christ. This is my prayer each and every day!


New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 26 April. 2019.

Broken Vessels

It is not often that I become emotional while listening to a sermon, but when I do, it’s because God is showing me something He knows I desperately need to hear and pay attention to.

Over the past several months, my pastor at FBC Belton, Andy Davis, has preached a sermon series on what every Christian should know. What God has shown me through these messages is that God can use me and every part of me. This past Sunday, Andy preached a message on what every Christian should know about temptation. Throughout my journey as a believer in Christ, like anyone else, I have faced temptation. This temptation can come in many forms, such as having a desire to gossip, use language I know I shouldn’t, or to jump to conclusions and react harshly without seeing the complete picture. These are some examples that come to mind, but it certainly is not a definitive list.

I think what really struck a chord with me as Andy was preaching was that when we repent, God is just to forgive. Throughout my life, I have struggled with the idea that God is ashamed of me when I sin. I know this is untrue, but it is something I have struggled with. God doesn’t want me to sin, and He hates it when I sin, but that doesn’t mean that He is ever ashamed of me. There have been times in my life I have felt so ashamed that I questioned why God would ever want to forgive me or love me. The truth is, He is always there. He is always with me, and when I stumble, He awaits for me to turn back to Him in repentance because of His deep and unfathomable love for me.

I was also moved by the points made that temptation comes to all and it is not sin. I have often felt guilty of being tempted. The truth is that Jesus was tempted in every way, yet He resisted all temptation. Temptation doesn’t make you weak, and temptation itself is not a sin. It becomes sin when we say yes to that temptation, and we are the ones responsible for how we react to the temptation. It was in this moment I felt the Holy Spirit convict me by encouraging me to resist temptation, but also remind me that God is just to forgive in those moments I fall short by giving into temptation.

Throughout Andy’s sermon on Sunday, I was reminded of earlier messages he preached on what every Christian should know. The concepts preached about in these series don’t happen in a vacuum. They are all connected in our continuing relationships with Christ. Another important concept in my walk with Christ is the reality of God’s grace.

The beautiful reality of God is that I will never understand why He gives grace. I most certainly don’t deserve it. I am imperfect. I am sinful. I fall to temptation on a daily basis. So why does God shower me with grace, His unmerited favor? Honestly, I don’t know. Christ gave everything for it when He gave His life for us on the cross. I most certainly didn’t give anything to deserve grace? So why does God show me grace? What I do know is that I don’t have to understand why. He gives it anyways, free of charge to me, because Jesus already paid for this grace.

In the midst of my brokenness, God shows grace. In the midst of my sinfulness, God shows grace. In the midst of my faults, God shows grace. In the midst of every weakness I see in myself, God makes me a new creation through his most AMAZING grace.

Upon driving home after Andy’s sermon about temptation, while also remembering the grace God shows me daily, I was listening to a song, Broken Vessels, by Hillsong Worship which helped reinforce that while I stumble to temptation, God grants me His grace. And because of this, God can use every part of me for His glory. I am still amazed that the same God who created everything as small as the atom to everything as large as galaxies and beyond is the same God who views me (and you) as His greatest creation. And even in the midst of all my brokenness, it is through His grace, that I can be used for His glory.

All these pieces
Broken and scattered
In mercy gathered
Mended and whole
Empty-handed
But not forsaken
I’ve been set free
I’ve been set free

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me, oh
I once was lost
But now I’m found
Was blind but now I see

Oh, I can see it now
Oh, I can see the love in Your eyes
Laying yourself down
Raising up the broken to life

You take our failure
You take our weakness
You set Your treasure
In jars of clay
So take this heart, Lord
I’ll be Your vessel
The world to see
Your life in me, oh

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me, oh
I once was lost
But now I’m found
Was blind but now I see

I cried as I drove home as I was reminded that even when I stumble, and even when I feel empty and broken, God can use me as a testimony to His amazing grace. It is my hope and my prayer that God uses me, this broken vessel, to share His love to others.

As believers in Christ, we should remind ourselves of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Ephesus (Ephesians 2:4-10, NIV):

4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Fellow believers, never forget the grace God shows us. Even when we fall to temptation, it is through our faith in Christ and the unbelievable grace given to us that we are made one with Christ. God can use us broken people to carry out His message of hope to the world around us. It is because of this that I am committed to be used by God to share His gospel with those around me. For “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24, NIV).

So Lord, use me this broken vessel, so that others may know of your AMAZING GRACE!


Hillsong Worship. Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace). By Joel Houston and Jonas Myrin. Google Play Lyrics. Web. 08 Oct. 2018.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 20 Nov. 2018.


Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace) by Hillsong Worship


Notes taken during Pastor Andy’s sermons:

You’ll Never Walk Alone

It has now been almost two months since two of my closest friends dedicated the rest of their lives together in marriage. It was a wonderful ceremony centered around two Christ-like people and their love for each other. I am thankful to have witnessed this remarkable occasion, and I am blessed to have been able to stand next to Greggory as his best man.

I have known Greggory for roughly 5 1/2 years now. I don’t remember the exact date we met, but I remember meeting him at Worship in the Quad, a ministry I was so thankful to be involved with during most of my time at UMHB (Note, that it was actually in the BSM given the inclement weather that evening). I remember meeting him in the BSM’s sanctuary. He was smiling, full of energy, and I could tell that he had a passion for serving the Lord. Never in my wildest imaginations did I think that he would become one of my closest friends in life, someone I realized I could turn to in any circumstance.

Later in the Spring of 2013, I was looking for a roommate for the following year. I had known one of our mutual friends, Will, and asked him if he had a roommate. He told me that it would be him and Gregg, but I could join them as the 3rd roommate. Because of the housing process at the time, it didn’t work out with Will, so now it was just Gregg and me. When we applied for housing, I saw a glimpse of Gregg’s unique energy and cheerfulness. We signed up for the only apartment complex left, Huckins, which has since been replaced by the new Performing Arts Center. Those apartments were the smallest on campus, so we were constantly in close proximity with one another, and this was the perfect setting to develop a close friendship.

Going into Sophomore year, I faced something more challenging than that I had ever faced. Only weeks before returning to UMHB for my 2nd year, I learned that my Dad, the strongest, most God-fearing man in my life, had colon cancer and required surgery followed by months of chemotherapy. I wasn’t always sure who I could turn to when I was away from home, and there were nights in which I would cry myself to sleep. I even had a few panic attacks during my Sophomore year. While there were countless men and women on the UMHB campus to constantly uplift, pray for, and inspire me, the most encouraging person outside of family quickly became Greggory. God always seemed to give Gregg the right words at just the right times I needed it. I’m not entirely sure if I ever told him this, but all of the jokes, laughs, puns (yes, lots of puns), deep spiritual conversations, non-spiritual conversations, prayers, and simply his presence helped me through one of the darkest times of my life.

In the midst of all of this, I was also diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease that year. This provided a constant struggle with stomach pain until I eventually discovered what I could and could not eat. Having Gregg’s friendship helped me through this as well. We became even closer as we both helped prepare Missions Emphasis Week together, with the following year being under his joint leadership with a few others as co-directors. Missions Emphasis Week was an awesome event, organized by an awesome group of students (under the BSM leadership), where we invited amazing missionaries across the state and the world to give students opportunities to share the Gospel locally, nationally, and internationally, thus helping fulfill God’s Great Commission to share His love to the ends of the Earth. Throughout planning and enjoying MEW, Gregg and I were able to witness each other’s passions in serving God by serving others.

All of these experiences helped show me someone I could count on, more than most, to encourage me in life’s many ups and downs. I mentioned some of the things I loved most about Greggory in my best man speech. One thing I have always loved were his passion for telling great puns.

Perhaps it’s because I too like puns that this became one of my favorite quirky qualities in Greggory. We constantly had pun battles (with him almost always winning), especially when he made deviled eggs for some reason. His egg-cellent puns always cracked me up, especially on Fry-days. He never walked on eggshells to get to the best puns, and because we were both Baptists, he just had to always quote Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my YOLK upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my YOLK is (over)easy and my burden is light.”

Even after he just got married and we were taking wedding photos before the reception, Gregg made yet another pun. “I thought there was something else I needed to do today, but I can’t put my finger on it,” Gregg said as he twisted his new wedding ring around his finger.

So just for Gregg, I shared a wedding pun during my best man speech that I found off of the Internet.

So Gregg. Did you hear about the two cell phones that got married? Their reception was terrific! (Ba dum tss)

And then I moved on to the more emotional part of my speech. It was indeed an emotional night. Even the cake was in tiers.

After promising that that was the last of the puns I told the crowd that I knew Greggory and Amberlee’s relationship, a relationship between two amazing vocalists, would last. After all, they are always in one a chord.

There are many amazing experiences with Greggory that I have had over the years, and are too numerous to count. I could probably write a doctoral dissertation about all of our adventures. But for the sake of this blog post, I am going to fast forward a bit from Sophomore year to our first Senior year (yes first Senior year).

Throughout our college career, Greggory and I would joke to each other about our singleness every time one of our friends started a relationship, got engaged, or got married. For Greggory, that would soon change in the middle of Fall 2016. I remember when Gregg came bouncing into our apartment to share some exciting news with me. He had been hanging out with this young lady named Amberlee, and he was going to ask her if she wanted to start a relationship with him. I was so excited for him and told him to let me know how it worked out.

Later that evening, I was sitting in my room in our apartment (Junior and Senior years, we lived in the nicest apartments where we had our own bedrooms) when I heard the main door open, along with this clink-clink-clink noise. I knew it was the clinking of Gregg’s metal thermos that was always strapped to his backpack. I opened my bedroom door, slid in my wheely-chair, and asked, “So…?” With his use of hand movements and sheer jubilation, Greggory told me that they decided to start dating. I was so excited for him. My best friend was now in a relationship!

Not long after this (a few days or weeks; I’m not entirely sure), I met Amberlee after one of her concerts. Both she and Gregg were Music majors and were in many vocal performances at UMHB. Upon meeting Amberlee, I could tell that she too was full of energy and a passion for Christ. “I’ve heard a lot of great things about you,” was the first thing Amberlee ever said to me. I quickly came to the conclusion that this very “smiley” person would become a close friend of mine, which only made sense given that Gregg was also a very “smiley” person.

Over the past several years, I have developed a great friendship with both Gregg and Amberlee. We have shared both excitements and challenges in life. We have laughed with each other, and we have encouraged and prayed for one another. I am so thankful that Greggory found his soulmate in Amberlee. Not only are they happy with each other, but through my amazing friendship with Greggory, Amberlee has also become a very dear friend of mine.

I cannot begin to describe just how much these two amazing people mean to me. One more memory I will share is a memory I have of one of Amberlee’s performances she did with some of her colleagues in UMHB’s Music Department. The last song they sang was one of my favorites I originally heard from David Phelps. And sorry, David Phelps, but their rendition was even better. The song was, You’ll Never Walk Alone. Throughout the performance of the song, each member of the group sang a solo part of it before they all sang the ending together. The words go like this…

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of a storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

I can’t remember exactly, but I think I may have shed a tear or two when that song was sung. This song has always been a great reminder to me that no matter what challenges we face in life, we never walk alone. Christ Jesus walks with us every step of the way, and he has also given us other people in our life who walk with us as well. Two of the closest people in my life who have walked with me in the good times in life, as well as the many storms, have been Greggory and Amberlee.

Their wedding and reception was nothing short of absolute beauty as it exemplified the love they share for God and for each other. It is my prayer and my hope that they find a lifetime of happiness with each other, and that they always remember a simple truth that has stuck with me throughout my life’s journey. That simple truth is that you’ll never walk alone!


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David Phelps. You’ll Never Walk Alone. By Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers, 1945. Google Play Lyrics. Web. 08 Oct. 2018.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 08 Oct. 2018. (modified with egg puns)


You’ll Never Walk Alone by David Phelps

God IS In Our Schools (A Poem)

As I drive to work each morning

Listening to my playlist of songs about Christ Jesus

I pray to my Heavenly Father

Lord let me make an impact today

Let me reach that one kid and show him or her of your love

Let me encourage that coworker who might be having a bad day

Give me strength to engage and inspire those around me

Let me be the teacher you have called me to be

Then as I enter that school building

With a laptop and lesson plans under my arm

A kind coworker opens the door for me and smiles

Another goes out of her way to pray with me

Another asks how I am doing

Another smiles and wishes me a good day

As I press onward throughout the day

I see that one kid struggling

I help guide that kid to understand the lesson

He smiles and says, “Thank you Mr. Stewart”

Another student smiles and asks how my day is going

One student smiles and asks, “Guess what happened to me today?”

Before telling me the good things happening in his life

Another student walks into class listening to Hillsong

She’s the one who will gladly tell you that she is a Christian

As I see the smiles and hear the good stories

As I see those “lightbulb” moments when a child “gets it”

I thank God that I am a teacher

I thank Him for the many hats teachers wear

Teacher

Counselor

Role model

Mentor

Tutor

I also thank Him for those kids

Every single one of those kids deserve a good education

Every single one of those kids should know that people are there for them

Wanting them to succeed

And ready to rejoice in that success

As I think of my calling to teach

As I think of the teachers and students

Who encourage and inspire me daily

I thank God for His presence in our schools

Yes, God is in our schools

You may hear people say from time to time

“I wish God was back in our schools”

Well let me just tell you this

God IS in our schools

He has been in our schools

And He has never left our schools

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise

When I see another teacher go out of his or her way to engage a kid

To inspire a kid

To counsel a kid

To uplift a kid

To teach a kid

To let that kid know that someone cares for him or her

I see Christ’s love revealed

I see God at work

When that kid smiles at me and thanks me for encouraging him

I see God at work

When another kid goes out his way to ask how I am doing

I see God at work

When I get to rejoice with a kid in his “good things”

I see God at work

When that one student asks me, “Do you believe in God?”

I see God at work

So don’t tell me that God is not in our schools

Don’t tell me that He is not welcomed here

Because what I see day in and day out paints a completely different story

I see God’s hand move

I feel God’s presence sweep over me everywhere I go

And that includes our schools

When teachers, many of whom struggle from paycheck to paycheck

Still provide food and supplies to students

How is God not at work in our schools?

When students who “get it” help others who don’t “get it”

How is God not at work in our schools?

God IS at work in our schools!

It would be misguided to think that we could ever keep Him out

God doesn’t require teacher-led prayer in order to be in our schools

God doesn’t require that teachers preach in order to be in our schools

God is much bigger than that

God can’t be put in a box or a bottle

He’s not a genie in a lamp that only comes out when teachers lead prayer

He is the almighty, everlasting, omnipresent God

You can’t keep Him away

Even if you try to run from Him

He is still there just waiting for you to turn your eyes back to Him

He is always there

He is there in the good days

He is there in the bad days

In the classroom, He is there

In the hallways, He is there

In the cafeteria, He is there

In the meeting rooms, He is there

In the gyms and locker rooms, He is there

On the practice field, He is there

In the stadiums, He is there

In the principals’ and counselors’ offices, He is there

In the janitor’s closet, He is there

In the parking lots, He is there

Even in a tragedy

Especially in a tragedy

He is there

I honestly don’t have the slightest idea why bad things happen

I will never understand why humans target other humans

Especially in our schools

But know this,

God was there in Colorado

God was there in Connecticut

God was there in Florida

God was there in Texas

God wept with us as countless kids have been slaughtered in our schools

God was there as students comforted one another in the chaos

God was there as teachers and students went out of their way

To help others to safety

God was there as unsung heroes died protecting others

No greater love exists

Than the love of laying down one’s life to save others

God was there in the aftermath and is still there

To comfort those whose lives have been torn apart by tragedy

So please, don’t ever say,

“Well if only God was allowed in our schools, this wouldn’t happen.”

God has not left!

Nothing and no one can keep God away

As a teacher, I know God is there

In the students I engage

In the coworkers I encounter

I see God at work

God was at work

God is at work

And God will continue to be at work

With every fiber of my being

With every ounce of faith I have

I know in my heart

That God IS IN our schools!

 

Note: This poem was updated to include mentioning the tragedy in Santa Fe, Texas. I pray I do not have to update this poem to reflect future tragedies.