Jesus: The Champion of Love

For a while, I had been thinking about what to blog about this week with so many thoughts floating around in my mind. As many of you know already, I absolutely love music. I can’t get enough of it. This past month I have blogged about different songs and the messages that God has revealed to me through the lyrics.

The past few weeks another song has been playing in my mind. A few weeks ago, my Dad was searching through YouTube to find a song we used to listen to when I was little. After some searching, he found it, played it, and I was moved by the message behind the lyrics. I hadn’t heard it in years, but now it won’t stop playing in my mind. It’s an old gospel tune called, “Champion of Love.”

I played it over and over, and each time, I focused on the lyrics which go like this:

Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention
I want to introduce to you
In this corner of the good and the right
Stands a champion, robed in white
His height exceeds the heavens
His weight outweighs the world
His reach reaches everywhere
His age is evermore

He is higher than the highest
Greater than the great
No one will ever take His crown away
He is more mighty than the mightiest
He reigns from above
He’s the all-time, undisputed, undefeated
Champion of Love

He left his hometown to enter this arena
To raise His hands in victory for all of you and me
But an angry crowd crucified this King who bore their crown
And they gladly watched the champion going down
But I will never count Him out
For I’m a witness of
The day He arose to retain the title,
“Champion of Love”

(Repeat Chorus)

I am beyond amazed and more than thankful, that no matter what, Christ loves me. When I think about how much He loves me, I know that the amount of which He loves is incomprehensible. And why He loves is a question that seems hard to answer. The simple fact is that He does love us and an explanation of why to me is not near as important as the simple truth that He does love, and He loves unconditionally.

Considering the first verse, I realize that Jesus is greater than anything we could possibly even imagine. He knows all, sees all, and “His reach reaches everywhere.” He is so powerful and mighty, and yet He loves us. As imperfect as we are, Christ loves us. I know that I am so unworthy of His love. I make mistakes, as we all do, every day. Yet, He gives His love anyways, and that is what is truly amazing to me.

No matter who you are, Christ loves you, and more than anything else, He wants a relationship with you. None of us are worthy of the love that this powerful and mighty Jesus gives, yet He gives it anyways. And He loves unconditionally. No matter how many times we fall short, we can always turn back to Him because He loves us, and no power in the universe could ever take that away.

If He can defeat death, don’t you realize that He can defeat anything? That’s how powerful He is, and He still continues to love us and advocate on our behalf.

My favorite scripture (Romans 8:37-39), which is where the title of this blog comes from says this:

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Truly, absolutely nothing can separate us from His unconditional love. And because His love conquered death, we can have hope in that no matter the circumstance, we can turn to Christ our Lord because He first loved us.

As I think about His unfailing and amazing love, I am reminded that we are called to love others. If His love is so magnificent, so powerful, and so amazing, how can we not share that love with others? How can we not be a voice for those who have no voice? How can we not have compassion for those who have not heard of His love? How can we not share His love with those less fortunate?

And part of loving others also entails forgiveness. This is probably one of the hardest aspects of love to accept at times. I know that in my own personal life, I have had a hard time in the past in forgiving others that have done me wrong. Yet, as believers, forgiveness is a part of loving others as Christ loves.

Christ loved us so much that He died for our mistakes and our wrongdoings. He forgave us, so shouldn’t we forgive others? If we are to look up to this Champion of Love and try to follow in His footsteps, shouldn’t we forgive?

I was absolutely moved when I heard the story of the families of the Charleston shooting victims forgive the person that took away their loved ones. Even in their grief and unbearable pain in the midst of tragic loss, they forgave the person responsible for taking away their loved ones. To me, that is one of the greatest representations of this Champion of Love we call Jesus. If they can forgive someone so filled with hate, someone who killed their loved ones, then why can’t I forgive those who have committed far less wrongdoings towards me?

So as we seek to follow Christ’s example of love, may we never forget to love others as He would love, and to forgive others, no matter the ways in which they have wronged us. Only then can we truly show others the love that Christ has for everyone.

Lord, thank you for loving me. I may not deserve it, but I am so glad you give your love anyways. You truly are the all-time, undisputed, undefeated CHAMPION OF LOVE!

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 30 June. 2015.

The Cathedrals. Champion of Love. By Phil and Carolyn Cross, 1987. Southern Gospel Journal. Web. 30 June. 2015.

Champion of Love by The Cathedrals

Forgiveness by Matthew West

God moves strong: What my Superman Dad has taught me…

Sunday was Father’s Day, and as millions of people spent time with their loving dads, so I did with mine. People sometimes ask where I get my strong compassion for others, my goofy sense of humor, and my charming good looks. Okay, perhaps they don’t ask the last one as often. At any rate, I would have to say from my wonderfully awesome father, Ronnie Stewart.

Throughout my life, as Dad has reared me into the man I am today, he has guided me with love and support, and has taught me so many life lessons along the way. I am blessed beyond measure to have such a wonderful Dad. I am equally blessed to learn so much from such a strong man of God.

First, Dad has taught me to love life and never be afraid to show your sense of humor, as goofy and absurd as it may be to others. People who know my Dad, knows that he loves to brighten the days of others with laughter, jokes, and sometimes pranks. Some of these pranks have been played on an unsuspecting son who by now should probably know when he’s pulling a joke, but occasionally I am still left clueless.

I still remember one joke he played on me when I was in high school. I was watching television when I heard my Dad calling out to me in a panicked tone of voice. When I rushed to the kitchen, I saw that he had a bandaged hand that was red all over. After seeing me freaked out for a few seconds asking him what I should do, he chuckled and told me that it was just red food coloring.

For as long as I’ve known him, my Dad loves to joke around and he will go out of his way to pull off an elaborate prank. That is one of the many things I love about my Dad, the fact that God gave him such a unique sense of humor. Sure, when a practical joke is played on me, I might not be all smiles at first, but later, looking back on a joke, I realize that I have a Dad who loves to have fun and loves to make people laugh.

Second, my Dad loves God, and he loves others. One of the many things Dad has instilled in me is the desire to be kind to others and treat people with respect, especially those whom society sometimes overlooks. My Dad has a heart for others, especially those with special needs. When Dad is not working with students with special needs at work, he is helping my grandparents care for some really awesome adopted kiddoes. He has shown me that everyone is unique, special, created by God, and deserves to be treated with love and dignity. Anyone with a disability may be different than you or me, but that does not make that person any less of a person. Every human being has been created in God’s likeness and can be used for His glory.

I am absolutely amazed by the love that my Dad has for others. The things he does day in and day out for kids gives me pride in my father. I’m not ashamed to say that I am proud of my Dad. He works with kids who just want to be loved, to be treated with respect, and sometimes they just need another voice to speak on their behalf, and my Dad takes joy in being that voice. He has shown me that everyone deserves to be treated with respect, and if someone is being taken advantage of, we need to have the courage to stand up and be a voice for the voiceless.

Third, my Dad has instilled in me the value of loving God with all my heart, to lean on God’s understanding rather than my own, and to trust God’s plan even when times are difficult. We both have had our share of difficulties. He waited on me hand and foot when I was in the hospital my Senior year of high school, and I did the same for him several years later when he was in the hospital.

There have been times when my Dad could have thrown in the towel and say, “God, this is impossible.” But you see, that’s not how he’s wired. He has faced many challenges: going back to school to earn a degree, a difficult year of algebra, colon cancer, chemo, and another sickness not long afterwards. Yet every single time, he has chosen to give God all the glory and to praise Him in every circumstance. He has shown me that life will not always be easy, but when we trust in God, He will guide our every footstep. God has helped him overcome all those obstacles, meanwhile, He has given my Dad the continued endurance to run every race with determination. In every circumstance, we must trust in the Lord’s sovereignty and know that He can use us and every part of us.

Last October, I was having one of the worst days, health wise, that I have had in quite some time. I remember it being during Missions Emphasis Week, and after complaining to God about my situation, I felt my phone vibrate just before I attended a seminar on engaging those of other faiths. I looked down at my phone and realized that I got a text from Dad. At the time, my Dad was experiencing more pain than I could imagine. I still remember his text verbatim. It said, “It came to me in my weakness that God moves strong. He’s 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!”

As I got emotional, I thanked God for giving me such an amazing father. Sure life is rough at times, but we can always turn to our Lord and Savior. If I have learned anything from my Dad it’s that we will face challenges, but in those challenges we must put our hope and trust in the Lord. Only in Him can we find true strength. Plus, it is the challenges and trials we face that allow us to fully rely on Him, and He can use every circumstance for His glory.

Isaiah 41:10 tells us, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

God tells us that He will never leave or forsake us. So what do we have to fear? In whatever we face, God can use those challenges for His glory. In our weaknesses, God does move strong!

In my 21 1/2 years on this Earth, my Dad has taught me many things. One, have a sense of humor and be yourself. Two, love and speak up for others. Three, trust in God no matter the circumstance. Now, as I enjoy spending time with Dad watching Star Trek, and soon football season will be here, I am thankful for all the wisdom he has shown me. He has achieved so much such as getting a degree and has conquered so much such as cancer.

Another thing Dad has taught me is that I can share my past, my story, my testimony, but I don’t have to dwell on the past. So I share these things not to dwell on them, but to encourage others and to give a message of hope that no matter what, we can trust in Him. God has so much in store for my Dad and me, and we don’t know what that future will be, but as long as it’s with God, it will be a bright future. Therefore, with the same positivity my Dad has shown me, I share parts of our story, yet I look to the future because I know that God has a plan for us. Like Isaiah 43:18-19a tells me, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”

Dad, when you read this, know that I am incredibly proud of you. I love you and I thank God for giving me an example of what a true man of God really is. Someday, if I am half the man you are today, I know that my kids will understand what it means to truly live for Jesus.

Thank you for showing me that GOD MOVES STRONG!

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 24 June. 2015.

Stronger by Mandisa

Whom Shall I Fear by Chris Tomlin

You Make Beautiful Things

Anyone who knows me knows that I love listening to music. Whether it’s rock musicians like Bon Jovi and U2, country stars like Garth Brooks and George Jones, the blues of B.B. King, gospel greats like the Gaithers or the Happy Goodman Family, or of course contemporary Christian artists like MercyMe and Kari Jobe, I love it all. I love music.

It seems that nearly every minute I’m awake, a song is playing in the back of my mind, and a few weeks ago it was MercyMe the song, “Word of God Speak.” (see my post from 2 weeks ago). A couple of days ago, one song started playing in my thoughts that I have not heard or thought of in a very long time. As soon as I started humming the song, I looked it up on YouTube so that I could enjoy it. The song… “Beautiful Things” by Gungor.

The chorus goes like this:

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

The more and more I listened to this song, the more I thought about the lyrics. Everything God creates, the stars in the sky, the rolling hills dotted with the most beautiful bluebonnets, the cardinals, hummingbirds, and squirrels I see when I enjoy the cool breeze; it’s all beautiful. And every human being that God ordained into existence is also beautiful. No matter what the world tells you, you are beautiful, because you were made by an artist far more talented than any worldly artist, and that artist is God. The idea that He can make anything out of dust, out of nothing, and make it so beautiful amazes me.

It reminded me of a study I heard about several years ago. People were asked in a poll of what they considered to be beauty. The study showed how opinions changed over the years as America became more ethnically and racially diverse. I also read a more recent article about a new fashion designer’s definition of beauty.

All of this made me think, who cares what these people think, and why do we devote so much time in learning “what makes beauty.” The fact is this: we are all created by God and He sees us as beautiful. Are those supermodels in those magazines beautiful? Absolutely. But so is every single human being not in those magazines or on those runways.

So for everyone out there who thinks they aren’t handsome or beautiful, stop it! Enough worrying about what others think of you. There is only one opinion that truly matters, and that is the opinion of Jesus Christ, and He thinks you are beautiful.

My favorite Psalm, Psalm 139 says this: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (verses 13-14).

Like the verse says, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. When God looks at you, He sees beauty. You are His and you are loved. I am beautiful. You are beautiful. No matter what you look like or who you are, you are loved and you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Just like the old children’s song says, “Red, brown, yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.”

No matter who you are or what you look like, God loves you and thinks you are beautiful. I am far from perfect and I’ll admit that. One thing I catch myself doing from time to time is judging others before I get to know them based on what they look like. In the past I have looked at someone and thought, “That person looks scary, weird, odd, creepy, or intimidating.” That person may be the nicest person on the planet, or maybe that person isn’t. But shouldn’t I get to know that person before making a snap judgement?

Thankfully, I serve a God who doesn’t judge based on appearance. He loves us all, every part of us, as we are. So it doesn’t matter what I think or what the world thinks, you are beautiful. So if you are in a magazine, you are beautiful. If you’re not, you are beautiful. No matter if you’re black, white, brown, or any other color, you are beautiful. If you wear any type of religious clothing or don’t, you’re beautiful. Tall, short, overweight, underweight, physically fit, you are beautiful. Tattoos and piercings all over your body, just a few, or none at all, you are beautiful. Young or old, you are beautiful!

Another song that I love is “Beautiful” by MercyMe.

Days will come when you don’t have the strength 
When all you hear is you’re not worth anything 
Wondering if you ever could be loved 
And if they truly saw your heart they’d see too much 

You’re beautiful 
You’re beautiful 
You are made for so much more than all of this 
You’re beautiful 
You’re beautiful 
You are treasured, You are sacred, You are His 
You’re beautiful 

And praying that you have the heart to find 
Cause you are more than what is hurting you tonight 
For all the lies you’ve held inside so long 
And they are nothing in the shadow of the cross 

You’re beautiful 
You’re beautiful 
You are made for so much more than all of this 
You’re beautiful 
You’re beautiful 
You are treasured, You are sacred, You are His 
You’re beautiful 

Before you ever took a breath
Long before the world began
Of all the wonders He possessed
There was one more precious
Of all the earth and skies above
You’re the one He madly loves enough to die

You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful
In His eyes

You’re beautiful 
You are made for so much more than all of this 
You’re beautiful 
You are treasured, You are sacred, You are His 
You’re beautiful 
You’re beautiful
You are made for so much more than all of this 
You’re beautiful 
You’re beautiful 
You are treasured, You are sacred, You are His

Never believe the lie that you are not beautiful, because that is simply not true. When God looks at you, He sees beauty. You are treasured. You are sacred. You are HIS! He loves you so much and thinks that you’re beautiful to the extent that He laid down His life for you. That’s how much He thinks your beautiful!

So don’t listen to what the magazines, “experts,” or anyone else says. There is only one opinion that counts, the opinion of God Most High, and He thinks you’re beautiful. You are fearfully and wonderfully made!

Thank you Lord for your artwork, your beauty, your creation. You truly make beautiful things!

Gungor. Beautiful Things. By Michael and Lisa Gungor, 2010. K-Love. Web. 15 June. 2015.

MercyMe. Beautiful. By Dan Muckala and Brown Bannister, 2010. K-Love. Web. 15 June. 2015.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 15 June. 2015.

Woolston, C. Herbert. “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” Child Bible Songs. Web. 15 June. 2015.

Beautiful Things by Gungor

Beautiful by MercyMe

She took the one less traveled by…

Last Friday was a proud day for me. I was proud of my grandparent’s oldest adopted child, Paige, who I have come to know and love as my sister. Friday night, she moved her tassel from one side to the other, ushering in a new chapter in her life, that of a high school graduate. I shouted as loud as I could as they called her name to receive her diploma. After years of hard work and determination, she did it. She graduated high school. I was overwhelmed with joy in witnessing such a proud moment.

Paige's big night!

Paige’s big night!

How could I not be overjoyed? How could I not be a proud big brother? Over the years, I have seen her grow physically, mentally, and spiritually in leaps and bounds. If this young woman of God has taught me anything, it’s that being different certainly doesn’t make you less. It wasn’t very many years ago that she was completely in special education classes as someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. To see her go from that to a young woman graduating high school with very high grades, being a member of the National Honors Society, and a handful of top-notch scholarships, speaks volumes of the determination she has to her continued success. I don’t tell her this enough, but I am beyond proud and inspired by all of her hard work.

I still remember hearing about her induction into NHS a couple of years ago, wishing I could be there. Her sophomore year marked the first time she wasn’t in any special ed or resource classes. At the time, she was making the highest grade in her algebra class, one of the highest in biology, and was tutoring other classmates in math.

Her story of success, one that I know will be of continued success, is one that should inspire us all. She could have used any reason to give up or give in. She could have tried to be like everyone else. Yet, that’s not the way Paige is wired. I have seen her accomplish so much over the years. The phrase “it can’t be done” simply is not in her vocabulary. If she isn’t sure how to do something, instead of giving up, she’ll find a way, and when she does, she will “knock everyone’s socks off” by accomplishing yet another achievement.

One thing about Paige is that she doesn’t care if you think she can’t do something, because she will try to prove you wrong, and she will most likely succeed. The past couple of weeks, when thinking of how far Paige has come and how much farther I know she will go, I started to think of a poem I learned about when I was in Mrs. Petty’s dual-credit English classes in high school.

We are all faced with choices in life, some great ones and some not so great. The choices we make and the roads we choose to travel can have a great impact on our success in life. I started thinking of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” Frost’s poem has probably become one of the most famous poems dealing with choices.

The last few lines stuck out to me when I was thinking of Paige.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–/ I took the one less traveled by,/ And that has made all the difference (18-20).

We all have choices to make in life. Will we choose to conform to what the world wants us and tells us to be, or will we choose to walk the path that goes against the norm and be who God calls us to be?

While this may or may not be the message Frost had in mind when composing this poem, I think it speaks to how much impact choosing the right path can have on life. Choosing the right path can certainly make all the difference. Not only academically, but also spiritually.

One thing Paige has taught me through her accomplishments is that instead of conforming to everyone else’s image, we should try and break the mold, exceed expectations, and follow the path that God lead’s us. This is exactly what Paige has done so far in life. Instead of giving up, or instead of conforming to everyone else’s opinions of her, she has decided to take the road less traveled and conform only to God’s expectations.

In order to decide what path God wants us to follow, we must learn to listen to what He has to say. Psalm 25:4-5 says, “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” We must learn to go against conforming to the world and ask God to direct our paths. When we do so, there is absolutely nothing we cannot achieve when we pray and set our minds to it.

Paige has taught me a lot over the years. Most importantly, she has taught me that different is not less and that we must never try and conform to the expectations of others. We should be ourselves and seek God in directing our paths.

Paige, if you’re reading this, I am beyond proud of you! You took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference!

Frost, Robert. “The Road Not Taken.” Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. Ed. Edgar V. Roberts. 9th ed. New York: Longman, 2009.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 8 June. 2015.

Lifesong by Casting Crowns

Here With Me by MercyMe

Word of God Speak

Last week, I wasn’t sure what to write. I started writing on a topic that came to mind, but it seemed as if I was being redundant, as if I had to force words on a page. My intention of this blog is to write what is truly on my heart lately, not something just for the sake of me being able to say, “Well, there’s my post for the week. Mission accomplished.” So, last week I skipped writing a blog. If I can’t give my all into writing an encouraging post, I just won’t write one.

After much reflection this past week, I tried to figure out what this week’s blog was going to be about. As many of my readers may already know, I have Crohn’s Disease, which I highlighted when I first started this blog in February. Last week was one of the worst I have felt physically in quite some time. I felt I had every right to complain about my situation. I was in pain, and obviously, I wanted it to stop.

As I was ready to complain, God placed a song in my head, as if to say, “Hey! I haven’t left you yet, and I’m not going to. I’m right here. Trust in me.” I had tried to find the words to say. I tried to understand with my human mind the situation so that I could ask a precise prayer, but I just didn’t have the words to say and that’s when God reminded me of this song. The song was “Word of God Speak” by MercyMe. As this song played over and over in my head, I meditated on what God was showing me through the words.

I’m finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it’s OK
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say

Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That You’re in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness

Word of God speak

I’m finding myself in the midst of You
Beyond the music, beyond the noise
All that I need is to be with You
And in the quiet hear Your voice

Repeat Chorus twice

I’m finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it’s OK

As I sang this song in my mind, I realized that I don’t always need to have the exact words to say. God knows exactly what I’m going through. As my body felt pain, I began to smile. I smiled because I was reminded of God’s presence. I was overwhelmed with the joy of knowing that my Savior is always there with me. I smiled when I thought of the first two lines. “I’m finding myself at a loss for words and the funny thing is it’s OK.” I don’t need the words to say. God knows them.

Another thing revealed to me in that moment was emphasized by the next two lines, “The last thing I need is to be heard but to hear what you would say.” Sometimes, the best thing to do is to not try and search for the words to pray, but to just listen. Listen to what God has to say. Too often, it’s easy for me to do all the talking to God without listening to what He has to say. Our relationship with God should never be a one-way conversation. There are times when we must speak and times when we must listen.

There are several ways to listen. One, we can just be silent in the midst of God’s presence. Two, we can read His word. Three, we can seek spiritual advice from others. Four, we can listen to what He has to say through others.

Yesterday at church, Bro. Mark talked about going through tests and trials and how those tests help us grow in Christ and help us persevere. He made reference to James 1.

James tells us in verses 2 & 3, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

Later in verse 12, James tells us, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

Through Pastor Mark, God was telling me that it is the trials that we face that allow us to fully rely on Him, and when we stand firm in our faith and persevere, we can stand the test and conquer any situation.

In one of my first blogposts, I discussed why we should thank God for when we suffer, for when we face trials. We will face trials in our lives, but as Paul tells us “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). These tests that we face help us fully rely on Him and when we persevere through these trials, we build character, and that can give us hope that with God, we can face anything. God showed me these things when I finally decided to listen to what God had to say.

The point I’m trying to make is this: We don’t always need to have the words to say. We just need to be ready to listen to what God has to say to us. The simple fact is that we will never be able to completely grasp any test that is placed in our lives, and we may not have the right words to pray, but that’s okay. God knows exactly what we go through and He is always there with us.

I sometimes may be at a loss for words in any given situation, but the funny thing is, it’s OK!

MercyMe. Word of God Speak. By Pete Kipley and Bart Millard, 2003. K-Love. Web. 1 June. 2015.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 1 June. 2015.

Word of God Speak by MercyMe

Find You on My Knees by Kari Jobe