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:

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.

Just As I Am: My Salvation Story

grandcanyontrip7

Over the past several years, God has shown me that even in the midst of painful trials, disappointing circumstances, and daunting challenges, He is always right there with me. He constantly showers me with His unconditional love. He reminds me that His plans are always greater than my plans.

I have shared various parts of my testimony the past several years, and I still remember the first time I shared it at UMHB at the Worship in the Quad ministry I was so passionate about. Side note, it was in the BSM that night because of the cold weather. I remember friends approaching me afterwards, thanking me for inspiring them with my story. Each time someone would thank me for sharing, I have tried to remind them that they too have a testimony worth sharing with others. Every believer has a story worth sharing, so don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

A few days ago, the world learned of the passing of the Reverend Billy Graham. Social media was filled with people from all walks of life paying tribute to one person who helped inspire so many around the world through his charismatic evangelizing of the Gospel. As I sat in my little office space at work, getting ready for another day of teaching, I was combing through social media, and I came across a quote attributed to Graham. It read, “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” Rev. Graham has now changed his address and is alive in the presence of God Almighty for all eternity.

As I have reflected on Graham’s impact on the lives of so many people, I remembered the impact he had on me growing up. I also remembered my own story of how I came to Christ. So, I thought I would share it with you here in this blog post.

On July 19, 2000, about a month before I started the first grade, I was at a Vacation Bible School at a church in Georgetown, TX. At a young age, I knew that Christ loved me more than I could possibly imagine and that I loved Christ more than anything else in the world. What I didn’t know was that the most important part of loving Christ was accepting Him into the heart, an act commonly referred to as becoming “saved.”

I still remember my bible school teacher approaching me and asking me if I wanted to become saved. I honestly didn’t know what that meant at the time. It sounded cool and I figured that it would probably be best to become “saved,” although I wasn’t sure what I was being saved from exactly. When I returned home, I couldn’t understand why my Nana was so excited. I remember asking her if all of this was really that important. She certainly assured me that it was.

Over the next several years, as a young kid, I had so many doubts. At one point I doubted if God really existed. That didn’t last long once I looked at all the nature around me and the stars in the sky and thought, “Well of course He exists.” Even then, however, as I understood more fully what salvation meant, I had doubts as to whether I was truly saved. After all, I didn’t understand what was going on at that Vacation Bible School. For the longest time I thought as if perhaps I wasn’t the person actually making that decision, rather someone made that decision for me. I wondered if I was genuinely a Christian.

These doubts were daily and consistent. I realized that the only way to erase these doubts was if I came to accept Christ into my life as my own decision, now that I knew what accepting Christ truly meant. After so many sermons, there would be invitations for anyone willing to take that most important step and accept Christ into their hearts.

Growing up, I remember watching various preachers in person and on television, and the one who seemed most encouraging on television was Billy Graham. I remember him sharing the Gospel in the simplest ways so that anyone could understand the beauty of God’s love and the plan of salvation. I remember hearing “Just As I Am” being played as hundreds of people walked to the stage to accept Christ. I remember understanding that this was something that needed to be done in my life, but always telling myself, I’ll do it next time. Next time. Next time.

The summer after my 7th grade year was one of the most depressing in my life. I was so miserably depressed that summer that although I never considered actually carrying it out, suicide became a recurring thought in my young mind. Before I continue, if you ever have these same thoughts and you wonder if life is worth living, let me tell you that you are important. God would not have made you if He didn’t have a purpose for your life. You are beautiful. You are loved. You are made in the image of a God who pursues you every second of every day. Please reach out to someone and remember that your life is worth living!

Also, if you have ever battled depression or anxiety, know that there is nothing wrong with you. It is not your fault that you are going through this. God is not punishing you. God loves you. I too have battled depression throughout my life, and I am here to tell you that even when I battle depression, I fall to my knees and ask God to guide my every step. I have hope and joy in these circumstances because I know of the unfailing love God has for me.

In the middle of this summer, I went to Youth Camp with some friends in Brownwood, Texas. One evening, a man who went by the name of Runks Runkles gave a sermon. I don’t have the slightest recollection what the sermon was about, but what I do remember is what happened afterwards. He asked if anyone wanted to pray a simple prayer, asking God into their lives. I prayed that prayer. He then asked those who prayed that prayer to stand. I stood, and as my friends, with their jaws dropped, looked at me, I understood right then, to this day no longer having any doubts, that I was saved. That night I had more joy than I have ever had or ever will have until I meet Jesus in Heaven, because I knew that I was a believer in Christ.

There are too many people in my life who inspired me to reach that point that I could never thank every single one of them. Billy Graham was one person who planted that seed in me that would later lead me to asking Christ in my life. Singers and songwriters, Bill and Gloria Gaither, were two others. One of my pastors growing up, Roy Smith, was another. Paul Cherry, an evangelist friend, was another. And of course, my awesome Dad and grandparents also instilled in me the value of trusting in Christ and putting my faith in Him alone. To everyone else, not mentioned here, I thank you as well!

Throughout my life since then, I have still faced many trials. From being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, living with constant pain since my freshman year in high school, watching my Dad struggle with cancer multiple times (and beating it multiple times), other loved ones struggling with pain and disease I could never possibly imagine, and still battling depression off and on, I have faced many hurdles in life and will continue to do so. God never promised me or anyone an easy life.

What He did promise me was that when I fully trust in Him, I can feel joy in the midst of pain. What He promised me was that even when I doubt, He still loves me unconditionally. Even when I question why bad things happen, He is still there, and He feels my pain, understands what I am going through, and He waits for me to once again turn back to Him, a Heavenly Father who loves me more than I could possibly fathom. Even when I ask for healing, ask for trials to end, ask for the desires of my heart, and He says “Wait” or just flat out “No,” I still trust that He is sovereign and that He still has a plan for me and will use me for His glory. And this gives me joy.

People may ask me why I have so much hope, so much joy, and so much peace. I would tell them that the answer is JESUS. If you’re reading this now, know that the answer is Jesus. For you and me, and for every other human being on this planet, He died a very painful and brutal death. He rose from the dead, and He will return one day to bring those who have accepted Him to live with Him for all eternity.

My Dad has definitely been an inspiration throughout my life’s story. To give you an example, I was struggling one day at college (Mary Hardin-Baylor) with my health problems. As I was struggling with this, my Dad, who was battling an infection after having beaten cancer the first time, text me some encouragement. Even as he was battling pain far worse than I can imagine, Dad texted me, “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 [Christ] together. Love you boy!” With Jesus Christ by his side, Dad overcame that infection in addition to beating cancer at least 3 times. What this example shows me is that even in the midst of painful trials, we can have hope in Christ Jesus. My Dad still reminds me of this daily.

I will tell you right now that you will still face struggles, but even in the midst of those struggles, you can still have joy in Christ Jesus. It all starts with accepting Him into your life. If you do this, you will still face many challenges, but you will have that assurance that Christ goes before you, that He is there to guide you throughout those challenges, and that one day, we will spend eternity with Christ and without any pain or sorrow. All you have to do is accept Christ into your life, trust in Him, and live for Him.

Please do not wait. You may not have tomorrow. You may not have the next hour. The time to accept Christ in your life is always right now.

If you are unsure of what to pray, pray this prayer.

“Lord Jesus, I come to you today, and I thank you for loving me so much. I understand that I am a sinner. I am truly sorry. I want to turn away from those sins and start following you. Please forgive me. I believe that you are God’s son, and that you died to take away my sins. I believe that you rose from the dead and will return for me someday. I understand that the only way to spend eternity in heaven is through you, Jesus. Come into my heart and save me. I love you and I want to follow you for the rest of my life. I ask you into my life. In your name, I pray, Amen.”

If you prayed that prayer, welcome to the family of God. Now, go tell others that you have asked Jesus Christ into your life, and share your story with others. Share what Christ has done in your life. I also encourage you to frequently read God’s Word. If you can’t afford a new Bible, biblegateway.com is a great resource that has the entire Bible in numerous translations. Always remember that you are beautiful and you are constantly pursued by a God who loves you so much.

If you still have questions, contact your local pastor, or you can email me at morethanconquerors839@gmail.com. I am praying for you and I love you.


Some words of encouragement:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16 (NIV)

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. – Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)

Yahweh your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will bring you quietness with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy. – Zephaniah 3:17 (HCSB)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8 (NIV)


Forever by Kari Jobe

Because He Lives by David Crowder Band (song originally by Bill and Gloria Gaither)

Our God is SOVEREIGN!

Three years ago today, I started this blog. At first, it was a weekly thing where I would post about topics every seven days about what the Lord was showing me. Over time, I have blogged less and less. My last blog post was in August of last year. Although, it’s been a while since my last post, God has revealed His majesty to me time and time again. So with that, here is my first blog post of 2018.

For a few months, I have wanted to write this post as a reflection of the past year. I wanted to share about the good and the bad, and how I have pushed myself to rejoice in God’s goodness in each of those moments. This is something that has been true in my walk with Christ for some time. I have witnessed moments of pure joy and moments that were quite the opposite. In each circumstance, I have desired to do one thing, and that is to trust that God is sovereign.

God has a plan for each of our lives. He is the Sovereign King who knows how many hairs are on our head, how many grains of sand are on this planet, and how many atoms make up the vastness of the never-ending universe. Sometimes our plans don’t always pan out the way we had hoped. Take it from me. When I was in the 5th grade, I told one of my all-time favorite teachers, Mrs. Ross (now Mrs. Standridge), that I wanted to be a tap-dancing evangelist. Needless to say, those plans have changed. About a year and a half ago, I wanted to pursue a PhD in Political Science. That ended when I thought God was calling me to go to seminary. And that ended when I realized… NOPE… God was calling me to a life of teaching. Knowing how awesome God’s plans are, that can still change, however little the change or however dramatic the change.

2017 reminded me quite often that God is sovereign. There were certainly some trials and sad moments along the way. Last year, my Dad was battling cancer after having beaten it multiple times already. There were a few funerals I attended of people close to me. And in the beginning of the year, I was still struggling with what my future was going to look like. In each of those moments, God reminded me that He has been in control, He is in control, and He will always be in control.

I was reminded of God’s goodness when He surrounded me with Christ-like people along the way. When I lost loved ones, scores of people encouraged me in person and through social media. When I found out that Dad’s cancer came back, the BSM director prayed with me that night. The same night, 4 other friends prayed with me after we worshipped together under the starry sky. Throughout my life, as my plans continually changed in accordance with God’s plan for my life, countless people have encouraged me along the way.

While there were sad moments, 2017 also afforded me with joyous moments, and in these moments, God reminded me again and again that He is sovereign. I student-taught some awesome kids at my old high school, witnessed friends graduate, graduated myself, got a teaching job, and watched countless football games with friends and family. One of the best highlights was meeting up with some friends for the 2017 NCAA Division III Football National Championship game between Mary Hardin-Baylor and Mount Union after having travelled for about 1400 miles through the Deep South with my Superman Dad. Side note, Huey Lewis and AC/DC make great additions to any road trip playlist! After my alma mater’s team lost, they tweeted a verse that emphasizes that God is truly sovereign.

Even if things don’t go your way, remember that God is still good!

Like any other year, 2017 had moments of joy, happiness, excitement, sadness, and disappointment. Since a new cancer spot appeared on my Dad’s lung, it has since shrunk to the point that there really isn’t anything left. While I have delighted in the opportunity God gave me in my first year of teaching, I have shed tears for each of my students because of how much I care about seeing them strive to reach their fullest potential. I have also rejoiced with them and have encouraged them when they have received those “lightbulb” moments and when they have shared the good things happening in their lives.

2017 also reminded me that there is still so much darkness in our world. Natural disasters ravaged parts of Texas, Florida, Montana, California, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Mexico, and South Asia just to name a few. Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and Christians in the Middle East are being persecuted, hate marches took place in Virginia, innocents were murdered at music festivals and in places of worship, homelessness still exists, human trafficking still exists, sexual assault still exists, and many children in the United States and around the world still don’t have quality access to a good education.

While I don’t have all the answers, while I don’t know for sure why bad things happen, and while I strive to become a voice for the voiceless, I still trust that God is sovereign. Even in the midst of tragedy, I am reminded of the goodness that humanity has the potential to display. When I see communities rally together to help those affected by hurricanes and fires, teachers advocating for the needs of their students and their schools, men and women empowering victims of sexual assault, religious leaders speaking out against racism and hate, and others raising awareness to those escaping war, famine, violence, and trafficking, I am reminded that there is always light in the midst of darkness.

No matter the circumstances in my life or in the lives of others around this world, I trust that God is sovereign. I trust that He has a plan. I trust in the promise that one day all nations will bow at the feet of a loving Heavenly Father and will rejoice in Christ the King.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:

“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

– Revelation 7:9-17 (NIV)

2017 reminded me, just as I know 2018 will continue to remind me, that no matter what comes in this life, good or bad, I serve a mighty God, and that all who believe in Him will one day rejoice with Him for all eternity. This is my hope. This is my prayer. That we learn to trust in God’s sovereignty!


New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 10 Feb. 2018.


Sovereign by Chris Tomlin

Trust in You by Lauren Daigle