Persistently Patient Made Pleasant

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,    over the man who carries out evil devices!” (Psalm 37:7)

If you know me very well you know that I’m very persistent. Over the past four (4) years I have pursued and achieved at least six (6) significant accomplishments in my life. This is a product of my determination and persistence, even to a fault. The fault is found in the fact that my persistence has not always been in line with the Lord. I, like everyone else am a sinner saved by the grace of God, through faith alone in Jesus Christ. This means I get things wrong and my persistence has led me into needless impatience. In fact, this is in contrast to the fruit of the spirit that advocates for patience. In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith.” As a result, the Lord in recent months has been calming my spirit and allowing me to embrace His leadership concerning persistence and patience in my life; enter in the picture below.

Patience Photo 3

This picture emphasizing patience is the newest decoration for my office. To be fair, I have no idea what rocks stacked together have to do with patience, but I was grateful for the deal I received on this decoration. LifeWay Christian Bookstores had the portrait on sale at 90% off. In addition to the steep discount, LifeWay actually allowed me to add another 25% discount on top of the original 90% off. Therefore, I was able to purchase this encouraging picture on patience for about $4.00, even if I’m not sure its connection to the rocks.

Regardless of the picture’s original meaning it holds significance to me. This is because; since the Lord has been leading me through His lessons on patience for my life I have been eyeballing this picture for months. There was even a time when I almost bought it when it was at 50% off. But, I patiently held out than persistently buying it prematurely. I figured if someone else purchases it then I can live without it. However, by denying my persistence to rule my life and instead allowing my patience to provide me with the proper clarity, I refrained from making an expensive purchase. In the end, the Lord allowed me to have this personal reminder concerning the blessings of patience over persistence, even at a pleasant price.

It is important to remember that persistence has its place, but it should always fall subject the ways of the Lord. Otherwise, like Psalm 37:7 indicates we are attempting to “prosper in our own way” and that is an “evil device” because we fail to submit to the Lord’s way for us. This is how the Lord has been teaching me patience over persistence, which has resulted in a more pleasant Christian walk and ministry. I feel much calmer and confident in Christ than ever before. As a result, I look forward to His future lessons.

In the meantime if you want to help me figure out what rocks and patience have to do with one another, I’ll gladly take your suggestions. If not, I’ll be patient on the portraits meaning until the Lord reveals the significance to me. For now, I’m just pleasant for His leadership in teaching me how to merge my persistence with His patience.

Blessings,

Mike

Trial and Error, and a New Focus

It has been a while since I have posted on my blog. In fact, it has been over a month. There are a lot of reasons to my inactivity. Things such as, writing essays for doctoral programs, to being unsure what I want to write about, to being too critical of my own writing abilities, and simply not liking my own blog-name and theme. I have also tried to be uncontroversial because I know too many people discredit themselves based on what they put on social media. Just the same, I have tried not to be negative. There is enough negativity on blogs, especially Christian-based Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) blogs. All of this means my writing goals have been experiencing an identity crisis. However, I recently have decided on a direction I am going to try to point my blog towards, which is simply sharing biblically based life illustrations.

A Solution

The idea for biblically based life illustrations indirectly comes from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) President Dr. Chuck Kelley. For years, Dr. Kelley kept a journal of illustrations he chronicles throughout the day. One of my preaching professors, Dr. Ron Pate reported that Dr. Kelley would record at least five (5) illustrations a day. To me, this sounds like a great practice and one I want to mimic. Personally though, I have failed miserably in this discipline. I may be too much of a product of my own generation, meaning I like to type more than I do write by hand. So I figured why not turn this failure and love for typing into the basis of this blog, hence the name “Vertically Illustrated.” The new name aspires to illustrate the Lord’s hand in the daily observations of my life or the life of others while pointing back to a biblical passage as the source of inspiration. Also, my prayer is that it will allow me to not just illustrate God’s providence in my life, but also point towards Christ in a very compassionate and common means.

A Benefit

In addition to helping me create illustrations that minister and biblically inspire others; I hope this approach will take the pressure off of my writing expectations. Before under the old name, “Vertical Resilience” I felt too constricted. I believed I had to write towards a certain niche of perseverance every time. This became too difficult because if I am writing about adversity in every post I might want to see counselor because I have problems, this sentence was a joke in case you do not know my dry humor. Therefore, by being Vertically Illustrated I now have the freedom to simply write. I can write about anything I have the passion to write about, it is like being literarily set free. I can use my variety of areas to illustrate and inspire others from a host of interests I maintain. Some of these areas include apologetics, sports, leadership, resilience, the SBC, and other concentrations. Basically, I want to use these things to biblically reflect the person whom the Lord Jesus Christ has created me to be and who He is molding me to be further.

Conclusion

This is where I intend to go from here because the old blog focus made writing more a chore than a joy. I see it as a new lease on blogging and really a new lease on my own spiritual formation. My prayer is by trying to minister and inspire others I will enhance my own walk with Christ. By not just seeing the inspiration in the daily activities of life, but by establishing them with a biblical basis I will be able to point myself and most of all others towards the love Jesus even more. To me, that sounds like fun and is worth writing about!

Blessings,

Mike

God CAN & MAY Put More On You Than You Can Handle

God CAN & MAY Put More On You Than You Can Handle

Many of us have heard the phrase “God will never put more on us than we can handle.” A friend of mine asked me about this phrase this morning. His concerns were, “Can someone please give me a solid biblical understanding of the statement?” My friends question was very appropriate. The answer I provided him I have updated and provided below because I think it is time we start facing the fact that in our churches we believe a lot of things that really have little to do with scripture.

The phrase “God will not put more on you than you can handle” is one of those instances and is not anywhere in the Bible. Rather it is an inaccurate rephrasing of I Corinthians 10:13, which says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (NASB). Often people latch onto the part of I Corinthians 10:13, which says “But with the temptation will provide the way of escape.” This is true, but it does not mean the escape consists of a means based on our own strength.Stress

Therefore, I believe the phrase “God will never put more on me than I can bear” is an unbiblical interpretation and application of I Corinthians 10:13. This is because it misrepresents the Lord of scripture by making Him a get out of jail card genie for our life. Faith in Christ is NEVER about what we can do. In fact in 10:22 Paul also writes, “We are not stronger than He, are we?” It should always be about the power of God and what He can do first, not after our own efforts have been depleted. Without Him we can do nothing. If we were able to save ourselves even from temptation then Christ’s death on the cross was in vain.

Rather in I Corinthians 10:13 “the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” is dependence on faith in Christ Jesus. It is resting in His power, the same power that brought victory over the grave. In fact in chapter ten Paul refers to how ancient Israel did not depend on God. Rather they turned to idols, which God continually became frustrated with them over. We must then be careful that we do not repeat the same mistake. This mistake is that we should not make ourselves idols believing that we have the power to overcome things that were meant for us to depend on Christ to perform. So the next time you hear someone say, “God won’t put more on you than you can handle” inform him or her that the Lord may actually put more on us then we can handle. This way we will have to depend on the strength of Christ and not boast in ourselves.

In closing, as Christians we may believe things we have learned in church, but that are not truly represented in the Bible. This provides a whole host of problems. The greatest is that it turns the Gospel into something that is man-centered and not God-centered. The point of the Gospel hope is about everything the Lord does and only what we receive. Let’s know our Bibles and what God teaches so we can give others the hope of the Lord and not the continual fall of man.

 

The Penalty of Saying “No!”

The Penalty of Saying No! 

My Dad grew up a car salesman and told me “A good deal is a deal that benefits everyone.” Today, I often wonder how many people understand this concept because I find many people want a deal that only benefits them. Regretfully, I figured out the practicality of a good deal that benefits everyone the hard way during 4H camp when I was twelve (12) years old. Gratefully, though I did learn the lesson, which I will now explain.

Every twelve (12) year old 4H camper has the opportunity to accept the leadership position known as a Counselor in Training or (CIT). For reasons still unsure to myself when I was twelve (12) I remained a regular camper and refused this leadership position. My decision would haunt me. This is because all the other twelve (12) year olds were treated more favorably than myself because they accepted the responsibility of becoming a CIT. This meant they ate first, stayed up late, and were not micromanaged as much. In fact remember vividly another twelve year (12) old CIT telling me to go to bed early. At the time my thoughts were, “Who are you to tell me anything. You’re the same age as I am and no different than I.” However, they were different because unlike myself they embraced the responsibility of a CIT and earned the benefits and privileges with the position. I wanted all of the benefits of being a CIT without actually being a leader. I wanted a “bad deal.”

As I look back at my rejection of becoming a Counselor in Training I realize it could have stood for Adult in Training. This is because the very nature of the position was preparing me to become both a future counselor and adult. 4H was trying to teach me the practical value of a “good deal” while I was still a youth. Though I rejected this intentional opportunity, unintentionally this experience taught me the value of leadership through my refusal. I learned that we should embrace the opportunities God presents us in life and failure to do so leaves us with no one to blame but ourselves.

2 Thessalonians 3:10b of the Bible says, “If anyone is not willing to work; let him not eat.” This is not to say that God can’t bless us when we refuse to obey Him. Rather this verse encourages us to obey Him in order to be in the best position possible to receive God best deal. His deal involves our belief on His Son Jesus Christ who died for the atonement of our sin. He was then raise from the dead a few days later. Christ’s death was the death of our sin and His new life is the new life we can have, all we have to do is follow Jesus by committing our life to Him. This is not just a good deal; it’s a great deal!

Regardless of if you embrace Christ (which I hope you do) I still want to encourage you to embrace new leadership roles. Start by asking yourself these questions:

Where do you want to be in your life?

What do you want to accomplish?

Have you ever thought that your goals may require you to embrace more responsibility?

Are you currently placing yourself in position for added responsibility in your life?

In conclusion, no matter how you become more responsible let me encourage you to do it. Embrace new leadership roles, and if you fail in the process simply try again. Remember I refused to become a CIT at 4H camp and it taught me the practical value of embracing responsibility. Once I understood the lesson from my mistake I have continually embraced leadership roles and have rarely regretted the increased responsibility. In the process, I have been able to aid others and have enjoyed the assistance I’ve provided and the benefits too. As my Dad would say, “It’s been a good deal.” So here my “deal” I now encourage you to: Go make a difference in your life by making leading others in the process!

THE ABCD’s OF EVANGELISM & DISCIPLESHIP

ABCDTHE ABCD’s OF EVANGELISM & DISCIPLESHIP

Evangelism is a key part of the Christian life. I believe this so much that I pursued a degree teaching me how to motivate others to be better at evangelism. As a part of this degree I learned a variety of evangelistic techniques. One of these techniques was the ABC’s of evangelism.  This evangelistic model is used In VBS and in a lot of churches because it’s a very simplistic and effective means to communicate the Gospel of Christ.   Specifically the ABC’s of Evangelism that stand for:

A = Admit (Admit that you are a sinner, based on Romans 3:23)

B = Believe (Believe that Christ died on the cross for your sins, based on John 1:12)

C = Confess (Confess that Christ is the Lord of your life, based on Romans 10:9-10)

Many Christians have used this evangelistic tool to lead others to eternal security in Jesus Christ. However, no matter how effective of a tool it is, I contend that the ABC’s of Evangelism is missing a step.

Earlier I mentioned I pursued a degree in evangelism. My degree in evangelism taught me how to equip others to be better at evangelism. The degree also taught me how discipleship fit into a healthy church evangelistic model. They believe, as I do now, that if one is discipled effectively then they become better at evangelism. For example, when one knows how to share their faith they are more likely to practice evangelism. Hence, a church increases their evangelistic reach from their discipleship investment into others. So, what does all of this have to do with the ABC’s of Evangelism?  Again, I believe the ABCs of evangelism does not go far enough.

Please know that I believe the three steps are very effective in leading one to Christ, and that does NOT need to change.  Rather, we must never forget that after one is converted by embracing a new life in Christ through faith, that this is when discipleship begins. Thus I suggest the ABC’s of Evangelism become the ABCD’s of Evangelism & Discipleship, which looks like this.

A = Admit (Admit that you are a sinner)

B = Believe (Believe that Christ died on the cross for your sins)

C = Confess (Confess that Christ is Lord)

D = Discipleship (Make Disciples of All Nations & Follow Him)

This model does not diminish the current evangelistic model; instead it adds to the current model to include discipleship. Therefore, evangelism and discipleship are included and neither is left out. This addition allows for an intentional emphasis to be placed on discipleship, just as there has been on evangelism. Therefore, I believe the discipleship component of the ABCD’s of Evangelism & Discipleship should strive to do two things.

1. To train Christians to be able to lead others to faith in Jesus Christ and then disciple new converts to replicate the same for others.

2. To train Christians to become life-long learners of the Christian faith in order to faithfully follow Christ as The Lord if their life.

Lifelong

In closing, Jesus said “follow me and I will make you fishers of men” in Matthew 4:19  not just to call on the name of The Lord to be saved. He said to “make disciples” in Matthew 28:18-20 not just pray this prayer. We need evangelism, but we also need life-long discipleship. I’m not advocating that one is better than the other; instead I’m stating that one with out the other is incomplete. In our efforts to see one eternally secure, lets teach them how in this life to endure.

See you at the next post!

Embracing A Nay-Say Free Lifestyle: The Beginning

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Embracing A Nay-Say Free Lifestyle: The Beginning

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin, which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

I won’t pretend that my life is one of the hardest ever lived, but I know that I’ve had a hard life compared to some. This has resulted in me living the first thirty-two (32) years of my life in negativity and anxiety. Recently, in response to my stressful outlook I’ve found the value of placing encouraging people in my life. For example, about a year ago I heard a friend give me some wise advice. He said, “Refuse to listen to the naysayers.” His comment was not for me, but another person whom I was in the room with. However, his comment began a work of God in my life to start eradicating the influence of anxious, negative, bitter, or sour naysayers. I had spent the first thirty-two (32) years of my life around individuals that fostered such an attitude and God convinced me that, enough-was-enough! Since then I’ve began a journey towards a more constructive (some would use the word positive) life by not giving naysayers too much of my energy or time.

As a minister I’ve had the opportunity to work with all kinds of people. For example, in the past ten (10) years I served a congregation that was riddled with bitter naysayers. Now we’ve all had bad days, but these people rarely saw anything that was constructive or positive. They made it impossible to succeed. My response to their cynicism was the deterioration of my health, my relationships, and my general outlook on life. To be fair, even though they had a cynical view of life I still had a responsibility in how I responded to their negativity. I had let them stress effect my life critically and I knew I needed a change.

The change began when God led me to combine experience with the “Naysay Church” and the advice of my friend who later suggested to“ Refuse to listen to the naysayers.” From these two events I realized I did have a choice in how I perceived my circumstances. I also had the choice to no longer tolerate negative naysayers, and I no longer will.

Please know that I believe negative people need to be helped just the same any other type of personality. However, some persistently negative naysayers MAY NOT let anyone help them. Therefore, one must come to a point where the dust is removed from one’s feet and you move on. This is my encouragement today because we must reconsider how to best expend our energy towards people that crave our attention and our help. Too often our energies of zapped by those that drain the life out from us. This is not fair to us and it is not fair to those that would really value our support, advice, and help.

Admittedly, it may seem I’m giving up on negative people, but I’m not. Instead, I want to encourage everyone to not spend one’s time needlessly on someone that refuses to be helped. Also, I realize I still have much to learn, but what I have learned I want to reflect in the next few posts. Some of the topics will cover how to find a balance between helping a person and not letting them become a drain. I’ll also share some hard lessons from where I became bitter towards others and how God has redeemed my error. Other posts will include humor, and the realization that there is a positive in everything if one looks hard enough. I’ll also let you know why I prefer a constructive life than simply being positive.

Ultimately, I desire all people to be helped, if possible. The key phrase is, “if possible.” I’m wiling to do what I can to minister to anyone in order to help one live a more abundant life, hopefully a life abundant in Christ. Regardless of your faith the choice yours if you view your choice as real and “possible.” This is because I believe possibility is what distinguishes a hopeful person from a negative person; the choice is yours.

See you soon!

The History Channel’s Bible Mini-Series & How Christians Can Enjoy It!

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On Sunday night The Bible mini-series began on the History Channel began. I did not get to see the series until Monday since our church was having services until 7:30 pm CST. However, when I logged on social media I was sad to see so many Christians publically debating each other about how the series was produced. I was sad because of how our public fighting was becoming a caricature of what society already thinks about Christianity.

First, let me state that I endorse the Bible as the sufficient, inerrant, and inspired Word of God. I also believe that the Bible series is not infallible since it is not the Word of God. Therefore, it will have errors, which Christians should expect. In fact by now we Christians should not be surprised at how inaccurately media portrays the Bible. Even with the shows errors it was still portrayed surprisingly well unlike other attempts previously done by the media. For example, about a decade ago NBC produced a mini-series on Noah that was horrid. Also, the History Channel itself is not a stranger to its portrayal of the Bible in years past. This is why is shocked me that so many Conservative Christians, including seminary friends of mine were instantly critical of the series. It seemed some Christians only watched the series so they could have something to get mad about, even if it meant picking at the smallest detail. This type of behavior needs to stop because I think it makes Christianity appear unappealing and unloving to our society.

Rather then, as Christians we must see the good in things, including this series, and not just look for the negative. We live in a fallen and sinful world, which makes the world messy. As a result, nothing is going to be perfect and we should accept that. It also means that we can look for redeeming qualities in something and not just look for a reason to be critical.

We also need to be careful about how we bicker and criticize things publically. I’m not saying this Bible mini-series itself is infallible, but I am saying that the memory of this series for the lost should not be how Christians nit-picked with one another about the series details. Too often as Christians we rest in the defensive position rather than the constructive posture.

Lastly, regardless of how right or wrong the History channel presents the Bible in this mini-series I believe in a God that is sovereign enough to use this for His good and purposes. You should also find comfort and peace in that too. After all it is the Holy Spirit that ultimately works within the life of each person. As Paul wrote in Philippians 1:18 (NASB), “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.” Yes, we need to have standards and not water down God’s truth, but we also need to trust Him with the results. Failure to do so can further alienate us from our culture that already invalidates the message of Christ because of its messengers. Let’s choose to be less critical and leave the judgments to the Lord.