Thursday, January 26, 2006

Why So Surprised?

Throughout my life, I’ve always wanted to make sure I knew exactly when and where something was going to happen, especially if I was involved. In fact, I remember going into my fifth grade class with my parents a week before school started in order to learn everything about that class so that nothing unexpected would happen. I was happy to find out that the teacher was going to write what we were going to do each day on the board. In a perfect world, everything would be like that. The future would be written down on the board and we would know exactly what was going to happen. But this isn’t a perfect world and many times the things God allows us to go through are unexpected. In fact, many times the roads God puts us on are no where close to where we thought we’d be.

After my eighth grade year, I had a humongous desire to learn how to build webpages—this was an urge that I never had before and I certainly never thought I’d ever do anything with computers. There was a problem though; in order to take a Webmastering class at my high school, you had to be a junior or a senior. My father, who encouraged me to work toward my goal of learning how to build websites, contacted the principal and asked if it were possible for me to take the class as a freshman. With some thought, the principal told my father that he would allow me to take the class but I would have to pass the keyboarding exam which was the prerequisite class for Webmastering.

At the end of my eighth grade summer, I worked hard at learning how to write business letters and mastering my skills of typing so that I could pass the exam. After much preparation and prayer, God helped me pass the exam and during my ninth grade year I was bussed from the ninth grade campus to the main campus in order to take a Webmastering class with juniors and seniors.

After my freshman year in high school, I had gained the knowledge required in order to build websites. The story doesn’t stop there though; God was not done preparing me for what He had in store. My sophomore year I joined a student organization called Future Business Leaders of America and competed against students across the nation in multimedia design. The project that I was given was to make a presentation using an animation software called Flash. Not only had I never thought about animation, I had never used this software before. It turns out that, once again with much preparation and prayer, God helped me win third in the nation.

The success that God gave me during that time spurred me to work more on my computer skills. During my sophomore, junior and senior years in high school, I worked hard to learn computer programming. With much preparation and prayer, God allowed me to pass the Advanced Placement test for computer science. At that time, I knew that I was interested in working with computers, but I had no idea why God allowed me to do what I’d done.

I am currently 19 years old and I work at Fellowship Church as the animator for their new children’s curriculum. The amazing thing is that everything that this job involves uses the skills that God allowed me to gain earlier on in my life. Because of the animation competition I did as a sophomore, the transition to the animation software I use now was extremely smooth. Because of the web work that I did in my ninth grade year and because of my previous computer programming experience, I am able to use a part of this animation software that uses the same computer programming language! If I didn’t know the programming language then I wouldn’t be able to do so many of the amazing things that this software is capable of doing! I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would end up being an animator but God knew exactly where He wanted me.

You may be thinking, “Collin, you’re just rambling on in order to brag about your success” but that’s not true. I tell you none of this in order to brag about where I am or what I’ve been through; I tell you this in order to boast of the awesome power and wisdom of our God!

When I began to realize that God had prepared me to do the job that He has put me in, I was surprised! But why was I surprised? As Christians we constantly tell ourselves and others that God can do all things, we boast to others about His awesome power and we rely heavily on His wisdom, but many times we ourselves are surprised when we see the works of God.

If we truly believe that the Bible is God’s word then there is no reason why we should be surprised when we see a display of God's power. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your paths.” I had no idea why I had the desire to learn how to build websites or to learn computer programming or even why I joined FBLA, but now I see that what I went through was God’s way of preparing me to do the job He designed for me to do.

Do you sometimes feel that what you have gone through in your life is just a jumble of different events that amount to nothing? Do you feel that the things that you have gone through in your life are in no way preparing you to do what you feel you were meant to do? Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Even though you may not know it, God has a plan for you and no matter the situations you are currently in, no matter where you live or what you know, when the time is right, God will place you where He wants you to be. Live your life for God, work at everything as if you were working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23) and when God’s plan for your life is revealed to you, don’t be surprised by how much God has prepared you to do what He has entrusted you to do.

Friday, January 20, 2006

On Guard

The last couple of weeks have been extremely busy and I haven’t been able to post as much as I would have liked. Fortunately, I am glad to say that the busyness has come to an end for a while and you can look to see posts closer together in the future. For those of you who read my blog every chance you get, I am sorry that it has been so long since the last post. Thank you to all who prayed that I wouldn’t be too stressed with my workload; God has definitely been with me as the amount of work that I’ve had has been, at times, overwhelming. God Bless!

A long time ago, there was this cat that showed up in our backyard. Even though we already had two cats, my Mom, being the wonderful and caring person she is, decided that we were going to keep it. Out of the three cats that currently call our house home, Annabelle was the first, Bob was the second, and the third—the one that showed up in our backyard—was Sadie. One thing that you will notice if you watch Bob for a while is that he is very territorial (he’s the only male cat we have) and he doesn’t like it when Annabelle or Sadie get around him. Annabelle won’t put up with Bob’s shenanigans so Bob won’t mess with her much, but in Sadie’s case, she has to be on constant guard in order to know where Bob is. She knows that if she lets her guard down, Bob will corner her and pounce on her.

The life that Sadie has experienced in our household is one much like the life of Christians. When we first accept Christ we are placed in His family which brings feelings of love, joy and belonging. What many soon realize though is that the Christian lifestyle, as amazing as it is, brings times of trial and suffering as well. The truth is that as Christians, we are in a war with Satan and the demons that were cast out of Heaven with him. These times of trials are tough, but they are God’s way of giving us the opportunity to grow in our walk with Christ and to strengthen our reliance on Him. We must constantly be on guard against Satan’s ploys; he is always on the prowl in order to destroy our relationship with Christ. (John 10:10).

When Bob chases after Sadie and corners her, she will usually start to scream. It’s at these times that we run after Bob yelling and clapping so that he will leave Sadie alone. Because we are bigger, stronger and smarter than Bob, we are able to scare him away so that Sadie will be safe. The same is true with the wonderful God we serve! When we accept Christ and believe sincerely in our hearts that He rose from the dead after dying on the cross for our sins, we are guaranteed life in Heaven with Christ forever (John 5:24, Romans 8:1-2)! The power of Satan and all of his demons doesn’t even come close to being as powerful as God; it can’t really be compared!

Are you conscious of the fact that Satan wants so badly for you to fail? Do you feel that you have no chance of standing up against his evil plans? It is very important that as Christians we are aware of the fact that Satan wants to destroy our faith, but at the same time, there is no need for us to be afraid! We serve an amazing God who is more powerful than we can comprehend; even demons believe in Him and they tremble because of it (James 2:19)! Dive deep into God’s word and build your relationship with Him; the more you know about our Creator, the easier it will be to stay on guard against Satan’s attacks.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Don't Forget

After my senior year in high school, most of my friends went off to colleges that were out of state. I always enjoy getting to see them again when they come into town because I am reminded of the many qualities that make each of them unique. I find that the longer I am away from them, the more I forget about how funny they are, what they sound like, and sometimes, because I go so long without seeing them, the picture of them in my mind’s eye becomes blurry. Because we are humans, there are times when we will fail. When we sin, we separate ourselves from God and, when we constantly sin against Him, it is easy to forget who He really is.

The kingdom of Judah experienced this exact same thing. In Isaiah 1, we read of a vision given to the prophet Isaiah concerning the rebellious nature of Judah. In verses 2-3, God says:

The children I raised and cared for have turned against me. Even the animals--the donkey and the ox--know their owner and appreciate his care, but not my people Israel. No matter what I do for them, they still do not understand.

As you can see, the people of Judah had turned their back on God for so long that they no longer recognized Him nor appreciated His care! Because the kingdom of Judah continued to sin, they cut themselves off from God’s help; their rebellion against God constantly invited the punishment for their sins (verse 5) and the country lied in ruins (verse 7).

In Isaiah 1:10-15 wee see that God was not happy with the sacrifices that were made by the people of Judah. This was because their sacrifices were only outward expressions without inward faith. Isaiah 1:16-20 shows us the command from God to Judah to turn from their sins and to seek Him. God lets them know that, even though they were stained with sin like scarlet (which is a deep-red permanent dye that is virtually impossible to remove), He could make them as white as snow if they would obey Him. However, if they chose to turn away from Him and refused to listen to His instructions then they would be destroyed.

Do you feel like you have been so far from God for so long that you have forgotten who He really is? Like Judah, we have all had times in our lives where we have strayed from God and His will for our lives. This passage reminds us that, if we turn from our sins and obey God’s instructions, He will come near to us. However, the longer we turn our back on Him, the more we will invite punishment into our lives for the evil deeds we do. To truly experience who God is and the love He provides, we must indulge ourselves in a relationship with Him and strive to do what He instructs us to. Don’t allow sin to cause you to forget the wonderful things God is capable of doing in your life.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Follow The Light

For Christmas in 2005, my family and I went to College Station, TX to spend some time with my aunt’s family. A while back they got a new dog named Duke and, when we go to visit, we enjoy playing with him. Duke is a two year old black lab and he could be considered a perfect candidate for animal Attention Deficit Disorder. One of his favorite things to do is to chase around a laser beam and try his best to pounce on it. Wherever the laser goes, so does Duke and, when we try to put the laser away, Duke will gnaw at the drawer and try to get it back out.

Like Duke, we all choose to be led by something. Sadly, many people choose to follow money, drugs, sex, etc. because they feel that it will guide them to the most abundant life. The only problem is that any satisfaction we get from worldly things is only temporary (Matthew 6:19-21). As Christ-followers though, we can rest assured that God’s plan for our lives is perfect, even though the Christian lifestyle isn’t always easy.

The true path to joy that only God can provide is revealed by the light that God’s word provides. The Bible says in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” Just like Duke was following the light from the laser, if we want to live a truly abundant life, we must go where God’s light (the Bible) leads us. The more we follow the path that God paves for us, the more we will yearn to look to it for guidance—just like Duke when he’d gnaw at the drawer in hopes to be able to follow the light again.

Do you find yourself following things that are of this world? Do you look to God’s word for guidance? The road we’ll travel is not always easy to understand, but as Christ-followers we can rest assured that our Lord directs our steps (Proverbs 20:24); all we have to do is follow the Light. Look to God’s Word—the Holy Bible—for guidance; “do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5b-6).