Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Non-Prodigal Son

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours."" Luke 15:31

Hello readers.  Welcome to my heart.  Let's begin.  

Now we all have heard about the famous prodigal son story correct? Well, in case you haven't, here's a quick summary.   

Man has two sons, one decides to get his inheritance early and go away to Las Vegas and do what people do there. (Seriously, that's what it says.) Ok, let me stop.  It does say "he set off for a distant country and squandered his wealth in wild living" (Luke 15:13)  So after he blows all his money, a famine hits the country and he finds a job feeding pigs.  And after he starts to get hungry for the pigs food, something clicks in him and he notices that he has hit rock bottom.  The son then decides within himself and rationalizes and figures out a plan and a speech to convince his father to accept him.  He creates conditions that he's going to bring up to his father in exchange for his being able to return home.  This could be an example of, "God if you get me out of this I promise I'll get my life right." And then, strangely enough, the bible says, “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." Luke 15:20. 

Wait a minute? No, "I told you so's?"  No, "Oh, I knew you'd come crawling back."  No conditions? No questions asked? Just love.  WAIT CLAUDE! YOU'RE GETTING OFF TRACK.  

This blog isn't about that son.  It's about the other one.  The over-looked one.  The one that doesn't get talked about.  That jealous and angry one.  The jerk.  Because when his brother comes back and the dad is celebrating, he has something to say about it.  Listen to this.  

 ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’  

Eh, he kind of has a point? Don't you think?  Go on, read how the Father responds.    

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours."" Luke 15:31

Sounds like somebody is missing the point, doesn't it?

Now this story has so much symbolism in it.  Now the first obvious symbol is the lost son being the unbeliever and that God is fully ready to take them at any time.  No conditions, no questions, just repent by turning from your ways and coming to Him.  But who is this other son symbolizing?  

Them rhythmic Christians.  The ones who simply attend church every Sunday just because that's the Lords day.  The ones who simply tithe and pray when things are wrong.  A great example--them Bible Belt children. (Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.) 
Sounds like a little bitterness huh?  Apparently this son has only been obeying to please his father, not because he loves him.  This put the son in a position to be able to fix his mouth to complain. 
And then there are the Christians that are still attracted to the world, so they edge close to the line just enough to stay on the "still saved" side because they still desire those youthful lusts. (Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’) Now the obvious translation is just the son is upset because he hasn't gotten any materialistic rewards for his obedience.  But I sense a little bit of jealousy in this statement.  It appears (take it as my opinion) that this son may have been envious that the other son was "bold enough" to disrespect the father and leave and do what he "secretly" wanted to do.  This is again a dangerous area for Christians.  Still being attracted to the world and our bodies fleshly desires can slowly lead us away from God.  Now this son still was in a "better place" because he desired to please the father over rebelling, but his bitterness with his brother returning home shows a deeper problem.  He got offended.  He felt cheated.  If you're a Christian and would be jealous and upset with God when He saves that friend of yours that lived however he wanted to his entire life but accepts God on His deathbed and is standing next to you in heaven, have a problem.  You're missing the point.  The grandest point of all the points.  The father in this story understands it.  

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours."" Luke 15:31

So paraphrased.  The father is like, "Are you kidding me?  You've been here with me.  Have you not being enjoying my presence and love alone?  You've had everything you needed."  

Now lets wrap this up.  

Our Father in heaven desires us.  He desires the ones found and the ones that are lost.  And judging by the story, he loves when the lost come home.  And apparently to him, love means everything.  The father didn't even recognize that he was in debt to the son, because he thought just he alone was enough.  So, I can imagine he was a little broken-hearted by this outburst by the other son.  Because basically the son told him that he deserves all these other things because just being around the father wasn't enough.  And how so often to we treat our heavenly Father like this?  

I know, its convicting to me too.  But we do it so often. We'll put our hearts in all sorts of other things, declaring they'll make us happy.  I remember desiring the love of a woman over the love of my Father, demanding him that I deserved this.  "God, I've worked so hard to be a good guy, why can't I have this? I should be able to blah blah blah." Seriously?  The creator of the Earth has to fight for our attention?  The most wonderful thing in the universe, the most precious thing that promises us an abundant supply of love if we only just dive into His arms has to be jealous of me because I would even dare put anything above Him?  The same hands that holds the world wants to hold mine and nope, God, I'll rather have that fattened calf. 

Let it soak in.  Can we consider not being like one of these two sons?  Lets not be the one that ran off and feel like he has to work for his father's approval, but just ACCEPT God's love.  Hey, I know its hard to figure out, because dude messed up bad in this story.  But for some strange reason, his father decided to love him anyway.  Yes, that's just like our God.  And, let's not be like the other son and only do things because its the right thing to do.  But enjoy God in His reverence and His gentleness that He actually just wants you to love and spend time with Him.  I'm pretty sure He's confident in His love that once you start to get a taste of it, you'll want to do what's pleasing to Him because you'll want more.  That's a natural response to things we enjoy.  So love God, no.....REALLY LOVE HIM.  True love requires a commitment.  He's already committed to His end of it.  

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God"

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cameron's Diary (Prologue I)

Dear Diary,

  This week has been ehhh....different.  I don't know why Nate and I put ourselves in situations like this, but we always do.  We started reading this book called "God is My Girlfriend" which is a book about helping men in their singleness grow closer to God.  And the first chapter started off with one question....WHY?  The author asked us "Why do we desire a girlfriend? What's this fascination with women?" So my first response was like, "I don't know, ask Adam."  But as soon as I said that, the author continued with his clever insight.  "Not being focused on God's direction is precisely what happened in the Fall of Man." Needless to say I shut up and continued to read.  He then asked a question, "So again, why do you desire a girlfriend?  Is it going against God's directions for your life?"

So with that gentle slap in the face I dove into the book and have grown very fond of it.  The author has a great sense of humor that makes all the convictions easier to handle.  So I am very much enjoying the book.  Mostly because it has exposed to me that apparently I misunderstand love.  The author is suggesting I step away from the dating game to focus on allowing God to teach me some things.  At first, of course, I was like "yeah right bruh".  But I get his points and I might ease into it.  Which is why I'm asking Nate why in the world have we put ourselves in this situation? All for God's glory huh?

So as with anything, the minute I'm deciding to leave women alone (at least until I finish reading this book) I start to meet a bunch of pretty girls.  Now I've never been the type that gets overly excited just because I'm getting attention from girls, so the conversations are never tagged as "special" unless there's a true reason.  And strangely enough, my definition of "special conversation" usually requires some talk about God or Christian walks or LeBron James, but I "encountered" a girl today, and it was strange.  Here's the story.

So I'm in the library checking my email before one of my classes.  Typical.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  But as I'm leaving the library, I decided to cut through the lounging area for some reason, can't think of the reason now.  (seriously, why did I?)  And almost like fate an alarm goes off as I'm walking pass this girl fast asleep in a chair.  I stop because it startled me, and then I look at her for a few seconds.  And before I could fully comprehend what was going, I was tapping her on her shoulder.  She jumped out of her sleep.  So I smiled, afraid she was going to think I was trying to take advantage of her and asked, "Hey, you know your phone ringing?"  Then her facial expression went from shocked to annoyance.  Then she responded, "Yeah, of course I do." Then I asked, "Are you going to answer it?"  She reponds, "Of course I am."  So after her having an attitude with me, she then askes me for the time. And apparently she was running late for something because after I tell her the time she begins to scramble to gather her things.  I just walked away.  Her attitude was too much for me.  But, I'll give her the benefit of the doubt, maybe she had had a bad night or boyfriend problems.  Who knows with women right?

But the reason I shared that because of what happened and how it happened.  Now I don't like making big deals out of anything, but I don't usually do things like that.  Yeah, I just woke up a person who was asleep, but it almost felt like a divine nature was present.  I think I was led to wake up her.  Strange? I don't know, I'll just leave it at that.  I'll probably never see that girl again.  Hope she made it to whatever she was running late for, but man she looked good.  Anyways, let me go read some more of this book and call it a night.  Good night diary.  Pray for me, this book is asking a lot.  I mean, give up women? Seriously?

----Cameron Taylor

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Training Wheels Off

"Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

 Hello readers. Welcome to my heart.  Let's begin.  

I love this verse---a lot.  In it, Jesus is suggesting to us to become like little children.  And of course, we grown people are quickly to be like, "Jesus, you know we can't do that.  We can't go back to diapers and walking around drinking juice and throwing tantrums and trying to put everything in our mouths."  Well, that's not what He meant. (Quick sermon) Children have an innocence that the world manages to take from us as we grow up.  We have become conditioned adults (see blog Matters of the Heart) and have a hard time accepting anything that doesn't come with a complete future diagram, profit estimation, schematics, coupons, and the list goes on.  So Jesus is informing us that we have to return as like children before we can truly enjoy the relationship with Him.  I mean, our parents lied to us for years and told us Santa Claus could actually fit his butt down a chimney and put presents under our tree without us knowing? Really?  But that shows our innocence.  That shows that we trusted our parents so much that whatever they said, it was truth---and we trusted in it.  So Jesus is desiring us to learn how to fully trust in Him like innocent children. Figured out where I'm headed yet? Let us all look away into space and imagine this moment.  

There's a father teaching his young son how to ride a bike.  The proper process is to get a tiny toddler bike with training wheels attached.  Now, the father knows that the little boy has the potential to ride a two-wheeled bike without training wheels one day, but the father honors the process.  He honors the confidence that must be built in the basics of riding the bike before allowing him to ride without the training wheels.  (Wow, this is getting powerful too quick.)  

So, the dad and the young boy is riding up and down the sidewalk.  The dad is patiently being sure to teach the boy how pedaling is the most important thing about riding a bike; I mean, its what keeps the bike going.  The little boy is fearful at first, because its all new to him. But his dad continues to remind the boy that he's there right behind him and that he want let him fall.  So the boy pedals.  The wind feels great rushing across his face.  He's in a whole new world now, and he turns around and sees his dad running right along side of him.  Now the day comes for the little boy to take off the training wheels.  He's excited about the new level of achievement.  I mean, every kid cannot wait to get his training wheels off.  He's a big boy now! So the little boy hops onto the bike and instantly feels the difference.  The two extra wheels are off the sides for extra support.  That comfort zone of having those extra wheels there to stable him was missing, and he panicked.  He quickly jumped back off the bike.  

"What's wrong son?"  
"It's scary dad.  It doesn't balance right without the training wheels."  
"I know.  But you can't ride with them forever.  You want to go back to wearing them?"  
"No sir."
"Ok, so lets get back on the bike.  You can trust me ok?  The promise still remains.  I won't let you fall." 

So the little boy jumps back onto the bike and remembers the basics.  Just pedal.  My dad said I won't fall.  Just pedal.

Before the little boy knew it, he was speeding down the sidewalk. "Dad look! I'm doing it! I'm really doing it!"  The boy yells.  But then fear grips him and he thinks that maybe he's going too fast for his dad to hear him.  So he panics and looks over his shoulders.  And there is his dad, sprinting right along side of him.  

"I'm proud of you son."  

Ok, back to reality.  Now, this isn't a true story at all, but I imagine this is how that moment was like. My actual first bike ride was with a good friend of mine who's mom taught him the weekend prior.  Both of us were sons of single mothers.  But the title of this blog is "Training Wheels Off".  And my Father has pushed me off on my two wheels and told me to ride with no fear, because He will not let me fall.  He's been exposing new things in my heart that I did not know was there.  I love examples, so follow along.  

My actual dad used to make promises to me. Most bad dads do.  He used to tell me things like I'll come get you this weekend, and wouldn't show up.  I'll buy you some toys, and wouldn't take me shopping.  To show my unhealthy attachment to my dad, he actually did come through with a promise by buying me a Kobe Bryant jersey--and I cherished it.  I remember being told to sit on the ground in school and little Claude refusing to obey because I couldn't get that jersey dirty.  But even after that one promise, many more failed.  So, my heart became a conditioned one of never believing in promises from anybody claiming to be "Father".  Sorry God, but that included you too.  Even though You didn't do anything to me, I was responding to what man did to me and reacting to it towards You.  

My healing came.  

God showed me that He's not like my dad, and that He will hold true to His promises.  I was having a hard time of trusting in His word because again, I didn't believe that a Father could actually go through with their promises.  And maybe that's why God works so fast in my life because He knows I have a natural doubt embedded in my heart to not to believe in something too long.  And with all the things God has begun to promise to me, I've been seeing them come true.  As soon as He mentioned to me to get ready to start speaking, this happened.  "I can't believe I'm on stage holding this microphone.  But thanks for having me."  And as soon as He mentioned to me that my writing will be the platform for my speaking, a year later I was invited to speak to a youth group in Connecticut by a wonderful friend that had only read my writing.  So here's a Father that is finally coming through with promises He's made.  And as you can imagine, it didn't end there.  

My Father went on this rant the other day on my travels back to Auburn.  I was listening to a song with beautiful lyrics that tapped into my heart and released a beautiful aroma that apparently pleased my Father.  Here are the lyrics. "Like a child I'll take You at Your word. As these mountains of doubt, they fade away.  I'm longing to trust and love You more. So for me this is beautiful. A brand new thought, and a brand new world. Can I stay here forever here with You?"

And guess what?  My Dad said I could!!!!!!!!!

Then His rant began. "Claude, I've already been with you forever, just waiting on you to come to me.  I was there when you had your first kiss, your first heartbreak.  When you didn't think you had a father, I was there.  When you had your first touchdown, your first 100 yard game, and when you was heartbroken again about your first heartbreak.  I was there.  I've just been patiently waiting for you to come to me."

And, as you can imagine, I'm pretty much soaking in my own tears by now.  But this moment meant the world to me because I've became a man because my Father taught me.  And the joy that has come from it has been overwhelming to say the least.  I just love the visual of the training wheels because now I believe in my Father.  I believe in His voice that's telling me to keep pedaling.  The same voice that's telling me I won't let you fall.  And guess what?  The same voice that spoke the world into existence is telling you He loves you.  I know this because He told me one day.  Hmm..I wonder can I pop a wheelie? Ha.

You'll know if I do. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Matters of the Heart

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."  Proverbs 4:23.  

Hello readers. Welcome to my heart.  Let's begin.  

I called this blog "Matters of the Heart"  (just in case you missed it) because I love this phrase.  And I also love the word of God that tells us to guard our hearts. Now this verse is from the book of Proverbs, which is nicknamed the Book of Wisdom.  And if you've ever taken a dive into this book one night in your quiet time, the content can be a lot to swallow all at once. Which is why I kept it with just this one verse, because A: It says plenty, and B: its the theme for this entry.  

So Mr. Ball? What matters of the heart are being discussed today?  

I love how the writer of Proverbs worded this, because I completely agree with it.  He says EVERYTHING WE DO FLOWS FROM OUR HEART.  

Repeat---definitely agree.  

For years God has dealt with me in visuals.  I can recall one day praying the prayer that many of us have heard in songs. Lines like, "God give me Your eyes" or "God break my heart for what breaks Yours". Well, I quickly learned this line, "be careful what you pray for".  I had been praying this prayer for a few days at the time and God answered it as I was walking from my on-campus job to my class one chilly morning.  Auburn University is a large campus, so I could easily pass 100 people before making it to class.  Well, that morning God let me feel burdens from about a third of the people I walked by.  I would hate to later find out that this experience had any truth behind it, I mean would God actually be telling ME these people's business?  But what it did was help me feel the brokenness of the world.  Even if the girl I walked by wasn't having self-esteem issues because of abuse, or the guy I walked by hadn't actually thought about committing suicide because he couldn't seem to make friends, the experience worked.  After this experience and a few tears staining my collar, God showed me that I had only felt the weight of a few people in a small town in Alabama in the United States in North America in the Western Hemisphere.  Are you getting it?  I was heavily burdened, in tears, for probably 30 people, and..didn't Jesus die for ALL of us?  Didn't He carry the weight of sin for ALL OF US? (I love the ALL CAPS)--- but to answer that question, YES!  

Here's the point.  

The matters of the heart has become a new thing for me.  Almost a lifestyle.  That's where the name of the blog came from, and its the reason why I write the way I do.  I've come to understand that every behavior blossoms from something.  We (humans) are conditioned peoples from someone else's behaviors.  Take a minute.  We are conditioned people from someone else's behaviors.  I mean, the scripture says EVERYTHING WE DO FLOWS FROM OUR HEARTS.  So if our hearts are affected in any way, then its going to affect our behavior.

Still Claude. What is your point? 

The million dollar and my two cents question is.....What hinders people from to God? It amazes me how easily we are to focus on people's actions and ignore the reason behind their actions.  For example, its easy to judge the prostitute on her "career" but not look pass it and consider her hearts conditions.  I mean, everything we do flows from the heart, right?  Do you seriously think she chose prostitution over a bank teller job?  

So what happened?  And, what's the cause of these behaviors? 

Here's a few examples.  I'm sure Rodney King is afraid of getting pulled over now. (smile, I'm kidding) But with the humor aside, the point is still valid.  His one bad experience with the police I'm sure has caused him to dislike ALL POLICEMEN.  Just like one bad over cooked steak at a restaurant will cause us to never return again.  Or one rude person at a customer service desk will cause us to never shop at the entire store again. Or one Christian turns us away from God. 


Yeah, I snuck that in there on purpose.  See the comparison?  Why do we do this?  Why do we judge an entire thing off ONE incident? Matters of the heart.  Our hearts are completely ridiculous sometimes.  But its so easy for us to condition ourselves to be completely turned off of something because of one incident.  

So why is it hard for people to come to God?  

I would love to challenge us all to become better at seeking this answer.  It's so easy to throw bible verses at people who are "doing wrong" or living "displeasing lives" but I dare you to love on them deeper enough and figure out the root of it.  Stop wacking away at weeds and discover the root of the problem so we can pull them up completely.  

What are you saying Claude?  

I honestly don't know myself.  I'm just having faith in the 1 Peter 4:8 "above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sin."  I'm believing in getting people to find a way to commit to Jesus's answer when He was asked ,"What's the most important commandment?"  And His answer was love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Luke 10:27.

And as most things, I know this from experience.  I recall having a bad night and I reached out to a friend for consolation.  And this friend decided to spit out bible verses at me. Isaiah 41:10, Luke 12:32, John 14:27, Romans 8:28, Philippians 4:6-8----After being impressed with this friend ability, I was still left with that bad night.  Oh? That was supposed to help me? Well it didn't because I knew what they said.  But why didn't I believe in those verses that night at that moment?  And that's where God took over the conversation.  He simply said, "You don't trust in them because you don't know who's saying them to you." 

Hahahaha.  Isn't God just amazing.  Rewind that back. 

"You don't trust in them because you don't know who's saying them to you." 

Emphasizing yet again God's desire for us to have relationship with Him.  I'm going to have a hard time trusting in ANYTHING this Man says if I don't even know Him. If a random guy walked up to you and said, "Hey, if you don't go take a shower in the next 5 minutes you WILL catch a deadly skin disease," (not a scripture). But, what will make you listen?  Only faith would make you listen and obey.  And God stood at the foot of heaven and clearly said, "Without faith, it is impossible to please Me..." (Hebrews 11:6) So with these matters of the heart there has to be an injection of faith straight into the beat of our hearts before we're going to do anything for Him.  So the question was, what hinders people from turning to God?  Well for me that night, it exposed a slack in my relationship with Him.  And I know for many people its problems mentioned earlier, the Christian at the customer service desk that was having a bad day so her attitude turned you away from the God store. (metaphor)  Or that Christian judged you while you were at your job, even though it was on the corner. (another metaphor)  Or even just like Eve, when the sly tongued serpent convinced her that the opposite of what God said was her missing out on something really good.  Now, the million dollar question and possibly the most important question today.   

What hinders you?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Back To My First Love

"Nevertheless, I have this against you.  You have left your first love."  Revelation 2:4

Hello first time readers.  Welcome to my heart.  Lets begin.

The verse above moves me.  First, it shows how jealous our God is for our love.  I remember watching Oprah (I know, I know, but I'm not embarrassed) dismissing this fact as being a bad thing of God; her idea of a "no-no", that God shouldn't be that way.  But as with many things about her show, I disagree.  This just again shows God's ultimate desire to have fellowship with us. Lets say you have a child. And instead of this child calling you mommy or daddy, or coming to you with all there problems, they go to the mailman.  The mailman is there mommy or daddy.  Would you not be jealous?

And lets take it even further.  This again shows God's heart for us.  He wants us to seek ONLY Him in every situation, because anything that's outside of His will for us is unhealthy for us.  So His jealousy stems from yet again, a deep desire to have us near Him so we're asking Him for everything for our own safety.

Wait, there's more.

I was speaking with a wonderful and beautiful friend of mine (happily married, so sorry fellahs), and she told me how the denomination, Holiness, nearly ruined her.  And her comment fell right in line with my new tiny distaste for this branch of religion.  See, I was raised in a Holiness church.  Now for the record, I've heard stories from her about her church and those things weren't going on in my church, but the traditional religious practices were the same.  No need to discuss them, but they are pretty demanding.  I think I've heard more about living right than I have about grace from my home church. So on my "desiring to finish my education", I moved to Auburn University.  I was away from my bubble of security.  My small world shell of, "I better not be seen here with fear of someone telling my pastor", was gone.  Now I was Daniel in the Lions Den of a large university with tons of ways to fall into temptation.  I remember a game of Beer Pong was being played in the hallway of my apartment complex, and which I'm sure they would have gladly accepted another player if I was interested.  But what kept me from it?  Fear of being busted?  I subconsciously must have believed that my "all knowing God" would somehow single me out the crowd and email my pastor with photos of me holding a beer can and ringing a cup with a ping pong ball.

Oh, but certainly there's more to this Christian life right?  I mean? Jesus died just so I can feel bad about doing fun things?  Have my church done a disservice to me if I believe this?   

Uh, yeah.

I was so busy worried about behaving properly for God that I was missing a big piece of Him....His love. So God used my friend Haley to take me to this church called Church of the Highlands where I met Pastor Chris Hodges.  Let me just say this for the record, funny guy but even better pastor.  I attended the Sunday service where he was sharing his testimony of his religious background and found life in Jesus.  His humbleness immediately attracted me to him.  The vision of the church immediately kept me coming back.  And most of all, the LOVE OF GOD WAS BEING PREACHED. 

Um, excuse me.  But what is that?

Now here I am, discovering a new thing called relationship with my heavenly Father.  Pastor Chris was taking us through a series and I'm learning about God in a new way.  He actually loves me.  I mean, everyone knows that, I mean come on.  But wait a minute, HE ACTUALLY LOVES ME?  This breathed a new life in me.  A heart that was broken from a rejection of a father and never knew it. A heart that was looking for love from women and trying to create it through lust. No one had introduced me to meeting a Savior that could heal my heart, up until this moment in my life.  So this Jesus guy? He died for a reason? I just thought it was part of the story in the Bible.  Good ending if you ask me.  But the cross was so much more.  He died so we might be with Him again.  There was a wedge in between God and man since the Garden of Eden and Jesus(God with us) came to fix that.  I love the symbolism of the cross.  Jesus's outstretched arms, showing one hand holding on to God, and the other holding on to Man, and creating the bridge for us to get back to the Father.  That's why Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the light. No one gets to the Father except through me." John 14:6.  He is the bridge to our Father.  The ONLY way to reach Him. 

So here I am, experiencing the cross in a new way and feeling like I've been missing out on learning the true meaning of salvation.  I GET TO BE WITH JESUS! And please forgive me, but I don't preach a prosperity message.  I don't want to produce another generation of Gimme Gimme Christians, wanting wanting wanting from God. Now I don't disagree with asking for favor, but I mean, come on, HE DIED FOR US.  To me, that's plenty.  But overall, I want to aim people in the direction of how I found Jesus to be most satisfying, and that's with Him alone.  I told Him one day that if I had to work two jobs and struggle the rest of my life then I would, because overall I'm in love with having Him near me.  If Paul was able to boast about Jesus in a filthy prison, then I should be able to boast and praise louder about Jesus in my life.  Paul knew the secret.  And now, so do I. I'm back in the arms of my first love. I'm holding onto His hands and rubbing against the scars from the nails.  He first loved us.  And maybe said even better, He first loved you.  And the day I embraced this love and stopped telling Him I was unworthy of it--- my life changed.  I became this new creation that I don't even recognize.  Not by my works or any actions with soul intentions of pleasing God, but all from seeking His face.  All from resting in His peace.  All from spending time with Him.  All from crucifying myself on the cross.  It astounds me this Holy God wants to love me.  And to be honest, I'm going to let Him.  I'm back in the arms of my first love.