Finding Joshua

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“I may be a screw-up and a failure, but at least I know I am nothing without Jesus.”

It has taken me quite a long time to end that sentence with Jesus. I used to just think of myself as a screw-up and a failure. Failing was the single thing I was most proficient at. (Laughing) I say that as if I’m not any longer. That is not the case, however. I still am a screw-up and a failure, but now I have the wisdom to keep my faith in God, the one who moves my vehicle of life.

I’ve always had a self-esteem issue. Growing up with ADHD and Bi-polar type 1, I was an easy target for bullies. I was always the outcast within and outside of my family. Looking back, I can see why I always felt alone. I have always had identity issues. I have still yet to “find” myself. I am very good at method acting. I could always play other people well due to my extremely low self-esteem and constant state of searching for myself. In hopes that I would find myself, I often personified the people around me, including females. I know that sounds strange, but at least I’m comfortable admitting it. I’m 30 years old, and I have absolutely no clue what God wants of me. Cliché, I know, but for me it’s more than that. For somebody who has spent their whole life watching the surety and courageousness of others in the passionate pursuit of life, only wishing and dreaming that I could somehow “be something,” it is devastating. It’s devastating to me that even after devoting myself to God, who has all the answers, I  still have to wait for His answer of where He wants me, who He wants me to be, and when that will happen. For almost four years now, I have prayed myself sick asking God what career-direction He has for me. Where does He want to use me? I felt the call to ministry, and here I am. Having all these fellow students at seminary who seemingly know where they are going, I scratch my head and ask “well what am I doing wrong?” I’ve had numerous conversations about “picking” a career path versus God “leading” me where He has already chosen for me. Some think that we pick our destiny, and God uses us there. Others believe that God has chosen the perfect path, and we should submit to what He wants. I have been more inclined to believe the latter. In fact, I can remember as a young boy thinking about this. I felt that God had something specific for me. It was something that He chose for me to do, and one day He would let me know. I remember the first time I thought about this; I was very young, maybe 5. I don’t know why I thought about it or where it came from; all I can say is that I already had a preconceived view about God, and it was this view that would get me through bullying, suicide attempts, drug abuse, and alcoholism.

We all want to be happy. Knowing things makes us happy. Knowing the logistics of things brings peace and comfort. It’s the surety of it and the lack of faith that it brings. Wow! The lack of faith. Even as I write this, I realize that that’s exactly what I crave. The lack of faith. I pray earnestly that God will, in His mercy, keep me blinded. That I won’t know what He has for me until the very moment comes to slay the giant. I pray that my passion for Him will, like these 30 years prior, keep me motivated to keep pressing on. I pray that you reading this will join me in these prayers. Maybe you have struggled with your identity as I have. I pray that God will show you your identity… IN HIM.

A man who truly finds himself, finds God first. It is there that our real identity lies.

I love each one of y’all, and I pray earnestly for your relationship with our Creator. May God richly bless you with true wisdom and peace beyond all comprehension.

~~Joshua P. Harris

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Clenching the Pew: The Day I said, “I do”

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I don’t remember the exact date, though I could figure it out if I did some digging, but I do remember the feeling. I remember feeling nervous to walk down the aisle because I knew everyone would be looking at me. I remember thinking everyone was judging me, silently calling me “that sinner.” I remember feeling like I wasn’t good enough for God’s forgiveness. I had done some awful things in my less-than-a-decade-of life. Why should God forgive me? I wasn’t even sure if I wanted forgiveness. I’d battled the debate in my head all week. In order to be forgiven of my sins, I first had to admit that I sinned. Ouch! My anxiety was overwhelming me.

I do remember feeling Him calling. This may seem cliché, but it was a “tugging” feeling. I may not have literally “clenched the pew”, but I did clench my fists. I was scared. I don’t remember the sermon. I do remember the preacher: Bro. Mack Black. I don’t remember who was sitting next to me. I do remember the chapel at Clara Springs Baptist Camp. I remember standing up and walking forward. I do not remember the moments following. I know I told Bro. Black what I was feeling, and I know he lead me through a prayer of acceptance, and forgiveness, and faith, but the memory of it has faded now. The next thing I remember is sitting on the edge of the stage in the chapel next to the other kids who had also just accepted the gift of eternal life. I remember I was the only one wiping tears out of my eyes, and the other kids were asking me why I was crying. I didn’t really feel “different,” but I did feel something. I can now confidently say, looking back over my life, that the something I felt was joy. From the moment I said, “I do,” I have encountered countless times of temptation and tragedy, but none of them could remove from my heart the joy of Jesus Christ and the comfort of knowing that my body will die but my spirit will not.

Like I mentioned before, I don’t remember the exact conversation I had with God on whatever day it was. But “I do’s” always come with vows, right? If I were having this conversation for the first time with God today, this is what I would say:

  • I do believe that You are God. The only God. The true God. The Creator.
  • I do believe that I am a sinner, in need of your saving grace.
  • I do believe that Jesus, your Son, lived a perfect, unblemished life to be the perfect sacrifice and was crucified to provide a way for all to be forgiven of their sins if they believe this Truth and repent.
  • I do believe your Holy Spirit is alive in me and guides me along the right path for Your name’s sake.
  • I do believe that the Bible is Your living Holy Word and that anyone who has ears to hear will understand it’s truth.
  • I do believe that Your call for me is to grow ever closer to You through prayer and praise, reading and hearing and studying of the Word, fellowshipping with and encouraging fellow believers, witnessing through my testimony and raising up disciples, and serving the poor, the orphaned, the widowed, and the grief-stricken.
  • I do believe that You will never leave me nor forsake me.
  • I do believe that I will live eternally in Heaven when my body dies, but that I will first be judged by the way I lived my life.

I wrote this blog months ago. When Josh first read it, he was concerned about why I had told about my deliverance without first stating what it was Jesus had delivered me from. I reacted angrily. I didn’t want to share all that nasty stuff. But, Josh was right. I felt myself distancing myself from God, unable to pray because I knew what He wanted me to do. Finally, I wrote This Is My Song, but the devil tried earnestly to keep me from doing so all day. I asked God to help me, to take the wheel and give me the right words. I had to abandon the dishes and the laundry. The kids watched TV for hours. At nap time, the girls dug through the diaper pale and the big twins snuck out of bed to make “pizza, like the ninja turtles.” God’s grace got me through all that, and when I had to make up for it the next day, everything fell into place and all my kids were still as happy as ever. And, I have never felt more free in my life. Now, I can pray without hesitation and focus on the two whose salvation is pressing heavily on my heart. Confession is not meant to serve the purpose of forgiveness, but of testimony to unbelievers, accountability among believers, and freedom from guilt. Share your story. 

He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on a stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”                        Matthew 4:21-22

——Raye