Life, Moving Forward, Uncategorized

Be #BetterThanYesterday in 2016

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#BetterThanYesterdaySimply means to let go of yesterday’s struggles and move forward, toward today’s success. 

Being #BetterThanYesterday begins by analyzing what is not working for you. There is something you do every day and throughout the week that causes you to struggle. Being aware of this habit and/or struggle is right where you need to be. As you move forward, know that change will be required of you.

Having a #BetterThanYesterday mentality, means each day you are being your best and you are living your life not stuck on the woes of yesterday.

Letting go of yesterday’s struggles is not as easy as it may sound. You and I both know, shaking a bad habit, creating change and beginning a new habit takes some sacrifice, dedication and accountability.

I truly believe you possess the will power and the desire to become better. As you move forward in your transformation journey your progress will come by, knowing the plan, working the strategies, executing the plan and enjoying the process of becoming the best you.

One of the biggest lessons I learned in 2015 was this: people who lack accountability, struggle in the areas they need to grow the most in. When people you trust know what areas you struggle in, not only can they speak words or encouragement but they can call you out when you are slacking.

 A great lesson of change is for you to create a circle of trust with people that have a #BetterThanYesterday mindset. 

Imagine how great you can become when you have people in your life chasing greatness with you!

As you know, 2015 is coming to a close. If you are like me, you find yourself reflecting back on the year. I enjoy and look forward to the last week of the year. I use the last week of the year as a reflection time, to look over my 2015 goals, challenges, victories, losses and memorable moments. This is a great way for me to establish momentum and to know what I am working toward for the new year.

My friend, be inspired, be encouraged, you made it through another year. Whether this year was hell or heaven for you, you are still here moving along in the journey. Don’t give up the fight of becoming the best you. There is still a lot of fight in you. You were created with a purpose. As you continue in your journey, your purpose will be used to bring major impact to this world. I am counting on you!

Here is what you can look forward to in #2016 from me:

  • Challenging content
  • Consistent and timely blogs
  • Authenticity and Relevancy
  • Bigger risks
  • A #BetterThanYesterday ebook
  • 21 day challenges
  • Cool #BetterThanYesterday gear

P.S.

Here is a #BetterThanYesterday video from yours truly. Enjoy!

#BetterThanYesterdayVideo

Help support the #BetterThanYesterday movement by getting a #BetterThanYesterday t shirt for #2016!

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Click this link to purchase your t -shirt. Thanks in advance! – > #BetterThanYesterday T Shirt

My goal is to get 100 people to purchase a t-shirt in 30 days. Considering helping this become a reality by purchasing a shirt.

P.S.S. Don’t forget to share in the comments what you are looking forward to in #2016. Lets be great together!

 

Christianity, Life, Love, Moving Forward, Uncategorized

My Marriage Exposed Me

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Here I was, thinking I had it all together. I had love and my relationship all figured out. I was going into marriage confident that I would never be the one to create conflict and confrontations in our marriage. I would always make my wife feel like she is the most beautiful woman that ever walked the earth. Boy, was I headed for a huge wake up call.

As I was preparing for marriage, reading books, listening to sermons, podcast, conversing and learning from married men, I came to a point where I felt like I had arrived in my relationship with Jasmine before we got married. The struggles from my past, such as, communication, not being me focused all the time were behind me and I had now become the man she needs me to be for a healthy marriage.

After about the first month or so of being married here is what I learned:

  • I am not as kind as I thought
  • I do get upset, frustrated and even angry
  • I struggle with showing the love of Christ daily
  • I am not the best communicator
  • I do have selfish tendencies
  • I can be self centered

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In result of being exposed to a lot of my weaknesses through my marriage, I have been able to own up to the fact that I still have a lot of growing to do. This is great. I am thankful for this but sometimes I get discouraged and overwhelmed. Some days I am not the best servant leader for my wife. Some days, I don’t put in the best amount of energy and prayer for our relationship as I should. Some days, I am mediocre.

Whenever I am exposed to a weakness, I want to go straight to work and turn whatever weaknesses I have into strengths. As a former collegiate and semi-pro basketball player, turning weaknesses into strengths in my game came natural. I watched film or my coach would point something out and boom, I’m spending tons of energy every day to become the best I can be. With my marriage, this is the approach I know I need to take. I need to continue to remind myself, with every healthy relationship, it takes a lot of time, energy and consistent effort.

Marriage has an unique way of saying, “you don’t have it all together. You do have a lot to work on.”

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Here are my closing thoughts about my marriage exposure:

I look at my marriage as God looks at His bride, a.k.a. His church. The church can be messy and so can you and I. The church can be out of order and so can you and I. The church can be a broken vessel and so can you and I. The church can have many flaws and so can you and I. The church can be a bad representation and so can you and I. The church can fall short and so can you and I.

But here’s the beautiful part about the church! Are you ready for it?

The church is beautiful and so are you and I. The church is God’s masterpiece and so are you and I. The church brings God great joy and so do you and I. The church is like a broken clay pot that has been pieced back together to make beautiful art.

This is what I have to remind myself:

I am apart of God’s bride. I am forgiven. I am redeemed. God’s mercy and His grace has been extended to me. Even though I will continue to fall short, and not meet all of Jasmine expectations, Jesus is her Savior and not me. Only He can fulfill her inner most desires. My role is to love her like Christ loves me: Unconditionally! This I can do. Through every struggle, shortcoming and battle, Jasmine and I are still on the same team just like you and I are still on God’s same team. We are all in this together.

God has an unique way of saying, “you don’t have it all together. I have a lot of work I want to do in you.”

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My Prayer is this: For all that God has given me to share through our story; that our story will inspire you to seek and desire a closer relationship with God. My prayer is for you to see that God is getting the glory for the work He has done and is doing in our lives. We are not perfect, we don’t have it all together or figured out. We love God and each other and we are willing to live this out so others can see they too, can do the same.

Be blessed my friends!

P.S. Here is our wedding video:

Here are my Wedding Vows:

Jasmine… When I think of love, I think of us
When I think of love, I think of you.
Bone of my bone. Flesh of my flesh.

Ripped from my rib. Created from dust.

There’s no denying what we share
Through the years. Through these tears
I share my heart. I give you my everything
My submission to Christ. Commissions me to love you
Like He, Christ, Loves the church

Jasmine…
You are more precious than gold
You are my love story that’s being told.
You are a virtuous woman
Your worth is far above rubies…

Jasmine…
I vow to be there next to your side
Through the good times
And through the not so good times
I am yours and you are mines
Together we can
No.. no together we will

Jasmine,
I vow to love patiently
I vow to be kind…

I vow to put even put the toilet seat down
I vow to keep my basketball shoes out of the bedroom.

I vow to allow you to wash the dishes.

In all seriousness…
I vow to not be jealous
I vow to not boast and be proud.
I vow to not be rude and demanding.
I vow to not be irritable
To keep no records of wrong doings
To never lose faith
To never give up,

I vow to always remain hopeful
To endure in every circumstance

Jasmine Marie Martin,
I vow to love you with all I got for the rest of my life!

 P.S.S. We would love to hear your love story and how we can be praying for you! Don’t forget to comment and share on social media to help encourage someone else that may need to see this.

 “God is far more concerned with doing a work in you before He does anything through you.

Life, Moving Forward, Uncategorized

Why We Need to Embrace Being Weak

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Be strong. Don’t cry. Shrug it off. Don’t let it bring you down. Push through. It’s not that bad. Have you thought this or heard these sayings before? In our American culture and society we are not to show weakness right? Weakness is a sign that we supposedly don’t have it all together and no one likes to be the person that doesn’t have it all together. We tend to think if and when we embrace our weaknesses we become too vulnerable and too sensitive. The reality for us is, when we embrace our weaknesses we actually have to begin to open up and share what’s going on in our lives to other people. This is too hard and too scary for people to do. So now what?

Throughout my life I have fought hard at times to not show when I am weak. In these moments of weakness, I didn’t want others to know how I felt on the inside. You know what we do: Someone asks, “how are you doing?” Our typical, robotic, systematic response, “I’m good.” Are you really good? You mean to tell me we never go through anything? Life never gets challenging? People never rub us the wrong way? Work doesn’t stress us out sometime? Hmm.. Maybe we need to start being more honest with ourselves.

The longer we pretend to be strong and not embrace our weakness we actually harden our heart. We begin to desensitize ourselves to our emotions. It becomes normal for us to not embrace our struggles. Instead, we continue to press through like nothing is ever wrong. For me, the pattern in my life has been, the longer I hold in my problems, my issues, my hurt, my pain and my burdens the bigger the inevitable explosion. Have you ever been around someone and seemingly out of no where they blow up or have a melt down? I’m talking about the people that you never see break down or cry. It throws you for a loop right? You’re sitting there thinking, “I thought this person had it all together.”

Here’s what I’m trying to say… Embrace weakness. Identify with the weaknesses in your life. Figure out what makes you weak. Know what the weaknesses are. Understand where they come from and why they are in your life. This is what I have learned about weakness:

The weakness in our life is not out to destroy us.

I believe the weaknesses that God allows in our lives are there to help us grow. Weaknesses can be turned into strengths. When we begin to become stronger in our weakness, we then can go and help the next person that is weak in the area we were once weak in. Amen somebody?

I no longer run from my weaknesses. Neither should you. Will we still struggle at times with embracing them? Sure, this will always be a battle. I realize we won’t always get it right in this area but at least we can admit they are there. Often times, admitting is the first step to overcoming a struggle, battle or problem. Let’s face it; we are not as strong as we pretend to be. In our weakness, God can do something with us. The greatest leaders that have walked the face of this earth displayed their weakness at some point in their life. Need proof? Read a few stories about the prophets and the leaders in the Bible. They are a lot like you and I, weak and in need of God’s strength.

 

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Internal Voices…

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Ahhhhh these voices keep screaming at me! Not sure why but they do. I’m sitting here questioning, is this you? No, this is me. An internal battle. You versus me. You versus we. We, as in my internal being. My internal you. See, you… You don’t really know me but some how I give you a voice. A voice in my head. A voice in my life. A voice into my heart. A voice into my soul. A voice into my spirit. Why do I listen? Why do I give you the time? You are not encouraging me. You tell me I am not smart enough. You tell me I am not worth it. You tell me not to chase my dreams. You tell me to give up my hope. You tell me to stop chasing greatness. You tell me to give up. The sad reality is, I listen to you. I let you hang out too long. After you stay a while and I finally decide to welcome you out, by the time you leave I’m left feeling down. Down because of our conversation. Down because of our relation. The relationship that should never be.

But you… I mean we, we are no good for each other. Somehow I have to let you go. Somehow I have to find a way to not let you back in. Somehow I have to keep the door closed. I have to keep you from getting inside. I have to get you outside. Maybe the outside is better for you. I may still hear your voice. Though you may yell and scream, you will be on the outside. You will no longer be in anymore. I have to be okay with this. You are no longer welcome in my door. Would you please excuse yourself? Thank you!

Wait a minute… There’s this other voice I hear. There’s this other voice I know. It doesn’t scream. In fact, this voice… this voice is soothing. This voice can get aggressive at times but it’s a gentle aggression. It challenges me to do better, to be better. This voice I know I should listen to. You can do this. You are more than your past. You are better than yesterday. You are strong. You are confident. You got what it takes. I believe in you. Words like this are affirming to me. This voice I want to believe. Can I hear more of you? I wonder if this voice would love to have complete control… It seems as if this voice can lead me in a great direction. This voice has my best interest at heart. Internally I know this. Will I give up my self pride? Will I let go of my control and follow this voice?

Externally I am too needy when I listen to the first voice. Internally I bleed when I listen to the second voice. With the first voice my need becomes all about me. With the second voice my bleeding is a result of the blood shed. It is the bleeding I need to be reminded of. The needing I need to be dependent on. It is the voice I need to follow. The voice that has been given to me as a gift.

Voices… I have to decipher this one. Which one is greater? Which one needs to be greater in my life? This I need to know. For now, I will battle with my internal voices… I will let them fight. I will fight. I will listen. I will act. I will live. I will decide. I will be. I will not give up and neither will you. Voices…

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The Gospel Became All About Me

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Me – ology, although this is not a real word we will use it anyway to make a point. Ology, is a branch of knowledge or better known as the study of something. So, putting “Me” in front of “Ology” life becomes all about oneself. Now, lets bring in the Gospel. The Gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ, how God sacrificed His only begotten son, so that you and I can be freed from our sin, enter into right standing with God, and one day join Him in Heaven is not just about me, nor is it just about you. In fact, the Gospel is about God’s redemptive work through His Son Jesus. Somehow, we have taken the Gospel message and made it all about ourselves. We have made it all about “me.” And this I am guilty of.

The question now becomes, how does this beautiful Gospel message about love, grace, transformation, sacrifice, serving others, helping others, worshiping God, become bottled up into a self centered perspective? I believe and would suggest it starts with you and I having a self centered world view that my relationship with God is all about me. I am going to be brutally honest with you, it’s not about you. The Gospel is about God’s working through His Son Jesus. I know you may be thinking, I have these problems, I need God for this and that, and I hear you but again the Gospel is more than that.

I will lay this out there. I’ve been passionately walking with God for 10 years now. I have moments and I would say days where it is as though I have my hand out to God. I am sure you remember when you needed money from your parents, you would go, ask and put your hand out. Our relationships with our parents was more of a need based relationship. Meaning what can my parents do for me? At times I believe we treat God and His Gospel the same way. What can God do for me?

Here’s the deal. God’s Gospel transcends past our finite minds, enters into our wicked, sinful and dead hearts and gives us life. Why? It is because God desires to love and choose a certain people to be in relationship with Him. Therefore, let us not forget, God does not have to choose us to be with Him. Let us not turn His passionate Gospel into a “me” gospel. The Gospel should empower us to live out His Name, the Gospel should empower us to represent Him daily in our lives, the Gospel should empower us to share with others about this great love, the Gospel should empower us to stop making God all about us, when it is all about Him.

Let us kill off this me-ology worldview and turn back to our love-ology worldview with God. Let us turn back to the Gospel that is all about God’s great love being poured into His Son Jesus. The Gospel should not stop and be focused on us.

God bless!

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Where Did It All Go Wrong?

 

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Have you ever sat back and analyzed how your life is going and said to yourself, “my life is messed up?” There have been several seasons in my life where I thought to myself, “like how did I even get here?” Some will argue that everything can go wrong in an instance. While this may be true, I believe where life begins to go wrong for us happens over time.

Outside of tragic events that happen in our life, life goes wrong with our day to day decisions, or lack of decisions. The seasons in our life where life seems to be chaotic, out of control, and messy creates for us dark days. What I mean is, during these dark days I would argue many of us emotionally and mentally are in a state of semi-depression. There is this never ending mental and emotional battle going on inside of us. Am I right on this?

Life can be an emotional rollercoaster and it has been for me at times. Being 27 years old, I have learned enough to know that life will not be perfect. Knowing life will not be perfect has created for me space and room for error. I know I am going to make mistakes, I know I am going to mess up, hurt others and not follow through with everything I say. Of course my intentions are not to do any of those things I named but it happens from time to time.

Here’s the deal. Being on an emotional rollercoaster, in a season of darkness, challenged mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually will not change until we say enough is enough. You may be thinking, I already tried this. Okay, I hear you. When you said enough is enough did you apply any action to your words? Did you call someone you can trust to hold you accountable to your efforts to change? Did you continue to follow the same patterns that got you in the place you are in?

When we identify and can list what went wrong, know how and why it went wrong we set ourselves up for creating habits of change. As I mentioned earlier life goes wrong for us overtime. To be honest a lot of the time it goes back to our childhood. The way we grew up, the people we hung around, our parents and the environment in which we resided in. We have to be aware of every input and influence that has been in our life.

“We are a people destined for change. We will become better! We can and will overcome our darkness but first we must realize how we got there.”

I want you to think through instances, circumstances, and events that has happened in your life. Identify everything that has caused emotional, mental, physical and spiritual damage. Write these things down. Think about some practical ways to overcome these battles. Maybe you need to talk with a counselor, a therapist or a pastor. Get the help you need so you can get out of the rut you are in.

Hang in there! Life get’s better. Praying for you my friend!

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Abstinent But Not Pure

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Throughout high school, abstinence wasn’t an option for me. At least, it seemed to be this way. Purity was something that was never talked about. The only time people were saving themselves was for the “right” person, sweet 16’s, prom nights and until you fell in love.

I became abstinent at the age of 17. My first sexual activity with another girl was at the age of 13. For four years I engaged heavily in sexual activity. Knowing it was wrong biblically, being convicted a number of times, I still gave into sex. All of my friends in high school were active and if you weren’t active, you would be talked about and scolded.

So what does purity even mean? Purity means to be free from something, to be detached, not giving into sexual desires, sexual temptations, and to have a behavior that is at peace with oneself. Purity is to have great morals and standards.

The question I want to ask: How can a person have a pure heart, mind, body and spirit? I believe the answer to this question goes hand in hand with purity and abstinence.

Abstinence means to abstain from something. It means to not indulge in an immoral desire or act. Abstinence in the Christian world usually means to refrain from sexual intercourse. The next question I want to throw out in this post is to help guide us the rest of the way:

How can a person be abstinent and not pure? How is this even possible?

If you have read the Bible, of if you follow the Christian faith you should know the Bible teaches on abstinence and purity. To understand why God requires us to wait until marriage, we have to first understand the concept of marriage and sex. God created sex in the context of marriage for a man a woman to enjoy each other, to deepen their relationship, to enjoy pleasure and to create life. Can people enjoy sex, deepen their relationship with one another and create life while not being followers of God and not married? Of course they can, but I believe he/she misses out on the true potential of oneness God offers. To break that down would take a different blog post.

An article from The Christian Post dating back to 2014 said this: “A survey of 716 Christians released in January, only 11 percent said they save sex exclusively for marriage. Instead, 60 percent said they would be willing to have sex without any strings attached, while 23 percent said they would have to be in love. Five percent said they would wait to get engaged.”

I share those statistics because in today’s culture being abstinent and pure is not the norm. Even for today’s Christians. Whether a person has had sex or not, society, culture, peers, social media, television, magazines all influence and give off all the reasons why a person should be engaged in sexual activity, therefore making it hard for Christians to live a life of abstinence and purity.

Even after the age of 17, as I embarked on my abstinence and purity journey, I faced daily battles with having sexual urges and desires. (These urges and desires aren’t bad. It is what you do with them) When I have conversations with youth and young adults about this topic, I tell them it wasn’t always easy for me to stop being sexually active. I desired it, I dreamed about it, I wanted it, I came close to having it, I engaged in physical/ sexual activity, my mind wasn’t always pure. My thoughts were this: I believed if I didn’t have sex, I was remaining abstinent and pure. I now understand, I was just as guilty whenever I engaged in passionate kissing, lustful thoughts and foreplay.

So yes, a person can abstain from sex and not be pure in their mind and heart. Just because a person is not doing something, does not mean they are not dwelling on it. It is when we dwell on sex for long moments of time and begin to have lustful thoughts about sexual activity that begins to hurt us spiritually.

I want to leave you with some practical tools to help you in your abstinence to remain pure:

1) Never see how far you can go with someone. This is danger waiting within itself.

2) Learn how to set boundaries for yourself. If it is getting late, go home or send the other person home.

3) I would advise not to kiss but if you do kiss: no tongue (french) kissing, kissing on the neck, body, or passionate long kisses.

4) Don’t stare at body parts and keep your hands off. Usually physical touch is what sparks romance.

5) Watch what you say. Don’t tempt the other with flirtatious and sexual words.

6) Get an accountability partner. Someone who is on the same journey as you. Talk about your struggles, ways you can overcome your sexual desires.

7) When dirty/sexual thoughts pop in your head, tell yourself no, don’t follow those thoughts, and think about something positive.

8) Stay away from watching porn, R rated movies filled with sexual scenes.

9) Go exercise when your hormones are rising. This can help take your mind off sex and also settle you down.

10) Try not to surround yourself with people that talk about their sex lives. This will make you feel like you are missing out and you need to bring some type of conversation to the table.

11) Limit your cuddling and no spooning on the couch while watching movies!

12) Get in a courting relationship with someone that has the same mindset as you.

13) Rely on the power of God. Read His word, pray, fast and seek Him in your singleness and when you are tempted.

14) Get in a pre-marital group, singles group or a young adult group. It will be good for you to build community with others that share similar battles.

15) Be open and honest with your struggles. Don’t hide them or feel bad for having them. It’s normal to have desires and to be tempted.

Abstinence may be hard, remaining pure may be hard but it is possible to not give in. You are not the only one in the race of waiting to marriage to have sex. If you’ve had sex and now you are abstinent, you too can make it to marriage to have sex. You have to be intentional, you have to put in effort. Ultimately you have to realize your sustaining power comes from God’s sufficient grace. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that will keep you and help you in your times of weakness. You got this!

Hopefully some of the tips I left will be helpful to you.

P.S. I would love to hear from some of you. If you practice(d) abstinence, what works for you or didn’t work for you? What advice would you give others that are waiting until marriage?

Two good books that helped me on my journey:

Choosing God’s Best: Wisdom for Lifelong Romance by Dr. Don Ranikur

Holding Hands, Holding Hearts by Richard and Sharon Phillips