We All Have a Story, Here’s Mine

Jesus Pic

For as long as I can remember I was unhappy. No matter what I would do or what I would experience nothing ever seemed to take that empty hopeless feeling away. Which is probably the reason why I turned to drugs and alcohol at such a young age. I had found my place in this world, and that was tucked away, disconnected and simply trying to escape from how much it hurt to simply be alive. I won’t go into all of the details of how my life fell apart, but my addiction and self destruction cost me everything. Once my wife and kids left me I made a decision to handle the situation the only way I knew how. I was going to go on one last insane run and just hope that it killed me so I could just be done with all of the sadness.

I remember when I made that depressing decision. I said a prayer to a God I didn’t know and I told Him I didn’t expect Him to help me. I knew He felt the same way about me that I did. That it was my fault and I didn’t deserve saving. I remember thinking, “Who am I to ask for help, I deserve all of this.”

The days rolled on, chaos overlapping chaos until the pain and despair was all that I could see. I had receded into the shadows with no thought of making a change for the better… I had truly given up on myself and there was nothing stopping me from completing my lifelong run of self destruction.

Then one night like every other night I was driving. I looked in my rear view mirror to the twinkling of flashing red and blue lights. I received a 4th DUI which landed me with a felony on top of everything else that was going on in my life. I had no clue, but when that squad car door slammed shut, I had begun down a road that was going to change everything. That felony left me with two choices; I could do a year in state prison or I could go into some program called Teen Challenge.

Repeating similar patterns I decided to take the easy way out and go into the program. My plan was to do my time, play the part and get my felony taken care of so I could go back to my so called life. A month or so into this year long discipleship I was sitting in a worship service scanning my bible. I was just killing time more than anything else and my eyes focused on a single verse. I stared at it and unintentionally I muttered it outloud, “Be still, and know that I am God.” 

It was such a comforting statement….I just couldn’t understand why.

So I began to pay attention. I began to learn of a God so different from what I had thought I knew. A God not of condemnation but of neverending love and patience for me, for us. Not disgusted or angry with me like I once thought. Being a father myself, the love of a Father on the divine level really intrigued me and drew me in. Not being able to fathom how much God loves us opened my mind to the infinite.

Through that year with everything that I learned I was convinced. This sounds like a strange way of describing it, but I am a skeptical person by nature. The presence of the Holy Spirit was undeniable. But all of the study, teaching and experience that I was exposed to there showed me that our faith is not a fairy tale, that it’s real.

I graduated in 2013 and immediately got plugged into a local church which is my home church today. I joined a small group to get me plugged in, which evolved into me being the facilitator of an ongoing weekly small group so diverse and loving that my faith and love can’t help but continue to grow. In the last several years God had placed me and used me in ways I never would have dared dream.

I love to tell my story because looking back is when my faith is strengthened. When I am reminded that if all of those horrible,….just terrible, painful things didn’t happen to me, I never would have gotten to where I am at today. Each piece of the puzzle fitting perfectly into place. And when I recognize that God’s plans are so far beyond anything I can anticipate, understand or predict, I will be able to to remember…. to have the wisdom, “To simply be still, and know that He is God.”

“He says, “Be still, and know that I am God” Ps.46:10

Written By: Justin Ludwig

Blessed to be Broken 

In the blink of an eye I am a thirty three year old man. I look over my life and shudder because of some of the choices I’ve made. I spent my whole life destroying myself and I had a bad habit of hurting others in the process.

I look back on my life, before I knew God and remember….I don’t ever want to go back to that place.

I have come to recognize my self destruction as a blessing. By this I mean, when I begin to drift from the path He has called me to, the darkness always comes back, and it comes on in way that I cannot ignore… When I am not seeking Him with all of my heart I begin to listen to tell lies of the enemy and they begin to crush me.

I thank God for my addictions, my depression and my past because it is only because of those things that I will never forget that I am lost without Jesus. Without Jesus I, you, we all are doomed to an eternity alone, without hope and without love.

For some, when they decide to turn away from God, they live a seemingly happy life. Blinded to the fact that just because they turned their back on God, doesn’t change the facts. They are able to ignore their fate because they have the pleasure of the world.

I am blessed, because I am broken

Written by: Justin Ludwig

Love, Not Knowledge

With all of the theology, all of the “religion” and knowledge…. if the result of all of this isn’t an out pouring of love towards the world, then the entire point was missed.

Don’t make excuses, just love. Don’t ignore, just love. Love, because it is the best thing we do…. because God is love and His love is made perfect, when we love.

The world will not come into the saving embrace of Christ’s grace through theology…. They will be saved by simple, pure love.

1 John 4:11-12

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.

Written by: Justin Ludwig 

The Gospel is Love

The gospel is simple, when we get over ourselves, and love on the one who is in front of us. That’s it, that’s the gospel.  Love, without obligation, without judgement and without hesitation. Nobody will be impressed by your “religion”, they will be impressed by your love, by Christ’s love. That is how He saves the lost, by simple, pure, passionate love.

Look at this way, if you don’t have Jesus in you, then nobody is going to want what you have.

Jesus is love, represent Him well!

God bless, love furiously, and watch Him work.

Written by: Justin Ludwig 

Conviction is Love

Romans 7:14-20 says
“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does.”

This verse was the very first verse that I felt was speaking directly to me. The way Paul describes the sin issue in his life was exactly how I felt. I simply couldn’t do it, I couldn’t live up to all that God wanted from me.

I felt like such a failure because no matter how hard I tried, I simply couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stop sinning and I felt guilty, like I was spitting in God’s face every time I did. Then I was introduced to the concept of grace. At first I viewed it as a get out of jail free card. I remember thinking, “This is awesome, your telling me no matter what sin I commit, I am still guaranteed to go to heaven!? Sign me up!!!” 

Then as the days rolled by the sense of complete freedom began to dim and was replaced by a nagging sense of guilt, and I just couldn’t understand why. I believed that God had forgiven me for my mistakes, I knew I was off the hook. But no matter how many times I reminded myself of that truth,the guilt and frustration continued to build.

Then one day one of my brothers in Christ sat me down and pulled out his bible. He flipped to Romans 6 and began reading in a tone like he was just talking to me.

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with Him through
baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father,
we too may live a new life.” -Rm 6:1-4

It was like my eyes were opened. I kid you not I’m getting goose bumps as I write this because I remember it so vividly. That was the moment I got it. I don’t feel bad because I am letting God down. I simply don’t have the ability anymore to be Ok with my sin.

Before I knew Christ I was 100 percent in the flesh. I didn’t know any other way than the way of the world. But once I received the Holy Spirit, all of a sudden I’m feeling bad for behaviors and thoughts that never used to phase me.

Since the Spirit revealed that truth to me, when I sin, I don’t feel bad because I failed God again, I thank Him that I am actually able to see what I am doing is not what He wants for me. I rejoice in the fact that He is not mad. That He already knew I was going to do it, and then I thank Him for loving me so much that I have no doubt I am 100 percent forgiven and redemmed.
The conviction is meant to draw us closer to Him by making us hate when we sin. It is not meant to beat us down and make us feel like crap.

We must recognize the purpose of God’s conviction. It is not meant to punish us or make us hurt. He convicts us because He loves us so much He wants to protect us from harm, from sin. And if we are feeling the weight of our mistake pushing us down, pushing us away from God in shame then the devil is twisting God’s purpose for his own agenda; to kill, steal and destroy.

This is the freedom that we are blessed with by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and the amazing love of God, enjoy it and be free.

Written by: Justin Ludwig

Prayer and Action

I say it constantly, that prayer is power, and it is, but too often that is where it stops.

People lift up their troubles and fears with the hopes that God will just suddenly make everything better. What we as Christians need to realize is that a lot of times we must take action in order for our prayers to be answered

If you look through scriptures, this fact is played out time and time again.

In Exodus 17 when the Israelites are battling the Amalekites, Moses must keep the staff of God raised over his head in order for the Israelites to triumph, and when his hands fall, the enemies of God begin to win. In Joshua 6, they are required to march around the city of Jericho seven times and let out a cry of victory before the walls would come crumbling down so God’s promise would be fulfilled. And my personal favorite on this topic is the parting of the Red

“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. -Exodus 14:13-17

I could go on and on with examples but I think y’all get where I am going with this. Prayer is indeed power. The fellowship and council of Jesus Christ is the most powerful weapon that we can wield. But He is not a magic genie that will just magically whisk our problems.

Look, the bottom line is that we serve an all powerful God who wants to bless us beyond measure, but He expects us to take action, and sometimes yes, the action is to wait or do nothing.
If you feel like your prayers aren’t being answered, ask Him what He wants you to do. The hard part is, when He gives you the answer, and He will, you actually have to do it.

He will not solve all of our problems for us. He wants to use us, to bless us

When we put this fact into practice, we are able to be blessed beyond anything we dared dream.

Written by: Justin Ludwig