Jump On Board

My name is Branden Sewell; follow me as I follow Christ.

Learning to Enjoy My Journey

Only two days stand between me and my trip to Nicaragua.  This trip is overwhelming for me.  For me it is the grace of God displayed in my life.  Going on this trip is life to me.  It is opportunity and love.

Let me explain.  My hearts desire is to serve God without reproach.  Three years ago I decided that I was going to follow God’s plan for my life no matter what the cost.  I learned that answering the call of God will cost you everything.

In the summer of 2011 I was sitting in my room on my day off from work as an Ocean Lifeguard in Brevard County Florida.  That day changed my life forever.  I woke up that morning and went through my normal routine of spending time in prayer and reading the word.  However, that morning God spoke profound things to me.  He opened my eyes to greater things.

That morning God showed me that I had been running from the call of God on my life and I was trying to do things in my own strength.  He also showed me that I needed to change things if I ever wanted to have a wife and kids because I would have to be a provider.  I knew that leaving Florida was going to cost me, but I did not realize just how much that was going to be until I started on my journey.  Honestly, if I knew everything that was going to happen in advance, then I never would have made the move.  It is the grace of God that kept everything hidden from me.  Now I can look back and I am thankful for all that God has done during my time in Baltimore.  If I never made the move then I never would have seen such tremendous blessings that have come my way.

On July 1st, 2011 I boarded a plane to go to Baltimore, Maryland for two weeks.  My intentions were to return back to Florida after two weeks.  I was only visiting Baltimore to check out a Bible College and attend a week long conference.  I planned on going back to Florida for a couple weeks before returning to Baltimore for school in the fall.  God had another plan.

Two days before my flight to go back home to Florida to say bye to all my friends and get my belongings, I heard God say, “If you go back to Florida you will not fulfill the plans and purposes I have for your life.”  I knew why I would not fulfill them if I went back.  If I went back then the girl I left would talk me into staying and I would not ever come back to Baltimore.

I knew that I wanted to do God’s will above everything else in my life.  I wanted God to be glorified in my life.  Right in that moment I made up my mind, I was not going back.  I cancelled my flight and I have not been back since.

When I came to Baltimore I came with a bag of clothes and the books in my back pack. Everything that I left behind is still somewhere in Florida and everything I own now is what God has blessed me with along the way.

Going on this trip I am not only going to be able to go and feed the needy, pray for the lost and broken, and tell people about the love of Jesus; I am also going to be able to surf.  When I think about being able to surf on a missions trip I almost feel selfish; I begin to ask myself if I am going for the right reasons.

I keep praying about it.  I have even had thoughts of not surfing when I go, but something that God showed me is that it is okay.  Getting to surf is overwhelming to me and it only shows me how much God loves me.  He truly loves us.  Getting to surf when I go to Nicaragua is a display of God’s grace and mercy.

I believe that we truly begin to live when we no longer think that God desires for us to be miserable in our sacrifice.  I do believe that God wants us to be able to enjoy things that we are passionate about even when we are sacrificing things in our lives.

It has been three years since I have been in the water.  At one time the ocean was my home.  I felt more alive when I was in the water.  I felt closer to God.  When waves crashed around me and the water surrounded me I would almost feel as if God was wrapping me in his arms.  That is how close I felt to Him.  His glory surrounded me.  Surfing was more than just something to do; however, it was my worship to God.  My thankfulness overwhelmed me and God’s grace would overtake me.  Even as I write this tears fill my eyes thinking of getting to experience that again.

By God’s grace I have found that the waves are going to be pumping when I go to Florida and Nicaragua.  Right now there is a storm off the cost and ground swell is pushing in some nice waves.  I am stoked to say the least.  God provided waves during my trip.  

I believe that this is the grace of God.  I am going to serve Him and his people and at the same time I going to get to enjoy something that is intimate between God and I—surfing.

Needless to say, I believe that the conclusion of my blog post will be this—we have to learn the balance of sacrifice and enjoying God’s grace.  We need to change our perspective of God.  I know he can be seen so many ways; however, when we begin to see Him through the eyes of love, then I believe we truly begin to see Him as our Father and we begin to respond like true sons and daughters, instead of slaves bound by an oppressive ruler.  There is freedom in Christ Jesus that produces life and life more abundantly.  True sons and daughters enjoy that abundant life.

With love in Christ,

Branden Sewell
Baltimore, MD

Waves Unseen

This morning I met with my buddy Joshua for prayer.  Usually every morning Joshua, and our buddy Aaron, come over my place for prayer at 6:30am.  It is always a good time meeting with them, reading the Word, and praying together.

After they leave around 8am I usually get ready for my morning run.  Then I get cleaned up and I head off to work.  This morning was a little different.  I did NOT go for my run this morning.  Instead I decided to watch a movie, “Chasing Mavericks”.

"Chasing Mavericks" is a movie about a young boy with a troubled home life, single mom, and struggles of his own.  He chases this dream of surfing one of the biggest waves in the world, one of the most dangerous waves in the world.  Mavericks is a dangerous wave known for its bone chilling water temperatures, heavy surf, sharks, and rigid coastline laden with jagged rocks.

Jay is that young boy chasing his dream.  Growing up he did not have his father around so his next door neighbor, Frosty, becomes the guy he looks up to.  Frosty takes on the role of training Jay for Mavericks.  

Part of Jay’s training was to identify his fears.  This is not just a lesson in surfing but a lesson in life.  We must be able to identify our fears, then face them.  Overcome them.

As I watched the movie I began to reflect on my own fears.  Slowly I pondered what those fears are and discovered that one of my fears is regret.

Regret haunts me.  It is like a nightmare that I have over and over again, but is all in my head; I never lose consciousness.  I wake up to what seems to be reality; however, just to enter into another state of mind that causes me to wonder what is real and true, and what is questionable beyond measure.

You may ask what I regret.  Right now I do not necessarily know.  My fear is the choices I have made.  Will I get twenty years down the road and wish I would have made different choices.  I’m paralyzed.  I do not know what choices to make anymore.

If my fear is regret itself and others say live with no regrets, then shouldn’t I live the life that I would choose if I had no regrets.  But what if I could regret both choices I make.  I have a decision to go one way or the other.

As I write this posts tears fill my eyes and roll down my face.  I miss surfing with so much passion it hurts sometimes.  Thoughts of one day being able to surf again pain my soul because it can’t happen soon enough.  

I wrestle between two decisions.  One is staying here in Baltimore, Maryland believing that this is where God wants me, the other is going somewhere where I can surf again and serve God.

The biggest question I ask myself is, “why am I here in Baltimore?”  Am I here for the wrong reasons, or am I here for the right reasons.  If I am here for the wrong reasons does that mean I should not be here, or I should just ask God to change my heart.  Or am I here for the wrong reasons and I should be somewhere else where my heart and motives will be right.  

These are the kind of questions that circulate through my mind like a ride at the carnival that spins you around until you are sick to your stomach.  These thoughts make my stomach uneasy.  My heart sinks in my chest.  I am overwhelmed with indecision.  Trying to find an answer to the blur of everything that passes day by day.

In the midst of this storm I face.  Waves surround me.  And in the storm I here a voice say, “Be still and know that I am God.  Wait upon me and I will direct your path.  I will be your peace when you keep your mind, heart, and eyes stayed on me.  Let go and trust that I will see you through the storm.” So until I know where to go, where to be, I will wait.  Wait upon the Lord.  If ever I have desired to be in the waves it is now.  But God seems to have me learning how to stand on waves that I cannot see.  

With love in Christ,

Branden Sewell
Baltimore, MD

Putting Your Clothes On: The Natural Side

In my last post I talked about taking off clothes in the spiritual, but now I’m going to talk about putting them on in the natural.

Men are visual beings.  However, just because we are visual does not mean that we do not have a heart.  It does not mean that we do not feel things. We are very capable of being emotional beings that feel just like an other human being that has blood flowing through their veins.  We are alive. Yes, we are compassionate, loving, and willing to serve and that does not make us weak.  On the contrary a man who is compassionate, loving, and willing to serve is strong, brave, and courageous.

I’m so sick of the way that the world has labeled men.  We are dumb, insensitive, couch potatoes that have been robbed of any merit we may have ever had.

Pop culture has given off this message that men are supposed to be egotistical, hormone raging, thick skinned, meat heads that only think with the head between there two legs and lack any kind of intelligence where it counts.  Please tell me what is so manly about a tall, muscular, tan-skinned man chasing around women and degrading them to nothing more than a meaningless toy that they can just chew on, ride, and then throw to the side when they are done with it.

I am sick of seeing my generation—a generation of young men—led so far away from what the true meaning of manhood is.  Being a true man is being responsible, mature, compassionate, loving, and serving others.  A real man does not chase around multiple women like items.  Real men do not talk about women like they are toys that fulfill their selfish sexual fantasies. No, that is not a real man.

A real man will serve a woman.  Cherishing her as a daughter of God.  Women are valuable and deserve to be treated with honor and respect.  I am only twenty-two but I would have put the smack down on my sixteen to eighteen year old self.  I was not a man.  I was a boy.

What is incredibly alarming is seeing men my age still acting like little boys. It seriously makes me fume with anger when I see men that think they are men when they talk about women like they are nothing more than sex toys.

I am sick of going to work and hearing men talk about women with no respect.  Hearing lines like, “I need some new P***Y!”  You are not impressing me.  You sound like a dog to me.  Sounds like you need to be shown what a real man looks like.

So enough with the men…Now let me touch on the sensitive subject—women.  

Ladies it is not attractive when you walk around revealing every part of your body and leaving nothing to the imagination.  It is not attractive seeing your half-naked selfies on my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Yes, you are beautiful.  You should be proud of that.  Being modest will not make you look like a prude; however, it will make you seem like you have some class. So stop with the half naked stuff.  

I know you may be thinking that it is no big deal, but I promise you that the guys that are chasing after you are not chasing after you because of your beautiful heart even if it is beautiful…they are chasing after the half naked picture of the girl that they saw on their Facebook page.  All they are thinking about is getting you in bed.

I have gotten to the point where I just delete you from my Newsfeed if I see that kind of stuff because if I am looking at it then it does not honor my future wife.  My eyes belong to her, not to some half naked chick on my social media feeds.  

This is just my rant.  A cry for real men to rise up and treat women the way they deserve to be treated, and for women to rise up and demand the treatment that they deserve.  

Men serve the women in your life.  Guard and protect them by seeing them as daughters of God.  Women honor and respect the men in your lives.  Guard and protect them by seeing them as sons of God.  We are brothers and sisters and God is our Father.  When we honor one another, then we will honor God.

Rant over.

Branden Sewell

The Power of Taking Off Your Clothes

Have you ever had a desire to take off your clothes—to just strip down, but something is holding you back.  You feel weighed down.  Oppressed.  Bound up, but the enemy is telling you that you will never be free.  

Now I’m sorry if I had some of you thinking of natural clothes, but I’m not.  Get spiritual.  Let’s go on a journey this morning and read about Lazarus.

John 11:38-44 (NKJV)

Lazarus Raised from the Dead

38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”

Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”

40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying.[a] And Jesus lifted upHis eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”

Time to dive in to the depth of this word and how it applies to our life.  Lazarus was dead in a tomb.  We were dead in sin.  Separated from Jesus Christ and in need of a Savior.

Jesus was moved by compassion and went to the tomb where Lazarus lay dead for four days.  Jesus meets us right where we are at in our lives.  When we were still his enemies he died for us on the cross.  Here we can see that no matter how far away we are from God, we are NOT too far for him to come and save us from ourselves.

When Jesus came to the tomb where Lazarus was his sisters told Jesus it was too late.  Jesus responded in a surprising way.  It defies human understanding.  Human minds can NOT comprehend the glory of the Lord.  Only by faith can we see and believe in the glory power of God that raises lives from the dead both naturally and spiritually.  When we have faith then it never too late for us to be saved by Jesus—to accept him as our Lord and Savior.

Jesus spoke to Lazarus in a loud voice and said, “Lazarus, come out!”  Lazarus came out but he was still wearing his grave clothes.  The grave clothes represent our old life.  The old man.  The man dead in sin.  Our sin tries to consume us and preserve us; however, Jesus tells us to take off those old clothes.  To strip down.  

So many believers get saved but never walk in true freedom because the enemy lies to them and makes them believe they cannot be set free from their sins.  But Jesus comes and give us NEW life.  When we are in Jesus we can live a resurrected life.  As Jesus Christ has died and raised to life, so we must die and raise in newness of life in him.  That is the glory of Christ revealed in our lives.  

What are you waiting for?  What sin has you feeling oppressed?  Preserved in your old ways.  Captive to death, shame, and guilt.  Set yourself free today.  Take off the clothes.  That is true freedom.  Freedom from the bondage of sin.  You are no longer a slave to sin.  You are a child of the Most High God.  Sin has no power and death has lost its sting in the glory of the empty cross and the empty tomb.  

Start living your resurrected life in Jesus Christ today!

With love in Christ,

Branden Sewell
Baltimore, MD


Did God Say? - Standing on the Promises of God Even When You Cannot See it!

Ever since I was fourteen I knew I was called by God to be a pastor.  Honestly, that is not my desire at all.  Don’t get me wrong I love people and love to help them; however, the weightiness of such a calling is not appealing to me.

Before I got saved I was living in the world, but I knew about Jesus.  Everything I was doing in my life was driving me away from Him, but at the same time I could feel God drawing me to himself.

I can remember being at parties getting drunk and high with my friends and feeling completely out of place.  Something inside of me was telling me that I did not belong there.  Something inside of me was telling me that I had a greater purpose.  I began to feel this burden to help people and change the world.  Eventually I got crazy enough to believe I could, but something had to change.

After I got saved at age fourteen I knew that it was God drawing me by the Holy Spirit.  The man that prayed for me when I got saved did not know me from Adam.  I lived in North Carolina and he lived in Maryland.  This was my first time coming to his church.  That day when I went to the altar he told me things about my life that he could not have known unless God revealed it to him.  He was telling me about the times I was high with my friends and God was pulling on my heart.  He was telling me how I was being called by God.  That is what showed me God was real.

Immediately I made changes in my life.  I stopped hanging out with the same friends.  I quit partying, drinking, and smoking weed.  However, only for a short period of time.

Eventually I ended up doing those same things periodically.  I even got more involved with girls which became my new pet sin.  Now all this time I was doing all these wrong things I still new I was called to be a pastor.  I was running from that call.

Finally, when I was eighteen I got sick of running and decided to chase after this calling in my life. I was an Ocean Lifeguard in Cocoa Beach, FL and I was a surfer.  I was on the surf team at Florida Tech, competitively surfing.  Suddenly I decided to give all of that up one day when God laid on my heart to move to Baltimore and go to Bible College.

With no hesitation I was making plans to head to Baltimore, Maryland.  My plan was to go for two weeks and visit, then make my final decision and go back to Florida to say bye to all my friends and get all of my belongings.

After my visit to Maryland I was in church two days before my flight back to Florida. That Sunday God spoke to me and said, “If you go back to Florida you will not fulfill the plans and purposes that I have for your life.”  That moment I decided I was NOT going back.  I canceled my flight and three years later I still have not been back.  

I came to Baltimore with one bag of clothes, no job, and no money—just a vision and word from God.  I know with confidence that God has been speaking to me ever since I was fourteen years old.  He has placed dreams and visions inside of me that I have not seen unfold yet.

Coming to Baltimore was not easy for me.  I gave up everything that I ever cared about.  Surfing was my absolute passion.  When I surfed I always felt closer to God.  Out in the waves God revealed to me His glory.  Never did I experience something so beautiful.  All these years later it brings tears to my eyes when I think of the day I will get to experience that again.

Now that I was in Baltimore I was preparing for Bible College.  I started in the Fall of 2011 and finished in the Spring of 2013.  During my time in Bible College I learned more about the word of God, worship, prayer, and serving.  

Bible College was full of amazing times in God’s presence, growth and maturity, and trials of many kinds.  During my second year I was asked to leave my job and come on staff at Rock City Church as an intern.  With out hesitation I accepted the offer.

My season as an intern at Rock City Church was bitter sweet.  With aspirations of going into full-time ministry I thought that I had arrived and I was on the fast track to success as a young pastor.  However, things started to get really rough.

My job at Rock City Church was director of Compassion Commission.  Compassion Commission is an inner city youth missions program that RCC has been doing for twelve years.  It was actually through that conference that I got saved at and gave my life to Jesus Christ.

As director of CC I faced many challenges.  There was so much for me to learn in this position.  Right away I learned that I was definitely taking on something huge.  I had never done anything like this before.  

About half way through the months of preparation before the week long conference I was removed as director.  That was a tough season because I felt like such a failure.  

My pastor decided to send me over seas as a missionary at our church in Madagascar.  Our hopes were that I would go there and be radically changed and come back a fearless man of God.  

After my three month trip in Madagascar I came back with confidence that I would be successful at whatever my pastor assigned me to do.  I was full of faith and zealous for the Lord.  I was reinstated as director of Compassion Commission and I was ready to take on the challenge.

A few months into the months of preparation things were challenging but I thought I was doing well.  Suddenly I was taken out of CC again and removed as director.  Then I was removed from staff at Rock City Church.

That was in April of 2014.  From then until now has been the most challenging times of my life.  I have had every emotion you could think of.  I have been angry, sad, hurt, offended, but I have also been full of faith, trusting, and full of confidence.

Thoughts have raced through my mind trying to figure out what I did wrong.  I have spent countless hours asking God why He would allow this to happen.  In all of my efforts to succeed I felt like a complete failure.  I felt like I was in fire and I was all alone.  In the desert.  Dried up and hopeless.

I am so thankful that God is so faithful even in our mess.  He is truly our strength in the midst of our weakness.  God has slowly been drawing me into his arms and reminding me of his promises.  Thankfully we are not defined by our failures.

Even in the moments of wanting to give up and quit God has told me He still loves me, he will never leave nor forsake me.  That is so comforting.  In the moments that I have wanted to run God has been telling me to just be still and wait on Him.  To keep trusting in Him and remember his promises.

I’m not going to lie it has been really hard not to move in this season and to start running, but I know deep in my heart that running in this season would not be wise.  Somewhere deep in my heart beyond my understanding I know that I cannot move in this season.  I have friends that I confide in that believe I should and probably think I am crazy not to, but something is telling me that I just need to stay still.

There are a couple things  I have learned in this season of my life.  I hope that these few points will help others who go through difficult seasons in their life.

1.)  STOP! Wait and Pray

When everything falls apart the first thing we want to do is react.  Sometimes our reactions are based off of fear and uncertainty instead of faith and trust.  We find ourselves in a place we should have never been in. Do not move just because things are not going the way you planned, or because you do not understand what God is doing.  Sometimes a place of discomfort is the place where God is causing us to grow and we can interrupt that process by thinking we should be comfortable.  God wants to stretch us.  Be still.  Rest in God.

2.)  Keep Serving

The last thing you want to do in a season of uncertainty is to stop serving.  Continue to serve others and walk in the way of humility.  When we stop serving, then we can become self-focused and lose sight of others.  This will open up a door of pride.  Becoming proud is like a dangerous infection that will only cause you to stumble and fall.  Once again in this season you have to remember the promises of God and know there is still a plan and purpose for your life.  That purpose is greater than yourself.  It isn’t about you.  It is about others.

3.) Stand in the fire

In the most difficult seasons of our life we can feel the weight of everything around us pushing us down.  These seasons are difficult and painful.  Many times it feels like it would be easier just to give up.  To roll over and die.  However, that is not God’s plan for us as believers.  We are winners.  We are overcomes.  God never promised there would never be storms to go through; however, he has promised to go through them with us.  In this season God will cause you to trust in his strength in the midst of your immense weakness.  Do not lose heart.  Continue to do well because in a due season you will reap a harvest that is plentiful if you do not give up.

In conclusion…

I’m learning to trust God even when it isn’t easy.  It is in these moments that you learn to press in and really trust God.  This is the season to believe in the promises that God said beforehand. Trusting in all he has said to me. This is the season to stand strong and not be moved.  I’m learning that in a difficult seasons the first thing we may want to do is move because discomfort, discontentment, and becoming disheartened can set in.  The most wise decision we can make is to be still and wait on the Lord.  Making flippant decisions based off of emotion is not wisdom.  Standing in the fire is not easy, but it is worth it.  I’m trusting in God.  I’m NOT leaning on my own understanding.  In all my ways I am acknowledging God.  I know He will keep me upon the right path.  Faith is trusting God even when you cannot see the promise.  Trust is walking in a difficult season knowing God spoke that promise to you.  Do not allow the enemy to say, “Did God say?” The devil is a liar.  Every word God has spoken over your life is true.  When God says a thing it will not return void.  It will accomplish that which it was set out to do.  You are a word spoken by God.  You are full of purpose and your life has worth.  You will apprehend that which God has apprehended you for.  Do NOT lose heart.  Do NOT give up.  Keep trusting.  Keep believing.  The most glorious triumph is experienced through the pangs of opposition.  

popcandy asked: Loving to read your insights throughout this trip! The last one especially, it really spoke to me. God has also been speaking to me about the desert. And I thought "Yes, in the desert there's pain and suffering, but there's also the see opening, clothes that never break down, and food from the sky." May we not be afraid of the desert! :)

Thank you for your encouragement.  God bless you.  Follow me also at brandensewell.com

Turn Down For Jesus and For Her

This morning I was inspired to share about my relationships.  Now do not get the thought for one second that I have it all figured out because I do not, but I have learned a lot.  I believe I can share the wisdom that I have gained through doing some things right, and doing a lot of things wrong.

When I was growing up I was not the most sheltered kid.  My sister was only a year older than me so her friends became my little girl friends.  I can remember having little crushes ever since I was five years old.

At the age of nine things started to escalate.  My sister would invite a friend over to our house for a sleep over and I would end up kissing these girls.  However, these were not little pecks on the lips, or on the cheek.  These were all out make-out sessions.  Sometimes even go as far as second base.

Now all of that started at the age of nine.  It only got worse as time went on.   I had many little girl friends.  One of the highlights of those pre-teen romances were all the times we would make-out.  This continued into my high school years where I would eventually round third and go home.

I would continue with this creative writing style and use bases to describe how far I went with these girls, but for clarity I will be blatant.  When I was sixteen I lost my virginity.  Now I could say I scored two more times, but it definitely was not a score.  I did; however, sleep with two more girls by the time I was eighteen.  

Now for the guys out there—every “good intention” you had goes out the door when you act on your flesh and sleep with a girl outside of marriage.  No matter how much I want to say that I really cared about these girls I cannot validate that because of my actions.  I was wrong. PERIOD!

When I was fourteen I gave my life to Jesus Christ.  After giving my life to Jesus I definitely felt conviction whenever I hooked up with a girl, even if it was just making out and going to “second base”.  That conviction got even worse when I lost my virginity.  With that conviction came shame and guilt.

Shame and guilt got so heavy in my life that I knew I had to stop doing this to myself.  I would compromise and date these girls that were not christians, or they were not as devoted as I was.  Telling myself that I could get them saved was just a lie that I was trying to convince myself was true to validate my actions.  FYI evangelical dating does not work. PERIOD.  Maybe there are those special cases that are filled with grace, but it is not worth risking your purity by entering an unequally yoked relationship.

Side note, I would do these awful things then ask God for his forgiveness; however, just end up doing it again.  I was not using grace as a license to sin, but I sure was not displaying true repentance.  Repentance is asking for forgiveness, then turning away from that sin completely.

Ten months after I turned eighteen I decided that some things had to change.  I made a commitment to God that I would never date a girl who was not already a devoted christian that was living for God and serving Him.  It has now been three years since I made that commitment.

For three years I have been single and I have not compromised by sleeping with women.  That has not been an easy task at all.  I have had gorgeous girls throw themselves at me. In the past I would have seen these women as opportunities to get my wife saved and live happily ever after; however, now I understood that if my goal was to get them saved so they could be my wife, then my motive was not to introduce them to Jesus; however, just to fulfill my own lustful desires.

Learning from my past I decided to turn these girls down and let them see my love for Jesus.  This can be hard at times because they might think that I somehow am giving this notion that I think I’m too good for them; however, that is not the case.  I actually deeply care for these women as though they were my sisters and want them to know Jesus more than I want them to be my next girl friend, or arm candy.

When I started to see girls as my sisters, then I started to treat them differently.  My desire is that each one of them sees that I want them to have Jesus not me.  If they get Jesus Christ, then they have found a man that is far greater than I.  My hope is that maybe some of them would be reading this and understand my heart.

Turning down a girl that you think is gorgeous is not easy, but I have done it several times over the past three years.  Some of these girls at first glance would fit the description of my “dream girl”.  The perfect smile, perfect hair, beautiful eyes, and a beautiful body.  In that moment I have to realize that these women are not items and their value is not in their appearance.  Their value comes from deep within.

When you value women for their heart, their mind, and soul then you will not allow your lustful desires to lead yourself astray and you will save that woman from a broken heart.  See the reason why I would turn these girls down is because I knew that my conviction would catch up with me and I would end up turning them down eventually anyways, so I did not let it get that far.  I wanted them to see Jesus.

My hope in writing this is that I would accomplish two things: 1) I would encourage young men and women to wait on God.  To be patient and wait for His best for you.  That does not mean that the others that come along do not have value; however, that they are for someone else.  You can show them how valuable they truly are by turning them down and directing them to Jesus. 2) I want to encourage young men and women that have been turned down to not be discouraged, or hurt.  God has a plan for you and someone special to enjoy those plans with.  Do not focus on whether, or not you got that person you desired; however, focus on Jesus and have your delight in Him.

With love in Christ,

Branden Sewell
Baltimore, MD

Making Your Dreams A Reality!

Everyone wants to feel alive.  Alive in a way that goes beyond living.  We all breathe, eat, drink, and sleep—is that living, or just existing.  There is something more than that which we long for.  Mundane lives are not the ones that we would choose, but something happens when we vicariously live through other peoples dreams instead of going out and capturing our own.  We get stuck.  

Countless hours are recalled of days sitting and watching YouTube videos of miraculous success in someone’s life.  We can see this through athletes who post a video online and overnight they are signing a contract for the “Bigs”.  We see it when a young lady, or young man makes a homemade music video and posts it online.  Overnight they get millions of hits and land a record deal.  The list goes on and on of dreams becoming a reality.

Something happens inside of us when we see these stories.  We rejoice with them; however, we stay still.  We do not move.  Fear grips us like the jaws of a pit bull.  Somewhere we give up and lose hope.  We let our dreams fade like the sun in the evening sky, then darkness surrounds us, fears arise, and we are paralyzed in the darkness of life.  Feeling cornored with nowhere to go.  When the sun rises we must learn to capitalize on every opportunity to escape and seize the day; to seize every opportunity that lies on the horizon.

Dreams are something that we all have.  All of our dreams differ in many ways.  Some may want to be lawyers and doctors, pop-stars and movie stars, world travelers and site seers, or maybe pastors and preachers.  Though we all aim to be, or do something different we all have one thing in common and that is our own dreams.  Now is the day to chase them.  Today is the day.  Not tomorrow, or the next day.  Today!  

May we not be the ones who sit around and chase after other peoples dreams for our lives.  May we not be the ones who live our lives only to regret never really living passionately at all.  So many have life, but so little ever truly live.  

Do not chase after money, status, or material things of life if that is not what you truly desire in your heart.  God has more for you than that.  When the word of God says that Jesus came to “…give life and life more abundantly.”  I do not believe he was just talking about riches, or a higher status in society.  There was something more rich — a richness in life that money, cars, and clothes cannot offer.  That richness comes from deep down authentic joy for living for God and loving others passionately.

Do not chase after success, or money.  Chase after your dreams because God put them there for a purpose.  When you do what you are passionate about then what flows out of it will be real, authentic.  Let your passion birth opportunity in your life.  Live so passionately that you begin to burn so bright that it inspires others to do the same.  While you are at it—forget the haters.  I was never inspired by someone who gave up their dreams only to have more money but a miserable existence wishing they would have done more to become successful at what they love instead of cashing their dreams in to be successful at something that drains them of true living.

While I was in Madagascar for three months as a missionary, I learned something profound.  There is a lesson we learn from the gospels and that is this. “…what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?”  We can have all the riches in the world and still not gain what truly has value—eternal value.

Eternal value cannot be found in the so called “American Dream”.  The sad thing is that so many people think that is the answer to all the worlds problems: poverty, starvation, and etc.  However, when I was in Madagascar I saw things that I could have never imagined.  It made me feel incredibly helpless.  

I was riding with Pastor Haja, the pastor of Rock City Church Madagascar, one day in the car and we passed by a field—a rice field.  There were small little islands in the field.  On those tiny islands were little huts where families lived.  Trash was everywhere.  Literally leaving a thick coating everywhere.  Looking at the dirt and filth made me feel dirty.

After seeing this I was overwhelmed.  I thought to myself—what can I do to help them.  How can I make a difference.  While sitting there I could not help but realize that I had nothing to give them.  If I had all the money in the world it would not help them.  The truth is that these people do not need our money; however, they need the hope of Jesus Christ.  If we give them Jesus, then we have given them the source to all things not just a temporary hand out.

If I gave these people money it would not solve all their problems; however, it would just create another one for them. They would have to resist the temptation of putting their trust and hope in money instead of God. The Malagasy people gave more to me than I ever could have given to them.  They taught me more than I could have ever taught them.  What they gave to me will forever be in my heart.

Being around them was so fulfilling.  The struggles they encounter on a daily basis far exceed the minute struggles of most americans.  Most would consider my childhood to have been pretty difficult but it is nothing in comparison to the difficulty of how the Malagasy people live every single day.  Though their problems stand like hills around them— their joy, faith, hope, and love tower like mountains over every problem that surrounds them.

I found that the Malagasy people have life more abundantly than most of americans.  That is because for them life is about who they know not what they have.  For us the exact opposite takes place.  What we have will determine who we know because everyone is drawn to our riches, not our relationship.  Our comforts and riches cause us to be blinded.  Making it harder for us to see God in the smaller things in life.  Robbing us of truly living.

John G. Lake was a famous minister, and missionary in Africa.  He was known for his miracle healing ministry.  Through his ministry the dead were raised to life, blind eyes were opened, and deaf ears were healed.  While speaking with an African pastor in Johannesburg, South Africa Lake told him how he felt great compassion, pity, and sympathy for the people because of their poverty.  The humble African Pastor responded to Lake and said, “Do not pity us in our poverty.  We pity you in your richness because our poverty drives us to be desperate for God and we see Him.  Your riches only blind you of seeing God in the way we do.”

I read that story of Dr. Lake and the African Pastor while I was in Madagascar.  That changed my perspective on how I viewed the Malagasy people and how I viewed life.  In short, do not chase after material things in life because truly they do not matter.  If they come your way, then that is great.  However, if they do not then it is not your concern.  Live to please God, chase the dreams he birthed in you, and love people with a passion that runs deep.  When your delight comes from the Lord then when riches come your way you will freely give them because you have already found what truly sustains and fulfills you.  When your delight comes from riches then when they come your way you will horde them and they will destroy you and be of no benefit to others.  Chase your dreams they are just over the horizon waiting to be seized by someone brave enough to trust and have faith that dreams do come true.

With love in Christ,

Branden Sewell
Baltimore, MD

You Don’t Have To Understand

September 29, 2013 
@Secret Place, Madagascar

In Oswald Chambers daily devotional the entry for September 29th is about “The Awareness of the Call”.  Oswald Chambers passed away before he ever published these writings; however, his wife compiled them into this wonderful devotional “My Utmost For His Highest.”

Chambers writes, “The call of God has nothing to do with salvation and sanctification.  You are not called to preach the gospel because you are sanctified; the call to preach the gospel is infinitely different.  Paul describes it as a compulsion that was placed upon him.”

As I read these words I began to think about my own life and how God sovereignly called me by His grace.  God chose to use me before I ever agreed upon it, or decided to let Him use me.  Others, such as my mom and dad, tell me they could see the hand of God on my life at a young age. I was not even saved (born again) until I was fourteen.

Before I got saved I felt something pulling me away from every wicked thing I was doing.  I was not sure what it was but not only did it pull on me, it was changing my heart, my mind, and completely setting me apart.  All I knew at the time was that I was different.

After being saved and giving my life to Jesus Christ, men of God began to prophesy about my life. This is when I started to realize that maybe God was wanting to use me.  Still unsure of the call of God on my life, I would continue to search for my purpose through my teenage years.  This time period was like a wrestling match between me and God.

I went on to create my own plans for my life, but God began to sovereignly intervene and interrupt those plans.  I knew about God.  I thought I knew Him personally, but my own foolishness had me far away from His plans and purposes.  I was completely unaware.  God was drawing me into His perfect plan. That is the beauty of God’s plan.  When we are completely unaware He is drawing us to Himself.  I resisted unknowingly, but God knew that my resistance what part of His greater plan.

Today I find myself in the center of God’s will for my life.  I am unmistakably right where he wants me to be. As I look back I know that it is only by His sovereign plan that I am where I am today.  

My encouragement to you this morning is to let go.  Stop trying to figure it all out.  Pursue God and love people.  Everything else will fall into place as you focus on what truly matters.  When we allow ourselves to get distracted by the trivial things of life, then we lose direction.  Living then becomes more about achieving some form of success, or pleasing ourselves and others instead of pleasing God.

I will leave you with a scripture to encourage you to stay focused.  Remember to “keep the main thing, the main thing.”

"12 1-3 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! (Hebrews 12:1-3 MSG)

Run with focus,

Branden Sewell
Baltimore, MD

I Do Not Have, But What I Have I Give You

Acts 3:1-11 (MSG)

1-5 One day at three o’clock in the afternoon, Peter and John were on their way into the Temple for prayer meeting. At the same time there was a man crippled from birth being carried up. Every day he was set down at the Temple gate, the one named Beautiful, to beg from those going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the Temple, he asked for a handout. Peter, with John at his side, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Look here.” He looked up, expecting to get something from them.

6-8 Peter said, “I don’t have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” He grabbed him by the right hand and pulled him up. In an instant his feet and ankles became firm. He jumped to his feet and walked.

8-10 The man went into the Temple with them, walking back and forth, dancing and praising God. Everybody there saw him walking around and praising God. They recognized him as the one who sat begging at the Temple’s Gate Beautiful and rubbed their eyes, astonished, scarcely believing what they were seeing.

11 The man threw his arms around Peter and John, ecstatic. All the people ran up to where they were at Solomon’s Porch to see it for themselves.

When you have nothing to give, give everything.

For the past two years I have been riding the bus (MTA) in Baltimore, Maryland.  As I go from stop to stop, street to street I get overwhelmed.  Floods of people get on the bus and then get off just as fast.  For these moments I see floods of pain.  Floods of desperation.  Broken, lost people in need of healing, in need of a Savior.

From my seat I look out the window of the bus.  We arrive at a stop light.  There are men and women, homeless, begging for change.  Begging for change.  Change.  They are desperate for change.  Searching for something to fill the void that is in their life.  Begging for money because for them that is the answer.  But money really is not the answer they are searching for.  Money is not the solution.  Jesus is the solution.

I get off the bus and I walk past these men and women.  As I pass I think to myself—I have nothing to give.  I ask myself what I can give them to make a difference in their life.  God started to deal with me on this topic by the Holy Spirit.

The Lord led me to this portion of scripture in Acts 3.  Peter and John clearly had nothing to give; however, they had everything to give.  We are mistaken if we think that we have nothing to give.  We have everything.  We have Jesus Christ.  Our anchor of hope.  Our redeemer.  Our savior.  Our source and our shelter.  The healer of our souls.

Peter and John gave this beggar what he truly needed, Jesus Christ.  When we pass by others feeling the Holy Spirit lead us to give, but have no money in our pockets, we should give them what we have in Jesus Christ.  We can offer them something that never fades.  We can offer them something that will be the solution to every problem in their lives.  Now our role is to take advantage of these opportunities when they present themselves every day.

When Peter and John arrived at the temple for prayer they could have told the beggar, “Sorry we have no money see you later”, but they didn’t.  They stopped and prayed for him.  They gave more than he was asking for.  They gave him Jesus.

Today, tomorrow, next week, and next month there are going to be opportunities that arise.  Opportunities to pray for someone and offer them Jesus Christ.  What will you do?  Will you just pass them by, or will you remember what Peter and John did—stop and pray.  I encourage you to take a leap of faith.  Leap out in faith believing someone may get the miracle they have been desperate for.  When you have nothing give someone everything, Jesus Christ the Son of the living God.

With love in Christ,

Branden Sewell
Baltimore, MD

Battles Win Wars

"If you win the battle in your mind, then you will win the war for your soul."

"Come Follow Me": Do NOT follow the calling; however, follow the One who calls.

"As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew.  They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  "Come follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him." (Matt 4:18-20 NIV)

Have you ever been so focused on your calling that you lost sight of the One who called you?  Often times we can get so consumed with the thing that God has called us to that we lose focus.  We get distracted by the secondary things.  No longer do we focus on Jesus; however, we are distracted by the calling.

Jesus made it clear that our focus should be himself.  He said, “come follow me,” that was his primary statement.  What he would make us into was secondary.  If we lose sight of Jesus and focus on our calling, then we are entering into a dangerous place.

When we begin to focus on our calling then we will start to move further and further away from the very thing that God has called us to.  This happens because suddenly we find ourselves trying to achieve our purpose, our calling on our own.  Our failure comes when we focus on ourselves.  We begin to work in our own strength instead of the strength of Christ.  No longer are we trusting God, or passionately pursuing Him.  Now we are pursuing our calling.

Now, it is not wrong to desire the call of God on your life; however, our call calling can become our idol if we are not careful keep Jesus first.  In that place our idol causes us to function in our own strength and we are crushed.  The calling that was supposed to bring life is now choking that life right out of you.

If you find yourself in this place, then take a step back.  Remember, Jesus said, “come follow me” whatever you become is just the result of your passionate pursuit of Jesus Christ.  Get focused again.  Remember your first Love.  Do not worry what others will say about you.  Your personal relationship with Jesus Christ is more important than anything else.  Out of your personal relationship with Jesus Christ will flow all things pertaining to the specific calling on your life.

Take heart.  Be encouraged.  God wants to use you.  But God wants your heart more than he wants what you can do for Him.  He knows that if he has your heart then everything else will fall into place.  Let God become your primary focus.  Follow Jesus Christ and everything else will follow as well.

With love in Jesus Christ,

Branden Sewell
Baltimore, MD

4 Things To Do When You Do NOT Know What To Do!

Everything is changing.  Everything is moving.  My mind can not keep up.  I’m always thinking.  Trying to analyze and make sense of everything.  I’m exhausted from trying to understand everything.  I want to please God above all things.  But how?  What do I need to do right now?  Is this where He wants me?  Am I in the right place doing the right thing, or do I need to move?  What if I make the wrong decision?  If I make the wrong choice will God not love me? I am hurt.  I feel unloved.  It is just too hard.  I’m unhappy.  Is this all that God has for me. I feel like the weight of the world is sitting right on my heart and it is heavier than ever.  I just do not know what to do.

This is what my mind gets like sometimes.  Honestly my instinct is to run as soon as this happens; to get as far away as possible.  My fears kick in and I just lay down everything, throw in the towel and run away.  I seclude myself and enter into a place of solitude.  That is a very dangerous place to be.

God has shown me in this season of my life how to be still, to wait on the Lord, and be at perfect peace.  When everything around you seems chaotic you just want to give up, give in, and surrender; however, God wants you to STOP, PRAY, and HEAR Him.  ”Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.”

It can be dangerous to move spontaneously.  That is probably the easiest thing to do; however, it is not wise.  When everything seems to NOT make sense, you do not understand what is going on around you, and you just want to give up—WAIT!  Keep your feet planted.  Seek God.  He will give you the wisdom and understanding of what to do.  He will lead and guide you.

Take heart and do not lose sight of the promises that God has for your life.  Remain in God’s steadfast love.  In the moments when your heart is troubled and you do not know what to do, then ask yourself these few questions:

1.) Am I reading the word daily?

2.) Am I praying daily?

3.) Am I praising and worshipping God daily?

4.) Am I keeping the main thing the main thing?

These few questions will help you to know what the problem is.  Chances are—if you do not have peace, then you are probably not doing a these few things.  Or maybe you just have a deficit in one area.

In my own life I have found that when I do not have peace it is not because of the circumstances around me; however, it is because I have abandoned these disciplines in my life.  When you are in Jesus Christ, then your peace is not defined by circumstances.  Your joy is not determined by your circumstances, but by the Life that is inside of you.  Jesus is our source of joy and peace.  He is our life sustainer.  Our joy redeemer.  Our one and only source of hope in troubled times.  He is our all in all.

If you are troubled in your life.  If you are facing giants in your life and you just feel like running away.  Do this one thing: STOP!  Start reading your word again, start praying again, and give God your heart in praise and worship.  God wants your heart.  Keep the main thing the main thing; Jesus Christ.  God will give you strength to keep your feet planted in the day of battle, to remain courageous, steadfast, and take down the giants that are in the way of the promises that God has for your life.  Take heart and do not give up because God still has great plans for you.  He is not finished with you yet.

With love in Christ,

Branden Sewell
Baltimore, MD