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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wednesday Encouragement

It's the middle of the week. It's in the middle of the Holiday week. Crazy. Hectic. Tiring. I for one, am exhausted.

For those who celebrate, it's Holy Innocents day.

Holy Innocents
After -Jesus was born, Matthew’s gospel records that King Herod was so disturbed by the news of a potential contender for the throne that he ordered a preemptive strike, executing all boys in Bethlehem under two years of age. Since its earliest centuries, the church has remembered these “holy innocents” who died because -Jesus’ coming posed a threat to those in power. Today we remember all the little ones, born and unborn, who are sacrificed in a culture of death that has not yet welcomed the good news of -Jesus. And we recall that Herod’s kingdom is now long gone, but the kingdom of God goes on.

Most celebrate by feasting, yet in constant remembrance and prayer of the injustice present in the world.

Remember the lives of your little ones, Lord : and break the sword of the oppressor.
Francis Schaeffer, founder of L’Abri, wrote, “Our conscious relationship with God is enhanced if we treat all the things he has made in the same way as he treats them.”


But again, we are in the middle of the week. I saw this on Mike Donehey's (lead singer for Tenth Avenue North) twitter today, I thought I would share it.

Friend, If Christ lives in you, You are clean. You are forgiven. You are new.
If Christ lives in you, You are no longer a slave to those things you hate. You are righteous. You are loved. You are free.
In Christ, You are cared for. You are blessed. You are the hands of grace to an entitled world. Give in the same way you have received.

May the peace of Christ go with you.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Zach Dill: 8/26/1993-12/8/2011

I pray that I have accurately portrayed this man's life. I pray for his family having to go through this tragedy. I pray for those who were closer to him than I ever was. I pray for all of his friends, for all who he had left a mark on. From my friendship with him, this is what I have come to grips with. This is my memory. This is how I will cope. May the Peace of Christ rule in our hearts.

---
Zach, Myself, and Ben at CIY 2011

Every youth group has that one kid; that one guy that you can always count on to do something ridiculous. He’s the life of the party.  Everyone loves the guy.

Every school has that one kid; that one guy you can always count on to be there for you in your struggles. He’s the caring soul, the shoulder to cry on, and at the end of the conversation will always make you smile… even if it’s just a little.

No one ever knows the things that go on in his mind, the feelings he has, and the emotions that flood his conscience. He’s always willing to take on the extra burden of another's sorrow, he’s always smiling. The kind of guy who appears he could never break.

He never has it all together, but he doesn’t have to. He is the helping hand; the knight that rides in at the right time. The pains that hide behind the shining armor were only known by a trusted few, because that’s all he needed.
Outgoing.
Always charismatic.
Funny.
The epitome of a guy many would love to be, the guy many would love to be with.

Zach Dill was that guy.

I first met Zach just over a year ago, and throughout this past year had the privilege to get to know a little about him. Our friendship never went very deep, he was in high school, had his friends around him and I was the new guy in the church who graduated high school and was waiting for college to start. The crazy thing was that I almost immediately saw in him what everyone else saw in him. He was a genuine guy. However, being a sponsor in the youth group I got to see the reason behind it all.

Zach was a regular attender at Ignite, the youth group I was a part of as a sponsor and helper. It’s a new, growing church. The youth group was small but meaningful. Zach was an important part of our identity. I remember Wednesday nights where before the lesson we would play Cornhole, talk about how the week was going and that crazy place called High school. It always seemed to end in our favorite game of pegging Ben with the beanbags. I loved the guy.

During the lesson we could always count on him saying something hilarious or just poking fun at the things the younger girls said, his sarcasm was perfect for just about any situation. When it came down to getting serious, it was obvious that his answers and attentiveness were sincere. He wasn’t there just for the fun and games. He came because God meant something to him. He came because he wanted to grow, to understand. He wanted to be able to help others.

He traveled with us to a weeklong youth conference in July in Tennessee, before the conference started we went white water rafting on the Ocoee River. I fell out once and got my knee caught between the boat and a rock. Zach was one of the guys that were there to immediately pull me back into the boat… later I returned the favor.

That week is instilled into my mind.
I remember the man cave and phrases like “Hip ciricles!” and “Par Four!” Things you just had to be there for in order to understand. I remember ‘planking’ with him back when ‘planking’ was the cool thing to do… everywhere... and how he almost “face-planked” during one of the Devo times. I remember the Nerf wars that happened just about every night in the dorm rooms we were staying in, and in the RV as we traveled around. I remember the wall ball games: I can’t even begin to count all the games we played of that during free time and at night. I remember meeting a guy named Duc, and how Zach and Ben immediately thought he was coolest guy ever. I was able to witness that friendship being forged. I remember on the road trip back playing poker and it always coming down to me and Zach at the end… what can I say? We both had good poker faces. I remember the youth group time after the evening session where we just talked about our day together and got devotional on a few topics. I remember Zach praying. I remember him always speaking up in those moments just to keep the conversation flowing. I remember his encouraging remarks to everyone throughout the week.

I remember him opening up his CIY Kingdom Worker card: “Send an encouraging note to someone on facebook every day for a year.”

It’s hard to believe he’s gone.

It’s even harder to accept it.

He was a blessing to many. Just reading the posts on his facebook from others has shown that to me.

The last time I saw him was the Sunday before I left for college in August. I remember giving him a bro-hug as I said goodbye. It never crossed my mind that that would be my last in person memory of him. I’m drawn to the words of a song written by Michael W. Smith, “Though you are mourning, and grieving your loss/ Death died a long time ago/ Swallowed in life, so his life carries on/Still, it's so hard to let go.”
Though it’s in these moments we want to cry out, “Why!?” to whoever will give an answer that we can accept, I think it would be an insult to his memory to think that way. He wouldn’t want us wallowing. He would have asked if he could help. He would have stood next to us and said something encouraging, something positive in all of this. That’s the kind of person he was in the presence of those he cared about. We will miss him. We are hurt, devastated that he’s gone. But thankful.

Thankful for a life well lived. Thankful for the beauty of 18 years of life. Thankful for his life living in and through our memories of him.

We can’t forget. I can’t forget. The good lord gives and the good lord takes away… and I’m thankful that Zach is no longer in pain, but in celebration.

Celebrating with all of those who have gone before him.

Let us celebrate our memories of him. Let us celebrate our individual friendships with him. Let us celebrate the mystery and majesty of life.

Zach, we love you. We always will. We’ll miss you, but we will never forget your legacy you left in our hearts and our lives.

As we come to this crossing, pray. Pray for the family that has been affected, the friendships that have been buried in confusion and sorrow. Pray for peace. Pray for love. Pray.

The same song continues to play in the back of my mind:
This was his time. This was his dance. He swam in the sea, drank of the deep. He lived every moment leaving nothing to chance. He embraced the mystery of life, let us follow that lead.

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you Zach: wherever he may send you;
may he guide you through the wilderness: protect you through the storm;
may he bring you home rejoicing: at the wonders he has shown you;
may he bring you home rejoicing: into those Heavenly doors.
Lamb of God
You take away the sins of the world
Have mercy on us.
Grant us peace.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Called to Contend

What many scholars believe to be the most neglected book of the Bible...
Philemon?
2 Peter?
2 John?
3 John?

How about Jude.

Jude.
The small book that everyone skips over on their way to Revelation... because beasts coming out of the earth and stars falling are more entertaining (and confusing) than a postcard from the past about false teachers in the church.

Hmmm...

In fact, Jude is so neglected, there once was a call to take it out of the Bible... mostly due to it's quotation of an apocryphal book and it's brevity.

But nonetheless, it remains. It belongs in the Bible.
Jude is a wonderful, beautiful letter of scripture.

And I hope to prove some of that in this post.

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,
To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
 -Jude 1-2

Jude opens up his letter introducing himself: a servant of Jesus Christ.
But to specifically give himself some sense of recognition he adds "brother of James"

James was a well known man, he was a leader in the early church, in fact he was an elder of the Jerusalem church. Paul identified James as one of the pillars of the church. (Gal. 2:9) And of course he wrote his own epistle which bears his name, 'The book of James'.

But Jude leaves something out of his introduction... something huge, something that would distinguish himself even more as someone to listen to.

Maybe this just shows his humility... Jude was one of the younger half-brothers of the very man he said he was a servant of.

Jude was a brother of Jesus.

And he had an inspiring, encouraging note that he wished to write to us about our salvation in Christ Jesus... but there's a problem.

Because he finds it necessary instead to write to us about a different topic at hand. One that is also just as encouraging, uplifting, and inspiring.

A beautiful message of God's call to us.

A Call.

God's call on our lives.

To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.


Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Because we are called and loved, and because we are kept for Jesus Christ, Jude is exhorting us to contend.
Contend for the faith!

He wanted to write about our common salvation BUT he has seen the perversion of the gospel unfolding in the church... and he instead calls us to contend for grace, contend for the only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

What would we have become, if He had not stopped us in our dead career of living? If we haven't recently teared up or felt that gracious thankfulness in our inner being... then perhaps we need our memory refreshed with our calling. We're called because we're loved.

We're loved... because God chooses to love us.

Even in our depravity?

Especially in our depravity.

God's call on our lives never stops, it never is just one moment that passes by and we have to remember.
God's call is continual.

And it is a call to contend.
Contend for grace.



Because grace is worth fighting for.

Jude is warning us against the false teachers who are perverting the grace of Jesus.
Asking questions like:

Are we saved by grace through faith or do we have to add something to it?

In order to be a Christian do we have to be ________?

This was the issue with the Jerusalem council in Acts 15.

'But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."' -Acts 15:1 (ESV)

For them the 'something else' was circumcision.
Because they were Jewish Christians, they weren't comfortable with the idea of God's grace being given to Gentiles... it was something new, something foreign to them.
They began asking, 'Do they have to be Jewish first?'




Paul said no.
These men said yes.
A dispute arose and a council was convened.

"And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question." -Acts 15:2 (ESV)

When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, "It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses."
The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will."
And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, "Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,
"'After this I will return,and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;I will rebuild its ruins,
    and I will restore it,
that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord,
   and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
    says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.'
 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues."'            -Acts 15:4-21 (ESV) 

I believe this issue is so important to Jude that he felt necessary to write a letter because of this event, as well as others.
James, his own brother, had to fight this same topic.
Peter had to fight this issue.
Paul had to fight over this issue.
All at one large meeting.

But James makes a mistake, when he says to write a letter telling them to abstain from four things... he opens the door for false teachers to hold these four requests as laws.
Because they aren't laws.
God's grace is above food sacrificed to idols.
God's grace is above sexual immorality.
God's grace is above strangled food.
God's grace is above the drinking of blood.


God's grace defeated sin. Jesus rose from the dead.

Jude's echo is clear:
Once you start submitting to the first 'rule' there's a string of others behind it...

Fight for Grace.


Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (ESV)

Grace through Faith: Is it Jesus + Something?

The +______ is always for you. It's always about us. Our reputation. Our social standing. Our personal view of ourselves.

Because we want to be moral, good, righteous, etc.

However, if we truly analyzed our motives:
Most of our morality is selfish, not to honor God.
Most of our ethics are to impress other Christians.
Our righteousness is given to us from God, not what we have done.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:20, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (ESV)
The Pharisees self righteousness was so inflated... it seems impossible to surpass them... and it would still fall short.

We need to change our vocab.

We have attached ethics to the cross.

Going to Church is God's gift to you, not your gift to God.
Same with reading the Bible, Baptism, prayer.
It is God's gift to us to participate in these activities out of reverence, worship, and relationship with Him.

Doing something FOR God is heresy... because EVERY TIME it is works based.

Don't rob the Glory from God.

Fight for Grace.

Fight for Grace.

To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.

We are called to contend.


I hope to write another post on the rest of the wonderful book of Jude, but for this, I pray we can all contend for the grace of God.

Mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever he may send you;
may he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm;
may he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you;
may he bring you home rejoicing : once again into the our doors.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.


Bask in this prayer today, and make it your own.
Meditate on what this prayer really means for your life.

I know that for me,
It's Revolutionary.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wednesday Encouragement

It's mid week, the beginning of a new month. A fresh start for some, a burden for others. I thought we all could just use some encouragement though.

“That's why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn't stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I'd think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!" -Ephesians 1:18 MSG

There's people everywhere hearing about what you are doing, because you matter. People you never even would think of are praying for you. Like me. Like Jesus (John 17). Like Paul, right here, because his words are alive and mean the same today as they did then.

Bottom line: You aren't alone in Christ. We are a community, a kingdom, all serving and worshiping the same king.

Isn't that AWESOME!?

And we need to be praying for others. It's so refreshing to just sit back and thank God for other people in your life and who you don't even know, but may be in your life later on.

I want to get in a more consistent habit of praying for all of you, our readers. You guys rock! I don't know who all of you are but it's so encouraging to me that I pray you all are being encouraged as well.

Encouraging one another... it's all about this community idea.

And there is this huge blessing we have of being a follower of Christ... because he gives us 'ENDLESS energy and BOUNDLESS strength'. Be encouraged by that.

ENDLESS.
BOUNDLESS.

Those words have some pretty legit meaning.


He's inside, He's over, He's underneath, He's in between. He's got your back. Rest in that.

Have a great week everybody!

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Constant Battle

I've been wanting to write a post on lust for the longest time.
For the longest time.

But lust is just one of those topics... that we aren't supposed to discuss.

We hate talking about it because we all struggle with it.
Especially in America.
Especially males.

But I haven't talked about it.

I haven't posted anything.
Because I'm scared.

I've had to ask myself:
Do I have the credit to tackle this subject?
No.

Do I have the respect to stand firm and for the most part tell every guy in America, and in the world for that matter, to get their thoughts in order?
No.

Because I struggle with the same problem.

Who am I?

I should let others tackle it instead... but there are some things that I think I can say. I need to say. It is wearing on my heart.

Because I hate lust.
But I love God's church.

And I am sickened when what I hate infiltrates what I love. I know I can't fix it... but perhaps by posting this it will ease some of my own hurt.

Guys, we know what's up. We know that what we think is wrong, we know that what we do sometimes is wrong.

It's sin.
It's evil.
It's degrading.
And it needs to stop.

Because women are so much better than what we form them to be in our own twisted minds.

Women deserve more respect than ever before.

And we instead degrade them.

87% of conversations with women on MTV is negative.
This isn't just a christian issue... It is a culture issue
.

---

When I was in high school some of my friends that I ate lunch with would start playing a game they called 'Hot or not'...after they got done eating of course.

I was never comfortable with the game, in fact many times I got up and left. I spent the remainder of our lunch period with some other friends. Other times I sat through it, til they were done or the bell rang.

God shed his grace on me in those moments for giving me the clarity to see how unhealthy and wrong participating would be. I know that it was God in those moments.

Every girl that would pass by would quietly get looked over and they would decide if they were hot... or not.

It disgusted me.

A guy, me, who in High School struggled with lust almost non-stop, felt disgusted about classifying and degrading God's beautiful creation. I didn't see the oxymoron in that. I got it, but didn't at the same time.

I won't rag on my friends only.
Because they aren't the exception, that was the norm for many of the guys.

Boys, stop calling 'hot' or 'sexy' what you don't even know is.

Your future wife is what defines hot for you.
Your future wife is what defines sexy for you.
And every time you classify someone else that... you degrade your spouse that you have probably never even met yet.

We put name tags on people we don't even know.

And it needs to end. Whether you think it is damaging or not. Learn the difference between attractive and hot, beautiful and sexy.

I will post in the future on this struggle for guys, because there's a lot of things to be said.
There are books and books and books and books and books and books and books on this subject... but I want to give my testimony and the testimony of others of how we can defeat lust in our lives. It will always be a struggle, never a complete end to it. But most guys refuse to even fight.

Christ calls us to a higher level.

Boys, Christ calls us to be men. And it's learning self control, putting on Christ, taking off what hinders us and removing ourselves from the temptations that can win the battles. Because we know that in Christ, the war is already won.

But although I had a lot to say to guys, this post was written for the women reading.

Like I said, I hesitate because I'm a nobody. I have no right to call any woman out on anything. So I will stop right here and turn it over to someone who has earned my absolute and undoubted respect, and the respect of many Godly women in my own life, for whom I am eternally grateful for their input.

He has a message for you:




Why would I post this kind of a post on Halloween?

I love the concept of Halloween. Free candy, and a chance to enjoy the childhood memories we had, and the ones we can witness being made through others. Despite it's pagan roots, I think the church has done a great job in redeeming the holiday for fun and fellowship.

So...

Why would I choose to 'tackle' one of the devil's best tactics on what is said to be his holiday?

Because costumes are getting racier and racier, and I dread this time of year.

It saddens me that during church festivals and alternate Halloween events, they actually have to ask people to dress modestly.

Even worse, I have to carefully monitor my Facebook account the week prior and the week after Halloween every year so as to not fall into a trap of lust. Christian women who I can truly view as my sisters tend to take this time of the year and pose in what they call 'costumes'.

It's not fair.

It's not right.

And though boys need to grab some self control and begin to act like the men God called them to be... it is so hard when we can't rely on support from the people we need the support from the most.

Please, consider what you wear.
Guys, consider where you stare.

Let's begin to care.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Simple Sunday: Tremble

Tremble and do not sin;
   when you are on your beds,
   search your hearts and be silent.
Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
   and trust in the LORD.  -Psalm 4:4-5

---

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. -Romans 12:1-2

---

Blessed is the one
   who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
   or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
   and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
   which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
   whatever they do prospers.
 Not so the wicked!
   They are like chaff
   that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
   nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
   but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. -Psalm 1

How often do we tremble before our God?
How often do we truly offer ourselves as a living sacrifice?
How often do we recite the promises of God?

God is a God full of mercy, grace, love and passion for his people. To those who call out to him, whose delight is in his Word, he plants like a tree.

Like a tree planted by streams of water, full of nourishment, always being supplied what is needed.
And we are watched over.

That is the God I worship.

Can we rest in thinking of Him in this way this week?

It's God's very nature to care and to plant, to watch over, to prune, to supply.

Will we tremble at the fact that he is so good to us, so good. And none of which we deserve.

Will we look up one night at the breathtaking view of the heavens dancing before us... and tremble at the glory and might and power of our Heavenly Father?

He spoke a word and there was light
He split the sea and sky apart
And with a breath created life
This is the power of our God
The One who tells the sun to rise
And holds the keys of death and life
He sees our tears and dries our eyes
This is the kindness of our God

The angels sang a song of peace
For unto us a child was born
And with Him came the earth’s release
This is the mercy of our God
We drove the nails into the cross
He took the weight of sin for us
Because of love He paid the cost
This is the kindness of our God

Now here before us lies today
With every breath we make a choice
To love as He first led the way
This is the calling of our God

And when the final race is won
And we are under Heaven’s sun
We rejoice to hear Him say, “Well done”
This is the kindness of our God

The angels sing and we’ll adore
The One who sits upon the throne
We will live with Him forevermore
This is the kindness of our God
This is the kindness of our God

-"Kindness of Our God" By: Rebecca St. James


Tremble, and do not sin.

Search your hearts.

Be silent.

Offer your sacrifice.

Trust in Him.


For all of this that surrounds us, all that encompasses, all that gives us our next breath and the breath we just took. This. Is the kindness of our God.

Tremble and do not sin;
   when you are on your beds,
   search your hearts and be silent.
Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
   and trust in the LORD.  -Psalm 4:4-5

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Simple Sunday: Power in Weakness

2 Corinthians 12:9
“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

When things seem to go against us, we sulk in our misery and, sometimes, get angry with God. We feel as though He has forsaken us and brought trouble to us. Quite the contrary, actually. God rescues us from trouble and delivers us into His grace and mercy. Every problem we face is used to build us up in the Holy Spirit and make us stronger. We must rely on God in our times of weakness, for He is our strength and shelter.

In the example of Joseph, we find that his brothers sold him into slavery. Once enslaved, Joseph was mistreated and placed in circumstances so cruel; but, being filled with the Holy Spirit, God’s power flowed through Joseph and allowed him to overcome the hard times he was in. In Joseph’s weakness, God’s power was made known and Joseph was built up as a great man, devoted to doing the work God had commanded him to do.

Be confident in God’s power, for it will never fail. His power, being so mighty, should be the guiding force in your life. Nothing else should matter if it goes outside of God’s plan for your life. Sometimes God does not reveal His purpose for placing you in certain situations and making you experience certain things, but the point is that He has a divine purpose for everything you go through. Everything you experience and every time you feel weak, when you rely on the power of God, is used to glorify the Lord and raise you up in a new, humble, peaceful, devoted life.

Written by Joey Pope, Sunrise Devotionals

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dignity. Empowerment.



Dignity. Respect. Individuality.

These three things are what makes a human, well, a human.

Beneath the stone image of the man who refuses to accept your Jesus...

... maybe...                         

...there lies a man who just needs a smile, a look in the eye, a gesture of equality.


Social Justice.

Giving worth to someone in need.

You can't save a soul who thinks they don't deserve life...

...who has never been told they're wanted, needed... desired.


Restoring Humanity.

Have we been endowed by our creator?

Speak those words to a child who grew up in an orphanage, who isn't wanted by any prospective parents seeking to adopt...
What have they been endowed with? Life? To them... their life isn't life.

'The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.' -Jesus

He has come.
He has come.

And now...

He sends us.

But the thief comes.

We need a constant reminder that life has already come, that even though the Devil is prowling now... Jesus has come so that he can send his church.
His people.
His bride.
His beloved.

Us.

"Look someone in the eye today. Bestow them with their worth.
We exist for relationships of love." -Mike Donehey, lead singer of Tenth Avenue North

"A man who is intimate with God will never be intimidated by men."
~Leonard Ravenhill

Love.

Choose to love today.
Choose to be sent.
Choose life...

For others.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Prayer and the Armor of God

I haven’t posted much on this blog since Nathan added me as a co-author; to be honest I have been in a major writer’s block. However this week has been tremendously powerful and I seem to have been lifted out of that rut. If you have read my blog at all some of this will be on a topic I wrote in there, in fact, my most recent topic in there. But I have had new revelations regarding it, and I am going a bit further.


I would like to open with the Armor of God, and the purpose I believe it holds.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one, and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6: 10-20 ESV
There is so much in these verses to look at! I will start with the obvious. To be strong in the Lord we need the armor of God, we cannot do this on our own, and we need Him to stand against the Devil. The battles we fight are those in which our physical bodies and weapons are of little to no use.
Now we dive right in to what the armor of God is.

First up we have the belt of truth. Imagine what you use a belt for; I am sure you have already said that it is to hold up your pants. And this is correct. Our belts help us keep on the clothing that protects the area of our body that we are not supposed to show publicly, our secret areas. God wants us to protect the secret parts of our lives, our alone time, and anything we don’t typically share with others, with His truth. If we can hold to the promises and truth of God in the parts of our lives that only we see, we can also do it in the parts that everyone sees.
Now that our pants are firmly secured we take up our breastplate of righteousness. For those unfamiliar with ancient armor the breastplate would protect our body and vital organs. Scriptures tell us that who we are comes from an overflow of the heart. So if we protect our heart with righteousness, it stands to reason that the overflow of our heart will be righteousness.
So we find ourselves standing in truth and righteousness, it is about time we started taking this battle out to the enemy, therefore we must put on the shoes of readiness which is given by the peace of the Gospel. We need to keep in mind when we go out and forward why we are doing this. We are bringing the peace and love of God to the world, and without that as our motivation, we stand outside of the will of God.
Now that we are moving we are sure to invite attacks from the wicked one, therefore the shield of faith is needed next. We need a strong faith to stand in spiritual battlefields, because with faith we know we can trust in the Lord, our strong tower, to protect us from our enemies, and to keep us safe.
The battle has begun, so we need to be sure we have on the helmet of salvation. To keep our mind focused on the end goal of salvation, as well as a purity of thought and focus that allows us to stay on task for the kingdom.
Now we take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. This is the only weapon we need. God has equipped us with the knowledge and power that lie within His words, and these tools are far more powerful than any weapon we can make ourselves. Plus, unlike a normal weapon, the word of God builds up, and adds to the Kingdom.
The next thing we are asked is to enter with the Spirit into prayer and supplication, for our own walks, and that of all the saints. Paul also asks that we pray for his boldness in preaching the word. I want to park here for a moment, digest what we have been asked to do with all this armor.

See it? We put on all this armor and all God seems to want from us is our prayer. This is where the spiritual battles are fought. And the armor isn’t only for those on the front lines. It is for all the supporters out there too, praying for those more directly in the battle for the hearts and minds of God’s children. Paul did not expect everyone to step out and join him in what he was doing physically, and God doesn’t either. Some people need to stay back at home, they have the mighty power of prayer to strengthen those who are reaching out across cultural and social boundaries. Plus, those who maintain a more “normal” looking life usually have the ability to physically supply the needs of those such as missionaries and that of the local church. Those in ministry service rely on their brothers and sisters to carry the word of God, and power of the Spirit, to those that have never heard of it.


The Holy Spirit is such a blessing. Jesus has sent us the Spirit that we may have connection and closeness to Him. With the Spirit comes the authority that Jesus carried, and we must not neglect this. God wants us to partner with Him in prayer; we are asked so many times in scripture just to pray. Rely on the Spirit, pray whatever words you are given.  I will be talking more later on some of the gifts of the Spirit, as God has been revealing more of these to me as of late. I am so excited to reach out and share this with all of you. God bless you all, and remember to pray for all those that you know in ministry service for our God and King.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
... where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

Bask in this prayer today, and make it your own.
Meditate on what this prayer really means for your life.

I know that for me,
It's Revolutionary.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Jesus, not Judgment

Last night my heart broke.

I was following my usual routine of procrastinating on my homework and chatting on facebook, when my News Feed reloaded, what I saw as the newest posts started appearing shocked me.

It wasn't anything abnormal, just a picture.

A screen shot actually.

A friend of mine shared a picture from an album of one of her friends:


My. Heart. Broke.

I couldn't help but respond, but even more I wanted to do something to change this, to somehow erase it.

Eradicate it from the internet.

But we all know that is impossible.

The only way to fix this was to touch the heart of someone else who was feeling the same way.


The problem is... 

...huge...disheartening...out of control...
 
...it seems everyone feels the same way.


Even 'Christians'.
Especially 
'Christians'.

Why is it that we need more than, "the Bible says so"?

Is the Bible somehow not good enough or incomplete...

Or is it, rather, HOW we present it?


Why did this conversation ever take place?
Because thats what it was.
A conversation.
A real event.
This isn't some fake new 'tag your friends' kind of picture going around the internet.

Someone, somewhere had this conversation.

And someone, somewhere took a screen shot and posted it.



Church, what are we doing? 

We wouldn't dream of going to a third world country and preaching that because they don't love their enemy they are sinners going to hell... would we?

We would preach the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Their own consciences would condemn them, not our words.
The Holy Spirit will work in their heart in ways we couldn't fathom.

And we believe that.
Because that is what happens.
That is what works.
Those are the types of stories we hear from the mission field.

That is what Paul did in his first recorded sermon found in Acts 13.

From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”
Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt; with mighty power he led them out of that country; for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness; and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance. All this took about 450 years.
   “After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’
“Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.
“We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm:
   “‘You are my son;
   today I have become your father.’
 God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said,
   “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’
 So it is also stated elsewhere:
   “‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’
“Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.
“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:
“‘Look, you scoffers,
   wonder and perish,
for I am going to do something in your days
   that you would never believe,
   even if someone told you.’”
As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.

He spoke of the forgiveness of Jesus, not His wrath.

Peter did the same.

So why... do we reverse this when we 'aren't on the mission field'?

"Homosexuality is a sin...and it is in Black and White in the Bible."


It doesn't matter if Homosexuality is a sin.

So is not loving your neighbor, so is not loving your enemy.

Are we innocent? 
No.


Why are we being so judgmental, so opposite of Christ?
And why is it that we elevate one sin over another?
Why is it that we don't have an accurate view and picture of the story and reason of the Bible?

Why, if we are Christians filled with Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, and self control, does THIS exist?

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." -Matthew 7:1-2


When are we going to start taking these words of Jesus seriously?

The sad thing is that the response in that conversation was filled with all very correct statements. 
Those who believe in the Bible should be able to answer as well, if not better, than 'Lacey' did. 

It starts by reading the Bible in context and purpose. 

We live under the New Testament, but the Old Testament is the story of how we got here. 

And...

The story of what was is just as, if not MORE important than what is now.


The Old Testament has a bunch of ridiculous prohibitions, I won't try to defend them. In our eyes, in this culture, those rules are ridiculous.


And there is so much freedom in being able to admit that.

However, in those times these rules were necessary prohibitions due to health and keeping diseases at a bare minimum. They are mostly health regulations, for a people who did not understand or have the capacity to understand how disease spreads, what a germ is, or how to act civilized in the company of others.





Remember, these people have been slaves, treated as less than human, for hundreds of years.

Would YOU expect them to be able to function as a civilization... alone... in the desert... for forty years?


Hence the need for Divine intervention.



And the result are these rules from God that they did not understand.

But out of faith, they kept.

For the most part anyway.

And the other rules that fall under the umbrella of the Ten Commandments are God's demands for Holiness, for morality, for community, for equality and love for people.

He desired a nation that would be set apart and be a light, an image of the invisible yet powerful God of Creation to the Gentile nations around them.


An example of how things should be.




Christians need to stop acting like a judge and start living the way Christ lived, he didn't condemn those who were living in sin, he forgave them and showed them why He is the way to a better more fulfilled life.

Such as the Samaritan woman at the well found in John 4, Zacchaeus the rich, greedy tax collector found in Luke 19, and of course the woman caught in adultery we can read about in John 8.

What would happen if we treated Homosexuals like Jesus treated those people?

Because here's the reality...

...it doesn't end with homosexuals for the 'Christian' community.
Because we judge people, mock people, and try to suppress people based on: race, color, family background, appearance, politics, denomination, language, heritage, money, and even what kind of coffee people drink.
What happened to equality? Uniqueness?
What happened to: "God so loved THE WORLD"?

What would happen if we treated all sinners, including us, ABSOLUTELY including us, like Jesus treated 'the sinners' in his day?

We would finally stop being Pharisees.
We would become Disciples.

Isn't that what God calls us to through Christ?

Not everyone believes Jesus, not everyone has the faith to, not everyone is willing to or sees a reason to... but to those who do, we should stop acting as if we are 'holier than thou' and start caring more and more about the people without Christ.

Christians are the most messed up people on Earth, which is why I depend upon the grace of God in every waking moment. 

I need a Savior. 

And I'm very sorry for the way I previously acted, the way I used to look down upon others, the way I'm sure I will look down upon others even in the future... it's just evidence that I'm more corrupt, even more immoral than 'the sinners'.

I won't run from that.

I'll admit it. 

Jesus ushered in a way of redemption for the worst of sinners, of which I am a part, and it is only by the grace of God that I am made new.

We need to focus on Jesus, not judgment.


But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  -Ephesians 2:4-10


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Jesus on Twitter


"What if we could follow Jesus on Twitter?" my dad asked me last night. He and my mom surprised me for my birthday yesterday, and came to youth group last night to listen to me teach and lead my students. I was introducing them to the new name and theme of our youth group: theFollowing. The idea is that everyone follows someone, or something. Maybe it's a sports team, fashion trends, movies stars, or our favorite people on Twitter. We are connected with what they are doing, where they are going, their general activity in the world.

So what if we could follow Jesus on Twitter? Wouldn't that be pretty cool? I mean the tag line of Twitter is, ["What's happening?" Well, Jesus is happening, but are we on board as well?] Wouldn't that be amazing if we could have a direct line into the activity of Jesus? It might make it a little easier to answer that ever evasive question,

"What does God want me to do with my life?"

He followed his initial question with a statement: "Because through the Holy Spirit we should be able to."
Christian, did you hear that? Through the Holy Spirit we should be able to keep up with what Jesus is doing in this world. (Maybe that's what Paul meant when he said, "pray without ceasing.") We should constantly be "checking in" through the day to see what he is up to and how we can get involved. We should constantly be signing in to see what Jesus has posted or said. Maybe it's through Scripture; maybe prayer; maybe through spiritual conversations with other believers. Jesus, after all, did promise better, more powerful things when the Holy Spirit came!


Maybe our world we be just a little different if Christians followed Jesus with the same intensity and regularity as teenagers (or adults for that matter) check their twitter or facebook status. 


Maybe if Christians got as excited about Jesus as their favorite sports team, more people in this world just might be introduced to the Savior we so desperately need. Maybe if Christians knew the words and travel plans of Jesus as well as their favorite band or movie star, then this world would be a better place.

Connect with Jesus today.
Check in.
And do it often.
Do it with intensity and passion.
Probe every situation for the activity of Christ.
Examine Scriptures, the words of Jesus, with an ever increasing joy and fervor.

To end, I'd like to pass along a prayer I came across my sophomore year in college that has stuck with me to this day. I still have it taped up in my house.

Maybe you can do the same:

O Holy Spirit, visit now this soul of mine, and tarry within until eventide. Inspire all my thoughts. Pervade all my imaginations. Suggest all my decisions. Lodge in my will's most inward citadel and order all my doings. Be with me in my silence and in my speech, in my haste and in my leisure, in company and in solitude, in the freshness of the morning and in the weariness of the evening; and give me grace at all times to rejoice in thy mysterious companionship.

-Josh Moore, originally posted here.

Formatting edited by Nate Bryant.

Monday, September 19, 2011

When Has God Failed Us?

I love Spoken Word Poetry, and I've heard a fair share of some very popular and some not so well known poets before, but today I stumbled across this guy... and well, I'm sold.

So I figured I'd introduce you to him as well, if you don't already know who he is: Propaganda.

When has God failed us?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Simple Sunday: Questions

This life is a journey, and everyone's journey matters, especially yours. If you're in Christ, your journey, my journey, your church's journey, my church's journey, a church in the middle of nowhere, a church in the center of somewhere... are all connected, are all a major part of everyone's journeys. Where one suffers, we all suffer, where one rejoices, we all rejoice.
That's community. 
That's the bride of Christ.

But in the midst of this we all have questions, questions we seek the answers for...
"We are all searching for answers. That’s a given. We all are.
The answers are rarely what we think they are.
But they are also exactly what we think they are.
Thus the searching never ends, because the answers are often never the end.
The answers lead us farther on this journey towards God and His heart." -Ben Langevin

"The answers lead us farther on this journey towards God and His heart."

But what questions are we asking?

What do our questions stem from?


What do our questions do for the good of society?


Do our questions contribute to this journey towards God's heart?

Our answers to our most difficult questions, our most painful questions, our most heated questions, our most desperate questions, our most lonely questions, our most selfish questions...


...may just be in the questions themselves.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Living Off Balance

What do you lean on? What do you trust in?

This is an excerpt from a sermon by Pastor Joshua Harris of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me." -John 14:1

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart
   and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
   and he will make your paths straight." -Proverbs 3:5-6




Living Off Balance from Covenant Life Church on Vimeo.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Simple Sunday: Sacrifice

There's no such thing as half-surrendering. 
 
Today's Simple Sunday is a guest post by a friend of mine. I was scanning my tumblr blog earlier today and saw what she posted on this subject, needless to say I was convicted of my own view of surrendering, so I thought it would be a perfect post for today.
 
There's no such thing as half-surrendering. 
 

I’ve been thinking about sacrifice lately. Sacrificing everything. Surrendering everything. I’ve been asking myself if I would be willing to surrender everything to God; if He asked, would I surrender my education, my house, my money, my comfort, my time, my reputation, everything I’ve worked for? All of it? And while He does of course ask for some of these things, I’ve also been thinking that if I choose to surrender it all with the expectation or prediction that He won’t choose to ask me to actually give it up, is that really surrendering? Is that true sacrifice? When God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac in Genesis 22, Abraham submits to God not with the expectation of Isaac ending up safe and unharmed; his promise to God, his promise to sacrifice, was without expectations of any kind. He didn’t expect God to stop him seconds before. He expected and trusted that regardless of how crazy the sacrifice, God knew what He was doing. Abraham expected to sacrifice his son whom he loved, a dear part of his and others’ lives and hearts. He was willing.
I’ve heard people lightly say that they would be willing to sell every possession they own, but they just don’t feel called to that.

Saying that you would sell every possession you own isn’t a light phrase. If you say that with the intention of being fully willing to actually sacrifice all of that, that is a phrase serious beyond measure.

However, if you say that phrase with the expectation, prediction, or verdict that God would never ask you to give everything up…well, it’s just words. Big words. Fancy words. Meaningless words with endless echoes. It’s basically putting words in God’s mouth, saying that He would never ask you to sacrifice a certain something even prior to asking Him.

It says that as Abraham was on the brink of beginning the sacrifice, an angel of the Lord stops him and says, “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

I don’t think any angel will be telling me that sort of thing anytime soon. “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your _______, or your ________, or even your ________.”  I just want to be conscious of the fact that while yes, God may not call me to sell every possession I own and be a homeless wanderer who brings the gospel to whoever I find…I need to be willing to. Whatever He calls you and I to do will be at great cost, worth great sacrifice, just in different ways.

Nevertheless, what if He does call me there? Will I hear? Or have I already tuned Him out? There is no such thing as true half-hearted sacrifice, but if there was a way to half-surrender to God, I should think it’s like selective hearing: hearing only what I want, when I want, how I want; likewise, surrendering only what I want, when I want, how I want.

I don’t think that that kind of sacrifice is very agreeable with Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice. That should be my example.

I’ve been thinking that every sacrifice to the Lord has roots that lie in surrendering my will to God’s…I pray that, as this rests heavy on my heart, I would find joy in the beauty of surrender and sacrifice. And I can promise you I will be praying for you too, friend, whether I know you or not. :) Surely Jesus didn’t mean for us to carry these crosses alone.


-Holly Fohr, read more at Holly's blog

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Church

It is becoming very, very evident as I read through the book of Acts: The Gospel is not complete without the church. So when problems arise in the church and when the church misrepresents what it was called to become and called to do... Are we in fact misrepresenting not only 'Christianity' but Christ himself?
And not only Christ, but also everything fulfilled in Christ?
When the church fails, I think we are misrepresenting everything God has been doing since the very creation of the world. It's time to change that.
Nonetheless, the church is God's idea, God's grand masterpiece.

Out of all the ways He could have proclaimed Jesus' resurrection, He chooses to send out 12 Apostles (11 original plus Matthias).

One Apostle for every tribe of Israel.

This symbolism just reaffirms Jesus' statement in John 4:22, "for salvation is from the Jews."

The church had to start through the teachings of Judaism... the law and prophets of Judaism is what pointed all along to Christ.

In Luke 10, Jesus sends out 72 evangelists.

It's odd why he chooses this number, 72 was the number of the members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court at that time.

So Jesus is resurrected.
One of the first questions the disciples ask Him is, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"

Jesus doesn't say yes or no. He just says, 'it's not for you to know when... BUT YOU will receive power.

Almost as if Jesus is saying, 'Ya know what, I'm not gonna do anything. I'm the King, I think I've pretty much solidified that with the whole raising from the dead and all... but when the Holy Spirit comes upon you... well, YOU can restore the kingdom, I'll sit by and watch my Spirit work through you and in you.'

"He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." -Acts 1:7-8 ESV
Jesus sends out 12 Apostles.
Jesus has a supreme court of evangelists.
And the by product of the Holy Spirit coming down is a birth of a family of believers, an organization like no other: the church.

The church is the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel. The church is what bridges the gap of the Old Testament law and synagogue with the New Testament fellowship.
The church is God's kingdom manifested on earth.
The church is what God has set up to give us a glimpse of what heaven will be like.
The church is what Jesus came for.
The church is what Jesus prayed for.
The church is what Jesus died for.

Let's stop messing with it.
Let's stop messing around with it.
Let's stop 'dating it' as Pastor Joshua Harris would say.
Let's commit to it.

The church is the most important thing on the planet.

"In and of itself, the church is merely a mirage of the eternal kingdom of God. We are not subject to preachers or priests but a King; we don't have affiliation to members but kinship to citizens; we don't own property, we have dominion. Praise be to our God and Father who made us a kingdom of priests and princes!" -Dr. Mark Moore, (My Witnesses)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Perspective

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t" - John Piper

Just a small, but important thought: Your worship has to be pure and real before your mission statement can be.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Never Once - Joplin Video



Please continue to pray for the Joplin, MO community. And please keep the east coast in your prayers as Hurricane Irene continues to spin towards the north east.

Simple Sunday: Waiting Skillfully

Waiting.

We all have to wait on something at some point in our lives.

For some it seems like they are always waiting on, or for, something.

Seasons of waiting.
And the only encouragement we ever seem to find from people is the simple phrase: "Patience is a virtue."

I really hate that phrase.

Because I already know that.
I wanted some encouragement that would actually help me, or teach me something.

And in that slight irritation, I wonder, 'For me, right now in this period of time...what is patience?'

How can I be patient in this situation?

Not in the noun sense of the word, but the verb.
The act, process, or state of being patient.

Patience is wise waiting, or in other words skillful waiting.

Waiting well.
Are we waiting well?

Am I waiting well?

Patience can sometimes mean, waiting long enough for our minds to change... or waiting long enough to prove the test of time that what we desire really is what we really, really want.

Do we put ourselves in positions where we CAN change our minds though?

Because if we don't... we cheat ourselves out of a blessing.
Patience is a virtue, after all.

Before we fully determine the 'How' of our waiting or our patience... maybe we should determine the why...

A good question should be, 'Well, what are we waiting for?'

'What really is it that I'm desiring?'

And why should God provide those desires for me?

Does what I want fall in line with God's will for my desires?

Isaiah said in chapter 26 verse 8:

"Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts."  

Walking in the way of your laws...

Jeremiah 6:16 says,
"This is what the LORD says:   
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
   ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
   and you will find rest for your souls."

If we are at rest, we are at peace, our desires are either fulfilled or at ease with whatever the outcome was or is.


We wait for you...

Isaiah 40:29-31 says,
 "He gives strength to the weary
   and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
   and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
   will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
   they will run and not grow weary,
   they will walk and not be faint." 

Your name and renown are the desires of our hearts...

Psalm 135:13 says,
"Your name, LORD, endures forever,
   your renown, LORD, through all generations."


So in this Simple Sunday post, I want to encourage all those who are waiting...

Waiting for the tests to come in.
Waiting for your next paycheck.
Waiting for him to 'pop the question'.
Waiting for the 'right one' to come along.
Waiting for God to direct your career.
Waiting for that promotion.
Waiting for ______________ fill in the blank.

Patience is a virtue. However, unlike most, I don't want to leave you with just that.

Determine today that you will skillfully wait, by making sure your desires are truly God honoring, and ones that will bring God's name and fame glory.

Because EVERY part of our lives are to be about Him.


"Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts."  

Can we truly pray that?


One last story.

It was about two years ago that I heard of Frankie's story, though this occurred many years ago.

Frankie lived in a small town in Illinois, he was a lover of movies, video games, and a big football fan.
Frankie was an easy going guy, a devoted Christian, he loved going to church and he loved Jesus Christ.

At a young age, Frankie was diagnosed with cancer.
A rare form of cancer that chemotherapy doesn't work very well against.

He had a 7% chance to survive.

On the first day that Frankie was admitted to a hospital to begin receiving treatment, the doctors had a talk with him... as all doctors do in situations like those.

The family was gathered in the room as the doctor began speaking. He told them how this process was not going to be easy, that the treatments were going to hurt, such as bone marrow transplants and other regimens, and that they were going to do everything they could for him, but they can't make any promises.

Giving the usual talk he continued to explain all the things that they were going to use... everything modern medicine had to offer was going to be on the table... to make this...

...comfortable for him.

Everyone in the room knew what that meant.

To make things comfortable for him.

Because 7% literally means it would take a miracle from God to heal.

The doctor continued talking about how much pain Frankie would experience for the last 6 months of his life.
Frankie's mom lost it and had to walk out of the room.

But Frankie... after the doctor finished...

Looked down at his hand...

Nodding his head, running his fingers across his skin... spoke.

Saying, "It's not going to hurt as bad as having nails shoved through my hands or my feet and hanging on a cross for reasons and things I didn't deserve. It's not going to hurt as bad as what Jesus did for me on the cross."

For Frankie he came to a crossing.
He walked up to the crossroads.
His body grew weary.
But in those moments he chose to wait skillfully. To wait upon God by aligning his desires with the desires of Christ.

Frankie had no control. He needed to wait for something.
He needed to wait for a bone marrow match.
He needed to wait for certain treatments to become available.
He needed to wait for God to move.



Frankie had no other option than to believe that God is who He says He is, that His promises are true, and that God's idea of better is somehow going to be better than his own.



Frankie waited.
But He didn't wait sitting still, he didn't wait in idle mode.

Frankie instead decided that God had him here for a reason. For such a time as this.

And Frankie shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with every person he came in contact with up until his last breath was taken from him.

His goal, alongside his dad who stayed by his side through it all, was to make the name of Jesus famous.

Frankie's desires were in line with God's.

Frankie got what he wanted.

He wasn't healed.

But he got what he waited for.

He waited for God's best for His life... and God delivered.


------
So for us, are we waiting for and holding on to what we want deep within us... or will we begin desiring God's best for us? Which may mean something different than we first wanted.

Sometimes waiting skillfully demands us to change the 'why' and 'what' of what we are waiting for.

God delivers.


Will we believe that God is who He says He is, that His promises are true, and that God's idea of better is better than our own?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Old Testament Connection

Well, this will be my first post. Nathan is a great friend of mine, and has helped my faith to grow. As he said before, our writing styles will be different, but we both seek to serve God first, and I think that will show. This post won't be long, it is almost 4am here and I am ready for work. I get up early and do some reading in the morning, and feel the need to share some of the thoughts I have had this morning, short posts this early may become regular. Well, here we go.

"Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.   Selah   I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,'and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.    Selah    I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you. Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!"

-Psalm 32 ESV

I love how often the writings in the Old Testament directly line up with the New. It is a common thought that when Jesus came He changed everything for us. But the more I read in the Old Testament after receiving an understanding of scriptures in the New, the more I realize that this does not seem to be the case at all. When Jesus came, He simply clarified what the Old Testament was trying to tell us all along. Let us look closer at Psalm 32 again, at what David wrote. In the beginning we are told that those whose sins are forgiven are blessed. Blessed are those who's iniquity is not counted against them. God was offering forgiveness of sins even  before He sent Christ, knowing that at some point Christ coming would erase the iniquities of those who sought after God. This scripture tells us to bring our iniquity into the light that it may be forgiven, because David writes that while he hid his sin he felt the pressure of his guilt and iniquities. However, when it was confessed to the Lord that he felt hidden from his troubles. Protected and delivered by the Lord. The same is still true for us. When we bring our sin and iniquity to the cross, and give them over to Jesus, his blood cleanses and protects us. We have not been saved by our works but by our faith. Which brings me to my final connection this morning. Look at the last verse again. the righteous are told to be glad in the Lord and rejoice. All the "upright in heart". Now that is important. Unlike common Jewish tradition it wasn't the upright in deed that is being praised here, but the upright in heart. David knew that man failed when it came to living that sinless life, but his faith and his hope was in God's deliverance. He praised the Lord his God with every fiber of his being, and lived a life sold out to God and in complete trust. This is why David is called a man after God's own heart. And it is the same system that Jesus brought to us. When we give our hearts over to God, in complete faith, trust, and praise, we have done as God asked us to do. Yes we will still make mistakes, don't hide them. I'm not saying run to all your neighbors and say how you screwed it all up again, but just be honest with yourself, and with God. You messed up, you need him. Be comforted, that is why Jesus came for us. We mess up, it happens, so did king David, I guess we are in pretty good company after all huh?