Practicing Our Identity

How we see ourselves really affects our relationship with God. If we see ourselves as unworthy and unloved, we will not be able to experience the freedom of communion with a Father who makes us worthy and loves us unconditionally. Sometimes unworthiness is like an arrow stuck deep inside us. We come to God in prayer, seeking His advice and company, but we are unable to fully commune with Him and trust in Him because our unworthiness is still holding us down. We are unable to fully see that God wants to be a Father kneeling beside us, calling us worthy and listening with full attention.

We can know that He sees us as worthy and yet still have the arrow of unworthiness stuck inside us. This is because we have not surrendered our burdens to Him yet. In order to surrender something, you need to 1) identify it and call it for what it is, and 2) tell God about it and give Him permission to take it away. Unworthiness is just one of many burdens we might be carrying. If there is something stuck deep inside you, some untruth that you are believing and allowing to influence you, it might be hard to see it without the help of the Holy Spirit. Once you can identify it and surrender it though, you will feel that much more free to speak with and relate to your Father who loves you.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. ~Romans 8:26 ESV

Practicing our identity means that we are actively surrendering untruths as they are revealed and constantly reaffirming the truths of our identity through our lifestyle and conversation with God. We cannot get rid of our burdens on our own, even if we do see them and know what God says about them. We cannot successfully get rid of something like our feeling of unworthiness by trying to do things that will make us worthy. Worthiness and good works have nothing to do with each other. Instead we must surrender the burden of untruth and let Him do the rest.

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. ~Psalm 55:22 ESV

Again, we can know the truth and still not apply it to our lives. Only our perfect Father can get rid of our burdens and call us His children; spotless, worthy, and loved. By constantly bringing things to Him in prayer and telling Him and others about who we are in Him, we are practicing our identity and disallowing the arrows of untruth to stay hidden, influencing our relationship with our Father.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. ~Romans 8:16 ESV

The Blessing of Investing

If you have a couple minutes, read through this quotation of John chapter 4. I underlined some of the parts that are significant to what stood out to me in a recent reading of it.

Jesus and the Woman of Samaria

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things. 26 Jesus said to her, I who speak to you am he.

27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, I have food to eat that you do not know about. 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.

39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.

43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.

Jesus Heals an Official’s Son

46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe. 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. 51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. 54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.

A theme I noticed in this chapter (which is probably present throughout the whole book) is that Jesus is all about showing people how relational God is. He told the woman that she can in fact worship a God she can also know and love. He showed her through his example that God can be known in a real and relational way. How floored she must have been when he said that he was the Messiah she had been waiting for! Her eyes  must have been suddenly opened to the fact that before her stood God in a human body, fully relational and obviously present and loving! It was the last thing Jesus said before the disciples arrived and the woman ran home speechless. She was so excited that she told everyone in the town! And to prove His point, Jesus stayed with them all for two days so that they could form a personal relationship with Him and be able to say for themselves that they believed in Him. In the very same chapter, Jesus attempted to form a bond with the official. Unfortunately, the official was too blinded, by the hope of a miracle, to see that Jesus, the relational Savior of the world, was standing there before him. He realized it later, of course, and his whole household came to faith!

Jesus thrived on relationships. I picture Him as being so full of joy after talking with the woman at the well that when His disciples returned, he didn’t feel hungry at all. He wanted them to understand how much of a blessing it is to invest in people! He wanted them to see that there is opportunity all the time, all around us, to invest in others! The fields are ripe for harvest! There is an eternal impact to be made on every single life we encounter. I can see why Jesus might have been a little bit disappointed when the official came to Him not wanting His friendship as much as His power. He knew, however, that God works in people’s lives in different ways.

Jesus was a living example, recorded in the Bible, of how we are to live. We are made to be relational beings, and God has an incredible blessing and joy in store for us when we invest ourselves in others, taking up our cross to serve them. The service is the blessing. The cross is the joy. The relationship is the satisfying treasure, both in our relationship with Jesus Himself and in our relationships with those around us. If this speaks to you, go ahead and read the chapter again. I know I will be 🙂

Cultivating Desire

I had this thought the other night about whether or not it’s possible to cultivate a desire. It’s obvious that we can cultivate good habits–that’s the core of discipline–but can we help what we already desire? Can we truly change our desires? I think the answer is something like yes…and no.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. ~Romans 7:18 ESV

Paul talked a lot about how his flesh would desire wrong things while his spiritual man would desire the better things. He talked about this dichotomy of desires that we must recognize within us. Sometimes the flesh wins over and our spiritual desires die down. We give in to temporal desires, selfish indulgences, and complacent lifestyles. Other times, however, we are re-inspired to follow God and put off the desires of the flesh. We pray more, get more involved at church, feel more spiritually productive. Sometimes that’s how God works in us, which isn’t a bad thing. But. I am suggesting that there is a better way; a higher road.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15 ESV

In this passage, he’s basically saying “be on top of your game”. Don’t procrastinate, get it done at the last minute, and hope for a passing grade. Don’t wait to make use of your life until later on when you feel more ready. Don’t wait to feel like praying in order to start praying. If you do, you will probably find yourself stuck in a cycle of 1) conviction to start some spiritual discipline, 2) feeling good while continuing that discipline, 3) losing momentum, 4) making time for other things again instead of that spiritual discipline, and 5) repeat the process. Even when we don’t feel particularly convicted or spiritually high, we should be cultivating a desire for God.

We usually talk about knowing God, but what about desiring God? Why are our desires even important? Our desires are hugely important because they are what truly guide us. What our heart desires will either lead to life or death. That’s why guarding our hearts with all vigilance is so significant.

Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way. ~Proverbs 19:2 ESV

It’s easy for us to desire things that are worthless and will only lead us astray. That’s one of the reasons Bible intake is so significant. It’s one of the main disciplines that the enemy tries to distract us from. Without knowing God’s truth and reminding ourselves of what is most important in our lives, we will end up desiring just about anything that comes our way.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. ~Colossians 3:2 ESV

Cultivating a greater desire for God means taking away the desires that are not of Him. It means you stop reading this for a minute and think about what you can take out of your life in order to commit more time to God.

 

…ready? Okay. It also means committing to more prayer time, more reading time, more fellowship time, and more service, even if it’s just a little bit to start. Don’t assume that you will get there eventually. Don’t wait for the next church Bible study. Don’t wait until your school or work schedule allows for more prayer time. Start now. Even if it’s 5 minutes a day. If you can commit to giving God more, I promise that you will begin to desire more. It’s called cultivating our desires.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. ~Hebrews 12:11 ESV

Sometimes we forget how easy it is to cultivate a desire. We do it all the time. We get hooked on TV shows because we go out of our way to make time for them. We get hooked on a coffee shop because we make time on our way to work to stop by. We get hooked on love because we see the potential for romance and we make time for it. So what if, instead, we saw the potential for an intimate relationship with God and, even though it’s not fully satisfying yet, we made time for it until it becomes something immensely satisfying and spiritually growing?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. ~Matthew 5:6 ESV

My exhortation, after this big blob of hopefully inspiring words, is to make sure we desire God. Don’t be okay with mediocre prayer times. When we are passionate about something, we get it done way faster and better than when it’s obligatory. So let’s consider how we can further cultivate our desire for God in our lives right now.

The Work of God in Our Lives

It has been quite some time since a blog update on here, but I finally have something to say AND a small window of time to say it, so here goes 🙂

Jesus has really been convicting me lately in a couple of areas, and it has helped me to realize some of the ways He is involved in all of our lives who believe on Him. Once we are saved, we are asked to take our faith in Him and what He says in the Bible seriously. This is the first point in the four basic categories I have created.
  1. Jesus Calls Us
    1. This is done through His Word. We are called to do and be many things for Christ as we pursue Him and desire to become more like Him. These things include the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) as well as more personal statements on spiritual growth, like spending time with God (Psalm 1:1-3), acquiring His attributes and being fruitful (2 Peter 1:5-8), and doing the hard things as we seek to grow ourselves and further the kingdom (2 Timothy 2:3-4). These are but a few examples of the way Jesus calls us to do and be more for Him.

      Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. ~Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV)

  2. The Holy Spirit Convicts Us
    1. This is similar to our callings, but often more specific to each individual. The Spirit convicts the children of God according to God’s plan and purpose, usually revealing practical spiritual truths to those who are ready to understand them (1 Peter 2:2-3). Sometimes we feel convicted by others in how we should be living, and that is definitely one of the ways God chooses to reach us. A conviction is simply a realization of where you are at spiritually in a certain area compared to where God wants you to be.

      Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. ~1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (ESV)

  3. The Father Supports Us
    1. Once we are convicted in a certain area and we embark on the journey of becoming the better man—when we delight to do the will of God—He helps and supports us along the way, even when it is not easy or fun. It is our duty to look for and run after the opportunities He brings us concerning our convictions.

      The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand. ~Psalm 37:23-24 (ESV)

  4. God the Trinity Uses Us
    1. As we become more and more refined and walking in wisdom, God uses us in more ways than He could when we were still infants. He uses us to impact others and build His kingdom (John 14:12). We are to continually pursue, understand, and grow in Him, but He also calls us to pursue and disciple others, because discipleship is the main method He has given for us to grow.

      And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. ~Ephesians 4:11-16 (ESV)

My application for all of this is that we should examine ourselves for areas where we can grow and we should look for ways that we can pursue and challenge others in love. Ask God to convict you and be on the lookout for growth opportunities!

These are some very basic thoughts I have jotted down and I’m sure there are many more bits of Scriptural wisdom that could apply, so if you ever disagree with something or have anything to add, I’d love to hear about it in a comment or message or whatever.

June Mission Trip Update

Hey everyone!

So I have been back from Haiti for a while now and am finally finding the time to write this update for you. It was a great three weeks of doing various kids ministries for me, and I thank you for all of your prayers! I’ll add as many pictures to this post as I can and explain a bit about what happened.

To start, there were 8 team members like me from all different states, as well as an older couple who joined our team for a few days and two young lady’s who were a part of a supportive clothing business called Project Love who also joined us for a bit. We stayed at a place called Grace Village, which is a different children’s ministry that is positioned about 20-30 minutes from Cabaret (where the Haiti Deaf Academy is). Our team drove in to Cabaret on Thursday and Friday to lead VBS-style activities for the 30-50 children who had recently finished their schooling for the year. We helped them make several crafts that were sent to sponsors and staff members, we memorized a verse about the Good Shepherd, we practiced a skit about it, and we played ASL bingo (with melty m&ms) among many other fun activities. On Friday, we had a ceremony to honor all the staff members (mostly Haitian staff) who work hard every day serving the kids and helping the ministry run smoothly. On Saturday our team visited the Deaf community in Leveque by going around to a few homes and meeting some of the impoverished Haitian people. We then met the HDA kids at a private beach and had a blast playing in the amazingly clear and warm water! Sunday was the church service for the Deaf community in Leveque, and some more time hanging out and having a dance party back at the Academy before leaving for Port-au-prince where we would fly back to the states Monday morning.

As you can see from the pictures, the kids at the HDA are uncharacteristically joyful and so fun to be around! It is obvious the ways God has been working in this ministry to bring up the children in the way they should go, because they are the next generation in a hopelessly impoverished nation. Knowing ASL was very helpful for me, but it really wasn’t all that necessary! There were a few members of our team who knew little to no sign language, and they were able to learn from and communicate with these kids in a language of love that needs no words. I was grateful though to be able to interpret some of the stories we shared so the kids could understand.

So what were some of the encouragements or takeaways for me personally? First of all, this trip was everything I expected it to be concerning culture-shock and experiencing a third-world sense of poverty for the first time. Although we didn’t immerse ourselves in the poverty much if at all during the trip, we passed by it every day, and God gave me such a heart for these people during that time. He also showed me some of the spiritual struggles that this people group faces, as I got to speak with one unbelieving Haitian man about God and hear from others about the dark practices most of the country is involved in. During the trip I really felt at certain points the spiritual weightiness of the place, and I learned that connecting with God in such a different atmosphere is not going to be the same as how I connect with Him back home. It takes God’s calling, equipping, and constant presence for someone to stay strong in the faith in a place like this.

I can’t believe how easy it was to leave my heart behind with these kids, and I really would like to go back next year when the time is right. It was nice to be able to speak some truth into these kids’ lives, but I want to go next time with more of a purpose to serve. This trip for me was mostly a testing of the waters because I didn’t honestly know what I would be doing before I went. God taught me a lot though and I am excited to find my place in His ministry and calling on my life wherever that ends up being. This world needs Jesus, and each of us has the ability to be Jesus to the world all around us every day.

Equipped for Every Good Work

As many of you know, I will be flying to Haiti in 10 days to serve at the Haiti Deaf Academy by teaching, helping, and working with a team of volunteers to impact Deaf kids from all over the country of Haiti. This is something that God has equipped me for in multiple ways, and I am expecting that He wants to use me greatly and will not fail to do so. There are 3 main ways He has equipped me, and though I do not claim to know all the ways God works in people or how God’s calling looks from a Biblically sound perspective, these are pretty obvious things He has coordinated.

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. ~Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV)

  1. God has called each of his children to go make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:20-21), to shepherd his flock (John 10), to live as a sacrifice (Romans 12:1), to be lights in a dark world (Matthew 5:14-16), and much much more. The point is that He calls everyone to these things. Regardless of our specific areas of service, or calling if you will, these truths should ideally apply to each of us, myself included.
  2. God has given me a burning desire to serve Him, in general, throughout my life. I did not used to be as willing and passionate as I now am, and all the boldness I now have has come from Him! Praise Jesus for how He awakens those He calls and reveals Himself in such unique ways!
  3. God led me to learn American Sign Language, which is the primary reason I am going to serve at Haiti Deaf Academy, as opposed to somewhere else. Although knowing the language is not required in order to serve, it will make things much easier. It’s obvious that God did lead me to ASL and the Deaf community because it was not something I desired to further study until it was suggested to me by an awesome sister in Christ. I do not know where God will take me throughout life with this newly developing skill, and I’m not certain it will be my primary method of ministry; all I know is that He has given me the ability to learn it well and enjoy it, which isn’t the case with everyone.

So I like to think of this upcoming trip as something God is doing rather than something I am doing, because that’s the truest description anyway! He just happens to be bringing me (for a mere 5 days) to the place where He has been and will continue working for many years and through many different people. So pray with me that God will prosper this ministry, encourage all His servants, and use me in any way He desires while I am there. Pray that I will be fluent in the language, even though I only have about a year or two under my belt, which is just enough to feel semi-confident in my ability to comprehend and communicate in ASL. Pray that He will speak truth and encouragement to people through me and that He will make me bold to go anywhere and attentive to hear His voice amidst the noise. Pray for the teams of volunteers that come throughout the year to help, that they would work well together and bless the ministry greatly. Lastly, pray that this trip will set for me a standard that will not fade away when I return home, but that God will teach me many new ways of doing ministry that I can apply to my everyday life here in the states.

On a final note, asking for prayer is a very interesting thing. You get these kinds of lists from tons of different missionaries. It is a very good way for all of God’s people to be involved in what is going on, but the downside is that it gives the connotation that these kinds of prayer requests only apply to those “go”-ing, to those who have a very specific place in God’s ever-expanding kingdom, a very specific time commitment, a very specific financial commitment. The truth is that each of us should come up with prayer lists, whether or not we share them with people. God is working in each of our lives equally, and I would encourage all of you to pray just as much for your own life ministry as you do for mine or anyone else’s. Believe it or not, praying in this way for what God is doing through you is about as selfless as you could get! It’s all about recognizing Jesus rather than ourselves. Let’s do this together! We serve a great God!

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. ~1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (ESV)

A Testimony of God’s Faithfulness In Prayer

Not too long ago I wrote a post on the importance of prioritizing God’s Word in our lives and treating it as the main course for the day. I have seen this emphasized many different times by people like A.W. Tozer, George Muller, and even Keith Green! There is something special about finding communion with God over an open Bible, and in many ways, it’s even more vital to our walk than being in daily prayer. This post, however, is about the benefits of committing time to prayer.

I have met many different people who have their own way of meeting with God, and while there are many Biblical principles for pursuing God that should be the same between His followers, there are also many unique ways that God communes with His people. For me, it has been constantly changing (and improving) ever since God awakened my heart to pursue Him back in my later years of high school. Recently, I have found something very valuable that I would like to share with you.

One of the many radical characteristics of Jesus during His time on earth, something that isn’t usually mentioned, is that He spent a lot of His time in communion with the Father. Alone. For long periods of time. I recently finished the biography of George Muller, and in his testimony, He talked about how an earnest, faithful, Christ-like pursuit of God in prayer is not only very effective, but completely transforming.

So here’s my testimony:

For the past 6 or 7 days, God has helped me to set aside an hour for Him alone at night, and every night, He has showed up. This is not a testimony of my ability to be spiritual or pray a lot, but of God’s ability, willingness, and consistency in hearing our prayers and meeting us when we come to Him! Every night, I tell God from the bottom of my heart that I would not give up this time of communion for anything. I only pray that nothing would keep me from it as long as I live.

This kind of transformative prayer is not easy to come by, considering the battle our flesh constantly wages. For me, it certainly was not easy to establish, and it in no way means that I’ve got life easy now. There have been several times when the enemy has tempted me to skip the hour of prayer, but thanks to God, since I started it the enemy has not succeeded, and it has only helped to strengthen my resolve to make it happen each night.

I would encourage you all to seek Jesus in this way. Find a time that you can commit to Him, and give Him enough time (ground) to where you can actually see results (fruit) come from it. Through these times, Jesus has been proving to me verses like Proverbs 16:3 “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established,” and Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” These verses promise that God listens to us, directs our thoughts and steps, and gives us His all-encompassing peace to carry us through the good times and the bad so long as we trust in Him.

I do not want to propose any kind of solution or brag in any way (other than on Jesus), but I do want to encourage each of you to do what you can and push your boundaries of what you are willing to do for God. He will use anything you give Him if it’s done with a cheerful heart.

 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. ~2 Corinthians 9:6-8

The Importance of Spiritual Warfare

We are constantly walking through a battlefield, and most of the time we don’t even know it. We don’t realize that we are being affected by it. We don’t recognize the significance of every action we take, decision we make, place we stay, thought we think, attitude we allow, etc. throughout our day. This spiritual warfare must be taken very seriously if we are to truly strive to honor Jesus in every way.

In a battle, the troops will fight hard as long as they know that their leader still stands strong and that there is still hope for victory. When that confidence is lost—when we lose sight of our leader and the importance of the battle—the troops will become more and more vulnerable to the fiery darts of the enemy because they have lost all desire to fight on. This is a tragic outcome, and yet it happens to us every day.

Now, let’s consider what gets the troops’ hopes up—what gets them inspired to keep fighting and honor their leader. One of the things that is used specifically for that purpose is a banner. When the men see the flag-bearer charging the enemy lines, they are immediately encouraged as they run to protect him. So what is our banner?

  1. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works ~Hebrews 10:24 (ESV)

    Fellowship and camaraderie is hugely important in our lives. It not only boosts morale for the whole unit (the Church), but it constantly reminds us of who we are fighting for and it shows us that God is working in other peoples’ lives besides our own.

    Unfortunately for many Christians, it is way too easy to “get your fill” of Jesus in church on Sunday and then go about your week uninspired. Jesus offers rivers of living water that do not stop at the brims of our cups. Often times, we subconsciously monitor the amount of blessings we allow into our lives, but Jesus wants us to stop worrying about how much we allow in and concern ourselves primarily with how it affects our pouring out. The waters of eternal life are meant to overflow into all areas of our lives, permeating not just the Sunday service, but every hour of every day!

  2. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

    For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. ~Romans 15:4 (ESV)

    God’s word is another banner that will inspire us to stay strong throughout the day. Making sure that we have our daily bread is essential for staying healthy and fit for any skirmish the day might present. Memorizing Scripture is a key that is specifically made for combating the enemy, remaining constantly aware of the battle, and reminding us of the goodness of God, our Leader.

  3. Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. ~Matthew 26:41 (ESV)

    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 ~Ephesians 6:18 (ESV)

    Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. ~Colossians 4:2 (ESV)

    Prayer is like a direct and constant communication between you and your leader during the battle. Neglecting it will result in miscommunication, confusion, lack of inspiration, and lack of all the gifts God gives to help in the fight. Staying faithful in prayer allows for our minds and hearts to be in the right place, alert for opportunities, always having a mind to worship no matter the circumstance.

  4. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. ~Romans 8:26 (ESV)

    The Spirit of God is able to open our eyes in all kinds of ways and strengthen us to do things we would otherwise be incapable of. There will often be things that remind us of the calling we have been given, and whenever we feel those inner groanings throughout the day, the best thing we can do is fuel it, like wood for the fire, and listen to the voice of God intervening on our behalf.

These suggestions are but a few of the numerous and diverse banners we might find in our lives that work to point us in the right direction. The underlying factor in all of them is that God is willing to aid us in the battle whenever we are willing to submit to His ways. Just as Deuteronomy 6 tells the Israelites to wear the Lord’s commandments around their necks as a constant reminder to keep them, we should set up habits in our daily lives that remind us of the battle all around us. We must keep our focus ever upon our leader, Jesus Christ, who alone can give us strength, and who alone deserves all the glory.

He Is Risen!

Jesus is risen indeed!

I don’t have much to say, but felt inspired to write something. The miracle of the cross has really been revealed to me in a new way this year. More than that, God has been showing me the miracle of salvation.

Of all the amazing works that we read about in the Bible and hear of God doing even today, there is really nothing more magnificent than the heart of a man or women, once ravaged by sin, now made new and given a chance for eternity in the presence of the most holy being that ever existed! That said, perhaps the second greatest miracle to ever happen was Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for us. No other human could have possibly seen His burden to completion and still loved us unconditionally. Thirdly: He is risen! He defeated death and did the impossible!

I read a psalm or two and happened across this passage. Long ago, when the Lord restored the fortunes of His people, they rejoiced greatly and it was apparent to all the nations that God was worthy to be praised.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad. ~Psalm 126:2-3 (ESV)

Even before Jesus’ time on earth, God proved His love and gave His people reason to worship. Now we have Jesus, and all I can say is that it would be doubly blind of us to not rejoice on this awesome day of redemption! Let all our neighbors know that Jesus is our Lord and Savior for he is alive and with us, forever worthy of our praise!

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Love Is a Verb; Love Is a Person.

For God so loved the world…

In a subnote it reads “for this is how God loved the world.” Whywould it be past tense if God has always loed the world? Because the “how He did it” refers to an action. Jesus was the embodiment of love. It was a linear embodiment—it happened once and only once, but its effect lasted for all time.

We too are called to be the embodiment of God’s love. And I don’t mean just a representation of it; we have love Himself living inside of us, and to deny Him access to our actions is to deny people a glimpse of the one thing that could change their lives forever. It would also effectively deny the great King His one primary desire: to make Himself (and no one else) known through His chosen people.

On a side and final note…the Gospel is extraordinary! I challenge you to read John 3:16 again, regardless of how well you know it. I believe that God designed the truth of that simple verse to resonate so deeply within us that, instead of growing old, it would only become more and more relevant and wholly captivating as our life-long ministry continues. So when you get the chance, feel free to dust off the old book and read that passage, picturing what each part looked like and what it means today. Read it each day, if you’re that committed, until God reveals to you through it the awesome power of a simple testimony.

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