These last ten months have been better than I could have ever thought of or imagined them to be. God knows what He is doing with my life. I thought I knew what I was doing, but God humbled me. He showed me who I really was: a prideful, selfish fool. However, He began a good work in me. When I signed up for Ignite, I had no idea I would be learning the things I am learning. I just saw the Jesus who Pastor Michael Rozell and Jordan Cole knew, and I wanted that. All my childhood I wondered if there was really an eternal God who loved me and had a plan for my life better than what I could come up with, and I found out that there is! As I have submitted to God being the Potter and me being the clay, He’s taken me through a process. It hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows, but the result of God’s work in one’s life is beautiful and I have gotten to experience that. God has broken through my stubbornness, allowed me to break and sit in the living water, His Word. Out of that brokenness, He’s been restoring me and giving me life unlike I ever knew. There is a God and He has called me by name.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
This man who Jesus is speaking to is described in Luke 18 as a rich, young ruler. The man had kept all of God’s commandments since his youth. He was a good person yet Jesus said, “You still lack one thing.” Then Jesus tells him, “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” The man’s response was sorrow because he was very rich. His heart was attached to his present wealth and security even though Jesus promised him eternal treasure if he would sell all he had and followed Him. He didn’t want to give up his life to follow Jesus. He had made it in the world and didn’t want to give up that security for a life of uncertainty and surrendering of rights to God. What he didn’t see was that his good life was an illusion that would disappear the moment he passed on from this short life and that he would have treasure in heaven if he was obedient. Jesus went on to say, after observing the rich man’s response, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.” Not only would he be gaining treasure in heaven, but he would also be gaining the better life in the present time.
As I am reading and thinking about what Jesus said about the rich young ruler, I am challenged as a Christian. I have decided to follow Jesus, but there are still things I haven’t let go of. The life I have to return to after I go back home is something that could keep me from taking this step that Jesus told the rich young man to do to inherit eternal life. My identity and earthly treasures that were so closely associated with my lifestyle before I set out on this trip to follow Jesus are still back home, tempting me to go back to the pursuit of worldly success. I’ve given a portion of my life to Christ, but there is still a part of my life I haven’t fully surrendered to the Lord. There’s an open door for me when I get back home to get a higher education and begin a career that will set me up to accomplish my childhood dreams of becoming a rich business man. The path I was on before I took this year to seek the Lord is still put on pause, and I don’t want it to hold me back from giving all to follow Jesus. I sure don’t want to miss out on what God wants to give me. He’s already given me eternal life, and He’s worthy of my whole being. The plans he has for me in this life are far greater than anything I could think of or imagine. With those promises, I’d be a fool to spend my life chasing my own dreams. He may even give me the desires I had for my life, but I want to follow Him. Saying no to living a really good life is a joyous thing when I consider that God wants to give me an even better life, even if it means suffering for His name’s sake, surrendering all that I have, and giving to the poor to follow Him. I’ve had this sense that God created me to do something great, but the motive behind it is no longer for my own glory but for God’s glory. I want to follow Jesus. Without Him I am a miserable kid with a bunch of toys and a selfish plan for my own life that won’t produce any eternal fruit. I want to follow Jesus. This life is a loss without Him.
Application: Ask the Lord for a pivotal change in my life that would set my course on following Jesus, separate me from anything of my old life, and store up for me treasure in heaven.
“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14
“And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.”
We are commanded to honor our father and mother, yet Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:27, “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of me…” The greatest commandment gives the most clarity on this son to parent relationship in Matthew 22:37-40, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” What I believe God is saying is obey me first and foremost. He is the ultimate authority I am to obey. I am to honor my parents but God’s guidance is to be the judge of my decisions.
The decisions I’ve had to make so far in my life have largely been influenced by my parents’ guidance. Doing sports, traveling, going to college, getting jobs, and future plans have been or are issues that I’ve had to bring before my parents, as well as many others. Perhaps the decision of the most tension and debate between my parents and I has been of going to university. After finishing my Associates Degree from community college while finishing high school, I was given the opportunity to go to the Potter’s Field Ministries Ignite Program. I knew God wanted me to go but it became a trial I had to walk through between my parents will and God’s will for my future. I did want to go to honor my parents by going to university but I knew I needed to obey God’s will, which was to spend a year away from home, seeking the Lord before I made any more moves that affected my future. Seven months into this program, I knew I made the right decision by obeying my heavenly Father. Obeying my heavenly Father’s guidance has opened so many opportunities and given me so many amazing experiences. I have learned and continued to learn a lot about God and trusting Him in this time that I could have only got by saying yes to His counsel.
This does not rule out honoring my parents because it’s a commandment still. I do need more wisdom on my future and honoring my parents and that’s why this verse popped out to me when I read it. I do have a dad but he’s not my heavenly Father. I love my dad very much and want to show him respect the way God would have me. My dad really wants me to go to university, at least for my Bachelor’s in Business Degree. I want to go but I haven’t gotten clear counsel from the Lord about it. The opportunity is not very clear right now, but I can trust in God that He will give me counsel and wisdom on where to make the next move when the time is right.
Application: Pray and seek the Lord for wisdom and counsel from God on how to make decisions about life, particularly about going to university and what lies ahead of this season. Also, I will seek the Lord for how I can be obedient to Him and honor Him in the season I am in now so I don’t miss out on His presence now and how He would speak to me today, even concerning my future. Also, I will pray for a stronger trust in Him and letting Him be my Father, teaching me the way He would chose and guiding me in His ways.
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
I’ve heard it said once, “Your greatest fear shouldn’t be that you won’t succeed; your greatest fear should be that you succeed at something that didn’t matter.” I’d like to think that if I knew life was in vain I would spend it to the fullest in vanity than complacently not do anything. Whoever wrote that quote must have understood that there was something to live for, and you don’t want to miss out on it. If all I had was this life, I wouldn’t want to miss out on its temporary pleasures, but there is meaning and purpose in life and many miss out on it.
Life does matter to God. He doesn’t want us to live in vain. He will let us live our lives’ how we want if we reject Him, but He has a plan for our lives if we would say yes to Him. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” In God’s word there are promises of this better life. It’s as if God is waiting for us to find Him so He can give it to us. Without God we are bound to live in vanity. Our flesh does not naturally seek out God’s way; we seek out our own ways that lead to death. By God’s grace, we can live that life that the Lord desires us to live. We don’t have to labor in vain if we find His purpose for our lives. By failing to find that purpose, we will get to the end of our lives and wish that we would have searched for it. Matthew 7:24-25 says, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He sets us on the Rock. Then He begins to reveal His way and invites us to walk in it as Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God already has a plan and a purpose that He prepared before we even knew that it existed. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts,” as Isaiah 55:9 says. God knows something about us that we often reject. He knows that our ways and our thoughts are chaff compared to His. If only we believed that He won’t fail us and that He has a life in store for us that was designed by Him, the Creator Himself, we would begin to live a life of true meaning and purpose. It’s not like our ways that are flawed and end up getting us into trouble; He will be there to teach us and guide us in every trial along the way, delivering us from evil and guiding us in the ways of everlasting, until that work that is our lives, is completed.
Since I began this journey of seeking for the Lord’s plan and purpose for my life, God has taught me many lessons. The flaws that I have as a son of the world, my heavenly Father has been making straight. Just in this year, God has really straightened my paths as I’ve been acknowledging and trusting more in Him. The flaws in my personality, which I never expected God to change, have been bending into the personality that the Lord wants for me. There was so much greed, jealously, anger, bitterness, and other sin that the Lord has been at work on in my life, and is yet continuing to work on. As far as the plan for my future stands, God knows it and will lead me to fulfill it. I will trust Him with my future and give Him my worries, as I have spent too much anxious time in thought of it already.
I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!
I’ve heard people say, “There is power in the tongue.” Words have a way of wounding others to the core. How often have I said something that had offended someone deeply? Too many times to count. It is often the case that I said something I never intended to mean. People don’t seem to know what I mean but rather take it as a threat. It would have been better had I kept my mouth shut than spoken what had the potential to offend another. By the grace of God I’ve been forgiven of my sins.
As the verse, Psalm 120:7, says so well,
“I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!”
Sometimes I say something I don’t mean, but what I do mean I don’t say. Something my Mom used to tell me as a kid was, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” She knew I meant well but I miscommunicated. It was always my words getting me into trouble. So many arguments and fights began because I said something passively offensive with no intention of causing what followed those comments. I realized that if I’m ever going to conquer the power the power of my tongue, I need to know how to communicate correctly.
Conquering these sins in my life calls for me to be depended on God. In Matthew 26:40-41 it is written about Jesus,
“And He came to His disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
In a similar way I need to be in the spirit if I am going to have victory over the temptation to speak words that aggravate others. Psalm 120:1-2 says,
“In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.”
The Lord is faithful. He will answer those who are in distress. As I’ve been calling to the Lord, He’s been faithful to give me a spirit that is willing. I’ve heard it said that you cannot fix a problem with the same mind that created it. My flesh cannot fix a problem with the same flesh that created it. Instead, as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 26:41, I need a spirit that is willing, and that spirit only comes from the Lord. The Holy Spirit has the power to deliver me and tame my tongue. He has the power to change me and make my words build up rather than tear down others.
Application: Seek the Lord and ask Him to continue giving me power over my tongue. I will ask the Lord for a spirit of love and peace when I speak and that I would build up others with my words.
Saturday, July 30, 2016
"If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it."
I have found that the Bible contains in it wisdom for life: spiritual life as well as physical life. The book of Proverbs has been speaking to me in ways that I never expected, and today I came across this one at the top of the page. Further on in chapter 25 in verse 27 I read another warning about the same thing, “It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.” As I have been assessing my life by reading through the book of Proverbs, I have come to observe that in my own life I make the same mistake over and over again. Gluttony is a sin that Proverbs 23:21 says “will come to poverty.” Recently I was craving something sweet because I hadn’t dessert in a long time. I was becoming unhappy with the wonderful, healthy meals I have been receiving three times a day of which I did not have to make or clean up. This unhappiness was the same problem Israel was having when God was feeding them manna in the desert but they were craving meat.
The other day I had the opportunity to eat cake. I did not hold myself back at all. Of course, I had my fill and felt sick afterwards. I learned my lesson. When the Bible makes a warning and I choose not to observe it, there is no question that I will reap the consequences. This goes for simple things such as eating too much of a sweet thing as well as the eternal consequences of rejecting Jesus Christ. I learned that there are consequences for eating more than enough, but it warned me of much greater consequences too.
Application: Pray and seek the Lord for discipline when it comes to eating that He would remind me that I reap the consequences of my own actions next time I get a chance to eat a dessert, and also that He would keep me from going down those roads that lead to destruction in any form and instead lead me in the ways of wisdom.
“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold.”
What does it mean to have a good name? It is having a good reputation, being someone who is known for conducting himself well, who isn’t deceptive, who is well liked, who has integrity, and good character. It also means they walk in the light and are open with others. A man who has a good name is a man who people trust. God’s word says that a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches. Many people are willing to compromise if it means hanging on to or gaining more wealth. When it comes to a point where character is on the line in order to gain wealth, a good name can be acquired or lost.
Keeping a good name must be more important than getting ahead financially if a man is to have a good reputation. Even if no one sees me compromise, God still sees me and is the One who watches over my life. It is often what is done in secret that comes out in public somewhere down the line. The man who fears the Lord will not go down that slippery slope that always begins with a small compromise. When the love of money ensnares a man, there is telling of the extent to which he will go to hang onto that money of which he so cherishes. I no doubt have been in places where I had the choice to justify my convictions to increase my money. The presence of the Lord is too precious of a thing to risk than achieving my financial goals, but I must remain vigilant and zealous for the fear of the Lord because I can very easily fall into the bondage of the illusion of money. Let alone my reputation, God is jealous for me and wants my heart. He doesn’t want riches to have power over my heart. The Lord will give a good name to the one who choses Him rather than riches.
The fruit of having a good reputation is favor. Doors open up to good character. How often in life do I get judged on my past reputation? Thankfully I am still young and have not had my character on the line. Neither have I developed a solid reputation that people expect of me yet. Now more than ever is the best time to take my character more seriously. I never want to find myself in a position so far away from God that I make a compromise and my whole integrity gets shattered. I know I am only one mistake away from losing a good name. Putting up boundaries for myself could keep me far from crossing that line of no return.
Application: I have recognized a need for boundaries in my life. One line I have been close to crossing is in my speech. When I get wound up in a situation and lose thought of others, it’s easy to make a comment that I wish I could take back. After making the comment I don’t take ownership of it. I have let a habit of complaining and antagonistic speech enter my heart and am recognizing a need to repent of it and ask the Lord to begin working in that area of my life. It has the potential to give me a rotten reputation that the Lord hates and I certainly don’t want to be known for. How can I put this into application? Pray and ask the Lord that He would forgive me and begin to work and give me revelation in this area of my life. Also, I will seek counsel from wise teachers.
Thursday, June 9, 2016
2 Samuel 3:1,
“There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker.”
This verse begins with “there was a long war.” Saul’s and David’s army fought against each other. They were both of the same country, but they were divided. Saul had become consumed with bitterness toward David because of David’s rise to leadership. David had been experiencing a lot more success than Saul had. 1 Samuel 18:7 says that “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” As a result of Saul’s bitterness he turned his armies on David. This war extended beyond Saul’s death. Saul’s people inherited this bitterness toward David.
The second part of this verse says that “David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker.” David was a righteous man. He loved Saul but the contention would not relent unless someone won. God’s favor was upon David, for it was prophesied that he would become king by the prophet Samuel. In Acts 13:22 it says, “And when He (God) had removed him (Saul), He raised up David to be their (Israel’s) king of whom He testified and said, “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” David’s heart was toward God, but Saul had to be removed from power by the God of hand.
The world tends to look at the outward. Saul was the perfect leader in the people’s eyes but his heart was hard toward God. David wanted to please God and ultimately God gave him favor over the house of Saul. Therefore David became stronger and stronger. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to become weaker but that’s what happened to Saul when he became overcome by envy against David. Saul was proud and sook the destruction of David but David was humble and loved Saul. The very thing that Saul sook on David ended up coming down on the house of Saul. Yet, David wasn’t seeking the destruction of Saul but he ended up defeating his armies. God has a way of humbling the proud and exalting the humble, and that’s the classic theme of the war between David and the house of Saul. The Lord exalts those who exalt Him in their humility and that’s what we should all desire to do.
Application: Center my heart on the Lord through prayer so that I might exalt Him and that he would humble me so that I would please Him and be in His will.
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
"For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there."
1 Corinthians 14:33 says, “God is not the author of confusion but of peace.” Confusion cannot be of God but is a consequence of envy and self-seeking.
When I get confused I often become frustrated. I have a tendency to let that confusion build up inside without looking to God for peace. Confusion has a way of separating myself from the presence of God, along with everything else that is evil. When I am out of the presence of God, I am living in the flesh.
1 John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
The way to deal with envy and self-seeking is to bring it to the Light where I can return to the presence of God. Lately I have been struggling with being on the same page with those who I am with all the time. Out of self-seeking, my sin has continually isolated me from others. This is my weakness. I am prone to be an independent. But as I have been learning, I am so much weaker alone than I am when I am united with others. Selfish ambition has taken too much of my life. Seeking my personal interests has removed me from being of one mind with others and stirred up misunderstandings.
Philippians 2:1-4 says, “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Lord, open up my heart more to others. Soften my heart towards the interests of others. Soften my heart to You, Lord. I continually get lost and confused. My sin has separated me from walking in the light with others and You over and over again. Keep doing a good work in my heart. Amen.
Application: Come to the light about my envy and self-seeking with my teammates and seek the Lord to eliminate the confusion that has come between them, me, and God.
Sunday, May 1, 2016
“The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do no fail.”
The Lord has always guided me better than I could guide myself. When I have tried to come up with my own strength to get through a drought in life, I have always been left unsatisfied. Deuteronomy 8:3 says, “So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” God has brought me through a drought to get me to realize this. Without Him, I am living in vain. Nothing I do on my own strength is going to satisfy my soul in drought. The Lord will satisfy my soul in drought if I believe that it is He who guides me continually, and it is He who strengthens my bones.
Often I find myself having multiple spiritual deficiencies every day. I find myself anxious because I fail to believe that the Lord really does guide me continually, and it is Him who will satisfy my soul in those times, and He is the one who strengthens my bones. All of this is a promise if my motives are on loving the Lord and loving others. When I have dual motives, I become anxious and unstable in all of my ways. When I surrender to the Lord daily any ulterior motives I have and ask for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit, then I am satisfied no matter how mundane the task.
I want to continue living in God’s peace, knowing that He is guiding me and will satisfy me in drought. I need His strength because my flesh is weak. I don’t want to be like the person in James 1:23-24 who immediately forgets what he looked like when he walked away from the mirror. After spending three months in Guatemala, God taught me so much. It became a daily habit to go through the day reflecting and meditating on the word of God after my devotion with Him in the morning, but it’s been so difficult to do that on tour because of the changing on the schedule.
Application: Tomorrow, the first of the May, I am going to challenge myself to seek the Lord every day, expecting that He is going to speak to me in my devotions and throughout the day, wherever it is He has me.
April 15, 2016
Inductive Bible Study
Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them.”
Sometimes I stop and think about just how good life is for me. I have no health problems, I’m young, I have energy, I don’t need a ton of sleep, I have a sharp mind, and my whole life is ahead of me. But the belief that life is great and my whole life is ahead of me is an illusion. There is no guarantee that I’ll live to see old age. Not even my next minute is guaranteed. The way I have thought in the past is that while I am in my youth I should go and do whatever I want just because I can but wisdom says differently.
In Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 it says, ”Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these God will bring you into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, and put away evil from your flesh, for childhood and youth are vanity.”
What this verse is telling me is to live with the consciousness that God will judge me for my actions and that when old age comes I will see that the things I did as a youth didn’t produce anything. Nevertheless God wants to see me enjoy my life. If I walk with God while I am still young I am going to be sustained when the difficult times come. But for so many people, they resist God until it’s late in life. It may not be too late, and there’s no condemnation for coming to Christ no matter how bad your past was, but the sooner I remember my Creator, the longer I will live in fear of Him. Living in fear of Him is what’s going to make all the difference in my life.
Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of your life will be added to you. If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, and if you scoff, you will bear it alone.”
Application: I have come to discover about myself that I have a problem of worrying about the future. I prevent myself from living how God would have me live today because I am so caught up in what I want my life to be 10 years from now. What I am looking for is something to sustain me or to keep my focus on so I have the motivation to get through the times of difficulty when they come. But as Ecclesiastes 12:1 points out, I need to simply remember my Creator when those times come. Looking to someone or something else besides God is vanity. I need to look to my Creator, and not to a counterfeit, and enjoy my youth while I have it but with that knowledge of God.
How can I let go of this fear of the future? Today I am going to pray and seek the Lord that He would make me to know that He will provide and that He would teach me how to enjoy my youth the way He intends for me to live it.
April 18, 2016
“For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.”
Since leaving the environment of Guatemala a few weeks ago and going into a new environment that is constantly changing, I have faced a major challenge. That challenge is what Paul says is, “to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.” It has become increasingly easy to go throughout my day without spending any time in the word. I have become lazy in my devotion to the Lord. As a result I have started losing a sense of self awareness in how I have been treating others and directing my actions according to the Word of God. The environment I had in Guatemala promoted so much spiritual growth and getting in tune with God but being back in the United States has thrown me back into a culture that is spiritually dead. I have seen and heard of so many people who have gone from mountain top experiences with God but overtime have fallen back into a state of disconnection from Jesus. I don’t ever want to be out of communion with God again. I want to fall even more in love with Jesus. I was once in a place where I absolutely needed God but right now I feel so full and blessed that I don’t feel like I need Him as much as I did. There was a time where I looked to Him in the mornings as my sufficiency, but I have been looking to others things and have begun to put them above God. Things like sleep, caffeine, relaxation, and breakfast have become idols that I have allowed to take over my mornings and turn into a barrier between me and God.
Application: When I return home to Vancouver, Washington, in the fall, I want to be found by my pastors, as Paul wanted to see, being in good order and steadfast in my faith in Christ. I know they are here with me in spirit, although absent in the flesh, and they will rejoice to find that I am abiding in Jesus. I know that it’s not about pleasing them but pleasing God. Out of the grace He’s had on me, I want to get to know Him more and this is a step I feel I need to take to get and of this sluggishness of faith I have been experiencing.
How? I am going to fast from caffeine while making it my goal to wake up at 5:30am to pursue the Lord in scripture and prayer before eating.
Sunday, March 13, 2016
Friday March 11, 2016
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.”
People have feelings. If you push someone the wrong way, they will react, but if you handle it properly you can prevent a flood of anger. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Relationships are too precious to mess up. Something so small can turn into a huge conflict just because someone says something the wrong way or lashes out a little anger on someone else.
Matthew 18 is a great guideline to preserving peace in relationships. Early in the chapter, Jesus warns us that we need to be sensitive in how we deal with children and those who are lost. If we cause someone to stumble because we can’t exercise love, we’d be better off never even coming into the picture. Then in verse 15, we are told to deal with strife privately and reconcile if possible. But, if you can’t reconcile with that person, then it would become appropriate to bring other people into the picture. In verse 16 it says, “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.” So, if you can’t reconcile with a person privately because the other person isn’t willing, then other people should get involved. Towards the end of chapter, we are told to be forgiving of others. If we don’t forgive our brothers for what they’ve done against us, God will not give us grace. God has given us so much grace that we should be compelled to extend that grace to anyone else who offends us.
Being someone who usually won’t say anything when strife comes up, I realize that I need to heed the words of Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” Often by not saying anything, I have stirred up strife in itself. Either by not being forgiving or showing an attitude of anger towards someone, I have non-verbally communicated something in opposition of love. I have come to understand this about myself recently. Simply by opening my mouth with a soft answer, I can prevent a lot of confusion and anger among others.
Prayer: Help me to be more open with my brothers and find people I can trust and begin building that trust with them.
Wednesday March 9, 2016
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Walking in unity should be a constant state. Unfortunately, most people will only be there in your times of rejoicing. As soon as your life goes downhill, many if not all will abandon you. Romans 12:15 is a call to be there for those who rejoice, as well as those who weep. The following verse says, “Be of the same mind toward one another.” This doesn’t just mean among friends but all people. We always hold our friends on a higher level of importance than those who are on the “outside.” However, God wants us to treat everyone with the same mind. Even your enemies are included in this.
Luke 6:32-36 says,
“But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”
I serve a merciful God. He’s a God who is kind to even the worst of people. He gives us a freewill and allows us to suffer the consequences of our own actions. However, to be a son of Him, we need to walk in the light, helping those who can’t return the favor. It is better to give to those who can’t give back. Most of my friends are capable of returning the favor when I do something for them. That’s one of the reasons we are such good friends. When one of us is down, we help each other back up, but it’s usually based on a past obligation. If one of us pays for lunch or gasoline, the other is sure to return the favor. It’s great to have those relationships, but God rewards us for helping those who are incapable of repaying us for our help.
It can be such a joy to give without receiving anything back. Sometimes it almost hurts though, because we are so used to receiving. Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” God is the God who rewards what is done in secret. If we give openly, we will have our reward right then and there, but if we give in secret, God will reward us in a much more satisfying way.
As Acts 20:35 says, “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Application: Today I am going to do something for someone who can’t help me. As I am in Antigua, Guatemala, there are many poor people who are incapable of doing anything to give back. Also, I am going to ask the Lord that He would help me to give with the right heart, not to make myself feel better or get noticed by someone else, but out of gratitude to God who has had incredible mercy on me. All I am doing is sharing the mercy that God has shown me.
Tuesday March 8, 2016
1 John 1:5-7
This message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
I want to walk in the light. As a sinner, I can’t deceive myself by saying I have no sin. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” The first step to entering into fellowship with God is admitting who we really are, sinners. Confessing this to God, we are forgiven and cleansed from our sin. By confessing our sins, His word is now in us. This word means living in the light in fellowship with Him. Another bonus to walking in the light is having fellowship with one another. In chapter 2, verse 10, it says, “He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.” Jesus’ two commandments are that we love God and love our neighbor. “If we walk in the light as He is in the light,” as 1 John 1:7 says, “we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
As a Christian, this light is not always in me. Sometimes I deceive myself and say that I am walking with God, even though I have not confessed my sins. I have to come back to God so I can walk in the light again. 1 John 2:1 says, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” I do not lose my salvation after I’ve put my faith in Him, but I can walk out of fellowship. I do not want to enter into heaven on a thread. I want my salvation to be assured, without any doubts. Verse 28 of 1 John 2 says, “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” I want to have this confidence, without any shame, when Jesus appears again at the end of the age when He comes.
Application: Today I want to truly be in fellowship with God and with others. I don’t want to walk in darkness, with blinded eyes. I want to be confident in my salvation, without any shame. Today I am going to set aside an hour of my day to seek God and pray for this fellowship.
Monday March 7, 2016
Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?
This sounds like common sense. Many people who don’t even know the Bible would see this verse and see that there is wisdom in it. The book of Amos is God correcting Israel for going the way of the world. God wanted Israel to return to Him and His commandments, but they hardened their hearts. This question, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” is signifying how Israel’s sin has separated them from God. Throughout the Bible, the pattern is seen that when Israel was walking with the Lord, they were obeying God’s commands and giving Him the glory. When they were not walking with the Lord, they were disobeying God’s commands and giving themselves the glory.
In these days, we can look at ourselves in the same way God saw Israel in the book of Amos. When we are disobeying God, we are not walking with the Lord. Only when we are living in agreement with God and obeying His commands, we find that we are walking with the Lord. God wanted to pour out His grace on His people, but their hearts were hardened. It’s similar to a friendship that is broken. Sometimes we have a friend that we have come to be close with, but they begin going down a dark path. The unity becomes broken because the two friends are not living in agreement. The good friend is trying to amend the friendship, but the other friend is going astray because they refuse to put their selfishness to the side. It hurts so much to see a friend walk out of union because they are too selfish to make things right. Just like God to the Israelites, we can warn our friends and even try to make amendment to them. Sometimes it just doesn’t work because two people can’t walk together if they do not have unity. I have had to reject friends in the past because they refused to give up their selfishness and make things right, even though I had done my part to make things right.
Application: I want to walk in unity with my friends. When things come up that try to break that unity, I want to be so united that the bond can’t be broken. For the next seven months I am going to be with three others guys, Chris, Christian, and Ryan. I want us to be a team that can’t be broken. There may be many things that will come against us, so I want to be on good terms with them. When we all come back together tonight, I am going to talk it out with them and do my part in building up our unity by discussing how we can build each other up.
Saturday, March 5, 2016
IBS Friday March 4
“Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
This passage is saying that if we are found watching when God returns, we will be blessed. We should always be on the watch so that we can stop the thief from breaking into the house. Jesus, our Master, will come at a time we don’t expect. This verse is a call to be ready. Being ready means being faithful in where God’s placed you at any given moment, assured that He will be coming at any time. Matthew 24:45-47 says, “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.”
We are assured of this. We can have confidence that if we are faithful over the house that God has given us to rule over while we wait for His return, that when He does return and find us doing well, we will be greatly rewarded. If we are not walking faithfully in what we’ve been entrusted, there’s no condemnation because we are in Christ Jesus. Yet, we are called into a deeper relationship than just simply believing, which still results in salvation. But, God wants to give us so much more than the basic things.
Psalm 1 explains this higher calling,
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.
The household that God has made us ruler over is His church. We are asked to “feed” this house. Being faithful and wise as a servant of God, we will be blessed as we feed this household. It may not mean any visible blessings that the world is so accustomed to expecting, but our reward will be great in heaven.
As a child, I used to wait so anxiously for when my Dad came home from his business. Every day I eagerly waited in the front of our house for when he came home. When I saw the reflection of his truck as he pulled in the driveway, I would run outside to give him a hug. There was never a day where I wasn’t excited to see my dad come home from working. I’d make sure I had all my chores done before so that when he came home we could go out to the motorcycle garage and spend some time together and even take the dirtbikes to the track. In the same way, I should have this kind of a relationship with my heavenly Father.
Application: today I am going to dig into God’s word and ask Him how I might be more like a tree planted by rivers of water and that I would ready for His return when He comes.
IBS Thursday March 3
No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.
I am not a blind servant of Jesus. He has made it known to me what God is doing. As a friend of Jesus, we have a different relationship than if we were just servants. He chose us, as John 15:16-17 says: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.” He loved us and asked us to love others in the same manner.
Jesus, I want to love you the way you loved me. I want to be a friend, not just a servant who doesn’t know what his master is doing. I want my relationship with you to be real. Teach me what it means to be chosen and appointed by you so that I would bear fruit that would remain. Teach me how to love others the way you loved me.
Application: Today I am going to search the scriptures and ask the Lord to show me how He loved that I may love others in the same manner and how to live in greater intimacy with Him.
IBS Wednesday March 2
Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
This is a verse that I have come to many times before, but I never really got the full context. Becoming great is the complete opposite from Jesus’ perspective than from the world’s understanding. To be considered great in many people’s opinions means being an authority. As an authority in the world, you lord over others, making yourself more important because of your position. In verse 25 Jesus tells his audience, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them,” and then He says, “Yet it shall not be so among you.” Jesus tells us that we do not exercise this authority to rule over others in His kingdom. The story leading up to this answer from Jesus begins when a mother asks that her two sons would sit at the right and left hand of Jesus in His kingdom. All Jesus can answer to her is that it is not His authority to give, but God the Father prepares it for those He chooses. What Jesus says is that if anyone desires to be great in His kingdom, he must become a servant. To wrap it up Jesus explains, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
I want to be first. I want to be great. In scripture, I have found the answer. Being great means being last and being a servant. Romans 12:1 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Presenting myself as a living sacrifice to God to be His slave is what is accepted by God. Later on in Romans 12, it says, “That you may prove what is that good acceptable and perfect will of God is. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Being a servant that is acceptable to God means living out His perfect will. As I present myself as a bondservant of God, I will begin living out His perfect will in my life. I need to keep a sober mind, not being prideful, but faithfully doing my duty to my Master. Luke 17:10 says, “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.”
Application: Lord, I want to present myself a living sacrifice to You that I may prove Your perfect will in my life. I ask that you would give me the mind of a servant. I want to serve You. Today, this is my prayer, that you would accept my body as a living sacrifice, a sacrifice that is holy and acceptable to You. Amen.
IBS Tuesday March 1
And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’”
Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. This is Christianity 101. As Christians, we are servants of the Lord. Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without complaining and disputing.” We need to serve with the mindset that we are unprofitable servants. God doesn’t need us. All we do is attend to our duties. Expecting to be thanked for our service shouldn’t be important to us. God will give more to those who increase what He’s given them, but if we desire to be great in Heaven, we need an attitude of service without expectation of reward.
Application: I have been given a duty to do, but I need to change my attitude about it. So tonight I am going to finish all the homework that has been given me to do to the best of my ability without seeking a reward.
IBS Monday February 29
If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.
This verse is Jesus speaking about how to live. The verses leading up to it explain that one must die to live. A servant of Jesus must die to himself. To hate one’s own life in the world means to gain eternal life. By serving Jesus, one is following Him to where He is. God will honor anyone who serves Jesus.
Dying to self is such a hard concept to grasp when you are holding so tightly to your life. To be honest, I have had a hard grip on life. I had my ideas about life, and I was not giving God much control. I heard this illustration a few days ago that we are to loosen our grip on the item that is in our hand so that it is free to move. In the same way, I need to loosen my grip on my plans and possessions so that God can move them in my life in a way that He will be glorified. My dreams of becoming a business owner, traveling the world, and living the high life will only cripple my spiritual hands until I open them up so that God’s will can be done.
The fact that I am in Antigua, Guatemala, is a result of surrendering my plans to God and letting Him move my life in the direction He has for me. One year ago I was signing the documents to go to business school at George Fox University near Portland, Oregon. I had already applied and been accepted. I even had scholarships and was working towards raising more money for tuition. Little did I know that God had a completely different plan for me.
Three men came into my life that messed up all my plans, all for the better. Jesus wanted me to get out of the United States so I could get away from all the noise that was dictating my life so I could truly seek Him. Ralph, one of my mentors, told me about this program in Guatemala where I was able to accomplish this. Larry, another mentor, offered me a job for the time leading up to my departure as well as significant financial support. Everything in my life was screaming so loudly in my ear that I had almost missed this opportunity, but I wanted His will to be done in my life above my own will. I had faith that God had me in His hand and had something amazing in store for me.
This time hear in Guatemala has been breaking me to the core. I have so many issues under the surface and some of them were beginning to hurt other people in my life. I was becoming a product of my own selfishness, pride, and anger. God was burdening and convicting me so much that I just couldn’t ignore Him any longer before falling off the deep end. I was riding that fine line. I was getting so close to the edge, but God loved me too much to let me go too far. He didn’t want me to hurt myself or anyone else. He wanted to use me to be a blessing in other people’s lives. He wanted me to seek Him. In order to do that, though, He had to completely remove me from the world as I knew it. He needed to break me so that He could turn me into His new creation.
God, You are the Potter and I am the clay. Break me and mold me into the creation you see fit. I surrender my life to You so that You would use me as a servant to do Your will. I am incapable of serving You on my own strength. Take my life, my possessions, my plans, my heart, my mind, my soul, my strength; and do with me what is pleasing in Your eye.
Application: This morning I am going to surrender my plan for the day to do what is pleasing to the Lord instead. I am going to pray that God would break me today and use me as His vessel to accomplish His will in and through my life. I ask that in all that I do today, His Spirit would be at work: in my conversations with others, in my thoughts, in my mind as I continue learning about Him, and in every action that springs forth from my spirit. Lord, have reign in my life today. Amen.
Sunday, February 28, 2016
IBS Friday February 26
1 Corinthians 12:14-15
For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?
Each member of a body has its place. If there were only arms or only eyes or only brains, the body would never be able to function. This is the body of Christ according to 1 Corinthians 12. Verse 19 says, “And if they were all one member, where would the body be?” In the church, also known as the body of Christ, there can’t be all pastors and no greeters, or all worship leaders and no one making financial decisions. For people to come together with their many different skills and talents, they need to be adaptable and mutually submissive to become a body.
One of my great desires is that I find my place in the body. As much as I want to be the head, or the leader, I find myself being the legs, doing a lot of work and going where the head commands me to go. But, God tells us not to despise the other members of the body but rather rejoice with them, for we shall receive the same reward. If we are faithful over what God’s given us, He will give us more. Nevertheless, we need to be content with where we are as we do our best in that position, knowing that God works all things together for good.
In my own life, I have seen the fruit of being faithful over a little. When I was fifteen, I got my driver’s permit. It was made very clear to me by my parents that I had great responsibility with that privilege. I had to bring my dad to the airport, pull trailers, go grocery shopping, and drive friends and family members often. To be effective in my service towards my parents, I had to lay some of my own hobbies aside. As I proved myself faithful with the privilege of driving, I was given a car of my own. My parents would even let me drive their vehicles as long as I obeyed their guidelines. I was eventually given freedoms like going on road trips, staying over at friends’ houses, and getting a nicer car. It definitely paid off to be faithful with this simple privilege.
Application: I need to always look at my responsibilities in life as a privilege. As of now, I have the privilege of staying in a really nice compound in Guatemala. I want to gain more favor from the people who are running this compound, so today I am going to read over my responsibilities as an intern on this property, evaluate myself, and make a plan on how to better conduct myself as an intern.
IBS Thursday February 25
1 Corinthians 9:19
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more.”
A servant to all. 1 Corinthians chapter 9 is Paul talking about self-denial. He recognizes our freedoms, even as Christians, but he calls for a denying of our own freedoms so that we might reach and impact more people for Christ. When we accept Jesus into our hearts, we are given the free gift of salvation, but rewards must be earned. Paul goes on in chapter 9, comparing Christianity to athletics. We as Christians all enter the race to run but still few win the prize. We are called to obtain that prize instead of just walking through the race just to get to the finish line as many of us do. It takes training and discipline to become good at any sport. In our faith it works the same way. That’s how we obtain an imperishable crown.
Hebrews 12:1-2 says,
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
To win this race that is set before us, we need to set our eyes on Jesus. We need to lay aside every weight and sin that keeps us from attaining all that He has in store for us in Heaven. As an athlete I had the freedom to eat anything I want, but I wanted to be great. Striving for this greatness I stopped eating candy and drinking soda to give me a little bit of a competitive edge. In my faith I have the freedom to spend my time waiting for my death or Christ’s return, but I choose to rather go on the offensive. I realized that I had weights and sins that easily ensnared me. As I began cutting things like television, social media, and bad relationships out of my life I began gaining endurance in my faith.
1 Corinthians 9:27 says, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
I don’t want to become disqualified from the race for my faith. That’s why I lay aside those things in my life that hinder my faith. I am forgiven of my sins, but I choose to give my best for God because of the hope I have in Heaven if I do run this race with endurance. I will fall short because that is human nature, but I will get back up and keep striving for the imperishable crown.
Application: Today I am going to go through my laptop, cell phone, and flash drive, and delete all unnecessary things that slow down my devices as a symbol of cutting out the things that weight me down.