Wednesday, July 26, 2017

What are you building your life on?



In the teen Sunday school class that my brother teaches, we've been going through a 4-part video series called Dug Down Deep. I highly recommend it. 

The first session was entitled, "What are you building your life on?" 

In other words, what is the one thing that you think about most? What do you fall back on in times of struggle? What keeps you going?

All aspects of life begin with our thought-life. (Proverbs 4:23)

The answers to these questions vary greatly, even among Christians. We could be trusting in our current circumstance, a steady bank account, or our own self. You may build your life on whatever you want, but there is only one foundation that will give you unconditional peace, joy, and purpose. Everything else - even money - will fade away. (see Matthew 6:19-21)

There is only one thing that will truly matter in the long run. 

This foundation is - you guessed it - Jesus. 
We as Christians may tune this out because we already know it. We may think, "I'm saved, so I'm built on Jesus." If you truly confessed your sins and made God the Lord of your life, you are His. But do you live like it? 

If we put our faith in ourselves, we are putting our faith in the one who goes through life not knowing what will happen. If we put our faith in the Lord, we are trusting the One Who created that life, the world, and all the events that take place in it. 

Why would we hesitate to give up our lives to the God Who gave His life for us? 

Just like a house, the foundation will make it or break it. If you choose the wrong material, it may survive in times of steady weather, but it will collapse from an intense storm. It's the same way with your life - if you are building your life on something other than Jesus, than you may feel just fine when things are stable, but when tragedy strikes, you are no longer supported. 

“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. 

 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.

And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27

Faith in Christ can't be shaken by anything - not even the ultimate storm (death). As Romans 8:35-39 states:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 

39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Even as Christians we become easily distracted with the things of this world. We can unintentionally build our life on the sand, because salvation alone doesn't necessarily keep our life built on the Rock. As Jesus says,

 "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23

We need to totally surrender to God daily. We will live a life of "not I, but Christ" that Paul mentions in Galatians. We are no longer living to please ourselves, but to please God. (see Colossians 3:23 and  Ephesians 6:4-8). 

As we dedicate everything we do as an act of worship, we should feed ourselves with the truth (reading the Bible) and allow the Spirit to lead us. Why? Because we are not our own; we were bought at a high price that we didn't pay(1 Cor. 6:19-20). Our sinless Savior paid that price. That is why we owe Him our lives.

Every small decision we encounter is no longer met with "What do I want to do?" but "What does God want me to do?" True discernment is not swayed by what everyone else is doing. If we think of our life as a web diagram, then before we were saved, the word "me" was in the center circle. All the other aspects of our life - education, job, hobbies, etc. - all stemmed of the "me" in the center. It was "yes, I'll help that person, but how does that help me?" However, now, "God" is at the center. All the other aspects of our lives should stem out of a desire to please God. "Yes, I can follow that dream, as long as it glorifies God." Or, even better, glorifying God comes first, and the dream just radiates from that desire.

I don't know about you, but I've got a lot of work to do.

Of course, we can not get to where we need to be by mere human willpower - only through the unlimited power of God. Together, let us strive to lean on Christ, our only solid foundation. 




Monday, July 3, 2017

5 Things I learned from Family Camp



My family and I were incredibly blessed last week to have gone to Camp Yolijwa's annual Family Bible Camp. The theme was "Made," based on Psalm 139:13-14:

"You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful: I know this full well."

Every night at camp we went up to an outdoor chapel in silence, and listened to a message pertaining the main point that day. This year's themes were practical, straight-forward, and easy to remember. (Sidenote: that's how a sermon should be - deep and thought-provoking, but still applicable). They directly and clearly stated every Christ-follower's mission: Know, Grow, Bro, Show, and Go:

KNOW

Memory verse: Psalm 139:13-14

Day one was about the care that God put into designing us - our bodies, our personalities, our lives, etc. Let alone everything else in creation. God spoke into existence things that our limited minds couldn't have ever imagined. This is how studying science and observing nature's detail give us a tiny glimpse into the mind of the Creator.

 As Christians, everything we do should be an act of worship. This happens when we don't just stop at the gift - we look at the Giver. We don't just stop at Creation - we worship the Creator.When we're barely grasping a concept, we can think about the One Who invented  that concept - so yes, schoolwork can be worship, too.

Another way to view the verse is this: if God put all that care into every detail of our lives and ourselves, then we must be here for a purpose. You must have been created in that specific way for a purpose. "Imperfections" that you wish you could change about yourself (excluding sin) are not mistakes. God doesn't make mistakes. He intricately crafted, or knitted, you together inside your mother's womb. You are here for a reason, and you are the way you are for a reason.

 With all this in mind, we should still grow out of our weaknesses, and not accept the past as our fate or our current personality as our destiny. (when we accept something - our situation, upbringing, etc. as our identity, all it does is entrap us in a cage we created for ourselves).

GROW

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Col. 2:6-7

Day two was about discipleship - growing closer to God personally, and helping others to grow. There is a vertical and horizontal side to Christianity. The vertical side is between you and God; the horizontal side is about others - Christians and non-Christians. "Vertical" discipleship is our personal relationship with God, which grows through:

  • Reading, studying and memorizing God's Word
  • Prayer
  • Fellowship with other believers...
And, ultimately, continued pursuit of holiness. 

"Horizontal" discipleship is God using us for quantity and quality growth of His Kingdom. In other words, there's evangelism - reaching those who don't believe - and then guiding them towards growth once they believe.

BRO (fellowship)

Acts 2:46

46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,

Communion and community. Day three was about two-way, horizontal discipleship - believers gathering together, rejoicing communally in their shared salvation, and helping each other to grow. We encourage each other, pray for and with each other, worship together, and love each other genuinely  - or at least we should. 

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 1 Cor. 12:26



SHOW

John 13:15 (Jesus speaking after washing the disciple's feet)  15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

Day four was another "horizontal" command: humbling yourself and serving others. A song from Enchanted comes to mind as I write this - "How does she know (you love her)?." This is a question we need to constantly ask ourselves. How do others know we love them? Love = action. Love is sitting down and listening - actually listening - to someone's problems without judging them. Love is helping those in need even though you're running late for work. Love is giving financially to a cause without caring about social recognition. Love is being willing to sacrifice your reputation for another's needs. It's putting others before yourself, and perfect love expels all fear (1 John 4:18). Even the God of all the universe knelt down to wash the disciples' feet.

GO

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This isn't a request. This isn't an extra credit assignment for those gifted with evangelism. It's a command for all of us.

Now, you might not be called to the other side of the world, but you're probably called to your co-workers. Or the person next to you on the bus. How often do you go to the grocery store or out to eat? The opportunities are everywhere, and there is so much need - if you don't believe me, just turn on the news. There are so many unsaved people in the world. If you don't feel ready to share the Gospel, ask God to make you ready. Evangelism doesn't have to be fancy - it can just be your story. No one can argue with that. And remember - if they disagree or say something mean, they're not rejecting you - they're rejecting God.

Which of these five things are hardest for you to follow? What about them is hard? I'd love to hear from you in the comment section! Remember - we are here for each other, so we can help each other grow in the areas we're weak in.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Purpose: More Than a Church Kid



I was born into a Christian family, with two older brothers and two godly parents. Growing up, family life revolved around God. We went to church twice a week, where my dad was especially involved. At home, Jesus was mentioned often (possibly daily) and Christian music constantly played on the radio. I heard Bible verses, so I recited them. I talked about God because I heard Him being talked about.


The first "salvation"

Then, when I was about seven, the thought crossed my mind: How do you become a Christian? I asked my mom, and she seemed to be excited that I asked. She asked me if I wanted to become a Christian, I said yes, (there's no harm, right?) and she went through the Sinner's Prayer with me. Mom told me that I was a Christian.

Whether there was any change - that is up for debate.


From the looks of things - the words that came out of my mouth, the scribbles in my prayer journal, and (some) of the actions I took, things were great.


However, when you grow up in a Christian home, it is hard to tell whether improved behavior comes from being saved or just good parenting. 


The change is more distinct with "bad" kids (I'm hesitant to use that word...).

Lukewarm

Eventually, as a preteen and early teen, I was tired of the Christian culture. It was boring because it had been my life from the very beginning. For someone who didn't care about God, there was an awful lot of Him in my life. Everywhere I turned, He was there. Every time I found myself in a pew (which felt like ALL THE TIME). When I talked to my family - it all pointed back to Jesus. I thought I could escape it when I wasn't in church - but I was wrong. For whatever reason, the family always wanted to listen to Christian music at home and in the car.

Lukewarm, but searching

During this time, however, I still wanted to go to Heaven, and I didn't know if I was saved. When you live in an environment where God is the central focus, there is no escaping your doubts. Sitting in church, there is no denying the countless changed lives you witness. I sort of wanted what everyone else had (or at least see what it was like), but I didn't really want to give up my sin. 

When I was fourteen, my Dad taught a class called "Living in Christ." It was intended for new believers, as it taught the basics of a Christian life. I decided to attend. Whether I was an unbeliever or a Christian who had gone wayward, I felt like I needed to review the basics. I wanted to assess where I was, and witness to the unsaved.


For a majority of the series, it was just me and dad. At the first class, he asked (just to make sure): "Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?"


He had witnessed me (at least once) recite the Sinner's Prayer, and I cried for whatever reason. I had probably "gotten saved" many times in my life. However, since it was just me and him in the class, and I wanted the truth, I went ahead and said it. "I don't know." I explained how I believed in God, but I wasn't sure if I believed in Jesus. I had memorized facts about Him all my life, but in my head He was just a word; a far-off concept. I knew about Him but I wasn't sure if I knew Him. 


I enjoyed the class, and I asked a lot of questions - especially about salvation. I was trying to assess where I was and maybe "get" myself saved. Again, I wanted to go to Heaven, and life had no purpose, but I didn't want to give up my own way. 


The second half of the class was called "Christianity 101" which was about church practices and beliefs. Still sort of interesting, partly because I was searching and partly because I just enjoy learning. 

The Surrender

Then one morning, I began to pace around the kitchen while eating an orange.

I began to observe the intricacies of the oranges' fibers - how neatly and efficiently they where stacked beside each other. This led me to think about everything I learned in botany about the complicated ways that plants work. I remembered what I was learning about the human body, the complex systems that have taken scientists thousands of years to begin to understand. I notice a bird outside, and I admired the detailed designs on the birds' wings. 

A brilliant Creator made these things. He created the thoughts in Einsteins head, the details of each leaf of each tree of EVERY tree in the world. He thought of and spoke into being each individual person, and how they interact with one another. And for whatever reason I thought  I knew better than the one who created my life, and wrote it from beginning to end! I began to pray. I admitted that His Way was better then my way, because He created the way, before time began. I surrendered to His Will.


Then I believed that the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator became a human like us and died for our sins - and then showed His power by rising from the dead. Now, salvation is granted to anyone who believes. I confessed my sin, believed that Christ died and rose again, and let Him be Lord of my life. I was filled with gratitude, awe, and love. I didn't tell anyone because I wanted to make sure it was for real this time.

The Aftermath

The next day I was home all day, and I had some cleaning to do. I was still filled with love and joy and willingness to serve God with everything I did. I prayed and worshiped Him throughout the day. I prayed that I would love Him forever and never grow lukewarm again. I prayed that I would be submissive to Him. I prayed for my future husband, that he would be kept pure and have a God-glorifying marriage. I even prayed for my future children; for their salvation. 

That night was Bible study night, which meant Christianity 101 with Dad. I told him that I had given my life to Christ and I told my brother about it on the ride to church. Dad and my brother advised me. It was a very different kind of Bible study that night.


Part of the aftermath was that I now don't want to sin. It reminded me of a desk.


Imagine a cluttered - even dirty - desk. You can't even see the desk because of all the junk on it. Would you really care that much if you put another small piece of junk on it? Not really. 


This represented my life before I was saved. We're born with a nature that wants to sin. Our life is pretty much built on sin. Even the good things we do have selfish motives. Anything that goes against God is sin. So, if our life is full of sin, one more sin couldn't hurt it, right?


But when we're saved, that desk is made perfectly clean. Every stain is wiped clean - and you didn't need to do any work. Jesus did that for you. 


Imagine that it took hours and hours to clean that desk. Now it's completely empty and clean. You're hesitant to even add a decoration! And if you do put something there, you want to remove it right away. If you bring a cup of coffee to your work space and it spills on your desk, you want to wipe it off right away. That's the same feeling I got when I was saved.

Purpose of this Blog

This blog is for every Christian out there. It is for the global Church. I pray for God to use this blog as a conduit for the Gospel, and that everyone who reads it will be strengthened and stretched in their faith. 

I pray that we will unite and encourage each other to live poured out lives - serving God and then others. Matthew 22:36-40.